(not photo of actual unit)
Make / Model: ART Tube Channel
Purchased: Musician’s Friend, 1999
Price: $349 (new)
Pretty Damn Good
If you were a budding engineer in the late 90’s, you may have spent some time on rec.audio.pro. And if you did, you’d see some newbie pop on and ask about ART recording equipment, and then brace yourself for the impending smackdown of hillarity at this non-knowing guitar center-shopping, recording person.
But the truth is, this thing was actually GOOD.
They (ART) made a more pro-looking one, a 2u unit, I have no experience with that. It’s probably not related, but they were smart, it would have been.
No, this thing featured the late 90s ‘tube boom’ tube circuit of what was called a ‘starved plate’ design, meaning, from what I gather and not any understanding of the circuit, really, essentially the tube is run at a lower voltage than what Pro tube stuff works at. Advantages, perhaps less people die if they open the unit? But Also, you can cheap out on the power supply.
And it did sound kind of weird when I got it. But once I swapped out the tube, for not even the correct tube, but a lower power telefunken 12AT7, this thing sounded amazing!
Perhaps it was because, inadvertently, I had lowered the voltage, and accordingly, given myself more headroom?
All I know is the 12AX7 I popped in, while sounding good, was a bit hairy sounding, like way too much gain, and 12AU7 sounded like fucking silk.
And immediately, this unit went from being something I used cuz I had, to something I CHOSE to use.
Where it really shined was with DI bass. It has a built in optical compressor, and a useful eq, and a decent preamp!
And for vocals, I’d just use the preamp, but with the KSM32, it sounded great. Just perfect.
I don’t see many of these for sale these days, so either folks have kept em to themselves, or they have died. They were made kind of cheaply, so who knows, but the actual use of the unit was pretty satisfying: pots seemed decent, extruded aluminim chassis.
Overall, I made some recordings I was very happy with, and this was the ONLY preamp I had at the time of them.