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Octopre vs. Digimax

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by mardyk, Oct 1, 2003.

  1. mardyk

    mardyk Guest

    Hi, I'm looking for an eight channel preamp with Adat lightpipe. These two seem to be just that. Anyone have any idea which one is better. The Digimax is about 300$ more.
    Ricght now I have a mackie and a DBX 386. Will it be a step up or should I look for something else?

  2. lorenzo gerace

    lorenzo gerace Active Member


    Don't know about the Mackie or the DBX; I have a Focusrite Octopre, and to me it's a great sounding unit, considering what you get for the price it's a really well configured unit; I use it in my daily recordings, from acoustic instruments to electric guitars and basses; it sounds really clean but big and present; the ADAT lightpipe option is really handy in that you can track to a digital medium (I go straight into Pro Tools or Mackie SDR 2496) with decent conversion, and simultaneously route the analog outs to a second recorder or console (I do this kind of splitter configuration when I need to track live gigs), even though the analog outs are hotter than the ADAT.

    One word of caution: being a class A circuit it gets really hot, so be sure to have it properly ventilated in the rack; mine got so hot during a tracking session this last August (it was 40°C) that the ADAT card started malfunctioning, once it cooled down for a few hours all was well, but it stopped my session and I had to skip from the ADAT connection to the analog (no big deal) to keep it going.

    Other users on this and other forum have worked with the Digimax, and like it too, it seems that the two units are quite similar sounding, so my last advice is to go and try them out, and decide with your ears.

    Hope this helps

  3. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    I love my Digimax! It is not a Sebatron, Chandler or Great River by any means (!), but works very, very well for the price. The limiters work extremly well, and it has a great full sounding DI for bass or electric guitar also.

  4. Bobby Loux

    Bobby Loux Active Member

    this is a fantastic review of both units.
    Octopre verses Digimax
  5. lorenzo gerace

    lorenzo gerace Active Member

    The review is quite interesting, however I have to point out a few mistakes: it's not true that the Octopre doesn't come with any output both digital or analog: it comes with analog I/O standard in the form of XLR connectors for the mics, a D-sub 25 pin connector for line level in and a D-sub 25 pin for analog out; a D-sub 25 to XLR or TRS breakout cable is about $25 (I actually self bulit mine for less) and saying that a D-Sub connector is no standard output is like saying that all Tascam gear doesn't have any I/O... furthermore the ADAT option is considered a con, but what if you already have a separate converter? with the Digimax you have to pay for a thing you don't need, while having the option to purchse it separately or not to me is a plus; installing the card is a simple task that anybody with a little skill (not necessarily a tech) can do, I did it.

    ...maybe I should mail this to the author?
    :D ;)

  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    The author also states that a XLR splitter was used in part of this comparison but he doesn't state if it was an active or a passive transformer isolated splitter. In either case, there are drawbacks. Each type will affect and color the signal.

    I also noticed that the price of both these units is around $1300. For that, one could almost have a JLM TMP8 (a fantastic 8 channel Focusrite Red Range type pre) or a Sebatron vmp 4000 which is a great four channel valve mic preamp. Both the Sebatron and the TMP8 are top notch professional pieces that will hold more of their value in the future, while the Presonus and the Focusrite platinum series stuff is definitely considered "prosumer" home studio equipment, rarely if ever used by professional recordists and engineers, which will be essentially worthless in the near future.

    I realize the JLM and Sebatron don't have digital outputs and there is a reason for this. Both these companies are catering to the professional market and they know that as digital standards evolve equipment that is married to a given sample rate will become obsolete and end up in a rack in the corner unused with the owner not being able to sell them at even a fraction of the original cost. Case point, I have 5 black face ADATS, taking up rack space and room in a spare bedroom, which I would love to get rid of. When they were new, they sold for almost 20 grand for the bunch! (Yes, I went for the banana in the tailpipe.) I would be happy to let them all go for $1000 (do the math, that’s 5% of the original price). Any takers??? I didn't think so!
  7. Catoogie

    Catoogie Guest

    I just picked up the $200 Bejringer ADA8000 which is an 8 channel A-D-A converter with ADAT lightpipe to use with my Fostex FD-8 and it's very cool. Yeah I said it right $200.
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I would be willing to bet that it is a knock off of the ALESIS AI3 which I have found to work quite well! As long as it doesn't break out into open flames in the rack (some of "B's" gear has been reported to do this) that should be alright.

    In the matter of converters, this is one place I personally am willing to "cheap out". I am not saying that a great converter doesn't make a difference, because it most certianly does but the technology changes so quickly that it is unrealistic to attempt to keep up unless you are serving high paying clients, because before you know it that high end converter will be nothing more than a heavy object to throw at something that pisses you off. I think, good mics, pres and comps make a much more audible difference and in any case I would choose quality front end before considering conversion.
  9. mardyk

    mardyk Guest

    Thanks for the input!
    The TMP8 looks like a fantastic piece of equipment. It's actually almost exactly what I'm looking for. It's quite a lot more expensive though.Especially since I'd have to pay shipping,VAT and customs to get it to Sweden. That would make 2300$. I would also need to get more A/D. That's another 1000$. So, 3300 instead of 1500$, which is what I could get the Digimax or Octopre for here. I really like the softlimiter thing since I mainly want to use it for recording drums. All these units have that feature. Dam, this could get expensive!

  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Glad I could shed some light on the subject. The price quoted on the JLM site is the list price. I think Joe will give you a better deal than that.

    I used the TMP8 on drums this last Sunday and it was superb! Absolutely top notch quality. I had the limiters disabled on the unit I received for review (as I have a rack of vintage UREI and Manley comps) but it still was wonderful! Keep in mind that with a piece like the TMP 8, you are making an investment that you will be able to partially recoup even far into the future, not to mention that it will sound way better than either the Presonus or Focusrite. Take a look at EBay and see what used units like the Presonus or Digimax are selling for. I would bet, not much! At best used gear like that commands only half of the list price.

    My advice is get an ALESIS AI3 converter for $400 and then go for the TMP8. I don't know about your neck of the woods but customs charges run typically about $65 and about the same for shipping to the States. I think you could do this all for about 2 grand.
  11. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    I try to stay out these Batman vs. Superman things, but, Kurt, you REALLY missed the mark when you alluded to either unit as consumer/prosumer gear... I have an Octopre with digital card, and for many things, it is the weapon of choice. Like everything else, it is not the do-all-end-all, but face it: for 1200 bones of class A preamps PLUS conversion PLUS suprisingly good inbound compression, it is a tremendous unit... Many Platinum series devices have been used on releases critically acclaimed for their sonic purity (Will the Circle Be Unbroken Part III comes to mind)...

    Please remember as well that any well thought out purchase is not made as an investment with future dollar returns in mind...as most of us don't buy things with the idea of selling them later - most 'pro' audio folks buy a piece of gear to use, and if it turns out to go the way of the dinosaur like your ADATs, oh well...such is business. We all have stuff that 10 years ago was 'essential' and is now laying around acting as paperweights.

    In all fairness, none of the Platinum stuff is at the Daking or GR level, but to broadcast broad assumptions like that is unfair to the product and unfair to those who read these pages...audio IS my day gig, I live quite comfortably, and use the OctoPre on a daily basis...

    Please don't take my reply as the beginning of a pissing contest - but I did want to offer an opinion from the other side....

  12. heinz

    heinz Guest

    FWIW I owned an OctoPre/ADAT for about 8 months...

    My take, it's a competent but fragile unit construction-wise. Carefully slide it into your rack and don't bump into it!! (hee hee)

    For my purposes (tracking drums) it was ok. The preamps are pretty transparent, but I rarely if ever used the built-in comp/limiter so maybe that warms things up a bit.

    Given that I ran ADAT-out only, it's possible this unit sounds much better using Analog Out. The quality of the conversion sounds about what you'd expect out of a $200 8-ch a/d. I felt the resulting tones were a bit thin with a somewhat harsh mid-edge to them.

    You can hear a mix I did with the drums tracked through ocotopre/adat. Things got fattened up considerably multing tracks out a pair of distressors, bringing up a comp'd sub mix underneath, etc.. Ultimately I decided to pair up some 2-ch pres with a rosetta 800 just to have more flavors of pres to play with.

    But for the money, it's cool. You can pick one up on eBay w/adat for around a grand. Haven't listened to the presonus or other devices mentioned here, so they may be better.
  13. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Hi Ken,
    I agree this is not a contest, just a discussion. But I don't agree with your p.o.v. at all. I think the Focusrite Platinum series stuff is absolutely "prosumer" level gear and I never recommend that type of gear. If you wish to, you are certainly entitled to express your opinion, as hopefully, I am also. To say “... to broadcast broad assumptions like that is unfair to the product and unfair to those who read these pages” is a criticism of my opinion which turns the subject to a personal nature rather than simply stating an opinion regarding a certain type of product. I do not do what I do here to be fair to any manufacturer and I don’t believe they need to be defended. If they put a product out, they should be willing to take accept accolades or critiques.

    For near the same price the Sebatron or the JLM pres I mentioned are IMO, far better. As with all gear, what really matters more than anything is what is being recorded and who is playing. I have recorded my most favorite things I have done with ADATs which I absolutely hate. My most financially successful record was done with ADATs and a TAC Scorpion console ... (rowlfff) :D .

    One of the reasons that some stuff holds value and other stuff doesn't is because, some is deemed by end users as better, becoming a standard and the stuff that falls by the wayside is used for a while and then is judged to be not as good.

    I think far into the future, the Sebatron and JLM gear (if marketed correctly and widely enough) will become standards along with Neve, API, Millennia, Manley, GML etc ... But as for the OctoPre and the Digimax, they will not, especially since they are tied for the most part, to these inexpensive and questionable converters. These type of products are aimed at the "prosumer" market, which I personally have great disdain for. I have yet to see anyone who stays in the biz, continue to use this type of gear. They always, at some point move on, graduating to the "real" (for lack of a better word) gear. The only ones who benefit from this type of marketing are the companies who trade on consumer ignorance, using catchy phrases like “sheen”, "pristine" and "punchy".

    My main objective is to try to use my personal experiences to try to save others from the mis steps and poor judgment calls I have made myself. I like to recommend products that I think will have lasting value and that are manufactured by companies that have some type of social consciousness, who are only interested in selling great gear to people who are serious about music and recording. I have similar hopes for RO also. I want RO to be for pros or those who aspire to that standard, not hobbyists. If anyone wishes to be critical of me because I don’t cater to the bedroom whankers, musically challenged “gherms” and the companies who trade on their ignorance, that’s cool with me. I will wear that jacket with pride. Peace, Kurt
  14. Midlandmorgan

    Midlandmorgan Active Member

    Kurt, I think we agree more than not, but a few key points, please...

    - Great recordings are subjective...what I think is great sounding you may think is horrible
    - Great sound is directly connected to the genre being played.
    - It is not the gear but the engineer...I really don't think the average record buyer will be able to tell the differences between a Great River and an ART preamp on the 2d electric guitar, nor do they care...

    One thing to remember is that cost does NOT equal sonic superiority...There are many great recordings being made with Boss DD5 pedals as the primary delay chain; the $79 SM57 still gets daily use on international releases; recordings you made on your ADATs still sound the same today as they did when you bought them, so if they were good then they should still be good now.

    There are too many examples of great recordings made on lower end (prosumer?) gear...the things being discussed here are nothing more than tools to accomplish a job. A nail driven with a WalMart hammer goes in just as straight as the nail driven by a custom built Makita air hammer...its the operator, not the hammer, that makes it happen.

    Guess my point is that instead of bashing equipment we may not like, we should all offer ideas on how to maximize their use...remember that gear opinions are market driven - and there are a LOT more 'pro-sumer' users out there making great music than there are 'hi-enders' ... we don't have to like it, but we should at least respect it....

    (Sidebar - this is great! An actually honest debate without name calling, flaming, or character bashing...is this REALLY the internet?)

    Thanks for reading...

  15. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    First off I don't think Kurt "bashed" the equipment! Bashing would entail name calling, calling something crap, worthless, etc.

    He called it "lower-end pro-sumer gear", and that is an opinion he states quite well, without bashing!

    Other points you make however, I agree with. A lot of the quaility of the record depends on the engineer, the talent, and the song! Especially when you are dealing with a market that wants loud, overly squashed records that "sound fine" as an MP3 file!!! Whatever!!!

    Now I also have to agree with Kurt! I bought my Presonus unit when I first started getting serious about recording. I was moving up from my mackie mic pres (and an ART Tube MP!!!). Now that I have had the Presonus for a few years, I am ready to move up the food chain again. I am looking towards some higher end pres for serious work (Sebatron, Great River, Chandler). I will most likely keep the Presonus unti, because it is pretty nice, and is definitely imho at the top of the pro-sumer food chain. I can use it nicely on drums (after putting the OH's through something nicer!). It gives me 8 class A mic pres that I can use.

    There is nothing wrong with the Presonus unit, I love it, but it is time for me to get at least a pair of nice high-end pres for vox, acoustic guitars, etc.

    I am also starting to upgrade my mic collection. I just used a pair of AKG 414's as drum overheads on this past session...OH MAN! Sweet!!! :) I have quite a few Rode mics (NTK, NT2, NT5's), and although I love them, and will probably keep them, I am now looking into getting a pair of the 414's, and maybe a Geffell. Who knows when this trend will end???

    The more experience I gain, and the more records I make, the more I crave higher end equipment. Simple as that!
  16. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member

    Ummmm......... let's don't bring hammers into this ......... but only because the analogy doesn't work.... hammers have to be made to exacting specifications in order to be swung all day long - and cheap hammers do not meet those specs.... and i do know this to be a fact...... I have been working in this industry since i was a child - my dad was a builder.

    So i can tell you for sure - a cheap hammer does not (even for an expert) drive a nail the way a professional one does - but i will accept a response to that of " but a non expert wouldn't know the difference".

    An expert would however - even in a blind test i could tell the real hammer from the fake hammer in less than a minute.............

    Oh - by the way - WalMart doesn't make an air hammer - and you can't drive a standard nail with the Makita....... :D :D :D

    So please - I beg of you - before this gets totally out of hand and ugly beyond belief - leave hammers out of it............

  17. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I have an ALESIS hammer! :D It is a cheap (sorry Rod, but I don’t pound nails every day) claw hammer that I stuck an ALESIS bumper sticker on the handle. I swear, when I used to put this thing on top of the ADAT rack, they seemed to run better! hee hee hee.

    I agree that a good engineer can "squeeze" a decent recording out of almost any type of gear. That being said, top engineers will always opt for pro gear when given the choice. Give an engineer the choice of a Lexicon delay or the afore mentioned Boss delay and they will choose the Lexi anytime, I guarantee it. They know that they will achieve better results with it and it will take less time and energy getting "there". They also know that the end result will be superior. Yes, the average listener these days, most likely will not know the difference whether a Wackie pre or a Neve pre was used with a Neumann or a MXL mic in the recording of a CD. I think that is a problem. I grew up in an age where producers were doing the best they could to push the sonic envelope for better quality, where the buzz was "Hey! On this Loggins and Messina album, they plugged the mics straight into the tape machine because it sounded cleaner", instead of "Oh, that sounds good enough". I hate to say it but I think that 99% of the records released these days sound worse that much of what was out in the 70's and 80's. It's supposed to get better, not worse.

    Sometimes the manufactures get something right. The SM57 and 58 is a great example of this and also goes to show that a piece of gear doesn't have to be "high dollar" to get a nod of approval from me. I am also a big fan of the Shure SM7a, as is Don Was and many other top flight producer / engineers (I am not placing myself among them however). The venerable SPX 90 is still searched out by great recordists even though it was and still is, relatively inexpensive. I would hardly call either the Sebatron vmp or the JLM pres as “high dollar”. They are not much more expensive than either the Digimax or the OctoPre, but I think they sound way better. The Sebatron at its list price of $1450 for 4 channels, is $362.50 per channel. The JLM which lists at $1850, presents an even greater value at $231.25 per channel! That's cheaper than a RNP when you look at the per channel cost.

    I do think that cost, to some degree, has a lot to do with sonic quality. Cheap “prosumer” products use cheap parts and wider tolerances in the design. They use integrated circuits that can result in a lack of channel to channel consistency, instead of discreet components. Some people think that ICs are fine or in some cases even better, I, for the most part, don’t. Some people think that op amps are cool, I again for the most part, don’t. There are exceptions such as the API 2520, but on the whole, I feel discreet components result in a better sound. Cheap to make circut boards that employ robotic construction and surface mount technology result in products that are difficult to service, requiring them to be returned to the manufacturer, where usually the whole PCB is replaced instead of repaired. Instead of being able to call a tech in for a day to fix gear that is down, you are forced to be without your equipment for weeks while it is at the service center or the factory. Quality power supplies also play into the equation. I don’t want to venture too far into this because I am not a tech, I do not know a lot about the science involved in engineering and building circuits or power supplies but I do know what sounds good to me. Cheap gear usually doesn’t make the grade for what I want it to do. Quality gear is usually to some degree built by hand, utilizes through the board mounting of components and for the most part is field serviceable.

    I keep revisiting this type of gear, as there is no one who would like to see inexpensive alternatives present themselves more than me. Occasionally, I am pleasantly surprised. Like a recent experience I had with a Rode NT1 on a guitar amp. I used a Studio Projects C3 LD mic in the omni position last night on background vocals and I was very pleased with the results. But in general, I have found that there is no substitute for great gear, especially high quality front end gear and mics.

    I have a cheap hammer. This is because I use it perhaps a few times a year. If all someone wants to do is record something occasionally, and for the greatest part just have their gear there to look at and impress their friends who don’t know any better, a rack full of prosumer type gear will serve the purpose. But if they are using it all the time, pouring their heart and soul into their art and trying to push the boundaries of their abilities, why compromise it with tools that don’t perform as well as they could? I don’t understand the “it’s good enough” mindset. IMO, nothing is ever “good enough”.
  18. bubblegum

    bubblegum Guest

    Before you go ahead and get anything check out the DB8000S 8 channels of pristine mic pre with ADAT lightpipe, quieter than a Digimax, Loads of outputs. Made in scotland. This unit should be famous.

    It really is leagues better than the octopre and the digimax and is only fractionally more expensive (around £1500 (GBP) I think).
  19. bubblegum

    bubblegum Guest

    Silly me, I forgot to say who makes it....

    CLM Dynamics
  20. Tungstengruvsten

    Tungstengruvsten Active Member

    I really like my digimax - clean pre's, nice interface, i've used it on lots of sessions and even taken a couple of them out on the road and tracked several live albums with them. It's an easy way to add 8 channels to my digiface.

    I don't use the limiters much, haven't really explored that route but now I have one big complaint. The heat out of this unit is atrocious. It really should be 2U high, not 1 to allow for the heat to dissipate. I've got a space above and below it and after having it for a couple years the digital part crapped out - the pre's work fine, the power supply works fine, analog outputs work fine, hell there's even a red lite for the optical output but nothing will lock to the adat signal. Absolute nonsense.

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