#1
So upgrading my little studio rig, currently using a Tascam US 122L, served me well until this point, but I want improve the quality of my mixes.

I have done a little bit of research, and I've heard good things about ART TPS II Tube Preamplifier, Presonus TubePre v2 and Focusrite Saffire Pro 40. The latter is a little expensive at the moment but I'd be willing to save up if it is truly much better than the other systems.
On a similar thread from sometime ago, most people recommended the presonus, but I've heard a lot of good things about the other ones.

The main reason I want to upgrade is the tascam is pretty limited, and even when the input level is on the verge of being overdriven, the sound is still pretty quiet, which sometimes causes issues later in compression.
Would a tube preamp boost the input volume into the DAW louder? Additionally, I use DI recording fairly often, woud the tubes boost the input of that? will it alter how a amp simulator would react? Additionally I'm thinking of blending the sound of two microphones for a recording, would these preamps (minus the presonus) enable me to do that?

Don't really have much experience nor knowledge in the techno side of things, so would appreciate it if someone could guide me
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#2
I've not had any opportunity to test any of those out myself, so I'll leave the specifics on that to people who have. As a very general rule, all of the entry-level pres are *pretty much* the same. It's not until you start spending some serious money that the difference becomes significant. At about $100/channel, I'd expect them all to be pretty decent, and probably all a bit of a step up from the Tascam.


Quote by vivalaheerey

The main reason I want to upgrade is the tascam is pretty limited, and even when the input level is on the verge of being overdriven, the sound is still pretty quiet, which sometimes causes issues later in compression.
Would a tube preamp boost the input volume into the DAW louder? Additionally, I use DI recording fairly often, woud the tubes boost the input of that? will it alter how a amp simulator would react? Additionally I'm thinking of blending the sound of two microphones for a recording, would these preamps (minus the presonus) enable me to do that?

Don't really have much experience nor knowledge in the techno side of things, so would appreciate it if someone could guide me


More later.... gotta go for now...

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#3
If you want to improve the quality if your mixes, improve your ability to capture and your ability to mix. Don't worry about gear. However, I will admit the Tascam is pretty limited. Do you need all of the channels that the Saffire provides? I got a presonus firestudio thinking "oh wow, I want to have 8 channels!" Turns out I rarely use more than 3. Now I primarily use an Apogee Duet and on the rare occasion I need more inputs I make an aggregate device with the firestudio.

What do you mean the sound is still pretty quiet? If it's on the verge of clipping it's not quiet. What DAW are you using? Perhaps your meters aren't set the way you think they are. Or perhaps when you export you have an auto limiter which is squashing the file. Either way, it shouldn't "Cause issues in compression."

A tube preamp will not be any "louder." In the digital world, loudness is nearly completely under your control. It will sound different, though not as different as you might think. Do this: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/oct12/articles/preampsmedia.htm
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#4
I think by quiet he means the preamps don't have enough gain even when fully cranked.

TS - what mics are you using that it requires a ton of gain?
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
#5
Yeah MatrixClaw is right. I thought it was normal but when I've downloaded audio files for mixing practice the sound waves look larger and sound louder than if I used my tascam. I've up until now, used a SM57 for everything but hopong to splash out on a SM7b when I buy the preamp. So I won't be using more than 2 line-in's anyway.

Thanks btw for the forum on sound on sound!
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#6
Ah yes, the SM57 can be a difficult mic. I'd believe it if your tascam couldn't amplify it enough. Any more modern interface should be able to handle it, however. The Scarlett 2i4 is my general GO-TO recommendation for people in your situation. The preamps/conversion are PLENTY good enough to learn on and even do some work with. It's only ~$200 which leaves you some room to get different kinds of mics with different polar patterns.

Do the preamp shootout on sound on sound! That's why I linked it.
Winner of the 2011 Virginia Guitar Festival

Protools HD
Lynx Aurora 16/HD192
Mojave, Sennheiser, AKG, EV etc mics
Focusrite ISA828 pres
Waves Mercury
Random Rack Gear

65 Deluxe Reverb
PRS CE 22
American Standard Strat
Taylor 712
#7
Yeah i thought as much. I had my eye on that one earlier on, I'm guessing the DI is incorporated into the microphone input?

Yeah I checked it out when you sent it, the ART was better IMO for most of the microphones.
Gibson Les Paul Classic 1960
Engl Powerball 120 Watt
Orange PPC212 Cabi
ISP Decimator
MXR 10-band EQ
Boss OS-2
#8
Quote by vivalaheerey
Yeah i thought as much. I had my eye on that one earlier on, I'm guessing the DI is incorporated into the microphone input?

Yeah I checked it out when you sent it, the ART was better IMO for most of the microphones.


Yep! Most interfaces have an option for "instrument level" inputs on the first two channels, or the only two channels in this case. Some others have a pad which helps with running instrument level signals in as well.

I agree! I picked the A R T a few times and the Neive the other times. I was blown away. The preamp isn't the only part of that signal chain obviously, but you can see that even a cheap preamp can sound very, very good if you know how to use it.
Winner of the 2011 Virginia Guitar Festival

Protools HD
Lynx Aurora 16/HD192
Mojave, Sennheiser, AKG, EV etc mics
Focusrite ISA828 pres
Waves Mercury
Random Rack Gear

65 Deluxe Reverb
PRS CE 22
American Standard Strat
Taylor 712
#9
Thanks a lot, so you don't recommend tube preamps on my budget?
Gibson Les Paul Classic 1960
Engl Powerball 120 Watt
Orange PPC212 Cabi
ISP Decimator
MXR 10-band EQ
Boss OS-2
#10
None of those preamps are real tube pres. They are what's called "starved plate," which means barely any voltage is being sent to the tube and very little, if any, of the sound is even being effected by the tube circuit.

FWIW, the Saffire Pro 40 doesn't have enough gain in it to drive an SM7b properly, unless you're recording a very loud source, like a cranked guitar amp. I don't have experience with the other two and I'm not sure how much gain they have, but the SM7b runs at -59dB. Most preamps become very noisy the last 20% of their range and unless you're using something meant to be pushed that high, its not recommended. What that means is, you're going to want a preamp with a ton of gain (ideally you'd want ~75dB). Unfortunately, there's only 4 interfaces under $2 grand I can think of with that much gain, the Apogee Duet and Ensemble, the Metric Halo ULN-2 and the Focusrite Forte.

On the preamps side, ART does make one or two with enough gain but I can't think of the names off hand, most people seem to love them or hate them though, so take that for what its worth. Other than that, the Golden Age Pre-73 (Neve clone), Warm Audio WA12 (API clone) and Focusrite ISA One are the cheapest solutions. However, there's options like the Cloudlifter and Fethead than boost your input enough to use lower gain mics and seem to be well regarded.
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
#11
Gotcha, thought it would be something like that. Well the SM7b is going to be mainly used for vocals acoustic guitar and amp micing.
I'll definately look into those, thank you for your help, learnt a lot! Your like a goddamn fountain of audio knowledge! haha
Gibson Les Paul Classic 1960
Engl Powerball 120 Watt
Orange PPC212 Cabi
ISP Decimator
MXR 10-band EQ
Boss OS-2
#12
Quote by vivalaheerey

The main reason I want to upgrade is the tascam is pretty limited, and even when the input level is on the verge of being overdriven, the sound is still pretty quiet, which sometimes causes issues later in compression.


What, exactly, do you mean by quiet? Where are your meters hitting?

Quote by vivalaheerey

Would a tube preamp boost the input volume into the DAW louder? Additionally, I use DI recording fairly often, woud the tubes boost the input of that?


The amount of gain a preamp can provide is not dependent upon whether or not there is a tube. In general terms, a better preamp will provide more clean gain.

Quote by vivalaheerey

will it alter how a amp simulator would react?


No. Well, it will affect what kind of source signal you get recorded. A stronger signal with less noise will probably produce a better overall sound running through an amp sim. But other than that, your basic signal flow is:

guitar > preamp > converters > hard drive > amp sim > speakers.

So, since there is no preamp between the hard drive and the amp sim, it won't have a direct effect.

Quote by vivalaheerey

Additionally I'm thinking of blending the sound of two microphones for a recording, would these preamps (minus the presonus) enable me to do that?


I would even think the Tascam will do this, no? It does have two mic inputs, doesn't it?

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#13
Quote by MatrixClaw
What that means is, you're going to want a preamp with a ton of gain (ideally you'd want ~75dB). Unfortunately, there's only 4 interfaces under $2 grand I can think of with that much gain, the Apogee Duet and Ensemble, the Metric Halo ULN-2 and the Focusrite Forte.


#5 - Steinberg MR816 = 84db. Runs my SM7b like a champ. "Best interface for under $1000."

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#14
focusrite. just do it. especially for guitar micing the pre amps are glassy as ****. ive used several different tascam interfaces over the years, and im done with them. focusrites pres are a huge step up
#15
Quote by axemanchris
#5 - Steinberg MR816 = 84db. Runs my SM7b like a champ. "Best interface for under $1000."

CT

Interesting. That's A LOT of gain. I wonder why they don't market that on these... seems to me they'd sell a ton more units if a user didn't have to dig through the spec sheet to find it. Hell... with that much gain I might just sell my Audient ASP008 and buy a used MR 816 and feed it via the analogue outs to my SSL. I assume it can be used in standalone mode? That'd fix all the problems I have with owning one, since I wouldn't have to rely on their iffy drivers to run it, and I'd have a preamp that would serve well as a utility pre for anything I could possibly want to throw at it... I mean, the Audient pres sound GREAT, but I don't use the conversion on it and they only have like 60dB of gain last I checked, so they're not super useful on anything other than loud sources. The variable HPF and selectable impedance is pretty sweet, though.
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
#16
My ART Studio V3 does a nice job. It can go from clean to a nice saturated overdrive on the turn of the "voicing" and by pushing a couple of switches.

Can't tell you anything about your choices of pre's as I've never had the opportunity to try any of them.
#17
There is a converter shoot out on the GS forum between the MR816 and a Prism. The MR816 won in the blind test. Handily.

Yes, it can be used as a standalone.

Michael Wengener (produced Ratt, Dokken, etc) even said the pres were great.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#18
Quote by axemanchris
There is a converter shoot out on the GS forum between the MR816 and a Prism. The MR816 won in the blind test. Handily.

Yes, it can be used as a standalone.

Michael Wengener (produced Ratt, Dokken, etc) even said the pres were great.

CT

Yeah, I've seen it.

The only thing that's really kept me from buying one through the years is poor driver support; that and the claims I've heard of it having amazing A/D conversion, but the D/A doesn't stack up nearly as well. I wonder if the UR824 has the same amount of gain, it'd be cool to have the option of using USB on a mobile rig if needed (though I hear the drivers on those are even worse than the MR...)? I've always heard it touted as "the same as the MR816, just with USB support," but since Steinberg's specs are impossible to make any sense of, I can't tell if they have that much gain or not. My first guess is "No," because it flat out states "Maximum Gain: 60dB," but then the MR816 states it completely differently by saying "Nominal Level: –60 dBu to +10dBu, Maximum Level: +24 dBu." Couldn't they at least keep their insanely confusing spec sheet the same for both?
Quote by Dave_Mc
I've had tube amps for a while now, but never actually had any go down on me
Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





www.SanctityStudios.com
#19
I can't speak to the UR, as I've never used it, but the drivers have been great for me.

That said, it took a lot of fiddling to get it right in the beginning. It's picky as hell as to what firewire chipsets it works with (Texas Instruments seems to be a strong preference), and there is an additional firewire utility that comes on the installation disk found in the "extras" folder or something like that which took me some researching to find out about. I guess it changes some other hardware firewire buffer, and once I took it off the default of "small" and put it to medium or large, it was all fine after that. The whole mess took me a couple of days, but it has been fine ever since. I can still get latencies under 10ms, but with the direct monitoring, I usually just keep the buffer setting in Cubase somewhere around 75% and just leave it.

And yeah, the specs are confusing as hell on that one... especially for someone who doesn't really understand a lot of the specs too well.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.