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Will an ISA leave me wanting for more?

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by EricWatkins, Jun 20, 2010.

  1. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member

    I'm seriously thinking of buying the ISA-428 MKII as it seems like a good balance of decent pre-amp vs price. I currently own a Tascam DM-4800 and the pres are nothing to brag about on it. I also own an LA-610 which I route directly into my MOTU-2408 and I love what it does for tracks thus far. The differences between it and the Tascam are huge, just so much more detail. SO of course, I now want to get more good pres as I realize what it can do for a great recording. THe LA-610 is great at what it does and I wouldn't mind owning two for stereo recording, but at the moment, I'd rather get something different to give me more variety. My only concern is, are the ISAs good enough for me to keep forever or am I just putting one more thing between me and the APIs or Vintechs that I know I'd like more if price wasn't an issue. I mean sure, I can see owning four channels of ISAs and then eventually adding four channels of the others and using them ALL for recording drums, but am I then going to want to replace the ISAs after hearing the Neve clones or APIs? Long winded I know but I'm just trying to figure out if the ISAs are good enough to keep around for a lifetime or would they be more considered as a stepping stone? THanks,

  2. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    IMHO, the 428 is a fairly transparent preamp.
    Here are it's advantages...
    Front Panel: Instrument in, variable HPF, phase reverse, individual phantom power, huge gain range, and impedence selection
    Back Panel: Insert/Send, and the ability to add ADAT and soft-limit w/ the optional ADC card
    I also love the VU meters.
    The main disadvantage is that it isn't going to give you the coloration an API or Neve/clone would give.
    My final offering is this: My other 4ch of "premium" preamp are Sytek, which is 3rd or 4th generation Neve clone.
    I love it on toms/bass, but the ISA covers most of my critical preamping (kick, snare, OH, vox/guitar ODs, etc).

    I'm pretty happy w/ the both of them as my first 8 channels of front-end, but I must say that I too long for an API or Neve to complement/replace them.

    Hope that helps.
  3. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member

    Thank Soap,

    I appreciate your feedback. I'm just trying to NOT buy another weak link. I'm definitely getting to the point where I dont want to buy gear that I'm going to want to replace later. I've done plenty of that already. Btw, the new ISA-428 doesn't have the analog meters anymore, just the digital ones.
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Just backing SF's thoughts -
    The ISA 428 is a very good preamp. It sounds great and is very flexible. You could do a LOT worse. If you're looking for a good, all-around pre that has a little variability (the variable impedance), it's a great choice. FWIW, the A/D option is totally worth it. The A/D on that card is nothing short of amazing. It sounds simply fantastic.
    Are there better pres out there? Well...kinda. It's such a subjective field. You will be very happy though for a long time with the ISA range. The worst thing it will do for you is make you be able to determine exactly what you want out of your next preamp. In other words, it gives you a straight forward picture. After having used it for a long time, you'll know what colors you want beyond just the basic straight-forwardness of the ISA.

  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Repeat after me: " listen to Remy... Listen to Remy... Listen to Remy".

    One of the reasons why you like that LA-610 is because of its old-school design. Good input transformer. Good Output transformer. Actual variable gain preamp. You already have clean bbright & crispy in your DM 4800. And you know that's not the sound you are aiming for. Listen to Remy. Be smart, get yourself something like a API 3124 Neve 3115/1272 and the like. I guarantee this will give you the sound I have been talking about here for over five years. Once you use them you will never look back. They have great color & great character, they have balls. Don't you want balls? I thank we've all had enough of crispy wispy colorless, flavorless microphone preamps with no personality? We only come about these because they're less expensive to build & lower in weight. Preamps are heavy, quite literally. That's because they all have plenty of Transformers in them. Distortion free can also equate to flavor free. And then what kind of recording do you have? Clean and bright. Crispy & wispy. A technical marvel. But no warmth. No balls. Nothing to say. No life. Not 100% pleasant to actually listen to for any length of time. Your DM 4800 is a great control surface as long as you don't utilize its microphone preamps or equalizers. It's fine with line level signals you want to sum together. And its microphone preamp's are on par with all other " state-of-the-art" bogus bull crap preamps. I'm not going to raise myself to the lower standards everyone else in setting . That's why I'm old-school. We all know what sounds good. We've heard it for years in our favorite recordings. Old-school recordings. All this new school stuff is just plain Jane lame to make you look and sound like everyone else. A total homogenization of the professional audio industry is what it is. So you have to take a stance. Don't listen with your eyes. Listen to Remy. Listen to Remy. Listen to Remy. When I snap my fingers, you will purchase a quality old-school preamp.

    Click click how do you feel?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  6. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Also, you might consider this...I recently did some research on the ISA line-up to upgrade my VO rig. I discovered that the newer "Mk II" line is not made in the UK, but is now made in China...
    Buy American, buy Neve...err, buy British, buy Neve. Buy American, buy API.
  7. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    That's why I bought mine used off eebay.
    Although the backlight of two VUs is out, and one doesn't work at all, I'll take it given the alternative for a Chinese made one...

    And listen to Remy. Can't be said enough, even if she says it!
  8. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Well I just have to say that if you look back in the archives you will see that Remy put that same spell on me a couple of years ago, and I got an API 3124. One of the best moves I ever made. One day I'm getting another one. Don't really want to record drums through anything else.
  9. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    I would skip any and all of the ISA stuff unless you can get it for dirt cheap. Even more so if you have ever heard the original Focusrite ISA mic pre module. The ISA 430 has a lot of features and flexability which is great, but the use and sound of those features isn't worth the asking price. When the 430 first came out I was so anxious to get one until I used one and heard it. Not bad, but not magic either. Just not good enought to justify the price. If you are going to bother to get the Neve get a real Neve and don't cheap out on a 1272 get a real 1073/1081/1066 or the like or a Vintech It is not that the 1272 is bad as much as the 1073 and others are just better, more useful on more sources and provides the real Neve sound people druel over. I find the 1272 to be much darker which is great for some specific things and when you have many other mic pre's to chhose from.

    I'd suggest you look at the Pacifica Mic pre, API of course and I'd take Great River NV over any current made ISA stuff no matter how many features or functions it has on it. And if you like UA610 (I own one and like it as well) then you will really like something like the discontinued ViPre or the real tube sound that everbody druels over such as the mic pre and other gear from DW Fearn. Not that is how tube is done right.
  10. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member

    Thanks so much everyone. Looks like I might have to check out the API 3124. Honestly, it doesnt seem horribly unreasonable at 2600 for four channels. THat would at least give me Kick, snare and overheads all at once.
  11. tifftunes

    tifftunes Active Member

    If any of Remy's suggestions have A/D converters, go that route. However, the "Brit" made ISA428 has the optional A/D converter, and with it's soft clip is really nice! You can add up to four more channels through this converter for a total of 8. I thought that and "lightpipe" were of great benefit, and got the ISA428 first... I also have a couple of early 60s Ampex tube/transformer pres to use as well. NOW, I'm looking for the API, Neve, or DW Fern... Lot's of "homework" to do yet...

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