A single channel of the Class A, transistor-based Daking Mic Pre IV, but in a desktop design with a high-pass filter: That's the Mic-Pre One ($850 list) in a nutshell.
Naturally, I expected the Mic-Pre One (MP1) to sound great; the MP IV is known for a clear, present sound, with only a little character, much like classic Trident preamps. While I wasn't immediately keen on the MP1's large, DI-like enclosure, it turns out that this desktop-friendly design is quite helpful, and its reasonable $850 list price is very attractive.
The Mic-Pre One has a Jensen input transformer, a healthy 70 dB of gain, a switchable and continuously variable HPF (between out and 200 Hz) and a 20-segment (!) LED output level meter as its distinguishing features. With an 1/8-inch steel enclosure and firm, non-stepped rotary pots, the MP1 feels sturdy and destined for longevity.
The MP1 arrived just minutes before a tracking session, so I quickly threw it on the click track (using the front panel's 1/4-inch instrument input) but still managed to be impressed with it in such a pedestrian application; the transients of my conga-slap click pattern seemed cleaner than I remembered. And that wide level meter! I could see levels clear across the room thanks to it. The meter was fast, too, indicating hot transient peaks, making me back off input gain a little.
I soon tried the MP1 on scratch vocals and tambourine (with a Neumann TLM 67), and it shone on both apps. I will aggressively use a variable HPF when one is provided; the MP1's HPF did a fine job of clarifying my vocal and balancing the tambo's thwack and jangle.
I finally got to use the MP1 for some important work on lead vocals and acoustic guitar with Southern rockers, Evelynn Rose, and I received excellent results. Needing a vintage vocal sound on a ballad, I coupled the MP1 with a nice and warm AEA R92 ribbon. I put the MP1 at the base of the mic stand, plugged the R92 directly in with its hard-wired, approximately six-foot-long cable (no extension required), turned up lots of gain, adjusted the HPF, and got a very smooth yet present vocal sound with very little noise. For a lightly finger-picked acoustic (that still needed to be front and center over the whole band), I used a L/C/R setup: a stereo pair of condensers with a Sontronics Sigma ribbon microphone in the center, the latter of which fed the MP1. The active Sigma still needed significant gain, but after careful adjustment of the HPF, I received the desired bass response: wonderfully fat, musical, and plenty deep. (Actually, it was much more desirable than I expected.)
This experience got me thinking about how one could place the MP1 close to a performer for a lower noise floor. Such an application could be useful in live broadcast apps: Place an MP1 under the news desk and get that lavalier mic hot before it faces the onslaught of EMI, RF, and AC on its way to your mixer. Likewise in the studio, performers could use the XLR output to record their signal and use the 1/4-inch line output to drive their personal monitoring.
Subsequent testing with piano, electric guitars, and drums revealed similar conclusions as those discovered above: The MP1 does a great job of capturing transients with uncolored frequency response and very little character unless you hit it hard. Loud sources like drums can be lightly distorted and compressed with the MP1 before they start to "splat," but that's not really its raison d'etre — very clean mic amplification placed very close to the source, if necessary, is. The Mic-Pre One definitely does a fine job of that. TransAudio Group (distributor), www.transaudiogroup.com
Rob Tavaglione owns and operates Catalyst Recording in Charlotte NC. You can reach him firstname.lastname@example.org.