Vac Rac

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by John Stafford, Jul 16, 2005.

  1. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    I suppose this is one for Ben :)

    I'm extremely curious about these, but I've heard very little about them. Even searching on the Internet there isn't an awful lot of information -but typing Vac Rac into Google will get you lots of information about the Vac Rac affordable rod and reel transportation system, whatever that is.

    I have heard some recordings made with these (I assume not the rod and reel transportation system!) that were breath-taking, so I assume they cost as much as a car.

    Are they the same as the units as the Boutique Audio & Design stuff?

    Anyway, I'd love to get some info on these.

  2. Plush

    Plush Guest

    Vac Rac is old style simple signal path good!
    We use the tube mic amps and they are very detailed with super extended low end. The power supply is tube and very robust.
    Detail is sparkle-y.

    Modeled after old Western Electric circuitry, the mic amp is highly revered. Sadly, they were very expensive and the company stopped making them. I think the 4 channels/ rack/ power supply costs over $5000.00.

    Yes, Boutique Audio is the successor company.

    We have often thought of selling our 4 channel rack. However, that idea goes out the window once we use them again and get an outrageously good recording.
  3. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I'm good friends with the original designer of the Vac Racs.... Steve Barker designed them and Steve Firlotte (Inward Connections) built them. They came in two varieties- a modular system that was based on the concept of the API lunchbox and a 10 channel preamp. The modular system had 4 modules- a preamp, a limiter, an EQ (which was tube/solid state hybrid) and I believe a M-S matrix if I remember correctly.

    The pres and the limiters are especially good- as Plush described, very good transient response, warm but neutral sound (huge low end, great top end)... The limiters have an attack time built in that allows the first transient through, but then clamps down hard. Because of that you can have massive amounts of limiting but it remains quite transparent.

    Today, the limiters are the only things being built. Inward's stereo limiter is the original Vac Rac design. They are quite expensive (about $4K if I remember correctly) as they are hand built in very small production runs.

    Steve Barker still does audio consulting for Inward Connections, but hasn't designed anything in the commercial realm for quite some time for them. I believe he did work on the power supply of the new modular sidecar (which is not the same as Vac Rac) and he did work on the power supply for the new tube console that Inward installed out in Nashville. ((deadlink) and on the splash screen for Inward).

    Steve Barker has been working to ressurect Vac Rac, but I can't say whether it will happen or not. Unless that happens, look for the occasional unit on the used market (still expensive) or see if Steve Firlotte will do a custom box based on those designs for you.

  4. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Thank you gentlemen for your input. At the moment the cost is a big issue, but after I get a few more mics I want to look into some serious tube preamps. I must say I'm very intrigued by these in particular. Is there an emoticon for drooling?

  5. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Hey John!

    I'll agree that the VacRac stuff is QUITE nice. I wouldn't advise you though to go rushing off too quickly to drop that kinda load on it. There are some seriously great tube mic pres or great xfmr pre's on the market today that are far more reasonable in price and will get you some phenomenal sounds. My favorites for tube pres:

    - Manley
    - Summit
    - Pendulum
    - Millennia
    - GT Brick (yep, I said it - this is actually a viable pre for orchestral recording - warm and thick with respectable transient response. I haven't seen the slew rate published anywhere, but I bet it's every bit as good as some of the better "fast" pres on the market.)

    as for xfrmr pres:

    - Brent Averill
    - API
    - Old School
    - Hardy
    - Amek
    - Langevin
    - etc...

    Of course, you're quite familiar with the transformerless designs from Grace, Millennia, True, Buzz, etc - but the fact is the VacRac stuff is friggin expensive and now that it's off the market, it's even higher.

    Personally, I just can't justify that kind of money on a mic pre when there are some SERIOUSLY great pres out there for so much less.

    Just my $.02 :cool:
  6. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Hi Jeremy
    Thanks for list of stuff -some of which I have salivated over many times. I'm a little surprised (in a nice way!) to see the Brick in such exhalted company, although I know that many people have been more than a little surprised by the performance given its price. I have looked previously at the Millennia TD-1, but the mic input is solid state only -which is a big flaw in my opinion. I would buy a single channel otherwise.

    I've been thinking of John Hardy a lot lately. The postage and import duties add around $400 to the Mercenary Price (apparently it is very heavy), so the initial investment is quite steep, but it is very cost effective given the pricing options for extra channels. Whatever I do, I'm looking for an investment for life, so I don't mind waiting a little longer between each purchase.

    Still the lure of the Vac Rac is strong :wink: Maybe I'll be able to get some when I get my first Grammy! That reminds me -I still need more mics :cry:

    Thanks again! John

    PS Thanks again Ben and Plush for some interesting reading.
  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    If cost/weight, etc are important (and hey, they should be) you really ought to look at an API lunchbox or rackpack.

    That way, you can add channels later in life when the mood strikes you, but in the mean time, you can pick up a rack and 2 units for $1500 US, plus of course the duties. Later when you add modules - they're relatively lightweight (in comparison to an entire rackmount pre) and you can get all sorts of flavors.

    I would strongly suggest starting off with a pair of BA 312As to start off with.

  8. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Thanks Jeremy
    I have to admit I have never considered API; I always associate them with a very specific rock sound. Maybe a little in-your-face. I must look up their pricing options.

  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Some of their units are a little agressive. The BA stuff and some of the Old School stuff (both of which fit into API Lunchboxes, etc.) can have some very smooth and pleasing sounds. If I'm not mistaken, Nathan Eldred hangs around here - maybe he can comment. (I'll point him over here.)


    PS - what on earth are you doing up at this unGodly hour? If it's 11:00pm here, that means its 4:00 AM there!?! :-?
  10. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    I've just been looking at the Brent Averill site and see a whole new world of goodies! They seem to be very reasonably priced.

    Thanks again for the API tip :cool: It's so easy to ignore a whole range of products.

  11. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    We must have been typing at the same time. That sounds cool :)

    Gotta get back in my coffin now as dawn is about to break!

  12. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Gonna say it again... If you are thinking something along the lines of an API pre, you really owe it to yourself to play around with the new A Designs Pacifica preamp. It has a similar feel/sound in the lows and mids (huge low end- beaten only by the Vac Rac and slightly forward, but not obnoxious mids) but a top end that is extended and beautiful. On orchestral recording, it makes you sit up and take notice of the orchestra on the loud stuff, but yet has the subtlety needed for chamber music.

    That and it has 72 dB of clean gain... I've used a lot of stuff and it is amongst the best sounding stuff that I've used. Street is about $1600 US.

  13. atlasproaudio

    atlasproaudio Active Member

    The OSA MP1-C is OSA's interpretation of an early API preamp, circa 1970. Quite a bit different from API's/ATI's current offering. Then the other three preamps are variations on the theme, from more open in the highs (L), to fatter in the lows/mids (L3), to cleaner (A). So basically you aren't stuck with that very specific 'API' sound in regards to OSA, pretty much the whole pallet is there.
  14. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Hi Ben
    Yes I remember you mentioning this pre. I looked them up and then I sorta forgot about them (age catching up on me). If I remember correctly, they even have European dealers. From your description, they're obviously very impressive boxes.

  15. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Hi Nathan
    This info is of immeasurable value to me, and is very much appreciated.

    BTW I love the gear-porn on your site :wink:


    PS talking of gear-porn... Anyone know where Fletcher's gone these days? I haven't seen him post for months.
  16. atlasproaudio

    atlasproaudio Active Member

    Thanks John! :cool:
  17. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Better take a 2nd look at the Millennia Media TD-1. It is a "twin topolgy" design , just like their Origin. You can choose SS or tube,
    tranny or not, via relay circuits in it. I want one for re-amping and as a great pre....FYI.
  18. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Thanks Moonbaby

    I have seriously looked at the TD-1 before, but at the moment I really need two channels, and reluctant as I am to give up all of those other goodies it has to offer, I could only consider buying one if I could buy a second rather quickly after that. That's too much financially at the moment.

    I'm considering buying a bass purely for my own amusement (I like the 1970s Yamaha basses), so the TD-1 would probably be a great idea then, especially when one of my vocal mics and the Millennia pre (HV-3?) work very well together. Damn, I wish I had more money! But yeah, the TD-1 sounds like a cool box, and I want one -it's a pain having to wait until it's the 'sensible' thing to do. God but I hate being sensible -next thing I'll be looking for a 'proper' job :wink:

    Thanks for the input :)

  19. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    I used to sell the Yammies back in the 70s-80s...can you say "BB"?
    They were awesome instruments back then. Yamaha didn't make any crappy stuff back in those days, for sure..Recently saw one of those neck-thru-body basses for sale here in my town. Wish I could find an SA2000 (their version of the 335 from the early 80s).
  20. atlasproaudio

    atlasproaudio Active Member

    Actually, the twin topology features on the TD-1 are a bit confusing. It is actually only found on the DI, on the rest it is solid state only, and there is no switchable transformer, as is found on the Origin. To get a fully switchable path, it is only found in the Origin. The preamp itself on the TD-1 is an HV-3 only, not the M2-B.

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