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Author Topic: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)  (Read 3146 times)

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Offline SMsound

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External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« on: December 16, 2023, 06:40:26 PM »
I have a bunch of external pre's (various Sound Devices, DPA MMA6000) that I often use with my 24-bit recorders.

Does it still make sense to use them with new recorders like a 32-bit Zoom F3 or F6 or into a new 32-bit SD MixPre-3-II?

I have read that gain on the Zoom 32-bit recorders is fixed at a low level. Does this make an external preamp redundant? How about for the new 32-bit Sound Devices?

EDIT: Maybe one of the right question to ask is, does using an external preamp improve or degrade the signal-to-noise ratio when recording music in 32 bit on one of these recorders?
« Last Edit: December 17, 2023, 04:38:25 PM by SMsound »
waves -> bits

Offline fireonshakedwnstreet

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Re: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2023, 12:20:32 AM »
Only if you want the flavor. Both those boxes have gobs of gain.
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Offline Chanher

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Re: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2023, 12:25:54 AM »
IMO it's all about personal preference. If you have a preamp you like, then for sure, go for it. The F3 and F6 have have a mic and line setting.

I have asked the same question as you, with my train of thought being that I didn't want to run my signal through unnecessary gain stages, especially if the line in setting is a -20dB pad.  I can't provide a technical answer unfortunately due to my limited knowledge.

From my experience, you shouldn't hesitate to use a preamp that you've previously enjoyed with your mics. You also shouldn't hesitate to experiment with new combos because that's how you learn and it's more fun that way. :)

The beauty of these new recorders is that you can always keep it simple and run straight in. I find the F3 and F6 preamps to be clean, neutral and colorless. The next (hopefully quiet) show where I can comfortably set my levels, I'm gonna try an MP-2 (transformers) and see if I hear any difference.
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Online Flynn

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Re: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2023, 06:56:43 AM »
I use a few different external pre's depending on my mood. I find the internal pre's on the mix pre 6ii to be a little dry. Personally I prefer an external pre thrown in the mix, kind of like syrup on pancakes. That said it's comforting to know that if I have to go low profile I can run straight into the mix pre and get the job done just fine.

Offline breakonthru

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Re: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2023, 11:54:36 AM »
You can buy a little S/N by feeding F6 a hotter signal, but if you then need to use line-in (which is just a pad), it’s somewhat self defeating. Ideal input on that device is +4dB

Difference is minimal however and anything a preamp adds is more likely coloration from the pre itself

Offline marcb

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Re: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2023, 12:37:10 PM »
I have a Zoom F6 and Oade 248 and have wrestled with this. I like the 248 sound but I think you can nearly reproduce it with FX plugins and EQ in post. And the F series preamps seem to do a very good job making a clean recording. So I've decided I want to make the cleanest original recording and preserve the ability to manipulate it as technology and my preferences evolve. I also now use an external battery with the 248 so it’s a lot of extra gear and I usually need to decide between bringing the 248 or a second pair of mics, though I could replace the 248’s internal battery if I had the time / desire.

Offline SMsound

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Re: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2023, 04:45:02 PM »
You can buy a little S/N by feeding F6 a hotter signal, but if you then need to use line-in (which is just a pad), it’s somewhat self defeating. Ideal input on that device is +4dB

Difference is minimal however and anything a preamp adds is more likely coloration from the pre itself

This is a smart way to think about it. I didn't know their line-in was just a pad. Preamp outputs are usually line-level not mic-level, so maybe it's always self defeating? For example, my mics usually want 20-25dB gain. If I apply gain, the preamp then outputs the gained-signal at line-level, which is going to be too hot to go into mic-level XLR inputs, so the recorder will need to be set to line level...

Does anyone know the equivalent for the new MixPre 3/6/10 II 32 bit recorders? What's the ideal input level, and is there a true line-in or just a pad?
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Offline Chanher

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Re: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2023, 05:26:50 PM »
I recall reading here at TS that the Zoom recorders use a -20dB pad but I would like to confirm so I emailed Zoom, we’ll see what they say. I’ve looked at the block diagram at the end of the F3 manual and I didn’t see anything that confirms either way.
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Offline carpa

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Re: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2023, 05:39:15 PM »
Quite sure that the F family has a padded input for line level, -20 db; you can still switch on phantom power if you need ( in case of a super high output microphone) and you can turn the gain up.  In "line in " mode the F6 can accept up to +22 db signal. So, technically, you can use an external preamp if you like the sound but it's not feeding a true line level.

Offline breakonthru

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Re: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2023, 06:34:31 PM »
I have a Zoom F6 and Oade 248 and have wrestled with this. I like the 248 sound but I think you can nearly reproduce it with FX plugins and EQ in post. And the F series preamps seem to do a very good job making a clean recording. So I've decided I want to make the cleanest original recording and preserve the ability to manipulate it as technology and my preferences evolve. I also now use an external battery with the 248 so it’s a lot of extra gear and I usually need to decide between bringing the 248 or a second pair of mics, though I could replace the 248’s internal battery if I had the time / desire.

You should start a thread on emulating a pre using plugins would be a good read

Offline voltronic

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Re: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2023, 07:01:15 PM »
You can buy a little S/N by feeding F6 a hotter signal, but if you then need to use line-in (which is just a pad), it’s somewhat self defeating. Ideal input on that device is +4dB

+4 dB is the MAX input mic level for the F6. I would not be shooting for anywhere close to that level, or you're going to risk overloading the input stage.

True, you could set it to line which engages the pad, but that's silly when you could have just fed it a lower level in the first place.

There really isn't an "ideal" input level for the F series or MixPre-II series when either are in 32FP mode. The ideal level is anything below its maximum.

The clean preamps on these new recorders and the autoranging DACs set up a situation where you are going to have a wide dynamic range no matter what, without needing to send it a hot level. The only reason to use an external preamp with either series is if you find one with superior sound quality to the built-in ones.
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Offline SMsound

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Re: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2023, 09:45:48 PM »
The only reason to use an external preamp with either series is if you find one with superior sound quality to the built-in ones.

I prefer a transformer preamp (like the older Sound Devices pre's) on some sources (it sounds fuller/beefier), but it sounds to me like if I connect an external pre like this then I'd get BOTH the external preamp sound and the Zoom preamp sound, which is never bypassed.

On the old 24-bit MixPre-3 and Mixpre-6/10, you also technically couldn't bypass preamps on the main channels, but they didn't affect your sound much because they were not adding gain. If I understand correctly, the new Zoom F3/F6 always add gain, so you will always get their preamp sound quality (not 100% sure)?  Wonder if this is true for the new 32 bit Sound Devices.
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Offline voltronic

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Re: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2023, 09:51:09 PM »
The only reason to use an external preamp with either series is if you find one with superior sound quality to the built-in ones.

I prefer a transformer preamp (like the older Sound Devices pre's) on some sources (it sounds fuller/beefier), but it sounds to me like if I connect an external pre like this then I'd get BOTH the external preamp sound and the Zoom preamp sound, which is never bypassed.

On the old 24-bit MixPre-3 and Mixpre-6/10, you also technically couldn't bypass preamps on the main channels, but they didn't affect your sound much because they were not adding gain. If I understand correctly, the new Zoom F3/F6 always add gain, so you will always get their preamp sound quality (not 100% sure)?  Wonder if this is true for the new 32 bit Sound Devices.

You can't bypass the preamps on either Zoom F or SD MPII.

Yes, Zoom F does add gain at a fixed level in 32FP mode. I don't know the level. I imagine MixPre does something similar.
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2023, 09:47:27 AM »
In general, the best practice in terms of noise performance is to apply gain at the earliest stage possible.  That's because gain applied at later stages amplifies the noise of all previous stages in addition to amplifying the signal.  Can be measured.. how much it really matters depends on perception.

It may be that there is not actually a restive pad inserted into the line-in path of these recorders, but instead less gain is applied, via increased feedback gain or whatever.  Could measure EIN / do some listening tests to determine if it matters.

I have a Zoom F6 and Oade 248 and have wrestled with this. I like the 248 sound but I think you can nearly reproduce it with FX plugins and EQ in post. And the F series preamps seem to do a very good job making a clean recording. So I've decided I want to make the cleanest original recording and preserve the ability to manipulate it as technology and my preferences evolve.

This is my philosophy.  Advantages are simpler and lighter with less potential points of failure on the recording side of things, along with a clean slate for whatever I might want to do to it later. The drawback is that it shifts the effort over to the post side, and I completely understand wishing to keep what gets done after recording as simple and streamlined as possible.

As an alternate post-production technique to get the "coloration" of a particular preamp, try recording direct into the recorder and then running the output of the recorder through the preamp afterward- into another recorder, into an interface to the computer, or via looping back to the same recorder, playing and recording simultaneously, which I believe the optional "musician feature" or whatever its called enables for SD MixPre recorders.
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Offline todd e

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Re: External Preamp into 32 bit (Zoom F3/F6, SD MixPre-6II, etc.)
« Reply #14 on: December 21, 2023, 01:55:52 PM »
I have a Zoom F6 and Oade 248 and have wrestled with this. I like the 248 sound but I think you can nearly reproduce it with FX plugins and EQ in post. And the F series preamps seem to do a very good job making a clean recording. So I've decided I want to make the cleanest original recording and preserve the ability to manipulate it as technology and my preferences evolve. I also now use an external battery with the 248 so it’s a lot of extra gear and I usually need to decide between bringing the 248 or a second pair of mics, though I could replace the 248’s internal battery if I had the time / desire.

lemme know if you decide to sell that m248 please.

 

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