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Old 24th July 2009
Lives for gear
DeathMonkey's Avatar

As someone kinda going through this process, of exploring mic pres, mics, and various combinations of gear, I can relate. On one hand, I can tell you unequivocally that my last TSID record owed more of it's sound to the guitar's pickups than any flavor of pre I used. On the other, I sure do like getting new mic pres!

Describing the "sound" of a pre is a bit misleading to me. I find that the interaction between the entire signal chain (much to my frustration, lol) is malleable enough that it can render some descriptions moot. You can get a thin sound out of a Neve (believe me, I done it), you can get a good clean recording out of a Chandler Germanium, you can find ways to grunge up a Millenium or Grace. I don't think "flavor" of pre is as important as quality of pre.

To used a very tired but still apt cliche, it's like cooking. Is the average palette going to know the chef used fresh tarragon or not? Probably not. Can you used $5000 caviar to make inedible crap? Certainly. But yes, better ingredients usually improve the food.

The problem is, playing with mics and mic pres is FUN. Just like playing with guitars and amps is fun. I have 16 channels of 9 different kinds of pre, and I have about 20 different mics. That amounts to MILLIONS of combinations. And feeling like you just got the perfect mic/pre combination on a source is like finding the one glory hole at the bus station with a woman on the other side.

So my point is that while certainly pres have sonic characteristics, descriptions can be as useful as their spec charts. Unfortunately for our pocketbooks, but fortunately for us as exploratory humans, the best thing to do is still to get these pres and play with them, with YOUR mics, with YOUR taste. What someone else loves about "my big fat Neve" might end up with you thinking "muddy overhyped low end crudmachine Neve".

So this is totally unhelpful, but Ethan is right in the sense that here are other steps in the chain to worry about that far more affect the final recording than between two pres, much less two of the same pre. And Allen is right in the sense that I KNOW, IT'S ONLY ROCK AND ROLL BUT I LIIIIIIKE IT!