Are PreAmps a marketing myth?

rob aylestone

Well-known member
I think I've satisfied myself that there is difference but that difference is tiny compared to moving a mic a bit, or adding a bit of extra absorbance or other practical and much simpler tricks and tweaks. When you have a nice box - those kind of swaps make distinct differences. Swapping a preamp just seems to me to be just an effect - like a processor. It took me years to hear what compressors do on anything less than the violent settings, and when I was teaching students tried to hear it and most failed.


Active member
To people saying they cannot hear a difference. I am having trouble with this piece of the recording puzzle also. Mic's too. Not sounding all that different or powerful. I was in the studio long ago. I really like the way the microphone was loaded . It was not reverb or compression. It was amplification. My voice was strong and full. I believe they were not recording mic to preamp. But mic to PA. It was powered. Like they had me singing into a PA and were recording the PA speakers. And in the closet, away from view were awesome PA cabinets all mic'd up. Direct doesn't have the power, at least as I remember it.


Rick Ruskin
The very 1st thing a signal sees matters the most. I don't care what a magazine shoot out says. Different strokes and all that.
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Well-known member
If you are recording through a PA and speaker, then you aren't even remotely recording your actual voice. That's like recording a megaphone, it completely changes the signal. I've done that exact thing, one time when I was recording a jam with nothing but an H4n and two mics. I had no cables to do a line out to the Zoom, so I stuck a mic in front of the PA speaker. To me, it was more important to get the performances than to make sure they were "proper" recordings.

However, I would never do that for recording here at home, and every time I've done those jams since then, I make sure I have a line out from the PA mixer.


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.
Naw man, that is not fair nor is it true. The comparison between a ART MPA II and a Neve 73 is not a competition in any way. They are two different animals. It is more about the sound you are looking for. Personally, I had a MPA and it sounded to me like an 80's ADA guitar preamp giving distortion for a guitar amp. I do not get that from my Neve clone preamp. They are two different character preamps and different in every way possibly electronically.

I do agree that anyone who says 'the differences between preamps are night and day' are full of shit.

That being said, for most users, you will not hear an initial difference in the front end unless you are using a preamp/eq for 'color'.

It really comes down to personal preference. You don't know till you try. Will a high end change the bottom line of how your recordings sound? Well, not unless you address the other most important things in your recording chain. The BASICS: Performer/instrument/room/mics/monitoring/ability to listen. Preamps likely come in somewhere in the middle, but have no effect at all if the other elements are not there.

It like the common spoken '5%' that takes a production over the top. Unless you know what that 5% is, then you are just guessing. The use of some analog preamps can be a part of that. Or not. But it don't hurt. Would I buy more and experiment with them? Fuck yeah! Is it worth the money to everyone? Likely not. But it does not make it a marketing myth. Just cost to produce and demand for a certain "sound"? Maybe? It all comes back to the basics.

It is not a subjective question of whether high end preamps are worth it or hype. The question should be directed towards the guy that is asking the question. Do you feel the need to improve your recordings? Have you taken the initial steps needed to make a great recording? If you haven't taken care of the basics, don't waste your money on a $300 or a $7000 vintage piece of gear. You already wasted your time asking the question before you got the initial shit right...


Active member
A meg is a crappy PA though.

Those glam rock 80's band screams all sound pretty amplified.

If you went and saw a band and they did a show with a full PA, wouldn't that be their actual vocal sound as you heard the band?
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Plenty of websites are telling me to do just that. Record the vocal from the PA speaker.

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That isn't what you initially described. That is reamping the vocal back through a PA cab to add as an effect to the direct miced sound.

I was thinking about the 80s singing question you had in the other thread, I'll bet the common denominator is an SSL console with the channel compression. It has a distinctive sound.


New member
I'd say that it's hard to hear a difference between pre-amps unless you're making it a huge one and it matters a lot of your specific application.
For instance, if you're going to record rock or pop music, the noise floor is gonna be pretty high anyway with all of the amps and distortion, compared to let's say a classical stereo recording of an orchestra.
So for most regular studio applications, today's neutral pres on most interfaces VS Neve or API really don't make that much of a difference all things considered. I just recently checked a lot of interfaces specs and most indicate between -128 and -135dbu, which will contribute between 1 to 3dB of noise, even the most basic interfaces currently on the market form any known brand. That is otherworldly better than what the typical noise floor of studio gear used to be, and today, because we use plugins to color things up, we care less and less about the impact of analog transformers in coloring the sound anyway. We want something flat and neutral to color it after the fact, so the value and Neve, Chandler, API, SSL etc is - at least for my generation of engineers - matter much less than before.

However, it also depends greatly on the type or recording you're doing. If, as I mentioned, you're recording a symphonic orchestra with an XY pair of exceptional microphones, in a room with perfect acoustic and isolation, then that noise floor on your pre-amps will suddenly matters *much more*. At this level of recording, the difference between your run-of-the-mill D-pre/midas/HDAA pre-amp and let's say Sound Device, Metric Halo, SQN or Sonorax is much bigger.
Pre-amps for field recordists especially are just on a whole other level. If you want the most surgical precision for broadcast or the highest-fidelity then sure, but you need a super-quiet room, a superb pair of microphones, stellar A/D conversion and the skill to set it all up to get the most out of it. That's more like a craft, and music production is more like an art where we experiment along with noise and distortion quite a lot.
So honestly to introduce noise in your recording that someone other than a mastering engineer could hear, at -128dBu or less... you'd have to record something very quiet with a very dull mic.

So most of us will not perceive much difference between today's pre-amps. I suspect the circuitry is pretty much the same across brands anyway.

Close enough.

Reamping or is it just amping? Cause the voice from yourself to the DAW hasn't been amplified yet the first time.
I took your original idea as having only the miced pa recorded, not having both the dry sound and the pa. Big difference.


Active member
You guys reamp your shit? Ambience is atmospheric. If the complaint is thin direct vocals that could help. Even if it is only mixing the PA amplified voice, not 100% wet.

I got a 'use reverb before the preamp' suggestion. I think they are foolin with me.

I dunno about these dudes on the web. Man, I cannot even recognize the equipment they use.
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It just sounds kind of phasey to me...small delay and some ambiance. If you like it, it's good.


Active member
No, I don't think that is the right way. Always open to new ideas. No effects or EQ were used. Just a mic 1-2 ft away and press record. The guitar amp has a touch of reverb at the time of playing.

Have you watched the videos on youtube by Leon Todd or Michael Nielsen? Those have pretty good tips.

Another stellar idea was to mic the open cabinet from the rear. That did not sound good either. Kinda shoving the microphone in the rear doesn't sound right to me. Its your microphone you do what you want with it.

I was thinking about the band Tesla , and the Love Song album when I was trying the PA Re amping. Wasn't that all a live Tesla album in philadelphia? From the PA speaker. Adding credit to try the idea.
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Love song was on the great radio conspiracy album. That was recorded at bearsville studios in New York State. There was nothing live about that album.


Well-known member
Love song was on the great radio conspiracy album. That was recorded at bearsville studios in New York State. There was nothing live about that album.
I think he's referring to "5 Man Acoustical Jam", the live acoustic album that they did. There's a version of Love Song from that album too. That really brings me back to high school, when I listened to that album a shameful amount :)

I forgot about that album. Even still, they didn't mic the PA system. The audience mics would be placed on the apron of the stage and usually are flipped out of phase to cancel the sound of the PA and just capture the audience.

The main effect of the PA in the recording would be the sound of the monitors getting into all the stage mics. But that would be minimal in a large theater. The audience mics would pickup the slap back off the back wall and the reverb of the room, but that would only be there when those mics were in the mix. (Mostly between songs)
I've done a few live recordings in clubs and theaters. The amount of monitor sound that gets into instrument and vocal mics is pretty minimal. The bigger issue is bleed from guitar amps and drums changing as the lead singer moves across the stage.

I really think the "Mic the PA to thicken the vocal sound" is a dead end, bordering on goofy, idea.

It also has nothing to do with the point of this thread.