Mix Magazine (August 2002)
By George Petersen
Snapshot Product Review: Demeter HXM-1
James Demeter has been building great tube gear for two decades, and artists and engineers worldwide love his Classic Series. It’s also pricey for those without major-label funding. With this in mind, Demeter offers the HX line of single-rackspace gear, which puts tubes in the first stage (for maximum sonic benefit) followed by a transistor output stage (for clean sound and major cost savings). Current HX products consist of the HXC-1 (a very LA-2A-sounding tube optical compressor) and the HXM-1 tube stereo mic preamp/direct box.
Despite its affordable $1,399 pricing, the HXM doesn’t scrimp on quality, using high-grade parts such as Jensen input transformers, metal film resistors, high-spec film caps and custom toroidal power transformers. The front panel has identical controls for each channel, and each offers a 3/4-inch hi-Z input, 200Hz -6dB/octave highpass filter, switchable -20dB mic pad, phantom power, phase (polarity) reverse, 30dB rotary gain pot, volume control and 10-segment LED meter with -10/+4dB switching. The internal 115/230VAC (selectable) power supply has a front panel switch and LED. The rear panel has balanced TRS/XLR mic inputs and TRS/XLR outputs for line-level signals.
Operation is straightforward, but I wondered if the front panel gain and volume pots might act like a guitar-amp-style master volume arrangement to add distortion. Not so: The gain knob controls gain by varying the amount of feedback going to the tube. Volume allows users to tweak levels to match their systems via a fader between the tube preamp and the solid-state balanced line driver output stage.
Tracking with tube, condenser and lots of dynamic mics, the HXM-1 was wonderful. The combo of the Jensen transformer with the 12AX7A front end provided a rich, silky top with a warm, full – dare I say phat? – low end. But I was really impressed with the unit’s headroom that doesn’t seem to end. (The manual lists it at +28 dBv – enough for anybody, anywhere!) The DI input was a perfect complement on Hofner bass, Epiphone Casino, Gibson J160E and Rickenbacker 12 for some Beatles-style sessions we were doing: clean, full and sweet.