I took my preamp in for repair.
Then I got it back.
Then I took it in for repair again.
IT’s back again, and it seems to be much happier now, but MAN it was ticking me off.
According to a tech I talked to at, well, one of the only Focusrite authorized service centers in North America (Las Vegas), the gear from that era has a predilection for bad switches. And that in fact was what went wrong. The compressor stage had a bad switch that was shorting out and introducing large amounts of noise. Since it was out of warantee, I just took it to Full Compass (on my way to work, even) and got it repaired – for a not insignificant sum of money.
I brought it home…well, it was better, but it still popped and crackled on its own, with no input.
Back to Full Compass it goes, and a little bit of snide-unhappy-customer-voice later they agreed to check it out and probably fix it for free. Which, I’m happy to say, they did. I picked it up, pluged it in, and it no longer starts up with a horrible blast of static, and doesn’t pop and buzz anymore. Now begins the annoying process of resetting all my preferred settings, retuning the de-esser, resetting the compressor, getting the levels right…then I can record vocals again! Hurrah!
Still, a pain in the ass and it set my plans of buying a UAD-1 back a ways.