Mic Preamps and Condenser Mics

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by ap1, Jul 21, 2006.


  1. ap1

    ap1 Member

    Messages:
    325
    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2006
    Hi folks,

    Someone suggested adding a decent mic preamp to my rig, and I'm interested in some feedback. The "rig" is fairly simple right now, but I'm looking to add quality gear as it expands. Right now I'm mainly recording acoustic guitar and vox, and the suggestion was for a nice tube pre to warm up the sound. One thing that's not clear to me - do any pres double as interfaces? Or do you have to come out of the pre and into the interface? Since I can only utilize two inputs at the same time on the interface, I'd be looking for two single channel preamps or one with two channels. I don't want to pay more than $400, so if anyone can point me in the right direction, I'd appreciate it.

    Re Condenser mics: I had a similar post not too long ago and really appreciated the feedback I got. Very helpful. But a question lingers - I was under the impression that a pencil SDC is usually preferred on acoustic guitar - or, if you're using two mics, an LDC pointed toward the bridge and a pencil at the 12th fret or so. But recently someone suggested going with an LDC regardless if I was going to use one or two mics. The reasoning: you can always roll off the low end, but you can't add any with a pencil mic. Now I know much of this comes down to playing style, type of axe, taste, and experimentation. I do have a Rode NT-2A which I like for vox (although it's nice on the axe as well), and I figured I'd go with a pencil on the guitar for those times I record both vox and guitar at the same time. But I remain puzzled, and could use some input.

    BTW, I was just looking at an AT 4040, 4033, and 3035 - anyone know how these sound on acoustic guitar?

    Thanks again,
    Alan
     
  2. covert

    covert Member

    Messages:
    303
    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    There are certainly products out now that combine preamps with USB or Firewire interfaces. At the low end, the converters are likely to not be among the best, but then the ones in your current interface may not be either. There are also lots of pres with little glowing things in them, most of which only count as tube pres by courtesy. Warm is one of those buzz words that doesn't have any reliable meanings. Best answer is to listen to as many as you can, in your place, against what you have, and decide if any of them actually does something good that you don't have already. If you really need a recommmendation, try the EH 12AT7. You'll have to go through the line in on your current interface, but it's a serious unit, in a cheesy case.

    Small diameter condensers tend to have better pattern control, and also do fine on low frequencies. Again, trying mics, one against the other is the only real way to learn what works for you. Trying different positioning is likely to make more difference than different mics. Using two mics opens up a world of phase issues that can kill your sound, or might make it better.
     
  3. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

    Messages:
    13,448
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    In that price range tube mic preamps are a gimmick. You really have to spend at least twice that to get a tube preamp worth owning, unless you're lucky on the used market.
     
  4. µ¿ z3®ø™

    µ¿ z3®ø™ Member

    Messages:
    5,711
    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2005
    Location:
    t-dot
    absofrickin' + 1,000,000.
    most cheap "tube" gear throws a tube into a low voltage circuit.
    ewwwww.
    however there is some affordable stuff that uses tubes at the proper operating voltages and sounds very good.
     
  5. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,426
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MD
    As far as inexpensive SDC mics go, I really like the MXL 603 with a few small mods. I don't currently own any tube mic preamps and to tell the truth, I don't miss them either. I think you'll get the most coloration from transformers, not tubes.
     
  6. UnderTheGroove

    UnderTheGroove Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,217
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Take a look at the FMR audio RNP (Real Nice Pre). I haven't used it, but almost all reports say that it is a really good two channel pre at that price range.

    I have a 4033 that I use on acoustic guitar and really like the tone. I tend to use my Soundelux U195 for tracks that will be more exposed, but for more dense pop/rock mixes I will often use the 4033 or a Josephsen pencil condenser because they both have a brighter sound that cuts through.
     
  7. brad347

    brad347 Member

    Messages:
    4,798
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2006
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    budget tube pres almost universally utilize a "starved plate" design that sounds nothing like a wide-open (in terms of plate voltage) quality tube preamp.
     
  8. tonefreak

    tonefreak Member

    Messages:
    2,462
    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    West Los Angeles, California
    Is the GT Brick a starved plate design? I really like mine.
     
  9. µ¿ z3®ø™

    µ¿ z3®ø™ Member

    Messages:
    5,711
    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2005
    Location:
    t-dot
    nope.
    aspen pitman would never entertain such a blasphemy.
    the brick is a sweet little box, no?
    why lookee here, U can even pick 'em up brand new for the $400.00 that ap1 didn't want to spend more than.
     
  10. tonefreak

    tonefreak Member

    Messages:
    2,462
    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    West Los Angeles, California
    I absolutely love mine... picked it up for $325.00 w/ BuyItNow off of ebaY!

    My bass has never sounded better, and I really like how the Brick tracks vocals with my various condenser mics.
     
  11. µ¿ z3®ø™

    µ¿ z3®ø™ Member

    Messages:
    5,711
    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2005
    Location:
    t-dot
    i have to say that the brick may be one of the best bass DIs, regardless of price. i can often get better results w/ a manley VoxBox, but really....
     
  12. tonefreak

    tonefreak Member

    Messages:
    2,462
    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    West Los Angeles, California
    Hehehe... I have no doubt you could! Manley VoxBox is an awesome unit... unfortunately, out of my price range.

    Given ap1's budget, I also agree with you... GT Brick should merit serious consideration.
     
  13. Mac-P

    Mac-P Member

    Messages:
    898
    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Location:
    Nassau County, NY

    The unit mentioned is actually the Electro Harmonix 12AY7 Mic Pre

    http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/ElectroHarmonix-12AY7-Tube-Microphone-Preamp?sku=181127

    It is NOT a starved plate design, but rather a 12AY7 and a 12AU7 running a full 200 volts. :AOK

    Look up reviews on the internet. The unit is a real, high quality single channel mic pre with no frills - just phantom power, XLR in and out, low end roll off switch and 180 degree phase switch. No fancy meters or lights. Just pure, real tube generated tone.

    Lots of pro engineers rave about em (again do some research). They do look like they came off of the Big Muff assembly line (that's why costs are low), but they are no joke internally or sound wise. Dig around and you'll see what I mean. In a category by itself for the money. ;)

    Other than that everything that I know of is a starved plate design tube unit (if it has a tube). And for the money ($189.99) the EHX 12AY7 is just ridiculous. You can buy two and still be under the cost of some units of inferior sound.

    My 2 cents. :cool:
     
  14. ap1

    ap1 Member

    Messages:
    325
    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2006
    Thanks for the replies, folks. Helpful stuff here.

    I understand the difference b/w starved plate design and one which has a tube running at higher voltages. But some folks insist that even the latter doesn't compare with a transformer at the pre's front end. Is there some kind of transformer vs. tube debate with regard to preamp design that I'm unaware of?
     
  15. countandduke

    countandduke Member

    Messages:
    1,268
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    My Shure SM81 RULES for tracking acoustic guitars!!! I hear Joe Meek has made some nice mic pres too.

    Chris
     
  16. Mac-P

    Mac-P Member

    Messages:
    898
    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Location:
    Nassau County, NY
    Not for $189.99 there isn't.... ;)
     
  17. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,426
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MD
    If the preamp doesn't have an input transformer, it needs another way to change the impedance, and that's going to be done with transistors 99% of the time. There's actually only one transformerless tube pre that I can think of off hand and it's not cheap. The tube preamps within your budget place the tube at the output stage of the preamp, and usually some FETs at the front end. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just something you should be aware of, since transistor preamps tend to have a punchier, quicker sound.
     

Share This Page