500 Series Preamps: Top 10 Picks and Great Buyers Guide!
500 Series tools permit an unprecedented degree of customization. Engineers can mix-and-match gear from totally different manufacturers, making it way more versatile than conventional studio designs primarily based around a console.
For instance, if you want an API preamp in your signal chain in a chain with an SSL EQ, now you can have each instead of getting to decide on one or the other and purchase an entire API or SSL console.
500 format permits you to successfully construct your personal custom-made high-end channel strip that matches your needs, full of preamps, EQs, compressors, DIs, and an entire range of different tools to process your audio. 500 Series racks additionally slot in a 3U rack space, saving useful real-estate in small home studio control rooms without sacrificing the quality or flexibility.
Like many 500 Series preamps (and in contrast to the 500 Series effects, such as compression and EQ), the preamps have input on their front face. Extra specifically, it has an XLR mic input and a 1/4″ high-impedance instrument/line input. Notice that these inputs can be accessed through the back panel of the given rack if that rack happens to have each XLR and 1/4″ inputs.
We just want to let you know that we’ll list these 500 Series Preamps in no particular order. They’ll be randomized as we don’t wish to sort them from best to worst.
Listed below are our Top 10 Best 500 Series Preamps for 2021:
1. Heritage Audio 73 Jr. II
The Heritage Audio 73JR II is an upgrade to the already old school 73JR — a real 73 model mic preamp in a single 500 series slot, with some added options that may fulfill probably the most demanding of recording engineers. Using discrete circuitry and traditional elements, the 73JR II is a trustworthy 3-stage all Class A 73 preamp. Styroflex and tantalum capacitors have been used all through. No corners have been cut.
The all-discrete Class A hi-pass filter is sweepable from 20 to 220 Hz, making it simpler to make your low end tighter without affecting desired frequencies. The Line mode permits for reamping of prerecorded tracks and is an ideal resolution for including some coloration to lifeless recordings. The DI input (which mechanically switches to DI mode when inserting a 1/4″ TS cable) is an all-discrete Class-A JFET circuit in front of the microphone transformer, providing you with the entire color and weight you can ask for.
Lastly, particular care has been taken with energy handling, implementing inside +24V slow-turn-on-regulation. That is extraordinarily healthy in your 500 series enclosure’s energy supply and retains the 73JR II’s power independent from different slots.
There are a number of compromises normally made when adapting a 73 preamp for the 500 Series, however, none that one can find within the 73JR II. The 73JR II uses the total 3 gain stage circuit for as much as 80 dB of gain with the noise of -125 dBu EIN all over the gain positions. The 73JR II makes use of a real 24volt onboard power supply for similar performance and distortion levels.
The 73JR II uses solely discrete, through-hole conventional parts and hand labor for that nice 70s vibe. The output transformer is a customized Carnhill, made for within the St Ives factory. The input transformer is a customized Carnhill, made in Carnhill’s Oxford factory. This one has a big impact on the additional mojo of the unit and is the same one present in the higher-end 80 Series modules.
- Ideal for ribbon microphones
- 50dB Class A line preamp
- Class A single ended
- Variable hi-pass filter 20 – 220 Hz
2. Lindell Audio 6X-500
This unit has a transformer-balanced input and output and offers as much as 65dB of input gain; discrete op-amps are utilized in each gain stage. Under the input and output controls sit two related pots for the high- and low-end EQ, a passive design that emulates the much-loved Pultec curves, offering 15dB of increase.
High frequencies might be boosted at 6kHz, 10kHz, and 16kHz, whereas the low end might be boosted at 30Hz, 60Hz, and 100Hz. Three push-buttons sit on the backside of the unit to switch within the EQ, reverse polarity and have interaction 48v phantom power, whereas up top there’s a five-position LED meter with the word LOUD written vertically alongside!
Using the preamp flat, without EQ, the sound was clear with all of the mics that you can use to test. No matter the microphone, you will be able to get the best out of it with this preamp.
Evaluating the 6X-500 with our reference Earlybird valve mic pre, we felt that the Lindell lacked a bit of body and the silky top end that the far more costly valve unit possesses, however, made its mark with a sonic presentation that emphasized the upper-mid frequencies, providing a sound with loads of presence. Boosting the top end at 16kHz added a pleasant sparkle to varied sounds, and the low-end boost lent a level of heft that sounded superb on kick drums.
- Coupled transformers with balanced inputs and outputs
- Up to 65 dB gain
- Passive “Pultec-style” EQ
- Coil + hybrid gain make up amplifier
3. AMS Neve 1073LB Preampmodule 500er API
When you think of any well-known recordings of the previous 45 years, the likelihood is more than good that the artists’ voices or instruments first saw tape via a Neve 1073. And now it’s obtainable within the 500 series format.
The Neve 1073LB remains to be manufactured in Great Britain to the exacting specs of Neve’s basic 1073 preamp. That includes painstakingly recreated authentic spec hand-wound input and output transformers, matched elements, in addition to specifically recreated tantalum coupling caps, the 1073LB bathes your ears in classic Neve glory. With a build quality the British Admiralty would approve, the 1073LB’s huge input level switch contacts are gold-plated to resist a long time of marathon tracking sessions.
As magical as owning an uncommon piece of classic equipment can seem, the shortage of modern conveniences can in the end detract from the recording experience. That is why the boffins at Neve gave the 1073LB switchable microphone input impedance, signal presence LED, and clever protected switching on the front combi-XLR input connector so you do not unintentionally fry a line-level device with 48v.
The brand new Fine Trim management enables you to squeeze the utmost stage of sparkling clear signals or crank the gain for some Revolution distortion. The 1073LB Preamp’s sensible Audio Processing Input design and Lunchbox Insert structure means that you can create a basic Neve 1073 channel strip when used with a Neve 1073LB Series EQ.
- XLR /jack combo connector
- Microphone gain from -80 dB to -20 dB
- Line gain -20 dB to +10 dB in 5 dB steps
4. Shadow Hills Industries Mono GAMA
The Mono GAMA is the single-channel API 500 Series model of the Golden Age Microphone Amp, with all of the capabilities, options, and high quality of the original. The Shadow Hills Mono Gama is centered around the customized discrete op-amp. This no-compromise design exudes hugeness, constancy, punchiness, and depth, throughout the total frequency range, without changing into veiled or choked.
The preamplifier input is transformer balanced and utilizes an authentic Jensen input transformer. This version has both transformers added to it in order for you to decide with which one you wish to proceed. You’ll be able to change the output transformer by cranking the knob, thus altering the tonal capabilities to compliment whatever elements you’re recording.
This lets you audition totally different settings to find the right match for microphone or direct input without patching and un-patching different preamps, and probably alleviating the necessity for EQ. Select between Nickel, Discrete, or Steel settings. Every transformer position is stellar unto itself, however, the functionality of switching between them is like having three nice preamps in one.
- Original Jensen input transformer
- DI input, fitted with pad and phase reverse
- Engraved, vintage-flavored front panel
- Exceptional build quality
5. Rupert Neve Designs Portico 511
Rupert Neve Designs has produced plenty of signature merchandise that brings Mr. Neve’s touch to the trendy age of recording. Whereas the worth of that merchandise is out of the reach for some, the most recent offering from RND hits the affordability goal dead center whereas sustaining high quality and glorious sonics. The 511 preamp contains a vary of controls plus the signature Silk circuit.
RND has elegantly optimized the area constraints of the 500 Series through the use of elements that keep a low noise floor with the identical presence and sonics of their well-liked Portico series. A precision 12-way rotary switch will increase the gain from zero to 66 dB in 6dB steps.
An extra sweepable trim knob creates a constantly variable ±6dB level control, and there are phase polarity and phantom power buttons included on the 511 panels. A variable highpass filter is engaged by pressing the HPF swap, permitting the consumer to sweep from 20-250 Hz at a rate of a 12dB octave to get rid of low-end rumble when wanted.
The eight-step LED meter on the right side of the Portico 511 turns bright as soon as the signal passes and can hold a peak within the red range relying on how far above the clip threshold the incoming signal is. The Silk button discovered on the Portico II series is included on the 511, pushing the red button engages the red Silk circuit, which reduces the damaging feedback on the output transformer, including harmonic content as the texture is elevated.
The Silk circuit itself permits the engineer to create roughly 10 times the amount of harmonic material and distortion characteristics discovered in lots of Rupert Neve’s earlier Class-A classic designs.
- Polarity is reversible/can be switched
- Formfactor: 500 Module
- Required voltage/power: +/-16VDC 100 mA
- Silk Mode
6. Chandler Limited TG2 500 Preamp
With simply three rotary controls (all with good chicken–head knobs), two toggle switches, and two push buttons, the TG2–500 is fairly simple to use, though some status indicator LEDs would have been good, even when not ‘authentic’. The top rotary change has a red knob and units the gain in seven 5dB steps, covering a 30dB vary.
That is fairly different from the rack mounting TG2, which has a 15–position switch covering a wider gain vary. The center (black–knobbed) potentiometer can be a departure from the TG2 preamp/DI and gives a steady gain trim over roughly ±10dB to permit fine level adjustment, filling within the gaps of the coarse gain change and extending the gain vary in both directions. The bottom potentiometer has a gray knob and gives an output–degree control, performing as an output fader, identical to the rack–mount unit.
When switched to ‘mic mode’ the utmost gain, as marked on the coarse gain scale, is 50dB, which is what we measured with the Trim management centered and the output management at maximum. With the trim control turned up to the maximum as well, an additional 10dB of gain is utilized, for a complete mic gain of 60dB.
If switched to ‘line mode’ the input sensitivity is lowered by 10dB. This means with the coarse gain at minimal, trim centered, and output at maximum, a 0dBu line input signal appears on the output at +5dBu. Turning the output management back to 6.5 on the scale establishes unity gain.
- Input switchable between Mic / Line
- Input impedance switchable between 1200 and 300 ohms
- Max. Current consumption: + 16v @ 110mA / -16v @ 80ma
- Format: 500 module
7. SSL 500-Series SiX Channel
Featuring SSL’s distinctive grey background and colored buttons, SiX CH presents performance much like a channel on one other of the company’s merchandise, the SiX mixers. You get a mic, line, and Hi-Z inputs, two bands of EQ, and a compressor. As is customary in this format, you make mic connections utilizing the suitable XLR input on the back of your 500 Series rack.
On the entrance of SiX CH is a 1/4 inch jack for line and Hi-Z inputs. Subsequent to that jack are Line and Hi-Z buttons, which let you choose the input type. Pressing the Line button switches the input from the XLR to the 1/4 inch jack. If you’d like the high-impedance input, you have to additionally push the Hi-Z button. It’s somewhat counterintuitive that the Line button must be in to activate the high-impedance input, but it surely’s a minor level, and also you get used to it quickly enough.
Different controls on SiX CH embrace a knob for Gain and switches for polarity reverse, 48V phantom power, and a highpass filter. The latter is about at 75 Hz with a 12dB/octave slope. Whereas many 500 Series preamps provide solely a single LED for signal presence and overload, SiX CH contains a five-segment, color-coded LED meter.
The preamp itself is of SSL’s SuperAnalogue design, identical to the one within the SiX mixer. In response to the company, the design originated within the company’s Duality and AWS consoles. The SiX CH’s mic preamp works great on each sung and spoken vocals, acoustic guitar, and ukulele.
- With phase and HPF switches
- Switchable 2-band EQ with bell and shelving
- Switchable “single knob compressor”
- Format: 500 module
8. Cranborne Audio Camden 500
Camden 500 was designed from the ground up to be the ultimate front-end for the trendy studio and engineer and to face up to the trials of recent workflow and production strategies. It contains an utterly unique, custom-designed ‘Camden’ preamp topology that achieves beautiful low-noise and low-distortion efficiency in addition to frequency and phase linearity at all gain settings. The sum result’s -129.8dB EIN (150 ohms, unweighted), THD+N as little as 0.0002%, a frequency response of ±0.7 dB from 5 Hz to 200 kHz at the max gain and <2° phase shift @ 20 Hz – 20 kHz.
For moments when that a bit of ‘British’ character is required, reasonably than use a transformer and study to live with its drawbacks, Cranborne Audio developed Mojo – two discrete analog saturation kinds that rework Camden 500 into the fattest, warmest, and most characterful preamp in your arsenal – all on the turn of a dial. Maybe better of all, not like a transformer and different legacy designs, Mojo will be refined, it will also be exaggerated, but it surely will also be bypassed.
While preamp specs typically quote unbelievable figures at particular gain values, when the gain is elevated, these figures typically change radically. Camden 500 was designed to retain all of its spectacular efficiency specs at all gain positions from 8 dB to 68 dB. This means that even when the preamp is operating at the most gain, the Phase and Frequency response stays linear and THD all the time stays inaudible – enabling all gain positions to be used for any supply and mic combination.
- Linear, transparent microphone preamplifier
- Front-End topology with 68.5 dB gain across all 12 gain steps
- 3-Way input selector switch
- Format: 500 module
9. API Audio 512v Preamp
The API 512v is a 500 series mic/line/instrument preamp that expands upon the legendary sound of the unique 512c preamp. Along with the usual controls of the 512c, the 512v additionally contains three new options designed for the modern engineer.
First, the 512v introduces a variable gain management knob slightly below the input gain knob for faster stage matching. Say goodbye to clip gain automation and attenuator plug-ins. Subsequently, the brand new 3:1 transformer output button lets you cut back the output level and drive the transformers even tougher for extra analog warmth, grit, and saturated goodness. Last, but not least, the 512v options an up-to-date front-panel combo XLR + 1/4” line input jack to shortly seize ideas, add new instruments, and overdub when inspiration strikes.
With 500 series modules rising more and more popular by the day, it may be shocking for a lot of to listen to that Saul Walker of API invented the primary modular signal processors in 1969. Shortly after the release of their first console, API shortly turned the leading console producer for radio and tv networks.
It didn’t take long for recording studios to catch on, and shortly API started receiving rave opinions from engineers and producers for the tonal quality of their preamps. To this present day, over 700 API consoles are in use throughout the nation and worldwide. Albums like Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, Wasting Light by Foo Fighters, and Van Halen’s eponymous debut are shining testaments of the standard and range of API preamps just like the 512v.
- LED VU meter
- 20 dB Pad switch
- + 48V phantom power switchable
- Combo input XLR / 6.3 mm jack on the front
10. Warm Audio WA12-500 MKII
The entrance quarter-inch Hi-Z input makes life simpler for operating in the guitars and keyboards without having to dive into that tangled net of cables behind your desk. Would possibly recommend utilizing this as a channel so as to add spice to your re-amped direct guitar tracks. Additionally, the XLR and 1/4 inch outputs are linked and may each be used concurrently, making it quite simple to take two of those models and run output on each to your DAW and the opposite outputs to the monitors. Voila, you’ve got a stereo summing amplifier!
The entrance controls are straightforward as well, supplying you with Hi Z, Phantom Power, Pad, Polarity Swap, and the aforementioned “tone” button. The polarity button could be very helpful for recording a stereo mix where mics are in close proximity and subject to the dreaded phase cancellation. We have covered what we felt the tone button does however right here’s an extra technical clarification.
The tone button provides 6 dB of gain in addition to dropping the impedance from 600 ohms to 150 ohms. This is excellent for ribbon mics however typically, it’s used more as a coloration boost to add the additional analog into electric guitar tracks. Additionally, the 20 dB pad could be very helpful for loud guitar amps and drums. You just about have all bases covered from excessive SPL devices (with the pad) to quieter ones (with the entire of 71 dB mixed with the tone button).
- 48 V phantom power
- LED meter for gain indicationh
- 20 db pad
- Design: 500 module
If you own a 500 series chassis, then you must have some of the aforementioned preamps in your rack as well. They are necessary for every recording where you use a microphone or you decided to record the instrument directly into your DAW.
In case you think that we missed some important 500 series preamp, please let us know in the comment section and we will try to update and give more insights on it in our future posts. Happy Mixing!
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