Skip to main content

Hi there,

I currently have a LA-610, a UA 7-410, a ISA two and Focusrite liquid saffire.
The 410 is good for the versatility but, doesn't have the same dynamic and clean levels as the ISA. I got the LA-610 after the 710 and realise that the 710 is good but doesn't reach the sweetness of the LA-610.

I now have 4 different preamp flavor but feel more of the same maybe better...

My question : is it a good Idea to keep what I have and get a ISA428 to get 6 ISA or to sell the ISA two and the 4-710 to get a ISA828 with converter ?

Topic Tags


audiokid Wed, 08/06/2014 - 16:04

Good question and thanks for sharing this with us. I'll start.

I'm not a recordist to the same level others are here, but I am a mixer and believe I hear pretty good.
Based on what I hear. I do think one really good pre is essential. Why? When something stands out to be different in a mix, you notice it.
In other words, I think "difference" is a good thing when you use it well. Put your best foot forward for the tracks that you want to stand out. If a really good mic and pre gets that difference, this would be an asset.

That being said, If I could have 16 Millennia M-2b for everything to Vocals, drums, guitars etc, I would. Its easy to mix music that sounds great. Its easy to use an EQ to carve out the spots for it to all fit like a glove. Especially when it sounds like the way it should.
Its easy to add verb, delay, crud to a track so it doesn't sound as good or as close to the front. But it isn't easy getting a track to sound better when it doesn't have the size and clarity in the first place.

Think of all the beautiful music made through one console.

I have a Great River mp 2nv. It doesn't sound near as good as an m-2b. It doesn't have the size and transparency sweetness.
The 2nv is ideal for a British guitar sound, snares and a DI for my keyboards to name a few. I would need less HPF with the Great River and the mids might be closer for guitars in your face. The Millennia on the other hand, would require the same filters, but maybe a bit more or less mids. But its easy to reduce, not so easy to expand. I have a DAW if I need it..

Everything is a good thing if it helps you get the sound with less processing. But, processing is a good thing if it gets you want you want.
If I was tracking more than I do, I would most likely buy a console and use the pre's for most of the session, then use my gem for the features.

pcrecord Wed, 08/06/2014 - 19:11

I heard that saying: tracking to a great console doesn't call for other pre (or a very few special ones)
I went the preamp way instead of a console since I have a Mackie controler. My thought was and is that If I pay 2000$ for four preamps, I expect them to be better than a 2000$ 16 lines mixer..

I've not decided yet but having 8 identical very fonctionnal pre with good converters is kind of apealing to me. (isa828)
I guess I could put the tracks that will be re-made or less important through the saffire, Drums and bass through the ISA828 and vocal through the LA-610. It's been a wild since I've done a full band recording, so I haven't fully tested the 4-710. I guess I need to be more confident about it before I decide to keep it. One thing I'm sure; the ISA two is great and I like that it is very quiet and dynamic and mmmm that 80db, so I just crave for more of them.. ;)

Of course I could wait and save my money for some better pre.. but, if I get another flavor.. I wonder if all the tracks will become incoherent (quality wise)

One option I didn't add to my post is the possibilty of keeping the 4-710, sell the isa two and get a isa428 which can go through the 4-710 converters... ( I still use the Mytec AD96 for the LA-610 in all my scenarios)

If I had an unlimited budget, it would be so much easier ;)

pcrecord Thu, 08/07/2014 - 03:22

The ISA sound better on vocal and bass. I guess the 4-710 is a bit complex compared to the ISA since it's very easy to overdrive. With the ISA, you set the right level, compare the impedance and ajust the HPF, BAM.. Very simple and it's sound good everytime.
I guess, that's another thing I need to consider; when I get an over-exited band on a low budget, it needs to sound good right away ! ;)

Thanks Kurt, you make me realise I still need to A/B them on different sources. After all, sound is all that mather !

Davedog Thu, 08/07/2014 - 11:29

I'm with Chris on this one. A clean and clear capture means you have a great basic place to mix from. If you NEED other stuff on the track then add it through the DAW or remix through a colored pre or some sort of outboard for that set of features. Either way you retain the original track because sometimes....sometimes, something that sounds good on Thursday sucks ass on Friday.

As for the Focusrite vs, the UA...two different animals. The Focusrite is really simple as was described. Bang and its there. It also tends to reproduce the source with clarity and some depth of field. I have had a 428 for several years now and it is an early choice when tracking or overdubbing. The UA stuff has a great sweet spot but takes some serious time to discover where it is and its not the same on multiple sources. It is, however, a very good piece of gear but it is also one that you really need to be in tune with to get the most out of.

anonymous Fri, 08/08/2014 - 03:10

These are all tools... and like any tool, you should use the right one for the right job... we don't use a wrench to pound a nail into a stud...

If the ISA sounds best on bass and vocals, then that's what you should use on bass and vocals. Personally, I don't believe that there's a problem with having different textures or colors that vary from other tracks in a song... after all, we use variation and add and remove color each time we reach for EQ, and adjust one track differently from another, and very often we want certain things to "stand out", as Chris mentioned.

As an example, I would mention Pink Floyd and David Gilmour. That guy's tone is so incredible, so perfect for the music that he and Waters wrote, that you couldn't help but want that type of focus on the solos.... and one of the reasons that it does stand out is because of the individual sonic texture that his performances have.

Another example would be McCartney's bass track on Rain or Paperback Writer... the bass stands out, big-time... with serious coloration...and yes, part of it was the cool performance parts, but most of it is tone.
And those songs wouldn't have had the same magic if he had used a run of the mill P-Bass, tucked back into the mix.
Now, as to what the engineers used on the tracks - I could only wager a guess (Fairchild, API, etc) and is for another topic - but the point is that it was the differences in textures that make those songs work, mix-wise.

Now, as to the process/method of doing it, I agree with Dave that these textures are better left to the mix stage, and that you should get as clean and clear of an initial capture as possible... because as a mix progresses, you may end up not really wanting "that" colored sound on a particular track that you initially liked, and if you've already printed a track with a certain type of coloration, then your kinda stuck with that color, whether you end up liking it or not.

These days we all have that luxury, because we have virtually unlimited track counts, and along with all the other editing features available, we have the freedom to play around with the tracks after the fact, as opposed to the 4 or 8 track limitations that a studio like Abbey Road had during that time. They were forced to track certain instruments and vocals with certain colors, because in many cases, they had such a finite and limited track count to work with, that they had really had no choice.... they had to commit that particular coloration to the printed signal.

The key, I think, is knowing what type of color each device inherently presents.... and knowing this not only helps us to determine when, where, and how to use it... but also when, where, and how not to. ;)

IMHO of course.


KurtFoster Fri, 08/08/2014 - 03:20

back to the isa's ..... these are Rupert designed pres with transformers .... back them off a little and they will be clean and pretty uncolored but push them and you can get some serious grit and coloration. if i were in your shoes i would load up on isa's .... keep the other stuff you have

as for those Beatle recordings, those were the Redd pres and a modified Altec comp.

pcrecord Fri, 08/08/2014 - 03:33

I get you Donny.
In the end I might just add a second ISA two (to have four of them)
My vocal is well served with the LA-610 but yes the ISA is good too (on certain voices)
Yes ISA rocks on bass but is also good on guitars, specially if you want to use a ribbon. (you need that clean power to run them)

Now I need to find out what the UA 710 do best.

  • On the bass and vocal, I prefered the ISA
  • On Overhead and room mic, it did a good job
  • On bassdrum and snare, I prefered the ISA (faster, more punch and dynamic)
  • Bottom snare was ok

So I need to test if the 710 is ok for toms, guitars. In fact I need to test all sources again with it.. ;)
By the end of the day I'll be on vacation, I know what to do !!!

Thanks my friends !

anonymous Fri, 08/08/2014 - 04:33

"my vocal is well served with the LA-610 but yes the ISA is good too (on certain voices)"

This is a very important bullet-point ... also pretty stupid of me to have ignored. :rolleyes:

Just like different mics sound different on certain singers - either in a good or not so good way - thus do preamps as well. About a year ago, I did a vocal session ( where I was the vocalist) and the studio I was recording at had an ISA (actually they had several) a Grace 101, and a and a variety of nice mics. The engineer working the session knew that I was also an engineer, so he asked me what mic I preferred on my own voice... out of the choices he gave me, I chose a Neumann TLM170 ( a really nice mic by the way ) - and he amped it with the ISA. It sounded very nice, but in the end, he ended up running me through a Grace 101 pre instead, and for whatever reason, on my voice and in the range that I was singing, there was a subtle resonance, clarity, and pleasing "edge" there that was more prominent than on the Focusrite.

I'm not saying the ISA sounded bad - far from it... I'm just saying that on my voice, in the range I was singing, in that studio, and through that mic, the Grace sounded just a little bit better suited for me.

Thinking about it, I think that "suited" is a better description than saying "better", because on the whole, I don't think that either one of those preamps is really "better" than the other.... they are both very nice sounding preamps, it's just that one was a better fit for me than the other was - for my voice.



pcrecord Fri, 08/08/2014 - 17:43

Thanks Donny! I too believe better need to be used with nuances.
No need to pull out the 'stupid' word.. I know you are far from it !!

Since I'm on a budget, I try to make the 'better' preamp choices to buy.
A good choice for me is a unit that will sound good on many sources. Of course there will always be a 'better' pre. But having a pre that only sound good on one instrument is very limiting.
Until now I never had a case that the ISA wouldn't sound ok and a lot of case that it sounded very good.. ;)
If I'm unable to feel like this about the 4-710 I'll sell it and get a ISA428 or 828
Later on, if I get the budget I'll think about a x73, a grace or a Millennia.. but for now, I need enough channel for a band..

audiokid Fri, 08/08/2014 - 18:33

By then end of this year I will most likely have sold the majority of all my
lush tracking gear. I have a rack of 8 SPL Premium pre's that are considered
in Europe to be some of the best sounding pre's for drums to classical music
and vocals. They are of the quality that sound great with everything really.
These are the product I buy over coloured stuff that isn't as versatile.
They have Lundhal trannies on the front and back, HPF and a pad on each
channel. The PSU is crazy big, same one for my Neos. It would be a stellar
move for anyone wanting 8 wonderful pre-s in a rack for a crazy deal.
The full loaded rack lists for around $4500 USD. I've hardly used it and
will sell it for $3000. If you are ever in the budget, I may still have them
and would sell them to a Canadian avoiding big costs to win.

The Premium Preamplifiers features a discrete triple stage preamplification
with input and output transformers. Amplification goes up to 80 dB. Further
features are polarity reversal, low cut filter, phantom power, VU/PPM
metering, output split.

Preamplification up to 80 dB
Lowest noise
Lundahl transformers I/Os fitted
Output split
VU meter displays average and peak levels
Stable phantom power supply (48 V)
Phase reverse switch
High-pass filter
Servo-Drive Design for acoustic transparency
Signal (SIG) and Overload (OVL) LEDs behind VUs

Looks like this :)

pcrecord Fri, 08/08/2014 - 19:23

Wow that's one sexy rack.. I trust you on the quality, you know. The only thing, I would need to buy more converters to handle those.
That's why I was regarding the ISA's which have optionnal converters you can add-in.

Thanks audiokid, I'm honnored you proposed them. I think it's very sad, you have to get rid of such good gear..

audiokid Fri, 08/08/2014 - 19:48

Thanks, these are beautiful.

The hardest part was seeing the first few gems leave. But, mixing and writing is where I belong and I have more than enough gear to get all that covered. So, keeping things for looks when my kids need the money for school and clothes, life goes on and I wrap it up as a really fun journey that was.

You need a good 8 channel converter then. That is a must!

pcrecord Sat, 08/09/2014 - 05:12

Converters : that's part of why I picked the UA4-710 the 8 converters (4 available for external) is said to be of high quality. As of today, I have no clue if the isa428 and 828 converter option is good enough.. (most reviews say yes tho..)

Today is the day, I'm gonna do a bunch of A/B tests between the 710 and ISA. I need to decide if the 4-710s is a keeper or not ! ;)

anonymous Sat, 08/09/2014 - 05:49

Very nice pic.

I love how its appearance is laid out similar to that of the metering section of a tape machine.

I'm chuckling at myself though .... apparently old habits die hard, because the very first thing I noticed was the VU's on channels 5 and 7 - which, if it was a tape machine, would just about be hitting "that" sweet spot - that little window that those of us who came up during the analog era all came to know and love... that somewhat elusive spot up around +3 to +5 db, where the sonic magic used to happen, as if someone had flipped an "awesome" switch. ;)

I can still remember what a freshly-opened box of 499 used to smell like. ;)