ART MPA voltage supply hack

If you hang around some of the home studio discussion boards, such as Gearslutz or TapeOp, you’ll see lots of discussion of low-end (i.e. affordable) home studio gear that’s hard to find outside the US. Cut Snake Studio is in Australia, and the local price of some of this stuff, if it’s available at all, is typically two or three times the cost in the States.

A bunch of our studio equipment has been sourced from overseas. It’s relatively uncomplicated to buy microphones from the US or Europe, so Cut Snake has microphones from Europe (tbone, Oktava) and the US (Karma, Kel) in the collection.

Case in point: the ART MPA Digital preamp is available from some Australian retailers for prices from AU$700 up to AU$1100. I’ve seen it on US eBay for US$279, or, at today’s exchange rate, about AU$310. A half or even third of the local price: a substantial saving.

But there’s some disadvantages to buying gear directly from the US: the voltage is different, and the warranty probably won’t apply. And, of course, you need to pay a shipping fee that can add substantially to the final cost of the item.

I just want to provide some information about the power supply voltage on some MPA units, since I couldn’t find any webpage that discussed this.

The ART MPA Digital preamp (and maybe some similar ART gear) can easily be switched from 110 to 220/240 volt input: the fuse holder underneath the power cord plug can be configured for either voltage. The photo here shows the preamp configured for 220/240 volts. By removing and flipping the fuse holder you can swap the preamp to 110/120 volts.

MPA Digital voltage switch

Little things

No major happenings at CutSnake lately.

Video work with John Bennett continues. In particular we’re working on a mini-documentary of Erik Satie to be completed before John goes o/s April 1.

The last OG CD has been getting some positive reactions. We hope to leverage that into a few festival gigs.

Inside the Karma K6

Karma K6 under the hood

On Friday while recording some percussion with Chris I knocked over the mic stand holding my Karma K6 powered ribbon microphone.

It didn’t seem to hit the floor very hard, but the angle was such as to knock the head case off. A-ha! Now we see what’s inside!

The corrugated ribbon is about half a centimetre wide and 4 cms long. There’s a heap of mesh shielding, both on the headcase and covering the ribbon motor.

The two protective mesh panels over the ribbon are held in place by the long black clips you can see in the photo. When I took these off the mesh (presumably some sort of aluminium?) falls away.

Looking at the ribbon, I think it’s sagging. Common problem with generic Chinese-made ribbon mics. I corrected a slack ribbon on one of my t-bone RM700s. Guess I should have a go at this one too. But I’m a bit surprised that Karma’s quality control didn’t catch this. Then again, maybe it’s a result of the drop?

“We’re dedicated to sound quality in this studio.”

Dipping in and out of Louise Meintjes book Sound of Africa: making music Zulu in a South African studio.

p. 144
July 1989
Alton Ngubane and his band are recording a cassette of Inkatha Freedom Party songs with instrumental backing. In the first session in a small studio in town, Tom, the engineer, sets up the mikes, prepares the console for the backing tracks and programs a drum track.

Next he picks a channel on the console for the bass guitar. Bongani [the bass player] lugs the amp into the little booth. He starts to plug in.
No, says Tom, holding down the talkback button.

Tom calls Bongani back into the control room. The bass must go directly into the console. Much cleaner sound, he explains. Sorry, no half-assed sound is going out of this studio.
The band want the bass amped and miked. Period.
We’re dedicated to sound quality in this studio, Tom insists.

Look, I’m always open to suggestions, but I know it’s not gonna work, Tom says.
He shrugs.
Ngubane lights up and takes a puff.
Tom bends over the console and sweeps his forearms over the faders, pulling them down to zero. He switches off the controls.
The band watches.
No one says anything.
They pick up their instruments.
That man doesn’t know our music, Bongani grumbles to me as we leave. He doesn’t even like it.

Okapi Guitars live in the studio


We spent a Sunday afternoon at the end of August recording the 50 minute set we were preparing for CoastFest. All first takes, except for Kambiri: I accidentally deleted the first version while shuffling template files around in SONAR, so we had to do it again.

We didn’t have enough inputs to record the vocals simultaneously, so had to overdub them later.
We went off to CoastFest. It was wet and cold. Both Bernhard and I ended up losing our voices for days, and being unable to hit the notes we wanted for some weeks. So that slowed things down a little.

I used a quick and dirty drum recording setup, based on the Glyn Johns’ three mic technique, using both of my newly acquired Oktava condensers (an MK219 and MK319) and a Chinese tube mic out front of the bass drum. (Chris had brought along his ‘recording’ bass drum, which doesn’t have a hole in the front skin.) The tube mic wasn’t much chop, so most of the drum sound comes from the two condensers. Not bad, though.

Bernhard’s amp, the JC120, was miced with a CAD M179. He thinks it sounds very good. My little Behringer amp had the CAD Trion ribbon on it. Interesting, but maybe a bit too much room sound from the figure-8.

We’re giving it away for the next few weeks. Just go to the OG website and drop us a line if you want a copy.