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I need some helpful advice buying a mic preamp!

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by snail, Nov 23, 2003.

  1. snail

    snail Guest

    Any advice would be much appreciated:

    I am looking to buy a mic preamp in the $500 range to upgrade from my little JoeMeek VC3... One channel is fine. Im recording pop music, analog keyboards, vocal harmonies, onto 1/4 inch tape. I have sort of narrowed it down to the Grace 101 (tho I hear it is almost clinically clean sounding which I don't like) the RNP (gets good review all around) and the M-Audio Tampa (which would be cool because it offers compression), Oh and the Summit Audio 2BA-221 (is the tube thing just a gimmick?) Thanks a million for your help!
  2. ozraves

    ozraves Active Member

    I'd prefer the Grace 101 in your situation since it puts a bigger image in the monitors than the FMR RNP. I think bigger image is important especially when going to smaller width tape. If you were going digital, then I'd say buy one of the ones you mentioned and get busy.

    [ November 25, 2003, 07:51 PM: Message edited by: ozraves ]
  3. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    The Joe Meek preamps are in the $500 range. Look for the new Toft Audio line of products that are close to the $500 range and are based on the old Trident-A range mixing consoles.

    Of the ones you mentioned, I likely think that the Summit Audio 2BA-221 would be my pick. While I have not heard this specific unit, I have owned the Summit Audio MPC-100A which had a great mic pre that uses their version of the Jenson 990 pre amp design. If this new unit is a stripped version from the MPC-100A which I would expect it to be, it would offer great sound and good value. ALL of the Summit Audio stuff that has tubes in it are hybrid units using both IC's and tubes, where the tubes are mostly for output gain and thus unlike true tube designs.
  4. lionyouth

    lionyouth Guest

    I would personally go with the grace 101 since ....for the price the reviews are great the sound out of it is straight forward...no major enhancement of sound quality you get what you hear....this is benificial when recording vocals....after you get a good vocal take then you can do whatever you want to the track remembering if you don't like what you did you go back to the original take....if your in the computer base world...the others with the exception of summit I have tried and am fussy about colored ar added sound...but its your money so do a review search in the top magazines like mix and electronic musician...from thier web sites
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    If I were recording classical or orchestral music I might want a pre that wasn't very colored.. but then I may not. Bill Putnam used some designs that had a definite sonic signature to record big band stuff for Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Nat "King" Cole, Count Bassie and Duke Ellington to name just a few, with wonderful results. These recordings were some of the best ever produced. I wonder how Bill would feel about all these transparent designs. Would he like them or hate them? What would Bill do?

    This whole fascination with mic pres that impart no sound is beyond me.. I just don’t get it. I personally think that those kinds of pres don’t work as well as a nice pre with transformers and discreet parts, big power supplies that “sound good”. I look at recording as being similar to an artist painting a picture. If I were painting a picture, I don’t think I would want clear paint.

    Of all the pres mentioned by snail, I too, would lean towards the Summit. It is solid state and therefore reasonably transparent but you can dial in some attitude with the tube drive. This unit uses an internal power supply, no dreaded wall wart here.

    The whole idea of the Tampa has never grabbed me.. solid state emulation of tube drive, soft clip... it sounds like a bunch of nonsense to me.. I know a lot of people seem to like it quite a bit but the whole idea gives me the heebie-jeebies. I’ve never used it though, those are just my initial impressions of the approach. It could be great. M Audio hasn’t earned a name as a manufacturer of high end stuff though.
  6. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    The clean, detailed, transformerless mic pre for most users misses the point of the design and offers the home and/or budget user less than ideal performance because of a few usual circumstances. Those being, that when you have an fantastic sounding instrument or such as a vocal that is played by a superb performer, in a truely great sounding room, in to an excellent high quality microphone, you very often may need to do nothing more than just to capture all of those things as exactly as they are, as closely as possible without any added color. It is this specific condition that the clean, detailed, transformerless mic pre is ideal and best suited. Another ideal use would be when you are recording/tracking a performace and the artist or you don't have a clear picture as to what the overall sonic goal is or what specific sonic results you are after, it is safe to use the detailed and non colored method to just capture the instrument and it's performance and then make decisions latter on what other forms of signal processing are needed to be done with hardware or software.

    I would think that Bill Putnam would in general agree that in any case, having at least one very high quality, clean and detailed mic pre is a very useful tool and is just as important as having any other type of mic pre as an option to have available to you. Whether that mic pre has a transformers or not is not as big of an issue as you can still have a very clean, detailed sound using transformers. Of course the ideal tool would have the option of being able to be used with or without.
  7. mike buzz

    mike buzz Guest

    Hey Gaff I just took a look at the Toft mic pre's/eq's have you heard these ????? , looks like a very nice unit I also read the history of Toft excellent background. I currently have a Sytek as my main pre and have been looking at another pre to fill in the hole ( one of many to come I'm sure )
  8. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    No, these just started shipping only weeks ago. I have heard the sound of Toft/Trident designed gear before and liked it very much. So this new stuff should be of great value and offer pro sounding tone.
  9. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    I agree with Gaff. I currently have Sebatron (sweet as sugar), UA610 (very dirty), Focusrite Red 1 (rich and honky), Earthworks 1022 (super clean).

    I also am currently demoing an SSL XL channelstrip (amazing and huge), and an API 7600 Channel strip (well it is an API).

    The CLEAN Earthworks is the biggest fullest and most amazingly stereo sound you can get when you have a great player playing a great instrument in a great room. If capturing what is in the room is important than clean is the way to go. If creating a beautifully detailed stereo image is important then accuracy is the only way you can get it.

    So there is a place for every kind of pre. Besides I get a little tired of the accumulated distortion from too much color. I like to mix it up a little with clean anfd aggressive.
  10. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Steve, So you think the Focusrite Red is a little honkey? As in White guy sounding? I think that's funny cause I was just telling someone the other day my Focusrite Red-7 could at times be Goose like sounding with certain mics.

    And how bout that the API 7600, fricken awesome or what? Oh, and please share what you think of the SSL strip. I mostly interested in how the comp and eq favor more than the mic pre.

    A while back the Earthworks mic pre was on my list along with the John Hardy, and a few others but then I cam across a NOS Neotek MicMAX for less than half of what all the others were. It is such a rare unit and has so many features as well as that classic full clean sound I had been used to in the console I used to own, that I snatched it up. I can use it on several different instruments/tracks and they all still gell so well together.
  11. kierankelly

    kierankelly Guest

    I would also take a look at the old school audio ( OSA ) stuff. A bit cheaper than the Api but not as "prosumer " as the other pres mentioned. Transformers are the sound and seem to mix themselves better than ultra fast transformerless design for pop/ rock, RnB or Hip-hop
    just my two cents. I have purchased way to much crap myself go for the better stuff
  12. MisterBlue

    MisterBlue Member

    It would be great if we could get someone here to check them out and maybe post a review (Kurt ? Gaff ?). These units certainly seem to have a lot going for them and the price makes them very attractive.

  13. MisterBlue

    MisterBlue Member

  14. snail

    snail Guest

    Thanks for the great advice! (Although I am still unclear on the transformer thing). I will probably go with the Summit or the Grace, based on what I have heard. The review of the Toft pres was pretty bad So i will steer clear of them. As far as color goes, I still have the Meek VC3 to use for tracks that need some. Thanks!
  15. alfalfa

    alfalfa Guest

    I think you have to take that review in context. Have a read of the thread in full.

    If you read this thread below, the same reviewer (Fletcher) says the ATC-2 pres are 'up there with the Grace ... maybe not as hard sounding' - ie both the Grace 101 and Toft ATC-2 'suck' relative to his preferred pres.

  16. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Before you discount the Toft pres because of a review let me point out, some reviews are not the most unbiased ... always keep in mind, when you read reviews, that some reviewers have a financal stake in all of this, especially those who are gear dealers. I wouldn't take any reviewers opinion, especially one who is entrenched in the retail end of the business as the "last word" on any subject. After all, in the end, what are they if not a salesperson? Would you believe the review of a salesperson from Guitar Center? I see no difference.

    Look for some other opinions and real world users feedback too. Just because a certian reviewers are willing to slam a piece doesn't mean they are always telling the truth. In fact they may have other reasons for "chatting up" some pieces and "talking down" others.. That concept is flawed at best. Sometimes there are other motovations in play.
  17. MisterBlue

    MisterBlue Member

    I fully agree that one should always question a reviewer's background and motivation - it might be quite different from giving the most objective assessment. I posted the Toft review because it was the only one I found without extensive search.

    In this specific case it has to be said that Fletcher/Mercenary IS a dealer who sells these devices. Following the comment in an earlier post it seems that might have lost a sale because of his review. Either he doesn't care, he is stupid or he has other motives than sell the thing - like e.g. give his real opinion ;)

  18. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Please do not misconstrue my comments as being against any one reviewer, I was speaking in generalities and the propensity of readers to put too much stock in any one reviewers opinions, myself included. This is why I try to post several audio snips of things in use on different instruments and voice, so the reader may make a decision based on more than simply someone else’s impression. I suspect that some manufacturers don’t send me pieces because of this. I think they are afraid to let their products be compared sonically for readers / listeners to discern for themselves, the difference, or non differences. I also encourage people to seek out other reviews and opinions and in the end to use their ears and make a final decision for themselves.

    The Sebatron review was written and published quite a while before RO started running that banner ad.. and even longer before Chris became a Sebatron dealer. In fact both of those things came to be, following my review of the Sebatron, because the VMP turned out to be such a great pre amp at a relatively reasonable price. I find it a drag that I should have to defend it yet again. That question has been asked and answered many times and anyone who has been at RO since the Sebatron review ran, knows the time line.

    I am independent of Chris in terms of publishing reviews in the Emag. I have my own access to it. I do not clear anything with him before I publish and he has never told me to pull anything. There is no conflict of interest between the review process and advertising sales. The two are completely separate and no one receives any special consideration. You are either ignorant of these things or choose to ignore the facts before hurling accusations. Where did you get those ideas?

    From your comment, it appears, you are more willing to accept this type of thing from one camp than the other.. that because of perceived celebrity, it's ok to for a reviewer to have at best, mixed interests and to openly criticize other reviewers but no one should dare to point out that persons conflicts, much less have the audacity to tread upon the sacred “hunting grounds” that the former once had only to themselves. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    In regards to Fletcher specifically, I have decided to listen for myself because in the past, he said he didn't care for a certain mic pre, channel in a box that I later found I did like very much (and that RO does not advertise). While he is very knowledgeable regarding technical design (more than me, for sure) his take on things can sometimes be a bit different than that of others, myself included. Fletcher is not stupid and I respect him very much on certain levels, I happen to just love the Great River MP2NV that he helped to design and his Pendulum Quartet II design looks very interesting.

    If you consider however, that he is entrenched not only in design but also marketing and sales of these units the possibility of conflict cannot be dismissed. It is very easy to slam something while saying positive things also. So saying the EQ of the Toft unit is "well worth the price" while at the same time saying "the mic pre sucks" is, I believe, a very crafty way of putting a slam on it. What are more people interested in these days, mic pres or EQ’s? You can EQ in the DAW. As you pointed out, the sale was lost... hmmm I wonder what Fletcher would recommend as an alternative purchase to the Toft, perhaps one of his designs?? No he wouldn’t do that. I don’t know about you but I think I want to hear the Toft piece for myself..
  19. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    After doing both business and reading years of ramblings from Fletcher, who I consider one of the true ultimate top gear snobs, I can tell you that what gear that thrills him one year, can slide down the scale within one year and fall off the scale within a few years. Sometimes it is because of newer and better gear takes it's place in the ratings, and other times it is plain business politics which also seems to affect his opinion and rating system. In any case, I wouldn't hesitate to use or buy anything he recommends, but like anyone else, to not fully believe that he or they always knows best or that there is not other choices as good or better. I too know of at least a dozen things he dislikes or even hates that I love or find very useful. Some of those things were at one time very highly spoken of by him. So any half-ass comment he makes on any piece of gear or feature should be considered high praise.

    As for the Toft mic pre, as a $800 list price item for the cheaper model, it is not likely to be able to compete very highly within the gear aresenol of a top gear snob. That doesn't mean it is not a good mic pre and a great value. But as usual, don't expect to get something in quality, tone or character that your not paying for.
  20. MisterBlue

    MisterBlue Member


    good reply!

    I also want to be clear that I was not really suggesting that your positive review of the Sebatron "had been bought". I know you are serious about giving people fact-based, largely unbiased and ultimately useful information and I certainly respect you (and anybody) for doing that.

    My point was merely that people should not take ANYTHING for granted and judge it by face value only. Everybody has their specific frame of reference, their unique requirements, their motivations and their personal limitations (be it experience, budget or talent). Knowing those limitations means to ALWAYS put a review, an opinion or feedback into perspective. People need to understand this and act accordingly - only then does a website, a magazine or a personal opinion add real value in answering questions.

    Anyway, let's jointly keep making RO a better and better place by questioning and challenging things every now and then ... keeping RO members and moderators on their toes!

    Hope this clarifies my position and adds value to the discussion.

    Now, returning to the main program, how do we get an RNP, a LiquidChannel and a Toft ATC-2 into your hands for a review and an opinion ;) ?


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