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Pre amp comparison/decision

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by Sonicanger, Jun 21, 2003.

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  1. Sonicanger

    Sonicanger Guest

    Hi everyone,
    I just wanted to toss this decision out to more knowledgeable minds than mine to see what everyone thinks. I am in the proceess of upgrading the front end of my recodring setup, which as of now consists of a presonus digimax lightpiped into 001. I am planning on purchasing a set of 4 preamps, which will be my main go to's for all my recording purposes. I am currently eyeing two untis, the sebatron v4000 and the sytek 4 channel unit. The Sytek unit I am eyeing currently has the burr/brown mod on all 4 channels, and could be had for the price of the unmodded unit bought new. This very appealing, but I am thinking that the Sebatron seems to be more flexible as far as options, with the fat and air switches, and was also impressedon how it faired on the acousticsamples Kurt posted. Either unit would have to excel on acoustic guitar, drums, and vocals. Any suggestions? All input and feedback is greatly appreciated.
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I have not had the chance to hear the Sytech pre's, so I can't really comment on them. What I have heard is they are relatively neutral sounding, clean with a lot of headroom. The impression I have gotten is, the Sytech is a step up from stock pre's found in most small format and digital consoles but not of the pedigree of a Neve, API, large format console. I feel the Sebatron is of the same quality range of API, Neve etc. If this company can gain a foothold in the audio market I predict they will dominate. It all remains to be seen. The Sebatron is clean and neutral but has an extended bottom that can make it sound dark in some applications. This is very apparent in the snippets I posted. The use of the bright and air switches along with lo cut and the ability to drive one channel into a second without sonic damage, makes the vmp a very flexible pre that you can get many different tones out of. Also the dual output scheme on the vmp-4000 makes it easy to route the output of the pre to the DAW and your mixer for simultaneous recording and no latency monitoring. Last the vmp is not only a great mic preamp design, but it is also an excellent di path for your guitars, bass’s and electronic keyboards. This thing will fatten up those skinny synth patches like there’s no tomorrow! I have used many different di schemes in my time, including Matchless, Agular (sp?) and “The Evil Twin”, and I can say that the Sebatron is of the same quality. I personally feel that a vmp-4000 is one of the best all around front ends for a home DAW rig available.
  3. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    clean, yes.


    unless they've changed recently.
  4. Bobby Loux

    Bobby Loux Active Member


    A while back you stated the FMR RNP had poor headroom (due to the use of a wallwart)......and now "you hear the sytek has a lot of headroom"....just flip flop those two statements, you'd be quite suprised with the RNP's headroom! :D

    as Little Dog stated, the sytek is indeed lower in headroom. probably not the best choice for vocals.


    if you already have eight channels of the digimax, that really is a nice piece for micing drums and any clean flavored pre you might need. also, better A/D's than the 001....

    I would start looking into single channel pre's to add different flavors to your recordings. you're gonna end up with 8 channels of the presonus and 4 channels of the Sytek or sebatron. 12 channels of pre's with only 2 different flavors??

    you could get the single channel Great River ME-1NV (Neve Clone)for $950.00 (ideal on vocals, bass) and maybe a summit 2BA-221 tube/solid state blend for $550ish thats 1500.00ish for 2 different flavors as apposed to $1400.00 for 4 of the same Sebatron pre's....maybe look into the sebatron 2000e 2 channel for $800.00ish and put the rest twards a different single channel pre like the Speck 5.0 (clean transparent type) or the Great River ME-1NV

    good luck bro!
  5. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Adding to Bobby's list:

    John Hardy
  6. FloodStage

    FloodStage Active Member

    I can't speak for what I haven't heard but I own the following pre's as well as my console pre's.

    1 - Presonus Digimax LT
    1 - Sytek w/2 channels Burr Brown 2 Channels not
    2 - API 512c
    I have also used the Grace 101's.

    The Presonus is pretty vanilla - clean - adds very little - often a good thing! It took me a while to get used to it (use the pad!) but I am able to get decent sounds through it. The 8 channels of A/D is handy (especially for you since you already have a 001 and that adds 8 channels for you! I do wish the A/D was a little better. Have you tried running the digimax through the 001's converters and comparing to the Digimax's converters? Just curious.

    The Sytek is pretty clean - the Burr Browns have a little more character but it's not a huge difference. The spec's show a lot of headroom but specs are just specs. You have to be careful about headroom on the Syteks. Mine gets "fizzy" when you drive it too hard. (I'm not planning on selling it yet though.) Still, if you need 4 channels cheap ....

    API's are on a different planet from the Sytek and Presonus. There is a reason they haven't messed with the API designs for years. They are great just the way they are. I doubt that I will ever record bass and snare drum with anything other that the API. Punchy, loads of headroom. Killer! And they really complement my "clean" pre's very well.

    I don't own but I have used the Grace 101's. They kill the Presonus and the Sytex on clean and crispy.

    If I had it to do again, I'd probably buy the 2 API's and 2 Grace Design 101's instead of the Sytek and Presonus. Less channels can be more if the quality is there!

    If you have the Presonus already, I wouldn't get the Sytek. Get something with some punch instead.

    (Sorry to be so long winded and basica;ly say the same thing the last posters said!)
  7. DR

    DR Guest

    What is your budget? I think it would pay to look into the GML pre's. Best out there (in my opinion)
  8. FloodStage

    FloodStage Active Member

    Just thought I'd drop in a good word about Presonus.

    I had a recording session a few weeks back and some big galoot managed to knock the channel 6 preamp knob off my Digimax LT. They must have hit it good, because it sheared the pot's shaft off with the knob.

    Anywhoo, I just got it back from the repair shop. Even though it was no longer in warranty, Presonus sent me the pot and knob no charge! They even paid for shipping! That's one way to keep your customer's happy!
  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Bobby Loux; This is what was said by FloodStage,

    Also this is what I said;

    I stated I had not heard the Sytek. I have also repeatedly stated that I have not heard the RNP, even though I have requested a review unit more than several times. So it’s not as if I haven’t tried. I was not aware that the Sytek used an outboard power supply, but as was pointed out by FloodStage, the specs on the Sytek says it is a high headroom device. But sometimes numbers are just what they are, numbers … and in real world conditions they don’t prove out.

    Sometimes I attempt to convey information on equipment I have never sampled. Perhaps this is a mistake on my part but I am trying to be of some help. Please don’t construe this as an opinion in situations when I say that I have never used a piece. I am just conveying the information I have available to me at the time. If I say I have used a piece of gear, then what I say can be taken to the bank. In any other instances, I am only telling you all what I have heard. I do attempt to make a distinction. :tu: Kurt
  10. FloodStage

    FloodStage Active Member

    My Sytek has an internal power supply. No outboard, no wall wart. If I said the Sytek used an outboard power supply, I would like to apologize to Mike S for giving out bad info on his gear.

    (The FMR RNP does use a wall wart by the way)
  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Gosh, Gee Willakerz.. now I am really confused. If the Sytek has an internal power supply, what does this mean?

    Typically, devices that use 9 to 24 volt wall warts are a bit starved in the amperage that is delivered to the device. If the supply is internal or external is not the issue but rather the amperage that can be delivered to the piece. Once again, I quote EveAnna Manley,
    The amount of current that can be delivered to the piece. Once again, for the record, I have not ever used an RNP or the Sytek pres.. However a person doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that a Ford Escort is not going to ride or last like a Lincoln will. One doesn’t have to drive them both to know that there is a difference. I have seen comments here that the RNP runs out of headroom, I have also seen comments that for the buck, it is a good value. Same with the Sytek, good bang for the buck..

    It all comes down to what you want. In the prosumer arena, the Sytek and the RNP are both contenders and with careful use can deliver stellar results. Actually, I have always contended that most of the gear available these days is pretty amazing! If someone were to say that this level of mics, pres and recorders were to be available to the public someday at these kinds of prices, in the 1970’s, everyone would have thought they were nuts! The industry has come a long way baby! I think that is a good thing. Everyday, we are getting closer to the proverbial “Free Lunch”. But we are not there yet!

    There is still a difference between the “prosumer’ gear and the high end stuff. We, here at RO and on other forums, are constantly asked by members “How did they get that sound?”.. Well, the answer is many times, a 10,000 dollar signal chain had a lot to do with it. You can usually get about 85% of what you hear on a big budget recording with “prosumer” gear. It’s that last 10 or 15% that costs. If you are willing to be a maverick and forge your own sounds and aesthetics, with talent, you can create your own hit sounds. But if you are wishing to emulate classic tones and textures, you most likely will have to resort to vintage technology. It’s your choice and all paths are valid. Kurt
  12. Ferd Berfel

    Ferd Berfel Active Member

    If you're asking this question in earnest (I'll assume you are), then one interpretation is this: it's just ignorant and sometimes dangerous to be overly dogmatic on these technical topics(i.e., "JOULES, MAN, JOULES!"). If you understood the actual mechanisms involved with regard to micpre headroom, you'd know that "JMJ!" is just plain silly *AND* has no more of a necessary connection to a given micpre's headroom than the color of your control room carpet!

    Let me illustrate...let's assume that a preamp circuit needs 5 Watts to do it's job well. If we feed it 2.5 Watts it will, by definition, not be doing it's job well. What if we supply it with 6 W? How 'bout 10W? If we supply it with 10W, will the preamp operate twice as well? Here's a fact to consider: a circuit cannot be "forced" to take more power than it's designed to consume. Once its 5W need is fulfilled, anything beyond that is a waste (literally...the energy is dissipated typically as heat)! So...will 10W be better? The definitive answer is: we can't say for sure without knowing what the internal operational requirements are of the specific circuit! Just because we've doubled the available power to the circuit, if it's not the correct combination of voltage/current, it doesn't mean $*^t.

    Have you ever seen the movie "The Princess Bride"? Well, one of the characters repeatedly responds with "Inconceivable!" every time someone suggests that their covert activities have been discovered. The last time this occurs, another character responds to "Inconceivable!" with (paraphrased) "I'm not sure that it means what you think it means or you wouldn't still be saying it!". Ditto for EveAnna's quote...

    Your willingness to repeat hearsay without challenge or qualification/quantification astounds me (no, I don't think "I've said that I've never used one" is a clear enough disclaimer).
    I've used both in "real" studios (although the RNP only a couple of times), and the specifications for both were both confirmed on the bench and in the studio: the Sytek clips at about +22dBu >3% THD while the RNP's THD was <0.05% with a +28dBu input level! If someone complained about the RNP clipping, then, a) their unit was faulty, or, b) they mistakenly ascribed the clipping of another piece of gear in the path to the RNP or c)they didn't understand the rudiments of gain staging and shouldn't be allowed near recording gear!

    I just don't believe that it serves you well, or the people you're trying to help*, for you to dogmatically assert your opinions about things that you don't fully understand. Why don't you either defer to others more skilled-in-the-art or solicit some of the many numerous resources available in other areas on this board?

    As always, YMMV...


    * - It seems to me that you're very sincere and concerned about doing your best to help others.
  13. Guest


    does this mean jslator and me have just been demoted into a tie for second place on the public enemy list? :D
  14. Bobby Loux

    Bobby Loux Active Member

    I believe it does! :D
  15. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I think Ferd may have made a couple of good observations. He is welcome to stand by and provide answers here if he wishes. I have asked FMR to send out a pre many times and I have never heard back from them. Unfortunately that puts me in the position of having to repeat hearsay. If Ferd has used something I haven't I welcome his input. First hand experience is always best.
  16. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    I was looking for a couple of budget mic pres last year and some guys in the USA told me it would not be a big deal jumping from my 02R mic pres to the RNP´s. however, the RNC´s are fine. I never tested them, so I can not say the real word.
  17. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    The one thing in common to all the classic designs is large power supply. Or JMJ as you coined. API pres are relatively inexpensive.. what costs is the lunchbox rack and power supply. Some things can fall under the heading of science and some things can fall under the heading of sounds good. My experience in real studios, has led me to believe that good gear is usually associated with good power supply design and implementation.

    You are certainly entitled to your opinion and the right to voice it but I am a moderator here. My duties as such are to respond to queries. When I don’t respond, I get comments like “Where are the moderators” and PMs asking why I haven’t been contributing on threads.

    In this case I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Respond, or don’t respond. I tried to give the RNC a favorable nod but I am not going to suggest it is the last pre amp you will ever use. These things have been around for a while since they are so good, I am surprised I have never encountered them in studios I have frequented. If I had ever tried to use them on a project most of my clients probably would have questioned my choice. Most of my clients were coming to me for the MCI, Neve and vintage United Audio gear that I had.

    Yes I want to enjoy the exchange of information with the music and recording community, which I have been so fortunate to have been a part of now for 40 years and which has been so good to me and my family. I have been very fortunate. So I try to give a little back.


    (Dead Link Removed)

    This is the last chance to speak with Ms. Kaye we will have for a while as she is entering the busy part of here work season so don't miss this exciting opportunity to exchange comments with this studio ledged..
  18. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member

    Originally posted by: Ferd Berfel

    Your willingness to repeat hearsay without challenge or qualification/quantification astounds me (no, I don't think "I've said that I've never used one" is a clear enough disclaimer).

    If that isn't a clear enough discalimer then something is drastically wrong...... maybe one needs to re-examine how one veiws the written word.

    I dunno,

    I suppose i may be considered dense ( wouldn't be the first time) but if a person cannot get gear to sample - he can still read...... maybe - possibly...... and if he can't then he probably won't be able to write a review - so i guess.....

    heck yeah - he must be able to read..... if he's a Moderator anyway.....

    So dayam - do ya think it's maybe possible - just a little bit - even a smidgen - that Kurt actually reads other reviews - listens to other people's opinions - views other people's posts - and then forms an actual opinion about maybe if someone should bother to check something out?

    (Note: i said check something out - not purchase - consider this a disclaimer seeing as if i don't say that some people may not get it)

    Or would that only matter if HE HIMSELF actually did the review -

    and if i can't trust him if he were to trust someone else - someone who's opinion he may respect - based on past histories,,,,,then maybe i'm just so damned paranoid that i shouldn't trust him either... (I am NOT paranoid - i know eveone who's out to get me)........ i mean - just who the hell is this guy - how do i even know if he's from this planet - maybe he's a plant....... mayybe some company put him here just to get us to buy their products...... hhmmmm......... he does talk about Fords a lot,,,,,,

    FOR CRYING OUT LOUD ......... stop attacking the poor man for donating his time, energy and personal life to this forum.

    Sometimes i think maybe he's been right in the past - and should just let everyone go to hell in a handbasket.......

    Happy hunting

  19. Ferd Berfel

    Ferd Berfel Active Member

    What do you mean, "large" power supply? Large in physical size? Or "large" in electrical size? While you were making these observations, you may have also noticed (depending upon which decade you made these observations) that the equipment that has *REALLY* impressed you were more than likely housed in a standard EIA cabinet. Is that a cause of sonic quality or just a correlated relation? Ditto the color of the cabinet.[/b]

    Actually (from a manufacturing standpoint) the audio transformers are the most costly part--if they're of decent electrical performance. Besides, there's probably little correlation between expense and power supply "quality" anyway (we can go through an actual costing exercise if you'd like).

    I'm not sure what you mean here, but I'll assume that you're trying to discredit the application of scientific methods to discussing "good sounding" gear. If that's *NOT* your intent, I apologize. Otherwise, this is subterfuge.

    That's good, but as we discussed in another thread somewhere, the "weakest link" argument still applies. But your observations have nothing to do with your sound bite (i.e., "JMJ!"; do you even know what a "Joule" is and how it relates to electrical devices, in general, and micpres specifically? That's a rhetorical question...).

    Your right, I certainly don't know the pressures of being a moderator here (and it looks like your plate is very full). I guess that I've supposed that no comment or "I'm working on it" is preferable to incorrect information. As you pointed out, that is *my* judgement call and yours is different! God Bless the WWW!

    Forget the RNP! Personally, I couldn't give a $*^t...I've got plenty of great preamps to use, I don't need it. It's your dogmatism, not the products! The following passage really helps illustrate my main point...

    Once again, if I'm misinterpreting what you're saying here, I'm sorry. *BUT* the implied logic to me as a "casual" reader is:

    IF RNP's have been around a while,
    the studios I frequent don't have them,
    the studios I frequent only have good/great gear,
    the RNP must not be a good/great piece of gear

    The problem with this ad hominem logic is that any *NEW* piece of gear (like Sebatron) would be dead out of the gate. The four studios that I frequent here, have never even heard of Sebatron. I, for one, won't let that deter me from trying a Seb unit over several sessions to make up my own mind about it...

    Since I've been a recording engineer for hire for about 25 years, I can understand what you mean. But the implication I see is that because it's an unknown quantity (like the Sebatron) it certainly isn't going to get used in your sessions. That's cool! I'm just glad I haven't done that or I would have missed out on some great gear (like my Great River, Cranesongs and even some DIY stuff...all "Johnny-come-latelies" compared to the classic stuff I've been using for far too long)!

    Well, it's clear that "you like what you know and you know what you like". My apologies for assuming that maybe you'd want to know that some of your responses run quite loosely with the facts (we could actually go through them one-by-one if you'd like). It's just that you seem so earnest and sincere, it's hard to believe that:

    (a) you'd be so resistant to wanting to know more factual details and principles about equipment operation/design, and,
    (b) you're OK not giving other, less-experienced board members exposure to foundational principles of audio equipment operation.

    Oh well...I shan't piss-up-this rope anymore! Best of luck, Kurt!

    I accidentally edited this post while trying to fix a spelling mistake in my own later post. I believe all the original content of the post is here but it also contains the answers I posted in my own post. I apologize for this mistake.. Kurt Foster moderator..
  20. Ferd Berfel

    Ferd Berfel Active Member

    Many years of experience interfacing with the public--most of the time with a highly-educated portion thereof--has shown me that such "discalimer" may be of legal use, but are quickly separated in the public's mind. Sort of like writing "that Joe guy was caught cheating on his wife" and later writing "I don't really know Joe or anything about him and I just got that off the bathroom wall" seems, at best, reckless. Better to just not comment...

    Actually, Kurt's dogmatism is the issue for me and his choice to use, at best, anectdotal comments about "low headroom" (in this specific case). I read his categorization of a $500 preamp versus another, more costly, preamp as "Vega/Corvette" comparison (respectively) based upon ad hominem/a priori/dogmatic reasoning that just doesn't stand up under scrutiny. In general, my objection is that I believe some folks here who look up to Kurt's views will be unnecessarily missing-out on gear that's affordable and good for them. His prejudice was/is clear to me on this thread and others.

    If I had that kind of influence over many newbies, I certainly wouldn't poisen their minds with my biases (e.g., my dislike of most tubes-based product implementations; since I take it on a case-by-case basis, one of my all-time favorite preamps happens to be a tube-design). But, if I chose to make a "public" stand on the topic, I'd certainly have a lot of data (personal experience, hard measurement and accepted analytical foundations) before I ever did so. Yes, I know, personal choice and Kurt's is obviously different. I think it's reckless...

    Enjoy, Rod!
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