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The Earthworks 1021 belongs to the ZDT series. The ZDT preamplifier series is based on all new discrete circuitry designed by David Blackmer, establishing a new standard of sonic excellence in electronics. This exacting new standard provides frequency response from 1Hz to 200kHz +0.5dB, an incredible rise time of 0.27 microseconds and distortion of less than 1 part per million (0.0001%) - eliminating all possibility of sonic degradation. These preamps are so fast, so clean and so transparent that you don't even know they are there. It is like plugging your microphone into a "piece of wire with gain." You will hear clarity and detail with the ZDT preamps that is not available in any other preamp at any price. Check one out for your studio or other applications that demand the highest quality electronics.
|Tube or Solid State||Solid State|
Regardless of your preferences for what makes a mic sound "good" and "right" to you, it's also very satisfying to know how much of that is actually the mic itself, and how much of it is everything else in your chosen chain. The Earthworks 1021 will make a better producer out of you by giving you a baseline reference point for each microphone from which you can add whatever flavor or color works in the context of what you're producing; which may, in fact, be no flavor at all. This is a new option you never had before.
It will always be impossible to know what the sound of "zero color" is in a preamp, but if you know anything about Earthworks, you know that absolute accuracy has been the focus of their products, and their business, from the beginning. This preamp appears to be the culmination of their experience brought together in one of the more crucial pieces of any high-end audio chain. The control set is stripped to the bare minimum, another indication that Earthworks is serious about their “wire with gain” focus.
I know, clarity and transparency are often perceived by jaded ears as "sterile", "boring", and "lifeless". I won't get into that debate, but I can't imagine that anyone would refer to the sound emanating from this preamp with those words. To my ears, it sounds positively alive. The sound jumps out of the speakers at you, instead of oozing out with the sticky goodness of distorted color.
My only complaint is a personal quibble: I would have preferred the the 1021 come in a standard rack mount format. Let's just say I'm invested in that form-factor, as I'm sure many others are. Alas, the 1021 comes only as a desktop piece.It also seems to me that, after using a preamp that had built-in headphone monitoring, it would be a real bonus for preamps at this price point to include that feature. On the plus side, it is a solidly built unit, and every switch and knob have the feel of something that will still be around after the universe ends.
In this age of digital modelling in post, it occurs to me that the most coveted "character" would be no character; just accurate and transparent sound. This is now a viable option in the Earthworks 1021.
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