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CL1-B or new DAC; what to buy next? Audio Interfaces
Old 3rd March 2018
  #1
CL1-B or new DAC; what to buy next?

Hey friends,

I have reached a nice plateau in my studio. I've got a really good front end, a couple of nice pres, comps, an insane amount of plugins, a control surface, good monitors, decent amount of room treatment, kickass A to D, and I am looking to plan out my next purchase - a nice high end piece of gear. I am thinking a Tube Tech CL1-B or a mastering grade DAC.

Current vocal comps are 1176 Rev D & LA-2A. I usually compress on the way in and then compress even more with the LA2A during mixing. Rarely will I use a plugin on vocals, but sometimes I will de-ess with a plugin or use Nova.

My A to D right now is a Rosetta 200, I also have an Ensemble Firewire here that I use in standalone, and a Liquid Saffire 56 for a total of 18 I/O. This works great.

My DAC for monitoring is a Lucid DA9624. It sounds a bit compressed but it is a step up from the Ensemble and the LS56 for monitoring it's definitely the most open sounding. If I upgrade the DAC I am thinking Linxy Hilo, Hedd, or something by Lavry.

I prefer not to track and monitor with the Rosetta 200. I would prefer to use a different DAC to hear what the Rosetta is bringing to the table, same story with the Ensemble and the LS56.

What would be the biggest improvement overall, a new DAC or a new vocal comp?
Old 4th March 2018
  #2
Your 1176 and La-2a can cover a ton if not all of the vocal territory (especially in series). So I’d say a modern generation DAC. Mytek and Benchmark are making some excellent DACs these days.
Old 4th March 2018
  #3
Gear Maniac
 
___GLM___'s Avatar
I use Antelope Eclipse as my DA, and two Apollo Duos as my frontend AD. Works phenomenal. The Eclipse is as good as it can get, the centerpiece...but pricey
Old 5th March 2018
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by ___GLM___ View Post
I use Antelope Eclipse as my DA, and two Apollo Duos as my frontend AD. Works phenomenal. The Eclipse is as good as it can get, the centerpiece...but pricey
With a high end DAC will I really notice a difference over my Lucid during the mixing process? I'm monitoring through a pair of Adam Audio P22a.
Old 5th March 2018
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
___GLM___'s Avatar
cant´t refer to the lucid, but I would be surprised if the difference is not huge.
for example the monitor section / DA from the UA Apollo is really good, but the eclipse is heads above. cleaner, crisper, punchier, more transparent but not sterile, all the good stuff.
Old 5th March 2018
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by ___GLM___ View Post
cant´t refer to the lucid, but I would be surprised if the difference is not huge.
for example the monitor section / DA from the UA Apollo is really good, but the eclipse is heads above. cleaner, crisper, punchier, more transparent but not sterile, all the good stuff.
The difference between the Lucid and the Ensemble wasn't a huge improvement in my experience, but the Lucid doesn't have the closed and slightly harsh sound that the ensemble has. The Ensemble would make cymbals (especially hi-hats) sound so abrasive in the mix. The low end was also cloudy - though not as cloudy as tracking/monitoring through the LS56.

The Lucid is nice, very revealing, especially when I am compressing things in the box - everything sounds like it's too much compression! It really pushes me to use my analog comps. The highs are extended but nice and smooth, and the low end is nice and clear, and the transient detail is more rich - but switching converters wasn't as dramatic as say switching from plugin compression to hardware compression.

I guess I am a little hesitant because converters just don't get me exited like a good comp does. That being said I understand the importance. Using a high end converter requires a certain level of discipline to be fulfilled, a level of devotion to the art of listening. A new compressor is an instant dopamine rush the moment you open the box and set it up. Converters are a lot like buying high end cabling - you KNOW it matters but it's not a fun purchase. Converters don't DO anything fun.

I suppose it's a lesson in instant gratification. A good converter will ultimately lead to listening back to the final master and being more captivated by wht I am hearing.
Old 5th March 2018
  #7
Gear Head
 
TEEspresso's Avatar
 

A good dac will reveal and reward like few other parts of the audio chain.

A short list of dacs to audition:

crane song solaris quantum
dangerous music convert-2
forssell mdac-2
lynx hilo
merging hapi
prism lyra 2


I have a hilo and a hapi with premium cards, and they both actually are quite exciting.
Old 5th March 2018
  #8
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by justinheronmusic View Post
The difference between the Lucid and the Ensemble wasn't a huge improvement in my experience, but the Lucid doesn't have the closed and slightly harsh sound that the ensemble has. The Ensemble would make cymbals (especially hi-hats) sound so abrasive in the mix. The low end was also cloudy - though not as cloudy as tracking/monitoring through the LS56.

The Lucid is nice, very revealing, especially when I am compressing things in the box - everything sounds like it's too much compression! It really pushes me to use my analog comps. The highs are extended but nice and smooth, and the low end is nice and clear, and the transient detail is more rich - but switching converters wasn't as dramatic as say switching from plugin compression to hardware compression.

I guess I am a little hesitant because converters just don't get me exited like a good comp does. That being said I understand the importance. Using a high end converter requires a certain level of discipline to be fulfilled, a level of devotion to the art of listening. A new compressor is an instant dopamine rush the moment you open the box and set it up. Converters are a lot like buying high end cabling - you KNOW it matters but it's not a fun purchase. Converters don't DO anything fun.

I suppose it's a lesson in instant gratification. A good converter will ultimately lead to listening back to the final master and being more captivated by wht I am hearing.
From your descriptions, it seems that we share some similar preferences in sound quality. Of all the hardware compressors out there, the CL1B is the only one that is tempting me (from the high quality samples I have heard).

I would suggest two things, though.

- A mastering grade DAC will allow you to make better decisions earlier in the chain. If you can't hear it clearly, how do you know it is what you really want? I am talking about the Cranesong Solaris D/A or the Cranesong HEDD Quantum which will give you D/A and A/D with that same pristine sub-picosecond jitter.

- Clocking and jitter reduction can make improvements to most D/A and A/D converters. It will not change the analog stages of the device, but the reduction of jitter has a noticeable effect on the harshness.

So, from my perspective, having done extensive testing of the Cranesong Solaris vs the Dangerous Convert-2, if you are looking for a mastering grade D/A, the Solaris is more neutral and more transparent. The Convert, while still a very very good converter, has a little bit of dynamic enhancement going on and just misses that last little bit of transparency and fine detail available on the Solaris. I chose to keep the Solaris.

I also have an Apollo 8p, and in an effort to improve the output of that, I brought in an external clock, the Grimm CC2. The reason I chose that clock was because it boasted sub-picosecond jitter, just like the Solaris. It really does relieve the majority of the grit or harshness I was getting from the Apollo.

I just completed some testing on A/D converters and this clock made a very noticeable difference in both harshness and transparency.

If you are doing Rock/Pop etc. that last 5% of transparency in the fine details may have absolutely no impact on your work. However, if you want to get the most out of fine equipment like the CL1B, you owe it to yourself to get the digital signal chain as tight as you can get it.

You could try adding a good clock to your existing setup and see what happens, or just test drive a Solaris or a HEDD Quantum and see what that brings. The HEDD Quantum has clock outputs, so that might kill two birds with one stone. The Solaris does not have clock out or in, and frankly it does not need clock in. Dave Hill marks the measured jitter spec on each of his clock modules, mine reads .034 picosecond.

Just some thoughts from an obsessive audiophile. Great music has been made with lesser gear than we already have. I am just very allergic to jitter induced digital fatigue, and I love clean and delicately nuanced sound.
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