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Author Topic: Small, higher quality mixer for external preamps  (Read 5611 times)

Dave Ferris

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Small, higher quality mixer for external preamps
« on: May 20, 2012, 12:50:10 pm »

I recently borrowed a friend's API 3124 MB+. It's 4 channels of API pres along with a summing mixer with pan, fx s/r.
http://www.apiaudio.com/3124mb.html

This worked very well for my application which is Jazz trio + vocalist. I used 2 channels of the API for a stereo run of my digital piano and we had 2 channels for vocals. One for the female singer and one for myself. I went straight into a pair of RCF TT08As on speaker poles. Most of the rooms are small and intimate--small restaurants, clubs and the occasional house concert. For larger spaces I have a pair of RCF TT22As but most of the time the smaller 8" box is fine.

I could just go ahead and get the API and be done with it. But after hearing different kinds of pres, I'm liking a cleaner more transparent sound then the API, especially for my digital piano ( I'm real picky  8) ). I forgot to mention, I would also like *this pre* to be able to pull double duty in my studio for recording my Steinway D for solo Jazz recordings.

So, I'm thinking of 2 channels of the John Hardy M1 and maybe 2 channels of the Forssell SMP-2. Both highly regarded, clean, mic pres. I would like something in a one rack space, at or under a grand, basically to sum these pres.

From what I've read the APB stuff is very high quality for live. Would something like this be the ticket ?
http://www.apb-dynasonics.com/Downloads/mixswitch/MixSwitch-July-2011.pdf

I've spoken with Eric at APB before and was planning on giving him a call tomorrow but thought I could get a head start on this today.

There's this, but it may be more of a studio piece..
http://www.vintageking.com/Black-Lion-Audio-PM8-Summing-Mixer

And this maybe, but no fx s/r
http://www.ashly.com/product/lx-308b-2.htm

This would work but I'd like to stay with 1U if possible
http://www.ashly.com/product/mx-406-2.htm

I know Ashly is well regarded in some circles but not at the level of the APB-Dynasonics ?

I have an A&H Zed 10 FX but I'm concerned the quality might degrade or compromise what I'm gaining with the high quality studio pres.

And lastly, I have an older Soundcraft Delta 200 8 channel mixer that has been hot -rodded by Jim Williams of Audio Upgrades. The pres, while not being at the level of a stand alone dedicated mic pre, are excellent. Open, sweet top end, plus very clean and quiet. It's really a special board. Again OK, why not use it ? It's a bit large for many of the small spaces we have to set up in. Basically it's not exactly portable by 2012 standards.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2012, 05:55:45 am by Dave Ferris »
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Jordan Wolf

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Hi Dave,

I feel that external preamps can be a nice treat and can make a sonic difference, but for a lot of the lounge level type of bar gigs, etc., where they just want background noise so people will buy drinks, I don't think it would be a worthwhile investment.

That being said, if you've got your heart set on getting an external preamp or set of them, listen to a Midas XL42.  It's a two-channel unit with fully parametric EQ on each preamp.

I can't say that I've ever done any critical listening to mic preamps, but I will tell you that the Ashly ones do not suit my fancy…they seemed a little noisy to me. 

Also, the APB MixSwitch is not an item that I would buy JUST for the preamps - there's a lot more functionality that would be wasted if you went that route.  Look at their ProSpec series rackmount mixers…they're not standalone preamps, but I'm sure you could get some use out of them, especially if you play multiple keyboards at the same time.
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Jordan Wolf
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One size often does not fit all.  Bringing "studio quality" to live performance is a great idea, one which we all entertain at one time or another, but as has been pointed out, such quality for everyday gigging is overkill and a bit of a waste of money.

If you want "bang for the buck", a small footprint and some interesting capability (monitoring, recording) you should check out the smallest Presonus StudioLive or something equivalent.  A small-format digital mixer is great for gigging.

Lastly, I would say that the quality of the input devices (mics/DI's) and the overall skill at setting up and optimizing a system trumps fancy mic pre's.  Not that having them isn't nice.....
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John Roberts {JR}

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Premium mic preamps channels are often used in live sound for special money channel inputs for big name talent. Circuit designers (like me) are inclined to argue that such activity is at least in some part psychological. Nobody accepts that you can put ten or twenty quality mic preamps inside a single chassis, but there is no physical law preventing that.

You might be better served asking on a recording forum regarding recording specific questions while to answer your brand inquiry, APB are very highly regarded for their sound quality, that in recording terms I would characterize as clean or neutral.

JR

PS: Jim has improved upon the old delta mic preamps with faster opamps and lower noise input transistors, but they are still somewhat limited by the original circuit topology. Probably better than some value priced gear, but I wouldn't expect it to match up well against modern premium gear (the preamps were not the only weak link in those old Deltas). 
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Mike Pyle

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...So, I'm thinking of 2 channels of the John Hardy M1 and maybe 2 channels of the Forssell SMP-2. Both highly regarded, clean, mic pres. I would like something in a one rack space, at or under a grand, basically to sum these pres.

If this is your primary goal, something like a Xilica XP-4080 would do the job plus give you a lot of functionality for other uses.
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Dave Ferris

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If this is your primary goal, something like a Xilica XP-4080 would do the job plus give you a lot of functionality for other uses.

Thanks Mike. That's something I'm totally unfamiliar with. I'll look into it further.

Another route I've considered taking
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Workhorse500/

For recording I'd compromise a tad with the 500 series modules but I've tried the Forssell SMP-500 and it's very good. I wish they made this in a 4 slot configuration for about half the price.

Samuel Rees

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Small, higher quality mixer (APB- Dynasonics ?) for external preamps
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2012, 07:34:09 pm »

API isn't clean enough for you, through a pair of RCF 8s? API might not be the cleanest, but it's absolutely on the clean and sheeny side. Millennia makes my favorite super clean style preamps, if you really want to invest like that, but I suspect that while "not clean enough preamps" is your diagnosis you might not be hitting the nail on the head in terms of what is falling short. There is a reason.

If you want money channel type preamps, get an APB mixer and a 500 series lunch box, fill it with your preamps of choice and call it a day.
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Dave Ferris

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API isn't clean enough for you, through a pair of RCF 8s? API might not be the cleanest, but it's absolutely on the clean and sheeny side.

The 3124 sounded great !!--especially after being used to hearing everything through the A&H Zed. It was night and day difference with regard to vocals and piano sounding bigger and more defined. I really should have stopped there. ;)

 However a bad thing happened--I heard my friend's Forssell SMP2 on both my digital piano live (going in with a Radial Stereo Duplex di ) and recording my Steinway D (DPA 4011s). It was like the veil had been lifted. My Nord Piano had a stunning sound I'd never heard before, live, through those RCFs. The first couple solo pieces on my SC page were just made with the Forssell, don't take my word for it, have a listen.

No, the API's smoking no doubt and the mixer function was perfect for my app, but once the smog cleared out...ballgame over... :) 8)
« Last Edit: May 20, 2012, 08:38:43 pm by Dave Ferris »
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ProSoundWeb Community

Re: Small, higher quality mixer (APB- Dynasonics ?) for external preamps
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2012, 08:36:28 pm »


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