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Monday, December 22, 2008

Rane MS 1b

Rane MS 1b not a bad little pre

Looking for a mic preamp to add to your setup? The Rane MS 1b gets the job done well for a nice price.

The Rane MS 1b is a single channel mic preamp featuring up to +66 dB of gain with 48v phantom power, a signal/overload LED and phase reverse. Input and output are balanced XLR. The power cord looks like a telephone cable connector, and does not ground the unit. You must ground the unit yourself on the grounding screw located on the rear of the unit.

So how does the MS 1b sound? The MS 1b is a surprisingly nice little box, offering a neutral clean sound for the most part, with low self-noise. We compared it to several preamps in my own collection, as well as several in my buddy Bob's collection and the Rane held its own indeed.

So what are the characteristics of the MS 1b's sound? Clean, neutral with a sort of thin low-end response. The thin low-end worked very well with sources you'd want to roll some low frequencies off. The MS 1b is designed for paging and DJ type duties where strong low freq response could be annoying. There is a bit of a scratchiness to it. I'm not saying it's going to go "krrkkkkrkrtttkktktchck" when I say scratchiness but I mean in comparison to some of the more expensive preamps we compared it to there was certainly a slightly scratchier sound. The high-end response is extended to 200 kHz which naturally adds some more high-end noise. But for the $199 list price, this is certainly not a major complaint.

On snare drum with an SM57 it's fast with good punch to it. The transient response is certainly better than many entry level preamps found in lower cost mixers. Overall snare sounds punchy and neutral with good overtones.

On vocals with dynamic and condensor mics, it's not as much of a stand out compared to higher-end units, but it gets the job done admirably. Used at normal levels it produces basically an unhyped, clear sound. I actually liked pushing the MS 1b a bit, getting a small amount of distortion out of the box for effect. There's this area you can push the box in vocally to get a bit of the "Little Richard" type of sound. I like that effect on some voices. The Rane has a more predictable break up range when overdriven than many preamps if you want to go for some fuzz on a vocal.

On acoustic guitar with a small diaphragm condensor, the Rane did its best. Again, the somewhat thin low-end complimented the sound but there was also a nice overall tone with good attack. Some nice acoustic tracks can be had with this box.

The Bottom Line: As a general purpose preamp, the Rane is certainly a well priced addition to the studio. I recommend using it on acoustic guitar and snare work as it takes a nice step away from entry level preamps on these sources and holds its own against many higher end units. For those seeking a different flavor preamp (and only a preamp, there is no DI) the Rane MS 1b should be getting quite a few calls to duty. List price $199. Recommended.

--Warren Dent

Rane Corporation

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