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HCL Velvet

Hand Crafted Laboratories Velvet

4.75 4.75 out of 5, based on 1 Review

HandCraftedLabs Velvet Tube Mic Preamp review.

16th March 2012

Hand Crafted Laboratories Velvet by andivax

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
HCL Velvet

hey, GS users!
It is a new (not very) preamp on the block!
First of all, i like bold, huge larger then life, colourfull and fat sound!
So i've tried various cheap and not cheap solutions as mic pre amplifiers.
Some of it was FET (like Toft Audio EC-1), some tube (Manley Voxbox).
And i ended up with HCL Velvet because of it is sound, features and price (it is 3 times cheaper than Voxbox!).
My favorite "go to" mic is Gefell M990 tube. I call it Neumann on steroids.
It has those fat sound plus 10-12 kHz hype (i like it because it adds those breathe to vocals that i like so much).
So, i've tried M990 with Toft EC-1 and was a little bit disappointed because of neutral sound. Manley Voxbox adds those tube dirt to sound but i don't like it's compressor sound (just MY opinion).
So, i decide to change my mic pre to something different and found an interesting solution from local company (HCL is Ukraine based guys).

And a little bit specs of HCL Velvet:
The Velvet is a vocal/instrument mono channel strip. The unit consists of a preamp, an optical leveler and a passive 4-band bell EQ.

What i LIKE in this device:
1) sound. it IS what i've searching for! FIVE soviet military TUBES INSIDE! it is very colorful. so even if you want to color your weak software insertument - Velvet can do this for you! But it is 1 channel device actually )) But a very interesting feature is 3 outputs – one direct from the Preamp and two main outs – allows to record more than one track version in one take. For example, it is possible to track to two channels – clean (or processed through an outboard compressor/EQ) signal via Preamp Direct Out and the signal processed through the Velvet Leveler/EQ. Also, aside from the onboard Leveller/EQ it is possible to connect outboard compressors and/or EQ. This way during mixing the user gets a chance to choose the best version of the track: Velvet Leveler + EQ and/or outboard compressors/EQ’s via Preamp Direct Out. Thanks to two equal transformer-balanced Main Outs the second Out can be used for line monitoring.
2) features is OK. Similar to Voxbox but without de-esser and limiter (( Actually Velvet has some additional handy features like 80Hz low cut filter (to cut off those subby unnecessary stuff. And Compressor 80Hz filter side chain to leave those big bottom not compressed at all.
3) compressor "sound" is AWESOME. It is just so transparent and i can do 7-10 dB of compression and i CAN'T HEAR the work of compressor (which is similar opto as LA2A).
4) EQ is very sweet. Of course you can add some eq in the box but Velvet's EQ sounds very very tasty. So sweet highs! EQ has 4 bands. LO shelf, HI shelf and 2 BELLS for Low and Hi mid.
5) Soft Knee/Hard Knee switch is actually ATTACK switch. I leave it on Hard for slowest attack (about 15 ms as on LA2A).
6) just 2 powerful knobs for actual compressor section ratio and gain.
7) Price!!!! It is cheap for it's features and sound!!!

what i dislike:
1) zero adjust knob for VU meter is very hard to tweak. I asked to replace it but it won't helps me a lot. So i put a big cap on it and it is OK now.
2) Pre EQ/Post EQ switch for inserting EQ into the leveler side chain (this way compression can be frequency-dependent – in Post EQ position) works OK but it gives me different levels that goes to compressor so i can't actually compare a sound in various switch position (need to tweak PEAK REDUCTION before). But i leave it on Post EQ position and don't care ))
3) no manual included. i LIKE manuals. But you can found it on HCL's web, so...

So. I can recommend it for any person who search for those bold fat tube sound. It is NOT clear preamp!

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