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Saturday, December 20, 2008


FMR RNP dual channel mic pre is F'N sweet

Well, I put the FMR RNP through some of its paces and it's a serious contender. Lots of neat little touches. When you hit phantom power, the phantom power light blinks, the output is muted, and the phantom power is ramped up (or down, depending on the phantom power switch position). No popping whatsoever. The polarity invert works on the mic inputs, the DI inputs, and the insert jacks, so it's easy to do a simple polarity invert, even on unbalanced equipment.

The sound is making me crazy. How did Mark McQuilken of FMR make it sound like there's lots of iron in the path, but the top end still sounds sweet and clear, and very extended? It's big sounding, but it's also transparent. How can that be? I tried it with the following mics on my voice for just a few minutes each:

Behringer ECM8000
Audix TR-40
Beyer M201
Shure SM-57
Coles 4038

Plenty of gain available with all of them, and the sound was magnificent. The ribbon mics loved this little box. The Shure SM-57 surprised me (although the 57 is always surprising me). It REALLY sounded good as a vocal mic through this box, with almost no proximity buildup or popping, even at point blank range. The RNP has a character, but it doesn't jump out and hit you in the face with its sound.

With nothing plugged into the inputs, you could hear a little hiss in the +60 and the +66 dB sections of the 12 position gain switch, but the hiss was very low level and smooth. Below 60 dB of gain, I couldn't hear any noise, but that may just be me. It's a lot heavier than the RNC and Mark has used just about every inch of front panel real estate, but it's laid out thoughtfully, and everything is easy to get to.


My son, Alex Gerst, and I had a chance to continue testing the RNP, this time in the big studio, comparing it to the NV and the SST-1. We started with the TLM-103 as our basic reference mic. With me talking point blank into the mic (slightly off axis to avoid popping), the RNP seemed a little fuller in the lower midrange than the NV and the Millennia Media SST-1. Kicking in the transformer on the SST-1 got it a little closer. The RNP had a little more "air" in the top end as well. Alex described the RNP as "rich-sounding", almost "scooped," although it wasn't.

We switched to the SM-7 and got similar results in the high end -- more "air" and "detail" than the NV or the SST-1. We both loved the output muting and phantom voltage ramping feature on the RNP.

We moved on to the DI section and that's another area where the RNP really shines. Alex has been using the NV and the SST-1 as his primary DI boxes. We plugged a cheap Fender Squire bass (with flatwounds) into it and a wonderful tone came out. Rather than the low, punchy "whump" sound we got from the other preamps, this sound was more of a "bap" sound with the front end of each note more articulated, and the sound seemed to sustain better, and it still had the low end of the other preamps. Definitely a very different tone and very useful.

One of my favorite bass tests is a "walkup" and a "walkdown" at the 12th fret of the low E string, walking down to the Db and then walking up to the E again, listening for the differences in pitch. Some preamps will blur the tone so badly, you can't tell the difference between an Eb and a D. No problem with the RNP, although the NV was a little more defined on this test. The tone was very different between the two preamps: one "bapped," one "whumped." If the bass line needed a lot of definition, the RNP's "bap" sound is definitely a great new tool in our audio arsenal.

The Bottom Line: The FMR RNP is a quality mic preamp that is a solid upgrade over budget mic preamps. Recommended.

--Harvey Gerst, Indian Trail Recording Studio

FMR Audio

1 comment:

Taimur Khan said...

Thanks for this informative review. You say that ribbons love the RNP and also point out "a little hiss in the +60 and the +66 dB sections of the 12 position gain switch." Is this not the sort of gain required by ribbon mics. I wanted to know how a ribbon like the AEA R84 going through the RNP would sound on quiet sources. Would it still be necessary to add a pre-preamp like the Triton Fethead or the Cloudlifter?

Taimur Khan