Vil Wance, music producer and managing editor at Magnetic Magazine on the Freqtube Ft1: "I truly think it's one of the more forward-thinking and inventive items to have hit the market this year." Read his likes and dislikes, after a long-term, in-depth test and months of use!
Explore our in-depth Freqport FT-1 Freqtube review to see if it's the game-changer for music producers seeking innovative sound solutions.
The Freqport FT-1 Freqtube hit the market in late 2022 and was brought to the mass market early in 2023. It has since been a device creating waves in the music production world. We had the chance to get our hands on this little black saturation box to write this comprehensive review, where you can expect to uncover the nuances that make the Freqtube a buzz-worthy addition to any studio setup. Perfect for music producers and audio engineers alike, this review will peel back the layers of this intriguing piece of equipment.
Are you ready to explore whether the Freqport FT-1 Freqtube lives up to its hype and truly represents a step outside of the conventional box for music production? Stay tuned as we delve into every aspect, leaving no knob unturned, in our quest to provide you with an insightful and thorough assessment.
Normally, I try to keep this section of my review writeups as objective and to the point as possible, but it's hard to do with this little box as I truly think it's one of the more forward-thinking and inventive items to have hit the market this year. We have had our eyes on it since we tested it at NAMM, and having the chance to use it in the studio for the past couple of months has been beyond a treat.
Picture this: you're getting the warmth and depth of analog sound without the mess of cables.
This beast packs a punch with two E83CC/12AX7 high-gain and two 12AT7 mid-gain tubes, all neatly housed in a solid metal case. It's not just about looks; this delivers top-notch 32-bit audio conversion and supports up to 192kHz sample rates.
The real kicker? Eight tweakable knobs for customizing your sound, plus some sweet features like overdrive control and adjustable harmonics. And if you're into rack setups, there's an option too.
It mirrors the hardware, letting you run up to two stereo or four mono instances. A heads-up for the tech-savvy: you'll want a solid audio interface that can handle a 512 buffer rate for smooth sailing.
Now, with the slightly objective technical aspects out of the way, let's dive into what I loved the most about this little box.
This section easily leads off with the coloration and drive this not-so-humble device adds to a signal, which is the next level. Once the tubes warm up, depending on how much gas you give them, it can add anything from subtle-as-satin warmth to a heavy-handed amount of distortion. This distortion edges up to being more of a creative sound-design tonality than for mixing, but that speaks as much to the versatility of this device as it does to its sound.
Running the signal through a legit analog processor, the warmth and grit it adds to anything, be it drums, vocals, or anything in between, which we will discuss later, is imparted with a specific edge. I've only encountered this as a studio intern using full console equipment and expensive outboard compressors.
Let me tell you, we've reviewed a fair amount of saturation and distortion plugins at Magnetic over the years, and very few of them can hold a candle to the unique and applicable distortion and coloration that the Freqport FT-1 Freqtube brings to whatever it's applied to.
One of the things I love about almost all analog gear is that they're usually devoid of the bells and whistles that plugins are decked in. Outboard gear like my Model D or the Korg MS-20 Mini is about as what-you-see-is-what-you-get as a minimalist producer could ask for, and the FT-1 Freqtube follows this trend while still keeping its toe in the digital world through its accompanying plugin. There are just a couple of knobs to dial in and ramp up the coloration and a main and parallel node of filtering (pictured lower down in this article).
Some reviewers wished for more options to shape the distortion, but I rarely wanted more, considering the channels and instruments I most often used. By trimming the fat and including only what's essential, you never get that "paradox of choice" vibe that mires and slows down my creative flow when I'm mixing and producing with convoluted gear.
Listen, I'm all for complex modulation points and adding movement to my sounds through distortion and other means, which is why I love plugins like Rift and Saturn 2. However, my philosophy on producing is to have specific tools for specific purposes. When I need complex and intricate LFO-mapped multiband saturation, I know exactly which plugins to grab. But when I want a device to act as my workhorse saturator to add bite, grit, and warmth to anything and everything, this bad boy is always warmed up and ready for action.
Yeah, I get that the look of a device is secondary to its sound, but let's be honest: having a sleek and sexy piece of gear in your toolkit is never bad.
The Freqport FT-1 Freqtube's small footprint is what makes it so powerful and approachable for the consumer-producer market.
This group of creatives often works in tight bedroom spaces and side rooms, where space and room size are significant constraints. Sure, this device would be a hit in a large, professional Hollywood studio, but they're likely already kitted out with racks of expensive outboard gear anyway. This device allows bedroom producers and small-space creatives to achieve similar levels of warmth without the spatial luxuries of million-dollar studios.
Freqport identified a specific need in the producer space and created a product that addressed it, knocking it all out of the park in the process.
Keeping this in mind, it's obviously fun to use, but its fresh and new concept also makes it a great conversation starter with my producer friends. They come to the studio for production sessions and see what they think is an unassuming black box next to the Push 3. They're blown away when the tubes light up with their iconic orange warmth, and I get to explain exactly what it does and how it applies its saturation in my mixdowns.
Used sparingly, this device delivers exactly what you need: a tasty saturation that warms your digital sounds and makes warm sounds crunchier. However, like all analog and circuit-driven gear, pushing the settings too far can produce less-than-ideal sounds, and the Freqtube is no exception. In stereo use, maxing out the drive lets you hear how the signal sometimes slightly favors the warmer tube. You need to push the Freqtube hard to notice this, but it's a reminder that these are real tubes with their limitations, just like any other hardware.
Honestly, to me this constant reminder of genuine analog processing is one of the device's coolest aspects. But for those who prefer a fail-safe workflow, it's important to recognize that, for better or worse, this device has its boundaries.
I'll keep this one short and sweet by saying this gear isn't the cheapest. With a price point, at the time of writing this, just shy of $1k, it's not the most accessible addition to every studio on the planet.
There are a ton of different channels and instruments that you can use this on, but after using this little box for the past few months, it's sidled its way into my workflow most consistently in the two use cases.
This device excels with drums, both on individual channels and the larger drum bus. When applied to individual channels, the warmth and saturation from the tubes notably enhance the transients. The signal driving into the tubes makes these transients stand out, thanks to the input-dependent coloration.
It's become a staple on every drum group in my mix flow, and here's why. My music, linked below, draws samples from various genres and packs. I blend punchy deep house kicks, bright tech-house hi-hats, soft foley percussions, and unique found sounds for my backbeat. Without the right processing, these diverse samples wouldn't sound cohesive. However, the saturation from the Freqtube creates a unifying sonic veneer, bringing a level of cohesion I didn't think possible with just plugins.
I'm all for a good workhorse mic, and the Lauten Audio LA-320 V2 has become my go-to mic for recording everything from guitars to vocals in my little studio. That being said, and despite its tube that it has, adding the Freqtube to vocals adds that tender bit of bite and warmth that my vocals lacked whenever I recorded in my little home studio (...and that always seemed easy to achieve when recorded in "pro" studios).
Whether it's on the main vocal, vocal bus, or just driving the hell out of the vocal reverb channel for a bit of industrial texture to the backdrop of the vocal, in some way, shape, or form, the Freqtube is on every vocal I've produced and recorded over the past four months.
Read the original article on MagneticMag.