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Warm Audio TB12
4.7 4.7 out of 5, based on 9 Reviews

Most Versatile Preamp under $600

15th September 2013

Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast by IBE

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Warm Audio TB12

The days of paying over $1,000 for a high end preamp are gone. With new preamps coming out every day, clone after clone, enters a totally different box than we have all seen. The Warm Audio Tone Beast. I was lucky to get my hands on one of these boxes to do some comparisons against preamps costing nearly twice as much.

Let's start with the layout and the build quality. Equipped with Cinemag Transformers( Audio Transformers By Cinemag Inc. ), the 19" rack mount is very robust and bright (orange). The four knobs on the front have a nice solid feel to them, very tight with resistance to the rotation. The switches are all push button; they engage and disengage with a quick push.

The preamp is divided into three controls. You have the input control, the tone control and the gain & saturation. On the input control you have you basics of (mic, 48v, hi z, line, pad, hpf). These are pretty self-explanatory. Next, you have the tone control. This is where the Beast begins to wake up. ( x731, x 18 amplifiers) +6db tone, vintage or clean capacitors, steel and nickel output transformer. While the x18 capacitors will satisfy your clean side, the x731 will give you some real girth, very colored in the midrange if I must say. From there you have the option on the output to put it through the steel or nickel transformer. The steel transformer has a thicker more colored sound while the nickel giving you a brighter shine.

On the way out the door, stop by the gain and saturation department. Depending on your source and amplifier you may just want to tap the saturation or give it a real tape feel by slamming it hard. I find that with the x18 setting, the sweet spot is around 75%.

In conclusion, having used this preamp in a shootout with the Great River ME-1NV and the Empirical Labs Mike E, I can tell you the TB brings something totally different to the table. This box could easily be your one stop shop preamp for all sources. There is no doubt that there is a greater bang for the buck. I would love to hear what they would do to a mix passed through them. The TB will do clean, crunchy and in between. If there are any grips to be mentioned and I do mean small, it would be the wall wart power supply and the blue led meter, boy is it bright!

Hear the TB in action below.....
Empirical Labs Mike E, vs Great River vs Warm Audio Tone Beast

23rd October 2013

Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast by bgrotto

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Warm Audio TB12

I have a lot of preamps. Like, a LOT. Neve 1084s and 1272s, API 312s, Mercury m76 and m72s, v78s, Redd.47s, Shadow Hills, UA 2108s and 610s, the list goes on.

So when I got word that I had been selected as a recipient for a Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast, my first reaction was a bit nonplussed.

But I started doing some reading on the unit, and it occurred to me that this could be something that would find some use in my studio. In particular, the line input feature struck me as a means to use it as a sort of poor man's Culture Vulture; a unit I've had my eyes on for some time now. Suddenly, this Tone Beast thing was starting to look pretty good.

The unit arrived tightly packed in a large cardboard box, typical of audio gear. Much to my surprise, when I went to pick it up, it was rather heavier than I expected. For some reason, the price point of the TB12 had me convinced this would be a cheap unit, and in my experience, cheap often means lightweight. Well, I was wrong about the weight. So far, so good.

When I got it to my studio, I unpacked it and was quite pleasantly surprised by its cosmetics. Again, gear at that price point (OK, let's be honest, gear at ANY price point) doesn't always look particularly pretty in the rack. But this thing had some flair. Groovy.

The one downer at this point was the power supply. I'm always suspicious of gear that uses generic in-line power supplies. I can't really say why, because frankly, I don't know enough about the engineering behind this kinda stuff to know what the hell I'm talking about, but for whatever reason, I associate in-line PSUs with "cheap". What can I say? I'm a man of superstition.

Once racked, I did a quick check of the buttons, switches, and knobs. Again, in my experience, this seems to be a key place where the low cost of a given unit becomes quite apparent. Not so with the Tone Beast. Everything felt solid. Very solid. The stepped gain knobs are particularly nice. I was getting pretty psyched.

I was in the middle of a hard rock mix, and figured now would be the time to fire it up as a distortion box. I lean pretty heavily on the Sound Toys Decapitator plugin, and the prospect of some hardware to fill that role some in the analog domain had me pretty jazzed. I patched it in, and suddenly experienced an intense burning sensation and temporary loss of consciousness. Holy crap, the "signal present" light is BRIGHT! After reattaching my retina, I placed a few layers of masking tape over the damn thing and got to work.

I played with it on snare, bass, and vocals (three of my favorite sources for the Decapitator). The thing that immediately struck me was just how subtle the effects of changing the settings around was. In some cases, they were inaudible, particularly at lower gain settings. As you push the unit into obvious distortion, they begin to get clearer, but it's still surprisingly subtle. I also found certain sources revealed these differences more than others. Interesting stuff.

Ultimately, I ended up settling with the TB12 on a guitar lead. The raw track -- a somewhat grungy slide part over a very thick, down-tuned rhythm section with roomy, ambient drums and heavily distorted bass -- didn't pop the way I wanted it to. I found that by tweaking the various settings on the TB12, I was able to create a better sense of separation from the backing track, while also playing with a sense of "closeness", allowing me to give it presence and clarity while still setting it "behind" the lead vocal. Pretty cool stuff.

A few days later, I had a guitar tracking session for a pop punk EP I had done basics on the day before. This seemed like the ideal testing ground for the TB12 as a mic amp, so I used it with my Josephson e22s (in conjunction with an m88 into a 1084) to reproduce the Diezel head and Marshall 4x10 guitar leads.

Right off the bat it sounded good. Like a professional mic pre should. Solid, meaty midrange, even top and bottom end, etc etc. Sounded good.

Tweaking the settings allowed me to refine that into a pretty damn good guitar sound, again giving me the flexibility to play with front-to-back dimensionality (something that I'm quite big on these days). I found the x731 setting created a bit of a softer midrange that caused the tracks to recede into the other instruments. The x18 setting had a slightly "harder" quality, giving it more of a "lead guitar" vibe.

Next up was checking out the transformer options. The transformerless setting was kinda bland. Screw that. The nickel tranny had a nice, open sound, but it felt a bit blurry to me in the context of all the high-gain guitars and heavily compressed drums. The steel gave me a nice, tight sound, with a subtle but noticeable reduction in bandwidth, that allowed the lead guitars to sit cleanly in the chaos.

Last up was the caps. Far and away, the most subtle tweak. The vintage caps felt a bit "further away" (for lack of a better term), with the clean setting more "in your face". Ideal for keeping those leads present.

Playing with the gain while juggling the output provided varying degrees of coloration, and proved quite useful. It was easy to dial in a sweet spot, and we were pretty much ready for action.

At this point, with the general tone dialed in, I tried engaging the high pass filter to see if I could clear up some of the excess rumble. This revealed the first sonic deficiency of the TB12. I've always been a bit sensitive to HPFs; not sure why, and I can't even really describe how I hear them. Sometimes, it's just, "oh, that turnover frequency is too high and I'm losing the sack". Other times, it's something far less tangible. Phase smear? I dunno. But in the case of the TB12, I think I was hearing both. I'm not sure what frequency the HPF is set at, but to my ears, it's too high (or perhaps too steep). I just felt it robbed the sound of its meat. But there was also some weirdness in the rest of the spectrum. I don't have the exact words to explain what I heard, but suffice to say, I didn't like it. So, no HPF on this track!

Once we finished those tracks, the other guitarist had some leads. Where the first dude was using a Les Paul, the second guy was using a Strat (both were playing the same amp/cab combo, with the same mics, mic positions, and mic amps). Interestingly, the x731 setting actually had a firmer, more solid midrange with this rig, and I preferred the nickel tranny's fuller sound. Again, I kept the caps on the clean setting, which I found to sound more up-front.

The next day, while mixing these tracks, I found I needed to add a Sansamp to the bass, so I sent it as a hardware insert from PT into a Reamp, to the Sansamp, then into the TB12 before returning to PT, where it was combined with the dry DI and an amp track and fed to my console.

The variable tone settings again provided a subtle but highly useful means of dialing in the bass tone. I reached for the Sansamp because the raw sound had a dull and honky tonality, and was overly dynamic, causing unevenness in the frequency response that made balancing the bass in the mix difficult. The Sansamp was great for dirtying things up, adding some vibe and excitement, especially in the upper mids, while firming up the lower mids and giving a more even, compressed low end. And the Tone Beast allowed me to gently tame some of the harsher tonalities in the upper mids by seeking the softer-sounding settings for that particular signal path. Very, very cool.

About ten years ago, I bought my first "professional" (whatever that that time, I think it was simply another way of saying "expensive"...) microphone preamplifier. It was a Universal Audio 610. Single channel tube amp. I still remember plugging in a mic and doing a quick voice test to make sure it passed signal. It was kinda late, and I was at home in my apartment, wearing headphones for fear of disturbing my roommates. I recall vividly the surprise and excitement I felt when I heard my spoken voice coming through those headphones. It was such a massive improvement over the preamps in my Digi 002 Rack, I was elated. It was a serious light bulb moment in my professional audio education.

I paid about $800 for that 610, used. The fact that a brand new Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast clocks in at $200 less than that, offers an insane amount more flexibility, and every bit the professional quality of microphone amplification (not to mention vastly superior gain staging -- I always hated the gain staging on that damn 610! ) is amazing to me.

Not to sound like an old crank, but you youngsters have no idea how good you have it these days

Anyway, this unit is highly recommended, whether you're on a budget or if you already have a wide variety of high end mic amps to choose from. This thing just delivers, and for the price, it's practically a no-brainer. Especially considering that it can readily double as a line level mix tool; a relatively neat trick for a microphone preamp.

  • 1
24th October 2013

Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast by proche3

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Warm Audio TB12

I’ve owned The Tonebeast for about a week now thanks to Gearslutz and Warm Audio Review Giveaway! This review will be written from a fresh set of ears as far as mic pres go. This is my absolute first “professional” mic pre aside from my Focusrite Pro 40 and I’m right in the middle of my band’s second album. So far I’ve had the opportunity to use it just as an insert effect and doing some mic tests with my own voice. For this review, I’ll be discussing its effect on my voice and the raw recorded tracks for my band’s second album I’m currently working on.

The beast arrived in a cardboard box with the unit’s face printed on the side and was packaged well with foam on each side; it also comes with a separate power supply. I got it loaded into my rack next to my chair, switched it on and hooked it up as an insert effect. Immediately I was blinded by the little blue light representing gain of -20, it truly is bright as all hell. I found about 4-5 layers of blue painters tape cut in tiny strips and placed over it tamed it down enough to sit in my rack next to my chair and not burn my retinas out.

The Tone Beast houses 2 styles of high end preamps in one rackmount unit which offers a ridiculous amount of flexibility. Being new to the high end preamp realm, I am in serious need of education, ear training and testing to hear the differences in the circuitry, so away I went. For my first tests I left the preamp stage set to the x18 discrete op amp because according to the manual it is the most linear or “cleanest”. So I wanted to get used to all the other options using just this op amp. OK, so first thing I tried was routing my signal into the input in the insert section. Bad idea, this is an UN-balanced connection, which I found out when I tried to run bass through the unit and noticed a severe lack of low end immediately. So Once I sorted that out, I began by running some backup vocals through it. I originally recorded the vocal tracks using a Neumann tlm102, into a cheap ART Tube MP, into a Focusrite Pro 40 interface (which has a very clean preamp), into my DAW (logic). So I routed that signal from Logic, through the Pro40 analogue output (1 3’ TRS cable), into the line in of the Tone Beast, then took the output from the ToneBeast and pushed that through the Pro 40 line input (using 1 3’ TRS) back into the DAW *whew* to use it as an analogue effect to tailor my already recorded sources.

So what does it sound like? Immediately, after it was re-recorded through the ToneBeast the chorus of the song started to sound better… Before, this backup vocal was kind of all over the place sticking out in some places fading too far back into the mix in others, after all it is the raw uncompressed track. Anyhow, I ran it through on x18 op amp, with HPF on, Tone button engaged, clean capacitor setting, steel transformer, and saturation set at about 75%. This gave the backup vocals some real mid-forward gooey warmth that evened the signal out and gave it a smooth organic sound. The vocals just found their place in the mix, it was an amazing first impression. What I found was the steel transformer did a lot of this. When I tried running it through again, I left everything else alone, but switched to the nickel xfr. Some of the harshness of the highs were present again, plus they popped out a little more and did not melt behind the lead vocals as well. So for backup vocals I kept the steel take.

Next I decided to put all the rest of the backup vocals through this same signal path. Ahh much better! Excitement ensued. Next I gotta try the lead vocal! Now, it’s very time consuming to let each full track run through the preamp and record back into the DAW all this time just to hear how it sounds, but this is my first high-end preamp so some experimentation is necessary. I tried every setting available (still using only the x18 op amp) and found, for this particular song, I liked the nickel transformer best, again because it helped the vocal “pop” out a little more in the mix, but it was still evening the vocal track out a little and adding some warmth, not present before. But on two other songs I felt the Steel xfr was the better choice. The xfr appears to be the most noticeable change in sound so far. However, when used as an effect, it all depends on the mix as a whole, now that I’m more comfortable with the settings I will be using it during the tracking phase for my next session. (Worthy of another review? Probably.)

Alright, now I thought it was time to move on to some keyboards. I had this one keyboard track that a RAT guitar pedal was used to get a scratchy synth sound and I later realized this signal was not clipping on my end, but there was some like digital sounding distortion coming from the RAT pedal that should have been toned down at the time of tacking. The signal was simply a KORG TR61 keyboard, into a RAT guitar pedal (mono) Line-in to the DAW. So I thought the Tone beast as my last resort couldn’t hurt to try softening this at least. So I tried it and it definitely helped. The signal path I chose was tone switch engaged, clean capacitors, steel transformer, 75% saturation and it sounded really good soloed; great in fact. No harsh digital clipping type sound, it simply melted the harshness of the distortion with the waves of the synth together (best way to describe it), it was powerful and pleasing and that synth distortion sound from too much RAT was working! There was no harshness to the sound. However, in the context of the song, it was too mid-heavy, it was eating up a lot of space in the mix and overpowering everything (again all raw tracks without any effects or plugins being used). So I switched it to the Nickel xfr, engaged the HPF and pushed the Vintage capacitor button and this did the trick. It sat in the mix better, the low end came through but was not as overbearing as it was, and it seemed to be the best I was going to get it using the x18.

Onto some snare tracks. The snare was recorded using an sm57 into Focusrite Octopre Dynamic. I found the best setting different on each song. The setting most used in the 4 songs I’ve had time to experiment with was, x18-tone switch engaged- vintage capacitor, steel xfr, AGAIN 75% saturation, but on one track the nickel xfr was the clear winner for it’s linear response, it needed to stay fairly flat but the other tracks seemed to favor the steel xfr, it just needed to fill in more mids and the steel did just that.

Now I’ve got my ear accustomed to the x18 and combo of other options so what is the difference in the x731 op amp? Well, according to the manual, this is a more “vintage” sounding op amp. To my ears this amp is a little bit clearer than and not as mid-forward as the x18 op amp. I tried this setting mostly on a few vocal takes, but left the other settings the same which helped tame some of the mid presence of the steel xfr and I found this to be a really nice blend for these particular vocal tracks.

As I’ve stated this is my first high-end preamp and it’s changed the way I will record from now on. The versatility is a bit overwhelming at first even though when you don’t saturate the signal well enough, you can barely notice any difference when switching all those options. I’ve read that the sweet spot for the unit is around 75% saturation so I left it there (since gain appears to do nothing to input signals run through the “insert” on the back), but now I’m realizing that this will come in to play when you’re fine tuning, for my first experimentations with the unit I want to HEAR the differences, but I’ll saturate as needed for future takes at the time of tracking.

So let’s start my conclusion here: To make using this thing a more defined decision making process when I get the chance to track with it, I am looking at the unit like this: The op amps and xfr’s influence the sound the most, so when deciding how to tailor your signal start there. When both are turned inward, choosing x18 op amp and Steel xfr (like this / \ ), is the most mid heavy and forward (up front in the mix) sound possible, and when turned outward (like this \ / ) It is the most linear (even low and high frequencies) and spread out (furthest back in the mix) signal. When you need a mid presence that still needs to shine on the top and bottom end, set it to the 731 op amp and steel transformer (like this \ \ ) When you want a really warm round sound that doesn’t fill in the middle quite as much try the x18 op amp and nickel xfr (like this / / ) Then its a matter of choosing vintage or clean caps, tone button depressed, HPF need, and dialing in saturation/gain amount.

Now let’s go from left to right and discuss the other options:
HPF; appears to work well, it cuts at 80Hz and feels good on these particular vocals, and some guitar tracks. Nothing too fancy, but I’ve read other reviews who frown on this saying it adds noise and kills some of the warmth so I think I will personally leave it off from now on and use a dedicated EQ unit (probably a digital plugin) for all EQing (at least for now).

Tone switch; I left the tone switch on at all times, feels like this is a large part of the warm character of the Beast and its effect on the signal is what I would describe as simply “smoother” with it engaged. Engaging it decreases the signal by 6dB, and it’s just a nice touch of class so unless nothing else is working and I need to try it, I’ll probably leave it on until I find a use for bypassing it.

Vintage or Clean capacitors; they say this is the least distinguishable feature of the beast, and I’d agree. To me the vintage is a little smoother and clean is a little truer to the original source. Vintage lets it sit back in the mix a bit and clean brings it out just a touch. You just have to hear it and make a call. That’s the thing about this piece of gear, is with so many options how do you choose what you want without weeks and months of experimentation on many many different signals? Although I’m writing the review, I believe I’ll have more input on this unit after a year of practical use..

Transformer. I did not bypass the xfrs, it just seemed too plain without them, each has a character and adds excitement to the sound, otherwise I’ll just go through the Focusrite Preamps I’ve already got. The difference between the xfrs was the most noticeable I think and the diagrams really aid you in decision making when it comes time to choose if this is going to need a very warm mid focused vocal or less mid forward signal that needs the top and bottom end to do what it does.

Overall the Tone Beast is a great buy, you simply cannot get this much flexibility and pro sound in one unit, however this also means huge learning curve and time necessary to experiment if you don’t have some similar equipment and already know what the style op amps or a steel vs nickel tranformer sounds like!

  • 1
18th November 2013

Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast by Matt Hepworth

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Warm Audio TB12

I have to admit I'm quite a fan of colored and vintage-style preamps, so I was very excited when I got an email about an opportunity to do a test drive and review for the new Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast. I have a good collection of high-end pres and I've collected over twenty API and API-based pres over the last few years (I suppose you could say I’m a vintage API enthusiast). Because of my experience and love for colored, larger than life, and "vibey" preamps, I suppose I did have a bit of an expectation going in to this review. I was expecting the Tone Beast to have to work hard to impress me. I was also under the impression that Warm Audio essentially made API clones, and that the TB12 was a “me too” product. After putting the beast through its paces, I can confidently say that my assumptions and concerns were both quite incorrect.

The Quick Unveiling

I'm going to begin a bit outside the box, so to speak, and in an unlikely place—the brown outer box. This was my first look at the "character" of the preamp and company behind the product. Let's just call it a warning label. I'm not going to spoil it for you. Warm Audio proudly included their sense of humor along with the Tonebeast and definitely started this reviewer off on the right foot.


Looking from a few feet away the TB12 seems to be a straight forward rack-mount preamp in a convenient 1U design. On the far left it has what I refer to as a “convenience jack”; a front mounted XLR microphone input that duplicates the proper XLR input that's nestled securely on the rear of the preamp. While a front input may say pro-sumer to some, I find it occasionally handy to patch directly into a preamp in the control room for an off-the-cuff punch in or idea, without having to run to one of the iso or live rooms and plug in there. Next to the XLR input is the 1/4" utility input. Continuing from there are Hi-Z and Line-level buttons for the front panel 1/4 input, 48V Phantom Power, -20dB Pad, Polarity Invert, and a High Pass Filter.

As you continue your gaze to the right your brow may wrinkle a bit as you’re drawn into unfamiliar territory with a set of controls that take a bit to get your head around at first. There's a selector for two different Discrete Operational Amplifiers (with two different DOA's included as stock), a Tone button that reduces the impedance of the preamp and injects some color (and 6dB of signal), a button for selecting between two sets of capacitors in the circuit, an Output Transformer Bypass, and then a selector between a steel or nickel wound high-quality Cinemag output transformers. On the right hand side of the faceplate you'll find the gain and output knobs that are pretty much a requisite on a racked preamplifier, as well as well as LED metering. This clever layout and selection set give the user a huge variety of no less than 24 tone combinations from a single mic preamplifier, not including being able to utilize the multiple possible gain stages as another saturation tool.

In testing these options together extensively, I found the tone influence to be (in order of sonic affect): Output Transformer Bypass, DOA (Opamp) selector, Tone, Output Transformer selector, Gain and Output combination, then Capacitor type.

About the Opamps

As described in the nicely written single-page "manual", the Tone Beast is fed through a choice of font panel selectable Discrete Operational Amplifiers. This is another rather welcome feature in that there are not only two Operational Amplifiers to choose from (Opamps, as most call them these days), but Dual Socketed Operational Amplifiers.

Socketing equates to being an end user-friendly mod, so to speak, as you just pop the hood, and pop ’n swap with another compatible opamp with a different character. Now, for guys like me that have done their share of DIY kits and as somewhat of a collector of 2520 op amps, this was thrilling, allowing me to easily personalize and further tweak the tone of an already very tweakable monster…er…beast.

I was disappointed, however, to find that the internal operational amplifiers, though socketed, have a slightly different spacing than the standard API, GAR, Scott Liebers opamps that may make it tricky to to install alternate opamps without getting out a set of needle nose pliers and bending at least two of the six posts in order to make your opamp fit the socket on the PCB. On vintage opamps with short legs, this may be altogether impossible, as well as something I don’t know if I could bring myself to even try due to the risk of trying to bend old brass legs in a way they may not tolerate.

I contacted Bryce, owner and designer for Warm Audio, about this and he took this concern of mine to heart. Bryce also let me know that most owners have been okay with just taking their pliers to them, as most people will not change out the opamps more than once in the unit’s lifetime.

Getting in Line

The Tone Beast also has a line or instrument level (switchable) 1/4” input on the front that serves as either a line level input, or instrument DI. The line level setting is intended for adding a bit more tone to an already recorded track (or strapping across the mix bus), while the instrument level setting or plugging a bass or keyboard (or electric banjo, for that matter) directly in and using it as an instrument direct injection device.

In Use

Setting the TB12 up in the studio, I connected it in to my setup the same way I usually do: snake from the iso room, patched into the pre in the control room, line output out into an Apogee AD16X, then recording into Pro Tools HD TDM. I immediately put the pre to work and started in on a guitar session using what I felt was essentially the “12 ‘ clock” settings—nothing extreme, but making sure the transformers and opamps are working just a bit. The amp was an Engl Savage 120 all tube head going through a birch cabinet with vintage 30’s and it was mic’d with a Royer 121 and an SM57. Being that the sound that was coming through my ADAM P33A monitors in the control room was immediately pleasurable (the 121, in particular) and a little bit APIish, I stretched the Tonebeast's legs early on just a bit.

The more tone color I dialed in, the more I found it was subtly reducing bass (a trait quite common when adding a bit of distortion to a part, and used to certain effect in classic gear like the UA 1176 limiting amplifier) while accentuating the midrange in a vintage-esq way. I found that on searing lead guitar tones, I could dial the TB12 to the point it was adding noticeable distortion without hurting the track. It could actually make the guitar sound even more over the top and full of life. On rhythm parts, the same was not true. They did not take the distortion in the same beneficial way the lead did.

*Setting note*
I ended up being quite happy with the 1731 Opamp selection in combination with the nickel output transformer on modern rock guitar tones—both dirty and clean, and I liked the steel transformer with the 1731 on bluesy lead tones or thick rhythm parts.
In either setting I would press the Tone button for more attitude when needed and usually liked the little bit more middy and ever-so-slightly-compressed sound.

The Tone Beast definitely sounded great on electric guitar. Pretty much every setting did something cool and so it ended up just choosing the combination which would fit the mix best.

Money’s Where the Mouth is

Though I didn’t put the Tonebeast through vocal paces nearly like I did guitar, it is well suited. Using a U87 on a male baritone rock vocalist the Tone Beast can be distinct, present, but still smooth. That little bit of extra midrange can help the vocal climb over the wall of guitars. In particular, the 1731 opamp and nickel output transformer gave me the combination of mids and top end I was looking, while still giving enough color that the vocal didn’t feel boring; despite the fact that U87’s can have that affect on preamps sometimes.

DI’ing to try it

If guitars were where I felt the TB12 was completely at home, bass and key DI has to be its summer home. As a bass DI with a nice Yamaha passive bass, the results were excellent. After tweaking all the settings this way and that, I tended to favor the sounds at either extreme, more than the tones dialed somewhere in the middle that were neither clean, nor coloured.

Having a good feel for the DI, I put it head to head against to my go to clean DI, which is a the Hi-Z input of my True Systems P2 Analog preamp and created the audio files by setting up in the following simple way: record bass in the cleanest way possible, then run out my Apogee DA16X converter and into a Radial X-Amp. From there I did a reamp’d pass into the True, and a second pass to the TB12 at a certain setting, each time recording the results.

Of note, I did find the DI to run out of headroom earlier than I'd expected, but, as expected, engaging the Pad rectified the out of character response.

Results? While the TB12 performed reasonably well as a clean DI, it didn't have the depth, realism, nor full bottom of the True, but was still superior to most budget DI's and on-board interface Hi-Z inputs.

Going more to the other extreme and using the 1731, impedance/Tone shift, and steel transformer, I felt I lost too much of the lower octave for the big, smooth bass sound I was looking for. However, switching to the nickel output transformer and clean capacitors, I found an excellent, full, bass sound that sits very well in a loud rock mix and definitely put a smile on my face.

Mic Pre Shootout

In comparing the TB12 with several lunchbox and rack preamps I setup a reamping rig so that I could maintain isolation and repeatable settings throughout the testing. I recorded an exhausting amount of files by feeding the output through the same Apogee AD16X and recording into Pro Tools HD.

I found the Tonebeast to be quite versatile indeed, but to also definitely have its own character. At more moderate settings I could dial it in to where I found it compared favorably with my favorite vintage API 312, although it was not quite as dynamic, had a bit more mids, and a little bit leaner lows. When put up against a vintage 1073, the Warm was again leaner in the lows, but also made the 1073 sound a little dark, missing just a little bit of the “cut” of the TB12. I also felt the Tonebeast was a smidge less 3D than some of the much more expensive preamps I put it up against, although I never felt it to sound like it was outclassed, even though some preamps were more than six times as expensive.

Warming Up

I found I could also get the TB12 to do nearly clean amplification (though still more colored than a typical interface or compact mixer preamp) by using the 918 Opamp, disengaging the Tone control, and bypassing the output transformer. I liked it in this setup the least, but for acoustic guitar and drum overheads, it can be just what you didn’t realize you needed.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Tonebeast gives you the anti-smiley face EQ curve when pushed hard and using the lower impedance/Tone control. This was particularly enjoyable on guitars, and may find its way into vocal chains for rock and indie vibe.

Speaking to the versatility of the TB12, I could not find a source that I could not dial in a great sound on by simply manipulating some of the tone shaping controls and options in various combinations. It became intuitive to do so, even, which says a lot about the design. It’s a lot of control, but placed logically.

Output Fader

At $599, I think Warm Audio definitely has a winner. The ToneBeast provides a plethora of tone options from nearly clean, to quite dirty with an obvious sonic signature. Although it may be aimed at those studio owners with smaller preamp collections where the versatility can really shine, I'm quite certain also going to find its way into a lot of studio racks along side the classics and studio staple preamps.

To say the Tone Beast is aptly named is grossly understating the beauty of this beast.

  • 1
8th February 2014

Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast by Category 5

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Warm Audio TB12

Warm Audio TB12 Tonebeast Review

If you happen to browse Gearslutz or any other popular audio forum from time to time you’re bound to come across a thread asking for advice on what the best mic preamp to purchase is. In fact, you probably come by such threads often. Unfortunately there’s usually very little worthwhile information contained within. Among enthusiastic endorsements for any of the multitude of fancy mic pres that are popular that week, you’ll usually find the obligatory snide remarks about how the question is impossible to answer because choosing a mic pre is both a very personal choice and one where form fits function. That is, you can’t possibly get a useful answer because it is impossible for the people responding to know what is expected of the preamp or how the intended source, mics and pre will interact. For the most part it’s true. It’s simply a question that comes without a correct answer. Take the time to consider who would ask such a question, however and it would appear there may be a useful answer after all - a mic pre that can perform well at just about any task, by changing its personality to fit the situation. It just so happens that such a pre has found its way to my bench and for someone looking to step up to their first “real” mic preamp it’s both perfect, and way less expensive than it ought to be. Ironically, it might also be a must-have for commercial studios as well.

Earlier this year I happened upon a new and unassuming little single channel, half-rack preamp based on the venerable API 312 circuit called the Warm Audio WA12. After an in–depth review of the product I concluded that the WA12 was not just another clone, but a very new and welcome twist on the famous circuit. That is, it took the merits of the design and added some personality of its own to create a truly fantastic-sounding and professional box worthy of rack space in any studio. Of course, its unusually low price drew attention both good and bad, but in the end I think it’s a fantastic product that has obviously sold well and helped to make a name for Warm Audio. You can read my in-depth review here (Gear Autopsy) to find out the finer details. Suffice to say, there was some “cost engineering” that creatively refined the design so that the sound wouldn’t be compromised, but the preamp could be made and sold for a price previously unheard of for its level of performance. At the WA12’s $450 list price, it wasn’t hard to give up some of the more luxurious features like metering, a high pass filter and an output attenuator. That being said, the important stuff like polarity inversion, a 20dB pad, and even an instrument input managed to make the final design. Personally, I couldn’t help but wonder if another $100 or so might have been worth having those other features, but understood that price was a very big design influence. Warm Audio must have also wondered just how much better the product could have been with these other features because while I was enjoying a new price/performance milestone in the WA12, they were creating an even better mic preamp. Enter the TB12, also known as the Tonebeast.

The TB12 takes the formula that made the WA12 such a great product and adds to it just about every feature you could have conceivably missed - plus some you probably haven’t even though of. First, let me re-iterate that both preamps make use of high quality components throughout, and while some parts like electrolytic capacitors are Chinese-branded parts they are still high spec, and do their job as expected. 1% metal film resistors are used throughout, as are capacitors rated for 105 C. Transistors are name brand (ON semi, Fairchild, BC) and possibly the most critical components, the input and output transformers, are courtesy of the American company Cinemag (one of the best transformer makers in the business, as any equipment designer will tell you). Even the voltage regulators are coupled to their heat sinks with thermal compound, a detail that is probably overkill but one that shows the WA12 and TB12 are built by a company with a passion for doing things right. The jacks, connectors, and knobs are some of the areas that may have helped to minimize cost, but not at the peril of audio quality. Most people will rack these boxes, hook them up to their interfaces and patch bays, and leave them connected anyway. In practical use, it’s not an area I’m all that concerned about. So both preamps use quality parts, are inspired by the same time-tested design and offer performance well outside their price point. How is it that the WA12 and TB12 differ? Prepare to be amazed, as I was.

The TB12 takes the wonderful WA12 and adds a bright 6 LED VU meter, a high-pass filter, a front-mounted XLR (in addition to the one on the rear of the unit), a line level input (in addition to the front mounted instrument input), inserts to add your favorite compressor or EQ (maybe an upcoming product from Warm?), and an output attenuator for dialing in extra saturated goodness. All of this comes in a new, full rack space chassis with the same robust construction and good looks. Thankfully, all of these additions come without losing a single feature of the original WA12, and for less than you’d expect to pay for the chassis alone. The difference in price is a mere $150, and for just these improvements the TB12 is already an amazing value. Of course, Warm decided not to stop there. Assuming there would be folks out there with an itch to mod the TB12 and see just how far the design could be taken (there are plenty out there), Warm thought better to do it for us. In addition to the Melcor 1731 op-amp from the WA12, they have added a second switchable op-amp based on the Jensen 918 (older brother of the popular modern 990), a pin compatible but much cleaner sounding gain block. Also, while the WA12 used a custom designed steel output transformer, the TB12 adds a second switchable nickel-steel hybrid transformer, which offers another cleaner output stage to the original. A third switchable option has also been added allowing the selection of either tantalum or standard electrolytic capacitors on the signal path. By manipulating these selectable features, you can take the TB12 from the original, musically-colored sound to a smooth, high definition clean sound with several steps in between. All these new features are switchable in real-time, and without annoying audio pops, so comparing them is both a breeze and a blast. Combined with the original tone feature, and the ability to drive the gain stages into distortion by attenuating the output, there are really so many different configurations that this may be the most versatile mic pre you can buy today at any price. And the TB12 sells for a mere $600!

Looking Inside

Popping the top on the TB12 revealed some nice surprises, the most exciting being that this time around Warm has decided to appeal to the experimenter in us by socketing the op-amps, making them interchangeable! That means any of the dozens of op-amps on the market that fit the standard 2520 footprint will work inside of the TB12, so long as they are comfortable running at the +/-18v rails the unit provides (and most are!). Swapping them is as simple as popping one out and inserting another for even MORE tonal variations (power off the unit first). I also noticed that there is an unoccupied space for a PCB-mounted input transformer that Warm tells me is for a possible future switch to a board-mounted part. It is wired in parallel with the existing Cinemag input transformer, but could serve as a means to easily try some other input options if you feel adventurous. The power supply is very familiar since it is the same design used in the WA12. There are local regulators for both the positive and negative voltage rails, as well as phantom power, and they are well filtered by 105 C rated electrolytics. Voltages measured at the supply output were steady and well within spec, and since clean power is essential for a well performing mic pre, I was happy to see this design re-used in the TB12. The wall-wart from the WA12 has been replaced with a more convenient line-lump type transformer this time, but both are the same specification and are interchangeable. Also, a single supply can power multiple units (at least 4) if you get one with enough amperage and a splitter cord (both available from Jameco or a similar vendor for very little money) so there are certainly advantages to using an external transformer. I was hoping for an internal supply this time, but understand the reasons it was left out. At least the new transformer won’t block three precious wall outlets like the original wall-wart did.

The preamp itself resides on four individual circuit boards that are very cleanly wired together. This may be for ease of serviceability as well as modularity for possible future updates and upgrades. Either way the boards are of high quality, contain no surface mount components, and all connections between them and the transformers are made by easily removable wires so servicing them should be a breeze should the need arise. All external jacks are PCB mounted parts, and the transformers are securely mounted to the bottom of the chassis. The overall internal design is very clean and well executed, just like it is in the WA12. The chassis appears to be a standard off-the-shelf part again here, and there is a fair amount of unused space inside. That means there’s plenty of room to stash the money you’ll save by choosing the TB12 Tonebeast.

On the Outside

You’ll either be a fan of the TB12s looks or you won’t, but regardless, you’ll have to agree that Warm’s bright orange faceplate won’t be overlooked in the rack. The unit thoughtfully has a multitude of inputs and outputs for total flexibility. XLR mic inputs are available on both the front and back of the unit, making it easy to connect to the TB12 when the unit is racked. There is also an instrument input next to the front XLR jack for a guitar or bass, and a standard line level input beside the rear XLR. All of the inputs go through the input transformer and the entire signal path, so while the TB12 is a mic preamp it will also be perfect for warming up instruments, synths, and even as a tone-shaping tool for a passive or active summing mixer like the Dangerous D-Box. Outputs are available on both XLR and TRS jacks and since they are wired in parallel you should be able to use them both simultaneously. New for the TB12 is a pair of insert jacks (send/return) for use with your favorite EQ or Compressor. Something tells me Warm will be offering some options to make use of these in the near future. Finally, there is a single jack for connecting the 24VAC power supply. It would have been cool to see a pass-through for chaining multiple units (you will want at least two of these gems!) but clearly I have already been spoiled by all that the Tonebeast offers. The front panel is home to more controls than you ever expected to find on a mic pre, let alone one at this price. From left to right there are push buttons for selecting the hi-z input, rear line input, 48V phantom power, a 20dB pad, polarity inversion, and an 80Hz hi-pass filter. Warm has been kind enough to give us LED confirmation on each of these switches so there’s no need to toggle them to see which position is engaged – a nice touch. Next are the tone-shaping controls, where the Tonebeast’s magic happens. The first is a rotary toggle switch for selecting between the 1731 and 918 op-amps, or whichever other op-amps you have chosen to install. Next is the familiar tone button from the WA12, which changes input impedance while adding 6dB of additional step up gain, followed by the capacitor toggle, the output transformer bypass and then another rotary switch for selecting between the two Cinemag output transformers. After the tone controls come two stepped pots for controlling input gain and output attenuation followed by a convenient 6 LED VU meter, and the unit’s power switch. All of the functions are well labeled and very easily adjusted, most giving confirmation through bright red LEDs.

So How Does it Sound?

Considering I had the lid off of the TB12 already, and I am very familiar with the sound of the WA12, I decided to experiment a little. I had a 4 pack of genuine API 2520 op-amps on my bench so I decided to first test the unit with a 2520 installed beside the Melcor 1731 and compare the two. With the unit set to use the 1731, tantalum capacitors and all steel output transformer, the TB12 sounded exactly like my familiar WA12 mic pres, which is great news because they sound fantastic. It’s a rather colored sound with a gentle de-emphasis of the high frequencies (without sounding dark) and that lovely, milk chocolate harmonic smoothness that becomes most evident on transients, and “esss” sounds. It is my opinion that the design is a perfect match for some of the cheaper Chinese condensers because it helps to tame the spittiness and harshness that they often exhibit in the high end. The saturation just smooths it out and makes it less obtrusive. I used my recently-built, custom C12 microphone (vintage style) and was surprised to find that as colored as the preamp is, it still sounded sublime despite the fact that the mic has a lot of saturation of its own. Switching just the op-amp from the 1731 to my genuine API 2520 yielded a subtle, but noticeable, increase in mid and high frequency focus, while maybe de-emphasizing the fat low end the Warm pres render so well. Overall, I would characterize the sound as unexpectedly similar, but slightly cleaner, and with less tendency to break-up and saturate with the 2520 engaged. Switching from the steel to hybrid nickel/steel transformer has a similar effect, but it was more pronounced. While still having the smoothness of gentle saturation, there was a detectable reduction of low/mid heft and weight along with a sense of increased clarity. Switching the signal path capacitors from tantalum to electrolytic was much harder to quantify but it seemed that, in a similar way, the tantalum capacitors had more weight while the electrolytics felt cleaner. Quickly realizing that the TB12 is designed as a WA12 that can be coaxed into being a much cleaner pre, I removed my 2520 op-amp and replaced it with the intended 918. After switching from the 1731 to the 918 I was instantly aware of two things: the first is that switching between the two op-amps demonstrated the greatest differential in tone, and the second is that the 918 is a remarkably clean, high bandwidth op-amp (similar to my experiences with the 990 it inspired). Starting from the very fat and warm sound of the WA12, switching from the 1731 to the 918, the tantalums to the electrolytics and finally the steel to the hybrid transformer, will take you gradually through several intermediate steps to a much cleaner sounding configuration. Don’t get me wrong, the harmonics are still there when dialing in clean tone, but they are more subtle and graceful. The main difference is in the extension of the upper frequencies and less low end emphasis than the preamp exhibits on the other end. To get even an even cleaner sound, you can engage the output transformer bypass switch to drive the output straight from the gain stage. The disadvantage will be an 8dB gain drop, as well as the loss of the balanced output since there is no output buffer to take over balancing duties. You can use the tone feature to add 6dB of gain back, but remember the input impedance drops to 150ohm when this setting is used, so make sure your mic’s output impedance is low enough to cope. Since the loading is different, the mic’s sound will most likely be altered slightly – more so in the case of dynamics and ribbons. I was glad to find that auditioning all these variations while listening was seamless and none of the switches made any audible pops or artifacts to be concerned about. At no time did I find the TB12’s self noise to be objectionable either. I discovered that when set for its cleanest output, the Tonebeast is a perfect alternative to the excellent pres in my Apollo interface, which sound less exciting and slightly brighter overall, in comparison.

For fun, I decided to see how dirty of a sound I could dial in using all of these tone options. I engaged the tone button, selected the 1731 op-amp, tantalum capacitors and steel output transformer, and cranked the gain to the max. I then used the output attenuator to dial in a reasonable level to my AD. The result was full on fuzz-box distortion. Trent Reznor would love it! The resulting waveform was clearly clipped flat on both the top and the bottom even though I had plenty of headroom left in my converters. This is an extreme setting, but it makes it easy to see how the TB12 can also compress the source as well as distort. Extreme settings like this are best reserved for special effects, but I can see how dialing in a hair of distortion could really make a snare come alive, or help a bass line or lead guitar cut through the mix better. Plus, distortion is an effect not yet mastered by plugins yet, so it’s nice to have the option to do it in the analog domain when the project calls for it. The TB12 can go from dirty to clean and every stage in between. As stated above, the warmer settings are (in order of how drastic their influence is) 1731 op-amp, steel output transformer, tone button engaged, and tantalum capacitors. For clean sounds, use the 918 op-amp, nickel/steel output transformer (or no output transformer), and electrolytic capacitors. Either combination can be driven into audible distortion by increasing the gain above what’s needed and dialing down the output. Talk about multiple personalities!

Transformers, Impedance, and Tone selection

One of the special things about the very simple design the WA12 and TB12 are based on is that they are not only very simple, but they derive gain from 3 stages – the input transformer, the actual gain block, and the output transformer. Since these three stages provide gain, they also provide the tonal characteristics that shape the amplified sound. Warm audio is using this fact to their advantage, not only to tailor the design to their own specific sound, but to allow manipulation of the tone throughout the signal path. The obvious way the TB12 can shape the sound is through actual switching of the components in the signal path. This is similar to what happens when people mod their gear. Changing certain components changes the sound, hopefully in a positive or useful way. The other way these components shape tone is by manipulating how they are used. For example, the input transformer can be switched from a series wired primary to parallel by engaging the tone button. This will increase the step-up gain derived from the input transformer by 6dB and will also increase the saturation and harmonic content that comes from it. The side effect of doing this is that the additional voltage gain has to come from somewhere. Transformers are used to isolate input and output stages from DC voltage while passing AC voltage (such as an audio signal), but they can also convert voltage gain to current (lower the impedance) or vice versa (raise the impedance). Since the additional 6dB of gain must come from the mic’s output, and we need current to convert to voltage gain, the mic gets “loaded” down more heavily and not all mics will like this. A rule of thumb is that the input impedance of the preamp should ideally be 5 times the output impedance of the mic to get a perfect loading match. Since the input impedance drops to 150ohm when the tone button is engaged, we would ideally need a mic with an output impedance of 30ohm to get a proper match. Most mics are in the 100-150ohm range, and some passive ribbon mics are much higher. The result is that the response of the mic will change. Some mics, especially condensers, can easily cope with this demand since their FET or tube preamps can supply the extra current needed. Dynamic mics and ribbon mics, however, usually have higher output impedance and therefore will be affected much more noticably. The effect may be just what you’re looking for, but when it isn’t, there is a simple solution. Using an impedance buffer such as a Cloudlifter or Cathedral Pipes Durham will provide a sufficiently high impedance load to the mic, and will handily create more current (lower output impedance) to feed the mic pre by using phantom power. You get 6dB of extra gain, increased harmonic content from the input transformer, and still get the expected response from the mic thanks to the proper loading.

Another way to manipulate the tone is to increase the amount of gain by the discrete gain stage itself. This wasn’t easily done on the WA12 since increasing gain always meant increasing output and eventually clipping the AD converter, but the TB12 introduces an output attenuator to prevent this. That means you can increase gain beyond what you actually require at the output, until you start to run out of headroom in the gain stage. Output levels that would normally toast your AD converters can then be reduced to a manageable level with the output attenuator. It should be noted that you will be increasing harmonic distortion not only in the gain stage, but also in the output stage as well since the transformer will be fed a much hotter signal. The TB12 is easily capable of sounds ranging from slightly saturated to full-on distortion. Keep in mind that distortion doesn’t have to be obvious to be useful, and dialing in a little bit can really add “balls” to some sources like drums and bass. It’s not to be overdone, but when used judiciously, this technique can be a secret weapon of sorts.

Finally, the TB12 allows for removing the output transformer from the equation altogether. This will cost you 8dB of gain since you are no longer getting the step-up gain from the transformer, and since the preamp is transformer balanced, and doesn’t have an output buffer you will also be stuck with an unbalanced signal. In most practical applications this won’t be a problem, but if you are driving long lines it can potentially cause issues. This does allow you to get remarkably clean tones from the TB12, really highlighting the unit’s ability to go from audible distortion, to warm and fat, all the way to clean and present without a single component swap or upgrade. In fact, I even question the need to swap op-amps since the two installed at the factory are designed to maximize the gamut of tones you can achieve with the Tonebeast. That’s not to say experimentation isn’t both fun and harmless.

So What’s the Final Verdict?

For a mere $150 more, the TB12 takes the successful formula of the Warm WA12 and literally triples its practical usefulness. If the price to performance ratio of the WA12 blew me away before, then I am simply beside myself trying to figure out how Warm can offer this new preamp for only $600. I’d love to see more robust Neutrik connectors throughout, sealed relays instead of contact switches and military spec switches and pots for gain attenuation, but none of these things would likely improve sound, nor do I think the components used are likely to prematurely fail in most usage scenarios. Part of me thinks that the unbelievable price of Warm Audio’s products might cause them to be unfairly judged by the self-proclaimed elite engineers, and confrontational members on Gearslutz, and unfortunately people do believe what they read. All the same, Warm audio is making it possible for musicians and engineers at every level of expertise to gain access to tools that will undoubtedly enhance creativity, teach and inspire them to make more music, and better sounding recordings along the way. Just as I suggested that the WA12 could easily sit beside pedigree mic amps in any studio, I feel the same about the TB12. In fact, at this price, everyone should have at least a pair. I think it would be cool if Warm introduced a Mk2 unit with more expensive jacks and knobs, and maybe a flashy aluminum faceplate so the big studios and “golden ears” would be more likely to seriously consider this product. Even at the $1500 mark, I’d consider the TB12 a great value. The amount of tonal variations possible with this box make it a candidate for the most versatile preamp ever, and from now on when I come across someone looking for advice on what their first “real” mic pre should be, I will recommend the TB12 every time. I can only hope Warm Audio is planning to give us some goodies to wire up to those insert jacks soon too, and that they follow in the tradition of the WA12 and TB12.

  • 5
11th June 2014

Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast by p3ster

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 2 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 3.75
Warm Audio TB12

Just tu add some posible cons...
I tested it for 2 weeks, mainly on vocals and electric guitars.
While it sounds intriguing and has interesting capabilities, knobs behave in a completely non-linear fashion, and it takes a significant amount of tweaking to find the right sound. Uses a nasty wallwart, otherwise the build quality seems solid.

28th January 2016

Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast by KommanderKeen

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Warm Audio TB12

This is the first out board pre I bought for my project studio. Why? Because of the tonal variance that can be achieved within one unit - it's more like 4 or 5 pre-amps in one.

We've compared this pre to our Soundcraft Ghost pres. Same guitar amp source, both using Sennheiser MD421's and the amount of body, depth and detail added by the Tone Beast is quite startling.

This unit massively enhanced the quality of vocal recordings we can provide without having to upgrade our vocal mics.

It has also been a great tool for DI'ing bass guitar - something we didn't buy it for but something it does very well.

I can't compare this unit to £2000 units as I don't have enough experience with them but we've got nothing but good things to say about the Tone Beast.

I'd love to have a second one for stereo recordings.

6th December 2016

Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast by vyero

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Warm Audio TB12

A really cool and flexible piece of gear.

I am really in love with this Preamp. It can go from the more transparent to the more dirty/vintage tone... I love how the controls allow you to do subtle changes that can make a huge difference on the mix.

Check out the whole range of possibilities:

The only thing that I should comment is that, if you do not have much experience dealing with different opamps and transformers, you HAVE to read the manual in order to understand the real effect on the signal path when you move the switches and knobs and how it should translate... once you get it, it's a very intuitive process to make any combinations you can possibly imagine.

And the price is just amazing!!

Attached Thumbnails
Warm Audio TB12-14925496_1314844205224952_6970352964291414482_n.jpg  
8th February 2017

Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast by vyero

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Warm Audio TB12

I wanted to get a flexible and good sounding preamp for a long time. As I tested out some pretty decent gear (and not so decent pieces), I started to get some nice reviews about the Warm Audio Products.

This orange preamp caught my eye and my ears. And when I got the chance to listen to it carefully (Through a DEMO from Audio Gate International... Thank you!!) I was amazed.

I was able to model the tone from super-clean to dirty-vintage in seconds, without switching connectors. I loved the character and all the possibilities it brings to your input signal.

I have this in my studio along with a Warm Audio EQP-WA Pultec Style EQ, and the Warm Audio WA-76 FET compressor... the result is a KILLER input channel.

Absolutely recommended.

The only con I found is that you HAVE to read the manual in the box (or online) in order to find out what every knob and switch really does to your sound, so you can take more advantage of it. Can be confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, it can be unstoppable.

3rd November 2017

Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast by Totalrex

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Warm Audio TB12


A Beast it most certainly is. This unit replaced my (now gone) Avalon 737sp, which I was never really knocked out by - especially considering the price tag. The Tone Beast lacks the EQ and compression of the Avalon, but it makes up for it by having a LOT of great tones packed inside.
Besides all the usual suspects - input switches (mic, line, Hi-Z), phantom, pad, phase and Low pass - the Tone Beast has several different tricks up its sleeve. It can switch from 150 to 600 ohms on the input, which allows better pairing for some mics (or just more/less gain). Next, you may chose from two different op amps in the circuit - one more vintage, the other more modern. Ditto for capacitors. While these two options are subtle, when using a 451 to record an acoustic, they were very capable of presenting a different look at the instrument. You may also choose between a steel or nickel core output transformer - the steel being more rolled off on both ends and the nickel being flatter. Also, you may remove the transformer altogether - resulting in an 8dB loss.
While all this may seem like a lot, it doesn't take very long to dial in what you are looking for. The Tone Beast has gain up the wazoo, and with individual input/output controls, you can control the amount of desired saturation.
I love this pre. I have several very nice pres already (Vintech, Neve, Pacifica, Slate Fox, Sytek) and this one holds its own with the best - at a fraction of the cost.
I also have the Warm Audio EQP-WA (2) and WA-2A - both highly recommended!
A bonus for me is that Warm Audio is located twenty minutes away, should the need for service ever arise.


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