Tested - Three top acoustic preamps - Fishman PRO-EQ Platinum, Radial PZ-Di, Boss Acoustic Simulator.
At The APW we like to take you behind the session to explore some studio techniques, so we can discover how and why an engineer or producer would use these methods and see and hear the difference that they could make to your own recordings. This time around we're looking at acoustic preamps and asking a simple question: Are they any good?
I'm recording my band. Why do I need more preamps?
If you do any kind of computer recording, chances are you already own a preamp. If your audio interface has an XLR microphone input then this will have a preamp which amplifies the tiny electrical signal generated by a microphone - or a guitar pickup if you plug straight in - and in doing so, makes the signal strong enough to be recorded. This is true even if your interface does not offer Phantom Power for condenser microphones.
Most preamps will add their own sonic character to a signal as it amplifies it. Some companies will charge thousands because of this fact, and names like Neve and SSL are held in high regard in the recording world because of the audio properties and component quality of their equipment, just as Marshall and Fender are amongst guitarists. The preamp in your mixer or audio interface will be great at handling the signal from a microphone, however electric and electroacoustic instruments create frequencies and peaks that are quite different to those captured by a mic and so - in theory - should benefit from using a preamp that is specifically tailored for this purpose.
Fishman PRO-EQ II Platinum
Fishman are well-respected in the field of amplifying acoustic instruments. The Gibson J200 acoustic guitar played by Andy Cairns has a Fishman pickup installed, as do many others. The Fishman Pro EQ Platinum has appeared on countless recordings and is great for beefing up the low-end and mids of an electroacoustic guitar and smoothing out the harsh overtones that a piezoelectric pickup creates.
We use an older model in this video. The newer version has the same cool sound, has a built-in digital tuner and footswitches and is much shinier: [asa APWpostSmall]B00KVWK6M4[/asa]
This is the simplest device we tested by far but it's great for warming-up the sound of an electroacoustic guitar. A hi-cut switch and lo-cut knob is all you need: Just plug in and let it do it's thing!
Boss Acoustic Simulator
This one surprised us the most. Not strictly an acoustic preamp, this device is designed to allow an electric guitar to mimic the sound of an acoustic. So what happens if you plug a real acoustic guitar into it?
There are lots of options on this pedal, including selecting the type of guitar that you want to simulate. Leaving this set to "Standard" allowed the properties of Andy's jumbo Gibson J200 to shine through. Possibly not the most "natural" sounding preamp but it does sound great in a mix: [asa APWpostSmall]B000S5JFZI[/asa]
Watch the video above to hear for yourself, or go here to watch Episode 2 in full.