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Help me choose: Daking Mic Pre One or Grace Designs m101?
Old 24th January 2013
  #1
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Help me choose: Daking Mic Pre One or Grace Designs m101?

What's up, everybody. I need a little help deciding on a single-channel mic pre-amp...

Just to give you guys some background, I recently purchased an RME Fireface UFX interface with Black Lion Audio's premium mod. The interface sounds great, however I was surprised when the pres in the unit actually sounded slightly better than my single-channel pre - a Blue Robbie tube pre-amp. The RME pres have a touch more detail and a bit more punch, despite the Robbie having a $200 NOS tube in it as opposed to the stock one.
The whole point of even having the single-channel pre is to gain some sort of an improvement over the pres in the interface, not the other way around... so obviously I need to upgrade.

I've narrowed it down to two different single-channel pre-amps:
The Daking Mic Pre One and the Grace Designs m101

Now, from what I understand, these pres are both pretty different animals. I've heard nothing but overwhelmingly positive reviews for the Daking, and the variable high-pass filter sounds like an incredibly useful feature. However, I've also heard that the clarity of the Grace Designs pre is almost unparalleled in its' price range, and the Ribbon mic mode would be pretty helpful, as I have a couple in my mic arsenal.
To be honest, I'm not sure which I would prefer - the unbiased tonal clarity of the m101 or 'universally-signal-sweetening-color' of the Daking. If it came down to it though, I think I'd prefer a touch of color as opposed to an overly stringent or sterile sound. Regardless, I'm quite torn as to which pre would better suit my needs... I'm going to be tracking pretty much anything and everything, so I don't need one that is better suited for one musical source over another. Testing them out against each other might be an option if I can work some sort of arrangement out with Sweetwater or something, but until then, I just wanted to get some feedback and opinions from you guys as to which pre you prefer/recommend.

...or maybe you recommend a different pre altogether?

Anyway, some advice and opinions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Old 24th January 2013
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Darth Preamp's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
I owned and used the Grace Pre for a while, but have never used the Daking. The Grace pre is nice, but I never found it to be any better than any other decent pre. It also can be just a tiny tiny bit thin in the low mids, to my ears, but it was several years ago that I owned it, so . . . The greatest pre I have ever used is an Ampex 601. Mind-blowingly incredible sounding! Unfortunately, I sold it before I had decent monitors; a year or so later when I got my monitors, and I listened back to the tracks I did with the 601, I was like HOLY SH%%!!!!!!!.
BTW Monitors, and room treatment, or at least room assessment, are the most important part of your signal chain.

Best regards

DP
Old 24th January 2013
  #3
Lives for gear
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by derrek_clay ➑️
The interface sounds great, however I was surprised when the pres in the unit actually sounded slightly better than my single-channel pre - a Blue Robbie tube pre-amp. The RME pres have a touch more detail and a bit more punch, despite the Robbie having a $200 NOS tube in it as opposed to the stock one.
The whole point of even having the single-channel pre is to gain some sort of an improvement over the pres in the interface, not the other way around... so obviously I need to upgrade.
Based on what you wrote, it is not obvious at all IMHO that you need to upgrade. Have you considered that the UFX pres are excellent and may be exactly what you need? By all means I would recommend trying the other great pres you mentioned, but don't discount the UFX pres just because they are built in. Others may suit your needs better, but maybe not. I use my UFX pres along with other high quality clean pres all the time: the Seventh Circle C84 (the Millenia-ish one), Sytek. Sometimes the I prefer the UFX, sometimes not. But they all are great for different needs and any would be a fine choice for a clean, detailed pre.
Old 24th January 2013
  #4
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
You have a good point, but I just like to have that one stand-alone channel that sticks out. That's how it was for my old set-up anyway. But you're right, now that I have the UFX it's a bit different. Nonetheless, I still enjoy having the tonal options to play around with, not to mention that an external pre-amp gives me more inputs (at least one in this case...), as the UFX only has 4 XLR inputs. Since I play drums, I track drums all the time and need as many inputs as I can get. Nine to be exact. I just love plugging the snare into the external pre to make it stand out in the drum mix. It's just the set-up I'm comfortable with and want to continue using.

Also the Sytek MPX-4Aii has captured my attention a few times in the past, but I'm not too familiar with the company. Definitely considering it though. How would you describe the Sytek pre, or at least the one you have?
Old 24th January 2013
  #5
Lives for gear
 
BradLyons's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I can't really tell you that one is better than the other because, as you stated, they are completely different animals. The GRACE is all about CLEAN GAIN, no coloration at all---while the DAKING has a nice analog warmth to it. The Daking is actually based off the sound of the classic Trident 80 console, arguably one of the best consoles ever for tracking. So it comes down to do you want CLEAN or COLOR?

To address the other poster about the Grace not being any different than other things he's used....this is where something like these kinds of pre's can be VERY tricky. Okay, they are clean-gain pres meant to be no coloration and completely clean headroom. The problem is that unless you have GREAT converters you may not truly realize the difference between their pre's and other, run of the mill pre's because the weakest link would be the converters---which would be hindering the full capability. On the other hand when you have a micpre like the Daking or something that has coloration, you WILL hear the difference immediately---because you hear the color or "the change" in tone. Just something to keep in mind----the Grace pre lets you hear the converter, a pre with color lets you hear the color.
Old 24th January 2013 | Show parent
  #6
Lives for gear
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by derrek_clay ➑️
Nonetheless, I still enjoy having the tonal options to play around with, not to mention that an external pre-amp gives me more inputs (at least one in this case...), as the UFX only has 4 XLR inputs. Since I play drums, I track drums all the time and need as many inputs as I can get.
Absolutely. I am a drummer too and appreciate where you are coming from. If I were in your shoes I would consider that the UFX may cover your "clean" needs and look into more colored options. API pres excel on drums. I can also vouch for the Seventh Circle audio collection. You could get 5 to start with, perhaps a combination of their API-ish (A12) and Neve-ish (N72) pres for a wide pallet of sonic options.

Quote:
Originally Posted by derrek_clay ➑️
Also the Sytek MPX-4Aii has captured my attention a few times in the past, but I'm not too familiar with the company. Definitely considering it though. How would you describe the Sytek pre, or at least the one you have?
Sytek are also in the very clean camp, but faster than the UFX so they pick up more transients. Sometimes it is just the right sound, sometimes not. The downside is they don't sound as big to my ears as my other options, including the UFX. Syteks are great for overheads if you want to hear every 'ping" from your ride and hi hat, or for a very present acoustic guitar, choirs etc. They are a great bang for the buck, but won't add much by way of mojo.
Old 24th January 2013 | Show parent
  #7
Lives for gear
 
Darth Preamp's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BradLyons ➑️
I can't really tell you that one is better than the other because, as you stated, they are completely different animals. The GRACE is all about CLEAN GAIN, no coloration at all---while the DAKING has a nice analog warmth to it. The Daking is actually based off the sound of the classic Trident 80 console, arguably one of the best consoles ever for tracking. So it comes down to do you want CLEAN or COLOR?

To address the other poster about the Grace not being any different than other things he's used....this is where something like these kinds of pre's can be VERY tricky. Okay, they are clean-gain pres meant to be no coloration and completely clean headroom. The problem is that unless you have GREAT converters you may not truly realize the difference between their pre's and other, run of the mill pre's because the weakest link would be the converters---which would be hindering the full capability. On the other hand when you have a micpre like the Daking or something that has coloration, you WILL hear the difference immediately---because you hear the color or "the change" in tone. Just something to keep in mind----the Grace pre lets you hear the converter, a pre with color lets you hear the color.
To be clear on what I actually meant, sorry, it was BC (Before Coffee). The Grace is definitely better just not that different, which is what I meant. It will give you good clean gain, very slightly lacking in the low mids and slightly accentuated right on the border of the high mids, and the highs, but it is really not so drastically different from other good clean sounding pres, which there are plenty of options, that it warrants buying a stand alone unit for a different coloration while tracking. However, the Ampex 601, with updated capacitors etc, will give you incredible coloration but in a very believable way, and no, I am not selling one.



DP
Old 24th January 2013 | Show parent
  #8
Lives for gear
 
Mike O's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BradLyons ➑️
I can't really tell you that one is better than the other because, as you stated, they are completely different animals. The GRACE is all about CLEAN GAIN, no coloration at all---while the DAKING has a nice analog warmth to it. The Daking is actually based off the sound of the classic Trident 80 console, arguably one of the best consoles ever for tracking. So it comes down to do you want CLEAN or COLOR?

To address the other poster about the Grace not being any different than other things he's used....this is where something like these kinds of pre's can be VERY tricky. Okay, they are clean-gain pres meant to be no coloration and completely clean headroom. The problem is that unless you have GREAT converters you may not truly realize the difference between their pre's and other, run of the mill pre's because the weakest link would be the converters---which would be hindering the full capability. On the other hand when you have a micpre like the Daking or something that has coloration, you WILL hear the difference immediately---because you hear the color or "the change" in tone. Just something to keep in mind----the Grace pre lets you hear the converter, a pre with color lets you hear the color.
Hi Brad and OP - A quick note/clarification: The Daking preamp is 'based on' the Trident A Range console, not an 80. A totally different beast than the 80. The 80 is no slouch, but the A Range is much better sounding to virtually anyone that has used both.

Quoting the original poster, "If it came down to it though, I think I'd prefer a touch of color as opposed to an overly stringent or sterile sound. Regardless, I'm quite torn as to which pre would better suit my needs... I'm going to be tracking pretty much anything and everything, so I don't need one that is better suited for one musical source over another."

Given that, I'd say the Daking is a perfect choice. Of course arrange to listen if you can.
Old 24th January 2013
  #9
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
I am sorta leaning towards the Daking... but ultimately I really want to hear them both in person and be able to compare them side by side. I'm not sure I can make a fully confident decision otherwise.
Old 24th January 2013
  #10
Lives for gear
 
edva's Avatar
 
26 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
The Daking is not very colored, it is a clean-ish sounding pre, with excellent headroom and detail. Just a tiny hint of midrange and upper midrange color. Possibly the best pre in it's price range, IMHO.
Old 24th January 2013 | Show parent
  #11
Lives for gear
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by derrek_clay ➑️
...I really want to hear them both in person and be able to compare them side by side. I'm not sure I can make a fully confident decision otherwise.
You should do this. Contact you local dealer and see if you can audition both. The guys at Mercenary Audio might be able to help, too. Keep in mind they may charge a fee, but a small price to pay to get the right pre.

Another option - aren't you near Nashville? There must be dozens of studios there that have both pres, as well as others. Maybe reach out to some and see if you can pay for a little studio time to audition a few pres.
Old 24th January 2013 | Show parent
  #12
Lives for gear
 
euphoria89's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by edva ➑️
The Daking is not very colored, it is a clean-ish sounding pre, with excellent headroom and detail. Just a tiny hint of midrange and upper midrange color. Possibly the best pre in it's price range, IMHO.
Yes, this is my experience with the unit. It has about as much colour as an ISA One or similar. You can tell its doing something, but its not clearly obvious. Stacks incredibly well and is so useful for almost anything, but if your wanting the pre to add a significant amount of weight to the signal, then i'd advise looking at different mic selections or a more coloured preamp or extra signal processing. I do love the sound of my Mic Pre One though, its very sweet and i pretty much know what to expect from it.
Old 24th January 2013
  #13
Lives for gear
 
skythemusic's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I have owned both. The Daking to me is a far better pre. If you are recording digitally, the Grace pre would be among the last I would ever want to use again. There is clean like Millenia and then there is boring, which to me the Grace is.
Old 24th January 2013
  #14
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Okay, so I managed to find several clips of the Daking which have left me pretty damn impressed. They all sounded absolutely fantastic, despite the fact that they were going through a $300 dollar interface. I cannot imagine how ridiculous this pre would sound going through my RME. As of now, I think I've made up my mind for the Daking. I appreciate all the help you guys have provided! I'll be sure to post some clips, as soon as I buy it. Thanks again, guys!
Old 25th January 2013
  #15
Lives for gear
 
BradLyons's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Ahhhh thanks Mike, I keep thinking Series 80 for some reason! LOL Thank you for the clarification and one of these days I'll remember that!
Old 25th January 2013
  #16
Lives for gear
 
guitarboy94's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
If you're going for clean, a really nice one very similar to the 101, but much cheaper, is the JJ Audio Modded M-Audio DMP3. They turned my DMP3 into a worldclass sounding unit! The cool thing is that you get not one, but two channels of gain for less than the price of a Grace 101. Both units use the same Burr Brown chips. There's one for sale on the Gearsltuz classifieds right now.
Old 25th January 2013 | Show parent
  #17
Lives for gear
 
Mike O's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BradLyons ➑️
Ahhhh thanks Mike, I keep thinking Series 80 for some reason! LOL Thank you for the clarification and one of these days I'll remember that!
I know how it goes....I've got things 'stuck' in my head that simply will NOT get out of there.
Old 25th January 2013 | Show parent
  #18
Lives for gear
 
BradLyons's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike O ➑️
I know how it goes....I've got things 'stuck' in my head that simply will NOT get out of there.
I've been in professional sales for nearly 17-years now.... I still remember things from the 90's that I wish I could get out of my head. Heck sometimes I still wake up WITH FRICKING ERROR 7 FLASHING THROUGH MY HEAD (from the days of ADAT's). LOL I must have about 30,000 products in my head, no wonder why I can never remember if I paid my cell phone bill, there's no room!
Old 25th January 2013 | Show parent
  #19
Lives for gear
 
Mike O's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BradLyons ➑️
I've been in professional sales for nearly 17-years now.... I still remember things from the 90's that I wish I could get out of my head. Heck sometimes I still wake up WITH FRICKING ERROR 7 FLASHING THROUGH MY HEAD (from the days of ADAT's). LOL I must have about 30,000 products in my head, no wonder why I can never remember if I paid my cell phone bill, there's no room!
Sometime when you have 20 minutes. Kelly has to be a contestant on a sports trivia show in place of Al. Of course she suffers from what you describe: too many facts. If one goes in, one has to go out. Married With Children - Season 8 - Episode 26 - Kelly Knows Something - YouTube
Old 25th January 2013
  #20
Lives for gear
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Don't own a Grace, but love my Daking One. Had to sell it a while back. Only piece of gear I bought again because I missed it so much. Especially great on acoustic guitar.
Old 25th January 2013
  #21
Lives for gear
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
I've got the Grace m201 and love it with ribbon mics, which I use often. But given that you have an RME, I'd go for variety. For example, the ART Pro MPA-II is very affordable and has some tube character. Awesome bang per buck stereo pre. Moving up from there are options like the UA-610 or possibly an API or Chandler, etc. I use a UA 4-710d and it has great bang per buck - 4 channels ot blendable tube/transistor pres with good simple compression/limiting and 8 channels of A/D. I use it on drums all the time but it's never failed to please on any source.
Old 28th January 2013
  #22
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Well, there has been an interesting development. I talked to another user here on the forum named jpeele, who has owned both a Blue Robbie and Daking Pre One and tested them up against each other. He had this to say about them:

"These pre's are pretty similar actually. I would describe the Daking as being very transparent, almost not noticeable. One thing that confused me when I first had the Daking is that I thought it wasn't that good. I was expecting an incredible difference in sound between the two. I didn't notice and couldn't really hear a difference. I'm not sure you're going to see a dramatic upgrade in sound from what you already have. I'm not sure of what the rest of your vocal chain looks like, but there are other things that could have a greater impact on the sound you're looking for. For instance, a DA or Digital to Audio converter and investing in bass traps made the biggest difference for me. If you're looking for a more colored sound I would go for something like a Pre73 or Great River."

I'm not sure what kind of interface or converters he had them running through, but his opinion is interesting nonetheless. In fact, if what he says is true, my Blue Robbie might actually sound better than the Daking, as I put an Amperex NOS tube in it about year ago that has made a surprising difference in both the frequency response and clarity of the pre amp. My attention has also now been drawn to a Great River ME-1NV as well...
I've ruled out the Grace Designs pre, but I'm just as indecisive as ever.
Old 28th January 2013
  #23
Lives for gear
 
Mike O's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
THIS is why you can only trust your ears. You've had several people 'vote' Daking and a few Grace. Then a guy comes along and says, "You may not notice any difference between the Daking and Robbie."

As a student, that is the main thing to learn from this experience; so far.
Old 28th January 2013
  #24
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
I own both and appreciate them both. But I want more Dakings. Does that answer your question?
Old 28th January 2013 | Show parent
  #25
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike O ➑️
THIS is why you can only trust your ears. You've had several people 'vote' Daking and a few Grace. Then a guy comes along and says, "You may not notice any difference between the Daking and Robbie."

As a student, that is the main thing to learn from this experience; so far.
You couldn't be more right, and I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately, I'm not yet sure how (or if) I'm going to arrange testing the Robbie, Daking, and Great River Pres against eachother. There don't seem to be any local rental companies that carry the Great River or the Daking... I might try to talk a local pro audio shop into doing a rental agreement with me, but that might be hard to pull off...


Quote:
Originally Posted by lpedrum ➑️
I own both and appreciate them both. But I want more Dakings. Does that answer your question?
Haha it at least helps some. Which other pre do you own besides the Daking?
Old 28th January 2013 | Show parent
  #26
Lives for gear
 
BradLyons's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike O ➑️
Sometime when you have 20 minutes. Kelly has to be a contestant on a sports trivia show in place of Al. Of course she suffers from what you describe: too many facts. If one goes in, one has to go out. Married With Children - Season 8 - Episode 26 - Kelly Knows Something - YouTube
Love that show! heh
Old 29th January 2013 | Show parent
  #27
Lives for gear
 
guitarboy94's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Interesting points. I have a hard time comparing transparent preamps, such as: Grace 101 versus FMR versus Daking versus, well, you get the point. To me, the differences in transparent preamps are extremely subtle and probably not even worth debating, at least in my experiences using some of the above mentioned preamps.

However, I think the most colored preamp and most enjoyable I've ever used is the ART MPA with NOS RCA tubes. I get more color and vibe out of that thing than I do with my Gap Pre73. There's something about tube preamps that I really enjoy because you can impart lots of tube midrange and sheen to the signal and still get a really clean sound of it. With the Gap, it tends to get pretty gritty in a hurry when you push the transformers. Just my two cents.

Quote:
Originally Posted by derrek_clay ➑️
Well, there has been an interesting development. I talked to another user here on the forum named jpeele, who has owned both a Blue Robbie and Daking Pre One and tested them up against each other. He had this to say about them:

"These pre's are pretty similar actually. I would describe the Daking as being very transparent, almost not noticeable. One thing that confused me when I first had the Daking is that I thought it wasn't that good. I was expecting an incredible difference in sound between the two. I didn't notice and couldn't really hear a difference. I'm not sure you're going to see a dramatic upgrade in sound from what you already have. I'm not sure of what the rest of your vocal chain looks like, but there are other things that could have a greater impact on the sound you're looking for. For instance, a DA or Digital to Audio converter and investing in bass traps made the biggest difference for me. If you're looking for a more colored sound I would go for something like a Pre73 or Great River."

I'm not sure what kind of interface or converters he had them running through, but his opinion is interesting nonetheless. In fact, if what he says is true, my Blue Robbie might actually sound better than the Daking, as I put an Amperex NOS tube in it about year ago that has made a surprising difference in both the frequency response and clarity of the pre amp. My attention has also now been drawn to a Great River ME-1NV as well...
I've ruled out the Grace Designs pre, but I'm just as indecisive as ever.
Old 1st February 2013 | Show parent
  #28
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by guitarboy94 ➑️
Interesting points. I have a hard time comparing transparent preamps, such as: Grace 101 versus FMR versus Daking versus, well, you get the point. To me, the differences in transparent preamps are extremely subtle and probably not even worth debating, at least in my experiences using some of the above mentioned preamps.
There's quite a bit of difference between the Daking and the Grace. I wouldn't even call the Daking transparent, but just think of it as high fidelity in the best sense--full sounding, dimensional and very musical to the ears.
Old 1st February 2013 | Show parent
  #29
Lives for gear
 
dickiefunk's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by guitarboy94 ➑️
Interesting points. I have a hard time comparing transparent preamps, such as: Grace 101 versus FMR versus Daking versus, well, you get the point. To me, the differences in transparent preamps are extremely subtle and probably not even worth debating, at least in my experiences using some of the above mentioned preamps.
I can hear clear difference between pres like the Focusrite ISA One and Audient Mico. Whilst the differences are subtle it is definitely there.
Old 1st February 2013 | Show parent
  #30
Lives for gear
 
ionian's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by neirbod ➑️
The guys at Mercenary Audio might be able to help, too.
Steer clear of Mercenary.

Under new ownership. People are buying stuff and not receiving it and can't get refunds.

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/moan-...ary-audio.html


Regards,
Frank
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