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Buy nice vs buy twice preamps and mics
Old 28th August 2019
  #1
Gear Head
 

Buy nice vs buy twice preamps and mics

Hey folks. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

I’ve been thinking lately about all the gear I’ve gone through over the years- the good decision and the bad.

I’m currently in the market for some preamps. But the current glut of options has me flummoxed.

I’m also really wanting to buy things that will be with me a long time. Usable and valuable as my skills increase.

I’m familiar with the refrain ‘it’s the song/room/performance’ and I get that. But in the realm of preamps I’m curious about people’s opinions on the buy nice buy twice threshold.

With the popularity of warm, gap, bla etc. Do y’all feel that these are buy nice purchases? Or do you see yourself upgrading as funds and skills improve? Of course, many will want new flavours/colours over time. But what of the sub $1000 pres are people thinking of as long-term investments (if any)?

Thanks again.
Old 28th August 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
 
tedtan's Avatar
 

I'm in the buy nice camp, and I would look for something higher end than Warm, Gap, etc. even if just for long term reliability. I'm not sure this is still Low End at this point, but it is a better long term strategy than settling if you can afford it.

And in that case, you can get some great 500 series pres for under $1K new, and can save quite a bit if you buy used or build your own (just soldering up a kit like those from CAPI, not designing something from scratch).
Old 28th August 2019
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scientific View Post
But in the realm of preamps I’m curious about people’s opinions on the buy nice buy twice threshold.

With the popularity of warm, gap, bla etc. Do y’all feel that these are buy nice purchases? Or do you see yourself upgrading as funds and skills improve? Of course, many will want new flavours/colours over time. But what of the sub $1000 pres are people thinking of as long-term investments (if any)?

Thanks again.
I have a different spin on "buy nice not twice". I aim for "bang for the buck". The GAP/Warm stuff isn't really bang-for-the-buck, and you may replace them in time. My pres are SCA N72s, all bought used. They are very nice and incredibly bang-for-the-buck. For a home studio, I'll never have to replace them. I bought nice at a good price.

You've been on this forum for three years. Surely in that time you've read enough to figure out through all the chatter which pres are really good at a decent price. In that sphere, I'd include Great River, Heritage Audio, Avedis, and of course SCA. There are others too that don't come to mind at the moment.
Old 28th August 2019
  #4
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeInOttawa View Post

You've been on this forum for three years. Surely in that time you've read enough to figure out through all the chatter which pres are really good at a decent price..
I don’t know that it’s possible. Determining the legitimacy of anonymous opinions is, perhaps like this thread or any other, a fool’s errand. Some algorithm that shows how opinions change or what gear is replaced by other gear might be the only means.

I guess what I’m looking for is some general thoughts on where the shift from good for now to always good takes place. The previous poster provided some good guidance on this, and you’ve also listed some makers that are in that next step up. Helpful.
Old 29th August 2019
  #5
Here for the gear
 

If you want low noise, clean, but with some depth, consider the Speck MicPre. It also has nice features like an adjustable high pass filter, DI, output switchable between solid state and Jensen transformer, stepped gain control, and plenty of gain.
Old 29th August 2019
  #6
In the "cheap pre" camp, for years and years I've used a FMR RNP, Symetrix 528e, DBX286a, and DBX 376. A few months ago I bought a used (and sadly no longer produced) SafeSoundAudio Audio Tracking Toolbox. I now know very well what cheap sounds like and I hope the Tracking Toolbox lasts for years because it's so much better than the aforementioned product(s).
Old 29th August 2019
  #7
Old 29th August 2019
  #8
Gear Addict
 
chipss36's Avatar
 

Sub 1k , the ha73 eq elite is a pretty good value,
I build clone 1073s, they end up in working studios, and do sound better, yet the parts cost alone is more than the built and has a warranty, ha unit, my ha73 works fine for my home studio, and the great and simple eq, the 1073 is known for, plus a bit of that neve flavor...makes useful tracks.

I don’t see myself upgrading or selling it.
Happy with it.
The corners cut to make a sub 1k 1073 in this unit are well thought out, some surface mount parts, but important things like all 3 gain stages and all three eductors , and used good iron.
Old 29th August 2019
  #9
Gear Head
 

Thanks everyone. I think I have a better understanding of where the line is now. Definitely going to forego any short-term solutions in favour of getting something the next level up.
Old 2nd September 2019
  #10
Gear Maniac
 

Seventh Circle Audio One Shot. Get a pair.
Old 2nd September 2019
  #11
Lives for gear
Here are the important distinctions and sounds.

Op-amp type. Clean and clear for cheap if done right. Can sound like crap.

Tube type. The high end. $1K++ per channel. Furn, Locomotive, Coil, Tubetech, Chandler.

Good transformer. Few and far between for good one. 1073, 110, I have some hand wired Jesen 110E transformer preamps.

Ribbon preamps. AEA TRP is great bang/buck for use on ribbons and moving coil mic's, or even tube mic's. no Phantom power. Grace good when gain is needed but don't want color.

The 1073. The Neve preamps are not really anything special, but the EQ's on them are. really good inductor EQ's. This is what makes them so famous and desirable. Analog EQ, compression, then attenuation before digital for one track is where the quality level of the results jump. Vintech, haritage, BAE make decent clones.

If you have the common collection of bright mic's, you want dark preamps with color. better yet, get dark mic's.
An Avalon 747 is a great entry piece in a decent chain. EQ. compression and preamp in one tube unit. But this is on the bright side of things. Manley and Varible MU compression is dark as a referance.

The gold standard to me is GML. This falls into the good transformer type. GML EQ and compression are also the gold standard. Not cheap stuff.

An alternative to the Inductor EQ is the pultic. Both give you some EQ color before conversion. Compressor color is another can of worms.

Get one kick ass recording chain, and a bunch of cheap stuff for the drums. That one great chain will be the mono overhead for the drums. Most of the important tracks are one at a time. Leverage your one good chain. The second good chain should be very different from the first. Not a stereo pair. Palet before stereo.

Use all 3 kinds of mic's. Have Moving coils, Ribbons, and Condencers. Tube's are typically best (LDC mainly)

For 1 to 2 input units is the lower cost range: Black lion, Warm, Gap, Revive-RED Solo.
For 4+ inputs: M12, P8, Mackie ONYX (cheap decent drum preamps), Audient

Check out Revive Audio, Advanced Audio, KT, Warm, Black lion, RME, Radial, Recording hacks. You have to know what's the common stuff these days.

Get a radial dual JDI. You just have to have one. solves to many issues. need that base line.
If you want a great DI, Reddi or ZOD

Last edited by elegentdrum; 2nd September 2019 at 07:48 PM..
Old 3rd September 2019
  #12
Gear Head
 

Thanks for the great info. I have a radial JDI. Use it every time I track bass or guitar. Pretty much always use the DI track for bass and sometimes it’s useful for the guitar tracks.

I have a dmp-3 which is perfectly serviceable for clean duties. The Clarett’s pres are also capable albeit lacking a little bit in clean gain for something like an SM7.

Right now I’m leaning towards picking up a Heritage Elite 73 or whatever they call it. I’ve listening to a bunch of shoot outs and it’s definitely a step above the GAP and Warm stuff. Although I feel like the Great River is a step up from the heritage.

For tube stuff, I’m in no rush right now, so will be opportunistic about any bargains that show up. Maybe grab an ART MPA II even though it’s probably in the buy twice category.
Old 3rd September 2019
  #13
Lives for gear
 

I’d probably avoid absolute bottom dollar stuff with gimmicks like ART but for the average home studio there’s diminishing returns in sitting there fantasizing about >$1.5k per channel pieces, or thinking you need all the flavors of the rainbow in your tool box, etc... Seriously, just invest in as many simultaneous channels as you really need, with something good that you can afford...don’t get caught up in marketing, avoid too many one trick devices...
Old 3rd September 2019
  #14
Lives for gear
 

I've been very happy with my bart hrk 500 series preamp - I have 3 of the dual channel preamps and one colour preamp with the 15ips and British console colors.
Old 4th September 2019
  #15
Gear Addict
 

Avoid total junk. The Claret and Red stuff is serviceable but the Scarlets have some issues. Older Focusrite ISA and Red stuff is better than the newer stuff, which is a cost-reduced, mass produced in China and sold for $$$$ anyway rip off for just pres. They took out transformers and stuck in DSP.

The Yamaha dsub pres are good if you don’t record hot and the current MOTU pga2500 stuff is good and warm but the best interface pres are still Apogee ime. Not that I’d go out of my way to buy Apogee stuff just for the pres.
Old 4th September 2019
  #16
Getting a brand name will help resale obviously, but all gear seems to take a good hit at this level if bought new.
I'd go used.

I agree a Great River has a lot of years of posts and fans. I perceive it like the DAV BG1, DAKING, ISA, UA610 and many others, these all seem like a respectable similar range of that price ~$1000 and have enough owners speaking highly of it. You already have the "good low budget gear" like DMP3 to compare to. I did the same thing after wondering so long I bought a few $1800+ pieces and compared and its good thing to do at that level of curiosity. Check out a few used good name gear and you will have no trouble selling it if don't hear the huge difference over your DMP3+Plugs.
Old 4th September 2019
  #17
Lives for gear
 
mbvoxx's Avatar
I will never see a need to replace my Fearn, BAE, Pacifica, or Hardy amps to install something better. IF something better ever becomes available.
Old 4th September 2019
  #18
Lives for gear
 
edva's Avatar
Daking is both buy nice and bang for buck, IMHO.
If I were starting over and looking at preamps, that is one of the brands that would be on my list.
Good luck.
Old 4th September 2019
  #19
Lives for gear
 
dickiefunk's Avatar
I have a Warm TB12 and Audient Mico here. Both are excellent sounding well built preamps. I have owned a lot of other preamps over the years including the Focusrite Liquid Channel + ISA One, UA Solo 610, GAP PRE73, Art MPA Gold and DMP3.

I found that the DMP3 sounded quite thin and brittle on Di’d bass and guitars but the preamp was usable. The UA Solo 610, PRE73 and MPA Gold were quite noisy at higher gain settings compared to other preamps I’ve used. The Liquid Channel that I tried was a good sounding preamp but I found the emulations too subtle to be worth the extra cost. The ISA One is a good reliable workhorse preamp and was my favourite of the bunch.
However, I’m getting more mileage with the TB12 and Mico. They both are capable of a wider range of tones than the Liquid Channel and have low noise. It’s also possible to upgrade the opamps in the TB12 to higher end Hardy and API models which give a small but noticeable step up in audio quality.
The Daking and Great River preamps would definitely be worth checking out as they have an excellent reputation for offering high quality products.

One other preamp that has caught my attention recently is the Cranborne Camden. The specs of these look fantastic and higher than anything else within their price range. Also, from the audio clips on their site the Mojo feature really adds a lot of variety to the preamps tone and more than I’ve heard in any other product.

If I were the be starting from scratch the Camden would possibly be top of my list (though I’m particularly pleased my my Warm TB12 and plan to upgrade the opamps soon).
Old 4th September 2019
  #20
Line Audio's dedicated preamps look interesting.
Old 5th September 2019
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scientific View Post
Right now I’m leaning towards picking up a Heritage Elite 73 or whatever they call it. I’ve listening to a bunch of shoot outs and it’s definitely a step above the GAP and Warm stuff. Although I feel like the Great River is a step up from the heritage.

For tube stuff, I’m in no rush right now, so will be opportunistic about any bargains that show up. Maybe grab an ART MPA II even though it’s probably in the buy twice category.
From what I've read the Heritage stuff is pretty decent. The Great River too. But it seems the Avedis stuff gets even more praise.

You'll probably buy more preamps over time, but you have to figure out how many you ultimately want. If only one or two, you can go rack, but over that number the 500 form factor is likely your best bet. You should also consider whether you want different brands of good preamps, or if you want to stick with one brand only to get a consistent flavour.

And like kslight says, skip the cheap ART tube stuff.
Old 5th September 2019
  #22
Gear Nut
At first everyone said warm was amazing for the price/comparable to real neve.

Funny how time changes that. Wonder how many warm reps were on here when that wa73eq came out lol.
Old 5th September 2019
  #23
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dlane View Post
At first everyone said warm was amazing for the price/comparable to real neve.

Funny how time changes that. Wonder how many warm reps were on here when that wa73eq came out lol.
I bought the warm 1176; it was defective and noisy so returned it and never bought another warm product. I still want to hear a tone beast but I’m not buying that stuff. I’d rather use an interface pre and 1073 plugin than deal with warm not paying for any qc at a Chinese oem factory.
Old 5th September 2019
  #24
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by Noctambulant View Post
I bought the warm 1176; it was defective and noisy so returned it and never bought another warm product. I still want to hear a tone beast but I’m not buying that stuff. I’d rather use an interface pre and 1073 plugin than deal with warm not paying for any qc at a Chinese oem factory.
I got a 500 series rack and a pair of 511s (RND.) It will take me probably a year to pay off the loan. Filling up the rest of the rack with stereo pairs of preamps that cost more than like 600 dollars each would be a massive pain in the ass and I’m not planning on spending that much. I just need good sounding stuff that I can get a little saturation out of when it comes time to sum in analog, and I don’t want to have to wait like 3 years to get there.

Thinking about a pair of Camden 500s to go second to the neves. Would be fitting since it’s a cranborne audio 500 series rack. They’re like 350 each and all of the marketing hype is about their THD being good even though they’re transformerless.

(I’m saying 600 CAD btw. Not sure if the cmdn500 is 350 usd or cad, I’ll look it up.)

Edit: Camden 500s are 475 cad.
Old 5th September 2019
  #25
Gear Head
 

Thanks for all the great input everyone.

Right now, I just need one pretty nice channel. I would like it for vocal duty and guitar amps. I’m not recording a lot of drums at the moment, but would be handy if it could be useful for overhead, kick, or snare.

I like the idea of the 500 series. I see great river, API 500 stuff used for decent prices. Might also be fun to build a hairball or capi at some point. The camden is interesting too - I’ll look into those a bit more. It also seems like the 500 series stuff is only going to keep getting more popular maki g the used market viable in the future.

Now... off to see what sort of lunchbox I should acquire.
Old 5th September 2019
  #26
Lives for gear
 
edva's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scientific View Post

Now... off to see what sort of lunchbox I should acquire.
Don't skimp on your research there. I'm not into 500 series or lunchboxes, but I have heard that there are only a couple worth getting, and that many others are problematic (the "lunchboxes" I mean, not the 500 style units themselves).
Again, this is only second-hand info, since I have no personal experience with them. But I'd proceed very carefully on that critical purchase if I were going down that path.
Good luck.
Old 6th September 2019
  #27
For a $1000 I would go with a used ISA 428 or a Presonus ADL 600. ISA is 4 channel pre with di, inserts, and line in plus variable impedance with plenty of gain. ADL 600 is 2 channel tube pre with di and line in and other features. Also plenty of gain. Check reverb and guitar center used. There are many other good brands but these are real solid and would be something you can build around.
Old 6th September 2019
  #28
Lives for gear
 

I'm surprised no one mentioned Grace yet...
Chris
Old 6th September 2019
  #29
Gear Guru
I got a UA Solo610. What I like about it is you can drive for color or back off for clean with the gain staging and the impedance gives you more options. Just retubed which wasn't a lot of money and worth it. I record on a Mixpre 6M which has very clean pres and converters. This will also act as an interface. I like to have a compressor and have an FMR PBC6a, which again is very versatile. Not intentionally everything is very portable which helps when wanting a room sound....

I was lucky with Oktava mics. I agree with the Daking suggestion FWIW. I would look into a Vanguard mic if buying since they seem very cool for the money.

I do agree with buy good analogue. Louder than liftoff and a good lunchbox would be another route to follow. Lot's of great gear, but try for versatility. Atlas Audio also sells Juggarnaut preamps that have flavors. Like LTL they are real circuits. FMR is a great company for low budget stuff that is great FWIW. Good luck!
Old 6th September 2019
  #30
Lives for gear
The Daking Mic Pre II is $1,100 brand new for two channels. Doubt there'd ever be a need to replace or upgrade one of those other than just having access more to channels.
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