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DTAR Solstice as recording pre?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by moles, Jan 8, 2015.

  1. moles

    moles Active Member

    Long time, no post for me. Glad to see the forums here still hopping.
    I'm considering the DTAR Solstice preamp for my double bass rig - I'm already using the Radial PZ-Pre which has similar features (and sounds great) but lacks mic preamps. That's the kind of thing that can be useful for some gigs, but not frequently due to feedback issues on stage. So, it's essentially a $400 experiment and I have other gear I need to buy...
    HOWEVER the thing that might tip the scales in favor of getting one is how well it might perform as a recording preamp across a wide range of sources... i.e. vocals, acoustic bluegrass instruments, and possibly a small drum kit done in mono, etc.
    I'm not expecting API or Universal Audio pre's - I was pretty happy with the sounds I was getting out of my Presonus Eureka preamps (not the eq or compressor functions necessarily...)
    So, keeping that in mind as a base line, anyone given this box a whirl as a preamp?
  2. pcrecord

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

    Before reading your post I didn't know the DTAR existed. So I can't comment on its sound.
    For Double bass work, I'd be looking for DI/preamp as Avalon, a UA 710 or if you want a 2 channel unit, the ISA one (di + preamp). Those would be in the cheapest choices for me. Of cource the ART PRO MPA II as nice comments as for being sounding good for the price and may fit your bill better.

    It might help if you would be more precise on what you are trying to accomplish on the long run. Are you rigging up for your instrument or for a band ? is it for live or for recording or both ?

    Also, if you were happy with the Presonus Eureka why not consider a Presonus mixer ?
    400$ experiment seems to be like taking chances to loose that 400$ and buy something else after that.. Why not saving that 400$ and go with your ideal choice instead ? (even if it's more expensive, you won't waste money)
  3. moles

    moles Active Member

    Hard to explain this without writing a novel, but cutting to the chase, I'm trying to hedge my bets on the Solstice *as a live DB rig solution* (in other words - I'd use it to blend a mic and piezo pickup and send that to my amp and maybe FOH if I need to send them that specific sound) by hearing opinions of it's sound when used as a recording preamp.

    Amplifying DB is always a crap shoot. Always a $400 experiment. There's no way around it. I have a box with $1000 worth of strings in it that were experiments with different degrees of success - there were others that got traded away. I found out everything I needed to know about strings for *that bass*....too bad I have another bass now and I get to (sorta) start it all again. :D Amplifying is the same way - same bass, type of strings, even style of playing...one guy will stick one side of an Underwood through a Countryman DI and sound great, and you might try it and not get the results you wanted... It just is what it is. You can be informed, but nothing is going to out weigh plunking down the money and trying it.

    So, what I'd consider my "typical" DB gig is going to be changing soon, and I feel the need to try out a slightly different signal chain. The Solstice might be the ticket. Or it might not. But, the light at the end of that particular tunnel might be: "Well this didn't work as well as I'd hoped on stage, but at least I got a fairly decent two channel preamp for my DAW". I've heard a couple of good things about the Solstice as a recording preamp, but wanted to hear about anyone on the board here using one.

    The pres you listed are all great recording front ends - none of them have any of the functionality needed to work as a live DB preamp. I think the closest might be the Focusrite deal...I was checking that out last year I think. Any idea if you can actually blend the mic and DI signals and have them coming out of one output though?
  4. pcrecord

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

    I don't think the ISA One combines signals other than in the headphones jack.
    To combine 2 signals going through an amp you could use something like this : http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ABYMix
    It has footswiches to select one, two or both.

    On the other hand, a mic going to your stage cab and then to the FOH and back to monitors is a recipe for feedbacks.. I would use the piezo alone to your amp and let the FOH blend the mic for the assistance. If you put both signal to your amp, they will be colored by the amp both the same way. It'll be a better choice to keep the mic seperate, in my opinion ;)

    The preamps I listed would sound wonderfully if used live. I have a friend playing bass who use an Avalon preamp with a QSC amp on a 4x10 Cab. Man this sound clean and very dynamic. Far better than most bass amp head I heard.

    It seems this 400$ for trying isn't a problem, so I'd say go ahead and do it. It's always a satisfaction to test things ourself.
    If only you could rent one...
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Not in the conventional mono sense, but you could use the headphone output for this if absolutely needed, as PC mentioned. Alternatively, the mic/line and the DI channel can come out separately, either to go to two analog inputs of PA rig or audio interface, or as pseudo L and R channels of a stereo S/PDIF signal if you have the optional ADC installed in the ISA One. The converters are as good as you would find anywhere. Overall, the ISA One is slightly quirky but has outstanding sonics.

    If you could cope with separate MIC and DI audio outputs going into your PA or DAW, the dual-channel DAV BG9 is in a similar sonic class as the ISA One, but at a lower cost as it is analog-output only and does not have so many of the bells and whistles.
    pcrecord likes this.
  6. pcrecord

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

    I didn't know DAV products, do you know how good their multi channel preamps are 4 or 8 ?
  7. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I have several of the DAV pre-amps, but, as it happens, none with DI. As pre-amps, they are very clean, open, transparent - whatever words you want to use for a non-coloured no-transformer sound. A great advantage of them that I value is the switched gain control in equal dB steps, as it makes it much easier to note down a gain setting and then re-set it to exactly the same position at a later time. For those of us who use stereo mics, it's essential to know you have the same gain set on both channels. You also get none of this packing the last 20dB of gain change into the last 5 degrees of pot rotation that you have on many pre-amps with continuous gain knobs.
    bigtree and pcrecord like this.
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Never put better.
  9. moles

    moles Active Member

    Right, well that's what I figure stopped me from looking any further into the ISA One when I came across it last year or whatever. Believe me when I say, I do appreciate that it'll sound like a great preamp, but in a live situation the PITA factor of having a cobbled together system built of components just kills it's usefulness to me *for that application*.

    For it to be useable on stage for me I'd need to add:
    1- A high impedance buffer of some sort (5-10 Mohm)
    2 - a fully parametric eq, *with* some sort of switchable HPF with variable or selectable frequency. AFAIK there is a pretty short list of units that still have that feature, so maybe I'd need to add,
    3 - an outboard feedback killer/notch filter
    4 - some kind of blender - and a good sounding one at that, since at this point you've blown close to 4 figures just to get your signal from the bass to wherever it's going..

    And this is before we add whatever I'd need for doubling gigs, where I'd need to swap between the DB and an electric bass!

    Trust me - I don't want to deal with all that on stage - the artists I work with don't want to deal with all that on stage - the engineers I work with will never want to see all that coming up on stage... and that's why I *have* the Radial PZ-Pre.... I could stick some kind of small mic pre in front of channel two (hopefully with some sort of on board eq) and be done, but I need to at least try to come up with a solution that will let me stick to one box on stage (for most gigs anyway).

    This isn't to say that I'm not after a decent preamp or two for recording...I'm probably going to snag a Focusrite Scarlet 18i20 as an interface for when I need to be mobile. But it'll be really easy to rent if I feel I need an Avalon or UA for a session, so that's not as critical for me at this point.
  10. pcrecord

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

    I still can't figure why you don't use your piezo to your amp and let the FOH deal with any mic he/you want to use...
    It would simplify your setup by removing the blending needs.

    If you can't do without dealing with two signal yourself, I would turn myself to a 2 channel amp head.

    Some ideas :
  11. moles

    moles Active Member

    What is it exactly that you don't understand about wanting the option???
    And sorry, springing for a two channel amp is not the answer...I'm trying to justify spending 3-400 bucks on the Solstice by getting info on it's usefulnes as a recording preamp which would extend its functionality...I just don't see how blowing 2 grand or whatever on an EA Doubler that I'm going to use on 15% of my gigs is a good idea :/
    I'm probably just sounding jerky now so take the tone with a dash of humour, but I've kinda spent the last decade experimenting and researching this stuff. I play a wide variety of styles of music, with a wide variety of artists, in a wide variety of venues...de yada yada...There is no one size fits all rig that will work for me. I'm only interested in blending a mic with a piezo for *certain specific situations* that I can make a *very* educated guess will benefit from that setup. All the other ideas...they're good ones! And I use them frequently! :D
  12. pcrecord

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

    It is simple, puting a mic in front out your Double bass is a great opportunity for the FOH to have a great sound.
    If that mic goes to your amp, it will teinted by your amp sonic caracteristic and not provide the sound it is suppose to.
    If you really can't live without hearing the sound of that mic, you just ask to hear it in the monitors..

    Those are just thoughts, not ment to undermine your opinion ;)
  13. pcrecord

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

    I guess I've been the FOH guy too many times myself !
  14. moles

    moles Active Member

    Haha I know I know...I'm sorry, I really understand that it's probably confusing because I'm really trying to avoid posting a bunch of "useless" (or maybe not so useless at this point) details about how I intend to use this setup. But the most important part to take into consideration is that likely the gigs for which I'd do this will have no FOH engineer (or, where it's moi doing dual duty). You're thinking big stages, and I'm (poorly) trying to get across that those aren't the stages I'd be doing this on. I got big stages covered with what I do...not that I won't screw with it this summer...But I know what to go back to doing in a pinch. Really in the small stage scenarios it's better for me to have the control at hand on stage, possibly at amp level, where I can keep on top of it.
    Also, keep in mind that one does not need to plug into the front end of a bass amp if you've got a preamp in the chain. All mine have effect loop returns which do quite a lovely job of taking the amps preamp out of the equation.
    ON THE OTHER HAND, I also don't get why it'd be a terrible thing to have both a mic and a piezo blended and going into an amp. Fishman, K&K, and a few others design piezo/mic combos for acoustic guitar, DB etc. that do exactly this. It's just part of the amplification chain - you really only need to be concerned with keeping your mic signal "pure" if the pure sound of the mic is precisely what you want! If you want it to be part of your pickup signal, to add some natural tone that the piezo doesn't do all too well, then who cares? Treat it like another pickup, why not? :D
  15. pcrecord

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

    It all depends on the amp/cab but by using a external mic preamp through a bass amp/cab you would in fact be putting a preamp output to another preamp input. (unless your amp/cab has a line in input)
    Beeing a recordist and live sound tech, I'm all in favor of getting the cleanest signal path for the mics. To me, the idea of using two signal source on an instrument is a great thing (piezo + mic) but if both go to the same amp, they will be both colored the same way by the amp circuit and therefore are not exactly 2 different signals anymore. Of course I understand that it could be a good thing if the amp is giving you the sound you want and can become a signature sound for you..
    But to me, a mic through a amp/cab, is not the first thing I would do. I would send it directly to the mixer or use an external preamp and send that signal to the mixer and combine it the amp direct out with the mixer.

    On smaller venu, couldn't you put the mixer on stage with you and still have control ?

    Last thing to consider, if the cab is sounding great, why not using 2 mics, Cab and Bass ? ;)
  16. pcrecord

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

    Know that I respect your approach and in the end if it's sound good it's all that mather.
    What I'm doing is mixing your eggs to give you alternatives ;)
  17. moles

    moles Active Member

    One last bump to see if anyone has info/experience on the OP here, re: using the D|TAR Solstice as a preamp for project studio level recording...
    pcrecord likes this.

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