Recording - January 2017 - 34

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

Sonic Farm Beamer
Can't choose between two great tube preamps? Get both at once!
Sonic Farm is a company based in
Vancouver, BC. It's run by lifelong
friends Zoran Todorovic and Boris
Drazic, who met in 1966 in their home
country of Yugoslavia when they formed
their first band. They started Sonic Farm
in 2009 with a goal of crafting products
that were not just clones of famous
boxes of yesteryear. All Sonic Farm
boxes offer multiple sound-shaping
choices and handmade quality.
My first look at Sonic Farm came in
our July 2013 issue with a look at the
company's 2DI4 Pentode Direct Box,
and then again in September 2014 with
a look at the Silkworm solid-state 500
Series mic preamp. Both pieces were
impressive, offering a wide selection of
sounds, with the 2DI4 being one of the
nicest bass DIs I have reviewed to date.
Sonics Farm's first offering was the
Creamer 2-channel 19" rack preamp. The
Creamer is Sonic Farm's own design, and
offers a choice of Triode or Pentode input
and transformer or transformerless output.
A later version, the Creamer Plus, added
more tone-shaping features, plus a transformer-balanced line-level input.
In 2014 Sonic Farm released the
Berliner, also a 2-channel tube preamp.
It was the company's first to take direct
design inspiration from a famous 1950s
German microphone preamp, the
Telefunken V72. The V72 was EMI's
console preamp of choice (before its
own REDD.47 was designed), used on
the Beatles' first album Please Please
Me in 1963. Per Sonic Farm's "No
Clones" motto, the V72 circuit was only
a starting point and the company
added its own twists.
This month we are taking a look at
both units, or rather a single channel of
each, in Sonic Farm's latest rack unit:
The Beamer (Berliner + Creamer =
34

RECORDING JANUARY 2017

Beamer). It's housed in a 1U 19" enclosure with a beautiful red, black and
white baked enamel finish with cream
colored buttons and vintage style
chickenhead knobs, similar to the rest of
the Sonic Farm family. I/O on the
Beamer is the same for each channel-
XLR Mic In and XLR Line Out on the rear
panel, switchable 1/4" Instrument Input
on the front. (Transformered XLR Line
inputs are available as a $300 option.)
To dive under the hood, we have to
look at each side separately...
The Berliner side
Side one of this dual-personality box
is the V72-inspired Berliner. The Berliner
has buttons for 48V phantom power,
phase, and 10 dB pad, and a
Mic/Instrument input button. Next are a
pair of the aforementioned chickenhead
knobs for Input Gain (up to 36.7 dB)
and for Output Gain. In the manual it is
pointed out that this output control is for
final output attenuation only and does
not affect tube gain or tube overload levels, though it does drive the output buffer
and transformer. A 2-color LED lights
green for signal and red for overload.
Next is a button marked SS/OT; SS
(Solid State) engages a tranformerless
output stage and OT engages the
Output Transformer. Note that the
Berliner, Creamer+, and Beamer can all
be purchased with a choice of output
transformers-see Sonic Farm's website
for details.
Beyond these standard mic preamp
controls are the Berliner's tone controls.
First there's a 3-position toggle switch
marked Fat, followed by a second one
marked Air. These are shelving boosts
that add subtle levels of thickness and
openness, respectively. These are in the
tube stage; they can be fine-tuned via

set screw trimpots accessed from the top
of the unit.
Next is another 3-position toggle
switch for setting the mic input's impedance, with settings of Low, Med and Hi
(900Ω, 2400 Ω, 10 kΩ). Next is a 3position High Pass Filter (Off, 160 Hz,
or 80 Hz at 6 dB/octave). Last is a final
3-position attenuation control that is posttube and pre-output control with settings
of 0/-6/-12 dB.
The Creamer side
The other side of the Beamer has the
feature set of the Creamer Plus, which is
quite similar to the Berliner's. It also has
48V, Pad, Mic/Inst, SS/OT, Fat, Air,
Impedance, HPF, and Attenuator controls. So what's different?
First, while there's an Output knob (an
attenuator that doesn't affect the tube
gain/drive, like the Berliner's), there's no
Input Gain knob. The next difference is
a button labeled +6 dB, and of course
it's not as simple as it sounds. This is not
an input gain button (we'll get to that),
but rather it steps up the input transformer and changes its impedance
across the board by 2.5kΩ. This does
not just boost level; it changes the
sound, especially on passive dynamic
and ribbon microphones.
Next there is a button labeled Tube
Mode, which switches the tube from the
smoother and cleaner Triode mode to
the more aggressive Pentode mode.
Each of these is further affected by the
last control on the unit, a Gain Up control that boosts the tube stage by 5 dB in
Triode and 9 dB in Pentode.
The Beamer in use
Compared to most vintage tube microphone preamps, the V72 included, the
Beamer is chock full of choices for altering



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - January 2017

Contents
Recording - January 2017 - Intro
Recording - January 2017 - Cover1
Recording - January 2017 - Cover2
Recording - January 2017 - 1
Recording - January 2017 - 2
Recording - January 2017 - 3
Recording - January 2017 - 4
Recording - January 2017 - 5
Recording - January 2017 - Contents
Recording - January 2017 - 7
Recording - January 2017 - 8
Recording - January 2017 - 9
Recording - January 2017 - 10
Recording - January 2017 - 11
Recording - January 2017 - 12
Recording - January 2017 - 13
Recording - January 2017 - 14
Recording - January 2017 - 15
Recording - January 2017 - 16
Recording - January 2017 - 17
Recording - January 2017 - 18
Recording - January 2017 - 19
Recording - January 2017 - 20
Recording - January 2017 - 21
Recording - January 2017 - 22
Recording - January 2017 - 23
Recording - January 2017 - 24
Recording - January 2017 - 25
Recording - January 2017 - 26
Recording - January 2017 - 27
Recording - January 2017 - 28
Recording - January 2017 - 29
Recording - January 2017 - 30
Recording - January 2017 - 31
Recording - January 2017 - 32
Recording - January 2017 - 33
Recording - January 2017 - 34
Recording - January 2017 - 35
Recording - January 2017 - 36
Recording - January 2017 - 37
Recording - January 2017 - 38
Recording - January 2017 - 39
Recording - January 2017 - 40
Recording - January 2017 - 41
Recording - January 2017 - 42
Recording - January 2017 - 43
Recording - January 2017 - 44
Recording - January 2017 - 45
Recording - January 2017 - 46
Recording - January 2017 - 47
Recording - January 2017 - 48
Recording - January 2017 - 49
Recording - January 2017 - 50
Recording - January 2017 - 51
Recording - January 2017 - 52
Recording - January 2017 - 53
Recording - January 2017 - 54
Recording - January 2017 - 55
Recording - January 2017 - 56
Recording - January 2017 - 57
Recording - January 2017 - 58
Recording - January 2017 - 59
Recording - January 2017 - 60
Recording - January 2017 - 61
Recording - January 2017 - 62
Recording - January 2017 - 63
Recording - January 2017 - 64
Recording - January 2017 - 65
Recording - January 2017 - 66
Recording - January 2017 - 67
Recording - January 2017 - 68
Recording - January 2017 - 69
Recording - January 2017 - 70
Recording - January 2017 - 71
Recording - January 2017 - 72
Recording - January 2017 - Cover3
Recording - January 2017 - Cover4
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