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Sphere and Electrodyne pre similarities? Multi-Channel Preamps
Old 18th September 2013
  #31
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Paul Gold's Avatar
The Quad Eight stuff I have runs on +/- 28vdc. Even better.
Old 19th September 2013
  #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silvertone View Post
Yes, I started doing mastering work for them some 14 years ago. I've known one of the engineers, Calvin May personally for over 10 years. He's a good guy.

I tried to talk Jon out of the Black Dog name as there is also one in NYC... so that's 3 Black Dog recording studios in NY state alone (not to mention all the other ones in the country). But since Black is his nickname... it stuck.

That's what I figured.
Old 19th September 2013
  #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seamus TM View Post
Hey Ryan,

Actually, there is another "Black Dog" in Rochester, unfortunately.
Not sure if you were thinking of that one, or not.
That looks like a nice place, too.
you know what, I actually was. Then I checked out your studios page and thought "wow, I had no idea Black Dog was so nice!" Turns out it's not haha. It does look like a fine studio, just not quite on the level of yours.

edit- still much nicer than what I have of course
Old 20th September 2013
  #34
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orphanaudio's Avatar
 

Electrodyne vs. Sphere

Ok, time to weigh in on Electrodyne vs. Sphere.

To avoid controversy and conflicts of opinion (yes I know the attempt is pointless, but nothing ventured.....), I will attempt to quote only documented measurements and actual user feedback, verifiable facts based on actual original schematics, test measurements and engineering notes from Electrodyne, Sphere, Cinemag (Reichenbach engineering) and related documents in the Orphan Audio schematics and document archives.
A side note: Quad-Eight,s document archives and manufacturing inventory were acquired by Orphan Audio at the sale of QE assets in 1989 with the official re-opening of Quad-Eight in 1994 after continuous support of the classic product lines. Electrodyne and Langevin,s original document archives and manufacturing assets were acquired in separate transactions, with original employees of the company, between 1998 and 2000, with Electrodyne,s rebirth occurring gradually during the years of 2000 to 2002. Sphere documents and manufacturing spares were acquired between 1990 and 2008 and we continue to support Sphere products with parts, service and engineering assistance. While Orphan Audio has been in possession of, and manufacturing with the trademarks of Quad-Eight and Electrodyne inclusively for some decades now, Duncan at Primal Gear has apparently recently acquired the rights to Sphere and we sincerely wish him success and prosperity with the name.

I apologize in advance for the somewhat analytical manner (dry, boring,... what-ever) in which the information is presented, but I assure you, it is only in the interest of accuracy.
I will however end with an opinion based on actual use of both types of gear, in studio and laboratory environments and gathered from multiple users. Please spend a little time reading ALL that is presented here before firing back just an opinion, but I welcome any viewpoint that can present hard (and provable) facts to alter what has been measured repeatedly and experienced by numerous studio engineers, and in many cases by the actual designer of the gear or components the gear is built with.


Similarities: (applicable to both product lines equally)
-Electronic and architectural design by Don McLaughlin and John Hall with notable contributions by David Geren, Don King, and many others (thank you again good gentlemen).

-Transformers designed by Ed Reichenbach. (except in the case of a few select early Electrodyne modules where some parts made by a competitive but deemed inferior manufacturer, subsequently Ed Reichenbach was invited to start-up the Electrodyne transformer department)


Differences:
-Different opamps, Radical difference in the case of the Electrodyne A1000 Hybrid (IC and discrete) opamp to any Sphere design, and somewhat significant in the case of the Electrodyne A2000 discrete opamp vs any Sphere opamp.
John Halls early designs at Electrodyne experienced early onset/asymmetrical clipping, but were designed with many parts considered more robust and stable than the ones used in later Sphere designs. That said, Sphere opamps have extremely low incidence of failure in over 30 years of service experience with them (even Electrodyne opamps have lower than industry-normal failure rates). John had researched and created a solution to the distortion issue with his fellow engineers at Electrodyne, but was unable to implement it due to the cost per opamp and its impact on the final cost of Electrodyne consoles. (new Electrodyne opamps now use a design based on John Halls actual lab notes and do not have the issue he was forced to struggle with)

-Different voltage rails: Electrodyne +24v single end (converted into +/-12v internally), Sphere voltage rails +/- 24v.
A doubling of voltage over Electrodyne designs offer an equivalent doubling of opamp output drive capability for Sphere designs. An Electrodyne opamp can typically only drive +16dbu without a step-up transformer. With a transformer they can easily hit +30dbm (equal to 1 watt into 600 ohms and a significant amount of headroom over modern designs).
Sphere opamps can drive +28dbm "barefoot" (no output transformer required for that level). High voltage opamps have been noted to have distinctly different character than more traditional designs (compare IC opamps at +/-15v vs Quad-Eight or GML opamps at +/-28v)

-Different transformer design: The Sphere transformer designs are separated from Electrodyne designs by quite a few years, and as a result, reflect what Ed Reichenbach and John Hall learned in all previous transformer designs (Altec, Langevin, Electrodyne, etc..).
Most Electrodyne transformers have low (or no) nickel content, with typically silicone-steel laminations, and are usually much larger physically than Sphere, consequently they often have much greater low frequency distortion. Due to their larger physical size, their distortion response comes into play more gradually and with considerably more complex harmonic content. Sphere transformers have much higher nickel in the laminations, are much smaller in size and their distortion curves are much more severe, but because of the nickel content, distortion products appear at much higher output levels. This makes the two types of transformers measure and sound quite different as higher operating levels are used. (sorry, the last statement is un-opposable and fully supported by not only physical laws, but also David Geren, the current owner and business partner of Tom Reichenbach at Cinemag for many decades)



Eisen, Awtac, Seamus and honorable others (sorry I have not mentioned all by name...) all have the right idea, and have stated as so...
It really is all about the ability of the engineer and their awareness of the gear they are working on, and more importantly, they all use their ears to make the final judgement.
Comparisons of different design gear are extremely subjective and limited by the unique situation in which the observations are taken in, (and often by the mistakes discovered in revisiting how the gear was set-up and how comparisons were made). "Inferior or Superior" is only relative to the situation of the observation. I have often only been able to make sense of my observations of sound quality by comparing AND contrasting with many others experiences in the studio, listening tests and combining them with repeated measurements in the laboratory.
Even a vastly different (and occasionally violently opposing opinion) has given me the ability to either validate or re-evaluate my observations, but I have always come away with a better set of data than I entered with.

Points well taken for the difference in size and resulting performance between the smaller Electrodyne 712eq and larger Sphere 900 eq inductors (yes,... size does matter!). Most of that tonal difference (but certainly not all) can be compensated for by an observant recording engineer, so differences in tone, quality and general sonics are far more likely attributed to each engineers personal technique, mic selection and placement, studio setup, the producers direction, and let us not forget, the unique sound (and gear) each musician brought to the recording session.

In the long view of things, Sphere and Electrodyne came from the same group of visionary engineers, but with passing years of engineering and design experience, customer feedback, successes and failures, radically different customer demands for features and performance between the two companies, and benefit of rapidly improving electronic and manufacturing technologies, the two product lines do not truly compare to each other sonically. Significant sonic differences exist beyond the facts presented above.

While opinion is an easy refuge to present a quick or flippant answer to the hard questions such as sonic quality and suitability of any one piece of gear to each recording situation, it is up to each engineers personal taste and evaluation of each recording opportunity, to select carefully and make the best of what gear they have at their fingertips and create the sound they intend to present to the buying public. No more, No less.
Old 20th September 2013
  #35
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Bravo, Ken!
Old 20th September 2013
  #36
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nice post ken. that should serve as a good reference for people researching this in the future.
Old 22nd September 2013
  #37
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I love when people come through with great info….
Old 23rd September 2013
  #38
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.
This is an entirely unscientific observation/memory, but here goes anyway:

I once had the opportunity to spend a little time around a studio which had an old Electrodyne in the 'B' room and a Sphere Eclipse C in the 'A' room.

If memory serves, my impression at the time was that the mic pres in the Eclipse sounded a bit "stffer" and "harder" (yet somehow effortless), while the Electrodynes sounded more "warm & fuzzy" (yet somehow without being "muddy").

Yeah, the other considerations with those boards/rooms may have had a bit to do with what I was hearing, but I DO recall hearing tracks swapped between the two studios (without any EQ or outboard stuff), and I distinctly remember getting that impression (and taking note of it at the time).

(...For what it's worth.)
.
Old 23rd September 2013
  #39
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The Silvertone posts seem to have disappeared - bit of a shame was a good read from different ears, users etc...
Old 2nd October 2013
  #40
Quote:
Originally Posted by orphanaudio View Post
Ok, time to weigh in on Electrodyne vs. Sphere...
Thanks Ken. That definitely answers my question!
Old 7th July 2018
  #41
Just ordered a fab 500. Looking forward to checking it out!
Old 7th July 2018
  #42
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In my opinion, the real beauty of the electrodyne/sphere designs was the simplicity of the circuits employed within.

The basic idea was to keep the signal "clean" by doing the "mostest with the leastest" within the circuit.

...And also by choosing the best (off the shelf) parts available at the time.

I (for one) have never heard any better results from a tracking session than those I heard working with the Sphere Eclipse C console.
.
Old 7th July 2018
  #43
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Quote:
In my opinion, the real beauty of the electrodyne/sphere designs was the simplicity of the circuits employed within.

The basic idea was to keep the signal "clean" by doing the "mostest with the leastest" within the circuit.

...And also by choosing the best (off the shelf) parts available at the time.

I (for one) have never heard any better results from a tracking session than those I heard working with the Sphere Eclipse C console.
That's high praise !

I'm going to research these guys.
From what I've heard their quality is top notch.
Old 7th July 2018
  #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis4 View Post
That's high praise !
[...]
Yes it is!
(And I don't give it out lightly.)
.
Old 17th August 2018
  #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nick8801 View Post
Just ordered a fab 500. Looking forward to checking it out!
What are your impressions?
Old 17th August 2018
  #46
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i'm interested to know as well.
just stumbled across the FAB500 thread and was literally shocked no one had commented on it for over one year.
Old 18th August 2018
  #47
I love it! First of all it’s quiet. Like, I can crank it all the way up and it’s dead silent. It does the clean punchy American thing really well, but it definitely has it’s own thing going on too. It’s not super high gain, but it’s enough to use my ribbons with louder sources. My favorite so far has been running my di into it for bass. The bottom end is really tight, and doesn’t get away from you. Kinda hard to describe preamps, but this is for sure a good one. There is a nice big article in the latest tape op about the history of Sphere, and that should give you a good idea of where these guys are coming from.
Old 18th August 2018
  #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nick8801 View Post
I love it! First of all it’s quiet. Like, I can crank it all the way up and it’s dead silent. It does the clean punchy American thing really well, but it definitely has it’s own thing going on too. It’s not super high gain, but it’s enough to use my ribbons with louder sources. My favorite so far has been running my di into it for bass. The bottom end is really tight, and doesn’t get away from you. Kinda hard to describe preamps, but this is for sure a good one. There is a nice big article in the latest tape op about the history of Sphere, and that should give you a good idea of where these guys are coming from.
It’s hard to judge by sound clips without comparison or knowing the room, but everything I’ve heard from Sphere consoles or preamps seemed to have a similar signature. What I heard was an open and relaxed yet vaguely “vintage” top end, like a Helios, with clear and solid lows and flat through the midrange. It sounded “fast”, like a less saturated, more open Pacifica. Honest and unhyped but with character... Like a 70s Nashville record!

Does that match, more or less, with your experience?
Old 18th August 2018
  #49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yummerz View Post
It’s hard to judge by sound clips without comparison or knowing the room, but everything I’ve heard from Sphere consoles or preamps seemed to have a similar signature. What I heard was an open and relaxed yet vaguely “vintage” top end, like a Helios, with clear and solid lows and flat through the midrange. It sounded “fast”, like a less saturated, more open Pacifica. Honest and unhyped but with character... Like a 70s Nashville record!

Does that match, more or less, with your experience?
Actually yes! That’s pretty spot on!
Old 19th August 2018
  #50
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Sigma's Avatar
sphere eclipse C parameters were the most musical warm yet precise eq's i ever used ..miss that console
Old 20th August 2018
  #51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigma View Post
sphere eclipse C parameters were the most musical warm yet precise eq's i ever used ..miss that console
I would LOVE it if they released a new production eq.
Old 20th August 2018
  #52
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well, the new sphere eclipse alpha 2 console is supposed to have eq's on board.
these should be 500 series compatible.
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