Affordable quality mic pre-amps

FFTT

macrumors 68030
Original poster
Apr 17, 2004
2,952
0
A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
I've spent the last few weeks looking at just about every good quality 1 and 2 channel mic pre-amp available.

I'm not kidding, this was one of the most difficult purchase decisions I've ever had to make.


Instead of talking to music chains that mostly cater to wannabes, I went to the pro engineers and other project studio owners for their advice.

I must thank the members of OSXaudio and Gearslutz for all the help they've given me.

There are so many choices and the sky is the limit.

The best quality "affordable" offerings were:

The Groove Tubes Brick $399
http://www.groovetubes.com/


FMR Audio RNP (really nice preamp) $475.00 (at mercenary.com)
http://www.fmraudio.com/productspage.htm


The DAV electronics BG-1 $690.00 (direct sale only)
http://www.davelectronics.com/index.htm

The Universal Audio 610 and 110/Solo $799.00
http://www.uaudio.com/products/analog/index.html



The AMI TAB Funkenwerk V78 $975.00
http://www.mercenary.com/amitav.html


and the Brent Averill 1272 Single Channel pre $1089
http://www.brentaverill.com/1272/


You'll note that some are single channel pres and some are 2 channel.

Beyond this, it really makes more sense to get into the API 500 series compatible racks and lunchboxes.



You can buy totally PRO mic pres, compressors,limiters, EQ's as components from a large growing assortment of vendors.
Each component generally runs $500-$1650 but these are the finest.

API, Brent Averill, Neve, Old School Audio, Purple and so on.
The empty racks with power supply run $450-$899 and are all inter- compatible.

This is the way I would go if I had and extra $1000 to play with.
This also looks like the direction the next generation of engineers will be going since they can literally take " their sound " with them to any studio.


After MUCH consideration,

I went with the DAV BG-1
I wanted 2 good high quality clean channels for vocals, mic'd instruments and keyboards.

This unit is rock solid and is ideal for studio or stage.



Mick at DAV was the lead designer/engineer for Decca Records for 28 years.

Considering the caliber of DAVelectronics' clientel,
I was greatly impressed with how well I was treated.
All my concerns were answered in a friendly, professional and timely manner.

It's no wonder that word of his product line is spreading so rapidly.

I hope what I have learned with help some of you with your decision.

My next priority is a great all purpose vocal mic
and a good 2 channel compressor.

I'll keep you posted.
 

FFTT

macrumors 68030
Original poster
Apr 17, 2004
2,952
0
A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
The RNP's are supposed to be pretty darn good and better than most of the stuff you see in the big chain catalogs.

Two good channels for $475.00 isn't bad.
FMR Audio's RNC and RNLA are also considered pretty good buys in their
price range.

However, several of the people who just tried out their new BG-1's are now immediately putting their RNP's up for sale. It's that dramatic of a difference.

The BG-1 is very clean without coloring the sound and still very much
alive.

What really blew my mind in all this research is that not one person mentioned or recommend the Focusrite platinum series.

I do have to say that the Universal Audio solo models were neck and neck
for my business, but the exceptional service I received from MicK at DAV
won me over.

I also learned that someone extremely influential purchased a BG-1 the morning before I ordered mine.
 

FFTT

macrumors 68030
Original poster
Apr 17, 2004
2,952
0
A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
Even though I would absolutely love to buy a matching DAV BG-6 compressor,
I'll probably end up going for the RNC/RNLA combo rack for $430.00

The DAV BG-6 goes for $799 and it's really beyond my reach for now.
 

steelphantom

macrumors 6502a
Oct 15, 2005
555
1
I've heard a ton of great things about the GT Brick. I'm considering picking one of those up in the near future. I've never heard of the BG-1 before. I'll have to look into that one.
 

FFTT

macrumors 68030
Original poster
Apr 17, 2004
2,952
0
A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
The GT Brick is definitely on my wish list.
Fantastic quality and bang for the buck in a tube channel.

There are certainly even better stand alone pre-amps of all sorts out there,
but prices are $1200 and way up for most of them.

I was trying to review those more likely to work well in a project studio.

According to the engineers I talked to, once you go above $1000.00
for one component, it's time to start looking at the API 500 series professional rack gear that is found in most high end consoles.

Pre-amps are almost like another instrument.
Each one can add a certain flavor to your results.

In most cases 1 or 2 channels are all you need while laying down a track,
so unless you are recording an entire band or a full drum set live, this is the best way to go.
 

euphoriasonic

macrumors member
Jan 8, 2006
40
0
LA
Just curious, did you even consider the Apogee Rosetta or Mini-Me pre's?!? They are a bit expensive, but are mostly found in high-end recording studios. I played with them at Full Sail :D
 

euphoriasonic

macrumors member
Jan 8, 2006
40
0
LA
FFTT said:
Apogee is great gear, but I still needed so many other items, that blowing
so much for one component was out of the question.
i totally hear you there. thanks for the research info, you had one up there i hadn't considered. good deal :cool:
 

zimv20

macrumors 601
Jul 18, 2002
4,390
9
toronto
euphoriasonic said:
Just curious, did you even consider the Apogee Rosetta or Mini-Me pre's?!?
the rosetta line doesn't have pre's, they're converter-only boxes. and the mini-me has conversion built-in, so imo it's a bit out of place in a conversation about preamp boxes.

i've found the rosetta800 conversion to be pretty darn good, though. plus, i rented an ad-16x for a tape dump project recently and was definitely impressed.
 

FFTT

macrumors 68030
Original poster
Apr 17, 2004
2,952
0
A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
Zim, you know more about this than I do.

Perhaps it might help others here if you could explain the primary difference between these outboard specialty preamps and those the average user might get in their typical A/D interface or their Mackie console.

BTW, I just caught the link to the new Apogee Ensemble, Maestro and the very cool Symphony PCI-Express card.

Impressive indeed!~~~
http://mixonline.com/news/headline/apogee-maestro-symphony-011806/
 

zimv20

macrumors 601
Jul 18, 2002
4,390
9
toronto
FFTT said:
Perhaps it might help others here if you could explain the primary difference between these outboard specialty preamps and those the average user might get in their typical A/D interface or their Mackie console.
well, each piece has to be judged on its own merits and its applicability in a certain application, of course. and within the user's budget.

that said, i believe that you more or less get what you pay for. when looking at, say, a $1280 mackie onyx 1640 vs. the $1450 2-channel brent averill 312a, it's useful to do a quick calculation on what might have been spent on each preamp.

for the BAE, figure $500/channel plus $500 for the housing and power supply.

for the onyx, if we figure $500 for the housing, power supply, monitoring section and converters, that leaves $780 for 16 channel strips, or under $50 per channel. even if half goes to the preamp, that's only $25. note, however, that this calculation ignores differences in volume pricing and labor costs (BAE is made in california, mackie in china).

regardless, that's one way of looking at it. i've not heard the onyx so i can't say whether the BAE pre is 20x better. plus it really depends on user needs, anyway. if i were recording a full band, i'd rather have the board than only 2 channels of BAE, for example.

otoh, if the goal is sonic performance, one would be right to be drawn towards the pricier pieces. imo, my BAE 312a kicks the living crap out of the pre's on my (now broken) mackie 1642.

lastly, one way to judge a preamp is to see how well, at mix time, it stacks up against other tracks recording with the same pre. this is where my mackie board utterly failed, and the FMR RNP shined. such a test helps reveal preamp deficiencies where a user's monitoring setup may otherwise cloud the picture.
 

Orrin Star

macrumors newbie
Dec 28, 2003
2
0
Brooklyn, NY
Two more to consider under $1000: Hamptone and Sytek

I own the Sytek MPX 4aii (a 4-channel pre that retails for around $850)
and have recently heard some raves about the Hamptone (which comes in two varieties - tube an solid state - and is available in both kit for and pre-assembled and starts in teh mid $500s for the kits).
cf http://www.hamptone.com
 

airkarol

macrumors 6502
Nov 12, 2005
280
0
My advice might not be amazing, but in my home studio, I use 2 m-audio octanes along with an M-Audio Firewire 1814. That gives me a total of 16 pre-amps. They all work great, and quality is good too.

-airkarol
 

shake

macrumors regular
Aug 14, 2002
132
0
Toronto, CANADA
as a professional audio engineer, i recently bought an API lunchbox with two mic-pres(512C), two EQ's (550A 3-band) and two compressors (525). http://www.apiaudio.com

this box is the best thing i have ever heard (next to an authentic neve). things recorded through the API stuff just "sits in the mix" better than any other pre-amp we own (we also have focusrite, neve and a few others). all the tonal quality and harmonics are all there. the EQ's are sweet and never sound harsh, no matter how much you boost or cut. and the compressors and absolutely sublime. really fast attack (15 microseconds!) but it doesnt sound compressed. still sounds natural and dynamic.

if i saved all the money i spent on POS gear in my time, i could have another lunchbox and maybe a u47 as well. if anyone here wants to get the "real deal" then API is it. you can still get them brand-new (like I did) rather than scour ebay for stuff that you dont know the history of. and beleive me, maintenance on vintage gear is a labor of love and lots and lots of cash.
 

netdog

macrumors 603
Feb 6, 2006
5,759
37
London
If you really want something on the cheap, I bought an M-Audio Firewire Solo and find that it works quite nicely.
 

zimv20

macrumors 601
Jul 18, 2002
4,390
9
toronto
netdog said:
If you really want something on the cheap, I bought an M-Audio Firewire Solo and find that it works quite nicely.
to really test a pre-amp: record 10 or more tracks through it, and see how easy it is to mix the song. this is where the pre's on a mackie VLZ board, for example, utterly fall apart.
 

cschreppel

macrumors regular
Jul 17, 2006
248
0
Boston, MA
Yeah,

If you can land some API or Neve stuff, you'll be amazed at the sound quality.

I just built a mic preamp that models a Neve pre...sounds pretty good.

However, when I'm doing a lot of drum tracking, I typically find myself going to my M-Audio Octane 8-channel ADAT preamp. It's about $600, but if you think you'll be doing more than 2 channels, it's definitely an option. I find it to be much cleaner than most of the other ADAT pre's on the market...like the Digimax LT and whatnot from Presonus.

The Octane, for all you engineering folk, has some nice options:

2 DI's on the first two channels
Pads on each channel
Phase reverse on every other channel
An M/S Matrix on channels 7-8.
 

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