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Preamp for RCA BK-11 ribbon
Old 21st January 2009
  #1
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Preamp for RCA BK-11 ribbon

Hi there!

I'm searching THE preamp for RCA BK-11 to record mainly vocals (male).
My budget is around 500-2500USD.
What do you think?

I was going to get RCA 44a first, but I found this BK-11 to be the sound I've been looking for for vocals...more detailed than 44a I guess.

I already have AEA TRP, which I'm using with pair of Royer R-121, so count that out.

Thanks in advance!

-Vm
Old 21st January 2009
  #2
Lives for gear
 
softwareguy's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I am also a fan of the BK-11. If you have the "lots of clean gain" department covered with the TRP (takes care of any "problem" areas), then I would think you're really looking for a pre-amp that sounds good on vocals and doesn't get in the way of the mic.

As a general rule I think that a neve-ish pre is kind of too much of the same thing with the BK-11 in this app, i.e., too much low to low-mid richness to be really flexible. Obviously YMMV. I have had good luck with Demeter, Daking and API pre's in this application. I'm sure a Hardy would kick serious ass for this, as would a Pacifica or a Shadow Hills, but I haven't had a chance to try them. Directionally, anything API-like or with a Jensen transformer should be really appropriate, at least for the kinds of sounds I look for from this mic.
Old 21st January 2009 | Show parent
  #3
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Player1's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Player 1

I own an RCA BK 11a too and it sounds great with a Grace M201. Lots of headroom with great dynamic range and has a selector for ribbon mics too.
Old 21st January 2009 | Show parent
  #4
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unit7's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Stephen Sank did some reribboning for me. He also recommended a mod that he do himself on a few models of pre's from TLA/Radius. I'm not a fan of their stuff but this is a complete makeover with new caps/tubes. He did a 4ch unit for me that I won on eBay and asked seller to send directly to Stephen. I believe it cost a total of approx $2200 including the eBay auction. It's quiet enough (less noise than my Avalon 737sp and a lot more quiet than my 1084s/81s) for a ribbon and sounds really great on the three ribbons I have. I remember that he also did a mod on one of TLA's 2 ch pres, which cost a little more per channel. Don't remember which TLA model but if you're interested just google him and send an email.
Old 22nd January 2009 | Show parent
  #5
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Thanks for great answers!

***

unit7, what do you mean that you don't like their (Sank's) stuff?

***

software guy, have you tried demeter, api and daking with BK-11 on vocals? If yes, can you describe the sound and difference between them?

Yes, I agree, I should try to find a preamp with some character, since I have the AEA TRP already, but since I can't compare them and even try them, where to start? I'm a pro musician, but noob on sound engineering...

***

How do I know what preamp would be quiet enough?

sincerely,
-Vm
Old 22nd January 2009 | Show parent
  #6
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unit7's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by vihreamies ➑️
Thanks for great answers!

***

unit7, what do you mean that you don't like their (Sank's) stuff?

***

How do I know what preamp would be quiet enough?

sincerely,
-Vm

I was referring to TLA/Radius.


Re noise issues w ribbons, hard for anyone else to tell you what's quiet enough for you.... Some people find noise suitable for a lo fi touch on certain productions. But if you're after the most quiet unit, I'd guess you'll have to look at the Hardys, Earthworks and Millennias etc. I'm sure there are a few more, also tube units, that people could recommend and have recommended in previous threads. Good luck!
Old 22nd January 2009 | Show parent
  #7
Lives for gear
 
unit7's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
BTW, did you know that your BK11 was designed by Stephens father, Jon R Sank?
Old 22nd January 2009 | Show parent
  #8
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Thanks!

No, I'm not after super quiet signal...and yes I did know that it's his son who's doing these reribboning etc...

Can you describe the sound of the demeter you got? It looks interesting.

-Vm
Old 22nd January 2009 | Show parent
  #9
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softwareguy's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Sorry to be so slow replying, busy freakin day. I actually have both a VTMP 2a and a HXM preamp that has been somewhat modified by Jim Williams (not really sure how, it just came that way 2d hand and I've always liked Jim's work). Compared to some others they are both on the clean end of things rather than the toobey colored end, in spite of both being tube amps. They both use Jensen trafo's, which gives them a certain family resemblance with each other and (at least to my ears) with my Daking, which also has Jensens. I think that any of them would be good choices for the BK11, although my own VTMP gets less use in that connection because it's one of the early ones with, I believe 55 db gain tops, so not the right thing in a lot of situations. I personally really like the HXM, and believe that it sounds deep and clear and musical in lots of applications and situations.

None of the above pre's, to my ear, are as mid-forward as the API. The API can also sound more 3d in some situations. Any of these will, in my own experience, match up successfully with the BK11, although I don't believe that any of them will sound as open as the TRP that you are used to, since that has a very high input impedance. I use Jim Williams' pre's for a similar purpose with my BK11 and other ribbons, they have a similar profile of lots of clean fast gain with a high input impedance. It is my experience that pre's of this type really open up the top end of the BK11, but I haven't tried the TRP, and YMMV.

As I said, I'm sure that Hardy, Pacifica and others would be good choices as well and, who knows, on your voice it may even be that something Neveish is the right call. It certainly has different impedance options and will load the mic differently. If you're really serious about it, I would try to get an hour or so of cheap, late night studio time somewhere where they have some of these pre's and you will find yourself making choices very quickly with some real-world information.

Hope that helps and good luck.
Old 24th January 2009 | Show parent
  #10
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Thanks for great advices!

About vintage stuff: Has anybody tried old Altec pres and old RCA's pres. Also I heard that Telefunken v41 (not sure about the model) could be nice.

-Vm
Old 24th January 2009 | Show parent
  #11
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softwareguy's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I have gone in and out of phases of looking for the old RCA pre's. I'm sure they would be a great fit for the RCA mic's (ya think?) but those rare times that I've found them I'm always too worried about condition to pull the trigger. At least in my world I feel like they are probably too sketchy from a reliability standpoint to make them a "foundational" piece of equipment in my studio.

If you find some good ones, let us know how they sound!
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #12
Lives for gear
 
emrr's Avatar
 
24 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
I have most of the RCA preamps, and four types of the Altec pro tube preamps (not the green stuff with plug-in transformers). If you re-cap a vintage Altec or RCA pre and have good tubes in it, it will be rock solid. I run a ton of that sort of gear with no issues. Re-capped/retubed gear from the 1940's-1960's ARE the centerpieces of my studio. You'd be foolish to expect an unrestored one to work in any reliable manner. Just remember most vintage professional vintage pre's are fixed 40dB, so you'll need more gain after one in many cases, especially a BK-11 on vocals.
Old 25th January 2009 | Show parent
  #13
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unit7's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by vihreamies ➑️
Thanks for great advices!

About vintage stuff: Has anybody tried old Altec pres and old RCA's pres. Also I heard that Telefunken v41 (not sure about the model) could be nice.

-Vm
Actually I bought an RCA OP-6 just before christmas. Sended it to Stephen for his special upgrade, but he isn't ready with it yet. I believe he keeps the transformer(s), selection of tubes and attenuators, and then replace and recable the rest (I believe also redesign) as this will make the unit much more quiet. He has spoken VERY warmly about this unit, even though it seems to be of the more coloring kind than the Hardys and Earthworks etc. I looked around for six months before getting this one. I'll try to remember to drop a line here when I've listened to it.
Old 10th April 2009 | Show parent
  #14
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unit7's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
This one took a while... Stephen Sank just got back to me and told he's ready with the mod of the OP-6. Collecting parts and working on optimizing his mod caused the delay (soon four months since I bought it). He sent a lot of pictures which I feel would be wrong to post here since it would reveal his design. But it all looks very nice and tidy. All new resistors, caps and silver cables etc etc.

He's redesigned mod, among a few other things, includes moving the AC fuse to the right side of the unit for hum reasons. He told me that he plugged a BK11 in to it, and couldn't find the noise floor! He believed that this could be his best OP-6 mod ever, so he wanted to keep it for a few days to test it with ribbons with even lower output and compare it to another OP-6 that he did for another guy. Sounds very promising in deed...

As you can see, he also put TRS jacks on. I'm sooo curious to try it! And to get that sweet lookin' box in my rack....
Attached Thumbnails
Preamp for RCA BK-11 ribbon-op6e.jpg  
Old 10th April 2009 | Show parent
  #15
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
I could be considered extraordinarily biased, but my pair of BK-11's sound great with both an MP-2NV and the older MP-2MH.

It's a great mic, any competent preamp ought to work fine.
Old 10th April 2009 | Show parent
  #16
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Bassmec's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Ahh!

Quote:
Originally Posted by unit7 ➑️
This one took a while... Stephen Sank just got back to me and told he's ready with the mod of the OP-6. Collecting parts and working on optimizing his mod caused the delay (soon four months since I bought it). He sent a lot of pictures which I feel would be wrong to post here since it would reveal his design. But it all looks very nice and tidy. All new resistors, caps and silver cables etc etc.

He's redesigned mod, among a few other things, includes moving the AC fuse to the right side of the unit for hum reasons. He told me that he plugged a BK11 in to it, and couldn't find the noise floor! He believed that this could be his best OP-6 mod ever, so he wanted to keep it for a few days to test it with ribbons with even lower output and compare it to another OP-6 that he did for another guy. Sounds very promising in deed...

As you can see, he also put TRS jacks on. I'm sooo curious to try it! And to get that sweet lookin' box in my rack....
Here is my all 19 mods Steven Sank Special RCA OP-6 aint she a pretty one:

I love the BK 11 too but Steven built me a little R121 like Reslo offset ribbon:

When I hooked up the old JCM 800 to a motherload power soak and on into an old
square magnet fender 12" in an open back cab, I think I found religion, then along came a 1968 Matamp dual rectifier and I have found the clean guitar tone of God.
Whats more if you flip the input impedance switch and plug up an old U87 P48 and a phantom box you get people asking to record all the singing stuff as well via the old OP-6. I wonder just how many vocals went to record via this type of pre amp in the old days, it sounds so right still today.
Old 10th April 2009 | Show parent
  #17
Lives for gear
 
unit7's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Looking great! Do you say that the OP-6 has an impedance switch?
Old 10th April 2009 | Show parent
  #18
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Bassmec's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Ahh!

Quote:
Originally Posted by unit7 ➑️
Looking great! Do you say that the OP-6 has an impedance switch?
Yup it has 30-50 ohms or 250 ohms or you can have high impedance IE 50K if you
like for instrument or a crystal microphone input circuit.
It has a fair few options for output impedances and all:

Old 5th July 2010 | Show parent
  #19
Gear Maniac
 
Hornblower64's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Has the OP tried the Forssell SMP-2 with the higher gain option?
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