Chameleon Labs 581
After a long wait, I received my revised blackface Chameleon Labs 581 and put it through its paces. I was eager to compare it to other Neve inspired pieces in my studio, and see how a mix comes together using just the 581. My most direct comparison was to the Heritage Audio 73JR, which quickly won me over and has been my go to preamp. I noticed right away that the 73JR has a more grinding and open saturation, with extended bottom end, and a very pronounced upper midrange saturation.
When the 73JR is pushed, it gets beefy, and also has more upper midrange to it. The 581 doesn't share the low end content of it's Neve inspired Class A competition, the 581 is tighter and handles the bottom end transients with excellent clarity. The upper mids aren't as in your face, but more reserved, yet still very defined. The more you push the 581, the more it's silky texture is brought to life, and it shows its rich harmonics without losing clarity; slightly increasing the bottom end, and bringing an edge to the highs, yet still retaining a tight and focused sound. Switching back to the 73JR, you get a more open feel, and the sounds are bigger, but not better - just different. In my experience, the 73JR can definitely be too much of a good thing, and lead to the signature Neve cloudiness in the low frequency transients when used on every track, but the 581 will provide detail where the 73JR might contribute to said cloudiness. Overall, they compliment each other very very well. I can see myself using the 581 more and more, specially on high track counts.