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Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

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Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

Postby Darren Lynch » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:04 pm

A perennial question, and one which has been discussed before (but I can't find it in the forum archive)

Given that there is no genuine line in on the Zoom R16, is there any gain (pun intended) from placing a decent compact mixer preamp before the R16? I have a couple of compact mixers (Mackie 1204 and the surprisingly open sounding Spirit Notepad) - But I assume that the character and response of the R16 pre cannot be avoided?

Yes, I should suck it and see, but cannot do presently.

Any thoughts and experiences gratefully received.
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Re: Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

Postby The Elf » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:43 pm

All of the R16s inputs seem able to handle both mic and line. A mixer would only add more electronics.

Am I missing something?
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Re: Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

Postby Darren Lynch » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:47 pm

Ah, not asking if the the R16 can handle a line level signal. Of course it does through the TRS jack. But that line level signal is (I assume) going into the mic pre at it's lowest (or perhaps padded) setting = any external mic pre will only sound as good as the Zoom mic pre?
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Re: Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

Postby resistorman » Tue Jun 12, 2018 1:01 pm

Darren Lynch wrote:Ah, not asking if the the R16 can handle a line level signal. Of course it does through the TRS jack. But that line level signal is (I assume) going into the mic pre at it's lowest (or perhaps padded) setting = any external mic pre will only sound as good as the Zoom mic pre?

I don’t think there’s any reason to assume that at all. Just because it’s the same jack doesn’t mean it’s going to the same place :)

https://www.google.com/search?q=combina ... 2O5D24X6VM:
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Re: Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

Postby Tim Gillett » Tue Jun 12, 2018 1:56 pm

Darren Lynch wrote:A perennial question, and one which has been discussed before (but I can't find it in the forum archive)

Given that there is no genuine line in on the Zoom R16, is there any gain (pun intended) from placing a decent compact mixer preamp before the R16? I have a couple of compact mixers (Mackie 1204 and the surprisingly open sounding Spirit Notepad) - But I assume that the character and response of the R16 pre cannot be avoided?

Yes, I should suck it and see, but cannot do presently.

Any thoughts and experiences gratefully received.

The "character" of the R16 preamps (I have an R16) is "noisy". The best setting for lowest noise is minimum gain, ie: gain knobs fully anticlockwise.

I've fed outputs from another mixer/pre into the R16's "line" inputs. It gave a better signal to noise ratio, because it fed a higher signal, especially noticeable when using low output dynamic mics.

I guess some of those inline phantom powered XLR gain booster thingo's (cant recall the name) would also achieve a similar result with a mic without the need for another mixer.
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Re: Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jun 12, 2018 2:06 pm

I don't know what Zoom has done in its R16, but the vast majority of manufacturers simply pad down the line input connection by 20 or 30dB and present it to straight to the mic preamp. This is the normal approach even for quite expensive products, and is done primarily because it avoids the cost and complexity of additional active input electronics, and minimises the circuit-board real-estate.

Given the remarkably high quality of even quite modest mic preamp designs (assuming they are used within their intended working range with sensible signal levels and not overloaded), there really is no audibly detectable noise or distortion penalty in this approach, and in most cases it's bordering on impossible to measure any either!

In your case, though, if you find the Zoom preamps noisy at your typical working gain settings, then connecting a quieter external mic preamp may well prove beneficial, even i the line signal is padded! It certainly won't do any harm, and the combination may sound better to you.

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Re: Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

Postby Darren Lynch » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:23 pm

Thanks you one and all. Informative as ever.
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Re: Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

Postby resistorman » Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:03 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:I guess some of those inline phantom powered XLR gain booster thingo's (cant recall the name) would also achieve a similar result with a mic without the need for another mixer.

There’s a couple of them... I have a Crimson Audio Mogaines which uses a transformer and an active circuit for 25db boost. It sounds really good. Another one is a Cloudlifter, which has a great rep. I’d be curious to see how that worked on the R16.
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Re: Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

Postby ef37a » Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:50 am

This idea that preamps, especially budget ones have a "tone" is a very common one that I have come across on several forums and Hugh has nailed the 'lie'.

There is no electronic reason to suppose that a couple of transistors and an op amp will have any kind of "sound" and the cheaper and simpler the design the more "transparent" it is likely to be! Indeed, cheap stuff often skimps on RF stop components and the response can sail on into MW radio frequencies. (of course, SOME companies make this a "desirable feature" and charge accordingly. Maybe needed for bat research but little else IMHO)

Then, from the first wrong premise of "pre amp tone" people then get very worried that a derived line input will also carry this character. There ain't one so it can't!

In fact a dedicated line input will almost certainly use exactly the same op amp as in the mic pre and just juggle the resistor values to suit.

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Re: Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

Postby James Perrett » Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:41 pm

ef37a wrote:This idea that preamps, especially budget ones have a "tone" is a very common one that I have come across on several forums and Hugh has nailed the 'lie'.

I guess this comes from 30-40 years ago when op-amps were slower and decent parts were more expensive. My old MM mixer's preamps are far from perfect (for some reason they used a transconductance amp chip in the first stage) and we also had an old MTR mixer in our rehearsal room that seemed to dull the high frequencies. By the late 80's things had improved quite a bit and the differences between preamps became much smaller.
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Re: Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

Postby garrettendi » Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:53 pm

ef37a wrote:This idea that preamps, especially budget ones have a "tone" is a very common one that I have come across on several forums and Hugh has nailed the 'lie'.

That's interesting, and I am in no way saying you or Hugh are wrong, but I could have sworn the "Midas" preamps in my Behringer UMC sound nicer than the preamps in my Tascam DP-24SD. It just sounds a bit more characterful.

Is this psychological or am I missing something? It's definitely not trying to justify a higher price given the "better" UMC is about sixth the price of the Tascam.
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Re: Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

Postby ef37a » Wed Jun 13, 2018 1:54 pm

"Is this psychological or am I missing something? "

Pretty much yes. There has been little to no rigorous comparing of mic pre amps published save the (in?)famous SoS pre amp "shoot out" of a few years back.

That cause many to pause and not a few to bluster but the results were pretty plain, any reasonably well made mic pre sounds like any other PROVIDED it is run well inside its limits. I seem to recall the price ratio was some 10:1?

James. "A bit dull" is not the same to me as having a character, good or bad that some claim. Those old amplifiers might have had the **** compensated out of them to keep them stable, discrete stages with random stray capacitances are harder to stabilize than op amps. For op amps, even the painfully slow 741 would not run into trouble with music signals and I doubt anyone could tell if one was used in a hybrid mic pre unless perhaps you wanted to use a 4038 six feet from a mandolin!

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Re: Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

Postby James Perrett » Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:46 pm

ef37a wrote:James. "A bit dull" is not the same to me as having a character, good or bad that some claim. ...
For op amps, even the painfully slow 741 would not run into trouble with music signals and I doubt anyone could tell if one was used in a hybrid mic pre unless perhaps you wanted to use a 4038 six feet from a mandolin!

I get your point that modern mic preamps show very little difference but the point that I was making was that it hasn't always been like this. Decent parts are cheap nowadays and a few extra parts on an automatically assembled board doesn't make a huge difference to cost but in the old days, when hand stuffing PCB's, every component made a bigger contribution to manufacturing costs than they would today.

As far as character is concerned, one person's dull is another person's warm. The change in sound wasn't particularly subtle with that MTR desk (but it happened to be one of the cheapest 8 track desks available).

And I wouldn't assume that those old mixers used the common hybrid circuit that everyone uses today. As I mentioned, the mic input on the MM mixer went directly into that transconductance amp chip (via a couple of caps) with no additional transistors. I'm pretty sure that people have used a single 741 as a balanced input too! The 741 would obviously run out of steam at high gains but it was good enough at the time. So there were plenty of less than perfect preamps around.

The thing is, people have clung to the idea that things are the same now as they were back then and the marketing people have seized on that idea to sell gear that people don't really need.

Like you, I'd like to see more measurements. I was looking at buying an SLR recently and was surprised at just how thorough many of the reviews are. There are pages of charts and comparisons which allow you to easily compare different cameras, even those made a few years apart. Audio gear reviews used to be similarly thorough but, with a few notable exceptions, they seem have become dumbed down now.
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Re: Compact mixer pre into Zoom R16?

Postby ef37a » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:36 am

Well James, one swallow a summer does not make.
Just because one tight A manufacturer had 10,000 of the wrong chips in stock and decided to cobble them into an indifferent pre amp does not invalidate my point that an amplifier will have a flat response unless some CR or LCR network is employed, i.e. there will be no "tone".

The TL072 and the NE5532/4 are at least 30yrs old (though the NE was more expensive) The bipolar hybrid transformerless pre amp was in a vast amount of mixers by the late 70s/80s.

Before that there were some excellent transformer fronted designs. I well remember the series of circuits in Studio Sound. There was a clever BBC design with two feedback loops that was quiet even if the XLR was pulled. Cannot see the BBC using a pre amp that added any "warmf" or other characteristic?

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