Used to mix the ’70s hit “Dream Weaver”
History: Tangent was a California company that existed briefly in the late 1970s. It would appear that they were one of the first companies to do everything with ICs and, at the time, were quite proud of the fact that their boards were “transformerless.”
How You Acquired It: I first became aware of Tangent as one of our competitors was using one as their “secret weapon” to get some amazing drum recordings. Naturally, I had to have one, too. As luck would have it, the Tangent previously owned by Gary Wright – he had that hit “Dream Weaver” – became available. I bought 4 channels of this board for $50 per channel, so I knew I wouldn’t be out much if the whole thing went bust.
Problems Encountered: This was our very first experience dealing with a piece of vintage gear that was no longer attached to its power supply or routing mechanism. This meant that we had to build something to house these 4 channels and figure out the pin out on the channel strip. Luckily, the 4 channel strips arrived with a couple of schematics that told us what the connectors expected to see, which was basically nothing more than IN, OUT, POWER, and GROUND. We could ignore everything related to routing and phantom power, since we planned to use this just for drums and with dynamic microphones.
Unique Features: As can be the case with a vintage piece of gear, these channels were not in good working order when we got them. The biggest challenge being that the Op-Amps were just plain worn out. The Op-Amp of choice in these channel strips was the National Semiconductor LF351 and I had the option of replacing those Op-Amps with something more modern or finding and keeping the originals. A little bit of research showed me that the LF351 had a fairly quick response time and a fairly aggressive overshoot. Another way of thinking about it is this: These channel strips respond quickly to what is going on – reducing smear, but not very accurately as they report a much bigger initial transient. Given that there are 21 of these Op-Amps per channel strip, it doesn’t take long before these channels begin to act less as a mic pre/EQ and more like a transient shaper.
Lessons Learned: Semiconductors used in all modern solid-state microphone preamps are of much better quality than what was available in the mid to late ’70s. But these very same design flaws make it such an interesting piece of gear to use – especially for anything percussive. You would need expensive plug-ins to achieve what this board does naturally.
About the Author: Robert Wainscott is the Co-Owner and Designer of Black Box Analog, a Ventura, CA-based design firm dedicated to handcrafted, American-made audio equipment. Wainscott’s recent brainchild, the Black Box Analog Microphone Preamp, was released in 2012 and used on albums for artists like Aerosmith, Fool’s Gold and 50 Cent. For more information, visit www.blackboxanalog.com.