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What Mic and Preamp Should I get?

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by Don Jaye, Feb 27, 2016.

  1. Don Jaye

    Don Jaye Active Member

    Hello, Im Don Jaye. I want my vocals to be crystal clear with a little warmth.

    - I have a apogee duet 2 going into Logic Pro
    - avantone c12
    These two are not getting me the professional sound im looking for.

    I will ONLY be using this chain for vocals and my budget is 2,000.

    I was thinking of the neumann tlm 102 and maybe a UA 610 for pre amp.

    I have a high tenor like voice with a lot of natural warmth to it.
    Examples: Michael Jackson, Justin timberlake, Bruno Mars.... etc

    Here is a cover I did:
    JayTerrance, pcrecord and audiokid like this.
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    there's not a thing wrong with the mic pres in the Apogee. the aventone is the weak link.

    i would say get an AKG 414 and go with that.
    Don Jaye likes this.
  3. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Just a reality check, your voice can only sound like itself.
    Second reflexion, crystal clear is often what we don't like about budget gear.
    Anyway the neumann tlm 102 and UA 610 are nice choice. The 102 is known for having a nice bottom end for it's size.

    My advice would be NEVER buy just one mic to match your vocal without trying many first. Vocals are like finger print they are all different.
    The AKG 414 is a great choice, you could also check on the Mojave (301 fet)

    For the preamps, the 601 is nice, or you could go for a LA-610 (include a compressor) it could be clean or colored depending on the gain adjustment.
    A good alternative for a clean preamp is a millennia or a grace design...
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Nice job, Don.
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Marco's choices are all great ones. Here's the thing you should know about preamps - if you don't already - and if you do, I'll mention some things for those who don't know and who may be doing a similar search...

    I'm going to limit the examples to exclude "budget" preamps at this point, because you seem serious about upping your game, and unlike many people, not expecting huge improvements for a total investment of $200, as so many so often do...

    The "sound" of a preamp is determined by how it's constructed... for now, just to keep things simple, (and without going into various things like discreet, Class A's, Servos, etc.), let's categorize them into three main "basic" types:
    Tube, Transformer and Transformer-less/Tube-less.

    If you want to dig deeper into the various types of mic pre's and what makes them "tick" there's great info here:


    Tube pre's
    - the good ones - will give a very "warm" and "classic" sound - with an edge - because you are relying on the tube to get hot and to distort - either a little, or a lot, depending on how hard you drive it.
    The UA LA 610 that Marco mentioned is a tube-based pre. It is highly sought-after for two reasons, the first is that it's a a great-sounding classic pre, and the second reason is that it also has a built in T4 Opto Compressor, which was used in the now-classic Teletronix LA2A. The UA 610 is the same pre but without the built-in opto compressor circuit. Either one are great pieces, with beautifully warm, rich character, and are absolutely considered to be "pro spec".
    That being said, this might not necessarily be the choice for you, if you are looking for an ultra-clean sound ( coined in our industry as "pristine" or transparent", although no preamp is actually 100% truly transparent).

    Transformer-based preamps; like Neve's, SSL's, ADK's, Focusrite ISA's, etc., rely on different models/types of transformers to provide different sonic characteristics. Like Tube-based preamps, they also have their own type of "sonic character" - but you should know that not all Transformers ( XFO's for short) sound the same. The Focusrite ISA, for example, uses a Lundhal 1538 XFO, which sounds wonderful, but it doesn't sound the same as an XFO like a Jenson 110, or a Sowter 9820. None of these XFO's sound bad - to the contrary, they all sound great, but they do sound different. Op Amps also have their own character as well. The John Hardy 990C - probably my personal favorite - doesn't "sound" the same as an ADK-VintM model OPAmp. Thousands of the songs you have heard over the years have had transformer-based mic pre's used on both the recording and mixing stages. Professional Recording Consoles - Neve, SSL, Harrison, Trident, MCI, API, etc. - all rely on various XFO models to deliver their own unique "sonic character".

    Although, much like Tube-based preamps, if you are looking for as much transparency as possible, an XFO-based preamp might not be the one for you, either ... although thousands of great-sounding recordings have been made using all of the types above that I've mentioned.

    For as much "transparency" as possible, you should probably look at a preamp that is Transformer-less/Tube-less. There are several great pre's to choose from in this category. Marco ( @pcrecord ) mentioned Grace and Millennia, and I agree that these are both wonderful sounding preamps, that have much less added and noticeable "character" to them than the other aforementioned Tube and XFO models. Chris ( @audiokid ) uses Millennia pre's and he adores them. These T/T -less pre's are known for their pristine clarity, without adding obvious tonal character. Either one of these would be a great choice if that sound is what you seek.

    BUT... Kurt Foster ( @Kurt Foster ) mentioned a very important thing, and you need to know this: microphones are HUGE factors in your sound. The sound you ultimately get will be determined just as much by the mic you use - probably even more so - than the preamp you use. ( Again, I'm not talking about "budget" pre's here... )

    AKG 414's are a rock solid, industry standard choice. They've been around for nearly half a century in one form or another, and you'll find at least one in nearly every major studio's mic locker. They are one of my all-time favorite mics, because they are so useful for so many things; they're great for vocals, stringed instruments, pianos, drum overheads, brass, guitar amps, room mics - they're like the "Swiss Army Knife" of the mic world - and they sound great on virtually anything you throw at them. They also provide multiple HPF's, pads, as well as at least 4 polar pattern selections ( the newer 414 models have even more pattern selections).
    Neumann also makes great mics - tried and true, and used on more professional recordings over the years than could ever possibly be counted -but - both AKG and Neumann make several different quality levels of microphones. While Neumann's TLM 102 series is a fine mic, it's not the same as a U87, or U89. Another example would be AKG's Perception mic. While certainly "usable", it isn't even close to the sound quality of a 414. As with most things in this world, quality is determined by cost.... I guess what I'm saying, is that just because a mic has the AKG or Neumann logo on it, doesn't necessarily make it the best mic to use - as the models by manufacturers vary widely in sonic quality ( and price).

    Other great mics include Cathedral Pipes, Mojave, Soundelux, Shure, Royer... They aren't cheap mics, but you do get what you pay for. Your Avantone certainly isn't the worst mic ever made - not by a long shot - but it's not in the same sonic class of an AKG 414, or a Neumann TLM 103, either. ( personal note: while I like the Neumann TLM 102, and it's certainly a usable mic, it would likely only be a small to moderate step-up from what you are using now, as it's considered to be a "budget" Neumann. The TLM 103 would be a better choice, if you can spend the extra money).

    Here's the thing about microphones that I tell people who say they don't want to spend the money for a great mic - "hurt once and then be done with it". Put your money into a great microphone once, and you'll never regret it afterwards. Taken care of, it will last a lifetime, and always sound great.

    But - on that note - Marco also mentioned a valid point ( and my other esteemed colleague here on RO, Boswell ( @Boswell has also mentioned) ... that having just one mic isn't always the best thing, either; and to an extent I agree with both of them. So much of today's generic-sounding home recordings suffer from the "one mic on everything all the time" syndrome. People who are serious about this craft will generally have several good mics in their storage lockers, because it allows you to add different textures to a recording. You don't have to take out a second mortgage to accomplish this... it could be just as easy as using a couple SM57's or 58's throughout a recording, or perhaps your Avantone, (or maybe even a ribbon mic). Using different mics for different tracks will give you greater textural differences, so that it doesn't sound like you used one mic for everything - which is one of the most common causes for the multitude of generic-sounding recordings and mixes out there today from home studios.

    I don't know if you've found any of the above to be useful or not - if not, then hopefully someone will stumble on this post at some point, and get some value out of it.

    Good Luck, Don ... and welcome to RO. :)

    Don Jaye and pcrecord like this.
  6. Don Jaye

    Don Jaye Active Member

    wow thank you so much for the very detailed and information. ok so for tenor like vocals the best one would be the tlm 103 or the akg 414. I will only be using the mic for vocals only. I wont be tracking anything else. Ill leave that to the beat makers and producers. Also as satted before I want very clear but warm sounding vocals and to change the sonic characters of it from song to song ive learn to use plugins. Some are really just as good as the real thing and im sure they will only get better as tech advances. ok so im leaning towards the tlm 103 like you said.
  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i really like your recording. the presentation is good too. i'm listening on a lap top so it's not the best to make serious evaluations but for the most part everything sounds pretty good. maybe some treatments to control comb filtering and early reflections i am hearing. the aventone sounds reasonably good.

    what was the instrumentation? guitar and keys? pretty good.

    i really think the pre you have is fine. i'd get a 414 and if i had the money a shure sm7a or sm7b.

    keep plugging at it. you have a talent and the drive to put it out there. good on you!
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  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I feel the exact same.
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    If you can afford it, lean a little harder towards the 414. (LOL) You may only be recording vocals now... but you can't really say what you'll be doing 5 years from now, can you?
    I promise you, you won't be disappointed. ;)
    Don Jaye and Kurt Foster like this.
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    the tlm 103 is not as well known or as popular as the 414 or an sm7a / sm7b.

    consequentially, a 414 or sm7a / sm7b will be easier to unload and hold it's value. if you get used ones , which i think are better, you will probably recoup the entire investment should you decide to upgrade or cash out.

    i'm all about not wasting money on this stuff.
    Don Jaye likes this.

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