Focusrite ISA 428. Preamp myths and expectations. Help!!

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by jazzy655, Mar 6, 2005.

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  1. jazzy655

    jazzy655 Guest

    So I have a presonus Eureka and an Art Pro channel. They're ok, but all of the true professionals I know are telling me to stop wasting money on these prosumer gear, and instead buy a couple real pieces.

    I'm considering purchasing the Focusrite ISA 428. Am i really going to hear a difference in my mixes send stuff through this instead of the Eureka??

    I'm curious and want to find out if something is fact or myth, so here goes. Is it true that by sending your tracks through true hi-end pres and converters make songs practically mix themselves? Is it safe to assume that my mid level pres are making my tracks fight for space in the mix?

    Just so you know, i'm doing mostly hiphop and r&b productions.
    This purchase is mainly to enhance the music, not the vocals. I already have RME converters, and I hear those are pretty good.

    If you want to hear the music that i'm trying to improve apon you can hear some at

    I guess i'm just looking for some verification that I will hear results and improvement from my $1700 investment in higher end pres.

    Thanks for any help.
  2. PCM

    PCM Guest

    no gear will "mix itself". You'll save time and effort with good mic placement, room etc, but I'm assuming as you do hip hop, probably not doing drums, mostly direct?

    either way, yes, good gear sounds better, and should help things sit better in the mix as the depth, dynamics, will be "better". However, people tend to blame their gear for bad rooms, bad engineering talent etc. Not saying this in your case (I didn't listen to your stuff yet), but something to think about.

    The ISA is great and a friend of mine (R&B producer) loves it- very nice sounding box. I like the isa 110 sound (one of my favorite pres).
  3. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    May 25, 2004
    Yep that´s true. The really high-level stuff comes with Mix-O-Matic (tm), so they mix themselves. This is one of best kept secrets of this industry. The very best kept secret is the Digitalmastering-At-Distance, where the mastering process is done through psychic powers from the mastering central. These two secrets, known in the industry as mom and dad are only part of the very top-level stuff.

    Well, jazzy, if you find any of those, please tell me. I think hard work is the only thing that will give results. It is to a very small degree about the equipment, and to a very large degree other things if you ask me.

  4. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    May 25, 2004
    Ooh, forget to say that the ISA is a very nice machine, on my wish list as well.

  5. Aziel

    Aziel Guest

    well, is not that they mix just that you need a lot less efort mixing...because you need less EQ or non EQ at all...there are other caracteristics you have to notice...the space have a "deepness" you dont have in most prosumer pres...and other stuff you are going to realize when own and work a lot with a decent pre...btw, the ISA is an excelent choice for the price... :wink:
  6. J-MADD

    J-MADD Active Member

    Aug 19, 2004
    Home Page:
    I have an isa 428 and I would say that what it does for me is add a bigger sound to your source. I love what it does to drums it really picks up the body of them more than say plugging direct to the preamps on my Korg 32xd.

  7. jazzy655

    jazzy655 Guest


    i guess i should have choosen my words better. i know it won't literally mix itself, but i just wanted to know if it would make mixing this stuff easier.
    thanks for the feedback, that's exactly what i wanted.

    i'm off to for my ISA 428 now! i'll be back with results (i hope)
  8. amg1

    amg1 Guest

    Jazzy, you will love the ISA. I to produce Hip Hop, R&B, Rap, etc. and the ISA is my only frontend right now and has never fell short yet. It will make a real difference in what you've been hearing. More true to the source with a little tonal massaging added. It is a good place to start.

    What mics are you using? The ISA will really introduce you to what your mics are capable of.

    When you get it let us know how you feel it.

    And no it dosen't mix for you, just makes it easier to mix because it doesn't introduce any of the negative distortion that the lower grade pres do. Just a more open reproduction of your source.

  9. jazzy655

    jazzy655 Guest

    my mics

    one thing i've found with the cheap pres i've been using, is that they cause my mixes to lack a strong center with solid mids. seems like i only get highs and lows, with a scoop in the mid section that leaves the mixes seeming a little harsh.

    anyone else experience this with the midlevel and cheaper stuff?

    in response to the question about my mics...
    at the moment for mics i mainly use a rode nt1000. I also have a studio projects C1, but it is a professional dust collector. now that i've got some cash, and i'm getting some real pres, i'm also about to invest in a good mic or two. on my list of mics to try are the rode K2, and also a brauner Phantom C.

    I'm not sure if the brauner will sound a little too clean (if thats possible) with the ISA 428. My guess is that the K2 will play nicely with the focusrites,being that it's tube and the focusrites are solidstate...any insight into this is greatly appreciated, as i have yet to find anyone that has the Phantom C.

    anyone heard it before? is it worth the extra money over the k2.
    i thinks it cost about $1500 in comparison to the K2 at about $700.

    oh yeah, hows the distressor while i'm dreaming...might as well think big right ;)
  10. amg1

    amg1 Guest

    I too have the SP C1 but it gets used. The ISA allows it to breathe. It's not for every voice but when matched properly it's HOT! My other mic right now is a MXL V69 Mogami. Through the ISA it's lush. The tube really gives some girth and a nice sizzle on top. Between these two mics I've been able to lay down some true vocals. I am laying away for a Blue Kiwi mic and a Tube Tech compressor here in the spring. I also plan on getting the AD card for the ISA.

    Can't really comment on the Phantom C or the K2 personally, but if you search around the sight you will find info on both. And from what I remember, I can see either one shining through this pre. Now will it be the mic for the purpose can't say, to subjective.

    I've also ran a Neumann TLM-103 through the ISA and it was nice. Just didn't work for the voice. Wound up using the C1. Just fit.

    Now with the mics you already have, just from the experiecnes I've read about here, I think the K2 would complement what you already have, giving you some different flavas to choose from. Always good. Another mic of interest to me is the Soundelux U195.

    Can't comment on the Distressor. And yeah with my previous lower end mic pre I was having to really play around with mic techniques and EQ to mold the mid range area to get the vocal to sit right. I was always having to overcome the little distortion for the vocal to punch through. It was good practice though. Much easier now with the ISA.

  11. iznogood

    iznogood Member

    Feb 9, 2004
    "I'm not sure if the brauner will sound a little too clean (if thats possible) with the ISA 428. My guess is that the K2 will play nicely with the focusrites,being that it's tube and the focusrites are solidstate...any insight into this is greatly appreciated, as i have yet to find anyone that has the Phantom C. "

    you're right... the brauner is a bit sibilant (too much topend boost) but really warm at the same time (vm1) the phantom shouldn't be mixed with a solidstate IMO..... too thin...

    btw... if you haven't paid for the isa yet.... don't!.... it's absoultely not worth the money.... too clinical and cold IMO.... i never heard a focusrite pre that was worth the money.... and i've heard ALOT of pre's....
  12. Aziel

    Aziel Guest

    i´m usin my 428 with a U87 and works incredible...its a nice the other hand, the 428 its very clean but not completly bright...its not dark but is not in the bright side...
  13. amg1

    amg1 Guest

    Aziel I have to agree with you. It's not the cleanest or the dirtiest, but it does do a little of it's own thing. As opposed to the mid-range platinum Focusrites which I've auditioned the ISA has a nice flava to it. But I wouldn't call it clinical. Can't wait to get my hands on the Blues Kiwi. I've heard the Mouse and the Dragonfly, both HOT mics, but seem to be more source specific.

    The ISA is a HOT piece to start with and always hold it's own...

    Just thought I'd add, of my two mics the MXL V69M get's grabbed most often. I think I've just grown partial to the flattering flavas of the tube influence through the ISA. I'd love to hear a U87 as well.

  14. Aziel

    Aziel Guest

    i have the U87 and have a pair of AT4033 too...both works fine, all you have to do is to choose waht you want to record...i have big succes with percussion (latin and african percusion) with the 4033's and not bad as OHs (wish i had another U87) the 4033 tend to be more bright and sibilant but do a great job in some things (actually i like it a lot)...of course i have 57´s, senns...and all works like a charm...i redicovered all my mics with this preamp... 8)
  15. jazzy655

    jazzy655 Guest

    thanks for the help

    Thanks guys, I went ahead and ordered the ISA. It should be here today, so i'll let you all know what results I get.
  16. amg1

    amg1 Guest

    Hey Jazzy your going to fall in love. The ISA is a great piece. Did you decide on a mic? Your C1 is going to stop collecting dust now, it sounds great throught the ISA on the right source.

  17. kingfrog

    kingfrog Active Member

    Mar 5, 2005
    Take the time to record a simple song of your style through both units. Mix and master it. Burn it to CD, Mark one CD and give it a shuffle and listen in various environments to hear the difference if any and to see whether its worth the extra bucks. Then give it to a few people to listen to and see which they choose..........In the end you will know if the bang for the buck was worth it.

    I say this because I did this exact thing before laying down $2000 and stuck since then happily and comfortably with my VCQ1 now for a few years. My comparison was vs an Avalon at the time though. It did sound "different" maybe somewhat more transparant during the recording process but after each was mixed and burned the difference was not enough to spend the extra money for and mostly negligable in the car and on MP3 Players.

    The only way to know if its money well spent is to compare the final result on a blind A/B and if you find a difference is it 2,3,4 times the diference worth the multiples of price increase.? ONLY you can answer that. I Use the multiples equation when I replace anything in my set up. Is it twice as good? Three times? Usually if nothing else it validates my current gear and Im satisfied until the next thing omes down the line LOL

    Everbody has different ears and opinions. I mean when a professional audio engineer says something "colors" the question would be what color? (I prefer Blue).Its amazing how many visual adjectives are used in an aural world......sheen, glassy, muddy, brittle.....

    Seriously I think people use terms that are totally subjective in a subjective world. "Colors" I suppose means "it's different from the source." Thats why in a subjective field such as audio recording it is very hard to make expensive choice based on others. the User "audiophile" end is crazier.........
  18. amg1

    amg1 Guest

    Kingfrog makes a good point. This is a very subjective field. You have to have an idea of the sound your after as that will determine the tools. The ISA is a great piece and you will hear a difference. better build quality and higher grade internal components as compared to the majority of your mid/low level counterparts. You will get a more realistic reproduction of your source. And remeber, you can dirty up a quality clean signal if your going for that, as some like it grimey in Hip-Hop. But you can't really take the grit out of a dirty signal, you can just try to hide it.

    As I've stated I use it for the same genre of music as you and it has never let me down. Artist are very particular about their sound especially in Hip-Hop, R&B, etc. All styles for the most part, just these I know better.

    Being able to get to the sound you hear is the gift and skill which is truly neccessary. The rest is tools, whether entry or pro level.

    Make sure and share your opions as it can help the next person.

  19. jazzy655

    jazzy655 Guest

    tiny problem guys

    so i plugged the ISA in last night for the first time. recorded my voice. boom. sounded like butter.
    then i tried to track a beat from my fantom just for fun, and i kept running into a problem.
    i honestly think it has something to do with my converters. they keep clipping and choking when
    i try to track from my keyboard. weird thing is, the meters on the converters aren't even hitting yellow
    yet they choke like they were overloading.

    never had this problem really before. while hooking up my ISA i changed a lot of cables around.
    the converters are running though optical lightpipe to my Digi001. Maybe i did something
    bad with the optical cables?? any ideas guys. anyone had this happen??

    my guess is the cables....

    any help would be great. the stuff that i was actually able to track through the ISA has been sweet.
    really want to get this fixed...

  20. amg1

    amg1 Guest

    Hey Jon glad your enjoying it so far. Nothing like gratification of a step made. Now for your issue, can you give a more detailed description of how everything is connected. It sounds like to me theirs a gain issue maybe or a clocking issue. Can't be sure from what you stated so far. Don't have the AD card in my ISA yet so I'm just trying to think through possibilities. Start from the Fantom on.

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    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

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