You are here

Black Lion interface mods

All about the tools and techniques involved in capturing sound, in the studio or on location.

Black Lion interface mods

Postby tacitus » Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:21 pm

I've been looking at the mods offered by Black Lion Audio in Chicago to improve interface performance and reduce noise. Anybody have any UK-based experience of this? I quite like the idea of being able to use my Motu 896HD for more classical recordings when I need more than two mics but at present it's a tad noisy and certainly less transparent than I would like. On the other hand I'd have to send it to Chicago and back with the attendant risk of it being damaged. If it's a significant boost then for $350 it's probably worth it. And greener than junking it and starting all over again.

Black Lion Audio
tacitus
Frequent Poster
Posts: 757
Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2008 12:00 am

Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby Phil Reynolds » Tue Dec 20, 2011 10:27 pm

We've had ours done - not sure what model of MOTU interface it is (I'll check), but there's definitely a noticeable improvement in the sound. We also got one of their mini clocks, which seems pretty good (although it's quite hard to tell).

I'd recommend it!
Phil Reynolds
Regular
Posts: 179
Joined: Sat Jun 10, 2006 11:00 pm
"We knocked on the doors of Hell's darker chambers..." But no-one answered, so we went to the pub instead.

Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby tacitus » Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:50 am

Thanks for that. I must say it's come to something when my gear gets to holiday in the states and I don't...
tacitus
Frequent Poster
Posts: 757
Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2008 12:00 am

Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby bigster » Wed Dec 21, 2011 10:59 am

One thing to watch out for - I heard that MOTU has refused to handle BL-modded interfaces if they ever need other repairs post-modification. Maybe worth checking to find out the current situation.
bigster
Regular
Posts: 64
Joined: Sun Dec 16, 2001 12:00 am

 


Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Dec 21, 2011 11:31 am

I am not entirely comfortable with the Black Lion upgrades from a philosphical perspective -- it just seems wasteful and wrong to buy a budget converter and then spend more money on having it upgraded to redress all the engineering shortcuts that the manufacturer made in order to get it to the right budget level in the first place. It smacks of adding compromises to compromises...

Personally, I'd much rather invest in a decent, well designed and well built product in the first place... but that's just me.

The modifications that Black Lion make are logical enough in general, and in the case of the MOTU products they are certainly addressing the weak areas by replacing the analogue front ends and tweaking the clocking. Whether these modifications are cost-effective and sonically worthwhile I don't know as I've not heard them, but I would suggest that having both mods done (clock and analogue) would be more sensible than just doing the analogue stages -- and that puts the price up to around $750... at which point I'd start to wonder about buying a better interface altogether!

Hugh
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 16790
Joined: Thu Jul 24, 2003 11:00 pm
Location: Worcestershire, UK

Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby James Perrett » Wed Dec 21, 2011 12:03 pm

Like Hugh, I'm a little dubious about some of these upgraders. Most of them are done without consultation with the original designer so they may not understand the all reasons why a particular component was chosen. Sometimes replacing a component with something that looks better on paper will result in bigger problems that may not be obvious until they bite at a most inconvenient time.

James.
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 5772
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: The wilds of Hampshire

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


Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby Tomás Mulcahy » Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:05 pm

I am also dubious. If these mods are so good, why don't they post specs, or before and after audio files? All you get is hearsay.

Also the mods negate the FCC compliance. For the end user, this could easily mean unwanted interference, or worse, insurance problems.
User avatar
Tomás Mulcahy
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1528
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: Cork, Ireland.

madtheory creations


Soundware Shop


Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby tacitus » Wed Dec 21, 2011 8:46 pm

Hmmm ... nothing's ever easy, is it? I totally agree with you Hugh that buying a better product in the first place would be the ideal solution and I certainly will in time go down that route. I hadn't given the other aspects - FCC compliance and the possibility the I might not be able to get it repaired again later - any thought, so you've all stopped me in my tracks there. Having already got the 896HD of course, it was looking like a good deal and since I started the theread I've been trying to work out whether the clock's worth getting too. Trouble is, the more I try to understand the issues there, the more I realise my brain's completely fried. Just can't get my head round that one at all.

I think I'll just have another think about this and then I'll start a 'what interface/preamp' thread!
tacitus
Frequent Poster
Posts: 757
Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2008 12:00 am

Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby Tomás Mulcahy » Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:08 pm

The only option then, is a Prism Orpheus.
User avatar
Tomás Mulcahy
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1528
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: Cork, Ireland.

madtheory creations


Soundware Shop


Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby Mixedup » Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:45 am

There was certainly a case for modding the old 002s, which sounded terrible but were the only budget multitrack route into PT before the M-Powered stuff came along.

Now, I suppose it really just depends on how many decent channels you need. The MOTU has ADAT IO, doesn't it? You can add some pretty nice pres or line IO via that without upgrading it.

The biggest issue I have with mods of older budget gear now is that however good the analogue stages, I imagine at some point the interface manufacturer will drop driver support for newer OS. In which case, it only really makes sense to me to mod the analogue stages of something that can be used in standalone mode as an AD/DA converter and preamp bank, not something that can only be used as an interface hooked up directly to the computer.

I've had a few MOTU units over the years (not any more though) and I recall the 192 sounding different (in a good way) from the 2408 and the 24IO. Is it all that bad that you can't get on with it until you've saved your pennies for a worthwhile upgrade?
User avatar
Mixedup
Frequent Poster
Posts: 3893
Joined: Tue Sep 02, 2003 11:00 pm
Location: Laputa

Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby tacitus » Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:17 pm

You're right of course, mixed-up - it isn't that bad, despite the crowd that enjoy saying it's utter rubbish. Yes, it's not as transparent as I'd like and most of the gain on the mic faders is right at the end, but with most mics it's more than usable. And I can plug another 8 pres into the Adat port, even if I don't replace the 896 straight off. And I have a decent stereo pre for AB or Jecklin recordings so I'm not out of options even if I do nothing.

Thank you all, gentlemen, for your suggestions and advice. I'll sort this eventually!
tacitus
Frequent Poster
Posts: 757
Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2008 12:00 am

Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby . . . Delete This User . . . » Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:24 pm

save up for an ASP008 with adat card....
. . . Delete This User . . .
Frequent Poster
Posts: 2368
Joined: Sun Jun 22, 2008 11:00 pm

Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby Tomás Mulcahy » Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:26 pm

Off duty BBQ lighter AKA Idris wrote:save up for an ASP008 with adat card....

Those are great! Definitely good for classical work. The controls are very closely placed which sometimes confuses me, but that's a minor niggle.
User avatar
Tomás Mulcahy
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1528
Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: Cork, Ireland.

madtheory creations


Soundware Shop


Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby . . . Delete This User . . . » Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:31 pm

they're good for all sorts of work, we've used audient pre's on anything from live classical stuff , to full on metal, via jazz, folk, pop, and world music....

they're not the best mic pre in the world, but they're a helluva lot closer to it than many, and at the price, you cannot fault them....

masses of headroom as well....

my niggle, is the button illumination gets across between buttons, as they don;t have opaque casings on the optical pathways.

that's about it, as for close spacing... well, given the number of controls, it's either have less control, or suffer the spacing, or have a 2U box...

i'm good with the choice they made ..... despite my huge claws....
. . . Delete This User . . .
Frequent Poster
Posts: 2368
Joined: Sun Jun 22, 2008 11:00 pm

Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby Phil Reynolds » Fri Dec 23, 2011 9:32 pm

I wouldn't have bought ours just to get them modded - I'd have bought something more high-end, as Hugh alludes to. But we had them already, and found out about Black Lion so thought we'd give it a go - and we're very happy with the results. Although I'm pretty sure those results are also helped by the lovely Langley-upgraded channels in our old TAC Scorpion (there's nothing like opening your desk up and seeing "Amek" written everywhere!).
Phil Reynolds
Regular
Posts: 179
Joined: Sat Jun 10, 2006 11:00 pm
"We knocked on the doors of Hell's darker chambers..." But no-one answered, so we went to the pub instead.

Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby The Red Bladder » Sun Dec 25, 2011 11:21 am

tacitus wrote: at present it's a tad noisy and certainly less transparent than I would like. On the other hand I'd have to send it to Chicago and back with the attendant risk of it being damaged. If it's a significant boost then for 50 it's probably worth it.

It ain't and it won't be!

Let me guess - you are not using the best of microphones? Something far-eastern perhaps?

The very first step for improving the sort of signal that you are recording, is to get some decent microphones. For classical, my go-to mic is the M149 or perhaps the U87. When you have got those mics set up and you are still not satisfied with the sound, your next step is the mic-pre.

The best mic pres are seldom the most expensive. Go here - Audio Maintenance and get the API500 rack-mount models, if you want perfection. You could also get those £30 cards and add phantom and a box and still have a really good pre-amp.

Then and only then, should anybody even begin the think about upgrading their converters - and only if they are giving you problems. Very often, it is just the PSU and the earthing that is dodgy and these are things that are easy to fix. Poor earthing and PSU can lead to clocking problems, which in turn can sometimes lead to HF distortion and an unpleasant sound. In that case, something as ridiculously simple as larger caps and a solid earth wire from every board to the chassis is about all it takes.
The Red Bladder
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1849
Joined: Mon Jun 04, 2007 11:00 pm
Location: . . .

 


Re: Black Lion interface mods

Postby frontandcenter » Mon Dec 26, 2011 6:27 am

The adat input port is rendered non functional with the Black Lion upgrade.
frontandcenter
Poster
Posts: 47
Joined: Sun Jan 29, 2006 12:00 am


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Aural Reject, forumuser840717, ken long and 1 guest