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Old November 27th, 2007, 11:08 PM   #1
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Mic Pre Throwdown

So if I'm saving up for a CMC641, what preamp should I be saving for? I'll be going from the pre to a digital recorder (Zoom H4?).

Ty has suggested the Sound Devices MixPre, which looks great, and is reasonably priced, which is always a plus!

I've also looked at the Earthworks 1021 preamp:
http://www.earthworksaudio.com/36.html

"Like Wire With Gain?" Sweet! Based on the specs, that thing looks incredible. However, it is twice as much as the MixPre.

Is there a lot to be gained by going with the Earthworks, or is it a classic case of diminishing returns?

And, of course, does anyone have any better ideas? :)
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Old November 28th, 2007, 04:06 AM   #2
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Are you going to be stationary with power all the time, or using a sound cart with AC power? I'm a huge fan of Earthworks products...erm, more like the poster child for Earthworks products. I own their studio monitors, 4 sets of their microphones, used when I'm recording music, and not a single product isn't worth every penny. However, unless you can supply 120 VAC, you won't be able to use the Earthworks preamp in the field.

Also consider your proposed chain a minute. You're spending top dollar on a microphone, you're spending top dollar on a pre-amp, then tossing in the Zoom H4. In this scenario, you have an analog signal all the way to the H4, so you have to use the A/D converter in the H4. I don't own the H4, nor have I tested it, but the reports from others indicate that it is good, but not great. Certainly not in the same league as the A/D's from Grace, Sound Devices, Aaton, Zaxcom, etc. My point is, if you're going out on a limb to get awesome sound, and you don't consider the conversion to digital and how that is done, then you're not getting your money's worth out of your microphones or pre-amp. So, think about where the A/D conversion is in the chain, consider how good (or bad) that A/D is and if you can live with it.

For field work, you need something that either runs on batteries (preferred), or that you can power with an external DC source. The Earthworks preamp is designed for studio work where you have power all the time, or for field work where you have access to power (like when I do live concert recordings and have access to AC 100% of the time).

The bottom line is there are several people here on this board who do sound for a living, we all own thousands of dollars worth of equipment for recording, but it's what we do and how we earn our living. We get paid for our equipment either as rental on set, or it's rolled into our day rate, but that's how we afford Scheops, Earthworks, Zaxcom, etc. I would love to recommend Zaxcom wireless to everybody on this board, but the reality is most people aren't going to spend $4,000 each on a wireless transmitter/receiver pair, and based on what the end recording device is, it may not give you a better sound than a $250 Sennheiser G2 unit. Unless you are a full-time sound person, want to be a full-time sound person, or you are just so picky (like most sound professionals are) about your sound, that buying thousands of dollars worth of audio equipment isn't an issue, think about the reality of what you are doing. Just because Ty, Gerry, or somebody else recommends the best for a reason, but it doesn't mean you have get it. It simply means that based on experience and what they do it's the product others are measured against. When shooting video, it's hard to have an external preamp, A/D converter, and recording device that is mobile. That's one of the reasons why the top end field recorders all have XLR connectors that can supply phantom power, or be turned into line level inputs, have great pre-amps and A/D converters, yet can be tossed over the shoulder when needed (while not highly recommended, I have even used the Deva IV over the shoulder without a mixer -- it is the mixer). So, think about all of these things, it's not just about one piece of the pie, but the whole thing that you need to concern yourself with.

Wayne
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Last edited by Wayne Brissette; November 28th, 2007 at 05:11 AM.
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Old November 28th, 2007, 05:50 AM   #3
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Interesting -- thanks very much, Wayne! You've given me a lot to think about.

...What it comes down to is that I want good sound. There seem to be two ways to get it -- hire a pro with the best equipment, or learn as much as I can and buy what I can manage. I can certainly see the value in hiring someone who already has the stuff and the knowledge, but for the way I tend to shoot (fairly run-and-gun, minimal planning), I'd prefer to be able to DIY.

I definitely see your point about juggling a bunch of boxes in the field -- it would make sense to use a single device that integrates everything... To that end, what do you think about the Marantz PMD 660?
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Old November 28th, 2007, 07:04 AM   #4
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Ben.
Wayne put it alot more eloquently than I did (or at least he said what I wanted to relay). but pretty much thats the direction I was headed with my advise on the other post. I think for some one who doesnt intend to make a living at it (for now) doesnt need "industry standards" right away , but there is a way that you can get very satisfactory results with affordable gear (I dont mean cheap gear) , that balance of good gear will make things better for you, but there is no "Magic" piece of gear that you just cant live without or your audio will suck unless you have it. the facts are that people have done alot more with less. I used to be a recording studio elitist, it took me a while to admit to myself that its ok to use an inexpensive piece of gear if it works and to not just say "No it wont work because its not a Vintage tube mega expensive piece of gear" or things like that. Its easy for some of us who own or have owned that level of gear to get into that mind set. in an audio signal chain is only as strong as its weakest link. having an extremely great piece at one end will not make up for having something very mediocre at the other. that would be the equivalent of getting a RED1 and using the lens that comes in one of those 99 dollar flash cameras. doesnt make sense either. talking about your comparison to the RED ( on other post) its the same equivalent here. having 3000 bucks or more in phenomenal audio gear is not necessary to get good audio, it can be done with less, and 99.99 percent of your audience will never know the difference. just trying to save you some cash (while still getting better than average results, and gear worth owning for a long time to come), thats all.
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Old November 28th, 2007, 10:17 AM   #5
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sound devices 702

I'd personally go for the Sound Devices 702.

Going that route, you will have 2 nice preamps, nice A/D converters, and a recorder all in one. The 702 is very easy to power off of AC or DC, very compact, and very reliable.

It will also be easier to deal with an all in one device, rather than two different pices of gear to achieve the same results.
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Old November 28th, 2007, 03:07 PM   #6
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Okay, thanks, Gerry and John! I guess I have to kind of pick one route and go with it.

On the one hand, I hear that I shouldn't trust the A/D in the Zoom H4, but on the other hand, Ty tells me to go straight from a mixer into the HV20...

I don't like the idea of using the HV20 to record audio, if only because of the compression. Feeding the Zoom H4 a really full line signal "seems" like it would be fine -- the A/D doesn't have to deal with a noisy or quiet source... Isn't good A/D is pretty easy these days?

That said, I'd rather carry one box than two. The Marantz 660 seems like the middle ground so far. Unlike a mixer and an HV20, or a preamp and a flash recorder, the Marantz seems geared to doing exactly what I'm doing -- field recording from a condenser mic...
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Old November 28th, 2007, 04:58 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Dewey View Post
I'd personally go for the Sound Devices 702.

Going that route, you will have 2 nice preamps, nice A/D converters, and a recorder all in one. The 702 is very easy to power off of AC or DC, very compact, and very reliable.

It will also be easier to deal with an all in one device, rather than two different pices of gear to achieve the same results.
Yes, but you can't really mix with the 7 series recorders.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old November 28th, 2007, 05:18 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Ben Syverson View Post
Okay, thanks, Gerry and John! I guess I have to kind of pick one route and go with it.

On the one hand, I hear that I shouldn't trust the A/D in the Zoom H4, but on the other hand, Ty tells me to go straight from a mixer into the HV20...

I don't like the idea of using the HV20 to record audio, if only because of the compression. Feeding the Zoom H4 a really full line signal "seems" like it would be fine -- the A/D doesn't have to deal with a noisy or quiet source... Isn't good A/D is pretty easy these days?

That said, I'd rather carry one box than two. The Marantz 660 seems like the middle ground so far. Unlike a mixer and an HV20, or a preamp and a flash recorder, the Marantz seems geared to doing exactly what I'm doing -- field recording from a condenser mic...
If you like Marantz you might want to consider the 670 - I don't have personal experience with either but I recall reading more favourable reviews of it than the 660. Also take a look at the Tascam HD-P2 - good quality and timecode.
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Old November 28th, 2007, 05:39 PM   #9
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Steve, thanks for the recommendations!

Any opinions about the Marantz 670 vs the Tascam HD-P2?
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Old November 28th, 2007, 05:52 PM   #10
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Or maybe a more fair comparison is the 671 vs the HD-P2?
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Old November 28th, 2007, 06:34 PM   #11
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I'm hearing a lot about the Oade upgrades... His prices are the same as B&H -- any reason NOT to get his preamp upgrades?
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Old November 29th, 2007, 04:49 AM   #12
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I'm hearing a lot about the Oade upgrades... His prices are the same as B&H -- any reason NOT to get his preamp upgrades?

I don't have any direct experience with them but they do have a good reputation.
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Old November 29th, 2007, 05:52 AM   #13
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I'm guessing the mods pretty much void any original warranty. Unless the modder is going to offer some sort of warranty, you're on pretty thin ice if you have a problem after the mod.

Regards,

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Old November 29th, 2007, 08:12 AM   #14
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I'm guessing the mods pretty much void any original warranty. Unless the modder is going to offer some sort of warranty, you're on pretty thin ice if you have a problem after the mod.

Regards,

Ty Ford
Props where they're due to Oade for being up-front that their mods do void the factory warranties - according to their website they offer a 90 day warrenty themseslves to replace the factory one.
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Old November 29th, 2007, 10:29 AM   #15
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I had Doug Oade mod my old SBM-1 years ago and never had any issues with it. I know four people who have had Doug mod their equipment within the last couple of years and nobody has had a single issue with their gear. There was a short period a couple of years back when Doug was having back surgery and couldn't get any new equipment modified, or any repairs done. However, I haven't heard anybody mention any issues recently with getting things done timely.

If you opt to go this route, plan accordingly. Doug only makes the mods after the sale (it's not something kept in stock), so plan on ordering ahead of time.

I will also say that Doug has been doing this for a number of years now on various equipment and generally the modified equipment sounds so much better that it is almost always worth getting done.

Wayne
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