science behind preamps

general questions, comments and ideas about recording, audio, music, etc.
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MichaelAlan
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Re: science behind preamps

Post by MichaelAlan » Mon Dec 20, 2004 4:14 pm

Where do you live? I seem to be the only SoCal...ian around here.

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Red Rockets Glare
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Re: science behind preamps

Post by Red Rockets Glare » Mon Dec 20, 2004 4:19 pm

MichaelAlan wrote:Where do you live? I seem to be the only SoCal...ian around here.
Hey man!
I'm so-cal for real!

silent_nick
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Re: science behind preamps

Post by silent_nick » Mon Dec 20, 2004 4:30 pm

North Hollywood. in the heart of the phony NoHo Arts District...

Nick

chetatkinsdiet
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Re: science behind preamps

Post by chetatkinsdiet » Mon Dec 20, 2004 5:18 pm

I think most of your questions have already been answered, but the better gear definitely holds its value. Sort of like a good Strat or Tele. Buy a nice used guitar today and sell it for a profit in a few years. The same holds true with good recording gear. Mic pres from API, Neve, Telefunken, etc....mics from Neumann, AKG, Shure, EV, Schoeps, etc....
Other top end recording gear like the nicer compressors from Urei, API, dbx, etc....Lexicon gear, Eventide.....
Man, I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but this stuff is a staple of recording for a reason. It's not to say that there's not other cool gear that does the job....heck, even better in some if not all cases. But, like that vintage Strat, Tele or Les Paul....they're the ones that everyone will always come back to or judge the others against.
I mean, I love my BLUE lollipop capsule, but I seriously doubt it will be worth more than the $450 I paid for it last year. Even though that's a steal, it just unfortunately won't have the staying power of say my Neumann TLM103....and the BLUE mops the floor with the Neumann.

OK...nuff about this future value crap, I'm beginning to sound like a stock broker....
The better gear uses more expensive parts...theoretically, every single part is better....and more thoughtout through better engineering. The jacks, buttons, internal wiring, pots, caps, resistors, transformers, etc.
Look a preamp is no different than any other piece of electronic gear. Why does a flatpanel 50" Pioneer HDTV cost more than the 27" Hi-Tech color TV's that sell down at the local WalMart? I'm hoping that answers itself. It's the same with the preamps.
Here's an easy way to learn this for yourself. You're out in So Cal, right? Go find a decent studio...nothing crazy, just something that has a bunch of cool mic pres. All the high end brands mentioned above...API, Neve, etc.... See if you can book a couple of hours in there, bring a vocalist and a guitarist and just try out different pres. Heck, bring some of your own mics if you'd like. Shoot, you might even tell them what you're doing and get a discounted rate or a free shot at this. Then you could totally see what all the fuss is about.
If that doesn't work, then call up one of the many rental outfits out there and rent some stuff....API pres, Neve 1073, 1081, etc....check it out at your house on your other gear. I think you'll be surprised.
I'll maybe end up being the best couple a hundred bucks you've ever spent. Don't look at it as wasting money, lookat it as schooling.
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".

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Re: science behind preamps

Post by jajjguy » Mon Dec 20, 2004 7:45 pm

silent_nick wrote:If all a preamp does is boost the signal higher then why do they make $50 units and $1500 units? what are the differences?
i just wanted to say that that's a really good question, and kind of confusing and impossible to answer adequately. i remember after buying my first mic, a $60 dynamic, i was really surprised when an older friend told me that some people thought that even an SM58 might not be good enough for some recording purposes. i mean, a 58 cost twice what i'd spent on my mic, and mine was ok, so... what?

a better preamp will make the recording sound more even across the whole frequency range, more solid, stronger... of course there are different flavors, but that's the better and worse of it.

a microphone puts out a signal on the order of a millivolt. line level is on the order of one volt. so the mic preamp has to amplify the signal a thousand times. that's a big job, and there's lots of room for interpretation in it. imagine trying to build a sand castle one thousand times bigger than the small one that someone else built. so there's lots of room for both quality differences and style differences.

all these things are part of the answer to the question "how come the recording sounds so much LESS than when i played it?"

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Tim Farrant
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Re: science behind preamps

Post by Tim Farrant » Tue Dec 21, 2004 12:45 am

jajjguy wrote:[quote="a microphone puts out a signal on the order of a millivolt. line level is on the order of one volt. so the mic preamp has to amplify the signal a thousand times. that's a big job, and there's lots of room for interpretation in it.
Very true! In some cases when using low output mics and low level acoustic sources, the mic preamps ability to reproduce signals with 60dB (1000x) gain becomes critical. There is a good article in the latest Resolution mag about bandwidth of electronics (specifically mic preamps) and the perceived sound. IMHO a wide bandwidth at high gains is essential to maintain a faithful reproduction of the sound. One of the critical parameters is slew rate - the ability of an amplifier to respond to a stepped (square wave) input signal. Slew rate is a spec not many manufacturers supply in their blurbs, but is an important parameter, especially when recording to DAW's where the actual analog level required to get FSD is a lot higher than levels traditionally used to feed tape machines.

Cheers
Tim

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Re: science behind preamps

Post by Rigsby » Tue Dec 21, 2004 4:35 am

jajjguy wrote:
silent_nick wrote:If all a preamp does is boost the signal higher then why do they make $50 units and $1500 units? what are the differences?
i just wanted to say that that's a really good question, and kind of confusing and impossible to answer adequately. i remember after buying my first mic, a $60 dynamic, i was really surprised when an older friend told me that some people thought that even an SM58 might not be good enough for some recording purposes. i mean, a 58 cost twice what i'd spent on my mic, and mine was ok, so... what?
I only had one mic for years because it never really occured to me that i may need more. Doh! I clearly did though, although strangely enough i only i had one (different one) before that when i was 4-tracking and did really fine with that.
The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away.

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toastchee
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Re: science behind preamps

Post by toastchee » Tue Dec 21, 2004 7:27 am

I'm in love with the Presonus stuff. IMO, you can get some fantastic pres for little $$. I have the Firepod.

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Re: science behind preamps

Post by silent_nick » Tue Dec 21, 2004 10:31 am

jajjguy wrote:a microphone puts out a signal on the order of a millivolt. line level is on the order of one volt. so the mic preamp has to amplify the signal a thousand times. that's a big job, and there's lots of room for interpretation in it. imagine trying to build a sand castle one thousand times bigger than the small one that someone else built. so there's lots of room for both quality differences and style differences.

okay! That's exactly the kind of answer I was looking for. now I should be able to convince my studio partner that a good pre is important.

Thank you..
Nick

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