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Mic PreAmps

Discussion in 'Preamps & Processing' started by thepooch, Dec 10, 2003.

  1. thepooch

    thepooch Guest

    I'm new to this so you have to forgive me and have patience with me.

    What's the difference in result of the sound quality of a cheap preamp, a good preamp, and an expensive preamp?

    What would you most likely hear in the vocals that point out a cheap preamp and a good preamp?

    And I heard Behringer is not the smart choice in preamps. And I think this is what we are using in our studio. We have the Behringer Mixer which has the Mic Preamp built in with the phantom power too. With a MXL 57 Mic. I know it's all cheap, but what should we upgrade to?

    Alot of questions? I know, but please aswer some, if not all.
  2. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    Jun 23, 2003
    Sorry to be short, but the difference is good sound vs. bad sound. Accurate reproduction and tone color change good vs bad.

    All preamps do the same thing - raise the signal to a useable level. HOW they do it is the issue.

    Do a search on preamp on ANY recording forum and you'll get about a thousand hits - start reading.
  3. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Distinguished Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    What's the difference between riding the bus, taking a cab or being driven in a limo? The difference can be as vast as in night and day.

    A cheap preamp is the most basic thing that will get the job done using the very cheapest parts, construction, and taking advantage of every possible shortcut so that the price appeals to anyone, yet still allowing a good profit.

    A good preamp is usually a cheap preamp, or slightly upgraded cheap preamp, with a lot of non specific preamp features or cheap preamps with that use a tube in them which doesn't mean they are always better, they just cost more.

    Expensive in almost all cases, uses higher grade components, higher grade build quality, has had more pain staking detail in attention paid to it's design and sound, works just as well across it's extreme min and max settings, has high headroom able to easily handle wide dynmaic range, is made using more hand labor and is not usually mass produced, usually comes from smaller companines who have a history of being life long dedicated audiophiles commited to providing quality products that last a lifetime and provide a much higher level of service to those products and their customers.

    Your ability to hear the difference depends on your experience as well as the other links in your signal chain which may not allow you hear the differences.
  4. closer

    closer Guest

    Whats the best sounding preamp available under $1000?

    E.g. one that is comparable to Neve, Amek, API etc. It can come with a compressor or not.. it can be a stereo pre or not.. anything.

    If you had $1000 to buy another preamp (to record everything from vocals to acoustic guitars) what would it be?

  5. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    You would certainly want something that has the ability to be clean and clear and transparent as well as colorfully agressive.At that price its going to be a single channel unit and its going to have to have some 'iron' somewhere in the circuit.And its layout may not intuitive...that is to say someone with a lot of experience may 'get it' but a beginner may spend a lot of time trying things out and experimenting before they get to the level they need to be to realize the true ability of the piece they've bought.Its a huge jump from B....ehringer..to a very high level micpre thats able to record everything well.Theres quite a bit a decent gear in between that may allow you to sort of train yourself to qualities I'm sure you're wanting to possess.While it seems like throwing dollars at it will bring you this success, chances are you'll miss a huge majority of the subtelties associated with very good gear simply because of lack of experience.And while I or any of my knowledgeable compatriots could make a list of possibles for you,it would be a hit and miss situation simply because no one knows what styles you are wanting to capture,what instrumentation,what the quality of the room is,what you're currently monitoring on...etc.etc.etc.All of these factors make up an AE's mind about which devices to employ at a specific time.ANd these are just a few of the factors involved.
  6. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Distinguished Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    I would save my money and get exactly what I want. But if your dead set on buying something at that price, my first thought is the Great River ME-1NV. I also would be shopping for some used stuff as you can often get great value.

    You can't go wrong with the Focusrite Red-7 or ISA-110 for good multipurpose units. And the API 512 with a lunchbox or the bigger rack frame that you can grow into would be a very wise move. And no one has complained or hated the nice clean and full tone you always get from a John Hardy mic pre such as the M1. The Manley/Langevin Dual Vocal Channel is one of the best of values you can get with two each mic-pre, 2-band eq, and compressor. On the tube side a Manley single channel is a very nice pick. All great units and all a little different than the other.
  7. tripnek

    tripnek Active Member

    Jun 9, 2003
    I'm sure there are more out there I don't know of, but the best one I have used under $1000 is the Sebatron vmp-2000e. If you go used the selection may be a bit better but if you extend your budget to say $1500 the possibilities are much greater. I did pick up a Langeven dual mono amp on eBay for $800. It's a good clean amp, but a bit on the sterile side. The Sebattron will give you a bit more color if you push it a little.

    I have seen several on eBay under $1500 that would do the trick (Avalon 737, Focusrite red 7, Universal Audio 610 or 2-610, Focusrite ISA, Great River, Tube Tech, ect....
  8. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    Aug 15, 2003

    I would like to forward, that you and your cohorts take a look at the scpoe, purpose and end result of your labor before you go and spend your hard-earned money.

    Case in point: I have a cheap pre and a cheap mic and cheap converters. I have sorely wanted to upgrade for quite a while now. However, after some soul-searching, I have come to the conclusion that the raison d'etre of my project studio is to compose, not record. although it has tracking capability.

    And I have a feeling that there are many here in these same shoes.

    I have decided, instead of a new mic, pre, converter, etc., that it would be best for me to solidify my studio in its compositional nature. For me that means, sounds, sounds, and more sounds. My goal is to have a rich sound palette. And some MIDI controllers would be nice too.

    Hardware synths, software synths, samplers, samples. That is where my money will be invested, when its available. As an example, I just got SoundDiver, to edit my JV-1000 and create new sounds.

    This may not be your scope. And that's fine also. But for me, it would be much better to spend $1000 in a pro studio, re-recording vocals and getting pro level mixing skills, than on a pre.

    And I can save a bunch of money in a pro studio, because me and my artists have already composed, recorded, listened to, studied and perfected our material. So this leads to zero wasted time in the studio!

    IMO, this will lead to better quality material than I can achieve with a $1000 pre and my limited experience.

    (But I still want one good pre - ahhh gear lust)

    Maybe I'll get a good DI.

  9. thepooch

    thepooch Guest

    We are recording vocals from only one mic at this time. The type of music is Hip-Hop; rapping and singing. We were recording something Sunday just past, and we didn't know what the problem was, but we kept hearing a slight distortion in the recording. We checked and tried to adjust the compressor and the effects processor, and it didn't seem like that was it. Then we tried to reduce the gain on the mixer, and I think that helped, but would that be a symptom of a cheap pre-amp?

    Now we record on Sonar; the wave of the recording did not look like it was peaking at all but it still sounded distorted. What's up with that?
  10. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Distinguished Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    Juat about every stand alone mixer has a trim control which is a master gain. If this is set to high and/or if the mic you use has a very hot output as a lot of the newer mics made these days do, it is possible to overload the mic preamp. Sometimes overload is only on peaks or on very loud parts of the vocals. Every affordable mixer has less than high quality preamps, but there is also a lot of stand alone preamps that are not any better than those found in mixers as well.

    It is also possible to get disortion in the mic preamp and/or in other places in the mixer and not at the input to the sound card of the computer which is what the software shows you. Any overload to the input of the computer, should showup as clipped waveforms. IF you hear distortion, then it is there, reguardless of what you see.
  11. Also check your cables to make sure none of them are kaput.
    You may well benefit from hiring a local pro to come in and spend an afternoon at your place and check out your setup (no offense to your capabilities). A decent pro would be able to find where your problem is AND show you how to tweak your signal to get better sounds out of your existing gear. Call around to the local studios. David

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