More on Mic Pre-amps...I'm ready to drop a few K

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by Swift, May 3, 2004.

  1. Swift

    Swift Guest

    I thought after reading many posts here I'd throw this out and hope to get some advice from the pro's around here regarding my personal situation.

    I've been slowly building gear up in a personal studio and need a better mic pre.

    Current kit includes:

    Roland 1680 Hard Disc
    2 AKG C414TL2 // 1 K184
    ART Pro MPA Mic Pre
    Ensoniq DP4 Effects Processor
    Akai MPC 4000 sampler/sequencer beast.
    Various Keys, Modules...tons of Percussion, Vibes, Bells

    I record my vibes with a stereo pair through the MPA and it sounds...OK. What the MPA does do real well is soften up some of the digital

    I' had a chance 9 months ago to try an Avalon 2022 over a weekend and tracked 1 song twice...once with the ART and once with the Avalon. It totally turned my head around..and I've been saving for a better front end piece now for some time -

    You may notice I use no Computers...not even interested in using them to make music. I'm really comfortable on my present kit.

    So, that being said, are there other options I should look at before I go buy this Avalon.

    I've read all about Earthworks, Drawmers, UA, True, Grace, Pre-sonus ...on and on..but I hav'nt heard any of them.

    I love all kinds of music and basically record music sounding influenced by St. Germain, Mr. Scruff, Manitoba, Pat Metheny....

    Thanks for any advice -

  2. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    I am not thrilled with the roland converters in the 1680- seems that everything I ever heard recorded in those vs stations sounds IMO "squashed" with little air. I used to have an vs880 back around 99 and when I switched to computer the sound just was so much better- If you can rent a stand alone converter such as apogee or lucid try it. It might make as much difference on your sound as a good preamp- You can get an used 2ch lucid for about $400 or an apogee rossetta for about $600. A friend of mine has a stand alone 16 trk hard drive fostex and the 8 ch lucid (about $1200) makes a heck of a difference. he even gets a great drum sound, recording 8 trks at a time through the lucid-

    Of course a good preamp is also indispensable.
    you already have some great mics in those akg tlII so youre ok in that department- If you pair a good converter with a great preamp and use those akg's you should have a killer set up-
  3. Swift

    Swift Guest

    You're dead on about the squashed sound on the's a bit of work to get some's a bit flat, but that Avalon really kicked things into gear...and showed me that the Roland really could sound great...lets face it it's all ones and zeros for the most part..

    You make a good point about an AD converter..I have thought about that

    That Apogee mini-me was really intriguing..but I jaust can't figure out how they can get a big sound out of the pre amps in that thin..the AD thing I could get..maybe it's better for that..

    Any other mic-pres have AD converters built in like the Apogee??

    Thanks for the reply Tiger..I like your posts,

  4. sdelsolray

    sdelsolray Active Member

    Jul 5, 2003
    Portland, OR
    If you're ready to drop "a few K" you're in for a treat, and quite a bit of homework. I'd ditto the thought on converters. Fortunately, you can get a great pre (2 channels) and decent AD converters (2 channels) in the $3K range. You'll eventually need decent DA converters, bt that could wait awhile.

    As far as pres go, it depends on the sound you're looking for. Here's some suggestions:

    Pendulum MDP-1A
    Great River 2-NV
    Great River MP-2H
    Old School

    For converters, there's the new Mytek and the fothcoming Benchmark. The Lucid has been around awhile and is well liked for its price.

    Good luck.
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I hate to break it to you but what do you think the Roland is? :shock:
    It's a dedicated computer. Sure, it's not housed in a tower case and instead of a CRT it uses a small LCD but it's still a computer. If you like the Roland, that's great. You are tied to some pretty low end mic pres that for the most part, can't be bypassed and some pretty inexpensive converters but the truth is most of the music being produced these days is so lo fi anyway it doesn't require the high end gear we all used ten years ago.

    Anyway, the only way to bypass the mic pres in the Roland, that I know of, is to go into it via the digital inputs. Most of the mic pres I have seen that have digital outs are those of the Focusrite Platinum / Presonus type, mid level and really not much better than the ones you already have. Focusrite makes an ISA pre that has digital outs. You might look at that. But I don't think you are going to get into a better pre without first getting some stand alone converters.

    If you go that route, mic pres by Great River, Millennia, Vintech, Focusrite (Red or ISA series, not the Platinum Range), API, vintage Neves, Grace, Earthworks, just to name a few are all great..
  6. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    You might look into a high quality mic that has one or more channels of mic pre and A2D like the 4-ch one Focusrite makes. As for the Roland, skip those converters if ya can. A lot of that lifeless and squashed sound is the lossy data compression used by Roland to reduce disk space requirements. Turn that crap off if ya can.
  7. Mario-C.

    Mario-C. Active Member

    Nov 17, 2002
    Mexico City
    Home Page:
    :shock: :shock: :shock:
    well yes, but how the zeroes and ones are handled will affect the final sound ... :roll:
  8. Swift

    Swift Guest

    Thanks Ray...I don't know the Pendulum specs..I'll check it out.

    Cedar, I knew someone was gonna say that, but you know what I mean. Stand alone converters and Mic pre combo might be a good bet, and yea the digital in on the Roland may be a nice bypass- I've thought about that too -

    I just wonder, because we all know in the Roland that the mic pres are crap, the a/d converters are marginal - and the compression algorithm they use does squash the sound - will going through the digital in on the Roland bypass 'all" of those systems??...that might be a Q for 1 800 Roland..

    Gaff, I'm pretty sure you can't "turn of" the AD....but the way people deal with getting sound into the Roland is by keeping the input at 1 or less and just cranking the mic pre to appropriate signal does work great.

    People have dealt with crap mic pres on plenty of desks and have made brilliant records...using external sound reinforcement.

    ...It's only 1 and 0's...I knew that would get a rise. Your're right on bro '

  9. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    here is a lucid 8 ch converter- if you can go in the vs1680 light pipe this would be the way to go- 8ch of conversion, you could even do drums!
    Lucid on E Bay

    Then get yourself some decent preamps and you're set!
  10. Skeetch

    Skeetch Guest

    I used to run an 1880 with various outboard. The way to get around the VS's A/D is by going in through either the S/PDIF in or the optical in. You can't turn RDAC off (Roland's compression scheme) but you'll get back some of the "air" or detail that's lost through the VS onboard A/D (which of course depends on which pre/converter combo you're using). Be aware that regardless of which route you choose to go for outboard A/D, you can still only do two tracks at a time via S/PDIF or Toslink (optical) in's.

    There's a number of options for decent pre's that have optional A/D converters. I've personally used the Focusrite ISA428 with the optional digital I/O board installed with the 1880. Definitely better than the Roland's converters and a very flexible preamp overall. Fairly clean but with some iron-in-the-path sound from the Lundahl trannies. I've used it with different mic's on a variety of sources and have been happy with the results so far. If you're looking to drop a couple of large on a pre, the 428 will certainly fit the bill, especially if you buy new and also spring for the optional digital I/O card. Can probably find them used for less but I haven't seen the I/O card pop up much on eBay.
  11. Swift

    Swift Guest

    Thanks all...I'm gonna check everything out talked about here...

    I'll stay tuned

    Your all brothers,

  12. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    Ya, I didn't mean turn off the A2D, I was under the impression that on at least some of the Roland units, you can turn off the data compression. (RDAC) I seem to remember someone a few years ago bringing to me some material with and without the data compression and they were claiming how good it was and how you couldn't hear a difference, but when we played it back on my Meyer HD'1 it was very obvious. At least it was to me.
  13. Skeetch

    Skeetch Guest

    None of the VS units permit the disabling of RDAC. There have been a number of tries at disabling it over the years but no one has - to my knowledge - succeeded in doing that. And Roland isn't exactly stepping up to help people get around their proprietary compression scheme. You can get around their A/D by using the S/PDIF or Toslink ins but it limits you to doing only two tracks at a pop. Some of the more expensive units have slightly better quality converters than the lower end units but RDAC still comes into play.
  14. JBsound

    JBsound Guest

    I'd say go for the avalon ad2022. It was my first "good" preamp, and man, it really blew the dmp3 away! Ugrading converters and mics will have to be done also down the road...but my recordings IMMEDIATELY improved with the 2022. I've got other good pres now...but that avalon is the go to 90% of the time...and always for vox. I don't think any converter, or mic for that matter, will make that kind of difference if you're going through a crappy pre. I've found so far that for preamps, you really do have to spend money to get high quality, but with mics, there is more available at a lower price range - in relation to pres. Convertors, I think you just have to spend money there also. Mytek seems to be a good value for 2 channels right now, but I haven't heard them so I won't endorse them.

  15. chikkenguy

    chikkenguy Guest

    grace design makes a 2 channel mic pre/ad box called the lunatec. that might be worth checking out.
  16. Bhennies

    Bhennies Guest

    Hi, I went through the same process, and decided to get a Universal Audio pre (the 2108 solid state). I love it. It is very versatile, and extremely well made. If you decided to go with something like that, you could still get away with a used Apogee Rosetta or something of that quality for 2000-2200 total. That leaves some money for other things- like treating your room or more mics.

    Keep your eyes posted on close-out sales for better converters- I ended up getting a 48k RME 8 i/o for 475 bucks when they upgraded to the 96k and were blowing out their old gear (I personally don't need 96k anyway).
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