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Please help with my front end!

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by imagineaudio, Apr 12, 2005.

  1. imagineaudio

    imagineaudio Active Member

    I'm finally going to step up and get the big purchases out of the way, and I was wondering if you guys can help.

    I've decided not to replace my interface at this point.

    I use a delta 66 with OMNI breakout with the following config.:

    2 XLR/TRS combo jacks with pre's
    2 Line Level TRS In's
    2 s/pdif in's

    I will be recording just my own projects at this time.

    Drums will be recorded with 4 mics most of the time, never more than 6.

    My question is this:

    I need 2 ch pre for the line in's and 2 ch pre and conversion for the digital ins

    I am under the impression that the converters in the Delta are crummy (i find them thin and 2-D). I'm thinking that if the converters are crap than I can get away with cheap pre's for the line in's and go all out on the pre used for the digital ins.... is that the right way of thinking?

    My budget is going to be around $2000

    Would I get a better cost/performance ratio if I get, for example, the sebatron vmp2000 and something like this:
    http://www.musiciansfriend.com/srs7/g=home/search/detail/base_pid/180631/

    I understand if I do the latter I will have 6 ch of crappy conversion.

    anybody have any insight on this?
     
  2. Kswiss

    Kswiss Guest

    converters in your delta might be crummy, but the 2D sound you're hearing is probably coming from the even crummier mic pres. Unless you've never recorded with a decent pre into it, you can't really tell whats causing the crappy sound. I would say get the nicer pre even if it doesn't have digital out, because at some point you'll upgrade to a better interface, and then you'll still have a nice pre. You will probably get a better sound with a nice pre and crappy conversion than a crappy pre with nice conversion. Thats just me though, i'd be interested to see what others say.
     
  3. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    My first choice is - computer first! It is(Now) computer-based everything, after all... So, assuming the computer itself is up to snuff, and the recording space itself is well-controlled - sound-wise, the very next thing is the interface(The sound card)... EVERYTHING else is supplemental to and dependent on the interface. Worst part of a fine sound card is that we spend all that money and we can't even show it off to anyone! Oh well, we'll just hope they, too can hear the difference(Or buy one of those clear plastic computer cases!)...

    For now, I would not go with simply, say, 2 1000 dollar mic pre's, to plug into the delta. Sounds like more than a bit of a waste... Plus the fact that any 1000 dollar mic pre should probably have mics worth much more than that to show THEM off at their best!

    Still, with 2k, one should be able to find a considerably better computer interface and still get a couple of pretty nice pre's? Lot's of ways to go.

    My vote would be something in the Lynx line to suit, along with any number of pre's in the 200 to 300 dollar per channel range. Presonus MP20's, for instance(Even less cost per channel when you get, say, a 4 or 8 channel unit.). Lots to chose from, any of which should be a great improvement.

    Could go with an all-in-one interface/pre unit? I like to keep things seperate, but with a 2000 dollar budget, one could find something pretty darned nice in a MOTU.

    Could even go with a Lynx(Or an RME, whatever works for you) and a excellent small mixer, with built-in pre's? A&H, Mackie, Soundcraft. A analog(Or digital) mixer, itself, is still a pretty handy thing to have around and despite word to the contrary, mixers can have very good pre's...

    TG
     
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I have to disagree strongly, no offence intended Teddy. I just don't agree with you on this one.

    I would say that good pres absolutley come before good converters ... What's the point of even the best conversion if you're feeding it garbage ... GI / GO .... or cart before the horse.

    Think about a Sebatron VMP 4000e.

    This from well known Nashville Producer Monty Powell ....... he bought a vmp-4000e three years ago .....

    In my expierence, a good mic pre can even make the cheaper mics sound better ... There's nothing that affects the sound more IMO than the pres.

    The word is getting out finally on Sebatron ...
     
  5. imagineaudio

    imagineaudio Active Member

    Teddey, I said I don't plan on changing my interface at this time, It's 6 ins/4 bus configuration provides me all the in/out/routing that I need at this point in time, also with the 2 digital ins if I use good outboard converter I don't see what difference the interface would make. I've used this thing for about 4 years or so now and It is rock solid, I have no problems with crappy drivers or system crashing. Also, regarding your comments on mics, the mic in my collection I'm most proud of is my K2 and this mic would bennefit greatly from a high end pre (as would my 57's). And I have to wonder what's the point of using a $200-300 pre with an interface like the Lynx? I would assume Pre's in that range are probably built the same way the onboard pre's in my interface are built, and probably wouldn't sound much better? Am I wrong on this?

    What I'm looking for, really, is recommendations on which would be the best way to go to get the 4 pre's I need and the 2 channels of conversion w/ s/pdif interface. I would like to get a couple different flavors, if possible, under my budget of around $2000
     
  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey imagineaudio:

    With $2k, you have a few options. I would tend to agree with Kurt and lean you towards the Sebatron. However, I would also recommend that you DO change your interface. True, crap in=crap out. However, another analogy is - fine colombian coffee through filter soaked in crap is gonna taste pretty damn bad.

    So - pick up the Sebatron (a very versatile machine - capable of delivering numerous different sounds) and pick up something like an RME card with analog inputs.

    You may even want something like the Focusrite ISA428 with the digital option board. You wouldn't have enough to upgrade the interface (I know, I know, you don't want to - but maybe you ought to consider it...).

    There are numerous options out there in which you don't have to sell your soul to the Chinese products such as ART.

    J.
     
  7. imagineaudio

    imagineaudio Active Member

    hmm...I also see the digital option for this ISA428 is about 5-600$.....
     
  8. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Yeah, but the preamp itself can be had for around $1400. This is the amount of your budget, right?

    I personally think that the Sebatron and the RME would be the better choice anyway.

    J.
     
  9. audiofreqs

    audiofreqs Guest

    this is a tough topic. we must remember that building our studios will always be a work in progress, especially for some of us on the lower end of the scale.

    but there is the "weakest link" theory.

    great pre's with crappy converters=crap
    crappy pre's with great converters=crap

    oh don't forget the "good mic" "bad mic" factor.

    really, you gotta change both if you want to compete, cuz there's no such thing as a magic button.

    but if i had only one choice right here, right now to make, i'd say...............

    DRUM ROLL (what mic would you use for this drum roll)
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    start from the ground up. get good converters!!!!!
     
  10. frob

    frob Well-Known Member

    okay to me it is mutch like this, an old beat up 4track casset deck is goin to sound great with a nice preamp/mic/room however a 2inch 30ips reel to reel is going to sound horable with a starved plate pre and a mxl mic in the untreated hall way.

    the converters are not horoble, infact they are just fine, think of it like taking a picture, a great picture can be taken with a disposable camera just like a 1000 dollar cannon. well so long as the picture is a good picture to begin with, and the person who is framing the picture knows how to frame a picture.

    its not the weakest link, its what improvment with have the most noticable effect. inthis case if they are to buy say a rossetta goin in through FW card they are still taking a picture of crap. if they change what there are taking a picture of then even with a toy camera it will look gold.

    get the better pre, you will (dare i say) not even notice the converters.
     
  11. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Now you did it. NOW you did it!

    I went and had a look-see at a few of the things we're talking about(Got that Sweetwater catalog in the mail just the other day, ya'know. Cat had peed on it - a damned Full Compass fan... but still readable past page 19.).

    Now that I've "read-up", I'm standing by my remarks. I'm just going to harden them a bit.

    Delta 1010. "Semi-pro". Not worth spending big money on at any point in any chain it's in. I take back my Presonus MP20 suggestion(250 per channel) as I fear they would be "too much pre" for this interface. For the 8 TRS 1010 inputs, you'd end up spending 2000 dollars for the 8 pre's to fill the jacks. WAY over the line for this 200 dollar card with it's 200 dollar aluminum box... Am I the only one to shudder at the thought of spending a grand or more, per channel for "real" outboard converters to feed any sort of digital anything into this toy? Oh, that's right, it only handles SP/DIF... Who would bother to even make good outboard converters for that?

    Lynx. Sky's the limit in how you surround it - it'll hold up 'til you get WAY up in the stratosphere - and it only costs half your budget. I'm told similar good things can be said of RME - BUT and still, when I looked at them(Some time ago), even RME, just didn't have "it" all - mainly too many compromises to the "semi-pro" market - too many 1/4" jacks, etc. Lynx(Even LynxOne), had it all - all pro - balanced XLR, AES/EBU, sync, etc. and STILL gave you SP/DIF and midi, if you absolutely needed it, to interface with your kids games or something? Midi was eliminated in later Lynx models as being a waste and buyers do complain about the still-included(Lots of us must have kids?) SP/DIF.

    Sebatron. No idea. Didn't look. As stated above, if it's "high class", it ain't for the 1010. And, I, for whatever reason(s) when I read about it(I forget and no longer care.) have already passed on it for myself, in favor of a John Hardy, a Pendulum or a Doug Fern and I'm just sticking with(And making money with) my Mackies 'til then(I'll get by.).

    BTW: Sorry Kurt, I've never heard of the producer you reference, nor any of the people in bold lettering... I'm sure they're wonderful, of course. I will dig into my Mix magazine library and "bone-up"(Oh crap, I threw 'em all away a few weeks ago. I'm sure I can find the "Entertainment Tonight" sight on-line and... nah.)...


    You MUST build a SYSTEM! Made up of parts that FIT! The easiest way is to start at the beginning. If you start at the middle, you'll never have ANY IDEA where to go next - the beginning, or the end - or STILL the middle? Do your best to make no part better or worse than any other part.

    I feel another ludicrous analogy coming on - Even if you pay 10,000 dollars for ONE TIRE for your car..? At the very least wouldn't your other "plain" tires feelings be hurt?


    That's it.

    TG
     
  12. imagineaudio

    imagineaudio Active Member

    ....I'm not changing my interface at this time....
     
  13. itchy

    itchy Guest

    This seems like an unnecessary argument to me.

    Having both good converters and a good pre makes for the best front end. Noone will argue that, right? That having been said, the question is "upgrading which one makes the most noticeable difference?"

    I will agree with Kurt that IMO, upgrading pre's makes a bigger difference. But upgrading both converters and pres makes an even bigger difference.

    I like my front end right now. I have a sytek mpx-4aii feeding a lynx l22. By this time next week, i should have an isa 428 feeding my ls-aes expansion card.

    I agree with teddy about the lynx. I love my lynx. This was a noticeable difference over my presonus firestation.

    You can get a lynx 2 with 6 analog ins for $1200. I know kurt has some alternate recommendations to the sytek that would give you more than 4 channels. Offhand, I cannot remember what they are right now.

    But this would get you in the door with a good front end. You can continue to upgrade pres as you go, for variation. But this would be a good start. And under $2000!

    How do ya like that!

    -eric.
     
  14. imagineaudio

    imagineaudio Active Member

    ...just to add to the above post...

    I am not charging for my services at this time........I do not use the 1010 but I do believe the same converters are involved. I have a good friend of mine who does charge for his services and uses 2 1010's for 16 ins. He uses an old 24ch alan/heath board for the pre's and gets much better results than I do. I don't think his console sounds "great", but i'm sure those pre's sound better than what I've been using, so I think I'm going to have to side with Kurt and frob....and thats what im looking for help with.

    Eric, that sounds like a good option....I'll be looking into that.

    Maybe i just need a better paying job......
     
  15. Kswiss

    Kswiss Guest

    This has gotten rediculous. I would take a nice pre over a nice converter any day. Obviously both would be an ideal solution, but pre's have a far more profound effect on sound than converters. I have an old VS880 hanging around... and i dunno what kind of converters it has but they're old and 16bit....., but a good pre as a front end for it still sounds like a good pre. However another local tech around here has RME, and he uses behringer preamps, and it sounds like ass. This is looking at audio backwards to me.....i might be wrong, but for me you start with your source in your room.....thats the number one factor in the sound... next is your microphone used to pick it up, next is the preamp and any outboard gear, and finally it is converted to digital. Converters before pre's to me is like saying that upgrading your pro-tools rig is more important than acoustically treating your tracking room that sounds like a basketball court.....theres an order to these things.....
     
  16. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    Amen to the brother!

    Actually I think you'll find they are 18bit, and they actually aren't too bad.
     
  17. itchy

    itchy Guest

    hey imagineaudio,

    does your friend frequent these boards often? how about the recording website forums? there's a guy on there with that exact setup under the username Theodore. Used to go by fiend on there.

    Anyway just in case that is who you're referring to, he also uses a grace 101, which is a nice step up from the pres on the a&h board. He might be doing most of his overdubs on that pre instead of the a&h board. Just a thought.

    I also found the pres that were compared to syteks. The studio projects SP-828. 8 channels at around $600.00. The specs on the sytek are a bit better, but if you can, try and test one of each. That would be the only way to know for sure. Maybe you won't like either! :lol:

    -eric.
     
  18. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Great Mic pre and other outboard over great converters anyday and everyday. Plain and simple. I've recorded and heard other recordings that are near mind blowing status done with modest ADAT converters. If I had too, I could live with that level of converter quality for a very long time to come.

    You guys miss the whole reason for great converters. All the hype on having to have the greatest converters does more harm than good for many. Great converters reveal more detail. And if that detail is based on what most people use/have that is crap or half assed mic and mic pre, and a poor to crap sounding recording environment, crap monitoring environment, crap plugs, crap sounding instuments, ect... all you really gain is showing more detail of all your crap...
    .
     
  19. Boltino

    Boltino Guest

    Check out the Focusrite TwinTrak Pro. It is two channel with compressor and eq and has a digital card option with SPDIF out. Through the SPDIF you won't be getting any influence from your interface (good or bad).
     
  20. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I want to make sure I wasn't misunderstood. (Since the post immediately following mine made it kinda seem that way...)

    I agree - the pre is the more important part of the chain. However, the converter shouldn't be forsaken. It is the last link in the signal chain and no matter how good everything is up to that point, a heavily jittered signal or one with a lot of smearing will cause serious damage to high frequency content in your music.

    All that said - get your front end in line first. If you have the option of upgrading both at the same time - go for it. If not, focus on the pre first, then go for the converters.

    Most built-in converters in gear nowadays will do just fine for all but the highest-end of audio. (One notable exception - I can't stand the converters in the Alesis HD24 44/48 version - listening to recordings on this make my teeth hurt.)

    J.
     

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