Mics and Preamps.....Guitars and Guitar amps...

CoolCat

Well-known member
Saturday. Not really in recording mood I grabbed a SM58 and wanted to sanity check my Interface Preamp to this $2500 vintage ISA430.
My room is a upstairs bedroom closet, maybe more like a VO room than a studio. The other room has drums and amps etc...but its not used much these days. So in short a typical drywall room with doors closed.

The SM58 is great at less room noise. Into the Interface IC preamps, near max, gain, it was "the standard". UX8- 8channel interface.
Then into the ISA430, it was near identical, clean, the 430 is a dual transformer, $2500 mono preamp has been used on Platinum records Ive read.
No big difference.

Then the KSM44, ~$1000 into the Interface. Big difference is it really picks up the downstairs! and sounds from my stomach? lol Didnt need max gain on the interface amp, the room noise floor much higher than the duller/ 1.8mv/pa SM58. KSM 28mv/pa sensitivity spec.
The KSM44 into the ISA 430, not a huge difference if any, to my ears...again preamp only no-eq, no comp.
The noise, of my house, was weird, it made the downstairs ceiling fan seem like it was in my room upstairs! And I know the noises here well.
I turn off the downstairs ceiling fan if recording quiet stuff seriously.
The KSM44 was in cardiod only, and I did two runs with the 15db pad on and off, the 15db pad dulls it down and basically brings the output down.

Grabbed the SM7B for the last run, into the Interface preamp , again on max gain, it was similar to the 58 and quiet noise floor.
And contrary to some who say "if you turn the gain up it equals the KSM44...." thats not true. When I turned the gain up on the SM7b it was still a much much quieter noise floor of the room noises, the ceiling fan for example was just NOT picked up as much.
SM7b into the $2500 vintage cool preamp wasnt much difference to my ears. I was doing clean and not overdriving or anything...clean,..SM7b + ISA430 preamp.
Now the ISA preamp gain knob wasnt even sweating, not even close to max. The ISA gain is like having a 747 Airplane engine of Gain, compared to my Interface preamp Gain being a bicycle....but the sounds Im doing, the Interface works as good for a hobby HR demo-song whatever now and then use.

In the end, the SM7b works here, reduces home noises, sounds as good as the SM58 but has a built in distance to avoid amateur mic positioning of the mouth/voice.... the SM58 would be in distinguishable if used in a songrecording. imo. Then again after eq, comp,verbs, all mics can kind of get to a same average.

For the preamp, I like having some room for gain and knobs that feel real, not plastic. Having had the pleasure of a bunch of preamps through here, the ISA is a favorite, but preamp only mode the ISA430 isnt much different than a ISA One at all, even with the 430 dual carnhill famous pumpkin transformers etc.... so yes on an Outboard Preamp, but a "many preamps do about the same thing and sound about the same" imo.

and toss in the Neutrik mic cable vs a no name, and the Neutrik fits better and seems better built.
some say its all a joke but its not from what I have. The no name is ok, no problems, no sound difference, just loose a bit and cheaper to the feel.
I have super cheap cables that I will be cutting off the cheap ends and replacing, they are so bad the connectors crackle, pop...and some of the set have a bad diameter and wont even fit. I do like the colored cables though, so maybe some DIY XLR jacks to order......

a SM7B and a Cloudlifter is cool, but a unit like a ISA One type preamp is still my fav. The ISA430 is kind of overkill for me too (i paid $650) but I dont find the Channel Strip works easily for me as I dont have the Control Room isolation thing and dont care to "reamp" the vocal, I can use plugins ITB.

SM7b kicks ass in a noisy room....very impressive! I dont need a flopping popshield in my face, I get consistent lips to foam, its tank built...sounds like a SM58..lol KSM44 probably built for professionals in much better studio rooms.

Interface preamp to $2500 preamp, not much sound difference, but a ton more gain on the latter...but I wouldnt pay $2500 for any preamp.

oh well! Saturday morning..... any Mic and Preamp combo favorites? please post... Im curious and its good coffee time reading!
 

Gtoboy

Well-known member
I have always felt that mic's are way more a part of the sound than preamps. Justin Colleti just posted a video pointing out the same thing:
 

LazerBeakShiek

AKA Optimus Prime LEGO Vampire
Aphex Tubessence pre 107
Aphex Compellor 320A
Aphex Gate 105
Aphex Parametric tube EQ 109

That's a nice chain. Shhh, don't tell anyone.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
Right mic, in the right place makes by far the best difference. I've come to the conclusion that the clever preamps do do something - but that something is not as earth shattering as we're led to believe. Same with mics - the key words for their differences are subtle, delicate, subconscious - rather than obvious, radical, outstanding etc. Plus of course our preferences. If you were learning with SM58s first, then your progression route might not include Sennheiser 835/845/865 so that tonal difference isn't in your head at all. We all know mics we hate. The dreaded AKG C1000 - only brave people own up to having one, but the truth with these is that they will get you out off trouble - but just need taming. Flat EQ we often get away with on our favourites doesn't work on these.

On cables and connectors - if they electrically and mechanically function properly that's fine. I really have not found a better jack plug design that the Neutrik - but I bought a pile of Chinese XLRs - not the Neutrik design - and they're really, really decent - and in all sorts of colours and impervious to my ham fisted soldering - not a single melt! Cable clamps good - so I've bought more. Interestingly they now do a clever mod for them now. Take the screw in cable clamp collar off and screw in a side slotted colour coded cap. It manages up to about 5mm cable and lets you build those semi-permanent patch bay racks where the cables need to not go out straight, because they need to go up or down. Just a screw on cap - that has the same thread and as it screws in - it clamps the cable. Neat!
 

CoolCat

Well-known member
good video, another vote for the same as I hear it too.
a dude named Brandon also had a great site, he was trying out expensive stuff and wrote it up as the DISAPPOINTMENT series.
it was great and he wrote in a hilarious way. But the hiend wasnt always so different. Subtle is a great word he used in the video.

theres also that feeling of being duped, sold some "magic tonic water" and it doesnt do anything magic.
Im kind of burning out on it all, the year or so I played with preamps, then I was done and then started looking into the Magic Mic and ok... tubes, sdc, dynamics LDC, NBC, CBS, ABC, BBC.... its all good. But I have a feeling if I bought a U87 I wouldnt pee my pants.
 

Farview

Well-known member
While I don't think most preamps make an earth shattering difference, plugging an outboard preamp into the interface that you are comparing it to isn't necessarily a valid test. The limitations, if there are any, of the interface will change the sound of the outboard preamp.

But your conclusion is still probably correct...not much difference. Certainly not enough to make or break a recording.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
I bought a U87. It really hasn't impressed me at all. It's nice, but frankly I expected something 'magical'. what I got was a nice sounding sensitive mic. I still keep using my 414s. I should have known better as I also had an Sm7B a couple of years back and was similarly unimpressed. That's life.
 

Gtoboy

Well-known member
I bought a U87. It really hasn't impressed me at all. It's nice, but frankly I expected something 'magical'. what I got was a nice sounding sensitive mic. I still keep using my 414s. I should have known better as I also had an Sm7B a couple of years back and was similarly unimpressed. That's life.
I spent the money on a factory refurb Telefunken Ak47 MKii and the thing is, it doesn't magically change the source, it is to my ears faithful to the source more than any of my other mics. Which makes it a problem in crap rooms or with crap instruments(unless that's what you are going for) and it's extremely sensitive, but not magic. If I have a great source though, it's just invisible. No real color, just real reproduction. Which I guess some might think of a depth of sound field or 3d or what have you, but to me it wasn't suddenly, wow, what a great sounding mic so much as, wow I can't really hear the mic.
I guess that's different from a Neumann as they are usually known for their character
 

CoolCat

Well-known member
I bought a U87. It really hasn't impressed me at all. It's nice, but frankly I expected something 'magical'. what I got was a nice sounding sensitive mic. I still keep using my 414s. I should have known better as I also had an Sm7B a couple of years back and was similarly unimpressed. That's life.
thats interesting to me because thats been my thing all along with the testing it for myself in this room.
its not all been a loss because not only is the magic-thing found out, the real deal of mics and applications becomes proven...
the U87 is the standard of the pro's, that would be the middle of the bell curve imo. Others in comparison like when I grabbed all the Shure KSM's 27,32,44 and the Mixonline was comparing them all to his U87. brighter, darker, crisper, <add-adjective here>
How did it become the "standard"? Its flat or neutral or is it the standard because the other standards became obsolete like the U47? U67? but imo, the "standard" is the U87. ....the 414...holds some spot but seems to have so many changed versions its hard to tell which is which.(or maybe they dont sound drastically different either?)

Already spent a year or so comparing mic preamps in clean mode and not hearing much magic either. I like some layouts or builds design better than others but the end "sound" wasnt huge. I still like the ISA stuff as its neutral, has mountain of gain and offers a solid placebo effect knowing its accepted as "good gear". It also proves the interface pre's are ok too. To me the preamp is like the Guitar Amp....Fender amps vs Marshall., ...etc...etc.. actually I dont even think the mic preamps are as different as guitar amps.

So Ive been listening to some raw beatle vocal tracks, like Abbey Roads Something recording and the vocal raw sound amazingly plain, the performance and notes seem perfect, skill stood out. But the actual track was very familiar in sound dry, clean, but not "magic". Some other youtube vocal dry tracks seem like fake raw tracks and have this flangy horrific sound like a plugin created the "raw" takes. Either way it made me realize even the pro- dry raw vocal tracks sound...er.....dry and clear but def not polished and huge and mastered sounding.

of all the money Ive wasted I could have got a really nice U87 and a good preamp and been done....and the value would have gone up. still for today... Instead I have a used KSM44 and used ISA430 with ~$1000 invested as my expensive setup and the new MXLV67G, Shure 57/58 etc.. and the interface preamp as the cheaper route and they both sound about the same. The SM7B is middle ground but still on the cheap side new, used a bunch of them for sale....probably people bought them and said WTF? lol
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
While I haven't tried a U87 myself, I've listened to quite a few comparisons, including some 96/24 audio samples, and I just figured that I was too deaf to hear the magic. The silky smooth top end has to be above my limit. However, in the case of some of the comparisons, there were mics that I liked better, but that's just my preference.
 

Papanate

Active member
I bought a U87. It really hasn't impressed me at all. It's nice, but frankly I expected something 'magical'. what I got was a nice sounding sensitive mic. I still keep using my 414s. I should have known better as I also had an Sm7B a couple of years back and was similarly unimpressed. That's life.

Well most of what you experienced is not the mic but what you are recording - a U87ai is not going to magically make material sound good - and you have to have a good room or the microphone will work against you. Or it may just be that you like the AKG 414s and don't get along with the U87 or SM7b.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
That's probably more like it. The only thing I have noticed is the the 87 seems to be better sounding in my video studio - which is bigger, but apart from the drapes, is pretty untreated. I expected it to be like my 414s - and not really care what they're put in front of!
 

CoolCat

Well-known member
or the microphone will work against you.
that's kind of how I see mics now, while I don't hear a bunch of differences in clean mode on my vocal, or in this room.
between the mics Ive tried past months.... the "microphone working against me" is where a versatile preamp can help with gain, pads, hpf, meters etc,,,. for starters, imo.

like the KSM27 had a huge P=Popp thing, and needed a foam piece and it was a totally different vocal mic with a foam ball....but most dont use it for vocals, its used on instruments that dont have P-Plosive issues. The KSM 44 is very well done design and not many plosives and might not even need a filter/screen because the headbasket screen etc.....but it works against me with the untreated room/home by being so damn sensitive it really picks up the attic fans and outside noises! ....... a SM7B doesnt care what the rooms like, but it needs some "cosmetic-makeup applied" and gain. KSM32 was 16mv/pa and thats better for this room er...house! than 28mv.

I'll be honest, I bought a MXLV67G 15mv/pa , with the cool beatley metal popscreen Heritage edition, and its been the easiest mic to work with and hangs with all the others...its sensitivity, price, sound, looks was a surprise. It stole some design from the U87, and Im a decade or so behind the "wow era of the v67" ... but it "doesnt work against me" .
came with case, shockmount (that works for the KSM44 too) and metal pop filter $$ (that fits many mics)...

SM81 at 8mv/pa might be the perfect sensitivity here but then it isnt as easy as a vocal mic with plosives...sounded great on acoustic guitar strumming.

maybe the 414, like a KSM32 are just very versatile mics, maybe the most versatile and can be tossed on anything...from drums to a violin!
 
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