When you’re building a studio on a budget, odds are you aren’t going to be in a position to spring for anything with the words Neve, API, or Fairchild on it. Even if you can afford a high-end piece or two, you’ll end up with less to spend on other essentials. Today I’m going to offer several preamp options for studios on a budget.
Focusrite ISA One & Two
The Focusrite ISA series of preamps have been around for a while and have remained popular for a reason – they sound great! The ISA One is in a one channel preamp in a lunchbox-style chassis that sits on your desk, and has a handle on top for portability. The ISA Two features two channels of the same preamps in a single rack unit. There are other, more costly variations, but for the purposes of this article let’s focus on these two. They each feature incredibly clean preamps that won’t add unwanted color your sound, input and trim knobs, as well as direct input jacks on the front. There are also buttons for 30-60 Gain, +48v phantom power, phase, high pass filter, and insert. The ISA Two even includes a knob to adjust the high pass filter.
Black Lion Audio B173
If you’re looking for the sound of a Neve 1073 at a fraction of the price, consider the Black Lion Audio B173. Built in the style of the 1073, the B173 comes in a half-rack unit with controls for mic gain and output level, as well as buttons for +48v phantom power, phase, and DI. There is a ¼” direct input jack on the front, and the back features an XLR input and ¼” output.
PreSonus Studio Channel
The PreSonus Studio Channel offers a whole lot for very little. It is a tube preamp housed in a 1 rack unit chassis, and includes controls for gain and tube drive. The Studio Channel has far more controls than the other preamps mentioned here, which is because it also includes EQ and compression, technically making it what’s known as a “channel strip”. This piece is a great introduction to the world of tube preamps, as well as analog compression and EQ. Well worth the price!
About the Author:
Rob Dobson is an LA-based musician, composer, and engineer, as well as Press & Content Coordinator at Westlake Pro. He earned a BA in Music from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he spent his spare time experimenting with recording techniques and obsessing over liner notes to his favorite records. In addition to several years working as a recording engineer, Rob has experience with sound design, voiceover work, and live sound. Rob spends as much of his time in the studio as possible, composes music for film and television, plays guitar and bass as a session musician, and leads a rock band called Big Air.