The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
The Sound of Sontec
Old 30th August 2020
  #1
Here for the gear
 
Phillip Dempster's Avatar
 
The Sound of Sontec

Hey everyone,

Short time lurker, first time poster. I'm relatively new to the world of mastering. Been interning with Matthew Gray for a bit over a year now, learning the craft and drawing upon his considerable years of experience (thanks heaps Matt). So yeah, don't flame or troll me too viciously, I'm only a tender little beanshoot.

Depending on your personality, you might find this post to be either very interesting and thought provoking... or quite nerdy and somewhat boring ������

Recently, we had a Sontec MES-432C in the studio for a little while.

I had heard people speak (as many of you would have) of the magic of the Sontec sound, and we have all seen with our own eyes the magic of the Sontec price tag.

Matt has owned one before, but this was my first opportunity to play with one. Not surprisingly, it was a pleasure to use. The curves are musical, the layout is clear and the physical feel is pure class. It also struck me as clean and precise. I found myself thinking I would like to track down this Sontec magic, and isolate it if possible, so I could clearly hear it without any bias. I figured that if I could remove all other variables this might be achievable.

The plan was to print a selection of material through the 432 at a handful of different settings – some subtle real-world curves and others quite drastic in order to accentuate any unique qualities. For each setting I would use PluginDoctor to analyse the frequency magnitude response of the Sontec, and match these curves using a clean digital EQ. I would then also print the same audio through the mastering console with nothing inserted (to remove it as a variable) and process these files with the presets I had made. The end result would be pairs of files in which the only sonic difference should be the Sontec signature.

I asked Matt if it would be okay that I wasted several hours in the studio pursuing this endeavour...and it turned out he was just as curious as I was. He even took the level of exactness to a new extreme. I was originally planning to use TDR Nova as the digital contender since I am a big fan of the TDR product range and ethos, and Nova is my go to ITB for corrective duties. However, as Matt pointed out while zooming in to the frequency response in PluginDoctor, the smallest gain increment Nova offered was 0.1dB (perfectly adequate in normal usage scenarios) while his own go to, DMG EQuilibrium, allowed for the curve to be matched to a much finer degree including matching the very small (less than 0.1dB) tolerance differences between left and right channels. So as a result, the curves have been recreated with a very high degree of accuracy to the hardware.

We captured the files at 24bit 48kHz. Signal path was Cranesong Solaris > Dangerous console > Forssell MADA-2
Equilibrium was used in FIR mode / 65536 Impulse Length / Analogue Phase / Peaks and Shelves Parallel.

If you would like to download the audio files please follow this link, there is also more detailed information on the process:
https://phillipdempster.com/post/the-sound-of-sontec/

We gave a lot of thought as to the best way of approaching this test. Most of the time when blind comparisons are posted a handful of people will take a public guess or give their impression, some will send a private message and others will wait until the answers are revealed before giving their opinion. A certain amount of time was spent creating these files and we think it would be a shame to have it play out in the usual manner without getting at least some reliable data on just how audible these differences are.

With this in mind, we have set up an anonymous poll that will hopefully encourage participation with zero risk to reputation.

The 11 question poll can be found here: https://forms.gle/3BQuU9KZzGnqMkUR7

For each of the 11 questions, you can answer 'A is the Sontec', 'B is the Sontec' or 'I can't hear a difference between A and B'. So if you have downloaded the files but can't hear any difference, it is still worthwhile participating if you can spare a few minutes.

Once people have begun contributing to the poll, we will update the blog post with the percentage of how many questions have been correctly answered. We will also continue to update it as more people contribute.

Last edited by Phillip Dempster; 1st September 2020 at 12:56 AM.. Reason: update poll results
Old 30th August 2020
  #2
Gear Head
Going to answer the poll. May we have an Equilibrium Preset for the Sonntec with l/r differences etc?
Old 30th August 2020
  #3
Gear Head
 
S_mask's Avatar
 
Good day, Phillip. I appreciate your efforts to test the holy grail of analog-domain Mastering EQs against a plugin. It's good to see what's what.
However, I'm a little curious about some of the details.

Was it basically too much bother simply physically to bypass the 'console(s)' for the test - as in, just plugging the D/A into the Sontec and the Sontec into the A/D?

What did JLM do to Tony's Sontec? / Why was a 'sprucing up' wanted?

Has the circuit or chassis been modified in any way from how the Sontec was originally delivered from ITI Audio?


(Some attachments of the numerological decoding of the post for your amusement. Some of the 'hits' seem to include significant resonance with the Gregorian moment of the forum-posting, fwiw.)
Attached Thumbnails
The Sound of Sontec-83.jpg   The Sound of Sontec-42.jpg   The Sound of Sontec-48.jpg   The Sound of Sontec-51.jpg   The Sound of Sontec-123.jpg  

The Sound of Sontec-193.jpg   The Sound of Sontec-322.jpg   The Sound of Sontec-screen-shot-2020-08-30-2.54.18-pm.png   The Sound of Sontec-444.jpg   The Sound of Sontec-screen-shot-2020-08-30-3.06.10-pm.png  

Old 30th August 2020
  #4
Lives for gear
 
thermos's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Did you guys decide fir was closer than IIR? I did some blind abs with matt when he was using IIR, and I could fairly reliably tell the difference. But it’s NOT huge.
Old 31st August 2020
  #5
Here for the gear
 
Phillip Dempster's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by userb420 View Post
Going to answer the poll. May we have an Equilibrium Preset for the Sonntec with l/r differences etc?
Thanks heaps. As for the presets, I don't see any reason not to share them if people want them. But I might wait until the poll fills up a bit, if that's okay.

Quote:
Originally Posted by S_mask View Post
Good day, Phillip. I appreciate your efforts to test the holy grail of analog-domain Mastering EQs against a plugin. It's good to see what's what.
However, I'm a little curious about some of the details.

Was it basically too much bother simply physically to bypass the 'console(s)' for the test - as in, just plugging the D/A into the Sontec and the Sontec into the A/D?

What did JLM do to Tony's Sontec? / Why was a 'sprucing up' wanted?

Has the circuit or chassis been modified in any way from how the Sontec was originally delivered from ITI Audio?


(Some attachments of the numerological decoding of the post for your amusement. Some of the 'hits' seem to include significant resonance with the Gregorian moment of the forum-posting, fwiw.)
Yep, Matt always has a lot of work coming through, so re-patching his whole chain for a whimsical experiment wasn't a reasonable request to my mind. That being said, the console isn't bringing much to the equation, and it's equally present in both samples.

I believe the circuit is unchanged, but the opamps are new. You'd have to ask Tony or Joe about the specifics.

Hmm, I'm not at all sure what that numerological decoding info that you've given me is, but...thanks (i think) 😊

Quote:
Originally Posted by thermos View Post
Did you guys decide fir was closer than IIR? I did some blind abs with matt when he was using IIR, and I could fairly reliably tell the difference. But it’s NOT huge.
Hey Nate 🙋‍♂️ Yep, these samples are newer than the IIR ones Matt sent you. Basically, I couldn't match the phase using IIR but I could with FIR.
(My current level of understanding is that FIR is a more accurate approach in the highs, but less so in the lows unless the IR is reasonably long which is why I went for 65536)

Definitely looking forward to hearing your thoughts on these. Btw, I have no horse in this race - I'm just curious as to how audible the differences are.
Old 31st August 2020 | Show parent
  #6
Lives for gear
 
thermos's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phillip Dempster View Post
Thanks heaps. As for the presets, I don't see any reason not to share them if people want them. But I might wait until the poll fills up a bit, if that's okay.



Yep, Matt always has a lot of work coming through, so re-patching his whole chain for a whimsical experiment wasn't a reasonable request to my mind. That being said, the console isn't bringing much to the equation, and it's equally present in both samples.

I believe the circuit is unchanged, but the opamps are new. You'd have to ask Tony or Joe about the specifics.

Hmm, I'm not at all sure what that numerological decoding info that you've given me is, but...thanks (i think) 😊



Hey Nate 🙋‍♂️ Yep, these samples are newer than the IIR ones Matt sent you. Basically, I couldn't match the phase using IIR but I could with FIR.
(My current level of understanding is that FIR is a more accurate approach in the highs, but less so in the lows unless the IR is reasonably long which is why I went for 65536)

Definitely looking forward to hearing your thoughts on these. Btw, I have no horse in this race - I'm just curious as to how audible the differences are.
Ah cool. I’ll be interested to see if these are even closer.
Old 31st August 2020
  #7
Gear Addict
The higher sample rate you use, the higher IR you need to set. 65k for 44.1 is same as 131k for 88.2.
Kaiser function. More IR length, more ringing, more notching precision, more bass processing accuracy etc. Or IIR mode, best for bass, best for DC offset killing. But IIR has less precision at highs
Old 31st August 2020
  #8
Lives for gear
 
scraggs's Avatar
 
4 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Thanks for doing this Phillip, heck of a first post. I listened to the full mix files last night. I heard a difference, but not any kind of $11,000 difference, couldn't really say I preferred one over the other. Curious to hear what others think. In the meanwhile ima go give Equilibrium a hug.
Old 31st August 2020 | Show parent
  #9
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stereo Flux View Post
The higher sample rate you use, the higher IR you need to set. 65k for 44.1 is same as 131k for 88.2.
Kaiser function. More IR length, more ringing, more notching precision, more bass processing accuracy etc. Or IIR mode, best for bass, best for DC offset killing. But IIR has less precision at highs
Don't want to hijack the thread, I will post regarding the a/b once I've had a chance to listen at the studio.

Just to be sure I've understood correctly you would recommend using FIR mode with highest IR length for removing unwanted resonances via high q bell cut from recorded drum samples of hihats and cymbals etc. ?
Old 31st August 2020
  #10
Gear Nut
 
Vinnie-1's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Gave this one a spin, I mean after all the effort you lot put in to creating this and throwing a Sontec MES-432C in the mix, be rude not to, had to spare time to participate!

Cheers,
Old 31st August 2020 | Show parent
  #11
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by userb420 View Post
Don't want to hijack the thread, I will post regarding the a/b once I've had a chance to listen at the studio.

Just to be sure I've understood correctly you would recommend using FIR mode with highest IR length for removing unwanted resonances via high q bell cut from recorded drum samples of hihats and cymbals etc. ?
I think it is enough (65k) for highs. But for notching basses it depends on material, Q, and sample rate - maybe too long, maybe too short, maybe ok... Need to try and listen. I hope it is better than optimal=)
65k length is Dave Gamble's starting point (there is an old long-read post where he told how to use EQuilibrium, I have this post with recommendations saved).
My experience - I have learnt IIR/FIR, their settings with EQuilibrium almost 100% (used 4 or 5 days), not theoretically (partially only), but practically, what do they do to sound. + some theoretical reading on the Internet, dsp books, articles...
Old 31st August 2020
  #12
Lives for gear
 
Adam Dempsey's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phillip Dempster View Post
Recently, we had a Sontec MES-432C in the studio for a little while.

I had heard people speak (as many of you would have) of the magic of the Sontec sound, and we have all seen with our own eyes the magic of the Sontec price tag.
Hi Phillip. Props for your dedication on this. I'm not able to partake in the poll right now but knowing this Sontec quite well, and having literally looked into it with a tech for a while and had it re-capped, the thing with their sound, although clean (and when reliable - thus having JLM involved for his new op-amp boards at least for testing), is the "speed", particularly in the highs. These circuits can pretty much pass video frequency and the transistors run hot – right on the edge of feasibility. But yes there will surely be channel differences and variability over time. Perhaps a hardware controller with Equillibirum (graphical interface bypassed), replicating the resonant clunk of the switches is one final aspect...
Old 1st September 2020
  #13
Here for the gear
 
Phillip Dempster's Avatar
 
Just updated the first post with poll results so far

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinnie-1 View Post
Gave this one a spin, I mean after all the effort you lot put in to creating this and throwing a Sontec MES-432C in the mix, be rude not to, had to spare time to participate!

Cheers,
Vinnie, thanks for taking the time, much appreciated

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Dempsey View Post
Hi Phillip. Props for your dedication on this. I'm not able to partake in the poll right now but knowing this Sontec quite well, and having literally looked into it with a tech for a while and had it re-capped, the thing with their sound, although clean (and when reliable - thus having JLM involved for his new op-amp boards at least for testing), is the "speed", particularly in the highs. These circuits can pretty much pass video frequency and the transistors run hot – right on the edge of feasibility. But yes there will surely be channel differences and variability over time. Perhaps a hardware controller with Equillibirum (graphical interface bypassed), replicating the resonant clunk of the switches is one final aspect...
Cheers Adam, yeah it's no wonder the original op amps are prone to frying themselves. The channel differences were very small in the scheme of things, probably out of the realm of audibility in most cases.

Haha, I do really miss that soft 'ping', slightly different on each knob

PS. that's a terrible surname you've got there Isle of Man as well?
Old 1st September 2020
  #14
Gear Head
 
S_mask's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phillip Dempster View Post

Yep, Matt always has a lot of work coming through, so re-patching his whole chain for a whimsical experiment wasn't a reasonable request to my mind. That being said, the console isn't bringing much to the equation, and it's equally present in both samples.

I believe the circuit is unchanged, but the opamps are new. You'd have to ask Tony or Joe about the specifics.
The op amps and capacitors installed are an extremely relevant part of an audio circuit's sound. I didn't want to use the ATI MLA-800 line amps until I found I could replace the socketed op amps it came with with Burr-Brown SoundPlus op amps and could replace the caps in the signal path with polys by Wima (and I did replace the trim pots with Bourns ones). It basically turned it into a Dangerous Music line amp.

JLM's website has many handsome-looking knock-offs of Sontec op amps that made me concerned that the test was not of an echt MES-432. but, rather of a JLMES-432.

Unless the op amps in the Sontec to which you're comparing the sound of plugins are O.E. M. (from 100 Audio Drive in Gold Bond, or Ripplemead, Virginia), the test is of something other than an echt Sontec's sound to that of plugins. Respectfully, Sir, it would be a comparison of the sound of an 'altered unit' to plugins.

The problem with simply getting the 'box tone' of the console in the plugin path versus getting the 'box tone' of the console while it's (electrically) 'looking through' the Sontec, is that the impedance loading of the console would be different in each case, which could cause an audible difference (unless a network were inserted to simulate the Sontec's load, without putting the actual Sontec and whatever are its present op amps and caps, there). Even without the console, if using just cables from the D/A straight to the A/D for the plugin path, as a way to account for whatever audible effects are caused by signal jacking and by the cables, an identical load might still be needed for the sans-Sontec passes, in addition to the presence of the same cables' capacitance, because the D/A is being loaded by the Sontec when it's _in_ the path. And I should hope that someone who uses a mastering console has an easy way to bypass it completely while still being able to patch the gear in, one-at-a-time, so that one need not always 'bake in' the sound of the console, itself, on every album...



Quote:
Hmm, I'm not at all sure what that numerological decoding info that you've given me is, but...thanks (i think)
It's called gematria [geh - may' - tree - uh] and Gregorian (calendar) date-numerology. Nowadays, one need only cursor-copy text and then paste it into an online calculator to see these values easily. That so many 'hits' (making what are called 'super-matches') are found between the number-values of your post's chief topics (and proper names) and the date-numbers of their posting (on 30/8, a.k.a., 8/30 - and '0' doesn't count) is, statistically-speaking, breathtakingly implausible - yet, there it is. The additional presence of sacred numbers that 'speak' to the adept make it even more interesting. Your endeavor is, therefore, a blessèd one. Auguri. (;
Attached Thumbnails
The Sound of Sontec-243.jpg   The Sound of Sontec-123.jpg   The Sound of Sontec-38.jpg   The Sound of Sontec-42.jpg   The Sound of Sontec-screen-shot-2020-09-01-1.53.59-pm.png  

The Sound of Sontec-screen-shot-2020-09-01-1.54.03-pm.png  
Old 1st September 2020
  #15
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Sontec 432D trimmers?

Hi guys! Little off subject here, but do any Sontec 432d owners know if there are trimmers inside the unit? Mine is matched very close, but it drops about .5db when taken out of bypass flat.
Old 1st September 2020 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Head
 
S_mask's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by morefamouser View Post
Hi guys! Little off subject here, but do any Sontec 432d owners know if there are trimmers inside the unit? Mine is matched very close, but it drops about .5db when taken out of bypass flat.
Unless your Sontec has been modified, the bypass is not truly a bypass switch. Burgess calls it 'soft bypass', which means the signals are still going through the amps - just not the filters... You'd do better, therefore, making a hard-bypass switch, external to the Sontec, that allows you to hear the unamplified signals.
Old 1st September 2020
  #17
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Thanks! I guess I'm not really concerned too much about the soft bypass vs hard bypass. I was just wanting to bump the level back up to be even when in soft / or hard bypass vs in. Do you know if those trimmer esque looking things next to each op amp set are in fact trimmers? I guess I can post a pic as well which would probably be more helpful.
Old 1st September 2020
  #18
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Sontec 432D trimmers?

here is a photo
Attached Thumbnails
The Sound of Sontec-img_20200901_114915.jpg  
Old 1st September 2020
  #19
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Went ahead an rolled the dice and gave a little twist. They are trimmers. And yes you're right even with the EQ out the amps are still in line. Thanks again!
Old 2nd September 2020 | Show parent
  #20
Here for the gear
 
Phillip Dempster's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by S_mask View Post
The op amps and capacitors installed are an extremely relevant part of an audio circuit's sound. I didn't want to use the ATI MLA-800 line amps until I found I could replace the socketed op amps it came with with Burr-Brown SoundPlus op amps and could replace the caps in the signal path with polys by Wima (and I did replace the trim pots with Bourns ones). It basically turned it into a Dangerous Music line amp.

JLM's website has many handsome-looking knock-offs of Sontec op amps that made me concerned that the test was not of an echt MES-432. but, rather of a JLMES-432.

Unless the op amps in the Sontec to which you're comparing the sound of plugins are O.E. M. (from 100 Audio Drive in Gold Bond, or Ripplemead, Virginia), the test is of something other than an echt Sontec's sound to that of plugins. Respectfully, Sir, it would be a comparison of the sound of an 'altered unit' to plugins.
The points you make do seem valid. Unfortunately I don't consider myself qualified to comment on how sonically different JLM's opamps are to the OEM opamps, and whether it is more or less than the variations you may expect to see across different iterations and batches of stock Sontecs. Perhaps someone with more knowledge in that regard could comment.


Quote:
Originally Posted by S_mask View Post
The problem with simply getting the 'box tone' of the console in the plugin path versus getting the 'box tone' of the console while it's (electrically) 'looking through' the Sontec, is that the impedance loading of the console would be different in each case, which could cause an audible difference (unless a network were inserted to simulate the Sontec's load, without putting the actual Sontec and whatever are its present op amps and caps, there). Even without the console, if using just cables from the D/A straight to the A/D for the plugin path, as a way to account for whatever audible effects are caused by signal jacking and by the cables, an identical load might still be needed for the sans-Sontec passes, in addition to the presence of the same cables' capacitance, because the D/A is being loaded by the Sontec when it's _in_ the path.
Again, your points sound reasonable. So, if I am following you correctly, what you are saying implies that the difference between the files I have uploaded should be audible and identifiable. Have you found that to be the case in your listening environment?

Quote:
Originally Posted by S_mask View Post
And I should hope that someone who uses a mastering console has an easy way to bypass it completely while still being able to patch the gear in, one-at-a-time, so that one need not always 'bake in' the sound of the console, itself, on every album...
It was my understanding that this was the purpose of a console. Sonically it is adding very little to the signal. Have you found in your experience that mastering engineers are regularly bypassing their consoles?

Quote:
Originally Posted by S_mask View Post
It's called gematria [geh - may' - tree - uh] and Gregorian (calendar) date-numerology. Nowadays, one need only cursor-copy text and then paste it into an online calculator to see these values easily. That so many 'hits' (making what are called 'super-matches') are found between the number-values of your post's chief topics (and proper names) and the date-numbers of their posting (on 30/8, a.k.a., 8/30 - and '0' doesn't count) is, statistically-speaking, breathtakingly implausible - yet, there it is. The additional presence of sacred numbers that 'speak' to the adept make it even more interesting. Your endeavor is, therefore, a blessèd one. Auguri. (;
Yep, it was totally on purpose
Old 2nd September 2020 | Show parent
  #21
Lives for gear
 
thermos's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by S_mask View Post
The op amps and capacitors installed are an extremely relevant part of an audio circuit's sound. I didn't want to use the ATI MLA-800 line amps until I found I could replace the socketed op amps it came with with Burr-Brown SoundPlus op amps and could replace the caps in the signal path with polys by Wima (and I did replace the trim pots with Bourns ones). It basically turned it into a Dangerous Music line amp.

JLM's website has many handsome-looking knock-offs of Sontec op amps that made me concerned that the test was not of an echt MES-432. but, rather of a JLMES-432.

Unless the op amps in the Sontec to which you're comparing the sound of plugins are O.E. M. (from 100 Audio Drive in Gold Bond, or Ripplemead, Virginia), the test is of something other than an echt Sontec's sound to that of plugins. Respectfully, Sir, it would be a comparison of the sound of an 'altered unit' to plugins.

The problem with simply getting the 'box tone' of the console in the plugin path versus getting the 'box tone' of the console while it's (electrically) 'looking through' the Sontec, is that the impedance loading of the console would be different in each case, which could cause an audible difference (unless a network were inserted to simulate the Sontec's load, without putting the actual Sontec and whatever are its present op amps and caps, there). Even without the console, if using just cables from the D/A straight to the A/D for the plugin path, as a way to account for whatever audible effects are caused by signal jacking and by the cables, an identical load might still be needed for the sans-Sontec passes, in addition to the presence of the same cables' capacitance, because the D/A is being loaded by the Sontec when it's _in_ the path. And I should hope that someone who uses a mastering console has an easy way to bypass it completely while still being able to patch the gear in, one-at-a-time, so that one need not always 'bake in' the sound of the console, itself, on every album...





It's called gematria [geh - may' - tree - uh] and Gregorian (calendar) date-numerology. Nowadays, one need only cursor-copy text and then paste it into an online calculator to see these values easily. That so many 'hits' (making what are called 'super-matches') are found between the number-values of your post's chief topics (and proper names) and the date-numbers of their posting (on 30/8, a.k.a., 8/30 - and '0' doesn't count) is, statistically-speaking, breathtakingly implausible - yet, there it is. The additional presence of sacred numbers that 'speak' to the adept make it even more interesting. Your endeavor is, therefore, a blessèd one. Auguri. (;
A good deal amount of the mastering engineers I know replaced their Sontec opamps with more stable/reliable variants. The Firlotte op amp was a popular one (which I used for years in my 430b in a 230 chassis). I bought brand new HS1000s from Burgess in like 2016 which sounded like maybe 4% different than the Firlottes, but the eq curves etc stayed the same of course. The HS1000s sounded a little less stable and more fun, but I've heard from the person I sold the unit to that they have blown up a few times already. Which brings me back to why people replace them in the 1st place. Thus, this test probably mimics real life better as the Sontec op amps are so frustratingly volatile and unreliable, more and more people end up replacing them. Sounds like JLM did their homework and made a well thought out replacement. Not to mention originals are VERY hard to get if Burgess doesn't already have some made.

Furthermore (in my opinion), this test was more meant to show that the curves are the most important aspect of a clean eq's performance. That was Dave Gamble's idea behind designing Equilibrium, and here we are 7 years after it came out still learning how right he was. I did some AB testing with Matt with this before and I personally felt IIR was even closer in terms of smoothness, so it just goes to show how powerful the plugin is.

Also there is no way to do this test and please everyone in regards to DAC/Console etc. A real world test would probably be not using conversion for Equilibrium, but then it would have an unfair advantage of avoiding those artifacts. Most mastering engineers use consoles, so this would be more of a fair fight in terms of how Equilibrium would exactly replace a Sontec 432. I personally dislike the sound of consoles and just use a hardwired chain when I work with my hardware chain. But I'm in the minority.
Old 2nd September 2020 | Show parent
  #22
Lives for gear
 
polybonk's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by thermos View Post
I personally dislike the sound of consoles and just use a hardwired chain when I work with my hardware chain. But I'm in the minority.
Slightly off topic but my understanding is that you are not in the minority. Seems like about%50 of us (myself included) use a hardware chain without a console. At least according to my mate who runs the mastering world wide group.
Old 2nd September 2020
  #23
Lives for gear
 
shelterr's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I haven’t gotten to dive in deep in these yet but the two examples I listened to were very well matched. I THINK I can hear the which is which, but I’m also guessing I prefer the SW based on what I’ve heard of actual Sontecs. Either way, I don’t hear a 10k difference based on what I have heard so far.

I really appreciate the time spent doing this and I’ll dig into it and complete the poll for sure. But needless to say I would also LOVE to get these curves! 😍
Old 2nd September 2020 | Show parent
  #24
Lives for gear
 
MattGray's Avatar
 
12 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by S_mask View Post
The op amps and capacitors installed are an extremely relevant part of an audio circuit's sound.
Which opamp from which era would you say is the 'correct' opamp from Burgess that has the authentic Sontec sound?

Without naming names, I've heard from several reliable sources over the years that the tolerances in "authentic" Sontec opamps can be all over the place. Some original HS2000's measured from the factory with build faults, that don't preform to spec. Even the newer HS6000's (which have different components to the original opamps such as WIMA caps for example and a different pcb layout) from the factory didn't preform to the original HS6000 spec at all. If you happen to own a vintage 432 Sontec without any servicing or cap replacement, you would be in the minority but even if that were possible, a lot of the vintage Sontec's have dried out components from heat problems as the components age and tolerances change, most old Sontecs are worn out and out of spec unless regularly serviced. So again, which one would you call 'authentic'?

Quote:
JLM's website has many handsome-looking knock-offs of Sontec op amps that made me concerned that the test was not of an echt MES-432. but, rather of a JLMES-432.
Joe has meticulously reverse engineered many of the better working Sontec amps and has built them to the exact spec of the originals but with better heat dissipation which results in lower failure rates and a lower noise floor as a result. All measurements; besides unwanted noise floor; match that of the original opamp including the low THD figures and all amps are matched and 100% to spec.

Quote:
Unless the op amps in the Sontec to which you're comparing the sound of plugins are O.E. M. (from 100 Audio Drive in Gold Bond, or Ripplemead, Virginia), the test is of something other than an echt Sontec's sound to that of plugins. Respectfully, Sir, it would be a comparison of the sound of an 'altered unit' to plugins.
Again which ones would you refer to? They will all sound a bit different even if original. Sometimes even between channels. But if I get what you're saying, you think there is an obvious 'sound' to the Sontec opamps? Even though they measure with extremely low THD? Personally I would say these opamps just like Joe's are very clean, have high headroom due to the ±28V rails and high bandwidth (in the MHz) which makes them fast and clean. Also these units are balanced input and unbalanced outputs (no transformers) and were designed to be as clean and transparent as possible. So once you match the magnitude of the curves, overall gain and tolerance differences between channels, it's not really that surprising to me that no one has been able to reliably pick which is the hardware Sontec in Phillip's files.

Quote:
The problem with simply getting the 'box tone' of the console in the plugin path versus getting the 'box tone' of the console while it's (electrically) 'looking through' the Sontec, is that the impedance loading of the console would be different in each case, which could cause an audible difference (unless a network were inserted to simulate the Sontec's load, without putting the actual Sontec and whatever are its present op amps and caps, there). Even without the console, if using just cables from the D/A straight to the A/D for the plugin path, as a way to account for whatever audible effects are caused by signal jacking and by the cables, an identical load might still be needed for the sans-Sontec passes, in addition to the presence of the same cables' capacitance, because the D/A is being loaded by the Sontec when it's _in_ the path. And I should hope that someone who uses a mastering console has an easy way to bypass it completely while still being able to patch the gear in, one-at-a-time, so that one need not always 'bake in' the sound of the console, itself, on every album...
it's a real world experiment, even if a console isn't used in real world use, I guarantee a Sontec wouldn't be the only piece of gear in a typical analogue mastering chain. I can also say with confidence that my console is cleaner, has less sonic imprint and lower noise floor than almost any other analogue processor that one would typically use in a mastering chain with a Sontec EQ. So really I don't get the whole reasoning for hardwiring the Sontec direct to the converters for the sake of such an experiment when the Equilibrium passes also have the same console and converter loop. The important thing is that Phillip has taken any sonic impact of the conversion and console out of the equation. If he didn't do this, these files would be even less accepted in my opinion.

So far the percentage of people picking the correct Sontec processed file is at 48%. Even looking at individual results which don't fair any better than this, it clearly indicates that the differences are not reliably audible and that perhaps people are just guessing without having any real certainty of which is which.

Last edited by MattGray; 2nd September 2020 at 11:05 AM..
Old 2nd September 2020 | Show parent
  #25
Lives for gear
 
MattGray's Avatar
 
12 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by polybonk View Post
Slightly off topic but my understanding is that you are not in the minority. Seems like about%50 of us (myself included) use a hardware chain without a console. At least according to my mate who runs the mastering world wide group.
I wonder out of that 50% how many are running full-time busy rooms? I also wonder how many without don't use one because they can't justify the outlay for a quality mastering console?

Consoles are all about work-flow, recall and efficiency. Being able to choose the right chain for the job on the fly, even changing the order in which processors are in. Making the important decisions quickly so you can get on with the job. All of these things greatly outweigh any subtle sonic differences imo.

All the big rooms I can think of have consoles but I digress, if further discussion is to be had on this topic, it should be moved to a new thread.
Old 2nd September 2020 | Show parent
  #26
Lives for gear
 
X-Pand Sound Mastering's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Thing is, are we talking <insert switcher> or mastering console ?
Indeed it should be another topic, and would be an interesting one as a 2020 update on the question
Quote:
Originally Posted by polybonk View Post
Slightly off topic but my understanding is that you are not in the minority. Seems like about%50 of us (myself included) use a hardware chain without a console. At least according to my mate who runs the mastering world wide group.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MattGray View Post
I wonder out of that 50% how many are running full-time busy rooms? I also wonder how many without don't use one because they can't justify the outlay for a quality mastering console?

Consoles are all about work-flow, recall and efficiency. Being able to choose the right chain for the job on the fly, even changing the order in which processors are in. Making the important decisions quickly so you can get on with the job. All of these things greatly outweigh any subtle sonic differences imo.

All the big rooms I can think of have consoles but I digress, if further discussion is to be had on this topic, it should be moved to a new thread.
Old 2nd September 2020 | Show parent
  #27
Lives for gear
 
MattGray's Avatar
 
12 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by X-Pand Sound Mastering View Post
Thing is, are we talking <insert switcher> or mastering console ?
Indeed it should be another topic, and would be an interesting one as a 2020 update on the question
for me it's the Dangerous Master, Liaison, Monitor that I refer to as a 'console'. But yes effectively an insert switcher and monitoring console, often referred to as a "mastering console" of sorts.
Old 2nd September 2020 | Show parent
  #28
Lives for gear
 
X-Pand Sound Mastering's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Yes

Saying this because, when I had 7 / 8 pieces of gears, I had an awsome unit made by a great US synth manufacturer (Future Retro) the DB Master.
It had 8 switching inserts, multiple Inputs and ouputs, Monitoring section, MS and Parallel function (the later was unfortunately unusable as it was a "crossfader", so loosing gain at middle position) and even a 16 channels summing box

But now that I have the Spl PQ, wich is litteraly 2 eq's in one box (even per band) + a custom made Tube compressor including a "pultec like" Eq inside, another box which I can't speak of for now + Weiss comp plug / Unisum and digital eq's, I'm honestly pretty covered for all jobs, So I sold it. Doing the monitoring duties directly with the Hilo, getting rid of the IC's in the monitoring section of that mastering unit, or any other monitoring controller that uses IC's, was also a real improvement.
I'm collecting more gears nowadays so maybe an insert switcher, fully passive...we'll see

(
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattGray View Post
for me it's the Dangerous Master, Liaison, Monitor that I refer to as a 'console'. But yes effectively an insert switcher and monitoring console, often referred to as a "mastering console" of sorts.
Old 2nd September 2020
  #29
Lives for gear
 
polybonk's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
I was taking about full consoles. Maselec, crookwood SPL

Like I said not my information but I trust him considering the amount of A listers that he spoke to about this exact question.
Old 2nd September 2020
  #30
Gear Maniac
 
darkalex's Avatar
Recently I was browsing the Instagram page of Sterling Sound and they posted an image of their sontec eq’s which were the 432’s I guess

The image they showed blew me away, what I saw was modern circuitry in a sontec chassis

They had brand new PCB’s which were very small in footprint compared to the factory PCB and that the op-amps were John Hardy 990C+ rather than the HS1000’s

Chris Muth should be obviously behind these EQ’s and the engineers at Sterling are some of the most nerdy audiophiles, if they’re using the same EQ, does that mean they were able to replicate the Sontec sound with modern components?

Attaching the image here
Attached Thumbnails
The Sound of Sontec-8d754160-868d-499a-98b9-4925db18f5a8.jpeg  
📝 Reply

Similar Threads

Thread / Thread Starter Replies / Views Last Post
replies: 476 views: 110660
Avatar for csj
csj 31st January 2016
replies: 0 views: 1549
Avatar for turnstile
turnstile 23rd April 2011
replies: 1087 views: 223873
Avatar for RJHollins
RJHollins 6 hours ago
replies: 50 views: 30831
Avatar for Deleted d78e603
Deleted d78e603 9th July 2017
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
🖨️ Show Printable Version
✉️ Email this Page
🔍 Search thread
🎙️ View mentioned gear
Forum Jump
Forum Jump