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Blind Ten Preamp Shootout / Guitars, Bass
Old 7th May 2015
  #1
Blind Ten Preamp Shootout / Guitars, Bass

This is a blind shootout between these ten preamps:

CAPI VP26
API 512c
CAPI VP28
AEA RPQ500
Antelope MP32
Phoenix DRS-1R
Vintech 573
Neve 1073
Purple Biz
Avedis MA5

A C414 XLS was used to track acoustic guitar, an SM57 was used to track electric guitar, and an Avenson IsoDI was used to track bass.

Each mic level signal was split into ten mic level signals using two RapcoHorizon PB-8 Isolated Press Boxes. These split mic signals were routed in parallel to each of the ten preamps and level-matched using phase cancellation in the analog domain.

The ten preamps were recorded using a MOTU 16A converter/interface.

To ensure that levels were matched as precisely as possible, each recorded track was then loudness normalized to -23 S Max LUFS, using Nugen Audio's LM-Correct 2 audiosuite plugin.

Each of the seven performances is played ten times, once for each preamp.

Which preamp sounds the best? Any idea which is which?

Watch the video below and download the 96k 24bit audio files.



Written and Performed by Bahnz Selby
http://behemothon.com @ [email protected]

Engineered and Produced by David Bayles
http://davidbayl.es

Last edited by davidbayles; 7th May 2015 at 03:24 PM..
Old 7th May 2015
  #2
Lives for gear
 
funka's Avatar
 

Whouah, a lot of work here, thank you for the effort.
On a laptop, I only hear very small differences.
I am downloading the files and will have another listen on more accurate systems.
Old 7th May 2015
  #3
Lives for gear
 
funka's Avatar
 

Listened with speakers and headphones.

I prefer H, that I find more lively/euphonic/full.

Then D.
Old 7th May 2015
  #4
Thanks for listening @ funka ! Out of curiosity, where were you able to hear the most difference, speakers or headphones?

Do you use any of these pres regularly?
Old 7th May 2015
  #5
Lives for gear
 
funka's Avatar
 

None from your test in fact, but I have used some Phoenix audio DRS-2/8 in the past.
I use Forssell SMP-2, Fred designed the AEA preamp, and I also use some vintage Neves, 33129 and 33115.

Otherwise, I heard differences maybe more easily on speakers than on headphones. In fact, H confirmed the first little feeling I had while listening on laptop speakers...

H could be the 1073 and D the AEA?...
Just hoping I am not too wrong...it is the blind test game!
Old 7th May 2015
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by funka View Post
H could be the 1073 and D the AEA?...
Just hoping I am not too wrong...it is the blind test game!
I think maybe the way to do this is private message anyone who ventures a guess, so I'll PM you shortly. Definitely want to get as much objective feedback as possible.

Quote:
None from your test in fact, but I have used some Phoenix audio DRS-2/8 in the past.
I use Forssell SMP-2, Fred designed the AEA preamp, and I also use some vintage Neves, 33129 and 33115.
What do you think of the Phoenix stuff? Apparently, the DRS-1R is the exact same circuit as the rack units, voltage and all.
Old 7th May 2015
  #7
Lives for gear
 
funka's Avatar
 

The Phoenix stuff has a very nice color I think. Gives voices a nice mid forward thing. The DI was also great.
I hesitated a long time before selling them all.

Ok for the rest by pm.
Old 7th May 2015
  #8
Here for the gear
bump.
Old 8th May 2015
  #9
Here for the gear
 
jordanearth's Avatar
B was my favorite across the board.
Old 8th May 2015
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by jordanearth View Post
B was my favorite across the board.
Good choice. Anything that you're hearing that made B standout from the pack?

Any other ones that sounded distinctive from the rest?
Old 9th May 2015
  #11
Lives for gear
 
JulianFernandez's Avatar
 

Thanks for sharing... Will listen during the weekend!
Old 9th May 2015
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by JulianFernandez View Post
Thanks for sharing... Will listen during the weekend!
Awesome. Looking forward to your thoughts.
Old 19th May 2015
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by JulianFernandez View Post
Thanks for sharing... Will listen during the weekend!
Get a chance to listen yet? Any thoughts on which you liked the best or perhaps which is which?
Old 21st May 2015
  #14
Gear Head
I laughed as I tried to pick out the 1073 clone from the API clone. I think I got it right but honestly, the differences are very subtle. Sure there are differences but all of these pres sound really good to the point of being equally pleasing to the ear. So what if one is a little faster than the other. Both could capture a good performance. How about a shootout between crappy pres and high end. Then we could hear a difference. Even then, it may be more subtle than you think.

I recorded many tracks with an 16bit ADAT and Mackie VLZ pres in the 90s. We use to record the bass and drums to a studer 2" and than do all of the vocals and guitars in our living room with a 4050, sm57 through a vlz to an adat, which was later brought to a multi million dollar Neve board to be be mixed to 2", mastered, and then released on a major label. The recordings sound amazing. What people do not realize is that once they get the tracks down through an Ensemble, Mbox Pro, MR816x (sooo many to use now) they can always bring those tracks to a studio and mix through all the hardware they want to warm it up or squash it, etc. Noone except for maybe 5 prodigies on the planet would be able to tell the difference, nor would anyone care.

To all the people with home studios thinking they need high end gear: The gear we have today is beyond adequate. Just mic it correctly, deal with the room as good as you can, get the levels right and keep raw versions of the files. Someone who knows what they are doing can take that and make it sound awesome if you need to or actually want to.

All of these pres here sound good. Period.
Old 21st May 2015
  #15
Lives for gear
 
funka's Avatar
 

Quote:
Just mic it correctly, deal with the room as good as you can...
Surely the two most important things!
Room and mics!
(song, players and instruments is an evidence...)
Old 21st May 2015
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by hoodun
I think I got it right but honestly, the differences are very subtle.
Subtle indeed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by funka
Surely the two most important things!
Room and mics!
Yes.
Old 28th November 2015
  #17
Gear Addict
 

Wow. What a great shootout. Thank you, David!

Well, after listening for 2 hours to all of the 96k files through my studio speakers, here's my take on the preamps.

If I had to choose 1 preamp and only 1 preamp, I'd choose preamp A.
If I had to choose a second preamp, I'd choose preamp G. I would be happy with those two preamps for the rest of time!

Those two preamps stand heads and tails above the rest in my opinion. Preamp A is great on every blasted thing you recorded! The spectrum from top to bottom is wonderful and filled with rich, complex harmonics while still remaining focused.
Preamp G on the other hand is as pure as the driven snow, balanced from top to bottom, focused, 3-dimensional, refined, and musical. It sounds very expensive. It works on all sources you recorded, but on a few, it didn't have enough vibe to choose it before either preamp A or another in the bunch.

Although a bit dark, preamp B is also quite refined, focused, and 3-dimensional.

Here is what I picked for each source. Preamp letters in each category are not from best to worst. That's too hard to choose. They are in alphabetical order.

Acoustic Fingers
Best
A, G
Honorable Mentions
B, F, H, J

Acoustic Pick
Best
A, G
Honorable Mentions
B, F, J

Bass Chords
Best
A, B, G
Honorable Mentions
F, J

Bass Fingers
Best
A, F, D
Honorable Mentions
C, G, I

Bass Pick
Best
A, E
Honorable Mentions
B, G, H

Electric Mute
Best
A, B, G
Honorable Mentions
E, H, J

Electric Pick
Best
A, E
Honorable Mentions
B, D, G, H


I must also mention that your playing is phenomenal, and the recordings are pure. Excellent in every respect.

Now I'll PM you. I'm dying to know which are which.
Thanks again for doing this!

Jeff
Old 28th November 2015
  #18
Gear Addict
 

By the way, do you know which op amps were put in your CAPI preamps? Also, which version is the Neve 1073?

Thanks
Old 28th November 2015
  #19
Gear Addict
 

As for guessing which preamps are which, I don't know enough about them, but just for fun I'll guess that A is the Neve 1073, B is CAPI VP26, G is CAPI VP28, J is the API 512C?
Old 29th November 2015
  #20
Gear Nut
 

I am interested to see what is what here. I preferred A all the way around. After that its was close between F and H for my second favorite.
Old 3rd December 2015
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicManic View Post
Wow. What a great shootout. Thank you, David!
You're welcome! We had a lot of fun doing it, and it was definitely educational. We still talk about it all time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicManic View Post
I must also mention that your playing is phenomenal
My good buddy @ Selby wrote and played everything in the shootout. He definitely brought this to another level.
Old 3rd December 2015
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicManic View Post
By the way, do you know which op amps were put in your CAPI preamps? Also, which version is the Neve 1073?

Thanks
GAR2520 in my VP26.

Not sure what opamps @ Selby had in his 28.

Not sure about what year/build/etc the Neve is, but it's a full version with EQ, not a DPA.
Old 3rd December 2015
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by ira_the_mick View Post
I am interested to see what is what here. I preferred A all the way around. After that its was close between F and H for my second favorite.
PMing you the results.
Old 3rd December 2015
  #24
Gear Maniac
 
WKWizard's Avatar
Great test and great playing! I'm not sure how I missed this. I don't have experience with any of those preamps but, I preferred "a" throughout. The bass sections helped to accentuate the differences to me. But, they all sound great in their own right...on acoustic especially. I'd greatly appreciate the results. Thanks!
Old 3rd December 2015
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by WKWizard View Post
Great test and great playing! I'm not sure how I missed this. I don't have experience with any of those preamps but, I preferred "a" throughout. The bass sections helped to accentuate the differences to me. But, they all sound great in their own right...on acoustic especially. I'd greatly appreciate the results. Thanks!
Thanks for your feedback! Happy to PM you the results, but before I do, did any of the other ones stand out to you?
Old 3rd December 2015
  #26
Gear Maniac
 
WKWizard's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbayles View Post
Thanks for your feedback! Happy to PM you the results, but before I do, did any of the other ones stand out to you?
While all sound good, I thought "f" was my least favorite. It doesn't have the depth that the others do. I still think it would yield good results, in that it seemed to narrow the variance of the signal and everything would sound "ok" going through them; albeit flat and narrow.

My second tier choices would be "c, g, h". I felt I could hear a little deeper into the details with "g", but sometimes "c or h" just had more of the "it" sound.
Old 16th December 2015
  #27
Lives for gear
 
EvgenyStudio's Avatar
hey, can you PM me results?
I think i like B and H the best
Old 16th December 2015
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by EvgenyStudio View Post
hey, can you PM me results?
I think i like B and H the best
Thanks for your feedback! Any that you didn't like?
Old 16th December 2015
  #29
Lives for gear
 
EvgenyStudio's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbayles View Post
Thanks for your feedback! Any that you didn't like?
They sounds really close, there's no hate for some of them
A is really wooly. AS much as H. but H is good on acoustic
Old 16th December 2015
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by EvgenyStudio View Post
They sounds really close, there's no hate for some of them
A is really wooly. AS much as H. but H is good on acoustic
Definitely really close. Thanks again for your feedback.

Answers coming over now...
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