Drawmer 1960 - Mic Pre / Vacuum Tube Compressor by edva
The Drawmer 1960 Mic Pre/Vacuum Tube compressor, mfg. in the UK by Drawmer, is a two channel pre-amp/compressor, with a full-featured mono DI or "Aux" input section. The unit seems like it has been around as long as its name, and almost has, having been developed by Ivor Drawmer in 1984.
Over the years, it has generally slipped down the ladder of popularity, but they are still quite common, if less used. However, this box is a major tone machine with decent flexibility, and tons of "mojo" in some instances.
The 1960 is well appointed with many useful and common sense features, and the operation of the pre amp is straightforward. The compressor is a different story, as it is the less common "soft knee" type with no ratio selector; and the attack and release settings are arbitrarily numbered "presets". However in practice it is very easy to use, if not infinitely controllable. At all settings, the overall characteristics are "slow and smooth".
The Aux/DI section as well has its tiny learning curve, with a pair of shelving filters, a "bright" switch (2K), global EQ in/out, and the ability to purposely overdrive the input, and to send it to either or both channels of the compressor.
There are line ins, to access the compressor without the pre, and both insert and sidechain jacks. A pair of vintage looking VU meters completes the package.
I have used the 1960 both live and in the studio on many occasions, and it is one of my favorite pieces of gear. A bit funky in the build, and more than half of the ones I've used have had problems, all repairable though, but still a bit disappointing and frustrating in a unit of this cost. However, that's life, and at least sonically, the 1960 is worth its weight in gold.
It is immediately and always colored, and while more can be added, it cannot be completely taken away. On some sources, the fit is magical, and they become huge, bold, and warm far beyond what the sum of the parts would suggest.
In particular, the 1960 warms up "sterile" condenser mics like nobody's business. It loves some vocals, and the compressor is also well suited for this.
Guitar amps are a natural, perhaps its best use. It is not well suited for the master bus, unless one wants a very colored overlay, nor does it sound good on sources that are already dark, wooly, or muddy (unless that's what is wanted). It will rock a drum bus for a huge, explosive sound, if you don't mind a little dirt. Or a lot, as distortion is one of the many options this unit has on offer. The DI/compressor chain is ideal for bass, as one would expect with all those tubes on board.
I really like the 1960, and the big, warm sounds it can deliver. An under-rated classic, not a "first call, do it all" box, but certainly worth having in a well stocked rack.