Every singer naturally wants to sound like “a million bucks” when performing live, but without the vintage tube microphones and high-end consoles of a world-class recording studio in their signal path, live vocals almost never sonically measure up to professionally produced tracks. That all changes with the launch of the new Gold Channel from Legendary Audio. Now, singers have access to an easily portable, fully analog “dream pedal board” for live performances that stunningly presents the tonal magic of an iconic microphone paired with a multi-million-dollar console’s channel strip.
The Gold Channel is the combined R&D effort of veteran mastering engineer Billy Stull—referred to by Rupert Neve as a man with “golden ears”—and respected circuit designer Kevin Burgin, who spent a decade working for Rupert Neve Designs and was instrumental in the creation of the celebrated 5088 console.
Designed to rest on the stage floor in front of the singer and work with any standard dynamic or condenser mic, the Gold Channel’s extensive feature set starts with an super-high-quality preamp that sets new benchmarks in analog circuit design, including its ultra-low THD plus noise spec of 0.0007% (measured at 1kHz, -20dBu input, +30dB gain). No transformers are utilized in the preamp stage in order to deliver the clearest sound reproduction, and every circuit has been designed from the ground up—using a carefully chosen combination of the latest state-of-the-art semiconductors along with traditional ones—to create an incredibly pristine and versatile mic preamp.
One of the Gold Channel’s truly standout features is its “Legendary Microphone Sound” control, which can be blended as desired into the vocal signal path with a rotary dial.
“The best microphone I ever heard in my entire life was a Neumann U47 first owned by my friend, Norman Petty, who used it to record Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings and many others,” recalls Stull. “I had the privilege of owning that exact mic for a number of years myself and know its sound intimately, and we’ve been able to accurately replicate the subtle nuances of its tone. In fact, when Kevin and I finally felt that we had nailed the sound of that ‘Holy Grail’ mic during the Gold Channel’s design, we put on a Buddy Holly record and both got choked up in hearing how similar our result was to Norman’s original recordings from more than 60 years ago.”
Also unique to the Gold Channel is Legendary Audio’s proprietary “I.C.E.” (In Case of Emergency) processor that can reduce or eliminate distortion in specific frequencies, control sibilance, tame vocal-chord over-modulation and quickly suppress feedback. I.C.E. can add low, mid, or high-frequency vocal enhancement in a different and more natural way than EQ. Think of I.C.E. as a frequency-specific dynamic EQ, and variable limiter than can control unwanted or unpleasant vocal tones. For example, if a singer’s vocal performance gets distorted when they “bear down,” I.C.E. will engage at the specific problematic frequency and smooth the tone.
“Billy’s I.C.E. is the most exciting new analog product to hit the pro audio world in years,” enthuses Burgin. “I.C.E. can remove transistor distortion in even the most expensive condenser mics, and I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about a circuit and its potential as I have been about this one.”
It’s interesting to note that Stull originally created I.C.E. as a plug-in for Sonic Studio, which continues to offer the product. “I.C.E. worked so well as a digital plug-in when I invented it a few years ago that I knew I wanted to bring it to the Gold Channel, but in an analog version, which is the opposite path of most cases,” laughs Stull. “Normally, the digital plug-in is a clone of some piece of analog gear. But this was the first time, to my knowledge, that someone took a successful digital product and re-engineered it in analog form—and it absolutely blew us away.”
A comprehensive list of other amenities and features makes the Gold Channel a valuable tool for any professional singer, including the presence of a Hi-Pass Filter to eliminate rumble, plosives, mic handling and stage noise under 110 Hz. A sweepable three-band parametric equalizer allows the perfect amount of tonal shaping to take place, while an elegantly simple yet professional-grade compressor helps contain wild dynamics and enable intimate “breathy” vocals and other enhancements.
Two effects loop circuits (HI-Z unbalanced and LO-Z balanced) are controllable via an included dual-button footswitch, allowing the singer to take control of their own effects onstage. For example, one effects loop could bring in reverb or other ambience, while the second could route to an echo effect that might be turned on and off at various points in a song. Looping in outboard effects like these can become an integral part of the overall performance and allow the singer to explore new creative possibilities.
Housed in a striking purple powder-coated aluminum chassis measuring 17″ wide x 8.5″ deep x 3″ tall, the gold knob-studded Gold Channel features a sloped control panel and heavy-duty feet for tabletop or stage use, with ample clearance for cable runs below. Rear panel output connections include an XLR for main output, as well 1/4-inch jacks for monitor and headphone outs, while switches for +48V Phantom Power, ground/lift, line/mic level (main output) and a power switch round out the backside controls.
“Our new Gold Channel gives the serious vocalist that wants to go ‘all in’ with his or her career the best possible ‘golden voice’ wherever they perform, be it a concert hall, nightclub, church, or a broadcast, home or professional recording studio,” says Stull.
“Everyone that has heard the Gold Channel so far has been absolutely stunned by how our proprietary analog circuitry enables a common stage mic to sound like an expensive sought-after tube microphone used by the biggest stars in the music business. And unlike temperamental vintage gear that has to be handled with the greatest of care, this product is built ‘road tough’ and ready to reliably give singers that ‘million-dollar studio sound’ wherever they go.”
The first production run of the Gold Channel is now complete and has been limited to 30 pieces, which are sold directly from the manufacturer for $4,395.00 USD. An optional flight case is also available. For product inquiries and additional information, please visit www.legendaryaudio.com.
Legendary Audio is a boutique manufacturer of high-end audio products for mastering, archiving, recording, broadcast and live sound applications. Located on South Padre Island, Texas, the company is the manufacturing sibling of Masterpiece Mastering.
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