This is my review of the Hairball Gold pre. I built this from the DIY kit. This review will be mainly in two parts - a brief review of the DIY aspect and the actual use of the preamp. The build guide for the Elements preamps is pretty good. It's not super specific on some components, so you will have to do a little research and cross referencing between the BOM and guide and even manufacturer web sites. My favorite build guides are the specific ones that leave little to no room for confusion and questions about components. There are a few capacitors that are quite hard to identify(especially if you've no LCR meter) by the BOM and guide, however some careful sleuthing of completed build pics can sometimes be helpful. Be warned, there are some slight cap type changes in old photos of the builds that I noticed, so that method is not foolproof! Other than that, the build guide is very good, explaining very important facts about your components such as capacitor polarity on some electrolytics as well as transistor and diode directions. Overall I think the guide is quite adequate. My favorite feature is the PCB silkscreen overlay page. This page shows the list of components and a picture below of the PCB. You simply click on the component designation i.e. R201 - 200R - and it will light up on the PCB picture below where this component should go on the board. It makes keeping track of which components you've installed, and finding their place, much easier. Just keep clicking on the component list until they are all lit up and you know you're done! Onto the hardware and sound. The unit itself is top quality. Components and all. A+. From the anodized aluminum front panel to the vishay components to the transformers and shielding case, it's all quite nice. I rather like the shielding case. It provides some electrical noise insulation as well as protects your components. I can't tell you how many times I have fought getting a module in a slot when the 500 rack is not turned up. Watch out for exposed components of nearby units! The casing solves this. The knobs seem like aluminum to me, if not a tough plasic. They are quite lightweight compared to other metal knobs, which makes me think they are aluminum. They do have some fluting to better assist in turning the suckers. I opted for the Grayhill stepped input gain option, and they implemented it nicely. It mounts via pins to a small PCB that is populated with the gain resistor set. The mini resistors are a tad tricky to install here so I opted to install them about halfway through the project instead of the very end when I am most fatigued. The sound - Big, pretty, musical clean. Every transient and note is accurately capture and served up to you in a sweet and musical way. There is plenty of detail and there is a slight color to things. Very subtle. To me it sounds big. Almost a tad larger than life. I worry a bit about preamps that make things obviously huge sounding because they are more of a "hot or cold" tool. You can't use it on every instrument in a mix or you'll run out of room and the bigness factor is lost as there is nothing smaller to compare it to. The Gold handles this perfectly as it is slightly large, but just the right amount. Safe to use as much as you want, or to just reserve it for your main instrument or vocal.(Or background vocalist is she's your girlfriend. You know she want's you to push her fader up.) The low end extension is quite adequate by any measure, and the top is open without being irritating at all. There is just this feel of musicality and subtle sweetness along with the incredible detail that makes the Gold my favorite clean preamp I have tried so far. I don't think I would like totally clean preamps and so I feel this is the perfect "clean" preamp for me. Just that hint of extra magic takes it from what would be dangerously close to sterile and makes it stunning. If I had 8 or so of these, my jazz, acoustic guitar, piano and classical recordings would be all set. I'd reach for these first without hesitation. EQ wise I would say it is fairly flat. I don't perceive any mid forwardness or scoop, or high end lift(though it is definitely open up top). Many clean preamps suffer from a light bottom end, but this is not the case with the Gold. Even through the D.I. on the front panel, there is a nice wide, clear, deep low end to the pre. It is said that this preamp takes many of it's cues from the venerable Hardy M-1 design(also a design based around the Deane Jensen 990 op-amp) and though I have never used a Hardy M-1, I can say I find myself experiencing and describing many of the sonic features and adjectives that users of the M-1 describe. Customer Service - Mike is a nice fellow who was very attentive to my needs for a resistor I either lost or was missing from my kit. He shipped it out to me ASAP and got me up and running. He's a nice guy, but quite busy - so don't expect a super fast email turnaround. After all, this is a small business. I know what it's like. He's probably busy working with suppliers and lasering/cutting houses, building preamps and packing and shipping out orders. So there isn't a surplus of time for communications, though he will get around to you. So, if you are looking to support a small business that makes high quality USA made audio equipment, consider Hairball Audio. I admit, the name threw me at first, but I have no room to talk as my own company is Rumpelstiltskin Pickups. I think the Gold is an excellent choice if you want an accurate signal that is slightly big, sweet and musical at the same time. Until next time... Rumpelstiltskin - out!