The HoneyBee Pro-Audio Vacuum Tube Mic-Preamp / Optical Limiter is designed to obtain a greater vacuum tube sound if adjusted to do so. This is the reason for the two knobs. This design has been optimized for flexibility to allow the artist-engineer to seek out that special sound they are trying to achieve. Where other tube mic-preamps will have a committed safe design with fixed Negative Feedback, the HoneyBee makes things like Negative Feedback, Low / High System Gain, Optical Limiting, Input Drive and Output Level, selectable or adjustable from the front panel. The design intention is to have the Front-Panel-Control feel be more like a compressor.
With No Negative Feedback the sound produced is a Very Open sound and AWESOME as long as your subject stays within the dynamic range of the preamp, for the most part. You will know what you are looking for in your sound when you hear it. If this is not the case then Negative Feedback or the Optical Limiter will limit the quick transients that could exceed the sound you want. In this case the Optical Limiter might be a better choice for what you are looking to achieve. An example of this condition might be a guitar player's finger squeaks. The point is, it is your choice, your ears, your sound, your recordings. It is a wonderful tool.
We often use the Limiter-ON setting for a much bigger sound. The limiter will allow for the lower volume parts of the performance to be more present in the recording without distorting the louder areas. This is similar to a LA2-A Leveling Amplifier as the HoneyBee also uses optical coupling for its limiting. The difference is that the HoneyBee uses Leveling at a very low signal amplitude without incurring the noise of a line level signal design. The HoneyBee uses a much cleaner Limiting circuit designed right in the preamp area. How hard you hit the limiter is up to you in your search for your particular sound. The harder you drive the Limiter the bigger the sound will get.
Minimum THD+Noise typically measures in the range of 0.02% to 0.05% (20Hz to 20kHz) in final testing if set for low distortion performance. Minimum THD+Noise defines the base-line noise and distortion of the electronics. It is this low value that helps you when you need a super clean clear vacuum tube sound. This can be useful when recording instruments with many strings like a piano or strummed acoustic rhythm guitar. A lot of work went into this feature.
Higher THD can be achieved easily when desired for more vacuum tube color and a fatter sound. Triode vacuum tubes when over-driven will produce the warm even-harmonics which can enrich the texture and body of solo instruments. This is a very desirable sound in the right places. We think High THD contrasted against Low THD can be helpful in creating a contrast between voices in the recordings. That is what modern recording is about, creating an audio landscape. Just like a photographic landscape. I have used Low THD on a acoustic guitar to frame a Higher THD lead instrument like a violin, mandolin, guitar lead or voice. The Low THD on a strummed acoustic guitar helps reduce masking over of lead instruments in the mix.
The HoneyBee Vacuum Tube Mic-Preamp / Optical Limiter, in the 120Vac line setting, is designed to operate "cleanly" from a line voltage of 80Vac to 137Vac. This should cover field recordings where the voltage may dip or rise.
The HoneyBee design uses mil-spec vacuum tubes for the "Entire Audio Path".
This unit also contains its own cooling space built right into the enclosure with no fans. This eliminates the need for adding a 1.75 inch (1RU) vented rack panel between the units for cooling. Those added vented rack panels always result in lost rack space.
I suggest using your favorite mic at the distance and position that works for your particular instrument or voice. Then adjust the HoneyBee to get the sound you want to record. When you get this sound photograph the front panel and the mic setup for future reference. There is an expensive option for step-incremental potentiometers, but that is not necessary if you use your camera to record the front panel settings.
This website will eventually have example setups for people to experiment with. Plus, you can always contact me, Jim Moss, for suggestions. I designed this gear for use with my own bands.
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