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True Systems P-Solo

January 30, 2014
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The True Systems P-Solo Microphone/instrument preamplifier ($699 retail/$595 street) is a single-channel system that’s a pleasing combination of modern technology and retro looks. You get a huge input-gain knob smack dab on the front panel—a nod to vintage pro-studio gear of the past—buttons for +48V phantom power and an 80Hz high-pass filter,and a bold and boxy chassis. There’s a 1/4" high-impedance instrument jack at the front (which is very convenient for home-studio guitarists, bassists,and keyboardists), and an XLR mic input at the back (which is a tad less handy). The power switch, power cable connector for the internal linear AC power supply, and dedicated XLR and 1/4" balanced outputs are also on the rear panel. The P-Solo’s small, brick-like imprint won’t take up much space in crowded home studios, and at just 5 lbs, it’s also extremely portable for those who dig recording rehearsals, live shows, and even sound effects out on location.

My first test for the P-Solo was recording direct electric guitar and bass for a movie theme, entitled The Giant Spider. The independent filmmaker is known for his campy and modern takes on ’50s horror flicks, so I didn’t want the guitar and bass tracks to sound too “amped up.”I exclusively used the instrument input for these tracks, and the P-Solo gave me natural, organic, and weighty sounds in both instances. The bass track was very clean with no muddiness, and the preamp captured some nice definition between 4kHz and 6kHz.The guitar tracks were similarly pristine, round, and snappy with no artifacts.

Next, I hooked up a variety of microphones to the P-Solo’s rear-panel XLR input. First up was a Neumann TLM 103 that I used to record a Yamaha A3Macoustic guitar. The sound was rich and warm, with a clear top end and articulate mid range frequencies. While everyone would expect a Neumann to capture excellent sounds, the P-Solo also pulled very clean and dimensional acoustic-guitar tones out of less-expensive mics.

Getting braver, I used a $299 Sennheiser MK4 condenser and the P-Solo to track some more exotic instruments for the film score. When I miked up a Cümbüs(a Turkish instrument that’s kind of a cross between a banjo and an oud) played by local musician Brian T. Chase, I got some great plucky tones that weren’t overly metallic. Sometimes, these instruments can sound like metal being tapped on a drum head, but with careful mic placement and the P-Solo’s transparent sound, mid range frequencies were not overbearing. I got the same results when miking a dulcimer. It sounded pretty much as it sounded in the room, with a nice, sharp attack that wasn’t too intense.

The P-Solo’s only slight stumble in this session was when recording a cello part, but it was more a matter of “wrong tool for the job” than any failing on the preamp’s part. The P-Solo definitely captured a clean, transparent, and dimensional sound from the cello, but I wanted something warmer, darker, and less refined. (I probably should have used a tube preamp.) All-in-all, the P-Solo is a humdinger of a mic preamp that does serious recording for budget bucks, and it’s a great tool for upgrading—or diversifying—the sounds you can achieve in your home studio.

KUDOS Compact. Portable.Affordable. Super-clean and transparent sound.

CONCERNS None.

CONTACT True Systems,true-systems.com/p-solo.html

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