Pre Amp Basics

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by pokie, Aug 1, 2005.

  1. pokie

    pokie Guest

    Can anyone briefly describe the functions of the preamp controls and what they accomplish.


  2. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Sep 4, 2004
    Indianapolis, IN
    Home Page:
    what preamp - they're not all created equal.
  3. pokie

    pokie Guest

    Preamp Basics

    Currently, I am using the Presonus TubePre and when I bought it, there was not a manual. I have, in the last hour, resorted to downloading a manual from the Presonus website and will peruse.

    But, generally though, what tricks, tips and such can I expect to get with this model?


  4. Zoltar8814

    Zoltar8814 Guest

    Re: Preamp Basics

    ummm..I think it will sit and stay....but it mostly just plays dead.

    But seriously..plug the output into your interface...(sound card whatever)...plug in a mic. guitar, bass etc. into the input on your toob thingy..hit record in your recording software and wail away!

    You might try posting this sort of question in the budget gear forum, and ask specific questions..but first and foremost...RTFM!

  5. pokie

    pokie Guest


    Thanks for response. I failed to mention that I use this pre amp for vocals. What bothers me now is I can't understand the attitude radiating from your reply. I posted in this, a forum that I happen to be a part of, whether it meets your approval or not.

    I understand that there aren't any stupid questions only those who try to make you feel that way. What you fail to remember is in your past you were once in a position where you did not have as much knowledge as you have now. Rob, someone more knowledgeable than you took time and patience and enlightened you which makes you the professional that you are today.

    Because I seem budget now, doesn't mean I will always be. Please don't become frustrated at my quest to become more knowledgeable and more than I am. If you cannot answer my question then leave it for someone else who does not mind sharing information in a FREE PUBLIC FORUM to allow the exchange to take place.

    I feel this forum is a place of exchange and not a platform for condescension. This is not your personal club or gang "Cartman". It is for all...and I am all! If you're not getting any information from the "budget" forum why should anyone else. Budget people give budget information and I am not looking for that. That is why I have the TubePre in the first place. I am looking and consulting seasoned professionals on the BEST way to do what we are trying to do.

    I know sitting on this forum can feed one's ego, and it obviously makes you an authority. This should be enough for any ones personality! I hope this forum is about information and not your SLAMS, innuendos, and personality attacks. No place for that man! Back off and let the info flow! This isn't high school and you certainly aren't the Neigborhood Bully. If this is the position you aspire to then remember the song of the BULLY. They get their @#$%'s kicked.

    BTW you did not answer my question and there are no seasoned tips and tricks in TFM!

  6. jimbo_baby84

    jimbo_baby84 Guest

    Zoltar is making a valid point. this a pre that goes for a hundred bucks. "pro audio gear" is just not the relevent forum. i don't think he was being rude. anyway it's better to learn the basics from people who are excited about sharing knowledge of the basics rather than people who have done the basics every morning for the last 10 years half asleep and with one hand as they eat their bowl of cereal. but to answer your question anyway, the best thing do is just play with it. try it on a few sources while you twidle the knobs backwards and forwards. write down or mark your favourite settings for various applications. soon you'll know what each control does, what works and what doesn't. this applies for any bit of gear by the way.
  7. Zoltar8814

    Zoltar8814 Guest

    Dude..I'm sorry if I offended you.
    I still contend that you won't get your questions answered unless you are less vague.
    "Tricks and tips" regarding the Presonus Toob I said, plug it in and wail, play with it and have the manual and experiment, but you will find no hidden glory in a $100 mic pre, and you will probably not find any sage advise on it's usage in the pro audio forum.
  8. pokie

    pokie Guest


    I digress and stand corrected. I joined this forum for the guidance of experts. Initially I wanted to know tips and techniques about basic and advanced “pre-amping” for vocals and to learn the secrets from the sages of the ages; enlightenment of the wise. Having a background in electronics, I realize that all preamps are trying to achieve the same thing, but not in the same way. Their basic functions are the same, yet all pre amps aren’t created equal. Technically speaking their place is the middle ground between input devices (instrument/mics) and the recording devices. And for some this is where they end.

    Inexpensive pre amps enjoy the similar controls as their more expensive counterparts. (i.e., gain, drive, padding, phase reverse, phantom power etc). However, factors that determine a better unit from a lesser unit have more to do with quality of parts, manufacturing, design and additional features. But this aside, the circuitry’s aim of even the cheapest device is to produce the same results using the basic functions of “Preamp-tivity”.

    I apologize if my question was vague and not more to the point of my inquiry. I guess what I wanted to know is more along the lines of CALIBRATIONS & MANIPULATIONS of PRE-AMPS (non specific). For example, what combinations of levels produce what affects for vocals? 2 cups of gain + 3 cups of drive baked at 350 for 20 minutes gets what? GENERALLY speaking what calibrations can theoretically produce a richer, fatter, cleaner sound for vocals or make a cheap mike sound great. What manipulations of levels or settings is the favorite settings used by XYZ artist or something along those lines.

    (For example: “We had XYZ artist in the studio and we used a blah-blah mic, and a blah-blah pre cause we know it gives us the so-and-so for his/her voice. We tweaked the blah-blah to this setting and the blah-blah-blah to that setting and it gave us the yatta-yatta you’ll want in a good vocal performance.”

    I have enjoyed the postings of many about the choices of preamp manufacturers and products. But my dilemma is of a different nature. Even having the top shelf equipment without the knowledge and wisdom to use it brings me right back to this forum asking the same question!

    My current choice of pre amp is by no means my last. My future, I’m sure, contains multiple pre amps of differing price ranges, qualities and proficiencies. But for now, I wanted to know what I can expect from tweaking the settings and what combinations of features of a BASIC pre amp, combined with various inputs (voice, drums, keyboards, guitars) should be considered when making better sounding recordings?

    And as to the calibration tips, tricks and techniques, that’s not a bad forum category or knowledge base title. Maybe a spreadsheet compilation of equipment (mics, pre's) that contain brief opinions of the forum's usage and experiences.

  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    The thing is, the wide range of use and adjust-ability that high end pres exhibit, does not usually translate to the lower end. Tricks and techniques employed with quality gear often don't apply to less expensive offerings.

    Pres like the PreSonus BlueTube usually have a "sweet spot" where they perform the best and when you wander away from that setting the results suffer. This makes them less flexible in use and more difficult to master correct operation, which is why I suggest that people just skip over them and go directly to "Park Place" (the higher end) for mic pres.

    So the answer is what was already said. Plug in, and set the levels then wail away. You will not be able to manipulate or coax alternative sounds out of a$100 pre amp. Just be happy the thing works at all! :lol:
  10. baslotto

    baslotto Active Member

    Jul 28, 2005

    A preamp is by definition a tool that you use to boost the signal from a microphone into a speaker (I don't wanna be too specific guys). It's usually very simple to use because there is nothing else to do but pluging in the microphone and put up the gain (volume) being careful not to set it too hot because you would distort the signal. The levels change from time to time depending on the microphone that you use and from how loud the sound arrives to the microphone. That's why the best thing to do is to listen to your speakers while you higher the gain and check the levels from the meters so that they don't go into the "red" zone.

    There is no trick because a preamp is used to amplify the sound that arrives to the microphone so that your recording machine will record a louder sound. Saying that you use a preamp mainly for vocals is incorrect because you use a preamp to boost any sound from vocals to guitars to piano... Anything going to a mic so: you use it mainly to boost a microphone signal.

    You have the same number of tricks and suggestions that you can apply when you are listening music from you stereo and you want it louder or softer. That's it.

    To have a bigger number of tricks and suggestions you have to go further in the audio world and learn how to use a compressor or an EQ, there you'll find people that will start giving their opinions about how they do things.

    Again, a preamp just amplifies the sound that goes to you microphone, you'll have to increase the gain if you want it louder (giving it a little bit of room before it gets to distort the sound) or decrease if you hear a distortion in the sound (like an actual distorted guitar or a malfunctioning radio that sounds ugly because too loud).

    Like many audio tools each pre has different characteristics that can vary like a deaper bass or a higher high end, but each one is different and the one you have has "that sound" it can't sound different from how you hear it so, there is no trick to change the sound of that. Just high level or low.

    I hope that I have been of any help.

  11. jahme

    jahme Guest

    Well seperate the word to "Pre - Amp"...."pre" means before and amp means amplifier. when they combine, its more like sound amplifying before it is recorded onto some device. a pre-amp basically amplifies, as the user's wish, to a certain level before it has been recorded and does all the amplification right on the pre-amp processor inside. if you are looking for a preamp maybe for a microphone either condenser or dynamic, you rather want to buy a mixer instead since u can get connect range of external devices.
  12. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    Mic - amp
    Line - amp
    Power - amp

    are probably better and more descriptive terms
  13. freelight

    freelight Guest

    what's a microphone?

  14. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    a telephone
    for very small people
    ... or at least, for very short phone calls
  15. Rider

    Rider Guest

    phase is useful in stereo work, like setting up a MS matrix. also good for determining if you have your microphones in phase. if youre back and front miking a guitar amp switch the phase on back.

    need phantom power for certian microphones (condensers).

    dont know about padding (or if im even thinking about the right thinkg here). my bassist's ampeg head has a -15dB attunuation for hotter signals. it gives more range out of the gain knob (so you arent bottoming out the gain so soon).

    really dont know much about preamps, just spouting off random crap ive heard here and there.


    okay just DLed the manual, thsi thing tells you all you need to know about it.

    already mentioned phantom power and phase reversal. was right about pad. 80hz filter is a rolloff, good to switch on for vocals (since there is almost no information below 80 for vocals, guitar too). 80hz and less is in a sense noise for higher pitched instruments.

    drive (in the manual):

    "The TubePRE provides a Drive potentiometer for controlling the amount of signal routed to the 12AX7 vacuum tube. This featurelets you control the amount of tube saturation. Greater levels of tube saturation give the signal greater warmth and a richer sound.This works equally well on mics and instruments."

    and gain is just post tube amplification.

    and RTFM!!!! it tells you how to properly replace the tubes and such so yo udont F up your pre.

    for vocals, probably hit the 80hz switch, maybe phantom power switch depending on mic, pad if your having to keep your gain very low, push the drive up a good bit (but not so high as to loud parts distorting, youll have to relaly play with this), then get gain up high enough to get a nice strong signal without clipping into the next in chain.
  16. baslotto

    baslotto Active Member

    Jul 28, 2005

    After all these answers you can't say that we are not trying to be helpful.
    My personal opinion is that you get a nice book with all the theory behind a studio before you start recording your material.

    Here are 2 titles that could be incredibly helpful for you:

    David moulton: Total Recording (a Bible)
    Huber & Runstein: Modern Recording Techniques (a good one from many on the market expecially for home studios)

    After this I would say that there is not much to say in this forum since a preamp is what it is and Pokie has been silent for the past 4 days... unless somebody has a secret recipe... let's lock it!! :D

  17. freelight

    freelight Guest

    i bought a copy of 'The Mixing Engineers Handbook' by Bobby Owsiniski a couple years ago. it's about 220 pages and it's full of different producers and audio engineer's notes and concepts (people like Dom Smith, Lee DeCarlo, Benny Faccone, Ed Seay, and others).

    i think they retail for about 40 bucks, it's worth it, i'd say.
  18. pokie

    pokie Guest

    Jolly good info!

    I researched the titles and yes these books will help me and others like me to gain valuable insight into the recording industry. Way to go Freelight and Baslotto! It's the kind of information I was really looking for when I started this post.

    I'm going to track down these titles and pay the "due diligence dollars" to get more knowledge about certain portions of the recording chain. As an artist, I suppose I am anxious to get in there and get my hands dirty with controlling this aspect of the music process. I've been on the other side of the mic, now I want to work the other side. I have a family member who is having a project produced and could have benefited from a setup like mine to record the vocals and teach his singers and musician's a little studio discipline. I realize that a lack thereof is profitable for studios (more time in studio... more money paid to studio) but why waste time?

    Rider, I guess I was looking for, as I stated initially, calibration techniques and I do appreciate some of the do's and don'ts about recording. I've heard a lot about "coloration", "smoothness", "warmth" of different pres and also combining multiple pres for certain sound qualities. I guess my curiosity gets the best of me in trying to crack into the sonic ceiling of the professional ranks. What's that all about?

    Most would probably agree, that research before investing is the preferred method for those of us with less than deep pockets. Not poor by any stretch, but frugile. Your comments have helped me to look at purchasing a "Groove Tube Brick". From what I've read it's a really good pre and is used by professionals like yourselves. Any comments.

    Anyway, if this was a stupid question now, I'm sure I'll have plenty of stupid questions later. Thanks for the patience.


  19. bap

    bap Member

    Nov 22, 2003
    If you have a background in electronics you might consider a DIY kit. There are some great ones available through Hamptone, Seventh Circle, JLM Audio... probably some others as well.

    These kits cost between 5 and 10 times as much as the Presonus but will produce great [professional] sound quality at a good price.
  20. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    I like DIY
    but then,
    I guess people already know that

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