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  • @quork  Feb 22

    Anybody have advice about the value of external preamps for recording demos? I’m thinking of something like a UA 610 to add colour to my vocals.

  • @toms  Feb 22

    I have and use the first version of the,LA 610, and if you can afford something like these, yeah. Absolutely.

  • @quork  Feb 22

    @toms You have a great vocal sound. Did you record with the 610? Do you use it for other instruments?

  • @bootlegger Feb 22

    External preamps can be really nice. I use a focusrite isa one. It's pretty nice. Has good tonal variety. Daking make good pres. The 610 is nice. I love api pres. If I had the money I'd have an api channel strip. The pres built into most interfaces are serviceable though. I don't think it's necessarily needed to get external gear but it definitely will make a difference in sound.

  • @standup  Feb 22

    It’s a rabbit hole. Over the years I have picked up a mic pre here and a mic pre there. They’re not cheap. They help things sound big, larger than life (the really good ones). But you can also record with merely OK mic pre’s and get decent results.

    I did a song this year with a beat up dynamic mic and the mic pre’s in my audio interface, and guess what, it sounded OK and it sounded like me.

  • @torniojaws  Feb 22

    A lot of the color can be also accomplished with good plugins (which are cheaper than good preamps) when your interface preamp is good and clean.

  • @toms  Feb 22

    @quork yes, pretty much everything. Using an sm 57 much of the time for guitars and a Rode NTK for vocals.

  • @jacobeverettwallace  Feb 22

    I have a pair of Warm Audio TB-12 preamps and they’re amazing. I recommend at least one good preamp in your arsenal, especially for vocals. You can make a cheap mic sound good with a good preamp. I use my TB-12’s for pretty much everything. It can be a rabbit hole as a previous poster mentioned but I also think they’re worth having for quality audio to work with. I’m no audiophile but things just sound better through preamps IMO.

  • @dasbinky  Feb 22

    I'm really happy with the preamps in my focusrite interface, so I've been able to get by without additional preamps. Plug-ins (almost always Nectar) fill in the rest.

  • @petemurphy  Feb 22

    I use a Focusrite ISA One. It's always worked well for me. Loads of gain, built in DI, it's a nice preamp.

    I bought the version with the digital card. The first one I had, the card didn't work so I had to send it back. The replacement card lasted a few months before dying, so I gave up on the digital side of things and just use it as an analogue pre.

  • @themiller  Feb 22

    Order of things that make a difference are approximately...

    Room Treatment
    Microphone Technique

    Preamp will add colour, but it is also bottom of the list. For people on here who have the song and the performer fixed, you might attend to issues like room treatment first. If your room sounds awful, then a great preamp will only help to capture it more accurately.

  • @quork  Feb 22

    Thanks for all of your thoughts. Re. room treatment, my studio is in a tiny room that is a multi purpose room. I’ve been trying to avoid treatment.

  • @mikeb Feb 22

    @themiller has it correct - room treatment is at the top of the list, not the bottom. Without it, you are not even hearing accurately what you have already recorded. the smaller the room, the more you need treatment. And not 'acoustic foam', either. 4" thick (minimum ) rockwool or compressed fiberglass for full frequency trapping (corners, back wall, front wall). 2" thick for flutter echo issues on side walls and ceiling cloud.
    You can build your own, or buy them pre-made. Best investment you can make for a home recording room. Hang the traps with hook-and-eyes so you can take them down, and use them as movable gobos when recording.

  • @standup  Feb 23

    @themiller I’d personally put the instrument above “room treatment”, but I get what you’re saying. A $50 violin in a treated room will not sound better than a $50,000 violin in an untreated room. I don’t think. Most of the time.

  • @bootlegger Feb 23

    I don't really want to get in an argument and how a room sounds is important. But not every room needs treatment necessarily. There are plenty of well recorded. Commercially successful songs done in regular houses and apartments and bedrooms and hotel rooms even. I would say the performer and instrument are number one.

  • @saulius Mar 1

    I had many over the years. Sometimes I miss my Joe Meek for it's radical tone. I still have a Grace M101 that I used a lot, but now plan to sell. Last year, I upgraded to a UA Apollo Twin, and now I need nothing else. My default is the UA610 plugin which, in the Apollo's Unison mode, duplicates the behavior of the internal electronics of the device. It sounds perfect to my ears. I have the Neve 1073 as well, but I use that sparingly and only as a regular plug-in.

    There's just so much that I can do with the Apollo that I don't see any reason to go back to physical hardware. You reach a point of diminishing returns for any marginal improvement, and the flexibility is incomparable. One more point - the Apollo Twin is roughly the same price as a single UA-610.

  • @ustaknow Mar 2

    This is an interesting thread.

    I am a minimalist, unless there's real effect. I agree with the minimalist comments, as I would. However, I have a room one can't walk into full of a lotta krappe 😀 that used to get me to the Table, to do work. So, that's the balance for me. Do, what motivates!

    If I really need "motivation", inspiration, - I don't/can't take "lessons", so if I drop a few hundred on a new Cymbal, it's actually cost affective since can drop $50 - 150 on a worthy "mentor" or class, workshop of questionable benefit. A new Cymbal gets me behind the kit?! So, with that as a framing...:

    "... A pre amp is to bring up to line level if needed, like for a Mic + ~ 40dB +- (necessary function).

    At "this" level of "music" ?, "demo", a really really really great audio interface may be the better choice of money, time use, Mic or cabling (noise induction elimination).

    What Mics do you use, what's your signal chain now - end-to-end? Do you make sure you sing the pitch you aim for with vocal dynamics? For acoustic instrumentation, mic placement does what? When someone listens to your Track on their muddy Boss in ear bud "head-phone" ? from their who-knows-cell-circuits phone, will it matter?

    My 1965 Ford Truck 6 inch AM Radio speaker makes everything sound great! So, it may not matter 😀 ... "

    Way, back in College, when I managed a "Stereo Store" (remember those?) 😝 I'd bring folks into the Speak Room and sold them what they could -- hear. Some bought Studio Monitors, some, book-shelf speakers housed in press-board 😀

  • @itoarazi Mar 2

    I echo what @bootlegger said. Countless albums have been recorded in average, everyday homes and such, and it IS about the artist. Treasure/trash in, treasure/trash out, mostly.

  • @guatecoop  Mar 2

    I think that interface preamps are totally good. I do agree that the instrument and playing are the most important, but that aside, I close mic most everything, so the room treatment is somewhat cancelled out. That being said, I can also use the wrong mic for the source. Now to preamps....I cannot agree that the quality of the sound is the same with different preamps. The preamps being the only variable do change the recording. I can’t say that one factor is more important, aside from the source, but preamps do make a clear difference.

  • @quork  Mar 2

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, all, much appreciated (and varied). My existing setup definitely does the job for me. Lots to think about.

  • @dragondreams  Mar 2

    The electronics engineer in me is screaming that if a preamp colours the sound, it is no longer a preamp but an effects unit. 😉

  • @tseaver  Mar 3

    @dragondreams Yup. The thing is that some of them do "majyk" for certain kinds of sounds (e.g, rock amp -> SM 57 -> 1073 preamp -> 1176 compressor) that you can actually hear if you get access to the "raw" versions (recorded via splits, or whatever).

    The killer difference from applying the same effects later as plugins is that the coloration can be fed back to the performer, which can make for a better performance. I know that hearing my colored / compressed vocal in the cans has helped me sing better, the few times I've had the chance.

  • @guatecoop  Mar 4

    @dragondreams i kind of agree with you. Most preamps in interfaces are transparent and then you tweak them however you want. I learned something about preamps myself when I modified a Shure m67 and used it. The sound was so cool right away. It was different. It’s the input transformers that give a cool vintage sound (I think). Then last year I did a song with a Warm Audio wa412 and didn’t use any eq and loved the result then. Some preamps get you closer to what you want more quickly. You prob could use a transformer color box or lots of plugins, but some preamps just get you there closer to what you want faster. There’s my two cents....

  • @standup  Mar 4

    Preamps do sound different. There is no standard "flat" preamp, or somebody would make then for $10/channel and we would buy them and that would be that.

    I have a preamp from the company AEA that was designed for ribbon mics, which have different impedence requirements from other mics. Ribbon mics sound better through the AEA pre. Other dynamic mics have noticeably more depth and detail. Condenser mics sound kinda the same through AEA as through most other things.

  • @boyatheart  Mar 4

    Having been on a very restricted budget for a number of years I have not owned any mic preamps other than the standard ones in my audio interface (which is currently a Behringer unit).
    I used high-end stuff for years and now I feel no need for an expensive mic preamp, even though I totally understand the appeal of having one.

    Any money I do get to spend on gear I prefer to spend on guitar-stuff these days. I would like a better microphone for vocals, although I really don't need one, having got by with the cheap ones I have now.

    I have 3 rockwool panels mounted on my walls to help cut down on reflections and that helps greatly.

  • @quork  Mar 4

    @standup and others, I’m interested to hear your thoughts about condenser mic’s and preamps. My main mic’s are an AKG C535 EB and a Rode NT 1A, both large diaphragm condenser mics. I’m definitely interested in warmth/colour.

  • @standup  Mar 4

    @quork I'm going to go back to the room treatment idea -- a good preamp will amplify the environment you're recording in, and make it more obvious. If you can't treat the space, you might get bigger impact from experimenting with distance from the mic and the position of the mic in the room, to minimize the sound of the room.

    I record in a pretty dead space with lots of treatment. When I had to do a vocal in an untreated room in our house last summer, it sounded awful. Because normally I can be 1 1/2 feet from the mic and get a good sound. But not in the room I was in that one time. Moving right up on top of the mic helped a lot, because then you hear SO MUCH of the vocal that the sound of the room is less significant.

    I haven't used a UA 610, but I know a lot of people like them, and they are pretty heavily colored.

    Edited to add: Condenser mics like the 535 (I used to have one) and the Rode are somewhat less impacted by the sound of the preamp. They're somewhat more impervious to the character of the preamp than dynamic mics because of the electronics in those mics.

  • @eargoggle  Mar 4

    I got a 610 a few years ago and it's made a huge difference. I use it on everything- my vocals especially but when I mic a snare or a guitar it goes through that too. As others have pointed out it's not a neutral sound, it definitely imparts its own character, but to my ear it makes everything sound much "warmer" and "fatter", especially with the gain cranked up for more 'tube' sound. I have A/B'd things to hear with and without and I prefer it with, definitely worth the $600 or whatever I paid for it. I love API's and would love to get my hands on some of that gear but it's pretty expensive...anyway, my opinion is that a good mic pre like the 610 can indeed make a big difference (as can all the other things people have mentioned here). @tseaver makes a good point that it makes a big difference hearing the affected sound while you're performing/recording instead of just adding it later in the mix, especially for vocals, at least with me.

  • @tseaver  Mar 4

    @standup I've found that the Simply Sound phantom-powered preamp is awesome for recording my voice with an SM-57: it adds enough clean gain that I don't have to crank my interface preamps up to the non-linear / scratchy top of the pot. Like others it competes with (CloudLifter, Fethead) I think they would be great in front of a ribbon mic as well, but don't have one to test with ATM.

  • @dragondreams  Mar 4

    @guatecoop @tseaver - I know. 😉
    I didn't say it was a bad thing. It's just my purist streak says that the job of a pre-amp should be to boost the original signal faithfully. The fact that they don't is fine and I accept that. But in my head I will always think of them as effects. 😂😎

  • @saulius Mar 5

    @quork I think your current set up is good, and you sound great. Your NTK is a high quality warm tube mic, with a pretty strong and pleasing proximity effect, so I don't know how much more warmth and/or low end you would really need. The other thing the UA610 excels at is as a bass DI, so that could be an additional reason to get it. Other than that, I think it would be diminishing returns IMO.

  • @quork  Mar 5

    @saulius, I appreciate the listens and comments. A couple of things to add. The Rode NT 1A is a large condenser, a seriously poor cousin, if a pretty good cheap mic. I lean pretty heavily on PSP’s MicroWarmer tape saturation plug-in for colour. It does a pretty good job for demos, which to be honest is all I will really do.

  • @quork  Jun 1

    I ended up getting the ART Pro MPA ii dual preamp. Cheap, and it scored high in Sound on Sound’s blind test. I like that I can dial a n as much tube effect as I want.

    Here’s a song I recorded through it the first night, guitar, vocals and mouth harp, with digital eq, compression and reverb added after. To me it sounds great on the vocals and harp, and the arch top, finger strummed guitar sounds a little low end heavy even after eq’ing. Lots of fun.

  • @metalfoot  Jun 4

    @quork Sounds good to me! Sounds like a recording studio result to me.

  • @quork  Jun 4

    @metalfoot You sweet talker. I appreciate the listen and the comment.

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