Studio Gear

Do I need a Mic Pre Amp?

By June 13, 2019 December 7th, 2019 5 Comments
Focusrite ISA 428 mic pre-amp
You need big pockets for this!

Do I need a Mic Pre-Amp? A question I am often asked, and one that can give two different answers depending on who you speak to.

I have created voiceovers both using a Mic Pre-Amp and without, and to be honest I don’t really see the need for them! Shock! Horror! I imagine that above comment will really upset some audio techno folk! But I’ll try and explain a little my reasoning….

Scarlett 2i2 2nd Gen mic pre-amp
Scarlett Solo Pre Amp – the one I use

As long as you have a decent audio interface, something with Phantom Power (I use a Scarlett Solo) then you don’t need a pre-amp.
Your fabulous condenser microphone will work with your trusty old computer.

Why would you want one?

  • Noise Gate Function – yes most mic preamps come with some form of Noise Gate. People think the old noise gate will sort out their noise floor issues and turn your bedroom into a Professional Recording Studio.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. A noise gate will work pretty well but only if your noise floor is already very low (something like -50db) anything higher and it can sound very un-natural.
BUT most audio editors and DAWs have a perfectly adequate noise gate function, so why the hardware version?

  • HPF – high pass filters work by effectively blocking low end frequencies and generally we can’t hear these anyway. Most software packages have this feature.
  • EQ – Most pre-amps allow you to tweak some of the frequency range, yes this can make you sound great but software allows you to do this too.
  • GAIN – just turn up the gain on your audio interface.

Now, I’m not totally against the use of mic-preamps, I own one.
BUT if you are trying to create a vocal booth on the cheap then you really don’t need one. Everything can be replicated with your Audio Editor or DAW.
I’d personally spend the money you would save on a pre amp into making your recording space quieter!

(Hint! This is the most important bit, not mic, not computer, not fancy hardware)

I still want a Mic Pre-Amp, recommend one please!

I have a DBX 286S, and if you really had to buy one for voice work, then I would suggest this one.
I’ll probably do a review of it at some stage and I have one myself here, but generally I set it to ‘BYPASS’.

DBX 986S mic pre-amp
DBX 286S – I use this plus they use it in my radio station as well so it must be pretty good!

I just love recording my voice as is, then playing around with my Audio Editor to get it sounding just right.

Perhaps I’m wrong, who knows!

Remember you can hear how my Scarlett Solo Audio Interface sounds by buying one of our jingles! Cheeky plug I know!


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