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ATR-102 - Waltzing Bear X-formerless Penthouse vs. DI Recorders, Players & Tape Machines
Old 2 weeks ago
  #1
ATR-102 - Waltzing Bear X-formerless Penthouse vs. DI

Well this is interesting...just compared recording through my Waltzing Bear x-formerless penthouse vs. going DI through my Mogami harness (bypassing the penthouse).

Lynx Hilo (24/96) > Mogami 2549 > Penthouse (or DI) > ATR-102 1/2" (ATR tape - 30 IPS)

Tape was converted with PM HDCD 2 recorded at 24/96 onto a Tascam DA-3000 CF card.

I calibrated using a 1kHz sine wave...-9 dB for recording direct. Audio was taken from the direct output.

The x-formerless penthouse is the first two recordings (sine wave + song) and the second two (sine wave + same song) is the DI:

https://www.sendspace.com/pro/dl/g0d68u
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
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Great comparison man ! Good job. You sure do like some unique recording gear. And it shows in the awesome sound !

Jesus they almost sound identical to me. So identical that IMO there is no reason to choose one over the other. (no logical reason anyway).

But if I were to nit pick over it - my ears pick up a nicer sounding hi end on the second recording. And somehow slightly more aggressive bass too. (which is hard to accomplish if the highs are also sweeter). Weird. This passes a slight difference into the vocals, but its minimal. All in all, I like the second recording *for this particular song*. But am happy with either.

Was there a cable difference between the recordings ? Was the same Mogami harness able to be used on both recordings ?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by Infa View Post
Jesus they almost sound identical to me. So identical that IMO there is no reason to choose one over the other. (no logical reason anyway).
The X-formerless penthouse was designed to have no sound, so that's a compliment to Waltzing Bear Audio, for sure. The difference is that the penthouse is balanced and going DI is not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Infa View Post
Was there a cable difference between the recordings ? Was the same Mogami harness able to be used on both recordings ?
I used Mogami 2549 from the Hilo to the tape machine for both tests. The DI harness is made with Mogami cabling...not 2549, but it is NOT quad. It's something almost identical to 2549...can't remember the exact number.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Infa View Post
But if I were to nit pick over it - my ears pick up a nicer sounding hi end on the second recording. And somehow slightly more aggressive bass too. (which is hard to accomplish if the highs are also sweeter). Weird. This passes a slight difference into the vocals, but its minimal. All in all, I like the second recording *for this particular song*. But am happy with either.
Interesting. This test got me thinking a bit. I wonder if hitting the electronics in the penthouse (9 dB hotter) allows you to get a slightly more saturated (or fuller) sound. To my ears, upon first listens, the penthouse seems to be a tad bit warmer and more "analog sounding." Probably need to do some more listens, however...
Old 2 weeks ago
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burns46824 View Post
The X-formerless penthouse....((EDIT)) - See above post for full quote
Very interesting indeed. Audio is so subjective, as are ears obviously are too.

Yes WBA seems to be doing their job very well. I mean dude, its pretty hair splitting, so they nailed it.

I'd say we are hearing the same thing. Just described it differently. Recording 1 has ever so slightly less highs (usually = warm sounding) which causes it to also be fuller. Or I never heard the source, so is it actually translating the highs straight across, or losing them, and the DI is boosting them ? IDK ?

I agree man, maybe hitting that WBA Penthouse at different levels would sculpt different results (if ever desired). Which is yet another plus cause it adds "paint" to your "brush" for different "canvases".

And I also agree, I need a bunch more listens. Sometimes I'll hear things I didn't before, or all of a sudden change what I like or don't like. Either way, really appreciate this comparison. Its helps me decide what I want to do with my ATR102
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Infa View Post
Recording 1 has ever so slightly less highs (usually = warm sounding) which causes it to also be fuller.
Yeah, the highs are a little clearer, it seems, in the second recording (DI). You can hear it in the keyboard comps panned left and right at the beginning. My gut reaction is that the first recording has a slightly punchier and warmer center image...my gut feeling was slightly better bass response.

Maybe someone can use a stereo analyzer to get some info on the two sections?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #6
bump...would love to hear some mastering engineers listen on their systems!

will definitely do some more tests, eventually, with analog source material
Old 2 weeks ago
  #7
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it sounds good but the penthouse softens the high mids & flipped the polarity of the signal.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by ed littman View Post
it sounds good but the penthouse softens the high mids & flipped the polarity of the signal.
Flipped the polarity? Wow...do you have a screenshot of that information?

This is the source file...a 16/44.1 WAV, "In the Heat of the Night" by Imagination:

https://www.sendspace.com/pro/dl/gx9ljc
Old 2 weeks ago
  #9
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ed littman's Avatar
 

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penthouse top di bottom
Attached Thumbnails
ATR-102 - Waltzing Bear X-formerless Penthouse vs. DI-pent-v-di.jpg  
Old 2 weeks ago
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by ed littman View Post
penthouse top di bottom
Whoa...

Does the polarity of the source file (16/44.1 WAV posted above) have the same polarity of the penthouse or the DI input?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #11
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Ampex ATR-100 direct outputs

Quote:
Originally Posted by burns46824 View Post
Well this is interesting...just compared recording through my Waltzing Bear x-formerless penthouse vs. going DI through my Mogami harness (bypassing the penthouse).
friend,
you do realize that there is approx. negative 0.5 VDC at pin 8 ?
the 33 ohm series isolation resistor might be marginal (read that as too low a value) to ensure stability of A2, a LM318.
Suggest you replace R12 with a value somewhere between 68 and 100 ohms and add a blocking capacitor (whatever flavor suits you).
Attached Thumbnails
ATR-102 - Waltzing Bear X-formerless Penthouse vs. DI-atr_out.jpg  
Old 2 weeks ago
  #12
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I can't comment on the Waltzing Bear unit, but our ATR has both stock and ATR Service Co. transformerless I/Os. The unbalanced output off the preamp card sounds much better than either of the I/O modules. Just add gain elsewhere - I use our Maselec MTC-2/6. Our I/Os still provide metering when using the preamp direct output (an ATR Services mod). The I/O modules ('Penthouse') provide 3 things only: gain, signal buffering, and metering. At least for playback, only the metering part is useful, unless your project really needs that classic ATR vibe.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by cathode View Post
friend,
you do realize that there is approx. negative 0.5 VDC at pin 8 ?
the 33 ohm series isolation resistor might be marginal (read that as too low a value) to ensure stability of A2, a LM318.
Suggest you replace R12 with a value somewhere between 68 and 100 ohms and add a blocking capacitor (whatever flavor suits you).
This is honestly Greek to me, but I will say that the A2 on one of my cards went bad and is now being replaced.

We are actually using LM47910s on the audio cards...not the best for noise, but very good for frequency response.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by glassmaster View Post
The I/O modules ('Penthouse') provide 3 things only: gain, signal buffering, and metering. At least for playback, only the metering part is useful, unless your project really needs that classic ATR vibe.
This was actually a recording test, not a playback test...

Both of the recordings were converted from the direct out harness (unbalanced) with an HDCD Model Two.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #15
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ed littman's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by burns46824 View Post
Whoa...

Does the polarity of the source file (16/44.1 WAV posted above) have the same polarity of the penthouse or the DI input?
Same as DI
Old 2 weeks ago
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by ed littman View Post
Same as DI
Strange...I wonder what would have caused this...
Old 2 weeks ago
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burns46824 View Post
Strange...I wonder what would have caused this...
Stock ATR-100s were wired Pin 3 Hot
Old 2 weeks ago
  #18
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S_mask's Avatar
 

The ATR-100's (old-American-standard) differential inputs in the meter bridge are pin 3, High, whereas, the single-ended ins and outs next to the card cage are pin 2, Hot.
Old 1 week ago
  #19
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The ARIA Class A Electronics designed by Dave Hill on my ATR-102 are interesting also. If I have them on input mode they reverse the polarity but on repro the polarity is correct. I remember asking Mike Spitz about this and he assured me that was correct and how the ARIA electronics worked. The Class A electronics do sound amazing though.
Old 1 week ago
  #20
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ATR-100 polarity

Quote:
Originally Posted by S_mask View Post
The ATR-100's (old-American-standard) differential inputs in the meter bridge are pin 3, High, whereas, the single-ended ins and outs next to the card cage are pin 2, Hot.
the "ins and outs next to the card cage" are via a 24 pin Micro-Ribbon connector.
One can wire the pigtails to XLR's any way possible.
Old 1 week ago
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by cathode View Post
the "ins and outs next to the card cage" are via a 24 pin Micro-Ribbon connector.
One can wire the pigtails to XLR's any way possible.
Yes, this makes sense. My harness is wired for pin 2 hot and, perhaps, the penthouse was wired for pin 3 hot. (It wouldn't normally matter, I guess, if you were going balanced in/out through the penthouse...so perhaps it was kept stock as pin 3 hot.)
Old 1 week ago
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burns46824 View Post
the "ins and outs next to the card cage" are via a 24 pin Micro-Ribbon connector.
One can wire the pigtails to XLR's any way possible.
Great point.

The recommended wiring of the 2-row, 24-pin, male plug for J13 and J14, and for the male and female 'contact XLR' connectors of the input/output assembly accessory, is shown in Figure 2-15 of the manual. There are + and - 22 Volts on both J13 and J14, so it's best to check the manual.

Alas, mis-wired gear, either in one's own studio or studios 'upstream' from the current session, may result in inadvertent inversions of the absolute polarity. If it happens an odd number of times, it will be different from the original input signal. So, in addition to revising one's cables, one should also install polarity flip switches on his mastering console (for transferring and also monitoring) so that he can listen for the natural acoustic polarity in the music and leave it alone or correct it, as needed, on the master. This way, the Wood Effect can be ideal on correctly-wired consumer playback systems (which usually don't have polarity flip-switches) and also so that, while the ME works on the piece, it always sounds its best, and he therefore isn't using eq to try to fix the recording's Wood Effect.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cathode View Post
Yes, this makes sense. My harness is wired for pin 2 hot and, perhaps, the penthouse was wired for pin 3 hot. (It wouldn't normally matter, I guess, if you were going balanced in/out through the penthouse...so perhaps it was kept stock as pin 3 hot.)
It would matter for balanced as well as single-ended signaling. The absolute polarity will otherwise get inverted from that which should normally result in natural acoustic polarity from loudspeakers. Muted trumpets present a dramatic difference when one flips the absolute polarity of the stereo signal. Hi Hats (and claves) seem to rise in pitch very slightly when the correct acoustic polarity is restored to an audition when the stereo signal (half-cycle) excursions were previously inverted. Bass notes may also sound fuller when the natural acoustic polarity is presented to the ear. Compressing atmospheric molecules may simply be more efficient at generating micro-voltages from the cilia than are rarefactions.

Perhaps many multi-driver loudspeaker cross-overs may shift the timings of the presentation of the separated bands of audio enough that, even though they have ruler-flat frequency response, the Wood Effect can't be detected from them - It can be 'masked' by time non-alignment of multiple drivers. However, most headphones and also 'time-aligned' loudspeakers, will reveal this unambiguously (when one can switch it, on the fly for A/B comparison). Musical waveforms on (a DAW's) screen are usually obviously asymmetrical about 0 Volts, and there is a correct orientation that matches the natural acoustics of the playing instruments (and singers). Preserving this (where true), or correcting it (where non-natural), reaps sonic dividends.
Old 1 week ago
  #23
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I measured + 0.046 V from J13's channel 1 signal pin. ...+0.066 from channel 2.
There seems to be no issue with the sound or the way the signals look in FFT.
Adding a cap makes the noise rise - the mains and its harmonics.
There's a good DC blocking filter in the ADC that was connected.
It could be defeated, but the designer suggests only doing that for tests.
Old 1 week ago
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by S_mask View Post
Alas, mis-wired gear, either in one's own studio or studios 'upstream' from the current session, may result in inadvertent inversions of the absolute polarity. If it happens an odd number of times, it will be different from the original input signal. So, in addition to revising one's cables, one should also install polarity flip switches on his mastering console (for transferring and also monitoring) so that he can listen for the natural acoustic polarity in the music and leave it alone or correct it, as needed, on the master.
Great info, all-around...thanks.

So the DIs were wired pin 2 hot and my custom penthouse was wired pin 2 hot, but things still got flipped somehow, haha, recording through the penthouse and then monitoring from the DI. It may be hard for me to do a proper comparison in my studio.

I suppose I just need to print a (positive only) sawtooth wave on my reference tones tape to give the mastering engineer the proper polarity...
Old 1 week ago
  #25
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The mastering engineer should be able to make sure the signal presents the natural acoustic polarity (from conventionally-wired loudspeakers) while auditioning the program. I suppose most MEs don't check for this since this topic is almost never mentioned, but an asymmetrical test tone should not be necessary. If the masters come back with the opposite absolute polarity of the approved mixes, you will be able to see this in a DAW. Flipping the files up and down with the DAW's 'invert' command should make it clear if they agree or not, even with the masters' higher amplitude.

During the mastering session, while auditioning, the ME can flip both channels' polarity switches back and forth until it's heard which deflection causes the transients subtly 'to pop out' more.

Before you submit the mixes for mastering, you can use headphones, while mentally relaxed, and play it back in something like the free program, Audacity - or your own DAW, or any other with the absolute polarity inversion function. Listen to just a snare hit, or just a hi hat hit. [You can highlight it to repeat only its playback.] Then select 'invert'. Listen to the same segment. Go back and forth to make sure.

Although the difference may be very subtle for the selected attack, in single-driver headphones there should be a noticeable difference in the treble-clef percussives. Did it rise a very little in pitch, or did it lower...? If it's ambiguous, search for a different snare or hi hat or some other high pitched percussive transient - even a high string pluck.


Possibly there are fx 'returns', whole instruments, or whole subgroups that are mixed with inverted absolute polarity. Healing the Wood Effect will be impossible, there, unless you can hear which instruments' presentation matters most and go with that. There are no rules with some mixes - Led Zepp, for example. Some music is deliberately non-natural. But most recordings are 'going for' a natural presentation, albeit with the (disputed) enhancements of close-micing, multi-micing, and other 'sweet spot'-creating mix decisions , and they usually benefit from good Wood Effect - but especially audiophile music.
Old 1 week ago
  #26
Riddle me this. We are preferring the mixes with inverse polarity...by a long shot.

So we've been running some tests with the ATR 1/2" machine...

We were so confounded by the results that we checked to make sure the polarity of our console was correct...and it is. (We tested with a sawtooth wave from a synthesizer.)

The source of these recordings is 2" tape through our console.

As for the following, correct polarity refers to having the same polarity as a digital recording of the source material (without first going to tape). Reverse polarity refers to having the opposite polarity of the digital recording of the source material.

So here goes, as for our recording paths:

Penthouse input > tape > Penthouse Output = correct polarity, but the recording sounds mediocre
Penthouse input > tape > DI Output = reverse polarity, but the recording sounds fantastic

Conversely...

DI input > tape > Penthouse output = reverse polarity, but the recording sounds fantastic
DI input > tape > DI output = correct polarity, but the recording sounds mediocre

Why is this?

Here are the recordings:

https://www.sendspace.com/pro/dl/af50ye

For both the "DI Output" and "Penthouse Output" files, the order of recordings was:

30 IPS Penthouse Input, 30 IPS DI Input, 15 IPS DI Input, 15 IPS Penthouse Input

You will need to turn the volume up 9 dB to properly compare the DI output to the Penthouse output.

- Tyler

NOTE: The stereo image on the Penthouse Output files was flipped from the source file. My apologies. Still, the tracks with inverse polarity seem to sound best.

Last edited by burns46824; 1 week ago at 02:48 AM..
Old 1 week ago
  #27
Please ignore my last post. There were some technical mistakes (and/or illusions) that led us to believe we preferred the inverted polarity mixes. We indeed prefer the correct polarity mixes.

Anyway, I can post the HDCD mixdowns with correct polarity.

What I will say is that we prefer the sound of recording through the transformerless penthouse (balanced) to recording DI (single-ended/unbalanced). However, the DI output (for playback purposes) seems to be slightly superior...more detailed reverbs and such.

Mastering engineers: if you are getting your playback from a DI harness, make sure to check the polarity of the mixes! It may be reversed! I recommend the artist/producer printing a sawtooth wave at the head of the reel for polarity reference...
Old 1 week ago
  #28
Here's a listening test, polarity correct, to compare recording through a transformerless Waltzing Bear Audio penthouse vs. the DI output on the ATR-102. Source material is from 2" tape going through our console (with mute automation keeping the thing dead-quiet). No noise reduction on anything. Source 2" tape is 30 IPS.

The recordings are the same for both outputs, in this order:

1) Penthouse 30 IPS
2) DI 30 IPS
3) DI 15 IPS
4) Penthouse 15 IPS

Our personal preference was recording through the penthouse, but playing back from the DI. Keep in mind that the DI output is 9 dB quieter than the penthouse output, so make sure to adjust your monitors.

See if you like playing back off the penthouse or the DI!

(Conversion was 24/96 PM HDCD M2.)

https://www.sendspace.com/pro/dl/kwdxz7
Old 1 week ago
  #29
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S_mask's Avatar
 

Quote:
...we preferred the inverted polarity mixes.
The inversion heals the unnatural acoustic polarity of the 11/3-source file. (I haven't downloaded the 11/6 files, yet.)

Also, the DI and Penthouse files from 11/3 are not inverted compared to the source.

If I invert the 11/3-DI and add 9 dB, it sounds pretty good and at the same level as the 11/3-Penthouse, but the mix still sounds different from each, of course, due to the extra electronics of the Penthouse path. I tend to agree that the Penthouse you have is doing something flattering to the sound that the relative 'honesty' of the DI path doesn't give.

Either way, I vote for you to use the correct natural acoustic polarity. But you will want to EQ appropriately for this truer sound to sound better than whatever you're preferring about the sound of the unnatural source file.


Quote:
I recommend the artist/producer printing a sawtooth wave at the head of the reel for polarity reference...
Couldn't hurt... Then, again, those saw teeth! (;

All you need to use are headphones so as to listen to the difference.

When the hi hats are slightly higher in pitch, you have the correct polarity for that system since you know that the attack is a compression due to the slightly stronger micro-voltage inside the ear made by a compression than a rarefaction.
Old 1 week ago
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by S_mask View Post
The inversion heals the unnatural acoustic polarity of the 11/3-source file. (I haven't downloaded the 11/6 files, yet.)
Thanks for listening and for your thoughts. My post from 11/3 was a bit of a mess...my apologies.

The 11/6 post is more definitive and indicative...
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