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jaminem
active member


Joined: 19/03/01
Posts: 1127
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1009708 - 23/09/12 02:24 PM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:


It's always worth questioning 'widely agreed' things from time to time...

Hugh




Hugh if you're going to paraphrase me you should at least read what I wrote.

I said its widely agreed you should pick the best mic for the room/source.
I doubt you'd disagree with that?

My point simply is - if one pre-amp sounds better than another on a particular source however subtle the effect and you have them, then use them.

If you don't have options, like in the old'un days when all you had was a console, then that's what you'd use.

Put an SM57 on a guitar cab, through a DAV pre-amp and then an API pre-amp. Play some rock, chances are you'd pick the API because it does make a huge difference to the sound.

That'll be why people recording that kind of music for a living favour that product, because it does suit it better.


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: R W]
      #1009716 - 23/09/12 03:42 PM
Quote R W:

...but I can honestly say that different mics can work and interact differently when paired with different pre's...




Absolutely, I quite agree, and it's something we have discussed inthe magazine and in this forum many times before. The input impedance of the preamp can certainly make a noticeable difference when using dynamic mics and some old-school transformer-balanced mics, and/or when the preamp impedance is unusually low or high.

But in my experience it is rarely significant when using modern active-output capacitor mics, and even where the sound is affected it's still a relatively insignificant element of the whole recording chain.

Put it this way, while I prefer to work with decent, well designed, high-end preamps (who doesn't?), I can't think of any occasion where I had no option but to send the talent home because I couldn't get the desired sound using the mics and preamps available to me at the time! Not even when using a budget Mackie console and low-cost mics! Performance and mic position matter so much more...

Quote:

...there's then the whole other argument about driving a pre...




Agreed again. If you want a specific form of overdrive distortion then the choice of preamp becomes critical because of the way it behaves when abused, and different designs will inevitably behave differently. That kind of specialised application was outside the remit of our comparison on this test, but I think we may well have a feature considering that kind of thing in a future issue.

hugh

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


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Aten]
      #1009717 - 23/09/12 03:48 PM
Quote Aten:

So what is the legend? Which pre amp correponds to A? to B? etc? Have I missed something here
?




As Sam has already explined further up the thread, he will reveal which preamps correspond to which letters in each of the three separate comparisons after we've given everyone a decent chance to (a) buy the mag, (b) read the article, (c) listen to the examples, and (d) discuss their views here.

Stand by...

hugh

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


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Gianluca5080



Joined: 29/11/07
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Loc: Italy
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1009718 - 23/09/12 04:01 PM
Quote Sam Inglis:

Quote Gianluca5080:

For me the best preamp is A.





Again let me reiterate that A is different in each set of files - the order is not the same.




Yes, it was my fault, I intended I liked best the combo A preamp with Sennheiser MKH20s.


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: jaminem]
      #1009722 - 23/09/12 04:21 PM
Quote jaminem:

My point simply is - if one pre-amp sounds better than another on a particular source however subtle the effect and you have them, then use them.




Of course! Who wouldn't compare and choose the sound they preferred -- if they have a choice.

However, the fact is that most people don't have the choice because of budget constraints. Yet 'what preamp should I buy' is one of the most common questions on this and most other audio forums (just behind what 'monitor' should I buy for £200... ) -- and the reason people ask that question is becuase they are regularly cajoled by 'widely agreed' views expressed in magazines and forums into believing that they must have an API preamp for recording drums, or an Avalon for vocals, or whatever because no other combination is capable of delivering acceptable results.

As you will already realise, that's not a view I share. To me, a good preamp is a good preamp, full stop. Okay, so not all preamps are good -- particularly some older designs. I used to work regularly with a Soundcraft TS24 console in the early 1980s and that had shocking mic preamps --something that was glaringly obvious when recording 12-string acoustics. I often resorted to using a Neve suitcase mixer for the more critical inputs, but even so, my colleagues and I still achieved very acceptable recordings using that console.

And yes, some preamps have noticeable characters when directly compared, and which can be used to good effect, if the option arises, to enhance or compensate for the characteristics of specific microphones or sources -- but the differences are never night and day, it's way more subtle than that, and rarely particularly significant in the grand scheme of things. At least, not to me.

Of course, others may have different views and that's their prerogative, but I think Sam's comparison does highlight just how minimal the differences usually are. The grand piano is about the single most challenging source to record, with complex harmonics and vast dynamics. Distortions and colourations are easy to spot. We've compared preamps at both extremes of budget here, and with the common classics also included. Most people will 'widely agree' that the difference between an API and a Neve 1073 preamp is night and day... yet it seems most people are actually struggling to reliably identify them -- or even form a common consensus of preference -- when faced with the anonymised comparisons in this article!

That should give some pause for thought and re-evaluation, if nothing else.

There's nothing wrong with comparing and contrasting different preamps with different mics, or of choosing one combination over another for subjective and personal reasons. Everyone with the option will do that naturally, and feel they have gained something worthwhile in the process. That's human nature -- and we're certainly not saying that there is no difference in character and tonality because there clearly is.

But what we are questioning is just how great those differences really are, and whether they are as significant as popular opinion would suggest -- because that matters to those on limited budgets who might feel inadequate when forced to record drums using their Saffire preamps instead of a rack of APIs.

It's certainly nice to have the luxury of being able to record through Neve or API or Avalon, or whatever flavour preamp appeals, and to be able to compare them directly. And I'm well known for appreciating the quality of high end preamps...but to my ears the differences are relatively subtle and for most of our readers the actual recording quality is limited by the venue acoustics in 99% of cases, not the recording chain.

hugh

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


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Richie Royale



Joined: 12/09/06
Posts: 4403
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1009723 - 23/09/12 04:29 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddQjDei2zbY

Robot drummer for the next test?

--------------------
http://soundcloud.com/richie-royale
http://www.mixcrate.com/richieroyale


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mjfe2



Joined: 11/10/09
Posts: 614
Loc: Cambridge, UK
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: jaminem]
      #1009728 - 23/09/12 05:13 PM
Quote jaminem:

Its widely agreed that you should select an appropriate mic for the source/room, so why not a pre-amp? It may make a smaller difference but if it makes even a small one its worth it. Anyone who has purchased any high end piece of audio gear is aware of the law of diminishing returns, but we do it as any improvement however small is usually worth it.




None of this constitutes an argument! To your first sentence I'd answer, because countless (great sounding) hit records were made on console preamps. And I completely disagree with your next two sentences. The law of diminishing returns is not the same for every category of product. It's very likely that a £1000 mic is going to be a bigger improvement on a £200 mic than two equivalently priced preamps. (And even with mics, the recent vocal mic shootout in SOS showed that expensive mics aren't always preferable.)

So I would say that small differences are not always worth it, especially when they cost thousands of pounds. Think what you could buy with the money instead. Better mics, better monitors....you could even hire a better room!

Anyway, thanks SOS for withholding the results, I think people need to sweat a litle longer! And maybe in the meantime someone can try and link pre X on mic A with pre Y on mic B and so on

Incidentally, in the classical world I think esoteric preamps become even more irrelevant. But I do know one very good producer/engineer who said the one time he heard his Millennia pres really come into their own was on a huge orchestral crash (bass drum and everything). Apparently the explosion was handled 'effortlessly'.


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Daniel Drummond



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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: R W]
      #1009730 - 23/09/12 05:23 PM
Quote:

One thing to note is that any tiny difference becomes magnified when you stack tracks... so for vocals, for instance, if you stack a ton of tracks, the character of the pre can become very evident. Neve pre's seem to have a pleasant harmonic top end that may seem almost inaudible in some cases - but it is there and if you have a ton of tracks recorded though a Neve, that pleasant 'feature' does add up.




That is the argument most used by some friends of mine, although I am currently not inclined to believe them. What do you guys think of that? Maybe that would require another test...

--------------------
www.estudiodrummond.com.br


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R W



Joined: 12/09/09
Posts: 28
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Daniel Drummond]
      #1009731 - 23/09/12 05:27 PM
Quote Daniel Drummond:

Quote:

One thing to note is that any tiny difference becomes magnified when you stack tracks... so for vocals, for instance, if you stack a ton of tracks, the character of the pre can become very evident. Neve pre's seem to have a pleasant harmonic top end that may seem almost inaudible in some cases - but it is there and if you have a ton of tracks recorded though a Neve, that pleasant 'feature' does add up.




That is the argument most used by some friends of mine, although I am currently not inclined to believe them. What do you guys think of that? Maybe that would require another test...




I believe it to be true. API pre's can have a tiny mid range presence that through stacking can become obvious. That's my personal experience and I have spoken with others who share the exact same conclusion.


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R W



Joined: 12/09/09
Posts: 28
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: mjfe2]
      #1009732 - 23/09/12 05:30 PM
Quote mjfe2:

Quote jaminem:

Its widely agreed that you should select an appropriate mic for the source/room, so why not a pre-amp? It may make a smaller difference but if it makes even a small one its worth it. Anyone who has purchased any high end piece of audio gear is aware of the law of diminishing returns, but we do it as any improvement however small is usually worth it.




None of this constitutes an argument! To your first sentence I'd answer, because countless (great sounding) hit records were made on console preamps.




I might be missing something... but these consoles you speak of; what preamps were in them?


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R W



Joined: 12/09/09
Posts: 28
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1009733 - 23/09/12 05:35 PM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:



But what we are questioning is just how great those differences really are, and whether they are as significant as popular opinion would suggest -- because that matters to those on limited budgets who might feel inadequate when forced to record drums using their Saffire preamps instead of a rack of APIs.




This is a key point and worth highlighting. I may be coming across as pro-pre here, speaking of high end pre's but it is certainly true to say that most decent pre's will get the job done and done well. I'll not dispute that. I have heard amazing recordings done through an Mbox1 and a £30 microphone; so it's worth not losing sight of what Hugh is saying. Never-the-less, it's a worthy avenue to explore and I'm glad SOS have.


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mjfe2



Joined: 11/10/09
Posts: 614
Loc: Cambridge, UK
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: R W]
      #1009734 - 23/09/12 05:59 PM
Quote R W:

Quote mjfe2:

Quote jaminem:

Its widely agreed that you should select an appropriate mic for the source/room, so why not a pre-amp? It may make a smaller difference but if it makes even a small one its worth it. Anyone who has purchased any high end piece of audio gear is aware of the law of diminishing returns, but we do it as any improvement however small is usually worth it.




None of this constitutes an argument! To your first sentence I'd answer, because countless (great sounding) hit records were made on console preamps.




I might be missing something... but these consoles you speak of; what preamps were in them?




True, but they weren't always high end. The point I'd prefer to make (which was made earlier in this thread) is that 'choosing a preamp' for each session wasn't one of the creative decisions made. It was pragmatic: we've had this desk for X years now so we don't even think twice about whether we're going to use its preamps (let alone match them to certain mics).

I am interested in the idea of layering up preamps though. That's one thing that the shootout doesn't address (actually I haven't read the article yet..). Perhaps this will be the next super-accurate plugin to come out? But then the plugin manufacturer would have to convince people that an average preamp will do in the first place...


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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: R W]
      #1009741 - 23/09/12 06:55 PM
Quote R W:


I can say from personal experience, mics can sound a lot different through different pre's and I think people do underestimate the link. For instance, I have a Peluso VTB and for vocals, through an API pre, it sounds brilliant, same through an Apogee (Mini-Me) - however through a UA 610, it does not sound right at all. I want to trial a Neve with this mic. On the flipside, other mics sounds right through the 610. The 610 seems to impart a darkness to the signal and can be nice hooked up to a brighter mic with less bottom.





R W - out of interest, have you done a blind test of this? Because in fact what you're saying here exactly parallels our experiences while we were doing the tests. When we listened back in the knowledge that we had just recorded a Neve or API or whatever, we were convinced we could hear significant differences. But when that psychological expectation was removed, suddenly the differences seemed minute...


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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: Sam Inglis]
      #1009742 - 23/09/12 06:59 PM
The question of how preamps 'stack' across many tracks is an interesting one. I can believe that, say, the mid-range emphasis of an API would become more obvious in that situation. But is it an effect you couldn't recreate simply by EQing the master bus?


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R W



Joined: 12/09/09
Posts: 28
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1009747 - 23/09/12 07:23 PM
Quote Sam Inglis:

Quote R W:


I can say from personal experience, mics can sound a lot different through different pre's and I think people do underestimate the link. For instance, I have a Peluso VTB and for vocals, through an API pre, it sounds brilliant, same through an Apogee (Mini-Me) - however through a UA 610, it does not sound right at all. I want to trial a Neve with this mic. On the flipside, other mics sounds right through the 610. The 610 seems to impart a darkness to the signal and can be nice hooked up to a brighter mic with less bottom.





R W - out of interest, have you done a blind test of this? Because in fact what you're saying here exactly parallels our experiences while we were doing the tests. When we listened back in the knowledge that we had just recorded a Neve or API or whatever, we were convinced we could hear significant differences. But when that psychological expectation was removed, suddenly the differences seemed minute...




The tests have been blind, indeed. If someone put my mics (that I know well) through my pre's in any order, I reckon I could tell which pre was used. Now I know that sounds like a challenge best left to one of Matthew Kelly's 'You Bet' stars but I am sure of this. I will say that Hugh made the point, that people may feel inadequate with what they have at their disposal due to these kind of discussions and I'd never want that to happen. I agree with the idea that no half decent pre will ever stand in the way of a good recording...


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R W



Joined: 12/09/09
Posts: 28
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1009749 - 23/09/12 07:26 PM
Quote Sam Inglis:

The question of how preamps 'stack' across many tracks is an interesting one. I can believe that, say, the mid-range emphasis of an API would become more obvious in that situation. But is it an effect you couldn't recreate simply by EQing the master bus?




Yes it could be dealt with with EQ but I'm not always sure the 'presence' is that simple. There have been a few blind tests, that I've heard of, where Neve was always chosen for vocals... but again, this may just be feeding the myth.


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Chopstix



Joined: 23/09/12
Posts: 1
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1009758 - 23/09/12 08:38 PM
I'm curious about how the stacking myth still continues to confuse people this day and age...
Haven't heard any such effect during the years - and it has also been sorted out and explained very nicely by Ethan Winer: http://audioundone.com/the-stacking-myth .

However - if you have the same preamp on all tracks (if you don't use transparent preamps, that is), the coloring might feel a bit annoying since it's the same on everything - but since you normally use eq and other stuff to color the tracks in the mix, that's hardly a problem anyway...


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Daniel Davis



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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1009763 - 23/09/12 10:27 PM
That you could hear the expected character of each pre-amp when you know which was which but your choices became unreliable when anonamised seems to simply confirm how powerful a phenomenom confirmation bias really is.

--------------------
Daniel Davis
Edinburgh Recording Studio Windmill Sound


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Wetlabs



Joined: 01/07/06
Posts: 1
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1009766 - 24/09/12 12:29 AM
An amazing comparison that reminds me very much of the old 'expensive hi-fi interconnect' debate: When blind A/B tests are conducted, differences become very minimal and it is hard to say what is better/worse
We really need a phase accurate test though - I am guessing the Diskclavier is not that tight!
At this point it would be cool to mic up a repeatable file through a speaker and get some 'difference' analysis of the pres. Others will know better than I but I believe someone did a CD of hi-fi mythbusting with phase nulling tests?
Thanks SOS for a thought-provoking article. The only definitive result for me was that the Royer sounds very nice on piano!


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Exalted Wombat



Joined: 06/02/10
Posts: 5838
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Wetlabs]
      #1009783 - 24/09/12 09:24 AM
Quote Wetlabs:

We really need a phase accurate test though - I am guessing the Diskclavier is not that tight!





Even that won't convince the believers! It's strange, but you need a much stronger argument to prove the obvious fact that there ISN'T a God than to justify the bizarre opinion that there IS. Almost as if divine intervention is distorting our minds... :-)


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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: Sam Inglis]
      #1009791 - 24/09/12 10:01 AM
The problem with the Brauner_H file has now been fixed. If you already downloaded the entire archive, you can also just download the revised Brauner_H file:

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/oct12/articles/preampsmedia.htm


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


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Loc: Worcestershire
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Wetlabs]
      #1009817 - 24/09/12 01:30 PM
Quote Wetlabs:

The only definitive result for me was that the Royer sounds very nice on piano!




It does, doesn't it? Even with such a non-standard position, too!

hugh

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


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Daniel Davis]
      #1009818 - 24/09/12 01:33 PM
Quote Daniel Davis:

... seems to simply confirm how powerful a phenomenom confirmation bias really is.




Absolutely -- yet few seem to believe it!

hugh

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


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Exalted Wombat



Joined: 06/02/10
Posts: 5838
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1009833 - 24/09/12 02:33 PM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:

Quote Daniel Davis:

... seems to simply confirm how powerful a phenomenom confirmation bias really is.




Absolutely -- yet few seem to believe it!





Careful! Carry on with this tack and half the magazine can be replaced with "Oh, by the way, there's a new XYZ out. But don't bother - the one you've got is just fine!" :-)


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


Joined: 25/07/03
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Loc: Worcestershire
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Exalted Wombat]
      #1009857 - 24/09/12 04:16 PM


hugh

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


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Daniel Drummond



Joined: 07/05/06
Posts: 241
Loc: Brazil
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Chopstix]
      #1009862 - 24/09/12 04:30 PM
Quote Chopstix:

http://audioundone.com/the-stacking-myth



Great article about the stacking myth.


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dmills



Joined: 25/08/06
Posts: 2429
Loc: High Wycombe, UK
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Exalted Wombat]
      #1009886 - 24/09/12 06:14 PM
Quote Exalted Wombat:


Careful! Carry on with this tack and half the magazine can be replaced with "Oh, by the way, there's a new XYZ out. But don't bother - the one you've got is just fine!" :-)



And wouldn't that just be a breath of fresh air!

Actually, SOS is nowhere near as bad as some are in this respect, but it is as always a fine line to tread.

"There is a new XYZ out, it does this well, and that not so much, if you already have the room and the monitoring sorted it might make a difference to FOO. It is broadly comparable to a JKL, a little more expensive but the build quality is better, you might also wish to look at a QWE (Better protools integration, balanced IO) or a VBW (More front panels controls and less menus), the improvement is subtle and it takes a good room and excellent monitoring to hear the difference....."

IIRC it usually goes something like that!

Regards, Dan.

--------------------
Audiophiles use phono leads because they are unbalanced people!


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c0ff



Joined: 03/01/07
Posts: 31
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Daniel Drummond]
      #1009913 - 24/09/12 09:33 PM
Quote Daniel Drummond:

Quote Chopstix:

http://audioundone.com/the-stacking-myth



Great article about the stacking myth.




Not that I'm trying to protect the "stacking myth" but the article is a gross simplification to say the least. If preamps differed only in static frequency response, there would be no sense to have so many different preamp flavours - they all could be emulated with an EQ .. in a world where any equalisation is a completely linear process.


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Jorge
member


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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Exalted Wombat]
      #1009929 - 25/09/12 01:51 AM
Quote Exalted Wombat:

Quote Hugh Robjohns:

Quote Daniel Davis:

... seems to simply confirm how powerful a phenomenom confirmation bias really is.




Absolutely -- yet few seem to believe it!





Careful! Carry on with this tack and half the magazine can be replaced with "Oh, by the way, there's a new XYZ out. But don't bother - the one you've got is just fine!" :-)




One of the reasons I have been a long time subscriber to SOS is the reputation the magazine has developed for identifying expensive solutions with diminishing returns, accurately characterizing the situations in which those subtle advantages are important and worth the money, and helping your readers identify the higher yield investments first. Virtually all my purchases that have been guided by your reviews have performed as expected from your descriptions. When you occasionally point out an inexpensive solution that works nearly as well, the same, or better than the expensive solution, you do a real service to your readers. That we can all agree on. The additional challenge is to get your sponsors to understand the importance of unbiased reviews to helping your readers (and googlers) make the best decisions for their specific needs. Certainly this helps your readership numbers, but it probably also results in greater sales of products that perform well and fewer mistaken purchases and returns of disappointing products, although it might be hard to document that last assertion objectively.

So SOS, keep up the great work (and don't wait too long to publish the key to the preamp identities).


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ef37a



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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1009937 - 25/09/12 06:20 AM
Most illuminating!

I had dabbled with sound recording many years ago and the only "pre amps" were the ones in the recorder. I built a 4 chan' triode mixer which was not bad noisewise but the transformers I could afford (Radio Spares 1:60) did not go much past 12kHz! Then we were ALWAYS told in Tape Recorder to... Buy a Better Mic!

What a revalation then was the Behringer BCA2000! It had other, "digital" problems but the mic pres were incredible! Plenty of gain (even if the control was cramped, a common problem on much better gear) low noise, we would have killed for these 40yrs ago. They were even just about useable on my 30Ohm Reslo RB ribbons in fact it was hum pickup due to "unbalanced" wiring that was the noise limit (stick one in the garden, no problem!)
Now I understand that the Berry "Imp"is a rip of the Mackie? Well all I can say is that the two discrete input transistor + ic circuit has been around on the internet for ages, so who WAS the originator?

No, these results do not suprise me in the least. In fact I have a 35quid Wharfedale mixer that is if anything quieter than the Berry!

Dave.


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Kwackman



Joined: 07/11/02
Posts: 1396
Loc: Belfast
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: ef37a]
      #1010008 - 25/09/12 02:35 PM
I've spent almost an hour listening many times to just one of the sets.
I'm listening in a treated room and on good speakers.

After many repeated listenings, I could not hear a difference, never mind choosing a preferred one!
My hearing probably isn't as good as I hope it is, but I thought I would be able to dectect some differences- but in all honesty- I can't!

Piano sounded great though!

--------------------
Cubase, guitars.


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Glenn Bucci
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: jaminem]
      #1010037 - 25/09/12 04:18 PM
I agree that many of the mic pre's in this example sound very similar with the piano. However when you compare Mackie pre's to API on a drum kit, there will be little guess work which one is which. When you get a acoustic guitar and compare a API to Great River or Rupert Neve pre's, you will hear a difference. They had the Listening Sessions web site that had comparisons of many mic 'pre's on guitars, bass, drums, and you clearly heard difference with different pre's. The site is no longer around though.

I used to have a Focusrite Voicemaster, and when I went to a Langevin DVC, I clearly heard better representation of the original source...so much that I sold the Voicemaster. Discrete Class A gear compared to consumer mic pre's clearly offer more detail. But once you get to high end mic pre's, the difference between clean pre's like a GML or Grace may be very very subtle. When comparing two pre's on a single source, the difference on some may be small. However you will notice a bigger difference when you record over 10 tracks using consumer pre's and compare them to 10 tracks using the higher end pre's. I also have done A/B comparisons with a Manley tube pre, to the Avalon 737 and there is a clear difference is tonality with the Manley adding more color and the Avalon being a cleaner smooth sound. In comparing the Manley Slam tube pre, it offered less color than the Manley standard pre, and offered a lot more in the high end over the Avalon737.


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_ Six _



Joined: 03/06/06
Posts: 1502
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010041 - 25/09/12 04:46 PM
I have to agree. I only had my Focusrite Saffire pres for years until I invested in an SSL X-Logic channel. The difference was remarkable.

Although, the quality of the converters probably had a lot to do with that too...


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Glenn Bucci]
      #1010043 - 25/09/12 04:52 PM
Quote Glenn Bucci:

I agree that many of the mic pre's in this example sound very similar with the piano. However when you compare Mackie pre's to API on a drum kit, there will be little guess work which one is which.




I'm not so sure the difference would actually be as 'night and day' as you suggest -- provided you're not clipping the preamps. There are differences, of course, but I really do think 'expectation bias' plays a much greater part in people's impression than most people realise.

Of course, if you are clipping the preamps -- something which is quite easy to do with drums in particular -- the overload behaviour will be quite different and result in clearly different tonality.

But clearly there is a lot more milage to be covered in this kind of preamp comparison, and if we can figure out a way of generating reliably consistent snare drum hits perhaps we will return to this topic in the future and prove, or disprove, this very widely held belief.

hugh

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


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mjfe2



Joined: 11/10/09
Posts: 614
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1010049 - 25/09/12 05:31 PM
So when are SOS going to do an A/D converter shootout?!


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Glenn Bucci
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Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #1010060 - 25/09/12 06:18 PM
Quote Hugh Robjohns:

Quote Glenn Bucci:

I agree that many of the mic pre's in this example sound very similar with the piano. However when you compare Mackie pre's to API on a drum kit, there will be little guess work which one is which.




I'm not so sure the difference would actually be as 'night and day' as you suggest -- provided you're not clipping the preamps. There are differences, of course, but I really do think 'expectation bias' plays a much greater part in people's impression than most people realise.

Of course, if you are clipping the preamps -- something which is quite easy to do with drums in particular -- the overload behaviour will be quite different and result in clearly different tonality.

hugh




What I have noticed when tracking drums with the API's is the fast transience response they provide which you would not get with Mackie's, or even 1073's. Hence the reason why engineers like Andy Johns likes to use API pre's on drums. So we are not just talking about the "character of the mic pre" but how it captures the signal...or how quickly it does.

I remember an article in SOS where the A/B comparison of a classical recording you made on a stage with your GML equipment and Paul did with his equipment. It was remarked that the differences with your recordings vrs his with his less expensive pre's was not as drastic as one would think. Perhaps certain instruments, and equipment make more of a difference with different pre's?


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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]
      #1010075 - 25/09/12 07:45 PM
Inspiration --> composition --> arrangement --> performers/performances --> environment --> mic placement --> mic, etc... and in that order.

Remember everybody, that this was on a SOLO piano piece. Add other instruments and these differences are... NOTHING -- at least compared to 6 steps before. I do understand that as audio engineers, we have less to do with the other steps but if we focus on supporting artists during these processes then I think that we will be far better off than if we can afford Neves or APIs. IN FACT, I would go so far as to argue that messing around with different preamps and mics at the expense of previous steps has done more to DESTROY music than help. I would much rather listen to a Beethoven piano sonata performed by an experienced concert pianist in a great hall captured in just the right spot on a Candle tape recorder than most of the rip off/rushed/thrown together/financially motivated/recorded through a million dollar signal chain music that has been assaulting my senses lately.
Thank you SOS for trying to better MUSIC :-)
And all of you gear junkies - that's fine, I'm with you but the best investment you can make is listening... plus maybe lessons - LOL!!

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


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ef37a



Joined: 29/05/06
Posts: 6864
Loc: northampton uk
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Sam Inglis]
      #1010076 - 25/09/12 07:51 PM
Oooo! "They" are going to wriggle! Oooo! "They" are going to huff and puff!

Re levels. Of course spikey stuff like drums has to be watched. Then the common hybrid mic pre does produce rather more distortion at higher gain levels and will probably sound "rougher sooner".

Discrete "op amps" do not seem to me to offer any great advantages (and may well be worse for stability) except in terms of ultimate headroom since the supply rails can be almost as high as we like, but if pro converters stop at +24dBu is there really any point in 10-15dB more than this?

Then there is the class A debacle. Might be something to it if going class A preamp direct to converter but any kind of desk will put probably 1/2 doz class AB chips in the signal path. Do said converters use class A drive and output circuits? What of active monitors? Anything above 5 watts per speaker is going to be class AB (unless it is class D!).

And finally transient response. Did I not learn many years ago (about the time of the great TIM tizzy) that provided the system did not ring, speed was simply proportional to system bandwith? In this case almost certainly defined by the microphone.
Dave.


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


Joined: 25/07/03
Posts: 22082
Loc: Worcestershire
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Glenn Bucci]
      #1010090 - 25/09/12 08:19 PM
Quote Glenn Bucci:

What I have noticed when tracking drums with the API's is the fast transience response they provide which you would not get with Mackie's, or even 1073's.




The transformers in the 1073 certainly restrict both bandwidth and slew rate -- both affecting the transient response -- and so the 1073 does sound noticeably different to API or Mackie preamps as a result. But the differences between API and Mackie preamps are rather more subtle, with the rest of the Mackie mixer signal path compromising the quality of the preamps, which is why we used the inserts as outputs. But I don't think you'd find much difference in a transient response measurement between an API and a Mackie preamp... And plenty of hit records have been made with Mackie mixers without anyone complaining of a problem with the drum transients!

I fear we're still in the groove of the 'widely agreed' mantra here!

Quote:

I remember an article in SOS where the A/B comparison of a classical recording you made on a stage with your GML equipment and Paul did with his equipment. It was remarked that the differences with your recordings vrs his with his less expensive pre's was not as drastic as one would think. Perhaps certain instruments, and equipment make more of a difference with different pre's?




The differences were, indeed, very small, and actually could be ascribed to the small variations in mic positions as much as the different equipment. The greatest differences tended to appear at hotter signal levels, as the more expensive, elaborate, and better designed equipment revealed the advantages of its higher headroom margins.

So I would suggest again, that preamp differences are most obvious when they are driven hard, either deliberately or accidentally, and it's more about how they handle overloads when they become non-linear as much as, if not more than, any other aspect. And it's perfectly valid to take musical advantage of that kind of behaviour in appropriate circumstances. But where there is no need to 'drive' the preamp, perhaps preamp choice is rather less significant than many have been led to believe.

Hugh

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


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


Joined: 25/07/03
Posts: 22082
Loc: Worcestershire
Re: Preamp comparison in SOS October 2012: your views! new [Re: Mattyy]
      #1010091 - 25/09/12 08:25 PM
Quote Mattyy:

IN FACT, I would go so far as to argue that messing around with different preamps and mics at the expense of previous steps has done more to DESTROY music than help.




I think I would agree with you, and your earlier point about the overwhelming importance of the earlier stages of the music change.

Hugh

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


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