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Big shootout: pacifica, 737. LA-610, r121, jz2 etc. Dual-Channel Preamps
Old 31st December 2006
  #1
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Rogervandeberg's Avatar
 

Big shootout: pacifica, 737. LA-610, r121, jz2 etc.

Hey fellow slutz,

Two days ago i did a shooutout with popular mics and pre's and i like to share the results with you guys! I am in the market for a new mic and pre for vox, guitar and bass and i have gathered the following mics and pre's to try out:

- avalon 737SP
- a-designs pacifica ( ithink the first one to set foot on dutch grounds!)
- ua LA-610
- ridge farm gas cooker

- Royer 121
- JZ-2
- JZ-4
- Rode nt-1000 (own)
- Shure sm 57 (own)


Since i am running a non-commerical bedroomstudio i have a little disclaimer: I think all samples are within the same reasonable loudness range and ofcourse mic placement and so on can't be perfect. I forgot to buy new stings for my acoustic and the di files you hear are from an SG. But it is to give you some impression of the characteristics and i think this is perfectly possible so.

I did not use any eq or compression etc. Only on the avalon i tried the +32khz band with two db on vox.


Ofcourse i like to thank Harold, from i4-muzique my local dealer, for letting me try out all these tools in my own studio and trusting me that i could take care of all his puppies!

I would also like to thank Peter Montessi of a-designs audio for his service and for hooking me up with Bo Medin (from golden age music) who delivered me the pacifica all from sweden, so i could also try that unit out. Oustanding and really fast service, thank you! thumbsup


I decided for myself to go with the 121 and the la-610 or the pacifica. I can't really decide which of those 2 pre's. i like the compressor of the la610 very much, but the pacifica has two pre's instead of one..... PLEASE HELP ME DECIDE!

Here are the sound files of the shooutout. If you want to hear others please tell me, because i have like 150 samples of all combination:
Attached Files

voxnt 610-pac-737.mp3 (1.21 MB, 5875 views)

distgit121 pac-610-737.mp3 (1.52 MB, 4334 views)

acgitNTpac-610-737 .mp3 (1.28 MB, 4017 views)

acgit121 pac-610-737.mp3 (1.30 MB, 3743 views)

di 610-pac-737.mp3 (989.4 KB, 3769 views)

Old 31st December 2006
  #2
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Rogervandeberg's Avatar
 

And some photo's!
Attached Thumbnails
Big shootout: pacifica, 737. LA-610, r121, jz2 etc.-1.jpg   Big shootout: pacifica, 737. LA-610, r121, jz2 etc.-2.jpg   Big shootout: pacifica, 737. LA-610, r121, jz2 etc.-3.jpg   Big shootout: pacifica, 737. LA-610, r121, jz2 etc.-4.jpg   Big shootout: pacifica, 737. LA-610, r121, jz2 etc.-6.jpg  

Old 31st December 2006
  #3
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James Lugo's Avatar
 

Thanks for taking the time to post. Everything sounds pretty cool except the 737 on electric guitars, sounds like something got weird. The 610 sounded great, I've owned 2 of them but sold them because I got this funky front end distortion that I didn't like but someone told me recently that UA addressed it but I don't know for sure. I own a 121 and Pacifica and use to own a 737 and 610. Can't go wrong with the 121 or Pacifica, I really grew tired of the 737 after a few years and dumped it. It's a great channel strip but not my cup of tea tone wise, to slick and empty sounding to my ears. I also own a UA La2a re-issue which is the killer, big and warm. I'm not sure if it's the same design as the La2a in the LA-610. From working on a day to day basis with all the pres mentioned I'd go with the Pacifica, the 610 is good but I've had problems with gain structure and so have others. Good luck.
Old 31st December 2006
  #4
Gear Addict
 
bendecido's Avatar
 

610, 610, 610
it smokes the others with the pacifica in 2nd and the avalon 3rd
wonderful sound.
Addsatouch of the 70ish class to everything. on hearing that i think i mite cop a 610. warm, full bodied u can definetly hear the vaccumm tube not too open i found the others were too open soundin.
Old 31st December 2006
  #5
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James Lugo's Avatar
 

Does anyone know if they've made any changes to the 610 in the past 2 years?

It really sounds great and I'm looking into possibly getting a tube pre but I would never had considered it based on my personal experience but after listening to these clips it makes me wonder... It didn't sound like it was clipping.
Old 31st December 2006
  #6
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bendecido's Avatar
 

im blown away as well some people got sum iffish reviews( one of the reasons i dint cop it when buying my preamp) but to my ears it sounds amazing. first time i herd it on so many different sources. I dont know if theyve made any changes all i know is it sounds amazin.
Old 31st December 2006
  #7
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Rogervandeberg's Avatar
 

Thanks for your replies!!!



Quote:
Originally Posted by James 'LA' Lugo View Post
Does anyone know if they've made any changes to the 610 in the past 2 years?

It really sounds great and I'm looking into possibly getting a tube pre but I would never had considered it based on my personal experience but after listening to these clips it makes me wonder... It didn't sound like it was clipping.


The 610 pre in the LA-610 is different from the other 610 pre's. It is voiced with a slight boost in the high frequencies to compensate for the dark character of the t4 compression chip, so says the manual.

But if you leave the compressor on bypass or just with a tad of say -5db compression, you still hear the brighter tone of the 610.
Old 1st January 2007
  #8
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insomnio's Avatar
 

I think is time to reevaluate all the pissing over the 610. For me, it was #1 in all but the El Guit (close 2nd ). The Avalon was not bad in Di Bass fro me because I tend to like that honky sound in Bass.

Hey Rogervandeberg, what about the compressor? Have you tried it?

I'm also curious about that lack of headroom that I've heard the 610 had.

Nice shootout, thanks.
Old 1st January 2007
  #9
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Kubilay's Avatar
 

Pacifica all the way for my ears. Holy cow!

One of these days I's gots to get me one of those...

Old 1st January 2007
  #10
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foldback's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by James 'LA' Lugo View Post
Does anyone know if they've made any changes to the 610 in the past 2 years?

It really sounds great and I'm looking into possibly getting a tube pre but I would never had considered it based on my personal experience but after listening to these clips it makes me wonder... It didn't sound like it was clipping.
I had a brand new LA-610 out on demo back in June. On loud powerful rock vocals it would break up no matter how I set the preamp pad and gain. I returned it and got an LA-2 which I kept.

It was not a friendly good kind of break up, it was a nasty harsh sound.

On the good side, the LA-610 sounded good as a bass guitar DI but I did not have a pop'n bass player go thru it before I returned it.

The compressor is similar to an LA-2 but brighter sounding, not as thick. It's also slow so it's not a good limiter to track with if you're trying to catch peaks.
Old 1st January 2007
  #11
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Nosound's Avatar
 

Sounds great and thanks for the time consuming efforts you put in, but the only thing about shootouts is your room is different from mine and everybody else's now if you could take the pre's to different home studios and do the shootout then we could see which one outshines the other. I'm not disputing about the pre's you used, but that's my opinion about mic pre shoot outs but thanks again for sharing.
Old 1st January 2007
  #12
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popmann's Avatar
Quote:
the 610 is good but I've had problems with gain structure and so have others.
Waa...waa....yet, there are so many in the biz who haven't. Possible explanation: you and "others" set the gain staging incorrectly. Also see "why people like API"..one f'n knob.

I didn't even listen to this shootout...but, my LA610 (as pre) has continually outperformed other units...yet people keep talking about distortion like it's a problem. It's absolutely a staging issue. Why do I know? I had the same issues--made it unusable, until a kind soul here in town took the time to tell me the gain staging he used with the similar 2-610. All has been good since.

Ignore the manual. Push the first knob as high as you can.
Old 1st January 2007
  #13
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James Lugo's Avatar
 

I'm not even going to comment on that response.
Old 1st January 2007
  #14
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H-Rezz's Avatar
 

Good examples.....

Just listened to the first two example on the way out the door....and my impression was.....

Royer 121 and Pacifica is a nice combo....

And on the second i found the Rode NT to be nice with the 610 pre as a combo.....

Didn't like the 737 on either ,i've never been a fan of that pre even though i have had to use it in the past for various reasons .

I do not think you can go wrong with either the Pacifica or 610 or just have both heh
Old 1st January 2007
  #15
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Tone Laborer's Avatar
Thanks for taking a break from the painting to do this. La-610 was nice but the Pacifica was sweetness.

How about some files with the compressor in and out on the UA.
Old 1st January 2007
  #16
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Rogervandeberg's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by insomnio View Post
I think is time to reevaluate all the pissing over the 610. For me, it was #1 in all but the El Guit (close 2nd ). The Avalon was not bad in Di Bass fro me because I tend to like that honky sound in Bass.

Hey Rogervandeberg, what about the compressor? Have you tried it?

I'm also curious about that lack of headroom that I've heard the 610 had.

Nice shootout, thanks.
I tried the compressor a little. i "re-amped" a vocal take and a acoustic guitar take via the line input. On the acoustic it was very nice for low compression (say 3-5 db) but on vocals it was heaven. I am not really into the high-end compressor market, but with fiddling the 3 big knobs (level, peak reduction and gain) it was not very hard to get a good 5-10 dB compression without any obvious effects. If i pushed the peak reduction further the character of the comp gets more noticable, but it is was imo very easy to get nice results. I found out that keeping the level knob at first instance low (say 9 o'clock) and the gain high and then using the peak reduction was a good and easy way to start.


I was also suprised at the headroom, regarding theose horror stories i read here. Ok, if you drive the level very hard and the gain not so, you can get some distortion, but imo that was only possible if you are really messing up the gain structure. what i really like about setting the good structure on this box is that you can just put your both hands on the big knobs ( like putting them on a pair of, you know ) and twist them both briefly until it sounds the way you like it!

About Input Distortion: I never had any issues exept for one time:
When using the high-output JZ-2 on a loud guitar cab, i got a little ( i mean a little!) input distortion at first sight. But i was using the little gain knob on the left on +10, where i had stand it for all shoutout samples. I didn't reduce it and just flipped the -15db swith on the front panel and all my potential troubles were gone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tone Laborer View Post
Thanks for taking a break from the painting to do this. La-610 was nice but the Pacifica was sweetness.

How about some files with the compressor in and out on the UA.
I try to do this in the evening (well my evening, that's in 12 hours, i live in holland), but i am not sure if i can make it. I have to return the pacifica or the la-610 tomorrow, can't keep em both, so maybe it is going to be too late......
Old 1st January 2007
  #17
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Rogervandeberg's Avatar
 

O, i forgot something:


What should you do: at this moment i am really stuck between those two units. I like the 610 more for vox and acoustic, but the pacifica a tad more on electric. On the other hand the pacifica has two channels, where the 610 ia a one channel box. But the la-610 has a very nice compressor and some basic eq.........

The horror, the dilemma! Please help me out!
Old 1st January 2007
  #18
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six_wax's Avatar
 

As I hear it told, the 610 is a classic design... that has some well-known limitations in terms of headroom. And yeah, it ain't pretty when you blow it out... I'm very hot/cold on them. They seem to shine on some sources & mics, while seeming just plain wrong on others...

[Random: At one point recently I had to match a vocal tone that were recorded on some 1066s that weren't available for the overdubs. At the suggestion of the studio owner, I tried the 610... Mic was an e49, iirc... the 610 was eeeeeeerily close, with just a bit more fur in the treble, on that source. I was stunned at the similarity.]
Old 1st January 2007
  #19
Gear Maniac
 

I've had a 610 for years .On bass ,acoustic guitar and balled type vocals
I love it ( I use an at4060 most of the time) but it has broken up when
I sing heavey rock type vocals and if I have to belt something out in the
middle of a song ,i really have to back up from the mike big time. Still
I dont think I will ever sell it.
Old 1st January 2007
  #20
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insomnio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogervandeberg View Post
O, i forgot something:


What should you do: at this moment i am really stuck between those two units. I like the 610 more for vox and acoustic, but the pacifica a tad more on electric. On the other hand the pacifica has two channels, where the 610 ia a one channel box. But the la-610 has a very nice compressor and some basic eq.........

The horror, the dilemma! Please help me out!

This is the wrong place to ask about Pacifica vs. UA 610; too many UA haters and Pacifica lovers around.

But, what do you have now? What do you need?
Old 1st January 2007
  #21
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foldback's Avatar
I'm not a UA hater by any means. I did not think the LA-610 was great but I love the LA-2, 1176 and the 2192 converter, these are fantastic products.

I have several other vacuum tube mic preamps that I use for recording rock vocals and I am able to back the gain down or pad them down to eliminate the brash breakup that I heard when trying out the LA-610.

I've been building tube amplifier circuits since the late 1950's and suspect the problem with the LA-610 mic pre has something to do with the use of negative feedback for gain control but that's a whole different discussion.

If you look carefully at the LA-610 lit you'll find that the mic pre is a little different than the stand alone version, same for the optical compressor circuit, it's not exactly an LA-2. The products designer opted to share some components between the two devices, hence, you can't use the two products independently either.

I returned the LA-610 and upgraded to the Classic LA-2 which cost me more for less features. IMHO the LA-2 has a much richer and meatier sound than the LA-610. You're definitely paying UA a lot of doe to make the LA-2 look like the original but hey, the company needs to make money to stay in business. Personally, I liked the two space look of the LA-610 better than the bigger Teletronix package. Ultimately, the sound is what matters.

I have no regrets with my purchase, the LA-2 makes everything I pass through it sound fatter, even with little or no gain reduction. I'm a guitar player and love tube amps. The LA-2 is tube sound for everything else.

I really wanted the LA-610 to be "it". I futzed with the gain and pad controls for a week. I record me so I'm very particular and familiar with the source. I do a lot of blues, sometimes it's soft and sometimes it's loud. It was on the loud peaks that the LA-610 let me down. I tried backing off the mic (a U-87ai) and by the time I got far enough back to not overload the LA-610 the tone was thin and the volume was way down.

For some singers the LA-610 might be awesome but for those that use a lot of dynamic range and work the mic close be sure you try this piece out in depth before the evaluation period ends.

In my case, a Groove Tubes Brick driving the LA-2 sounds tubular and does not have the distortion problem I encountered with the LA-610.

All the best to you in whatever you choose.

PS: I've never tried a Pacifica but I hope to soon :-)
Old 1st January 2007
  #22
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dznyc's Avatar
 

I was very curious to hear the ridge farm piece... did that make it into any of the sound clips?
Old 1st January 2007
  #23
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not_so_new's Avatar
Hey Roger

Not knocking your tests, they are pretty cool and very helpful. Just a little suggestion for next time.... I would not put the names on the files.

heh

Humans are human after all and they are going to want the unit that they own or are thinking of owning to sound best. Even if they say they are not going to do this studies have shown that subconsciously it still takes place. The only way around it is a blind test and that means the person taking the test has no idea which data come from which unit.

So Roger, after using each unit what do you like about the final contenders?
Old 1st January 2007
  #24
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cramseur's Avatar
I don't think this will help you but:

acnt - 610
ac121 - pac
voxnt - 610/737(but in the loud part the 737 did break up some)
distgtr121 - pac
DI - pac

most of the sources, the 610 and pac were clearly superior in terms of 3-d image, and air. The 610 tended to be brighter...
Old 1st January 2007
  #25
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MadGuitrst's Avatar
Are you sure you have the Vox clips correct?
It sounds like the Pacifica is last with the 610 as the the first two. Check it out and let me know.

For these sample clips:

The UA sounds the best to me on everything.

I would have thought on AC with the 121 the Pacifica would have been better.
Although the 121 + UA on AC is a bit soft and rolled off, a touch of hi EQ would most likely do the trick. In all, it sounded bigger, wider, a with more depth (as is soundstage, not low freqs).

Overall, the UA sounds bigger and better (see above), the Pacifica a tad pinched and nasally, the 737 soft and a tad dull.

The NT sounds better on acoustic guitar than the Royer.
You should try the Royer on your voice - don't buy if for acoustic guitar.

Let us know about that vocal clip, okay?
There's no way what you have listed is correct.
Old 1st January 2007
  #26
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Rogervandeberg's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by insomnio View Post
This is the wrong place to ask about Pacifica vs. UA 610; too many UA haters and Pacifica lovers around.

But, what do you have now? What do you need?
Well, this is going to be my very first high-end pre. I have a Focusrite penta and a tc voiceworks along with the 4 pre's on my motu traveler. I need a pre which covers guitar, vocals and bass for pop-rock-hardrock projects.

Quote:
Originally Posted by foldback View Post
I'm not a UA hater by any means. I did not think the LA-610 was great but I love the LA-2, 1176 and the 2192 converter, these are fantastic products.

I have several other vacuum tube mic preamps that I use for recording rock vocals and I am able to back the gain down or pad them down to eliminate the brash breakup that I heard when trying out the LA-610.

For some singers the LA-610 might be awesome but for those that use a lot of dynamic range and work the mic close be sure you try this piece out in depth before the evaluation period ends.

In my case, a Groove Tubes Brick driving the LA-2 sounds tubular and does not have the distortion problem I encountered with the LA-610.

All the best to you in whatever you choose.

PS: I've never tried a Pacifica but I hope to soon :-)
Thank you very much for your extensive explaination and opion. I'll take this into my account

Quote:
Originally Posted by dznyc View Post
I was very curious to hear the ridge farm piece... did that make it into any of the sound clips?
I was very curoius myself too haha!

The ridge farm piece didn't make it for final evalutation, because on acoustic guitar and on vocals it just didn't deliver enough gain to compete with the other pre's. I did normalized them though, but then it sounded a bit too noisy.

Only on electric guitar it delivered enough gain to compete and it was absolutely great! If i only had to record guitars, i think i may preferred it over the other contenders, because of the very extensive DI-options, the DI-through and the big tube sound.
Old 1st January 2007
  #27
Gear interested
 

610's

I prefered the sound of the M610 over the LA610 as well,
not sure what was going on there but we achived a better sound w/ the simplicity of just 610 pre and then leveled it w/ a GT Glory Comp. I'm sure a LA2 or TLA100 would also work quite nicely.
I'm sticking w/ the M610 Keep it simple usually you'll have more to work with.
I do plan on loading the lunchbox w/ a P1 however ...how can you possibly go wrong?
Paul
Old 1st January 2007
  #28
Gear Nut
 
dznyc's Avatar
 

ahh, that's interesting about the Gas Cooker.
The impression I get is that it really shines when you want to thicken or dirty up a signal a bit. Sounds like it worked that way for you too!
That's too bad it doesn't compete more in the headroom department.
thanks for the response and for posting the shootout!
Old 1st January 2007
  #29
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Rogervandeberg's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by not_so_new View Post
Hey Roger

Not knocking your tests, they are pretty cool and very helpful. Just a little suggestion for next time.... I would not put the names on the files.
Well, i was thinking about whether to put the names on it yes or no. First i thought "no" because of what people own and tend to like, but i did it anyway for the following reasons:

- if someone searches for such a shootout in a couple of monts or meybe next year, it is clear in the first post which is which so they don't have to search trough all posts.

- If i don't tell it in the first place, when should i tell it? after 3 replies, after 4 pages, and what if nobody listened? it would be a bit weird to me....

- After all this UA bashing i couldn't believe my ears when i first heard the unit in real life. I have to admit that before the test i 90% sure i would buy the pacifica. Now it is 50-50 pacifica-la610. I just wanted the listeners to know that despite all the bashing, this really is a very good sounding product!


Quote:
So Roger, after using each unit what do you like about the final contenders?
As far as the mics go: i liked the jz2 and the 121 both, but the 121 was really way different than the NT i already have and smoked on guitars, so i decided to go with that one.

The pre's: I liked the avalon on vocals most, but on the rest it ended last (still very nice though except on dist guitars.)

I liked the pacifica most for DI and electric guitar, with the ua coming very close second, but on vocals and acoustic guitar i liked the 610 more than the pacifica (also very close though)! it's just so hard to decide!

Quote:
Originally Posted by cramseur View Post
I don't think this will help you but:

acnt - 610
ac121 - pac
voxnt - 610/737(but in the loud part the 737 did break up some)
distgtr121 - pac
DI - pac

most of the sources, the 610 and pac were clearly superior in terms of 3-d image, and air. The 610 tended to be brighter...
Thanks for listening and your opinion!

Quote:
Originally Posted by MadGuitrst View Post
Are you sure you have the Vox clips correct?
It sounds like the Pacifica is last with the 610 as the the first two. Check it out and let me know.

Let us know about that vocal clip, okay?
There's no way what you have listed is correct.
I have checked it out to be sure and i am now i am absolutely positive that everything is correct! All units were on different inputs so i went back to the project and i have to be confirmative that it is right. In my ears the third vocal clip does sound as avalon! The pacifica and the ua are very close but if you import the file into your daw and do a spectral view you'll see difference, So Yes there is way that everything is correct!
I changed the order on the vocal chain deliberately so not everything was the same and people would not expect to hear i.e. the second clip again as best.


Quote:
For these sample clips:

The UA sounds the best to me on everything.

I would have thought on AC with the 121 the Pacifica would have been better.
Although the 121 + UA on AC is a bit soft and rolled off, a touch of hi EQ would most likely do the trick. In all, it sounded bigger, wider, a with more depth (as is soundstage, not low freqs).

Overall, the UA sounds bigger and better (see above), the Pacifica a tad pinched and nasally, the 737 soft and a tad dull.

The NT sounds better on acoustic guitar than the Royer.
You should try the Royer on your voice - don't buy if for acoustic guitar.
Thanks for your opinion!

I have tried the royer on voice and it was not as impressing as the NT or JZ2, but it took eq VERY well and i see very good use in it for backing vocals and so. I also liked the 121 with the NT together on an avcoustic guitars, both panned the other way. This was a little trick i learned from the royer website and it is sounds very nice!. But i think the 121 has most of the time it's home in front of a guitar cab!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dznyc View Post
ahh, that's interesting about the Gas Cooker.
The impression I get is that it really shines when you want to thicken or dirty up a signal a bit. Sounds like it worked that way for you too!
That's too bad it doesn't compete more in the headroom department.
thanks for the response and for posting the shootout!
Anytime!
Old 1st January 2007
  #30
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MadGuitrst's Avatar
Just for ****s and giggles, could you re-do the vocals?
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