Recording - September 2014 - 24

B Y PA U L V N U K J R .

Sonic Farm

Silkworm 500 Series Mic Preamp

Tweakable tonal response gives this 500 Series pre extra flexibility
We first met Boris Drazic and Zoran
Todorovic of Canadian audio firm Sonic
Farm in our July 2013 issue, when we
looked at the 2DI4 tube direct box and I
noted Sonic Farm's iconoclastic design philosophy. In a nutshell: As long as the end
result sounds right to their ears, they don't
care if it takes tubes, transistors, IC chips,
or op amps to get there-these guys will
do whatever it takes to get the right tone.
They are also unconcerned with recreating
classic gear of yesteryear, so you'll find no
clones or copies on this Farm.
Sonic Farm products are all about tonal
choices and versatility. The company's
flagship device, the Creamer, offers multiple flavors of solid-state and tube tones in
one box, their Creamliner tube line conditioner offers a choice of pentode or triode modes, and a similar design was
used in the 2DI4. The Silkworm preamp
keeps this tradition going, giving you multiple flavors of sonic coloration; it's Sonic
Farm's first all-solid-state product, and its
first 500 Series module.
Look and feel, fit and finish
The Silkworm is a single-channel 500
Series microphone preamp/instrument
DI. It is well built from top to bottom and
is one of the heavier 500 Series modules
I have ever used. This is due to there
being a pair of large transformers inside
its enclosure.
The Silkworm features all-metal construction and is clothed in the same red
and black enamel finish as the rest of the
Sonic Farm line, with white lettering and
accents. Its large white Gain knob has a
nice balance of glide and resistance and
its toggle switches are similarly solid and
firm.
The Silkworm is fully enclosed on all
sides, which is how I wish all 500 Series
devices were built. A full casing makes it so
much easier to seat in your 500 Series rack
(in my case, it's the Radial Engineering
Workhorse that I use for most reviews), and
it keeps internal components from getting
bent or bumped when doing so.
24

RECORDING September 2014

The signal path and some specs
The Silkworm uses a fully discrete op
amp gain stage; there are no capacitors
anywhere in its all-DC signal path; Sonic
Farm says this results in a natural low end
free of phase shifts, "something no tube preamp can do." It also makes use of servo
control for minimal DC offset. Its signal path
starts with a low-distortion Cinemag transformer input stage, and then offers a choice
of output stages. You can choose between
a second Cinemag Fe output transformer or
a balanced IC-based output stage.
Additionally, the Silkworm offers multiple
character voicings as well; we'll talk about
the Vibe switch in a moment.
The Silkworm's maximum microphone
gain is 66 dB while its instrument input offers
up to 42 dB. Its maximum output level is 28.7
dBu. Further tech specs include gain stage
THD under 0.0005% at 1kHz, minimum output load of 600 ohms. See the Sonic Farm
website for detailed Total Harmonic Distortion
figures as a function of frequency for the input
and output transformers.
Controls and features explained
The Silkworm's Gain knob trims the
input signal with respect to the initial level
set by a 3-position toggle switch marked
H (high), M (medium) and L (low). The
unit is equipped with a single bi-color LED
which glows from green to red to indicate
signal and clipping.
There are two columns of toggle controls
down the front of the unit. The left column
has the aforementioned Level switch, in
between two switches marked SS/OT and
Vibe. The SS/OT switch chooses the output
stage signal path, either IC only (SS stands
for "solid state", a bit of a misnomer since
the Silkworm has no tubes anyway) or with
the output transformer in place (OT). The
Vibe switch uses changing capacitance and
resistance to alter the sonic character of the
source. The switch is cryptically labeled S, P
and W. The P setting stands for Presence,
and is essentially the Silkworm's most neutral, flat frequency response. S stands for
Smooth; as its name implies, it offers a



Recording - September 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - September 2014

Contents
Recording - September 2014 - Cover1
Recording - September 2014 - Cover2
Recording - September 2014 - 1
Recording - September 2014 - 2
Recording - September 2014 - 3
Recording - September 2014 - 4
Recording - September 2014 - 5
Recording - September 2014 - Contents
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