As the company explains, with master tapes there is a great deal of information, a huge Dynamic Contrast between the loud and the soft, much faster transients and immediacy. "Voice, strings, percussions, horns all play with greater ease. The room echo provides lingering decay as does the sound boards of the guitar, piano and strings. There are rich, abundant harmonics from the musical instruments that are highly complex and integrated. All of this must be kept intact and separated, without masking another, without removing detail and decay, while being natural, have the ability to provide instantaneous transients."
That was why Merrill Audio developed the Master Tape Head Preamplifier, "a large upgrade from the previous Tape Head Preamplifier."
"To get all the details and decay, the noise floor had to be invisible. For the transients to be instantaneous the power supply should appear limitless, and the music to be reproduced faithfully the power supply had to be clean. To accomplish this a 5 stage power supply is engaged, with the first stage done externally to remove any noise from the AC power source. Once the removal of noise from the power regulation was done, the power had to provide feed to instantaneous transients with the feel of unlimited power," the company explains.
The Tape Head Outputs range from 0.4mV to 4mV, and the Master Tape Head Preamplifier was designed to operate from 0.1mV to 6mV. The preamp has a maximum peak to peak output range of 24 volts, with the audio signal amplified using 0.1% tolerance components and multilayer boards, designed using CAD software to identify and isolate noise sources, and remove parasitic impedances. The result, Merrill Audio states, "reproduces with full integrity every nuance, detail and decay that is available from tape."
Priced at $15,000, it is an ideal addition to the Ampex ATR 100, 102 and 104 series or the Otari MTR desks. Merrill Audio can also provide the plug in card to access the Tape Head directly on the Ampex ATR 100 series Machines, replacing the onboard preamp cards for an order increase in performance. The maximum gain on the Merrill Audio Master Tape Head Preamp is set to 71dB, and has an adjustable output level from 0dB to 71dB. There are 6 Speed and Equalization settings provided which are 3.75ips/NAB, 7.5 IPS/NAB, 7.5 IPS/IEC, 15IPS/NAB, 15IPS/IEC and 30IPS/AES. Easy settings are done from the Capacitive Color 5inch touch screen from the front panel touch screen. The configuration is saved to memory which are restored on power up.
The Merrill Audio Master Tape Head Preamplifier chassis is available in Rose Gold Front, with a full color, 5-inch, capacitive touch screen TFT display for easy reading and configuration. The system features fully balanced inputs and outputs, custom XLR connectors with gold plated pins and is powered by an external, ultra-low noise power supply (Kratos II). Additional features include VU Meters for calibration, high frequency level adjustments, output level control, and channel balance.