I’m starting out by cheating. I’ve never been wound up about preamps. I was conned into buying a Vintech 1272 before I had recorded my first track by some internet jackass. So I’ve known since day #1 that a preamp has never brought a dead person or recording back to life. That talk of preamps diving through skyscraper windows or good preamp aliens coming to protect us from bad preamp aliens is just for Michael Bay forum posts at Gear Prostitutes.
However, I did run into a forum post on a web search for something unrelated and this guy kept going on and on and on about THE PUNCH, THE PUNCH, THE PUNCH of the API 3124. He had a naive youthful exuberance to him. (Ahhhh! ….to be young, dumb, and full of………..shit again SMILEY). I’m imagining a young Ron Howard in that 70s tv “program” saying, “Gee, Tommy Lee. Being married to Pamela Anderson must have been swell.” as Tommy Lee is going to jail for being driven so crazy, so nuts, and so out of his mind, by his completely bonkers princess “trophy wife” he had to resort to old world wife correction techniques.
Another kool aid mustache man at Gear Prostitutes states that same API 3124 “makes recording guitars easy”. [sarcasm]Yeah, kid. Just run your Boss Metal Zone straight through your API and you’ll sound like Guitar God in 90 seconds or less or your money back.[/sarcasm] It always interests me when guys NOT making Meshuggah albums talk about recording guitar being “easy”. I know some 16 year old kids down the street who will challenge him. Some of us are more critical of our own work. Maybe there is something to.. Cocky, Asshole Mixers And Why You Must Be One.
After all the hype of THE PUNCH of the API 3124, I have to say the first time I heard it on my drum close mics it reminded me of the first time my weiner didn’t work. ‘nuf said. (Most of this lack-of-punch was attributed to the skill of the drummer….a typical local studio problem, but it’s clear that I have different ideas of what PUNCH is than the typical reviewer of API preamps.) I can say with certainty that Tommy Lee punched Pamela Anderson a lot harder than API “punched” my kick, toms, and snare. Thank god for Slate Trigger, compression, waveshaping, and all the stupid human tricks I know to create this “punch”! Even with damn good drummers, the additional upper midrange of the API is…… well……it’s a start. It’ll get 4% of that metal drummer stick click attack stuff you need. You are on your own on the other 96%.
I’m not slamming the API preamp. It’s a fine tools that has a specific character that is very handy when you need it, but to think it’s going to make your drums PUNCH, slam, kick, and scream is about like saying a screwdriver is going to get you laid. I can’t even find the correlation between the two. The API is faster and hair more bitey than your typical high end preamp. That kind of review won’t get you into a Michael Bay movie.
Note: I guess it would help if someone could actually define “punch”. Even that is a rarity.
I am of the school of thought that a person with such an inclination to buy a single channel fancy preamp will benefit about 4% over your typical stock preamp. There’s a certain lack-of-cloudiness that’s pretty damn easy to hear on A/B tests between a fancy preamp and a not-so-fancy preamp. I’d say without reservation that the True Systems P-Solo and the Focusrite ISA One get you into that ballpark for 4 or 5 bills, give or take.
Comparison Shop For True System P-Solo
Comparison Shop For Focusrite ISA One
After that, you start paying a hell of a premium for one single subtlety distorting preamp. Don’t kid yourself. That’s what a colored preamp is. Is the Neve 1073 distortion ideal for everything? I can’t answer that, but I have noticed a certain need to have more than one kind of preamp distortion. One ain’t enough.
It’s nice to be able to solve a problem by switching from Preamp A to Preamp B. That requires skipping the new Kia you were going to buy in cash and snagging a rack full of volume knobs and patchbay. It’s a real bummer when you have to pay a zillion bucks for each new distortion and still process the living crap out of tracks and that makes a person wonder what these fancy preamps are doing at all*.
*I guess this is genre dependent.
Just keep that in mind. A preamp is a subtle, subtle bird in almost all cases. A typical person new to recording won’t hear a difference. Your girlfriend or wife WILL NOT hear any more PUNCH from one or the other. The internet has went tabloid-times-two-trillion-crazy pushing the need for crazy priced preamps. I imagine this is mostly confused big dogs with monster tones underestimating their absurd level of skills and overestimating inanimate objects that fit on mic stands and 19″ racks spaces. Maybe it’s just people with $2,000,000 to waste who simply don’t need $2,000 to do all that much. SMILEY
The only time a preamp’s impact isn’t so subtle is when it’s flat out wrong. Run a Roland JP-8080 synth through the DI of the API and your ears will bleed. My experience with certain vocals using a Peluso 251
Anyhow, a person on a budget (or without) is infinitely more empowered by a $400 non-cloudy preamp and a well-used instance of iZotope Trash2. With that a person can move audio mountains. If you want to skip the Ranger bass boat and buy a rack of preamps, knock yourself out, but please don’t confuse home recorders on a budget that this is anything other than excess.
No one simply plugged into X mic preamp and sounded like God. YMMV