TRUE Systems P-Solo
List Price: $749.99
The TRUE Systems P-Solo is a one-channel precision microphone preamplifier housed in classy red hardware. It’s a sturdy box that is designed to sit on a desktop and follows TRUE’s line of leading mic pres, such as the P2 Analog and Precision 8.
On its front face, the P-Solo features small buttons for a high pass filter (fixed at 80Hz) and 48V phantom power. The large gain knob has a nice feel, more reminiscent of a vintage radio or stereo dial than a lot of tech gear. The gain knob actually features a 10dB pad (called “Input Attenuation”) at the far-left end of the dial. This seems a bit more confusing than just having the pad as a button.
On it’s back panel, the P-Solo features an XLR input and XLR and ¼ inch balanced outputs and is powered by a standard IEC cord. The front panel also provides a ¼ inch direct input for an instrument like an electric guitar or bass.
Upgrading your microphone preamplifiers comes when you are ready to add more color to your recordings. While cheap mic pres do exist, one rule of thumb is that $500 should get you a standalone preamp with two channels. Since the P-Solo only provides one channel, it’s more expensive and offers less value – but once you plug it in, you’ll see why immediately.
The main purpose of a preamp is to raise a microphone to line level, which makes recording possible. Recording interfaces come with built-in pres, but, as in the case of the M-Audio ProFire 610, if you want to record more than two mic inputs at a time, you will need to add in extra pres. While the pres in M-Audio and Digidesign interfaces are of a solid quality, introducing a standalone pre will take things to a whole new level.
In our test, we compared the P-Solo in several applications to the built-in preamps and direct instrument inputs of a Focusrite Saffire 56 recording interface.
The most immediate thing you’ll notice is how much the P-Solo (or any preamp) amplifies your signal. That’s a preamp’s main job, but along the way it should add other, subtler textures to your sound. Using the P-Solo on vocals through a dynamic microphone produced a stunning result. If you feel like you are constantly having to crank up your interface’s Gain knobs, the P-Solo will remedy that. Vocals became bright and detailed in all the right ways.
Moving to the direct instrument input, we tested an electric bass and a semi-hollowbody electric guitar. The guitar had a nice plucky quality and a little extra punch and the bass was more expressive, though the difference with the Saffire’s DIs was less jaw-dropping than the mic input. (This may also owe something to Focusrite’s high-quality instrument inputs.)
The real magic happened though when we recorded an acoustic guitar with a high-end condenser microphone running through the P-Solo. The preamp brought out all the articulation of the acoustic instrument and brought a crispness to the guitar’s natural highs and a warmth to the mid range. Even with a very nice mic that’s perfect for capturing a smaller-bodied Martin’s unique tone, I’ve felt like something had been missing before discovering the P-Solo.
While many home recordists will be suited just fine using the stock preamps on their interfaces or small mixers, a quality mic pre like TRUE’s P-Solo is really a small price to pay when you think about all the sounds you’ll start to improve on your recordings.