Warm Audio have been creating affordable reincarnations of classic studio hardware since 2011. Their mission is to put historic favourites within the reach of the aspiring engineer.
This altruistic intent also has an educational byproduct; unless you had some serious financial clout, in what other the way could you develop an intimate connection with high end microphones and preamps?
And what better way to become acquainted with some of Warm Audio’s finest examples than to test them out in the heat of a session? Read on as we take a closer look and a test drive of the WA-87, the WA-47 and the WA-273.
Three icons of the signal path within reach of the everyday musician and engineer: Warm Audio’s microphones and preamps offer affordability without compromise.
The Archetypal Condenser
When you look up ‘large diaphragm condenser’ in the audio dictionary, you’re very likely to see a picture of the Neumann U87. It is the workhorse of the studio and a go to for vocals, guitars, drum kits and everything in between. The WA-87 is Warm Audio’s tribute to this bonafide recording staple.
The WA-87 has three switchable polar patterns (cardioid, omnidirectional and figure-8), a -10dB pad and a switchable high pass filter, which rolls off at 80hZ. It cuts the familiar silhouette of its illustrious forebear and is light and easy to guide into tight miking positions.
Special attention should be paid to the frequency response when switching between polar patterns. Using it as an outside mic on the kick drum, switching to the omni pattern produced more balanced results, owing to the flatter response in the bottom end and slight dip around 5kHz.
The vocal sound is clear and crisp. The details are defined without sounding harsh or clinical, which is perhaps due the premium components (like WA’s proprietary capsule and Cinemag USA output transformer) under the hood.
Larger than Life
When it comes to capturing that headline lead vocal however, the Neumann U47 is in a very exclusive club. Warm Audio’s version, the WA-47, aims to bring that time-honoured tone to a modern studio context.
Like its inspiration, the WA-47 is an all tube large diaphragm condenser. It has the bulk of the vintage mic and ships with a shockmount, wooden case, 7-pin connecting cable and the all important power supply.
The power supply is actually a point of divergence with the Neumann. This is where you’ll find a switch that selects up to nine different polar patterns (omni and figure-8 at the extreme ends of the spectrum, cardioid in the middle, with a series of blended options in between).
When put in front of a vocalist, the tone was instantly recognisable. The customary sensitivity and nuance was present, but it also exhibited a forceful and – pardon the pun – warm mid range that perfectly couples with the human voice. It also excels on bass cabinets, utilising that effortless, tube driven ability to capture the bottom end without losing definition.
The WA273 describes itself as a “British” microphone preamp, and there’s no prizes for guessing where it takes it cues from. The Neve 1073 has cemented its reputation over the decades for its versatility on a whole host of sound sources, without sacrificing its own inherent character.
The front panel of the preamp features switches for utilitarian controls, such as phantom power and polarity inversion. The ‘insert’ switch puts the insert loop into the signal path, ‘line’ engages the TRS line input, and the ‘instrument’ button engages the convenient hi-z input. The two channels are generously spaced out over the width of the 19-inch faceplate.
The switch that contributes most to the tonal signature of the WA-273 is the ‘tone’ control. With the tone engaged, the sound takes on an extra aggressive character. Disengaged, it’s open, clear and powerful. Combining this control with different microphones can yield a host of different results.
This is even before you’ve addressed the fully discrete input and output circuits, featuring UK Custom Carnhill transformers.
When you drive a signal through the WA-273, it’s easy to feel the power on tap. Careful massaging of the aforementioned tone shaping options can beef up a simple setup – an SM57 on a guitar cab for example – with ease. There’s an unmistakeable sheen and presence, with ample saturation, always ready to be called upon.
Warm Audio have been garnering attention the world over for their passionate, detailed approach in recreating the iconic gear of days gone by. They’ve helped a new generation of aspiring engineers become acquainted with professional level microphones, preamps, EQs and compressors – some with near mythical status and price tags to match.
And far from being pale imitations, the WA-87, WA-47 and the WA-273 more than hold their own among elite company.