Rode NT2-A vs AKG C414 vs Neumann TLM 103

Not sure Rob. The quality is there.

I think of the preamp, and compressor as a team.

Oh, I can.

Fiona , I imagine you are going to like it..because you picked it out. It did something or had something you identified with. Go with it. The Apollo has a bunch of unison models. Thin veils placed over your voice to enhance character. I recommend the basic Neve unison model.
That's an interesting turn of phrase, Beaky. In the "high end audio" world, the phrase is always "removed the veils" whenever a new piece of gear was reviewed. After you read enough reviews, you realize that the emperor must finally have no clothes!

I haven't used either of the new pieces that Fiona has chosen. I do hear differences between mics, I hear little very little if any differences in preamps based on the comparisons I've heard. Hence I'm always baffled by the claims of massive changes just by using XXX preamp in place of YYY. Maybe my hearing isn't good enough, maybe the differences are so minuscule that they are swamped by minor changes elsewhere.

I'll be interested in hearing what Fiona's changes sound like, with the understanding that different isn't necessarily better.
I just cannot use the words "quality" or "better".

"Quality" is simply the lack of noise and distortion, and perhaps the standard of construction. 'Better' is purely subjective - I did a show a few years back where I needed 3 working mics and 2 guitars. The best mics were Behringer cheap cardioids and two second hand shop strat copies with ridiculously high action. Why were these best? Because the singers were about to get buckets of water thrown over them and loads of shaving foam custard pies in the face!

Seriously though - in all my mic tests over the past few months, every mic sounds different. Not 'better' note, simply different. Lazer's comment that the mic and compressor are a team I cannot do though. There is something in many people's recording process that states "thou will use a compressor" - and this I simply do not subscribe to at all. You use a compressor when it is appropriate, but never as an automatic process. It's a great tool, nothing more. I never had one until 1984, but my first mic was in the early 70s - so I did ten years without even using one. When I was teaching, it seemed that nobody would consider recording a vocal without a compressor. I'd listen to the awful squashed stuff the students produced and just wish I could shut the damn things off. Gentle, slight compression was rare, it was always squash to death on setting 11, like Spinal Tap!
it was always squash to death on setting 11, like Spinal Tap!
Many of the guitar demos have like a compressor pedal in the chain. A compressor on the amp's microphone. A compressor on the track. A compressor on the main.

Substitute compressor for limiter or clipper..

Bx console demo, they use all bells and whistles of the console. That includes a compressor as part of its preamp model. They demonstrated a bunch of sources this way. Nothing is just straight in.

Rock music.
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Veil? Yeah, you want a little dirt, or overdrive..Something fuzzy in the EQ to hide behind. Make it blend.

Aphex exciter is a great example.

Substitute great for lesser word if you want.
I've no problem with dirt, overdrive, fuzzy EQ even - and I had an Aphex Exciter. For me, it was a total waste of money, but others loved it. However - NONE of these things belong in a preamp. I want amplification and conversion to digital with as few changes to the sound as possible. That will do me!
For the 1-2 of you waiting with bated breath, I went with *drumroll*

an Austrian Audio OC 818 and an Apollo Twin X

neither of which I think I brought up here as potential contenders lol. I know you guys will think the Apollo Twin X is overkill for what I do, which is true, but I have some lofty goals for the next 5-10 years which include setting up a more professional studio space and expanding to help people record music as well, so ideally I'm buying gear that I will grow into and not need to upgrade for those goals
Did you get the Silver or Black model? The OC 818 paired with the Apollo X is a pretty nice combo - The Unison Preamps or the Emulated 610-B Tube Preamp are good choices to pair with the 414 type mic - you may find them too clean - but it is a wonderful sound.
Beak, you might want some overdrive or distortion on a guitar or Leslie, but Fiona is doing voice over work. Nothing but voice, no instruments, not drums to crunch, Dumble OD, no grit. There is no blending, unless its something like a commercial with a background track (and that would probably be done by a producer elsewhere).

You want clarity and intelligibility. Anything else and your message gets lost.
Here's a quick comparison. Sorry, the new sample is pretty sibilant, working on taming that. But other that that and having to make adjustments for the increased sensitivity, pretty stoked with how its sounding. Oh, the new samples aren't finished, I know the levels are off and stuff. Just wanted to post something I had on hand.

(the new sample only compares the first two reads of the demo, so no need to listen to the whole thing)