Big Bear Audio MP1+ by Alexkites
Recently I became interested in the Colour Format concept, so picked up an API 500-8B and got in touch with Charlie from Big Bear Audio, as he was local and built up/distributed Colour format modules. Beats waiting by the mailbox!
Before reading on, here's a quick guitar test I did, though I held back from pushing the unit into full saturation.
Picking up my Colour Palette, Charlie also asked if I wanted to test out his new preamp, the MP1+, a Class A Discrete Amplifier featuring a Lundahl transformer and Colour slot, pre-fitted with an HRK Discrete Saturation Colour module (but replaceable with any Colour-format module). I gladly took it home and gave it a run-through, and found it to be an instant compliment to my setup.
Being normally a fan of the retro look, I was on the fence about the futuristic aesthetic, but the sheer functionality of the thing was a dealbreaker.
First: I set the preamp to various applications, from acoustic and electric guitar to vocals and some light percussion, using various combinations of my Neumann U87, Royer R-121 and occasionally an SM57. With moderate input and the Colour bypassed, the preamp presented itself with a neutral yet present character. It had a little more guts than my RME 802 and a clear presence over my Universal Audio 610 preamp. The DI and Line functions performed as expected.
The aforementioned dealbreaker came in the form of the handiness of the inbuilt Colour slot. While I had indeed just installed that Colour Palette, loaded with a kaleidoscope of different saturation options, I found that the gainstaging can be a somewhat time-consuming process. Worth the effort, but not a process I'd necessarily want to engage in whilst tracking.
I found no such drawback with the MP1+. Enabling the Colour and driving the input gain brought a quick creamy, smooth saturation. It was just far more intuitive than running into the Palette (though that can bring a whole new world of tone options).
I ended up buying the MP1+ and have been enjoying it thoroughly since.
The versatility attracted me. I like being able to tweak sounds while I'm recording. I love my Neumann U87, but when I initially bought it found it to be a little brighter than I was hoping for, though wonderful in every other respect. Running the U87 through the MP1+ with the HRK Colour enabled, it sheered off the annoying metallic 'tack-tack' highs that I associate with clean, modern acoustic guitar - leaving me with the more vintage, ribbon-esque sound I love. Combining this with my R-121 in a stereo array is sort of a dream come true. With the right Colour modules, it's as if you can dial a bright condenser into ribbon territory
When one encounters gear which offers this sort of versatility at a low price, how can you say no? And I must add that Charlie offers the kind of friendly, super-helpful service this industry needs more of.