My view on the mic pre debate

guitarsandsynths wrote:I would say that you can get better results with a good preamp and a cheap mic than with a expensive mic and cheap preamp.

It depends on what you mean by “cheap” and “expensive”. It actually costs very little to build a good mic pre, compared to building a good mic. Electronics manufacturing is a very advanced area, because electronics is a huge market, so the technology is extremely well researched. Microphones for audio (particularly the diaphragms) are a minority sport in comparison, with far fewer people applying their minds to it. Consequently, most of your budget goes on the mic.

When testing mic pres, you’ll notice the biggest difference with mics that have a passive output, especially those with cheap transformers like the majority of dynamics, and older ribbon designs. A good transformer can cost over €100, so would be a significant part of the cost.

Condensers have an active buffered output, so are less prone to being adversely loaded by the mic pre.

My advice would be- spend as much as you can on the mics. A pair of Audio Technica 4050 would be a superb investment. Excellent sounding mic. They’re able to make them that cheap because it’s an electret, not a condenser. This means that the capsule will probably die in 40/ 50 years. These mics can hold their heads up next to the classic Neumann U87, a true condenser costing twice as much. (I use the 87 at work, but I’ve bought the ATs for my own use).

A pair of 4050s would allow you to experiment with almost all of the stereo miking methods, and it’s a mic that will capture pretty much every source accurately.

For a mic pre amp, I would recommend something from Focusrite. Very clean, low noise, and great value for money. For funky fun, the little ART tube pres are superb and very affordable. I haven’t heard the UAD. I have heard the SPL Gold pre, and IMO it’s not worth the money, it’s kinda noisy, and the tone is nothing special given the price.

Finally, the widest variation in tone would be with mics. Pre amps are way down the scale, and if you’re room is not acoustically treated, there’s no way you’ll accurately hear a difference in mic pres. What you will hear is a different room mode when you move your head by one inch :)

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