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the sweetest converters i've ever heard... and the tracks to prove it Digital Converters
Old 13th November 2007
  #1
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u b k's Avatar
 

the sweetest converters i've ever heard... and the tracks to prove it

i was recently asked to run the new converters from burl audio thru their paces and give some feedback to the designer before he ramped up production. it seemed like a simple task, and i was looking forward to hearing what the designer of the 2192 would come up with when freed from the constraints of the more formal business atmosphere at universal audio. i'd heard the burl prototypes at a hush-hush session many months ago in watersound studio, and what i heard definitely got my attention in a big way. they were deep and clear, very punchy, very analog.

but somewhere along the development trail the designer, rich williams, completely scrapped the prototype's circuit in favor of a new one he concocted that involved custom-wound transformers he spent months developing. so i didn't know what to expect when the pre-pro unit was handed to me, if anything i was a bit disappointed that the original had been changed at all, the proto wanted for nothing to my ears.

with all this in mind, last week i went into musegarden recording, the lovechild of a great friend and fellow slut 'beats workin', aka david lawrence, and we wrote and recorded a song from the ground up in one evening, recording every track thru the burls (we had 4 channels). david's collection of vintage gear and mics is stunning, and his engineering chops are as good as it gets, and i have deep respect for any engineer that lets me remove the second heads from the drums and tape a wallet to the snare. as for the song, i played drums and synth and sang lead vox, david played acoustic and electric and bass guitars, rhodes, and sang backups. what rich (at burl) and gil (at wave distro) had in mind was for me to run the new converters thru the wringer and look for weaknesses or flaws in the sound or function. what *i* had in mind was to see if these things had the magic that i remembered from the session with the prototypes, because if the new design came up short i wouldn't hesitate to say so, to rich and to gil and to everyone here.

this is how it played out: the burl, with the new circuit and new transformers, sounded so much richer, deeper, smoother, and more analog than the apogees we were using for comparison (edit: the rosetta 800's, clocked with the burl) that all david and i could do was smile and shake our heads at the difference coming back off the console. it was the first time ever for me that i was in a straight-to-digital recording session and didn't miss the euphonic coloration of tape; that's no small thing, anyone who reads my rants knows i'm an unabashed fan of tape. and to be clear, i have no interest in sparking an argument over whether converters should be transparent or not. everyone has their own path to follow, i respect them all, and this is what is true for me: if a piece of hardware imparts a color on the signal that i find desirable, i don't care what the function of that box is... desirable is by definition desirable. some boxes have an almost magical ability to take anything you give them and spit it out the backside sounding better, sweeter. i consider the burl to be that kind of box.

if you want stark, neutral, transparent, or what-you-give-is-exactly-what-you-get conversion, you may want to look elsewhere, prisms or myteks or whatnot. but if you want conversion that sounds rich, incredibly detailed, round, musical, and --- dare i say --- warm, then i don't know of any box on the market that delivers as powerfully as the burls. up until now the 2192 was my favorite converter, but in a side-by-side comparison in another sweet room in manhattan, the 2192's sounded quite a bit less dimensional and more closed off in comparison. the burls are not dark, they're not woolly, they're just warm in a very old-school, soul satisfying way. and for anyone who thinks the differences in converters is subtle, or that conversion is a distant third in importance behind mic and pre, i stand firm in my belief that this is not the case.

so in my next post i'm going to share with you my observations, what i learned and experienced with the burl, but i'm also going to give you every track from this session so you can mix them in your room and see if what i'm saying resonates with you, if you hear the things i hear. because it's one thing for me to use all the right buzzwords and convey my excitement with florid prose, it's quite another to deliver the goods to back it up. and i say in all honesty, with confidence but not arrogance, that i think i've got the goods here, these converters sound amazing and the tracks live up to the hype.

my next post will also have the burl's specs, as well as detailed session notes about what the recording chains were for the various instruments. in almost all cases, they were mic->pre->converter, as simple as it gets.

enjoy.


gregoire
del
ubk
.

Last edited by u b k; 20th November 2007 at 12:49 AM.. Reason: identified the apogees incorrectly
Old 13th November 2007
  #2
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u b k's Avatar
 

specs, thoughts, and mixes

so here are the gory, and not so gory, details.

the b2 bomber is a custom transformer input, 2 channel a/d, all discrete, class a, with no caps or op-amps in the signal path. it does everything from 44.1 to 192, and it supports dual wire aes for those pt rigs that require such things. it has a stepped, post-input attenuator, the idea being that you can hit the input trafo's as hard as you want (and they sound good when spanked), and dial back the attenuator to restore the digital headroom that your system is calibrated for. it has rms and peak hold meters, with a peak reset button. on the back it has 2 x word clock in and out, 2x aes out, and s/pdif out.

in practice, what i heard is that the burl's transformers lend a not-so-subtle kind of glue to the tracks, which, coupled with the tone and detail of the conversion, allowed me to build a mix with 2, count 'em, 2 eq points (one gentle goose on bass, one generous cut on melodica) and precious little compression. things just kind of fell together in the way that i'm accustomed to with analog tape. i think you'll find this to be true as well, it's kind of silly how effortlessly this song mixes, and how good the results sound.

this is my 90-minute late night super low volume mix, minimal track compression, almost non-existant eq, zero fx, and no mix compression at all. this is the kind of mix that begs to be turned up loud, because it stays sweet and just feels like music when cranked. in all the following links, the first is the mp3, the second is the full bandwidth file.

did i mention this song was written, arranged, performed, and recorded in under 6 hours? i think i mentioned that...


http://www.wavedistribution.com/burl...BKBurlyMix.mp3
http://www.wavedistribution.com/burl...BKBurlyMix.aif


here are the rough mixes we did at the end of the session, these have zero eq or compression, they're just bone dry tracks and faders. one mix went thru the burls, one thru the apogees. the apogee mix, to my ears, sounds scooped in tone with typically peaky digital transients, the burl is fuller and rounder in tone and has more musical transients; it's punchy rather than spiky. this makes the vocals sound more seated in the mix, the drums sound more coherent, the bass is richer in harmonics, the top is silky rather thaan hyped, and in general it just vibes more like a record to me... a big, black lacquer record from 1978 with perhaps a double gatefold, which is just the way i like it.

http://www.wavedistribution.com/burl...fmixapogee.mp3
http://www.wavedistribution.com/burl...fmixapogee.aif

http://www.wavedistribution.com/burl...uffmixburl.mp3
http://www.wavedistribution.com/burl...uffmixburl.aif


next post will have all the files for ya'll to play with in your rooms, which imho is where the fun lives. it'll also have track sheets, and at some point i may get adventurous and post some pix of the session.


gregoire
del
ubk
.
Old 13th November 2007
  #4
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GYang's Avatar
I believe it's nice and warm sounding, at least due to transformer on input.
The question is do we need warmth or neutral, high resolution transparence in converters. Sometimes I prefer Apogee due to its slightly colored character, but if money no object, I would always pick 16+ channels of Lavry Gold that is neutral and clean (well 50k is just about too muchheh).
Old 13th November 2007
  #5
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ISedlacek's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by GYang View Post
I believe it's nice and warm sounding, at least due to transformer on input.
The question is do we need warmth or neutral, high resolution transparence in converters. Sometimes I prefer Apogee due to its slightly colored character, but if money no object, I would always pick 16+ channels of Lavry Gold that is neutral and clean (well 50k is just about too muchheh).
Exactly my feeling. A converter is just a device to convert exactly the signal from analogue to digital domain ... a kind of mirror. The more exact and faithful it sounds, the better the converter is (and usually also more expensive). For colouring/sweetening etc., there are plenty of dedicated devices ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by GYang View Post
if money no object, I would always pick 16+ channels of Lavry Gold that is neutral and clean (well 50k is just about too muchheh).
I am sure you would get some nice discount for 16+ channels heh
Old 13th November 2007
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
and to be clear, i have no interest in sparking an argument over whether converters should be transparent or not. everyone has their own path to follow, i respect them all...

sigh


gregoire
del
ubk
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Old 13th November 2007
  #7
hrn
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I think the burl audio sounds awesome. In the mix it just smashes the Apogee I think. I agree with you u b k when you describe the sound as "analog". I know what I would have chosen if the prices were in the same league.

Hans
Old 13th November 2007
  #8
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Zep Dude's Avatar
 

I'm a believer in this design concept and have my own set of 16 channels AD from JCF Audio. From what you describe the design concept is similar to my JCF's. Nothing in the signal path except a custom wound transformer and the chip (actually mine don't even have attenuators).

I don't want to comment about color vs neutral, but the end result is that I'm not complaining about the sound of digital anymore.
Old 13th November 2007
  #9
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Tom H's Avatar
 

I can hear you're a Zero 7 fan...


bout the converter; is there a way to have control over the amount of colour it gives for example by driving the input transformer like in a preamp?

It's really difficult to hear how much tone/colour/benefit it gives by just listening to this rough track so it's good you uploaded these mixfiles, i'll check them out in the studio. Just for the complete picture; what pres and other outboard did you use tracking?


Cheers..
Old 13th November 2007
  #10
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Bierce85's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
and to be clear, i have no interest in sparking an argument over whether converters should be transparent or not. everyone has their own path to follow, i respect them all, and this is what is true for me: if a piece of hardware imparts a color on the signal that i find desirable, i don't care what the function of that box is... desirable is by definition desirable. some boxes have an almost magical ability to take anything you give them and spit it out the backside sounding better, sweeter. i consider the burl to be that kind of box.
not to further push this area of the conversation but I agree 100%
Old 13th November 2007
  #11
mds
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
...and to be clear, i have no interest in sparking an argument over whether converters should be transparent or not. everyone has their own path to follow, i respect them all...
Can't win 'em all, I guess...Gearslutz appears to be a debate forum above all else.
Old 13th November 2007
  #12
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u b k's Avatar
 

i'll be posting the recording chains shortly, and some pix...


gregoire
del
ubk
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Old 13th November 2007
  #13
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norman_nomad's Avatar
On my little crummy laptop -> earbuds setup I prefer the Apogees. But it might just be 'cause they got the smiley face thing going for them.

I'll have to listen on my good monitors later today for a better demo.
Old 13th November 2007
  #14
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not_so_new's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mds View Post
Can't win 'em all, I guess...Gearslutz appears to be a debate forum above all else.
LOL

Exactly.

People don't really read things here they just glance at the title and make assumptions.....

And I agree 1000% Gregoire, if something sounds good it is good.... colored or not. If the recording I make with a converter is sounding good on playback I don't give a rats a$$ what it did to the audio on the way in.

Off to listen to clips now.

Oh and Gregoire I think you did a pretty good job of declaring your affiliation with Gill but it might not be a bad idea to clear that up a little before we run into the same old mess and the thread gets locked. Your call just wanted to point out that you didn't really get into that much on your posts above. I know you are a stand up guy so I would rather not see the same BS from the same folks this time around if you know what I mean.

Thanks for the samples.
Old 13th November 2007
  #15
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heyman's Avatar
I like what I am hearing in the Low end with the Burl. It is deeper to me.
Also the High end is sounds really pleasant, not harsh.. And those transformers are imparting their glue... which I like..

The apogees to me sound good, but a little colder and cant beat the lows of the Burl. Is anyone hearing what I am hearing...

Again, this is an mp3 and I hear a diffrence..
Old 13th November 2007
  #16
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andrewj's Avatar
i would like to hear these units on my stuff!

hopefulla they have a distributor here in germany soon!
Old 13th November 2007
  #17
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heyman's Avatar
Btw, Lovely song UBK...

Old 13th November 2007
  #18
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heathen's Avatar
 

The burls sound big and really do have a nicer vibe than the apogees. Ummm actually listening on apogees, does this count, heh.

I won't agree they sound like tape but will agree they do sound great. Well done Greg.
Old 13th November 2007
  #19
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toolskid's Avatar
 

are you paid to sell these puppies?
Old 13th November 2007
  #20
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matucha's Avatar
The difference is so big it doesn't sound as the same mix.

In my opinion there is a place for color even with converters, "just pick your preferable device and use it". Clean is more universal for sure, but as some are mixing into the 2buss compressor, you can mix into the convertor, use it's color and compensate for it at the same time.

This mix sound a bit too dark to me and that's not what I hear much. The Apogee mix is flatter, but it is spectraly closer to finished product than Burl one. But I'm sure when you compensate for that, it could be great.
Old 13th November 2007
  #21
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razorz's Avatar
 

As already stated. An AD/DA converter should not color the sound. There are 3000 other devices and plugins that will do that for you. I'd like to be able to choose which one I want to use.

Old 13th November 2007
  #22
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jchadstopherhuez's Avatar
 

ubk...

i think we share a similar musical aesthetic.

i REALLY dig the sound of the burl. will have to check it out. the difference in the mixes are pretty major to my ears....and i like the burl better.

any idea on the price point, availability...etc. ?

was thinking of picking up a HEDD for my 2tk mixin...maybe i should wait a bit !

thanks for posting.

best,

jchristopherhughes


btw..nice tune.
Old 13th November 2007
  #23
The Burl sounds great, very musical with plenty of life and headroom. The Apogee kinda tallies with my thoughts on hearing other Apogee equipment, that is it almost sounds like there's a multiband compressor on there, flattening things out and removing dynamic (does anyone know if there actually is? or perhaps do you have their "softlimit" on?), it has to my ears a more "digital" sound.
Old 13th November 2007
  #24
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u b k's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by not_so_new View Post
LOh and Gregoire I think you did a pretty good job of declaring your affiliation with Gill but it might not be a bad idea to clear that up a little before we run into the same old mess and the thread gets locked.
Quote:
Originally Posted by toolskid View Post
are you paid to sell these puppies?

nsn you're dead right, i just wrote this post assuming my affiliation with gil is known but that's an unwise approach, thanks for getting on me about it.

for the record: i was asked by gil at wave distribution (who *does* sell these converters) to put them thru the paces and give the designer some feedback; the 'let me do a whole song' idea was mine. he paid the bill for the recording studio, he paid me for my time in the studio. i wrote this review and chose to share the tracks off the clock, without any compensation, because i think they're the greatest thing since sliced bread.

i plug products like this all the time here, things that i use or prefer to use in the trenches. a few i'm affiliated with thru gil (like focal and eli), and most i have zero affiliation with (like studer, api, nicerizer, aea, etc). that second list is infinitely longer than the first, so i hope people take that into account when assessing my motivations and contributions to gearslutz.

now if you gents will excuse me, i just nabbed a luxman turntable and gigantic 70's pioneer receiver from the salvation army for $80, and i intend to listen to some vinyl and be reminded of why i do all this crap in the first place .


gregoire
del
ubk
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Old 13th November 2007
  #25
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lpkyer's Avatar
 

too bad the bomber is so expensive...
Old 13th November 2007
  #26
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PheelTheMusic's Avatar
 

...wow... 52 currently active viewers on this thread...

Sounds really great! I think it would be extremely valuable if you could share the rest of the signal chain as well. thumbsup
Old 13th November 2007
  #27
Gear maniac
 

sounds nice

ubk are you and gil the new "tony belmonts" of gs? it just seemed like a magazine plug outta nowhere.
Old 13th November 2007
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by melodic_disaster View Post
sounds nice

ubk are you and gil the new "tony belmonts" of gs? it just seemed like a magazine plug outta nowhere.
A lot of posts here on gearsluz are "magazine plugs". You have to keep your wits about you. Manufactures want to buy your street cred. It doesn't make them bad. It makes them smart.

At least UBK posted sample instead of waxing poetic. I can appreciate that.
Old 13th November 2007
  #29
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pigpen's Avatar
 

Price point?
Sounds good btw!
Old 13th November 2007
  #30
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dave-G's Avatar
I think this box looks interesting, as a "mixdown deck" for the mix engineer. As a "mastering" ADC, I dunno. Big-dollar 2-channel ADCs (if not ADCs in general) seem to be designed with fidelity/transparency as the primary goal, and I agree with the rationale of preferring that. However, for the mix engineer to have something driveable to print the final mix into, with some euphonic 'sound' to it, could be a very nice niche to fill.

-dave
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