The Old School Audio mic preamp review (finally!!!)
Right to the bangin’
Let me get this one thing out the way because I’ve gotten about 20 emails asking this. This preamp does not sound exactly like an API. It is similar but it’s got it’s own thing going on and it doesn’t suck. If that interests you read onward. If you wanted a cheaper API 512 sorry, you gotta save your dough and get an API.
Earlier this year Toby contacted me and wanted to know if I would be interested in checking out the OSA preamp and writing up something about it. I got the first preamp back in May or so after Dave Martin checked it out. I used it for a while until I discovered a little problem with it and then I continued to use it. I contacted Dale and Toby at OSA and they sent me one of the first production models. I received the replacement in July, moved the studio and put it into use earlier this month after I got everything running again. The model I’ve been using is the MP1-A, which I guess you could call the “improved” API-style. Something like the MP1-C “vintage” (which I haven’t used) will probably sound similar to a 312 or 512. I also got an 8-space TrkPak rack because I don’t own any API gear and had nothing to power the preamp.
The preamp fits in an API rack and is pin compatible with 500 series stuff. The build quality is good and all the wiring is cut to length and neat unlike some other preamps I’ve owned and used in the past. All the switches are solid and the positions can be seen from across the room which is a great thing. No more running all the way back to the rack from the live room just to see if I turned the phantom power off before I swap a mic. The rack is sheet metal with XLR connectors and a handle on it, not much to screw up. It’s got rubber feet on two sides so you can use it horizontal or vertical. The power supply is an external box that is made of metal, painted gray and looks a little homebrew but is totally functional and is nice and beefy. It also has a nice long cable to go to the rack, which is a big plus. I used to own a preamp with a power supply in a plastic box and it had a 3’ cable which was JUST long enough to hit the floor from the back of the rack. I can put this power supply just about anywhere out of way and have enough room to move the rack around without fear of running out of cable which is great.
Ahhh, that oh so objective thing. The problem I had with the first preamp was a hum at medium to high gains. It was totally usable on anything that didn’t more then about 35dB of gain, which is quite a lot of things when you record loud rock music. The second preamp has been flawless and they sound pretty much identical to my ears. I say pretty much because sometimes I think I can hear a slight difference between them but I think it might just exist in my head. I compared it to everything in the studio and I also managed to borrow an API 512 which I compared to the OSA prototype. First things first, the MP1A vs. an API 512. The MP1-A was brighter and had less mid/low mid growl and bottom then the 512. It also seemed to be a bit faster, like it wasn’t saturating as quickly. I heard and felt more snap on snare, a little more attack on bass drum and heard fret noise better on acoustic guitars. They have a very similar character and you can tell they come from the same family. Kind of like French vanilla vs. cherry vanilla. I only had the 512 for a day so I didn’t really have a chance to get all that in-depth with it. The main difference was that the OSA seemed to be cleaner which would be a good thing for something like overheads or classical harp. I did try the OSA prototype on that and the hum became an issue so I ended up using it on the cello mic for that group. Too bad, because it sounded nice.
Over the course of a few months I used it on lots of different sources with different mics for different styles of music and it became apparent that I want to own a few of these. I tried it on acoustic guitars, electric guitars, kick, snare, floor tom, bass DI (with a BSS in the live room), bass amp, classical harp, harmonica, male and female vocals, and a few different keyboards. It’s way brighter, faster, more open sounding then the Peavey VMP-2 which is a dark, slow and sometimes mushy preamp. I like it because it takes the edge off of things. To that end I like using the VMP-2 with a TLM 103 for vocals. I’ve tried the 103 with other preamps like a Vintech 1272, Daking 52270, etc. and it’s rather bright and you can get into sibilance problems very quickly, especially with the weird presence peak and mids on a 1272 (of which I owned two different versions). On a whim I tried the MP1-A on vocals with the 103 expecting it to sound pretty bad and it sounds great. It’s bright but not edgy and raspy like the 1272/103 combination usually is. There was a nice smoothing effect on the top and the midrange was usually just about right and needed very little EQ while mixing most of the time. On the flip side, the AT4047 usually didn’t match up so well and sounded too full in the low mids and needed a nice chuck of 250-400hz taken out and a little boost up top to make it pop open. That’s common for a lot of vocals though but it seemed like I always needed to take more out with the 4047/OSA combination then I did with the 4047/Telefunken pairing. That’s rather strange since the Telefunken V672s I own are much thicker then the OSA preamps.
I also used the OSA on kick and snare quite a few times which is normally something I use the 1272s for and I know that sound quite well. Sometimes I use a Daking on snare since it’s a brighter preamp and I like bright snares. I liked the OSA on snare more then I liked it on kick. It seemed to have add more pop to the snare and less thunk then the 1272. On kick it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t as big and deep as the Neve. On the plus side it had a faster transient response. Paring the OSA up with a Blue Baby Bottle on electric guitar was also pretty nice and generated some positive comments from clients. It generated a nice & solid midrange on that combination, totally in-your face and 3-dimensional but not bright and grating. At times the 1272 seemed brighter then OSA. Probably because the 1272 has peak in the upper mids, maybe 5-7khz while the OSA seems flatter there and more open and 3-dimensional on top from 10khz and up. In general the OSA was also faster then the 1272, about on par with the Daking. The 1272 had more bottom and the Daking was brighter and a bit thinner then the OSA. Actually the mid-range on the OSA is quite solid and comparing them almost made the Daking sound hollow, which it isn’t. Dave Martin and I talked about his experiences with the MP1-A and he agreed with me. It doesn’t sound like an API; it’s brighter and cleaner. I’d imagine that if you crossed a 512 with something like a Grace or Great River MP-2 you’d end up with something similar to this.
While it wasn’t great on everything it ranged from ok to pretty damn good on most of what I tried it on which is a lot more then I can say for other preamps I own. It’s colored but not overly so like the VMP-2, Telefunken or Altec stuff. It’s more like a cleaner version of an API which isn’t a bad thing. I think if I had to own one pair of preamps it would probably come down to these or something like a Hardy M1. Bottom line, I’m going to add a couple of these to my equipment list when I can afford it. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.
Geez, this has been up here for a month and a half with no comments? I'm pulling it down because I'm starting to feel like a shill. If anyone wants a copy I've got it saved so send me an email. MooseAudio@aol.com
Don't have much else to add at this point, other than that I'm interested in the stuff (especially the oddball one, whatever the model number was), but slightly wary until the new rack/psu comes out... Their pre didn't seem to come out too high in the list in your shootout thing, but I know that's highly subjective.
Yeah, but it did better then the Shep and those are pretty kickin. I think that if the sources had been different the results would've been different. The Daking is one of my favorites on acoustic guitar but I hardly ever use it as a first call on electric guitar, keys, horns or vocals. Also, keep in mind that the OSA's are about $500 a channel while most of what we compared it to was a lot more expensive. The Dakings are about $1400 a shot, the Sheps are well over $2K each, just try finding the Telefunkens. When you do find them there's usually shipping from Germany plus the hassle and expense of racking them, fixing them, and a power supply which brings them over $500 a channel. Actually I think the least expensive pre there was the P8 which is about $2500 for 8 channels. Works out to $300 and change per preamp which isn't bad. But, I wasn't knocked out by the sound of them. Anyway, the OSA stuff does have a money back gaurentee so give it a shot if your interested. I'm happy with my pair, now I need some API 550's to go next to them.
sorry 'bout the lack of response; for some reason, i thought this thread was locked. hey jay, did you ever get to hear and/or muck around with "the mutant?" you know, the one with the lundhal tranny? also, any word on when the companion compressor is gonna hit the stands?
It was never locked, just stickyed so it stays on top. They said I have a pair of pres with Lundhal trannys on the way. So far I haven't heard them yet. Last the compressors were mentioned the only word I got was "soon". I'm not in a rush to check out the compressors. I have a few things on my compressor wish list, mostly a pair of Distressors, a Daking, an El-Op and a BA-6A if I ever find one under a $1000. But I'm not really wanting anything at the moment unless a client wants something specific.
Yeah man. **** him. I never have that kind of luck. I heard there was a BA-6A reissue in the works a few years ago but I don't think it ever saw the light of day. I remember talking to one tech, maybe it was Matt Wells who said the transformers in that are a major part of the sound and would be very hard to recreate because the type of wire used in the windings hasn't been made since the 40's. Still, I'd gladly have something that sounds 80% of a BA-6A. There was a studio near me that had THREE of them. Lucky ****ers. Too bad most of their **** didn't work, lots of gear but most of it is a bit flakey. So yeah, if anyone is reading this and is up to the challenge I'd love to see a BA-6A a-like that I can actually afford say $1500 or so. EveAnna? Dale? Dan? Anyone?!?
That's it. I'm moving the Moose to Canada! Or at least taking a vacation... dammit... Yeah, you want this crusty old tube mic? I'll take your new AKG's they've gotta be better. I wonder if that studio is kickin' themselves in the ass right now. The only thing that makes me feel a bit better is knowing how hard a BA-6A is to fix (read expensive) if it's got lots of problems. So, if it was mint please don't tell me.
Let us know when you get the Mutant and what you think of it! I am wondering how well it works with the TLM-103. I was also told by Dale that a compressor will be available around the first of the year (if all goes well). I have a need for a compressor to compliment my RNC's.
This is my first posting here so I hope that it works.
If have a need for a compressor right at this moment I'd go out and buy something rather then waiting. While I doubt the OSA compressor is going to totally suck it might not be what you were expecting or hoping for. How would you feel about waiting a few months then?
I have a need for more cash. I am looking at a pair of OSA mic preamps as my next purchase. The RNC's work great for most applications. I am also in need of a new DAW computer. My current outlook is that I can wait for a new flavor of compressor longer than a new flavor of mic preamp or a new computer. I do have an ART VLA Pro and a DBX 166 (for sale if anyone is interested). They work fine. I am interested in trying other things that might get me different (maybe even better) result.
It was a follow up response to Jay's last post on the thread. Nothing more nothing less. I was just offering additional information on why I am looking at compressors but not ready to buy on at this time.
Originally posted by Jay Kahrs Yeah man. **** him. I never have that kind of luck. I heard there was a BA-6A reissue in the works a few years ago but I don't think it ever saw the light of day.
I think that you're remembering the Greg Hanks' BA660, which apparently had some BA6A quality. I think that he built 50, ad didn't have the financing to do anymore. I seem to remember Fletcher saying that Eddie Van Halen got the last ones...