Boutique manufacturers like Mäag Audio rarely offer new releases – a testament to the selling and staying power of their thoughtful designs and attention to quality. When they do, though, the wait is usually worth it. Mäag’s newest creation is the PREQ2 dual mic preamp and EQ – the latter inclusive of the famous AIR Band design. Pioneered in 1993 with the NTI EQ3 unit, the AIR Band is instant pop sheen and gloss. Here’s more about that and the rest of PREQ2’s virtues…
Mäag Audio PREQ2 analog preamp and EQ
The PREQ2 handles line and mic signal levels with two matched channels, both with separate XLR line level inputs and XLR mic inputs with switchable phantom power. The rear panel also has XLR outputs for each channel and a on/off/fuse mains switch. Don’t blow this! Adding on, all PREQ2 switches have colorful LEDs to indicate their operation and all controls have detents, except of the continuously variable microphone gain knob.
Capable of a healthy 71dB of gain, the mic preamp employs discrete Class-A transistor circuitry alongside a big, blue nickel-core custom Mäag input transforme for each channel. The outcome is clean and detailed sound with respectable specs, such as +27dBu of headroom and -128dB EIN noise.
The microphone input section for each channel has front panel switches, LED indicators, and buttons available for phantom power, -20db attenuation, peak metering, and phase / polarity flip. Microphone gain is continuously adjustable from a dedicated knob. The 71dB max gain is split in two gain ranges (+20dB to +42dB and +42dB to +71db), selectable via switch.
The front panel line switch toggles the rear panel XLR line input connectors. It is possible to keep both microphone and line sources connected and toggle between them for each channel. This means you can have one channel working as a microphone preamp and the other as a line amp to record both mic and line signals simultaneously. That’s a welcome bit of flexibility offered by the 2-channel design.
Furthermore, the mic input sections have quarter-inch TS input jacks for high impedance (1 mega-ohm) instruments along with quarter-inch ‘thru’ output jacks. These provide an isolated, buffered copy of the input signal at unity gain which you can take into external processors, run into long leads, re-amp with amplifiers, and anything else you’d like to do with the duplicate.
When connecting to the instrument input TS jack, an automatic detection circuit switches (using a relay) and routes the input signal to the mic input transformer. It also lowers its impedance to an appropriate value. Additionally, the detection circuit makes it impossible for phantom power current to ever reach the line inputs, even if it’s left switched on. It’s this kind of thinking that justifies paying boutique prices.
The PREQ2’s equalizer section (one for each channel) is meant to handle recording adjustments, subtle touchups, tonality changes, and euphonic enhancements. It includes a 2nd order, 12db/octave high-pass filter with fully variable 21-detent control sweeping from 20Hz to 200Hz and dedicated in/out bypass switch.
This is joined by the low frequency bell-shaped EQ section for boosting low frequencies switchable between 10Hz, 40Hz, 65Hz, 100Hz, 125Hz, and 165Hz. Up to 9db of boost is available. Finally, there’s Mäag Audio’s specialty AIR band shelf with 2.5, 5, 10, 15, 20, and 40-kHz frequency choices and up to 9db of boost. The AIR band and low frequency EQs share a single bypass push-button.
The PREQ2 looks like another fine example of Mäag’s competence and pedantism. It has both the sound quality and studio problem solving aspects covered, which is the outcome of diligent work.
Price and availability
At the time of announcement, price and availability information is not available for the PREQ2. Typically, Mäag rack units cost around USD 3000 each. I expect a similar price point for the PREQ2, but that’s just an assumption. If you are interested, the best route is to ask the nearest Mäag dealer.
MÄAG PREQ2 Video
- Mäag PREQ2 front: Mäag Audio
- Mäag PREQ2 rear: Mäag Audio
- Mäag PREQ2 gutshot: Mäag Audio