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Mic Pre advice?
Old 1st December 2007
  #1
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Spectacle's Avatar
 

Mic Pre advice?

Hello everyone.

I have a small home/project studio and I'm looking to add a new mic preamp to my mix, with a budget in the $300-$400 range, if possible.

I have an Alesis i/O 26 as my main audio interface (24-bit/up to 192khz). It comes with 8 very nice, transparent pres and has inserts where I can bypass the pres with an external one if I'd like. So I'm hoping to get a tube pre (real, not "toob"/starved plate) to add a different tonal color.

As for mics that I'll be using with it, I have:
Rode NT1-A
MXL 3000
Nady RSM-5 Ribbon
some SM 57s

Ideally, the tube pre could:
1) give me a warmer option for male baritone-tenor rock/folk/indie vocals
2) give enough gain to make the most out of the ribbon mic
3) be a good bass DI option
4) add just enough tube warmth to my amp sim sounds (Gear Box plugs, Amplitube 2)

Any suggestions, particularly that take into account my needs and current gear, would be greatly appreciated.
Old 1st December 2007
  #2
Gear Head
 

I've used an ART Tube MP with a new old stock Amprex Bugle Boy tube and a Hughes & Kettner Tubeman with stock tubes. In all honesty, the ART (at 1/10th of the cost, sans the tube) sounded light years better. I cannot recommend the H&K (as I didn't think it was all that special), but my point is a moderate preamp with a great tube will sound comparable (or even better) than a good preamp with crap for tubes (read: almost any tube made after the 1970's).


My friend's got a Aphex 207D, and anything through it sounds like butter. Pure, thick, delicious butter.
Old 1st December 2007
  #3
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Spectacle's Avatar
 

Thanks for the quick response.

I have an ART Tube MP Studio. It's a $30 starved-plate pre. Are you suggesting that if I just swap out the tube, I'll have what I want here? That would be cool, but...

I have been reading all over these threads here, and some possibilities that jump out time and again are:
ART Pro Channel Tube ($320)
Electro-Harmonix 12AY7 Tube Mic Pre ($189)
Groove Tubes BRICK ($399)
FMR Really Nice Preamp ($475)
Aphex 207D Tube Mic/Inst Pre ($499)

Also various more full-featured channel strips:
PreSonus Eureka Pro ($499)
JoeMeeks SixQ ($450)
DBX 376 Tube Channel Strip ($499)
Focusrite Platinum VoiceMaster Pro ($650) *A bit beyond my price range -- but if this will make all the difference in the world...

Any suggestions?
Old 1st December 2007
  #4
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Acoustic Cloud's Avatar
 

SixQ

.
Old 1st December 2007
  #5
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectacle View Post
Thanks for the quick response.

I have an ART Tube MP Studio. It's a $30 starved-plate pre. Are you suggesting that if I just swap out the tube, I'll have what I want here? That would be cool, but...
It's possible (I use my ART as a bass DI, and it sounds better though solid state than I could ever get my '70 Ampeg V4-B to sound with it's entire array of tubes). In all actuality though, if I were you, I'd opt for both a higher end mic pre and some good tubes, I was just pointing out the importance of making sure your equipment is good, both the product and it's internal components. If you are interested in getting good tubes, from my experience, here's how the classics modify sound;

mullard: warm, easily distortable, the stock tube in 70's Marshalls. In one word, fat.

amprex: ranging from a pronounced midrange to a really awesome scoop effect, these are my favorite for bass. In one word, pronounced.

telefunken: probably the best for clean, full vocals. They boost just the right frequencies (around 50 and 650) to make vocals sound just warm enough to not be too bassy, and just sharp enough to be completely clear. Running a studio projects mic though the right telefunken tube sounds close to a Rode k2. Unfortunately (as primarily a bassist), these are probably my least favorite tubes for bass. In one word, tasty.

Sylvania: Sharp, lots of attack and presence. Great for screams and most extreme vocal styles, and probably my top choice for guitar (if I'm not mistaken, Eddie Van Halen outfits his 5150/6505's with sylvanias). In one word, sharp.

RCA: Balanced, crisp. I think it adds too much treble to things. Might be good for guitar, but I've only tried RCA's though my bass amp, so I'm not too sure. In one word, average.

GE: Sound about the same as RCA, balanced. However, they add more gain than warmth or presence to sound than anything, I'd recommend against these. In one word....meh.

groove tubes: a box full of crap dropped in a river of piss. In one word, no.


That's all that I've used (except some new chinese made tubes, who's name and sound I've blocked from my memory because of the trauma they caused my ears), and I think there were a few more dominate makers back in the day (for instance, gold lion, who's new old stock tubes sell for upwards of $200 apeice [youch!]), but I've got no information on them.

Dang, sorry for such a long post.
Old 1st December 2007
  #6
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Spectacle's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bassist377 View Post
Dang, sorry for such a long post.
No apologies! That was brilliant. I learn so much on this board.

So, in addition to getting my new pre, I'll definitely end up swapping out the tube on the MP too, just to see what I can do with it. And it's so cool to have some idea of what to expect with the different types of tube.

As for the nicer tube channel strip/pre question, keep it coming folks.
Old 2nd December 2007
  #7
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Spectacle's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectacle View Post
As for the nicer tube channel strip/pre question, keep it coming folks.
Anyone want to chime in?
Old 2nd December 2007
  #8
Lives for gear
 
Spectacle's Avatar
 

Anyone? Again:

Ideally, the tube pre could:
1) give me a warmer option for male baritone-tenor rock/folk/indie vocals
2) give enough gain to make the most out of the ribbon mic
3) be a good bass DI option
4) add just enough tube warmth to my amp sim sounds (Gear Box plugs, Amplitube 2)

I hear one for the SixQ. Anyone else? Brick? ART Pro Channel (I don't actually have any channel strip hardware -- totally in the box at this point)? Looking for good warmth here, not the transparent clean (I've got that covered).
Old 2nd December 2007
  #9
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vernier's Avatar
Quote:
As for the nicer tube channel strip/pre question, keep it coming folks.
Langevin, RCA, UA, TAB, Magnecord ...whatever's old.
Old 2nd December 2007
  #10
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tazman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bassist377 View Post

groove tubes: a box full of crap dropped in a river of piss. In one word, no.
You do realize that GT does not make tubes, they just repackage, right? For instance I happen to have a GT 12AX7 laying around and it's actually a Sovtek. I don't work for GT so I can care less, but I just wanted to make sure people are not mis informed.
Old 2nd December 2007
  #11
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peeder's Avatar
 

In my studio the Peavey VMP 2 serves this purpose. I haven't compared it with a Brick or a Solo 610 but those are probably the closest things currently made in the price range.

The Peavey isn't very fast and detailed but its very warm (8 tubes inside), mid-forward, and has huge transformers that really make dynamic mics sound great. I paid $600 for it (2 channels) back in the late 90's, and I understand it is actually a Summit design that Peavey contracted for a high-end studio gear line that they let die after a few years. It's the only Peavey product I've ever been impressed with.

If you can find one used I think you'd be very happy with it. The Bass DI is superbly round. The EQs are nice too. I doubt I'll ever part with mine.
Old 2nd December 2007
  #12
Lives for gear
why tube?

I'll chime in, but not as some heavy expert. I'm regurgitating a bit, so take my advice knowing its not totally my own...

You don't need to go tube or toob to go fat or color or whatever. As you don't seem to have any decent pre, maybe just start with 'good' before character. People here love fmr rnp, or brick if you must go tube (apparently not too much headroom or gain but at least full voltage) but do look at solid state. That does not mean cold. Or you might like the summit audio 2ba-221 - a ss/tube hybrid. I'm really considering this, not so much for the tube but because it's got variable impedence. Or how about soldering your own? Check out seventh circle. Your options are vast.

I've had a few mid range pres and channel strips and my pick of the bunch was the spl trackone. But to be honest it wasn't all that different from the focusrite trackmaster platinum or probably many other mid range stuff. Except that aphex 207d. Couldn't stand it myself. Sounded dull to me. Not vintage dull. Wet blanket dull.

Oh and fwiw don't see the point of swapping out the tube on that ART starved plate design.
Old 2nd December 2007
  #13
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xmostynx's Avatar
 

so can anyone tell me is the mpa gold or pro channel worth the money?

i know someone is going to say get the aphex, or joemeek, but if i can get 4 pre amps that are gonna improve my setups sound compared to just one joemeek or aphex.....

at someplace you have to start, collecting these expensive boxes..so if 2 mpa golds will give me more clients, then 2 joemeeks can be in the budget down the line.

whats up slutz, let this young slut know!
Old 3rd December 2007
  #14
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Spectacle's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaolin View Post
I'll chime in, but not as some heavy expert. I'm regurgitating a bit, so take my advice knowing its not totally my own...

You don't need to go tube or toob to go fat or color or whatever. As you don't seem to have any decent pre, maybe just start with 'good' before character. People here love fmr rnp, or brick if you must go tube (apparently not too much headroom or gain but at least full voltage) but do look at solid state. That does not mean cold. Or you might like the summit audio 2ba-221 - a ss/tube hybrid. I'm really considering this, not so much for the tube but because it's got variable impedence. Or how about soldering your own? Check out seventh circle. Your options are vast.

I've had a few mid range pres and channel strips and my pick of the bunch was the spl trackone. But to be honest it wasn't all that different from the focusrite trackmaster platinum or probably many other mid range stuff. Except that aphex 207d. Couldn't stand it myself. Sounded dull to me. Not vintage dull. Wet blanket dull.

Oh and fwiw don't see the point of swapping out the tube on that ART starved plate design.
I hear you about the starved plate swap. But this guy swears by it, and so I might give it a shot when I've got a chance. I'd be interested to see if that $30 throwaway plus a new tube could be of some use at some point.

I already have good pres, considering this budget. The pres in my Alesis are actually surprisingly nice. For that clean, transparent sound. I don't think I'm going to surprass them in any noticeable way unless I start spending some serious money that I don't have.

As my first post indicates, I'm looking for something more colored. That's why tube. Generally speaking, in this lower price range that I can afford, that's pretty much the way it's going to have to be. A nice clean $500 pre would do me no good. I'm looking for a warmer sound, not one extra channel. Particularly as I'm looking for it also to do serious duty as a nice, round, bass DI, and as a warmer guitar tone with some good sims. If there is something solid state that fits the bill, great. Warmth before tube. I could care less how the great sound is produced. As long as it is a great sound.

I totally appreciate the suggestions regarding great things found at sales in the 90s, home crafted, soldered, etc. But I live in the middle of nowhere right now, and I don't have time to hunt for things that I'm ultimately going to have to be lucky to stumble upon. This is going to have to be an on-line purchase, sight unseen and sound unheard, which is why I'm asking for this advice here, and why I have been so specific.

I'll keep my eye out for all of those things, but at this point, I'd just like to know which of these pieces is really versatile, and a good sound for the money, and which of it is just, well, a piece.

The key here is to try to find something that fits my criteria, and that is in the serious, project studio gear class, not some glossy-looking, blue-light added, tube-for-show box of nothing.

So, the Brick (apparently the bomb as a DI, but how versatile is it)? JoeMeek SixQ? MPA Pro Channel (leaning this way right now, for combination of various Slutz' reports of good sound, total versatility, and seems like a relative diamond in the rough for only $320)? Ideas? Experience with any/all of these? Others in this group?

Thanks in advance for your help.
Old 3rd December 2007
  #15
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Anselmo's Avatar
 

+1 on the Joe Meek sixQ!!
Old 3rd December 2007
  #16
Gear Head
 
fova's Avatar
 

SPL Goldmike 9844 - solid state-tube hybrid, nice sound, little colored, usuable for vocals and instruments.

It is german product and here in Europe it is quite easy to get it. I do not know the situation in USA, maybe they are not selling there.

Another option - ART MPA Gold

Joemeek is a great choice but it is coloring a lot. Some people do not like it - need to hear. Great for guitars but not so suitable for each vocal.
Old 3rd December 2007
  #17
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tazman View Post
You do realize that GT does not make tubes, they just repackage, right? For instance I happen to have a GT 12AX7 laying around and it's actually a Sovtek. I don't work for GT so I can care less, but I just wanted to make sure people are not mis informed.
I only realized that after I went back yesterday and looked at the stock gt that came with my ART. I always thought all groovetubes were chinese/korean but this one was an eastern euro tube, but it didn't have any sovtek markings, so I'm not exactly sure as to what it is. My bad, still sounds like butt though.
Old 3rd December 2007
  #18
Gear Head
 
fova's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bassist377 View Post
I only realized that after I went back yesterday and looked at the stock gt that came with my ART. I always thought all groovetubes were chinese/korean but this one was an eastern euro tube, but it didn't have any sovtek markings, so I'm not exactly sure as to what it is. My bad, still sounds like butt though.
Is it Tesla tube? Look at their web site where is their logo:

TESLA ElectronTubes
Old 4th December 2007
  #19
Here for the gear
 

Newbie Loves his Brick

Sounds like you want a Brick. Lotsa color --very little trouble. Phat vocals. Punchy acoustic guitar. It's the opposite of 'airy' though. When I get rich, I'll dedicate it to my kickdrum.
Old 27th December 2007
  #20
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Spectacle's Avatar
 

UA Solo 610 or Solo 110?

OK, coming back to this. I have an ART Pro Channel, and I am looking to get one of the UA Solo models to complement it. What do you think? The 610 (tube) or the 110 (class A solid state)?

This is obviously going to be an upgrade, but I want the one that will be least likely to duplicate the sound of my ART Pro Channel (unless, of course, one is just so much better for my needs than the other). I want as much flexibility as possible. I'll be primarily recording rock and acoustic rock -- male baritone and tenor vocals, acoustic steel string guitar (strummed most often), and DI for bass and electric.

I've read all the reviews. Both the 610 and 110 get really high marks for sound quality from everyone. And both have warmth and color -- but the 610 more so and sooner in the gain stage, while the 110 has significantly more gain overall (77dB vs. the 610's 60dB). I'm leaning toward the 110 right now for its versatility, but does anyone here have experience with either/both of these models and the ART Pro Channel (or its close sibling, the ART MPA Gold), in order to compare them?

I want to be able to get some idea of what to expect, just how warm and colored we're talking about with the 610 and 110 before I pick one.

Again, rock: male vocals, acoustic, and as a DI for bass and electric.

Any perspectives would be much appreciated.
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