The first audio recorder I used for film was the Zoom H4n. Then I upgraded to the Roland R-26, then the Zoom F4, and finally to the Sound Devices MixPre-10 II. Each time, I congratulated myself that I was stepping up to a recorder with better preamps, or so I believed, but I could never really hear the difference until the MixPre-10 II. Even then, I could tell it sounded better, but I couldn’t articulate how.

The other day, I bought an Audio-Technica BPHS2C. It’s a set of headphones with a boom microphone. I already had a BPHS1, but I had been disappointed by the frequency response of its dynamic microphone, which was very weak at the low end. The BPHS2C has a condenser microphone, and I expected it to record bass frequencies better (it does).

Testing it, I connected it to the audio interface on my computer, a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4. I made some sample recordings and listened to them. The mic was too boomy. I played around with EQ and toned the bass down to a point where it sounded okay. Not great, but acceptable.

Then, I connected it to my MixPre-10 II and made some recordings. I don’t even remember why. Wow. The mic sounded amazing, without any postprocessing at all. It was perfect.

The Focusright audio interface looks pretty, and it has the right features, but I am now very disillusioned about its preamps.

Anyway, this is the first time I have noticed a clear, definable difference between different preamps.