Mercury Recording Equipment Company


Pro Audio Review, March/April 2014 (Mercury M72s)
STUDIO REVIEW - By Lynn Fuston; PAR Technical Editor

Pro Audio Review

I've lost count of how many preamps I've heard over the years, but it's probably near one hundred. Of all those, there is a very short list of preamps that I consider indispensable: ones that would top my list if I had to pick just a few to record everything. The Mercury M72s is one that makes that list.


The Mercury Recording Equipment M72s Studio Microphone Amplifier is a recreation of the classic Telefunken/Siemens V72s amplifier modules that were designed by North West German Radio (NWDR) and manufactured in great number (25,000+) from 1952 until the mid 1960s when it was replaced by the transistorized V72t. The V72 is a self-contained tube amplifier with gain fixed at 34 dB, that was used as a mic amplifier and buffering amp. The variant V72s was developed by Siemens and offered fixed gain of 40 dB and lower input impedance. One claim to fame of the V72s is that it was the preamp in the famed REDD.37 console that was used by the Beatles at Abbey Road Studios on their early recordings prior to 1964.

Here's a brief rundown of the Mercury M72s. It's a hand-wired, transformer-balanced tube preamp, with settings from 28 to 58 dB max gain, with DI (Mercury FDI), polarity reverse, phantom power, two-position pad (-16, -28). The case is steel and very well built. Available in mono (M72s/1) or Dual Mono (M72s), this piece is an investment you'll likely keep for a long time.

So how did the Mercury M72s come into existence? David Marquette, founder/owner of Marquette Audio Labs and Mercury Recording Equipment Co., began racking and refurbishing V72 modules for studios back in 1994. As the years passed and demand increased, the number of vintage modules and their condition declined, forcing him to be more creative to satisfy demand. In 1999, David started Mercury Recording Equipment Co. to start manufacturing a recreation of the V72s, and several other vintage classics, with new parts, one that would match the sound of the originals. According to Marquette "I had all the mechanical stuff down, the cases and power supplies, transformers and tubes. It was just a matter of starting from scratch." Clearly, the advantages of using parts that are not 30 to 60 years old can be enormous, in terms of reliability. But matching parts and specs can be relatively easy. How about matching the "sound" of a vintage unit? Is that even possible using modern components?


Although I had obviously heard the V72 sound on many classic recordings, I was unfamiliar with its lineage when I first tried out the Mercury M72s in 2004. I was amazed. There was an unfamiliar sonic quality to it that was immediately desirable. I'm not sure how to describe it, apart from it being full and present and very musical. It was forward without being hard, and full without being thick. It was astounding on vocals especially. I compared it to many of my other favorite preamps. Frequently I liked it better. It was one of those "Voila" moments (they don't happen often for me).

At the 2006 AES show, Mercury sponsored a listening party with all the Soundelux (now Bock Audio) mics and all the Mercury preamps. I was engineering the session. After extensive listening with a room full of engineers, my magic combo was the Soundelux 251 into the Mercury M72s. (Thankfully, Joe Chiccarelli hosted the event the following night and came to exactly the same conclusion. Whew!)


So the burning question: "If the M72s sounds great, wouldn't the originals sound better?" In my recent evaluation, I acquired a pair of original V72s from Blackbird Rentals here in Nashville and put them right beside the Mercury M72s. Over two days of recording, I tried switching back and forth between the two. With any vintage gear, the condition of the vintage unit is always a variable. Time may have taken a toll on capacitors or transformers, and the power supply is critical as well.

In my listening, especially on a big vocal group (12 singers) with two of the mics going through the 'Vintage' V72s and two through the M72s, I was unable to discern a difference. I had to look at the labels to remind myself which preamps were on which mics. The distortion characteristics when pushed hard, the noise floor, the sonic quality: any differences between the two were indistinguishable to my ear. Even though there is a slight difference in the noise floor of the two, for my purpose (with gain at about 35 dB) it was a non-issue. For me, the M72s is a Winner.

Pro Audio Review / March/April 2014