Yesterday it was Polish jokes about Soviet technology; today it’s trying a Russian-made TUNG-SOL tube in that ART TUBE MP mic preamp I played with last week. I got advice from Ben Deschamps that I should, because the ART preamp ships with whatever was cheapest that day, and swapping tubes around can make a big difference.

And, hey, I think in this case it rather does. I’d apparently had a best-case low-bidder tube before, so bringing in the Russian didn’t make a big difference in noise level. But the amp’s tonal differences are certainly highlighted.

I should note: I also realised I could bypass the mic preamp stage in my TASCAM completely by going to line-level inputs, as opposed to leaving it in the mic input port at zero gain, like last time. The effect should be similar, but may not be. Regardless of which change mattered the more, I really think you can tell a difference between the preamps now, even in mp3.

The Russian-made tube gives the ART TUBE MP a lot more of what I think of as a “guitar amp” sound. That’s 100% unsurprising, now that I’m typing it out, but it’s still interesting to hear it.

The way that this preamp “likes” mid-bass is emphasised more, I think, as is its noted disinterest in the finer points of higher harmonics. That part of the sound reminds me of the AKG microphones I have, but with more interesting sonic effects down in lower frequencies. I suspect it would get on well with cello, as the AKG200s do.

I don’t know that I’d call the ART “warmer” at the high end – I might call it “less precise” – but it’s certainly a difference regardless. I should try this with the AKGs, later, to see if their similar areas of interest lever each other up a notch, or clash in some unfortunate way. Pleasantly, I have pairs of those, too.

For the recordings linked below, I’m switching between the two basically identical M-Audio NOVA large-can condenser microphones set up side by side and played into simultaneously. The levels are as close as I could reasonably get; it was a bit harder this time, as there were audible differences, and I’m using a bit of light compression as would be used in real life.

Unlike before, since the difference between the two preamps is more obvious, I’m also including a 50/50 mix between the two inputs during one of the repeats in each of these. That produced some interesting qualities, I think, on the octave mandolin.

In both recordings, ART MP tube pre-amp starts; TASCAM follows. Tell me what you hear on your speakers!

Whaddya think, sirs?