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Mic-Pre Specifically for Overheads?

Discussion in 'Room & Overhead' started by Idjiit, Oct 15, 2003.

  1. Idjiit

    Idjiit Guest

    I've had it in my head that one of my next purchases would be a preamp specifically for overheads. Anyone have a recommendation (I'd love to see a range of prices) for such a unit? Seems like it would have a mixing bus for instances where hard left/right panning wasn't desired (since I'm using a DAW, I'd rather have analog summing) and mid/side decoding. A good range of impedence selections for ribbon microphones.

    I would mainly like your opinions on whether such a device is a "good idea", or whether just having two killer mono channels is sufficient. Discuss!
  2. Idjiit

    Idjiit Guest

    Everyone working too hard today? I thought you guys would jump all over this...

    The reason I ask is because getting something lik a Sebatron 4000e sounds great, but I'm wondering if getting something that is more geared towards flexible stereo recording is a better investment. The Speck Mic 5.0 seems more appropriate and ultimately more flexible for overheads.

    One of the reasons I ask is because of the way the plugin architecture works in Cubase. I end up having to group stereo channels because I have to bring them in as mono channels to get the correct panning. When you do that, it means you can't use channel effects as stereo pairs unless you group out the channels.
  3. Tungstengruvsten

    Tungstengruvsten Active Member

    just did a session with a manley dual mono tube pre for overheads...incredible! Mics were AKG SE300b/CK91 cardioid capsules with the roll off engaged...shockmounts in XY. I'm loving it! Just wish the pre was mine....
  4. tripnek

    tripnek Active Member

    I just got a Langevin Dual mono about a month ago. It has been great on overheads. I never use effects on my overheads so I haven't run into any problems in that regard. I record the overheads in Nuendo on two seperate channels and pan as desired.
  5. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    I don't think I follow your questioning on the mic pre having a mix function. You want to have independant control of each microphone and then combine them how you see fit in the mixing stage. Outboard mic pre's are meant to not have any mixing control. If you want to control the stereo image prior to it being recording, you do that by sub mixing or by using mic placement/technique/polar patern selection. For proper anlaog summing and panning, you need a analog mixer. Just about all mixers have mic preamp in them with exceptions from Manley, Speck, and a few others I'm forgetting at the moment. If you don't want to mix in the PC, then you need multi-outputs from the PC into an analog mixer.

    Any mic pre can work well for OH's just any mic pre can work well for many other sources. I come from the camp where I want to have available to me several different flavors to choose from and apply the one that best suits the mics selected, drum kit, room, song arrangement and song style. Prices can be as low as $50 a channel to over $3000 a channel.
  6. by

    by Guest

    I think maybe it’s break time, eh? Though surely this has been covered to death in the past. Maybe givin us more specifics on your situation might help spawn some recommendation. The Manley is a good one for ribbons, and so are a dozen more in that price range ($1000-$5000 per ch.) Such a personal thing when it comes down to deciding one over another.

    Well I personally like going about it this way. Is there not a pan control on your DAW. There is on mine at home (Delta).

    I know API makes what you are looking for though, 3124MB+ ($3,140.00 for 4 channels!). I, personally, think APIs are awesome for drums. But I also like the RNP for some situations.
  7. Idjiit

    Idjiit Guest

    So, you're sort of answering my question. I was trying to gauge the importance of a mix bus on a "stereo" pre-amp. I've seen a couple that start with independent pre-amps, but you can either send out as dual mono, or mixed stereo. I fully understand that usually it is usually the role of the "mixer" (meaning what the eventual, entire recording is being mixed on) to provide the panning. But as we've seen, some people are less than happy with the summing buses on digital mixers - in this case, mixing the overhead signals going into the recorder seemed like something you might want.

    The Speck Mic 5.0 (when you daisy chain them), the Millennia HV-3B, and (on the extreme lower end) the Presonus M20 all havign summing buses (it's an option on the HV-3B). I was wondering if in addition to polarity reverse, impedence selection and M/S decoding that a summing bus is generally something good to have in a pre specifically for overheads.
  8. If you are only using two OH mics I don't see the need to bus them to a stereo mix- all you need do is pan them appropriately in the DAW, L + R, both up the middle, both L, etc, at your pleasure. Am I missing something here? DAvid
  9. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    I would say no, a summing bus for OH would not be something good prior to recording. Don't those pre's that have a stereo output just have two mono outs from the same mono source? It's not like you can control the mixing/blend between the two outputs which is what you seem to want.
  10. Idjiit

    Idjiit Guest

    They have both the discrete mono outputs, as well as a stereo bus.

    EDIT: Ack, I'm afraid I'm making myself look like a moron. I know that usually you WANT to track to seperate, distinct tracks and mess with it later. The question I'm asking needs to be looked at specifically in regards to mixing in a DAW, and the shortcomings therein.
  11. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    I don't see what you think you gain with the stereo output? What you are adjusting with the stereo output is how much level goes to each side of L or R. To control the pan of each mic you would need to control how much of each mic gets recorded to both L & R which is what a mixer does, analog or digital. Even if you can do this, how do know in advance exactly how you want the OH's panned before you have heard them with the rest of the song? What if you need to change it?
  12. Idjiit

    Idjiit Guest

    I've heard general complaints of the summing methodology in the lower end DAWs such as Cubase SX 1.x (which I'm currently using), so in that case there is purportedly an advantage to relying on the hardware summing instead of software.

    No doubt this leaves you high and dry if you blow it and don't dial in the correct amount of L/R for each mic, or simply want to change it later. I imagine that this is more of an issue with recordings that really only rely on two mics, perhaps even in live situations? Why does the capability exist in some pre's if it simply isn't an issue as you seem to be implying? Not trying to be a dick, I really wanna know. :)
  13. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    I think the capabilty you speak of is not for normal use of recording with mic's as it is for the DI's in them that are meant for using with stereo sources such as keys/samplers/drum machines. Don't confuse the extra features on lower end mic pres with something that is better or necessary.

    As for the DAW, panning is different than summing. It's not just the lower end of DAW's and software that gets bashed for summing, it is all DAW's and software. Before you spend money, limit yourself and make things more complicated for yourself, you might do something that people used do in the good ole days........use you ears and listen. If you have a clean signal path and good monitors, you can judge for yourself if and/or how much damage software summing does to your music. If you spend the time to evaluate this, I think that you'll find that it is not the summing in general that is as much as a problem as much as it is how the summing or rather the skills of how one uses a digital mixer that is more the issue. Digial and analog mixing are very much different to get very good results. They require much different methods and skills. When I use Cubase, I also always use an analog mixer. When I want to avoid dealing with digital mixing and the summing issue, every track has it's own output path to my analog mixer. If I do use summing/mixing in Cubase, it is only on tracks that are not critical like background tracks.
  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    The Speck 5.0 Mix node is one of the mic pres that have this feature. The API quad pre has this option also. I believe these are more for use with toms, multi mic guitar and bass set ups, vocals etc as much as specifically for overheads. Convention dictates that overheads are usually printed to discrete tracks rather than panned and summed. I have a theory that the damage done by summing a digital out of a DAW is related to the computers processing power. If you are running an 80% load on the CPU, external summing seems to sound better but if you run a lower CPU load it doesn’t sound to me as if it is so much an issue. Who knows, this may simply be hocus pocus and I may be having audio hallucinations when I hear this. The placebo effect can be very powerful. Anyway, I don’t really have a problem with this, using Cubase VST 5.1 @ 24 bits. I typically run a CPU load of about 10% with 24 tracks, eqs, comps and effects. I used to be very concerned about staying in the box once I was there but I have lately been running sends out to hardware verbs and comps and surprisingly it sounds better to me.. at any rate, I only have a Wackie mixer, so summing in that sounds a lot worse than summing in Cubase. My 3 .5 cents ..
  15. white swan

    white swan Guest

    I think that vast majority of preamps with mix buses have at least four or even eight channels. At least the ones I've seen. I can't imagine what the function of a mix bus would be on a two channel preamp.

    It's my guess that the main reason for these mix buses is for recording situations where you have limited tape tracks, or otherwise want to conserve track count or data storage.

    For example, if you were tracking four passes of eight background vocalists, each with their own mic, if you used eight conventional outboard preamps you would end up with 32 tracks of vocals, unless you had a board that let you sum them to a bus on the way in. By using an eight channel preamp with a mix bus, you are essentially bypassing the need for a mixing board on the way in. By summing each pass to two tracks you end up with only eight total tracks instead of 32. And with the panning function you can still spread the voices any way you wish, although obviously you are stuck with your panning decisions to some extent. And if you are using a DAW, imagine how much less hard drive space you would be using.

    The other obvious use is for portable live or remote recordings. With a multichannel preamp with mix bus and a DAT machine, you can make a nice recording without dragging a board along.
  16. Idjiit

    Idjiit Guest

    Thanks for the input, guys. Sounds like the consensus is that summing simply isn't an important feature in the way that I presumed. Got a few more questions though!

    If something is being panned other than hard left and hard right, it is being summed at some point, correct? Can you illustrate the difference a bit more? What instances require summing?

    Yeah, I've been seeing this a lot. I'm in a similar boat to Kurt, where my mixers aren't much better. I've got a Mackie 1604 VLZ and a Tascam D-1000. Sounds like I'm stuck with the Cubase summing. For what it's worth, this problem has been addressed in the new major versions of Cubase and Nuendo, I'll be doing some tests tonight to see if I can tell any difference. I'm not sure my ears are good enough to tell, to be honest.

    This brings up an interesting point. Clearly, Kurt, you're using Cubase to mix things "Real Time" so you can take advantage of outboard gear - using the outputs coming out of the DAW to print (to tape? to dat?). Is it possible the summing issue is minimized when using the "Export" functionality?

    Brings up something that is maybe best for another thread... I was introduced to Cubase by a friend, I had resisted getting into the DAW world for a long time since I hate working with computers - especially for audio. I was surprised to see that he wasn't mixing down to another device, but simply "exporting" the song. So the question is, how do you guys do it - Real Time like Kurt, or using Export? What are the perceived advantages/disadvantages?

    Thanks again for hearing me out... :D
  17. by

    by Guest

    Well I think the biggest advantage of "export" is you can have a damn huge pile of internal effects going on, much more then your computer could handle in realtime. Exporting, or "rendering" as it's called in some programs, may take longer to complete then the song is in duration (a 5 min song may take 10 minutes to render), but it would be free of any cpu overloads and may be more accuracy (considering what kurt brought up).

    Yet, in another case, if you don't have alot of effects going on, then exporting a 5 minute song may only take 30 seconds.

    I've no idea if the quality is better either way, but I do know that some have noticed a difference between the realtime and the rendered version of their song. For example, my friend kept complaining about the snare drum not sounding the same. It was subtle, but pretty damn annoying. That was several years ago though. And things were alot worse then.
  18. Idjiit

    Idjiit Guest

    I guess it's probably a better question for cubase.net, but I haven't really been impressed with the guys there thus far. :roll:
  19. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    As for the DAW, panning is different than summing. It's not just the lower end of DAW's and software that gets bashed for summing, it is all DAW's and software.
    It is summing to a much lesser degree. The debate seems to be when you mix many tracks together that in the digital processing of doing that, it has a negative effect in the results. In panning you are summing from one extreme to another, but the processing involved does not seem to suffer from the same kind of problem.

    Once your mix is done and saved it only needs to go to another device if you need to process out of the box inbetween the DAW and the mix down device or if you intend to play/listen to it on another format like Minidisc/DAT/Cassette/External CD recorder ect. If you record amd mix at 24-bit and/or with a higher than 44.1K sampling rate, exporting your mix as data as on CD-ROM keeps the same quality for further processing like if re-mixing your project by someone else or for the mastering stage where the tools and skills to do any final compression/limiting/eq/dither and downsampling to 16-Bit 44.1K are likely to be of higher quality that what most people have in hardware or software.

    If you have no outboard processing gear or needs and/or your mixer is not of decent quality, then you may not gain much if anything by using an external mixer.
  20. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    I think that the Presonus M80 has this pan function...

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