Cheap Tube Mic Preamp?

Discussion in 'Home Recording and Studios' started by Conghaille, Feb 15, 2019.

  1. Conghaille

    Conghaille Squier-holic

    Age:
    49
    Jul 12, 2016
    Chicago
    My typical recording setup goes something like this:

    4x12->SM57 & CAD M179 -> Mackie 1220i Mixer -> Mac -> Reaper

    The sounds are pretty good, but I've heard that using a tube mic preamp can really get more levels of harmonics and such to come out.

    Has anyone tried putting a cheap tube preamp between the mic and interface as not just a boost, but for tonal benefits? I'd like the benefits, but I'm kinda suspecting that a more serious (expensive) preamp would be necessary to get those benefits and avoid introducing more noise.

    I'm considering things from companies like ART and Presonus.

    Thanks for the input!
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2019
    Pat V. likes this.
  2. LutherBurger

    LutherBurger Squier-holic

    Sep 2, 2015
    NYC
    Don't waste your money. Seriously.

    I've used an ART tube preamp. It will only make you angry.
     
    Conghaille likes this.
  3. kjmac

    kjmac Squier-Nut

    Age:
    62
    811
    Aug 14, 2017
    Omaha, NE
    I have an ART tube pre-amp and I use it all the time. I really believe it gives a condenser mic a little smoother and more natural sound. Before you invest in a big dollar tube unit, spend the $39.99 on the ART unit and see what you think. It has built in phantom power so it is usable with either condenser or dynamic mics.
     
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  4. archetype

    archetype Squier-Nut

    800
    Oct 24, 2017
    Williamsville, NY USA
    Which model do you have? Did you stay with the Chinese 12AX7 in your ART, or replace it with something else?
     
    Conghaille likes this.
  5. Conghaille

    Conghaille Squier-holic

    Age:
    49
    Jul 12, 2016
    Chicago
    I appreciate the feedback. I wonder if you could write a few more words about what specifically was problematic? Thanks!
     
  6. kjmac

    kjmac Squier-Nut

    Age:
    62
    811
    Aug 14, 2017
    Omaha, NE
  7. LutherBurger

    LutherBurger Squier-holic

    Sep 2, 2015
    NYC
    It's noisy as hell.

    There is no shame in using solid state preamps for recording. If you're looking for "the good kind" of tube clipping, get it from the guitar amp and don't mess with the signal on the way into the DAW.
     
    surfrodguitar likes this.
  8. Conghaille

    Conghaille Squier-holic

    Age:
    49
    Jul 12, 2016
    Chicago
    That was my fear. Thanks friend.
     
  9. surfrodguitar

    surfrodguitar Squier-holic

    Aug 4, 2016
    Laguna Niguel
    I had a couple little ARTs for a long time, recorded a whole album in the 90s with 2 Roland synced VS880s and my take is don’t bother. Agree, they introduce too much noise. I would get the best interface you can afford. And yeah, those things did make me angry.
     
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  10. LutherBurger

    LutherBurger Squier-holic

    Sep 2, 2015
    NYC
    You're welcome.

    I bought it about 15 years ago and used it for a very short time. Now it sits at the bottom of a studio drawer. Every year or two I pull it out to give it another chance, and :eek::mad:... back into the drawer it goes.
     
  11. surfrodguitar

    surfrodguitar Squier-holic

    Aug 4, 2016
    Laguna Niguel
    @lutherberger I just ended up getting rid of mine so I don’t ever try to use them again. Plus the extra cables and desk space it takes up, is just a pain. All I have now is a Mac and a Focusrite interface.
     
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  12. surfrodguitar

    surfrodguitar Squier-holic

    Aug 4, 2016
    Laguna Niguel
    @congahille. How’s the Mackie preamps/interface? I thought Mackie was one of the better products on the market?
     
    optofonik likes this.
  13. Conghaille

    Conghaille Squier-holic

    Age:
    49
    Jul 12, 2016
    Chicago
    Yes they are quite good--especially for the money. My interest in the tube preamps was more of a different kind of sensitivity/coloration. I have no complaints with the Mackie at all.
     
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  14. surfrodguitar

    surfrodguitar Squier-holic

    Aug 4, 2016
    Laguna Niguel
    Gotcha! I don’t know too much about that stuff just cause outboard gear and preamps are just out of reach cost wise but you can go the plugin route and go crazy with all kinds of emulators. Check out Waves plugins.
     
  15. ksandbergfl

    ksandbergfl Squier-Meister

    371
    Sep 7, 2015
    I have never used it, so I have no recommendation, but I believe Behringer has a cheap tube mic preamp.

    I am no tube expert but when I have had noisy tube preamps, swapping out the 12AX7 for another usually does the trick. The quality/consistency of 12AX7’s seems to vary widely, even for the same manufacturer/brand. You could always try a lower gain 12AU7 or 12AT7, too. Go with what sounds best to your ears.

    https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MIC100--behringer-tube-ultragain-mic100
     
  16. duceditor

    duceditor Dr. Squier

    Age:
    72
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    A tube preamp -- expensive or otherwise -- is simply a tone circuit along with the level of amplification. It is the peak and valleys that have been designed into it that mattes, not the presence of a tube.

    Voice preamp are not like guitar preamps. They are not overdriven.

    Such things as "warmth" is really just either added 2nd order harmonics or (more likely) those present being boosted.

    Yes, yes, we have this thing for "tubes." For old sounding gear. For what is really a deficiency seen as a benefit.

    Sound is sound -- and if it sounds "good" it is good. But the issue here is not having or not having tubes.

    -don
     
  17. Conghaille

    Conghaille Squier-holic

    Age:
    49
    Jul 12, 2016
    Chicago
    Thanks for all the feedback. Wound up going in another direction. Picked up a Great River ME-1NV. Outstanding pre. Can't recommend it enough, though much pricier. It's a high-quality circuit based on the Neve 1073 design with a slight nudge towards "modern" tones.

    And of course that's true. It's even better (like a mic locker or guitar rack) if you can choose different flavors for different situations, regardless of technology. I've got some nice tube amps, but I also keep this '90s solid state Fender combo that's so loud and bright, it's awesome for recording a b-channel to flavor or clean up some stereo effects. They're all tools that help us reach more colors for our creations. :)
     
    duceditor likes this.
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