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Are preamps (that) important to record synths ?
Old 15th August 2016
  #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BTByrd View Post
Honestly, a good drive pedal -- or a Moogerfooger basically bypassed but with the input drive stage engaged -- is a much better choice for adding tone than a high-end preamp. Or a Chandler Boost pedal. Or a Sherman. Or a Geiger Counter. Or a million other things than a F-ing Class A preamp that costs a million dollars for a 2% increase in tone.

I don't know what the OP has, but I'm basically certain that they'd be better off buying $3K in pedals, Eventide, or new synths than buying high-end preamps.
This advice is spot-on. I now skip my Rooster to concentrate on more filters and stomp boxes for more powerful sound creation. Rooster sounds great but a moog MF101 or Waldorf 2 pole can cover so much more ground for way less.
Old 15th August 2016
  #32
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EofN's Avatar
If you look at the circuit diagram of the synthesizer, you will see that there is a preamp circuit built in, right before the output jack!
Old 15th August 2016
  #33
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Gringo Starr's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quantum7 View Post
I would have never thought of recording a synth through a preamp,
Back in the analog days of recording when you made an album in a studio with a board didn't everything run through a preamp?

I agree that it's best to get the sound you want right out of the synth. But a good preamp would be nice to have for other reasons as well.

I've never used one of these but I've heard from many electronic musicians that using an API EQ with synths and electronic music in general is a match made in heaven. Maybe a quality EQ would be more important than a preamp. Just an idea.
Old 15th August 2016
  #34
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Praxisaxis's Avatar
 

There are certainly much cheaper ways to add non-linearity.
Old 15th August 2016
  #35
SEED78
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gringo Starr View Post
Back in the analog days of recording when you made an album in a studio with a board didn't everything run through a preamp?
this is it - vintage 80s/90s recording and mixing would be through a large variety of transformers etc etc that coloured the sound. Before the Mackie era of home productions it was mainly large studios, large consoles with a LOT going on in the signal chains you don't get now in home productions.

personally I like the colour preamps add, when appropriate.
Old 15th August 2016
  #36
Quote:
Originally Posted by SEED78 View Post
this is it - vintage 80s/90s recording and mixing would be through a large variety of transformers etc etc that coloured the sound.
Almost everything was DI'ed. Although it then fed into a console mic/pre the goal was usually a clean transparent sound. With analog studios - character synths, plus tape etc, there was enough going on without needing to additionally colour the keyboards. When digital came in, everyone loved the crisp, clean sound.
One might mic an organ (Leslie cabinet) or Fender Rhodes (Suitcase or Roland Jazz Chorus) for more grit etc, but in synthesis people were generally looking for a clean recording.
Old 15th August 2016
  #37
WDM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EofN View Post
If you look at the circuit diagram of the synthesizer, you will see that there is a preamp circuit built in, right before the output jack!
I think there is huge misunderstanding about preamps in general here.

The preamp you're talking about costs probably $20 dollars, the preamps that are installed in cheap audio interface would cost probably $50 at most.

The preamp I was talking about costs almost a grand on its own, and some are more expensive that the whole synth. Those preamps schematics were literally taken out of expensive consoles that only big studios could afford in the past.
Those preamps are transformer based. Why they are so expensive?
Because those were designed with the main purpose to make every crap you feeding in recording console should sound good and suitable for the recording, and the price was not an issue. And indeed they made this job done.

There is no completely transparent thing in this world, so each preamp has its own "color". But this is not literally the same color that ppl got out of their fuzz boxes or other pedals, or effects. That's completely different story and a completely different "color".
Old 15th August 2016
  #38
Deleted 80b9b09
Guest
I use the Moogerfooger drive trick, along with a whole host of pedals. Gives nice grit.

Plug-ins like Slate VTM are also invaluable at colouring the sound. I much prefer capturing the pure essence then messing around with it afterwards, but I guess you've got to work out what works best for you.
Old 15th August 2016
  #39
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What about using the class A pres of such interfaces like Orion studio or UAD ? Not sure that would make any difference though as they are specifically made to be fairly neutral.

Unless for adding color I guess taking a line level synth signal down to low impedance mic level and then bring it up again with a pre is kinda useless and also may potentially be another source of noise, no ?
Old 15th August 2016
  #40
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BTByrd's Avatar
I'm confused. Your signature says that you have a Thermionic Culture Rooster for sale, yet your original post was asking whether or not it would be worth it to invest in a Rooster (or something like it) to track synths through? What's the deal? Do you just not own any synths to try with your Rooster? Or have you just not had the time to try out your own gear (that you're about to sell)? Or maybe you're trying to drum up interest for your classified sale?
Old 15th August 2016
  #41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BTByrd View Post
I'm confused.
Taking out to sell a bunch of stuff from a collectively-held studio. I have never tracked with The Rooster personally.

Did not want to make this thread for comercial purposes, Gearslutz puts the ad automatically.

Last edited by Octave Octavio; 15th August 2016 at 05:36 PM..
Old 15th August 2016
  #42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SEED78 View Post
With a decent preamp you really notice the added tone once everything is stacked up in the mix. Everything just jels together more. Adds a lot, I wouldn't be without them.

There are likely plug ins that can get you in the same ballpark, but tracking synths with preamps means you don't need them, and the processing power they use up.
I totally agree here and this has been my experience as well. Once you start stacking your tracks with the same pre you start hearing that preamp's tone.

I love running synths through pre-amps. Especially softsynths, to take that digital edge off. IMO a good class A tube pre-amp will give you great results. Some of my tracking options include a 500 series lunchbox with some Lindell pre's and Pultec style EQ's and a couple of DBX 560A compressors. My Apollo Quad interface uses Unison Technology that allows you to use it's built in UA pre to track in real time with software emulations from the likes of Manely, PAI, Neve and UA. I also like running softsynths through my vintage Soundcraft Series 500 console for it's British EQ and Pre.

Tracking with preamps is all about taste. It's also a lot of extra work, way more time consuming. I have used pre's where I couldn't tell a difference in sound at all and others where it made a huge difference. And then there is tracking a synth bass, which IMO you should never do without. I have had the opportunity to use a Thermonic Culture Rooster before and really dug it's sound and options. Of course the EQ made a huge difference, and tracking with EQ... well that's another thread in itself. A lot of great opinions on this thread all worthy of taking in.
Old 15th August 2016
  #43
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Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts/experiences.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Popbott View Post
Of course the EQ made a huge difference, and tracking with EQ... well that's another thread in itself. A lot of great opinions on this thread all worthy of taking in.
That's what I thought too... personally i'd rather EQ post-recording.
I guess the Culture Vulture would be a more useful piece of gear to add tube warmth and harmonic distortion to a synth/drum machine.
Old 15th August 2016
  #44
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BTByrd's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Octave Octavio View Post
Taking out to sell a bunch of stuff from a collectively-held studio. I have never tracked with The Rooster personally.

Did not want to make this thread for comercial purposes, Gearslutz puts the ad automatically.
That makes sense! Apologies for suggesting that your post might be motivated by commercial concerns.

Anyway, if all you want to do is add harmonic distortion, something like the Culture Vulture is a much better choice than a Rooster because it offers much more control over the amount of distortion present and can "go to 11" when you're looking for an over the top distortion effect rather than subtle warming. It also doesn't have a bunch of circuits you don't need or aren't interested in (like preamps or EQs).
Old 15th August 2016
  #45
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EofN's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by WDM View Post
I think there is huge misunderstanding about preamps in general here.
Well it's not really a misunderstanding, it's just that a preamp can be used as two different things.

1 - Amplify a signal

2 - Distort a signal

Synthesizers do not usually need to be amplified because they are already at line level, so most people are going to record them directly and transparently.

I observed that the people who use the preamp to change the sound, are also using EQ and compression to change the sound too.

I wonder if they could tell the difference between a recording made with or without the preamp in the chain, if so much coloring is done by the EQ and compressor. Personally, I doubt it.
Old 15th August 2016
  #46
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Gringo Starr's Avatar
 

Your average listener couldn't listen to a song and tell the difference between a Blofeld or a Jupiter 6 either. It's just us geeks.

For me it comes down to one thing. The sounds I'm hearing are pulling out ideas. If running a synth through a mic-pre gives you that something extra that makes your hairs stand up then I'd say it falls into the "important" category.
Old 15th August 2016
  #47
Gear Addict
 

Something to consider too is how an outboard preamp might play in the creative workflow.

I personally write music in a semi-improvisional manner, trying to make most of the instant (meditation helps) and I think I would find myself being distracted if I had to spend more time re-doing gain-staging/EQing for each patch/sequence etc.
Old 15th August 2016
  #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BTByrd View Post
That makes sense! Apologies for suggesting that your post might be motivated by commercial concerns.
.
Don't worry about it, I too find a bit weird and inappropriate that GS would just put on my ad like that.
Old 15th August 2016
  #49
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Something worth considering too is how an outboard preamp might play in the creative workflow here.

I personally write music in a semi-improvisional manner (meditation helps a lot), trying to make most of the instant and I think I would find myself being distracted if I had to spend more time re-doing gain-staging/EQing for each patch/sequence etc.
Old 15th August 2016
  #50
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Since I don't have a dedicated connection system set up for my Korg, I use a Pacifica mainly because it's more convenient to just plug into the two DI inputs on the front panel than to crawl behind my workstation to run lines into the Apollo. Plus the Pacifica gives me some flexibility on input gain. But a pre amp isn't really needed.

Last edited by mbvoxx; 10th September 2016 at 12:23 AM..
Old 15th August 2016
  #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EofN View Post
Well it's not really a misunderstanding, it's just that a preamp can be used as two different things.

1 - Amplify a signal

2 - Distort a signal

Synthesizers do not usually need to be amplified because they are already at line level, so most people are going to record them directly and transparently.

I observed that the people who use the preamp to change the sound, are also using EQ and compression to change the sound too.

I wonder if they could tell the difference between a recording made with or without the preamp in the chain, if so much coloring is done by the EQ and compressor. Personally, I doubt it.
Right, but the design of a preamp means that distortion it offers is absolutely **** and unusable. Distortion isn't inherently pleasing, designs that make it pleasing are where its often used, and a preamp isn't meant to saturate or introduce colorful harmonics. They're meant to boost a signal as cleanly as possible. The design that makes a preamp boost cleanly also means it is meant to not be colorful.

Call me a plebian, but I have heard a few $$$$$ preamps (tube, transformer i/o) overdriven and there was little tonally from overdriving the preamp on an audio interface or even in a DAW. The transformers added a bit of tone, but as I said earlier you can buy them seaparately and wire into a chain for $50. I can think of a number of overdrive, distortion and saturation circuits that could also boost a signal but also sound decent and save tons of hassle.
Old 15th August 2016
  #52
I have a feeling that there is a gross misunderstanding of audio and gain-staging in this thread.

If this doesn't apply to you, no worries.

If this does:

1. Most keyboards operate at line level (with some exceptions, mostly with electro-mechanical keyboards and modular).

2. A preamp exists for the sole purpose of raising microphone level to line level. Misuse of a preamp may or may not introduce pleasing distortion characteristics.

3. A DI box takes a line level source and lowers it down to mic level.

4. To properly use a mic pre with a synth, EVEN if it is for adding "vibe", you must use a di before going to the pre. Otherwise, any distortion will be caused partially by the synth's amps, and not the pre itself.

5. Line level source into DI into a pre is one of only 2 correct ways to do it. The other proper way is line into line. You may think otherwise. You are wrong.

6. Since the outboard amplification stage is presumably better spec than the crap used in most synths, the audio quality will almost always be better, at least on paper. Keep your leads as short as possible, and make sure the DI is feeding the pre at an acceptable operating level (usually around 3 o'clock on most synth volume knobs).

7. All outboard pres are not equal. Usually it's smarter to go line in than use the crap pres in a budget or mid-level interface.

8. Impedance is a real thing. With mics and with synths, not all high end pres will sound amazeballs with your source. A great cheap pre with switchable impedance is the Focusrite ISA series. Works very well because of this feature.

9. After the migraines and paranoia wear off, stop worrying about inconsequential questions like, "should I use a mic pre on a line level source?". Realize that the converters you use are crap, and that plugging a manley into an mbox will only get you so far when you are monitoring on KRKs in a basement with 6 foot ceilings. Put that $2000 you just saved into some strong cannabis, and take your significant other out to eat. Buy her a balloon. Chicks dig balloons.
Old 15th August 2016
  #53
Deleted 8456dd3
Guest
Yeah i think having a few choice preamps is worthwhile, if your after tone shaping then a preamp with transformers and output attenuator makes all the difference. Most of my pre's have line inputs and i run into those.
Some transformers can really add some heft to the signal, others can sweeten the sound. Its not night and day, but with a decent preamp you definitely notice a difference.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Octave Octavio View Post
Quick call for opinions.

Would it be sonically worth it to invest in a preamp (such as Thermionic Culture Rooster for instance) to record both analog synthetizers and drum machines (passing through a DI) ? Would it really make a difference in a track ?

Could a gentle soul take the time to do a side-by-side comparison (or even a blind test) to compare the same sequencing recorded with the same instrument with, for instance
(1) DI box and a good outboard preamp (solid state and/or tube)
(2) DI box and the pres integrated within a sound interface (class A or class B)
(3) DI box and nothing else
(4) straight into the converters

Thanks everybody for sharing your thoughts/experiences.

Last edited by Deleted 8456dd3; 15th August 2016 at 10:10 PM..
Old 15th August 2016
  #54
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted 8456dd3 View Post
I cant help but wonder.. .
Enough of this already. Like I said, it's not technically mine, I have never tracked with it and don't have a regular access to it. It was put to sale locally before the making of this thread and it got me wonder the use for pres to record synths/drum machine.
Old 15th August 2016
  #55
my 4 preamps are clones of the same neve...I run everything through them, even software. To me its like running everything through the same desk, they can be driven to add distortion and the EQs are noisy and add their own flavour or none if bypassed...all part of the rich fabric of home recording for yourself to listen to. lol
Old 15th August 2016
  #56
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Gringo Starr's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DomiBabi View Post
I have a feeling that there is a gross misunderstanding of audio and gain-staging in this thread.

If this doesn't apply to you, no worries.

If this does:

1. Most keyboards operate at line level (with some exceptions, mostly with electro-mechanical keyboards and modular).

2. A preamp exists for the sole purpose of raising microphone level to line level. Misuse of a preamp may or may not introduce pleasing distortion characteristics.

3. A DI box takes a line level source and lowers it down to mic level.

4. To properly use a mic pre with a synth, EVEN if it is for adding "vibe", you must use a di before going to the pre. Otherwise, any distortion will be caused partially by the synth's amps, and not the pre itself.

5. Line level source into DI into a pre is one of only 2 correct ways to do it. The other proper way is line into line. You may think otherwise. You are wrong.

6. Since the outboard amplification stage is presumably better spec than the crap used in most synths, the audio quality will almost always be better, at least on paper. Keep your leads as short as possible, and make sure the DI is feeding the pre at an acceptable operating level (usually around 3 o'clock on most synth volume knobs).

7. All outboard pres are not equal. Usually it's smarter to go line in than use the crap pres in a budget or mid-level interface.

8. Impedance is a real thing. With mics and with synths, not all high end pres will sound amazeballs with your source. A great cheap pre with switchable impedance is the Focusrite ISA series. Works very well because of this feature.

9. After the migraines and paranoia wear off, stop worrying about inconsequential questions like, "should I use a mic pre on a line level source?". Realize that the converters you use are crap, and that plugging a manley into an mbox will only get you so far when you are monitoring on KRKs in a basement with 6 foot ceilings. Put that $2000 you just saved into some strong cannabis, and take your significant other out to eat. Buy her a balloon. Chicks dig balloons.
Thanks for that! Seriously a helpful post to many of us Im sure.
Old 15th August 2016
  #57
WDM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EofN View Post

Synthesizers do not usually need to be amplified because they are already at line level, so most people are going to record them directly and transparently.

I observed that the people who use the preamp to change the sound, are also using EQ and compression to change the sound too.

I wonder if they could tell the difference between a recording made with or without the preamp in the chain, if so much coloring is done by the EQ and compressor. Personally, I doubt it.
As we all know, the line level comes in two different flavors: -10bBV and +4dBu which corresponds to peak amplitude ~0.45 Volts versus ~1.74 Volts. (1.3 Volts difference btw).

If we add to the picture balanced ins/outs versus unbalanced ins/outs, etc. that it would be clear why DI boxes still exist after all and why we need them.

It's perfectly fine to connect your synth directly to your audio interface and record it straight to your DAW of choice. At the end, the signal degradation could be also considered as a creative approach, right along with a signal distortion. It's nothing new about it either, it's how "bit crusher" plugin operates basically.

Then, we're listening commercial records with the same synths that tracked in the same DAW and we're asking the same question... "Wow, How do they do that?"
Old 16th August 2016
  #58
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grumphh's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DomiBabi View Post

6. Since the outboard amplification stage is presumably better spec than the crap used in most synths, the audio quality will almost always be better, at least on paper.
This is what i don't understand.

We have this synth which runs its output through a cheap preamp (synth designers who cheaped out will be up against the wall right after the revolution is over, i promise), resulting in "lower audio quality" - and now we take this "lower audio quality" from the synths cheap preamp and amplify it through a fantastic handbuilt preamp that preserves the integrity of any signal that is sent through it?

So we are amplifying a lower quality sound faithfully...
This gets us better audio quality how?

Magic?
Old 16th August 2016
  #59
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i much prefer going directly with my synths into my converters rather than thru my vintage preamps. I also see no reason to run them thru my tube compressors for "warmth"…my synths are warm already. I purchased certain synths for that very reason.

If you're looking for FX to color the sound, there's a zillion different ways to do that without preamps. That makes as much sense as buying a vintage stove to change the flavor of your food when you could just experiment with different types of spices..
Old 16th August 2016
  #60
Quote:
Originally Posted by 3rdpath View Post
i much prefer going directly with my synths into my converters rather than thru my vintage preamps. I also see no reason to run them thru my tube compressors for "warmth"…my synths are warm already. I purchased certain synths for that very reason.

If you're looking for FX to color the sound, there's a zillion different ways to do that without preamps. That makes as much sense as buying a vintage stove to change the flavor of your food when you could just experiment with different types of spices..

Yup... It's like the folks here enjoy spending their money in the least efficient way possible.

Option 1 - spend 2 grand on a preamp and a nice DI for Maybe 10% "mo betta".

Option 2 - spend half of that and get a vast variety of subtle and extreme tones.

Obviously option one because, you know... gearslutz.
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