Picking through signal processors was worse than looking at distortion boxes – wide variation in features, but all aimed at (more or less) warming up the signal (especially vocals), offering some compression, and finally, if you’re lucky, some eq to throw a little chime on the high end or define the mids and lows. After looking at models ranging from Meek to Alesis, we settled on ART’s Tube Channel, billed as a professional tube mic preamp compressor and equalizer. The price was impressively low (under $450 list) for all it offered: a single channel, single rack device that houses three major circuits. An elegantly designed tube microphone preamp, a fine optical tube compressor, and a highly utilitarian EQ rest under one chassis. Controls are, thankfully, analog in nature, meaning us old-fashioned gearheads don’t have to scroll through digital menus to arrive at a good setting. Inputs are 1/4 inch and XLR, and phantom powering is onboard if you have a high-end condensor mic to power up. VU metering is easy and accurate. Hey what more could you ask for? In practice, this unit functions better than anything else in its class – with tube or ribbon mike picking up a female vocal, acoustic guitar, or rendering a DAT tape of a live acoustic ensemble performance onto master tape, the results were accurate and at times thrilling.
Applied Research and Technology, 215 Tremont Street, Rochester, NY 14608, phone (716) 436-2720, www.artroch.com.
This review originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’00 issue.