What is a Channel Strip + Top 10 Great Units on The Market!

Top 10 Channel Strip Units – Get The Best Out Of Your Money!

Introduction

Whether or not you record vocals and instruments in your studio or perform out live, you want a minimal one-channel strip to get the perfect sound possible. However which is the perfect channel strip, providing you the perfect suite of options? In this article, we study ten well-liked channel strip models that each one promises to supply excellent performance.

Should you already know the reply to that question, be at liberty to skip the subsequent section and go straight to the product reviews. If not, let’s take a better have a look at what is a channel strip and what options are most necessary to think about.

What’s a Channel Strip?

Typically speaking, a channel strip amplifies a microphone or different audio input to a line level so it may be integrated right into a mixing system. Initially, a tool included in a mixing console, one per input channel, it’s additionally out there as a standalone rackmount unit.

A channel strip is constructed around a microphone preamplifier, with 48-volt phantom power for condenser mics. Preamp quality is the primary consideration when selecting what gear to use in a selected scenario. Most fashionable preamps use built-in circuits and are each clear and quiet. Some have a vacuum tube stage that provides a warmer, extra “classic” sound.

In addition to the preamp part on them, they might feature an EQ and compression section, which makes this very versatile unit that can be used to make one complete and above basic sound from a simple microphone or line recording.

what is a channel strip

Are Channel Strips Worth It?

In case you’ve been studying this for some time, you realize that a channel strip is a unit worth possessing. This may not make sense when you’re getting started however as soon as you have found out about your process, it is sensible to begin simplifying. All you wish to do is churn out killer mixes, without having to maneuver every little thing around too much.

It is too simple to build up a ton of plugins and actually only find yourself utilizing a handful. That is where a channel strip comes in. You may change the order of those modules, however, the concept is the more you utilize a channel strip, the more familiar you may turn out to be with how these audio processes fit together.

The more you utilize a channel strip, the more you may perceive that grouping audio processes collectively is like gluing your workflow together right into a single process. A channel strip is de facto designed to make our workflow a lot less complicated and simpler because we don’t need to keep reaching for an insert. With a channel strip, you’re mixing on the fly as every little thing is multi-functional.

Most stock channel strips additionally include so many various presets which can be set up by skilled engineers that can assist you to discover a place to begin with your mixes when you find yourself utilizing the channel strip. The entire level of the channel strip is that everything works together, and if one thing does not work, you simply take it out of the signal chain.

Whereas it is actually the case that you add heaps and plenty of customizations and inserts in your DAW at this time, that does not imply there isn’t any place for a trusty channel strip.

We just want to let you know that we’ll list these channel strips in no particular order. They’ll be randomized as we don’t wish to sort them from best to worst.

Listed below are our Top 10 Channel Strip Units for 2021:

1. Focusrite ISA TWO

The ISA Two from Focusrite is a twin mono microphone preamp that includes transformer-based microphone inputs with variable enter impedance. Primarily based on the legendary designs discovered within the Focusrite Forte and Studio consoles, the preamps give as much as 80 dB of gain, whereas two front-panel instrument inputs enable quick access to 2 transparent DIs.

The microphone inputs feature a pair of Lundahl LL1538 transformers with a 3-section winding that ends in very low leakage inductance, together with prolonged frequency response. To shield them from stray magnetism, each of them is encapsulated in mu-metal cans. Every channel has a fully-balanced insert level, activated utilizing a front-panel button, making it straightforward to insert a selection of outboard EQ, a compressor, or a limiter.

A bonus is the Brainworx bx_console Focusrite SC channel-strip plug-in, a stellar emulation of the legendary and uncommon Focusrite Studio Console. Only 10 of the consoles have been ever produced, however, you’ll be able to access its famed sound immediately in your DAW.

Focusrite ISA TWO

Features:

  • Preamp Type: Solid State
  • Number of Channels: 2
  • Phantom Power: Yes
  • Analog Inputs: 2 x XLR, 2 x TS (inst), 2 x TRS (line), 2 x TRS (Return)
  • Analog Outputs: 2 x XLR, 2 x TRS (Send)
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz-135kHz

2. Rupert Neve Designs Shelford Channel

All the things concerning the Shelford Channel are attractive — stunning shade decisions, mastering-grade stepped controls, buttons which might be satisfying to push, indicators that are not harshly lit — and it’s clear that no element was neglected. Regardless of being a feature-packed channel strip, it has a clean-looking aesthetic and a lot of appreciated ease of use.

Whereas Rupert’s more fashionable designs make the most of a mix of TLAs (Transformer-Like Amplifiers) adopted by an input transformer for pristine low & high-frequency element and galvanic isolation, the Shelford Channel’s design directly couples the input transformer to the microphone line.

When this new transformer is mixed with its surrounding class-A input amplifiers, the result’s the unmistakably clean, high, and low frequencies of probably the most well-known classic modules on the earth, but with extremely low noise and superior isolation. The mic preamp part additionally features a sweepable 20-250 Hz high-pass filter, Mic / Line selection, 48 V phantom power, and polarity reverse.

The three-band, custom-tapped inductor EQ on the Shelford Channel was inspired by our favorite parts of Rupert’s classic EQ designs. The low-frequency band is based totally on the 1064 – renowned for its creamy, resonant bass. Not like 1064 nevertheless, the LF band on the Channel can be utilized as both a shelf or a peak filter; including punch, dimension, and immense management to your low end.

The Shelford Channel’s inductor midrange band relies on Rupert’s 1073, splendid for sweetening vocals and instruments whereas bringing them ever-so-slightly ahead in a mix. Moreover, the mid-frequency band’s proportional “Q” response makes it well-suited for minimizing problematic frequencies in a signal.

Rupert Neve Designs Shelford Channel

Features:

  • Preamp Type: Solid State
  • Number of Channels: 1
  • Phantom Power: Yes
  • Polarity Switch: Yes
  • EQ: 3-band EQ, custom-tapped inductor EQ
  • Compressor: Diode Bridge Compressor (side chain, stereo linking)
  • Other Processing: Red/Blue Harmonic Texture control

3. Universal Audio 6176

Universal Audio’s Model 6176 Channel Strip is a two-rack space unit containing one channel from UA’s Class-A 2-610 tube mic preamp and a UA 1176LN peak limiter. This “pure” mix will get even better whenever you realize that each of the 610 and 1176LN inside is enhanced over present stand-alone models.

Apart from featuring refined variations of UA’s two stalwarts that date back to the ’60s, the 6176 offers the exceptional sonic synergy of a traditional tube mic pre followed by one of the vital well-liked transistor compressors ever made.

Preamp enhancements on the 6176 (not found on the 2-610) embody a -15dB mic pad and enhanced +300-volt energy supply with high-voltage MOSFET regulation stated to enhance bass response and the noise flooring. The 6176’s right half has an entire 1176LN with three new options: a Bypass swap that hard-wires the preamp out onto the 1176LN output jack.

Additionally, a 1:1 ratio position to make use of for its “color” (a redundant function, because identical to the stand-alone 1176LN, the 6176’s attack knob has a CCW “Compressor Off” place); and an All Ratio switch place that duplicates urgent all 4 ratio buttons without delay, a previous engineer trick that wreaks havoc on the Ratio button meeting of the 1176LN, however, produces a wild and chaotic compressor motion with increased distortion.

Universal Audio 6176

Features:

  • Preamp Type: Tube
  • Number of Channels: 1
  • Phantom Power: Yes
  • EQ: Yes
  • Compressor: Yes
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz

4. dbx 676

The Dbx 676 features a transformer-balanced tube mic preamp, three-band EQ, and compressor/limiter, multi-function very trendy looking, well-built housing that is a reasonable 8″ deep and weighs 11 kilos. If you power up the 676 (which takes about 2 seconds), the very first thing that catches your eye is an illuminated VU meter right within the middle.

It will probably monitor input or output ranges, in addition to the compressor’s gain reduction. All of the switches illuminate when active, making it very simple to see what is going on, and the knobs are comfortably spaced, massive in dimension, smooth-turning, and clearly labeled. The 676’s general vibe is one in all quality.

The mic preamp makes use of a 12AU7 tube and in contrast to some “tube” preamps, it makes use of a 250V plate voltage and isn’t a “starved plate” design. The Gain and Post Tube Attenuation knobs let you modify the sound from clear (Gain control set lower and the Post Tube Attenuation set higher) to gritty, the place you add tube coloration by setting the Gain higher and decrease the Post Tube Attenuation to compensate.

A red Peak LED signifies when the tube is clipping. As much as 60dB of gain is out there, and the Dbx 676 can go from clean sounding to fairly warm – even pretty dirty, though it would not actually reach the extremely distorted territory.

dbx 676

Features:

  • Preamp Type: Tube
  • Number of Channels: 1
  • Phantom Power: Yes
  • EQ: Yes (3-band Parametric)
  • Compressor: Yes

5. Avalon VT-737sp

The Avalon VT-737 SP is a single-channel channel strip with Class A circuits, an Opto compressor, and sweepable EQ. The Avalon VT-737 has been the channel strip of alternative on numerous classics for its potential so as to add warmth, sweetness, and vibrancy to even the boomiest of microphones.

The preamp part contains high-level Class A circuitry with two cascaded twin vacuum tube triodes designed to supply minimal negative feedback and retains a cleaner sound. Three inputs will be chosen from Mic stage input, Line stage input, and DI instrument input. The preamp part additionally features a passive and variable high-pass filter, phase polarity, and bypass.

That is followed by an Opto-compressor with ratio management starting from 1:1 to 20:1, Threshold, attack, and release controls. The Opto compressor makes use of an optical cell for passive attenuation and twin Class A tubes for gain matching, all in a minimal signal path to maintain the signal as pure as doable.

Lastly, a four-band EQ is offered together with Low and high-shelf and two parametric bands. Both High and low-shelves use passive designs providing an easy sound with selectable frequencies. The 2 mid-bands embody variable frequencies with a switched Q-width choice.

Avalon VT-737sp

Features:

  • Preamp Type: Tube
  • Number of Channels: 1
  • Phantom Power: Yes
  • EQ: Yes
  • Compressor: Yes
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz-120kHz

6. Rupert Neve Designs Portico II Channel

The Portico II begins with three transformer-coupled inputs, one for mics with 72 dB of gain (66 dB in 6 dB steps with an extra 6 dB on the +/- 6 dB gain trim). Correctly, this gain trim applies to the mic and DI inputs as well, providing a handy gain rider. The line-level input makes the Portico II fairly helpful as a channel insert and can be wonderful for stereo sources with a second unit and the stereo link jacks on the rear panel.

The mic input sounds significantly sweet and silky — neither fat, nor mid-forward, nor vibrant — simply open and stylish whereas exhibiting lots of headroom. The +/- 36 V power provide rails (greater than normal) on this circuit seemingly contribute to this headroom, stopping the front end from sounding like a crunchable 1073 classic Neve mic pre.

The EQ controls of the Portico II supply best-of-class flexibility and more so; this EQ delivers the transparency, sweetness, and purity of tone you’d anticipate. The high and low bands supply 4 stepped frequency selections each (35, 60, 100, 220 and 4.7, 6.8, 12, 25K, respectively), +/- 15 dB of gain, and both bell or shelf curves. The 2 mid bands are extra attention-grabbing and sophisticated with repeatedly variable frequency and Q, in addition to +/- 15 dB of range. The frequency ranges generously overlap the low (70-1,400) and high (700-14K) bands and the Q reaches a properly shallow 0.7 up to a reasonably steep value of 5.

As much praise, because the EQ part of this unit has garnered right here, we nonetheless assume the Portico II’s largest draw is its eminently versatile compressor. The compressor brings out the already recognizable sound that Neve has, meaning that you are up for a treat!

Rupert Neve Designs Portico II Channel

Features:

  • Brand: Rupert Neve Designs
  • Preamp Type: Solid State
  • Dynamic Processor Type: Solid State
  • EQ Type: Solid State
  • Number Of Channels: 1
  • Rack Spaces: 2RU

7. SPL Track ONE MkII

The SPL Track One is an entire mono channel strip for the high-quality recording and processing of vocals and devices and despite its high level of efficiency, it is extremely competitively priced. Along with the pre-amplifiers, that are appropriate for every type of microphone, the unit incorporates SPL’s highly efficient De-Esser, a compressor/limiter, a three-band EQ section, and an output stage with metering for output level and gain reduction. Track One is right for the quick and dependable recording of vocals or acoustic instruments however additionally it is appropriate for live performance and AV post-editing.

The clever, program-dependent De-Esser and compressor levels mix the absolute best sound with extreme ease of use and for stereo operation, two units could be linked in order that both compressors track together and are managed from a single master unit.

Two separate precision pre-amplifiers optimized for microphones (with 48 V phantom energy) and devices make sure the lowest noise efficiency is mixed with an open, impartial sound whereas an LF reduce filter is offered to each input.

The compressor/limiter section shows wonderful noise and distortion values but once more is operated via single management. Its power lies in its unobtrusive, musical technique of operation where its parameters reply to the traits of the incoming signal.

The EQ section has been particularly designed to process vocals and acoustic or digital instruments and the specs are as follows; Low Band filter: 30 Hz to 720 Hz (cut/boost +/- 14 dB), Mid High filter: 650 Hz to 14 Hz (cut/boost +/-12 dB), Air Band: primarily based on a coil/condenser filter with bell attribute and a middle frequency of 17.5 kHz, most cut/boost+/- 10 dB.

SPL Track One

Features:

  • Preamp Type: Solid State
  • Number of Channels: 1
  • Phantom Power: Yes
  • EQ: Yes
  • Compressor: Yes
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz-180kHz

8. Manley VOXBOX

Not like most different channel strips, the compressor stage is situated simply after the input stage, before the preamp gain. This ensures an extra constant level reaching the valve preamp gain stage when needed. Utilizing a Vactrol optical design for the gain discount component and a fixed 3:1 ratio, the VoxBox gives a clean compression, which fits tracking duties completely. The compressor stage options Attack and Release controls each with 4 settings (quick, medium quick, medium-slow, and slow). A Link/Separate toggle switch seems to separate the compression when used on stereo channels if required.

The preamp part supplies as much as 60dB of gain with no compression engaged. The preamplifier works by combining the input and the 5-position gain levels. A source button allows you to select between Line stage inputs and Mic stage inputs. It additionally includes a High-Pass filter with a three-way toggle switch with settings offering Flat, 80Hz, and 120Hz choices, and a Polarity Reversal switch marked 0deg or 180deg.

After the Preamp and EQ part is an extremely simple De-esser/Limiter part which supplies two controls only. The primary control lets you choose the frequency for the de-esser and gives a selection of frequencies ranging between 3kHz, 6kHz, 9kHz, and 12kHz. The final step engages the limiter. The second control is a straightforward threshold.

The final part is the 3-band EQ part, which is instantly taken from the Manley Pultec MEQ-5 and contains a high and low boost and a mid-dip. Every band has 11 center frequencies to select from.

Manley VOXBOX

Features:

  • Preamp Type: Tube
  • Number of Channels: 1
  • Phantom Power: Yes
  • EQ: Yes
  • Compressor: Yes
  • Other Processing: De-Esser
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz

9. ART Pro Channel II

The Pro Channel II from ART is a channel strip that includes a second-generation discrete Class-A microphone preamp, followed by a compressor and a 4-band semi-parametric EQ part. The electronics of the preamp present clear quiet gain whereas sustaining transparency. Analog and LED meters to present an in-depth indication of audio ranges.

The compressor is ready to subtly control transients and noise on essentially the most demanding sources, whereas the EQ affords extensive tune-ability, and will be patched before or after the dynamics processor. Separate rear panel insert points permit patching in exterior signal processors instantly after the microphone preamp, and before the EQ and dynamics processor.

The compressor in ART’s Pro Channel II is modeled after the traditional optical compressors of the ’60s and ’70s. On its extra light settings, it enables you to ease off modifications in volume – good for smoothing out vocals and evening out the levels of your stems. You possibly can turn up the ratio for limiting, and individual attack and release controls additionally make the Professional Channel II’s compressor nice for shaping the transients of basslines, kick drums, and way more.

In case you’re in search of console-style control over your sound, then you are going to love the Pro Channel II’s equalizer part. ART gave this channel strip an extremely versatile semi-parametric EQ, complete with selectable high and low shelving bands and a pair of adjustable mid-frequency bands. This allows you to use the Pro Channel II to get nice sound even out of essentially the most demanding sources.

ART Pro Channel II

Features:

  • Preamp Type: Tube
  • Number of Channels: 1
  • Phantom Power: Yes
  • EQ: Yes
  • Compressor: Yes
  • Frequency Response: 12Hz-100kHz

10. API The Channel Strip

The API The Channel Strip is a 1U standalone channel strip module with a microphone preamp, EQ, compressor, and line amp.  Fully geared up, the API The Channel Strip offers you the sweetness and sound that made API a legendary firm, surviving over forty years of rock’n’roll.

Combining the legendary API 512c preamp with the beloved 550A EQ and 527 compressor in The Channel Strip places you right on the heart of the API sound in a single leap. Sonically as excellent and characterful as ever, The Channel Strip incorporates the patented API THRUST circuitry to offer the compressor added punch and energy –  to actually preserve your instrument right on the top of the mix where it couldn’t be ignored.

Inputs are switchable on The Channel Strip between Line and Mic with Phantom power and Pad switches. The dynamics processor is straightforward to operate, well-featured, and with Soft and Hard Knee operation. After all, the 550A EQ has grown to be synonymous with the legendary API sound, in a switchable 3-band EQ part, with a selectable band-pass filter.

Complete inserts on the back panel of the unit permit nice flexibility, with a number of break-out factors – a really helpful characteristic for combining extra favorite outboard with The Channel Strip.

Nicely thought-out, solidly built, with a sound that has to grow to be a part of the sonic panorama, The Channel Strip from API passes that custom on to you. In the beginning, there was API – and they’re still around in the business.

API The Channel Strip

Features:

  • Preamp Type: Solid State
  • Number of Channels: 1
  • Phantom Power: Yes
  • EQ: Yes
  • Compressor: Yes

Conclusion on What is a Channel Strip

In this list, you will be able to find lots of channel strips and there are picks for everybody’s taste. From cheap to more expensive ones, the list varies in that manner. Hopefully that some of these will catch your attention and that you will decide with our help.

In case you have any other unit that we missed here, please let us know in the comment section and we will try to compile another article on the next best channel strips!

Also, here is a video explanation of what is a channel strip!

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