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Black Lion Audio
B12A MKII Preamp – $549
PROS: Excellent sound quality.
While every studio loves the clarity of digital workstations, external preamps often give a color that just can’t be replicated via a plug-in. Black Lion Audio has a lot of options, and their B12A MKII is worth checking out.
It’s relatively simple; 1/2 rack space, with minimal controls on the front. Power, 48V, Phase, 10dB Pad Hi-Z buttons, a gain knob and a 1/4” input. The back sports an XLR input and a 1/4” output. Inside is a Cinemag input transformer, and a Edcor output transformer – in the audio world these are highly regarded, and considering the sound quality this unit has, they’re worth it.
With its simplicity it’s super easy to use; plug it in, make your selections for your application, and it’s done. The only real control is the gain knob. Surprisingly, even with the gain at “0” there is noticeable signal going through it. After speaking to one of BLA’s techs, it’s part of its design. With a preamp, setting an absolute 0 would kind of be pointless.
Turning up the gain, it gets nice and warm, regardless of the input. Yes, hotter signals can distort things and get a bit hairy, but not in an unusable way. Even at these higher gain settings it’s remarkably quiet, as well. Direct guitars and basses have a warmth and depth that’s musical and sweet. It doesn’t tend to color the sound, just gives more. It really excels at warming up sterile sonics. It’s a classic sound, and considering that the API 312A was an inspiration in its design, it lives up to that in spades.
Here’s the great thing: there are so many companies out there making modern versions of classic preamps, usually with a price tag that’s eye watering. The Black Lion unit has a street price of $549, and it’s worth every penny.
-Cinemag Input Transformer
-Edcor Output Transformer
-Hi-Z Input (passive, unbalanced)
-XLR Microphone Input
-TRS Line Output (balanced)