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The truth about Preamps
Old 23rd October 2010
  #1
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The truth about Preamps

Hi

We get lots of threads about which preamps.

Mainly because many of us haven't been in the game that long or have not had the funds or opportunities to try lots of preamps to know about them from experience.

I put a thread up about the RNP and many thought it was pro enough and would not be limiting to the recording process. Others disagreed.


Another post recently claimed that the recent fad with preamps was overblown and that mics have more impact on the sound.


Then you have the huge number of threads claiming how wonderful the 1073 or GR sound, causing those who haven't tried them to feel sure that they are missing out and should aspire to owning those or a good copy e.g. the GAP73.


So which is it?

- do some preamps add a significant and noticeable improvement to the sound

- or is it like the SOS conclusion in the review of the Liquid Channel Preamp

[I'm not so sure this product, impressive though it undoubtedly is, is the best possible investment for the smaller home studio. The quality and range of preamps and compressors here is sublime, but this is a finessing tool and I wonder if the differences might be a little too subtle in circumstances where there are bigger hurdles to overcome than choosing between different preamps. ]

Can we get any real clarity on this topic to put all the other preamp cogitations in perspective.

Thanks
Old 23rd October 2010
  #2
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Preamps make a huge difference. Period. When I had the funds to sell my MOTU 8pre and buy an Apogee Ensemble with two stereo Great Rivers, this was a huge revelation for me. I always thought that the difference wouldn't be THAT great, but it turns out, it really is. The cumulative effect you get in a mix when recording using proper preamps is really indescribable. Without EQing or compressing, my recordings sound way, way better then when using the MOTU's stock preamps. Sure, there will be some benefit from the better converters in the Apogee, but driving those Great Rivers surely changed my game.

This doesn't mean you can't make good productions without good preamps, but if you're going for authentic sonic quality, you just can't get around them.

My € 0.02
Old 23rd October 2010
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JPeters86 View Post
Preamps make a huge difference. Period. When I had the funds to sell my MOTU 8pre and buy an Apogee Ensemble with two stereo Great Rivers, this was a huge revelation for me. I always thought that the difference wouldn't be THAT great, but it turns out, it really is. The cumulative effect you get in a mix when recording using proper preamps is really indescribable. Without EQing or compressing, my recordings sound way, way better then when using the MOTU's stock preamps. Sure, there will be some benefit from the better converters in the Apogee, but driving those Great Rivers surely changed my game.

This doesn't mean you can't make good productions without good preamps, but if you're going for authentic sonic quality, you just can't get around them.

My € 0.02
Thanks for that. € 0.02 are worth more than they used to be and your post certainly is valuable heh

Do you think having the greatly improved sound has improved creativity or productivity or are you doing the same but just getting nicer sounding results ?
Old 23rd October 2010
  #4
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I got a decent preamp, maybe not as expensive as a GR, but a fmr rnp and that made every mic i own come alive. Cheap preamps are just that, cheap components to sell in volume or to save money with poor quality control made in China...Mic also make a difference, but get a decent pre first is my suggestion to all Noobs, not saying the op is a noob, but others seeing this may be...
Old 23rd October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drak12 View Post
Thanks for that. € 0.02 are worth more than they used to be and your post certainly is valuable heh

Do you think having the greatly improved sound has improved creativity or productivity or are you doing the same but just getting nicer sounding results ?
They have certainly improved my personal creativity. It's just more fun recording my own ideas and concepts using gear of which I know it'll sound great when listening through the monitors later on. And when recording other folks it's nice to know the performances are captured in a proper way and not "degraded" in some way by inferior preamps.

I'm sure I'll get accused of being snobbish, but I have to remind you that I was skeptical about preamp differences as well, until I had the chance to discover them myself heh I borrowed a Great River preamp from a befriended recording engineer and after a few hours of messing around with it I finally learned how to get some vocal and guitar sounds I always wanted, without using EQ.
Old 23rd October 2010
  #6
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They may or may not make a difference

But there is one thing that is for certain: If you are recording in anything other than an acoustically perfect custom-built studio room, recording amazing musicians playing top-flight instruments, the difference between a cheap, clean pre such as those on a Mackie/Presonus/DMP3 etc, and something costing 10 times as much will not be worth the investment.

The extra pizazz that it arguably adds (which may be just expectation bias) will simply not be significant compared to the host of other problems your recording will have anyway.

This preamp madness is real top 1% stuff and is mostly caused by people imagining they hear things because they need to (having just shelled out tens of thousands on one) - Ive yet to see a blind test where anybody including top-flight engineers could hear much of a difference between one and another.
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Old 23rd October 2010
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One issue with MOTU, Mackie, RNP and others in this category is that they work well but have only one sound. Clean and somewhat small. Not bad but not great. Grace, John Hardy and other high end clean pres sound great but also have one sound. API, NEVE (and clones) Quad eight, have different flavors the more you push the pre. They cover a lot of territory if you use them this way.
Old 23rd October 2010
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me thinks this is going to be who's is better than who's...lol
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Old 23rd October 2010
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drak12 View Post
Another post recently claimed that the recent fad with preamps was overblown and that mics have more impact on the sound.
they both have a great impact

Quote:
Originally Posted by drak12 View Post
Then you have the huge number of threads claiming how wonderful the 1073
1073 is arguably the most popular preamp of all time....for a reason. 80xx series consoles are some of the most sought after desks....also for good reason


Quote:
Originally Posted by drak12 View Post
or GR sound
gr is a really good preamp if you like the sound. It is very nevish just cleaner

Quote:
Originally Posted by drak12 View Post
causing those who haven't tried them to feel sure that they are missing out and should aspire to owning those or a good copy e.g. the GAP73.
gap73 should not be compared to 1073 or GR in sound quality
Also don't forget part of the desire of a 1073 is its magical eq section

Quote:
Originally Posted by drak12 View Post
So which is it?
that's a question for each individual to decide


Quote:
Originally Posted by drak12 View Post
- do some preamps add a significant and noticeable improvement to the sound
yes

Quote:
Originally Posted by drak12 View Post
- or is it like the SOS conclusion in the review of the Liquid Channel Preamp
do you have a link to this article?


Quote:
Originally Posted by drak12 View Post
Can we get any real clarity on this topic to put all the other preamp cogitations in perspective.
preamps/consoles have a large impact on sound. It's just the way it is. Also to say a mic has more impact is ludicrous. How much more? If you love the api sound or Neve sound no matter what mic you use with a behringer preamp it's never going to sound like you recorded with a neve or an api preamp. and if you wanted the neve sound or the api sound on your records, you're out of luck.

If you don't care for a particular sound, then you can use any preamp and be happy. More records were not recorded with a Neve than they were. So you don't need one, but if you want that sound you do need one. It all depends on you goal and what you want. Some guys don't care, some do. Not having a particular preamp should not prevent you from making good recordings but having one will make it easier than using something made in china.
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Old 23rd October 2010
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soulbrother View Post
Ive yet to see a blind test where anybody including top-flight engineers could hear much of a difference between one and another.
Somehow this argument is always introduced. I agree with you that most people won't hear that much of a difference between a stock preamped recording and an expensive preamped recording (although, in my experience, it's quite audible). The cumulative effect, however, is huge. Imagine recording a large orchestra through a bunch of chained MOTU 8pre's or through a rack full of 1073's, API 512c's etc. I'm sure spotting the difference in this situation would be very easy.
Old 23rd October 2010
  #11
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A good preamp is making a difference but...its THE SOURCE that will make it shine!!
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Old 23rd October 2010
  #12
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I will state for the record that I believe that the vast majority of preamps available are very good. Many discussions are started in the hopes of discovering some secret piece of gear that will make one's recording's sound better or more professional. The fact is, despite the fact that preamps can indeed make a difference, if your tracks don't sound kick ass through a DMP3, Focusrite Platinum series, Presonus, built-in interface pre, or other low-end preamp then chances are they will not truly benefit from a higher-end option.

Yes, truly professional results can be had using the pres built into your M-Audio interface (for example); if you haven't figured out how to do it then that should be priority #1. The experience you gain will benefit you much more in the long run.

Crawl, walk, run. There really are no shortcuts.

That is my take on the existence of all of these preamp discussion threads.

Spend more time making music with the gear you've got, spend less time online sweating the details. The internet is a great resource for learning stuff, but it is getting to the point of over-saturation and is becoming more confusing than anything else. So many contradictory points of view, and those who speak the loudest get heard the most instead of those who truly know what they're talking bout.

This is a worthwhile read for anyone looking to improve the quality of their recordings. It may not be what you want to hear, but most of it is truly kick-ass advice.

Bottom line: if your preamp is giving you enough clean gain and has enough headroom for your source material then is is good enough to give you excellent results. If not, for god's sake do a search! heh
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Old 23rd October 2010
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yiannis View Post
A good preamp is making a difference but...its THE SOURCE that will make it shine!!

No - ONLY THE PREAMP MATTERS!!!!!!
























Old 23rd October 2010
  #14
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by robertshaw View Post

do you have a link to this article?

Focusrite Liquid Channel

f you don't care for a particular sound then you can use any preamp and be happy. More records were not recorded with a Neve than they were. So you don't need one, but if you want that sound you do need one. It all depends on you goal and what you want. Some guys don't care, some do. Not having a particular preamp should not prevent you from making good recordings but having one will make it easier
Speaking personally, I get uninspiring vocal sounds - probably a comination of voice, technique, room, talent and engineering factors.

There is always this hope - 'If I get a good preamp there will be a huge increase in quality' - perhaps this is just wishful thinking heh

I personally, would settle for any professional sound even if it was only one [say Neve-ish] sound.
Old 23rd October 2010
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hardtoe View Post
No - ONLY THE PREAMP MATTERS!!!!!!
The tone is in the lava lamp my friend.
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Old 23rd October 2010
  #16
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Quote:
The tone is in the lava lamp my friend.

This is correct. There is nothing worse than trying to mix after everythings been recorded through crappy pre amps and not having a lava lamp around when you need one.
Old 23rd October 2010
  #17
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As with many things in life, it doesn't take more than what most people can afford to achieve 80% of what you wish. Getting to 90% will cost you three times as much and 100% will be ridiculously expensive. Needless to say, I know many people well capable of producing great music with gear only capable of that theoretical 80%. At the same time, I'm fully aware that most of the music produced with top-tier equipment is trite, boring and uncreative.
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Old 24th October 2010
  #18
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Unclenny's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chrisc_o View Post
Crawl, walk, run. There really are no shortcuts.
Once you figure out how to get good vocals (for instance) from those Focusrite pres in your MBox1, then you go out and get yourself a good mic and a good preamp, you will see that preamps do matter.

As with any other piece of gear, there will certainly be a difference in sonic quality as you step up to better (and pricier) gear......if you know how to use it.

I went from the above mentioned Focusrites to a Trident strip......the improvement was more than merely noticeable. When I had the opportunity to track through a Neve 1084 the improvement was....eye opening to say the least.
Old 24th October 2010
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soulbrother View Post
But there is one thing that is for certain: If you are recording in anything other than an acoustically perfect custom-built studio room, recording amazing musicians playing top-flight instruments, the difference between a cheap, clean pre such as those on a Mackie/Presonus/DMP3 etc, and something costing 10 times as much will not be worth the investment.
I just brought home some demos from my jam space. The band has been treating the space for the last year, and the final push to do the ceilings and wall treatments (not just absorbers and bass traps) was night and day. Even my wife could tell. Even if it's just close micing.

I think if a person had $2000, instead of buying 2 expensive preamps, they'd be better off spending $500-$1000 on the acoustic treatment, and get one money channel or a couple FMR RNP's. Way bigger payoff.

However, when they get another $2K in their pocket, get the good stuff and appreciate how much better they are than your FMR's when you can tell the difference in your nice sounding space
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Old 24th October 2010
  #20
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Experience

From experience this is an easy one for me...

I had an MBOX1 which as you well know isn't state of the art any more.

I have never really been able to get a good sound out of it, so I naturally assumed it was my MIC so I upgraded to an AKGC4000. I thought it was still rubbish and bought the wrong mic so I bought an AKG C414 now by any means they are not rubbish Mic's.

But it still sounded like most of the frequencies were missing, so I decided I'm going to change everything. First thing was the pre-amps, so I bought a Focusrite sapphire and my god all of a sudden it sounded fantastic. Had others Burrman and tried a Profire 2626 and I was so releived at the improvement and when I sang it sounded like me YAY!! Pre-amps make all the diff.
Old 24th October 2010
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beefy View Post
This is correct. There is nothing worse than trying to mix after everythings been recorded through crappy pre amps and not having a lava lamp around when you need one.
This is true, I know so many engineers that mix with a lava lamp on top of the desk. Some say they are a standard, others say they are harsh, too bright, and too 80's. I disagree, every major record is mixed on one though!

I bought one of the chinese made ones, dead on arrival, figures, though it was only about $20, I am looking into a lighning lamp, might put a bit more thunder in the mixes.

Old 24th October 2010
  #22
Gear Maniac
I have followed this debate for a long time. I believe that components that change energy from one form to another are the most crucial. So, microphones, speakers and yes, room treatments are the most important. In the old days, phono cartridges were really important. I have a Layla 3g, a Mackie 800r and tube preamp with Burr Brown and a NOS tube in it. They all sound fine. I could use any of them. My microphones make a lot of difference, (as due my speakers, unfortunately). The best bang for the buck: DIY room treatment.
The dead giveaway is that there IS a debate about it. Nobody debates the usefulness of microphones. speakers,or room treatment.
Old 24th October 2010
  #23
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Preamps are overrated in my book. In today's market, just about any preamp can get you good, if not great results. I started on a pair of ART MP Studios, and still use them (rarely). They have a rounded fuzzy sound with a dull high end, and occasionally, that's what I need (like on a kick drum or bass in a sparse composition where I want a mandolin to stand out).

I'm not trying to say the MP Studio is on par with a 1073, but the gap between them isn't immense. As it's been said before, if you want a 1073 sound use a 1073. It's not necessarily better or worse than the ART MP Studio on a given source, just different. I will admit the 1073 is way more versatile, and if I was given a choice between the two, I'd probably pick the 1073 99% of the time. But if I didn't want an aggressive sound to punch through the mix, but rather just add some dirty background low end, I'll grab the ART.

The point I'm getting at is Preamps are tools. You use the proper tool for the job, and it makes the job easier. Great preamps can versatile tools analogous to screwdrivers and pliers. Not so great preamps are more like torx drivers; they won't get used often, but if you need one, you need one.

Most preamps have a unique sound all their own. Most engineers who have been in the business a while, develop a preference for certain preamps, because they become familiar with that sound. Other pres that sound similar, fall short to their ears and are thus deemed inferior to the standard. Truthfully though, tastes are always subjective, and the increased fidelity of some high end preamps are going to be lost on 99% of the consumer sounds systems currently out there.

I think a lot of these posts about "this preamp is the best" and "that one's no good" is just some people trying to defend their conspicuous consumption. No preamp, I don't care how good, comes with built in engineering experience or skill, even though many low enders and some high enders seem to think so. You put a monkey in Abbey Road and I'll give Bruce Swedein a hand-held tape recorder and we'll see who records a better song and who gets poo all over the console.
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Old 24th October 2010
  #24
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The truth about preamps is they don't matter.

Bring on the monkey piss. And once the tirade has settled down I'll come back and prove it to y'all.
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Old 24th October 2010
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael_Joly View Post
The truth about preamps is they don't matter.
not unless you want to record anything without having to use all lineamps

they do matter for the simple reason that if you want to use a mic.....

you need one
Old 24th October 2010
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael_Joly View Post
The truth about preamps is they don't matter.
Nonsense. Why not prove it right now? And please don't tell me you are going to post audio examples.....

Quote:
Originally Posted by robertshaw View Post
they both (mic and pre) have a great impact.
Yep.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robertshaw View Post
1073 is arguably the most popular preamp of all time....for a reason. 80xx series consoles are some of the most sought after desks....also for good reason
Yep.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JPeters86 View Post
I agree with you that most people won't hear that much of a difference between a stock preamped recording and an expensive preamped recording.....
Most people - meaning the masses - no. Most good engineers - yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JPeters86 View Post
The cumulative effect, however, is huge. Imagine recording a large orchestra through a bunch of chained MOTU 8pre's or through a rack full of 1073's, API 512c's etc. I'm sure spotting the difference in this situation would be very easy.
Very well said; that sums it up pretty darn well.

And don't forget, you can have a great mic pre, but without:

A great mic (and not only a 'great' mic, but the proper mic for the job)
Proper mic placement
Good recording room/enviornment
Good musician(s)
Good instruments
Good engineer

- without all of that, having a great mic pre is like having a Lambourghini without a driver's license. It looks great in your driveway, and sounds badd-ass when you start the engine, but there ain't a whole hell of a lot you can do with it.

Cheers.
Old 24th October 2010
  #27
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chrisc_o View Post
I will state for the record that I believe that the vast majority of preamps available are very good. Many discussions are started in the hopes of discovering some secret piece of gear that will make one's recording's sound better or more professional. The fact is, despite the fact that preamps can indeed make a difference, if your tracks don't sound kick ass through a DMP3, Focusrite Platinum series, Presonus, built-in interface pre, or other low-end preamp then chances are they will not truly benefit from a higher-end option.


This is a worthwhile read for anyone looking to improve the quality of their recordings. It may not be what you want to hear, but most of it is truly kick-ass advice.
I checked out the link a few hours ago - and can't sto reading - a real ear opener !

Fantastically written and recommended reading . . .

Thanks
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Old 24th October 2010
  #28
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As I've said before, it depends on the way you work.
I run things hot and look to get subtle saturation. My preamps play a tremendous part in that. This is not a reaction I can get from mics. Even when I'm not after saturation, the differences between my preamps are quite clear. So, for me, it matters. It will not for some others, and that's perfectly legit too.
Old 24th October 2010
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
Nonsense. Why not prove it right now? And please don't tell me you are going to post audio examples...
Choice of preamp really does not matter and mics are far more important.

But I'm going to let this most recent flare-up of the mic / preamp debate go through all its usual phases - like all the other flare ups, and wait until all the usual noise is played out. Then when civility and rationality returns so will I. Not with samples, but with a compelling argument that never fails to bring this discussion to a screeching halt.

Just do a search if you want to see what I'm going to present.
Old 24th October 2010
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael_Joly View Post
Choice of preamp really does not matter and mics are far more important. But I'm going to let this most recent flare-up of the mic / preamp debate go through all its usual phases - like all the other flare ups, and wait until all the usual noise is played out. Then when civility and rationality returns so will I. Not with samples, but with a compelling argument that never fails to bring this discussion to a screeching halt.

Just do a search if you want to see what I'm going to present.
Well, you have piqued my interest with the "bring this discussion to a screeching halt" comment - going to search soon. As you wish to wait - which I will respect - do not be surprised if you find a pm in your inbox shortly.

Cheers.
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