I first heard this two-channel preamp from New Zealand's Buzz Audio on 3D Audio's 3D Pre CD. Compared to other "clean" pres on the CD, the MA 2.2 sounded more real on the takes of male vocal mic'ed with an AKG C 414. With the MA 2.2, I heard a big sound with more air around the mic and a touch more life than with the other preamps. I also liked the low-end fullness and lack of harsh ring on an SM 57 mic'ed snare. Listening to it now in my own studio, I like the MA 2.2 for the same reasons. The Buzz aims to deliver what's really there, and it does so exceptionally well.
The Class-A design has a wicked-fast slew-rate (140 V/ìs), resulting in a very big and clear sounding box that never chokes on the source, even with the fastest transients. Keep in mind that this is a "clean" pre, so there are no harmonic additions a la tranny or tranny/tube designs. There are no transformers in this unit; and the output, like early Manley gear, is unbalanced. A Sowter tranny balanced output version is available, but why bother-you don't need a balanced output. The noise floor is crazy low. Acoustic guitars sound great, letting me hear the mic and the guitar very well. Sure it has a slight sound, everything does, yet that sound is a very big and airy representation of what's around the mic. Words fail in describing transparency, yet this pre is something clear and still musical, that unlike many clean-team pres does not have any weird tonal happenings. The highs are very extended and the lows are very full, the mid is right there. Whadaya want!?
I wanted to review this because generally, I'm not a fan of the "clean" pres. Many of them sound like sterile boxes, seeking perfection and losing musicality as they go with weird harmonic smack on certain transients and frequencies. These things get very messy in hard disk recording and are no blessing to tape recording either. The Buzz is without those artifacts. Some of the more "musical" clean pres are a bit thicker and more opaque. The Buzz balances musicality with clarity. It has almost a complete lack of a mid-resonant frequency smack and moves more air than other clean pres I've heard, which can be flat overall, or flat at some frequencies.
The chassis and construction are of course very solid; and each unit is calibrated, inspected, and signed out by designer Tim Farrant before leaving the factory. The front panel has the usual phase and phantom switches, a mute switch, impedance switch, and minimal metering. The impedance switch moves the tone around, slimming the lows and adding a slight top end to most mics. The gain pots are 41-point detented. A -20 dB pad allows for more headroom, with no obvious tone loss. Some might complain about the lack of a TRS insert on the front panel, yet that would compromise the straight-wire design. You won't hear the strong color of trannies and tubes, and there is no vintage or reissue appeal either. The MA 2.2 is a new, clean sound, high up the clean-team ladder. The source and mic come through in a big way, and that can be a very good thing. If you seek a high quality mic pre with the least possible artifacts, you need to hear the Buzz. ($2195 MSRP, buzzaudio.com)