science behind preamps

general questions, comments and ideas about recording, audio, music, etc.
silent_nick
studio intern
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2004 12:59 pm
Location: Southern California
Contact:

science behind preamps

Post by silent_nick » Mon Dec 20, 2004 1:07 pm

Forgive me but I am a novice so I'm about to ask a stupid question:

What exactly do preamps do?

And which one would you recommend in the $1000 range? Here is my current setup:

P4 2.4
P4PE board
1 gig of ram
2 SATA hard drives
Nuendo 1.6
MOTU 24I/O interface
Mackie 1604 VLZ Pro
FMR RNC
a shitload of mics, including: Rode K2, Shure KSM44, D112, 421, Beta 57A, Beta 58A, a bunch of 57s, a 58, Oktava 319, 2 Oktava 012's

What type of pre would be good for me and WHY? I currently record desert indie country punk folk music...whatever the hell that means..

Thanks in advance...

By the way, I just discovered Tape Op a couple months ago with the Jay Bennett article and I fucking LOVE it.

Nick
Frequency Out of Range

chetatkinsdiet
buyin' a studio
Posts: 870
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 8:36 pm
Location: dallas texas

Re: science behind preamps

Post by chetatkinsdiet » Mon Dec 20, 2004 1:19 pm

A microphone itself needs a bit of boost in the output to record properly. A mic preamp is really no different than a preamp on a guitar amp or home stereo system where it takes a low signal and boosts it up to the proper levels before amplifying it at the power amp stage.
Not really the science behind it, but that's basically it.
The very top knobs on your mackie are the preamp knobs. When you plug in your mics...I"m guessing that's what you're currently recording on...you'll adjust this knob and then record. I'm guessing what you're asking about is a standalone preamp which does the same thing, just bypasses the mackie pre and gives you the option of another "color" to use. Most of the time, you'll have a standalone preamp that is higher quality than your board. You already have an RNC compressor. They make a pretty nice preamp as well for not a lot of money. The RNP would probably make a nice addition and a good introduction into the world of outboard preamps.
But really to go much further than that is tough. It's sort of like saying I drive to work. I sometimes drive to the bank, grocery store and liquor store. What kind of car should I buy?

later,
m
The only true great mic on this planet is the Shure SM-57. It is the most consistant in not totally sucking of anything ever built. All other mics are "application dependant".

-- Fletcher

silent_nick
studio intern
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2004 12:59 pm
Location: Southern California
Contact:

Re: science behind preamps

Post by silent_nick » Mon Dec 20, 2004 1:25 pm

If all a preamp does is boost the signal higher then why do they make $50 units and $1500 units? what are the differences? and what exactly does solid state mean?

Nick

P.S. thank you already...

chetatkinsdiet
buyin' a studio
Posts: 870
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 8:36 pm
Location: dallas texas

Re: science behind preamps

Post by chetatkinsdiet » Mon Dec 20, 2004 1:47 pm

If all a car does is get you to and from work then why do they make Geo's and Lamborghini's?

Not to be a smartass, but that same question can be asked of anything from cars to houses to guitars to drums to peanut butter at the grocery store. Why does one thing cost more than another?
Usually it will be one of, or a combination of the following:
Raw materials, component costs, labor, engineering, marketing, etc.
The more expensive ones will have higher costs from above. Just make sure the expensive ones you're getting are putting a bulk of that cost into parts, engineering and labor and not marketing.

later,
m
The only true great mic on this planet is the Shure SM-57. It is the most consistant in not totally sucking of anything ever built. All other mics are "application dependant".

-- Fletcher

chetatkinsdiet
buyin' a studio
Posts: 870
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2004 8:36 pm
Location: dallas texas

Re: science behind preamps

Post by chetatkinsdiet » Mon Dec 20, 2004 1:48 pm

oh...solid state means no tubes.
later,
m
The only true great mic on this planet is the Shure SM-57. It is the most consistant in not totally sucking of anything ever built. All other mics are "application dependant".

-- Fletcher

kayagum
ghost haunting audio students
Posts: 3486
Joined: Wed May 07, 2003 11:11 pm
Location: Saint Paul, MN

Re: science behind preamps

Post by kayagum » Mon Dec 20, 2004 1:55 pm

A simple answer is that preamps have certain sonic characteristics that people like or dislike.

And, to me, there's two camps: people who like preamps to "faithfully" recreate what the mic is hearing, and people who like their preamps to color what the mic is hearing.

Once you get to that point, that's where all of the divergent opinions and methods start to emerge. Certain electrical components may (or may not) impart a certain sonic flavor, and often dependent on how much it is driven or interacting with the rest of your signal chain (gain, impedence, relationship to mic, etc.)

There have been enough posts on this board to keep you occupied for weeks. Start searching on a particular preamp model, and you'll get a billion posts. Have fun! :wink:

User avatar
I'm Painting Again
zen recordist
Posts: 7050
Joined: Wed May 07, 2003 2:15 am
Location: New York, New York
Contact:

Re: science behind preamps

Post by I'm Painting Again » Mon Dec 20, 2004 1:58 pm

I'm going to jump right in here and say a preamp is an amplification stage..a microphone preamp or micamp amplifies a mic level signal into a line level signal..it can be done with a tube circut..a solid state discreet circut(no IC's)..or with Integrated circuts as the actual operational amplifier..

The Sytek preamps are IC based..a Neve or API preamp is Transformer and discret component based..the Universal Audio or Urei 610 is tube based..there are good designs using every genre and there are not so good designs in every genre..

people will talk of colour that a specific micamp imparts..about transient response when they say how "fast" they are..EQ curve or the way each circut has its own sort of equalization effect..the distorto-factor or the way the circut goes into distortion when driven hard..and many other things as well..

one of the most overlooked things IMHO is the effect of the preamp over a large number of tracks..a good preamp will sound natural and basically make a bunch of tracks mix together effortlessly..and IMO is very important..less expensive amps can impart murk in the lows and hash in the highs making instruments fight for bandwidth..

for around 1k there are some offerings here :

one Audix 35102 pre/eq module racked
one ch Telefunken v676 racked
onech API 212l in a lunchbox
maybe a used langevin dual mono preamp by manley labs (2 channels)
one Summit 2BA-221
maybe a used universal audio 2108 (2 channel)
a speck micpre 5.0
4 channels of FMR RNP
4 channels of Sytek
a toft ATC-2 (2ch pre, 2ch fet comp, 2 ch EQ)
a GREAT RIVER ME-1NV
old school audio APi and ssl style preamps
and there is a great company and they post here all the time
called seventhcircle who make neve style and api style kits
and also Scott Hamptone with his Jfet and Tube kits..he also posts here and his kits also get great reviews


and probably some more i cant think of..
these are all used in studios all over
and are good quality..hope this helps..

silent_nick
studio intern
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2004 12:59 pm
Location: Southern California
Contact:

Re: science behind preamps

Post by silent_nick » Mon Dec 20, 2004 2:06 pm

that's great...that helps a lot. thank you very much.. i'll also do the searches on various models...

chetatkinsdiet (great name by the way) - obviously the point you're trying to make is "you get what you pay for". I'm just trying to figure out what parts and components are in a $1500 unit as opposed to a $50 unit...

thank you guys for your help..

Nick

User avatar
I'm Painting Again
zen recordist
Posts: 7050
Joined: Wed May 07, 2003 2:15 am
Location: New York, New York
Contact:

Re: science behind preamps

Post by I'm Painting Again » Mon Dec 20, 2004 2:12 pm

hey Nick the opamps in an IC based pre cost like 5 bucks each and the transformers and dicreet amps in another pre might cost 300-500$ and some preamps like certain Neves actually go up in value each year as much as 10%..some vintage parts are considered unobtainium due to the fact you just cant get them at all..and that make the expense very high because of the demand and supply..

as to what preamp would be good for you its hard to say out of the blue..

User avatar
theistheman
pushin' record
Posts: 230
Joined: Sun Apr 25, 2004 8:44 pm
Location: Edgemont, SD/Chicago, IL

Re: science behind preamps

Post by theistheman » Mon Dec 20, 2004 2:31 pm

how come all the "novices" have better gear than I do?

slowblue
gettin' sounds
Posts: 100
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2004 1:52 pm
Location: NYC

Re: science behind preamps

Post by slowblue » Mon Dec 20, 2004 2:43 pm

I was wondering the same thing.

silent_nick
studio intern
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2004 12:59 pm
Location: Southern California
Contact:

Re: science behind preamps

Post by silent_nick » Mon Dec 20, 2004 2:50 pm

probably because you guys have families and mortgages and I'm gladly willing to go further and further into debt in order to have semi-decent sounding recordings...

the majority of our equipment was split 2 ways. My half was just me going into debt and the other half was my partner just spending ALL of her savings she's had since she was born...

because we're artists....or some other pretentious hipster bullshit..

Nick

User avatar
Ryan Silva
tinnitus
Posts: 1229
Joined: Sat Aug 07, 2004 6:46 pm
Location: San Francisco

Re: science behind preamps

Post by Ryan Silva » Mon Dec 20, 2004 3:43 pm

Golly gee, when I was a novice I had one mic, thats right one mic! I would love to have had that mic collection when I started, I mean I would love to have that collection now. :( Back to the subject at hand, you get what you pay for.
"Writing good songs is hard. recording is easy. "

MoreSpaceEcho

silent_nick
studio intern
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2004 12:59 pm
Location: Southern California
Contact:

Re: science behind preamps

Post by silent_nick » Mon Dec 20, 2004 3:50 pm

oh, and i'm not a complete novice either... i went through the 1 mic/4-track stage before now. I'm a novice to making halfway-decent sounding recordings. Here's a link to one recording we made - www.thekrisspecial.com/mp3s/wasiinyourdreams.mp3

it's a cover of a wilco song. there's no drums or bass and there are a couple of rhythmic fuckups but we were going much more for atmosphere and mood than precision... and no, we didn't make that decision AFTER we recorded it..

Nick

silent_nick
studio intern
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2004 12:59 pm
Location: Southern California
Contact:

Re: science behind preamps

Post by silent_nick » Mon Dec 20, 2004 3:53 pm

ah shit, i just realized i should have posted that in the mp3 forum...oh well..

Nick

Locked

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 14 guests