Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast by IBE
The days of paying over $1,000 for a high end preamp are gone. With new preamps coming out every day, clone after clone, enters a totally different box than we have all seen. The Warm Audio Tone Beast. I was lucky to get my hands on one of these boxes to do some comparisons against preamps costing nearly twice as much.
Let's start with the layout and the build quality. Equipped with Cinemag Transformers( Audio Transformers By Cinemag Inc. ), the 19" rack mount is very robust and bright (orange). The four knobs on the front have a nice solid feel to them, very tight with resistance to the rotation. The switches are all push button; they engage and disengage with a quick push.
The preamp is divided into three controls. You have the input control, the tone control and the gain & saturation. On the input control you have you basics of (mic, 48v, hi z, line, pad, hpf). These are pretty self-explanatory. Next, you have the tone control. This is where the Beast begins to wake up. ( x731, x 18 amplifiers) +6db tone, vintage or clean capacitors, steel and nickel output transformer. While the x18 capacitors will satisfy your clean side, the x731 will give you some real girth, very colored in the midrange if I must say. From there you have the option on the output to put it through the steel or nickel transformer. The steel transformer has a thicker more colored sound while the nickel giving you a brighter shine.
On the way out the door, stop by the gain and saturation department. Depending on your source and amplifier you may just want to tap the saturation or give it a real tape feel by slamming it hard. I find that with the x18 setting, the sweet spot is around 75%.
In conclusion, having used this preamp in a shootout with the Great River ME-1NV and the Empirical Labs Mike E, I can tell you the TB brings something totally different to the table. This box could easily be your one stop shop preamp for all sources. There is no doubt that there is a greater bang for the buck. I would love to hear what they would do to a mix passed through them. The TB will do clean, crunchy and in between. If there are any grips to be mentioned and I do mean small, it would be the wall wart power supply and the blue led meter, boy is it bright!
Hear the TB in action below.....
Empirical Labs Mike E, vs Great River vs Warm Audio Tone Beast