This is a review of Art Digital MPAII by a third party user. If you ever wanted to try it out for yourself, please read this and see if it’s something you should consider. Sounds like it’s something worth checking out for sure.
The Art Digital MPAII is a two channel tube mic preamp with digital outs. If you are looking to upgrade from an audio interface, you might want to check this one out. It is also stereo switchable, channel one controls both channels, with channel two’s output level controlling the balance. There is 48 volt phantom on each channel, variable impedance control, variable low cut filter, phase switch, plate voltage selector switch, and a 20db pad or gain switch for each channel. On top of that, the two channels go out by s/pdif, or adat litepipe. And did I mention, it has tubes.
I bought my ART Digital MPAII, for one reason. To get two channels of s/pdif into my digital recording interface, to have all 16 tracks available. I have a Tascam US-1641, a 16 channel usb recording interface, that I use for mobile recording. The US-1641 has eight xlr mic preamps with front panel controls, two 1/4 inch jacks on the front panel, with a level controls, that are DI/Line level switchable. Four more line level 1/4 inch jacks are on the back, and the last two channels are only availble by s/pdif input. The line inputs were not a problem, my Soundcraft rack mount board has direct outs that I feed those channels with. The problem was the last two channels, and I wanted all 16. That is why I ended up with the ART Digital MPAII.
I did some checking and Aphex, and DBX have comparable products, but just a bit higher than the $400 I paid for the ART. I would love to do a side by side comparison of the ART and the Aphex and DBX. As far as sound quality, the MPAII has it. I keep mine on high plate voltage, and the 20db gain switch depressed. I use it more for a pad. With the high plate voltage active, this preamp is clean. But you can push it into tube distortion, which I do sometimes for the tonal effects.
Achieve Much More Warmth
It is warmer than the preamps in my mbox and my Soundcraft board. The variable impedance is great, if you are using a dynamic mic, use a low impedance, like 250 to 600, if you are using a condenser mic, use a higher impedance, like 1000 to 2000. Then there is the low cut filter, which is great for taming the low end. Each channel also has a digital out level control. There is also a DI input on each channel, it sounds good and is usable for bass. I will plug a line level source in here and use the pre to get some tube distortion on a track. There is also a Mid/Side switch, that allows you to simplify mid side recording. One channel is the mid, the other channel is the side, all the decoding is done inside and the outputs are the left and right stereo image. All that for 400 bucks. But theres more.
Easy To Setup
Right from the manual, the signal path consists of a discrete class A microphone preamp followed by a low cut filter, a balanced differential tube circuit with a 20db gain switch and the the phase switch. Then to the analog outputs and the insert jacks. The insert jacks allow processing of the signal before its level is adjusted by the digital level control and passed to the analog to digital converters. There is a great block diagram of the internal signal flow of the preamp in the manual. By learning this, you will improve your use of the mic pre, and the sounds you are getting with it.
I opened my MPAII up, to change the tubes from the stock Chinese 12ax7’s to Groove Tubes 12ax7’s.
Yes there was a noticeable difference. I suggest buying some tubes when you buy the mic pre. Looking inside, the first thing I notice is the high tolerance resistors. The mic pre section does look all discrete, and by looking at the transformer label, it is running at real tube power voltages. I like what I see inside. I was surprised to not see a vented top, or vented anything. I might put my own vents in the top of the case. I haven’t even touched on the digital sample rate selection. Up to 24bit/192 khz sample rate selectable on the front panel, and external sync source is available by wordclock or ADAT input.
Worth The Money
It sounds good, it has tons of features, it has tubes, there are two mic preamps, s/pdif outputs, a decent clock source for my Tascam US-1641, cool analog meters, for 400 bucks. Not bad. Makes me want to check out there compressor in same line. I have had my Digital MPAII for just over a year, and no problems. I have hauled it to outside shows on a ranch, smoke filled bars recording bands, and peoples homes, doing on site recording, and not once has it let me down. It either sounds right for a source or it doesn’t. With all the adjustments this thing has, how can you not get a good, useable sound. I like mine, and I am glad I bought it, it does everything I bought it for and way more. Thumbs up to ART on this one.