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Holy grail preamp: most versatile?
Old 30th July 2012
  #1
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Holy grail preamp: most versatile?

On the surface, it's a fairly simple question, which may or may not incite strong opinions:

Understanding that no single device is perfect on everything, and of what is currently available, if you had to pick two channels of mic preamplification--and no other pair--that would be as faithful to the source as possible on as many sources as possible*, and work with as wide a variety of ribbon, dynamic, SDC and LDC mics as possible, what would that preamp be?

In other words, the most versatile, no compromises, no excuses preamp. I have ideas, but without prejudicing the response, whatchagot?




*
How I would most likely use it: acoustic ensembles (i.e., from classical quartet to bluegrass ensemble to jazz trio to solo piano); drum OHs in a studio or as room mics in same; for tracking in a studio on any variety of instruments, from winds to string to percussion, and especially on guitar and bass amplifiers; vocals, from solo singers (rock to jazz to classical); remote recording.
Old 30th July 2012
  #2
Hardy Twin Servo for what you describe. Gives you what you need to make tracks do what you want for any genre. A good all rounder.

Clean but big, not sterile.

john
Old 30th July 2012
  #3
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edva's Avatar
Creamer, or Gordon.
Old 30th July 2012
  #4
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Dog_Chao_Chao's Avatar
 

Any bulit in the last 10/20 years will do! Blah blah this not good for that blah blah blah. Lets see: all have phantom power right? All output at least 60/70Dbs right? So, what else? Ok if you dont like color choose neutral, Forssell, Cranesong,Hadry, etc. Sorry, couldnt resist being an ass but Im find more and more that it doesnt matter that much.
Old 30th July 2012
  #5
TRA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NEWTON IN ORBIT View Post
Hardy Twin Servo for what you describe. Gives you what you need to make tracks do what you want for any genre. A good all rounder.

Clean but big, not sterile.

john
+1 John Hardy stuff is awesome! Can't go wrong.

As a side note, I have to say that I used to be really snobby about gear until I got halfway through my EE degree and started looking at a lot of these designs from a different perspective...science. There isn't a whole lot out there that sucks anymore. Each cheap stuff built by those who we don't speak of. I'm finding more and more that my own personal bias had me hearing things that didn't exist.
Old 30th July 2012
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by pieter k View Post
On the surface, it's a fairly simple question, which may or may not incite strong opinions:

Understanding that no single device is perfect on everything, and of what is currently available, if you had to pick two channels of mic preamplification--and no other pair--that would be as faithful to the source as possible on as many sources as possible*, and work with as wide a variety of ribbon, dynamic, SDC and LDC mics as possible, what would that preamp be?

In other words, the most versatile, no compromises, no excuses preamp. I have ideas, but without prejudicing the response, whatchagot?



*
How I would most likely use it: acoustic ensembles (i.e., from classical quartet to bluegrass ensemble to jazz trio to solo piano); drum OHs in a studio or as room mics in same; for tracking in a studio on any variety of instruments, from winds to string to percussion, and especially on guitar and bass amplifiers; vocals, from solo singers (rock to jazz to classical); remote recording.
I will suggest an option; but really, I am speaking on behalf of myself.

NPNG 4NW [Neutral/Warm] Quad Preamplifier, designed and manufactured by Karl Diehl, in Atlanta, GA - USA

Made with love and care.

Made right.

I don't know if this hardware will work for you, so I would recommend trying one out in your place for a couple days to see if its your thing.

peace
Old 30th July 2012
  #7
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cinealta's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NEWTON IN ORBIT View Post
Hardy Twin Servo for what you describe.
Quick clarification. Do you mean the Hardy M1 or the Jensen Twin Servo (built by John Hardy Co)? AFAIK, the M1 uses a single Jensen 990 op amp, whereas the Jensen Twin Servo uses two on each input stage (better for high gain settings, ie > 54 dB).
Old 30th July 2012
  #8
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The NPNG is amazing, but my current pick would be the Sonic Farm Creamer, as was mentioned in an earlier post.
Old 30th July 2012
  #9
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Yann Leon's Avatar
 

Great river. Sounds like a neve but with more punch. Works with everything : LDC, SDC, ribbons, dynamics ect...

Even makes my cheap sdc sounds like being in the major league.
Old 30th July 2012
  #10
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Since most of us seem to be thinking along similar lines, I'll tip my hand and say that the Hardy Twin Servo, NPNG, and Forssell were the ones I've been leaning towards. The Gordon I've heard of and seen but not thought of as much for whatever reason. I have to admit to knowing nothing about the Creamer. Research time.

Yann, thanks for the GR suggestion. I already have one and really love it, for many things, but I'm not sure it's quite what I personally had in mind for the purposes described.

Dog Chao Chao, if you are already using Forssell, Cranesong, Hardy, etc., but it doesn't matter that much since everything recent will do, then why, may I ask, are you using Forssell, Cranesong, Hardy, etc.?
Old 30th July 2012
  #11
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warhead's Avatar
 

If you're talking versatility, the TK Audio DP1 is ready to provide combinations of clean or character at the push of a button without pushing it, etc. The Thermionic Rooster's "Attitude" circuit renders it capable of quite the variance in saturation, nicely at that. Dave Hill Designs new Europa preamp has everything down to being able to adjust the amp speed as well as other clean to color options...arguably going further than most in the versatility arena.

Lots to talk about but these are easy ones to say they don't just do one thing, and it is easy to change their behavior if you're a tweaker. Many preamps can do nice things when pushed, as long as you are willing to accept the possibility that you might end up with clipping (which results in a ruined take at times).

War
Old 31st July 2012
  #12
Fezzle
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NPNGs only here in a small project studio and they are the business on anything/everything I put through em. You wont miss your Neves if you trade them for these.. and thats a rhyme.
Old 31st July 2012
  #13
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natpub's Avatar
For the applications you describe, the Buzz Audio Elixir. Huge dynamic range, 70+dB of gain, insanely quiet, highly controllable, can be pushed for a tiny bit of delicate yet delightful transformer coloration and presence. Amazing on acoustic, classical, Americana, rock, blues, etc. I would suggest 2 for OH, etc. Maybe get two and put them in an A-Designs 2 slot 500 case. You will never have to worry if there is any weakness in the preamp department. Versatility and ubiquity are the very things I went looking for 5 years ago when I first compared dozens of 500 series preamps, and found the Buzz was everything I wanted and more. I choose 500 series for the same reason, versatility, serviceability, longevity, and expand-ability.

http://www.vintageking.com/Buzz-Audi...category=11988
Old 31st July 2012
  #14
Jai guru deva om
 
warhead's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Slate View Post
Sorry for the self promo but our FOX preamp is pretty versatile having both a Neve style preamp and a Millenia style clean amp.. and two in between. Hopefully worth a look!

Cheers,
Steven
Yes it is!

War
Old 31st July 2012
  #15
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sdelsolray's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by pieter k View Post
On the surface, it's a fairly simple question, which may or may not incite strong opinions:

Understanding that no single device is perfect on everything, and of what is currently available, if you had to pick two channels of mic preamplification--and no other pair--that would be as faithful to the source as possible on as many sources as possible*, and work with as wide a variety of ribbon, dynamic, SDC and LDC mics as possible, what would that preamp be?

In other words, the most versatile, no compromises, no excuses preamp. I have ideas, but without prejudicing the response, whatchagot?




*
How I would most likely use it: acoustic ensembles (i.e., from classical quartet to bluegrass ensemble to jazz trio to solo piano); drum OHs in a studio or as room mics in same; for tracking in a studio on any variety of instruments, from winds to string to percussion, and especially on guitar and bass amplifiers; vocals, from solo singers (rock to jazz to classical); remote recording.
Consider the Pendulum Audio MDP-1a. It is a sonic gem. It is built like a tank. Featurewise, which translates into versatility, it has two outputs per channel, ballistic VU meters with ability to display gain or output, 100k Ohm line line inputs, 1M Ohm and 10M Ohm DI inputs, stepped bass rolloff controls, stepped gain controls and output attenuators. And, again, there's the sonics.
Old 31st July 2012
  #16
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Earcatcher's Avatar
Lake People F355 is my holy grail for straight wire amplification, particularly because of its fantastic options to be ultimately convenient. The sound is impeccable, but that goes without saying, I suppose.
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Holy grail preamp: most versatile?-f355big.jpg  
Old 31st July 2012
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by cinealta View Post
Quick clarification. Do you mean the Hardy M1 or the Jensen Twin Servo (built by John Hardy Co)? AFAIK, the M1 uses a single Jensen 990 op amp, whereas the Jensen Twin Servo uses two on each input stage (better for high gain settings, ie > 54 dB).

Hey my brother.

Yup, both are the same thing, used to be branded Jensen. Hardy sells them, I believe under license from jensen, don't know if the new models are labeled Hardy or Jensen, but the web site still has a photo of the jensen labeled one.

I talk to Steve Hogan just about every other day, he was the og designer of the c version of the 990 DOA when he was at jensen. Great guy. He modded my console and pres, and a bunch of other stuff in my place. Very smart, and he overbuilds everything he gets his hands on. He has taught me so much that I would have been in the dark about without his help.

The M1 is really nice too, but the twin servo is amazing. Actually they are both amazing, but the thread is about "Holy Grail"....so....

I remember first hearing the Hardy M1 style retrofit preamp in a Sony console in the 90's, and was amazed by it with bass guitar and kick drum. That was my first exposure. Seemed to go on and on down forever, and I had never heard bottom end tightness and clarity like that before.

Steve is also making a new batch of 990c DOA's himself right now, but they don't fit the Hardy / API form factor or pinout, they are slightly larger. He is taking extremely painstaking steps to match everything down to the inductors / chokes etc. on each and every one by hand.

Anyway, this is what I was talking about (for the OP's benefit):

The John Hardy Company Jensen Twin Servo 990 2 Channel Version

On a side note, an old 90's version of the Twin Servo just sold on ebay for pennies on the dollar. Crazy. If I had had the $ this last week, would have snatched it up.

Peace,
john
Old 31st July 2012
  #18
Baz
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Hamptone HVTP2 would be on my list if I had to have just one 2ch pre and I'd save a ton of money for some more important stuff, like mics Beautiful on vocals and bass. Some will question the "holy grail" part but my buddy who owns one also has one of my fave all-arounders, CS Flamingo, and it's right there with it
Old 31st July 2012
  #19
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edva's Avatar
The Juggernaut might also suit your needs.
Old 31st July 2012
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Baz View Post
Hamptone HVTP2 would be on my list if I had to have just one 2ch pre and I'd save a ton of money for some more important stuff, like mics Beautiful on vocals and bass. Some will question the "holy grail" part but my buddy who owns one also has one of my fave all-arounders, CS Flamingo, and it's right there with it
Hey Baz, what does that preamp sound like? Is it anything like old German tube gear, or is it more like American stuff like RCA, Collins etc? Completely different and modern and clean like a Blue Robbie or something?

I have seen those ads for years and wondered.

Can you still get them as a kit?

This is one thing I don't have much of, is tube gear. Over 100 S.S. pres (consoles and some outboard), very few tube mic amps. Love em, but for whatever reason ended up with a lot of solid state.

Thanks man!

john

edit: I followed your link and see they are kits. Yup, I'm an idiot, don't mind me. Still curious as to the sound / tone though.
Old 31st July 2012
  #21
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SoZo's Avatar
Apogee Track 2
Old 31st July 2012
  #22
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cinealta's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NEWTON IN ORBIT View Post
Yup, both are the same thing, used to be branded Jensen. Hardy sells them, I believe under license from jensen, don't know if the new models are labeled Hardy or Jensen, but the web site still has a photo of the jensen labeled one.
Good to know.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NEWTON IN ORBIT View Post
I remember first hearing the Hardy M1 style retrofit preamp in a Sony console in the 90's, and was amazed by it with bass guitar and kick drum. That was my first exposure. Seemed to go on and on down forever, and I had never heard bottom end tightness and clarity like that before.
Yup, Sony Classical was all Jensen Twin Servo for awhile.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NEWTON IN ORBIT View Post
On a side note, an old 90's version of the Twin Servo just sold on ebay for pennies on the dollar. Crazy. If I had had the $ this last week, would have snatched it up.
Saw that. Should have picked it up.

Good info. Thanks!
Old 31st July 2012
  #23
Gear Nut
anybody on massenburgs for this task?
Old 31st July 2012
  #24
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JohnnyHo's Avatar
Another thumbs up for the NPNG. I have a 2channel version which I use a lot of times but for the most neutral... I still always go with my pair of Martech MSS-10. Probably as "straight wire" as I have heard without being sterile. I use them for strings, perc, drums, and even on Usher, Janet Jackson, Ciara, etc. The NPNG has a touch more hype to it, but not in a bad way. Having said all of that, I wouldn't mind La Chapelle 992 or DW Fearn... actually,IMHO the NPNG sounds a little like a cross between an MSS-10 and a DWF
Old 31st July 2012
  #25
Juggernaut Twin is very versatile
Old 31st July 2012
  #26
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softwareguy's Avatar
 

Another great entry in the Martech/Gordon/super-clear camp is Jim Williams' High Speed Mic Pre at Audio Upgrades. The presentation is so clear and open that it is actually relaxed sounding, almost tube-like.
Old 31st July 2012
  #27
Gear Addict
 

Well, I guess I really have been out of the loop these last few years. Some interesting suggestions, and quite a few for pres/companies that are completely new to me.

I'm seeing that a movement has emerged of extremely full-featured units, such as the Fox, Juggernaut, Creamer, and TK Audio, something that didn't really exist on a larger scale when I was last paying attention to this stuff. I admire the creativity and ambition in these designs. Very appealing.

I have to wonder--and I ask out of a sense of genuine curiosity, not skepticism--at the level of purest fidelity to the source, do these designs arguably introduce any level of signal degradation due to all the additional circuitry necessary in order to produce the effects required by the designers?

In other words, in a quest for maximum tonal flexibility, are we potentially sacrificing a sliver of sonic honesty in the interest of color/tone/effect/what have you?

Another consideration here is simplicity of execution. Now that I'm getting my head around these products, I think I'm beginning to realize that by "versatility," I mean a preamp that may indeed only offer--for the sake of simplicity let's say "one"--one sound, but a 'one sound' that is as close to being able to work on anything, rather than a multitude of sounds intended to flatter sources.

No, let's say "no sound." Is that too esoteric? No sound, rather than one sound, or colored sounds.

A preamp with no sound. Just truth to the source. If the source is good--and it's my job as engineer/performer to make sure it is--then truth in a preamp will suffice. I don't need to spend lots of time fiddling with knobs and buttons and making creative choices about color or lack of color.

I guess I'm leaning towards the Hardy/NPNG/Martech side of things.

More thoughts?
Old 31st July 2012
  #28
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edva's Avatar
"no sound" leads back to a recommendation for Gordon. Although the Jim Williams mod intrigues me.
Old 31st July 2012
  #29
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Jim, self-promotion aside (I appreciate you popping in actually), can you provide me with a link to a product page, retailer, or something with more info? I did a search and came up with your Audio Upgrades page--fairly minimal info. I'm interested.
Old 31st July 2012
  #30
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the most versatile move is to get original APIs and Neves
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