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2 pre questions

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by ILOVESOUND, Feb 15, 2005.



    John Hardy M-1
    Sebatron VMP 200e
    API 512c
    Langevin DVC

    With the exception of the API after lunch box power supply these pres are around the $1500 range (for 2 channels) give or take a coupla hunerd.

    1 - Strickly "quality" speaking (i.e. depth, sonic range, detail, etc. - not "character" speaking) are these pres in the same class as Buzz MA 2.2, GR - 2NV, Manley Dual Mono, Cranesong, etc.

    If yes, why are they cheaper?

    If no, in what ways to they lack comparitively to these higher priced pres?

    2 - My inclination is to go with 2 channels of John Hardy for acoustic guitar, piano, and violin. I'm looking for clean but mellow with a little character. What would be a nice 1 channel "character" pre for vocals that would compliment the Hardy (or any of the above cleaner pres) for around $1,000?
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    All the pres mentioned are of the higest quality .. Why some cost more than others is hard to say.

    Economy of scale can be one reason .. Another could be differences in design ... perhaps requiring fewer or less expensive parts.

    The APIs are considered among the best for rock and pop production, but as you noticed are among the least expensive .. and the Sebatron is in my esimation very under priced.
  3. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Distinguished Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    It's not about price it's about sound and tone. Don't worry about the price as much as getting exactly what you want or need. No matter what you get, down the road you are going to end up wanting something else and getting that also. You will even find and like something better than what you have now or end up getting no matter what you get or have. Nature of the beast...

    The API is very much a simple design compared to most others, it's sound is result of the special discreete VCA and the transformers.

    It is hard to go wrong with the John Hardy for a general purpose everyday and any application workhorse.

    The Langevin is reall good, but I think there is better available in both quality of tone and in it's price range.


    yeah I'm definitely looking for a pre that's on the safe side for acoustic instruments but that can add a little meat to the sound when needed. That's why I thought that rather than getting a $2,400 pre as an "only" pre, I should look at a cheaper pre with a good rep such as the hardy and use the difference to purchase a more colored, character pre I could use for voice or mono recording of acoustic instruments when I need even more color. So...

    any recommendations for that single channel complimentary pre? i like smooth and creamy.

    Also, of the other three I first mentioned, would the Hardy be considered the most neutral? match up with the greatest variety of mics?
  5. LittleDogAudio

    LittleDogAudio Active Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    You'll love the John Hardy for acoutic recording. Also look into the newly re-designed Millennia HV3-C 2 channel mic pre.

    For a single channel that's smooth and creamy I'd consider the Universal Audio M-610.

    My .02
  6. Arrowfan

    Arrowfan Guest

    Sebatron VMP series.... you can't go wrong with these units. The VMP2000e lists for about $1,200 and gives you 2 channels of lush tube gratification. All class A discrete circuitry. And some eq settings that are really quite nice as well (including an ultra high freq EQ).

    I agree with Kurt, Sebatron units are underpriced - although I prefer to think of it as, all the others are over-priced.

    Sebatron pres can go from nuetral and transparent to darth with distortion. If you do get a Sebatron preamp, I recommend a dual channel. Unlike most other pres, Sebatron pres do not have a gain stage prior to the tube gain (its only tube gain, + attenuation out).... meaning you pay only for tube gain.

    If you want to overdrive a single channel, you'll need to do that using a second Sebatron channel or some other outboard unit.

    However, careful matching of your mic type and placement with the Sebatron "Pad" settings can deliver some nice saturation using a single channel (ie, a condenser mic routing to Seb with 0db pad).

    I've got a VMP2000e and am looking to get another. My Seb pre is used basically every time the studio is used - including mixing and mastering work. I'll send selected tracks in a loop to the seb, either to deliver some gentle tube warmpth or saturation.

    Its hard not to sound like a fricken broken record/endorsement for Sebatron when speaking about their preamps. But, few units deliver such quality for the price.


    Thanks - all of your replies are much appreciated. I hadn't looked into the Crane Song Flamingo until yesterday. Judging by its description is seems as though it could be one of the best pres out there versatility speaking. Specific settings for 4 different sounds - sounds appealing. Would anyone recommend this two channel unit over the afforementioned 2 channel Hardy/1 channel UA-610? (Realizing I'd have an extra channel with the later combo, my main desire is for tonal flexability).

    The Seb arguments are well taken and I've become very interested in it. Arrowfan, could you offer any sound samples of full mixes or acoustic/vocals tracked with it - or even recommend albums you've done using it for those two purposes. I'm always willing to purchase discs to check out sonics and just to hear new music.


  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.

    Check this link


    Kurt, were both the guitars and vocals tracked with the 87 and Seb? And what settings did you use (I'm assuming it was dialed fairly clean?)

    I'm curious to know because I'm looking for a warmer, maybe deeper/fuller sound, especially in the guitars. The vocal was nice and upfront but again I think I'm looking for something with a little more meat to the bottom.

    So I guess my point is that if the Seb can be tuned darker/fatter it's still in the running. If not what you recommend based on my perceptions using your tune as a reference.

    Thanks much ~

  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I can't see wanting much more color than that, I ran through both the Seb and a Manley EL OP tube compressor ... I think it's pretty thick sounding. If you want anything darker than that, you will need to look to something along the lines of a the GR MP2NV ... IMO and I still don't know if that would do it for you. A different mic (I used a U87ai) might be what you're wanting to hear.

    The Seb can get darker than that. The settings were basic tweaks, I just dialed in the correct levels on the pre and through the EL OP, and left it at that.


    Kurt, thanks for the reply. That really helps me a great deal. And I hope you didn't think I was judging or critiquing. I just needed to know what I was hearing.

    I downloaded pretty much every track from the first two sessions of the listening sessions and though difficult to wade through because of the inconsistent performances, the Phoenix Audio DRS-2 and API units grab me the most. I think the NV is too dark for what I'm looking for. The Phoenix was a little more loose on the bottom (buttery) and had a smoothness and hint of air that the great river lacked. I heard it across all 3 mics that were used. It gave me that emotional response - that something special.

    This forum has been invaluable. Thanks for the help. After a year and a half I think I finally made up my mind.


    (o.k., so now the question is: what should I get as a vocal mic that would match well with the Phoenix? Mellow acoustic pop - very soft airy tenor on the thinner side.)
  12. Arrowfan

    Arrowfan Guest

    Assuming the legends (U87, C12, etc) are a bit out of the price range, I'd suggest:

    - Rode K2 for a very rich tube mic sound
    - C414 TLII for brilliant hi-freq condenser mic clarity and with its many different polar pickup pattens is very versatile.
    - EV RE27, very high quality dynamic mic , rugged and punchy
    - And for that hard to overlook, striking ribbon mic (air velocity) sound, Royer SF-1 or R-121

    Overall, I think the K2 is a very sound choice for vocals. But any of these will sound fantastic through the nice preamps already mentioned.
  13. imagineaudio

    imagineaudio Active Member

    Nov 24, 2004
    I second the k2


    would you characterize the K2 on the dark side? Hearing another tune with made with the DRS I realized it can be tuned fairly clean. I'm looking for a dark vocal sound with some air and presence.

    The soundelux line has always intrigued me for whatever reason. Any experiences matching the DRS with a u195 or ifet7?


  15. Arrowfan

    Arrowfan Guest

    ha-Ha! We finally got ya! You want that elusive Mic, That Can Be Any Mic. And a matching tube channel to boot! Believe me, we've all been there before (I probably still am ;).

    But, what AudioGaff wrote is dead on:

    We'll come back to this... but first to address the "dark vocal sound with some air and presence."

    I'm guessing here, but I think this is THE vocal sound most of us here go for as well.

    The U87 has got to be the Prince of Darkness (not because its so dark but because it does dark with s t y l e ). That + any of the pres mentioned will get you 70% of the way there.

    But its that last 30% where the holy grail of vocal sound is made or waylaid.

    I personally believe "presence" is up to the singer (did they show up or not? just joking) - how they interact with the mic both spacially and dynamically. There's a sweet spot between loudness and distance to the mic which, when arrived at, will give more presence to sound character than any gear can.

    Having said that, I think the leading gear to add presence would be a very good compressor (which, if set properly, can come pretty close to making up for an unbalanced vocal performance), and possibly a special kind of EQ/exciter which boosts or even adds ultra high frequencies in the range of 20Khz and up.

    Even though we can't hear much beyond 22Khz, there is an interaction between the ultra high and very high which we *can* hear. Its not quite the same as boosting a HF shelf, its much more subtle.

    The only reason I can talk about this (without talking out my ass) is because it just so happens .... Sebatron pres have one very mysterious EQ switch setting. Its labled "Air" and it does just this, it adds/boosts frequencies above 22Khz. Check out the Seb VMP series specs, these units output frequencies up to 40KHz.

    I don't use it much because I've got a C414 which already lifts the high freq range so adding the Air setting makes it a touch to sharp. But, use it on a good dynamic mic or, god-forbid, on the U87 .... and I think you just might have a recipe for that elusive "dark with air and presence" setting.

    Kurt: you have a U87 and a seb ... do you use the 'air' setting? How would you characterize its effect with the U87?

    Btw, that track Kurt posted the link to ... I must say that's a fantastic dark vocal sound. Truly class A, in my book. I have to agree with Kurt, you really wouldn't want to go any darker unless you want to actually hear distortion (as opposed to psycho-acoustically sense it). Even then, Kurt's vocal there already is saturating. Nothing finer than that magic zone between the beginning of saturation and when distortion sets in!

    Kurt: do you have your compressor before the seb or after it? I'm assuming before so you can use it to keep your vocal living within that sweet -hot, but not distorting- range.

    OK back to reality -> No single mic or pre will give you everything. AND, mics should be matched to singers and styles. Get a chick singer in studio, mic her with a C414 TLII with a very nuetral transparent pre - and you'll forget all about the U87 ... at least for the moment ; )

    The deeper you dig - the deeper the hole gets! Hehe.

    Ilovesound: here it is, if I were you, I'd get the RODE K2 and the SEBATRON VMP2000e

    Rode K2 - $ 750
    VMP2000e- $ 1,300

    $ 2,050.00 and you've got one lush and versatile and package for well under $5,000

    You can daisy chain the 2 seb channels for some *dire* tube distortion (a very gratifying dist sound with guitars)

    ...you can mix and match the separate channels' EQ settings by routing to both channels in parallel and mixing them together, or by phase inverting one before mixing you can make all kinds of unique tone colors (result would be the *difference* between the two channels' settings)... or just that Air setting on and test your dog's hearing ; )

    Oh yea.... and save your cash for future mics and so on...



    Thanks for taking the time to write. I really take everything in what everyone says seriously. For whatever reason and after much audio forum reading, it's still difficult for me to imagine a $2K combo sounding as good as a $5k one, eventhough I know it can and in some situations sound better.

    All of this convinces me to seek out the most neutral and versatile combo to start with hoping I'll have the cash to add more colors in the future. But that's the sticking point. In some ways I feel I only have one shot to get what I want.

    I'll look into the K2. I've read so much about ADK mics for this price range so by mere exposure, I'm already slightly biased in ADK's favor. My other hesitation with mics at this price point is that i've heard they are so inconsistent. Is it not true that with a smaller company in a higher price bracket (boutique I guess you'd call em) are going to be more consistent and build to really last?


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