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Trident 80B 500 Pre-Amp — A Mix Real-World Review

We dive deep into the new Trident Audio Developments Series 80B 500 Pre-amp, now available as a 500 Series module.

Trident 80B 500 Pre-Amp
THE TAKEAWAY: “The Trident 80B sounded great, and the filters were very gentle in their effect(s).”
COMPANY: Trident Audio Developments •
PRICE: $649.99 MSRP
• Great little workhorse mic pre that is not crazy expensive.
• Mic Gain control knob could use detents.

The new Trident Audio Developments Series 80B 500 Pre-amp, essentially the sound and electronic design of the legendary Trident 80B console preamp from the late ’70s and early ’80s, is now available as a single-slot, single-channel 500 Series module. The 80B is the fourth Trident 500 module now available in a line that includes the 80B EQ, the A-Range EQ (two slots) and the ever-useful Hi-Lo Tracking Filters.

The Trident 80B 500 Series Microphone Preamp has both Line and Mic inputs and runs Class-AB. It uses a Lundahl LL1538 mic input transformer, plus an electronically balanced line input available using a front panel 1⁄4-inch TRS jack.

The Line input impedance is specified at 1-megohm, making it perfect for direct guitars, basses, electronic keyboards and synths.

Gain for the microphone input is specified at -10 dB to +65 dB, while the Hi-Z Line input has a range of -20 dB to +20 dB. Another Lundahl LL1517 transformer is used for the output, for a maximum of +27 dBu driving 600-ohm impedances.

Back in the day, Trident used Bellclaire transformers in the original design, and Trident’s current product designer, Taz Bhogal, says that the Lundahl transformers’ design make them the closest fit to retain all the characteristics of the classic 80B sound. That sound differs significantly from the sound of the Trident A-Range, which runs Class-A and uses Ed Reichenbach’s Jensen JT-13K transformers.


Because of the dual inputs, the 80B can handle a wide range of signal levels—anywhere from -60 dBu (XLR Mic input) to as high as +24 dBu (Line input) without an attenuator (pad) switch. There are separate Gain controls for both the low impedance (150-ohm) mic input and the high-impedance line input.

A Line switch toggles between the two inputs so you are able to maintain separate settings for recording both an XLR mic and a direct instrument. I liked the “calibration” mark on the front panel by the Line level input control knob that represents a standardized setting. There is also a detent at 0 dB on the Line control (straight up at 12 noon) for recalls and/or returning to a standard operating level. I love that all the Trident 500 modules retain the aluminum control knobs from the original consoles.

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Besides the Line input changeover switch, the front panel has lighted buttons for flipping output Polarity, 48-volt phantom on/off, and switches for both the continuously variable 30 – 350 Hz Low Pass and 2 – 20 kHz High Pass filters. Both filters are available for both mic and line input sources.

I found these 12 dB/octave (second-order) filters perfectly suited to tracking any source in the studio, from close-miked acoustic guitars to lead vocals to drum overheads. The front panel rounds out with an Output VU meter using eight colored LEDs to measure output levels from -20 dB to +15 dB.

For this review, I received two Trident 80B 500 Series Microphone Pre-amps, and I installed them in my API 6B 500 Rack. The full-sized square buttons and the bright, focused VU meter LEDs were easy to see and verify from across my control room.


To get an overall feel for the sound and operation of these preamps, my first tests involved bringing out my Jensen mic splitter transformer box (with JT-MBE-E) to feed the same mic signal to both the Trident 80B and several other preamps in my collection that I know well and use all the time. This way of comparing preamps—i.e., using the same mic—can reveal a lot about the differences in their general sound quality, noise floor, and pleasant or harsh overload characteristics with hot signals.

I started by recording a new Fuchs Clean Machine II guitar amp plugged into a 30-watt, 12-inch Hellatone speaker in an Avatar open-back cabinet. I tried both a Shure MV-7 dynamic mic and Mojave MA-D, positioned in my usual locations on and around the speaker cone. Here, slight changes in the mic positioning were easy to discern—as they should be—even with loud guitar sounds.

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The front-panel markings on the 80B matched my other preamps with the same 30 – 40 dB of gain usually required for close-miked, loud guitar amps and typical dynamic microphones. The 80B was clear-sounding, realistically picking up the increased headroom of this boutique guitar amp’s dynamics. I grew to appreciate the continuously variable High-Pass filter on the 80B for reining in low-frequency bumps and high-frequency harshness when required; adjustable HPF and LPF filters typically appear only on console channel strips.


Vocals also shined when passing through with the Trident 80B. I have my Trident Decca-Dent 500 rack mounted at the top of my outboard cabinets so I can adjust them immediately. Depending on the singer, sometimes I will do some old-school gain “riding” while in Record, and the continuously variable gain control makes that easy.

Because of the 80B’s semi-parametric filter control knobs, there is no room for an Output level control on the front panel, and I do wish the mic gain control knob had detents to add a “feel” for this process. Having said that, the precise mic gain control and the 80B’s inherent dynamic range and low noise floor makes gain riding less necessary in order to still sound transparent.

I put up a David Bock U195 cardioid condenser (normal mode, no low cut), with my singer positioned about 8 to 10 inches away. I used around 50 dB of gain, which gave me plenty of level going into a Retro Instruments 176 Limiting Amplifier.

The Trident 80B sounded great, and the filters were very gentle in their effect(s), with the HPF set at 50 Hz or lower for singers, or acoustic guitars set at 50 to 150 Hz, depending on the mic, its distance, and the guitar’s body size. The LPF did work well on cymbals and hi-hats, though for me, that is usually a mix decision.

The Trident 80B 500 Pre-Amp sounds great and took me back to the times of my youth using Trident consoles. It’s all there!