Submitted July 21, 2011 by a customer from me.com
"Unique while familiar. Flexibility without complication. Versatility without compromise."
I will be satisfied with this purchase for many years and projects to come. I am already thinking about and planning for new and exciting applications and can't wait to add another to the rack to make it a pair. My mouth waters at the thought of recording a stereo acoustic guitar through two of these into the dual 1176 compressor. If you are considering this preamp and you need either the flexibility to sway between two extremely competent signal paths or are trying to fill the space between other high-end components, you will not regret the decision to add this one to your stash.
The sound of the 710 Twin-Finity is on par with the quality and character I've come to expect from Universal Audio. I've completed four sessions in the past month where the 710 has won out over my 610 and 110 on many tracks as a DI for a Taylor SolidBody and Gibson Les Paul intended for ITB re-amping, coupled with a Shure SM81 and Rode NT5 on the body/bridge of a Martin D-28 and Taylor 710 through an 1176 compressor and with a Neumann TLM49 and SE Gemini 5 through a GAP Comp54 for lead male vocals. In all cases, the result was phenomenal and offered a very subtle, but impressive color that I just couldn't get from the other options available to me. I am anxious to try the unit out on overheads, hoping to add some tube warmth and punch while preserving the transients with the solid-state path blended in. I intend to double up this pre for that purpose very soon.
I am not shy about stating my preference for UA products as a bang-for-buck line of products, with (possibly) the GAP Pre73 being the only preamp offering quality on par with their units at a better price for a "colored" option. I have other preferences, namely Avalon and FMR, when the track calls for transparency.
This is an extremely versatile unit. While it will not replace any current preamp in my rack, it has it's own place and purpose and nothing else I own can adequately fill it's shoes either. For a relatively modest price, it offers a ton of flexibility, functional options in the way of the 15db pad, low cut and front-panel Hi-impedance input, and Mic/Line switching. The blend knob is extremely adept at covering the gap between the full-bodied tube sounds of my 610 and the accuracy and attack of my 110 units. In my opinion, the absolute best feature is the ability to monitor the preamp gain level on the extremely accurate VU meter prior to flipping the switch and adjusting the output gain. That feature alone drastically reduces my setup time when I decide to use the pre.
Ease of Use
There are a lot of options, and you have to know how to use them to get the most out of the 710. That said, the documentation is both clear and concise - UA even acknowledges this by offering a "quick-start" and "comprehensive" version of the user guide. The learning curve would not be overly intimidating for an amateur lucky enough to use the preamp, and experienced engineers will be able to coax a multitude of excellent sounds as well. This preamp is quickly making it's way into my desert island top 5!
Quality is never an issue with anything Universal Audio produces. They are the only company I have dealt with in the past 20 years that has an uncompromising commitment to offer their clients the absolute best quality at the absolute best value. Is it three times the quality of an ART preamp? Probably not, but you would have to spend at least twice as much to get anything near this unit (GAP Pre73 excluded) for the money. I should also note that UA is the only company that seems to be able to keep both their analog and digital solutions up to par with that commitment to excellence.
You COULD get an adequate - even impressive - pair of preamps, one solid-state and one tube - for $800, but I dare you to find this level of quality, convenience and features for that money in a single unit. Depending on the intended application, I would have no problem recommending this unit to a home engineer looking to take his/her first leap into high-end preamp land.
IF - and that is a big, capital and bold IF - you ever have an issue with a UA product, you will not be dissatisfied with their customer service. I have never had an issue with any of the analog components I own, and the ONE - count it - ONE time I had to deal with a UAD issue, I was completely blown away by their response and clear understanding of how even the smallest issue can affect a large project. I should note that I am not a big-name engineer and I don't work for a big-name studio recording big-name artists. UA makes me feel like I am Eddie Kramer, I work for Abbey Road and the 18-year-old kid down the street is the next Jimi Hendrix - and the project is the one that is going to launch us both into legendary status.
The Wow Factor
The styling can only be described as a-typical of UA's classic style (a-la 610/1176/etc) - but is without a doubt just as sexy and sleek as one would expect from them. I get the impression that they realized it was a unique device and deserved unique styling that is still very retro while looking solid and modern as well. I can't help but to think of an old wooden console radio that was zapped with a ray-gun and turned to brushed steel. It looks absolutely fantastic in my rack!
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