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clean preamps?

Discussion in 'Preamps & Processing' started by zedrein, Feb 26, 2009.

  1. zedrein

    zedrein Active Member

    Apr 19, 2008
    Hey all, I've been dabbling in recording both analog and digital on and off for some time, but there's still alot I need to learn. One thing I've wondered about is the use of "preamps" I own the original mbox that has 2 focusrite preamps on them, but I've still never been satisfied with the amount of gain I can get out of them before I get too much noise (Signal to noise ratio I believe it's called)

    I was just wondering if a preamp of some sort will hope remedy this issue? I just want a clean signal from my microphones or other sources. Please help!
  2. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Distinguished Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK
    An external preamp will help most effectively if you are able to bypass the preamps on the Mbox.

    Also, various figures get thrown around but apparently, standalone preamps don't really become worth it until you spend between $300 and $1000 per channel.
  3. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Aug 28, 2008
    Cincinnati, OH
    Home Page:
    If you'll look at some of the more recent topics here, you'll see there's a lot of buzz about interfaces/preamps.
    I own a few of those $400/channel preamps. I like them alot.
    I also enjoy a few cheaper preamps. But that's a roll of the dice.
    Feel lucky? (I've got a few that take up space)

    When I run the better pres through my interface (Presonus 26/26, $500 or so), I have the gain down on the interface all the way. Not sure if that's technically *bypassing* its preamps, but it is minimizing their impact.
    If the level's a little low, I'll boost the gain on the interface pre just enough to get it where I want it (that's assuming there's low noise coming in).

    I'd just make sure your external pre has low noise.
    Most good ones do.

    Learn from me - I spent around $600 on cheaper tube preamps. Presonus BlueTube and TubePre, and a B*cough*er tube pre. While I use the Presonus stuff, the latter's main purpose is to add to the "wow" factor of having all the little LEDs and buttons light up on my rack.

    I still think I might have preferred to put that $$ (and a few other misguided purchases) towards another channel or two of good preamp.
    Like a Neve.

    I'm not telling you to spend lots of money on high-end stuff.
    I'm just saying that if you intend on investing in a decent external preamp, make sure it works well w/ your current setup, and that it will provide the results you want. You'll be much happier in the end - plus, you'll be able to sell it for more than pocket change if that situation arises.
    Also be prepared to invest in a better interface w/ more I/O capabilities.
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    Not sure what you are recording? Not sure what needs so much gain? Oboe's at 30 feet from ribbon microphones is all that I can think of that requires 70 DB of gain? Certainly not anything of a rock-and-roll nature.

    Those focusrite preamps in the original M-Box have a great reputation. It sounds like operator error on your part. But just as has been indicated, different types of classic Mike preamps color sound differently. Older classic microphone preamps generally have transformer inputs. And they generally have gain controls that vary that character of the preamp greatly depending on how much gain is used.

    Many modern day microphone preamps are actually what I refer to as "safe preamps". What that means is, it is generally a preamp with a fixed gain of 20 DB or so. The gain trim is actually adjusting a secondary buffer amplifier which just does not change the texture of the preamp, making them far more consistent sounding regardless of gain setting. For example, Mackie is manufactured in that way. Those types of preamps never have any "Pad" switches as the microphone preamp really cannot be overloaded. So in the hands of less experienced engineers, the product appears more consistent. With the older preamps, those can usually be identified with a "pad" switch, even if they are transformer less. That is a preamp whose gain is truly variable. And so when input levels exceed the preamps capabilities, the pad switch must generally be engaged. But that isn't always the case. I'll frequently engage the pad switch even if the input levels do not exceed the capabilities of the microphone preamp input. This is so I can increase the gain of the preamp. This gives one a more open sound quality than a preamp whose gain control is placed lower with pad off, which will have a more squeezed texture. An important technique utilized by many engineers since it can create a completely different texture to the sound. I'll use it in place of equalization. I'll do that before I ever grab at the equalizer as I frequently track with & through the equalizer when I track stuff, even if it is not used. But one has to learn how to deal with the noise issues since a 20 DB pad switch with gain up, will destroy the signal to noise ratio by as much as the pad, i.e. 20 DB. So for some folks that's not desirable depending upon the sound source. You might be experiencing that?

    Of course certain brands and types of preamps are known for their particular sound. Many have been cloned and are available at a lower cost than some of the older classics. Those offer a great Bang for the buck and sometimes rival or are even better sounding to many people. I generally only use two brands of preamps that give me everything I want. Yes, they are classics and I'm very lucky to have them. I want nothing else.

    API & Neve
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  5. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Just don't buy a cheap tube preamp. I bought a Studio Projects VT-B1. It's quite nice for the money. The solid state mode, that is. Putting even a hint of tube into the signal means instant crap. Of course, the VT-B1 isn't amazing: it just gets higher levels at less noise with a slightly more balanced/accurate frequency response.
  6. zedrein

    zedrein Active Member

    Apr 19, 2008
    Well I am not looking to get a preamp for pure volume, I'm looking to get one to improve my signal to noise ratio. Whenever I record my electric guitar amp, I have to keep the levels really low or else I'll get too much noise, but when I record the guitar that low, it loses alot of it's dynamic quality.
  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    There is so much wrong with this statement, I don't know where to begin....

    Don't take it personally - I understand you're just starting out. BTW - welcome to RO.

    For what it's worth, the preamp's signal to noise ratio (SNR) is fixed. If you crank the preamp, the difference between the signal and the noise will remain the same. However, your maximum output will be higher with the gain cranked versus lower.

    Dynamic "quality" (I'm assuming you mean dynamic range) is also, largely not affected by the gain on the preamp unless the signal is quiet enough to be in the noise floor of the equipment (preamp, mics, AD converter, monitors/amps, etc.).

    I'm assuming the "noise" you're referring to is distortion. An electric guitar amp usually doesn't require much gain at the preamp (sometimes none or even none plus a pad). Adding an external preamp will not help this.

    Instead, tell us a little more about your situation -
    Are you clipping the digital stage (do you get some nasty crackling when it gets too loud)?
    What kind/brand/model microphone are you using?
    How loud is the amp turned up?
    Are you using other (particularly outboard) effects?

  8. kheftel

    kheftel Guest

    Are you using a mic on the guitar amp, or taking a line out of it?
  9. robcranmer

    robcranmer Guest

    Remy....you are a fountain of knowledge and I truly enjoy reading your posts in this forum group. Does anyone besides me get the sense that there are three or four people that know what they are talking about and a ton of "posers" here?
  10. kheftel

    kheftel Guest

    Well, I for one don't profess to have a ton of audio knowledge, to learn is why I'm here! I have been running my own studio with paying clients for over two years now, however. And hopefully I can share knowledge to people who have not been recording as long as I have and can help them out.
  11. Greener

    Greener Guest

    "Does anyone besides me get the sense that there are three or four people that know what they are talking about and a ton of "posers" here?"

    *Strikes a pose.

    Ms. David is one in a million, if not even a smaller fraction... Nigh on everyone is just poser in comparison.
  12. kheftel

    kheftel Guest

    I agree with that.
  13. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Distinguished Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK
    I think there are several levels of knowledge and BStery.

    I like to consider myself on the lower ends of the knowledge ladder - everything I say makes sense to me on some level so at least 1 person in the world finds it true :lol:.
  14. kheftel

    kheftel Guest

    I also consider myself on the lower ends of the ladder - there are so many that know so much more than I do and have so much more experience. It's nice to be able to rub shoulders with them on this forum. and sometimes what I say doesn't even make sense to myself ;)
  15. robcranmer

    robcranmer Guest

    I certainly didn't mean to imply that I'm some kind of expert. I am definitely NOT! I'm just, as the result of being in sales for so long, pretty good at conveying my experiences. It just seems like with some of the peeps here...you see them starting a thread about something one day, then they are replying like experts the next, to other peoples questions on said topic!
  16. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Distinguished Member

    Feb 21, 2009
    Too true man. I can't wait to get out the retail world. Half the time I can't even believe how many people believe me on a daily basis. Seriously, I've been doing it so long I can sell a snowball to an eskimo.
  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    Well...if you see someone doing that, please feel free to call B.S. on them. If you can prove it, I'll get your back when and where I can.

    That aggrevates me as well.

    However, there are a large number of people on these boards that know their stuff inside and out. It's just that they're out recording, editing, splicing, producing and mastering sometimes and can't always check in. Me - well, I'm waiting on this track to bounce right now.

  18. BDM

    BDM Active Member

    Oct 23, 2008
    Mali, Africa
    i am generally so full of baloney that people chase me with slices of bread...
    but some 'expert' pos(t)ers make me cringe and sometimes vomit a little in my own mouth... (entertaining in its own peculiar way)
  19. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Yeah....theres a few that should just shut-up and listen.

    Part of the problem is the LARGE amount of misinformation that is available all over the 'net. It permeates this business in particular because in general, describing the sound of something is futile at its best.

    You had to be there.......

    So, those who DO know something about this recording of stuff, sometimes have a hard time getting through to know-it-all-wanna-bes whose main source of information has been the vast pool of disinformation.

    Since you're not there in person to demonstrate the technique, or the gears abilities, or mic placements in particular situations, it makes it a crap shoot to tell who knows what.

    So. My suggestion is to simply try out the things you can and keep in mind the things you cant until such a time as you need it.

    My technical information pool is somewhat limited compared to a lot of you that can and do work in the digital medium. I dont know programs, computers, software, etc.

    But then I dont claim to.

    Beware. If it tastes, looks like, smells like, appears to be, BS,......it probably is.
  20. kheftel

    kheftel Guest

    Yup, we've all seen people who think they know a lot more than they really do.... I for one at least know I don't know very much.... ;)

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