Are PreAmps a marketing myth?

ecc83

Well-known member
"
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."

And, there certainly won't be any square waves floating about even it they started out that way!

Dave.
 

LazerBeakShiek

Active member
Somebody had replied about another thread I posted. It created space for the posts to go in a tangent. When people communicate the conversation takes a life of its own. I was just going where the day takes me..
 

LazerBeakShiek

Active member
Last night I was looking at a way to make differences in the Preamp recordings.

I came across Cascading the input channels. I was going to try this too. Running through the preamp twice. Input channel 1 , output ch1, goes to input channel 2. That should make the preamp differences more noticeable.

These ideas might seem stupid to you, but you never really know till you try.

Screenshot 2021-03-07 061325.jpg
 

Farview

www.farviewrecording.com
That sounds like they are talking about guitar preamps, that's a pretty common practice. However, this thread is about Mic preamps, a completely different animal.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
If you ran the direct output from a world class into the input of the next - for arguments sake let's say a classic sought after Neve, and then that second channel's direct out into the next, and so on for 32 channels - at what point would the extra 'nice' distortion introduced become 'nasty' distortion.

I'm simply failing to understand why a subjective improvement that is an absolute objective distortion of the waveform is considered nicer. I remember the friendly banter on early internet forums with Cadacs Tony Waldron. He cheerfully admitted technical mistakes in designs were suddenly appreciated as wonderful. His own designs along with Rupert Neve's were happy accidents - design flaws that people liked. Old Quad amplifiers that were actually perceived as special, when they weren't, technically.

I just have a problem with having flavours of distortion. I would rather have no change in the waveform unless I have control over it. Does anyone ever look at any other data stream in analague or digital and consider distortion a positive thing? Radio astronomy preamps for example? Those studying RF emissions from planetary bodies for example? would they consider adding distortion to be remotely positive in any sense? The camera folk with their quest for low light level, noise free imaging sensors? They'd quite happily add processing and non-linearity afterwards. You never find them actively seeking distortion in the source devices like we do. Hence my categorisation of this stuff as firmly in the hi-fi camp. The avoidance of hum, noise and distortion remains my preference.
 

LazerBeakShiek

Active member
Well, I don't think it is a myth.

If the sound is not right, then something must be changed before another attempt is made. These videos are giving me ideas of things to try. These arent made up out of thin air, people supposedly use the techniques. There must be other techniques also. Not just use your ears and throw 200 reaper onboard VST's at 'em. Say , figure it out. That won't get results. I need fresh ideas.

Guitar preamps I understand. The difference is night and day. Mic'd preamps? There must be a trick to it. I swear when driven hard a Neve can be a recognizable sound.
 

LazerBeakShiek

Active member
for arguments sake let's say a classic sought after Neve, and then that second channel's direct out into the next, and so on for 32 channels - at what point would the extra 'nice' distortion introduced become 'nasty' distortion.
33 and 1/3.

Could it be like EZjammer said in the tips thread, and hit it with 3 compressors cascaded in series?

Screenshot 2021-03-07 143733.jpg

If they are doing this kind of thing all bets are off..
 

CoolCat

Well-known member
I'm simply failing to understand why a subjective improvement that is an absolute objective distortion of the waveform is considered nicer. I remember the friendly banter on early internet forums with Cadacs Tony Waldron. He cheerfully admitted technical mistakes in designs were suddenly appreciated as wonderful. His own designs along with Rupert Neve's were happy accidents - design flaws that people liked. Old Quad amplifiers that were actually perceived as special, when they weren't, technically.

I just have a problem with having flavours of distortion. I would rather have no change in the waveform unless I have control over it. Does anyone ever look at any other data stream in analague or digital and consider distortion a positive thing? Radio astronomy preamps for example? Those studying RF emissions from planetary bodies for example? would they consider adding distortion to be remotely positive in any sense? The camera folk with their quest for low light level, noise free imaging sensors? They'd quite happily add processing and non-linearity afterwards. You never find them actively seeking distortion in the source devices like we do. Hence my categorisation of this stuff as firmly in the hi-fi camp The avoidance of hum, noise and distortion remains my preference.

Many dont consider it nicer...
I remember reading some piece on Leo Fender and how distortion = failure in the era. Those years were spent trying to get louder without any distortion. Even Dick Dales extreme loud live sounds were without intentional distortion per Leo's goals.
Symphony crowd, Classic crowd all wanting clean, low noise, "hi-end" audiophile spec is one camp it seems. Clean, distortion free goals still exists for some recording applications.

But the "distortion world" happened...Jimi Hendrix and other pop-culture sounds like Rolling Stones Satisfaction guitar distortion became the sound masses wanted to copy or expand on. Sounds were created and enjoyed it seems.
Seems to me thats when a lot of the "distortion" chasing started. I was probably 7yrs old so I refer to books.

My own DIY comparisons on microphone vocal preamps = nothing-result as I couldnt hear a gnat fart difference between a Rane MS1 and a $1700 preamp in clean mode. What I did stumble into was a "crunched" Compressor offered the distortion-FX.
1176,LA2A overdriven.
But then when it came to FX box's for pop-culture stuff and low-fi, non clean, distortion a fuzz plugin or a ART TPSII $215 does the FX/Fuzz better than the old classics clones like the KT2A or 1176 distortion which is totally subjective what "sounds good" and thats mainly referring to vocal mic/dist or clean. My KT2A can crunch and some light distrtion but its not like running into a high distortion guitar fuzz type box, that seems to get used on a lot of recordings these days.

Clean or FuzzDirt....to each their own. Now a days we can have both easily, with plug-ins in HR land. Today Im leaning towards plug-ins as they are cheaper, no cable noises, can be slapped on 100 tracks.....imagine having 100qty LA2A $$$$$ with no recall?
 

LazerBeakShiek

Active member
Rob, I don't know what that means. It looks like you are NOT calling it goofy. Ok, that's one.

Ecc83? Does 3 compressors on infinity, cascaded in series, sound goofy? Cause a PA speaker seemed kinda normal , 3 of something one might think is excessive. Excessive is not always goofy.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
I guess since music is art, anything you do is considered valid. Some people think of this as a portrait. I don't. I've seen 5th graders do similar work.

picasso.jpg
If you are trying to get a high fidelity representation of a performance, or even get a realistic rendering of instruments or voices, then I would rather start with as genuine a facsimile as I can get. If I want the sound of a megaphone, then give me the real sound of a megaphone. Then if I want to bastardize it later, fine. That's definitely a major difference in approach between old school recording, and the EDM/Beats/synth music that most people today are doing.

At the same time, as I said before, I really don't hear the mountains of difference in preamps (not eqs or comps) that people rant and rave about. I DO hear differences in different types of microphones all the time, as well as speakers. Consider me a skeptic, but that skepticism is based on almost 60 years of listening to and playing music, including the hifi craze of the 70s-80s, the analog/digital battles and the various other fads. I question what people are hearing when they talk about saturating a preamp that has 25dB of clean headroom, or when they complain about too much fatness at 200Hz when the signal is flat from 10Hz to 50kHz +/- 0.5dB, yet they rave about the smoothness of mics with 5 and 7dB humps and dips between 30 - 20kHz.
 

LazerBeakShiek

Active member
I question what people are hearing when they talk about saturating a preamp that has 25dB of clean headroom, or when they complain about too much fatness at 200Hz when the signal is flat from 10Hz to 50kHz +/- 0.5dB, yet they rave about the smoothness of mics with 5 and 7dB humps and dips between 30 - 20kHz.
That must be the preamp, right?

Those studios with a wall full of rack Avalons..They must chain 10 of them together and sound huge!
 

LazerBeakShiek

Active member
Damn..My Apollo interface cock blocks me in Reaper..

Only one unison preamp at a time with UA. I cannot even try it..

Hey can somebody out in web land try this for me? Run 3-4 preamps of the same type in a series....and....
 

Farview

www.farviewrecording.com
Cascading multiple compressors is pretty common practice when something really needs to be smoothed out. Usually they aren't all set to infinity, but there is nothing that says they can't be.

Since the first compressor changes the envelope the second one will see, the second one will react differently than the first. When I've done this, I would have a limiter with only a couple db of reduction first, then something with a lower ratio and slower attack and release times to level the volume. The first one knocks back the peaks that the second one would choke on trying to level everything out.

I would do that if I needed relatively transparent deep compression. If I didn't mind a little pumping and distortion, I would use an LA2A or 1176 set to stun.
 

LazerBeakShiek

Active member
Since the first compressor changes the envelope the second one will see, the second one will react differently than the first. When I've done this, I would have a limiter with only a couple db of reduction first, then something with a lower ratio and slower attack and release times to level the volume. The first one knocks back the peaks that the second one would choke on trying to level everything out.
And the third?

Compressing a simple raw clip 3 times, each compressor taking out 5-10 db, does make it sound tighter. Closer to the radio sound, than recording from the PA speaker.

My suspicion is the same for preamps now. Cascade 3 of them and then hear/see what happens.
 
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Farview

www.farviewrecording.com
I've only used more than two compressors a couple times. It was always on something with way too much dynamic range for the situation. The first gets the highest transients, the second cuts a little deeper and the third smooths out the overall level. None of them except maybe the last one in the chain would have more than 3-4 db of reduction.
My go to vocal chain was a langevin preamp into an LA3A-type limiter that could get up to 10db into reduction on really loud notes into an Art Pro-vla for some extra leveling, with 2-3 10db of reduction. Now that I think about it, the sound you are chasing might just be the sound of an opto compressor like the la2a, la3a, 1176, etc... They do tend to thicken things and give you that "professional" vocal sound.

The Avalon preamp is probably a bad example, since the point of that preamp was that it doesn't add character. It is for pristine amplification.
 

Folkcafe

Active 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. 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.
Thinking like an electric guitar player. I've worked with a number of touring artists that used Pendulum preamps. Nothing non linear about them. For players in the Michael Hedges percussive style of playing, using a high quality in body mic in addition to the piezo pickup, these were the perfect tool. Add multiband compression and this combo yielded some of the best recordings I've ever done with acoustic guitar. The list of artists using Pendulum guitar preamps is mighty impressive.
 
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