The invention of the 500 series rack size has opened up the availability of some incredible gear for under $1000. Preamps are no exception to this.
Prior to the advent of the 500 series, most of the top preamps could only be found in full rack mounted gear for thousands of dollars. The 500 series has made that same hardware to be sold modularly, allowing producers more customization with their signal path.
Here are three preamps you can get for under $1000:
Probably one of the most popular preamps on the market, the API 512c is a staple to many producers’ studios. It shares much of the DNA of the original 1967 512 preamp, including its legendary and trusted “front end” sound.
Countless producers have affirmed the 512c’s sound as being consistent in quality as with working with an API board. The trademark presence on the mid to low range is especially preferred for tracking drums or vocals, where a little extra punch is wanted.
The legendary British Neve sound is represented well on the Portico 511. It is a little brighter and more resolute than the 512c, and has the even, balanced character that Neve hardware has been lauded for.
The designs of the 511 and the 517 (preamp + compressor) are by Rupurt Neve himself. They feature a hand-wound transformer and the “silk” texture button, which creates a vintage sound by saturating the output transformer.
Representing some of the best that newer manufacturers have come out with in recent years, the Mono Gama by Shadow Hills features three switchable transformers: steel, nickel and discrete. Resultantly, it gives you three distinct sonic profiles to work with.
The Mono Gama is meant to add color as much as it is punch. The multiple transformer options make for a variety of sounds, often dirtier than a Neve or API, especially when pairing it with multiple mics. Nonetheless, it’s a versatile preamp that can add just the amount of color your track needs.
We always say that the best way to get a better mix and master is to start with a better recording. If you’re recording with a condenser mic, a great preamp like any of these can held do just that by adding a lot of extra warmth, crispness, and punch to your recording.