Millennia TD-1 Review. The TD1 is a truely brilliant and highly flexible classic American preamp with endless premium settings. It offers a whole backline of easily configurable tones that works with any microphone and in any environment.
Fanatical with producing an uncompromising range of the worlds finest professional recording equipment, American born music and media systems manufacturer, Millennia take sonic design to the extreme by mixing precision laboratory designs with the real world live and studio testing. Resulting from a scrutinising ideal, Millennia produce a range of preamps that are nothing less than royalty where their astounding performance and musical behaviours are beautifully matched with classic analogue design.
Having done the rounds since 2004, the Millennia TD-1 is a well established hybrid pre-amp channel that features an (American) parametric equalisation circuit with the ability to select either an solid-state simple J-FET or vacuum tube characteristic. Impressively, all of the circuitry buried deep inside the TD-1 is not just packed onto one continuous board, but instead when you make a selection on the faceplate, a physical connection is made inside to bypass or insert the input an option which thus applies an emphatic attention to detail with the aim to leave your output as pure as possible.
We would like to make it known that the equipment that we have used to analyse the TD-1's performance is of the highest quality possible. During the review process the TD-1 was connected with an Epiphany Acoustics 'Atratus' mains cable with a 240v mains conditioner. Furthermore, the output of the TD-1 was connected with a balanced Evolution Neutrik male to female XLR into a AudioQuest Forest FireWire Prism Sound 'Orpheus', then recorded into Pro Tools with a Audio Technica AT4040 condenser microphone. The reason for why we selected an AT4040 was to accurately test the full range of characteristics exhibited by the TD-1's circuitry and for the sake of familiarity.
'Lovingly handcrafted in Placerville, CA, America' are the words inscribed on the back of this unit and, even without this knowledge, it is obvious that the engineering of this particular unit is of the upmost quality. Although these words owe the TD-1 no grace, I think that I would like to start off by saying that this unit is almost literally built like a tank. It's solid 2mm high grade steel 31cm X 21cm enclosure creates an effortless rigidity with a weight that takes a muscle man to lift, but this is a good thing... There is nothing worse than spending a huge amount of money to find out that a manufacturer has collected the employees tin cans together for a days to fashion a chassis because quality only comes in one form, and that is the TD-1. Overall the chassis design is all very secure and there is nothing sounding loose or feeling limp. All of the control values are defined, not necessarily with 12hour precision reference as the values marked on the faceplate are vague, but the pots have a nice feel and allow a nice click tactile feedback. All of the input button switches are made out of high grade frosted plastic with 'in-or-out' visual LED feedback and the 'Power' 'Sound Input' and 'Overload' LED's are not visually brash. Turning to the input and output connectors these are all depressed into the chassis well and seat without movement when in use. Due to the circuitry design and demanding levels of purity by Millennia, the TD-1's power transformer has it's own inclosure within back left of the unit so that interference is inhibited, but this does mean that the master on/off rocker switch is located on the back; a small problem depending on where you want to locate the pre. During investigation all of the input and output sockets are terminated with gold plating to ensure the best connectivity and it is nice that there are two separate ground/XFMR lifts if you have issues with the earth in your facility.
Millennia TD1 Features:
This is a section that could go on forever, but I will try to keep this short and sweet for you so that you are able to maintain some direction. Anyway, as mentioned before, one of the biggest advantages of pre is that you have the option to choose either a J-FET or high-voltage classic valve sound and the stock tube that the TD-1 comes with is a JJ Electronics ECC81. Although this is a vacuum tube that is used in a number of other premium preamp designs, and this is obviously sonically subjective, you may find yourself reaching for a mellow Mullard or low-noise Electro-Harmonix. However, whatever circuitry option you choose you should know that both of these are high-voltage Class A designs where Millennia allows you the ability to select one of three input impedances, from 470K/2M/10M, so that you can best match the XLR or Line-In audio source leading to a much more accurate image. Typically, at most, you only have two options, and when this is combined with a 65dB adjustable instrument and microphone gain, it is great to have a no-holes-barred input process. Whilst this may be so, one of the most interesting ploys of this preamp is that you can directly monitor the signal right from the pre-amp via the phones-out and direct-out 1/4" stereo jack. Disappointingly the phones level is controlled by a very small flat-head screw that is situated inside the chassis which can cause issues if you need to quickly change this value.
For those guitarists out there who want an all-in-one solution and have a deep pocket you will be happy to know that the TD-1 has two Millennia patented REAMP circuits and a 'Speaker Soak' option. First the REAMP circuits allow you to emulate the sound of both Les Paul and Strat pickups. Essentially these circuits fool the guitar amplifier to think that it is connected to high-impedance passive guitar pickup and creates a very clean sound through the DI output transformer. Secondly, the 'Speaker Soak' technology allows you to output the (maximum 300W) parallel signal from your guitar amp so that you have a true signal as it comes from the amp without any of the failings of a sub-par cab. The whole idea of plugging a direct output from an amp initially sounds quite scary, but in practice it works very well and has a fully working balanced or unbalanced XLR line out. Finally we will move on to the EQ that has an, higher than usual, working frequency range of 20Hz-25kHz with the same NSEQ sweeping Q bands that are present in the best mastering suits around the world. The inputs that are on the front is one instrument/speaker 1/4" jack input on the front panel which is separate from an line/reamp XLR input that is situated below this. On the back there is one Mic XLR input, one headphone output, one direct monitoring output, two separate style reamp outputs, one balanced XLR and line output, one unbalanced XLR and line output, one balanced XFMR output
There is a great deal of quality to report with the TD-1 as it offers such a huge amount of options for its users and The Pro Audio Web Blog can categorically underline the TD-1 as a true hybrid trendsetter, but first let us address the instrument input. Due to the varying degrees of impedance you have the freedom to be able to select which impedance best matches your instrument pickups. For example, active pickups have a higher impedance where as passive will be much lower, when correctly matched the FET circuitry has an element of classic sparkle and higher degree of presence that appears to outperform specialist DI competitors such as the Avalon U5. Switching the circuitry to the high-voltage valve easily reveals a higher noise floor but does slightly amalgamate the mid-range to a marginal fuller body whilst at the same time retaining a tight frequency response and gives the user some variation during sessions; it is quite clear though that the tube circuity isn't quite 'vintage' warmth. Overall for the performance of the direct DI is nice and musical, this is something that continues into the REAMP section that does a great job on what it sets out to perform; ie. a tonality Les Paul and Strat pickup emulation. When we tested the DI circuitry with a Bass it did a wonderful job at making it sound effortlessly full with a larger than life characteristic, without any of pumping sound compression quality occasionally found from some pres, that totally helps when putting a cut-through simple mix together. Furthermore, having the EQ to hand here made us able to sculpt a really nice 'out of the box' classic signal before recording straight into Pro Tools. The fact that companies have started making gig-bags for the TD-1 is proof that this is a unit that is widely respected and has a true 'one size fits all' quality for both guitar and bass players.
Now it is time to discuss the TD-1 as a microphone pre, so how does it perform? In a word... exceptionally. It is delicate, has bags of headroom to deal with ribbon mics, and has a transparent performance across the board. Vocals sound full bodied and when switched to the tube circuit there is a notable improvement on how plosive sounds are presented. Overall I loved how the TD-1 excelled with lower soulful voices because it just has a true to life feel. I can't say that the tube circuit it really very vintage, so if you are looking for this in a pre you might want to either change the tube or go towards something like a Universal Audio Solo 610. As Millennia express that they have a longstanding heritage with classical music, it is obvious to say that the TD-1 should be geared up for those acoustic sounds, and this is correct because when an acoustic guitar is recorded well, you can hear just how good the real thing sounds without the need for much processing. If you are looking to invest in a top range pre then look no further because I don't need to continue to translate its sound into words for much longer. I will finish up by saying that the EQ on offer is more than sufficient, is mastering grade, has a huge range of beneficial tonal possibilities, is a not just a gimmick, reacts delicately until pushed, and is above what you can expect. Finally the TD-1 has a -20db pad for strong input signals, includes smooth 48v phantom power, has an input ground lift and a polarity reversal... you need nothing else.
The Millennia TD-1 is a true swiss army knife and you get a huge amount for what you pay for. Through all of our tests the TD-1 excelled and we were extremely impressed with the results right across the board. This is not a 'vintage' preamp because it, in fact, holds a character of its own where it knocks the ball right out of the park. For it's stunning build quality, appearance features, performance and application The Pro Audio Web Blog rates the Millennia TD-1 a full five star rating.