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Using PreAmps for Electronic Instruments - Overrated?
Old 3 days ago
  #121
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derp View Post
I'm probably going to get blasted for my musical tastes, but I like this.



Bass that's raw and loud.
Funny you post this. I am very well connected with some of the top death metal producers and engineers as they have been friends of mine for years and have recorded me as well.

They have no one way of tracking bass but many, many times it is direct. What you are hearing is a lot of distortion after the fact. One advantage of amps is they don't sound fizzy when you add fuzz. This is of course due to the natural roll off of the speakers. This is easily simulated ITB though with HPF and LPF rolloffs.

So bass tones are engineered on a case by case basis for these bands. That said, there is no better between DI or amp (or both blended). There only is what works for that record.

One of my favorites was a warwick into an 1176 straight into the console. I forget the record, but what a sound. It was loaded with nice low mids and sat on top of the kick and punched through the guitars.

A big decision made is if the bass is going to scoop around the guitars (lots of 2kish presence) or punch under them (usually in the 150-250 range). This is usually easy to tell when you hear the band's pre-production and what tone the bass player prefers.
Old 3 days ago
  #122
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Methlab View Post
Funny you post this. I am very well connected with some of the top death metal producers and engineers as they have been friends of mine for years and have recorded me as well.

They have no one way of tracking bass but many, many times it is direct. What you are hearing is a lot of distortion after the fact. One advantage of amps is they don't sound fizzy when you add fuzz. This is of course due to the natural roll off of the speakers. This is easily simulated ITB though with HPF and LPF rolloffs.

So bass tones are engineered on a case by case basis for these bands. That said, there is no better between DI or amp (or both blended). There only is what works for that record.

One of my favorites was a warwick into an 1176 straight into the console. I forget the record, but what a sound. It was loaded with nice low mids and sat on top of the kick and punched through the guitars.

A big decision made is if the bass is going to scoop around the guitars (lots of 2kish presence) or punch under them (usually in the 150-250 range). This is usually easy to tell when you hear the band's pre-production and what tone the bass player prefers.
Very cool. Thanks for sharing the info. So just out of curiosity, do you know of any metal albums that are pushing air? I assumed from the buzziness and tone in the RAB track that it was an amp, but I guess I'm mistaken.
Old 3 days ago
  #123
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derp View Post
Very cool. Thanks for sharing the info. So just out of curiosity, do you know of any metal albums that are pushing air? I assumed from the buzziness and tone in the RAB track that it was an amp, but I guess I'm mistaken.
You may not be mistaken. Plenty do have amps, but the way to think about it is in layers. Most producers are going to record DI and amp as separate tracks. Its how they treat that track that makes the sound. The usual move is to split the bass and use the amped track for grind and then use the DI track for clean low end. But the main point is to have options. In the end they have the flexibility to do many things, and maybe they choose to just use the mic'd amp in some situations.

If you want to record bass and have it all, you need to split the signal and do both mic'd amp and DI in the same take. This is where you need to be a strong engineer because you don't want phasing between the amp signal and DI.

So this comes back to me saying DI is best. Why? You can record one take through a DI and then duplicate it in the DAW. Take one track, high pass it a bit and run it through a software amp and distort it and use the other track as your bottom end with low pass on it. You can really compress the bottom end and have consistent lows while letting the distortion on the "amped" track do the rest. It has the negative of not using an actual amp and the positive of not having to worry about phasing. With the way software is now and the fact that I don't record metal for a living, I choose the latter. Of course, what I like to do is double my synth bass with my real bass playing. Just what I'm into. No rules!
Old 3 days ago
  #124
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Methlab View Post
You may not be mistaken. Plenty do have amps, but the way to think about it is in layers. Most producers are going to record DI and amp as separate tracks. Its how they treat that track that makes the sound. The usual move is to split the bass and use the amped track for grind and then use the DI track for clean low end. But the main point is to have options. In the end they have the flexibility to do many things, and maybe they choose to just use the mic'd amp in some situations.

If you want to record bass and have it all, you need to split the signal and do both mic'd amp and DI in the same take. This is where you need to be a strong engineer because you don't want phasing between the amp signal and DI.

So this comes back to me saying DI is best. Why? You can record one take through a DI and then duplicate it in the DAW. Take one track, high pass it a bit and run it through a software amp and distort it and use the other track as your bottom end with low pass on it. You can really compress the bottom end and have consistent lows while letting the distortion on the "amped" track do the rest. It has the negative of not using an actual amp and the positive of not having to worry about phasing. With the way software is now and the fact that I don't record metal for a living, I choose the latter. Of course, what I like to do is double my synth bass with my real bass playing. Just what I'm into. No rules!
Groovy sauce. Thanks for the tips!
Old 3 days ago
  #125
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^ Still, also track it via an amp, because there is no substitute for actual air and natural reflections and the rest.

Then supplement that with a DI track and whatever else you want to get the sound you're after.

Like most GS answers, this answer is also:

Do/Get Both.

It's the only real way, iMO.
Old 3 days ago
  #126
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by monomer View Post
I don't think it works this way tho.
First of all, you won't lose the character of the build-in amp just by lowering the level. In fact, you'll be adding noise as you'll be bringing the signal closer to the background noise.

Secondly, if the post-synth pre amp doesn't sound exactly the same as the synth then it is not doing amplification, it is doing something more.
Now, i'm not saying this 'more' can't sound nice, but it is definitely not just amplifying anymore. It is somehow processing the signal, otherwise you wouldn't hear a difference. So one can't claim that every component is dedicated to amplification. Clearly some of it is dedicated to changing the sound in some way.

I'm starting to wonder. How much of this perceived improvement of external pre-amps has to do with phase characteristics?
I don't think either of us got it quite right, TBH.

Running your synth through a (high quality) DI will not add any meaningful noise. Maybe some audio measurement fanatic will dispute it, hence "meaningful".

It may can clean up a signal as that's what the DI is designed to do -- change the impedance level, eliminate any ground hum or interference noise, convert unbalanced to balanced signals. A pair of JDI will cost you $400 for basically two transformers in a steel box -- there's no synth I can think of that's got $400 of transformers in its output stage. Hell, I don't think the DSI synths are even balanced.

Your second point splits hairs & basically applies to every amplifier in existence, AFAIK. I don't think any preamp, no matter how clean, can boost a signal without "doing something more". For an amp to do absolutely nothing to a signal, it would have to have a THD of absolute 0 ... not even the Grace Design preamps have a 0 THD rating.

Like you, I don't understand how the signal loses any crap it picked up from the synth's original output stage but I never got electricity & signals back in school. All I know is that all my synths sound better when run through the JDIs & brought back up in my preamps. Not like my Microkorg sounds like a Moog better but again, all this is subtle.
Old 3 days ago
  #127
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mkdvb View Post
Your second point splits hairs & basically applies to every amplifier in existence, AFAIK. I don't think any preamp, no matter how clean, can boost a signal without "doing something more". For an amp to do absolutely nothing to a signal, it would have to have a THD of absolute 0 ... not even the Grace Design preamps have a 0 THD rating.
I'm not splitting hairs i think.
If you say that the pre-amp makes it sound better, then there must be more happening than just amplification. Amplification by itself is transparent.
What could an amp do to the signal besides the amplification itself.
It is very much at the core of this discussion.
Old 3 days ago
  #128
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monomer View Post
I'm not splitting hairs i think.
If you say that the pre-amp makes it sound better, then there must be more happening than just amplification. Amplification by itself is transparent.
What could an amp do to the signal besides the amplification itself.
It is very much at the core of this discussion.
Amplification is not inherently transparent, ideally it should be. When people discuss "colour", its quite obvious a preamp is doing more to the signal which people find desirable. But there's also a lot of preamps designed to be clean as hell, even costing similar money and it would all be a bit unnecessary if it was already inherently transparent.

Not going to make claims on what factors are in play, but representatives from different companies do appear on other areas of this forum, as well as elsewhere online, who go into better detail about amplification.
Old 2 days ago
  #129
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bignatius View Post
^ Still, also track it via an amp, because there is no substitute for actual air and natural reflections and the rest.

Then supplement that with a DI track and whatever else you want to get the sound you're after.

Like most GS answers, this answer is also:

Do/Get Both.

It's the only real way, iMO.
No it really is not. The answer is not gear, its skill on the instrument. I know that’s not the sexy answer but it’s the absolute truth.
Old 2 days ago
  #130
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Methlab View Post
No it really is not. The answer is not gear, its skill on the instrument. I know that’s not the sexy answer but it’s the absolute truth.
I made no such comparison.

Yet all the skill in the world is no substitute for an actual recording of an actual speaker moving actual air via an actual microphone in a location.

Sorry if that's not a sexy enough answer for you.
Old 2 days ago
  #131
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bignatius View Post
I made no such comparison.

Yet all the skill in the world is no substitute for an actual recording of an actual speaker moving actual air via an actual microphone in a location.

Sorry if that's not a sexy enough answer for you.
You said to get both and there was no other way. I don't agree with that. Especially with the examples he provided, as that is a genre I am very familiar with.
Old 2 days ago
  #132
Quote:
Originally Posted by monomer View Post
...if the post-synth pre amp doesn't sound exactly the same as the synth then it is not doing amplification, it is doing something more.

...one can't claim that every component is dedicated to amplification. Clearly some of it is dedicated to changing the sound in some way.

I'm starting to wonder. How much of this perceived improvement of external pre-amps has to do with phase characteristics?
There seems to be a lack of quant, or more likely I just haven’t seen it, on the change.

Tube users always talk about “harmonically rich” Mullards with “good low mids but a bit muted highs,” and “clean fast with nice highs” Telefunkens, and “punchy upper midrange” RCA short gray plates. Where is poster Bowie? He’s our resident tube expert. I hear it, we all hear roughly these described things.

And yet, I hooked up my Pendulum Audio preamp with various tubes to Spectrafoo, and did a transfer function against the raw sound coming off the MOTM synth, and it’s a DEAD FLAT LINE for both frequency and phase.

How is that explained? Mass delusion? I suspect my primitive quant is lacking and that there is a measurable difference, however I’ve brought this up to very technical people and never received an answer. Surely the analog modeling techs must know.
Old 2 days ago
  #133
Gear Guru
 
fiddlestickz's Avatar
I'd be more inclined to use a nice compressor creatively if looking to change the sounds tone, colour/punch etc.. there's more to work with.
Old 2 days ago
  #134
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monomer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BendingBus View Post
There seems to be a lack of quant, or more likely I just haven’t seen it, on the change.

Tube users always talk about “harmonically rich” Mullards with “good low mids but a bit muted highs,” and “clean fast with nice highs” Telefunkens, and “punchy upper midrange” RCA short gray plates. Where is poster Bowie? He’s our resident tube expert. I hear it, we all hear roughly these described things.

And yet, I hooked up my Pendulum Audio preamp with various tubes to Spectrafoo, and did a transfer function against the raw sound coming off the MOTM synth, and it’s a DEAD FLAT LINE for both frequency and phase.

How is that explained? Mass delusion? I suspect my primitive quant is lacking and that there is a measurable difference, however I’ve brought this up to very technical people and never received an answer. Surely the analog modeling techs must know.
Yeah, it's this exact thing that makes me scratch my head.
Surely if this difference can be heard and captured in digital it must be part of the signal.
Old 1 day ago
  #135
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BOWIE's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BendingBus View Post
There seems to be a lack of quant, or more likely I just haven’t seen it, on the change.

Tube users always talk about “harmonically rich” Mullards with “good low mids but a bit muted highs,” and “clean fast with nice highs” Telefunkens, and “punchy upper midrange” RCA short gray plates. Where is poster Bowie? He’s our resident tube expert. I hear it, we all hear roughly these described things.

And yet, I hooked up my Pendulum Audio preamp with various tubes to Spectrafoo, and did a transfer function against the raw sound coming off the MOTM synth, and it’s a DEAD FLAT LINE for both frequency and phase.

How is that explained? Mass delusion? I suspect my primitive quant is lacking and that there is a measurable difference, however I’ve brought this up to very technical people and never received an answer. Surely the analog modeling techs must know.
In many preamps, the DI or line in comes after the preamp's input stage so it's often skipping the mic preamp stage which, is highly influential to mic sources.


Quote:
Originally Posted by monomer View Post
Yeah, it's this exact thing that makes me scratch my head.
Surely if this difference can be heard and captured in digital it must be part of the signal.
It's an interesting subject and one that's intrigued me for years. Especially about replicating it in modeling. While it seems we should be able to model the various sonic qualities we hear, it just isn't happening the way I expected it would in 2019. My brother works for the amp modeling team of a major amp maker and I was picking his brain about the process last week. One thing I can say is that they certainly don't fuss over the nuances on the level that us Gearslutz do and that may be part of why modeling never feels the same. But, I've also suspected that digital modeling involves a certain repetition and predictable nature that the ear picks up on, whereas analog saturation, overtones, etc seem organic and subtly shifting. Tubes even change in tone as the gear warms up over the first couple hours. Not trying to get in a better/worse debate, just commenting on why there's still differences.
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