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Preamp or not preamp? (going a little bit OTB?)
Old 4 weeks ago
Here for the gear

Preamp or not preamp? (going a little bit OTB?)

Hello slutz.

I'm a musician, and I've been sketching some music in the last few years (piano, hw+sw synths, voice, acoustic guitar, samples, percussions and drum machines), learning some basic recording and mixing "techniques" at the same time.

I'm recording and mixing 100% ITB, my actual setup is:

- MacBook Pro, running Ableton Live
- RME FireFace UC

- RE-20, which I like, as my "mic for everything" (voice, acoustic guitar and various stuff)

- Prophet rev2 (totally in love with it, covers 80% of my poly-synth needs)
- Minitaur (covers 80% of my bass needs)
- Analog Rytm (covers 50% of my rhythmical needs, while the remaining 50% is covered by programming drums directly ITB often with stereo samples, which AR can't handle with ease)

- Monark (for when I'm travelling without my Minitaur or when I need one or two octaves more)
- Razor (when I need to program some "modern" stuff)
- Kontakt (for playing some great world-instruments libraries when needed)
- Repro 5 (which I use for "warm" stuff when I need to reach places where my rev2's filter can't get)

- ValhallaRoom + VV as my only reverbs
- ValhallaDelay (replacing my old EchoBoy, which I don't use anymore) for every delay need + Waves H-Delay for when I need a sample go-to delay
- ValhallaUberMod for my modulation needs

- Waves REq as my main and only EQ + Q10 for surgical needs
- REComp as my main compressor + C1 when I need to go hard-knee or more "clean" and digital + REVox for vocals

- Decapitator
- Waves REBass
- Waves REDeEsser
- Waves J37 (mostly for processing sound to get a fake lo-fi sound when needed)

My RE-20, my hw synths and the Rytm are going straight into the audio interface.
I have no outboard gear to process my audio signals or for tracking stuff.

Now, I begin to thing about investing a little bit of money (budget is 500-800$) in a piece of hardware, because:

> the RE-20 going straight into the RME is not having that grit, that clarity and that gain (my vocal refs are James Blake and Yorke)
> I feel that I'd like to "color" a little bit my soft synths
> I'm asking myself if even processing the rev2 and Minitaur (and the Rytm?) into a preamp or something would give a little bit more of "life" to both?
> I'm asking myself if processing my samples (the ones from digital recordings and from the internet) through a preamp or something would help?

I generally feel everything I do too "clean", without imperfection, without *that little color, too digitally perfect. I'd like to add some life, some dust, some noise, some warmth. Just that little bit.

Is investing my small budget in some not-hi-end hardware would help, in your opinion?
As I have never really been into hardware, I have no idea of what could be the answer.

Thinking about the RE-20, I had a look first of all at Cloudfilter, then the WA12 had my attention. Am I looking at the right direction?

And is there any preamp which would work both with RE-20 and with soft-synths (I'm mostly thinking about the stereo/mono question, as a newbie)?
Would you process the hardware stuff + ITB samples through it, also, or is it useless?

Thank you so much for your answers, and I apologise if this post is not clear.. I'm just confused about the way to go.

EDIT: To make it more simple, take "Unluck" from James Blake and "Dawn Chorus" from last Thom Yorke album (you can listen to it on Spotify or AM) as the two perfect exemples of "grit", "gain" and "warmth" that I'd like to achieve: would you add an hardware unit to my setup or do you think someone could sound like this ITB? If hardware, which one go-to budget unit would you suggest to invest in?
Thanks again!
Old 4 weeks ago
Gear Nut
brendandwyer's Avatar
There are so many factors that effect a signal path that it would be somewhat irresponsible for me to suggest xyz preamp.

Instead, I'll ask you questions as if I'm your brain pondering these topics:

1. Is my source warm? If I am are shrill, it will be difficult to magically change my voice, or guitar, or whatever once the sound waves hit the mic capsule.

2. What is the space like that I am are recording in. Is there natural reverb in here? Can there be?

3. How extensively have I experimented with the placement of the microphone, gain staging, etc?

4. Am I recording the source too loud? (Plenty of articles on fact a really good one by...i can't remember but he's a GS member and its fantastic...someone help)

5. If i've cleared up, or addressed the four potential issues/solutions above, am i ready to experiment by purchasing a piece of equipment, plugging it in, experimenting with all those above again, selling the piece of equipment, and rinse and repeat?

Its kind of like that you know? Imagine you are a painter and you want to find the perfect shade of blue because you are painting a lake, or the sky, or the ocean. You just can't find it in one tube of paint though, you need to mix in other colors to get close to what you see(hear). That's what trying to find a signal path for a source that is musical and pleasing to your ear is like IMHO.

Hope that helps
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