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new preamp blind listening test

Postby awjoe » Wed May 15, 2013 5:13 pm

Yup. A new one. The SOS preamp blind listening test recently was an eye opener. But what would *really* shed some light on that issue would be a test where a dozen tracks recorded through the same preamp were stacked up inside the same mix, and compared to the same dozen tracks recorded through various other preamps. People talk about the cumulative effect of bad preamps on busy mixes, and I believe it, but still... I'd like to hear it to see how much difference it makes.

I don't have the resources.

SOS?
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby Daniel Drummond » Thu May 16, 2013 4:22 am

It wouldn't make any difference. Read this article: http://audioundone.com/the-stacking-myth
Stacking is a myth.
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby awjoe » Thu May 16, 2013 5:01 am

He's talking about devices in parallel, not in series. I'm talking about stuff stacked in series. Anyway, it's an article. Morons like me need to actually *hear* it to be convinced.
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby Strangy » Thu May 16, 2013 8:54 am

It could be interesting but I expect such test would lead to similar conclusions as the previous one...

Many will say the preamps sound surprisingly similar to each other considering the difference in cost (so long as all the pres were operating within their comfort zones/not saturating).

Others will say that the desirable sonic characteristics associated with certain preamps on test are not necessarily present in the recordings, since the transformers/valves/circuits were not being driven hard enough to saturate etc…

It could be interesting to hear a less scientific comparison whereby different typologies of preamp are subjectively gain ‘optimised’ to present their different desirable sonic imprints. For instance, same drum kit recorded through a rack of hot APIs vs a rack of super clean wire with gain pres.

At this point though it's no longer a test and becomes subjective, fairly meaningless and probably prohibitively expensive to set up! If anyone does have the resources though…
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby Exalted Wombat » Thu May 16, 2013 9:21 am

Tests are usually set up to look for differences. We should also test how much two units can easily be made to sound the same, maybe with nothing more than some simple eq.
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby Sam Inglis » Thu May 16, 2013 10:04 am

It's a nice idea, but it would be very difficult to do, because most performances can't be repeated with the same accuracy that the Yamaha Disklavier achieves. With vocals or acoustic guitar or whatever, you'd always hear the difference between takes rather than the difference between preamps.
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby Strangy » Thu May 16, 2013 10:15 am

I was thinking more along the lines of the same performance/take with a mic splitter/s, but this would get way too expensive I expect!

perhaps something like this: Orchid mic splitter
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby Sam Inglis » Thu May 16, 2013 10:24 am

But then you run into the question of how much influence the mic splitter has on the sound...
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby Matt Houghton » Thu May 16, 2013 10:43 am

I don't think there's really much in the 'stacking' idea, but I have been considering running some tests for an article that would demonstrate the tonal differences between some preamps when they're 'pushed' a bit harder than in the tests for the previous article (the purpose of which was rather different from what we're talking about here). It's hard to be very scientific about it, but I can think of a couple of tests that could demonstrate something useful for those who aren't in a position to try lots of different preamps for themselves. It's going to take a wee bit of time to set it all up, and whether or not an article will come of it depends very much on what the tests show, but watch this space...
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby Strangy » Thu May 16, 2013 11:05 am

Sam Inglis wrote:But then you run into the question of how much influence the mic splitter has on the sound...

true – It's going to be nearly impossible to conduct any truly scientific test in reality – just too many variables at work.

I'd hope that a less scientific test (similar to that suggested by Matt above) would however be able to sufficiently convey the tonal/harmonic flavours of several driven preamps to make some personal opinions at least. Not scientific of course!

Sorry for dragging this slightly off topic from the OP!
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby awjoe » Thu May 16, 2013 2:36 pm

Sam Inglis wrote:It's a nice idea, but it would be very difficult to do, because most performances can't be repeated with the same accuracy that the Yamaha Disklavier achieves. With vocals or acoustic guitar or whatever, you'd always hear the difference between takes rather than the difference between preamps.

Couldn't the Disklavier be recorded ten successive times through the same pre? Stack 'em up and listen.

Repeat with different pres.
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby The Elf » Thu May 16, 2013 2:41 pm

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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby Matt Houghton » Thu May 16, 2013 3:29 pm

Hehe... nice one Elf

Seriously, I don't think that the Disklavier-stacking suggestion would work. It's not a very realistic test to stack ten piano recordings on top of each other... I mean, when would you do that in real life in any genre?! I suppose you could try a recording session where you had, say, an API or a Neve console, and had it rigged so you could switch in different known-to-be-clean preamps via the line inputs and let you spot where the change occurs — but I reckon that's more a job for a bored research student with too much time and a lucky grant award than one for SOS! Sorry.

As I said earlier, though, I do think there's room for something on 'driving' or 'pushing' preamps, and the different distortion characteristics...
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby awjoe » Thu May 16, 2013 7:45 pm

I'm sorry about beating the dead horse. But I hear a lot of people whose opinions I generally respect saying that the aggregate effect of a poor preamp becomes audibly evident if used on a number of tracks in the same mix, even though you won't hear a negative difference (if you hear a difference at all) in the case of a single track. My guess is that because there's so much difference of opinion about it, that it isn't much of an issue, actually. But I'd like to be able to listen to it. I spose I could dig out my ART Tube Pre and do a whole session through my 58, and then record it all again with the same mic through my RNP. I could satisfy myself, even if I convinced no one else of anything other than my own madness.

Oh...yes, I'd love to hear a comparison test of driven pres.
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby turbodave » Fri May 17, 2013 7:11 am

Aah! ..but I think it has to do with the models of the respective pre amps and also preconceptions. I didn't expect to hear much difference and didn't, but the difference was there, and although it may have been subjective (our ears are all slightly different), I was aware of a cleaner , silkier middle and also a slight lack of er ....graininess . I can only imagine (as I haven't done it yet) that the combined niceness on all tracks will be more pleasurable to my ears....and that, after all, is the crucial conclusion to respect. Lundahl transformers, whether by accident or design, seem to make the sound attractive to the ear. Dave
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby The Elf » Fri May 17, 2013 7:31 am

I just bought a collection of the best of The Ronettes.

It's mono. There's precious little bass to speak of. There's hardly anything above 4kHz. The BVs drown out the lead vocal. Every sound distorts like crazy. The drums are all but lost. The reverb is at ridiculous levels...

...and it sounds fantastic.

I think we can all get a little lost in the small details sometimes. Move a mic three inches left or right and you'll likely create much greater tonal differences than between a Focusrite and an SSL pre.
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby spacebaby » Fri May 17, 2013 12:06 pm

This.

You need to be careful. Look up 'Confirmation Bias' for a start. And when did this fashion for multiple mic-pre's start anyway? We'd just record everything through the same pres on one desk - Neve, Amek, whatever -made very little difference. Moving your mic, or changing your mic makes a MASSIVE difference, changing mic pres? Meh!!

Anyone see the Apples v. Oranges debacle on Gearslutz? Blind tested a 30 quid ART against a 1000 quid Great River? That was an eye opener. No-one, but no-one could tell which was which - until the OP revealed it - then of course everyone thought the GR was SO MUCH BETTER, Obviously because blah blah blah. That was pretty much the last time I went there. Bizarre

Heres the thing - if you've got a problem with your recordings I can pretty much guarantee it ain't your Mic Preamps.
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby Matt Houghton » Fri May 17, 2013 1:19 pm

Spacebaby... yes, we have seen that. Did you see the original SOS article that we're talking about? ie. the one that revealed just how subtle the differences are when all you want is a modest amount of clean gain (as in the majority of contemporary recording applications). There were blind tests involved, precisely to avoid snobbiness creeping into play, and a range of mics of different types, and a range of preamps, from a little ART box through Neve and API to a high-end valve pre.
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby Exalted Wombat » Fri May 17, 2013 2:26 pm

The Elf wrote:I just bought a collection of the best of The Ronettes.

It's mono. There's precious little bass to speak of. There's hardly anything above 4kHz. The BVs drown out the lead vocal. Every sound distorts like crazy. The drums are all but lost. The reverb is at ridiculous levels...

...and it sounds fantastic.

Sure there isn't some confirmation bias going on here? I just dug out "Be My Baby". Yes, it brought back pleasant memories. But it was recorded underwater on a crystal mic, possibly the "Ronette" model shown here :-)

http://www.museumoftechnology.org.uk/domestic.php?cab=microp...
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby turbodave » Sat May 18, 2013 12:52 am

Regardless of mic position, a signal still has to go through circuitry...and the quality of that circuitry will make a difference...however small! It is a law of diminishing returns , and I think everybody knows this. Dave
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun May 19, 2013 10:13 am

turbodave wrote:Regardless of mic position, a signal still has to go through circuitry...and the quality of that circuitry will make a difference...however small! It is a law of diminishing returns , and I think everybody knows this. Dave

You can focus on "difference" or you can focus on "small". Yes, the oxygen content of the copper wire, the colour of the cable sheath, the type of solder in the connecter...possibly even the momentary amount of cosmic radiation - all could make a measurable difference.

Now, push your headphones very slightly tighter to your ears, or move your head a few inches when listening to speakers. That's a REAL difference.
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby turbodave » Sun May 19, 2013 1:57 pm

Good God! Stalker alert!!! Mr. Wombat, I could push my headphones into, sorry ONTO your, sorry MY head, but that wouldn't change the recorded medium ON THE DISC, however, I shall endeavour to get some blu tak and force my headphones closer to my lugs! DAVE....the police have been informed!
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby Fran Guidry » Sun May 19, 2013 11:25 pm

turbodave wrote:Regardless of mic position, a signal still has to go through circuitry...and the quality of that circuitry will make a difference...however small! It is a law of diminishing returns , and I think everybody knows this. Dave

This argument ignores that human perception has definite limits. Once the circuitry has artifacts outside those limits the artifacts cannot be detected by the human listener. Can you hear the difference between .001 THD and .0001 THD?

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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby Zukan » Mon May 20, 2013 8:13 am

Fran Guidry wrote:
turbodave wrote:Regardless of mic position, a signal still has to go through circuitry...and the quality of that circuitry will make a difference...however small! It is a law of diminishing returns , and I think everybody knows this. Dave

This argument ignores that human perception has definite limits. Once the circuitry has artifacts outside those limits the artifacts cannot be detected by the human listener. Can you hear the difference between .001 THD and .0001 THD?

Fran

TBH Fran, the debate goes even further than that: once the pressure changes have been captured by the ear etc then the information is sent to the brain to analyze and decipher. My perception of that same information will vary to yours.

To the OP: FWIW, I never bother with these comparative tests as the testing criteria has to be damn near perfect and the only time I ever do this is for reviews. If you hear a change that sounds good then go for it. That's pretty much how I work. Through years of use you get to the point whereby you can 'notice' the 'sound' of a specific product and that enables you to make a decision as and when to use it.I know a DAV GB will sound clean and transparent and exhibit headroom. Did I get that from spec sheets? Hell no. I used the damn thing in my existing signal path set up that I am familiar with and noticed the differences say, compared to another pre.

We use measurements and data purely for testing criteria and as a guide for what 'we' think will be adequate in terms of performance,product comparisons, suitability for our requirements etc.

Stacking pres will have no effect unless in series, and if in parallel within a DAW then summing is all that matters at the master bus.

Driving pres is another subject entirely and one that definitely merits an article, if only for the area covering headroom and what happens when driven into the headroom and, possibly, beyond, and that is measured as product comparisons. And all that is dependent on the topology etc....of the test product. This would be of great interest.
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Re: new preamp blind listening test

Postby turbodave » Mon May 20, 2013 8:42 am

Ta for that Zuke, tests are somewhat moot..apart from the one you have described i.e. my own signal path, one that I am familiar with, and standard recording practises. If I notice a benefit in that circumstance, then that is all that matters. Dave
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