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Author Topic: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase  (Read 4637 times)

AndrewJC

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Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« on: July 23, 2008, 12:02:45 PM »

Hey everybody.

So I've got a very small home studio setup, which consists essentially of the following:

M-Audio Delta 192
K2600X synth running through an M-Audio MIDIMAN 1x1, though if I can ever be bothered to get to the store and buy some longer MIDI cables, I'll hook that up into the 192 as well
Gigastudio (mostly for my piano samples)
Samson C03U

And a bunch of VSTs.

Now, bearing in mind that this is essentially for messing around and not recording for any specific purpose (and certainly not for any kind of professional usage), I want to replace my C03U with something I can plug into my Delta 192, because I'm sick of having to mess around with ASIO4ALL in order to use both the 192 and my mic at the same time.  (I still have to wonder whose brilliant idea it was to allow only one ASIO device to be used at any given time.)  It's a huge hassle and I'm thinking that I've got these unused inputs on my 192 that I could plug a mic into.  I'm actually pretty happy with the sound I get from the C03U, but when I bought it, I just wasn't expecting the kind of horrible interface problems that a USB mic introduces (guess that's what I get for not doing enough homework).

So, long story short, I've been looking at (very) inexpensive mics and preamps.  I'm considering an AT2020 for a mic as I've been happy with the Audio Technica products I've used in the past (though I've never used a 2020, I believe what I used back in college was an AT4040) and the reviews appear to be stellar.  It's mostly for vocals and acoustic guitar.  The reviews I've read say that for the price, it'll do just about anything I want it to, though I am considering saving up a bit and going for the AT4040 instead.

As for a preamp, I was looking at the ART Tube MP.  Now, looking around this forum even with a cursory glance, I've seen it get maligned a bit, so I'm wondering if there was anything else in its price range (or perhaps in the $50-100 range in general or thereabouts) that might be better recommended?  If it's going to provide passable sound, though, that should be all I need.

I suppose that the combination of mic and preamp will matter to me—which is to say, if buying the AT4040 over the AT2020 won't matter because the preamp will color it TOO much, then I might just go for the cheaper combination, but if reasonable alternatives can be suggested, I'm open to anything, probably in a range of from anywhere as low as $200 to possibly up to $500 or so for both.  Bear in mind, though, that I'm looking for as cheap as I can get away with and still get reasonably accurate sound, since this is mostly for my own use and possibly sharing stuff with friends, stuff like that.

Thanks!
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hargerst

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Re: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2008, 12:05:55 PM »

What kind of music will you be doing, and what are some of the instruments you want to record?
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Harvey "Is that the right note?" Gerst
Indian Trail Recording Studio

AndrewJC

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Re: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2008, 09:20:22 PM »

To be fair, I did already say what instruments I'd like to record. Smile  Vocals and acoustic guitar, mostly.  I really can't think of anything else I'd want to do at home that isn't directly connected via Line In.

As for the style of music, well, it's mostly piano-acoustic stuff.  Piano, acoustic guitar, voice, drums, that kind of thing. (The drums are handled by the Battery VST and the piano is the SampleTekk Black Grand, a pedal-up/pedal-down 6 GB Steinway D sample.)
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Galil

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Re: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2008, 09:20:56 PM »

The ART preamps are fine for the price.  Very inexpensive and they sound OK.  There is some info on the net about how to modify them so they are better.  I have a stock pair and I have a pair where I put larger power supply filter caps in them and better op amps.  This improved my pres. In this price range, I don't think that its being a "tube" preamp really helps. In most inexpensive "tube" pres, the solid state sections are doing most of the heavy lifting.

You might want to consider the Rane MS-1b which is a competent solid state mono preamp which seems to be selling for around $150.

I saw your budget but did not notice how many pres you want to buy. Budget could be an issue.

The microphone will be a fairly personal choice.  I'd encourage you to go for a higher quality mic, because you will grow into it.  Hard to suggest a microphone since I don't know if you sound like the Bee Gees, Jackson Browne, Joe Cocker, Elvis Costello or ???

Find a dealer and try different thing that he has in stock.  My local dealer carries Audio Technica, Blue, Heil, and Shure. Much of what I've found has been because he is willing to let me try stuff and much of what I borrow does not go back.

Good luck.

Galil
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trock

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Re: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2008, 10:17:08 AM »

for acoustic guitar i have really liked my budget avantone CV-28

and for my male, sorta rock vocals i like the avantone cv-12 alot to

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AndrewJC

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Re: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2008, 11:55:18 AM »

Galil wrote on Thu, 24 July 2008 21:20

The ART preamps are fine for the price.  Very inexpensive and they sound OK.  There is some info on the net about how to modify them so they are better.  I have a stock pair and I have a pair where I put larger power supply filter caps in them and better op amps.  This improved my pres. In this price range, I don't think that its being a "tube" preamp really helps. In most inexpensive "tube" pres, the solid state sections are doing most of the heavy lifting.

You might want to consider the Rane MS-1b which is a competent solid state mono preamp which seems to be selling for around $150.

I saw your budget but did not notice how many pres you want to buy. Budget could be an issue.

The microphone will be a fairly personal choice.  I'd encourage you to go for a higher quality mic, because you will grow into it.  Hard to suggest a microphone since I don't know if you sound like the Bee Gees, Jackson Browne, Joe Cocker, Elvis Costello or ???


Thanks! Those are good tips.

As to the sound of my voice, well, I'm classically trained and as such I've got a pretty rich bari-tenor quality to my voice.  One of the reasons I decided to look at the AT2020 besides its price was that the reviews I read of it stated that it was great for capturing the richness of male voices.  That, coupled with the fact that I've used AT mics before and so I have an idea of what kind of sound I'll be getting from it.  And hell, that was just with a Mackie soundboard preamp when I was in college, nothing fancy.

As for numbers, I really only need a single preamp.  I'm probably not looking at recording, say, guitar AND vocals together at the same time, although the idea of using stereo configurations has occurred to me for some situations, so a two-channel preamp might not be a bad idea (I'd need to buy a second mic before I COULD do that, of course, but this is for growth in the future).  Then again, I could record guitar and vocals together with a single mic, too, for that live feel, but that introduces a bunch of other issues. Smile

I'll take a look at that Rane preamp.

Thanks!
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Galil

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Re: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2008, 09:22:01 PM »

AndrewJC wrote:

I believe what I used back in college was an AT4040

If you have used (and liked) this microphone, it might be a good start.  Worse things have happened than for your first microphone to be one you are familiar with and know will work on your voice.

I think that over time you will probably want to pick up a small diaphragm condenser for recording acoustic guitar.  

Don't overlook the treasury of resources like Harvey's microphone thread:

http://www.itrstudio.com/MIC_CHAT.PDF

and the thread:

Solid mics for under 1000?

Galil
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Adam The Truck Driver

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Re: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2008, 09:25:34 PM »

http://www.studioprojectsusa.com/

http://adkmic.com/

http://www.the-musicians-workshop.com/

http://www.toftaudiodesigns.com/

http://www.fmraudio.com/

All of these links have either microphones, preamps,
or both mics and preamps and some with EQ and or
compression.

EDIT: My personal experience in the sound of an Audio Technica AT4050 into an ART Tube MP is a combination in sound of a tin can and a cardboard box.

Thats just my 2 bucks.
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wwittman

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Re: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2008, 01:43:24 AM »

I think you need to really ask if that $150 mic pre is going to make ENOUGH of an improvement to be worth the money.


I suspect, strongly, not.


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William Wittman
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Galil

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Re: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2008, 08:38:11 AM »

It appears from his first post that he has a computer soundcard with only line in/outs.  To purchase his first microphone and preamp, it appears that something will be better than nothing.

Galil
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loudsongsinc

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Re: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2008, 11:33:24 AM »

For your budget, you can get a Symetrix SX202 mic pre off EvilBay.  Two channel, clean and quiet.  Not sexy, but good.  I use a few of them for utility work at home.
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Scott Bryant
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Ashermusic

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Re: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2008, 11:52:00 AM »

wwittman wrote on Thu, 31 July 2008 06:43

I think you need to really ask if that $150 mic pre is going to make ENOUGH of an improvement to be worth the money.


I suspect, strongly, not.





I bought a Rane 1msb, made infamous by Roger Nichols, and it is startlingly good for the price. No frills, no mojo, but clean and punchy.
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AndrewJC

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Re: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2008, 03:41:18 PM »

Galil wrote on Thu, 31 July 2008 08:38

It appears from his first post that he has a computer soundcard with only line in/outs.  To purchase his first microphone and preamp, it appears that something will be better than nothing.


Galil's got it right.  If the Delta 192 offered phantom power, I might agree with you that buying a cheap preamp wouldn't be much of an improvement.  But given that all I've got right now is my Samson C03U (which I'm growing increasingly annoyed with), I HAVE to buy a preamp or it's of little use to bother with a mic at all.  Cheap, in this case, is indeed better than nothing at all.
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Galil

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Re: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2008, 12:39:08 PM »

Andrew,

When you get a good preamp and microphone, start recording.  The cheap pres will help you pursue your musical vision.  If you ever have money to spend $1000 or more on a microphone preamp, my guess is that you will prefer it to your first preamp.  Some of the better stuff sounds great, but it all works.

Still, as an artist it is important to remember that the season of your making this music will have passed (if you wait for the "best stuff") and you will not be in the same place.  Most people don't mind where the technology was for "I want to hold your hand," they appreciate the exuberance. The Beatles could not go back at the time of Abby Road and recapture the early recordings with better technology, they had emotionally and musically moved on.  I think if you consider an artist whom you like, you will find that you do not mind the technical limitations of some of their output.  

If you are creating compelling music which a community enjoys, they will not mind Rane vs. API/Daking/Neve/etc. preamps.  You will hear the difference, some of your audience will also be able to tell, but what is most important is if you were musically communicating in a way that touched people.

Using equipment which slows you down because of technical issues (CO3U) is the pits.  Get it out of the way, find something stable and forgiving, and communicate your passion.  Get help from someone else you trust when you are on the performance tightrope so you don't have to perform, engineer and produce all at the same time.

Do well.

Galil
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AndrewJC

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Re: Low-budget mic/preamp purchase
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2008, 02:02:27 PM »

Galil wrote on Sun, 10 August 2008 12:39

Using equipment which slows you down because of technical issues (CO3U) is the pits.  Get it out of the way, find something stable and forgiving, and communicate your passion.  Get help from someone else you trust when you are on the performance tightrope so you don't have to perform, engineer and produce all at the same time.


I bit the bullet this weekend after seeing some really good deals on Ebay and bought a used AT4040 mic (yay for having a piece of equipment I've used before and gotten good sounds with) for about $150 and a Presonus TUBE preamp for about $45.  The Presonus got decent reviews and apparently sounds better when the tube has been replaced with something not made in China (which this guy did already), so I'm looking forward to getting them and working with them.

At the very least, I believe that this is going to sound better than my Samson mic, which has had claims of being quite noisy with its circuitry.  I anticipate some fun times ahead. Smile
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