This review was never printed. The editor said that my review wasn't definitive or passionate enough
M-Audio’s Tampa Microphone/ Instrument Preamp and Compressor
By Scott Colburn
The Tampa mic pre is toted as a solid state mic pre which sounds like a tube mic pre based on what M-Audio called Temporal Harmonic Alignment. I tested this against a tube mic pre and there was little difference in the sound but there was a huge difference in the price (the actual tube pre was less expensive). BUT, the TAMPA offers several other key features. How about an analog Dual Optical Servo Compressor? Or variable impedence (300, 600, 1200 and 2400 ohms)? Or the versatility of balanced analog output via ¼” or XLR or 24 bit digital output via S/PDIF or AES/ EBU at 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96kHz?
These are all worthwhile extras, but the real test of any piece of audio equipment is the “wow” factor. This mic pre sounds good, plain and simple, but it didn’t sound great! My biggest gripe is the lack of usable metering. On the compressor, there is a gain reduction meter and an output meter. Where is the input meter? It seemed like I had to always use the 20 dB gain switch to get a reasonable level to the tape machine yet the output meter never really matched what I was seeing at the end of the line (although the owners manual addresses this). The question is, “why bother if the meter isn’t accurate”?
Regardless of the little things that are quirky or maybe not exactly what I’m looking for, suffice it to say that if you do not have any outboard mic pre’s, this might be a good one to start with mainly because it does sound good, it has a digital out that also sounds good, the compressor is nice sounding and there is quite a bit of versatility as far as gain structure is concerned. It has a vintage look to it and if permanently wired to my system would probably see a lot of use, but I’m not doing backflips over it. I’ll reserve my backflips for a good piece of prosciutto or a cup of Clipper tea.
Scott Colburn has been materializing wherever creative recordings are taking place. To learn more go to scottcolburn.com.