With the release of their ‘Next Generation’ preamp, Wes Audio have made it possible to assemble a full 500‑series analogue channel strip with DAW plug‑in remote control!
In recent years, the dream of seamless hybrid analogue‑digital workflows has driven a small number of manufacturers to develop analogue audio hardware that is, or can be, controlled by dedicated DAW plug‑ins. Wes Audio are pioneers in this area, and have developed quite a wide range of digitally‑controlled analogue (DCA) equalisers and compressors, in both the 500‑series modular and 19‑inch rackmount formats.
The new Phoebe, a single‑slot 500‑series module, is a mic/line/instrument preamplifier, and its addition to their NG (Next Generation) range means it’s now possible to create a full Wes Audio 500‑series DCA recording channel, complete with preamp and your choice of EQ and compression types. As with Wes Audio’s other NG‑series products, the Phoebe can be controlled by a proprietary DAW plug‑in that communicates bi‑directionally with the hardware over Wes Audio’s GCon communications framework.
The Phoebe is a single‑width module that carries Wes Audio’s signature NG500‑series white‑painted fascia. Its restrained black and white cosmetics and elegant miniature LEDs convey an air of austere authority, but for the point size of its front‑panel lettering, which would not be out of place on the bottom of an eye‑test chart! The plug‑in control might be appealing, but it’s not necessary: the hardware can be used without hooking it up to a computer, so I’ll cover this side of things first.
As with most microphone preamps, the Phoebe’s user controls aren’t exactly complex. The gain control is a continuous, detented push‑and‑turn encoder, with a circle of coloured LEDs and scaling indicating the gain being applied to mic (+20‑75 dB, red LEDs) and line‑level (‑10 to +20 dB, green) sources. The level of instrument gain isn’t shown on this scale, but is specified at ‑30 to +25 dB. Pressing the gain control switches the input, via a relay, between mic and line levels. This is followed by a vertical stack of four momentary buttons with LED indicators. The first three of these toggle, again with relays, 48V phantom power, polarity inversion and input impedance (1.2kΩ or 300Ω). The Phoebe can route, using the fourth button in the stack, one of two physical inputs to its transformer‑balanced input stage: the rear‑panel connector of the host 500‑series rack or the balanced XLR/TRS combi jack on the module’s front panel. Two of the button’s three LEDs indicate which is in use. When the front‑panel input is active, inserting a TS jack automatically switches it to high‑impedance operation, illuminates the third LED to indicate that status, and switches off 48V phantom power.