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The current best - what is it?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Johnny-Music, Sep 23, 2012.

  1. Johnny-Music

    Johnny-Music Active Member

    Hello all,

    Three years ago, I went about doing my homework. I wanted the best preamps in the best interface for under 300$. I was recommended the Presonus Firebox. Although I found it was a great piece of equipment for the money, I was never satisfied with the mic pres in it! Even for the price. Sure, any high output instrument/condenser sounded great through the Firebox.. but what about those low output mics!

    I know that there are other interfaces out there within the 300$ price range which have better mic pres then the Firebox. Within forums there seem to be quite a few people saying what pres "suck"- So I would like to get this straight! Which mic pres are "great" even for a mic such as a sm57. I have a Sony ECM -44B Lav mic that I want to juice up for interviews. I am sick of my Firebox and its hissy gain.

    Cheers :)
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    In the cheap seats I'm afraid it's not going to get much better.

    When you get to around 500 bucks for a single channel of pre then you notice the difference.
  3. Johnny-Music

    Johnny-Music Active Member

    Thanks Kurk,
    I understand that in order to keep the Firebox in compliance with the 'IEEE 1394 powering standards', the voltage rails were reduced, which resulted in a slightly lower preamp gain than the preamps found in other PreSonus preamps.
    Your telling me that a Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 for example will not give me the juice that I need out of my Lav mic? Or even a Zoom H4n?
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Your welcome Janny

    yeah, that's pretty much it. You could compare to other PreSounus pres (or other budget pres) if you like but i doubt the minor difference you mention would be that audible.

    i tested / reviewed a PreSonus 8 channel pre once and i found it to be lacking in gain. when i asked the design engineers about it they told me my remark was a little "insulting" and that they thought they had it "just right".

    bottom line; any mic pre with a low volt wall wart is never going to have a very wide voltage swing (low volt power rails). you need a box that is hard wired to AC or better yet with a hurkey power supply to get high volt rails.
    if your lav mic has that low of an output, i recommend you try a Fethead or other like device to help boost the signal before it hits the mic pre.
  5. Johnny-Music

    Johnny-Music Active Member

    How much of a difference will this Fethead make on my Lav Kurt?
    I passed by Long and M today and poped in. Told the employee my problem, and he steered me in the way of the Art Tube MP personal processor series. grabbed it
    I had hooked it up no problem- though this thing had only made a slight improvement. bit better.. but still not good enough. Would the Fethead be better then this?
    I will be returning this tomorrow, but is there any other mic pres that I can get for 100-200 bucks that will make a difference?
    Also, Whats the score on the zoom h4n?

  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    You are only unhappy with the sound because you are not using your equipment properly. Everything for 100-200 bucks will all sound the same. They always use the same IC chips from the same overseas manufacturers. You are in the land of McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell " quality " items. A connoisseurs delight. Maybe I should just ask you what is your favorite type of nausea?

    Part of what I'm trying to say is, is that, if someone gave you the keys to their private plane, would you take it up for a spin? Assuming of course you never had any flying lessons? In a sense, you have a 200 mph Lamborghini that you are driving through a 25 mph residential area. Looks great, sounds great, not going any faster than anyone else. What's that tell ya? How come professionals don't have the same problem? These microphone preamps today, any of them, all of them, are lower in noise and distortion than any studio stuff was 20 years ago. Once you get it down, then you get it down. Great recordings are obtained with cheap PA microphones and an engineer that knows how to set the levels. What I'm really talking about is the 11 secret herbs and spices recipe. Which means it is what ya make it. I am a former NBC television broadcast engineer and any of these mixers would have been a godsend not too many years ago. Use cheap dynamic microphones on most everything and tuck them in tight. Everything works great, sounds great that way. Doesn't matter who's mixer.

    Now optimizing that recording for mixing, that's a whole other deal, man. This is where you do all sorts of groovy things with your engineering chops in your software, while watching a ballgame at the same time. And yes, you could even have popcorn and beer nearby. Not on the faders please.

    It's all good.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  7. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I use the pro mpa at home, and i agree it had a mild fullness compared to my budget interface but i think it's fine, and i'd use it down at the studio no sweat, it may not have a characteristic 'sound' but it doesn't get in the way at all, for anything. It's a hybrid, which means there are no tubes in the power section, which is what i expect for the price.
    The biggest difference i've heard between the 1k per channel stuff i've used, and the budget stuff, is how they take abuse. Not me smashing my guitar into them on after take 74, but how the behave when pushed into overdrive intentionally. Cheap sounds cheap and nasty and abrasive (likely due the ic chips distortion producing odd harmonics) (please tell me if i'm wrong about this anyone). And the high end stuff is smooth, and warm, even when gritty. Overdrive an all tube guitar amp, and overdrive, a solid state one, you'll know what i mean.

    I found this old sears silvertone tube radio that doesn't function as a radio, but it fires up. when i get around to it i'm gonna put those old tubes in the mpa, and A/B the recordings. It's true about knowing your gear and room.

    At the studio, there is some serious api, neve, manley, UA, stuff. Ya know what the Vets around there reach for 8 times out of ten. A $500 presonus eureka channel. They use even it's eq and compressor. They know what they're doing w/ any of that stuff, but they just can't say enough about that thing, to the point where, there is now 4 of them. It's the only presonus product i would buy personally. Presonus makes like a 'pro channel' not even close, spend the xtra couple hundred, if your going to bother. But at this point i'd take some time w/ what ya got till you figure out what you need, vs. think you want. Don't worry, we've all made that mistake at some point. Even if it's expensive, it doesn't mean you'll like it, or that it's even good at all. sm57, case in point.

    Kurt if your talking about the same wimpy 8ch presonus i think you are, it sure is lacking clean gain, can't put a mic more than a foot or so away in a quiet room before it hisses unbearably. close micing on drums is the only suitable place i see it useful.
  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dont you love it when the light comes on? !
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    As long as a piece of equipment works, it works. Excessive noise? There is less noise in today's equipment than in the stuff just a few years ago. Even a single solitary, late 1970s, early 1980s, 5534 IC chip, is more than sufficient as a quiet microphone preamp. Lousy technique is just lousy technique. And that's where the problems really lie. Each one of these even modest preamps, have the ability to make fine recordings. Not making fine recordings is just not having a good technique in making good recordings. Software, today, even an old version of Audition, is light-years ahead of anything we had in our analog studios. Noise reduction, downward expansion, noise gating, compression, limiting, all come together in good engineering technique. It's how you deal with things in the audio realm. That can make or break your recording. I've taken a sows ear and turned it into a silk purse. I've polished lots of TURDS, in to fine rock 'n roll productions which requires an understanding of the equipment and/or plug-ins you use, proper balances, proper equalization, proper processing. And the noise is no longer an issue. Most pre-amplifiers don't really need much more than 50 DB of gain, for rock 'n roll production. 70-80 DB is necessary with ribbon microphones at distances of 20-30 feet from an orchestra. And nobody's doing that in their basements. So there is no reason for excessive noise. You can blame the equipment all you want but it's not the equipment at fault. Everybody thinks they should be able to sit down with their $200 piece of stuff and produce a recording that sounds like George Massenburg did it. Well it would sound like George's recording if George made it on the $200 piece of stuff. But he didn't. You did. And without the knowledge of proper technique, results will always be unsatisfactory. And then it's easy to blame your equipment. Nobody wasn't take responsibility for their lack of capabilities, knowledge, experience. Just blame it on the equipment. I get so tired of this crap. If ya can't make a decent recording on today's equipment, you sure as heck couldn't make one on yesterday's equipment. Again it makes it easy to blame your equipment. When my recordings don't come out well, I blame myself. I don't care if I'm using an abysmal broken 30-year-old, Peavey PA board or my Neve and API stuff. It's the understanding of what the equipment can and cannot deliver, that gives you the power to produce a professional product. It's the postproduction you put into each and every track in your timeline, with your multi-track software that will determine whether your recording is professional or not. Anything not up to snuff, it isn't your software at fault. If this was easy to do, everybody would be making hit records. But it's not easy. It's not easy becoming a doctor or a lawyer or an MBA. Your knowledgebase may only be up to flipping McDonald hamburgers and not being a culinary expert. There is a difference there you know? It's not just a piece of food, it's also how you present the piece of food. It's how you cut it. How ya place it on the plate. And what other ornamental touches you provide. That's a production and not a hamburger. That doesn't mean it's a happy meal. It means that you brought all of your culinary expertise together. Not just taking a hamburger and a pretty colored box with an additional $.25 prize and handing that out as if it was a unique production. It isn't. It's a happy meal. And the analogy with recording is just like that. Maybe that's why I hang out in so many sushi bars? It's not just chunks of raw fish lying there on the plate. It's how they were arranged that makes for a professional presentation. Otherwise just a heap of dead fish pieces is all you get. That's not a production. That's just dead fish. Sushi implies a production. It's how you want your raw dead fish that counts. Do you just want to fish clearly arranged as sashimi? Do you want a little cake of rice? How about pile on top of a bowl of rice? That's dead fish mixed with three different ways. It's the same dead fish. But it's how it's presented that makes all the difference. Recordings are just like that. It's random pieces of dead fish that is created into a prize. It then makes it aesthetically appealing. I mean you wouldn't want your flounder piled upon your tuna, piled upon your squid. You would want them all neatly arranged. Just like a well mixed recording. So that's a pop music technique. If you cook your fish, that's a well orchestrated orchestra. And that takes yet more trouble and technique to present a palatable production. And that's not the equipment holding you back. Ya have to know how much heat to use and what kind of sauces to make. And that takes additional knowledge, a different kind of knowledge. It's like when I took a friend out for their first sushi meal. Stanley actually asked the sushi chef to put his fish on a grill. That's like adding stereo flanging to a Verdi Requiem on the violin section. You might think it cool but it ain't the right way to do it. It also means you ain't ready for a Verdi Requiem.

    Emmy nominated for a Verdi Requiem.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    garbage in / garbage out. and i don't mean butch vig.

    just shoot me !suicide agggrghhh!
  11. Johnny-Music

    Johnny-Music Active Member

    Thanks for all the help Ladies and Gentlemen.

    However, I feel there is a lot of talking and not much saying a whole lot. With all respect.

    I had told you that I am preparing to shoot an interview (video and audio, sit down style)
    I had spent 300$ for my Firebox. I had tried to run a lav mic through it, however I was not getting enough juice out of the mic. lots of hissy noise.
    It is clear that the Firebox is not capable of doing so. Now I am now asking you, how can I get what I want out of this mic? Since the time I have started this thread, I have decided that I would like to shot gun mic the future interview. A Rode RtG 1 or 2. Which are nice mics, though nothing if I can pre amplify it.
    No one has given me any feedback on the ZOOM T4N recorder. So if you have any words on this.. I can say that I can get one for 300$ This provides me with the possibility that there may be other routes I can take that will cost me around the same money.

    Any name dropping of any products under 500$ would be very appreciated. Thanks :) Johnny
  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    More than capable

    Gosh! Sorry you're not getting the answer that you want (which is there is such thing as the magic bullet) but you have been told repeatedly the gear you're using is NOT the problem. facepalm There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Pre Sonus Firebox. Lots of people have gotten great results from them. The problem is obviously operator error but you don't seem to be willing to consider that. Maybe you need to find someone in your area to come to your place and show you how to run your rig?

    The Firebox is a perfectly adequate / usable piece of gear. Perhaps the mic is damaged?

    Plug the mic into the pre. If the lav is a condenser be sure the phantom power is activated. Run the gain control up to about half or three quarters (12 to 2 o'clock). Do the same for the outputs. This will be your NOMINAL setting. Always a good place to start. You will need to get into the software and adjust the input levels so it shows -15 (I suspect this is where the problem is). This is simple gain staging technique. The most basic stuff in being an "engineer". Better learn it.

    There are way too many pres and converters out there under $500 to mention. The Zoom sucks. Happy?
  13. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I'm getting real intimidated by that dog. Down! Down!

    I can't tell if he's looking at me? Down I said!
    Mx. Remy Ann where's my shoe?
  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    lol mrphff chomp mrphh .... shoe good!

  15. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    used eureka. won't make any improvement for reasons already stated. the zoom has it's place, but it's certainly not where your intending. I still don't understand why you seem to be avoiding actually using your equipment, and figuring out how it works. I started a few years before the internet was around and just read the manual when i got my first 4-track, got me going. Gotta tune a guitar before ya play right? that's kinda what gain staging is, the first step in the process. (besides plugging in and mounting the mic)
  16. Todzilla

    Todzilla Active Member

    If you have a Mac and if you only need two channels, I'd recommend a used Apogee Duet.
  17. TheBones

    TheBones Active Member

    mental note: learn to use equipment and don't ask budget gear question in budget gear forum. hahaha

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