Monday, October 20, 2008

Microphone Preamp's... Go High-End

I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about mic pre's. He has some money to spend on gear and I was basically trying to convince him to go high-end. Even if you can't get as much now for the money, it will save you money in the long run.

I guess for me I made that same mistake a few years ago. I had some money, and went cheap. Admittedly there weren't as many options as there are today. But in hindsight, the quality stuff I bought I still use. The cheap stuff I have been trying to upgrade and getting next to nothing for resale.

It also took me a few years to realize the the limit was my gear. What is funny is that I have used Neve, API, SSL and it still took me a little while to realize it. Even the quality of my monitoring and plugins play a huge role. But I guess my goal has been demos on the cheap. Not albums really. But that is starting to change quickly.

The biggest difference between nice gear and cheap gear is the difficulty in mixing. A good engineer can get a good recording on cheap gear. But they will have to work for it. Getting a good sound on the way in makes your mixing that much easier. And a good engineer can make it that much better too.

After thinking about it more, I remembered these articles from Dan Richards:

Don't waste your $ on mid-level pres.

To Pre or Not to Pre

I definitely agree with both articles. There are definitely some jems out there in the "cheap" pres. But recently I went "cheap" again by getting an 8-channel Digimax FS. Reality is though when you get into the 8-channel's with A/D, the price range is either sub-$1000 or $3000+ without much room in the middle.

A gem perhaps? Well I really got it for drums and "live" demos. For tracking, I will probably try to use other pres. However I must say, I have heard great results from this level of gear for sure.

But for just 8-channels of good pre's with no A/D, the options do open up nicely. This is mainly since there are lot of boutique companies out there that can do great audio but may not want to venture into the digital realm.

Affordable-ish stuff that you would probably never need to upgrade from:

  • API 3124+ 4-channel - $2500
  • Daking Mic Pre IV 4-channel - $2200
  • John Hardy M-1 4-channel = $2900
  • Sytek MPX-4ii 4-channel = $900
  • Sebatron VMP-4000e 4-channel = $1800
  • Sebatron VMP-2000eVU 2-channel = $1600
  • JLM TMP-8 8-channel = $1900
  • Focusrite ISA428 4-channel = $2000
  • Audient ASP008 8-channel ADAT = $2200
  • True Audio Precision 8 8-channel = $2500
  • Line Audio 8MP - $750

Then the Single channels:

  • Daking Mic Pre One 1-channel = $675
  • Grace M101 1-channel = $600
  • Universal Audio Solo 1-channel = $800
  • Focusrite ISA one 1-channel = $800
  • Chameleon Labs 7602 1-channel = $700


  • Groove Tubes Brick (borderline) 1-channel = $400
  • FMR RNP - $475

But in the 2 channel 1-2k range you get into some really nice options from Neve, API, A-Designs, GML, Chandler, SSL, Great River, Grace, Hardy, etc. Or I would probably strongly consider starting a lunch box.

Some that Stand Out to Me:

  • API A2D 2-Channel A/D Conversion = $1800
  • A-Designs Audio Pacifica 2-channel = $2000
  • Vintech X73i 1-Channel = $1350
  • Vintech 1272 2-Channel = $1350
  • Great River MP-2NV = $2275
  • Chandler Germanium = $1200

Then if you are willing to DIY, or know someone who does. Definitely check out:

  • Seventh Circle Audio
  • Five Fish Audio
  • JLM 990's
  • Hamptone

I probably missed some. Let me know and I can update the list.

If you are going to spend money, get stuff that you will keep and are well revered. Good mics, good pres, monitors, acoustic treatment. Interfaces and computers and such are basically disposable. Even if you have to get less, you can always borrow, rent, buy/return, the other stuff you need till you can afford the nicer stuff.

I need to listen to myself when I say this: "Buy Cheap, Buy Twice!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think converters should be discussed in this article as well. I have said it many times in the past, what is the point of spending the dough on great pres only to send them through low market A/D?

I do however thoroughly agree with go low or go high. Mid level shit is always going to end up being a stepping stone.

I could h0owever see the SP VTB-1 still finding home amongst big boy gear. Such a solid pre for 119 bones. Until 25 grand magically appears in my mailbox I guess I will have to stay in the low tier and work some magic of my own.

Nice read!