A Designs Ventura Mic Preamp and EQ Details
The A Designs Ventura Mic Preamp and EQ is a new design from A-Designs inspired by the great Quad Eight consoles. Run at optimal levels, its’ signal is clear and ultra transparent, with all the dimensionality, air, and extended bass you expect from high-quality analog. Push it a little harder and the Ventura’s custom-wound, ear-tested transformer responds with a more aggressive sound while still retaining the utmost clarity. To add its own special mojo, it features a 3-band EQ reminiscent of console EQs from the golden age of recording. And even if you’re one of those engineers who religiously avoid using equalization while tracking, you’ll find yourself looking for excuses to use this EQ—especially if you need midrange punch without harshness on guitars or snare. Plus, the Ventura’s EQ can be accessed via its own insert for sweetening tracks during mixdown. The Ventura also has a high-impedance instrument DI built to enhance the performance guitar and bass pickups.
The C12X Discrete Transistor Op Amp
The heart of the Ventura and source of its ultra transparent audio is the C12X, a discrete transistor operational amplifier designed by Carl Johnson. Operating on +/-30VDC rails, the C12X is a high-gain, fast-slew, stable audio block with virtually no DC offset over the audio spectrum. Plus, it’s capable of driving a 50-ohm load at 50Hz with very little current draw. It’s used in the microphone preamp, instrument input amp, and main output/EQ output stages. The mic preamp itself is a single-stage, transformer-coupled design with balanced I/O. It includes phase reverse, -20 dB pad, +48V phantom power with LED indicator, and conductive plastic gain control pot. The preamp section feeds both the EQ section and a preamp output mult simultaneously.
True Three-Band Parametric EQ
The Ventura’s three-band parametric equalizer is also a unique design featuring 33 frequencies with three bands of overlapping ranges from 50Hz to 15KHz. Both the frequency selection and the +/-12 dB boost/cut controls are stepped for precise, repeatable settings. Each band has a Q switch with three fixed positions: Sharp, Wide, and Narrow. The low and high bands are peak/dip, but flipping the shelf switch changes their characteristic to shelf type. The shelving switch disables the Q feature on high and low bands only. When in the up position, the high/low filters insert the fixed 12dB/octave high- and low-cut filters, which work whether the EQ is in or out. And finally, the equalizer’s input/insert return provides direct input to the EQ, bypassing both the mic pre and instrument input.
Guitar/Bass Pickup-Friendly D.I.
Separate from the mic pre, the instrument DI is a single-stage, single-ended, high-impedance preamp that also benefits from the C12X. Designed specifically to counteract the negative effects of guitar/bass-pickup loading, it includes a front-panel 1/4″ jack and gain pot. This section also feeds the EQ and preamp output mult simultaneously.
Combining transparency and sonic versatility with the ability to use its three sections independently, the A-Designs Audio Ventura gives you a “desert island” preamp that will serve any and all recording applications: studio or live sound, rock band or orchestral ensemble.
A Designs Ventura Mic Preamp and EQ Features
- Ultra transparent, solid-state mic preamplifier with 72db gain; instrument DI; and true, 3-band parametric EQ with high-and low-pass filters
- Mic preamp, EQ, and DI can be used together or independently
- Three specially designed discrete C12X operational amplifiers
- Jensen input transformer and custom Cinemag output transformers
- Toroidal power transformer
- Balanced TRS insert return/EQ input
- Separate gain controls for mic and instrument inputs
- -20dB pad, +48VDC phantom power with red LED indicator, phase switch, and on/off switch with blue LED indicator
- Balanced gold Neutrik XLR input, direct, and main output connectors
- Silver-contact, high-durability toggle switches with no relays
- Hand-built in the USA with audiophile-quality components including high-tolerance metal film resistors and high-quality polystyrene, polypropylene, COG, and bi-polar capacitors
- Single rackspace steel chassis
A Designs Ventura Mic Preamp and EQ Specifications
- Frequency Response: Better than 20Hz – 20kHz
- Gain Range: Microphone: -62dBV to +30dBV, Instrument: 70dB, Insert/EQ Input: 0dBV to +26dBV
- Input Impedance: Microphone: 1.4k ohm typical, Instrument: 20M ohm nominal, Insert/EQ Input: 15k ohm
- Noise (EIN): -120dBm
- Phantom Power: +48VDC
- Balanced XLR outputs: 600 ohm nominal
- Distortion: 0.01%
- Power Requirements: 120/230VAC – 23W
- Dimensions: 19″ x 1-3/4″ x 10″ (W-H-D)
- Weight: 14 lb.
- Shipping weight: 16.5 lb.
What We Think - A Designs Ventura Review
"The A Designs Ventura/JM-3001 is a shocker once you hear it. A recent shootout amongst several high-end preamps resulted in the Ventura/JM-3001 rising into the top picks for clear imagery that rivaled the best. The preamp is a definite departure from the rest of the A Designs line in that it caters to clearer and cleaner tones - but it certainly is not boring. So many opinions and marketing channels will tell us that a vintage preamp with character is 'the best'. Having come from the realm of vintage 80-series Neves and such, this was home turf for me. The more and more engineering I do, I find that modern refinements of the basic design principles which give those old preamps that character (Read: distortion - but not distortion in a Marshall amp kind of a way), help to clean up the artifacts that require so much more work after the fact just to shape the sound into something that fits with the rest of the elements. These problems are diminished with the Ventura/JM-3001.
"Why is this so? The C12X discrete transistor operational amplifier designed by Carl Johnson is the lifeblood of the Ventura/JM-3001. Basically, a 'discrete transistor operational amplifier' is something that you don't see very often since the advent of the IC chip. More expensive to produce and certainly much larger than a chip in regards to real-estate inside the chassis, a discrete op-amp, I have found to be the key ingredient of taking the sound of an audio device from something acceptable to something that is absolutely fantastic and exceptional.
"What I hear is a channel that if someone were blessed with enough Ventura/JM-3001s to track a band with, there would be much less work in mixing in regards to etching out each element's sonic space; it really is something that you can hear if you know what to listen for. Of course this doesn't negate the need for taking care in all of the standard practices such as proper instrument and microphone selection, tuning, and placement. But the A Designs Ventura/JM-3001 can certainly make your recording and mixing life easier."
Alan Moon - Front End Audio
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