Advanced Audio MT8016 Preamp

Dual-Channel Gainer in the Trident Tradition
The MT8016 features 60 dB of gain, switchable phantom power, HPF and polarity per channel.

I’ve been using Advanced Audio’s microphones for a while now. Designer Dave Thomas forte is making classic mics that are true to the vintage character but with a fresh, modern twist. But when designers build amazing mics, a preamp is never far away, and the folks at Advanced Audio have unleashed the MT8016.

It was Joseph Magee, a scoring engineer now in Nashville, who got the ball rolling on this project. He asked if Thomas could build him a preamp inspired by the legendary Trident Serie80 console. So it made perfect sense to team up with the man responsible for that British Trident sound, Malcolm Toft. To complete the team, Thomas called on Tom Graefe, who has designed for MCI and Wunder Audio. Each MT8016 is assembled at a workshop in Canada with custom-made, British transformers. The cases and circuit boards are all manufactured in Canada.

This triumvirate of top designers agreed on using high-quality input transformers without a pre-transformer pad, which tend to “suck the life out of the preamp, says Thomas. By removing this padding stage, the character of the input transformer is more audible and colors the sound in a very musical way.

Just like its Series 80 ancestor, the MT8016 is made up of two gain stages controlled by a dual gain pot, increasing the headroom and transparency as the two stages work in tandem. Each op amp stage delivers 30dB gain, and the input transformer adds a little over 10dB, resulting in an overall gain of around 70 dB. If you’re dealing with high-SPL material, the unit gives you a -10dB attenuator (-10dB setting at the start of the gain pot) after the transformer stage.

Onboard the MT8016 is a variable HP filter (30-350 Hz) thaThomas found invaluable in his MCI/Sony MXP3036 console, which was designed by Graefe. Their view, which I share, is that a variable HP filter is usually all you need to clear up a muddy guitar. The MT8016 also features a large analog VU meter, with a Peak LED above the gain control. The back panel features gold-plated XLR in/out sockets, a pair of balanced TRS outputs and the IEC.

The MT8016 uses OP275 ICs in the audio path. This IC has twice the slew rate of the original TL071, and it can drive 600-ohm loads. In the original Series 80B console, the TLO71 started to suffer from loads greater than 5k ohms because Toft buffered the output stage with a pair of transistors. The OP275 negates this buffer stage requirement. There are also 1% precision resistors, and very low-ESR (Equivalent Series Resistance, if you want to geek out!) coupling capacitors are used throughout the unit. To complete the chain and fully capture “that British sound, the output stage has been transformer-coupled.

RACKING IT UP

Onc yo bolt  thi thin into your rack, you will not want to let go of it. To test-drive this puppy properly, it had to travel with me to sessions—first to RAK Studio in London. Mo Michael, a wonderful artist I’m recording, and I decamped to RAK’s Studio 4 to record vocals and acoustic guitars. I used an Advanced Audio CM25microphone paralleled to a selection of mic pre’s—one modern, two vintage. It became clear quite quickly that the MT8016 was getting the upper hand on both vocals and the Gibson J-200.
The vintage mic pre I prefer and the MT8016 Pre were extremely close. Upon first listen, the vintage pre had a little bit more bottom end and what appeared to be more HF. However, when I started listening closely to our takes, the MT8016 offered a tighter and rounder bottom end and a nice presence that I can only describe as “mix ready. It’s almost as if its been EQ’d and gently compressed and just slots right into the mix.

I couldn’t quite believe that a brand-new preamp was blowing the socks of an all-time classic I’ve been using for years, so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t fooling myself. I was asked to record an album that contains a lot of different instrumentation, providing the perfect scenario to sling a variety of sources at the preamp.

Harpsichord was captured with a U89, percussion with a U67, and cello was picked up by the CM251. For lead vocal, I wanted the opinion of both the producer and the artist. I rigged a vintage U67, C12 and the Advanced Audio CM67se. They all ran through the console’s preamps and were paralleled to the MT8016. I instantly knew what choice to make and was nicely surprised that my listening companions unanimously went for the CM67se/MT8016 combo.

IT’S A BUY

I am sold on this dual-channel microphone preamp, as are my clients. In an industry where a little knowledge can be dangerous and tends to lead to exclamations like, “It’s cheap, so it has to be crap, it is so satisfying to make people listen to new designs, open their eyes and ears, and see those predilections fade away instantly. I can only suggest you try the MT8016 for yourself and fall in love with it as I did.



TR
Y THIS

Many pieces of audio gear, preamps included, can be overdriven, but they don’t all sound great when you do. The MT8016 is a preamp I wanted to take to its limits, and I needed a gritty edge to a blues harmonica track. So cranked the hell out of it and drove the input, which delivered that hot and fat crunch I needed. Beautiful!

Product Summary

COMPANY: Advanced Audio
PRODUCT: MT8016
WEBSITE: advancedaudio.ca
PRICE: $995
PROS: Tight sound with loads of head- room, good value for the price.
CONS: Would benefit from a Mid/Side function.

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