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Running boards thru a tube pre.

Discussion in 'Recording' started by mjones4th, Aug 23, 2003.

  1. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    What do you guys think? I'm considering buying a nice tube pre (maybe that N72 thingie over at seventhcirclestudios.com) strictly to run my sounds through.

    My primary concern is vocals, but I think I'm gonna go the clean route (rnp style) and if it needs edge, then I'll either run it back out to my dirty pre or apply a virtual tube or two.

    But I wanna warm my boards up. I think I would go as far as sending my virtual instruments out and thru the pre and back in. My computer just sounds so sterile, and those tube/classic compressor/tape/spacely-sprocket emulator plugs help, but that's not quite it...

    Any recommendations on a pre? Anyone else use this technique?

    Have a jv1000 (mainly a controller), oasys pci, exs24, sampletank, stylus, b4, crystal, evp88.
  2. Nate Tschetter

    Nate Tschetter Active Member


    There's a misconception that because something with tubes will sound "warmer" than something without. This isn't the case. I think you'll find a good set of transformers in a direct box will give you more of that "warm" sound than something where tubes exist simply for the sake of existing. I'd try a good DI with trannies, Radial, Aguilar, you can even make one yourself...I believe there are plans on Jensen's site. I have a bunch of transformers I plan to wire into my patchbay for "color".

    Of course, this all depends on what "warm" means to you. Its different for everyone.

    How does your stuff sound on other systems? If it sounds OK in other places, perhaps its your monitoring or D/A? If its "bad" everywhere, it could be your front end A/D.

    You're using a lot of softsynths. I've noticed that softsynths sound a bit emasculated sometimes. I think this would make an excellent topic for discussion. What do people do to make softsynths _sound_ better?
  3. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    So where's this diy DI box? Sounds like a good idea.

    I find that upon mixdown, songs that sound good whilst unmixed tend to lose character as the mix nears completion. They start to sound empty. Maybe its my mixing, because I am totally self-taught (along with various forums like this one), but my mixes sound good. I've been told that they are a step away from 'pro', which to me is a huge compliment.

    Its just the melodic instruments that give me a fit. My creations are usually sparse, (its hip hop) and so normally there are no more than two instruments filling the same frequency space. So when I eq to give them room, the mix starts to sound hollow and lifeless. When I do burn unfinished mixes to CD for testing purposes, the result is the same on most systems, especially the car. I'm using 20/20s in a naturally acoustically good room.

    The OASYS is the only exception, that synth just sounds good no matter what. My MOTIF was also pretty good too, until it got stolen.

  4. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    I think the key to making softsynths sound good is the run them through some sort of real hardware. I wanna test that theory, as soon as I can. I remember back when my studio consisted of my JV-1000, an ASR-X and a Fostex Digital 8 track, my drums (sampled on ASR-X) just sounded soooo full and meaty. I've yet to find that again, even using the same exact samples.

  5. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    Oh and my A/D/A is all up to my Delta66. Adequate I guess.
  6. Mario-C.

    Mario-C. Active Member

    turn them off ? :)

    seriously there are some cool softsynths out there but the sound is still not there IMO
  7. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    Turn them off....... yeaaahhhhhhggghhhahhhahhhahah!

    L frickin OL!!!!

    Turn them off. Man u r hillarious.

    I like them, I think that in a number of cases they sound on par or better than the MOTIF I had. Especially my OASYS.

    I also had a Juno 6 once upon a time, and, although I am not really into analog or virtual analog, I have not heard anything virtual even come close to the thickness of that beast.

    But I'm really getting bored with sample based synthesis. So the only direction of growth I see is on the SW side. A fair compromise is to build an analog circuit to send those cold digital signals through. That's where the whole run-em-thru-a-tube idea originates. Or maybe I'll buy a LA2a reissue. (dream away young lad) I think this would help immensely for the EVP-88 for example, which just sounds so clinical.

    So Mario-C. what do you use for sounds?
  8. Nate Tschetter

    Nate Tschetter Active Member

    Heh, I know what you mean, Mario...I attribute it to, believe it or not, the D/A converters in the hardware. I think a lot of the sound is made at that point.

    This _really_ seems to be the case (to me) on software reverbs. They're good...just a little...I dunno..."thin".
  9. Nate Tschetter

    Nate Tschetter Active Member

    Well, I'll never disagree with being bored of Sample-based synthesis. Its a necessity for most bread and butter live gigs, though.

    Another thing you can try is running your softsynths through some sort of speaker in a room and mic it. It will give it some "depth" and "character". Try some cheapo guitar pedals too...that's always fun.

    Don't be obsessed with a tube simply because its a tube.

    You can find the aforementioned direct box schematic here.

    Or check out the Jensen Transformer site.
  10. Mario-C.

    Mario-C. Active Member

    here's the list :

    Korg Z1 VA + physical modelling synth
    Waldorf Micro Q VA synth
    Novation Nova VA synth
    Yamaha AN1X VA synth
    Yamaha EX5R sample playback + VA + physical modelling synth
    Yamaha FS1R very complex FM+formant shaping synth
    Yamaha A5000 sampler
    Yamaha A4000 sampler
    Digidesign Samplecell
    Roland JV1080 rompler
    Roland MC-505 rompler (sorry, I was a marketing victim)

    I just added a Waldorf Microwave XT, a Nord Modular and an Access Virus Rack XL ...

    All this stuff and I'm not even a keyboard player LOL, I'm more of a programmer arranger, that's why I use synths that will allow me to create sounds, I love to program synths...

    As for software I use Sound Diver to control the midi stuff, Softsamplecell and Reason 2.5, but mainly for the graintable malmstrom synth, I find the other stuff in reason too "hard" sounding especially the filters, but I like it when you want to generate some crusty beats, I tried Reaktor about a year ago but it was too fiddly for me, maybe I'll try it again later...

    The virus plug in for pro tools tdm sounds very good, I hear the arturia moog modular sounds great too, you might want to check those out.

    I agree romplers can be very boring but they can be interesting with a little or A LOT of tweaking, the JV1080 for example has a capable synth engine but most presets use about 10 % of its synthesis power, the problem is many folks don't want to tweak their sounds

    Software has some limitations too, distortion and aliasing come to mind, some algorythms have to compromise sound quality in order to be usable inside a computer that is running midi, audio, plug ins and softsynths at the same time, so I think as computers get more powerful the sound can only improve...

    All this babbling and I haven't answered your question LOL,
    I agree with Nate here, a thin synth thru a tube pre is still a thin synth thru a tube pre, I would try to tweak the synth patch without any processing and try to make them sound as good as possible, then turn it off ! no, joke, modify the filters, layer another sample, add some detuning, there are so many things you can try before you process the sound, if you start running everything through a tube pre you can end up with a muddy mix
  11. Nate Tschetter

    Nate Tschetter Active Member


    Mario is wise.

    Be careful, Mario...you might get into that Nord Modular and never leave your house again. Its pretty deep!
  12. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    Good idea! I'll try it on my next composition. And I can record it in mono and make it sound dusty and old, like my stereo! As it is, my mixes usually sound better on my old 70's era harmon kardon tuner going thru my 80's speakers. Woohoo! (probably has tubes... lol!)

    I'll even try my old rusty radio shack dynamic mic!

    And its free to boot!

    king mitz
  13. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    I stand humbled.

    No seriously, I'm not really into VA, but I am still jealous. Always wanted an FS1R and a Z1 (and a K5000). I had extensive time to play with the EX5 and I absolutely think it is one of the best sample based synths ever. My JV-1000 IMO is a bit dated, but then again, I've never had the patience to tweak hardware synths. The interface and patch saving methods were too cumbersome, but when I did have to tweak the JV, I always ended up with something good.

    How's the A/D on the A-Series samplers?

    My favorite HW synth to tweak was my SY22 (also stolen, as was my Juno and my MOTIF - terrible luck). It had this random function that chose 4 waves to make a patch, so it was quick, easy and fun. All I had to do was pick a preset with the envelope, filter, etc. set close to what I wanted, tweak those settings, and push a button. Instant gratification!

    I'm really heavy into hip hop. Its a very sparse music, instrumentation-wise, so its always important for me to make each instrument sound full. Otherwise I find myself adding one more element and screwing things up.

    I think I can handle the DI box schematic, but I'm also gonna try the trusty old stereo. Maybe I'll mic the bass drum and synth bass lines from the back of the cabinet?

    king mitz
  14. Todzilla

    Todzilla Active Member


    Depends on whatcha wanna do. It can be cool as hell to take some screamin' synth tones and distort the hell out of it for a lead. Nothing distorts sweeter than a vacuum tube.

    As a default part of your signal path? I don't advocate it.

    As for your mixes sounding empty? You and I should get together. Mine are always way too full.
  15. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    LOL I agree zilla.

    My stuff has to be minimalist. In hip hop (btw please don't mistake my craft for that garbage you hear on the radio), its vocals first, drums second and then, if you have the gumption to even bother, everything else. For me, getting my stuff to be minimal and sound pleasingly full is a real challenge, and takes a significant amount of my mixing time.

    I'm eyeing the RNP as a DI, I saw a review that said it made a cheap bass guitar sound pretty respectable, And all I ever hear about it as a mic pre is first rate, excellent, transparent, but with character, etc.
  16. Nate Tschetter

    Nate Tschetter Active Member


    The RNP is a good choice. You should get an RNC (compressor) to go with it.
  17. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    I have had an RNC for almost 2 years now and I swear by it.
  18. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    So what is it about a DI that makes synths sound better?
  19. Mario-C.

    Mario-C. Active Member


    IMO the yamaha samplers are among the best hardware samplers ever made, the envelopes are super fast, they are loaded with very cool features, really nice fx and they sound fantastic, they are quite deep and powerful, (an A5000 will give you 126 notes of polyphony) the only issue right now is RAM and hard drive compatibility, but I bought them loaded so I didn't have any problems...mmh scsi is a little slow but with a hard drive I don't really mind...
    sampling from the front panel is very easy and quality is very nice and clean, but it can sound grungy too, you have a "lo-fi" sampling option @ different sample rates and you can sample through the effects section
  20. Mario-C.

    Mario-C. Active Member

    thanks Nate, I'm actually looking forward to tweak that thing, it should be here next week...

    but since I stopped watching tv I could use the time I was wasting channel surfing and do something productive with the nord

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