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Triton Audio FetHead

Triton Audio FetHead

4 4 out of 5, based on 3 Reviews

Inline boost for low-output dynamic and ribbon microphones


9th March 2012

Triton Audio FetHead by RebornOnline

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Triton Audio FetHead

Some microphones need a lot more gain than others. Think ribbon mics and broadcast dynamics such as the GearSlut's favourite SM7B and RE20.

Some of this mics need upwards of 60dB and for many pre-amps this is just outside of the quieter part of the gain stage.

The aim of the FetHead is to boost the signal cleanly by up to 20dB before hitting the mic-pre so you can use less gain and have a cleaner recording. It does this by using double jFET configured as a double class-A amplifier which is super clean and is conveniently powered by the phantom power from your pre. Phantom power is not passed through the FetHead and so you can use it safely with ribbon microphones (a phantom version is available if you want to use a FetHead with a condenser)

I've seen the question asked on GS forums "why not use two pre-amps in series". It's important to understand that although described as a pre-amp the FetHead keeps the signal at a microphone level suitable for the input of your mic pre. A mic preamp of course changes the signal from microphone level to a line level, these are two very different kinds of pre-amp. Simply putting two mic preamps in series would not have the same effect as using a FetHead and would introduce noise, hence why the FetHead is such a innovative and useful piece of kit.

Even if you don't need more signal, some users have even reported that just by using the FetHead they have noticed an improvement in the sound from the mics. So it can also be used to open up the sound a little for that perfect, airy vocal take.

It's hard to criticise the FetHead and it will work perfectly in almost every scenario. However I am one of the unlucky ones.

The FetHead requires the mic-pre amp to have an input impedance between 500 ohms and 1000 ohms to get toward the potential 20dB of gain. Below 500 ohms and the gain level drops off sharply. My JoeMeek VS3 v2 having an input impedance of 200 ohms only sees about 10dB of gain which for me was not enough to get a good, loud and clean signal from my RE20. Those with older preamps, or ones closely based on classic designs will have even lower input impedance. For example, the Black Lion Audio Dizengoff D173 based very closely on the Neve 1073, has a fixed impedance of 150ohms and in these scenarios the "Classic" FetHead may not give the best results.

Do not fear however, for TritonAudio have released the "Broadcast" FetHead which has a fixed gain, no matter what the input impedance. It's nearly double the price however, so those like myself hoping to save a much loved but underpowered preamp may feel the investment would be better spent toward a mic pre upgrade.

Overall the FetHead is a great bit if kit and a highly recommended addition to your studio.

  • 1
2nd September 2013

Triton Audio FetHead by thelowcrow

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Triton Audio FetHead

I am the lucky owner of several vintage RCA and Western Electric ribbon microphones, as well as some cheaper modern ones. These microphones were manufactured at a time when impedance matching was SOP, so often the output impedance on the mics can be as low as 50?. This is one of the causes for such low output gain and sometimes odd tonality coming from the mics.

Enter the Triton Audio FetHead. It is a fixed-gain (~22db) super clean FET mic preamp that you attach inline between the microphone and the preamp of your choice. It requires phantom power, but it blocks phantom from getting to your mic, so no worries about having the ribbon jump out of the motor on an RCA 44. It also presents a higher-than-average input impedance to the microphone which reduces transformer loading and can have a marked effect on the sound of the mic. Sometimes it's an airier top...sometimes a more robust midrange. It will vary from microphone to microphone, and it still holds true for regular dynamic mics such as the RE-20 or SM-7. Try it on any mic that doesn't require phantom power and see what happens. At $99, you can afford to have at least one in your locker, and you should! I've got 5.

They also make the FetHead Phantom which does pass Phantom and can be used for lower output condensers like a vintage U87A.

26th October 2013

Triton Audio FetHead by saxmeister

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 3 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Triton Audio FetHead

The low-end home studio landscape is cluttered with microphone preamps that can't crank out enough gain for thirsty mics such as ribbons and dynamics. Unfortunately, many home studio owners get stuck with lack luster recordings filled with too much noise.

Enter the Triton Audio FetHead. With just over 20dB of clean gain and a devilishly simple setup, this is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to assisting lower gain and lower quality preamps with some extra audio juice.

When using audio interfaces with integrated preamps to attempt to record via ribbons or thirsty dynamic mics the end result leaves a lot to be desired. Between the noise and the lack of drive from the preamp circuit a home studio engineer is left with little that can be used. The addition of a FetHead or two to this configuration can salvage and even improve upon the results that might have been captured before.

The packaging is dead simple and involves a plastic bag, a printed instruction sheet, and a cardboard tube with the FetHead safely tucked away in wrap to keep it from shifting around during shipping. The FetHead looks like little more than an adapter or male-to-female converter for an XLR cable. The only giveaway is the TritonAudio diamond logo. Plug the FetHead into the interface's preamp and then plug in your mic cable. Alternately, plug the cable into your preamp and then plug the FetHead into your mic. It works either way. It even works if you shim the FetHead between two cables between your interface and your mic.

Whichever way you configure the cables and preamp, turn on your Phantom Power, whether a full 48V or even down to 18V, and get ready for a magic bullet that will make your interface or low-gain preamp sound much better. Not to worry for all of you old RCA ribbon owners. The FetHead doesn't pass the phantom power along the lines to the mics. It only utilizes the power for the preamp built into the FetHeads enclosure. There are other versions that do allow the phantom to pass through, but this one is the safe bet for vintage ribbons.

When using either a Shure SM57 or a Shure SM7B into an ART Digital MPA II, I was having issues getting the gain high enough without introducing terrible amounts of hiss into the equation while doing some voiceover work. Adding the FetHead into the mix allowed me to back way off of the gain side as well as the output level and get pure, clean sound with little to no hiss. The ART preamp wasn't working as hard and was just sounding as clean as it needed to.

I used the FetHead with a couple of MXL ribbon mics with great results whether running on my old Presonus Firepod preamps, or my M-Audio DMP3, or my Focusrite pres, or my ART pres. Anything that I used the Triton Audio FetHead on got a turbo boost of gain.

I highly recommend the FetHead for use with any mic and preamp combination that calls for the extra boost. It's dead simple, has no options to mess up, and just works. The included graph shows that sound passes through with very little change. I could barely notice a slight upper frequency lift in some sounds as I used the FetHead, but this could have been due to the preamps being pushed and not responding well before using the FetHead.

For $99 US, this can't be beat. Just be aware that there is no bypass, so if the FetHead is connected inline and phantom power is off, no signal will make it back to your preamp. Always keep phantom on while using the FetHead.

Sound quality was excellent.
Ease of Use was literally plug-n-play.
There are no options or features to this preamp except for clean, clear gain.
For a smaller studio with limited preamp selections this thing is a life saver and I can highly recommend it for anyone using low output ribbons or dynamics. Heck, even some older condensers and classic vintage preamps (1073s anyone?) may be helped out. And $99 US for professional sound is worth it in my book!

  • 1
4th June 2020

Triton Audio FetHead by roman_

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 1 out of 5
  • Features 3 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 2 out of 5
  • Overall: 2.5
Triton Audio FetHead

I tried the germanium version on a ribbon mic and compared it to the "normal" version. While the Sound definitely was pleasing, more open and with a nice vintage touch, it also added quite a bit more noise. Also the gain definitely wasn't the promised 29 dB, more like 20. Together with the added noise, the usable "clean gain" shrank down quite a bit. But the worst part was that after 5 or 6 times connecting and disconnecting the FetHead to the mics and cables, the plug disconnected to the housing. All in all not really recommended.

 
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