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ISA428 vs VMP-4000e

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by bobbo, Dec 28, 2004.

  1. bobbo

    bobbo Active Member

    well, I have heard really good things on both of these units and have never heard anyone compare them to each other. They are both 4 channel mic pres, the 428 being solid state with the optional 8 channel adat out ($1699, $599 for optional adat a/d), and the VMP-4000e is tube with just analog outs ($1899). I know they have different "colors of sound", but is one better quality? I just recently heard of Sebatron from this site about a month ago from posts and from advertisments. What i've heard of the VMP-4000e is nothing but good reviews and alot of people around here have some sort of Sebatron. But I have not seen anyone else talk about them on another forum, (that i've seen yet). And on the other hand I've heard people everywhere talking about the 428 and how much they like it and such.

    I was seriously considering a 428 but for around the same price i could get the VMP-4000e. I am leaning towards the VMP-4000e only because it has the tube based pre, Not because I think "tube" gear is better, I just like to overdrive the preamp to give it a distorted sound primarally on the vocals and bass.

    So any help or advantages or disadvantages would be great

  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    You have pretty much summed it up yourself .. The VMP is "cascadeable", meaning you can run out of one channel and back into a second and third or even stack four channels ... for added color and distortion if you want. For flexibility from clean/pristine to dirty/grungy, there is nothing that does it better than the Sebatron VMP.

    In the best of both worlds, the 428 with the ADAT option and a VMP-4000 would make for a very nice front end to a DAW ..
  3. Aziel

    Aziel Guest

    i cant talk about the Sebatron...but i can tell you that the 428 it´s great...a bang for the buck...i guess both are great but you have to make your choice based in your needs...if you dont have outboard converters and dont have the money to buy it so then, go for the 428, the converters are really good above the motu and digidesign stuff (001, 002) they are cool...you are gettin both, pres and converters in 1 package...serius stuff...Kurt its right, to have both is ideal the Seb and the 428.

    Maybe you can see more around about the 428, but, remember, Sebatron it´s a new company with killer products, while, focusrite its a BIG company with a lot of money to make noise in the marketing process...so, perhaps you want to hear them by yourself... :cool:
  4. JeffreyMajeau

    JeffreyMajeau Active Member

    Go with the Sebatron. As the years go by, I'm less and less impressed wth FocusWrong. I think they're banking on their name now, kinda like Neumann.

    I'd get the Sebatron and a nice outboard converter to go between the pre and the DAW. That way, you can upgrade each piece of the chain seperately. I must admit that i'm not familiar with the ISA directly, but it's definitely mid-level Focusrite. Why does it give you 8 ADAT outs if it's only got 4 pre's?

    There are other options out there:
    Mackie Onyx (the horror!)
    Audient ASP008


    I have been impressed with the Sebatron I've used. Haven't heard it be real "toobey", just nice. It will flatten out into that tube sound if you push it hard, but it's a great pre and appears very well made (far above the build quality of a lot of other gear I've seen).
  5. mikE@THECAVE

    mikE@THECAVE Guest

    kurt can you touch on this cascading technique a little more ,I don't think i've got much useable distortion this way.I think i'd like to do it on DI electric guitars.Or is this more for micing an amp.thanks
  6. bobbo

    bobbo Active Member

    re converters

    If i were to go with the sebatron what would be a good a/d? I would just need it to have adat out.
  7. Aziel

    Aziel Guest

    quote] must admit that i'm not familiar with the ISA directly, but it's definitely mid-level Focusrite. Why does it give you 8 ADAT outs if it's only got 4 pre's? [/quote]

    :roll: ...sorry, but you are talking with no knowledge...the ISAs are fine great units...they have inside Lundalh trannys, thats not prosumer its "pro"...if you had the oportunitie to "taste" several pro units you can make a serious statements...about the 8 ADAT outs,,,it´s one of the best ideas...ever!!! you can insert 4 more external pres...any pre!!! any brand!!! i can compare the 428 with other serious devices...man...grab a 57, put it trough...if you hear somethin new (like a new mic) bright, live...so you have there a great pre...(by the way, i used to own a Voicemaster...thats crap...mediun level)
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    The VMP's have both 1/4" and XLR outs on the rear panel for each channel ... the 1/4" connector (unbalanced) can be used in a variety of ways, as a send for side chain processors, as a no latency monitor send for your DAW or in the case I mentioned, as an out put that may be routed back to the input of a second VMP channel, via the 1/4" DI / line input on the front panel. You can "stack" as many channels as you want. By driving the first channel harder than the ones that follow, like a pre / master guitar amp, you can dial in as much or as little distortion as you need.

    What I have read about the ISA series pre amp is it has the same transformers as the original Neve design, same basic circuit as the Neve design but excited on an easier / cheaper to build surface mount printed circuit board using LSI chips instead of the discreet parts, "through the board" construction found in the Neve designed Focusrite console. It is a very good implementation of a time tested design, done in a modern cost efficient way. I really like the sound of these pres. Would I prefer a real Focusrite pre out of an original console? Of course, if for no other reason than "cool factor". However the ISA is precisely the kind of product the marketplace is screaming for .. Good design excited with cost saving advances in technology, sold at a fraction of the price of it's predecessors.

    As to the 8 channel interface, well that's the format of the ADAT technology ... it would be sillier to not include the extra four channels ... Buy two ISA 428's, one with the ADAT option or as I suggested, an ISA 428 with the ADAT option and a Sebatron VMP 4000e for flexibility and the best of both worlds.
  9. Aziel

    Aziel Guest

    on my way... :cool:

    my next purchase... 8)
  10. JeffreyMajeau

    JeffreyMajeau Active Member

    You know, just because it's got Lundahl trannies doesn't make it a pro unit. I have no direct experience with the Focusrite ISA428. It may work for you, great. If I'm spending my money, I'm probably not going to be all that moved by Focusrite. This is from past experience using their stuff on sessions (mainly the reds) and auditioning. Don't get me wrong, the ISA428 is at least good enough that it won't embarass itself (their lower end stuff stinks up the joint, though), but there are much better units for that price.

    It is cool that they give you 4x line input to their converters, that way you can at least get a couple of flavors out of the same ADAT input to your DAW. Having one of these isn't going to automagically make you a "pro" and it's not going to bring you down if you are a pro, but it's not what I'd choose (and I consider myself a pro...)

    I'll still hold to my statement that the ISA 428 is a semi-pro box. It's a tarted up piece of MI gear. That in itself doesn't make it bad, but for the price, look at your other options before committing. Focusrite is merely a name now...
  11. mikE@THECAVE

    mikE@THECAVE Guest

    what do you like better Dan?
  12. Aziel

    Aziel Guest

    :shock: ok...got it...its a sorb position...the reds???? comon...well, i think Kurt explains very well the point, but maybe you are right, you are a "pro" and you know what is "better" for you...the reds!!!! :lol: tell us please...whats better deal for the price? you know, pres and converters in 1 package... :mrgreen:

    PD: sorry i cant xpress my surprise enough, dont speak english very well...
  13. JeffreyMajeau

    JeffreyMajeau Active Member

    Boy does this shoe taste good! I thought the 428 w/digital out was more expensive. Apparently I've had my head up my ass for a while on that one. Anyway. It's not a bad deal, I guess, but I'd still listen to a few units. I dig my Audient, which is why I bought it. There's stuff a little higher and stuff a bit lower. I'd be checking out:

    Benchmark MPS400 (no converters)
    Presonus M80 (no converters)
    Presonus Digimax
    ATI 8 MX 2 (no converters, but a SUPER flexible box!)
    A used API Lunchbox or 200 series rack. I like the 200 series
    because of the smaller size.
    CLM DB8000 w/ADAT (not 100% on the price for this one)
    True System 8 (no converters)

    There's a rundown of some stuff here:

    And for a good analog to ADAT converter, find the old Panasonic converters on eBay for a song. Forget the number off the top of the head...

  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I agree with Dan that the Platinum and Green range of Focusrites offerings are pretty dismal ... I understand the attitude regarding "Focuswrong" .... the introduction of the green and platinum range and now the Liquid Channel, is enough to turn any hard core pre amp advocates stomach but let's not "throw the baby out with the bath water", just yet.

    From the list of pres that Dan posted (with the exception of the API's which I find surprising as the API's and the Neve inspired Focusrites like the Red range, are both essentially the same approach to pre amps, transformer balanced, op amp based), it appears Dan prefers the more transparent colorless mic pres like the Benchmarks ... and not the Neve inspired types like the Focusrite ... and that's really fine .. there's a lot to be said about that approach, especially if you are recording acoustic and classical music.

    But one mans treasure is another trash ... and with all due respect to Dan, I was surprised to read his recommendation for the PreSonus M80. I personally think the ISA 428 is waaaaaay better ... I had an M80 here for review and PreSonus offered to let me keep it at dealer cost ... but I sent it back. Being the pre amp junkie I am, this has to say something .. (I even paid for and kept a Studio Projects VTB-1 I reviewed once just for ruks!). :shock:

    I had trouble getting adaquate levels out of the M80 into my Alesis AI3's which run at +13 dB clip level .... at least 4 dB lower than most other converters at +4dB. The best I could squeeze out of the M80 was a measly -12dB on the digital scale with the AI3's set at +4. Anything higher than that, was distortion city. I asked the guys at PreSonus what was with that and they replied that "the M80 runs at 0 dB levels ... and we think that is correct." To me this says, "screw the performance, we want to run it between semi pre and pro level so it can be used (with compromise) at either -10dB or +4dB levels" ... The very definition of "MI gear" ...

    To boot I was not impressed with the sound of the M80 ... flat and dimensionless. The original M80's gained a good reputation by using Jensen transformers ... but PerSonus quit using the Jensens after the first year of production, replacing it with a transformer of their own design. To tell the truth, I had trouble hearing anything that sounded like it had a transformer in the M80 PreSonus sent to me .. very vanilla. The IDS distortion circuit included on the M80 that is supposed to warm things up and make for a tube like sound ... was totally bad sounding to my ear ... all in all, I really was not that impressed with the PreSonus.

    IMO, the M80 is more along the lines of "a tarted up piece of MI gear." than the ISA428. They offer an extensive feature list and are very useable in applications where you don't want to be dragging your expensive pres or a mixer out into the field or for board tapes ... but I really don't hear much of an improvement in the sound of the PreSonus pres over the preamps found in any modern table top mixer. At a list price of $2200, I can think of a lot of things better than the M80.
  15. Aziel

    Aziel Guest

    i can understand too this position against stuff like the platinum range (how i said before, i used to own one) but the ISA range it´s a whole another history...by the way, if you compare the prices between the 428 and the devices you posted, still is a bang for the buck...pres + converters...just the API 200 series are above 2500$ without the lunch box (almost 3000$ with the box) and with no converters...so, it´s all about the numbers... :wink:

    PD: check the 428 price on:


    best price in the net... :cool:

    BROKENBONES Active Member

    i like the sound of tubes too.i think it's all about the sound TTYTT.no i don't think itz about numbers. :roll:
  17. Aziel

    Aziel Guest

    sound, quality and numbers of course... :mrgreen:
  18. JeffreyMajeau

    JeffreyMajeau Active Member

    And I wasn't out to start another 'preamp war'. I'll absolutely back down about the ISA, it seems I was a little off-base. It is cool that you can get the ISA and then add a few single channels of different colors and use the same converters. That's a nice touch.

    I'd check out the build quality since they've diversified their line and became part of Digidesign. Not that they're bad, but they are outsourcing a lot more and they are not the original Focusrite anymore. They're a name and some designs from the original founders, but they are a different, more diversified company than originally. If they hadn't done that, they wouldn't be around today. Of course, you'd do this on any unit, I guess I'm just trying to cut through the "It's a brand XXX, so it's good!" thing.

    Kurt's right, for the most part. I'd much rather have a rack of pres that doesn't add it's own signature and have one or two more colored units than the other way around. For the most part, I can get by with anything, although it sounds like the M80's out!

    I almost bought an M80, it's got a lot of features, and the guys at Professional Audio Design hot rod them. I ended up saving money on a better unit with the Audient.
  19. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Dan ...

    The hot rodding of the M80 is something I have always been skeptical about ... The thing lists for$2200+ and "streets" for $1800, fer cryin' out loud ... It shouldn't need to be upgraded .. IMO The Sebatron VMP-4000e or the JLM TMP8 sure don't need to be improved out of the box ...

    The suggestion of using the Burr Brown chips in the M80 only makes me wonder how much different would it sound from a Burr Brown chiped Sytek? I'm sure the input transformer would make it a bit better sounding, I wonder by how much?
  20. Aziel

    Aziel Guest

    not a preamp fight here... :wink: it´s good to share info between us...and by the way...can you share about the Audient?

    Happy New Year!!! :mrgreen:

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