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Which preamp sounds closest to the old MCI 400 series?

Member for

21 years
Please, just the straight and skinny, I understand all about the variables that effect the final sound, and *nothing* will sound like a well tuned MCI except another MCI console. I just need a map to guide me towards that sound. I know the MCI 400 series have been described as punchy and creamy. I would like to hear from someone who has used one, or currently still does, and their opinion of which pre would get me in the ballpark.

I'm looking at Vintechs, Sebs, API's, etc... you know along that line.

Why am I asking this? Due to a series of excellent recording I have that were done on an MCI JH 416 sonsole, straight to tape with no other effects added. I want that sound. And no, I cannot afford and MCI console.


Member for

13 years 5 months

porkyc Sat, 03/22/2008 - 15:17
MCI JH400 mic pre

Forgive this being so late in the day.
The early JH416 had a Beyer Transformer with the MCI 2001 opamp. This is a Harris HA-911. Obsolete.
The JH400A (Yellow/Cream) started with the same thing, but I have heard of later versions being the same as the JH400B (grey) that uses the JE-115K transformer, but I never saw this later version on an A series. I believe that all of these continued to use the 2001 chip.
The main change from the A to B versions was split routing (1-16/9-24), because it was only ever a 16-bus console, and the use of NE5534AH opamps in the bus-summing amps including the mix sum amps. (MCI2003). What I did on a number of these was to modify the mic pre to use Dean Jensen's recommendations for his transformer. I did the same thing to some Harrison 32 series boards that similarly used the Jensen with the HA911 chip.
I would suggest that the MCI 400 circuit is not the best available in its original form. That transformer is not man enough, and it's probably unobtanium.

Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Sun, 03/23/2008 - 18:51
Porkyc, a little late in the day? It's a year late. But it's never too late.

Yeah, that Harris chip was truly underwhelming sounding. Good riddance. But I thought that as of the tan/beige JH 428, they were using the 5534AN (MCI 2003) throughout? That along with the Dean Jensen JE110ke transformer not the 115. That came out later. By that time, they were all transformer less using those super beta match low noise transistor inputs that fed the 5534. That was way back in 1978. All I have are my manuals to the JH 600 series and JH 500 series consoles, still floating around here. That and the JH 10/110/114 series recorders, etc.. Yeah, more junk on the bookshelves that should be tossed out.

Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

21 years

Member Thu, 07/10/2008 - 15:55
i just bought a JH428B from Blevins. It has the jensen's in it. i believe that is specific to the B (grey) boards. it hasn't arrived yet but i'm very excited. the potential to upgrade it was a big factor in my purchase as was the iron on both ends. oh, and having a giant hunk of metal sitting in the control room may have been a factor as well.

Member for

13 years 5 months

porkyc Sat, 07/12/2008 - 13:14
Dear All,
Having read the threads now, there's some right snotty comments on this one. A guy asks about a mic pre amp and gets chastised for it!
What might have been suggested was that the sound of a JH400 was not entirely down to just the mic pre. Classic 400A album "Hotel California". The console was not DC to daylight, I can assure you; 100Hz -10Khz more like it! and the 400A had the Beyer transformer with Harris 911 chip. The Beyer transformer might be the same one that was used in the head preamp for the JH110 and JH 100/114, JH16 tape machines, I can't remember

The 400B had the 5534/2003 ONLY in the summing amps. The mic pres started with a Sescom MI-52 transformer as did the 500 and then moved to the JE-115. I never saw any 400/500 with the JE-110 version.

To answer the original question is that the parts used for the original 400/400A mic pre are so unobtainable as to not make the project worthwhile. Although I have actually got some 2001 ICs somewhere.
On another forum somebody wanted to build the JH500 mic pre....Why?
The JH500 mic pre singlehandedly started the ersatz/outboard mic pre amp industry.

Member for

13 years 5 months

porkyc Tue, 07/15/2008 - 05:25
I'm not decrying the choice to build a (not particularly good) mic pre, but that the sound that prompted the original question was not just down to the mic pre, and thus sourcing these obsolete parts might be an exercise in futility, given that you might be disappointed in the result, because of the other factors involved.
The 400 (and the 500) series consoles were all transformer coupled, they used this iffy IC because it was+/-24v capable. As a stock EQ, the 400 wasn't bad, but nothing special.
The point of the JH400 was that it was "Model T" stuff. It brought multitrack recording to the masses. Before MCI, consoles were hand made and expensive. Jeep Harned brought well-built (discuss!!) recording equipment into the average record label's budget. They could now afford to build their own recording studio.

The sound of these records is going to be down to (as well) Urei 1176s, LA2s DBX 160s

My main objection to some of the discussion was that it was personal and not technically objective. Basically one or two replies had suggested that the originator was a complete idiot for even thinking about it. My point is that there is more to this than just one circuit.