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running a nice preamp through an ok mixer

Discussion in 'Preamps & Processing' started by tcleary, Aug 5, 2008.

  1. tcleary

    tcleary Active Member

    Aug 5, 2008
    just looking for a little feedback to see if this makes sense

    I have an emu soundcard, just has 2 inputs, so I run everything through an onyx 1640 mixer. so I just send whatever I want to record down through two sub outputs on the mixer and mute everything else. I'm pretty satisfied with the mixer for direct sound, like hooking up a synth or pod, drum machine, etc to it.

    but I think tossing a better mic pre into the mix would be good for vocals.

    my question is does it make sense to put a good mic pre before the 1640, or would running it through the 1640 pretty much negate the better preamplifier?

    here's what it would look like:

    mic ---> RNC Really Nice PreAmp (or whatever else) ---> Really Nice compressor
    ---> reverb unit --> mackie 1640 mixer --> Sub output to EMU1212 sound card

    my question is really would I need to skip the mixer to get the better sound from the preamp, my guess is that the preamp amplifies the mic sound so when it hits the mixer it is a better signal, so I still get the benefit using the better preamp.

    thanks for any help/suggestions
  2. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Taking the mixer out of the equation will help reduce noise overall. How much can only be heard.

    When you use the line level inputs on your mixer it shouldn't be going through the preamp, so you should notice some difference.

    I have no experience with any of what you're talking about though. Just applying logic.
  3. JoeH

    JoeH Distinguished Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    Always look for the weakest link in any chain, including audio.

    Your Onyx mixer can be a strength here, not a liability. For starters, you COULD be using the Firewire Card option (probably another $375 if you didn't get it with the mixer in the first place.) This way, you'd be going directly out of the line ins or the master 2-mix bus to get into your computer. IMHO, going this route (instead of spending even more for an exotic preamp) would automatically up your game considerably, and stick with the 16 onboard pre's you already have with the ONYX 1640. (Trust me, they're really quite good for just about anything you'll throw at it, except for ribbons that really need a LOT of gain.)

    Forget worrying about any added "noise" with the Onyx too; it's almost a moot point if you're going to be running line level out into the EMU1212 card. There will be plenty of blame go around using this routing, although it SHOULD work ok if your gains are all properly set. (Of course, I do see the point of using the EMU1212, you'll get all of the EQ and other features of the ONYX. (Beware that the Firewire option card's routing is "PRE" everything except input trim and the low end rolloff switch.)

    But if you really DO want to get another pre to sparkle things up, make sure you're going into a LINE input or aux return, NOT another mic pre. THAT is where you'd be running one mic pre into another, and you really don't need that.

    If I'm not mistaken, the line inputs on the 1640 are also tied to the mic pre's, wherease the 1220 and 1620 have four stereo line inputs on the last 8 channels. If so, you may want to use an AUX return on the 1640 if you're going to be using an external mic pre. (Still, trust me on this: you'll have very good results using the line inputs (1/4" TRS jackes) on the channels, if you HAVE to.)

    Good luck and have fun with it.
  4. tcleary

    tcleary Active Member

    Aug 5, 2008
    thanks Joe and Greener. I actually have the firewire card but haven't used it that much, I should experiment with it some, I like the EQ on the mixer though and using the firewire bypasses that. I guess that's ok for recording though.

    I'm using a Sennheiser MD421 II for vocals, I like my voice through it, but it seems like I have to turn up the gain a lot to get a good level using the pres on the onyx, and there's a lot of noise. I know my room isn't the best but it stills seems excessive. I was hoping to get less noise with a better pre, but my problem could be somewhere else.

    Do you know off the top of your head if the direct outs the firewire uses are post or pre insert? I would guess post insert so you can have a compressor before the signal hits the daw.

    people seem to really like the onyx pres, but I just figure how great can they be if mackie can put 16 into a $1200 mixer?
  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Distinguished Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    To a degree you are right. The Mackie pres are simply in the top of the group of comparable pres, and there are a lot of better groups above that group. But (1) the group containing the Mackie can make very good recordings if you use them well and (2) the next group up in price and quality is a small enough jump that you might not hear the difference if your technique isn't good enough. I have the FMR RNP (and the RNC) and until I got my room treated and learned more about placement and settings it was very hard to tell the difference between the RNP and the pres in my digi 002 (which are not as good as the onyx).

    The fact that you are having gain problems with a MD421 and a mackie makes me think that there is something more going on than problems with the pres in the mackie. The mackies are usually not noisy. Usual guess is gain structure problem, but I don't know the card (and what is your DAW)? Maybe someone else has a suggestion.

    I'll bet you can improve your recordings substantially using what you have. The mic and pres are pretty strong links in the chain.
  6. tcleary

    tcleary Active Member

    Aug 5, 2008
    thanks for the advise. I'll try working with what I have. As a test I guess I could try recording the direct out so the signal just includes the mic and the mackie pre.

    I just stumbled across this forum and I'm pretty impressed with the quality of the discussion in some of these threads. I'm sure I'll learn a lot here, thanks again guys.
  7. stickers

    stickers Active Member

    Jan 31, 2005
    Lowell MA
    Home Page:
    I've used and owned Hi End pres.

    The one thing i've learned is that what really makes good recordings are the talent and the instruments.

    I really like the Onyx pres. Sometimes having a variety of pres can be death by options. I had a rack of SCA pres and spent more time worrying about which pre would sound better on what source. In the end I was like dammit i'm selling them. I felt more comfortable recording with the Mackie 800r onyx pres. One of my best purchases.

    You should be able to get enough gain out of the onyx pres for the 421.

    If I didn't use and prefer Pro Tools, I'd get an Onyx board with the firewire card.

    I think that would be you best bet. Get the firewire card for the 1640.
  8. tcleary

    tcleary Active Member

    Aug 5, 2008
    my god, the problem was the mic cord on a cheap extending mic arm I bought off of Ebay, I should have figured the cord they included was $*^t, the arm is great for $50 but man the cord sounds awful. Unfortunately the cord is inside the arm so there's no way I can easily replace it, so I'll just have to run another cord along it. I should have thought of that earlier. I replaced it with another xlr and the difference is astounding, maybe the cord was just bad.

    I also decided to take my verb out of the insert channel and toss it on an aux bus instead, since I'll never use it for recording, just for having reverb when I'm playing for fun.

    so now my chain is md 421 to onyx pre insert to RNC1773 back to the onyx.

    for recording It just goes from the 421 to the onyx pre out to the daw.

    thanks again guys. I'm really impressed with the 421 and the onyx pre is pretty quiet now that I found the problem.

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