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Neve vs Vintech

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by DonnyThompson, Aug 30, 2014.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I ran into an old engineer friend last night at a gig, he had just returned from doing some tracking work at a studio in Florida, and of course, the talk eventually got around to gear... in particular, to preamps.

    He mentioned that on the latest project he was working on, that he had used several Vintech 573's (500 Series stuff) on a variety of tracks, mostly vocals. (The Vintech 573 is a "clone" module of the famous Neve 1073 preamp.)

    He was very keen on them, and he sent me a link this morning covering a shoot-out between the classic 1073 and the Vintech 573.

    View: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUqsQrr-RTI

    It's an interesting view. I'm curious to see if anyone else here has worked with either, or both... (I have worked with the 1073 several times in the past) and to see if anyone had any opinions on either - also, any thoughts about the 500 Series "lunchbox". ( I've had my eye on a 500 lunchbox from Legacy for awhile now).

    My buddy had an interesting set of criteria when it came to preamps in general. His number one deal maker/breaker is how a vocal will sound through a pre - and then played back, completely DRY.

    His feeling is that one of the best tests for judging the quality of a pre is how nice the vocal will sound when completely unprocessed and unaffected.... he also mentioned that so many of the lead vocals we are hearing in current music are very dry and up front, so whatever pre is being used needs to be able to not only capture the nuances of a vocal but to also add its own nice coloration to make that dry vocal sound good.

    Anyone who has ever worked with the Neve pre can tell you that it is anything but transparent. It's not colored in the sense of a tube pre, but it does have it's own texture.

    We both agreed that adding reverb - or delay or doubling - can "smooth out" some of the nasties that cheap preamps often present; those brittle, harsh, glassy sonics that so many cheap I/O's add to the signal. Chris refers to it as "Fzzzzz". LOL.

    But... we don't always want to effect tracks this way. And, I'm not a fan of adding reverb as a repair tool in that regard. When I use it, I want it to enhance a track... to add space, depth, a certain vibe or imaging. But if we find ourselves reaching for reverb for no other reason than to cover up the inadequacies of a cheap pre, then we should probably look at changing pre's. ;)

    Sometimes we want vocals dry and upfront, we desire that "intimate" sound, as if the singer is right there in the room next to you. And, other times, the dry sound is used to provide contrast so that when an effect like reverb is added, it's more effective.

    Anyway, I'm curious as to what you all think. ;)


    pcrecord likes this.
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Your friend sounds like he has a similar opinion to me over how a good a pre should sound on its own. The cleaner the chain, the less rashy zzss etc.
    For today's crop of pop music, I couldn't agree more.

    One mans good sounding, another mans average.
    imho, a choice mic, pre, AD the less you need of everything after the fact. My Great River 2NV sounds average compared to my M-2b but it sounds like gold compared to a WA12 with the wall wart. All different animals. And so it goes. There is only one vocal chain to me, and that is , use the best you got.
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I do agree with him that a good way of telling how good a mic pre is, is to test it with a vocal with nothing added that could hide "the nasties"... if you can get a vocal that sounds warm, rich, silky and airy coming off a pre without any post processing, then that's a big indicator... (as far as I'm concerned, anyway).

    Try this:

    Using a good mic, record a vocalist through a cheap pre / I-O ... and add nothing post... nothing... no EQ, no verb, no nuthin'. LOL

    The cheap preamp (and likely chap converters as well) will present all kinds of weird artifacts... harshness, brittle upper mids and highs, muddy and undefined low end.... and forget about getting that air that exists up around 16k.. what you'll get instead is the "fzzzzzz" that Chris so aptly describes... Nasty sibilants, and glassy, smeared detail.

    The only way to get that track to get even close to being usable, is to hide these nasty artifacts - maybe through dramatic EQ, but also by smoothing out the edges and "smearing" them (lessening their definition), usually with reverb or delay. But again, that's using these effects as repair tools, and not for what their intention is originally, which is to enhance a performance.

    Now take that exact same mic, same performer, and run the vocal through a good pre, or a great pre, or an outstanding pre, and you'll hear that it sounds great on its own.

    There's no processing needed to get a great sound, no 'repairing"... and any processing you might add after the fact (in the mix) will only compliment that track further.

    IMHO of course. ;)

  4. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Technologist's response "I want a preamp that is a piece of wire with gain"
    Musician's response "I want a preamp that sounds good"
    Clearly they are not talking about the same thing.
    My view is that people have got used to treating the preamp as a sound enhancer, making it a desirable product to make a sound nicer/better/smoother (insert other words as required).

    I've just finished a period touring a Behringer X32. It was sitting there in the case. In my studio I still have my old Soundcraft LX7 I use to get stuff in and out. I mix in the computer, so the faders usually just sit in a line - with mainly synths and midi devices feeding it. I removed it and stuck in the Behringer. Pressing play made the project sound nicer. Pre-amps, processing? Who knows. Does it matter?
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "...Pre-amps, processing? Who knows. Does it matter?"

    Well, I can only comment based upon personal experience, and personally speaking, think it matters. In fact, I think it matters a great deal.

    So here's what I think, and I want to make it clear that this is my personal opinion. I cannot speak for anyone else.

    For years, I used a Tascam 1641 USB pre- I/O as my main avenue to get signal to my DAW. Yes, it worked, in the sense that the signal got to where it was supposed to go... but...

    What was happening to the audio while it was traveling this path is what I always questioned. It wasn't until I had the opportunity to actually try another model - in direct comparison to the Tascam - and in the exact same environment, using the exact same mic(s)s, DAW platform, and room acoustics.

    Before I purchased what I ended up with - which is a Presonus 1818VSL - I was lucky enough to have the chance to try it first. I had a friend who graciously let me use his for an afternoon, and I was able to put it up against my existing pre - the Tascam.

    The difference(s) were immediately apparent. This wasn't a power of suggestion thing, a placebo of any kind. The differences were real, and, substantial.

    The first - and most noticeable - difference was the headroom. The Presonus had loads of it, in comparison to the 1641. I was always having to turn the Tascam's preamps up so much to get a decent signal, especially wen using dynamic mics, and in doing so, I was getting noise as well. I doubt I would have ever been able to use a ribbon mic with the Tascam. If I was having problems gaining up a condenser or a dynamic to acceptable levels, there's no way that the Tascam would have been able to sufficiently power a ribbon.

    Tonally speaking, the Tascam sounded "pinched" - thin, lacking body and warmth. The Presonus, however, had a very nice "fullness"... it was as if the Tascam had been acting as some kind of frequency attenuator, and in using the Presonus, I was able to remove that attenuator from the staging.

    Most noticeably was the upper end. The Tascam, either because of the preamps used, or the converters, treated the upper freq's with a sort of "glassy smear" ... almost a sibilance, but, actually worse... it sounded "fake" to me, for lack of a better word.

    The Presonus had very nice silky highs, with beautiful definition, and none of the "smearing" that the Tascam had...it also had a warmer mid range... gone was the harshness in that range that I'd heard with the Tascam. Now...the Tascam is almost 10 years old, so it could very well be that corners were cut in quality that most modern preamps now don't cut... preamps may have come far enough along now to where any modern pre would have sounded good in comparison to the Tascam, but, I'm not entirely sold on that notion either, because I've heard plenty of cheap preamps at client's little home studios that suffer from the same sonic sicknesses that my Tascam did.

    Is it because the Presonus implements Class A gain on the pres? Is it because the converters are nicer? Is it because the Presonus is a superior build all the way around? Maybe, but regardless, the differences were obvious between the two.

    I believe that the best we can expect from any mid-priced preamp/I-O is transparency. It's when you start getting into the "boutique" pre's that you start to hear textures and character, and depending on which pre you listen to, this texture and coloration will vary from pre to pre. And I don't think that there's anything wrong with relying ona Pre to add color and texture. If it's a particular coloration that is pleasing, then by all means, use the preamp as a tonal/sonic tool. There's nothing wrong with that, most of us do that with microphones all th time... why not expect the same type of thing from a particular preamp?

    The Tascam was anything but transparent. It had plenty of color, but not in a good way. As I said, it was as if it was acting as a frequency attenuator of some kind, and when I removed it from the gain chain and put the Presonus in its place, the differences were immediate... and obvious.

    So yeah, I do think that preamps matter. And I do think that they make a big difference in the final sound. I spent far more time tweaking and "repairing" tracks recorded through the Tascam, as opposed to now instead enhancing the tracks that are coming from the Presonus. There's a big difference between enhancement and damage control. I'm now doing much more of the former with the Presonus, than I was with the Tascam, which always seemed to require more of the latter.

    IMHO of course. ;)

  6. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    I think we're kind of agreeing from the opposite end. Adding a new piece of kit that makes it better sounding is a positive step forward, and I doubt anyone would disagree, but adding anything other than gain, in my book is an enhancement - call it a combination of eq, lower noise and extra gain and maybe subtle compression and/or expansion. A scientist would want total transparency - extra gain with no added artefacts. It's the same kind of thing as using valves. Most love the sound, but it's technically worse, but perceived as better. The audiologist at the hospital where I had a hearing test handed me his latest headphones complete with virtually flat frequency response chart and certification of accuracy - and told me he took them home to try on his hi-fi and they were simply horrible. We choose mics because they sound good - the same with speakers and all the other kit. The comments on the 1641 hold very true - I have one myself and fully understand. However, it was obviously better than the Soundscape system I had before it that was mega expensive. That was better than the one before it, and so on. I've not yet made the jump upwards, other than just discovering the X32 difference, so I'll probably go that way.

    We've stopped talking about technical improvements and moved towards sonic signatures that are nicer sounding but technically perhaps worse?
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    and that's why I generally only take spec sheets with a grain of salt. A piece of gear that can honestly claim to have full bandwidth from 1hz all the way up to 40hz does me absolutely no good at all if it sounds like crap.
    Sometimes it's the inaccuracies that count, or a particular piece that maybe has a very limited ability, but does one thing excellent.

    Yes, technical details are a good foundation to start from, but I'm not going to buy gear based on scientific fact or measurement alone. As you mentioned, your audiologist tried his mega-dollar, certified headphones on his home audio system and was disappointed.

    I recall a friend of mine some years back, who was using an old Marshall rig, and he hadn't changed the tubes in years. The tone on that beast was incredible, immediate, and required very little of anything to get it to sound great. He finally replaced the old tubes - with the exact same brands and models - and that amp never again had "that magic" afterwards. It sounded good, as most JCM 800's did, but there was something missing after the tube change. So from a technical angle, he was right to change the tubes out. But from a human angle, and what he liked to hear, it was a mistake.

    I think that very often, it's the technical inaccuracies that gives a particular piece its great sound. It may be because of harmonic distortion, or over-biasing, or any number of things that technically shouldn't be right, but are anyway, and when adhering to exact specs - while perhaps technically correct - will often end up altering the sound in a negative way.

    There are some who say that the new UA LA2A's don't sound the same as the older ones. Comparisons have been made with both brand new replications and older models - of which some are pushing 50 years old - and the majority of the time, the older models were the ones that the engineers polled chose as the best sounding in blind tests.

    Maybe it's because the internal components are so old - caps and resistors and tubes and tube sockets and wiring - that there's some sort of "mojo" there that the brand new models can't replicate, because all the parts are modern and virginal. Perhaps there's some kind of breaking in period with gear such as this... ( LOL.. a fifty year break in period... now there's a real buyer's advantage ;) ) but, maybe it is a little like vintage scotch... you know, Johnny Walker Blue and the other 60+ year old spirits...in that it takes that much time to age right. LOL

    To be clear, I'm not saying that any of the above hypothetical reasons are factual... I'm saying "what if" these were the reasons... Could those factors be quantified in a spec sheet? ;)

    IMHO of course.

  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    imho, a stellar pre and the knowledge of filtering is a beautiful thing.
    Reducing a big clear capture vs expanding small captures sound better to me. Big rails and straight wire is what I lust over. The m-2b is transformer-less but has tubes which is just enough of a glow to add that HD valve tickle in the capture, that I've heard from nothing else. I'm not saying go out and buy a $3300 m-2b but its different than the rest, sure to be a classic. Others which I don't have personal experience but testimonials say they may be of the same league are, Millennia HV-3, Forssell, GM, Gordon.

    Big Rail Preamps are everything, as is the converter to and from your DAW. Converters are not to be taken lightly, yet most don't hear a difference between good, better best. No wonder.
    If you are looking for the wow factor, big rails and top end conversion is where to look. I would most likely buy 16 Millennia's and look no further. All the fuss over various pre's because one is right for electrics, snare, etc makes sense to me but not because those sound better, but because they roll off or add a curve without much thought, and cost $ less.

    To get a vocal or acoustic source to sound compatible with today's level of technology, big rails and top level conversion is paramount to me. Nothing else matters as much as that. There really is only one product to use and that is the best you can get your hands on.
  9. pcrecord

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

    I also had an LX7 in my studio. I sold it a year ago and started to gear up in preamps instead.
    When I bought it, it was a great sounding mixer (at least to me who didn't have a lot to compare). At the time I was using 4 M-Audio PCI delta cards. When I figured that they were coloring the sound in a bad way and change it for the saffire 56. It made me realise what you are saying Paul.
    I'm not looking for technicaly advanced or transparent gear anymore. I'm looking for good sounding gear. Unit you plug and they sound good right away with there sound signature..

    But it's been that way for decades... When is the last time you heard a snare on an album that sounded like a real snare when standing a side of it ?
    People are used to here very roomy snare on which we often added short gated reverb.

    What we should be aware is that the world's audio taste is constantly changing. 20years ago, we were all looking for clean and clear digital and now we all want warm and upfront sounds. I wonder what it will be in 20years..

    I'll receive my last piece of gear in 1 or 2 weeks. I intend to put a break on my gear search and just do music for a while !! :)
  10. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Auditioning things can really put a stamp on their usefulness. One reason why I'm trying to have a palette filled with variety. There are certain sources which simply need to be biggerbadderbetter in every way. Thus the GT ViPre for most vocals, the Manley Dual Mono for important acoustic stuff and varying degrees from there. The Phoenix Audio DRS Q4 not only has the discreet circuitry but an incredible 4band EQ section as well as a HPF. You get very dial-y with it. The True P2 is exactly what it is. No muss, no fuss. The ADK is something all to itself. With all the variety of Op-amps and transformers I can change it to anything . The Focusrite 428 is the utility knife in the backpack. Nothing sounds bad on it. Keyboards through it are sublime with the variable HPF. The Eureka.....yeah....not high-end really but its the best Hi-Hat mic preamp I've ever seen.

    All-in-all, its about what you do with these tools. At this point, for me, its all about how easily can I get what I want from the source and how simple is it to control in the room.

    Given a well-tuned room, I would be all about gobos and sound control within the space to create the spacial relationships that good/great mics and outboard can react to.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "Auditioning things can really put a stamp on their usefulness. One reason why I'm trying to have a palette filled with variety. There are certain sources which simply need to be biggerbadderbetter in every way. Thus the GT ViPre for most vocals, the Manley Dual Mono for important acoustic stuff and varying degrees from there. The Phoenix Audio DRS Q4 not only has the discreet circuitry but an incredible 4band EQ section as well as a HPF. You get very dial-y with it. The True P2 is exactly what it is. No muss, no fuss. The ADK is something all to itself. With all the variety of Op-amps and transformers I can change it to anything . The Focusrite 428 is the utility knife in the backpack. Nothing sounds bad on it. Keyboards through it are sublime with the variable HPF. The Eureka.....yeah....not high-end really but its the best Hi-Hat mic preamp I've ever seen. "

    I think that the gear we purchase and use needs to have a context of sorts...

    For those who are own and operate commercial facilities - those studios that have paying clients in regularly and/or looking for new ones as well - then it's important to have as much in your arsenal as possible, because you'll have so many different artists and styles to work with. Accordingly, you need to cover your bases, and, whether you like it or not, you also have a certain amount of "keeping up" with your competition to deal with as well.

    However, if you have a studio that is mainly for your own use, then you can pick and choose the gear you use based upon personal criteria -what you want to accomplish - without having to worry as much about what clients - or potential clients - will want or need.
  12. pcrecord

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

    Totally agree ! Artists and engineer have gone a long way to make different tone textures. Some have made some ingenious weird way to record, just so the song sound different.

    Also, some gear are more versatile than others. Those are more suited for small studio ;)

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