ART Pro Audio Pro MPA II by icecubeman
ART PRO MPA II is two channel tube preamp with great options for shaping sound. First of all, it is one of very few in its category with impedance control for each channel. Impedance is very interesting function and very versatile, because it doesnt affect directly the impedance in microphone, only signal that comes into preamp. I found a lot of new colours for many microphones just tweaking this one. MPA has also TRS input and can react as DI. If you use it this way, impedance is fixed so you cannot use impedance knob, but you have option to setting high pass filter. Every channel has its own phantom power button, +20 gain button which you often use in studio applications especially on vocals, accoustic guitars or other dynamicaly wide sound sources.
The most discused button of this device is High Plate button. By pressing this, MPA leaving starved plate function and tubes became really hot It means, preamp operates as real tube preamp. After pressing this button please wait minute or so, it is time needed to warm up tubes . After testing starved and nonstarved operation I must say, High Plate button is always ON on my device heh. You will be surprised how dramatic the difference in sound is.
Of course first step you must make is to change tubes in preamp. It comes with some Chinese stock tubes, that has almost no bass and really bad highs. As for tubes, swtich it for some NOS or some "in production" ones. I am using tubes from JJ Electronics and they are amazing!!! As for outputs options, there is two versions of MPA - standard and digital. I decided for standard version, because after a lot of searching I found relevant opinions on bad quality of AD convertor in digital version. So I am connecting MPA to my much better converter through TRS connectors. Everything is working like charm.
In this price range you can hardly find any nonstarved tube preamp with that kind of build quality and sound quality.