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Thread: Tube Condenser mic versus Condenser with Tube preamp

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    multidose is offline Newbie
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    Tube Condenser mic versus Condenser with Tube preamp

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    Is there any real difference in sound here? I am using a RODE NT1 with a tube 12ax7 preamp, and it sounds pretty good if you ask me. I'm thinking of getting a true tube condenser, but would there be a real difference? I won't be shopping brand name like Neumann or anything. But I did find a guy in california who manufactures custom tube condensers for a very reasonable price. The product is called TNC

    Any advice here would be appreciated, thanks!

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    pohaku's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by multidose View Post
    Is there any real difference in sound here? I am using a RODE NT1 with a tube 12ax7 preamp, and it sounds pretty good if you ask me. I'm thinking of getting a true tube condenser, but would there be a real difference? I won't be shopping brand name like Neumann or anything. But I did find a guy in california who manufactures custom tube condensers for a very reasonable price. The product is called TNC

    Any advice here would be appreciated, thanks!
    Uh huh. Please see the group buy thread. That's TNC. If you look there and at some of the other threads on this forum, there may be reviews and comments on that particular TNC mic as well. I use tube and SS mics with tube and SS preamps all the time. They aren't equivalent - but it really depends on particular mic and particular preamp as to how they sound individually and together. Tube gear is nice, but it isn't the holy grail or anything. I'd consider the sound of the particular piece of gear before I'd worry about whether it has a tube topology or not.
    Yeah I'm an attorney, but everyone needs a day job.

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    craigmorris74 is offline Senior Member
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    Sort of emphasizing what pohaku said, there is no one "tube sound". Great tube gear often sound as hi-fi or more hi-fi than solid state. So running a tube mic into a tube pre or any combination will not give you a magic vintage warm sound or any such garbage. Especially with mic pres, cheap "tube" gear often contains tubes that do nothing other than add noise to the signal chain. Also, any of the cheap tube mics stock have a harsh midrange and are anything but warm.

    Curious as to what tube pre you're using.
    Craig

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    ittam is offline Dedicated Member
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    Its all about your gain settings

    Matti

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    multidose is offline Newbie
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    Thanks

    All very helpful information... but there is a dilemna, which is knowing the sound of a microphone before you buy it. I've been searching the forum and google for reviews of the TNC ACM-6802T but I just can't find much information other than one guy says its perfect for acoustic guitar and a little bright making a quick judgement after a vocal test. I would appreciate any information anyone has on this mic other than the specs... i was able to find those. This one is a tube mic, which I understand would give it, its own sort of sound.

    To answer your question Craig, I am using Art tube preamps. I am in the process of changing out the stock 12AX7 tubes for vintage and higher quality grade tubes (mullard, TAD, Tung Sol). I think this will help. Right now these preamps definitely compliments my sound, but i'm just really trying to improve it more.

    Again thanks for the advice!

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    multidose is offline Newbie
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    feedback is good :)

    It also occurs to me, I should ask, if anyone has any other suggestions on other condenser microphones please feel free to chime in. I am looking for a mic that has an overall brightness to it, but nothing harsh. Having a mic that can do omni is important as well. Presence boosts are good if not overdone, and the lower midrange/bottom end is flat. I'm also looking for something that has low noise no higher than 20db, a wide freqeuncy response 20-20,000 and avergae spl of 135 or higher. This mic will be used for acoustic guitar and vocals.

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    mattkw80 is offline Newbie 4 EVA
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    I don't know what your price range is ..... but I borrowed each of these for 2 weeks.....

    Studio Projects T3

    Rode NTK

    MXL V69 Mogami


    I was lucky enough to demo them all in my own home. They we're all excellent.

    The T3 has all the different polar patterns (cardiod, figure 8, and omni). The V69 was very affordable and sounded good, but I do remember liking the sound of the NTK the best.

    I read once, as a general rule of thumb - that it is a good idea to have a tube in the signal chain somewhere, on some instruments - because today's Digital equipment (DAW's) can sound cold and un-forgiving, where as a tube will add harmonic distortion - which could make it easier to mix sources together, as opposed to straight digital recordings.

    The same book said to add a tube preamp (like the ART you have) to a solid state mic, or a tube mic to a solid state pre. Either way - you'd be adding some tube color.

    I do not know a scenario in which you would not want some "warmth" on a track.

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    pohaku's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattkw80 View Post
    I don't know what your price range is ..... but I borrowed each of these for 2 weeks.....

    Studio Projects T3

    Rode NTK

    MXL V69 Mogami


    I was lucky enough to demo them all in my own home. They we're all excellent.

    The T3 has all the different polar patterns (cardiod, figure 8, and omni). The V69 was very affordable and sounded good, but I do remember liking the sound of the NTK the best.

    I read once, as a general rule of thumb - that it is a good idea to have a tube in the signal chain somewhere, on some instruments - because today's Digital equipment (DAW's) can sound cold and un-forgiving, where as a tube will add harmonic distortion - which could make it easier to mix sources together, as opposed to straight digital recordings.

    The same book said to add a tube preamp (like the ART you have) to a solid state mic, or a tube mic to a solid state pre. Either way - you'd be adding some tube color.

    I do not know a scenario in which you would not want some "warmth" on a track.

    Tubes can, but don't necessarily, add any significant distortion or warmth. Some of the best tube equipment simply comes across as being hifi - Pendulum and Millennia gear for example. I've got both, and while they have their own character, I wouldn't characterize it as being "warm". Generally the most coveted gear for preamp color (sometimes characterized as warmth) is solid state gear like Neve, API or Great River. The "warmth" comes from iron -- the transformers in these preamps. Lots of great music has been recorded with solid state pres (API, Neve) and solid state mics (Neumann U87, Gefell M70, Neumann KM84i) and dynamic mics (SM7, SM57, MD421, etc.) used together. Pro audio tube gear isn't really analogous to a tube guitar amp with its very prominent tube distortion when driven.

    In addition, the recent use of "toobs" in lower cost audio equipment has largely been an exercise in marketing hype to get people to buy the stuff. The tubes typically don't operate at proper voltage (sometimes referred to as starved plate designs) and simply add a veneer of distortion to the sound, which while it can sometimes be useful as an effect, isn't the "warmth" that people think they are getting by using a tube preamp. Presonus Blue Tube and the Art Tube MP are examples of this kind of gear. Generally, it costs more to build good tube gear than the solid state equivalent - so if you are working on a small budget, you are typically better off buying a solid state unit than a tube unit for equivalent dollars. About the least expensive real tube preamp currently available is the GT Brick. Some people here have said nice things about the EH gear, but I've never used one. Some people here also like the ART MPA and ART Prochannel which I believe both operate at proper voltage. After that the price goes up significantly with Sebatron probably being the next step (unless you can find a used Peavey VMP-2 or a GT MP1). This isn't to say that you shouldn't buy any of the starved plate gear - the VTB-1, in particular is a nice cheap high gain pre without the tube circuit engaged. It is just that you need to be aware that the toob hype is just that -- hype.

    In microphones, some of the newer tube mics appear to use subminiature mil spec tubes, which work fine, but don't seem to have quite the same character as the larger tubes used in the classic microphone designs (U47, M582). That said, it seems that gear manufacturers have done a better job, IMHO, with lower cost tube mics than with preamps. Marshall, SE and Rode among others seem to put out some very nice stuff for the money. Some of the subminiature stuff out there also seems pretty good, but I find they aren't as obviously "tubey" as a mics sporting a classic preamp tube like a 12-AT7. The sound difference between the older GT MD1a (with a 12 AT7) and the GT-44 (same as the GT Alesis AM-40 and with a subminiature tube) is pretty significant. I have and like both mics a lot, but the MD1a comes across with a thicker tube sound and the GT-44 comes across as more hifi. I have a pair of the TNC ACM-310 tube mics and I think they sound pretty darn good - especially for the price. I'd have no qualms throwing them up on overheads or using them on acoustic guitars in a mix. Are they better than my Josephson C-42s? No, but they cost a small fraction of what the Josephsons cost. I haven't yet compared them to my GT-44s, but I suspect they are pretty close in character.

    I guess all I'm trying to say here is that one needs to be careful about believing the generalizations that are often made with respect to tube audio gear. It ain't necessarily so.
    Yeah I'm an attorney, but everyone needs a day job.

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    Yikes duplicate post
    Yeah I'm an attorney, but everyone needs a day job.

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    Quote Originally Posted by multidose View Post
    All very helpful information... but there is a dilemna, which is knowing the sound of a microphone before you buy it. I've been searching the forum and google for reviews of the TNC ACM-6802T but I just can't find much information other than one guy says its perfect for acoustic guitar and a little bright making a quick judgement after a vocal test. I would appreciate any information anyone has on this mic other than the specs... i was able to find those. This one is a tube mic, which I understand would give it, its own sort of sound.
    It's a one-off mic model built for the group buy, and there are only probably a few hundred in existence, so I'm not surprised there isn't a lot of info....

    I haven't had a lot of time to use it much; I mainly bought it as a platform for modding, so I'm watching intently to see what things Marik says about it.

    I'm probably going to upgrade mine with Peluso capsules, reduce the heater voltage a little, and replace the transformers. Looks like a great platform for modding, IMHO.
    Quote Originally Posted by Obi-Wan
    If you mod me down, I will only grow stronger.

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