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Manley VoxBox is mushy!

Member for

20 years 8 months
Well, I suppose it HAD to happen sooner or later. I finally found something that my much-loved Manley VoxBox DIDN'T sound good on!

The VoxBox has been my go-to preamp for so long that frankly I don't even bother auditioning other pre's on most sources. Today I was doing some brass OD's for a big jingle thing, running thru the VB as usual. To my consternation, I found that the trumpet sounded vaguely mushy and fuzzy coming thru the mic chain. In the room, the horn (and the player) were both bright and snappy as you please! But in the speakers, the 'snap' had kind of been 'rounded off', and it seemed like the edge had kind of been smoothed away from the horn, but not in a good way. I was missing the snap and sizzle that I heard when I stuck my head in front of the horn.

In actuality, I have found Manley stuff to have this quality in general. But, what sounds 'mushy' and 'fuzzy' on one source (i.e., brass) becomes 'warm' and 'buttery' and 'velvety' on another (e.g., vocals, basses, synths etc.) and I have to say that this really is the FIRST time that I have heard the Manley's 'euphonic coloration' (?) become really unflattering to the source.

In any case, when we took a break I fired up a couple of other preamps just to see what was what. Our Neve 1073's sounded quite different from the Manley but overly dark and kinda smooshy on the trumpet. Next I tried the built-in pre's in the 02R... they were brighter but not at all 'pleasant' to listen to. Kinda 'cheap' and one-dimensional sounding if that makes sense.

So we ended up finishing the session with (don't laugh) an ancient Aphex 107 that we had lying around, and it actually sounded better than any of my other available choices in this setting. Wow! I have to say, I can't really take the time to do these "shootout" types of comparisons very often... but man, the sonic differences that came simply from switching preamps was striking. Gee, maybe I *should* do more shootouts! :D

I suspect that there are other, better pre's than the Aphex to round out my preamp selection here at the shop. Right now it's pretty much down to my Manleys, my 1073 pair, the pre's in my Drawmer 1969 and 02R, and... the Aphex! If I were to buy 'something else' in the way of a 'fast', 'accurate', 'transparent' pre to add to the preamp palette here, what would you guys suggest? (keeping in mind that I've already got the 'warm'/'vintage'/'toob'-ey buttery Manley velvety kinda thing covered, as well the 'crunchy' 1073 thing and the 'cheapo', 'sounds like crap' 02R thing...)

...Gawd, are there enough buzzwords in this post yet?...

Anyway, since this forum has the word "gear" in its title, I thought you lovely fellows might have some sage gearhead suggestions to throw my way. Thanks in advance!


Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Tue, 11/27/2001 - 19:27
The Millennia STT-1 Origin would be a good, versatile choice. A very neutral, musically sound channel strip with choices between solid state and tube stages, and switchable tranny. Excellent on acoustic instruments!

API pres would be another thing to check out. A bit darker than the Millennia, just a different flavor of good.

Member for

20 years 9 months

atlasproaudio Tue, 11/27/2001 - 22:31
Originally posted by Bill Plummer:
The Millennia STT-1 Origin would be a good, versatile choice. A very neutral, musically sound channel strip with choices between solid state and tube stages, and switchable tranny. Excellent on acoustic instruments!

I have found the Millennia STT-1 to be suitable for far more than acoustic instruments. I record a good variety of electric guitar based music and find the Millennia to excell at just about any source, although I have quite a few colors in the rack so I sometimes revert to some other classic Neve or API coloration for certain things. I would have to vote for the STT-1 to be my desert island piece of gear (a pair of them of course ), because it can be 'hard' and extremely clear, or soft and thick (but not attenuated and overly colored like the 2-610, which I don't really like for those reasons...that's why I'm selling the new one & the demo I still have left over from our UA stock).

Member for

20 years 8 months

erockerboy Thu, 11/29/2001 - 10:23
Thanks for the replies guys. I've also heard good things about both Grace and Earthworks.

I actually did have a Millennia STT-1 in here for eval, and wasn't as knocked out as I expected to be. Definitely built like a friggin' TANK, and sounded quite clean, quiet and transparent overall. However, I didn't like the comp and the EQ sections of the piece enough to consider springing for it. I didn't find the comp particularly versatile for getting some of the 'squashy'/'pumped' sounds that I personally go for... though for more of an 'audio purist' guy than myself, it might be the right flavor. Ditto for the EQ, it was SOOO clean that I found myself dialing in twice as much cut/boost (compared to, say, my Manley or 1073's) without really hearing it as much. It just sounded a bit 'colder' and more transparent than what I've been used to. I think the Millennia would be a great piece for the more 'transparent' recordist, the guys who are recording classical music or audiophile jazz etc.

The pre on the Mil Media box may be worth checking out on its own, however. A couple of buddies of mine swear by 'em. What is it, the HV-3 or something?

Someone was asking about the Drawmer 1969. Got it, use it, like it OK, but will probably sell it at some point. I bought this thing for 2-bus compression and just am not 'feeling' this box as much as I had hoped. I much prefer my Alan Smart and Cranesong boxes as 2-bus comps. The Drawmer does pretty good as a D.I., and the comp does have a nice character to it as a tracking piece... but then again, I have other stuff that covers those bases quite well. Sooo... anyone wanna buy an absolutely mint 1969 for cheep? :D

Hey, has anybody scoped out the Daking pre's? I hear they're kind of an 'improved' API, in concept. Yes? No? And how about the much-heralded Great River 'Mercenary Edition' pre? Opinions sought as always. Thanks!

Member for

20 years

ckevperry Thu, 11/29/2001 - 11:21
BTW what mic are you using? Coles or Royer ribbons are great on trumpets for me.

Great River is GREAT for transparency. It has transformer balanced and unbalanced outs so you get two flavors. The unbalanced is the more transparent, purist output. The balanced puts that little bit of iron in the path for a little coloration. There isn't anything it does not sound good on. And sounds great on many things.

The NV mercenary edition is 1073 style pre. But with a bottom end that holds together more. It is a big sounding pre. Neither one of the Great rivers will "mush."

The Dakings are Trident A range knockoffs. Decent pre...great EQ. Awesome on kick and snare.

Member for

20 years 8 months

erockerboy Thu, 11/29/2001 - 15:46
Was using a TLM103 on the trumpet. Don't have a ribbon mic in the arsenal right now. For some reason I always hear more about guys using ribbons etc. for drum overheads and room mics than for vox or solo instruments, so it's been a low priority thang for us since we do mostly vocal and single instrument overdubs here.

Will see if I can get a Great River in here on a demo.

Another lite bulb went off in my dome when you said "iron in the signal path"... IIRC, doesn't the Cranesong Flamingo have a nifty 'adjustable' signal path, wherein you can change several aspects of the unit's coloration including tranny in/out? Anyone used one?

Member for

20 years 1 month

Scott Gould Thu, 11/29/2001 - 19:52
Yeah, the Flamingo has an "iron" switch and a "fat" switch. Pair it up with a couple of Trakkers & you can go from transparent to seriously squished/colored/fat. The Crane Song stuff is the most flexible, not to mention incredible sounding, gear on the planet. In addition to the Flamingo & Trakkers I finally got my hands on a Spider - simply amazing!


Member for

20 years 7 months

MadMoose Thu, 11/29/2001 - 20:25
Originally posted by EJolson:

Hey, has anybody scoped out the Daking pre's? I hear they're kind of an 'improved' API, in concept. Yes? No?

The Dakings are based on a Trident A Range. I love the EQ on mine and I have a love hate relationship with the pre. Sometimes it sounds killer, sometimes it's weak. The EQ is very musical and broad. It's not a box to go to for surgical fixes. I love them on snare, sometimes I wish I had a Neve around for kick. Sometimes acoustic guitar and vocals. I've used them on percussion and been pretty happy too.

Member for

20 years

ckevperry Thu, 11/29/2001 - 21:26
I'm in the same situation being an overdub place as well. I used a 103 on brass and thought it was way to bright.

The ribbon mics have a roll off in the top end that helps tone down cymbals on digital. Also sounds nice on some guitar cabs since the highs are rolled of there too. The Coles 4038 is amazing on brass to gove body without getting spitty.