"As if these were not enough features to crown this machine as “Preamp with Superpowers”, those are not the main reason why we’re writing this article."
May 19, 2020 / By Francesco
A PREAMP WITH SUPERPOWERS!
The Aphex 1788A is a 8-Channel preamp, old enough to be called “vintage”, but with incredible sound and a list of features you can’t find in many machines. It features remote controlling through a dedicated rack unit (the 1788A-R) via CAT5 which can control up to 16 channels, 65 (!) dB of preampfification in 3 different stages, 8 Jensen transformers for great sound, a switchable limiter on every channel, directly in the preampfification stage, so that it’s practically impossible to clip it, and an internal test tone, that you can activate on each channel, for quick troubleshooting of your recording system.
It mounts a digital I/O card that output signals directly in ADAT and AES-3 formats, with also great sounding converters, as well as 2 parallel sets of analog output, which we find indispensable for location or live recording, when you always need a backup recorder, independent from your DAW, in case your computer freezes.
If it were produced by Beyerdynamic it would surely get the mark of TG (Tour Graded). It is simply a machine that can bear incredible stress typical of live situations, but with the sound quality of studio gear.
The remote control capabilities give you the possibility to leave the preamp units near the stage, minimizing cable lengths and managing in general, and still be reachable and tunable at all times, from a great distance, thanks to Ethernet connectivity.
As if these were not enough features to crown this machine as “Preamp with Superpowers”, those are not the main reason why we’re writing this article. As we acquired one of these units a couples of years ago, we weren’t aware of this feature either, but as soon as we read about it, it became the beating heart of our all system.
Using Avid Pro Tools as our main DAW software (without all the HD hardware), we always knew the "Pre" field was dedicated to control the infamous native Avid Pre, which we don't own, so we didn't give much thought about it. Then we discovered an article on how to set up the Avid Pre, and - lo and behold - it mentioned other 7 (seven!) third-party preamps that could be controlled by use of the same protocol, and one of them was indeed the 1788A. The control happens through the MIDI connectivity of the machine, which in theory limits the distance you can get from the controller (ideally a computer running Pro Tools) and the preamp, but with a clever little box from the company BOME, you can send MIDI signals over Ethernet, increasing the range of the cables up to 100 meters.
You can read how to setup the connection in Pro Tools in this article on Pro Tools Expert. Once your all set, you have the possibility to control via Pro Tools all main setups of each channel, like input gain, pad, low cut, phantom power and polarity in real time. You can also save these values in your project, and recall them as you need. And if you want more freedom during a concert recording, you can leave your computer backstage next to the preamp, and control all these parameters (and everything else) with the Avid Control App, on an iOS device.
If these are not superpowers...