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Old 7th November 2014
Gear Nut

Well, there's a 500-series unit from True Systems, the people who do the Precision 8. I consider their various first-gen preamp products to be a sort of benchmark for cleanliness that other makes and models can be compared against. However I haven't heard the gen-2 stuff, for which they write "Our Type 2 design provides the traditional ultra-resolution musicality of our original design preamps, but adds serious analog depth and warmth. In short: It sounds BIG!". That may be a pretty way to say that it isn't as clean as their old stuff, or it may not; it is relevant because their 500-series unit uses the second-gen topology.

The AEA RPQ-500 is a preamp that's designed with ribbons in mind - AEA ribbons are pretty killer stuff - but it's a very clean machine that's still totally useful with other kinds of mics.

I would recommend highly the Hairball Audio Lola. This is a DIY kit - though I'm pretty sure you can buy them assembled from Hairball - but it's 100% of the quality and all the professional design you expect from 'proper', non-DIY products. I would get it with the twin Hary 990s as the op-amps; being a fully-differential design from input to output there are two op-amps, and the selection is wide. You can use anything that is 2520 footprint compatible, but the options that Hairball specifically gives are their own 990, a John Hardy 990, or a Neve-ish BA512. Mine has the BA512s, but I would recommend for clean sounds you go with the John Hardy 990. This preamp sounds fantastic, and the rather high slew rate ensures total fidelity to the source material.