M-Audio DMP3 sets the curve for budget mic preamps
The DMP3 is a two-channel microphone preamp and DI box that is well suited for the home studio and appropriate for computer based recording. The mic inputs deliver 66 dB of gain and, with the dual range gain control, it's very easy to record sounds from a wide range of levels. Combined with a frequency response of 20 Hz to 100 kHz within 1 dB, and very low distortion, this preamp produces a very clean and uncolored output. The DMP3's styling is tasteful and functional. A pair of lighted round VU meters give it a pro-gear appearance.
I've used the DMP3 with a variety of mics. In all cases it has performed well without adding any of its own character to the sound. Thanks to the dual-range gain control, it gracefully handles everything from very soft vocals to mic'ing guitar amps and drums. Some preamps with a single-range gain control have been very difficult to get good settings when working with very loud sounds.
Something else I really appreciate about the DMP3 is its full set of features. Some of the features I especially like are the phase invert switch, instrument input (DI), balanced outputs, and a switch for the phantom power.
On the downside, I don’t find the VU meter very useful for digital recording. I’d much rather have a peak reading meter so that I can obtain the highest signal level without clipping. Also, I don't care for the instrument input placement in the rear of the unit. It would be much easier to access if it were in the front. A final but minor gripe is that the DMP3 uses a wall wart (AC adapter). However, wall warts do keep the price down and that's an important factor in this case.
The Bottom Line: The DMP3 is a solid preamp for the home studio enthusiast. To beat it, you have to spend a few hundred dollars more. If you are looking for an upgrade from a Mackie or similar mixer, this is probably not the unit for you. However, if you don't plan on using a mixer and your budget is under $200, the DMP3 should be at the top of your list. I would recommend the DMP3 to anyone who is looking for a first preamp or just wanting to expand a current setup.