There are a lot of common ideas in the world of studio outboard gear, especially when it comes to microphone preamps, compressors and EQs. And these all have a sonic role as well as an aesthetic role in the studio, especially when it comes to glowing VU meters and full racks. But, every now and then I find myself with a piece of equipment that really does belong in my rack. There are few ideas left that offer some original thought and clever design and, to tell you the truth, I didn’t expect that when unboxing the Sebatron VAMP-four. However, what I found was a real delight.
I have to say, not knowing exactly what I was in for as I unboxed the VAMP-four, I was rather expecting just another multi-channel microphone preamp, based purely on the name. I was still excited with this, and taking it out of the unassuming brown box, with the smell of a hand crafted piece of equipment thick in the air, I got a very pleasant surprise. This is a piece of equipment I would never have gone looking for, but now that I have used it, I wouldn’t want to go without. The VAMP-four is not another microphone preamp; instead it is a four channel Class A valve DI, designed for front end use with guitars, bass and keyboards when you want a really rich sound. And can I say, what a way to get your analogue synthesizers cooking on the way into your recording system. This thing rocks!
DIAL IT UP
The simple design means you can get a lot out of each input without much effort. A two option EQ circuit on each channel responds with pad/gain control, giving you more clean headroom with one switch, and more gritty valve warmth with the other, in a responsive manner relating to how the gain structure is set. An acoustic release, setting this up as not only a great beginner’s tool, but also as an instrument an accomplished pianist will enjoy playing. And with the feel of a piano comes the sound too, with a great selection of instruments in the memory and a range of rooms that can be selected for your piano sound to sit into. So, your living room can sound like a concert hall with a grand piano in it at the touch of a button, or the swipe of a finger with an iOS device and the new wireless control option that is available with the DGX-660. In all, this is a great stalwart of the Yamaha guitar has plenty of sparkle and brilliance to even show off all the string noise when you play, and a dirty analogue synth gets an added level of energy when you run the other way. I should have tried it with a bass, but never got a chance to, but I can only imagine good things with both extremes of the circuit being utilised.
This is a real studio gem, and one that is going to bring added life into your direct recordings quite unlike any fancy preamp and plugin combination on your audio interface will. The VAMP-four is an unexpected pleasure and would make a worthy addition to any recording setup. For guitar, bass and keys, this little grey rack unit breathes new life into your signal before it gets lost in the digital jungle. If you are prepared to invest in a valve front end for your vocals, you should think about the rest of the instrument too. The results will speak for themselves.
Hits and Misses
Australian made, hand-crafted quality
Amazingly rich sound for seemingly little effort
It’s a real workhorse, a studio all-rounder
It screams tone
Only my misconceptions before opening the box