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What is an external preamp?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by ilovemysr505, Apr 27, 2010.

  1. ilovemysr505


    Sep 30, 2009
    I heard that my M-Audio Fast Track Pro is not powerful enough for bass and I need to have an external preamp. What options do I have? Does a bass equalizer count as a preamp? Sorry I am not well versed in these fields. All insights are appreciated! Thanks!
  2. oerk


    Oct 16, 2009
    The Fast Track Pro does have instrument inputs, so you technically don't need an external preamp to record your bass. You may want to, though, if you want to color your sound before recording. If you want a clean recording of your bass, just plug it in. You can still apply ampsims later.
  3. ilovemysr505


    Sep 30, 2009
    alright! thanks man
  4. cptripps


    Nov 29, 2009
    Coventry RI
    I am building a digital studio based on Sonar 8 and I use a phonic helix 18 ch. firewire board as my interface. Initially I was plugging my bass straight into the board and also taking a mic off the cabinet on a different channel, but the tracks sounded hollow and flat.

    After tinkering with vocal mics, bass, guitar and keys, I finally gave up on the phonic's internal preamps. I did a long search for something to help me out and I ended up buying a pair of Studio Projects VTB-1 preamps. They are a half rack space unit but since I had a pair I bought a mounting plate that allows them to be rackmounted.

    These units have no firewire or USB capabilities but if you already have an interface they are great preamps for the money. They have an internal 12AX7 tube (which I replaced with groove tubes on each unit) and a balance control between dry input and tube saturation. Overall they are not only super quiet but very warm. The difference between this and the Maudio stuff is not even comparable. I paid $135 each so the cost was also fair. To be honest I rarely use any of the tube control and just use them for direct input on the "dry" side.

    Also, they will supply 48V phantom power to mics. They are dead quiet and give your tracks a great clean sound without any additional colorization (other units out there have some "EQ" presets like the ART and Presonus ones, and I couldn't seem to fully bypass that effect when tracking). With these though, You'll wind up with accurate raw tracks.

    Just my 2 cents but for a budget preamp I cant recommend them enough! :bassist:
  5. ilovemysr505


    Sep 30, 2009
    isnt that a mic preamp? are all preamps the same? for guitars and mics?
  6. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Please check out the "preamps explained" article in the FAQ linked in my sig. Mic preamps do usually work for bass and guitar, as long as they have an "unbalanced hi-z" input (AKA "DI" input).
  7. ilovemysr505


    Sep 30, 2009
    thanks! that helped!
  8. cptripps


    Nov 29, 2009
    Coventry RI
    Sorry I took so long to get back to this buy yes bongomania is correct. The VTB-1's have a line input (1/4") on the front and XLR's in the rear. There's a switch too to select what input you want to use.

    If you just want a clean accurate input on-the-cheap, they work well but if you want some colorization they don't do much besides a little tube gain.
  9. uhdinator


    Apr 20, 2010
    There are 2 preamps on the fast track pro and can be used for instruments and Mics
    if you have the "line level" white button pushed in on each channel you will reduce your level (used for sending and external pre amp into the interface)
    They should be out for instrument levels plugged in direct.
    RTFM :rollno:

    Oh............an external pre amp is just that. An external pre amp that does only one thing.........
    takes a mic level, or instrument level and amplifies it up to line level.

    Line level=USA professional audio +4 dBu 1.228 Volts (approximate) 1.737 Volts peak (approximate)
    an unamplified microphone level may be around 1.5 to 70 milliVolts depending on mic
    Although keyboards and guitars do not output at the same level they are usally somewhere between mic and line level. Hence the need for a variable pre amp, also called a trim on consoles.

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