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best mics, or best preamps on a budget?

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by took-the-red-pill, Feb 3, 2005.

  1. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Okay let's say I have a limited budget(true) and let's say I have not yet bought my gear(true) and let's say I won't have clients looking over my shoulder and asking 'why there is the noticeable absence of a U87'(true):

    If I'm reading you guys right, I'm hearing that an SM57 can sound like gold run through a great pre, but a $2G mic sounds like yik run through a cheapo pre-amp.

    So if I am on said limited budget, it seems to me I'm better off breaking the bank on pres and then spending less on mics, then add a few killer mics as money allows.

    Yeah, I know, the best is to blow the wad on the best of everything, but I need to get the job done without the 'lovely Missus' serving me with papers, if ya know what I mean.

    What would YOU do in this situation?

    Sorry if I'm repeating a ? that has been asked a thousand times

  2. johnthemiracle

    johnthemiracle Active Member

    i would definitely suggest you get a killer mic first and then a good pre amp. or get the best mic you can afford. generally you won't be happy with an sm57 when you want to record vocals (although it might work out in some situations). with a great mic you'll be able to get great recordings even with not as great mic pre's...
  3. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    From time to time I will use a 57 on vocals. I always try it out on one take to see how it sounds....I've kept bits and pieces a few times.

    For screaming tracks a 57 is nice.
  4. tripnek

    tripnek Active Member

    Without a doubt I'd go for the preamp first (or several). With a good preamp you can make a professional quality recording with any number of inexpensive mics. Sm57, SM58, MD421, SM7, RE20, AT4033, AT4050. I even read an interview once with Alan Parsons where he said the AT4033 was his current "favorite vocal mic". And a multitude of comercially released albums have been recorded with the SM57.
  5. tubes4tone

    tubes4tone Guest

    If it was me in this situation (and I am, sort of), and I had no other mics or preamps, then I would buy:
    1) SM57 - standard dynamic mic
    2) A quality condenser mic, such as something from the AT40XX series, that sounds good but doesn't break the bank?
    3) A pricey preamp. Maybe a 2-channel Brent Averill or 4-channel API or something similar?

    Then you would be off and running to start recording a variety of sources: guitar cabinets and such with the 57; drums (room mic'd), vocals, or anything else with the Condenser. Plus, you won't ever need to feel like your buying "sub-par" gear that you might outgrow. You will always need 57's and a good condenser in the studio. Then as you continue to sneak money away from the 'lovely Missus' you can add some variety to your collection. ;)

    I'm not a pro offering pro advice, but I do have a similar quality vs. quantity dilemma.
  6. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Thanks guys,

    Oh, and I wasn't necessarily stuck on an SM57, just using it to illustrate the concept of inexpensive mic->expensive pres versus expensive mic->inexpensive pres.

    Sounds like even the pros will occasionally grab an old beat up dynamic to throw in front of a cabinet, a singer, or a snare, but they never choose an el-cheapo pre-amp to record the signal. So I'm reading anyway.

    Cheers all
  7. xraydelta1

    xraydelta1 Guest


    sm57 does excellent on vocals. It is the most widely used microphone for vocals for generations now. It is perhaps not the highest in fidelity, but it gets the job done, which is what you want.

    Enuf of all that sm57 hype, here is my advice:

    Get an Audix TL2 with a GRACE preamp. Grace single channels preamps are the best quality preamps for the cheap money.

    Other than that, go with Apogee mini me or SE electronics condenser mic. I am not BSting you man, the sound quality of both those setups will be superb and cheap. Don't go with the popular opinion, use experienced knowledge only.
  8. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    took the red pill
    You are correct on the fact that high quality pre amps will make for dynamite recordings.
    And it does not really matter which mic you use (cheap ones or big money mics)
    FYI----I own appox 15-20 mics
    2, SM57
    1, SM58
    3, Avlex condenser mic's
    Audix DP4 (drum pack)
    a matched pair of C4 Studio projects
    1, Audix O7
    and a few more somewhere around here

    With all that being said, I only invested about $1500-$2000 on mics.
    Now I have to buy pre amps so I won't have to use the crappy Allen & Heath pre amps on my compact mixer
    But I will be spending appox $6000- $10,000 on mic pres
    hope this helps!
    (sm57's sound good on damn near everything)
  9. Bhennies

    Bhennies Guest

    To each his own, but I would say definitely get a killer preamp first. How about a great workhorse mic that's affordable- (shure ksm44) with a high end pre. MIght be doable budget wise- I think the shure sounds pretty great and will defintely be quite usuable for just about everything with a great pre.

    when I ran my crappy MXL mic (first mic ever :)) through my universal audio pre when I first bought it, it sounded actually pretty damn nice.

    On the other hand, my blue berry sounded like $*^t when I tested it through my old 001's pres. sounds amazing through the UA of course.
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Mic pres are my favorite topic ... and I think there's nothing else that can make as much of a difference in quality.

    The danger is there's some stuff out there that is hyped to be better but really isn't ... so if you are not ready to go with something that is near the top of the food chain, you are IMO just as well off staying in the lower end.

    A good mic pre is usually all discreet construction (although the Focusrite Red Range, API's and the JLM TMP8 are op amp types) Good pres have super adequate power supplies, so if the unit has a "wall wart", IMO it can be eliminated. Good mic pres often use transformers on the inputs and sometimes the outputs ..it is said, "the sound is in the iron". There are some transformerless designs like the Earthworks, Grace 801 and the Millennia HV-3 that are very good .. but these types are usually very expensive.

    All that being said, for a mono channel strip, look at the new Sebatron "Thorax" or perhaps a two channel Sebatron VMP-2000e ... these are the least expensive "real" mic pres currently available to my knowledge.
  11. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

  12. wwittman

    wwittman Active Member

    Kurt, API 2520 op-amps are discrete, just potted.

    I think that the basic premise is correct... a good mic is wasted on a crappy pre... but tha doesn't mean a crappy mic sounds like "gold" through a great pre.

    But you need a good pre FIRST.

    I've never met a transformerless mic pre that sounded even CLOSE to something I'd inflict on a record.
    Unless the idea is to make the most poopy, flimsy sounding record as possible.

    For me, I can make an entire record with a Daking mic pre and a Gefell Um-70 and be very happy.
    And that's less expensive than one Neve 1073 by itself, and at least as good or better sounding.
  13. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    and that my friends is why he has the gold records "on the wall" ... nice post William. Thanks for clearing up the API thing ... I have been wondering about that. I suppose that would apply to the Focusrite and the JLM as well ...

    On another note, I was just reading the newest recording rag I have today in the "library" and I came across an ad for the GT Brick ... I have seen some others here, say they liked it.

    Now this seems like it would be worth looking at ... for $500 its discreet, class A, transformer balanced with a herkey power supply. All the necessary ingredients are there, if "cooked" correctly, this may be the price breakthrough that everyone has been looking for. I'm going to see if I can get my mitts on one to review..
  14. tripnek

    tripnek Active Member

    I have been researching the Seventh Circle Audio Preamps and they look like the real deal for cheap. I have yet to see a bad review or talk to anyone who ownes one that has anything bad to say about them.
  15. Randyman...

    Randyman... Well-Known Member

    Another "Thumbs Up" for Seventh Circle. I start tracking tomorrow with 2x A12's amd 2x N72's (Kick/Snare + Overheads)! :D. This will be my first session with them, so I cant wait to put them through their paces.

    And - I also like the BRICK - you can buy them for $399 all day long at GC!

  16. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Have you used the Brick yet? If so, what are your impressions? What does it sound like (if anything)?
  17. Randyman...

    Randyman... Well-Known Member

    "What does it sound like (if anything?)"

    Well, Kurt - I certainly don't have you killer background to concisely describe its sound ;), but is is certainly "smoother" and warmer than the ART Pro-Channel's tube pre section. I used it with the GT55 LDC on Male Vox, and I can say I like the combo.

    I also tried the Brick as an Acoustic DI with a Martin DM, but it didn't do much for me. It wouldn't seem to clean up nicely - even with no extra gain. Maybe it was something else, but a regular old DI box sounded fine on the same guitar. I could see it doing OK as a Bass DI (But I have a U-5 for those duties). I guess you don't buy a tube pre for "Clean" applications anyway :roll:.

    I'll fiddle with it more over the next few weeks as I try and get my drum sound all tweaked out. I may use the Brick as my Room Mic micpre, or even as my second (resonant) Kick Mic pre.

    I'm also (obviously) very excited to finally use the Seventh Circle pre's! I also picked up an HHB Classic 80 that I need to find some good uses for (any suggestions?).

    I'm really hoping to capture the "3-D" sound you speak of so often, and I think these pres will surely help me in my quest. Mics, mics, and more mics are next in store :D.


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