It’s difficult to say why one preamp is better than another, we all know it could be the source that was used at the time or the mic choice in conjunction. Certainly changing the Mic I know can make a bigger immediate difference than the preamp. Or it could be that I’m under the trance of some kind of placebo effect when reading a classic name on the faceplate just convinces the ear that it ‘must be good!’.. Whatever the reason, mic preamps have their fans and getting the right chain can be just the encouragement to a singer or musician, hearing themselves in detail and larger than life character perhaps never experienced before. Also from an engineering point of view, a great signal, with a great performance, makes our job even easier (but don’t tell everybody).
Integrity II Preamp
Which brings me to the Lev Solutions Integrity II. Handcrafted in Israel by Yoram Lev and Eitan Shamai with both providing design and quality control, they have achieved to create an amazing preamp which is just so musical. There is up to 65db of gain, which makes it perfect for working with all type of mics including Ribbons, as it has clean gain in abundance. There is also a 40Hz High Pass Filter 12db/Octave on each channel alongside the Hi-Z instrument inputs on a neat, clean modern looking face panel, in an eye-catching red. The Integrity II has loads of headroom with no sound variation at any level and has only a 0.5db fluctuation between 10Hz and 35kHz.
Balanced output and input cables must be used (obviously not the instrument inputs) as the electronically balanced XLR connections have no transformer in their path, and whilst it is unlikely that any unbalanced XLR cables would be used when recording with the Integrity II, it’s always worth making the user aware. Special design has been taken to eliminate EMI and RFI throughout the unit by treating the casing for ‘passivation’.
When I was first given the prototype about 18 months ago, it didn’t quite look like it does now, but it sure sounded like it. When I plugged in my mic and started recording acoustic guitar I just wanted to keep playing. When I plugged a PBass into the DI input I wanted to just keep playing… When I recording Piano I wanted to just keep playing…You get the idea. The point, this preamp makes the musician want to play, makes them want to hear how it’s recording and consequently makes them perform better. Ok, that’s quite a statement, saying how a preamp will make a musician play better, but we all know how certain guitars make us play, or certain pianos, or how certain software kick starts our creativity. I would say the Lev Solutions II takes a perfect snapshot of the audio going into it and adds an element of extra musicality that is just pleasurable to record through. If that makes you play better, well that's no bad thing.
Lev Solutions 'Just Listen'
Currently, this is the first product by Lev Solutions, built upon the 18-year background Yoram and his head technical engineer Eitan have in recording Classical music. They required something that provided a clear, honest signal path with detail, incredible headroom with the aim to help both the musician and engineer record without compromise. There is an 8 channel version in prototype design, currently for their own studio use, but it may be something available in time, along with other products.
I feel the Lev Solutions Integrity II should be considered in the same breath as the likes of Crane Song, Grace-Design, GML and Millenia, as there is nothing about this unit that would not stand up alongside the kind of performance expected from those established brands. Lev Solutions has a tag line of 'Lev Solutions - Just Listen'. Says it all really.