Neo-Retro Analog Signal Processors
August 1, 2001
By Michael Cooper
MIX Magazine

To many engineers, brand names such as Teletronix, Fairchild, Neve and Pultec represent the pinnacle of audio quality. The most heralded equipment from recording's past typically features all-tube or discrete, Class-A, solid-state audio paths with point-to-point handwiring. In other words, what endures over time endures for good reason.

Recognizing the fact that the demand for vintage signal processors exceeds the surviving supply, a number of manufacturers have developed reissue versions of particularly desirable designs, or have adapted aspects of those seminal designs to new creations that also incorporate some modern components. Today, it seems, we can have the best of both worlds: yesterday's sound in a brand-new box.

All of Mercury Recording Equipment's products feature all-tube audio paths, transformer-balanced I/O and point-to-point handwiring. Chassis and front panels sport a distinctive 1950s look, with engraved lettering and either powder coating or baked-enamel finishes.

Due out this fall, the Mercury 66 Limiting Amplifier ($5,999 list) is based on the famed Fairchild 660 Variable-Mu compressor. The Mercury 66 offers 2:1 compression and 20:1 limiting, as well as all ratios in between (transitioning gradually to the higher ratios as input levels increasingly exceed the threshold). The 66 dishes out a lickety-split 50-microsecond attack time. The release time varies from 0.3 ms to 25 seconds, with three of the unit's six presets functioning in a program-dependent manner. The 4U rackmountable unit also offers input, threshold and metering controls. Glowing inside are 6BC8, (2) 6V6, 12BH7, 12AX7, EL34, GZ 34 and 5751 tubes.

Due to ship sometime this summer, the Mercury EQ-H Program Equalizer ($2,399 list) is based on the Pultec equalizers of yesteryear. Continuously variable controls afford 16dB boost/cut on high frequencies and 13.5 dB of boost and 17 dB of cut on lows. The transformer-balanced I/O and single-ended makeup gain amplifier remain true to the original Pultec. At your command are five low-shelf boost and cut frequencies, nine mid- and high-boost frequencies and a high-shelf cut at 10 kHz. 12AX7 and 12BH7 tubes warm things up.

Also due to ship sometime this summer is the Mercury EQ-P Program Equalizer ($2,899 list), another Pultec-type spin-off. It departs most noticeably from the EQ-H in its offering of three high-shelving cut frequencies at 5, 10 and 20 kHz, and slightly greater amount of boost in the mid- and high-peaking filters. Also, the tubes that are used are 12AX7 and 12AU7. Continuously variable gain controls, transformer-balanced I/O and a fully balanced (push-pull) makeup gain amplifier remain true to the original Pultec EQ. The only modern twist here is a rear panel switch that allows you to remove an interstage transformer for a different sound.

Due to ship this winter, the Mercury M72 Studio Microphone Amplifier ($TBA) is a dual-channel offering in the tradition of the classic Telefunken Studioverstarker V72, which was used by The Beatles in their early recordings at Abbey Road Studios. Features will include 34 to 56 dB of gain, phase reverse, -15dB input pad, switchable phantom power and a transformer-balanced DI input. Two EF 86 tubes will light up your world.

Also watch for the Mercury M76 Studio Microphone Amplifier ($TBA) sometime this winter. Based on the Telefunken Studio-Mikrofonversarker V76 of the late '50s and '60s, the dual-channel M76 will add a line input, impedance selector and output fader to the classic design. Other features will include phase reverse, -15dB pad, switchable phantom power and a transformer-balanced DI input. Two EF 86 tubes are used here, as well.

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