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Downgrading a mic preamp

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Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Ramirez » Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:11 pm

Hi there,

I currently have a DAV BG1u pre, but have for a while now thought it to be overkill for my set-up - and the recent preamp shootout reinforced this though!

I'm thinking of selling the DAV (partly to towards paying for a new van... and I'm eyeing the new Equator D5 speakers and the Neumann TLM102...)

In all honesty I was quite happy tracking through a Behringer ADA8000 until it blew a few months ago (had been solid as a rock for about 5 years before), so I'm looking to buy the new ADA8200 when that arrives.

So far so good, but I'm worried about replacing the DAV - the main concern I had with the ADA8000 was the imprecise gain control, and that most of the gain was bunched up at the control's far right. As I use ribbon mics for quiet sources quite often (sE R1 pair - quite a low output), the DAV has been very useful. Can anyone recommend a basic two-channel mic amp (or a small mixer) with reasonably linear gain controls at the budget end of things?

Having seen that the Behringer ADA8200 will most probably feature some of their newly acquired Midas preamp technology, am I being too hopeful that the gain controls will be precise enough for ribbons on acoustic intruments and soft vocals?

Thanks,
Aled
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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Ramirez » Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:25 pm

...just an additional. The ART TPS seems nice and affordable. I'm not too fussed about valves and variable input impedance (although it does have that, which perhaps could be useful with the ribbons.)

Would this kind of product be likely to be at least easier to work with than the original ADA8000 regarding useable gain? I'm not necessarily looking for something to match the DAV. As long as it has reasonably low self-noise and can amplify a ribbon mic on a fingerpicked acoustic without too much hassle I'll be happy (though that is no mean feat, I'm sure!)
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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Jack Ruston » Wed Nov 28, 2012 6:03 pm

I don't think you should. For what you'd get for the DAV you won't really put much money in your pocket vs a van. And, even if you buy into the theory that all preamps sound the same, there are still differences in functionality and ease of use which make one better than another. FWIW, if you try that same preamp test on drums or guitar amps the results would be quite different.

What you have there is a top notch bit of gear with a relatively low used value: Keep it. Sell something else to buy the van. A kid or the missus for example.

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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Ramirez » Wed Nov 28, 2012 6:22 pm

That thought did cross my mind - I already have something that pretty much does exactly what I want, so why change it?
I haven't read that preamp test as 'any cheap thing will do', and I think for what I want to do with ribbons I need something a bit more manageable than the Behringer.

As it is, we already have the van, just need to pay back the generous folk who helped us out... but I'm sure I could find another way of doing that. I was going to look for around £500 for the DAV (it's the rack version), but maybe that's a bit optimistic (£612 inc VAT from KMR), so I might as well keep it.

Hmm, any more opinions?

I'm still looking forward to the ADA8200 though, could be very succesful I think.
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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby The Elf » Wed Nov 28, 2012 6:50 pm

Well, I'd be in the market for a secondhand DAV BG1 and I wouldn't be prepared to pay anything close to 500 for one - a new one is within close reach at that price. I agree with Jack - why bother selling it? For what it would be worth I'd keep it and find another way of achieving your aim.

Have you contacted Zukan about pawning your limbs, or internal organs? He had a special on kidneys last month!
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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Ramirez » Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:09 pm

The Elf wrote:Well, I'd be in the market for a secondhand DAV BG1 and I wouldn't be prepared to pay anything close to 500 for one - a new one is within close reach at that price. I agree with Jack - why bother selling it? For what it would be worth I'd keep it and find another way of achieving your aim.

I think you're right! (For what it's worth, it's the rack unit with DI (BG1u) rather the standard 'brick' BG1 - it's around a £100 dearer I think. Still, £500 is probably pushing it)

I shall remain a BG1 owner for the time being then.
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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:48 pm

Just asking here, cause I have been out of the preamp game for a long while now, is the DAV much better than a Mackie XDR 2 or Onyx preamp ?

What is a decent clean £200.00 preamp these days ?

(Don't tell me..... a second hand DAV )

Thanks
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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby dickiefunk » Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:07 am

Ramirez wrote:I was going to look for around £500 for the DAV (it's the rack version), but maybe that's a bit optimistic (£612 inc VAT from KMR)

Last secondhand BG1-u I saw went for £350. Don't think you're likely to get £500 for it.

I would personally not sell the DAV.
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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Persuazion » Mon Dec 03, 2012 2:23 pm

A perfect example of what thousands of others that read that article will be doing. ditching a great pre in favour of cheaper alternatives. Big no no. That test done with drums and guitars? Different ball game. I can guarantee you that you will end up realising the hard way how good the DAV is. Quiet ribbon? You're gong to reach for that quiet, stepped gain pot and it won't be there. You'll get past 1 o'clock trying to push the gain for a ribbon or distant mic only to find wild level jumps (good fun trying to stereo match) and noise.

I have nothing but respect for the whole sos team but that was a pretty irresponsible article IMO and should have been done alongside other tests, perhaps as a 2 or 3 part article with drums and guitars in the second and vocals last. Vocals are another curve ball in the mix.

I think by the time you actually do get round to tests pushing preamps with guitars and drums, it'll be too late for some folks that have already ditched their nice pres for an ART. "oh, I wonder if my pre would have sounded good when pushed like that?"

I apologise, I haven't thoroughly read you're post, just felt taken to have a bit of a rant. Been brewing a while
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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Ramirez » Mon Dec 03, 2012 2:28 pm

Persuazion wrote:I apologise, I haven't thoroughly read you're post

No problem, you pretty much summed my initial concerns, which is why I posted the thread in the first place! I was/am fully aware that the preamp test is not the be all and end all, which is why I didn't just stick it up for sale immediately.

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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Dec 03, 2012 2:54 pm

Persuazion wrote:A perfect example of what thousands of others that read that article will be doing. ditching a great pre in favour of cheaper alternatives.

I very much doubt that... the resale value of preamps is not that great, and most people like to hang on to their esoteric toys for myriad reasons. However, what it might do is reduce the temptation to buy something much more expensive unnecessarily, and make people think rather than blindly follow the frankly often moronic assertions that populate so many alternative forum posts and magazine features..

That test done with drums and guitars? Different ball game.

It's been said a lot... and mostly by the same people that previosuly swore they would be able to reliably identify different preamps regardless of source. I'm not so convinced myself. If you push a preamp into saturation then, sure, differences become very obvious, and that's an easy condition to reach with transient-rich sources like drums. And where harmonically complex sources are used preamps with non-linearity and intermodulation issues become obvious, and that can sometimes be the case with guitars -- especially acoustic 12 strings. But most people don't work that way most of the time... at least not in my world!

So I would still argue that, provided the gain structure is sensible and the preamp is being used for simple amplification rather than effect, most would find it very hard to identify different preamps in a blind test even with drums and guitars. If we can work out a reliable means of generating a consistent acoustic source we'll run the tests to see...

Of course, there are other differences between preamps that affect perception and value, as we've already discussed.

The DAV BG1 is a great preamp -- one of my favourites -- and not least for its ergonomics and build quality.

I have nothing but respect for the whole sos team but that was a pretty irresponsible article IMO and should have been done alongside other tests, perhaps as a 2 or 3 part article with drums and guitars in the second and vocals last. Vocals are another curve ball in the mix.

We will do other tests along similar lines in due course, but finding a truly consistent source remains a challenge. However, rather than 'irresponsible' I prefer to think that the test was enlightening and will help many to re-assess where the priorities in a recording chain really lie. There was a time -- about twenty years ago -- when the difference between budget and high end preamps was very obvious indeed, but that is no longer the case, and while there are still sonic differences they are not always relevant or significant to many users and applications.

I think by the time you actually do get round to tests pushing preamps with guitars and drums, it'll be too late ...

We did point out many times in the article and subsequent follow-up that the situation would be very different if the preamp gain structures were 'abused' to introduce deliberate distortion characteristics.

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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Persuazion » Mon Dec 03, 2012 4:05 pm

Apologies Hugh! Irresponsible was a bit of a daft way to put it.

I was just upset to actually see written down in front me the very concern I first had after the article was published.

And my rant wasn't directed toward the op in away

I just know I have 24 great pres in my Audient desk but I still yearn for more DAVs in my rack.
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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Dec 03, 2012 4:11 pm

No problem -- always happy to exchange views and consider other opinions!

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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Andi » Tue Dec 04, 2012 1:54 pm

When I did my own "for myself" pre tests I used a Line 6 Backtrack to play a loop through a guitar amp, mic on a stand and swap-out the pres at will - recorded the passes then aligned the first transient of the recordings. Much easier than using a player piano and of-course you can test with different amp settings. Properly aligned and level matched tracks allow null tests. Dead easy.
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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:00 pm

Yes, reamping a track through a guitar amp is easy enough, and we have considered that, although the purists will complain that it's not the same as playing a real guitar live it should be adequate. The real challenge is to find a consistent drum source...

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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby PianoPerson » Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:05 pm

Ask Pat Metheny if you can borrow his Orchestrion for a day or two. Plenty of perfectly repeatable drum sounds there!
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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Ramirez » Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:13 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Yes, reamping a track through a guitar amp is easy enough, and we have considered that, although the purists will complain that it's not the same as playing a real guitar live it should be adequate. The real challenge is to find a consistent drum source...

hugh

Wouldn't mic'ing a single speaker / pair of speakers playing a drum recording at least give a consistent idea of the differences between preamps? Granted, the recording itself would have had to pass through other mics and preamps, but at least it would give an indication of different characteristics regarding transients and coping with typical drum sounds etc.

Regarding a real drum kit, it seems as though robots are the only way! Would factors such as changes in skin tension over prolonged playing come into something like this?

I presume that microphone splitters are too much of a risk, possibly introducing their own tonal changes? I've just at the Klark-Technic DN1248 - two of the four splitter outputs are electronically balanced, and the other two have a transformed. I can see that there would probably be a difference there, but wouldn't 'two of a kind' (electroncially balanced for this kind of test I suppose) pass an identical signal? Granted, two outputs is quite useless for a decent comparison, but in theory...?
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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Scramble » Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:28 pm

I've sold a fair amount of gear through eBay, and found that a rule of thumb is that for a piece of gear in this sort of price range (that's still being sold new) you will generally get about 40% of the current new price.

This can of course vary depending on the item, sometimes you can get a lot more (especially if you get lucky and a bidding war starts), but you'd have to get very lucky indeed to get £500 for something that sells new for £612.

You also have the eBay Catch-22, which is that you can sell it as classified with a high price (or start an auction with a very high starting price), or you can auction it with a low starting price.

The former method has the advantage that the item won't leave you without you getting a decent amount of money in return for it. But it has the disadvantage that most eBay users prefer auctions with low starting-points, so if you have a high price tag it will take a lot longer to sell (and you may have to bring the price tag down eventually). I've sold stuff this way, but only when I was in no hurry.

The latter method has the advantage that you will get people bidding, but of course you risk it going for a lot less than you wanted. And DAV gear isn't very well known.
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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:34 pm

Ramirez wrote:Wouldn't mic'ing a single speaker / pair of speakers playing a drum recording at least give a consistent idea of the differences between preamps?

No, because you'd be restricting the signal captured by the mic with all the limitations and vaguaries of the original recording chain -- mics, preamps, converters, power amps and speakers.
There's way too many degradations there to provide a realistic test source for the purposes of preamp evaluation.

... at least it would give an indication of different characteristics regarding transients...

But the transients would actually be the part most damaged by the inherent effects of the converters and speaker.

Regarding a real drum kit, it seems as though robots are the only way! Would factors such as changes in skin tension over prolonged playing come into something like this?

Yes some kind of robotic player is what is needed. Skin tensions shouldn't be a significant issue if we keep the playing sequences relatively short.

I presume that microphone splitters are too much of a risk, possibly introducing their own tonal changes?

Yes, that's why we ruled them out for the piano test -- they add significant distortion of their own, as well spectral response changes and provide non-standard impedances.

I've just at the Klark-Technic DN1248 - two of the four splitter outputs are electronically balanced, and the other two have a transformed. I can see that there would probably be a difference there, but wouldn't 'two of a kind' (electroncially balanced for this kind of test I suppose) pass an identical signal? Granted, two outputs is quite useless for a decent comparison, but in theory...?

But the DN1248 is, itself, a microphone preamplifier, and the imposition of yet another gain stage between source, mic and the preamps under test rather interefers with the aim of the experiments.

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Re: Downgrading a mic preamp

Postby James Perrett » Tue Dec 04, 2012 10:38 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Yes some kind of robotic player is what is needed. Skin tensions shouldn't be a significant issue if we keep the playing sequences relatively short.

Something like a fairground organ might be a good starting point but I wouldn't be surprised to find someone built a robotic drum kit in the days before digital drum machines.

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