RECORDING: Golden Age Project Pre 73 MKII Mic Preamp (review)
Ok, so, as you may or may not know, I kinda take mic preamp discussion with a grain of salt. By and large, I’ve gotten great results, vocally, from my audio interface’s built-in mic pres. Interfaces I’ve used over the years include an M-Audio Delta 44 paired with an oldschool Behringer MX2004A mixer (my first setup)… then, I used a Tascam FW-1082 firewire interface for a bit, then recently, I switched back to the M-Audio, and rocked a Delta 66 combined with an M-Audio OMNI I/O breakout box. I love the OMNI the best and achieve great results in my studio, especially vocally……. or so I thought…
Enter the GAP Pre 73 MKII. Golden Age Project is a Sweden-based company, who designed a mic preamp that is supposed to come really close to the classic Neve 1073 sound, a sound that has been a mainstay in pro recording studios for decades. If you’ve heard a classic rock or pop album from the 70s through the 90s, chances are you’ve heard the Neve 1073 in action, especially on vocals.
So, Golden Age designed this pre (and of course, at such a low price point, $350, the Chinese manufacture and distribute it)…. and I heard great things about it. I was debating buying it…. I was torn between that, or the Focusrite ISA One. I wound up going with the Focusrite a few months back.
The Focusrite was my first “legit” mic pre. It was $500. I used it for about a week and recorded a couple things (and did many A/B tests with it and my main config) before returning it. I found that my built-in mic pres sounded exactly the same, if not a bit quieter.
I swore off the mic preamp hype for months, and then the bug bit me again, so I picked up the GAP.
Tonight, I finally had some spare time to give it a go (I got it a month ago and never even plugged it in due to my insanely busy life).
edit: When I first recorded vocals with it, something was way off with my OMNI I/O’s line inputs. The vocals sounded harsh and thin… awful. After tweaking my interface and its software mixer, I finally got the GAP to sound like it should: warm, buttery, crisp enough where it doesn’t need much EQ, and just… full.
I tracked a vocal a few times… as similarly as I could (first with my built-in pre and main mic, and then with the GAP 73 MKII). The first vocal with the built-in mic pres (as always) was boomy/swampy, and lacked clarity and presence unless I put an EQ plug-in on the track.
The second vocal (through the GAP) was warmer, fuller. Not a big difference in sound from the built-in mic pres, but just had that extra “something” which is what good mid-range preamps do.
For years, I’ve been having to EQ my vocals a lot… rolling off the lows to get rid of the boominess and overall muddy sound (I guess that’s just my voice, or so I thought) and sometimes bumping up the highs… but with the GAP Pre 73 MKII, I didn’t have to EQ anything at all except maybe a tiny high frequency bump up. I even tested a quick mix by burning to CD and listening in my car, and without ANY EQ whatsover, I was like “yeah, man. This is it, right here.”
The term “professional-sounding” actually entered my mind. It really does sound that good, and full. And it “sounds” vintage… I mean, it’s designed to be very similar to a legendary vintage mic preamp. I think it does a good job.
The mic I use isn’t the greatest… it’s a Chinese-made MXL v67g. I like the sound of it, overall (using my built-ins)…. but through the GAP, it really sounds great. I also tested it with my AKG C2000b, which I normally hate the sound of (too mid-rangey)… but for some reason, the GAP evens it out and makes my voice sound better. I did some very basic harmonies just going “oooh” in the mic, and it sounded so buttery and warm… basically, NOT digital, as my built-ins do. That’s a huge plus to me.
Also, I miked my acoustic, too with the MXL V67g, and thought it had a great sound (even with strings that need replacing).
One thing I’ve heard but haven’t yet put into practice, is that a good mic pre will keep your tracks clear and non-muddy as you “stack” them (as in, record more than 10 tracks, including drums, vocals, guitars, bass, etc)…. I’ve heard that this mic pre does that exact thing as you build tracks. Can’t wait to try it.
If you’re looking for a solid pre that won’t break the bank and adds just the right amount of “color” and “vintage” sound to your vocals, look no further than the Golden Age Project Pre 73 MKII.