Do I need an outboard preamp?

Discussion in 'GEAR Talk Forum' started by Counterpointer, Nov 7, 2018 at 1:33 PM.

  1. Counterpointer

    Counterpointer Active Member

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    Hello!

    I'm currently producing music for a music library and I'm recording a lot of guitar mandolin and ukulele. I use two condensator mics (a röde nt2a and a Russian I don't know the name of, doing mid side recording) into my audient ID22. I feel that I have to really push the gain when recording, almost at 90% to get to -18dB peaks, when recording soft guitar plucking at a 20cm distance from the microphones.

    I approached audient about this and they claimed it to be normal, but I don't know.

    Do I need an outboard preamp to get more gain?

    I'm anyways in the planning state of investing in some upgrades toy studio, so I thought that it might be a good time to get a good pre and a better Mic. I have my eyes on an Aston Spirit and a TK audio dp-1 (used) to improve the quality of my recordings. Is this a good idea?
     
  2. Henu

    Henu Senior Member

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    Not necessarily, but if you're doing a lot of acoustic recordings in general you might want to consider it at some point for not only the gain but also for a bit better sound.

    My recommendation for acoustic instruments (or anything, tbh) for first preamp would definitely be this GAP one. Or you can also go nuts and get a 2- slot series 500 rack with two s500 versions of those for stereo recordings. Once I went that route, never looked back since.
    And if you want a clearer sound with some very useful parameter options included, definitely get this one, which is incredible bang for your buck.
     
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  3. GtrString

    GtrString Senior Member

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    You already use preamps in your audient interface, and with condenser mics you shouldnt need it, because these mics also have a small preamp built into them.

    You may read up on gain staging, because you shouldnt have to push those preamps in the interface that hard. A recording level at -12 to -18 dbfs should be enough, as you can always turn the tracks up in your daw.

    To spare the preamps in the interface a bit more, you could consider a “cloudlifter”, which is a pre-preamp, designed to relieve the preamps by providing some gain so you can find a sweetspot. But again, cloudlifters are usually more used with dynamic and ribbon mics, which does not have built in preamps, like condenser mics does.

    So, check your recording levels first. You may be recording too hot.
     
    Counterpointer likes this.
  4. I have the iD22 and the preamps are nice and clean, but I use Shadow Hills "Mono Gama" pres most of the time. It's true that with the iD22 preamps, you often need to add a LOT of gain on quiet sources like this, but imho don't be fooled by this low volume thinking it's a low quality signal. What do you think of the sound itself, when adding simple clip volume on your DAW ? How noisy and how clear is it ?
     
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  5. OP
    OP
    Counterpointer

    Counterpointer Active Member

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    You're right. I guess the sound is ok although it is so low. It really bugging me though, cause I feel like I'm maxing it and still just barely getting enough gain. And that's with condensator mics. I haven't tried dynamics yet but I reckon a sm57 wouldn't even get close to enough gain with this one. I read in some other thread that some people relate this problem to bad dc transformer plugs. I haven't tried to replace mine yet, so I don't know about that.

    I leaning towards a preamp mostly for coloration adnd better sound quality now, and for a little extra gain.
     
    whitewasteland likes this.
  6. OP
    OP
    Counterpointer

    Counterpointer Active Member

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    Thanks for your reply, though I'm not quite sure I understand your point. Are you saying that if I record too hot, the signal gets weaker? Because I wrote that I have to push the gain JUST TO REACH levels between -12 -18dbfs (which I understand is the optimal recording for most interfaces). When strumming hard it's easier, but when plucking I really need to crank it. On my previous interface, a Scarlett 18i6, I never had to go much above noon. Maybe 60% up.
     
    GtrString likes this.
  7. jneebz

    jneebz Senior Member

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    Sorry to bring this up if it's common knowledge to you, but is phantom power turned on for your condensor mic?
     
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  8. Divico

    Divico Senior Member

    I use a Saffire Pro 40. On my SM 58 i need to crank the gain all the way up for some reasonable level. On my RODE Nt 1 its less but still pretty high. Keep in mind the gain knob is not linear!
    Also there is nothing bad in cranking it a bit / at least thats what Focusrite says
     
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  9. stonzthro

    stonzthro Senior Member

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    To answer your question, no. I've used lots of different mic pres over the years and mic placement trumps mic pre in my experience. If your ears get to the point where you think you can't capture the recording the way you want, get a better mic. If you still aren't getting there, then think about a mic pre.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018 at 10:06 AM
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  10. Dave Connor

    Dave Connor Senior Member

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    A quality mic pre is a very good idea. Paired with a good microphone you have nearly the same setup of the best studios. You don’t have the room sound of a great studio so you have to consider that and try to eliminate the drawbacks of your room with some sort of sound treatment even if that’s with blankets or whatever. If you can capture the original signal well, you can then export to a studio for mixing or do it in the box at home. I use a pair of John Hardy mic pres which are exceptional for an uncolored clean signal to be tweaked later.
     
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  11. OP
    OP
    Counterpointer

    Counterpointer Active Member

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    Haha, yes of course! Though I have been questioning the quality of my cables, thinking that they could be the problem.
     
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  12. OP
    OP
    Counterpointer

    Counterpointer Active Member

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    Very valid point, there.
     
  13. GtrString

    GtrString Senior Member

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    I think you need to carefully check the setup. With a condenser mic, you should easily be able to get -12dbfs at about noon on the soundcard. Something is off. Can be anywhere in the chain, mic, cable, soundcard, software, daw.
     
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