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In-depth Feature:  Presonus TubePre - mono preamp/D.I.
Albert Potts writes: .

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...continued

In Use
I tested the TubePRE in a number of situations: as a keyboard DI in my studio, as a bass DI used on an acoustic bass with piezo pickup, and of course as a preamp. This little box tested quite clean in my opinion. Not that heavy dirty dark tube tone that one might expect from a budget tube box. This box sounds a bit more hi-fi than that, the tube coloration being lighter and subtle, rather than darker and dirtier.

TubePRE as Keyboard DI

The TubePRE manual recommends that keyboards NOT be plugged into this unit. Not that damage will be caused to it, but that the 1/4" instrument input isn't designed for line level input signals, and distortion may result from feeding it signals that are too hot. Of course, the first thing I did was hook it up to my line level keyboard outputs!

With the drive and gain controls all the way down I didn't hear any distortion and was actually able to dial in some tube drive and gain without any ill effects at all. Indeed, as mentioned before, the tube drive on this unit is surprisingly clean. I found I had to turn the knob to past the one or two o'clock position to get into distortion.

In fact, I found that I preferred to use the drive control as a trim, and add gain from there with the gain control. That gave me the "most cleanest" gain from the TubePRE, as the tube gain is refreshingly clean.

In any case, using the TubePRE with my keyboards gave me the option of adding some subtle tube gain to those synths with too low output levels, without compromising their sound. I did not experience the distortion the manual warns of until I boosted the gain pretty high. However, if you are using very loud keyboard sounds with their outputs turned all the way up, and midi velocities at 127, it is entirely possible the volume level would be too much for the DI inputs on the TubePRE.

TubePRE as Bass DI
This got interesting. I'm currently performing a show with LA session bass player Paul Morin, and we tested the TubePRE on his acoustic bass with piezo pickup during live performances, as well as in the studio. We also tossed it into the heat of a DI a shootout alongside several much more expensive DI's.

Again, the TubePRE was remarkably clean in all tests on bass. During the live show it sounded accurate on the bass tone, and the bass sat nicely into the mix. Paul wanted more from it though, as far as tone (he's picky). Compared to another much more expensive tube DI we also tested, it didn't impart the same warm glow or as heavy tube characteristics.

However, in the studio it compared shockingly well to much more expensive DI's. It didn't beat them, but hung in there with DI's that cost 3-4 more. The expensive DI's had a more refined sound and polished tone, but we are talking about picking nits here. What became clear is that the TubePRE is a great value for the money, as you get a DI that hangs close to some of the more expensive solid state models for a fraction of the price. If you want that ultimate performance of course you have to pay for it, but if you want to get reasonably close for a price, then this is a contender.

More Resources              Articles - full listing
  • Presonus WWW
  • Presonus Products @ Zzounds.com
  • TubePre PDF Manual

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