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Anybody heard of Hairball Audio?

Discussion in 'Electronic Repair Modifications DIY' started by kmetal, Oct 7, 2014.

  1. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    http://www.hairballaudio.com saw their ad in tape OP.

    They have some really cool stuff like a 1176 blue stripe kit for $600. The prices seem really good, so I'm as interested as I am suspect. If it's legit seems like it would be a good play ce to start a 500 rack, w a couple pres of color and maybe just a custom mash up I make. Seems like a reasonable place for me to start my DIY electronics journey, and my buddy would probably help me my first few.

    Any thoughts?
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I've never heard of them, but the site looks legit and they have realistic placements of their pre-amp products in comparison with some other top makes.
  3. Reverend Lucas

    Reverend Lucas Active Member

    I've heard some good hearsay about them. I've considered getting one of the later revs for a winter break project. Not DIY, but Warm Audio's WA76 has gotten warm reviews (couldn't resist), and lists completed for $600. Then again, it's based on Rev D. Are you set on the blue stripe?

    The question on my mind is - assume you could get two comparable 1176 clones (I'm not sure exactly how comparable they are) for a comparable price (you could probably actually get the WA76 for cheaper on sale), is it worth putting hours of work into the DIY option? To me the advantages of going DIY are the experience gained in the build, the pride associated with it, and in this case nicer knobs. I'm weighing this against the time requirement, and knowing that an out-of-the-box unit will function perfectly. I'm leaning towards DIY because I love tinkering, but part of me thinks this time might be better spent recording, mixing, or honing other skills.

    Apologies for my pedantic sidetrack. I'd be interested in knowing how your build goes if you do decide to get one.
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I think that you just mentioned the reasons, and, I think if you are one of those people who are good at it, then you should... (I am NOT one of those people, LOL... but I 'd like to be.)

    I suppose it's for the same reasons why some guys love building their own guitars.

    I'm a fly fisherman, and I tie my own flies. I don't have to, considering I could buy a dozen or so for a weekend outing for around $20 in less than five minutes, but I choose to tie my own because I like doing it, and, I'm pretty good at it, too. I find it relaxing, interesting, and there is a certain pride in having a 4 pound brown trout rise to a fly that I tied myself. ;)
    bigtree likes this.
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Never put better.

    Aside, I suffer with a soldering iron so I'm in the same boat.
    Reminds me of the guys who build a camper to fit their old half ton made of plywood and weighing a ton before the bed goes in. You see them on the road broke down scratching their heads thinking, hmm... I guess thats why they are made of aluminum.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    LOL... well, my initial thought was to say that this would be me, but then I thought more about it and realized that in order for something to break down, you have to first built something to break down. I'd have never gotten past the planning stages, and that's probably a good thing ;)

    Anyone who knows me knows that Donny and Power Tools - of any kind - shouldn't even be in the same room together...at least not without someone else present who has the Emergency 9-1-1 number on speed dial on their cell phone.

    My girlfriend is a paramedic, so these days, at least I have someone who can stop me from bleeding out before I get to the ER. ;)

    I'm not bad with a soldering iron, though that isn't really the issue. The issue is that I don't know enough about electronics to do that kind of work... at least not without putting the entire North American Continent into a state of Def-Con 2. It's true, ya know. I'm fairly certain that when I recently opened up my AKG mic to replace the tube, that NORAD in North Bay, Ontario immediately went into a state of readiness. ;)
    pcrecord likes this.
  7. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    My buddy is pretty good w a soldering iron he's fixed a couple consoles, so he would do most of the critical stuff. I suck at soldering, I don't do it well. So while I don't need to be a master at it, it'd be nice to be able to confidently shape guitar pickups, and caps, as well as not have to bother my buddy when I need to make cables :)

    As far as the wa76 im sure it's pretty cool, I've heard they have some Neve inspired thing going on too, but I'm lucky enough to have a silverface 1176 at the studio which sounds nice on bass and vocals, so I wouldn't really want something on the idea of the stuff from wa. There's alot of gear I have access to so I'm trying to just make my personal collection full of fun, cool, things. Diy equipment has always kinda interested me but I never really messed around too much, I'd rather be driving the car than working on it, but I feel like I should have the skills to put something basic together just for fun. I'm kinda just of the school of thought that if you want something like a blue stripe, just get one of those. I'd never buy a kit or a clone expecting the real thing.

    I'd realistically start off with one of their $99 preamp kits. I'm pretty good w a hammer, but electronics are still pretty foreign to me
  8. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Most people think they can't do soldering well because they've use cheap iron.

    Solering iron needs to get to a good temperature to work well. I've bought one in 95' for 35-40$ and I'm still using it. I checked on those (same make) and they are selling for 85$ now a day ! All it takes is a good iron, good eyes and a bit of practice.

    BUT ! If it is to be a critical part of my studio, I'd prefer buying a commercial build unit because at the first trouble you can call support and not second guessing yourself ;)
  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Yeah I heard weller makes a good one in that price range. I have a radio shaft one. I'm a big proponent of using quality tools. I saw a highly regarded techs setup and he had this variable soldering box and iron that you could set within a tenth of a degree. Said he needed to get a new one cuz it wouldn't do over 900 degrees or something like that, which is what the new non lead solder needs. I'd rather just be able to fix basic things than have to involve some 16 year old tech support person who's just simply searching a company knowledge base. I've experienced this quite a bit lol. But really I tend to buy reputable gear because it seems technical problems follow me around. (Waiting for ipad to freeze 3 2 1.....)
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    It's not so much that I don't know how to do it - In fact, I used to be pretty good at it. I can remember hand wiring/soldering 96 pt TT patch bays without any trouble; doing small repairs on things like DAT machines,
    ( does anyone else here remember having to get into the Tascam DA30 and snip the little jumper on the PCB to disable copy protection? LOL) but, once I hit my 40's, my eyes started giving me some trouble. I held out as long as I could, till I was around 45 or so, at which point I was left with no choice but to get glasses - for the first time in my life.
    I'm now in my mid fifties, and as the years have passed, my sight has continued to gradually get worse.

    On a side note ... the good news is that I'm still in fairly good shape hearing wise - the last time I was tested by an audiologist, (about 5 months ago) I was good to just under 18k.
    The doc said that for my age, I was well above average, and he also added that - considering my occupation for over 30 years as a live musician playing rock music - my hearing was "exceptional". :)


  11. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Exacly what I have (35watts) ;)
  12. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Nice! Good to hear that. I've worn glass since I was like 10, gonna get the lasik surgery in about 5 years, figure I'll be in my 60s by the time they start wearing out again lol.
    It's serioursly good that you took care of yourself tho D, I know a dude who legit screams when he talks and probably can't hear about 5 k much at all. Guess that's what years of club gigs and listen at 110 w two mcintosh 2500s full blast does. That aint my bag.
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    LOL... I really didn't, Kyle.

    I pretty much lived the stereotypical club and road musician lifestyle, lots of late nights (or should I say very early mornings) rushing back home (or to my hotel room) like a vampire trying to beat the sunrise LOL,
    which I didn't manage to do very often. And, along the way was all the late night drive-thru food, greasy diners, lots of booze, nicotine, caffeine, as well as a few other "eenes" ( and "aines", too) that I could mention - but won't since this is a G Rated Forum. ;)

    audiokid - among the other musicians here who are old enough to have also come up at that time - can probably back me up on that stuff, and, even add stories of their own, I'm sure. ;)

    I guess I just got lucky and managed to dodge some bullets - but certainly not all of them; we all took hits and self punishment to one degree or another; much of it simply came with the business when you worked as a musician in that 70's and 80's era .... I certainly wasn't unscathed by any means, but I do consider myself to be pretty lucky, because I have several friends who came up at the same time, lived the same lifestyle, ( some didn't make it and now reside at That Great Gig In The Sky) and for those who did survive, many of them - besides doing various stints in rehab for all kinds of addictions - are today also suffering from hearing loss - and probably even worse than that - tinnitus - of which, thankfully, I've somehow managed to avoid both.

    1979-1980 was probably the peak of the hedonistic lifestyle for me. And I know this because I've been told that I did indeed have a wonderful time.


    kmetal likes this.
  14. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    I went to the hairball site and decided the products are something I myself will never be buying - the reasons for buying them, explained in the video are all very subjective, and wonderful sounding, but reminding me of the hi-fi brigade rather than the pro studio person. It talks of capacitors selected by ear, and the 'classic' sound. It also mentions one of the press imparts unique colour - which sounds rather like the pre adds a 'tone' of it's own. I'd prefer the preamp to make the mic output louder, but without adding anything at all. What an 'authentic' output means, I have no idea."It's rounded and woolly, yet still full of crunch". What?

    So it's a sound changing product, their website is full of hyperbole, and these products are no doubt making some people dribble and want them to create just that special sound. Me, I'll carry on looking for pre amps in my equipment that add nothing to the sound, and don't hiss at any gain setting.

    I'm not suggesting these are bad products in any way, they fill a niche place in the market for boutique products for people on the Holy Grail search. I'd expect buyers to be really happy with their purchase, and be willing to swear how good they are. Super. I have no problem with them being very impressed and happy. I quite like the sound of a very cheap Behringer with 4 preamps that costs less than these individual pres. Clean, bright and pretty noise free. Not woolly, but crystal clear with a condenser mic - which is what I quite like.

    With sound, an individual likes it, or not - so each to his own!
    bigtree likes this.
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Well, you're certainly not alone there, Paul. There are more than just a few engineers who feel as you do and prefer to go the transparent route, as opposed to pushing through a pre that adds noticeable color or character, and, many pre amps do, both on the high and the low end of the budget spectrum.

    It all depends on what you are after. For example, if you were after a very warm and full tube sound, and you think that you can achieve this by using simple EQ or a particular VST on a track that was recorded though a transparent, clean track, then by all means you should. There are many, however, who feel that there isn't any plug out there that can truly emulate that sound, and the only way to really get it is to push signal through a real preamp... some prefer high voltage, some prefer tube, some prefer 500 series modules from classic desks.

    And, just saying that you want a "tube" sound isn't really all that easy, as many different tube pre's have different character from one another - even though they may both be tube driven, you can put two nice tube preamps side by side and they likely won't both sound the same. Neither may sound bad or good, just different.

    In my budget, right now, my best bet is to go with the best transparent pre I can find in a given price range. For now I'm using the Presonus VSL, although I do have some lower budget tube preamps that I can tap into, as well as a Tube condenser mic. I like having options, and I rarely record using the exact same mics or gain chain each time.

    It really all comes down to what you do, what you like, what the song you are working on at the time calls for, etc.

    IMHO of course.
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    My response belongs in another thread but its relevant

    Analog transparency is basically where I look. In fact, the best tube gear I've prefer doesn't have a "colour" as much as it has a vibrant texture of silky purity, yet transparent. The M-2b doesn't change the source but it does pass thru the energy of the performance that is always (less squashed) noticeably larger that other pre's. Every vocal through that sounds normal. Nothing stands out to be exaggerated and I think this is why I love it so much and why I am loving big rails.

    Paul really nailed this.
    I did a pretty convincing test a few days ago. I'm really trying to find a way to sell all the analog gear I no longer need, which is coming down to a few key parts. You should see this list of gear I sold in the last 4 years, OMG. All of it was replaceable ITB.

    My best mixes are tracked well with little analog intrusion on my end. But, there is no doubt capturing on a second DAW is unmatched so I therefore still need to keep that part of my process.
    This is why I use the Neos for the lanes and Dangerous Master for M/S summing and extended monitor outs. Its also impossible to monitor the lanes as accurately without the Dangerous Master monitors outs.

    Getting from one DAW to the other uncoupled and unnoticed is the mission.
    This is all becoming a gain hybrid staging process more than anything now. Transparency and big rails are really all I need, why I just love that m-2b and why its all relevant.

    RE Mixing or mastering, I use analog to help DAW1 get to DAW2, so, my analog matrix is really a M/S bridge with the ability to accept up to 32 channels and if I don't need them all, I don't use them. I decide this number based on where I hear it choking on DAW 1. I have a standard template where I put similar bus groups. The object is to get those lanes over to DAW 2, gain stage them to where they are sweet and capture it as big as I can. So, this is why I am monitoring on DAW2 and checking DAW1 for its consistency each stage. If I do something that gets smaller, then I know i'm going about it wrong. Size vs change.

    When I sum directly to my master DAW through the Neos/Dangerous Master and A/B it bypassed, I get such a close null now, I know its a great system. Clients can be confident that my analog chain is not changing their mix. I am using my console to optimize their bus congestion.

    When I A/B gear using the Neos, its easy to notice the cheaper analog gear is smaller sounding. DAW's are the ultimate and I don't want your mix to become smaller when I toss in analog gear. I mean, who does! So, whats with all the hype about coloured consoles. I don't think there is a console better than my DAW but I do think there is a problem somewhere between the tracks and the master bus that suffers. I don't think DIY gear really gets you ahead in the long run unless you are really really clever and aware of the reason hybrid has any advantages today. IMHO, all this cheap rack crap is doing is smearing your music which is easy to do without spending extra money lol..
  17. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    heard of them many times and never anything bad.
    for a starter kit its important to have a complete set of parts, and also clear & well documented directions. they seem to have that covered. prices are on par with competitors, you should go for it, on one condition...
    have you built something before?

    if this is your very first project, i would steer you away from anything with mains voltages. a mic pre would be a mistake first project no matter how well documented it is.
    go to buildyourownclone or generalguitargadgets and build a 9v stomp box for 60$ get used to inhaling fumes, burning yourself, pushing/pulling too hard on something and ripping the trace right off the board... all the fun stuff ;-)

    then, circuit specialists make great soldering stations for much less than weller. im on my second spool of wire and have yet to even change the tip :)
  18. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    rated by me as a best buy:

    bigtree likes this.
  19. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Thats exactly what I need!
  20. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    I really don't have a problem with this type of product if it's considered as processing or effects, which it clearly is. It changes the sound in a way people like, so for me, that's processing, or maybe enhancement, but in quality terms, it's destructive, just in a nice way. We have in the UK a company called Sowter, our transformer maker of preference. Many years ago I remember certain products with their transformers in were sought after because they sounded really good, but the transformers everyone raved about were exactly the same as used in loads of other equipment. Sowter always maintained that they make quality transformers, but concentrated on the technical quality. This enabled good audio designs to be produced. The notion of a transformer being some kind of tonal device to be experimented with just seems odd to me. If it does it's job, it should be transparent.

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