PreSonus Blue TubePreSonus is known for offering quality gear at low prices, but the really cool thing is that the company consistently hits low price points for its premium products (such as the MP20 mic preamp, which picked up an EM Editors' Choice award last year).
In the amazingly affordable category ("It's the price, stupid!") is the Blue Tube, a half-rackspace, stereo mic/instrument preamp with features galore - not the least of which is a tube circuit with independent drive controls for dialing in tube distortion to taste. The mic preamps share a Sovtek 12AX7 tube and feature dual-servo gain stages, meaning no capacitors. Each channel provides a handy Neutrik combo connector on the front panel that accepts either XLR or 1/4-inch inputs (for mic or DI), as well as phantom power, a 20 dB pad, polarity reversal, and 8-segment output meters.
We won't fudge by suggesting that this is the quietest preamp we've heard. But considering its price and feature set, the Blue Tube will prove hard to beat. It's great as a quick distortion box for electric guitars or for fattening up digital samples or keyboards, and our reviewer liked being able to dial in tube warmth when recording stereo direct to DAT. To top it off, the Blue Tube is sturdily constructed and even kind of cute. Let us know if you hear of a better value in tube-based, stereo mic preamps.