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Do i need a preamp with A/D conversion?

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by BoomTastic, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. BoomTastic

    BoomTastic Active Member

    I'm going to be buying my first pre-amp.

    After a lot of researching, i think im going to buy the Presonus Digimax D8


    I have an M-audio Fast track ultra. It does not have ADAT/lightpipe. So i would connect the two units with TRS cables.

    So my questions are this:

    When you plug..lets say a mic into the digimax, does it boost the analog signal straight to its TRS outputs without being converted digitally? Does the ADAT out get converted seperately?

    On the presonus website it says:

    I'm thinking direct means without any digital conversion?

    I'm asking all this because some one on Gearslutz said that the preamps with A/D converters are adding an extra conversion which causes latency, if you have two units in your chain converting A/D....like my Fast track interface.

    So i was wondering if i should just buy an analog pre-amp without any A/D conversion, since that takes place in my Fast track anyways. But there arent many analong preamps without A/D out there....

    So, is this all a valid concern, would it cause latency? The fast track has direct monitoring though.....

    or should i just buy it and not worry about it?

    or am i completely wrong and just confused? lol
  2. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sounding a lil confused but you are thinking on the right lines. Nothing that goes down your TRS lines is going to be converted to digital. Digital goes down USB, Firewire, lightpipe, not down audio cables!

    So yes, direct means straight after the preamp, as in 'direct monitoring' - so they are for all intents and purposes zero-latency outputs - and the analog goes straight to TRS without conversion, passing go, or collecting $200.

    You don't really need to worry about latency; if there is latency induced its induced at the same rate to everything, providing you route it all the same, therefore solving the problem without you having to worry about it in terms of recording. Its monitoring which is a concern, you don't want to go digital, send to your computer and then have it convert back to analog and send back out before you get to listen. You want to listen to the same audio that goes inwards, which the direct outs on the PreSonus should allow you to do. This is all with the caveat that the Digimax actually is built this way.

    I'm not the best person to confirm whether the advice you got from GS was misleading but it certainly sounds it. You're not sitting the two units side-by-side feeding digital to another source simultaneously so any conversion latency is irrelevant.

    Actually the core of your problem is something seperate. You're tied to the Fast Track to get a signal to your computer which makes a part of the investment in the Digimax fairly obsolete - if you have nothing that reads lightpipe, why are you paying for something with A/D built in? *All* the conversion in the Digimax is irrelevant - you aren't going to use it at all?

    I'm not personally acquainted with this particular PreSonus kit but I don't think the preamps are good enough to warrant this. You are looking at about a £500 or $800 investment right?

    There are many, many analog preamps without A/D out there. In fact I'd go so far as to say that 99% of the time, quality preamps do not feature any A/D at all because (a) they are built to do one job well not two and (b) one would expect to have one quality A/D box serving many analog feed sources.

    Getting 8 high-quality channels preamplified and converted to digital is a big monetary stepping stone. I'm presuming as this is the pre you've selected, you need to get to the 8-channel mark.

    In an ideal world you would simply buy a good 4- or 8-channel preamp instead and then upgrade your A/D later. If this is something you are going to be stuck with for a long time perhaps it needs a bit more thought.
  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Jeemy's hit it on the head.

    The DigiMax D8 can certainly be used as an 8-channel analog pre-amp, but you are then paying for the A-D conversion and ADAT output that you are not able to use, at least at present. It may be that you are thinking of upgrading your M-Audio interface in the future to a higher-quality unit (RME FireFace 800?) that has ADAT inputs, but bear in mind that the D8 is limited to 48KHz sampling rates. If this is what you have in mind, you may want to look for a unit that will give you 96KHz capability (via two ADAT lightpipes) for the occasions that you may need it.

    The digital latency is not really a concern, as all the channels into your computer will need to get converted one way or another. There worst that you might get is a few samples of delay difference between the different conversion paths, so as long as you do not split stereo pairs between paths, you should not notice it.

    If you need monitoring while recording, the D8 does at least give you direct outs as well as the digital outs, so a simple live sound mixer can be used to give you adequate monitor mixes with zero latency and without compromising the recording chain.
  4. BoomTastic

    BoomTastic Active Member

    I searched for weeks to find an 8 channel pre-amp with a max price of 500-600 dollars. Almost all had ADAT. The "quality" ones that didnt were way over my price range.

    Maybe i missed some, if you have have any suggestions...please tell me.

    I can get the digimax D8 for about 350 euros, and the Digimax max FS for around 550. http://www.presonus.com/

    I i dont think i will be using ADAT for some time, because i would have to upgrade my interface as well.

    The digimax FS looks nice....has the 96k feature as boswell mentioned, but i dont know if i should spend and extra 200 right now for something i might not use for a long time.
  5. BoomTastic

    BoomTastic Active Member

    So if i cant find a Pre without ADAT...that has around the same price range as the digimax D8...should i just go ahead and buy the darn ting?
  6. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Have you looked in the used market? An Onyx 800R has quite good preamps and digital output for later. In the US they are often found between $600-900. The caveat with all used gear of course being the ability to verify it works prior to the deal being 100% finished.
  7. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    If you could stretch to a Studio Projects SP828 at around $700 new, you would have a unit that you would not feel you had to upgrade when you come to upgrade your audio interface. The SP828 is also linkable up to 4 units (32 channels) for soloing and monitoring. I've seen Proaudiostar in NY selling refurbished SP828s at $599, but I don't know whether they have a permanent stock or if it's just a sell-off.
  8. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    And is it definitely 8 channels you need? $600 is a lot to lay out on what is a great solution in some instances but not in yours, and although I am not sure of this I would still count the D8 as a non-pro solution.

    I have to say that unfortunately a world-class 8-ch unit is probably out of your budget; the best value starts at $2800 which at $350 per channel is amazing value, however a good 1- or 2-channel unit could be had for $600 second-hand and would give you a much greater boost in quality.

    If you simply need 8 channels for drums I'd suggest trying to find the cheapest solution you can, because correct me if I am wrong but you're going to be limited to 2 actual recording channels by the Fast Track anyway!

    The Onyx will work, but in fact what I think you should do is swap your thinking and try to pick up an RME FF800. This will give you expandibility that will last you for the rest of your life, 4 preamps that will be the equal of, if not exceed, the pres in the D8, allow you to use your Fast Track simply as a further 2-channel preamp giving you 6 usable preamp channels and a further 4 line ins, including a very serviceable guitar hi-Z in that will allow you to record 4-channel drums, bass, scratch vocals and scratch guitars.
  9. BoomTastic

    BoomTastic Active Member

    The SP828 is one i looked at...believe me, ive seen most.

    its just too much man. If im buying one of these, its going to be new. Plus, i have to find a unit that is 230V. Which further limits what i can get. I have transformers at my house to convert 110 v to 230v, but they are heavy to lug around, an eye sore, and possibly a source of noise.
  10. BoomTastic

    BoomTastic Active Member

    The Fast track ultra can record up to 6 channels. But its limited to 2 channels using SPIDF. I dont have to buy an 8 channel, but finding a 6 channel....again, in the right price range, 230v, features i wanted, asthetically pleasing etc etc etc..

    Well, for sure i am not a pro..more of a novice at this point. 350 euros for the D8 is drop in the bucket, considering it can be more than 350 for just one channel on the high end stuff. At some point in the future, i may have the money for the 5,000 euro high end 6 channel amp, but until then, ill have to settle for the "non pro" stuff. And, even though limited...i like my fast track ultra.

    Besides i can always sell the d8 later, and probably get half my money back.

    Unless you can find me some comprable to the D8, im getting real close to clicking the "buy it now" button lol.

    Thanks for the help BTW.
  11. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Apologies I did not notice you were in Greece. There is more bang for the buck for dollars then there is for pounds or Euros, although in Europe things like Genelec and RME sometimes work in our favour.

    There is a Fireface 800 on a well known auction site for £740 or about 900Euros. If you are only looking at spending 350E then anything with 8 channels will be much of a muchness, go ahead and buy the D8.

    I still think you'd be better spending a bit more and getting fewer channels but if thats your limit and you are wedded to the Fast Track, good luck!
  12. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    An 8 channel preamp is completely useless with the Fast Track. The Fast Track is and will be your limiting factor. There are many two channel interfaces out there that also have ADAT in/out and additional line inputs. Basically spending money on a preamp you can't even utilize is putting you farther away from the goal in my opinion.

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