The best things about my job as an pro audio gear reviewer are the sonic education, widening palette and improved tastes I receive through hands-on exposure to a wide berth of gear. The worst part is not being able to hold on to some particular pieces that I believe could've been pivotal in improving my sound.
So here, I provide the following list of those intriguing pieces I didn't find the means to purchase, wished I could have, and have wondered many times over how my sound may have improved if only I had bought them.
Millennia Media STT-1 Origin: What I miss the most about the STT-1 is its eminent versatility and varied options (including tubes, transformers and signal routing), all rolled up into one high-end, super-convenient and ready-to-use package.
Rupert Neve Designs Portico II Channel: It’s so clean, so sexy and so musical. Since the Portico II Channel left my studio, I've had many a vocal session that would've benefited from the its de-esser, aural beauty and overall musicality.
JDK R22: Admittedly, I already have a lot of flavorful compressors, but sometimes I find myself craving some really transparent, really clean, flexibly side-chained, no-hassles mix bus squeezing. The R22 does all that really, really well -- and for a very reasonable price.
George Massenburg Labs GML 8900: Sometimes it’s nice to get your hands dirty and dig down into a plethora of options. Imagine having a compressor that can be tweaked into invisibility if you're willing to do that. That's the 8900.
Manley Vari-Mu: The Vari-Mu has a certain, identifiable classy character that's really desirable for both mixing and mastering. Whether compressing, limiting, hitting the input hard or lightly tapping, I miss its versatility and “finish.”
Universal Audio 2192: Who wouldn't want the 2192's seemingly endless signal routing options? But above all else, I miss its big bottomed, robust sound as yet another useful variable to literally paint with at mixdown or in mastering.
Little Labs LMNOPre: Its Low Frequency Resonance control and phase alignment sure are missed around here. The LMNOPre offers great detail and fullness, due in part to the two gain stages. It’s cool and unique -- what else do you expect from Little Labs?
Violet Magic Ear Large-Diaphragm Condenser: It’s impossible to forget such a funky earlobe-shaped diaphragm and its striking purple color, and I can't quite get its smooth, velvety sound out of my mind, either.
DPA 4011TL Small Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser (matched pair): I've mostly opted for color with many of my mic choices (and limited budget), yet there have been countless times when a small diaphragm condenser pair boasting incredibly accurate, flat response like the DPA 4011TL would've saved my day.
AEA A440: I'm not sure what I miss the most about not having an A440 around the studio: it’s monstrous sound on drum room, the sweetest backup vocal sounds ever, or just the vibe it creates with its huge “sing to me” presence and nostalgic look.
sE RNR1: The sweetness of a ribbon, the detail of a world-class condenser, and the musicality of your dreams: all of my guitar tracking has suffered without the use of the beautiful sE RNR1.
ADAM A7: If I had just a little more room in the control room, I'd definitely have a pair of these -- or similarly ribbon-tweeted ADAM monitors -- there for the unique perspective on high-end transients and mix detail I discovered they can provide.
Rob Tavaglione has owned and operated Charlotte’s Catalyst Recording since 1995. catalystrecording.com