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Thread: What Lynn learned in the Preamp Comparison

  1. #1
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    What Lynn learned in the Preamp Comparison

    Well, first let me say that I'm not naming names, so if you were expecting that (you shouldn't have), prepare to be disappointed.

    So here's a few things that I learned during this round of listening.

    1) You can never have enough preamps. Each one not only sounds different, but they each bring something special to the party.

    2) As Michael Wagener said upon listening to the variety "If you had this many preamps in your room, you would never need an EQ."

    3) Having outputs on a preamp other than a male XLR is a real nuisance.

    4) Every manufacturer that claims "transparency" is just using that word to mean their own interpretation of transparency. It's amazing how much difference there is between "transparent" preamps.

    5) There are some preamps that really do sound great on almost everything you put through them. That's not to say something else might not sound better, but they are respectable on each source we auditioned.

    6) Some companies are making great strides in bringing quality down in price. Some of this is related to compromise in component quality or manufacturing in the Pacific Rim. But there are some very good units that are not terribly expensive.

    7) Many people can hear the difference between preamps. Several of the non-engineers, the musicians, heard very real differences between units. Enough so that they wanted the name and model numbers of the units that they liked so they could consider purchasing them.

    8) There are some great new units out there, many that best the classics of old.

    9) You have to use your ears to evaluate preamps instead of just relying on reputation.

    10) I discovered several units that I had never heard before that I think would make substantial contributions to my recordings. I'm glad I persevered in my preamp hunt.

    11) You're never finished auditioning, because there are always new and worthy designs coming along.

    12) Sometimes there aren't words to describe the differences you hear, but the differences are obvious nonetheless.

    13) The differences were great enough to me that I think, with a few minutes per preamps to note their characteristics, that I could pick them by name even in a field of 24 preamps.

    I'm sure I can think of more and hope others will chime in with their reflections and observations. Stay tuned for more.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  2. #2
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    I agree to all of the above and like to add:

    14) there IS such a thing as a "best first preamp" and it's made by more than one manufacturer

  3. #3
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    I just order the old Pre-CD's. How different will the new one be? When can we expect to get a copy?

    Thanks for this valued resource!

    -Ray

  4. #4
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    IMHO it never hurts to remember to evaluate any device (EQ, pre, comp, mic) in context of a mix as opposed to soloed.

    Your impression may be completely different.

  5. #5
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    Originally posted by Mike O:
    <STRONG>IMHO it never hurts to remember to evaluate any device (EQ, pre, comp, mic) in context of a mix as opposed to soloed.

    Your impression may be completely different.</STRONG>
    That aspect will be the most unique part of this project. You can solo the bass and find one that sounds warm, but when you drop it into the mix with all the other instruments you may find that "warm" translates into "mud" in the mix. The ability to hear the preamps solo'd as well as in a track is absolutely invaluable.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  6. #6
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    I am sworn to secrecy when it comes to public analysis of the preamps we considered, but I do feel it is not being partial to make observations about current units compared to units that are no longer in production, so here goes.

    15) It is possible to improve on older classic designs, even if it doesn't happen often.

    After listening to the original Neve 1073 compared to the Neve-inspired Great River MP2-NV, the GR 2-NV sounds better on a wider variety of source material (IMO) than the original. I think evolution of that design and Dan's modifications (alterations) have definitely resulted in a better preamp than the 1073.

    I know the above statement will be considered heretical by most. Oh well. It's one man's opinion.

    [ April 12, 2004: Message edited by: 3D Audio Inc. ]
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  7. #7
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    Originally posted by 3D Audio Inc.:
    <STRONG>I know the above statement will be considered heretical by most. Oh well. It's one man's opinion.</STRONG>
    We all have the thing that "gets to us", right? Mine is noise and other muck that builds up in a mix and keeps me from hearing "deep" into the music.

    I'd say 99.9% of the time I prefer the newer device (considering equal quality) to the older one, and it's usually because of the noise floor.

    I have no doubt Dan's interpretation is better if for no other reason than the natural products of evolution and iteration.
    Jim Dugger
    Poorhouse Productions

    At 20 bits, you are on the verge of dynamic range covering fly-farts-at-20-feet to untolerable pain. Really, what more could we need?

  8. #8
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    Originally posted by 3D Audio Inc.:
    <STRONG>I am sworn to secrecy when it comes to public analysis of the preamps we considered, but I do feel it is not being partial to make observations about current units compared to units that are no longer in production, so here goes.

    15) It is possible to improve on older classic designs, even if it doesn't happen often.

    After listening to the original Neve 1073 compared to the Neve-inspired Great River MP2-NV, the GR 2-NV sounds better on a wider variety of source material (IMO) than the original. I think evolution of that design and Dan's modifications (alterations) have definitely resulted in a better preamp than the 1073.

    I know the above statement will be considered heretical by most. Oh well. It's one man's opinion.
    </STRONG>
    Make that two...

  9. #9
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    All very interesting statements, 1-14. Still, all the statements, and other things like the drummer saying one pre was the most real for him, it seems we never find out the answers? So, if we buy the disc(s), do we also get access to those answers?

    KT
    Kurt Thompson
    Vibrational Arts, Inc.
    Sonic Sorcery Studios
    Austin, Texas

  10. #10
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    Originally posted by natpub:
    <STRONG>All very interesting statements, 1-14. Still, all the statements, and other things like the drummer saying one pre was the most real for him, it seems we never find out the answers? So, if we buy the disc(s), do we also get access to those answers?
    </STRONG>
    I don't want to sound cosmic or Yoda-esque but the answer is different for each person. Honestly, the drummer liked one the best but the others in the room, while they thought that it sounded really good, didn't think it sounded the best. It's all so personal.

    The original intent of these listening evaluations was to allow people to hear instead of read. If you want to read the opinions of others, then you can pick up any of dozens of magazines and find out what some stranger thinks of a mic or preamp. But all that tells you is one man's opinion. The analogy I use is it's like calling Home Depot and asking the guy at the paint counter to describe the different colors of red. His description of a "hot red" you might look at think it's pink. You don't know his preferences, his biases, his lighting environment, etc. He is making judgments based on his two eyes. And those may not hold true for you.

    The same is true of my testing and my opinions. I have heard from too many people too many times that they listened to these CDs and went out and bought Preamp X and it changed their recordings forever, in a good way. Frequently when I hear those comments, I think "Boy, I'm glad I didn't tell them what I thought about that preamp because I didn't like it at all."

    I've been accused of being "coy" or worse when it comes to broadcasting my opinions publicly. But I sincerely want to encourage people to listen instead of spoon-feeding them what I think. You should listen to the drum samples and see which you think sounds the most lifelike.

    Also, the micing technique and mic selection had as much to do with what he heard as the preamp did. If you are using different micsor different placement, then your results will be different.

    For this recording, we used a combination of mics that I had never used before. As a matter of fact, three of fhe four mics I had never used on drums before, one I had never even seen before. It was Royer R-122s on overheads, a Shure SM-57 on the snare and an Audio-Technica ATM-25 on kick drum (you can find one of those on Ebay right now for $140-what a deal!).

    So listen and learn. You'll be much better off for it.

    Who knows? Someday Geraldo Rivera may be digging up my basement looking for the "lost notes" of my preferences and the world will find out finally.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

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