I know the best preamps are usually the standalone ones. But the way I see it, if I'm gonna buy a mixer (to provide flexible monitoring options when tracking a band), might as well get the one with the best preamps available, that can always come handy. We're talking sub-500$ here, 4 mic preamps is sufficient. We have: Mackie VLZ Mackie Onyx Soundcraft Yamaha Alesis (now with firewire!) Allen & Heath (their cheapest mixer is 200$ above budget but it does have 8 mic preamps instead of 4) (I'm keeping Behringer out, I have a UB802 and those are some crappy harsh and sterile pres!) I'm leaning toward the Soundcraft, am I right? The Onyx pres are supposedly good but the price of entry is considerably higher. If the Alesis pres are decent, that makes it a really nice contender with the new firewire option (utilizing the same converters as the HD24). 500$ gives you 8 pres and 18 channels of A/D conversion!