Technology

Field Test: Millennia TD-1 Twin-Direct Recording Channel

The Millennia TD-1 combines an instrument/amplifier/DI input with mic and line recording paths and preamp outputs. 2/01/2004 7:00 AM Eastern

The Millennia TD-1 combines an instrument/amplifier/DI input withmic and line recording paths and preamp outputs. The sturdy,handcrafted, 15-pound tabletop unit incorporates many criticallyacclaimed design elements from other Millennia products, includingalternate FET and tube circuit paths (the latter for instrument orspeaker/amp input only), two bands of NSEQ-2 equalization and the HV-3solid-state mic preamp.

LET'S BE DIRECT


An unbalanced phone jack on the TD-1's front panel can accept inputfrom an instrument or a direct feed from a guitar/bass/keyboard amp.This DI input signal goes directly to an unbalanced (phone jack) rearpanel direct output, which you can choose to be either buffered (by amonolithic solid-state amplifier) or unbuffered.

A front panel switch also variously routes the DI input signalthrough Millennia's Twin Topology circuitry, which provides alternatepaths through a Sovtec 12AT7 triode tube or an all-discrete FETamplifier. (My review unit was fitted with an optional Mullard CV-4024NOS tube, which is available for an additional $30.) Three alternateimpedance settings—470k ohm, 2 megaohm and 10megaohm—change the load on a DI'd instrument to produce a varietyof timbres.

A front panel XLR accommodates line-level input. The TD-1 also shipswith a rear panel XLR mic input (HV-3) that is served by defeatable+48-volt phantom power. All inputs (including DI) can access additionalgain. The user has access to 9 to 65 dB of gain in roughly 5dBincrements.

All inputs can also access a 20dB pad, defeatable polarity-reversefunction and NSEQ-2-type dual-band equalization. Unlike Millennia'sTwin Topology NSEQ-2 unit, the TD-1's EQ is solid-state-only. Takentogether, the TD-1's two widely overlapping EQ bands span a range from20 Hz to 25 kHz. Each band provides up to 15 dB of boost/cut andcontinuously variable Q settings from 0.4 to 4.0. There are separatebypass buttons for each band, as well as for the entire EQ section.

Rear panel outputs include both balanced and unbalanced XLR and TRS(line-level on four connectors), a transformer-coupled XLR mic-leveloutput (with a stated 3Hz to 300kHz frequency reponse), theaforementioned direct out and a mono headphone output (with leveltrim). I found that the TD-1's line-level outputs provided plenty ofgain to record directly to a DAW. Alternatively, for added coloration,you can patch the transformer-coupled mic-level output (which uses theREAMP custom Millennia DIT-01 transformer) to an external preamp.

The TD-1 also offers two REAMP outputs on its rear panel. Accordingto Millennia, the two REAMP outputs (used under license) are drivenfrom “specially wound shielded magnetics” that emulate thelevel and impedance characteristics of Stratocaster- and Les Paul-stylepickups, respectively. By feeding a previously recorded track to theTD-1's line input and patching one or both of the preamp outputs to aguitar amp(s), you provide the amp(s) with a signal(s) that ispreconditioned to make the track sound like it's a live instrument.

The TD-1 also provides separate and variously colored signalpresent, overload and power LEDs; five different schemes for lifting orisolating the unit's ground; a removable leather carrying handle; fourgargantuan rubber feet; and a detachable AC cord. Two TD-1s can also berackmounted together. The unit's front panel cosmetics are stunning,and all knob settings are clearly discernible from a reasonabledistance. A custom Corduna gig bag is an available option.

PUT TO THE TEST


Succinctly put, the TD-1's DI input, when used on electric guitar,exhibited a smoother spectral balance and far greater realism, warmth,body and depth than that of any specialized DI box I've used. ComparingDI'd electric bass tracks recorded first via the TD-1 and then using myAguilar DB-900 tube DI box, the TD-1 lent a slightly bigger bottom andgreater presence, clarity and depth.

The TD-1's two preamp outputs sounded quite different from oneanother and worked great. Routed to my Line 6 Pod Pro, they easilyallowed me to turn crystalline DI'd Strat tracks into overdrivenmonsters during mixdown.

The TD-1's EQ is simply the best I've heard. It sounds incrediblywarm, full-bodied and silky. I've never heard a mic preamp that soundsmore pristine and revealing than the HV-3. (I love this preamp so much,I have 10 channels of HV-3 in my studio.) As a self-contained front-enddevice, the only thing that the TD-1 lacks is a compressor.

THE OBVIOUS CONCLUSION

The TD-1 sounds truly superb, is highly versatile, looks gorgeousand has gobs of headroom. Moderately priced at $1,495 list, this boxsets a new standard for recording channels and gets my very highestrecommendation.

Millennia, 530/647-0750, www.mil-media.com.


Mix contributing editor Michael Cooper is the owner of MichaelCooper Recording, located in beautiful Sisters, Ore. Cooper's studiooffers recording, mixing and mastering services.

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