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Seventh Circle Audio - A Review of the N72 - The REAL deal Single-Channel Preamps
Old 22nd August 2004
  #1
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Seventh Circle Audio - A Review of the N72 - The REAL deal

Well, I was finally able to get my hands on a pair of Seventh Circle Audio N72's.

Since it's not the type of thing you can go try out in a store, I thought I would post my impressions here.

Guys... these things are incredible! The best bang for the buck out there in a "Neve" type preamp!

Well, here's what I did. I had a little mini shoot-out. I had my Chandler LTD-1, a TG-2, 2 rental 1073's, and 2 rental API 512c's. I had them all patched into my TT patch bay. For each source, I tediously matched the preamp gain, and output attenuation for each unit (was a little harder with the API since there was no output attenuation... so I just matched levels with it.

I recorded electric guitar (heavy bogner distortion, and funk clean -65 super reverb). Both with a Royer R121.

I recorded Acoustic Guitar with the R121 as well.

I recorded a male vocal with a U87.

I also recorded a set of bongos using two Sennhesier 421's.

I had heard really good things about the 7th Circle Audio, but I couldn't believe it when I found myself picking it as my first choice on a couple of things!

On heavy electric guitar it was my 2nd choice (after the TG-2, and tied with my LTD-1). It was slightly brighter (in a nice way) than both, but with a REALLY nice character. It saturates BEAUTIFULLY like the TG-2.... with with more of an airy, top end edge, crispier type tone.

On clean funk guitar, I liked it best! It was JUST the thing. Warm, round, bright, compressed WITH the compression of the super for something so squishy it just made you wanna kiss it.

On the male vocal I liked it a LOT again. For this voice, I think the API was best though. (I can't wait to check out 7th's new A12 pre's! It's an API type pre... and you can use actual API Op Amps in it... if you can get em... .....) The N72 really held it's own with the Neve Modules and my Chandler for sure! The TG-2 wasn't right for this voice at all.

For the percussion... again... I liked the N72 best... tied with the 512c. It was two totally different characters... but I had a hard time choosing which one I liked. Both were VERY nice. The LTD-1 and 1073's were just a hair dark for this application with a slower transient response. Adding a little 10k with their EQ's brough them into the running... but this was a mic pre shootout... no EQ allowed!

So.. to sum all this up.... If you want a great deal on a "Neve" type pre-amp... this is REALLY it. I am not a "do it yourselfer" at all because of time issues, but looking at the instructions on the kits for these... you could REALLY save some cash... and get a beyond crazy value on these if you put it together yourself.

If you have tried a lot of the "Neve-Alikes", you know that most all of them are a variation on the theme. This is no exception. This is not a 1073. However, as I said... for some applications... I even liked it better. It is in the same quality level as a real 1073, but it has it's own "thing". I think where most would say a 1073 runs a bit dark, the N72 runs a bit bright. It has a slightly faster transient response... so I REALLY liked it on percussion. VERY snappy like an API... but with a more "Neve" like character. I think an 8 pack of these would simply be INCREDIBLE for tracking drums.

The transformer comes from Carnhill, and it's the RIGHT iron for this pre. As I said above.... it really has a lovely, lovely drive when you crank it too. The unit was incredibly quiet (the quietest of all the pre's in this shootout. The package is incredibly elegant for what it is. The controls are all top notch, and I can seem them taking some serious abuse. All in all, considering the price... I give these things a 10 out of 10. This is really a special product.

After checking these out, I was able to talk to Tim at 7th Circle for a while on the phone. He is an incredibly nice guy... who REALLY knows his stuff. And yes... I have some of my own on the way now!

So.... there is some wait time on these... Tim is a one man show for the most part, but it's well worth it. Actually if you weren't technically inclined, you could probably buy the kits, and PAY a good tech to put them together for you, and still have an INCREDIBLE value on your hands. (Kits can be had a good bit quicker than the assembled units according to Tim). There is a guy here in Nashville who is assembling them and re-sellig them. If you are interested I can hook you up with him. Just e-mail me.

Well... that's it. I use a lot of high end gear from day to day, and I hate to say it... but you can usually look at the price tag and know about what to expect. This is one of the rare exceptions. When I find something that really excites me... I like to share it with the peeps... so... there ya go!

Enjoy....
Old 22nd August 2004
  #2
Gear Nut
 

...

Hey
Thanks for the review, Iv been looking for some opinions on this stuff for a while! Sounds like these bad boys are a real steal if you can assemble them yourself. Im not much of a sparky, but i reckon i should be able to manage it.
Old 22nd August 2004
  #3
chikkenguy
Guest
something id like to hear from someone with a lot of experience is a comparison between the sca j99 and some similar pres...

i swing back and forth on if i want to try the sca stuff out or not, and now i feel like i do again.
Old 22nd August 2004
  #4
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crypticglobe's Avatar
I have a six pack coming, two N72's, two A12's, and two J99's. It's a good bit off before they will arrive, but when they do... I will definitely post a bit more about those as well. After seeing and hearing the quality of the N72's, and I am 100% sure the A12's and J99's will be every bit as a good a value as the N72's!
Old 22nd August 2004
  #5
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zimv20's Avatar
 

does anyone else think SCA should be building cards for the API/OSA/BAE housings, instead of introducing (what seems to me to be) a new standard?

or is there something i'm missing?
Old 22nd August 2004
  #6
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subspace's Avatar
What you're missing is that his universal power supply puts out +/- 27V which is regulated down on each card to what each pre's design requires.

To use them in an API style rack, they'd have to run on +/- 16V, which rules out the + 24V N72 module and the +/- 24V J99 module, leaving... well... only the API module.

His "rack" isn't modular actually, just the cards are. His chassis has a one piece front panel. I'd like to order some of his N72 cards and mount them in an API sized rack, but it's going to require a bit of metal work for individual front panels and two different card depths. Not to mention mixing API style edge card connections/ power distribution with the SCA self-contained cards/ onboard regulation system. That's the fun of it though!
Old 23rd August 2004
  #7
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natpub's Avatar
Here's another "review" someone posted when I inquired:

http://www.3daudioinc.com/cgi-bin/ul...c&f=1&t=000846
Old 23rd August 2004
  #8
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Screws's Avatar
 

Just wait till you hear the J99's on bass and vocals, not to mention overheads. OMG how I love these things!
Old 23rd August 2004
  #9
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zimv20's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by subspace
What you're missing is that his universal power supply puts out +/- 27V which is regulated down on each card to what each pre's design requires.
yes, i was missing that bit. are we then to assume that, if tim made them api-size and at +/-16v, they wouldn't sound as good?

what i'm getting at is, was it technically necessary to invent a new standard, or was that just a business choice?
Old 23rd August 2004
  #10
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It's technically required.

I can't do my stuff on the API standard either.
Old 23rd August 2004
  #11
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zimv20's Avatar
 

thanks dan
Old 23rd August 2004
  #12
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Screws's Avatar
 

Hmmmm... Dan,

So is there a chance I could purchase a kit for a pair of MP-NV's to put into my SCA rack? Would 27 volts work for your preamp? Is the required transformer prohibitively large to fit into a rack of this size and format?

Helplessly hoping,
Steve Cruz
Cruzified Music Prod.
Florida
Old 24th August 2004
  #13
Gear Guru
 
lucey's Avatar
Re: Seventh Circle Audio - A Review of the N72 - The REAL deal

Quote:
Originally posted by crypticglobe
Well, I was finally able to get my hands on a pair of Seventh Circle Audio N72's.



So.... there is some wait time on these... Tim is a one man show for the most part, but it's well worth it. Actually if you weren't technically inclined, you could probably buy the kits, and PAY a good tech to put them together for you, and still have an INCREDIBLE value on your hands. (Kits can be had a good bit quicker than the assembled units according to Tim). There is a guy here in Nashville who is assembling them and re-sellig them. If you are interested I can hook you up with him. Just e-mail me.

Well... that's it. I use a lot of high end gear from day to day, and I hate to say it... but you can usually look at the price tag and know about what to expect. This is one of the rare exceptions. When I find something that really excites me... I like to share it with the peeps... so... there ya go!

Enjoy....

so how are your new pres?


aah ... not there yet ... sorry
Old 27th August 2004
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

Hi Guys,

Thanks for all the interest and kind words, it's truly gratifying to read. Technical issues with the API modular format aside (and there are a number of them), it's important to keep in mind that our preamps are designed primarily as kits, to be assembled by persons with rudimentary experience, with basic tools, and on a limited budget. Instead of an expensive rack with card guides and edge connectors, we offer a strong, simple, attractive enclosure that works just as well but costs less. The single board design of our preamps, in addition to simplifying assembly, eliminates the need for any problematic card edge connectors, backplanes, and point-to-point wiring in the audio path. It's our opinion that, for the legions of people out there recording in their basements and bedrooms, a lower cost of entry is a lot more important than the conveniences of a pluggable modular rack.

Which is not to say that we'll never make API compatible cards, though I'd rather not get Mr. Wolff upset with us without a very good reason. It's not clear to me that such a project would be worth our while, though it's technically feasible. All of these circuits could be made to work with the available power supplies and in the available space in one way or another, but the gyrations required would likely drive the cost to unappealing levels. And they'd be a lot tougher to put together yourself!

If anybody has any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

-Tim
Old 27th August 2004
  #15
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Why not just use Tim's N72 cards?

They're nevesque, they're nicely designed and built, and have the same general aura.

They're not NV's, and even if I tried to get it all in there it's still not an NV because it doesn't have the same supply, chassis, controls and metering, layout, etc.

Fairly subtle stuff, but it all adds up to differences in the sound.

I'm not real keen on the idea of a "universal modular" system. Like socialism,
it just brings everything down to a uniform level, and who wants to be there?
Old 7th September 2004
  #16
Gear Nut
 

Hey cryptic,
how do you think the N72 preamps sound for use as stereo Overhead mics over a Drumset? If you could have 2, which of the following would you pick and why:

1. N72
2. J99
3. A12

Old 7th September 2004
  #17
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crypticglobe's Avatar
Hey there,

Sorry I can' t answer you better on this. I had a trial pair of N72's. All I was able to use them on were the tests above.

As to the other pre-amps from SCA, I haven't tried them yet. However, I am sure they will be every bit the same quality. I do have a pair of each on the way.... and when they arrive I will amend this thread with my findings on each pre.

My instinct about the answer to your question is that the N72's would sound incredible as an overhead mic pre. When given a choice in the past... my choice for overhead preamps has always been either Neve 10 series, or API's depending on the drummer/song/room/etc. While I truly love API pre's for drums and percussion, as an overall, good for most everything pre.... I prefer a Neve 10 series.

So... having used the N72's and find them to be a little different than a Neve 10 series, but in the same family it would probably be my first choice as an overall preamp choice (of the 3 SCA pre's). But that's just a personal thing. Guys that generally lead towards an API might prefer the A12. As I said, I haven't heard the A12's yet, so I can't really say. The specs on it sure look right. But really, until I try all these pre's on drum overheads.... pretty much everything thing I say is just a somewhat educated opinion... ya know... blah, blah, blah.

What I can tell you is that the N72's are a fantastic sounding preamp, and I think they would be fabulous for overheads. I suspect the A12's would be equally fabulous but with a different flavor.

The J99's are based on a "hardy style" dual servo Jenson type pre. I like this kind of pre-amp for more delicate instruments. A piano, acoustic guitar, clean vocals, strings, jazz bass, etc. This type of pre is a close to a "no color" type pre as you can find. Pristene and clean. I suspect the J99's will nail this. Again... I haven't tried them yet.

So... I hope you find all my blah, blah, blah on this helpful. I will return to this thread when my units arrive and give more first hand impressions of all 3 units.
Old 8th September 2004
  #18
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Screws's Avatar
 

I personally prefer a more "open" sound to my overheads, so I love my J99's on them. I also like my Peavey VMP-2 tube preamp on overheads as well.

The N72's are too "creamy" for overheads in my opinion, but that's because I don't like a "creamy" sound on my overheads -- but that may be just what you're looking for.
Old 8th September 2004
  #19
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crypticglobe's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by Screws
I personally prefer a more "open" sound to my overheads, so I love my J99's on them. I also like my Peavey VMP-2 tube preamp on overheads as well.

The N72's are too "creamy" for overheads in my opinion, but that's because I don't like a "creamy" sound on my overheads -- but that may be just what you're looking for.
This is an EXCELLENT point. I mostly do rock music, so what I lean towards liking is a more colored, warm, "creamy" pre for that, because that's what I like to hear. However, some, screws being one, like something more open and cleaner(?)... and the J99 should be perfect for that. The style of music, and the drum "sound" you are going for will definitely dictate which type of pre-amp you should buy.
Old 9th March 2005
  #20
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Screws's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by crypticglobe
I have a six pack coming, two N72's, two A12's, and two J99's. It's a good bit off before they will arrive, but when they do... I will definitely post a bit more about those as well. After seeing and hearing the quality of the N72's, and I am 100% sure the A12's and J99's will be every bit as a good a value as the N72's!
Sorry to bring this post back from the dead, but I've been waiting for Steve Lamm to relate his impressions of the A12 and J99.

I have the N72's and J99's and love them, but would love to hear from others about the A12's and how close they are in sound to the N72's.
Old 9th March 2005
  #21
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Hey. No problem. I did promise to come back to this thread to tell more about the other moduless once I received my 6 pack.

Well.... WOW!

Where to start?? Ok... how about the A12's.

Well, I have had the opportunity to A/B these with a pair of API 512c's (the new ones) in a drum overhead and rock guitar amp setup. I, and 3 other fella's who's ears I greatly admire chose the A12's in a blind test every time! I was really suprised. I knew they would be great, but they are REALLY, REALLY great. What we liked about the the A12 over the 512c was basically less noise. It was everything we liked about the API's but less noise and some tiny little something we just liked better, but couldn't put our fingers on. What I thought was a real testament to Tim's genius was the fact that these A12's did not have the actual API op amp in them, but Tim's OWN SCA op amp that he created himself! It is a clone of the API 2520 which Tims calls the SC25. A user actually did some testing of the two and posted his results on the SCA forum Here. Sonically, indeed I found them to be WONDERFUL and as stated above, preferred over the 512c for two of the main things I like an API for.

It's a clever design. It has stepped gain controls unlike the API pre-amps it is similar to. In order to make gain settings between the steps available, Tim used the volume trim knob to allow smaller adjustments. It is not a full "fader" trim pot, but rather just allows level adjustments between the steps (6db I think???). The J99's are the same way. I found these preamps to be everything Tim at SCA says they are, and then some. The whole thing is VERY well thought out and the rack plus 6 pre's is as solid as a tank! Really pro quality.

The J99's. Again... WOW! This pre-amp is definitely in the vein of a Milennia or Hardy type pre-amp. I truly love this pre-amp for certain things. I have tried it on many sources and thus far I have found it to be truly amazing for these things: Acoustic guitar, Female vocal, string instruments, Stand Up Bass, Drum Overheads, and Electric Bass with a high quality DI (I used an Alan Smart guitar system as the DI). Though I do a lot of rock and pop, and generally like some color.... the extreme quality of these pre has led me to expirament with it a lot and thus I found that it is a really fantastic addition to my options. I did get the opportunity to audtion in it against a pair of Hardys for Drum overheads. I thought them to be almost identical (my J99's have a pair of Hardy Op Amps in them). They are upfront, non-colored, pristine, and just all around lovely. Super, super quiet and well... just better than just about any other "clean" pre I have ever used. "Straight line" with lot's of love! In comparison to a Milennia pre on a female vocals and bass I found the Milennia to be more colored. On the Female vox I liked the J99 best. On the bass the Milennia seemed to impart more of a "growl" that we found pleasant, so we chose it (we liked the N72 best but both of those were already being used).

You simply can't get pre-amps that sound this amazing for this kind of price anywhere else. Tim is doing a really amazing job. I know he has almost more business than he can handle right now, so to get your pre's quick, and if you are handy with soldering iron... you should really consider the kit. And what a SAVINGS that is!!

For my disclaimer I am not in business with SCA in any way. I just really thought what Tim was doing was fantastic and I agreed to help him out by letting local guys here in Nashville check out my Preamps when possible. Since I have had them, they really have been all over. I let the guys (Sam, Mark Miller, and Dale) out at Sawyer Browns' Zoo studio studio check them out. The ended up liking them so much they spent a TON of time out there. I finally had to start charging them a rental. They are being used for guitars and drums for several major projects, and they have now put in an order for their own! Many others have tried them and I have yet to hear anything but raves about them! Not a single negative word yet.... unless you count saying... "awwww man... he doesn't make an EQ yet?" as a negative comment.

I maintain that these pre's are the real deal. If you want to load up your studio with a lot of channels of AMAZING pre's in any of 3 colors/styles at a price point that won't kill you... THIS is the way to go. I am planning on putting in an order for several more myself in a month or so.

I give Tim and the N72's, J99's, and A12's 5 stars out of 5 stars!

Just my 2 cents.
Old 10th March 2005
  #22
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Screws's Avatar
 

Steve,

How would yu describe the difference in tone between the A12 and the N72?
Old 10th March 2005
  #23
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severe's Avatar
 

Thanks a lot, Steve.

Ive been researching SCA for awhile now. Ive read this thread before and its nice to see it updated. I should be making a purchase in a month or two, probably 2 N72's first. I would really like to get them quickly but Im not very skilled in electronics, soldering, etc. Are they really taking as long as 4 weeks to ship built?

My only thought is that it seems like quite a commitment to go with Tim's pres vs. the others, with the chasis for 8 and all(all my eggs in one basket?) Of course Im currently looking at Averill, Vintech, Great River, etc but the idea of eventually having this rack of different flavored pres is very tempting. How do they standup against the others? How would they measure up to an Averill? Averills are real Neves, I think..right? Im thinking this would run about $1249, sound right?


Thanks again.
Old 10th March 2005
  #24
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by severe
Averills are real Neves, I think..right?
Thanks again.
Unless they are refurbed Neve's by Averill they are "genuine" neve clones. Not a jab against BAE, just a clarification. I have half a dozen BAE pre's in my rack and I use them all the time.

wm
Old 10th March 2005
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by wm_b
Unless they are refurbed Neve's by Averill they are "genuine" neve clones.

wm
Unless you are talking about his 312a or E15 EQ, then they are "genuine" API clones....

heh

Either way I hear his stuff is very good. Actualy the good and bad thing about all the above is they are all GREAT pieces of kit. How the hell can one choose..

I finally decided to go with OSA because there are a bunch of 500 series API modules out there, OSA, BAE, Purple, soon to be Tonelux and well... API. heh

Not to mention that there are a good selection of EQ's and comps available for the 500 frame as well.

Sorry got off topic.

The SCA stuff sure does look mighty tempting though. I have never heard a bad review of any pre they put out and the price is right.
Old 10th March 2005
  #26
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zmix's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by subspace
What you're missing is that his universal power supply puts out +/- 27V which is regulated down on each card to what each pre's design requires.

To use them in an API style rack, they'd have to run on +/- 16V, which rules out the + 24V N72 module and the +/- 24V J99 module, leaving... well... only the API module.
Actually, this is a non-issue. Because the voltage regulation is built into the individual cards themselves, the main supply is unaffected by what it is driving. It works as advertised.
Old 10th March 2005
  #27
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seb37000's Avatar
 

Well, the only bad thing that I would have to say about SCA is that I ordered a pre completly built in december and that I still dont have it.
I hope I'll be rewarded for all this waiting.
But I think its time SCA gets some help building those pres as it looks like there is really a big interest.
Old 10th March 2005
  #28
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crypticglobe's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Screws
Steve,

How would yu describe the difference in tone between the A12 and the N72?

Well, the difference is exactly what you would expect. The same difference you would find between a Neve and API.

Both are colored "character" Pre's. The Neve is known for a special low end warmth, silky top end that can be considered by many to be a hair dark. They have a very nice distortion when you crank them up a bit and trim the output level. The N72 fits this description except that I find them just a hair LESS dark then say a 1073.

The API is known for a really cool character on the top end. It is a faster (faster transient reponse) more aggresive sounding pre. The low end comes across a little "tighter" to me with this pre than a Neve. Very clear sounding and upfront. The A12 fit's is this exactly. As stated above... in a/b with a 512c they were so similar we almost couldn't tell a difference between the two. The A12 has slightly less noise, but was very, very similar other than that.

As to the delivery time. Yes, I think the secret is out and Tim is getting slammed, and thus the delivery time of assembled units is a bit slow. There is a guy here in Nashville that has been assembling some and re-selling them with Tim's blessing. I will call him, and if he is ok with it, I will post his contact information here.

Old 11th March 2005
  #29
You know the thing that drives me crazy about SCA is the pricing page, I just don't get it.

Quote:
A complete kit includes a chassis, power supply, and at least one full module kit.
So if I order one "complete kit" I get all the parts to build one working preamp including a chassis and a power supply? Does not seem like that is the case but what does the quote above mean? Oh but a complete kit does not come complete with an op-amp for the a12's??

Anyway, can someone please tell me how much 4 A12's would cost if I ordereed all the parts from SCA and how much the same 4 A12's would cost if I had him build them for me?? I sent an email about this yesterday but still have not heard back.
Old 11th March 2005
  #30
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elambo's Avatar
not_so_new - if you choose one of each (pre, chassis, and power supply), it will know that you've ordered a complete kit and you'll get the complete kit discount. I ordered mine assembled so it could be a bit different for unassembled.

They're a little slow responding to email right now. It took me a few days to hear anything after I sent the money to PayPal.

In their email, they said 3-4 weeks for delivery, but I'm getting the impression from others here that it will be longer.
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