EQ Magazine (June 1997)
By Steve La Cerra
The Demeter HM-1 mic pre is part of that company's new H-Series of components designed around hybrid circuitry. Input amplification is handled by a 12AX7A tube (supplied with 200 volts), while the output driver employs a solid-state circuit. In addition to the typical front-panel mic preamp controls (gain, LF rolloff, phase invert, phantom power and -20 dB pad), the two-channel HM-1 also has a volume control, overload indicator, and l0-segment LED output meter (with "-10 dB" switch) for each channel. XLR and 1/Cinch mic inputs and line outputs live on the rear panel; a 1/4-inch TRS phonejack on the front provides a DI at instrument level. Demeter warns that phantom power should, of course, be turned off to protect the HM-l's circuitry when using an unbalanced microphone input. Jensen transformers are used in each input channel.
I used the Demeter HM-1 on a variety of sessions with different microphones. Combined with a Lawson L-47MP tube mic, the HM-1 tracked the dynamic range of both acoustic guitar and lead vocal beautifully and had no problems with high signal levels. The HM-l's low-frequency rolloff came in very handy to reduce pops picked up by the Lawson mic, thus allowing me to avoid having to add an EQ to the signal chain. On kick and snare drums (where the pad was needed), the HM-1 was crisp and clean. On kickdrum I preferred the HM-1 to the (U800 per channel) Avalon M5, though the M5 did reach down to lower frequencies. I seemed to detect a slight rise in the response of the HM-1 at around 4 or 5 kHz (a sort of presence peak) that added some smack to the attack of the kick. Generally, I'd describe the sound of the HM-1 as "clean" rather than "tube-like." The HM-1's front-panel, 1/4-inch instrument input was quiet and uncolored for guitars and keyboards. Don't, however, expect to get the kind of gentle tube distortion you might get from a guitar amp, this input does not clip gracefully.
The combination oflevel controls and metering made setting optimum gain on the HM-1 easy. Bring up the gain control until the Overload LED barely lights (if you want to be conservative you can then back down a bit), and set the Volume knob for satisfactory level to tape. Artists doing their own engineering could place the HM-1 out in the studio near a mic stand and adjust level going to tape without running back and forth to the controlroom. (You could, in fact, even plug a tone generator into the instrument input and then use the volume knob to precisely calibrate the Demeter unit's meter to your tape machine's meter.) Be aware that the output meter hasVU characteristics (as indicated), not peak. While recording a dave using the HM-1 and an Earthworks TC40K, the HM-l's meter showed a max of-lO W, while our TASCAM DA-88 showed 4 dB below 0 - and the HM-1's overload LED never came on. Incidentally, Demeter might consider adding hash marks for the gain and volume controls, they would make recalling settings a bit easier. Also on my wish list: a rear-panel screen that notes which XLR pin is hot!
Traditionally, tube devices tend to be more noisy than solid-state devices for a given amount of gain, but this was not our experience with the HM-1. Tubes or not, the HM-1 is a very high-quality mic pre with bang-for-the-buck and an admirable entry into an already-crowded field.