The Silver Bullet Stereo Tone Amp from Louder Than Liftoff is the result of a collaboration between Brad McGowan and Bill Pearson (aka drBill) following a discussion on the website Gearslutz. Pearson wanted to find a way to apply the essential tonality of an analogue recording console to sterile digital audio and in cahoots with McGowan they created this unit.
What we have here is a stereo tone processor in a 19 inch rack. Two different gain blocks add different subtle distortion characteristics. The user has a choice between circuit "A" based on an API design and circuit "N" based on a Neve.
These can be selected individually or cascaded one either direction. Following this very flexible gain stage is a simple but highly effective two band Baxandall EQ which is flanked by a low cut and a high cut, both of which are tuned for a specific musical function. The low cut centres on 20hz but has a slight resonance at 40hz and the high cut is designed to replicate the "silky" top end of a classic Neve console.
The EQ itself offers a gentle 9 dB of cut or boost and both the high shelf and low shelf have two options. Low shelf can be toggled from 30hz or 60 hz and the high shelf 4khz or "air" an undisclosed frequency that levels out at 60hz.
One of the special features of the Silver Bullet is the flexible routing options available. Input can come from three places selectable from a front dial.
This is achieved by the three sets of stereo inputs (all on XLR). Using it in the review attached to an SSL Six, without any additional patching, the Silver Bullet can be used as a recording device that can add plenty of colour to the built in mic preamps or as a track processor that is fed by the SSL's preamps. This gives the very clean high headroom SSL mic preamps a very different flavour.
Engaging the master insert on the SSL and setting the Silver Bullet to mix and it's transformed into a highly useful mastering device. The very well written manual has many additional remarks from drBill regarding the design decisions and any potential customer really should read it as it illuminates many of these choices.
It is as a mastering device that many will find uses for and it excels in this role. It shaves off transients in such a way to allow the returning mix to sound significantly louder than the unprocessed without resorting to limiting or compression. This trick is achieved by the quality of the components and the clever gain staging. Toggling between the "A" or "N" reveals surprisingly different results with the "A" sounding more transient and brighter than the warmer and thicker "N".
Coupled with the cascading ability, this Mojo section really adds significant differences and once coupled with the beautiful and smooth sounding EQ, the results can be jaw dropping!
This isn't a cheap unit at $2099, however when you factor in the boutique hand built quality, the flexible routing and the excellent mic preamps on top of the aforementioned mojo and EQ circuits, it actually is very reasonably priced, especially when compared to other mastering grade processors.
It has the ability to drastically alter mixes in very pleasing ways and also provides a hugely interesting way of colouring your input signals when recording.
I really clicked with the Silver Bullet and found to to be an impressive piece of equipment that can really transform the signal.