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Going to buy a pre-amp.. so which one ?!

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Voiceofallanger, Feb 18, 2011.

  1. Voiceofallanger

    Voiceofallanger Active Member

    So.. After failing miserably at the presonus competition after writing a rubbish entry, I have scraped together about £195 .. don't ask me what that is in dollars and I need a pre-amp that isn't going to totally suck hardcore...

    This is not an area of experience for me.. because I've never been able to afford one so I don't really know a whole lot about them other than, different ones make different sounds.. lol... wicked-sick knowledge eh? Clued in me.................

    I will be looking to use it for guitars/bass/vocals mainly.

    Any of you guys recommend anything cheap and good ? I need the best value I can get for the small amount of cash..

    Sorry to fling another question at you but I know you love it really.

    See y'all later, hope you're well and having fun :)

    - Dan
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Hi Dan,

    It's going to be difficult to get anything really good for that sort of money, but first a few questions:

    What type of audio interface do you already have? Do you need just an analog-output pre-amp or one with an ADC (digital output) or possibly one with a computer interface as well? How many channels? If you play guitars/bass and sing, are you wanting to record yourself playing and singing at the same time? What type of microphone(s) do you have?

    Your £195 is about $300, by the way, but equipment prices over here are skewed differently from those in the US.
  3. Voiceofallanger

    Voiceofallanger Active Member

    Yeah.. I don't expect to be able to afford much. It's usually the way in my world :)

    SO.. The pre will be BEFORE either an mbox orrrrrrr a Tascam US 1641 (I think that's the model).

    I'm going to be recording probably two tracks at once max because the drums actually do come out nice just off the tascam.. It just hates guitars and vocals.. as does the MBOX as far as I'm concerned.. it's not HORRID, it's just not what I want... Probably a dude playing/singing will be as far as I go pre wise.
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    OK, so unless you use the digital S/PDIF inputs of the Tascam (and your Mbox may have S/PDIF inputs too, depending on model), you need an analog-output pre-amp to attach to the line inputs of the interface. On the Tascam, the line inputs by-pass the Tascam's mic pre-amps, so you have a reasonable chance of the sonic colour of an external pre-amp getting through to the ADC and into the computer. On the other hand, it's likely that the Mbox you have merely attenuates the line inputs and feeds them through the mic pre-amps, wiping out most of the advantage of using external pre-amps. From this point of view alone, of the two, the Tascam would be the one to use.

    However, not having to include a digital section in the pre-amp means that more of your budget can be spent on the business end. As for technical specs, you have said you need an instrument input on one of the channels, and I'm assuming you will need phantom power available on the mic inputs if you have a condenser mic.

    This price bracket is a difficult one to steer around, since most of the products are so-so and would not sound any better than the Tascam or the Mbox, and the budget may not stretch to include the one or two that poke their heads out in terms of sonic quality. I'll have a dig around and if I find anything to be recommended, I'll come back in another post. I'm sure there are other folks who can give their own experience at this level.
  5. lambchop

    lambchop Active Member

    I have never heard one, but based on what your needs and budget requirements dictate I recommend that you investigate buying a used FMR RNP (really nice preamp), maybe from evilbay. It apparently is a colored 2-channel pre that a number of people like. Not the prettiest piece of equipment, but it supposedly gets the job done. Plus; it's has phantom power for your condenser mics.
  6. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    I'm shopping around, too. :)

    I am thinking of one of these. Davedog and several others say it's great for it's price range.

    Two versions, one with A/D SPDIF out, and one plain. I already have a Presonus FP10.

    Amazon.com: ART Pro MPAII Microphone Preamplifier: Musical Instruments

    Amazon.com: ART Digital MPAII Microphone Preamplifier: Electronics

    Anybody want to weigh in on these?

  7. lambchop

    lambchop Active Member

    You know, I'm pretty sure there was a thread here in RO a very long time ago entitled something like, "Good Cheap Preamp" that extolled the virtues of the RNP.
  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    The RNP is a very good bang for the buck unit as are the Art Pro MPA's.The RNP does 'color' things whereas the MPA is of a more clear and neutral sound, though you can drive it into a bit of color. Its an edgier color than the RNP and has a rather small footprint between good and not so good.Things like this tend to be rather individualistic in what is good and not so good, so YMMV. I have a few hours on an RNP and liked its sound. Its rather a one-trick-pony and I think if you're looking for something with more character than your digital interfaces, then this might be the box for you. The MPA is much more versatile IMHO. A good mid-range setup would be one of each!

    Looks like the contest has ignited a wave of preamp-itis!

    Ive had it for years.
  9. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    I have the same problem. It's compounded by the fact that I can't afford the ones I want right now.
  10. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I'd also like to add to the mid-range level a couple more suggestions.

    The Aphex 107 is nice piece. The Presonus M-20 is a very good unit especially if you find an older one with the Jensen trannys. The Focusrite ISA One is a single channel of a great pre and there are a whole bunch of single channels out now without the rack mounting that are worthy and affordable.
  11. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I have the RNP. I still use it quite a bit when I'm tracking a lot of instruments or using my ribbons. (It's very careful about phantom (always off when you turn the preamp on and it ramps up slowly when you choose phantom) and I have it couples with an FMR RNC so I can use that to give a little more gain if the ribbons need it.) The problem with the preamps in this price range is that they really don't have the headroom that more expensive preamps have. So while they might sound better than your mbox preamps you are still going to have to baby them - keep the gain low so they don't get pushed too hard. But when I bought mine I didn't have the experience to do that reliably. So sometimes they would sound better than my interface preamps and sometimes they wouldn't. Then I bought some much better preamps (e.g. API 3124) and they always sound better than the interface preamps no matter how hard you push them. A couple of years later and now I can baby the RNP reliably.
  12. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Bob has hit it right on.

    My contention with less expensive gear has always been that in order to get good sounds you have to use it within its parameters. This takes a lot of patience and experimentation. Most people give up quickly after unboxing something they think should give them mind-blowing differences when in actuality, the differences are going to be subtle at this level for sure.

    The real telling point will be in the multiple tracks made with a device. There is always build-up when you are using similar or the same input no matter what the source and stacking particular nuances on top of nuances can get you a buildup of things that you might not notice in a solo or a lean number of uses situation. A lot of these things will cause you all kinds of teeth gnashing, head scratching, and general use of expletive laden language, in trying to deal with the clutter and sometimes cloudy sound this can create.
  13. song4gabriel

    song4gabriel Active Member

    you know, with avid now officially releasing pro tools without the need for digi hardware there has been a ridiculous amount of digi 002's, and 003's showing up on craigslist for around 400 bucks. im actually gonna pick one up for my gfriend to get her started learning recording.

    contrary to the lyrics of my adl song (which was technically about the 002), the pres on these boxes are not that bad. plus you would get a bunch of i/o options with the box. and of course, you can run any daw with these
  14. Voiceofallanger

    Voiceofallanger Active Member

    Thanks for all the options guys. I'll weigh them up and see where it takes me. Interesting that 003 are going so cheap but I will need more inputs than that methinks. Only has 8 doesn't it ? Anyways yeah. Got some stuff to think about. Thank you all for your input. It was most helpful as always.

    I have time to experiment and I don't mind doing that. Hell I have no choice. I can barely afford anything LOL. But yeah, we'll see how it works out. Hopefully you will hear some tracks from my NEARLY BUILT studio soon and we'll see what you think :)!
  15. iandyha

    iandyha Active Member

    sell your presonus and get a lil more and work toward api lunch box? roughly 800 all together US if you can find a good deal.
  16. Voiceofallanger

    Voiceofallanger Active Member

    I don't have a presonus. I don't have anything.
  17. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Hold on a minute! Don't open your wallet just yet. What you already have really should work just fine. The TASCAM 1641 has mic pres doesn't it? Those should certainly sound just as good as any other pre you would get in the budget arena. Save your money and work on the recording chops and the musical content. That will go a lot further towards achieving a good recording than any piece of equipment.

    Considering that buying gear these days is more of an expenditure than an investment in todays financial climate, I wouldn't recommend to anyone purchasing any type of audio gear other than the most basic set up required. A perfect example is that 003 you're speaking of that is sooo cheap. You know why? IT'S OBSOLETE!

    Reasonably decent monitors, mics and pres can all be found on the cheap new or used. Processing can all be done ITB.

    What are you going to do with your final product. Convert it to MP3 / MP4 or post it on a music streaming site or YouTube? You really don't need to break the bank considering that most people these days wouldn't know a great recording if it walked up and bit them. In that context I suppose a RNP would work just fine. (I never thought I would say that !!!)

    If you insist on a new pre one of the basic criteria for building a great pre is high volt rails. You only get one chance at capture and mic signals (especially when recording low level acoustic instruments) can be extremely low requiring a lot of clean amplification.
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Old thread Kurt, Voiceofallanger has a 16.4.2 StudioLive now and is making and mixing music to die for.
  19. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I believe it! Those PreSonus mixers look pretty yummy and the software looks to be just the answer to PT we all have been praying for.

    The guys the designed Studio One are old Nuendo / Cubase guys. I have heard nothing but good stuff about the line.
  20. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Yep. Dan's stuff is quite spectacular. Unfortunately his management made him pull all of it so we all have to buy the record now. But its really some of the best recordings and material I've heard in many years.

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