Which Tube Mic Preamps??

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Derrick
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Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by Derrick » Wed Nov 26, 2003 11:27 am

Hi all, this is my first post here so go easy on me... :D

I need some assistance from the experienced... I'm trying to decide what tube mic preamp would be good for me. I record rock and some acoustic as well and I get a pretty good sound from my analogue equipment already. After doing some reading, it seems my choice is between transparent Vs. colored, as well as cheap Vs. expensive. I know I always read that you get what you pay for, but I want to ask you guys if that logic applys to everyone deciding on a preamp? I mean, are the under $400 units just a gimmick or is there a great bang for the buck? Ideally, I would like a unit that has a range from transparent to noticeably saturated to cover all grounds! I place more importance on saturated though, and will choose it over transparency as I mainly want to use a tube preamp to add the character of a warm, lively saturated tube for some "hair" on some tracks. Can any of the cheaper units do this well... and still maintain the quality, big sound of the expensive units? If not I may want to consider the Hamptone Kit because I don't have $1,000 to $4,000 to spend on a tube pre! Vintage Apex, etc. are imposable to find and Universal Audio sounded like a good choice, but is still $1,000. Too much. Any of the cheaper units more then just a gimmick? Do they compare to the more expensive units but color with sweet, noticeable saturation? Also, suggestions on which to stay away from?
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Re: Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by audiopirate » Wed Nov 26, 2003 11:51 am

Derrick,

I happen to think building this stuff is fun, so check this out too.

http://home.earthlink.net/~altaflux12ax ... reamp.html

I am working on this right now. I am a bit curious how its going to sound without audio transformers, but it's cheap enough to experiment, right?
Anyways, the aplification is actually done with valve and not an IC which i expect will have pleasant distortion qualities.

only one way to find out!

-Allen
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Re: Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by jajjguy » Wed Nov 26, 2003 1:35 pm

If you search through this site a bit you'll find that when people rave about great sounding mic pres, even super-colored ones, they're just as often talking about solid state ones as tube ones. Is there a specific reason you want a tube unit?

(Sorry i can't really help you, just thought i'd throw that wrench in there.)

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Al
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Re: Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by Al » Wed Nov 26, 2003 3:57 pm

I think a good solid state one is AS good as a tube one, and if your traking to tape already there's sometimes little need for one, but for vocals, they can come in handy if you dont have a valve mic at your disposal, if your looking for that kind of sound.

HDB Audio make VERY good stuff!, they have a 2 channel one, fully discreet valve pre, hand built, with a nice old Telefunken valve input indicator, i think they are very reasonably priced too, especially for a hand built unit, just input control, with a phase reverse on back of unit, as well as a a/b channel blend, i have one of their valve spring reverbs, it's awesome!, lush warm,, Mmmm!!..they also do an instrument pre as well, which is even cheaper than the mic one.

Check them out, they look suitably cool and retro!

Al

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Re: Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by Meriphew » Wed Nov 26, 2003 5:45 pm

The ART Pro VLA is supposed to be one of the very few cheap toob compressors that's actually decent.

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Re: Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by ryanjacobsen » Wed Nov 26, 2003 6:31 pm

Hey, what a coincidence. It's my first post here, too.

It might be tough to fit the bill, at least if you want an all-tube preamp and not a hybrid of tube and solid state. Bellari makes an all-tube transformer-coupled dual mic preamp (the RP520) that seems to fall within your price range (about $390 new on Evilbay). It won't win the best preamp ever award, but it's closer to what tube preamps are about. Good tube preamps are expensive because they need high voltages to operate properly and usually use output transformers. That means $$$, and if you don't have $$$, the DIY route seems the best way to go because you get more for your money. If you're like me, though, you're electronics-challenged, so DIY isn't an option.

Those of us that are older and more experienced with equipment have been through the same decision-making process that you're going through right now, and we've come out of it knowing that the high-end stuff is ultimately better, and has more resale value. Maybe I'm reading too much into your question, but my advice to you is to purchase the best mic preamp you can afford, whether tube or solid state.
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Re: Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by prince turbo lung » Wed Nov 26, 2003 6:34 pm

the bellari rp220 is dual channel tube pre that is transformed balanced, for the price ($265-$300 used) it is excellent. super colored with a nice grit on the top end. if you put a higher quality 12ax7 it helps as well. this was the first outboard pre i bought, and i still use it. it is now in a rack crammed between telefunken v72 tube pres and ua 2108 solid pres, but still finds it s way into tracks. i have mentioned this pre before but it seems nobody ever listens..... it is good stuff!!!

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Re: Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by Auxillary » Wed Nov 26, 2003 6:35 pm

I like the bellari mentioned. I am not a big tube person unless it is a guitar or bass amp. I think you should aim to get the best preamp you can for your purposes even if it is not tube.
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Re: Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by prince turbo lung » Wed Nov 26, 2003 6:38 pm

whoa at the same moment someone suggests the same preamp!!!!!!!

dude the astral vortex is open!!!!

anyway
rp220= led meters

rp520=vu meters

same pre inside.
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Re: Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by Auxillary » Wed Nov 26, 2003 6:41 pm

In a 4 minute period, 3 people suggest the same preamp.

Your choice has been made man. It's bellari.
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Derrick
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Re: Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by Derrick » Thu Nov 27, 2003 10:22 am

Guys, thanks so much! Actually, I am very good with electronics and it is my livelyhood. I like the incredably simple circuit you found Audiopirate, and it seems like it would be a fun place to start befor taking on a $430 kit project. It's so simple you can tweek it to experament with, etc. Nice! I think I have the parts here and may be able to build it this weekend. As for the other suggestions, a solid state unit may be as good as a tube unit for transparent applications, but I am mainly interested in the ability of the cool inperfections and characteristics of the old school tube equipment used in the 60s and 70s when pushed too hard during use. It would sound great, but sometimes still add a raw, aggresive sonic character whether subtle or very noticable. While still maintaining a full, quality, huge, fat sound! The whole purpouse is to add tube character that I can use clean or saturated without being a gimmik like a mear distortion pedal. Bellari... interesting. I have been looking at those. I'll have to see If I can get one to try out as they seem like a good possability!

How would you guys describe a UA-610? Do they have ability saturate rather noticably?

How would a UA compare to a Bellari in clean and saturated sound?

Does anyone know of any other kits or schematics for good tube preamps that are reasonable to build/to try playing with? Thanks again!
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Re: Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by alba359 » Thu Nov 27, 2003 12:00 pm

Hey Derrick and Prince Turbo Lung, I understand The Bellari 220 is a properly designed tube unit that is construced of inexpensive parts and that replacing some of these parts improves the sound qualities of the unit. You can get a used 220 on Ebay for around $200-$250. BTW Prince Turbo Lung, What model tube did you use to replace the stock tube? In your opinion what applications does the Bellari excell on and what don't you like it on? Have you compared a stock 220 with a modded 220? Thanks, Don

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Re: Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by prince turbo lung » Sat Nov 29, 2003 8:21 am

i first used new oldstock amperex 12au7 they were a bit to mellow. my buddy gave me some old harmon kardon 12ax7 (i think they are actually ge) they sound better. i think any quality 12ax7 will do. i have used the bellari on every application yoyu can think of. sound wise it kinda gives everything this late sixties lo-fi (which today i guess is pretty hi fi) sound. think of the sound of a "classic tube pre" then think not quite as big and a little brighter.
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Re: Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by alba359 » Sat Nov 29, 2003 12:43 pm

Thanks for the response Prince Turbo Lung, Don

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Re: Which Tube Mic Preamps??

Post by tony moore » Sat Nov 29, 2003 1:06 pm

not to confuse the issue, but i really dig the aphex 207. (tho don't confuse it with the older aphex 107). very versatile "tube" pre. i paid about $350 for mine.

also, i really dig the art pro mpa as well. tho not as versatile as the aphex 207, it's definetly colored in a good way. and great sound for the money. great on vox, acoustic instruments, drum overheads, but not great on bass (not my taste anyway) or bass drum. i paid about $200 for mine.

fwiw, i've owned a bunch of vintage pre's (trident, telefunken, ampex, etc) and the sounds i'm getting from the "prosumer" gear above is perfectly fine for me. meaning that i consider myself a hobbyist recordist, but the recordings i'm involved with do get "released". and so far, they work when i was use them. very unlike the esoteric stuff even after it's been properly serviced...

tony

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