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3 mic pres under $500. Black Lion Audio, True Systems and FMR Audio

October 31st, 2009 | 112 Comments   « Previous  |  Episode 11  |  Next »

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This episode I look at the FMR Audio “RNP”,  Black Lion Audio Auteurand True Systems P-SOLO in my quest to find a great mic pre under 500 bucks. Its pretty long winded but has tips and perspective aimed at beginner recording engineers and home studio recordists about testing gear and avoiding latency in native DAWs.

Since making this episode, True Systems has gotten a new distributor and raised the price of the P-Solo for all of their dealers, so its can no longer be found for under $500 new anywhere. But they are still a bargain.

Music by Jeff Findl (feat. Dave Pearlman on pedal steel) Stay tuned til the very end for a 23 second concert film of Nels Cline (Wilco) and G.E. Stinson (Shadowfax, Half Monk).

Black Lion Audio + FMR Audio + True System

download for itunes here

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Rating: 4.6/5 (42 votes cast)
112 Comments ~ Speak your mind »
  1. Dave K.

    Awesome show! Well done.

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  2. Gharper23(gearslutz)

    Hey Ronan I really enjoy watching your videos. Keep up the good work.

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    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
  3. Anthony Rochester

    hey Ronan,

    I really like your show, I’ve watched every episode, and learnt some cool things. One piece of criticism for you – I think if you repeat yourself less, the show length will be shorter and more watchable and still get the same information across. If you say the same thing many times in different ways, the show is longer than it needs to be, and you can still include just as much information. I think if you repeat yourself less, the show length will be shorter and more watchable and still get the same information across. If you say the same thing many times in different ways, the show is longer than it needs to be, and you can still include just as much information. I think if you repeat yourself less, the show length will be shorter and more watchable and still get the same information across. If you say the same thing many times in different ways, the show is longer than it needs to be, and you can still include just as much information. I think if you repeat yourself less, the show length will be shorter and more watchable and still get the same information across. If you say the same thing many times in different ways, the show is longer than it needs to be, and you can still include just as much information.

    Sorry, I think I made my point, i don’t want to be rude about it.

    Anyway, I really like your show, its great that you’re sharing your knowledge! Much respect.

    Anthony

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  4. Steve

    I also really Liked the P-solo.
    I have a 2 channel Fivefishaudio SC-1 and 8 Focusrite Platinum Pres, When I had 500$ a year ago I went for the Groove tubes Brick which is also a really nice preamp If you want tube. I use it for warming up amp modelers or Mics, and It really Is a good choice if you want a “good” tube mic amp to complement a Higher end Solidstate pre but don’t want to spend as much as you might have spent on your main pre.

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  5. Einar

    Awsome show Ronan!

    Since you´re on the mic pre issue, it would be very interesting to see/hear a shootout of the pres you mentioned in the video (Pacifica, Great River… maybe TG-2, GTQ2) Mic pres in the area of $2000.

    Thank you.

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  6. hue

    Great shootout. Well explained. Definitely gives a better understanding of what one might expect for their money.

    Props to BLA for having thick enough skin to take the criticism. That’s an anomaly in this economic climate.

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  7. JT Milhorat

    Dear Ronan, I think your shows are really great and the information that you provide is quite helpful indeed! The AES 2009 show was spectacular btw! I thought the “Shoot Out” show was interesting! I had no choice back in late 2002 but to purchase the then brand new FMR – RNP. I was using a Mackie 1604 and 32 channel at this time and the RNP was a step up. My preamp sounds from ART and Mackie were so bad for my work, that I opted to utilize Line 6 PODS (bass,guitar) for a 70 track double CD of Garage Music (Purple Iron Hat) , where I played all instruments. It was not until the end of 2002 when I got the RNP that I was able to incorporate the pre with the album that I was producing, but the RNP proved to really shine over the PODS with a bright definitive shimmery guitar sound (especially on the Zappa song, “Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance.”) I also found the RNP to be an excellent DI for both bass and guitar…vocals not so much. Of course I have better pres now, but at that time the RNP was a real eye opener to better fidelity recording. I would love to send you a copy of the album that I mentioned, let me know if you are interested. Many blessings to you Ronan! Peace. JT

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  8. Ronan

    Hi Anthony, (RE: Repeating myself),

    First off thanks for watching the show and second thanks for the feedback.

    I liked your post. Reminded my of the King Crimson song “Indiscipline”

    ( I repeat myself when under stress I repeat myself when under stress I
    repeat myself when under stress I repeat myself when under stress I repeat. The more I look at it,
    the more I like it.
    I do think it’s good.
    The fact is….)

    I agree with you about repeating myself. Its something I need to keep working on. The downside of the way I put the show together is the fact that I have to do it all guerrilla style at odd hours. Luckily my day job (making records and teaching the occasional workshop) keeps me extremely busy usually 7 days a week, and I put the show together after hours. I was literally editing this show at 3:30am the night before last after about 12 hours of tracking in the studio. I do not really have time to work off a script like a “real” show would do. I just jump in front of the camera (often several times in a week), share my thoughts and then try and make it some what cohesive in editing.

    I say none of this to defend myself, I actually agree with you and really appreciate the feedback. Just letting you know why I make all of you sit through the bumps as bruises on the show. I guess its the price I make you pay for a show that is free and commercial free.

    Thanks Anthony
    Ronan

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  9. Baz

    Great show, bumps and bruises and all and one that I think could really benefit guys getting into this. I wish I had a show like this when I first started.

    If the clean pre (that remains nameless) that the Solo beat 100% of the time was a CS Flamingo, I’m gonna be bummed ;)

    Keep em’ comin!

    Baz

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  10. John J

    Hey Ronan. Very very interesting. This is what I’m talking about, all this info has its place and once again you’ve demonstrated that. What I found fascinating, was your willingness to let go of your presupposition to each mic pre till the tally was in from the A B blind test. I say that because we all have some tendency to look favorably on the one we’ve heard about and most likely might lean toward that one and it possible could interfere with our judgment in each test. You’ve structured and explained the differences and variables in each mic preamp in such a way that you let us make the decision base upon independent thinking. The exact position Black Lion took. When you can get a company like Black Lion to respect your review, what does that say about them? And you for that matter. That is integrity at its core. This is what I’ve come away with and hopefully the others here also. We are trusting all bodies here to give us the info that is meaningful to our economic and educational pursuit in the realm of recording. Amazing. Just a sidestep Though my preferences would have been the $1000 to $2000 range, I have learned a lot from the $500 range example. An absolutely great show!

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  11. Jhokanson

    Great episode, Ronan. One step closer to understanding the mystique behind the preamp!

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  12. Ryan Gruss

    Excellent show. Looking forward to more shootouts in the future!

    Cheers,
    RG

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  13. Steve

    Cool video. Love your work.
    Great show as always.

    Hey I see True Systems also does a specific preamp for Ribbon Mics. H
    How about a show that discussed why one would use a Ribbon Specific preamp
    That could include the True System P-Solo Ribbon ;-)

    ps. I have put a link to your show on my website.

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  14. Marcello

    Excellent! Lots of great info. Really like the extra hints that appear on the screen for us rookies. PS The True Systems model is currently selling for $535… wonder if they jacked up the price ‘cuz of your review?

    Many thanks, Ronan, I’m learning lots!

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  15. Ed

    Thanks for taking the time to do this show. I agree their are so many variables of pre’s that it’s hard to do an A/B comparison. Some prefer modern electronics and some rather tube ( that’s me) I run an analog setup and at this time I use the pre’s on my Mackie VLZ pro mixer. I’m looking forward to more shows in the future.

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  16. toro

    love the show dude, u chat at the mouth some but cool

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  17. jo

    perfect show for having breakfast and starting a day :) btw I liked all your episodes

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  18. NYMorningstar

    Hey Ronan,

    Another great show, you rock.
    You covered all the features real well.
    I know you like critique so I’ll just say I was disappointed in you not mentioning the big boys the True systems pre did beat. You mentioned you don’t like talking trash about companies but in all fairness they’re just another price range to include and you did kinda include nothing beat Pacifica, just saying… :)

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  19. Chris

    Ronan,

    I used to be safe from preamp gear lust because it was all too expensive. You might have ruined that for me. Of course, if I really take the advice of fixing everything at the source, I will stop fiddling with gear and start practicing a lot more.

    Chris

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  20. Ronan


    PS The True Systems model is currently selling for $535… wonder if they jacked up the price ‘cuz of your review?

    Marcello, thanks for bringing that to my attention. They were less than $500 when I started making the show. Now I look a little silly. After you told me this I did find one dealer that still has them for less than $500 Zen Pro Audio I put that link at the top of the page now to.

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  21. Anton Evans

    Excellent show as was the Namm show. It’s funny, I now look forward to upcoming episodes. Would love to see more recording techniques and maybe a word or two on recording theory. Great work as usual.
    Cheers

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  22. Peter Morgan

    Excellent, informative review. The True Systems looks like a great little preamp.

    Unfortunately, in the UK these brands are not so common as Presonus etc. so the prices are rather higher – $900 for the True Systems and $800 for the RNC (ouch).

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  23. Mike 3rd

    Great show! Always interesting!!! Bye

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  24. Ron

    Hi Ronan,

    Very cool show!

    I find the DBX286a to be a step up from stock pre’s on Mackie boards or audio interfaces. Very clear, nice shimmer and low noise.
    Although it’s a channel strip I rarely use anything but the preamp.

    I paid $100 through e-bay for it and have not regretted it.
    The unit retails for $200.

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  25. Carlos

    Ronan, u r the best!!!! Keep up the great work, you are making our music better!!!

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  26. Oli

    Aah I would’ve loved to see the Pre73 in there too! Or a DAV bg-1! (because I use them…)

    I love these two units at their price point, and would be so interested to hear your comparisons with the FMR and BLA.

    You do a wicked show, keep it up.

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  27. Skye

    Great show. It’s good that you mentioned detents. The Red 8 by Focusrite is also stepped in +6dB increments, and at the higher end of the gain where you usually are, it can be too much or too little in some cases.

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  28. Mr.Potato

    Hi Ronan – firstly awesome work on the site, your videos are really well made and very useful (especially for the millions of us out there on a budget).

    I just wanted to suggest another mic pre you might want to think about reviewing sometime in the future if you get the chance – Sontronics Sonora. I don’t know if it’s under $500, but it retails for £339 here in UK for 2 channels with DI on both as well. There are a few reviews around that seem to be generally positive, but i have found almost nothing in terms of user reviews.

    Also +1 for the GAP 73! I would love to know what you think of that unit, it definately seems to offer a lot for the price.

    Thanks again for the great videos, i really hope you can up the viewer numbers here and maybe get some advertising revenue (you must eat quite a bit of bandwidth considering the high quality of the videos).

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  29. Tim in NC

    Very good review; there are many units to choose from. There is one pre I would really like to see in your next shootout, assuming there will be another one. One of the most talked about pre in the low end is the ART Pro MPA II with a tube swap. It’s either really respected or really hated. What I have seen on Gearslutz. it seems that it is more respected than not and it is rather feature packed. I know that you are looking for units out of the box, unmodified, and the most favorable reviews of the MPA come after a tube change, but I still think it would be a good test of the unit unmodified to at least see the potential or lack thereof. You did such a good honest assessment on the shootout that I think that you would do an honest assessment on the ART and not nock it down just because of the name. After all, Tony Visconti has an MPA…. ooooooo it must be good….hehehe. But seriously, I really would like to see an honest shoot out of this unit…..

    Thanks again for all your great work!!!

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  30. Skye

    Good alternate suggestions so far:

    -ART Pro MPA II ($300)
    -Golden Age Pre-73 ($300)

    I might add the Line Audio 2MP (~$350) and Shinybox Si ($500, though the 500 series power supply/rack is an extra cost.)

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  31. Animal Mother

    Very nice show!

    However, no wonder the True Labs came first… it’s more expensive than the two others and it only has a channel (without pad and phase inverter!). That wasn’t very fair.

    My choice is on the RNP which I will get this Friday!

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  32. Ronan

    However, no wonder the True Labs came first… it’s more expensive than the two others and it only has a channel (without pad and phase inverter!). That wasn’t very fair.
    My choice is on the RNP which I will get this Friday!

    Hey Animal mother, Thanks for the kind words about the show. Enjoy the RNP. Its a cool mic pre. I was a little bummed when I was sending the review unit back. I know the True Systems is twice the price, but the goal of the show as to find a great pre under $500. So far its the best mic pre I have used that fits that criteria.

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  33. Adam

    Thanks very much. Excellent job. Just wanted to recommend the Seventh Circle Audio N72 pres. You can get them assembled by SCA for around 500 a channel, but you’ve got to spring for the 8-channel chassis and power supply when you get your first channel(s). After that though, it’s just 500 a pop (until you pick up your 9th). Long turn-around time for orders, but it’s worth it. Absolutely beautiful pres. In fact, my first pair ended up replacing my A-Designs Pacifica. (I would have kept that too if I could swing it though). Anyway, thanks again.

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  34. Animal Mother

    Thanks for the answer Ronan.

    Another suggestion for your next episodes:

    Can you provide some kind of grid/chart detailing each preamp’s strong and weak points for different scenarios (vocals, amps, acoustic guitar, percussions, stereo techniques, etc.)? We get the point in the review that they’re all three good preamps but it’s not so clear which preamp is better for what situation…

    I’m getting a used RNP but I only plan to record guitar/bass amps. Maybe another preamp in this price range will do a better job than the RNP even though it’s a good preamp.

    Keep on the good work dude!

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  35. Mike Jasper

    Well done. I’ve seen you around Gearslutz for a while now, but I had no idea. You’re amazingly articulate for a an audio geek.

    Seriously, great job. Thanks.

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  36. Julián

    Thanks so much for doing this!

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  37. Ken Reibeling

    Great show Ronan.I would like to see you shootout more gear as I think you are unbiased for the most part and a purist at heart.

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  38. Ronan

    Great show Ronan.I would like to see you shootout more gear as I think you are unbiased for the most part and a purist at heart.

    I would love to do more as well. Its simply a matter of actually finding the time. It takes me a really long time to do a shoot out that I feel comfortable talking about publicly. To throw them together fast would be unfair to the audience and the manufacturers.

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  39. john

    I would like to see the ART Tube MP, the one under $100 tried out also.
    I own this and A/B it against some very nive pres, and the results were stunning.

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  40. Darrin

    It was too bad you couldnt get a Line6 gearbox based preamp…we did A/B testing against other Neve and API clones and found that the UX8 was very close and at $500 for 8 channels.
    Conceptually its a different animal since its a digital modeler…but it does an excellent job and at the $500 price point you couldnt beat it with anything.

    Answering for the guy above the ART tube MP and other units like it that use the tube as a light are noisy before a mic is hooked up to it…you have to more voltage than a wall wart can provide to properly bias a tube.

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  41. jefferson

    wow, your show is great. wicked and comfortable to watch. really informative, i’m glad i found it. keep it up man.

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  42. $400 beans...SM7 mic... or a $400 preamp? - Page 2 - Rapmusic.com

    [...] Mic preamp reviews. Black Lion Audio, FMR Audio and True Systems | Ronan’s Recording Show __________________ FiZiKs Soundclick [...]

  43. Richard

    Thanks for taking the time to do this shootout!

    I already own a Focusrite ISA One and am looking for another preamp to go with it.
    I have been considering the True Systems P-Solo and the GAP PRE73.

    Which of these would you recommend to go with Focusrite ISA preamp?

    Thanks

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  44. Sam

    Hey Ronan,

    Awesome show! I for one really appreciate the long-format explanation of your process and found the video really helpful. I am looking for an affordable preamp rig to power four mics, and am leaning towards a pair of RNP’s, figuring $1000 for four channels is a good deal. I’m wondering though–will the RNP’s be a significant improvement over the XDR pre-amps on my Mackie 1402-VLZ3? They are good for the most part but start to whine at the top end on my dynamic mics (EVRE20, Shure SM7B), and I’m looking for something that will fatten the sound and not complain when I push the gain.

    Thanks man! You rock.

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  45. Ronan

    Sam, Thanks so much for the kind words.

    I would assume the RNP would be better than the Mackie mic pres. I was hoping to throw them into the tests as well but did not have the time. The one thing I can say is that when I ran the RNP at full gain with dynamic mics I did not get any of the “whine” you mentioned. In your situation I would probably look at getting one RNP and one Black Lion Audio. I found them to be comparably in quality, but had different coloration. This would give you a wider range of tonal options for about the same money. -Ronan

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  46. Geir

    Thanks :)
    Great shootout

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  47. Calum

    How would the Golden Age Project Pre 73 stack up against the P solo? Anyone have an idea?

    Calum

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  48. Phillip

    how bout the Golden Age Project Pre-73 preamp?

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  49. Sam

    Hey Ronan/Everyone,

    Since my last comment I’ve picked up both an RNP and a GAP 73, and I can report that they are both fantastic. I’ve got them both running through an RNC on SuperNice mode.

    I must say that I like the overall sound and feel of the RNP better–it’s got a little color, but nothing harsh, and to my still-noobish ear at least, sounds rounder and fatter than the 73. That said, the 73 has been invaluable for my Shure SM7b–I use it to mic a female speaker with a fairly soft voice, and the 73’s 80db of gain boost things perfectly, so she feels no pressure to force her voice, and the sound is full and balanced nicely with the rest of the mix. I’ve been using RE20’s with the RNP and it’s got just enough gain to make the mic’s really speak–though I find they have to be addressed from fairly close for optimum results.

    Anyway, hope this is helpful, and I couldn’t have made the decision without your awesome show, Ronan! Rock on.

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  50. Chris

    Hey Ronan, great show!

    @Sam (Above)- Cheers for the comparison between the RNP and the golden age, they’re the main contenders for my purchase at the moment. I’ve heard that Golden Age’s need to be modded (inc/ lost warrantee!!) to sound proper good, and after the black lion’s High-gain-issue, i wouldnt want to take the risk. If i had the momey to buy both, the first thing i’d do id make the video for youtube in (HD) for comparison between them, that’s all the people want!!

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  51. Cody

    In terms of a “fatter” sound, which of the two, RNP of Auteur, sounded better on kick and snare?

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  52. phillip yoo

    Does the P-solo have enough gain for a dynamic mic like the Behringer M201 TG or Shure SM57? Is noise an issue?

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  53. Ronan

    Does the P-solo have enough gain for a dynamic mic like the Behringer M201 TG or Shure SM57? Is noise an issue?

    Philip, The gain was quite good and clean on the P-solo. At high gain it was the cleanest of all the mic pres in the test. I did one test where I used an SM57 to record and organ that was 2 or 3 meters away and it had enough gain and sounded quite good-Ronan

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  54. Ronan

    In terms of a “fatter” sound, which of the two, RNP of Auteur, sounded better on kick and snare?

    Cody, I am not sure I could say one was fatter than the other. As I used them both in many situations with different mics, sometimes the RNP would sound fatter and sometimes the Auteur. I think I would have to say it was a tie.

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  55. Dan N

    Ronan – I had a great experience dealing with Black Lion as well and as soon as I can save up some cash, I may opt for an Auteur. A friend had told me that they had been modding Nady PRA-8’s and improving them — (yeah, a Nady PRA-8, what I’m learning on here) — so I sent an email to Black Lion and asked if they were doing that work. Got a very respectful and warm response back that they did not, had done it a little in the past but found that opening them up sometimes became unworkable, etc. After all, my Nady pre is an inexpensive 8 channel — but, I did appreciate that they responded and treated me with respect even though some might find the idea of modding a PRA-8 laughable. Frankly, I have more to learn with a PRA-8 before I have exhausted it’s limits — and in the meantime, I’ll save up for something better. The guys at Black Lion are pretty straight up and respectful, so there is something to be said for that — I work in my day job for a fortune 100 company, and it’s spending millions of dollars to educate the workforce about integrity — Black Lion has it from the ground up. That’s pretty priceless in my book.

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  56. Ronan

    Dan, That is so true. The folks at BLA are super cool. Great company. Thanks for chiming in.

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  57. Richard

    Hi,

    The Focusrite ISA One is now $499!! Any chance of checking this out and the Golden Age Projects PRE73?

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  58. J.P. Ranger

    Hi Ronan,

    Great stuff! Am generally a veteran to song writing and more of an observer to recording over the years. I finally decided to get into the recording aspect a little more for the fun of it.

    I was just about to head out to the store to buy the FRM RNC and caught your show just before leaving. I feel more confident on my decision to purchase one now.

    I’ll be back and tell a few people about your wonderful site.

    Cheers,
    JP

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  59. Terry

    The Line Audio 2 channel mic pre is worth looking at. I have owned one for about three years. It’s very clean. I don’t think it compares to the big stuff of API or Pacifica. But it works well, it has very low noise and presumably high quality components. It is made in Sweden by one person who I believe works out of his home.

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  60. Jay A.

    Not a new preamp, but I would like to see the Aphex 107 in a shootout. I haven’t seen many real good shootouts/reviews with it, and it is a main contender in cheap mic pres. I believe they were originally $600 – $700 new, but can now be commonly found for about $150 – $250, sometimes less if you’re lucky.

    Just a thought.

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  61. Peter

    Hi great vid on the mic pre’s! I would like to know your thoughts on Presonus equipment Mic pre and Audio interfaces ect…

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  62. Ronan

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for your kind comments about the show.

    I do not have tons of experience with Presonus gear, but I have always found it to be solidly usable. For the most part not exciting high end but for the most part, but if I had just presonus stuff, it would certainly not stop me from making decent sounding records. again I do not have tons of personal experience with this, just a bit and have gotten the same impression from other engineer pals.

    I gotta admit I am really interested to try the PreSonus ADL 600 2-channel Tube Microphone Preamplifier they did with Anthony Demaria Labs. That looks pretty cool.

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  63. Sean Harley

    That was great – lots of great info and you dumbed it down enough that even I understood it! :)

    Trench Town Oddities

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  64. Paul Van Heuklom

    Valuable information and great show. I’ve been looking at Studio Projects’ VTB-1 but now thinking I might save up for the RNP or P-Solo. I really only need one channel … any thoughts about which would work best with a Native American flute?

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  65. Ronan

    Paul, If you want a mic pre that will do a good job of capturing the natural sound of a Native American flute, I can not imagine a better mic pre than the P-Solo with out spending a lot more money. – Ronan

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  66. Javier

    Paul, I have a VTB-1 from Studio Projects, I love the sound of it in acoustic guitars, I recorded vocals with tube blend and prefer to use it clean, tube does fatten the sound but this will depend on your taste. For me it will be super to have a comparison of a mic pre in the $500 like the ones tested in the shoot-out versus the VTB-1, when I owned it back in 2002, reviews were pretty heavy in comparing this cheap pre-amp with $500 plus. Do not know how biased those reviews were, as for Ronan, this is the best video/explanation I have ever seen that really tells a story, being myself an engineer (not audio), I think Ronan’s testing has been very objective and unbiased. Ronan, congratulations with your show, and many thanks!

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  67. Ronan

    Javier, Thanks so much for sharing your experience with the rest of the viewers, and for your kind words.

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  68. T

    It’s not $500, but, for a couple hundred more, I really love the UA 710 Twinfinity. Well under a grand, and you get 2 for the price of one. A solid state & a tube pre. And it has a blend knob. So you not only get one or the other you can have as much, or as little of either. SS not warm enough? Tube not punchy enough. A little tweak, and problem solved.

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  69. CharlyEtSaDrôleDeDame

    Hello from France !

    First of all, congratulations for your show Ronan. That’s awesome ! I’ve discovered it few days ago and I’ve suscribed to the web site’s RSS feed. Your videos are greats !

    Like many of independant musicians, I’m looking for a nice preamp under 500 bucks. I’m interested by the RNP but I was wondering if someone has compared with the Joemeek ThreeQ ?

    I hesitate between 1 FMR RNP or 2 joemeek ThreeQ. Any advice ? Thanks a lot for your help ;)

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  70. Ronan

    Charly, I have never done a direct comparison. All the the Joe Meek gear I have used has not been great, but good and I had no problem using it. I also mix lots of records recorded by other people and when they have used the Joe Meek pre-amps the tracks have sounded pretty good.

    So I do not really have a recommendation for you, but only to say that either choice would probably be OK.

    ps. Thanks for the kind words about my videos – Ronan

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  71. anthonyP

    hey good shiT broO . your shows are very informative and i have learned a lot from watching . i just bought a apogee duet today and plan to buy a shure sm7b . do you think i will benifit with a preamp like the p solo ? how are teh pres in the duet ? thanx man

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  72. alex

    great show ronan,

    i consider myself a novice still, and haven’t stepped up to the next realm of pro audio gear… however, my chops are improving and i’m already sensing myself wanting to explore better gear… i’ve been looking into the more expensive pres and would like to start building up a decent outboard unit…

    with that said (and for the time being), i’ve been recently exploring the art tube mp… now, to most purists this unit appears to be a joke… but in my current budget and level of experience i must say that this thing has far exceeded any expectations i had when i forked over 30 bucks for it at a store…

    i’d also been reading in forums how swapping the stock tube out of this thing with a more decent counterpart would make a huge difference…

    so i recently (and VERY carefully) swapped it out with an ARS 12ax7a/7025 and was blown away by the results… i ran my guitar through it to an amplifier, maxed out the gain and the thing was dead quiet until i strummed a chord…

    i’d really like to see a future video on really cheap gear that either sounds amazing for the price — either standalone, or with some tweaking…

    alex

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  73. Donn Brown

    Greetings Ronan,….

    How about a test shot comparison between the Focusrite ISA one
    and the GAP pre-73. That should be alot of fun.

    The pre-73’s are a lot of bang for the buck. Thanks! D G Brown

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  74. True Systems P-Solo - Home Recording Forum

    [...] first hearing about this preamp and seeing it compared and tested to other mid-priced preamps on Ronan's Recording Show, I had some serious gear lust for this preamp. For about $500 you get one of the absolute [...]

  75. Suitemix Studio

    Love the show, very in depth! I also really like Black Lion Audio Co. I’m have my 003 Mod. this week. When do you have time to record? Thanks, George

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  76. Ronan

    Love the show, very in depth! I also really like Black Lion Audio Co. I’m have my 003 Mod. this week. When do you have time to record? Thanks, George


    Thanks. Yeah, BLA is super cool. Let us know how your mod turns out. I have time to record because I work 7 days a week from the time I wake up until I go to bed, but all my work is a blast, so I am not complaining.

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  77. Brian

    Hey ronan,

    first off , love the show! its great for newbies like me..
    i just had a quick question that i figured would make the most sense to ask here.

    if you were recording something such as a drum kit that required multiple mic’s, more than the 1 or 2 provided in the pre amps featured in the video, would you run each mic into its own dedicated pre amp or would you use a multi channel pre amp to accommodate all of the mics?

    if you could shed some light on this for me, it would be much appreciated.

    Keep up the good work!

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  78. Wolfgang Willms

    I dont know the Black Lion and the FMR, but I had the chance to test the True Systems P Solo against some pricier pres (like cheaper new Neve, SPL, Universal Audio 610 etc) in a store in Cologne Gemany (just with different mics and my voice – I am a guitarist and not a singer) and liked it better than all of them. So I was really interested in the result of the comparsion, which in the end is not fair as the P Solo costs twice as much as the other ones.

    Thanks for the tip with the FMR compressor – I will look into that one.

    ANd thanks a lot for your efforts to do these videos . I just found them a few days ago although I know and love your statements at Gearslutz – really great.

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  79. cc51

    seemed like a very honest opinion, i appreciated the extra “check” of the P Solo against the bigger boys, and that was a surprise.

    the price range today has the True P Solo a little more expensive , maybe $40

    and as you stated at the ended, a Single Channel versus the other two are Dual Channels….

    but now theres your answer when people ask for a $500 PreAmp question!

    $250 per channel for the RNP $435 or Black Lion seems a big factor versus the “solo” channel for $535.

    I wonder how the Solo fit physically into the gear shelf too, its a brick type. The other two are more standard half rack.

    great shootout thx…

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  80. harlan stephens

    Wonderful info, I that you so much, and thank you for your time Roman.
    Wondering of the p2 true systems pres are as good? Anyone ever run one?
    Have learned a great deal on this site , and am trying to upgrade my home studio, stuff like this saves me a bunch of money, thanks again for the video…
    Chip.

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  81. The GoldynChylde

    Thanks man, You helped me make a big BIG decision!

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  82. Randy Mickelberg

    Hello. Have you had any expierence with Blue Robbie mic. pre? One channel tube for around $800? thanks.

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  83. Richard Penrose

    Hi Ronan,

    I’d love to see how the True Systems P-Solo compares to the Grace M101, Focusrite ISA One, Presonus Eureka and GAP PRE73!

    Do you have any experience with any of these pres?

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  84. White Noise

    heh, thats a pretty good price for preamps. A lot of people don’t understand the importance of the mic pres..

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  85. Pedro Vaz

    For me Ronan is God, or some part of it =)

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  86. Ronan


    For me Ronan is God, or some part of it =)


    Very funny!!!

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  87. Bernardo

    Hi, I was wondering if put a fethead before the auteur would solve the noise problem you talked about… Did you tried it? In that case would you steel prefer P-Solo over Auteur?
    Thanks!

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  88. Ronan

    Hi, I was wondering if put a fethead before the auteur would solve the noise problem you talked about… Did you tried it? In that case would you steel prefer P-Solo over Auteur?

    I do think the fethead would allow you to use the auteur much cleaner (I mentioned that in my review of the Fethead a couple episodes ago). I like the Aueur, but if I could choose only one of the pres reviewed here, it would be the P-solo. -Ronan

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  89. jason

    Not sure but this almost seems like an advertisement for P-solo.. 100%? how is that even possible.. I truly wish you had audio files to back up this comparison otherwise its completely opinionated, by who knows what circumstances..

    the only way i see it going 100% is if the p-solo added some kind of color you were feeling that day..

    I still thank you for the video and as for how long it is.. if you people don’t want to listen skip to the end.. duh? I enjoyed all of it except the lack of proof.

    Please give us or at least me some files.

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  90. Ronan

    Not sure but this almost seems like an advertisement for P-solo.. 100%? how is that even possible.. I truly wish you had audio files to back up this comparison otherwise its completely opinionated, by who knows what circumstances..
    the only way i see it going 100% is if the p-solo added some kind of color you were feeling that day..
    I still thank you for the video and as for how long it is.. if you people don’t want to listen skip to the end.. duh? I enjoyed all of it except the lack of proof.
    Please give us or at least me some files.

    Hi Jason, Thanks for chiming in. Yes, everything I do is completely opinionated. That is all I really have to bring to the table. I do not know everything thing but I have made a few hundred more albums than most people on the planet, so I just try to share my take on things. I try to post files when ever I can, but sometimes I just don’t have to the time post post files in a way that would be meaningful (I will not post files unless I can do it in a way I think will be helpful to people). I am not sure if you are aware of this, but I do not make any money off the show. I do not take any advertising, no sponsorships, no subscriptions.. Doing the show actually costs me thousands of dollars every year. I just try and work on the show after sessions, or on my rare days off. So maybe some day I will be able to do it on a grander scale but for now I just do the best I can.

    I preferred the P-Solo because it had the least color of the three. Generally with low cost mic pres, I am looking for he least amount of color. I am sorry if it came off as an ad, that certainly was not my intention. I was just very pleasantly surprised by the quality and shared my excitement.

    Thanks againg or chiming in -Ronan

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  91. Jason

    Okay Ronan. I just wasn’t sure the authenticity of this review, I do however believe you fully. I still wish I had some files to see which I prefer before buying one. But wasn’t aware at all about the p-solo being the least color. That does help a bit, especially into understanding why you picked it 100% of the time. If I had the comparison files I’d probably choose one with color so now I’m kind of at a stand still. But nice video I’ve also been watching your other videos and appreciate them. A request is that you make more comparison styled videos. on budget gear.. $300-$500 mics, mixers, monitors, compressors, I’d love these type of videos, I’m thinking of getting a FMR RNC soon.

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  92. Tom Filardo

    Thank you so much for all of these great resources! Your time is invaluable and these videos are so helpful.

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  93. javier

    great show a lot of info tnx!!
    i have a question have you tested the vtb1 vs electro harmonix mic preamp?
    tnx!!

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  94. Ronan


    i have a question have you tested the vtb1 vs electro harmonix mic preamp?
    tnx!!

    No, I have not had a chance to try those yet.

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  95. Ash

    Hi Ronan,

    Great show! Many thanks for taking the time to put together these videos despite your hectic schedule. That you share your learned views with non-professional recordists such as myself is greatly appreciated. This pre-amp comparison was the first of your videos that I’ve watched, but now am looking forward to the rest of them.

    Cheers and best of luck in all you do,

    Ash

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  96. Thomas Hirschler

    I own a small hobby studio and have been learning over the last several years (by doing) about recording and mixing. I own:

    -ART Pro MPA II ($300) — 2 channel — pretty decent inexpensive tube preamp — I have heard of some replacing the stock tubes to get really good results. I like this one on my inexpensive sterile (Chinese made) mics.

    -Golden Age Pre-73 ($300) — pretty colored but in a very musical way — also good with the inexpensive mics and ribbon mics — really good as a direct box for bass

    -Focusrite ISA One (just under $500) — wow, LOTS of super clean gain and can be used a a direct box simultaneously with the mic pre — great for singer songwriters like me — and great with mics that already have a lot of character, such as tube mics — I really like this preamp — a lot

    -Grace Design 101 — these haven’t arrived so I can’t say first hand yet — but they get great reviews — I picked 2 of these up for $400 each

    Interestingly, I use a Presonus Firepod and the preamps on it are pretty clean, though you can’t push the gain without introducing some noise. So if you’re using dynamic or ribbon mics you kinda have to use a standalone preamp. All of the preamps I own provide more and cleaner gain than the Presonus when pushed (except perhaps the ART, which adds tube warmth but sometimes noise).

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  97. Allan Harris

    Ronan, I came across your video by googling mic preamps. I am wanting to create a decent home studio on a budget like a gazillion others. I think what you do is simply amazing. To have a pro as yourself post such informative and detailed (unbiased) educational recording videos is simply amazing. I can’t wait to see your others as this is the first I have watched. Thank you so very much for providing this. It is again amazing a pro takes the time to provide such a thing. I am blown away that you care enough about the art to do this for entry level novices as myself. You also just taught me to always compare anything I ever A/B again blindly so even I do not know which is which. Simple but brilliant concept. Thank you.

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  98. Ruben

    Man the Eureka, would of been nice!

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  99. Austin ODonnell

    Thanks for doing this shoot out!
    Anyway long story short I found the singer(female) of my dreams, I’ve basically decided on getting an sm7b microphone for her.
    I’ve been obsessing on WHAT PRE AMP TO GET.
    It’s basically down to focusrite ISA ONE(mainly cause it’s on sale), Pre 73mk2, or the P-solo

    What haunts me is you saying “100% of the time you picked the P-Solo in a double blind test”

    A big concern here is clean usable gain for the sm7b. And Of course superior sound.

    I’ve been a pro musician for 20+ years, but new to recording and I need someone like you(with all your experience) to say yes the p-solo is the bomb and it will drive that sm7b.

    Or would it be best for me to take a loan on a great river?(which I really can’t afford)

    I’m seriously looking at a hit song with this singer and need to get this right.
    THANKS, FOR YOUR HARD WORK,

    I hate to say this after all you’ve done but…why didn’t you post the sound files? I would sleep much better if you would of.
    Sorry, for being a pain but I need all the help I can get here Thanks, again I’m a fan!

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  100. Austin ODonnell

    O.K. I need to make my questions a little more direct and simpler (i realize you are extremely busy)

    I need clean gain for an sm7b
    Probably gonna get the p-solo

    Please tell me if the preamp you didn’t mention(the name) that didn’t stack up against the p-solo…was it the grace 101?
    Their is nothing wrong with you stating your subjective opinion on this, Please do as me and many others don’t have the means to perform a test like you did. So many people are recommending the grace and it does have more gain.(that’s why I care)
    And I see you said the p-solo had the lowest noise floor out of the test.(Thanks)

    I feel I have a hit song coming up! Hence my O.C.D on the whole preamp thing

    THANKS FOR YOUR TIME RONAN, you have my e-mail if you don’t want to public say the other preamp.

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  101. Peter M.

    I liked your honest review, Ronan. You seem to put a lot of time and effort into dotting your “i”s and being as thorough as you possibly could covering as many bases as possible. Which is why I’m quite frankly baffled that you offered no information whatsoever regarding the amount of db gain each of these units offers. You have to know that many of us might be using dynamic mics such as the SM7b or E20, so gain (particularly clean gain) is an important stat to know.

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  102. Dave Heath

    Thanks! Great show, informative, and I rather like the fact that it is not edited down to 5 minutes, but is more natural. It is like hanging out and getting the info from a good friend.

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  103. Stephen Eric Berry

    Ronan:

    This review of mic pres (under $500) was VERY helpful. If you had a tee-shirt I would buy it! Overall the message I took away was that the market has clearly established a floor of around $750-800 per channel for mic pres that are generally agreed upon to be outstanding, though for different reasons. At the forefront of these would certainly be the Avedis MA5 ($775), the Great River MP-500 NV ($795), and the True Systems P2 Analog (2 channels for $1,500). As important as mic pres are to getting quality up front, my advice for someone with $500 to spend on a mic pre would be to strongly consider saving another $250 and taking a close look at pres at the $750 price point or buying a used pre with a warranty through a reputable dealer. A good example would be VintageKingAudio.com, an outfit here in Michigan. Seriously about the tee-shirt…

    Stephen Eric Berry
    Ann Arbor, MI

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  104. Austin

    I agree with the above poster about the Avedis Ma5…awesome!

    I went with the grace M101 and couldn’t be happier it is clean, quiet and did I mention quiet. It seems to be a very accurate with fast transient response.
    I figured I would start with a very clean accurate pre. The p-solo doesn’t have the gain to properly drive an sm7b according to the sm7b manual a minimum of 65db. I wasn’t going to buy the p-solo ribbon version as it doesn’t have phantom power!

    Happy shopping $600 is alot of money to me,I could buy a great used guitar for that money.

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  105. David Gann

    Ronan,

    Just looking at the Universal Audio 710 Twin Infinity, and wondering if you have had a chance to use it, and how it might compare with the P-Solo. Some of the reviews I’ve read suggest that the solid state or “more transparent” side of the 710 might not sound as nice as the P-Solo, but you have an option of adding some dirty coloration from adding some tube sound making it a little more versatile. Any comment? Thanks!

    Dave

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  106. Ronan

    Hey Dave,

    Thanks for writing. I have not used the 710 yet. I have used the 610, which I felt was decent. I think I would choose the P-solo over a 610, but sorry I could not give you a really opinion about the 710

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  107. mark Donovan

    Thanks for the great info :) check out warm audio mic amps under 500 clams. PEACE!!

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  108. The Direction Of RecordingReview

    [...] simple A/B testing and to some more rigourous blind testing. Ronan Murphy has done some cool stuff: Mic preamp reviews. Black Lion Audio, FMR Audio and True Systems | Ronan's Recording Show In the video he mentions how his setup was such that he was working with the pre's on real stuff, [...]

  109. Why I care about High End Mic Pres | Recording Boot Camp™ - recording classes and audio training

    [...] $500-600 range My favorite mic pre in this range is the True Systems P-Solo. It does not have a lot of “mojo”, but does a great job of good clean gain with a lot of detail. I prefer it over some other mic pres that are more prestigious. You can see my review of a few of the options in this price range on Ronan’s Recording Show. [...]

  110. ronbsmoov

    Great show and BIG thanks! I’d love to see/hearyour take on the UA 710d. Also, I’m sonsidering a GAP73 and WARM WA12. A shoot out of those (under$500) preamps would be swweet…if you haven’t already done so.

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  111. Jean

    Thanks Ronan for this very helpful video. One question though, when using such a mic pre with a DAW such as an mbox, isn’t the “stepping up” lost on the cheaper A\D conversion of the mbox? What would be the best way to go about it in such a case? or can you recommend a not so expensive solution for this as well?

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  112. Ronan

    One question though, when using such a mic pre with a DAW such as an mbox, isn’t the “stepping up” lost on the cheaper A\D conversion of the mbox? What would be the best way to go about it in such a case? or can you recommend a not so expensive solution for this as well?

    Hi Jean, every improvement helps. I actually tested the exact situation you are referring to using an mBox and I found the better mic pres improved the sound in every test.

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