Chandler Limited TG2 stereo microphone preamplifier
by: Mike Caffrey
I really like the Chandler TG2 preamp. It's a recreation of the EMI mic preamp found in the TG-series consoles, such as the one installed at Abbey Road. The TG2 is a single-rackspace two-channel unit. It's very well constructed with nicely laid out controls. The rear panel has all the standard ins and outs. The front panel has an instrument DI as well as switches for phantom power, polarity, and enabling the DI. It uses an external power supply that will power two Chandler devices such as the TG1 compressor (Tape Op #31).
I first tried the TG2 briefly on a variety of sources -- drums, bass, vocals -- and was happy with the results on all of them. It was when I tried it on guitar that I really got hooked. I had a ribbon mic on an AC15 and heard one of the most beautiful guitar sounds ever -- and I literally haven’t used another preamp to record a guitar since that very moment. I can best describe the TG2 by comparing to other well known preamps, as I've spent a lot of time A/B'ing them on guitar.
For a long time I had been very happy using a Beyer M160 through an API 312/512 preamp straight to tape. That was the first comparison I made, and the TG2 made the API sound anemic. I was surprised at how big of a difference I heard, especially considering how happy I had been for a long time using the API preamps. The TG2 had the presence of the API, but I found it to have much more punch and body overall. The next comparisons I made were with some Neve preamps. I recently got a hold of some super mint condition 1073's -- with all original parts and still up to factory specs -- and 1272's that had never been used until they were racked by Brent Averill. The TG2 was up against some tough competition. I found the TG2 to have a comparable low end to both Neve preamps. I found the midrange of the TG2 a little more present than the 1272 and the high end smoother. The differences were most noticeable when switching from the TG2 to the 1272 because it was clear that the 1272 was missing some nice qualities that the TG2 had. The comparison to the 1073 was similar in that there were qualities that I preferred in the TG2. When I compared the TG2 to the 1073 with the 1073 EQ in, it was still a tough call. I couldn't make the decision outside of a specific recording context. I think that says a lot when a preamp can hold its own against a preamp combined with an EQ. When they say "dare we say nicer top than a Neve" while describing the TG2 on the Chandler website, I have to say yes. I know it's all subjective, but it's not out of line to consider that possibility.
Having used both the TG1 compressor and the TG2 preamp, I feel like I am seeing a pattern: all Chandler gear sounds really good. Everyone knows that vintage preamps are some of the best sounding preamps you can buy. However, vintage gear frequently suffers from reliability issues and high maintenance costs. The Chandler TG2 can be compared very favorably to some classic preamps, but it should really be recognized for its own great sound. It's refreshing to have the EMI sound to add to the palette, without the problems associated with vintage gear. At a street price of around $1600 I think the TG2 is a very safe purchase. An eBay search shows no Chandler gear for sale used, even in completed items. I don't find that surprising at all. ($1900 MSRP; www.chandlerlimited.com)