Stunning, 2-channel preamp in a 19" 1RU version delivers punch, clarity, and that famous steel-transformer API growl
The BAE 312A mic preamp is a spot-on, rackmountable replica of the famous API™ 312 preamps that populated the early API consoles. Not only does the BAE 312A excel on percussion and guitars, but if you’re working with a passive summing mixer and want to add the low-end growl that the early API desks were famous for, using a 2-channel BAE 312A for make-up gain is just the ticket. Key to the API 312’s sound was the absence of a coupling capacitor between output transformer and opamp, which allowed transients to pass easily, making it a favorite for punchy drums. Does the BAE 312A compare to the original API? Of course it does. BAE never stops short of getting right. And with the inclusion of the Avedis 1122 opamp, which brings the performance of the API 2520 opamp to a higher level, the BAE 312A gives you all the vintage punch/sound and fury that made the original 312 a classic—and adds reliable, modern performance to boot.
Back in the ’70s there were two major players in console manufacture (three if you count Electrodyne, which disappeared early on due to mismanagement). The Neve name inspired awe among engineers and musicians alike, and had emerged as the primary force in console making to be reckoned with. Much like John Cougar Mellencamp was signed as the American answer to David Bowie, Saul Walker’s Automated Processes Inc. (API) consoles were the American answer to Mr. Rupert Neve’s eponymous consoles. Both desks defined the sound of rock and roll in their own way, with preamps of elegant simplicity that provided the power and punch that rock and roll would continue to thrive on to this day.
Like all BAE products, the dual-channel BAE 312A Mic Pre/DI is made with the highest quality parts, including Jensen input and output transformers and the Avedis 1122 opamp. When discussing API preamps, the important distinction between the 312 and later 512C is the use of coupling capacitors between the output transformer and opamp. The reason for the 312’s success (it’s open, punchy sound) was also its greatest weakness. The 312 had no coupling capacitor between opamp and transformer. As such, if the opamp had any DC offset (a voltage output above the mean amplitude), it might burn out the transformer. The 512C had large coupling capacitor in parallel with a high-frequency capacitor and a resistor for transformer damping. The 512’s opamp also had a servo to eliminate DC offset. The result was increased headroom and the elimination of pops when the phase switch was cut in. Of course, the addition of these components led to a perceived sonic difference between the two. Those who have worked with both often hear the 312 as more open and punchy than the 512C.
To support the fast transient response of the capacitor-less 312A, the BAE 312A uses the Avedis 1122 opamp. The Avedis 1122 is a high-performance, direct-coupled operational amplifier designed specifically for professional audio amplifier applications. The 1122’s were originally made for replacement opamps for the repair of vintage API 312 and 512A mic preamps. It’s based on the same design principles as the 2520, but built with today's high-quality components to make it operable under a wider voltage range and with lower noise than previously possible. Using no IC's, JFET's, or surface-mount components, the 1122 opamp is picks up where the 2520 left off. Its high output power, low distortion, and wide power bandwidth provides the kind of performance levels appreciated by the working professional.
The front panel of the BAE 312A mic pre has a matte black finish with orange BAE logo. It has two channels, each with 1/4" Hi-Z instrument input; buttons for phase reverse, pad, and +48V phantom power; and gain knob. Your basic no-frills design, it’s what’s inside the BAE 312A that counts.
The BAE 312A Dual-Channel Mic Pre/DI requires the external BAE 24V PSU (not included) to operate. For optimal sound quality, the BAE 24V PSU provides four times the current necessary to power a preamp, and can power up to two BAE rackmount units. While other rackmount preamps use an internal power supply, BAE chooses to go a different route in the form of an external PSU. The advantages of an external PSU are many. To begin with, not having space constraints allows BAE to design the power supply without compromise. Plus, it makes the shielding concerns of integrated power supplies a non-issue. When power supplies are built into the same chassis as the audio circuitry, nearby audio paths are susceptible to nasty magnetic fields radiated from the transformers, which adds noise and hum. Additionally, the preamp’s components are subject to extra heat generated from transformers, regulators, and rectifiers—and as we all know, heat is the enemy of electronics. It causes unwanted changes in operational parameters and premature component failure.
Since the BAE 24V PSU can power up to two BAE units, the BAE 312A comes with and without power supply in case you already have a BAE unit and power supply. (For BAE 312A with power supply, see BAE 312A Single + PSU and BAE 312A Dual + PSU.
"BAE has been an integral part of my record making for many, many years now. I have owned the mic pre's, EQ's, and racks for years. The dedication to costumer service is something one can count on. With the advent of the Avedis 1122 OpAmp, the classic 2520 opamp was brought forward into the future. Mark has also made a point at looking back at certain designs and his attention to detail shows in the new products that he is working on. I am very happy to announce and toast Mark's (Loughman) new ownership in the company. I forecast excellent things to come. — Ross Hogarth, Grammy-winning producer-engineer
"During the recording of many of the Steven Slate Drums sessions, we used lots of BAE mic pres and equalizers. They made it easy to get some of the best drum sounds I've ever heard." — Steven Slate Drums
“What all 312a users say about clarity and punch is absolutely true. They are very versatile pre amps and aside from the obvious with guitars, drums, and vocals, I really enjoy using these pre's with bass and synth sequences.” Ilan Rubin (NIN, Paramore, Lostprophets)
“I love my BAE mic pre-amp. It makes my tracks sound lovelier!” — Jane Wiedlin, The Go-Go's
“I was just screwing around with my BAE 1084 when it hit me, wonder what my Space Bass would sound like in this. I plugged it in and the sound was so pure and natural I thought I was on stage in the ‘Mothership.’ This thing sings with tone, punch, and straight-up good, solid sound that will stand out in a mix with loud drums and guitars.” – Bootsy Collins
“Two thumbs way up! In my opinion, the BAE 1073 and 1084 modules sound every bit as good as the original Neve modules I have used my whole career (we've had blind fold audio "shoot out" tests in my vintage Neve room and there is absolutely no difference). Nothing comes as close to my original Neve EQ/mic preamps as BAE products. And in my opinion, BAE products surpass all the competition in build quality; from the point-to-point wiring, to the audio traces on their cards, original St Ives (Carnhill) transformers, nickel plating, impeccable craftsmanship, and wow! —no old dirty switches and pots. (Did I mention they plugged right in to my vintage Neve 8014 frame from 1970 flawlessly!) Plus, Mark and the staff over at BAE are totally professional and a pleasure to deal with.” — Andy Kravitz, drummer, producer, engineer
Discography: (Imogen Heap, Billy Joel, The Rolling Stones, Simon Townshend, Robbie Krieger, Urge Overkill, Lizzy Grant, The Cheeters, Cypress Hill, James Taylor, Los Lobos, Soloman Burke, Joan Osborne, Taj Mahal, Mark Broussard, Norwood Fisher, Shawn Colvin, Hundred Year Flood, and Sting)
Answering to a higher authority (maintaining the legacy of Mr. Rupert Neve), BAE puts nothing but the very best and their very best into every unit they built. Under the guidance of president/CEO Mark Loughman and Neve guru, Avedis Kifedjian, BAE uses the only highest quality components from the original suppliers, such as Carnhill (formerly St. Ives) and Jensen. All BAE products use discrete electronics and are completely hand-built and wired point-to point (no circuit boards). For more information about BAE, check out RSPE’s Designer’s Perspective feature and get a first-hand look at the inner workings of BAE.