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Does anyone put a pre-amp or any kind of unit prior to the interface to sweeten the sound ?

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Does anyone put a pre-amp or any kind of unit prior to the interface to sweeten the sound ?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:03 pm
by TheLegit
Off my other thread it was mentioned you can put something like a pre-amp before the recording interface to improve the sound, anyone use anything like this and any recommendations.

I actually use an amp into a Suhr Reactive Load IR and I did read some where once that putting a tube preamp in the chain makes it sound even better.

Re: Does anyone put a pre-amp or any kind of unit prior to the interface to sweeten the sound ?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:25 pm
by CS70
Depends on what you mean.

A preamp amplifies a mic or instrument level signal to line level. If pushed (i.e. gain up, output level down), it distorts said signal (most of the time sucking, sometimes in a nice way).

Very broadly, preamps on interfaces tend to be of the "sucking when pushed" form. Preamps in, say, guitar amplifiers, tend to be in the "nice when pushed" class (at least when heard thru a guitar cab speaker).
External microphone preamps come in both varieties.

So you can elect to pre-amplify a microphone signal with an external preamp instead of one in your interface if you so like - usually to take advantage of its distortion (called "color"). You will then send the result to one of the interface line inputs (which often will actually be the same circuit with a pad in front, but with modern components apparently it makes no difference, Dave will chime in).

But in general you don't cascade two microphone preamps - since a preamp by definition accepts a mic-level input (or instrument level if it has a high-Z socket), you would have to take the line level produced by the first, and reduce it again (using a DI) to make it usable by the second preamp.. only to amplify it again.

For clean signals, it makes no sense.

For distortion: as of above, almost all preamps distort,when pushed. So by doing the above you would mix two distortions.

Can't say it would be "better", just different. Maybe worth trying but not standard practice.

And of course when it comes to guitars, you're likely doing it already! :-) Your distortion pedal with a "drive" knob is often just a preamp set to distort the signal, followed by circuitry to bring it back to instrument level, and you send that to the preamp section of the guitar amplifier.

Any guitarist pedalboard is basically a bunch of in-line preamps. :)

Re: Does anyone put a pre-amp or any kind of unit prior to the interface to sweeten the sound ?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:42 pm
by The Elf
I would suggest that these tales of guaranteed 'do this and it will improve your sound' be taken with a pinch of salt. What works perfectly well in one scenario may be completely inappropriate and sound dreadful in another.

Putting a tube amp in the recording chain will not automatically 'improve the sound' simply for being there; it's dependent on context and there are many variables. That's not to say it won't sound great when the context is right, but it's not an 'always do this' thing.

As the song says - go you own way!

Re: Does anyone put a pre-amp or any kind of unit prior to the interface to sweeten the sound ?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:14 pm
by Wonks
The GAP preamp referred to in that other thread will be one of the Golden Age mic pres, probably one of the 73s, based on the Neve 1073 mic preamp module.

This is a good sounding preamp, with the ability for the preamp gain to be raised sufficiently to get some distortion, and then the ability to reduce the output signal level so then it can be fed into a line-input of an audio interface without overloading the input. On your standard AI input, you can only increase the gain, so whilst you can get pre-amp distortion, you'll also get nasty digital clipping as the signal is too hot for the A/D converter circuit.

This GAP 73 is a solid-state pre, so note that it's not valve distortion. This preamp can also be used as a 100% clean preamp. So you can use it for a variety of purposes, but only for some of them would you want to add extra drive, e.g for 'warming' and 'thickening up' some types of vocals.

Re: Does anyone put a pre-amp or any kind of unit prior to the interface to sweeten the sound ?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 19, 2019 4:34 am
by tridelica
When I record my 'high-end' floor-based digital guitar amp modeler via spdif into my interface, the results are high-fidelity, but seem plastic and brittle, and sometimes scratchy, as in not musical.
When I record my modeler via my high-quality analog channel strip, the sound is warmer and more similar to recording a real amp, and i can live with the results.

Re: Does anyone put a pre-amp or any kind of unit prior to the interface to sweeten the sound ?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 19, 2019 8:30 am
by Random Guitarist
Apologies, my post in the other thread was not as clear as it could have been.

In my view:

As far as absolute quality goes the difference between the RME and UAD units will not be huge, and is almost certainly not worth the cost in time and effort to make a swap

Using a flavoured pre and/or analogue compressor will not improve the technical accuracy of capture in any way, but it may give you a sound that you find more pleasing. However some people find the aesthetic gains of the extra hardware to be marginal so it's not guaranteed to work for you.

Thanx, Grant.

Re: Does anyone put a pre-amp or any kind of unit prior to the interface to sweeten the sound ?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 19, 2019 8:45 am
by Zukan
I remember when I used to mix on Mackies - I hated the line ins and opted to use the pres instead. I found out later a lot of people were doing this. Worked a treat.

Nowadays, I mix ITB and love using software pres instead of eqs if I am after a certain colour.

I am with Elf on this. Try it and see how it turns out.

We are constantly experimenting with signal paths and apart from the usual caveat about introducing another device in the signal path it's perfectly fine to experiment to hone your signature sound.

Actually, I think there's an article in there somewhere about creating signature colours.....

Re: Does anyone put a pre-amp or any kind of unit prior to the interface to sweeten the sound ?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2019 12:06 pm
by jbastienmusic
I use Waves NLS and various channel strip plugins and look at things as more of a "console in a box". This works well and everything coming in to Logic feeds from my interface. Now there are a couple nice outboard preamps I would buy if I had the money. Building up a small collection of nice outboard gear is never a bad thing if you can afford it.