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Discrete Solid State Mastering Gear
Old 1 week ago
  #1
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Discrete Solid State Mastering Gear

Lets get slutty...
Just out of curiosity, whats out there regarding comps and EQs (stereo, dual mono, switched or unswitched) with completely tubeless , transformerless (ok, switchable is great too), IC-less in/out amps?

EQs:
Avalon 2055 and 2077 (both discontinued now, btw. Anyone has some insights?)
Knif Eksa
̶m̶̶i̶̶n̶̶i̶̶ ̶̶m̶̶a̶̶s̶̶s̶̶i̶̶v̶̶e̶ (rumored it uses ICs in the rapture amps, anyone else about it?)
SPL PQ
LISA
Ibis
NSEQ
GLMs
REQ

Comps:
STC-8
Titan
Alpha
Alta Moda Unicomp (interesting approach regarding in/out amps and grounding, too. Dont know if a FET comp really works for mastering duties)
GLMs
Avalon 2044

Some more?

Last edited by JP__; 1 week ago at 08:57 PM..
Old 1 week ago
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JP__ View Post
Lets get slutty
*subscribes immediately*
Old 1 week ago
  #3
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the unik's Avatar
O yeah

-Spl Passeq
-Airfield Audio Liminator II
-Shadowhills Mastering compressor
Old 1 week ago
  #4
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Passeq! For sure. Thanks.

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Originally Posted by the unik View Post

-Airfield Audio Liminator II - transformer coupled outputs
-Shadowhills Mastering compressor - transformer coupled outputs
Wrong answers. Your out, sorry.


What about Buzz' SOC 1.1 and DBC?
Old 1 week ago
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JP__ View Post
Passeq! For sure. Thanks.



Wrong answers. Your out, sorry.


What about Buzz' SOC 1.1 and DBC?

"Just out of curiosity, whats out there regarding comps and EQs (stereo, dual mono, switched or unswitched) with completely tubeless , transformerless (ok, switchable is great too)"

Cause if transformerless ONLY than the Passeq is out too...
Old 1 week ago
  #6
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the unik's Avatar
And a lot of discrete gears will be too I'm afraid
Old 1 week ago
  #7
Gear Nut
 

dbc has output trannies
Old 1 week ago
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the unik View Post
"Just out of curiosity, whats out there regarding comps and EQs (stereo, dual mono, switched or unswitched) with completely tubeless , transformerless (ok, switchable is great too)"

Cause if transformerless ONLY than the Passeq is out too...
You are right, I confused it with the Q-Faktor for a moment (but Im not fully sure its really fully discrete EDIT: I doubt, so is out).


Quote:
Originally Posted by the unik View Post
And a lot of discrete gears will be too I'm afraid
For sure, I never said it would be easy...

Last edited by JP__; 1 week ago at 03:38 PM..
Old 1 week ago
  #9
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Foote P3S ME (O/T can be bypassed)
Buzz REQ-2.2 (transformer is there for optional saturation effect only, O/T was a custom option for some people)
Old 1 week ago
  #10
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Dave Hill Designs Titan
GML 8200, 8900, 9500 and 2030
Old 1 week ago
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by B Elgin View Post
Foote P3S ME (O/T can be bypassed)
Buzz REQ-2.2 (transformer is there for optional saturation effect only, O/T was a custom option for some people)
I might see some ICs near the output, but maybe Roger can confirm?
Old 1 week ago
  #12
I'm fairly sure my Sontec 432c has some IC's in it (maybe even TL072's) But i'm not sure what function they actually perform.
Old 1 week ago
  #13
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ad2044
ibis
Old 1 week ago
  #14
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Rupert Neve Designs Portico II MBP
Old 1 week ago
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by JP__ View Post
I might see some ICs near the output, but maybe Roger can confirm?
Hi JP,
The P3S and P3S ME use BB INA137 line receiver ICs on the inputs.
So that part is IC...

The main outs are on BB DRV134 which are IC as well.

But the switchable Class A outs are discrete op amps and transformers.
So that part is fully discrete..

If you look at P4 models, they have a discrete audio path except for the VCAs themselves. And the VCAs are current amps that are a little bit different from typical instrumentation amps.

The P4 uses a handful of ICs to handle control duties where ICs are superior.
The other thing is if you did a whole threshold and timing section in full discrete build, it will be not only less thermally stable, but it will take up 100X the real estate. It will also be a lot harder to calibrate, and to keep calibrated.

To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn

We use what we think is best for any given task.
Old 1 week ago
  #16
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Sounds like you want Maselec (aka Prism Sound), Pendulum, Millennia, Avalon, Crane Song (aka Dave Hill Designs) or GML stuff. Don't write off Chandler Limited just because of a few transformers. The Zener Limiter is a REALLY nice compressor that does great things to so-so sounds. I've been craving a Maselec EQ paired with Zener Limiter for a long time. Too bad they're not on the "short list". Also weighing a Pendulum versus Manley, ADL, or Mercury in the Fairchild/vari-mu comp department.
Old 1 week ago
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerFoote View Post
Hi JP,
The P3S and P3S ME use BB INA137 line receiver ICs on the inputs.
So that part is IC...

The main outs are on BB DRV134 which are IC as well.

But the switchable Class A outs are discrete op amps and transformers.
So that part is fully discrete..

If you look at P4 models, they have a discrete audio path except for the VCAs themselves. And the VCAs are current amps that are a little bit different from typical instrumentation amps.

The P4 uses a handful of ICs to handle control duties where ICs are superior.
The other thing is if you did a whole threshold and timing section in full discrete build, it will be not only less thermally stable, but it will take up 100X the real estate. It will also be a lot harder to calibrate, and to keep calibrated.

To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
Thanks for the deeper informations, Roger.

Quote:
We use what we think is best for any given task.

As every serious developer, right? Different philosophys leads to different results. I think, I know most of the theoretic arguments regarding the used technology (which are often quite contrary at all). But in the end its not about trust here, but about a very subjective listen, isnt it? The biggest problem I see between the developer and us, the users, is: they judge their gear in an isolated scenario while we mostly have a chain with huge interaction where a certain piece is judged within this individual setup.
Old 1 week ago
  #18
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Originally Posted by psykostx View Post
Sounds like you want Maselec (aka Prism Sound), Pendulum, Millennia, Avalon, Crane Song (aka Dave Hill Designs) or GML stuff. Don't write off Chandler Limited just because of a few transformers. The Zener Limiter is a REALLY nice compressor that does great things to so-so sounds. I've been craving a Maselec EQ paired with Zener Limiter for a long time. Too bad they're not on the "short list". Also weighing a Pendulum versus Manley, ADL, or Mercury in the Fairchild/vari-mu comp department.
Dont get me wrong, Im not looking for a new piece gear here necessarily and therefore not asking random recommendations. Im not into name dropping, not at all.
With a lot of devices we do not really fully know how they work internally, and this thread should be just about a little bit of deeper insights. Thats all. And instead of doing it just for myself I though other could be interested too, maybe.
I do not want to judge anything here like saying technology xy is always superior to yx.
Beside the classic tube amps we mostly seeing a "modern" approach in the use of ICs all around while all discrete solution mostly feed the retro market with the use of more or less colored transformers (not saying all transformer coupled gear is sounding retro necessarily) . So looking for those pieces "inbetween" with a modern, but fully discrete approach sounds interesting to me atm.
In fact Im looking for the technical best (class A) discrete in/out amp around, as transparent as possible with huge headroom while capable to drive all the difficult loads we are able to throw at it. All IC based gear I tried here (and I tried a lot) more or less failed unfortunately in those scenarios. But this certain problem should be not part of this thread alone.

Last edited by JP__; 1 week ago at 11:36 AM..
Old 1 week ago
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the3030club View Post
I'm fairly sure my Sontec 432c has some IC's in it (maybe even TL072's) But i'm not sure what function they actually perform.
Interesting, didnt know that. Thanks.
Old 1 week ago
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JP__ View Post
Dont get me wrong, Im not looking for a new piece gear here necessarily and therefore not asking random recommendations. Im not into name dropping, not at all.
With a lot of devices we do not really fully know how they work internally, and this thread should be just about a little bit of deeper insights. Thats all. And instead of doing it just for myself I though other could be interested too, maybe.
I do not want to judge anything here like saying technology xy is always superior to yx.
Beside the classic tupe amps we mostly seeing a "modern" approach in the use of ICs all around while all discrete solution mostly feed the retro market with the use of more or less colored transformers (not saying all transformer coupled gear is sounding retro necessarily) . So looking for those pieces "inbetween" with a modern, but fully discrete approach sounds interesting to me atm.
In fact Im looking for the technical best (class A) discrete in/out amp around, as transparent as possible with huge headroom while capable to drive all the difficult loads we are able to throw at it. All IC based gear I tried here (and I tried a lot) more or less failed unfortunately in those scenarios. But this certain problem should be not part of this thread alone.
I'm fairly certain most of the gear companies I mentioned build fully discrete mastering gear. As for how complex gear works, if you use the "black box" analysis technique to break the circuit into each discrete section, you can form a basic understanding of even complex digital and/or IC based gear. I've found it's actually easier to diagnose and repair modern discrete gear and even surface mount builds than it is with point-to-point tube designs. It's usually never a circuit component failure that causes problems but things like dried up heat sink paste, carbon deposits on terminals and a loose wire to a daughter board or input panel. My point is that discreet gear is basically the same as IC gear except the "ICs" are groupings of through hole components instead of silicon traces. It's still fairly modular in essence and you only need to know what each individual "module" does as a whole "black box" assembly to understand what each section of circuitry is for.
Old 1 week ago
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the3030club View Post
I'm fairly sure my Sontec 432c has some IC's in it (maybe even TL072's) But i'm not sure what function they actually perform.
Yes there are some IC's in this design (TL064 where the 250 series use TL071 and TL072), as there is in Maselec, Dangerous Music, Neve RED & Blue series, Amek etc...

Now some of the IC's on the Sontec are used in the Feedback section to set things like Q, or in a DC servo configuration, while the Output summing or gain stages are Discrete. And this is the main "Sontec" sound, those discrete Opamps. So a lot of IC based gears can use them within the circuit where things like headroom or the "sound" itself of the IC isn't "that" critical...It all depends on the design and using super precise IC's can be the right things to do sometimes. Jonte at Knif audio also use some IC's on some of his gears like in his monstruous Mastering Console for exemple.

Last edited by the unik; 1 week ago at 05:33 PM..
Old 1 week ago
  #22
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Originally Posted by JP__ View Post
The biggest problem I see between the developer and us, the users, is: they judge their gear in an isolated scenario while we mostly have a chain with huge interaction where a certain piece is judged within this individual setup.
True!... Sometimes.
For me, I am a recording musician and have been one since the late 1950s.
I have a full on small studio with lots of various gear and routings.
I have a small monitor controller, but use my patch bays for re-arranging things. 240 soldered XLR points, no normals.

Everything I design gets hours in the studio shaking down the designs before we move to full builds.

I am not a pro player, or do I run a commercial studio but I can assure you that I am as serious as any pro player.

That said, remember I said sometimes, I know a lot of designers, engineers and techs and none of the ones I know, and many are famous, play music and most don't even listen to music for pleasure.

We are most certainly a weird group!
Old 1 week ago
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerFoote View Post

We are most certainly a weird group!
Thats for sure.... And its good like it is!

Regarding technical design aspects there are many ways that leads to great results for sure, it just depends.
To get a bit more concret here; as much as I like (very puristic) great tube/transformer coupled in/outs soundwise, they are not loving each other necessarilly when one is feeding another in my experience. So, in some situations it becomes handy to use some solid state stages in between. But, as everything, they have all a sound of its own and a certain capability to drive those kind of circuits more or less well.
I tried a lot of well made, but IC based stages, but never feel fully satisfied (some are lacking depth of field, some are sounding dried out, some grey or hazey, whatever...), so maybe a discrete circuit is a better choice here...? But maybe its rather about negative feedback used in those circuits.. Hard to tell... Might be a rather unique problems and simply I have to try even more different things out here. So for me its always interesting to know whats out there and whats inside.
Old 1 week ago
  #24
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TEEO's Avatar
Hello, your requirements are tough,
but what first come to my mind is:
CELLO AUDIO palette EQ

maybe this one too:
Sony ESPRIT SE-P900 eq
Old 1 week ago
  #25
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Elysia Alpha is fully discrete class A I believe. Incredible engineering.
Old 1 week ago
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TEEO View Post
Hello, your requirements are tough,
but what first come to my mind is:
CELLO AUDIO palette EQ

maybe this one too:
Sony ESPRIT SE-P900 eq
Cool, did know the Sony. Thanks.
The Cello would be dream for sure, but very rare (and very expensive) afaik.
I wasnt aware that my requirements arent really that tough. Atm, Im using the Manley Mini Massive for this purpose and while its really better than my other choices, its not fully there (a bit too pushy while lacking depth of field a little bit). But really ok for sure, so Im not in a hurry here. Nevertheless, its really interesting to get more technical insides and to get more knowledge about more uncommon devices too.
Old 1 week ago
  #27
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Discrete AND transformerless pushes us far in the direction of HIFI - watch your operating levels (!!). This because discrete traditionally was limited to max. 24V supply, only way to output higher levels (for headroom) was by up-transforming at the output stage. I.e. adding transformer output. Sontec/GML got around this by upping working voltage of their proprietary discrete opamps.

BTW, There's quite some TL071's and 072's in the mentioned Sony SE-P900. Yes, they're in the audio filters.

For Transformerless, Discrete and "real" there exists stuff like e.g.:

NTP 179-120 compressor
NTP 179-140 compressor

Allison Research GainBrain

Sphere 900 and 920 Equalizers

..and common to these is that they were all more or less meant to be set up with external transformers.

So I'd say that as a rule-of-thumb, discrete transformerless is hifi domain - with few exeptions

Jakob E.
Old 1 week ago
  #28
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Originally Posted by gyraf View Post
Discrete AND transformerless pushes us far in the direction of HIFI - watch your operating levels (!!). This because discrete traditionally was limited to max. 24V supply, only way to output higher levels (for headroom) was by up-transforming at the output stage. I.e. adding transformer output. Sontec/GML got around this by upping working voltage of their proprietary discrete opamps.

BTW, There's quite some TL071's and 072's in the mentioned Sony SE-P900. Yes, they're in the audio filters.

For Transformerless, Discrete and "real" there exists stuff like e.g.:

NTP 179-120 compressor
NTP 179-140 compressor

Allison Research GainBrain

Sphere 900 and 920 Equalizers

..and common to these is that they were all more or less meant to be set up with external transformers.

So I'd say that as a rule-of-thumb, discrete transformerless is hifi domain - with few exeptions

Jakob E.
Appreciate it, many thanks for the input Jakob.
When you say "limited to 24V" I assume you mean +-12V when feeded symmetrical? Wow, thats crazy low indeed. I often have the feeling "standard" IC based circuits with max 36V are a kind of limitation when talking mastering. ADT Audio are using 50V, which might be highest you can go with IC based gear I assume. And then theres SPL with its 120V stuff (fully discrete and transformerless btw).
I think especially with your passive devices there might exists somewhat similar problems when putting them into a chain of devices (in my experience some transformer based gear is easier to handle than others). What would be your recommendation regarding "buffer stages" between those here? As I said above I have a hard time with IC based stuff (and I not only tried some cheap standard designs here...). But maybe its not so much about ICs here, but more about "negative feedback" (yeah, I know...) or anything else that gets between the expected tone here...?
Assuming the Mini Massive indeed just uses ICs in their capsuled amps, what did it make better/different to others here...? And what amp design is even superior to it...?
I am fully aware that theres no way around trying it myself, but I would at least restrict my choices a bit... So, any help appreciat.

Last edited by JP__; 1 week ago at 02:47 PM..
Old 1 week ago
  #29
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The first time I chained my Passeq into the Manley V mu, there was something like 0.8 to 1db of level jump + a kind of nasty peaky sound appearing in the midrange. Unusable for Mastering. But as soon as I reversed the order, then everything was ok. It is all about input output impedance "matching" rather than an "IC based" problem imo. For exemple the Maselec MEA2, wich is IC based design, has a 27k ohms (differential) input impedance and a 62 ohm output impedance, and it never gave me any problem whatever the place I plugged it in the chain.
Regarding headroom +/- 18V rails is normally enough for all "digital based mastering work", as it will roughly give you a +22 db headroom. But if you start crancking up gain stages between analog gears than it might not be enough. My chain is based on the Spl 120v opamp technologie, and indeed it is unclippable, but also in terms of sound it gives a sense of "openess" like nothing I ever tried before.
A tube-like width with a solid state-like speed & punch.
Old 1 week ago
  #30
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Originally Posted by the unik View Post
The first time I chained my Passeq into the Manley V mu, there was something like 0.8 to 1db of level jump + a kind of nasty peaky sound appearing in the midrange. Unusable for Mastering. But as soon as I reversed the order, then everything was ok. It is all about input output impedance "matching" rather than an "IC based" problem imo. For exemple the Maselec MEA2, wich is IC based design, has a 27k ohms (differential) input impedance and a 62 ohm output impedance, and it never gave me any problem whatever the place I plugged it in the chain.
Regarding headroom +/- 18V rails is normally enough for all "digital based mastering work", as it will roughly give you a +22 db headroom. But if you start crancking up gain stages between analog gears than it might not be enough. My chain is based on the Spl 120v opamp technologie, and indeed it is unclippable, but also in terms of sound it gives a sense of "openess" like nothing I ever tried before.
A tube-like width with a solid state-like speed & punch.
Of course, Im aware of this. Input impedance could be a hint; the MM has 20k ohm here while others "only" 10k. Output on most of solid state gear is around 50 Ohm.
I will took those numbers in account when looking for gear here.
The SPL stuff sounds indeed interesting, but buying a PQ only for its amps...? Im not that sure...
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