Retro Instruments has always been known for producing high-quality reproductions of vintage pieces of gear, including the Sta-Level compressor. This morning at AES 2019 in New York, owner Phil Moore introduced his latest release, the 500PRE, which brings a classic design to the 500 Series world.
Equipped with three powerful 12AT7 tubes, the 500PRE oozes analog vibe. The new 500 Series module features class-leading frequency response, noise, and distortion, which deliver the same musical performance and pristine sound that Retro Instruments gear has always produced. Keep reading to discover what makes the new Retro Instruments 500PRE 500 Series microphone preamplifier a must-have for modern recording and mixing engineers.
Retro Instruments was founded by Phil Moore in 2006 to re-introduce classic-quality tube audio products to the professional recording industry. His very first design? A recreation of his favorite piece of gear, the legendary 1956 Gates Sta-Level tube compressor.
With the 500PRE, Phil has packed that exact same circuit topology into a single-width 500 series module. Thanks to three tube gain stages, the 500PRE exhibits the exact same detail and depth as Retro Instruments' best-selling tube compression amplifier.
“The performance of the 500PRE exceeded my expectations. It’s based on professional tube console program amplifiers from the era of the Sta-Level and 176," Phil Moore says of his latest release. "It’s got 75 dB of gain and no compromises. It was inspired by the Vintage King April Fools’ Day post on the 500 Series Fairchild 670. You thought that was a joke?”
The 500PRE is fully transformer balanced with high-quality Cinemag transformers for low noise, high headroom and superior audio performance.
Capture pristine recordings with a vanishingly low total harmonic distortion of just <.05% at +4 dBu output from 20-20000 Hz. With a balanced, neutral frequency response of +/- .25 dB from 20-20000 Hz, the 500PRE is one of the most musical sounding preamps on the market. An impressive equivalent input noise of just -128 dB keeps your recordings sounding crystal-clear, even with intimate performances at low input levels.
Equipped with three TAD 12AT7 tubes, the 500PRE gracefully limits input signals at +18 dBu, while perfectly retaining transient detail. The perfect limiter for both tracking and mixing, 500PRE is ideal for fattening up tracks with thick, rich harmonics that never sound plastic or brittle like solid-state amplifiers—even when overdriven.
With three new-production tubes and soft-start circuitry that minimizes stress to the tubes and power supply, the 500PRE is built to last. Unlike old-school tube gear which can take what seems like an eternity to heat up, the 500PRE is warm and ready to go in less than 60 seconds. And for those who prefer the original, the 500PRE is also compatible with vintage and new-old-stock tubes.
Best of all, the Retro 500PRE works within API 500 rack power limitations. Each 500PRE consumes 160 ma of power—slightly above the 130 ma VPR-compliant allocation. For best results, use a 500 series rack with a quiet, linear power supply.
The 500PRE features a no-frills layout and simple controls make it easy to set and start recording. A large input knob at the top lets you dial up an impressive 75 dB of amplification. Below the input knob are three hefty switches for Gain Select, Phantom Power and Polarity.
The Gain Select switch toggles between two input modes. Low Gain mode uses a classic two-stage amplifier and can sustain +10 dBu input levels without overload, while High Gain mode uses a high gain, three stage topology.
Below the Gain Select switch is the Phantom Power switch, which is used to provide 48v for recording with condenser microphones. The Polarity switch lets you invert the polarity of the incoming signal—a useful feature when recording in stereo. The Output attenuator at the bottom enable you to dial in the optimum output level to all of your gear. It also allows you to overdrive the 500PRE clipping downstream gear.
Retro Instruments’ innovative designs are used by countless award-winning audio engineers, including Chris Lord-Alge, Jacquire King, F. Reid Shippen, Greg Wells and more—so we’re sure the new 500PRE 500 series microphone will soon find its way into the world’s top studios. Make it a part of your studio today for just $759.