AES06SF: LMNOPRE, My Dear Watson...

US Little Labs new mic pre is far from elementary      08/10/06

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Little Labs’ have been showing their LMNOPRE mic pre, shipping this October, and the culmination of 20 years of design innovation by owner and designer Jonathan Little.
The LMNOPRE features a fully discrete gain stage and a completely differential circuit topology from input to output along with a low frequency resonance control which utilizes a unique polystyrene capacitor passive circuit topology that allows a controlled proximity effect without being in close proximity of the microphone.
Jonathan developed the original design in the early 1980’s. “[It] was a result of a line amp I designed while working at the Village recorder,� said Jonathan, “It was installed as the output section of several consoles around town including Chas Sanford’s SSL at Secret Sound and Joni Mitchell’s console (Trident series 80).�
While at A&M studios, Jonathan decided to develop it into an outboard mic preamp. Quickly regarded as an impressive piece by those who heard it, the pre was used as a vocal mic preamp by several artists including Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley and Sheryl Crow. After a mention in the October 1994 issue of Mix Magazine by Tchad Blake and Mitchell Froom, the buzz really began to spread. However time and manufacturing capabilities quickly complicated production.
“I stopped production of the original pre mainly because maintaining the studio at A&M was taking a lot of my time and manufacturing abilities were not at the par of which I am capable now. I should never of stopped because outboard microphone preamplifiers became very trendy shortly after.�
A few years ago, Jonathan decided to revisit the original pre and looked at what was currently available. “It wasn't enough to just have a good sounding pre, I wanted it to have unsurpassed flexibility because decent sounding mic pres with a gain control polarity and phantom are already plentiful.�
Jonathan incorporated additional features in the new design, including fully variable phase alignment utilizing the same circuit topology found in the award winning Little Labs IBP phase alignment tool. The front panel offers numerous options for dealing with the wide variety of signal levels as well as providing ways for users to modify the sound of the output transformer.
Jonathan incorporated two DI inputs on the front panel to address the various input levels engineers often encounter; one passive for use with active instruments and one active for passive pickups. An output transformer defeat switch and a post output transformer level control, allowing users to saturate the output transformer if desired while keeping your gain under control, are also featured on the front panel. .Lastly the user has an option to utilize external input transformers thru a rear mounted five pin XLR jack.
While many new features and functionality have been added to the original mic pre, the original sound and intention is evident by the use of the initial op amp design. “It was never a question of how the original sounded and improving that, it was more of what would make the LMNOPRE different from what already existed.�
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