Sunset Sound S1P "Tutti" 50th Year Commemorative Pre-Amp

By Barry Rudolph

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Sunset Sound S1P Tutti 50th Year Commemorative Pre-Amp
-- Sunset Sound S1P Tutti 50th Year Commemorative Pre-Amp --
Engineer/Producer Joe Chiccarelli Comments
"I guess I'm one of the fortunate producers that everyday I get to work on a classic custom-made console from the 1970's. Most days for the last seven years I've been camped out in Sunset Sound's Studio One in Hollywood. Home of a custom built De Medio console from 1979. I've done albums here for Jason Mraz, Morrissey, Young The Giant, Spoon and many others. The console features a unique sounding microphone pre-amp. It's API in concept but uses Jensen Transformers and Opamps. It has the forward midrange of an API preamp but with a warmth and openess unlike most preamps. I find it especially great on guitars and drums. The sound is thick and perfect for digital because it just has more fullness in the lower midrange. There are many other preamps in my racks for other colors but when I'm at Sunset almost everything is run thru these preamps"
The Sunset Sound S1P Tutti was released about 18 months ago as a single-channel, 500 Series microphone preamp commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hollywood's legendary Sunset Sound studios, home to the Doors, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Prince, Sheryl Crow and so many others. They came for the sound of Studios 1 and 3, as well as the sound of the studios' Frank De Medio consoles that featured API 550A EQs and custom preamp modules on every channel. The S1P is a faithful reissue of those mic preamps that are still in use today.

The S1P uses Cinemag nickel core input and output transformers based on the original drawings/specs of the Jensen transformers, also made back in the day by Cinemag. The S1P uses two John Hardy 990C+ discrete operational amplifiers with the same basic circuit design as the original 990 introduced in 1979. The 990C+ uses surface mount construction and higher-grade precision components, and operates over a wide range of power supply voltages.

The S1P's metal front panel is printed directly with a beautiful, sunny, psychedelic graphic that complements the set of customized aluminum knobs and front-mounted XLR Combi jack. There are no attenuator pads used; rather, a coarse gain rotary switch sets gain and a separate +/-6 dB gain trim pot for fine-tuning. The Sig/Peak LED reads signal present at the output of the first 990C+ stage. As with the originals in the consoles, there is no highpass filter switch, but modern features include a fader output level control for manual fadeouts, lighted buttons for polarity reverse, +48-volt phantom on/off, and the Inst button to switch the front XLR Combi jack and back mic input over to the 1/4-inch Instrument (DI).

For my first test, I set up my single-channel Jensen transformer mic splitter to route the output of an AKG C451 B condenser (no pad or roll-off) to feed simultaneously both the S1P and the mic pre in the studio's API 1608 console. On the 1608, I patched the console's preamp out to feed directly to Pro Tools.

Sunset Sound S1P Tutti 50th Year Commemorative Pre-Amp
-- Sunset Sound S1P --
I recorded a Martin D-18 acoustic guitar with the mic aimed at the 12th fret, about 10 inches away. I immediately heard the S1P's clearer, transparent sound in the bass and low midrange. Listening to both rhythmic strumming and flat-picking revealed that the S1P had more definition and presence in the midrange and upper ranges, as well. By comparison, the 1608 preamp produced a bright but smaller sound with a muddy lower midrange calling for equalization.

Recording loud snare drums inches from an SM57, the 1608's preamp tended to overload, necessitating its -20dB pad and causing a change in sound. With the S1P, I selected the 10dB range for just the right amount of gain without clipping. I also tried the S1P on kick and toms using my usual dynamic mic choices with good success; I loved the fast, three-knob (Coarse, Trim, Fader) recall of those signal chains.

At another studio, I used two Radial JS2 passive mic splitters, a pair API 312 preamps, two S1Ps and recorded the studio's Yamaha C7 grand piano with a pair of DPA 4011 cardioid mics aimed toward the hammers but placed halfway down the length of the harp. This test demonstrated to me the S1P's low harmonic distortion and good transient response performance. The S1P pair satisfactorily conveyed the bottom and top octaves of the piano's range. With the S1P, the piano sounded more "grand," with a bigger dynamic feeling and sound stage.

For vocals, the S1P was outstanding. It produces a presence that is punchy, forward, and "in your face" like an API mic pre, but with more fullness and clarity. I used a Retro Instruments Doublewide Tube Compressor to level out my singer's dynamics and kept the Fader knob on the S1P in the middle position; this pot could use a center-position detent. I would "ride" the Fader control up for the singer's quiet verses and then back down for the loud choruses.

The Sunset Sound S1P is my go-to 500 Series solid-state mic preamp; a pair goes with me whenever and wherever I want to record a big sound.

 Try This On The S1P 
The front panel XLR Combi jack of the S1P makes instant inputs for DI guitar, bass or any -10dB line level. I use those inputs for quickly connecting stereo keyboards within the control room. First-class sound is offered here using the same preamp outputs as when using the XLR or 500 Series rackmount mic connections.
Barry Rudolph
 Barry Rudolph 
Barry Rudolph is a recording engineer/mixer who has worked on over 30 gold and platinum award-winning records. He has recorded and/or mixed Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hall & Oates, Pat Benatar, Rod Stewart, The Corrs, and more.

Barry has his own futuristic music mixing facility called Tones 4 $ Studios and also teaches audio engineering at: Musician's Institute, Hollywood, CA..

He is a lifetime Grammy-voting member of NARAS, the 'New Toys' columnist for LA's Music Connection Magazine, and a contributing editor for Mix Magazine.

 Sunset Sound. 
Web Site:

Company: Sunset Sound

Product: Sunset Sound S1P Tutti 50th Year Commemorative Pre-Amp

Price: $895 MSRP

Pros: Identical to the pres in Sunset Sound Studios 1 & 3

Cons:  Like the original, no HPF.

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