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ISA Preamp

Member for

9 years
Good morning, Mon Ami.
@pcrecord A few questions...
When you bought your Focusrite ISA One pre, did you also buy the optional digital I/O card for it?
If so, are you happy with its conversion quality?
If not, what converter are you currently using to get the signal from the Focusrite into your DAW?
Is the ISA your go-to preamp (for vocals) with the condenser mic you built last year?

I have a good friend who bought the ISA One pre a few months ago (without the optional I/O, he's using a UAD single channel Apollo for a converter) and he's using the ISA with a newer 414 as his main vocal chain. I haven't heard anything he's done with it yet, but I talked to hI'm a few days ago and he mentioned it being a real step up in quality for him.

Just curious and thinking about some stuff. :)


Member for

8 years 9 months

pcrecord Mon, 05/29/2017 - 07:24
DonnyThompson, post: 450586, member: 46114 wrote: When you bought your Focusrite ISA One pre
I actually never bought the ISA one. . . My first ISAs were the ISA two which don't have the digital option.
Altought I never tried it myself, I've been said that the converter is quite good. It's the same that was made for the ISA220 and ISA430...
If it prevents you from putting the ISA through another preamp's circuit (or part of), it's worth the price.

At the time I purchased my first one, I was using the Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 and a DBX silver 576 and prior to this a Soundcraft mixer. The ISA was a step up from everything I had up to this point.
Today my go to is the LA-610 because of the onboard compressor.
But I would never be ashame to use the ISA with an experienced signer who knows how to work with a mic...
People tend to forget the ISA preamp was designed by Rupert Neve. They are not very colored but have a little something I like (non steril thanks to those transformers)
The first surprise you get when you use one for the first time is the amount of power you have available without the noise most other preamps have.
When recording a classic guitar, we start to hear the room and performer noises way before any preamp noises..

I got 8 ISAs now and I love them, they rock on drums, bass and guitars. They mostly get chosen first over my UA 4-710...
If you have any questions, I'm your man ;)

I'm gonna release another mics shoutout with the ISA in use this week, I'll make sure to put a link on RO ;)

Member for

9 years

DonnyThompson Mon, 05/29/2017 - 08:45
pcrecord, post: 450588, member: 46460 wrote: people tend to forget the ISA preamp was designed by Rupert Neve. They are not very colored but have a little something I like (non steril thanks to those transformers)
Rupert's choice of XFO for the ISA pres was a big part of the sound... it was the Lundhal 1538 that gave a big, clear and warm sound that made people love the sound of those Focusrite preamps so much. I have a 1538-XL XFO as one of my choices for the ADK pre I use - I usually pair it with a John Hardy 990C as the output XFO. I've always loved the sound of that combo. When using my vintage 414 with the C12 brass capsule, it's always been kind of an "instant tone" thing, at least on my own voice.
I've been intrigued by the Focusrite ISA preamps for quite sometime now ... if I was to pull the trigger on the ISA One, I think I'd get the optional converter card with it.
I'd just like to hear the ISA with that option before I bought it. Trying the ISA itself wouldn't be an issue, as I've gots few friends who have them and would be happy that let me use them for a few days, and I have used them before so I know how goood they sound... but none of them have the ISA with that converter card. I'm just thinking it would be good to use their converters as opposed to using the Line Out and sending it to another pre with an I-O.

Thanks for getting back to me on this, Marco. I really do appreciate it . Look forward to any shoot outs you plan to do.

Member for

8 years 9 months

pcrecord Mon, 05/29/2017 - 10:08
DonnyThompson, post: 450589, member: 46114 wrote: I'm just thinking it would be good to use their converters as opposed to using the Line Out and sending it to another pre with an I-O.
That's was my point.. I first did this (pre to pre) and members here helped me realise how I was not getting the clean sound of the first pre but a combinaison...

Member for

9 years

DonnyThompson Mon, 05/29/2017 - 10:21
I get your point - I was suppprting it, and thinking that if I were to get the ISA, that I would feel compelled to get the optional converter with it. I don't want to have to bus the signal out of a nice preamp like that only to potentially degrade or alter the signal by sending it through yet another preamp, just to take advantage of the second preamp's conversion stage.
I'm just curious as to what quality the Focusrite's optional conversion card has. Although my hunch is that it would be much better than using another preamp just to use its converters... and in most cases, you can't bypass the preamp stage to use just the converter stage, so there will be a change in sound by adding another pre stage.
Obviously, the best way would be to input the ISA's line out to a dedicated converter ... such as an Antelope, or Lynx, or something similar of known high quality. But my current allocated budget prohibits that... At least for the time being, anyway. But I might be able to afford the Focusrite I-O card for the ISA.



Member for

12 years 4 months

kmetal Wed, 05/31/2017 - 23:04
I did a lot of digging a while back on the isa, by any accounts I could find the converter option sounded good. Not aGimmick, not boutique, just solid and out of the way. The cards specs are all good but I want to say a little different for the 8ch and 2ch, if i rememeber correctly.

You may want to think about going w the isa two. The isa one is the most $per channel, and at $500 a channel there's other options. The isa two is a little better bang for the buck, and an extra $300 relative to the isa one. Plus everything good in pairs right? And it's rackmount. The isa one is not small.

The other reason is the the isa ad card is 2ch. Since it's 400$ either way, you halve your ad cost as far as focusrite conversion.

Otherwise at $400 per channel for AD then, $500 per channel for a pre, your paying near botique price for AD (remember no da), and in the pro standard high endish pricing for a pre channel.

The isa is nice. I've been eyeing the 424 for a long time. The 424 and 828 are the better bang for the buck with a much higher entry point. The 424 has a great feature, since it's a 4ch pre, but uses the 8ch AD card by default, it has 4 additional inputs to feed directly into the conversion, from another 4ch pre amp, or even capture rig converters.

I think the line in section on the isa (all models) goes through the pre amp gain stage so there is no way to bypass the input xformers, although the DI inputs on (at least the isa one I believe) do not go thru the xformers. You also bypass the input xformers by using the AD direct in if the model has it.

Im not sure, and being too lazy to check, I would double check if the isa one allows the DI and Pre sections to be used simultaneously. Like for micing a cab and taking di, for example. Both analog and digital. Ideally one channel of the AD card goes for the pre, the other for the di.

Overall I think the isa is one of the highest value pres out there particularly the 4ch (overall). But all of them are worth it. There's really no competitors in the price range, maybe a couple other lunchbox types, or 500 series if you've already got the rack. The isa just sounds very nice. The isa two with the converter card is about as much as a single channel of the next, direct pro level competitor. These neves and manleys don't usually have AD either. Things like Warm Audio match the price and channel count but I've never compared them first hand sonically. The original isa was a no holds barred console. I think your getting a step up from what a warm or similar would do. When you talk warm vs neve or api or UA that's different, but the isa is equal in price and exceeds them in quality and features. No digital option for warm.

If you start off stereo without the card, it's easier to add the card than adding another channel and card to the isa one.

Lol sorry not trying to be Warren buffet here, just I've probably spent at least 4 nights agonizing over the isa vs. still a winner to me, and still on my hitlist.

Member for

8 years 9 months

pcrecord Thu, 06/01/2017 - 02:43
kmetal, post: 450677, member: 37533 wrote: You may want to think about going w the isa two.
True, for someone with good independant converters, the isa two is a good choice.

The thing is the ISA two don't have the digital card option.. which may rule it out for Donny if he wants to plug it to his presonus...

So what about the ISA one with the 2 channels converter ? 1 goes for the mic preamp and the second for the Di.. so not a total waste ;)

Member for

5 years 4 months

nsureit Sat, 09/23/2017 - 12:57
I run my ISA One through my Audient audio interface via patchbay, and bypass the Audient preamps (with a switch on the AI) straight into its excellent converters.

I also rely on the ISA One for my ribbon mics, as it has additional gain available beyond most other preamps, including my Trident 80B. The 80B is the finest preamp I own, but just doesn't have quite the clean gain I need for the ribbon mics.