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SPL Frontliner
[SPL-Front] Modular recording channel
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SPL Frontliner

Modular recording channel

  • "An excellent channel strip in reference quality ... at a really favourable price." Professional Audio Magazine

    Channel Trip.

    With the finest ingredients from SPL, the new flagship of SPL's channel strips establishes the basis for world-class recordings – and each of its particular processing stages can be inserted into studio environments or DAWs like analog plug-ins!

    The brand-new Frontliner has all tools on board to record vocals and instruments in perfect quality: it merges a preamp, a de-esser, an EQ and a compressor.

    Thanks to it's individual analog I/Os, all these powerful, hi-end analog processors can be inserted into any studio by the Frontliner pilot, i. e. to use them also during mixing and mastering. Thus it appears that the Frontliner is not reduced to a frontend device – especially DAW based studios get the chance to integrate high-grade analog processing at any stage of the audio production process.


    The modules

    The hybrid preamp with discrete transistor stage and separate tube stage combines high performance and neutrality with the option for sound coloration by enhancing the harmonic content with the switchable tube drive. The unique one-knob de-esser employs a phase cancelling technique to reduce sibilants. With three bands, the EQ section covers the complete frequency spectrum efficiently, and a tube saturation control allows to apply distortion to any signal from subtle to reckless levels. The compressor offers all classic parameters and a controllable automation of attack and release which adjusts the setting of time constants to the input signal – pretty much like a cruise control.


    Our preceding recording channels Track One and Channel One have already been successful units by combining fast and easy operation with high processing quality. These channel strips particularly benefit from previous developments for single processors: the DynaMaxx compressor/limiter delivered the essentials for the respective channel strip stage, the unique SPL De-Esser is also available as a single, dual-channel unit – and the preamplifier modules were also derived from existing products.

    The development of new units in the last years inevitably evoked the wish to conceive a new channel strip which would benefit from our latest achievements.



    Now the Frontliner comprises the same discrete, hybrid semiconductor/tube preamplifier design like the GoldMikeMK2. The compressor module is based upon the Kultube providing a full set of classic controls. We also integrated the Kultube's highlight, a signal-dependent automation of attack and release parameters which can still be influenced manually – with this option, manual and automatic control can be merged to always find the best settings.

    The EQ section provides two semi-parametric filters for low and mid band as well as a bell filter delivering a silky and smooth top end. This filter set offers a perfect frequency first aid kit and is rounded off with a Tube Saturation control.
    In contrast to semiconductors, a tube does not clip from a certain level, but approaches its limits by increasingly producing harmonic distortions. The sound effects from saturating a tube can often be used to improve the audio signal. The sound results resemble tape saturation effects and increase the density and perceived energy in a very pleasant way.


    The Frontliner concept

    The task of a channel strip is relatively complex. There is not one specialized device for one job, but a unit that combines a lot of technology for the preamplification and processing of audio signals. That is why especially the Frontliner benefits very much from SPL’s innovations for targeted, efficient work. The SPL De-Esser, for example, performs a highly complex processing, but can simply be adjusted with one single knob.
    The straight and clear front panel design also supports fast and safe operation.


    Analog plug-ins

    In the last years we have been busy with modular concepts. One result is the RackPack series: a RackPack frame hosts up to eight 3U high modules for free placement and (inter-) connection.

    But we have also transferred the modular idea to the Frontliner. Each Frontliner module disposes of its own inputs and outputs. Sophisticated switching options allow to integrate Frontliner’s modules into a studio environment as if they were stand-alone devices. You can also group modules in any combination and you can determine inserts at each module’s input.

    If you imagine the Frontliner modules as analog plug-ins, the additional value suddenly becomes apparent: this channel strip also is a versatile analog processing station. With one single unit, especially DAW based studios benefit from a first-class recording front-end and have access to high end analog processors for the main signal processing tasks.


  • Technical Features


    • • Three separate, individually optimized inputs for microphones, line signals and instruments.

    • • Discrete semiconductor/tube hybrid preamplifier to combine the advantages – high dynamic range and low noise operation of semiconductors with the musical qualities of tube sounds (appealing top end, beautiful spacial impression). Discrete construction is based upon single transistors instead of integrated circuits (ICs) from industrial production and ensures a higher level of optimization.

    • • 250 volts tube circuits in the preamplifier and for tube saturation stages.

    • • High-grade operational amplifiers from Burr-Brown at critical positions.

    • • The SPL De-Esser applies the method of phase cancellation for reducing sibilants. This innovative approach works much more neutral than traditional compression methods – a unique method for unobtrusive results and extremely fast operation.

    • • The compressor is operated by SPL’s double VCA drive circuitry. A differential stage eliminates side effects and the half load per VCA dramatically reduces THD.

    • • The operational amplifiers for the compressor circuitry meet military specifications. Therefore the regulating voltages are extremely precise – a precondition for high signal processing quality.

    • • Selected condensers for the EQ filters with pleasant sound characteristics. Especially with vocals, amplified frequencies are not sounding too bright, and on the other hand reductions can tame harsh sounds without sounding dull.

    • • Central star ground wiring scheme minimizes influences that could affect the ground paths. The audio ground is separated from the ground of the remaining equipment. This leads, in the truest sense of the word ”clean”, to considerably improved tonal quality.

    • • The power supply is built around two toroidal transformers, one for the audio voltages and one for the other supply voltages (tube heating, LEDs, micro controller etc.) Mutual interferences are excluded and lavishly over-dimensioned capacities ensure absolutely stable supplies for all audio circuitries.



    • • Lundahl input transformer for the microphone input.

    • • OUT 1 from the MAIN OUTPUTS can optionally be equipped with an output transformer from Lundahl.

    • • Digital output (24bit/96 kHz AD converter card, model 2376).

  • Specifications


    Maximum input level

    • Microphone input @ 13dB gain: +9dBu
    • Line input: +22dBu
    • Instrument input: +11,5dBu
    • De-Esser input: +21dBu
    • Compressor input: +21dBu
    • EQ-/Tube Saturation input: +21dBu

    Maximum output level:

    • 21,5dBu

    Gain control ranges

    • Microphone input: +13dB to +68dB
    • Line input: -20dB to +10dB
    • Instrument input: +6dB to +43dB

    Frequency range (-3dB)

    • Channel strip: 10Hz to 50kHz
    • Microphone preamplifier: ‹10Hz to 50kHz
    • Line preamplifier: ‹10Hz to 50kHz
    • Instrument preamplifier: ‹10Hz to 50kHz
    • De-Esser: ‹10Hz to 140kHz
    • Compressor: ‹10Hz to 180kHz
    • Equalizer/Tube Saturation: ‹10Hz to 60kHz

    Common mode rejection

    • (@ 1kHz, 0dBu input level and unity gain)
    • Microphone preamplifier: ›80dB
    • Line preamplifier: ›75dB
    • Instrument preamplifier: ›75dB
    • De-Esser: ›75dB
    • Compressor: ›75dB
    • Equalizer/Tube Saturation line: ›75dB

    Total harmonic distortion

    (in %, @ 1kHz, 0dBu input level and unity gain)
    • Channel strip: 0,03
    • Microphone preamplifier: 0,03
    • Line preamplifier: 0,03
    • Instrument preamplifier: 0,03
    • De-Esser: 0,002
    • Compressor: 0,007
    • Equalizer/Tube Saturation Line: 0,01

    Signal to noise ratio (A-weighted)

    • Microphone preamplifier (VU=30dB): -91,5dB
    • Line preamplifier: -94,7dB
    • Instrument preamplifier: -95,5dB
    • De-Esser: -97dB
    • Compressor: -97dB
    • Equalizer/Tube Saturation Line: -91dB

    Dynamic range (unweighted)

    • Channel strip: 110dB (microphone input › main outputs, @ 30dB)
    • Channel strip: 112dB (line input › main outputs)
    • Channel strip: 112dB (instrument input › main outputs)
    • Microphone preamplifier (@ 30dB): 110dB
    • Line preamplifier: 114dB
    • Instrument preamplifier: 105dB
    • De-Esser: 115dB
    • Compressor: 115dB
    • Equalizer/Tube Saturation Line: 112dB

    E.I.N. microphone preamplifier:

    • -127dBu
    (@ 68dB gain, Rs=150Ohms, 20-22kHz)

    Power supply

    • Two toroidal transformers
    • Audio transformer: 20VA
    • Transformer other currents: 15VA
    • Fuses: 230V AC, 50Hz: 315mA/120V AC, 60Hz: 630mA
    • Voltage selector: 115V/230V
    • Power consumption: 29W

    Dimensions and weight

    • Housing (W x H x D): 482 x 88 x 261mm (Depth with controls and sockets)
    • Weight: 5,7kg/ca. 12,57 lbs (w/o converter & I/O transformers)

    • Note: 0dBu = 0,775V. Specifications are subject to change without notice.


    Wiring Diagram


    Studio application


    Excluding a group of modules


    Determining inserts





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