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Tube Mic & Tube Pre?

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by mtownnig, Oct 3, 2010.

  1. mtownnig

    mtownnig Active Member

    I went up to the Guitar Center and spoke with a rep and he said if you have a tube mic/pre then the other SHOULDN'T be a tube as well. Is this true or false? I will solely be recording vocals. I was looking forward to getting an Universal Audio SOLO 610. Don't know about the mic yet.
  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Generally I'd say that tube mic + tube preamp = mushy sound. There are going to be specific exceptions to that but in general terms that is my experience. My advice would be to not worry about "tube". Find the best microphone for YOUR voice/application. Then find a preamp that accentuates that voice/mic combo. If any or both of those end up being tube devices then great. Just my thoughts.
  3. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    It is worth looking at the impedance of the mic and then try a few pre-amps where input impedance can be adjusted.
    For some mics ( if not all ) it brings a great improvement n sound when coupled to a proper impedance input.

    Otherwise, I am with Jack. Tube on tube can be a bit dull sounding. But this depends also on the quality of the equipment you choose. The solo 610 certainly is a nice pre, though. As ever: let your ears be the judge of that...
  4. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    There's tubes and there's tubes. The best advice is to ignore all mention of tubes in audio. They get mentioned in advertising as a hook for guitarists. The UA 610 is a great preamp, but its closest competitors - preamps with similar sound characteristics - are solid state. Don't focus on the tubes. The tube amp / solid state divide in the guitar world does not mean anything in the audio world.

    With that said, I might as well give a review of the tube mics and pres that I own. I have the Rode K2 and the Mojave MA-200. If you put them into a blind test with a bunch of other condensers and asked people to pick out the tube mics they might get the Rode, but I doubt they would pick out the MA-200. The Mojave is a very precise, crisp mic. The Rode is, well...lush if you like it, mushy if you don't. The only tube pre I have is the GT Brick. I rarely use if for vocals now, but I tried it with the K2 some time ago and did not like the combination. Still I would not generalize from that to other tube/tube combinations.
  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I should add that GC sells a lot of "tube" devices where the tube is not in the main amplification path. It basically acts as a stompbox to add [strike]distortion[/strike] warmth. Pairing two of those devices together might well be a bad thing. So based on the stuff he normally sells, the GC sales geek might have been giving a realist piece of advice.
  6. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    +1. The right mic is critical, and whether it has a tube or not shouldn't be the deciding factor. Mics, and to a lesser degree preamps, are custom fit devices. You can't just pick the "best" and depend on it being right for your application. You have to try a mic and use your ears to decide.
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Let's face it, Frank Sinatra sang into a Neumann U 47 plugged into some tube microphone preamps designed and manufactured by RCA. Nothing mushy there. Nothing sophisticated there either. Just quality components designed to do the best job they were designed to do with the best components that were available at the time. Now everything is made to lower the bottom line. What's that tell you? A tube preamp today is not the RCA tube preamp from 1948. Neither is the microphone. When was the last time you saw a new VF14 in a microphone? When was the last time you saw a new tube preamp designed with a 12 or 6SJ7, metal envelope with an anode cap? 12AX7/12au7/12at7 are all great dual triode's but they are not necessarily the greatest tube for a microphone.

    And in any piece of tube equipment you need to see that it has a 250 to 350 V DC plates supply if it is really amplifying anything. Anything less than that is not an amplifying tube but merely a saturation distortion creation device. Utilizing cheap op amp's as your main amplification circuits. Oh my? Isn't that what they call hybrid technology? You bet! It's also called recycling. Utilizing tubes that are not adequate enough for decent amplification but instead, making those crappy tubes do what crappy tubes do best, Peter out & distort everything. Saturate it until it has no dynamics.

    The same goes true for the microphones that utilize tubes. Tubes either come from China or Russia these days. Those fine Telefunken & Rayovac tubes of yesteryear are gone forever. And every one of those damn tubes sounds different from the next. There is even less consistency today than there was 30 years ago with tubes. Sadly, they are fabulous if not quite esoteric devices to behold in their thermionic electron transferring capabilities. And like the rest of us around here sometimes they have a tendency to get gassy. Of course that's when they look really cool when they look really purple and sound really bad.

    Quality design transistor circuits can also be available as class A designs. That simply means that the transistor is always working at full capacity even when nothing is going through it. A lot more heat & wasted power when class AB output circuits are just fine, slightly lower in noise and generally cooler. Input sections are still frequently class A whether they are utilizing bipolar or FET transistor inputs with or without an input transformer. And that's another very important factor here. That microphone input transformer. Yup. Sometimes IT IS THE SOUND OF THAT PREAMP that really isn't the preamp but the input and/or output transformer. You only get these in quality microphone preamps. Output transformers are less critical in their design in comparison to the ever so important microphone input transformer. Having adjustable input impedances is an interesting thought. I used to switch between some microphone output impedances when loading into 150 ohm microphone inputs. It provided different output levels and different changes in the timbre & character. Not something I couldn't live without and have. Yes, I could change the input strapping on the St. Ives input transformers on my Neve 3115's. But I don't. It's not necessary. Regardless of microphone technologies in use. Most of these preamps while they might indicate that they are wired for 150 ohms generally have a DC input resistance of 1500 ohms which really isn't loading down any microphones. That was the standard design criteria for most microphone inputs that we highly covet such as the API & Neve's.

    There you go. You are now mtowning to a Motown mutha
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I cringe every time this question is asked and some of the reason for the asking is 'some dude @ Guitarget said.......' Okay. Most of the 'dudes' at gitarget arent any more knowledgeable than the noobies who post of recording sites asking the questions that a true pro recording gear house could answer.....but unfortunately most of these places are gone simply because of gitarget and the like....eor.

    Your answer is found in all of the posts on this thread. Use your ears. Tubes dont mean distortion in high-end audio unless there are certain build factors present....low voltage to the plates (thanks Remy) is only one but is the biggest thing you can look for and easiest to recognize.

    So. Do you like the vocal sounds from the 40's an 50's? Tubes everywhere. 60's? A mix. 70's? Solid-state for the most part though the tube mics were still being used just not talked about ....80's? The lost era. Every record that sounded great took 6 months to make. 90's? Digital with tube mics.

    So you'll really like the Solo UA. Its a good stripped down representative of high-end audio. Very strightforward and easy to use. It will amplify any mic to its potential and the rest is all about your skills.
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I did some comparison after reading this the other day. I was slightly questioning my gear, but then Remy popped in and I went ya, that's right.

    Before I had the opportunity to own some high end gear, I had no idea the difference it makes. How easy it is to mix in comparison to using middle of the road gear. I'm still miles away from some of you, but, I do stand by this... You simply can't understand how easy sound fits into a mix until you have real quality to work with. Lower end gear, you don't notice some things ( like good cable as I just realized) and you notice other things that fool you into thinking something is not really what it claims to be, because you can't truly hear it.. So many opinions are based on the missing of something else that really matters. All I can say is, wow! when you have really powerful pre-amps.

    I did this the other night because I second guessed myself from this thread. I took a bunch of pre's and various LDC tube mics ( $500, $1000, $2500). I did some comparisons to see how clear they all sounded with SS and tube preamps. The tube pre's with the biggest transformers sound super clear with all the tube mics. So, I'm with Remy on that. The SS sounded really clear, but to me, they all lacked the fat warm and really clear/ spacious sound I am loving more and more these days.
    The two that kicked ass where my Millennia M-2b and the ADL 600. Both these two pres are twice the size and weight as all the other tube preamps I have. Once I got the gains set... its just a dream to hear. I'm so spoiled and blessed to have these beasts in my studio. I don't need much more. I often wonder why people need so many preamps and mics for flavour. But, its obvoius I'm still learning but couldn't help but share what I think. Tube to tube sounds great to me because I like fat sounds and space. I write and am inspired by music with space. Its what works for me.
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    John Hardy has been popping around here, if you find this thread John, please share some of your thoughts on this topic. You use transparent transformer designs yes? I'd love to hear what you have to say?
  11. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    I guess one reason why I have often answered this particular question in the manner I did, is because often the OP is not using great tube mic's and often as not, mediocre fake tube preamps as well. And I was too lazy to qualify the post. I don't include the UA610 in that rubbish bin but it seems to me too often something like that UA preamp might be combined with a Beh#@$ or MXL or other low end "tube" mic. Now I have used some of those cheap end mic's in the past and am not above using them in a pinch, but I also know how to not push them and hide their flaws.

    Also, I really do find that too many folks are worried about having a mic they read about or "someone told them" about instead of finding the right mic for their voice. I'd love to have as many U47's and U87's (hell throw in some M49's too) as I have SM57/58's but that ain't ever gonna happen. Definitely the better my preamps get, the better all my microphones sound.
  12. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    The transformer John Hardy uses is a Jensen JT-16-B, which works wonderfully well for the Jensen 990 op-amp he uses.

    I use the Jensen JT-115K-E60 which is amazingly transparent for the FET (class A) based amplifier I designed. The difference between the two is basically the impedance ratio.

    The JT-16-B is 150 ohm to 600 ohm where as the JT-115K-E60 is 15 ohm to 15k ohm. FETs have a much higher input impedance that the BJT based 990 op-amp.

    The JT-115K-E60 is also very well suited for tube amp design....

    Long story short the Jensen make nice extremely linear transformers. They come very close to the linearity achievable by solid state inputs ;)

    As for the silly tubes vs transistors argument.... A good design is a good design... tube, fet or bjt it doesn't matter.
  13. JWHardy

    JWHardy Active Member

    Check the general specs of the JT-16-B vs. the JT-115K-E on the summary page at Jensen:


    Basic laws of physics at work: The lower the impedance ratio of a mic input transformer, the better it performs. The trade-off is, you don't get as much voltage gain from the lower ratio transformer.

    All of the Jensen mic input transformers will be the best they can be at their specific impedance ratio, because they are made by Jensen. They are all excellent, but the lower ratio models will perform at least somewhat better than the higher ratio models. Check the detailed specs by clicking on the model numbers.

    Regarding the overall discussion here, I have not read the whole thing. But try everything and use what works best for you.

    John Hardy
  14. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    THIS is why I'm here.

    An old MCI/Sony with John Hardy mic pres does it for me.....well it used to.....sigh.
  15. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    I've read that an SM7B and the UA610 solo makes a nice combo for male vocals....and I'm wondering if anyone has any thoughts on that combo or maybe one of the Mojave mics...(tube or FET models) with the solo preamp.
    I know these aren't real high end but for the price range it might be good bang for the buck??
  16. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    The SM 7B is simply a deluxe SM58. Now these are great vocal mics for male and/or female vocals. No it's not a condenser like sound. It's smooth, has great presence and being a dynamic it has a more limited bandwidth than a condenser. This limited bandwidth inherent in most dynamic microphones can actually be quite beneficial. And if SM58 & SM 7 microphones are good enough to cut lead vocals for Arrowsmith/Steve Tyler, U2/Bono & Michael Jackson, for their mega-platinum albums, chances are, it should work for you too. But if you WANT that condenser sound then you need a condenser microphone. If you want an even warmer and smoother sound you might consider one of the new inexpensive ribbons such as the Cascades & others. So you think these microphones "aren't real high end"? Oh but they are. They really are. Quite frequently, these microphones can make a vocal set better in a mix than their condenser brethren. Try it, you'll like it. You better like it!

    Save some money and go with the 58 and an additional foam pop filter.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  17. fatso

    fatso Guest

    I enjoy the vocal sounds i get using a Peluso 2247le (VF14 tube) into a Universal Audio 6176 (tube pre). The impedance switch is critical, in deciding if you get a darker, older sound or a clearer more modern sound. Also hitting the join switch and recording the output of the 1176 section (even in bypass) will give the track some 'electric' hard-to-describe magic. Doesn't mean i don't get great results from a solid state mic like the Beyer mc834 into the Crane Song Spider (soild state as well). Really depends on the tonal characteristics of the instrument or vocal to begin with.
  18. DJFlexx

    DJFlexx Active Member

    Over the years I have enjoyed using the Focusrite Blue series coupled with a Neumann U87 but nowadays I've been leaning towards the higher end ADK microphones. Their tube mics rock! I am going on the hunt for the ultimate pre set up (for me and my clients) in 2011. So I will definitely post some results. What I want to find out is...are there any no name (boutique or otherwise?) mic pre companies that are truly worth us paying close attention to. I have always prided myself in finding "new" gear that not everyone uses. I'm not the type of guy to jump at a name brand just because it's made by xyz because there is something that is always better around the horizon made by someone in the world maybe even on this very forum. I hope you guys can come up with some stuff that the writer of this post and I and everyone else for that matter can look into. I believe that what we do is a skill but it is also an art form! I'm not just an engineer, I'm an artist painting a canvass like Van Gogh or Da Vinci...this means that I must choose my instruments wisely and I'm hoping to do just that in 2011!
  19. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    You'll have to be more specific. Are you looking for no name tube preamps? Decent ones are named and known for a reason. All the low middle end of the tube preamp spectrum are not particularly good. IMO of course.
  20. DJFlexx

    DJFlexx Active Member

    Either ss or tube. I'm just tired of the typical stuff you see at GC or Sam Ash. And I know about Neve, SSL, Crane Song, Millennia etc What I'm looking for is virtually unknown pres that are great, either tube or ss. Do you have any suggestions?

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