Pendulum Audio MDP-1
Tube Mic Pre/DI
 by Jesse Cannon - Tape-Op September 2001

   At least once a year, a studio will usually make an investment in a piece of gear which is supposed to make their recordings jump light years in quality. This typically comes with a high price tag, which is why a small studio doesn't do this often. The Pendulum Audio MDP-1 ($2495.00) is one of these pieces; it can be used for a wide variety of tasks better than anything else on the market.

   My first encounter with the MDP-1, before I became an owner, was when I started working at the mastering studio where I currently work. My boss was running some particularly cold mixes through it to get some extra harmonics and I thought that maybe he hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before since I had never seen this done. When he showed me the difference I was astounded. Even though the mixes were already going through a variety of tube gear, including the impressive Pendulum Variable Mu Limiter, they just weren't as open or harmonically rich without the pre in the chain.

   About a week later he used it again, this time as a distortion unit on some drums. Being curious of its true function, when I did a tracking session in the studio a week or so later I put the acoustic guitar through the MDP-1's 'full' transformer (to explain- the MDP-1 has two transformer options one being the Full which presents a more...well... full airy sound, and the Focused presents a sound that is more present in the mids and focused). This was the first time in my life I had an acoustic guitar sound right. When using tube preamps I was used to things getting a little too tubby for my tastes, as well as having that nice harmonic cloud in there.I always had some issues with the noise floor, but this time there was no noise to be spoken of. With the Pendulum I got the most acurate sound compared with any of the tons of high priced and high quality mic pres I have tried. When taking things up 'into the red' I got very clean harmonics, not smooth like a V72s but just accurate and warm. I often judge gear on what my stomach feels like when I use it, and I had a great feeling in the gut.

   I am a very big fan of tubes in a vocal chain but not usually of a tube mic into a tube pre. The focused version of the MDP-1 changed my opinion about this. I often see messages on boards asking how to get that airy but up front vocal sound and all I can think of is this pre with a good quality mic. There are plenty of mic pres on the market that do great jobs, but what really blows me away is that compared to other pres I have used ithe MDP-1 works better for the more esoteric uses of a mic pre than any other I have comes across. I had heard an engineer speak of putting the MDP-1 across the 2 mix buss of a Mackie to make it the only way a Mackie would sound passable. Sure enough this was the case; it eliminated the congested sound the Mackie usually has and gave the lows a nice, clear extension. When using the DI for bass the MDP-1 gives it that extra harmonic which makes a bass cut right through the mix. Often times when I get vocals recorded through cheap condensers and lousy mic pres I'll run it back through the MDP-1, and typically get a great result.

   In this age there is a lot of hype over tubes, and many manufacturers are making products with
tubes that don't really honor what a tube pre can really do. When you hear an MDP-1 you finally won't be hearing hype, you'll just hear reality.