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Real deal outboard VS remakes/fakes Mixers (Analog)
Old 9th February 2011
Here for the gear

Real deal outboard VS remakes/fakes

I would like to get some opinions on the differences between buying an actual peice of outboard gear (for example Neve 1073), and a 'clones' made by a technician.

Im faced with a situation at the moment in which Im helping a client build up a recording studio (its primarily a hobby studio but with potential for hiring out), so far the set up is based around PT HD2 with 4x 192 boxes maxed out with analogue in/outs, CE 24 etc etc.

The idea of this set up was to have the high quality HD interfaces, allowing us to run plenty of hardware inserts and to track through outboard pre's into HD.

We are currently stocking up on outboard, and our technician has a few "clones" that he can make and is offering to the client to buy them rather than spend money on the real thing (he swears by them, and im not trying to dis-credit him in any way!!).

Being real, even though I have used the real thing in previous studios I don't have the level of experience to really make a judgement on how much better the real deal is to these 'clones'.
For instance I have already tried the clone 1176, and it sounds really good (although I don't have access to a real one to A/B, and I haven't racked up nearly enough hours using the real thing to make a fair comparison!)

Ive generally operated under the principle that if you spend the $$ and buy something that has a good reputation and brand name you get what you pay for, and I have to say I'm a tad skeptical of these 'clones' and don't really like the idea of a studio FULL of the fake stuff. (perhaps having some of both the the happy medium??)

So what does everyone think? Is it a case of paying extra money for the brand name? Or is the reason we pay the extra $ for the real thing because they ARE better??!

I realize this may be too general, so in specific here are a few of the items that have been offered in clone form!

-Alansmart C2M

-Neve 1073

-API 500 series (pre's and eq's)

-urei 1176 / LA2

Thanks guys
Old 9th February 2011
Lives for gear

sometimes even the real thing is lacking and can be improved and people who can build this stuff build it right with higher quaility parts then the "real" version a mastering version of the studer 169 eq comes to mind among others 1073 with extra frequency bands etc. its not like the real thing is under any waranty they both require the same tech support real being old modules not newer remakes and the clones won't have 20 -30+ year old parts in them
Old 9th February 2011
Gear Addict

Now would be the time to decide how much you think you'll be renting the room out. Clients most likely wont care how much better your clone sounds, as much as no one wants to admit it people are impressed by the name association. If it's a hobby studio and the clones are high quality and Meet your standards then why spend more money that could be used elsewhere.
Old 9th February 2011
Lives for gear
666666's Avatar
It all depends on what's important to you. If you "must" have the sound of a certain classic unit, then you should probably get the real thing, or at least a modern reissue offered by the original manufacturer (like API, AMS Neve, Universal Audio, etc). That'll be your best bet IF you really must have THE sound.

But I think the important thing to consider is, WHY does anyone NEED to have the exact sound of a given classic unit? In many cases the sound and behavior of a lot of classic units is not even appropriate for many situations.

Gear should be purchased for how it sounds and performs in one's own situation, and per one's own tastes... not because it says "1073" on it, or because it was used on some classic albums or whatever. The latter is irrelevant. Don't get caught up in the hype.

With the above in mind, a custom built clone very well may be "better" in a given situation than a pristine original classic unit. But, the only way to figure any of this out is to actually listen to / audition the gear in question.

Personally I'm very much against the concept of buying stuff just because it's "classic" or "legendary". Who the hell cares? What matters most is HOW you use your gear. Practice and perfect your recording techniques and you'll make killer recordings with just about any gear of good performance / fidelity.

Some folks may feel a "need" to have classic units on hand for business reasons, to excite potential clients, etc.... if that's your goal, then you NEED originals or original manufacturer reissues. A potential client will not care if you have some amazing custom built 1073 clone, it's either an actual 1073 or it isn't... period. It's a shame that some clients / potential clients feel they need to see such units in the studio, as if they really know anything about how to yield a great sound to tape, but... that's the way it goes.

In sum, step one here is to evaluate your priorities. You either "need" a classic unit or you do not. If you do not, then there's a whole host of great gear out there to choose from. You may not even want to think about any "clones" of other gear, just explore the vast variety of stuff out there, in some cases you may love and prefer a given unit that has nothing to do with any "classic" sound.

You may also want to think about resale. A unit made by a well known, reputable, respected manufacturer will hold it's value, a small-time custom clone likely will not. So unless you get the clone VERY cheap, it may not make the most economical sense, unless of course you plan on keeping it "forever". But rarely does anyone keep anything "forever", most audio nuts (like myself heh) buy stuff, use it for a while, then decide they want to try something else, you always have to assume that you may need to (or want to) unload any piece of gear you buy, so... resale IS something that should be considered. The rule is, if you don't think you can resell something easily, then don't pay too much for it.

Now having said all this, I will note that, after trying lots of gear over the years, I still think that a lot of the classic stuff IS excellent. I don't use it exclusively by any means, but I do use it and love it for what it is, not because it's "classic".

AMS Neve 1073 pres are the real deal and I've never heard anything else TRULY capture that sound as well. I actually do not even use these too much anymore, but when you want "that" sound, these surely deliver. I tend to use cleaner stuff these days with greater fidelity and less distortion in general.

API stuff... amazing... for instance their 550A reissues (the handwired ones anyway), totally spot on, just beautiful... I've never heard anything else get anywhere near this. Again, these are not appropriate for everything, but when they work, they really work.

And UA... their 1176s and LA-3As for example are about as close as you could ever get to "originals", some may disagree, everyone has an opinion, but just reporting from my own experience... but yet again, these units aren't necessarily the "end-all" of compressors. They do their thing, wonderful in some situations, not good at all in other situations.

If you can afford to own tons of gear, get some "classics" for sure, why not, but if you want to be economical about it and simply get your work done in an excellent manner with a minimal amount of gear purchases, there are better and more universal type units that could be gotten.
Old 9th February 2011
The real benefit of the building it thing is when you build it yourself. You can end up with gear that sounds as good as the original for sometimes a third or even a fourth of the commercial product's cost. When someone builds it for you, unless they are doing you a favor, the need to make the time and effort worth it may mean they have to charge enough that the cost differential becomes less of a no brainer.

In terms of comparing to the originals, for most of the stuff out there that commonly gets this type of treatment, the patents have long since expired and the original designs are available and perfectly well understood (not by me, but by others) and there's probably nothing that the original manufacturer knows about these decades old designs that heavily experienced outsider hardware geeks don't backwards and forwards.

The primary physical difference is that the original components aren't available always, but the same applies to the modern version of the original manufacturer as well really. They aren't likely buying forty year old resistors and capacitors and such. Often there are reproductions of those original components as well, such as the transformers, which are a big part of the picture.

But anyway, yeh, like said above, who gives a crap if it sounds fractionally different anyway? I have an LA-2A and 1176 that I probably have maybe $1400 in altogether (plus of course probably a couple weeks of evenings building them.) The retail price of those two pieces would be almost $6000. That's nothing to sneeze at. I could have four of each for the same price. And they sound great.

They obviously don't have the snob appeal that may be important in a business scenario, which is sad since it's supposed to be about making music. But such is life.
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