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An 8-channel preamp of SSL/Neve quality? Really?

An 8-channel preamp of apparently SSL/Neve quality is up for sale on Ebay. But can you really trust the seller's description?


I often find it interesting to browse the pro audio section of Ebay. I found an interesting auction for an 8-channel preamp that claimed to be of SSL/Neve quality. But...

I used to own the exact same model myself and I know that it isn't. It isn't the same quality at all.

Regarding sound quality, I had no issues. For a solid-state preamp, the sound was as faithful to the output of my microphones as I could possibly desire it to be. However, I went through a period when I only ever used one channel, leaving the other seven channels unloved. And untested.

But then I had the opportunity to make a location recording where all eight channels would be used. To cut a long story short, the other seven channels didn't work. Only the one I had been using regularly still functioned. I completed the recording by other means.

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Back home in the studio, I took the lid off this preamp for the first time. I was astonished at what I saw...

Nothing. Well, almost nothing. Most of the interior space was filled with nothing more than a mix of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% argon and other trace gases. The rest was mostly power supply and, oh yes, a little audio circuitry too. Indeed, the unit's preamplification duties were fulfilled by eight integrated circuits and seven of them had at some point in time given off their tiny puffs of magic smoke. I rather imagined I could still smell it.

Now I don't want to complain unduly. The integrated circuits were the revered SSM 2017 and they were easily replaced. A short while after that the power supply failed and I decided to junk the unit rather than foist it off on an unsuspecting Ebay punter.

Now, regarding SSL and Neve quality. I honestly don't think that either would have given me better sound, but they certainly would have been more satisfying to own, and I doubt that their circuitry is quite so prone to spontaneous combustion. My view is that it isn't generally a good idea to rely too much on Ebay sellers' descriptions of their items.

By David Mellor Sunday June 17, 2012