Buying a mic, wondering best pre-amp combo
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Old 05-16-2017, 06:56 AM   #1
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Buying a mic, wondering best pre-amp combo

Hey all, it's been a while since I've been back here.

Anyhow, straight to business. I've been researching the Shure SM7b for a good couple of years now, and I've had the money for a bit, but I've finally decided that now I'm going to order one. My problem is that I don't have a pre-amp, but I've been looking at the PreSonus Blue Tube DP V2 2-channel pre-amp. I know that the SM7b really shines when you've got enough headroom... or more like it needs it.

Why the SM7b? Well, it's to cover everything from super low growls and high shrieks to natural sounding country and roots-rock vocals. Also enough to survive close up hardcore punk style shouts and a few screams up close when someone transitions from a goregrind roar to a higher pitched scream. I'm not going with the SM58 because, well, the SM7b just sounds better on the lows, if you ask me. Especially rumbly growls. And because I can, so I will.

Now, the question is just if this pre-amp will cut it. I can afford a more expensive one, but this is for my personal studio, and not my friend's studio, so I'd rather keep the cost down when and where I can. My friend has a decent pre-amp, but his studio is dedicated to hiphop, not at all fit for what I tend to do, and I've had this discussion with him. Also, they seem to get by with a shit mic for their purposes. Nothing against them, it just doesn't fit the circle of people I'm setting this up for.

So, if this doesn't work, is there another more budget friendly option I can go with? Any pre-amp that works wonders with breakcore production experimentation, or livening up found-sound samples for IDM is a bonus. From what I've heard, this pre-amp should do just that as well. So, there's another function to look out for.

If any of you record, particularly extreme metal in the vein of atmoblack or melodeath, mainly, or some fuzzy sludge, I'd love to hear what you think of my prospective buys as well. Just want to make sure I have everything squared away and properly researched before I order.

Thank you for any and all time you spend on this thread. I'm a pretty fair noob when it comes to gear, so lay it all on me if you want as well.

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Old 05-16-2017, 02:13 PM   #2
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Re: Buying a mic, wondering best pre-amp combo

As a general rule I wouldn't look at a tube preamp until you're in the $700-1k range as the cheap ones just aren't very good. Starved plate preamps just always sound bad to me - something about the poor saturation qualities and increased voltage ripple response, I think. They always sound really brittle and harsh to me.

I much prefer well designed solid state pre - Great River makes wonderful preamps that are decently affordable on the used market. They're still expensive, but they're in the 'never buy another preamp again' category. If you're going to go cheaper I'd look at a good used ART preamp. While still technically starved plate they're right on the edge, and the older Pro series really shines with good NOS tubes.

Another cheaper option might be an ADA8000 or ADA8200. I just picked up a couple of 8ks on eBay for modding purposes for $75 shipped. They're really solid and well-respected inexpensive preamps with a ton of headroom and they're cheap as chips.

But ultimately it's going to come down to your ear and use case and what you're trying to achieve, and you're only going to know what works for you by listening. There's also the fact that preamps really have very minor effects on sound compared to things like room quality and mic placement and the mics themselves - you might grab the 7b and run it straight into your interface and see if you like it. It might be you can get by without spending any money at all.
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Old 05-16-2017, 07:04 PM   #3
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Re: Buying a mic, wondering best pre-amp combo

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Originally Posted by Artificer View Post
As a general rule I wouldn't look at a tube preamp until you're in the $700-1k range as the cheap ones just aren't very good. Starved plate preamps just always sound bad to me - something about the poor saturation qualities and increased voltage ripple response, I think. They always sound really brittle and harsh to me.

I much prefer well designed solid state pre - Great River makes wonderful preamps that are decently affordable on the used market. They're still expensive, but they're in the 'never buy another preamp again' category. If you're going to go cheaper I'd look at a good used ART preamp. While still technically starved plate they're right on the edge, and the older Pro series really shines with good NOS tubes.

Another cheaper option might be an ADA8000 or ADA8200. I just picked up a couple of 8ks on eBay for modding purposes for $75 shipped. They're really solid and well-respected inexpensive preamps with a ton of headroom and they're cheap as chips.

But ultimately it's going to come down to your ear and use case and what you're trying to achieve, and you're only going to know what works for you by listening. There's also the fact that preamps really have very minor effects on sound compared to things like room quality and mic placement and the mics themselves - you might grab the 7b and run it straight into your interface and see if you like it. It might be you can get by without spending any money at all.

For the PreSonus Blue Tube I was going to replace the tubes, which people say is really the only gripe with it. Though I'm no expert on pres. Those ADA 8ks seem perfect for performances as well.

If I were to go straight into my interface, do you think the Focusrite Scarlett Solo would hack it? As I said, my studio set up is very budget right now, so I don't have a very respectable interface. Or, should I finally bite the bullet and upgrade that, too?

I do almost all my mixing digitally, so I don't really need anything too fancy, just getting the sound to the computer. As long as everyone is okay recording one part at a time, it should be no issue.
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Old 05-16-2017, 07:49 PM   #4
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Re: Buying a mic, wondering best pre-amp combo

FWIW I am using an Audio Technica 3035 Mic and MOTU preamps. I don't do breakcore, but a lot of heavily synth/sampler/drum machine stuff. I've recorded everything from vocals, to recording acoustic instruments (cigar box guitar, mountain dulcimer to name a couple), recording percussive hits etc. All VERY usable. No noise gates or preemptive EQ needed.

I think the real key for your purposes (maybe) will be having a quiet space to record in. I'm just lucky in that regard as my hood is quiet most of the time all day/night.

I also agree to not to pulled in by "tube" hype. Get a good clean recording and do you coloring ITB.

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Old 05-16-2017, 10:04 PM   #5
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Re: Buying a mic, wondering best pre-amp combo

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Originally Posted by relic View Post
FWIW I am using an Audio Technica 3035 Mic and MOTU preamps. I don't do breakcore, but a lot of heavily synth/sampler/drum machine stuff. I've recorded everything from vocals, to recording acoustic instruments (cigar box guitar, mountain dulcimer to name a couple), recording percussive hits etc. All VERY usable. No noise gates or preemptive EQ needed.

I think the real key for your purposes (maybe) will be having a quiet space to record in. I'm just lucky in that regard as my hood is quiet most of the time all day/night.

I also agree to not to pulled in by "tube" hype. Get a good clean recording and do you coloring ITB.
Do you think my Focusrite audio interface will do without a preamp? If I don't need one then I'll just wait and see if I need something else to match my needs at the time.
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Old 05-16-2017, 11:29 PM   #6
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Re: Buying a mic, wondering best pre-amp combo

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Originally Posted by GuyWithSausageF View Post
For the PreSonus Blue Tube I was going to replace the tubes, which people say is really the only gripe with it. Though I'm no expert on pres. Those ADA 8ks seem perfect for performances as well.

If I were to go straight into my interface, do you think the Focusrite Scarlett Solo would hack it? As I said, my studio set up is very budget right now, so I don't have a very respectable interface. Or, should I finally bite the bullet and upgrade that, too?

I do almost all my mixing digitally, so I don't really need anything too fancy, just getting the sound to the computer. As long as everyone is okay recording one part at a time, it should be no issue.
The fact is that the quality of a preamp is so overshadowed by almost all of the rest of the signal chain that most people espousing the importance of it are A) completely full of shit and just aping what they read online or B) professionals with incredibly trained ears in precise rooms running $5000 condensers into $2000 preamps. In the budget realm there's just not that big a difference to be had, and you can always sweeten/de-noise things a bit with EQ.

An SM7b does want some gain to drive it but it's not like it's that demanding. I'd guess that the signal would certainly be usable if possibly a little noisy (almost completely depending on how loud the singer is/how hard the capsule is being driven). I'd guess that you'd clean up any noise with just about any standalone mic preamp. Mostly this just isn't 1992 - technology has come a long, long way and even the cheapest of interfaces are pretty damn clean and powerful.

As far as recording gear I'm a big fan of letting necessity drive purchases. Picking up new keyboard or plugin can be great for sparking creativity, not so true with things like mics and preamps. They're meant to mostly be transparent meaning the better they are the less you notice them. There's even a point where you can get better results with lower quality gear because they mask the terrible nuances of bad performances. Make the most with what you have and buy something when you actually find a need for it.

So my suggestion would be - if you're happy with the Scarlett, stick with it. If not, jump up to something like an Audient or MOTU, both of which will have better preamps, more features and better latency. If you're sticking with the SM7b, buy it first, try it with your interface and see how you like it. It might be just fine. If it's not, then start shopping for a preamp. Maybe grab an ADA8k off ebay for cheap and sell it on if you don't like it. For the $200 that the Presonus costs you could offload your Scarlett and grab an Audient iD14 on Reverb/eBay and come out even. Those have incredible preamps that'll match just about anything you'll find in a pro studio.

Another route would be to get something like a Beta 58 which is cheaper, requires a lot less gain, and is hypercard for better noise profile/rejection. Being a dynamic it'll work with just about anything you run it into. It's been a go to for vocals for a long, long time.
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Old 05-17-2017, 07:04 PM   #7
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Re: Buying a mic, wondering best pre-amp combo

Quote:
Originally Posted by Artificer View Post
The fact is that the quality of a preamp is so overshadowed by almost all of the rest of the signal chain that most people espousing the importance of it are A) completely full of shit and just aping what they read online or B) professionals with incredibly trained ears in precise rooms running $5000 condensers into $2000 preamps. In the budget realm there's just not that big a difference to be had, and you can always sweeten/de-noise things a bit with EQ.

An SM7b does want some gain to drive it but it's not like it's that demanding. I'd guess that the signal would certainly be usable if possibly a little noisy (almost completely depending on how loud the singer is/how hard the capsule is being driven). I'd guess that you'd clean up any noise with just about any standalone mic preamp. Mostly this just isn't 1992 - technology has come a long, long way and even the cheapest of interfaces are pretty damn clean and powerful.

As far as recording gear I'm a big fan of letting necessity drive purchases. Picking up new keyboard or plugin can be great for sparking creativity, not so true with things like mics and preamps. They're meant to mostly be transparent meaning the better they are the less you notice them. There's even a point where you can get better results with lower quality gear because they mask the terrible nuances of bad performances. Make the most with what you have and buy something when you actually find a need for it.

So my suggestion would be - if you're happy with the Scarlett, stick with it. If not, jump up to something like an Audient or MOTU, both of which will have better preamps, more features and better latency. If you're sticking with the SM7b, buy it first, try it with your interface and see how you like it. It might be just fine. If it's not, then start shopping for a preamp. Maybe grab an ADA8k off ebay for cheap and sell it on if you don't like it. For the $200 that the Presonus costs you could offload your Scarlett and grab an Audient iD14 on Reverb/eBay and come out even. Those have incredible preamps that'll match just about anything you'll find in a pro studio.

Another route would be to get something like a Beta 58 which is cheaper, requires a lot less gain, and is hypercard for better noise profile/rejection. Being a dynamic it'll work with just about anything you run it into. It's been a go to for vocals for a long, long time.
I'm pretty set on the SM7b and I do love my focusrite.

I'll see how things go before buying anything else. Some people I talked to recommended picking up a preamp for it, so I just wanted to double check if I was at least in the ball park of gain for the mic.

Sounds like I am, and thank you for all your help!

(Also, I will be cleaning up and touching up wherever needed with whatever fx I need to use, in terms of software post recording)

I'm excited! I love grabbing some gear!
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Old 05-17-2017, 07:36 PM   #8
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Re: Buying a mic, wondering best pre-amp combo

Defo just give the Focusrite preamp a go man. MOTU's pres aren't anything special besides being low noise, no color workhorses.

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Old 05-19-2017, 07:29 PM   #9
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Re: Buying a mic, wondering best pre-amp combo

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Defo just give the Focusrite preamp a go man. MOTU's pres aren't anything special besides being low noise, no color workhorses.
Thank you! When the time comes, I'll give the MOTU's a look, though.

For now, as long as I can get the Mic set up without any other gear, I'm happy!
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Old 05-19-2017, 07:57 PM   #10
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Re: Buying a mic, wondering best pre-amp combo

(fwiw I have been lusting after a Warm Audio Tone Beast for quite a while, but for my money I'll think I'll just keep using U he Satin and Fab Filter Saturn for flavor).

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Old 05-20-2017, 06:15 AM   #11
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Re: Buying a mic, wondering best pre-amp combo

love U-He Satin!

old Telefunken V676a are great preamps but they need to be racked.
Presonus Bluetube DP v2 offer a lot for not much money.
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Old 05-22-2017, 03:39 AM   #12
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Re: Buying a mic, wondering best pre-amp combo

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(fwiw I have been lusting after a Warm Audio Tone Beast for quite a while, but for my money I'll think I'll just keep using U he Satin and Fab Filter Saturn for flavor).
Yeah, right now, I'm not looking for much to color sound with. I will eventually though. I've been looking at some fabfilter stuff for a bit. Someday... someday

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Originally Posted by prophonic View Post
love U-He Satin!

old Telefunken V676a are great preamps but they need to be racked.
Presonus Bluetube DP v2 offer a lot for not much money.
I've heard similar things about the Presonus Bluetube. Lot's of good bang for your buck type of comments, so that's why I was looking into it. When I do get a preamp, I'll still be leaning towards the Presonus, probably. We'll see what fits my needs at that point in time.

Thank you to everyone for helping me out!

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