Re-live the sound of the '70s with this classy combination of limiter and tape emulator.
Roger Mayer is probably best known herein the UK as the electronics engineer who made effects pedals for Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix back in the 1960s. But his move to the USA in 1969 to form his own recording-studio equipment company means that, in America, he is at least as well known for the limiters, equalisers and noise gates that found their way into major recording studios during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1989, having successfully reissued the Octavia (famously associated with Hendrix) and launched the Rocket series of guitar pedals, Mayer returned to England and has since specialised in developing and manufacturing an impressive range of guitar effects that now numbers over 20 models.
Alongside the guitar-oriented products, though, in recent years Mayer has returned his attention to studio electronics, after the interest in his 456 Stereo Analogue Tape Simulator — which itself was based on a circuit Mayer had developed and issued initially as a mono guitar pedal. The 456 tape-emulation circuitry then also found its way onto each channel of his two- and four-channel rackmount microphone preamplifiers, and these have now been joined by the Roger Mayer RM58 Classic Stereo Limiter, reviewed here. As the name implies, this is an update of his legendary RM58 from the early 1970s, and it incorporates Mayer's 456HD tape‑simulation circuit too.
The updated RM58 Classic Stereo Limiter is unusually handsome. Its stainless-steel chassis carries a brushed stainless-steel fascia, with control cut‑outs that are lined with a clear, resin-based material which has been used on Roger Mayer products for over 15 years and protects the controls' legends and scales. Whatever this material is, it seems to be extremely resistant to physical damage, and wax pencil markings leave no trace when wiped off!
As with the original limiter, two large, mechanical VU meters dominate proceedings, and these have been given the ability to display input and output levels as well as gain reduction. Unusually, the output level displayed on these meters is not the RM58's actual output level, but instead the level hitting the unit's 456HD tape‑simulation processor — this mimics the gain staging in pre-digital days, when a console's VU meters would be used to judge how hard an analogue tape recorder was being driven. (Needless to say, we were pretty obsessive back then about keeping the tape machine and console meters and signal levels correctly lined up,...
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