We Live, sleep, dream and breath audio and the engineering that refines detail to an obsessive edge. The PEQ1 series was born when we began to ask, "If price and market were no object, what is the absolute best mic-pre/equalizer we're capable of producing?" What we came up with is probable overkill for 98 percent of the engineers in the world, but if you are part of the small demanding group of people that are as passionate and curious about pursuing the ridiculous best as we are, have we got the gear for you.
The Wunder Audio PEQ1 and it's History
"From the very beginning we looked at the transformers. All of our transformers are still hand made and wound one at a time. We realized that "off the shelf" transformers will never do."
The project started when we were joining together and refurbishing two Neve 80 Series consoles. In 1999 we aquired 24 modules that were custom made for a console for John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. This was a one-of-a-kind console, and these modules were only ever made for this one desk. We noticed the Zeppelin modules sounded far better than anything we have ever heard. The amplifier circuits were very similar to the Neve 1073s, so the sound had to be attributed to the transformers. We had the idea of making new modules that fit into our 80 Series frame based on those very same transformers.
The key to the incredible sound of the PEQ1 are the huge Mu-Metal transformers. They are the exact ones that the old Zeppelin desk had used and are 80% nickel! We did a little detective work and contacted the maker of the original transformers who still had the old plans available and the original winding machine. They did have to re-tool to make the pressed metal transformer can used in the original module. These transformers are physically larger than the ones in a Neve 1073 and just fit in the PEQ1 module housing with .5mm clearance!
"The Incredible Sound"
The PEQ1 is only similar to a Neve 1073 in that it is a Class A discrete fully transformer floating circuit with an inductor based "British style" equalizer. Compared to a Neve 1073, the PEQ1 has more equalizing power with better lows and more presence in the mids and highs for a sound that lifts the veil off your input signal. The reason for this is simple: the PEQ1 has eight Class-A gain stages where the Neve 1073 has four. The extra gain yields more Class-A headroom resulting in a wider pure path audio.
The PEQ1, however, is NOT a Neve 1073 clone. It has its own unique circuit, and over the last four years we have made about 20 modifications in the prototype. The only way to explain the sound is that is it like a Neve 1073 with a deeper low end "that goes all the way to China" and more depth overall in the mids and highs without that phasey boxy sound. The 3db roll-off points are 8.7Hz on the low and 118KHz on the top end. The EQ is the best we have ever heard, reminiscent of a powerful Pultec, but with more frequencies. The drum sounds you can dial up are invincible, and nothing can make the vocals stand out in a mix like the PEQ1.
There are twice as many amplifier stages in the PEQ1, which provides 60db line in gain compared with the Neve 1073s 30db! This gives you more sonic headroom. The 60db of line in gain also allows for a wide range of instrument/line levels. You can plug a bass guitar, guitar or keyboards directly into the Line Input for a huge, better than any direct box sound. One can also use the Line input as a totally separate microphone input utilizing the large Line transformer. With 42 dB of gain, the Line input stage works great as a 2nd Mic Pre!
"Solid in Solid out"
All the Gain and EQ switches used on the PEQ1 series are custom made by Elma, which were designed for us at their factory in Switzerland. The custom made (long shaft) potentiometers are Vishay audio-grade, made with conductive plastic for a long life (one million cycles). You can't beat this switch/pot combination. The EQ and Phase switches for the PEQ1 are by Isostat, giving a vintage touch. The PEQ1R uses C&K toggle switches.
We have been using huge Sprague "Orange Drop" capacitors for years and seems the obvious choice for the equalizer circuit. We have recapped so many consoles and tape machines in the past and found the Panasonic FC 105°C electrolytic capacitors to be our favorite so that's what we are incorporating. Vintage-style, rare polystyrene foil capacitors are used throughout.
High-current Metal can, not plastic, BC107B and BC109C transistors imported from the UK are used throughout the amplifier stages. These metal transistors are better than their plastic counterparts when used in an Audio circuit.
A single circuit board offers a vast sonic improvement over 5 separate boards found in a Neve 1073 eliminating the use of multiple edge-board connectors and redundant wiring. The hook-up wire is also imported from the UK and is hand assembled to "Military Spec".
The enclosures are CAD designed to 1/1000" tolerance and are bright-nickel plated with PEM nut hardware throughout for solid construction. Finally, we CNC mill the custom-designed anodized aluminum knob-set which gives the module character. The boost and cut knobs are solid brass with shiny nickel plating. The knob markers are white plastic dowels embedded in the knob so the white mark will never wear off. We also provide an optional "Vintage Look" faceplate in RAF grey.
Additionally one person, our best master craftsman, builds every single PEQ1 series, from PCB to testing. A PEQ1 series Mic-pre/EQ is one of the best pieces of gear made anywhere in the world, in any given year.
For those who want to listen and can't make it to our showroom in Austin, we really encourage that you A/B test our PEQ1 with any other Mic-pre/EQ.
Finally, If you want the absolute best Wunder Audio has to offer, if you want to use the best sounding mic-pre/equalizer in the world, if you get as flat-out hyped up about chasing perfection and embracing the ultimate in excellence like we do, you have to consider the PEQ1.