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Focusrite ISA220 vs. PreSonus MP20?

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by mark4man, Jul 11, 2004.

  1. mark4man

    mark4man Active Member


    Was looking to add a couple of Rode mics (NT-1 or 1A) to my project studio; & then began to think about also moving up in preamp quality, as well.

    In looking over two choices, the Focusrite ISA220 & the PreSonus MP20, the Noise Floor specs are a bit tough to compare, for me.

    The MP20 has 3 specs:

    Noise Floor @ Bus = -90.2dBu
    Noise Floor @ Main Output = -96.4dBu
    Noise Floor @ Channel Output = -88.2dBu @ +24dB gain

    The ISA220's specs are:

    123dB EIN w/ 50 ohm input resistance at 60dB of gain
    THD: 0.0008%

    (& I noticed no reference to EIN or THD w/ the PreSonus.)

    A review in EM from 1999 (which compared the MP20 to a "well regarded British preamp"), gave very high marks to the PreSonus; & comparatively; stated that:
    So, my questions are:

    Does anyone have any comparative experience with these two manufacturers/products (& I understand the Focusrite has other capabilities)...(or would someone have another recommendation)?

    &...What should I be looking for in terms of quality...how do the above specs compare...are Xformer based units better than Xsistor based units, etc., etc.?

    Thanks very much,

  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Do not pay attention to specs. They can be misleading .. something that looks wondeful on paper can sound terrible and vice versa. To further cloud the waters there are different methods for specing out gear and these methods can have an effect on the outcome ... there are ways to spec gear that will make it appear to be better on paper.

    I would go for the Focusrite ISA 220. That review was written in '99. perhaps when Presonus was still using the Jensen transformers on their front end ... which they no longer do. Besides that, I have almopst never seen an EM review that I thought was "spot on". The staff at EM are keyboard and samplercentric. Sometimes I wonder if they really know what they are talking about when it comes to mics compressors and pre amps ...

    I have a M80 here and IMO it sounds nowhere as good as any of my Neve types ... or my Sebatron for that matter. I never use the Presonus M80, it just sits there ... looking ugly. PS the M80 doesn't get enough gain to drive my +4 inputs to - 10 without distorting ...
  3. Roswell-CS

    Roswell-CS Guest

    I'd go for the Focusrite ISA 220.
    I have one, and i love it....
    The compressor is a LITTLE bit picky, so you gotta fiddle around with it for awhile to get the hang of it, but other than that, i love the sound i get out of it... vocals sound smooth and clear.
  4. mark4man

    mark4man Active Member

    Cedar Flat Fats & Roswell-CS,

    Thanks very much.

    How about the Grace Design 201?

    Any experience there?

    Thanks again,

  5. mark4man

    mark4man Active Member

    A.R.T. vs. Focusrite vs. PreSonus


    I've ran across another unit...

    the A.R.T. MPA Gold; &...realizing how much I like tube based pre amplification, took a look at the specs:

    EIN -133dBu (XLR to XLR ‘A’ weighted)
    Maximum Output Level +28dBu (XLR)
    Dynamic Range >100dB (20Hz to 20kHz)
    Total Harmonic Distortion >0.005% (typical)
    Variable Input Impedance
    Selectable Tube Plate Voltage
    Tube Circuit = Differential (providing 300V power supply equivalency @ High Voltage setting.)

    It's quiet, w/ low distortion & plenty of headroom; & it's a tube pre!

    So I was hoping to run this unit by some of the engineers here for feedback on sonic quality, performance, etc., since it looks like this is the replacement for the Pro MPA (which has been found in at least a few studios over the years, I believe)...

    & also, I had a question concerning the seemingly not so dynamic, dynamic range of the unit (>100dB.) Is this due to the tube circuitry? Why so much better on Xformer & solid state units?

    Thanks very much,

  6. iznogood

    iznogood Member

    as fats said...

    do not look at the specs!!!!!!!!!!!

    borrow them and listen!!!!!
  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Looking at ART's web site, it is hard to tell if the MPA Gold is a pure tube design or a hybrid in which the mic pre is solid state that is run through a second tube stage to add distortion and "warmth" characteristics. This is still a pretty inexpensive mid level mic pre not on par IMO with the Focusrite ... but at $500 it is difficult to go wrong. It has a lot of cool features like variable input impeadence and it really looks like it would be fun to play with. Cool ohh factor, lots of lights to blink and buttons to push. I have a couple of friends (one who is a very well respected producer/engineer in pro circles in the SF area) who actually like the ART Pro series of mic pres ...

    If you really like the tube thing, you owe it to yourself to check out a Sebatron vmp series mic pre . In my opinion, the VMP is the best affordable mic pre on the market.

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