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what does a microphone preamp really do?

  1. #1

    Arrow what does a microphone preamp really do?

    does it help your vocals sound that much better? because i rap.. and i have a shure and us 122 but am not satisfied with the sound... would a preamp help that much? i have bassy voice if anyone has and suggestions that would be great.. thanks

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  3. Re: what does a microphone preamp really do?

    Well, the main purpose of the preamp is to boost a mic's electronic signal up to line level. Other than that, they have other features like polarity flips, gain adjustments, etc. Some preamps are tube preamps, which generally alter the sound of to what people think is awesome (just because it came through an expensive preamp.

    My advice to you: Check out the Preamp Shootout. Download the files. Listen to them (Oh, I guess you can read the article too). Let me know if you can tell the difference. what's that? You can tell the difference between the tracks? Well, then which one is the track that used the most expensive preamp.

    If you are too lazy to do this, or if you find my longwindedness annoying, I'll get to the point and answer your question:
    In fact, I don't even own an individual preamp, and I don't intend on buying one until I have more mic stands, my ideal soundcard, some new mics, decent studio monitors, and an acoustically treated room. That's what Brandon (admin, real audio engineer that works with real bands, cool guy too) told me. Thus far, he hasn't steered me wrong.

  4. Re: what does a microphone preamp really do?

    Oh, I guess I should actually help you get satisfied with your sound? Can you be more specific with your gear? Like more specifics on the mics (brand and Model, like what shure mic and who makes the US 122), your recording sound card, software, etc. And what don't you like about your current sound? Is your bassy voice showcased too much or too little (like too much bass in the sound or too little)?

  5. #4

    Re: what does a microphone preamp really do?

    If your voice is coming through excessively bassy in your recordings, have you tried getting back a bit from the mic? Small differences in how close you get to the mic will change the low end dramatically. That's what I've seen anyway. I've only been at this a short while but I recommend playing with different distances away from the mic to see if that makes it sound less bassy. once you're far away enough that it is no longer so bassy, what other problems remain? Are you using a pop filter (only needed for condenser I believe but you didn't say which type of mic you're using)?

    As far as what the preamp does, it amplifies the mic signal to a point where it can be run through an A/D and subsequent processing so that the noise levels associated with those operations become very small compared to the signal. People speak of SNR (signal to noise ratio) sometimes. Basically the preamp makes the "signal" part bigger. Of course it also amplifies whatever noise is in the unamplified signal, and also adds in whatever noise the preamp itself contributes. But if the incoming signal is good and the preamp has good fundamental SNR capability, then at least the SNR won't be degraded appreciably by downstream processing.

    But in a nutshell I'd look at the proximity effect (how close you are to the mic) before ditching your preamps in favor of newer and more expensive ones.

    Try recording a 10 or 20 second bit the way you normally do and then do it an inch farther away, then another inch farther away, then another. Then rewind and play back and see if you like the sound of any of those better.

    Good luck.

    Last edited by Charlie_M; 06-10-2007 at 08:00 AM.

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