The name Geoff Daking has become synonymous with quality-built, great-sounding studio recording gear. He is well respected for his FET Compressor II, Mic-Pre/EQ, and custom consoles. He recently entered the multi-channel mic preamp arena with the Mic- Pre IV. The Mic-Pre IV is attractively priced at $1,895 for a 1RU unit with four fantastic-sounding, discrete Class-A preamps with Jensen input and output transformers. These preamps are based on the venerable Trident A-Range and are the same preamps Geoff uses in his consoles and his Mic-Pre/EQ, minus the EQ and extra output stage.
The preamp's layout is simple, with all four channels laid out the same. Each channel has a 1/4'' input, followed by five push-button switches for front input select, line select, 20 dB pad, phantom power, and phase reverse. Gain adjustment is provided in 5 dB increments by an 11-position rotary switch; the lack of wiper components means none of the problems a potentiometer can have (you know, that scratchy sound), and recall of settings is extremely precise. A bar-style LED meter; with its high-resolution and speed, allows you to see the faster transient peaks in complex signals like drums. There is no power switch, and as with all Daking devices, the power supply is external. The only way you can tell visually if the unit is on is by seeing the meters dance to input signal.
I recorded all types of sounds and instruments (including a hammer dulcimer!) with the Mic-Pre IV, and it sounded smooth and pleasing. It handled all my mics-including low-output ribbons-with robust level and headroom to spare. It was darn hard to distort this preamp, and in fact, the tape distorted before the preamp did. Drums sounded huge, and I really liked the way the room mic opened up with a well-defined bottom end. Electric guitars sounded full and warm (in fact, you could even use that bovine description).
On acoustic guitars, the high-resolution meters really came in handy, and I was able to dial the mic placement in very quickly by watching the meter while I moved the mic around. You can see those bright green bars from quite far away. It is not uncommon for me to contribute some performances on the records I engineer, and when I do, I have to set my own levels. This often makes for a few trips back and forth from booth to control room for some knob twisting. The incremental gain knob and hi-vis meter sped things up quite a bit, and I was able to focus on the overdub.
While tracking with the Mic-Pre IV, having total confidence in the quality of the signal being recorded was a great feeling. Having my ears confirm that feeling upon playback-and seeing the grins of everyone in the room-was an even better feeling. At about $474 per channel, the Daking is quite a bit more pricey than say the Mackie Onyx (reviewed in this issue) but is much cheaper than the SSL mic pre I reviewed in Tape Op #43. For a great sounding, Class- A discrete mic pre with Jensen transformers on inputs and outputs, this is a great deal. ($2,895 MSRP, $1895 street; www.daking.com)