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Monday, December 22, 2008

Speck MicPre 5.0

Speck MicPre 5.0 delivers 'Speck'tacular sound

After hearing the rave reviews of Speck's ASC four band EQ, I was eager to check out its soulmate, the MicPre 5.0. After spending quite a bit of time with the MicPre 5.0, I can assure you that this preamp can handle anything you throw its way.

Speck Electronics is located in Fallbrook California. The company has been in business for 35 years. The Speck MicPre 5.0 is a half rack space, single channel mic preamp/mix node. It can be linked to other 5.0 units to form a mixer. It can also be linked to their ASC EQ to form a single rack space channel strip. The Middle Atlantic Products rack shelf (model no. UTR1) is recommended by Speck.

The MicPre 5.0 sports 70 db of gain, a 5 db stepped gain control with fine tune trim for accurate gain staging, a variable hi-pass filter, selectable transformer and active balanced outputs, 48v phantom, -20 db pad, phase switch, LED metering, in/out/insert/line in and out/mix L/R jacks, AUX DC OUT for powering the ASC EQ and MIX LINK jack for connecting with other 5.0 units to form an outboard mixer. The preamp's output has a selectable "direct" output mode in which all the goodies are bypassed for a straight shot of audio. This unit has more connectivity than I'll ever need, but the possibilities are just about endless for anyone's needs. There is no wall wart as the power supply is internal. The white face plate is attractive, and all controls are solid and easy to find.

My first test of any preamp is bass. There's something about being able to walk up to it immediately and start tweaking without saying a word. The Speck is pleasing on bass guitar. It delivers a full clean sound with decent punch and all the low end is there. It's sound is very musical; nothing is exaggerated and nothing is lost. Slapping and popping transients are processed with a slight flatness (kind of a slightly limited sound in the low/mids), this isn't the optimum funk-style preamp but it'll do fine. The variable hi pass filter comes in handy when tracking bass to selectively roll off flubbier, unwanted low end.

On voice, the Speck has a nice presence. I did not find it hyped in any way but did think it possessed an open and natural character to it. The spoken word came across well. Singing is uncolored for the most part, although I picked up on a little extra color using the transformer output. The transformer output had a little heavier sound to it when loud vocals are pushing it, giving a bit of an "old school" option. Again, the hi pass filter is great for lopping off any unwanted boominess while tracking. The Speck is versatile for voice.

Acoustic guitar comes across clean, with good presence and delivers a nice sense of space. Snare drum has crisp definition and good ring detail; the level of punch works well in a mix. Kick drum tracking yielded good results, very uncolored and delivered a decent punch with no real "woof" to it (leaving less low end EQ'ing to be done in a mix) as there's no exaggeration going on in the low end. Overhead drum use was extremely balanced and natural sounding, definitely one of the best overhead preamps I've used. I found it imparted a realistic sense of space with a medium sized footprint to overheads. The sound is sweet, with lots of headroom to boot. Cymbals sing quite nicely and the MicPre 5.0 imparts no harshness on the sound. The drums themselves are accurately portrayed, with decent punch and giving you back whatever growl you give it in a very balanced manner.

I have found the Speck MicPre 5.0 to be an extremely useful, all purpose preamp with endless connectivity. It can be made into a handy mixer of high quality channel strips that would be especially useful for location recording as well as in the studio. I haven't found anything the Speck couldn't do at least well if not top notch.

The Bottom Line: The Speck MicPre 5.0 delivers a sonically accurate sound in a versatile package. Recommended.

--Warren Dent

Speck Electronics

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