Warm Audio WA12 by Bater
First impression of the pre upon opening the box is that it is very simple. A simple owners manual with only basic info on the pre. Even the controls are simple; one gain knob and a few push buttons. The pre itself is all black with the orange faceplate. It isnt flashy and it doesnt have any bells or whistles, but I like that!
Plugging it in and getting it setup was simple too. One power plug, one mic input (two in one xlr or 1/4 inch), and two outputs depending on whether or not you want xlr or 1/4 inch outs. The first bit of audio I passed through it was some vocals and I was happy to hear that they sounded great. Colored isnt the way I would describe this pre at all, but I would say has a unique sonic signature compared to anything I have used. It is edgy, crisp and detailed, kind of "in your face," but it does retain the warmth that we all so desire. It can do dirty distorted overdriven transformer goodness if you drive it hard enough, but you will have to pad the output for that because it is a pretty hot little amp. It does like to be pushed, not quite into distortion, but just on the edge. It gives it a nice bite and the trafos start to come through in the sound, but it still remains quite clear. To be trite I would describe it as punchy and warm with a good detailed high end and a full bottom. What those things mean to each of us is different, but I think it is a great pre. To be fair, I have never had experince with a real API 312 or any real high end gear for that matter. All I can say is that I am not going to return this one and I can garantee you that it will be seeing a lot of use in my studio.
I am not sure how the tone button works, but it adds a little gain and seems to roll off the highs a little. It takes the edge off. I am not sure if I am a big fan of it yet, but on warm intimate vocals I can see it being quite useful.
There are a few cons for me. First of all (and this isnt really a con just a personal preference) there is no style of meter on it. I have grown accostomed to the VU mters or at the very least a few LED's to show me the levels being put out by the pre. Not a big deal as I can easily set my levels in my DAW. Again, thats not really a con, just a preference, and I knew that when I bought it so it doesnt really count. Second is that it is a little hard to tame. Pitting against my other preamps it tends to clip easier on a dynamic performance than the rest of them. Maybe thats a pro because it is reacting to transients faster than the others, but its something that I am not use to. There again its not a huge deal becasue I generally track with a compressor anyway. Also I have done some tracking with it in a very complex project with a lot of electric guitar screaming and drums blasting and it didnt cut through the way I thought it would. I havent had time to see how it reacts to eq, but I tried a cheap condenser mic and that cut right through so I think its my choice of mic that will make the difference on that song. And finally, the wallwart! I hate those things. Hey bryce how much for an internal power supply upgrade?
Over all I am giving the WA12 a big thumbs up. If your looking for a clear, punchy, detailed recording with a little bit of transformer warmth and weight then I think this is a great pre for you.
EDIT: I want to let you know that when I compared the levels that I was setting on this pre to the levels on my other pres I found that I was setting the WA12 pretty hot. I have since backed off the db a little and it is much easier to control and still maintain a nice signal.