1. Register NOW and become part of this fantastic knowledge base forum! This message will go away once you have registered.

Sebatron or Focusrite?

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by nehpyh, Mar 29, 2005.

  1. nehpyh

    nehpyh Active Member


    I'm planning on investing in a pro channel mic pre with compressor, actually a dual channel so that I can do stereo miking. Right now, it's bascially between the sebatron VMP2000eVU and Focusrite ISA220.

    I do mainly pop rock/acoustic pop and Indie. Anyone with any advice?

  2. rudedogg

    rudedogg Guest

    i would go for the focusrite if you want resell value, and sebatron if you want a distinct colored sound.
  3. ShellTones

    ShellTones Guest

    These are two completely different animals. The Seb is a two channel preamp (with some eq options). The ISA is a single channel, channel strip.
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Have you used or heard a Sebatron rudedogg? The thing about Sebatrons is they only have one transformer and one tube. The output is electronically balanced which keeps things pretty clean unless you push the input stage hard.

    This means the sound can be vary widly from saturated to very clean depending on whether you use the pads and then drive the pre hard or not ... The ability to chain the Sebs channels along with the eq and pads, offers multi stage gain managment that produces a wide pallete of sonic signatures. With the eq switches engaged, the pre saturates differently than when they are not in. All this leads to a very flexible front end.

    Actually used Sebs have been reselling (when they ocasionally come on the market) at a good portion of their original price. It seems they are holding value very well so far

    The Sebatron is a hybrid of point to point and PCB construction that uses no smt construction.

    I believe the ISA is all smt robot stuffed which would make serviceing in the future an iffy proposition at best. Perhaps someone who has had an ISA apart at some point can either confirm this or not?

    In the long run, I suspect the Sebatron will be in service much longer that the ISA.
  5. I would have to agree with Kurt here, the cheaper focusrites are not much better than all the other mass produced chinese stuff (yes they are made in China!) and I don't think they will hold their value very well in the medium to long term, if they last that long. Resale value shouldn't be a factor if you're buying the right piece of gear, if it's good you won't want to sell it at any price, if it's a piece of crap, you probably won't be able to sell it, even cheaply, because there will be a new model out with more 'features' at a cheaper price than you paid.
    The ISA 220 is a mono channel strip, more directly comparable to the Sebatron Thorax than the 2000e. Don't be sold on extra 'features', they are mostly crappy, low quality implementations of things that sound good in advertisements rather than actually being useful or musical. It is easy to add 'features' when you're using surface mount chips, it is actually very difficult to do these things properly. (limiters, EQ, etc etc ) Simple and pure is actually much more versatile.
    The focusrite is your safe bet, if you want to know exactly what you're getting and don't mind sounding like everyone else at the lower-mid-range quality level. The Sebatron is more of a risk, but contains a much wider range of possibilities, despite having less switches and knobs. I say live life on the edge and keep an open mind!!!!
  6. itchy

    itchy Guest

    other threads on this board speak very highly of the focusrite isa series pres, yet this one seems to really be down on it. are they really not that good of quality for the price range? i'm very (as in, extremely) close to purchasing an isa 428 to add to my sytek pres and provide 8 channels of a/d conversion. is there some other unit that provides these features that is more highly recommended than the isa 428?

    all along, i've heard these are very quality units, and now i hear they're low/mid range.

  7. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    The ISA series is basically Focusrite's lowest 'professional' series. They'll sit quite happily in most Pro studios.

    As to whether or not they are better than Sebatron.... there is no correct answer. Use what works best in your situation.

    But I will say this.... you deffinately pay a premium to get the Focusrite name. To some it's worth it, but to others (me included) it's NOT!
  8. nehpyh

    nehpyh Active Member

    Thanks guys for all the input,

    Especially to Kurt, I have been reading your reviews and I just hope to find a good poll to back up your testament...guess there are still more votes for Sebatron over Focusrite.

    My mistake on the ISA 220. I thouhgt it was a dual-channel....

    As I dun have many agents here in Singapore bringing in hi-end pres, or a room to test, I have to depend on forums and reviews. I.e. what you guys say mean a lot..Having said that, there are just not enough folks who has, or are using Sebatron to voice out and really advise objectively.

    Regarding the price of ISA vs. Sebatron, you guys will be surprised that ISA 220 is approx. 2x the price of MVP 2000eVU here in Singapore. Maybe it's the branding, proximity to 'Down Under', I dunno...anyone who has used or are using the ISA220, please stand up...

    Personally I dun have any qualms buying PRC products as long as the company is willing to invest in QC and material. Unless of course, like what Kurt said, the engineering is gonna affect the product and it's long term implications.

    i'm definitely skewed towards Sebatron as I have high regards for what the pros say here. But if ISA is not gonna match up to Sebatron, what about the Red series?

  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I wasn't saying the ISA is bad sounding. From what I heard of some examples on a track at a local tracking room I was checking out, I like them. But I've never seen the guts of one. If they are made with SMT / robot stuffed sub assemblies, which I believe I read they are, they are probably one of the best implimentations of a good pre using that kind of build approach (IMO). However, the long term reliabilty and servicing issues could arise. That would be something to ask about before buying one if resale value after a number of years of use is a consideration.

    I was also pointing out that used Sebatrons were selling at a significant portion of their original cost and that the VMPs are a very flexible pre suited for many applications throught the production process.

    When tracking, the VMP's one transformer / one tube "less is more" approach and the ability to daisey chain from one channel into another, offers a wide sonic pallette from "brite" and "clean" to "thick" and "warm" to "downright nasty" depending on how you configure the eq lift / cut and pad switches and how hard you drive the tubes. When mixing they make great interfacing and line driver amps for use with outboard.

    Either way you will have a good preamp. It really depends on what you think will serve your needs best.
  10. DaveRunyan

    DaveRunyan Active Member

    Over the years I have found that I need some gear for me and some gear that people expect to see. Sometimes you get lucky and they are the same peice. I plan on grabbing a Sebatron very soon but I also have some Focusrite pres as well.
  11. nehpyh

    nehpyh Active Member

    Thanks Kurt,

    I understand completely. I must agree that Sebatron offers something unique and flexible. If I am not wrong, you did a review on the VMP4000. Would there be any difference between the 2000e and 4000e in terms of sound?

    There are a few pres I'm currently researching on: Amek System 9098, Focusrite Red 8, Grace Design 201, Summit Audio, and Sebatron. I just hope to get the most versatile gear.
  12. Markd102

    Markd102 Well-Known Member

    There is no difference in sound between the 2000e & 4000e. Seb says that the 1000e has a slightly "better performance" due to there only being a single preamp loading the PSU, but it seems that there is no drop after 2 channels. Seb might like to chime in here and explain why... Seb?

    Focusrite Red series..... wow, you're talking big bucks there :shock:

    Hey nehpyh, email me.
  13. Duardo

    Duardo Guest

    Are you talking about the ISA stuff when you say the "cheaper" Focusrites? They're still expensive, and they are much better than most of the mass-produced Chinese-manufactured stuff out there.

    Have you actually used the 220? I own one, and the extra "features" are not crappy, low-quality implementations. They are very useful and musical tools. They may be using cheaper labot to keep the cost down, but they haven't skimped on design or components. The EQ is the classic Rupert Neve-designed EQ, and the compressor and EQ are very good as well. Not to be confused with the Platinum stuff, which uses entirely different designs (but, in my opinion, is still better than most of the cheaper stuff out there).

    Are you still talking about the ISA220, or are you talking about something like the VoiceMaster Pro? The ISA220 is actually a fairly simple device.

    I imagine that people on this thread seem more down on the ISA-series preamps than most because it's attracted more of the Sebatron fans...which doesn't necessarily take away from the ISA stuff. I think that the ISA428 is a great value in its price range (I have one as well), and especially if you're planning on the A/D card you'd be hard pressed to find a better value. I think the converters are on par with some of the other high-end converters out there (Focusrite's actually been designing converters for a long time dating back to their high-end Blue series mastering converters, so they have the "pedigree" if you will) and they're a great deal since you've already paid for the chassis, power supply, and some of the analog circuitry with the preamp itself. Nice to have the extra four channels as well.

    No, they're still high-end units. They're priced lower than most...they did move manufacturing from England to China a few years back...but their quality doesn't seem to have suffered.

    I think that used to be true with the ISA stuff, and is still true with the Red stuff (mainly because it's still manufactured in the UK), but compared to comparable stuff...like, comparing the ISA220 to something like an Avalon ISA220 or a UA 6176...it's a great deal. The Sebatron stuff seems to be as well.

    I don't think there's a problem with the ISA series engineering. They're solid, and I seem to recall a few reviews that commented specifically on their build quality. I opened my 428 up when I put the A/D card in there and everything looked good to me, but I'm certainly not an authority on the matter.

    The Red stuff is really not much "better" than the ISA stuff...the preamp and EQ designs are the same (in fact, they stopped making the Red pre/EQ combination when the ISA 110 was re-released becuase it was so redundant). The chasses are much beefier...obviously it's a cosmetic difference, but they offer better RF shielding and that kind of thing as well...and the Red 4-channel box specifically has input and output transformers, whereas the ISA428 only has input transformers...but they're certainly on par with each other quality-wise.

  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    You're just the man I been looking for though. You can answer my primary question, "Is the ISA 428 SMT construction ?"

    If you're speaking in my direction, you are mistaken. I have actually recommended the ISA 428 with the converter cards many times. When asked which I would prefer, the 428 or the VMP 4000e, I often say "both .... times two!"

    If the thought is to go for the Focusrite Red 4 channel unit , most likely for less cash you could get a very similar design eight channel mic pre from JLM called the TMP8 (about $2200) http://www.jlmaudio.com

    The TMP8 is an op amp design with a lot in common to the Red Range or API mic pres. I really liked the ones I had here for review and was bummed when I had to return them.
  15. Duardo

    Duardo Guest

    I know that means surface-mount technology, but tell me exactly what I should have looked for. I remember seeing many larger components, including the Lundahl transformers and what I assume was the power supply transformers, but I really wasn't looking for anything specific. I'll see if I can look in through the vents in case I don't remember the details you're looking for.

    No, I wasn't talking about you...I don't recall seeing you say anything negative about the ISA stuff.

  16. nehpyh

    nehpyh Active Member

    Thanks guys, great advices.

    I know there will not be a holy grail to mic pres....but for someone starting out and getting my first pro level pre, I hope to stretch my dollar and get something enduring and that I won't sell off later.

    My budget is around 2k and not more....hopefully I can find something that has 'everything'...and I know many will frown upon such a statement...

    For the price of Sebatron VMP 2000eVU in Singapore, I think I can afford to add a decent entry-level compressor into my shopping list...but a ISA220 basically wipe out most of my budget and yet I still can't record in stereo.

    A dual channel Red is around the same price as the Grace Design 201 (Sweetwater) and if I'm too hung up about PRC products, maybe I will study deeper into investing in either one of the above.

    But is SMT really that bad? I have read that the technology is improving and repair is fairly easy too, even the right tools and a pair of steady hands!

  17. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Technology is of course always improving. But the issues pertaining to what you are discussing revolve around amperage. You can send any number of volts and any number of amps across a wire (as long as the components and wire are rated for the amount applied). But you can't put alot of amps on a printed curcuit board. It will just burn right the hell up! On the other hand voltage works a little differently.
    But my point is that "PCB's vs point to point " wiring is like a corvette mets a hot rod. Sure the corvette is nice to look at and a killer car. But a hot rod is a hot rod (it's just more power more go more this more that)
    And since we are only talking about "amperage" here, you cant expect a corvette to beat a hot rod.
    I am not gonna tell you what is best, that is a matter of opinion. [/quote]
  18. chrisgraff

    chrisgraff Guest

    The ISA220 is a great sounding box, in my opinion. I have used it many times, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it one bit.

    My current pre/eq is the Chandler LTD-1, which I love. That said, the Focusrite is a fantastic value for the money. Great sounding box.

    BROKENBONES Active Member

    my only problem with the focusrite was the bass definition.other than that it seemed to be worth the price as long as you skipped the preamp section.thats probably why i passed it over.
  20. nehpyh

    nehpyh Active Member

    thanks guys for all the inputs,

    guess I have a better picture of what I am looking for now....

    given the price and value, I'm must say I'm really leaning towards our Sebatron from below the equator.

    Any recommendations for a 'swiss army knife' stereo compressor? need one for stereo mic-ing of guitar. Below US1.5k ?

Share This Page