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Review: Chandler Germanium Preamp

Submitted On May 13, 2013 by Contributor:
Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 11.02.48 AM



Build Quality

Ease of Use


Overall Value

Total Score

92/ 100

Review Details

Price: $1138 without Power Supply


* Tons of color/tones

* easily switch between clean to dirty

* Different Results depending on where the "feedback" knob is placed

* Thickens up otherwise "dull" sounds

* has an unmatched character that makes it easy to fit in a mix

* probably the best bass processor I've personally heard

* Add/control how much Harmonic Distortion you add to your signal

* Tailor your source to how you want it to sound


* Expensive Power supply sold separately

* Very noisy at high gain

* Feedback knob is variable and not stepped. making recall a hassle

* I don't like how the Feedback knob also controls how much gain I use (only 10dbs when FB knob is down)

* Could thicken/muddy up what doesn't need it

* very easy to over do it with the feedback control
My Review

A range of colors/tones with the change of a knob. The deck of cards of Microphone Preamps


     Chandler is a relatively small company based out of Iowa. Don’t let that give you the impression of “Mickey Mouse/Fisher Price” gear, in fact, Chandler makes some of the most lusted, sought out piece of equipment/gear used by professionals and hobbyists alike. When the Beatles needed to transfer their Tapes to Digital and needed to mix their records digitally for their Cirque De Soleil show “Love”,  They bought Chandler gear that is based on the old EMI consoles that the beatles used to record on. So make no mistakes, Small company, BIG Footprint in the audio world. So it comes to no surprise that their first “vintage’ preamp is variable between textures/tones and includes vintage counterparts. As the name implies, Wade and the guys at Chandler decided to use Germanium Transistors, which were widely used in the 1950s, when semiconductors began to replace most tube based devices/designs. The Germanium semiconductors were very short lived, replaced very quickly by Silicone, which is cheaper and more reliable and less noisier. This technology is most know for  products like EMI’s first solid-state TG mixers, Neve’s 1053, and some of the vintage Fairchild and Telefunken products. Today it is not a common ingredient in audio recording equipment, But is an intricate sound and piece which makes this preamp and their dynamic counterparts (EQ and compressor) stand out and give you ultimate control over tone like nothing else available.

      If clean is what you are looking for when shopping for a mic preamp, this one is not for you. This is the complete opposite of clean. Its dirty, it’s gritty, it imparts a character that can’t be emulated but more importantly, can be controlled. The options available on this preamp are very unique, to compliment it’s very one of a kind character. The preamp includes a “feedback” knob which is intricately related to the Gain knob, adding an extra 40db of gain to your source. Although the “Feedback” knob does ALOT more than just add gain, It actually Changes and adds Harmonic Distortion from dirty, to downright filthy. Turning the Feedback knob results in more distortion, more grit, more tone/color, but more importantly more low end and less high end, similar to the bias control on a tape machine (remember those?) It imparts a sweet, always nice-sounding character to a source that is very hard to describe. Although it is Easy to over do it. On Bass, it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard. turning the feedback up on bass makes the ground shake with Low end, It really shows what the feedback knob can do to a source. Obviously bringing the feedback to its lowest point and adding more gain will give it a more usable and great sounding result. In fact, I always record bass through the germanium, if not through the DI itself, but as the mic pre, because I can add and drive the low end as much as I want with its uniques gain structure. Included in the front is a button labeled “Thick” and it does just that, It thickens by adding a small bump in the low midrage. As you can probably tell so far, the germanium pre is a monster on the lower end of the spectrum and it is very easy to overdo it. Turning the feedback to it’s lowest setting and using just gain, The preamp works in it’s cleanest setting (which I still wouldn’t consider clean) and is as close as you’d get to a “flat” response. Unfortunately, adding more gain brings up noticeable noise, as germanium semiconducters are known for. Although it works wonders on vocals. It cleans the High end up and never makes sharp or overbearing, yet it gives excitement as it saturates. The midrange is full and sticks out like a orange cap. Anything sounding “thin” or “harsh” benefits greatly from running it through the preamp and adds body to an otherwise “dull” sound or mic. Attaching a not so great microphone, this preamp makes them sound like a million dollars was shelled out for your mic collection. 

      Turning up the feedback a small amount to about 4 or 5 makes a world of difference. It sounds like a completely different preamp, allowing you to choose and tailor the tone to exactly what you are looking for. It’s like before you had an API sounding preamp and now you have a Neve preamp. It imparts low mid body and a thickness like a neve would, and loads of color. It also makes the slew rate a little slower, which is reminiscent of vintage gear that fattens transients. Drums are killer when you bring the feedback knob up. Unfortunately, I do not like that feedback knob is not stepped, but variable, which they should have swapped with the gain knob, which is stepped. I’m not a fan of this for a few reasons. one, it makes recalling your feedback settings a more difficult task, in which you can never be sure it was at the EXACT spot you had it before. And two, the slightest touch could move it while tracking, which would result in different takes sounding like they were recorded on two different days or two different mics or rooms. On electric guitars, It softens the High Mid frequencies that can take the attention away from the other instruments and lets it sit right in the mix without fighting anything else. I usually run a Mix through the preamp with the feedback set to 2, Its not exactly flat, but it fattens the midrange and punches the drums out and controls the high frequencies. It adds depth, excitement, and color/tone to an otherwise “dull” or “whatever” sounding mix. You can get away with just having one microphone and getting different results every time with just changing the way the gain is structured on this preamp. Try one and you won’t want to give it back


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