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Question about good pre-amps


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Hi there... I have a question for people with a lot of recording experience... Basically, for a long time now, I've worked only with the preamps in the Mackie... I would like to improve this situation... Mostly what I would record through a new preamp would be vocals and occasional acoustic guitar... the vocals are traditional, smooth, clean Everything else would a result of soft synths or gigastudio...

 

Recently I did a testing of the new breed of preamps which are low cost and supposedly good... Among these were the RNP, Presonus MP20, DMP3... Doing side by side recordings of the same vocal, using the same cables, keeping a lot of good controls, none of these sounded significantly better than the Mackie, just different... None of them sounded bad in any way, but none of them made me want to run out and buy them, cause I thought that there was this wonderful improvement...

 

Since these type of boxes aren't making significant changes in the sound, is throwing more money at this issue going to resolve it?? I'm talking a SIGNIFICANT change in the sound over the Mackie, not just .2% improvement, I'm talking like maybe 5 times better...

 

So, my question is, is my only solution a Manley Vox Box, or is there something under $1000 that will sound significantly better? I know that mics are the other side of the equation, and that is also under consideration, but Im just trying to get some feedback about the lesser known pre-amps that are not super cheap, but not astronomically expensive Sorry for the long post Any info appreciated, thanks :)

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It would probably help to know what type of mics your are currently using, what types you are concidering, and more importantly exactly what you feel is missing in your preamp that requires an upgrade.

 

Paul

WUDAYAKNOW.. For the first time in my life, I'm wrong again!!
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Originally posted by paully:

It would probably help to know what type of mics your are currently using, what types you are concidering, and more importantly exactly what you feel is missing in your preamp that requires an upgrade.

 

Paul

...and what you are recording...

 

I have Mackie XDR Pro mic preamps (or whatever they're called), and both my Peavey VMP-2 and RNP sound noticeably better than the Mackies. It's not subtle. My entire band notices the difference, especially with vocals.

 

The RNPs are very open and articulate sounding, with a beautiful top end that is missing in the Mackies, and a surprising amount of bottom end as well that the Mackies don't have. The Peavey has a very nice midrange and extended bottom end and have a certain quality and personality that the Mackies don't have. I can hear this, and my monitors aren't all that great. When used cumulatively over quite a few tracks, the differences become even more obvious.

 

And I'm not blasting Mackie, either. I think they have good mic preamps for the money, and you even get a little mixing board attached!! :D Great bang for the buck. There's a reason why I purchased it. But the RNP and Peavey are really noticeably better to my ears.

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Used you can get a couple channels for $1000 or so that are really world class. There are always Manley Dual Monos going for $1200 or so, for instance.

 

I would save up for something top-flight rather than buying ones that don't seem significantly better to you than the Mackie.

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Hi folks, thanks for your replies....

 

Ken, I tried them side by side, I was using a CADE350, there just didn't seem to be an amazing difference with the RPN in my particular situation... Not that I think that the Mackies are anything out of this world, you understand... :) What I'm recording is really fairly straightforward vocals, very smooth, very controlled, think folk pop, country pop, theater pop...

 

Paully, basically what I feel is the problem is that there is low mid mist that covers the recordings... Now I know that's also the mic, but I'm just looking for something that's going to sound pretty much to what my voice sounds like in real life... No coloring...

 

Ted, thanks, I'll look into those that you mentioned...

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There are a practically endless number of preamps out there with many subtle flavors but if your looking for what is referred to as a "straight wire" preamp then I would start with Martech,Langevin and Massenberg. Again then are many very clean preamps with variations on the theme none of which sound identical to the other. Preamps and their differences are a lifelong pursuit really and you only really learn them by using them.

 

I'm sorry but there aren't any easy answers with this other than your going to spend some money.

 

I don't think you would be disappointed by anything from Manely. :)

 

Enjoy!

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The worst way to audition mics or pres IMO is one voice or source soloed. Where you hear what an expensive pre can do is in a mix. Just track a voice and two or three backup voices with acoustic guitar and maybe bass and you'll start hearing what each pre is doing. The cheap stuff smears the signal and will tend to build up crunchy consonants on backup vox. The good stuff will make it way easy to blend your tracks.
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Originally posted by DC:

The worst way to audition mics or pres IMO is one voice or source soloed. Where you hear what an expensive pre can do is in a mix.

Absolutely! I could not agree more! That's what I was getting at by saying that cumulatively, you can really hear the difference between the RNPs and the Mackies.

 

Tradivoro, I am not doubting that there is not an eye-opening difference in your test, but as you keep recording them, the idiosyncrasies (good or bad) and character of the mic preamp is accentuated more and more.

 

Lettuce know what you end up doing or coming up with! I really feel that the mic preamp is almost as important as the mic in the signal chain.

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I was gonna say the same thing. With most pre's your not gonna notice a HUGE difference right off the bat. Especially one track at a time. Like the guys said, its really a cumulative thing.

 

If I were you, I would spend my money on a better mic. A Rode NTK, Groove Tubes GT66, Neumann TLM103, etc., are gonna make a much bigger improvement than a new pre.

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I gotta agree, an improvement in the mic department would yield a more noticable inprovement. we've got a pair of NTK's and lvoe them, or perhaps an AKG 414, since you also want to do the occaisional acoustic guitar(inwhich case I'd recommend a pair of 414's to allow stereo micing of the gtrs.)

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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Hi guys, once again, thanks for your replies... Definitely I've been looking at replacing the mic as well... I've been looking at a ADK A51tc, but the more I look at it, it seems as though it has a slight boost to low mids, which I'm trying to avoid.. I'm a high baritone/tenor... When I sing in my mid register, all lot of these large diaphram mics just seem to accentuate a darness... I'm singing about 8 inches from the mic and using the omni mode in multi pattern mics, so it's not proximity effect... So, I'm looking for a mic that's not going to accentuate low mids...

 

Ken, I know you once recommended the Lawson L251, but that's still a bit much for me... I'll look at the AKG 414...

 

So, if you guys know a mic which works well in not making the male baritione singer sound darker, I would appreciate it...

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As far as auditioning tracks solo, I did that cause it has to sound good with just the voice, since 90 percent of the time, the only mic'ed thing through a preamp will be the voice... Everything else is soft synths, or sytths going direct, or gigastudio...
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Originally posted by tradivoro:

Ken, I know you once recommended the Lawson L251, but that's still a bit much for me... I'll look at the AKG 414...

 

So, if you guys know a mic which works well in not making the male baritione singer sound darker, I would appreciate it...

Hey, a Lawson L251 is a stretch for me as well! I won the bloody thing in an AES drawing!!! Yes, I'm lucky and don't take it for granted.

 

I second the recommendation for an NTK. I like that mic a lot in my limited experience with it, and feel that for the money, it is an excellent value (and even without that qualifier, is an excellent sounding mic).

 

I have a Rode NT2, which is a far cry from an NTK and is not similar. But I mention this only because the NT2 has a 12kHz lift that sometimes can be very open and flattering for baritones. If other mics have this sort of quality, it can sometimes be extremely flattering, allowing a baritone voice to still sound warm but not murky, and give it an extra airy sort of quality that can lift it out of dense passages without being strident.

 

Personally, I don't care for the 414, but a lot of people do. I find it unduly harsh in the upper mids. But that said, I've heard some stunning sounding vocal recordings that were recorded with a 414, particularly in hip-hop and rock.

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Originally posted by tradivoro:

So, if you guys know a mic which works well in not making the male baritione singer sound darker, I would appreciate it...

I've got the same problem in that I seem to have too much low mids in my voice.

 

On the cheap, the AKG C2000 is a great mic for me (and maybe you). It's got this 500 Hz low cut filter which is perfect for me to get rid of the low mids, I can even work it fairly close (2 to 3").

 

If you can spend more, the Blue Blueberry is a nice bright mic and if you're rich, check the Brauner VM-1. A friend brought over a VM-1 and I got to sing on it a bunch and man, not only air for days but it's the only mic where I didn't need to do a drastic low cut to sound 'right' to my ears on my voice.

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For 'traditional, smooth, clean' vocals... and full and lush acoustic tones, I also highly recommend the Grace... check out the 201 for stereo/dual mono acoustic micing as well... coupled with a great mic of course! :wave:

Kris

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ROde NTK. Try it.

"Meat is the only thing you need beside beer! Big hunks of meat and BEER!!...Lots of freakin' BEER."

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Hi DC, thanks for that tip, I'll look at the akg C2000 and the blueberry and see if that's going to help me out... Yeah, I'm sure that the Brauner is like the Lawson, an awesome mic, but out of my price range...

 

Ken, I'll look at the NTK, see if that helps... I know you won the Lawson, but had spoken well of it, and I unknowingly went out to price it and said, ooops... :) I thought it was more like 1K mic, not a 2K mic... :)

 

Chris, the Grace is definitely on my list of preamps to check out...

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this is a high quality solution and does not cost too much:

 

Silver Series:

DBX 376 Tube channel Strip w/Digital Out $ 499.95

or

386 Dual Vacuum Tube Preamp w/Digital Out $499.00

http://www.dbxpro.com/products.htm

 

in conjunction with

 

Audio Technica AT4060 $ 999.95 or less (sound almost like my Neuman TLM170)

http://www.audio-technica.com/prodpro/profiles/AT4060.html

or

Audio-Technica AT4050 $599.00 if you are tight on the budget

http://www.audio-technica.com/prodpro/profiles/AT4050.html

___________________________

I record alway with Neuman. The best i ever heard preamp is the ClassAmp M-1 from FM Acoustic but costs so around 10'000.- per channel.

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Originally posted by tradivoro:

Ok, so I'm looking at the Rode NTK... I'm asking this question out of ignorance... It's a tube mic, which to my thinking would sound "warm", which to me means low mids acentuation? Am I wrong in my thinking??

The NTK sounds quite natural in the low mids, with a slight (and it varies from mic to mic, so check the one you buy out before you commit) pressense peak that, if porperly placed also sounds quite natural and sweet without being brittle.

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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Originally posted by tradivoro:

Ok, so I'm looking at the Rode NTK... I'm asking this question out of ignorance... It's a tube mic, which to my thinking would sound "warm", which to me means low mids acentuation? Am I wrong in my thinking??

Mmmmmmm. that's not completely out of line, what you're saying. But then again, I have an Audio Technica AT4060, and that's surprisingly "un-tubey" sounding and quite neutral. It's really nice sounding, but really neutral to my ear. So one simply never knows what something is gonna sound like even if it has glowing tubes inside! :D From what I remember, the NTK was quite natural sounding, without any blatantly "tubey" or pronounced mids.

 

At $499 or whatever that NTK costs, it's shockingly good. And a lot of people on this forum really seem to love the thing.

 

I've recorded male vocals and an ensemble with the NTK, and in both applications, it sounded wonderful. I believe it's fixed in the cardioid position, but for most home recording applications, this is not a limitation.

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Well, I did an A/B/C test with the Rode NTK, Groove Tubes GT-66 and a Neumann TLM103.

 

The Rode blew them away.

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Well, where and duhduh, I'll just have to check out the ntk and see what it sounds like... The price is very nice and I would like to end this search for equipment and start using it... :)

 

Ken, thanks for the feedback on the 4060, another mic I wasn't aware of... the only problem with these mics is you gotta wait 20 minutes before you use it, but if it works for me, it's worth it... :)

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Originally posted by tradivoro:

Ken, thanks for the feedback on the 4060, another mic I wasn't aware of... the only problem with these mics is you gotta wait 20 minutes before you use it, but if it works for me, it's worth it... :)

I just warm 'em up while I'm setting up everything else. And I don't even know if I wait that long to use 'em anyway.

 

The AT4060 is cardioid-only, and I think it's around US$1200. It's a nice mic.

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My SOP for anything tube that is not on before a session is to get it on a minimum of 60 minutes prior to use. since we are pretty much constantly working 8-10 hrs a day or more here, all the electronics except the computers and video monitors stay on 24/4. IF I finish a session using a tube mic and it will be used again the next day, typically it stays on.

Hope this is helpful.

 

NP Recording Studios

Analog approach to digital recording.

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It's been my experience that tube mics sound better through solid state pre's and vice versa. For example, we tried the Brauner through both my Avalon 737 (tube) and my Grace 101 (SS) and especially for intimate tracks (acoustic) it seemed to like the Grace better. Sounded great through both and I ended up tracking through the Avalon to use a bit of compression, but with just the pre's going, the Grace really worked well with this tube mic.

 

If you're set on the NTK then I'd highly highly recommend picking up the Grace 101 to go with it. It's the cheapest 'real' pre that's been mentioned on this thread. It won't smear stuff and cause crunchy consonants like the cheap tube dbx stuff will.

 

My 2 cents.

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