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