GML 2032

[$3,000, massenburg.com]
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Pop up to allmusic.com and enter the name “George Massenburg.” Click over to his credits and prepare to be impressed. The man’s musical resume reads like a “who’s who” of stellar artists. But Massenburg’s engineering/mixing/producing credits are only a part of the story. He’s very active as an educator, and is a big part of projects such as the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress, and the P&E (Producers and Engineering) Wing of the Recording Academy.

But even that isn’t the whole story; Massenburg is the “GM” in “GML” — George Massenburg Labs — where he designs and builds high-end professional audio equipment. In fact, as a designer, he’s credited with coming up with the concept of parametric EQ. Impressive credentials. . . .

So when a piece of GML equipment arrives at your studio door, you rightfully expect a lot. And in my experience, you’re going to get it. GML equipment doesn’t tend to be loaded with lots of unnecessary features and extraneous garbage. When George designs something, it’s functions are targeted at maximum usefulness in the studio, with minimum hassle and messing around. Since George is an engineer himself, he knows what engineers need, and his boxes are intended to meet that need.

The 2032 I received for review is no different. The 2032 is a single-channel unit comprising the mic preamp from the GML 8300 and the 4-band fully parametric EQ from the reference-quality 8200. The transformer-less preamp has a stepped gain control with 5dB increments, and a continuous Fine control with ±5dB range. The preamp can take its input from the back panel mic in or the front panel instrument input. Immediately following the preamp is a switchable high-pass filter with 40Hz and 100Hz settings. A switchable insert loop lets you insert another processor between the preamp and EQ, or operate the preamp and EQ completely independently, with their own ins and outs. The EQ is also bypassable if you just want to use the pre. All connections are on XLRs. Unlike other GML products, the power supply is built-in and included in the price.

But this is going to be short and sweet: The 2032 kills! In other words, it sounds great, and is easy to use. The preamp is clear and uncolored, with a rich, detailed sound. It’s definitely among the best I’ve used for straight-wire applications. The filter is transparent, and the EQ seems to have no “bad” settings. You can crank the gain and somehow things remain musical sounding. Very impressive. I used the 2032 to track vocals, steel- and nylon-string acoustic guitars, and electric guitar. I used the preamp and EQ while tracking, and the EQ without the preamp during mixdown. In a word, I was thrilled.

I loaned the 2032 to engineer/producer David Stewart, who took it to his DSL Studios in Louisville, Kentucky, where he used it on rock band sessions. His comments: “The GML 2032 has overall amazing sound. In every way I can measure or think about sound quality, this thing was among the best I’ve ever used. Very, very clean and clear sounding, without the slightest hint of stridence.”

David was also impressed with the 2032’s EQ section: “It really is one of the sweetest sounding EQs I’ve ever heard. It’s hard to describe the character. Perhaps ‘smooth and silky’? It’s clearly a fine, precision instrument.”

The GML 2032 isn’t cheap — it clocks in at $3,000 retail. But you’re buying into one of the best preamp/EQ channel strips available. The preamp is rich and detailed, the EQ is powerful and sweet, and you can even separate the preamp and EQ and use them independently. The 2032 excels at clean, uncolored recording applications. I loved it on virtually every source for its detail and rich tone. Another winner from the G-man.