Canadian Musician - May / June 2018 - Page 20

ROAD TEST Radial Engineering SAT-2 & MIX 2:1 Studio Tools By Adam Gallant SAT-2 Stereo Audio Attenuator & Monitor Controller he SAT-2 by Radial Engineering is designed primarily as a studio monitor controller to connect between your audio interface and powered studio speakers; however, its simple design gives this box a whole host of other, equally useful applications. I’ll run down a few features then give examples of how we put it to use in our studio. Like all of Radial’s products, this unit is robust enough for use on the road and built to last a lifetime. The case is built from 14-gauge solid steel with a lip that protects the front panel switches from damage. The finish is a quality glossy black and very clearly labeled. The back panel features both TRS and XLR inputs as well as XLR outputs. The front panel consists of a mono switch, mute switch, vol- ume knob, and a DIM switch with adjustable level control. When I’m mixing, I like to avoid touching the playback volume as much as possible. Having the master volume remain constant by using the DIM switch for checking at low levels has allowed my ears to trust a certain volume threshold, which has been great for bringing in new elements to a working mix. The DIM level control is also recessed to avoid accidental adjustment. The SAT-2 is completely passive, requiring no power source and offering a transparent sound. As a studio monitor controller, the SAT- 2 is zero fuss and much cleaner sounding than the small-format mixer I’m used to using. The SAT-2’s volume knob is of high quality and en- sures consistent left to right tracking over the entire range of the trim pot. With lower quality trim pots on stereo material, you’ll often find a slight pan to one side as you attenuate; the SAT-2 is void of this issue, offering a consistent stereo image all the way down to zero volume. The mute, mono, and DIM switches are silent as well. As a simple volume attenuator, the SAT-2 can solve a lot of gain staging challenges. We have a pair of the traditional API 512c preamps at our studio and they are often run at a very safe input level to avoid clipping the input side T 20 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N of our interface’s A to D converters. The SAT-2 can be added to the output of any preamp to attenuate the signal, allow- ing for colouration of the microphone preamp’s input while keeping within safe limits on the interface side. Hearing the APIs driven for the first time was great and I suspect tube preamps would be given an extra level of versatility with the attenuator in the chain. MIX 2:1 Two-Channel Audio Combiner & Mixer The MIX 2:1 is a two-channel passive mixer that essentially allows you to take two mono sources and sum them to one mono signal with clarity and detail. The back panel of the MIX 2:1 houses two TRS inputs, two XLR inputs with independent ground lift, and one mono XLR output. On the front we have on/off switches for each input, trim pots for each in- put, and a 180-degree polarity switch on input two (which is great to help identify frequency cancellation issues between inputs). The front also houses a bypass switch, which sums inputs 1 and 2 equally and prevents unwanted level adjustments via the input trim pots. With the same build quality as the SAT-2, the MIX 2:1 is the kind of hardware that will outlive most other tools in your arsenal. A military-spec circuit board and high quality components deliver a transparent sum in a totally passive design. As with the SAT-2, the bottom of the MIX 2:1 has a thick no-slip pad that provides mechanical isolation and holds the box in place on top of your desk, key- board, or on the floor (ready to be accidentally jumped upon without missing a beat). As is common in many studios, we tend to use two microphones on a single guitar cab and blend to taste. The MIX 2:1 handles this job nicely with a pair of dynamic microphones. We used a Shure SM57 and Sennheiser MD412 with great results. T -2 SA MIX 2:1 The MIX 2:1 is also perfect for use on stage for a keyboard player blending multiple sources or a bass player combining a microphone and DI signal. Quickly fix ground hums with the independent ground lift switches and quickly mute the box to remove patch cables that might otherwise play through loudspeakers. Summary The SAT-2 and MIX 2:1 are quality tools with very simple designs that make them very useful to have on hand. Completely passive and transparent in sound, these boxes can be trusted to endure many hours of use over many years. Thanks to the folks at Radial for the specialized designs. Adam Gallant has worked in all facets of digital audio production, from music composition to location and post audio for television and film.  He currently owns and operates The Hill Sound Studio in Charlottetown, PE.