I've used many preamps over the years that I've been recording and mixing, and while there are certainly still parts to the craft that I'm still learning - things I'm not sure of but pick-up on, as time passes and technology advances - and I have made a particular observation ... about preamps. The observation is that there is no such thing as an end-all/be-all preamp that will suit every possible scenario. I've worked with very nice ( and very pricey) preamps, that have offered beautiful character and color - for certain songs, and I've used pres that are far more transparent that absolutely have their own place as well. I've worked with Neve 1073's, SSL G Series, MCI, API ( along with others), and those preamps all have a particular individual character to them that can make things really sparkle and shine, or pop out in a mix. These all offer a particular character that can sound incredible - for certain things. I've worked with both tube and transformer-based preamps... these too have their own character that can be great - for certain things. The ADK AP-1, the Focusrite ISA, and other similar stand-alone tube and XFO-based preamps can be awesome - for certain things. I've also worked with "cleaner" circuits - Millennia, Grace ( just recently in fact), Presonus, and other pres that are known more for their transparency than they are for any real noticeable "character". Their character is that they don't have any, or very little. These too can be incredible, and often perfect choices - for certain things. ( side note to @Kurt Foster: I agree with your position that there really is no truly transparent preamp, that anything with circuitry is going to impart something to the signal, to a lesser or greater extent, and for better or worse. I will also concede that microphones differ in this regard and can greatly affect the tone as well ) Two days ago, I was tracking a lead vocal to a song I wrote, and I was using an AKG 414 (a P48 series, circa 1981, instead of my usual 414 EB, as I had loaned it to a good friend for a few days), and running it through an ADK AP1 pre - which I've really grown to love - using a Lundhal 1538 XFO on the input ( this is the same XFO that Rupert Neve used in the now-famous Focusrite ISA Studio Console, and which has been used in many mic preamps since) and, I was using a John Hardy 990c on the output stage. Normally, this is a great gain chain - for my voice. While I have used various combinations in the AP, I seem to always gravitate back to the Lundhal/Hardy combo, because I love the way it sounds. It took me less than 30 seconds of listening to playback to realize that this particular gain-chain wasn't going to work for this song. I then borrowed a buddy's Focusrite ISA One, and recorded a track with it. While it was nice, and had a great vibe, it still wasn't what I was after for this song. I eventually nailed down that I was after a more "modern" vibe on the vocal... and in the end, the gain-chain that worked the best was the Presonus 1818VSL. It was clean, crisp, bright, modern sounding ... and it gave me exactly what I was looking for - for this song. The summary to this, is that IMO, there is no such thing as an end-all/be-all mic preamp, (just as there is no end-all/be-all mic). It's not my intention to start a debate or argument about whether or not "transparent" or "color" is better or worse. My opinion is that both have their place(s). It's all about what sound you are after at the time, which will end up working the best in the mix... or, context. These are just observations that I've made over time. Thoughts?