preamp/mixer advice

Discussion in 'Consoles / Control Surfaces' started by silentkid, Jan 27, 2005.

  1. silentkid

    silentkid Guest

    hi folks,

    i have a 4-track (tascam porta02) which i use with a SM58 mic. i mix down through a line in to my computer (standard soundcard, nothing fancy). I record mainly acoustic guitar (mic'ed, not with a pick-up as i don't like the sound) and quiet vocals. This set-up has been great to learn on, but the levels are generally quite low and if i try to boost the volume/levels (once they're in the computer) i just get distortion in some places.

    i'm guessing that i probably need to use a preamp at some point in the process, or possibly a mixer with preamps. i don't know anything about preamps, or where they are best placed, or which one is a good one for my set up. can someone please advise?

    i like my 4-track, and i won't ditch it so that i can record straight into my soundcard (as i have been advised to do by other people!). I just want to get the best sound i can from the equipment i have.

    thanks for your help.

    p.s. one more thing - the Porta02 has no EQ, which i'm starting to find a little limiting.
  2. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    Have you got a DAW? Do you want to start using one?

    If so, sell the Tascam, and get a better outboard soundcard with preamps built in, like an M-Audio Firewire 410. Not only will you get the levels you need but you won't have to worry about it going through 3 pieces of equipment, degrading all the way (pre, 4track, soundcard).

    This will still creste noise that when you boost levels, wil be boosted.

    If you are desperate to keep the 4-track, yes you need a small preamp. Again, M-Audio or FMR or Studio Projects make little inline preamps which are good entry level. Buy second hand, then you can flog it new when you decide to upgrade.
  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    You don't need a pre amp .... there's one in the Tascam and I seriously doubt that an M Audio or RNP preamp would really be a huge leap in quality to those ...
  4. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    So you need to work out why your levels are so low - you should be able to get a solid recording level peaking at about -6dB using the internal preamp - I just assumed cos you couldn't, that it was a line-only device of yore.

    Thinking more clearly a preamp to give you EQ, or to replace the broken one or your Tascam, might still be a good idea.

    It sounds like, if you are getting clear levels in the Tascam on playback through headphones, with high singal-to-noise ratio, that something in the transfer to the computer is imbalanced.

    There are so many factors here its hard to advise you. But a fact is, you can't see signal levels in the Tascam the way you can in a DAW which as a great help to somebody trying to see how their levels are.

    You're just gonna need to try getti'ng the levels out as hot as poss from the Tascam without distorting in the computer, and perhaps you will need a better soundcard before you are satisfied.

  5. for [explitve deleted] sake kurt, dont you get bored of writing the same message over and over again?

    "anything under $2000 is just not worth it"


    silentkid, listen to jeemy - sound advice from him. just some thoughts - joe meek do a small preamp with a compressor and EQ which you can probably get for around £100 a channel (even cheaper in america, if thats where you are). if you want to look at a new soundcard, apparently e-mu do a fantastic jobby at about £60, which translates into nothing in dollars!
    record tracks onto computer separately and add EQ to individual tracks to solve EQ probs? if you do not have any audio software (guessing you do though), audiomulch is a popular freeware program. this may also help you with a bit of noise reduction.

    hiss - this may sound patronising, but will repeat what jeemy said - make sure you record onto tascam and your computer software at highest possible level without it clipping.

    Sorry if advice is not much help,

  6. silentkid

    silentkid Guest

    thanks for all the advice. from what i've been hearing Tascam's built-in preamps are either terrible, or possibly in the case of the model i have, not even there.

    petethomaslyons - thanks for the tip on the joe meek 3Q pre, i've been reading good things about it, especially with my particular guitar/mic/4-track combination. i'm hoping to try it out soon.

    jeemy, you're absolutely right about going back and checking all my inputs and levels again to figure out where the weak link is... thanks for the friendly reminder.
  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Not when it's the truth .. but I never said that. If you can show me a quote where I said "anything under $2000 is just not worth it", I will retract the statement and apologize ... but do not make the mistake of putting words in my mouth Pete.

    There are some very good pres Sebatron makes that are well under $1000 ...



    ... that will blow the doors off a Meek any day.

    If you can post an audio clip that disproves that please do .. otherwise I will continue to say what I want.

    As an aside, there are no facillities to use an external pre amp on the Tascam Porta 2 ... you would have to run an external pre through the ones in the on board mixer .. and what's the advantage of doing that?

    Like I said, forget a pre amp ... you don't need it.

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