As much as the software world dominates modern music production, we can’t help but still pine for the practical benefits of outboard hardware – not least for its aesthetic appeal! But which of the following will you crown king this year? Scroll to the bottom of this article to cast your vote.
1Black Lion Audio Seventeen
Black Lion Audio’s Seventeen takes the classic 1176 FET compressor design and provides several additional useful features for the modern recording engineer. It’s easily one of the best 1176-style compressors that we’ve used to date and considering it’s been co-designed by audio expert Tobias Lindell (of Lindell Audio) that should come as no surprise.
While purists may scoff at features not part of the original UREI design, this is a turbo-charged version for the 21st century with a switchable sidechain filter, wet/dry mix control, bypass switch, link connector for stereo configurations.
2Cranborne Audio Camden 500 Series
A relatively new name to the pro-audio world, British company Cranborne Audio is committed to producing excellent gear at affordable prices. The Camden 500 is a transformerless microphone preamplifier offering both ultra-clean, transparent mic gain and two flavours of ‘Mojo’. The Mojo Analogue Saturation function will be a strong selling point, as it aims to emulate the colourful sound of vintage consoles by making use of a variety of filters and discrete harmonic generators.
This is a fabulous 500-series microphone preamplifier and we’d be raving about it at twice the price, but as it is, it’s practically a gift. We would have no hesitation using the clean signal path to make highly critical, natural-sounding recordings and, as you may have gathered, the Mojo controls offer a whole world of sonic enhancement.
3Thermionic Culture The Kite
Thermionic Culture’s The Kite is aimed squarely at stereo sources. It can be used to process single-channel sources, of course, but it can’t be used to simultaneously process two separate mono sources. The Kite is built to Thermionic Culture’s usual high standard, being weighty and nicely finished in the company’s traditional black. A transformer-balanced version in a purple finish is available as a special order, though in stock form, The Kite has ‘semi floating’ XLR inputs and unbalanced outputs. There is a quality and vibe with valve equipment that cannot be achieved with solid-state products, and The Kite is a perfect example. if your mix is great to start with, The Kite will really make it fly.
4Warm Audio WA273-EQ
A 2U 19-inch rackmount unit, the WA273-EQ certainly looks the part, with those instantly recognisable Neve-style pots and a similar layout to the currently available 1073 SPX.
The WA273-EQ is an excellent all-round microphone preamplifier with a sublime equaliser. It does possess a healthy dose of the classic 1073 sound beloved of engineers for decades. 1073 style EQ is a wonderful thing and this aspect of the unit’s performance is faultless.
5OTO Machines BOUM
BOUM, from France’s OTO Machines, is a hardware compressor/saturator/filter (or ‘analogue stereo warming unit’ as described on the company’s website) that appears to have something to offer producers of all types.
Even the most diehard software-based musician can use some hardware glitz, whether it’s adding something that software doesn’t do so well, or bringing the enjoyment that comes from physical controls. If you want to subtly boost entire mixes or individual tracks, or just smash them all into fuzz, BOUM is your new best friend.
Cast your vote here:
Check out all the Gear Of The Year 2019 categories here.