Good for the price, but...
So overall, I would rate this a must-buy if you can get it used. The deal brakers for me personally are the front-panel-only inputs (bad), the multi-function VU meter (good), the compressor controls (bad) and the features (good).
I'll go from left to right, across the front of the unit.
Phantom power switch is standard when you're spending more than about $100 on a preamp. no problems there. All the switches on this unit are toggle, and have LEDs behind them. Very nice for quick reference. The inputs are on the front of the unit -- I prefer them on the back, and many other units allow for an additional input in the front of their rackmount units for spontanaity -- i like that. This unit however will clog your rack with whatever cords you plug into it. I do like the fact that the inputs arent neutrik 2-in-1 plugs, this machine has a seperate XLR input and 1/4" with a switchable line/instrument button.
The gain knob: its a gain knob. What else can I say? the knobs on this unit provide enough resistance so that you dont make accidentally large changes, and the white-on-black design makes the settings highly visible.
The high pass filter is ok. I'm not a pro, and i only use the HPF switch on mics to get rid of floor vibrations. This feature is good to have, but not necessary.
Here's the big part. The compressor has VERY limited controls. Instead of having standard compressor controls (thresh, ratio, attack, release, etc) the compressor has 4. Threshold means what it means. "Comp slow attack" is for sound sources that need to be compressed, but you want to retain the original punch to them, like drum loops, or plucked strings. It does have a makeup gain knob, which is essential, and it has a "squash" button, which to my ear mimics a 4:1 ratio. So basically it is a compressor with only 2 choices of ratio, and 2 choices of attack.
The monitoing section is great to have, since the microphone signal will essentially bypass 2 phases of your soundcard's A/D converter, instead going directly to your headphones. this will improve the timing, as even the best soundcards clock in at about 6 to 7 MS. For normal monitoring, you double that (mic signal goes incomputer, latent, and comes out computer, latent) and essentially the direct monitoring saves you at least 14 MS.
I don't like this layout one bit, but the preamp and monitor section alone are worth the money you will pay for this unit. I purposefully skipped the MID SCOOP function because it is useless (you are better of EQing in your DAW anyway) but if this is in your budget, do yourself a favor and get it.