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KEEPING IT PURE
The best, purest sound is the sound of the instrument heard in person.
Aside from that, best sound you will possibly hear is the sound of a microphone plugged into a very clean mic pre-amp, plugged directly into the amplifier driving the speaker in front of you. The mic pre-amp and the amplifier must be made of only the actual electronics necessary for making something louder with no other components involved.
Every thing that we add to the path the sound must go through from microphone to listener’s ear will degrade that sound in some form or another. Every electronic component, every chip, every solder joint, every fader, every knob, every extra piece of wire, every chance for the sound to deteriorate.
"Signal Flow" describes the complete path of audio from microphone to final output. The typical signal flow for a microphone in a recording studio is:
Microphone > XLR cable > Mic Panel (in studio) > Wires > Patch bay input > Console Mic Input > Mic Pre > Dynamics Section > EQ Section > Insert Send > Patch bay > Outboard gear > Patch bay > Insert Return > Fader > Output bus > Console physical output > Patch bay > Tape Machine Input.
Regardless of the quality of board you may be using, you will get a much better sound if you bypass what you can. Try to keep the sound as close to (mic or plug) > (pre-amp) > (record input) as possible. Anything that you HAVE to go through should be clean.