Preamps

onioner

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So, I realize this may not be the best place to look for help finding a preamp. I imagine most folks are saying "Preamp? What the hell you need that for?"

Well, I need one for my cello. I'm running a fishman pickup (and may swap to the Realist some time), and desperately need a preamp. I've found that all the ones made by the pickup manufacturers are pretty junky, and from surfing around, it looks like most string players use acoustic guitar preamps, or, at least most violin players do. There are actually some decent ones on the market for upright bass, but not so much for cello. The few decent references I've found say the same as the fiddle/violin players. So, the conclusion drawn is that I should just look at acoustic guitar preamps. I don't need a whole lot of bells and whistles, and I'm happy to use my EQ pedal instead (or in conjunction with) any preamp EQ. I figure that I should get something with a direct line out, and an effects loop. Any input is appreciated.

The LR Baggs seems to be industry standard. That said, I've found many reviews of other products that compare favorably to the Baggs.

The UltraSound Ultra PDI Preamp DI gets good reviews, and comes at a great price. This is currently my favorite.

Oddly, the Fishman preamps don't seem very highly rated.

Finally, a lot of reviewers mention that they end up using their preamp with their electric guitar setup. I'm not sure why. I wonder if it's just a case of having a shiny new toy, and it doesn't do any harm, so why not? Maybe it's actually helpful, and I just don't know why. Any electric players use a preamp?
 

Mookakian

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I use a tube pre-amp to give the SS amp some warmth/life. They are also great for adding gain to your signal but EQ settings can be a nightmare with 2 pre-amps running together. Cant wait to get my twin reverb, then the Mesa V-twin pre amp will serve as backup only.

Great topic for discussion though i think... will be interesting to see what we learn in this thread:thumb:
 

Torren61

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You know... if you run that cello through a Supro Thunderbolt you could pretty much nail Jimmy Page tones. :hmm:
 

Rich

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Most guitar players are looking to color their tone a bit when they shop for a preamp even though most think that they want something "transparent." Electric guitar and even acoustic guitar are funny in that regard, but I would think that with a cello that you'd want either something that doesn't muck with the sound of the pickup or something that gives you the flexibility to tweak the sound of it.

For the least amount of fuss and something that sounds pretty transparent, my vote would go to the Catalinbread Super Chili Picoso; at it's "clean" setting, there is a small bump in lower frequencies, but nothing too crazy. It offers a tremendous amount of gain on tap. I have an older model but the newer version has a "fat" setting that will boost lows. I've never tried it, but another that might be good is the Electro-Harmonix LPB-1.

If you want some tonal control, you could look into some sort of EQ pedal and there are lots to choose from from companies like Boss, MXR, Electgro-Harmonix and others.
 

onioner

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You know... if you run that cello through a Supro Thunderbolt you could pretty much nail Jimmy Page tones. :hmm:
You're getting ahead of me... That is pretty much the end goal here. I want to run my cello through tubes. I'm just not exactly sure how to get the sounds I'm looking for. I figured I should take care of the early end of the signal before I get any further. Hence, preamp. I've got a new EQ and compressor coming, and want to try those out with it as well. For the time being I'm running it through my '57 RI champ, which is most definitely not the right amp for the job. I'm just not sure what that 'right amp' is. This is a lot of unchartered ground. I've spent a good bit of time surfin' for what others have done w/ cellos and preamps, but found very little that's useful. Mostly it's "I do this, but I've never tried anything else," which is damn near useless.

Anyways... heh, I'd love to give a Thunderbolt a shot. My LPs would love it too...
 

onioner

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Damn. Those ARTs are cheap. I was thinking I should avoid a tube preamp right now, just because it seemed more difficult to 'get right' with the cello, but for that price, maybe it's worth a shot. I'm also trying to slowly put together a signal path, and I figured a tube would color the signal a good deal. That said, maybe it's the right sort of color. At $30, it may be worth finding out. No effects loop, but that aint the end of the world.

Oh, and cheers to the Twin Reveb. Love that thing.
 

onioner

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I would think that with a cello that you'd want either something that doesn't muck with the sound of the pickup or something that gives you the flexibility to tweak the sound of it.
Yes, that sounds right.

If you want some tonal control, you could look into some sort of EQ pedal and there are lots to choose from from companies like Boss, MXR, Electgro-Harmonix and others.
I have a Barb EQ coming that I'm gonna try out. It may not be the right pedal for the cello though (bought it for the guitars), as it does add it's own color. I most definitely need some equalization. Cello straight into the Champ = absolutely awful.
 

ext1jdh

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It's not doing a lot of coloring, to be honest. It's more of a boost/gain control. It does warm it up a touch, but not a lot. It is used primarily for vocals but can be used for line level inputs as well. The one I use introduced some noise on my practice PA, but was quiet on my performance board. Go figure.
 

onioner

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A few more notes:

The ART tube MP studio on Musician's Friend has some of stupidest, most poorly written, unhelpful reviews I have ever seen. Even worse, there are a lot of them.

There's a freaking huge price range for preamps. So far I've looked at $30 to $30,000 (doesn't hurt to look...). This is going to be an integral part of my cello setup, so I am willing to spend a bit if it's warranted, though of course, if $30 is gonna get the job done... Abstractly, I'm willing to go a bit over $200 if it really seems like the right product. Right now I'm not sure that's necessary, but I'm not sure that it's not. I certainly haven't ruled out the possibility that the low end is my best move right now.

Towards that end, the ART line does seem interesting. Biggest drawback seems to be that they have their fare share of lemons. I saw a lot of "worked great, until it broke" for just about their whole product line.

ART's Pro Channel Tube Preamp seems like it might be a great value, especially at the sale price of $179, and with a five year warranty for the above mentioned issue.

That's it for now. There are a lot more to check out, but I've exhausted my 'sit in front of a computer and read' time. To to move on to practicing and playing time...
 

ext1jdh

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Onioner, if you like I can do a direct in recording without it then with it. It may take until tomorrow to get it ready, because I'm a lazy fracker.
 

onioner

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Onioner, if you like I can do a direct in recording without it then with it. It may take until tomorrow to get it ready, because I'm a lazy fracker.

On an electric or acoustic? While I'm interested in both, it's likely the acoustic that matters more. Have you swapped out the tubes like many suggest?

I am curious about electrics though. I've seen a lot of people say that they are happy using a tube preamp to go directly into a box. I'm looking to play both real sound (i.e., through an amp), but I also go direct into ProTools via an Mbox. I'm wondering if I might also find use for a tube preamp when taking an electric guitar into ProTools. Don't know that it's a substitute for micing an amp, but it does seem a heck of a lot easier, and may be satisfying enough for regular use.

I am still pretty undecided about which way I should go. Given that I have the EQ and compressor pedals already, I'm leaning towards getting the basic model and going from there. That said, like I mentioned, I'm not opposed to spending more, just not if I don't need to...
 

ext1jdh

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Okay, so I'm not as lazy as I claim. I fired up Audacity and made a quick recording. Epiphone Les Paul, neck pickup pots set to 10. It's recorded as a FLAC file so it should be pretty close to true. I tried to keep my playing a bit consistent, but I'm no pro and this was just quick and dirty.

cut 1: guitar straight in
cut 2: preamp, input at 9:00, output at 9:00
cut 3: preamp, input at 12:00, output at 9:00
cut 4: preamp, input at 3:00, output at 9:00
cut 5: preamp, input at 9:00, output at 12:00
cut 6: preamp, input at 9:00, output at 3:00
cut 7: preamp, input at 12:00, output at 3:00
cut 8: preamp, input at 3:00, output at 3:00

Try this link: http://www.box.net/shared/5mfdozzgfe
 

onioner

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That's great. Do you mostly keep it on any one setting? To my ears, the 12/3 (#7) sounded the best, but obviously, that's a limited sample size. Does sound like a great $30.

You mentioned though that you'd get a Baggs if you could. I'm curious. I like the way they're set up, and they're praised like they're the Beatles, but no tube. I do kinda have that mystical attachment to tubes. The idea is, after all, to make a tubed powered cello rig. Would you rather have the Baggs Para Acoustic or a tube preamp of a comparable price range?
 

ext1jdh

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Take everything I say with an enormous grain of salt.

I'd like a Baggs for cleaning up my acoustic work. I like my acoustic to very crystalline and clean, and my electric to have some life and be a bit dirty. I normally don't run my electric through this pre, I use it for adding gain and warmth to my vocals since I tend to be quiet.

Basic rule of thumb, solid state will give you better cleans, tubes will give you better dirt. If you're looking for that Yardbirds sound, stick with tubes. I think you'd be better off running it into an actual amplifier instead of just a pre.

Check out this Nickel Creek video, around 2:00 Sara's violin has a bit of something to it that this kind of pre would add.
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nneEIX59I8]YouTube - Nickel Creek - This Side[/ame]
 

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