I have a Presonus Tube Pre and I think it sounds decent. I read on some forums that you should swap out the tube for a different 12ax7 and I agree that it did improve the sound quite a bit. A few days after this experiment, I saw a UA LA610 on Craigslist for $800, so I decided to upgrade. I still have the Tube Pre but I don't use it. With the Tube Pre and Waves Plugins, I can get a pretty good sound. I sometimes consider selling the LA610 and sticking with the TubePre and Waves- but I can't quite bear to do that yet. I mean, I'm a hobbyist not a pro recording guy. I A/B'd the Presonus and v the LA610 (preamp only- no eq or comp) and the guy selling the LA610 and I agreed that the Presonus still sounded pretty good. It definitely sounded better than the pres in my Presonus Firebox. The last time I used the TubePre was as a pre between my Taylor acoustic and a cheap circa 1990 low wattage basement type pa. It definitely improved the tone and took some harshness out of the cheap pa. I'm no gear expert, but I think a tube swap helps. I've heard the M-audio DMP3
as a sample on a home recording course on preamps and I did think it sounded pretty good. They demoed a few models including the LA610. The course concluded that preamps aren't all that important, but that an ultra cheap one like the Behringer MIC2200 could give a cheap sound to your recordings. A good EQ like a Waves EQ can really do a lot to compensate for different pres and mics. Still, if I didn't have the Waves plugins, I would say the LA610 using the EQ and compressor kicks the crap out of my TubePre and the standard Cubase SX3 plugins I was using.
Anyway, like I said, I haven't tried much gear out in my life, so that's my 2 cents. Oh, I'd like to plug the Presonus Firestudio Mobile as quite an upgrade soundwise to the Firebox. I've only recorded two songs with it, but so far I like what I'm hearing.