Unbelievably the wizards at Retro Instruments have released a single-channel tube microphone preamp/line amp module that fits into a single slot of a 500 rack. Inside are three premium TAD 12AT7 tubes and CineMag input and output transformers.
The 500PRE has both high (75dB) and low gain (48dB) modes available using either two or three of its tube stages. Total 500 slot current drain is 160-mA and just over the allowable VPR spec.
The front panel has full size switches and control knobs for: Input Gain control, Low or High Gain Modes, 48-volt phantom power on/off, Invert off/on “flips” the polarity of the balanced mic input line, and the Output control sets final level.
I ran the 500PRE in an API 8P High Current 500 rack (250mA per slot) and..
We took the circuit topology of the Sta-Level and packed it into a single width 500 module. The Retro 500PRE three tube gain stage exhibits the same detail and depth. As with all Retro products, the feeling of the musical performance is delivered with the Retro Instruments 500PRE.
Distortion, Noise and Frequency Response of the Retro 500PRE are outstanding; but overload characteristics are not generally revealed by standard measurements.
The Retro 500PRE tubes gracefully limit the signal at +18 dBu. Whether you’re just going for clean gain or pushing the 500PRE into overdrive, it won’t ever sound plastic and brittle like solid-state amplifiers can. Transient detail is unrestrained The Retro 500PRE doesn’t sleep when you’re done tracking. Use the 500PRE as a high-energy limiter during mix-time. The 500PRE design purposely has the limiter effect of tube amplifiers. You’ll love to use it as a limiter to fatten all kinds of tracks.
The Retro 500PRE works within API 500 rack power limitations. Each 500PRE consumes 160 ma of power, slightly above the 130 ma VPR-compliant allocation. We recommend racks with quiet linear power supplies like the API models. When power requirements are observed, the rack and 500PRE will provide years of reliable service.
The Retro 500PRE uses three 12AT7 tubes that are readily available as new production or new-old-stock. A user can select from a wide variety. Your unit uses the new production TAD 12AT7 and these tubes are expected to last for a very long time under the 500PRE operating conditions. We use soft-start circuitry that minimizes stress to the tubes and power supply. The Retro 500PRE takes less than a minute to warm up and perform.
Since the 500 Series format became en vogue, the Retro Instruments Doublewide has been one of the best selling modules at Vintage King. As its name implies, the DOUBLEWIDE takes up two rack spaces offering premium single channel compression with huge, tube-powered punch via your lunchbox.
Late last year, Retro Instruments announced a new successor to the compressor, the Doublewide II.
This new version features faster attack and release time, stereo linking capabilities and a greatly improved signal to noise ratio. The Doublewide 2 still features the signature Single and Double timing modes that made the original such a favorite on drums, bass and well… Just about everything.
The sweetest thing about a Pultec is how you can alter the frequency spectrum in such a drastic and desirable way. I remember the first time I used one (on a Russ Taff record in the 1980s). I was floored by how I could add all the presence and brilliance I wanted without any sibilance or harshness.
How was that possible?
And I could grab as much warmth and fullness as I desired without the bottom end getting muddy or thick. Again, how does it do that?
The Retro Instruments 2A3 distinguishes itself by offering two channels in one unit and also adds a switchable subsonic filter (40Hz or 90Hz).
Is Retro’s recreation of the legendary Gates Sta-Level more than just a reissue?
Trawl through old interviews and you’ll find that plenty of big-name producers offer nothing but praise for the Gates Sta-Level compressor. It was one of the most successful and enduring compressors of the post-WWII era, and its unique sonic qualities mean that it remains in demand today, although for a rather different application. Second-hand units change hands only rarely, and for a high price. Retro Instruments, though, offer a version of the Sta-Level, which remains true to all the important aspects of the original design, while also incorporating some very useful additions.
Bettering The Sta-Level
As with Retro’s take on the Urei 176, the build quality is flawless. It combines the heavy-duty nature of studio kit from the ’50s with a few key qualities of a well laid-out modern design. In fact, Retro took everything that was good on the original unit and enhanced it, to make the compressor more suitable and more convenient for daily use today. XLR connectors, a standard IEC outlet, the possibility of coupling two or more units, facilities on the rear panel for..
The original Altec 436C was a three-tube circuit. Revolver uses a solid-state sidechain circuit to replace the 6AL5 tube detector used in the Altec, though it retains the same 6BC8 input and 6CG7 output tubes. There are many dual triode tubes that can be substituted, as Retro has a vast NOS supply of American-made tubes (primarily because they were popular television tubes).
The rear panel of Revolver mimics the Altec with horizontally mounted tubes and transformers for proper cooling. The four tubes (two for each channel) are located between and protected by two taller custom output transformers located inside of steel box shields. The output transformers’ laminated cores are oriented 90-degrees from the core of the custom AC power transformer. Part of Revolver’s sonic “secret sauce” revealed to me is that…