Warm Audio Tone Beast Review. The TB12 is a single channel microphone preamp with complete flexible tone control and cinemag transformers at an amazing price.
No matter what your recording source is, getting that ‘perfect’ tone is a battle that typically depends on A) How full your microphone locker is, and B) What selection of preamps you have to hand. If you are like the majority of us, and don’t exactly have the loads of cash to throw at building both of these collections, or even have the experience to be fully confident in what you are buying, then manipulating your ‘hardware’ tone in a heartbeat could be made easier with the Warm Audio TB12; or ‘Tone Beast’.
So many hardware factors such as; the type of capacitors used, the materials used in the transformers, or the input/output transformer mix, can all come together to make a litany of fixed physical potential. Here at The Pro Audio Web Blog we are privileged to perform the debut review of the Warm Audio TB12, and believe that this unit can keep your wallet happy, whilst at the same time as being a serious trial and error exploration tool that can massively influence, and improve, your workflow or recording practices. The fact that the TB12 preamp is an one-
Okay, Warm Audio’s choice of packaging is certainly on the quirky side, but seeing as we don’t want to spoil the in-
Moving on to the basics, the TB12 arrives in the standard brown box, where it appears to be satisfactorily suspended inside to protect the beast during transit. We experienced no issues to get to the product, and it comes with an external 24V power supply (to limit production cost and pass this on to the consumer), and finally a very detailed operation manual. Noting that the TB12 can not only be a very serious piece of gear, but also a learning curve, the detail that has gone into the operation manual will most likely effect your thoughts into how you craft a tone with hardware, not just positioning. For this reason we can give a big thumbs up to the ‘wizard’ boffins at Warm Audio for explaining this in plain English (obviously depending on your locale).
When you cast your eye over the unit you will notice that the faceplate is an very distinctive orange colour that seems to constantly draw your eye back and forth to the unit; for better or worse. Unlike the faceplate, the rest of the unit is crafted out of black textured sheet metal, with white details for good measure. Now moving back to the functions of the front panel, the rotary dials used are of a high grade that gives a satisfying tactile feedback ‘click’ and again, the ‘Gain’ potentiometers feel very solid, and move in 0.5dB increments. In terms of the physical switches there is nothing remarkable to note, they simply work in a fluid manner as expected. Upon inspection the XLR inputs do not appear to be of the ‘Neutrik’ standard, but nevertheless still function without flaw.
It has to be said that so far everything that we have discusses regarding the build quality lives up to expectations, and we estimate that this strong unit will survive many years of use. However, as you all may know, here at The Pro Audio Web Blog we like to go into the smallest of details. During our testing of this unit we found that first -
The TB12 is certainly not sure of features! It is an extremely comprehensive piece of kit that has almost anything that you will ever need in one place. As both the operational amplifiers and transformer designs has already been outlined within the preface we shall simply detail all the extras that are found on both the back and front of the unit.
Beginning with the unit faceplate we immediately notice that, just like the back, there is an microphone input to save you the worry of having to route through the back of your rack-
As we arrive to the back of the unit there is the 24v AC power in from the external power supply, your ‘Line In’ jack, XLR mic input, an XLR balanced output, and TRS (balanced) jack output. What is rather impressive here is that Warm Audio have included an insert send or receive so that you can route your signal to an external compressor, EQ unit, or perhaps to even use the TB12 to add some coloration on a routed master bus. In terms of features, all of us here at The Pro Audio Web Blog are seriously impressed with what is on offer here! So far it punches well above its weight, and with this in mind I think that it is best to move on to the ‘Sonic Performance’.
The TB12 has a choice of circuitry for the user to route for a greater control over the signal. You have options for input amplifier, the x731 and the x18. Both op-
As we come to the output circuitry, the TB12 sports two output transformers; one steel and one nickel. The Steel appears to have a generally thicker tone with a real punch in the mid frequencies when driven hard. This is certainly a contrast to the Nickel, which has a more modern brighter tone, and the high frequencies cut through with an increased presence than that of the Steel transformer. In fact, if you use the Nickel transformer with the X18 op-
With the TB12 you can experiment your heart out with an endless sea of characters that are immediately to hand. Whilst I fully appreciate that most will experiment when they first encounter the unit by pushing it to its very limits, I must highlight that that this is a dirty crunchy tone that needs to be used with taste. Realistically some genres do suit this potential, but if you really are recording some serious takes then please go back later… just route the signal back through your DAW and into the TB12, it won’t hurt!
In terms of an immediate real-
The Tone Beast certainly lives up to its name! It is crammed with functionality and flexibility for the budding engineer, semi-