Radial Engineering Space Heater Tube Overdrive and Summing Mixer

soundTECHNOLOGY
[review]
Radial Engineering Space Heater Tube
Overdrive and Summing Mixer
The Space Heater’s eight paired input channels each feature variable Drive (level to the tube drive circuit), Level (output level from the tube drive circuit), and three switchable Heat settings that
change each stereo pair’s tube voltage between 35, 70, or 140 Volts.
Radial’s unique Space Heater
($1,699 street) is an eight-channel
stereo summing mixer featuring a
12AX7 tube per input pair for flexible saturation, transformer-coupled
outputs and a whole lot of useful flexibility, making it a cool tool for both
studio and live sound applications.
It can be used to create a range of
pleasurable tones from DAW stems,
for example, or essentially any input
source that may benefit from tasteful
to even-ripping distortions, as well
as access to external processing via
its eight inserts offered on individual
quarter-inch TRS balanced sends and
returns.
Eight channels of DB25 inputs—
wired in parallel to the Space Heater’s eight quarter-inch TRS balanced
inputs—and eight DB25 outputs provide multichannel I/O, while stereo
sum outputs via XLR are offered, too.
With the unit’s quarter-inch TRS link
I/Os, additional Space Heaters can
be linked together, allowing for 16x2,
24x2, or 32x2 configurations. This is
a fully pro-grade unit; from the 5-pin
locking XLR connection to its external power supply to its 14-gauge steel
chassis, the Space Heater is ready for
years of service.
The Space Heater’s front panel
[
March 2017
]
offers a quarter-inch stereo headphone output with level control,
mix bus off/on switch with level
control, and eight paired (1/2, 3/4,
5/6, and 7/8 feeding strictly to L/R
as odd/even pairs) input channels,
each featuring variable Drive (level to the tube drive circuit), Level
(output level from the tube drive
circuit), and three switchable Heat
settings that change each stereo
pair’s tube voltage between 35, 70
or 140V. Also available per stereo
channel are switchable stereo mix
bus send select, high-pass filter and
tube drive.
Utilizing the unit first as a hardware insert device for Logic Pro
X-based tracks, I discovered how
useful it could be to allow for analog processing and flavor on some
rather “cold” sounding drum performances. Varying between subdued
analog flavor to downright gritty
vibe, spreading the Space Heater’s
deep, even-order har monic distortion generously over my tracks
meant that my vanilla drum stems
became whatever I wanted them to
be after tracking—and all that outside of the box with tons of available
headroom. Also the insert points allowed me to pop in more discrete
channel compression, allowing for
additional flavor and effect during
the summing process.
Following the impressive use while
processing prerecorded tracks, I
racked up the Space Heater for some
live sound applications. Using my
trusty and ubiquitous Mackie analog
mixer featuring Onyx preamps, I sent
key channels to the Space Heater—
vocals, bass guitar, kick and snare—
adding in appropriate bite, natural
tube circuit compression effects,
and impact to these sound sources,
respectively. That said, it’s intuitive
and a whole lot of fun to use, adding
some warmth or gritty sophistication
to even plain (i.e. really clean) modern signal flows.
Applications for the Space Heater
abound; Radial suggests using it for a
range of things, from the last stage of
a vocal recording chain to desterilizing in-ear monitor mixes, all of which
are personally tantalizing after having
heard its capabilities in both studio
and live settings.
Notably, the unit is always crystal clean when you need clarity, or
as dirty as you want it when you
need grit. As a tube-packed unit, it is
weighty for its size (8.5 lbs.) and understandably runs warm to the touch.
BY STROTHER BULLINS,
TECHNOLOGY EDITOR, NEWBAY
MEDIA AV/PRO AUDIO GROUP
Strother Bullins is NewBay Media’s
Technology Editor, AV/Pro Audio
Group, active musician, recordist and
club-level sound reinforcement wrangler. sbullins@nbmedia.com
Most importantly, having used Radial
Engineering DIs and other associated
gear for a long time now, I can assure
you that the Space Heater is built to
last, serviceable if needed, and will
retain its appeal and value in the future.
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