Unbelievably, the wizards at Retro Instruments have released a single-channel tube microphone preamp/ line amp module that fits into a single slot of a 500 rack. Inside are three premium TAD 12AT7 tubes and CineMag input and output transformers. Based on Retro’s Sta-Level classic limiter circuit, the 500PRE has both high (75dB) and low gain (48dB) modes available using either two or three of its tube stages.
The front panel has full-size switches and control knobs for Input Gain, Low or High Gain Modes, 48-volt phantom power on/off, Invert (“flips” the polarity of the balanced mic input line) and Output control.
I ran the 500PRE in an API 8P High Current 500 rack and began testing it as a mic preamp for my Bock/Soundelux U195 FET condenser microphone for recording my big-chested singer. I had the mic set in Norm mode, no Lo Cut or -10dB pad. For compression, the 500PRE’s output was patched into another Retro favorite, the 176 Limiting Amplifier. This is a glorious combination that I can recommend to any engineer for an awesome, big sound and natural dynamics.
The 500PRE has so much controllable gain available that, by way of using just the Input and Output controls and selecting either the Low or High gain range, you will have many more possible sounds than most microphone preamps. If you drive the input hard (up to +10dB), the tubes will self-limit and turning down the Output control will set a proper final level. Back the Input Gain down, run the Output up at max, and go totally legit and clean if you desire.
Save a couple of 500 slots for two Retro Instruments 500PRE microphone preamps! The most versatile tube microphone/line level processors I’ve seen. The Retro Instruments 500PRE is available now for $899 MSRP.