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Old 06-01-2012, 03:43 PM
Fichtezc Fichtezc is offline
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Default Preamp Worth It?

Hey all,

I have a sort of hypothetical question here. I say it's hypothetic simply because I'm pretty happy with my setup and don't really have the money for what I'm talking about. But we all love to dream on here don't we? Anyway, I primarily use a presonus firestudio for my recordings. I'm quite pleased with the quality, I'm sure the only limitations right now are from my mics and my own ability.

That being said, if I wanted higher quality preamps would this do me any good? Just for the sake of argument, lets say I got my hand on the finest preamp available. Would running this into my firestudio (through the inputs in the back, not the pres) simply to use it as an A/D converted make the quality of the pre null? Assuming I had the mics (which I have access to), the room (which I have access to), and the pres, how much would the presonus limit my quality?
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Old 06-01-2012, 04:29 PM
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There is no "finest" preamp available (although I have a couple of preamps that are close to that among the uncolored preamp crowd). There are a number of preamps to choose from. There are also a number of things that determine the quality of a recording, some more critical than the preamp. However, sticking with your question about the firestudio, that depends on the quality of it's A/D conversion and possibly other circuits the signal passes through in the unit. I can't comment on that, however if you want the "finest" of anything in the recording chain you probably want to step up the other components also. Perhaps you could try out another A/D unit and send it's output to the presonus firestudio digital ins and see if it makes any difference to your ears.
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Last edited by rick-slo; 06-01-2012 at 04:35 PM.
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Old 06-01-2012, 04:34 PM
Fichtezc Fichtezc is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rick-slo View Post
There is no "finest" preamp available (although I have a couple of preamps that are close to that among the uncolored preamp crowd). There are a number of preamps to choose from. There are also a number of things that determine the quality of a recording, some more critical than the preamp. However, sticking with your question about the firestudio, that depends on the quality of it's A/D conversion and possibly other circuits the signal passes through in the unit. I can't comment on that however if you want the "finest" of anything in the recording chain you probably want to step up the other components also. Perhaps you could try out another A/D unit and send it's output to the presonus firestudio digital ins and see if it makes any difference to your ears.
Yeah, the "finest" example was simply for the sake of saying if the quality of the preamp is not in question, how much does my converter matter. I'm slowly in the process of upgrading piece by piece. The presonus was a huge step up and I was thinking a nice preamp could be another step while still riding off of the basic functionality of the presonus.

Good idea for testing the ins on the presonus though!
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Old 06-01-2012, 04:37 PM
Alexrkstr Alexrkstr is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fichtezc View Post
Hey all,

I have a sort of hypothetical question here. I say it's hypothetic simply because I'm pretty happy with my setup and don't really have the money for what I'm talking about. But we all love to dream on here don't we? Anyway, I primarily use a presonus firestudio for my recordings. I'm quite pleased with the quality, I'm sure the only limitations right now are from my mics and my own ability.

That being said, if I wanted higher quality preamps would this do me any good? Just for the sake of argument, lets say I got my hand on the finest preamp available. Would running this into my firestudio (through the inputs in the back, not the pres) simply to use it as an A/D converted make the quality of the pre null? Assuming I had the mics (which I have access to), the room (which I have access to), and the pres, how much would the presonus limit my quality?
Short answer - if you are happy with what you have, don't spend money unnecessarily.

Long answer

FYI these are the specs in your sound card:
16 channels of optical ADAT I/O @ 44.1/48 kHz (8 ch. @ 96 kHz via dual SMUX)
That is what you are limited to.

24/96 means that the digital signal that represents the analog audio is composed of 96000 samples per second per channel and that each sample has a resolution of 24 bits. Compared to an audio CD (16-bits/44.1KHz) a 24 bits sample is 65536 times more precise than that of a CD and there are more than twice as many samples.

Here's some good reading to help you reason through this:
http://www.tweakheadz.com/16_vs_24_bit_audio.htm

Skip to the section that says,
Quote:
People ask me all the time, and I wince every time they do: "What gear (fill in the blank...soundcard, preamp, cable, recorder, sequencer) will give me the "best" sound quality?" I wince because I imagine the person going out, buying a $500 preamp and the stick it in their studio and connect the Mic and crestfallenly realize it "sounds the same" "maybe a little better" um, "hard to tell". Why the heck is that? The main reason is that it is all a big system and it is only as pure as its dirtiest pan pot. One humming cable can obliterate the gains made by otherwise great sounding gear. A pristine Mic preamp connected digitally to a soundcard with the jitters will be defeated. Your whole chain has to pro quality, from preamps, in and out of the converters, into top quality monitors. But if you do have a great signal chain, even your 16 bit recordings will sound better than 24/96 with average preamps and typical converters and monitors.
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Old 06-01-2012, 04:42 PM
Fichtezc Fichtezc is offline
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All these replies were about what I was expecting to get, and just as well. I AM content with my set up for now. I'll probably get better sound from yet again refined technique. My complaints about my quality are more about the fact that my mics or pres or cables or SOMETHING in the chain produces some hiss. I was assuming it was my preamps since the first time I upgraded pres the hiss dramatically decreased. Not to mention my Presonus is in pristine quality, as are all of my cables, mics and power supplies. There isn't that crippling "dirty pan pot" that I can find, so I was once again assuming a better pre would produce slightly better results. Perhaps slightly quieter if I got a pre with more gain.

Thanks for the responses.

EDIT:
I'll also read through that linked article, though I've read it multiple times before. Can't hurt rereading.
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Old 06-01-2012, 04:52 PM
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Unfortunately the quality of the A/D is more involved than bit depth and sample rates. The quality of circuit design, clock accuracy, anti-aliasing and reconstruction filters...
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Old 06-01-2012, 06:10 PM
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The firestudio doesn't do very well in this transparency test.

I think anything with a score around ten is pretty decent. The best ones, scoring around 20, aren't necessarily "twice as good" though. How do you value the small differences in sound moving from mid-range up to high-end? For someone with a home studio they probably won't be that important but for someone with a pro studio, where clients expect the best, they'll be priceless.

If you're on a mac, and can get by with two channels, the Duet has good, clean pres and conversion. Surprisingly, the new version didn't score so well in the test. I'd like to see more results to confirm that but I'd probably recommend the old one anyway because it's such incredible value second-hand.

Sound Devices make something similar: the Usbpre2. It's another one with good pres and lots of clean gain but not all interfaces have pres as good as these. You'll probably want to think more about separates for a better sound. Good quality DIY kits from FiveFish and Seventh Circle Audio can be a cheap way in, if you don't mind using a soldering iron. If not, there are mid-range items like the FMR RNP or Focusrite ISA One.

So, yeah: I think there are a few options which aren't too expensive which would give you a noticeably better sound.
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Old 06-01-2012, 08:49 PM
Rick Shepherd Rick Shepherd is offline
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I recommend saving up for nice pres, converter, mics, etc. Is it worth it? Well, yes.
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Old 06-02-2012, 12:57 AM
alohachris alohachris is offline
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Default Aloha Fichtezc

Aloha Fichtezc,

Is that ol' itch & curiosity kinda creepin' up on you again? As it does on each of us from time to time? Hopefully, yours is peaking at a time when you're bank account is also peaking. Ha!

If you're happy with the results of your recordings, then save your money.

If you're curious about upgrades, then rent some studio time (or gear) & try out your rig on their preamps & interfaces. Or hit a big metropolis & check out the pro audio shops for ears-on experience. I go to LA every year for a week just to do that. I even rented four great preamp's from the Mainland for a weekend to do my own pre-shootout on my home rig (A-Designs Pacific, Great River MP-2NV, John Hardy M-2 & Pendulum MDP-1a (da winner). The postage & rental fees were worth it to me because I couldn't hear 'em anywhere in the Islands. It's always best on your rig.

Whatever upgrades you're thinking of, think about the WHOLE SIGNAL CHAIN when you consider changing out a piece of gear. It's all related. So.....

Make sure that every part of your signal chain is of the same quality.

Don't mix one great new part with entry level other stuff.


Otherwise, they'll tend to fight each other & won't be maximized unless of equal quality.

Ex: It's like adding a Forsell preamp or Lynx Aurora interface to a recording signal chain that leans towards under-$500 Chinese-made mic's & mixes through M-Audio entry-level monitors, Capice? The upgrade is wasted on such a rig & you won't receive the full benefits without upgrading the rest of the chain.

Some here might disagree with that - the ones who think you can record or amplify an acoustic guitar well on the cheap & remain satisfied or can't hear the difference. But when you hear the differences on your own home rigs, or recording in great studios over a long period of time, you realize you cannot be satisfied to stay at entry-level. But that's been my experience.

Therefore, Fich, plan your upgrades for the whole signal chain. Don't throw new higher-grade gear in to the mix & just hope. Hear it - all of it together - before you buy.

Put your real money into great mic's & great monitors. A great mic/preamp combo makes a lot of difference in sound. But things like Room Treatment & Appropriate Mic Placement or mic quality are much more dramatic in terms of upgrading your recordings than the pre's or interfaces.

Go listen. Research & Plan your chain's upgrades. Equal quality parts. That's it.

btw, the mic preamps on that Presonus interface are very compressed sounding & noisy to my ears. They work all right with cheap mic's. But you can really hear the differences with better mic's. You can/will do better.

Just one man's opinion.

Best of luck, Fichtezc!

alohachris

Last edited by alohachris; 06-02-2012 at 01:14 AM.
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Old 06-02-2012, 06:13 AM
Ty Ford Ty Ford is offline
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Perhaps slightly quieter if I got a pre with more gain..
A system is only as strong as its weakest link.

Surely, preamps and mics with less noise are better for quiet sources, but preamps, as a class of devices, are limited to about 60-65 dB of gain. Some preamps are quieter than others, some are more linear than others.

Once you get up above the 60 dB mark with a preamp, in most cases, the noise increases noticeably. So more sensitive mics that don't require as much gain can be better at keeping you above the noise floor. That means, for quiet sources, generally moving away from dynamic and ribbon mics and toward condenser mics. Having said that, there are some new ribbons with sensitivity as much as some condensers. The Audio Technica 4080 ribbon comes to mind.

Now, just to confuse the issue, there are folks for whom the Neumann M49 and M50 are the perfect mic. These mics have relatively high self noise, but their sound won over the noise. Then too, that was back in the analog tape days and tape noise masked a lot of the mic selfnoise.

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Old 06-02-2012, 09:53 AM
Fichtezc Fichtezc is offline
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Pretty much everything you all have been saying is affirming what I already thought. And I think my mics are probably the weakest part of my signal chain right now, aside from my own skills. So maybe they'll be the next thing I put money into. Though I am strongly considering a Duet for when I do acoustic guitars now. Even though I usually like to use 3 channels....

Having a good room is pretty difficult since I'm in college- I'm constantly moving. I usually just close mic and try to get as little of it as possible. And whatever may be wrong with the Presonus it was a HUGE upgrade over my other interface.

I'll probably stick with what I have right now since I'm not good enough to justify getting nicer equipment. This is good enough for me: http://www.zachfichterstudios.com/me.../Edelweiss.mp3
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Old 06-02-2012, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Fichtezc View Post
...I'll probably stick with what I have right now since I'm not good enough to justify getting nicer equipment. This is good enough for me: http://www.zachfichterstudios.com/me.../Edelweiss.mp3
Hi Zach...

Just wanted to say you have some gems hidden among your video links...

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Old 06-02-2012, 10:26 AM
Fichtezc Fichtezc is offline
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Hi Zach...

Just wanted to say you have some gems hidden among your video links...

Think so? Thank you! That means a lot.
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Old 06-02-2012, 11:17 AM
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[QUOTE=Fichtezc;3061045
I'll probably stick with what I have right now since I'm not good enough to justify getting nicer equipment. This is good enough for me: QUOTE]

Just want to say that YOU really gave me a very powerful eyes (ears) opener statement!

And I can really apply it to ME

Thanks so much
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Old 06-02-2012, 12:46 PM
alohachris alohachris is offline
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Aloha Fichtezc,

1) Go for the Duet - It offers THE BEST onboard mic preamps for under $1500. You can't beat it for Mac's. I often use it over the other great preamps I have - just for the pre's. Clear, detailed, quiet, accurate & pristine sound. Takes up little space & is uncomplicated & portable. The Duet's conversion is great too. Lose the Presonus. Look for used a Duet 1 or 2 at GS when you can afford it, Fich.

Interestingly, the Duet is such a great piece of gear that it sounds great with entry or higher level signal chains. A real winner!

2) Here's some tips on portable DIY Room Treatment. Look at the Mover's Blankets tips in my post there (get 'em for free from a movers). That'll really help with reflection control in say a dorm room & expand your mic placement capability. Mover's Blankets are portable & you can hang 'em where ya need to - even on a mic stand. Double layers 4" apart in front of large windows & one hanging above where you track will help too.

http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/f...d.php?t=251366

3) RE: Three-channel recording at a time? What? Stereo guitar & vocal together? If so, try to learn how to track you vocals separately. Better results - Less bleed in reflective, untreated spaces.

A Hui Hou!
alohachris

Last edited by alohachris; 06-02-2012 at 01:26 PM.
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