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Focusrite ISA One vs PreSonus XMax

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by DonnyThompson, Feb 15, 2015.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Hi Pal...

    So, I'm thinking about maybe adding another preamp to my rig in the next month or two. As you probably already know, I'm currently using Presonus XMax pres for the bulk of my recording.

    I know that you have the Focusrite ISA 1.. and I know you like it.

    If you don't mind, could you talk to me a bit more about this model?

    Sonics, overall sound, gain, transformers, etc.

    Is there something that you like using it on the most?

    You've heard the style(s) in which I produce... would this be a good choice for me?

    Do you find that the Lundahl tranny makes a difference?

    FWIW, I have AKG 414EB's (2), a Neumann U87, a U89i, EV RE20, various dynamics like 57's, 58's, Sennheiser 409's, ... and an MXL 860 Ribbon.

    Also, do you have the straight pre model or did you get the optional 24/192 i-o ?

    If I decided to go with an ISA, would I be able to do without the digital i-o, and just use my existing Presonus VSL as the ADDA input/conversion stage? Would I see a drop in the quality of the ISA if I did it this way?

    Thanks in advance... ;)

    -d.
     
  2. pcrecord

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

    First the use of an external preamp with the presonus. I didn't read the manual but I suspect that the mic/line combo inputs imply that even on line settings, the signal will go to some circutry before hitting the converters. This might not be dramatic but you won't get the raw signal for the preamp.

    Now for the preamp choice.
    To my opinion, the ISA preamps will sound good on guitars, drums, percs and some vocals.
    Their forces are :
    • They are very fast which translate in great transients.
    • They have a ton of noise free power and handle ribbons like a charm.
    • They are constructed as a tank (at least the ISA two that I own)
    • Very easy to use and the HPF is very usefull
    • They are hard to push to saturation so you always get a usable track
    • No service needed, no tube to change
    • They are not transparent but not colored that much you would think
    Are you going for them ? only you can answer. It all depends on what you are looking for. What the presonus is missing in your opinion.
    If you are looking to coloration, they are not the choice. Go for a UA 610 or a Neve clone.
    If you are looking for transparent sound, Go for a Millennia, a grace or something in that zone.

    If you want raw recording samples of the ISA I'd be pleased to post some ;)
     
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Thanks for taking the time to respond, Marco - the engine in my car blew on Saturday morning, so I was rushing around all weekend looking at new cars - and eventually buying one - so all my time was spent away from here.

    This thread has been renamed - not that I mind, but it is a bit misleading... I'm not really trying to compare the Presonus XMax with the Focusrite. I just wanted thoughts on the Focusrite.

    I don't have any problem with the Presonus XMax preamps. I've never heard anyone else complain about them either; these are the same 30 volt, Class A pre's that are in the Studio/Live Series Consoles. I think they are really decent, clean, good gain. For the price, I don't think you could really do any better.

    But... I'm looking at stepping it up a few notches, to something of a higher quality.

    Again, I have no regret with having purchased the Presonus1818 VSL. It gives me 8 nice channels for whatever I want to do - but I feel as though I'm missing "that one crucial link" - a very nice pre, mainly for for vocals ( acoustic instruments, too - guitar, mandolin, violin, etc) ... something with sufficient voltage that can sound "bigger", but not heavily colored. A pre that will really make the vocals sound big and pro.

    My dream choices would be Millennia or Neve (I've looked at Neve Portico's) But, I can't afford those right now - and they are even further away now, since I had to buy a new car, which meant putting money down... sigh...

    So far, I've been leaning towards the Grace M101, and, for around $700 new / $450 newly used on eBay, I think it would be a good choice for ultra transparency, yet still have that beefy gain needed for dynamics and ribbons. I've heard them, both in YouTube videos and in real time as well. It is not known for its character or color - to the contrary, it's known for it's ultra transparency. It's transformer-less, provides a whopping 75 db of gain for dynamics and ribbons, and has a gorgeous, crystal clear sonic thumbprint. I just want to be sure I've covered all my bases and explored all options in that price range ($700-$1200) before I pull the trigger. I want this pre to be the last that I buy for some time, and I want it to give me that professional sound on vocals - and acoustic instruments - but really mainly for vocals... that's my number one priority.

    My mic cabinet is healthy - Neumann's (U87, U89i) AKG's (414 EB's, SolidTube), Ribbons, Dynamics, Tube Mics, - I just need one single channel pre that can make lead vocals shine and sound truly professional, sonically.

    I'm not sure which way I want to go yet. This is why I wanted your thoughts on the Focusrite. ;)
     
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    If I sent you a vocal sample, would it be a hassle for you to run it through your Focusrite? I know this isn't the best way to do it, but it would at least give me some idea of what to expect. If you don't mind, let me know and I'll email you a short (30 sec or so) vocal track.

    If you don't have the time right now, I totally understand. ;)
     
  5. pcrecord

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

    I think the thread as been renamed by chris I can't see why he have chosen that title.
    Send me your file, it will be my pleasure to process it through an ISA preamp.(some quality maybe lost at the DA stage of my Saffire 56 but you'll get an idea anyway.
    Before you decide what to buy, consider the signal path first. Buying a 1K preamp and plug it through the presonus preamp may not be ideal. That's why I often recommend the ISA with AD option, to bypass the interface's preamp completely.
    For my part I ended up with a used AD96 to convert signals from my 2 LA-610 and my 2 ISA two go through the converters of the UA 4-710 (wich goes to my interface in ADAT).
    If you want, I could send the isa back to the saffire preamps so you have an idea how different it sound when not on a seperate AD
    BTW, in the neve flavor Vintech does great units too. The x73i is 1375$
    And if you really like the ISA you could go for their channel strips The 220 or 430 in the used..
    Or go with an LA-610 used aroud 1k (it has less power for ribbons but shine on vocals specially with the compressor) ;)
     

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