I've had this in my studio for a few months now but didn't have much chance to use it until recently. To be honest, one of the reasons I didn't use it much is because I have several other mic pres/compressors that cost quite a bit more than this one and that sound really great. But once I finally used this a bit, I was quite impressed. Sonically it holds up quite well next to my more expensive mic-pres and it's much more versatile than any of them, with an expansive array of features. Starting with the input, there's a mic, line or instrument level inputs, a gain pot, 48V power, phase reverse and 100 Hz hi-pass. Next is the dynamics, which has minimal controls but actually works pretty well. The gate, for instance, has only a threshold pot and two-position release switch, which based on other 'simple' gates I've used, I was skeptical about. But, I used it on a bottom snare mic and the gate worked well and the release was very musical sounding. There's also a de-ess feature with a male/female switch and a compressor with threshold and ratio controls (plus make-up gain) that sounds good. One place this unit really shines is the EQ section with a fully parametric mid section that covers most of the needed audio frequencies. This is appreciated, as I've used other channel strips where the EQ leaves a big hole between 200 Hz to 800 Hz that you can't get to and this is where I find myself needing to do a lot of EQ during tracking, particularly cutting low mids. Next comes the three band 'Tubesound" circuit with I was also a bit skeptical about, but which again sounds really good. Without the tubesound, this is a very clean channel. With the tubesound turned up a bit, it starts to show some character more like older British gear. And then finally there's a master output gain to set your level to tape or computer. Overall, I'm pretty impressed with this unit especially for the price. If I was just beginning to put together a studio I would seriously consider picking one of these up. ($629, www.drawmer.com, www.transaudiogroup.com)

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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