Adventures In Audio

What is this strange-looking piece of equipment?

by David Mellor
LEARN AUDIO ONLINE ► FREE TRIAL ►

Here is an unusual question from an Audio Masterclass student...

"I'm curious as to what piece of gear is on the desk just above where his mouse is in that image?  The round thing with two round protrusions on the front of it."

The first thing to note is that the photograph is from an image library. We bought a licence to use it because all of the photographs we have shot ourselves were taken in professional studio surroundings and we wanted something more typical of the way our students work.

The photo does appear to be of a real studio setup. It seems to be a two-person studio because there is a shelf or table with DJ equipment in the background. There is an element of 'staged for the photo' though because neither piece of equipment on the desktop is connected, nor is the laptop on the left. It doesn't matter - it's a stock photo and it conveys a positive image of someone working in a home recording studio.

The Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course

FREE TRIAL

Ready to take your recording to the next level? Take a 30-day FREE TRIAL of the Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course - Our most popular course.

But getting back to the question - exactly what is "the round thing with two round protrusions on the front"?

It took some diligent searching on Google, but I found it - it's a Blue Robbie mic/instrument preamplifier. It's expensive and you should expect to pay something around $1000 for one.

Whether you want one should depend entirely on how it sounds. I suspect however that many buyers will be attracted by its Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet look. There's no harm in audio equipment looking good, but there is another issue...

The Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course

FREE TRIAL

Ready to take your recording to the next level? Take a 30-day FREE TRIAL of the Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course - Our most popular course.

I have to say that the designers of this preamp have put looks well ahead of function. There's a gain control on the front, which is where you need it. But what about the pad, phase switch, phantom power switch, mic/instrument switch?

Er.. they are all around the back. So you have to turn the preamp round to get at them and make sure you get the settings right.

To me, this is totally inappropriate. The Blue Robbie would need a particularly distinctive sound texture to make up for these shortcomings. It's also worth saying that having an output level control as well as a gain control is a useful feature on a vacuum tube preamplifier. That way you can increase the gain to achieve more warmth, then bring down the output level to compensate, but maybe that wasn't the way the designers wanted to go - the specification of this preamp is first class and perhaps it would be inappropriate to degrade the Robbie's performance intentionally.

In summary, the Blue Robbie has an interesting look, an there's nothing wrong with that. But putting essential controls on the back is not the mark of a professional piece of equipment.

Sunday November 24, 2013

The Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course

FREE TRIAL

Ready to take your recording to the next level? Take a 30-day FREE TRIAL of the Audio Masterclass Music Production and Sound Engineering Course - Our most popular course.

Like, follow, and comment on this article at Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram or the social network of your choice.

David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

More from Adventures In Audio...

Graphic equalizer demonstration using the Waves GEQ Classic

Harmonic enhancement: In the master or individual tracks? (Can you hear the difference?)

What will happen if your snare drum clips?

EQ demonstration HF bell boost

How much bass can a Bluetooth speaker produce?

One weird trick for monitoring your mix on a Bluetooth speaker

Can a preamp's pad work as a pop filter

Get the sound you want from the tools you have

What is the phase button for on a microphone preamplifier?

Choosing studio monitors - Is it your most important buying decision?

What is a channel strip? Why should you use one?

Audio effects explained - A quick guide for beginners

How to choose the best key for your song

The amazing stereo effect that no-one can hear

What is the best studio microphone?

Bad Audio Diary BAD 9: What's wrong with this picture?

Weird and wonderful sounds using the Air Music Tech Chorus plug-in

The end of latency?

An investigation of the pre-delay parameter of the Lexicon 480L reverb plug-in

Add reverb to your recordings using the natural echo chamber technique

Why you should ventilate your home recording studio

Q: What is your main concern if your interest is voice over?

Why do microphones sound different?

Channel strips - powerful tool or utter folly?