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What would you buy for your front end for $12 ,000



Alrighty...I'm going to raise $12,000 to buy some nice analog and A/D front end for my personal Studio. If you have 12K, what would you buy as the ultimate front end for the price. I'll try to get bargan prices on ebay and buying local since my area (San Francisco bay area) seem to have lots of equipment floating around. Keep in mind that I already have the mics, recorder, instruments, cables, monitors, computers etc. Just need analog mic/instrument preamps, DI, compressor, EQ and A/D/A converter. I will NOT be recording live drums and will only need 1-4 tracks at a time. Mostly 1 channel or stereo overdubbs. Want to create hip hop, pop, and dance music using mostly synths, samplers, acoustic & electric guitars. I prefer to have lots of different flavor of pres. I will also require stereo 2-bus processors ( compressor and EQ) that will be useful for mixing down.

Here's my list so far.

Apogee AD-8000 with the Analog Outs- $1800
Great River 2-NV - $2000
Amek 9098 2ch pre- $1000
Vintech X73i - $1200
Avalon 2055 EQ- $2200
Manley Varimu- $2200
(2) Avalon U5 DI- $800
Universal Audio LA2A- $1500

This will be a little above $12000 but thats still ok. If I already have the UAD-1, TC Powercore, should I skip the UA LA2A, Avalon 2055, and Manley Vari-Mu and buy more preamps or perhaps channel strips ? Well any inputs will greatly be appreciated.

~ Johnny 8)


Sounds like you're serious, and since you are, you should get a Distressor or two. It can do the LA-2A thing and so much more. It's kind of a must-have piece nowadays. I know I couldn't do my job without my stereo pair.

I'd skip the Avalon U-5(s) and use the DI's on your other gear. I almost bought a U-5 as well, but I realized that I have great DI's on my other preamps.

Personally, the Amek never thrilled me that much. I'd much rather have a Focusrite isa428 with the digital option. It's $2500-ish, and it sounds great (both the Neve preamps and the converters). And it's four channels instead of two (plus four extra converter line-ins)

The Great River is a wonderful choice.

Those are a lot of clean preamps. I'd try to add something colored. I have both the UA 2-610 and the UA 2108, and they compliment my cleaner preamps nicely.


hey idiophone, you got a good point about the Distressor. I was actually debating if the Distressor would be better than the LA2A and it is also less expensive. I might just buy both, record and mix through them and then decide which one to keep. As for the Avalon U-5, I have seen so many reviews and heard many people praised the U-5 as a great D/I so that was why I may get it. Any thoughts on the Manley Vari-Mu ? How different is this from the Distressor or LA2A ?

As for the converter, I don't want to spend $4000 or more on it cause the next level up is quite a bit. I figure if I have a good selection of pre, compressor, and eq, that would give me a better sound. Also, the Apogee AD-8000 is pretty much standard a few years ago for tracking. Almost every studio I've been to have it.


The main reason I recommend the Distressor is that it has variable attack settings, and that attack - unlike the LA-2A - can be VERY fast. The LA-2A is a one-trick pony. It's one hell of a trick, though.

The Distressor's LA-2A emulation is very close, besides. There's an "optical" setting with a very slow attack and fast release that lets me get that LA-2A sound when I need to.

I don't know nuthin' about the Vari-Mu - sorry.

And AD-8000 converters sound great, especially if you have high-end stuff before them. No need to get anything more than that unless you're doing foley work or something.

Massive Mastering

Well-Known Member
Jul 18, 2004
Chicago area, IL, USA
Don't EVER skip a Manley Vari-Mu. :!:

Unless you already have one or two...

I wouldn't skip the 2055 either - As much as I love the UAD stuff for a lot of things, nothing really compares to heavy aircraft aluminum boxes filled with tube and/or great class "A" circuitry.


Well-Known Member
Feb 10, 2001
If you're seriously looking at an Apogee AD-8000 then you should be seriously looking at an Apogee "Big Ben" clock, or at very least a Lucid GenX6-96 clock... the conversion in an AD-8000 isn't that horrible if you get a decent clock on the thing.



You may want to consider a Rosetta 800 instead of the AD8000...it's a little more expensive, but its conversion quality is better (I suppose that's debatable) and you'd have a warranty and things like that.