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finding the best preamp set up under $500
Old 18th November 2009
  #1
Gear Addict
 

finding the best preamp set up under $500

Hey everyone,

I am currently looking to upgrade my preamp (focusrite trakmaster pro) with a budget of $500 USD. I'll mainly be using this new preamp set up to track Vocals, Acoustic Gtrs, and Bass Gtr

Here's what I'm considering:

FMR RNP
Grace 101
Groove Tubes the Brick
M-Audio DMP3
Art Gold MPA II

Any feelings towards either?

Also, does anyone have any suggestions for stereo compression, something that rivals the FMR RNC in both performance and budget?

Many thanks!
Old 18th November 2009
  #2
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UPRYZ's Avatar
Therer are some significant differences between the units listed and it entirely depends on what your needs are but here's my 2 cents (I've used all but the Grace so won't comment on it):

RNP: 2 channel, ultra simple, robust and portable - i've used mine over the past 5 years on just about everything with always respectable results. Once in a while superb. Not great as a bass DI IMO

Brick: Great as a bass DI. Not enough gain for very quiet sources or some dynamic mics and ribbons. Sounds fantastic in certain applications - not quite right in others. 1 channel means you can't do stereo acoustic guitar (if it's your only pre.)

DMP3: 2 channels, good metering, clean, simple, cheap as hell.

Art Pro MPA II: 2 channel, versatile, great features, on the clean side. This one would be my pick if I was in your shoes (unless I needed portablity in which case i'd shootout the RNP and DMP3 and buy the RNP only if I could discern a significant difference in a blind test)

Good luck,

Dan

None of these is worlds apart from your trackmaster. Sidegrade or slight improvement, yes. "blanket off the speakers" improvement - unlikely.
Old 18th November 2009
  #3
Gear Addict
 

Hey Dan,

Great input! It nice to get feedback from someone who has first hand knowledge and experience with these units. You've also helped me narrow down my needs, and sift out my wants. I do have another question, do you think the Brick could be used to accent/accomodate my trakmaster pro? Maybe add some color and warmth where the TMP doesn't?

Just a thought...
Old 18th November 2009
  #4
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desotoslo's Avatar
 

you could pick up a used DAV BG1 for around that price, maybe a bit more.
Old 18th November 2009
  #5
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rty5150's Avatar
 

do you need a 2 channel pre or will 1 channel suffice? do you want character or clean? what style of music will it be used for? what do you like/dislike about the trakmaster(btw, i used to own one, too. for the money used, they are great units, but for new...there is better).

my recommendation would be for $500 is a gap pre-73 with either an rnc or used dbx 160x.
after that, the true p-solo for a cleaner sound.
i know those weren't on your list, but check them out as well.
Old 2nd December 2009
  #6
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UPRYZ's Avatar
No problem.
The brick is a cool little box. But I think in order to get a really noticeable improvement over your Focusrite you'd have to spend quite a bit more money. And - in my limited experience with the brick, it doesn't actually add alot of color - it's not as "warm" as you might expect.

Quote:
Originally Posted by captainhook79 View Post
Hey Dan,

Great input! It nice to get feedback from someone who has first hand knowledge and experience with these units. You've also helped me narrow down my needs, and sift out my wants. I do have another question, do you think the Brick could be used to accent/accomodate my trakmaster pro? Maybe add some color and warmth where the TMP doesn't?

Just a thought...
Old 2nd December 2009
  #7
Gear Addict
 

Check out Ronan Chris Murphy's "Ronan's recording show". He did a shoot out of pres under $500 a while back.
Old 2nd December 2009
  #8
Lives for gear
 

I own an RNP and ART MPA Gold and my opinion of each kind of reinforces what has already been said by UPRYZ.

The FMR RNP is a good all rounder, doesn’t really offer a 'wow' factor due to its uncoloured nature but if my intention is to capture the sound source and characteristics of the mic in an accurate way with little additional colouration, then this pre does a pretty good job. Like I say, doesnt particularly flatter the sound but instead offers a nice clean, neutral sound with good transient response and plenty of gain. In addition to this, I find that instruments recorded via the RNP seem to stack well in the mix. I tend to use this pre for things like acoustic guitar, piano, percussion and some vocals. Also acts as a nice D.I but like I say, very clean so can initially appear a little lacking on bass guitar when compared to other more coloured pres. Having said that, if your intention is to capture a very neutral bass tone then this pre does a good job and you can always proccess the sound at a later stage once tracked.

The ART MPA Gold is a lot more versatile than the RNP and will sound even better when the stock tubes are replaced by something better, ideally with some NOS. Again we have a 2 channel preamp with D.I inputs but you will be able to achieve a wider range of tones with the MPA due to its various settings/controls and tube sound.
1st - there is the varying amount of drive that you can apply to the tubes which will alter the tone.
2nd - there is the high/low plate voltage switch.
3rd - there is the impedance control when using microphones offering a wide range of tonal control.
4th - you have the option of installing tubes that suit your requirements. If you were to use it for mainly mono sound sources you could even install a different type tube for each channel which would offer greater versatility.
I tend to use the MPA for drums (mainly overheads), as a Bass D.I and sometimes for vocals.

Even though I don’t own one myself I have used the M-Audio DMP3 on a few occasions and it does seem to be great value for money. Nice and clean with plenty of gain. I haven’t as yet directly compared the DMP3 to the RNP in an A/B test but if you would like me to do so then just let me know and i shall give you some feedback.

Hope this helps.
Old 2nd December 2009
  #9
Lives for gear
 

[QUOTE=captainhook79;4794984]
Also, does anyone have any suggestions for stereo compression, something that rivals the FMR RNC in both performance and budget?
[QUOTE]

Many people here at GS rave about the ART Pro VLA (now in its mk II version) which although a very different beast to the RNC will certainly be great to have in addition to it. Having these two different types of compressor will offer you a great deal of versatility for a range of appliations.
Old 2nd December 2009
  #10
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Line Audio 2MP.


/Peter
Old 2nd December 2009
  #11
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David C.'s Avatar
 

The Grace 101 is really a warm 3D sounding pre. It's got a really similar character to my Avalon 737 which is why I'm thinking of selling mine.

I'd also add the GAP 73 to your short list. I wouldn't want it as my only pre but I gots to has it. thumbsup
Old 2nd December 2009
  #12
Gear Addict
 
Stepwise Sound's Avatar
 

Step 1.

Go to ronansrecordingshow.com and watch his "mic pre under $500" shootout

Step 2. (spoiler alert!)

Go to zenproaudio.com and buy a True Systems P-Solo for under $500.

Step 3. Rejoice knowing you have bought an amazing pre that can hang with the big boys for under $500.

Step 4. Make music
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