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Discussion Starter #1
What preamp do you guys use to do sax recordings? I currently use a Daking pre with EQ and a Daking compressor but am wondering if there might be a better option out there. My mics are a Coles 4038, a Sennheiser MD441-U and a Neumann U-87 a i (yup, the one with a space between the "a" and "i"). I had a Royer R-122, but I sold it an decided to keep the Coles (sometimes I wonder if that may have been a mistake).
 

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This post would be much better answered if it is posted at gearslutz forum.
The mic and mic pre selection is made according to the music and the room.
For micpres I have the two best extremes, from one side is the ultra clean, neutral and spacious Forssell preamp in jfet topology.
The other extreme is the groove tubes vipre, with cinemag in and out transformers, 7 valve fully differential signal path that sounds weighty, smooth, vintage, rich, warm.
Both are very quite and they will really enhance any mic they will be paired with.
I have used also dw fearn tube pre and was also fantastic. I just love the sound of tubes for sax. But not cheap tubes, that is nasty.
I found a bit of compression helps n general.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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There isn't really a specific preamp for recording saxophone. You have some decent mics. The only thing might be that the Coles needs more gain than other mics (not sure but that is my experience with ribbons in general).

Once you get into the realms of decent preamps (as opposed to your computer mic input) that are then quailty ids often down to personal preference - provided you follow basic good gain structure and mic placement)

A couple of my ribbons need exceedingly high gain and for those I use a dedicated ribbon mic preamp: the AEA TRP. However for my other mics I will use either that or the built in preamp with my A/D converter which is a Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt.

When I used to record to tape or 16 bit digital I would use some gentle compression while recording but since 24 bit digital there is no need and all compression is done in mixing.
 

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Even if you have the best equipment it will mean nothing if the room is not up to task. That is critical.
Your equipment is good enough to produce some excellent results if you use them in a descent room and you have the right recording and mixing etc. techniques.
Maybe is better if you tell us what you think is the problem if any to make you post in the first place
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you all for your responses. My main issue is getting that warm, fat sound to translate onto the recording. When I play back my recording, the sound I hear is different from what I hear (or at least think I hear) as I'm playing. There's a bit more of a "honky" tone to the recorded sound. The sound is also thinner. It may be the room as well. I do use a portable vocal filter that's set up at the back of the mic, but maybe that's not enough? The room is carpeted, has plaster walls and is pretty small (maybe around 100-150 sq. ft.). One side of it has a make-shift open "closet" where I hang a lot of my clothes (the girlfriend has pretty much commandeered all the regular closets in the condo unit).

On the other hand, it also may be that I just don't know how to use my current Daking equipment properly as I've only had them for about 4 months now. I used to have an ISA Two and no compressor.
 

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Also, do you guys use compression while tracking?
No, I don't use compression while tracking. I gain m inputs properly so as not to get any distortion on the way onto disk.

I use compression lightly in post if needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thank you all for your responses. My main issue is getting that warm, fat sound to translate onto the recording. When I play back my recording, the sound I hear is different from what I hear (or at least think I hear) as I'm playing. There's a bit more of a "honky" tone to the recorded sound. The sound is also thinner. It may be the room as well. I do use a portable vocal filter that's set up at the back of the mic, but maybe that's not enough? The room is carpeted, has plaster walls and is pretty small (maybe around 100-150 sq. ft.). One side of it has a make-shift open "closet" where I hang a lot of my clothes (the girlfriend has pretty much commandeered all the regular closets in the condo unit).

On the other hand, it also may be that I just don't know how to use my current Daking equipment properly as I've only had them for about 4 months now. I used to have an ISA Two and no compressor.
To add further context, when I play live (church, etc.) and someone records it, I sound like the way I want to sound (fat, warm). However, when I record at home, I encounter the issues described above.
 

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Thank you all for your responses. My main issue is getting that warm, fat sound to translate onto the recording. When I play back my recording, the sound I hear is different from what I hear (or at least think I hear) as I'm playing. There's a bit more of a "honky" tone to the recorded sound. The sound is also thinner. It may be the room as well. I do use a portable vocal filter that's set up at the back of the mic, but maybe that's not enough? The room is carpeted, has plaster walls and is pretty small (maybe around 100-150 sq. ft.). One side of it has a make-shift open "closet" where I hang a lot of my clothes (the girlfriend has pretty much commandeered all the regular closets in the condo unit).

On the other hand, it also may be that I just don't know how to use my current Daking equipment properly as I've only had them for about 4 months now. I used to have an ISA Two and no compressor.
If this is your first time recording and hearing yourself, that's how it's going to be. The recordings always sound different than what you hear as a player. I'm not sure how or when, but at some point my ear got used to the difference and now the recordings sound normal to me.

You don't want to use your vocal processor while recording. You want to recorded signal to be as pure and untreated as possible. You can do all of that stuff in post (EQ, compression, reverb, whatever).

In general, even cheap preamps today will sound very good. Probably better than the room or mics that you are using. The thing that will affect your recorded sound the most, is the room itself. That's also what will cost the most, as a well designed and well built recording room can cost many tens of thousands of dollars to build and treat right.

I do classical concert recording and use the stock preamps in my Yamaha RIO i/o units, or sometimes my Focusrite Scarlett or Clarett interfaces, and they sound fine. The room itself (a 2,400 seat concert hall) and it's associated HVAC noise, is the biggest artifact when it comes to the quality of the sound in the recording.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Thank you all for your responses. My main issue is getting that warm, fat sound to translate onto the recording. When I play back my recording, the sound I hear is different from what I hear (or at least think I hear) as I'm playing. There's a bit more of a "honky" tone to the recorded sound. The sound is also thinner. It may be the room as well. I do use a portable vocal filter that's set up at the back of the mic, but maybe that's not enough? The room is carpeted, has plaster walls and is pretty small (maybe around 100-150 sq. ft.). One side of it has a make-shift open "closet" where I hang a lot of my clothes (the girlfriend has pretty much commandeered all the regular closets in the condo unit).

On the other hand, it also may be that I just don't know how to use my current Daking equipment properly as I've only had them for about 4 months now. I used to have an ISA Two and no compressor.
OK well this all makes sense, given the high end mics you mentioned I had presumed you already had a well designed acoustic for recording. Sounds like you are using a room in a house as opposed to a studio. The pre-amp is probably the least thing to worry about then.

I would look into some acoustic design for the room - that is really the first stage in the recording sound quality chain. Yopu can spend thousands on a pre-amp, but if the studio room is not right then it's all a waste.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks again to you all for the tips. I’ll certainly look into treating the room. The thing is, I also sing and I’ve been doing vocal recordings for awhile in the same room. I find that my voice translates accurately (if not a bit enhanced) to the track when I record. However, my sax recordings do not. As I indicated, the sound on track sounds thinner and a bit honky compared to the actual sound I hear when I play. I guess they’re just different and require different approaches.
 

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I find that my voice translates accurately (if not a bit enhanced) to the track when I record. However, my sax recordings do not. As I indicated, the sound on track sounds thinner and a bit honky compared to the actual sound I hear when I play. I guess they’re just different and require different approaches.
The saxophone has many more harmonics and a much richer sound over all compared to the human voice. It's also louder. So when you play, the the room will accentuate all of the bad modes of the room for your saxophone more than it will voice.

You really can't "treat" a bad room. Just putting up some foam panels or off the shelf bass traps isn't going to do much other than lighten your bank account. The room itself has to be built a certain way, with specific building techniques and angles, materials and insulation specifically meant for sound absorption, isolation, and reflection.

On the other hand, maybe you still need some work on your tone too. Set a mic up maybe 8 to 10 feet away and see what it sounds like, rather than close micing.
 

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The room you use is far too small to achieve any quality results, especially if it is square or even worst cube, but if properly treated at least you could use it to practise and record some demos.
Depending on your budget and if you own the property perhaps it will be better to sell all those mics and invest in treating the room.
There are lots of products for acoustics that have appeared in music stores during the last years but are overpriced and you will need a lot of them. More importantly you ll need to have at least some basic knowledge of acoustics to know what to do with them.
If you are good with DIY then it is much better solution for cheaper and better products and you can find plenty of details online.
Still, consulting an acoustician will be money wisely spent.
As a very basic rule avoid placing yourself and the microphone in any line of symmetry in the room. The worst place is to put yourself or the mic in the exact middle of the room, including middle between floor and ceiling. Experiment a lot with the placement.
Dont try to correct bad acoustics with eq , doesnt work that way

Try to practise in much bigger rooms to get a broader perspective of your sound.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
The room you use is far too small to achieve any quality results, especially if it is square or even worst cube, but if properly treated at least you could use it to practise and record some demos.
Depending on your budget and if you own the property perhaps it will be better to sell all those mics and invest in treating the room.
There are lots of products for acoustics that have appeared in music stores during the last years but are overpriced and you will need a lot of them. More importantly you ll need to have at least some basic knowledge of acoustics to know what to do with them.
If you are good with DIY then it is much better solution for cheaper and better products and you can find plenty of details online.
Still, consulting an acoustician will be money wisely spent.
As a very basic rule avoid placing yourself and the microphone in any line of symmetry in the room. The worst place is to put yourself or the mic in the exact middle of the room, including middle between floor and ceiling. Experiment a lot with the placement.
Dont try to correct bad acoustics with eq , doesnt work that way

Try to practise in much bigger rooms to get a broader perspective of your sound.
It's certainly true that I need to keep working on my tone. However, as indicated in a previous post, I'm pretty happy with my sound in recordings of my live performances. It's only my recordings in my home studio that I'm not all that happy with, for the reasons mentioned in my previous posts.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
The room you use is far too small to achieve any quality results, especially if it is square or even worst cube, but if properly treated at least you could use it to practise and record some demos.
Depending on your budget and if you own the property perhaps it will be better to sell all those mics and invest in treating the room.
There are lots of products for acoustics that have appeared in music stores during the last years but are overpriced and you will need a lot of them. More importantly you ll need to have at least some basic knowledge of acoustics to know what to do with them.
If you are good with DIY then it is much better solution for cheaper and better products and you can find plenty of details online.
Still, consulting an acoustician will be money wisely spent.
As a very basic rule avoid placing yourself and the microphone in any line of symmetry in the room. The worst place is to put yourself or the mic in the exact middle of the room, including middle between floor and ceiling. Experiment a lot with the placement.
Dont try to correct bad acoustics with eq , doesnt work that way

Try to practise in much bigger rooms to get a broader perspective of your sound.
Thanks, this is very helpful. I also use the mics (particularly the Neumann) on vocal recordings and they work pretty well for that purpose even with the untreated room, so I'm not inclined to sell them. Cost is not really an issue to me as long as it's worth the cost, but I don't own the condo unit I currently live in, so options for treating the room are limited to what I'm allowed to do under the lease. Will be buying a house in the near future, so my options will be far more extensive then.
 

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The room you use is far too small to achieve any quality results.
I'm gonna disagree strongly with that one. I've recorded in some far less then optimum locations with good results. Probably wouldn't want to use the ribbon mic there though. Ribbons are figure 8 pattern, which means it will pick up as much from the rear as the front. Also, the 441 will be a thin and bright representation of your sound. The 87, though I'm not the biggest fan of for sax, will give you the thickest tone. Placement is more crucial when your room is tight. A nice 45 degree angle pointed at the top of the bell a foot out will do the trick.

As for your original question, I'm a big fan of the neve 1073 mic pre on sax
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I'm gonna disagree strongly with that one. I've recorded in some far less then optimum locations with good results. Probably wouldn't want to use the ribbon mic there though. Ribbons are figure 8 pattern, which means it will pick up as much from the rear as the front. Also, the 441 will be a thin and bright representation of your sound. The 87, though I'm not the biggest fan of for sax, will give you the thickest tone. Placement is more crucial when your room is tight. A nice 45 degree angle pointed at the top of the bell a foot out will do the trick.

As for your original question, I'm a big fan of the neve 1073 mic pre on sax
Thank you for sharing your suggestions and thoughts. Interestingly enough, I just bought the 441 very recently based on chatter in other forums extolling their virtues for the sax (I've also seen very positive feedback for the EV-RE20's, but ultimately decided on the 441 since majority of the opinions in the other forums appear to favor the 441.

I will note that the U-87 has indeed given me the thickest sound out of all the mics I've tried (the ribbon coming in second -- haven't used the 441 that extensively yet to be able to play around with gain and other settings) but still not quite the sound I want. In the past, I'd also tried the Royer R-122 and various AKG C414's (all of which I've since sold).

Last night, I tried to use the DPA4099s I bought about a week or so ago for live performances to record for the first time. The initial results were promising (mic pointed not directly down the bell but towards the keys immediately above the bell), although I probably need to get more familiar with it and how it interacts with the rest of my chain.

Do you have any experience with the Aurora GTQ preamps? I'm interested in it since from what I've heard and read, it outputs a darker, rounder sound, which at least theoretically should be great for counterbalancing the natural sound of the sax.

I also had the usual SM-58 and SM-57 before, but I hated my sax recordings using those mics. Too shrill/honky (especially the SM-58). They were passable for vocal recordings, though not as good as even basic condensers such as the AT-2035.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
A quick follow-up: how do you folks EQ the various frequency ranges (boost, cut, etc.) when doing your recordings?
 

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Discussion Starter #20
PS: I';ve found that using the U-87 and setting the stand up to be at the level immediately above the bell (with the mic tilted downwards at 46 degrees) and standing 3-4 feet away while recording has greatly improved the quality of my recordings. Almost no honkiness now and the sound is much smoother and fuller.

I’ve not been able to try the MD 441 yet as the groove on the mic clip that connects to the stand is way too small and I’ve had to order an adapter.
 
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