A not-so-common preamp... the Golden Age Project 73 jr

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by MrSidecar, Aug 17, 2020.

  1. MrSidecar

    MrSidecar Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2008
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    I’m using an Ear Trumpet Labs Nadine mic for amplification (and I’m not blending with another pickup). And I’m playing into an amp, a Walter Woods MI100-8 to be specific.

    To make this happen, I until very recently relied on two extra boxes with their corresponding wall-warts and cables between them. A Rolls phantom power supply and a Broughton Audio HPF-DI. The sound is great, but the signal chain is cluttered and prone to errors like cable failure, insufficient amount of mains outlets near to the bass amp, or most likely forgetting one of the parts at home.

    I tried an EA Doubler Mk2- no clutter, the mic plugs directly into the amp, but I didn’t like the sounds I could get.

    Desperately, I called my amp technician for suggestions. He came up with an ART Tube MP. Interesting suggestion. The thing contains a 12AX7 tube and is powered by a 9v-wall-wart. There are users reporting pretty noticeable noise, and somehow the combination of tube and 9v power supply, and for only 50 euros, doesn’t really gel for me.

    But the type of device was interesting- I’m not after a ton of knobs and nifty tone shaping, all I need is phantom power and gain. And a DI.

    Enter this:


    On the back, it’s got xlr and jack inputs and outputs. This thing doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention here, so in short: it’s a clone of a legendary studio preamp by Rupert Neve (the 1073, I suppose), usually found in older studio mixers of the highest standard. It’s an old fashioned design with discrete transistors and no ICs, and with transformers on both input and output. It provides phantom power, between 20 and 70dB gain, and has a phase reversal switch. By the company’s own account, it’s not the most neutral or distortion-free design, but it’s supposed to sound super musical. And it costs 230 euros, which is considerably less than, say, the here-beloved Grace Felix.

    I have tried the 73 jr as a preamp into my amplifier, both standalone and using the xlr out as a DI into a rehearsal power mixer/foh, and as DI only without the amp. I can attest to it sounding very musical, ballsy and “warm” with the Nadine mic.

    Since there are with this setup 3 gain stages before master volume (input/output gain on the preamp, and input gain on the Woods), there are many options as to how "dirty" or colored one wants to sound. I went the way that seemed the cleanest (as per the preamp's manual), keeping it modest on the input gain (30dB), output gain about 2 o'clock, and Woods input gain like I am used to (11 o'clock on the hot input). That sounded great to my ears, just as I had been used to with my setup . Maybe not totally accurately clean, but very musical and "real".

    Using the preamp as a "split" DI to send signals to both foh and amplifier, worked great as well.

    And using the Golden Age as DI box solely into foh, at least with the mixer we have at my rehearsal space, all settings equal, the sound was more pleasant and "warmer" than plugging the mic into the mixer directly, although that difference probably is not huge and wouldn't warrant using the preamp- it's not day/night different, plus if there's someone operating the foh equalizer, all bets are off anyways.

    So here it is, a pretty unorthodox preamp for everyone using a microphone for db amplification. There's the theoretical possibility of sending a pickup signal in as well, into the jack insert on the rpeamp, however, the input impedance is too low for piezo pickups and that input might be more useful for electric bass. I haven't tried, though, so I don't know anything about that.
  2. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Mr. Sidecar,
    I don't think that's unorthodox at all. Over the years there have been many players using microphone preamps, either in front of their amps, or as a stand alone preamp (which is a little to limited, for my taste)

    The Summit Audio TD-100 and an Avalon U5 come to mind. I totally get why you love the sound of your MI-100-8, because it's a analog preamp, driving a analog power amp. All the new amps, even ones from Walter

    are analog preamps, driving digital power amplifiers with a SMPS. It's a very different sounding amplifier. Using that microphone Pre is a very good idea, because, as good as they are, Walter's amplifiers aren't really

    nuanced for use with microphone, even if they did have phantom power, which they do not.
    MrSidecar likes this.
  3. LaFaro01


    Aug 27, 2018
    If you look to the API Series 500 Modular "Lunchbox" System , you'll lots of very interesting and "not so common" preamps, which do really great jobs also in (pre-)amplifying double basses such as the API 512c or the Chandler Little Devil or a Neve Portico 517 and so on.. compared to "normal" Bass Amps and Preamps there "opens" a "new world"...:p all the more, if you start to combine it with EQ's, compressors and so on, which are available for lunch boxes... not really cheap, but a real great playground, if you like...
    For me one main reason for the success of the Grace Design Felix is his pedigree from and close relationship to the Grace Design Studio Preamps, also realized in 500er plugins like the m501
    Ric Vice likes this.
  4. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    I noticed that as well, I was told that the Pre's in the Felix are similar to his M101 with additional tone shaping, HPF/Notch Filters, and all kinds of signal routing that you wouldn't normally see on a studio microphone pre like the Neve. As a result the Felix

    is a great sounding dual preamp and also costs a few bucks. The Walter Woods that Mr. Side Car owns has a incredible preamplifier, it's control set isn't adequate for using a microphone because that's not what Walter builds it for.
    MrSidecar and LaFaro01 like this.
  5. MrSidecar

    MrSidecar Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2008
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    For the record and for anyone interested,

    after having tried both, I've settled for the bigger brother Pre 73 MkIII. Looks like this (image copied from the Golden Age site):


    My reason for the upgrade was, the bigger brother has the benefit of a HPF, plus a treble boost ("AIR").
    While those two extra options provide at least a bit of extra complexity, I found them to be of the "set once and forget" category. On the other hand, amplifying with this preamp in the signal chain, and with AIR2 and HPF1 set, tricked me into feeling that the amp wasn't on, when in fact I was making things rattle in the room. Switching the amp off made me realize how unnecessarily loud I really had been just a flick of a switch before. The HPF very subtly removes surplus ballsy-ness in the lower register (AKA "rumble") while the AIR provides just enough extra treble to make the Nadine sound even more natural, and that settled the deal. I can't wait to try this setup live.

  6. Matthijs

    Matthijs Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2006
    i’ve been using that ART tube pre for years now and it actually does the job really well. Noise is lower than my headway. Also not a neutral pre though. I prefer it with guitar and violin over bass. The microphones I use are not on the high end side of the spectrum though. Better Mic’s might highlitr the Art’s limitations.
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  7. neddyrow

    neddyrow @TeddyPlaysBass - Instagram Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2011
    Cortland, NY
    I use a Focusrite FSA One mic preamp for when i use my Nadine or just a pickup.

    i had the Golden Age MK and couldn't get the sound i wanted for electric or upright but i like this thread.

    i really want to try the ACME Tube mic preamp for my rig, but $2k is way out of my budget.
    Ric Vice and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  8. Happy Steve

    Happy Steve Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2007
    Mel-burn, Ore-stralia
    I am still enjoying my second-hand Presonus Eureka preamp, but ironically I use the built-in EQ to make it less hi-fi to reduce the chance of feedback with my Remic!
  9. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    I forget did you ever try the Grace Felix, it's a excellent preamp, just wondering.
    neddyrow likes this.
  10. neddyrow

    neddyrow @TeddyPlaysBass - Instagram Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2011
    Cortland, NY
    I haven't. seems to check all the boxes i want. i almost bought one one here but didnt have the funds at the time. it's also at the top of my GAS list
  11. flatback


    May 6, 2004
    The Grace Felix is close to perfection when it comes to the kind of preamp we are talking about here. Studio mic (500 series) preamps are great to be sure but they are not made to take to a gig. The Felix combines exceptional mic pres with the best non tube Hi Z input (for piezos) routing for days (for example the ability to send the piezo signal to your amp but the mic or mic blended with piezo to FOH) etc. Plus it has the totally necessary HPF/Notch/ParaEQ capabilities to deal with anything. I think the Felix is worth the investment and no other maker offers anything close. (the Headway is pretty cool for a 18V box) but it is not in the same league. The Felix sitting on top of any number of excellent upright oriented powered speakers with ANY combination of pickup or mic going into it, is so good, I just think that it is worth getting (rather then paying some large portion of it's price to get some other preamp that will have so many fewer upright oriented options) Just my 2c.
    Zbysek, LaFaro01 and Ric Vice like this.
  12. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    It's a big investment, but well worth it in my experience. When I'm looking at a new gear purchase, I usually try to find the unit used, on Talkbass, Reverb, or sometimes Ebay. In the past 3-5 years I've only seen two or three, Grace Felix preamps

    for sale. My interpretation their scarcity is that the bassists who bought them, kept them and like them. Just my take.
    Zbysek, neddyrow and LaFaro01 like this.
  13. LM Bass, Zbysek and Martin Spure like this.
  14. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    That's quite a recommendation coming from you "Kaspar". Since I already own the Grace Felix :) and the Vintage Revolution II came post Grace, it wouldn't make sense for

    me to switch at this point. The two boxes are different, both in good ways. Early on I had some issues shipping my Headway EDB-1, back and forth to GB for repairs, so my take is

    find the box that's built in the country where you live. Otherwise, repairs if needed, will be more costly and take longer. Grace Designs offers a 5 year transferable warranty. So stateside

    it's going to be less hassle to repair it, should the need arise. Just my take, enjoy the Revolution Solo and that Schoeps CMC1/46. That's what I'm most interested in. :thumbsup:
    Kaspar Vadsholt likes this.
  15. -Yes, it makes sense to choose accordingly to where one’s at. In the EU, the Vintage-Revolution is a good bit cheaper than the Felix. And personally, I have had bad experiences with customs and postal services, shipping units to the US for repair.
  16. LaFaro01


    Aug 27, 2018
    At the moment also a "not so common"-preamp:
    The new EBS Stanley Clarke Signature Acoustic Preamp:
    EBS Stanley Clarke Signature Acoustic Preamp |

    looks a little bit like a Felix-Clone for my eyes... but why not, it it works as well as the Felix ;)
    Zbysek, Ric Vice and Kaspar Vadsholt like this.
  17. Wow, that’s looking like a well thought-out and not too pricey alternative to both the Felix and the Vintage-Revolution! -and apologies to fellow dane, Sidecar for the complete thread derail!
    MrSidecar and Zbysek like this.
  18. It looks like there is only a low phantom power voltage available. Depends if the switch has two settings or three (with electret in the middle).
    But I guess it iss a two way switch only. Electret means that the voltage is only high enough that an electret condenser works with it, that can be any voltage between 1.5 volts and 12 (maybe 18) volts.
    So it’s not as versatile as the Felix in this domain.
    John Le Guyader likes this.
  19. John Le Guyader

    John Le Guyader Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2006
    DC Metro
    As you suspected, the EBS website and manual says the phantom runs at 5V, 2mA. And it looks like it is just on or off at that voltage.
    Ric Vice likes this.
  20. shwashwa


    Aug 30, 2003
    The website actually says that it provides 48 volts on channel b
    LaFaro01 likes this.
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