Whats the next step? Pre-amp? Mic?

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by Jason James, Sep 30, 2003.

  1. Jason James

    Jason James Guest

    Hey guys, got my semi pro studio up and going and doing pretty well. Was wondering what you guys would suggest for a next upgrade. Thinking I should get a nice Pre for all around. Then more specialized pre's as I go. How does this sound? Looking at spending $1500 or less on a new or used Pre. Avalon, Manley, RNP, Focusrite, AMEK, Whats should I do. I think I'd like a dual mono pre and use the EQ's in Nuendo/UAD. Heres what I've got going on. I'm running Nuendo 2.01, 2 Delta 1010s, UAD card, Waves Ren., Allen and Heath 16 channel mixer, Big Mackie Monitors, Neumann TLM103, Rode NT2, MK012s, lots of SM57, All rooms bass trapped and treated to the hilt, good enough headphone system. Doing mostly full band rock and country sessions to the public. Thanks for any help.

  2. MindMeld

    MindMeld Guest

    i think you should get yourself a high quality small condenser mic or a ribbon mic.... they are expensive, but the quality is unachievable any other way. I would look into DPA and Schoeps and Joesophson for the small condensers, and AEA and Royer and coles for the ribbon mics.
  3. Jason James

    Jason James Guest

    Hmm, interesting. Hadn't thought about getting a ribbon mic. How would that benefit me over a nice pre? What exactly whould that be used for? Vox, drums, acoustic gtrs? I would like to get a nice small diaphram condenser. My Octava MK012's work really well for ride/hat and acoustic gtr. They sound ever bit as good as my friends Shure SM-81. I know that when I got the Neumann (though its one of the cheaper ones they make) it really helped my recordings. EVERYTHING I've used it on sounds really nice. Perhaps another nice mic would be the ticket instead of a nice Pre. Any thoughts?

    Also, what do you guys reccomend for Toms. I've used SM-57s but I have some cheap CAD tom mics that sound much better. I use a CAD Kick mic for the Floor toms. Sounds nice but I'm sure theres something better. Is small diaphram condensers (Shure Beta 98 ) or large diaphram dynamics (Sennheiser 421's) the way to go? What about those little Sennheiser E609's? Well thanks alot.

  4. Clueless

    Clueless Guest

    I've been told that the Neumann 184s are the bomb (at least for small-capsule condensers), but I have to say that I'm really happy with what I can do with my Rode NT-4 (stereo small-cap mic).

    I also have a Royer 121 and yes, it definitely sounds different. I haven't yet found the magic recipe/appropriate usage, but I'm committed to finding one. It's definitely not "too crispy" as my 414 TL II and/or Rode NTK can be. I just haven't found how to hit the sweet spot of its smoothness yet. Maybe I need a new room ;-)
  5. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    I love the 421 on toms, but I also find that the Audix D2's work quite well.

    Ribbon mics can really kick butt on electric guitars as well as other things...

    The AKG 414's...ahhhh...don't get me started! I love 'em, but I also love my NTK. I find the 414 to be a bit more silibant than the NTK however.
  6. tonio

    tonio Guest

    For Toms, D2's are good, a 421 would be better for rocknroll, or you could check out the Sennheiser e604's, the e609's are better for gtr.
    But you don't really need toms mics these days.
    A good stereo condensors and snare, kick setup would sound better,if you have a good sounding room.
    IMO, the room and drummer really make the difference.
    A preamp will be helpful for different colors, since you only have a board so far, but another LD condensor will probably help more.

  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    77 Sunset Lane.
    I have had great success with Audio Technica Pro 35 clip on condensers for tom tom applications. They are so darned handy! Good tone too. I have never had a drummer complain after they heard a playback. They fit into just about any set up, are very focused with little bleed and are amazingly warm, even fat sounding. Great attack / thwack and they cost about $135 each! Much more affordable than 421s. They are also very good on trumpet, bone, etc. These things are also very handy for live work as you don't have to lug stands for them. Anyone who has made six trips in and out just lumping mic stands for the drum set will appreciate that!
  8. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    I have a pair of Neuman KM184s and all I can say is most of the time I am glad I got them in return for recording time instead of paying cash for them. I think they have a very specialized sound and I do not use them much. When I do use them I find I don't use the track all that often.

    Personal taste for sure but there are far better sounding SD mics in my opinion. (and I record a ton of acoustic guitar)

  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    77 Sunset Lane.
    Hi Steve,
    Can you share with us which mics you prefer? Kurt
  10. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Sure Kurt,
    For SD condensors I really like something accurate and fast, and omnidirectional (no proximity effect) so the Earthworks SRO if you are on a budget, or the new QTC30s if you have medium budget or the QTC1's if you consider this top priority. These mics sound best through a really accurate mic pre like a Grace or Earthworks.

    I think that 24 bit recording allows the enfgineer to take advantage of the microphones with exquisite sonic detail. Using the clean approach provides a full, warm sound with most of the character coming from the instrument and player. If you vary the locations of the mics you get also vary the placement of the instrument in the mix. So if there are 2 acoustic guitar parts, change the micing a little and you will get a little more 3d to the mix.

    If you want a great cardiod then I suggest a the Shure KSM44.

    The KSM184s are very bright and break up too easily for my taste. They sound great until you hear something better right next to them.

    As I said before there is a lot of personal taste involved with what I have said, so just like anything else in recording its best to use what fits. there are certainly times I want a brighter guitar that cuts in an agressive mix, so I might reach for the KSM184 in that situation.

    Whatever sounds great.

  11. Jason James

    Jason James Guest

    Hey Guys thanks so much for the input. Sounds like you guys think I should be looking more in to Mics than Mic Pres. I guess the Allen& Heath Pres are sufficient for the time being? How would the sound change if I was running my mics thru say a UA 2-610, a RNP, AMEK dual pre, or a Sebetron 2000? I was thinking mic pres would take me from "Ok that sounds nice, clean and clear" to "Wow, that sounds NICE!, CLEAN!, CLEAR! and what nice character and tone!" My recordings now are turning out very well they just need some character. Thats the only way I know to describe it. I do know that for the most part things instantly got nicer sounding when I went to the TLM 103 from a rode NT2. Is the quality I'm wanting more of a mic issue or a pre issue. Seems like the TLM thru a nice pre would be great. I since I track drums first (usually) then come back and do bass, guitar, voxes etc I could use that sweet set up again and again. Thanks for any input. I think I'm begining to see the light.

  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    77 Sunset Lane.
    I assume by AMEK you are referring to the Neve Amek 9098. I can tell you these are a very clean and accurate type of pre. I find them to be very “vanilla”. If you are looking for character, this is not the pre you want. If you want “NICE, CLEAN, CLEAR”, it fits the bill. I have a pair of these and I like them quite a bit.

    The UA-2610 is a valve (tube) pre and sounds it. Big fat and warm. Also is very “thick” in texture. If used on many tracks it can be, at times, a bit too much, although a little judicious eq can remedy this quite easily. The 2-610 has a 2 band eq that works quite well. Hard to go wrong with one of these.

    The Sebatron is also a valve pre. I have a vmp 4000 and I have to say I absolutely love it! It too, is fat and warm, although it is more “transparent” than the 2-610. This pre has a way of making everything put through it sound absolutely huge, with a lot of “depth”. The vmp also has some switchable eq, a high frequency air/bright setting and a low boost/cut. I have done whole productions with the vmp without it loading up the tracks. Fat without being overbearing. My opinion, this pre is a best value!

    Any of these 3 mic pres fit the “NICE, CLEAN & CLEAR” criterion with the Sebatron being a best all around pre in my book.

    I am very sorry I cannot offer up an opinion on the RNP. I truly wish I could but I have not been afforded the opportunity to hear one in action. I can say there are a lot of users of this pre that have made posts here at RO saying they liked them a lot. But there is no way of knowing what these peoples frame of reference is, if they have ever used really good pres or not. Most rave about them but there have been a couple of posts, saying they sounded like nothing more than a glorified Mackie. One pre designer I have spoken with even went so far as to say the RNP has “a signal path a mile long”.
    I made numerous requests of FMR to send me a RNP for review with no response. Finally after a much heated debate regarding the RNP in a thread here at RO, I received a PM from Mark McQulken (the designer of the RNP and owner of FMR) in which he said that FMR is so back ordered on the RNP that he couldn’t break even one free for me to review.
    :confused: again!
    I leave it to you to draw your own conclusion regarding that statement and as to why he wouldn’t see it as advantageous to have the RNP reviewed by someone who isn’t a business associate or a friend ( as is the case with all the reviews of the RNP I have so far seen). Reviews here at RO have been reported to create a significant boost in sales of the subjects of said reviews. It seems since FMR is so back ordered on the RNP, this is not of any interest to Mr. McQuilken. In Mr. McQuilken's defense it would only be fair to say that he is a well known and respected designer who has several successful designs that have become time honored standards in studios world wide. He has made numerous posts here on the RNP and other subjects and he appears to be a very intelligent and well informed individual. Chances are that it is a “really nice preamp”, as the moniker states. My advice is if you are interested in the RNP, buy one and check it out, If you hate it, return it. This seems to be the only way to get your hands on one.

    [ October 04, 2003, 10:14 PM: Message edited by: Kurt Foster ]
  13. white swan

    white swan Guest

    Referring back to an earlier suggestion to buy a nice ribbon mic instead of a good pre, I would like to suggest that if you don't already have a decent pre, a ribbon mic might not be a good choice. Because of the amount of gain that most ribbons require, a good preamp is even more important than for your typical condenser.

    The exception might be the Royer 122 which is phantom powered with a much higher output than other ribbons.
  14. Bobby Loux

    Bobby Loux Active Member

    You're kidding right?
  15. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    77 Sunset Lane.
    No, I am not. Ask Sebatron. Ask Vince at Speck. Ask any of the companies we have done reviews for. RO is one of the top rated sites of its kind on the net. We receive almost a half million page views every month. This translates to millions of "hits" per month. The E Mag links to tons of websites around the world. It seems getting reviews and placing advertising on RO is a very good thing for manufactures to do.
  16. Jason James

    Jason James Guest

    Ok some great suggestions. I guess what I'm trying to figure out is this...... I have a nice big fresh glass of iced tea. Now If i had just a little sugar and lemon it would be even more refreshing. (I'm from Texas so I'm not sure if you'll truly understand but I'm sure youll get the picture :) ) I have at least one of everything I need now. I can make really nice recordings without renting or borrowing anygear. I'm doing this semi pro and I want to keep improving my sound, this means getting better at what I do and getting more gear to work with. For instance I can record Ac guitar so much more nicly now that I have the TLM 103 instead of when I was using MK-012's and an NT2. I'm trying to figure out if a 414 (for instance) with my Allen and Heath would be better than my TLM with a Sebatron (Amek, Trident S20 ect). What would be a nice($1500 or less) pre to start with If I can only have one for a while? Or Should I pick up a nice ribbon mic, or another TLM 103 (to have a matched pair) Just confused :s: Thanks for the advice guys. It's much appreciated.
  17. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Distinguished Member

    Central Village, CT
    Home Page:

    I am kinda new (boy is that ever an understatement) at this myself........

    However - unless i have missed something real bad - buying another TLM 103 will not give you a matched pair......

    A matched pair is actually constructed and tested to verify they are matched.... the 2 mics have to test exactly the same......

    If i do not understand this correctly - will someone please straighten me out.....

  18. Jason James

    Jason James Guest

    No, I'm sure your right. A "Matched" pair would be two mics that test out to have very similar responses. I suppose I used the word matched incorrectly. I should have said "another TLM to have 2 mics that are similar sounding." Honestly, right now I'm using the TLM and a NT2 for room mics on drums and it sounds fantastic. On Ac Gtrs I'm using the TLM and an MK012 and It sounds really nice as well. Would it sound better with a "matched" pair of TLM's etc, probably, but I personally dont' know. I like to think (and I know of a pro engineer or two that thinks similarly) that two different mics in a stereo set up yeild nice results. Being that the two mics "hear" differently in a good way to add more "stereo" to the end result. When soloing my room mics on drums, TLM panned Left and NT2 panned R, I, nor any of my clients ever say, hmm the Left side sounds a lot nicer. It just sounds like your in the room listening to a drum kit. As far as listening to the TLM soloed and the MK012 soloed on Ac Gtrs the TLM sounds nicer, BUT, when panned together it yields a nice stereo ac gtr. If I had say two matched TLMs it would I'm sure sound very nice, but different nice. Sometimes I feel like I'm making it up as I go, but I feel this to be true :) .
  19. Jason James

    Jason James Guest

    Oh also, I feel like the TLM and the NT2 are similar sounding. They both are kinda on the bright side. The TLM sounds sweeter overall and great on just about everything. The NT2 is nice esp for the $. In fact I find it is better on some of my clients vocals than the TLM. If I didn't get another TLM to have a "matched" pair, I should get a darker sounding mic. However, I like things bright so I'd probably get a 414 next. Reguarding my original question I'm thinking I should look into a matched pair of small diaphram condensers or pickup a nice pre and experiment with it for a while. Honestly I love my MK012's (I can honestly say they sound nicer than my Shure SM81) Also, I borrowed a DBX 386 dual tube pre for a session. I know its marginal at best but I really couldn't hear an improvement over my A&H board. I'll experiment more.

  20. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Pacific NW
    If you were to go with the Sebatron VMP4000 you would be getting 4 channels of high qulity preamp which would in turn make your mics you already have even more versatile. This way you could track through the Sebatron for one kind of sound and using the exact same mic, track through your board for another.The Sebatron pre is a lot better as a mic pre than your console and that crappy dbx unit you mentioned.But trying out these things will certainly educate you to the differences in mic pre technology.I myself can only logically buy pres in the upper ranges simply because the pres in my Ghost sound as good or better than most devices at or under the $1000 mark.Though there are a couple of exceptions.

    As for your question, to my thinking, a versatile pre such as the Sebatron will get you more milage in variety and quality of sound than a simple mic purchase.Also as a side note...do NOT underestimate the sound difference of a simple SM57 through a great pre as opposed to a pre in a mid sized console.It will open your eyes.

    [ October 06, 2003, 12:43 PM: Message edited by: Davedog ]

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