Need Help with Microphones, Amps, and Preamp Hello everyone, I'm new to this forum and a novice to acoustics in general, so I apologize if my question is very basic. I have spent several hours searching google and various forums but haven't been able to find a satisfactory answer. Basically, I need help figuring out which sorts of audio components are required for my particular purposes. What I am hoping to achieve is a microphone system that I can use in conjunction with a camcorder (or maybe also as a standalone device) to record fairly distant (10 ft - 100 ft) speech and musical instruments. I need the audio to be clear and accurate enough that the speech is intelligible and the music (mostly strings) undistorted; the output also has to be significantly louder than what is picked up by my naked ears. The one thing I know that I need is a shotgun mic (I have been considering the Azden SMG-II and the Audio Technica AT8035). I also know that the signal produced by the mic is weak and needs to be amplified, and this is where things get confusing for me. I am looking at preamps to perform this function (specifically the Sound Devices MM-1), but actually it seems like there are several options for receiving the mic signal: I can connect the mic directly to my camcorder, or to any other device with mic-in, as the device must already have an amplifier built in. I can connect the mic to a preamp/"field mixer", which, I have read, brings the signal up to line-level. From there, I am not sure whether I need to pass the signal along to a regular amplifier, or whether I can listen/record from the preamp directly. I can connect the mic directly to an amp (like a PA amp or keyboard amp) that has mic-in. If this is possible, then what is the advantage of sending the signal through a preamp first (especially since the preamps seem more expensive than the amps)? If anyone could lend me their expertise and explain the differences between these 3 options, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks!