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Real pre amps vs Character from Metric Halo Single-Channel Preamps
Old 11th November 2009
  #1
Gear Head
Real pre amps vs Character from Metric Halo

Hi Guys

I´d like to get your opinion on the Character, preamp sim from Metric Halo from users who have experience from using both the Character plug and the real world tube and transformer preamps emulated in Character.
What do you think about it?
Has it made you sell or at least not buy any more real pre amps??
Can you easily if at all tell when you use a real pre amp or the simulated Character one ??
I can see that good emulations of several good pres could come in handy to anyone but are they just that – extra flavors of pres you might not have invested in anyway or are they real alternatives to your favorite hardware preamps?

The reason I asking this is that I´m about to build my own small -but good- project studio and I´m considering my options.
I have a few choise things including a TC 2290 and I´m going with a Mac + Logic 9 platform.
Solutions:
1) Apogee Duet + analog pre amps
2) Metric Halo ULN-2 w Character and perhaps analog preamps ??
3) The GearSlutz way Metric Halo ULN-8 and a very ugly credit card statement ☺

I was bummed that I didn’t get the ULN-2 in may where I was just about to buy it, that way I could have had (and would have bought) the ULN-8 at the discounted price. The current price in Europe is I think too step for me right now. But on the other hand if the Character plug is as good as most of the real hard ware preamps, then I could save the cost of preamps and maybe a ULN-8 would be doable. I could get by with just 2 channels most - if not 98% - of the time and have access to a 8 channels at a friends studio if needed, but I understand that the ULN-8 has alot better converters.
I know that the 3 solutions above are really different, and some of you might think that I´m totally bongers for listing them together. The Duet and the ULN-8 are obviously aimed at very different marked segments, but I´m wondering how the Duet with good external pre amps would compare with the ULN-8 using Character.
The Duet would be a place to start, where the ULN-2 and even more the ULN-8 would be doing it right the first time when speaking of converters.
I´m as sluttz about gear as anybody, but sometimes just try to restrain myself.
I would rather have fewer but better units available to me, so if Character is really great and on line with hard ware pres I´ll go that way and look for a Bricasti M7 as the next thing to save for.

The hardware preamps I´ve been looking most at is the Universal LA-610 MK II or SE, the Chandler TG Channel MK II or Pre amp TG-2 and the Avalon 737. I would not get all at once but start off with one or two.

Any thoughts appreciated.
Thanks
Echoes
Old 11th November 2009
  #2
Lives for gear
 

I just want to point out that the ULN-2 pre's *are* real, hardware preamps -- very good ones at that; they are just *clean* hardware preamps rather than colored hardware preamps.

I'll let others comment on the efficacy of the Character emulation.

Best regards,

B.J. Buchalter
Old 11th November 2009
  #3
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by mh_bj View Post
I just want to point out that the ULN-2 pre's *are* real, hardware preamps -- very good ones at that; they are just *clean* hardware preamps rather than colored hardware preamps.

I'll let others comment on the efficacy of the Character emulation.

Best regards,

B.J. Buchalter
Hi BJ
Thanks for your comment - I know the ULN-2 and ULN-8 pre amps are real hard ware preamps and supposedly very very good too.
I think I made it clear in the first few lines of my original post that I'm asking about the percieved difference if any between the Character sims and the preamps they are emulating.
Regards
Echoes
Old 11th November 2009
  #4
Lives for gear
 

I guess my point is that there are really two parts to your question:

1) How do the ULN pre's compare to similar preamps (clean, low-noise, high-gain)
2) How does Character compare to the types of characteristics it emulates

Because there are really good preamps out there that don't specifically have a character to them (think Grace, Millenia, etc.). The ULN pres are that kind of pre.

Best regards,

B.J. Buchalter
Old 11th November 2009
  #5
Gear Guru
 
henryrobinett's Avatar
I don't know specifically which emulations the various character emulations emulate. But I will amplify what BJ said, -- the MH pres are clean and of the quality of Millennia/Grace. There are various colors to vary the basic clean character of the MH pres. What could be better? Do they exactly emulate Neve, Daking, API, UA, etc? I don't know. Probably not. I don't know. Maybe I mean I haven't compared them straight across, double blind. I like the emulations and the additional colors available with the flip of a drop down menu. Sounds great to me and gives me a lot of possibilities.
Old 11th November 2009
  #6
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surflounge's Avatar
can the 'character' feature be used to mix through for an effect after recording?
Old 11th November 2009
  #7
Gear Guru
 
henryrobinett's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by surflounge View Post
can the 'character' feature be used to mix through for an effect after recording?
Absolutely. It can be used while recording or while mixing, or monitoring, FOH, in series, whatever.
Old 11th November 2009
  #8
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by henryrobinett View Post
I don't know specifically which emulations the various character emulations emulate. But I will amplify what BJ said, -- the MH pres are clean and of the quality of Millennia/Grace. There are various colors to vary the basic clean character of the MH pres. What could be better? Do they exactly emulate Neve, Daking, API, UA, etc? I don't know. Probably not. I don't know. Maybe I mean I haven't compared them straight across, double blind. I like the emulations and the additional colors available with the flip of a drop down menu. Sounds great to me and gives me a lot of possibilities.
BJ and Henry - thanks alot for your comments, much appreciated.

Henry,
I hear you on the what could be better part on the Character, that is just one of the reasons I´m looking at Metric Halo.
Does it mean that you don´t use external pre amps at all or do you still have a few that you use for certain things?
Like for instance is the Character "colorful" enough to get me into the realm of say a Chandler TG Channel II kind of sound, for that vintage Abbey Road sound. Not looking for a strict A/B comparisons but ball game zone.
Thanks
Echoes
Old 11th November 2009
  #9
Lives for gear
 
swafford's Avatar
 

My biggest obstacle in moving up to the ULN8 was having to sell my rack of SCA N72's (Neve type clones) and A12's preamps I used as a front to my 2882. I had wanted to move to all N72's and was moving in that direction when the ULN8 was released. Before making the move to selling my SCA rack and purchasing the ULN8, I spent a few very unscientific days comparing tracking with the Neve character emulation on my ULN2 pres and the N72's and was satisfied I could get the same sound I was enjoying with the N72's with the ULN2 pres and character.
Old 11th November 2009
  #10
Gear Head
Swafford,
Thanks for commenting in this thread.
Any comparison notes you´d like to offer between the ULN-2 and ULN-8, since you have or have had both would be greatly appreciated.
Apart from the obvious 2 vs 8 in/pre amps, how does the ULN-2 stack up soundwise and in use.
Thanks
Echoes
Old 11th November 2009
  #11
Gear Guru
 
henryrobinett's Avatar
For my part, it's not a good comparison because I like clean pres. I had 13 channels of Millennias. I sold a qood box which leaves me with 9. But I never use them. I do use the TD-1 a lot. But I have a HV3-D 8 channel unit, but it''s going less used these days.
Old 12th November 2009
  #12
Lives for gear
 
inthere's Avatar
 

I prefer the ULN-8's pre's to both my Millenia and Avalon pre's. I know there's been a lot of talk about the ULN-8's pre's, but the Orpheus pre's don't suck either. Sound quality on both boxes makes me cry.

I also have an Apogee Duet and any good preamp through it will give you professional quality vocals. Not quite up to Orpheus and ULN-8 quality, but very very good. I've recorded keepers at 44.1k on the Duet. If you record at 88k or 96k, you're not missing much for sound quality.
Old 12th November 2009
  #13
Lives for gear
 
Jimbo's Avatar
I really enjoy the character emulations, and find them VERY helpful.

It's important for the OP to understand that adding the character emulations to a signal is not the same thing as having a specific mic plugged into a specific preamp (modeled by Character.) The interactions between any given mic and preamp are going to be unique, and this specific mic+pre combination cannot be modeled with Character.

Character is more like adding familiar (or unusual) colors to the signal being processed.
Old 12th November 2009
  #14
Gear Nut
 
Sander A's Avatar
 

I'm have a couple of 2882's that I use every day. These are my only outboard units and I like them very much. Needles to say that the pre's and the character sound really nice.

I think a good dedicated preamp can sound a bit more fat (colored) than the MH. Of course you can make your recorded material fat with these units but it takes some more effort.
Most of the character settings are very subtile

Good luck with your choice man!
Old 13th November 2009
  #15
Gear Head
Guys
Thanks so much for all your contributions, very appreciated.
It´s been a while since I was at the controls when recording, for a number of years I´ve been on the other side of the glass. But now I fell the urge to get some of my own stuff recorded well and the urge to be in control of that process. The notion to keep it smal is in part to focus on fewer units, but the right ones and also to make it portable, so I can take it with me on tour and record the gigs.
I fell confident that the pre-amps in the ULN-2 / 8 would do more than nicely for me when combined with character. Any special favorite external pre-amp could be added anytime down the line. I have to crunch some number and see if there is any way to get a ULN-8 or whether to go for the ULN-2.
Anybody that has experience with both units please fell free to give your thoughts on the differences and similarities of these units.
Also in case I go for the ULN-2 and a Duet, can the Duet run as an aggregate (is that the correct term?) device to the ULN-2 and thus offer me 4 analog inputs ??
Thanks
Echoes
Old 13th November 2009
  #16
Lives for gear
 
swafford's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Echoes View Post
Swafford,
Thanks for commenting in this thread.
Any comparison notes you´d like to offer between the ULN-2 and ULN-8, since you have or have had both would be greatly appreciated.
Apart from the obvious 2 vs 8 in/pre amps, how does the ULN-2 stack up soundwise and in use.
Thanks
Echoes
The 8 pres have more headroom. I don't find a marked difference between the sound of the 8's and 2's. The conversion on the ULN8 vs. the ULN2 and 2882 was marginally, but noticeably, better. I received mine after mixing a project through the 2882 and could immediately hear an improvement in imaging with the ULN8 when I set it up and ran the same mix through it.

I love my ULN2. I was going to sell it after getting the ULN8, but it's such a handy box for writing and mixing and having a couple extra great sounding pres when tracking. You really can't go wrong with any of the MH boxes.
Old 13th November 2009
  #17
Lives for gear
 
swafford's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Echoes View Post
Also in case I go for the ULN-2 and a Duet, can the Duet run as an aggregate (is that the correct term?) device to the ULN-2 and thus offer me 4 analog inputs ??
Thanks
Echoes
Does the Duet do spdif or AES? That would probably be a better way to approach integrating the two. One of the beauties of writing with a ULN 2 is NOT having to open a DAW. I keep my boot state on the ULN2 tied to my writing config, so when I'm working or suddenly inspired, all I have to do is plug the firewire cable into my laptop, launch the MH software Console, enable record on ch. 1 and 2, and hit record.
Old 13th November 2009
  #18
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by swafford View Post
Does the Duet do spdif or AES? That would probably be a better way to approach integrating the two. One of the beauties of writing with a ULN 2 is NOT having to open a DAW. I keep my boot state on the ULN2 tied to my writing config, so when I'm working or suddenly inspired, all I have to do is plug the firewire cable into my laptop, launch the MH software Console, enable record on ch. 1 and 2, and hit record.
No spdif or AES - Firewire only on the duet
Old 13th November 2009
  #19
Gear Maniac
 
Chao's Avatar
 

I love my ULN-8 and ULN-2 (just sold few days ago...) very much, but I really don't think Character can compete with the real things. I think MH developed Character to give users more options of "characters", and an easier way to do everything in one box.

I have a Summit TPA200 and few other hi-end preamps for years. It still sounds better than Character's tube mic pre. Of course it also sounds better than Tube Emulations from other companies. If you are really into tube, transformer, subtle distortion...etc, you should consider real things. All the emulations sound somewhat "static" to me, though they are useful in certain way. And sometimes on certain sources, it's hard to tell the difference when switching between different Character settings. I think MH made them a bit too subtle to my taste. That's also the main reason recently I am still waiting for John Hardy 500 modules.

For those people who are into ultra-clean, fast preamp, ULN-2 and ULN-8 are very good. I still own Avalon AD2022 (not 737 which people here seem to hate for strange reasons) and few other solid state preamps. I don't think I will sell them, but for mobil recording, now just one ULN-8 solves all my need. No tons of cables, racks, external power supplies, sync, clock.......etc, just one rack and a MacBook Pro!

So if you only need few more different sounds occasionally, then you probably don't need to spend extra money. Character should be enough. Character certainly helps, but don't imagine it will give the same results as the real things. In the end it only depends on what you really need.
Old 1st February 2010
  #20
Here for the gear
If you are using all outboard preamps, is there a significant difference in the quality of A/D conversion between the 2882 and the UNL-8?

I've had the 2882 for about 7-8 years now, and I think it is astoundingly great- how many pieces of computer gear can you say that about? I think that the Haloverb is a bit of a one trick pony, but a great trick, and that the compressor and eq in the channel strip are out of this world. Absolutely wonderful.

RE: the character stuff. I set all of my inputs to "Softsat" a while ago and have left them there. I found most of the other settings were mostly imperceptibly different at most, and that in most cases I preferred the "softsat" characteristics to having the character turned off. In fact, I forgot I've had it on for the last 6 months.
Old 1st February 2010
  #21
Lives for gear
 
syntax's Avatar
 

I used to feel the same as the last poster, but the more I use the character, the more I'm entranced by the effect of some of the subtler models: particularly "American Transformer 2," the "British" characters, and the American Console. They've been all over my drums and bass lately.
Old 1st February 2010
  #22
Gear Guru
 
henryrobinett's Avatar
Modern Tube Softsat is another obvious one, that's just a teensie-weensie more subtle than softsat. I tend to prefer this one because softsat is just banging over your head a little too much for me.
Old 2nd February 2010
  #23
Lives for gear
 
syntax's Avatar
 

Ditto what Henry said about Modern Tube SoftSat. I love what it does to the midrange on a dreadnought guitar or a room mic.
Old 3rd February 2010
  #24
Here for the gear
 

Pre of ULN-8 and GML are same league?
Old 3rd February 2010
  #25
Gear Guru
 
henryrobinett's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by d130 View Post
Pre of ULN-8 and GML are same league?
I personally don't know. I've never used the GML pre. Check that. I've used a few several years ago, but too long ago to compare side by side.
Old 8th February 2010
  #26
Gear Maniac
 
sdevino's Avatar
 

What you get from the MH character settings will partially be determined by your recording technique and the recording source.


MH's character is non-linear (by design) so it behaves differently with varying level and transient response.

Steve
Old 8th February 2010
  #27
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Chucho's Avatar
 

Boutique Tube, American Solid State, Brit clone used a lot here.

The null test shows a whole load of variations.
Old 8th February 2010
  #28
Lives for gear
 

I have two 2882s and they are used by us in studio and playing out live. We use the character plug-ins all the time - they are on every input.

I will echo what some of the other posters have mentioned - while the MH emulations are excellent and we love using them, a mic going into a big iron filled pre (like a Chandler Germ or LTD) is going to give you a sound that you just can't get with any software emulation.
Old 27th November 2011
  #29
Here for the gear
 

I also find the characters useful but subtle. I wish MH would add an amount of effect control like in the the Pro Tools one they are coming out with.
Old 27th November 2011
  #30
mix engineer here - 2 X MIO2882

i have the Transformer character parked on all 16 D/A after trying them all out. the cumulative difference is more obvious, and it's easy to insert/remove characters on all D/As at once, just select them all at once in the mixer. sometimes i throw the SoftSat on a track that i want to stand out in a different way... FYI SoftSat is the only character that adds a dB or two to the signal.

here's a link to a thread where we compared characters with SpectraFoo:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/3843143-post699.html
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