Recently we posted The Ultimate Microphone Pre-Amp Shoot Out in which we tested a number of Pre Amps with vocal, cello and guitar sources. We gave you the community the opportunity to blind listen to each of the recordings and vote on the pre amp you felt you liked the most.
The results are in and we're going to post the top three from each category.
- Mbox Mini 3rd Gen
- LEV Solutions Integrity II
- Neve 88LB 500 series
- Focusrite ISA One
- Maag PreQ4 with Air Band In
- Cranesong Siren (clean)
- Maag PreQ4 with air band In
- Maag PreQ4 clean (no air band)
Over 500 downloads of the Pro Tools session folder including all the stems available for you guys to hear the results in your own environments. Download here.
Mike Aiton's Views
For me, it was a really fun day testing some great gear, with some great musicians, hanging out with my PTE buddies, and made me think the following after my listening tests made in the cold light of day...
- On guitar - either the DAV or the LEV, probably the DAV marginally
- On cello – the LEV, DAV or 1073
- On vocals – the tubetech or the 1073
I really didn’t like the Tubetech on the guitar or the cello – it sounded very saggy dynamically (that’s valves for you), but ironically it was great on vocals – for the same reason perhaps?
The DAV was very sweet on guitar, but as hinted the surprise to me was the LEV and how quiet and balanced in frequency response it was. I am very sensitive to midrange honk, which some of the Neves had for me. I like the 1073 bottom, but some of the others had a nasal honk at times to my ears.
I was surprised how different each preamp sounded. I take on board the difference regarding performance argument that some have mentioned, but the character differences are still quite obvious to me on my monitoring, which is very flat, especially due to its BBC heritage. Splitting mic signals, unless done properly, can have pronounced affects on the frequency response due to impedance sensitivity and loading, which arguably could have showed up difference as well. We chose the former as the lesser of two evils.
The other factor that may have some relevance is that with repeated stacking, the character pres (like the 1073) may sound better, and the cleaner more accurate amps such as the LEV are better suited to solo instruments or to jazz type recordings where accuracy matters. A cliché it may be, but there may be perhaps some validity in this. The downside of these tests is that I am not so happy with my ISA One as I once was…….(and that I wish I could play my cello as well as Wayne!).
Dan Cooper's Views
My favourite on the day comes as no surprise as I mentioned it on a recent Podcast. The Integrity II by LEV Solutions was my favourite as it sounded the cleanest to my ears and felt solid and easy to use. The price is also very attractive. LEV Solutions are sending me a unit again so that I produce a detailed video review of the Integrity II.
The MBox receiving the highest votes for the vocal actually doesn't surprise me. It just confirms that sometimes gear doesn't matter and that the performance is and always will be the most important aspect of music production. The MBox is a great little interface, one we should all own as a spare audio interface.
We have to remember that these tests highlight the importance of a good dealer like KMR who can arrange demos and loan equipment, and who can guide you through choices. You can then audition with your musicians in your work environment.
Finally we do these tests to inspire, create debate and to make people think about the possibilities of their equipment purchases.
What Do You Think?
You have read Mike Aiton's and Dan Cooper's views, but we would love to hear what you think. Download the Pro Tools session and listen carefully in your own studio and let us know what you think, we would love to hear from you.