Whats Hot

TUBE GEAR IS HOT!

In case you haven't noticed, vacuum tubes are making a comeback, and in a big way! Seems that while many people love the clarity and accuracy of digital audio - who wouldn't? - they miss the warmth (no pun intended... really) and overall "beefiness" of analog. And what could possibly be more analog than tubes? So, some engineers started experimenting with the concept of using one tube-driven device within the digital audio chain to restore the richness typically associated with analog. And it worked!

The Saturator from RSP Technologies is a 2U rackmount device that exists only to add warmth to digital tracks thanks to its two 12AX7 tubes. Insert it between the recording console's stereo bus and a DAT machine (or hard disk or CD recorder) and - voila! - instant analog! The unit can also be routed through a mixer's insert points to process individual tracks. Controls are minimal: just Drive and Output, but combined with the unit's proprietary circuitry, they can actually create the classic saturation curves of hot signal-level analog recordings, yet your final product will retain all the sonic benefits of digital technology. List price for the Saturator is $699.

From dbx comes the 1650T Compressor Limiter, a world-class microphone preamp (with a dynamic range of 154 dB, which is actually beyond the range of human hearing) combined with dbx's legendary dynamics processing. The unit was designed by the legendary New York studio installer Greg Hanks. It is a very cool, retro-looking piece which includes emulations of many of the most popular compressors. i.e SSL, Neve, etc. It includes 48V phantom power and fully balanced ins and outs at a list price of $2999.95, which is very reasonable given the sophistication of this unit. The company's patent pending methods of tube control give the 1650T exceptional performance that has, until now, been unattainable using conventional technology, yet at the same time provides the pleasant ³tube sound² everyone seems to be looking for without unnecessary audio tradeoffs.

We've actually mentioned the Aphex Dual Channel Thermionic Mic Preamp Model 107rrrabuyvsvsveytfazersurdwarubawvev in a previous issue of Sweet Notes (you do save your back issues, don't you?) and at the time we praised the unit for its sound, as well as its affordability (just $595 retail). Boasting a revolutionary new tube circuit called Tubessence, the Model 107 delivers the sonic characteristics of tubes without the extremely high voltages, heat, fragility and short life span of traditional tube circuitry. And now there's also the Aphex 661 Expressor which combines the company's Tubessence mic preamp circuit with its Easyrider compressor/limiter in a single channel tube processor that offers unparalleled audio performance and flexibility at the surprisingly low list price of just $749. You get three compression curves (hard knee, soft knee and ³no-knee²) plus automatic (Easyrider) or manual (Expressor) operation, each selectable from the single rackspace unit's front panel.

From Summit Audio comes the Model DCL-200 Dual Compressor/Limiter. Based on a proprietary hybrid design, the DCL-200 is a two channel compressor/limiter that combines selected 12AX7 vacuum tubes with highly reliable 990 op-amps in a transformerless signal path to give you the unmistakable warmth of tubes, plus the dependability of a solid state device. Features include continuously variable attack and release times, adjustable A.C. threshold, variable slope, dual meters with peak overload indicators, stereo link switch plus balanced or unbalanced outputs. Suggested retail price for the DCL-200 is $2950.

Finally, from Britain comes the sophisticated Drawmer 1960 Mic Preamp/Vacuum Tube Compressor, a dual channel processor which harnesses the ³life and warmth² of eight (count 'em) active tube stages. Two ultra low noise tube mic preamps with switchable 48V phantom power capture every subtlety your mic can deliver. The dual channel vacuum tube ³soft knee² compressors offer variable Threshold control plus switchable attack and release times. Other controls include bass and treble EQ, switchable HF and Gain boost. The aux preamp section can be routed to one or both compressors to provide two channels of output for creating stereo effects from mono sources. The 1960 can even be slightly overdriven to produce the classic oversaturated tube sound so popular with percussion, as well as electric guitars, basses and electric pianos. Retail price for the Drawmer 1960 is $2699.

As you can see, there are many options already available for adding back the popular tube sound to digital recordings and there will probably be more available by the time you read this. Which one is right for you? Good question, and one which your Sweetwater sales engineer is eminently qualified to answer. So give us a call today for more information and your special pricing on the hottest (literally) new gear on the market!


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