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real preamps vs vst effects

topic posted Thu, October 14, 2004 - 3:25 PM by  Unsubscribed
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I've been doing vocals using a Rode NTK condensor, waves C4, and L2 Ultramaximizer. Anyone have any experience comparing these effects to real analog compressors and preamps? I've been thinking about buying a pre or a tube compressor, but not really sure if the amount of money is really worth the difference I might get.
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  • IMHO, if you have the funds and space, there's nothing like the real thing. I'm not knocking the digital models, but in the end they are just models...Digital is digital, and analog still sounds better (to me) in the end.
    • Unsu...
       
      Have the space, and I'm sure it sounds better. Question is more about how much better - funds are there but not unlimited, and could go to other areas. What I want to know is if it's a world of better, medium better, or just a little nicer.
      • It's a VERY subjective thing...personally I think using the analog outboard gear can really keep things "warm". I also like having actual KNOBS to turn as opposed to having to open a window and assign the control surface functions.
        The studio I'm at is using analog everything, but ending up on a Fostex D2424LV (studio A). The ProTools system (studio B) that we use can sound a bit crunchy, but that's usually because I'm really listening for it.
        Any pro audio shop that's worth it's salt will let you compare before a purchase. The way I see it, think about what you need right now and buy just beyond that, because you don't want to short-change your future abilities.
        • Unsu...
           
          Nuttin' like them 'sweet-spots' on a knob...
          • What kind of limited funds are you talking about? $50? $500? $5000? Yes, good preamps do make a difference. You can hear the difference between an ART and an API. The nice thing about some of the more expensive preamps is that a lot of them have nothing BUT sweetspots in them. Focusrite had this one preamp I was listening to, and you just clicked to detents on the knobs, and every time you sang or said something it was "Guh...oh my gawhuhuhuh....!" and it was just a question of where you wanted that particular voice or sound to sit in the mix in relation to others. Some other high end pre-amp/EQ/compressor channel strips are like that, too. They have fixed bands that are JUST RIGHT, and then you dial in or dial out as you need to fit the sounds in with each. Yum...yes, preamp good. I used to think that it was nicer to have all the flexibilty and in between tones on EQs and in many cases I still do, but there is something nice, especially when you have to get things done fast to just go *click "ahhh....all better.", and move on to the next part of the mix instead of trying to dial something in for twenty minutes or even two. Food for thought.

            O
            • Unsu...
               
              I'd be willing to spend high end $ if I thought I was going to get something that was going to provide a huge and unobtainable improvement over what I use now. I was actually looking at the Universal Audio units. www.uaudio.com/products/a.../index.html

              I'm not sure I see that happening, as the digital models in the right combinations with the right eq are extremely close when I compare my recordings to ones I really like from the 60s and 70s. I also have lots of time to screw with it, as I own all the stuff and nobody else uses it.
              The real deal is just a little more velvety and smooth, even in cases where the equipment used was more than $5k, but it's not like comparing sacharrin to sugar which is what I was concerned about.
              So I think I answered myself ;)

              I think these toys are getting filed in the 'someday' category.
              • Would you consider a Neve-Amek 9098 for $1300 high $? Thats' a pretty damn nice preamp.

                There's also something like this:

                www.apiaudio.com/212l.html

                or this:

                www.apiaudio.com/512c.html

                And of course you'll need power. You could even get the full Lunchbox with the 512c, the 525, the 550b, and the 560, and just wreck shop. Now...that's about $4k, BUT something like that is truly an investment, both sonically and financially. Portable, SUPER tone, and yet still very simple and effective. It does make a difference. Your budget and your ears are the things you need to listen to most. If it's just a dream, then so be it. If it's something you plan on making as a professional investment, then it's something that you have to take a look at as to how much it can pay for itself, how many jobs it will get you, and what clients will pay for that kind of sound. UA does nice sounding stuff too. Your needs and goals are not clear.

                O
                • preamps are very expensive and different preamps are good at different things...

                  Some are very very clean, but if you don't have good microphones... well... your sound is always only as good as the weakest link in your signal chain.

                  Some have color...

                  Different preamps work for different things, some are really good for rap, others for rock singing, others for drums... A good studio doesn't have one set, but several sets of high quality high dollar preamps.

                  This is why the focusrite liquid channel thing was touted as "amazing! revolutionary!" I've never heard it but it sounds like it isn't close to the real thing for some producers ears.

                  UA card is probably your best bang-for-the-buck as far as versatility.. but Neve, Universal Audio, etc.

                  Hope that helps. If you are serious about spending more than 2,000 for a preamp/preamps I'd suggest investing in some studio time at a local studio that has the preamps you would like to buy to see if that's really what you want.
                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.
                    Unsu...
                     
                    Hmm..anybody know of someplace in sf bay area that rents high end signal processors?
                    • Steven Jarvis

                      He rents anything you want. I think he's still operating in SF out of Hyde Street Studios.

                      Cheers
                      • There's also Tony Brooke from Silent Audio, & David Denny. And there's S.I.R. in the NorthBay, I think.
                        • Unsu...
                           
                          re: Oogie's recommendation for the Neve 9098-

                          Has anybody here ever heard anything about problems with Neves resulting from the separate L/R channel preamps' sounds getting 'colored' slightly differently- like one's warmer than the other or whatever? I've never seen/heard anything like this but have heard this now from a couple different sources... Just curious.
                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.
                    Unsu...
                     
                    A reviewer pegged what it is I'm looking for in this bit about one of the uaudio machines:

                    The 2-610 has been an absolute smash hit for guitar and electric-bass recording at my studio. Indeed, it's hard to imagine doing another rock, jazz, or blues session without it. I am concerned, though, that the 2-610 is not clean enough for all vocal styles, especially when used with a high-output condenser microphone. Moreover, although a Neumann U 47 or a AKG C12 through the original 610 console is considered by many the ultimate signal path for vocal recording, with the unit I reviewed, my recording skills, and an assortment of tube mics and singers, the creamy vocal sounds of yesteryear rarely materialized.


                    "the creamy vocal sounds of yesteryear"

                    I'm looking for the most cost effective way to get that (keeping in mind that it may be expensive anyway I slice it)
  • Unsu...
     
    um - i don't know if anyone else pointed this out- but a rode NTK, at least the one I have, is a tube mic. if yours is the same model as mine, then you don't need a tube compressor -

    i use the very affordable RNC compressor. it's pre-tape. it has 3 compressors, stereo and you can layer them for quite nice sounding compression.

    sometimess i compress afterwards also with a software compressor. i have not found software compressors to do enough to a vocal signal without compressing on the way to tape first. but that's my opinion. the DON"T COMPRESS camp will likely chew me out for saying that.

    the waves bundle is excellent... i use the L2 as a limiter on my master mix to bring up the volume overall. sometimes i'll use it on individual instruments, but to my ears it sounds best as a limiter rather than as a compressor.

    pre-amp plugs would be the way to go in my opinon. the software rocks, and if you're using a tube mic then you're not doubling the noise floor by putting two loud hissy tubes together before it even hits tape.

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