Millennia Music & Media began formally as a classical music recording engineering and
production company. We have recorded nearly 1,000 symphonic orchestra sessions and
a much larger number of chamber orchestras, small classical and jazz ensembles, soloists,
and more. Millennia continues to engineer a significant number of location recordings
each year; working with many of the world's finest classical musicians.
Early on, we realized that most pro recording gear exhibited sonic colorations which
limited our critical acoustic recording objectives. This general dissatisfaction with "off-
the-shelf" recording products has inspired us to design our own uncompromised critical
signal path. To assist our design efforts, we developed sensitive and repeatable laboratory
methods to distinguish subtle sonic differences between small changes in circuit design.
Millennia employs a 40+ kHz analog listening environment in which critical audio circuits are scrutinized with live acoustic sources, including bell tree, voice, and cymbal. Sources are chosen for their complexity and difficulty & we've found that complex high frequency "partials" are the most difficult to reproduce accurately in audio circuits. We continually and alternately reference the original source in acoustic space while comparing it with a circuit under test. Each new circuit design or modification is compared with former designs:
Where are the new shadings? Where are the timbre shifts?
Is it more accurate, less accurate, or just different?
In which part of the spectra are differences occurring?
What are its dynamic characteristics (changes in timbre versus changes in level)?
What changes to circuit might improve accuracy?
Each successive circuit is also objectively characterized on one of our Audio Precision
System One and Dual Domain test machines. All parameters of distortion, noise, common
mode rejection, etc., are measured and logged.
There's something we encounter again and again in our tests. Similarly measuring circuits
(THD, noise, frequency response, etc.) often exhibit dramatically differing sonic signatures -
especially in the critical upper frequencies. As such, specifications are a guide, but are not
indicators of sonic performance. The only way to learn how an audio circuit really sounds
is through first-hand critical listening.
Of course, even controlled listening tests are not without variables. Every element in a fixed
reference chain adds its own personality. Over time, the engineer who comes to rely on this
path learns to "listen through" inherent shadings and subtleties. We feel that our unique test
environment has provided the tools to produce exceptionally accurate audio circuits.
Please call us directly if you would like to learn more about the specifics of our listening lab. We have recently expanding the lab into a dedicated 6,000 cu. ft. room with 9" thick concrete walls, isolated floor/wall/ceiling structures, and a carefully controlled ambient behavior. The prime structure was designed by acoustician George Newburn, formerly of "studio bau:ton" in Los Angeles and now Chief Acoustician at "Studio 440,"
an acoustics design and consulting firm.
Alas, lab listening tests go only so far. Which is why, when we arrive at a favorable design,
the device is taken into the field for months (sometimes years) of real-world testing. New
candidate circuits are employed during rehearsals and live sessions, where dynamic stability,
imaging, and ambience retrieval can be auditioned later in our listening room.
When comparing audio circuits, especially mic preamps, take time to discover the personality of the design. Use complex radiators in comparison - continuously alternating your listening perspective between the circuit path and the actual source in real time acoustic space. Use a mono source when comparing timbre accuracy. You'll begin to notice the "shadings" and nuance of different circuits. What at first sounds "more open" or "lively" is very often a euphonic coloration or subtle exaggeration in the upper partial frequencies and low-mid "warmth" region. It takes practice.
Listen especially to how a circuit performs at high dynamic levels. Very often, a good
performing circuit at low to moderate operating levels will change character at high levels.
This is especially true of transformer-coupled microphone preamplifiers, and those requiring
attenuators (pads) to reduce input excursions.
As you'll find, it's often difficult to detect if a circuit is more musically accurate, or simply
more colorful, lively, and "tweaked." There is a place in audio production for many kinds of
preamp coloration; but for critical acoustic recording, musical accuracy is a requirement.
Which brings up an important point - not everybody desires accuracy. Audio circuits in use
today can offer wonderful shades of coloration. Some of these audio devices are described
variously as sounding "warm, in your face, round, euphonic, bigger than life, cutting, thick,
soft, rich, bright, powerful" and so forth. And in pop music, these qualities are often essential
tools for hit records. The Millennia HV-3 circuits do not offer these qualities, but micamps
from many other fine manufacturers do. Millennia uses many of these other products for
pop recording or special situations, including a wide assortment of "colorful" mic preamps
from other manufacturers.
However, for those recordings where the room is correct, the instruments are beautiful, the
players are first rate, and the music needs no further assistance, there is no substitute for
accurate audio electronics. If it sounds luscious in acoustic space, Millennia Media
electronics will simply not interfere. Assuming a fine electronics path overall, you will hear
on speakers a presentation of music which your ears hear in acoustic space. At all dynamic
levels. At all frequencies. With undisturbed acoustic complexity and subtlety