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mic pre comparison

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mic pre comparison

Postby awjoe » Thu Nov 01, 2012 5:14 pm

I very much like the way SOS posts online mp3s to accompany articles in the magazine, and I really appreciate the mic pre comparison in October's edition. Two things, each accompanied by a question:

* The differences between ALL of those pres are pretty subtle, so the conclusion that wants to be drawn is 'well, it doesn't make much difference which pre I use then'. Is there anything obviously wrong with this kind of thinking? (I've heard people say 'well, you won't hear much of a difference between this pre and that pre on ONE recorded source, but when there are ten or twenty miked sources in the same mix, the difference will become much clearer'.)

* The very slight preferences and dislikes I had between the various pres were pretty much completely different/opposite the voting in the 'key to the pres' thread above. Now, I have a huge capacity for self-doubt, so I'm wondering if this is due to years of my using and listening to compromised/crummy sound in my home studio - kind of like 'don't waste the good wine on him - he's been drinking cheap Merlot for so long he actually prefers it'. Okay, I know you can't assess what I like, but to what extent do you think it's just a matter of personal preference for this or that (slight) coloration, and to what extent is it a matter of there being a real difference in terms of clarity and beauty?

Thanks to SOS for both the article and the samples. Years ago, I actually bought a CD of a mic pre shootout organized by a guy in the US called Lynn Fuston, and on that occasion as well, I heard little to no difference between the various recordings, but again, it was just one source being recorded. Anyway, this reinforces my impression that either there's little difference between pres, or that I don't have the ears to hear it.
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Re: mic pre comparison

Postby Exalted Wombat » Thu Nov 01, 2012 6:22 pm

And even if you went back to cassette with its hiss, or vinyl with its rumble, wow and clicks - differences that would leap out at you in a comparison test - it wouldn't be long before your brain stopped listening to the imperfections of the medium and homed in on the music.
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Re: mic pre comparison

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Nov 01, 2012 8:36 pm

Preamps are, almost without exception, designed to amplify small signals cleanly with negligible distortion or other artefacts. In the past, most budget preamps and many console preamps struggled to do that, but technology advances over the last decade or so has pretty much resolved that, as our comparison revealed all too clearly.

Strong differences are revealed if you deliberately overdrive a preamp, as its behaviour when pushed into saturation or clipping depends on the circuit design, and the better designs behave a lot more musically than the poorer ones. So where deliberate overdrive is desirable, or where accidental overload is likely, it might pay to invest in a high end preamp that behaves in a way that suits the situation.

It should also be said that while solo piano is a challenging signal in many ways, it doesn't reveal every aspect on its own. I've found that 12 string acoustic guitar is also superb at revealing preamp differences because of the very complex harmonic interactions -- but getting repeatable performances made it inappropriate for this specific test.

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Re: mic pre comparison

Postby BigAl » Fri Nov 09, 2012 1:41 pm

Very interesting Hugh, as years ago, my desk preamps were never great so I ended up buying a few preamps from dbx286, Focusrite Voicemaster and my Presonus MP20, which I still use.
Interesting is that since a channel went down on the MP20 (getting fixed just now), I've been using a TC Helicon Harmoniser's preamp, and to be honest, it's far better than the old preamps in the AW4416, so I can see where you're coming from and the days of the keen amateur spending lots of cash on preamps is long gone in my opinion as the variations in singing, playing and technique are way more important (and always has been really).
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Re: mic pre comparison

Postby Guy Johnson » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:37 pm

Sometimes preamps surprise, as in an old Soundcraft Spirit Live 24:4 Mk 1 ... Made some nice recordings via direct outs and ADATs, a million years ago now! tu ag an gcarraig
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Re: mic pre comparison

Postby awjoe » Sat Nov 24, 2012 7:48 am

Well, yeah, that's lovely. There was more at work than preamps on that one, though. Just lovely.
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To claim that a guitarist can "play only in a few keys" it's like saying that a singer can sing only into cylindrical microphones. - CS70



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