Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

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Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Lipskimusic » Thu Dec 29, 2016 12:15 pm

Dear All,

I am in the market for a 3-figure outboard mic-pre. Can anyone share some experiences? I am looking for a rack-mount solution and my shortlist looks as follows:-

- Warm Audio Tonebeast (don't fancy the external power adaptor though...)
- SPL Gold Mike (seems the knobs are not 'stepped' so probably difficult to use on stereo sources...)
- Golden Age Mic Pre (they look like half-size 19'' but not sure there is a rack-adaptor....maybe DIY?)

Please let me know your thoughts.

Cheers,
Matt

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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Len911 » Thu Dec 29, 2016 1:56 pm

My favorite preamp is API. I have the 212L

There is also an API 512C

The thing is that you need a rack and power supply. Which ever way you go, you will have slots open for more units, so it makes the remaining units cheaper, but the initial cost, and it depends because there are many different configurations for racks and ps by different mfgs. except for 200 series.

I mean the 212L is $590, but the rack and ps is pricey, and the 512c is $803.25 http://vintageking.com/api-512c
but I found a used 6 slot rack for $325 http://vintageking.com/vintage-king-rac ... k-932-used

If you weren't ever again to make another outboard purchase, maybe the 512c is a little pricey @ $1128.25, even though it is maybe arguably the best preamp on the market,lol, however if you bought 5 more units to fill the rack and ps, $857.25?
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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Lipskimusic » Thu Dec 29, 2016 2:53 pm

Thanks Len911, I also considered 500-modules. I understand that's working well for you? I saw a couple of interesting (and affordable) units out there (Warm Audio etc.). Any housing you can recommend? Thx, Matt

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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Len911 » Thu Dec 29, 2016 8:08 pm

Matt, I have the API 200 series, mic pre, compressors, noise gate, rack and power supply. I bought mine back before the 500 series explosion, and the 200 series didn't have an eq yet.

I also once had an Amek Neve 9098 EQ, preamp and eq, and in a side by side comparison, the API just blew it away. Before I bought it I just had a bunch of cheap pre's, the API pre was just something that you knew was the real deal the first time you sing through it. If you read a lot of reviews they seem to be described not as a clean amp but more a color or character and punchy. Maybe so, I don't know, to me it sounds "clean" or maybe it's because it sounds like what I want a preamp to sound like without a lot of artificiality,lol? Punchy and warm like a tube can be, without the noise and sometimes compressed sound.
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/API512C/reviews
I don't think I've ever seen a bad review for API, which is very unusual. It's also unusual that a value for the money person like myself would have found the API gear to be a good bang for the buck choice,lol! Much has to do with the rack and power supply system if you need other modules for a channel strip, but it also gives you choices, like you don't have to buy every module at once, you don't have to buy every module, and you don't have to buy a power supply and rack for every module you buy. If you only need say 1 mic preamp, you don't have to buy 2. I did have a lunch box with (2) 550b eq modules, because the 200 series didn't yet have any eq's, but I tweaked every which way and didn't find any better sound and never used them so I sold them. :o I never did buy any of the 200 series eq's, because I don't think I need them.

The 500 series has so many choices these days. About anyone who is anyone has modules. Not that I'd ever feel the need for anything else,lol, but it's available. Also, you could purchase a large selection of different preamps, compressors, eq's, whatever and swap them out and around, how cool is that??
http://vintageking.com/outboard/500-series

500 Series Preamps (112)
500 Series Equalizers (87)
500 Series Dynamics (85)
500 Series Channel Strips (6)
500 Series Racks (35)
Other 500 Series Modules (40)

http://vintageking.com/outboard/500-ser ... rder=price
There are several used API 512C for $695,
pair that with the used rack and ps for $325
http://vintageking.com/vintage-king-rac ... k-932-used
$1,020
or a 3 slot new for $350
http://vintageking.com/radial-engineering-powerstrip
$1,045
It's a little over the 3 digit price. But just think how many more and better choices you'll have in the future when you search for a 3 digit priced compressor, or eq, or...
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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Kolstad » Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:37 am

There's little to go on here, Matt.

What are you looking to record with it?
Is it for a home studio, a project studio with clients or?
What type of sound ideal(s) do you have (what type of music do you like)?
What have you been using up till now, and why are you looking to upgrade?

It's easier to give you pointers, if we have more to go on. Folks here have all kinds of experiences they can share.

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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Lipskimusic » Fri Dec 30, 2016 10:53 am

Hi Kolstat!

I am looking for a general upgrade to the built-in preamps of my Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, specifically for Vocals and AC Guitar. Over the last 2 years I have focussed on room treatment, new monitors and quality mics and I would now like to further develop my studio. For the time being one channel would be sufficient to start with and I am therefore looking for a good 'bang for the buck' - ideally, allowing for a variety of sounds (I understand the Warm Audio is a good candidate in that respect).

I hope this is helpful.

Cheers,
Matt

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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Len911 » Fri Dec 30, 2016 1:52 pm

Matt, I'm gonna play devil's advocate! :twisted:

You seem to be drawn to the Warm Audio TB12. Let's compare the 500 series. $549 @ sweetwater. The API 512C used $695 @ Vintage Audio. $146 difference.

The TB12 tries to emulate the API in some respects, while offering extras like nickel transformers, various caps, to give a lot of tweakability and versatility in tone. Sounds good so far. Imagine having all those options in an actual API preamp, the ability to swap out components and totally detune the circuits. Do you have anything better or just different tones that are a total mess?

http://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/war ... tone-beast
~ Both its Gain & Saturation and Tone Control sections can transform the preamp into a saturation generator, with a sonic scope ranging from extremely subtle coloration to the wildest fuzz sounds. Really, fuzz in a preamp? Stomp box okay, maybe before or after a fine preamp??
~ Usually, this kind of technology can only be found in units costing two or three times as much as the TB12. Always a red flag! ;)
~But while the TB12 has all the ingredients typically associated with such 'colour', such as the transformers, Tantalum caps and discrete op-amps, please don't think that using any of these options will drastically change the sound in any given situation. In many use cases these variations remain very subtle, and will only be audible to the critical listener.
~capable of turning this microphone preamp into a hefty distortion box. Again, in a mic preamp??

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/reviews ... -tb12.html
~I found the Tonebeast to be quite versatile indeed, but to also definitely have its own character. At more moderate settings I could dial it in to where I found it compared favorably with my favorite vintage API 312, although it was not quite as dynamic, had a bit more mids, and a little bit leaner lows. When put up against a vintage 1073, the Warm was again leaner in the lows, but also made the 1073 sound a little dark, missing just a little bit of the “cut” of the TB12. I also felt the Tonebeast was a smidge less 3D than some of the much more expensive preamps I put it up against, although I never felt it to sound like it was outclassed, even though some preamps were more than six times as expensive.

If you are looking for a stomp box, API Tranzformer GT for guitar or there's one for bass
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/TranZformerGT
https://youtu.be/DXKo72_doyo

I think the last review is particularly telling, because sometimes it's the tiniest of details that really make the biggest difference,(it's usually the difference between semi pro and pro) and especially when it's rounded off with a "preamps more than six times as expensive" (the red flag). It seems the excitement about the Tonebeast is it's tonal variation, the ability to sound like a stomp box! :shock: :? The thing about the API stomp boxes, is that, " the TranZformer GT combines an API 525 feedback-type compressor with a guitar-optimized 3 band equalizer, both independently in/out switchable. The unit also features phase invert switches on each output, ground lift, clip indicator and transformer output." You don't get an eq or compressor, certainly not API ones in the Tonebeast. Going the little extra as a bang-for-the-buck kinda guy, I also search for the values in what I can actually buy something and make something work, like used when it's advantageous, or sale prices in consideration. ;) So the $146 difference between the Tonebeast and a genuine API, is a no brainer for me. Yes I am adding the extra for the powered rack, figuring at some point you will want to add more components, and offsetting the dreadful power supply in the non-500 series version. And in the future, when you decide to add another component in the 500 series, you will be glad that because of the rack purchase, better and cheaper possibilities of totally pro gear are available to you.
~Devil's Advocate :D
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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Lipskimusic » Fri Dec 30, 2016 2:19 pm

Hi Len911,

There are really a number of convincing thoughts in your response... let me ponder for a while :)

But what about the housing for the 500 series? Isn't that quite a substantial additional amount that needs to be factored in?

Cheers,
Matt

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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Len911 » Fri Dec 30, 2016 2:46 pm

http://vintageking.com/outboard/500-ser ... rder=price

There was a used 6 slot for $325, but the link I posted above is dead, and it's not on the new link, so it must have sold. Some start at $350, new ones with 2 or 3 slots, just make sure on any that they have power supply and phantom power included.
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ ... wAodbQMC7g

The sweetwater link has videos on the page.

Something I didn't mention about the API 512C, is that there is also a -20db pad. That allows you to crank up the volume and you can overdrive the output transformers, saturation, that's a difference in tone, retaining the same standard API circuits. The 212L mic pre that I have has it as well, it's not as clean, more saturated tone,lol, it's cool! 8-)
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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Len911 » Fri Dec 30, 2016 3:18 pm

Here is something you might like as a future 500 series addition. A tape emulator with real magnetic tape head??
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/542
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