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Author Topic: preamps and converters  (Read 3474 times)

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preamps and converters
« on: June 23, 2007, 08:48:21 PM »

Hi everyone, I'm setting up a new DAW and I'm uncertain of the preamp/converter/soundcard choice.  (I want to keep it somewhere in the $1K range.)

I thought of an Apogee Mini-Me but I read that that the Emu 1212M soundcard has the same converters as Pro Tools HD.  (Am I missing something there?) So would I be better off using the Apogee preamp/converters or using the Emu converters and bumping up the preamp to something like a Great River or John Hardy?  I'll be using the preamp for vocals and guitar.

Also, if I use an external converter such as the Mini-Me, does it makes any difference whether I run the signal into the computer via the USB port or connected to the SPDIF port of the soundcard?


Thanks.

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,

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Re: preamps and converters
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2007, 10:38:16 PM »

What's a matter with my question?! Is good question!!



On recording.org I read that the 1212M's comparison to Pro Tools is misleading, as the chips in the converters don't mean much compared to the analog circuitry and the clock section. On the other hand, the 1212M gets good reviews over there.

So I haven't learned enough to answer my own question yet:

Is it better to put money into the preamp or the converters?

Great River/1212M or Mini-Me?

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Bill_Urick

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Re: preamps and converters
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2007, 07:17:08 AM »

satellite wrote on Sat, 23 June 2007 20:48

Hi everyone, I'm setting up a new DAW and I'm uncertain of the preamp/converter/soundcard choice.  (I want to keep it somewhere in the $1K range.)

I thought of an Apogee Mini-Me but I read that that the Emu 1212M soundcard has the same converters as Pro Tools HD.  (Am I missing something there?) So would I be better off using the Apogee preamp/converters or using the Emu converters and bumping up the preamp to something like a Great River or John Hardy?  I'll be using the preamp for vocals and guitar.

Also, if I use an external converter such as the Mini-Me, does it makes any difference whether I run the signal into the computer via the USB port or connected to the SPDIF port of the soundcard?


Thanks.




It's a worthy question, perhaps a little tired for some folks. First of all the same converter chips don't make a comparable product. The analog circuitry and other design aspects are what make the difference between pro and semi-pro converters. I would think the Mini-Me would be a great choice if it works with your software. Without a Digidesign interface it won't work with Pro-tools. In general, I believe you should invest in your signal chain from the outside in. Ignoring externals, ie "the talent" and your recording space/monitoring space, this means mics and monitor speakers. Externals should not be ignored however. On the front end, which is the thrust of your question, mics before pres, pres before converters.
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Tomas Danko

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Re: preamps and converters
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2007, 07:55:26 AM »

satellite wrote on Tue, 26 June 2007 03:38

What's a matter with my question?! Is good question!!

On recording.org I read that the 1212M's comparison to Pro Tools is misleading, as the chips in the converters don't mean much compared to the analog circuitry and the clock section. On the other hand, the 1212M gets good reviews over there.

So I haven't learned enough to answer my own question yet:

Is it better to put money into the preamp or the converters?

Great River/1212M or Mini-Me?



As long as the digital converter is not inferior, the microphone and mic preamp will have a bigger impact on your sound. Until you have a great microphone and mic preamp, the differences between the two converters you mention will not really make or break your final mix.

You can keep upgrading your converters (1212M -> Mini-Me -> even better and more expensive converters etc) until the cows come home (which will give you more cowbell, of course).

But no matter what converter you use, the Great River (and a great microphone) will always be good enough to keep and use all the time.

Practically speaking, I'd recommend getting the Great River mic pre and a cheaper interface to begin with (ie 1212M or the like). Start making music, instead of sweating the issue what converter to get.

Once you feel you need better gear, after having made some music, keep the mic pre and upgrade the converter.

Best of luck!
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Re: preamps and converters
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2007, 10:30:36 AM »

Hey, thanks for the replies, guys.  I'm well aware that it's a tired question and I've been researching the crap out of this but there are subtleties I still haven't figured out.  My understanding is that the Great River is good enough for high end studios, while the Mini-Me isn't as good but can hold its own, especially as an all-around unit.  It's just that I don't want the weakest link in the chain to collapse the whole project.

Talent I've got.  Music I've got.  I'm working with an old friend and we've pursued other careers (in retrospect I can say it was out of fear, mostly), but since hitting 40 we thought we'd better shit or get off the pot.  So we're on a budget but we do want to get the best recording possible right now, and not just prepare for future projects.

What I'll ultimately do is purchase from someplace that will let me try them out first, and make a final judgment then.  But if any more of you with better ears than mine wants to weigh in, it would be much appreciated.

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JDNelson

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Re: preamps and converters
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2007, 08:01:11 PM »

satellite wrote on Tue, 26 June 2007 07:30

Hey, thanks for the replies, guys.  I'm well aware that it's a tired question and I've been researching the crap out of this but there are subtleties I still haven't figured out.  My understanding is that the Great River is good enough for high end studios, while the Mini-Me isn't as good but can hold its own, especially as an all-around unit.  It's just that I don't want the weakest link in the chain to collapse the whole project.

Talent I've got.  Music I've got.  I'm working with an old friend and we've pursued other careers (in retrospect I can say it was out of fear, mostly), but since hitting 40 we thought we'd better shit or get off the pot.  So we're on a budget but we do want to get the best recording possible right now, and not just prepare for future projects.

What I'll ultimately do is purchase from someplace that will let me try them out first, and make a final judgment then.  But if any more of you with better ears than mine wants to weigh in, it would be much appreciated.



The Mini-Me isn't an all-around unit, it's only A/D.  You'll still need something for the D/A.  And it seems overpriced for what amounts to a two-channel USB 1 A/D converter.  I can't imagine the built-in pre's are all that.  You're thinking of a Great River, anyway, so you wouldn't need the pre's.

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Re: preamps and converters
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2007, 09:21:29 PM »

My two cents.

I've worked w:
converters: Layla-> Digi 001/002-> Lynx Aurora on PTools HD.  Pres: Digi stuff-> presonus-> API and Chandler.

An sm57 is cheap and in all studios.  This 57 may be run into any number of fancy preamps and high end converters.  On the other hand, it's not as often to find someone running a U47 or C12 (expensive) into consumer/pro-sumer level pres and converters.

Sub par pres and converters do not let in wide enough frequency response.  Nor do they react well to transients.  When I first got my APIs, I was shocked at how real the highs and lows were even on a 57... Same w/ the converters...Why does digital get a bad wrap?  Largely from crappy converters (even some high end ones).  Ever heard "man all the cymbals/distortion guitars sound the same?".  Yep.

Bottom line:
I would go pres first partly because converters are improving and dropping in price (like the aurora stuff) vs. a preamp will never be obsolete.

PS. when trying out pres/mics, find out how they stack.  blind tests on a single track are misleading.  Do a 24 track recording w/ one kind of preamp and it's easy to tell if it really is the same as Neve or whatever.... Another reason converters are important (they're on EVERY track, whereas you may have a variety of mics and pres).
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Re: preamps and converters
« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2007, 11:42:41 AM »

Thanks, that was helpful.  I just got a 1212M, so maybe I can try out both the Great River and Apogee and see which I like.  I was concerned about a cumulative effect of the converters as well, so I'll lay down several tracks.  Good tip.
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