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woodnut



Joined: 24/03/07
Posts: 136
External Mic Pre Options for RME Fireface
      #1031394 - 31/01/13 02:31 PM
Hello folks,

I am shortly going to be in the market for an external mic preamp to be used mainly on vocals with a recently aquired CAD M179 LDC. In the short term I will be using the CAD M179 with my Fireface 400's own preamps and have not really got any grumbles with the FF400's pre's apart from the lack of dedicated gain pots. I also own an Audient Mico which I use for stereo micing my acoustic guitar and have found this to be excellent for this task.

I would like to get something with some colour that can thicken the sound if required so am thinking about valve mic pres, I only need one channel but there is no harm in getting two if that is what is on offer.

I realise that there are alot of cheap valve pre's out there that are going to put in a worse performance than running my vocal mic through my FF400's internal preamps. My question is what sort of ballpark pricewise should I be looking at to get something that will be a stepup from the RME FF400's preamps whilst also giving me a coloured valve sound as an alternative.

If there are any products that anyone would be willing to point me towards or any advice that any folk would be willing to share, especially RME fireface owners, I would be very grateful.
Initial budget (once I shift a few things) would be in the region of £300.

Many thanks in advance!


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The Elf
active member


Joined: 14/08/01
Posts: 9480
Loc: Sheffield, UK
Re: External Mic Pre Options for RME Fireface new [Re: woodnut]
      #1031400 - 31/01/13 02:53 PM
A (well-designed) valve-based pre isn't going to exhibit as big a difference as you might imagine. Unfortunately I doubt you're going to find 'thickening' at that price level, even if you can find it all. The only pre's I've found to add anything I might term 'thickening' (I call it a sort of lower-mid 'bloom') are the venerable Neve 1073 and 1081, which aren't valve-based and are out of budget anyway.

Cheap valve-based pre's are a false economy IMO; I'd say you'd be better trying a few alternative mic's. If it's still a pre you want to spend money on then the GAP Pre-73 falls in budget and has a lot of champions - Having tried it once I can't say I found it as '1073-ish' as my Liquid Channel's emulation, but it certainly shares some of the characteristics.

--------------------
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.


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James PerrettModerator



Joined: 10/09/01
Posts: 10776
Loc: The wilds of Hampshire
Re: External Mic Pre Options for RME Fireface new [Re: woodnut]
      #1031424 - 31/01/13 05:34 PM
I'd agree with the Elf - if you want a different sound then use a different mic. The differences between mics are much greater than the differences between preamps.

James.

--------------------
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration.
http://www.jrpmusic.net


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ConcertinaChap



Joined: 20/07/05
Posts: 2639
Loc: Bradford on Avon
Re: External Mic Pre Options for RME Fireface new [Re: woodnut]
      #1031439 - 31/01/13 06:50 PM
This is only a bit outside your budget and it's a nice bit of kit.

CC

--------------------
Remember: Tidy wires are happy wires!
Mr Punch's Studio


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woodnut



Joined: 24/03/07
Posts: 136
Re: External Mic Pre Options for RME Fireface new [Re: woodnut]
      #1031576 - 01/02/13 12:26 PM
Hello,

Many thanks for your replies and comments, it has certainly given me some food for thought. Listening to several preamp shootouts on various forums and reading lots of comments it does seem to be that the differences between pres can often be subtle.

I might well go for one of the Thomann T.Bone valve mics when the budget allows, the clips sound good, they won't break the bank and could be a nice alternative to my CAD M179.

I am still quite keen on getting an external mic pre for my vocals, even if my initial idea of getting something valve based is not the best idea when given my budget. The lack of dedicated pots on the FF400, lack of high pass filter and phase reverse button is proving a little annoying even if the sound quality seems good. Plus it would free up those inputs for some ambient micing.

I guess my question now is, within my budget (£300 ish) second hand or new can I exceed the standard of the FF400 pre's? I have been eyeing up the ISA One in particularly, it seems that this does have a flattering affect on vocals which I certainly like the sound of. There are a few knocking about at £350.

Thanks for the link, is the DBX well regarded? I have put an ebay search up for second hand units.


Many thanks again!


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Mixedup
active member


Joined: 03/09/03
Posts: 4828
Loc: Cambridge, UK
Re: External Mic Pre Options for RME Fireface new [Re: woodnut]
      #1031585 - 01/02/13 12:56 PM
As others have said, the differences from a preamp are tiny. They do exist, but you need to have done enough with the rest of your signal chain (including instruments!) to really take advantage of them. For me, the money would be much better spent on a decent mic. Your Fireface preamps are perfectly decent for the time being, and when they're not the Audient is a nice step up.

Think about a valve mic (for that crispness, and slightly breathy sparkle) or a ribbon mic (bit smoother, slightly darker but really rather clean). Eg have a look at the Golden Age Project active ribbon mics. Or invest in a quality dynamic mic - RE20, SM7, Heil PR40 etc. You'd be surprised how nice can versatile they can be.

If you do get on to preamps, then valves aren't usually where you'l find bags of warm character unless you're spending a lot of money. You'd be thinking probably of the transformer sound. The Golden Age Pre 73 DLX is a good option in this respect, since you have three stages of gain - input gain, output gain/attenuation pre the output transformer, and post-output-transformer pad. By juggling those controls you can achieve the desired amount of drive/saturation on each of the transformer stages. The best I've heard as a tonal colour tool is probably the Chandler Little Devil preamp, which can do anything from fairly clean to full on distortion, in a very pleasing way. But that' way out of budget and requires a lunchbox rack. If you plan to add more along the way, then a Lunchbox might be the way to go. Lindell now do one for $299, and offer modules for the same price.

For all that, though, the ISA One is a nice preamp. It also features variable impedance, which should enable you to get the best out of good dynamic mics (including passive ribbons).


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ConcertinaChap



Joined: 20/07/05
Posts: 2639
Loc: Bradford on Avon
Re: External Mic Pre Options for RME Fireface new [Re: woodnut]
      #1031622 - 01/02/13 03:34 PM
Quote woodnut:

Thanks for the link, is the DBX well regarded? I have put an ebay search up for second hand units.




Well, here's Hugh on the subject. I had one for several years but eventually sold it when I found I had more mic pres and tube mics than my circumstances warranted It is a nice piece of kit, though, and it's right about it being pretty well impossible to clip (not that that matters so much nowadays).

CC

--------------------
Remember: Tidy wires are happy wires!
Mr Punch's Studio


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Pyrotech



Joined: 20/08/09
Posts: 35
Re: External Mic Pre Options for RME Fireface new [Re: woodnut]
      #1031626 - 01/02/13 04:18 PM
Doesn't the Mico have a harmonic thickening feature in one of it's channels? Have you tried that? I would have thought that you would get as much out of that as from many other preamp designs. The Golden Age Preamp mentioned above might be worth a look though, yes - I have found that it is possible to get a bit of character out of that when I've used them.

Ultimately though, I agree that if you're not getting what you would like from the CAD then a different mic will make a lot more difference than a different preamp. Maybe a ribbon would be worth a listen?


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woodnut



Joined: 24/03/07
Posts: 136
Re: External Mic Pre Options for RME Fireface new [Re: woodnut]
      #1031633 - 01/02/13 05:00 PM
Many thanks again for the comments and advice. Dropping £300 ish for an external pre is perhaps a bit of a waste of funds for the sake of getting dedicated gain pot, phase switch and high pass filter with only a possible small increase in performance with my vocal mic.

I will keep searches up for the pre 73, isa one and dbx just in case one crops up at a nice price...

Regarding the Audient Mico, I haven't yet tried vocals through my CAD M179 into the Mico whilst

playing with the harmonix dial. I am actually using the mico for the two acoustic guitar mics and the vocals are done at the same time into the FF400 pre currently. The guitar sounds great miked XY through the mico and I wouldn't really want to sacrafice the results if this was to
be the case swapping the guitar to the FF400's two pres and using just one Mico channel for vocals. I will of course have to try this to see...

Thanks again.


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Joe (Joe Public Stud...



Joined: 24/04/06
Posts: 38
Loc: Barnet, Hertfordshire
Re: External Mic Pre Options for RME Fireface new [Re: woodnut]
      #1031815 - 02/02/13 11:48 PM
Save your money! The pre-amps in the RME are a little woolly compared with some higher end gear but pretty bloody good - the woolliness actually translates into warmth to some degree! There is a lot of emperors new clothes about preamps and you have to spend serious dough to get real character and class, which then demands that your whole chain is amazing to actually HEAR the subtle differences! Try Nomads Magnetic plug in or Kramer Tape or Slate Digital Virtual Console - or all three! They are also pretty cheap and offer a billion varieties of colour, warmth, eq, character, whatever! You will achieve FAR more with instrument choice, playing style, microphone technique and careful processing than any preamp! Cue billion counter arguments...

--------------------
Joe / www.joepublicstudios.com


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