Another 'what to buy' question

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by Jeemy, Apr 26, 2005.

  1. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    OK, this may sound like the same question asked a million times, but I would appreciate the advice.

    I'm getting OK recordings but I know am being let down by preamps. I am about to sink either £1250 or £2500 into the studio and have the following choices.

    First my current signal path.

    D112, C4s, K2, MD421, HM-1, e609, 57/58 std/beta, ATM4033

    Into RME Fireface 800, or Mackie VLZ Pro desk, or Joe meek VC1QS

    Into G5 running Cubase SX / Waves diamond

    I've already done as much to treating my rooms as can be done, BTW. I really need some advice on whether what I have done is good enough but I think it more than suffices, I've spent over £1000 on it if that is any indication.

    So my options:

    1) £1250 would buy me a set of the JLM TMP8 units. That gives me 8 channels for live drums, and plenty DIs and the soft limiters.

    However would I be better buying a Seb vmp200, and using the remaining £500 or so to kick me up a mic level, i.e. an AkG 414 or a s/h 4047 or Royer 121.

    2) £2500 depends on my business partner, this would give me the choice of either:

    a) Both the JMP and the vmp2000, plus a £4-500 mic

    b) One or the other, and a s/h Soundelux iFet7

    I record rock, jazz, blues, and occasionally big band, but want to excel in the rock and indie fields.

    I guess basically I am asking does 2 channels of valve Seb so far outweigh 8 channels of op-amp JMP that I am better just continuing with the RME for my overheads and toms, and using Seb for kick/snare, and then everything else?

    Drums is the only place 8 channels matters really I guess. EVerything else will have 2 mics only, although I do like to record 10-track demos live.....

    Long-term is not a concern. Long-termly I will need both, and many other pres as well, as eventually I want to record 16-24 tracks live.

    But just now, what d'ya reckon gives me the best quality jump? Are my mics good enough that pres only is the way to go? Or do I need a much better vocal/flagship mic too?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  2. LittleDogAudio

    LittleDogAudio Active Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    I would take a strong look at the API 3124+.

    It, imho, is one of the best drum mic pre's around and also sounds great on just about every other source. The basic API preamp has been around forever and so far ,there has been no need for an upgrade. It's one of the most used pre's in the pro community and will hold it's market value all day long.

    Just a suggestion.

  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I've used all three pres mentioned and I own the Sebatron vmp 4000e. I have been patiently waiting for a new review unit of the JLM TMP8 for some time now and I'm thinking I may just have to break down a purchase one. It's that good. With a TMP8, I would be happy and not lust for the much more expensive APIs so much.

    IMO the JLM compares to the APIs quite favorably and the sound is similar enough that I doubt that anyone could tell the difference unless the two were compared side by side. Even in that case, it would most likely be very subjective as to which was better. The differences are pretty subtle.

    I also love the Sebatron. There's nothing like that tube sound. The Sebs can be very clean as well because they only employ one stage of tube gain and only have the transformer across the inputs, rather than inputs and outputs. So the coloration of a Seb can vary from super transparent (yet warm) to downright filthy (yet present), all depending on how hard you drive the pre and what pad and eq settings are engaged. The ability to cascade channels for more gain and color is a big plus.

    I use the Seb to boost gain on sources like old cassettes and what it does for line sources at mix and mastering stages make the VMPs one of the most used pieces in my studio.

    You would be fine with either offering from these two Australian manufacturers.
  4. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    I did consider the API, more specifically the 7th Circle A22 units. But the soldering time required put me off - I am in the enviable situation that my business is busy enough I can make more money working than I can save, soldering.

    The 'tube sound' Kurt mentions is exactly why am considering the Sebs instead, but I think if the TMP compares to the API so favo;urably and what Chris says is right, I will get more benefit out of 8-channels of op-amp than I will out of 2 of tube just now, especially given that a lot of what I do is live 10-track recordings.

    The other side to the questions was would I get more benefit out of 2 channels of tube and a s/h higher-grade mic, than 8 channels of op-amp?

    I am inclined to still go with the 8 channels, learn the benefits of the system as it works with my existing, and then add a mic later when I can hear the difference as a single change to the signal chain, rather than make major changes all at once.

    Its a big thing to me, to build up in stages and learn in stages, rather than to throw myself in at the deep end with a bundle of kit that will sound better initially, but never have the chance to master each unit through necessity. I think long-termly it works for my clients too, giving reputation and skill time to build, and raising my day rate in line with both, rather than using the equipment to justify the rate.

    I think Joe has a sale....
  5. LittleDogAudio

    LittleDogAudio Active Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    Jeemy, you have the right idea to slowly build knowledge and confidence over time. After 22 years as a studio owner, I'm still learning on a daily basis.

    There are quite a few "new-breed" studio guys that go out and buy a ton of gear and become overwhelmed by the details. A much better approach is to carefully buy a piece and take the time to try it out on everything until you know it's upside and failings, then move on to the next purchase.

    You'd be suprised how much more useful a certain peice can be if given the time to experiment with it.

    Good Luck

  6. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    You can learn a lotta new things, especially when it comes to DAWs- I've been using Digital performer for about 15 years now and I am always discovering new ways of doing things- its amazing how deep these programs are
  7. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    Well the plot thickens.

    My business partner came up with the extra, so now I have £2500 to spend.

    The TMPs are a foregone conclusion I already emailed Joe.

    So now, I have some options. As stated I want to purchase sensibly. I also want to try & keep the learning curve right. This is why i am leaning towards microphones, as I can evaluate with my existing pres without getting confused. But I am keen on the Sebs. So after £1185 for the TMPs I have got £1315 to spend.

    Really I want something that will complement the pres I just got in other dimensions.

    Options are:

    a)One top-class mic. Leaning towards the Soundelux iFet7, which would eat the budget but provide me with 2 good timbres and u87 quality. This gives me a golden signal path but no inline compressor still.

    b) One piece of top-class outboard. To top off signal chain, an inline compressor that I could use on the mix bus too? Or a nice channel strip for vocals....or the Seb vmp2000s...the Thorax gives me a valve pre and compressor, but then I don't have a equal-level mic to put through it all....Drawmer 1968 Merc Edition....1176 Dual?

    c) Try to get a decent mic, without going crazy, and a decent outboard compressor, so that I have a golden signal chain that includes both. Say a s/h AKG 414 or TLM103, and an LA610 or single-channel 1176.

    d) Save my money for the future.

    If anybody (dealers, consumers) knows of any good deals on something like the LA-610 and a mic, which I am liking, let me know by PM, or hopefully I will get some advice here without a new thread. Remember I've done my browsing in US dollars, but am happy buying from the UK if the prices don't outweigh the after-tax saving.

    Thanks in advance guys.
  8. JBsound

    JBsound Guest

    I've got to agree with LittleDog about the API 3124. It is definitely one of those preamps that sound great, are built great, and hold their value well. I hate that my studio is selling ours right now, but I plan to pick one up again soon. It will put you in another league. Sounds friggin awesome on drums.

    You also would probably like the AT4047. I use mine extensively for rock type sounds...drums, guits, vocals, etc. Kind of rolled off top end (slightly) and it sounds vintage but in a hifi sort of way. Real cool vibe.

    It all starts at the source...musician, instrument, etc. The mic and the preamp are the first two in terms of importance when you're considering gear. I definitely would go for quality and not quantity.
  9. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    Aye, but surely if Kurt reckons the TMP and API are virtually indistinguishable, is would be better with 8 channels of TMP for drums than 4 of API for 50% more cost?

    I have no doubt I will put APIs in eventually....but I guess a lot of people have not heard or used the TMPs so the point about them being indistinguishable is an unknown factor.

    Anyone else on this? Unless I am being a fool by taking the TMP over the API I would rather not turn around and tell Joe IS changed my mind....and if I did do that I would want to do it today before he wakes up and reads the order......

    The 4047 was actually one of my 3 choices at the top. I used a brought-in one on a jazz vocalist and loved it, despite the fact I hadn't heard anything else at that level. But I liked the Royer cos I am a guitar player, and it works on both guitar and male vocal well, so i hear tell.

    The 4047 is $549, so figure £368 over here. Compared to the 414 at $899 its a great price, and have heard nothing but good about them. Although people say quality over quantity, I would rather not blow all my budget on a $1800 mic and have nothing decent to run it through!!

    So I guess am looking at, in order of decision and each decision affecting the next:

    API or TMP (the hardest choice)
    4047 or other mic (414, TLM103, 121)
    LA-610 if I can still afford it (and I am liking that option)

    I guess if I go API, IS can maybe get a dealer to shoot me a deal. Or I might go second-hand on some of this.
  10. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    I see that I am too late, here... Oh well. Maybe others are looking in and might benefit anyway? Here's what I should have said earlier. BTW, I am not commenting on the 8 channel pre and some of the other stuff as I don't know anything about them.

    Before jumping on the really expensive gear that shapes your sound pre-computer, you need to get more experience with excellent, affordable, "clean" gear, until you can determine all by yourself what might benefit from, "improvement through intentional distortion".

    Let's start with very good, well-respected, "pro" gear that any studio not only would be proud to have, but likely already does(Even though a long-time pro studio may have now "moved back" to fine tube gear, for some very good reasons, you are not ready to do so.).

    Just one good solid-state mic and mic pre and a good set of speakers(Assuming the room is good already, as you say.), would give you the chance to have at least one good quality signal path to compare all others with. Eventually, you can get all the paths up to "good" to "very good", and only then might you consider attempting to move up to "great.

    While tube gear can be a long-term goal, you first need a very clean reference, so again eventually, you can tell what tube gear you may acquire is giving you - or not. And, frankly, most of the time you just want clean from your gear...

    What you need:

    An excellent interface - RME sounds fine to me.
    Excellent software - Cubase sounds good.
    A mixer to monitor with, etc. Mackie's fine.
    An excellent dynamic mic - RE-20, 421, or M99.
    An excellent condenser - 414B(X)LS or MC834.
    An excellent solid state pre - Grace is good.
    Excellent speakers - Emes, Dynaudio, etc.

    I am NOT putting down anything tube, including mics, I just want you to have an excellent "state of the art" reference, first.

    Get your squeaky-clean studio together, work with it, learn it, then, let's talk "tubes"and names like SoundDeluxe.

  11. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    Thanks for all the advice.

    I am 99% set. I am gonna stick with the TMPs. They seem to fir with what you are saying above, good solid-state pres, Kurt says they are close to the APIs, 8 channels suits me very well, and the price per channel suits me too, as does the soft limiter feature.

    I am gonna combine this with a Microtech Gefell M930, and am still wondering about anything else. I might hold off for a Thorax, Drawmer 1969 ME, or just plump for the LA-610.

    Based on Teddy's post and advice from this site, all that leaves me to sort is the speakers. I've already got a 421, the MS930 sorts the condensor, and the fact of the matter is that again based on advice from this site it doesn't appear like I am gonna better the Yamaha monitors without spending a lot more cash, and my control room acoustics are better than most amateur studios (thank you knightfly) so I think that helps the monitoring.

    That said second hand BM5s on evilbay are running at under £100 so I will push the budget and put a set in.

    All good, fun fun fun. I think these are sensible choices. As long as I am sensible too and start with the TMPs, use the 930 on vocals only once I've run a few TMP/K2 tracks, and I am just casting around for a channel strip to really make my guitar and vocal sounds stand out.

    Thanks all, more comments welcome.
  12. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    You do, of course, sound like you have a good handle on things and it is great to hear others advice, but I "missed" the speakers? What do you have now and are you contemplating upgrading to what? Yamahas? Which?

    Speaking of speakers(I'm ogling the Yamaha $600 per pair 5" myself, for my VO studio - no BIG BASS here, to worry about - sadly...). However, before sending any checks I am re-looking at passive speakers, as opposed to actives... Many manufacturers make both active and passive versions of "the same" speakers - like Dynaudio, Tannoy, etc. And, many amp manufacturers now make, almost "companion" amps(At least they seem to have such types in mind...), for many of these speakers. One "benefit"(?) may be that the crossovers in some of the passives are - passive... not electronic(Said by some to be a good thing?). Moving ALL electronics away from the speakers themselves "may" be a good thing? A detraction may be that you might use just one amp per speaker box, sted the custom "bi-amp" in many actives? Of course, the higher-line passives are capable of bi-amping, though that would involve two separate, seperate amps...

    Biggest advantage of passive speakers with seperate amps, for me, has got to be that they are - seperate! One element goes out and, you don't toss/send back the whole thing. The amp can remain in the rack, or at a place closer than the speakers, maybe with it's own more elaborate "shaping" tools(EQ, etc.), to tune the speakers to the room, again, right there, not the limited controls on the back of the speaker box. The amp volume control knob(s)/on-off switch can be right there at hand.

    At least one manufacturer "Lipinski" says the amp being outside the speaker box is a good thing..? I think it depends on the care of the entire design, but..? He has a possible point(Not really a "new" point either.) AND, again, makers like Dynaudio DO offer passives of much of their line - someone must like them? Cost of passives, with a comparable quality seperate amp(s), can be nearly equal to the actives.

    Just another thought.

  13. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    Maybe missed that. I have the Yamaha MSP5s which suit me fine. A tiny bit fatiguing in the high end maybe.

    I also have Tannoy Reveals (passive) which to me are much more like home hi-fi speakers - flabby in the low end and with a mid scoop.

    I find them useful sometimes for comparison, they often reveal hollowness in the mix, especially useful for bands with strings or wind for pad.

    Unfortuantely they are powered from a Samson Servo 180 I hear two sides from this argument, the one that actives have better-paired amplification, and the other, well, what you said....

    I am basically trying to fill the holes in my setup without committing myself to too much that won't move easily (translate!) when I relocate to the new facility I am looking for early 2006. At that point, once I know what my rooms are like, I can start taking a few sets of speakers and testing them out, not to mention farfields and amps....

    Again I hope my ear to be much better by then, hence trying to take it one piece at a time.

    I don't have any excellent preamps, so the TMP8s seem natural - otherwise I am not able to listen for improvements from other factors such as mic positioning when the existing preamps degrade the sound by being part of the chain.

    Ditto a top-quality vocal mic - and regardless of where you put it, or the fact that a lot of people here more experienced than me get perfect results out of the K2 - if you shove the Gefell in front of a singer, you're gonna see improvement.

    So that leaves me with about £800 to spend on a piece of signal chain that adds familiar and perhaps 'expected' colouration to guitars and basses - something like a 1176 or U5. This I can take my time over.

    The Drawmers get mixed reviews and I am a long way off the 1969ME. A Grace 101 is within pricerange, but I am not convinced it provides enough disparity from the RMEs or TMP8s to add value. I like the LA-610 idea but nobody has sung its praises here. I like the Thorax idea, it seems better than buying a VMP2000, as I still get one VMP preamp within, and I don' t need to record many acoustic instruments in stereo yet......

    Something that really enhances guitar.....but I got 2 pretty interesting additions to start learning so I can wait - the soft limiters on the TMP8 preamps are gonna be a hell of a lesson, but if they get the tape warmth to drums in any small way with the API 'another-league' drum sound, that will make me a happy man.

    And if it pushes the day rate up a tad I can add to the remainder for a nice channel strip. Perhaps even a UAD-1 Universal Audio/Pultec type thing as realistically I see only outboard suitable for 'the way in' being useful to me for a while at least - but thats a new thread.

    Trouble is, in my business, its better to spend the cash when you can, as a lump sum often gets gnawed away at.......
  14. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    I'm sorry I don't know how 800 pounds translates into dollars US, but if it's around a grand you have left, will you GET a great tube pre, or great piece of outboard gear or anything besides maybe a fine, solid a C414?(I'm pushing AKG this week!)...

    I sort've agree on the "super mic" being ultimately cool, but, for the money(Which you no longer have..?), the AKG would still be pretty darned cool - for darned near everything...

    By the way: How about the UAD powered plug-in thingey? How much is that? You could "fake" some of the fancy, vintage outboard gear for awhile? Exercise those RME's? Maybe you'd never have to bother with the real thing?

    Have fun,

  15. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    £800 is about $1500. I wouldn't be far off, hell, I could get 2 channels of Sebatron, 2 Grace 101s, all sorts.

    Not sure about the UAD-1, just cos I haven't researched it yet.

    I like the idea of having these things internally, if they beat my Waves stuff, which I don't again know the answer to.

    But I am very very close to going with the Langevin Dual Vocal Combo. I know people will tell me to save a bit more and go for Manley but this thing would last me well I think.

    Its not tube, but it is EL OP and it is a recommended and respected pre unit, and what's more, for no real reason, I like it!

    I don't have to make the choice yet. I still fancy Seb/tube, but would wait and buy a Thorax. But if I take the Langevin and the M930 simultaneously, I'll get a discount on the two......and I can still return either if I don't like 'em.

    Just means I will have to audition them fast and hard.
  16. elektro80

    elektro80 Guest

    The UAD-1 is really something. It does not directly compare with the Waves stuff. You might still feel you need the Waves plugins, but I am pretty sure you will more often use one of the UAD-1 compressors than you will the Waves compressors. Right, and be sure to get the full bundle.. you will want all of the plugins. If you get the ProjectPak bundle you will probably buy the rest of the plugins anyway.
    Hmm, and I have run out of slots in my mac now. Those UAD-1 cards got them all.
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