Are PreAmps a marketing myth?

witzendoz

Senior Member
I have a whole collection of cheap and mid price Pres and alos the pres in the console, I could happily use any of them for anything. I have my favourites for different things but I don't care.

Are any better than others? Subjective question, they are just different. I would love to get some Neves but the budget this studio runs at does not warrant the outlay. If something comes along at the right price well maybe I'll get some.

Answer to the original question, yes there is a lot of hype, but there also is some difference in the sound.

Alan
 

ecc83

Well-known member
Many decades ago a man, very famous in audio circles, once setup 1/2doz of the then current 'hi fi' speakers and fed them with white noise via a rotary switch. The listening panel of audio worthies were shocked to hear six different 'tunes"!

By definition, only one or none of those speakers can be giving a true reproduction of the noise. Same logic apples to pre amps.

Dave.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
I would hope that the majority of the preamps would be able to pass a signal unaltered except for level. Its not particularly difficult to build devices that pass a flat signal +/- tenths of a dB with minimal phase change.

A lot of those preamps have EQ and compression components. For those of you who have a special preamp, is it because it of the unaltered straight sound, or because you like the way the compressor and EQ sound? Or do they actually have significant deviations from flat in the first place?
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
As long as the preamp I use amplifies the sound going into it to give me the level I want and doesn't hiss, I should coco !
 

LazerBeakShiek

Well-known member
For those of you who have a special preamp
amps would be able to pass a signal un, is it because it of the unaltered straight sound, or because you like the way the compressor and EQ sound? Or do they actually have significant deviations from flat in the first place?
Any guitar preamp I have is from like 1988.. or before. Yes, they sound incredible Rich.

rackup.jpg

I still use the ADA MP-1 daily. The cleans in the Perfect Connection are well...perfect. The M-80 is stock solid state.
 
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RRuskin

Rick Ruskin
There's more to preamplification than noise and frequency response specs. Transient response is a big factor, too, especially when recording drums.
 

ecc83

Well-known member
There's more to preamplification than noise and frequency response specs. Transient response is a big factor, too, especially when recording drums.
It is a basic fact of engineering that transient response is a function of bandwidth, unless of course you include some badly damped inductors!

Dave.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
Any guitar preamp I have is from like 1988.. or before. Yes, they sound incredible Rich.

I still use the ADA MP-1 daily. The cleans in the Perfect Connection are well...perfect. The M-80 is stock solid state.

I would rule out ANY guitar type preamps, since they are, by design, non linear devices. Their whole reason for existence is to completely color, distort or alter the basic sound. That's what we guitar players do!

I was referring to microphone/recording preamps, where I want a device that simply increases and passes the signal with as little alteration as possible. I don't want to be pairing a mic with a 4dB boost at 7k with a preamp that has 2dB sucked out at 7k by design. For me that's like fixing an out of round tire by putting it on a bent axel.
 

LazerBeakShiek

Well-known member
I would rule out ANY guitar type preamps, since they are, by design, non linear devices. Their whole reason for existence is to completely color, distort or alter the basic sound.
Would one ever plug a mic into guitar preamp, or a guitar into a mic preamp, for that purpose?
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
If you were about in the 70s, then yes - that was what amps were for - channel 1 mic, channel 2 guitar. That's certainly how we thought they should be used - two jacks, two sound sources. Done!

Seriously though. I am one of those sold on the only thing I want from a preamp is gain. No changes other than the amplitude coming out being bigger. We can all live with differing amounts of noise, and once at my working level, I won't pay more money for less noise, because I don't benefit. I certainly don't want the subtle changes and distortion - even if it's third harmonic type that makes even my bad singing and voice better - because it won't be! I never laugh at the people who spend fortunes on this devices - it's their money. They consider it good value, I consider it not. I'd for laziness sake use the wrong mic and then warm it up with EQ. So few mics are able to be used flat - this 'character', I'm happy to simulate with EQ. A mic with a small hump at say 5K - well, if we use EQ to make it flat, or use another mic and add in the same hump - I can usually get close enough. Of course mic frequency responses change with the size of the capsule and housing meaning that any frequency response curve is a point source result. Rotate or tilt the mic slightly and it's a different response - and I think it's the 360 degree sensitivity and frequency response that make some mics different and maybe special - not the on-axis sound but the rest of the capture response. If a certain preamp colours the sound nicely, that is an effect - it is not a sign of quality, quite the opposite.

There was mention of transient issues, but that's a symptom of non-linearity in the design - so an unwanted change. Video camera preamps and their auto systems often convince me that when you switch auto level off, it is still happening - but I suspect it's really just mild compression that cannot be switched off.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
We did some funny things when push came to shove during a live show. I remember when our bass player blew out some EL34s in his Traynor YBA3 during a set. He plugged into my guitar amp, oh yeah, I still had to use it. Every time he hit a note, it sucked all the power from my signal. But we tweaked volumes, made it through the set, and he spent his break putting new tubes in his amp.

In the old days, amps had inputs labeled mic, guitar, even ACCORDION!
 

RRuskin

Rick Ruskin
It is a basic fact of engineering that transient response is a function of bandwidth, unless of course you include some badly damped inductors!

Dave.
So you are saying a 5538 based Tascam mic pre can pass a low freq square wave as good as a Neve, API, or Spectra Sonics front end?
 

ecc83

Well-known member
So you are saying a 5538 based Tascam mic pre can pass a low freq square wave as good as a Neve, API, or Spectra Sonics front end?
I did not mention square waves, They do not exist in music signals. Read Duggy Self for the reasons why square waves are THE worse thing to test audio gear with.

The LM4562 has an open loop bandwidth of 20 Hz (not a typo folks) and yet is used in many high end devices and nobody to my recollection has ever criticized it "transient response"

The SoS mic pre shootout did not sort any "fast" pres from any "slow" ones!

Dave.
 

RRuskin

Rick Ruskin
IMHO - fast is better sounding, all other things being equal. As mentioned above, try recording drums through a cheap mic pre and then compare it to something like a Forssell, Neve, Specta Sonics, Great River, or FMR preamp. The better front-ends are clearer, tighter, and need a hell of a lot less eq to sound right in a mix.
 

ecc83

Well-known member
IMHO - fast is better sounding, all other things being equal. As mentioned above, try recording drums through a cheap mic pre and then compare it to something like a Forssell, Neve, Specta Sonics, Great River, or FMR preamp. The better front-ends are clearer, tighter, and need a hell of a lot less eq to sound right in a mix.
As you say, your opinion but nothing to do with square waves or other such swaddlin.

Dave.
 

RRuskin

Rick Ruskin
The preamps I prefer will pass a square waves pretty much intact. The crappy ones won't. I've watched designers work and square wave response was part of their testing procedure.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
No the better front ends are the ones YOU like best. Clearly, the list you provide is special to you but while I appreciate you like them, I'd spend the money on something more useful. What I mean is that if you work in a superb pro studio where the HVAC cost more than somebody else's entire studio including kit, then those products offer a colour you might prefer. We can all appreciate that - but Rupert Neve desks were always ones to aspire to here in the UK. The trouble is the best most could afford were little bits of one, and we convinced ourselves that the sonic difference it made was worthwhile. This approach works the same in video and lighting too - you can do stunning things with 20 dirt cheap chinese movers that the two named brand products you can buy with the same cash certainly cannot.

I bought a second hand, well looked after FOH console - still cost a fortune - a Soundcraft. Used on status tours the world over. Gorgeous pre-amps, amazing EQ and just 4 years before, the Holy Grail. The truth was that it made no difference whatsoever to the sound. The paper spec was better - well, everything was better but knowing it was better probably convinced many users it was better. They too talked about it being cleaner, tighter, having more clarity but in truth - in a big space with noise, people, distance reflections and then of course a PA mangling the sound even more - any tiny differences are lost. I now have 2 X32 mixers and a M32. The better preamps in the Midas I can hear when I plug my in-ears directly into the desk. I cannot hear the difference when I plug the same headphones into my RF pack on stage. The weakest link in the system sets the quality, not the clever bit of kit upstream.

If I had the money for a couple of those preamps in the list, I could think of dozens of things that would make my studio recordings sound better with it!
 

RRuskin

Rick Ruskin
I don't do FOH, just recording in the studio. I started with TASCAM & Fostex gear and slowly graduated to better equipment, starting with mic pre's. The sonic improvements weren't at all subtle. They were night and day, not just to me but my clients as well.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
That's great Rick - just the total opposite from my experience. This topic always has you and me types at opposite ends. Quite normal - probably most people are middle ground. me, I'm a sceptic, or maybe just a practicalist - if that's even a real thing?
 

CrowsofFritz

Flamingo!
Preamps probably matter the least in the signal chain except for cables. A Sound on Sound article showed the ART MPA II beat out a Neve 73 and other high end preamps. A Mackie mixer preamp performed in the middle of the pack. People started they couldn’t really hear a big difference anyway. Anyone who says differences in preamps are night and day are deluding themselves or lying.
 
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