Drive brings out the best of an audio source. From vocals to 808s, drive highlights its character. Singular Audio’s Tubedrve is a 500-Series stereo valve saturation processor that we reviewed in the studio to see what we could bring to life.
We’re big fans of 500 series units. The modular nature and cheaper cost of units can make for a colourful sound (and look!) in your studio. Not to mention the huge amount of companies that are turning their prized pieces into compact units. We reviewed the new Tubedrve from Singular Audio: a stereo saturation unit.
Singular Audio is a company out of Amsterdam, Netherlands run by Berend van Eerden — a music producer and audio engineer — who decided to start making gear that comes from real life experience of what’s both useful technically and creatively in the studio.
They make microphones and 500 series units that are loved and used by industry heavyweights like Greg Wells and Jacquire King. You must be doing something right when you have as little gear as they do, but endorsements from these types of world-class engineers!
The Tubedrve is their latest offering: a stereo tube drive saturation 500 series unit. It’s packed with 4 tubes inside — each channel has an EF86 pentode and a 6AS6 triode/pentode tube — and has the same classic look as their stereo and mono filterdrve units. I’m a big fan of their elegant and classic design.
Each channel has an Input knob, a Boost switch — which boosts the signal going into the overdrive tube by 15db, a Bias knob, a switch for Triode or Pentode tube (smoother or more aggressive respectively), an Output knob, a Bypass switch, and a Mix knob.
If you are unfamiliar with tube bias, it’s pretty simple — and of course, you can just tweak the knob to taste! Bias sets the operating point for the overdrive tube, and Singular Audio’s manual says that the smoothest overdrive with symmetrical clipping is around 12 o’clock.
We recently had the pleasure of reviewing the brand new Chandler Limited RS660 using a Pinnacle microphones Fat Top II to record drums, bass and guitar, so first up I sent the mono drums to the first channel of the Tubedrve.
In this situation, the Mix knob was my best friend — but damn, if you really want to smash the hell out of something this is the unit. Distorted drums are always fun, and I found there was a huge range of variation in the distortion/saturation on the Tubedrve.
Next up, electric guitar. No surprises here, it was great. In fact, if Singular Audio is listening — please put a DI on the front so I can go straight into this unit! From subtle to completely fuzzed out, electric guitar through this unit is wicked.
Now to use the unit in a way that most people might not consider, over a mix. In the box, I have about 5 choice plugins on my mix bus, and without a doubt one of those is emulated Pentode saturation with the mix knob on the plugin all the way down to about 10-15% depending on the song.
Using a recent Live from Happy session — Thandi Phoenix ‘Guarantees’ — I put the Tubedrve over that mix with the Triode tube and mix knob at about 8 o’clock, that’s probably about 15%. It added so much weight to the mix, subtle weight that was enough to feel it.
Switching it into Pentode mode, it made the vocal, percussion and acoustic guitar sparkle. The weight was still there, but I did feel like I had to turn the mix knob down.
This is a killer unit, useful in both recording and mixing, that will look great in your 500 series rack. I love the flashing LEDs on the top of the unit too. Keep an eye on this company, they only have a few products, but they are all quality.
The Singular Audio Tubedrve comes in at €799 Euros, and is on special at the moment for €699 Euros. You find out more details or pick one up from their website — Singularaudio.nl — and they currently offer free worldwide UPS shipping on all orders.