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Focusrite ISA220 for EQ only? Analog Processors (HW)
Old 5th May 2008
  #1
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Benmrx's Avatar
 

Focusrite ISA220 for EQ only?

I've seen the 220 go on ebay for $850. For that price I start to wonder if the unit is worth it for the EQ alone. I.E., I wouldn't be using the preamp or compressor (or at least not buying it for those functions). It's got variable LP/HP filters (which is a biggy in my book) and a fairly comprehensive 4 band EQ.

I also wonder how the De-Esser on this unit sounds.



I guess my question is:

Is there anyone out there that feels the ISA220 EQ section is a decent "workhorse" EQ?
Old 5th May 2008
  #2
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The isa220 is one of my main channels at my place. Gets used daily with all sorts of stuff. The EQ is good on it and generally sounds pretty transparent to the source. The EQs are very strong... a lot of times my EQ moves are just slightly off its notched center position and that's enough. That being said, the "strong" EQs are really great for DI instruments where you can really morph the sound of keyboards or bass without it sounding strangled and processed.
The filters on this unit are killer. I definitely end up reaching for the filters before the EQ on every occasion. The De-Esser is definitely a life-saver with overly sibilant performers and pretty transparent as well as long as it is set correctly (just like any other De-Ess I suppose).
Although the compressor gets knocked all the time on GS I like it quite a bit. It always seems to yield a "finished" sound when I track vocals through it, and just for fun I squashed a drum room mic through it and it sounded great.
Old 5th May 2008
  #3
Yea I have to agree. The EQ on this unit has a lot of flexibility and nice color yet still transparent. ANd I really do enjoy the filters. Utilizing those with minimal shelves and small cuts almost always gives me a "finished" vocal sound to tape. Plus the compressor is pretty nice, you get a few prtty sweet routing options (as far as comp pre/post eq, etc), the added bonus of being able to effectively gain stage AND this kick ass "blend" feature that allows you to do parallel compression to some degree. All around, and amazing unit. And the pres DO sound great! haha
Old 5th May 2008
  #4
Gear Head
 

The EQ is nice. Actually the whole box is very useful. I use the EQ and the pre pretty often. The compressor is still a bit like a mystery to me, somehow I always end up using it in the parallel mode...

Although the 220 is a bit boring. It makes what it says in a transparent way but doesn't sound sexy.

But for that price it is unbeatable !
Old 5th May 2008
  #5
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CassidyGT's Avatar
 

AS has been said - the ISA 220 at that price is an absolute steal.

The new ISA series doesnt' get much love on GS, but for an all round, useful on anything, that sits well in the mix and layers very well mic pre, I'd put it up against almost anything. The fact that you get an excellent and musical EQ and de-esser on top is icing. The comp is very useable as well - if a little tame.

Can you tell I'm a fan! thumbsup
Old 5th May 2008
  #6
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Thanks for the replies.

Yeah, I'm not expecting tons of character from this box, but I do hope it will be "better", and overall more usefull/musical than the EQ's in the Neotek IIIC console (which aren't that bad).
Old 5th May 2008
  #7
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TonyBelmont's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Benmrx View Post
Thanks for the replies.

Yeah, I'm not expecting tons of character from this box, but I do hope it will be "better", and overall more usefull/musical than the EQ's in the Neotek IIIC console (which aren't that bad).
It's a basic state variable IC based EQ... It's probably cheaper to get a Speck EQ w/o the transformer, which is very similar...
Old 5th May 2008
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyBelmont View Post
It's a basic state variable IC based EQ... It's probably cheaper to get a Speck EQ w/o the transformer, which is very similar...
If the speck had variable LP/HP filters, I'd be all over 'em.

EDIT: BTW, please forgive my ignorance, but I really don't know how to translate "state variable IC based EQ" into musical terms. Except that IC means integrated chip, which (I think) means it's not hand-wired or "point to point".
Old 5th May 2008
  #9
It's a decent eq, I had a speck, and I think the 220 sounds better, the compressor is good on things like bass, but not on fast material, like drums, I haven't used the deesser except for some string squeak, which it worked fine on. I paid 800 for mine a few years ago, for that I think it's a good value, I've seen them sell for more which I don't think is a good deal, but 800-850, is a win
Old 5th May 2008
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Benmrx View Post
BTW, please forgive my ignorance, but I really don't know how to translate "state variable IC based EQ" into musical terms. Except that IC means integrated chip, which (I think) means it's not hand-wired or "point to point".
It's just a basic IC (integrated circuit) based design.. nothing fancy. In the original 110's, the output transformers added a character to the sound in the output stage. That part of the circuit has been removed, so expect a decent, fairly uncolored EQ.
Old 5th May 2008
  #11
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I would hazard a guess that anyone speaking favourably about the ISA220 here is either a hobbiest, has little experience or low expectations.

I have an ISA220.
I bought it pretty soon after they were released on a deal- I knew the 110 and stupidly assumed it would be the similar.

The EQ is probably the best thing about it however- the pre is a bit dull and the compressor is wholly unremarkable.
The EQ is cleanish and does the job but it isn't stellar.

An API 550 is going to sound better.
Or a Great River.
Or a Little Freq.
Or a Langevin Pultec.

If anyone really loves this box then that is fine by me- but I've owned it for more than 5 years and never really been that jazzed by it.
I've been trying to sell it for a while now but can't seem to find the right buyer at the right price.
If someone UK based wants to make me an offer for it I'd be all ears.
Old 6th May 2008
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by octatonic View Post
An API 550 is going to sound better.
Or a Great River.
Or a Little Freq.
Or a Langevin Pultec.
I must be alone in wanting both variable HP and LP filters on my "channel" EQ.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love a few 550's for sweetening tracks up, maybe a Great River accross the drums and a Pultec Clone on a mono buss/aux. I'd be one happy camper.

When it comes down to it, what I really want for this job are a few SSL EQ's with filters. If the X-Rack EQ included filters, I'd be stoked, if they came out with an X-Rack module that was only filters....I'd be even more stoked. If they somehow made a 500 series card adapter..............

I have talked to a tech friend of mine about racking up some SSL ch. strips, which could be a viable option as well.
Old 6th May 2008
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ari800 View Post
Although the 220 is a bit boring. It makes what it says in a transparent way but doesn't sound sexy.
I really don't get this at all.. . Generally a lot of hate for these boxes, but I've never had a client NOT comment about how good their vocals were sounding in my recent projects. And on these recent projects I've used the KSM 44, U87 or SM57 extensively for both male and female voices. I figure that it's an indispensable piece of gear if all of my clients notice the quality.

Another producer commented once during a recording sess "that its rare to have vocals sit so effortlessly in a track." Obviously this comes down to the engineer/producer/singer/song/arrangement, but never has someone said that it didn't sound sexy, wasn't colorful enough, was too dull, etc.
Old 6th May 2008
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Benmrx View Post
I must be alone in wanting both variable HP and LP filters on my "channel" EQ.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love a few 550's for sweetening tracks up, maybe a Great River accross the drums and a Pultec Clone on a mono buss/aux. I'd be one happy camper.

When it comes down to it, what I really want for this job are a few SSL EQ's with filters. If the X-Rack EQ included filters, I'd be stoked, if they came out with an X-Rack module that was only filters....I'd be even more stoked. If they somehow made a 500 series card adapter..............

I have talked to a tech friend of mine about racking up some SSL ch. strips, which could be a viable option as well.
Then you should look into the SSL signature E channel which is a kick ass sounding unit, probably the best single channel outboard unit SSL has ever made. I mean how can you not love a unit that has the listen back comp right after the mic pre.

The only problem is i heard they were discontinuing it. Also its not cheap to say the least.
Old 6th May 2008
  #15
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheRealRoach View Post
I really don't get this at all.. . Generally a lot of hate for these boxes, but I've never had a client NOT comment about how good their vocals were sounding in my recent projects. And on these recent projects I've used the KSM 44, U87 or SM57 extensively for both male and female voices. I figure that it's an indispensable piece of gear if all of my clients notice the quality.

Another producer commented once during a recording sess "that its rare to have vocals sit so effortlessly in a track." Obviously this comes down to the engineer/producer/singer/song/arrangement, but never has someone said that it didn't sound sexy, wasn't colorful enough, was too dull, etc.
Like I said I use it a lot. Its just that when I hear vocals coming through it, I think that it sounds good but I'm not very exited about it.

For example U87 into ISA220... It is about as "clean" as it gets. But I end up graving for something that is not there...
Old 8th May 2008
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Benmrx View Post
I must be alone in wanting both variable HP and LP filters on my "channel" EQ.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love a few 550's for sweetening tracks up, maybe a Great River accross the drums and a Pultec Clone on a mono buss/aux. I'd be one happy camper.

When it comes down to it, what I really want for this job are a few SSL EQ's with filters. If the X-Rack EQ included filters, I'd be stoked, if they came out with an X-Rack module that was only filters....I'd be even more stoked. If they somehow made a 500 series card adapter..............

I have talked to a tech friend of mine about racking up some SSL ch. strips, which could be a viable option as well.
If what your looking for is eq with filters get some 9098's. the eq is really flexible. As far as the 220 goes, I find it works well on slower attack instruments. I have used the pre when tracking but usually for something like hi hat. But I find this box useless for drums
Old 8th May 2008
  #17
Dan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musiclab View Post
If what your looking for is eq with filters get some 9098's. the eq is really flexible. As far as the 220 goes, I find it works well on slower attack instruments. I have used the pre when tracking but usually for something like hi hat. But I find this box useless for drums
+1

I've got both (well, the 430). The eq on the 9098 is more flexible. The pre is a little bit cleaner, but the EQ isn't as clean sounding. Great filters on both. You lose the dynamics/ de-esser with the 9098, but it's also cheaper.

Pretty similar over all. It kind of depends on if you need dynamics.
Old 8th May 2008
  #18
Is there another preamp around in this price range that can do as much as this box? Maybe a Joe Meek?
Old 8th May 2008
  #19
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Benmrx's Avatar
 

Hey thanks for reminding me about the 9098 EQ. That's pretty much exactly what I'm looking for functionality wise. It would be nice if the HP Filter went higher, but I can live with 300hz.

I'm curious how the "glo" and "sheen" buttons actually affect the sound. The manual is pretty vague about what those buttons do exactly.
Old 8th May 2008
  #20
Gear Nut
 

I have to say my 220 went on the back burner for quite a while until I got a Peluso 2247le. The 220 is super clean and putting something like a TLM 103 through it just sounded cack. Far too neat sounding, no character.

Now it's my go to female vocal tracking channel with the peluso or other characterful mic.

The eq is nothing overtly special. It just does a job, a very useful one though.

The filters are very handy.

The compressor is ok but I rarely end up using it as my finished vocal compression, if I do it just nicks the peaks a little. It's pretty useless on drums.
Old 8th May 2008
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan View Post
+1

I've got both (well, the 430). The eq on the 9098 is more flexible. The pre is a little bit cleaner, but the EQ isn't as clean sounding. Great filters on both. You lose the dynamics/ de-esser with the 9098, but it's also cheaper.

Pretty similar over all. It kind of depends on if you need dynamics.
I have a 220 and some ISA 110's and 3 9098's, I gotta disagree about the eq on the 9098 not being as clean, I think it's a much more precise eq, than any of the focusrites, although I do think that the 110's have a kind of magic about the eq
Old 8th May 2008
  #22
Dan
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hmm, I would agree that it's more precise. It's just that I really hear it when I engage the eq, even without turning the knobs. I don't have that same reaction with either the 110, or the 430.

fwiw, it causes me to mostly use the pre with the eq engaged, even if I'm not using the eq. I turn to the 110 when I need to make more broad, drastic changes.

I have this odd idea in my head that kind of works like a timeline of RN console eq designs

1073
1084
1081
110
9098

With each succession it gets a little more flexible, and the sound gets a little more ... hmm modern? (admitedly the 1073, and 1084 are very similar, but that switchable HF, and Hi-Q button add a lot for me.)
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