The new Eighteen is a combined mic preamp and EQ which manufacturers Black Lion call a “homage to the classic Melcor sound”.
As many DIY/self-build audio gear enthusiasts know, Melcor was the 1960s US brand name behind the 1731 discrete op-amp, the designers for which ended up working for API in its formative years and creating the 2520 op-amp at the heart of many of API’s classic early designs. According to Black Lion, this long history is reflected in the design of the Eighteen’s twin BLA1831 op-amps, which strive to deliver the tone and audio quality of classic designs featuring the Melcor 1731 and its derivatives, but with a lower noise floor. Each BLA1831 (one on the Eighteen’s input, one on the output) allows users to add 35dB of gain to incoming signals, so you can go from the quietest mic input to overdriven and saturated output if required. The mic preamp also features a line input option, which bypasses the preamp, plus 48V phantom power, a polarity switch and 80Hz (high-pass) and 10kHz (low-pass) filters.
The Eighteen’s passive, two-band Cinemag inductor-based EQ section also pays its respects to an illustrious forerunner, in this case Pultec’s passive EQ designs. High-quality Cinemag transformers also feature on the input and output of the Eighteen. In short, it looks like a carefully designed input stage and a decent complement to last year’s Seventeen compressor. The Eighteen is due to ship before the NAMM show in January 2020, retailing at £999 in the UK$899 in the US.