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Pre-amp for new microphone

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by leaske, Oct 21, 2003.

  1. leaske

    leaske Guest

    I recently happened upon a Sanken CU-44X for an extremely cheap price. Through research, it became apparent that this is considerd a higher quality microphone. As a hobbiest musician / recording engineer I am weak in the pre-amp arena,
    I have a Mackie 1202 and a Bellari MP110. My budget is low since I must consider my wife and three kids. I'm torn because I love sound, pristine sound, is there a pre-amp out there that I can take advantage of this microphone and not break the bank i.e. under $500?
  2. Richard Monroe

    Richard Monroe Active Member

    Jun 24, 2003
    Framingham, Mass.
    Home Page:
    Well, if you have the special power supply (100v), you have one bitchin' mic. I'm sorry to say, if I were in your position, I might very well sell that puppy, buy an AKG C414TL-II, and an Avalon U5, and take the wife and kids to Bermuda. The only price I could find on that mic was $2700 used.
    To answer the real question, for $500, I would pair that very flat mic with a very flat preamp, like Grace Design 101. Best of luck.-Richie
  3. leaske

    leaske Guest

    Yes, I have the 100V power unit. I had to make the 4 conductor cable. You gotta be kidding me about the price? Thank you so much for the information, I feel like one of the people on PBS's Antique Roadshow who had no idea what they had! I think I'll check out the information on the Grace Design 101.
  4. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Distinguished Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    I would agree the Grace preamp is a good one and should match-up with your mic well. $500 doesn't really get you into the real pro or great catagory so you might save up some more and do some further research.
  5. chessparov

    chessparov Active Member

    Dec 16, 2001
    Orange County, CA
    You may want to hold off a bit and include the upcoming Joe Meek line in your short list.

    Am expecting the pre to compare well to the Grace based on a detailed discussion with Alan Hyatt (owner) recently. The half rack units will be less than half the price of the Grace, and include compression/EQ.

    There are some cool ideas based on stuff you could
    do with the original "brick" VC1 too BTW.

  6. leaske

    leaske Guest

    When will this new Joe Meek unit be available?
    Thanks for the reply.
  7. jdier

    jdier Active Member

    Mar 20, 2003
    Home Page:
    Do a quick search on RNP on this board. I am happy with mine.

    Regarding the Meeks, I am happy with my old ones and I am dying to get one of the new ones, however even Alan H says that they will retain that colored 'meek' sound. Based on the original post, I am not convinced that this is what he is looking for.

  8. leaske

    leaske Guest

    Your happy with the RNP? That is one of the pre's I've been looking into. Soundwise, have you compared it to the Grace Design 101? I like the RNP because it has two channels. Every thing I've read about the RNP has been good.
  9. TedB

    TedB Guest

    I've used a 1202 for a long time, with spurts of sytek and great river usage here and there (and some home grown pres).

    I recently purchased the RNP, and I was looking for transparency a la grace, with some character.

    I have not heard the grace, but I have a/b'd the RNP with the sytek for vocals, acoustic and drums.

    My impressions of the RNP changed, giving me an aural education that was invaluable.

    I got the rnp and immediately a/b'd with the mackie using my earthworks sro's in ORTF position, my standard setup I like.

    I didn't like the RNP. It sounded dark and muddy.

    I was confused... where was the sound behind the hype?

    I borrowed a friends sytek and a/b/c'd, with multiple tracks... something that can make a cheaper mic pre stand out over the more expensive ones.. cheaper pres may not "stack" well with multiple tracks; good pres can. you keep definition and the sound remains good.

    having a known quality "neutral" pre like the sytek, immediately taught me two humbling things:

    first, my ears were used to the mackies and that's why the RNP sounded "darker", even though it is not by any means. The mackies in comparison, sounded scooped and thin, but it took the test with the sytek to make that difference stand out. This scoop for me translates as a fairly bright track, so when comparing with the RNP alone, it's like the mackie tracks had the autoscoop eq on, so the tracks just sounded more ready to go in a final mix. When comparing the sytek and RNP more closely, I really like the sytek's headroom.. .it's what I'd buy given my supposed penchant for clear and transparent, but the RNP had character that simply put, sounded more natural. In the same way that listening to the royer demo cd can make you go ahhhh... I get it now...

    Secondly, I say supposed because the experience also taught me something: I like character in pres. I already know I love the great river, but knew I couldn't afford it. In the end, the RNP is a great deal and brings out the wood in my larrivee.

    I also experimented with some minor mid-low cuts on the RNP tracks around 225, and achieved a very clean and transparent sound out of my acoustic that had more character than the sytek and less thinness than the mackies.

    that's my experience anyway. It's a keeper for the price, and the experience was invaluable for my quest for great sounding acoustic recordings: I want a Royer 121 and a Merc edition GR, and NOT a grace/millienia with some DPA mics. I like the natural flavor that "colored" mics and pres can bring to an application.

    But now I know when I'll use my mackies: a lead guitar I want to be 'auto-eq'd', or some backing vocals where thinness may be desirable.

    so be warned: if you a/b the RNP with the mackie, give your ears some time to adjust. you've been hearing what I call a pre-eq scoop for some time now, and other pres may not strike you as "clear". that mackie "clarity" doesn't stack well, imo, and really shows it's harshness when you audition other pres.

    Mercenary will let you try it out for a while. take advantage of the potential aural education.

    and 2 channels is nice for good stereo recordings at $475!
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I've read great things about "Wackie" pres too. I wonder why someone hasn't taken these things and rack mounted them for use with DAWs? ... Also have seen some ads saying ART pres are killer. I just don' understand why we don't see more of this stuff at places like Oceanway and the Record Plant ????
  11. FloodStage

    FloodStage Active Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    "When comparing the sytek and RNP more closely, I really like the sytek's headroom."

    I have both Sytek and RNS. Sytek is lacking in headroom compared to RNP.... Big time.

    Both are clean.

    (Of course this is just my opinion)

    Kurt, have you ever used a RNP yet?

    (or should I ship you mine for a listen)
  12. white swan

    white swan Guest

    I've also found the Sytek to not have particularly high headroom, but I've never used an RNP, so that wasn't my standard of comparison. I was comparing it to things like API's. It is pretty clean though.

    I know Kurt always uses the RNP as a prime example of crappy gear, to the point where he ridicules the name (as well as some other pieces, to be fair.) Kurt has heard a lot more preamps than I have, so if he thinks it is a waste of money, I can't argue, since I've never heard one myself.

    But everyone is always saying around here "work with what works for you. use your own ears. decide for yourself what sounds musical. etc."

    Then when someone says they like something we don't like, we kind of put them down, implying they have no frame of reference or trained ears. Hey, I'm as guilty as anyone else here - I've been known to scoff at people who like C1000's!

    So I'm struggling with this issue myself. In the end I think it is probably more constructive to suggest similarly priced alternatives. Saying that something I own wouldn't be found at Ocean Way or Gateway Mastering may be saying more about our respective gear-buying budgets than anything about the usefulness of a piece of gear to a particular person. Gear snobbery is a seductive sin that I'm as guilty of as anyone, but in the end it's still all about how the end-product sounds. Sure, it's easier to get there with an unlimited budget. But for those of us who can't book Ocean Way, we just have to work that much harder.
  13. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Snobbery of any kind is a detriment to the learning process.

    I myself, have heard and worked with high-end,mid quality and cheapcheap crappy gear at different times in my 'career'...It hasnt been too much of a hinderance to me to obtain what I was looking for as far as sound goes. Of course,the vision of the final outcome has to change somewhat....But the fun and learning experience in DOING the recording has always remained a constant.

    As far as particular pieces of gear are concerned,I find it hard to comment one way or the other on stuff I havent heard.Even knowing someone whose ear I can trust that has heard particular stuff,doesnt mean that I personally can really know all about it.

    If you ask me about several Tascam mixers I can comment.Souncrafts,Ghost/200/500/600....I have a bunch of hours there....Harrison 10...a few wonderful hours...Automated Process...worked some sessions with one of those in the room...Yamahas....most of em....and lots of others things...A lot of live sound too...

    But with the advent of the computer recording explosion, I get to take a backseat to many who have only a small amount of experience time-wise compared to my own...As well it should be...So I would be hurting myself by not listening and thinking that I know all am all.

    Others could learn from this...Remember, there is always someone who knows more,is better than,is more profound,better looking,richer,poorer, etc etc...

    So, the ego can destroy as well as give rise to quality and its a fine line to walk.To be confident is all well and good and worthy.To be arrogant is a sure sign that Karmas' gonna pay you a visit sometime when you least expect it.
  14. white swan

    white swan Guest

    Very beautifully stated, Dave.
  15. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Distinguished Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    Dave, Your words are true, and your logic is solid. And while there exists golden nuggets within the cheap gear realm, it is a tiresome journey in finding them. I find in general that expensive pro quality gear in addition to giving me great sonic performance, also gives me worry free long term piece of mind. The top pro stuff tends to hold up better in constant use. When things do go wrong, it is usually possible to get them fixed without having to replace the entire unit because it or it's parts have become obsolete. I've always found top quality pro gear is also easier to use to get great sound from. A lot of the cheaper stuff requires you find the right sweet spot settings because the design and components make them unstable towards the extreme min and max settings. They can be very non-linear so the smallest movement or twitch totaly changes the sound. How you set the knobs one day for a sound differ from the next day to get that same sound. Even turning some units off and back on, changes the sound that you were so carefull to adjust.

    So, cheap gear has it's place and can be of value. But I still see your money better spent in the investment in buying and using the very best tools available to get the job done for those that are looking for long term performance, payback and the future businees they will provide.

    But a bigger and more often overlooked item is the client wow factor and what it does to draw in business. Like it or not, good or bad, people judge other people and places for reasons that are not fair and very unjustified. It is fact that you do get judged for the gear you own and the tools you use. Protools is an example. Plenty of people think that you MUST use protools and that you have to have a Neve preamp, Lexicon reverb, Neumann microphone, ect. So it is of great benifit to have great pro gear to use as tools that also appeal to clients that are not educated, are vain, and shop by brand name. I have gotten plenty of first time businees through the years just because of what specific gear I own and use.

    Ego or not. I plan to go my audio grave never owning or using stuff from Behringer, Art, Digitech, Bellari, Studio Projects, and a whole slew of others who have not earned their crediability or worthyness in my book. And while others may think that is snobbish, that is ok with me because it is by my rules and my book that I live by when it comes to audio and music.
  16. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Well said AG,and i can appreciate your take on it 100%.I too love and appreciate quality gear not only for its range of operation,but also for its saleability to the clientelle.A good room is what I think sells time even more than lots of logos.I also agree with the reliability factor.In my other life,I use a lot of tools and cant stand the feel of a cheap one in my hands.

    And while your words ring true for you and your situation,and for many others I'm sure....there are many who have not the resources nor the abilities at this time to really benefit from having an elitist attitude towards gear and its uses.My take was simply one of,"Dont let your ego get in the way of your ability to learn..."

    This has served me well over the 30 years I've been doing recordings of some kind and I feel it has allowed me a fresh outlook on it through times of no gear and times when I've been in a flush situation.

    I do NOT advocate the buying into the dealers and manufacturers hype that has permeated this industry right now.I believe that everyone should try and then buy whenever possible and make decisions about their budgets based on need,performance and value.Its one of the reasons I'll advocate finding partiular used items over the newest toy in the catalogs.And for me, finding that scruffy gem is half the fun of building up a collection of gear that may be esoteric at best, but in the right hands can make recordings of such quality,that can bring about the pride and joy in ones work that we are all seeking.And, you know what....I get that every time...right out of the box!If you're interested, send me a PM and an address and I'll send you some roughs...I think you'll smile at what you hear.
  17. Skeetch

    Skeetch Guest

    Thank you for articulating so well what I've been trying to communicate for the past couple of years. Awfully hard to feed the champagne tastes on a beer budget, especially when the majority of the day gig income is laid out for college funds, astronomical mortgages, car payments and the like.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
  18. missilanious

    missilanious Guest

    If the grace 101 sounds like the 801, get the grace. The RNP is $450 while the Grace is $600. I recently heard a 9 peice Jazz recording done at Masque Sounds in NYC using nothing but a Grace 801 and of cource great mics, aside from recording in a great room, the amount of realism that the Grace captured was baffling. It had a clean transparent unhyped sound, but it was still thick. That gave me the inpression that though everthing was recorded through this pre, it gave no build up of color except for the colors the mics provided. also everthing was extremely accurate so I presume that pre had a fast slew rate. After hearing the Graces in work I am sold, and my next pre is most likely going to be a 201 or a Speck 5.
  19. daif

    daif Guest

    Ah yes! The Grace 101.
    What does it have in common with the M-AUDIO DMP3 & the RANE MS-1b...sure as hell isn't price.
    But the primary circuit component costing a coupla' buckz...yep, the preamp on a chip!
    In the case of Grace just wrap it up in a styled "designer" box ( which probably costs more than what's inside), bit of hype, "respectable" sound quality, good looking specs, robot assembled...& start printing money hey?
    But then again I could be wrong?
  20. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I agree 100% with your last post with one exception. Studio Projects. As all here know, I have been known to make the disparaging remark about their products in the past. Then, Alan Hyatt stepped up to the plate and despite some reservations I suspect, sent me a bunch of his stuff.

    This included a B1, C3 and C4 mics. I have lived with these mics for some time now and I have to say while I first thought I didn't care for them, the more I revisited them, the more impressed with them I have become. Even this "old dog", can learn a new trick once in a while. As far as ohh factor my clients have always commented on how “nice” the C3 looks and they are always amazed when I tell them how much it sells for. The shock mount is a bit cheesy but other than that, the mic performs well. If you wish to hear a sample of it check the background vocals on the song I posted, “Cheeseburgers” on the Audio Projects page (yeah, I know, mp3s suck) .

    This last Sunday, I put the SP C4’s up in cardioid, for overheads in a live drum session instead of my C451L’s or C460B’s and was pleasantly surprised at how wonderful they sounded. These mics go for $400 in a matched pair and come with shock mounts and a hard carrying case!

    So while I still haven’t found that proverbial “free lunch”, I am happy to report that IMO, we seem to be getting closer. I think we may have arrived at “Cheap Lunch”.

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