Keith McMillen Instruments rises to challenge of designing and testing μPre preamps for killer K-MIX
Having blown musical minds and opened open-minded ears when introducing its killer K-MIX at The NAMM Show 2016, January 21-24 in Anaheim, California, today innovative hardware and software developer Keith McMillen Instruments is proud to talk about what makes this next-generation audio interface and programmable mixer’s μPre preamps sound so special…
So who better to start talking tech, then, than Keith McMillen Instruments’s namesake Founder & CEO? “The preamps that we have on the K-MIX are pretty extraordinary,” explains Keith McMillen himself, laying the foundation for a revealing dialogue that is well worth listening to. “I wanted to sacrifice nothing in terms of audio quality, but getting that to happen was a real challenge,” continues the acclaimed audio and music technology innovator of some 30 years standing.
Clearly Keith McMillen relishes rising to the challenge of pushing audio and music technology innovation into uncharted territory. Take, for example, his challenging K-MIX design criteria: “I needed a very special mixer that did not exist — a fully-programmable, MIDI-controlled, ultra-high-quality portable mixer.”
Meet Keith McMillen Instruments Lead Hardware Engineer Brian Wright, the inventive individual tasked with assisting Keith McMillen in pursuing his ultra-high-quality quest to (quite literally) make that “…very special mixer…” what it is today: “We went to great lengths in the design of the K-MIX preamplifiers to provide a very flat frequency response up to 40kHz. One of the primary reasons for doing so is to minimise the amount of phase distortion.”
Concurs Keith McMillen: “We went through many, many iterations to get to where we are now. The preamps are capable of wide range… lines in go from -20 to +40dB — they’ll accept +28dBu signal — and the mics in will give you +60dB of clean gain, so even the quietest ribbon mic will sound great.”
Brian Wright winds up his communicative contribution thus: “The result of the design process is a preamplifier stage with very wide frequency response, and low distortion and noise, which allows the end user to capture the maximum amount of information in their source material.”
‘McMillen & Co’ certainly isn’t afraid to put its money where its mouth is, as evidenced by generously giving Zoo Labs Music Operations Chief & Producer Brad Dollar free reign to ‘bench-test’ a K-MIX against some seriously high-end pro audio equipment at the non-profit so- called music accelerator’s 8,000 square-foot state-of-the-art recording facility in Oakland, California. Concludes the inspired producer, engineer, guitarist, and Bay Area native, “The K-MIX preamps have a pretty nice extended top end. Comparing them to some other current interface preamps, it has a very finished sound. We tried it on guitars; it sounded great. We tried it on some drums with two simple mics; it sounded great. The backbone of our test was going back and forth between a Neve into Pro Tools and then the same mics split at the exact same time right into the K-MIX; the differences were pretty close, but it felt like the K-MIX had its own voice and had its own kind of style, which was a nice, pleasurable listen.”
Listening to the comparatively low-cost K-MIX with its “…pretty extraordinary…” μPre preamps — providing a quoted THD + Noise rating of -105.12dBu @ 0dB gain, 20Hz–20kHz (unweighted); -116.49dBu @ 0dB gain, 20Hz–20kHz (A-weighted) — is clearly an enlightening experience. Ends Keith McMillen — on an appropriately high note: “I’m very proud of the K-MIX and the team at KMI who put it together. K-MIX is the most collaborative product we’ve ever done.”
Do yourself — and your recordings — a favour by spending some quality time with the K-MIX. Keith McMiIlen Instruments is collectively sure you’ll like what you hear… a pleasurable listen, indeed!
K-MIX is available to purchase from any authorised Keith McMillen Instruments dealer or directly from Keith McMillen Instruments itself here:
Watch Keith McMillen Instruments Founder & CEO Keith McMillen and Keith McMillen Instruments Lead Hardware Engineer Brian Wright discuss developing the μPre preamp for K-MIX
Watch Zoo Labs Music Operations Chief & Producer Brad Dollar discussing testing the K-MIX’s μPre preamps