Our Guide to the Cranborne Audio Camden EC1 preamp
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Our Guide to the Cranborne Audio Camden EC1 preamp

Built upon the success of Cranborne’s “Camden” preamp design that can be found in Camden 500 and Camden EC2, Camden EC1 could be seen as much of the same – just the same elite, award-winning mic preamp, but in a smaller box 

But whilst it shares similarities to other products in the range, the folks at Cranborne have thought carefully about how this Camden EC1 integrates with your setup and has designed its feature set to match the kind of equipment that it will find itself connected to.  

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at the features that make Camden EC-1 unique and make it one of the most desirable mic preamps on the market.  

1 – Sound Quality: Preamp 

The preamp in Camden EC1 isn’t just ‘good’, it’s world-class. Statistically speaking, it is one of the cleanest, most transparent mic preamps on the market and any preamp that comes close to its performance level costs at least twice as much - with some costing 5 times more.  

The “Camden” preamp lets your mic do the talking. It allows you to apply preamp gain confidently without worrying about noise, hiss, hum, or colouration ruining a perfect take. It can also transform a mic with an ‘ordinary’ sound to one that sounds extraordinary; a humble Shure SM57 can become your go-to vocal mic once it is amplified by Camden EC1’s clean and distortion/noise free gain.

Connecting Camden EC1 to your audio interface allows you to utilise the studio-quality, multi award winning Camden preamp instead of the ones built-in to your audio interface to upgrade the quality offered by your studio and allow you to maximise the performance of your mics and instruments.  


How does it sound?

Camden Preamp on female vocals – Camden preamp + Shure SM57

Camden Preamp on acoustic guitar – Camden preamp + AKG C451

2 – Mojo Analogue Saturation 

Calling Camden EC1 a ‘preamp’ is a slight injustice. It’s one of the few products on the market that is equally as useful when you’re tracking or mixing – thanks to its built-in Mojo. 

Established with Camden 500, the Mojo control and its two styles ‘Thump’ and ‘Cream’ are now renowned analogue processes that many studios use to apply that analogue ‘sound’ onto their mixes.  

Thump closely emulates the vintage ‘British’ character of a transformer-based preamp, whilst Cream more closely emulates the ‘valve’ nature of a tube-based preamp. Mojo’s saturation is also completely variable, allowing you to dial-in the amount of saturation you need for each source. Keep it at 3-4 for authentic preamp saturation or crank it up to 11 for a more exaggerated effect! 

An advanced, all-analogue saturation circuit, Mojo can add vintage warmth to live mics, or recorded track in your DAW if you route the audio interface outputs into the Mojo circuit. With so many plug-ins out there emulating analogue distortion and saturation effects, Camden EC1 offers a true, all-analogue, alternative that you can use to great effect in your studio. 

Camden Preamp on drum synth – Camden preamp + TE Synth

3- Sound Quality: Headphone Amp 

Building-in a headphone amplifier into a mic preamp is not new, however with Camden EC1, the preamp and headphone amp elements have been tightly integrated and carefully considered to make it more meaningful than ever before. 

The headphone amp built-in to Camden EC1 is the same, high-power, super-low impedance design, developed for the acclaimed 500R8 audio interface. With up to 1.2watts of power per ear (!) and a flat frequency response from 5Hz to 70kHz, the headphone amp has enough juice to power any set of headphones with clean power. In fact, a headphone amp that performs at the same level would easily set you back the same cost of a Camden EC1... 

Secondly, Camden EC1 has a pair of ¼" Aux Inputs on its rear panel that allow you to connect the outputs of an audio interface and use the headphone amp during mixing/mastering - when headphone amp quality is at its most important! 

This means that, yet again, Camden EC1 is a gift that keeps on giving; it’s not only a world-class preamp, its also a super-powerful, reference-grade headphone amplifier that is equally as useful during tracking as well as mixing. 

4 Zero Latency Monitoring 

A popular buzz-word in audio interfaces is the term ‘Zero latency’. In the real world, true zero-latency monitoring is only possible if it is created in the analogue domain. Any audio signal that is converted into digital has been delayed – even by a fraction of a millisecond – and so any interface that uses a software panel to mix, process, and generate a headphone mix (despite what it may say) is NOT zero-latency. 

Whether or not a fraction of a millisecond of latency really effects a musicians performance is up for debate, but the facts are that Camden EC1 offers a true, zero-latency monitoring system that can be used to directly monitor Camden EC1’s preamp through the headphone amp attached to it. 

More than that, Camden EC1 allows the performing musician to take control of their own mix. All they need to do is simply connect their headphones to the front panel then freely adjust the Preamp and Aux Input level controls to taste – one less job for you as the engineer! 

5– DI and Reamping 

Reamping is also a popular term in the modern studio and Camden EC1 facilitates it effortlessly using its unique Hi-z input and Link output. Reamping effectively means that you split the recording process into two discrete parts: first, by capturing the clean, pure, and unaffected performance into the DAW, and secondly, by sending that clean track back through amps and effects for the final, polished result. 

Before Reamping, a guitarist and engineer would have to focus on capturing the perfect sound and performance at the same time - playing for hours whilst mics are moved and amp settings are changed. By reamping, the guitarist can focus on the perfect take whilst the engineer records that take and then can use it to achieve the perfect tone – when the guitarist is at the bar! 

You can record the true nature of the guitar using Camden EC1’s unique, high-quality DI input and then connect its Link output to the input of the guitar amp. The guitarist can then monitor the guitar amp during the recording using the Link output whilst the pure DI signal is recorded into the DAW and the performance is immortalised forever! 

6 - Compatibility 

The rear panel is full to the brim with I/O enabling Camden EC1 to be compatible with a number of different audio interfaces and devices. With a balanced XLR as well as 1/4” Jack Impedance balanced outputs, each output (or both simultaneously) can be connected to XLR or Jack inputs on audio interface without issue as well as both balanced XLR and unbalanced Jack inputs. 

Cranborne also thought about operating levels and the headroom of low-end audio interfaces by incorporating a –10dB pad switch to bring down the output of the preamp from +24dBu to a +14dBu signal level that can be easily managed by the audio interface without risking any clipping. 

Camden EC1 also utilises Cranborne Audio’s unique C.A.S.T. system for distributing audio around the studio or stage using affordable Cat 5e, Cat 6, or Cat 7 cabling whilst achieving the highest sonic results.  

Simply connect Camden EC1’s C.A.S.T. OUT port to Cranborne Audio’s N22 and connect N22 to your audio interfaces I/O, then you are free to position Camden EC1 up to 100m from your audio interface into the live room or iso booth whilst the C.A.S.T. connection sends and receives the preamp signal and monitor mix – all through the same cable! That’s pro-level cable management for the cost of a single Cat cable. 

Camden EC1 and outboard gear in general is timeless. Camden EC1 doesn't need software updates, it doesn't go out of date when the next USB/thunderbolt standard comes along, and it will always sound good. This means that if you want to upgrade your interface down the line, Camden EC1 can be just as easily integrated into that. Or if you go to another studio, Camden EC1 goes with you – think of it as your own Camden sound in your backpack.

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This new blog is presented by the team at Sound Technology Ltd, a leading distributor of musical instruments and pro audio equipment in the UK and ROI.