Analog Preamp Love | What's Your Poison?

dronerstone

Roadie
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903
As an alternative to all the digital modelling units out there, I guess this fits best in the pedal section.

I got myself a Kuro Exegol ("boutique" Model T preamp) last year, and I honestly believe it was one of my best gear purchases ever. At 18V, running it into a power amp input or FX loop return feels like I actually have a real vintage Model T sitting right there. It has tons of headroom, takes any pedal like a charm, and is surprisingly versatile. The inclusion of a dedicated line-level output and a presence knob made me buy the Exegol, rather than the (acclaimed) EAE Model FET.

Since the journey never ends, and I'm a huge QOTSA nerd, I gave in to the craving and ordered the new (downsized) Acorn Amps Solid State Preamp this weekend. Definitely looking forward to this one, I guess it'll be a lot of fun for spanky/jangly/rhythmic riffing and broken fuzz toanz.

I also have an older Catalinbread SFT (V2, no "stoner" mode) which is pretty cool, but it can be a noisy PITA in some situations, so I hardly ever use it anymore. Feels much more like a dirty overdrive than a real preamp to me, fwiw.

So, any love for all-analog, simplistic amp-in-a-box units and/or preamps here? What's your experience, any "secret" go-to single- or multi-channel pedals you feel like rambling about? The Koch Pedaltone II seems really nice, for example. I'm sure any power amp would instantly fall in love with that one.
 
I’m all ”preamp on board” into return of amp / poweramp lately.…no regrets..nice to have “my sound” on my board…and be able to plug into whatever amp is appropriate/availabl.

3 poisons:
Ethos overdrive amp, has a build in 30w ss powersection. The clean channel is “best ever”…love it for jazz gigs..didn’t use it in more pop settings yet..sure it would work…maybe it’s on the “fat side of the coin” for that. The overdrive section sounds good also, havent used it live a whole lot yet. The powersection is ok for low volume gigs.
The clean channel alone is worth the money…it’s a “never sell” pedal for sure.

Revival drive (in preamp mode)…the big / custom one..hotrodded. What a great pedal! I got it set up with an eq/boost/compression dedicated to the 2 drive sides..AND…an eq/boost/compression pedal dedicated to the bypass setting (= clean preamp witch 1 dip switch)…all switched with an es 5. The clean channel is ok..bit sterile. The drive sides are fantastic. Even though I can get 4 gain levels out of it…I find myself selecting 1 and ride the volume knob. The pedal is on the bright side of the spectrum…but plenty of control to mitigate that.

Effectrode blackbird.
Not sure what to think of it yet…the clean side has great DNA..it’s bass heavy..so a bit fiddly cause the workable zone for the bass knob is between 7 and 9 o’clock. The drive has been hit or miss on the 1 gig I used it. Sometimes it felt like the best sound ever on the neck pup…while biting my head off on the bridge (More so then with other drives). So there’s is greatness and pain in that pedal…maybe I need to use it more often and get used to it.
 
Just dove into the synergy preamp line. Excited to pair with my fractal but also have a Highwind Fire and Sword preamp pedal on order. Supposedly an Orange Rockerverb preamp with built in dirty tree and direwolf boost options.
 
Just dove into the synergy preamp line. Excited to pair with my fractal but also have a Highwind Fire and Sword preamp pedal on order. Supposedly an Orange Rockerverb preamp with built in dirty tree and direwolf boost options.
Oh you into that boutique shiz right now

Make It Rain Money GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants
 
I’m all ”preamp on board” into return of amp / poweramp lately.…no regrets..nice to have “my sound” on my board…and be able to plug into whatever amp is appropriate/availabl.

3 poisons:
Ethos overdrive amp, has a build in 30w ss powersection. The clean channel is “best ever”…love it for jazz gigs..didn’t use it in more pop settings yet..sure it would work…maybe it’s on the “fat side of the coin” for that. The overdrive section sounds good also, havent used it live a whole lot yet. The powersection is ok for low volume gigs.
The clean channel alone is worth the money…it’s a “never sell” pedal for sure.

Revival drive (in preamp mode)…the big / custom one..hotrodded. What a great pedal! I got it set up with an eq/boost/compression dedicated to the 2 drive sides..AND…an eq/boost/compression pedal dedicated to the bypass setting (= clean preamp witch 1 dip switch)…all switched with an es 5. The clean channel is ok..bit sterile. The drive sides are fantastic. Even though I can get 4 gain levels out of it…I find myself selecting 1 and ride the volume knob. The pedal is on the bright side of the spectrum…but plenty of control to mitigate that.

Effectrode blackbird.
Not sure what to think of it yet…the clean side has great DNA..it’s bass heavy..so a bit fiddly cause the workable zone for the bass knob is between 7 and 9 o’clock. The drive has been hit or miss on the 1 gig I used it. Sometimes it felt like the best sound ever on the neck pup…while biting my head off on the bridge (More so then with other drives). So there’s is greatness and pain in that pedal…maybe I need to use it more often and get used to it.

NICE!!! For some reason, I'm not so sure about the Blackbird, but the Revival Drive seems awfully versatile, in the best possible way. Tweaker's heaven much? :D
And that Ethos looks just... :chef

Just dove into the synergy preamp line. Excited to pair with my fractal but also have a Highwind Fire and Sword preamp pedal on order. Supposedly an Orange Rockerverb preamp with built in dirty tree and direwolf boost options.

Synergy, Synergy... I dig the idea, but every time I play around with my cart in online stores, it'll get WAY outta budget in a matter of seconds. LOL

Out of interest: Is it possible to run two Synergy preamps in parallel mono? This would make for killer sounds.
 
Synergy, Synergy... I dig the idea, but every time I play around with my cart in online stores, it'll get WAY outta budget in a matter of seconds. LOL
The buy in is not cheap for sure. But given most are made by the amp builders themselves, I'm hoping it gets me close to a $2000+ amp for $400. But even typing that out seems too good to be true lol
 
The buy in is not cheap for sure. But given most are made by the amp builders themselves, I'm hoping it gets me close to a $2000+ amp for $400. But even typing that out seems too good to be true lol
Well, probably not too unrealistic on your side, tbh. There's a fair amount of cash saved, since they're "only" preamp modules, after all.

Completely agree, the steep buy-in is what scares me away. For now.
 
NICE!!! For some reason, I'm not so sure about the Blackbird, but the Revival Drive seems awfully versatile, in the best possible way. Tweaker's heaven much? :D
And that Ethos looks just... :chef



Synergy, Synergy... I dig the idea, but every time I play around with my cart in online stores, it'll get WAY outta budget in a matter of seconds. LOL

Out of interest: Is it possible to run two Synergy preamps in parallel mono? This would make for killer sounds.

You can, if you use a rackmount line mixer. Presumably, you'd be putting both modules in a SYN-2, you could run each output into two separate channels of a line mixer, then run that master output into the next unit, whether that be FX or a power amp, or whatever.

There is a high "buy in" for Synergy, but it's kind of like modeling in the way that, you can have two completely different "amps" in one chassis that would never happen in the real world, unless you bought those two separate amps, and you can change "amps" at any time for $400.00, etc.
 
The buy in is not cheap for sure. But given most are made by the amp builders themselves, I'm hoping it gets me close to a $2000+ amp for $400. But even typing that out seems too good to be true lol

If you have a good power amp, you’ll be good to go.

When you consider the market is filled with $300 tubescreamers variants, and $80 tone knobs, a $400 SLO preamp designed by Mike Soldano himself starts to look like value. (Insert Farley)
 
If you have a good power amp, you’ll be good to go.

When you consider the market is filled with $300 tubescreamers variants, and $80 tone knobs, a $400 SLO preamp designed by Mike Soldano himself starts to look like value. (Insert Farley)
To this point I’ve owned the following Synergy preamps:

Friedman HBE
Bogner Uberschall
B-Man
IICP
SLO

All of them, and I do mean all of them, are fantastic. The B-Man is perfect for low gain fender stuff, the IICP is spot-on the old Mesas, and the SLO is simply amazing. Of all of them, I’ve kept the SLO. I’m waiting to see what they come up with in the next year or two. The power amp as well is absolutely fantastic and not worth the disdain it gets online from some. I’ve owned a ton of great power amps through the years and for a 1 space power amp, it is phenomenal. I’ve even shot IRs with it and run modelers with it, and it sounds super flat with tons of power for those applications.
 
Huge Synergy person here. Lots of fun. I have most of the modules. :p Love it for the home studio scenario... Gives me a ton of variety but only takes up the space of one amp/rig. The stuff is done right, too; high quality, etc.

That said, preamp/poweramp rigs are not for everyone, the heads and combo are more of a traditional amp experience.

Also, a lot of people get the synergy rig and are hoping to get some other amp on the cheap (i.e. an SLO, Ecstasy, etc). I think if you want some specific amp and that is your dream rig; its best to save up and get that one thing. The modular rigs are about building your own tones that you are into based on these awesome designers/brands components not cloning amps. That's how the old rack rigs were too; people would mix/match things to their taste to get their own thing happening.
 
I’m all ”preamp on board” into return of amp / poweramp lately.…no regrets..nice to have “my sound” on my board…and be able to plug into whatever amp is appropriate/availabl.

3 poisons:
Ethos overdrive amp, has a build in 30w ss powersection. The clean channel is “best ever”…love it for jazz gigs..didn’t use it in more pop settings yet..sure it would work…maybe it’s on the “fat side of the coin” for that. The overdrive section sounds good also, havent used it live a whole lot yet. The powersection is ok for low volume gigs.
The clean channel alone is worth the money…it’s a “never sell” pedal for sure.

Revival drive (in preamp mode)…the big / custom one..hotrodded. What a great pedal! I got it set up with an eq/boost/compression dedicated to the 2 drive sides..AND…an eq/boost/compression pedal dedicated to the bypass setting (= clean preamp witch 1 dip switch)…all switched with an es 5. The clean channel is ok..bit sterile. The drive sides are fantastic. Even though I can get 4 gain levels out of it…I find myself selecting 1 and ride the volume knob. The pedal is on the bright side of the spectrum…but plenty of control to mitigate that.

Effectrode blackbird.
Not sure what to think of it yet…the clean side has great DNA..it’s bass heavy..so a bit fiddly cause the workable zone for the bass knob is between 7 and 9 o’clock. The drive has been hit or miss on the 1 gig I used it. Sometimes it felt like the best sound ever on the neck pup…while biting my head off on the bridge (More so then with other drives). So theirs is greatness and pain in that pedal…maybe I need to use it more often and get used to it.
You bastard. Now I’m looking at the Ethos OD Amp.
 
If you have a good power amp, you’ll be good to go.

When you consider the market is filled with $300 tubescreamers variants, and $80 tone knobs, a $400 SLO preamp designed by Mike Soldano himself starts to look like value. (Insert Farley)
The modules themselves are very fairly priced but the SYN1/2 are pretty damn expensive for what they are. So are the amp heads. The SYN-50 head without modules already costs more than many full amps.

Synergy makes sense as a "built your own multi-channel amp by picking a few favorite modules" system where the overall cost of SYN-50 + 2 modules is in similar range to a good boutique amp.

It does not make sense as an "all tube modeler" system because the poweramp and speakers remain the same unless you also have amp/cab switchers involved. Which quickly becomes very complicated and expensive. Then swapping modules becomes inconvenient and at that point a digital modeler is just plain more practical.

I'm not overly fond of "preamp pedal" type units either, whether they are the rare actual preamp capable of driving a poweramp or just "based on some amp's preamp" overdrive/distortion pedals. I'd rather go with full blown amps for that like the BluGuitar stuff.
 
The buy in is not cheap for sure. But given most are made by the amp builders themselves, I'm hoping it gets me close to a $2000+ amp for $400. But even typing that out seems too good to be true lol
Synergy are pretty great even if not exactly like the original. The power amp is a big part of it though. I use the PS100 and it gives the thickness.
 
The modules themselves are very fairly priced but the SYN1/2 are pretty damn expensive for what they are. So are the amp heads. The SYN-50 head without modules already costs more than many full amps.

Synergy makes sense as a "built your own multi-channel amp by picking a few favorite modules" system where the overall cost of SYN-50 + 2 modules is in similar range to a good boutique amp.

It does not make sense as an "all tube modeler" system because the poweramp and speakers remain the same unless you also have amp/cab switchers involved. Which quickly becomes very complicated and expensive. Then swapping modules becomes inconvenient and at that point a digital modeler is just plain more practical.

I'm not overly fond of "preamp pedal" type units either, whether they are the rare actual preamp capable of driving a poweramp or just "based on some amp's preamp" overdrive/distortion pedals. I'd rather go with full blown amps for that like the BluGuitar stuff.

The cost is certainly not nothing, but everything is stupidly priced these days so I don’t find the spread of $900-2,400 (For a fully equipped SYN1, SYN2 or Head) that crazy in todays amp market. I do think if they could cut the costs of the enclosures it would probably help the initial buy-in hurdle for the platform, but once you get setup you’re good to go, and the module prices are very fair.

As far as cab switchers etc. never needed any of that. I have a cab I love, I want everything going through that. Sure if you’re only rotating one part of the chain (preamp, poweramp, cab) there can be underlying similarities, and even some modules can overlap with others (same with amps tbf) but I can assure you that you’d hear a difference between an Uberschall and a Bman module. :ROFLMAO:
 
I have all 4 of the Vox Valvenergy pedals/preamps. I've yet to dive deep into using them strictly in a preamp > power amp > cab setup. Just been using mainly as a gain pedal or recording direct out with their built-in cab sim. I think they sound really good and feel right out of the box. I'm going to start trying them in preamp mode straight into a DAW with some IR's, which I'm sure will take them to another level. Probably in Helix native.
 
I'm very much into that. I started buying vintage rack stuff a few months before we learned about covid (before the prices skyrocketed).

k38FGiP.jpg


My favorite is the Rock Master, The Rocktron Plexi is a close second. The 2112 has the 2120 Artist firmware upgrade. It's okay but it has an effects loop so I typically just run one the tube preamps into the EFX return and just use it's effects which are much better than the preamp in it.

I like amp-in-box type pedals in front of this one. I just turn the preamp modules off and use it's PEQ and effects to sweeten up nice sounding drive pedals.

HEKC3Rb.jpg


This went so well I tried this one in it yesterday and it really surprised me.

NXvEy7m.jpg


My Bogner Uberschall pedal is next. Who knows, maybe it won't suck as bad as it does into the front end of a regular amp. :ROFLMAO:

Jr1SgJQ.jpg
 
I'm very much into that. I started buying vintage rack stuff a few months before we learned about covid (before the prices skyrocketed).

k38FGiP.jpg


My favorite is the Rock Master, The Rocktron Plexi is a close second. The 2112 has the 2120 Artist firmware upgrade. It's okay but it has an effects loop so I typically just run one the tube preamps into the EFX return and just use it's effects which are much better than the preamp in it.

I like amp-in-box type pedals in front of this one. I just turn the preamp modules off and use it's PEQ and effects to sweeten up nice sounding drive pedals.

HEKC3Rb.jpg


This went so well I tried this one in it yesterday and it really surprised me.

NXvEy7m.jpg


My Bogner Uberschall pedal is next. Who knows, maybe it won't suck as bad as it does into the front end of a regular amp. :ROFLMAO:

Jr1SgJQ.jpg
KILLER setup, really.

Congrats!!!!!
 
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