Based in Austin Texas, Electric & Company builds and restores boutique preamplifiers. The EC6 is a mono tube preamp based on the preamps from the Ampex 600 series reel-to-reel tape machines. The EC6 boasts +60 dB of gain, with Cinemag input and output transformers, pushing three stages with an EF86 pentode tube, and a 12AU7 twin triode tube. On the input, you can select between Mic, Pad, and Line modes – your patchbay will appreciate these options all coming from a single input jack. The only knob present is for gain. A DI input, a Phase Flip switch, and a +48V phantom power switch are selectable on the front panel. I really like the solid feel and design of this enclosure, and flipping on the power switch feels gratifying when the big red bulb lights up.

I received the EC6 right as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. This kept me out of the studio for a while, and kept clients out of the studio even longer, so a lot of my use with this pre was in utilizing the line input in a mix situation – the EC6 shined in this scenario. On several sources, including processing a vocal, kick drum, bass guitar, and snare drum, the EC6 added some soft compression and richness to everything in an appealing way. The ability to add punch while beefing up any source that I sent through the EC6's line input made me almost wish this pre was (gasp) a plug-in! Then I had the idea, "What if I used this pre as a parallel punch bus?" In this way, I could send anything I want to through it, as long as I'm careful with how much level I send to the input. Guess what? It was cool! I love any unit that does double duty in both tracking and mixing. I used this method while finalizing a few mixes, and the artist noticed the difference in weight and forwardness on both bass guitar and kick drum. I also found it useful to insert the EC6 after a plug-in compressor to impart some analog reality.

I did have a chance to track with this mic pre for an aggressive adlib R&B vocal. The EC6 gave the voice some edge while holding it in place so it could be heard behind a wall of other vocals. Under a normal tracking schedule I would be reaching for this pre quite a bit. I auditioned the EC6's beefy DI while rehearsing some bass parts for a project and can't wait to use it in this way for tracking.

I'm not sure the EC6 should be the only mic pre in your studio, but if added harmonics with a little edge is what you're looking for, this delivers. Supporting small businesses right now is important. If you can swing it, Electric & Company gear is worth the price tag.

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

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