Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Lipskimusic » Fri Dec 30, 2016 3:43 pm

Len911, I agree that is a sweet unit :) Don't show this bad boy to anyone suffering from Gear Acquisition Syndrom...like...err...I guess most of us :)

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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Len911 » Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:37 pm

Matt, I used to have GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) really bad, more so in software, though not as much lately. I used to think it would never end,lol, however it does taper off when you do actually get something worthwhile. For example, once I settled on the API signal chain,lol, how appropriate, I never felt I needed to continue envying preamps, compressors. Some things are satisfying. Software I think I have finally reached my limit. When you reach the point that you aren't going to realize anything better that justifies the cost.

It's difficult to make gear recommendations to new people, because you really don't know if they will develop GAS or not, and budgets, etc., and sometimes it's easy to fall into the trap of recommending semi-pro when pro in the long run will mean spending less, and would be better suited. The thing about pro gear, is that it's easier to sell or trade if you ever need or want to for whatever reason. It keeps a lot of gear out of the landfills,lol!
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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by mojobone » Sat Dec 31, 2016 5:55 am

Best of both worlds: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Omega500

But if you already have a super clean and fast preamp like a Millenia or Grace, (maybe even True or A-Design) you can probably skip the Omega and just buy the 'preamp flavor' plugins as they become available. Note that the linked page also features this here handy PDF buying guide: http://www.sweetwater.com/insync/500-se ... ing-guide/

If you're willing to invest a little more, you could upgrade your AD/DA along with some quality preamps and a monitor controller: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ZenTour

I have their Zen Studio with the same clocking, converters and preamps, (it doesn't have the virtual guitar and bass amps, but does feature a dozen amazing mic preamps and similar routing flexibility, but sadly, no Android/iOS control) and I can vouch for the veracity of the rave online reviews.
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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Len911 » Sat Dec 31, 2016 8:38 am

Since we are addressing mic preamps, it's maybe curious about what components are in the design and the design itself, etc.

API is a venerable design, they use an API opamp 2520 and various specific transformers etc. to arrive at their sound, which is an accepted standard.

What does the Zen Studio use in their preamps? A Burr-Brown PGA 2500 op amp for starters. What other preamps use this?
The Zen Studio uses the same Burr-Brown PGA2500 preamp chip as Universal Audio’s Apollo, Apogee Duet, Prismsound Orpheus, MOTU 828mkIII, RME Fireface 400, and plenty more. And like the rest, the digitally-controlled preamp has a flat, even response, with a gain range of 55dB from 10dB to 65dB. Obviously, there’s variation in implementation, but the basic gist remains the same, and Antelope definitely hasn’t throttled its performance in the Zen.
I don’t mind these pres at all, using them on the Apollo Twin was fine — good clean gain — likewise here. Obviously you don’t get the special sauce of Apollo’s Unison preamp modelling on the way in. Though interestingly, because both units use the same preamp, when using the Zen you can insert the Unison models in your DAW and achieve some similar harmonic effects, albeit without the same gain-staging.
http://www.audiotechnology.com.au/wp/in ... interface/

Obviously it's more than just the sum of it's parts, and I have no clue as what transformers, etc. complete the circuit design and how that comprises the differences even amongst products that use the same opamp, etc. It gives maybe an idea of where they are coming from. Just as preamps that may use an API 2520 opamp.

"Modelling" is getting very good, but digital comes from analog first, and that's where I sorta believe that a microphone and preamp, maybe compressor before the digital conversion is very important, what you do digitally later, well okay, whatever, to your heart's content. The signal chain in this order, 1) mic 2) preamp 3) a/d conversion.

A mic modeller, a preamp modeller, that's taking a big chance imo if used before the a/d converter. API may not be the particular flavor, maybe it's a Neve or another venerable standard?? Mics, also. I'm not saying you shouldn't jolly around with a tone beast with nickel transformers, etc., lol, but I would much prefer to first have a venerable known chain, and because I'm not particularly wealthy, I might be inclined to software afterwards. That's only one perspective or opinion or philosophy.
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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Lipskimusic » Mon Jan 02, 2017 10:23 am

Thanks for all your replies. Much appreciated. During my research I also came across this unit from Focusrite (which would be within the budget). I understand it is less flexible but solid quality:-

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ISATwo

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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Len911 » Mon Jan 02, 2017 11:49 am

Cool, if you don't need two preamps, this one is the same, except it is only 1 channel and has an optional a/d converter.
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ISAOne

I'm not sure that it's less flexible.
the isa one has a headphone jack. I'm not sure that the isa two has one or not or if there is a workaround or if it's necessary. I have an octasonic I use for a mixer with headphone and cue outs. I'd have to think about the "missing feature" work around.
At the bottom right of the front panel is the headphone output, which has its own level control and a Cue Mix button. Cue Mix is a facility that allows an external stereo cue mix to be fed to the headphones via two TRS jack inputs on the rear panel. Depending on the setting of the Cue switch, the ISA One either routes a sum of the two inputs (mic/line and DI) to the headphones output or sends the external cue mix to the phones. One feature that is missing, though, is a means to monitor both the preamp inputs and the cue mix at the same time, with a control to balance the direct and DAW cue levels in the phones output. This feature is offered by a number of other preamps, such as the SPL Channel One, for setting up latency-free source monitoring. Presumably it has been omitted here to keep the price down.
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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Lipskimusic » Mon Jan 02, 2017 12:08 pm

Thanks Len911! I am looking for a rackmount solution so the ISA2 would be the one I would prefer.

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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Len911 » Mon Jan 02, 2017 2:09 pm

going, going, sold! 8-) :lol: :lol:
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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by mojobone » Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:31 pm

Len911 wrote:Since we are addressing mic preamps, it's maybe curious about what components are in the design and the design itself, etc.

API is a venerable design, they use an API opamp 2520 and various specific transformers etc. to arrive at their sound, which is an accepted standard.

What does the Zen Studio use in their preamps? A Burr-Brown PGA 2500 op amp for starters. What other preamps use this?
The Zen Studio uses the same Burr-Brown PGA2500 preamp chip as Universal Audio’s Apollo, Apogee Duet, Prismsound Orpheus, MOTU 828mkIII, RME Fireface 400, and plenty more. And like the rest, the digitally-controlled preamp has a flat, even response, with a gain range of 55dB from 10dB to 65dB. Obviously, there’s variation in implementation, but the basic gist remains the same, and Antelope definitely hasn’t throttled its performance in the Zen.
I don’t mind these pres at all, using them on the Apollo Twin was fine — good clean gain — likewise here. Obviously you don’t get the special sauce of Apollo’s Unison preamp modelling on the way in. Though interestingly, because both units use the same preamp, when using the Zen you can insert the Unison models in your DAW and achieve some similar harmonic effects, albeit without the same gain-staging.
http://www.audiotechnology.com.au/wp/in ... interface/

Obviously it's more than just the sum of it's parts, and I have no clue as what transformers, etc. complete the circuit design and how that comprises the differences even amongst products that use the same opamp, etc. It gives maybe an idea of where they are coming from. Just as preamps that may use an API 2520 opamp.

"Modelling" is getting very good, but digital comes from analog first, and that's where I sorta believe that a microphone and preamp, maybe compressor before the digital conversion is very important, what you do digitally later, well okay, whatever, to your heart's content. The signal chain in this order, 1) mic 2) preamp 3) a/d conversion.

A mic modeller, a preamp modeller, that's taking a big chance imo if used before the a/d converter. API may not be the particular flavor, maybe it's a Neve or another venerable standard?? Mics, also. I'm not saying you shouldn't jolly around with a tone beast with nickel transformers, etc., lol, but I would much prefer to first have a venerable known chain, and because I'm not particularly wealthy, I might be inclined to software afterwards. That's only one perspective or opinion or philosophy.



Tech heads of my acquaintance are fond of swapping out op amp chips in fancy preamps; in the same preamp the difference is usually subtle, but from one preamp design to the next, similar op amps can sound wildly different, according to them, so yeah, I think implementation is definitely a factor. I've never done such a swap myself, but those things have an awful lot of pins, gawd knows what they all do, LOL. I personally have no qualms about using modellers prior to converters, I do it all day, every day with stuff like basses, guitars and synths, though I draw the line at miked drums and pianos. Come to think, I've been known to supplement even those with modeled rooms, once they're in the box. I A/B'd the analog and digital outputs from my modelling pedalboard and I happen to prefer the analog outs which have just a smidge less detail and are easier to mix.
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Re: Outboard Mic Preamp - Recommendations

Post by Len911 » Wed Jan 04, 2017 10:17 pm

For someone with limited funds and wanting a true upgrade and especially that don't want to spend nearly the same amount for something futzy, that's where I was going. There's nothing wrong in futzing around,lol! I would do it often if I had the funds. Those diy projects are tempting, some of them anyway, until you see the price of some of the transformers or capsules, and come to your senses,lol! :lol:
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