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Later this year I'll be looking to upgrade either of those items. Because my needs have changed, I'm only interested in 2-track (or stereo) converters or preamps. I've no need to record a full band all-at-once in a large studio room.

The convo/preamp will be used for vocals, acoustic guitars, brass/woodwinds, etc.

I currently use the Firepod, which has both and has those XMAX preamps.
So what should I get? Would new preamps into those PreSonus converters be any good? Or new converters and patch the XMAX preamps into them?

OR, is there a 2-track solution that contains both? My budget is $200-300 dollars. Not much, I know.


Topic Tags


audiokid Sun, 07/20/2014 - 08:39

Two track sounds like a great idea John.

Don't waste your money and the cheap stuff though. Save up, your music deserves excellence. The improvement you need start at $1000 and up, unless, you find a great deal on ebay that is. If I was starting over with two track in mind, I would get a great preamp and excellent 2 channel ADDA.

audiokid Sun, 07/20/2014 - 10:24

John, you know I know your work so I won't bs you and I wouldn't spend the time sharing this for those that are just playing around in this business. I believe you want to sound better than just average. If you sound good, so do my mixes (as an example) and we all win. Where does a guy stop spending and just get a demo good enough. Well, I've been doing 2 at a time for 35 years and what I've learned is buy a few really tools for 2 track rather than cheap for multi.

If you are going to be tracking 1 or 2 AD at a time, you need a good adc with a solid clock. Why? so tracks line up everytime you start a new lane and sing or play to it.
So the bleed that leaks between headphones, lines up with the other tracks you already plan to keep.
As a song is constructed, now 32 tracks... , so will the accumulative phasing the occurs with 1 channel tracking and lower end gear and clock. Am I making scene so far?
In the end of a song, all the bleed and aliasing through tracking is accumulated. You now have a quagmire of quantized vsti and real world poorly clocked music trying to fit together.

Now comes the mixing,
We try and mix it and the nightmare begins. Big bass, tight center and lush reverb sounds way better when there is only the original source in the whole session. I'm not saying bleed isn't good, I'm saying unnatural phasy bleed and inconsistent voltage swinging from cheap preamps is bad. There is a big difference. Bass, drums, cymbals, vox et all suffer. Everything suffers. This is the swirly sound.

Back to the OP.

The best affordable adc with a preamp I've used are Lavry Blacks. FF800 might be right on but the pre's suck, Lavrys are night and day to RMEff800.
I'm no guru on all the mid or low end gear out there. I just know when it sound like crap and how hard it is to mix it. Preamps with tiny power supplies have an irritating upper mid and severely lack tight bottom and top end. Tube pres worth buying are really expensive. SS pre's, start around $800 and up. I have my favs but they are way over the top.

If you were just starting out, I wouldn't even be in the thread with you. You need to find a deal and get a few really good items or just stick to what you have until your pennies ad up.

There is no cheap way to good, better best. Converters are overlooked all the time because you don't hear the negatives creeping up at first. Cheap pres just sound small and irritating.

I dont know the answer for you because you need something that will improve you beyond what you have now. , not mix you up, keeping you on the same path.
The clock is really important but so is the Pre. Pre is super super important for source. Clock is super important for tight sweetness to the finish line.

JohnTodd Sun, 07/20/2014 - 11:21

OK. I'll just have to do with what I have until the money comes in. What you're saying totally makes sense.

OK, so I'm tracking 44.1K @ 24bit. I used to use 96Khz, but based on your input about the clock I went down to 44.1 thinking that would help it be closer to right. What else can I do with what I have other than lower the tracking levels?

audiokid Sun, 07/20/2014 - 11:51

John, I'm not sure about dropping to 44.1 is a better sound. It will certainly ease up on your Data storage and CPU strain. It might improve the clocking and it will definitely save you from SRC. All this contributes or lessens to extra steps but I don't know if one or all is right for you.

Bos may chime in on the clock. Tight clock is a big step towards Pro Audio big sound.

Working on your last tracks, man, your music ROCKS. It was so much better than the years before. I think you can get it all better by avoiding all the doubling effect you like doing. Mono tracking of one guitar sounds better to me than 10 layered playing the same part. Same with vocals. I would try and get really great tracks clean sounding that sum well together in mono. If they all gel without phase, its way easier to make the mix huge and build on it.

Thats how i mix it.

below is some choice reading on clocking. I don't however believe external clocking has any use for me.

RemyRAD Sun, 07/20/2014 - 18:58

John you know where I fall. To me, it's the front end, the microphone preamp that makes the biggest difference not the converters. The high-end microphone preamps all have their particular tonal quality, character sound. That is retained regardless of converters and clocking.

While Presonus makes their nice Class A, XMAX microphone preamps, I'm actually not wild about those as I find them too smooth. Not aggressive or edgy enough. Even though my API and Neve stuff doesn't have 90 V rails. I don't care! It produces THAT SOUND. That sound that we want. And it's not a compromise. It's awesome! And you know that. Chris and others want that 90 V stuff and that's okay, for them. Not for me. It's not about the 90 volts. It's about the sound it produces! Even on +24 & ± 15 volt rails. Most of the rock 'n roll we love to listen to was made on that inadequate equipment. So what's it all about, Alfie? It's about your engineering technique.

If I were you? And I'm not. I think your Presonus gizmo is just fine. And I wouldn't hesitate in plugging into that thingy, API or Neve preamps, to get that sound. I'd rather have it that way then an empty sounding colorless preamp into a high-end converter. Blah. What does transparent meaning other than empty, devoid of anything? I like color, fat, warmth, character. Anyway I can get it. You should too. Clean clear transparent uncolored to me means nothing. Exactly nothing.

I mean you and I both played French horn I think? What would a French horn be like if you took out the warmth? May be modifying the French horn to have an upward and forward facing bell, instead of playing at the back wall? It wouldn't sound like a French horn anymore. It would sound like a morbidly obese flugelhorn. And wouldn't fit in. So it's an instrument that does not project outward. Does that make it bad? No it does not. It makes it right. Just the way it's supposed to be. Just like API and Neve. Because they don't have 90 volt rails. So there is your analogy.

You don't play French horn with a trumpet embouchure do ya? I hope not? It might make for a cleaner brighter French horn sound? But is that appropriate? No it's not.

There ya go.
Mx. Remy Ann David

audiokid Sun, 07/20/2014 - 19:22

He's tracking 1 or 2 lanes at a time, not all at once like live. Big difference.
clocking is less critical ( but still HUGE) if you get it right one time through and never touch it again. Clocking is far more important than you are aware of. You are uninformed of this entire way of writing and building music.
I am very curious to ask, when and what was the last good quality converter and SS preamp you've used and what was it?

You also haven't mixed his music or are aware of his needs. He needs a good pre and and much better converter.

pcrecord Mon, 07/21/2014 - 03:21

Good suggestions audiokid !
I may add that most audio interface at 200-300 have average preamps and average converters. And none of them have line inputs that go strait to the converters. So If in the future you get the chance to buy some hi-end preamps, you would be using a preamp in a preamp and therefor wasting the quality of the hi-end preamp..
But, some 200-300 stuff has digital inputs and can accomodate a preamp/converter combo (like the ISA one, not that it's the best, just an exemple) you can also get the preamp and converter seperatly. Let say a UA 2-610 preamp combo, with a Lavry or Mytek converter and a focusrite 6i6 (which has a spdif input) But what do I do with the preamp inputs of the focusrite you say? Well you can loop an external reverb unit to feed the headphone monitors without recording it.

There are many solution out there, just be carefull not to limit yourself with a consumer unit that won't accept future expension.

pcrecord Mon, 07/21/2014 - 06:05

JohnTodd, post: 417454, member: 39208 wrote: How about this:

Mytek converters are great and mine gives me good service.
One thing to keep in mind is that when you upgrade your recording path, it is recommanded to have a good monitoring system as well.
You know, if you can't hear the difference, you could mix your perfect track down to crap when it only needed to be left alone ;)
Going for Pro Audio gear is a big step, take your time and try to trial some gear if you can.

pcrecord Mon, 07/21/2014 - 07:14

RemyRAD I used to think converter were nearly all the same and just mastering studios needed the hi-end ones
I did use the M-Audio Delta cards for many years with a LX7 Soundcraft mixer. Altought, my mixes sounded ok, they were never near professional recordings when I A/B them.
When I switched to the Focusrite Liquid Saffire I had a revelation, the preamp/converter were a lot better. Then lately with a Mytek AD96 and the 4-710 converters I can say there's an evident step up from the saffire.

So miss RAD, maybe you don't care about converters because you already have great ones or you don't hear the difference.
Thing is, for a lot of us, converters do mather greatly. It's not a religion thing, I can hear the difference !
So it does not serve this community if everytime audiokid talks about converters you write contradictive opinions..
I don't want to attack your opinions and I'm jealous of you for having some NEVE and API gear that you brag about all the time, but W.T.F about the rails volt ??? Was that really necessairy ?

Boswell Mon, 07/21/2014 - 11:44

audiokid, post: 417424, member: 1 wrote: John, I'm not sure about dropping to 44.1 is a better sound. It will certainly ease up on your Data storage and CPU strain. It might improve the clocking and it will definitely save you from SRC. All this contributes or lessens to extra steps but I don't know if one or all is right for you.

Bos may chime in on the clock. Tight clock is a big step towards Pro Audio big sound.

If you were mixing OTB in analog I would strongly recommend you consider 96K recording with a separate (not synchronized) system for capture at the target rate. If you are fully ITB, then record and mix at your target sample rate (44.1K for CDs, 48K for video). Go back over the threads we have had about all this.

The two big things you gain from 96K recording followed by analog mix and separate capture are (1) the top octave of what comes through the mix is not the top octave of what you recorded and (2) there's no digital sample rate reduction. Your 2-track capture ADC needs to be top-notch, as it is running the same top octave as what your hear.

If you can't separate the replay and capture, it's surprising how tight the clock specs need to be when your tracking and capture share the same clock. Uncouple them (e.g. 96K or even 48K recording and 44.1K target) and the need for ultra-high clock specs is suddenly less acute.

A clock is functional only at the boundaries where conversion takes place (A-D and D-A) and has no bearing while you are working ITB. If you have a good low-jitter clock for the multi-track recording and for monitoring the 2-track mix, you are good to go.

audiokid Mon, 07/21/2014 - 12:07

JohnTodd, post: 417485, member: 39208 wrote: I'm all ITB. I see that I'm going to have to save my pennies for a while to get an upgrade. Perhaps RO could host another contest?

If I did, it would be for a good quality converter because its where mass is missing the ball completely. Members need to learn more about this before I would ever take it on. People like Remy are not only distracting, but giving out REALLY bad advise to those looking for better. She really needs to move away from modern pro audio all together and stick with DIY and vintage history. (y)

audiokid Mon, 07/21/2014 - 12:37

Its hard to know who to reward with these contests. I should have given you the ADL 600. You clearly deserved it in the long run. The winner ran off and never came back. His song was the coolest , but you were more worthy a deserving in both talent and loyalty to the manufacturers and our community.

Back to the conversion, I heard better love for the Lavry Blacks in comparison to Mytek. Never used Mytek but pcrecord brings up a very good point about adding more pre-amps .

This is by far the best choice for anyone like me who is really fussy and already knows what it takes to make music sound "proper" and presentable. If everyone had one of these, you wouldn't be wasting half the time on stupid plug-ins and head scratching concepts. Listening to the uninformed like Remy will only put you into the bottom sector of this business.Thus, missing the gems who are here to help you all get better.






Boswell Mon, 07/21/2014 - 13:36

audiokid, post: 417483, member: 1 wrote: Bos, I am 100% itb right now, but instead of mixing down on the same DAW, I am still capturing uncoupled to the second DAW. Wow, I am surprised how good it sounds. I couldn't get it as open sounding on one DAW.
What do you think?

That's interesting - I would not have said the conventional usage of the term "ITB" covers a 2-DAW system! How are you connecting the DAWs? Is it analog (i.e. D-A-D) via a piece of wire?

It reminds me of something I experienced during a test I performed in about 2005 when I got my first Alesis HD24XR: I did a live recording using a stereo mic and pre-amp feeding the HD24 then replayed it into a computer first digitally via lightpipe and then in analog via a D-A-D route. The analog route was a little noisier, but I did think it had more space than the digital transfer. Being something of a specification-purist at the time, I discounted the analog transfer on the grounds of added noise, and went down the digital transfer route for the next few years.

I eased off on that process when I realised that mixes I was doing on the occasions when I happened to use an analog mixer between the HD24XR out and a capture DAW were giving me much better results than digital mixes ever did (both fully ITB and also OTB using a digital mixer). I often thought back to my original analog transfer test, and with the two-box process we are maybe now exploring that realm, in no small part by coming to value sonics above specifications.

audiokid Mon, 07/21/2014 - 13:56

Yes, DA uncoupled AD

I am breaking the rule. I should rephrase my definition of 100% ITB and clarify, I am capturing my ITB mix thru an uncoupled ADC to a second DAW.

DAW > Orion32 via madi DA> UNCOUPLED Prism Atlas DAW2. Sounds really good. The center imaging is tight. Phase in line (y).

The most noticeable change now is loss in mastering level. I can't seem to get it to where it was with the NEOS in the loop. There is approx 4db less in a mastered volume before I hear the crunch.
I'm trying very hard not to strap a comp and EQ (STC-8 and BAQ EQ) before the capture. I'm determined to find a way to get it as close without the hardware.

So far, two DAW's are essential. Time to dig into the mastering section more.

audiokid Mon, 07/21/2014 - 14:14


I should rephrase my definition of 100% ITB and clarify, I am capturing my ITB mix thru an uncoupled ADC to a second DAW.

I'm not sure if I'm easily dismissing one DAW to sum from habit. It does sound like separating DAW's has a clear advantage.
The big question now, how much does uncoupling have to do with my love for hybrid. The round trip is looking even more useless than I expected.
My hardware is still missed.

audiokid Mon, 07/21/2014 - 22:36

indeed. both are essential.
The AD11 is idea because it has it all in one neat package and you can bypass the pre(s) if you have better or different choices. It doesn't have the DA though, so he would still use his existing DA to monitor the mix.
The next option of comparison would be Prism ( Orpheus, Lyra, Atlas). Add $2000 and above for one of these to give 4 or 8 channels. I just got the Atlas (8 track) and its so Beautiful. All I ever need and more. I can go any where for location work, use it in studio for everything I need including a world class master ADDA.

Lavry Blacks are stellar. Great resale too.

anonymous Tue, 07/22/2014 - 03:26

I'm gonna be forced to go with a Focusrite, I think. It's not that I don't want the Lavry, everything I've heard and seen has certainly supported the reputation it has earned... I just can't lay out that kind of cash right now for only two channels.

Truth be told, I'd love to get a Neve 4081. But if I can't afford $1000 for 2 channels of Lavry, then obviously, 4 grand for a 4 channel Neve Pre - I/O isn't gonna be doable, either. ;)

I'm going to need at least 8-at-once to record things like drums, or four vocals at the same time, etc.

I know that the Focusrite won't have the conversion quality of a Lavry, Apogee, etc., but right now it's a case of best bang for the buck, and from my research, it's appearing that the Focusrite is the best option for me, at least for right now.

I haven't chosen a particular model yet, but I'm leaning towards the 18i20.

I know it's not the perfect solution. But right now, pretty much anything would be better than the 9 year old Tascam I'm using.

I've used several various Focusrite Scarlett models at client's studios, and I've been very pleased with the sound of the pre's on them. As to their conversion quality, it's true that they aren't the best available, but again, I'm sure it kicks the livin' crap out of the Tascam 1641 that I'm currently ball and chained to.

I'm just gonna have to do these upgrades in increments of what I can afford along the way.



JohnTodd Tue, 07/22/2014 - 04:14

Maye one of these:

Would be an upgrade within reach for me? I gotta do something. My new band has outgrown the old Firepod's mushy sound. I only need 2 preamp/analog inputs. I'll use them for anything requiring a mic. Good to have 2 so I can multimike guitar cabinets and acoustic guitars.

audiokid, I know this isn't what you want for me. I so sincerely appreciate your kind words and encouragement about my music. It touches me, really! But for now I need to think about buying something around Christmas, when I'll have a small amount of cash.

So please give me useful info on these linked units. Will they be better than what I have?

JohnTodd Tue, 07/22/2014 - 04:17

If ten people each gave me $100, I could buy what I needed. Anybody want to do a trade? Trade me a used unit in exchange for my mad skills as a musician, composer, arranger? I can't help you engineers with your mixes, but I can help you musically with arrangements and performances.

My new sign:

"Will work for converters and preamps"


pcrecord Tue, 07/22/2014 - 06:10

JohnTodd ; Don't forget that the scarlett 2i2 doesn't have either a digital input nor a line in sent directly to the converter. So you would be limited to no external preamps. (or using a preamp in a preamp which is a waste..)
So the saffire pro 24 is a better choice unless you want a survival interface for the time you put money aside for something good ;)
Will a scarlett or a saffire be better than the Presonus FP10 ? No clue ! but why not wait for the real thing ?
Hey wait !!! That Presonus FP10 has a spdif input. All you need is a dual preamp with onboard converter ;)
What about the ISA One with the digital option : it has 1 good mic preamp and a instrument in, some monitoring options and you can record both the mic and the instrument input on seperate track.. Ok there is a lot of other preamp/converter combo out there.. check them out !!

pcrecord Tue, 07/22/2014 - 07:46

I have the focusrite Liquid saffire 56 which have 6 standard preamps likely to be identical to the pro24. They are my last to use but they are of honest quality, good but not great, transparent but a bit flat. (hard to discribe ;) ) If I need to track a band, I'll use those on sources I'm sure we will re-track later or to instruments that are less critical.
Thing is they don't come close to a UA 610, a ISA, a neve, API etc..
My suggestion to use the spdif of the unit you already have is still a good one to consider. Once the signal is in digital, if the clocking is right, you don't loose any quality if the signal goes to any interface with digital input. If only you could rent one hi-end preamp, you'd understand right away. To me, getting good preamps was the day I stopped fighting for the sound I wanted. (no more drastic EQing and using the bag of tricks to make it sound big !)

audiokid Tue, 07/22/2014 - 08:39

I'm speaking out to the world, not to anyone in particular ;)

I would rather have 1 excellent 2 channel over 8 mediocre any day of the week. I get way too many tracks all the time. I usually keep all but the overhead, kick and snare. Mixes always sound better slimming it down. If you don't have stellar everything, less is more everytime. Cheap Vox and swirl never goes away and thats what keeps you from getting big sound

You can do a lot with less once you get your head around over-thinking. Cheap clocks and pre's accumulate in a mix, it always sounds like a demo.

Maybe Bos can chime in on this but I also think you could use a good clock for your lower end converters and it would make a big improvement.
In other words, (just saying), buy something like an AD11 in the buy and sell, and use that for the main goodness / master clock and incorporate your current ADDA and pre's for the supporting tracks. Clock to your best "clock".

Good luck on the searching

anonymous Wed, 07/23/2014 - 02:29

well, I ordered a new mic pre I/O last night

Originally I described it, but thought better after the fact and came back to this post and edited the name out... I decided that I would record and post some examples with it first - before I told everyone what it was... this way, I'm not planting any preconceived notions based on brand.

Should be arriving on Friday.

Boswell Wed, 07/23/2014 - 03:02

That's a really nice unit, Donny, and very good value. There are a couple of gotchas that hit me when I came up against one in someone's rig but they may not worry you: no Word Clock input, although you can select to clock from ADAT or S/PDIF as an alternative to the internal clock, and also there is only one pair of optical jacks so you only get 4 channels in and out via ADAT at 88.1/96 KHz. Otherwise, apart from the limitation of 6 line inputs, it's a very versatile and good-sounding box, and they seem to have got the streaming in and out via USB to work reliably.

BTW, "30V rails" is only the standard +/-15V used for powering the op amps in most interfaces, although the name edited out by donny ;) design has a discrete transistor stage in front.

anonymous Wed, 07/23/2014 - 03:19

it's supposed to arrive Friday, John. :)

For those of you who already saw which model I bought before I had a chance to edit my original post, I'd appreciate it if we kept that part secret until I get a chance to record on it and post a sample. ;)

I'd like to avoid any possible pre-conceived notions based on brand.... although I'm aware that those who are subscribing to this thread already know because my original post went out via email as I posted it. ;)

Boswell Wed, 07/23/2014 - 05:08

DonnyThompson, post: 417592, member: 46114 wrote: Bos, can you explain the difference between an OpAmp and a Discreet Transistor Stage? (please :))

An op amp (operational amplifier) implemented as a single device is made of one type of silicon. The manufacturer can control the properties of that silicon to balance the characteristics of high output drive, low input noise, good thermal stability and so on. This works well for the majority of devices used in instrumentation, and is a straightforward route to making audio amplifiers.

However, the silicon properties are necessarily a compromise, and it may be that, for example, the required characteristics at the output can only be achieved with a silicon mix that does not give the optimal input stage properties in terms of noise, transient response and so on. To give more flexibility, audio equipment designers often use a separate circuit stage for the input that can be tailored to give properties more suited for microphones or line inputs or transformers or whatever.

This circuit stage usually has at its input a pair of transistors manufactured on a single piece of silicon, as this gives the best matching to minimise the electrical and thermal differences between them. This silicon can be tailored for things like low noise or low current operation without having to worry about high output drive and the other compromises of a full amplifier on one chip.

When combined with associated circuitry, the input stage either feeds an op amp in the conventional way or drives more transistor circuitry in designs that make a point of not having op-amps in their signal path. These circuits or parts of circuits designed with single optimized components are often referred to as "discrete" (not "discreet"!) to distinguish them from "integrated".

Boswell Thu, 07/24/2014 - 02:42

Not on its own, no. What it does is give the designer greater flexibility, and if he/she can use that to create a design that gives "better fidelity", then I'm sure the marketing department would say it's the discrete input stage that performs the magic.

After writing my previous epistle about integrated op amps and discrete circuitry, I thought a bit more about designs like the API 2520. This is a classic op amp in an encapsulated package which can be used in a design pretty much as though it were an integrated circuit. However, the 2520 built entirely of discrete components, and all of the 9 transistors used in the device are chosen for their suitability for the position in the circuit without having to worry about compromises resulting from the properties of one piece of silicon.

I was recording a couple of live concerts last weekend and was basking in the sounds that were coming though the main channels of the recording on to an HD24XR. I had taken the vocals through an API3124+ and the principal instrumental mics were going through the older model of DAV BG1s. Despite both of these routes producing lovely sonics, I was struck by what I knew about the differences in the two designs: one used API 2520s all-discrete op amps and the other used Analog Devices SSM2017 integrated circuits. It went to show that it should not be a discrete vs. integrated argument, it's all about good design however it's implemented.


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