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Topic: Help on choosing mic preamp (Read 5487 times) previous topic - next topic
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Help on choosing mic preamp

Hi all,

I am planning to buy an usb audio interface for room measurement mic like Dayton EMM-6 and would sometime later like to buy a pair of mics (Shure SM58s, Behringer B-5s, etc) to experiment with some stereo recording at home (vocals, flute , etc).
I don't want to overspend due to "better" specs of some device.
I just want something which is reliable, stable drivers and sufficient quality for my application.
I can go max upto $160, but will be happy with lower if spending more won't lead to benefit for my applications

Some options I shortlisted:
M-Audio M-Track
TASCAM US-200
Mackie Onyx Blackjack
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Focusrite Saffire 6 USB

Let me know your suggestions (even if outside this list)

Thanks....

Help on choosing mic preamp

Reply #1
What OS are you running?

Drivers often end up being the major differentiating factor between similarly-priced USB audio interfaces.
"Not sure what the question is, but the answer is probably no."


Help on choosing mic preamp

Reply #3
I'm pretty sure Dayton also makes a USB calibrated-measurement mic.  That would be super-convenient.

I wouldn't worry too much about preamp specs.    It's not difficult or expensive to build a good preamp circuit.    And finding independent, comparable, specs is probably impossible anyway.  If you could find comparable specs, noise is the ONLY thing I'd be concerned with.  (There's no excuse for any audible distortion or frequency response variations with any halfway decent preamp.)

Your choice of preamp will have less effect than your choice of mic, mic placement, acoustics, your performance, and the quality of your voice or instrument, etc.

I'd recommend getting an interface with the features you want.

Personally, I'd avoid anything with a vacuum tube (1950's technology  ).  Some high-end preamps (tube or solid state) are supposed to add "character" to the sound.    There are also some lower cost preamps/interfaces with tubes.    You'd have to listen to the preamp and decide if it the subtle distortion (character) of a particular preamp is desirable to you.

Quote
and would sometime later like to buy a pair of mics (Shure SM58s, Behringer B-5s, etc)
First, what I don't know...  I don't know anything about the Behringer mic and I don't know anything about recording flute...   

Most "studio recording" is done with a Large Diaphragm Condenser mic.  That's true for vocals and I assume its true for flute.    The Shure is a dynamic mic, and the Behringer looks like a small diaphragm condenser.

Your choice of microphone will have a MUCH bigger affect on sound than your choice of preamp.  In general, dynamic mics have a "darker" sound with lower high-frequency sensitivity.  Small diaphragm condensers tend to be the "brightest" with the strongest high-frequency sensitivity.  Large diaphragm condensers are in the middle (still "bright", probably closer to small diaphragm condensers).  Ribbon mics tend to be darker/duller than dynamic mics with lower output levels and they are not very common.

The good news is you can also adjust the frequency response with an equalizer, which is cheaper and easier than selecting just the perfect mic for every situation.

Condenser mics tend to be "hotter".  They have a built-in amplifier (sort-of a pre-preamplifier) so they need power (studio condensers usually use phantom power from the preamp/interface, but some use batteries), and they put-out a stronger/louder signal than a dynamic mic.

Usually, a large diaphragm condenser is recommended as an all-purpose "home studio" microphone.  But as you probably know, the Shure SM57/58 is the most popular microphone ever made.  It will last you a lifetime and it's never a bad purchase!  (I own an SM58.)  ...And, an SM58 just might sound better than a "cheap" $100 condenser.




Help on choosing mic preamp

Reply #4
One more thought...

If you'll be recording to a backing track, consider getting an interface with "zero-latency monitoring" (AKA "hardware monitoring").

For example, if you are recording your voice while listening to a mix of your voice & the backing track in your headphones, your vocal will be delayed as it passes throught the computer's recording & playback buffers.  That can throw-off your timing and just make singing (or playing) difficult.

There are things you can do to minimize the delay, such as minimizing the buffer size and using ASIO drivers  (if they are avalable for your interface).  But if the buffers get too small you can get glitches in your recording.    So, the best solution is to monitor yourself directly through the interface, bypassing the computer and eliminating latency altogether.

Help on choosing mic preamp

Reply #5
I'm pretty sure Dayton also makes a USB calibrated-measurement mic.  That would be super-convenient.


Yes, I saw that, but think the same interface could be used for recording experiments, hence the EMM-6.

Quote
Your choice of preamp will have less effect than your choice of mic, mic placement, acoustics, your performance, and the quality of your voice or instrument, etc.


I was assuming the same hence I kept the budget max to $160. Only concern was if that's too much too and whether going for something as low as M-Audio M-Track or an ART Dual USB pre is more than enough.
From driver perspective Mackie would not need drivers to be installed atleast on MAC, so should be a stable setup.



Help on choosing mic preamp

Reply #7
I am almost narrowed down on Mackie Onyx Blackjack, assuming it would be more trouble free (driverless on MAC alteast) usage.

But then am wondering if I should separate the two tasks ( REW and home recording)
Like the Dayton UMM-6 usb mic was suggested or there is one from Minidsp, I can go for one of those for REW

And for home stereo recordings I can use something like this Tascam DR-07mk2
In a typical home setup will the "separates" (mackie blackjack + 2 SM58s) give much better result than say something like Tascam DR07?

Help on choosing mic preamp

Reply #8
In a typical home setup will the "separates" (mackie blackjack + 2 SM58s) give much better result than say something like Tascam DR07?

You're comparing dynamic apples to electret oranges there. You must first understand the properties of the various types of mics and what sort of levels and distances they lend themselves to.

Let's look at why the SM58 is a popular vocal mic:
1. It can take a beating both mechanically and sonically.
2. Its dropoff in frequency response towards the lower end counters proximity effect.
3. At the kind of sound levels seen in this application, even a dynamic mic produces plenty of output.
4. It's got some highs boost to aid in intelligibility.

It would be utterly useless for, say, capturing the ambience in a forest. Levels would be so pathetic that you'd get more noise than anything else even on a low-noise preamp, and what is being captured would sound overly thin to boot. Things probably still wouldn't sound too great if you were to position one half a meter in front of you. Put a condenser mic or the Tascam there, and it's a whole different story.

For a "universal" mic, small-diaphragm condensers are probably the way to go. Large-diaphragm mics tend to have better sensitivity (less noise), but due to the larger diaphragm they are also more directional as well, hence more proximity effect. This is often exploited to get a "fatter" sound of vocals 'n such, but not always desirable. (You can always EQ things out, of course, and having more level than needed generally is a better place to start with than too little.)

If you want to compare a separate mic preamp to the Tascam, you ought to seek out a stereo condenser mic (in XY configuration) to go with it.

 

Help on choosing mic preamp

Reply #9
If you want to compare a separate mic preamp to the Tascam, you ought to seek out a stereo condenser mic (in XY configuration) to go with it.


My bad, Lets consider 2 Behringer B-5s then (or something equivalent).
The intent of my question is more to compare Tascam DR-07 with mic-pre + dual condensor mic setup in non-treated home conditions...