The three-space rackmount 992EG was impressive right out of the box, and I was more than just a little excited to work with such an esoteric pre. Its heavy 1/4" milled aluminum front panel, flawless powder coated finish, and top quality knobs and switches made it one sharp-looking piece, and its heavy-duty design gave the impression that it just rolled off of a tank assembly line. Peeking inside, one finds four ECC803/12AX7 and four 12AU7/6189 tubes — two for each channel — and fully balanced circuitry. So, picking my jaw up off the floor, I racked this baby up, and mentally prepared myself for what I had already assumed were going to be spectacular results.
APPLYING THE 992EG
Steve Slavich, our house engineer, first used the 992EG during a tracking session and reported, at default, a very warm, rich sound that turned brighter and punchier as the input gain was cranked. Later on, as I finally got to give it a go, I paired two Neumann KM100s up as overheads for a session with a heavy rock band and was blown away by the results — this was the best sounding pre for overheads I had ever heard. Recently, I had been using the PreSonus ADL 600 or Pacifica MP-1 in this context and had been more than pleased with the results, but the 992EG simply took the overhead’s sounds to a new level of size, seeming smooth, crisp and open simultaneously. The overall sound of the kit sounded more “analog” during mixing; the hi-hats and cymbals were transparent and detailed, with no hint of harshness.
The next big discovery was with putting the 992EG to the test when I brought in a session guitarist to help rectify a rather anemic-sounding recording. We decided to track acoustic guitar parts with his favorite Martin, in stereo, with a pair of ADK SCTs running into the 992EG. The result was impressively rich. The instrument seemed to sit perfectly in the mix, working well alongside a wall of distorted guitars, without adjusting EQ or applying heavy compression.
However, when I tried the 992EG on heavy electric guitars, it almost sounded too big, and didn’t add the grit that I tend to prefer for “in-your-face” distorted guitar tracks. It sounded great on clean electric, but for metallic guitar tracks I would tend toward a dirtier pre.
Next up was a rap project where we used the 992EG on vocals. With a Neumann U87 the vocals sounded massive, though we did need a bit more compression than usual to get this performer’s vocal tracks to sit well in the mix. But, as we were already in the session and were feeling froggy, our house engineer routed a Yamaha Motif into the 1/4" input for the key tracks and, lo and behold, colossal tone. Score one more.
While, in my opinion, everyone should be hyped up and ready to buy the 992EG, the fact of the matter is that a preamp that sounds this great is just not an easy financial acquisition. At $3,895 list, the 992EG is simply too far out of many people’s budgetary possibilities.
In addition there is another 992 unit (minus the extended gain, but designed for totally different purposes) that retails for $3,495. Both units have identical power supplies and push/pull output topologies utilizing the nickel-plated Jensen JT-11-BM transformer. The main design difference between these two units lies in their respective input topology types: The standard unit features a >50dB transformer-less input stage, with 21dB of gain assigned to the input pot while the EG variant uses the Jensen JT-115k transformer helping provide the >74dB of gain, with 41dB assigned to the input pot.
With this much gain available on the 992EG inputs alone, I often found myself using the input pad in order to prevent distortion, though the distortion was very smooth and sometimes hard to notice. According to LaChapell Audio, this input/output gain ratio is primarily meant to attract those using ribbon mics, so take that into consideration if you are in the market and trying to decide which version will best suit your needs.
All in all, I just can’t say enough good things about this pre. It’s clear that years of careful research and development went into creating this unique piece. This is a true work of art.
Product Type: Two-channel, all-tube microphone preamp.
Target Market: Primarily professional level recordists or project studios that don’t mind spending the extra dollars for a flagship pre.
Strengths: Huge sound. Solidly constructed and loaded with premium components. Shines on acoustic instruments.
Limitations: No line input, no low cut filters.
Price: $3,895 list.