DIY 500 Series Mic Preamp Construction (High Quality Microphone Pre)
For anyone who doesn’t know, 500 series is a type of rack-mount outboard gear for studio use, that offers a semi-universal slot for all types of preamps, compressors, equalizers, with many different manufactures offering modules in nearly the same size and format. If you want to try a different flavor, you just swap the module out for something you bought or assembled yourself with the highest quality components and best sounding sonic flavors at your tip of your sonic palette.
There’s a whole host of pre-packaged preamps from companies like Neve, Empirical Labs, SSL, but for today, we’re just going to focus on DIY options. (aka the do it yourself, finger burner approach!)
Based in Seattle, Hairball audio offers a variety of juicy 500 series preamps. By far our favorite preamp is the Hairball LOLA, which could be described as a Neve on steroids. They also over 1176 build kits and several Elements Preamps in a variety of sonic flavors. Luckily every sonic flavor features a different colored faceplate so you can have a rainbow of colors if you collect all the different modules from LA-3A style rain-dog op-amps, to custom input and output transformers the options are limitless.
Classic API offers API style preamps in a DIY kit. The results are faithful to a classic sound embodied on many famous recordings. API still makes consoles, and if you’re willing to dish out $10,000 or more, you can own one, but for the rest of us, you can solder your own simple preamp using transformers and op-amp designs comparable to classic API circuits designed by the best engineers in the world, get at it finger-burner style and get some kits for VP-26, VP-28 or VP-312 preamps.
Group diy is a maze of forums and endless threads for hundreds of projects. Geez. Many 500 series projects can be found here, but not for the faint of heart! You must advance far from the basic finger burning padawan until you a full fledged solder master! Get in there in the nitty gritty of the maths and components involved, or experiment with your own design on one of their common pathways towards amazing DIY projects.
Five Fish Audio
offers kits and pre-assembled modules as well. While I haven’t ever used any of their stuff, I would be interested in trying 1176 style compressor or Neve style preamp for comparison!
If you would like to listen to the sonic qualities of the Hairball Audio LOLA or Classic API VP26 give us a call or set up an appointment to come down to the studio.