Review: Aphex Model 188 8-Channel Microphone Preamplifier

The remote-controllable Model 188 is a flexible multichannel mic amp built to serve many masters.
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Aphex is a company generally known for building products that reside in professional studio and live sound racks for years and years, simply working as dependable tools without drawing too much attention to themselves. The Model 188 eight-channel remote-controllable microphone preamplifier with built-in A/D conversion will perpetuate that reputation, and at a price that should attract the attentions of no-nonsense audio pros (under $1.5k street).

Features

Housed in a 1U rackmount chassis, the Model 188 offers eight mic preamps with a two-line LED display and simple turn/push data entry knob on the front panel, and all I/O on the back panel: left to right, IEC power jack, Ethernet jack for remote control, word clock sync via two BNC connectors, two ADAT/Lightpipe outputs, a DB-25 connector providing eight channels of balanced analog output, and eight XLR mic inputs.

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The Model 188’s mic preamps offer 65dB of total gain with 26dB fixed gain (39dB variable gain). A 26dB pad, polarity reverse, and low-cut filter at 80Hz is provided per channel. The Model 188 supports 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96kHz sample rates; automatic ADAT SMUX output is available for 88.2 and 96kHz, with selectable SMUX for 44.1 and 48kHz. 

The most notable feature of the Model 188 is its remote control capability. Like the Aphex 1788A -- a well respected eight-channel mic amp that can be found in high-end mobile recording rigs around the world -- the Model 188 can be remote controlled via Ethernet or MIDI via the Aphex 1788-RC hardware remote, AVID Pro Tools, or -- as I utilized it -- the free-to-download 1788SW control software for PC and Mac.

In Use

I used the Model 188 over the span of six months in a variety of settings: numerous tracking dates on the gamut of acoustic instruments, drums and percussion, vocal, and miked cabinet applications with a wide variety of microphones as well as a “crucial input mic amp” for two live events via remote control with my Mac Book Pro running the 1788SW control software. First and foremost, the Model 188 mic amps are pristine, providing lots of clean gain, and they offer all the adjustable parameters you’ll generally need. Sans software -- with the Model 188 sitting at your monitoring station -- it’s easy to adjust eight microphones of input in a flash; the push/turn parameter adjustment scheme of the unit’s singular knob is brilliantly simple. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to dial in appropriate settings for, say, a full drum kit in a jiffy. The back panel is well laid out, with all digital I/O to the left and all analog I/O to the right. I’m a big fan of the DB-25 outputs, as it’s really easy to swap those connectors around, especially in time-restrictive settings, such as location recording and live work.

The 1788SW software is incredibly intuitive, closely resembling the 1788RC hardware remote, and there’s virtually no learning curve to figuring it out. It’s simple to download and install; any user of such a product as the Model 188 should be up and running with it in no time.

Summary

The Model 188 is not sexy from a visual or operational standpoint. For that reason, I find it important to say that it is an incredibly solid multichannel microphone preamp, maybe even the best example of what is a “pro audio workhorse.” It’s neither low-end or too high-end/esoteric to not be a wise investment for anyone who takes audio seriously (and hopes to be taken seriously as a professional or an aspiring pro); it’s the kind of product that could be your first pro-grade eight-channel mic preamp and reside in your rack throughout your entire career, as Aphex is well known for making products that simply last.

Strother Bullins is Technology Editor for NewBay Media's AV/Pro Audio Group.

Price: $1,499 street

Contact: Aphex | 818-767-2929 | aphex.com