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BLA Auteur VS. Sytek MPX4 VS. DAV-BG-1 preamps

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by took-the-red-pill, Mar 25, 2011.

  1. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Hi guys,

    Hesitant to ask yet another preamp question for those who are sick of them...

    I'm not a gear junkie, but I don't want to be limited by my gear either. I'm looking at these preamps because I'm hearing/reading good things about them. And in fact, in the case of the Auteur by Black Lion Audio I've still never ever heard anything less than stellar about it.

    So I'd like to have an excellent quality, 'go to' preamp of at least 2 channels that is under $1000. So? If it were you, what would you buy?
    Are there some out there I'm missing?

    FYI I am NOT:
    -interested in an ART, or a Behringer, or the Joe Meek 3Q, or something that 'appears' to be a big bang for the buck. I already have lots of cheap pre channels.
    -going to get a kit from Seventh Circle or Five Fishes or similar. They have to be perfect in their construction and I don't have access to someone who can do it for me.
    -interested in a single channel for $1000, no matter how incredible it is. I can't justify that kind of dough per channel.

    Current sources: acoustic guitar, male baritone voice, female alto/soprano, electric guitar cab, bass-direct through a Radial JDI. Future recordings will include violin and cello. Most other goodies done in Reason

    Current arsenel of mics:

    1-AT 4050-The new 'go to' for me.
    2-KEL HM-1'
    2-Audix OM2
    1 SM57

    Current Preamps:

    Presonus firepod-seems fine until you A/B it with anything else-this will likely go.
    Old 16 CH Tascam mixer from the 80's-actually sounds not bad, but noisy, and a little hot around 125Hz
    Altec 1567-from the 60's, converted into a 4 in-4 out pre. I currently only have 2 channels hooked up. It definitely adds it's own colour to the mix.

    Thanks for the input folks.

  2. gehauser

    gehauser Active Member

    I have the Sytek with 4 stock pres and it is excellent. I have no experience with BLA or DAV so I cannot compare it to them.

    I do prefer the Sytek over my Grace m101 for acoustic sources. It has a punch to it compared to the softer, more delicate sounding m101. It is also quieter than the m101, determined by cranking the gain with no source input. The Sytek is clean and detailed on the mids and highs, and has meaty, tight, punchy low-mids and lows. It captures fast transients well.

    I would even venture to say that the Sytek holds its own with my best transformer and tube pres (Pacifica, Solo 610) - each has a different yet superb sound. It is that good.
  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I have several DAV BG1s in my pre-amp collection, which does not include either of the other two pre-amps you mention.

    I use the BG1s extensively for acoustic instruments, ensembles, orchestras, choirs and lots of other sound sources. They deal well with dynamic, condenser and ribbon mics, although the BG1 gain is not really enough for low-output ribbon mics at a distance. As it turns out, I tend not to use them for close-miked vocals.

    The BG1s are a very "open" pre-amp with a wide, uncoloured sound. This works hugely in their favour, but it is one reason why I tend not to use them for solo vocals, as often the vocal context needs the colour of something like an API pre-amp.

    One great feature of the BG1s is the switched gain (as opposed to continuously variable). This makes it easy at a performance to re-set a gain noted down at rehearsal for that performer, and also to maintain accurate level matching between stereo channels.
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I've tried to find the DAV website and its dead, have they moved?
  5. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    You certainly have it 'narrowed down'...The problem with gear in this range is there isnt very much @ 500/channel unless you're looking at 500 series lunchboxes. Most are either a lot cheaper or a lot more. Used is another story but requires research and patience. Used at the 1K 2-chnl level you'd be looking for Vintech 1272, SPL Goldmic, TL Audio, DBX 586 some Toft....perhaps an older Presonus M80 with Jensen trannys....(eight channels BTW and very clean) ....The next step up takes you to $1200+ but includes Amek 9098, Focusrite ISA428 and similar. The cut-off for this level seems to be around $1500 and then it goes way higher quickly.

    I certainly understand budget. I have one that doesnt include things near and dear to my ear.

    I think you limit yourself when you say you only want something in a very narrow field. Except the price. This is usually the kicker for anyone.

    I recently bought a Focusrite ISA 428. It was around $1400. Its four channels and I know this isnt what you wrote about, but it sounds better than most things in its price level and certainly 100% better than what you have now.

    Just a thought
  6. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member


    Well, I'd personally love to drop 1500 bones on a ***y piece of studio gear...but I'd rather stay married. Even the $500-800 range will see me having to clean the toilets in the house with my tongue for a month...It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make, but a sacrifice nonetheless.

    I guess another question is: would I really know the difference between one of the three I'm looking at, and one of the other higher end units you've recommended? I don't do this for a living, and God knows everything above about 16K is just a distant memory due to too many years near power saws and air nailers. So realistically would an amateur like me be able to record an acoustic guitar with a Focusrite 428 and have an eargasm because it was just THAT much better than a lowly Sytek/BLA/DAV?

    I know that sounds sarcastic, but that's an honest question.

    Tree, I found DAV here:

    D.A.V. electronics

    So the BLA is $250/CH, the Sytek is about $225/CH and the DAV is $450/CH.


    So what I'm hearing is that the DAV would likely be fine in a studio situation on a ribbon mic at closer distances? Just that you deal with a live performance situation, so the combination of a larger distance, and a ribbon, and the DAV would not be stellar. Am I reading that right?

    Thanks for the ideas/input gents.

  7. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    As to the 'differences' in sound from your 'three' and the ISA for example, not much. They are all on a par. There will be subtle differences and even if you have limits to your hearing range you have enough experience listening to tracks that you'd be able to detect them in a side by side. "Better" in this case is subjective at best. "Better' in comparison to what you're using now is no contest at all. Even though you said you werent interested in ART pres, the MPA is going to be an improvement without a doubt. It would be a bit more subtle but clearly audible diffeneces.

    The budget mic pres you might consider and would be an improvement also include Aphex 107/207 and FMR RNP. A Mackie Onyx is also a set of very clear and usable pres through they can run out of headroom for certain types of mics (none of which you've listed) Having a 4050 will certainly give you an opportunity to really experience the qualities and subtlties of a decent mic pre. The Kel is a great mic (I have one) the OM series Audix are also superb (I use an OM5 live) and the other is a 57.

    You'll "get" what any of these pres have to offer with those type of inputs.

    If you shop wisely, you could score a couple of new channels and have enough for a nice ribbon mic like the Avantone CR-14 for those strings you're going to record. (around $250 street)
  8. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    With ribbon mic's you need to look at the impedance matching as much as the usable gain. Also some ribbons are hotter than others. That said, there is a nifty device for ribbons made by Cloud Microphones called the Cloud Lifter. I like it quite a bit now that I've used it several times with my SF12. I did NOT use it yesterday for a piano recording because the piano was too loud for it.

    By reports the BLA is an excellent pre but is in no way colorless. I wouldn't mind one or the DAV or ISA but I just don't do bands anymore at all. I use True Systems P2Analog, a Precision 8, and a Mackie Onyx 800R. Next seasons scheduled upgrades for me include a Millennia of some sort-maybe the two channel tube Chris keeps raving about.
  9. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I'm not trying to overplay the ribbon thing - it's simply that any pre-amp with only 59dB of gain is not going to deal easily with a low-output ribbon mic at a distance from its sound source. In a studio, as you mention, it's not generally a problem, but where I would disagree is that the output is not "stellar". The quality is there, just the amplitude rather low. Winding the gain up post-preamp brings up the noise levels.

    I've been experimenting with low-noise 20dB pre-pre-amps for ribbons, and hope to report soon on this. I can say, however, that I'm not particularly impressed with the commercially available ones. The devices completely solve the gain issue with pre-amps like the BG1, though.
  10. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Hello again gents.

    Well, my search is over...for now anyway. I happened to be poking around my local kijiji and some guy was selling a Mackie Onyx 400F. The firewire had stopped working but the pres and other analog connections are all fine. Get this: 80 bucks for 4 Onyx pres!

    I understand it's not the end-all-be-all, but at least it's good enough that now I know *I'm* the weak link in the chain instead of the gear, and I can learn/improve. I'm confident it will be adequate until I can justify $1000/1500 bucks a channel for something spectacular. Looking forward to plugging my newly acquired 4050 into it to see what I can do with it.

    Cheerios, and thanks again for all the help.
  11. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    In the FWIW category, the Onyx preamps are pretty darn good. They are not Millennia or Grace or DW Fearn but they are very respectable. Also, I think Mackie will repair the Onyx 400 firewire card still if you want. Sometimes it is just the header broken off of the PCB. Sometimes it was just someone that didn't know about changing the 1394 driver in XPSP2/SP3 or about using the Legacy driver in Vista.
  12. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member


    Thanks John.

    Okay, at the risk of hijacking my own thread:

    My current plan is to simply use the Mackie as a pre and go from the line outs into my Delta 1010. Is it worth getting the firewire component of the Mackie fixed to use it for conversion instead or would I ever be able to tell the difference? Certainly if we compare just dynamic range of the Delta(109) vs. the Mackie(107), they're very close. But maybe there's more to it than that?

    The Delta:

    The Mackie:


  13. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    I like the Mackie unit better than the Delta and feel ultimately it's more flexible. There were quirks to the original drivers for that unit that seemed to have been rectified with the several latest versions as well as Win7. Under XP you had to use the SP1 driver and under Vista you had to use the legacy driver. Now. Latency. In theory the Delta should get lower latency because it is PCI based. In practice I can't say because it has been maybe eight years since I used a 1010. When I used the Onyx 1640 regularly I was able to run 16 channels at 44.1k without issue for 90 minute blocks of time and about 768 sample buffer on a computer not particularly tweaked. I still use an 800R on occasion to expand the FF via toslink.

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