Could this be the ultimate analogue 'vibe box'?
Many largely in-the-box producers like to turn to a hardware vibe box on occasion — something to add real 'analogue mojo' to their projects. But as they can already access pretty much any effect they could want in the DAW, the hassle of routing signals out of the box is only really justifiable if it achieves something that can't be done in said box. Having started off working entirely in the box, I amassed a fair amount of outboard over the years, but as time has passed my justifications for owning all this outboard have grown increasingly esoteric.
Now, despite owning some nice reverbs and EQs, pretty much all my reverb and EQ moves are once again done with software. Yet, for saturation, compression and distortion I use a combination of software and hardware, and when hoping to inject some analogue vibe I think that hardware generally still has the edge. I tend to look for something a bit 'different', and while I'll often turn to my three Rupert Neve Designs 5042 'tape effect' saturators, an old transformer-laden Alice desk, and various compressors, including a Drawmer 1968 MkII, I'm always on the lookout for new 'flavours'. So when I learned of Drawmer's new 1976 multiband saturation and stereo-width processor, I had to give it a try!
One man's 'saturation' is another's 'distortion', but the name of the game with 'saturators' is to add aesthetically pleasing harmonics. In the analogue domain, this can be achieved in many ways, from overloading transformers and valves, to pushing transistors and analogue tape beyond their specifications. Like the 1974 EQ that Bob Thomas reviewed last month (https://sosm.ag/drawmer-1974), Drawmer's 1976 aims to deliver a broadly '70s sound — essentially, they're going for the vibe you can achieve by pushing the channels of a transistor-filled 1970s mixing console. But Drawmer also see the 1976 as a sort of analogue interpretation of the tube section of their old, all-digital DC2476 mastering processor, and a glance at the facilities on offer certainly hints at 'controllable vibe'.
The 1976, with its yellow and black knobs and simple, bold layout, is unmistakably modern Drawmer. Connectivity is easy, with XLR ins and outs and an IEC mains inlet. The internal layout is also neat and pleasing, including ±15V power-rail indicator LEDs that let you know the hefty centre-tapped toroidal transformer is doing its job. While there's a lot to commend the design, there are also a couple of mildly curious decisions.
First, the power switch is on the back, next to the IEC inlet, where it's of little practical use when bolted into a rack. Second, while I definitely have no complaints...