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Routing my soundcard to a preamp and back into my DAW...help?
Old 13th September 2012
  #1
Hobbs_Won
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Routing my soundcard to a preamp and back into my DAW...help?

I am currently in the market for a vintage tube mic pre... and all I basically want to do is route my tracks from my soundcards outs (RME babyface) to the single channel pre and then back into my DAW.

Since it's a single channel, I'm pondering what the benefits of printing single tracks and sending them out and back in one by one... (I know this is very contrived)... Or just running my 2 buss out and back in..

My question is 2 part...

The pre has a VU meter so I need to calibrate my DAW's meters, right?

And how hot do I want to send my tracks out? and how hot back in?
Old 13th September 2012
  #2
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🎧 10 years
What DAW are you using?
Old 13th September 2012 | Show parent
  #3
Hobbs_Won
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kreeper_6 ➡️
What DAW are you using?
FL Studio
Old 13th September 2012
  #4
Hobbs_Won
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bumppppp, nobody???
Old 14th September 2012
  #5
RiF
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hobbs_Won ➡️
The pre has a VU meter so I need to calibrate my DAW's meters, right?
If your DAW's meter show -18 dB FS (for example on a 1KHz sine wave), the preamp should get hit at 0 dB VU. If your interface as adjustable output levels, make sure that this is the case.

You may want to read this post of mine about gain staging which explains the background of this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hobbs_Won ➡️
And how hot do I want to send my tracks out? and how hot back in?
I don't know about FL Studio (but you might want to check this), but in any other DAW you want to search for a built-in plugin that's named "Hardware Insert" or "I/O insert" or something like that. It get's inserted just as any other plugin in the chain.
This plugins needs to know which input and output of your audio interface you want the audio to go out and back in (sometimes these need to be pairs of the same number).
The preamp's input then get's connected to one of the audio interface's outputs and the preamp's output get's connected to the corresponding audio interface's input.
But the audio interface will have line level outputs and the preamp will have mic level inputs. So you'll either need a preamp with a line input or at least a DI input that you can try.
Old 14th September 2012 | Show parent
  #6
Hobbs_Won
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by RiF ➡️
If your DAW's meter show -18 dB FS (for example on a 1KHz sine wave), the preamp should get hit at 0 dB VU. If your interface as adjustable output levels, make sure that this is the case.

You may want to read this post of mine about gain staging which explains the background of this.
Ok, will try to assimilate all of that. Thanks!


Quote:
I don't know about FL Studio (but you might want to check this), but in any other DAW you want to search for a built-in plugin that's named "Hardware Insert" or "I/O insert" or something like that. It get's inserted just as any other plugin in the chain.
This plugins needs to know which input and output of your audio interface you want the audio to go out and back in (sometimes these need to be pairs of the same number).
The preamp's input then get's connected to one of the audio interface's outputs and the preamp's output get's connected to the corresponding audio interface's input.
But the audio interface will have line level outputs and the preamp will have mic level inputs. So you'll either need a preamp with a line input or at least a DI input that you can try.
Yea, actually FL's mixer has this already integrated on each channel...so I'm good with that. I just wanted to know how hot I want to record the signal back into my DAW..

But I am sure the gain staging post will cover that....

That's really what I am confused on... is how I stage correctly so I can push the amp as hot as it can go back in.
Old 14th September 2012
  #7
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Basically what you do is put a -40db pad inline from the DAW out to the mic input. That knocks your gain down to the proper level so the gain staging is reset to where you want it for the mic pre to do its thing. The inline pad is the simplest solution for sure, but there is another interesting choice...

If using the Ampex 601 mic preamp mod of mine with the Altec style octal plugins, there is a way I can wire that octal socket so it will accept the 4722, 15095, OR the 15335 plug-in transformers. This gives you three distinct values of stepup gain (1:14, 1:7, and 1:1 respectively) so this could be enough of a change without needing a pad at all. That is why these Altecs were made as octals to begin with: to match the incoming signal to the amp and to use the amp for multiple purposes.
Old 14th September 2012 | Show parent
  #8
Hobbs_Won
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xfmr ➡️
Basically what you do is put a -40db pad inline from the DAW out to the mic input. That knocks your gain down to the proper level so the gain staging is reset to where you want it for the mic pre to do its thing. The inline pad is the simplest solution for sure, but there is another interesting choice...

If using the Ampex 601 mic preamp mod of mine with the Altec style octal plugins, there is a way I can wire that octal socket so it will accept the 4722, 15095, OR the 15335 plug-in transformers. This gives you three distinct values of stepup gain (1:14, 1:7, and 1:1 respectively) so this could be enough of a change without needing a pad at all. That is why these Altecs were made as octals to begin with: to match the incoming signal to the amp and to use the amp for multiple purposes.
Ok, xfmr, much appreciated!

so 40db is enough of a knockoff? And do you know offhand how much knockoff would there be for each gain ratio with the plugin transformers??
Old 14th September 2012
  #9
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Yep, like xfmr indicated, an inline pad is needed.

I was experimenting with routing 4 channels of drums out of PT, through my Apogees into and API 3124mb+ (which has the 4-channel Transient Designer on the inserts for shaping) then through an API 5500 and 2500 for drum bus processing, back into PT. This is a slightly higher-end setup, but same principle.

You can adjust your DAW send faders down, e.g. -12 dBfs, then into the pres with their pad(s) engaged. On the 3124mb+, the pads are -20. I wasn't quite liking the results and the levels, but it works. I ended up getting 2, DW FErn LP-1's, which are each 2-channel LINE to MIC level pads at -40. These work extremely well for this application!

But, using what you have, try the combination of the send fader out and the pad engaged into the pre, then adjust the pres gain (if necessary) and/or pre level back out. I like to work in the range; -20 dBfs = +4 dBu = 0 VU, and work in that ballpark through the chain. I don't have a problem with drums captured a little hotter back into the converters, for example RMS at -12dBfs.
Old 14th September 2012 | Show parent
  #10
Hobbs_Won
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Quote:
Originally Posted by string6theory ➡️

You can adjust your DAW send faders down, e.g. -12 dBfs, then into the pres with their pad(s) engaged.
Wouldn't this way bring up the noise floor??
Old 14th September 2012
  #11
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Any time you're going line level out to mic level in, you're dealing with s/n and noise floor issues. Try experimenting with your setup to find the level adjustments that work best (and sound best) to your ears.
Old 15th September 2012
  #12
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superwack's Avatar
 
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Go to Avedis' site and order a LINE PAD-Z it's an XLR barrel wired to not only knock the level down from Line to mic but - more importantly - it makes your preamp see the signal as a mic (proper impedance) so your pre will sound like it should $35... Look halfway down the page

http://www.avedisaudio.com/MA5.htm
Old 16th September 2012
  #13
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kraku's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hobbs_Won ➡️
And how hot do I want to send my tracks out? and how hot back in?
The question is: why do you want to do this in the first place? If you want to get that analog warmth, the preamp won't necessarily help you much. It'll just slightly muffle your sounds but the digital synths still sound pretty digital.

There is no easy fix to what you're trying to do. But here are some pointers I've figured out during the years:

1. Processing each track individually instead of processing the whole mix gives you much better results.

2. Get the sound right at the source: if you want analog sound, use real analog synths and/or real analog effects.

3. Analog warmth/liveliness comes from the small analog distortions of the signal: try saturating the signal.

So basically what you might want to try is:
- run your tracks through tape a bit too hot to get slightly tape saturated signal
- run your tracks through distortion/saturation box that's set to very small amount of distortion/saturation
- play your sounds through speakers/guitar cabinets and record them back using a mic
- when possible, instead of digital effects use analog effets such as chorus/phaser/flanger/distortion when possible
- try using analog compressors: some of them add nice small distortion to the signal which sounds nice

Based on the above: if you want to stick with the preamp idea, you'd need to run the signal too hot into the preamp so it starts to saturate/distort the signal to get the effect you're after, but it'll still won't give you the end results you want. It's a much better idea to use various kinds of analog processing throughout the track: ie. use analog processors instead of digital ones. Then your track won't sound just muddy but it'll sound clear and more "warm".

The main takeaway from my post would be: "You can't add the warmth to a ready made signal. The warmth comes during the sound creation process."
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #14
Hobbs_Won
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by kraku ➡️
The question is: why do you want to do this in the first place? If you want to get that analog warmth, the preamp won't necessarily help you much. It'll just slightly muffle your sounds but the digital synths still sound pretty digital.

There is no easy fix to what you're trying to do. But here are some pointers I've figured out during the years:

1. Processing each track individually instead of processing the whole mix gives you much better results.

2. Get the sound right at the source: if you want analog sound, use real analog synths and/or real analog effects.

3. Analog warmth/liveliness comes from the small analog distortions of the signal: try saturating the signal.

So basically what you might want to try is:
- run your tracks through tape a bit too hot to get slightly tape saturated signal
- run your tracks through distortion/saturation box that's set to very small amount of distortion/saturation
- play your sounds through speakers/guitar cabinets and record them back using a mic
- when possible, instead of digital effects use analog effets such as chorus/phaser/flanger/distortion when possible
- try using analog compressors: some of them add nice small distortion to the signal which sounds nice

Based on the above: if you want to stick with the preamp idea, you'd need to run the signal too hot into the preamp so it starts to saturate/distort the signal to get the effect you're after, but it'll still won't give you the end results you want. It's a much better idea to use various kinds of analog processing throughout the track: ie. use analog processors instead of digital ones. Then your track won't sound just muddy but it'll sound clear and more "warm".

The main takeaway from my post would be: "You can't add the warmth to a ready made signal. The warmth comes during the sound creation process."
Hey, thanks for the response.. Much appreciated...

I want to actually get the saturation you speak of by running it through the pre...I know tube pres tend to muddy up the sound when driven too hard. But from what I read and understand, all well built amps have a sweet spot.

I am not looking for a bright sound...at all. I want something dark which was why originally I was looking into the UA LA 610..but I will be picking up one of xmfr's ampex mods.

I make boom bap hip hop...I won't be using synths much in my music..I'm pretty much strictly sample based. I have my master buss rolled off @ 15khs too.

And my final mixdowns I bounce to a regular 3 head cassette deck lol...So I am totally lo-fi.

I really just want a 1 piece analog chain that I can run all my drums and bass through to give it that "hair" so to speak..
Old 16th September 2012
  #15
RiF
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🎧 10 years
A BAE 1073MP Dual Channel could do that. It has line inputs as well as mic inputs and provides a good amount of Neve'ish "hair" when driven.
Old 27th October 2012 | Show parent
  #16
Hobbs_Won
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RiF ➡️
A BAE 1073MP Dual Channel could do that. It has line inputs as well as mic inputs and provides a good amount of Neve'ish "hair" when driven.
I actually went with the ART PRO MPA II in a pinch....and I swapped the tubes.

Worst comes to worst, I'll just use it as a mic pre.

But I have a question if anybody can help...

I was looking to pick up a passive DI the ART Zdirect....but the most that could knock off is -40db... so my line out would still be running around -24db... to hot for the inputs on the MPA..

Could I also use an inline pad before (or after) the passive DI? Or am I asking for too much problems at this point?

I could also pick up the AT -50db inline pad.. but that's female to male XLR...

so my chain would look like

AI 1/4" line out (1/4" to male XLR cable) >> Inline pad (XLR to 1/4" cable connecting to DI) ->> Passive DI ->> ART PRE -->> 1/4" Pre line out to AI Line in...


Looking a little convoluted... it's a short run though... nothing long at all...this is my bedroom setup
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