Studio Projects has outdone itself with the B line of mics. These are very, very nice sounding mics - for dirt cheap. The B1 and B3 incorporate 1'', 3-micron diaphragms and are transformerless, with a tone that is clear - all clean without any harsh frequencies. The pricing on these is so low it's almost hard to believe. The fixed cardiod B1 retails for $99 and will go on the street for about 80 bucks! The three-pattern B3 mic with pad/roll off streets for about $150. The TB1 Tube mic sells for around $299. The comparisons I did to Audix CX-111, Marshall 2003, and an older Chinese tube mic, the BPM TB-95, lead me to believe that the B1, B3 and TB1 are the best value in Chinese-produced mics today. The TB1 fixed-cardioid tube has a neutral and nice tone, with more low-end and less top then the B1 and B3. The TB1 is an excellent vocal mic for most applications, with its lack of sibilance or weirdness in the whole range of frequencies and nice tube harmonics. Overall these are not retro mics, since the 3 micron diaphragm and transformerless design keeps them clean and open. Yet they are not annoyingly squeaky and bright, either - clear sounding and big. Any one of these would be good for hard disk recording because there is no harshness to get accentuated by digitalus. For my 2"16-track, I really appreciated the open top end and the lack of a low-end bump on the B1 and B3 as compared to the Audix and Marshall. The B3 with its multi patterns and cheap price... well, I'm keeping it! My only criticism of this line would be the shock mount on the tube mic, which was a rubber clip-on, as opposed to a suspension, mount. Because the mic was so responsive it picked up any stand noise. A suspension mount would be better, yet the price would likely be raised to accommodate the mount and larger carrying case. At $299 you can't go wrong with the TB1, just buy your own suspension mount or use one from another mic you already own. [A shock mount for all B series mics is now available from Studio Projects. -Ed]

Another great new release from Studio Projects is the VTB1 tube preamp. This is a single channel Class A/B discrete design, transformerless, with a pleasing, big and clear tone. It has the added touch of a tube just before the output, which you can dial in with a variable knob allowing for a range of harmonic color. The tube is circuited after the insert point (TRS) which allows for 2 outputs to be run simultaneously, one clean at the insert and one tube'd at the output. The unit is a tabletop design, under 1U high by 1/2 a rack space in width. The DI input is on the front for easy access, and the DI alone is worth the price. Oh! the price. Again it's hard to believe. This unit sells for around $179 ($229 MSRP). The VTB1 has all the mic pre essentials and then some: phantom power, DI input, TRS insert, variable tube knob, and balanced output on XLR and TRS connectors. This piece would be a winner for those of you considering a new pre under $500 and should put good gear like the Blue Tube, RNMP, or Grace stuff to task, with its combination of tone and value. Get one and hear it for yourself! A lot of preamp - for a song. (

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

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