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PowerPre™ FAQ

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What do you mean by 100% discrete electronics?

Golden ear recording engineers generally agree that larger, full sized parts sound better than the ultra small surface mount parts used in cell phones. There is also a great many that feel that chip based circuits that employ fully integrated op-amps tend to smear the image. Because of this, we opted to use full sized individual parts. These cost a lot more, are typically installed by hand, take more space… but sound better.

How is Radial able to sell a discrete mic preamp at nearly half the price of other similar products?

Because we buy tens of thousands of parts at a time, we are able to produce products at a much lower price point. Keep in mind that we build more professional DI boxes than any other company. The PowerPre simply takes advantage of our buying power and economy of scale. The PowerPre is technically as good if not better than valued competitors like API or Neve. They have a tremendous legacy that allows them to charge a premium… so we have to work harder to earn your business.

How does the PowerPre compare to a Tube mic preamp?

Tube microphone preamplifiers are primarily chosen because of the character they impart. On high quality devices this can be amazing. On most low cost devices, the tube tends to be more 'icing' than substance. And more often than not, they are so noisy that they cannot be used with confidence. You will find the PowerPre to be very warm and rich sounding and with the Vox control, you may find that in many cases it will work as well if not better than most tube preamps.

What is AccuState all about?

If you have ever turned a volume knob on a device and found that the control is uneven with most of the gain occurring at one end, you will understand the problem. Most volume controls are in fact not volume controls at all, but variable attenuators that reduce the input level going to the amplifier's gain stage. When you turn the attenuator down the noise floor stays the same. Most off-the-shelf potentiometers are logarithmic and because of this, cause the control to be uneven. As a work-around, preamp manufacturers often opt for a multi-position input switch. This works, but forces the recording engineer to work within predetermined steps. In either case, the gain stage is always set to maximum so the background noise is both fixed and always present. AccuState changes the rules by combining a variable gain stage with an attenuator. This way, when the volume is turned down, the background noise is automatically reduced. A clean signal is a happy signal!

How did you create the Vox tonal characters?

Simply put, we performed exhaustive listening tests using a variety of microphones until we found what we believe to be a good balance. The Vox control is designed to be subtle enough that it will be useful, yet sufficiently engaging to add creative spice.

I have heard some 500 racks only have limited current. Will the PowerPre pose a problem?

No. We designed the PowerPre to draw a normal amount of current, about 75 milliamps so that it will be compatible with all 500 series type racks. The typical current available for each slot is about 130mA which is more than double that is needed. We went the extra to turn off LEDs in the VU meter so as to conserve as much energy and ensure the audio signal path is well served!

What happens when I use the PowerPre on racks that do not have the mix buss?

Nothing. These card-edge pins were vacant and never used. So the signal will be ignored.

Can I use the PowerPre instead of a direct box?

It depends. If you are using the PowerPre as an instrument interface for recording, then the answer is yes, absolutely. But for on a live stage, a direct box is usually used to interface an instrument and drive long cables to a mic splitter. DI boxes generate the same output as a microphone (about -60dB). Since the output of the PowerPre is a balanced +4dB line level, it will overload a typical a mic splitter transformer.

How would you use the PowerPre in a live recording setup?

You could easily rack 8 PowerPres together using the Workhorse and send each output directly to the recorder. The Workhorse could also send an isolated split signal to the PA system and still give you a mic out for monitors.

Where would the PowerPre be used if you were creating a channel strip?

Most channel strips start with the mic preamp, then either the dynamics or the EQ. Most engineers prefer to EQ first, then add dynamic control as this enables them to create a curve and limit the loudest transients. There are no rules… just fun, fun, fun!

Can the phantom power from the PowerPre damage a ribbon microphone?

Older ribbon microphones were not designed with protective measures against 48 volt DC phantom power. This can blow the ribbon if exposed. Always check with the microphone manufacturer. As a precaution, always turn phantom off. The phantom power-on switch is recessed so that it is not accidentally turned on.

Will phantom power hurt a dynamic microphone?

No. Dynamic microphones – like transformers – simply do not allow DC current to pass. Thus they are immune to the DC voltage.

Can hot-swapping the PowerPre cause damage?

This answer is difficult to say for sure because we do not produce all of the 500 series racks that are in the market. The PowerPre is equipped with a thermal fuse that is designed to help prevent circuit damage. But it is always advisable that you turn off the equipment before exchanging modules.

Does the PowerPre need to warm up before it is used?

As with all electronic devices, they will work better when they have attained thermal stability.

There is no power switch on the PowerPre. How do I turn it off?

To keep noise down, most studios route all signal processing to the same power strip or power bar. These are normally outfitted with a power switch. Leaving the PowerPre on will not harm it. And if you are done recording for the day, you may as well turn everything off from a single location to save money on electricity.

My mic is not working… I get no sound?

If you are using a condenser mic, check to make sure the phantom power is on and that the ground lift is not lifted. If you are using a dynamic or ribbon, check the cable. Bad cables tend to be the most common cause of signal problems.

What does the transformer do inside the PowerPre?

Transformers are cool. They do lots! First, they isolate one piece of equipment from another which helps eliminate stray DC voltage from causing noise. Second, transformers inherently distort in a linear fashion while solid state circuits abruptly go from 0% to 100% distortion. This creates a very mild natural compression that is very pleasing to the ears. Finally, a good transformer generates what is known as a warm Bessel curve. Folks often cite preamps that are equipped with transformers to have a vintage character.