Pure Class-A Circuits
Boutique, yet affordable studio gear
Classic British Tone – with a modern twist
Based in California, Phoenix Audio design and manufacture boutique-grade professional audio equipment.
Phoenix Audio products include mic preamps, EQs, compressors, DIs and summing mixers. By building pure Class-A circuits to the highest standards possible, while still offering excellent value, all Phoenix Audio products feature an intuitive user experience and a sound that leading engineers, producers and musicians alike have all come to love.
Originally formed in 1996 as the UK’s leading service provider for pre-1980 Neve recording consoles, the brand’s lead designers include David Rees (formerly a designer with Neve and who was responsible for the famous 2253/4 limiter/compressor) and technician Shaun Leveque (who specialised in large format Neve consoles). Both designers have been with Phoenix Audio since its inception and with the deep knowledge of the recording world’s most beloved circuits, Phoenix Audio now create their own products featuring robust, forward-thinking Class-A electronics, comprised of today’s best components, which has made the brand’s designs become modern classics.
In order to reach a wider audience, Phoenix Audio relocated to Costa Mesa, California in 2009. However, the company’s ethos, customer support and component sourcing have all continued to improve, year after year and today the brand is proud to be an US manufacturer of professional audio equipment, while still maintaining the British heritage.
Hand-wired in-house by a team of experienced engineers, from the DRS Series, the Ascent Series, the Nicerizer summing mixers, the Gyrator and Pivot Tone EQs, the DRC Compressor, and right through to the range of dedicated DI boxes, you can really sense (and of course, hear) the quality of boutique, small-scale manufacturing that’s in in the DNA of every single piece of Phoenix Audio gear.
DRS Series Mic PreAmps/DI
The Phoenix range of DRS Mic Preamps takes a modern approach to high-end analog electronics to deliver a wide range of tones, without sacrificing the beloved vibe of true Class-A circuit design. Available either in a 500-Series mono module (DRS-1R-500) or in an 8-channel 2U 19” rack (DRS-8 Mk2), versatility and superior sound have made the DRS Preamp/DI a top-tier choice for engineers around the world and a modern-day classic.
This unique transformer-less DRS input circuit can go from ultra-clean hi-fi sounds suitable for audiophile recordings, all the way to the warm, saturated tones reminiscent of the UK’s most heralded vintage designs. While the custom-wound DB694 output transformer is coupled to Phoenix’s proprietary, fully discrete DSOP-2 output amplifier.
The DSOP-2 is a direct descendent of the venerable TF1 amp which Phoenix’s head-designer, David Rees, developed as an upgrade for vintage Neve modules. Going beyond the TF1, the DSOP2 is the pinnacle of Class-A output circuit design, offering up a smooth transition from ultra-clean to beautifully saturated tones.
Ascent Series Mic PreAmps/DI
Available in both mono (as a 1U half-rack – Ascent One) or dual mono (in a 1U 19” rack – Ascent Two), the Ascent range of Class A Mic Preamp/DIs takes what made the original DRS series so acclaimed, but evolves them for the modern era with an upgraded linear power supply with toroidal transformer and even higher-quality components throughout.
Both mono and dual mono models are also available with or without Pheonix’s Gyrator EQ and the range continues to deliver both extreme clarity and the warm saturation associated with vintage UK consoles.
The electronically balanced, transformer-less microphone input stage has an almost flat frequency response and is designed to work well with microphones in all shapes and sizes. From Ribbons, Dynamics to Condenser mics, this circuit will deliver the goods effortlessly!
As with other Phoenix Audio products, the Ascent output stages are also driven by Phoenix’s proprietary DSOP-2 Class‑A amplifier, coupled to the custom-wound DB694 output transformer. This combination defines Phoenix Audio’s ‘signature sound’ and delivers a smooth transition from ultra-clean to beautifully saturated tones.
Phoenix Audio’s Gyrator EQ is one the most unique and musical EQs on the market today, allowing an incredible variety of sounds useful for everything from clean high-headroom mix buss tone shaping, deep frequency carving and all the way to smooth Class-A circuit saturation. Available either as a mono 500-series module (running at 24 V) or coupled to the Ascent Mic Preamp/DIs, the Gyrator EQ is as powerful as it is fun to use.
First developed during what most consider the golden age of solid-state analog audio design, the Gyrator EQ was originally designed to emulate the characteristics of an active inductor EQ (think 1970s Neve, API etc.) and uses a rather clever combination of an amplifier, resistors and capacitors to accomplish incredibly smooth and musical frequency modifications. The modern-day Phoenix Gyrator EQ gives you High, High-Mid, Low-Mid and Low frequency bands, each notched to proven frequencies from a shimmering 15kHz on down to a thumping 40Hz. There’s also a high pass filter at 80Hz, which can eliminate rumble or be used “against” low-end boosts for an extra range of unique EQ curves (think: Pultec). Even at extreme boosts and cuts, the Gyrator EQ’s uniquely musical filters maintain the core quality of your original signal, allowing you to make bold, gut-level EQ moves that won’t sound harsh, slurred or out of phase. Used more subtly, these four filters are capable of highly coherent tone shaping suitable for full mixes and mastering. Plus, the Sheen control adds a beautiful breath and presence to vocals and instruments which need to come to life.
The Gyrator EQ is a powerfully versatile, high-quality studio tool. Unlike many Class-A EQs that just do “their thing” due to inherent distortion characteristics, the Gyrator EQ keeps the input signal clean, making it possible for the engineer to keep tones transparent or saturate them to taste. Importantly, doing so is effortless and intuitive due to the Gyrator’s straight-forward design and unerring musicality. For many top producers and engineers it is their “go to EQ” and is used effortlessly every day across a vast variety of instruments, voices and full mixes.
DRC Compressor/Gate & Pivot TC Tilt EQ
In a world now crowded with compressors, most of them emulating vintage designs, with the rest, it seems, dead set on destroying dynamics, the Phoenix Audio N90-DRC/500 stands out as a decidedly musical compressor with a refreshingly unique design. Phoenix Audio developed this circuit decades ago and the thoughtful design reflects the subtler, more tasteful approach to compression from that bygone era. Though the N90 can be pushed to offer up wonderful sonic artefacts, it truly excels at the delicate (and increasingly rare) craft of transparent, musical dynamic control and gating.
While appearing quite elaborate, using the compressor/gate functions of the N90 is a forgiving and intuitive experience, especially given that this is a solid-state. The ease of use is due to the gradual and progressive behaviour of the N90’s unique control circuit. Gain reduction begins well below and continues beyond the threshold, so you’ll never hear a sudden “grabby” change in dynamics. Instead, you’ll easily dial in fluid dynamic control while simultaneously picking up the rich, lush tone of the N90’s discrete Class-A circuit. From the subtlest gain control to lush Class-A artefacts, not to mention the flexible gate circuit, the N90-DRC/500 is one of the most versatile dynamic control units ever produced.
Up to eight N90-DRC/500s can be linked together, allowing the compressor and gate functions to be controlled from just one of the units. This link functionality opens up a whole world of possibilities, from simpler stereo set-ups to far more elaborate scenarios where multiple channels are triggered by external key inputs. Almost anything you can dream up can be done with multiple N90s on hand.
Simple Yet Powerful, the Pivot Tone is one of the easiest and most intuitive EQs ever designed, but don’t let its minimalism overshadow its sophisticated circuit design or its natural musicality. A pivot EQ is like a sonic see-saw; you choose the centre frequency and then simply tilt the entire frequency spectrum back and forth to taste. “Brightening” boosts everything above the chosen centre frequency, while simultaneously attenuating everything below it. “Darkening” of course, boosts bass while attenuating treble.
Utilizing fully discrete Class-A circuits, the Pivot Tone delivers world-class, hi-fi sounds that make any line input or DI’d signal sound lush, full and coherent. The EQ section beautifully brightens or darkens your signals in subtle yet powerful ways that more complex EQs simply cannot. The centre frequencies offer three strategically-placed points for an intuitive and sweet user experience. Whether aiming to beef up a DI’d bass, adding sparkle to an acoustic guitar or to sweeten an entire 2-bus mix, you’ll find yourself reaching for the Pivot Tone again and again, wondering how you lived without such a simple and musical, yet uniquely powerful tool.
Over the past decade or so, the need for better DIs has skyrocketed as instrumentation has incorporated more and more electronic elements. From elaborate analog synth rigs, to multiple laptops, to loop-stations and more, getting excellent tone from multiple DIs is more important today than ever. The Phoenix Audio DI was so popular in Phoenix Audio’s Mic Preamps that dedicated DI units now allow more live and studio engineers to benefit from pure Class-A quailty.
With their unique gain architecture, Phoenix’s transformer-less, ultra-high impedance – input stage assures that your signals are delivered into the circuit in their full glory. No treble roll off or sluggish bass response, as is rampant with so many DIs. Instead, you’ll hear the full-bodied, punchy sounds necessary for delivering the powerful, often bombastic and complex, signals of modern music. Guitars and basses will sing; lush synths will swarm; hard-hitting drum machines will thump and crack – each sound rendered with its transients and full frequency spectrum intact.
The N8 provides 8-channels of 8 Channels of Class A active DI in a 19” 1U rack. Jack & through jacks, 15 dB pad, phase reverse and individual ground-earth-lift switches on every channel make this the DI you can use anywhere a line-amp is necessary such as alongside your console, in a live setting or simply in any patch to pick up that Class-A tone.
While the Nimbus DI takes the same Class-A, discrete, transformer-less input stage, offering ultra-high impedance (10Mohm) inputs, discrete DSOP-2 output with custom-wound DB694 transformer, Detented Output pot (with huge gain range of 30db) and 10 position LED output metering in a smaller compact footprint.
You’ll simply find these to be the most musical, intuitive and versatile DIs you’ve ever used, capable of breathing new life into any direct injected signal.
Nicerizer Summing Mixers
Many DAW companies brag about their “mixer,” but discerning engineers won’t settle for in-the-box mixing when the dimension, punch and articulation of analog summing can vastly improve their productions. Phoenix’s Nicerizer series summing mixers incorporate features and circuitry that have made them legendary tone machines. The distinction between a stereo mixer and a summing amplifier is important when considering your hybrid analog/digital rig. In essence, a mixer incorporates a fuller range of features. Nicerizer is decidedly a mixer, pulling crucial elements such as circuit overdrive and panning back into the analog realm where they truly outperform their digital emulations.
Nicerizer 16 MkII, is renowned for its precision imaging and robust tone with 16 versatile, Class-A discrete, truly balanced transformer-less input circuits that delivers the full frequency spectrum with unrivalled clarity and punch. Once mixed, the stereo signal hits a pair of custom-wound DB694 output transformer, coupled to Phoenix’s proprietary, fully discrete DSOP-2 output amplifier
The additional width control uses elements of Mid/Side processing to offer your mixes a narrower or wider image simply by turning a knob. Mix engineers who haven’t used a width control often don’t realize what they’re missing: a level of spacial manipulation that can unlock hidden dimensions or tighten up a sprawling production. Add in a Stereo Bus Insert, an Independently Controlled Aux Output, 2T Return, a Monitor Select Switch and LED Meters and you can really spice up your digital workstation with quality Class A characteristics, tone and vibe you just can’t get in the box.
Nicerizer Jr. omits the master section, width and additional outputs and LEDs etc., but you still get all of that essential Class A mix sound in a more affordable package.