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Upgrading Preamps - is it worth it?
Old 7th September 2020
  #1
Upgrading Preamps - is it worth it?

Hey,

I mainly do live recordings of bands that are somehow related to "Jazz". Channel count has not been above 24 yet, but I'll keep the option to do 32/36.

Over the years I acquired to many (somewhat random) pres (UFX+ as main interface):

- Octamic XTC *2
- ASP880
- Octamic D (1st gen)
- Studio Projects SP828
- Quadmic (1st gen)
- Presonus DP88
- AEA TRP (1st gen).

I'd probably keep the XTCs for their remote convenience with Totalmix, the rest I'm not that sure about. The ASP is nice, but somewhat big and heavy for remote work and reported to be not all that reliable (mine has been fine). The AEA is certainly nice, but also somewhat inconvenient for a small remote rig. I'd like to have eight nice pres to connect to the UFX's line ins.

I could get a Line Audio MP8 for about 750€ shipped, a BG4 for 1500€ (a BG2 to go with the AEA for 900) or a used ATI 8mx2 for 1200.

Mic wise I have a fairly nice collection by now (pairs of 414B/ULS, MD441, MC930, SE 4400, OM1, M88, Kel 7U and 3C, multiple CM4s and M201s, and some singles - KMS105, RE20, e845, SM58, ND868).

Any thoughts?

Cheers, Peer
Old 7th September 2020
  #2
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
How important are stepped gain switches to you ? Many people like them for their precise and repeatable ability to set gains and to find the same setting for multiple mics quickly. Others may dislike them for the same reason...the changes in gain between one click stop and the next, if you're trying to adjust them imperceptibly while recording, are too harsh in their increments. It's one factor you might consider...of those you mention I think only the DAV BG series and the 8MX2 have stepped gains...41 detents in the case of the ATI
Old 7th September 2020
  #3
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Plush's Avatar
 
5 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
For a total and noticeable upgrade, I recommend moving to the 8 banger Audient ASP 880 or ASP 800 eight channel mic amp.

The 880 has a/d converters built in and the 800 is a straight super quality analog mic amp.

They both have a reasonable price point.
Old 7th September 2020 | Show parent
  #4
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James Lehmann's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush ➑️
For a total and noticeable upgrade, I recommend moving to the 8 banger Audient ASP 880 or ASP 800 eight channel mic amp.
Er... the OP already has an ASP880!

Back to our regularly scheduled broadcast...

Having done a bit of research on this lately it seems to me the first two questions to ask (beyond raw sound quality) are:

1. Do you need preamps with inbuilt digital conversion?

2. If yes to (1) then do you record at 96k? As a yes to this as well is likely to have you making a careful count of your available ADAT inputs
Old 7th September 2020
  #5
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tourtelot's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
How much do you want to spend?

Grace m108s for me (classical. no sonic signature)

D.
Old 7th September 2020
  #6
Thanks for the replies. To answer the questions:

- Conversion: I thought I'd use the UFX+'s line ins, so not really necessary.

- ADAT-count: I have a total of six ins on the UFX and the two XTCs (connected via MADI). If I should ever need more or want to ditch one XTC, I've also got D.O.tec exbox.adat...

- stepped gain: probably a good idea, as I can fine tune with the UFX. Would rate as nice two have, but not mandatory as I have 20 digitally controlled pres.

- ASP: fairly big (deep) and heavy, the 008 has a fan, the 880 seems to dye more often than others, but nice in terms of sound and options. My tendency is to use this for drums at home. Adding one 008 could be a very cheap option, though.

- Budget: no more than the BG8.

Cheers, Peer
Old 7th September 2020
  #7
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James Lehmann's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I had a non-ADAT ASP-008 and the raw sound of the preamps and overall feature-set/build-quality was fantastic.

The fan was an issue for me and I do much prefer stepped gains, but the thing that really drove me really crazy about that unit was the gain-bunching at the end of the knob travel. It made it extremely hard to accurately match pairs of mics, or indeed any mic, and you can wave repeatability right out the window.

Mic preamps that start their gain at 0dB like the ASP-008 make no sense to me - you've wasted the entire first third of travel just to get to a basic starting point of +24-30dB, and it makes gain-bunching almost inevitable before you've even got off the ground! I see it's the same old story with the 880 and the 800.

The DAVs I'm looking at right now on my BG2 start at +22dB and are stepped all the way to +66dB - I like that!
Old 7th September 2020
  #8
Using mine mainly for drums, so I kind of forgot about the silly gain pot. But yes, good point.
Old 8th September 2020
  #9
Another idea: I just noticed I can get the ShinyBox Si4 for 1400€. It's only four channels, but I could maybe sell the AEA (or leave it at home) and get 4 ribbon friendly channels.
Old 10th September 2020
  #10
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Yannick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
How about an old but trusty Gracedesign 801R, maybe with remote controller ?
Old 10th September 2020 | Show parent
  #11
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David Rick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yannick ➑️
How about an old but trusty Gracedesign 801R, maybe with remote controller ?
There's a Grace 801R up on Reverb.com for $1750 US.
Old 10th September 2020
  #12
Gear Guru
I don't usually use various different sounding mic preamps for live recordings, too many differences to work out, not enough time to make the best selection. I much prefer to roll with the most neutral and transparent preamps. Better live show "glue" that way, easier mix, less fix.
Old 15th September 2020
  #13
Hey all,

I realized I can get a good deal on a BG8 from a (semi) local shop I like and trust. So I think I'll go with that. That leads me to another question: When I'm doing the live mix as well as the recording, I currently feed the Octamics into a M32C via Madi card. Works well, but isn't the best in terms of workflow. So I'll likely get a DL16 for "quick and easy". So now I wonder if a BG8 fed into the DL16 at 0 gain would still sound better than the XTC. From what I've read so far, I guess it should.

Cheers, Peer
Old 16th September 2020
  #14
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
The DAV BG mic amps are where I would begin I guess, just based on the quality of sound that they deliver.

I use BG1s which can always be used at the base of mic stands with line level returned to the control room, if needs be.
Old 16th September 2020 | Show parent
  #15
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams ➑️
I don't usually use various different sounding mic preamps for live recordings, too many differences to work out, not enough time to make the best selection. I much prefer to roll with the most neutral and transparent preamps. Better live show "glue" that way, easier mix, less fix.
That's interesting.

I do sometimes (not always) employ two different mic amp pairs when I'm using four mics in a Faulkner phased array. Those being DAV BG1s and Audient micos.
Old 16th September 2020 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
...i guess the decision whether to use all the same mic preamps or using a selected few largely depends on situation:

in a large scale, high-profile, high-pressure situation with orchestra, choir(s), soloists and a band going straight on-air, different mic preamps is pretty much the last thing i'd want to have! - i'm then using up to 192 of the same remotely controlled studer d21/csb mic preamps.

otherwise, using some specific preamps/channel strips on a few channels can be quite nice: i often carry an additional pair of amek/neve cib's or grace design m-103's or still a tc gold channel.

also a rme dmc-842 for digital mics plus occasionally a neumann dmi-2.

here are some pics:
Attached Thumbnails
Upgrading Preamps - is it worth it?-20200618_172302.jpg   Upgrading Preamps - is it worth it?-20200718_022157.jpg   Upgrading Preamps - is it worth it?-20200917_195648.jpg   Upgrading Preamps - is it worth it?-20190506_202936.jpg  

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 17th September 2020 at 06:58 PM.. Reason: pics added
Old 17th September 2020
  #17
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Plush's Avatar
 
5 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
For reasonable size recordings there is no problem in using various brands of mic amps. That is because the best mic amps all have a neutral sound.

So typically here I might use:
8 ch.Micstasy
8 ch. Hardy
Various Pueblo channels

Various Rens Heijnis channels
Various SONOSAX channels

Result is always outstanding.
Old 21st September 2020
  #18
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
I'm curious to point out the Midas DL151, which has 24 preamps, sells for $1800, and can be connected to a DAW with a $370 Klark Teknik DN9630 AES50/USB adapter. So the whole front end runs under $100/channel including 24/96 ADC's and USB interface, and it's clean and neutral enough to be an industry standard in live sound, not to mention a very tidy and compact rig.

So as I see folks spending 3x that amount to get cleaner and more neutral preamps, I wonder if you're relying on that and not adding much coloration in the mix, or if you're doing heavy coloring anyway like typical studio mixing. If you're adding heavy coloration, you'll get much more bang for the buck there than dropping thousands to squeeze a half percent more fidelity out of your front end. I'm very confident better results would be had from Midas preamps through $5k of coloration gear (Neve strips, Pultek clones, etc) than ADP880's through Izotope Ozone or whatever. There's also the fact that the coloration gear benefits every channel, not just one.
Old 21st September 2020 | Show parent
  #19
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
trouble with midas/behringer - amongst other things - is that they're using yet another unneccessary format (aes50) - the preamps/converters are as good/as bad as anyone else's (digico, yamaha, a&h etc.)
Old 21st September 2020 | Show parent
  #20
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➑️
trouble with midas/behringer - amongst other things - is that they're using yet another unneccessary format (aes50) - the preamps/converters are as good/as bad as anyone else's (digico, yamaha, a&h etc.)
I fail to see what's unnecessary about a data protocol between the ADC's and the DAW. If you can get 24 channels of 24/96 from the converters to USB or thunderbolt for less than $370 I'd like to hear about it. For that price, who cares what the format is called? Not to mention it's safe over 100m of Cat6.

But my initial question remains, do folks going long on preamps tend to leave them alone in mixdown or use coloration?
Old 21st September 2020 | Show parent
  #21
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by AC2SPL ➑️
I fail to see what's unnecessary about a data protocol between the ADC's and the DAW. If you can get 24 channels of 24/96 from the converters to USB or thunderbolt for less than $370 I'd like to hear about it.

But my initial question remains, do folks going long on preamps tend to leave them alone in mixdown or use coloration?
...unnecessary in these sense that there have been a couple of established formats before aes50 - not an issue for someone working with the same gear and a closed network all the time/emabarrasing for those who need to provide multiple or varying protocols every other show...

no 'coloration' wanted here: i mostly try my signals to be as clean as possible, convert to digital as soon as possible (if not already inside the mic) and never leave the digital domain anymore...
Old 21st September 2020 | Show parent
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by AC2SPL ➑️
But my initial question remains, do folks going long on preamps tend to leave them alone in mixdown or use coloration?
Hey,

as I opened the thread I think I should answer as well...

I can perfectly see your point. That's why I'll likely get a DL16 for bread and butter dutys on stage. However, my small rigg (without digital multicore) consists of the UFX+ with its 8 nice line ins (tha are even remote controllable if I choose to do so) plus pre amps. Hence a small and light high quality mic pre like the BG8 comes in handy. I don't want to skip redundant recording, so a DL151 plus AES50/USB conversion is not an option.

My main work is live mixing and location recording (appart from my other main work teaching drums...), so I often hand out raw tracks which I want to sound great. With the XTCs, I tend to do "virtual tracking" with the Lindell 80 or the Neold - with neutral but still slightly sweetening pre I might skip that step.
I mostly mix in my (treated) bedroom, sometimes on trains etc., so a rack full of colouring devices doesn't really fit my bill.

Cheers, Peer
Old 21st September 2020
  #23
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Oh believe me I know all about the annoyances of proprietary formats, having toured as FOH across three continents etc. But in remote recording aren't you bringing your own gear to each recording? Isn't that what makes it remote? Pardon my ignorance on that aspect.

And since you're not coloring on mixdown, then sure going long on preamps would be necessary. But you should know that the most accurate preamps don't sound very good. There comes a point where coloration is needed to make it sound more transparent, which is perceived as "more accurate". That point is actually below preamps like Midas Pro's or Digico's etc. They are already coloring a bit to sound more accurate.

And that's all you're getting from preamps like the ADP880, more neutral-sounding coloration. That can be applied on mixdown with just a pair of channels rather than 24. The difference in price is about $200 per preamp, and you're spending that on a non-cummulative basis. Even if you argue that you only get 90% of the coloration on mixdown you're still spending $4800 to get 10% better than $400 worth of coloration.

I get that you don't want it to sound overtly colored, but with a $4800 budget there are tons of 2-channel neutral/transparent coloration options that kick the hell out of an ADP880. You should try renting a few options and give them a day in court.

Start with a Focusrite ISA Two, which is only $900. Run your main bus through it before whatever master plugins you use. It'll probably be a little more heavy-handed than you'd like, so balance wet/dry to suit. The ISA's are well known, so you can get good guidance about what to try from there based upon what you did/didn't like about it.
Old 21st September 2020 | Show parent
  #24
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeerSoe ➑️
Hey,

as I opened the thread I think I should answer as well...

I can perfectly see your point. That's why I'll likely get a DL16 for bread and butter dutys on stage. However, my small rigg (without digital multicore) consists of the UFX+ with its 8 nice line ins (tha are even remote controllable if I choose to do so) plus pre amps. Hence a small and light high quality mic pre like the BG8 comes in handy. I don't want to skip redundant recording, so a DL151 plus AES50/USB conversion is not an option.

My main work is live mixing and location recording (appart from my other main work teaching drums...), so I often hand out raw tracks which I want to sound great. With the XTCs, I tend to do "virtual tracking" with the Lindell 80 or the Neold - with neutral but still slightly sweetening pre I might skip that step.
I mostly mix in my (treated) bedroom, sometimes on trains etc., so a rack full of colouring devices doesn't really fit my bill.

Cheers, Peer
All fair points. However the whole DL series incl DL151 and DL16 have two AES50 ports so you can simply get two DN9630's for redundancy. And there are several compact coloration options, like the ISA Two I mentioned above. I don't know about a train, but would definitely fit in a bedroom.
Old 21st September 2020 | Show parent
  #25
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kludgeaudio's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AC2SPL ➑️
I get that you don't want it to sound overtly colored, but with a $4800 budget there are tons of 2-channel neutral/transparent coloration options that kick the hell out of an ADP880. You should try renting a few options and give them a day in court.
My normal preamp for that sort of work is the Millennia Media HV-3D/8, which gives you eight channels of one of the most transparent preamps around, and with very good noise rejection. Do not ignore noise rejection in this sort of work. You get stepped controls as well. It's in your price range.

The input impedance is high enough for ribbon mikes but not perfect for ribbon mikes. You might still want to carry the AEA around if you're bringing and RCA ribbon, but I doubt it would make any improvement with an M160.

The controls are big and have good-sized steps, so you won't grab the wrong one in a dark control room when you are working by feel. Channel matching is excellent; if the knobs are in the same position the gain is exactly the same. One big disadvantage is that the knob only gives you 17.5dB of gain change and there are two 18dB gain stage buttons. So if someone starts getting louder and louder and you turn down the gain you eventually get to the point where you have to hit that button and drop down 18dB and then turn the knob up again. I find that annoying in a field job where people will sometimes just grab a random microphone and start playing into it; it can take a second to get the gain set right and that's a second you've lost.

But if I had to have only one preamp, and often if I am working out of a suitcase I do only have one preamp, I would want it to be this one.
--scott
Old 21st September 2020 | Show parent
  #26
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
'clean' pres don't sound very good?!? - well, maybe you haven't been working on studer, stagetec or lawo desks, with millenia, grace design, crane song, dad etc. preamps or didn't get to work on projects with huge channel count - but feel free to use whatever you want and add 'coloration', saturation and whatnot on end! i try not damaging the signal integrity in any way if i don't have to (which is often the case though)...

in terms of formats, the need to use multiple aoip formats depends on the scale of the situation: if you're broadcasting from a large festival, be prepared to have multiple format converters availabe or you might get into troubles - currently, i have these formats in use:
cobranet, ethernet, rocknet, reac, aviom, gigace, aes50, dante, aes67, ravenna, avb.
(i'm shocked: i though it would be but seven different formats?! and i haven't yet been counting different other formats such as adat, tdif, aes...)

if i'm on my own, i'm using my studer desks/preamps with madi throughout (well... - kinda but beyond the scope of this thread) and try avoiding any aoip. now madi can get transmitted in a variety of ways too and cables/plugs/connectors vary a lot: coax/bnc, cat cables, multimode fiber or singlemode on sc, st, lc, opticalcon duo or quad etc.
Old 21st September 2020
  #27
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
I assume Midas DL151 and Klark Teknik DN9630 AES50/USB adapter are good enough sonically. But, it seemed that the combo do not do 44.1KHz sample rate. What is that about?
Old 21st September 2020
  #28
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tourtelot's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Of course, as always. . .

It depends.

I (pretty much) only record acoustic (classical) content. Like has already been said, saying that neutral preamps (I think the word was "clean") "don't sound very good" is, at least, a bit of a broad stroke. If not intentional mis-information. How could I, capturing what I capture on every job, use preamps that alter the sound of my mics in any way? That would be a grave dis-service to my musician clients. Therefore, only the cleanest preamps will do. There are some choices that fit that description; I chose Grace.

If you are recording, maybe, anything else and you like the sound of a particular preamp; it fits the music your are recording? Use an API, or a Neve, or a Focusrite, or whatever. Engineers have been using preamps with "flavor" in pop music for decades. They want that "sound". It can not be called accurate, but who cares if what you are looking to achieve is achieved.

D.
Old 21st September 2020 | Show parent
  #29
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➑️
'clean' pres don't sound very good?!? - well, maybe you haven't been working on studer, stagetec or lawo desks, with millenia, grace design, crane song, dad etc.
I really dislike being misquoted. It's right there in black and white. I said _accurate_ preamps don't sound very good, meaning extremely low THD, no discernable coloration. Not one of the brands you've listed is without significant coloration. Colored preamps are prefered for the same reason we don't use measurement mics for everything.
Old 21st September 2020
  #30
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David Rick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Preamps and Priorities

The important thing about remote work is that you're being paid to capture an event. Tomorrow night it will be a different event, and next week you'll be in a different hall. While we all like to add a little fairy dust in post, the most important thing in the heat of the moment is to get a clean, quiet capture of all the necessary elements. That includes main mics, hall mics, and spots. It might be four channels, or it might be forty, but it's pretty much given that you're short of time and making decisions under difficult monitoring conditions. This is not the time to play "producer" and audition a bunch of different signal paths. I love doing that in the studio, but I abhor doing it on location because I need to spend my time getting levels plus checking for hums and buzzes and I want to spend whatever extra time I have deciding if my main pair and spots are really in the best positions possible. I do not want to worry about my preamps; I want the cleanest, most reliable, most repeatable ones possible, and it's all so very much simpler if every channel is identical.

I think I'm not in the minority on this. In fact, let's check that:

I use the Millennia HV-3C/8 (into Prism converters).
Scott uses the Millennia HV-3C/8 (into Prism converters, I think).
Doug uses Grace Designs m108 (which has built-in conversion); I think he had Millennia previously.
My buddy Paul uses Grace Designs m801 (into Prism converters).
Didier (mostly) uses the preamps in his high-end broadcast desk sometimes with a few clean outboard ones on the "money" channels.
Hudson has a bit more of a mixture, mostly in groups of 8 and all more clean than vibey.
Steve Remote has lots of preamp racks (API, True, Midas, etc.), nearly all racked with 24 identical channels.

Are you seeing a trend here? I am: it's mostly "standard work" not "mix 'n match". Nobody has time or attention for messing with minutia when they need to be running line checks.

David L. Rick
Seventh String Recordings
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