The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
...'Character' preamps aren't very good.
Old 6th April 2011
  #1
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
...'Character' preamps aren't very good.

I'm sure there's got to be some kind of elite consensus on this...

For most applications, unless you're trying to reproduce a certain sound off another record that used XYZ equipment, it's seeming to me after a lot of testing that 'Colored Preamps' just aren't all they're cracked up to be.

And that the 'thick bass and more oomph in the high end' thing is a fallacy.

Testing various things, on every occasion, the purpose-built ultra accurate preamplifiers (built to a good high spec obviously) outperform the 'character' stuff (Neve, API, Chandler) in very simply reproducing the holographic reality of the sound captured. Its fullness and impact. Its sonority. Its sensitivity. Its raw power.

Character preamps just don't improve anything...unless you have something to hide. A bad kit, a bad piano, a bad voice. I really am coming to dislike these amplifier designs. Just this horrible smear of sound. Even electric guitar tracks need their 'cutting' quality, and accurate microphone preamplification allows them to be mixed lower and still be huge, present.

Just my 2 cents but I'm curious if other recordists share this 'extremist' opinion. Or is it not extremist at all?
Old 6th April 2011
  #2
Lives for gear
 
slaphappygarry's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
It's all taste. You like this much salt on your dinner. I like that much. Who is wrong?

G
Old 6th April 2011
  #3
Lives for gear
 
2Loud's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by andonwego ➡️
I'm sure there's got to be some kind of elite consensus on this...

For most applications, unless you're trying to reproduce a certain sound off another record that used XYZ equipment, it's seeming to me after a lot of testing that 'Colored Preamps' just aren't all they're cracked up to be.

And that the 'thick bass and more oomph in the high end' thing is a fallacy.

Testing various things, on every occasion, the purpose-built ultra accurate preamplifiers (built to a good high spec obviously) outperform the 'character' stuff (Neve, API, Chandler) in very simply reproducing the holographic reality of the sound captured. Its fullness and impact. Its sonority. Its sensitivity. Its raw power.

Character preamps just don't improve anything...unless you have something to hide. A bad kit, a bad piano, a bad voice. I really am coming to dislike these amplifier designs. Just this horrible smear of sound. Even electric guitar tracks need their 'cutting' quality, and accurate microphone preamplification allows them to be mixed lower and still be huge, present.

Just my 2 cents but I'm curious if other recordists share this 'extremist' opinion. Or is it not extremist at all?
I think this approach works with the acoustic music domain -
where your room and instrument sing on its own, so all you want is to mic it up properly and record it as it is...nothing less, nothing more...
however there are certain genres where you benefit without a doubt from a character, harmonic distortion given by those characterfull boxes...these give you sense of "depth and dimension" bla bla bla.. too but in completely different way...my opinion.
Old 6th April 2011
  #4
Lives for gear
 
tha]-[acksaw's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I'm probably gonna get beat over the head for saying this but, I only use my "color" preamps ever now and then. I tend to favor the preamps that have the most transparent sound (Octane's).

I have the API 500 series rack, packed full with API 512C's. I really love them. They do sounds great. Reminds me of tracking through an API Vision I use out in Nashville every summer. But the API sound isn't for everything. When I first got the pres I used them for EVERYTHING on a singer/songwriter project. I was still "high" from the purchase. HAHA! Bottom line, the sound didn't work well for the soft intimate vibe I was looking for. Lesson learned.

I did use the API's on a recent Psych Rock project and they sounded just right. So, it's all about application, for sure.

I also have some Neve and Jenson pres from 7th Circle Audio. I do love the Neve's, more often then not, on vocals. But again, those Pre's aren't for everything. I used the Neve's for conga overheads one time. I didn't much care for them.

I think there are lots of colored sounds out there that are classic. Sounds that were made big over decades of amazing music production. And these sounds are still viable today. But, today, we also have to accommodate a vast array of styles. And some sounds don't work for certain styles.

It's all about knowing the sound, and when to use it.
Old 6th April 2011
  #5
Lives for gear
 
msquared's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by andonwego ➡️
Character preamps just don't improve anything...unless you have something to hide.

Just my 2 cents but I'm curious if other recordists share this 'extremist' opinion. Or is it not extremist at all?
I share your opinion, but I don't agree with the reasoning.

You say that we use colored gear to mask bad sounding instruments, rooms, or microphones. I feel that one of the things we talk about on here regularly is the importance of having those things dialed in before recording and that having a color preamp doesn't change that idea. My poorly tuned piano is still going to sound discordant with an MA5.

We use colored gear to make an exaggerated version of the sound we're recording. This has been the practice for decades in certain genres (anything derived from rock, specifically) and so it's the norm at this point. It's one of the reasons that listening to an Aerosmith CD doesn't sound like Aerosmith setting up in your living room and playing.

I share your mindset because I prefer to add the color later, in amounts that fit what I'm doing. It's irritating to have to deal with some preamp that has gobs of color that I don't want.
Old 6th April 2011
  #6
Lives for gear
 
lakeshorephatty's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by andonwego ➡️
Just my 2 cents but I'm curious if other recordists share this 'extremist' opinion. Or is it not extremist at all?
Its not extremist, its just a perspective. I've been gradually building my own sound over the last few years and integral to that are my very colored preamps. It all depends what your goals are. There is modern music on both ends of the scale. Some of it is very clean and clear, some of it combines the fullness of the modern sound with some of the grit of vintage sounds. The latter is what I love, and it would be a lot harder without the colored preamps.

Russell
Old 6th April 2011 | Show parent
  #7
Lives for gear
 
lakeshorephatty's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by msquared ➡️
It's irritating to have to deal with some preamp that has gobs of color that I don't want.
That would be very irritating. There is probably some amp out there that fits your aesthetics though. Something that cleans up nicely at low gain and dirts the way you like it at higher gains. Partly it can just relate to knowing the tone like the back of your hand as well with certain gear. Most everything I own is heavy handed and I love it that way because the way it mangles the audio is an improvement to my ears when set up by my hands.

Russell
Old 6th April 2011 | Show parent
  #8
Gear Guru
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
I only have a Solo/610 (quite colored) and a Great River (can be pretty colored and not super clean at best) and I find myself liking the 610 more often. Few of the great albums that I revere are super-clean sounding, and I guess therefore I just like that sound, darker, more saturated, etc...
Old 6th April 2011
  #9
Lives for gear
 
latestflavor's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
there does seem to be undue emphasis on the board on preamps. i thought when lynn fuston did his shootout CD that discussions in general might gravitate towards character pieces in general and not the preamp as some holy grail.

my prominent distortion flavors thus usually come from comps, eq's or full channels.

i can appreciate the subtle differences of high end preamps. some of my favorite preamps are the vintage neves, but imho having the eq in the channel is purposefully part of the idea. having said that i could be happy with a lot of preamps when matched with the correct mics.

you have to remember that for those people who are strictly engineers or mixers, and to not contribute to the arrangement, production, or writing the last 3% can be what sets them apart from their competition.

but that's when the rest of the puzzle is in place.

also as the rest of the world joined the high end preamp discussion they might have the impression that moving between $3000 preamps is as much as a game changer as between a $200 and a $3000 one. that's not been my experience.
Old 6th April 2011 | Show parent
  #10
Lives for gear
 
RCM - Ronan's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I always think the best pre amp is the better sounding one on a given source for the creative vision. Sometimes that is a colored one, some times that is a clean one.
Old 6th April 2011
  #11
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by andonwego ➡️
I'm sure there's got to be some kind of elite consensus on this...
but I'm curious if other recordists share this 'extremist' opinion. Or is it not extremist at all?
This has been my basic premise in designing my rig. I currently plug a True Precision 8 (incredibly clean, modern, 8ch preamp) into a Yamaha i88x (two chanels of '90s clean preamp (usually bypassed, but available as an almost charactered alternative) and eight channels of uncolored ADC). My go to mics are a pair of Earthworks QTC40s for just about everything, followed by a Neumann BCM104, followed by two Blue Mice, and then a couple dynamics and a handful of character mics for different types of distortion and flavor when necessary to improve a project.

A ribbon track or a tube track can really shine in the right mix, but that coloration doesn't stand out right if you just use it on everything.

In the location recording forum, the mod talks about how he recorded Another Kind of Blue, and it became clear to me that he is even more strongly dedicated to this proposal than I am.

His rig for that show consisted of three 8 channel splitters, three Precision 8s and a hard drive recorder. For mics, he basically blanketed the stage with TLM103s. I had never even conceptualized so many TLM103s in one room before. Now, that's not a completely colorless beast, in the way that a QTC40 is colorless but it's pretty goshdarn close, and with that many mics on a tiny stage, I think pickup pattern starts to become a deciding factor.

Hopefully you will find this thread as redemptive and encouraging as I do: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/remot...rs-thread.html

But I've also read that plenty of great radio vocals are tracked through 1073s and clones thereof. I don't think they're smeared at all. I'd say when you get it right with those tools, they results are shiny, like the sun's hitting the voice. It's just that, as with the summer sun shining off a swimming pool, sometimes you can't see the whole image behind all the brightness. But that doesn't mean you don't like what you're seeing. It's actually all more beautiful than anything in the world, until the migraine sets in.

So, yeah, it's all a matter of taste, and tastes vary. If someone only wants to sing through a tube mic, then I'm happy I have my R0DE NTK. If I can put up a couple others behind it and just let them A/B the results after their soundcheck, well, we usually end up making a cleaner record. If I had a Neve channel lying around, it might be a similar draw, and once I learned how to use it, it would become part of my arsenal, just like any tool.
Old 6th April 2011
  #12
Lives for gear
 
5 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by andonwego ➡️
I'm sure there's got to be some kind of elite consensus on this...

For most applications, unless you're trying to reproduce a certain sound off another record that used XYZ equipment, it's seeming to me after a lot of testing that 'Colored Preamps' just aren't all they're cracked up to be.

And that the 'thick bass and more oomph in the high end' thing is a fallacy.

Testing various things, on every occasion, the purpose-built ultra accurate preamplifiers (built to a good high spec obviously) outperform the 'character' stuff (Neve, API, Chandler) in very simply reproducing the holographic reality of the sound captured. Its fullness and impact. Its sonority. Its sensitivity. Its raw power.

Character preamps just don't improve anything...unless you have something to hide. A bad kit, a bad piano, a bad voice. I really am coming to dislike these amplifier designs. Just this horrible smear of sound. Even electric guitar tracks need their 'cutting' quality, and accurate microphone preamplification allows them to be mixed lower and still be huge, present.

Just my 2 cents but I'm curious if other recordists share this 'extremist' opinion. Or is it not extremist at all?
If a preamp has no character, it's broken. Even the cleanest high end pres like GML and Forsell have a unique vibe. Sure they are not 'colored' in the traditional sense, but they all have a sound or character.
Even if something is ultra transparent, transparency is still a characteristic if you will. A mackie 1202 board is suppose to be clean but most professionals realize it is a sterile clean. Even sterile is a characteristic, just not a desirable one.

People don't use color pres to hide anything, it's all preference. It's like a musician who plays a certain instrument for a certain sound. It's actually a pretty cool thing. All aspects of music creation are slaves to character of sorts. In Rock and Roll it may be a Les Paul w/ PAFs, in classical it may be a Stradivarius, in the studio it may be a Trident or even SSL if that's your thing. They all have character.
Old 7th April 2011 | Show parent
  #13
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Isn't the OP the same guy who wanted to mod a Sony C800g for "Tone"? heh

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/high-...800g-mods.html
Old 7th April 2011 | Show parent
  #14
Lives for gear
 
vincentvangogo's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by slaphappygarry ➡️
It's all taste. You like this much salt on your dinner. I like that much. Who is wrong?

G
You are.
Old 7th April 2011 | Show parent
  #15
Lives for gear
 
msquared's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by lakeshorephatty ➡️
That would be very irritating. There is probably some amp out there that fits your aesthetics though.
Oh, definitely. And I have a few for sure. I'm just saying that if I had to pick only one, it would be as neutral as possible. I totally get why people don't want "augmentation" on their tracks.

That said, I totally get that the OP was trolling. It's just something interesting to think about.
Old 7th April 2011 | Show parent
  #16
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
I would like to add that since plugins that imitate vintage consoles and preamps are getting better and better, I think it will pretty soon make sense to track with a high quality, detailed transparent preamp, and add your color in later.
Old 7th April 2011
  #17
70% Coffee, 30% Beer
 
Doc Mixwell's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by andonwego ➡️
I'm sure there's got to be some kind of elite consensus on this...

For most applications, unless you're trying to reproduce a certain sound off another record that used XYZ equipment, it's seeming to me after a lot of testing that 'Colored Preamps' just aren't all they're cracked up to be.

And that the 'thick bass and more oomph in the high end' thing is a fallacy.

Testing various things, on every occasion, the purpose-built ultra accurate preamplifiers (built to a good high spec obviously) outperform the 'character' stuff (Neve, API, Chandler) in very simply reproducing the holographic reality of the sound captured. Its fullness and impact. Its sonority. Its sensitivity. Its raw power.

Character preamps just don't improve anything...unless you have something to hide. A bad kit, a bad piano, a bad voice. I really am coming to dislike these amplifier designs. Just this horrible smear of sound. Even electric guitar tracks need their 'cutting' quality, and accurate microphone preamplification allows them to be mixed lower and still be huge, present.

Just my 2 cents but I'm curious if other recordists share this 'extremist' opinion. Or is it not extremist at all?
My extremist opinion is that preamps without "character" do not exist. I have derived this view from hearing something different from every preamplifier I have ever tried. Yes, the degree of change from different preamplifiers of all origins can be and is infinitesimal. Yes, the preamp is but a very small part of the overall chain, bound by its task of amplifying one type of voltage into another. However it still remains a part never the less, and even without much or any interactive subversion or overt change, all of these offerings still have a sound of their own by design.

Which brings us to a "chicken or the egg" conversion, so yes, the simple truth is that this stuff is preference and taste related entirely. Its great that you like clean stuff as that is your aesthetic/taste and preference for your application as it totally relays your message, but in the end that doesn't mean "thick, bold crayola expression" attached to clarity; is not making my day completely. I love clean as well though, and want some more of it in my rack.
Old 7th April 2011 | Show parent
  #18
Lives for gear
 
DJamesGoody's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
I feel compelled to also mention that once again, one can alter the sound MUCH more dramatically by moving a microphone 3".

Source > Mic placement > microphone > preamp

Simple, but true. You'll hear more character change by rolling the tone knob back on a Tele than you will swapping between a 1073 and a 512.
Old 7th April 2011 | Show parent
  #19
Gear Guru
 
NathanEldred's Avatar
 
7 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by nst7 ➡️
I would like to add that since plugins that imitate vintage consoles and preamps are getting better and better, I think it will pretty soon make sense to track with a high quality, detailed transparent preamp, and add your color in later.
I hate making all those decisions later until mix. Preamps, whether colored or clean are like my paints as producer and or engineer. I like to be able to pull up the faders and it sounds relatively close to what it will sound like in the mix. I think I would be a lot more bored knowing that I'm going to be adding 100% of the coloration in the mix (while I'm in the process of tracking), and then having the laborious process of having to do that totally in post. The preamps that I use are also going to influence my microphone or DI selection too.

Running the source through the appropriate color of preamp and compressor, maybe through tape or an outboard saturation device, and even EQ'ing lightly is a lot of fun and makes things gel and sound huge from the beginning. I personally think that aquiring the skills to track in this way seperates the boys from the men, because I know first hand that it takes ears, years and gear to be able to not leave everything to nitpick to death during the mix. Otherwise I might as well start doing video and film work.
Old 7th April 2011 | Show parent
  #20
Lives for gear
 
5 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by DJamesGoody ➡️
I feel compelled to also mention that once again, one can alter the sound MUCH more dramatically by moving a microphone 3".

Source > Mic placement > microphone > preamp

Simple, but true. You'll hear more character change by rolling the tone knob back on a Tele than you will swapping between a 1073 and a 512.
so roll off tone knob on the tele and plug into the Behringer eurodesk?
I'll think take the Les Paul and the 512c
Old 7th April 2011
  #21
Phoenix Audio
 
xavi's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
[QUOTE=an it's seeming to me after a lot of testing that 'Colored Preamps' just aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Well I was going to be flippant and say were closing our company down as it seemed the party was over.

But in all seriousness, I guess its different strokes for different folks as they say, if your honestly saying you don't like Neve, API and any other company that somebody else cares to mention that makes these type of designs that's fine, your not wrong, its just your preference. Thankfully most of our customers disagree and we always get very positive feedback from customers from a variety of backgrounds when they try our gear.
If your saying that the most important thing is the performance of the artist then your spot on, good gear can't gloss over bad performances.

[email][email protected][/email]
Old 7th April 2011
  #22
Gear Guru
 
RoundBadge's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by andonwego ➡️
...'Character' preamps aren't very good.

lol.let the can o' worms open.pretty sweeping statement there.
so all those classic records done through old consoles with vibe/character aren't very good
tell that to Geoff Emerick,George Martin,Glyn Johns etc
Old 7th April 2011 | Show parent
  #23
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
I agree with the OP.

Using preamps as your colors doesn't make sense to me...your colors would more likely be your choice of instrument, microphone, placement and processing.

I like good preamps. I don't think matching preamps to a production style is all that relevant....a good preamp will work on any project.

The idea that a preamp that works for classical doesn't work for rock is absurd.

On rock records we record acoustic guitars, pianos, strings, woodwinds, brass etc...are you telling me a great console with good pres...or just having 24 of the same good pre won't do the job?

nonsense

pick a pre that sounds good no matter what you put through it...and then get 16-24 of them...and stop this insanity...your "color" pres aren't giving you an edge like you think they are...that's the magic dust they sold you.

i, like the OP have been through this...and it was a huge waste of time..way unnecessary IM most HO

save yourselves the grief of realizing the $4000 pre you bought ain't cutting it.

use eq's and compressors and plug ins to manipulate your tracks...that's what they are made for.
Old 7th April 2011 | Show parent
  #24
Gear Maniac
 
ElevenShadows's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by RCM - Ronan ➡️
I always think the best pre amp is the better sounding one on a given source for the creative vision. Sometimes that is a colored one, some times that is a clean one.
Yup. Blanket statements about this or that being better just don't fit. I have "both" kinds (I mean, it's really a continuum, innit, not that there are two discrete camps of preamps) and love to use 'em. If you have something like a Neve Portico that has a Silk Mode, you actually have both in one preamp!
Old 7th April 2011 | Show parent
  #25
Lives for gear
 
drmmrboy's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoundBadge ➡️
lol.let the can o' worms open.pretty sweeping statement there.
so all those classic records done through old consoles with vibe/character aren't very good
tell that to Geoff Emerick,George Martin,Glyn Johns etc
Thinking the same thing. I must have poor taste, cause there's a lot of great music made with those desks.
Old 7th April 2011
  #26
Gear Guru
Quote:
Originally Posted by andonwego ➡️
Just my 2 cents but I'm curious if other recordists share this 'extremist' opinion. Or is it not extremist at all?
Welcome to the club. It's still a small club, but growing everyday. As such, we still get all those pokes and prods from those in the "other" club, you know, the "gear makes the artist better than they really are" club.

I've been in this club since the 1970's, when it was a larger club. As more recording professionals leave the "industry" the club has shrank as the musicians have replaced them and they want colors!

As much as I can see the advantage of a colored, filtered piece of gear on a less than stellar talent, (to turn a mouse into a man) I am a bit concerned how that affects a great talent and I'm still left wondering why that lesser talent even matters.

Oh, I forgot. American Idol.
Old 7th April 2011 | Show parent
  #27
Gear Guru
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoundBadge ➡️
lol.let the can o' worms open.pretty sweeping statement there.
so all those classic records done through old consoles with vibe/character aren't very good
tell that to Geoff Emerick,George Martin,Glyn Johns etc
Put that into perspective. These guys used the latest, newest, most modern consoles available at that time. They didn't "go back" and use the stuff from earlier periods. They didn't have "vintagitus" nor gear envy. They were cutting edge, doing cutting edge recording on cutting edge consoles that were custom built for them.

To guess what they might have choose with today's technology is just speculation, but I don't think they would be using the same stuff with all the choices now available. If you go back and read interviews with these people, you find out very quickly that they were not satisfied with the sounds of the gear that was available. They always wanted better. Some of us still do.
Old 7th April 2011 | Show parent
  #28
Lives for gear
 
Flying_Dutchman's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
this thread is questionable imo, with all respect
it´s a personal choice and the preamp is just one part in the chain
choose your weapons and have fun, but searching the "one truth" in audio isn´t possible imo
like others said, it´s nice to have colours, but i would also track a whole record with mackie onyx or D&R preamps for example, no problem
but i would struggle with smproaudio
peace
Old 7th April 2011 | Show parent
  #29
Gear Guru
 
RoundBadge's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams ➡️
Put that into perspective. These guys used the latest, newest, most modern consoles available at that time. They didn't "go back" and use the stuff from earlier periods. They didn't have "vintagitus" nor gear envy. They were cutting edge, doing cutting edge recording on cutting edge consoles that were custom built for them.

To guess what they might have choose with today's technology is just speculation, but I don't think they would be using the same stuff with all the choices now available. If you go back and read interviews with these people, you find out very quickly that they were not satisfied with the sounds of the gear that was available. They always wanted better. Some of us still do.
yeah.
its just kinda funny to generalize all colored character stuff as useless
i'm not against clean stuff, use GML 8302,Millennia HV-3C next to V76,Neve almost daily.
Old 7th April 2011 | Show parent
  #30
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flying_Dutchman ➡️
this thread is questionable imo, with all respect
it´s a personal choice and the preamp is just one part in the chain
choose your weapons and have fun, but searching the "one truth" in audio isn´t possible imo
like others said, it´s nice to have colours, but i would also track a whole record with mackie onyx or D&R preamps for example, no problem
but i would struggle with smproaudio
peace
a preamp is the wrong place to employ a weapon..it's a delivery stage really...your most potent weapon is the source and the source consists of the performance, the instrument, the mic and the room...if color is what you want (on the way in) and you can't find it with any combination of those four variables, then there is a problem. 4 to the power of 4 is enough variables isn't it? at some point you have to get on with recording the damn thing and making music.
📝 Reply

Similar Threads

Thread / Thread Starter Replies / Views Last Post
replies: 98 views: 44435
Avatar for nst7
nst7 14th February 2014
replies: 161 views: 64795
Avatar for pultech
pultech 1st January 2020
replies: 2704 views: 403751
Avatar for Diogo C
Diogo C 30th October 2015
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearspace Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…

Forum Jump
Forum Jump