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Most influential: mic pre or mic?
Old 10th June 2006
  #1
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1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Most influential: mic pre or mic?

Oh God, minefield I know but being in the process of buying/auditioning various mic pre/mic combinations - and it all getting a bit bewildering - I wondered whether anybody has an opinion as to what gives most to any particular combination. Is the mic the most important part of any chain? Will a Coles 4083 sound like a Coles through an API 512c and a Viper and the also inputs on a Motu 828? on the other hand, will an API 512c keep it's own characteristics over and above the choice of mic, Whether it be a ribbon, valve or whatever? Which is dominant?

Let me try an example. An API 512c with a Sony C800. So where does the 'analogue' sound of the API begin and does it influence the creamy valve sound of the mic? When people hear the combination will they say, 'that's a Sony C800' or 'crap that API sounds so, eh, analogue (couldn't think of anything else but you know what I mean.... )

Have I read too much and listened too much to all this over the last couple of weeks and has my brain turned to mush?!

It just seemed like a question I needed to ask......though now I'm wondering why....

Steve
Old 10th June 2006
  #2
Gear Addict
 
🎧 15 years
Well U47 seems to be the thing...At least it's the most talked about.
Old 10th June 2006
  #3
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
Try a 57 for example... Through an ART pre it sounds not so hot on some great guitar amps. Now patch up the 1073 and you have tone.

Of course, everything we do is small decisions at every point in the chain and process that adds up to the whole, but you asked "mic or mic pre."

Given those choices, I would rather record a whole record with great mic pre's and limited microphone choices. Imagine havin a U47 or an elam251 and only the stock pre's on an 002 to work with. The bottleneck would be painful....
Old 10th June 2006 | Show parent
  #4
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joel Hamilton

Given those choices, I would rather record a whole record with great mic pre's and limited microphone choices. Imagine havin a U47 or an elam251 and only the stock pre's on an 002 to work with. The bottleneck would be painful....
If those were my only two choices, I think I would opt for the U47 and elam251, over a great mic pre. The reason being that a great mic will still sparkle through a budget pre like a Grace 101. But a budget mic through a Neve will only enhance its inferior sonic characteristics.
Old 10th June 2006 | Show parent
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
i've always found that mics make the biggest difference. a u47 is a u47 is a u47 no matter what preamp you use.
Old 10th June 2006 | Show parent
  #6
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
i have to say that i think the mic has the biggest influence on the sound you capture. although i think that is more true for condensors whereas dynamic mics can really show improvement when paired with a great pre. for example, i have an old ev re-10 that i was never that excited about until i hooked it into my DAV preamp- for the first i liked what i heard out of it... but if i had to choose between a world class mic or a world class pre, i'd opt for the mic.
Old 11th June 2006 | Show parent
  #7
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softwareguy's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I think that you have to assume a reasonable level of quality for both elements for this question to make any sense. In other words, a really bad chinese mic will still sound pretty bad through a very expensive preamp. A really amazing mic will be seriously compromised in its performance by a really cheezy preamp. BUT . . .

Assuming that you have a mic pre of reasonable quality, the microphone will make a much bigger difference.
Old 11th June 2006 | Show parent
  #8
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
After tracking a bunch of overdubs with a poopy pre, I find the tracks harder to deal with in the mix regardless of the microphone. If I wind up mixing a project with a couple of decent mic choices, running through some cruddy mic pre's, the tracks seem to fall apart in my hands moreso than with stuff tracked with a nice pre, and a limited selection of microphones. Especially dynamic mics, yes, but certainly true of condenser mics at large...

Of course, as I conceded in my previous post, this question is a totally flawed premise. The answer is really "both" have the most impact. Along with every single other variable in the chain including the person operating the stuff.

Digressing, I would rather mix a record tracked by a competent engineer with experience than mix a record tracked by someone who does not know what they are doing, regardless of mic or pre choices at hand...
Old 11th June 2006
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaffa
Which is dominant?
given a choice between a cheapo mic (58/57) and a cheapo preamp I'd go with the cheapo mic... preamps are responsible for the most gain in the system and are therefore pretty damned important.
Old 11th June 2006 | Show parent
  #10
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jslevin's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by softwareguy
I think that you have to assume a reasonable level of quality for both elements for this question to make any sense. In other words, a really bad chinese mic will still sound pretty bad through a very expensive preamp. A really amazing mic will be seriously compromised in its performance by a really cheezy preamp. BUT . . .

Assuming that you have a mic pre of reasonable quality, the microphone will make a much bigger difference.
What he said.

Another way of saying it is, you have no business getting a U47 if you're goint to run it through a MOTU. Get something halfway decent for the one piece, and then something brilliant for the other piece can make sense. And with that as a given, a decent preamp and a brilliant mic is almost certainly the better choice.

JSL
Old 11th June 2006 | Show parent
  #11
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🎧 15 years
Of course it's best to have both, and decent conversion to go with it. Where to put the money first -- depends on many things, including how many sources you need to record at once.

In my case I've found that I can get a lot more mileage from my "general, reasonable cost" mics with truly great preamps.

It just gives me more flexibility in choosing mics and matching to the source, since even "great" mics will not always suit a performer. I can get 4 different really nice $1000 mics and usually find a way to make at least one or two of them work great through my excellent preamps.

If I had to spend that $4k on a single mic, then I have.... a single mic. And if it doesn't fit...

I have recorded both expensive mics and midrange mics through midrange preamps and ended up with ehh. The same mics through great preamps = ahh.

I find the same thing with guitar pickups. Many cheapie transducers can work very well, given good preamps. But not the other way around - cheap preamps can kill good pickups.

Steve
Old 11th June 2006 | Show parent
  #12
Jai guru deva om
 
warhead's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
This is such a personal choice for some people. Personally, I'll take a great mic with an "eh" preamp any day of the week. Many here disagree and it can greatly depend on lots of stuff. When asked what the single most important part of the chain was Phil Ramone says its the preamp for him anyhow. It's all a matter of personal taste and work flow and certainly other parts of your existing chain.

I'm a mic over pre guy though, myself. Pre upgrades should come later in my opinion. The real answer though is that it's optimal to have great mics and great pres in great rooms with great talent (not necessarily in that order of course!).

War
Old 11th June 2006
  #13
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tmcconnell's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
pre, likely

Its true that nastiness in a mic will be correctly reproduced by a great pre, but a lot of mics don't have nastiness they just have a sound. One great pre can make most of your mics sound much better, whereas no mic will sound great through a so-so preamp except in limited circumstances. So if you have a big collection of ok mics, a great pre will be an upgrade to all your mics. That's my story and i'm stickin' to it. ted
Old 11th June 2006 | Show parent
  #14
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Exmun's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
It also depends on what you mean by a cheapo mic. For instance an sm 57 costs less than $100, but connected to a good preamp it sounds as great as some way higher quality mics, depending on the source that you're recording. Also, sm 57s, Senn. MD 421s, MD 441s, EV RE-20s, D12s, Beyer M88s, SM7s don't cost a whole lot of money, but sound fabulous when connected to a higher end preamp.

So the answer depends on budget and what you wanted to do recordingwise. If you are recording a single source like just vocals or one source at a time, then it makes more sense, IMO, to buy a decent pre like a grace or something similar and then get a really stellar mic that is versatile enought to get the job done.

But if you're recording a lot of different sources that cannot be covered by one mic then it makes more sense to me to use inexpensive but good mics like the dynamics mentioned above or a shure 44 or AT 4060 or 4033 and a really great mic pre. I say this pointing to an Allison Krauss/Union Station live recording made with inexpensive dynamics as described above and a couple of shure KSM 44s with Millenia pres that sounded every bit as excellent as their studio records made with more stellar mics but with the same pres. It also helps to have really great instruments and a really great voice... and talented engineers... and a really great mixing suite... and great mastering engineers... and good music.

Just another man's opinion.
Old 11th June 2006 | Show parent
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joel Hamilton
Given those choices, I would rather record a whole record with great mic pre's and limited microphone choices. Imagine havin a U47 or an elam251 and only the stock pre's on an 002 to work with. The bottleneck would be painful....
respectfully disagree. i'll take a good mic/002 pre to the other way around anytime.
Old 11th June 2006 | Show parent
  #16
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DirkB's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Actually, it's pretty straight forward IMHO.

First of all, you need to exceed a certain minimum treshold, both a mic and mic pre side.
A horribly bad mic preamp is going to put its bad signature over any great mic you put through it, so it really makes no point.
Same for the mic: a horrible sounding cheap LDC isn't going to blossom up through a 1073 preamp. Yes, it may sound better than the same mic going trough a dfegad fosrite platinum preamp, but it still sounds bad.

So, after you have passed both minimum tresholds (determening does may take a life time...), all generalities are out of the door, i.e. you have to judge on a case by case situation.
That said, I'd start with a good two channel mic pre, like 312's and then you are definitely over the treshold at the preamp side. Don't worry about the preamp anymore and just try the mic's you think you might like.

Good luck,
Dirk
Old 11th June 2006
  #17
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaffa
Will a Coles 4083 sound like a Coles through an API 512c and a Viper and the also inputs on a Motu 828? on the other hand, will an API 512c keep it's own characteristics over and above the choice of mic, Whether it be a ribbon, valve or whatever?
Here are some rough samples of a ribbon and a dynamic mic, through two different preamps. I think the preamp character (or lack of character) comes across with both mics. And the mics' presentation of the source sounds pretty different through the different preamps.

All with no processing. The rhythm tracks use the same mic (different from vox), but the same preamp as the vocal:

Pendulum_R84
Gordon_R84
Pendulum_RE20
Gordon_RE20

Steve
Old 11th June 2006 | Show parent
  #18
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1 Review written
🎧 15 years
on reflection

Some fascinating opinions about this. I think the easy reaction is to say that all links in the chain should be thought about, but what I was interested in when I asked this originally was how, when you have high quality mics and pre's working side by side, you can talk about the 'character' of a particular piece of kit, when obviously they would logically have such a marked influence on each other. Surely people on this forum can only talk about combinations of gear, not individual items.

This is what begs the question for me - if anyone answers 'no' - you can talk about individual items - then what they're saying is that that mic or that pre has a sound that dominates the input from other pieces of gear, no matter how 'high end' it may be. In people's experience, which way round has this happened the most? By working that out we might be able to figure out whether a mic or a pre generally has the most influence on the finished product.

or maybe we don't care!............

Steve
Old 11th June 2006 | Show parent
  #19
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by DirkB
First of all, you need to exceed a certain minimum treshold, both a mic and mic pre side.
A horribly bad mic preamp is going to put its bad signature over any great mic you put through it, so it really makes no point.
Same for the mic: a horrible sounding cheap LDC isn't going to blossom up through a 1073 preamp. Yes, it may sound better than the same mic going trough a fosrite platinum preamp, but it still sounds bad.
exacly
it is critical to have decent mics and pres.
SM57/58 may be cheep mics but they certain aren’t crap as long as your running them through a semi decent pre and you certain cant put them in the same 'cheep' category as cheep chinese mics.

personally I would go for a more midrange level for both. but given the choice of 1 great piece it would be a great mic as long as have semi decent pres to work with.

but aslong as you get good results who is to say what is right or not
Old 11th June 2006 | Show parent
  #20
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1 Review written
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegybug
Here are some rough samples of a ribbon and a dynamic mic, through two different preamps. I think the preamp character (or lack of character) comes across with both mics. And the mics' presentation of the source sounds pretty different through the different preamps.

All with no processing. The rhythm tracks use the same mic (different from vox), but the same preamp as the vocal:

Pendulum_R84
Gordon_R84
Pendulum_RE20
Gordon_RE20

Steve
Interesting Steve. To my mind (ears!) the mic does have a greater influence in this case. The warmth of the ribbon contrasting clearly with the brighter, thinner sound of the RE20. I think although the pre's have kept their own character, the dominant sound is that of the mic.

The Gordon sounds excellent by the way, first time I've heard one in the 'flesh'. Have you ever used the R84 as a pair to record piano through it?

Steve
Old 11th June 2006 | Show parent
  #21
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaffa
Interesting Steve. To my mind (ears!) the mic does have a greater influence in this case. The warmth of the ribbon contrasting clearly with the brighter, thinner sound of the RE20. I think although the pre's have kept their own character, the dominant sound is that of the mic.

The Gordon sounds excellent by the way, first time I've heard one in the 'flesh'. Have you ever used the R84 as a pair to record piano through it?

Steve
No doubt these extremely different mics produce entirely different sounds from each other, on whatever preamp they are with. My point was that the same mic takes another character depending on which preamp it is on.

And I agree, the preamps pretty much keep their particular tone, independent of which mic is used.

Gordon is first rate for sure, that's all I use now. I don't have a pair of R84, a friend borrowed mine a while back to check it out and immediately ordered a pair for himself, so he's using them on all kinds of things. I bet they could be really nice on piano.

Steve
Old 11th June 2006 | Show parent
  #22
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
Mic..

actualy.. in terms of "analogness" and "warmth" and all those other buzz words.. it's probably near equal parts.. but still rests abit on the mic side imho..

however.. the mic has a huge effect on frequency response.. pickup patern.. ect

so in my opinion mic makes much more difference.. a better question in my opinion would be mic pre vs converter!
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