I used this at Blackbird Studios in Nashville on a male pop vocal and got outstanding results, and it's the cleanest and clearest sounding preamp I've heard that doesn't make sources sound sterile and lifeless. While it's totally transparent, the Martinsound MSS-10 adds depth that other clean preamps lack. I also like the simplicity of its design, and the large VU meter lets me find the sweet spot easily.
The Most Underrated Pre In Existence
The MSS-10 is the most open pre I`ve ever heard. Sure, you can spend 4x the price of this pre and get yourself a vintage whatever but I rather save the $$$ and get one of these. I think the only thing that keeps this pre from gaining monumental status is its shoebox shape. Martinsound would be wise to reconstruct this unit so it fits into the standard 19".
After having given 5 stars to both Millennia Media and Avalon preamps, I've run out of stars for the Martinsound. Millennia gets my respect for fitting their design into a standard 19" rack space (what a concept); the Avalon is a sound and a look I could never fall out of love with; but this one is different.
I've wanted an MSS-10 since I heard a preamp "shootout" where the voice recorded through it just seemed to come "forward" in the speakers. This is the prime quality I'm looking for when recording voiceovers.
The "natural sound," to quote the promotional materials, seems to come partly from the extended bandwidth and clarity, and partly from some more lively dynamics. When comparing raw recordings through this, and a focusrite preamp set to the same gain level, the focusrite seemed more "dense" - yielding a little more average loudness - and I could see this on the DAW screen as well.
I was expecting to pick up more mouth noises with the MSS-10 versus the focusrite, but it actually seems like these are less of a problem. Maybe I'm hearing myself better and altering my performance?
To my ears at least, what's coming out of the Martinsound is a very realistic presentation. I might go so far as to say, "natural." It's surely one of the world's premier mic pre's in the "uncolored" camp.
Sweet on saxes
Sounds sweet, lush and brilliant on soprano and tenor sax. No "mushiness"
Martinsound Martech MSS-10
I own four of the MSS-10 preamps; I guess you could say I'm a fan. The price is steep but that pays dividends in the sound. The preamp is very clear and present without being harsh or overbearing. The input transformer lends a certain girth and focus in the lows and low-mids. The critical midrange is very articulate with no smearing of frequencies or shallowness in depth. The high end imparts a halo of presence without being an ice pick in the ear. There is a definite quality to the sound that yields a euphoric excitement. I LOVE THESE PREAMPS!! The only other pre that imparts the same sense of space around the recording is the DW Fearn line of tube gear. This is really an investment in sound. Vocals, stringed instruments, and percussion really benefit from the MSS-10 in ways lesser preamps simply can't match. Vocals really shine when combined with a quality tube compressor like the Tube Tech CL-1B, the result is simply stunning; and acoustic guitars have never sounded this good in my studio. Finally, I can only comment on the incredible MartinSound guarantee. If you can swing it, I guarantee you won't be returning it within the 60 days - it is really that good!!!
A Great Preamp
No question...this is a great sounding preamp. I played with one for a couple of weeks a few years ago, along with my Neumann TLM-170. It gave superb realism with acoustic guitar and voice -- lots of headroom, no noise. The quality of construction is simply the best that money can buy. This is a preamp that you will own for the rest of your life. My impression of the MSS-10 is that if were to buy one, I'd never regret it.
So why didn't I buy one? I already own an API 512b mic preamp, and though the MSS-10 sounded better, to my ears it wasn't enough to justify buying it at the time. It sounds different (OK...it's "warmer", if that sort of subjective term helps), and it's useful to have that sort of thing in one's arsenal. For that reason, it's still in the running as a second preamp.
But if you're looking for your first high-quality preamp, the MSS-10 has one overwhelming drawback: no instrument input. If you need that flexibility in a preamp, the MSS-10 won't provide it. Martinsound will be glad to sell you their MSS-01 direct box to solve that deficiency, but at $595 (list), that brings the total cost to a mighty pricey $2,500 for a single-channel preamp with Hi-Z instrument input.
Is it worth it? You'll have to let your ears be the judge. Martinsound offers a 60-day, no questions asked buyback guarantee, which speaks volumes about their confidence that you'll fall in love with their products. If I hadn't already owned the API 512b, I probably would have kept the MSS-10. I've never heard a better sounding preamp.
I'm rating it 4.5 out of 5 stars because there's no instrument input. If it weren't for that, I'd give it 5 stars without blinking an eye.
This is the Only Pre Amp you will ever need get one!
I love the sound, ease and magic that is this box. The price is worth every penny that you pay and what you will capture is what you hear and are recoring. This is the way to go and save for it and then do it. This is great for recording nylon guitar Flamenco and Classical.
The MSS10 is one of those great, but over-looked pieces out there. Martinsound isn't a company I've heard much about, but was quite impressed with the quality of the MSS10. It looks great, feels great, and sounds really nice!
[b]Sounds Great Anywhere[/b]
I took it home, along with the Avalon M5 - I found out that I liked both a lot! Both are Class-A, solid-state pre's, and both in a similar price range. I set-up a less-than-ideal recording in my apartment, tracking a Washburn acoustic guitar with a Rode NT5, and some vocals with a Royer R121, and then running the pre's into the line inputs on my Mbox into ProTools. I also compared them to the Mbox Focusrite preamps just for kicks.
[b]That Martinsound Sound[/b]
What I found was that the Mbox Focusrite pre's sounded pretty good, but that the MSS10 and the M5 sounded noticeably better, as one would expect from spending 3 times as much money. The differences between the M5 and the MSS10 weren't as noticeable. Both sounded great, it was more a matter of differences in tonal color. Where the Mbox pre sounded a little veiled, the MSS10 and the M5 were more open, clear, and more detailed. But my guitar-playing monkey and I both agreed that we preferred the sound of the MSS10 both on the guitar and on the vocal. It had a little more presence and was smoother. Having done a garage-band quality recording in my noisy apartment, I received many compliments from my fellow sales-engineers on how swell the recording through the MSS10 sounded.
Nicely priced and sized, the MSS10 is extremely convenient to use and to take anywhere (with a handle and internal power supply); add that to that incredible Martinsound sound, and you have a serious winner!