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Tubes, solid state or analog? best combination?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by rasputin7095, Feb 2, 2006.

  1. rasputin7095

    rasputin7095 Guest

    My recordings/mixes need a little warmth.

    I record with shure/akg condensers, into Focusrite Reds, into Pro Tools.

    My choices are:

    Use tube mics with solid state pre, use solid state mics with tube pre,

    or, use a combination of the above, plus, going from pro tools to 2-track tape to add warmth, then back into pro tools.

    what would you do to add a little warmth?

    A friend of mine got to work in a studio with a Neve console, and it sounded incredible. I work in a studio with an SSL, so what can I do to get a more Neve-like sound?
  2. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    uhh, not to state the obvious, but have you tried out a neve preamp to see if that makes it sound more "Neve-like"

    thats like saying "my buddy has a ferrari, and i have a porsche, his goes faster, what kind of car should i buy so it drives like a ferrari?"

    the answer is in the question my friend.
  3. rasputin7095

    rasputin7095 Guest

    sorry, I guess I'll rephrase my question: what's a cheap (as in $100) way to warm up the sound? I was looking at some ART preamps, and they seem good. I can't get the studio to buy anything new, and if I buy it myself, I'm willing to spend maybe a few hundred bucks on it.

    so.. tube mic, tube preamp, or analog tape for mastering?

    what would you do to warm up your sound, if you wanted to spend no more than a few hundred bucks?

    I'd get an Avalon preamp, but I also need to eat. What cheap tube preamp is similar in sound and quality? ART?
  4. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    there are no cheap preamps that sound like neve, if there were, then they would never hold their value. i know we all like to use the term "warm" cause it makes us feel fuzzy and good when we think about the 70's and whatnot, but i think that you need to give a more detailed explanation of what you are recording, and what mics you already have, etc.

    putting a $100 preamp into a SSL board and expecting it to sound better is a little strange. ART preamps are cheap and sound cheap. just cause it says "tube" on it doesn't mean its good. a neve preamp is not a tube preamp.

    a good tube mic is going to cost you at least $1000 or more. i think your best bet is to learn about the gear you have available to you and how you can make that sound good. start at the source, and get a good sound to begin with, and then capture it the best you can and learn to use the tools available to you and i think you will be much closer to what you are trying to capture.

    you should be able to make great sounding recordings with a SSL board.

    if you are looking for some quality preamps, do a search on this site and you will turn up about 5000 threads asking the same question.

    mmkay, thx.
    Chris likes this.
  5. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    also, one more thought. look into the empirical labs fatso.


    i have not used this equipment, so i cannot say what it can/cannot do, but i have talked to a few people who swear by them and their "warmth".

    i have also used the sony oxford inflator on the mix bus to give some character to my mixes, and it seems to help get a good sound out of digital sounding tracks.
  6. Yes, there is a $100 way to warm up your sounds. Send me $100 and mic a warm sound source.

    No, seriously.

    "Tube" and "tape" don't automatically provide "warm", nor do "solid state" and "digital" automatically cause lack of warm. When people begin the "tube/tape/digital/warm/cold" conversation they seem to automatically throw out the fact that the single most important step in the signal chain is the source. And if you're unhappy with your sounds the first place to look is there.

    Another sticky point is the fact that different folks got different definitions of warmth. Although usually we're talking about some lack of high end and/or some enhanced mid or low-end.

    One good way to achieve warm is wood. Wooden instruments, wooden recording spaces with nice high ceilings or traps to kill flutter echoes, wooden platforms for floor-coupled instruments (drums, cello, etc.), wooden baffles near wind instruments...the list goes on.

    This studio that refuses to buy any more preamps, do you ONLY have access to a rack full of Focusrite Red pres? There's a problem too. Is there a mixer you can use some preamps on? Using the same pre over and over is going to cause you to get a little smear action going on by applying the same character to the tracks over and over. Switching mics will help, of course. You didn't mention WHICH mics you had access to, only that they were Shure and AKG condensor mics. Have you no dynamic mics? Are there anything besides Shure and AKG? Are the AKG's C1000's or C12's? Big difference there. So better mic choice even among what you currently have might net you a benefit as well.

    None of this, I'm sure, is what you hoped to hear. I imagine you rather hoped to hear this:

    "Why SURE the Art TPS is a great pre! I've got a rack of 12 channels of 'em and I use 'em with an LMNOP G-77 LDC and get GREAT warmth on Nykleharpa tracks!"

    So, if that's all you really wanted, then, by all means buy one of 'em. I actually own an Art TPS and I have no complaints, at least insofar as I feel like I'm getting $200 worth of value out of it. Which really means that it provides phantom power in certain situations when I need it to, because that's why I bought it. If you expect it to sound like a Neve console just because it's got a tube in it, you're going to be fairly disappointed.

  7. Reggie

    Reggie Distinguished Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    Actually your choices are:
    Either your tracking and micing skills are exactly as good as your friend and all you need are some Neve-style pres to attain the same warmth; or your tracking and micing skills are less than your friend's and you are giving the Neve pres too much credit.
    Kinda like, I ate Wheaties for breakfast today and later I was able to fend off a ninja attack. Therefore: Wheaties = ninja skills. Not neccessarily....It was probably my years of ninja training in the far east that attributed to my ability to fend off the ninja attack. See?
  8. Simply put, correlation does not prove causation.

  9. Reggie

    Reggie Distinguished Member

    Dec 20, 2004

    I thought I would put it in terms we all can relate to: ninjas. :lol:
  10. Which brings up a question more divisive than "tube/solid state":

    Which rock more, pirates or ninjas?

  11. Reggie

    Reggie Distinguished Member

    Dec 20, 2004

    Chuck Norris.
  12. rasputin7095

    rasputin7095 Guest

    ok, I'll get really really specific now:

    My friend recorded a vocal with a Manley tube mic, through a Neve pre, into pro tools.

    The vocal sounded really "thick" and he didn't double it or anything. Just one track. It was also really bright, but the high frequencies didn't "burn" my ears. It sounded like the highs had a hint of tube distortion, which softened them up.

    I could get the same effect as him, but I had to put 3 vocals together to achieve the same "thickness" and the highs weren't as smooth.

    I used a Shure KSM32 into Focusrite Reds, into pro tools, EQd with Waves eq.

    I want my vocal to sound "thick" and with great highs, without having to double it.

    His mixes usually sound much worse than that one, and he admits that the equipment helped a lot.

    So.. should I get a tube compressor? Tube mic? Tube pre?

    I just want my vocal to sound fat.

    The KSM32 is my "perfect" vocal mic for pretty much anyone I record. What is the perfect tube pre?
  13. rasputin7095

    rasputin7095 Guest

    We have an SSL G+ and a couple of Focusrite Reds. The good mics we have are: AKG 414 (which I hate for vocals), U87, KSM32, bunch of dynamics (which I wouldn't use for vocals either), and a bunch that are broken, and won't be fixed any time soon.
  14. Well, I'm sure the $6,000 mic didn't hurt things. And probably had alot to do with the sound you're describing. That KSM32 just isn't in the same arena as the Manley. That said, as we all know, vocal chain A on voice B may not sound a damn thing like it did on voice A.

    So can we answer your question? Eh, not really. You also didn't mention WHICH mic and WHICH pre those were, because that makes a difference as well. In fact, depending on the model, that Neve pre might have served to darken the sound more than brighten it.

    Anyway, of the three choices you list, I'd say I'd flip a coin between a mic and a pre. I mean, what other pres do you have access to? If you're working in an SSL room I can't believe the only pres at your disposal are the stock SSLs and a focusrite red. One would think you'd have all the pre's you need at your disposal. And really, what's it cost to rent a Neve pre of one ilk or another and try it out with your existing mic locker: a hunnert bux or so? That's probably your answer.

    However, remember what I said earlier about the source being the most important point in the chain, and assuming that the performer is constant, the next thing in line is the mic. You'll get more mileage out of a great mic into an average preamp than you will out of an average mic into a great preamp. The pre can't amplify what ain't there in the first place.

  15. You must've posted at the same time I did.

    Here's what I'd do. What'cha think you could get for that SSL on eBay? Enough to maybe buy a used MCI 6xx and some decent preamps?

  16. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    In my experience, theres a 'bunch of dynamics' that sound really 'fat' and generally are much simpler to attain a great sound on than ANY condenser. Ruling these out makes me wonder what youre doing.....

    And I'm having a really hard time imagining an SSL room with 'a couple of Focusrite Reds and a bunch of broken stuff' as well as having only a 414,a KSM32, and an 87 as the 'big mics'.....

    Is this SSL room in a trailer park?
  17. ghellquist

    ghellquist Guest

    I would go out and buy a duvet and hang it up to modify the acoustics of the room. Unless you have already taken care of your acoustic space, it is the single most important thing you can do as an engineer.

    (The single most important thing the producer can do is probably to select the right talent).

  18. rasputin7095

    rasputin7095 Guest

    the SSL and the studio are owned by the university which I attend, so I can't really sell it.

    The whole deal is like this: I mix at home, because my home setup is much better acoustically than our studio. I record in the studio though.

    I can get a great sound out of the SSL, but I can't really mix in there, because it's a square room with very bad speakers/acoustics.

    I can mix very well at home, because I have amazing speakers and absorbers/bass traps, but everything sounds harsh and flat, because everything is digital and mixed using plugins.

    Recently I got some PreSonus EQs, which do a good job at fattening up the whole mix in the end, I run it through, and record back into pro tools.

    I'd like to be able to do the same "fattening" just with the vocal, at the point when I originally record, and since I'm a student, I have like -1000 dollars to spend on a piece of equipment.
  19. rasputin7095

    rasputin7095 Guest

    haha, it's at NYU.. they bought the SSL, and that was pretty much all they had money for. They neglected everything else :?

    in terms of dynamics, we have a bunch of 57s, 58s, and that mic that everyone on radio uses.
  20. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    a EV RE-20? that mic sounds great on certain voices. have you even tried it on yours? also it is next to impossible to make something sound great when you can't hear it while tracking.

    i guess what everyone is trying to tell you, is that there is no _one way_ to get the sound your looking for. there is no magic sauce that makes voices sound PHAT and TIGHT. it is usually great sources, good equipment and great engineers that make that happen. just keep practicing. try different things out, turn the gain down and get closer to the mic. learn how to work a mic as a singer. learn how to use compression coming into protools to get more fatness to tape.

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