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Millennia HV-3 vs. Forssell SMP-2: AB samples
Old 15th March 2008
  #1
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Talking Millennia HV-3 vs. Forssell SMP-2: AB samples

By a coincidence Millennia HV-3 came here for few days. I could not resist to compare it finally face to face to Forssell SMP-2 - it was the first time I had these renowned preamps here together at the same time. I was really curious about the results.

Here are just few short "appetizer" samples. I will do more instruments (inlcuding plucked), vocal etc. later ...

The samples are totally raw, naked, recorded on a pair of Schoeps MK-2.

Bamboo flute:

Forssell

Millennia

Violin:

Forssell

Millennia

wanted to record an "ensemble" but did not have anyone else by hand than my small son, so he grabbed the drum. In the second sample his rhytm got decomposed a bit :-)) But for the sound idea it does not matter:

Flute and drum

Forssell

Millennia

To be sincere (and to be the first to share the impressions), I did not expect that much difference between the same instrument, same position, same room, same mics, just two different preamps.
Since I know how the instruments (and the room) sound in reality, I must say, that in reality they do not sound exactly as Millennia renders them - i.e. slightly strident and thin (boosted on HF - which may or may not sound impressive at first). They actually sound quite nice, full and soft ... very close to the sound reflected by Forssell (including the sound of the real space, here again the room sound is closer to Forssell´s rendering).

I will post samples of other sources later ...

(BTW - I did not pay much attention to the ideal mics placement for each case, mics and player(s) are at the same spots all the time. The direct comparison was the only intention)
Old 15th March 2008
  #2
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thanks for posting the samples, ivo. however, my listening seems contrary to your comments - i found the millennia to sound more full and warmer than the forsell. but that is just me... always appreciate your postings here.
Old 15th March 2008 | Show parent
  #3
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Here are few tones on monochord (played 5 minutes ago):

Forssell

Millennia

This is quite an ideal instrument for a comparison, since it is very rich in timbers, transients and overtones and the position of the instruments and microphones is fixed (the only thing is that I am just not able to play exactly the same thing twice ...)

Here again: in reality and in details, my monochord sounds almost the same as the result recorded through Forssell. When listening to it, I sometimes feel like if I still continue playing live ...

My essential impression when listening to these two great preamps says that Forssell tends to sound very "relaxed", comfortable and natural, just as if it does not want to obstruct the sound of the original sources, letting them sound as they want - not less (never before have I heard a preamp behaving like that: of course, I have yet to try Gordon and GML one day ...) . The result is very pleasant and natural overall sound - as if being fully there ... To my ears, Millennia tends to sound slightly "tense" or drier as if, like putting some small "filter" and slight "brittle" into the sound. Maybe the direct impression is: a fully open window vs. window with a tight mosquito net :-)))

When I had been using Millennia full time for almost three years, I often felt a bit uncertain: are the Schoeps not good enough ? Or is the mic position not good, maybe the room sounds bad ... because I was never 100% happy with recorded sound ... Now I have the same room, same microphones, same mics position and suddenly I hear the recorded sound almost as I perceive it live ... pleasant, soft, full without any extra spice, tension or filter ... It is very nice feeling ... For sure, I am not talking about some night and day differences clearly audible on laptop speakers ... but we are on GS, aren´t we ? :-)

But all this has no other value than just a quick subjective comparing the sound of few instruments in my room and sharing limited reflections of it online ... Just for an interesting fun ... Of course, being here, playing and listening a lot more and knowing the original sources quite intimately, I can perceive it from slightly different, deeper angle. To get real impressions, everybody has to do the same in the end ...
Old 16th March 2008 | Show parent
  #4
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🎧 10 years
Preamps

I don't have a point of reference to either the instruments or the room. But I was immediately struck by the sonics of the Forssell, and given one or the other with these examples, I prefer the Forssell.

Too bad you didn't have a DAV there! I've missed the shootouts with that.

I expected the differences between the Millennia and Forssell to be very subtle-it's not at all hard to hear the differences with all of the sources, and the differences are consistent.
Old 16th March 2008 | Show parent
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JEGG ➡️
I don't have a point of reference to either the instruments or the room. But I was immediately struck by the sonics of the Forssell, and given one or the other with these examples, I prefer the Forssell.

Too bad you didn't have a DAV there! I've missed the shootouts with that.

I expected the differences between the Millennia and Forssell to be very subtle-it's not at all hard to hear the differences with all of the sources, and the differences are consistent.
No, the difference is not subtle and is quite consistent ... I will try these two preamps on vocal tomorrow with my Horch RM2J.

I don´t have DAV here ... It is very nice preamp (I enjoyed using it for quite some time), but not in the sound league of Forssell ...
Old 16th March 2008 | Show parent
  #6
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🎧 15 years
Ivo, I am curious -- we have discussed this before, but I am wondering why you do not simply place the two omni mics at a respectable distance and record the same performance to both preamps, using one mic for each? Easy to digitally adjust the levels slightly afterward if needed, then there is no speculation about varying distance/dynamics/style/volume/etc.

I am not saying you cannot hear the differences anyway, just would make it more accurate for direct A/B. Or perhaps the Mk2 are not that well matched? Even then, as we have talked about, you could use passive Y-splitters on one or both mics and send to both preamps simultaneously (assuming similar input impedance on each preamp).

Obviously everyone is listening on a variety of playback systems and environments. So the final relative effect of any recording will of course be filtered and 'adjusted' by that. Room/seating position/DA/speaker/amp combinations, to say nothing of the variety of ears, may certainly produce subjectively 'better' results on any particular recording vs. another. I have been comparing various speakers for a while now, and am finding this to be a challenging issue to sort through. She loves me, she loves me not... no wait, she loves me not, she loves me.... ugh.

I remember when I posted 26 mic comparisons. From the many replies of opinions, there must have been 20 different 'winners'!

I also wasted a bunch of money on some particular 'comparison' CDs and subsequent purchases of products... that ended up not performing anywhere close on my sources as on the recordings. Sometimes not even in the same audio universe. I am sure we all have similar stories of hearing something that sounded great somewhere and then not finding that success ourselves.

For those reasons I have for some time now been doubting the whole concept of downloaded shootouts. And I find that even other ears in the same room at the same time will often have completely opposite opinions from my own!

Still appreciate your effort, and agree that when the performer is also the one making the judgments of recording/playback quality then that is about all there is to go on. Oh well, there is no absolute truth and I am rambling. 'To thine own self be true' is as close as we get...

Steve
Old 16th March 2008 | Show parent
  #7
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massimo's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Someone should send a Gordon and a GML to Ivo, for the final acoustic instrument pre shootout!
Ivo thank you very much for your samples. Yes, the Forssell is impressive. I wonder if the Gordon is 1000USD more impressive - it may well be the case, what do I know? The GML falls inbetween, cost-wise. I heard Squeegybug's Pendulum vs Gordon on some other thread, and while the Pendulum has a wonderful sound of its own, the Gordon is so scaringly fast - it apparently already knew the lyrics the man was going to sing.

Best regards
Massimo
Old 16th March 2008 | Show parent
  #8
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegybug ➡️
Ivo, I am curious -- we have discussed this before, but I am wondering why you do not simply place the two omni mics at a respectable distance and record the same performance to both preamps, using one mic for each? Easy to digitally adjust the levels slightly afterward if needed, then there is no speculation about varying distance/dynamics/style/volume/etc.
This would be very helpful. It also makes comparison listening a lot easier because you can listen to each example phrase by phrase. Everything is time aligned.
Old 16th March 2008 | Show parent
  #9
AB3
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1 Review written
🎧 15 years
I had the Millenia HV3C - then I got the Forssell solid state - sold the Millenia. The Millenia added a harshness to my grand piano that was not there. I did not know until I tried the other pre.

Now I have a Benchmark compared to the Forssell on GS. The Forssell is more euphonic, but I know if you want totally transparent, low distortion, the Benchmark is great. (I have those comparisions on a thread here on GS here somewhere.)

I would imagine that Jim Williams pre is great. So is the Buzz from samples I have heard.

But the Forssell is a nice balance of clean with slight euphonic quality and depth.

The Millenia sample was harsh on the flute, by the way.

Try an A Designs MP-2A on flute (especially with an AEA R84!)

Kind Regards.
Old 16th March 2008 | Show parent
  #10
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🎧 15 years
What's sort of interesting to me is that I prefer the Forssell on the flute, drums and violin but I prefer the Millennia on the Monochord. I do hear that the attack is very quick with the Millennia so to me it would be the choice for ribbon mics and recording fast transient percussive instruments. The Forssell sounds smoother and a little slower to me. Both are obviously very nice.

I changed my mind I like the Forssell on all...
Old 16th March 2008 | Show parent
  #11
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🎧 15 years
Hi Ivo,

I was already impressed by the Forssell on previous comparisons. However now in this comparison the MM sounds better on flute and Violin, NOT on monochord. Forssell indeed exceeds there. I can convert the Monichord sound to a piano sound, but not to Flute and Violin.
Old 16th March 2008 | Show parent
  #12
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Yes, Steve, you are right that these kind of samples are of limited value as far as listening to few online samples is concerned. People can listen to them in various ways (from laptop speakers through headphones to studio monitors) with various degrees of attention and before all (unlike me) they do not know the real situation here, the instruments, the room etc. So it is a kind of splash in the water, I know. But let us consider it as our occassional harmless hobby ...

Since I know the instruments and the room very intimately (and of course made much more samples than I posted), I can just say exactly as Alan says:

Quote:
Originally Posted by AB3 ➡️
The Millenia added a harshness to my grand piano that was not there. I did not know until I tried the other pre.

The Millenia sample was harsh on the flute, by the way.
Yes, this is my basic impression as well ... Millennia consistently adds a kind of slight "harsh" touch to any source ... I too realised it only after trying another preamp (DAV). And did not know what was going on before ... Since Millennia also adds a good portion of HF hype to the source (long time ago I just processed readymade music through the preamps, so it was quite obvious there), it may impress during a quick superficial listening (comparing to a preamp that does not have that hype). But after careful comparison one easily finds that this hype is on the cost of depth, details and natural relaxed sound ... And that it is very easy to add a bit of EQ air to the natural sounding preamp (which I obviously did not want to do now, but tried to do offline) to make the sound spectrum of both more balanced - and then actually the sound difference starts to be even more obvious in a way.

Yes, I know that having two mics as close as possible , each connected to one preamp and going quite far from them could be a straight comparison. I was just a bit hesitant to do that since in the musical result it sounds quite bad ...

But anyway, here it is. A drum into extremely closely placed Schoeps MK21, played from quite a distance. So here the performance and levels are absolutely identical:

Drum: (mono)

Forssell

Millennia

In the drum sample (where all the doubts about varying position, performance etc. go away), I personally again hear similar characteristics as all the time before: while Forssell nicely captures the depth and strike of the drum, Millennia shows a bit scooped lower frequencies and the transients are a bit artificially boosted by the touch of slightly tensed HF boost as if ... But maybe you hear it in a different way. Anyway, if you feel, for fun you can try to add a bit of HF EQ touch to the Forssell sample (which Millennia already added) and then compare both again

As far as bcgood´s comment on monochord, I would say that to my ears, Millennia does not seem to capture those very subtle waves and streams of overtones (which are definitely there) and the general instrument "aura" as Forssell did. HV-3 sounds a bit 2D here to me ... And for violin and flute, I cannot help, but I somehow don´t much appreciate that extra harsh touch Millennia adds to every source - from a simple reason: because these instruments do not have something like that in reality (and I much prefer their real sound).

I may add more straight AB monos later

Quote:
Originally Posted by hanuman ➡️
I can convert the Monichord sound to a piano sound, but not to Flute and Violin.
Well, it would be quite difficult, I think. Not sure what you mean ...
Old 17th March 2008 | Show parent
  #13
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🎧 10 years
DAV

Quote:
Originally Posted by ISedlacek ➡️

I don´t have DAV here ... It is very nice preamp (I enjoyed using it for quite some time), but not in the sound league of Forssell ...
All I said was that it would be nice to have a DAV thrown in. You seem to think that the Forssell is not in the same league as the MM, anyway, yet you've included the MM. And many, if not most, would certainly put the DAV in the same league as the MM, regardless of their preference of one over the other.
Old 17th March 2008 | Show parent
  #14
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by bcgood ➡️
What's sort of interesting to me is that I prefer the Forssell on the flute, drums and violin but I prefer the Millennia on the Monochord. I do hear that the attack is very quick with the Millennia so to me it would be the choice for ribbon mics and recording fast transient percussive instruments. The Forssell sounds smoother and a little slower to me....
I wonder if we could establish some kind of protocol on this board for the more useful reference of such observations.

For example, if the monitors involved were stated, we might be able to get more useful information from the post.

Or perhaps, the monitors of choice could be a displayed category of the user profile?

Andy
Old 17th March 2008 | Show parent
  #15
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🎧 15 years
basically I sai that my impression was that MM was nice on flute and violin (Ultrasone 550) and Forssell much better on monochord. Since that is a wide rage instrument I think that piano would be better trough Forssell too.
Old 17th March 2008 | Show parent
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hanuman ➡️
basically I sai that my impression was that MM was nice on flute and violin (Ultrasone 550) and Forssell much better on monochord. Since that is a wide rage instrument I think that piano would be better trough Forssell too.
Have you listened to the absolute straight AB drum sample ?
Old 17th March 2008 | Show parent
  #17
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🎧 15 years
Forssell preferred on Flute & Drum. Mono drum preferred MM. (BTW Ivo, tell me it is not you drumming..... )
Old 18th March 2008 | Show parent
  #18
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by hanuman ➡️
basically I sai that my impression was that MM was nice on flute and violin (Ultrasone 550) and Forssell much better on monochord. Since that is a wide rage instrument I think that piano would be better trough Forssell too.
Thanks for including monitor type.

Yes, the monochord has something in common with the piano in that it has a similar attack/decay envelope, without a sustain cycle (unless Ivo plays it with a bow?!).

Andy
Old 19th March 2008 | Show parent
  #19
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🎧 15 years
Ivo, is there's any possibilities to have the same exact take to your tests..y-cable maybe..?
Old 19th March 2008 | Show parent
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Hakala ➡️
Ivo, is there's any possibilities to have the same exact take to your tests..y-cable maybe..?
Listen to the drum sample
Old 19th March 2008 | Show parent
  #21
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ISedlacek ➡️
Listen to the drum sample
how didn't I see that test!
Will give a listen later tonight. Thanks!
Old 19th March 2008 | Show parent
  #22
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🎧 15 years
Hi Ivo! Thanks, again, for uploading some acoustic samples here. Very interesting comparison...

The first thing I want to say is that both preamps are great. What I mean, is that although there are differences, I wouldn't mind recording with either the Millennia or the Forsell. It's hard to put it in percentage, but I would say the Forsell does sound better to my ears, by a small amount. Almost splitting hairs.

The Forsell is more smooth and natural, while the Millennia is more tense and hard. This can be heard on all the samples. After that, it is a question of taste, which one sounds better for which instruments! Overall, I preferred the Forsell, it is simply more pleasant. But again, I think many people (non-GS ) would not hear a difference...

On the drum mono samples, the sounds were not aligned (forsell being 29ms earlier), any idea why? This is indeed the best way to compare the pres, with your two schoeps as close as possible recording mono. Otherwise, the performance comes into play, and subjectivity arises.

Two beautiful units for sure, these pres!
Old 19th March 2008 | Show parent
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Melodioso ➡️

The Forsell is more smooth and natural, while the Millennia is more tense and hard. This can be heard on all the samples.
Yes, it cannot be put more precise. It is exactly as it is and my general impression in a nutshell (also based on 3 years using Millennia) ... I personally absolutely prefer smooth and natural to tense and hard (-sh). I would also add the amount of details and 3D feeling as another point of difference. I do not say it with any prejudice or being partial to any device. If Millennia sounds like Forssell in this comparison (and opposite), I would definitely prefer Millennia.

It quite depends on the listening devices but even on very average ones (like Koss Porta connected to a laptop), I still clearly hear the difference ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Melodioso ➡️
On the drum mono samples, the sounds were not aligned (forsell being 29ms earlier), any idea why? This is indeed the best way to compare the pres, with your two schoeps as close as possible recording mono. Otherwise, the performance comes into play, and subjectivity arises.
It may be just a result of independent trimming in Samplitude (cutting the noises in the beginning)
Old 19th March 2008 | Show parent
  #24
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🎧 15 years
Ivo, Where stands the API 512 mic-pre in your classic acoustic universe.
Old 19th March 2008 | Show parent
  #25
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ISedlacek's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hanuman ➡️
Ivo, Where stands the API 512 mic-pre in your classic acoustic universe.
Well, I don´t know, I have tried just limited number of preamps. Once I tried API preamp in LunchBox for vocals, that´s all (and liked the other preamps - Pendulum, Neve etc. better)
Old 19th March 2008 | Show parent
  #26
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by hanuman ➡️
Ivo, Where stands the API 512 mic-pre in your classic acoustic universe.
Right next to his Laboga stack.
Old 20th March 2008 | Show parent
  #27
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegybug ➡️
Ivo, I am curious -- we have discussed this before, but I am wondering why you do not simply place the two omni mics at a respectable distance and record the same performance to both preamps, using one mic for each? Easy to digitally adjust the levels slightly afterward if needed, then there is no speculation about varying distance/dynamics/style/volume/etc.

I am not saying you cannot hear the differences anyway, just would make it more accurate for direct A/B.............
I remember when I posted 26 mic......
totally!

heh

and - group the tracks before you trim the tops!

Old 20th March 2008 | Show parent
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mixerguy ➡️
totally!

heh

and - group the tracks before you trim the tops!

Yes, no problem. The only thing is that an instrument recorded mono from a distance sounds quite awful ... So I am always a bit reluctant to present that ... Anyway, it is done in the drum sample and I would say that triming is not a problem since these mono samples are supposed to be listened to separately for a comparison ? It is not a stereo recording ....
Old 20th March 2008 | Show parent
  #29
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🎧 15 years
why wouldn't you use a y-cable?
Old 20th March 2008 | Show parent
  #30
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ISedlacek's Avatar
 
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Hakala ➡️
why wouldn't you use a y-cable?
Because I don´t have it ... and second, I am afraid the phantom power would not work
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