Hybrid Preamp Features
A hybrid preamp contains both solid-state and tube components to boost the microphone’s signal. Most of the inexpensive (under $1,000) tube preamps that you find in the marketplace are actually hybrids. An advantage to this design approach is that the preamp can often be adjusted to have varying degrees of that warm tube sound.
The disadvantage is that these relatively inexpensive tube preamps don’t have as clear a sound as a great solid-state preamp, and they don’t have quite the same pleasing character as an expensive all-tube preamp.
For most home recordists, this type of preamp offers a lot of flexibility and can allow you to get either the fairly clear, open sound of a solid-state preamp or the warm, colored sound characteristic of a classic tube preamp. If you can afford only one external preamp, one of these hybrid versions may be right for you.
The countless hybrid preamps on the market vary widely in price and sound quality. (In fact, most of the hybrid preamps are marketed as tube preamps.) Your best bet in choosing a hybrid — or any preamp for that matter — is to do some research.
Talk to people, read reviews, visit Internet forums, and then audition the two or three that stand out to you. Choose the one that you think sounds best for your needs.