A while back I set out to find myself two new channels of microphone preamps. I made a list and tried to get a hold of as many of them as possible. In this review we’ll look at two of them that just so happens to come from two different companies but the same designer.
TK Audio DP1
The TK Audio DP1 (pictured above) is the cheaper of the two units that I’m trying out here. It’s a very flexible two channel preamp designed to offer both a vintage and a modern sound. These two qualities, especially coupled together, usually keeps me away because more often than not it seems like corners have been cut. I don’t know what corners TK cut, but I couldn’t find them. The DP1 can without a doubt stand on it’s own.
With nothing engaged, other than the power, you have a clean preamp with tons of gain and an open sound. Push the vintage button and it becomes fatter. I liked it so much that I left it on the entire time. Push the germanium button and you get even more color but in a different way, grittier and thinner with both some lows and highs cut out (or so it seems).
For the price, this unit is a steal. It easily competes with preamps with a much higher tag. Actually, in this price range I’m not really sure what the competition would be for a two-channel unit. The versatility is rather extraordinary, making it a great choice for the homestudio owner who might only be able to afford – or only need – a few channels. Bigger studios shouldn’t be scared of by this statement, the DP1 is the real deal. Does it sound like the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s like TK set out to have it do? Don’t know, don’t care, it sounds good.
Vintage Design DMP
Comparing the Vintage Design DMP with the TK Audio DP1, one could assume to get similar results, as both are from the same designer. They are fairly similar, but at the same time different. The TK DP1 is a little more open, and not as fat, which I assume comes from a bump in the lows or lower mids on the Vintagedesign unit. TK does fat too, especially with the vintage switch on, but not as much as the DMP.
Thomas, the designer of both preamps, said that the Vintage Design is a little more colored due to the TK having a Lundahl transformer. I think he knows what he’s talking about so I’ll take his word for it.
The Vintagedesign DMP sounds awesome on bass. It gets fatter and better, DI’ed or mic’ed. Lovely. Works nice on guitars as well. It was a tad too dark for vocals with my ribbons however. I found myself reaching for the highs on the EQ a little too much. My setup contains of a lot of already ‘dark’ or ‘warm’ or ‘whatever buzzword’ so I was a little happier with the more open TK Audio DP1. For something in the same ballpark soundwise, and at this price range, the Vintagedesign DMP got some tough competition and you might want to check out the Chandler TG2 and the many Neve clones out there as well.
And in case you wonder why “Vintagedesign” isn’t two words, what can I say? It’s a Swedish thing.
Of the two I would actually go with the cheaper alternative – the TK Audio DP1. Not so much because it’s ‘better’ or anything, but because of my choice of microphones. The extended top on the TK fits my ribbons better than the Vintagedesign. If I had been a bright condenser guy I might would have gone in a different direction, but I’m not. I’m pulling the trigger on the TK Audio DP1.
Big thanks to both Thomas “TK” himself and Golden Age Music for lending me the units.
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EDIT: Some pricing information!
Price for TK Audio DP1 is around €1080 ex VAT and €1350 inc VAT. It depends a little on the exchange rate. You can see it at price & order at the TK website.
The Vintagedesign DMP is €1830 at Golden Age Music and requires a PSU that sells for €198.