I record a lot of drums, and I'm rarely happy with the sound of my snare drums. I mean, they work, and no one else complains, but I imagine how they could sound better. When I first ran kick and snare through this preamp I just about shit my pants. There was that deep bottom thunk, high end attack and crunchy distortion in the snare that I was looking for. The 2108 is made up of two channels of solid state Class A mic preamps, J-FET transistors on the front gain stage, and the makeup gain stage from the 1176 compressor on the next stage. This imparts the kind of sound engineers have been getting out of overdriven compressors for years, but without having to use compression. The gain knob has three levels of gain for the front panel DI and eight levels of gain for the mic. There are switches for polarity reversal, phantom power, two levels of impedance, and metering (input and output). The meter is a three color LED behind a lens-it looks really trippy but seems almost useless besides telling me that I'm always in the red. There's also an output trim knob so you don't overload your tape deck or compressors, enabling you to crank the gain and get some great distortion. This mic pre has become one of my favorites. It does a fine job on vocals, guitars, bass and more, but I dare you to use a 2108 and not want to keep it on your snare drum. ($1695, www.uaudio.com)

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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