Mindprint En-Voice Mk Ii

Mindprint En-Voice Mk Ii


I’m a big fan of anything with tubes – not only that, I own not one, but two original-issue En-Voices. So when offered the opportunity to review MindPrint’s En-Voice MK II, I gladly accepted. The challenge, of course, would be to remain impartial. However, this review presents Remix readers with the opportunity to hear an honest review of the new MK II in direct comparison to its predecessor. From here forward, I will refer to the new version as the MK II and to the original as simply the En-Voice. The review unit I received also had an optional DI-Mod USB affixed to the rear, which was nice, as one of my En-Voices has the earlier DI-Mod, a 24/48, installed.


The MK II is a single-rackspace tube channel strip that includes a mic, line and instrument preamp; a fully parametric EQ; a compressor; and 48V phantom power. It is immediately apparent that the MK II is indeed an upgrade. Although the manual speaks of “detailing” rather than redesign, some improvements really show. Cosmetically, the MK II is beautiful. The I/O buttons, which were previously small and black and set beside typical red LEDs, have been replaced by large bright-blue backlit buttons. The rotary knobs are much larger and more grip-friendly, and they’re laid out in more logical way. The face still sports MindPrint’s signature burgundy enamel, but the MK II has a clear plastic covering to protect the silk screening. A few notable new additions on the front are the 48V phantom power switch (which was previously rear-mounted), the -20dB pad and the three-way Input Select switch (replacing two buttons on the En-Voice). The most noticeable addition is the Compression Mode dial, with which users can select eight preset compression schemes: three optimized for vocals, two each for guitar and bass, and one for percussion. There are separate input and output gain controls, along with a bypass switch. Another nice upgrade is the separation of the mic and line inputs onto separate pots. The EQ on the MK II is essentially the same as the original, with semiparametric controls for the low and high frequencies and fully parametric controls on the mids. The knob layout is improved, with the level controls now raised and the parametric controls set lower. This makes for easy reach-out-and-grab access, which is especially handy in low-light situations. I found this improvement useful (if not crucial) because the MK II uses a thinner type style for its labels.

The equalizer on the MK II is nice, wide and accurate. The low-frequency control sweeps from 20 to 300 Hz, the highs from 1.6 to 22 kHz and the middle from 0.1 to 11 kHz, effectively covering the human-audible frequency range with generous overlap. The mids have a Q control with a 0.15 to 3 width range, and the gain/cut on all three bands ranges from -15 to +15 dB. Each band can be engaged or disengaged from the mix individually, and there is a selectable low-cut filter set at 80 Hz. The compression section includes just the basics: A Threshold control ranges from +2 to -28 dB, and a Ratio control sweeps from 1-to-1 to infinity-to-1. The MK II retains a favorite of mine from the En-Voice, the Tube Saturation control. This does exactly what you would expect: increases tube presence and does so ever so subtly but effectively; a large tricolored LED indicates saturation. Bypass and Filter buttons finish off the compression section. The filter is essentially a low-cut/shelving sidechain with a 300Hz corner frequency and a 6dB-per-octave slope. This control also proved subtly effective, especially on full-range or bass-heavy sounds. Two banks of LEDs are on the front. Situated just above the input gains, one is tricolored and selectable between input and output level; the other, situated in the compression section, aptly displays level reduction. Both LED arrays include 12 lamps and have accurate response. A conveniently placed Instrument input completes the front panel.


The rear of the MK II is similar to its predecessor, with a few new twists. It includes an XLR mic input and a pair of line inputs (one 1/4-inch and one XLR) and line outputs (1/4-inch and XLR). All analog jacks are balanced, and a ground-lift switch is situated near the power supply. The notable new addition is a balanced pair of insert jacks (send/return); this introduces external processing into the signal chain post-low-cut filter and pre-EQ. The digital I/O slot can be occupied by the original DI-Mod 24/48 or the newer DI-Mod USB. The DI-Mod consists of a USB port (type 1 but compatible with type 2); a coaxial S/PDIF output; and a single TRS jack that serves two purposes: as a stereo output for the USB interface and as a single-channel insert for the right digital channel. A button on the DI-Mod switches between the two modes: Monitor and Insert. In Insert mode, stereo digital signals sent via USB are split so that only the left channel is routed to the MK II while the right is sent and returned via the TRS jack. With another MK II, stereo signals can be sent, processed and returned to the computer. A Sync LED on the DI-Mod indicates active USB connection. Drivers are included on a CD-ROM for Mac OS 9/OS X and Windows 98/2000/XP.

Although many users may never use an MK II for stereo, because I had an original En-Voice and was comparing old with new, I decided to try it out as my first test. I plugged in an insert cable to the DI-Mod, set it to Monitor and routed the tip/ring ends to the in/out of my En-Voice. I loaded the drivers onto my Mac G4 (running Mac OS 10.3.7), connected it a USB port and launched Apple Logic. My computer found the driver with no problem, as did Logic. I opened a multitrack song, and sure enough, both the MK II and my En-Voice were receiving signal as expected, though it was clear that the gain structures (or perhaps just the level indicators) were different. It was not difficult to visually set them to appear about equal, and then I proceeded to bounce down the song by sending all 23 tracks to and from the two units. The stereo signal recorded beautifully, and when I listened back, I heard little difference between the tone of the left and right channels. Next, I moved the tip/ring ends to a pair of channels on my console, switched the DI-Mod to Monitor mode and – bam – there again was the mixdown in stereo, with no glitches.


I plugged in an Audio-Technica AT2020 condenser mic to the MK II and enlisted the vocal assistance of my wife, who is a poet, to read some poems. We did a couple of dry runs to find appropriate settings, and as usual, I was able to easily sculpt a good sound to record. I tried out the different Compression Mode settings and was delighted to find them to indeed be unique and useful. We recorded several takes, and with each, the vocals came through crisp and natural-sounding with no audible added noise. The compressor of the MK II sounds great, as well. It is able to barely smooth over the top peaks while remaining basically invisible, and with higher ratios and lower threshold settings, I was able to produce an extremely tame signal, indicated by the gain-reduction LEDs hitting -8 to -10 dB regularly and -22 at the highest peaks. The tube really did its job absorbing the peaks. I also played around with the tube saturation, recording everything from subtle in-the-green takes to full-tilt ones. As one might expect, with a heavy push, the tube can produce audible distortion that can be a nice effect if you choose to use it.


In testing the MK II with a pure mono line signal, I plugged in a classic: my Roland TB-303. My goal was to see if the MindPrint could make it even better, so I connected via a 1/4-inch cable and let a sequence rip. Although the MK II is more likely to be used as a front end for vocals and guitar or bass, it was simply killer on the TB-303. As the sequence rolled, I tried all applicable controls in real time. I punched the Low Cut button in and out; it effectively removed the rumble with a smooth rolloff. I swept across all three frequency bands while bringing the gains up and down. The EQ is simply golden; you can hear it clearly going up and down the spectrum, wide but smooth as silk. I lowered the threshold and raised the ratio until I pinned the red gain-reduction LEDs and then backed off; compression was certainly there, and it made the 303 super fat. I slowly pushed the tube saturation all the way up, and it made the 303 growl as if another resonance control was added. I continued my testing quest by running electric-acoustic guitar and various percussion instruments through it, but by then, I was already convinced that this was an improvement on an already gorgeous piece of gear. The level of clarity and liveliness that the MK II imparted to just about anything I threw at it was truly impressive.

The MindPrint En-Voice MK II is a versatile beast that I highly recommend for just about anybody’s rig. Bedroom producers who yearn for a slice of classic outboard sound, laptop musicians on the go and established control rooms that need a new color on their palettes will all find something pleasing and useful in this unit. It’s built for war, easy to use, simply gorgeous-sounding and attractive in the rack to boot. And speaking from personal experience, MindPrint is an excellent company to deal with. I love the two original En-Voices that I already own, and I wouldn’t mind owning this newbie, too.



(DI-Mod USB, $279; DI-MOD 24/96, $349)

Pros: Solid German construction. Excellent warmth and tonal characteristics. Good range of processing controls, all-balanced analog I/O. Affordable and attractive.

Cons: DI-Mod USB lacks S/PDIF input.

Contact: www.mindprint.com

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