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Triton Audio - D20 Microphone PreaTriton Audio

Interview with Peter-Paul Wijte About the Triton Audio D2O Microphone Aug. 21, 2012 pan60 - Peter, tell us about yourself. Peter - In the early Nineties, I was an electronics student and had a job with a Dutch tube guru named Gerbrand Fust. He owned a shop which sold tubes and performed repairs on gear. We also developed a high-end preamp and class “A” power amp, all of which are tube-based, of course. One of the regular visitors there sold vintage (German) gear, mainly to the U.S. in those days. We discussed, measured, repaired and listened to those pieces of gear. Of the preamps we liked, the Telefunken V series was the best. I guess that is also where I first got the idea to develop a modern reissue. pan60 – Could you give me some background on Triton Audio? Peter – Triton Audio is the cooperation between Erwin Erkamp and me, Peter-Paul Wijte, both from the Netherlands. We are long time friends with a passion for music and audio electronics. Erwin plays the drums and could be described as a ‘gearhead.’ He built his home studio as a replica of Lee Perry's studio, the Black Ark because of his love for reggae music and especially Dub reggae and its heavy use of a variety of effects. Me, I play bass guitar in several local bands and have been fascinated by electronics from the age of 9 or 10 when I took apart an old black and white television set. From that point on, I have been experimenting with electronics. My passion for audio electronics developed when I became interested in tube gear and started a recording studio with some friends. After I finished my education as an instrument maker (tool maker) I started an electronics study, as mentioned before, and found a job in the workshop of Dutch tube/electronics guru Gerbrand Fust, from whom I learned a great deal. I began developing tube-based pro audio gear, such as microphone preamps. I also began building tube microphones, including capsules. The intended use was mainly for our own studio and a few regional studios in the neighborhood. In the late 1990s, our studio stopped, and for some years, I did not develop a lot except in software, which I did in order to make a living. In early 2006, Erwin and I were making dub reggae in his studio, but were also often busy repairing and discussing gear we liked. From this, the idea was born to start developing our own stuff, which marked the beginning of Triton Audio. pan60 - I love it! Musicians and engineers? Very cool! Would you call yourself a boutique company? Peter – Yes. Triton Audio can be described as a boutique manufacturer. We even produce a lot of the metal product parts here, and manufacturing is done by hand. We recently moved to a somewhat larger workshop space to improve production speed and to have all our gear under one roof. pan60 - Tell me more about Triton Audio. Peter - One of the first products we developed was BigAmp, an in-line, phantom powered jFet preamp for instruments. We started out developing little problem-solvers, which is still a good part of what we do today. We are best known for a range of in-line mic preamps called FetHeads. They have a low noise jFet circuit and add about 20dBs of amplification. People like them on a wide range of dynamic mics and ribbon mics. We also have a version for condenser mics and a FetHead version for the live and broadcast market. pan60 - Cool, what are all the types of gear you make?   Peter - We also developed a magnetic suspension / decoupling device called NeoLev which works really good under Near field monitors, also under other devices. We are always working on new products, which to me is the fun part of what we are doing. pan60 – Now, to the D2O, a very cool little pre and an idea I have often wondered why it has not been done before now. Peter - When we first developed our D2O preamp (a couple of years ago) we made a high- gain, all jFet version. We also tested some subminiature tubes and we really liked the results. So, we then developed a second (lower gain) D2O version with a subminiature tube in the second gain stage. The D2O, V2.0 version you have joins those versions and lets you switch between the all fet or tube-fet. Actually it should be fet-tube as the first gain stage is a jFet, which is used in this position as it is the more low noise device. The solid state electronics operate at a reasonably high voltage, which eliminates the need to have a separate high voltage psu for the tube since subminiatures are designed to operate on lower voltages, compared to Noval tubes. pan60 - Tell the readers about these cool little tubes (subminiature tubes) and what made you go with these. Peter - Apart from the exotic-looking, big transmitting tubes, the tubes which fascinated me in Mr. Fusts workshop were the subminiature tubes. Some types sound really good and only require a fraction of the power consumed by normal sized tubes. This makes them well suited for mixing them with solid state electronics. In respect to developing analog audio electronics, I believe in the kiss philosophy of tube schematics. I like schematics where feedback is being minimized. This gives a pleasant distribution of harmonics and transients are being preserved. I have become a fan of jFets as an amplifying element because, to me, they sound very good and are very low noise. I often use them in my circuits as a substitute for tubes. Our design philosophy is, keep the good things and try to improve/innovate where possible. When we think of new products to develop, we try to be as creative as possible. We try to think of something which has a function and/or features that really matter. We create something we would like to have ourselves. pan60 - So you have a PSU in the D2O to step up the voltage to 50 volts. Is this correct? …and the current draw is low? WOW! Very cool! So, what is the current draw of the D2O as a whole? Peter - Yes, the voltage is stepped up to 56V, and the Anode current draw of the miniature tube is about .7 mA. Normally, this could lead to issues in driving low impedance loads, but the tube feeds its signal to a direct coupled, low output impedance jFet buffer, a really good sounding combination. The total current draw of a D2O is higher of course, about 115 mA. Current is also required for the jFets gain stage, jFet buffers indicators etc. Pan60 - So, for all the tube guys out there, just how much tube color can they expect to see, or hear, I should say? First, I want to say, folks that love the sound of tube gear, in reality, love the vibe of the transformers, at least in my humble view. I think well designed tube gear that was and is designed to be Hi-Fi (for lack of a better term) really impart little sound when implemented in several ways. As we have chatted about other projects, it has become clear to me that you have a very good handle on some of these tube designs. Tubes can be implemented in a few different ways that can offer more or less color. Can you chat about this a bit and tell us where the D2O falls in these various designs? Peter - The whole pre sounds colored, as almost all single-ended designs do, but not overly. It maintains its neutrality and detail.   By nature, single-ended designs favor even-order harmonics over uneven. The German V series preamp, on which the gain stages of D2O are inspired, have an interesting local and global feedback structure. Most feedback is applied over the second gain stage as local feedback while some feedback is also fed to the first gain stage. This results in lower distortion compared to designs without feedback and a pleasing distribution of the harmonic structure. Third order harmonics are more present compared to single ended preamps without feedback (which often sound too woolly) but, still not overly present, like they can be in some solid state designs. We like the way D2O sounds. I believe it has the characteristic of the original V series preamp, but maybe a bit more transparent. I leave the final verdict to the user of course :) pan60 - What made you want to go in the direction of the 500 format? Peter - We first developed the standalone versions, which we tested at local studios. One studio engineer asked us to build one for their 500 series rack. Since the standalone version is comparable in size, it looked like a good idea. I then developed a suitable dc/dc converter to generate the required (high) voltages for the circuit. It was designed with low-noise, discrete components. This allowed me to control all parameters (noise, switching frequencies and impedances). pan60 Let’s talk a bit about the circuit. How is the tube implemented? Peter - The circuit is loosely based on the Telefunken V series circuit. At the input is a Lundahl transformer. (We favored this over all the transformers we tested due to its open, detailed signature). The gain and local feedback structure is comparable to the V series preamps. There are two gain stages. The first gain stage is a low-noise jFet selected for audio quality and optimal headroom. The second gain stage is selectable and can either be another jFet or the subminiature tube. Between the gain stages sits the stepped attenuator. In jFet mode, the preamp has a lot of gain and works really well with low output mics. When the tube stage is selected, you get the sonic benefits of having a tube in the circuit. Output drive is supplied by a jFet buffer. It is also low-noise, and very detailed. We preferred it over the traditional output transformer. The number of coupling capacitors are kept to a minimum and are the best we could find. The psu section is designed for low-noise and impedance. Because the basic circuit is simple, all components used in the direct signal path become audible. We spent a lot of time listening to different components and selected those that performed best.   pan60 - Very nice. : ) What kind of life expectancy will the end-user see from these little beauties? Peter - The subminiature tube we use is a long life / military version. We slightly lowered the filament voltage to further improve its lifespan. It will last several years with continuous use at 24 hour operation. Also, the tube is easy to replace and is available with us." pan60 - Was there any reason behind the face plate color? I love the look!  It has a bit of a vintage vibe, but still remains modern. : ) Peter – The face plate color is indeed a modern interpretation of the look of the vintage German gear, where hammered grey was often used. We are big fans of the industrial look anyway. The faceplate's look is also a result of the need to have a flexible way of producing small numbers of faceplates, which we do with a CNC router/engraver at the workshop. You could argue it was the solution for the problem which delivered the look :) pan60 - Again, a look and sound I absolutely love ! Thank you. People like the D2O on a lot of sources ranging from vocals and acoustic instruments to overheads. It is also used as a makeup amplifier after passive summing mixers. It has the sonic properties of the original V series preamps with more sound shaping options and a lot more gain.  pan60 - What a very cool pre. It has been so awesome chatting you guys. : ) I love doing this! You have a great company, known to offer great service and a great product. It’s hard to go wrong with you! You definitely get a big “thumbs up” on this pre. The build is very nice, clean and well-fitted to the 500 series format. The current consumption is well under the VPR Alliance specifications, so I think we will be seeing this in the Alliance in the near future. …And it sounds great as it should. I have personally been interested in these small bottles for years. I’m very glad to see Triton Audio step up with a very, very cool design!! Find a dealer and check it out! For more information about the Triton Audio Team, check out their website at http://www.tritonaudio.com/.  
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Triton Audio - D20 Microphone