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captshiznit
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#1
3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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The Great Preamp Circle Jerk

I've been involved in quite alot (However.... no direct experience face to face with all these preamps) but alot of reading and listening to audio clips and many many hours (days? weeks?) of reading threads of shootouts etc and I'm starting to think this whole preamp business is a bit of a farse. Do they have differences, yes they do. Just it justify the 2 grand price tag for a bit more colour....you be the judge.

I've seriously felt like killing myself reading about preamps. I need to go outside and get a hobby. Or maybe i'll go find that spare XLS cable and string myself up from my ceiling.

Then again what do I know i'm fairly new to the game still I must admit so maybe my ears lack the special talent required to hear these miraculous flavors

I've actually started to uncover more threads concerning preamp discussions like this and I was glad to find out i'm not alone.

Mics though, no question you can hear obvious differences. But spending 2 grand on a u87 when you can get a budget mic that can do a similar job well that's another discussion entirely.

And don't get me started on this stacking tracks bollocks! I just think technology/manufacturing these days has generally improved that even budget gear is kicking some serious ass in general.

Disclaimer: This is all my own opinion and it could all count for crapp all! so feel free to chime in.
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3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by captshiznit View Post
I've been involved in quite alot (However.... no direct experience face to face with all these preamps) but alot of reading and listening to audio clips and many many hours (days? weeks?) of reading threads of shootouts etc and I'm starting to think this whole preamp business is a bit of a farse. Do they have differences, yes they do. Just it justify the 2 grand price tag for a bit more colour....you be the judge.

I've seriously felt like killing myself reading about preamps. I need to go outside and get a hobby. Or maybe i'll go find that spare XLS cable and string myself up from my ceiling.

Then again what do I know i'm fairly new to the game still I must admit so maybe my ears lack the special talent required to hear these miraculous flavors

I've actually started to uncover more threads concerning preamp discussions like this and I was glad to find out i'm not alone.

Mics though, no question you can hear obvious differences. But spending 2 grand on a u87 when you can get a budget mic that can do a similar job well that's another discussion entirely.

And don't get me started on this stacking tracks bollocks! I just think technology/manufacturing these days has generally improved that even budget gear is kicking some serious ass in general.

Disclaimer: This is all my own opinion and it could all count for crapp all! so feel free to chime in.

I believe the hype...to a point. I'm not going to spend over $500 on a single channel, just can't afford/justify it.

And yeah my buddy got an el cheapo Tascam interface. I was expecting garbage results but the preamp/converters on that sounds nice...at least for podcasting which is what he bought it for.
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3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by captshiznit View Post
I've been involved in quite alot (However.... no direct experience face to face with all these preamps) but alot of reading and listening to audio clips and many many hours (days? weeks?) of reading threads of shootouts etc and I'm starting to think this whole preamp business is a bit of a farse. Do they have differences, yes they do. Just it justify the 2 grand price tag for a bit more colour....you be the judge.

I've seriously felt like killing myself reading about preamps. I need to go outside and get a hobby. Or maybe i'll go find that spare XLS cable and string myself up from my ceiling.

Then again what do I know i'm fairly new to the game still I must admit so maybe my ears lack the special talent required to hear these miraculous flavors

I've actually started to uncover more threads concerning preamp discussions like this and I was glad to find out i'm not alone.

Mics though, no question you can hear obvious differences. But spending 2 grand on a u87 when you can get a budget mic that can do a similar job well that's another discussion entirely.

And don't get me started on this stacking tracks bollocks! I just think technology/manufacturing these days has generally improved that even budget gear is kicking some serious ass in general.

Disclaimer: This is all my own opinion and it could all count for crapp all! so feel free to chime in.
You could read and listen to tests all day long and nothing is going to answer your questions better than the actual experience of repeatedly using cheap and not so cheap pres on your own recordings and forming your own opinion. A lot of people on GS have an agenda whether it be justifying cheap gear or expensive gear and quite honestly there's probably a fair amount of people here who don't have the experience to even hear the differences but they spout out opinions like they're experts.

Sure technology has come a long way and a great song arrangement and mix will sound great either way but that doesn't mean I'll be giving up my Api's any time soon.

I recently tracked bass through a Fern at a buddies studio and all I can say is holy crap.
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3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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Big difference when/if you start to stack channels (drums..).

If you are new to recording buy a standalone converter and preamp so you can upgrade later.

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#5
3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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I was questioning the whole preamp thing, until I upgraded a few years ago from a Presonus Firepod to my current Buzz Audio ARC.

http://www.buzzaudio.com/products/arc1.1.htm


O
M
G



This ARC is beyond (!)....and the compressor KICKS ASS!

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3rd March 2012
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A long time ago i did too untill i upgraded my behringer mixer and m audio converters to a sebatron pre and rosetta 200. Seriously night and day
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#7
3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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There's a lot of hype out there. You have to decide for yourself what inspires you and what does not, and pick your battles.

If keeping a decent $200 pre allows you to spend more on a quality acoustic guitar to replace a cheap plywood guitar, that will up your sound quality way more than keeping the junk guit and pushing it through a Great River.

Everything matters. It's just a question of degree. Engineering can lead to intense task-focus on personal-preference nuances at the expense of the bigger picture, like the pilot so concentrated on getting his target that he misses the voice prompt telling him his gas tank is empty.

I've been guilty of wasting time brooding over some tiny detail, before finally realizing that the average listener can't distinguish an MP3 from an AIFF. Get on with it. Make music. I know the engineer's gig is to be sound detail oriented, but there's a practical limit where it becomes a deal buster artistically.

I'd say pres are down the list a bit, sonically. Controlled and less-formal listening tests have strongly supported this, and no other conclusion. When other conclusive results emerge not based on anecdotal personal experience, I'll change my mind about the sonics.

But that said, I like nice stuff. It's reliable and consistent, sonically and mechanically, and well made stuff is a joy to use. Inexpensive stuff might sound almost as good, or even as good, but I think it makes sense to use the best you can afford. If you spend an extra $400 on quality and it saves a $600 session by not breaking down, that's good practices. At the end of the day, professionals use professional tools for a large variety of reasons.
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3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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captshiznit
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3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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I think one area I will agree they can make a difference is it seems upgrading from your standard interface pre's to an external one. But I mean where I was struggling to find 2k worth of difference is between some of great rivers and something like GAP Pre 73 or the FMR RNP.

In fact a few shootout threads I preffered the gap and other people did aswell over the GR.

When people know the results though opinions seem to change. That's what makes me skeptical! even my opinion did on a recent shootout thread. Got me thinking about actualy differences between say a GAP 73 vs a GR ME1nv is it actually worth the said price difference?

But if your interface pres are junk definitely outboard of some form is better from what i've read.
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3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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After I posted on this thread last night I saw a thread/poll discussing the ART Tube MP preamp ($30.00) vs. a Great River preamp that cost over $2,000. My favorite, without looking at the results, was the Great River but not by much.

What it comes down to is budget and how much sound quality really matters. All I can say is the band Drowning Pool got signed off this demo recording and the sonics aren't too great:

Drowning Pool-Bodies (Demo Version) - YouTube


Yes it's YouTube but I have this on CD somewhere and it doesn't sound much different. You know what I think sold that song to the record exec? Arrangement and passion. Two things that you cannot buy as a piece of gear. And what gets me the most YouTube hits and sometimes media attention isn't how good my audio sounds but the content of the videos. Although I try to make it sound the best I can with the money I have.
#11
4th March 2012
Old 4th March 2012
  #11
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Only you can decide what's important to you.

I love having a kickass preamp.

It makes my microphone, vocals, acoustic guitars, electric guitars and bass sound better, and mix better.

It helps my mixes with clarity and depth, controllable dynamics, and a more solid and detailed frequency spectrum.

I was having a lot more difficulty mixing with a cheaper preamp.

I use tons of tracks and effects, and all that layering and stacking gives you a different quality mix with a high end preamp.

There's no comparison.

But if you can't hear it, or you're not interested in hearing it, screw it.

Make music, and do whatever you want.

It's just a tool, albeit an important one for mix clarity, IMO.

I know for myself I have to work a lot harder to mix cheap preamps, and I definitely get inferior results.

.
#12
4th March 2012
Old 4th March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by captshiznit View Post
I've been involved in quite alot (However.... no direct experience face to face with all these preamps) but alot of reading and listening to audio clips and many many hours (days? weeks?) of reading threads of shootouts etc and I'm starting to think this whole preamp business is a bit of a farse. Do they have differences, yes they do. Just it justify the 2 grand price tag for a bit more colour....you be the judge.

I've seriously felt like killing myself reading about preamps. I need to go outside and get a hobby. Or maybe i'll go find that spare XLS cable and string myself up from my ceiling.

Then again what do I know i'm fairly new to the game still I must admit so maybe my ears lack the special talent required to hear these miraculous flavors

I've actually started to uncover more threads concerning preamp discussions like this and I was glad to find out i'm not alone.

Mics though, no question you can hear obvious differences. But spending 2 grand on a u87 when you can get a budget mic that can do a similar job well that's another discussion entirely.

And don't get me started on this stacking tracks bollocks! I just think technology/manufacturing these days has generally improved that even budget gear is kicking some serious ass in general.

Disclaimer: This is all my own opinion and it could all count for crapp all! so feel free to chime in.

a good mic pre will make or break the mix, it's so important for obvious reasons
#13
4th March 2012
Old 4th March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doom64 View Post

What it comes down to is budget and how much sound quality really matters. All I can say is the band Drowning Pool got signed off this demo recording and the sonics aren't too great:
yeah but the first thing they did after they got a deal is re-record it with good gear..........

makes a lot of sense

listen to the RATM demos from 1990 and then listen to their first record done on the Neve
listen to Pink Floyd the Wall demos then listen to the album...night and day. Same band, same songs different recording gear

Having the mentality that the gear doen't matter only hurts you and your music in the end
#14
4th March 2012
Old 4th March 2012
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Before you can comment you need to be a user and a participant. Otherwise you're just a new poster mouthing words.

The improvement chain always starts with the source in recording equipment. So that means buying better mics and better mic amps. Take your time to sit with the units and listen.
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#15
5th March 2012
Old 5th March 2012
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Greetings,

I'm one of those guys that makes boutique pre's that go anywhere from $2500 and up. I have no name recognition or branding yet I have to convince very successful people with good ears to fork over their hard earned cash.

To accomplish this, I have to begin with hospital grade parts for a power supply that can kick out 360 volts, 48 volts, 6.3 volts & 12 volts. The power supply costs $100 in parts alone but I've got to feed that tube the cleanest power possible.

Many of the audio products that you find at the local music run off wall warts. These are terribly noisy switching supplies that can be bought in bulk for a few dollars each. A pre is only as good as its power-I could show you this on a scope.

I've taken apart a few mid priced pre's to see what was inside and found myself horrified to discover just how cheap they actually were. Maybe $20 in parts and impossible to fix. Most modern pre's use metalized plastic parts that are only rated for 5000 uses. I use military grade switches that are rated for 250,000 uses. I put that kind of thought into each and every part.

All that stuff comes at a price. A machine in China using the cheapest parts possible can always beat me on price. I can beat them on quality if for no other reason than the fact that I use better parts.

Go play with a Shadow Hills or Fern or V72 you'll be amazed.
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#16
5th March 2012
Old 5th March 2012
  #16
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As someone mentioned above, preamp quality is more and more noticeable as the track count rises. Even with a single track, I think there's a wide range of quality between preamps that's very easy to perceive.
#17
6th March 2012
Old 6th March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robertshaw View Post
yeah but the first thing they did after they got a deal is re-record it with good gear..........

makes a lot of sense

listen to the RATM demos from 1990 and then listen to their first record done on the Neve
listen to Pink Floyd the Wall demos then listen to the album...night and day. Same band, same songs different recording gear

Having the mentality that the gear doen't matter only hurts you and your music in the end
I wouldn't be on a message board called gearslutz if I didn't think gear mattered. What I said is BUDGET supercedes sonic quality. If you get that record deal then hell yeah go ballz out with your SSL or Neve desk, your Studer tape machine and get your stuff mastered by Bob Ludwig.

But for the musician who is living paycheck to paycheck like most of us in the real world the preamp is gonna matter less than your instrument/guitar amp and cabinet or whatever gear you have. Replace your Fender Squire with an American Strat, $200 Ibanez bass with a Music Man Stingray or Sound Percussion drum kit with a DW or higher end Yamaha set before you drop $2,100 on a stinkin' preamp!!!

And for the last time replace your damn strings/drum heads and use an electronic tuner before you hit record!
#18
6th March 2012
Old 6th March 2012
  #18
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I dunno man.
I think people stress to much about preamps (of course you should get nice, high gain clean ones).

But if you ask the average listener (or guys in the bands you record) if a singer sounds good on mic a, with preamp b, verses mic b. and preamp a..

They usually tell me it sounds the same because the singer is the same guy and sang the same notes, and said the same words.

Just go easy on yourself, be rough on the source (singer/drummer) about them getting their sound/performance right.

Treat the mic selection as a filter choice (like picking a snappier mic on deader drum etc) and the preamp as just a sound transfer device.

Just remember people made records with the SAME preamp on every channel with the same couple of mics -forever, before all these new fangled choices and shit came along.

And there's still stuff that holds up sound wise -like Etta James "at last", and stuff that doesn't, like any early 80's pentagram recording.

Very little to do with the gear. more to do with the people working on it and source materials.
#19
6th March 2012
Old 6th March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
The improvement chain always starts with the source in recording equipment. So that means buying better mics ....
True words. In fact the most important place to spend money is where you have a transducer, ie something that crosses a physical domain, because it's hard to do. So mics (Air pressure to Volts) and loudspeakers (Volts to air pressure).

Once you have the best mics, then you start looking at preamps (tiny volts to larger volts). AD/DA is a form of domain change too. (Volts to bits to volts).
#20
6th March 2012
Old 6th March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sly Winkle View Post
I dunno man.
I think people stress to much about preamps (of course you should get nice, high gain clean ones).

But if you ask the average listener (or guys in the bands you record) if a singer sounds good on mic a, with preamp b, verses mic b. and preamp a..

They usually tell me it sounds the same because the singer is the same guy and sang the same notes, and said the same words.

Just go easy on yourself, be rough on the source (singer/drummer) about them getting their sound/performance right.

Treat the mic selection as a filter choice (like picking a snappier mic on deader drum etc) and the preamp as just a sound transfer device.

Just remember people made records with the SAME preamp on every channel with the same couple of mics -forever, before all these new fangled choices and shit came along.

And there's still stuff that holds up sound wise -like Etta James "at last", and stuff that doesn't, like any early 80's pentagram recording.

Very little to do with the gear. more to do with the people working on it and source materials.
I love gear, and I want to believe it all makes huge differences in the sound, but over 30+ years of using gear, I keep finding this ^^^ to be truth.

But then, sound quality is only one reason why I like nice stuff. If I have to get to a destination, I can go there in a Benz or a Kia. Both get me there just the same, but the Benz is a much more enjoyable ride if you've got the spare cash.
#21
6th March 2012
Old 6th March 2012
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Preamp frenzy doesn't bother me -- if it's recording veterans discussing it.

It's when noobs fight/fret/fuss over preamps (following the lead of the experienced ones) that I become disenchanted. I mean we're talking about people who barely know how to place the mic correctly fussing over preamps. WTF?!

"I own two mics, and four different preamps. Which preamp should I buy next..."
"Which preamp will make my 57 sound like an 87?"
#22
6th March 2012
Old 6th March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doom64 View Post
Replace your Fender Squire with an American Strat,
there is no difference beteen a squire and an American strat beside price, they sound virtually the same
on tape

Quote:
Originally Posted by doom64 View Post
$200 Ibanez bass with a Music Man Stingray
Ibanez is as good as music man, I think older ibanez sr series sounds better than any music man


Quote:
Originally Posted by doom64 View Post
or Sound Percussion drum kit with a DW or higher end Yamaha set before you drop $2,100
dw is overrated

Quote:
Originally Posted by doom64 View Post
And for the last time replace your damn strings/drum heads and use an electronic tuner before you hit record!
well yeah this is essential
#23
7th March 2012
Old 7th March 2012
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I'm in the camp with those who say you need real world experience to know what you like better. I use BA1073's, Wunder Peq-1's, and Chandler Germs + TG2's. They are in another league compared to the cheapo garbage preamps I used to have.
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#24
7th March 2012
Old 7th March 2012
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A lot of songwriter owner studios make do with just one high quality mic pre. The whole mix and match different "flavor" thing is fine if you have the budget but sometimes just one "golden" channel is all some folks need to do great stuff.

Of course you could go into an alligator death roll about which one to buy but at some point you have to jump off the "which gear to buy" train and just start using something!
#25
7th March 2012
Old 7th March 2012
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That's the great joy of only being able to afford one of anything. You get to sit there for days, convincing yourself that A is what you need, then slowly convince yourself that B is what you need, then C, then D, then E, then you work your way back around to A again and start over. You read people's reviews and ignore the bad ones, because you want to buy it, then you see someone reference one of the other ones, so you go read those reviews and ignore the bad ones because you want to buy it.

It's a great way to spend weeks.
#26
8th March 2012
Old 8th March 2012
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post
That's the great joy of only being able to afford one of anything. You get to sit there for days, convincing yourself that A is what you need, then slowly convince yourself that B is what you need, then C, then D, then E, then you work your way back around to A again and start over. You read people's reviews and ignore the bad ones, because you want to buy it, then you see someone reference one of the other ones, so you go read those reviews and ignore the bad ones because you want to buy it.

It's a great way to spend weeks.
This man speaks THE TRUTH. Man... right on the frickin' money.
#27
8th March 2012
Old 8th March 2012
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No, I cant endorse that the above is the truth. That's because those practitioners who actually know the sound they like in a mic amp can quickly eliminate the ones that do not provide it. In addition, usually a sound preference is tied to a design criterion like transformers or not or filled with op amps or not. Tubes or not??

Then you don't get sucked in to the trap mentioned above. Not an actual practitioner? Then all bets are off.
#28
8th March 2012
Old 8th March 2012
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Maybe you missed the part about only being able to afford one. Even if you are an actual practitioner, you are going to have some hesitation if you can only afford one of each thing to equip your studio with, because that's all you'll get to use, on everything. The 'sound you like' on one thing may not be the same as the sound you like on something else, but if you only have one, then that's the only sound you are going to be getting, and you can't just afford to sell it off and buy another if you decide you need to do otherwise.

Of course, this is a meaningless argument anyway, since no one who is a professional practitioner is going to be in a situation where he can only afford one of anything, other than things like consoles probably. We are talking about folks financing their purchases out of their pockets here, no write-off, no revenue generation probably. The very things that make something really appealing in one application probably make much less so on others, so you get pushed towards neutraility, but no one wants to be boring.

It can be a tough decision for someone who has given up a lot of other things to buy a nice piece of gear on a limited budget.
#29
8th March 2012
Old 8th March 2012
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Yet at the same time, some rank amateurs posting here are giving reasons why the reject all advice since it really doesn't matter what preamp you use (they say.)

Those without a reference point and those who do not know what they like (because they aren't
practitioners ) are doomed.

I would tell them to buy 4 channels of Hardy M-1 or a BG No. 1. Then they have purchased a vetted and endorsed mic amp. With this purchase they eliminate second guessing. But I don't get along with amateurs sometimes precisely because they don't know who to take advice from.
#30
8th March 2012
Old 8th March 2012
  #30
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Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jules View Post
A lot of songwriter owner studios make do with just one high quality mic pre. The whole mix and match different "flavor" thing is fine if you have the budget but sometimes just one "golden" channel is all some folks need to do great stuff.

Of course you could go into an alligator death roll about which one to buy but at some point you have to jump off the "which gear to buy" train and just start using something!
.

This ^^^^^

.
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100yearpicnic / So much gear, so little time!
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