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mic-pre suggestions...
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overcoat
Presonic
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Joined: 03/03/2013 20:19:25
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Location: SF
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so finally, after upgrading my system and building myself a nice little workstation/mixing desk, i'm in the market for an external mic preamp to compliment my echo audio fire 4. my price range is 3-$500. What i'm currently looking into is the FMR RNP. I like the idea of getting two channels for my $. I've checked other forums and it seems in that range that lots of folks like the Grace 101 quite a bit. Only downside to that is the single channel.

I don't expect to find an answer here, but i would like a little guidance so i can make a better informed decision. Also, would it benefit me to not even think about the mic pre at this point and save a few bucks to get myself a better sound card? i've had my eyes on the RME Babyface for a while... Or is the Pre the way to go first? Up to this point i've done most of my recording direct in to my card so i have nearly no experience with this next step.

all suggestions welcome.
cheers

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 12/09/2013 05:36:03

Studio One Pro w/ latest build // i7 2.6 ghz mac mini w/ 16gb ram // RME Fireface UCX // Yamaha HS50m's // GAP Pre-73 modded // Blue Reactor mic // Shure sm7b, 57 & 58 // Roland TR8 // Faderport // Padkontrol & Edirol pcr-50 // Arturia V-collection 3.0, V-station, Synthmaster 2.5, Komplete 9 and various other vst's...
Rangersam
Presonic
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Joined: 29/07/2010 23:48:06
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Location: Tasmania
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This is an awesome topic and full of conjecture.

How much improvement you get from each point in the the chain is entirely dependent on the source and your taste. I tried some MOTU gear for a while and didn't like it, and ended up using RME gear for everything (see my signature). It's a sound I like, but others really like the MOTU sound and that's fine.

Mic pres are a huge topic. Most of the time, a transformerless design will be designed to be transparent, whereas a unit using one or more transformers will normally have 'colour'. Neve type pres can have 2 transformers and their sound is considered the 'holy grail' for some things like drums and electric guitars. On the other hand, transformerless designs are popular for traditional ensembles.

In my collection of mic pres (extensive!), there are 'gotos' for a particular sound. It's also really interesting how different mics can behave when used with different mic pres.

So where are we going with this? Well, I got hooked on this website

http://www.jlmaudio.com/shop/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=10

http://www.jlmaudio.com/shop/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=6

This is a link to the 'Baby Animal' kit page. I actually have built several of these 'BA' pres and they are so superior to anything in their price range I feel obliged to make it known.

As far as whether you feel skilled enough to put one of these kits together, there is a great forum for builders to help you. Maybe have a look at that to see if it's your bag.

http://www.jlmaudio.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=2&sid=ae5d5ef03a27bd99980ad6c79f387292

I have the FMR RNC and it's awesome for the money. As far as their pres are concerned, could not see that as ever being a bad acquisition. Good luck.




This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 12/09/2013 07:08:16

Intel Core I7 3770,ASUS P8Z68-V-LE MOTHERBOARD
500G Seagate SATA (projects),500G Seagate SATA (samples),500G Seagate SATA (apps).
Low noise case(Antec Solo). Acer x233h LCD, LG1510S.

RME Multiface x2,RME ADI2, Lucid 2496. Casio Privia PX-3,Behringer BCF2000,BCR2000.
Soundworkshop Series30 console (channels rackmounted in groups of 8 ).
Dynaudio BM15 speakers. Loads of mics and Pres and other junk.

Win8.1 64,Win7 64,StudioOnePro,Soundforge10, CD Arch5,
Reason6.5,Recycle, Waves Plugins, Drumcore 3.0, Korg legacy digital and analogue.
Native Instruments Komplete8,Alicia's Keys,Vintage compressors,Premium tube series.


i74770, Asus Z87-C, Acerx233h, M-Audio delta66,RME ADI2 (home PC).

Rangersam used to be called moopyhog (who died in the revolution).

CPhoenix
Presonoid

Joined: 13/03/2011 00:11:38
Messages: 1993
Location: North Jersey
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Great question man. I actually did a comparison of the Audiofire4 and RME UCX (similar to Babyface, just more I/O and +5db of gain on the preamps) in a thread here. I think I also posted it on gearslutz and/or futureproducers. Doing a search with audiofire and UCX in it should pull it up somewhere.

To summarize... AF4's preamps were clean and very usable. Babyface should be cleaner, little more detailed, and more transparent. I can't tell any difference between AF4's DA and UCX's DA... so they should be close to the same. However.. I was impressed by a recent loop back AD/DA test I did on the UCX. I never did one on the AF4 though so I can't compare.

TotalMix is looking more and more amazing to me... very nice if you eventually want to have outboard. Pointless if you have no outboard. However... monitoring with FXs is very nice... and RME allows you to have close to zero latency before the signal even goes to the DAW. That's fantastic.

Lastly... RME's driver is a bit better... however.. Echo was rock solid too. RME allows lower latency at higher track counts and is a ltitle bit more stable, which is impressive b/c i thought echo was awesomely stable.

RME damn near lets you run any audio anywhere, at any time. I could even probably play a Youtube video and route the stream straight to my DAW. I haven't tried it yet... but I'm sure I could. That's dope.

After getting the UCX.... I don't feel the need to get a clean preamp at all. I was originally going to get a Grace M101. I changed my mind... b/c the UCX is that clean. (Just replace UCX with Babyface, b/c the differences are said to be neglible lol). I recorded some voice overs with an SM57 and the UCX.. and even at high gain levels, the recorded voice was super clean, had a low noise floor, and felt like the person was actually in the room talking live. If I closed my eyes, I wouldn't know who was talking... the person, or the playback.

Now.. final verdict is.. it's only worth the upgrade if you have the money to do it... b/c the Echo unit is fantastic. Just doesn't have the bells & whistles of TotalMix FX... and is a small notch below with the preamps. DA is a wash, both are good and accurate. I'm impressed with Echo's DA to be honest. I don't know how they get it that good at such a low cost. Also... Echo drivers are great (even though RME is even better).

I will also note, I had a weird video issue with Echo and S1. I never got it solved. Switching to RME UCX solved it. The video playback was horridly choppy, and was only choppy if I had the Echo AF4 hooked up. Once I removed it and used Windows Audio... it was smooth again. Weird as hell... however, I had bad karma lol.


In regards to the preamp... if you decide to keep your AF4... I would look into a preamp that has some color. You already have some clean pres that are absolutely useable. I would look at something like the new Warm Audio units. Those things are getting great praise. Also consider maybe the GAP 73. I personally am goign to be grabbing Warm Audio Tonebeast!


I understand you wanting the Grace M101 though... b/c I wanted it the same. You want that "super clean" recording so that you can play with it and dirty it up later. I get that. If that's the case... get the Babyface instead. Not only will you get a slightly better interface, but you won't feel the need to buy an expensive preamp also. it takes care of two birds in one stone. And if you happen to need more gain for whatever reason (even though babyface is still clean at high gain) then you can add a Cloudlifter to a dynamic or ribbon mic situation. For condensor mics, it should be enough gain i'd presume.


So yeah... if you've got the money, get a Babyface and then add a color preamp later down the line. Dirty your signal with plugins. If you're technically okay with the cleanness of the AF4... get a color preamp now

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 12/09/2013 17:29:06

Win 8.1 x64 // i7 3930K (@ 4.2GHz) // Samsung Pro 512GB // 500GB SSD (via Raid 0) // 2TB HD // 32GB RAM // Antec Kuhler 620 // Radeon HD 7870 + Radeon 5450 // MSI X79a GD45 Plus mobo// TI chipset Firewire card

DAW(s): Studio One v2.6 // Maschine Studio // Reason 7 via Rewire
Plugs: UAD 2 Quad, Softube CL 1b, Klanghelm, Toneboosters, Soundtoys, Slate VTM, Kramer Tape
Instr.: Addictive Drums, Gladiator2, Sylenth, AAS Bundle, K9U, IK Total Studio 3, Cinesamples, RealGuitar/Strat/LPC, Trilian

RME UCX // AKG c214 // SM57 + Cloudlifter CL1 // JBL LSR 4328p // FMR RNLA // Korg Kaossilator Pro // Novation 61 SL MKii // Korg MicroKey 25 // Presonus Faderport // Contour Designs Shuttle Pro

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CPhoenix
Presonoid

Joined: 13/03/2011 00:11:38
Messages: 1993
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Also... to note about how good I think the RME preamps are...

I did a rough draft recording of a new song I'm working on just to test how I want to deliver it. I didn't even really deliver the material well... it was so choppy and I was missing full phrases lol.

SM57 + UCX. All I added was a UAD LA2A (legacy) to the track to give it quick compression and gain.

The amount of compliments I've gotten on my sound from just that was stunning. I sent it to people just to see what they thought of the lyrics I was working on, and all everyone won't comment on was how good my voice sounded even though I completely butchered up the verses. So.... that's all i have to say about that lol. Granted... when I used the AF4, I was using a shiity AKG perception 100, and didn't have UAD yet... but still, I never got close to that quality. Even after doing heavy de-essing b/c of how sibilant the AKG Percep is.

What you put in to the RME is exactly what comes out. It's kind of scary how accurate the recordings are. Again AF4 is nice though, but the RME preamps are a small step forward IMO.
Win 8.1 x64 // i7 3930K (@ 4.2GHz) // Samsung Pro 512GB // 500GB SSD (via Raid 0) // 2TB HD // 32GB RAM // Antec Kuhler 620 // Radeon HD 7870 + Radeon 5450 // MSI X79a GD45 Plus mobo// TI chipset Firewire card

DAW(s): Studio One v2.6 // Maschine Studio // Reason 7 via Rewire
Plugs: UAD 2 Quad, Softube CL 1b, Klanghelm, Toneboosters, Soundtoys, Slate VTM, Kramer Tape
Instr.: Addictive Drums, Gladiator2, Sylenth, AAS Bundle, K9U, IK Total Studio 3, Cinesamples, RealGuitar/Strat/LPC, Trilian

RME UCX // AKG c214 // SM57 + Cloudlifter CL1 // JBL LSR 4328p // FMR RNLA // Korg Kaossilator Pro // Novation 61 SL MKii // Korg MicroKey 25 // Presonus Faderport // Contour Designs Shuttle Pro

Next up: Motif XS rack
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CPhoenix
Presonoid

Joined: 13/03/2011 00:11:38
Messages: 1993
Location: North Jersey
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And lastly... (lol, sorry for multiple posts)... I don't think you can ever go wrong grabbing FMR products. I've got the RNLA and it's fantastic.

However.. I hear they are very clean pres. So... I would wonder if it's duplicating what you already have a little bit... being that both AF4 and RME are in the clean department. So.. that's why I recommended looking for a preamp known to have some color. I don't have the RNP though... so I can't comment further. Just going off of the reviews I've read, so absolutely take that with a grain of salt.
Win 8.1 x64 // i7 3930K (@ 4.2GHz) // Samsung Pro 512GB // 500GB SSD (via Raid 0) // 2TB HD // 32GB RAM // Antec Kuhler 620 // Radeon HD 7870 + Radeon 5450 // MSI X79a GD45 Plus mobo// TI chipset Firewire card

DAW(s): Studio One v2.6 // Maschine Studio // Reason 7 via Rewire
Plugs: UAD 2 Quad, Softube CL 1b, Klanghelm, Toneboosters, Soundtoys, Slate VTM, Kramer Tape
Instr.: Addictive Drums, Gladiator2, Sylenth, AAS Bundle, K9U, IK Total Studio 3, Cinesamples, RealGuitar/Strat/LPC, Trilian

RME UCX // AKG c214 // SM57 + Cloudlifter CL1 // JBL LSR 4328p // FMR RNLA // Korg Kaossilator Pro // Novation 61 SL MKii // Korg MicroKey 25 // Presonus Faderport // Contour Designs Shuttle Pro

Next up: Motif XS rack
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Beauvais
Presonic
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Joined: 02/09/2010 08:39:51
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Honestly, at this price point I wouldn't bother with external preamps. The interface you have is known to be good sounding with decent clean preamps. Not saying the FMR stuff ain't good, I just doubt you'd hear a big difference. There can be mojo in preamps, but usually that's with transformer balanced gear (possibly with tubes, but not necessarily). And this will set you back considerably more than a couple hundred.

Also with condensor mics preamps don't make as big a difference as with dynamic or even ribbon mics as they don't need to provide that much gain.

The cheapest color preamp would probably be a GAP pre73 (possibly modded), but I have not used that personally.

IMO the mic is more important than the preamp, what do you have in that department?
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CPhoenix
Presonoid

Joined: 13/03/2011 00:11:38
Messages: 1993
Location: North Jersey
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^Yes! The one thing I forgot to mention in my dissertation.

Look into a mic upgrade also. What mic are you using? I don't see that listed. That has potential to yield better results than a new preamp.
Win 8.1 x64 // i7 3930K (@ 4.2GHz) // Samsung Pro 512GB // 500GB SSD (via Raid 0) // 2TB HD // 32GB RAM // Antec Kuhler 620 // Radeon HD 7870 + Radeon 5450 // MSI X79a GD45 Plus mobo// TI chipset Firewire card

DAW(s): Studio One v2.6 // Maschine Studio // Reason 7 via Rewire
Plugs: UAD 2 Quad, Softube CL 1b, Klanghelm, Toneboosters, Soundtoys, Slate VTM, Kramer Tape
Instr.: Addictive Drums, Gladiator2, Sylenth, AAS Bundle, K9U, IK Total Studio 3, Cinesamples, RealGuitar/Strat/LPC, Trilian

RME UCX // AKG c214 // SM57 + Cloudlifter CL1 // JBL LSR 4328p // FMR RNLA // Korg Kaossilator Pro // Novation 61 SL MKii // Korg MicroKey 25 // Presonus Faderport // Contour Designs Shuttle Pro

Next up: Motif XS rack
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overcoat
Presonic
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Joined: 03/03/2013 20:19:25
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Location: SF
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Really appreciate you guys taking the time to post.

Right now i'm using a 57 & 58. Next week i'm gonna be upgrading in the mic department a bit as well. I have my eye on the ADK Thor. I was looking at the A6 but it looks like for a little more scratch i can upgrade that a bit. I need a good "swiss army" type of mic.
Studio One Pro w/ latest build // i7 2.6 ghz mac mini w/ 16gb ram // RME Fireface UCX // Yamaha HS50m's // GAP Pre-73 modded // Blue Reactor mic // Shure sm7b, 57 & 58 // Roland TR8 // Faderport // Padkontrol & Edirol pcr-50 // Arturia V-collection 3.0, V-station, Synthmaster 2.5, Komplete 9 and various other vst's...
overcoat
Presonic
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Joined: 03/03/2013 20:19:25
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Location: SF
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It looks like what i may need to do is figure out what i need after i get a new mic. Once i record a few tracks with the new mic and the AF4 I should be able to tell what it is i need exactly. There are still other things i'll be investing in in the meantime, like room treatment, a new guitar and potentially an outboard compressor (although i think i may have enough soft comps to hold me off in that department).

Thanks again to everyone for chiming in. I've definitely got a lot of research ahead of me No... kind of looking forward to it. Getting new equipment is awesome.

cheers!
Studio One Pro w/ latest build // i7 2.6 ghz mac mini w/ 16gb ram // RME Fireface UCX // Yamaha HS50m's // GAP Pre-73 modded // Blue Reactor mic // Shure sm7b, 57 & 58 // Roland TR8 // Faderport // Padkontrol & Edirol pcr-50 // Arturia V-collection 3.0, V-station, Synthmaster 2.5, Komplete 9 and various other vst's...
jimmydeluxe
Presonic

Joined: 02/11/2011 22:34:07
Messages: 249
Location: Hollywood, CA
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babyface. don't spend money on outboard yet. If you're using a 57, get an sm7b, even a Gauge ecm87...
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Gizzmo0815
Presonoid
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Joined: 28/07/2010 21:18:43
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Location: United States
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I won't offer any other options since the discussion is near pointless anyhow. Whether you need a preamp or not can't be answered by anyone other than yourself.

I will, however, vouch for the quality of the FMR products. I have two RNPs as well as an RNC and RNLA. All Excellent quality and the company itself is the textbook definition of a great american small business. They're awesome on the phone and will answer any questions you have honestly and without any marketing "fog".

I love the RNP and RNC setup...they work perfectly together (really they were designed that way) and as a dual channel "strip" setup it's worth two or three times what you pay, easily.

I'll also vouch for the quality of the ADK products since you mentioned you were looking. The A6 is a great multi-tool of a microphone though I generally like it best on instruments and slightly less on vocals, but it's well made, sounds excellent and is priced VERY reasonably for what you get. The Thor is similar though I consider it to be designed more for things like brass and loud percussion (snare, maybe toms etc.).

I own all of these, so first hand experience with them. Not unhappy with any of the purchases even years later (and with a lot of gained experience) they still hold up and are in constant rotation in both my personal projects and professional work.
Computer: Lenovo y560, 2.0 GHz quad core, 8 gb RAM, Win 7 (x64)
Presonus "Stuff": Studio One Pro, Presonus Firestudio Mobile, Studiolive 16.0.2, Faderport
 
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