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preamps?

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by scarface, Mar 17, 2006.

  1. scarface

    scarface Guest

    i was woundering is using a preamp essenstial? whats the difference between pluging a mic directly to a board and using a pre? its been jogging my mind. everyone always says you gotta use a pre. i agree but would it accually make what your micing sound better?
     
  2. TVPostSound

    TVPostSound Guest

    Many boards have built in pres, granted some are better than others.
    If using a Behringer board, use an outboard pre, if using a Neve use the boards pre.
     
  3. StevenColbert

    StevenColbert Member

    One word...
    YES
    All preamp's are small circuits, that add gain to the signal. And all companies make different designs to achive gain. So ALL preamp's sound different in one way or another.
    If a preamp is made of $150 worth of electronic components then the sound will be cheap sounding and most likely not that warm.
    However if you have a preamp that cost about $1500 (not including labor cost) It will be 10 times better IMHO.
    And SHOULD sound way better than any of the cheaper designs that use lesser components and shortcuts to achive gain.

    cheap parts= cheapest sound
    good parts= good sound
    best parts= best sound possible
     
  4. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Really? Steven, I don't have the website anymore, but there was one posted a while back....Producer something...I'm sure that there will be readers who will chime in with the address. Anyway, a $5.00 (!!!!!) mic pre WON over much more expensive makes/models!
    That's not to say that quality components don't yield quality results, but...price doesn't GUARANTEE that, either. Case in point:
    I had an Avalon 737 box. Paid $2K fer it. My $600 Grace 101 is cleaner, more transparent, and quieter. That 737 has long since flown the coop!
    BTW, I have spent several years in R and D at a medical imaging manufacturing facility. A typical cost-to-sell price ratio for an electronics device, no matter what market niche it is geared towards, is roughly 6:1,as far as componentry is concerned. Bottomline:a layout that costs the manufacturer $100.00 to produce is going to add $600.00 to the selling price...YIPES! This is why boxes with fancy packaging and high quality components cost so damned much!
     
  5. dwoz

    dwoz Guest

    Don't mean to diss you here, Colbert...but this is basically incorrect on just about every level.

    Its very true that the various different pres offered by different manufacturers offer their own "colors"...

    And its also true that certain microphone types (in particular, most ribbons) can sound quite strikingly different with different pres, because of the way they load (or don't load) the input of the pre.

    But the key word of the day here, is that they sound DIFFERENT. Different may be better, may be worse. One mic/pre combination used today on THIS material may sound "best", but tomorrow that same mic/pre combination may sound "worst", on some other material.

    So, the reason that studios keep a number of different mics and a number of different pres around, is because each combination has its particular "strong suit", that applies particularly well to certain situations. Having a variety to choose from gives the engineer some tonal options BEFORE he starts twiddling the EQ knobs.

    Another reason to have a variety of mics/pres, is BECAUSE each one has its particular "signature sound". If you use that particular combination for every track in a mix, while they individually sound pretty good, you can start to get a "buildup" of that characteristic, which can often result in some undesirable, hard-to-fix situations. So its common, in a studio where you have access to several choices, to "mix things up" a bit, in your mic/pre selection.

    But to address the "more expensive is better"...

    When you buy a mic pre, what's inside?

    A couple of opamps, or perhaps a tube, or perhaps an IC chip.

    Some resistors, some capacitors

    A circuit board

    A power supply (may be a wall-wart)

    Maybe an input transformer, maybe an output transformer.

    Some potentiometers. might be a meter and some LEDs.

    A case. Some connectors

    If you go out to the electronic suppy houses, you find that you can buy all that stuff for perhaps a couple hundred bucks, even if you get the BEST burr-brown discrete opamps, the BEST Sowter/Lundhal/Jensen transformers, the HIGHEST quality caps an closest tolerance resistors...and if you buy it in bulk, the way a manufacturer does, you can build a world-class mic pre for about 150 bucks US in parts.

    What's the expensive part? Its today's next word of the day...DESIGN.

    I could select the best parts available anywhere in the world, and design a mic pre all by myself, and it would, I'm sure, sound entirely pedestrian, probably no better than the mic pres in my console.

    Some of the pres out there in the mass pro-sumer market would be improved by substituting in better components, some wouldn't be helped.


    In conclusion, the statement I'd make about cheaper pres/expensive pres/console pres, is that the cheaper the mic pre, the less often you'd find that its the OPTIMAL CHOICE for a particular situation. It may EXCEL at some one thing, but be next-to-useless for other things. In other words, the higher the quality (and thus, probably more expensive), generally speaking the more versatile.

    Although, there are cheap pres out there that are great...the FMR stuff comes to mind. There are very expensive pres out there that are great, but not very versatile at all...some focusrite stuff comes to mind.

    Console pres are generally designed NOT to excel, or to have strong character, but to be as generally versatile (NEUTRAL) as possible. In other words, the pres in your board will almost never be a perfect choice, but will almost never be a BAD choice. (with the caveat that we're not talking about a really cheap board like a behringer or alesis or the like).

    Anecdotally, the other day, I was sticking an SM57 into the face of an 8" speaker, and after listening to what I was getting, I finally unplugged the mic from the $800 pre, and went directly into my console's channels strip mic input. Sounded much better. Today, that is.

    Likewise, I plugged my Chapman Stick into a $150 presonus blue tube, and generally liked it a lot better than direct into the board or the $800 pre...but plugging my old fender bass direct into the board (with a DI) sounded better.

    A more expensive pre will typically be your standard "go-to starting point"...but don't be too surprised if you end up liking the sound of a cheaper solution better in a given situation.

    dwoz
     
  6. dwoz

    dwoz Guest


    Actually, its FAR MORE LIKELY to sound 1% better. Like golf, equipment design/quality is not much of a factor for the 500 yards between the tee and the green, its all about what happens at the final 8 inches.


    dwoz
     
  7. 0db

    0db Active Member

    5$! mmm....That hardly buys a pair of transistors, hehehe...

    Anyway, i have to pray my Brian Eno´s credo:

    "i´ve been in state-of-the-art studios that sounds like s**t, and i have been in dark, weird studios that have the most uncommon and undesirable blend of gear that sounds like heaven"

    Having said this, what is important at last is how you hear it. Outboard pre´s usually gives you more parameters to adjust, and a better sound quality because they are specialized gear that has been designed with that in mind. The signal path, amp topology or class, the transistors, Mosfets or tubes, digital out options, and the overall quality of components, should give you better and different tastes for every use. Most of the expensive gear uses hand wound transformers with silver coils, for example, that also should help achieve better sound. There are also rack units that comes with 8 pre´s and firewire option, very convenient, easy and efficient way to record a drum and track it directly to your recording software.

    Everything counts. Mics, pre´s, the booth, even cables!. Many of us cannot afford a 2K$ Manley or an Avalon pre, so there´s is when you have to come and squeeze out the potential of the gear you have. Maybe a Joemeek pre, can do the job, and you will pay like 500$ or so for it, or maybe you will end with a 5$ pre that sound like heaven. There are lots of brands and models. And lots of opinions and advices on how to choose one in this forum. this is one experience that i had and wrote some time ago: (Dead Link Removed)

    My final advice is: if your board is good enough and your budget its not, use them. Try to improve everything else, good cabling, good mics. If you have enough money, and not satisfied with the sound you get, then try a external pre. The one YOU like.

    Good Luck
    Juan
     
  8. 0db

    0db Active Member

    5$! mmm....That hardly buys a pair of transistors, hehehe...

    Anyway, i have to pray my Brian Eno´s credo:

    "i´ve been in state-of-the-art studios that sounds like s**t, and i have been in dark, weird studios that have the most uncommon and undesirable blend of gear that sounds like heaven"

    Having said this, what is important at last is how you hear it. Outboard pre´s usually gives you more parameters to adjust, and a better sound quality because they are specialized gear that has been designed with that in mind. The signal path, amp topology or class, the transistors, Mosfets or tubes, digital out options, and the overall quality of components, should give you better and different tastes for every use. Most of the expensive gear uses hand wound transformers with silver coils, for example, that also should help achieve better sound. There are also rack units that comes with 8 pre´s and firewire option, very convenient, easy and efficient way to record a drum and track it directly to your recording software.

    Everything counts. Mics, pre´s, the booth, even cables!. Many of us cannot afford a 2K$ Manley or an Avalon pre, so there´s is when you have to come and squeeze out the potential of the gear you have. Maybe a Joemeek pre, can do the job, and you will pay like 500$ or so for it, or maybe you will end with a 5$ pre that sound like heaven. There are lots of brands and models. And lots of opinions and advices on how to choose one in this forum. this is one experience that i had and wrote some time ago: (Dead Link Removed)

    My final advice is: if your board is good enough and your budget its not, use them. Try to improve everything else, good cabling, good mics. If you have enough money, and not satisfied with the sound you get, then try a external pre. The one YOU like.

    Good Luck
    Juan
     
  9. 0db

    0db Active Member

    sorry about the two-times posting, my internet connection sucks at this time. And i agree entirely with dwoz comments, in fact, if i read it before, i didn´t wrote a thing!

    sorry about my english too.

    Juan
     
  10. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    i have a question, too!

    i'm thinking about buying a preamp, but my budget is very low, close to non, so i googled a bit and found two pre's:

    STUDIO PROJECTS VTB1 for 118€ (i think about 100$ US) and ART TUBE MP STUDIO V3 for 88€-

    can anybody say anything about those two, or recommend another one in that prize range?
    they would be in my budget and since i don't really have a studio, just a computer with an 8-track 16bit audio interface i wouldn't buy an expensive one, anyway.
    til now i plugged my guitar and bass directly into the audio interface. but especially when routing the guitar through guitar rig the noise floor of the audio input gets amplified as well. i hope to reduce this by going through a preamp, which will result in a higher input into the audio interface, thus hopefully reducing the amplified noise.
    does this make sense?
     
  11. StevenColbert

    StevenColbert Member

    Are you guys calling me a Liar? I hope you guys remember the best part about being SteveColbert is I'm never wrong.
    Wow. What a response, several & many. My satemant was a general statement, not meaning to put down ANY products, I was merly trying to answer a question in a way "I thought" would be helpful. Not more confusing.
    O.K. I did lie, $200 preamp's sound much better than a $2000, what was I thinking? :-? And cheap parts will ALWAYS produce a sweet musical sound to the ear. Because any ol' circuit design is as good as the next.

    cheap parts= just as good as any
    good parts= same as any cheap parts
    best parts= cheap still are just as good

    (I'm joking FYI) please NO hate mail
     
  12. 0db

    0db Active Member

    1) You should check first your instrument before make any investment. Check defective solders, dusty potentiometers, etc.

    2) To avoid impedance coupling problems, i strongly recommend that you connect your guitar to a amp, and mic it.

    3) For the bass, use a DI box.

    4) I have not read reviews of any of those pre´s, neither used it. I think you should check other things first, like broken cables, proper grounding.

    Just my opinion.

    Good Luck

    Juan
     
  13. Spookym15

    Spookym15 Guest

    I think it depends on the gear itself and who makes it, also if you do any mods to it. Replace the tube in a mic pre that cost 200 bucks can give it a vast improvement. My theory is that if it sounds good and its cheap then the only thing i worry about is it quiting on me way before it should. I got a pre sonus mic pre for 100 bucks and my firend also did he had his for about a month and then it quit. Mine still works but only as a DI box because it is noisy. If you can afford Avalon then buy it but, you can also make mic pre's yourself that you can do modifications to and make them sound good if you know electronics. I think if it sounds good then that is all that matters.
     
  14. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    I know your joking but it was a good opportunity to expand on a theme

    Counterfeit Parts

    http://sound.westhost.com/counterfeit.htm
    http://transfal.tripod.com/


    SORRY ABOUT THE SIZE OF THE PICTURES !!!! :shock:
    but I think it is worth the very close look


    which is the real Motorola 2N3055
    the sort of unit you may see on the output of a Neve1290 Neve1272 BA283
    or in a Crown Power amp etc ...
    IMG_2189.jpg
    note the slight curve on the top and the very flat top unit

    CT4.jpg
    not the same inside are they

    even if the manufacturer has good intentions, it is not easy to see these things if they are amongst the same parts delivery
     
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Here, try this on for size.

    http://www.record-producer.com/learn.cfm?a=3078

    I have this 30-year-old console because I can't afford anything new. If I could afford something new I wouldn't have to use this old piece of stuff.

    Big liar
    Ms. Remy Ann David
     
  16. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    thanks for your reply.

    the noise definitely comes from the input of the audio interface, cause it's there even when no cable is plugged in. usually you don't hear the noise at all, cause it is very low, only when i run it through my software guitar amp it gets amplified. i hope i can reduce it by sending more input into the interface. with more input i can reduce the gain in my amp software, which should result in less amplified noise. well that's my theory.
    next time i go to my computer i will try reducing the gain without the guitar plugged in. i should here if it works this way or not.
     
  17. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    did you tell us what your interface actually is ??

    it doesn't suprise me if you have noise when trying to DI a Strat type guitar without correct imp matching and some gain

    start again and give us a little more details
     
  18. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    i have an audiotrak inca88 - 8 ins and 8 outs in 16bit/44.1khz. not a pro interface, but then again, i'm not a pro. i'm recording with logic 5.5 on a windows pc.
    like i said, usually the noise floor isn't audible, only when sending it through a guitar amp vst or when compressing heavily. but who would like to do that?

    that's why i want to get a preamp. and since i can't afford an expensive one, and wouldn't buy one if i had the money, anyway, i wanted some recommendations on some decent ones around 100$us.

    i can kill the noise when sending the signal first through a denoiser, and since i put the distorsion on afterwards, there's no audible change in the overall sound. but the sound is delayed a lot, which i have to compensate.

    so i hope to avoid this denoising by using a preamp.
     
  19. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    audiotrak inca88 is now discontinued ... yes ?
    logic 5.5 on a windows pc ... very old ?

    I'm getting the picture

    http://www.audiotrak.net/download/MANUAL/INCA88/AT_inca88manual.pdf

    it does have SPDF
    it does seem to have two mic-amps

    I suggest a simple DI box which you should own anyway

    then look at page 41 about the Mic-Preamp
    I still think you will need a mic-pre and this is a good thing anyway cos as with the DI Box you will use it long into the future IF you buy something sensible

    and read up on the various modes

    you need to get the Guitar up to nominal line level which for this unit seems to b -10dBv ??

    page 26
    I haven't read it all yet ... probably have run out of time right now
     
  20. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    well, thanks for researching this, but i know what my interface can do.
    so you think a di box should be enough for guitar and bass?
    i don't need an extra mic preamp, cause the mic i'm using for vocals comes with a tube preamp. i just need something to raise the gain of my guitar output/input.
     

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