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CONVERTER/MONITORING UPGRADE FOR SMALL STUDIO
Old 2nd April 2021
  #1
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🎧 10 years
CONVERTER/MONITORING UPGRADE FOR SMALL STUDIO

Greetings fellow gear-beasts!

This is my first posting.

I am trying to wrap my head around the concept of converters and monitoring in order to upgrade my recording system. I run a home-based studio creating brass stems for studios and artists that require brass tracks for their music (may be viewed here: https://soundbetter.com/profiles/289...h-brass-studio ). I perform trumpet, trombone, tuba and bi-mic each, adjusting each audio region in Logic after I record to line up the waveforms. I’ve started with Focusrite’s Scarlett 8i6, miking with a Beyerdynamic M88tg (dynamic) close up, and have recently upgraded my condenser mic (a bit further away) to a Rode Ntk tube mic. My intention is only to record myself, one instrument at a time.
Now I’ve upgraded the pres! The Ntk is now going through a Focusrite Isa One, digitally into the Scarlett’s spdif input, while the M88 is running through a newly acquired Warm Audio TB12, into the insert at the back of the 8i6. This bypasses the Scarlett’s pres. The Scarlett is still performing the duties of monitoring (D/A conversion) and, in the case of the M88/TB12, the A/D conversion.
So far so good. I might mention that my recordings require little or no eq and balancing, as I achieve this by skillful arranging (Finale scores) and choice of mouthpiece/size of horn. This is to indicate my focus and approach.
I now wish to upgrade the remaining duties of the 8i6 (monitoring, A/D, D/A) by purchasing a device that is purpose-built for this. I do not hear anything wrong with the 8i6’s functions in this regard, but am working on the theory that such an upgrade may assist me to produce a more competitive product. Specifically, I am looking for sonic richness and presence—the phrase “pop out in the mix” springs to mind.
Finally, I wish to upgrade my playback/monitoring by the purchase of mastering headphones: the Sennheiser 650 was recommended. Because of this, the desired device must have a high-end headphone amp. My abode in Cape Town precludes try-before-buy options, and my research is mainly via youtube videos! So far I’ve determined (I think..) that the Antelope Pure 2, the Antelope Amari, and the Lynx Hilo have these features. My questions are these:
Am I going down the right path? What conceptually might I be missing? Why is this perceived upgrade so hugely expensive, that is, why such a vast difference between an entry item (8i6) and an item that replaces just a few of its functions? What other options are available? Since I’m only using 2 tracks, would I look at mastering devices?
I will gratefully receive any advice and wisdom.
Old 2nd April 2021
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
You can't go wrong with the big names like Prism, Lynx or Burl in terms of conversion. I absolutely love the Prism sound. Burl is a close second. I haven't heard Lynx and Crane Song but I know Lynx is the most transparent in the game. Antelope is a good choice too. Lynx Hilo or the similarly priced Prism Lyra might be your options.
Old 2nd April 2021
  #3
Acoustic treatment and studio monitor speakers is where my money would go for a monitoring upgrade.

If you do want a pro audio interface upgrade but don't need a lot of IO, the RME Babyface Pro FS would be hard to beat.

With headphones, the biggest driver of performance seems to be the relationship between amp output impedance and nominal headphone impedance. If the phones are 5 times the amp impedance or more then studio style headphones tend to be very flat.
Old 2nd April 2021
  #4
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🎧 15 years
The Prism Lyra 2 is a tried and true choice for a personal studio like yours, with excellent conversion quality, but rather pricey. The headphone amp is not quite on par with Benchmark or Grace, but these later don't offer the A/D features you want. My Prism Orpheus, big brother to the Lyra, struggles to drive AKG 240DF's, but these are notoriously difficult. I can say that my Prism headphone output works fine with HD6xx cans, which are very similar to the model you're considering, but easier to drive. (They're also cheaper.)

Let me suggest another alternative which might be an even better fit for you and is certainly much cheaper: The SPL Marc One. I think these are just about to reach the dealer channel. They are derived from SPL's upper-tier monitor controllers, but with fewer features and a correspondingly lower price point. There are a couple different offerings in this series, but the Marc One is distinguished by also having A/D conversion, which is done with really excellent AKM parts. The SPL headphone amp is great and I think you might appreciate the cross-feed circuit and the ability to switch to mono for checking phase alignment. There's also a mix knob for zero-latency monitoring. I looks to me like this device is a perfect match for you, and the money you save could be spent on acoustic treatment and/or a nice microphone.

David L. Rick
Seventh String Recording
Old 3rd April 2021 | Show parent
  #5
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Thanks for your helpful and generous responses! I’m understanding that although products from Prism, Lynx and Antelope are industry standard, the price point is daunting. The RME may be a step up from the Scarlett 8i6, but includes pres that I don’t need, and also doesn’t have the sp/dif required for the Isa One pre.

The closest match thus far seems to be SPL’s Marc One, with its price at 37% of the others, and—from what I gather—comparable quality. Again, no sp/dif, so I’d sacrifice the Isa’s digital out.

Regarding acoustic treatment, monitor speakers and microphone quality, are these concerns picked up from the recordings I’ve made, or general statements?

How would I weigh in the sacrifice of digital in on the Isa, as compared with better DAC on both channels?

Are the M88tb and Rode NTK not highly respected mics for brass (an AEA A440 might be nice…)?

Do any other options occur?

Thanks!

Warm regards,
William
Old 4th April 2021
  #6
Gear Maniac
Another option I'd throw in there which is a tier cheaper than the other suggestions in this thread is the Dangerous Music Source. It is the perfect D/A and Monitor Controller for the small studio. The DAC is really excellent and the headphone amp is stellar. You will definitely be improving on the Scarlett's conversion but also not breaking the bank. I use it with HD600s and the sound is really nice. It can be had for about $1000 USD new.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
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I would maybe add a Topping DX7 DAC to the rig, that's what I've been enjoying, below $500 usually, top class sound IMO.

For critical listening headphones I've had good luck with the Sennheiser HD650, that you were recommended, I got them from Massdrop for $200. They are a bit sensitive to headphone amps, I use a Drawmer MC2.1 and am happy with it.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
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Early this week I am testing a Black Lion Audio Revolution 2x2 interface, if it does what it promises, it would be good for this sort of one at a time tracking and critical listening, we shall see!

The $200 range interfaces didn't generally perform to my standards, so this is an attempt at a step up. The MOTU M4 might have been the best of the bunch, however.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mungu ➡️
Another option I'd throw in there which is a tier cheaper than the other suggestions in this thread is the Dangerous Music Source. It is the perfect D/A and Monitor Controller for the small studio. The DAC is really excellent and the headphone amp is stellar. You will definitely be improving on the Scarlett's conversion but also not breaking the bank. I use it with HD600s and the sound is really nice. It can be had for about $1000 USD new.
DM’s Source seems indeed a likely candidate, but I have a few simple questions regarding ins/outs:

Presumably my analogue pre output would connect to one of the Source’s “An Input 1” xlr/combo sockets whereas my digital pre output would connect to the Aes/Spdif combo socket. This is the first I’ve seen an sp/dif in the form of aes/combo socket!

The Isa One’s digital out is optical or adat: At the moment I have the optical transferred to an rca connector via an adapter, and this plugs into the rca sp/dif input socket on the Scarlett 8i6. How would the Isa connect digitally to the Source?

Also, I find the “usb in” socket confusing—surely this would be usb out, to send info to the computer/logic? Am I completely misunderstanding that you can plug your single pres (both analogue and digital) into the Source, send this to the computer/logic, and then monitor logic back through the Source?
Thanks!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
Gear Maniac
 
You might also want to look at the Rme ADI-2 new one or the pro. The non-pro new one has a slightly better DA but not AD. It is apparently better than the Prism and most other DA's. So for top conversion that would be the best. Hilo I've heard has a very transparent DA. I use a Metric Halo ULN-2 which is also great and can connect with an ethernet cable. Source could work too, but it only connects as a USB class device thing. So latency might be an issue with that.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WILLIAM HAUBRICH ➡️
DM’s Source seems indeed a likely candidate, but I have a few simple questions regarding ins/outs:

Presumably my analogue pre output would connect to one of the Source’s “An Input 1” xlr/combo sockets whereas my digital pre output would connect to the Aes/Spdif combo socket. This is the first I’ve seen an sp/dif in the form of aes/combo socket!

The Isa One’s digital out is optical or adat: At the moment I have the optical transferred to an rca connector via an adapter, and this plugs into the rca sp/dif input socket on the Scarlett 8i6. How would the Isa connect digitally to the Source?

Also, I find the “usb in” socket confusing—surely this would be usb out, to send info to the computer/logic? Am I completely misunderstanding that you can plug your single pres (both analogue and digital) into the Source, send this to the computer/logic, and then monitor logic back through the Source?
Thanks!
The SOURCE is a DAC, analog output only (USB input, digital input), no digital going back to the computer. So yes, it's a USB input.

You can't record through it, but you can listen through it.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx ➡️
The SOURCE is a DAC, analog output only (USB input, digital input), no digital going back to the computer. So yes, it's a USB input.

You can't record through it, but you can listen through it.
Goodness, just as well I didn't buy it (thaaanks)! Why was it suggested? Was my initial post unclear?
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WILLIAM HAUBRICH ➡️
Goodness, just as well I didn't buy it (thaaanks)! Why was it suggested? Was my initial post unclear?
Your thread title, a quick read of it, suggested the monitor chain, including the DAC, could be improved, so some people are recommending DACs.

If it's primarily recording inputs you're after, yeah, that's a slightly different discussion.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
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I think your Lynx Hilo idea in the original post might be good, or an RME ADI-2 Pro as TomVY mentioned. Or the Babyface Pro FS, mentioned. Nice and compact, 4 inputs.

I admit I skimmed the first post a bit too originally. You might also look at something like a MOTU USB/Thunderbolt interface, or a Metric Halo.

Any of these should be a noticeable upgrade from a Scarlett. Even though I haven't tried them all, I just know where the Scarlett sits.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx ➡️
Your thread title, a quick read of it, suggested the monitor chain, including the DAC, could be improved, so some people are recommending DACs.

If it's primarily recording inputs you're after, yeah, that's a slightly different discussion.
Ok, two single-pre inputs (not the pres themselves), and an upgrade of the monitoring, A/D, and D/A duties of my present interface with one piece of equipment. Hoping this communicates better?
thanks
Old 4 weeks ago
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
Sorry I thought you could record with it. Thanks monkeyxx for that crucial tidbit. The ADI-2 might be your best bet. From what I've heard from others the prism DA adds a slight colour to the sound. The ULN-2 that I use is excellent, and they recently released a 3D upgrade for it, which improves the clock among many other things. I haven't upgraded mine yet. It doesn't come with Windows driversion, although it can function as a USB class 2 thing. But they are apparently working on Windows drivers. I'm moving from Mac to Windows, so I'll probably stick with the ULN-2. But I have been wondering if I might be better off with the ADI-2. It's tricky though, as I do really like the ULN-2. But not sure if I will need more than 2 channels from DAW to interface. What I do need more is Windows drivers. Does anyone know how good the latency is for a USB class 2 interface in Windows?
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TomVY ➡️
Sorry I thought you could record with it. Thanks monkeyxx for that crucial tidbit. The ADI-2 might be your best bet. From what I've heard from others the prism DA adds a slight colour to the sound. The ULN-2 that I use is excellent, and they recently released a 3D upgrade for it, which improves the clock among many other things. I haven't upgraded mine yet. It doesn't come with Windows driversion, although it can function as a USB class 2 thing. But they are apparently working on Windows drivers. I'm moving from Mac to Windows, so I'll probably stick with the ULN-2. But I have been wondering if I might be better off with the ADI-2. It's tricky though, as I do really like the ULN-2. But not sure if I will need more than 2 channels from DAW to interface. What I do need more is Windows drivers. Does anyone know how good the latency is for a USB class 2 interface in Windows?
For Mac OS there can be "class compliant" drivers that are the same for simple USB interfaces.

In Windows you can use a generic driver like ASIO 4ALL to do something similar.

But in Windows world, all these interfaces will have their own custom driver software. So the latency performance will be different from one interface to the next. You might look into the mega thread on here Low Latency Performance Database, it will get you started on this quest.

The RME Babyface is going to be a good performer, I can say that. Probably the ADI-2 as well but I'm not sure. Some of the Lynx seem to perform well also, in the case of that thread, the PCIe ones.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
Gear Maniac
 
The Babyface doesn't have AES input though, which I need. I don't know whether AES to optical conversion causes quality loss or not. But if you don't need AES, Babyface would work, and it's USB bus powered too I think.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #19
Lives for gear
 
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Converters are meant to get out of the way, rather than add (except for a few esoteric models that intentionally add distortion, etc.). The converter's job is to translate information with as little deterioration as possible. You aren't looking for razzle dazzle from your converters. You are looking for things like clarity, low distortion, low noise, high resolution, ability to resolve fine details, low jitter, etc. These things matter, although there will be an ever-ready contagion of people eager to tell you they don't.

Regarding costs: when you go up to the higher level of quality, more expensive parts, more customized design work, and more labor are typically involved. It is also a smaller market, so more profit has to be made per unit. Let's do a rough estimate: A Focusrite Solo costs about $120. That means they are probably selling it to the dealer for about $60-70. After manufacturing/shipping costs/warehouse management/marketing/accounting, Focusrite is maybe making $20 per unit profit. Smaller companies that only ship 10,000 units per year can't survive on $20 per unit.

Prism is a high end brand. The Lynx Hilo (which is only 2 in / 2 out) is well respected (although I think it hasn't updated its core converter technology in years). Weiss makes high end converters (but only in small i/o counts and I don't think he has updated his core converter circuitry in years). Apogee has their Symphony line, which is their top end. Lavry is well respected (although may have not updated their core digital components in years... would need to check that). It could be that once a high-end manufacturer finds a combination of circuits they like, they stick with them even though new digital components emerge over time. I'm not sure. I'm personally in the market for something like a Prism or a Hilo.

A good way to learn about high end converters is to see what top quality mastering houses are using. They are most certainly concerned with quality. Some high-end mastering studios include Gateway Mastering in Portland Maine and Metropolis in London.

If you don't need a lot of i/o, you can spend more per converter channel. You can also start looking at higher-end preamps like Millennia Media or GML. Those are designed to "get out of the way" and let your mics do the talking. They are also known for the ability to resolve fine levels of detail. The Focusrite ISA is good, but not on the level of Millennia/GML.

You can spy on Al Schmitt for microphone choice. He's a go-to legend out in LA for brass/strings pop/hollywood style recording. He has his favorite mics and likes to talk about them. Go find out what he thinks is great on brass. He knows what he is doing. He likes U67 mics a lot:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7TSj3Xg5dg.

It should also be pointed out that ribbon mics (particularly the classic designs from AEA) are popular for jazzy brass sounds:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2g71fOd3bo. Even though ribbon mics are smooth, for some reason, they pick up the sizzle sound of brass and produce that fun Bing Crosby era sound. That might be the sound you are seeking.... Your goal is to try to get your sound from the mics... not the converters.

Putting this together in a theoretical equipment upgrade:
Prism Lyra or Lynx Hilo with a pair of U67 mics. Then add a GML or Millennia preamp later. You would essentially be at world-class sound at that point (provided your room acoustics are excellent).

You have a rare skill set. You know how to professionally arrange and perform live multi-instrument brass, and you can record it too. You're a one-stop brass powerhouse shop. I think it is completely reasonable for you to step up to the top-level stuff. You're not just a kid playing around.

Last edited by gearstudent; 4 weeks ago at 03:47 PM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #20
Gear Maniac
 
I would choose RME if you're on Windows, Metric Halo if you're on Mac (since they currently have no Windows drivers).
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #21
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by WILLIAM HAUBRICH ➡️
Goodness, just as well I didn't buy it (thaaanks)! Why was it suggested? Was my initial post unclear?
Sorry! I thought you were only looking for an upgrade in the monitoring chain only.

I agree with others that RME is your best shot. Definitely a step up from the Scarlett line and the drivers are supposed to be pretty solid.

Something like an Apollo Twin X might also do the trick and is about in the same price range.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #22
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David Rick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
The Pareto principle for working musicians

Quote:
Originally Posted by gearstudent ➡️
Putting this together in a theoretical equipment upgrade:
Prism Lyra or Lynx Hilo with a pair of U67 mics. Then add a GML or Millennia preamp later. You would essentially be at world-class sound at that point (provided your room acoustics are excellent).
It's hard for me to argue against Prism or Millennia, when I own, use, and love both, but I think we need to keep some perspective here. The OP's main business is performing and arranging; recording is just a necessary evil. (It pains me to say that!) I think he was pleasantly surprised to realize that he can buy a $800 controller/interface (SPL) that will be a significant upgrade over the entry-level interface he's using today. It's true that a Millennia preamp would be better than what he already owns, but that's another $1200 when his most expensive mic costs half that. Given that the goal of his business is to make money, not spend it, perhaps he'll choose to delay the preamp upgrade until sometime later. But if he does buy a Millennia preamp, there's even less reason to go the Prism Lyra route because its built-in preamps aren't nearly as good.

As for mics, I think we'd all like to duplicate Al Schmidt's mic locker. Who doesn't want to own a U67 pair (or two)?!! But a pair of U67 reissues costs $12,000 and owning them won't make any of us Al Schmidt. Having them in our mic inventory won't mean we get to cut tracks in Studio A at Capital Records which, frankly, is way more important to Al's sound than which particular mic he owns. The rest of us have to make do with overdub booths and the Capital Chambers reverb plug in.

In the long run, I think the OP may well decide to continue upgrading his mic locker and there's plenty of opportunity there. But, given that he's a musician first, maybe he'd prefer to save the big bucks for expensive things with lots of brass tubing. If so, I'll understand: I own some nice mics, including some in the same price tier as U67's, but this year I have a choice between buying a M49 or buying a nicer cello bow for about the same money. I'm buying the cello bow.

David
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #23
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You guys are amazing!
I’m learning so much I feel I’m getting another master’s degree 😸. Have some more questions but must wait for tomorrow morning
😴
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #24
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
I understand your view on budgets. We are blessed with the ability to get quality sound at prices lower than ever before. But top quality still costs money.

Have you heard this guy's recordings he put a link to? This guy is an *amazing* musician! He clearly understands the obscure world of brass ensemble arranging. His recordings are held back in sound quality. It's not the mic placement, or recording technique... he's literally limited by the equipment (how often do we get to say that?). There's a ceiling he won't get past until he goes next-level, especially with the mics. If anybody deserves to get top quality sound, it's him. His music will truly benefit, and his bookings likely will as well.

Last edited by gearstudent; 4 weeks ago at 12:20 AM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #25
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Yeah, nothing in that mic locker excites me, but the M88 and NTK are useful at least. Pretty impressive what William is doing, despite that. Upgrading his mic inventory is going to require a bit of "try and see" given that he's recording in a small space. Much of our established wisdom on "standards" comes from hearing tracks cut at greater distance in much larger studios, so its not clear those same choices will apply here.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #26
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It’s hard to express my thrill at the kind words and support conveyed here. It’s taken awhile to get things going, to get myself out there (I’m 60!). In respect for the wisdom thus articulated, my thinking for THIS upgrade is the following:

1
SPL Marc One (has all functions needed except digital in, and the phonitor matrix is compelling)

2
Super pair of headphones. The prices on Drop and elsewhere vary wildly!

Everyone’s talking about the Sennheiser 650 or Drop 6xx. I’m a bit confused on the Drop thing but will get a local mastering artist to explain that to me telephonically.

Two questions:
Am I sure that the Marc One does everything I need, basically an interface without pres?

Is the Senn 650/6xx the way to go or should I consider paying more for a planer pair? Since external noise is an issue, I’m wondering if I should consider close-back. Neumann NDH20?

Many thanks!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #27
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🎧 15 years
Dirty secrets of headphones

Don't get too obsessed with headphones. Basically, they're all flawed in one way or another. I'm pretty sure it was Floyd Toole at Harman who did a big psychoacoustic study that demonstrated absolutely zero correlation between price and sonic quality in a broad sample of commercial cans. He showed that, technically, all the different dynamic headphone models were just variations on a very small number of degrees of design freedom that are available for that type of transducer, regardless of price.

Planar headphones are an attempt to change those harsh design constraints, but the planar headphones I owned or used in the past were fragile, easily overloaded, and uncomfortable for long-term use. (I tried Stax and owned AT electrets; the later needed to be driven by a power amp.) The reports I've seen on Gearspace about modern versions seem much the same: They buzz and they break.

It's better to check mixes on several different sounding pairs of cans than rely on one uber-expensive pair which will still have flaws. At a minimum, you need an open-backed pair for mixing and a closed-back pair for overdubs. Also, never make decisions on stereo image or reverb levels using cans. You must have some kind of monitor speakers, even if they're only small nearfields, to do that.

The (Mass)Drop game is as follows: They aggregate an agreed minimum number of paid-in-advance customers for a "group buy" at some kind of a discount. The product is usually changed in some superficial way to avoid competing with established retail outlets and pricing. It might be as simple as a different model designation and color way. That's what allows the HD6xx to sell for $200 instead of $400. The manufacturer gets a bunch of guaranteed orders and payment before they even contract the production build, and they can't be accused of undercutting their dealer channel because it's "not the same thing". They also get to experiment with a variation in product features and pricing that yields valuable information about the "demand curve" to inform future product management decisions. If the "drop" is a big success, they might decide to introduce a very similar product into the retail chain, as happened with the Grace Design m900.

David
Old 4 weeks ago
  #28
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The Drop headphones are identical to the HD650 but this is an 'open secret' they can't publish that. It's just a way to save some money. They are not that loud to outside listeners, but sure, they are louder than closed back cans. If you need to block out environmental noise from your ears, yes closed back is the way to go.

Smart choice on the SPL. I didn't even know about that one! SPL makes fantastic gear.

It looks like you can record two channels into the Marc One USB interface. Either a left, and a right. Or a sum of all four input jacks mixed down to two, with a little dip switch you can toggle.
Old 4 weeks ago | Show parent
  #29
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Thanks to all! Truly grateful for your sharing😺
Old 4 weeks ago
  #30
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Not sure if you need commercial grade results, but I guess you do.
Even though your setup is quite OK, I’d get a nice mic first, a pro preamp and the HD600 instead of the, more colored, HD650.
The M88 is a good mic, I’d keep that.

I’ve mixed lots of tracks for clients featuring the mics and pres you have, never used the Saffire.
In my opinion, the digital card of the ISA is very good, the ISA One pre is average and the TB12 useable, yet not really up there with the pro preamps.

I’d probably get a Great River (or, if you want clear and cheap, a DAV BG-1) or similar and a nice tube mic. The Sony C100 is also a great choice for a mic.
Go on YouTube and listen to AEA videos of brass recorded with their mics and DAV preamps. Beautiful, musical sounds.
If you can reach to Pueblo preamp prices, even better!
Also the AEA ribbon mics are popular with engineers recording brass as are the Royers and Coles.

If you start with such a solid sound any decent clear converter will do just fine.
Any RME would be fine for example.
I have great respect for EMU 404 usb, great clear conversion, mostly on DAC, dead cheap now second hand, and I mean DEAD cheap.
Just make sure it works with your OS, even though it works on Win10, I think it maxes out on 10.6 on OSX?
(If you use Logic-X it won’t work for sure).

Is it a Prism? Hell no!
But I’d rather have tracks recorded with a proper mic and preamp mixed through e.g. an EMU, than the ISA (One) or TB12 with the NTV.

First get the recording chain right, to have solid, robust sounding tracks to start with.
That is if your room is right.
Then, after all these are sorted out upgrade you ADC/DACs.
The way I see it, there’s little to gain from upgrading to high-end conversion, if you use enthusiast-level mics and preamps.
Just my opinion.

Good luck
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