Contrary to popular reports, preamps don’t all sound the same — and this clever modular system makes it easy to hear the ‘magic’.
Inherit is a modular system by French manufacturers GC Audio and although, at the time of writing, there are only mic preamp modules available, designer Guillaume Chauvet tells me he has plans to develop processors too. The modules come in the form of chunky metal cartridges, and thus far none have their own user controls — the 2U host chassis, into which they slot, provides a common set of controls, as well as power and analogue I/O. Most of us already have access to clean gain in our audio interfaces, and the idea here is to allow quick and easy swapping of mic preamps when you want something more characterful. Notably, the modules are hot‑swappable, making the auditioning process painless: no patchbay, no swapping of cables or unplugging of mics, and no need to switch phantom power. You just pull out a cartridge, pop another in and listen. The metal cartridges shield the electronics inside. They’re slightly larger than 500‑series modules, the chassis has higher‑voltage power rails and there’s plenty of current available, so designers don’t face the same challenges.
Notably, the modules are hot‑swappable...
The gloss‑black front panel has white legends and a single cartridge slot in the centre. This is protected by a spring‑mounted blanking plate, and inserting a cartridge is easy: push it in, the plate falls back and it’s guided neatly into place. Above, 10 generously spaced LEDs, each in a metal mount, form a meter that can display the level pre‑ or post‑preamp. The first five LEDs (‑20 to ‑1 dB) are green, then the ‘zero’ point is orange and three red LEDs then take you 1dB at a time up to +3dB. Setting gain for the desired saturation and output level is easy, and the meter can be helpful for performers who want to ride their level in and out of distortion territory for creative effect.
The main Gain control has 12 steps, and is marked simply 1‑12. It feels like the sort of analogue switch found on many high‑end preamps, but is actually a digital control that communicates with the preamp. To the right of the cartridge, an output attenuator ranges from unity gain (fully clockwise) to full attenuation (anticlockwise).
On the left, three large, backlit, bevel‑mounted metal buttons engage +48V phantom power, invert the signal polarity and pad the input signal down; as with gain, the pad value is determined by the preamp rather than the host rack. There’s also a TS jack instrument input, and a plug patched into this takes precedence over the XLR mic/line input on the rear. Again, what happens to the signal you patch in here is down to the design of the inserted module; there’s no instrument preamp stage built into the chassis. Beneath the Output knob is a high‑pass filter (80 or 120 Hz, or Off), and it’s nice to see a large on‑off button on the right of the front panel, where it’s accessible.
Finally, joining the XLR input on the rear are an XLR output and an IEC inlet for 115/230V AC mains, stepped down inside by a vertically mounted toroidal transformer.