Black Lion Auteur
The Black Lion Auteur is a two channel preamp with XLR ins, balance TRS outs, continuously variable volume knobs, 48v phantom power, phase reverse, and 10dB pad switches. Black Lion lists the preamp as having 66 dB of gain on their website. It also has a toggle switch for the power, and LED light indicating the phantom power is active, and a wall-wart style power supply.
Apparently there are two versions of this preamp. The older one I have pictured that's in a stand alone box and a newer one housed in a 1U high 1/2 rack space. While I am unaware of any internal differences between the two, I am specifically reviewing the older one in the stand alone box.
I would consider this preamp to be in the lines of a "clean" pre with some light coloration to the sound. BLA says they integrated a fast, fully balanced, transformer-less input with a high current output stage. The result is a preamp that has both excellent transient detail and headroom, while also giving some girth and warmth to the bass region. This preamp excels on any source where the extreme ends of the audible frequency are being used. It's fast reaction times allow it to easily keep up with the transients of acoustic instruments like guitars and mandolins, and helps to keep cymbals clean and clear, without sounding harsh. Because the high frequencies are so faithfully reproduced with this preamp, some microphones, especially value priced LDCs, may have their high frequency harshness exposed, where as on a more colorful preamp, these traits could be masked by some of the characteristics they impart on the sound. The 10 dB pad can be enacted to get a bit more character out of the preamp, but it doesn't change the overall sound much.
While the fidelity of this preamp is amazing for it's price, it does have some problems with noise, especially near the upper limits of it's gain. Running condenser mics through this preamp shouldn't bring the noise issue into play, however micing a quiet source with a ribbon or other dynamic mics with relatively low output could cause the noise floor to become an issue.
From a reliability standpoint this preamp seems to be very reliable as not only have I not had any problems with mine in the last 3 years, but I've not heard of anyone else having any issues.
Overall, this preamp is an amazing value. Clean and crisp with just a touch of mojo, it excels on just about any source where high fidelity is desired provided that large amounts of gain aren't being required.