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Grace Design M108 vs. Focusrite RED8Pre - Spoiled and dissatisfied
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
Grace Design M108 vs. Focusrite RED8Pre - Spoiled and dissatisfied

For the last few years, I've been capturing location choral gigs with an Apogee Ensemble + Element 88 rig for 16 channels. This necessitates long analog snakes which are annoying, awkward for live gigs, heavy, and time-consuming. I've had my eyes on moving to an IP-Based solution. The goal is fidelity first and portability second.

Step one was the purchase of a Grace Design m108. Initially, I purchased the Control Room output card to temporarily use for monitoring. When higher channel count is needed, I'd use the Ensemble via Thunderbolt and input the m108 via SMUX.

The next step was to use the m108 at stage level, replace the CR card with the Dante card, and add a second interface with Dante for control room monitoring and additional mic preamps when needed. A few times a year I record larger ensembles that require additional channel count for spots.

A good deal on a B-stock Focusrite RED 8 Pre came up and fit the bill... or so I thought. Most of my hobbyist days were on older Focusrite FW400 interfaces. They did the trick but were noisy for acoustic music. Thinking this was Focusrite's top-end interface, I hoped for quality close to the Grace. There's a lot packed into the box, so my expectations were low.

But not low enough, it turns out. There are many oversights on the unit. The fan runs constantly and audibly. The display is an LCD that cannot be disabled or dimmed. And the monitor section is dull tonally, dynamically constrained, and two-dimensional compared to the $200 CR output card in the Grace m108. Since making the (temporary) move to the Grace for monitoring, both over monitors and on cans, my rough mixes have required much less polishing. I don't want to take a step backward in this respect. (Note: I've yet to test the mic preamps in the Focusrite.)

I don't think the Focusrite is going to do the trick. I'm not confident in the monitor section. Even using it as a preamp only has given me doubts. And to ignore that fan and bright display? No thanks. Clearly, Grace has spoiled me tonally.

One is to get a second m108, Millennia, or other Dante-enabled mic pre. I'd lose the line-level CR output to go Dante and would need to use an external monitor DAC via Dante. Or consider one of the pricier options like a Apogee Symphony mk2, Lynx Aurora, or Prism Titan. And of course, just keep hauling long analog snakes everywhere instead of simple runs of CAT6.

Options? Those of you down this route ahead of me, what would you suggest.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
Gear Addict
Christopher -

I've been using Digital Audio Denmark [packaged as the ugly black/purple Pro Tools MTRX sibling - since I'm on Pro Tools Ultimate] daily for well over a year. The UX is a bit more industrial and clunky than Grace, but the functionality is stunning good. Indeed, it was my own personal favorite option. Although I do also use a small MixPre-6 daily [for dialog and limited Foley], the DAD/MTRX is my goto box. . .even on location. I mostly work ITB, am often mobile [as often as not], and never put the device in a rack. Totally thrilled with the results!

Not necessarily a suggestion for you. But something I didn't notice in your list.

Of course, new pro-line Sound Device gear is advertising Dante now as well. Sonosax was projecting it for last summer. Don't know if they delivered.


Best wishes,

Ray H.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
Gear Nut
I really don't understand why more people don't gravitate toward MADI instead of Ethernet, for small ish rigs. Cable is rediculously cheap, it's Plug n Play, and you can keep your D/A and monitoring options open.

For me it's a no brainer.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Klimermonk View Post
I really don't understand why more people don't gravitate toward MADI instead of Ethernet, for small ish rigs. Cable is rediculously cheap, it's Plug n Play, and you can keep your D/A and monitoring options open.

For me it's a no brainer.
I'm not opposed to MADI, but have very limited experience. It certainly would remove the format compatibility concerns. Those concerns (Dante v.s AES67/Ravenna) are why I'm not seriously considering the Merging Horus or Hapi. The limit to 48kHz over AES67 is a non-starter.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
Lives for gear
 
tourtelot's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dizziness View Post
I'm not opposed to MADI, but have very limited experience. It certainly would remove the format compatibility concerns. Those concerns (Dante v.s AES67/Ravenna) are why I'm not seriously considering the Merging Horus or Hapi. The limit to 48kHz over AES67 is a non-starter.
AoIP using Dante is, in my mind, the only way to go. It just works. AES67, even though I have gotten it to connect to a Merging Hapi, is complicated, not intuitive and capped at 48k. A non-starter for me.

The Grace m108 is an exceptional preamp. Exceptional! Great A to D as well. Dante to 192k, plus, even, a USB out that allows me to connect it to Auria on an iPad for a simple 8 tracks of backup. I am saving my pennies to buy channels 25 through 32 which will be all the front-end I ever need. Do it and don't look back.

D.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
Gear Maniac
I love Dante but i moved to MOTU AVB because the B16 stageboxes (and the other boxes, too!) are really great and i couldn‘t find anything comparable in its price range with Dante that came close....
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
Lives for gear
 
tourtelot's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by bremusound View Post
I love Dante but i moved to MOTU AVB because the B16 stageboxes (and the other boxes, too!) are really great and i couldn‘t find anything comparable in its price range with Dante that came close....
Yep. I think finding the correct platform for the work one does is super important. That's why they make chocolate and vanilla.

D.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
Gear Addict
 
lukedamrosch's Avatar
 

I also run a Grace m108 (using Dante) and, like Doug, cannot say enough good things about it -- or the company as a whole, which is of course very important as well.

To offer one scenario regarding your question about monitoring: while I have had similarly uninspiring experiences with some of the Focusrite products, their AM2 Dante-enabled headphone amp (which also has balanced line outs) has been very reliable and is perfectly adequate for on-location monitoring.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #9
Lives for gear
 
tourtelot's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by lukedamrosch View Post
AM2 Dante-enabled headphone amp (which also has balanced line outs) has been very reliable and is perfectly adequate for on-location monitoring.
Yes. Another really good device.

D.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
We’re about to replace a Rednet MP8R with a Grace 108 in the ceiling above our main concert hall. I’ve really liked the MP8R as a pre and converter, interested to hear how big a difference there is with the Grace up there going forward.

We’re not swapping it out looking for a sound quality improvement, so much as that it was decided we should install something permanently to save us having to bring the roving MP8R rack up there for every concert, and the Grace’s price, feature set, and pedigree really fit the bill.

We’ve got a lot of Rednet gear throughout our setup, and I’ve never thought of it as a weakness. Our biggest gripe has been that the older devices (Rednet 2 and 4) don’t have secondary connections. Sonically, we’ve been quite happy. And the POE AM2 is so convenient, we’d like to add a few more in time.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by king2070lplaya View Post
We’re about to replace a Rednet MP8R with a Grace 108 in the ceiling above our main concert hall. I’ve really liked the MP8R as a pre and converter, interested to hear how big a difference there is with the Grace up there going forward.
On a whim I fed the RED8Pre word clock from the m108. There was a substantial change with articulation, dynamics, and width of the stage. On the internal word clock, there's a lack of low-level ambient material and an exaggerated focus of mono-material (e.g., vocals in pop). The tonality is largely comparable but with less spotlighting.

Last edited by dizziness; 4 weeks ago at 01:27 AM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by dizziness View Post
On a whim I fed the RED8Pre wordclock from the m108. There was a substantial change with articulation, dynamics, and width of stage. On internal wordclock, there's a lack of low-level ambient material and an exaggerated focus of mono material (vocals in pop).
That might be part of why it works so well for us; it’s all synced to an external clock.
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