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Pointers to good preamps

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by ghellquist, Jun 22, 2005.

  1. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    I´ve recently upgraded my mic locker. Seems it is time to get a few really good channels of mic pres for the main mics. The intended usage is on-location recording of classical music. I have 8 channels of decent mic preamps already. My mics are all SDC.

    I am looking for 2 or maybe 4 channels that can be rack mounted. This is probably a long search, so I want some pointers as a start and will then go out and rent a bit before committing.

    So what are your favourite preamps for classical recording?

  2. recordista

    recordista Active Member

    Gordon Audio

    and my Boulder (aka Jensen Twin Servo, not made any more.) Closest today would be the Hardy Twin Servo.
  3. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    For me-

    Vac Rac, Boulder (like Kurt), Grace Designs, Millennia and most recently, the new A Designs Pacifica (love this thing... Just used it on a festival and it sounded good on everything).

  4. ptr

    ptr Active Member

    I sing and have sung the praise of D.A.V either the BG1 or the BG2.. The BG's are good!

    If You want something more sweet sounding, fx. for voice, I quite like the NEVE offspring/clones built by Vintage Design -- Even if they're a local firm... :D I've usede them on several Jazz and BrassBand recordings..

    I've also used Mill Media HV3's, quite clinical in their "a" version, dont know how the more current units sound (if there are any change?). Also own and use a DACS Clarity MicAmp, quite up the same street as the HV3, perhaps a tiny bit more intimate. I tried an early generation Crookwood PaintPot, it was very fickly to set up (too many options..) -- but very nice sounding when working correctly.. I decided not to buy the unit I had on loan because I did not feel that the user interface was as simple and hands-on as I want a pro-unit to be.. (ie. When You have to banter Your head for five minutes just to remember how to reset the unit, its failing... :oops: can't say anything about their current model..)

  5. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey Gunnar!

    This is such an open-ended question, I would hate to think of all the possible answers you would get and how much everyone will debate the merit of good pres. My sentiment is simple -

    A good preamp is relatively common

    Sure, there are plenty of crappy ones too, but there are sure plenty o' preamps that you can make fantastic recordings with. I've heard amazing recordings only to find out they were made with pres in a mackie board or a RAMSA console (surprisingly good pres in those though.)

    Unless a preamp is genuinely bad or flawed, you will probably get great results with good mics and good techniques. I take the unpopular opinion that bad A/Ds can be far worse than bad pres. Bad digital sounds sloppy, undefined, harsh and can actually cause your audience to have indifference to your recording. Even a moderately priced, decently constructed pre can't be accused of much of that. :shock:

    However, all that being said, I do have some favorites:

    Grace Design
    True Systems
    Buzz Audio
    Audio Upgrades

    These are just a few, but they're all pretty decent. Some "flavoured" some plain vanilla.

    J. :D
  6. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Hi ptr

    I was wondering if there was a difference in sound between BG-1 and BG-2 apart from the number of channels. In DAV's original price list the BG-2 was a lot more expensive than a pair of the smaller ones, although the price difference is not so big anymore.

  7. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Hey Jeremy
    I see you've mentioned Audio Upgrades. I've seen these on the website, and found them interesting, but have seen very little written about them. I've e-mailed them several times about their mic upgrades and have never received a reply, but that's another post :roll:

  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Yeah, they're REAL bad about getting back to anyone from the website. You almost HAVE to call them and hope you actually speak to a human.

    They're a really good pre with insanely fast response to transients. It lends itself perfectly to classical recording yet is priced pretty reasonably.
  9. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Thanks Jeremy
    I'd be interested in finding out more about their mods for the mics I own. I'll be having at least one of them fixed up by Mick Hinton (as in DAV preamps), but a little holiday across the Atlantic might do them good when they are fixed up.

    Anyway, I'll see if I can get a human to talk to. It was the ultra fast traansient response that first intrigued me.

  10. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    Great thanks for the pointers. Seems like I´ll have to do a lot of searching to test things out. In the meantime, I was offered a Focusrite Green 1 at a really nice price. I´ll try it out, but not expecting much improvement compared to what I have. Anyone tried them, or should I call of the test unheard?

  11. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Unless your good deal on the FocusWrong Green is $1, you're being ripped off. IMHO, the Green line is about as useless as tits on a bull. You would be better off with a PreSonus M20 or Aphex 107 or GT Bricks, and so on and so on.

    The sound from the Green series is rather colored, and not necessarily in a good way. I'm for think transformers and fat tubes, but the coloration of the Greens is just plain, yuck!

    Of course, these are only my humble opinions.

  12. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    you just saved me a boring trip and and a bunch of money. I owe you a beer at least.

  13. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    MMMMMMMMMmmmmm - Swedish Beer. (It's a shame there's no emoticon of a dude foaming at the mouth with desire!)

    Perhaps on my next trip to Europe, you could hook me up with a couple lovely Swedish women - I understand they are the most beautiful in the world.

  14. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Shouldn't we just have a sticky, called "Great Preamps" or one of those voting thingy's.

    This is one of the most discussed topics on the internet, amazing really considering its one of the least significant influences on final sound quality in any recording.

    Mr Cranky :)
  15. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    Even in a minimalist chain (2mics->pre->a/d->recorder)? Least? Really? Hmmmm, I am not so sure. I think your statement is designed to elicite debate, but I'll go ahead and bite: How would you rank each device's influence, from most to least signifacant?
  16. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    It was. :twisted:

    But I believe its true. Here is the list of sound quality influences in rank order according to me.

    The big influences...
    Room size, volume and acoustic quality
    Performer quality
    Microphone position chosen
    Microphone Technique chosen

    Getting much smaller in influence...
    Monitoring setup
    Microphone quality

    After here you are pretty much unable to improve the situation as the following have a tiny effect.

    Preamp choice
    A/D converter choice
    16 or 24 bit
    mic cable quality

    and then things that have arguably no effect.
    DAW chosen
    Summing buses etc

    and yet the last two brackets are some of the most discussed issues of all. Strange really.
  17. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    I'm with you so far. I especially agree with ranking monitors before mic quality. If you can't hear properly, how does one expect to make proper engineering decisions?
    Agreed, this later group is "unable to improve the situation". But it can damage the quality just as easily as the former group. I have had great players in nice acoustics with quality mics, only to have the recording rendered pedestrian by lo-fi preamps. This is why my position is that the preamp is hardly the least significant part of the chain.
    I agree that these are the least significant of the bunch, but I would not say that they have no effect. DAWs have differenent sound characteristics. Minor differences maybe, but differences none the less. But lets not get into that. Lets stay focused on preamps.
  18. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Oh CRAP, let's not get into that one again!!!! :roll:

    Just kidding.

    I tend to agree overall with the statements above (yes, including the differences between DAWs) and agree that too much emphasis is placed on preamps, they are an important part of the signal chain. There are tons of "good" pres on the market- all of which will give you a usable or even fantastic sound given the rest of the stuff is in order. BUT, a bad pre is a bad pre, a bad mic is a bad mic. I would never use a pair of SM57s to record an orchestra. I would however gladly use a cheap-ass pair of AT 30 series pencil mics to do that very task. The difference? One is engineered for loud percussive sources with relatively low transient response, the other is engineered for faster transients and more linear response.

    That being said, mic pres can be designed and engineered for specific tasks - lower slew rates with heavily colored transformers just won't cut it on orchestral stuff (unless you're into that dark, somewhat sloppy sound.)

    So, to make a long story short, mic pres can be an asset or a detriment in the recording chain, BUT, chances are, you'll still be able to make decent recordings with stock pres.

  19. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Exactly. We have made many wonderful recordings with Mackie preamps in the early years, and it was because the mics were in the right place in a good hall. Upgrading the mic pre to something with a funny name, would make a tiny almost negligable difference to the sound quality.

    Much better to move the mics 6 inches than have anxieties about preamps.
  20. Plush

    Plush Guest

    Oh how I LUV the mic pre questions!

    Hello Gunnar!

    Good preamplification is NOT a long search.
    For classical recording fairly neutral is where it's at--clinical sound is NOT where it's at!
    Features such as high gain are useful for ribbon mics.

    I will only comment on units we have or use frequently.


    After decades of using and listening I now find some of the least expensive to be some of the best. The reason they sound pure and good is that they are designed properly.

    I'm a broken record because I recommend DAV Electronics
    Broadhurst Gardens range. The BG # 2 is rack mountable and is the same as the BG#1 except that gain increments are different and there is more overall gain available on the BG#2.

    It is stunningly good.

    Also cheap and good is the Chicago product from SYTEK.

    Need to spend more because your testosterone needs a boost??
    There is no shame in that!

    Crookwood Paintpot is incredible
    John Hardy Company is outstanding.

    Need to shame the competition and obtain a wallet emptying
    shock?? --crying fit (but be redeemed with great tube sound?)

    EAR 624

    My vote--once again-- DAV Electronics ALL THE WAY!

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