This is more a mic question than a preamp question so I thought it was more suitable in this forum. My son has been writing beats and recording rap/hiphop songs with a basic mic and mixer board into the analog line-in to his iMac. He is looking to step things up a bit, so he's looking for a reasonable entry level interface and mic combination, predominantly for recording vocals (rap/hiphop) – and maybe some acoustic guitar. But, as your typical newbee, I would like these components to be as versatile as possible (it never hurts to ask right) since I expect he will eventually expand into other genre's. For interfaces I have narrowed it down to the M Audio Fast Track Ultra and the PreSonus Firestudio Mobile. I appreciate that the Presonus is probably a higher quality product/spec. and that firewire input has clear advantages over USB but would prefer to go with the Fast Track Ultra because it seems that firewire is disappearing. Since simultaneous multichannel input is not an important requirement the USB2 input should perform adequately, and the Fast Track Ultra boasts a host of versatile features for the price. For mics I have been comparing several in the $250 - $350 range. I have read great reviews about both the SE2200a and the AT4040. However from a technical perspective they seem at opposite ends of the spectrum and I am wondering how they will perform with the interface I am considering. Here are the details (pardon me if the units are not correctly stated - the values should be comparable): SE2200a: Sensitivity: 14.1mV/Pa Max SPL: 125dB Noise: 17dB Max Output = -4dBu (from lookup table - based on Sensitivity Vs. Max SPL) Output Noise= -112dBu (from lookup table - based on Sensitivity Vs. Noise) AT4040: Sensitivity: 25.1mV/Pa Max SPL: 145dB Noise: 12dB Max Output = +22dBu (from lookup table - based on Sensitivity Vs. Max SPL) Output Noise= -112dBu (from lookup table - based on Sensitivity Vs. Noise) Fast track Ultra: PreAmp Gain: 60dbu PreAmp Max Input: +21 My son says the AT4040 has received good reviews from forums related to Rap/hiphop, and I have read a lot of good general reviews as well, but the max output of this mic is right at the limit of the Fast Tracks max input – so I am concerned about headroom. Could the mic output typically overdrive this preamp distorting the output? The salesperson says it will not be too loud for this preamp. Would it be better to look at a mic with a lower max output that will provide more headroom (ex. AKG perception 420, max output= 12dBu, output noise=-107)? The RODE NT1 is also well reviewed in this category and has a middle of the road max output and low output noise - but he has access to his friends so would like to add a different flavour. I also really like the reviews on the SE2200a, it seems to have won a lot of awards (if that means anything), seems to have been accepted as a plausible studio option and is offered at an excellent pricepoint. But the max output (-4dBu) seems really low and I’m concerned that the interface preamp will not adequately drive this mic – requiring more gain and consequently more preamp noise in the output. Is this not as much of an issue with digital recording? What about monitor levels – would they end up being to low, even if recording level input was adequate? The concern with this option is that it will be too quiet. I would be interested in any comments or direction regarding these two questions. Let me know if there are any important details I left out.