NAMM Expert PreView - Warm Audio WA-87 And WA-412
Professional grade tools are usually expensive, but Warm Audio bucks the trend
by Phil O'Keefe
The 2017 Winter NAMM convention was quite the show. There was a ton of new gear on display, and the overall vibe was very "up" and positive. Everyone I talked to—from exhibitors to buyers to press and musicians—seemed to think this was one of the best NAMM shows in a long time, so there was no shortage of cool products to consider for a preview. But at the end of the day, I went with value.
Years ago, the availability of quality audio recording tools was extremely limited—and what was available was either bargain-basement, entry-level type gear or fully professional products with a price to match. In fact, a really good large-diaphragm condenser cost about as much as a used car. Although today's prices have dropped to where you can buy a decent large-diaphragm condenser for a hundred bucks or even less, the really high-quality products—like a classic design from AKG or Neumann—still tend to be priced accordingly.
But then there's Warm Audio, and the WA-87.
Warm has built a reputation among savvy engineers for making incredibly cost-effective, pro-level products based on vintage classics (such as the WA-2A Leveling Amplifier that I recently reviewed). Their new WA-87 brings the sound of the original well-known German-built '87 to the masses at a price that's a mere fraction of what even a used one would cost.
Even better, Warm Audio wasn't content to release just one high-value product—this was also the NAMM debut of their new WA-412. The WA-412 is a four-channel microphone preamp that's obviously influenced by the API 3124, but incorporates features that even the legendary API unit lacks, including a transformer input impedance switch and an Output Trim knob on each channel. With these, it's easy to play with gain staging, and explore creative preamp techniques for alternative sounds. Best of all, the price is amazing: $1,199 MSRP for the four-channel, single-rack-space unit.
We've already discussed doing full Expert Reviews of both the WA-87 and WA-412 with the folks at Warm Audio, so stay tuned for in-depth analyses. From what I saw and heard at NAMM, I'm really looking forward to putting these through their paces. -HC-
More information and audio demos can be found on the Warm Audio website:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.