Audient Mico by Zoot
Audient's Mico is a great little piece of gear. As far as bang for the buck goes, I highly doubt that you could find a better deal in the $650 price range. Clean Preamps, DIs, -10dB pad, 3 Filters, HMX and Vari-Phase, Clean A/D conversion over lightpipe or coaxial, Word clock in. All in a half rack space.
Both channels are super clean with plenty of gain and awesome filters set at very useful frequencies (40, 80 and 120). The buttons are a bit close together to allow super easy access, but it is a half rack space, so what can you do. You do not need elvin fingers like you need on some 500 series stuff.
Upon hearing it in action, you will realize that Audient managed to put a lot of quality (and very useful) parts into this preamp. Aside from the dual pres, one channel has HMX harmonic sculpting, which is good, but not nearly as good as SSLs VHD, and the other has Vari-Phase - which is awesome.
The Vari-Phase is what I would like to focus on more so than the HMX. I believe that it is the best feature of the Mico. It is great for dialing in room microphones to be totally in phase, or getting the bottom snare to be perfectly in phase with the top. It is not my choice of preamp for acoustic guitar, but if you wanted to use it for that, I imagine that the Vari-Phase would be great for double miking an Acoustic. I have two Micos, so I run my room microphones into the Vari-Phase channels of each. That way I can place the Room microphones where they feel and sound the best, and then dial in the phase after the fact.
The A/D function is just an added bonus. It blows away the A/D conversion of anything Digidesign or Avid have in their MBox of 003s. Maybe not night and day, but noticeably better conversion. The ability to expand any system with two channels of clean preamps and A/D conversion for $650 is a tough feat. Audient nailed it.
I would like to see Audient release a Mico with 2 channels of Vari-Phase. The HMX is just OK in comparison to how useful the Vari-Phase is. Although, if I really had it my way, I would like Audient to make a 4 channel version of their Vari-Phase - it would certainly give Little Labs a run for their IBP money!