Chandler Limited LTD-1 Preamp/EQ
by: Russ Long
Pro Audio Review - January 2004
Chandler Limited, a Waverly, Iowa-based company, specializes in manufacturing and reintroducing classic equipment that is no longer available or in some cases never was. The Chandler Limited TG1 has been one of the most talked about and lusted after pieces of analog gear over the last few years. The box is a recreation of the classic and extremely rare limiter/compressor featured on the custom EMI/Abbey Road recording and mastering consoles that were used on hundreds of albums, including classics by The Beatles and Pink Floyd. Most of Chandler's products are based on vintage EMI or Neve modules and every product manufactured is completely hand-assembled and hand-wired in the USA using point-to-point wiring. The company is so committed to original designs that they do not modernize or re-plot the circuits. Instead, every detail, including circuit board layout, wiring and module layout, ground structure and part selection, is recreated as accurately as possible to ensure the sound and function of each unit is true to the original.
The $2,100 Chandler Limited LTD-1 preamp and equalizer is essentially a remake of the classic Neve 1073. The power supply, which is an additional $100, can power four LTD-1s. In the design of the LTD-1, Chandler has paid extraordinary attention to duplicating the grounding, wiring techniques and part selection of the original 1073. The box uses identical replicas of Neve's five original circuit boards and all of the inductors and transformers are the English St. Ives that were used in the original 1073. This attributes to the accuracy at which the LTD-1 reproduces the character and performance of the Neve 1073.
The LTD-1's highly polished, nickel-plated steel chassis even resembles the original Neve modules. Unfortunately, the top and the bottom of the chassis fit rather loosely and if the box is rackmounted with nothing in the spaces below it, the bottom of the chassis sags about 1/4 inch below the bottom of the front panel.
To make the LTD-1 practical in today's recording environments; Chandler has expanded the features of the Neve 1073 to include a high-impedance direct input, phantom power, EQ in/out, phase reverse, nine additional EQ points and an output fader.
The LTD-1's rear panel has two unlabeled female XLR connectors for line and microphone input and a male XLR connector for line output. The mic input impedance is 1,200 ohms and the line is 10 kohms. The maximum output is +28 dBm and the box boasts a fat frequency response from 15 Hz - 20 kHz.
All of the boxes controls are on the front panel. The DI button switches the unit to DI input, which is accessed via a 1/4 inch jack on the front panel. The 48V button activates 48V phantom power. The EQ button inserts the equalizer into the circuit. The PH (phase) button reverses the phase of the output of the unit.
The LTD-1's equalizer blends the strengths of the Neve 1073 with additional frequency options found on the Calrec and Audix consoles that were commonplace at the BBC in the 1970s. The three-band EQ offers a smooth sound and a musical selection of EQ points.
The mic/line input sensitivity control selects between the mic or line inputs on the rear panel and attenuates the selected input. The bottom and left side of the control adjusts the mic input and provides 20 - 80 dB of gain. The right side of the control adjusts the line input and provides control from -20 dB to +10 dB.
The output control functions like the fader on a mixing console. It can be used to adjust between the 5 dB steps of the input or to run the input hot without distorting your recorder.
All of the LTD-1's connections are transformer balanced and pin 2 hot. The box is designed to be used with the Chandler Limited PSU-1 external power supply.
Like the Neve 1073 that it is modeled after, the Chandler Limited LTD-1 sounds amazing. While I did not have a Neve 1073 at my disposal to directly compare with the LTD-1, I have logged an extensive numbers of hours on the 1073 so I know it very well and I am happy to report that the LTD-1 has the sound, the feel and every bit of Class A, discrete character of the original 1073. I was fortunate to be able to hold on to the LTD-1 for several months and during that period I used it on everything and never once was I disappointed. The box sounds fantastic on drums and percussion. I had extraordinary results recording kick drum (with an AKG D112), snare drum (with a Shure SM-57), hi-hat (with a Neumann KM 86i) and tambourine and shaker (both with a Royer R-122). I am sure the LTD-1 would have performed equally well on toms and overheads, but with only a single LTD-1, I was unable to give them a try. I had great results using the box to record bass guitar (through the DI input) and also had nice results using it in conjunction with an EV RE20 to record bass guitar through an SVT rig. I would swear the LTD-1 was made to record electric guitars. The pre, along with a Royer R-122 and a Distressor, did a stellar job of capturing the precision and punch of the instrument.
I also had nice results using the box to record a Taylor 514 acoustic guitar with an AKG C28 microphone. The mic and LTD-1 worked together to create perfect, classic, full-frequency acoustic guitar sound with plenty of top end (but never scratchy) and plenty of bottom (but never boomy).
The LTD-1 along with a Tube Tech CL-1B and the Brauner VM-1KHE to record vocals produced fantastic results. I found the pre to be very quiet compared to most of the vintage components I have encountered. In addition, the LTD-1 worked well in combination with a Sony C-800G, a BLUE Cactus, an AKG 414 and on one occasion a Neumann KSM 105 to record vocals.
I was disappointed that the inputs on the rear panel of the LTD-1 are not labeled; there is no way to differentiate between line input and mic input except by trial and error. I should have labeled the review unit that I tested myself as I found that I could never remember which was which and only guessed correctly about 25 percent of the time (I'm not the kind of guy that needs to be going to Las Vegas). The saggy bottom panel is a bit dodgy as well. Fortunately, these are all flaws in the construction of the box, not in the sonic performance. The performance of the LTD-1 is exceptional.
The Chandler LTD-1 offers uncompromised, discrete, Class A sonic performance at an extremely reasonable price. Considering the parts are new and there is a two-year warranty, I would buy the LTD-1 before I would purchase an actual 1073.
—Russ Long, a Nashville-based producer/engineer, owns the Carport recording studio. He is a regular contributor to Pro Audio Review.