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Mixer or standalone preamp with M-Audio Delta 1010?

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by PTS, Aug 1, 2007.

  1. PTS

    PTS Active Member

    I'm kind of a beginner to computer recording, and recently bought a Delta 1010 soundcard with 8-channel breakbox. It doesn't have preamps and the only adjustable part is a button for each channel which switches from -10db to +4db signal levels (which would you generally use for direct guitar or vocal microphone?)

    I'd like to hear from other Delta 1010 users (or just people in the know) to fill me in on whether to buy a standalone preamp or mixer? I'd love some suggestions on 8-channel models of either, I'm ideally looking to spend around $300 on one, but will go as high as $600 if it's worth it in the long run. I'm looking to only produce decent sounding demos, not major label album cuts.

    At the moment I'm using my old single channel guitar tube preamp with it, for pretty much everything. It seems to generally lack volume though (have to wack EVERYTHING up to 10 to get near the reds) and I'm sure I can do better. The most important think to me is a no nonsense unit with pres that produce a crystal clear signal with minimal hiss and noise. I will eventually be recording a whole band and utilizing all 8 channels.

    For my cans I'm using a Behringer headphone amp coming from Delta's main 1/2 outputs, which works and sounds great. I'm not even sure what I'll need when I upgrade and buy a pair of monitors?

    I mostly write and record guitar based music and use Adobe Audition and Ableton Live on a 3ghz / 1gig RAM PC with Win XP.

    Thanks in advance!

    Paul S.
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Like a lot of reasonable-quality soundcards, the Delta 1010 takes signals at line levels. In the case of the 1010, this level can be switched to be -10dBV or +4dBu. You can't plug a microphone or a guitar pickup directly into cards with line level inputs - you need a pre-amp of some sort or a mixer, as you mention.

    Now the question comes as to what you want to do as you are recording. If you simply want to take the channels and make a multitrack recording for later mixdown, then an multi-channel pre-amp is all you need. You will be lucky to get anything decent for the $600 budget you mention, but they do turn up on Ebay from time to time.

    If, on the other hand, you want to use a mixer for your band's performance, either live or in the studio, then, of course, you need a mixer. Through careful choice of mixer, you can get one that has microphone preamps, guitar inputs, aux outputs for foldback mixes, and, importantly, direct channel outputs at line level to feed into your Delta 1010. However, you may be a bit stuck again with your budget. Something like the Mackie Onyx 1220 is within your budget, but only has 4 microphone inputs, although they are of excellent quality. The Mackie 1642VLZ3 is another possibility and has direct outs on its first 8 channels.
  3. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Yes, look at your recording requirements. How may channels do you actually need to record what you are doing? Is it only you? Will you anticipate needing to record to all 8 channels? Just because you have them, doesn't mean you NEED to use them all the time. The ONLY reason I bought an 8-channel interface is because I have an 8-track reel-reel to dump into it all at once, occasionally. Otherwise, I wouldn't have needed more than a 4-channel.

    If only you, and you don't plan to need all 8, maybe instead of a mixer or 8-channel preamp, you could bump up the quality a bit on a single or two-channel preamp? Or, buy the same basic quality 1 or 2 channel preamp as you were planning, anyway, and use the rest of the money for something else?

    Just something to consider.

  4. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    It depends on your situation of course, but I feel that in this price range a mixer is a much better value. It is a much more versatile pieces of equipment, and can be used for live sound as well as recording. Note - that also means it has a has a resale market beyond the recording world. I also find that in this general price range, there is not a huge difference in the quality of the preamps as long as they are all kept well within their clean operating range. If you try to push them like you would a better (more expensive) preamp, you will hear differences. But in their linear range they are...pretty linear. In short, I don't think any of the preamps less than $100 pre pre are all that mcuh better than the mixer preamps sold by Mackie, A&H, or Yamaha.
  5. PTS

    PTS Active Member

    Thanks for the replies, guys. I did actually write "I will eventually be recording a whole band and utilizing all 8 channels" in my first post, but this won't be for some time as I'm still writing and a full band isn't yet formed.

    For the time being it's just me, so it's true that using just a 1 or 2 channel preamp would be wise, and then maybe get a medium sized mixer later for band recording and working live.

    I saw this deal on musicians friend which seems very sweet:

    (Dead Link Removed)

    An M-Audio 2 channel preamp and two MXL condenser microphones, for $99! I need some c. mics too, and this seems a good way to go? I could be fussy and get a tube preamp instead, but these days I think you can add a little warmth to the mix with plugins?

    Paul S.
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Paul, asking for advice and then providing your own to the professionals that have wasted their time answering your request for information, is counterproductive. Your assumptions are not necessarily valid. Sure there are plenty of plug-in emulators to provide phony tube warmth/distortion/saturation. I don't like phony emulated anything. That's like eating imitation lobster at McDonald's. Barfo!

    And unlike many people here like Bob the Kaptain and Boswell who have provided you with some excellent information and suggestions which I found excellent answers to your query, might take is slightly different. I have some of the finest tube and transistor condenser microphones, API and Neve preamps, which gets used regularly. My best rock-and-roll recordings are frequently riddled with Shure SM57's/58's and frequently don't include any condenser microphones! Good enough sound to get me major award nominations. So I would recommend a bag full of SM57/58's before I purchase anybody's cheap condenser microphones. It is a misconception that condenser microphones are necessary to make quality recordings. It is particularly more of a factor for fine arts orchestral/operatic recording purposes, then for popular music. Guys like Steve Tyler, Bono, Michael Jackson and others record their vocals for their multimillion dollar platinum albums on cheap Shure SM 7/SM58's and not on expensive condenser microphones. Why don't they use expensive condenser microphones? Because these guys sound good and are far more comfortable utilizing the same dynamic microphones they use onstage. Or, it's because they sound good on these particular microphones! I'll take an SM58 over anybody's cheap condenser microphones, any day and Mackie's and Beringer's or more than adequate in quality to make good rock-and-roll records even though I prefer my Neve and API stuff. It never kept me from making quality rock-and-roll recordings on cheap crap consumer PA equipment. Because it's not what you've got but what you do with it that counts.

    The best technique with the cheapest equipment is better than the worst technique with the best equipment.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  7. PTS

    PTS Active Member

    Fair enough, I see your point, and thanks for opening my eyes to the fact that there's a lot of unnecessary hoopla surrounding microphones, especially when you're only recording demos. It's probably a case of beginner naivety on my part, and I do appreciate all the very informative responses I've received. It's not wasted time as I assure you it'll help me grow :)
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    PTS, I knew you were smart!

    Welcome to the club.
    Ms. Remy Ann David

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