Review: APP Studio Ing. MA-1 Germanium Pre
Positives:Great germanium sound, inexpensive.
Negatives:Not available on the open market… yet.
This is an interesting one that not many people will get to see or hear, but it’s a real hidden gem! A DIY project hailing from beautiful southern Italy, this pre combines the clean snap of an API preamp with the tonal characteristics of a Germanium preamp. The unit was released as a 500 series format, but is easily adapted to rack mounting with an appropriate power supply. The mic features a single gain knob (similar to the API312) with buttons for 48v phantom, pad, phase inverse, and DI. The DI button engages the front panel 1/4″ input that is absolutely AMAZING on electric bass. The unit is also quite good when used for electric guitar duty (the rich harmonics the germanium transistors provide make for a really killer tone!). Having almost compression like sounding quality, and beautifully sonically colored, a pair of these pre’s are now a permanent fixture in my studio arsenal.
Putting one together is not very difficult if you’re good with a soldering iron and know how to follow a schematic and wiring diagrams. Obviously, this is not for everyone out there, but those that can make it happen are out there and usually glad to help out a fellow engineer find some really great, unique gear. Once assembled the thick aluminum faceplate and chassis feel more like a professionally manufactured unit than some bigger named products. The nice part about the DIY aspect is that different transformers can be used to vary the tone a bit depending on taste. This is not something you would swap out on a whim mind you since most of the cost of the unit is in those transformers, but its nice to have options when gettting a piece of custom gear.
Overall, an A+ in my book!