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JLM AUDIO TG500, the DUAL99V500, and the PEQ500! Interview with Joe Malone of JLM AUDIO by pan60 pan60 So, let’s start with some of the basics. : )~  What was it, in your younger years, that drew you into the wide, wide world of audio?  Was it a necessity, as with so many, a love for audio, or a fascination with just how electrical things work? Joe     I loved doing live and studio engineering for bands. I also had a love for electronics. pan60 Did you get a formal education in the field or study under some as an apprentice? Joe     In my electronics field, I worked as a senior technical officer for Telecom (later Telstra) for 16 years. pan60 Tell us a bit about yourself, hobbies, cars, motorcycles, or maybe just fishing? Joe     I was a bit of a car nut in my younger days. I built several cars from the ground up and did a lot of electronics for high tech cars... my rx7 was used in a movie called “all my friends are leaving Brisbane.”  Also, have a 2-yr old little boy who keeps me very busy these days.   pan60 You have an awesome and great following there in Australia - a reputation for great work and service.  How many years have you been doing this? Joe     Full time, since leaving Telstra over 10 years ago, and a good decade or so before that with the bands. I was working and touring with while still at Telstra. pan60 You have been known for some of your DIY (do it yourself) projects.  How do you manage to do your DIY projects without the specialized knowledge, we are all told, is required to really be doing it? Joe     We’ve made it so simple that most people who can solder can do it. But, the skill lies in whether someone has the patience. Electronics requires a lot of patience. With the use of a digital camera to provide some large clear photos and some questions delivered by email, we can usually get 99% of the kits going quickly, if someone has a problem.   pan60 What drew you to the API 500 format? Joe     I could see it was going to be a popular format with its plug-and-play flexibility.  I also liked the challenge of trying to get high output levels and vintage circuits to work on the limited +/-16v power rails. pan60 What made you want to add the special features to the PEQ500, as it seems to be based around the Pultec design, as opposed to just sticking with the straight-ahead Pultec style EQ? Joe     Our PEQ500 is based on our PEQ1 rack versions, which we have been making for the past 20 years. The PEQ1 had the extra frequencies since it was first developed in the late 1980s. Adding frequencies was obvious, even 20 years back, as the switching was already there. The added cost was minimal for the great flexibility it added. Most Pultec owners we provided serviced for back then always loved their EQ, but wished it could do more.  So, it has always been a “no brainer.” It also doesn’t change the standard frequencies of the Pultec, which we have kept for those who are familiar with the original Pultec EQP-1A. We have lots of high-end users who use the PEQ1 for tracking and stereo mastering / buss applications who love the greater range in frequencies. So,  bringing that to our PEQ500 was a must! Our PEQ500 also is the only EQ that can do high shelf boost like the very rare PEQ-1R eq.   pan60 Cool!  Where did you get the idea for the look?  Which, by the way, I love. I am a sucker for the vintage vibe. : ) Joe     I have always used and liked the look of chicken head knobs. The rest of the black and white look is driven by my preference for minimalism and long-lasting products. This leads us to use industrial lasered text which turns the black anodizing white and can never be worn off like screen printing.   pan60 I also love the chicken head knobs, Gerald Weber (Kendrick Amplifier), once made me what was, at the time, a one-off amp (probably still is?), with three tens, (awesome little amp by the way), and I have some cool vintage red chicken head knobs on it. I also replaced the black ones on my 54 tweed super with red ones.  I cannot remember where I got them. They are very cool, though. You have a cool harmonic distortion, or maybe better put -  a cool vibe going on with your gear, Is that a functional part of the transformer design, or some other choice of circuit, or a choice of some other component being used? Joe     The 2nd harmonic fatness is due to the 99v opamp which is a low gain type opamp. It gives similar tone to a single-ended tube gain stage with silky high frequencies and fatness. This is due to the high 2nd harmonic and lower dampening. But, we also have our Hybrid opamp which is pure. It makes the PEQ500 as tight and super low THD for those doing mastering or after pure buss eq, instead of tracking.   pan60 I'm glad you mentioned that.  I made the mistake of using the term noise on a forum, and took a bit of slack when I did not intend it to be a negative.  I like the fat sound. So, if someone wanted one a bit tighter would they just need to let you know up front? Joe     The PEQ500 can be changed from 99v opamps (big fat) to Hybrid opamps (fast and tight) anytime... easily... as they are just plugged into sockets for simple plug- and-play. pan60 Now, before everyone starts calling Joe and asking for something tighter, I would recommend, give this a roll first!  I find the fat, smooth sound to be a very welcome tool, and personally would not make the change. I notice your transformers are a bit large and as a result, they need to be positioned next to the power supply in the API lunchbox or next to something that allows for the amount they protrude into the other space.  I personally have not had an issue with this, it has been no problem finding a place for these to fit.  Have you had any issues come up from your customers as a result?  (I just wanted to touch on this so people are not surprised when they get one). Joe     No. Only the first run of some of the metal support brackets, which had the transformer mounting holes out by a millimeter. This required the transformer tried to sit at a bit of an angle. All our modules conform to the API standard dimensions, but our output transformer has a core size 4 times the size of a normal API output transformer. So, it uses the whole width. We always recommend removing any module to the right while fitting our modules.   pan60 Cool, good to go. Tell us about some of the other gear you have lined up for the 500 format.  I hear you are working on a tube pre and compressor. Would you care to chat about those? Joe     Yes. We have a Tube Mu compressor in the final stages with a fet (1176 style) and opto (LA3A style) compressor to follow, over the next few months in the lead-up to the 2009 AES in New York. All the compressors have been prototyped and finalized and are just waiting for the 1000 lot parts and final testing. We are working on a tube pre but it is not in finalized yet.   pan60 Sounds very, very cool!  I think the guys at AES will be stoked to see these! : )~ A Mu comp will be a welcome addition!  Make sure you get me some photos to post. I will hold them back until the night before, then post them. Joe     OK will do. pan60 You are making your own rack as well, correct? Joe     We are testing 3 rack designs, but nothing has gone into production at this stage. pan60 Keep me posted.  You are also doing a Neve style pre? Joe     Yes the NV500 has been out since the end of last year and selling very well. pan60 Cool.  How will it differ from your current lineup? Joe     Physically, the use of controls are identical to our Dual99v500 and Tg500 front panel. But, internally, it is a highly modified 1073 style mic pre redesigned to have variable impedance. It runs directly without inverters from the +/-16v API power rails. The variable impedance and transformer combination give the pre a large range of tonal balance. This ranges from a dull original 1073 (which has never been a recapped tone) right up to a balanced New 1073 tone in the Z position, and further up to (what a lot of users describe as) the Neve with Neumann U87 smooth sheen highs with the impedance heading towards fully clockwise.   pan60 And you have a monitoring system, also? Joe     We have the HPM500 6 channel headphone / summing mixer which I customized to be fitted to the API lunchbox in the “wasted” space beside the power supply.   pan60 Some of these units will not be able to be used with API 500 series format, is that correct?  Tell me how all these pieces work.   Joe     The headphone mixer is not a standard 500 card with an edge connector. It currently has been designed specifically for use with the API lunchbox, but we have used several in 10-way racks, etc. To make complex headphone and monitor controls in 500 racks it draws it's power directly from the 10- way power cable internally through the lunchbox. With a 16- way ribbon it can plug directly into our modules, but usually, we just wire the ribbon to the output XLR back plane of the lunchbox. So, slots 1 through 6 of the lunchbox appear on the mixer as channels 1 to 6. With this solution, any brand of 500 module can work with the mixer.    pan60 Tell us a bit about each unit, as you see them, from your perspective. Also, where do you feel they shine?  For example, you may have vocals, drums, or whatever in mind, for a given piece of gear.  Please indulge us a bit. : )~ The JLM AUDIO TG500 Joe     This is my take on the TG EMI mic pre, with several differences. First, the TG runs on +/-28v, which, in reality is used by the mic pre as a +23volt rail for the audio. Similar to the Neve, but it also has a -5volt bias rail. This means you need 28v to keep the headroom of the original TG and the API format supplies +/-16v = 32v. So, our TG actually has slightly more headroom than the original. Nothing beats this pre on Electric Guitar, even just using an SM57. Also, it is great on harsh vocals, brass instruments and when you want classic old-school drum sounds. It seems to join together the harsh highs and warm lows into a solid tone without any muddy undefined low mids. You will hear this all over the New Wolfmother Songs when they get released this year. The JLM AUDIO DUAL99V500 Joe     This is mine... from the ground up.  A simple design to accompany our 99v discrete low gain opamp - using 2 opamps to do the full gain of 75dB. It was designed to give a big sound for vocals and acoustic instruments. It applies enough warmth and smoothness that you hear a similar tonal balance in the control room from the monitors and close mic as would be heard with your own ears, at a distance, in the recording studio. JLM AUDIO PEQ500 Joe     The PEQ500 is a rework of the famous Pultec PEQ1A and rare PEQ1R in one unit with extra frequencies. So, you can do alot more as you have extra frequencies and can switch the high boost from the normal bell to shelf mode. You only have to  hear it once to know how useful it can be.  Again, we use our 99v opamps to give the warmth instead of using tubes. We use one opamp for the input stage to drive the passive EQ circuit (which gets down to a few hundred ohms at different EQ settings). So any bit of gear in your studio can run the 20k input without headroom issues.  Again, this is another bit of our 500 gear where we can put out a lot more output level (+24dBM) than the original tube Pultec (+16dBM).  We have a lot of big guys who have original Pultecs sitting beside our PEQ500.   pan60 As everyone knows, I love this format, and have been promoting it for years.  So, I love seeing more gear offered in the 500 format. I think, in the end, it helps everyone involved in the system. You sent me three pieces to review, as part of this interview / review.  Here is what is in the mad lab of pan60. So, what do I think? No complaints I would gladly (and plan to), buy from Joe. Based on our chats and email correspondence, I believe if ever there was to be any needed service, Joe would make sure the customer got it. So, how does the gear sound?  Well, let’s start with the JLM AUDIO TG500 Layout from the top down. 1. LED and the 48Vdc phantom power toggle. 2. Gain level. 3. Impedance selection. 4. 80Hz Hi-pass toggle and a LED. 5. Output trim, with -5dB to 0dB range (with pot knob pulled out -90dB to 0dB range). 6. Pad toggle. 7. Phase toggle and a FET DI 1meg. The TG500 pre is a 2 FET 6 transistor Class A design giving 75dB of gain, based on early NEVE, BBC, EMI gear. It has simple transistor gain stages, yet is fully designed to include additional features. As well as being a 500 format unit drawing on the standard API + / - 16v rails, it runs fully symmetrically, so output headroom is not lost.  And no DC to DC inverters are needed. It uses custom audio transformers. JOE clearly states, this is NOT a EMI TG clone. I am on the fence as to which I would favor. But, of the two pres, I think I am leaning to the TG500, just a bit.  It has a very nice beefy sound, a bit of grit so to speak, and it delivers, while retaining clarity.  I Love the impedance selection. It is a very nice feature, from my perspective. It offers some nice tonal options. I tried this pre on a variety of sources and liked it on everything I threw at it.  I liked it on vocals, but it does seem to shine on electric guitars. All of this of course, depends on your choice of microphones... and this will apply to any pre. As I love dynamic mics, I find this to be a welcome feature! JLM AUDIO DUAL99V500 pan60 I also like the pre. The layout of the DUAL99V500, appears from the top down, just as the TG500. Again the output trim pot with -5dB to 0dB range (with pot knob pulled out -90dB to 0dB range). The Dual99v500 pre uses 2 of the JLM discrete 99v op-amps (New +/-16v version) to provide a two stage gain path, delivering 75dB of gain with ease. This pre sounds a bit on the cleaner side, but bigger and a bit more in-your-face. It has a very nice color.  Of the two, I suspect this will be the one most people would go for. I liked the sound with the front end being hit hard, even on vocals! Again, a lot of tonal options are available with this pre, while retaining its own inherent signature.  Again, the impedance control is a welcome feature allowing for some tonal shaping based on mic choice or impedance selection. I tend to think this pre will get more use on vocals, and acoustics source. But, do not under estimate this pre, it will deliver just fine for just about anything. JLM AUDIO PEQ500 Layout from the top down EQ In / out toggle with LED. High Cut shelf selection, 5kHz, 10-kHz, and 20-kHz on a toggle. High Cut shelf range from 0 to -16dB. High Boost bell / shelf. Push on Q control switches from high boost bell to shelf with LED lit when in shelf mode Variable Q / Slope from 0 to +16dB Rotary switch, ranging from 1kHz, 1k5kHz, 2kHz, 3kHz, 4kHz, 5kHz, 8kHz, 10kHz, 12kHz, 16kHz, 20kHz, and 25kHz. Low Cut shelf from 0 to -16dB. Rotary switch, ranging from 10Hz, 20Hz, 30Hz, 40Hz, 60Hz, 80Hz, 100Hz, 120Hz, 160Hz, 200Hz, 240Hz, and 300Hz. Low Boost shelf from 0 to +16dB Rotary switch, ranging from 10Hz, 20Hz, 30Hz, 40Hz, 60Hz, 80Hz, 100Hz, 120Hz, 160Hz, 200Hz, 240Hz, and 300Hz. The PEQ500, a full Pultec EQP-1A & EQP-1R type passive EQ circuit, with 8 extra low frequencies, and 5 extra high frequencies added. The Q (bandwidth) control delivers twice the bell curve width as a normal Pultec.  As well, Joe states the PEQ500 can also do one thing he has never seen with any other Pultec or clone. Pushing on the Q control will switch the high boost to a shelf with the Q control still varying the slope going into the shelf. Electronic balanced discrete op-amp input to allow for large input levels. This is a very nice and warm sounding EQ.  At first the layout felt a bit odd to me, but nothing I have not been able to overcome.  And I must say, the added features can be a very welcome addition, as they are useful.  This is a nice, beefy, and smooth EQ. It will fatten up whatever you throw at it.  Let’s say it again, this EQ works surprisingly great on whatever you want to throw at it.  A great choice for just adding some beef and dimension to just about anything. I assume, as I can see the connector on the board, all these units feature the internal jumper for output ground lift and internal JLM 8 buss connector with jumper settings.  Would you like to give a quick rundown of how this will all work with your rack? Joe     The buss connector is for easy connecting of JLM modules to our HPM500 mixer, but currently, we wire our HPM500 mixer to the lunchbox back plane so it will work for any brand of modules plugged into it. So, it is getting used less frequently. The ground lift jumper, when removed, lifts the ground off the output XLR pin 1 to stop hum loops, when needed, mainly in large permanent installations with patchbay common grounds.  Thanks    Joe Malone    JLM AUDIO  PO BOX 424 RED HILL  QLD  4059  BRISBANE  AUSTRALIA  PHONE  + 61 7 38912244  FAX + 61 7 38912244  MOBILE + 61 (0)419 625 663    WWW.JLMAUDIO.COM  CAPTURING AUDIO WITHOUT INJURY
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