DBX 386 by imagineaudio
The Dbx 386 is dual channel starved plate tube mic pre with digital conversion built in. The unit boasts +48v phantom, phase reverse, pad, and low cut filtering on both channels. On the back, you have both mic and line inputs, line outputs, word clock bnc connectors, and digital outputs. Back on the front you have selectable sample rates up to 96khz with dither and noise shaping. The "type iv" conversion system uses a limiter-type function to prevent overloading the digital converters, which is nice for live applications where sudden input voltage spikes may not be noticed on the way in.
This thing is very capable. I preferred running the analog outs into separate converters as I noticed this gave a more natural and "3D" result compared to using the onboard converters. It's not a piece that sounds better than it's price, but it performs adequately for the relative bargain of $250 a channel.
Ease of Use:
It's a mic pre. If you've used other mic pres you can use this. Where it looses points for me is that it doesn't store the sample rate, dither, noise shaping settings you make on the front panel after powering down the unit. Every time you turn it on you have to adjust the settings as you had them. The other thing your going to want to do if using the onboard conversion the first time is check the manual and make sure you understand how the "type iv" conversion works so you can hit it with the right levels.
This thing has it all: Analog ins and outs, digital outs, word clock in and out, phase invert, phantom power, 20db pad, low cut filter, 44.1 - 96khz sample rates, dither, and noise shapeing, and tooooobs! Not bad for $500.
Bang for the Buck:
I'm not sure of any other product that packs as many features into one box for this price and still sounds good. It's not God's mic pre or anything, but I do consider it a professional product and it has never embarrassed me on a paying gig. If you have a sound card with s/pdif ins that are just going to waste, this is the perfect piece to take advantage of 'em.