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Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

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Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby delite1 » Thu May 24, 2018 11:30 pm

Hi All

I wonder if you can help. I have recently begun to research into getting a better quality vocal in my project studio. I will have a vocal booth built soon and have recently bought some new microphones, namely AKG 414, Neumann u87i, Rode K2 and the AKG Tube Perception 820. Incidentally I still prefer the Rode NT2A on my voice but that’s just me. ;)

Now I’m looking to get a good quality pre-amp however over the years I have bought countless audio interfaces with good quality pre-amps which go on to become unusable because of software updates or connection ports being discontinued. To this end I think I want to keep my next pre-amp separate from my audio interface and I would also like to transfer my pre-amp’s output digitally. I only need one channel and I’m drawn to the Focusrite ISA One with digital Card.

I would like help on whether you feel this is the correct approach given what I am trying to achieve and your opinion on the Focuriste ISA One.
Thanking you in advance :thumbup:
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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby The Elf » Fri May 25, 2018 9:09 am

I remain a huge fan of the Focusrite Liquid Channel.

Switch off all the fancy processing and you have a very good pre by anyone's standards. Simply having the ability to choose with or without transformer is a useful and rare (unique?) feature.

You have the models backing you up if you feel that you need it - and you can always later 're-amp' by looping out to the LC digitally. There's also the ability to link units for multi-channel operation - stereo pairs aggregate to a single AES output. The 'Session Saver' button has saved my blushes a few times.

They aren't the pre's I use most - that honour is reserved for my SSL Superanalogue Channels - but they are the ones I would least want to live without.

When they were at full price new they were a considered purchase. At secondhand prices they have been a steal. I'm seeing less of them on eBay recently; I wonder if they are finally finding homes that realise their worth and are holding on to them?
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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby Sam Inglis » Fri May 25, 2018 10:05 am

I think your approach is the right one, but unless you're using a pretty cheap and nasty interface, I'm not sure that you'll notice a huge sonic difference by upgrading to something like the Focusrite. The ISA preamps are pretty clean and neutral, and if you are mainly recording close-miked vocals with a capacitor mic, you won't particularly benefit from its huge gain range, variable input impedance etc. If you want a preamp to add 'colour' to the sound then something like the UA 610 would give you more of it. Or, as The Elf says, you could look into something like the Liquid Channel.
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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby Forum Admin » Fri May 25, 2018 11:14 am

There's a Liquid Channel in SOS Reader's Ads at the moment (expires in 2 days) for £1,350 each -- he has two.

This link will get you there if you are quick, as adverts disappear after 30 days:
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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby delite1 » Fri May 25, 2018 11:44 am

Thank you all for your advice. It is so helpful and generous of you.
I'm not really looking to colour the signal from the pre-amp and I feel the safest thing to do right now is to receive the signal as plain and neutral as possible at the DAW and then apply saturation (if any) after tracking with the hope that I won't later come to regret any 'colouring' which will force me to re-record the vocals. I will definitely look into those Focusrite Liquid Channels.
Thanks again everybody I am so grateful. :thumbup: :thumbup: :thumbup:
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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby The Elf » Fri May 25, 2018 12:39 pm

To be clear, that SOS ad is for a Liquid 4, not a Liquid Channel. Can't say I'm as keen on that one myself...
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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby Forum Admin » Fri May 25, 2018 12:59 pm

Ah yes, well spotted. If it helps, here are links to SOS reviews of both:

Liquid 4 Pre https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/focusrite-liquid-4-pre

Liquid Channel https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/focusrite-liquid-channel
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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby CS70 » Fri May 25, 2018 5:33 pm

The ISA will do the trick just fine. I have one and it's a good clean preamp, whose main advantage is versatility.

Still, if you want to record into a computer, you will need an interface, and your "old drivers gotta ditch it" loop will not stop. There's precious few line-only interfaces (I myself use an ancient RME Multiface in my home studio, exactly because of that) but at some point even the most supported ones (read: RME) will no longer be supported. A/D converters usually need some bridging between their digital output format and USB, and usually for the cost of a good converter you can buy half a dozen good interfaces.

The only reason I can see to have a different preamp is either for versatility or (as in my case) for location recording or color.

There's always the fun of a new toy, of course :D
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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby James Perrett » Fri May 25, 2018 8:59 pm

Until you get a decent space to record in, a Behringer preamp would probably do the job just as well as something more expensive.

OK - maybe I'm not being totally serious but the point I'm trying to make is that you'll gain much more of an improvement by working on the acoustics of your recording space rather than using a different preamp. This is especially true of the expensive LDC's like the U87 which really respond to a good recording space.

Also, when comparing mics don't listen to the output of the mic in isolation. Listen to the sound of the vocal in a mix.

I'd agree with the philosophy of separating the audio interface from the preamp and convertor. For historical reasons (I have a couple of ADAT machines) I've gone for the ADAT lightpipe standard as the connection between preamp and interface and I've been very impressed with my Audient ASP008 preamp. According to Hugh's reviews, the newer models are even better.
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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby ef37a » Sat May 26, 2018 5:56 am

Why not simply buy a future proof AI?

RME are such and their latest pre amps are said to be fabulous.

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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby ConcertinaChap » Sat May 26, 2018 7:00 am

It's an interesting question. I too think the idea of separating preamps from the interface is a good one. The trouble is I really like digitally controlled preamps! For instance if recording my group then once the mics are set up I can be recording in 5 minutes using a template for the DAW and a template for the preamp settings.

What would be nice would be a rack of 8 preamps that functions completely independently and connects to the AI via ADAT but also has a USB port and software on the computer to control the settings if you want to use it that way. That would strike me as the best of both worlds. I' be willing to spend money on that.

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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby ef37a » Sat May 26, 2018 7:08 am

ConcertinaChap wrote:It's an interesting question. I too think the idea of separating preamps from the interface is a good one. The trouble is I really like digitally controlled preamps! For instance if recording my group then once the mics are set up I can be recording in 5 minutes using a template for the DAW and a template for the preamp settings.

What would be nice would be a rack of 8 preamps that functions completely independently and connects to the AI via ADAT but also has a USB port and software on the computer to control the settings if you want to use it that way. That would strike me as the best of both worlds. I' be willing to spend money on that.

CC
Did I not read of a 4 ch Neve in SoS that had remote gain control? While ago.

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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby Sam Inglis » Sat May 26, 2018 7:21 am

The Presonus Digimax DP88 is an eight-channel preamp that is fully recallable over MIDI.
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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby ef37a » Sat May 26, 2018 9:55 am

Grace M108 Jan 17.

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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby ConcertinaChap » Sat May 26, 2018 11:07 am

Hm, close but not quite on the nail, I had in mind the software would only be for control rather than appearing as another audio interface. And there's the fact that at £3k I'd have to find another relative to sell - most of my family are already mortgaged off to pay for the iMac Pro (in my dreams, at any rate).

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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby billr » Sat May 26, 2018 11:22 am

ConcertinaChap wrote:What would be nice would be a rack of 8 preamps that functions completely independently and connects to the AI via ADAT but also has a USB port and software on the computer to control the settings if you want to use it that way. That would strike me as the best of both worlds. I' be willing to spend money on that.

I think the Focusrite Clarett 8pre or 8preX would do that. No digital control of pre-amp levels though.

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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby dickiefunk » Sat May 26, 2018 3:14 pm

The Focusrite ISA One + digital card is a nice option. I had one for a while and really liked it. I now use an Audient Mico and love it.

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/audient-mico

The Mico also has built in A/D converters so I can bypass going through my interfaces preamps. Regarding tone, the Mico is a very clean uncoloured preamp but it has a very useful HMX feature that can be turned on and adjusted to add a subtle tube like effect which noticeably thickens up the tone.

The Mico is discontinued but I picked mine up for a bargain £180!!
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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby ConcertinaChap » Sat May 26, 2018 7:51 pm

billr wrote:I think the Focusrite Clarett 8pre or 8preX would do that. No digital control of pre-amp levels though.

Which for me is, of course, the point :(

I only want one audio interface on the system but I want to expand it via ADAT with a rack of 8 preamps. So far so easy, but I'd like to be able to control that rack of preamps digitally. Hence the idea of a USB connection that just provides digital control of the rack of preamps, nothing else.

Of course I can add additional preamps to my Apollo because the software aggregates units invisibly to the OS, which is nice, and I've already added two by getting an Apollo Twin. What I'd like to see, though, is a more general, less vendor specific solution.
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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby James Perrett » Sat May 26, 2018 8:01 pm

ef37a wrote:Why not simply buy a future proof AI?

There's no such thing Dave - eventually support for new operating systems and connector standards will end (although USB looks like it will be around for quite a while). You'll be doing well to get 15 years out of an audio interface (unless you are happy to use outdated operating systems) while a preamp should be good for at least twice that.
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Re: Your advice required on new Pre-Amp Purchase

Postby ef37a » Sat May 26, 2018 11:24 pm

James Perrett wrote:
ef37a wrote:Why not simply buy a future proof AI?

There's no such thing Dave - eventually support for new operating systems and connector standards will end (although USB looks like it will be around for quite a while). You'll be doing well to get 15 years out of an audio interface (unless you are happy to use outdated operating systems) while a preamp should be good for at least twice that.

Well I am not so sure these days James? RME are very good and there is a guy in another thread who is running an EMU 0404 USB in 10. Yes the last big update threw a spanner but I think he has hacked that.

The point about keeping legacy OS and PCs going is a good one, people are doing that more and more I think? Maybe if everyone keeps shouting at Msoft and killing updates to W10, maybe things will improve?

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