It's not just for Phil Collins anymore.
Here is a detailed explanation of the Flanger effect and how and why it does what it does.
Part 2 in this series will help explain the swirly chorus effect.
Thinking aloud about mixing techniques in recording. To each their own, but I don't know about you... I wouldn't be caught dead playing a pointy-neck guitar with a straight face.
Lord, won't you buy me a Telefunken ELA-M251?
A friend of mine from the Guitar-Gear group wrote a great post about what's cool about FX Loops in guitar amps. Even I never thought much of them until this post. Contact Ian at
In recent years, the number of companies manufacturing analog recorders has dwindled to practically nothing, and now with the sudden close of Quantegy, a major supplier of tape, could it spell the death of analog?
Yes, there is a difference.
...a little background about analog synths and why I think they're so cool.
...don't just take my word for it. Try some out for yourself.
M-Audio DMP-3 2-channel pre
This no-frills solid-state preamp offers two channels each with a single gain control, a 75Hz HPF, pad, phantom power and lighted VU meters in a half-rack box. The overall sound is clean, relatively quiet and pretty colorless. It's a good utility pre that is a slight step up from an inexpensive console pre. I've had good results with it on overheads, guitar and bass amps. It won't add much weight or meat if it isn't there to begin with, but it's a nice reliable pre. I do have a few pretty big gripes with it however. The phase invert switches are on the rear of the box, and if you have it mounted in a rack, it's a total pain. My other gripe is that you don't really have to worry about the phase invert switches....because the HPF also inverts the phase! This is a mind-boggling design flaw that I've learned to work around. BEWARE of this and you'll be okay. You'll often find these half-rack preamps for around $150.
Aphex 107 (first version) 2-channel "tube" pre
This pre is part of their "Tubessence" series dating back to the mid-90s. It's essentially a solid state pre with a tube stuck in the circuit more for marketing purposes than any real sound improvement. Judging it on it's own, it's another simple and usable pre that can be an improvement on a Mackie console preamp. It seems to add a smidge more midrange meat to the signal (the tubessence?), but again, not a very colored sounding pre. It has the typical gain, pad, HPF and phantom switches. It also features a jack on the back panel for remote muting (maybe for broadcast purposes?). The metering is lacking, with only a green signal LED and a red clip LED. Then again, don't rely on metering, just use your ears. It can be a little noisy, though with a strong source, it's not a problem. I just wouldn't go to this pre for delicate tracks, like fingerpicked guitar or a really dynamic piano track. XLR jacks are on the front.
I've had good luck with the 107 on vocals, guitar amps, bass DI and overheads. You'll often see them used for around $150. Beware that the LEDs on the front panel will sometimes stop working (I've seen this on two units so far.)
Bellari RP503 channel strip
This single-channel pre combines the preamp from Bellari's MP105 table-top pre, the compressor from the LA120, and a simple three band EQ. I've been wanting to do some of the Black Lion mods/upgrades to this box, and I've been experimenting on my MP105 with minor results so far. This box suffers from a few issues that make it tough to use on really important tracks. The preamp alone is okay. It has the infamous issue of having the majority of it's gain coming in on the last quarter-turn of the gain control, and when you hit that range, the noise is extreme. I keep the gain control no higher than 1 o'clock on this box. The pad control works sort of backward in that instead of being -20db the switch is labeled +20, so engaging it BOOSTS the gain. That's one to get used to. The tone of the preamp is noisy, grainy and can be harsh with the wrong mic/source. The compressor section is decent on certain things. I have an LA120 as well, and it's a great box for bass guitar. I could be mistaken, but I think it's an opto compressor, so it has a round character that in a small dose sounds punchy. The EQ is kinds of bleh.... Boosting anything introduces more noise, so you're better off just shelving off a bit here or there, or cutting an offending frequency with the sweepable mid. The major gripe here is that you CAN NOT switch the EQ out of the circuit. I would love to mod this box to take all of that stuff out of the circuit.
I've used this unit with okay results on lesser-critical tracks like under snare and rack toms. It's also succeptible to power line fluctuations which will induce a track-ruining second of HUM when your refrigerator cycles on or off. You'll find these used for around $120.
Digitech VTP-1 2-channel tube pre w/EQ and digital out
This is kind of a sleeper box. It dates back to the mid-90s as well, and features two channels of preamp with INPUT GAIN, OUTPUT TRIM, mic/line select, phantom, phase invert, pad, HPF, and a switchable 4-band eq with shelving low and high, and two sweepable mids with large VU meters in a 2-rackspace box. To deserve it's name of DIGItech, it also features 18bit converters with switchable 44.1 or 48kHz sampling rate and selectable aes/ebu or s/pdif output. It has the usual 12AX7 tube stage tacked onto the solid state circuitry, but I would really consider this more of a solid state pre than anything else. It has a round tone that's a little bit fatter than the others so far, and allows for more character by turning the gain control up and turning the trim down. Unlike a true tube circuit, however, when the input gain is set high enough to clip, it's pretty ugly sounding. The EQ is more usable than the Bellari for sure. If you need it at all, don't be afraid to pop it in and carve something up a little. Add a little "air" or scoop out some nasty mud. It's no worse than a cheaper console EQ, and I think a little better sounding. I'm not sure what the bandwith is for the sweepable mid bands, but it seems to be a good compromise: not sharp enough to get surgical, but not too broad that it's too heavy handed.
I can't say that I've used the digital output much, but if you need a way to get two channels into a DAT or any recorder with a s/pdif input, it's a fine way to go, so long as you don't mind the low 18-bit resolution.
I've had good luck with this as a DI on guitar, bass and keys (12 string electric is nice), and on vocals, kick, snare and toms. I don't see them too often, but I would probably expect to see them for less than $300.
M-Audio Tampa pre/compressor w/ digital out
This 2U rack came out around 2003 to a lot of hype and some good reviews. Though it doesn't seem to have lived up to all the press, it's a nice sounding pre. It features a useful input impedance selector and a slightly confusing means of setting gain and overall level. There is a GAIN control, with an accompanying +20db gain switch. Beyond that, there is also a -20db OUTPUT pad switch, that just doesn't seem to make sense to me. I often have a hard time getting the level set on this pre. Often, I find that I'm cranking the gain all the way up in order to get a little of it's "patented" harmonic distortion, and padding the output, but it doesn't give me the right output level. Picture setting the gain to a point where the preamp circuitry is doing it's thing, but you just need to back off the output by 5db or so. Well, you can't. It's either a 20db pad, or it's back off on the gain control and lose some tone.
The impedance selector is a nice way to tailor the "feel" of the pre to match the source, depending on the mic you're using. It can be subtle, and I find myself either using one extreme (300ohms) or the other (2400ohms).
Okay the tone. It's nowhere near as dimensional as I would expect from the claims of tubelike sound, with M-Audio's patented "temporal harmonic alignment" circuitry. It all sounds like astrology to me. The tone is good, but sort of sounds like a tiny bit of exciter-style harmonic distortion. It's subtle and not really a selling point to me. I wouldn't call it rich or complex sounding. I wouldn't call it bad either. It sounds nicer than the DMP-3 and the Aphex 107, with a bit more weight to the signal (distortion?) but again, it's kind of "surface" sounding. Hard to describe. It's like it's a good sounding pre that's wearing one of those cheap Halloween costumes we wore as kids with the molded mask held on with a rubber band, and a flame-proof one-piece nylon suit that said "Luke Skywalker" on the front. Not to say it's a bad sounding preamp, it's just not Luke Skywalker. The compressor is kind of fun. It is an opto compressor that can be set to be polite enough to tame a vocal track with no ill effects, but it's also kinda groovy on drum tracks that you want to crush a little bit for effect.
I wish there was a makeup gain control on the compressor, as well as some more flexible means of controlling the output trim, but overall, it's a reliable pre that I have had good luck on many sources, including vocals, acoustic guitars, electric guitars and bass, and drums. You'll find them used for less than $300. A good deal.
Symetrix 202 2-channel pre
This lesser-known pre is also from the mid-90s. What it lacks in spotlight and hype, it gains in a solid tone that is killer on electric guitars! This simple 1/2 rack pre has two channels with gain, phantom and a pad switch. One channel ads a phase invert. (why only one?) There's not much to say about this pre other than it's a great utility pre. It doesn't claim to sound like a vintage tube pre. It doesn't claim to harmonically align anything. It doesn't dissapoint either. This little unassuming box has surprised me many times by just sounding really good. It's definitely more on the clean and transparent side than the colored side, but it sounds full and has smooth top and bottom. No murkiness, no strident high end. Just a hard working preamp. I'm not claiming that it is the greatest sounding thing in the world worth driving the Ebay price up like mad, but I would rely on this pre like I would rely on a swiss army knife or an SM57. It may not be the absolute best tool for the job, but it always gets the job done. Great on electric guitar, Bass with a DI (sansamp bass driver) and decent on toms, snare and some vocals. Expect to pay $200 or less.