Field Test: Millennia TD-1 Twin-Direct Recording Channel

Feb 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Michael Cooper

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The Millennia TD-1 combines an instrument/amplifier/DI input with mic and line recording paths and preamp outputs. The sturdy, handcrafted, 15-pound tabletop unit incorporates many critically acclaimed design elements from other Millennia products, including alternate FET and tube circuit paths (the latter for instrument or speaker/amp input only), two bands of NSEQ-2 equalization and the HV-3 solid-state mic preamp.

LET'S BE DIRECT


An unbalanced phone jack on the TD-1's front panel can accept input from an instrument or a direct feed from a guitar/bass/keyboard amp. This DI input signal goes directly to an unbalanced (phone jack) rear panel direct output, which you can choose to be either buffered (by a monolithic solid-state amplifier) or unbuffered.

A front panel switch also variously routes the DI input signal through Millennia's Twin Topology circuitry, which provides alternate paths through a Sovtec 12AT7 triode tube or an all-discrete FET amplifier. (My review unit was fitted with an optional Mullard CV-4024 NOS tube, which is available for an additional $30.) Three alternate impedance settings—470k ohm, 2 megaohm and 10 megaohm—change the load on a DI'd instrument to produce a variety of timbres.

A front panel XLR accommodates line-level input. The TD-1 also ships with a rear panel XLR mic input (HV-3) that is served by defeatable +48-volt phantom power. All inputs (including DI) can access additional gain. The user has access to 9 to 65 dB of gain in roughly 5dB increments.

All inputs can also access a 20dB pad, defeatable polarity-reverse function and NSEQ-2-type dual-band equalization. Unlike Millennia's Twin Topology NSEQ-2 unit, the TD-1's EQ is solid-state-only. Taken together, the TD-1's two widely overlapping EQ bands span a range from 20 Hz to 25 kHz. Each band provides up to 15 dB of boost/cut and continuously variable Q settings from 0.4 to 4.0. There are separate bypass buttons for each band, as well as for the entire EQ section.

Rear panel outputs include both balanced and unbalanced XLR and TRS (line-level on four connectors), a transformer-coupled XLR mic-level output (with a stated 3Hz to 300kHz frequency reponse), the aforementioned direct out and a mono headphone output (with level trim). I found that the TD-1's line-level outputs provided plenty of gain to record directly to a DAW. Alternatively, for added coloration, you can patch the transformer-coupled mic-level output (which uses the REAMP custom Millennia DIT-01 transformer) to an external preamp.

The TD-1 also offers two REAMP outputs on its rear panel. According to Millennia, the two REAMP outputs (used under license) are driven from “specially wound shielded magnetics” that emulate the level and impedance characteristics of Stratocaster- and Les Paul-style pickups, respectively. By feeding a previously recorded track to the TD-1's line input and patching one or both of the preamp outputs to a guitar amp(s), you provide the amp(s) with a signal(s) that is preconditioned to make the track sound like it's a live instrument.

The TD-1 also provides separate and variously colored signal present, overload and power LEDs; five different schemes for lifting or isolating the unit's ground; a removable leather carrying handle; four gargantuan rubber feet; and a detachable AC cord. Two TD-1s can also be rackmounted together. The unit's front panel cosmetics are stunning, and all knob settings are clearly discernible from a reasonable distance. A custom Corduna gig bag is an available option.

PUT TO THE TEST


Succinctly put, the TD-1's DI input, when used on electric guitar, exhibited a smoother spectral balance and far greater realism, warmth, body and depth than that of any specialized DI box I've used. Comparing DI'd electric bass tracks recorded first via the TD-1 and then using my Aguilar DB-900 tube DI box, the TD-1 lent a slightly bigger bottom and greater presence, clarity and depth.

The TD-1's two preamp outputs sounded quite different from one another and worked great. Routed to my Line 6 Pod Pro, they easily allowed me to turn crystalline DI'd Strat tracks into overdriven monsters during mixdown.

The TD-1's EQ is simply the best I've heard. It sounds incredibly warm, full-bodied and silky. I've never heard a mic preamp that sounds more pristine and revealing than the HV-3. (I love this preamp so much, I have 10 channels of HV-3 in my studio.) As a self-contained front-end device, the only thing that the TD-1 lacks is a compressor.

THE OBVIOUS CONCLUSION

The TD-1 sounds truly superb, is highly versatile, looks gorgeous and has gobs of headroom. Moderately priced at $1,495 list, this box sets a new standard for recording channels and gets my very highest recommendation.

Millennia, 530/647-0750, www.mil-media.com.


Mix contributing editor Michael Cooper is the owner of Michael Cooper Recording, located in beautiful Sisters, Ore. Cooper's studio offers recording, mixing and mastering services.






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