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How to increase gain for sm58 on a low budget?

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  • How to increase gain for sm58 on a low budget?

    I'm wondering if anyone knows how to increase the gain on an sm58 mic while on a low budget? Currently I have an echo audiofire4 interface connected to my computer. To use the sm58, I have to crank the gain knob on the interface above 80% to start to get a decent level. So I'm wondering for one if this is ok and two if buying a cheap preamp like a behringer ultragain mic100 for $40 would help increase the gain on the sm58 without having to increase the gain knob to 80% or above on the audio interface?

  • #2
    I certainly think the Ultragain 100 at $40 is worth a try, however, if the mic performs well with the gain on your audio interface at 80%, why do you feel you need a preamp?
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    • #3
      With an external mic preamp you don't even need to use your interface built-in preamp's gain knob. Some interface preamps can get a bit noisy when boosted near the 100% mark. Many years ago I used to use a M-Audio Fast Track (1st gen), the only way to get a decent clean signal for a mic was using an external preamp, at the time I boosted my mic using an ART Tube MP, which is similar to the Ultragain 100. So yes, an Ultragain 100 would be perfectly fine and probably the least expensive alternative.
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      • onelife
        onelife commented
        Editing a comment
        that makes sense

    • #4
      Originally posted by onelife View Post
      I certainly think the Ultragain 100 at $40 is worth a try, however, if the mic performs well with the gain on your audio interface at 80%, why do you feel you need a preamp?
      the volume that I hear is too low and hits -26.3 dB at most while I was testing it with close to regular volume talk.

      at 90% gain with a +17 dB boost using a software booster in Bandlab's sonar daw the sound is louder and hits -7.2 dB with the same voice I used above. However, the sound is harsher.

      here is a link to sound samples I recorded:

      https://drive.google.com/folderview?...5e8xiYCRVoxdc7

      if I were to get the ultragain, I'd want to put it in front of the audio interface and use both gain knobs. Do you think a device like the cloudlifter cl-1 would be more effective?



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      • #5
        Cheap preamps like the Behringer and the Art are just that. I have two of the Art tube preamps that run on 9V. The preamps are essentially solid state and tube is there to add color. All it does is make the solid state tone sound muddy and muted.

        The gain they provide is outweighed by the noise they add and the frequencies lost. The losses you'll hear over using the internal preamp of an interface are going to be noticeable enough when using a dynamic mic where its a step backwards getting what you want/need. The sound quality is poorer too. The distortion these cheap preamps add aren't worth the bother. You're far better off just using the interface preamp.

        You could use a Cloud Lifter, but for $125 you will be adding noise with the added gain.

        Truthfully, if you don't have $300 or more to spend on an external preamp you're wasting your time trying inexpensive solutions. I've tried or acquired many of the cheap solutions and that are all garbage. Preamps are one thing the industry still has a monopoly on and they continue to overcharge you for anything even barely usable.

        The cheapest solution by far is to simply buy an inexpensive condenser mic. You can but a large diaphragm MXL, Behringer or a hundred other Chinese manufactured mics for under $50 and have all the gain you'll need. Condenser mics have their own built in preamps that run on phantom power and are the best match for most inexpensive interfaces. An SM58 can work with a high end preamp but its still essentially a stage mic and its ability to work as a studio mic is fairly lackluster. I used 57's, 58's and even Beta 58's for years and other then the fact you can use them much closer, the performance is not what I'd call fantastic on vocals. You'll be wasting more time trying to mix the vocals to sound good using audio tools then yo0u will be actually making music.

        The overall tone of the Chinese imports are what I call generic. They have no specific character that make then unique like some other major manufacturers but that doesn't actually make them bad. You do have enough gain and a full 20 to 20Khz to work with so it simply comes down to shaping the tones you want. You can buy many for under $50 and get 2~4X the audio improvement compared to a similarly priced preamp which actually takes you in a negative quality direction.

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        • #6
          Originally posted by WRGKMC View Post
          Cheap preamps like the Behringer and the Art are just that. I have two of the Art tube preamps that run on 9V. The preamps are essentially solid state and tube is there to add color. All it does is make the solid state tone sound muddy and muted.

          The gain they provide is outweighed by the noise they add and the frequencies lost. The losses you'll hear over using the internal preamp of an interface are going to be noticeable enough when using a dynamic mic where its a step backwards getting what you want/need. The sound quality is poorer too. The distortion these cheap preamps add aren't worth the bother. You're far better off just using the interface preamp.

          You could use a Cloud Lifter, but for $125 you will be adding noise with the added gain.

          Truthfully, if you don't have $300 or more to spend on an external preamp you're wasting your time trying inexpensive solutions. I've tried or acquired many of the cheap solutions and that are all garbage. Preamps are one thing the industry still has a monopoly on and they continue to overcharge you for anything even barely usable.

          The cheapest solution by far is to simply buy an inexpensive condenser mic. You can but a large diaphragm MXL, Behringer or a hundred other Chinese manufactured mics for under $50 and have all the gain you'll need. Condenser mics have their own built in preamps that run on phantom power and are the best match for most inexpensive interfaces. An SM58 can work with a high end preamp but its still essentially a stage mic and its ability to work as a studio mic is fairly lackluster. I used 57's, 58's and even Beta 58's for years and other then the fact you can use them much closer, the performance is not what I'd call fantastic on vocals. You'll be wasting more time trying to mix the vocals to sound good using audio tools then yo0u will be actually making music.

          The overall tone of the Chinese imports are what I call generic. They have no specific character that make then unique like some other major manufacturers but that doesn't actually make them bad. You do have enough gain and a full 20 to 20Khz to work with so it simply comes down to shaping the tones you want. You can buy many for under $50 and get 2~4X the audio improvement compared to a similarly priced preamp which actually takes you in a negative quality direction.
          I appreciate your thoughts. What do you think of my sound samples I posted above? Do they sound fine or are there any issues you hear? Does the +17dB boost version sound ok? It sounds too harsh compared to the other sound samples I recorded.

          For condensers, don't they pick up a lot of external noise? I live in a house with another person and they have dogs that bark. I'm concerned a condenser will pick up that bark unless there's a way to block that noise as much as possible around the mic.

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          • #7
            You're not trying to get the levels anywhere near 0dBFS on your meters in your DAW - instead, try to keep the average signal level somewhere around the -18dBFS level.

            I really like the Cloudlifters - if you need more gain from a low output ribbon or dynamic mic, they're definitely a good way to get it. They're clean, quiet and neutral sounding - unlike the ART Tube MP (and probably the Behringer clone too), which are far more colored sonically, and not (IMO) in a particularly great way...
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