Mic pre-amp or a new audio interface to go with my SM57 ? (on a tight budget.)

#1
Greetings fellas,

I'm buying a cheapo SM57 in a few hours from a buddy of mine for recording my 5150 + ENGL Pro V30 cab to further improve my recordings. (and a bit tired of impulse responses, wanted to try something new)

I currently have an M-Audio Firewire Solo as an interface, and only has a single mic input. I searched the interwebz for a little bit of information, and a lot of people mentioned that the M-Audio's mic preamp basically sucks for recording, and clips like hell most of the time, even on the lowest mic gain setting. I don't really have problems cranking the amp volume-wise, so I thought I might invest on a new mic pre-amp or yet a better audio interface.

I've got a budget of about 200-300$ to spend, might consider buying second-hand as long as I can find the product over here in my country.

A lotta people also mentioned that budget mic preamps basically are merely an upgrade sound-wise, and most of them are preferring more high end products like GT Brick, Grace 101, or the like, but its basically hard to find that stuff over here, unless the very high end products which are totally out of my price range.

Any suggestions would be lovely.

So far I've decided on Presonus Firebox, and found a MOTU Ultralite Mk3 for about half the retail price, still searching.

PS: I also prefer if the card/preamp has 2 mic inputs, since i'll be using the on-axis+off-axis with 2 SM57's in the near future.

Thanks in advance.
*chugga chugga chuggity chug chug chug*
Last edited by Kuntekin at Sep 25, 2011,
#2
Yeah, if I had that gear I wouldn't be using impulses either, that's a proper guitar setup you have going there.

Don't know a lot about the Firewire solo but I use M-audios flagship line the Profire and have had no problems - have you tested the solo out at all, I'd rather confirm by experience than a bunch of opinions on the internet - useful as they are sometimes.

To be honest preamps are probably the least important aspect of the chain, with lower budget interfaces I'd be just trying to get something that sounds clean and doesn't give you hassle technically but that really involves trying them out first.
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#3
To be honest, unless the interface also has a line input/insert that is post-premp, I see little point in you buying a preamp to then run through your M-Audio's preamp still - regardless of the gain you apply at the preamp stage of the M-Audio, you're still going to affect the signal of the other pre (in a negative way, if it's a good/better pre than the M-Audio's) and you will just make your gainstaging much more complex and noise-inducing by adding more amps to the equation.

Would you run the preamp of a prized valve amp, into the main input of a solid state combo, and run through two pre-amps? If no, which is the sensible answer, why would you do the same with microphones?

If you really wanna go the stand-alone preamp route, it's only worth it (and gonna make a noticeable improvement to your sound) if you go from the pre into a standalone A/D converter.


Just my honest opinion.
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#4
Your best bet is to try the mic with your interface and see if you can get it to sound decent. If you can, you just saved a bunch of money. I would put a lot of money on your current setup working just fine.
#5
Actually, I tried without a preamp, and seems like it sounded better with the Presonus Tubepre after all, though not a big difference to be honest.

I made a recording, with a single SM57 on the dustcap's edge, quad tracked. By any means its not tight, its a quick recording to test the tone. The bass underneath is ghetto style, octaved down my guitar with the plug-in, since I do not have a bass guitar.

It does sound very fizzy/thin and weak in my opinion, would it be because of the settings on the amp I use ?

I'm on the lead channel, with Lead Gain at 2.5, Bass at 6, Mids at 4, Treble at 5, Post-Lead on 7, Resonance at 7, Presence at 8. There is also a Tubescreamer-ish boost up front.

I know that master volume at 7 seems pretty crazy, but I actually use a THD Hotplate attenuator with attenuation at -16dB and the fine-tune knob at 3 o'clock position. Would the weakness in the tone be due to the volume being low in decibels ? I have the gain on my mic preamp set at 3:00, too, which is pretty high I guess.

Any advices are welcome, I definitely have a good setup, and very eager to get a great rhythm tone.

http://soundcloud.com/annostriker/rose-of-sharyn-ripoff-riff

And oh, also forgot, what should be the ideal mic distance from the grille/grill cloth? I placed the mic about 2 centimeters far away from the grille, is it a bit too close or far ?
*chugga chugga chuggity chug chug chug*
Last edited by Kuntekin at Sep 25, 2011,
#6
What about the rest of your setup? Chances are the difference between your current interface and the 'next-step-up' interface would be obscured by poor room response, assuming of course that you currently have no treatment for your room. You would be amazed at how much room tone an SM57 can really pick up.

If you haven't already, read up on monitor placement/listening positions and bass trapping/reflection points. If you're already somewhat of an acoustician, sorry to bother you.
Quote by Kuntekin
And oh, also forgot, what should be the ideal mic distance from the grille/grill cloth? I placed the mic about 2 centimeters far away from the grille, is it a bit too close or far ?
It's all experimentation, man... ideally you would have an assistant or engineer move the microphone little by little while you hear what it sounds like through your $10,000 speakers in a soundproof control room. Tell them to move it a little this way or that way until your 'golden ears' seasoned by 20 years of producing tell you 'yeah, this is the right tone to blend into this track.'
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Last edited by muso_catolico at Sep 26, 2011,
#7
Well I tried new strings, since mine were like 2 months old, they were going pretty dark tone-wise. I also tried disabling the -20dB pad on the preamp, and used less mic gain, also cranked the amp a little bit more. Seems much better now.

I also kinda placed the mic about an inch far away from the grille, and off axis on the dustcap's edge with a 30-35 degree angle. That also got me rid of the fizz, but it seems like it lost a liiitle bit of definition, wonder how it'll work if the mic is more towards the center of the cacp? Does it sound nasal at all? And by the way, I think it sounds similar to the tone on the Burning Bridges album of Arch Enemy, wonder if they used the same cabinet on that album... The riff is from Sinister Mephisto by the way.

http://soundcloud.com/annostriker/sm57-off-axis-test

Edit: I am not experienced with acoustics/isolation at all, and my room is like a 6x5 meters bedroom type, moderately crowded with stuff, that might be the reason why it sounds a bit boxy. I got into mixing and recording stuff about merely 7-8 months ago anyways :p
*chugga chugga chuggity chug chug chug*
Last edited by Kuntekin at Sep 26, 2011,
#8
Your pres are only as good as your converters, remember. In that situation I'd go with a better interface
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#9
I understand. Is there a good interface between the 200-300$ price range that I could buy to replace my M-Audio Firewire Solo then ? I could buy second-hand too, if I can find the product without a hassle.
*chugga chugga chuggity chug chug chug*
#10
You'll get more drastic results from mic placement than a new interface or a new room. When close miking an amp, the average bedroom doesn't make THAT much of a difference. Work on your amps tone and mic placement for a while before you start looking around for upgrades. Also, keep in mind that an sm57 doesn't have the fattest sound...

EDIT: In your price range you'll be hard pressed to get THAT much of a difference in quality (some? yes, but not enough imo). If you're really that unhappy with the sound you're getting, I doubt it's the mic/interface's fault.
Last edited by sandyman323 at Sep 26, 2011,
#11
Quote by Kuntekin
Well I tried new strings, since mine were like 2 months old, they were going pretty dark tone-wise. I also tried disabling the -20dB pad on the preamp, and used less mic gain, also cranked the amp a little bit more. Seems much better now.

I also kinda placed the mic about an inch far away from the grille, and off axis on the dustcap's edge with a 30-35 degree angle. That also got me rid of the fizz, but it seems like it lost a liiitle bit of definition, wonder how it'll work if the mic is more towards the center of the cacp? Does it sound nasal at all? And by the way, I think it sounds similar to the tone on the Burning Bridges album of Arch Enemy, wonder if they used the same cabinet on that album... The riff is from Sinister Mephisto by the way.

http://soundcloud.com/annostriker/sm57-off-axis-test

Edit: I am not experienced with acoustics/isolation at all, and my room is like a 6x5 meters bedroom type, moderately crowded with stuff, that might be the reason why it sounds a bit boxy. I got into mixing and recording stuff about merely 7-8 months ago anyways :p


Tone sounds ok but its hard to tell that with more than one track smushed in the middle there - please pan properly if you are going to quad or double track - 2 tracks should be 100% left and right and the other two should be around 90% left or right.

If you've got the amp up against the wall try pulling it away otherwise you'll get a lot of reflections in the low end - might come with the territory as your room is roughly square and thus is one of the worst candidates for acoustics - square rooms have a lot of reflections and sound problems in general but close micing to that degree should alleviate some of the problem.

Really the biggest issue I can hear is panning for metal/hard rock and most guitar based genres you need to pan rhythms aggressively and make full use of the stereo space instead of smushing things right down the middle like a lot of people in this forum do - it makes mixes sound like they have a cold and are congested.
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