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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Top 10 Mic Preamps

Mic preamps are an essential part of recording and many of us tailor our tracking and overdubs around what's available. I've been asked a lot lately what my favorite mic preamps are, so I thought that todays post was a good time to do that.

John Hardy M-1 image
Hardy M-1
1. Hardy M-1 - My all-time favorite, you can't beat the clarity and transparency with just a hint of color. When I think of the Hardy, the word "power" comes to mind in that everything recorded with it sounds powerful.

2. API 212/3/12/512 - In my mind, API is the sound of rock. It can be gritty and aggressive sounding in a good way. A big favorite on drums and guitars.

3. GML 8302/04 - When I want clean, deep and round, this is the one I'd reach for. I was lucky enough to do several albums on a GML console. The sounds were almost instantly great without working too hard.

4. Shadow Hills GAMA - A very versatile amp with lots of different sounds, it can almost be a combination of the above 3.

5. Great River MP-2NV - To me the MP-2NV is like a better sounding Neve 1073. When you want that sound, this is a good way to go.

AMEK Angela 2 image
AMEK Angela 2
6. AMEK Angela/2500 - Very underrated audio gear in general, AMEK preamps sound like a more modern English console (which they are), but better than the typical SSL. Big and round with a touch of aggressiveness. The EQs were great too.

Universal Audio 8110 image
Universal Audio 8110
7. Universal Audio 8110 - It's a shame this one isn't made any more. It's 8 channels of versatility in that you could make it sound a number of different ways, but it always sounds great.

Presonus M80 image
Presonus M80
8. Presonus M80 - Here's another one that's no longer made. The M80 is 8 channels of very high quality sound that's more on the level of the previous preamps than you'd normally expect. Presonus says there are parts in it that they can't get anymore. What a shame.

9. Trident A-Range - The "Trident" sound to me is sort of like a British version of the API. Very rock and roll and aggressive. Other Trident consoles like the TSM and Series 80 had good sounding preamps with the same general sound, but the A-Range is the best of the bunch. I've had the pleasure of working on several of them over the years.

10. Golden Age Project Pre-73 - Talk about bang for the buck, the Pre-73 gives you a reasonable facsimile of a Neve 1073 for a lot less money (about $350). I bought one as a gift for an assistant and was so impressed that I bought one for myself.

There are plenty of others that I've tried and liked, and lots more that I haven't tried yet. I'm still of the mind that there are other factors that are more important when getting sounds (like the player, the instrument and mic placement), but having a great preamp can certainly make your job easier.

What are your favorite mic preamps?

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jon said...

Yay I'm glad the Golden Age pre 73 made this list. It's just got such a good quality for the price!

German said...

That´s nice about the Golden Age pre 73. The problem with this kind of equipment is how much durability they have.
Is the same about your publication about mics.
Anyway, if it sounds right and likes it, it´s fine!

Yohami said...

Try the NPNG! kind of like the Hardy

No love for Neve?

Anonymous said...

Api 512c

Matt said...

Wonderful list all are great in my opinion.

Unknown said...

I agree with your list and add the Warm audio lineup as API alternatives, the slate FOX gives you both the Neve 1073 and GML flavor and the Classic API Heider Mic pre is fantastic. Also the. Neve 1073 LB and AEA RPQ500 both very good, Tonelux are excellent, and, of course the Focusrite ISA sound great. So many good ones, even at affordable prices. For money is no object, the Moon 3500MP is WOW!

Unknown said...

My favorite are the Avalon and Manley preAmps. Extraordinary sounding gear. The TOFT ATC-2 is nice too.


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