True Systems P2analog Stereo Microphone Preamp
by John Gatski
There are lots of microphone preamps out there these days, but the TrueSystems P2analog definitely is one of those high-end preamps that stands out from the crowd.
Neumann KM184, Audix SCX-25 instrument microphones, Lawson L251 tube, Shure KSM32 condenser, Studio Projects C1 FET, B3 multipattern FET microphones; Alesis MasterLink, Benchmark Media DAC1 D/As; Legacy High Current preamp; NHT Pro A10 powered monitors; Grado SR-325 headphones; Alpha-Core Goertz solidsilver conductor cables; Surgex AC line surge protector.
Distributed by Neumann/USA. The $1,750 True Systems is a two-channel,hybrid circuitry mic preamplifier with great features, such as a stereo phasecorrelation meter, M/S decoder and active DI, as well as the typical preamp features, such as high-pass filter and pad.
In fact, I will say at the outset that this is a "best buy" preamp, andthe editors have designated it as a 2002 Reviewer's Pick. So read on.
Based on the highly successful, Precision 8 analog eight-channel preamp(PAR 5/99), the True Systems P2analog is a one-rack-space, mic pre with easy-to-to operate, features and controls. The front panel controls include two instrument (DI) inputs, gain controls, and a "gain" switch for each channel thatallows from 15.5 dB to 64 dB of gain in the high gain mode and from 3.5 dBto 52 dB of gain in the low-gain mode.
The defeatable high pass-filter rolls off at 80 Hz or 40 Hz. The rest of the left front panel includes phase reverse switch, individual LED level metersand 48V phantom switch.
The right side of the preamp features the switch to activate the M/S (mid-side) decoder, and a very handy phase scope to check the phase of yourstereo mic setup's phase correlation.
Rear panel features include XLR in and out jacks and a set of balanced TRS 1/4-inch outputs for extra flexibility. Inside, the preamp uses quality parts throughout its balanced, dual servo, DC-coupled design, including military spec components and gold contact relays. Factory rated specs are excellent with distortion at an ultra low 0.0008 percent and up to overall 64 dB of gain. In the high-gain mode, maximum output level is +31 dB. Noise level isway down at -132 dB E.I.N
I set up the True Systems P2analog preamp in my home studio rig. I tried a number of microphones including the Lawson L251 tube mic (PAR 11/02), Neumann KM184 instrument mics, a pair of Audix SCX-25s, a pair of Shure KSM 32s, anda Studio Projects C1 FET cardioid and B3 ultra-low cost multipattern FETfor M/S recording.
For audio evaluation, I connected the output of the P2analog to an Alesis MasterLink, and recorded acoustic guitar and voice samples at 24-bit, 88.2 kHz sampling. Monitoring was done via the MasterLink's D/A or the Benchmark Media DAC1 D/A (reviewed on page tested in this issue). Both DACs were fed into a Legacy High Current preamp and its outputs were routed to a set of NHT Pro A10 powered monitors. All cables to and from the mic preamp were Alpha-CoreGoertz solid silver conductor.
Running the preamp straight into the MasterLink required the gain to beset at about 75 percent. I did not engage the high-pass filter with mostof the mics used for the evaluation. I found the phase scope extremely usefulto dial in phase coherent stereo set ups. In fact, I got so used to it, that I seemed to focus on it as much as the level LEDs. All stereo mic preamps need this feature!
One warning. The True Systems preamp, does not have any kind of delayedstart, relay or buffer. If you turn it on - even with gain and phantom off,it can send some heavy-duty noise through your system. Thus, turn it on firstand off last. According to True Systems, a conscious decision was made tonot put extra stages, such as a relay, in the audio path because they canreduce the accuracy of the signal path.
I recorded my 1973 Martin D-35 (tight bass, loud projection with crisp treble), a reissue Gibson Advanced Jumbo (strong, loud bass and enhanced mids) and Carvin C250S solid cedar top dreadnought (soft, but prominent treble).
The first mics I dialed in were the Neumann KM184s, a very accurate, versatile instrument mic. I set them up in an X-Y pattern and recorded a number of cutswith each of the guitars.
The playback was instantly impressive. The KM184s, in conjunction with the True preamp, revealed an uncanny accuracy with tight bass, a smooth, present treble with out shrillness. The preamp's character revealed a tight, focused sound stage, but with a warmness that made it easy to listen to. With the varying degrees of treble from the different guitars, my notes remained consistent on the preamp's accuracy and easy-to-listen-to character.
The other mics pretty much performed with their own character the same way. The Audix SCX-25 with its presence sheen, the Shure KSM32 with its openness and the Studio Projects C1 with its large diaphragm characteric - all sounded wonderful through the True Systems.
The Lawson L251 tube mic was absolutely stunning on voice. It is a quiet tube mic and coupled with the clean quiet, nature of the True Systems, the tandem seemed like they were made for each other for vocals.
With every pair of mics, I was able to get great stereo separation without the dreaded "hole in the middle" when miking the acoustics in X-Y. But since M/S decoder (see sidebar for background on M/S) is a key feature of The True Systems, I put it into use.
The M/S performs best when using a figure 8 and a cardioid, so I plugged in Studio Projects' multiple pattern B3 and my Studio Projects C1 cardioid FET condenser. I set the B3 to the figure 8 pattern, aimed it to the left side of guitar and put the C1 in the middle aimed at the sound hole. I engaged the M/S decoder and played a number of guitar cuts for playback on the MasterLink.
The M/S decoder was very effective for quick stereo set up. Instead of futzing around with angles of mics and the multitude of potential distances to place them, you simply place the mics, engage the decoder and adjust the knobs toassure the desired stereo image with proper mono.
In M/S mode, the channel one gain controls the level of stereo content from the "side" mic; the channel two gain controls the mono content from the "mid" mic. Dial in the best combination, and you got great stereo with good mono compatibility. The M/S decoder just gives you another option for stereo recording - especially in tight spaces. On acoustic guitar, it definitely allowed more room ambience into the recording equation.
I used the DI input with my Fender American Fat Strat electric guitar and Fender Telecaster. Sometimes, DIs are just an afterthought in active mic preamps,but the True Systems is one of the best of its ilk, The Strat sounded likea Strat, but there was enough voicing that it was not dry. Good DI. If youneed more sensitivity, True Systems recommends an internal impedance adjustmentto get more level.
Overall, I could not find any thing not to like about the True Systems unit. A delayed turn-on might be nice for those of us who leave our monitor system on all the time. But I understand that adding extras in the signal path can degrade audio - even if subtly.
The True Systems P2analog mic preamp is truly a top-quality preamp thatincludes extras that many other preamps do not have - even at a much highercost. Give it an audition with your favorite mic(s) and see if you do notlike it as well as I did.
John Gatski is publisher of Pro Audio Review.
True Systems P2 analog Stereo Microphone Preamp
Key Features: Two-channel
48V phantom power; high-pass filter; M/S; phase meter.
+ Excellent sound quality
+ M/S decoder
+ Phase scope
+ Nice DI
Neumann/USA was smart to distribute such a quality line of mic preamps.