Fink Analog Audio CS2-FA Tube Dual Channel Strip Review

Jul 27, 2010 2:30 PM, By Barry Rudolph

HANDMADE PREAMP/EQ/LIMITER WITH VINTAGE PEDIGREE

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The Fink Audio CS2-FA features a Bill Putnam–inspired tube console mic preamp, a passive EQ and a FET limiter.

The Fink Audio CS2-FA features a Bill Putnam–inspired tube console mic preamp, a passive EQ and a FET limiter.










Veteran UREI and Universal Audio engineer Dennis Fink uses single-ended Class-A dual-triode tube gain blocks in the CS2-FA, a two-rackspace unit with two complete recording channel strips. Each strip has a Bill Putnam–inspired tube console mic pre; a passive EQ with the same frequency sets and operation as the Pultec EQP-1A; and an FET limiter that is similar to the UA 1176LN except that the CS2-FA has tube input/output stages. Apart from the FET attenuator, the CS2-FA offers an all-tube audio path with five tubes per channel.

ONLINE EXTRAS

WATCH:
Fink CS2-FA Product Demo

BIG SURPRISES IN THE BOX
The 15.25-inch–deep chassis uses high-quality components and first-class internal construction that belie the unit’s $3,999 price. There are two circuit boards per channel: one for the mic preamp/EQ amp and the other for the FET limiter and output amp. The power supply supplies the 350VDC B+, the regulated DC for phantom power and all other circuits, including 10 VDC for the tube filaments. All four main circuit boards interconnect to each other and to the smaller front panel circuit board modules via handmade wiring looms, shielded Mogami wire and Molex connectors.

The CS2-FA incorporates CineMag CMMI-7CPC mic input transformers and the larger CM-9589L output transformers for each channel. It uses Wima audio coupling capacitors throughout, along with Bournes control pots, Electroswitch rotary switches and Neutrik XLR I/O connectors. All 10 tubes are sourced from JJ Electronics.

MIC PREAMP
The mic preamp uses two ECC83s and an ECC81—one more tube than the original Putnam design—used to drive the passive EQ. Front panel controls include 48V phantom on/off; -10dB to +10dB gain fine adjust; output level that goes to “11”; and input select with 0, -10, -20, -30 dB and line positions, plus DI for the ¼-inch plastic direct input jack. The DI input, when selected, connects the jack directly to the grid of the mic pre’s first ECC83 triode section—just like a Fender guitar amp. Its input impedance is 1 meg-ohm. The CS2-FA’s total amount of gain sans limiter inserted is stated at 60 dB for the rear panel XLR mic input path and 46 dB for the front panel DI.

PASSIVE EQ
The EQ section is pre-limiter only and includes midrange boost (no cut) up to +10 dB; a continuously 1 to 10 variable midrange Q control; a midrange frequency selector with 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 12 and 16kHz frequencies; 0 to -10dB HF cut; HF choices of 5/10/20 kHz; LF selection with 20/60/120Hz positions; 0 to +10dB LF boost; and LF cut with a 0 to -10dB range. The EQ uses a second-order LC-style midrange section based around a Cine-Mag multitap choke. Switching between different winding taps changes the midrange center frequency. Both the HF and LF sections are first-order 6dB/octave shelving RC-type filters with frequencies copied from the Pultec EQP-1A. You can boost and cut low frequencies at the same time and, as with the Pultec, produce a resonant peak just before the filter’s cut-off frequency.

FET LIMITER
The limiter section has an I/O switch and controls for makeup gain, input and output levels. Once you develop an operating level for a recording with the mic pre and EQ section, switching in the limiter brings up to 20dB more level. Like the 1176LN, the input control pushes more level into the detector circuit for more limiting/compression while the output control sets the final level.

The variable Attack control has a 0.2 to 20ms range; release times go from 100 ms to 2.2 seconds; and the Ratio control switches between ratios of 1, 4, 8, 12 and 20:1. An “A” ratio position simulates the effect of pushing all of the ratio buttons together on an 1176LN. The “S” ratio position switches to a soft-knee compression curve that has less compression in the beginning than a fixed 2:1 ratio and maintains this lower ratio through the first 20 dB of incoming signal level. The limiter section finishes with a small, lighted Sifam VU meter and a three-way switch to read gain reduction, output level and Pre (the level coming from the mic pre/EQ sections into the limiter).






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