Microphone Preamp

There are several factors one must take into account when undertaking a recording project and the most important one is whether or not you can actually sing or play an instrument well. Beside this, there are many factors of the equipment variety that will have quite a lot to say in the final sound of the recording. One such crucial factor is the microphone preamp.

Obviously, the quality of the instruments, the amps, the recording room and the equipment that you’ll be doing the recording and later the mixing with are all important, but possibly not as important as the preamplifier. Basically what a preamplifier does is to boost the signal it receives up to a standard level where it can be captured by any recorder and it’s very easy to set up to either your mixer or audio interface.

The problem is that the process is not that simple and there’s a full-on debate between recording professionals as to which type of microphone preamp is better suited for one particular situation or another. Unfortunately, unlike the professionals, the beginner won’t be able to afford getting several preamps so he or she can experiment with them, not to mention all the added expense required for all the other equipment like converters, microphones or room treatment. So in this case it is important to know how to get good sound quality without the help of only a moderately priced preamp and this means that you need to know proper singing or playing techniques on the one side and what your microphone preamp does on the other.

Some microphone preamplifiers fall into the category of keeping things very simple; all they do is to amplify the signal and that’s it while other preamp bombard the user with a multitude of knobs that control compressors, limiters and whatever else the manufacturer thought of including in the box.

Regardless of what they offer it is crucial to understand what preamps do and how they work. The main job of the microphone preamp is to apply gain to the microphone signal. In a best case scenario a preamp would do this without adding any noise of its own and you can tell if a preamp is of low quality if it piles on a lot of hiss and hum when you raise the gain to sixty decibels; with a hi quality preamp the hiss will be extremely faint, barely audible.

One other feature that any microphone preamp should have is phantom power. This is basically a way of powering condenser microphones without the use of any other extra cables or plugs and if you use condenser microphones then you will need phantom power. The most common requirement for phantom power is +48v, but pay attention to this because some inexpensive preamps out there only offer +30v and this means that some condenser microphones will not perform as well as they can.

Microphone preamplifiers also come in different configurations as to the actual number of preamp it contains. There are some that feature only one mono preamp and this is enough if one chooses to record one track at a time; there are also preamp units that contain dual microphone preamps which make them ideal for recording with two microphones in stereo, and from there on there are preamps with four or more preamps in the same box. While recording the whole band at the same time will require at least one preamp for each member, the drummer sometimes requiring three or more and an acoustic guitar two, the beginner who has a very strict budget should consider a dual channel preamp because it allows for both mono voice recording as well as stereo capability.

This Microphone Preamp Review is Written/Updated on May 23rd, 2010 and filed under Consumer Electronics. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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