REVIEW: Tegeler Audio Manufaktur Crème
Tegeler Audio Manufaktur is a German company based in Tegel (Berlin) and is managed by Michael Krusch. A small operation, Tegeler aim is to provide world-class sounding equipment that is easy to use.
We were familiar with Tegeler’s products (not least because we are regularly asked for them by our customers) and had been intrigued by their range of cleverly designed and innovative products for some time, so when they were looking for representation in the UK and the opportunity arose to test their products, we jumped at the opportunity.
In this review, we take a look at the Tegeler Audio Manufaktur Crème - a stereo Pultec-inspired two-band EQ and VCA compressor. The idea behind Crème is to recreate one of the most popular mix bus chains used by mixing engineers of Pultec EQs going into an SSL G-series compressor for dynamic control.
Tegeler put a lot of thought into the presentation and clearly want their users to have a positive experience of their products - even down to the packaging. Indeed, the Crème came in a Tegeler-branded treasure chest. While some people may see this as a gimmick, I couldn’t help smiling at taking the treasure chest out of the box, giving me the impression of dealing with a company that cares about its customers. The chest looks good and can easily be used as storage in a room for cables, for example.
The unit itself boasts a distinctive faceplate with a striking graphic overlay. All controls are on toggle- and rotary switches for easy recall and precision setting. They are laid out clearly in two rows with the EQ at the top and the compressor on the row below. An output button at the top is also included but being a boost only I feel it should have been called Gain Makeup - but more on that later. On the right, a VU meter displays the compressor’s gain reduction.
Surprised by the price of the unit (I cannot believe how affordable it is), I decided to open up the unit to inspect the build quality and, to my surprise, couldn’t see any sacrifices being made there. Although it uses SMT rather than point-to-point, build quality is reassuringly solid and components are sourced from Japan or Germany, and the VCAs were from the reputable THAT Corporation.
Functions, Features and Layout
The EQ section is based on a Pultec design with some decisive updates designed to serve its intended purpose as a mix bus and mastering unit. The first change and perhaps the most obvious is that you can only use it to boost each band. There is no option to cut. While the ability to separately boost and cut the same frequency is a powerful feature of Pultec EQs, it wasn’t something I missed with the Creme. The HF bandwidth control has also been removed. This leaves us with the core boost filters of a Pultec. Frequencies have also been modified to suit the intended purpose better with the LF band featuring a total of six frequency points (two more than on a Pultec) covering 20, 30, 60, 100, 140 and 200Hz with the latter two being added. The high band also sees some changes with frequencies starting at 10kHz instead of 3kHz and covering 12kHz, 14, 16, 18, 20 and 24kHz. Both bands have a +5dB boost which is sufficient for most mix buss and mastering applications.
The Compressor is a soft-knee VCA reminiscent of the SSL G-compressor and shares many similarities such as the 2:1, 4:1 and 10:1 ratios. The Tegeler Crème, however, adds a much-desired 1.5:1 which is far more suitable for mastering.
Attack and Release times are also very much in line with the SSL-compressor with six frequency points covering 0.1ms, 0.3ms, 1ms, 3ms, 10ms and 30ms for the attack and 0.1, 0.3, 0.8, 1.2 and an Automatic release which is program dependent.
The Crème also includes a sidechain filter with a choice of two frequencies (60Hz and 120Hz) which I’ve found to be incredibly useful. Another handy feature is the ability to switch between having the EQ pre or Post compressor.
Overall the design is excellent and gets the balance right between flexibility and getting the desired sound quickly. However, there are a couple of small additions that I felt were missing in the design. First of all, I wished that the EQ and compressor had an individual bypass as it would make setting each section far easier. For example, when I found a great setting on the EQ and wanted to set the compressor, there was no way for me to gauge if I was using the optimum setting for the compressor without bypassing the EQ and vice-versa. There are workarounds to this lack of individual bypass, for example, by zeroing the gain on the EQ on each band or increasing the threshold.
Another point that I mentioned earlier was the output control which only works to boost the output. It meant that if I was only using the EQ (which by its design can only boost the signal level), there was no way for me to compensate for that increase in level. I feel that the output knob should offer the option to cut by 5dB or 6dB (my preferred choice) or it should be labelled “Gain Make Up” since it would be mainly used to compensate for the compressor’s gain reduction.
However, since the amplifier stands after both the EQ and compression, this is almost certainly an intentional design decision, encouraging the engineer to use Crème as an integrated system – rather than seeing it as a separate EQ and a compressor. I feel, however, that it could gain even more flexibility with these small changes.
Soundwise the Tegeler Crème is stunning, the EQ in particular. The low-end adds solidity and weight without adding mushiness even when boosting by 5dB. The HF band is incredibly smooth, and the choice of frequencies is spot-on for the mix bus or for mastering applications. The 24kHz band is especially great at opening up a song with no signs of harshness. The combination of 20Hz/30Hz and 24kHz really is like magic, adding a gentle smiley curve that gives that little extra excitement to a song or instrument.
The compression is very clean and transparent and works incredibly well to add punch and glue. Used on the drum bus, I was extremely impressed at how I could smash the drums, making them vibrant and in your face. When used on an entire mix, it delivered a punchy performance typical of VCA compressors. The high-pass filter worked really well, and I found myself leaving the unit almost exclusively on 120Hz keeping the low-end really powerful.
Depending on applications my preferences varied, but for mastering, I found that the1.5:1 ratio with a long attack 30ms and a fast release 0.1 or 0.3s worked particularly well. I also found the Auto setting very good at making a song gel.
The ability to switch the EQ pre or post compression is excellent (I cannot emphasise this enough). While my instinct was to have the EQ before the compression, often enough engaging the switch proved me wrong, offering a more robust and fuller sound. Sometimes however I preferred it that way, so having the option was fantastic.
The Crème is a great sounding unit that delivers a stellar performance. The combination of Pultec-style EQ and VCA bus compressor is very effective at improving the dynamic and tonal balance of any stereo source and make a mix sound more polished. Although I primarily tested on drums and entire mixes (in mixing and mastering situations) it would certainly work very well on stereo instruments or busses of any kind. For me, it’s the ideal unit to start using hardware on the master bus or if you are looking to augment your mix bus chain with a new broad-stroke passive EQ and VCA compression. In my particular case, it’s a great complement to my mastering chain, taking care of all the boost shelving needs better than my current mastering EQ as well as giving me an additional, very capable mastering compressor and I am considering in all seriousness keeping the unit with me.
More info : https://www.kmraudio.com/tegeler-audio-creme.php