Marek Stycos, principal at the national pro audio brand management firm Audio Alchemist, has announced the acquisition of Chameleon Labs, manufacturer of premium yet affordable analogue equipment inspired by classic 1970s British preamps and compressors. Established in the early 2000s, Chameleon Labs was acquired in 2014 by veteran audio electronics designer Marcelo Vercelli, known for developing innovative products and patents for Event, Mackie, RCF and KV2, who has focused the company on a new generation of products, including the flagship 7603 preamplifier and the 7721 stereo VCA compressor.
“Chameleon Labs invested two years and a mountain of cash for research and development into the total ground-up redesigns of the 7602 and 7720,” Stycos says. “Both new incarnations now perform in an utterly different sonic weight class, thanks to tech like discrete EQ, op amps, proprietary-wound input and output transformers, SMT construction, vetted film resistors and custom internal universal power supplies fuelling fat voltage rails. This has catapulted them out of the copycat classification and into the annals of modern American design – with a tip of the hat to British sensibilities.”
Stycos, who is now president of Chameleon Labs LLC as well as president of Dangerous Music Group, continues, “In 2022, Chameleon Labs approached Audio Alchemist with an offer to sell us the company. This will provide the funding and vision needed to take Chameleon Labs to the next level of its evolution. Since the acquisition, we’ve built a healthy inventory of 7603s and 7721s.”
The redesign of the 7603 line/mic/DI preamplifier builds on its renowned predecessor, the 7602, which Tape Op magazine reviewer John Baccigaluppi declared to be “worth every penny” when it was introduced. The new 7603 includes enhancements such as all-new proprietary microphone and line-level input transformers featuring custom-made nickel laminations and bobbin assemblies, all designed in-house at Chameleon Labs’ U.S. headquarters. A new discrete audio input gain stage provides extremely low noise, high dynamics and extreme bandwidth. The 7603 XMOD is identical, except for the use of input and output transformers from U.K. manufacturer Carnhill, a name familiar to users of vintage Neve equipment.
Although it is a successor to the 7720, the redesign of the 7721 started from scratch, drawing on users’ demands and expectations for a bus compressor suitable for today’s productions. Detection and voltage control are based on a VCA topology, and the circuit provides low noise and transparency, together creating an acoustic ‘glue’ capable of consistently delivering punch and loudness to the signal.