madbeanpedals::forum

Projects => Build Reports => Topic started by: lincolnic on August 16, 2013, 04:56:18 PM

Title: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: lincolnic on August 16, 2013, 04:56:18 PM
My other mic pre build thread seemed to interest a few people around here, so I thought I'd post another one for my most recent project: a pair of Hairball Audio Lola mic pres. (Here's the Tape Op review that got me interested in these in the first place: http://tapeop.com/reviews/gear/93/lola-500-series-mic-preamp/)

So after waiting patiently for these to make their way to Brooklyn from Seattle, USPS finally delivered these to me:

(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v375/sarlakk/lolaboxes_zps25a3d05a.jpg)

Let's get to work. There are three PCBs that go into making one of these: one large one that comprises the audio portion of the mic pre, and two smaller ones to make an LED meter. Pictured here is the main PCB, populated with all of the passive components:

(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v375/sarlakk/1lolapassives_zpsee74bedf.jpg)

Note the cluster of standing resistors in the top left - these set the gain levels for the Grayhill rotary switch that'll come a little later. You may remember these Grayhill switches from the Classic API VP28 build. What else is going on this board? Input and output transformers, op amps, phantom power/phase/line switches, Bourns t-pad attenuator, DI jack, relays (for the three switches and DI jack), a ribbon header (for connecting the meter assembly), one very large 1000 uF cap (which goes underneath the left alligator clip), and two 1k resistors that were accidentally left out of the kit. Mike at Hairball sent those resistors to me via two-day delivery on his own dime - an extremely classy move.

Enough talk - let's add those missing components.

(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v375/sarlakk/2lolamainpcb_zpsae5f1f7a.jpg)

You'll notice that the board is now also mounted to an L-bracket for final placement in the Lunchbox. While the main PCB is actually complete now, this mounting is temporary. You need to do this to ensure that the t-pad and the DI jack will align properly with the faceplate. They don't sit flush to the PCB, so you need to get them aligned before you can solder them in. This means that you need to solder just a couple of pins to hold them in place, then remove the L-bracket for final soldering. If you guessed that this step is the biggest pain in the ass in the entire build, you guessed correctly.

After testing, it's time to move on to the meter assembly. Here's the brains of it:

(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v375/sarlakk/3lolameter_zpsb7708522.jpg)

All standing resistors, again. I'm starting to understand why some people hate them. All of those ICs get soldered directly to the PCB, too. Slightly nerve-wracking. This photo is zoomed in, so it looks huge, but the board is pretty small. There's a 2.2 uF electrolytic cap towards the left side that's one of the smallest I've ever seen. The holes above the large IC are for a header that mounts the LEDs to this board. And speaking of LEDs:

(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v375/sarlakk/4lolaleds_zpsc3c773ef.jpg)

It looks simple, but you really need to take your time and be sure your LEDs are flush to the PCB and aligned in a straight line. Once you're set there, you can put it together with the meter PCB...

(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v375/sarlakk/5lolameterassembly_zps46851f8c.jpg)

...and then mount the full meter assembly to the main PCB:

(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v375/sarlakk/6lolacomplete_zps8bdbc812.jpg)

And it's done! There's a ribbon cable that connects the meter assembly to the main PCB, which I didn't get a picture of for some reason. Here's my current Lunchbox situation:

(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v375/sarlakk/7lunchbox_zpseaf317f6.jpg)

I didn't get a picture, but the three pushbutton switches are illuminated with pleasant blue LEDs. The meter LEDs are white up until 0 dB, then three orange ones, and a violet one at the top of the meter.

All in all, I'd say these were easier to build than the VP28s were. They took about the same amount of time, but the Lolas have fewer components. I haven't gotten to really check them out yet beyond the basic "all controls function" test, but I'm going to be breaking them in on a long tracking session next weekend. Needless to say, I'm really excited.
Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: alanp on August 16, 2013, 05:53:38 PM
I met her in a club down in old SoHo, where they drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry coooola...

For the amount of parts in there, that is VERY cleanly built!
Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: lincolnic on August 16, 2013, 09:31:23 PM
Thanks, Alan. I made sure to take my time and really do a clean job, especially in the tighter sections (i.e. anywhere with standing resistors close together). I'll redo a solder joint immediately after making it if it doesn't look right...it might be overly anal, but I can't argue with the results. I'm a little annoyed that I accidentally clipped one of the transformer leads too short and had to add more wire to it - that piece of heat shrink taunts me!
Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: jkokura on August 21, 2013, 11:23:25 AM
Yeah, I agree - very impressive.

Lalalalalola.

Jacob
Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: juansolo on August 21, 2013, 12:24:17 PM
Very cool.  8)
Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: lincolnic on August 21, 2013, 12:33:51 PM
Thanks guys! They're going to get broken in on their first session on Friday, I'll report back with more thoughts after the weekend.
Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: spaceboss on August 21, 2013, 12:54:49 PM
Awesome work.

Yeah, I want to hear your thoughts on how they compare with CAPIs. I'm getting closer to deciding to tackle one of these projects.

Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: lincolnic on August 21, 2013, 10:07:47 PM
Awesome work.

Yeah, I want to hear your thoughts on how they compare with CAPIs. I'm getting closer to deciding to tackle one of these projects.



Well, even without having used it yet, I can tell you that it's going to be a very different flavor. The input and output transformers in the Lola are recreations of the Neve 1073 transformers, and the op-amp is the John Hardy 990, which is super clean. So I'm expecting it to be heftier on the bottom end, and a little thicker overall compared to the VP28s, but those still have their own special midrange flavor. I'm planning to use the Lolas on my drum overheads first, but I'll stick to the VP28 on guitars and probably snare. They do sound incredible on guitar.

But yeah, build either of these guys for sure! They're both really fun to put together. Now I'm trying to figure out what to put in the last two slots of my Lunchbox. Here's the one I'm using, which is both cheaper and more powerful than the regular API one: http://altomusic.com/shop/Lindell-Audio-506-Power-6-Slot-500-Series-Power-Supply-_pid119747.am
Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: spaceboss on August 22, 2013, 09:01:42 AM
Awesome work.

Yeah, I want to hear your thoughts on how they compare with CAPIs. I'm getting closer to deciding to tackle one of these projects.



Now I'm trying to figure out what to put in the last two slots of my Lunchbox. Here's the one I'm using, which is both cheaper and more powerful than the regular API one: http://altomusic.com/shop/Lindell-Audio-506-Power-6-Slot-500-Series-Power-Supply-_pid119747.am


There's some good stuff out there now. The CAPI eq's look bad-ass and I forget the name of the company, they're European, that looks like it has a nice 1176 approximation in kit form.

Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: raulduke on August 22, 2013, 09:51:23 AM
Ooh lovely stuff.

Transformer balanaced in's and outs too.

Quality kit dude.

Bet they sound amazing!
Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: lincolnic on August 22, 2013, 01:22:46 PM
There's some good stuff out there now. The CAPI eq's look bad-ass and I forget the name of the company, they're European, that looks like it has a nice 1176 approximation in kit form.

On the EQ side, I really like 550s, so if I was going to DIY something I'd look into these: http://tbaudiogear.com/?product=tb550a-complete-kit

They're sold out for the foreseeable future, though - the designer is taking some time to work on new projects.

Just about everywhere I work has some flavor of 1176, so I'd be more interested in something different. Gotta do some research!
Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: spaceboss on August 22, 2013, 01:42:30 PM
Wow!!!!!

That guy has a Roland Dimension C 500 series rack kit!!!

Must resist....
Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: Vallhagen on August 22, 2013, 02:26:41 PM
Very inspiring. Quality!
Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: lincolnic on August 22, 2013, 09:57:21 PM
Wow!!!!!

That guy has a Roland Dimension C 500 series rack kit!!!

Must resist....

It's the Dimension D, actually! I think the C was specifically redesigned for the standard pedal format, not sure what the sonic differences are (if any). But yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing what this guy's next project is...seems like he's a talented designer.

And thanks to everyone else who commented too! It means a lot to hear your compliments, I really admire the work of everyone who's commented here.
Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: lincolnic on August 28, 2013, 09:53:32 PM
So I haven't had a chance to come back and comment, but I did get to break these in over the weekend. I spent most of three days using them on my overheads, and I was very pleasantly surprised to find that they sounded almost exactly like I expected them to. A very round low end, but also very clean thanks to the 990 op-amps. Kick and toms still had a nice amount of body, but the cymbals were never harsh. I've got a small wish list of things I want to try them on next...toms, bass, acoustic guitar, piano...I used them on accordion as well, but it was a last minute overdub, so I didn't really have a chance to do much critical listening. Sounded good, though!
Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: jtn191 on August 29, 2013, 09:39:29 AM
nice! one of my friends works for Hairball Audio
Title: Re: Non-pedal build: Hairball Audio Lola mic preamp
Post by: lincolnic on August 29, 2013, 01:05:42 PM
Very cool. Mike hired one of my friends to test out his version of the 990, and apparently they're even smoother than the Hardys.