Sonic Farm Beamer by JohnTennant
First thing is first: What kind of user am I?
I'm a sound designer by trade a music producer by hobby. I have about 16 years of sound design experience, and I've been dabbling in the music the whole time as well.
I make a dub/jungle hybrid style music mostly. (soundcloud.com/johntennant for the curious)
My goals in this pre-amp purchase were:
1. Classic Class-A tone
3. Dual channel for stereo processing
4. Modern equipment supported by a warranty
Once I got the tip off from a friend that I should check out the Sonic Farms stuff, I sent them an inquiry on their website introducing myself and telling them I'm interested in their stuff. I said I wasn't sure which preamp would be the right sound for me. Within two days, they phoned me up and said they just finished building a Beamer and offered to lend it to me for a few days to try it out. Well, yes please.
Boris (co-founder of Sonic Farm) came to my studio to drop off the unit. We had a long chat about the features and design philosophy... etc. Cool dude... totally legit.
As expected, the unit sounds great. Between the two circuits on either side, and all the options on each circuit I found I could quickly achieve desired results on a variety of sources.
On the Berliner side, there is a clarity presence and expensive sounding sonic character that is extremely detailed with the high-mids sounding pleasing and organized to my ears at all times. As you would expect, the solid state output has a powerful tightness and density while the output transformer has an oomph and breadth of tone.
The Creamer+ side has got a way of sounding like it's inside my head. It has lots of colour sure, but what I didn't expect is the intimacy of the recordings I can get with it. The smoothness of the tone makes me want to listen to the program material more closely.
One both sides, the preset eqs are silky in the highs and tight and controlled in the lows. The switchable mic impedance can make a huge difference from microphone to microphone.
My experience when dialing in a setting is that I keep trying different configurations, they all sound great, and then, I hit the magic setting for that microphone with this vocalist or instrument. With this pre-amp, it really is worth it to take the time to figure out the best setting.
Basically, the range of quality tones that can be achieved from this single rack-space is totally absurd.
Ease of Use
I scored this a little low. Reason being: so many settings! Steep learning curve. This is not a 'one magic knob' box. But then again, it would be impossible to have the range of this box without all these settings. I'm convinced that all of these settings are useful--they each change the character of the sound in useful ways that lead to a far easier mix down. But yeah, this isn't a beginner's box.
I believe I've addressed this topic adequately above.
Bang for Buck
If you're serious about recording excellent source material, then this box is a total bargain. But at $2850 CAD, it's not for the prosumer. It's a grown-up piece of kit. My prediction is these units will be considered totally classic and (this is already happening) we'll start to see them in the hands of many serious audio professionals.
So this box addresses all of my needs except the matched dual channel processing--it's two different pres in one rack. But I've been getting around that by converting my signal into mid/side and sending it through. I've been getting great results that way. Once I was sure that I could process stereo material reasonably well using mid/side, I gladly wrote Boris a cheque.
If you're in the market for a new pre-amp that you'll have the rest of your life, you should definitely consider this unit. I couldn't be happier with my purchase.