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advice on quality of preamps on budget mixers
Old 17th April 2009
  #1
Here for the gear
 

advice on quality of preamps on budget mixers

I need to add a preamp to my system to be able to record guitar/bass/vocals into my echo mia midi audio interface, which does not have a HI-Z input on it. Unfortunately, at this point my budget is pretty limited (around $200) and I have come up with a few solutions after reading some reviews but would be open to any other ideas. My main question mainly comes down to the quality of preamps on a mixer vs a dedicated preamp. A mixer would allow me some room for growth with inputs, but it's just me recording all of these things, one instrument at a time for now. In short, would I notice a big difference with the DMP3 or VTB1 on any of the recording instruments/voice over the Soundcraft compact 4 and which of the below (or something else i haven't listed) would you recommend?

Mixers:
Soundcraft Compact 4 Soundcraft COMPACT 4 | Sweetwater.com

Preamps:
M-Audio DMP3 "dmp3" Search at zZounds.com
Studio Projects Studio Projects VTB1 Variable Tube Microphone Preamp from zZounds.com!

Thanks in advance.
Old 17th April 2009
  #2
Lives for gear
 

I still like to have a mixer in from of me, so I say go for the Soundcraft. I have an EPM12, and it works nicely for what I'm doing.
Old 17th April 2009
  #3
Gear Head
 

personally i stay away from soundcraft and go with a mackie.....

the soundcraft buttons faders etc get loose and dirty far to quick..and the power supply is external....mackie is kettel lead..and better built and i think better pres..
Old 17th April 2009
  #4
Gear Nut
 

I have both a compact4 and a pair of VTB1's. I like them both. the compact 4 pres are nice and clean, and the EQ sounds very good to my ears, although I don't really use it along those lines. The VTB1 is also generally nice and clean. You can crank up the 'toob' (it's starved voltage, so not really a tube circuit) for some dirt and saturation, but I tend to not do so. The impedance switch is handy as well. Both units have DIs that sound pretty good to me. Neither unit's pres really gives enough clean headroom for my sm7b, in case that matters. For your needs I think the compact4 would be the better purchase, as it's a much more versatile unit (being a full-blown mixer) and you'll have more simultaneous inputs in case that's ever a concern.

PS - I've had my compact4 for many years used mostly for location recording (being bounced around in a bag with lots of other gear) and it's never had a single problem. In contrast I've used two mackie mixers that spent their entire lives in a pristine studios that had channels die for no good reason... but I agree that in general mackie makes great stuff!
Old 17th April 2009
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Thanks for the replies so far. It is much appreciated.

I have been leaning towards the mixer solution, even before this post, just for the extra inputs and tweaking. My main concern was simply in wondering if i spend $150 for a mixer that has pres or just $150 for a dedicated DI/pre box, would i be getting much better quality pres with the dedicated box.

At the end of the day, it's all considered low end stuff that I am looking at but I am trying to maximize my dollar I guess. If the differences in output quality were the negligible, I would just opt for a mixer. The debate between Soundcraft and Mackie is interesting though. I can get Mackie stuff at cost (because of my industry relations) but apparently all of their mixers are out of stock until they finish changing suppliers. Not sure I wanna wait until mid-summer to get rolling here.

PS - On a side note, My inputs are gonna be a fender squire strat (older japanese model), an Ibanez bass guitar and Audio Technica 2020 and 2021 mics. Not sure if those items have any impact on the decision.
Old 17th April 2009
  #6
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GZsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by letsdance View Post
personally i stay away from soundcraft and go with a mackie.....

the soundcraft buttons faders etc get loose and dirty far to quick..and the power supply is external....mackie is kettel lead..and better built and i think better pres..
I have had four or five Soundcraft mixers and three Mackie mixers. The Soundcraft have held up very well and offer better sounding mic preamps of any Mackie with the possible exception of the new Onyx line.

Soundcraft uses the preamps from their higher end professional consoles and they sound great.

The external power supply also contributes to the mixer being quieter since the power supply isn't right next to sensitive electronics. So.. in my opinion an external power supply is actually a better feature.

And as an aside, I also have a couple of Yamaha MG series mixers and they are very nice, well built, reliable and clean and quiet.
Old 17th April 2009
  #7
Here for the gear
 

I looked a little at the Yamaha stuff, but correct me if I am wrong, because it would put them back on the table for me, but their budget pieces don't have HI-Z inputs for instruments, and this is key for me.

Here is the one I liked alot...

Yamaha MG82CX Stereo Mixer with Effects from zZounds.com!

-bryan
Old 17th April 2009
  #8
Gear Nut
 

If you did opt for something like the yamaha, you could always add a DI box (I have one of these and it's clean and reasonably cheap: Whirlwind IMP2 Standard DI from zZounds.com!), but of course that adds extra costs (and extra cables to the signal) that you wouldn't have to spend otherwise...

You could also opt for the holy grail of direct boxes (Countryman Type 85 from zZounds.com!) which is almost as much as the cheap mixers...
Old 17th April 2009
  #9
Here for the gear
 

Yea, I did think about adding a DI box in front of the Yamaha if I went that route, but is the Yamaha that much better than the Soundcraft or Mackie that has the HI-Z built in? I probably wouldn't use the mixer effects that much, so it really a bonus for me.
Old 17th April 2009
  #10
Gear Nut
 

I've never used a yamaha mixer, but I think in general they make good stuff.

the particular one you linked has the following advantages over the soundcraft:
- 4 extra channels
- 2 extra mic pres
- built-in compressor for 2 of the channels (could be very handy)
- effects (like you said, just gravy...)

All for only $30 more than the compact4, which to me likely indicates that the components used in the yamaha are of lesser quality in order to keep it so affordable, but I can't say for certain. My hunch would be that the soundcraft pres and EQ will sound better than the yamaha...
Old 17th April 2009
  #11
Lives for gear
 
dickiefunk's Avatar
I had a VTB1 and M-Audio DMP3. The DMP3 is cleaner with less noise and offers a fraction more detail.
For a small mixer I'd go for the new Mackie 402 VLZ3. It has their latest preamp technology and offers a serious amount for the money!!

Mackie - 402-VLZ3

Also, just over your budget is the ART MPA Gold which is a seriously nice preamp for the money!

Applied Research & Technology: Tube Mic Preamps
Old 17th April 2009
  #12
Here for the gear
 

Dickie,

I actually tried to order the Mackie 402-VLZ3 from one of my distributers (I own a home theater company and one of my distributers sells pro-audio gear) but while they change suppliers that stuff is gonna be out a long time. All of the major retailers have notices that say anywhere from May 29th to the end of July before its back in.

So in short, if anyone knows of a place, besides keeping my eyes peeled on ebay, where I can get one, I would say that would be my reasonably priced solution.
Old 18th April 2009
  #13
Gear Head
 

ebay uk no: 330322481702

id go for the 4 channel one if $ and space allow...

4 XLR mono channels.... = 2 XLR stereo channels

Last edited by letsdance; 18th April 2009 at 02:21 AM.. Reason: XLR and 48k
Old 18th April 2009
  #14
Here for the gear
 

thanks for the post letsdance. The only problem there is I think the opportunity cost is a too high. They retail around $100 US and I have found them as low as $80, so relative to my situation, if I was going to spend that much, I may be able to find something a little better.
Old 19th April 2009
  #15
Here for the gear
 

hey guys,

Thanks for all the help. I decided on the Soundcraft Compact 4. I dug a little deeper and found a decent deal and decided to jump on it. All things considered I feel pretty good about it. Hopefully, it all pans out...
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