Audio Technologies, Inc. (ATI) has a successful product line it calls the Nanoamp series. These extensible audio products are based on instrumentation-grade op-amps; all are simple and straightforward to operate and are modestly priced for the performance they offer. A recent addition to the Nanoamp series is the ML200 dual-channel microphone preamplifier. With a $289 list price, this simple, clean mic preamp will be favored among broadcasters, ENG/EFP engineers and especially with serious recording enthusiasts.
Product PointsApplications: Electronic newsgathering (ENG); location recording
Key Features: Phantom power; gain control; jumper-selectable output level; 24 VDC external power supply
Contact: Audio Technologies Inc. at 215-443-0330; www.atiguys.com.Reader Service 121.
+ Ease of use
+ Clean sound
The Score: An easy to use and portable mic preamp for field recording.
The ML200 is extremely simple in design; its front panel has two gain controls, two input gain selector buttons and two phantom power switches. The only metering is from two peak LEDs that light at 4 dB below clipping on the respective channel. The acceptable input level range is between -76 dBu and +18 dBu, and the output level is internally selectable between +4 dBu line level and -54 dBu mic level. This makes the ML200 suitable for use as either a mic preamp (mic-to-line), a mic preamp buffer (mic-to-mic-level), a line-level buffer amp,(line-to-line level) or even an active line-to-mic level buffer amp.
The gain controls for configuring the ML200 are inside the chassis and, as with other products in the Nanoamp series, accessible by removing the four screws on the top cover. Each channel has one of three gain selections that are matched to the respective front panel gain switch; the low gain setting has 0, 20 or 30 dBm gain available; the high gain setting has 30, 40 or 50 dBm gain.
By judiciously setting the internal gain switches, one may use the ML200 as a line-level buffer (front panel set to low, internal gain at 0). With a flick on the front panel gain switch to high, the ML200 becomes a conventional mic preamp (internal gain set at, say, +40 dB).
The respective internal jumper selects the output level for each channel; mic output is at -50 dBu at 150 ohms and line level is +4 dBu at 600 ohms. The published maximum output level is +22 dBu; the maximum input level is +20 dBu.
As with the other products in the Nanoamp series, the ML200 is powered by an external 24 VDC supply. The power source, which must be ordered separately, is available from ATI as a wallwart, a tabletop supply, a 9 V battery pack, a rechargeable gel-cell pack, a DC-to-DC converter for belt pack or NT-1 power, a loop-thru power feed from another Nanoamp product.
ATI must have realized the market potential for a low-priced, clean mic preamp with the features of the ML200. I had no sooner opened the box, when it was spirited away by a colleague for his field use in recording a band using a fixed stereo mic pair and a MiniDisc recorder.
My colleague had been moaning about the price of top-end, portable mic preamps (the very small, 9-V-powered models). He wanted to buy a two-channel, clean, low-distortion preamp with phantom power to use in fairly predictable venues. He tried the ML200 and liked its performance so much he bought it outright.
He was pleased with the headroom and used the factory default gain settings. His recording was, indeed, far better than what could have been achieved using the Mini-Disc’s preamps, and he didn’t mind being tethered to a wallwart power supply.
In this case, the +20 VDC phantom power was sufficient to run his microphones and will work well on most professional mics. ATI also sells a PH48-1 phantom power converter accessory that provides +48 V power for those microphones that require it.
Overall, ATI has made a simple, yet flexible, multi-use dual-channel preamp that fills a niche for those who want good performance and a clean sound but don’t need extreme portability and a high price tag.