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New ez1081 Mic Preamps

New ez1081 Mic Preamps

What is a Mic Preamp? A Microphone preamp is a little gizmo that turns up the mic signal before you record it. You never needed to worry about them before. This was because they were built into every mixing console. But more and more studios are getting rid of their consoles so the preamp has become more important.   Preamps nowadays exist either in dedicated channel strips or as standalone units. Recording budgets and therefore studios are shrinking. As a result, the 500 series racks from manufacturers such as API have become very popular.   This attraction is no doubt due to the fact that you can squeeze lots of units into a small space. There are many preamps already available for the 500 series. Furthermore, there are a lot of good DIY options. New AML ez1081 Mic Preamps I recently finished building some new microphone preamps from AML (Audio Maintenance Limited). The kits are named the “ez1081 Mic Pre”. They pay homage to a well-respected line of transformer-based preamps! The grey metalwork and red Marconi gain switch is a bit of a giveaway of the inspiration. So how does this new offering from AML fare?   The ez1081 mic pre units ship either pre-assembled or as a DIY kit and it’s the latter that I opted for.   I should point out that everything required to build the preamp is included in the bundle. This is great because there is no need to source hard-to-find components. Compared with some of the other kits I’ve built this is a one-stop shop.   The metalwork is of excellent quality and...
AML ez1073 Build

AML ez1073 Build

I have always lusted after a Neve 1073 preamp and EQ. They get a lot of love and for very good reasons. Search online and all sorts of adjectives spring out. Warm, beefy, saturated, expensive-sounding. The problem with finding one is that the vintage ones tend to get the most love. These also have a price-tag to match, unfortunately.   There are all sorts of clones available from the likes of BAE. But these tend to go for around the £2K mark and more if they have EQ. This is out of the price range of most small studios so I decided to build one!   AML do a lovely kit including everything you need for the build. The only other thing you need is the casing – found at Collective Cases.   The build itself was very straightforward and I can recommend it. A colour-coded booklet details every step of the build and the PCB is well laid out. All resistors and Capacitors even come pre-cut and bent to shape. The only extras I needed to source was some decent solder and a few short lengths of hookup wire. All-in-all this was a very satisfying, easy and rewarding experience. Total cost runs to around £700.   You can see all pictures from the build in the gallery below:   Threecircles Recording Studio AML ez1073 Build 02.JPGThreecircles Recording Studio AML ez1073 Build 01.JPGThreecircles Recording Studio AML ez1073 Build 03.JPGThreecircles Recording Studio AML ez1073 Build 04.JPGThreecircles Recording Studio AML ez1073 Build 5.JPGThreecircles Recording Studio AML ez1073 Build 6.JPGThreecircles Recording Studio AML ez1073 Build 7.JPGThreecircles Recording Studio AML ez1073 Build 8.JPGThreecircles Recording Studio...
New microphone modifications

New microphone modifications

My soldering iron is getting restless so I need a new DIY project. I’ve already built a few compressors and the EQ on my desk gives me many options – not to mention the colour added by my Lindell Audio Pultec EQs. I think that the best form of EQ comes straight from the microphone anyway so I’ve decided to get stuck in with modifying some cheap condensers to get a much better sound overall, without forking out lots of cash… Threecircles Recording Studio Mic Mod - Alctron HSMC001 The Alctron MC001 as bought online for £36. This mic body is the basis for many other mice such as the Apex 435. Alctron makes other mics that are frequently modded such as the HST-11a which has been re-badged as the Apex 460 and Telefunken M16 to name a few. Many condensers made by more boutique manufacturers such as Peluso, MXL, GAP, T-Bone, Nady etc start off as a generic, often Chinese-made template. The mics then have critical components, not to mention the capsule, swapped out to un-cut the corners made by the original manufacturer who is often working on an economy of scale. I have already bought modded mics – such as the MXL 910 that I bought from Michael Joly over at Oktavamod. The mic is basically a very sound design but Michael swaps out the capsule and bypasses some of the PCB as well as de-cluttering the head basket. The results are nothing short of astounding as the A/B comparisons on his website attest – many people cannot distinguish the modded mic from vintage Neumann U87s. Praise...
New stereo LA-3A compressor

New stereo LA-3A compressor

Threecircles Recording Studio is now the proud owner of a stereo LA-3A compressor clone – the Serpent Audio SA-3A. This is a unit based on the revered levelling amplifiers originally made by UREI and now released by Universal Audio. We have various plugin versions of this famous compressor, most notably the Waves CLA-3A from Chris Lord-Alge and also Universal Audio’s own emulation on our UAD 2 DSP processor card. “So why build a hardware version then?” I hear you ask……. Well, first and foremost, it allows me to track instruments through the unit, adding tone and vibe on the way in. Secondly the LA-3A tends to be one of the plugins I use more than any other – it does wonderful things to guitars – so now I can save lots of time getting the sound I want on the way in! LA-3A PCB & Components This picture shows all the components that came with the kit, including the input transformer on the left, intermediary transformer on the right and output transformer at the back. The 8-socket ring to the right in the socket for the T4Bs. The build itself was fairly straight forward – two PCBs, the majority of the  components and the faceplate all came from Serpent Audio in the USA. The hardest part was waiting for everything to turn up: the rest of the chassis came from www.cutterweldermaestro.com, as well as a matched stereo pair of T4B optical attenuators from Kenetek Audio. I also needed to get some decent 22 guage hookup wire, 14 switches, an LED and the pots and VU meters from the guys at...
To Buy or DIY?

To Buy or DIY?

I have lusted after UREI/UA 1176 FET compressors all my music tech career. They are one of the compressors that is name-checked more than any other and seem to be a go-to for many engineers – with good reason: they have an ability to go from transparent glue to all-out pumping madness with just a few small changes to the setup and impart something magical to whatever you use them on – even when bypassed. So how to satisfy my lust for a unit that costs around £2K per unit? Many people seem to think that the UA re-issue units haven’t captured the magic of the original units – but trying to find one of them is like finding hen’s teeth! The only other option were the Purple Audio MC77 clones, but they still stack in at around £1200 each – and let’s face it, one is never going to be enough…… So I decided to set myself a challenge – I would build a couple. There is a great Seattle-based company call Hairball Audio who will supply you with a chassis, pots, switches and all the transformers – input, output and power. All you then need is the PCB – designed by a guy calling himself Mnats, and the components. Handily the Hairball site has a BOM (bill of materials) link where these can all be bought very easily. The only thing left for you to do is then build the compressor – stuff the PCB with the components (practice your soldering first!) and wire the unit up. The first of my Rev D boards took me about 4...
Hairball Audio 1176 Compressor Build Stage 5

Hairball Audio 1176 Compressor Build Stage 5

The final thing I do is to wire up the ratio board with the correct lengths of coloured wire as per Mnats instructions. Some of the colours are different due to what was available to me but as long as you are keeping a note of what colours you have switched you’ll be fine. You can see from the picture that the wires are fairly tough, straight wire – this is the smallest gage hookup wire I could get at Maplin as the holes on the ratio board are quite small diameter. In my first build I had to cut away some of the copper wires to fir them through the hole so hopefully this will make a better connection. The only problem with this wire is that the shield melts very easily when soldering but a bit of practice goes a long way! You can see from the picture below that the hookup of the ratio board with the attack and release pots is fairly complex  so take your time but if the wires are the right lengths then you shouldn’t have any issues. The toughest bit I find is where you have to suspend wires, a capacitor (with very short legs) and also a resistor on the attack pot and solder them all together – I find one of those leg tools with clips on very useful at this stage. At this point you should be ready to simply hook all the other cables to the molex headers on the main PCB  to make the connections before the final stage – the meter circuit board and the...