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Few thoughts on a preamp for electro-acoustic guitar

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by perplex, Dec 5, 2005.

  1. perplex

    perplex Guest

    Hi there.

    I'm currently on a RME HDSP 9632 using only the analog in's and sp/dif out (at the moment).
    I record only guitar, both electric and electro-acoustic.

    However, I find the input from the El-acoustic to be a tad too low for an effective recording, hence the topic/subject of this post.

    Preferably an 8ch with ADAT out, so I can start using the other 8 inputs. :)

    They have to be so-called "transparent" line preamps.

    I've looked at the RME OctaMic D, Mindprint EnVoice Mk2, Avalon U5 and the Presonus Digimax LT.

    So far, the first and the latter are the ones who look like the immediate choice. However, I've been wrong before.

    Any hints/tips/thoughts on any of these units are greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.
    perplex
     
  2. CoyoteTrax

    CoyoteTrax Well-Known Member

    Check out the Countryman 85 for a simple transparent DI resolution, or an active DI from Radial like the ProDI or JDI.

    If you don't really need a preamp and just want to boost your input a nice DI box will save you a lot of money.
     
  3. perplex

    perplex Guest

    CoyoteTrax - thanks for the answer.

    Well, I don't really *need* a preamp, but if the result obtained with a preamp is far better than with a DI-box, I've got no hesitation in "blowing away" the extra bucks.

    However, part of the preamp-case is that I would wanna use my ADAT on the HDSP soundcard. So the OctaMic and the Presonus (amongst others, I suppose) gives me the option of good converting and preamping.

    However, if I ever need to record vocals, I'm sure a DI will be obsolete since I'd end up with wanting a preamp anyhow.

    About the use of DI: Isn't it only to take a high-imp. input and convert it into a low-imp. balanced recording-signal?
    I've never seen (except the Avalon U5) a DI-box that actually makes the signal louder. Perhaps I need to look at more boxes for starters. :)

    However, when recording electric guitar, balanced signal isn't a problem (got a few TC Electronic units that gives me that).
    If I can take that signal tho' (same with el-acoustic guitar) and put it into a mic-preamp of pretty good quality, and even get a better signal (recording), I've no problems with going the expensive way. In other words, going for a preamp.

    //perplex
     
  4. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    some DI boxes will not only present the right load to your guitar AND boost the signal to line level
    so it may be possible to find a one box solution ...
    BUT
    ... more often the DI box will just be an interface between your guitar and Mic-pre.

    The Contryman is a FET high imp input for your guitar and that then provide a correct power transfer to the Mic-pre.
    The Mic-Pre then provides the gain to the Line level recorder input.

    Each stage can provide a Tone and Colour
    DI
    Mic-pre
    so it may take some experimenting with combinations to get what you want.
    This experimenting is worth the time and effort.

    ... you can never have too many DI's or Mic-pres. :)
     
  5. perplex

    perplex Guest

    Hi Kev, and thanks for answering.

    <quote>... you can never have too many DI's or Mic-pres.</quote>

    That is entirely depending on the guitar, I'd say. :)

    However, I've got the sound I want from my guitar. I just want the best possible volume (recording signal) from the acoustic one. And if it works (mic-pre) with the electric too, then that's just swell :)

    The way you explain it, I'm starting to get the jeepers of the DI-box. The last thing I want is for my guitar to sound different plugged than unplugged. The more additional tone and color, the more I turn away from that product. :)

    Thanks for chiming in tho', I'll definately be looking into DI -> Mic-preamp setup. However, just gotta find those transparent ones.
    I heard good stuff about the SansAmp Para Driver DI (the replacement for the Acoustic DI). If that's a transparent one, I'm right back where I started.

    Now, for those mic-pre's.... :)

    //perplex
     
  6. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    I must be missing something here. A good way to record electro-acoustic is to combine the direct signal with a miced signal So for the direct signal this is going to need a bit of warming up on the way in, any decent mic pre will work well for this. I find that ART Tube MPs, retubed with a premium tube, are superior to the mic pres in most value boards, and these are *cheap*, you can get one for $50-ish at zzounds and retube it for $10.
    http://www.acousticfingerstyle.com/tubemic.htm
    http://www.zzounds.com/item--ARTTMPSTU

    In terms of premium preamps there's tons out there from Neve to SSL, etc. (Link removed) but probably the most feasible route is something similar to this:
    http://www.zzounds.com/item--FOCISA428

    And that gives you enough pres to handle your two mics too. In terms of micing the player you'll probably want to make sure you have a couple decent, matching mics (and pres) and try something like this:
    DSC00024copy.jpg

    By mixing the direct signal in under the miced signal you should be able to get some fairly premium sounds once you get the hang of it. Certainly better than DI alone. FWIW I wouldn't worry about transparency in this case personally, I'd look for a pre which has a color which you like. My two cents.
     
  7. McCheese

    McCheese Well-Known Member

    That man does not look happy.
     
  8. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    I'll bet he can play his ass off though, you can just tell...
     
  9. perplex

    perplex Guest

    Thanks for your two cents, Calgary.
    If this keeps up, I can afford a topnotch unit in no time :)

    However, one of the reasons I'll be going (for now) with a stereo (preferably) one-signal acoustic recording is mainly because I'm in my own home studio, right next to my "not too silent"-pc.
    Noise is a factor I definately will, but won't record (if that makes any sense). :)

    Another thing is I really don't have the possibility to mic myself up when playing, AND control the sequencer/pc from that setup-spot.
    So, I'm looking for a box/rackunit that I can have at arms length.

    If I were to do a recording in a buisiness studio, I'd definately go for Neumann's mic-setup, but for this homestudio a direct line-signal will be good enough for now. (Once I get enough signal in to my soundcard.)

    Another thing I should mention is that it HAS to have ADAT out if it's to be a 8 channel mic/line preamp. 8 analog outputs are of no use to me, as I only have stereo analog in on my soundcard.
    So, either Guitar - DI - Preamp (8 channels) - ADAT
    or Guitar - DI - Preamp (2 channels) - Analog
    So if not 8-channel ADAT, a 2 channel or in worst case mono unit is good enough.

    However, I tried it through my Egnater TOL IE4 with G-Force and D-Two from Tc Electronic hooked up, and it didn't sound too bad, even tho it's mostly a tube preamp designed for electric guitar the result was nearly good enough. (7 tubes preamp! :) )

    As far as the "look for a pre that has the color of your choice".
    That's the problem, I don't want any coloring. I'm perfectly happy with my guitar the way it sounds. And as far as coloring go, I'd probably end up using the G-Force for some reverbs and perhaps other effects, so no colors for me please. :)

    Thanks for the tips! I'll read up on that ART unit.

    //perplex
     
  10. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    FWIW to get a really amazing acoustic guitar sound you need to add mics to the recording setup. You can book an hour or two for tracking acoustic guitar in a commercial studio for anywhere from $25/hr and up. In my town there's a great little studio for tracking (Protools, analog, or PC) which sells 8 hour blocks for $175 including a fairly competent engineer. And that's Canadian money. :) The point being that if quality is your goal you may be better off practicing your material at home until it's very tight and just spending $25-50 to go down to a pro studio for an hour and track the guitar there. 2 cents.

    IMO no DI or preamp can turn a direct signal into that really maxxed out sort of acoustic sound, i.e. Led Zeppelin, Crosby Stills Nash, Tommy Emmanuel type sound... Amp sims take a stab at it but there's just no sound like a good mic in a good room. :cool:
     
  11. perplex

    perplex Guest

    It would be a shame to add a half-decent DI to this guitar. :)
    When I will do the final recording (with band) I will of course use a professional studio, but until then I need to make the music.

    And, yes, you're quite right. Nothing beats a good mic/room combo. :)
    However, what setup would get the closest to hitting it off? :wink:
    Regarding speaker emulators, I think the Groove Tubes SE2 is the only one worth looking at. I talked to a salesman today, and he recommended me a POD for this guitar.. Now THAT would be a crime!

    //perplex
     
  12. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    :shock:
    just one guitar !!

    The FET with very input impedance has given the Countryman a clean reputation.

    Still you have to try these things
    as some people like the fact that a DI can tame the dynamics of the guitar.
    Recorded and Live sounds are often different and perhaps should be.
     
  13. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    I love the POD personally, great piece of gear. Not ideal for getting high fidelity acoustic sounds but still great gear. There's these:
    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/nov04/articles/fishmanaura.htm
     
  14. perplex

    perplex Guest

    Ok, I've read up on the Countryman products and Fishman Aura.
    However, it's the kind of unit I will consider to get after I get the preamp. It looks really nice :) (Same as with the SansAmp Para Driver DI)

    I notice now I haven't told you guys I'm on a nylon-strung classical guitar (with pickup) and not a steel-strung one, I doubt it'll do much difference tho', but it might be good to know.

    I got a response from one of the salesmen I've been in contact with today, and I think I'll be going for the RME OctaMic D (so I can use the ADAT on my soundcard). Then, when that unit has safely arrived, I'll look after a DI or the Fishman Aura. However, no need for one of those without the preamp, so the preamp comes first.

    Perhaps I wind up using ONLY the guitar hooked to the preamp. :)

    Thanks all for chiming in and giving me a few good products to drool on (except the POD, of course) :)

    //perplex
     
  15. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    It makes a huge difference. There's no possible way to get a great direct-only nylon string sound I've ever heard of. You simply miss too much of the full sound. My nylon string is a great guitar with a very well installed Fishman acoustic matrix natural pickup, but I still need to add the miced sound to get any sort of studio quality tracks out of it. FWIW when I do record direct I just go straight through my Onyx board and it's about as good as it can be... :cool:

    FWIW I don't think there's any DI box or preamp which will do what it sounds like you're looking for. my 2 cents anyhow. :cool:
     
  16. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    It makes a huge difference. There's no possible way to get a great direct-only nylon string sound I've ever heard of. You simply miss too much of the full sound. My nylon string is a great guitar with a very well installed Fishman acoustic matrix natural pickup, but I still need to add the miced sound to get any sort of studio quality tracks out of it. FWIW when I do record direct I just go straight through my Onyx board and it's about as good as it can be... :cool:

    http://www.fishman.com/products/details.asp?id=24

    FWIW I don't think there's any DI box or preamp which will do what it sounds like you're looking for. my 2 cents anyhow. :cool:
     
  17. perplex

    perplex Guest

    <quote>FWIW I don't think there's any DI box or preamp which will do what it sounds like you're looking for. my 2 cents anyhow.</quote>

    All I want is to record my acoustic guitar.
    I want a preamp that adjusts the signal to be either -10, 0 or +4 db and at the same time amplifies the signal, which any preamp SHOULD do.

    So... :)

    I'll be going for the OctaMic D. Getting ADAT (8 channel Mic pre) out, and the possibility to add microphones AND a direct recording line from the guitar.

    However, regarding the guitar.
    It's an original Takamine (hand made in Japan), and everyone says it sounds even better plugged right into the "board"/"card".
    Once the OctaMic D is in place, I'll be trying out a few DI-boxes, to see if it really does improve the signal/sound, even tho' I have my doubts. In a live situation, if I were a long way from the equipment I wouldn't hesitate bringing a DI just to get the signal a tad better on the way, but for this setup (1m away from the preamp) I don't think I'll be missing out that much.

    However, I'll try a DI with an open mind and fresh ears.
    Who knows, perhaps it will do miracles. :)
    They told me I couldn't ever get my el-guitar setup to sound nearly as good as a mic'ed cabinet. I proved those buggers wrong.. :)

    //perplex
     
  18. AudioJohn

    AudioJohn Guest

    More appropriate for live use than recording (but still very useful in the Studio) is the Acoustic Pre-amp made in the UK and used by major artists:

    http://www.orchid-electronics.co.uk
     
  19. CoyoteTrax

    CoyoteTrax Well-Known Member

    FWIW, my personal preference in tracking nylon strings in the studio (regardless of mic technique and choice of preamp) is to have a nice tube compression with AT7's in the signal path set to about 3:1, with thresh set at about -15 or so using makeup gain to push the signal out nice and hot.

    The AT7's in the compressor put the signal a little more in your face driving a thicker more intimate sound with tighter bass and more of the nuances of what's happening dynamically between the strings the wood and the fingers.


    A guitar like that deserves to be heard up close and personal.
     
  20. tboneted

    tboneted Guest

    Guitar Preamp

    Hi - I've got a Taylor with the expression system, and a National Tricone with a highlander pickup. I just got a DTAR Sonata preamp. 2 channels. Either balanced or line. It's got eq designed for guitars, and it's really a great preamp. You can mold the sound you get with the eq to get exactly the tone you want. And you can boost the signal the way you want.

    It's ideal for live and when blended with a mic, it's an awesome recorded sound. It's pretty darn good straight in, when it comes to that.

    Oh, and it's about $350 US.

    T
     

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