Producers, engineers and musicians are constantly searching for new devices that tweak or manipulate their sounds. The Metasonix TS-21 Hellfire Modulator processor is one such device that seems a natural for synth-based recordings.
Product PointsApplications: Studio recording
Key Features: Dual large-diaphragm element; fixed cardioid pattern; elastic shockmount basket
Contact: Marshall Electronics at 800-800-6608; 310-390-6608; www.mars-cam.com. Reader Service 182.
+ Versatile, balanced sound
+ Well-designed shockmount basket
+ Unbeatable value
– No pad or low-cut switches
– Maximum SPL spec
The Score: A price-busting tube microphone that sounds much more expensive than it is.
Pure tube sound is the philosophy behind the TS-21. The designers point out that the Hellfire Modulator is 100 percent tube (two 6BQ7s, 6AR8, 6AK5, 6AL5) without a single semiconductor.
In the modular synth tradition, all connectors and controls are on the front panel. (I wish the rear panel were equipped with a parallel input and output connector so the unit could interface better with traditional studio wiring.) For the keyboard programmer/player, however, the front panel connectors are ideal. The power cord is on the rear panel.
The TS-21 contains two independent circuits: the Pulse Width Modulator (PWM) circuit, which is a monostable multivibrator, and the Beam Modulator. On the front panel, the input preamp and the PWM are on the left, the beam modulator is on the right. The Beam Modulator uses an obscure tube originally intended for use in TV sets. A green-tinted round window reveals the beam deflection tube at work.
On the front panel’s left side, the 1/4-inch jack provides audio input that can be adjusted with the input level control. Another 1/4-inch jack provides a VCA CV input that lets the user control the gain of the pentode preamp and use it as a VCA. The PWM Manual knob controls the PWM’s pulse width and allows the PWM circuit to burst into oscillation if turned past 12-o’clock. The PWM bypass switches the PWM circuit out of the signal path. The Range control switches the signal into different input electrodes on the beam tube.
On the right side, the Beam Screen knob controls the screen-grid voltage to the beam modulator tube. The L1 and L2 knobs adjust the level of built-in LFO (low frequency oscillator) that is applied to the deflection electrodes in the beam tube. The knobs also affect the speed of the LFO. The Speed knob controls the rate of the built-in LFO. The Beam/PWM CV 1/4-inch input provides external level control for the preamp section. Another 1/4-inch jack provides audio output.
The TS-21 is a great tool for tracking keyboards. I also had good results using the box to excite several analog synth parts that were sonically “challenged” and needed severe tweaking.
I let analog synth programming guru Kip Kubin check out the box. His feedback was positive overall, though he felt the power of the unit didn’t qualify the hefty price of $749. (According to Metasonix, the TS-21 is hand-wired, using point-to-point techniques on a large fiberglass bulkhead with brass-plated turret terminals, hence the higher cost-Ed.) Kubin also complained that the knobs were close together, making small adjustments difficult. Otherwise he was pleased with the performance of the machine.
The Metasonix TS-21 is a unique processing device that can be used in synth-based studios. The box would be good addition to any current or vintage modular synth set-up that needs an alternative array of sounds.
Contact: Metasonix at 707-263-5881.Reader Service 98.