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Hamptone HJFP2 Stereo Jfet Mic Pre

Hamptone HJFP2 JFET Preamp

4.75 4.75 out of 5, based on 2 Reviews

Probably one of the best preamps at the price point. Strikes a balance between mojo and clarity, but the lack of negative feedback in the circuit is a double edged sword.


8th March 2012

Hamptone HJFP2 JFET Preamp by prontold

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5

The Hamptone HJFP2 is a wonderful sounding dual mic preamp/di that you can build yourself from a kit for $720, buy preassembled from Hamptone for $1030, or get lucky like me and find used on the Gearslutz classifieds for $650. This preamp is my first very high quality piece, and the sound does not disappoint on any level, though it would be ideal to have an output trim, a clipping indicator, and a bass rolloff.

Sound Quality

This is a discrete Jfet design with nice transformers on the input and output. The sound, when you have it dialed right, is appealing in ways that are hard to describe objectively. It's very clear, but also has an element of smoothness to it, perhaps from a strong second harmonic. My first test with this preamp was recording a layered vocal using an SM58, and there was something intangibly cohesive about the way those vocal tracks came together. It is also changeable, with the ability to keep the gain in the lower ranges for a clearer sound, or let things get gooey, or even fuzzed-out overdriven when the gain gets cranked. As a DI or instrument amp, the HJFP2 is big and clear, with the ability to dial in some harmonic distortion or crazy, sagging fuzz. When I did a brief comparison running a Korg Microkorg through the HJFP2 or the stock pres on my Roland Octa-Capture (which don't suck), the signal through the HJFP2 was noticeably more present and detailed. One more thing: The HJFP2 also provides about 72 db of gain with essentially no noticeable noise (to me anyway) at any point in the gain range.

Ease of Use

This is a preamp with one big knob per channel that you turn clockwise to increase the volume of a signal, or oversaturate it. There's not too much that you could get confused about. The one thing, and the reason I docked a couple of points here, is that it can be hard to set levels so that a dynamic performance does not at any point clip the amplifier in a way that doesn't work for the context. The limited headroom of the pre allows you to do some very cool things, but it can lead to more headaches in some situations. A clipping indicator might help quite a bit here, especially one that graded through different colors as the signal came closer to being a square wave.

Features

Like i said above, there is one big volume knob per channel. A trim would have been nice, but it's not necessary. I use a passive attenuator (m-patch nano) to keep hot signals from the Hamptone from clipping my converters when it's called for (pretty much when you want to drive the amplifier circuit).

Each channel also features push-switches to toggle a pad for a bit more headroom (and a slightly different sound), +48 phantom power, and phase inverse. When you are using the instrument input, the pad switch also switches input impedances between 2.2 megaohms (pad out) and 200 kOhms (pad in).

One "hidden feature" that Scott Hampton mentions, and that is fun to mess around with, is daisy chaining the output of one channel into the input of another. This lets you play with how much transistor distortion or input transformer saturation you are hearing, or just create an insanely noisy, fuzzed out, sagging mess.

Bang for Buck

I don't think you can get much better than this for the price, especially if you pay the 600-700 bucks or so that used ones go for. While this pre does have its quirks and limitations, the base sound that it produces is just so golden, creamy without being cloudy, that on a purely sonic basis I am sure it competes with preamps many times the price! Definitely makes me curious to build the HTVP2 tube preamp when I get the funds.

31st March 2012

Hamptone HJFP2 JFET Preamp by spiral

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5

Scott Hamptone should be more famous in the audio community. The guy is passionate about audio quality, knows a ton about audio from a technical and artistic standpoint (he’s an electrical engineer and musician) and has created one of the most beautiful mic preamps that very few people know about outside of the Gearslutz / TapeOp world. The controls are laid out logically, it looks awesome, and the build and component quality is top notch. You know it is built solidly since you are the one that did it (or the designer did, if you buy it premade). There is a direct input on each channel which works well on bass and keyboards and there are inputs and outputs on the front and back so you can use it as a lunchbox or in a rack.

Like many people, i discovered the Hamptone preamp kit as an article in Tape Op. The price was reasonable for 2 channels of pro mic preamp and it sounded like fun to build. The build was slightly more challenging than i expected but after careful study of the instructions it worked without issue. Wow did it work.

The HJFP2 is very bipolar: it is both a workhorse and a special weapon. You could mic just about every instrument with the preamp for an entire recording. It has the speed to capture the nuance of drums and acoustic guitars. When you put the gain at normal levels it sounds clean and clear with just a little bit of body. Bread and butter stuff. When you start to crank the gain past halfway it starts to sound like a tube amp: big and warm. There is also tons of gain on tap and i regularly use the preamp with ribbon mics on quiet sources with very little self noise. Even at the current kit costs or preassembled and tested by Scott it is an absolute bargain, which also happens to be one of the best preamps i have used. I recently sold my Hardy M1 and Focusrite 428 and bought a second Hamptone kit.

 
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