Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by mardyk, Oct 1, 2003.
Hehe...you know it's getting bad when that 1/4" jack starts looking appealing!!!
Do what I did -- marry a singer.
Hmmmmmm ??? no, not big enough ...
Or you can do what I did, marry a bass player. But now I have to listen to her tell me, "You only married me for my fingers", all the time..
Hahaha!!! But just think, now you have all those great bass player jokes that you get to tell every night at dinner!!!
Q: How can you tell when a bass player is knocking at your door???
A: 'Cause they never know when to come in!!!
But You didn't state it as an opinion. You stated it as fact:
You didn't say "I think the Presonus and Focusrite platinum series stuff..." or "which I think will be essentially worthless in the near future". As for it rarely if ever being used by professional recordists and engineers...first off, that's something that's fairly hard to establish as fact, and it's also just not true, as has been pointed out by Ken. And the number of professional engineers who use a piece doesn't necessarily mean it's a better piece...don't think many have used the Sebatron or JMP stuff at this point either, have they?
I think that the Ai3 is much more of a "prosumer" piece than the Digimax or the Octo Pre. I've tried them all, and the converters in both the Focusrite and Presonus pieces are much better-sounding converters (to my ears at least) than those in the Ai3. And even thoug, spec-wise, converters change, there's still a lot more to a converter than the chip itself. The analog input stage, power supply, and so on can have more to do with the sonic quality of a converter than the actual A/D chip itself. That's why the old Apogee 20-bit 48kHz boxes still fetch a decent amount on eBay these days...they certainly hold their value better than just about any digital (and many analog, for that matter) pieces out there. And while I agree that the mic and pre make a more obvious difference than the converter, I can't imagine spending good money on microphones and preamps and then compromising on the piece that converts that signal to digital.
They're not really near the same price...for instance, the analog-only version of the OctoPre is under $1K, while the 8-channel JMP is about twice that much and the 4-channel Sebatron is about three times as much on a per-channel basis. Don't get me wrong, I'd expect them to sound as good or better...can't say since I haven't used them...but they're more expensive, and that doesn't mean that the others can't be used in a professional situation, as they sometimes are. Have you actually used either of the Focusrite or Presonus pieces?
Actually, the people who buy and like these preamps benefit as well. They're certainly an improvement over much of the stuff in their price range.
Originally posted by Duardo:
(Kurt) Uhhh, I said ; I think the Focusrite Platinum series stuff is absolutely "prosumer" level gear ...... It's a fact, that it is my opinion..
(Kurt) I have a UREI 1178. I paid $2100 for it 7 years ago.. I could sell it today for $2500 easy. I also have a pair of Blackface LA4s.. paid $1450 for them in '95. I can get $2100 easy today. This is "what I am talkin' 'bout Willis" ...
(Kurt) Converters are disposable.. and as you point out don't have as much of an effect on the sound as good mics and pres. I spend my dough on pieces that I can keep for a life time.. How long will 24 bit 48 or 44.1 be around?? Those pre amps that are tied to 24 bit converters will be worthless at some point.
The Presonus and Digimax are products that are built using surface mount technology. If these items take a fall and are broken or fail, the only way to repair them is to send them to the factory for repair. At the factory, they will replace the whole sub assembly, not repair the damaged board. So what happens when the product goes out of production? Sooner or later, replacement assemblies are no longer available and the pre amp can no longer be repaired. Higher quality pres use through the board mounting and discreet parts. These are far easier to service in the field by a competent tech and will be able to be repaired far into the future.. That is one of the differences between prosumer inexpensive gear and pro expensive stuff. Roboticly stuffed surface mounted assemblies are less expensive to build and can be sold at a lower cost. The real price however is you are buying "disposable equipment"
(Kurt) Yes I have used them and I don't like how they sound.. I think they are thin and brittle and have pretty low headroom compared to the JLM or Sebatron. I would rather spend $250 less and get 2 channels of Sebatron than 8 channels of prosumer gear that will be a worthless wheel chock in 4 years..
(Kurt) I don't agree.. I think there is very little difference between how a Mackie pre and the Digimax or the Octopre sound.. I would rather see someone save their dough and learn how to work with mic placments and gain structures to modify their sounds..
I was referring to your original post, which I also quoted in my post, but I'll go ahead and quote it again:
You may think of it as "prosumer" home studio equipment, but to say it's "definitely considered" that is not correct since there are plenty of professionals who use it and consider it to be professional equipment.
I don't see how that was a response to my statement, but those are certainly nice pieces.
Just becasue they don't have as stark an impact on the sound as microphones and preamps doesn't mean they don't make a difference, as they most certainly do. I can't understand why someone would buy high-end preamps and preamps and so on and then skimp on converters, or cables for that matter...everything makes a difference, and I'd want to be able to capture as much of the the mic and pre I paid good money for as possible. Sure, converters won't hold their value as well, but that doesn't make spending the extra money a waste. The recordings you make may well outlast all of your gear, so why not spend a little money every few years on good converters?
For what it's worth, I think 44.1 will be around for some time to come. One nice thing about well-designed converters is that they tend to sound great at lower sampling rates. And the Digimax and OctoPre can both be used without their converters. Even though they use surface-mount technology they're still well-designed Class A preamps that are suitable for professional use.
If you don't like them then don't use them. But for someone who's trying to record a whole band at once, or close-mic a kit, one of these boxes would certainly be better suited for the task than a two-channel preamp of any sort.
Just because you don't hear the difference doesn't mean that those who do hear the difference don't benefit from it. Don't get me wrong...since I picked up a few ISA preamps I don't get much use out of my Platinum box. But there are still occasions where it's a better match for my source, and I'd still take it over Mackie preamps any day (which I'd take over Behringer, etc)...
NO, not always. I know that I am able to get a much better sounding drum kit with two mics and a two channel preamp than a great deal of people who have used up to 2-dozen mics and preamps. Skill has more to do with the overall quality than a bunch of half-assed mic pre channels. I can use a Mackie and get the job done as well if not much better than anything done with the Octapre or the Digimax.
Why do we always talk about the same topics here? It's like deja vu all over again... (Yogi). If ya want semi-pro gear advice, maybe post this stuff in the Small Steps Forum. If you are wanting to talk about pro level gear, post it here. David
AudioGaff made a great point. Many of the best sounding recordings, with the lowest noise floors and best phase coherency ever, were recorded in the fifties and early sixties using 3, 4, 5 or 6 mics. Bill Putnam, Owen Bradley, Jack Clement, Tom Dowd and George Martin were all using just a few mics to record Elvis, Nat "King" Cole, Patsy Cline, The Beatles and others. These recordings live still today as an example of the finest artistry ever put down to vinyl.
I don’t see them at Ocean Way, the Record Plant, the Hit Factory, or any of the other major rooms.. and I can’t think of any major mixer that uses that stuff.. just because some guy from the company comes in here and says that, without saying who it was he was speaking of, doesn’t make it true.. Maybe you don’t travel in the same circles as I do but these pres are considered “prosumer”, even by the manufacturer.
I will be the one who cries “poor” here. I agree. I would love to have 16 channels of Apogee ADA8000. But that would cost about $16,000! (can you say ouch!?) My AI3s sound fine and I am into them for about $800. In fact my whole computer / soundcard / converter combination was around $2500 total! Preamps, mics and comps, last forever. Computers, soundcard, converters and software programs have a limited shelf life destined to be “sacrificed to the freeway gods”.. Maybe the reason I can afford nice mics, pres and compressors is because I don’t spend my money on disposable technology.
You may be correct, especially for final product. CDs well may remain at 44.1 for some time. But all the new workstation interfaces are moving into hi res product as we speak.. 98k and 196 is fast becoming a de facto standard.. Storage is still an issue and because the economy has stalled, development has slowed to a crawl for the moment. This will not be the case forever and new and cheaper forms of storage are right around the corner. 44.1 as a multi track standard, is doomed.
As far as the Octopre and The Platinums being "class A", I believe all that means is they run at full power all the time, not switching on and off with demand. That doesn't mean they sound good automaticly. I think, if the power supplies are weak, it almost insures they will run out of headroom, especially with a multi channel unit. Also I don't believe these units employ transformers..(please correct me if I am wrong, I don't really recall). For me, transformers are a must. I love the sound of the "iron".
So now you have a "Platinum Box" you don't use much. it just sits there and Focusrite has your money. That $1000 could have gone towards more ISA channels (which btw, I love!) I hear a difference between all pieces of gear, good and bad, cheap and expensive. Anyone who can hear, should be able to. I don’t think however, that with prosumer gear, the difference is large enough or even enough of an improvment if any, to warrant the added cost or the decision to purchase. Even the pro audio guy at my local "Guitar Store Center" takes me aside and laughs at the people who believe the marketing hype. He agrees with me. Most of the cheap stuff is weak. The high end gear manufacturers write me regularly and say, “Kurt, I wish all these people would get what you are saying”. Much of the prosumer gear doesn’t really sound better, just different. I have a Yamaha MLA7 that one engineer that worked for me, swore was better than a Mackie pre. The MLA7 is warmer and not as harsh sounding but that is because it has a very low / slow slew rate. But it is absolutly not better than the Mackie pres. Just different It is an op amp design and can be improved on easily by doing some modifications. I spoke with Jim Williams about it and he told me for $300 a channel he could make it much better.. sheesh! That's $2400 to upgrade an 8 channel pre I bought used for $100 ... nooooo way! I'll buy a JLM, a Sebatron or a Great River MP2NV two channel unit, thank you.
More can be done working on recording chops and performance technique. The companies promise recordings the caliber of the pro gear and these promises for the most part are false. We all agree that a great performance poorly recorded is far better that a bad performance recorded well. But practicing and working to develop recording and performance chops doesn’t have all those lovely blinking lights and buttons to push.
Sure, no argument there, but I think you missed my point...I was referring specifically to recording a kit with multiple close microphones, which is often necessary to achieve a certain sound in particular styles of music or, more often, to compensate for weaknesses in a drummer's technique ("you can just bring that up in the mix, right?").
Right, they may not be in those big rooms...and when budget's not a concern, why not go all out?...but that doesn't mean that they can't be used in a professional situation. I couldn't think of anyone offhand who uses them either (not so sure I could for most pieces out there) but with minimal research I found out that Derek Sherinian (who used to play with Dream Theater) uses the DigiMax with his keyboards, and Filter and Reel Big Fish both used Digimax preamps to track drums for their upcoming albums. I've also read some positive reviews of both preamps in various trade magazines that were very specific about what they liked about them, including a farily nice review of the Octopre in Sound on Sound, which seems to be considered one of the more "reliable" sources out there for honest reviews. And as you've said (Kurt), most people who rely on manufacturers to send out gear just won't bother to write a review of a product they're not happy with. And as I said, I've used both units myself. Sure, there are plenty of people out there who don't like them...same could be said for plenty of other products out there...but there are some people with some fairly impressive credentials who have very nice things to say about them, which if nothing else at least shows that some people consider them appropriate for professional situations.
I don't know what circles you do travel in, but I've never seen either manufacturer refer to either piece as "prosumer". Sure, the Octopre falls at the bottom of Focusrite's line and the Digimax is towards the middle of Presonus's, but both tout them as professional pieces.
You're right, pretty much...it means there's current running through the amp at all times to replicate the entire waveform, rather than switching between a positive current for half of the waveform and a negative current for the other half. And it certainly doesn't guarantee that they'll sound good automiatically, although it does make it easier to reproduce the waveform in a more linear fashion...I'm fairly certain that both of the preamps you've mentioned are Class A as well.
The power supplies in these boxes aren't weak. Class A circuitry in general requires a much beefier power supply to run, and uses a lot more electricity (and runs hotter) as well. The Digimax has a nice outboard power supply (not a wall wart) and the Focusrite is a fairly deep and heavy box, due mainly to the power supply.
You're right, they're both transformerless designs...and if you're looking for the sound of iron you're not going to find it in these boxes (nor will you find it in the other "clean" preamps out there such as those offered by Millennia, Earthworks, Grace and others). I like both preamps because they're relatively transparent, yet still have a little more character than a most of the other inexpensive preamps (both outboard and built into mixers) I've tried and a lot more headroom. Both companies offer more expensive transformer-based preamps (everyone's pretty familiar with the Red/ISA stuff from Focusrite, and there's a pretty impressive list of users of Presonus's transformer-based M80 on their website), but there may be applications where a good relatively neutral preamp is a better choice.
Ouch. You can actually have sixteen channels new for under $10K, and used for quite a bit less. Or you could have sixteen channels of their new Rosetta 800 for about $5K (or $7K if you want 192kHz capability). But you don't have to spend that much. There are plenty of options available from companies such as Lucid, RME, Frontier and others that fall in between the Apogee/Benchmark/Prism range and the Ai3/Behringer range that will offer a significant improvement over the cheaper converters.
Right, but I'm still confused by your admitted disdain for "prosumer" equipment, yet you run your high-end stuff through "prosumer" converters. I would think you'd want to get the most out your equipment than you can. Sure, certain things in your studio will have to be replaced occasionally, but if you're doing professional recording that's part of the cost of doing things right. And you'll find yourself replacing good converters a lot less frequently than you will cheap converters.
CD's will remain at 44.1 until they're replaced by something else...and right now, from a consumer standpoint, the format most likely to replace CD's as the dominant release format is a step down in quality, such as MP3 or AAC. Neither DVD-A nor SACD seems to be taking off. Don't get me wrong...I'd love to see it happen...but since most consumers seem satisfied with lower-than-CD quality sound...
If anything, that's more of a marketing thing than anything else. A good converter is capable of sounding as good at 44.1kHz as it can at 96kHz or 192kHz. That same consumer who loves his MP3's gets upset if the 96kHz light doesn't light up on his DVD-A player if he does actually buy a DVD-A title and put it in. He figures that he must have been ripped off if the 48kHz light is lit up, even though his five speakers cost less than a hundred dollars combined and two are on top of the TV, one's on a shelf next to and slightly below it, one's in the corner on a bookshelf and the other's mounted to the ceiling on the other side of the room...
Sorry, got a little sidetracked. But you'd be surprised...talk to a few converter manufacturers if you want at a trade show. Many of them will tell you that their converters sound just as good at the lower sampling rates as they do at the higher ones, and that they just support those higher rates to be compatible. You won't read that in their ads, of course, but they'll be refreshingly honest if you just talk to them.
Please don't take this as me saying that all converters sound identical at all sampling rates, because that's certainly not true. But again, I'd still take an old 20-bit 44.1kHz Apogee AD1000 over a 24-bit Ai3 or a 24/96 converter from M-Audio or whomever.
Kurt, if you haven't tried already, I'd recommend trying to get your hands on a good converter or two for review. You may be surprised at the difference it makes, especially when used on multiple tracks in a session.
True, I don't use it much, but I still use it occasionally. And I certainly don't regret the purchase. I got a good two years' use out of it before I could afford my ISA stuff. Holding on to that $500 (it's a ToneFactory, which is a single-channel box...predates the Octopre by a few years) for those two years wouldn't have benefitted me at all. It was certainly an improvement over my Mackie preamps, and I will still use it occasionally when I'm looking for a different sound...for double-tracked guitars, maybe, or for a direct bass input, or for an extra room microphone.
I don't think that everything falls into one category or the other. I certainly agree that there's lots of stuff out there that's not an improvement over the Mackie preamps, and there's lots of stuff that's worse. But there's also stuff that's a significant improvement, even if it's not as nice as the "good" stuff (whatever that may be).
That's interesting, as both of these companies...certainly Focusrite...would be considered "high end" gear manufacturers.
I totally agree there. Again, to me the two preamps that are the topic of this thread do sound better, but there's plenty of stuff that does sound different than the Mackie preamps, but not necessarily better. I bought an ART Tube MP back in 1995 and got a lot of good use out if it. It gave me an additional color which, while not necessarily better than my Mackie, was different and more appropriate in certain cases.
I certainly agree there. I do see similar claims made for high end pieces as well. No gear can magically improve your technique, but it's certainly one variable that you can control.
You make some excellent arguments and I appreciate your ability to make the case without getting hot under the collar and resorting to flame tactics.. This is rare as of late and I want to say “thank you" for taking the time to attempt to enlighten / educate me. I must say in light of some of your comments I may have to revisit these pieces again. It wouldn't be the first time my first impressions were incorrect. I didn't like the Studio projects C3 at first but lately it is becoming a "go to" piece for me..
Also thanks for the explanation of class A operation. I wasn’t exactly sure of what I was saying and I did hedge the issue a bit. You have provided an excellent explanation of it in a way we all can understand.
BTW, Millennia does have at least one product that uses a transformer. That is the STT-1 which I am lucky enough to have on loan from them... I really like it, especially with the transformer in the tube mode.. perhaps the transparent quality of the Octopre and the Digimax are what I don’t care for. It does seem I don’t like pres without transformers, including my Amek/Neve system 9098’s. I love the EQ’s , which is what I purchased them for but I have never liked the pres much... I mean they are fine but I wouldn’t write home about them.
In regards to this comment you made,
S.O.S. actually doesn’t subscribe to the practice of not publishing negative equipment reviews. I have been informed they do it all the time.. I think the publishers actually purchase the pieces they choose to review. They are completely free of any restraints in this regard, very comendable.
Right, I was thinking specifically of their HV series preamps, which are some of the most popular preamps for orchestral recording and other situations where a "transparent" sound is desired. The STT1 is a nice piece, although I imagine you're probably not too fond of it without the transformer in the solid state mode?
Personally, I lean more towards colored preamps as well, although I'd really like to have a nice pair of Earthworks or Millennia preamps when I'm looking for a really clean overhead or acoustic guitar sound. But my ISA428 will more than suffice in the meantime.
Yup, that's why I mentioned them specifically. I figured a positive review from them may carry a little more weight than most.
Yeah, I really like the STT-1 for acoustic guitar and bass. in any of the modes.. although I do prefer the tube / transformer in mode the best.. The opto comp in this unit is remarkable.. well worth the price alone..
very well said. I to have worked with the digimax and always get a kick out of folks who just dont like things as a way too justify there "high end" purchases.
I have a Great River, vintechx73, 2 API's for overheads, RNP's, and various mic pre's over here and I'll be the first to say when I heard a drummer send me a session using his digimax, I proudly used his tracks and honestly thought what a joke this whole gear snob sht can be. I've come to honestly believe there are no "night and day" differences in recording. The only time its a valid way of describing differences is when you are comparing rooms and players. thats it!
his performance, drums, tracks, and room were so clean and tight, I could've told you he used all the gear I listed and you'd most likely believe it!
one thing that is interesting to me is Kurts use of the Alesis AI-3. I've always been under the impression that Lucid and RME converters were very coveted alternatives to the mid/high level Apogee and sometimes even prefered.
using the digi 001 as a base of comparison, even the presonus converters are a significant "step up" in quality. However after seeing this link it made me wonder just how good the AI-3 is. Alesis definetly pioneered digital recording in many ways, so seeing that they are the suppliers to the companies on this list made me wonder how good there converters are....(also, I have a friend that tried the Behringer ADA8000 and admitted it sounded no better than his 001 pre's/converters). so maybe that says something about what these companies do with these chips once they get a hold of them...however I have never heard the AI-3 but maybe they arent all that bad after all. if there in the Lucid/RME league as it appears $399.00 certainly pails in comparison to the $1500.00 RME ADI-8 Pro or the $2200.00 lucid ADA-8824
HERE"S THE LINK!
Hey there are lots of examples of my AI3s on the boards here.. I think they sound ok... perhaps they sound alright because they are being clocked off the internal clock in Cubase? .. I know ADATs sound a lot better when they are clocked off an 02R for example.. I have had people comment how good my mp3s sound.. so I guess I'm doin' something right ???
what do you think of that list of companies on the alesis site using there chips and such?...made me curious about all these converter companies. some who are very well respected.
Wow! the ones that surprised me were Lucid, RME (isn't that Hammerfall?) and PreSonus.. (In view of what you said Bobby Loux) ...
I will say I have used an Apogee ADA8000 ... very impressive. I have a friend that has a Rosetta and it made a big difference clocking his whole studio off it..
Why is that so surprising? As far as I know, Alesis is the only place that you can buy/license the chipset for the ADAT optical and ADAT sync protocol. Alesis Semiconductor also makes other analog, digital and DSP chips for audio and music purposes. So do many other semiconductor companies.
AG, Do you think Apogee is using Alesis chipsets in their ADA8000 for the lightpipe send / returns?
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