A Designs MP-2A Stereo Tube Preamp


Stereo tube microphone preamplifier designed to be articulate and clean, but still have tube warmth.

What we think:


We got our hand on an MP series mic pre early on in late 2002 when the name A Designs Audio was virtually unheard of and lined the MP in A/B tests and recording sessions with over 20 of the hottest mic pres on the market. The MP runs 6NI-P and EF86 tubes with a Jensen input transformer on the front-end and a custom-wound output transformer, which yields stunning sound quality with serious bass response and a warm, airy top end typical of great tube mic pres.

We don't find the MP to be overly colored. In tracking sessions, any source that sounded too thin has gotten the MP treatment. The introduction of a good tube design adds even-order harmonics mostly in the area of seconds and fourths. This occurs in nature and is what makes ours ears define a sound as "pleasing." In DI listening sessions with a Lakland Bass through over 20 pres, the MP rose to the top of the pack and was among the favorite of several engineers and was chosen as the best pre by the bass player. On synth/workstation sessions, the MP was used to thicken otherwise thin piano and pad sounds. The MP has also become a first choice for vocals. In our reviewing the MP series mic pres we wanted to see the 1/4" DI on the front rather than in the back. A Designs honored our request and all their mic pres since 2003 include DI jacks on the front. We sounded the word about A Designs Audio early and loud, and have been as pleased to see these great all-tube mic pres growing in popularity - and getting the recognition they deserve.

Peter has added some key features such as: a -20dB Pad Switch, selectable tone switches, which allows you to create 4 different tones per channel. Also, the new output gain standard of the MP1-A and MP-2A Series is now 60 dB! Perfect for the new generation of Ribbon Microphones.

The MP2A has all of the great clean sounds acheiveable with the original MP2, but also adds sine significant tonal variation, and the ability to make the preamp more colored, bigger, and rounder by utilizing the tone switches mentioned above.


Manufacturer Description:

True-tube stereo preamp with a “sweetspot” that goes on forever

There aren’t many single preamps that engineers and producers feel that they could solely use to make an entire record, but according to industry professionals, A-Designs Audio has built two: The all-tube MP-2A and the solid-state Pacifica. But we’re here to talk about the MP-2A (you can check out the Pacifica later). Designed to provide the versatility and sonic majesty the discerning professional requires for top-quality recordings, the MP-2A not only offers two tone switches per channel (four distinct sounds), custom transformers, plus polarity (phase) switches in order to treat any sound source as desired, it also gets top marks in “works and plays well with others.” Meaning, while some preamps can be finicky when it comes to certain mics, the MP-2A welcomes all and sounds great no matter what you put through it; ribbon, dynamic, or condenser. Whether you’re looking for clarity and transparency, or the rich, euphonic sound of input tubes driven hard, the MP-2A can give you all that and more.

Each channel features a -20dB pad; two selectable tone switches for four possible tones on each channel; 60db gain for use with next-generation ribbon mics; and Cinemag input transformers coupled with custom-wound output transformers, delivering the low noise and top-quality sound you demand from a high-end preamp. Additional features include balanced combo XLR/1/4″ inputs, true VU meters, phantom power, polarity switches, and front-panel, line-level input jacks.

Built to audiophile-quality standards with a price tag well below other boutique preamps in its class, the MP-2A has no integrated circuits in the signal path—it relies solely on discrete components, namely tubes, film capacitors, and custom transformers. To maintain the integrity and purity of its sonic signature, bells and whistles are kept to a minimum. This serves two purposes: First, the more switches in the circuit path, the more sound quality can be negatively affected. Second, by keeping only necessary features, costs are kept down and your money goes where it really counts: sound quality.

Unlimited “Sweetspot” and Tonal Variation

With many preamps, you’ll find that they tend to have only one setting where you hear “the magic.” Move past it, and the magic is gone. The problem with a single-setting sweetspot is that you can’t always run the preamp at that setting, since the strength of the input signal will vary from sound source to sound source. Not so with the MP-2A! Thanks to its fixed-gain amplifier with output attenuator, you get consistent behavior (the magic) whether the MP2-A is turned up or down. It also provides polarity switches, which allow you to record a stereo sound source out of phase in order to enhance stereo imaging, or tame overwhelming bass via cancellation. Factor in the tone switches that give you a palette of four unique sonic flavors on each channel, and you can easily see why we say you could make an entire record with just this one incredibly versatile preamp.

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