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Mackie preamps vs A&H

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by zemlin, Sep 8, 2004.

  1. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    With GC offering the Mixwizard 16:2 for $800, my credit card is getting the urge to buy something - even though new mics are next on my "list", that mixer is tempting.

    I currently have a pair of Mackie 1402s - a VLZ and a VLZ Pro. I use them primarily as a banks of mic preamps for on-site recording, coming out of the inserts into a MOTU 24i.

    My question is - how do the A&H preamps compare to the Mackies? I am aware of all the other goodies on the Mixwizard - 16 direct outs, good EQ, lots of auxs, long faders ... ...

    I'm really just curious about the preamps from the XLR to the direct out (or the insert out on the Mackies).

    I do a little FOH work, so a nicer board for that work would be nice to have - that's part of my lust for the A&H.

    My recordings are mostly acoustic folk, bluegrass, piano, choral, a little rock band stuff, acoustic rock ...

    [edit] I'm not looking to this for a preamp UPGRADE - not at $50/channel. When I do that I think I'll be looking at Great River. I just don't want to take a step in the wrong direction. I do not expect that to be the case with an A&H board, but I don't know. Worst case, I guess, is I buy the board and try it out. If I don't like what I hear it can go back. [/edit]
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Hey Karl ...
    I think your headed in the right direction.
    The AH is likely going to be an improvment .. if not because of the mic pres but in overall system and mix bus headroom. The AH pres are reported to be a bit less shrill than the mackie pres ... but as you point out at $50 a channel what can you expect? A useable utility pre is about all, imo. It would be interesting if you were to make a comparison yourself and post a 128kbp mp3 of it here.

    I am also curious.. . how do the vlz pres in the Mackie compare to the vlz "pro" pres? I suspect there is little if any difference. A comparison of them would be nice as well ....
  3. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    To be honest, I've never done a side by side with the mackies. If I buy the A&H (I'm sure I'll have to endure an ugly glare from SWMBO if I do) I will compare both Mackies to the A&H, because one of the Mackies go.

    I have heard from one reliable source that when he had the opportunity to compare the VLZ to VLZ pro, he chose the VLZ. I ended up with one of each because the VLZ was advertised on eBAY as a VLZ Pro (you see a lot of that) and 6 months old. It was actually 6 years old. Even if I like the older VLZ a little better, I think I'll sell that one because it isn't as clean (internally) as I would like.

    The only problem I have with doing a comparison between preamps, is I'm just a recording guy - aside from a singing daughter (age 14) I don't have much active musical talent in the house. I may have to bribe a couple of folks to come and give my mics a good workout if I end up with 3 mixers on my floor.
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    It would be nice if you could do that.

    Pick a LD condenser and record a nice acoustic guitar with it. Have the player re do the performance for each pre as closely as possible and try to match the gain and mic position... or if you have them, a pair of sd condensers placed as close to each other as possible and routed to different pres ... same performance, mic type, different pre ..

    I find acoustic guitar demonstrates the strengths and weakness's of pres and mics the best.
  5. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    'zaktly what I was thinking. I have a pair of NT5s (matched) I could stick together for a/b. My daughter plays guitar, but at this point smooth chord changes are a triumph - I'm not sure folks would want to listen to that test. :wink:
  6. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Well, I put a deposit on the A&H today - GC has to ship it in from a different store, so I won't get it until next week. Looks like I have to find a capable guitar picker next week.
  7. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    FYI: A new version of the Mix Wizard is due out shortly which is why GC is blowing out the older version,
  8. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the FYI - I had seen that. I don't mind buying the previous generation - it means I can probably afford it.
  9. ericj

    ericj Guest

    I use an older A&H board and I absolutely love it for project studio stuff. It's the MixWizard 20:8:2 (http://).

    They don't make it anymore, but it has very similar pre's to the 16:2 MixWizards. They have a transparent, clean sound, not gritty and sharp like the Mackies. Also, they warm up really nicely if you run them "hot", (in the +6 or so range on the meters.)

    I think that in this price range, you can't really find any better bang for the buck than the A&H boards (except maybe the Soundcraft stuff, but I've never heard one of those boards before.)

  10. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    I have a potential client coming over on Saturday - She wants to cut a test track, so I have asked her to play for a few A/B tracks as well.

    I'll put my NT5s on her guitar and run them into the different mixers. I'll do A/B recordings of the two mackies (VLZ, VLZ Pro) and the A&H. I might try double micing her vocal too - she sings from way back in her throat - No idea what mic I'm going to end up using on her.

  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I'm looking forward to it! It's nice of you to do this for us ...
  12. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Well, the results are in, but samples are not yet ready. I'll post those in a fresh thread later tonight.

    IMHO - not much to debate.

    #1 - A&H
    #2 - Mackie VLZ
    #3 - Mackie VLZ Pro

    I'll be selling the VLZ Pro as a result. The VLZ has a few slightly noisy faders, but it clearly sounds (a little bit) better.
  13. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    mix wizard 3 is out as of last week

    Great job man. However it might be a little too late as far as the new Mackie's ONYX coming out (one day) and the fact that the new A&H mix wizard 3 is also out as of last week. This is what I want to know about. I will buy either one that is better. Both are about $1200
    regardless, great job man
    I have heard the same from others in the industry 8)
  14. Way too much is made of preamps, granted they are an important stage of the recording chain, however they are miniscule compared the importance of eq and good compression. In other words you're way better off with really good compression and eq and recording with Mackie pre's than you would be spending alot of money on botique preamps and junky eq and compression. But even more important is your level of skill at working with eq and compression and effects, balance mix etc... Yea sure an acoustic guitar sounds great through a really nice Avalon mic pre, but by the time you eq and compress the hec out of it ( which you must do inorder to fit it into a mix nomatter what mic pre you are using) the difference between the Mackie pre and the Avalon become much more subtle, where as the difference between good eq and compression can be great. However if you are a purist recording guy, like into Jazz or classical, then the importance for a Hi-fi mic pre is greatly increased, But for rock, pop and hiphop your money is much better spent on good compression and eq.
  15. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I find your remarks to be of interest. What would you consider to be a good compressor and EQ?
  16. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Okay, I'm trying to figure out whether it was a bong or a crack-pipe that you hit before writing this reply...I'm not trying to start a flame, but talk to any of the top guys in the industry and they will tell you that the less eq and compression they have to use the better. A good signal chain from Player->Good Mic->Good Mic Placement (which by the way, is the best eq of all)->Good Pre-amp->Media is the only way to get good sound. While eq and compression shouldn't be tossed off as afterthoughts, they certainly are not as important as the front-end signal chain!

    For eq, my philosophy has always been - if I have to boost or cut more than 3db, I've done something wrong. (There are occassional exceptions, but they are rare and quite specific.) Of course, I always prefer cutting - boosting can exagerate phase issues and create unwanted distortion.

    As for compressors - there are tons of great compressors out there (and tons of bad ones out there too), but the simple fact is, no matter how good the compressor, it cannot make a piss-poor signal any better, only sqaush it all together.

    Overall, remember - gear is not the most important element of recording - it's experience and the ability to listen for all aspects of the music.

    Just a thought...
    J... :cool:
  17. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    I would somewhat agree only if you used the word cheap or those designed to be simple, basic transparant types. But anyone that owns and has used hgih quality designed and great sounding preamps, colored or transparant will tell you otherwise.

    If anything, compression is way more over-rated, mis-understood, overused and abused. Compression is NOT always needed nor does it always make things sound better.

    And direct experience has taught me that proper choice of a good to great mic, great mic preamp and mic placement do more to getting the best of tone than eq or eq and compression does.

    Like all things in your audio chain, it can only be as good as the weakest link be it at the source, the mic, the mic pre, comp, eq or anythig else in the path.
  18. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I am still curious, what you think a good compressor or EQ is?
  19. Ok here's what I mean, Iv'e got a studio with vintage Neve pre's, API 312's, John Hardy 990's, Avalon mic pre's, and some high quality custom built tube pre's that I built myself, so I'm no stranger to the preamp game. Once I figured out how to be a decent engineer, I figured out that it was mostly B.S. fueled by I'm not exactly sure what because I've found clearly that other things in the chain affect the color of the sound more immensly, like the mic for example!, even the recording device or converters etc..has more to do with the sound than the preamps. If I were recording a vocal or any other sound that's as dynamic as a vocal I would much rather record a vocal through my Mackie pre's and compress it through a Urie 1176 than record it through an Avalon and then compress it through a cheap DBX compressor that would essentially ruin the sound entirely. If I'm given some good eq 1073's, pultech, and great compression like the vintage neve compressor, and Urie 1176's, La2a's etc.. I could make a mix that would sound absolutely killer and that was only recorded on cheap Mackie pre's vs. the mic pre's of my choice and mixed with crappy eq, and cheap compression, you might as well forget it.

    Mic pre's are cool but the hoopla is way over done, there really are more important considerations. Inexpensive but "good" sounding pre's and killer outboard gear will take you a lot further than just a bunch of botique preamps. I think a lot of the big focus on pre's has been that they are affordable compared to what it really takes to make great records. We tend to focus and talk about what we can afford don't we? Pop music and rock is all about the diberate attempt to manipulate the sound but that's just a general statement, of course some things are better off left alone. Example electric guitar itself is a major manipulation of sound. I've met and worked with many pro's who have big hits and your jaw would hit the floor when you wittness the techniques they use to manipulate sound, running drum mixes through Sansamps, and cheap wacky devices, believe me the preamp gets way lost once it's been run through the gammut of what these guy's are doing.

    Having said all that I still record my guitars and snare drums through a vintage neve, but I can pretty much get the same sound if I run a Mackie pre through a vintage 1176, or a Pultech eq. And further more I recently heard this royer ribbon mic that made recording guitars with a Neve preamp completely insignificant compared to what the mic is actually doing. Conclusion:tools are tools but dollar for dollar your money is way better off spent on mics eq and compression however that equation changes a little or a lot actually if you are recording purist type music, like classical or Jazz, but even then the mics are way more important than spending a ton on these mic pre's.
  20. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    pre amp

    I too thought a good pre-amp would serve me better than a good compressor. My next purchase was gonna be an Avalon 737sp. Does this mean a 747sp would be better?
    Or just a compressor?
    I wish a had $2000 to throw around, but I dont. Anybody else agree with what is being said?

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