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Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by SpringHalo, Aug 5, 2013.

  1. SpringHalo

    SpringHalo Active Member

    Hello, I'm just getting into the very basics of recording and purchased myself an XM8500 mic. My uncle had a preamp/mixer that I was going to use, but for some reason the mic doesn't work with it. I've tried everything and decided that I would just get a new preamp instead. I'm on a very tight ~$50 budget and already have a UCA202 for an ADC (16 bit isn't a ton but I think it will work; ~600mV inputs), so I'm looking for a cheap preamp that would get me where I want, and the ART seems to be the only thing under $70 or so. I've heard that the tube is bad, and I actually have an Amperex 12AT7 (10x or 100x more gain than 12AX7 I think?) that I could replace the tube with.

    My main recording will be vocals, but I might also connect a guitar or record cello/acoustic guitar.

    Thoughts/Suggestions appreciated!

    edit: I found an amazon review that somewhat describes the hypothetical situation, the question is what do I use for output? An XLR to single-RCA adapter?

  2. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Good 12AX7 gain factor = 100. Good 12AT7 gain factor = 70. 12AT7 has much lower gain. The tube is also running at a MUCH lower voltage than what it is capable of (something like 9 - 18V as opposed to much much higher...a couple hundred...in a tube amp). Look up "starved-plate tube" for some explanations.

    The ART will work...just don't expect a high-end studio sound out of it. I've had one of those around for years, and it can be handy for a certain goal (grunginess, maybe). I've tried different NOS tubes, and while they made some slight difference...none of them turned it into a $5000 preamp. Or, a $500 preamp. It is what it is.

  3. SpringHalo

    SpringHalo Active Member

    Will it work as a reasonably transparent preamp? I'm not interested in overdriving it to get different sound, I just need something that will get me consumer line-level outputs (600mV) for recording.

    Also, would using a XLR to RCA converter to get from the output of the ART to the inputs of the UCA202 negate the effectiveness of the XLR between the mic and the ART or is the circuit isolated?



    Edit: is there a way to contact a mod to move this to the budget-gear subforum? I must've missed that when I made this thread.
  4. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Your preparing yourself for some deceptions. Why not saving a bit of money and buy an audio interface that includes a preamp. Like the ART USB Dual Tube Pre if you must go with ART or go a bit better with the PreSonus AudioBox USB or the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB (which is my first pick for starters). Everything's there to plug your mic and record via usb. Going with a low quality preamp, adapter cables to a rca audio interface with poor converters will limit your capacity to do anything close to transparent recording.

    BTW, When you push a tube, there's a point where it's gonna distort but that does not meen it will be transparent at lower volume.
    A preamp is like a guitar string, every time you change de gage, the metal composition, the guitar sound will change. That,s why big studios have many preamps. It's the job of the engineer to pick the one that he knows will fit the job.

    It is very sad that you did not write questions before, on a small budget, a usb mic is a better alternative to low quality mic, preamp, audio interface that in the end cost the same price as a usb mic.
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Transparent it is not. The point of a valve (tube) box of this sort is to add colour. Whether you like the colour it paints can be very subjective. However, you could get it to work by using the 1/4" TS jack outputs going into the RCA inputs of your ADC, but you should really use an attenuator to cut the signal level by 20dB or so.

    In audio quality terms, you would be better off with the ART USB Dual Pre Project series. It also has a USB interface, but you can ignore that and just use the monitor output to feed your ADC.
  6. SpringHalo

    SpringHalo Active Member

    I can probably return these to amazon for the cost of shipping (currently have a mic and XLR -> 1/4" cable) and get something else. My original plan was to get the XM8500 and Behringer 302 USB, but it was suggested that the lower tier Behringer stuff was to be avoided, but I needed a DAC to connect my receiver to my PC, so I ended up getting a UCA202 for its output capabilities. It just so happens that it also has audio input capabilities too, so I decided to use that. My uncle said he had a mic and a mixer/preamp that I could use, but it turned out that the preamp didn't seem to work on it, and the mic itself either needed phantom power, or something else. Regardless of that, the preamp didn't work, so I needed something else. I looked at the scarlett 2i2, but $200 is a bit much for my purposes.

    In all honesty, I really just wanted a top-notch mic to use for VOIP with a little recording on the side for fun, since I am sick of cheap low quality plastic stuff.

    Should I just return the stuff and get an AT2020 or something? I'm trying to find simple balanced preamps but it seems nothing is really on the market near my pricerange. I'm into DIY and was looking at Elliot Sound Products, but his PCBs are $20 a pop and I would need both the preamp and the power board, as well as all of the components and a 16V AC power supply, and then I'll still be "limited" by the UCA202's 16bit 600mV line-in ADC.


    Mixer shown here
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    The focusrite 2i2 is actually 149$ : Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface | Musician's Friend

    As I said earlier, a usb mic might be all you need Blue Yeti USB Microphone | Musician's Friend

    Be aware, I'm not a musiciansfriend seller, it's just easy to point you to a place with average price.
  8. SpringHalo

    SpringHalo Active Member

    How big of a difference would the Scarlett + XM8500 have compared to the blue yeti?
  9. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Chalk and cheese. Whatever one's opinion is of the manufacturer of the XM8500, there are situations where a dynamic mic put through a good-quality audio interface has many advantages over a cheap condenser mic with its own built-in pre-amp and converter. One of those situations is recording vocals in a less than ideal acoustic environment.

    In an earlier post you mentioned the Elliot Sound Products pre-amp and that you were into DIY and possibly interested in constructing it. This design was a new one on me, and if you were to go that route, I would be interested in knowing how well it works. I was a little suspicious of a circuit that has no r.f. by-passing, but that can be patched in if it turns out to be a problem. You can also see from the design as presented that there is no provision for phantom power, but, again, that could be added.
  10. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Boswell you're right, any condenser with a good preamp is better than a cheap condenser. But then from the first post of Springhalo, I got the feeling, he was looking for the cheapest solution and his main use will be VOIP (I guess skype or other online communications). That's why I also brought up the usb mic solution. You know that dynamic mic, with a the Tube MP preamp and bad converter is far from inspiring me. The USB mic has the honesty of being one unit (one circuit handling the signal) and easy to use.

    SpringHalo, with around 50$ to spend, I guess returning any equipment you can and getting a usb mic would be a wise choice. If quality recording ever comes of an interest to you in the future, investing in a better audio interface (as the scarlett) is a good first step. Of course, the scarlett is not a pro quality unit like RME, Apogee or UAD, but it can get you started in the right direction.

    As for the choice of usb mic, you should try them before you buy. A bad sounding mic for me could be exactly what your voice needs to shine.
  11. SpringHalo

    SpringHalo Active Member

    Would I even need phantom power for a dynamic cardioid mic? I'm getting interested in the DIY portion..

    Do you mean cardioid, or cheap condenser+good preamp > cheap condenser?
  12. SpringHalo

    SpringHalo Active Member

  13. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    You need phantom power for a Condenser mic. But, certain condensers can use batteries as power instead of phantom from the preamp. At this point, you need to test some gear.. go to the store and make your own idea about what you need and fit you budget. What I was saying is 3 cheap unit is not better than 1 average unit doing it all.
    I never tried your mic, but if plugged to a good preamp (we're talkin 400$ units or more) it might sound better than a Usb mic. And I say might, because each preamp amplify the signal by creating a texture, some transparent some very colored. That texture could sound better or not. depending if you get a good match for your taste and need.
  14. OmegaFlame757

    OmegaFlame757 Member

    Save your money up until you can afford something better. Trust me i went down the same road looking back i would have just saved up and worked with what i had until i could get what i wanted.

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