This is going to a quicky. Preamps don’t need a dissertation. They are a volume knob for Christ’s sake!
The True Systems P-Solo is a single channel mic preamp about the size of 2 or 3 Hi-C containers fit together in a line. It sells for about $535 (street). It has all the features I’d demand in a preamp.
- Phantom power
- Hi-Z input
- High pass filter
- bla bla bla
Features are boring. You can read about them on the P-Solo webpage.
There is something about the gain knob on this P-Solo that is just fun to turn. I personally believe it triggers a similar portion of the brain that mammary tomfoolery engages, but I’d have to contact my Neuroscience pals for that one. (Yeah right! My friends play music. They can barely read!)
What does this knob do for the recording? Absolutely nothing. However, I still give it a fun point.
Reviews of preamps are stupid, but so is my obsession with plastic spoons. I’m not stopping either today. I’ve included the True Systems P-Solo in numerous shootouts in Killer Home Recording. Make sure you check ‘em out if you want to hear this thing in action.
What did Chuck D say about hype? (Seriously, I’m asking, I don’t know. I was more into Young MC than Public Enemy and move busting doesn’t help us here.) Regardless, there isn’t a bit of hype in this thing. I’ve not had a chance to get my hands on too many straight wire designs. (Some say the Martech MSS-10 is a straight wire design. I think these people need to go straight to the aural nut house.)
As you may know, I’m a big fan of colored preamps. I like preamps that get mean and dirty and aren’t afraid to bully around a signal that may be crossing the line here and there. My main weapon of choice these days is a Manley TNT, but I’d love get my paws on just about every Neve product I can. (I LOVED the sound of the Great River MEQ-1NV, but Manley suckered me in.) This straight wire idea is fairly new to me. I wasn’t sure how I’d like it.
It turns out I like it a lot. The P-Solo sounds good. In fact, I think it sounds damn good and I’m not aware of any dirty preamps that perform so well at this price point. You often have to spend double to get to the really good dirty stuff. I’m curious how it compares to something like a Grace. I suspect they have nukes pointed at each other. Then again, there is only so much enriched-Uranium and Plutonium to go around and I’m not sharing.
A Different Sound
The first thing I immediately noticed about the P-Solo sounds incredibly realistic. It gives the impression that the instrument is being played directly in front of you. I didn’t get that vibe with any other preamps I compared it to and I compared to a bunch of them that cost way more than the P-Solo. In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing this kind of sound before. I didn’t even know preamps had a “more realistic” knob. (Must be set inside the preamp.) It was a nice change.
I describe the sound of the P-Solo like this: You know when you over compress a vocal just a little bit? It does that “thing”. Then when you back off the threshold a bit, it cleans up and gets a little nicer sounding. That effect is what I hear when I compare the P-Solo to the dirty preamps. This is an exaggerated analogy, but it gets the point across.
When I compared the P-Solo to my stock Presonus Firestudio preamps, it’s obvious that the Firestudio has this extra layer of harsh junk. Remember the commercials with the “Bitter Beer Face”? Us partakers in the icy barley pop know a good beer. We’ve all taken a drink of beer that had that extra, bitter thing in it. It doesn’t take but just a smidgen of that slimey bitter stuff to kill the whole beer. The P-Solo is bitter proof.
There is not a hint of harshness in this thing. In my head I called it the “Neck pickup of preamps”. It has this way of making everything a bit smoother. There are certainly instances where I would prefer the Neve sound. However, it’s nice to know that there is another way of doing things. It’s nice to know that sounds like this are out there.
Since a majority of music I do is in the rock music world, I can’t say I’d pick the True Systems P-Solo as my #1 pick. The colored pres work too well for the rock and metal stuff. However, if someone made me use it, I wouldn’t think twice about it. I’d use it and I’m sure the record would come out just fine.
Generally speaking, rock and metal aren’t really intended to naturally recreate anything. These genres are meant to be over the top and in your face. A little distortion is bad. A lot of distortion is good. However, in other genres where realistic smoothness is absolutely required, I could see the P-Solo being incredible. When a realistic recreation of the sound is utmost importance, the P-Solo performs excellently.
I could see myself picking up the P-Solo or even the Precision 8 when I have more than enough colored preamps to go around. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these in any big time studio as an additional color to whatever else is available.
The P-Solo is the smoothest preamp I’ve ever heard. I like it. It gets you into the expensive sound without the heavy price tag. While it wouldn’t be my first choice for recording metal heads, I think it may just be my first choice for realistic capture of acoustic music.
Well done, True Systems!