Dark Horse: Black Box Analog Design

Written by Elliott Clarke. Posted in Studio Gear

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Published on May 28, 2012 with 2 Comments

Black Box Analog Design are a relatively new-to-market company, currently with only one product available to the public. The Vacuum Tube Preamp has been designed from the ground up by the company’s two-man team, and the design comes from years of audio engineering experience and experimentation with sound.

The designers say “since we came from an audio engineering background and not a circuit design background we weren’t influenced by standard designs or restricted by thoughts of what we “should” do. Instead we allowed our ears to lead us in the right direction.”

The result is an all-valve powered mic preamp, borne from the realisation that as audio circuits are becoming “cleaner”, more and more plugins are available to add distortion, saturation, warmth, and other extra harmonic material. The obvious answer is to build a preamp that has the capability to amplify a mic signal with minimal colouration, while at higher gain levels giving an analogue bite to the sound that other top-end units simply aren’t delivering.

The Black Box Preamp uses only tubes for amplification and is entirely free of op amps, ICs and transistors. All of the shaping is done at the tubes, and from the constantly variable
interaction between stages. The response curve of the Pentode stage alone gives you a huge amount of control over the tone, and coupled with the independantly controlled Triode stage you have virtually unlimited tones at your fingertips.

Every part of the all analog audio circuit is point to point wired by hand on copper boards. The preamp uses a high voltage linear power supply, custom wound ‘Cinemag’ transformers, and the best quality components available. They say “From the metal work to casting the knobs, we do every step, one at a time.”

Of course doing everything by hand doesn’t make for the cheapest gear, but this unit is very, very high-end – and loved by engineers for acts as wide as Aerosmith, The Mars Volta, Ice Cube, and 50 cent.

Independently controlled Pentode and Triode tube stages
Custom wound Cinemag input and output transformers
Entirely analog audio path (No ICs or Op amps)
Hand soldered, point to point wiring
Switchable input impedance done by tapping into the transformer windings
5 position, gentle and musical roll off
Independant Pentode / Triode “Tone Boost” switches
Instrument input / D.I.
Linear power supply
Passive output attenuation control
48v Phantom power from an entirely separate supply
Amplifier isolated VU meters
Military spec switches

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  1. I heard this on kick drum and could not believe the extra everything it gave the sound.

  2. “Extra everything” is a great way to describe the Vacuum Tube Preamp! It’s really not the cheapest unit but if you can afford this sort of quality your productions will benefit.

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