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Phoenix Audio DRS-1R

Phoenix Audio DRS1R/500

4.5 4.5 out of 5, based on 1 Review

A hearty and versatile Mic Pre / DI worth of consideration for your next 500 unit Mic Pre

29th March 2012

Phoenix Audio DRS1R/500 by George Necola

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Phoenix Audio DRS-1R

No input transformer (electronically balanced input) but an output-transformer (like in the DRS-2), same big gain knob, 26dBu output (clips at 24dBu), enough gain to amplify everything you plug in, quiet.

I expect DRS-2 sound coming out of this new design in the 500 series and there it was. It’s this special silky topend, the balls, the not so present midrange (but fits in well in most mixes), 3 Dimensional something which I can not explain… It just works on most things which requires a nice topend, solid lowend and fascinating pleasing midrange. I would not use it on everything (I found it to perform not so well on acoustic guitars, but then again, I am not a specialist in recording acoustic guitars.. ).

Well, our mind plays tricks on us. So in my little world, the DRS1R sounds different then the DRS-2. Again, it was a half year ago, that I used a DRS-2 on a guitar cabinet, it could be bogus, mindtricks… Different doesn’t mean bad at all. It’s this wonderful sound I am asking for when working with a Phoenix preamp. It’s just different.. maybe not as “airy”..

This preamp seperates the boys from the men. If you didn’t have the pleasure to record something trough a DRS-Phoenix Audio product, you should order one immediatly. I love em.

25th March 2014

Phoenix Audio DRS1R/500 by terraamb01

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Phoenix Audio DRS-1R

Thanks to the continued popularity of the 500 series, engineers now have access to some outstanding mic-pres and dynamics hardware that previously might have been too expensive for the average sized or home studio. Boutique brands are now offering 500 series units that do everything from give you one channel of circuitry from a larger multi-channel system, to providing stand alone units that offer their own set of full features that stand apart from their "full rack" counterparts completely.

Phoenix Audio was a brand that, up until I did some research, was completely unknown to me. A relatively new company compared to some of their competitors (Phoenix Audio was originally formed in July 1996 to provide a British service for owners of pre 1980 Neve recording consoles,) Phoenix Audio's products are built with obvious quality in mind.

The Phoenix Audio DRS1R/500 is a mono pre amp and DI designed to be identical to the DRS1 Mic Pre. Phoenix claims that the unit runs at the same voltage as it's big brother, thanks due to the special power supply built into the unit, so there is not sacrifice in sonic characteristics from the DRS1.

The DSR1R/500 has all of the features you'd expect to find on a good 500 series mic pre. mic/line toggle, Phase, Direct In switch, High Pass Filter, Mute and a +48 phantom power for mics that require power. What makes the Phoenix a little different is it's dual gain stage feature.

The DSR1R has both and input and output gain staging, the input sensitivity is notched from -30 to -70, while the output stage is a smooth dial. The combination of these two knobs is where you can find a great deal of sonic flexibility and what makes this unit so versatile.

Use: The DSR1R takes a little getting used to. For instance, there is no real "unity gain" in the traditional sense. The mixing and matching of the input and output stages offers a wide spectrum of sonic possibility and a TON of headroom. For instance, setting the input at about -45 and the output at about 11:00 gives you a very solid clean channel. But dialing up the input sensitivity a couple of notches will give you more than enough juice to handle, say a ribbon mic or something that needs help pushing volume. But there is no real "baseline" to start with, so you will need to experiment with this unit to get settings where you want them. The up side is that there is a lot of creative flexibility, the down side is it's not initially what you'd call a "plug and play" mic pre, it takes a little noodling until you get use to it. But once you sort it out, it may just become your go to mic pre.

Sound: The Phoenix brand has its roots in the "British sound", even though they are based in California these days. And their products reflect that. Circuit design leader David Rees is an ex-Neve design engineer, famous for his design of the Neve 2254 Limiter/compressor. So it probably goes without saying that the Phoenix is not what you'd call a "transparent" mic pre. This is not a Millennia mic pre, but it's not insanely colored either. Indeed, the sound of the DSR1R is reminiscent of the Neve sound but not heavy-handed. Its a little "warmer" and "fatter" sounding than some of its more transparent counterparts, but in a very pleasing way. And it has a nice, silky top end that never gets brittle on you. It's excellent for just about anything you put in front of it and adds a touch of character, but in very nice ways. To use a completely over saturated phrase, it's very "musical" sounding. Phoenix has done a nice job of finding their own sound.

Application: I have recorded just about everything with this mic pre with the exception of vocals and a drum kit. But everything I've put in front of it sounds great. Ribbon mics, dynamic, LDCs all react very well to getting some full 24v love and as indicated, you can even experiment and add some saturation by boosting the input gain and cutting the output gain, much like a guitar amp. Hand percussion is punchy and full sounding, wind instruments don't get terribly harsh sounding on the high end and acoustic instruments sound bright and full. Because of the bags of headroom on this mic pre, there really isn't anything you can't do with it.

Conclusion: The Phoenix DSR1R/500 is a smaller version of the DSR1, but don't let that fool you into thinking that its a "stripped down" version of the DSR1. According to Phoenix it has almost identical range and characteristics of it's big brother, including a 24v power conversion. I will admit that the unit took some time to get used to. It's not as immediate as some other mic pres where you can set it and forget it. It takes some noodling to get the sound you want out of it. But once you find it, you will be very happy with the end result. This is a very versatile mic pre that will live up to just about anything you compare it too. Sonically it gives a slight nod to it's classic British roots but its a very modern mic pre and has the range and headroom to prove it. Highly recommended.

Addendum: After a few more weeks of use (and a matching pair) of use the Phoenix has become my goto for hand percussion and bass DI. Its DEEP, punchy but not muddy, very present. It rocks for the likes of hand percussion and anything that needs some punch and kick. Love it!


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