Recording Drums | What Preamp to Use

Your preamp collection will constantly grow as your studio expands. Acquiring different types of preamps will give you more options on how to shape your sound and tone. Transistor preamps can give you a nice sharp sound that cuts through a mix and brings out the attack of transients. Tube preamps can give you a gritty or distorted tone that is saturated with all of those impressive characteristics of old analog recordings. Then there are preamps that blend the transistor clarity with the tube warmth to allow you to dial in the right amount of tone for your mix.

A new preamp on the market is the Warm Audio WA273-EQ. This is a clone of the coveted 1073 preamps that have defined the sound of rock music. A stereo pair of these on your overhead mics and you're all set to track slamming drums. You could add this to your existing rig and find many different ways to get the tone that you want out of it. I've used this on just the kick and snare to get big powerful tracks that sit just perfectly in the mix. The built-in EQ allows you to shape the tone as your recording and really cuts down on the post-production work. I've done EP and demo albums for bands in less than 4 hours because this preamp takes all the guesswork out of post-production. This preamp is one of my Swiss Army tools that can be used on tracking virtually anything, but drums are articulatly sculpted with these discrete premaps. 

Tracking drums is an art form that can take years to develop as you experiment with different combinations of gear. Mic selection is a major factor, but for this article, I'm just going to focus on the preamp selection. The first thing you have to consider is the context of the song. Your preamp choice will mostly revolve around the mood and performance of the song you'll be recording. Jazz and Blues tracks are usually mellow and have a little fuzz on the drums. In these recordings, I lean towards my tube preamps to give me that coloration to blend the drums into the mix. Rock & Pop songs like strong transients, so lean more towards my transistor preamps. Preamps can be mixed and matched. Try tube preamps on your Kick & Snare with transistor preamps on your Overhead mics. This will give you a nice blend of the tones.

The Universal Audio Twin Finity preamp is a workhorse in the studio. The tone blend between tube and transistor make this a must have preamp for every studio. Use this preamp on your kick drum and just by moving the tone blend pot, you can hear the transients saturate or sharpen. I'd suggest you add this preamp to your wish list this year. If you want a little more bang for your buck, check out the UA 4-710d. This is a 2u rack mount version with 4 Twin Finity preamps that also have an 1176 style compressor built into each channel. A very versatile preamp box that gives you 4 options to shape and sculpt your drums.

The Manley Force is another excellent choice for a versatile tool in the studio. The headroom on these preamps is immense. Making it possible to use ribbon mics for your overheads or room mics. Built in HP filters and impedance selectors allow you to get the warmth you want matched with the mic your using. The Manley Force is more than a drum preamp, it offers many useful features for tracking all instruments, so this should be on your radar as you upgrade your studio.

Hope these tips and recommendations give you a better idea on how to strengthen your studio. Happy recording!