View Full Version : Mic Pre-amp or not?
12-21-2001, 08:18 PM
Hello, I'm using a couple of nice mics, and a little compression along with some BBE at the insert of my Mackie board. The vocal sound that I'm getting is very good, as are any other sounds that I record with that set-up.
I have read many opinions on the use of mic-preamps. Many experts have written that a great board ( even a mackie ) and a good mic are all that is needed, others say that a good pre-amp is a must.
I just don't want to part with a good chunck of change to find that it was a waste.
I'm looking at the dbx 586 Dual Channel Tube Mic Preamp as well as a few others, but it is a tough call. Help!
12-21-2001, 08:42 PM
it would only be a waste if you got something inferior to what you already have, I find that a great pre can be the most useful piece of gear in your arsenal.
one of my favorites is the Telefunken tube stuff. maybe a bit expensive but well worth it.
the new DBX stuff is garbage.
how 'bout some API's?
12-21-2001, 08:58 PM
Thanks for the reply. I guess I just need to go listen and A/B some set-ups at the local music store. Any suggestions on good mic-pres out there in the range of about $1,000.00? Single or dual chan.
01-05-2002, 09:05 AM
What mics are you using? I have to put 2 cents in for the Vintech 1272....it's a little over $1k but a great preamp! This 2-ch pre has a lot of presence and can be a very desierable sound. I've used this pre on drums, vocals, acoustic guitars, and even bass... love it! For the under $1k price point, you should really look at the Grace Designs 101. This is a single channel pre-amp only, very clear and pristine.... you'll be shocked at its price and sound quality.
01-05-2002, 10:28 PM
I'm also of the opinion that you generally need to spend around $600 a channel or more to do noticeably better than the Mackie preamps. The dbx stuff, like so many inexpensive designs, simply doesn't get you much that the Mackie doesn't already have, besides some even-order harmonic distortion.
My picks? I agree, the Vintech 2-ch is hard to beat for the money, being basically a new Neve 1272, with some very minor component exceptions. If you want something that positively rocks on vocals, check out the Universal Audio M-610 ($1100). It's a cool tube design, great for vocals, bass, and some drum apps, but probably not as flexible on other things due to having a very specific sound.
The Grace 101 is cool if you don't want a lot of coloration...
Lastly, check out the Daking 52270 mic preamp/4-band EQ. It's a little pricier, around $1375, but I haven't heard a preamp for twice or even three times the money that has the response and punch of this thing, especially on acoustic guitars and transient-heavy program material (like drums and percussion).
Preamps bring out differing opinions and tastes like almost nothing else. One man's trash is another's treasure. Good luck!
01-06-2002, 12:35 PM
I couldn't agree more about how pre's really are a matter of opinion.
01-08-2002, 10:50 PM
I guess I'm a little late, but I'll still throw in my two cents.
Today it seems that even most medium quality boards do have quite nice preamps straight from the factory. If all your looking to do is get what the mic picks up onto tape, you're probably good to go with your Mackie.
If you're looking to enhance the signal, exotic pre's can help add "color" (read distortion), and many today will also take care of basic compression and EQ needs. I think this artistic touch and flexibility is what many are looking for in a mic pre.
In terms of real performance differences between what's in a board and what's in a $1,000 box, I think the most substantial difference is the way the pre handles impedance. This was a big issue in the old days that is now largely forgotten. Most moden boards will have an electonically balanced input that will handle darn near anything you throw at it from an ancient ribbon mic to an extremely hot line level input, all with relatively good results. Stand alone mic pres tend to be designed to expect a condenser mic on the other end of the cable, greatly changing how one would design the input. These differences do have a significant impact on the technical and artistic perfomance of the pre, though only a trained ear will likely pick it up.
Good luck. Tom
01-09-2002, 01:51 PM
spend the $1500 to get a Amek Neve 9098 damnit!
01-10-2002, 12:48 AM
The only 2 channel pre-amp under $1000 in my studio is a Peavey VMP-2. It is an all-tube signal path (4 or 5 tubes per channel) with hi & lo shelving. Pretty damned impressive for something with the Peavey name on it (it's made by their Audio Media Research subsidiary) & it makes a dandy direct box too.
01-21-2002, 09:31 AM
Whatever you do, do not get the dbx mic pres! They are noisy and the sound is so so. What you should look into is the Grace 101 which for about $700 is kicking ***. The ART PRO pres are nice but again, they introduce some character as do all pres. I like to suggest you save your pennies and just wait to get an Avalon VT 737 SP ($2,000), a Martech ($2500) or how a Amek Neve 9098 which is beautiful for $1500.
By now you may have purchased the dbx and if thats the case, you will eventually thirst for a true mic pre. I`m not trying to insult the dbx pre`s or your decision but the sound is second rate. Mic pres and microphones will always have the most impact on your sound so I believe its better to wait till you can afford quality, than settle.
02-01-2002, 08:44 PM
The only mic pre I've used is a Manley two channel unit. It rocks. With an AKG Tube mic, vocals are pristine and punchy. On a Martin acoustic,with an AKG condenser, it makes me cry. I think it was around $1500. Im using a Soundcraft console and ADats:p
02-01-2002, 11:19 PM
I have heard the Manley mic pre and was actually going to get it but the Avalon 737 has so much flexability, its tough to beat. (In now own two of `em.) In the future, I`ll be stepping up to some Manley gear, I`m eyeing the Vari Mu Stereo Compressor. I heard it at the AES Convention in NYC back in December and the thing is absolutely mind bending. If it wasn`t for the meters, I would think the piece wasn`t working and the compression on it is the best I have ever heard or should I say, the best I never heard. Isn`t that the point?
Ahhh, great gear... Avalon, Manley, ROCK ON!
02-02-2002, 03:21 PM
We've got that compressor also. I would have to agree..mind bending.
02-15-2002, 02:06 PM
Has anyone seen or got a chance to listen to the Aphex 207 yet. It just came out. Is it worth considering? It should only cost about $499, and it has 2 mic pres + Mic Limiters. I never heard the 107 but some people that I have talked to said that it was nice.
I'm also trying to find a way to get a 2 channel mic pre for low cost. I was wanting to get the Avalon 2022 but I just got engaged and my free wheelin' spending days coming to an end. Darn, I should have gotten one earlier! Oh well, I get it's not all about me anymore.
Having a nice mic pre that is portable would be nice too because I will use it to record on site through my Motu 828 and my G4 powerbook. I think I would be afraid to take the Avalon out of the house. I am using the new 6 mic pres on my Mackie mixer right now. They sound nice and clean but theyare little harsh and bright to me. I would love to get a smoother sound while recording acoustic guitars, piano, upright bass and sax.
02-16-2002, 09:00 AM
The 2022 is great and so is the 107.
Another pre to check out is the Grace 101.
A quick story...
A friend of mine reviews gear for a trade mag. He did a review with my 107 and liked it so much that he bought his own. Before the 107 he used the 2022 to record his kick yet after some listening, he liked the bottom end better with the 107.
So go out there and get the 107. You won`t be dissappointed.
I have also recorded several albums with the 107 so it has been tested with a variety of material.
I may actually buy another 107 before an upcoming jazz CD I scheduled to record.
I am not saying that the 2022 isn``t worth the price because I own the 737s by AVALON and only use them for vocals so the 2022 has its strenghts. (Many I should add.)
You can`t go wrong with these:
02-18-2002, 10:51 PM
Hey, you definitely need a good mic-pre. You will be OK with an OK mike and a good mic-pre but not vice versa.
You should have noticed by now that with your present sound, the vocal tends to get lost sometimes in the mix, or that it does not have that up- to- your- face sound, no matter what kind of compression you apply to it.
Also, with a good mic-pre, the vocal can stand out even at a lower volume. Which means that you don't have to push that fader all the way up.
That is what I used to have to resort to in the old days.
When getting a mic-pre, make sure that it has a limiter on it, so you will have much less of a chance to distort your vocal on tape.
You will not be sorry buying one. Once you have it, you will be sorry for not having it all this time. Plus your singer will love you to death.:)
02-19-2002, 08:27 AM
Thats part of the reason why I love the Avalon 737. There is really no further work on my part after I have set up the initial levels. I know what is going to tape and I feel secure with the compressor settings on the Avalon. Usually setting the threshold at -10 and the ratio around 2:1 - 4:1 (depending on the material and artist/instrument gives me the sound that you`re talking about.
What truly sets the Avalon apart from all other mic pres is that it combines the three essential tools necessary for great sound production. The mic pre is outstanding, the compressor can be transparent at light settings and the EQ is as the saying goes SWEET. I use my Avalons as sweeteners in every track, whether it be mixing, mastering, a vocal take, an acoustic guitar and even as a DI for electric bass. For the $2,000 that one shelves out for this piece, the return is much higher and very satisfying. Enough to want to own several. I`ll eventually get another 6 of `em!
Since recording with the Avalon I have been tempted to go back and go over every vocal I ever recorded. A gigantic task yet I KNOW how much it would improve the overall recordings.
I also agree that a mic pre makes a bigger difference than a mic. The ideal situation obviously includes the best of both worlds.
03-07-2002, 01:36 PM
at the risk of sounding ignorant AND cheap;
i have a roland vs-840, a cheap digital multitrack. i will be recording home demos mostly for my own enjoyment, instrumental jazz/funk/rock. the majority of my sounds will be direct, not mic'ed (roland vg8 for guitars, roland v-drums, direct bass guitar).
riddle me this;
1) how importaint would a mic pre be to this setup? every time i hear people rave about tube pre's, they mention vocals, acoustic guitars and acoustic drums, all of which will be 95% nonexistant in my demos...
2) would a cheap pre like the $99 ART be worth getting? i don't want to spend alot since this is a cheap home demo rig, BUT i want it to sound as good as reasonably possible.
i realize my ears will be the best judge for what will make me happy, but i'd like to hear y'alls ideas. thanx.
03-08-2002, 12:28 AM
Brooks - I assume the VS 840 has a mic pre or 2 built in, so you can use a microphone if you need to. I doubt a $99 outboard pre-amp will be any better, and may even be worse. There is no point to buying a pre-amp unless it is an improvement over what you have (or, unless it is as good as what you have, but you need to use more mics simultaneously). I would wait until you have a compelling reason to buy a pre-amp (e.g. you are recording with a microphone & can't get a good sound) - at that point you should do a little more research, maybe rent or borrow a couple of different models to see if they give you what you want. I have a feeling you won't be happy with the least expensive models when you do.
03-08-2002, 06:10 AM
When it comes to mic pres, I would shy away from units costing so little. Even though my friend who happens to review gear for a trade mag says the ART $100 mic pre "is a steal". Even though he does not use it for vocals, he does run guitar tracks through it and he says the distortion is really cool which is something we used once while trying to distort a drum loop. So the box does have some use but thats your call.
If you are making demos, I would just use the mic pres on your Roland unit.
If you do choose to purchase a mic pre, I would wait until I saved some cash and then buy. Nothing sucks more than buying a unit that you don`t like. Later you realize you bought it because you needed it but you regret the fact because if you had only waited another month, you could have owned the unit you really wanted.
With all that said...
If you do purchase a unit look into the following:
Aphex 107 (dual mic pre) $400
Grace Design 101 (single) $550
ART Pro MLA (dual) $550
These units are great and for the price, you can get one soon.
Try to hear as many models. Purchase The 3D Mic PRE CD (2 discs) from Sweetwater. This is what I used to make my decision. It has also helped alot of other people make this critical decision.
03-11-2002, 08:42 AM
04-23-2002, 11:06 PM
regarding the 840, my 880ex didn't have any mic pres (noisy channel trim was all...:( ) and i got the art tubepac- used with a røde nt-1 and a mackie 1402vlz pro, i recorded several very nice acoustic cd's for local singers.
even tho now now i've moved on to a protools001, ( keeping the same mackie mixer, tho adding a presonus digimax and a few good mics), the recordings i did on that thing still make me smile. i believe the art micpre and the 840 is a good combo.
if you were using 24bit, and needing pristine vocals and acoustic instruments, i'd say heck no, a $99 art is not going to work- but hey, to warm up drum modules, guitar synths, POD stuff.... don't let yourself be talked into buying anything expensive. the art and a '57 might be all you'll ever need....
04-23-2002, 11:33 PM
I really believe that a good preamp can save quite a lot of time trying to "fix" a signal in the mix, as opposed to processing the crap out of it just to get a decent sound. I remember the bad old days recording through relatively crappy console pres when I would have to spend hours just trying to get a vocal or snare drum or guitar to sit correctly in the mix. Now, with good pres (and mics), I just push up the fader, maybe add just a little EQ and/or a good compressor like and LA-2 or 1176(or their plug-in BF equivalents). Done. And it sounds so much better.
Spend the money. You'll never regret it, and if you get a good unit, it'll be with you for decades.
For inexpensive bang-for-the-buck, the Grace 101 is a great deal which is and will remain good-sounding and well-respected, something I can't for sure say about cheaper units (like ART and dbx).
05-02-2002, 01:09 PM
I have read all the posts so far. I have never worked with any Manley products, I'm sure by their reputation, they are awesome, and so are the many brands mentioned. The thing is, preamps are very subjective! Most all that have been mentioned, with a few exceptions, will do the job well. They may do it a little differently sonically, but all will perform. Saying that, I would like to add two brands not mentioned, and the latter, I personally like to use alot on vocals and acoustical stringed instruments, the first being Summit Audio, I think they have some quality products, and one of my favorites that is not mentioned, Focusrite. Focusrite, in my view, can be very transparent, and it is really hard to make something sound bad, so they may not be quite as aggresive as other front ends, but to me have a very natural musical sound to them.
p.s. So add Focusrite & Summit Audio to your list to check out! And hey, Focusrite has a fairly new unit out called a VoiceMaster, which is priced in the working musician range, about $450-$500 will get you one. I went ahead and bought one, and since trying it out, for the money, is an excellent bang to buck ratio, besides the mic preamp, it is a front end with, opt-comp, de-esser, eq, mosfet saturator, noise reducing expander/gate etc.. And the expander is Sooooooo smooth! I didn't know if Focusrite could pull it of in this price range, but if you don't have alot of money to spend, and don't need a real aggressive front end, check this one out. It's not an ISA 110, or a Red 1, but for the money sounds very transparent and musical, and has everything you need between the mic and recorder. It also can do instruments as well, but really shines on vocals.
So what is the top three best mic pre's for drums?
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