One of the key developments in the Portico II Channel is the new Texture section. Building on the “Silk” mode found in the original Portico Series mic preamplifiers, Texture is designed to adjust the actual amount of musical harmonic content from the source material – in effect, providing countless tonal options in one device. The texture section can vary from barely audible to dramatic, all controlled by a single knob. With that said, we have taken great care to ensure that the musical integrity of source material itself will not be compromised by these harmonic controls – these are not to be confused with controls from other manufactures that may “incinerate”, “demolish” or “destroy” source material – and we believe they can be confidently used to fit the personality of any song, instrument or engineer.
As with the original Portico modules, the blue Silk mode works by reducing negative feedback on the output transformer and adjusting the frequency response to more closely resemble Mr. Rupert Neve’s vintage designs. This blue mode tends to affect harmonics generated by the source material’s low and low-mid frequencies, filling the sound out from the bottom up. The red “Silk +” mode provides a different level of control, enhancing harmonics generated by the source material’s high-mid and high frequencies, adding a harmonic “sparkle” to your original signal.
The EQ topologies in the 4-Band Equalizer of the Portico II combine the best-loved sound of several classic designs, but are also capable of extremely fine surgical adjustments as well as dramatic boosts or cuts. By default, the EQ section follows the mic preamplifier and HPF and precedes the compressor, but this sequence may be reversed by engaging the Post Comp switch.
The Low Shelf has an independent engage switch, Classic Peak / Accelerated Shelf selection, with +/- 12dB level adjustment, and selectable turnover frequencies of 35, 60, 100, and 220 Hz. The Fully Parametric LMF and HMF bands have a joint engage switch, providing +/- 12dB level adjustment, continuously variable “Q” from 0.7 to 5 and continuously variable frequency ranges from 70 to 1.4kHz and 700Hz to 14kHz. In addition to its standard capabilities, the HMF band can also be used to precisely tune the new De-Esser circuit.
The De-Esser can be varied from off to full effect, and uses the Frequency and “Q” controls to tame harsh sibilance in vocals and instruments with an independent high-mid limiter. Even when the De-Esser is on, the EQ level may still be used. The High Frequency shelf has independent engage switch, Classic Peak / Accelerated Shelf selection, +/- 12dB level adjustment, and selectable turnover frequencies of 4.7, 6.8, 12, and 25kHz. When two Portico II Channels are used side by side, the EQ section can also excel at stereo material.
A further array of tools are used to craft dynamic response. The Portico II’s compressor section is exceptionally flexible. Like the Portico 5043, the VCA compressor has a choice of Feed-Forward / Feed-Back modes, either providing a transparent modern response (FF) or a smoother, more vintage response (FB). Along with FF/FB modes, there are also 1:1 to 40:1 ratio controls and threshold from -30dBu to +20dBu, together with Attack from 20 to 75ms (.1 ms in Peak mode), Release from 100ms to 2.5s, and Make-Up Gain from 0 to 20dB. A link switch is provided to link the compressor action with that of an additional connected Portico II Channel for stereo processing.
The Portico II compressor incorporates a number of new ways to tame and enhance dynamics. “HPF to SC” inserts the High Pass Filter into the side chain to deal with intense low frequencies that may skew the response of the VCA with certain songs and instruments. The “Peak” switch alters the compressor’s attack to react to transients with a roughly .1ms response time. When “peak” is disengaged, the compressor responds to the RMS signal in conjunction with the attack and release settings.
“Blend” works by creating a parallel mix between the compressed and dry signals. By mixing the compressed and dry signals, it is possible to increase the volume of quieter elements in the source material (for instance, delicate snare brushing on a track with much louder hits), while maintaining a natural dynamic feel for the louder elements.
To further control the side chain, there is also an insert “send” and “return” that may be paired with an external EQ or other filters for additional manipulation. The “return” may also be used as a “Key” input for ducking one signal under another. (for instance, a voice-over keying the compressor to duck a background music track). By connecting the “link” jack on the back of the Portico II to another Portico II link jack and engaging the Link buttons, the compressor section may be used for stereo material.