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A Designs' Pacifica Mic Pre

Two-channel unit recreates the sound of Quad Eight consoles -- with a twist By Frank Moldstad

Closeup of Channel A controls
There are many ?vintage mic preamp clones on the market, most of them based on Neve and API mixing console circuits from the 1970s. But A Designs Pacifica microphone preamp is based on another classic design from that era that has gotten less attention: the Quad Eight Pacifica console.

One of the first manufacturers of music mixing consoles, along with Electrodyne, API, and Langevin, Quad Eight produced desks for film mixing and music applications. Its consoles, including the Pacifica, found homes in some top studios where their open musical sound was lauded. Its sonic signature can be heard on many classic tracks, such as Pink Floyds ?The Wall, which was mixed on three linked Quad Eights. But Quad Eight faded into the California sunset in the 1980s, and today the only way to land one of these prized mixers is through eBay or vintage dealers where theyre an increasingly rare find.

Two years ago, A Designs founder Peter Montessi and audio designer Jon Erickson set out to recover this lost sound before it completely disappeared. They focused on the QE mic pres used in Quad Eights Ventura, Coronado and Pacifica consoles, which they considered to be one of the main contributors to the consoles unique sonic character. Researching the history of these consoles was often difficult because not only were the original console designers hard to find, but so were the designs, documentation and spare parts. They spent thousands of hours in listening sessions and at the design bench honing the sound. Among those they sought out was Tom Reichenbach, the son of original Quad Eight transformer designer Ed Reichenbach. With his input, they redesigned the transformers for the Pacifica, extending the range while capturing the Quad Eights unique sound.

When a prototype was finished, they solicited feedback from owners of Quad Eight consoles as well as a cross section of recording engineers. The consensus of these professional users was that the Pacifica had ?that sound, only with a little more top end which was the goal Montessi and Erikson had set.

The Pacifica (MSRP $1,900) is a two-channel solid state preamp that fits in a 1U rack space. Each channel has a balanced XLR mic input and a Hi Z -inch phono input for direct sources such as guitars and keyboards. Balanced XLR outputs are also included. There are also individual channel controls for level, 48-volt Phantom power, Phase and a -20dB pad. The unit is equipped with a muscular 72 dB of gain and a very low -128 dB noise floor, so input levels can be cranked without adding undue noise.

The Pacifica's distinctive cream color recalls original consoles

With a phenomenal frequency range of 9Hz-101kHz, the Pacifica far exceeds the capabilities of the original Quad Eight consoles. Its extended top end is especially noticeable with sources such as piano and acoustic guitar. The frequency response is a significant benefit for those whose recordings are destined for DVD, SACD, DSD or the coming Blu-Ray et al formats, which range up to 100kHz.

While human hearing is not measurable above 20kHz, recording and playback media limited to 20kHz may have an adverse impact on the audible frequencies. But thats really a debate for psychoacousticians. Suffice it to say the Pacificas frequency response ensures that youre getting all that the source material has to offer. That includes the low end, too, which is big and beefy. The sound is fairly even across the spectrum, with a slightly pronounced midrange. 

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Related Keywords:A Designs, Pacifica , microphone preamp, Quad Eight, Peter Montessi

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