I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with the new LaChapell 500CS 500 series Channel Strip, and LaChapell 500DT Dual Topology 500 Series Mic Pre (which is both a Tube and Transformer based Solid State Pre). I honestly didn't know what to expect. First because they are both solid state (well one and a half of them are), and solid state is not something that has come from LaChapell before – and secondly, they are budget units. Both are notably more affordable than anything else LaChapell has done. So it was unfamiliar territory, at least in what I associate the name with. Still I was more than egar to check them out, since it is great to have LaChapell products that are within reach of home studio folks, and it's LaChapell.
Sitting down with my Limited Edition Taylor 114CE acoustic guitar, and my ADK T-FET Hamburg 67 (using a Mogami Gold mic cable), I recorded the same performance multiple times to test these units. For the CS, I tested as just a pre, a full channel strip, and just an EQ/Comp (in split mode). For the DT, I tested it on full solid state, full tube, and 50/50 – both clean and pushed. Here are the results of my time with them.
LaChapell 500CS - The Pre is balanced and robust. It has a natural but full sound, which adds a good weight to the music, and has a nice sound stage (for a solid state pre). The space it has was bigger than I expected (though still not as big as a tube). The EQ is simple and clean. You can boost a cut a lot without hearing artifacts. I found a little went a long way in shaping a sound, and it was very easy to dial in a great sound - which I like. The comp is super simple - threshold, ratio, make-up gain. It's an auto-comp, and it sounds great. The comp is very smooth and natural sounding. Sure you can push it and get washy cymbals and some pump if you want, but it does not have a breathy sound. And, even when pushing dramatically, the pump is not overly present. Having the ability to use as a channel strip, just a mic pre, or just an EQ (and/or) Comp is very flexible and powerful. If you are using in channel strip mod, both outputs are active and will output the same signal (whether the EQ and comp are engaged or not), so you can actually due some pseudo-stereo recording with it (kind of neat).
LaChapell 500DT - Solid State side is similar to the CS, but it
is a little more forward sounding, has a little more of an "in
your face" feel. Still a nicely balanced and natural sound with
a robust fullness. The tube side is cleaner, more open sound, and
actually has a brighter top (more clarity). Blending anywhere in
between gives you a lot of tonal options. However, I personally
enjoyed it in either full tube, or 50/50 the most (for these tests).
With the input and output gains, you can do more out and less in for
a cleaner sound, or more in and less out for a more saturated sound -
whether you want more tube or transformer saturation or a blend (I
preferred more of a blend). A very versatile pre.
Overall the build quality is top-notch, as is the sound quality and versatility of both units. It is everything I expected from LaChapell, and I was ultimately impressed. Definitely winners in my opinion, and well worth looking into as additions to your 500 series arsenal.