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Three microphones tested on female vocal - should a better preamp have been used?

The recent test of three microphones on female vocal used a Focusrite Octopre preamplifier. Was this a good choice? Should a different preamp have been used?

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For the recent test of three microphones on female vocal, all the mics were put through a Focusrite Octopre preamplifier.

One reader commented, "I still do not know why the Focusrite Octopre was the preamp of choice." Whether this is a criticism or request for explanation is not known.

However, there is usually an explanation for the selection of sound engineering equipment in any particular circumstance. Often it is because the particular item just happened to be there.

So in this case, there happened to be a Focusrite Octopre in the rack; it has eight channels so each mic can be run through an identical preamp. At this point in the decision-making process, the question is, "Is there any reason not to use this unit?" And for me, there was no such reason.

The Focusrite Octopre is a competent transistor preamp. If you check out the manufacturer's specification, you will see adequately low figures for noise and distortion, and a frequency response that is wide and flat. This preamp adds nothing to the signal and takes nothing away.

Clearly there are other options in preamps. It might have been an idea to use a standard console preamp on the grounds that it would be a more relevant 'real world' test. Alternatively a 'boutique' preamp that intentionally colors the sound could have been used.

However, the middle ground of the Focusrite Octopre seemed the best option for this test. I would have been perfectly happy also to use the Focusrite Octopre LE. In fact I recommend this model more highly because it is easier to install into a studio. The Octopre has its outputs on a D-sub connector whereas the LE has jacks.

At this point I would like to invite comments. My questions are these - answer as few or as many as you like...

  • If you do not consider the Focusrite Octopre to be an adequate preamp for this test, please explain why.
  • What preamp would you have preferred for this test (don't worry about the price or rental cost)?
  • What mic/preamp combination would you use as first choice for female vocal?

Any other points are welcome. Hopefully, we will be able to discuss this further in the next couple of weeks.

By David Mellor Monday March 13, 2006
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