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Microphone Preamplifier Features or Fluffs?
Old 1st March 2003
Gear Head
🎧 15 years
Jonathan, I would like to offer a slightly different perspective to your question.

I would start by asking Why ? The mic pre market is so crowded right now that I am not sure why anyone would want to get in the middle of this market right now.

From a marketing perspective in order to be successful it is necessary to offer a product that offers a unique set of values. This can either be based on price or on quality or on a set of unique features. I am sure you know getting all three of these is very difficult.

As I look at the thread of suggestions the request are overwhelming and would be daunting for any designer. Also 90% of the feedback to your request refer to features that exist on other products. Copying features of Dave Hills designs or some other engineer is not the way to build new and innovative products. What our industry needs is innovation not cloning. Besides Behringer and the Railings already have this market covered.

Jonathan, you have developed some unique and useful products. Obviously something drove you to create such great products. My guess is either inspiration or the mother of invention, need.

I would encourage you to focus on your strength, continue creating useful building blocks that are targeted at solving problems we all face in the studio. Focus on find unique solutions to every day problems. The last thing the industry needs is another trendy flavor of the month mic preamp.

Finally, I do not want to get off topic or make anyone mad but our industry lacks a serious dose of reality when it comes to what makes a $2000 mic pre different from a $200 one. We have all become so accustom to seeing the increasing transistor density on a wafer drive down the prices of computer/digital technology that we think everything should be this way. But, high quality, low noise and high gain analog products like mic preamps do not adhere to the same laws of physics.

Talk to George Massenburg, Dave Hill, Dan Kennedy, Tim Farrant, Barry Henderson or any designer of great sounding audio gear. The struggle between using a cap that cost $.10 vs. $5.00 one can make all the difference in the aspect of the sound quality. Ask Barry at iZ Technology about what is involved in creating a 12 layer board for an A/D and then having to impedance match every trace in the analog section.

Building great gear co$t and there is NO way around it. Also, asking for a mic pre with 70+db is no problem, but getting that kind of gain with NO noise is a very different issue. Every thing in engineering design is a trade off and it doesn't matter whether its a RF transmitter or a mic preamp. There is no free lunch and you can not build a piece of gear that has boat loads of gain, no noise, EQ, variable impedance, balanced (high quality) transformer I/O all for $500. Just the price of a set of Sowter transformers would blow this budget.

Every feature listed in this thread is already available and in use in 1000's of studios. It's called a console ! Its funny how everyone seems to be running to the computer because of cost but then turn around and ask a mic pre designer to give them the exact same features that on the console they consider old school. heh One guy on another forum was telling a mic pre designer that he should include aux sends because of the latency problems with this DAW.

Jonathan, I am sure you recognize this not directed at your initial question or even any one response to your question. It is simply my reaction to a trend I see over and over. And that is give me every feature I could ever want, make it cheap but it better have a knob that will make it sound like every device on the planet.


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