When I heard Black Lion Audio was going to release a preamp I knew it would be something special. These guys have been modding stock gear to sound glorious for a while now. On top of that they have made quite a reputation with their own line of converters and clocks. Well then I heard it would be 2 channels for under 500 I was really excited! This is sounding very promising for being under 500. 2 Channels, 66 db of gain, phantom power, phase reverse, 10 db pad AND it is from Black Lion Audio! After having had this preamp for a few months now I feel its finally time to give my review.
So when I first got the box I was so excited. You know the feeling, new gear = fun times. Well when I opened the box I was honestly impressed. Its not too big, very solid and you can tell it was built very well. Pretty small and is perfect for desktop placement, unfortunately it can not be racked. It is taller than 1U but for the price point it is amazing. XLR ins, 1/4″ outs and a 24VAC external power supply, solid metal and a hand written serial number makes this very impressive. Other wise on to the sound, after all that is what is important!
Now earlier ObiAudio.com did an audio shoot out comparing this to a Great River ME-1NV ($1,150), A FMR Really Nice Preamp ($499) and then my lovely Black Lion Audio Auteur ($465). Honestly I was really really surprised. This easily held its own against the Great River which really surprised me and made me incredibly happy to have a Auteur. You have check out the shoot out here. Now being under the $500 price point it is going to be compared to the FMR Really Nice Preamp but when I compared the two in my studio the Auteur was leaps and bounds better. It sounded full and I was able to stack a lot more in a mix. One thing I didn’t like about the Really Nice Pre was the mid “honkeyness” that I always hated. Going from the RNP to the Auteur definitely helped my recordings.
I first tried this with two pairs of low end mics. First up are a pair of MCA SP1’s and then a pair of Audio Technica AT2020. I started recording a Breedlove Atlas Stage C250 acoustic guitar and it sounded great with the MCA SP1’s. Very full and yet not boomy or muddy. The top was very smooth and not a hint of harshness. When I tried the Audio Technica AT2020’s there was a bit of a proximity problem which these mics are known for with acoustics but after some placement corrections it sounded just as good. On acoustics guitars or other situations where you want to mic things up in stereo is when the 2 channel feature really come in handy. Next up I tried the Auteur with the Kel Audio HM7U which is a pretty colored mic. Well when I first heard the sound with this chain it sounded amazing. I was so impressed I was really wondering how they managed to get it to sound so full and rich for under $500! I know the HM7U helped but I knew some of that magic was with the Auteur. I regularly have API512c’s and a Great River MP-500NV at my disposal but the auteur definitely holds it own against these other great preamps! Then I ran a friends MPC 1000 through it running some stock sequences. Sounded full and tight when using 2 Avenson Audio IsoDI.
The best way to describe the Auteur sound is “full, rich, with a shimmery top end and a extended yet smooth bottom”. It’s a bit “woody” and very natural. It has an “acoustic” sound. Being under the $500 price point makes this a preamp that anybody can enjoy. Right next to having a acoustically treated room a good preamp like the Black Lion Audio Auteur can really bring your Quality of Recordings up! Downsides are the external power supply and none rack mount factor but that is how the Black Lion Audio product line is, none of them are rack mountable. Otherwise the downsides make sense when you look at the price. This preamp is amazing. Black Lion Audio for the win!