Skip to main content

Focusrite ISA vs. Warm Audio WA273-EQ?

Hi gang,

My GAS makes me suffer these days and I contemplate the idea to sell one of my 2 UA LA-610 and replace it with something else.

I'm tempted by the WA273-EQ but I'm wondering if it will be better than the ISAs or not.
I have 8 ISA preamps and they are my favorites..
I could buy a used ISA 428 (4 preamps) for about the same price of a WA273-EQ (2 preamps).
I see that the 273-EQ would be nice because of the EQ but also the fact than you can drive it more and lower the output volume which the ISA can't do. But I wouldn't be happy if the 273 doesn't sounds at least as good as the ISA. The ISA was designed by Rupert Neve originally and the WA273 is a clone of a Neve. How close could they be ? Both offer 80db.. ?

Comments

Kurt Foster Thu, 10/08/2020 - 08:47

imo, selling the UA to buy a WARM would be a step back. if i were in your shoes, i would hang on to any UA piece as a long term investment. plus if you sell the LA 610, you're losing the comp/limiter.

i love what WARM is doing but what they are making are tools, not investment grade military spec gear like UA.

the ISA range is a different design from the 1073 range. you're comparing apples to oranges. both great but very different.

the WARM stuff is not very expensive. if it was me, i'd just save to get it and keep what you already have.

pcrecord Thu, 10/08/2020 - 10:19

Kurt Foster, post: 465693, member: 7836 wrote: imo, selling the UA to buy a WARM would be a step back. if i were in your shoes, i would hang on to any UA piece as a long term investment. plus if you sell the LA 610, you're losing the comp/limiter.

i love what WARM is doing but what they are making are tools, not investment grade military spec gear like UA.

the ISA range is a different design from the 1073 range. you're comparing apples to oranges. both great but very different.

the WARM stuff is not very expensive. if it was me, i'd just save to get it and keep what you already have.

I have 2 LA-610 and rarely use them both at the same time.. actually I don't remember when the last time.
I'm just debating having a different sound in my toolbox really.
Going from 1 channel to 2 with the wa273 or to 4 with the ISA 428 is also apealling.. Of course I'm not doing many bands lately as you could have guess ;)

kmetal Thu, 10/08/2020 - 18:21

UK Sound makes a 1073 which sits between a Neve and a WA, and got a good review in SOS. Its a division of BAE and we know BAE is the real deal.

To me if your gonna go Neve you want to go with the real thing or very close to it. As good as WA ect is, nobody is describing them as "magic". This is not a knock on WA, rather a compliment to truly special pieces of gear.

That's my 2c.

Link555 Fri, 10/09/2020 - 08:49

Having repaired a few ISA's 428 now ... I am not as a big of fan of them anymore... my comments here are not on sound quality or the usefulness of the box, but more the design and construction. The 428 is pretty jam packed with the all the features it has, but the PCB layout is a pushing the edge between cost savings and quality. I have worked on a few power supply failures now, and issues with digital circuits noise finding its way into the analog section. The original neve pre might be a good design, but what the box has grown into has, IMHO compromised the the circuit integrity a bit.

Kurt Foster Fri, 10/09/2020 - 09:27

Link555, post: 465705, member: 31690 wrote: Having repaired a few ISA's 428 now ... I am not as a big of fan of them anymore... my comments here are not on sound quality or the usefulness of the box, but more the design and construction. The 428 is pretty jam packed with the all the features it has, but the PCB layout is a pushing the edge between cost savings and quality. I have worked on a few power supply failures now, and issues with digital circuits noise finding its way into the analog section. The original neve pre might be a good design, but what the box has grown into has, IMHO compromised the a bit the circuit integrity.

i would guess that the ISA is a not built to military spec device like original Neve designs. mil spec is always easier to service. the Focusrite ISA's use printed circuits to keep manufacturing costs down.

the ISA is not the same circuit as a 1073 / 1087 and their variants. to complicate things even more there are various broadcast Neve's that are different as well. to make things even more confusing, there can be differences in parts sourced from console to console with no two being exactly the same. the Sound City console that Dave Grhol owns is said to be very "special". so when you think Neve, keep in mind that you need to listen to a few, especially if you are auditioning vintage ones. some will have more mojo than others. this is what happens when things are crafted by hand. the ISA was a design requested by George Martin for AIR studios and was a departure from the earlier designs.

Link555 Fri, 10/09/2020 - 10:34

Just to be clear, the design problems I have seen as not a result of the choice to use a printed circuit board(PCB). Any circuit, PCB or not will be much better when designed with heat and noise taken into consideration. Of course there are always compromises to be made. I think feature creep and price point (marketing department requests no doubt :sneaky:) drove the final quality of the ISA 428 down a bit.

pcrecord Thu, 10/15/2020 - 03:07

Hey guys I missed it..
I was looking on Ebay for the WA273-EQ and waiting to bid on the last day but the seller removed the item..

Now to prove that I'm a crasy dude, I just say a used MILLENNIA MEDIA - HV-37
Do I wait for an other WA273-EQ for it's coloration or do I go for the HV-37 for a cleaner sound ??
What do you think..

I also saw a Presonus RC-500 - this one is said to be very good at a low price
Do I order both ?

pcrecord Thu, 10/15/2020 - 07:07

Link555, post: 465769, member: 31690 wrote: apples to oranges... I am a fan of the Millennia for what they do.

I know Millennia and Neve can't be further appart !! hey hey..
I want to replace one of my 2 LA-610 and I'm looking for bargins around.. I found this brand new HV-37 with a 300$ rebate..
My brain just go.. well why not having it very clean and if I want to color it after I can do it ITB..
On the other and Neve is becoming like a Cult, having 2 channels even of clones might make customers more interested..
I don't think Millennia preamps are well known to musicians like Neve..
But on the other end. it's the end results that mathers.
GAS is a real sickness !!! ;)

pcrecord Thu, 10/15/2020 - 10:02

Kurt Foster, post: 465772, member: 7836 wrote: Marco, you are going to kick yourself down the line if you sell off one of your LA610s. the UA stuff is just as attractive to clients as any WARM thing will be. i do encourage the purchase of a couple of 273's but i also think you need to hang on to the UA. just my 3 cents.

I get you Kurt.
The thing is, my 2 LA-610 were bought used from Ebay 5-6years ago.. They are MK1 produced in 2001 and were both in a studio running like crasy before I got them.. So they aren't what I'd call in pristine shape.
Soundwise, they sound very different so I'm never tempted to use them for stereo recording. I did change the tubes on both of them and like one better than the other so I always use it..
Of course they both retain some value for resale, but of course the time isn't so good so I might not be selling it right away.
Liberating 2 space in my rack, that's where I think I could put more goodies and augment the channel count as well.

So either I wait for a used Neve clone again or I jump on the Millennia and possibly the RC-500 to fill the 2 spaces..

Kurt Foster Thu, 10/15/2020 - 10:20

i get you too:D. the Millennia you're thinking about has a smaller power supply than the HV3. it's the same power supply they designed for the 500 series stuff they put out and it runs on a lower rail voltage. there are other differences / compromises in the overall design as well. imo, if you really want a Millennia, get an HV3. the only Millennia i would have is an Origin. i had one for a long time and the only thing i didn't like about it was that i only had one. i really like the eq and compressor sections but i never was that stoked on the Millennia pre amp in either topology or with/without the transformer engaged. i mean they are actually really good pres but i just don't like how clean and transparent they are even in tube /transformer modes. i like gear that exhibits transfer function. if you're recording string quartets and symphonic music, transparent is what you want. but for most pop music applications i prefer mic pres with attitude.

pcrecord Thu, 10/15/2020 - 12:45

Kurt Foster, post: 465775, member: 7836 wrote: i mean they are actually really good pres but i just don't like how clean and transparent they are. i like gear that exhibits transfer function. if you're recording string quartets and symphonic music, transparent is what you want. but for most pop music applications i prefer mic pres with attitude.

That gives me some thought.. You're right I'm more into pop / rock music...
So my first thought about the WA-273-EQ isn't that bad.
Do we know how much the EQ affects the sound of the Neve pre ? I read that even without an EQ curve applied, just engaging it adds to the sound.

kmetal Thu, 10/15/2020 - 13:14

pcrecord, post: 465776, member: 46460 wrote: That gives me some thought.. You're right I'm more into pop / rock music...
So my first thought about the WA-273-EQ isn't that bad.
Do we know how much the EQ affects the sound of the Neve pre ? I read that even without an EQ curve applied, just engaging it adds to the sound.

Ive only used a calrec, and the eq is not particularly subtle. I wouldn't say it effects the sound in any way that isn't expected from an eq.

Ive grown to appreciate the fixed frequency selections, and stepped knobs (switches). In my experience the unit sounds a bit "much" by itself but sat perfectly in the mix, and took dsp processing much easier than tracks recorded with lesser units did. The coolest thing is your ear recognizes the sound. Its satisfying to be recording your stuff and it sounding like "real records".

I hear some people talk about the neve top end, but for me the mid range is its most powerful region.

Part of me dislikes the fact that neve sound is so ubiquitous, but its because it works. I would certainly aim to have a few other more unique peices for creativity sake. But the neve does alot of work.

If i recall correctly Al Schmidt works on a neve console, and does alot of jazz and classical, though doesn't use eq much.

Have you looked into a used BAE??

pcrecord Thu, 10/15/2020 - 16:34

kmetal, post: 465777, member: 37533 wrote:

Have you looked into a used BAE??

Buying BAE in Canada means twice the price of WarmAudio. . . If I could confirm that the EQ isn't that important..
I could go with a dual 1073 clone on 1U rack space.. they are less expensive..
I'll compare with other clones too.. ;)

kmetal Thu, 10/15/2020 - 18:31

pcrecord, post: 465779, member: 46460 wrote: Buying BAE in Canada means twice the price of WarmAudio. . . If I could confirm that the EQ isn't that important..
I could go with a dual 1073 clone on 1U rack space.. they are less expensive..
I'll compare with other clones too.. ;)

I like to EQ on the way in, if its needed and available.

That said the EQ on the neve clones vary in quality. If i recall correctly, golden age has a neve type thing with both eq and non eq models. The eq isn't regarded as particularly good, and most reccomendations ive seen has been for the non eq model.

So i would investigate it for each model your interested in.

A faithful neve eq, ie "sounds like and built like a neve", is a useful tool. I don't know enough about circuit design and componentry to speak on whats most critical. That's why i suggested the (unfortunately expensive in CA) BAE, since its quite close in design and componentry from what i understand.

JDK makes a pretty cool sounding rack eq for a reasonable price by pro standards. Might be worth looking into if you go pre only.

Kurt Foster Thu, 10/15/2020 - 18:45

here's a couple of reviews on the WA273. the second link is a little critical.

link 1

link 2

to summarize, the issues that have arisen are in regard to the Carnhill transformers not being an exact match to the original Mariners, the use of multiple boards and ribbon connectors as opposed to one big trace with slot connectors and the 24V regulator having smallish heat sinks that are not tied to the case leading to possible long term reliability issues.

ronmac Fri, 10/16/2020 - 09:57

If I were able to pickup another 2 channel preamp, this would be it:

https://www.cranbor…

https://www.soundon…

Hugh Robjohns is, to me, a trusted reviewer who is technically capable of digging deep enough into a unit to see its pros and cons.

Verdict
I was hugely impressed with the sound quality, technical performance and versatility of the Camden 500 preamp, and the EC2 version is every bit as good; it remains one of my all-time favourite preamps. It boasts not only superbly clean, quiet and dynamic performance as a straight preamp, but also an extraordinary ability, courtesy of the Mojo circuit, to become the most versatile, characterful preamp I know. The fact that the EC2 has slightly better technical specifications than the Camden 500 is a pleasant bonus, although I doubt anyone will hear the improvements unless working in an area with strong RF interference. The rackmount format actually makes it more desirable to me, and the inclusion of headphone amps that match the high-quality standards of the preamps opens a new world of convenience and practicality. I could see many more manufacturers following this idea in the future.

Overall, I have to say that the EC2 is one of the most desirable, capable, versatile and practical preamps I've used in a very long time. Given its phenomenal audio quality and flexibility, with two excellent preamps, two headphone amps, and the CAST interfacing options, it represents exceptional value for money, too. If you're in the market for a serious new preamp, you'd be mad not to put this at the top of your shortlist.

Alternatives
Audio interfaces aside, there aren't many dual-channel preamps with headphone monitoring. The Neve 1073DPX and the new Neumann V402 both have a single headphone amp to monitor the preamp outputs, but neither accept external cue mix inputs. The only preamp that immediately comes to mind with headphone monitoring and a cue mix input is the Focusrite ISA One, but that is only a single mic preamp with a separate DI channel on the side.
 

http://www.economik…

Kurt Foster Fri, 10/16/2020 - 10:47

i've been watching E bay and no one is discounting the WARM stuff ...... and there's no used pieces up for auction either . same for Reverb.

the best deal i've seen is this one ... almost new, 10% off

Marco, have you considered getting 2 single channel units? imo there's an upside to that approach. you can spread out the expenditure, if you hate the first one you can sell it and move on and to me it's always better to get 2 mono units with separate power supplies.

pcrecord Fri, 10/16/2020 - 12:48

@ronmac : I didn't know this maker at all. But now that I look at it, I remember that Glenn Fliker was given one of there 500 series rack unit and was very impressed. Specially for it being able to connect via ADAT.

@Kurt Foster : Thanks for all the info.. I'm still debating to get a Warm 273 without the EQ, It's a one rack space unit and would be a lot more easy on my pocket..
The only thing sad is that the 1U unit doesn't have XLR inputs on the front panel. But it's not a big deal.
It we're not sure the EQ is good enough or adds to the mojo by only being engage.. I don't see why I'd pay an extra 1k.
I still have my eyes on that used RC-500 if I end with one rack space empty.. ;)

Davedog Sat, 10/17/2020 - 11:56

Having lived with a ISA 428 second generation now for almost ten years, I can tell you that its an excellent piece that does what it does quite well but it is NOT a Neve in sound or in function. But it does have things your 828 doesn't have ....a variable low pass filter which is much more usable in tracking than most features on any preamp. Not to degrade the 828 at all.

I've been through a couple of Warm Audio pieces. I bought the 76 comp and the WA-12 MkII. They both were entirely functional and if I was a home studio enthusiast building up a budget conscious rig I would have both of these in the rack. They sound great for the price. And, for what its worth, at those prices you could do a Revive Audio upgrade to bring these to a true pro level. In fact, I would look at the Revive site for things you might not know about or consider since they do a lot of mods and upgrades to all sorts of boxes.

I recently went through an upgrade in anticipation of the opening back up of the business.

One of the things I added to the rack was the UK Sound 1173. Its a mono unit with a 1073 clone pre and an 1176 clone comp. The only thing that I think it lacks is the ability to have dual outputs. Not a big deal since I was looking for a strip to track things with and this one is superb. You can switch out the comp but why would you?!! Kyle mentioned this company earlier and I can't help but reiterate his comments about them. They are basically a BAE design only with a PC instead of eyelet build. I have tracked bass through mine as well as a voice over. It is a damn good box for the money. The real highlight is how close the pre is to a 1073 in its sound field.

I'm with Kurt on keeping the UA iron. You can't replace it for what you'd get for it.

Another company to consider if you are looking for a 'Neveish' take on things with EQ is Phoenix audio. They've changed hands since I first bought my DRS- Q4 MkII. I bought mine used 8 years ago from Vintage King . It was not originally a MkII but it spent a week @ Phoenix Audio a few years ago to replace a ribbon connector and an upgrade on the EQ so it is now. There are used ones out there that are quite reasonable in price and this is a box you will track through for any source. It has that 'Neve' stamp in it's DNA as the original company came from England where they did Neve maintenance and mod services for consoles. I'm unsure as to the direction of the new Phoenix gear and can't comment on it at all. So I'm talking only older used gear.

Perhaps you should look at filling out a 500 rack? My upgrade included an 11 space BAE for compressors and accessory boxes....EQ's, phase boxes, bass resonant tools etc... This allowed me to move my Radial 6 pack to the preamp section and add three pairs of matched preamps. And this is the reason I mention a 500 rack. Initially, you have to have a good rack. The power supply has to be robust and able to deliver the swings you get when driving iron. The Radial delivers that. So I kept it. In it I added a pair of Burl B1's. Consecutive serial numbers. If you haven't experienced Burl products you are missing out. If I was building a studio from the ground up, these would be my conversion. I also added a consecutive number pair of Avedis MA-5 pres. Again, something to behold. I also had a pair of custom made John McAllister pres built for me. These border on API preamps in sonics but it seems they have more depth to them. They are incredible. These are a choice I'd make on a stereo pair over a string quartet with the gain way up. No noise at all. Just lush reproduction of the mic capture.

Don't sleep on used True Systems P2 Analog boxes. either. They can be had reasonably. No EQ but what they do to the sound is really nice. Distributed by Neumann....so? Maybe they know something.......

pcrecord Sat, 10/17/2020 - 18:39

Davedog, post: 465808, member: 4495 wrote: a variable low pass filter which is much more usable in tracking than most features on any preamp. Not to degrade the 828 at all.

Yes my ISA 428 MK1 and my 2 ISA Two have the variable hipass and they get used all the time..
Thanks for the great info Dave
The UK 1173 could be a solution.. The idea of having a comp is kind of seducing.. I would have to buy one and the second one later.. due to my limited budget.
Some says the 1173 is a bit noisy, did you experience that ?

Davedog Sun, 10/18/2020 - 00:25

pcrecord, post: 465810, member: 46460 wrote: Yes my ISA 428 MK1 and my 2 ISA Two have the variable hipass and they get used all the time..
Thanks for the great info Dave
The UK 1173 could be a solution.. The idea of having a comp is kind of seducing.. I would have to buy one and the second one later.. due to my limited budget.
Some says the 1173 is a bit noisy, did you experience that ?

I guess I misread you. I thought you said you had an ISA 828. But I see now its the 428 and two ISA 2s......

I did not experience any excessive noise with the UK 1173 but I have not used it all that much. It was stupid simple to track with and thats what I bought it for. Something I could get a quick capture with, without a bunch of setup. I tracked bass direct and a voice with a Bock U95. I did some messing around with it with a guitar plugged in direct and got a very usable sound kinda like the direct guitar sound on Maggie May. That was through the CADAC at Morgan Studios.

I have better sets of signal chains but I have to patch them (NOT a lot of work!! btw...I'm lazy) .

pcrecord Sun, 10/18/2020 - 07:29

Davedog, post: 465812, member: 4495 wrote: I have better sets of signal chains but I have to patch them (NOT a lot of work!! btw...I'm lazy) .

I'm lazy too.. I don't have a patch bay so everyone of my preamps are already plugged in. That way I just select the interface input from the DAW...

With the previous discussions, I was about to settle for a 2 channel no eq WA-273. You see I really want 2 for stereo recording.
But now I wonder how much better the recreation of the 1073 is on the UK 1173.
I learned over the years that having a compressor on the way in is a must specially for vocals. I enjoy it with the LA-610 and I also got a Golden Age Comp-3a that I use with an ISA preamp..
But I could get the WA-273 and a dual compressor unit later on.. OR go with the 1173..
I'm guessing the 1173 has more 1073 mojo than the Wa-273... But when you didn't try either.. it's hard to decide...

Davedog Mon, 10/19/2020 - 03:40

There is definitely less surface mount stuff in the WA. Have you ever looked inside an 1176 compressor? There is nothing. But take it for what you will. I liked my WA stuff, I just wanted better. I wanted a semi-budget channel strip I could use for single songwriters who wanted to track demos so I bought the 1173. I can't tell you which is better for your application. My choice was good for me. The 1173 is a very good sounding unit and is stupid easy to operate. You can get a killer sound in a minute.

pcrecord Mon, 10/19/2020 - 04:29

Davedog, post: 465821, member: 4495 wrote: There is definitely less surface mount stuff in the WA. Have you ever looked inside an 1176 compressor? There is nothing. But take it for what you will. I liked my WA stuff, I just wanted better. I wanted a semi-budget channel strip I could use for single songwriters who wanted to track demos so I bought the 1173. I can't tell you which is better for your application. My choice was good for me. The 1173 is a very good sounding unit and is stupid easy to operate. You can get a killer sound in a minute.

Yeah I know the 1176 isn't the busiest design and it works great. The comp-3A I got is very simple too. . .

I'm just trying to rationnalise an un-rationnal purchase.. eh eh ... If I spend 3.5k for 2 x 1173, I'm trying to convince myself that it's the best choice for me.. ;)

pcrecord Fri, 11/06/2020 - 12:09

I received my 2 UK Sound 1173 !!
I thought I would receive them separately, one was coming from the maker and the other was in stock at a distant long & McQuade Store.
They were suppose to come 2 weeks or more apparts.. I didn't mind because it would have givin me time to put some money aside..
Anyway.. I'll start the tests this weekend and start to make some videos.
I'll let you know what I think about them.

Just had time to put them in the rack :

x

Register