Great tube mic pre recommendations for under $500?

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by brandtrax, Mar 16, 2006.

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  1. brandtrax

    brandtrax Guest

    I originally posted this in the Pro Audio forum, but this might be a better place for it...

    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.
  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    I'm partial to the Summit 2BA-221. It's a tad over 500, but not much.
  3. fiddler59

    fiddler59 Active Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Groove Tubes Brick........around $400.....well worth it!
  4. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    We bandy these words like "great" around alot, don't we..? Then we ask for it under the heading "budget gear". Ha!

    When you get a chance to buy a fine Brauner and run it through a Millennia Media pre, let's talk "great". Until then, let's talk "doin' the best we can with the money we have." OK?

    If I had 500 bucks(Wish I did!) and I was looking for a "matching quality" pre for my AKG C414, I believe I'd go with the best $500 solid state pre that I could find - and even there, hope alot that it is, at least, pretty good --- keep in mind it need be no "better" than the mic, itself!

    Yes, the Summit and the Brick are good, maybe very good(No experience), likely a good match for the AKG, particularly FOR THE PRICE - but great? Huh-uh... Can't be, they ONLY cost 500 smackers - or less!?!?. Kind've sad, huh? In truth, it's hard to find even a "great" solid state pre for less than a grand(Grace Designs 101, would be one I'd look at and even that may be more than 500?) -- a basic John Hardy, is a grand... Millennia Media, 2 grand and up, same for the Avalons, AS YOU NOTE! And "great" tube pre's? Sky's the limit!

    Will your C414 benefit "greatly" from a tube pre, great or not? No. It may sound "different" through a tube pre(?), expecially if you "push it", but "better"? Unlikely. For my money $500 is not enough budget for a "great" tube pre. Fortunately, the AKG doesn't need a great pre(Tube or otherwise), as it is only good to very good, itself. Wait for great, when multi-1000's mean nothing(Or much less than now) to you and you have the budget for a GREAT room, a GREAT mic AND a GREAT pre - it will be worth the wait... For now, take one of the above suggestions and get a nice $500 tube pre, if you must - though I still suggest you'll get more for your money putting it all into a ss pre, for now. Be happy that any of the suggestions will probably beat the H-E-double L out of your(I'm assuming inexpensive?) board's pre's?

    Whatever you get, I hope when you get it you can actually hear improvement? I wonder.....? Hearing these subtle differences is tough - there will be no WOW!!! Unless your board is REALLY poor... and the rest of your gear is "up to" allowing you to hear subtleties. Let us know. Often, hearing the difference between, good and great is tough enough. When transitioning from good to "should be better", it's very hard, indeed to hear the improvement. Going from the $4(?) pre's in your board to any $500 pre should be "easy" to hear. To hear any difference in your next upgrade may cost a 3rd. mortgage...

  5. LJT

    LJT Guest

    I just picked up up a used Rode K2 on eBay for $475.00. I did quite a bit of homework on Google and found that tube/valve mics under $1000 are a unique niche that Rode fits into (specifically for poor home/musician recording artists that cannot afford the *N*-word type microphones!). Checkout this review:

    Other than that take a look at the Rode NTK. If you don't like Rode, StudioC3 seems to be a decent choice. A "cheap" tube mic, unfortunately, is an oxymoron!

    BTW - The quality of the tube in the microphone can have a dramatic effect on the tone and overall delivery. You can find NOS replacement tubes that make a big difference in quality: (dead link removed)

    Cheers and happy gear hunting!
  6. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    LJT - I think he's looking for a tube preamp..? Please post-back on how you like your Rode, though... AND, what pre do you run?

    Problem potential with using other tubes, particularly used or NOS are, in my opinion, many -- including: How do you know anything about them? How long will they last? Do you have the gear(And ears) needed to determine the very slight differences and whether they are better or not? To say nothing about whether you will know(Or notice) as they start to "slide down hill"? Do you have the skill to open whatever it is and replace the tube(s)? May doing so invalidate the warranty(The company that built mine suggested I try..?)? Frankly, new Chinese or ancient Telefunken, I hear no difference... Again, not with my gear nor my ears...

    Only tube piece I've thought is "good enough" to bother with - for my money(Assuming I had it to buy my own) is the Brauner Valvet - about $3000... Oh well... And it had no "tube sound", far as I could tell - whatever that is - it just sounds great -- I hear ALL of my voice clean and clear. It also runs(As I use it, at another studio) through a $2000 dollar Milenia Media ss pre... Also, oh well... Thankfully though(As I've never been able to afford them either), the Neuman's have never sounded good with my voice/ears, no matter their price... to each his/her own, ey?

  7. JoeJoeMan

    JoeJoeMan Guest

    TeddyG wrote:
    Well then maybe it's not so great after all..........
  8. LJT

    LJT Guest

    So now on to the first subject about a tube pre for $500. Usual suspects include Focusrite, Behringer, Presonus. Here's a good thread to chase:

    Here's all the mic pres listed on the planet: (dead link removed)

    I will try and post my feedback on the K2 pre and post NOS installation!!!

  9. CoyoteTrax

    CoyoteTrax Well-Known Member

    May 25, 2005
    Home Page:
    brandtrax, I know this thread is like a week old but I'll add my 2 cents anyway in hopes that you're still looking. I think it's a shame no one mentioned the ART Pro MPA Gold ($299) or Gold Digital ($399) or the Aphex 207. These are all great deals on very good pre's that will get the job done for you and last. You can also roll in different tubes on these boxes and get superb variations on color, transparency, thickness, creaminess, wooly distortion, etc. The ART pre's offer an impedence dial that will allow you to better match impedence with your different mics giving you even more sonic options. I've even gotten some excellent sounds from the Behringer T1953 with the right tubes and absolutely recommend it to anyone doing acoustic instruments. Low-gain tubes sound fantastic in the T1953.

    For channel strips in your price range I like the ART Pro Channel. It's a single channel of the pro mpa and a single channel of pro vla and an eq feature that's very useable. A great price at$319. Great sound.

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