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I'm a composer that is looking into recording sound effects and foley in my studio. Right now I've got the Alesis IO2 Express, and the Rode NT1-A as a mic. I would like to record quiet sounds with it, without getting loads of noise. I realise my interface is cheap and that there are better options out there, so I was wondering if I should buy a preamp or just upgrade my interface. I don't need a lot of in and outputs, so that's why I bought the IO2 Express.

Also, would the Rode NT1-A be sufficient for recording quiet foley? Or should I look into buying a shotgun mic like the Rode NTG-2?

Total budget would be around 500 euros, maybe a bit more.

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I haven't used the NT1a in a very long time, but the issue I remember having with it was being pretty cold and not having a firm core to the sound. The NTG-2, on the other hand, sounds awful. I've never actually used my own even though I got it for free from a friend (I did give it the benefit of a doubt when I first got it in the studio alright to see if it could be used for anything, but gave up completely on it and put it away never to be actually used for something), but I did work on it a lot (others gear) before I could afford the good stuff. The sound is very muddy, and it sounds phased and lacking any real top whatsoever with a very unclean mid. If I had to choose between them two, I'd go for the NT1, but better yet, the extremely cheap but very good sounding mic Line Audio CM3 gives a tremendous bang for the buck! I gave about 100 Euros for mine, but this was in the late 90's/early 2000's somewhere when it was just release. Should be about the same now though.

I don't know that Alesis interface per se, but if it's noisy, than Studio Projects VTB-1 is a good choice to replace the internal microphone amplifiers. The extreme top is so-so, but the sound below that sounds really good for a mic-preamp this cheap. I use two of them myself for several things, I kinda like the sound of them, though the valve-option isn't very impressive. Would probably be much better with my Telefunken-valves, but I don't know how to calibrate it afterwards...but as the solid state mode sounds as well as it does it really doesn't matter, though the blue glow from the grille does look nice in the studio!

But a microphone that could really make a difference is the Sennheiser MKH416. It's still the favorite for many of us, me included, but because it's so incredibly old (for a piece of gear), it's nowadays pretty cheap compared to what you get. Still not a budget mic as such, but not unreachably expensive either.

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There are lot of people on this forum that might know better than me so please correct my if I'm wrong but this is my answer:

First of, it's usually said that a 1:10 or greater impedance ratio is best for low noise. The Rode NTG-2 has Zout (Z=impedance) at 250 and your interface Zin 600. So that right there is a tuff start. A pre-amp with higher Zin would probably help a lot even though the NTG-2 still has a pretty high Zout

Secondly, I don't know what kind of room you have. The room always have a big effect on your result even if the source is quiet and a shotgun would reject much of that. But the NTG-1a has lower Zout.

I would get a shotgun AND a pre-amp but with €500 that can be tricky. Personally I like buy right, buy once. Its cheeper in the long run.

But listen to some other people before you decide...

All the best!

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The NT1-A is the world's quietest studio condenser microphone afaik. It should work ok, if the large diaphragm, polar pattern, the sound characteristic and the microphone form factor are otherwise suitable (try it!).

The audio interface or its preamps are not necessarily a problem either. Have you tried recording with what you've got?

Yes, there are "better" options, have a look at RME (Babyface) for example. But it also pays to see what you can do with your current equipment and whether you need "better" (and what is it that's better) equipment. Also microphones are generally more valued than audio interfaces or preamplifiers, they make more difference (although so do your recording techniques).

The NTG-2 is a useful (and cheap for what it does!) microphone, eventhough you might not have immediate uses. It's not a bad buy in any way. But of course, there's also always the "better".

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For your budget the NT1-A is an ideal foley mic. We have three and they are ideal for quiet foley. If you want a quieter preamp then I can thoroughly recommend the sound devices MP-1 it is battery powered, but well worth the hassle, and it should be within your budget.

http://www.sounddevices.com/products/mp1/

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