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If you had $1100 to spend on a nice preamp or A/D Converter what would you choose?


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This may be a silly question but is the API a stand alone unit or, in the alternative, what kind of card will the PC require to capture the APIs digital signal? Will any card with a SPDIF work or something further?

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My gear consists of the MBOX 2, Protools LE 7.4, Melodyne, Rode NTK, Avalon U5, Gibson Les Paul, Paul Reed Smith Custom 22, Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier, Oktava MK319 modded, and plenty of plugins ran on a fast PC.


Since I have been using the preamps from the MBOX2 and no a/d converter, I have been researching different preamps and preamp+ /a/d converters and have narrowed my choices to an Apogee Trak 2 Stereo Pre and A/D, the Great River ME-1NV, and the John Hardy M1 single channel pre. I guess I am not sure how important using an A/D converter is if you are using a great preamp like the Great River. I want to improve the sound of everything that goes through the MBOX. I hate the pres in it and it sounds plastic to me, not much of a stereo field. The Great River is just over $1000 and I can get an Apogee Trak 2 for $1100 used. What would you choose if you had the gear I have? I really want the vocals to stand out for once, that is most important to me. ANy insight?

 

 

whatever warms your heart!!!

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This may be a silly question but is the API a stand alone unit or, in the alternative, what kind of card will the PC require to capture the APIs digital signal? Will any card with a SPDIF work or something further?

 

 

It is a pair of pres and converters. It outputs to S/PDIF and AES/EBU. This means you will need an interface between the API, and your computer. Like an M-Box or any of the other manufacturers out there. It must have at least a "S/PDIF In" the receive the digital out from the API A2D.

 

At this point, the API then completely overcomes any quality issues of the interface. The interface doesn't even touch the audio in any way. The API A2D gives top notch, world class amplification and conversion all in one.

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At this point, the API then completely overcomes any quality issues of the interface. The interface doesn't even touch the audio in any way. The API A2D gives top notch, world class amplification and conversion all in one.

 

 

That's not completely true. Any time you use a one-way, non-packetized, type of connection, then you have to have two separately running clocks. So the clock in the interface inside the PC has to derive a clock from the incoming samples, which would inevitably introduce jitter.

 

Though it would introduce a little more latency, using a packetized, asynchronous connection like firewire would avoid that. Then the PC is just receiving data packets and it's clock doesn't have to sync to the converter in any way. It just has to clock out the samples for monitoring during the tracking process.

 

I'm not sure if other such non-packetized connection types, like AES or MADI, get around these issues.

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That may be true but... using the clock in the API via S/PDIF rocks. I've had only huge improvements in my sound after tracking with it. So, though my over reaching statement isn't absolutely true, it's true enough in practical terms.

 

I shouldn't have made it an absolute.

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I always find it interesting that, despite all the worries about jitter, that people always seem to find that systems that introduce more jitter sound better. External master clocks introduce more jitter because of the multiple clocks, and so many people seem to think it sounds better. Maybe sound card manufacturers should just introduce more jitter into thier products or something.

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Though it would introduce a little more latency, using a packetized, asynchronous connection like firewire would avoid that. Then the PC is just receiving data packets and it's clock doesn't have to sync to the converter in any way. It just has to clock out the samples for monitoring during the tracking process.

 

 

So that means the Firepod with this API unit is a great match?

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I'm not sure, though I don't think so. Any converters in the FP would be redundant. Any pres would be upstream from the converter so the FW in the FP would be useless since you need to get the output from the converters into the machine, not the ouput from the FP. Does this box have a slot for expansion cards? Many of them do, and so they can support various things like FW, MADI, AES, direct PT's HD inputs, and so forth.

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I'm always reading posts on this topic as well. Would somebody like Ustad perhaps be able to maybe post a listing of an example setup of a quality Preamp and converter? I hear so many ideas of what to use and it gets confusing. Would be interesting to see laid out a list of two products maybe in xx price range that would work well together?

In other words, maybe what setup exactly you use yourself? Thanks all. great stuff!

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It is a pair of pres and converters. It outputs to S/PDIF and AES/EBU. This means you will need an interface between the API, and your computer. Like an M-Box or any of the other manufacturers out there. It must have at least a "S/PDIF In" the receive the digital out from the API A2D.


At this point, the API then
completely
overcomes any quality issues of the interface. The interface doesn't even touch the audio in any way. The API A2D gives top notch, world class amplification and conversion all in one.

 

So then does it pay to get something like a firepod if you're bypassing it anyway? In other words, what is the most economical interface between a converter and the PC? Does the quality of the interface between the converter and the computer matter or is it more straight through?

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So then does it pay to get something like a firepod if you're bypassing it anyway? In other words, what is the most economical interface between a converter and the PC? Does the quality of the interface between the converter and the computer matter or is it more straight through?

 

 

You'd get something like an audio card with S/PDIF or AES inputs, or if you have a box that does MADI, you could get a MADI card for the PC. Or, if the outboard box supports firewire, then you wouldn't need anything in the PC but the Firewire support that's already there.

 

If you use anything other than Firewire the, as I mentioned above, you are getting into the two clocks issue and you'd need to be sure you have a high quality card in in the PC to rebuild that clock based on the incoming samples (which are just spit out one way to the PC from the converter box.) If you use Firewire, then it's async and there's no need for any further expense. But, not all such outboard devices support firewire so tha twould be a moot point if not.

 

Other boxes such as the Appogees and the Orpheus and some others support Firewire, or optionally in some cases other things (by way of a plugin card.) The API it seems doesn't provide that option.

 

I find it interesting that people would say that something like an RME (or any PCI card) is not sufficiently accurate clock-wise, so they buy outboard converters, and then spit S/PDIF at the computer which means that the card in the computer is still the one creating the final sample clocking for the stored data. If you use Firewire, then you are just get time stamped bundles of samples and it's purely the external device that's providing the sample clocking.

 

That's my understanding of it anyway.

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You'd get something like an audio card with S/PDIF or AES inputs, or if you have a box that does MADI, you could get a MADI card for the PC. Or, if the outboard box supports firewire, then you wouldn't need anything in the PC but the Firewire support that's already there.


If you use anything other than Firewire the, as I mentioned above, you are getting into the two clocks issue and you'd need to be sure you have a high quality card in in the PC to rebuild that clock based on the incoming samples (which are just spit out one way to the PC from the converter box.) If you use Firewire, then it's async and there's no need for any further expense. But, not all such outboard devices support firewire so tha twould be a moot point if not.


Other boxes such as the Appogees and the Orpheus and some others support Firewire, or optionally in some cases other things (by way of a plugin card.) The API it seems doesn't provide that option.


I find it interesting that people would say that something like an RME (or any PCI card) is not sufficiently accurate clock-wise, so they buy outboard converters, and then spit S/PDIF at the computer which means that the card in the computer is still the one creating the final sample clocking for the stored data. If you use Firewire, then you are just get time stamped bundles of samples and it's purely the external device that's providing the sample clocking.


That's my understanding of it anyway.

 

 

Great info Dean.. Thank you. I'm looking at a Fireface 400. This seems like the next logical step for me in increasing my home studio recording fidelity. How GOOD of a preamp would I need to get that would make it feasible to bypass the preamps of the fireface? Is the fireface considered a better converter or preamp?

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Probably most people would say that any of the often mentioned quality pre-amps would be a step up from the ones in the FF. Some of that may be input chain snobbery, I dunno. I think that the main thing is that the FF pre-amps are probably designed to be pretty characterless, whereas all of the ones that people wax rhapsodic about are fairly mojo oriented pre-amps.

 

But if you are going to skip the pre-amps, is it really worth getting? If you are just using it for the converters, then I don't see a lot of benefits over an RME or Lynx PCI card really. If you want an outboard converter, maybe look at the Lynx Aurora 8 with the Firewire card? Though, it'll be $2500 with the card, which is considerably more. But at least you aren't paying for things you aren't going to use.

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Probably most people would say that any of the often mentioned quality pre-amps would be a step up from the ones in the FF. Some of that may be input chain snobbery, I dunno. I think that the main thing is that the FF pre-amps are probably designed to be pretty characterless, whereas all of the ones that people wax rhapsodic about are fairly mojo oriented pre-amps.


But if you are going to skip the pre-amps, is it really worth getting? If you are just using it for the converters, then I don't see a lot of benefits over an RME or Lynx PCI card really. If you want an outboard converter, maybe look at the Lynx Aurora 8 with the Firewire card? Though, it'll be $2500 with the card, which is considerably more. But at least you aren't paying for things you aren't going to use.

 

"Wax rhapsodic"... Nicely done!

I guess back to the original poster's question. I'm in the same boat and price range actually and I'm just looking to spend say $1500 and get the best combo of preamp/interface for that money. Build me a system! :)

OR is this price range too low to truly gain that extra benefit in sound over say a $500 setup?

I see the original poster bought the API. But starting from scratch I would still need an interface to my PC since that does not use firewire.

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For a little bit more, you could get the setup I have currently, which is an RME 9632 card and a UA LA-610. It's a quite nice setup. Obviously it's limited in color palette being just one set of bits, but I don't find myself suffereing or anything. You get a very nice tube pre-amp, low/high shelving EQ, and an opto compressor. If you can't make good music with that, you can't make good music. Though if you want to make really agressive music it might not very good for you.

 

Another option would be to step up one step to the stereo Lynx PCI card, plus a Great River ME-1NV, which would provide broader color palette on the pre-amp, but you'd have to go with EQ and compression in the DAW for the short term until you can add some more toys to the list.

 

Another option would be $800 for a 500 series rack, $725 for the 500 version of the Great River pre-amp, $625 for a Purple Action compressor, and somewhere around $1000'ish for one of a number of 500 series EQs (API, Buzz, Avedis, A-Designs, etc...) So a jump upwards, but it opens you up later to add more modules for a reasonable price, and it would be a great starter kit. You could leave the EQ off at first to keep the price lower and do the EQ in the DAW for now. I'd take that setup in a heartbeat. There's a bunch of other pre-amp choices you could make, but no matter what you pick, it's just one pre-amp and you'll want others later. There's no ultimate choice.

 

Personally I just think that outboard converters are way overhyped. Would I like one? Obviously. I'd like one of everything, if not two just for good measure. But there's just no way that using an RME or Lynx card is going to limit your ability to write great music that sounds great. The difference between that and an outboard converter four times the price is incremental, not revolutionary. Everyone can hear the difference between mojo oriented pre-amps of different sorts because they are intended to be very different. Though some very small number of people may be able to tell what converters you used (if you gave them a list to choose from), absolutely no one who is going to listen to or buy (or steal) your music will care in the slightest. Don't stress about it. You can always upgrade later.

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Thanks for your help Dean. I'll have to read up on your recommendations. I was just reading about the API A2D which the original poster purchased. Seems like a quality product. My only concern was how I hook it to my PC and how much extra that would cost. I see it outputs SPDIF and AES? I haven't heard of AES.

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I just can't imagine buying something like at the start. There are so many other things that are more important. Room treatment, monitors, pre-amps, mics, instruments, plugs, all those things will have hugely more impact on the final product and should be attacked first, IMO. It's not stupidly expensive as such things go, but I'd never buy that before I had treated my room or had gotten some pretty good monitors, for instance. And you still need something to handle the D/A for monitoring, right?

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Honestly, I feel as I have most of the other items you mention and feel what is lacking the most is my interface at this point. I'm using HR824 monitors. Tracking to Sonar 7 (my EQs etc) and have two quality mics for recording my newly updated guitar rig and sometimes outside vocalists.

My current interface is a Tascam Fw-1082. Its not bad but of course I'd like to go to the next level.

My biggest concern is getting quality sound into the box. Recently, with some singers I've worked with, they are sending the tracks out to be mixed by someone else anyway. I just thought the 312 preamps in the API AD2 seemed like great quality from the reviews I'm seeing.

But yes you are right, I would need somewhere for that D/A signal to go. You would have to track into a mixer first then output to monitors?

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Don't forget the room treatment. It's SO important, it can't be overstressed. I've put a stupid amount of time and exploration into it, but it's well worth it. And it's going to suck up a fair amount of bucks.

 

 

But yes you are right, I would need somewhere for that D/A signal to go. You would have to track into a mixer first then output to monitors?

 

 

You have to have some D/A device somewhere in there, since I think that API box only does the other direction. But, given that you'd need a sound card in the computer to take the S/PDIF signal from that device, you could use it as the D/A for monitoring.

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I just can't imagine buying something like at the start. There are so many other things that are more important. Room treatment, monitors, pre-amps, mics, instruments, plugs, all those things will have hugely more impact on the final product and should be attacked first, IMO. It's not stupidly expensive as such things go, but I'd never buy that before I had treated my room or had gotten some pretty good monitors, for instance. And you still need something to handle the D/A for monitoring, right?

 

 

Dean,

I'm not sure if you are responding to me buying the API A2D, but that piece of gear is definitely not the start for me. Preamp wise, I've used lots of different class A pre's but never thought to get the unit I did until I did some research on it. It rocks. I just ordered a really nice compressor to help with vocals. I have Waves Diamond collection, emerald, auto tune 5, melodyne, Ethan's from real traps vocal isolation booth, M Audio's BX8A's, a Rode NTK, an Oktava MK-319 modded, a super fast computer, PRS Custom 22, Les Paul Custom, Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier (I make mostly hard rock), and an MBOX2. I am in the process of treating my entire room with the knowledge I gained from the acoustic DIY thread. I can't wait to show people my final product- my first solo EP. Phil, if you see this- I haven't forgotten about you possibly mixing or mastering buddy. You too Ustad. :thu::thu:

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Dean,

I'm not sure if you are responding to me buying the API A2D, but that piece of gear is definitely not the start for me. Preamp wise, I've used lots of different class A pre's but never thought to get the unit I did until I did some research on it. It rocks. I just ordered a really nice compressor to help with vocals. I have Waves Diamond collection, emerald, auto tune 5, melodyne, Ethan's from real traps vocal isolation booth, M Audio's BX8A's, a Rode NTK, an Oktava MK-319 modded, a super fast computer, PRS Custom 22, Les Paul Custom, Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier (I make mostly hard rock), and an MBOX2. I am in the process of treating my entire room with the knowledge I gained from the acoustic DIY thread. I can't wait to show people my final product- my first solo EP. Phil, if you see this- I haven't forgotten about you possibly mixing or mastering buddy. You too Ustad.
:thu:
:thu:

 

So you have been happy with the API? Do you use the Mbox for your monitoring and D/A?

Thanks

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