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In The Studio: My Top 10 Mic Preamps

Having a great preamp can certainly make our jobs easier for a number of reasons...
This article is provided by Bobby Owsinski.

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 today’s post was a good time to do that.

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 three.

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.

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.

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

8. PreSonus M80—Here’s another one that’s no longer made. The M80 is eight 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.

Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. Get the The Recording Engineer’s Handbook, Third Edition here.

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