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Grace Design M101

Grace Design m101

4.4 4.4 out of 5, based on 5 Reviews

The Grace M101 Preamp is quite possibly the best preamplifier on the market @ around $550-600 range.


6th December 2011

Grace Design m101 by gt2009

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 2 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Grace Design M101

The Grace M101 preamplifier has been firing up my Shure KSM-32 for some-time now, and I have to say that I am very impressed with its clarity.

Starting with the design, it's nice and slim yet built like a tank as far as the outside Metal (Aluminum?) casing. Being the equipment junkie that I am, I can (and have) pretty much set anything on top of the M101 and it's a beast, no problems. It's also a sleek black color with silver knobs. I call mine the Batmobile: chicks dig it, and my microphone sings to it.

Its controls are not overwhelming at all, which is a plus for the ever-busy Home Recorder. It's got the standard 48v phantom power - and plenty of gain for even a dynamic mic such as the Shure SM7-b! Woot, woot! The Microphone gain goes from 10db to 65db, and in easy-to-remember increments of 5db "clicks." It's also got 0-10db of output trim and a Ribbon -switch that optimizes the signal path for non-active Ribbons.

The best part, in my humble (on the weekdays) opinion is that there's no distortion and the sound is really glassy and clean. I've always thought it's best to get the most accurate Recording of what's going on in the room - and this is the gal for that.

As far as features go - I'll list them below as they're worded in the Manual; however, the reason I rated it a 5 is because I wish there were more inputs for mics or other instruments, but wusho0gunnadoo0 ya know?

The Bang for the buck was rated a 7 because - although in my opinion it's under-priced and well-worth the $565 average retail - I do realize that there are other pre's out there that are half-decent @ a much more po' strugglin' musician friendly price. If you can, and you're close, I'd save up the extra few bucks though and go for it. You won't be dissatisfied, GT promises!

Here are the listed features.

Cheers,

GT (Genius Tracks)

-Fast, Musical transimpedance amplifier architecture
-Fully balanced, transformerless XLR microphone input
-High impedance 1/4 inch instrument DI input
-Output connectors: XLR balanced, TRS balanced and TS unbalanced
-12 position precision gold contact rotary switch gain control
-0.5% precision metal film resistors in signal path
-High quality conductive plastic 10db output trim control
-75Hz 12db/octave high pass filter
-Two colod LED peak meter shows signal present and peak
-Ribbon Mic mode (also great for dynamic mics) -Optimizes signal path for Ribbon Mics
-Aluminum 1/2 width 1u chassis / two units fit together in a standard 1u rack tray
-Sealed gold contact relays for signal switching
-High precision active balanced output circuit
-No electrolytic capacitors in the signal path
-Ultra clean 48 volt phantom power
-Minimal internal signal wiring
-Built in universal AC power supply / no wall-wart!
-5 year warranty on parts and labor

1st February 2012

Grace Design m101 by gehauser

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 3 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Grace Design M101

The best way for me to describe the Grace m101 is with a comparison to another clean, transparent pre. My two cleanest preamps are the Grace m101 and the Sytek MPX-4Aii. I have had these pres since 2008 and I have done many shootouts of them on acoustic instruments.

They sound close - very clear and detailed. Using a matched cemc6 pair on acoustic guitar, the Sytek definitely has more punch than the Grace, and a very slight bit of color relative to the Grace. The Sytek has a bit more rounded high end and a fuller low end. The Grace sounds softer and more delicate, with less punch, and maybe a bit more detailed and transparent. It can be too transparent -- I have some undesirable ringing tones on one of my guitars that persists after a strummed chord is damped quickly. The Grace picks up these tones, and actually seems to bring them forward, while I barely hear the undesirable tones with the Sytek.

Both pres are very quiet. However, when the pres are cranked to high gain to matching input levels on the recorder and I then remove the source and push the faders full up, the Sytek seems consistently quieter than the Grace. I can switch the matched mics between preamps and get the same result - Sytek is quieter.

The m101’s ribbon button works well with ribbon mics, and after much testing, the m101 has become my favorite pre for an R84 mic. The ribbon button prevents accidental phantom power, a nice feature.

The m101 gain control is notched, while the level ("trim") control is continuous. I like the reproducibility using the gain control, but my level control seems loose and moves too easily. This is annoying because a slight bump will change it, but that issue is not a showstopper. The m101 has plenty of gain -- a gain of 6/10 and level 7/10 can easily drive the R84 to -12dbfs peaks in my DAW when recording a moderate (not soft or loud) singer at 12" from the mic. The m101 seems to have more gain than the Sytek.

The m101 has both unbalanced and balanced outputs, a feature which gives it versatility in connectivity. It also has a DI but I have not used it.

I use the Grace on string ensembles and with ribbon mics on many sources, but I tend to use the Sytek more with SDCs on acoustic instruments like guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and old-time banjo.

The Sytek has a little better specs than the Grace.

8th March 2012

Grace Design m101 by shreddersinc

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
Grace Design M101

I just got my grace m101 and have had a reasonable time to evaluate it...only really about a week. My first impression is it is well made and shipped from sweetwater in a very safe manner where the box took a bit of a beating and it didn't hurt the grace.
This is my first expensive pre, it's expensive to me anyway. All I was using before was my motu 828mk3 pre amps before.
I noticed a big improvement right away, hard to put in words but plugging my guitar into it, it just sounded true, honest and open like I was finally hearing what my guitar really sounds like. The DI is great as soon as you plug a guitar cord in it bypasses the mic you may or may not have plugged into the back, which saves alot of hooking and unhooking things up.
I bought this because I wanted my first nice pre to be accurate, quiet and have a ton of gain. It meets all of my expectations, I can crank this up to it's 75db of gain and not be sure if I'm hearing it's noise floor. On the other hand my motu pre goes to 53db of gain and it hisses like crazy...that unmistakable sharp white noise. I'm not saying that you may not be able to hear the pre amp noise cranked it just doesn't sound anything like my motu, so I speculate it could be room noise and probably a little gain noise but it strangely isn't that annoying hiss.
I was looking at many different pre's in this price range and the p-solo was on top of my list, but it only delivers 60db of gain and the sm7b manual says it requires a minimum 65db gain. I know p-solo makes a ribbon pre, but it doesn't have phantom power, which is a deal breaker for me.
A pleasant surprise was you can ride the 0db to 10db gain knob in real time for those extra dynamic singers. The ribbon button will come in handy when I can afford to buy one (despite popular belief phantom power won't hurt your ribbon mic unless you have a bad cord) but it's nice to have a dumb dumb proof pre(if their is such a thing)
The ribbon mode on a dynamic does add a very subtle useful effect.
This is a very clean pre with fast transient response, what you put in is what you get out. This is definitely not a color pre, but a clean accurate sound. It also has an amazing feq. response if I can only find a mic to match the up to 135k specs!
Color or destroy you sound in your software, capture it accurate in the first place with this pre!

26th February 2013

Grace Design m101 by Paul Ryan

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Grace Design M101

I've had mine for a few years and two CD's. Back when I purchased the Grace I did a lot of research on the ideal preamp for a "true" sound. And the Grace certainly does that. My material is acoustic country so I need the personality of each instrument to come through exactly as mic'd. I think of my Grace as a sort of coach bringing out each microphone's true sound, and when it partners with my F47 tube, the guitar is so good its almost unbelievable. In fact I reach for my M101 for almost all my work now. And as earlier mentioned, it allows for a clean palate for EQ later on if you want to. Recommend this highly if you are looking for an uncolored, true reproduction of what is coming from your mic.

21st August 2013

Grace Design m101 by Fly Soulo

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Grace Design M101

So, this little box I must say is pretty amazing. Grace Design takes pride in it's products because the new iteration of the M101 is beautiful. The main difference first of all between the newer black version vs. the Chrome version is the addition of "Ribbon" mode. This feature is especially handy when dealing with Ribbon microphones because it bypasses the 48V.

The one thing I like the most about this pre is the crazy amount of gain it has. The first knob on the left (the one that clicks) is a step knob that goes up to 65 dB. The other knob which is a smooth rotating knob can increase by 10dB. This to me, is ideal because when tracking, you can set your level on the first knob and have finer control (within 10dB) while tracking.

Another great feature is the high pass filter which cuts at 75Hz. This is ideal if you're recording in a less than perfect space and your microphone doesn't have one. My microphone does have one so I don't use it but on other microphones I play with, they don't so I will use it.

On the back there are 3 outputs (2 balanced, 1 unbalanced) all of which can be used which is great! The manual show examples of how one might use this little feature.

Now, the MAIN draw to this pre is the clean sound it provides (aka "wire-with-gain"). I particularly like that it gets out of the way of your microphone and really shows the true character of it. This can be good or bad for some so I would say this warning: IF YOU WANT A COLORED SOUND THIS PRE IS NOT FOR YOU. I for one plan on having multiple options and as far as clean sounds go, Grace is right up there with the cleanest of them.

For the price range ($550-700$) this pre is tough to beat and it even competes with some that are above this price range! Definitely check it out if you're looking for a nice clean pre with a ridiculous amount of QUIET gain!

 
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