Daking 52270B

Vintage-style preamp/EQ with transformer-balanced I/O
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Geoffrey Daking takes a “vintage” approach to designing pro audio gear. Not only do the units have the look and feel of time-proven models, but they’re designed using a similar philosophy: all discrete Class A circuits, transformers for balancing on input and output, and no surface-mount construction.

Case in point is the 52270B mic preamp/EQ, which has a heavy stainless-steel chassis, engraved aluminum knobs, and heavy laminated faceplate. The 52270B is powered from an external power supply, which connects to the channel unit using a multipin cable. A power supply can drive up to four channels at once, saving money if you need more preamps/EQs.

The preamp section of the 52270B is straight-ahead: There’s a 10-position stepped input gain control and a continuous output level control. Switches select the line input, turn on a 20-dB pad, activate 48V phantom power, and reverse polarity. Preamp mute and hardware EQ bypass switches light up when depressed — the only indication that AC power is flowing into the unit.

The EQ section has four semi-parametric bands (you can select frequency and adjust gain, but not bandwidth): a low shelf, a low-mid band, a high-mid band, and a high shelf. In addition to the global hardware EQ bypass, each band can be individually bypassed, and offers 15 dB of boost/cut. Also included are a lowpass filter that operates at 20 kHz and a highpass filter at 25 Hz.

IN USE
I bypassed the EQ, and dove right in, tracking heavy rhythm guitar parts. The Daking preamp immediately distinguished itself with fat low-end and great mids. My Marshall 4x12 sounded thick and thumpy, with tons of chunk. The highs were solid without harshness or fizziness, and with nicely rounded detail.

On vocals, the 52270B has a round low-end, with smooth midrange and lovely extended top end. The preamp responds faithfully to the dynamics in the source vocal. With its smooth midrange and fat bottom, the 52270B is a good match for a thinner voice, or one with problems with harshness or nasal tone. It doesn’t have the presence that some preamps have, but I didn’t find this a problem in my tracking and mixing sessions.

For nylon string guitar, the 52270B gave the inexpensive guitar I was using a real boost in low-end girth and punch. The mids were smooth and natural sounding, while the extended high end added a nice sense of air around the detail.

As mentioned above, each channel of the 52270B lives in its own chassis — unfortunately there’s no way to link them together for true stereo operation. This isn’t much of an issue when you’re using it solely as a preamp, but it can be if you’re using the 52270B during mixdown, as the EQ gain controls are continuous, not stepped. However, this independence makes it easier to use the units as multiple mono channels.

Speaking of the EQ in the 52270B, the unit has a ton of power and flexibility. The EQ is best suited for broad shaping applications, since you can’t dial in the bandwidth for tight surgical cuts or boosts. As a sound-shaper, the 52270B excels. Remember that smooth midrange I mentioned above? If you want more presence, a quick twist of the upper-midrange knob, a dB or so of gain, and it’s right there. At the time of this review, I have 11 or 12 high-end preamps in my studio. It was simple to simulate the sound of most of them (the solid-state units, anyway) using the 52270B and its EQ. I also found the EQ useful for shaping stereo mixes.

VERDICT
I have no significant complaints to report on the Daking 52270B — and perhaps more important, I was quite pleased with its strengths. But you’d expect little else when you combine a pure, round, extended preamp with great dynamics alongside a broadly powerful sound-shaping EQ. If you’re looking for a preamp/EQ with vintage tone and lots of flexibility, you’ve found it with the Daking 52270B.