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SR Studio Classic Microphone Preamp

Two-channel Mic Preamplifier By Matt Houghton
Published January 2024

SR Studio Classic Microphone Preamp

We try one of the keenest‑priced 1073 clones currently available.

SR Studio, or Stage Right Studio, is a sub‑brand of electronics retailers Monoprice and under review here is what they describe as a “two‑channel 1073‑style microphone preamp”. Monoprice’s range in Europe isn’t as extensive as in the USA and at the time of writing this particular device is available only in North America, but Monoprice tell me that if it sells well they may well roll it out in Europe too.

As I’m based in the UK, the review unit had to endure a transatlantic trip and, in its own cardboard box and suitable outer packaging, it arrived in good condition. Inside the box, along with the unit, were a pair of rack ears and the screws necessary to attach them, a transformer‑based 60Hz, 120V AC to 24V DC 1.75A in‑line ‘wart’ power supply with two‑pin US mains plug, and a brief but helpful user‑guide leaflet. UK mains is a 50Hz, 240V AC supply, so for my tests I ran the preamp plugged into a suitable step‑down transformer.


Neve’s 1073 started life half a century ago as a console preamp and EQ, and has earned a reputation for a flattering ‘larger than life’ character. This can be attributed in part to its Class‑A transistorised circuitry generally, and partly to the specific effect of transformers in the signal path. The preamp stage has always had a transformer‑balanced input and in the consoles, of course, the signal later flowed through output transformers. Most standalone preamps based on this design, then, have both input and output transformers. Some also incorporate the EQ section, and others provide an insert point for the EQ whereas some omit the EQ stage altogether.

Unlike on some clones, there’s an input impedance switch.

SR Studio’s asking price puts this preamp at under $300 per channel, making it one of the most aggressively priced 1073‑derived preamps currently available. This is achieved through manufacture in Taiwan using ‘no name’ components, but while it has clearly been built to a price there are fewer corners cut than I’d anticipated. It remains faithful to the 1073 circuit, with discrete components in the signal path and transformer balanced inputs and outputs, and has an insert point for the EQ; there’s no companion EQ in the range but you can hook up other 1073‑style EQs (in tests, it played nicely with a GAP EQ73). The main gain controls are switched, so it’s easy to match the channels for stereo mic arrays, and unlike on some clones there’s an input impedance switch to cater for vintage mics designed with a low preamp input impedance in mind, but you can also use this to try and coax different ‘voicings’ from passive dynamic mics.

I was pleased to see a front‑panel power on/off button (I hate it when rack gear can only be switched on/off at the back!) but on the review unit the power status LED didn’t light. The remaining controls are laid out identically for each channel. A TS socket for the high‑impedance instrument input is active when the adjacent DI button is depressed. When it isn’t, a rear‑panel combi input takes precedence, in which case the channel operates in mic or line mode, as set using a toggle switch above the instrument input. The remaining three buttons toggle the input impedance, 48V phantom power (which, incidentally, remains present on the combi connector’s XLR and jack sockets even with the preamp in line mode) and the signal polarity. The blue, winged gain knob operates an 11‑position switch, and has gain markings from 20 to 80 dB, the first two steps being 10dB each, and the others 5dB. The adjacent output knob comes after the EQ insert point and turns a continuous pot, so allows more precise control over the level. Finally, the top red LED of a four‑LED output‑level meter lights to warn that clipping is imminent.

An insert point allows 1073‑style EQs to be connected to either channel or both.An insert point allows 1073‑style EQs to be connected to either channel or both.

Around the back, the XLR combi input connector can accept mic‑ or line‑level sources, as discussed, and the balanced outputs are paralleled on XLRs and TRS jacks to make it easy to plumb into your studio. The unbalanced insert send/return is a single TRS jack, and it’s intended for use with a standalone unbalanced 1073 EQ section, though with the right cables you can safely hook up other gear. If an EQ is connected, it’s always in the signal path — there’s no insert bypass facility. On the inside, everything bar the output transformers sits on four PCBs. Two at the rear cater for the channel I/O, with one also receiving and distributing power. The other two are identical, carrying the shielded input transformer, preamp circuitry and controls for one channel each.

In Use

There’s potentially a lot of bang for your buck here, so the all‑important question is how it sounds. I tried this preamp on a number of sources (vocals, acoustic, electric and bass guitar, kick drum and snare), using dynamic and capacitor mics and DI’ing guitar and bass. I also compared it with a couple of my 1073‑inspired preamps, a BAE DMP and a Golden Age Pre‑73 DLX. With both an AKG C414 B‑ULS and a Heil Sound PR40 it worked very well on my own voice. It wasn’t perhaps my favourite sound for delicate acoustic guitar parts, but to be fair that’s something I’d say about the 1073 generally! DI’ed bass and guitar sounded rich and full. It was also possible to drive the gain harder and bring down the output level to compensate, to coax more character from the electronics. There was always plenty of gain available, and the sound was certainly a touch richer/fuller than that conveyed by, say, my RME or Audient interface preamps.

Largely, then, it’s a good‑sounding, flattering preamp that works well on a range of sources, but is there anything not to like? When driving it harder for character, particularly when playing DI bass, there were definitely differences compared with my BAE: a touch more noise (albeit not so high as to be problematic), and the nature of deliberate distortion wasn’t quite so enticing. It wasn’t unpleasing, though, and note that I’m comparing it with a device that’s five times the price! A small quirk I should mention is that when the DI is switched in (with an instrument connected or not) and gain is set to 75 or 80 dB, then if you turn the output knob past about the 3 or 4 o’clock position, the noise floor rises significantly and it sounds as though something’s being driven into self‑oscillation. These are extreme settings that I’d never want to use in the real world, so it won’t really be a problem in practice, but it didn’t happen with my other 1073‑ish preamps and it would be remiss of me not to mention it.

Inside the unit, you can see that the Gain controls are switches, rather than pots, which makes precise channel matching and recall easy.Inside the unit, you can see that the Gain controls are switches, rather than pots, which makes precise channel matching and recall easy.

Worth It?

The character of a mic preamp is a pretty subtle thing in the grand scheme of things, compared with, say, your choice of instrument, mic and other processors, and it’s fair to say that the preamps built into most audio interfaces today are perfectly capable of good, clean recordings. But this one does offer a different sound character and it can be controlled by juggling the gain and trim controls, so it will no doubt appeal to many project‑studio owners. It also offers a huge amount more gain than most interface preamps, which some will find useful; it has switched gain controls, which is great if you want to match two channels or recall settings; and it puts some useful facilities within reach on the front panel.

Yes, it’s possible to tell the difference between a clone built to this price and a vintage Neve or no‑holds‑barred replica, but it has that broad family character. The biggest sonic differences will no doubt be down to component choice, particularly the transformers — there are four here and if you replaced them with the most desirable transformers used in 1073 replicas that’d set you back over $200, which is a good chunk of the asking price! I may not personally be about to throw away my favourite preamps for this one, but the SR Studio 1073‑style preamp is way more appealing than it has any right to be at this price!  


There are lots of standalone 1073‑inspired preamps, but the only one I’ve used that is more affordable on a price‑per‑channel basis is Golden Age Project’s Pre‑73 Jr.


  • Appealing sonic character.
  • Astounding bang for buck.
  • Plenty of gain available.


  • Noises at extreme DI settings.


Under their SR Studio brand, Monoprice have delivered a good‑sounding 1073 clone for a vanishingly low price.


$599 excluding taxes and shipping.