We had a CD project due, and a main player flying in from Kansas City the next day who was tracking for finals over a week long stay. Decisions had to be made, checks cut, and resolutions complete. After agonizing and grueling trials, we had to choose the new Buzz Elixir. Every 500 series preamp we tried had fantasic and lovely qualities, but the Elixir is the definition of the word "ubiquitious."
If I was forced to choose one preamp (which I was) that could "do it all," this new unit was our undeniable winner for the kind of acoustic music we do (mandolin, guitar, bass, female vocals). If we did any other kind of music, I might confess to something else, and I must say, we seriously plan to add to our 500 rack soon.
For our purposes on this CD, the Elixir is just insanely right! The sound is new, solid, sweet...yet has nostalgia, heart and soul. Over 6 days, we put the Elixir to the test. By this time, we had already selected and bought the Buzz. Naturally, one expects that buyers will taint their review, since they spent the cash, and wanna believe. Well, sorry. This is not that kinda story.. Indeed, despite my failure to post my immediate comparrison reactions, they did not fade. Instead, we kept freaking out more and more on the Elixir.
We ran some pretty careful measurement tests on noise floor alone. The Elixir is a madly quiet preamp. I'm talking MAD quiet. Every single other unit we tested was at least 10 dB louder at max settings than the Elixir, as far as transformer type units. Bear in mind, this is a 70 dB preamp! At max settings, the noise floor was invisible. Of course, I had to wonder, what is the saturation like, if this has so much headroom? And of course, we shoved it into the red over and over all week. By last night, I had to run to the bulkhead to avoid crapping my pants over this thing.
Description? Hmm... We have lot of shrill and sharp high end...I mean, consider the instrumentation, treble city! The Elixir had a perfectly clear, crisp, and...hmm...HiFi kind of air. Very "diamond-ish" as the GML has been described. Pristine. The midrange starts to get a little warm, but nothing like most 500 Series you might know, and nothing like the API 300 or 500 preamps. Instead, the Buzz has a very "down-home" kind of mid-range, reminding me of a "NickleCreek" sort of vibe. Impressive, to say the least.
Now, everything was great, and then came the low end. Cripes! The output transformer came into play in a big way. Tim found some kind of magic way to force a nearly Neve-ish low-end into this latest wild creation. The DI on bass was just sick. This guy has to be chatting with sorcerers and witches, or making some kind of deal at the "crossroads." For us, the Elixir was, in no way, a copy of the other Buzz units. Instead, it is a very strange hybrid and sure, compromise unit. But dang, the comprimise ends up being so applicable to every situation that one may as well stir a martini and relax as worry about preamp selection.
At the end of a grueling week of 12-16 hour days of tracking, the Elixir barely broke a sweat. We gotta give a nice shout-out to Tim for a great job on creating a multi-tasking workhorse at a one-song-lizzy price! Hats off to Tim and Buzz, great ideas come to life, definately a magical, musical box!
[July 2006. Sonic Sorcery Studios]