Review: Little Labs Redeye 3D Phantom

January 25, 2017

Over the past year or so, I’ve been shifting a lot of my focus toward my Bay Area recording studio, Airship Laboratories. It’s not only been creatively invigorating, it’s also pushed me to dive headfirst into a new world of gear. A recording studio is essentially an elaborate gear habitat, each piece contributing its share to the (hopefully) thriving ecosystem. And much like in an ecosystem, the whole food chain plays an important role, from the glamorous apex preamps and mics to the lowly cable snakes and monitor stands. Unlike live, there’s also nearly limitless ways to take a bass tone into uncharted territory, the limit being only your imagination and ingenuity. One of the coolest assets in that journey is a reamp box, and the Redeye 3D Phantom is one of the best.

For those who don’t know, reamping is the technique wherein a recorded bass signal (usually tracked with a direct box or preamp) is sent out of the recording device and into an amp or other piece of gear. In this way, a recording engineer is able to use the direct sound as the basis for experimentation, long after the part was tracked. The reason a purpose-built box is necessary is that amplifiers are designed to accept a high-impedance instrument-level signal, but the output of a DAW or tape machine is a low-impedance line-level signal. To ensure that the amp reacts appropriately, an engineer must fool it into thinking it’s receiving a live bass signal. The same goes for stompboxes and any other instrument-level gear.

Little Labs is renowned among engineers for its elegant and affordable solutions to many vexing little studio challenges. In that tradition, the Redeye 3D is an extraordinarily versatile device. First, it is built like a proper professional piece of gear, with custom transformers handling impedance conversion (they’re modeled after UTC transformers, famed among studio gear geeks) and hi-fi, rugged parts throughout. Via front-panel buttons, the Redeye can be used as a passive DI, an active buffered DI with a nice and high 10MΩ input impedance to avoid loading passive pickups and attenuating highs, and as a reamp box with real-time switching between a direct and reamped sound, if desired. In active mode, power comes via 48-volt phantom. The Redeye also allows users to lift the signal ground to reduce noise and to flip the reamp signal’s polarity to ensure phase coherence. In short, it does everything—and more—that one could expect from a box the size of a small external hard drive.

I immediately put the Redeye to use in my studio. I was able to bring new character and vibe to a dozen or so sessions, sending my bass tracks out to a host of amps in my live room and experimenting with mics and mic placement. I also could more easily interface my bass with a variety of outboard gear that expects to see a mic-level signal at its input, such as mic preamps and compressors. In short, the sub-$300 Redeye 3D injected more fun into my recording workflow than just about any other piece of gear I own, including some that are mind-blowingly expensive.

If you do any recording, you most certainly should give the Redeye a try. As a basic direct box, it’s excellent. It offers a slightly colorful, transformer-kissed sound that elegantly captured my bass’ nuances, especially when I needed to make use of the buffered input to extract maximum fidelity from my passive instruments. At the price, its DI capabilities alone make it a good value. That it doubles as a top-shelf reamp box with a special color all its own makes it a must-have.

SPECIFICATIONS

LITTLE LABS

Redeye 3D Phantom
Street
$290
Pros Excellent-sounding DI and reamp; ruggedly made from top-notch parts; remarkably versatile
Cons None
Bottom Line Given the price, it’s hard not to make this a de rigeur buy for any bass player with recording ambition.

Made in USA
Contact littlelabs.com

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