I bought this for my home studio where I regularly record vocals and acoustic guitar using a selection of high-quality condenser microphones. I'm aware that many people, myself included, often use the A/D converters built into a computer audio interface. However it can make a lot more sense to spend your money on a really good recording channel, especially if you tend to record just one instrument at a time. In recent years I've used an RME Fireface USB interface and a UAD Apollo Twin USB - both of which are highly regarded for their converters. The SPL Gainstation gives audibly better results than these and has extra features such as tube vs. clean gain and built-in limiter. Its digital output simply connects to the digital input for the computer interface - this is easy to set up and effectively bypasses any other A/D conversion. A nice surprise was when I also tried the Gainstation to DI a bass guitar - this yielded a tasteful range of sounds by controlled by balancing the clean against the tube gain stage. All in all I'd highly recommend this for a home or project studio. It's a robust unit and likely to continue to be useful much longer than computer-based audio gadgets.
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Albert M., 16.10.2009
The North-Rhine / Westphalian Hard- and Softwarschmiede SPL has in the past developed products like the Transient Designer a good reputation in studiokreisen - from the Gainstation however one hear so far not too much. Wrongly! Because the preamp definitely belongs to the upper class.
Because nowadays more and more "in the box", that is, within the audio workstation is mixed, it is all the more important to get the signal in the best possible quality in the computer. This is where the concept of the gain station starts: Two parallel-connected preamps, one in transistor and one in tube design, which can be mixed almost as desired.
I've used the Gainstation so far for vocals, guitar (electric and acoustic) and bass as well as a few percussions, and I'm really convinced. Before I had the internal preamps of the RME Fireface used, which for themselves actually already quite good sound. In a direct comparison, however, the Gainstation sounds better by many classes - the signal comes clearer, therefore, in the middle clearer and more present, very focused and simply "musical". Together with my Brauner Phantom a great combination for vocals, but also as an instrument input for electric guitars and basses a clear upgrade! The difference is also noticed by the people, who have nothing to do with studio technology ...;)
In the pure transistor amplification, the signal is flashless, sounds simply noble and "expensive", but very neutral. When the tube reinforcement is added, the sound pushes much more forward, compresses, but never becomes obtrusive or taut (unpleasant). Especially with the tube you can make a lot of sound! This great flexibility between "neutral" and "warm" makes the preamp an all-purpose weapon for recordings. Transients are picked up very quickly, but transient signals that are very precise and detailed also benefit. A guitar, which is directly connected to the tube, sounds considerably rounder and more powerful even after the ampsimulation or re-amping.
I particularly like the additional limiter, which is adjustable in two versions (peak and FET). The peak limiter is rather subtle and catches outgoing transients in an emergency, while the FET limiter, when combined with the tube preamp, makes a lot more sound and sounds particularly good on voices.
With the AD option of the Gainstation you can get the signal directly into the computer without any additional conversion - a sensible option. After a long phone call with the SPL press (at this point also a great praise for the really great support!) I decided against the Lundahl transformers, because with them the gain station for my purposes probably not so universally applicable.
The operation is intuitive because of the tidy surface, the manual is very detailed and easy to understand. Above all the important control is described in detail. The workmanship is absolutely solid and high-quality, so there's nothing to complain about at all.
Two small disadvantages should be mentioned at this point, so that it does not even become so one-sided: the long cuboid format of the gain station is already a little unfamiliar and can not easily be inserted into an existing setup - primarily the gain station is intended just for the desktope use . Also it would have been nice if the separately available padded bag would be delivered directly, so you have to pay about 70 euros extra for it.
Even if the asterisk assessment with five stars everywhere looks a little high-jubilish, the Gainstation has simply deserved the highest value in all matters. The price of around 1000 euro may seem a little high, but is definitely justified.
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