So, what is this Twin-Finity bit all about? It's the "two, two, two mints in one" preamp-tube and solid state! This is the perfect preamp for those who want it all, but can't make up their minds. Using a solid-state transimpedance input, the 710 combines two separate gain stages driven simultaneously while summed to a single output. There is a blend knob that allows you to choose all solid-state, all tube, or anything in between; and like UA's 610 design, it has both input and output knobs, allowing the user to overdrive the unit and create more distortion and chaos if desired. On the front-panel is a VU meter that can be toggled between output or "drive" level, as well as the expected switchware for phantom power, pad, mic/line selection, low cut, and polarity. Housed in a half-width chassis like the original LA-3A or LA-4, it looks instantly classic with its retro knobs and its "Welcome to Las Vegas"
rounded-trapezoid center meter. Before we go too much further, did I mention it's also
affordable? With a street price of $799, the 710 is well worth its price; it's an amazingly flexible preamp and sounds as good as-if not better than-mic preamps that cost two to three times more. What we discovered during tracking sessions is that we got clean, sparkly, solid-state sounds all the way up to thick, hairy, tube distortion with just a few spins of some knobs.
Like the Mojave mic we reviewed in this issue, the 710 was put through its paces during a tracking session with Tom Russell and Calexico, which also included Nick Luca on guitar, Chris Giambelluca on bass, and Winston Watson on drums. We first got to use it on some kick drum with our trusty AT4047 microphone. We often use a UA 610 as the go-to preamp with that mic. With the 710 blended all the way to the tube side, it was every bit as tonally pleasing as the 610. We loved how it sounded on a more open, slow waltz as the 710 captured an extended bottom end and gave the track that hint of natural compression for which tube circuits are generally desired. The next song was a more up-tempo number, so we muted the drum a bit with a blanket lightly touching the front head. We spun the blend knob all the way over to solid-state and used that gain stage to help tighten up the tone. Again, the 710 performed to our expectations and provided a clean, tight, kick drum-simple and easy to dial up.
A few days later in the session, we got to use the 710 on cello tracks in its all solid-state mode, and as with our experience with the kick drum, the cello was clean and beautiful. None of the nuances of the bowing were lost, and the cello maintained a very natural and pleasing sound. In other words, the 710 was really accurate and neutral, letting the instrument and player shine through. Next, we added some bowed bass on the track. We wanted some attitude and evilness, so we twisted the blend knob to tube, lowered the output, and pushed the input all the way up. We got an instant fuzz bass, and it made the track really exciting and also made all of us smile. What we have come to realize is that the 710 is a great solution to the conundrum presented by digital recording's lack of distortion and artifacts. By taking advantage of its multiple sonic capabilities, the 710 quickly presented itself as a very versatile and flexible mic preamp. Affordable price, solid construction, and a wide range of tonal options make this product a real winner. We highly recommend it. ($999 MSRP; www.uaudio.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.