Upgrading mic preamps ?

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by siog, Aug 31, 2014.

  1. siog

    siog Active Member

    Mar 8, 2014
    Home Page:
    Hi everyone, I'm finally in a position to upgrade my microphone preamp but I'm finding it difficult to make a decision on what's available within my budget. I'm using a Neumann 103 and a Rode NT1 and an RME Fireface UCX interface. I'm looking for a warm, punchy, almost vintage vocal sound. This is my short-list (between €900 and €1,100) - any advice would be appreciated.

    JDK R20 | Audient ASP 880 | RME Octamic II | Dav BG2 | SSL Alpha VHD | TK Audio DP1 | Midas XL48 | Focusrite ISA428

    All genuine opinions will be appreciated!
  2. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

    Feb 21, 2013
    Quebec, Canada
    Home Page:
    You could probably do a vintage vocal sound with what you have. Roll off the hi frequencies and put a short slap back delay.
    Also some mics may sound more vintage...

    Warm is a word we always hear/read when someone is looking for a preamp. But warm has a different meening from person to person.
    The warmth of a person may sound muddy to another.. You can create a fair amount of 'warmth' with the proximity of the mic. When approaching, most mic will capture more bass.

    But if you have the budget and want to buy new gear, here are my suggestions :
    • First you are comparing multi-channel preamps, why not taking your money to a single hi-end pre ? like the UA LA610? (which is fantastic on vocals and other sources.)
    • The warmth most people are looking for is often achived by using Neve 1073 which is way out of your budget. So you may check the numerous clones. Vintech and Portico are well regarded, but some has great results with Warm audio and Golden pre73
    • The ISA (which is the only one I have on your list) is clean and dynamic(punchy), if you push it hard, you'll get a bit color too. It's great on guitars, drums, bass, and vocal : pretty versatile..
    • The RME Octamic has nearly the same preamp as the fireface and are not colored. if you want something different, I'll rule it out.
    I'm sorry I don't own the other pre on your list. I'm sure others will comment ;)
  3. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Those are all nice preamps. I have heard three and own one. I guess if you count hearing an SSL console and working on a Midas live then I've heard five.

    "Vintage" is something that has slowly crept in to our descriptive forays in describing recorded sounds. I'm not sure what it really means.

    But I will preface this with saying that neither of your mics you listed would be described as a "vintage" sound. Neither of them have transformers which could be the link between what is "vintage" in nature and what is "modern".

    Of the pres listed, the JDK is most definately "punchy" Its a little brother of the API group, it doesn't use transformers either. And its not a really high gaining pre either. But you won't need that with those loud mics you have......

    The Audient is smooth and pro sounding just like their consoles....
    The RME is also a nice pro sounding set of pres. Clear is a good choice for these as is the 428 Focusrite.
    The TK Audio may be the closet thing to vintage on this list. Its got two different paths both in and out with transformers as one choice and rectified the other.
    The DAV is something altogether different from everything on your list. Clean and clear. Completely. One of the best mic pres for acoustic instruments in the world. Lots of DAV's out there in classical recordists racks.
    Kurt Foster and pcrecord like this.
  4. Makzimia

    Makzimia The Minstrel Well-Known Member

    Aug 20, 2014
    Hyde, England
    I didn't see it mentioned, let me perhaps add the Presonus RC500. I have not had a lot of time to play with mine yet, but my small amount of time with a baby blue on my taylor acoustic sounded amazing. http://www.presonus.com/products/RC-500
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

    Mar 20, 2000
    BC, Canada
    Home Page:
    That looks nice Tony, looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it.
  6. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

    Jul 21, 2009
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Home Page:
    (Dead Link Removed)

    I think warm and punch reach a point where it becomes one more than the other, punch needs an element of definiton. Your budget is like almost enough to get something really high end, you thought about a used RND unit? As an owner of an nt 1a I can say it would be the last mic I would describe as warm, punchy, or vintage. It quite good as displaying the exact opposite of those characteristics.

    I think pre amp character is way way over exhaggerated. You need more than a pre to really mess w a sound. Obviously mic first, but I think you'd get way more bang for your buck, looking into something that has an eq or compressor. I think if your thinking punch, you'll lean towards transformer based stuff, towards fat then tubes. There's all kinds of both tho. Manley makes an exceptionally clean pre the tube mono, in your price range-ish used.

    Honestly in your price range, your on the brink of, the top end of the pro sumer stuff, and the beginning of the world class stuff.

    I'd hold out, another 20% or so of what you already have opens a whole new world of options, both totally, and feature wise. Maybe start a 500 series rack?

    I dunno, I'm just weary of a lot of the stuff at your particular price point, from eperience. And I think your setting yourself up for disappointment if your expecting much more than a hint or a tendency toward as what your looking for.

    I'm not saying it wouldn't be an improvement, but if you want sometching really special, it's only a little but more time/money. Ya know, it's not like your gonna just go get another new pre after this right away, who cares if you gotta wait a little while, you'll never regret buying the best, and if you don't like it, it'll usually hold it's value. I obviously don't know you, but I know myself in the past, and I think a lot of people sell themselves short by purchasing gear thats just one peg below commercial stuff, and just never being totally satisfied.
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

    Feb 21, 2013
    Quebec, Canada
    Home Page:
    I agree with KMetal for except one little thing. Fat(warm) does not equal to tubes.
    Some tube units are very clean and define. As for some transformer units are warm. It depends on the design, not if there's a tube or a transfo in it..

    One thing is, a lot of transformer based preamps are fast and more dynamic and therefor punchier
  8. Tommy osuna

    Tommy osuna Active Member

    Nov 8, 2014
    Home Page:
    Those are cool if you can squeeze a bit more out if your budget I've been very happy with the a designs Pacifica very punchy ALA neve and has a great high end I found that spending the xtra money makes your music sound better and way easier to mix wgen you track it with what I mentioned

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