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Summit Audio 2BA-221 vs. Groove Tubes The Brick

Another one of those silly "what's best" posts...

My current recording rig is described in this post:
{old-link-removed}
(nevermind the long desired equipament list)

Seems that, thanks to some new project I've started working on, I'll be able to get my hands on some cash, and I would like to invest it in what I think is the least capable part of my audio chain - the preamp.

For a long time, I had my mind set on the GT The Brick (which I can get for 399euros), but thanks to moonbaby, I also started looking into Summit Audio's 2BA-221 (589euros).

Considering this will be my only "real" preamp, which one would you think is my best choice? My guess is that because of the solid-state input section, the adjustable tube gain (not starved plate, for all I know) and the variable impedance, the Summit would be a better option, as I would have more tonal variety - I could go from clean to somewhat colored from a single preamp. Am I right?

Secondary question: how much variety, tone-wise, could I expect using the variable impedance on my two recording mics - Audio-Technica AT3035 and Shure SM57?

Third: could I be better off with getting a really clean preamp for my first quality preamp(of which not such a big fan - I like the "dirty" kind of sound)?

Thanks in advance.

Mihai Toma

Comments

Member for
16 years 1 month

jonnyc Fri, 08/03/2007 - 13:17

I've heard good things about the summit, I've heard many more good things about the brick. The only thing that bothers me about the summit is I believe it runs on a wall wart and that would lead me to believe it's starved plate. Could be wrong but you might want to look into it.

Profile picture for user moonbaby
Member for
16 years 3 months

moonbaby Sat, 08/04/2007 - 00:57

The Summit does NOT run off of a wall wart, NONE of their gear runs as a "starved tube". Summit is professional audio gear, not some Chinese toy. The Brick has gotten a lot of hype here and on other sites because it is a great tool... FOR THE MONEY. I owned 2 of them and sold them to upgrade to the 2BA-211 for a simple reason: flexibility. The Brick is not that easily interfaced to unbalanced gear, it provides NO way to control
(i.e., attenuate) its' considerably high output level, and was primarily designed (and marketed) to be a DI. It does sound good and has a good "bang-for-the-buck" factor.
The 2BA-211 provides a variable input impedance control. Ever use one of those? You can "load" the mic properly and hear an audible difference as you rotate the control. It does wonders on an RE-20 or an AT4047, and any number of other mics. Then there's the DI feature which is MIXABLE with that mic input. This allows you to blend a mic placed on a guitar or bass cabinet with a DI of that instrument at the SAME TIME. Even flip the polarity and/or pad the mic input if you need to. There's a high pass filter that's SWEEPABLE. And an insert loop that makes it a helluvalot easier to use with RNCs than the Bricks were. It's cleaner when I want it to be, but can get a nice "fatness" when set for it. It's quieter. It has more outputs. It's a snap to rack mount. It has more lights. It's a bargain for less than $200 more than the Brick.
I already told Mihai some (but not all) of this, so I was gonna stay out of this post. But, when I read "wall wart"...! And you know who I can thank for turning ME on to this little kick-ass box? CUCCO, here at this site, that's who. See, even an old fart like me can learn a thing or two from the "youngsters" who live and breathe this stuff....

Member for
51 years 5 months

Mandachuva Sat, 08/04/2007 - 03:41

:lol:

@moonbaby:
Sorry, but I cannot help but laugh (in amusement) in response to your, IMHO, a tad over-zealous response. Don't worry, I knew that the Summit does not run on a wall wart - just wanted to point that out to jonnyc. And thanks again for the head's-up and the info on the 2BA-211 (why THE HELL did they plant such a daft and hard to remember name on it, anyway?)!

Have you tried it as a bass DI? And if so, how does the 2BA-211 act in that departement? I'm asking because I read a couple of posts stating that it's a bit weak as a bass DI...

The reason for which I started this post, is that I wanted to gather also other's people opinions on the 2BA-211, so I can (hopefully) end up with a wider picture on the subject (does that even make sense in English?).

Member for
51 years 5 months

patrick_like_static Sat, 08/04/2007 - 04:16

I have exactly one use I really like my Brick for: mic'ing guitar amps. It seems to make the sound feel more up-front when dialed in right. I bought one mostly based on all the hype and good reviews, and I feel that money could have better spent on something more versatile.

The Brick's distortion is pretty fizzy to me, and frankly, not extremely useable (although cf. my comment on guitar amps above). I posted vocal clips some time ago of my Alesis preamps versus The Brick's and the results weren't groundbreaking--I mean, you'd probably have chosen The Brick, but at my budget, I'd prefer $400 to make a stronger impression.

My advice is to play around with one (or at least listen to some examples) before you make a decision.

Profile picture for user moonbaby
Member for
16 years 3 months

moonbaby Sat, 08/04/2007 - 06:55

Patrick: Yes, I like the Brick with a 57 on a good amp. And the "fizziness" you refer to is dependent upon what you are terminating the Brick into. I noticed that, too, when driving a Mackie VLZ input. Not so with an A&H GL2. Don't really know why, it just did.
Mihai: Yes, I was a bit over-zealous, it was 4am here in Florida and I was up all night doing sound for a ridiculously-loud techno band. I was tired and definitely 'punchy' ! I have had no issues with the 2BA on bass. In fact, that's one of my favorite uses: I plug the bass (usually a P-bass, sometimes an active Carvin) into the DI input, then I mic the amp (an Ampeg B-15) with either a Sennheiser MD421 or an E-V RE-20 plugged into the mic input. Then I can mix the 2 sources together within the 2BA!
This works well for guitar, as well.
By the way, your English is better than a lot of American posters here!

Member for
51 years 5 months

patrick_like_static Sat, 08/04/2007 - 15:32

Moonbaby,

I'm really intrigued by your statement about The Brick: I'm running mine via an XLR-to-TRS cable into the combo connectors (balanced) on my Alesis interface. Are you saying that connecting it a different way may yield a more euphonic overdrive?

I realize this request might be a bit much, but I'd like to hear what "continuously variable" (versus toggle-able) impedance sounds like. Would you mind posting clips of a recognizable microphone (a '57 is great) into your 2BA-221 while you rotate the impedance control?

Profile picture for user moonbaby
Member for
16 years 3 months

moonbaby Mon, 08/06/2007 - 03:00

OK. First off, I will post some clips next week of a 57 mic'ing a small Fender amp through the 2BA. I will also use an RE20, which has, by far the most sensitivity to the variable-impedance input loading. I am working on re-locating a church I work for this week, and won't get to the studio until that's done.
Patrick: The type of connector on the gear isn't the issue to which I was referring. When you terminate a balanced output of the Brick into an unbalanced piece like the FMR RNC, you get a 6dB loss of gain. And in a way, that's not bad, because the Brick has such a hot output to begin with.
It just isn't the greatest thing to do from a noise level standpoint. Added to that, the lack of an OUTPUT attenuator on the Brick, which can result in slamming the input on the next piece downstream from it (i.e., the RNC).

Profile picture for user Cucco
Member for
17 years 3 months

Cucco Mon, 08/06/2007 - 07:25

Moonbaby's right on! The Summit is a serious piece of pro gear at a stupid cheap price!

The variable gain stage is a god send (can you say 100 different pres in one little box?!)

The variable impedance is awesome - especially for dynamic or ribbon mics!

Oh, I can attest to the following -

1 - No starved plate here!
2 - Wonderul as a bass DI - a bit thick, but when put in the mix, it's lovely!

For anyone looking for a single channel pre for not too much money, I almost always recommend the Summit or the Grace 101. If I were doing traditional studio work all of the time, I'd have a rack full of Summits!

All of the above being stated, I should mention - I don't hate the brick. In fact, I like it quite a lot. However, in comparison to the Summit, it's a bit of a one-trick pony.

Cheers!

Jeremy

Profile picture for user AudioGaff
Member for
20 years 3 months

AudioGaff Mon, 08/06/2007 - 11:19

My 2-cents. The Summit half rack cheap b-line stuff is not the same class as the other A-line products made by Summit. If it works for you then that is all that matters, but I got to use/listen to the 1/2-rack mic pre when they first came out and I sure would not waste my money on that stuff.

Profile picture for user moonbaby
Member for
16 years 3 months

moonbaby Mon, 08/06/2007 - 12:37

Fair enough. I have a couple of Grace 101s, and, while they are not up to the level of their higher-priced counterparts, like the 201 or the 801, the 101 is a great little box, easily surpassing the other $600 (+/-) pre's out there. I feel the same about the 2BA, especially when comparing it to the Brick.

Member for
51 years 5 months

Costy Mon, 08/06/2007 - 12:56

I worked with Summit 221 and own a couple of Bricks. So, my 2-cents:
IMO, Summit is OK pre, but as TUBE pre it is not much. As all one-tube
devices. The Brick is all-tube through DI (3 tubes), and that's what
it is. If you need tube effect - the Brick'll do a nice job.
I, personally, prefer to keep solid state and tubes in different boxes.

Member for
16 years 1 month

jonnyc Tue, 08/07/2007 - 00:00

moonbaby wrote: The Summit does NOT run off of a wall wart, NONE of their gear runs as a "starved tube". Summit is professional audio gear, not some Chinese toy. The Brick has gotten a lot of hype here and on other sites because it is a great tool... FOR THE MONEY. I owned 2 of them and sold them to upgrade to the 2BA-211 for a simple reason: flexibility. The Brick is not that easily interfaced to unbalanced gear, it provides NO way to control
(i.e., attenuate) its' considerably high output level, and was primarily designed (and marketed) to be a DI. It does sound good and has a good "bang-for-the-buck" factor.
The 2BA-211 provides a variable input impedance control. Ever use one of those? You can "load" the mic properly and hear an audible difference as you rotate the control. It does wonders on an RE-20 or an AT4047, and any number of other mics. Then there's the DI feature which is MIXABLE with that mic input. This allows you to blend a mic placed on a guitar or bass cabinet with a DI of that instrument at the SAME TIME. Even flip the polarity and/or pad the mic input if you need to. There's a high pass filter that's SWEEPABLE. And an insert loop that makes it a helluvalot easier to use with RNCs than the Bricks were. It's cleaner when I want it to be, but can get a nice "fatness" when set for it. It's quieter. It has more outputs. It's a snap to rack mount. It has more lights. It's a bargain for less than $200 more than the Brick.
I already told Mihai some (but not all) of this, so I was gonna stay out of this post. But, when I read "wall wart"...! And you know who I can thank for turning ME on to this little kick-ass box? CUCCO, here at this site, that's who. See, even an old fart like me can learn a thing or two from the "youngsters" who live and breathe this stuff....

Don't talk down to me like I'm a child. Have a I used a variable impedance? I could almost hear the condescending tone in your voice as you typed that. Yes I have by the way. I have several very nice preamps and have worked with many more. I said in my original post that I wasn't sure. You just don't find a lot of half rack stuff with internal power supplies(was thinking rnp on that one) and most of the hybrid boxes I've seen have been starved plate and generally pieces of crap. I actually used to be interested in trying this box but I had several people at gearslutz suggest other stuff and eventually lost interest. Sorry if I hurt your feelings or for whatever caused your little outburst.

Profile picture for user AudioGaff
Member for
20 years 3 months

AudioGaff Tue, 08/07/2007 - 11:28

I don't really have suggestion for a pro mic pre less than $600. I suppose this should be moved to the Budget forum. If you want a tube pre amp, I would get a real tube preamp. My choice was the Groove Tubes ViPre although I was saving for the DW Fearn and still kind of wish I got that instead. I would likely prefer the Brick over the hybrid Summit as at least the Brick is a real full tube design.

Unless you are in a real hurry or are set on getting a tube mic pre, I suggest you save your money and get either an API or API compatible mic pre and rack.

Member for
51 years 5 months

Mandachuva Wed, 08/08/2007 - 05:04

@Audiogaff, jonnyc:
Mind you, I'm currently owning a Focusrite Saffire LE, and that's that in terms of AD/DA and preamps... I'm looking for the next step up for my preamp(s), and I am also fond of a pinch of tube character - it mostly suits my style; but clean is also a necessity (OK, and I also want Jennifer Lowe Hewitt bundled in :D). Considering this, and not the (false) fact that I already have a good bank of preamps, would you maintain your statements regarding the suitability of the Summit for my needs?

Hope that made sense...

[edit] Just noticed this has been moved to "Budget Gear" - laughing my ass off ever since. Although the move is somewhat justified from a non-Romanian point-of-view, it find it very amusing from MY (Romanian) POW, as budget gear would be Behringer for us, and anything as "high-end" as the Summit is not to be found in the Romanian landscape - maybe that's why 99% of all recordings sound like **** (insert favorite four letter word), and the rest of them sound bad. Rant over.

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