This box has lots of lovers and lots of haters. I think I have figured out why.
First off, for a single-channel preamp, it has A LOT of ways to hook up - it has a solid state input and a tube output (full voltage - this is Summit, afterall). HOWEVER, if you don't want to use the tube, you can take an output that keeps it solid state. You can also run two different signals at the same time, one through its mic input and one through it's DI. So if you have a ribbon mic that needs no phantom power and a condenser mic, you can play with mic placement on an acoustic guitar and have it come out of several outputs (all in mono however). It's wildly flexible, but maddening once you start experimenting.
It has an impedance knob, which helps color the mic signal. It is listed as variable, but in reality, it's either "on" or "off". It has a -20 pad, +48 phantom power and a great HP filter. The sound of the preamp is big, so that high pass filter becomes your friend very quickly.
The output gain knob is where the tube lives. This unit brings out the sparkle in a tube - and the better the tube you use (the one that comes with the unit is a Ruby and it's pretty bland), the better the sparkle. Old RCA's or Valvos are my favs in this. You can literally dial in how much tube flavor you want in the unit, although the more tube you bring in, the noisier the unit gets (not bad tho) and the transients begin a very slight slurring as the tube takes over.
People often complain about noise and the tone being somewhat metallic. I have discovered why, after using this for four years. I was bored one night and decided to try it in ways I never had - I turned the impedance knob all the way to the left (essentially defeating it) and turned the -20 pad ON. Suddenly, the unit sounded like the "grown-up" Summits I have used before. Still big, but now the roundness was there, without a spitty top. And the noise level was far below the comparable level of the unit as I used to use it. The metallic edge was gone too. This is a great vocal unit now.
You can sometimes find these units used for $400-500. If you treat the "-20 pad" as a "+20 pad" and ignore the impedance knob on everything except muddy sounding mics, you will be really, REALLY happy with what this unit gives you.
And for clean guitar tones (bass too), the 2BA-221 really excels. The DI is rounder than the mic input, but I'll try both, with differing but satisfying results. The mic input gives you all the controls I listed (and THIS is where the impedance knob and "+20 pad" come in handy), however the DI is just a straight input, which you can color with the tube gain output. I sometimes use the unit to re-amp synth'd pianos with warm results.
So there ya go. It's a great compliment to a GAP73 and if you score one used, REALLY affordable for the quality you get. And it's built to last.
This piece stays true to Summit's name and standard for excellence. Everything you would expect, but smaller and cheaper.
The variable impedance knob, I have found to be key in making this pre EXTREMELY versatile (obviously no shortage of features in the 2BA). This feature alone makes all of my mics more widened in their utility.
ONLY drawback is the time it takes to learn the possibilities that come from such a range of combinations from the 2BA's feature set.
The Summit Audio 2ba-221 was my first dedicated mic-pre other than an old Art TubeMP. The 2ba is a half rack pre and DI. The Mic Pre and DI are separate and can be mixed together although I have never found an occasion to do so. There is a variable impedance knob for matching Mic impedance and the manual has a chart of common microphones and there corresponding impedance values. There is also a variable HP filter that can be bypassed. The unit also has a -20 db pad switch and polarity switch as well. The DI plugs into the front panel and can be completely solid state or you can mix in the tube sound using the Tube output knob. This works the same for the Mic Pre as well. The inputs and outputs other than the DI input are on the back of the unit and can be either -10 (TRS) or +4 (XLR) There is also an insert input.
The build quality of the 2ba is good although I wish the knobs felt a little more solid. I would like to feel a little more resistance when I am turning them. I have mine rack-mounted using the rack mount kit which is sold separately. The reason I mention this is that you have to remove the top of the unit and use the special rack-mount for the top instead. So I got to look inside and it looked pretty clean in there. I mostly use this pre for guitar and vocals and I find that it does a nice job with both. I mostly start out with the solid state gain and then add in the tube flavor. I find that anything past three quarters of a turn on the tube output puts a lot of noise into the signal so I keep it below that area. The solid state gain knob can go a little further before noise is introduced. With that in mind, the 2ba might not be the first choice for ribbon mics although I have used it for that. The problem is you end up in the aforementioned noisy area of the Pre's gain knobs.
I originally thought this preamp was dark but after moving my home studio to a different location and a bigger room I realized that it was dark because of where I had been recording. Now if I want a bright sound I can get it with mic choice and some changes to my room (placing a bit of plywood over the carpet and using an AKG C451B on an acoustic does the trick).
I've had this unit for a little over five years and its still going strong.
Welll, just because it's one of the most affordable boutique mic pres out there, doesn't mean it's not super great.
I've had one of these puppies for awhile and used it extensively for tracking vocals, guitars, bass & keys (etc). Then I thought, "one is great --why not two?" Thus, I purchased another--and never looked back. I use it for stereo keyboards, drum overheads, multiple mics on guitar cabs, and suchlike--and all with fab results--clarity, nice beefy gain, tube warm-fuzzy). Yes, it can get a bit noisy with certain sources with the tube gain cranked. But a careful gain structure always wins the day. Vocals sound great with my AKG 414, or Shure KSM32. Guitar cabs with a humble and lovable 57 sound marvelously bigger than life through it too, for that matter.
At AES in San Francisco in, hmm, was it 2008... or 2009 (? I'm fuzzy with dates) I met some of the nice folks from Summit. They gave me a cool tip--and maybe this isn't news to any of you readers, but I was pleased to learn that you can be micing a source through the mic input section ( say, stand up bass) AND run a line input though the DI section at the same time. Bonus! I say that's nifty and one more reason to love and cherish this mic pre, my friends.
Last edited by AbsolutelyTrue; 25th April 2012 at 12:34 PM..
Reason: a few more thoughts