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Preamp advice

All about the tools and techniques involved in capturing sound, in the studio or on location.

Preamp advice

Postby Scouser » Thu Nov 22, 2018 8:08 pm

Hi folks just wondered if you might be able to give me some adivice.

I record a lot of video and audio away from my pc. For this I use a zoom H5 with external mics one lav, a Rode NT3 and Shure SM7b I run an output from the zoom directly to my camera (iPhone) via usb to lightning, this keeps things simple in terms of audio sync.

So my question is how much better can my recordings get with this set up, the zoom clearly has its limitations as a preamp, I’m also guessing the sound will again be compromised when going direct to the iPhone, some compression perhaps ?

If I were to use a high end mic with the zoom ie km184 or something of that order, would it be wasted in a set up like the above ?

The people who are doing similar things to me in terms of content, but have a better sound tend to be recording to pc/Mac using nice interface rme etc and Neumann mic.

I suppose it would be good to know what the mobile/non pc/Mac equivalent set up would be ?


Recent video example (too much reverb, but should give you the idea) https://youtu.be/JfI2IFOfQHo

Thanks
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Re: Preamp advice

Postby Bob Bickerton » Thu Nov 22, 2018 8:21 pm

I tend to sync audio to picture in post, so can’t comment on how the iPhone is compromising the sound, but it would be easy to assess by comparing a recording made on the H5 with the same one sent to the iPhone.

Preamps on the Zoom F series are a step up from the H series but an even better solution would be the new Sounddevices Mixpre series which are a step up again. Absolutely first class preamps.

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Re: Preamp advice

Postby Scouser » Thu Nov 22, 2018 8:25 pm

Wow that sound devices kit sounds good ! And also works with pc ! Thanks Bob
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Re: Preamp advice

Postby wireman » Thu Nov 22, 2018 8:33 pm

Can you give examples of the situations you are recording?

Once you outgrow the H5 you are in to a range of much more expensive location recorders/mixers, from Zoom (F8 models), Sound Devices, Nagra etc.

I'm assuming that you are recording with the H5 and importing that to an NLE?

There is a guy on youtube who does nice videos and reviews of sound-for-video hardware.

Also you could browse some of the shops that sell into this market (Pinknoise in the UK for example).

I'm not experienced enough to offer any advice beyond suggesting you look into these. I suspect that microphone choice very much depends on what you are recording.
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Re: Preamp advice

Postby James Perrett » Thu Nov 22, 2018 9:06 pm

I have a Zoom interface with the same preamp design as the H series and the biggest limitation that I've found is noise. If you have a problem with preamp noise then changing the preamp could give you up to 10dB improvement (according to published specs) but, if noise isn't a problem, then you won't notice a huge change in sound by changing the preamp.

Edited to add: Just looked at the video and it doesn't sound bad - perhaps a little too much room ambience but the message comes across well and it sounds much better than some audio companies seem to manage on their videos.
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Re: Preamp advice

Postby Scouser » Thu Nov 22, 2018 9:36 pm

Thanks wireman

Mainly for use when recording YouTube videos, but also for on the fly music performances at various rooms and locations. Would ideally like to get better recording than on my pc, which shouldn’t be difficult as I only have a cheap edirol ua25, along with Focusrite trackmaste. Also something I could plug quality mics into and get professional results.

Yep saw that guy on YouTube, there doesn’t seem to much on this subject, also cam across a guy named julien Krause who did a few good vids explaining noise comparisons on portable recorders.
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Re: Preamp advice

Postby Scouser » Thu Nov 22, 2018 9:56 pm

Thanks James,

I think it is the noise on the H4 that bothers me. Was interested to find out that using condensers, makes for lower noise levels,as opposed to dynamic mics.

But if I am going to spend I want a solution that has nice pre amp and able to get nice results, with a combination of condenser and dynamic SM7B (which seems to like a lot of gain) would need at least 2 inputs, which is a shame as the rode AI 1 performed well in low noise tests I saw, but only one input.

I much prefer recording my non video performances away from the pc, then I’m just focused on the performance in the moment and not all the other stuff which can distract you when at the pc. Which is another reason for wanting to resolve this..
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Re: Preamp advice

Postby Scouser » Fri Nov 23, 2018 8:45 pm

Any more suggestions for a standalone mobile setup, that meets the above requirements?
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Re: Preamp advice

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Nov 24, 2018 5:50 pm

You will probably find that boosting the signal of your SM7 with a cloud lifter, triton Fethead, or SE Dynamite (others cascade gain boosters are available) will overcome your preamp noise and gain issues.

H
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Re: Preamp advice

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Nov 24, 2018 8:26 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:You will probably find that boosting the signal of your SM7 with a cloud lifter, triton Fethead, or SE Dynamite (others cascade gain boosters are available) will overcome your preamp noise and gain issues.

H

... and on that topic: https://www.soundonsound.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=48589

... and https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/PRO-In-Line-Mic-Preamp-Booster-XLR-Barrel-FOR-RIBBON-DYNAMIC-TUBE-Microphone/283269486152?hash=item41f42d5648:g:xawAAOSw1cNZ8vpZ:rk:4:pf:0

Just be aware that, unless, he's fixed it recently this in-line preamp will invert the polarity of the mic signal. so mixing with other mic signals could produce various funnies....
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Re: Preamp advice

Postby wireman » Sat Nov 24, 2018 9:19 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:You will probably find that boosting the signal of your SM7 with a cloud lifter, triton Fethead, or SE Dynamite (others cascade gain boosters are available) will overcome your preamp noise and gain issues.

I used to record into a Yamaha AW2816 and the preamps were noisy at high gain. I ended up purchasing an Alice MIC-AMP-PAK (I didn't really know what to choose to be honest) at the time but wonder if these small inline solutions would have been simpler with no mains power needed. The 2-input cloudfilter might have been a similar price but I was certainly not aware of it at the time if it existed.
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Re: Preamp advice

Postby Scouser » Sun Nov 25, 2018 11:39 am

Sound isn’t too bad for the video I’m doing although could probably be improved with cloud lifter, especially SM7b. However I think I would struggle to get pro recordings of myself singing and playing guitar with the H5.

I have recorded a few things at a friends place, pc based, using rme sc and SM7b and Neumann and it sounds real nice. Would the mix pre or zoom F series be on a par with this ? If not, what should I be looking at ?
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Re: Preamp advice

Postby Scouser » Sun Nov 25, 2018 12:33 pm

Also does mix pre have guitar input ? Or just XLR ?
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Re: Preamp advice

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Nov 25, 2018 1:37 pm

Scouser wrote:I have recorded a few things at a friends place, pc based, using rme sc and SM7b and Neumann and it sounds real nice. ...what should I be looking at ?

The acoustic treatment!

Using high end gear is always nice and does bring incremental benefits in the noise-floor etc... But it's the background sound of the room that really makes the biggest difference between what most people consider a pro recording and an amateur one.

H
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Re: Preamp advice

Postby Scouser » Sun Nov 25, 2018 5:47 pm

Sure Hugh I get that. I have a couple of nice options in that regard, where sound is good.

So it’s all about the capture that I’m interested in, the recorder essentially, I have the mics I want, so it’s about the recorder, pre’s, AD converters.
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Re: Preamp advice

Postby Mike Stranks » Sun Nov 25, 2018 9:00 pm

First off: The Zoom F series and the Sound Devices MixPres don't have guitar inputs... you'd need a decent DI box. Many of us here are fans of the range from Orchid Electronics.

Differences between Zoom H5 and F4/F8. I used to have an H5 which I was broadly happy with, but the preamps made their presence known when using less sensitive dynamic mics - in my case Beyer Dynamic 201s. I solved that by using a MartiAudio in-line preamp. However, I eventually upgraded to an F4. Preamps in that are much better than the H5 and I can use my 201s all the time for spoken word with no additional preamp help and the noise-floor is still non-existent for all practical purposes. I've made spoken voice recordings on the F4 - admittedly in an acoustically treated space - that have been purchased for use in commercial videos and on which I was complimented for their cleanness.

A friend who does sound for video professionally has used the F series and the MixPres extensively. He says that there is a difference in the preamps, but for all practical purposes it's not an operational issue. The key differences are build-quality - not that the Zoom is bad, just that the Sound Devices is exemplary - and usability. Sound Devices have years of experience in the pro location recording field and it shows in how they designed everything in their machines.

Of course, there's the whole timecode aspect which opens up with these machines, but I don't know if that's something on your essentials list.

Am I happy with my F4? Very. Would I like a MixPre? You bet! Do I need to upgrade and could I justify the cost difference? Not at all unless I'm asked to work on a BBC wildlife film or a feature film. :)
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