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Grace Design m101

Member for

8 years 9 months

I've used Grace pres in the past, always really liked their sound, but I haven't personally used this one:

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/m101

I saw a preamp shoot out on youtube, which is here:



For the application they were using it on - acoustic guitar - I really liked the top end; very silky and smooth. I'm curious about how it would handle vox, and was hoping that one of our members has had experience with this model.

I'm looking for one single channel high end preamp, around $600-$900, mainly for vocals,
(but also for acoustic, guitar amp, synths, etc.) and the Grace caught my eye - and my ears, too - LOL. )

Any M101 users here? And if so, any thoughts?

How would you compare it to an RME of the same/similar price range (Maybe a Babyface?) or, say a Focusrite ISA One? Or, does it hold its own against other pres that are more expensive?

And while I'm asking, if a bear craps in the woods and no one is there to see it, will pigs fly out of my ears and will the price of cabbage rise? :p

Ba-dum CHING!

I'm here all week. Try the veal.

d.

Comments

Member for

15 years 4 months

Boswell Wed, 12/31/2014 - 05:04

Do you need to be using the 1818VSL while you are tracking using the M101 (or other quality external pre-amp)? If you have to have the 1818VSL active (e.g. for monitoring), then you will need to use it as your computer interface rather than some other audio interface that has USB, FireWire or other method of connection.

If the answer is yes, and you therefore need a transparent route through the 1818VSL, you will be looking for either a pre-amp with digital output, or a dual-channel converter to follow the M101 or other analog-output pre-amp. Converters of this type are usually S/PDIF (or AES/EBU) output; I don't know of any quality converters that are only single channel simply because S/PDIF is a dual-channel digital format.

As an aside, have you tried an Audient Mico pre-amp/converter? They are a bit difficult to get hold of now, but still available from some http://www.ebay.com/itm/A… online suppliers They were exceptional quality for their price, and gave both optical and coaxial S/PDIF output as well as standard analog outputs. I have one that I can plug into the optical input of a older Macbook Pro (avoiding ground loops) and give me a very portable stereo recording rig.

Member for

21 years

Member Wed, 12/31/2014 - 05:25
My mistake Bos.. when I mentioned single channel, I was referring to the Grace M101, in that it's a single channel mic pre. I was just mentioning yhis because I don't need anything extravagant in terms of high channel counts of 6, 8, 14, etc., which I am seeing that most standalone converters are, with models from Orion, SSL, etc.

I only need to get a mono vocal (or acoustic or whatever) into my DAW, and I didn't want to have to go through the traditional route of putting it through my VSL's preamps, my thinking there being that I don't want another analog stage to "get in the way" of the sound of the Grace.

So, I'm looking for one A/D converter - 2 channel is fine - with analog ins that I could put the Grace into, and with either SPDIF or Optical outs that I could connect to the SPDIF or Optical in's on the VSL - and bypass the VSL preamps, so as not to add the sound of another preamp, other than the Grace.

I mean, my logic with this, is that if I'm going to buy a very nice preamp, I wouldn't want to connect it to my DAW through another cheaper preamp, which to my thinking kind of defeats the purpose of getting a nicer pre.. or am I mistaken on that?

Member for

21 years

Member Wed, 12/31/2014 - 05:39
addendum -

Thanks for the link Bos. ;) Yeah, I suppose I'm just gonna have to bite the bullet and plan on an additonal cost of around $600 for the converter part.

I find it hard to believe that someone like Apogee, RME, SSL or Antelope hasn't come out with a nice, affordable 2 channel AD converter, ( just a converter, not a pre with converters... I have that now) for those who are recording at home but want to up their game by adding one very nice pre for vocals, bass, guitars, etc... and, maybe they have - but I've been checking places like Sweetwater, and all they show are those multi channel converters that start out at around $1000. I totally understand the need for them, but not for my situation, where I'm only recording one source at one time... it would be a waste of money for me and what I'm doing.

FWIW

Member for

21 years

Member Wed, 12/31/2014 - 05:48
Okay, so... for the sake of a 'what if" scenario..

What would happen if, for now, until I could afford something like the Audient you mentioned - I did use the analog outs of the Grace and connected them (via XLR) to the preamp in of the 1818VSL? Would I get a better quality by front loading it with the Grace? So, maybe it's not ideal, and getting a standalone converter will be a necessity at some point in order to take full advantage of the Grace, but could I still see (hear) a better quality than I have now using just the VSL preamps? Or, will doing the aforementioned pretty much negate using the Grace, because the VSL pre's will degrade the signal?

Member for

7 years 4 months

Reverend Lucas Wed, 12/31/2014 - 07:18
Donny,

Inputs 3 through 8 on the VSL are labeled mic/line in. The pres can be bypassed, and signal fed straight to the converters when used as a line in. I must be missing where in the manual it says how the unit differentiates between a mic and a line signal, but it looks like it can be done.

I'm of the opinion that money spent on 'boutique' A/D conversion could be better put to use elsewhere, but that's just me.

Member for

21 years

Member Wed, 12/31/2014 - 07:25
Reverend Lucas, post: 423015, member: 48050 wrote: The pres can be bypassed, and signal fed straight to the converters when used as a line in.


I didn't know that!! That changes things considerably... I mean, I'm sure that also getting a good converter at some point wouldn't hurt, but I wasn't aware that the line ins on the VSL bypassed the preamps...

Thanks Rev!! :)

PS... I just found this...

http://therecordingrevolu…

PPS ... I feel like an idiot.

PPPS... I really feel like an idiot.

Member for

15 years 4 months

Boswell Wed, 12/31/2014 - 08:36
I would certainly try using the line input sockets of the 1818VSL to receive the outputs of external pre-amps such as the Grace M101, particularly if the external preamp plus converter path is one you eventually want to follow and you are considering staging your purchases. While the 1818VSL line inputs do not go "straight" to the converters (you would have no gain control on them if this were the case), they are not routed through the input stage of the pre-amps.

I would avoid using the jack inputs of channels 1 and 2, as these are DI inputs and route differently from the line inputs on channels 3-8.

Member for

11 years 7 months

bouldersound Wed, 12/31/2014 - 20:09
A lot of "line inputs" are just the mic input padded down. So technically you're getting some of the character of the pre when using the line in.

That said, I'd still use the line inputs on that interface to connect the M101. The interface's character is probably neutral enough for the M101's tone to dominate.

Member for

16 years 6 months

moonbaby Mon, 12/29/2014 - 10:44
I use an M101 with an AKG C414XLS and a Sennheiser MD441 for various VO and singer/songwriter work.
I also use it with a Beyer M160 for certain apps. Always clean and transparent, that pre more than any other I've used let's the source shine through.
As for how it compares to a Focusrite, I can tell you that I have an ISA430 and run the Grace into the external line ine input of that box. I can then select whether the Grace or the internal ISA pre is in use.
The ISA has a thicker midrange and maybe a tad less detail than the Grace. I like the ISA where you need a little "weight" added to the source, the Grace when you don't.

Member for

19 years 9 months

Davedog Mon, 12/29/2014 - 15:44
If I had a sack of money, I would have zero problems with 8 channels of Grace preamps.....along with all the other choices. I have a Grace M502 comp and its really good. Clear is a good word for these pieces. Grace makes awesome true to the source gear and it does have a huge soundfield. Like Mooney says, not as much "grit" as an ISA. When you want to really get all the detail from a classical piece or an acoustic instrument of any kind and you have a mic capable of doing so, putting a Grace pre behind it is always gonna be a thrill. I would certainly use one on a vocalist that has all the necessary sound in their voice from the start. But be aware that something this detailed and clear is gonna scare the bejesus out of every vocalist on the earth. For VO work its as good as anything else out there. AND...(something people fail to comment on generally) since it doesn't have a bunch of peaks and hot spots in its frequency response, you can stack tracks made through a Grace all day long without any buildup of mud or loss of clarity. I LOVE ribbons through these! Plenty-o-gain.

Member for

11 years 7 months

bouldersound Mon, 12/29/2014 - 20:24
DonnyThompson, post: 422820, member: 46114 wrote: I really liked the top end; very silky and smooth. I'm curious about how it would handle vox, and was hoping that one of our members has had experience with this model.

"Silky" is always the word that comes to mind when I use a 101. If it were up to me I'd use it on all kinds of stuff, especially acoustic guitars and smooth vocals. I have used it in sessions along with pres from Shadow Hills, Millennia, API etc.

Member for

16 years 6 months

moonbaby Tue, 12/30/2014 - 07:01
Dave, good to hear you like their comp. I have been considering the standalone version to pair up with the 101.
I don't get that the 500 series box - sans power supply - costs almost as much as the M102 - with its' built-in ps.
In any case, very good stuff.
Happy New Year to all !

Member for

21 years

Member Tue, 12/30/2014 - 07:40
Davedog, post: 422881, member: 4495 wrote: If I had a sack of money, I would have zero problems with 8 channels of Grace preamps.....along with all the other choices. I have a Grace M502 comp and its really good. Clear is a good word for these pieces. Grace makes awesome true to the source gear and it does have a huge soundfield. Like Mooney says, not as much "grit" as an ISA. When you want to really get all the detail from a classical piece or an acoustic instrument of any kind and you have a mic capable of doing so, putting a Grace pre behind it is always gonna be a thrill. I would certainly use one on a vocalist that has all the necessary sound in their voice from the start. But be aware that something this detailed and clear is gonna scare the bejesus out of every vocalist on the earth. For VO work its as good as anything else out there. AND...(something people fail to comment on generally) since it doesn't have a bunch of peaks and hot spots in its frequency response, you can stack tracks made through a Grace all day long without any buildup of mud or loss of clarity. I LOVE ribbons through these! Plenty-o-gain.

Boulder said:
"Silky" is always the word that comes to mind when I use a 101. If it were up to me I'd use it on all kinds of stuff, especially acoustic guitars and smooth vocals.

So basically, you're saying that if I needed an ultra-transparent - yet big, pro sounding mic pre, the M101 would be a good choice?

My main focus would be for vocals, second on the list would be acoustic instruments (guitar, mandolin, flute, solo violin or cello, ) and third would be for things like hi-hat, ride cymbal, tambourine, etc.

My thinking is to get into a transparent pre, but with a nice silky top end, at which point I could add warmth, grit, drive, etc., after the fact with plugs, or, front load it - coming out of the Grace and then going into a tube preamp if I desired that sound.

The M101 would be good for this?

Member for

21 years

Member Tue, 12/30/2014 - 07:54
I would need a way to get this into my DAW... I don't see the point in front-loading the 101 into my Presonus VSL i/o; for as clean as it is, I don't want to change the tone of the Grace in any way.

Is there a decent i/o converter I could/should get with this that's not gonna break the bank? I'm talking about just one channel here... a good converter to get the single channel Grace into the DAW..

As opposed to a standalone device, should I be looking at a PCIe - based converter card instead ?

If so, any suggestions?

Thanks ;)

Member for

21 years

Member Wed, 12/31/2014 - 02:41
bouldersound, post: 422947, member: 38959 wrote: Which VSL interface do you have? The 1818VSL has ADAT and SPDIF which would be your best bets for avoiding the analog parts of the interface. A simple ADC would interface them.

Which wuold you recommend, Boulder?

I Have the 1818, which has both SPDIF and Optical I/O, but the M101 is a straight analog out only, so as you said, to avoid connecting it via the preamps of the VSL, I would still need to convert the M101 to digital, something with SPDIF or Optical that I could connect to the same on the VSL.

Everything I've seen thus far is too expensive for what I want to do - $1000 an up, which are also multichannel, which I don't need - I just want to convert one channel. ;)
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