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Cheap Mic Preamp Worth It? Single-Channel Preamps
Old 6th June 2016
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Cheap Mic Preamp Worth It?

Hello, I have a very basic recording setup at the moment (Blue Bluebird microphone connected by a Mogami gold xlr cable to a Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 audio interface). The sound quality for the price is pretty decent to my inexperienced ears, but I was wondering if I would benefit by purchasing a cheap mic preamp like an ART Tube MP Studio Mic Preamp? I feel as though my recordings for vocals (using a Blue Bluebird) and acoustic guitar (using a Sennheiser e835) could benefit from a mic preamp to hopefully help warm up the sound and make the quality of each recording slightly better in general.

Should I purchase the ART Tube MP Studio Mic Preamp or save my money? (Please keep in mind I cant afford the $500 mic preamps or else I would have one by now haha.)
Old 6th June 2016
  #2
IMO, no.
Old 6th June 2016
  #3
Lives for gear
 
celticrogues's Avatar
 

Save your money.

IMO the preamps in your interface are going to be better than any standalone preamp you can buy for under $500. The standalone preamp might sound different... But will not automatically be better.

-Mike
Old 6th June 2016
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by celticrogues View Post
Save your money.

IMO the preamps in your interface are going to be better than any standalone preamp you can buy for under $500. The standalone preamp might sound different... But will not automatically be better.

-Mike
Well, there are plenty of pres under $500 that will be a huge improvement over scarlet pres. GAP, Warm, Chameleon Labs, FMR, Aphex... World of difference here between these and stock ff interface pres.
Old 6th June 2016
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Thank you for the feedback guys!
Old 6th June 2016
  #6
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CEG85's Avatar
 

Buy it once, buy it right....
You will never regret buying a quality preamp.
Old 6th June 2016
  #7
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ManMulcahy's Avatar
Read some of the stuff Brandon Drury writes over at Recording Review. He challenges some of the more popular viewpoints about high end gear that I tend to find interesting...
Old 6th June 2016
  #8
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ManMulcahy's Avatar
But, in your particular situation I don't think buying the Art will do anything more beneficial or radically different than your current setup.
Old 6th June 2016
  #9
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kennybro's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ManMulcahy View Post
Read some of the stuff Brandon Drury writes over at Recording Review. He challenges some of the more popular viewpoints about high end gear that I tend to find interesting...
Best thing (and one of the most challenging things) an engineer can do is listen with a non-biased ear. First, get tones that make you smile ear-to-ear with your less expensive pre (yeah, it's possible), then add 500+ unit, and see if the smile widens even further. You might be surprised.
Old 6th June 2016
  #10
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ManMulcahy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by kennybro View Post
Best thing (and one of the most challenging things) an engineer can do is listen with a non-biased ear. First, get tones that make you smile ear-to-ear with your less expensive pre (yeah, it's possible), then add 500+ unit, and see if the smile widens even further. You might be surprised.
I'm with you...I started out recording with a Mackie VLZ board and have since moved on to "better" gear - Purple, RND, API and the like. I've discovered sonic differences. However, I still firmly believe that talent and practice overcome many limitations of lower quality preamps.
Old 6th June 2016
  #11
Dot
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Dot's Avatar
The ART Tube MP isn't very good. But there are some very inexpensive preamps that are quite good.

The Rane MS1b is out of production, but you can find them used for less than $100. Excellent preamp.

The Studio Projects VTB-1 is a good preamp, with a lot of tonal versatility. Runs around $179.
The Studio Projects VTB1

Those preamps can make a difference in your recordings, and are certainly a step up from what you have.
Old 6th June 2016
  #12
Lives for gear
 

Seriously....don't go there, it's just trouble your going to regret Kenny and his 500 series preamps are the best bang for the buck!
Old 6th June 2016
  #13
Gear Guru
 

I have the ART Tube MP. I also have a number of high-end tube preamps. IMO, there is no comparison. The ART has a tube in it, but it is not really functioning like a tube. It is good for adding some distortion to your signal, but not for that more elusive quality that a real tube preamp gives you.

The Tube MP actually makes a decent bass DI, I have used it for that, and of course people crank it up to use it as a fuzz-box as well. I would not get one to "warm up the sound" - but maybe to "dirty up the sound".

I don't think it is significantly 'better' than your onboard preamps, but it might be 'different' from your onboard preamps. A cross-grade, maybe. An upgrade? No.

Quote:
Please keep in mind I cant afford the $500 mic preamps
the contribution of a 'character' preamp in general is subtle. I think you have to spend a lot of money to get something that is going to give you a clearly noticeable improvement. Too many devices in the low and mid-priced range are substituting "distortion" for "character". To get character AND clarity is the province of the really high-end stuff.

The included preamps on most interfaces are really not terrible, they are simply clean. And clean is undervalued in our mojo-obsessed world.

I would now like to stand in the pulpit and preach to the congregation. In general you should save your money and buy one really good thing instead of a 'selection' of cheap things. Then save your money and buy one really good thing again. In the meantime, like everybody says, work on your skills. One day you will take a look around and say "wow where did I get all this great stuff?"

IMO, if you have to ask "do I need this?" the answer is usually no. When I was starting out, I didn't buy anything new until I was really feeling the lack of that thing.
Old 6th June 2016
  #14
Not popular here but if you can get a used DBX 386, it will add some mojo to your Bluebird. It's not a pure tube preamp but with a mic like the Bluebird it sounds nice and better than your built-ins. Easy sell if you don't like it. We have access to a lot of preamps and regularly grab the big brother DBX 676 for vocal work.
Old 6th June 2016
  #15
Gear Addict
 

Another cheap mic preamp choice is a used Aphex 107 stereo mic preamp. It uses a starved-voltage 12AT7 tube after a solid state mic preamp stage. Tons were made and they've been around since the late-1990's, so you should be able to find one for less than $100 in the U.S..
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