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  • DTar Solstice Preamp

    It's time to give credit where credit is due.  I really feel this preamp has not gotten the exposure and the accolades it deserves.

    From the designers based in Santa Barbara, California, DTar, a partner/subsidiary of Seymour Duncan, comes one of the most sonically wonderful preamp/mixers I have ever played through.  

    I am a guitar player, but I have heard great things about using this preamp with other instruments such as violins, violas, cellos, stand up basses and others.  If you have a just one pickup of just about any design, or, a combination of pickups, I would recommend you try this preamp/mixer out.

    My experience; I have been playing guitar since I was about 9 years old. I am semi-retired now.  I don't play "professionally" in the comercial sense, but music is a huge part of what I do in life.  I play pretty much one or two days a week in front of small to larger groups.  I also do some recording.

    I have an acoustic guitar with an older Fishman system in it. The guitar is a rosewood with spruce top of an older '98 custom Taylor design.  The pickup configuration is a combination of a Crown microphone set hovering in the sound hole, and a Piezo pickup set under the saddle. Fishman, at least at one time, provided one or more of these type pickups to Martain.  I did not want to cut a hole in the side of the guitar to mount the Fishman preamp, so I opted to use a stereo out jack and run the two signals into a Fishman outboard preamp/mixer.  It is "ok" but nothing stellar in terms of tone. I still keep it in the case for when I can't bring the Solstice with me, but I sure miss the Solstice when I don't have it! I wanted to explore other preamp/mixer options.  I looked at several options out there and came across this unit.

    I have been using this setup for about two years now in all kinds of situations, and of all the setups I have tried, this really proves to be the most versatile and just really sonically pleasing of any I have used.  

    The inputs are "intelligent".  When I plug the stereo output of the guitar into the channel 1 input of the preamp, it automatically assigns the Piezo pickup to channel 1, and the Crown microphone to channel 2. You can use up to 4 pickups/microphones in combinations of balanced and un-balanced configurations, mixed with two seperate channels. The tone and volume settings for each are completely discrete for each pickup/channel.  The tone controls truly give me real and meaningful adjustments.  Phantom power, input padding, all the mixing features short of a parametric tone control is all provided.  To be honest, I have never had the thought that this would be a better unit if it did have parametric tone adjustments.  It just "feels" un-necessary in action.  It has an effects insert with it's own mix control.  It has a tuner out.  Just about any combination of devices and ports I have ever needed for the purpose.

    I usually use a Strymon "Blue Sky" reverb peddle in the effect insert. Sometimes maybe a touch of a Strymon delay, but I usually don't really need it.  But even dry, the sound I get is what I would want and expect.  I can dial in more bite for the acoustic/electric feel, or, define a very "acoustic guitar mic'ed" tone.  Most of the time I plug into a very clean and simple keyboard amp like a Roland KC, or, just straight into the board.  I love the feel and the "touch" response of this sound.  It's maybe like driving a very nice sports car; responsive, and just really fun to play.

    I think the "secret" of this preamp is the very discrete and quality components used in the design.  It's sonically as quiet as can be and the tone doesn't feel "colored" or "characterized" in any way.  It just sounds like my very nice guitar faithfully amplified.

    If I had one little tiny opinion about this unit, and this by no means has really any bearing as to the quality or usefulness of the device, is that it's not exactly "sexy" to look at.  It's kinda' "retro" looking if your are into that.  It's a completely pragmatic design that just works very well.  It would be nice if it was in a black and sleek enclosure, but it is in no way a deal breaker for me.

    So if you are an acoustic player, especially with one or more pickups, but no onboard preamp, I would without any hesitation recommend you give this wonderful preamp/mixer a try.

    Full disclosure: I do not work for ANY of the companies mentioned in this article.  I am just a very satisfied customer.

    For more information, you can find more information at:

    Dtar | Duncan Turner Research: http://www.d-tar.com/solstice.shtml
    Strymon: http://www.strymon.net/products/bluesky/
    Roland: http://www.rolandus.com/products/details/253

    Happy playing!

    John













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