external preamp - best way?

Hi there!

Upon searching these forums, it seems that there are two ways of connecting an external preamp to the MR816.

  1. XLR out from preamp into XLR in to MR816. Pad on the MR if necessary.
  2. XLR out from preamp into insert point on channel 1 or 2 on MR.

I know option 2 results in an unbalanced input.
I’ve heard option 1 “sounds” better.

I have a UA-710 with a line level balanced out on XLR that I’d like to use. In order to do option 2, I’d have to use some kind of an adapter at one end or the other… either XLR cable using a TS or TRS adapter at one end to go into the MR, or a balanced TRS cable with a 1/4" to XLR adapter to come out of the UA-710.

Which would you say is my best option? Thanks!


Option 1 would be my choice and is what I do here. Engage the PAD, turn down the gain on the input and you cant hear any signal change from your source

You should also know that xlr inputs and trs inputs sound different from eack other. You could search gearslutz forum for more info on it. You can also try it for yourself. Just make a recording with only a trs cable plugged then do the same with an xlr cable. Then use a spectrum analyzer pluggin on them. The xlr will have lower mid frequency boosted. You will have to apply alot of gain on the signal to see it. Plus I also wouldnt use the pad on mr816 unless you wanted to turn the signal on your external pre down. The pad only effects the signal coming into the mr816. It doesnt effect its own internal pres. Its there to cool hot signals down before the hit they internal pres. Going through an insert will bypass its pres but its tricky. You’ll be working with half the signal strength and you will probably have extra noise added to you signal. That being said you can hook your external pre anyway you like jus let your ears decide for you. Hope I helped.

“The audio input signal from an input jack for which Pad is
turned on is attenuated by 26 dB. Therefore, you should
turn Pad off if you have connected equipment of low out-
put level (a microphone or other mic-level device), while
Pad should be on for equipment of high output level (a
synthesizer keyboard, CD player, etc.)”

SO, turn UP the gain on your external PRE and engage the PAD per the MANUAL.
EVERYTHING going into the inputs on the MR goes through the Pre Amp circuit, we all know this.
Engage the PAD, turn down the gain knob on the input and your good.
Dont get caught up in the XLR verses TRS argument. Its minimal at best.

Thanks for the replies!

Shanabit - This goes along with what my original perceptions were, except knowing that this doesn’t really bypass the preamp. The preamps are clear enough, though, that they don’t really “need” to be bypassed, though, seems to be the idea.

TCoeAudio - I’m not so sure it’s as much as the two formats sound different as much as it is that one might work better in one application over another. I get your idea, though. I’ve seen the GS forums too. I posted here because I was interested in actual MR816 users in a forum moderated by Steinberg. I realize that I could just “try it myself” and use spectrum analyzers, etc., but figured that if people had already done that and come to a consensus (at least more or less) of “best practice” then it wouldn’t require re-inventing the wheel.

I read in one of the posts here that going into the XLR results in a “fuller” sounding lower end. I wasn’t sure if that was because there was a bit of a boost in the preamp, or if going into the insert was somehow “losing” some of the lower end.

I’m a little wary of “incomplete connections” (ie. cable plugged in only part way), though I know this has been done forever in studios all over the world.

So the wisdom seems to be:
Use the XLR connection, even though it isn’t really bypassing the preamp, because it sounds better than using the insert and “actually” bypassing the preamp?