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Monday, December 22, 2008

tfpro P10

Come experience the Mighty Twin

Do you like recording channels? A recording channel to me contains a mic pre, a compressor section and an equalizer section. As part of Ted Fletcher's resurgence as an audio designer and manufacturer, tfpro brought out the P10, which is also designated as the Mighty Twin. It's a dual recording channel. It features extensive controls (somewhat over the top at times), an effects loop for each channel and switchable stereo linkage for the compressor section.

What's over the top about it? Let's think 30 knobs, the nice aluminum ones. Let's think about a knob that switches input from line, instrument, dynamic and condenser microphones. And, please note the utter coolness of the condenser mic switch slicing 15 dB off the gain. Has anyone else noted the problem with certain mic pres giving you so much gain on condenser mics that you've got to turn the gain control all the way down to try to avoid clipping on condenser mic placements on loud sources?

Even though the P10 gives you lots of control, most users will find it easy to navigate with its logical layout and easy to read print on the faceplate.

The Mighty Twin features a variable phase control. It allows the engineer to adjust the phase of a mic from 0 to 180 degrees (instead of the usual one or the other button). It allows control and correction of slightly to severely misaligned microphones.

The compressor section attempts to emulate four different flavors of compressor. Ted Fletcher, of course, successfully emulates his famous compressor sound with one of the settings. He doesn't achieve complete success with the other three settings which mimic certain characteristics of other famous compressors. However, you get four distinct flavors of compression. Use of the four compressor settings over a long period of time revealed all four settings to be useful. The large VU meters can be switched from input mode to gain reduction at the push of a button.

The EQ section features a four band semi-parametric layout with a 12 dB cut or boost range. Each channel finishes off with a master channel output control and LEDs to indicate the presence of signal and overload.

Many people find it easy to get acoustic guitar sounds to tape yet find it difficult to fit into the mix. The P10 allows the user the opportunity to use compression and EQ when tracking to get an acoustic sound more in line with where it'll be when mixed. Some people disagree with this approach and say don't compress or don't EQ until final mixdown. The talent seems to perform better when it sounds like a record in the headphones. That's just an observation.

Using a Peluso 2247 microphone, a Martin D1936 acoustic guitar sounded huge with the compression selection set to position three. The engineer set the compressor with a fairly fast response and slow release time. He set the EQ to roll off the low end and a slight roll off of the high end as well. He used his ears to dial in the sound. The session ended with two keeper tracks for an indie film.

Next, the P10 saw duty on an old Ventura Classic guitar tracked with a modded Oktava MK319. Again, another keeper track to be featured in the above mentioned indie film.

On electric guitar amps, the P10's variable phase control allowed multiple mic'ing of the guitar amp without need to precisely set the distances. The P10 allows a lot of flexibility. You can put a condenser on channel one and a dynamic on channel two. You can give one compressor and EQ treatment to channel one and yet another to channel two. It's almost as if you got channels from a quality recording console with the added feature of the variable phase.

As a DI, the P10 performed well on both synth and bass tracks. Again, dial in the sound. The DI did not exhibit any obvious coloration or unpleasant artifacts.

The P10 got more use for drum overhead channels than anything else while being evaluated. The engineers used these mostly in the context of the three-mic drum technique. While some of the most famous drum tracks in Rock music feature this often debated recording technique it's more difficult to get the overheads to work than most assume. Regardless of the mics used over the kit, the P10 always allowed for a superlative picture of the kit. The toms came across as powerful and articulate. The cymbals rang true and clear. The P10 put across the sound of each mic without trying to imprint its own sound in place of that of each mic.

If only used for drums, then the P10's performance makes its price a good value and a worthwhile investment. It's been missed at both studios in which it was evaluated when it comes time to record drums and acoustic guitar.

An engineer rigged the P10 up as a master mixdown device strapped on the backend of a summing unit. The P10 outperformed its in the box counterparts and did so easily in A/B listening tests. It exudes "power" in this application.

The unit, while well received by the evaluators, also features a niggle or two. One evaluator wanted a compression makeup gain before the EQ section. Everyone also found it possessed that English self noise. It's not something you'd be troubled with for 99.9 percent of popular music tracking. However, if you wanted to record some quiet passages of Classical music, then you might want something quieter. However, if you're doing that sort of work, then you likely own something extremely quiet. Another evaluator wanted to see a switch that changed the signal path to allow the EQ to come before the compression.

One thing about Ted Fletcher that you should note. His pieces always seem to possess some sort of flaw of one kind or another. The test unit seemed to confirm this reputation. Despite how much everyone liked this piece, it did possess shortcomings that normally would place it beyond the possibility of a recommendation. First, the XLR outs on the test unit did not function. Second, the high band on the EQ just squealed and hissed when engaged. The former American distributor told us that he never experienced this before with any P10 and thought it due to prior evaluators opening the box and messing around. Yes, this does happen. The evaluators for Mojo Pie gave him the benefit of the doubt.

The evaluators were asked about the mic pre section as it compared to top end standalone mic pres. The answer is that the mic pre section by itself is not a top end pre. It's sort of mid range in quality. However, with the other parts of the unit engaged (compressor and EQ), the evaluators never thought of the unit as mid range or disadvantaged in anyway.

The Bottom Line: All in all the tfpro P10 should be considered for inclusion in many studios. It possesses a good mic pre with a quality compressor section and a good EQ section. The added features such as the variable phase make it stand out from its competition. Recommended.

--Ken Morgan and Steven Langer


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