I am a sucker for recording through outboard preamps direct to a recording device. I'm also a sucker for using a lot of microphones on a sound source. Sometimes these two loves can cause problems in terms of track count or availability of preamp channels. Enter the AT8681. It's a small, phantom-powered box (5.1" x 2.4" x 1.7") in Audio-Technica's UniTools series that combines two mic-level inputs into one mic-level output. There are a few companies making boxes that do this kind of thing, but the thing that makes the UniMix unique is that it will happily pass phantom power to both inputs. This way, it's entirely possible to use two condenser mics on toms, for example, and combine them directly to one track using one preamp. (It's a mic-level box, so the combining happens before the preamp.) "What about relative levels?" you ask? Well, AT has included a handy balance control on the box to adjust between the two inputs, and the balance control attenuates each microphone by 6 dB at the midpoint. The AT8681 does lack a polarity switch, which is a pretty big bummer, but nothing my Shure in-line polarity-reverse switches can't fix. In addition to obvious use with drum kits, I've also used these boxes to record multiple mics on a guitar amp (dynamics, ribbons, condensers, etc.) as well as to combine close and ambient mics to one track. The boxes are solidly built and seem fairly rugged and carry a one-year warranty. I've had a terrific relationship with Audio-Technica since I first fell in love with their 40-series microphones about eleven years ago, and I totally love these little tool boxes. I initially bought two of them to try out for a while, but recently took delivery of two more. At a street price of around $50 each, they're a fantastic addition to my ever-growing collection of nerdy stuff. ($70 MSRP; www.audio-technica.com)

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

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