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Mic Pre's...

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Ok. I think its time for me to get a good mic pre.


These are the three that Im considering:


dbx 286A

PreSonus Blue

Joe Meek VC3


So far, the dbx is in the lead. I dont have the luxury of being able to try these out and I like the dbx's features and the way its set up the best. But thats why Im asking here. Which one of these would you prefer and why?


Also, Im running through an Allen & Heath Saber console into a Teac 85-16 1" R-R. Someone suggested the mic pre's in my console are good enough to not even warrant the need for an external mic pre. Ugh...


Any and all suggestions/opinion are greatly appreciated. http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/smile.gif

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

"Hey, I'm not Jesus Christ, I can't turn water into wine. The best I can do is turn beer into urine." Zakk Wylde




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I've had nothing but success using the Bellari's, which are tube mic pre's. I'm sure some of the gearheads here with gobs of $$$ will have some better suggestions, however bang for buck the Bellari's are fab.
Down like a dollar comin up against a yen, doin pretty good for the shape I'm in
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I gather from your list you don't plan to spend much.

Less than $300 perhaps? The conventional wisdom is

that the best bang for buck is the Mackie 1202VLZ Pro.

Free mixer attached. Fairly clean if you use the direct

outs and avoid the mixer circuitry.


All the cheap tube stuff (ART, Bellari, Presonus Blue etc.)

is going to sound colored. Not necessarily bad, but do

you want that color on all your tracks? Or do you have

other preamps already so you can mix it up? If you're not

planning to add a variety of different flavored preamps, a

saner strategy might be to start with the cleanest you can

afford. Besides, layer after layer of that color can add

up to cumulative distortion over multiple tracks.


Another low $ option is the Symetrix 202. They've been

replaced by the 302 which is not a bad choice either. The

202's pop up on ebay now and then for less than $200. Like

the Mackie they're fairly clean for this price range. Two

channels with 48V phantom power and 15db pad. Still, with

4 channels the Mackie's the clear bang for buck winner.

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The 1202 VLZ Pro is a good choice, but you won't find one new for under $379. Even on e-Bay they sell for over $300. The old VLZ could easily be found for around $300 new, but the Pro mixers cost more now unfortunately. The MIDIMan Audio Buddy is a good, basic 2-channel preamp that can be found for well under $100. I'm keeping my eye on the new Symetrix preamp as well as ART's DI/O (if it's ever released). MIDIMan's new Audiosport Duo looks incredibly nice as well as it features a digital output and can also serve as a USB audio interface.




This message has been edited by Dylan Walters on 06-28-2001 at 01:35 PM

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Kent....at my level just having a mic pre is pretty damn good!!! However, I do agree with using a little mixer/mixpad is a great idea....I use another piece of gear to record drums in the same manner....it's a Behringer mixer. I realize people don't like them but it works. I would think with the kind of recorder he has, I would go for some more high end vintage Neve's or something like that.

But for my applications, and the genre of music I normally record, the Bellari's are "good enough". I imagine that you guys have moved WAY past recording on an extreme shoestring budget like I routinely do. However that is not to say that using "inferior" gear can't produce good results. I remember reading the posts on another thread about what piece of gear changed recording for them or something like that. I always thought...and still do, that the recording chain is the most important thing to consider, and possibly that cool mic or cool mic pre made all the difference in the world REGARDLESS what kind of recorder you use.

I would think that ANY tube preamp will color the sound, of any manufacture at any price range. Just given the dynamics of pushing audio through a vacuum tube.....then you'd have to consider the kinds of tubes in the preamp and whatnot. Yeah I know Bellari's aren't the best, but they don't suck either...I know you didn't say or imply that.....

Also, I have to say I really appreciate your posts, it really helps to rub cyber elbows with guys who work in real studios. Thanks again.....


Down like a dollar comin up against a yen, doin pretty good for the shape I'm in
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Out of the 3 that you mentioned, the prosonus is probably the least favorable. It does have OK gain but it is noisy and relatively colored. The VC3Q is best bet in terms of sonic character and flexibilty but is still colored (Intentionally according to JM) and is also pretty noisy, I found it rather dark on vocals. The 286 is probably the cleanest but it has the 'enhancer' feature which you would probably not want to use while tracking anyway. I agree with strat0124 about the Belarri pre's but only the higher end stuff. One thing to avoid is replacing a pre with the same quality as the one you have. A really good mic pre can make SO much difference that in all sense of practicality, it would be smart to simply save a little more, wait just a little bit longer and spend twice the money on something that will truly make a difference in your end product.



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Of the three you mentioned, I'd go with the VC3Q. I have two of them and they're really cool. GREAT for guitars... the actual PREAMP is pretty quiet - the noise usually comes in from improper / over use of the compressor (and to a lesser extent) the EQ.


I also have a couple of the small single channel Bellari's (MP110's) and they're pretty nice too, but they are colored. On some things that's exactly what you're after. On other things a "pristine" approach is more what you'd want.


If you can swing a bit more, a Presonus MP20 would be a good compromise. Pretty pristine for the $$$, but has the ability to adjust the sonic colorization with the IDSS control. You can probably find one in the low $400's. Highly recommended. I really like mine.


Or you can get a Grace 101 if you're really after pristine sound. A bit more $$, but IMO MUCH better than the Mackie preamps (so is the Presonus..., and for "color", so is the Joe Meek).


IMO, there's a BIG difference between most of the lower end outboard preamps and the ones built into most mini-mixers, and an even bigger difference when you go towards things like Great River, Grace, Vintech / Neve, GML, etc. Once in a while you get a product that sits price wise in one class but leans sonically towards the next higher level - I'd put the Meek and Presonus MP20 into that division. The Meek's not a Neve, but it's very cool in the colors it gets, and the MP20's not a Great River, but it sounds pretty dang good and has the added ability of adding color if you want / need it.



Phil O'Keefe

Sound Sanctuary Recording

Riverside CA


email: pokeefe777@msn.com

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