My condenser mic is making odd noises or it fades sometimes. What does it mean? Here’s a quick test to determine the ‘base-line’ health of a condenser microphone.
Welcome David Kean from the Audities Foundation, an interpretive center for the history of electronic music and analog recording; and destination recording studio in Alberta, Canada. www.audities.org
Audities mission is the preservation of electronic musical instruments, sound recording equipment and assodiated documentation for use in museums, recording studios, modern instrument research and new music / dance / film works.
The collection comprises over 150 instruments and spans the last 70 years of technical development.
There’s something sort of curious going on in this industry. We seem to be moving full tilt in forward and reverse at the same time. First, you’ve got your digital audio processing in its many forms. lt’s come a long way; it’s sounding better and better; it’s got a long way to go (some folks believe). It makes for animated lunch-time discussions. The only absolute in the digital debate is that there is no turning back. Or is there…
We’ve been taking a really close look at the “stuff in the basement”. Dusty stuff. Old stuff. Stuff that doesn’t even work anymore. We all seem to be obsessed with the notion that there’s something from way back then that we missed. Or we finally found an excuse that legitimizes our need to keep what others consider “useless” around. “See honey, it’s a good thing I didn’t toss that old Webcor last Spring (like you wanted me to). This stuff’s coming back”. Useless indeed!
Leading the obsession hit-parade is anything that uses tubes/ Here’s an industry that has literally been pulled back from the brink of extinction. It deserves a second chance. The first shot was inconclusive. We were just beginning to get serious with tube designs when any further progressive development was cut short by the introduction of the transistor. The transistor was supposed to ber the answer, so we did the human thing and chucked the old for the new. Then, as always, something in the rearview mirror catches our eye…and we feel compelled to back up.
Not everything that incorporated tubes was inherently brilliant. There was good and bad. What all tube designs do well is to follow musical transients with a minimum of effort. This is what we’re all responding to now. It’s a technology that can’t touch the specs, the ergonomic features, or the price of contemporary solid state products, but it responds well musically. We just can’t get enough of that, can we?
This is why the tube and digital domains are seemingly so compatible. Digital is hard to beat for ease of storage and manipulation. Tube analog gear is a natural choice for processing analog stuff, like music. What we’re realizing is that maybe it’s a good idea to let digital and analog do what they are each best at.
And the market, new and used, has responded to the new demand. The used market responded by hiking up the price of the “vintage gear” bay as much as 10 times (so far). The new market has responded with a number of ner manufacturers of tube equipment. Much of this gear is a reissue of older, highly coveted units. This is good! Aren’t we all still looking for a couple of Pultec EQs that won’t drain the account dry? The Teletronix LA-2a, the Fairchild 670.
What seems to be missing in the new tube industry is progress. There is a notion that this mellow technology is incapable o innovation. That’s where Retrospec comes in. We are committed not only to the use of tubes, bit to expanding the way tubes are used. Our designs use no input or output transformers.
Why not, you ask. Well, once upon a time, transformers were a cheap and easy way to get in and out of an audio processor. That was when our performance expectations were a whole lot more modest. If the signal chain could get down to around 40 hertz and up to 16k and manage to keep the distortion to somewhere under 1% we’d call it a day. As luck would have it, we’re just never satisfied. To make the grade today, the performance of all audio systems has to exceed what was once considered to be the limits of human perception.
Consequently, it’s become just about impossible to design a transformer that is considered totally free of sonic aberrations of some kind.
Totally transparent. Free of nastiness like frequency dependency, phase shift, transient distortion, transient overshoot, ringing, intermodulation distortion, plain old everyday distortion. We’ve gone and set things up so that we’re now painfully aware of all these things. With a couple of hundred thousand years of “progress” behind us, you’d think we’d have gotten this compulsion under control.
OK. One slick way to get rid of transformer-born anomalies is to get rid of the transformer. Bingo! Well, maybe not quite bingo. Getting a tube to do the job once performed by a transformer paces demands in other areas, like the power supply. But hark! What would once have added a couple of thousand BTU and ten pounds to the weight of a unit in the tubes heyday can now be designed very efficiently using solid state components. Hey, finally here’s a place where silicon makes total sense.
What we wind up with is an audio processor featuring pristine transient response, extended range and clarity to the low end (remember, no transformer to saturate), very low noise, and that tube harmonic richness that we know and love. All of the good stuff and none of the bad. Now, how often in life does that occur?
So, if you’ve been ambivalent about whether to go for the warmth and character of the tube analog world or plug into the clarity and precision of contemporary audio processors, relax! You can have them both!
The end result is a sonic masterpiece. Plug in a bass and the Juice Box delivers a sound that is silky smooth; all the unpleasant edges on top are eliminated and the bottom end is tightened up beautifully. It made my ’70 Fender Precision sound almost like a vintage model and worked absolute wonders on my Rickenbacker 4001, a difficult-to-record instrument that delivers a notoriously flabby, weak direct signal. The effect on keys is similar if not as striking, and the added roundness is most welcome on organs and synth pads. And if you’re looking for that super-clean, in-your-face, direct Strat-sound, this is definitely the box to reach for: All of your picking transients will come through with extraordinary clarity.”
The Juice Box has typical DI amenities (1/4” I/O, XLR balanced output, grown lift), but includes a +/-20 dB gain switch with variable adjustment control. This [allows] the user to feed a tape deck directly with a very hot signal or step down to microphone level for a console microphone input, providing preamp-style flexibility. In the studio, the Juice Box took the harsh edge off a Yamaha digital piano with a signal gain perfectly matched to the unity spot on the console’s input level control.
…I like these flexible and unique studio tools. They work well, appear to be durably well-build, and ought to gain wide acceptance by crossing over home/professional studio and MI lines.”
Wow! The Juice Box is truly the Juiciest!