This versatile input channel gives you the classic sound of tubes, transformers and inductors.
When reviewing the Hazelrigg VNE compressor (SOS March 2022), I mentioned in passing another of the brand’s products, the VLC single‑channel mic preamp and EQ. If you read that VNE review you’ll already know that Hazelrigg Industries and DW Fearn are intimately connected: the former manufacture and distribute the latter’s products, though Georg and Geoff Hazelrigg also design and hand‑build their own product range, which employs elements derived from Doug Fearn’s designs. Hazelrigg brochures highlight a company ethos of building products that deliver confidence to the end user, combining world‑class sound quality with deliberately simple user controls, which encourage users to adjust and optimise settings by listening rather than by rote.
So here is the promised review of the VLC, which has been adapted from DW Fearn’s VT‑15 channel strip. Like the VNE, it has a distinctive — austere, even — semi‑vintage look about it, which shares the unfussy brown‑painted front panel of its sibling. It’s a modest, understated aesthetic that many will find classy, even if some feel it doesn’t appear as expensive as it should! Beauty is skin deep, though: it’s what’s inside that really matters, and there’s a lot of very high‑quality tube‑ and transformer‑based goodness inside the VLC!
It all starts with an elaborate power supply and a valve mic preamp derived from Fearn’s VT‑1. There is also an instrument input facility, which borrows from the VT‑IF, and tonal shaping is provided courtesy of a passive inductor‑based EQ derived from the VT4 and VT5 equalisers. The selection and integration of these separate elements creates a unique Hazelrigg product which directly addresses typical practical studio needs, with a sound quality and clarity of purpose that eludes many competitors.
The VLC is a 2U rackmounting unit, although the manufacturers recommend installing 1U vent panels above and below, so in practice it will occupy 3‑4U of rack space. Alternatively, it can be used as a desktop preamp, and optional rubber feet can be supplied if specified at the time of order.
A rear‑panel switch selects between nominal 115V and 220V AC mains input supplies, and a fuse is incorporated into the IEC mains inlet socket. The chassis is grounded via the mains safety earth, but a dedicated chassis grounding stud is also provided on the rear panel, along with two female XLRs to accept microphone and line inputs. A male XLR provides the line output, and both the mic input and line output are transformer balanced.
Operational controls on the front panel are all clearly marked, well spaced, and use chunky knobs and switches. For convenience, a combi XLR/jack in the bottom‑left corner accepts either a mic input (wired in parallel with the rear socket), or an unbalanced instrument input (via the centre quarter‑inch socket). A three‑way rotary switch with a pointer knob selects the required input source (mic, line or instrument).
Directly above this combi socket is the preamp’s gain control which, as with most Hazelrigg products, has no calibration markings. A single bi‑colour LED in the centre of the panel indicates the output signal level, illuminating green over ‑4dBu and red at +16dBu; the manual recommends adjusting I/O levels so that the unit works mainly in the green zone. Unity gain for the line input is achieved with the gain knob at roughly the two o’clock position, and this position equates to roughly 45dB gain in mic mode (fully clockwise provides 60dB gain).
This gain control is actually an attenuator situated between the...