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Using the Sonosax AD8+ to frontend the 788T
Old 7th July 2016
  #1
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Using the Sonosax AD8+ to frontend the 788T

Hi Everyone :

Been a long time user of the 788T with the CL-9 for location recordings of acoustic music. The machine has been flawless in all these years. I took it in to Sound Devices on a recent trip to the US and got it completely overhauled and brought to current hardware spec with a brand new SSD too.

I love the reliability of the 788T and the ease of use but ...

After being part of a recording where a Nagra VII was used, I am realizing that the 788 is no longer at the cutting edge of transparency (to my ears). I was looking at selling the 788T setup to get one of the Nagra/Aeta or Sonosax recorders but just thought of this new option and would love some thoughts.

So, here are my questions:

1. What do you guys think about using the Sonosax AD8+ as a front end upgrade to the 788T. I don't see any obvious way from the photos to set Phantom power/sample frequency/phase etc on the box. Does it need the Sonasax recorder to set these?

2. Any subjective thoughts on the quality of the micpre/conversion in the Sonosax box wrt to the Nagra machine. A dozen years ago is my last experience with Sonosax and at that time I found the pres to be a touch on the bright side compared to Nagra.

3. Final thought : sell the 788T setup entirely and get the AD8+ and the MinR82 as the bit bucket - would lose the fader panel and maybe the continuous pan though ...

My setups are fairly minimalist - generally, ribbons in blumlein and a Schoeps MS/ORTF pair or a Soundfield mic so 6 channels of input are adequate.

Appreciate any feedback and/or suggestions and information about pricing/availability.

Warm regards,
Baithak
Old 7th July 2016
  #2
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The best thing to do is email Sonosax if SD is compatible but I suspect that you will need the SD-R4+ recorder to make things work. As far as the Nagra Seven being more transparent then SD788T, what I think you're hearing is the color and brightness of the Nagra and calling it more transparent. I have a Nagra Seven and I would not call it transparent. When I insert it into a bypass loop it softens the sound, looses detail and adds color to the source, that's not accurate in my opinion. That's the "Nagra Sound". The 788T is probably closer to neutral and probably sounds a bit dull compared to the Nagra. Many people interpret brightness as more detail and clarity, and many products in audio tend to error in that direction, it's a very nice sound. The Sonosax has 4 mic input, just add a stereo mic pre such as Millennia HV32P with a battery pack and your all set.
Old 7th July 2016
  #3
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boojum's Avatar
There was a double blind test between the 788T and the N VII and no one could tell which was which. When the samples were unveiled everyone knew why they liked their particular brand better. Total self deception and frivolity. If you cannot find the files I have them. They were completely equal in inputs and conditions. It was fun and very funny to hear the fan boys go on.
Old 7th July 2016
  #4
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Thanks for your replies Boojum and SD270 ...

It was your double blind tests years ago that kept me from upgrading to the Nagra all these years. So, thanks for saving me a bunch of money :-) then.

But it is six-eight years later and my main question is about the pre/conversion quality of the new Sonosax AD8+ and its usability as a frontend to the 788T.

I will try emailing Sonosax too ...

Baithak
Old 7th July 2016
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boojum View Post
There was a double blind test between the 788T and the N VII and no one could tell which was which. When the samples were unveiled everyone knew why they liked their particular brand better. Total self deception and frivolity. If you cannot find the files I have them. They were completely equal in inputs and conditions. It was fun and very funny to hear the fan boys go on.
I find it depends on the mics. I can not tell the difference between the 744t and my nagra vi on things like m149 and my shot gun mics (i.e. cmit 5u & 416), so I think the AD8 would be really nice for those standard mics. But when I plug in a ku4 (old ribbon remake) to the nagra it sounds great, not so much with the SD. I think the multiple sensitivity ranges on the nagra is were the seperation is, I also prefer the nagra on CCM41 configs on location music in very quite rooms(the sensitivity mAmp options on the nagra are is so easy use, 744t menu system is not obvious).

I've been looking at something really clean to bring in my 4 AES inputs on the nagra vi, similiar to what the OP wants for the 788t. Problem I have had on some stuff is being fanatical on the AES clock all being completely in sync (the nagra requires the two double aes inputs to be on the same aes clock). Really for the 4 AES inputs, I don't need "fanatically" high quality preamps, since those are often mics that are outputing a fairly high signal(and/or line level). I didn't realize the new Sonosax sx-ad8 was fully available, web sites either don't list it or have some comment like "call".
Old 7th July 2016
  #6
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You might want to look up the particulars of the testing before you dismiss it. IIRC the mics were Josephson C617sets. These are generally regarded as good and Patrick who did the tests did them with another equally capable fellow. They were meticulous in their testing and they did not use a Nagra VI but a Nagra VII. And as I said, no one could identify which recorder was which even though they could tell them apart. To me this means there was not much difference other than piddling little comments about one being just a tad more open and the other being a tad more detailed, etc. Try and search out the test if you can. It was very instructive.

And, if you would like I have the complete set of test files.
Old 7th July 2016
  #7
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Nagra VI / Sound Devices 788T shootout

Hey Boojum. You have the Nagra's reversed, the 6 not the 7 was in the test. The 7 was not even available at that time. And several people heard the difference including me. Although I'm a Nagra user I preferred the 788T, thought it was more detailed and more neutral. The search doesn't seem to find it but if you type in Nagra VI and scroll down the page you'll find it.
Old 7th July 2016
  #8
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Why don't y'all just post the bloody link? There, was that so hard to do?

The reason one can often hear more differences between micpres with passive ribbon mics usually has to do with the non-standard output impedance of ribbon mics. The range of output impedances results in different loading from different preamps, which in turn changes the ribbon's response curves and results in "color". Lots of people (mostly studio types) love this mix-'n-match mics and preamps thing as it gives them some control over "color" (and a heck of an excuse to indulge their Gear Acquisition Syndrome). Others of us find it a real PITA.

Personally, I find this a failing of the passive ribbon mics, not the preamps. You don't get this with modern active ribbons. Or just about any other modern mic that contains an active output stage -- e.g. any modern condenser mic. This probably accounts for a large part of the craze for "vintage" mics, a craze that I obviously don't share. But share it or not, I recognize that it's definitely a thing.
Old 7th July 2016
  #9
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If you like your 788 and know it well (a great advantage in field work) I'd say that the easiest way to change your sound would be to try some different pres. This worked out well for me.
Old 7th July 2016
  #10
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Also, and correct me if I'm wrong, but the preamps in the 788T are different than those in the 744T.

I admit to being a 788T "fanboy" but that's because I can't find anything it doesn't do well. (shrug) If only SD had made a control unit for two 788Ts linked, I could have sold off a lot of racks fulla gear.

The really awesome thing about that machine, right now, is there is a glut of them on the market and good samples can be had for less than $4000. I am seriously thinking about a second unit even though there are about 5 available to borrow within a reasonable distance of my house.

D.
Old 7th July 2016
  #11
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Ribbon mics

The Nagra 6 has 2 inputs with transformers for dynamic mics and that probably accounts for the ribbons sounding better than the 744.

Last edited by sd270; 7th July 2016 at 06:20 PM.. Reason: change model
Old 7th July 2016
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot View Post
Also, and correct me if I'm wrong, but the preamps in the 788T are different than those in the 744T.

I admit to being a 788T "fanboy" but that's because I can't find anything it doesn't do well. (shrug) If only SD had made a control unit for two 788Ts linked, I could have sold off a lot of racks fulla gear.

The really awesome thing about that machine, right now, is there is a glut of them on the market and good samples can be had for less than $4000. I am seriously thinking about a second unit even though there are about 5 available to borrow within a reasonable distance of my house.

D.
I thought they were more or less the same, and it was the limiters that were diff? Re control unit, like more mojo than C-Link? Speaking of which, I wish they would do exactly that in the 6XX series w/ CL12--maybe more possible there? Track counts are unlikely to go down....
Old 7th July 2016
  #13
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Earcatcher's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by philper View Post
I thought they were more or less the same, and it was the limiters that were diff? Re control unit, like more mojo than C-Link?
No, preamps of the 788T are fundamentally different than those of the 744T: 788T Microphone Preamplifiers
Old 7th July 2016
  #14
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I think SD is very, very unlikely to do any R&D for the 788T. Too bad, but they have moved on. They are doing extremely well with the large track-count bag-mixer guys. Seems like the state-of-the-art these days.

I have a CL8 control surface which works (super) well for what I mostly do these days, but if I have a session that requires more than 8-tracks, I have to haul out the mic pres, the converters, the mixing panel and the JoeCo which makes it a much bigger and more costly deal for a client.

The C-link is great if you want to simply slave a second 788T for capture but it is really, really hard to mix on. The 788T was never really meant to be a mixer, even while it allegedly has that ability. A "CL-16" or such would have been an immediate purchase for me but alas, never to be I'm guessing.

D.
Old 7th July 2016
  #15
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Thread Starter
My thought exactly

Quote:
Originally Posted by philper View Post
If you like your 788 and know it well (a great advantage in field work) I'd say that the easiest way to change your sound would be to try some different pres. This worked out well for me.
^^^
That is exactly the reason behind my original question. AD8+ looks like an attractive solution with top notch sound. I used the Crane Song Spider as the front end to the 788T for many years in the studio but it was just too bulky for use in the field so I sold it recently. A single cable to the AES input on the 788T and I was in business.

The AD8+ seems tantalizingly close to this and obviously far less bulky.

And yes, it is with ribbons that I find the 788T pres struggling - I use the Samar MF-65s as my main Blumlein pair - so it is interesting to see Bruce's comments about pre-amp loading due to impedance.

Thanks for all your comments so far.

Baithak

Last edited by Baithak; 7th July 2016 at 10:16 PM.. Reason: typos
Old 7th July 2016
  #16
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Baithak View Post
And yes, it is with ribbons that I find the 788T pres struggling - I use the Samar MF-65s as my main Blumlein pair - so it is interesting to see Bruce's comments about pre-amp loading due to impedance.
You might find these interesting:

Microphones, Preamps and Impedance

Analysis of the Interaction between Ribbon Motor, Transformer, and Preamplifier and Its Application in Ribbon Microphone Design

Preamplifier Considerations

You might also find it interesting to exchange a few messages with Samar's Mark Fouxman, who is a fellow Gearslutz member. He's bound to have some views on this since he's now released the VL37a, the active version of the passive VL37.
Old 7th July 2016
  #17
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Thread Starter
Thanks again Bruce

So, I checked out both the SD website 788T Specs - Sound Devices, LLC | Audio Production Products and the Samar site http://samaraudiodesign.com/SamarMF6...ications.html-

SD indicates the 788T mic-pre input impedance is 3.5K and Samar indicates that their ribbons output impedance is 250 Ohms. So per the Royer site, this is more than adequate - they were suggesting a ratio greater than 5.

I am suspecting that these numbers vary by signal frequency too??

Re. Mark at Samar, I found it interesting that he chose to create an active version of the VL37 instead of his flagship MF-65 ... wonder if sonic compromises come into play with the active ribbons.

Re the differences between the 788T and 744 pres, here is a note from 2008 that lays it out - 788T Microphone Preamplifiers - Sound Devices, LLC | Audio Production Products ("The 788T mic preamps outperform the preamps on the two and four channel recorders, while drawing less power. The 788T has improved dynamic range, resulting largely from an analog-to-digital converter with several dB more dynamic range. ")

Baithak
Old 8th July 2016
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sd270 View Post
Hey Boojum. You have the Nagra's reversed, the 6 not the 7 was in the test. The 7 was not even available at that time. And several people heard the difference including me. Although I'm a Nagra user I preferred the 788T, thought it was more detailed and more neutral. The search doesn't seem to find it but if you type in Nagra VI and scroll down the page you'll find it.
Yes, you are right and I am wrong. I checked the files I have stored on my computer, the ones I downloaded from the test and they sure do say, "Nagra VI."

Apologies.


Yes, many heard differences but no one was able to say which was which. That is telling and important.
Old 8th July 2016
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baithak View Post
So, I checked out both the SD website 788T Specs - Sound Devices, LLC | Audio Production Products and the Samar site http://samaraudiodesign.com/SamarMF6...ications.html-

SD indicates the 788T mic-pre input impedance is 3.5K and Samar indicates that their ribbons output impedance is 250 Ohms. So per the Royer site, this is more than adequate - they were suggesting a ratio greater than 5.

I am suspecting that these numbers vary by signal frequency too??

Re. Mark at Samar, I found it interesting that he chose to create an active version of the VL37 instead of his flagship MF-65 ... wonder if sonic compromises come into play with the active ribbons.

Re the differences between the 788T and 744 pres, here is a note from 2008 that lays it out - 788T Microphone Preamplifiers - Sound Devices, LLC | Audio Production Products ("The 788T mic preamps outperform the preamps on the two and four channel recorders, while drawing less power. The 788T has improved dynamic range, resulting largely from an analog-to-digital converter with several dB more dynamic range. ")

Baithak
There are a number of folks who prefer the 744 pres etc to those of the 788, many of whom have posted on this subject here and elsewhere. The point of which is that the diffs are subtle enough to have personal listening prefs be the determining factor.
Old 8th July 2016
  #20
Gear Addict
Actually, no. The Nagra VI has transformers on all 4 of its on board preamps. They are only in the circuit when the preamps are set to 2.8 mV/Pa.

The Nagra EMP preamp has the same preamps as the VI, with a transformer for each of its two channels.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sd270 View Post
The Nagra 6 has 2 inputs with transformers for dynamic mics and that probably accounts for the ribbons sounding better than the 744.
Old 8th July 2016
  #21
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I have been getting familiar with Neumann digital mics plugged into my Nagra VI. Sound is very very good indeed.

The set up includes 2 or 4 Neumann Solution D mics, (KM184D, KM183D, and KM133D) and Neumann DMI-2 Portable controller boxes.

The sound of the Neumann digital mics is entirely different to the regular 183, and 184 mics.

The inbuilt a/d converter is incredible and offers a silent velvety black background sound.

Direct capsule sound is totally endorsed here.

However, only 4 Neumann digital mics can be used on the NVI at a time. That is enough for a lot of things.

Soon, I will use this set up with the Chicago Symphony playing Mahler 2.
Old 8th July 2016
  #22
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So right you are, there are 4 tranformers in the Nagra 6, memory failure!
Old 8th July 2016
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post

The set up includes 2 or 4 Neumann Solution D mics, (KM184D, KM183D, and KM133D) and Neumann DMI-2 Portable controller boxes.

The inbuilt a/d converter is incredible
As an aside, one of Portland, Oregon's most revered engineers has been using these for years with great success. He got into the digital mics to deal with noisy copper running through the stageboxes and walls in old theaters and halls in the NW. He probably has more digital Neumann mics than Neumann! The noise, or absence of, is stunning. Like Plush said, the soundstage is presented on a completely black background, just stunning.
Old 8th July 2016
  #24
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Plush's Avatar
Good post, playa! I believe I have met that man. John Owens from Audio Technology Switzerland introduced us.

We had a good visit about the digital set up.
John Willett and the mentioned man got me stoked to
use the Neumann set up. Full Compass had a blow out sale on the gear so I took the jump.

It is definitely worth knowing about.

Last edited by Plush; 9th July 2016 at 02:27 PM..
Old 9th July 2016
  #25
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Kind of a side response, but I have been dealing with mic count creep on production mixing. So I have been pondering a zaxcom rx12 (with 8 remote mics option ) with a nomad 12. The problem I have been dealing with is it seems like there is a trend to having the production mix really close to final, so everything moves so fast a lot of things end up getting double mic'ed. Eight'ish years back I started with mixpre-d just going to the camera, then needed more flexibility so went to 744t, then had more sound design surround gigs so went with the Nagra VI. I'm finding I just don't like doing "add on"s into either the 744,788, nagra vi. I have also been pondering just biting the bullet and getting a zaxcom deva 24 when they are out at volume, I just don't want to keep getting gear(I really like the concept of changing the gain on the remote mics through a mixer). For some uses I have also noticed a need for zaxnet support, but zaxnet is not universal so it would drive me crazy needing different recorders based on production meta data requirements. So I have been in much of the same debate as the OP, but I don't want to get one more piece of gear that will get me half way to where I need to go.
Old 9th July 2016
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PatrickFaith View Post
Kind of a side response, but I have been dealing with mic count creep on production mixing. So I have been pondering a zaxcom rx12 (with 8 remote mics option ) with a nomad 12. The problem I have been dealing with is it seems like there is a trend to having the production mix really close to final, so everything moves so fast a lot of things end up getting double mic'ed. Eight'ish years back I started with mixpre-d just going to the camera, then needed more flexibility so went to 744t, then had more sound design surround gigs so went with the Nagra VI. I'm finding I just don't like doing "add on"s into either the 744,788, nagra vi. I have also been pondering just biting the bullet and getting a zaxcom deva 24 when they are out at volume, I just don't want to keep getting gear(I really like the concept of changing the gain on the remote mics through a mixer). For some uses I have also noticed a need for zaxnet support, but zaxnet is not universal so it would drive me crazy needing different recorders based on production meta data requirements. So I have been in much of the same debate as the OP, but I don't want to get one more piece of gear that will get me half way to where I need to go.
You may need to accept that there is no one size fits all perfect solution to every recording situation that comes up, in any part of the field. A big rig can handle a lot of inputs, but gets progressively more complex to manage and harder to move around, not to mention power. Then there will be the sudden breakaway move that will require a light doco rig that you can hold in your lap and wear for hours at a time. Then something where you need to make a mix from a lot of inputs, but has to fit in a tiny space and be setup at lightspeed, then moved to another location, And so on. All of us who have been at this for awhile end up with a menu of a few different basic rigs--for those of us who do both dialog work for video and music recording work it can end up being more than a few.
Old 9th July 2016
  #27
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That new 16 track Sonosax R4+ and the 8 channel pre/adc looks like a great small package.
Old 9th July 2016
  #28
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tourtelot's Avatar
Back to analog!

SSL 9080K and Ampex MM1200.

D.
Old 9th July 2016
  #29
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot View Post
Back to analog!

SSL 9080K and Ampex MM1200.

D.
Don't forget the truck.
Old 29th July 2016
  #30
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From Sononews 2016 01:
"This new multipurpose pre-amplifier can complement recorders such as the SX-R4+, the previous generation SX-R4, the MINIR82 or any other recorder equipped with AES inputs; it can also be used as a stand alone pre-amplifier as "front end" for multi-track sound recording in studios or on location, then to be controlled through a tablet or smartphone via WiFi interface."
Regarding quality, I offer my highly subjective impressions that I wouldn't advise anyone take absolutely. I consider Aaton, Sonosax and Nagra the top three, with the SX-R4 being more transparent than the X2 which in turn I feel is more analog-sounding like the VI. For strings I probably favor Sonosax, who incidentally don't mind publishing their product specs I have not compared the new X3 and SX-R4+ side by side, but at this level size, weight and concealment are likely the factors that matter most to me. So while I deeply admire all three of these companies, I must hand it to the one that packed most of everything into a 255 ml, 43-teaspoon, 0.009 ft³ container :-)
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