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Focal Twin6 Be

The Focal Twin6 Be's along with the smaller Solo 6 and Sub 6 are part of the SM6 line. This line is categorized as a reference analog series that was created for studios in search of monitors that reveal all information in the audio spectrum without any masking effect.

Manley Voxbox Combo

The Manley Voxbox is a 3U channel strip that the company's EveAnna Manley herself was behind creating. She basically wanted to get some of the great gear they already had and put it all in one box. There was just one thing, she wanted to make it better.

Phoenix Audio DRS-2 Mic Preamp/DI
Smart, original design in a two-channel Class A unit

The DRS-2 is a Class A dual microphone preamplifier and DI. I've seen this unit in forums and discussions often being confused with the crop of Neve emulators now on the market. For the record, the DRS-2 is designed from the ground up and is a completely original concept.

Speck Electronics 5.0 Mic Pre
Feature-laden microphone preamplifier/mix node

The MicPre 5.0 is an original design and packs a lot of features into a compact half-rack space and can be rackmounted and combined with the Model ASC 4-band equalizer for a powerful and versatile channel strip.

DACS Clarity MicAmp
Two-channel discrete microphone
preamplifier excels into the hyperreal

I recently ran across the DACS Clarity MicAmp, and in doing so have found a gem. Rather than waiting to the end of this review, I want to state here that the Clarity is hands down one of the best and most unique mic pres on the market today.

A Designs Audio MP-2A Tube Mic Pre/DI
A welcome addition to the ranks of top-quality mic pres

There's been lots of discussion of tubes and using them to warm the signal path, but if you didn't have a thick wallet, a true tube microphone preamplifier was probably out of reach. Getting into tubes for under $1,000 has meant hybrid-tube designs or even units that claim to have tubes, while in reality the tube had little or nothing to do with the sound of the unit and more to do with marketing.

Great River Electronics ME-1NV
Microphone Preamplifier and DI

The recording-studio market is abundant with many mic-pre offerings under $1,000 that claim to "run with the big boys." And while some of the claims may be true, what if one of the real "big boys" made a microphone preamplifier available at a street price near $1,000. Welcome to the Great River Electronics ME-1NV.

A Designs Audio ATTY Level Controller
Noiseless audio level controller has numerous applications

When I heard about the ATTY, the first thing I thought was this would be the perfect box to act as a volume control for active monitors. Now that I've had the ATTY for my own use, I've come up with other applications.

DW Fearn VT-7
Two channel tube compressor

D.W. Fearn manufactures high-end tube gear in Pennsylvania. Their equipment is known to be no holds barred designs. They are built like a tank, have only the highest quality parts inside, are hand assembled, and all his equipment are painted with a bright red color with yellow markings, and give a 5 year warranty.

LaChapell 992 Dual Mono Tube Preamp
Sonically-versatile tube preamp

Out of the 100+ preamps we've tested at The Listening Sessions over the years, we've gotten really excited by only a handful. We're as excited about the 992's as any preamp we've ever used. They're that good. They're that different. The workmanship on the 992's is to a level of quality in the top of art and craftsmanship in the industry.

Telefunken R-F-T AK47
R-F-T bounces back with a winner

Taking into consideration that Telefunken USA already produces sought-after, high-dollar, meticulously-made reproductions of classic mics, and including a TAB Funkenwerks transformer, R-F-T microphones, at more affordable prices, give more of the real deal.

Avalon VT-737SP Revisited
Another look at an industry standard

The Avalon VT-737SP is one of the first stand-alone channel strips that were designed and was released in the late 1990's. After its release it received rave reviews from numerous engineers and artists, and is still in heavy use on major-label sessions. I figured it was time to take a look at the 737 SP, and see how it matches up against the new guys on the block.

ADK AP-1 Mic Preamp/DI
A versatile sonic cameleon

The story behind the AP-1 was early on I was having conversations with Larry Villella of ADK. He said he wanted to make an API-type preamp. I said if they were going to do that they really should make the opamps socketed rather than soldered. And should use the 6-pin 2520/990 format. I sent lists of all the opamps available. So, they went with that. And they also came up with the idea of swappable transformers.

Lavry DA10 vs Benchmark DAC1
Two top DA converters fight it out

The Benchmark DAC1 — the crowning champion for stand-alone D/A converters in the $1000 range — is now being challenged by the Lavry DA10; a newcomer from a highly-respected converter company, Lavry Engineering. The two go head-to-head in a no-rules deathmatch.

Neve Portico 5012 Duo Mic Pre
Rupert Neve's first Portico series offering

In some conversations I've had with Rupert Neve, he's said he considers that there are two types of audio devices that are either an "effect" or are "accurate". For those of you who may have followed Mr. Neve's "sonic career", he has always been striving for "accurate". The Portico range is a decided return to the "classic Neve" sound — full, bigger-than-life, colored and silky.

BFD Acoustic Drum Module
A leap in achieving more realistic drum sounds

Until recently the only way to get anything near realistic acoustic drum sounds, if you weren't — or didn't have — a drummer, was to use various loops recorded in a studio on a real drum kit. However, the flexibility was often limited. One of the newer drum programs out by Fxpansion is called BFD, and can be operated as a plug-in or in stand alone mode, and works on a Mac or Windows OS. FXpansion made this available with VSTi, DXi, as well as Rewire. The drum library consists of seven acoustic drum kits recorded at multiple velocity levels which were recorded all in the same room in a studio.

Rode K2 Valve Microphone
Continuously-variable, multi-pattern tube mic

Most high-end studios have wonderful tube mics that are the envy of every project studio owner. The good news is due to newer technology, lower-cost tube mics are coming out of China by many companies that included Rode. With cheap labor in China, companies are able to manufacture good sounding mics at low costs. Rode, in wanting to be more competitive — and to stand out from the pack — decided to move their manufacturing back to their home base in Australia.

A-Designs Audio REDDI Tube DI
Mystical order of the blue light special

The REDDI I had for review had to go back to A-Designs. I've had well over 200 products here for review in the last couple of years. I'd already bought an A-Designs MP-2, so I didn't think another offering from them [ and certainly not a DI ] was going to increase my sonic pallet. I was wrong.

ADK Vienna and Hamburg
Best large condenser mics in their class

Over the last couple of years I've used most of the mics in the ADK Audiophile Series, and mic after mic I've been impressed. For quality mics made in China, ADK has proven itself to be king of the hill. I've had a chance to test and use both the ADK Vienna and Hamburg microphones, and unlike the familiar harshness and hyped upper-mids of many of the Chinese-made mics, these are much smoother and have a quality sound, even when used over numerous tracks.

Tascam DV-RA1000 Master Recorder
Affordable high-res stereo recording deck

I burned up a few favors to get my hands on one of the first DV-RA1000's available and immediately went to work with it. The DV-RA1000 is the first box of its kind anywhere near this price point. DSD recording technology has been prohibitively expensive to get into for any type of home or project studio use.

Waves IR-1 Convolution Reverb
Powerful controls and flexibilty

Most reverbs in hardware units or plug-ins, are a synthesis approximation of what halls, plates, and rooms are. However only the high-end units can come close to sounding like real acoustic rooms. With convolution reverb though, we are able to get realistic reverb at a very low price.

Dynaudio BM5A Active Monitors
Leading the pack in sub-$1K

Immediately there was a noticable difference. With the 5A's I could easily hear details of the program material that were not at all evident on the Truths or the Mackie's. With the 5A's I could hear all the reverb tails, the top of the snare and cymbals, and overall clear separation of instruments. The bass was tighter but still full.


BLUE Blueberry Microphone
Airy top end cuts through the mix

BLUE stands for Baltic Latvian Universal Electronics. Although BLUE is an American company in California, it has its own facility in Latvia, a Baltic state next to Russia. Unlike a lot of companies, BLUE designs and manufactures all its capsules and all the precision parts.

Safe Sound P1 Audio Processor
Mid-range preamp, compressor/limiter and expander

Safe Sound Audio P1, which retails for $699 in the US. The finish is adequate, rather than luxurious, and it won't be winning any design awards. In the same way I think the FMR stuff kind of looks like hospital apparatus, the P1 reminds me of some sort of ham radio equipment.

Langevin Dual Vocal Combo
Solid state mic pres with limiting and EQ

In 1992, Manley Labs bought the rights to Langevin name and designs and now uses the name Langevin on all of its solid-state products. Manley-branded units are all-tube, while the Langevin-branded products have all-discrete make up gain amplifiers. Manley says the EQ or limiting and metering sections in both lines are the same.

Line 6 AM4 Amp Modeler
A lot in a little box

This thing is built like a tank. The shell feels like it is thick aluminum. It's got a fairly beefy paint job on it, but I imagine that it could chip with road use. Personally, I think a little chipping would give it some "real" personality... like a scar on the face, or a three-day-old beard.

Studio Projects B1
Inexpensive but impressive mic

Here I am again, singing the praises of two other Studio Projects microphones. It's almost old news now that Studio Projects is on the leading edge of designing and manufacturing inexpensive mics which manage to compete favorably in most blindfold tests, even when sitting next to mics with more prestigious logos and the price tags to match.


Waves IR-1 Convolution Reverb
Powerful controls and flexibilty

Most reverbs in hardware units or plug-ins, are a synthesis approximation of what halls, plates, and rooms are. However only the high end units can come close to sounding like real acoustic rooms. With convolution reverb though, we are able to get realistic reverb at a very low price.

Summing Box Shootout
Beefing up and tricking out the back end

This is not about analog vs digital summing. It reflects only my personal opinion on mixing. In the best case my impressions may help one or another with their personal search but are never a substitute for your own tests. In my philosophy the search for the right tools on our path always has been something mystical.

MXL V69 Mogami Edition
Tube microphone with vintage sound

The Marshall Electronics MXL V69 Mogami Edition tube microphone is an improved edition of the MXL V69, and features Mogami cabling throughout, from the inner wiring as well as all cables included with the kit. I've had a chance to use the MXL V69ME over several months and pass it around to some engineers, and this mic has risen above the pack of low-cost large-diaphragm tube mics currently available on the market.

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