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Pre amp comparison/decision

Member for

21 years
Hi everyone,
I just wanted to toss this decision out to more knowledgeable minds than mine to see what everyone thinks. I am in the proceess of upgrading the front end of my recodring setup, which as of now consists of a presonus digimax lightpiped into 001. I am planning on purchasing a set of 4 preamps, which will be my main go to's for all my recording purposes. I am currently eyeing two untis, the sebatron v4000 and the sytek 4 channel unit. The Sytek unit I am eyeing currently has the burr/brown mod on all 4 channels, and could be had for the price of the unmodded unit bought new. This very appealing, but I am thinking that the Sebatron seems to be more flexible as far as options, with the fat and air switches, and was also impressedon how it faired on the acousticsamples Kurt posted. Either unit would have to excel on acoustic guitar, drums, and vocals. Any suggestions? All input and feedback is greatly appreciated.


Member for

20 years 7 months

hargerst Mon, 07/07/2003 - 12:16

I really did hope you wouldn't let pre-conceived biases get in the way of an honest evaluation of a fine product, but I fear my post has only served to polarize the issue even further. For that, I am truly sorry, and I apologize to all the posters for apparently clouding this discussion even further, by presenting what I hoped would be facts, instead of unfounded rumors and hearsay. Whether you said Vega/Corvette or Escort/Lincoln really doesn't matter - the message remains the same.

At this point, I believe an unbiased review of the RNP would be impossible, and since an endless cycle of "I've heard" and "I know" will serve no useful purpose, I'm respectfully bowing out of this thread.

I will add one final comment, in regards to the remark about the RNP being "no Neve". Here's part of a verbatim transcript of a conversation that took place on another bbs:
Harvey: Would you care to comment on your friendship with Mark McQuilken?

Rupert Neve: Harvey -- yes, I first met Mark some years ago when Evelyn and I came to live in Wimberly. He is a brilliant designer who has helped me from time to time especially to understand the mysteries of the digital domain. I hold Mark and his family high on my list of friends.

Member for

19 years 2 months

Kurt Foster Mon, 07/07/2003 - 12:27
Rod and Harvey,
Harvey I respect you very much and I can see your pov.. I am not myself any further polarized in these issues. I don't think I have ever slammed the RNP. What I have said is it seems to be very good for what it is.

I did make a Chevy Vega remark and I remember the robotics line too. but I think what I was saying was that typically inexpensive prosumer products are built this way. I don't think I specifically mentioned that the RNP was. If I did say that, I was assuming that and I apologize and I stand corrected.. (2nd time) you know what they say about assume..

I would love to get an RNP and include it in the comparisons. I would not be biased at all. I am very interested to post the comparisons and let the members state their preferences.

Member for

20 years 7 months

hargerst Mon, 07/07/2003 - 12:39
Kurt, that is not fair, apologizing before I could post the thread, after I went all through the trouble of finding where you mentioned the Vega/Corvette thing.

You're still being unfair to Mark (strictly IMHO, of course) when you describe it as a typical pro-sumer piece of gear - it's way more than that. It may "look" like a pro-sumer unit, at a pro-sumer price point, but that's where the comparison ends.

Member for

18 years 6 months

FloodStage Mon, 07/07/2003 - 13:09

If you wanna review a Sytek I'll lend you mine, if you (or RO) will pay the shipping to and fro. That would get one of these pre's you haven't heard out of the way.

I'd lend you an RNP too if I had one. If I had the money, I'd buy one and send it to you to try, but I'm in the hole at the moment. Maybe someone else will step up and lend you a RNP?

Please someone ... anyone!? PLEASE!!!!! Lend Kurt an RNP. I'm beggin here!!! Please!!!

Until then, Kurt, why not refer people to Harvey for RNP reviews seeing as he knows a ton about them. Everytime I take his advice, it points me in the right direction! :D

Disclaimer, if I sound negative here, it is unintentional. Unfortunately it is a gift I was born with that I have unsuccessfully tried to lose for 44 years.

Now, off to the bar for beer and Prozac! :c:

Member for

20 years 7 months

hargerst Mon, 07/07/2003 - 13:20
Originally posted by Kurt Foster:
Help me to get one. If it kicks ass I will say so. I have never heard it.. I would be glad to include it in the comparisons.. BTW, where is that thread?? :D
Damn it, now I've gotta go find it again.

OK, found it. Producer's forum, "Sebatron vmp4000e" thread, 3rd page, about 3/4s of the way down the page. You mentioned the "Vega/Corvette" thing twice within a few posts.

As far as getting you one, you'll hafta pry mine out of my cold dead hands (or Alex's hands). But you could simply buy it from their website, try it for 30 days, then return it for a full refund, for any reason.

Or try to call Mark again. I have trouble getting through sometimes too, so don't mistake that for an unwillingness to talk. He's a hell of a nice guy, and as passionate about music as you are.

Member for

18 years 10 months

chrisperra Mon, 07/07/2003 - 13:21
to the detractors of kurt, and to the detractors of the detractors of kurt.


this forum is great because we get a wide veiw of opinions and attitudes regarding recording gear and techniques.

we come here to hear from everyone. hopefully we all have the sense to "try things" ourselves before we buy.

for me, what's the most usefull about these threads is the fact that people mention gear i've never heard about. not peoples sworn testements on what the gear is made of and their impressions of how they stand up to each other.

i personally don't but anything without trying if first.

for me, and i'm assuming for most laymen, regarding the technical specifications of gear.

"we don't care"

all i want is a peice of gear that sounds good. the only way i know that is if "i use it" and get the results i want.

if i cared enough to learn every technical specification and component, on every peice of gear i own, i'd build them myself.

i just want to record great music. not argue about things that ultimitely my ears and my wallet will judge for me.

i'm not looking to start a war with anyone, but i felt that i needed to point out that i personally don't take anyones word as the be all end all.

chris perra

Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 07/07/2003 - 13:44
I will admit I have a tendency to be a bit of a gear snob. That is, I am a little reluctant to conclude that an inexpensive piece of gear can outperform a very expensive one without rigorous hands-on experience. If I'm not mistaken, Kurt has something of the same prejudices.

However, I have come around a little on this issue, thanks to people like Harvey (and, of course, Mark). Certainly the RNC shattered the stereotype that a high quality compressor could not be made at that price point.

I have the same prejudices when it comes to branding. I am far more skeptical of a new product from Alesis or Behringer, for example, than I would be of Cranesong or Lawson. Not just because of the price point, but because i have had direct hands-on negative experiences with the former and positive experiences with the latter.

But I'm trying hard to revamp my attitude. There are products by Alesis and Behringer, for instance, that are far better than the garbage I may have used. I've gotten some great drum sounds with MC012's and SM57's, which are hardly in the Lincoln-Continental category (to continue the Ford analogies). I'm sure Kurt has used a 57 or two himself over the years. I'm not sure if that makes him a user of prosumer gear or not... :D

Member for

19 years 2 months

Kurt Foster Mon, 07/07/2003 - 14:17
Here are the infamous quotes that have been used.
Originally posted by Kurt Foster:
The Sebatron is a "Class A", transformer based all tube pre amp. It has the "vintage sound". The RNP is a solid state L.S.I. device that uses chips and op amps.. It does not have a vintage sound.. The RNP is a great value at about $250 a channel but IMO it cannot not hold a candle to the sound of the pure "Class A", transformered Sebatron mic pre. It's like comparing a Vega and a Corvette.
I stand by this statement. It was pointed out that I misused the term L.S.I.

Originally posted by Kurt Foster:
The RNP is a $250 per channel design, all chips and PCBs, that is fabricated in mass and assembled robotically. If you would rather have a cheap pre instead of a good one, be my guest. You say one thing, I have heard other people say other things.. What I do know is FMR doesn't return my inquiries..


What I am saying is a mic pre that is designed to a price point, using off the shelf components selected as much for availability as well as any other criteria, using IC's and PCB's built by robotics, is a VEGA! It's a cheap pre.. although I have heard that it is remarkably good, considering it's pedigree. But it is not ever going to compare with something that is hand built using discreet components (no chips or ICs) with massive power supplies that is built much for the art of doing it rather than to meet a projected "price point".
I pretty much stand by these statements. The RNP may not be robotically assembled though. I was wrong in that regard. Harvey says they are all hand assembled and that’s good enough for me. I am sure he believes this. Perhaps some one has figured out how to hand assemble discreet components in a class A design and retail it for $500 a pair. There may be some hand assembly of sub assemblies but I am still a bit skeptical that the boards aren’t stuffed by robotics. I would love to see and hear one.

In that same thread I said;
Originally posted by Kurt Foster:

I never reviewed the RNP and just because I make a comment about a piece of gear in a Forum that I moderate does not qualify as a "review". So please don't misconstrue my comments on the BB as reviews of products. They are what they are and when I am on the BB I am here in the same capacity as any other contributor, member or moderator. I put my review hat on when I write a review for the reviews page and publish it in the RO E Mag. It is a completely separate function.

Member for

18 years 6 months

FloodStage Mon, 07/07/2003 - 19:20
Originally posted by Kurt Foster:
Here are the infamous quotes that have been used.
Originally posted by Kurt Foster:
[qb] The Sebatron is a "Class A", transformer based all tube pre amp. It has the "vintage sound". The RNP is a solid state L.S.I. device that uses chips and op amps.. It does not have a vintage sound.. The RNP is a great value at about $250 a channel but IMO it cannot not hold a candle to the sound of the pure "Class A", transformered Sebatron mic pre. It's like comparing a Vega and a Corvette.
I stand by this statement. (stealing from an old Saturday Night Live)

"Kurt, you ignorant (gear) slut"

Geez man, how can you continue to say one piece of gear is better than another piece when you haven't heard one of them. You could be right. You could be wrong. The only thing I'm sure of is that you don't know and you keep saying that you do.

You are losing your credibility.

Here is an old saying that you might want to think about before posting about things you have no experience with:

Sometimes it is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool rather than to open your mouth and prove that you are one.

Sadly, it's too late for that.

Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 07/07/2003 - 20:58
This thread is starting to go in circles, with everybody making the same arguments over and over again. This is my last post.
Good Thinking-
1. The only way to really judge gear is to listen to it.
2. RNP is a great preamp. I know, I have one, i have posted a mini-review comparing it to the Universal Audio 2-610 (because we were trying to suss out the Sebatron/RNP debate in another, even more exhausting thread).
3. Kurt never reviewed the RNP, and his main assertion, which started as an aside, was that it was better than a Mackie but not as good as a Neve. He stated at that time that he had never heard it, but that he was summarizing the opinions of numerous other people who HAD heard it (I accept this as a valid off-the-cuff comment to make).
4. Ferd has plenty to offer,and disagreeing with a mod is no big deal, people do it all the time.
5. Ferd's style is a little abrasive, and given the atmosphere around here recently, it got some of us a little defensive. I personally jumped in to the debate to defend Kurt from what appeared to be another attack on him. I did so in a manner that was (hopefully) not too harsh.
This, again is my last post on this subject. Thanks everybody for your time. Doc

Member for

19 years 2 months

Kurt Foster Mon, 07/07/2003 - 21:11
I was going to lock this thread. Then I saw this;

Here is what happened when I did as suggested . ……..

“I think that it'd be cool if a bbs moderator (I thought maybe this one):
(a) wouldn't speak out-of-school when possible,
(b) defer to other forum members (moderators? resident experts?) on topics outside of the moderator's expertise to either: i) help the moderator fill-in-the-blanks (he'd probably learn in the process) or, ii) facilitate someone more skilled-in-the-art to directly answer such queries.”

so I didn’t speak out of turn on this one…


Originally posted by nebula:
Hi ya folks, I was thinking of buying a mic pre here recently, and have narrowed down the choices to either the "RNP" or "Grace 101" My Primary use for this mic pre is "Vocals" and some "Acoustic Guitar". I record vocals at home and record most of the music at local studio. But anyway My Mic is a Audio Technica 4050. I was wondering which mic pre would sound best, and compliment my mic the best?
Originally posted by littledog, jr.:
I just don't see how anyone can answer what is going to come down to a matter of personal preference.

These units are hardly rare or unavailable. Borrow, rent, or find a dealer who is willing to send you one of each (with the proviso that you buy the one you prefer and return the other) and audition them yourself .
Originally posted by wwittman:
I also think it's a specious concept.
No one ever worked on a great desk (discrete Neve, Trident A, API) and said, "gee, i'd love to use X mic, but it won't be COMPATIBLE with the mic pre in this thing!"

A good mic pre is a good mic pre and a good mic for a given application is a good mic...

i don't believe in "matching" and i don't really like mixing and matching mic pres either.
the best records are made with ONE type of mic pre on all mics (as in, on a great sounding DESK, not with a hodgepodge).
We've only come to this business of multiple mic pres by default anyway (because studios stopped having great conosles and because the market is now full of set-ups without a console at all), it was never by CHOICE, because different mic pres would be 'better'.

there is nothing on Abbey Road or Dark Side Of The Moon or Crime Of The Century that would have been improved with a selection of mic pres to "match" their mics.
Originally posted by nebula:
lol. Now that I think of it , it is kinda silly. Sorry for the stupid question, I have just been seeing sooooo many mic pres in studios and magazines and talk about adding differant flavors, and hint of this, dash of that,, blabhbablhabbha.

I am a newbie, and I just didnt want to make the wrong choices.

Thanks for the info guess, peace
Yeah! That’s how we want to handle it! We just sent this guy away feeling like he just asked the dumbest question in the world, and with no answer. I couldn’t say anything because I don’t have any first hand knowledge regarding the pieces I would have recommended, which would be the SP VTB-1, The Grace 101 or the RNP. Thanks all you “other forum members (moderators? resident experts?) on topics outside of the moderator's expertise to either: i) who I “deferred to help the moderator fill-in-the-blanks”. That’s the kind of advice the members and newebies get. They get told they are stupid and treated like they don’t deserve the time of day by a bunch of internet snobs that have nothing to do but sit around and criticize someone who is trying to help.

Member for

19 years 2 months

Kurt Foster Mon, 07/07/2003 - 22:46
Well actually the original post was up for 3 days amd his last post has been up 3 1/2 hours before you answered it..

In addition I recived a PM from a member.. here is part of it ...


….. I have been reading through the recent threads and see that this attitude is still here. I have worked in live sound for several years now and been in the studio for about 2 years. The one thing that seems to be a diease with audio engineers is ego. Maybe I'm just bitching, maybe I think the member rating should be changed to ego rating so we know how much salt to eat with all the BS. In my opinion, crack down on the rudeness. I know we like to say "everyones opinion is accepted here" but who says this shit is a democracy. I think you should do whats best for the people who dont know everything. Boot some people when they consistantly talk down to newbies, maybe some people can only be "read-only" members. You might loose some talented assholes but in the longrun we would grow into a site full of nice, open minded, and very helpful, deserving engineers. I personally think this site has the potential to become so popular that it is respected as an educational source. It beats the hell out of recording school. ……"
I couldn't agree more..

Member for

18 years 8 months

Bobby Loux Mon, 07/07/2003 - 23:27
Kurt like i said you really need to let this thread go bro.

BTW these times arent correct any way its an hour off so yea it was more like 2 and a half hours when I replied. but see what I'm saying, about obsessing over small rediculous details, who cares!..

certainly I was egagerating about the 15 minutes but just sit back and eventually someone with experience on the subject will chime in...I just dont think people are on these baords 24/7 ...I dont expect my questions to be answered till the next day or so on other boards so just chill a bit and dont feel as a moderater you need to BANG! get on evryones posts right then. ...I dont expect that from probably the best forum mods out there (the slutz )...

cant you just say "cool, I over reacted a bit" and just be glad someone helped that dude out in the end? its like you have this need to challenge everyone over everything. I think Harvey really put it out therte very nicely with his posts. Its Ok to be wrong sometimes!

Its all good bro!

Member for

21 years

Member Tue, 07/08/2003 - 00:28
Kurt,you've really lost me this time.(again)

some guy asks for an objective answer to a subjective question, and when i suggest staging his own personal shoot-out as the only real way to get a meaningful answer, you say I was being disrespectful to the questioner? The fact is, you seem far more unhappy with the responses he got than he was.

I remember one time recently when I was posting on a forum about the Sony Oxford EQ, noting that it didn't come with any presets. I think it was Alphajerk who responded to me, saying essentially "how the hell do you have EQ presets?" Upon realizing how silly my statement was, we all had a good laugh, no one more so than me. The poster in your example responded similarly, much to his credit.

By the way, is it my imagination that every time i have asked you a question or asked for a clarification your response is to ignore me?
an interesting application of the 'if you don't have anything nice to say..." axiom, perhaps?

Anyway, your use of that example brings to mind an interesting theory of mine. That being: one can acquire most skills through study and practice, but it's pretty hard to acquire a sense of humor when it's not there to begin with. And the truest test of a sense of humor is not the ability to laugh at others, but being able to laugh at yourself.

i'm hoping you prove me wrong. Other than being humor-challenged, you seem like a nice cat. Now lighten up and pie yourself. For pity's sake, it's only audio we're talking about here - nothing life and death! In about a month how many of us will even remember who it was that did or didn't think the RNP had enough headroom?

Everybody here is really really trying really hard to like you. at least give us a chance - stop making it so difficult. This isn't: "Survivor: the Forum". No one is keeping score. No one wins a million dollars for being right the most times. IT'S JUST CONVERSATION. Relax and enjoy it!