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The question plaguing GS..
Old 22nd September 2005
The question plaguing GS..

Hi Michael.

Thanks again for hanging with us, great to have you here!

Okay I think this might be an add on to Jules "guess the signal chain" thread but I was thinking of asking you this before so I hope I am not breaking any rules.

Anyway one of the raging questions here at GS is "the same pre for the whole record" (like a traditional tracking studio console) vs. "a different pre for each track." (like a collection of mic pre's in a 'pro / home' studio) As you can probably guess the "same pre for the whole recording" camp says that by having the same sonic signature on a whole mix things tend to gel better like all the cool 60's, 70's and 80's records we all seem to point to as great sounding. The "a different pre for each track" camp says that by picking a pre for a track you can get it to "EQ" in a way because the sonic signature of the track is effected by the preamp.

Me, I tend to lean in the "the same pre for the whole recording" direction but I think both camps have very valid points.

I know you don’t track anymore but from a mix standpoint ..

A) do you ever know what the tracks were recorded with at all, what board or external pres were used and

B) if you do know, do you notice a certain type of mix come together easier than another, say all one pre vs. a bunch of different pres

(which seems to be in vogue)?

Old 23rd September 2005
Past Guest Moderator
Michael Brauer's Avatar

I’ve begun answering your question five times and stopped each time. They all come to the same conclusion. I just don’t think it matters. A great engineer records the sounds to match the song and if he’s great, and the performance is great and the song is great, the sounds will be great. Give him all the same pre’s or put a hundred different ones in front of him and I guarantee he’ll experiment. And when the recording is done, it’ll sound great whether it was recorded with one or 10 different pre’s, because he’s using them to mold the sound to what is great for the song. If you’re going to hear one instrument sound out of place, it’s either intentional or because the engineer didn’t get it right, not because of a pre of any kind.

Would Led Zeppelin or the Stones have sounded any better if Andy or Glyn Johns had twenty pre’s to play with back in the day? No. They get an instrument or vocal sounding great because of a combination of factors; right performance, right mic, right positioning, right tuning, right compressor, right pre, right EQ etc. Throw the Pre’s into the mix if you want, it doesn’t change the over all picture.

I would be surprised if, in retrospect, guys like AL Schmidt, Phil Ramone, Andy and Glen Johns, Hugh Padgham, Tony Bongovi or any of these top level engineer/producers would have felt they could have made better sounding records with the addition of a multitude of pre’s. I think the focus seems to be misplaced on the toy instead of on the guy behind the toy.

To address your final question, when I mix a song that sounds great, it’s because it was well recorded and the choice of sounds on the instruments are perfect for the song. That’s all that matters to me.

I’ve mixed songs recorded in a house that blew away tracks recorded in great studios by crap engineers.

When I get tracks recorded by George Massenburg or Jay Messina, I’m a happy guy. I know for a fact they’ll do the right thing and record it in a way that suits the song.
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