BIZZAR AUDIO - MINT JULEP PREAMP:
© 2008, Ken Morgan, Wireline Studio
Preface: Evaluating this particular unit has been a learning experience, to say the least. My
first impression was the Mint Julip was not a bad product, but not a great one either. After
working with the sample unit, though, I have decided the Mint Julip is a valuable and
welcome addition our sonic pallete, and the only way Pan60, or Matt from Bizzar, will get this
preamp back is at gunpoint.
What It Is: The Bizzar Audio “Mint Julip” preamp is a new entry into the 500 series chassis
choices, offering a single gain knob, a well-designed and easy-to-understand face panel, a
high build quality, and a somewhat unique position in the extremely competitive 500 series
(Adesigns, API, Chappell, OSA, et. al.) preamp world. Retail price is approx. $399 USD.
First Impressions: I am being brutally honest (as I tend to be with all reviews). At first, the
sound I was getting from the Mint Julip was not only lackluster, it was just wrong. No clarity,
no pizazz, nothing that would make me want to break out a checkbook and own a couple of
these. Then, the penny dropped. I understood what this unit was all about… It seems its
reason to exist is to be a low-cost sonic alternative for engineers who already have a bunch
of boutique, high-end preamps, and are looking for something a bit different. In that
aspect, the Mint Julip succeeds, and is/will become a staple in our arsenal.
- Acoustic Guitars: My first impression running the Julip with a Josephson C42 SDC, an
AT4033 mid-sized condensor, and a Pearlman TM1 U47-ish clone was the pre was not
offering anything exciting. Guitars included a Martin 000-16 and Martin Shennendoah D1936
dreadnaught. Not bad, just not great, either. I tried running an EV RE16 dynamic, which
seemed to open up the sonic character of the Julip. I then ran the Julip/RE16 parallel with
the known quality of the A-Designs P-1 and a Joly modded Oktava 319. It was at this point
I discovered some things about the prototype run of Mint Julips - that they were out of
phase with the rest of the world. I contacted Matt about this, and he almost immediately
(since I am in Texas and he is in South Africa, his reply was, in a sense, “instant,”
considering time differences.) Matt stated he found the 1st run to be indeed out of phase at
the output, and would correct this in all subsequent runs.
Critical note: Simply pushing the unit’s front panel phase switch fixed the problem…so
indeed, there was no problem, just something I would need to remember.
- Bass DI: There is no front panel DI or instrument input on the Julip, and this is not a
problem. Using our EMG stuffed Precision and either an A-Designs REDDI or a highly
modified Rapco DI, our bass sounds were again, not thrilling. Not bad, but I am starting to
wonder what would motivate a studio working on some major label stuff to want one of
- Drums: Here is where the Mint Julip starts to shine - dynamic mics and heavier sounds.
We tried a myriad of different mics with the Julip on snares, overheads, etc, and just weren’t
getting what we wanted to hear. Then, almost as a last resort, we hooked the Julip up to an
EV 454 on a floor tom, and all of a sudden the light came on! The Julip, when combined
with a very high energy source and the right dynamic mic, suddenly became a viable
contender. We ended up keeping the tracks.
- Electric Guitar: Being blunt - the Mint Julip is not a ‘jump out at you’ do-all guitar pre,
regardless of mic choice. On clean and pristine jazz or country stuff, I was not impressed
(others may be). That said, when the Mint Julip was connected with an SM7 to track a 4-12
celestion stuffed cab being abused by a Peavey 5150 in dropped C tuning, nothing I have in
my possession (until now) could accurately capture the low-end like the Julip. Pushing the
pre just a bit with the gain, we were able to capture guitar tracks in the nether regions of
dropped C and B tunings accurately, with enough precision to make one “sit up and take
notice,” and enough cojones to make all the other pres check their own manhood. This
alone makes the Mint Julip a valuable asset and sonic tool to anyone who records with a
Conclusions: The mint Julip is not a high end, uber colored or ultra pristine device. It is
what it is, a utility preamp that offers the 500 chassis equipped studios a means to add lots
of pres for relatively little cash. At approx $400 retail, the Mint Julip does not aspire to be all
things for all occasions, but deserves a chance to find its niche in facilities that have to
chameleon from genre to genre with relative ease. It is not going to be confused with a
Neve, API, or A-Designs, nor was it ever intended to be. As my great friend Chuck says, “It
is what it is, nothing more.” In my opinion, that “what it is” just happens to be a
dependable, no frills preamp that can fill a niche.
Yup…I’m adding one of these pretty quickly.
Special thanks to Guitarist Brandon Cervastes and the group “Order 66” for their valuable
assistance in getting the sounds for this review. Look for Order 66 to be releasing their
debut CD late 2008 or early 2009....they deliver the goods!
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