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Tubes ver. Solid State

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by audiokid, Feb 14, 2002.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I going to try a few different preamps. I'm really curious what everyone has to say about the differences a tube preamp has over a solid state preamp. I understand it depends on a whack of variables but all that aside, what would be your choice tube and what would be you choice solid state? Lets assume we are using a DAW to track and recording acoustic music. Guitar, Mandolin, and then subtly adding electronic things like the virus, nord lead and African drums. The acoustic instruments will be upfront.
     
  2. I have Avalon M5s that sound big and fat, a sound characteristic of a tube pre, but they're solid state. I just love my Manley VB which is tube but sounds cleaner than many of the best solid state pres out there.

    I highly recomend both of these, but they don't fit the 'tube sound vs. solid state' definitions.
     
  3. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    A couple of weeks ago you asked for people's top choices in preamps, and you got over 50 responses. In an effort not to simply recreate the list here in it's entirety, how about giving us a parameter of how much you are willing to spend?
     
  4. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Sort of on topic, I once tried recording a bass with a dual action head, it had the option to mix solid state pre with valve pres stage, before its power amp stage... that was definetly cool, there was an optimum 'zone'... between the phat valve and solid state punch sounds...

    Dosen't Millennia Media gear do that in its 'twin topology' mic pre range??

    :)
     
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    ah Jules that's what I'm thinking.
    littledog, that list is so confusing who can make anything out of that, 66 preamps. ;)
     
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Kirk, what do you mean "fit the 'tube sound vs. solid state' definitions."?
     
  7. osmuir

    osmuir Member

    well, tube: one consideration is that tubes blow up. you will have the possibility of that issue, and it may cause downtime [if yr me].

    other than that, i love my pendulum mdp-1. ****ing AMAZING DI's too. bass just like you want it.

    solid state: the great river MP-2NV blew me away. and i'm getting a spider [which i shouldn't do, cause it's gonna make me poored, but it is such a good deal!]. the regular one is good too, and sounds very clean & flexible. Dan Kennedy is nice, he'll probably answer any questions, and so is greg @ pendulum.

    have fun.
    --owen
     
  8. Todd Farone

    Todd Farone Guest

    I agree with Owen about the DIs on the Pendulum for bass! From there, I'm going into the Fatso...Killer! The Spider will be a great score for you! Between the MDP-1 and the Flamingo, I have all of my bases covered as far as pre's and DI's go! Rockin!
     
  9. I guess I should have said these are two expamples of pres that don't fit the stereotypical sound characteristics attributed to either tube or solid state components.

    You asked what the differences were between tube and solid state. My point was that there can be none in some cases, contrary to the assumptions often made about how either will sound.

    I think ulitmately you'll want one of each, a tube pre and solid state one. That's my case, but mine have reversed roles for the sound, the M5s can sound a lot bigger in certain applications than the Manley, and they sound big with a nice warm sound often only achieved with tubes. The Manley setup right can just get out of your way and give you a great clean sound, not tubey at all.

    One factor in my setup is that I use the B&K 4012 mics with the M5s, huge range and super clean. These are 130V mics that can handle 168db. You want dynamic grand piano, these mics with the M5s will give it to you.
     
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Owen cool, how long do tubes last? do they weaken as well like guitar strings?

    For bass, does this mean the pendulum mdp-1 would be good for bass vocals too or synths? Does the pendulum mdp-1 naturally compresses the bass better?

    Thanks
     
  11. osmuir

    osmuir Member

    as for the specifics of the tubes, a call to greg @ pendulum would be in order. he's from a physics backround, i understand.

    anyhoo, tubes can die dead, and then the channel is dead on the pendulum [if it's an input tube] or the whole thing [if it's an output tube]. a quick pop o' the top and they are really quick to swap.

    i did notice, before my left channel went, i heard this "fwoop fwoop" sound, and i thought it was some wierd digital clocking issue [sounded too analog though, freaked me out till i found out it was the pre!]. so yea, you can hear them start to "go."

    they basicly last as long as they last.

    the pendulum kicks ass on everything [if yr using a ribbon mic, talk to greg, he did this cool impedence converter for extra gain]...

    so yea, bass "sounds" [like vocals]are great, the DI inputs are rad, for keys too.
    it's class a, meaning when you run it clean [see below] it's clear as a bell. this is also thanks to the transformerless output, i would imagine.

    you can roll back the output and crank the input, giving it more grit [or "warmth"...if you like that BS term.]. "asymetrical" distortion is what it really is. transistors do more symetrical distortion...but that is another discussion.

    so you can get it to sorta "compress" more, but it's not a compressor unless you turn it into a distortion box [CRANK input, adjust output to proper volume]. want to get the coolest bass distortion ever? crank one channel on the mdp-1 with bass pluged into it, then plug that output into the second channel. also, crank to taste.
    you can even throw it into a distressor...

    the other cool thing bass wise, and keys wise, for that matter, is the fact that there are different impediences on the front and back DI's, letting you load pickups differently.

    so yea, it's a cool box. i got it cause fletcher said it was mad flexible, and it is. so yay!

    but put it through a great a/d, or you will be missing some of the magic.

    [also, this seems like a neat trick, and someone tell me if this is dumb, but i've used this box as the gain makeup stage for my RNC. i.g., instead of "gain" knob on rnc, you leave it at 0 and plug into pendulum, using it for the gain! neat, huh? $2,250 gain stage on a $175 compressor!]

    --o
     
  12. Interesting thread. A lot of these will be contenders in a li'l shootout here one of these weeks.
    I'm very interested in the comments on the M5 with the 130v DPA mic. I've been using a DPA 4011 (normal phantom power but transformerless like the high voltage DPA's) and love it with the Manley. I didn't know how much I would like it with a really good solid state pre, but the M5 sounds like a good bet. I am highly prejudiced about this whole tube/solid state thing, maybe because my only quality solid state pre is a Pendulum solid state piece marketed primarily as the world's best acoustic guitar preamp, but Greg says somebody's using it for mastering. I believe it, as the parametric EQ is very good, and I'm sure they're not using the mic pres in mastering land. Nice old zildjians and bells do not fare well through that solid state Pendulum. Ironically, neither do acoustic guitar pickups! Very dry and in your face, hardly what a pickup wants to see. Tubes way better on that application- gives you some spacious characteristics much more like a guitar in a room. Mixes better with acoustic guitar mics.
    I like the idea of a solid state pre that sounds like a tube- but one with huge amounts of headroom (maybe why? no transistor clips on the transients?) and crystal clear. Manleys without the transformers are crystal clear, although the bass could be tighter. Interested to hear the Pendulum tube pre has such desirable bass characteristics.
    Good reading!
    Ted
     
  13. osmuir

    osmuir Member

    the high voltage does keep the transients from clipping, correct-a-mundo. but it does the same thing for tubes. the voltage of the "rails" limits the dynamic range of the signal's output, and just like stuff flatlines @ digital zero, same thing with voltages and gain circuts.

    the thing that makes tubes sound better is that, in certain configurations [read: class A], the distortion is asymetrical, [the top and bottom of the waveform are distorted in a smoother manner, and differently from each other]. the result is more plesant distortions when pushed.

    transistor designs can do this to, however. but to do it well you need [unless yr a badass, and even then...] to have an all discrete singnal path, or you can't properly control all the tolerences of the various transistors and caps. then you make that class A. then you listen.

    bingo--a solid state device that reacts more like a tube design, with the distortion charistics yr used to hearing.

    wanna know if something is class A? put yr hand on it while it's on. if it's hot as all get out, it's class A.

    i wish i could draw graphs. this would be a much simplier post.

    --owen
     
  14. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    The specific combination of certain audio sources with certain mics with certain pres (and let's not even get into compressors and room acoustics!) is magic. Change any one of the above, and the results may vary enormously.

    We see right here all the time people with hugely varying opinions on whether a mic or pre sounds good, often because they are not using them in the same combinations.

    I know this isn't helpful to anyone who wants an easy answer to "what should one buy", but the fact remains, everyone's mileage DOES vary.

    I would hard pressed to trade my Lawson L-47 into a Tube Tech MP-1a for a wide variety, but certainly not ALL applications. For other sound sources, I might swear by an Earthworks QTC into a DACS Micamp, an AKG D112 into a Vintech 1272, 414EB into a Daking, or an SM57 into an API.

    So yeah, if someone put a gun to my head, I could probably pick two mics and two pres for "overall" applications, but I'm awfully glad I don't have to. I think a better approach is to view equipment purchases as a continual process of expanding one's tonal possibilities. So if someone says to me "What should I buy?", my general answer would be "What do you already have - and now go for something really different!"
     
  15. I personally tend to use tube based mic-pres (I have a couple V72's and V78's) a lot for DI applications: direct gtr and especially digital synths/samplers. It seems to give those signals a bit more distance and space, as well as rounding the transients a little and are obviously useful if you want to add a bit of distortion. Not unlike what you would get from amping those signals but in a more hi-fi and subtle way. I also use them as hi-fi fx boxes for some old school drums/room sounds or overdrived vocals alla Beastie Boys with cheapo hi-z dynamic mics.

    Most of the time though, I'll use solid-state units. I tend to prefer classic designs that are transformer based (Neve/Helios/API) for the majority of my work but I really like having an Avalon (still tranny based but quite faster sounding) and/or a GML (can't get really faster than that!) around for those elements I want to jump out of the mix. :w:
     
  16. osmuir

    osmuir Member

    also tubes=warm up time. like 1/2hr +. so if you want turn on and go, don't use a tube pre.
    --owen
     
  17. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    A good example of a solid state device sounding like the common perception of tube gear: the Avalon U5 DI. Haven't A-B'd it against the Pendulum, but on electric bass, I haven't had one bass player believe me when I say it has no tubes. Earlier today I just finished a session where, on playback, the bass player was running around the room with his fists in the air screaming: "MUSCLE SHOALS! MUSCLE SHOALS!"

    As an engineer, it don't get much better than that! :D
     
  18. chris

    chris Member

    Who makes the Pendulum?
     
  19. A guy named Greg makes the Pendulum stuff. Fletcher at Mercenary Audio carries them.
    My own solid state Pendulum preamp really begs this issue. It makes me crave tubes prretty bad. I'm hoping to find some solid state pres that don't make me crave tubes. Avalon sounds promising, and GML among a hundred others.

    posted February 17, 2002 12:52 AM                      
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I personally tend to use tube based mic-pres (I have a couple V72's and V78's) a lot for DI applications: direct gtr and especially digital synths/samplers. It seems to give those signals a bit more distance and space, as well as rounding the transients a little and are obviously useful if you want to add a bit of distortion.
    ----------------------------------
    I couldn't agree more. I also like the Manley Tube DI in conjunction with a nice pre for keys and bass, even on the way to a guitar amp.
    That solid state Pendulum piece I mentioned is supposed to be for acoustic instruments, including especially acoustic guitar pickups, but I find that a Manley tube pre is a vast improvement, for all of the reasons that you cite, except distortion which is negligible. The Tube DI distorts much more desirably if you want that. Space, no reverb needed, blends better with mics.
    Ted
     

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