I would greatly appreciate some feedback from some of you seasoned VO folks regarding pre-amplifiers. My basic home studio consists of two USB mics (Blue Snowball & Samson C0-1U), standard desktop PC, and Behringer monitors. I also use Audacity to record & edit my work. Would a pre-amp benefit the quality of my recordings and/or provide me any mixing/editing capabilities I may not have today? If so, can you suggest a relatively inexpensive one that I can cut my teeth on?

Ken Knuckles
Say-What?? Voiceover Talent

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Comment by Youssef on May 7, 2010 at 10:30pm
Hey Ken, how's it going?

I could write on an on about preamps (I've had a boat load over the past two years) but space and time won't allow me...and you'd fall asleep about half way through!

Having said that, a dedicated preamp is certainly something you should at least consider. I have personally owned and used the following:
ART MPA Gold (Now Pro MPA II)...not a true tube preamp, but good for the money (about $300) Recomended
M-Audio DMP3...not bad at all for $160.00! Good if you can't afford anything else
DBX 286A....excellent value, but the compressor section sucks
ART Tube MPA...started smoking and almost burst into flames while recording....enough said!
Presonus Blue Tube DP...another pseudo tube preamp, but pretty good and less than the ART Pro MPA
M-Audio Tampa....couldn't get anything but fuzz out of the darn thing....went back a week later
Summit Audio 2BA-221...my current preamp (along with the TLA-50 Leveling amp)....kicks butt, but it costs over $600.00 new...check Ebay, they sometimes show up hundreds less.

Anyway, three important things to consider are 1) your sound card (I use M-Audio Audiophile 192) 2) a good compressor is worth it's weight in gold (consider the FMR RNC...about 200 bucks I think and quite good)
Finally 3) if you use a condenser microphone you MUST have an ultra quite place to record (I use a treated closet) otherwise, you are wasting your time IMHO!

Good luck and don't hesitate to email me directly if you have further questions.

Comment by Alton (Al) Hoover on May 6, 2010 at 2:05am

So it comes down to a few things:

1 - Your Voice - You of course have to start with that, training and practice.. practice.. practice..
2 - Your Recording Environment - The best equipment is not going to make up for a noisy recording environment or a "lively" room with a lot of ambient sound, all of which your mic will capture.
3 - Your Mic - Finding the right match of a good (non-noisy) mic that compliments your voice and gives you the best recording capture is the next step in that audio processing chain.
4 - Your Preamp - You want a clean preamp without introducing amplification artifacts/noise that also delivers great smooth tone. That's why people pay big $s for a great tube preamp or Class A discrete preamp.
5 - Your Processing Chain - This includes either external compressors, expander/gates, de-essers, high-pass filters, EQ et al or may be part of your DAW software/plugins.
6 - Your A/D converter - You want an A/D converter that provides adequate sampling/bit rate and is supported by the software DAW you want to run/learn.
7 - Software - This is a matter of personal choice, budget and platform (Windows vs Mac OS X). Simpler is better. Unless you are doing multi-track recordings, all the basic tools will do just fine.

Best of luck,

Comment by Ken Knuckles on May 4, 2010 at 10:38am
Thanks Al. Good info to hang onto. One other question, if I upgrade from a USB mic with the other bells & whistles you mention, will I benefit from a much improved recording qulaity? Even in a basic home office?
Comment by Alton (Al) Hoover on May 4, 2010 at 2:48am

Jeff is correct about the USB mics and Preamp/Processors. I've not come across any that interface to a USB mic. That said many of the tools (compressors, expander/gates, de-essers, high-pass filters, EQ et al are available in software plugins. If you are considering an upgrade from a USB mic to a large condenser/XLR, virtually all of these require 48 volt phantom power and use mic-level inputs, so a good preamp/digital interface will be required. Most of the digital interfaces MBox, M-Audio et al have a built-in preamp although there is a reason people use a dedicated preamp. You can spend a little to a lot on a preamp/processor combo.

I personally use a pair of DBX 286A preamp/processors which bang for the buck have a very clean preamp and they include: processor with high-pass, compressor, de-esser, low-freq enhancer, high-freq enhancer, expander/gate, and 48 V phantom power. The DBX 286A also offers the ability to bypass the processing for raw mic recording. These go for between 120-225 (used to new) and I'm very happy with the DBX 286A.

If I could afford anything I wanted I'd buy a pair of Avalon VT737SP's for a tube pre/proc (great sound) or a pair of Avalon M5's or an Avalon AD2022 for pure Class A discrete preamps.

Others will chime in with their faves also.

Best of luck,

Comment by Ken Knuckles on May 3, 2010 at 1:06pm
Thanks very much for your input Jeff, and for your kind words on my website. It was designed by Artist Upgrade who specialize in actor & VO sites. They were extremely great to work with and the cost was very reasonable (roughly $250). The cost includes designing an image & logo for your company if you dont have one, along with purchasing your domain and hosting the site. If you are a member of Edge Studio you will also get a discount. Check it out!
Comment by Jeff Briggs on May 3, 2010 at 12:58pm
Hi Ken,

Great question. There are plenty of good choices out there. I really like my Mbox 2 Mini. It's dead quiet, the controls are super simple but powerful, and it come with Pro Tools. 300 bucks anywhere you go.

Some say Pro Tools is overkill for VO, but with a few clicks you can hide all the music production functions from your screen and leave a nice clean layout. And although I'm just doing single track VOs at the moment, I love the idea of having the potential to produce entire projects with music beds and sound effects as I progress as a VO producer.

If you're running Windows, a lower cost preamp combined with Adobe Audition is also an excellent option.

However the Mbox won't take USB mics, nor will any other preamp that I know of, so you'd have to upgrade your mic too. Hope this helps a bit.

By the way, great website! Who did it for you? Nice demo too.

Take care,

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