Trident's 4T Celebration Channel Strip is a party--a one-rack space soirée that commemorates designer John Oram's 40th year in the pro audio business. Useful for live performance, studio recording and mastering applications, the single channel 4T has a separate direct instrument input (DI), a mic pre-amp, three-band equalizer, compressor/limiter with metering, and stereo monitoring facilities.
For live gigs, you can play guitar or synth through the instrument input, sing along using the XLR mic input and mix these two signals along with a stereo backing track coming into the rear panel line level inputs. When recording at home, this stereo input can be used for monitoring your DAW's soundcard output. A pair of 4Ts will also work as an analog stereo mastering chain since the XLR mic inputs will accept up to +23.5dBu line levels.
Internal construction looks sturdy with surface-mounted components throughout, hand-wired pots, Elma switches and separate linear power supplies for the unit and +48volt phantom powering. The brushed aluminum front panel is ergonomically laid out with twelve aluminum control knobs, ten push buttons, two 1/4-inch jacks, on/off switch and a wrist watch-sized VU meter that is amazingly easy to read. This is one of the most densely packed front panels I've seen--yet it's easy to use.
There are two RCA input jacks on the rear panel for connecting the stereo output of a CD player, DAT deck or your DAW's sound card to the 4T. The Mon level knob controls the monitor level (of this stereo input) to both the 4T's front panel headphone jack and the pair of XLR/1/4-inch rear panel output jacks. The fully buffered output signal of the 4T Channel also comes out of these stereo output jacks at the same time. It shows up in the center of the pair if you're monitoring them panned left and right. At first I connected the 4T output jacks directly to my powered monitors but later switched to two input channels on my console.
Trident 4T Celebration Channel Strip Specifications
Connections: Balanced XLR and 1/4-inch microphone input,
1/4-inch instrument input, stereo moniotr input (RCA),
balanced XLR output. 1/4-inch stereo headphone output.
EQ Low: Shelf selectable 50 or 150Hz +/- 15dBs
EQ Mid: Sweepable 100Hz to 10kHz, +/-15dB
EQ High: Shelf, selectable 7 or 10kHz, +/-15dB
EQ Magic: Simultaneous boost/cut of 100Hz and 10kHz
Compressor: Selectable ratio 4:1 and 30:1
Adjustable threshold and release
Power supply: Internal 110/220 VAC switchable
Warranty: Two years
Company: Trident Audio Limited,
Old Forge Barn Hook Green
Meopham Kent DA13 OJE.
Since there is no separate 4T output XLR jack (without the monitor input), if you want to record the channel's output only you'll have to push in the Mon button. This separates the 4T output from the monitor mix feed. The stereo monitor mix now appears only at the headphone jack and the 4T's output only at the rear panel jacks.
DI And Mic Mixing With EQ Magic
The front panel DI jack's signal and the rear panel mic XLR/TRS 1/4-inch jack mix together using the Instrument level and the mic Gain controls. The DI's input J-FET (that's J-Channel Field Effect Transistor) pre-amplifier has an input impedance of 10 megohm and accepts up to +15dBu levels. Passive and active guitar/bass pickups plus touchy piezo transducers all worked great.
The Direct button, when out, routes the instrument signal through the rest of the channel for EQ and compression. When Direct is pushed in, the instrument signal goes straight to the left and right outputs. This would enable EQ and compression on the mic input only--you'd probably want to use guitar pedal processing for the direct instrument input.
A nice surprise is something called EQ Magic. This is a very musical sounding shelving equalizer that boosts or cuts 100Hz and 10kHz simultaneously using a single control. This is no brainer EQ--just turn it where it sounds good. The control has a center-detented flat position and only works in the instrument DI path. (Too bad!)
The next section is the microphone pre-amp that requires no pad and has up to 60dB of gain continuously adjustable with a mini-stepped level control. The frequency response is stated to be 10Hz to 100kHz +/- 1dB. There are phase/polarity flip and phantom power on/off push buttons. The Mic Pre is the same as in Trident's S20 and S40 channels and is configured around an Analog Devices or THAT Corp chip but with enhanced biasing to keep it Class-A. Transformerless, this pre-amp circuit is used in the ORAM PRO-24 and Series 24 modules.
Trident EQ and Compressor/Limiter
The equalizer section differs from the Trident S40 only in that it has three bands instead of four. There is a wide sweepable mid-range section with a half-octave Q covering 100Hz to 10kHz. The high frequency shelving section has two corner frequency choices: 7kHz and 10kHz. Low frequency shelving available are at 50Hz or 150Hz and all sections have up to +/- 15dB boost/cut.
The 4T's compressor/limiter has two ratio choices: 4:1 and 30:1. Interestingly, the meter indicates gain reduction even though the compressor is not engaged. This is good for live sound use for pre-setting the compressor and then dropping it in on cue using the Dynamics button. Compression threshold is continuously adjustable from off to -25dBu with attack time variable from 0.1 to 40ms. Release time is also adjustable from 0.05 to 3 seconds. Like the S40, the meter changes backlit color from blue for output level to green for gain reduction when toggling the VU/GR button.
In The Studio And Live
First up were direct recordings of a Fender Telecaster guitar and a Roland JV-1080 synth. I had loads of gain available for both tasks and I found the direct sound very clean and noise-free. The three-band equalizer sounds good and precisely removed the muddiness out of an organ patch. I mic'd up the Tele's amp with a Royer R-121 and blended it with the DI by using the mic gain control. There was no noise buildup and everything was in phase and sounded fat.
Recording direct bass got me using EQ Magic with my bass player loving what that little knob did! At about a 2 o'clock position, it bumped up the bottom for fatness and 10kHz for a little air and attack. More recording gear should have musical controls like EQ Magic. I liked the 4T compressor because I could get both a smooth leveling amp sound (4:1) for a soft ballad and then, for controlling very dynamic bass pops and slaps on a Funk/Dance song, switch over to peak limiting (30:1).
I had good luck recording both my large-lunged, male rock singer and my quieter, girl balladeer! I used a Neumann U-87 without a pad for each singer. The 4T never folded up (overloaded) once and adjusting the compressor was easy although there is no separate gain makeup control for comparing the levels between compressed and uncompressed. (Too bad) For vocals, again the compressor can be as gentle or as aggressive as you could want. Vocals used the (very typical) 4:1 ratio and I got full sized vocals immediately without working hard at all.
At the club, the 4T is the greatest! Singers love compression and a touch of EQ to get over the crowd din. Placing the 4T right up front within easy grasp of the performer, who now had the immediate ability to mix in his backing track to taste, really won him over. My only wish would be an effects loop for inserting a reverb/delay unit. I used the very clever Direct button pushed in so that the direct guitar signal wasn't affected by the hard limiter setting I had for his vocal. This worked out perfectly since he usually plays guitar through a Line 6 Pod anyway.
Trident deserves to celebrate with this multifaceted unit. The 4T is a clever bit of analog design that expands the idea of the dedicated recording channel for worthwhile application outside the control room. The sound of a Trident mic pre, EQ and compressor and the ability to mix and monitor your DAW or backing track along with your mic and instrument--what more could you want!
Built-in monitor mixer
Mic and DI internal mixing
Additional EQ Magic equalizer on DI input
Complete recording chain in compact 1U size
EQ Magic only works on DI
No insert effects loop
No separate recording channel output jack
No make up gain on compressor