Color preamp – do you really need it?

Color preamp is a term that comes up quite often when people start discussing audio stuff. And if you are familiar with these kind of discussions, you know they get heated pretty quick. And if you happen to be familiar with these kind of people, well… I feel for you, my friend. For they are usually arrogant, clueless pricks with an ego larger than whale balls. Anyway. So these so called professional guys will often tell you that you’re going to need a color preamp for this or that sound. Not only that, but that you’ll benefit from using them on all kinds of different sources. What’s the truth in this statement? Do you really need the color preamp in your audio arsenal?

Color preamp – do you really need it?

color preampLet’s approach this issue logically, from the viewpoint of the sound and music themselves. For that, let’s also assume two things. 1. You know what you want to create. 2. You know the way you want it to sound like. From then on, you just need to create the music, so it sounds exactly the way you had it in mind. Right? Can it be more simple than that? Hardly. What do you need to capture it? The cleanest possible audio equipment. Including microphones and preamps. The role of a preamp is just to amplify your signal levels, with as little distortion as possible. Oops. That statement renders your color preamp pretty useless. And unnecessary. Darn.

Color preamp – well, do ya, pal?

In reality, people don’t realize two things. One is that if you need distortion, you can create it in a million different ways. Way before it even reaches the preamp. Or even the microphone or DI box. There are times when people claim that they need a color preamp to phatten up a distorted guitar sound. In reaction to statements like this, you can safely play out the bullshit card, and put on your most sophisticated facepalm.

Color preamp – do you really need it?

The other thing is that preamps – even ones that belong in the color preamp group – don’t usually distort all that much. And even if they do, you don’t have much control over the sound. Compared to all kinds of purpose built devices, including plugins. If you really want to do it cheap and in the mix, just crank up your favorite plugins. Color preamp is an overrated concept. Especially at that price. Get a bunch of preamps that capture the sound accurately. Your sound.

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