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Best quality, transparent, mic preamps for under $599? Audio Interfaces
Old 7th August 2014
  #1
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adamsn's Avatar
 

Best quality, transparent, mic preamps for under $599?

Hi all! (Podcaster here)

Are you a mic preamp know it all? Perfect...

I'm going to be selling some equipment and hope to simplify my podcasting studio by just using a usb preamp, and doing compression, eq, and effects in my computer.

I'm going to keep my cloud lifter (which I LOVE) and plan on using that with my USB preamp.

Also, going to be using a RE-320 dynamic mic with the preamp.

All i need now is some recommendations for a solid, clean, transparent USB preamp for under $599 (give, or take).

If you have an affiliate link to a product I'll even use that so that you can get a kick-back if I end up buying it.

Thanks!!!

(PS. I'm selling a Mackie VLZ mixer, Behringer MXL-1600 compressor, an Aphex Exciter, and a Heil PR-40 mic.)
Old 7th August 2014
  #2
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I'm a fan of the Focusrite ISA One. It doesn't get the love some of the boutique pieces get but it's a VERY CLEAN mic pre. It does a lot more than amp a mic too- for bass it's pretty extraordinary. Lot's of flexibility with variable impedance and the optional A/D card. It's very hard to beat for $500!
Old 7th August 2014
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sacalait View Post
I'm a fan of the Focusrite ISA One. It doesn't get the love some of the boutique pieces get but it's a VERY CLEAN mic pre. It does a lot more than amp a mic too- for bass it's pretty extraordinary. Lot's of flexibility with variable impedance and the optional A/D card. It's very hard to beat for $500!
Giving that a look now. Thank you!
Old 7th August 2014
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TurboJets's Avatar
+1 on the ISA One.
Old 7th August 2014
  #5
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Any thoughts on Warm Audio gear? They have what appears to be a pretty wicked preamp. Here's a youtube video: Warm Audio WA12 Discrete Microphone Preamplifier Review and Report - YouTube

Also, the Universal Audio 710TFD Twin-Finity sounds nice in samples I've heard. Although it's colored.

So far none of these have a USB interface. Looks like I may have to add the interface separately.

Any other suggestions?
Old 7th August 2014
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TurboJets View Post
+1 on the ISA One.
Thanks TubroJets. I appreciate the input.
Old 7th August 2014
  #7
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Apparently the voice over guy in the youtube video above (sampling a Warm Audio preamp) sold his Focusrite ISA one for the Warm Audio pre. Then he sold that for the RME Babyface USB 2.0 High Speed Audio Interface, which he says is even better than the Focusrite, or the Warm Audio. Anyway, the RME Babyface has a USB interface which none of the above reamps have built in. Anyone have any experiences with a babyface? I'll have to search the forums. They run 599-799 depending on where you're shopping.

Any other ideas?
Old 7th August 2014
  #8
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by adamsn View Post
Apparently the voice over guy in the youtube video above (sampling a Warm Audio preamp) sold his Focusrite ISA one for the Warm Audio pre. Then he sold that for the RME Babyface USB 2.0 High Speed Audio Interface, which he says is even better than the Focusrite, or the Warm Audio. Anyway, the RME Babyface has a USB interface which none of the above reamps have built in. Anyone have any experiences with a babyface? I'll have to search the forums. They run 599-799 depending on where you're shopping.

Any other ideas?
Well the Babyface is an excellent set of converters that happens to have useable preamps built-in. If the end result is better than both the ISA and the Warm Audio, he was clearly using inferior conversion prior to getting the Babyface. It uses generic chip preamps.

If you want something with built-in conversion and a USB interface that focuses on excellent preamps (and above average conversion), look into the Audient iD22. It's 699$, but it seems worth it (these are preamps that people pay to get in standalone).

Other contenders:
- SPL Crimson: not marketed on the strength of the preamps per se, but from reading threads here, they also happen to be excellent. Warm and natural sounding. This unit basically trades blows with the iD22, both offering better preamps than the Babyface.
- Tascam UH-7000: still not enough in the wild to get a good idea, but this is also a 2-channel USB interface with a focus on excellent preamps. With the 100$ MIR going on, it's currently 499$. Tascam seems to be having trouble getting traction on this product as people (myself included) see Tascam as a low-end company and can't justify to themselves paying 300$ per channel.

If you get the ISA One, you might not need the cloudlifter as it has up to 80dB of gain. But it's only an analog preamp. You can add quality conversion to it with the optional digital card, but that's an extra 399$ and you still need an interface as it's a digital audio output, so add another 100-150$ there and you're now looking at a grand.
Old 7th August 2014
  #9
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MarkF48's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hardtailed View Post
If you get the ISA One, you might not need the cloudlifter as it has up to 80dB of gain. But it's only an analog preamp. You can add quality conversion to it with the optional digital card, but that's an extra 399$ and you still need an interface as it's a digital audio output, so add another 100-150$ there and you're now looking at a grand.
^^^This is correct
I have the RE320 and an ISA One. No need for an additional boost, the ISA One will be adequate.
Old 7th August 2014
  #10
Audient Mico is very good, $660 on Sweetwater
Old 7th August 2014
  #11
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by jweisbin View Post
Audient Mico is very good, $660 on Sweetwater
Indeed, but he mentionned USB so Audient iD22

Same preamps, except without the HMX and variphase feature (which shouldn't matter for podcasting)
Old 8th August 2014
  #12
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Really appreciate the input. I had never heard of the id22. I think I found a winner.

Much appreciate it! I think my RE-320 is going to love it. I may have to by myself a nice ribbon mic someday.
Old 8th August 2014
  #13
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One last thing though, I really don't need all of those inputs. I all I really needs is a single xlr input, one preamp, and one, or two, outputs. Are there any companies that make a really nice single preamp/usb interface? I'd love to save some money if I could.

Thanks
Old 8th August 2014
  #14
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The SPL Crimson looks like it doesn't require any software like the ID22. Does the ID22 really require software for recording?
Old 8th August 2014
  #15
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by adamsn View Post
One last thing though, I really don't need all of those inputs. I all I really needs is a single xlr input, one preamp, and one, or two, outputs. Are there any companies that make a really nice single preamp/usb interface? I'd love to save some money if I could.

Thanks
Not that I know of except maybe at the low-end (like the CEntrance MicPort Pro or the Presonus Audiobox iOne, which are probably very decent but the preamp is quite likely not on par with the Audient)

If you're on Mac, there is the Apogee One, which most likely has excellent conversion, but I expect the preamp to be just above average (no personal experience).
Another option with 2 preamps is the Focusrite Forte (sort of cheaper knockoff of the Apogee Duet that supports PC), which is 200$ cheaper than the Audient and probably 90-95% of the quality.
But those small mobile interfaces have less hardware controls which can be annoying at times (they do have the option of being bus powered though, which is useful if you're on the go)
Old 8th August 2014
  #16
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by adamsn View Post
The SPL Crimson looks like it doesn't require any software like the ID22. Does the ID22 really require software for recording?
Not sure what you mean. Any USB interface requires drivers on the computer to work (I'll admit, I'm unfamiliar with Apple's "Core audio" so I'm talking PC here), which usually includes some form of GUI to control internal routing (and potential DSP effects if the unit has that).

I believe the SPL does have more hardware controls for routing the signal (both input and output), especially the outputs (it's marketed as a monitor controller that happens to have excellent preamps and conversion)

Note that both the iD22 and the Crimson are quite bigger than the pictures would lead one to believe. If you want to record on the go, you have to factor that in. On the other hand, their bigger size makes them easier to use (especially if you have big hands like me!)
Old 8th August 2014
  #17
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Used Speck 5.0 mic pre. They street new at $779. They don't show up that often used, but there's on in the classifieds now for about $400.
Old 9th August 2014
  #18
Take a serious look at the AEA RPQ 500, love it for transparent! It has lots of quiet clean gain + variable low pass filter + AMAZING high self EQ to add some clarity especially for voice in podcasts perfect low end management and presence control. Pair that with a smooth 500 series comp and you'd have to do very little post processing.

Last edited by harbar; 9th August 2014 at 07:07 AM.. Reason: added all the cool features
Old 9th August 2014
  #19
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Dpro's Avatar
Warm Audio WA12 user here. It can be clean and transparent or add some color if you want. It's a very versatile Mic Pre IMO. I actually liked it enough I wound up buying a Warm Audio TB12 Tonebeast. I also have a hard time believing the Pre in the Babyface is better. I am not saying it's not good, but better than a stand alone API 312 copy with a custom Cinemag transformer. Lol I seriously doubt that.
Old 9th August 2014
  #20
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filipv's Avatar
I'd try ART Digital MPA. It has USB interface and many advanced features, including variable input impedance which is something you don't see often in that price range. Sounds great too!
Old 9th August 2014
  #21
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kafka's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by adamsn View Post
One last thing though, I really don't need all of those inputs. I all I really needs is a single xlr input, one preamp, and one, or two, outputs. Are there any companies that make a really nice single preamp/usb interface? I'd love to save some money if I could.

Thanks
For just a preamp, I love the Daking MicPre One. Beautiful sounding preamp.

I recently picked up an Apogee Duet, and this thing is no slouch. I haven't put the preamps through the paces on all forms of percussion yet, but so far it's great. It certainly holds it's own. Of course, you're limited to Mac and iOS.
Old 10th August 2014
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by adamsn View Post
One last thing though, I really don't need all of those inputs. I all I really needs is a single xlr input, one preamp, and one, or two, outputs. Are there any companies that make a really nice single preamp/usb interface? I'd love to save some money if I could.

Thanks
You're pretty much describing the Apogee One exactly
Old 10th August 2014
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filipv View Post
I'd try ART Digital MPA. It has USB interface and many advanced features, including variable input impedance which is something you don't see often in that price range. Sounds great too!
I don't see the USB interface on that unit. Am I missing something?
Old 10th August 2014
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dpro View Post
Warm Audio WA12 user here. It can be clean and transparent or add some color if you want. It's a very versatile Mic Pre IMO. I actually liked it enough I wound up buying a Warm Audio TB12 Tonebeast. I also have a hard time believing the Pre in the Babyface is better. I am not saying it's not good, but better than a stand alone API 312 copy with a custom Cinemag transformer. Lol I seriously doubt that.
Thanks for the input, although I'm really looking for a USB/Thunderbolt interface to use with my Macs.
Old 10th August 2014
  #25
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kafka's Avatar
I'd really go with an Apogee, then.
Old 10th August 2014
  #26
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Thanks again for the input every one. I've been looking around, and thinking about it.

I'm pretty convinced that I should go with a multiple Mic Pre unit, and something that will allow me to apply the following effects live (while recording/streaming into my Mac) for live streaming to the internet: Compression (Multi-band preferably), Gate, Limiting, and some sound shaping/coloring sort of effect(s). I have decent plugins for this already, and I would like to be able to use a unit that will allow me to use these plugins "live" while brining the audio into my Mac. (I'm not sure if I'm using the proper terminology.)

Again, because some people didn't catch it before, I'm looking for a USB/Thunderbolt interface with high-end Mic Pres, or something like that, that provides great transparent sound. And I'm a podcaster, not a recording engineer. At the most I may have 3 people in my studio at a time, but that is extremely rare.

Having said that, I'm looking at the ID22, or the Universal Audio Apollo Twin SOLO/DUO.

I'm fairly new to interfaces, "DSP", ADAT, etc. I've been all over these forums, and online, the last couple of days reading about it.

It appears (although I'm not sure) that the Apollo would be best for applying these effects in the unit while inputing into the computer, so that I can stream live to the internet without latency. However, I'm not even sure if that's true. I don't know if the Apollo is any better than the ID22 in this respect. I would really appreciate anyone's input on this. However, using the Apollo will require buying their UAD plugins, correct? It sounds as though I have to use their plugins in order to apply them live in the unit while recording into the computer. (This is Digital Signal Processing, correct?)

It also appears that the Apollo provides lower latency via thunderbolt. Is this correct?

It appears that the ID22 likely offers slightly better, and more clear, preamps. Since, technically, the Apollo doesn't have discrete preamps. I'm not sure that that makes much of a difference.

Will the ID22 allow me to apply those effects live, with extremely low latency (for monitoring the output that I'm streaming to the internet?

I would also like to be able to patch in live audio from my computer to the live stream to the internet. Will both the Apollo, and the ID22, allow me to do this?

I guess I don't need incredibly good latency, as long as I can listen (from the headphone output on the unit) to both my output from the pres as well as the audio from my Mac that I will be patching into my stream. Does this make sense?

I would really appreciate someone's input on this!!
Old 10th August 2014
  #27
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filipv's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by adamsn View Post
I don't see the USB interface on that unit. Am I missing something?
You're right, my mistake assuming it had USB. I apologize.

BUT, since it's a great preamp, don't let that stop you - you can always get cheap SPDIF USB dongle.
Old 10th August 2014
  #28
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Can you give me example of a cheap "USB" dongle? Are you referring to a converter that converts the signal to USB/Thunderbolt? I thought that quality converters are expensive. The converters in the Apollo/ID22/Babyface/Apogee are all quality. Where can I find something if equal quality to use with the Art? Also, what about the ART voice channel?
Old 10th August 2014
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adamsn View Post
Can you give me example of a cheap "USB" dongle? Are you referring to a converter that converts the signal to USB/Thunderbolt? I thought that quality converters are expensive. The converters in the Apollo/ID22/Babyface/Apogee are all quality. Where can I find something if equal quality to use with the Art? Also, what about the ART voice channel?
In this scenario there is no A/D or D/A conversion. Rather, it is a conversion from one digital format to another. You never leave digital domain and there is no loss of quality.

It's a simple thing to do, really, so the adapter is cheap.



Best quality, transparent, mic preamps for under 9?spdif usb | eBay
Old 10th August 2014
  #30
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Some cheap quality pre amps, not including 500 series:

Rane MSb1 (MSb1s)
Tampa
DMP3
ISA One
Gap73 & Deluxe version
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