Why you might want a preamp, and a few quality ones to check out.
Welcome once again to all! Since we’re focusing on recording as this issue’s main theme, I thought we could dig even deeper into the “Signal Chain” on this particular subject. Recording is probably my overall favorite thing to do as a pastime. At times, I can become a bit obsessed with it, too! I haven’t seen too much discussion in guitar magazines about the crucial importance of the microphone preamp’s role in capturing incredible tones and then translating them to tape, or even to a DAW.
In fact, directly after your choice of microphone(s), the microphone preamp will absolutely dictate what type of sound you’re going to get. In addition to its function as a preamplifier, this piece of equipment is also responsible for imparting a large amount of its own tonal character into the mix. When I listen to any record or CD, I’m always listening to the “front line” (microphone and preamp) because this is where the recording process really begins—that is, of course, apart from all the other components involved… guitars, pedals and amps and such. You do not want to scrimp here or your tone will suffer in a big way!
Most importantly, you do not want to waste valuable time and money buying the cheaper, budget types of microphone preamps, trying one after another until you finally find a good one. Most people wind up going through two or three units before realizing that they could have gotten it right the very first time. That’s exactly why I’m going to give you a brief primer here—to spare you a great deal of aggravation and expense. The object here is to help you reward yourself instead with recordings that you can be proud of, right from the start. Okay, here we go…
One night I was tracking into the wee hours of the morning when I just had to use a guitar amp. None of my various brands of guitar amp emulator software was cutting it for me. What I then discovered was cool: since there was barely any signal coming through the amp, I cranked up both volumes on the Great River unit to compensate for the lack of volume coming from the amp’s speaker. When I took the reverb off the track, it sounded about as wide as the Nile! One other good thing about the ME-1NV is that you can record as many tracks as you want without fear of bottom-end buildup that occurred with some of the earlier seventies-era British preamps. Awesome stuff with a classic seventies sound (albeit much improved here).
Once you enter this door, your job as a recording engineer becomes much easier. This is where you can let the gear help you make better sounds without too much forethought. Just a few good microphones in hand, and you’ll be off on a wonderful trip that might never end. Think guitars are addictive? Believe me, this is an entirely different level of obsession. See you next time.
is the chief designer of "Snake Oil Brand Strings" (sobstrings.net) and has had a profound influence on the trends in the strings of today.