The GML 2032 is a single-channel preamp/equalizer that draws from the designs of the GML 8300 mic preamp series and the GML 8200 equalizer, adds a high-impedance instrument input on the front panel, and does it all in a 1U-height chassis. With a street price around $2750, the 2032 costs about the same as other high-end channel strips.

Under the hood, the 2032 is the first unit in the GML line to employ an internal power supply. External power supplies, although more expensive, are often prized for their ability to reduce the noise floor of gear. But this fact should not deter potential buyers. The 2032 is pretty darned quiet in its own right. It is clear that the GML team spent considerable time implementing a quiet, toroidal power transformer and even more time orienting it inside the unit. In total, hum and noise are at a minimum. Furthermore, a ground strap can be found on the back of the unit for those who require such a feature.

Detailed specifications and information can be found on the GML website, but one feature is too cool to ignore mentioning here. The unit has an insert/break- point between the mic preamp and EQ sections. At first, this seemed like a regular sidechain for things like a compressor or de-esser. But it's actually much more. Users can opt to configure the 2032 sections for inline or independent operation. For example, the mic preamp could be used for a singer, while the EQ could be used on a synth track. You could ignore the mic preamp and use the EQ during mixdown, and so on. In short, it's like having two pieces of GML gear at your disposal. Of course, you can always ignore this feature and run the preamp into the equalizer.

In terms of sound, I didn't know what to expect. I had read on a web board that one guy's cousin had a friend who knew a girl who rented an 8302 preamp and said it was dark and wooly sounding. So, I kind of expected the 2032 to have a lot of gain and no high end. Boy was that impression wrong! (Digression: web boards can be overrun with clowns who just repeat stuff they read somewhere, but never actually do any recording. When in doubt, test things for yourself.)

The 2032 was open, clear, articulate, and very dimensional. For example, we recorded a solo acoustic guitar using a pair of AKG C 1000 mics. We pitted the 2032 against the preamps in our Sony MXP-3036 console. (The Sony preamps are generally transparent in the vein of Grace Design or TRUE Systems). We level matched both tracks and cross faded the Sony into the GML after a few bars. (I didn't know which preamp was first during the test.) The Sony provided an accurate representation across a wide frequency range. Subtleties such as fret noise and thumb picking were captured with clarity. But when the track faded into the GML, it was like going from mono to surround sound! The 2032 seemed more complete in every way. There seemed to be more detail across all frequencies while conveying a sense of depth, as well. I was no longer listening to a good recording-it was like I was in the room with the performer. Fading back into the Sony preamp seemed to "flatten' the recording, making us miss the 2032 immediately.

On other sources, the mic preamp presented the same full sound. High frequency items, such as cymbals, sounded sparkling without being harsh; cymbal transients are notoriously difficult to resolve and provide a great way to separate good gear from phenomenal gear. Vocals were rich and present with almost every mic we tried, from a vintage U 87 to an RE20. When paired with a Royer R-121, the 2032 had more than enough gain to bring the most out of the ribbon mic. I found this reassuring, because most of the time, we had the gain set at 7 PM on the dial; I was starting to wonder if we would ever get to actually turn that knob!

Next, we tested the DI. Using the 2032 as a direct box for bass guitar was like pulling up to your class reunion in a Lamborghini. The GML captured every nuance in a clean, yet musical way. But things got really out of hand as soon as we engaged the equalizer. Within a few seconds, we surgically cut "honk" with one band and used the others to bring out some rich lows and boost articulation in the high-mids. Rick Romanelli, who was playing the test tracks using a P-bass just sat there with his mouth open. Actually, we both did. We must have looked like two kids who just saw Santa at the mall.

You could justify purchasing the 2032 for the preamp alone, which I would rank among the best I have had the pleasure of using. But add the direct input, equalizer, and ability to choose inline or independent operation, and the 2032 becomes much more than "just another" high-end channel strip. In both sound and function, this is a top- tier device worth every penny of the asking price. ($3,000 MSRP;

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

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