DIY Recording Equipment Podcast podcast

Talking Tubes with DW Fearn

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DW Fearn knows tubes. Since he rediscovered the sound of tubes in 1991, DW (Doug) has crafted a legendary line of all-tube, all-red-front-paneled recording gear. In April I had the pleasure of visiting Doug at his home and workshop outside Philadelphia. Doug and I sat down on either side of a ribbon microphone and had a great conversation about tubes, electronics, and sound. During our conversation Doug tells the story of how he returned to tubes after decades of operating an all sold-state studio, and outlines the theory behind why tubes and transistors sound different in a clear and straightforward way.

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Topics discussed:

  • How Doug pieced together his first console from standalone amplifiers
  • What happened when he replaced that tube gear with a solid-state console
  • "We couldn't admit that it didn't sound good, so we just got used to it."
  • How a demo tape from college in 1966 led him back to building tube amps
  • "We didn't listen to recorded music in my household... live music was what I was exposed to. So when the time came to build a mic preamp, that's the sound I had in my mind."
  • Tubes vs transistors: why it's all about headroom
  • Even vs odd harmonics and how they relate to tubes vs transistors
  • "The less you torture it, the better it's going to sound. So you keep the signal path as simple as possible."
  • What Doug's new product design process looks like
  • The one equalizer that knocked DW Fearn out
  • DW Fearn refuses to wrestle a piece of gear into existence
Many thanks to Doug for having me out to his home and sharing his knowledge so freely. Thank you also to Paul K of Firehouse Recording for connecting us. You can learn more about DW Fearn gear at

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