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First purchase of A-Designs Audio's 'Hammer' by Bruce Maddocks

Unveiled at 123rd AES, after two years of careful R&D as well as extensive beta testing by savvy engineers like Dylan Dresdow, Dean Landon, Ronan Chris Murphy and Tony Shepperd, among others, Peter Montessi and his team at A-Designs Audio delivered the first of the company’s new vacuum tube-equipped HM2EQ, better known as the Hammer, to Bruce Maddocks' Cups 'N Strings. The Hammer will also be exhibited at winter NAMM show 2008, booth 6290, Hall A.
The Hammer is a dual mono channel, three band, analog equalizer engineered with an ingenious filtering system that allows the even harmonics to flow through its 12AT Philips tubes filtering out unwanted noise. The resulting sound is warm and ‘musical’ yet highly transparent with a clean, airy high end. The smoothness of the Hammer’s operation prompted Tony Shepperd (Kenny Loggins, Take 6, Whitney Houston) to comment, “You don’t know it’s there until you take it out.”
Housed in a 2U metal chassis with an aluminum faceplate and beefy toroidal power transformer under the hood, both of the Hammer's channels feature identical controls, including switches for bypass, high cut and low cut, as well as six large aluminum rotaries for the EQ section – knobs for the LF (30/50/100/200/300/400), MF (250/500/1.2k/1.6k/2k) and HF (2.5k/3.5k/5k/7.5k/10k/15k) bands, plus accompanying knobs offering ±13dB of boost/cut for each frequency range.
The right side of the Hammer faceplate additionally sports a heavy duty Carling on/off toggle switch and large brilliant blue jewel lamp for power indication. Connections to and from the product are accomplished on the rear panel via a pair of balanced Neutrik XLR input jacks and pair of balanced XLR output jacks.
With many years experience in sound engineering, location sound recording, and studio and loudspeaker design, audio engineer Bruce Maddocks brings a broad expertise to the audio restoration, mastering and transfers work done at his own Santa Monica facility, Cups 'N Strings. A studio owner with "golden ears," Maddocks is highly selective about the equipment he integrates into his studios. Maddocks had been looking for "something different in a tube equalizer" for use in his mastering work. "I wanted to fit my analog mastering rig with a tube piece that had a greater transparency than some of the legacy pieces that I was using," Maddocks shares. He learned of the Hammer just prior to the product's official unveiling, and first laid eyes on it at the Van Nuys, CA event launching Pete's Place, a new engineering collaboration division of A-Designs Audio.
"I was intrigued by the design concept of the tube warming the signal while passing no unwanted noise," Maddocks shares. "After going over the technical specs and speaking with an engineer who had helped beta test it, I knew this would be the perfect piece to use on a CD I was about to master."
Cups 'N Strings houses Maddocks' mastering suite, Cobaltt Mastering, as well as his extensive facilities for the transfer of "any format" analog tape to digital, high-res digital transfers for archiving, and tape baking and restoration. Out of Cobaltt, equipped with a Pro Tools HD2 Accel system and full 5.1 monitoring with custom-built loudspeakers, Maddocks has mastered Hans Zimmer film scores for Pirates of the Caribbean, The Last Samurai, and Batman Begins, as well as various videogame scores and independent artist releases.
"On several of the film score and gaming sessions I've done, the EQ selection points and sweeping cut or boost controls have provided just the subtle lift and air tweaks I've needed," says Maddocks of the HM2EQ. "The low-end band also has helped round out and warm some of the low bottom in recordings done in smaller studios."
As for specific projects, Maddocks continues, "On two recent mastering jobs--one for soul chanteuse Pauline Drossart and another for the indie band Limelife--the Hammer really helped with the vocal range, both warming and making the performance more present."
A-Designs Audio HM2EQ The Hammer
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