Skip to main content

PreSonus XMAX vs. ART ProChannel vs. EHX 12AY7 preamps .

I'm contemplating my next buy. It will be a preamp. I'm looking for "that tube sound". I need richness and clarity, etc. This preamp is primarily for vocals. If it does vocals well, then I'm happy. I can always try it out on other things.

That being said, I'm torn between these two:

[="http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/art-pro-channel-tube-mic preamp"]ART Pro Channel Tube Mic Preamp: Shop Pro Audio & Other Musical Instruments | Musician's Friend[/]="http://www.musician… preamp"]ART Pro Channel Tube Mic Preamp: Shop Pro Audio & Other Musical Instruments | Musician's Friend[/]

[[url=http://="http://www.musician…"]Electro-Harmonix 12AY7 Tube Microphone Preamp: Shop Pro Audio & Other Musical Instruments | Musician's Friend[/]="http://www.musician…"]Electro-Harmonix 12AY7 Tube Microphone Preamp: Shop Pro Audio & Other Musical Instruments | Musician's Friend[/]

My current rig uses the PreSonus FP10 (formerly Firepod). I am happy with the transparent XMAX preamps it has, but I want something better for my vocals. My voice is getting strong enough (or "pro" enough) to warrant a dedicated preamp for it.

Any advice?
Thanks!
-Johntodd

Comments

audiokid Fri, 09/30/2011 - 16:58
John, I'd wait and save your dollars for something significantly superior. Your vocals and artistic talent deserve better. Whatever you are stepping up from can't be much better. If I was you, I'd even shop second hand for something around that price instead of either of these on a retail price comparison.

Hope that helps.

audiokid Fri, 09/30/2011 - 18:01
Well deserved.

Note; your overall mix will improve with good pre-amps compared to the lower end mushy mids etc from those starters valve pre's. Keep that in mind when you are struggling to get everything to sit right during mixdown.
To be frank, I don't know if I would go for a tube pre at this stage of your game and budget either. The tube design is adding substantial cost to the build, maybe 1/2 to double the cost so, you better be paying a lot more to get any value from and tube pre . Always look at the big picture when buying something. Look at design cost to your door: , shipping and handling, marketing, manufacturer and dealers profit and what you have left in actual value after all that?

I'd go for a very good FET design. You will get more mileage out of it. Also, IMHO, tube gear has to be stellar to reap the benefits. High end tube gear has balls and silk but low end is mush and mud.
And this as well: If your converters aren't clean, everything you put through them is worse.

You need to take one step at a time and improve things where they count. Don't waste your money on something marginally better.

I'll think of something for you, others should be chiming in with recommendations I'm sure.

Maybe a used FMR RNP , not sure, never owned one but there is something much better for you I'm sure....

audiokid Fri, 09/30/2011 - 18:17
Maybe a used MP-1NV . I have the 2NV and its wonderful and really versatile. But its not cheap. Remember, we are in hard times so there are dea;s floating around. Here are others:
[[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.sweetwat…"]Grace Design model 101 | Sweetwater.com[/]="http://www.sweetwat…"]Grace Design model 101 | Sweetwater.com[/] But I would stay clear of Focusrite . They are just to pretty for me.

moonbaby Sun, 10/02/2011 - 07:59
Well, you can't really "model" what a good transformer and tube circuit will do for the right mic and voice. I aquired a used Presonus ADL600 earlier this year, mainly due to Davedog's accolades ( and a great deal on Craigslist). Wonderful with my U87a and an SM7b, also with the AT4047. Clean and warm, no fizziness there. Maybe a bit pricey for you right now, but hang in there and keep an eye on e-Bay and maybe the local musician listings in the Nashville area.

I agree with BT, in your probable price range, I'd stay away from tubes. A good FET, maybe with a good input transformer will be the way to go.
BTW, I have a Grace M101. It is great when you want total transparency (I like it on acoustic guitars, bluegrass instruments), but for what you're seeming to want, in that same price range, I'd look at a Daking Mic-Pre One. It's a nice transformer-coupled FET, very warm. I have a friend who has one and uses it for everything in his Logic project studio and swears by it. Check it out.

moonbaby Tue, 10/04/2011 - 10:34
I have a Solo/610 tube preamp. I bought it over the 710 simply because I had issues with the build quality of the 710.
They are the same price, and there are more bells and whistles on the 710, I just didn't think that it was as solidly built.
I like the 610 in the right context; it works well with an SM7b on leather-lunged rockers, and as a nicely-colored DI for bass and some synths. But on most vocals and an LDC, it is just too colored. Maybe the 710 would be better on that ( I just wouldn't peg that whimpy meter!).
Also keep this in mind....the UA boxes in this price range are apparently transformerless mic inputs. I say "apparently" because they sure don't say otherwise in their product info. Personally, I like what a good quality trannie does when a good mic and singer hit it, witness the GR, the new Empirical Mic-E, the Daking, and Rupert's new batch. I would rather pay for that design feature than a PCB-mounted tube. Just another view :)

steppingonmars Tue, 10/04/2011 - 14:50
They are transformerless and the build quality is probably not as high as others as far as switches, it being transformerless, jacks etc. That being said I've had it almost 2 years with no issues. You do get some colour with it, but its a very nice colour. I often use the Robbie with vocals on a condenser, but for a rock singer with a SM7, the 710 sounds killer

moonbaby Tue, 10/04/2011 - 14:57
"They are transformerless and the build quality is probably not as high as others as far as switches, it being transformerless, jacks etc. That being said I've had it almost 2 years with no issues. You do get some colour with it, but its a very nice colour. I often use the Robbie with vocals on a condenser, but for a rock singer with a SM7, the 710 sounds killer "

You ARE referring to the UA, not the 7th Circle, correct? Just don't want to confuse Mr. Todd with that. BTW, 7th Circle has been spoken of quite highly around here, I believe that the Davedog has some experience with that line..?

steppingonmars Tue, 10/04/2011 - 16:11
moonbaby, post: 376844 wrote: "They are transformerless and the build quality is probably not as high as others as far as switches, it being transformerless, jacks etc. That being said I've had it almost 2 years with no issues. You do get some colour with it, but its a very nice colour. I often use the Robbie with vocals on a condenser, but for a rock singer with a SM7, the 710 sounds killer "

You ARE referring to the UA, not the 7th Circle, correct? Just don't want to confuse Mr. Todd with that. BTW, 7th Circle has been spoken of quite highly around here, I believe that the Davedog has some experience with that line..?

Yes, the UA 710, that being said it's not junk either, it's still good quality

moonbaby Tue, 10/04/2011 - 16:33
Nobody said that the 710 was junk, UA makes very good gear. I simply looked at the 710 vs the 610 and decided to go with the 610. In my experience, simpler gear at the same price point from the same manufacturer usually indicates better reliability. Maybe so, maybe not, just my take. That, and the fact that I like a good transformer in the signal path. These days that costs an arm and a leg. This is why I suggested looking at the Daking in the first place.

audiokid Tue, 10/04/2011 - 17:22
moonbaby, post: 376846 wrote: Nobody said that the 710 was junk, UA makes very good gear. I simply looked at the 710 vs the 610 and decided to go with the 610. In my experience, simpler gear at the same price point from the same manufacturer usually indicates better reliability. Maybe so, maybe not, just my take. That, and the fact that I like a good transformer in the signal path. These days that costs an arm and a leg. This is why I suggested looking at the Daking in the first place.

Thinking much the same as moon on buying simple vs added bells including transformers. I was thinking the Daking as well, you beat me to it.. I've tried to get one here a few times, love to test one.
After this recession, high end gear is going to cost a lot more. Looking over at the slutz classified, its frantic with gear being dumped. crazy times :( I hope the good manufacturers are able to get through it.

Davedog Wed, 10/05/2011 - 12:27
None of those you originally listed are going to be anything more than a side-step from the pres you already have.

In the budget conscious single channels that I would trust there are a few. These are all under 750 new so used they'd be doable....

Summit Audio 2BA-221: Hasnt gotten the love it should...variable impedance gives you multiple mic sounds from a single mic and a variable HPF. Tubes.

True Systems P-Solo: This is as simple as it gets. One knob and a great build. Sorta clean in a large soundscape way.

Daking Mic Pro One: also my recommendation. Nothing but good stuff here.

UA Solo 610: Moon nailed it. The 710 has a kind of flimsy feel to its build. Its not flimsy inside but the 710 has a ton of features that for that price makes you wonder if they cut a corner here and there. I dont think UA is like that but.......

Focusrite ISA One: Chris cant possibly be referring to this line of Focusrite. And if he is, he needs to get some ISA line in to see for himself. This is the best bang-for-the-buck pre. I wish they had put the variable HPF on this box like the multi-channel ISA's have but everything else is in order. Its a 'clean' pre in that its not going to add that tube distortion but at the same time it has a Lundahl tranny and has that nice 'iron' in the sound. The soundscape is huge on these. Why they're so cheap ....who knows. High end manufacturing?? Its got good stuff inside and build is solid. There are several of us 'regulars' that have ISA pres and none of them are going to disagree with how they sound. They are superb surprises.


Theres one other little toy you might consider. I dont know if you have any low output mics such as an SM7b or a ribbon of some sort but the thing called the Cloudlifter is tearing it up for these types of mics. And extra 25dbs of nothing but clean but not pinched or tiny gain.

moonbaby Wed, 10/05/2011 - 13:11
Glad to gear from you, Dave! Hope the recovery process is going forward for you and your friend.
I had one of those Summit 2ba-221 boxes, and miss it. It's still residing at a church that I used to work for, being used on an acoustic-electric Taylor 412 that needed some "help" getting out to the board. They won't let me have it back! Worked great for bass, too.
There are a couple of little "juice boxes" for boosting lower output mics these days. That Cloudlifter is nice because it's available as a single- or dual-channel model. Hmmm...one side for the M160, the other for the SM7b (or RE-20). Ronan has been singing the praises of a similar device by Triton Audio, packaged in a Switchcraft-like metal tube. It apparently comes from Europe, but I haven't found anyone who actually has it to sell here in the US.
Geez, so many new pieces even in a bad economy...

Davedog Wed, 10/05/2011 - 14:33
Off Topic: Yeah, Labor Day weekend out for a cruise on the Road King and a dog ran out in front of us to chase a bicycle. We went down and Patty only had a couple of bruises and a bit of road rash whereas I have 8 broken ribs, a lacerated spleen and other minor internal injuries. the bike is bent but repairable. I turned the corner late last week and am feeling much better. 8 days in a trauma ward now home for three weeks. I'm actually going to play a gig this weekend though I'll be sitting down and only singing a few easy ones. First gigs I've ever missed in 40 years live on stage.


Now about those mic pres. The ISA has a ton of gain also. The True stuff is quite good. I did all the acoustic guitars on a record with a P2 Analog True and two old AKG 451's. The True kinda tamed the upper end of those mics in a nice subtle way. The ISA has a cool feature on it where you can blend the DI with the mic input. Good for a bass amp mic'd and the bass taken DI all at once. For me all the ones I listed all do different things and have the same kind of quality in their sound. Width and depth and fidelity. BTW. A 57 sounds great through a good preamp and that other mic will be determined by whether its a good one or not.

audiokid Wed, 10/05/2011 - 14:44
Davedog, post: 376882 wrote:
Focusrite ISA One: Chris cant possibly be referring to this line of Focusrite. And if he is, he needs to get some ISA line in to see for himself. This is the best bang-for-the-buck pre. I wish they had put the variable HPF on this box like the multi-channel ISA's have but everything else is in order. Its a 'clean' pre in that its not going to add that tube distortion but at the same time it has a Lundahl tranny and has that nice 'iron' in the sound. The soundscape is huge on these. Why they're so cheap ....who knows. High end manufacturing?? Its got good stuff inside and build is solid. There are several of us 'regulars' that have ISA pres and none of them are going to disagree with how they sound. They are superb surprises.
.

So glad to hear you are on the mend Dave!!!!!!!

coincidentally,

http://recording.org/microphones-forum/50428-which-of-these-vocal-mic-clips.html#post376895

RemyRAD Fri, 10/07/2011 - 20:44
John, might I suggest a simple transformer for your current preamp? I think the Transformers are more relevant than the search for the tube sound. When the sound goes into that coil and goes round & round, it comes out at different frequencies, at different speeds. It's these phase variations from input to output That we have come to enjoy the sound of. Phase differences do not just exist between 2 different microphones or two different inputs, etc.. And it's these minute variations that make a distinctive difference in what we perceive. A UTC, Triad, Jensen, St. Ives by itself might just do the trick. Being microphone transformers however, they provide free amplification before it goes into your microphone preamp. If it's a ratio of 1:6 you get six DB of gain. 1:10, 10 DB of gain, 1:15, 15 DB of free application. No strings attached. Call now! Operators standing by! Generally you will find that most tube equipment has an input transformer to begin with. Wonderful transistor preamps like API, NEVE, all use transformers and all have that warm quality that everybody enjoys on vocals. If you have neutered sounding preamps you will have a neutered sounding vocal. So better isn't necessarily better but different.

I'm glad you like that API emulated compressor. A lot of people like the original. I never liked them, at all. I probably never quite learned the right trick to give me what I wanted? So I had to settle for 1176's & LA 3's, etc. And what about that Spectra Sonics 610 compressor/limiter? What the heck was with that thing? I had a pair of those and could never get anything to sound good through them. So history. It's these combinations of equipment that can be a make or break scenario. Especially since I think that a 5 dollar, single 5534 IC chip microphone preamp can sound really great when you plug in a real Neumann U67 into it. And a $19 Radio Shaft microphone can sound really great when you plug it into a API or NEVE preamp. Take the best of both and what do you get? Drunk.

Sloshing great sound for years
Mx. Remy Ann David

JohnTodd Sat, 10/08/2011 - 10:04
OK, so I did some wiring tricks and ran my SM57 and Nady RSM4 through a Horizon Straightline passive DI box.

http://www.rapcohorizon.com/p-15-sl-2.aspx

Mine is like that except it's the older SL-1.

What I got was lower gain and more noise. I thought passive stuff wasn't supposed to have "much" noise in it. All in all, sound quality wasn't changed appreciably. Now I know, this isn't the right way to use a DI box, and it wasn't designed for recording a vocal mic. But I would think I would have heard something different other than noise.

Perhaps the Jensen xformer is too clean?

RemyRAD Sun, 10/09/2011 - 11:28
John, I would be interested to know how you wired that Passive direct box to your preamp? Generally, you would need a XLR Gender change adapter, to plug the microphone into the XLR output of the direct box. You then take the high impedance 1/4 inch inputs and use those as the outputs to the preamp. The reason you are getting lower gain with more noise is that you are running the microphones into the passive direct box backwards. You have to realize that the passive transformer is not 1:1 in its winding ratios like a line level output transformer is, generally. Although this is not always the case such as the output transformers used in API equipment have the ability to step up output gain since it has 3 separate secondary winding outputs that can be connected for different output reference levels. Small low voltage circuit direct box transformers will generally have winding ratios of greater than 10:1 or when run in the opposite direction 1:10. This will determine the step up or step down in associated levels. In fact many direct boxes have higher winding ratios. For instance, most feature 50,000 ohm input impedances, while having 150 ohm outputs. That's generally a higher Winding ratio than what one would typically need for a microphone transformer. That should provide higher gain output from the transformer since that is merely a 50:1 winding ratio. So if output is lower, it's backwards. And so, you would be going into the unbalanced, 1/4 inch input on your preamp not the XLR input which would load down the 50,000 ohm secondary side of the transformer excessively causing that lower noisier scenario. That's why that 50,000 ohm secondary needs to be loaded into a high impedance direct input. And the problem would be excessively severe utilizing that passive ribbon microphone as compared to the SM57 since those are generally a higher output microphone in comparison. And of course, while impedance is expressed in ohms, as in resistance measurements, inductance, while expressed in ohms, is a slightly different concept to understand. Inductance involves the transference of power as opposed to resistance and is still expressed in ohms. So there is frequently a lot of confusion there for a lot of people.

The reason why the old-school microphone preamp's all utilized input " step up" transformers was to keep the microphone preamp's quieter. That's because input circuits in the bygone era could not produce enough gain with low enough noise levels. So the transformer with this step up windings ratios were added since they provided free gain amplification before the microphone signal hit the first input stage of the microphone preamp circuitry. And since tubes have high input impedances. And transistors have, Medium input (depending upon the type used), they are not loading down nor displacing the proper transference of gain that the transformer has provided. This is where impedance matching is crucial. And when needed, these types of Transformers can also be utilized (since they are bidirectional) as pads to create a loss of transference or gain with a pad may be needed but unavailable. This is where there is something of a significant difference between a knowledgeable recording engineer and a knowledgeable broadcaster. When you have to get something on the air, the thought of being quality conscious kind of goes out the window, where understanding basic knowledgeable policies don't apply. This is where theory and practice collide. You have to get something on the air in an efficient, listenable and comprehensible way. Whereas your typical recording engineer is more concerned about attainable quality level. Basically, this comes down to a high wire or, juggling act, so to speak.

In a different example I may give is simple microphone preamp design. Let's use for example the API 2520 Operational Amplifier. I don't have my data sheet in front of me but somehow remember that the input impedance of the 2520 is approximately 20,000 ohms. The microphone input transformer (Jensen 110 series for instance) has a 10,000 ohm secondary. It is not being loaded down by the higher 20,000 ohm input on the operational amplifier. So full transference of power is accomplished. If the input impedance was 150 ohms, this would greatly load down that 10,000 ohm secondary, dragging down the level & other acoustic qualities or improvements.

I hope this provides some better understanding? I am sure our better educated members will be fairly appalled at this description of my fundamental inaccuracies. What I am trying to convey is that understanding the basic knowledge of your tools provides for you better efficiency and at least some understanding.

Get it on the air now!
Mx. Remy Ann David

JohnTodd Sun, 10/09/2011 - 18:38
Great post! I confused resistance with inductance - those ohms got me!

I wired the DI box like this: I have a passive attenuator box with XLR in and TRS out. That gave me the plugs necessary to go into the DI's HI-z in and XLR Lo-Z out to the preamp. Hey, I did wire it backwards, didn't I!?! Never thought of that. I looked up the schematic for this beforehand so I was sure I wouldn't let the magic smoke out.

I found a VST plugin that does xformer simulations. It is the TeslaSE plugin:

https://varietyofsound.wordpress.com/vst-effects/

Don't know if it is accurate, but I can hear it doing something. Unfortunately, I don't really know what xformers sound like!

Thanks!

Boswell Mon, 10/10/2011 - 04:52
I agree that you have the DI box wired backwards. The hiss is coming from the pre-amp trying to get enough signal out of a DI box working as an attenuator.

However, I don't think you did confuse resistance and inductance. Resistance (real), reactance (imaginary) and impedance (complex) are all measured in Ohms, whereas inductance is measured in Henries and capacitance in Farads.

At audio frequencies, input and output impedances of most professional audio gear can be considered resistive. Sometimes capacitance has to be taken into consideration, such as when using long leads from guitar pickups, but rarely inductance. It's the equipment designer's job to make the conventional connecting up of one piece of gear to another as easy as possible without inductance and capacitance effects getting in the way.
x

Register