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mic and mic preamp question

Ricardus

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What myths are there in pro audio?
Oh god. There's plenty of similar religious opinions in pro audio like there are in home audio.

I just bought some new converters and settled on the Focusrite Clarett+ 8 Pre, and one of my friends laughed and said they sound like crap, and his (whatever brand he likes) sound more "3D," and another friend loved my choice because the Focusrite stuff sounds "3D" to him.

Like someone said in an earlier post, converters are a solved problem in pro audio. The quality of the chips now are so good we're approaching theoretical performance limits.
 

ThatSoundsGood

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Oh god. There's plenty of similar religious opinions in pro audio like there are in home audio.

I just bought some new converters and settled on the Focusrite Clarett+ 8 Pre, and one of my friends laughed and said they sound like crap, and his (whatever brand he likes) sound more "3D," and another friend loved my choice because the Focusrite stuff sounds "3D" to him.

Like someone said in an earlier post, converters are a solved problem in pro audio. The quality of the chips now are so good we're approaching theoretical performance limits.
So are you saying that all modern converters are equal? Even if they use different chips? Can you not hear the difference in some converters compared to others?
 

Blumlein 88

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So are you saying that all modern converters are equal? Even if they use different chips? Can you not hear the difference in some converters compared to others?
There are always designs that intentionally design in a "sound". Otherwise like 90% or more of converters will sound the same different chips or no. It is a solved problem to convert with high fidelity to the source.
 

ThatSoundsGood

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At what point do you think it became a solved problem? Where is the threshold? I'm generally interested. I'm not sure that I agree but I'm trying to understand what you mean.
 

Blumlein 88

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At what point do you think it became a solved problem? Where is the threshold? I'm generally interested. I'm not sure that I agree but I'm trying to understand what you mean.
We have a few threads on what levels of performance are audible. Being generous, THD and IMD at all frequencies below -90 db, noise -100db and flat frequency response to 20 khz (within +/- .1 db) should do it. So many/most DACs since the 1990's. ADCs that are affordable took a little longer. Now many/most can meet this and you could say this for 2010 and later at least. It would be true at an earlier date for some slightly more expensive ADCs. You almost surely could relax the distortion levels to -80 db.

So what do you think?
 

thecheapseats

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ok - this has gone from a "mic and mic preamp" question to now include converters, so just a quick comment...

early a-to-d converters long ago certainly did have a 'sound' - but very recent converters?, far less so (I can't speak to 2/4 chan all-in-ones with mic pres). - but, any 'sound' newer converters may impart is far more about "what you fed them" (with mics, mic pres, etc.) as well as ->the d-to-a you're using at the moment...

for work, I always 'ask' ahead of time before doing an instrumental overdub what is desired - pristine or character (i never say what I would do unless asked)... but if a client has no clue, I will suggest recording it clean (new stuff) and sending two finished stems the client may choose from...

the first,stem being the track, a-to-d as recorded (new stuff) - and the second stem, is the original track, run line level into an old (but maintained) neve or trident or a "take your pic" from preamps I have laying around - and resampled into the daw... typically done for that xfmr saturation sound or discreet sound or other nonsense I don't care about... what a client chooses to do with the tracks? - their choice...
 
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SBurkart

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This thread is an interesting read and it reminded me of the Walter Sear "philosophy" section at the Sear Sound NYC website (dated but another interesting read/s) and I was waiting for somebody here to start talking about the freq response of some gear being limited, and reasons why you might want gear that went to 50k cps, etc.
 

Ricardus

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So are you saying that all modern converters are equal? Even if they use different chips? Can you not hear the difference in some converters compared to others?
I think the people who test converters online are also testing the onboard preamps as well. I have 40 channels of high end preamps that I've built over the last 5 years (Neve, API, SSL clones, and others), so I don't need preamps, but the converters in the class I need/can afford always come with them. So I think the differences people are hearing might be slight differences in the analog circuitry implemented before the A/D stage. But as Blumlein said, basically ALL but the worst/cheapest converters are giving you high fidelity conversion, and I don't think people would be able to tell the differences reliably in double bliend testing, and as a mix engineer I can work with anything a decent modern converter is giving me.
 

earlevel

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Studio recording mics in general are not flat like measurement mics. They are selected for the coloration they impose on a sound source. It's rare to even see published FR curves for them, and generally they're curve-smoothed and averaged over hundreds of mics; so the data is rather useless.
Yes, I'd have to disagree with this last part too. I have a total of five mics, currently:

Beyer M500 (ribbon—hypercardioid): Bought used from a coworker at Oberheim in 1982. Came with a pen plot. I just did a search, and see mic info with a scanned response plot that's extremely close to mine, and this does not appear to be overly smoothed (BEYERDYNAMIC M500).

AKG C414B-ULS (LDC—multi-pattern): Bought new in earlier '90s, comes with individual plots at all four pattern settings. I've pulled up a pdf off the AKG's site in the past couple of years, 30 years after the fact—again, my individual plots match closely.

Soyuz 017 FET (LDC—cardioid only): Bought new two years ago. It came with an individual pen plot, not overly smoothed. It looked nothing like the published plot of their website. The mic sounded like my plot, not like theirs. It sounded great, but it made me wonder if if it was supposed to sound the way it did, or different (and it's hand-made). After showing them, they agreed they had the wrong plot, which they said was from a different test company years ago. They put up a new plot that looks very much like mine. (Scroll to the bottom here: Soyuz 017).

The other two don't count (one was a cheapie LCD that I bought and replaced the components, the other is an SM7B, I don't think it came with a plot). It think you're only getting individual plots with higher prices mics, but I don't know from manufacturer to manufacturer. Things have changed a lot since when I bought the AKG, and the price of entry for an LDC was $1k-ish. Now you can get $50 LDCs, and there are huge number of choices under $1k.
 

earlevel

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I had not looked at ribbon mics. Yeah, a whole new area to obsess about ;)

I'll likely start out with one or two Wave SSL plugins rather than buy a boutique preamp.
If do end up needing an external preamp—you might, for instance, if you need high gain (even the lowly SM7B has gain requirements that most built-in preamps can't meet—though most LDC aren't nearly as needy), or a mic that's fussy with impedance (ribbons...which also need a lot of gain): Look for a Focusrite ISA One used. They've gone up a bit since COVID (new currently $700, I think were $600 before), you used to be able to get them around $300 used. I see one at $226.50 bid on eBay, with 2d 18h left. I suspect these are going for ~$400 these days, but still a bargain. Super nice flexible unit, heavily featured, with separate line input, headphones, analog and LED metering, even optional ADC card. Big time gain, impedance choices.
 

ThatSoundsGood

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We have a few threads on what levels of performance are audible. Being generous, THD and IMD at all frequencies below -90 db, noise -100db and flat frequency response to 20 khz (within +/- .1 db) should do it. So many/most DACs since the 1990's. ADCs that are affordable took a little longer. Now many/most can meet this and you could say this for 2010 and later at least. It would be true at an earlier date for some slightly more expensive ADCs. You almost surely could relax the distortion levels to -80 db.

So what do you think?
I understand these measurements but do you think that covers all of it? How about jitter? Do you think the difference between a Digidesign 888 and the new Avid stuff is negligible? Is the difference in sound just THD or something else?
 

ThatSoundsGood

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I think the people who test converters online are also testing the onboard preamps as well. I have 40 channels of high end preamps that I've built over the last 5 years (Neve, API, SSL clones, and others), so I don't need preamps, but the converters in the class I need/can afford always come with them. So I think the differences people are hearing might be slight differences in the analog circuitry implemented before the A/D stage. But as Blumlein said, basically ALL but the worst/cheapest converters are giving you high fidelity conversion, and I don't think people would be able to tell the differences reliably in double bliend testing, and as a mix engineer I can work with anything a decent modern converter is giving me.
OK, so the difference in the sound of them is somewhere else in the chain? I haven't done much studio work in the last 6 years but I have mixed hundreds of shows on the Avid Venue Profile, SC48 and S6L. The difference in how they sound is pretty easy to tell. I have even had identical files from a Profile put into an S6L and it sounds much wider and cleaner. So, are you saying that the difference isn't the converters? Would it be the clocking? Would it be the preamp? Summing bus? Cuz something is making the newer stuff sound much better.
 

Rja4000

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Beyer M500 (ribbon—hypercardioid)
I love this mic.
Quite fragile (I've seen one ribbon broken by a guy shouting in the mic), but very smooth, open, voice sound.
I don't have one now, unfortunately, but this one (and the early Beyer M88) remain amongst my favorites.
 

Ricardus

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OK, so the difference in the sound of them is somewhere else in the chain? I haven't done much studio work in the last 6 years but I have mixed hundreds of shows on the Avid Venue Profile, SC48 and S6L. The difference in how they sound is pretty easy to tell. I have even had identical files from a Profile put into an S6L and it sounds much wider and cleaner. So, are you saying that the difference isn't the converters? Would it be the clocking? Would it be the preamp? Summing bus? Cuz something is making the newer stuff sound much better.
At the end of the day this is a very complicated subject because double blind testing is hard and takes time, and almost no one (on youtube anyway) even tries to do any sort of blind testing. And our cognitive biases are real.

So what I would say is: Given the quality of today's converter chips there is absolutely no reason there should be any flagrant differences in converter sound, and there is no reason (other than cost, laziness, or bad design) that converters shouldn't be absolutely transparent in tests. The proper instrument tests I have seen show converters to be laser flat and with exceedingly low distortion and high dynamic range.

I saw one listening test on the "audio university" channel where he tested the new Clarett 2-channel interface against the Scarlett with recorded guitar, and the tests sounded different. Now I'm pretty sure both use the same mic preamp circuit, and the both test laser flat on frequency response so I don't see where such a big difference could come from. But if they were 2 different performances maybe without realizing it he was picking the guitar a little differently the 2nd time and this accounts for the different sound of the guitar.

This is why actual apples to apples comparisons are hard. So many things come into play. But I am absolutely confident the Clarett+ converters I recently bought will serve me well.
 
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Ricardus

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OK, so the difference in the sound of them is somewhere else in the chain? I haven't done much studio work in the last 6 years but I have mixed hundreds of shows on the Avid Venue Profile, SC48 and S6L. The difference in how they sound is pretty easy to tell. I have even had identical files from a Profile put into an S6L and it sounds much wider and cleaner. So, are you saying that the difference isn't the converters?
There's a lot of DSP between the converters and your ears in those examples so they could simply sound different.
 

Blumlein 88

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I understand these measurements but do you think that covers all of it? How about jitter? Do you think the difference between a Digidesign 888 and the new Avid stuff is negligible? Is the difference in sound just THD or something else?
With very few exceptions jitter just isn't an audible issue. I seem to recall the Digidesign 888 was one of those exceptions with rather high jitter levels that may have been audible when fed over an SPDIF connection. I've not used it or other Avid gear. I would think they fixed the jitter issue in newer gear. So this may be a case with the differences is real.
 

ThatSoundsGood

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There's a lot of DSP between the converters and your ears in those examples so they could simply sound different.
That's totally fair. I don't know where the difference comes from but the sound is drastically different.
 

ThatSoundsGood

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With very few exceptions jitter just isn't an audible issue. I seem to recall the Digidesign 888 was one of those exceptions with rather high jitter levels that may have been audible when fed over an SPDIF connection. I've not used it or other Avid gear. I would think they fixed the jitter issue in newer gear. So this may be a case with the differences is real.
The difference in sound is definitely real, but I have no idea what makes the newer gear sound better. I always thought that the converters ands clocking were making the big difference but I could be wrong. It could be any number of other things in the chain.
 
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