Tubepre

While amp bias sounds good, I have been messing with the idea of running a small tube pre before running my guitar into my audio interface just to add some warmth to my tone, would this give me warmth or overkill?

Comments

  • wimwim
    edited December 2018

    I’m being serious. It can go both ways. There’s no canned answer for that. It depends on the source, the preamp settings, and the preset you’re playing into. If you can borrow one to try before buying that’s the best way to find out.

  • You will probably try everything you can think of over time to improve your sound. That's part of the fun.

    You haven't even started asking about Amp Simulators and FX Rigs.

    A million small decisions await you.

    What Tube Preamp are you considering?

  • To get a good sounding tube pre you are up for some serious bucks.
    Cheap tube preamps give you cheap sounds

    Better to look for a discrete mic preamp - that's when you will get great guitar tones.

    Warm Audio make a really good Neve knockoff (WA12?).
    Get one of these and you have a great sounding DI - and a very good mic preamp.

    Discrete is where it is at (IE: Neve & API /etc)

  • edited December 2018

    Couldn’t see how to delete post

  • @Jdolecek48 said:
    While amp bias sounds good, I have been messing with the idea of running a small tube pre before running my guitar into my audio interface just to add some warmth to my tone, would this give me warmth or overkill?

    A tube is an active electronic element - it doesn't generate any 'warmth' on it's own, except by the heater. ;)
    You have to consider the whole circuit design, in which transformers and capacitors have much more influence than the tube itself.
    The main aspect of BIAS is the reaction to input volume, which is quite different from pure analog circuits. I have an old Boss ME-5 (actually a bunch of their analog pedals on a single board) which performs much smoother with the guitar's volume knob - and adds some 'snappyness' to the tone.
    Starting at about 50 bucks it's a nice alternative to the software emulated sound.

    My favourite real tube amps are vintage Watkins (no idea about prices), but you'll need the location and mic to capture the sound.

  • @Telefunky said:

    @Jdolecek48 said:
    While amp bias sounds good, I have been messing with the idea of running a small tube pre before running my guitar into my audio interface just to add some warmth to my tone, would this give me warmth or overkill?

    A tube is an active electronic element - it doesn't generate any 'warmth' on it's own, except by the heater. ;)
    You have to consider the whole circuit design, in which transformers and capacitors have much more influence than the tube itself.
    The main aspect of BIAS is the reaction to input volume, which is quite different from pure analog circuits. I have an old Boss ME-5 (actually a bunch of their analog pedals on a single board) which performs much smoother with the guitar's volume knob - and adds some 'snappyness' to the tone.
    Starting at about 50 bucks it's a nice alternative to the software emulated sound.

    My favourite real tube amps are vintage Watkins (no idea about prices), but you'll need the location and mic to capture the sound.

    Nice, another ME-5 fan! I have 3. ;)

    A friend has a little WEM/Watkins combo that is seriously amazing. Fane speaker.

  • @McDtracy said:
    You will probably try everything you can think of over time to improve your sound. That's part of the fun.

    You haven't even started asking about Amp Simulators and FX Rigs.

    A million small decisions await you.

    What Tube Preamp are you considering?

    Art tube mp

  • It's not a tube preamp in the classical sense of the word - the tube probably works as a distortion stage after a transistor/opamp input.
    But at least the input is discrete (built from single transistors) and you hardly can DIY for the same amount of cash ;)

  • edited December 2018

    @Jdolecek48 Impedance is the enemy with improving electric guitar to software modelers tone. The Hi z inputs in the audio interfaces most of us use just don't do that good a job with the high impedance. IMO, the best investment for that purpose is a good DI.

    They describe the art tube mp as a DI alternative for guitar/bass, so it might help. Thing is, at that price, I seriously doubt that it will be that big an improvement over whatever impedance matching circuit is in your audio interface.

    If you have DIY electronics skills, I highly recommend the Bo Hansen DI. That's what I use (I made the cheapest build, with the OEP transformer. (Here's info on the builds and different transformers: http://www.hansenaudio.se/techpage.htm For tons of info on builds and materials, this thread is the place - Bo Hansen himself answers question on there regularly: https://groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=36569.0). It makes a night and day difference compared to the high z input in my Scarlett 2i4. The OEP is a sub 20$ transformer, whereas the Lundahl is 80$+. The OEP has a tiny bit more distortion in the low end, which you might actually - it warms up the tone a little bit.)

    From the research I've done before building that DI (about 2 years ago), I wouldn't expect that huge an improvement from cheap commercial DIs unless you're willing to shell out for something like a countryman 85 or better.

    Here's a head to head between the countryman 85 and a Bo Hansen OEP build:
    https://www.gearslutz.com/board/gear-shoot-outs-sound-file-comparisons-audio-tests/770493-countryman-85-vs-bo-hansen-di.html

    It's really worth listening through shootouts like these to get an idea of how big a difference DIs can make:
    https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/direct-box-comparison-bass-guitar/
    https://gearshoot.com/reviews/direct-box-di-shootout-review/
    https://gearshoot.com/shootouts/preamps

    The gearshoot tests are starting with pre-recorded audio, so they won't give you an idea of what the DIs will do if you plug into them before your audio interface. But they are a really thorough source for comparing DIs to each other. The shootout/preamp page allows you to select a loop and compare the initial version to the result after running the audio up to 5x into different DIs.

    The Sweetwater shootout uses bass, but it's still a helpful reference for guitar IMO.

    If you have an even bigger budget there are tons of nice options.

    @Mayo Are you sure going down the mic pre route will give as much bang for buck as going for a great DI?

  • @ohwell - most good mic-pre's these days have good DI with it (like the warm audio one)

    If budget is tight, I would consider a really good DI instead of a mic pre/DI.
    The Radial DI's are also great quality - and they sound really good.

    A really good DI will make a huge difference when using amp sims, as the DI will give you a clear detailed sound for the amp sims to react to.

    I built two DI's by purchasing 2 X ART passive DI's, opened them up, threw out the tiny crap transformer, soldered & hot glued in a $70 Jensen transformer. Ive been using these for decades for guit and bass duties. Great sound.
    (on my synths also - and even my iPad at times).
    Cinemag make top DI transformers too.

    I would get a good quality DI over the Art Tube any day.
    Yeah check out the DI comparisons, and you will hear the huge difference in DI quality.

  • edited December 2018

    Real tube pre + power amp sim + impulse responses is the best setup, ubless you want a real miced speaker ofc. Do note that mic pre is completely different than guitar pre. You want guitar pre

  • edited December 2018

    @Mayo Sounds to me like you're thinking high end mic pres, so orders of magnitude more expensive than that the OP had in mind. We're on the same page though. (BTW, for the kind of money involved with high end mic pres, I wonder if there's something to be said for something like one of the UAD interfaces with unison technology instead if the primary use is guitar.)

    Yeah a nice Jensen or Cinemag will definitely do wonders to improve a circuit with a crappy trafo.

    If the OP wants to go that route, I'd still recommend going for a circuit like the Hansen. The OEP build is relatively cheap (can be easily kept under $50 depending on the box used, closer to 75 if you want to use a nice PCB and a nicer box) and very good. Add about 50 more if you want a Lundahl, which the design was optimized for. Even that that price it remains among the best bang for buck you'll find for DIs. (In the US, the Lundahl supplier I know of is http://www.kandkaudio.com/prices/)

  • edited December 2018

    @ToMess said:
    Real tube pre + power amp sim + impulse responses is the best setup, ubless you want a real miced speaker ofc. Do note that mic pre is completely different than guitar pre. You want guitar pre

    Really depends on what you're trying to achieve, on your budget and on the quality of the preamp and amp sim. Using a preamp for drive before going digital also has downsides - goodbye flexibility.

    Personally, I don't know of any tube preamp that is good enough to beat something like the preamps in Thermionik and that doesn't cost waaaaayyyy more than e.g. a Countryman 85.

  • @Jdolecek48 said:

    @McDtracy said:
    You will probably try everything you can think of over time to improve your sound. That's part of the fun.

    You haven't even started asking about Amp Simulators and FX Rigs.

    A million small decisions await you.

    What Tube Preamp are you considering?

    Art tube mp

    I have one of these. It’s OK, but mine adds some hiss that I don’t like. It’s an older model, so maybe they’ve improved the circuitry over time.

    It’s been awhile. Maybe I’ll pull it out of the closet and give it a try tonight.

  • @ToMess said:
    Real tube pre + power amp sim + impulse responses is the best setup, ubless you want a real miced speaker ofc. Do note that mic pre is completely different than guitar pre. You want guitar pre

    They're not so different really. My REDD47 is basically the preamp section from a VOX AC...

    A lot of the tube pres in old tape machines are like 2 steps away from being a guitar preamp.

    As far as ART tube pre goes... don't bother.

  • edited December 2018

    @BroCoast They’re “not different” past the point where the impedance is being fed to the core gain stages. But as I gather you know from your other posts, 2000$ + mic pres usually contain entirely separate front ends for hi z and mic signals. I’d be curious to know how different the REDD47’s hi z front end is from the front end of the lovely 750$ REDDI.

    There’s a reason why DIY builds for these kinds of preamp circuits easily run in the multiple hundreds.

    In the meantime, blame Leo for doing such a good job designing the stone age hi z cage the guitar world is still stuck in!

    The radial JDI @BroCoast recommends in another thread is another solid option besides things like the countryman 85 if you don’t want to go the DIY route.

  • @ohwell said:
    @BroCoast They’re “not different” past the point where the impedance is being fed to the core gain stages. But as I gather you know from your other posts, 2000$ + mic pres usually contain entirely separate front ends for hi z and mic signals. I’d be curious to know how different the REDD47’s hi z front end is from the front end of the lovely 750$ REDDI.

    There’s a reason why DIY builds for these kinds of preamp circuits easily run in the multiple hundreds.

    In the meantime, blame Leo for doing such a good job designing the stone age hi z cage the guitar world is still stuck in!

    The radial JDI @BroCoast recommends in another thread is another solid option besides things like the countryman 85 if you don’t want to go the DIY route.

    The REDDI is a very basic and very good design. A single (6N1P) dual triode tube and a big OT. I've been meaning to build a clone, but that is low on the list of priorities.

    The REDD47 just taps directly into the first (EF86) tube stage. Most DI inputs on tube mic pres do this, but some have additional circuitry.

  • edited December 2018

    @BroCoast I see, hence your point that it’s basically an AC30 preamp. So with these early tube preamp designs (and modern replicas), the mic impedance is the “problem” requiring extra hoops?

    We got sidetracked. ;) You second recommending a quality di that breaks ground loops to the op? I was suggesting the Bo Hansen + OEP trafo for a nice diy budget option, or something like countryman 85 for pre built.

  • edited December 2018

    @ohwell said:
    @BroCoast I see, hence your point that it’s basically an AC30 preamp. So with these early tube preamp designs (and modern replicas), the mic impedance is the “problem” requiring extra hoops?

    We got sidetracked. ;) You second recommending a quality di that breaks ground loops to the op? I was suggesting the Bo Hansen + OEP trafo for a nice diy budget option, or something like countryman 85 for pre built.

    Yes to all. ;)

  • Ok so no tube pre forme

  • @ohwell said:

    @ToMess said:
    Real tube pre + power amp sim + impulse responses is the best setup, ubless you want a real miced speaker ofc. Do note that mic pre is completely different than guitar pre. You want guitar pre

    Really depends on what you're trying to achieve, on your budget and on the quality of the preamp and amp sim. Using a preamp for drive before going digital also has downsides - goodbye flexibility.

    Personally, I don't know of any tube preamp that is good enough to beat something like the preamps in Thermionik and that doesn't cost waaaaayyyy more than e.g. a Countryman 85.

    You can get plenty of flexibility with real pre and it sounds much more natural for distorted tones than preamp sim. Software cant do proper tube distortion, simple as that. Or well, axe fx 2 is scary close to real thing.
    There are quite a few decent and tons better than bias etc guitar tube pre stomp boxes for like 150-250€. I have one from mesa boogie

  • edited December 2018

    @BroCoast said:

    @ToMess said:
    Real tube pre + power amp sim + impulse responses is the best setup, ubless you want a real miced speaker ofc. Do note that mic pre is completely different than guitar pre. You want guitar pre

    They're not so different really. My REDD47 is basically the preamp section from a VOX AC...

    A lot of the tube pres in old tape machines are like 2 steps away from being a guitar preamp.

    As far as ART tube pre goes... don't bother.

    Mic pres are not usually made to distort the sound, but to give it some warmth and punch and often dont break up as nicely than guitar pres. Guitar pre is usually quite different from mic pre.
    Most the time mic is like a clean tube pre that usually doesent distort in that pleasing way compared to guitar pre

  • edited December 2018

    I have not used Bias on iPad, so take my opinion in that context.
    A real tube pre before Bias desktop, I don't think it will make an important addition to the quality of the sound. Nothing, messing with Bias settings couldn't convincingly do.

    I have a number of rack pre-amps, tubes and otherwise that I sometimes use for various instruments. But I have owned those largely for a dozen years and I would frankly not buy them new at this point because the software has come so far.

    I still keep and use them for the simple reason that they all have dual outputs allowing me to have a near zero latency recording/monitoring setup. And they sound nice. And I'm used to them. And it saves me time that I might mess with crap in the box toward diminishing returns.

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