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Old March 18th, 2004, 09:07 PM   #1
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Recommended preamp and A/D solution for home and location recording

I'm looking for a microphone preamp and A/D solution for home recording, and if it's portable enough to use for location audio in conjunction with a laptop, all the better.

When I first starting looking into this, I found some microphone preamps--just a rackmount stereo matched pair of preamps, no bells/whistles, mind you--for over $1500 (the Neve 1272, for example--and this is advertised as the "value" solution!). That's a bit beyond what I was looking to spend. I also found the Audiosport Duo, which incorporates 24 bit, 96 kHz A/D and a USB interface ($350 list, $150 in an advertised Guitar Center sale), but this has TRS, not XLR, inputs, which I assume are just stereo 1/4" plugs, given the pictures of the adapter. Does anybody have any experience with this or other products? Will the Duo work in the location audio scenario I describe to capture location audio? How quiet are its preamps compared to its pricier pro cousins? Or is there a different solution I should be looking at?

Thanks for your suggestions!
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Old March 18th, 2004, 10:09 PM   #2
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Have a look at the Denecke AD20 it may suit your needs and is close to your budget. Unless you need FW or USB this only has SPDIF outs
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Old March 18th, 2004, 11:03 PM   #3
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There's the USB Pre from Sound Devices. That's first class gear.

http://www.sounddevices.com/products/usbpremaster.htm


http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=292993&is=REG

It's $550 , it's also top quality.
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Old March 18th, 2004, 11:57 PM   #4
 
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As I've said many a time, I surely love the M-Audio 410. Firewire box, it sounds as good as many 500-600 pres, and gives you a great software mixer, including hardware monitoring with an aux loop capability. 400.00 You can find a review of it on the Sundance site.
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Old March 19th, 2004, 12:50 AM   #5
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Spot, after going through the sign-up process, I wasn't able to locate the review.

Thanks for your suggestions, guys! Keep 'em coming!
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Old March 19th, 2004, 01:02 AM   #6
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The USBPre is usually touted as a very good solution. It isn't usable standalone though, if you're wanting to use it without a computer. It also only does 16 bit playback (If that matters). And of course there are the USB issues in that it can't support that many channels.

Also on the S/PDIF out only is the Core Sound Mic2496 There is meant to be various options for adapting the S/PDIF.

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Old March 19th, 2004, 09:31 AM   #7
 
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USB presents many of it's own issues. If you only want 2 channel I/O then it will be fine. But if you want surround capability, or multi channels in, it's not gonna cut it.
You can find my review of the M-Audio 410 at:
http://www.sundancemediagroup.com/articles/firewire410.htm
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Old March 19th, 2004, 09:56 AM   #8
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I recently bought an AD-20 and would highly recommend it for the price. We’ve used it on three shooting days so far and it has worked flawlessly. A bit of a battery hog. They say a standard 9V battery will last nine hours and they aren’t kidding. I get two shooting days out of a battery. If I have any criticism, it’s that I wouldn’t mind a little more useable gain. There’s more than enough for a hot mic like the ME-66, but when I used it with a couple of dynamic lavs, I had to turn it up so high that background hiss was audible. I believe it is still quieter than the gain in my Sony minidisc, except for at the highest setting. At very high gain settings, there’s a point on the AD-20 (I’d say at about 90 percent on the knob) where hiss gets dramatically and obnoxiously loud. I thought I might have gotten a bad one, but I tried three other units and they were exactly the same. Like I said, with a good mic like the ME-66 or a preamp (the manufacturer and retailer say to use -20dbs of attenuation, which seems to work great) there’s more than enough gain. I’ve been using it with an MM-1 and the ME-66, and even with the attenuation I have to turn the gain all the way off on the AD-20 and reduce the levels down to 6.5 on my XLR adapter. Absolute noise free recording (to my ears). With the ME-66 alone you only have to turn up the gain about 25 percent of the way (there’s no markings indicating gain settings) and there’s no hiss at all. Recordings sound noticeably more realistic over the minidisc as well. The gain knobs on the AD-20 are too small to be used for mixing, but I use the knobs on my XLR adapter so it’s no problem. The AD-20 actually accepts balanced XLR mic level inputs, and I wish I could find some kind of passive mixer with XLR outputs that functions exactly like the Studio 1 XLR pro and mounts under the camera, because it sucks to unbalance the signal, but that’s another post. I would also say that the AD-20 seems very rugged, even if the bright blue casing looks a little odd. Good customer service at Denecke too if you ever need to call them about anything. I had no problem speaking with one of their tech people.
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Old March 20th, 2004, 01:58 AM   #9
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"If you only want 2 channel I/O then it will be fine. But if you want surround capability, or multi channels in, it's not gonna cut it."

But the M-Audio 410 only does 2 channels, its mighty firewire bandwidth in vain. And you say yourself that for more than 4 channels, stacking them isn't the best solution.

The example of usage given in the review are Olympic training events. I assume the mic pre in this scenario is being used for a broadcast announcer or athlete/trainer interviews, not field microphones catching the sounds of "the action," since in the latter case the larger dynamic range of extra-camera audio recording is hardly useful.

The M-Audio 410 seems considerably cheaper than the USBPre. Does that say anything about the quality of the Sound Devices' product's preamps, or not really? The USBPre runs on the laptop battery through the USB port--same for the M-Audio (through the firewire port)?

Thanks again for all your help.
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Old March 20th, 2004, 02:56 AM   #10
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Robert, the Firewire 410 is an 8 analog channel output device though. So, sure you can only record 2 channels analog in, but you should be able to go out to a surround system etc.

Looking at what specs the Firewire 410 has listed in it's manual, it looks better than the USBPre (THD+N etc) but the USBPre ones look more complete so it's hard to know under what conditions the 410's specs were taken. I definately don't know enough to filter one out over the other.

I don't know which one I'd get to be honest (I'm looking for one too). I hate the idea of USB, but I know that if I wanted something that sounded good and was buying blind and couldn't decide, I couldn't go wrong with the SoundDevices stuff. Everyone says they make excellent gear.

One more little thing to note that may or may not be important. The 410 doesn't accept balanced inputs on it's TRS plugs.

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Old March 20th, 2004, 09:54 AM   #11
 
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The 410 certainly DOES have balanced TRS inputs. They are a Neutrik combo plug. Didn't we have this discussion in another thread?
We have 3 of these, we use them on the VASST training tours. Moreover, if music is your bag, you can monitor WITH FX. The software mixer has an aux send. It does 24/192 audio as well. It uses the Cirrus converters, which are the best mid-level converters out there. You can buy better, say in an Apogee 8000 series.
You get 2 inputs, 8outs so you can monitor surround, or send to a monitoring system separate from the main system. Ifyou are using FCP, Vegas, Audition, this is a great piece of hardware. It's got SPDIF as well, plus optical. Pre's are very good for the money. They aren't Avalons or Hardy's, but for most video gigs those are way overkill.
2 headphone outs are handy, as are the actual knobs that are interactive with the software mixer. It also allows for AC3/DTS passthru.
For the price, this box is the best thing I've seen yet.
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Old March 20th, 2004, 03:42 PM   #12
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Douglas, yeah we did and I thought that the XLR's were balanced, but not the TRS plugs. My apologies if I stuffed up.

M-Audio needs to change their documentation. I mean it's pretty bad that they will write that the Neutrik and the TRS Line in's on the back are unbalanced in the manual, if indeed they aren't. I mean being balanced would definately be a selling point.

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Old March 20th, 2004, 05:13 PM   #13
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I suggest you look into the Avid/Digidesign Mbox, it is USB bus powered and has high quality Focusrite preamps, comes with Pro-Tools software and is available for the PC or the Mac I think. Look it up.

There is also an ultra-cool USB AD and preamp from Apogee but it is an arm and a leg and is only AD (has no DA)!
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Old March 23rd, 2004, 01:42 AM   #14
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Just revisiting this as I found the info from the m-audio guy who emailed me. He said

"Aaron, all of the quarter inch inputs and outputs are unbalanced. The XLR inputs are balanced."

Didn't think I was going mad, but there is definately some confusion on this matter. I wish those guys could get their s*#t together and knew what their products did.

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Old March 23rd, 2004, 08:14 AM   #15
 
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Forward me that mail, would you please? I have a meeting with some of their guys next week and would love to show them that. Open one up, you'll see that the inputs are TRS inside the Neutrik, and you'll see that all 3 connects go to the same place on the circuit board as do the XLR inputs. I broke one at the NAMM show when it fell with TRS cables input to it and had to open the box. Needless to say, it seems it would be more expensive to unbalance the TRS input when the board connections of the Neutrik are already set to go to the same routing as the XLR blades. They'd have to design parallel connects just for unbalanced and they gain nothing.
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