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Readers' Letters: Is it time for the $5 preamp to make a comeback?, and more...

A post by David Mellor
Thursday November 30, 2006
"Is it really possible to get a state-of-the-art mic preamp for just $5. Possibly it is. So why would anyone pay $1000 or more?"
Readers' Letters: Is it time for the $5 preamp to make a comeback?, and more...

In response to Is it time for the $5 preamp to make a comeback?, H.C.D. Studios writes...

While it may be true that you can find a great sounding chip in most cases pres that are based around a chip sound kinda blah. Over time transistors repalced tubes as gain blocks, then ic's were developed to make things smaller and cheeper. I have used every mic pre from $40 tube pre (with ic) boxes to avalon, real vintage Neve, 610 tube, SCA handmade, amek, crane song and the list goes on.

The thing is that all those pre's have a sound of their own. If you open up a behringer box you see lots of chips. While they are functional they sound like shi* compared to say, any of the ones listed above. If you have ever built a SCA (or other kit) pre you can see what goes into a discrete circut.

There is a reason that you pay so much for classic circuts. They have lots of componants and many are hand wired. This whole discussion could go round in circles till we all drop dead. F the gear if the song aint great even a $4500 mic pre won't help. A C12 won't make a great singer it just captures what you put in front of it.

In response to How a record producer assesses a demo recording, Peter Ivanov writes...



Saltriver is a new and exciting alternative rock band from Bulgaria. Diversity is the key word to describe the unique music style and sound of the band. Saltriver was formed by musicians that knew each other from previous projects; Ivan Gatev – vocals ,Peter Iliev – guitar , Emerih Ambil – guitar ,Smilen Slavshtenski – bass and “Mozi” on drums were the founding members of Saltriver in the autumn of 2005. The band recorded four songs in the spring of 2006: “9” ,”Bitter half of me” ,“Nightman” ,”Hey” (the last two entered the Pulserated.com playlist and “Nightman stayed in the top 40 chart for eight months reaching number 2).Shortly after that “Mozi” left the band and they struggled to find a drummer for a while. That led to missing some good opportunities and slowing down some recording sessions. Saltriver found a replacement drummer for the “Tangra Mega Live” festival and that was their only show in the summer of 2006.As it turned out this was for a reason because the band found the perfect drummer for them in the face of Teodor Obretenov – “Tosho”. He joined the band in the autumn of 2006 and his debut gig with Saltriver actually was their first birthday show in a Sofia club. With their new drummer Saltriver recorded three songs in the end of 2006: “Wicked Mind”, “Why” and a new version of “9”. Things started to look up for Saltriver but they still needed the heavy airplay in the local radios necessary for a young band to make it. That came with recording the “Mr. Scarecrow” EP (Mr. Scarecrow, Meaningless ,Time’s Square) with the title song becoming a hit for the alternative rock fans and “Meaningless” always a live show favourite. Actually it was Saltriver’s live performances that generated fans interest at the beginning. Exhaustingly long and energetic their stage acts leave no one standing. In the autumn of 2007 the band recorded two new songs - “What I Need” and what would later be the title of their first album “Tombstone without a name”. Saltriver decided that it was time for their first album so the songs that they recorded for little less than two years all got to be in it. Because of financial difficulties the album is not yet properly released but that didn’t stop the band from playing live. The concert schedule got thicker and Saltriver became one of the most demanded bands in the clubs of Sofia. In the begging of 2008 the video for “Meaningless” was finished and Saltriver were no longer only a radio band. With a few interviews on national television more and more people started talking about Saltriver. But in spite of all the good reviews that their shows got the band was still struggling to find its sound in the studio. So many of their critics were silent when in the on the 9th of April 2008 Saltriver released the “Next Bus To Heaven” EP (Next Bus To Heaven , Smith , Neverlanded).

Right now the band is concentrated on creating some new songs and of course promoting the old ones live.

Contact us: saltriver@saltriverbg.com saltriverbg.com


RP response: Did you miss the audio upload page? Check the link in the menu bar above.

In response to Is it time for the $5 preamp to make a comeback?, Chris writes...

Hello Audio Masterclass,

I love the $5 preamp story. One question, I understand that you had some difficulties powering the unit, hence went with batteries. Do you have any new insight into powering it so I can build one without obtaining an EE degree?

Thank you,


RP response: We used the batteries to solve an immediate problem and in doing so removed a potential variable. You don't need a degree to understand voltage stabilizers followed by heavy capacitative and inductive filtering. It's outside the range of topics of this site for now, but the topic is normally covered in basic electronics text books.

In response to It's music Jim, but not as we know it..., Thomas Mitchener writes...

Yeah, i heard it on that trailer the other night, it really got my attention. Its an interesting concept and I'd love to hear the whole album. Does anyone know if the album is all Jimi Hendrix tracks? or was that just an individual track? Its great to hear these instruments playing a relatively modern piece of music. You get to hear what they are capable of and what sounds you can achieve in a more (relatively) modern context.

I look forward to hearing more, and i bet the recording sessions were really interesting! - Any information about them online?

RP response: Does anyone know any more about this? We would love to hear.

In response to Reader's Comment - Is it cheating to use Auto-Tune?, Brian Cobbold writes...

I believe a vocalist should be able to sing both recorded and live without the assistance of electronics to keep them in tune. To sound great on a cd and then come out for a live show and sound like a strangled cat in my mind is ripping off the fanbase. I have heard that some pop acts actually use these things in a live show. Disgusting! Of course not everyone has 'perfect pitch' or will sound as well live as the likes of Celine Dion, Barbara Streisand, Suzy Bogguss, etc and some are just not very good singers live but can really entertain. Just let's be honest to the listeners. Mind you, do the pop fans care if this happens as long as they can dance and sing along?

In response to The ultimate guide to PC backup and disaster prevention, Simon Perks (Switzerland) writes...

Having experience of this problem , sadly more than once! I have found a system that works for us here .

We have a studio based around a 24trk hard disk machines and Cubase software, the recorded tracks are transfered to the PC.

Works perfectly untill the day that all we get on the computer screen is the "windows can not be started" I tried everything and nothing worked, in the end I took the hard drive to a local computer shop where i learned some eye opening truths.

The sollution for us is a simple program called "Acronis true image" this makes an image of everything - software, programs, data onto DVD or any external storage system.

The program will make regular backups or you can "demand backup" as you go.

This has worked for us, it's so simple to use.

Simon Perks Cloud Chamber Studios Switzerland

In response to Can you really master at home? Take 2..., CJ writes...

I listened to Prammaven. I guess it is ok as far as electronic music goes. I woud comment that it is far easier to produce and master a song that is purely electronic with on or two vocal tracks than a entire song recorded with actual instruments through an analog signal. I know this strays a bit from mastering but i think microphones, placement, recording levels, outboard gear definately play a role in the way your actual master track sounds. Poop in = Poop out, yes? poop is poop. I can talk about poop for days...

In response to Seven pro microphones tested, with audio - THE RESULTS!, Tom Ghent writes...

I'm not surprised to find that mic #4,which was my #1 selection in your original blind test is a Rode NT2. This is a mic which I have used in various patterns with good results on a number of recordings over the last 10 years.This in itself begs referrance to another important point.I have often found that since many mics are optimized for one polar pattern only, that for many applications these particular mics may sound beter than a multi-pattern used in the same pattern on the same vocal or instrument. On the other hand,the multi-pattern mic in a differing pattern may sound better than the fixed-pattern mic. All of this chatter brings foward two important points. One is that due to the differences in one mic to another, the only valid judgement(or test if you prefer) of a given mic, would have to include many variables such as specific placement, selected pattern,acoustic environment,and of course, the sound source itself. The second point here is the importance of owning a good selection of microphones to allow oneself the ability to choose the "right" mic for the job regardless. Audio Masterclass often refers to the differing sound and properties of various types and models (brands etc.)of microphones, and I can't agree more. In conclusion to this may I add that microphone selection, like an artist's choice of various paints and/or brushes, is one of the most important tools to be considered when trying to add colors to your recording canvas. This when used in conjunction with a well trained ear and good studio technique, should substantially help attain great, varied and interesting sonic results....T.G.

In response to Mastering - ignore the advice and throw away the rule book!, Serey Rith writes...

Mastering - ignore the advice and throw away the rule book!

Interesting and encouraging article. From reading the various articles on how to master (and advice that it should be done by a pro), I often wonder how did those pro's become pro's in the first place? I will most definitely fail more often than succeed in trying to master my own music, but my budget (other than a bit of spare time) is next to nothing. I have a very, very basic equipment set up and very primitive (often free) software (e.g. DirectMusic Producer), but the one thing I consider most important is my desire to produce music - making the most with what I have got!

Thank you for the article that offers an alternative view to the norm.

Best regards.

Serey Rith

In response to Why does sound engineering have to be so LOUD?, John Lance writes...

One point not mentioned here is that at times the stage volume contends with the FOH volume. When you are in that gray area where the PA is used mainly to fill in detail it is nearly impossible to establish a mix. Smaller venues would be where this occurs most often. By the time the PA is about 15db louder than the stage volume, you are able to begin effective mixing. This phenomenon which you might think to be common sense, is not understood at all by most people I've come spoken with. In smaller venues it can require some serious compromise overall between musicians on the stage and with FOH. One recent venue I was in the band was at 98db A-weighted all by themselves. We worked it down, but not by much, and the drummer had no concept of dynamic control on cymbals.

RP response: That's true. Could someone perhaps invent an anti-fader?

In response to MP3 or Studio Master - can you tell the difference? With AUDIO!, David writes...

Thank you for the link to Linn, let us know if there are any other sites like this with High res downloads. I find that for casual listening I don't mind higher rate mp3's but, when I've spent a lot of time mixing and then convert to mp3 for a client to sign off on, I always hear the difference right away. I find it much easier to hear the differece in music with more going on, try something like Judith Owen's "Painting by Numbers" the bass, the vocal sibilance...

In response to Engineer producer, Deniz Dogancay writes...

Hi i'm doing my graduate thesis on the subject "Engineer's role as a Producer". I'm going to take a part from the article "Engineer producer" but I need to know the author's name. Can you reply me ASAP. Thank you...

RP response: That would be me, David Mellor. It's an extract from my book 'How to Become a Record Producer'.

In response to The dynamic microphone - why isn't it dead yet?, Michael Russo writes...

This article asks about the dumbest question in recording history. We still use dynamic microphones because they are tools, just like condenser mics, crystal mics, carbon mics, ribbon mics, hammers, screwdrivers, and nails.

Sometimes, I use a hammer to pound in a nail, sometimes, I'll use a screwdriver to drive a screw.

RP response: Damn you're right! We'll stop asking questions about anything and close down Audio Masterclass immediately.

A post by David Mellor
Thursday November 30, 2006 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)