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Preamp Selection in a wide world of options...

Discussion in 'Preamps & Processing' started by separation, Nov 8, 2006.

  1. separation

    separation Guest

    I currently have "decent" preamps in the following:
    1. 32 channel A&H GL2200
    2. Focusrite Octopre
    3. Focusrite ISA-428
    4. ART TPS

    I'm looking into trading out my A&H board for a lot of reasons and going with a Soundcraft board. I've also got my eyes/ears set on picking a nice 2 channel tube preamps in the near future. I'm looking into the Avalon AD2022 but the price is high and I'm going to search for a more economical tube pre that might yield somewhat similar results.

    My question is how would the Soundcraft pre's sound against say the ISA-428 preamps? Would it be worthwhile to just get nother ISA-428 and skip the $6000 for the Soundcraft? I would think that money wise I could get the whole control of my system with the board but still have the flexibility with the other preamps.

    A friend recorded a project for a major/minor metal band on Prosthetic Records and they used the ISA-428's and a small Roland Digital Board. Nothing fancy and the cd is absolute amazing sounding. Even the mixes that I heard in the studio were fantastic. This is why I have went with the ISA pre's.

    I just would love to have the flexibility of the board, mostly for the headphone and preamp capabilities. I'm running Nuendo 3.2.1 and I think they have some fancy headphone features through mix buses but I haven't figured that one out just yet.

    So much to learn and literally so little time.

    Any suggestions on the value of the Soundcraft Pre's compared to the ISA-428 pre's and possibly what a good value tube pre would be???

    thanks to all.
  2. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    Just a thought, that's all.

    There may be a reason why some consoles cost so much?

    Try this.

    Divide the cost of any console by the number of mic preamps. How much could each preamp possibly have cost?

    With my Mackie $400/4=$100. As the console has more than JUST 4 mic preamps, let's cut the figure in half, again. Each mic pre in my Mackie could not have cost ME more than 50 bucks(I think I get my 50's worth!).

    Now figure that a "normal" figure for a truly "pro" pre, per channel, say a John Hardy, is around $1000 -- not a fancy "channel strip" like the MM Origin, at 3 grand per channel - just a pre. Even with a very healthy discount for volume purchase, your 32 channel console "should" cost upwards of $32,000, likely more, with just "basic" pro pre's and "basic" pro other stuff in the console. With pre's comparable to the Origin, your 32 channel console, with "other" super-features to match the pre's, might easily cost well over one hundred grand(US) - and does!

    Using these complete bogus, arbitrary figures, a $6000, 32 channel console, should have pre's that cost you about $100 apiece? Which "should" be better? The outboard pre's you have, per channel, or the pre's in the 6k console?

    Yes? No? "Stupid" logic?

    With ANY console, if you can really use all those pre's, alot, and get paid for them, the console sure is convenient and may be the way to go. If most of your pre's don't really need to be "super-duper", so much the better, you might get away with a lower priced console. You can always supplement with a few "choice", outboard, items for your main sources with your "good" mics.

    Of course, if you rarely use more than a few channels at a time, spending your 6k for 2, 4, even 8 channels of pre..? Even if you "blow" 2k of that for a super "outboard" headphone amp/speaker controller, the outboards, quality-wise, more-useage-wise, might sound pretty good.


    If you don't mind I'd be interested in why the Soundcraft sted the A&H? Just your opinions, I know, but I'd like to hear them...
  3. TVPostSound

    TVPostSound Guest

    The Avalon AD2022 is NOT a tube pre!!!!
  4. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Moderator

    Feb 23, 2005
    The Avalon AD2022 is a discrete-component 2-channel version of the M5. These are not tube units, they are solid-state. The only tube mic pre that Avalon makes is the 737ST.
    You did not say what model Soundcraft that you were looking at, but unless it is the (now-discontinued ) Ghost, I doubt that the mic preamps will be noticeably better than the A&H. You might look at a Midas desk for better pre's. Theirs are a 'discrete' design (no IC's), and yield very good fidelity and noise figures. I have not used the ISA personally, but I am currently using their top-of-the-line Red 7 to track VO's and overdubs. The Red 7 is a great unit, wish the owner would sell it to me. I doubt that the ISA is as good as that, but the preamp is probably better than the Soundcrafts'. You didn't say how you were using these units (recording live, studio tracking, etc) or how many mics you'll be using at once. This will help determine what to consider buying. Personally, my experience with Avalon tube products has been not-too-great. I got rid of my 737 a couple of years ago and never regretted it. If you want a tube pre to add a bit of color and charater, I'd second TG's suggestion on the Mellenia Origin. It offers a slew of options to vary the sound of it. Different folks want different results from tube processing. I like that "silky smooth top end" and fat low end it can provide, but a lot of the so-called "tube" gear doesn't really do that. The cheaper stuff can be "dirtier" and "edgier", and that's what some want.
  5. separation

    separation Guest

    hey thanks for the thoughts. I've honestly sat down and went through those very numbers and come up with similar thoughts. These choices are very hard all the way around.

    I end up using 10-12 mics on the drums for recording. Since I have the other room, I end up with another 3 mics on each guitar and then you end up with a keyboard player and bass player that I typically run direct in most cases. Not all the time. Then I throw in 2 vocals just in case and that is the band.

    Since most bands want to record in a live setting that leaves me with:
    12 pres for drums
    8 pres for guitars (2 direct ins bypassed before the guitar, then the three mics for each cab)
    2 pres for the keyboard and bass together.
    2 pres for vox.

    That is 22 mic pre's need for each situation. Now this is basically worst case for a band as that is a lot of people and gear but it has happened twice since I've started recording.

    I have my board set up for those 22 pre's plus a talkback mic, OUTPUT from the MOTU gear, cd player, and a couple of straggler pre's for odds and ends or old sessions while I'm working with this band. Since my rooms are set up and wired to the control room I like to have all my connections brought in and plugged to the board so I don't have to constantly rewire them.

    So really in the situation I'm looking at right now having the board is a necessity because of the diversity it gives me. However, there are ways around that and things that can be done to alleviate some of these overboard mics. I don't HAVE to do all that at once, but there has been a band that only wanted to do things in a single session and be done with it. While I hope to never do that again it was an experience to say the least.

    I've looked recently into moving into ProTools HD from my Nuendo 3.2.1 program and at that point I would have to move to 16 pre's IN and it would limit me to an extent. I really think I'm overusing things anyway and it would be good to strip things down a notch. Having too many pre's and connections is a problem more than a benefit sometimes. If I went that way I understand the pre's in the Control 24 aren't that great so I would want my ISA-428 and a tube pre to do most of the major recording and then use the other pre's to do the rest. Basically what I'm doing now only shrunk down system wise.

    As for the A&H board the major reason is the inability to have the direct outputs PRE fader to my MOTU gear. It is a huge issue for me and one that I could end up rewiring the board to fix it as it is written in their manual BUT you also can't solo-out a channel to my main outputs. You can use their headphone connection to solo a channel but I want to be able to hear that in my monitors and not through headphones. It seems like a silly feature to not have.

    The Soundcraft boards (all the GB series and the Ghost LE series) have Direct Outputs with a switch on the badk that can send the signal pre-fader. This is so huge so that I can monitor signal in my control room while still giving solid signal to the MOTU gear. I don't know how many times someone has asked to turn down a certain instrument and I have to do a lot of work to achieve this when the same signal that I'm listening to out of the monitors is the same that is being sent to the MOTU gear. It wouldn't be that way if I had a pre fader option on the direct outs.

    I am going to work on rewiring my system so that I'm actually listening to the main outs of the MOTU gear and not having it come back into the board. I know that is a major flaw to my system and one that I am going to correct quickly.

    However, there will be other issues with that as well. I might set up a simple output source switch so that I can switch what is going to my monitors from my MOTU outputs to the board itself. That way if I want to hear what is coming directly from the MOTU I can just switch that over and then switch it back to listen to what is coming off the board from the performance. Obviously, I still have to have the pre fade option on the board and that goes back to getting rid of the A&H board. Its a nice board and I do like their preamps and especially their EQ section but those two issues along with some other things kill me.

    I had a Mackie 32x8 board and while I didn't like their preamps or EQ the board was well layed out for recording. Hence, why I think the A&H board is setup for more of a live setting and I'm using it incorrectly. Basically it was something in my price range and I need a new board. Its done ok in its placement and I got a great price when I bought it.

    ok I've realized I'm REALLY rambling and this is WAAAY too long. My apoligies if you fell asleep during this post.

    thanks again for the help...

  6. separation

    separation Guest

    thanks for that. I must have been thinking one thing and hoping for another! As the post below mentioned I'll be checking out the 737 and I think they have a 747 as well. But I'll really be looking into the "Mellenia Origin". I've felt like the Avalon pre's are just high priced fodder but obviously they have their place. Since I'm not making a ton of money at this and these things are for what I consider a serious beginner I'm always looking for the more moderate "best bang for the buck" type choices. I've just not had much experience in the tube pre world and would love to try them out for vocals to see if I can get a better "warmth" and "prescence" out of them. They sound like they could really bring a vocal to life and I'm eager to try them out.

  7. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Moderator

    Feb 23, 2005
    Please forgive my naivete, but why are you using EIGHT channels to track TWO guitar cabs?!?!? I mean, I know you CAN, and people do, but...
    I'm surprised that you haven't run into some major phasing issues with soooo many drum mics in the room at one time. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes, well, I'll leave you to your madness...whatever floats yer boat :cool: Anyway, if you really need a board that size and you are on a $6K budget, I would look very hard at the Midas Venice, or better yet, its' 8-bus big brother, the Verona. I have owned several Soundcrafts and A&H's over the years, and mix live on a Midas Heritage 3 times a week. There is simply no comparison. CLEAN headroom, low noise floor.
    As far as Avalon gear is concerned, they make some good stuff, but some it is probably overhyped, just like some Focusrite and many others. The 737 has a reputation for easily "over-doing" things in a multi-tracking environment. In other words, you can use it for a vocal or a guitar solo, but if you use it on several or (God forbid) ALL of the tracks, you can end up with "mush". That was my experience, but I learned how to tame that problem until I finally ditched it due to reliability issues. Glad it's gone, but there are lots of folks who swear by them. Lots of 'em on e-bay,too, for that matter.
  8. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    I wonder how the Trident boards are, that are making the rounds of all the magazine ads? 16 channels 3000(Only price shown), "24, 32 available".

    While I hope the Soundcraft gives you the options you need, I would wonder whether the pre's would be much/any better? If the pre's on the board you have suffice, I'd expect the others to be about the same, again, unless the price difference is substantial -- 1000 A&H, 6000 SC..?

    Hauling the board around would be nuts, for me(Mooney'd do it for me, huh?), but... we do what we must do(I hope your insurance is substantial AND paid-up!).

    20 mics for a drum kit and 2 electric guitars, in a live setting? Can the crowd see the band for the mics??? Again, we do what we must do... I think the keyboardist needs 2 channels, ey - stereo and all that? Lots of mics! And only two vocalists! That's what? 5 instruments, two vocalists(Do they play,too?), FIVE pre's per member(The mean average, of course.)? It ain't the 40's, no mo'! -- 30 piece orchestra, one vocalist, 1 mic.

    I wonder what mics you use for the stuff? No sense overdoing the pre's if the mics aren't up to it(57's are nice, for instance, but they need no more than Mackie quality, far as it goes, to show all they got, ya'know?).

    Yeah, a nice board that does what you want, couple of outboard pre's for the important stuff(?), 1,500 miles of cables, which you'll haul on a seperate tractor trailer(Mooney has his CDL... handy guy.), and you're all set!



    "Ooh! Watch out for the..........CRASH......mic cable....."
  9. Scoobie

    Scoobie Active Member

    Sep 6, 2006
    I agree with Moonbaby on the Midas consoles. Very good quailty product.
    I do live sound and location recording . I own and usally use either my Old VLZ or my Onyx24-4 . But I just done a show with a Midas Venice,
    Very good console. I'm thinking of getting one of the small rack mount Venice. The 240 I believe it's called.

    I have used A&H and SoundCraft(not the Ghost) and I don't think their pre's are any better than the Onyx.

  10. separation

    separation Guest

    thanks for the info. I'll go check out more info on those boards you mentioned. I'll also hit the Ebay pages too just to see what other items I've missed over in recent weeks. So did you mix on the GB series of Soundcraft boards or have you mixed on the Ghost or Ghost LE boards? I've heard that they have a very distinct difference in the preamps and was curious. Its very hard for me to try anything out down here in Richmond, Virginia as almost all the stores carry the run of the mill brands and very rarely carry the high end gear. If not for places like this people like me wouldn't be able to get information. Especially since when you go talk to the workers at say GC or Sam Ash and they have no clue as to what you are talking about. They are salesman and I understand that but they really stick to the company line for the most part. I've found 2 guys in the past 5 years now who were amazing and both of them left leaving me beavis and butthead and their theory that the Behringer boards are superior because of price and features. What the hell are they thinking? Well other than they make a killing off the mark up on those boards...LOL.

  11. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Moderator

    Feb 23, 2005
    Not the GB series, but between my live and studio work over the last 30+ years, pretty much everything else Soundcraft has put out. I find it hard to believe that there is that much difference between the GL2200 and the Soundcraft GB models, simply because they both use similar topology. Not to mention that they are both "budget" models.The Ghost is another story, in that SC really made an attempt to make a solid recording desk with that one. There are many Ghost fans on this site (Davedog being one of them), and my experience with a couple of projects on one was very positive.
  12. separation

    separation Guest

    I'm sorry if I've confused anyone but I'm not recording anything in a live setting. All my work is in my studio. I don't really even like to use that term "studio" because I don't consider it to be a professional environment and truth be told its just like everyone else in many ways. I built a 38x24 building and am using 24x24 of the space for my recording space. 3 rooms, bathroom, heating and air, etc. I spent a ton on the soundproofing with double walls and door locks and such just because I'm in a neighborhood and don't want neighbors to know what I'm doing. Plus it would be completely bad form to have a guitar and drums blaring at 2:00am and waking people up.

    As for the number of mics...yes it is a bit overboard but mostly I set things up that way because its just me recording these bands by myself. So I end up going back and forth between a couple of mics and keep them all just in case one suits the parts better. I rarely mix anything more than 3 mics (MD421, E609, and SM57) and a direct signal for my guitars. I will mostly come back to those mics and end up getting rid of the room mic.

    The drums are more troublesome with that many mics but again I haven't proven myself in the recording process and end up talking myself out of different setups. I normally use the following:
    1. Kick L
    2. Kick R
    3. Subkick L
    4. Subkick R
    5. Snare Top
    6. Snare Bott
    7. Tom1
    8. Tom2
    9. Tom3
    10. Tom4
    11. OHR
    12. OHL

    If I'm lucky, which isn't often, the drummer will only have 1 kick and a slave pedal and 3 toms. But the past 3 bands have had this setup. I'll listen to the drummer and see if he doesn't anything cool with his highhat or ride and decide whether I want to mic that as well just to pick up some cool ride or highhat work. It doesn't happen very often but again I have to have the space on the board in case.

    The last band I recorded I tried an XY mic setup in my bathroom as from what someone posted on this board. It was ok but I also tried a GAK mic (that is what they called it, but it was just a junk mic that was 3 feet from the snare and pointed back directly at the snare) and had some decent results when I worked with it. It did add some neat elements to the mix though. It was the first time I had messed with anything other than the setup I listed above.

    Most bands around here have a drummer with a huge freakin' kit, two guitarists, keyboardist, bassist, and a lead singer who doesn't play an instrument. I've noticed its more and more rare to see a guitar player who can play and sing. I'm supposed to do this Nu-Country act who plays covers and just wants something to get gigs. Get this: Female Singer, Male singer, keyboardist who sings, lead guitarist, rhythmn guitarist who sings, bassist who sings, drummer who sings, steel guitarist, fiddle player, and dobro player. Plus the drummer has a full HUGE double bass kit (why I have absolutely NO idea!) WHAT A NIGHTMARE!! Not sure how I'm going to pull that one off but its fascinating to think about.

    As for the mics I do have good mics. They aren't the best mics ever but I listed them in the thread on the forum recently. See the Mic thread from last week or so. I'm not using junk mics for sure but I haven't reached to the Nueman mics status just yet. My favs are my Rode NT2, Rode NT5, Yamaha Subkick, and my Sennheiser MD421's. But I have a lot of pretty nice mics.

    I could imagine you falling off your chair reading my posts thinking I was doing a live recording this way. The only guy I've ever saw put 20+ mics on a drum kit is the sound engineer for Dream Theater. I met him in D.C. before a show. Actually they switch on most tours but this was the "Scenes from a Memory" tour. He told me he put 26 mics on Mike Portnoys kit. The kicker for him was the mic that he wanted for his vocals that he had to constantly leave on even when he wasn't singing just because Portnoy feared that it could accidentally be turned off and he wouldn't be heard. From what I understand the phasing when he would spin the mic into place played havoc on the sound guys. Pretty interesting but a mess nonetheless.

  13. Scoobie

    Scoobie Active Member

    Sep 6, 2006
    57's are nice, for instance, but they need no more than Mackie quality, far as it goes, to show all they got, ya'know?).<~~~~~~~~~ (Quote)

    that's funny you say that..........Because most studio's that i've done session work in that has the huge mic locker. Just about any thing they wanted to choose from. Allways put a 57 in front of my amp.

    And i've seen 57's tracked into a Neve and a SSL, Trident.

    I have allways found, if you want to know what a mic really sounds like. Use a good pre.

  14. separation

    separation Guest

    I guess it matters more about what type of music you are playing too right? For instance, I know Devin Townsend from SYL uses the 57 and MD421 combo on his guitar rigs plus uses some type of distance room mic. I love his music and most especially his guitar tone. But I just read an article on Satriani and he uses a 57 and 609 combo in some fashion.

    Point being is that your right about the preamps because they all use amazing high end preamps. I guess that is my point and the reason that I really want to upgrade my system.

    Having been in the recording process for the last Byzantine record on Prosthetic records I know they used the ISA-421 and ended up with two separate gain settings for their rhythmn tracks. They setup their rig so that one 4x12 cab was in an isolation room and the other was in a live room. Very sweet setup and their cd is just amazingly recorded. Its so pure and clean sounding its just amazing.

    I'm just trying to get a guage of what mid-grade preamps I can look into to get the best bang for my buck. I know I need a quality vocal mic and would like to utilitize the board (soundcraft, midas, etc) to do the rest of the instruments on the drums and keys and things of that nature. Then come back and use the high end pre's to capture the meat of the recording. That way no cheap pre is used and everything is no worse than the pre's on the board. I just need some advice on which was to go with that. I've looked in the Midas boards but I need to get up into the second level as the Venice model doesn't have all the options I need. That means going to the next level up and I'm sure the cost will be well over my $4500 to $6000 spending limit. Basically because I wouldn't want anything smaller than a 24 channel board and would prefer the 32 but don't HAVE to have that. I can more than get away with a 24 channel board I think.

    Thanks again for the post.

  15. I'd add that the Avalon 737 is highly highly over-hyped.

    I had one here for a couple months back two years ago. I was tracking a project at the time. I remember looking forward to getting it and hearing such nice warm, transparent tracks. I heard anything BUT that.
    Very disssapointed.

    In fact, I even preferred my Mackie pre's over the Avalon. The Avalon just seemed to lifeless and stale. Put the compressor in to add insult to injury.
    Just MHO of course.

    There does seem to be a marriage of mic to pre that is important in any situation, and probably why everyone's mileage is so different.
  16. JoeH

    JoeH Distinguished Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    This month's MIX magazine (November 06) has a pretty good article on Mic Pre's, written by my friend Eddie Ciletti. Lots of info in both of his aticles this month, plus a fairly extensive list of currently available mic pre's, how many channels, what they do, etc. Worth a look-see.
  17. separation

    separation Guest

    Thanks for the info. I really look forward to reading that. I'm going to have to find a copy around town. Thanks for the heads up.

  18. Rosemary

    Rosemary Guest

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