Millennia Media STT-1 Origin channel strip
The Millennia Music and Media Systems STT-1 Origin Recording System (try saying that three times fast) in the flesh lives up to it's somewhat ostentatious moniker. It truly is an "all in one" recording "system", or more accurately "channel strip", with high quality mono pre-amp, EQ, and compressor on board.
Although only two rack spaces, the STT-1 is a large and very heavy device, and care should be taken when racking, as it would be a shame to scratch such a lovely mug. Truly one of the audio worlds "super models", this mature yet still sexy unit occupies a permanent place in the equipment design hall of fame.
Performance-wise, it is of course very good, top shelf in fact, although there are a few chinks in the armor.
To begin on the positive side, there is of course the option to use either of the "twin topology" circuits, tube or solid state, for all three sections of the box!
Quite flexible indeed, and sonically rewarding. The quality of the pre-amp is very good, although I find the gain somewhat low, especially in tube mode. It does have mountains of headroom though, so if you can get a strong signal to it, you're golden. Certainly the sound is detailed, deep, and open. Generally, I prefer the solid state sound.
The EQ is based on Millennia's fabled NSEQ and does not dishonor the legacy, as it is one of, if not the very best EQs one could hope to find in a channel strip. The sound and flexibility of this EQ begins to justify in one's mind the STT-1's big-boy price. If "good sound" is the goal, (rather than something purposely distorted and mangled, for example), you could not go far wrong with this EQ in almost any scenario.
Likewise with the compressor, an opto, especially at "musical" settings, it is as good or better than any similar design I have used. Not a super fast or colored unit, but excellent for its intended use as the first compressor in tracking/recording a mono source. It also can be operated in tube, solid state, and a unique third "passive" mode, and has a dedicated internal sidechain "de-esser" circuit.
The STT-1 accepts mic, line, and DI signals. Besides the tube or solid state path options, there is an input transformer which can be switched in or out of circuit. There are multiple, parallel outputs on the rear, including class A discrete quarter-inch unbalanced and XLR balanced jacks. Finally, there is an option to link two units together for stereo duties. All in all, a magnificent piece of design and engineering, and it sounds great to boot.
So, what's not to like? Couple of things: First, as mentioned, the mic pre gain seems too low for a unit of this calibre, and that would be my biggest complaint. Secondly, the transformer does nothing to enhance, and instead detracts from, the "Millennia sound", which is part and parcel of why someone would buy this unit in the first place. They are just not a "vintage transformer" company, sorry. Of course, you don't have to use it. And the compressor can be over-used, and sound squashed, but then, most can. That's more of an operator error than a fault of the box anyway.
My only other minor gripe is that one really misses the small detents on the knobs that don't have them (thankfully some knobs are detented), as the beautiful, silky things turn so freely that it is all too easy to inadvertently change a setting. Oh, and on mine, the DI jack feels loose inside, although it works fine.
I love the Origin on vocals, as well as violin, and would be confident using it on anything really. In solid state mode, it pairs really well with a tube mic, such as a Mojave MA 200 or a Miktek CV4, bringing out their full potential, IME. It sounds great with dynamic mics, if you can get enough gain. It will enhance and open up the tone of whatever is plugged into it, it is a pleasure to own and use, and it is built for the long haul.
And, it looks great in the rack! All those fine qualities make it among the very best pre-amp channel strips available, at any price.