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Studio Projects VTB-1 mic/instrument pre

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by DonnyThompson, Feb 11, 2017.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2012
    Location:
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
    Home Page:
    A couple years ago, a friend of mine traded me a Studio Projects VTB1 Mic Pre for an M-Audio USB 4 channel Midi i/o I had laying around. ( I have plenty of midi I/O options, I wasn't using the M-Audio anyway, so I thought it was a fair trade).

    A few years have gone by since, and with the exception of making sure it worked and passed audio, I haven't really used it - after testing it, I put it back in its box and into the closet she went.

    This morning, I was working on a midi-sampled bass line for a song I'm working on. The bass sample is from the Samplitude Independence Library; there are several M, P and J Bass sims. I assigned the midi track to fire off a P-Bass sample. It was, well... it was "meh". Even further ITB processing, using various tonal colors with both Samp stock and 3rd party plugs didn't really make it sound any better.

    I was getting an instrument cable out of the closet and saw the VTB1, and I thought, "what the hell, I might as well see how this sounds as a re-amp device for this midi bass track..." So, I hooked it up.

    A quick bit about it: The VTB1 is a Solid State, Discreet Class A/B circuit, that can also feed a 12ax7 valve stage; so in this regard it's a sort of "hybrid" device... you can vary the amount of SS vs Tube by using a "tube blend" pot. You can dial it in to be strictly SS, or, all tube... or, you can blend combinations of both SS and Tube sounds with a variable pot, to suit your sound needs. It also features an impedance selector of 50/200 ohms; Inputs are all XLR on the rear, and there's also a 1/4" instrument jack on the front. Phantom power, phase flip, a Hi-Pass at 70Hx ( rolling off at an -18 db slope) a Line In switch and an Insert Jack for connecting external processing rounds out the typical features.

    What I did:
    I re-amped three tracks; the first was set for straight SS, the second was all-tube, and the third was a 50/50 combination of the two.
    Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by this preamp. While I haven't yet used it for guitar or vocal, the sound of this previously lifeless midi bass sample took on a really nice warmth and sheen in all-tube mode. The tube isn't heavily colored, though, like other tube pre's can be... I mean, it's definitely got the tube vibe going on, but not overly so. It has a nice "smear", it smooths out the upper mids quite nicely, and does attenuate some highs - which in this case doesn't bother me because I'm working with a bass track, so I've no real need to boost 10k on this.
    The straight solid state track was clear, (actually, it was too clear for this application) and to the point that I didn't hear really hear much of a difference between the original sampled midi source track and the re-amped track.
    In the end, I went with a 50/50 blend; it maintained clarity and definition but also had that "warmth" that tube pres are known for. It has a nice, subtle smear, and smooths out the mids and upper mids nicely.

    Would I compare this to a pre made by UA, Golden Age, or Neve? No. There's a reason that pre manufacturers that make these types of preamps are twice or three ( or four) times the amount that the VTB1 goes for. But for this app, I was happy with the results, considering the average price for this pre.

    And... I haven't yet tried this on vocals, or guitar. I've only used it to re-amp a midi bass. It may end up failing miserably at other apps, and I'd find out that I have a one-trick pony, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how it handled this task.

    If you want me to post an excerpt, let me know and I'll upload two versions, maybe 30 seconds of just the midi sample in the mix, and then the same exact section using the bass track through the VTB-1.

    FWIW :)
    -d
     
  2. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2013
    Location:
    Quebec, Canada
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    I read good reviews on the VTB but never tried it. It was on my possible buy list for a while but I went with UA preamps 4-710 and LA610.
    My understanding was that it's a valid workable preamp and would be an alternative to the ART Pro MPA-II which is said to be very good for the price.
    Man I dislike reading this ' very good for the price ' Doesn't it implies you'll get better quality if you pay more ??
    Anyway, I just don't know which sounds better between the Pro MPA-II and the VTB. In any case I wouln't not be ashame to have either of them in my studio ;)

    I'd like to know how it goes with other sources...
     
  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2002
    Location:
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Chinese / wall wart - lo volt rails / starved plate design. what else isn't there to love? :censored: lol.
     
  4. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2008
    Location:
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    If you were going for warmth and fidelity the starved plate design would probably be a problem, but they can work for certain things and adding character to a bass line could be one of those things. I'd care less about the specific technology than the results.

    I'd love to hear some samples, if it's not a hassle.
     
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2002
    Location:
    77 Sunset Lane.
    disclaimer: i have to admit i view all of PMI's stuff with prejudice.

    i'm glad you like it Donny. i had one for a short while ...... until i found someone who wanted to buy it. much like the infamous arr enn pee (which i sent back to Mercenary), i found it to be no better than a typical mixer preamp with a starved tube circuit slapped on it . think a mackie pre with a tube.

    if you keep anything long enough, you will find a purpose for it, although the SP and the arr enn pee both are to light / small to use as door stops or wheel chocks unless you duct tape several together. still would probably be too light. lol.
     
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2012
    Location:
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
    Home Page:
    Of course. I don't think there's much argument about that. Anytime you step up to a higher level, it's gonna cost more.

    I guess I was just saying that for what I used it for, it served it's purpose. I doubt I'd ever replace my ADK AP1 preamp with it. ;)

    I used it because I had it laying around, and wanted to see if it would perhaps work for what I was doing. I like experimenting with tone, and it doesn't always have to be a pro spec unit to give me something cool.
     
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2013
    Location:
    Quebec, Canada
    Home Page:
    If I had one, I'd make use of it too Donny ! ;)
     

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