APHEX 207D 2-Channel Tube Mic + Instrument Preamp

I got the Aphex 207D 2-channel tube mic and instrument preamplifier with MicLim (overload protection) and 24-bit 96kHz analog-to-digital converter the other day to check out. I opened up the box and took a look at the unit. The 207D is a streamlined single-rack space device that has a straightforward front panel. I briefly perused the manual and then packed up the mic pre and took it to a mix session at The Document Room in Malibu for my buddy R.B.’s (ex-Suicidal Tendencies guitar player) band Buckle.

I had also brought along to the session a Roland 301 tape echo unit, an Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man analog delay, and a portable Leslie driven by a Fender Deluxe Reverb. The intent was to use this gear to try to warm up the Digital Performer-bounced-to-Pro Tools tracks.

I initially was going to use the Aphex 207D on the miked Leslie that I was using for processing guitars or vocals, but I decided instead to use three matched mic pres in the

Neve 8068 board we were mixing on. And when I got to the point in the mix where I had to place the vocals, I patched up the Roland 301 tape echo and the Memory Man on different sends and returned them to the board on separate channels.

But both these units are unbalanced with low output level and I needed to get their output levels higher. The Roland 301 and the Memory Man analog delay are also pretty dirty sounding and I didn’t want to color their sound any more, so I decided to use the Aphex 207D’s dual-instrument preamplifier to boost the outputs of the delays: I added the appropriate amount of these delays to the vocals.

This preamp worked great for this application. The delays sounded crisp, clear, and precise. And this setup worked so well, I used it in the mix for four other Buckle songs.

And a week later I brought the Aphex 207D to a vocal and lead guitar overdub session at Paramount Studio A in Hollywood for the Long Beach band Synthetic Mary. The solo guitar was a ripping, distorted, sloppy angst-driven affair that needed to be captured with the same amount of attitude. The Les Paul/Tube Screamer/5150/4x12 cabinet rig was miked up with a Shure 57 (on axis) and a Sennheiser 421 (off axis) on the same speaker going through the Aphex 207D mic pres. In my opinion, and keep in mind this is only that, the Aphex 207D was a little too clean and pristine for this situation. This performance screamed for a transformer-driven mic pre like the kind you might get in a Neve 1073.

Later in the session, the vocalist set up his rig (a Shure 58 into a Digitech vocal processor) and I set up a Neumann TLM 170 mic next to his 58. Both of these mics went through each mic pre of the Aphex 207D and were lightly compressed through a pair of Avalon solid state class A compressors. The TLM 170 sounded big and fat. The Shure 58/Digitech rig is innately harsh sounding and the Aphex 207D captured its ugly essence. A better mic pre choice for this caustic utterance would have been an old Ampex tube pre or a Universal Audio 610 mic pre to smooth the signal out.

But the scoop?

The Aphex 207D is a really straightforward functioning unit. Each channel of the front panel has a 1/4" instrument input jack, gain adjust knob, and separate buttons for phantom power, polarity, 20dB pad, low cut (70Hz), and MicLim with limiting LED (limits audio peaks at the microphone output before amplification). There is also a 2-channel output headroom meter with a push button that toggles the digital audio operating mode betwixt the internal frequency modes and external sync. Finally, the front panel has an output trim screw that works with the rear-panel operating level to calibrate the 207’s output level to precisely match external equipment.

Other features of this unit are rear-mounted insert jacks for each channel, AES/EBU and 24-bit S/PDIF out with 96K sampling, word clock in, discrete solid state transformerless front end with a Reflected Plate Amplifier tube-type (12AT7) transformerless gain stage, delayed turn on to avoid any “thumps” when powering up, switchable –10dBv /+4dBu operating level, balanced 3-pin and 1/4" TRS inputs and outputs. The 207D also comes with a well-written (brief, yet concise) instruction manual.

I think this is a really great unit loaded with a lot of features in a small package. The 207D has a clean, detailed, precise sound that would work excellently in the professional and/or home studio or in a live situation. Though the device lacks the “color” I sometimes need in some situations, it’s superb at capturing sound transparently.