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Bob Bickerton
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Loc: Nelson, New Zealand
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: mjfe2]
      #1010105 - 25/09/12 08:59 PM
Quote mjfe2:

So when are SOS going to do an A/D converter shootout?!




Ah, no, let's go for a room shoot out!

Actually, I'm serious! There's always lots of talk about how important room acoustics are.

Would it be of use to create an article which demonstrates this? Perhaps a series of recordings of one source in a variety of rooms, miked the same way, or even miked at different distances to show how the room has more effect. Maybe start with an untreated room and record differences as the room gets incrementally treated (no doubt a supplier of acoustic treatment would sponsor this and I'm sure there would be a willing guinea pig who would like their room treated).

Some of my favourite recordings have been close miked in large beautiful acoustics, not something that can be done at home, and different to dry studio plus reverb.

I don't have time to review the samples, but this is an interesting read and confirms something I long suspected.

Bob

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The Elf
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010110 - 25/09/12 09:20 PM
As a Focusrite Liquid Channel owner I'm well used to the joy of comparing subtleties between pre-amp emulations - but I actually have to come up with a permanent recording decision when I go through the process!

I'm going to hold my hand up and say that I expected the differences to be much greater, given the wide spread of pre's in the test (and the difference between my LC's emulations are typically less subtle!). And I'm going to also say that there are some examples here that I prefer to the others, but I doubt it has much to do with cost. If was hearing a vocalist, as opposed to a piano, through the same range of pre's I'd likely come up with a different favourite.

So as far as giving the lie to those who verbally trash one perfectly decent pre over another I'd say job done, SOS! It doesn't mean I wouldn't prefer one over another on any given day, but the choice would be based on:

a) what I hear in that particular situation on that day
b) whether one pre offers me something over another (e.g. the SSL's VHD control, for instance)

Sometimes my choice would be based on noise levels, or available gain. Not many pre's have the ultra-low noise-floor of my SSL Superanalogue Channels, and this may be important for a harp, or an acoustic guitar, but for some signals I care less about low-noise and more about character. Some may turn their noses up at my TLA EQ's mic pre's, but I get some very good close-mic'd drums sounds through them that arrive all the better for having hit a valve or two on the way.

Anyway, to the test...

Brauner:
I liked G/H for their smooth character, E for its warm lows and C for its detail. If I had to choose a favourite it would be E.

MKH:
I liked F for it's overall balance of lows/highs and G for its detail. B seemed to have more depth and ambience. On this day I'd choose F for the cut.

Royer:
(Lordy, I want one of these mic's!)
D had a richness I liked. H had warmer lows. C seemed to capture a delicacy I liked. A, F and G had a slight 'edge' that, although I wouldn't notice in isolation, in comparison with the others here I found less appealing. Today I'd choose C.

Fascinating exercise - let's do more of these!

--------------------
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.


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The Elf
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Bob Bickerton]
      #1010111 - 25/09/12 09:21 PM
Quote Bob Bickerton:

Would it be of use to create an article which demonstrates this? Perhaps a series of recordings of one source in a variety of rooms, miked the same way, or even miked at different distances to show how the room has more effect. Maybe start with an untreated room and record differences as the room gets incrementally treated (no doubt a supplier of acoustic treatment would sponsor this and I'm sure there would be a willing guinea pig who would like their room treated).



I'm prepared to selflessly volunteer my room!

--------------------
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.


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fHumble fHingaz



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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Bob Bickerton]
      #1010132 - 26/09/12 12:23 AM
Quote:

Ah, no, let's go for a room shoot out!




Fantastic idea!

At least that would be a clear (probably quite dramatic) demonstration...

Then we could point people to it when they show up on a forum & ask "I've got all this money burning a hole in my pocket, what should I spend it on first?", before they get caught in the frustrating vortex of misinformation & pointless expense.

--------------------
http://soundcloud.com/coldroom-studio


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skatebird



Joined: 30/08/11
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010142 - 26/09/12 07:15 AM
Thanks for a really good and well executed test! I love this kind of stuff.

I also found the differences between preamps really small. I would recommend using a ABX software (like http://emptymusic.com/software/ABXer.html) for testing if you really can tell two preamps apart. I couldn't


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Mike Stranks
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010153 - 26/09/12 08:45 AM
Another vote here for a room shoot-out... we even have a volunteer - thanks Elf.

It's clear from posts here that people are often debating replacing monitors or other gear when they're working in untreated rooms.

[I know there's a whole sub-discussion about multi-purpose rooms, but that needn't be the "can't do it" argument that's sometimes raised. I won't take that any further here!]

I worked for far too long in untreated rooms until circumstances dictated that I had to do something. Even the modest treatment I've used has been a revelation...

So, yes... as near as possible record and mix identical pieces with identical instruments, amps mics, monitors etc in a good room and an untreated one. Sales of Rockwool and pre-assembled panels will rocket!


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Mike Stranks]
      #1010161 - 26/09/12 09:04 AM
Quote Mike Stranks:

Even the modest treatment I've used has been a revelation...




And that's what we have found time and time again with the Studio SOS features. What we generally do in most of those is incredibly simple and inexpensive, and usually only involves the absolutely most basic treatment of early reflections. Yet without fail everyone has been able to hear significant improvements in clarity, definition and stereo imaging. Most volunteer the opinion that it's like they've just got new, much more expensive monitors becuase they can now hear so muich more of what the monitors have been trying to tell them all along!

Sorting out troublesome bass modes can be difficult and costly, and that's where a good acoustician comes in. But dealing with early reflections that destroy midrange clarity and imaging is trivially simple to do and, as you say Mike, it can be a revelation.

hugh

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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thefruitfarmer



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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1010196 - 26/09/12 10:49 AM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:



Sorting out troublesome bass modes can be difficult and costly, and that's where a good acoustician comes in.






Not necessarily.

I was happy with the treatment of my 8'6" cube room, with lots of RW5.

I do not doubt that someone experienced would have treated the room in less time and perhaps made the trapping more efficient.

However, how much would they want to do this?

and yeah....

The difference between a treated and untreated room makes the perceived differences in preamp appear very small indeed, also moving the mic makes more difference than using a different pre amp.


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Nolum



Joined: 24/02/10
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010244 - 26/09/12 03:24 PM
So, regarding the preamp shootout, what is the takeaway here? In light of many people (myself included) hearing very little difference, how does one go about buying a preamp? Or choosing a particular preamp for a particular source? Is there justification for spending 4 digits for a single channel? Are there really things to be considered beyond quality of parts and construction, as well technical specs (self-noise, etc)?

I feel like my world has been flipped upside down.


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Nolum]
      #1010265 - 26/09/12 05:24 PM
Quote Nolum:

So, regarding the preamp shootout, what is the takeaway here?




I think the take-away is that there really isn't as much difference as many people think between the sound character of decent preamp designs -- provided that they are used within their designed limits (ie, not overdriven).

And what that means is that for general recording duties, where the gain structure is optimised so that the signal isn't pushing the headroom margins, it really doesn't make a lot of difference which preamp you use. I'm not saying there isn't a difference, because there is... but changing the mic or repositioning the mic will result in a much more significant change of character.

I certainly wouldn't hold off recording my drum solo until I could afford an API...

Quote:

In light of many people (myself included) hearing very little difference, how does one go about buying a preamp?




Buy something that is as well designed and well built as your budget can afford, with the facilities you require. There are plenty to choose from. But above all, buy what you need, not what an internet forum says you absolutely must have for any given source!

Quote:

Or choosing a particular preamp for a particular source?




This isn't something I've ever subscribed to, so I can't help... I will admit that Ido sometimes choose to use transformer-coupled preamps on sources where I want a slightly softer, thicker sound (depending on what the mic is giving me). But in practice I am quite happy to use whatever preamp comes to hand, and concentrate on positioning the mic to get the sound I want. Of course, I tend to record classical acoustic sources with lots of headroom specifically to avoid overdriving the preamp -- for me it's all about transparency, not colour.

Quote:

Is there justification for spending 4 digits for a single channel?




Gear lust means that if you want something, you'll find a way of justifying it whatever the cost! But personally, I'd struggle to justify spending four figures for a single channel... Some have tempted me -- like the Grace M201 -- but I restrained myself! The Grace Design 201 is a beuatifully constructed preamp that has superb engineering inside and out, sounds fabulous and and is a joyous thing to use... but I'm quite happy with my ISA428, GML8304, SSL Xlogic VHD, and SADiE slither preamps which all get the job done very nicely thank you! I have also made very high quality recordings using the preamps in a Mackie 1402VLZ mixer, a little Sound Devices two channel battery-powered mic pre, and a Yamaha DM1000 mixer...

Quote:

Are there really things to be considered beyond quality of parts and construction, as well technical specs (self-noise, etc)?




It's really all about the design -- electronic and ergonomic -- the quality of the components and construction, the facilities, and the tech specs, of course -- and then how it interfaces with your mics. Ribbons and dynamics generally like much higher input impedances, for example. But if you are into running things hot for effect, then you really have to listen to how the preamp reacts becuase that's wehen the really obvious differences start to appear.

Hugh

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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Exalted Wombat



Joined: 06/02/10
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1010275 - 26/09/12 06:17 PM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:

The Grace Design 201 is a beuatifully constructed preamp that has superb engineering inside and out, sounds fabulous and and is a joyous thing to use... but I'm quite happy with my ISA428, GML8304, SSL Xlogic VHD, and SADiE slither preamps which all get the job done very nicely thank you! I have also made very high quality recordings using the preamps in a Mackie 1402VLZ mixer, a little Sound Devices two channel battery-powered mic pre, and a Yamaha DM1000 mixer...





Do I still detect a trace of denial? :-)

"Sounds fabulous"? More fabulous than the work-a-day preamps you mentioned? You mean there IS a noticable difference...?


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_ Six _



Joined: 03/06/06
Posts: 1509
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010276 - 26/09/12 06:24 PM
Cue lots of ebay auctions for no longer needed expensive pre amps.

I've got my wonga ready!


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Mattyy



Joined: 11/08/10
Posts: 102
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010277 - 26/09/12 06:25 PM
Alright - in the spirit of the "game":
Royer: I liked D and G with the D seeming to have more detail and the G being a little clearer.
Sennheisers: I liked D, it seemed to be a bit more natural than the rest for me.
Brauners: I liked E and H with E seeming to have more depth/evenness and H having just a little more clarity or separation.

To be honest, I didn't like the Brauners on this instrument. The sound seemed slightly muffled to me. Bear in mind that I am listening to these samples under less than perfect conditions to say the least. I almost want for you to tell me that there is no difference in the preamps and that this was all a hoax to "egg all of our faces" because, as a less than professional, I had a hard time distinguishing all of the samples but it was fun and if I find out that there was any consistency in my answers then I'll definitely audition my preferred preamp!
Thanks again and PLEASE keep these coming!!! Audio fidelity is pretty much the only thing that matters to me when making these decisions.
Cheers.

--------------------
Just a fan of music...


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Random Guitarist



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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010281 - 26/09/12 07:05 PM
One small doubt I have about this comparison is that I suspect that the VLZ pre-amps may not be entirely typical of the 'budget mixer' genre. I'd suggest that they are an unusually good preamp in that category.

So it could be a little misleading to go from this test to wider generalisation that budget mixer preamps are all at this level?

Having said that I applaud the test and the thought and work that has gone into it.
I'm still trying to find time to listen carefully to all of the samples though...

--------------------
I've never liked a solo violin, you need at least five for a proper fire.


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Sam Inglis
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Joined: 15/12/00
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Nolum]
      #1010282 - 26/09/12 07:09 PM
Quote Nolum:

So, regarding the preamp shootout, what is the takeaway here? In light of many people (myself included) hearing very little difference, how does one go about buying a preamp?




For me personally, I think that what this comparison has demonstrated is that you can take a decent level of sound quality almost for granted in modern gear, which means that I would tend to choose more on the strength of what features are offered. For example, to me, having stepped or digital gain controls is a massive plus, especially for stereo recording. I don't want the hassle and frustration of trying to match gains across two channels using Mackie trim pots unless I have to! And again, for my own use a decent amount of clean gain for ribbon mics is high on the list.


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Exalted Wombat]
      #1010283 - 26/09/12 07:18 PM
Quote Exalted Wombat:

Do I still detect a trace of denial? :-)




Quite possibly! I've never denied that there are differences... I just don't think the differences are as significant as many would have us believe. And this SOS comparison would seem to confirm that.

Quote:

"Sounds fabulous"? More fabulous than the work-a-day preamps you mentioned? You mean there IS a noticable difference...?




I think I said the M201 sounded sublime with a clean and neutral sound -- and I'd stand by that. other preamps are sublimely clean and neutral too -- I have several... I also said it had a huge headroom and that is where high end preamps often stand apart from the less costly wannabes.

The thing with the Grace though, is that you really feel you know where the mopney has ben spent. It feels as good to use as it sounds. If you appreciate good engineering, it's all there in the Grace Design m201...but at a cost. If I had oodles of money then I'd love to own a rack of Grace preamps... but I can get the same quality of sound with lots of others that are less expensive, and perhaps not quite as rewarding to use at a tactile level.

hugh

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Random Guitarist]
      #1010287 - 26/09/12 07:24 PM
Quote RhinoTime:

I suspect that the VLZ pre-amps may not be entirely typical of the 'budget mixer' genre. I'd suggest that they are an unusually good preamp in that category.




The second generation VLZ-pro preamps were certainly ahead of the game for budget consoles when they were first introduced a good few years ago, but I think many of the other reputable budget consoles have more or less caught up now. Most budget mixer preamps are surprisingly good these days, and we would have killed for that level of performance 30 years ago, where even fully professional consoles often sounded pretty grim in comparison! It's often the rest of the budget mixer circuitry that lets the side down, with limited headroom and other issues.

hugh

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Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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Folderol



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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010308 - 26/09/12 08:28 PM
Hmmm. Talking about room shootouts. I have one that would challenge a saint.

3M x 4M
Bay window on the 3M
Chimney breast on the 4M
Glass window opposite the bay (going to adjacent room)
Plasterboard paneling opposite the chimney breast, with something inside that rattles
Bouncy wooden floor (cellar underneath).

I suspect that when I eventually get round to it, I'll abandon this and use the dining room instead

That is of course after I've finished the kitchen

--------------------
It wasn't me!
(Well, actually, it probably was)


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skatebird



Joined: 30/08/11
Posts: 2
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Random Guitarist]
      #1010310 - 26/09/12 08:36 PM
Quote RhinoTime:

One small doubt I have about this comparison is that I suspect that the VLZ pre-amps may not be entirely typical of the 'budget mixer' genre. I'd suggest that they are an unusually good preamp in that category.




I think you are right. When I studied sound engineering way back in 1998 a classmate did some measurements on mic preamps and found out that the VLZs had lower noise and THD than the preamps in the school's SSL desk.


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ef37a



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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010313 - 26/09/12 08:45 PM
"I think the take-away is that there really isn't as much difference as many people think between the sound character of decent preamp designs -- provided that they are used within their designed limits (ie, not overdriven)."

Hugh, I recall an amplifier manufacturer saying much the same thing many years ago and even putting his money where his mouth was!

AFAIK no one proved him wrong and collected the cash but people are still talking bllx about superb but different power amps decades later!

I am sure the same will obtain with mic pres. Extremely interesting and WELL worth doing tho it was I suspect the exercise will sink into obscurity and like Darwin the naysayers will still be there!

There is at least one advantage to buying a top range pre..Reliability. I have never read a post in SoS or any other forum of a Grace, AD or any other such make going wrong and I am pretty sure if people paid that sort of money and one popped they would shout!

Dave.


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The Elf
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: ef37a]
      #1010317 - 26/09/12 09:07 PM
Quote ef37a:

There is at least one advantage to buying a top range pre..Reliability. I have never read a post in SoS or any other forum of a Grace, AD or any other such make going wrong and I am pretty sure if people paid that sort of money and one popped they would shout!



Shout!

One of my SSL Superanalogue Channels failed twice in the space of a year. It cost me the price of a decent pre to get it fixed the first time. The second time (and it looked like the same fault to me) SSL were a bit sniffy about fixing it under warranty, but after a bit of horse trading we arrived at a mutually agreeable solution.

I dont regret getting these pre's now, but the cost and repairs have made me less likely to invest that kind of money again.

--------------------
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.


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Random Guitarist



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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1010322 - 26/09/12 09:25 PM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:

but I think many of the other reputable budget consoles have more or less caught up now.




I'd accept that, but the word 'reputable' in it is kind of what I'm driving at.
For someone who comes along and reads the comparison stuff how do they know which side of the reputable line a particular maker/model sits on.

I'm assuming that you took the vlz signals from the direct outs on the mixer? And that's another thing that maybe needs to be brought out, a reputable mixer with a direct out will do better than one that forces you to use the rest of the mixer signal chain. How much better?

--------------------
I've never liked a solo violin, you need at least five for a proper fire.


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Random Guitarist]
      #1010327 - 26/09/12 10:03 PM
Yes, we took the Mackie output from the insert point, and routed via an ART transformers box to balance and isolate the output.

Hugh

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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ef37a



Joined: 29/05/06
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Random Guitarist]
      #1010329 - 26/09/12 10:12 PM
Quote RhinoTime:

Quote Hugh Robjohns:

but I think many of the other reputable budget consoles have more or less caught up now.




I'd accept that, but the word 'reputable' in it is kind of what I'm driving at.
For someone who comes along and reads the comparison stuff how do they know which side of the reputable line a particular maker/model sits on.

I'm assuming that you took the vlz signals from the direct outs on the mixer? And that's another thing that maybe needs to be brought out, a reputable mixer with a direct out will do better than one that forces you to use the rest of the mixer signal chain. How much better?




That last might be food for the next test! It is recieved wisdom that a signal chain should be as short and simple as possible. But in fact how many NE5532's can be daisy chained before the result can be told from the original source on a double blind A/B test. I suspect the number of stages needed would be impracticably large.

Dave.


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Jorge
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010333 - 26/09/12 10:39 PM
So this discussion would suggest that we can generalize these findings to a degree, and will likely find a reasonably quiet and uncolored good quality analog mixer mic preamp like a MixWiz or Zed to be adequate for most vocal or instrument recordings and most recording mics. In addition this suggests that the built-in preamps in many of the better quality audio interfaces will be fine for most of these uses as well. Would anyone take issue with, or want to qualify, these generalizations?


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ef37a



Joined: 29/05/06
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Jorge]
      #1010336 - 26/09/12 11:14 PM
Quote Jorge:

So this discussion would suggest that we can generalize these findings to a degree, and will likely find a reasonably quiet and uncolored good quality analog mixer mic preamp like a MixWiz or Zed to be adequate for most vocal or instrument recordings and most recording mics. In addition this suggests that the built-in preamps in many of the better quality audio interfaces will be fine for most of these uses as well. Would anyone take issue with, or want to qualify, these generalizations?




Not at all Jorge! "Our" (son and I) rig for a long time was a Behringer Xenyx 802 feeding a 2496. Using Sontronics STC-2, AKG P150s and latterly an SM57 he made recordings he was happy with of amplified and acoustic guitar. I then upgraded to a ZED10 and that is undoubtably a better piece of kit, but! In all honesty, although the mic pre has a wee bit more gain in hand the recordings he makes of acoustic G and with the 57 are not noticeable better in terms of noise (in fact the locale limits my noise floor!)or any other quality we can discern. One big advantage of the 10 is the HP filter on each channel (and yet how few "booteek" £xxxx mic pres provide these!).

Of course my noise floor is only just adequate and then only in the wee smalls. Had I a 30dBspl studio things MIGHT be different?

Dave.


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James PerrettModerator



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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1010372 - 27/09/12 09:23 AM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:

Most budget mixer preamps are surprisingly good these days, and we would have killed for that level of performance 30 years ago, where even fully professional consoles often sounded pretty grim in comparison!




And I wonder if this is one of the main reasons for the mic preamp myth. Originally, the idea of using separate mic preamps instead of the console preamps was intended to overcome the limits of console mic preamps. I've owned a couple of consoles from the early/mid 80s where the mic preamps were obviously noisy and coloured. I managed to produce some interesting recordings on them but they would have been obviously improved if I had access to decent mic preamps.

Once low noise input transistors became affordable, the quality of preamps on affordable consoles improved dramatically and effectively removed the need for additional preamps - but old school engineers carried on using them and the marketing machine went into overdrive.

I can certainly understand the need for preamps with eq built in where the eq is a big part of the sound. There are also plenty of people nowadays who don't use a console so they will also need separate preamps. As Hugh says, some consoles have shortcomings in later stages so some engineers will try to avoid the console all together.

I can't help thinking that this is similar to the summing amp myth that was hopefully debunked a little while ago.

James.

--------------------
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration.
http://www.jrpmusic.net


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The Elf
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: James Perrett]
      #1010387 - 27/09/12 11:31 AM
Quote James Perrett:

I can't help thinking that this is similar to the summing amp myth that was hopefully debunked a little while ago.



Head for another forum and you'll see that no matter how much a myth is systematically and methodically de-bunked some people just *want* to believe and won't take any evidence as irrefutable. Even perfect null tests are dismissed under those circumstances.

After all, it's better to believe in wichcraft than to accept that you can't make a decent recording, isn't it?

--------------------
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.


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Glenn Bucci
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010397 - 27/09/12 12:23 PM
I have not compared newer consumer mic pre's to all discrete mic pre's in my studio in over 5 years. However I have spoken to mic pre designers in the past about not having cheap chips in their gear. Not only that but having higher end transformer coupled balanced and direct humongous metalized film MultiCaps capacitor coupled unbalanced outputs which help provide better spec's.

I WANT TO CHALLENGE EVERYONE TO TAKE THEIR OWN TEST. I want you to record a vocalist with a condenser microphone of at least the quality of a AT 4033. Make sure the level into your DAW in the same and the distance between the vocalist is the same. Record with a consumer mic pre (Behringer, Mackie, Presonus, etc.) and then borrow a higher end pre (Neve, Manley, Pendulum, Avalon, SSL, etc) and do a A/B. Carefully listen to the lows, then mid's, and then the high's. What ever difference you hear, just think of adding that difference to every track on a song. After having over 20 tracks with the higher end mic pre. the difference on a entire song will be a lot more noticeable than one track. I have done this test multiple times in my studio, and I have always found the higher end mic pre's to deliver more information than the consumer pre's. Granted cleaner pre's will sound different than colored pre's, but the overall sound quality of higher end pre's with better spec's and higher end components still does make a difference. Have consumer pre's improved over the years.....yes. The question only you can answer is, is the difference enough to justify the cost of the higher end pre. There is no right or wrong answer. The answer is what do YOU think and does the cost for YOU justify the cost.

One experiment I did was with the Focusrite Voicemaster, Mindprint DTC, Focusrite ISA 220 and the Langevin DVC (Manley Labs). I clearly heard a difference between all these mic pre's, and the Langevin DVC to my ears was clearly the best sounding pre. So for me, the cost of the higher end mic pre was clearly well worth it. I personally wanted to buy the Mindprint after reading Hugh's review, but just singing into each mic pre and playing them back clearly allowed me to hear the difference. For your ears and taste perhaps the difference is not justified, and that is fine. But when you learn to hear the subtle differences and again think about multiplying the difference on every track of your song, that differences is magnified.


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Glenn Bucci]
      #1010401 - 27/09/12 12:55 PM
Quote Glenn Bucci:

...just think of adding that difference to every track on a song.




...except that it won't be the same difference will it? And it probably won't be anything like as many as twenty tracks either -- at least not for most home musicians.

The use of different mics with the same preamp will alter the tonal signature of the combination quite radically, and most people will use two different mics for vocals and guitar etc, so the 'stacking' concept is already looking dubious.

And for most home recording sessions we're looking at a main vocal, possibly a couple of backing vocals, a couple of guitar parts (acoustic/electric) and maybe some hand percussion, but that's about it as far as live recording is concerned. Pretty much everything else will be samples, virtual instruments or DIs. So ten tracks tops, and often six or less.

I agree completely that the better designed preamps sound better -- and the bottom end is a particular area where differences become more obvious -- but we really are talking pretty stubtle improvements here. Worth having if you can afford it, obviously, but not worth worrying about excessively because it certainly won't affect record sales!

In days of old, long before samples and virtual instruments, everything was recorded live, and everything went through the same console preamps. Some sounded better than others, but the hit records still emerged quite happily, despite excessive 'stacking'. I think the perspective has been distorted quite considerably over the years because of changing working styles and marketing BS, and sometimes it's worth just stepping back for a moment and re-evaluating just what is critically important and what are 'nice to have luxuries' that quickly get lost in the noise.

hugh

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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The Korff
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1010406 - 27/09/12 01:13 PM
Totes +1.


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Glenn Bucci
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1010408 - 27/09/12 01:14 PM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:

Quote Glenn Bucci:

...just think of adding that difference to every track on a song.




In days of old, long before samples and virtual instruments, everything was recorded live, and everything went through the same console preamps. Some sounded better than others, but the hit records still emerged quite happily, despite excessive 'stacking'.
hugh




Us home engineers have to remember, its all about the song and the performance. Even poorly recorded Jango Reinhardt, and Robert Johnson recordings are still loved by many today. No one says, oh how I wish he had a U47 through a Neve mic pre. They just love the music.


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Sam Inglis
SOS Features Editor


Joined: 15/12/00
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Glenn Bucci]
      #1010416 - 27/09/12 01:53 PM
Quote Glenn Bucci:

I WANT TO CHALLENGE EVERYONE TO TAKE THEIR OWN TEST. I want you to record a vocalist with a condenser microphone of at least the quality of a AT 4033. Make sure the level into your DAW in the same and the distance between the vocalist is the same. Record with a consumer mic pre (Behringer, Mackie, Presonus, etc.) and then borrow a higher end pre (Neve, Manley, Pendulum, Avalon, SSL, etc) and do a A/B.




Yes... but be sure to accurately match the levels, and use an ABX program as was suggested by a previous poster, so that you are doing the tests blind. Because what our experiences in doing these tests show is that the effect of bias (the psychological expectation that something will sound a certain way because of the name on the box) is much greater than we had expected.


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markc2



Joined: 27/09/12
Posts: 1
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010419 - 27/09/12 02:16 PM
Wow this is really very cool, thank you.

I would like to put in my vote for Royer_A, the depth of the harmonics and physicality of that recording are beautiful, it's not as super clean on the top as the Brauner-A recording but the richness makes up for it.

I've played piano since I was a kid, and know nothing of the recording industry except I got to be in a recording studio for a day being recorded as part of a band. I am one of the nuts that likes to buy home audio (mcintosh/dynaco/quad) and we get into arguments all day long about "no this sounded more organic, can't you hear the door closing backstage during the 2nd movement of this concerto?"

I do realize that I will never know what it truly sounded like because I wasn't in the room when it happened, I have to trust people in your field to do an excellent job and transport me to that moment.

Thanks

Mark


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Heinrich
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010461 - 27/09/12 07:15 PM
Always intrigued by these evaluations, have done my own modest tests previously and concluded I could tell no difference between different preamps I had to hand (when run clean) - but with the level matching and the personal blindfolding being crucial! Even tiny differences in level would draw me to prefer the louder, and I wondered if I was suffering from that a little here with the first couple listened to under the Brauner set, where I thought Brauner_A was slightly blurry and indistinct compared to the next listened to (Brauner_B...) it also had less distortion around the 0:50 mark which doesn't necessarily mean anything about it's level but made me experiment with edging the level up a tiny amount with Brauner_A only, at which point (after going through all the other Brauners it went from -marginally- the one I would NOT choose to the one that seemed the most solid. Anyone else find this?

Even A:B-ing in pairs at a time you get continuity confusion and fatigue going through permutations (well I certainly do and it seems amazingly easy - even without expectation bias - to convince yourself of a pattern that does not appear to be there an hour later (maybe after listening through a different set of the samples).

It also varied between sections of the music - A:Bing different sections produced different results. I also thought I was maybe being unfair where I felt the top end seemed slightly more prominent - maybe actually these were more detailed and I was imagining the fragility of the rest of the sound... arf

Anyway, happily, I couldn't reliably agree with myself on anything although having a stinking cold with bunged up glooping tubes is perhaps not helping, nor my Bronze Ears battered by age and years of loud music... but in the spirit of a game of minesweeper I'll offer a couple of shots just for fun and in full expectation of imminent destruction:

Brauner Set: (More 'stereo' detail but less naturalistic)
- B and E seemed (sometimes!) more brittle/less solid so by subtraction I will say these are the Mackie and ART MPAII though maybe not in that order.

MKH: (More diffuse stereo)
- I found it harder to come to any opinions about the preamps with the MKH set. Maybe the cold was worsening.
I'll take a wild stab at C&G being the same preamps as B&E in the Brauner set. (ie. ART + Mackie)

Royer: (Didn't grab me so much at first, though perhaps mentally saturated by that stage, but after reading here how much everyone likes it I now also think it sounds very sweet (no I really do)
- Here perhaps the least natural sounding seemed to be D. So, er...

...boom aargh!


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rmatichak



Joined: 03/06/11
Posts: 1
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010491 - 28/09/12 12:05 AM
Alright. I'll throw my hat in the ring.
I only had patience to compare the Brauner set.

I best liked "A" then maybe "H". Least liked "B" & "C".

Can't wait for the reveal!

--------------------
Montreal, Canada


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ar316



Joined: 03/12/08
Posts: 4
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010496 - 28/09/12 01:11 AM
OK, here goes. Listened with my Sony MDR-7506 headphones. I haven't read anyone else's responses and am not familiar with these microphones. The only preamp I am familiar with is the Mackie VLZ.

Brauner

A – Liked it. Had a bag being shuffled around noise at downs. Keys moving? (upon listening to all the files this is consistent.)

B – Good as well. Sounded grainy during some of the louder portions. Bad distortion, even.

C – Favorite so far. Clean but smooth.

D – Equal in quality to C.

E – Sounds a little duller than the rest. Not too bad though, nothing a little EQ wouldn’t fix.

F – Equal in quality to C and D.

G – Sounds good. Not as smooth as C/D/F but good. Transients were sharper/harsher but nothing to complain about.

H - For whatever reason this was my favorite. A good balance of smoothness without sounding dull.


MKH


A – On the dull side. Stereo panning is more consistent. Distortion in the lows at 0:50 .

B – Sounds nicer than A. More “musical” and dynamic than A.

C – Duller than B but better than A.

D – Has a rich quality to it. Similar to B.

E – Nothing objectionable. Similar to B and D.

F – Similar to B/D/E. Perhaps slightly duller but not bad.

G – A little sharp in the mids but good.

H – Overall nice frequency balance. Much like B/D/E/F. Not as detailed as G but still nice.


Royer

A – Not as detailed as the previous microphones. Has a dull quality.

B – Also sounds dull. A little brighter than A but still not as great as the previous microphones.

C – Nicest so far.

D – Better than C. The difference between preamps is much more noticeable with the Royer than with the previous microphones.

E – About equal to B.

F – About equal to B/E.

G – My favorite so far. Brighter/cleaner with more dynamics.

H – About equal to G.



The biggest difference was between the microphone changes. Also there seemed to be a loudness difference and panning difference between the files. Nonetheless I was happy with most of the recordings. EQing would "fix" nearly any differences. The only one that stuck out as "bad" was MKH_A.wav . There was something I really didn't like about that file. It was both dull and it distorted several times.


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Airfix



Joined: 07/05/12
Posts: 471
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: ar316]
      #1010507 - 28/09/12 05:11 AM
bit of a double post there -

Edited by Airfix (28/09/12 05:13 AM)


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Airfix



Joined: 07/05/12
Posts: 471
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: ar316]
      #1010508 - 28/09/12 05:13 AM
Welcome ar316
I like your style - only Mackies eh? - right to the point! excellent


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didier.brest



Joined: 07/03/10
Posts: 10
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010511 - 28/09/12 06:47 AM
I listened to the Royer SF12 tracks, both most enjoyable and a priori more revealing about the preamps because of the low sensitivity from the microphone.

First rank
C sounds very accurate and fast and has both deep and tight lows. It shall be a first class preamp on the neutral side. Maselec is my best guess for this one.
E has some nice colour. Would it be the quite confidential valve preamp GP PML 200 ?

Second rank
A and G, let me say Neve and API.

Third rank
I did not care so much about the other D,F and H.

Fourth rank
B like Bad.

My guesses are just preconceived ideas about how shall sound these preamps because I never had my hands on them. And I would not bet that that I could discriminate consistently between them in an ABX test.

Edited by didier.brest (28/09/12 06:48 AM)


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