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Review of the FMR RNP
The Really Nice Preamp


The Really Nice Preamp by FMR Audio is one of those items that creates a stir in our community at studio-central.  For those that have it, the little box gets high acclaim, almost cult status.  Its not only the home recording people on modest budgets that sing its praises, but recording studio professionals as well.  My search engine at studio-central pulls up 560 threads which mention the RNP; I'll link to some below.  Of course I had to get one to see what the commotion was about.  I've had mine about 9 months as of this writing.


The picture above is actually a little bigger than the RNP is in real life.  It takes up about a third of a rack space.  The case is made of plastic, with two small knobs that turn in fixed increments of 6db.  There are two XLR jacks on the back, along with inserts and balanced line level outs.  On the front, as you see above, you get two high impedance inputs, for guitars, basses, keyboards, whatever else you want to spruce up with gain.  There's standard 48V phantom power and phase invert switches.  And that's it.  There is no compressor, though you can add the RNC (The Really Nice Compressor) by the inserts jacks.  There is also no output volume, which some preamps have to allow you to make an extra final adjustment. 

What the RNP does have is pure gain. 66db to be exact.  This is more than you will find on most preamps under a grand; more than you typical mixer preamp and more than the preamps on your audio interface or multitrack recorder.  What is amazing is the usefulness of this gain.  You can stick almost any mic on the RNP and it will deliver performance you did not know it had.  While FMR makes no claims that the RNP is quiet, in fact they even say "its not the quietest" in their FAQ, for those coming from built in preamps its comparatively very quiet.  When you uptick to the last notch at 66 db yes you can hear some noise.  But this has to be offset by the fact you hear the same equivalent noise at around 50 db on average preamps.  This means you hear more of your signal and less preamp noise and that means finer sound.

But there is more to it that that.  Its not just a good signal to noise ratio; its also the integrity of the signal that is passed on.  Another part of the equation here is headroom.  A device with poor headroom, like many cheap mixers, will distort when the output gets overloaded.  You  can hear this phenomenon on many home studio devices.  They sound good to a point, but then distortion sets in as you turn it up and the audio waveform clips.  The RNP is designed to pass a strong signal to the line level output, without any sign of clipping.  The RNP has a clip point of +27dbu. Translated, that means you have headroom to spare on the RNP.  It also helps provide for an open and authentic sound, which a good monitoring system will help reveal. 

As I have mentioned in other articles, there are two general philosophies regarding preamps.  One is the get a preamp that lets you alter and tweak the sound to the way you want it for your recording.  This kind of preamp often converts the signal to digital inside the box.  Once the waveform is digitized, its easy for the manufacturer to add compressors, EQ, de-essers, and other processing functions.  The other approach is often called the "wire plus gain" philosophy which simply tries to add gain and phantom power then exit out of the box as cleanly as possible.  The RNP, follows the latter philosophy. 

The RNP often gets compared to the DAV BG-1, the True Systems P-Solo, and Grace 101  (the latter two only have 1 channel), which are also wire+gain preamps and the Focusrite MH443 and the Presonus Eureka which have digital processing.  Of course there are others, but these five illustrate the point.  Which way to go?  It depends on what you are doing.  If you are mixing a live recording that cannot be treated later you will need a compressor in your signal chain.  However, if you are recording track by track into a DAW or multi track recorder, you can usually compress later and it will sound better.  You will find decent compression in nearly all DAW software. You might want to check your multitrack recorder to see how happy you are with its onboard compression.  If you are, then there too, the wire+gain philosophy may win for you.  With the RNP you can always add compression by adding an RNC to your signal chain. 

Problems with the RNP are few, and for me, cosmetic. I managed to lose two of the four set screws that hold on the gain knobs after they worked their way loose. I had removed them while fitting the Funk Logic Tray adapter which allows the RNP and RNC to mount inside a typical 19" rack.  The unit also uses a wall-wart (AC adapter).  But given the low price, I can see why.  In all, just minor issues.

Who should get an RNP?  Its almost harder to point out who should not get an RNP.  Those who are using mixer and audio interface preamps, or the common preamps built in to a multi-track recorder stand to benefit the most from getting an RNP.  The RNP also makes a nice second preamp for rigs that already may have a premium one channel preamp.  Because the RNP is two channel, it it well suited for recording in stereo with matched pairs of mics.  For a professional, whether to get an RNP or not may depend on if you intend to get something better to fit this need.  But even so, the RNP is like to still get some use.  The more "colors" the better. 

Leave some feedback on this article


FMR Audio's Product Page for the RNP

Learn more in Tweak's Audio Pro Shop


True Systems P-Solo BETTER thna RNP overall

Valuable Lesson Learned

Would the RNP be a justifiable upgrade?

Members review of the RNP

RNP vs Mackie Preamps

RNP VS Grace 101 VS Focusrite

FMR's RNP or...


Review of the Great River ME-1NV ] Review of the Focusrite Voicemaster Pro ] A Primer on Mic Preamps ] [ Review of FMR's Really Nice Preamp ] Tweak's Gear Shop ]

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