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Great tube mic pre recommendations for $500 or under?

After years of running my AKG C414 direct into a board in my home studio, I have decided that I need to step up and buy a tube mic preamp. Problem is, I have absolutely no idea where to start. There are a lot on the market and I don't have enough time to read recording magazine reviews every month, so I'm hoping for some guidance.

My major requirement is that it must be $500 or under. Yes, I would love to get an Avalon or whatever, but unless someone wants to front me the $2,000 I can't afford it.

Also, if you have used a particular mic pre in conjunction with a C414 and loved the sound, please let me know. I use this mic for all my vocals and acoustic guitars.

Thanks everyone.

Comments

Pro Audio Guest Thu, 03/16/2006 - 14:44
brandtrax,

I researched quite a bit when I was looking and decided on the Electro Harmonix 12AY7 Tube Mic pre and I'm very happy with my choice. So much so that I have 3 of them and contemplating more. They don't look like much but this is a real class A tube pre and you can change out tubes for different tube sound and gain. It's a balanced pre, so you'll need a balanced input or use a passive DI to go unbalanced.

At $189.00 each, they're a steel and from the people that I've read about that use them, they hold there own against high end pre's. Joel Hamilton recommends and uses it as well as many others.

Hope this helps,

Lucio

Pro Audio Guest Sun, 06/18/2006 - 20:08
brandtrax. . . .

Get a Sebatron VMP1000. It can be bought for about $715 at Sound Pure. I'd advise waiting and putting that extra $200 together just so you can get a real tube preamp rather than one of those budget deals which mainly have a "tube" in them for marketing purposes. Pro tube amps usually run the tube rails up high at about 300v where the tubes like to be run at...hot! Most of these budget boxes really don't make it IMHO! In pro terms some of these wouldn't really even be considered an actual tube circuit worth considering. Some are better than others. . .but if you're gonna spend hard earned money. . . well then, you get my drift!

Another serious budget minded contender I would suggest would be a Summit Audio 2BA-221 for about $535. Too bad you can't go a bit higher. The new TAB-Funkenwerk V78's are the 'bomb' for $975 @ Mercenary Audio. These are serious preamps with a big warm sound built after the old German TAB-Telefunken V78's - V76's (Telefunken V76s used in REDD 36 Beatles desk at Abbey Road) but with a modern twist.

The 'Brick' is also really good for the money..... Just trying to think of a few different options other than what you always hear about!
regards,
nala


brandtrax wrote: After years of running my AKG C414 direct into a board in my home studio, I have decided that I need to step up and buy a tube mic preamp. Problem is, I have absolutely no idea where to start. There are a lot on the market and I don't have enough time to read recording magazine reviews every month, so I'm hoping for some guidance.

My major requirement is that it must be $500 or under. Yes, I would love to get an Avalon or whatever, but unless someone wants to front me the $2,000 I can't afford it.

Also, if you have used a particular mic pre in conjunction with a C414 and loved the sound, please let me know. I use this mic for all my vocals and acoustic guitars.

Thanks everyone.

Reggie Thu, 03/16/2006 - 21:39
Re: i have that same problem

scarface wrote: iv been also using my c 414 direct. what i really want to know is does a preamp really make a difference? how does it change the sound quality?


Well, "direct" probably isn't the right word. If you are going into a console of some kind, you are plugging into a preamp inside there. But outboard preamps can make your mikes sound more aggressive, or smoother, or glossier, or more 3D, or grittier, or "warmer", and so on. Really depends on which preamp you choose.

StevenColbert Mon, 06/19/2006 - 03:31
nala wrote: The new TAB-Funkenwerk V78's are the 'bomb' for $975 @ Mercenary Audio. These are serious preamps with a big warm sound
I like the TAB-Funkenwerk recomendation. Anybody else have one of these TAB-Funkenwerk preamps? I would like to hear more about them, from those who have used one, or own one.
I read the writeup at Mercenary dot com. I'm would like to hear from others who have exp with these preamps.

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 03/17/2006 - 11:34
brandtrax,

Glad to help. You won't be dissappointed with this pre, but you MUST go in balanced or use a passive DI to go in unbalanced or you'll have problems with buzzing noise. It's a true balanced pre.

Also make sure to use the XLR output, which is the output for the pre. The TRS out with the output level control was put there for monitoring purposes to eliminate any latency. Some people used that output and where a bit dissapointed because of the IC in the signal path. I personally think that it makes the 12AY7 into a totally different sounding pre. Much more saturation but less output.

Very versitile pre IMHO.

Lucio
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