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Looking for audio interface / mic preamp recommendations (spoken vocals, Shure SM7B)

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by InvisibleGames, Sep 18, 2011.

  1. InvisibleGames

    InvisibleGames Active Member

    Hi all! I'm putting together a home studio and am looking for some recommendations before I buy.

    As for my situation, I'm recording spoken vocals for audio-only video games -- essentially radio dramas with some interactive elements. For now I only need to record 1 actor at a time, but I want my studio to support more than that in case I need multiple simultaneous actors later on.

    I've done some research, and for the mic I'm already set on the Shure SM7B. I'm hoping to spend $800 or less on an audio interface (leaning toward one with a firewire connection) and external preamp IF warranted, and this is where I need help. I could get an expensive preamp and a cheaper interface, or an interface with a good internal preamp so I can skip the external, or a middle of the road of each. Whichever way I go, I want something that'll give me great results with the SM7B, but there are so many combinations -- and I'm a noob -- so I'm just not sure.

    Thanks in advance for any help you can give!

    - Andy
     
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    If you have set your heart on the SM7B, you will need an interface (or combination of pre-amp and interface) with enough gain. For an SM7B that should be 60dB or more, even for use in a VO studio.

    You could do worse than taking a look at the RME BabyFace, which is a studio-quality FireWire interface that for a bit over $700 gives you a pair of 60dB microphone channel inputs, monitor outputs and ADAT I/O expansion capability. You would have to spend considerably over $700 to get that level of audio quality in a conventional rack pre-amp/interface, and you may end up with more microphone input channels than you currently need.
     
  3. InvisibleGames

    InvisibleGames Active Member

    Thanks for the info, Boswell. The Babyface sounds pretty great. I've also read good things about the TC Electronic Impact Twin, but it's cheaper so I'm guessing it's not as good as the Babyface. Do you know how they compare, particularly the preamps?
     
  4. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Here is a review of the Babyface. I have not tried it or the Impact Twin so I won't comment further. These do seem to fit what you are doing now and plan for the immediate future. However, I'm a little leery since they are pretty limited from the point of view of someone recording bands. As far as expansion the most obvious option is one of several choices for four or eight channel preamps with ADAT out. If you don't see that as a limitation or the need for multiple headphone mixes to be a problem, then these might be a good option.
     
  5. InvisibleGames

    InvisibleGames Active Member

    Thanks for the link, Bob. I'm convinced that the Babyface is high quality and would do what I need now, and I don't foresee needing to record more inputs anytime soon. My remaining concern is more about value... the Babyface is 2-3 times more expensive than seemingly-similar interfaces like the Impact Twin and the Focusrite Saffire Pro. I expect the Babyface is better than the competition here, but how much better?

    I definitely want quality results, but I want to save money where I can, especially if the difference would end up being negligible to me. I'm very much a novice, so despite best intentions, it'll be quite awhile before I'm capable of using whatever I buy to its fullest potential. And while I plan to acoustically treat my spare bedroom before recording, it's not going to be a world class setup.

    If the Babyface seems likely to be noticeably better despite these issues, then I'm all for it. But if not, might as well save some money, for now at least. So if you or anyone else could comment on how the Babyface compares to some cheaper options, I'd really appreciate it!
     
  6. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The TC Impact Twin is a relatively new unit, well specified and well reviewed, but I haven't had the chance to put one through its paces. Like the BabyFace, it has got ADAT expansion capability, and this could be important to the development of your studio facilities in the future while avoiding having to pay now for additional microphone inputs.

    The Saffire Pro 14 (I'm assuming it's the 14 that you referred to) is another good unit, but does not have the ADAT expansion capability (the Pro 24 does have this).

    In terms of audio quality, of these three, I would put the RME BabyFace highest, the TC Impact Twin below that, and the Saffire Pro 14 next. Not that any of these are bad, and there are plenty of other 2-channel interface units that are well below all of these three, but quality comes at a price, and it's not a linear function. You have to decide where to invest now.
     
  7. InvisibleGames

    InvisibleGames Active Member

    Thanks again for your help, Boswell!

    If I went with a Saffire Pro, I'd probably get the Pro 40. I know it has a lot more inputs than I need right now, but the price isn't much more than the Pro 24 or the Impact Twin for that matter, and if I went that route, the extra cost seems worth it just in case.

    Quality-wise, would the Pro 40 go with the Pro 14 in your lineup, or would that change? So far I haven't found clear information on whether the Pro 40's preamps, etc. are better than the Pro 14's.
     
  8. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I've not done side-by-side comparisons, but I would expect all three Saffire units to sound pretty much the same, i.e. good for their class. You might find the Pro40 is lacking a bit in gain when using an SM7B, as it has only 55dB available at the mic inputs. This seems to have been corrected in the Pro14 and Pro24, both of which have 60dB.

    I'm surprised by your saying that the Pro40 is not much more money than the Pro24. In the UK, it's getting on for twice the price.
     
  9. InvisibleGames

    InvisibleGames Active Member

    Last night, proaudiostar.com had the Pro 40 listed new for $369 (compared to $249 I've seen elsewhere for the Pro 24). But that must have been a pricing error, because this morning the price is different. It's on sale for $399 after coupon code, which is still a good deal, just not as good.

    But either way, thanks for the heads up about the lesser gain in the Pro 40. This revelation plus the higher price takes the Pro 40 off the table for me. And per your advice and other info I've read, I'm leaning towards the Impact Twin over the other Saffire Pro models.

    So at this point, I just need to decide whether I want to go with the Impact Twin, or spend about twice as much for the higher-quality Babyface.
     
  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    OK, but I think I've said enough at this stage, and if you want further advice you need some opinions from others on this forum. I, too, would be interested to read comments and opinions from actual users, particularly of the new TC Impact Twin.

    Your careful deliberations on choice to date and any future comments you post on your resulting practical experience of the chosen unit could well be just what some other forum newcomer is looking for. Good luck with whatever you end up getting, and be sure to keep us updated about how it goes.
     
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Personally, I think you would do better with a Shure Beta 58 with an additional foam pop filter than wasting your money with the SM 7b. What? You don't want the presence rise and all that extra proximity effect? Okay then, fix it in software.You are spending an additional $150 or more for just 2 switches basically on your microphone if you go with the SM 7b.

    All of those preamp/interfaces are all transformer less inputs. You might want a preamp with any input transformer? It's a different sound from transformer less regardless of transformer less manufacturers. If you want thin and crispy go with transformer less. If you want big and fat, go for a transformer input device. And you won't find that on any FireWire interface.

    Think about it
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     

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