Adventures In Audio
Why do mic preamps sound different?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

Saturday October 8, 2005
FREE EBOOK DOWNLOAD ►

Let's be honest, designing a microphone preamplifier is not rocket science. In fact rocket science isn't even rocket science - just mix the fuel and the oxidizer and set light to it. WHOOSH!

The fundamental job of a microphone preamplifier is to take the signal from the microphone which is low in voltage and not all that strong in current, and convert it to the kind of voltage and current capability required by the mixing console or recorder.

There is nothing that isn't known about microphone preamplifiers, and a designer who makes a bad one is either a poor designer, has to work to a tight budget for components, or is doing it on purpose for some kind of marketing reason.

All properly designed microphone preamplifiers, when used correctly and within their limitations, sound so similar to each other that even bats can't tell the difference. Certainly, any residual differences are orders of magnitude less than the differences between microphones. However, this doesn't necessarily tell the whole story. Preamplifier designers sometimes don't consider the way in which their products are used in the real world, which might be quite different to what they consider 'correct' practice. And then there is the feeling that a mic preamp perhaps should not be entirely accurate, but should purposely be designed to color the sound in some way.

This special feature was inspired by comments by ace designer Ted Fletcher - www.tfpro.com

Like, follow, and comment on this article at Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram or the social network of your choice.

Come on the Audio Masterclass Pro Home Studio MiniCourse - 60 great hints and tips to get your home recording studio MOVING

It's FREE!

Get It Now >>

How to choose the best key for your song

What is comb filtering? What does it sound like?

NEW: Audio crossfades come to Final Cut Pro X 10.4.9!

What is the difference between EQ and filters? *With Audio*

What difference will a preamp make to your recording?

Watch our video on linear phase filters and frequency response with the FabFilter Pro Q 2

Read our post on linear phase filters and frequency response with the Fabfilter Pro Q 2

Harmonic distortion with the Soundtoys Decapitator

What's the best height for studio monitors? Answer - Not too low!

What is the Red Book standard? Do I need to use it? Why?

Will floating point change the way we record?

Mixing: What is the 'Pedalboard Exception'?

The difference between mic level and line level

The problem with parallel compression that you didn't know you had. What it sounds like and how to fix it.

Compressing a snare drum to even out the level

What does parallel compression on vocals sound like?

How to automate tracks that have parallel compression

Why mono is better than stereo for recording vocals and dialogue

Clipping and compressing a drum recording to achieve an exciting sound texture

What can we learn about room acoustics from this image?

Can you hear the subtle effect of the knee control of the compressor? (With audio and video demonstrations)

What is the best studio microphone?

What is the Neve sound? (Using the Slate Digital FG-73)

What is the difference between recording, mixing and mastering?