I’ve been using Advanced Audio’s microphones fora while now. Designer Dave Thomas’ forte is making classic mics that are true to the vintage characterbut witha fresh, modern twist. But whendesignersbuild amazing mics,a preamp isnever far away, and the folks at Advanced Audio have unleashed the MT8016.
It wasJoseph Magee,a scoring engineernow inNashville, who got the ballrollingon thisproject.He asked if Thomas could build him apreamp inspired by the legendary Trident Series 80 console. So it made perfect sense to teamup with the man responsible for that “British” Trident sound, Malcolm Toft. To complete the team, Thomas calledon Tom Graefe, who hasdesigned forMCI 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 triumvirateof topdesigners agreedon using high-quality input transformers withoutapre-transformer pad, which tend to “suck the lifeoutof thepreamp,” says Thomas.Byremoving this padding stage, the character of the input transformer is more audible and colors the sound ina very musical way.
Just like its Series 80 ancestor, the MT8016 is madeupof two gain stages controlled byadual gain pot, increasing theheadroom and transparency as the two stages work in tandem. Each op amp stagedelivers30dB gain, and the input transformer adds a littleover 10dB,resulting in anoverall gainof around 70 dB. If you’redealing with high-SPL material, the unit gives youa -10dB attenuator (-10dB setting at the start of the gain pot) after the transformer stage.
Onboard the MT8016 isa variable HPfilter (30-350 Hz) that Thomas found invaluable in hisMCI/Sony MXP3036 console, which wasdesignedby Graefe. Their view, whichI share, is that a variable HPfilter is usually all youneed to clearupa muddy guitar. The MT8016 also featuresa large analog VUmeter, with a Peak LED above the gain control. The back panel features gold-plated XLR in/out sockets,a pairof balanced TRSoutputs and the IEC.
The MT8016 uses OP275 ICs in the audio path. This IC has twice the slew rateof theoriginal TL071, and it can drive 600-ohm loads. In theoriginal Series 80B console, the TLO71 started to suffer from loads greater than 5kohms because Toftbuffered theoutput stage witha pairof transistors. The OP275negates thisbuffer stagerequirement. There are also1%precisionresistors, and very low-ESR (Equivalent Series Resistance, if you want togeekout!) coupling capacitors are used throughout the unit. To complete the chain and fully capture “thatBritish sound,” the output stage has been transformer-coupled.
RACKING IT UP
Once you bolt this thing intoyour 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 toRAK’s Studio 4 to record vocals and acoustic guitars. I used an Advanced Audio CM251 microphone paralleled toa 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 micpreIprefer and the MT8016 Pre were extremely close. Uponfirst listen, the vintagepre hada littlebitmore bottom end and what appeared to bemore HF.However, whenI started listening closely toour takes, the MT8016offereda tighter androunder bottom end anda nicepresence thatI canonlydescribe as “mixready.” It’s almost as if its been EQ’d andgently compressed and just slots right into the mix.
I couldn’t quite believe that abrand-new preamp wasblowing the socksof an all-time classic I’ve been using for years, soI wanted to make sureI wasn’t foolingmyself.I was asked torecord an album that containsa lotof different instrumentation,providing the perfect scenario to slinga varietyof sources at thepreamp.
Harpsichord was captured withaU89, percussion withaU67, and cello waspickedupby the CM251. For lead vocal,I wanted theopinion of both the producer and the artist.I riggeda vintageU67, C12 and the Advanced Audio CM67se. They all ran through the console’spreamps 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.
I am sold on thisdual-channel microphonepreamp, as aremy clients. In an industry wherea 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 tonewdesigns,open their eyes and ears, and see thosepredilections fade away instantly. I canonly suggest you try the MT8016 for yourself and fall in love with it asI did.
Many pieces of audio gear, preamps included, can be overdriven, but they don’t all sound great when you do. The MT8016 isa preamp I wanted to take to its limits, andI needed a gritty edge toa blues harmonica track. SoI cranked the hell out of it and drove the input, which delivered that hot and fat crunch I needed. Beautiful!
COMPANY: Advanced Audio
PROS: Tight sound with loads of head- room,good valuefor the price.
CONS: Would benefit froma Mid/Side function.