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BIZZAR AUDIO - MINT JULEP PREAMP: © 2008, Ken Morgan, Wireline Studio   Preface:  Evaluating this particular unit has been a learning experience, to say the least.  My first impression was the Mint Julip was not a bad product, but not a great one either. After working with the sample unit, though, I have decided the Mint Julip is a valuable and welcome addition our sonic pallete, and the only way Pan60, or Matt from Bizzar, will get this preamp back is at gunpoint.   What It Is:  The Bizzar Audio “Mint Julip” preamp is a new entry into the 500 series chassis choices, offering a single gain knob, a well-designed and easy-to-understand face panel, a high build quality, and a somewhat unique position in the extremely competitive 500 series (Adesigns, API, Chappell, OSA, et. al.) preamp world.  Retail price is approx. $399 USD.   First Impressions:  I am being brutally honest (as I tend to be with all reviews).  At first, the sound I was getting from the Mint Julip was not only lackluster, it was just wrong.  No clarity, no pizazz, nothing that would make me want to break out a checkbook and own a couple of these.  Then, the penny dropped. I understood what this unit was all about… It seems its reason to exist is to be a low-cost sonic alternative for engineers who already have a bunch of boutique, high-end preamps, and are looking for something a bit different.  In that aspect, the Mint Julip succeeds, and is/will become a staple in our arsenal.     - Acoustic Guitars:  My first impression running the Julip with a Josephson C42 SDC, an AT4033 mid-sized condensor, and a Pearlman TM1 U47-ish clone was the pre was not offering anything exciting.  Guitars included a Martin 000-16 and Martin Shennendoah D1936 dreadnaught.  Not bad, just not great, either.  I tried running an EV RE16 dynamic, which seemed to open up the sonic character of the Julip.  I then ran the Julip/RE16 parallel with the known quality of the A-Designs P-1 and a Joly modded Oktava 319.  It was at this point I discovered some things about the prototype run of Mint Julips - that they were out of phase with the rest of the world.  I contacted Matt about this, and he almost immediately (since I am in Texas and he is in South Africa, his reply was, in a sense, “instant,” considering time differences.)  Matt stated he found the 1st run to be indeed out of phase at the output, and would correct this in all subsequent runs.    Critical note:  Simply pushing the unit’s front panel phase switch fixed the problem…so indeed, there was no problem, just something I would need to remember.    - Bass DI:  There is no front panel DI or instrument input on the Julip, and this is not a problem.  Using our EMG stuffed Precision and either an A-Designs REDDI or a highly modified Rapco DI, our bass sounds were again, not thrilling.  Not bad, but I am starting to wonder what would motivate a studio working on some major label stuff to want one of these things?    -  Drums:  Here is where the Mint Julip starts to shine - dynamic mics and heavier sounds.  We tried a myriad of different mics with the Julip on snares, overheads, etc, and just weren’t getting what we wanted to hear.  Then, almost as a last resort, we hooked the Julip up to an EV 454 on a floor tom, and all of a sudden the light came on!  The Julip, when combined with a very high energy source and the right dynamic mic, suddenly became a viable contender.  We ended up keeping the tracks.    - Electric Guitar:  Being blunt - the Mint Julip is not a ‘jump out at you’ do-all guitar pre, regardless of mic choice.  On clean and pristine jazz or country stuff, I was not impressed (others may be).  That said, when the Mint Julip was connected with an SM7 to track a 4-12 celestion stuffed cab being abused by a Peavey 5150 in dropped C tuning, nothing I have in my possession (until now) could accurately capture the low-end like the Julip.  Pushing the pre just a bit with the gain, we were able to capture guitar tracks in the nether regions of dropped C and B tunings accurately, with enough precision to make one “sit up and take notice,” and enough cojones to make all the other pres check their own manhood.  This alone makes the Mint Julip a valuable asset and sonic tool to anyone who records with a heavy-metal style.    Conclusions:  The mint Julip is not a high end, uber colored or ultra pristine device.  It is what it is, a utility preamp that offers the 500 chassis equipped studios a means to add lots of pres for relatively little cash.  At approx $400 retail, the Mint Julip does not aspire to be all things for all occasions, but deserves a chance to find its niche in facilities that have to chameleon from genre to genre with relative ease.  It is not going to be confused with a Neve, API, or A-Designs, nor was it ever intended to be.  As my great friend Chuck says, “It is what it is, nothing more.”  In my opinion, that “what it is” just happens to be a dependable, no frills preamp that can fill a niche.    Yup…I’m adding one of these pretty quickly.     Special thanks to Guitarist Brandon Cervastes and the group “Order 66” for their valuable assistance in getting the sounds for this review.  Look for Order 66 to be releasing their debut CD late 2008 or early 2009....they deliver the goods!  


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