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Advice needed regarding: Apogee Ensemble VS vintech x73i + lavry blue...
Old 8th September 2008
  #1
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Advice needed regarding: Apogee Ensemble VS vintech x73i + lavry blue...

Hi All:

I'd like some advice on mic pre's and ad/da's. I don't know if I should buy a seperate mic pre first (vintech x73i) and an ad/da later (apogee, lavry).
Or if an all-in-one unit like an apogee ensemble would be good enough for me. The problem of living in Europe is that geartesting is really not that easy, so I rely on gearslutz and the shootouts herein for buying advice.

To start off I'll put things in perspective:
- I'm a bedroom musician (pop/rock and dance music).
- My bedroom studio doesn't make money.
- I make pop/rock and dance music. The only instruments I need recording are my voice and guitars (elect and acoust). Drums and piano's are samples, so 1 mic pre would actually be enough.

My current setup is (in actual order of acquisition):
- Gibson les paul custom
- Macbook 2.16
- motu ultralite
- logic, ableton, NI Komplete 4, Waves Native Power Pack
- Euphonix mc mix
- Klein&Hummel O300's
- Pearlman TM-1 mic.
- But my room's untreated.
- I guess you can see that as time has gone by I'm becoming quite the gearslut for an amateur!

My future plans (in actually buying order):
- mic pre (a good mic needs a good pre)
- ad/da
- OR combine the mic pre + ad/da in a single unit.
- mac pro (I'll have the cash just in time for the refresh in january)
- UAD2 duo Nevana Pack

Help !!:
So I was thinking about a mic pre ever since I got the pearlman, and started listening to many shootouts on these forums, and finally decided that I liked the vintech x73i best. So single unit preamp wise, I've made up my mind: that's the one. No A-designs, no API, no nothing. I like Vintech the most!
But here's the thing, it has an eq on it, and since I'm going buy the UAD Nevana pack anyways (which has neve eq's in it), that eq would practically become obsolete, as I prefer the flexibility of being able to tinker around after recording. The next thing I'd have to buy to almost get rid of my motu is an AD/DA, and for that I was thinking of going apogee rosetta 200, lynx aurora or lavry blue.

After that I thought hmm, wouldn't the apogee ensemble pre's be good enough in combo with the flavour of the UAD neve plugins?
So if I add everything up, that would come to a grand total of:

- 4250$ (vintech + lavry/lynx) or 3500$ (vintech + rosetta)
VS
- 2000$ (apogee ensemble) which would save me at least 1500$, which would instantly get me UAD2 duo-nevana. Then all I'd need left is the macpro.


---------------------------------
So I guess my question is: I a firm believer of the motto: seperate units are better, but is it really worth the price difference? Will an amateur like me hear the difference between an ensemble and a seperate pre and AD/DA when all is busy in a mix? How do the pre's of an ensemble's sound in comparison to the vintech x73i?

Please help me! I'm quite honestly getting tired of waiting, I'd just like to buy something already and start making music, because all this gear hunting is really starting to become counter-productive :/

Kind regards,

Nicolas
Old 8th September 2008
  #2
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Metric Halo ULN2
Old 9th September 2008
  #3
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i think the ensemble would be a GREAT solution since you are already using logic. the pre's built in to the ensemble are quit good. clean, but good. you can always add color later with a vintech or two....
Old 9th September 2008
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by therecordinghous View Post
i think the ensemble would be a GREAT solution since you are already using logic. the pre's built in to the ensemble are quite good. clean, but good. you can always add color later with a vintech or two....
I agree with this. The Ensemble would be a smart place for you to start -- and maybe finish, if you find it suits you. Its pres in it are pretty good. I use one in my project studio.

Add that UAD-2 card you're eyeing and you can hit the ground running. Its plugins might take you where you want to be regarding coloration.
Old 9th September 2008
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by therecordinghous View Post
i think the ensemble would be a GREAT solution since you are already using logic. the pre's built in to the ensemble are quit good. clean, but good. you can always add color later with a vintech or two....
Considering the eventual UAD2 nevana purchase, do you think vocals through the ensemble and with the uad neve eq would give me a similar flavour as the vintech?

And what about the AD/DA of the ensemble? It's probably not up at the class of lavry of rosetta, but is the difference really noticable?

Don't get me wrong, I'm willing to do it step by step and buy seperate units, but I'm beginning to doubt if it really makes that much of a difference once you're "up there", assuming the ensemble is already "up there".

Thanks for the replies guys, appreciate it!
Old 9th September 2008
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nicolasmasset View Post
Considering the eventual UAD2 nevana purchase, do you think vocals through the ensemble and with the uad neve eq would give me a similar flavour as the vintech?
No, but they're really nice tools to have. And you can mix multiple tracks with them, of course. I use the 1073 EQ on every project I work on.

Quote:
And what about the AD/DA of the ensemble? It's probably not up at the class of lavry of rosetta, but is the difference really noticable?
Only to seasoned ears, I think. I have a Rosetta as well and I think the Ensemble fares very well in comparison.
Old 9th September 2008
  #7
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Guitar Zero's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by therecordinghous View Post
i think the ensemble would be a GREAT solution since you are already using logic. the pre's built in to the ensemble are quit good. clean, but good. you can always add color later with a vintech or two....
+1. Then take the money you saved and get some treatment for your room. That is your weakest link at this point, and the place you should be spending your money.
Old 9th September 2008
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Guitar Zero View Post
+1. Then take the money you saved and get some treatment for your room. That is your weakest link at this point, and the place you should be spending your money.
Yeah probably. I just want to be sure that I get something that's one foot in the big league, and not the upper consumer league. I want to do it right this time.. I'm actually not so worried about the AD/DA of the ensemble, but rather the pres. I want to get the most out of my pearlman and am afraid that a 4pre unit won't sound quite as good as a 1pre dedicated unit.

Will the difference between an ensemble and the ultralite be huge though?

I also noticed it has balanced jacks out, instead of xlr.. Is that going to degrade the quality when going in to my K&H's?
Old 9th September 2008
  #9
The Ensemble is a nice piece of gear...but it's not on the same hi-end level as the combination of the Vintech and the Lavry (or Vintech and Rosetta). That's why Apogee makes two lines of converters that are each one a respective step up above the Ensemble (Rosetta and then 16x series). Also, the Vintech will get you more automatic coloration than the Ensemble preamps. So it just depends on which direction you want to go in. It will sound automatically 'more like a record' IMO and IME.

And yes, you should have a solid room with bass trapping and early reflections gone. I'm not sure if I agree that making the room more solid should keep you from getting gear that you feel very comfortable with in the long run though. By compromising, all it does is cause you to sell whatever piece you get off and replace it eventually, and taking a loss in the process. Balanced 1/4" out (tip ring sleeve) has no bearing on degradation of sound either. It's still balanced, just like the XLR is, just in a slightly different physical connection.
Old 9th September 2008
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanEldred View Post
The Ensemble is a nice piece of gear...but it's not on the same hi-end level as the combination of the Vintech and the Lavry (or Vintech and Rosetta). That's why Apogee makes two lines of converters that are each one a respective step up above the Ensemble (Rosetta and then 16x series).
Agreed. That said, I don't think the converters in the Ensemble are worlds away from the Rosetta. But, a step down, yeah.

Quote:
Also, the Vintech will get you more automatic coloration than the Ensemble preamps. So it just depends on which direction you want to go in. It will sound automatically 'more like a record' IMO and IME.
Yep. That's what that extra grand or two will get you.

A good mic/pre combo is pretty crucial if you want that "record" sound out of the gate. However, the TM-1 ought to get you a big part of the way there. There are differing schools of thought here, but I think a great mic gets you farther than a great pre (if you're compelled to choose, that is). I hear tell the TM-1 ain't bad.

I still think for the OP's needs, the Ensemble-plus-UAD-2-plus-Logic would be a good bet. It's for his own project studio, after all. In that scope, those tools seem appropriate to me.

A few bass traps will help too.
Old 9th September 2008
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrispick View Post
Agreed. That said, I don't think the converters in the Ensemble are worlds away from the Rosetta. But, a step down, yeah.

Sure, the higher end the gear, the more the quality gap closes between two pieces that perform the same function (in different or same brands). I hope that's just a general rule of thumb for people to remember in general. But squeezing that extra 15% or whatever is worth it to one person, and not to another.
Old 9th September 2008
  #12
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numrologst's Avatar
remember, you are in your bedroom... is it worth it to spend $4500 for your bedroom? I'm not saying that to be rude, but the question you should be asking yourself is it good enough for who its for. If you aren't trying to make a commercial release, do you really need the very best?

You're only recording 1 track at a time, why do you need 8ch i/o? Why not get a duet and a god mic pre?

If you really want to go higher end... Then get the lavry black and a vintech... should be able to get that combo for $3100 or so.

If you are only recording 1-2 things at a time, then don't waste your cash on i/o that you don't need.
Old 9th September 2008
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by numrologst View Post
Why not get a duet and a god mic pre?
Worth considering.
Old 9th September 2008
  #14
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I completely agree with numrologst!

Personally I would compromise a bit regarding conversion and look into the cheaper AD\DA option of the Lynx One or Two. (About equal to the Aurora line convertors)
Money saved will go for
A)Preamp of choice.
B)Room treatment- whats the point of having such great monitors and expenssive signal chain when your room is misleading and coloring (Mostly in a bad way)
C)the UAD2 can get you very far in terms of mixing tools and added color to your recordings.
Old 9th September 2008
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanEldred View Post
Sure, the higher end the gear, the more the quality gap closes between two pieces that perform the same function (in different or same brands). I hope that's just a general rule of thumb for people to remember in general. But squeezing that extra 15% or whatever is worth it to one person, and not to another.
This is what I wanted to hear, that the difference is only worth the last step of 15% in extra quality. If the ensemble or duet already gets me 85% of the way there, then I think that product's up there on the pro level imo. How far would you say the ultralite is in quality percentage wise?

Quote:
Originally Posted by numrologst View Post
remember, you are in your bedroom... is it worth it to spend $4500 for your bedroom? I'm not saying that to be rude, but the question you should be asking yourself is it good enough for who its for. If you aren't trying to make a commercial release, do you really need the very best?

You're only recording 1 track at a time, why do you need 8ch i/o? Why not get a duet and a god mic pre?

If you really want to go higher end... Then get the lavry black and a vintech... should be able to get that combo for $3100 or so.

If you are only recording 1-2 things at a time, then don't waste your cash on i/o that you don't need.
That's what I keep telling myself, but I've become a gearslut and crave for the best even though I'm totally not there yet production wise But it IS my intention to get succes out of the music, that's why I want to get certain important pieces of gear right. I don't want to go all outboard, because I find it more convenient to work inside the box, but I think that after the pre and AD/DA, my outboard search would be practically over.

I've looked into the duet already but got bummed down because of it's -10dB unbalanced outputs.. My dealer told me the AD/DA was the same as the ensemble, but just 2 ins 2 outs. And that's all I really need. I always only have my guitar and mic plugged in my 10-in ultralite. So if the duet's ok regarding unbalanced outs, I think I'd get the vintech for the price of the ensemble and the duet with the money from selling the motu for my first slice of AD/DA. How far do you think the ultralite's AD/DA's are percentagewise against the duet's?

How do the uad eq's fare against the outboard eq of say the vintech? Will I get a better sound out of the vintech's eq or will the plugins suffice? Thing is I'm afraid it's going to be difficult to engineer myself on the hardware while I'm singing with my headphones on! Guitar will be a bit easier..

By the way, thanks for the awesome replies guys, they're truly helpfull!
Old 9th September 2008
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicolasmasset View Post
This is what I wanted to hear, that the difference is only worth the last step of 15% in extra quality. If the ensemble or duet already gets me 85% of the way there, then I think that product's up there on the pro level imo. How far would you say the ultralite is in quality percentage wise?

It's kind of dangerous to try to precisely measure how much 'better' one piece is over another, but I personally think that the Lavry Blue is far more than 15% better than the Ensemble. Same with the 16x compared to the Ensemble (Duet has same conversion as Ensemble). My analogy was more along the lines of say the Lavry Blue to Lavry gold...the top of the midrange priced pile to just the top of the pile. This doesn't mean that the Ensemble is not the right thing for you and that you can't get very professional tracks with the less expensive stuff, but there is a difference there and it isn't so subtle that you need to be in a $500K control room to hear it either. I haven't heard the ultralite.
Old 9th September 2008
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanEldred View Post
It's kind of dangerous to try to precisely measure how much 'better' one piece is over another, but I personally think that the Lavry Blue is far more than 15% better than the Ensemble. Same with the 16x compared to the Ensemble (Duet has same conversion as Ensemble). My analogy was more along the lines of say the Lavry Blue to Lavry gold...the top of the midrange priced pile to just the top of the pile. This doesn't mean that the Ensemble is not the right thing for you and that you can't get very professional tracks with the less expensive stuff, but there is a difference there and it isn't so subtle that you need to be in a $500K control room to hear it either. I haven't heard the ultralite.
Thanks Nathan, I thought you meant that the ensemble was in the upper midrange, and that the lavry blue and gold were battling it out for the remaining 15%

I think I'm going to let the vintech slide, as I'm going to be tracking my own voice, and it's going to be much easier to eq it later on with the uad plug ins than while I'm singing with the vintech eq. And 1700$ (european power included) for the vintech pre only is a bit steep.

My friend told me apogees pres are really transparant and that I'd get a nice open sound that I could colour to taste with plugins.
So I'd have a nice, warm vintage sounding pearlman tm1, through clean transparant pre's, coloured by neve plugins. That actually sounds pretty good!

Now that I think of it, does apogee actually have any higher end pre's in their product range? I can't see any on the site, so that would mean that the pre's in the ensemble are their top of the line pre's!

What matters more, a good pre or a good AD?
Old 9th September 2008
  #18
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Guitar Zero's Avatar
Someone before mentioned the apogee duet, which is a great option for you if you only need one or two channels. It gives you the same converters as the ensemble, but leaves you with a lot of extra cash for a good pre, instead of settling for the pre's in the ensemble. Duets go for around $375-400 on ebay or this site all the time. I own one an they are really pretty awesome little units. Why not get one, try it out with the pearlman through the apogee pre's and conversion in the duet, and if you're not happy, get a better preamp with the money you saved? That's what I'd do. Why pay for 8 channels when you only plan to use one?
Old 9th September 2008
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Guitar Zero View Post
Someone before mentioned the apogee duet, which is a great option for you if you only need one or two channels. It gives you the same converters as the ensemble, but leaves you with a lot of extra cash for a good pre, instead of settling for the pre's in the ensemble. Duets go for around $375-400 on ebay or this site all the time. I own one an they are really pretty awesome little units. Why not get one, try it out with the pearlman through the apogee pre's and conversion in the duet, and if you're not happy, get a better preamp with the money you saved? That's what I'd do. Why pay for 8 channels when you only plan to use one?
I know I don't really need 8 ins, but the thing that bugs me is the -10db unbalanced outs of the duet!
10db is really alot!

And I'd have to go shopping again for a mic pre :( But this time without an eq... I hate mic pre selection... too many choices!
Maybe I need to go back to my original 500 series pre plan...
Old 9th September 2008
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nicolasmasset View Post
And I'd have to go shopping again for a mic pre :( But this time without an eq... I hate mic pre selection... too many choices!
I think I got the ticket for you:

API A2D Dual 312 Mic Preamps with Digital Output

EQ Magazine review - API A2D

High Profile Audio | API A2D | 401-316-6423
Old 10th September 2008
  #21

Although he did say this:


Quote:
Originally Posted by nicolasmasset View Post
listening to many shootouts on these forums, and finally decided that I liked the vintech x73i best. So single unit preamp wise, I've made up my mind: that's the one. No A-designs, no API, no nothing. I like Vintech the most!
Old 10th September 2008
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanEldred View Post
Although he did say this:
Yes I did indeed. I think I like the neve 1073 style the most for pop/rock music, that's untill somebody can provide me great samples of an api pre so I can hear what it actually sounds like

I was also thinking, AD/DA wise, aren't lynx's pci cards crazy cheap in comparison to the aurora's, but with the same technology? If that's the case, then I might as well get the mac pro first, and save a whole bunch on AD/DA!

So let me get this straight Chrispick:
- that A2D has two flagship 312 mic pre's that are better than the 212's and 512's?
- And it also has a high end AD converter?
- So all I would need left is a proper DA? Like a lynx pci express card?
- And momentarily keep the ultralite to interface the whole shebang through it's digital I/O's? Or just plug it in the optical in of my macbook or macpro? How would that work in logic, using the optical line in to record, but selecting the ultralite as interface (cause I need that DA to hear!)?!

I hope I'm not annoying you guys with my newbieness! ^^
But it's getting really interesting, you guys are giving me good options!

Kind regards,

Nicolas
Old 10th September 2008
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nicolasmasset View Post
A2D has two flagship 312 mic pre's that are better than the 212's and 512's?
I don't know.

Quote:
And it also has a high end AD converter?
I've never used it. It seems to get positive user reviews though. Perhaps a A2D user will chime in? I believe there are quite a few around here at GS.

Quote:
So all I would need left is a proper DA? Like a lynx pci express card?
If the A2D were to remain your only input and AD, yeah. I've not used the Lynx, so I can't attest to its quality.

Quote:
And momentarily keep the ultralite to interface the whole shebang through it's digital I/O's? Or just plug it in the optical in of my macbook or macpro? How would that work in logic, using the optical line in to record, but selecting the ultralite as interface (cause I need that DA to hear!)?
I'd imagine you'd go out the A2D via S/PDIF into the Ultralite, then into your Mac via Firewire. That way you use the A2D's conversion and the Ultralite is simply a conduit into your box. Then I assume you can select the S/PDIF as your track input inside Logic. I think it's listed as S/PDIF 1 in the MOTU cuemix. That's how it'd work with Digital Performer.

And yeah, for the best monitoring you can manage, you can pick up a dedicated DA box like the Lynx or one of those Benchmark devices.
Old 10th September 2008
  #24
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Well if somebody could chime in on the quality of the lynx pci card's converters, that would truly help. Cause if they are high end, then I don't see the point in buying an outboard box (pre or not) with AD/DA that's 3 times as expensive. Then I might as well get a lynx card for 700 and a seperate pre, maybe a 500 series rack with an MA5 for my neve sound and maybe later another pre to mix things up!
Old 11th September 2008
  #25
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Seems like the macpro only has pci-e nowadays, so no lynx pci card for me.
Anyways, I bumped into this other thread which kinda gave me a good feeling about the A2D, combined with a lavry DA10 later on.

When I think of lavry, I think of AD/DA, but if the A2D is also a good AD, and it being the bang for the buck it seems to be, then that might not be such a bad combo after all! Maybe api'll spice up my pearlman that tad bit more!

I'm just afraid that the api colour will shine through too hard for any plugin to colour it. But since I don't really know what the hell I'm talking about and just want great gear: Is an api even coloured to begin with?? Which is more coloured, an api pre or a neve-ish (vintech,ma5) pre?

The thing that I find the most interesting on the api is the 2:1 dial, to push the pre's but limit the output..

Kind regards,

Nicolas

EDIT: BEHOLD!!! I have found my holy grail!!! The Listening Sessions - Session 2
Old 11th September 2008
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicolasmasset View Post
Is an api even coloured to begin with?? Which is more coloured, an api pre or a neve-ish pre?

To my ears the Neve sound is generally more 'finished' than the API sound (and all respective clones are included in this). The API is punchier, more forward in the mids and less soft than the Neve. The Neve is softer, slower...just slightly more compressed sounding and more extended in the top and bottom. I personally have to work less hard from start to finish with the Neve sound with vocals and guitars, but that's just me.
Old 11th September 2008
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanEldred View Post
To my ears the Neve sound is generally more 'finished' than the API sound (and all respective clones are included in this). The API is punchier, more forward in the mids and less soft than the Neve. The Neve is softer, slower...just slightly more compressed sounding and more extended in the top and bottom. I personally have to work less hard from start to finish with the Neve sound with vocals and guitars, but that's just me.
Yeah, this seems to be the conventional wisdom.
Old 11th September 2008
  #28
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Hey guys, I think I've narrowed it down to a couple of pre's, thanks to these samples.
They're done with the same mic I have and are definitely the sound I'm looking for! I kindof prefer the ma5 a bit. And I'm also interested in the neve portico range, but it's going to be neve flavoured, that's for sure, and judging by those clips alone, probably the ma5
Old 11th September 2008
  #29
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I have the exact combo , what you mentioned here TM-1->x73i->Lavry Blue->PT and I am one happy soul...
Old 11th September 2008
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by abhibad View Post
I have the exact combo , what you mentioned here TM-1->x73i->Lavry Blue->PT and I am one happy soul...
Yeah, it probably is, but still, the onboard eq is an expense I'm not really going to use, so I'm going for a pre only.

It's now between the Avedis MA5 and the Great River ME-1NV!
(Although portico sound nice too, though I've read something about it not having a DI..). Going to try and find some more shootouts.

I'm additionaly going to get a second hand duet for it's converters for now, and lavry later.
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