So I'm sure a lot of you have heard the name "Daking" floating around this forum. I've been lucky enough to go on a little splurge and add a nice little preamp to my studio. And what a preamp it is.
Ins, Outs, Ups and Downs
Relatively straight forward, it's just a one-channel pre with mic and line options and a very useful HPF, phase invert and pad. I won't go into numerical detail as this can be found in the manual and various online documents; suffice it to say, it's very well laid out and the build quality is top notch. Ergonomically, the pots are both a good size and the turning mechanism feels very positive and strong. Out the box, this pre feels very good and solid... It also looks good, especially with its very generous meter...
Around the Sound
This thing sounds great.
OK, so what is its sound? Of course, it's difficult to describe sound in words, but if I were to try, I'd say it's a fairly neutral tone, but with a slight warmth and punch to it. It does not really colour the sound a great deal, but it seems to enhance it somewhat, giving a clear warmth and solidity to the lows and the highs seem very smooth all the way to the top. Never did the sound get harsh or strained or thin. Lower in the gain-stage, the sound is very clear, quiet and neutral. Further up in the stages, however, the sound starts to get a bit more rich and warmer, with a slight punch added. This pre really does stack very well and I'd be very happy making a recording with numerous channels of this.
I often record saxophone (... especially online session work, which requires a good clean sound) and I've used a UA710, Groove Tubes Brick and Sytek. The Daking really reproduces the sound of the sax very faithfully, allowing nuance and performance to stand out. It's a great, clean and warm sound, with smoothness and clarity all the way up the scale. On violin this works very well too, with enough character to impart a little something for more modern music styles, but clean enough at low settings to allow for a purer, more classical sound. Compared to the above preamps, the Daking really does stand out as very classy. Even though the UA has the added warmth of a tube in the circuit, the Daking's sound is far more solid and the warmth it imparts feels much deeper.
On percussion and drums, this pre is probably best suited to snare / bass drum because of its clear lows. The snare's "crack" and the kick's thump are both very clear and punchy. The MPO works especially well with an SM7B or 57 on a guitar amp. What can I say... it's just punchy, solid and big, especially when engaging the pad and turning the gain as far as possible! big and smooth.
One slight problem I had with the pre was with brighter mics. Mic'ing up a guitar amp with too bright a mic can make the tone sting just a little bit. This can be tamed with a touch of EQ, but it's better to stick with slightly more neutral / less hyped mics with this pre.
A Final Note
As someone who records a variety of instruments and genres (sessions, Jazz, film music, etc), I've found this pre to tick all the boxes. Just one note, be careful not to pair it up with too bright a mic, as the sound can get a bit too toppy (for my tastes at least). Overall, This is a fantastic sounding preamp. We're onto a real winner here
This box has 2 great features. A good peak meter and a very good analog Hpf.
The build quality is superb. It seems that if you throw it high and let it crash, it won't hurt it a bit. The potensiometers are very smooth and of very high quality. The sound you get is very similar to its bigger brothers and it shows because it also has that "iron" in the sound and the profound presence of the Daking pres. But it's also a lot clearer because it lacks the output transformer. (The input Jensen transformer is present). I use it primarily as a snare/under snare pre and it shines there. Sometimes it gives me the best acoustic guitar (according to my guitarist/singer also). The only drawback i feel it has, is the price. I'd prefer a stereo pair for a couple hundred euros more and without the hpf. This mono version shouldn't go above 600€.
I have to add that it is a very nice looking machine with its green metal cell and the silver big smooth pots and the big peak meter.
Overall it's a very good sounding pre, very true to the classic Daking sound, delivering the same sonic footprint with few (sound) compromises and good visual and technical features. Money well spent.
A very expensive sounding mic pre for not too much money.
Awesome Sound, Nice Features, Very Versatile
I've found most mics in general to sound very good with this mic pre. It's quite flat sounding but seems to capture more 12k to 18k of the mics. I don't believe there is actually a peak in the pre there but it just sounds like it captures a bit more top end of most mics. In saying that the sound is very full and the high pass filter is super handy for blocking out a bit of extra rumble/background noise that might be for example subs from traffic etc... It's only one preamp in a box for double the price of some other dual preamps in a rack but it does sound much better than anything else I've heard under the $800 mark.
No Power Button
For something this expensive it should have a power button! Preamps a quarter of the price of this one come with a simple on off button or switch.There is no power button so if you're like me and can't access a power board or power point to switch it on and off you have to unplug the power cable from the back of it. However, there are power sockets these days that you can get where you can plug a device into it and switch it on and off with a remote control so you could always do that.
No Output Level Knob, Only Preamp Gain
A lot of preamps come with an output gain which lets you adjust the level being sent to your DAW without having to crank the preamp gain up louder or softer. This is useful as the more you crank up the preamp gain the more background noise is going to be audible. Many people would find it handier to be able to lower the preamp gain a little but be able to turn up the output gain. It means if room noise or outside noise is an issue you need to record at a little quieter than other preamps.
There is no insert available on the back of the unit but without an output level knob it's not really a big deal you will have to run it as a line to your compressor or whatever
Can't Be Rack Mounted
If you're like me and have your racks within reach you will have to find another place for this unit as it can't be rack mounted. Also I really don't like the green casing.
Despite the lack of some logical features, it sounds amazing and is my go to preamp. If you need something that sounds great on a lot of different mics and sources you can't go wrong with this preamp. The little box isn't going to make people go 'wow' in your studio when just looking at it. The wow will come later from hearing it! You might wanna consider some of Dakings Racks if you have the cash instead but if you want that Daking sound for under a grand, get this.