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Great River MP 500 Review Pan60 pan60 -Hi Boss :)  I got the 500 form pre in, looks great.  I was thinking (not sure that's all that great an idea), I think for the most part many in the world are very much aware of the Great River pre-amps as well as their sound.  So the thought came to mind about a bit of an email interview on a few  subjects as I go. I had a chat with Peter from A-Designs, he said you two had a great time at the show! Peter is a great guy! So anyway, I think a review / interview would be cool if you are up to it? pan60 - Cool! So lets start here. Hi Dan, generally when I do a review I like to start by looking at build quality. I do this because if I plan to spend my ever so hard to come by money, I want gear that will last, and gear that will be serviceable in the future. I just have no interest in shoddily built gear. Next I like to look at the company. I want to deal with companies that will stand behind their product and go out of their way to take care of their customers. So, now, at last, how does it sound :) Well this is my thought process on a product review. I look at it this way because if the build quality sucks, well how can one depend on it, and at the very worst time, failure will occur :( As far as the company, it just sucks when you get a piece of gear, you have a issue, and the company says well sorry we do not have time to screw with you. Or you get the hand off, you have so and so and you need to talk to such and such (who by the way just transferred you to so and so :( So we have to get by these issue before I even care what the gear sounds like. Dan Kennedy - Because I come from a service tech background, I'm very aware of design and build quality being a very important part of a product. Most people in the audio industry don't know that Great River is also an OEM electronics supplier to a number of industries with very high standards of reliability and performance, including passenger elevators, HVAC systems, as well as metrology and control for the semiconductor manufacturing industry. So, performance, both when new, and for the extended lifetime of the product is a major part of my design. If you have a problem with a Great River product, you talk to me, and it's me that fixes it once it gets here, because I want to know what failed, and why. pan60 - Dan, I want to bring up the surface mount topic as photos will be posted at some point. This will give you a chance to discuss it a bit. :) But first, wow, I knew you had something to do with elevators, sounds like you are on top of the latest in the industry of electronics (by the way, I want to talk in the future about plate reverb's but that will be another time ). It is to anyone in the audio industry, most likely difficult to say they have never heard of Great River. Many know the sound, as well as the quality. It seems to me that the same care and quality has been passed on to the MP-500NV. I see some nice looking trannies in here, and when it comes to gear I have a passion for transformers and pre-amps with trannies always seem to trip my trigger. Things look nicely shielded, that is always a plus :) I see some surface mount tech in here as well. Seems I remember reading something by you in the past discussing surface mount tech and how when used correctly and in the correct placing there is nothing wrong with it's use. Could you elaborate on the trannies and educate some of us a bit on the surface mount stuff? Out of my ignorance, I have shied away from new tech (I am limited to changing a large cap in an old tube amp and thats about it). Let some of us know why there should be no fear. :) Dan Kennedy - One of the issues in the design of the MP-500NV is the simple fact that the output transformer is larger than one API rack space already, so once I knew I was going to need two spaces, it all went together fairly easily. The chassis wraps around all of the electronics, to offer both mechanical stability as well as shielding from crosstalk with adjacent modules and power supply noise. All of the audio components are the same as those used in either the ME-1NV or in an MP-2NV. Exactly the same, from the same parts bins. There are a few surface mount parts, used in some of the filtering circuits of the power supply. I have no fear of using surface mount, as long as it's a valid engineering choice. In the case of the filter components, they are superior to leaded versions because they have lower parasitic resistances and inductances which makes them very effective at the frequencies the supply is operating. I find surface mount parts very easy to work with, but that's because I do it all of the time and have the right tools, if all you have is a bunch of electricians tools and an old soldering gun, well, it would be a challenge. pan60 - In the old soldering gun group here, :) other than that, I was not aware of any other electricians tools. Well I do have some side cutter's :) As I have mentioned in the past I am not real sure about where I stand on the matter of two slots verses one, but I think I can easily sacrifice a slot for a purpose, and at this point sound will be a purpose. I probably have way more questions than really needed but I did want to touch on a couple things that may have come up in the past, but there maybe some of us in the dark as to many points of discussion on a subject matter. Needless to say I would like to get a bit broad in the topic. What got you into audio gear and specifically making pre-amps for that matter? Did the other business ventures come first or just a byproduct of being into electronics? Not to get off topic, but let me inject here, the build on this is great! I love it! Dan Kennedy - I started in the hi-fi business, as an assembly person, building DynaKits for a local guy who hot-rodded them. From there I got into live sound, traveling around, living in a truck doing shows all over the country. I was the head tech there, built a lot of gear that wasn't available over the counter at the time, learned a lot. Studio work followed after that, I did some engineering, but mostly tech and design work. Then my career went industrial, and for a while I worked for a company that did OEM designs in industrial automation and also some ham radio equipment. That one folded, so another guy and I formed Great River in his basement, we started with the industrial stuff, but my studio past came back to haunt me, a bunch of locals kept pestering me to build pre-amps, so we made it a real product, the MP-2MH. That hooked me up with Fletcher, and it's just been steady growth since then. pan60 - Got to love those old DynaKit mono blocks. I have had a few over the years. Also the McIntosh MC-30's and MC-60's. Still have my MC-30's, I don't think I will ever part with them. Knowing that, will be no surprise to many. So let me ask, did you have a sound in mind when your designed your pre-amps? Were you trying to improve a sound from another pre you liked or were you going for something different? It seems these fall in a flavor I think it would be hard not to love! Also I read on a post you are using the guys at Latchlake for your metal work. Very nice to keep things local when possible. So before I get to how much I love the sound, what would you say would be the best application for this pre? I mean where do you feel it will shine the most - bass, guitar, vocals, kick - you get the point? No fear guys, this is one sweet pre. You could use it on anything, a rack of these would set anyone up very nicely and you would not need anything more as far as pre's go! Dan Kennedy - The sound of the NV's is a compromise on the larger than life, over the top bottom and soft smeary highs of the '70's vintage electronics. Think of a 1073 or an Ampex 440. It's neat, but it's too much. So, transformers for color, and electrical advantages like noise rejection and voltage gain. Then speed up the electronics, drop the noise and distortion, use modern, available parts with good track records and the NV is what you get. There really isn't anything the pre-amp does poorly. It is a very good all around performer. Strongest in maybe bass, guitar and drums, anything you really want meat, but not fat or flab. pan60 - So to the point, do I like it? Oh baby do I like it! I just could not help but think smooth creamy chocolate as I run a P-style G&L bass into a vintage Ampeg B-15, the big RE-20 and wow there it was - that sound! Okay enough with the drool :) I really like the bottom on this pre, very warm and sweet, gives you that feeling of comfort. I run the RED Type A with a R-7 head in-front of the bass, and once again, it was as sweet as candy. Nice and dark but lots of clarity. I liked it on kick drum as well. I also tried it with the RE-20 and the RED with the R-7 head, can't lose. This pre really likes dynamic microphones, and I like dynamic microphones, so that is real cool. Slammed a RE-16 on my snare and crack, I loved it. The impedance is very nice, it goes from 1200 ohms to 300 ohms. This maybe why this pre likes the dynamic microphones so much:) The loading function, is as well, very nice. A very sweet function. Seems a bit more open, very nice for some things. And of course there happens to be the polarity and phantom that is almost expected on pre-amps today. The build is great. Everything fits like it should. Everything feels good. So? What is it I don't like? Well I did not like the little LED's sticking out so much. I hit them with my fingers (I have large hands), when selecting loading, impedance, polarity, or phantom. I like pots that feel a bit stiffer than the output cal. pot does, but it is top quality so I can't really ding it too much. So in the end, I have tracked kick, snare, bass, electric guitar, and vocals, so I will once again say, you cannot lose with this pre! It sounds great on anything you throw at it. Everything I hit this pre with sounded great and it seems to set very well with my other 500 form pres. It is an awesome piece of gear (and an accompaniment to other pre-amps), particularly for rounding out the bottom. To me, this is clearly the sign of a really great piece of gear - period. I would, without any hesitation recommend this pre to anyone in the market looking to expand on what they already have or just looking to get started with the 500 form systems. I like it enough that I have no plan of returning it:) Sorry Dan, but I am keeping this bad boy. Great job! So let me ask - are there any plans for taking advantage of the second slot in future runs? Dan Kennedy - Hi pan60. Glad you like it! I do have a plan to offer a small accessory circuit board, with some connecting wires that will offer the -10 out at the XLR of the second slot, and also allow use of the patch loop externally, although this will require a specially wired cable that might be beyond a lot of operators. About those pokey, pesky LEDs, on the next run I'm going to put a set of washers between the panel and the circuit board, that'll put them back another 32nd of an inch or so, they'll be pretty close to a standard chassis mount NV then. pan60 - Anything else you want to add before I ( which really stands for my wife ) start editing my poor grammar and putting this together? Would you like to say anything about your trannies or is that all top secret? :) Dan Kennedy - The only thing about the trannies is they are exactly the same custom wound Sowters used in the ME-1NV and the MP-2NV. I've been out of the office on an industrial project, heading back into it soon, I will probably not be real available again until Friday afternoon. Unless I find beer first, then look for me Monday... pan60 - I think I will rap it up :) Is there anything else you would like to add? Dan Kennedy - I think that about covers it. it has been a awesome review and interview! thanks pan60
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Great River - MP 500