Price paid: € 499
Purchased from: Thomaan.de
Sound — 10
I've had it for a week now and I played it (blues, rock, grunge, metal) with an American Standard Strat, an Ibanez S320 with DiMarzio's (TZ & PP), Ibanez AS93 and Vintage Lemon Drop into the effects return off a Koch Classictone 2x10. The general sound of the machine is just plain great, although not entirely to my taste. It is very, very quiet and it has very flexible gain and tonal control, added with brightness and contour switch. But it's a bit of a two-headed beast; on one side there's the very clear and near bell-like Fender sound, and on the other hand there's the vorocious gain that just doesn't end. Thing is that the cleans are perfectly suited for single coils while the distortions work better with HB's. SC's are just a bit too bright for symmetrical clipping tubes. That's one of the things I changed and that also loses some of the gain and the fizz, but I don't need all that gain anyway. Other mods I did were some RC adjustments in the clean Tone Controls, to match it to Fender specs. In the lead channel I replaced 2 resistors; 1 for Bass tone improvement, and one for the bias of a Drive stage that works for hi-gain clean and hi-gain lead. That beefed the sound up a tat. My rating is including these mods. Running an MI Super Blues Pro before it though, or any other transparent booster, is absolute heaven.
Overall Impression — 9
Like I wrote, I wanted to build a preamp that would suit my wishes. Great, brittle cleans with a little grudge to it, a dirty dynamic Drive that works with SC's as well as HB's. And one that could complement my old and trusty (and heavily modded) JMP-1 and GX-700. So instead of building one, for the same price (and a lot less headaches) I got myself a great base to start from. Right now it has it all, but I won't know for sure until I run it full throttle through a massive tube poweramp and a 4x12. For now you'd have to kill me to take it from me.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Can't say; I only had it for a week. But the construction is sturdy and it looks very well and neatly built on the inside. The lid screws are a bit soft though and worn already.
Features — 9
See other reviews. I'd like to add though, that the contour switch really makes it come alive. Switched off, it all sounds very flat and fuzzy. Not bad for metal, but not for me. I bought this pre, because it withheld me from building one myself. It has all the basic flexibility and controls that I was looking for, but I knew in advance that I was going to change it. And after only some minor mods, it made a great pre even greater, or more to my wishes anyway. The only minor downside that I have found is the preamp-defeat. I would rather have seen a remotely switchable leadboost or effects loop. Oh well, anything can be modded, right?