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  #16  
Old 01-04-2012, 05:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fran Guidry View Post
I'd really appreciate it if someone would create a couple of level matched same performance clips that demonstrate the improvement from a preamp upgrade. Please. Anyone.
Well, there is the AB Pre CD. It's been a while since I heard it, but I recall that the first 5 times I listened, I heard no differences at all. Then I picked up on the sound of the guitar players attack on the d string and began to hear a very subtle difference. I'm talking squinting and cramming the headphones to my heading and saying " I *think* I hear a difference". From there I picked out the ones I "liked", and finally looked at the key. Turned out I picked all the cheap ones :-) I have a lot better monitors now, it'd be interesting to see if my experience would be different. I suspect not.
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  #17  
Old 01-04-2012, 06:25 PM
Scott Whigham Scott Whigham is offline
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The thing with Lynn's CDs is that they were comparing all high end to high end. Fran's not just saying, "There's no audible difference between an API 512 and a Neve 1073"; he's taking it 10 steps further and saying there's no audible difference between the cheapest pre and the most expensive.
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  #18  
Old 01-04-2012, 06:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Whigham View Post
The thing with Lynn's CDs is that they were comparing all high end to high end. Fran's not just saying, "There's no audible difference between an API 512 and a Neve 1073"; he's taking it 10 steps further and saying there's no audible difference between the cheapest pre and the most expensive.
I think one of the ones I liked was just a mackie board. At maybe $50 per channel, pretty cheap. I don't agree there's no difference between *any* preamp, nor do I think Fran means that. At the extreme low end, there tends to be audible noise, for example. Once you get to a certain level, once you hit the transparency frans talking about, the differences tend be miniscule, and with improvements in electronics, the lowest bar is pretty low these days. In addition, many of the esoteric preamps actually don't claim to be transparent, they claim to add "color", which is a whole different thing.
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  #19  
Old 01-04-2012, 07:34 PM
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Here is a comparison of two high end preamps, all else being equal as close as I could make it. If you feel there is a volume difference then tweak the playback to compensate.

http://dcoombsguitar.com/Guitar%20Music/NPNGD_DMP2NW_and_GreatRiver_MP2MH.wav

These are both very nice neutral (uncolored) preamps so the difference is small but evident.


Like I have mentioned before, my gear has evolved from MAudio Omni and AKG C1000s forward to better gear. My first CD was this early gear, my second Great River and Gefell M300s. My third Great River preamp and M295s. My fourth the same plus some room treatment wiht acoustic panels. Some of my recent recordings (posted on the Show and Tell and here) a NPNG preamp, Gefell M295s and a wood floor in place of carpet. Some reverb software upgrades along the way also. All during this time I don't play any differently or mike any differently on average. You can here the changing results if you care to listen.
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  #20  
Old 01-04-2012, 07:37 PM
KevWind KevWind is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j3ffr0 View Post
The thread Fran posted showed that the gear geeks couldn't tell the difference between a cheap pre-amp and a premium pre-amp. )
Actually that is not quite correct the link that Fran posted was to a Gear Sluts thread that was comparing DA converters, not pre amps.
And one has to take such internet AB comparisons with a grain of salt for example in that comparison :
For starters there was the added variable of running the two signals out to the two outboard converters through two different cards in two different signal formats one AES one ADAT. Also the mix had already been converted A/D going into the DAW and there is no mention which converter was used for that or even if one of the two outboard converters was used for that. But presumably the same converter was used for both the A/D and D/A on the ITB mix. Each converter has its own jitter specs which effects the sound differently. Wich could add a double dose of degradation to the sound.

Lastly you have most of the respondents listening through laptops and computers which adds another layer of cheap D/A and speakers into the mix.
What I am saying there are a number of variables possible and that unfortunately might render that comparison dubious at best.
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  #21  
Old 01-04-2012, 07:38 PM
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See my prior post.
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  #22  
Old 01-04-2012, 07:48 PM
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A friend of mine came to visit from Colorado, and he gave me a cd with a Christmas song he and his wife recorded. His recording gear is relatively low end stuff, however, when I let them listen to the recording through my Deadalus speakers, they both looked at each other with their jaws dropped, amazed at how good it sounded. I admit, it did sound very good and detailed, at least the vocals did. I really don't know how they could have sounded better with high end gear.

As far as my signal chain, it is the subtle differences, however small, that I really value.
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  #23  
Old 01-05-2012, 12:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rick-slo View Post
Here is a comparison of two high end preamps,
Rick, very interesting. the two examples certainly do sound different. How were these done? Separate takes? Part of my point is that, tho there may be differences in preamps, the differences are dwarfed by other factors, such as 2 different performances. There is about a 3 db difference in the volume of the left sides of these takes (huge in the context of A/B'ing), tho the right side is about the same. In addition to the level differences, this causes a shift in the stereo image, which of course makes the sound be different. (its possible that both the level difference and stereo image shift are caused by a subtle difference in how you sat or held the guitar) After correcting for that, I don't hear a huge difference in the two, tho there is some interesting differences when I compare frequency profiles. There are differences at some frequencies of almost 8db in levels. My guess is that this is merely due to it being two performances, subtle differences in attack, etc. If indeed the inputs are identical (i.e this was a single take sent simultaneously to two preamps), then at least one of the preamps is not linear in its behavior. Fran of course is assuming "transparent" linear circuits. If a circuit is non-linear, either it is broken, or is deliberately trying to convey some "character", and is basically an effect.
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  #24  
Old 01-05-2012, 05:46 AM
Gazzamundo Gazzamundo is offline
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First off, I'd like to say a sincere thanks to all of you who've joined in the discussion - AGF is just about the only forum I've been on where the members care enough to reply in any great depth and with any consideration.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Whigham View Post
We don't know what mics, what mic technique, what room treatment, monitoring, conversion - all of that matters way more...
Scott et al, I stated in my original post I'm using a SE Z5600 valve mic through an Alesis io26 audio interface through to a pair of Focal monitors. The mic and monitors are pretty decent, the interface might be a weak link in the chain, so I was thinking a good mic pre to bypass that link (at least the inbuilt pres).

I like the sound of my room, not too reverberant or boxy. I've treated it to a certain extent though not scientifically.

I've been recording for about 20 years, so I'm not a newbie. I've been playing the guitar for many years, though only taken it seriously the last 6 or 7. I see myself as a singer/songwriter who plays the guitar to support his compositions (not a guitarist who sings).

I recently left my job to give myself one last chance at doing something with my music. My redundancy payment will last me the next 6 months at least. I'm happy to spend a bit of that cash if it gets me better results that encourage me to play and record more.

I'm going to make a decision tomorrow - I may buy online through a supplier that gives a money back guarantee, that way if the naysayers are right, I've not lost out!

Thanks again guys - in the meantime, keep the comments coming!
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  #25  
Old 01-05-2012, 06:12 AM
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Just heard "Girl on a Train" on your website . . . Great tune, really liked it . . . The recording sounds just fine -- did you use your current set-up to record that one?
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  #26  
Old 01-05-2012, 07:25 AM
j3ffr0 j3ffr0 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rick-slo View Post
Here is a comparison of two high end preamps, all else being equal as close as I could make it. If you feel there is a volume difference then tweak the playback to compensate.

http://dcoombsguitar.com/Guitar%20Music/NPNGD_DMP2NW_and_GreatRiver_MP2MH.wav

These are both very nice neutral (uncolored) preamps so the difference is small but evident.
This is a great comparison. Both of these sound very good, but the second one sounds a little more intimate and breathy to me and my ears prefer it. Some people may prefer the first sample. I would be quite happy with either sound.

I think there is a law of diminishing returns with pre-amps as with anything else. The pre-amps in my Tascam 2488 Neo are weak; they don't sound good at all when I crank up the gain. My Eureka and DMP3 handle that for me very well, so there is a very clear difference between my built-in pre-amps and these external units. To my ears these units are probably about 90% (+/-10%) as good as anything else out there. If I ever want that extra 10%, I'll have to pay for it.

Once you hear a difference you can never un-hear it, no matter how subtle. I think that is why some people are willing to pay a lot for premium mics and pre-amps. However, the law of diminishing returns applies. Also once you get into the higher end stuff you start to get into personal preferences more where some folks may prefer B and some may prefer A. There is no clear "best"; there is only what you feel works "best" for you. I know this not, because I have experience with a ton of high end pre-amps, but because that's how the law of diminishing returns works in other areas where I do have a lot of experience.

I respect the guy who gets twice as much out of his cheap pre as I do as well as the guy who hears subtle differences and must have a certain several thousand dollar model over another certain several thousand dollar model. It's all good.
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  #27  
Old 01-05-2012, 08:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j3ffr0 View Post
I think there is a law of diminishing returns with pre-amps as with anything else.
I'd agree with that.

Some low-end gear can sound OK (like the DMP3) but certainly not all. I'd be very wary of pres in a cheap interface.

The best value for money is probably found in good quality mid-range items like the Duet where the manufacturer has put a bit of care and attention into the product. After that, like you say, you spend huge amounts of money for small improvements. That could be worth it - depends on the budget and your aims - but you can still make some very good music with cheaper gear.

As Fran says, the double blind test is important
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  #28  
Old 01-05-2012, 08:44 AM
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Doug, separate recordings combined into one as you can hear in the playing. There will always be some variation in sitting position relative to the mikes. An active microphone splitter would be a way to do one performance through two preamps.
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  #29  
Old 01-05-2012, 09:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moon View Post
I'd agree with that.

Some low-end gear can sound OK (like the DMP3) but certainly not all. I'd be very wary of pres in a cheap interface.

The best value for money is probably found in good quality mid-range items like the Duet where the manufacturer has put a bit of care and attention into the product. After that, like you say, you spend huge amounts of money for small improvements. That could be worth it - depends on the budget and your aims - but you can still make some very good music with cheaper gear.

As Fran says, the double blind test is important
I agree some moderate priced equipment can yield quite good results. And I also agree that after certain level ( i would categorize it mid price to middle high price ) the percent of sonic improvement per dollar drops off.

That said,I think one should be very leary of making any conclusions based on A/B tests posted on the internet. There are simply far to many variables and unknowns to draw any accurate conclusions.

For example In the link above the greatriver vs the art. The test is frankly in practical terms functionally invalid. The poster clearly states in the OP that he used two different recordings going into the two different pre amps. He then attempts to dissmis this glaring flaw as "Yes, I know this is not a "perfect" test, because each take has its own subtle variations. But this is good enough to determine the sonic differences between these two pres. If cheap pres are as awful as folks claim, there should be no need for a "perfect" test to hear the quality difference. It should be obvious." he is however categorically mistaken the test is flawed from the get go period.
The best way an AB test is really going to reveal much useful info is if you are sitting in the room. Even then there are variables, room acoustics etc.. It is a matter of eliminating as many variables as possible. Which is not as easy as it sounds BUT At the very least there should be only one signal split for comparison.
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Last edited by KevWind; 01-05-2012 at 09:24 AM.
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  #30  
Old 01-05-2012, 09:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j3ffr0 View Post
This is a great comparison. Both of these sound very good, but the second one sounds a little more intimate and breathy to me and my ears prefer it. Some people may prefer the first sample. I would be quite happy with either sound.
Just keep in mind that what you are hearing is the differences in how Rick is sitting and the differences in 2 performances. There's no way to eliminate the differences in two performances with difference stereo images due to positioning and hear any actual difference in preamps. For what it's worth, I preferred the 1st one, probably because the stereo image is nicely centered. Once I fixed the balance and levels on the 2nd, I couldn't hear any real difference, other than differences in performance.
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