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Thread: Mic preamps? Necessary?

  1. #1
    <monk> Guest

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    Someone please explain to me why I should buy a mic preamp. No one I know uses one and I'm thinking about dropping a grip on one because I want really quality vocals. Is it really necessary or can I hold on to my money?

  2. #2

    Post

    Ciao Monk,

    I would say,

    1st you need a quality mic (Rhode NT1A $199 or Groove Tubes GT55 $299) Both excellent mics! Next you will need good cables(monster).

    2nd Good Mic Techniques. (Placing,acoustics etc)

    3rd then checkout some preamps. A preamp is going to add gain to the signal and then depending on the quality of the preamp it will add subtle charecteristics to the sound.

    I use the groove tubes mic listed above w/ a yamaha 188x ($399) that has some of the best soundong preamps I have used. I record in a walk-in closet with and I get excellent sound!

    Good Luck,
    Check out micing techniques etc. at
    www.tweakheadz.com/how_to_record_vocals.htm

    [ November 08, 2005, 01:14 PM: Message edited by: cross ]

  3. #3
    <monk> Guest

    Post

    Originally posted by cross:
    Ciao Monk,

    I would say,

    1st you need a quality mic (Rhode NT1A $199 or Groove Tubes GT55 $299) Both excellent mics! Next you will need good cables(monster).

    2nd Good Mic Techniques. (Placing,acoustics etc)

    3rd then checkout some preamps. A preamp is going to add gain to the signal and then depending on the quality of the preamp it will add subtle charecteristics to the sound.

    I use the groove tubes mic listed above w/ a yamaha 188x ($399) that has some of the best soundong preamps I have used. I record in a walk-in closet with and I get excellent sound!

    Good Luck,
    Check out micing techniques etc. at
    www.tweakheadz.com/how_to_record_vocals.htm
    You're right. I have a good mic that I haven't even tried out yet. i should do that first see how it sounds in the room and then eff around with a preamp.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    BK, NY
    Posts
    168

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    monk,

    ANY time you're actually hearing something while you're using a microphone means you've plugged it into a preamp...there is no scenario where you'll be using a microphone and an amp is not required...otherwise, you might as well be talking into a microphone that's unplugged: the output level of a mic is extremely low which is why an additional amplification stage is necessary to increase it to a level where your ears (and any recording device) can hear it...

    in terms of what you need, etc, that's entirely up to you...you refer to a 'quality' recording and all of this really depends on what you mean by 'quality'...a good mic is a matter of taste and there are 'acceptable' mics for $300 and then there are superb mics for $4,000...ultimately, it doesn't sound like you're in need of much more than something to capture sound in an acceptable fashion so you could even look at something more general like a Shure SM58 beta or even an SM57 beta...decent all around mics and less than $200...

    in terms of preamps, again, you will find a preamp in most DJ mixers...are they good? no they're horrible...do they serve their purpose? yes...you need to figure out your purpose...different preamps serve different functions: if you want to record a trumpet, a raspy female vocal, a shrill falsetto male vocal, drums, etc...all depends on what you need...you can buy one single racked vintage Neve 1073 preamp for over $3k or you can buy something like the Really Nice Compressor for about $300...it's cheap but it's a preamp to swear by...it's no Neve but it's very true to the original sound...you can use preamps available in a Mackie console as well which are pretty 'ok' as long as you don't use their eq ;)

    typically, engineers will select a preamp and mic combination based on the color they create when recording a particular sound...again, this is purely a taste issue...some combos suck and some are out of this world

    do you need to spend alot of money to get a decent sound? no way but it's all about how you'll use whatever you own or buy...in my experience, you do indeed get what you pay for and, again, it all depends on how you define the word 'quality'

    good luck

  5. #5
    <monk> Guest

    Post

    Originally posted by diaspora:
    monk,

    ANY time you're actually hearing something while you're using a microphone means you've plugged it into a preamp...there is no scenario where you'll be using a microphone and an amp is not required...otherwise, you might as well be talking into a microphone that's unplugged: the output level of a mic is extremely low which is why an additional amplification stage is necessary to increase it to a level where your ears (and any recording device) can hear it...

    in terms of what you need, etc, that's entirely up to you...you refer to a 'quality' recording and all of this really depends on what you mean by 'quality'...a good mic is a matter of taste and there are 'acceptable' mics for $300 and then there are superb mics for $4,000...ultimately, it doesn't sound like you're in need of much more than something to capture sound in an acceptable fashion so you could even look at something more general like a Shure SM58 beta or even an SM57 beta...decent all around mics and less than $200...

    in terms of preamps, again, you will find a preamp in most DJ mixers...are they good? no they're horrible...do they serve their purpose? yes...you need to figure out your purpose...different preamps serve different functions: if you want to record a trumpet, a raspy female vocal, a shrill falsetto male vocal, drums, etc...all depends on what you need...you can buy one single racked vintage Neve 1073 preamp for over $3k or you can buy something like the Really Nice Compressor for about $300...it's cheap but it's a preamp to swear by...it's no Neve but it's very true to the original sound...you can use preamps available in a Mackie console as well which are pretty 'ok' as long as you don't use their eq ;)

    typically, engineers will select a preamp and mic combination based on the color they create when recording a particular sound...again, this is purely a taste issue...some combos suck and some are out of this world

    do you need to spend alot of money to get a decent sound? no way but it's all about how you'll use whatever you own or buy...in my experience, you do indeed get what you pay for and, again, it all depends on how you define the word 'quality'

    good luck
    forgive me. I am obviously still quite "green" when it comes to all of this stuff. Okay, I think I understand what you're saying. In addition to the pre amp in my MOTU828, is there a real benefit to purchasing something like the Vintech x73i? say I WAS recording a raspy female vocal on a Neumann tlm 103. Would you suggest a particular pre amp? "Cross" was gracious enough to forward a link to tweakheadz.com that was very helpful. It implied that the first priority should be a compressor. Thoughts? I just want to record my frickin' voice and have it sound as good as it possibly can and I don't want to spend more than 2000 US to do it. Thank you so much for your detailed response BTW.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    BK, NY
    Posts
    168

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    hey monk

    nothing wrong with being green...with the way technology moves and products come out to confuse us, i think we're all green to a certain extent...

    if you have a MOTU 828, i would suggest learning if you like the sound that comes out of it when you're using a microphone...if you don't like it, try to figure out what it is that's missing or you'd like ot hear more of...THEN you're probably in a safer position to make a decent guess about what to purchase and how to spend your money...

    a compressor can be really quite useful but again it depends on whether you know how to use it to get the right result...for example, alot of rap folks hit the studio and ask for a Neumann U87 and an Avalon 737...why? cuz they know Dre used it...why did Dre use it? cuz he liked it...but that doesn't mean everyone else should...that said, there's a certain sheen that comes off when you use that combo...

    i honestly believe that you should go to a store and audition different pieces...don't take this the wrong way but the challenge is whether you've experienced enough to hear the difference - sometimes there isn't one even though you're being asked to spend $2k...if you're not sure, then stick with what you have until you can identify what qualities you need in new gear...better than just throwing money at it

    in terms of website, you might want to check out http://www.gearslutz.com - it's a high end gear snob site but you can do some searches and i guarantee you you'll learn alot about some different mic/preamp combinations...

  7. #7

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    Yeah Monk, I agree with diaspora, try different things out to see what you like and most importantly need. If you have the motu828 I would just use the preamp in there..like I was saying in my other post I use my yamahaa 188x Audio I/O which I love the pre-amps in! Don't worry about what other artists use, worry about what sounds right for you in your environment!

    Compressors are great tool to use, but I tend not to use them while recording vocals unles necessary. That website I sent you has a guide on compression also.

    When I record Vocals the first thing I do is make sure the temperature is around 74 in the apt. Next have the vocalist take a quick pass of the song and monitor the levels...I take note of the softer and louder parts, then i have them run that part again...... for instance the part that spiked the levels while watching them sing. I then try to adjust the pop filter so that they are at a distance that keeps the levels pretty stable. If they are unexperienced singers/rappers then I move to compression, but very lightly just enough to raise the lower parts and level off the higher parts without lossing the dynamics of the performace. An experienced singer, knows to move slightly in his/her performace to accomodate for spikes/dips in levels!

    Another thing is make sure the vocalist wears headphones that do not bleed into the performnce. Create them a submix of the music to their liking! I had a vocalist that I recorded and all she liked was the drum and bass parts with slight reverb on her vocals while she was singing.

    All that said..it is trial and error...I went to audio enginrering school for 2 years and didn't really understand how to record vocals correctly until I made mistakes and also made things that sounded good ....keep notes of each!

    [ November 09, 2005, 04:33 PM: Message edited by: cross ]

  8. #8
    <bumpin> Guest

    Post

    Originally posted by diaspora:
    monk,

    ANY time you're actually hearing something while you're using a microphone means you've plugged it into a preamp...there is no scenario where you'll be using a microphone and an amp is not required...otherwise, you might as well be talking into a microphone that's unplugged: the output level of a mic is extremely low which is why an additional amplification stage is necessary to increase it to a level where your ears (and any recording device) can hear it...

    Does this also apply to an electret condensor mic?

    Not trying to be a d*ck

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    BK, NY
    Posts
    168

    Post

    nothing wrong with a question ;)

    it also applies to a condenser mic as it requires +48v power (phantom power) to work...without that charge, you'll get nothing audible and it's the preamp (or a console or other audio routing device that holds a preamp) that will supply this charge...

    [ November 09, 2005, 07:50 PM: Message edited by: diaspora ]

  10. #10
    <monk> Guest

    Post

    Originally posted by cross:
    Yeah Monk, I agree with diaspora, try different things out to see what you like and most importantly need. If you have the motu828 I would just use the preamp in there..like I was saying in my other post I use my yamahaa 188x Audio I/O which I love the pre-amps in! Don't worry about what other artists use, worry about what sounds right for you in your environment!

    Compressors are great tool to use, but I tend not to use them while recording vocals unles necessary. That website I sent you has a guide on compression also.

    When I record Vocals the first thing I do is make sure the temperature is around 74 in the apt. Next have the vocalist take a quick pass of the song and monitor the levels...I take note of the softer and louder parts, then i have them run that part again...... for instance the part that spiked the levels while watching them sing. I then try to adjust the pop filter so that they are at a distance that keeps the levels pretty stable. If they are unexperienced singers/rappers then I move to compression, but very lightly just enough to raise the lower parts and level off the higher parts without lossing the dynamics of the performace. An experienced singer, knows to move slightly in his/her performace to accomodate for spikes/dips in levels!

    Another thing is make sure the vocalist wears headphones that do not bleed into the performnce. Create them a submix of the music to their liking! I had a vocalist that I recorded and all she liked was the drum and bass parts with slight reverb on her vocals while she was singing.

    All that said..it is trial and error...I went to audio enginrering school for 2 years and didn't really understand how to record vocals correctly until I made mistakes and also made things that sounded good ....keep notes of each!
    I'm going to reconfigure my room and just eff around like you said. I need to just calm my a$$ down. I wanted to buy everything all at once and then just start working but I need to research a bit more and try some stuff out. Cannot thank you and diaspora enough for your help. I love this frickin site! I just discovered it and it's like totally helped me.

  11. #11

    Post

    No problem! When you get a chance..get registered on the site!
    And feel free to ask any questions.
    Ciao,
    Craig

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