Some gear in my studio falls more under the category of "problem solver" and less in the "glamorous" camp. The N-8 is a 1RU-height, rackmount, eight-channel version of the stereo Phoenix Audio Nice DI, and it is certainly a "solver." What was the problem? Every time synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, and other keyboards were brought into the control room, I'd be scrambling to find a mic preamp with 1/4'' front-panel DI inputs that I could hijack for these instruments. My producer's desk has only one mic preamp with these kinda inputs, and usually, I'd already be using it on guitar amp mics or such, so I'd end up with long instrument cables running (unsafely) across the room to my other racks, where these direct sources would still end up hogging valuable mic preamps. The N-8 is simple: The front panel has eight 1/4'' inputs with corresponding thru outputs (if you need to hit an amp or such). Each input has a detented gain knob and illuminated buttons for -15 dB pad and polarity flip. On the rear are eight illuminated ground-lift buttons, as well as two DB-25 ports for output and parallel monitor output (handy for stage use to simultaneously feed FOH and monitor mixers). The external power supply hopefully keeps the signal clean, and I heard no background noise, even with the inputs cranked all the way up. With beefy, custom-wound transformers and discrete, Class-A input and output stages, this is as robust as Phoenix Audio stuff comes. I was able to plug in my trusty, old electric bass and get a great tone that responded well to my extremely hard playing. Various keyboards got a workout through the N-8, and all sounded as good as ever. The detented controls made it easy to set levels for stereo sources. My only beef is that the ground lifts are on the rear of the unit; I can imagine this would be annoying after the unit is mounted in a rack. Fortunately, I've had no ground noise issues so far, which bodes well. Plug your instruments into the N-8, dial up the gains, and you are at work quickly. This is a real problem solver, and it frees up my mic preamps! 

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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