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Amps VS monitors, where to spend?

Discussion in 'Monitoring / Headphones' started by took-the-red-pill, Aug 3, 2005.

  1. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    So here's one that may not get talked about a lot.

    I hear a lot of talk here about the importance of pre amps, and that the pros will sometimes grab a cheap mic, but they never run it through a cheap pre amp. I'm beginning to understand tht pres are very important.

    I'm wondering if the same is true for the monitor chain. Maybe the monitors get all the press, because they're sexy, but maybe the amplification behind it is more important? Is that a true statement?

    or to put it another way...

    If faced with a limited budget, would you:

    spend big $ on an amp, and then get some 'okay' monitors?


    spend big $ on monitors, and then get an 'okay' amp?


    get good powered monitors for the biggest bang for buck?

    Yes, of course, the real answer is to get the best of everything, but in my world that is not an option, so I have to play the cards I'm dealt. I'm looking for a general direction here as far as how to approach the problem.

  2. McCheese

    McCheese Well-Known Member

    I would think (and this is only specualtion) that you would want to get good monitors and a less-good amp (with the idea of maybe upgrading your amp down the road). My thought behind this is that if you have a great amp, and run it out of shitty speakers, you're not going to be able to hear the greatness of the amp. Maybe I'm way off on this though.

    I think either combination is only going to sound 'good', even with 'great' speakers.

    On the subject, Tape Op did a decent, practical review of some new ART amp in the latest issue. You may want to give it a read.
  3. Digger

    Digger Guest

    I think that monitoring should be your first area of focus. This not only includes the quality of the monitors but also the qulaity of the listening environment. I would start reading up on some basic acoustic principles, http://www.auralex.com has some decent downloadable reading material. Try applying what you learn to the set up and treatment of your listening environment. Monitoring and the proper treatment of your listening environment can easily be one of the most expensive parts of setting up your home studio.

    The theory is of course that no matter how good the preamp and or mic, it won't make a difference if you can't properly hear the sonic qualities of your equiptment and most importantly your mixing and tracking.

    For me personally I found that it took me a while to develop my listening to where I could truly hear the tonal differences between mic pres and I am still working on it. I found it a lot easier to decipher tonal differences between microphones. Once you have completed your monitoring investment I would probably suggest focusing on your mic selection and settling (at least initially) on a reasonable quality preamp.

    I am a big believer of listening to gear B4 purchasing as half the reviews you will read in the mags are worthless watered down crap aimed at not pissing off advertisers. The chances of you appreciating the tonal qualities of a good preamp are going to be low. You initially have a much better chance of developing your ears on choosing the right mic.

    All being said, I don't know what your preamp needs are but if you only need one good preamp channel than you don't have to spend a lot of money. $500 will put you into a Speck or Grace mic pre, which is pretty high end stuff. You will more than likely spend considerably more $$ on a good quality mic or a pair of monitors.

    There is my two cents, good luck and good listening!
  4. frob

    frob Well-Known Member

    in my experience the amp would be more important then the monitors. case in point; i have done car audio and home theatre setups for a long time now. changing the deck in ones car and doing nothing to the speakers has a dramatic difrance, while changing the speakers and leaving a factory deck would yeald litle to no results. your speakers are only as good as the amp driving them.
  5. Digger

    Digger Guest

    Are you talking about power amplifiers or pre-amplifiers? If pre-amps I think you are worng (read below for more detail) If amplifiers, I should have clarified as I thought it was obvious that this person was in the market for a pair of active nearfield monitors.

    I have never done car or home theatre installations so I can't really comment on how they compare to a pair of nearfeild monitors in a controlled listening environment intended for mixing and tracking. I do know enough to know that they are very different applications compared to what red-pill is trying to acheive.

    I still stand by what I said, I have never noticed 'dramatic' differences by changing pre-amps although I do notice the differences more so now than when I first started. The differences are fairly subtle and to an untrained ear with bad monitors and an improperly tuned listening environment - It won't make one ounce of a difference what mic pre he/she has because they will not be able to hear the difference.

    Monitors, mics and Preamps - in that order!
  6. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    The monitoring chain is a chain that's only as strong as it's weakest link.

    I'm a big fan of my monitoring chain - B&W M802's with a Bryston 4B.

    Just before I got the 4B, my old Bryston went a little loopy on me and I had to substitute the amp for two weeks.

    Had to be the longest two weeks of my life... A nice old Kenwood from back when Kenwood meant something decent. Garbage when compared to even the modest Bryston 2B that I replaced. My speakers sounded small and tired.

    SO - Get the best chain you can. Get the best monitors you can and match them up with an amp that's worthy of them. If you have to meet somewhere in the middle, it's better than having something that's preventing you from getting the most out of everything else.
  7. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    To clarify any misconceptions about my question. This thread is in no way about mics, mic pre amps, room acoustics, or any other piece of equipment.

    It is the following:

    If all other things are equal, is it the quality of the MONITORS, or the quality of the AMPLIFIER(S) driving them that is more important?

    I have had the exact same experience that frob has. When I kept the cheap speakers in my car, but swapped the amp for a very good one the difference was HUUUUUUGE. Clear, even, no distortion. Good speakers with my cheap amp still sounded like crap.

    My limited experience with good pre amps and cheap mics has been similar. Good pre with cheap mic CAN sound good. Good mic with cheap pre amp still sounds cheap.

    However, I don't know if this translates to the monitor chain in a studio, so that's the basis of my question.

    Back on track I hope

  8. frob

    frob Well-Known Member

    if you want my opinion on what monitors to get, its all over this forum but ill say it now.

    unless youve got 7-10k to spend on monitors get a pair of yahmaha MSP5s, if you do a search of them here you will find all the praise in the world.
  9. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    good info.

    Massive, yeah I know that one ought to look at getting a great chain from start to finish, but as I said earlier, I will realistically be having to make compromises, therefore I'm trying to find out if there are compromises worth making and those not worth making. I think I might be leaning toward being an "Amp Is King" kinda guy, but that's just me.

    Frob, I'll check out the Yammies

    Thanks for the responses.
  10. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    I think the speakers are more important.

    As a speaker and amp builder I think it is still harder to make excellent speakers than an excellent amplifier.

    drivers are very good these days but you still have to combine them into a system
    a passive requires careful balancing
    ... an active system is a little easier but a fully active three way will require more parts.

    Big budget three way active has some excellent choices these days

    but at the budget end I think I'd go for the best passive two way I could find ....
    then find a second hand big power amp with an analog supply and discrete output components.
    ... go looking for twice the grunt you first think you need.
    Headroom is king.

    Secondary and close monitoring can be from any of the new style active two way 6 or 8 inch systems available today.
  11. Barefoot Sound

    Barefoot Sound Active Member

    Whoo, it's been a while since I've treaded in this neck of the woods. Long time no see rec.org! :D

    I have to agree with Kev. Amps are important, but speakers are more important.
  12. anxious

    anxious Guest

  13. frob

    frob Well-Known Member

    i dont think he is saying that speakers are more important. just that a great speaker should cost more then a great amp. he also said to buy said amp used, which makes scents. though i still stand behind my yamahas

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