Hands-On Review: Tube-Tech and Audient Pro-Audio

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Tube-Tech Build Philosophy

If you’re already familiar with the name Tube-Tech, then most likely you’re a world-class engineer/producer/studio owner, or heard those people talking about Tube-Tech in magazines or the high-end recording forums. Tube-Tech is in the business of building modern classics. The designs are based on the equipment that has stood the test of time in the studios, such as the venerable Pultec EQ and Fairchild compressor, but include modern alterations to make performance more stable and predictable in terms of gain, frequency response, and distortion. A number of design elements are employed for clarity and operating-noise reduction, such as DC stabilization, balanced and fully floating I/O, and static screens between the primary and secondary windings of the transformers (see Tube-Tech product detail pages for explanations). The sonic characteristics of Tube-Tech is something all its own. You don’t hear it working but you know it’s there. Just like the commanding, yet understated elegance of its royal blue front panel, Tube-Tech works its sonic magic by flattering a sound without being heavy handed. Make no mistake, this gear is not inexpensive, however, it is an investment in sound quality that will last a lifetime.

Featured Products

Perhaps the most popular Tube-Tech product is the CL 1B Compressor, which has become the go-to vocal compressor in the gold channels of top-tier producers, engineers, and artists. There’s also a stereo version, the CL 2A Dual Compressor. While both can be used for program-dependent bus compression, the SMC 2B Stereo Multi-Band Compressor is rapidly becoming the favorite stereo bus compressor of many a world-class producer-engineer including Joe Chiccarelli and Al Schmitt. If you’re looking for a little tube heat to thaw out your digital recordings, check out the all-tube dual-channel MP 1A Microphone Preamp. Where other preamps can be finicky about which mics make them happy, the MP 1A has a near-magical ability to make just about any mic you put through it sound great. For equalization, the EQ 1A can add all the punch, gloss, and sheen you’d expect from a world-class EQ, and does it effortlessly. Then there’s the MEC 1A, a complete recording channel that comprises the MP 1A preamp, the EQ 1A equalizer, and the CL 1B compressor—a complete gold channel of Tube-Tech. It doesn’t get better than that, baby . . . unless you consider the MMC 1A Mic Preamp and Multi-Band Compressor, which is the only all-tube recording channel that features a multiband compressor designed for vocals. If you want to craft larger than life vocals, you need to check this one out. And while you’re there, check out the rest of the Tube-Tech line.

Tube-Tech CL 1B Compressor

Tube-Tech Company History

For over twenty years, Tube-Tech has been one of the most prominent names in all-tube signal processing equipment. You’ll find their gear in the best recording and mastering studios around the world. The company’s founder, John Petersen is an electrical engineer who was factory trained at Solid State Logic, EMT, Studer, Sony, Neumann, and NTP Electonik (digital audio routers). He also designed tape recorder playback/recording amps for Lyrec tape recorders (found in the studios of the legendary Joe Meek and Vangelis). His first design for Tube-Tech was an all-tube equalizer based on the legendary Pultec EQP 1A. Petersen continued to design and manufacture a number of innovative all-tube outboard processors including preamps, multiband compressors and summing amps. Thanks to John’s dedication to high-quality analog sound you’ll see Tube-Tech gear in the racks of pro audio legends such as multi-Grammy winner Al Schmitt, (Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan, Toto, Quincy Jones, Natialie Cole, Diana Krall), Grammy-winner Joe Chiccarelli, (Elton John, Beck, U2, Tori Amos, Counting Crows, Offspring), engineer Russ Long (Sixpence None the Richer, Wilco, Dolly Parton, Allison Moorer), producer-engineer Tony Shepperd (Elton John, Madonna, Kenny Loggins, Barbra Streisand, Lionel Richie, and Whitney Houston), who, like many others, uses the Tube-Tech CL 1B as his go-to vocal compressor. Check out the full range of Tube-Tech gear at our website.

Audient Build Philosophy

Primarily known for building recording consoles that rival the sound of an "A room" desk at a fraction of the cost, the mission of Audient is to provide high performance and serious bang for the buck. The sound quality of Audient is crystal clear and transparent in accordance with the philosophy of its designer, Dave Dearden. He maintains that certain devices known for their unique color can lock you into a specific sound or genre. Once recorded, if you find that sound inappropriate, it can never be removed. On the other hand, color can always be added after the fact. As such, Dearden designs his equipment to be as transparent as possible without losing the nuance and character of analog. Inheriting a long history of recording console design, all Audient gear is ergonomically brainstormed for real world operation, with ease of use and shallow learning curve being paramount.

Featured Audient Products

Among the hot tickets from Audient that Musician's Friend carries, is the ASP008 eight-channel mic preamp that either comes with, or can be outfitted with AES/EBU and ADAT digital output options. It’s a great way to bring the preamps of your Pro Tools LE system (or similar DAWs) up to world-class standards for a very reasonable price. Does your computer-based studio need the switching, routing, cue mixing, and talkback you’d find in the master section of a large format console? Check out the Centro Stereo Monitor Controller. And who better to create such a useful device than Audient, whose expertise with recording consoles includes designs for Soundcraft, Midas, MCI, and custom consoles for the cream of British rock (see company history). Audient also makes a 5.1 surround monitor system, the ASP510 Surround Sound Controller, which is in use at Abbey Road studios, and for those who want the analog nuances that come with mixing outside the box without losing your plug-ins and automation, there’s the Sumo, a high-resolution summing amplifier with master compressor/limiter and 192kHz digital output option.

Audient Sumo Summing Amplifier with Compressor/Limiter

Audient Company History

While British-based Audient is fairly new on the scene (1998), the company’s founders have quite a respectable pedigree. Co-founder David Dearden has worked with David Manley (original owner of Manley Laboratories), Eddie Offord (Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Yes), and was involved in building a custom console and private studio for John Lennon for his Imagine sessions, followed by studios for George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Gus Dudgeon (producer, Elton John, David Bowie), and Chris Squire of Yes. After three years with MCI and two years with Soundcraft, David Dearden and Gareth Davies (also from Soundcraft) formed DDA (Dearden Davies Associates), a maker of high-quality analog consoles. When DDA became part of the Klark Teknik Group, he also designed the Midas XL200 live sound console and did the initial concept and design of the Midas H1000 console. In 1997 he rejoined with Gareth Davies to form Audient. Notable users of Audient gear include Pete Townshend’s Eel Pie Recording, Abbey Road Studios, and England’s Royal Academy of Music, to name a few.

Tags: Recording Signal Processors

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