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Phoenix Audio (UK) DRS-2 Mic Preamp/DI

Smart, original design in a two-channel Class A unit By Dan Richards
DRS-2 front view (click to enlarge image)
Hailing from the UK is a new Class A dual microphone preamplifier and DI. I've seen this unit mentioned on many recording newsgroups, often being confused with the crop of Neve emulators now on the market. For the record, the DRS-2 is designed from the ground up and is a completely original concept. The DRS-2 is the brainchild of David Rees and Shaun Leveque. Rees is well-known for his design of the Neve 2253 limiter and the Neve 2254 limiter/compressor. Leveque, who is the founder of Phoenix Audio International (UK), established the company in 1996 to provide a British service for owners of pre-1980 Neve recording consoles. From this comes an awesome heritage and a stage well-suited to launch original Class A designs.

Out of the Box
The DRS-2 lists for $2,495 and has a street price of around $1,950. The first thing I notice when pulling the DRS-2 from its packaging is that this unit is built like a tank. There's even a "mystique" to the DRS-2 that I usually find only on more vintage gear. I've seen no pictures of the DRS-2 anywhere that truly reveal what a handsomely-designed box this is, and I've included some pictures I've taken with this review that hopefully will show that. The evaluation model I have has the maroon Marconi winged knobs, which I find to be an interesting touch. I asked Leveque about them and he replied, "This is simply because we supply hundreds of these original knobs to customers, in fact we have the original tool, and we liked them. This is one of the features we will be changing in the very near future because people instantly assume it's a 'Neve knock-off' simply because of the knobs we used."

Well, for my money, I dig the Marconi knobs. I also like the four colored, back-lit buttons, a la Neve 1081, that are grouped together for DI, phase reversal, phantom power and high-pass filter. Leveque said they had about 40 of this particular model left. Personally, I like it just the way it is, but would also welcome any changes made by this innovative company.

The input gain knobs are stepped up in 5 dB increments from 30 dB to 70 dB with fine adjustments being made on the output-gain knob. A great touch and convenience on the DRS-2 is the inclusion of XLR mic inputs on the front, not just the back. Also included on the front panel are a -20 dB pad and an Earth lift button, as well as 1/4" TRS DI inputs and a power switch. My only initial gripe about the DRS-2 is the metering LEDs, which consist of a single green light and a single red light. But after further use these proved surprisingly informative and more accurate than a VU meter. The LED metering is a true PPM approach, with the green and red lights corresponding with the BBC's meter at "4" and "6."

DSR-2 rear view (click to enlarge image)
The DRS-2 is large and heavy for a single-rackspace unit, and is almost 12" deep. The paint job alone is serious and caught my attention. I asked Leveque about it: "The paint process is 'Powder Coat.' It involves electrostatically charging a paint that is in dry powder form (this a polyester-based paint), as it leaves the spray-gun. The piece to be painted is connected to earth, and therefore attracts the charged paint-powder. Then the paint is baked onto the panel at high temperature in an oven 200 degrees Centigrade. This first turns the paint into a liquid form, which coats the panel evenly and then bakes solidly onto the panel. This is a standard process and produces an excellent, very hard-wearing painted finish," he said.

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Related Keywords:Phoenix Audio, (UK), DRS-2, Mic, Preamp, DI, microphone, preamplifier, recording, Class A

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