Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mic Pre to Mic Pre

Just a quick note this time around on the subject of mic pres.  (That always looks weird to me but mic pre's isn't correct.)  Untold thousands of dollars are spent on external microphone preamplifiers. From the pedestrian to the wildly esoteric, they're a great way to add some extra juice to your setup.  I used to keep a Joe Meek Twin Q around to use as a couple classy channels when I was out doing pole speaker gigs with a cheap mixer amp.  Examples abound.

But what most people do wrong when they utilize them has to do with the way they get the audio into their system.  Live or in the studio, if you're using an external pre and you plug it into the line in jack on a channel, you're likely just connecting it to the desk's own mic pre with a pad in between.  That can sound fine and a lot of what goes on in the audio world depends on it sounding fine and who cares how you did it.  So this is maybe more of a word on how to get a different flavor and not a warning about doing something wrong.

To take a line level from an external pre into a desk you should use the line level inputs like the stereo returns.  They may not be set up with the same EQs or other facilities as the other channels though so another route in is the inserts.  If there are separate jacks for send and return, just use the return.  It's a little more complicated if your console uses a single TRS jack so you should do a little research on how to accomplish that with your own particular setup.

Going straight to digital?  That can be a bit of a problem as the inputs on a lot of converters do the same thing as consoles for the line ins.  It may work fine and give you sound you're happy with, but in the case of the interface, you've usually got at least one digital input and a lot of pres come with digital outputs.  Not that one is necessarily better than the other but it's worth a listen.  If your pre has way better A/D converters then you should go with that.  Or it might just be a subtle difference in tonality and you can pick and choose.
At any rate, I just wanted to float that out there and see if I could stir up the creative juices for my fellow Brethren of the Knob and Fader.  Hope you enjoyed the tidbit and if you've got any to share, please drop a line.  Comments and contributions are always welcome.

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