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Tube pre suggestions for my budget/goals?
Old 21st October 2013
  #1
Gear Head
 

Tube pre suggestions for my budget/goals?

I'm in the market for a lower end tube preamp - either dual channel or two single channels - and I'd like to know what else I should consider besides the Art Pro MPA ii, which is currently in my sights. My budget is in the $300 range but could be raised a bit if the quality improvement justifies the budget increase (I'll just play a few extra gigs...). I definitely can't afford to triple it if that's what I need to do to see worthwhile quality improvement, though.

My current input chain is a Sapphire 6 (2 solid state channels) running through a Delta 44 (4 ins / 4 outs), so I'm looking to add a couple tube preamp channels for some variation/warmth/color since the Sapphire is pretty clean and sterile. I'd also like to be able to record more than two channels at a time since I mostly record stereo acoustic guitar / vocal tracks or stereo piano / vocals. And since the instruments are recorded stereo, I'd prefer if the tube pres were the same so they weren't mismatched if I use them on the guitar or piano.

Sound quality wise, I'm looking for mid to higher quality demo (which these days might actually be pretty decent). I know going into it that I don't have a great sounding room (second bedroom I'm slowly tweaking) so my expectations are reasonable. I'm not the type of person to expect professional tracks from a low budget and limited recording/mixing skills.

As far as mics go, I have a wide range of mid to high end options I can borrow from friends and family, so those won't be the "weak link". Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
Old 21st October 2013
  #2
Old 21st October 2013
  #3
Lives for gear
 

With respect - it seems as if you have some misconceptions about the way things are done. I would skip the cheap tube pre and consider more practical options for adding color...ie: plugins, stomp boxes, creative micing choices, creative acoustical choices, ect....

These things are going to add much more dimension than any pre you add. Especially in the low end range.


Quote:
Sound quality wise, I'm looking for mid to higher quality demo (which these days might actually be pretty decent). I know going into it that I don't have a great sounding room (second bedroom I'm slowly tweaking) so my expectations are reasonable. I'm not the type of person to expect professional tracks from a low budget and limited recording/mixing skills.
If a high quality demo is what you *really* want, and NOT to brag to anyone listening to the demo, about how the drums you recorded are "real" or that you used you favorite cab for that tone, then there are digital solutions for less $$ that will give you much more bang for your buck than any pre you add. (drum samples, midi drums, cab impluses, very good plugins) or better yet monitoring/acoustical improvements

If youre goal is to see "how well" you can do with the instruments you enjoy recording, well then thats another story, but the shortest part of it is, If you are looking to improve the sound of your recordings as much as possible then a new pre is about the last place to start. A "cheap" new pre IS the last place to start.

Save your money friend.
Old 21st October 2013
  #4
Lives for gear
what mics are you using?
Old 21st October 2013
  #5
Gear Head
 

Thanks for the input so far. I should have specified I'm recording acoustic guitar for the Mott part. And for current demos I need another channel or two for simultaneous recordng so skipping the buying process for mic pres and spending the money elsewhere isn't really an option at the moment.

As far as mics, I have access to an NT4, K2, C414, C3000B, NT1A, ST55, SM57, 58, and Beta 58 (obviously a couple of those are more for my live gigging).
Old 21st October 2013
  #6
Gear Head
 

Thanks for the input so far. I should have specified I'm recording acoustic guitar for the most part. And for current demos I need another channel or two for simultaneous recordng so skipping the buying process for mic pres and spending the money elsewhere isn't really an option at the moment.

As far as mics, I have access to an NT4, K2, C414, C3000B, NT1A, ST55, SM57, 58, and Beta 58 (obviously a couple of those are more for my live gigging).
Old 21st October 2013
  #7
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
...lower end tube preamp
...
for some variation/warmth/color
...
mid to higher quality demo...
In your post, I read a lot of preconceptions. It sounds like you have an idea of what the difference in sound is between, for instance, high-end demo and low-end professional. It also sound like you have an idea of what the "tube sound" is versus the "solid state sound".

dirtbird's post shares the same general concerns I have after reading your post.

Tube pres (or solid-state pres for that matter) that provide warmth and color are highly specialized idiosyncratic devices that cost way more than what your budget comes close to allowing.

In the budget realm, really the only considerations are noise floor, overload characteristics, and frequency- and impulse response. Any color, personality, character, etc., is much more likely to be the result of ****ty build- or component quality than an informed artistic design consideration on the part of the engineer.

In a budget mic pre, you want big, clean gain, and that's it. The MPA is renowned for being a cheap tube pre that isn't totally ****ty in all circumstances, but that's about as far as the praise goes. It's essentially an effects unit. Same would go for the Studo Projects VTB-1.

Since you have a wide variety of mics, I'd say stick within the realm of the known winners (FMR RNP, Black Lion Auteur, Rane MS1S, etc.) and work on honing your recording technique instead of going for "character" pres.
Old 21st October 2013
  #8
Lives for gear
 
guitarboy94's Avatar
 

I own the Electro-Harmonix 12AY7 tube mic preamp. It's a really nice sounding single channel preamp, especially on vocals. You have to make sure it's plugged into a balanced imput or you will get severe hum. Folks claim about that, the manual specifically says that it requires a balanced input.
Old 21st October 2013
  #9
Lives for gear
this is something i seem to write a lot in the low end. looking at your mics and your sources i'd sell the sapphire and add the money to your savings and get a sytek 2nd hand and then you have 4 channels going straight into your card.

in the low cost spectrum i don't think it can be beaten. it is clean with a bit of mid push and some warmth when turned up. i use mine alongside dakings, ma-5, vp28, lola and it is a go to for some things. steve albini rates it as one of his fav acoustic guitar preamps.

with mics like the c414 and the nt1a it can be of benefit to use a neve style preamp as it tends to smooth out the brighter top end. but to get into that category you will need to spend $600 per preamp.

so for me the sytek is the solution.
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