Having never used any Buzz Audio products before, I was intrigued at the prospect of checking out this 2-channel Class A preamp. The 1RU-height box features a nice array of front-panel controls for each channel: polarity reverse, 20 dB input pad, finely stepped gain knob (+16 dB to +65 dB), phantom power, output mute, and impedance (3k Ohm or 1.2k Ohm). Each channel also has a peak indicator light, and there is a front-panel power switch as well. Unlike the standard MA-2.2, the TX version features two output paths: transformerless-unbalanced and Sowter transformer-balanced. I used the transformer-balanced outs exclusively. (See Tape Op #33 for a review of the MA-2.2 without the TX transformer option.) Buzz describes this preamp as a fast and fairly transparent unit, and I would agree wholeheartedly. The MA-2.2 TX portrays source material accurately, but almost larger-sounding, with plenty of depth and all the low-end you could want from such a unit. It's fast enough to handle any kind of transient and tricky dynamics, but not at the expense of sounding harsh at all. It is a very quiet preamp-even at maximum gain-and works astoundingly well with low-output ribbons, even with quiet source material. I found myself reaching for the MA-2.2 TX in almost any application I could and was never disappointed. I enjoyed it the most using it on vocals, drum overheads, horns, harmonica, and acoustic string instruments. It sounds outrageously good on upright bass. I also used it on grand piano, electric guitar, percussion, direct keyboards (with a DI), and on ambient microphones on a live, big-band recording session; and the MA-2.2 TX worked well with every job. The impedance switch gives a little variety for each situation (I usually preferred the Lo Z setting, but the option was nice), and the mute switch was handy as well. At $2400 street, the MA-2.2 TX is definitely in a class with many fine mic preamps, but its performance entirely lives up to the standard. ($2975 MSRP; www.buzzaudio.com)

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

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