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Upgrade Preamps or Converters?

Hey guys,

Im trying to figure out where to toss some money into. I did a preamp shoot out with some different preamps.. some more expensive.. some crap. And found subtle differences depending on what the source was. Would buying nicer preamps (nicer then a digi002 stock) help more as to everything i record pretty pretty much running through them?

all things aside, say you have a great performer, great instrument or amp.. whatever.. everything before the mic is as great as it could be lets assume. And you had to put a percentage of importance on the elements of a signal path.. lets also not get into to ppl talking about nice cables and stupidly obvious things.

I'll Say the Mic is 90%
The Preamp is 7%
And the A/D is 3%

thats just my opinion.. or guess i suppose.

what do u think?


Pro Audio Guest Fri, 05/12/2006 - 17:57
They're all pretty important. If you're using a poor converter, then the mic and mic pre aren't going to be represented well. But if you have great converters, then the mic and mic pre selection becomes more important. (Someone more knowledgeable correct me if I'm off-base.) It all depends on your current situation though. If buying for the first time, I'd split the percentage evenly. If you have one good thing of one of those, then I'd place more importance on the things you need to improve.

Personally, I'd throw money at a great converter first, then the pre-amps, then the mics, but that's because I don't have any converters right now (technically.) Then I'd go for some API's or Neve's for pre-amps, then maybe a few really good mics, then some great compressors, then some more pre-amps, then more mics, then more pre-amps....

BobRogers Fri, 05/12/2006 - 18:17
I have no idea how to answer this question, but your percentages are pretty close to the relative numbers of mics, preamps, and A/D units I have played around with in my life. (Having spent a long time in the pre-D era has a lot to do with this.) Not a good basis for a decision. (BTW I have to improve all three.)

Pro Audio Guest Fri, 05/12/2006 - 18:48
I can say for certain that on the low end of the spectrum, the A->
D converters are a big issue.

I dont know if the converters in the 002 are anything like the ones in the M-Box. If they are, I'd seriously look into a converter. Going from using the Line Ins from an Aardvark card to the line ins on an Mbox was a real eye opener for me.

The 2 biggest things I've noticed about the Mbox's sound:

1. Sucks out the tone makes everything sound "white" instead. Hard to describe...

2. Lack of front to back depth, which I suspect is tied into #1

When compared to an Analog console run through an outboard digital multi-track, you could even hear this on the stock HD systems.

I havent had the chance to hear what an HD system sounds like with high-end converters... but I do know that people who use them claim they greatly improve the front to back imaging.

If you've already tried a bunch of pres, and are curious about the converters, why not test one out too? Heck, get one from musiciansfriend or whatever and send it back if you dont like it.

Ignoring the mics, I've got a feeling that if you want to really improve the sound of the 002, then both a good pre and converters is the way to go...

JoeH Mon, 05/22/2006 - 20:43
I'd argue that the sound of the performer or instrument (or both) as well as their talent (or lack thereof) accounts for roughly 95% of your sound.

Then factor in the sound of the room itself, or the stage, ambience, etc., and then these in this order:

the mic
the preamp
the converter
the storage/transmission medium.

All should be in descending order of importance. By all means, get the best gear you and afford, and enjoy the hell out of 'em. The top six or seven brands of mics (along with similar pre amps and converters) will give you spectacular results, and in the right hands, will sound great.

We all have our favorites - often based on emotional reasons (I'll be the first to admit), often coupled with great sessions and sucesses. (And it's indeed arguable how much that great mic or preamp contributed to the sucesses as well.)

Always keep an open mind, though.....remember what's really important first - what's happening in front of the mic itself.

And better speakers will let you hear the differences between the world's great mics and great preamps as well as any A/D D/A upgrade.