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-   -   Black Lion Audio reputation? (https://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/813285-black-lion-audio-reputation.html)

Joshua Wise 18th February 2013 03:04 AM

Black Lion Audio reputation?
 
Hello Slutz, I've recently been searching for a fantastic 2-channel A/D converter for recording vocals. I stumbled upon Black Lion Audio and saw their SPARROW MKII White, which I researched and found very positive reviews for. However, then I stumbled upon Black Lion "Premium Digital Cables".
Black Lion Audio claims that their Premium Digital Cables provide "fatigue-free midrange and highs, and tight, articulate low-end, with sweet midrange clarity."

Now, I don't quite understand how any digital cable could differ in sonic quality from any other digital cable, assuming both cables are transferring the same 1s and 0s. This seemed very suspicious and "scam-like" to me.

Can anybody confirm or disaffirm the reputation and quality of Black Lion Audio products?

ray_subsonic 18th February 2013 07:59 AM

Joshua. Seeing as you're already developing a healthy sense of scepticism, I'd like to remind you that it's the internet. I wouldn't believe, nor disbelieve anything I read about Black Lion's reputation based on comments in an internet forum.

rob61 18th February 2013 08:23 AM

While I'm happy with my BLA modded MOTU interfaces, they do seem to resort to hyperbole and offer little in actual technical details for many of their claims.

Joshua Wise 18th February 2013 08:01 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ray_subsonic (Post 8758888)
Joshua. Seeing as you're already developing a healthy sense of scepticism, I'd like to remind you that it's the internet. I wouldn't believe, nor disbelieve anything I read about Black Lion's reputation based on comments in an internet forum.

Good point. It seems as though the only reliable way to test the quality of BLA converters is to try it out myself. Unfortunately I don't have those kinds of contacts

theblue1 18th February 2013 08:24 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Joshua Wise (Post 8758345)
Hello Slutz, I've recently been searching for a fantastic 2-channel A/D converter for recording vocals. I stumbled upon Black Lion Audio and saw their SPARROW MKII White, which I researched and found very positive reviews for. However, then I stumbled upon Black Lion "Premium Digital Cables".
Black Lion Audio claims that their Premium Digital Cables provide "fatigue-free midrange and highs, and tight, articulate low-end, with sweet midrange clarity."

Now, I don't quite understand how any digital cable could differ in sonic quality from any other digital cable, assuming both cables are transferring the same 1s and 0s. This seemed very suspicious and "scam-like" to me.

Can anybody confirm or disaffirm the reputation and quality of Black Lion Audio products?

As you suspect, it's blatant marketing hooey.

Slikjmuzik 18th February 2013 09:30 PM

You have to know how to interpret what they mean is how I read that. Yes, digital cables should just be carrying 1's and 0's, so the marketing and description behind their cables would be meaningless IMO.

Their mods and products, however, I see as a whole different ballgame. I've found their descriptions in this area to be spot on. In fact, it's got to be the best bang for the buck product I've adapted other than my Ross Martin converters. They upgraded the preamps, conversion and psu on my interface which came along with better isolation from channel to channel and less noise. The preamp/conversion combination they use is a thing of beauty. Color but with taste. The preamps have more headroom and are much more usable on so many more sources. Conversion easily holds it's own even against my Aurora, which as we all know is a $3k unit. I can only imagine if they're making a unit that goes for $1800 for just 2 channels, what it sounds like and does to a signal.

I say go for it!!

kafka 18th February 2013 11:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Joshua Wise (Post 8758345)
However, then I stumbled upon Black Lion "Premium Digital Cables".
Black Lion Audio claims that their Premium Digital Cables provide "fatigue-free midrange and highs, and tight, articulate low-end, with sweet midrange clarity."

Now, I don't quite understand how any digital cable could differ in sonic quality from any other digital cable, assuming both cables are transferring the same 1s and 0s. This seemed very suspicious and "scam-like" to me.

This would be complete bulls**t. A digital cable is transmitting 1's and 0's serially. If they're not the same coming out as when they went in, then the cable is broken. Moreover, anyone with an even rudimentary understanding of digital encoding would be able to see that these performance claims are impossible (or, at the very least, would apply exactly equally to every other functioning digital cable on the planet).

With this kind of marketing crap from BLA, I would never, ever, under any circumstances, trust anything else they have to say about any of their products.

CPhoenix 18th February 2013 11:37 PM

I have heard bla auteur shootouts and spoken to people who dumped their apogee big ben after getting a sparrow.......

But premium digital cables is utter bull****. I wish they hadnt have done that. It destroys their good reputation. I had to go to the website to see for myself. That's just sleasy.

Its the same as those companies that market "better sounding usb cables". Unbelievable.

Sent from my SGH-T999

doom64 18th February 2013 11:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by CPhoenix (Post 8761256)
But premium digital cables is utter bull****. I wish they hadnt have done that. It destroys their good reputation. I had to go to the website to see for myself. That's just sleasy.

Its the same as those companies that market "better sounding usb cables". Unbelievable.


100% agreed. I'm going to send them some notes and tell them that they better cut the malarkey otherwise they're going to lose business to audio engineers who know what they're doing.

They're going into Monster Cable territory which is NOT a good thing!

celticrogues 19th February 2013 05:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by CPhoenix (Post 8761256)
But premium digital cables is utter bull****. I wish they hadnt have done that. It destroys their good reputation. I had to go to the website to see for myself. That's just sleasy.

Agreed - I'm really shocked they did that. I always thought better of them than that...

They're even offering "Premium" BNC cables... which are meant for word clock... and don't even carry audio mezed

May have to rethink future purchases from them.

-Mike

Melodeath 19th February 2013 05:27 AM

Well, technically they carry "fatigue-free midrange and highs, and tight, articulate low-end, with sweet midrange clarity," as long as the audio had all those qualities before it went into the cable, and the cable doesn't mess them up. That's how you have to read these things sometimes, IMO.

rockcandy85 19th February 2013 02:03 PM

Um
 
Maybe we should ask them what they mean by their claim and see what they have to say about it, straight from the horses mouth. If i owned a pro audio company I'd like the wiggle room to make a mistake every now and then. I've been very pleased with all my purchases from them:-)

You wouldn't discredit Weezer's blue album because they made Raditude...:lol:

Slikjmuzik 19th February 2013 02:59 PM

I think they know it's BS. As much as they know about everything else, I honestly think they just realize people aren't going to go hunting for cables on their site, therefore, they need to make their product seem more inviting. I'm sure they figure 'hey, if they buy it, they won't be dissapointed'...at the very least this is what will happen. I can't fault them for wanting to sell a cable.

I still say they are an awesome company. I have their EQ, have used their sparrow with good results and had my interface modified by them. All fantastic products.

jrides 19th February 2013 03:31 PM

SM7B

boneshowell 19th February 2013 06:27 PM

white sparrow mkii
 
I used to have a white sparrow mkii

I sold it a while back when i got some apogee gear. only because I needed more than 2 channels. when i did my first tracks in the apogee gear i immediately noticed the difference and was like oh crap the black lion sounded better. but the apogee is good too.

If you are thinking about geting the white sparrow and all you need are 2 channels. I say get the white sparrow. as for the cabling. I say just buy it. if they say its awesome it probably is.

GYang 19th February 2013 07:11 PM

Forget cables.
They know how to make relatively affordable good quality preamps and converters, but they definitely lost connection with reality in how to advertise their products and services. It is time to revamp BLA site and re-shape message to potential customers. Other than that, seems that BLA still has viable ground to propose upgrades and products.

Bristol Posse 19th February 2013 07:38 PM

As for their reputation, I can only speak to my personal experience with their products, which was less than stellar. This was a couple of years ago so may have changed since

I had an original Sparrow that developed an intermittent whine on channel 1. I sent it back to them to take a look at. After they forgot about it for several days, they eventually said it was fine and sent it back, first time i fired it up after getting it back there is the whine on channel one

I was an early purchaser of their PM8 summing mixer. The one I got had scratchy master output pots, the channel pan pots were not consistently centered at 12 o'clock and the channel to channel volume was inconsistent so that sending a mono track to a stereo pair panned hard left & Right on the mixer resulted in an uncentered image that then took a lot of messing around with the channel attenuators (some of which were also scratchy) to get a centered stereo image. The PSU was also rather noisy and the channels seemed very prone to pick up RFI from PSUs both internal to the unit and from other nearby units

I had an original Auteur pre amp that worked without issue for the 15 months I owned it

I no longer have any of their stuff in my studio because life is too short and I don't want to mess around getting things to work as they should any longer. I seem to be seeing a pattern with "boutique gear" that reminds me of my experience with LOTUS motor cars and I'm pretty sure that LOTUS stands for Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious :)

Just one user's experience and YMMV

Piedpiper 19th February 2013 07:54 PM

My understanding is that even digital cables can make a difference, and that the difference shows up in the introduction of jitter. It certainly would be interesting for BLA to explain themselves further. IME, they certainly have the chops to do it.

Piedpiper 19th February 2013 07:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bristol Posse (Post 8763764)
As for their reputation, I can only speak to my personal experience with their products, which was less than stellar. This was a couple of years ago so may have changed since

I had an original Sparrow that developed an intermittent whine on channel 1. I sent it back to them to take a look at. After they forgot about it for several days, they eventually said it was fine and sent it back, first time i fired it up after getting it back there is the whine on channel one

I was an early purchaser of their PM8 summing mixer. The one I got had scratchy master output pots, the channel pan pots were not consistently centered at 12 o'clock and the channel to channel volume was inconsistent so that sending a mono track to a stereo pair panned hard left & Right on the mixer resulted in an uncentered image that then took a lot of messing around with the channel attenuators (some of which were also scratchy) to get a centered stereo image. The PSU was also rather noisy and the channels seemed very prone to pick up RFI from PSUs both internal to the unit and from other nearby units

I had an original Auteur pre amp that worked without issue for the 15 months I owned it

I no longer have any of their stuff in my studio because life is too short and I don't want to mess around getting things to work as they should any longer. I seem to be seeing a pattern with "boutique gear" that reminds me of my experience with LOTUS motor cars and I'm pretty sure that LOTUS stands for Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious :)

Just one user's experience and YMMV

Did you pursue these issues further with them, and if so, what happened?

Bristol Posse 19th February 2013 08:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Piedpiper (Post 8763823)
Did you pursue these issues further with them, and if so, what happened?

I did talk to a guy on the phone regarding the PM8, he asked me if I really understood analog gear, which was a poor way to start the conversation when someone is calling to talk about problems they are having with equipment you have made IMO. Perhaps this is a danger of letting engineers answer the phone :)

Then, after returning the Sparrow to them at my expense, waiting an overly long time for them to even look at it (got lost on someones workbench) and then getting it back with a report there was nothing wrong, which was clearly not the case, I decided I'd had enough. Rather than go off on some crusade to either get my stuff to work as advertised or get my money back and in the meantime not be able to record or mix anything, I listed all of the BLA stuff I had on ebay for very low prices with full disclosure of the issues I was experiencing.
People still wanted it and wanted to pay a great deal more than I was listing it for too. I guess their reputation was good for resale value

I counted myself very lucky to have recouped a good portion of my outlay and considered my lesson learned.

I'm not looking to smear them but the OP asked for opinion and I have some real world experience

CPhoenix 19th February 2013 08:47 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by boneshowell (Post 8763543)
I used to have a white sparrow mkii

I sold it a while back when i got some apogee gear. only because I needed more than 2 channels. when i did my first tracks in the apogee gear i immediately noticed the difference and was like oh crap the black lion sounded better. but the apogee is good too.

If you are thinking about geting the white sparrow and all you need are 2 channels. I say get the white sparrow. as for the cabling. I say just buy it. if they say its awesome it probably is.

I hear the same story on the Sparrow all the time.

But in regards to the cables... get them b/c they are cheap... not because of the "benefits" which just sound ridiculous. I'd seriously like to see the say someone can explain how a digital cable can make a sound warmer.

Piedpiper 19th February 2013 08:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bristol Posse (Post 8763864)
I did talk to a guy on the phone regarding the PM8, he asked me if I really understood analog gear, which was a poor way to start the conversation when someone is calling to talk about problems they are having with equipment you have made IMO. Perhaps this is a danger of letting engineers answer the phone :)

Then, after returning the Sparrow to them at my expense, waiting an overly long time for them to even look at it (got lost on someones workbench) and then getting it back with a report there was nothing wrong, which was clearly not the case, I decided I'd had enough. Rather than go off on some crusade to either get my stuff to work as advertised or get my money back and in the meantime not be able to record or mix anything, I listed all of the BLA stuff I had on ebay for very low prices with full disclosure of the issues I was experiencing.
People still wanted it and wanted to pay a great deal more than I was listing it for too. I guess their reputation was good for resale value

I counted myself very lucky to have recouped a good portion of my outlay and considered my lesson learned.

I'm not looking to smear them but the OP asked for opinion and I have some real world experience

thanks for your input, as well as your neutral attitude. I think there may well be at least one other side to this, though.

A wee story in support of one observation: I own a Manley Dual Mono Mic Pre. Manley is famous for robust build quality, top notch sound, and excellent customer service. I do a fair amount of stereo micing using this pre and I noticed that I could not rely on the volume pots of the two channels to track identically by setting them visually. I called up Manley and they told me that any volume pot as opposed to a switched discrete resistive array would exhibit such discrepancies and that although they match their pots and would be happy to replace them or send me new pots to install myself, that the two channels would likely still have to be adjusted by the signal meters in the DAW for accurate stereo use.

My point is that it may well be that their question to you was completely valid and not laden with as much attitude as you thought. I also notice that even when asked directly by me what the follow up was, you still chose to not explain what happened after they asked you that question, though implied that you dropped the ball yourself, as it were, and moved on... your choice, of course, and understandable, but your choice. It doesn't necessarily take a "crusade" to make something right but it can be an elusive process at times with no one at fault per se.

Small operations such as BLA are prone to a bit of disorganization in that they typically don't have the resources for dedicated managers.

theblue1 19th February 2013 08:55 PM

One of the very first things I ever read from/about them was about how they were modding one converter by replacing audio opamps with video opamps -- to get extended high frequency response.

That was all I needed to know.

Bristol Posse 19th February 2013 09:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Piedpiper (Post 8764026)
My point is that it may well be that their question to you was completely valid and not laden with as much attitude as you thought. I also notice that even when asked directly by me what the follow up was, you still chose to not explain what happened after they asked you that question, though implied that you dropped the ball yourself, as it were, and moved on... your choice, of course, and understandable, but your choice. It doesn't necessarily take a "crusade" to make something right but it can be an elusive process at times with no one at fault per se.

OK, I don't want to make an issue out of BLA and for all I know in the last 2+ years things have gotten better but...

My response to the question as far as I can recall was that I have built and modded several guitars and guitar amps so I have some knowledge of electrical stuff

I am fully aware that no two physical pots are going to be identical however when a mixer is set with one channel set hard left and one set hard right with both channels having zero attenuation, there should not be a radical shift in stereo image that requires one channel to have as much as 10% attenuation to recenter the image.
I should not have to set one channels pan pot at 11 o'clock, another at 1 o'clock and the others at various points in between to get individual mono sources centered on each channel. And by centered I mean measured voltage of test tones at the 2 master outputs, hardware (Coleman) VU meters as well as levels on the returned signal to the DAW. I would not expect this level of inconsistency on a Behringer unit let alone a "Boutique" piece that cost around $900. But it seemed like there was no QC on this unit at all before it went out of the door.

They offered to take a look at it if I would (at my expense) send it back to them. That didn't thrill me since at the time I'd already spent over $70 sending my Sparrow back to them and they were not sure where it was. At the time this was all going on with BLA, I was going through some stuff that led me to my realization that life is too short to worry about this kind of nonsense, and so I dropped them and bought off the shelf stuff that works fine all the time despite the challenges of the physical limitations of real voltages passing through imperfect components :). The BLA stuff was really good when it worked, but I couldn't count on it to do so reliably every time I fired it up (sounds like LOTUS again)

I see now that they have new Sparrow, New Auteurs and a new version of the PM8 on their site and facebok page.
I kind of feel like I was an unwitting beta tester and I paid over $2000 for the privilege

But again, things may have changed

Piedpiper 19th February 2013 09:58 PM

thanks for the much more complete picture... you could see how your prior post left it a bit open to interpretation... sorry to hear of your troubles...

Joshua Wise 20th February 2013 05:02 AM

Thanks for sharing your stories everyone. Looks like I might just go with retail, for the sake of reliability and trustworthiness. Any and all experiences with the White Sparrow are still welcome though. Does anybody know if it's possible to rent the White Sparrow from any resellers?

dosilegecko 20th February 2013 05:45 AM

As long as the same order of 1's and 0's arrive at the other end of the cable, who cares if its made out of gypsy tears? You can't improve a digital signal in line, and passive devices like a cable shouldn't introduce extra jitter, and the other end receiving the sampled data should recover the exact same thing that went in (as long as the cable isn't SUPER long/SUPER lossy)

Makes no sense, and I like BLA for their mods. Marketing people... :deth:

Piedpiper 20th February 2013 06:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dosilegecko (Post 8765525)
You can't improve a digital signal in line, and passive devices like a cable shouldn't introduce extra jitter, and the other end receiving the sampled data should recover the exact same thing that went in (as long as the cable isn't SUPER long/SUPER lossy)

Do you know that for a fact or are you just assuming because you don't understand how it could?

aTelecine-Lex 20th February 2013 06:31 AM

Quote:

As long as the same order of 1's and 0's arrive at the other end of the cable, who cares if its made out of gypsy tears? You can't improve a digital signal in line, and passive devices like a cable shouldn't introduce extra jitter, and the other end receiving the sampled data should recover the exact same thing that went in (as long as the cable isn't SUPER long/SUPER lossy)<br />
<br />
Makes no sense, and I like BLA for their mods. Marketing people... :deth:
I agree with your thoughts above...

I have come across a fair amount of "Superior Digital Cables" which claim to have some sort of ability to somehow enhance the sound of the audio running through them.

However, untill recently, most of my encounters with such claims have been from companies that are more "Audiophile" realm.

I can understand that MAYBE a high end digital cable may produce less jitter - And, I'll concede that the build quality may be more robust - Which may very well offer better longevity.

However, I am absolutely puzzled at how a cable (giving the benefit of the doubt) which has less jitter would offer any "warmth" or improved mid-range response.

It would seem that a pro-audio conpany ought to back up their claims in a specific manner.

I understand the concept of marketing, and how some may have differing views of precieved sound with regard to something like speaker cables or analog interconnects -

However where, as here, the product in question, a digital cable is solely transfering data - My view is that we should be made privy to how, exactly, BLA can make such claims.
Particularly since unlike an audiophile situation where desirable listening is the goal - Pro-Audio seeks accuracy, If such claims by BLA are true, the effects of any frequency manipulation may in fact be undesirable for pro-audio use.

Just my thoughts and opinion on the matter...

Best Regards,
Alexa

Audio Envy Cable 20th February 2013 06:52 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Joshua Wise (Post 8758345)
Hello Slutz, I've recently been searching for a fantastic 2-channel A/D converter for recording vocals. I stumbled upon Black Lion Audio and saw their SPARROW MKII White, which I researched and found very positive reviews for. However, then I stumbled upon Black Lion "Premium Digital Cables".
Black Lion Audio claims that their Premium Digital Cables provide "fatigue-free midrange and highs, and tight, articulate low-end, with sweet midrange clarity."

Now, I don't quite understand how any digital cable could differ in sonic quality from any other digital cable, assuming both cables are transferring the same 1s and 0s. This seemed very suspicious and "scam-like" to me.

Can anybody confirm or disaffirm the reputation and quality of Black Lion Audio products?

Only gear that comes in boxes, microphones and big cases could possible have any validity to better sound, and ALL CABLES ARE WITH OUT QUESTION COMPLETE BULL ****? Right? I can not speak for black lion's digital cables but I do know the answer you are asking because I have tested it a dozen times over a dozen different ways, unlike the people here that find their resolve in skepticism. I do not dare to publicly share it because I would be cast to hell for stating such nonsense. "even if it is provable and well known among the people that really wanted to know."