I am a home recordist with a humble 12-space rack filled with affordable (and occasionally interesting) gear. I am also a sucker for anything odd, old, and esoteric... and bonus points for strange paint jobs. Like many of my bedroom and basement brethren, purchasing rack after rack of thousand dollar gear ain't happening anytime soon, so I keep my eyes open for oddball gear that does what it does-and does it well. With this in mind, I have never been let down by my trusty, green Altec 1589 mic preamp. The 1589 is a 1RU-height, all discrete mic and line amp utilizing Altec's octal socket transformer cans. This is a no-frills piece of kit-no pad, no polarity switch, no phantom power, and definitely no fancy "toob" knob. There's a gain knob for each of the mic and line inputs, which can be utilized at the same time (and are summed to mono on the output). Having access to both is useful for sources like bass cabs, where a DI is often mixed with a mic on the cab. Like many pieces of Altec gear, access to the guts inside can be had by removing two small front-panel screws. Despite its unassuming appearance, the 1589 is full of attitude. It seems that some people already know how cool it can be on snare drums, and I fully agree that this is where the 1589 really shines. While tracking drums for rock band Ocali Flash, one particular song called for an aggressive, trashy snare sound, and the 1589 brought out a thick, midrange crunch perfect for the song. Make no mistake-this is not a preamp where transparency is a priority. Because of the noticeable high-end rolloff, snare drums run through the 1589 take on a slightly compressed, all-buttons-in sound. On other sources, the 1589 is hit or miss. For certain electric guitar tracks (think gnarly overdriven Supergrass or Mudhoney sounds), hitting the Altec with a hot signal is just the ticket. Same goes for the occasional rock vocal, though it's probably not a sound you'll want to overuse as it may lose its uniqueness. Using the line amp with a bass DI or re-amping soft synths imparts a definite analog color. When it's right for the source, the 1589 makes sounds rock a little bit (or a lot) more; but when it's not right, it can be downright ugly. In these days of do-it-all yet disappointing channel strips, it's great to know that there is solid, vintage gear out there that is not demanding a king's ransom. If you prefer the unique over the mass-produced, the Altec 1589 is worth searching out. Even if you already rock racks of top-shelf gear, this little green monster is one more way to mangle that next snare drum carried through the studio door.

Tape Op is a free magazine exclusively devoted to
the art of record making.

 More Gear Reviews 
J. Robert Lennon · March 15, 2008
When Andy Hong asked me to write a review of the mic preamps currently-available from Hamptone (the tube-based HVTP2 and transistor-based HJFP2), I got a weird sense of deja vu. Haven't these already...
Andy Hong · March 15, 2008
You may recall my review of the Safe Sound P1 Audio Processor (Tape Op #53)-a mic preamp, instrument DI, expander, compressor, limiter, and headphone monitor/mixer designed by Robert Campbell,...
F. Reid Shippen · March 15, 2008
About a year ago, several of my peers were involved in an audio geekfest here in Nashville centered around a shootout between several vintage Neve 1073 modules and a Vintech X73. I wasn't able to...
Garrett Haines · March 15, 2008
Larry covered the first edition of this book back in Tape Op #35. But there is so much updated content in this second printing that a second review is merited. The title, Mastering Audio, is clearly a...
John Baccigaluppi · March 15, 2008
If you've read Tape Op over the years, you've probably noticed that one of my pet peeves is headphones. You gotta' have 'em, but they're expensive, and everyone treats 'em like crap. On the other...
Allen Farmelo · March 15, 2008
A number of years back, I was tracking a record in a room with a 24-fader Digidesign ProControl and then migrated to a situation with only a keyboard and a mouse. About halfway through the first day...
Craig Schumacher · March 15, 2008
So we were strolling around AES last October and we run into Harley Fine who we met at TapeOpCon 2007. Harley took us over to meet Jim Kaye of Matrix Audio Systems. At his table were three 2-channel...
· March 15, 2008
It's funny how the audio industry sometimes seems to go in waves. Four years ago, summing mixers, like the Dangerous 2-BUS (Tape Op #35), were the new thing, and two years ago, monitor controllers...
Andy Hong · March 15, 2008
David Hidek and Garrett's positive review of the ASK Video Sibelius Tutorial DVD bundle (Tape Op #62) prompted me to check out ASK's Cubase 4 Tutorial. In short, if you are new to Cubase (or to DAWs...
  • Start A Discussion

Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 3:39AM
Get a dialogue going below: