Initially, I was turned onto Crucial Audio via their excellent Studio-Nugget Tube Delay [Tape Op #147]. I love that piece of gear and all the magic sauce it imparts. Knowing what I know about that unit, and how passionate owner/ designer/builder Steve Kollander is about tube gear, I was intrigued to check out his DUB-1 Vacuum Tube Direct Box recording unit.

It’s smaller than a breadbox, but not much. It’s a chunky brick of a unit sporting a Hi-Z input with a -15 dB pad for instrument/line, Hi-Z output with a selectable Pre/Post option (Pre passes dry signal, and Post is after the tube preamp output), XLR balanced output, polarity switch, and a ground lift. The unit is powered by an external 18 Volt supply and employs a single 12AU7 tube for the preamp.

I have plenty of direct boxes and preamps with a DI option. They sound excellent and are built sturdily – or they don’t last long in my studio. The DUB-1 passes the test. Everything I plugged into the unit, whether it was bass, guitar, or synths, sounded fantastic. Having a tube DI around to get that little extra mojo on sounds that may need some harmonic help is always handy, and the DUB-1 gave instruments some shine while voicing the full spectrum voice of whatever went into it. If I had to find words, they would be “rich, deep, extended.”

After raving about Crucial Audio’s gear, I asked my friend, bandmate, and bass-playing badass, Tim Lefebvre his opinion of the DUB-1. He said, “It is my main go-to DI, along with the Jad Freer Audio CAPO [preamp] for everything I’m recording. Everything sounds good through it, including my Erica synths. I also love the parallel output for sending to an amp, to dirty a signal up along with the direct clean sound, or for effects.”

The more it hangs around the studio, I think I would use the DUB-1 for all sorts of sources but would lean on it primarily for bass duties. I have an old Summit Audio MPC-100A [Tape Op #21] that, to this day, I have yet to find a competitor with its extended low end and richness. The DUB-1 is undoubtedly in that world and comes at a much friendlier price. Yes, this device is not cheap, but as the years go on, I look at an ever-growing pile of cheaper gear that is broken and not worth repairing, so I am more and more of the “spend the extra money for something well-built that’ll be in service for years and buy it once” mindset. Also, I feel good about supporting small businesses. Not to mention, Crucial Audio’s customer support rates as an A plus. Having excellent flavor choices around the studio is always a good thing – the DUB-1 is welcome in my spice rack. Jah!

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

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