SPL Transducer

September 1, 2009

BUILT BY RENOWNED GERMAN PRO AUDIO manufacturer Sound Performance Lab, the Transducer ($1,499 retail/$1,349 street) is an all-analog speaker simulator that essentially takes the place of your speaker cabinet and the microphone used to capture your amp’s sound when recording or performing live. You still play through both the preamp and power amp sections of your amplifier (each critical to tone), but instead of driving a speaker, your amp’s speaker output drives the Transducer, which lets you shape the sound in various ways before it is output as the line-level audio signals required to feed recorders and sound reinforcement systems. (There’s also a Speaker Thru output that allows you to use the Transducer and your speaker cabinet at the same time.)

Rather than providing specific speaker cabinet and microphone emulations, the Transducer’s three knobs and four switches let you control key variables in the signal chain. The Speaker Action control simulates speaker cone response to increased output level—from minimal (clean) to maximum (raspy)—while switches let you choose either Open or Closed cabinet, and Sparky (alnico) or Mellow (ceramic) magnet types. Similarly, the Miking Level control mimics the gain control on a mic preamp, while switches let you select either a Condenser or Dynamic microphone type, and Close or Ambient miking distance. The Output Gain control serves as a master volume in most applications.

I say “most” applications because the Transducer’s multiple output types and their associated controls provide lots of options other than simply plugging the unit into a mixer input. For example, the Pre Simulator Out signal is taken directly from the power soak at a fixed level, bypassing the speaker simulator, and may be used to feed another amp, effects processors, etc. And the Mic Level Output may be used to feed a microphone preamp at whatever level the Miking Level control is set to. You can also use the dual Line Outputs to feed front-of-house and stage-monitor mixes simultaneously.

I tested the Transducer using a Rivera Venus 6 combo and several guitars, including a PRS Custom 24, a 1969 Gibson Les Paul Custom, and a Gibson 1960 Les Paul Special reissue (with P-90s). Output was monitored on JBL LSR28P powered monitors and AKG K240 headphones via a MOTU 828mkII interface. I tested the Speaker Thru function using a Rivera 1x12 extension cab.

The Transducer’s controls are relatively straightforward, but they are also highly interactive, and you’ll need to experiment to get optimal performance out of the unit. (The manual includes 17 sample settings with names such as “2x12 Black Face” and “4x12 Plexi Greenback,” all of which make good starting points while learning your way around.)

I happen to really like the sound of my amp’s Celestion G12H speaker, so the first thing I did was to attempt to approximate it. The Venus 6’s clean channel possesses extraordinary highend presence and clarity, and no matter how I set the Transducer’s controls, I was unable to fully capture that sparkle—though I came impressively close. With crunchy and distorted tones the results were even better, though again a little of the high-end sizzle was missing. Remember, though, I’m talking about an exact match.

In terms of the Transducer’s sound overall, it was excellent, and the very effective controls provided a surprisingly wide variety of options. When it came to getting creative with the sound, rather than imitative, I was able to conjure up lots of truly inspiring tones. For example, cranking the Speaker Action control and selecting the Open/ Sparky/Dynamic/Close options with heavy amp distortion yielded the superspongy sound and feel of, say, a dimed Fender Champ; and then backing off Speaker Action and increasing Miking Level, with the switches set to Closed/Mellow/Condenser, delivered the low-end oomph characteristic of a Marshall 4x12 cab.

The Transducer is a well-designed and professional-quality tool. I’d be happier if it were better able to reproduce the highfrequency clarity and transparency inherent to some guitar amps, but that is a relatively subtle point, and will likely not even be a consideration in most situations. Overall, the Transducer sounds great, offers unparalleled flexibility, and will no doubt serve both musicians and engineers well, either in the studio or on stage.

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