Judging from our experience, the Mic-Pre One can give your sound plenty of detail without coloration.
The Daking (pronounced dayk-ing) Mic-Pre One ($695) is built like a brick, and it's about the size of a brick as well. This single-channel outboard microphone preamp/DI benefits from sturdy, all-metal case construction, metal front and rear faceplates, and aluminum knobs that are easy to grasp. The included hard plastic feet keep the unit in place on all kinds of surfaces.
The solid-state Mic-Pre One furnishes a full range of professional controls on its compact front panel. A meter strip — 20 multicolored LEDs in a ladder array with a peak indicator — runs horizontally across the top of the faceplate, registering gain from -17 dB to +22 dB. The left-hand knob adjusts a variable highpass filter (in other words, a low-shelving cut) ranging from below 10 Hz to 200 Hz. The knob on the right governs gain from 25 dB to 70 dB.
A ¼-inch DI input is on the lower-left panel corner, next to a small green LED that indicates when the power is on. Four clear plastic switches glow in different colors when engaged: Input (blue, selects the DI), Phase (red, polarity reverse), Pad (yellow, -20 dB), and Phantom (red, 48V power).
On the vented rear panel are a balanced ¼-inch +4 dBV output and gold Neutrik balanced XLR line-out and mic-in jacks. The input transformer is a Jensen, and input impedance is 1,250Ω. A multipin jack connects to a 48 VDC in-line power supply with a standard IEC 120V connector. The Mic-Pre One has no on/off power switch.
THE GUERRILLA GAUNTLET
During a testing period of about a month, I tried the Mic-Pre One on a variety of sources at my Guerrilla Recording studio. The preamp was easy to set up and use right out of the box.
On trumpeter Nathan Wooley, the Daking Mic-Pre One paired with an AEA R84 ribbon microphone gave beautifully smooth and detailed results. Even on very quiet and muted playing, the trumpet track had lots of presence against a backdrop of guitar and drums, with no apparent high-end boosting at the preamp stage. Although I already have a few favorite preamps for use with ribbon mics, the Daking's authoritative sound and ample gain won me over.
I achieved a similarly pleasing outcome by coupling the Daking with a Neumann TLM 103 condenser mic on acoustic bass. As with the trumpet recording, the Mic-Pre One contributed to a commanding presence in the mix, yielding effortless detail and timbral balance without resorting to any audio trickery. Veteran Bay Area jazz bassist Fred Randolph was lavish in his praise of the big, open bass sound.
The Daking also worked well with the TLM 103 on a male vocalist. Though this mic sometimes can be a bit too bright on vocals, the Mic-Pre One apparently mellowed the high end slightly, passing along its smooth presence without a hint of sibilance.
However, with a female vocalist recording to tape in front of a warm Lawson L47 MP tube mic, this preamp didn't quite have the cutting power I needed. The Lawson is my first-pick vocal mic for almost any singer and musical style, but it tends to work best with a preamp that has a little extra zip in the high end. Keeping all other factors the same, I switched to a Grace 101 preamp, and the highs were restored to what I required for this track.
In a comparison with solid-state and tube DI preamps in my studio rack, the Daking scored high marks once again for clear and articulate midrange tone, with a clarity that never sounded brittle or thin. The Mic-Pre One is certainly versatile and heavy-duty enough to qualify for a job in big studios, small desktop DAW recording, or professional mobile setups. Its solid build quality and feature set make it a natural for live recording; however, portable as it is, it does not come with a carrying case or handle.
The Mic-Pre One compares favorably to several other single-channel boutique preamps, without showing any signs of compromise or cost cutting. The inclusion of an adjustable highpass filter, polarity reverse, a great-sounding DI, and dual outputs will be attractive to many users. Sonically, I found the unit to be colorless and true, conveying big tone and remarkably detailed presence without hyped high-end response. For anyone looking for a “straight wire with gain” type of preamp, I give the Daking Mic-Pre One an enthusiastic recommendation.
Value (1 through 5): 4
Geoffrey Daking & Co., Inc.