api 3124 for classical guitar and "all purpose"?

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by musicalhair, Jun 21, 2004.

  1. musicalhair

    musicalhair Guest

    Hey, I'm thinking of getting better preamps.

    I'd like to use them to record nylon string guitar both classical stuff and pop/jazz, but I'd also like them to be as "all purpose" as things can be ranging from vocals to drums from the aforementioned classical to alt.rock or blues rock or trippy acid rock a la Jefferson Airplane or popressive pop stuff.

    I might also to use them out to record gigs mostly just a stereo pair out in the audience those seem to turn out the best-- for me, anyway.

    I was looking at the John Hardy mic pres (M1), API 3124, and even the focusrite 428 without the AD. I've searched a lot and saw some opinions on these. I also know that there is alot of variation on what a good classical guitar recording sounds like. I have some CD that sound horrible, and my reference for great sounding might be Pepe Romero's Flamenco! CD, Neuman/Oltman duo's Tango Suite, and double CD by Manitas de Platas I think they're called. Most Segovia's recordings-- recordings, I'll not knock the playing-- are like "middle of the road" for me.

    My current pres are not so good: UA 6176, dbx 376, 386, focusrite green dual pre, and ART dual MP. They work for me, and I'm not knock any of them for what they do but I'd like to make the jump into the good stuff starting now. Next will be mics but for the stereo stuff I'll be using unmatched dragonflys for drum overheads classical guitar and on location stuff. Where they fall short I'll start to consider options but I'm not there yet. I'm fairly happy with my mics for most stuff (1 blueberry, sm 81, 57, 421, m88, ev re20, senn 602, AKG c 4000b, akd c 3000, 2 akg c 1000, and the two dragonflys).

    As always any insight would be useful.

    On a final and very different note, has anyone found any kind of gentle compression/limiting going in on stereo mic set ups for live shows. The toughest thing for me to dealt with is the quite banter by singer songwriters and the peaks durig performance. I don't often get to set up in ideal spots and have to make it happen in less than ideal places. I'd like to find a way to handle the peaks/really low level banter with out any pumping or noticable artifacts from too much compression but for this kind of recording I've been afraid to do it on the way in. My thinking here is that this might actually serve me better if done judiciously on the way in than after during mixing. Any insights?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    The API's are great for rock and pop, not used much for classical .. Of all the pres you are thinking about, for your purposes, I would go with the Hardy 990's ... the most accurate / least coloring of the bunch ...

    I'm not sure if you were soliciting opinions on the mics you listed, of those, the ones the only ones I don't care for are the C1000s, C3000s and the C4000s. I love AKGs but I don't like that particular series of mics.

    The UA 6176 pre you have is a good one but I don't care much for the others ... The UA is probably not the best choice for classical recordings but is a great choice for pop and rock production..
  3. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    I'd suggest a 2 or 4ch Earthworks pre.....clean which is what you need for that kinda recording..
  4. musicalhair

    musicalhair Guest

    Hey guys, my first inclination was the Hardy's. Would you use them for as stereo on-location recording for like folk groups or such?

    As for the stuff I got, well I made some typically bad choices early on before I even knew where to look for advice. The 6176 is pretty cool and the dbx's aren't "that" bad. The AKG mics I have are lame, but my dynamics are good and my Dragonfly's are pretty nice, as is the SM81, and really the C4000 isn't useless. If I find the dragonfly's aren't up to the task I'll look into something else, but M150's are out of my price range. Maybe the Josephson matched pair that are not that expensive.

    Anyone have any insight on compression/limiting on the way in on this kind of stereo on location stuff?
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    The Hardy's are not the quintessential classical mic pre ... as was mentioned, Earthworks, Millennia and and Grace have that niche' pretty well sewed up ... however as an all around alternitive, considering the pres you mentioned, the Hardy's are probably the best of the bunch for what you want. I can promise you that you won't regret buying them..

    Compression is a tougher nut ... there just aren't any inexpensive ones that are any good IMO ... I like EL OP types and the Manley stuff for the vari mu types.. the old Ureis are great if you can find them ... 1176, 1178, LA3's & LA4's ... and of course the LA2a ... all pretty expensive though.

    If you are looking for a decent low cost mic alternitives for location recording .. think of the Studio Projects C4's

    C4 link

    or the LSD2 which is great for M/S apps ...

    LSD2 link
  6. musicalhair

    musicalhair Guest

    You mean either the "Lunatic" from grace or their 201 type pre, not the 101-- right?

    I see the earthworks and the Millennia two channel pres also.

    Would all of these also be suitable as "all purpose" pres?

    With respect to the Studio Projects mics, would you recommend them over the Josephson 42MP? Not that I'm planning to go that route if the dragonfly's don't cut it, but it is a thought. A better thought might be the Microtech Gefell M 930 matched pair or their M 300 matched pair. More money, but after my initial purchases I sort of don't want to look anywhere but top shelf even if it means waiting. I figure I'd rather something I'll always have a use for, I've got stuff to "tide me over".

    My last on-location recording was of singer/songwriters done with the Dragonflys straight into a VS1680, and the dragonfly's were a big improvement over the C 1000's (duh, I know).

    And finally, yes, compressing on the way in can be risky, but of the types you mentioned which is best suited for that: ELOP, VARI-MU, two 1176s (i'd be shocked if this was the choice), two LA-2As, or something else? The worst thing is to ride knobs during the process, at least from my experiences, and if I'm recording the night and performing at somepoint I can't be futzing with the recording-- I'd rather set it up and leave it alone as much as possible-- I have to focus elsewhere like tuning my guitars 1000 times be fore I go on :wink: .
  7. hollywood_steve

    hollywood_steve Active Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    OK, I'll be the dissenting opinion. Many of the "great" classical studio albums cut in the late 60's early 70's were made using the only preamps available at the time; the big Neve or API console in the control room. At the time, nobody had a pair of Avalon or Millennia preamps to offer as an alternative, but nobody was complaining about the preamps in these very high end consoles. It wasn't until 20 years later that people started believing that API and Neve preamps are good for rock, but "too dirty" for jazz, classical or other acoustic music. Bunk!

    While there are a lot of current outboard preamps that are designed to break up early (UA 610, Chandler TG2, etc.) the stock Neve and API units can sound GREAT on acoustic music. But it really helps if you don't close mic the instruments and then overload the preamp inputs. Keep the mics back where they belong, hit the inputs with the appropriate level and stock API preamps can sound amazing on just about anything. I know because I carry a pair to every location gig that I record. And I only record acoustic music these days.
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I agree with most of what Steve says ... and some of my favorite jazz and pop recordings were recorded by Bill Putnam in his Chicago and LA studios ... using UA 610 style preamps, LA2a's LA3's and 1176's .... very colored indeed. I personally like that and it is what I would go for but that's my opinion.

    Remember though, that what those engineers and producers wished for back then were pre amps and eq's that were transparent. At the time, everyone did hate the coloration. I guess you don't know what you got until it's gone ....

    Some folks like the whole clean / uncolored / transparent thing that Millennia, Grace (yes, the 201's not the 101s), Earthworks and others do and I was addressing that. I would not think of them as all purpose pres however. Like I said, I hardly ever come across a use for mine. But that again, is my personal taste.

    Any good pre would be suitable as an all around pre and these days we are fortunate enough to have a wide choice to pick from. The Hardy is a decent op amp style pre (like the APIs) that is Jensen transformer balanced. IMO it is probably the closest thing to the middle ground between being transparent and still having a little of that "good" sound.
  9. musicalhair

    musicalhair Guest

    Hey Kurt and Steve, and everyone who posted thanks.

    I'm not any closer to a decision :wink: but you guys have add must stuff for me to think about.

    I'm guessing I got one of those UA 2610 (I dual pre, or another 6176) it wouldn't be so bad based on the old way of doing things or the API for that matter, and if I got a Grace 201 or Milenia or Earthworks I might not use it elsewhere. But I've heard people rave about Earthworks pres on overheads, and it seems the API gets all around the drum kit very often.

    The Hardy's may be the closest to a jack of all trades of what I'm talking about, but I guess I need to see where I really stand on the transparent-good sound-color scale.

    I know Pepe Romero's Flamenco! was recorded with three Telefunken 251's, but I'll have to see what studio and what they used for a board. Instead of researching gear I should research recordings, and that will tell me what to test out.

    I'm also looking to by a Allen & Heath 14:4:2+ for playing shows of all sorts, and closing on a house in like three weeks, so I've got time to sort these ideas out.

    But, anyone want to say if it is the ELOP or the VARI-Mu or LA2A or something else that might even out peaks with torturing the live ambiance.
  10. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    If API was the best or even the only mic pre's I had, I wouldn't hesitate to use them on any source for any application and for any style of music.
  11. musicalhair

    musicalhair Guest

    Not to be a total "dick", but that is kind of a tautology, if they were the best-- when we always know best goes hand in hand with best for the given application-- or the only, then of coarse I'd use them :wink: .

    But I know what you're saying, that you'd not hesitate to use them on any given source, as they are a quality pre. But, I don't have them :oops: and as I'm bouncing around of which high quality pre to get, and seeing the prices I'm weighing a lot of factors.

    Ultimately in the long run I'll probably have three of the following: more UA, Hardy, API, Millennia, Earthworks, Great River, Chandler, Grace, yada, yada, yada. Especially when certain ones really define archtypes of sound styles. Eventually I'll save up and say "I'll get a four channel API for that drum sound everyone wants", and if I don't like it I'll ship it back to fletcher for what ever my flavor of that sound ends up being. The UA stuff I'll get regardless of how muddy or uneven from 20-20 it is because I worship at the alter of Pet Sounds for better or worse, in sickness and in health..., and I'm around classical people so spotlessly clean in a killer room will be a goal of mine for some things at least to either make them happy or myself.

    I just can't have fletcher ship me back and forth every mic pre (can I?). I think for now it is down to Milenia, Grace, Hardy (I've just heard too much good about these), and Earthworks for the on location and my own classical stuff, at least I'll find out if I'm a fan of spotlessly clean or "pleasingly clean" which I guess is what the Hardy's are. If down the road the API or more UA (probably next on the long term goals after this little set of upgrades is done) do the job more often than not, then that is a good thing. I could see two 6176' s or a 2610 at the coffee house recording a gig. I guess I could rent for each show I want to record and make my decision that way.

    Thanks for adding Millennia and Grace and Earthworks to my vocabulary! A lot of you guys might find it tedious answering neophytes as they ask essentially the same question over and over, but really I gain from picking up on the nuanced differences in what surfacially appear to be the same answers. Then when I hear my gear (like when I finally got a 421, especially) the things I read here crystalize into knowledge.

    But, no one want to touch the compressor end of the question,
    :wink: , do they?
  12. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    Let's not do this Gaff.....we both know blanket statements like this won't hold up in the professional audio community.

    I do agree API makes some great pre's...but I'm not sure classical guitar is one of their strongest applications...
  13. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    Call Fletcher...I'm sure he'd be more than happy to send you a test unit....or two.

    Considering the compressor question....I don't do live sound....but I would imagine they use a fairly good amount of compression....it's more about level control than it is in the studio (where compressors are used for many things)
  14. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2001
    If I can be so bold as to throw you another option........

    Please check out the Buzz Audio MA2.2 (dual pre) and the SOC1.1 (optical compressor)
    Unbelievably fast and clean, and top quality to boot.


    Click Here

    Click Here too!
  15. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    Let's not do what? There was no blanket statement. All I was saying was that if API was the best quality mic pre I had to use or even if was the only mic pre(s) I owned, I surely would not hesitiate on using it on anything. It doesn't have to be the best or the most perfect mic pre for classical guitar for me to use and still get fantastic sound. A lot of people just use or think API is only for drums. Those people are idiots...
  16. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    The Millennia and Hardy share the same bed in my book as they both are of the 990 opamp type. Either one will serve well. Add the API and some sort of Neve type clone along with a strong tube from UA or DW Fearn and you have a full basic color chart to choose from. Then fill the other slots with stuff that fits in between them like Focusrite, Manley, Daking, Chander EMI, Great River ect...
  17. musicalhair

    musicalhair Guest

    Hey AudioGaff, that last post helped further organize the way I see these things, thanks. As I get close to closing on the new house or past it and I actually pick up the new pre I'll post back here on my happiness with it or whatever my impressions are.

    I guess sometime in the future I'll post the question on compressing while recording a live show in stereo, unless someone wants to tackle it now.
  18. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Mar 31, 2002
    I have Earthworks, UA, Great River, API and Sebatron.

    I use the Earthworks routinely for:
    - almost all my acoustic guitars, pop, rock or folk.
    - any small string ensembles
    - almost all drum overheads from folk to metal
    - on-site classical and ensemble recordings.

    Great stuff.

  19. musicalhair

    musicalhair Guest

    Hey Steve-- and everyone else of course-- am I like pointlessly sweating the potential differences between say the Earthworks, Milenia, and Hardy's? As the variables like where I'm recording, my mics and such will create unique sound that ultimately must be judged on it's own merits and not by judging the differences between pre-amps?
  20. djui5

    djui5 Guest


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