552: Love him or hate him, here’s SVEN – 2009

“The 552 (and the 788T) was the start of the melding of mixers and recorders for Sound Devices. Of course we now have both the MixPre line and the 8-Series line, both of which are mixer-recorders. But before the 552, these were physically two different devices, and it was quite popular to carry the 442 mixer along with the 744 recorder. The 552 was our first hybrid unit which combined both a mixer and a recorder in one power-efficient unit. The 552 was mostly an all-analog mixer featuring 5 Lundahl input transformers. I just looked over the schematic for the first time in years – each input had dual opto-based limiters along with one stage implemented with depletion-mode MOSFETs — a total of 3 limiter stages per channel. To this, I grafted a small 2-channel recorder based on an ARM926 microcontroller from Atmel. Jason McDonald (Mechanical Engineering) designed the top and bottom panels out of injection-molded carbon fiber to save weight. The 552 was also the first (and last!) time customers met Sven, our much-maligned voice assistant. This was an effort to make navigating the blinking LEDs from the 442 that controlled settings easier to use. The microcontroller in the 552 had just enough oomph to run a primitive voice synth, but small power-efficient displays or pre-recorded voices were out of the question. A funny story: Sven had an internal setting to be a female or male voice. Foreshadowing the movie “Her”, one of our programmers had it set to female during development and said that after hearing it so much, he “sort of fell in love with her.” We all agreed that he needed to get out more…!”