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Monday, December 22, 2008

Manley Dual Mono Microphone Preamplifier

Check out Steve Beckett's review of one of our favorite mic preamps

In recent memory, a lot of gear seems to get made over online hype. And, without disparaging the makers of that gear, usually these are simple pieces that put out ear candy sounds right of the box.

The Manley Dual Mono Microphone Preamplifier does not get a lot of online hype. I thought about this as I have used it. It is a versatile unit that features different sounds. The construction is on par with the best in the industry. I finally came to the conclusion that the Dual Mono Mic Pre was overdue for its own online hype, which probably would not be coming as too many people neglect to read the manual. Although the Dual Mono Mic Pre is a fairly simple to control unit, review of the manual is necessary to get full use of the pre.

The Manley Dual Mono Mic Pre features quality components and workmanship. The front faceplate appears to be 10 gauge steel with an engraved faceplate. The sides appear to be adonized extruded aluminum, which is an expensive touch not common in pro audio gear. The aluminum sides help dissipate heat.

The top and bottom of the Dual Mono Mic Pre feature perforated 24 gauge steel panels, which allow more than adequate cooling of the internal components. This unit does get warm when left on for long periods. I would not pack it solid in a rack but rather leave a space above and below to allow some air circulation.

The top and bottom panels remove with one screw and slide toward the back. I work with metal often and found myself impressed with this aspect of the Manley Dual Mono Mic Pre. The sides feature guide rails which hold down the perforated panels allowing for the one screw design.

The front of the unit features a power switch, a gain control which controls the gain for both channels, a phantom power switch for each channel, 1/4 inch direct input plugins for each channel, and an input attenuate control for each channel. Each channel also features a switch that controls polarity. The same switch features a setting for DI that disconnects the mic input and mic transformer.

The rear of the unit features XLR inputs and outputs for each channel. It also features unbalanced 1/4 inch outputs.

The Manley Dual Mono Mic Pre's gain knob works on both channels. It runs from 40 to 60 dB. It sets the amount of negative feedback. Even though one gain control affects both channels, the gain stage comes before the input attenuate stage. Each channel has its own input attenuate control. As the gain increases -- no matter the setting on the input attenuate stage -- the Dual Mono Mic pre gives you a more aggressive sound. The input attenuate knob controls the output level but does not really affect the color of the sound.

I found 60 dB, for example, on the gain control to be too aggressive for most sources. The sweet spot of the unit tended to be 45 to 50 dB in my experience.

If sound were lighting, then the 40 dB gain setting would be a soft light. The 45 to 50 dB would be a pleasing natural light. The 55 to 60 dB would be unfiltered halogens. And, 60 dB is sort of like when you are driving down the road and the oncoming car flashes its brights on you.

The Dual Mono Mic Pre features input and output transformers as well as input and output tubes. The output transformer is bypassed in the signal path when you use the unbalanced outputs. The balanced XLR output for each channel is bypassed anytime something is plugged into the unbalanced 1/4 inch output for that particular channel.

The direct inputs excel at synths. They are adequate for guitar and bass. You might prefer to use an additional DI box such as the Radial JDI which you plug into the XLR inputs for guitar or bass. Needing to add an outboard DI for guitar and bass perhaps was the only blemish I found from my time with the Manley Dual Mono Mic Pre.

On mic'ing electric guitar amps, the Dual Mono Mic pre at setting of 45 dB gave me a warm but natural representation of the amp's sound. I used both a ribbon and dynamic and got goods results with both.

I tracked an accordion with a Baby Bottle at 45 dB and the combination softened the harshness of this problematic instrument giving me useable results.

I tracked a cello with a Blue Dragonfly at 50 dB. The player commented that what she heard in the room was exactly what she heard in the headphones.

I plugged a keyboard workstation into the DI inputs. The gain at low settings softened the sounds. At high settings, the gain created thick tones. I like the versatility the Manley Dual Mono Mic Pre gives to keyboards and synths and I consider it my go to DI for these instruments.

The Bottom Line: The Manley Dual Mono Mic Pre is versatile. It's well made. It's one of the best mic pres to be reviewed at Mojo Pie. Highly recommended.

--Steve Beckett

Manley Laboratories

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