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

Sytek MPX-4Aii pre - good enough?

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by kostein, Jul 13, 2004.

  1. kostein

    kostein Guest

    I'm looking to buy a preamp, gonna use it for recording electric/acoustic guitars, bass and some vocals. I've seen quite a few people recommend it and I was wondering, for $900 (which can be bought on ebay), is there a better preamp?
    I'm interested in getting the best sound quality possible with roughly a grand. If there is anything better than this puppy please bring it up.
  2. by

    by Guest

    I'd rather have two RNPs, or maybe one RNP, a VTB-1 and a Focusrite Trak Master - though I've never actually tried the VTB and the Focusrite (which may be really bad I don't know), but having some options to pick and choose from might be good. I personally like the RNP, for it's price. I can't say much about the sytek other then some have complained about not having enough headroom. But yeah I've heard good things about them too.
  3. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    There has been much discussion on the sytek preamp in this forum already, pro and con. Do a search and you will see. I have one and am very happy with it. there are others who say buy a John Hardy instead. Since I haven't heard a John Hardy I can't advise on how great the difference is. I have heard mackies, arts, motus, ranes, behringers and other budget preamps and the Sytek is definitely a cut above. I also have a grace 101 and the sytek is close to my ears. (grace has a lil bit more definition in the top end) I like the sytek with the burr brown for pop vocals better than the grace. I am sure other mods who have heard both the Sytek and the john hardy can tell you a little more on how they differ. If you do a search, though, you will see that the subject has been beat to death. (and there is no real concensus out there!) I guess preampa are like women, there are many different flavors and guys have their preferences. (if you are a woman, please reverse the satement!!!!)
  4. kostein

    kostein Guest

    I'm gonna use it mainly for recording electric guitars , bass and vocals. I won't be recording any drums so anything more than 4 channels will be a waste.
    I prefer having at least two channels though so I can do stereo recordings.

    Just FYI, the music I'm making is heavy metal in the vein of Metallica/Pantera thus the guitars will be heavily distorted. Vocalsl include both singing and screaming. So what I am looking for is something that will give me the best sound possible on those applications.

    So far my options include:
    Sytek MPX-4Aii
    Sebatron VMP2000eVU (if I can find it really cheap that is)

    Also I've seen the Apogee Mini MP being mentioned a few times, anyone care to elaborate a bit on this?
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    The topic is very subjective. Some folks seem to think the moderately priced, mid level, electronically balanced mic pres like the RNP and the Syteks offer a substantial increase in quality. I think that while they are a bit different sounding, IMO they are not better than the average Mackie or other small format mixers pre amps.. but instead, the result of natures abhorrence to a vacuum, a reaction to the marketplace screaming for a great mic pre for less than $500.

    Manufacturers know they can market this stuff to people who have never heard a really great mic pre and therefore have no real frame of reference to make a comparison... and by making them sound a bit different, they can assert that they sound "better" ...

    Unfortunately, I think it is mostly a lot of hype. I have to ask ..."If these mic pres are so freakin' transparent, if they are so accurate (as they are claimed to be), why do they all sound so different?? Everything colors a signal ... there is no straight wire with gain ... The cheapo manufacturers all go for the uncolored / accurate designs because they are easier and cheaper to build. They can come up with a printed circuit board and a few surface mounted robotically stuffed chips and a very low voltage power supply (wall warts). I would like to see a transformer balanced mic pre with discreet transistors and a 24 volt power supply at an affordable price point ... OH! wait ... it can't be done that cheap ....

    While we are at it, let's discuss these chips that have dozens of components all stuffed into one .... IMO these are the problem as much as anything else ... The consistency from chip to chip is questionable and when the chip or the assembly that it is mounted on fails, the whole assembly has to be replaced because it would cost more than the whole piece is worth to disassemble it and place the assembly into a jig to replace the surface mounted component. On the other hand, if you have discreet components, soldered through the circuit board, any tech in your home town, with a proper schematic can replace the defective part .... and you are back in business faster that your pre amp can reach the service center in LA.

    Also to be considered, is the availability of assemblies in the future. Once the product is out of production, good luck .. But with products that are built using discreet components, replacements or original parts can almost always be found. Just look at all the old Neve and APIs there are still in service ...

    Bob Rock recorded Metallica and he uses vintage Neve 1073s to record everything .. If that 's the sound you want you need a mic pre that is transformer balanced ... The Sytek, RNP, Grace all are electronically balanced, the Sebatron has a transformer ... and while I personally like the Sebatron the best of all the pres you mention, I am not sure it is the sound you are looking for .... the pre that would do what you want the best would be a Great River MP NV .... and a single channel one (MP1NV) can be purchased for around a grand I believe ...
  6. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    FWIW, here's what Steve Albini has to say (as a guy who knows a thing or two about recording distorted guitars):

    "I wholeheartedly agree that the Syteks are excellent mic amps and excellent value.

    They are also an interesting oddity, in that they don't follow any of the current trends in mic pre-amp design, and are excellent by virtue of how they are made, and not a quirky topology or exotic components.

    If you open one up, you'll see a simple, elegant amplifier using what appear to be bog-standard TL072 (I think, I don't recall) J-FETs. No expensive transformer, no video-speed op-amp, no silver-foil-on-beeswax capacitors. In short, no magic. Just a simple, well-laid-out design, using standard but high-quality components which have been individually-selected for low noise and tight tolerances.

    The designer, Mike Stoica, builds and tunes them himself, and sells them not for the highest price he could possibly get (he could easily get more), but for a _reasonable_ profit which ensures he makes money from repeat business.

    I own many channels of these, and I rate them qualitatively as equals - not substitues for - my Massenburgs, Neves, John Hardys and the best console pre-amps I have ever heard. They are crisp, clean and noise-free, and they provide more-than-adequate gain for low-output mics like old RCAs, Altecs and the like, without adding breakup, instability or hiss.

    There is a golden age for any style of electronic design. Tubes began as unruly, low-bandwidth, noisy, inefficient beasts. Transformer and tube technology matured to the point that we were graced with lovely sounding equipment by the late '50s and into the '60s. Microphones, oweing to their simplicity, matured faster.

    Transistor electronics were even more bastardly until designers like Neve, Flickinger, API, and Trident placed the emphasis where it belonged, in signal integrity as a whole, not just in the frequency-domain.

    With excellent IC-based electronics currently being built by GML, Neve (Rupertless), Neotek and Sytek, we may be approaching a breakthrough in the quality of IC-based audio, as designers solve the subtle but serious problems of earlier designs.

    Most folks do, however, get it wrong, and we still have to suffer through mass-produced semi-professional crap being used on a regular basis. Sytek and things like it are an excellent alternative to this caliber of equipment, for no more money. Hurrah.

    -steve albini"

    In short, at $750 - $800 a piece for 4-channels, they're a damn good value.
  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Sorry, I don't buy it .... ya gets what ya pays for.

    I suppose at some point I will have to post some comparison audio clips of a Sytek vs. Neve types like the MPNV and my 9098, as well as my Sebatron and a Mackie pre so that you all can hear the differences yourselves ... That's what it took to get the RNPers to quiet down .... and I suppose that's what it will take to get advocates of the Sytk to do the same.

    Anyone want to send me one for a week or two ???
  8. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    You don't have to buy it. But a lot of people have, and get excellent results with them.

    I've used the Sytek pre's on many occasions. I've also used Neves, Great Rivers, 9098's and Mackie's. The Sytek is a damn fine little utility pre that is worlds better than a Mackie. No MP3 clip of yours is going to "quiet me down" or in any way change the opinions of them that I have formed through personal experience. Nor, I suspect, would your clips "quiet down" Albini. To suggest otherwise is more than a little pompous.

  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    nee ner nee ner to you too!

    Hey! I have and idea. Let's keep the comments on the topic and let's not call each other names.

    Everytime we go here (cheap preamps) people who have nothing more to offer start calling other people names (usually me) and making personal attacks ... it really doesn't further the discussion and really turns readers off. I never cease to wonder at people who want to insist that cheap pres can sound as good as time tested designs.

    If you could be so kind to post some mp3s of the Sytek against the Mackie and the MPNV I would be thrilled .... but according to what you said, nothing would convince you differently because Steve Albini has said otherwise. It must be nice to be able to form an opinion without thinking or judging for yourself. It's a real time saver.

    Record the samples, and then give the results to some neutral person, like Xavier (who seems to like Syteks). Then post the compaison clips without saying which is which, until several people have commented on which they like best. ... I would be willing to venture the MPNV will come out better and it really wouldn't surprise me if the Mackies did well also .. ... in the case of the RNP, my Mackie SR24vlz pres were judged to sound clearer and have a better overall sound.

    Last kostein asked specifically about the sounds recorded by "Metallica/Pantera.. " I responded by pointing out that Bob Rock uses Neve 1073's. I think that my Bob Rock trumps your Steve Albini ...
  10. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    My comments were very on topic, and I didn't call you names. Read my post again.

    No. Again, try reading my post. Here's what I said: I HAVE USED THE SYTEK PRE'S ON MANY OCASSIONS I also said that I have formed my opinions of them THROUGH PERSONAL EXPERIENCE To clarify and elaborate, I have used them often. I have used them on many occassions on many sources. I have used them on heavy guitars. One of the studios that I regularly work at has a unit and I use it. Personally. Often. Who's the one slinging insults here?

    I do not own these pre's. And I am not going to rent studio time to do that. Nor am I going to use studio time that someone else is paying for to run little experiments for you. Nor, for that matter, do I care to waste my own personal time doing that. I was responding to kostein. You and he can each make what you wish of my comments, but to suggest that you are going to have to "quiet me down" is offensive. To suggest that my opinion is worthless unless I post MP3's is also offensive.

    So, if I point out that Terry Date uses API's, does that mean 1073's suck? What exactly is your point? Bob Rock was not talking about Syteks. Albini was.
  11. kostein

    kostein Guest

    Like I said, quality comes first, quantity second. I prefer having 2 channels of great pres instead of 4 channels of good pres. I will need at least 2 channels. Even though having 4 channels sounds nice, most of the time I'll be using just 2.

    Regarding the Great River. I've read a lot about these pres in the forums. The general feel I got is that they're best suited for acoustic instruments. But then, a great pre is good for just about anything right? I'm willing to shell out an arm and leg for the Great River MP-2NV if you guys give me enough reason to. It sounds like a wise investment even though I'm gonna have to live with corn flakes for the rest 5-6 months (well I'm exaggerating a bit, but you know what I mean).
  12. DStern

    DStern Guest

    Comparing a Sytek and a 1073 is misguided. These are totally different animals. They each have their different uses.

    I agree with Albini that the Sytek is a quality pre. It's a very nice clean accurate sound as opposed to the colored Neve sound. I wouldn't use the Neve in places where the Sytek is more suited and vice versa. Aside from this distinction, I find the Sytek to have staying power in my rack and has been used on most recordings I've done since I got it.

    As far as the "you get what you pay for" comment, that's just wrong. There are many examples of reasonably priced quality gear as well as many more examples of way overpriced mediocrity.
  13. by

    by Guest

    well you gotta do what makes you most comfortable. It would probably be better quality-wise to get two better preamps like Great River or Sebatron, but it's not gonna be the end of the world if you choose to get the Sytek or whatever. (yeah I think those mackies are 'clearer' then RNP but I don't think RNP were meant to be transparent in that way - Please Kurt, no offense intended!)
  14. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    If you've got the cash for an MP-2NV and don't need four channels, by all means go for it. It's a very nice pre (and quite flexible).

    By the way, if soundclips are your thing (even though they give you damn-near-zero information about what a pre would sound like on a different source, in a different song, with a different mic in a different room on a different day), you might want to find someone with a copy of this:


    It's a bunch of preamp samples done under circumstances that are about as controlled as you can get for one of these tests. It's also a real CD, not MP3's. It's a couple of years old, so doesn't have the MP-2NV on it, but it does have the Sytek. Listen to it blindly, and I think you'll find the Sytek compares extrememly well to some very expensive stuff. I think you'll also find that the Mackie, ART and Presonus pre's compare rather poorly. If you don't hear a huge difference between the Sytek and the Mackie, I'd suggest upgrading your monitor path.
  15. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    I do own, like and use the sytek all the time and get good results with it. Much better than I used to get with a mackies, art, rane ms1, yamaha mla7, or the preamps in the Motu 828 mkii. I also own a grace 101 and the sytek is close to it in the clean channels (the grace does have more headroom and detail) but I prefer the sytek for vocals through the channels with the Burr brown option when I use it with my new K2 tube mic. With the U87 I still like the grace better.

    I also see a great river Mp2nv in my rack in the not too distant future. And a 4 ch Sebatron when I can afford it. Some neves would also be welcome, and a EW fearn preamp... please start a collection!

    My point is that the sytek gives me good results in the way I use it, with the gear I have. when I get the great river or the sebatron I'll post my opinion on that, how it compares. Until then, please let the bulls run in Pamplona!
  16. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    This is the specific comment you made that I thought was uncalled for .. You did not need to include that and I feel it was used to to belittle me and make me look bad ... (a personal attack) and I just don't allow that here at RO. Not towards me or anyone else. I could have just deleted it but then I would be the "big ol' bad Nazi censoring thought control violator of free speech" ... so I choose to confront it in the light of day. Which is the better approach? I think the first judging by the way this thread is going off topic ....

    Any discussion on the merits of an opinion is fine but when someone starts making it personal, I object.

    All I require is for all to be able to offer opinion and discuss the questions. Everyone has something to offer. Someone may even be able to convince me of their POV, it has happened.

    I don't care about what Albini said in regards to this.. no one is right all the time and this is not the first thing he has said that I do not agree with. I do not discount the man, he has made more hit records than all of us put together I suspect.

    I have used these also and I have never been impressed with them. I think they are sterile and cold sounding and do not generate any excitement, much like a Mackie pre or a pre you might find in a Tascam console. They have a tendency to run out of headroom as well, also like the Mackies. For a clean uncolored, transparent type pre, I would lean more towards an Earthworks, Grace 202 or in a best case scenario, a Millennia HV-3.

    To me it is a only different brand of vanilla ice cream, nothing more. Some folks like that, I don't. Is Bryers vanilla better than Dryers vanilla? Sure, but I'll take any chocolate any day. I will take any well executed 3 stage Neve clone over any electronically balanced mic pre every time (Millennia's included). At the top of my post I did mention it was a very subjective topic.

    If someone were at the roadside giving away for free a GRMP2NV and a pair of Sytek MPX- 4's, I bet the Great River would be gone first ...
  17. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    It was not intended to belittle you or make you look bad. However, your statement that you were going to have to "quiet down" anyone who liked Sytek pre's was offensive, belittleing and completely uncalled for. My comment was an attack on the offensiveness of what you said. Your comments were personal attacks on the integrity and ability of anyone who expressed a like for Sytek pre's.

    That's fine. It's another opinion. You don't have to care. Nor do you have to care about my opinion or about Xavier's opinion. Nor do you have to care about e-cue's opinion (expressed on another thread). I know who e-cue is, and he probably has more hit records than all of us put together as well. But they are still all just opinions. They have been offered. It is open to everyone reading them to make what they will of them.

    ...and I disagree. You don't hear much difference between a Sytek and a Mackie. I hear a BIG difference. But that's fine. I have my opinion and you have yours. People offen differ in their opinions about many things. Just because someone feels differently than you doesn't mean that they are wrong or that you should take it upon yourself to "quiet them down" though. Your opinions do not take precedence. And it does a great disservice to anyone asking for an opinion to try to convince them that your opinion is the only one that they should consider. Disagree, fine. But don't disparage those who disagree with you.
  18. dino757

    dino757 Guest

    Hey all. Been lurking on here for quite a while and thought I'd post on what's become the topic in this thread.

    It's kind of weird, but when I read threads like this, it's almost like watching one of those reality TV shows, you know? When people start becoming aggressive and nasty toward each other [for real, no actors], and you can just sit down and watch it without any risk of your own, it's almost impossible to look away. You know there's something wrong about wanting to watch, but it's somehow entertaining in some deep, dark place in your brain. Just an idiotic observation maybe.

    Anyway, I really believe these kinds of things always start out as misunderstandings, mainly just because sometimes it's tough to get a feel for the "flavor" of a post without knowing the people involved or at least their writing personalities. I've been reading just about everything Kurt has written for the past 10 months or so, and now that I have a feel for his tone and rhythm, I can say without any doubt in my mind that he had no intention to offend when he threw out the "quiet them down" comment. Rather, it seemed to me like one of those good-natured pokes that are fun to throw in. After all, if you can't inject a little bit of slight humor in your posts, it makes for a pretty dry board, don't you think?

    So, although I think I understand your reaction Nikko, I hope that you will at least consider that it may have just been an unfortunate initial first impression. For what it's worth, I have picked up a tremendous amount of personal information from Kurt. Not only that, but I've gone against some of his recommendations regarding budget equipment, only finding out later that he was exactly right. I like Kurt. In fact, now that I really think about it, I may be in love with him.

    Just trying to lighten it up. But, I have to say I've learned the hard way about some of this, and I couldn't agree more about Kurt's theme of comparing equipment side by side, in a blind testing manner, to really find out what's best.

    Let me finish this long post with an example: about 6 months ago, I decided that the semi-pro audio world needed a really good, side-by-side test of low-cost pre-amps. Too many people out there (me included) just cannot bring themselves to invest more than a few hundred dollars in any one piece of equipment if there may be a low-cost alternate, and I thought it would be cute to be able to provide something that losers like me could use to compare these things.

    So off I went. Hit a few music stores (only the ones with 30 day money-back options, of course), stopped by a few of my also tight-wad friend's studios, and ended up with a whole Saturday afternoon and a Summit 2BA-221, a Focusrite Voicemaster Platinum, an ART Tube-PAC, a Studio Projects VTB-1, a Behringer T1953, a Presonas TubePRE, and a Mackie 1202VLZ. Made a bunch of wave files using a male vocal going into a Studio Projects C-1 mic, then preamp X, then a Flying Cow A>D converter, and finally into a Sonar-equipped PC.

    Over the next few months, I made everyone that came by the house give me their opinions. Most were musicians, but I also used neighbors, relatives, work buddies, a college professor, the landscape guy, the UPS delivery guy, you name it. I also used 3 different sets of monitors during the blind tests (budget-levels, of course) to be sure it wasn't just a monitor thing. By an absolute shockingly overwhelming margin, the stupid Behringer was the favorite. I would have never guessed that in a million years, mainly due to all the yammering I read about on Internet boards by some guy saying he thinks the ACME WHATEVER is the bomb, when that's all he has ever listened to in his life.

    Side-by-side tests are the only real way to get at the truth, and they are hard to come by. The trick is to find someone like Kurt who thinks the same way and is also willing to do them for all of us. Now that's a time saver.

    Anyway, peace. I hope this post isn't dissected and commented upon piece-by-piece, because it would only hurt my feelings and drive me back into lurkerland--I like to watch, but that's about it. Kidding again, of course.

  19. anonymous

    anonymous Guests


    I just have comments on two pieces...

    I'm not as familiar with Kurt as you are. I'm willing to admit that his post could have been read as kidding. That's not how I took it. But if that's what he meant, then I apologize for my reaction.

    I agree with the first part of your statement, but I think you have to take it further than that. Not only are side-by-side tests the best way to get the truth, but you really have to do them yourself to get much benefit from them. Everyone has heard side-by-side comparisons of preamps, mic's, whatever, posted on the web or in sample CD's like the the 3D Audio one, and those can be somewhat amusing to listen to. But they really don't give you much of an idea of how something performs in practice. You're only hearing one particular source with one particualr mic placed in one particular way with the gain staging set in one particular way in one particular room on one particular song on one particular day. As soon as the variables start to change, the results can be hugely different.

    I'd even go farther than saying that you have to do them yourself. To get a real feel for what a piece of equipment can do, you really have to use it in the context of a mix. Most people know that EQing a soloed instrument is not generally a great idea because it gives you no context. Same thing with trying something like a mic or mic pre solo. Something that might not sound the best solo may be the best once you get it into a mix.
  20. kostein

    kostein Guest

    I don't wanna bust your bubble but can we get back to the topic in hand? :roll:

    Is there a big difference in sound quality between the Great River and the Sytek / RNP / Sebatron? I've read Kurt's review on the Great River MP-2NV and I've become quite fond of it but I'm not sure whether the sound quality justifies the price...

Share This Page