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WARM tonebeast v. Summit 2ba-221 vs. GAP Pre73
Old 23rd August 2013
  #1
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changeng's Avatar
WARM tonebeast v. Summit 2ba-221 vs. GAP Pre73

Got my Tonebeast yesterday and put it to quick use. I had recorded acoustic guitar and vocals on a track, using a Summit 2ba-221 and a Gap Pre73 on each. I've always liked the completely different uses those preamps give me. The Tonebeast was a revelation.

I used an old AKG 202 for vocals and a CAD e70 pencil mic for guitar. The GAP loves dynamic mics (and the old AKG is a GREAT one - quite hi-fi/condenser-like, but with that dynamic sonic texture) and I thought the vocal I cut with the GAP was going to be the keeper. When I recorded using the tonebeast, I was very surprised. I had not noticed that the GAP (with the TT mod, stock transformers) was somewhat spitty on top. I just accepted that I was a spitty singer and would always have to de-ess after a vocal. The tonebeast said NO.

The vocal on the tonebeast had the transformer yum-factor in spades AND not a sibilant moment. I even TRIED to be spitty and consonant-mad and it said NO. Just a very smooth, soft top but with clarity that usually only came from a hand-crafted de-essing. I put a VST compressor on it (that fun Thrillseeker thingee) and STILL no sibilance. PLUS, the bare track itself had a nice bottom on it - tight, strong and no cloudiness that the GPA gives me. Maybe better trannies in the GAP would help, but... Tonebeast all the way.

My biggest question was how the Tonebeast would compare with the Summit. Apples/Oranges, I know, but recording on clean settings for both they were very similar. If anything, the Summit have be ever-so-slightly cleaner, but in an antiseptic way (not using the tube output on the thing). The tonebeast was more euphonic AND again, no hashy 7K monkeybusiness like I sometimes have with the Summit.

The strings on my parlor sized Guild are a little dead, so I didn't get what I really wanted out of any of the tracks, so I changed out the e70 for a Joly-modded Oktava 219 (which pronounces midrange) and between dialing in more transfo on the tonebeast and the mic's natural sonic signature, I got a swell, thick guitar track.

The Tonebeast takes EQ great, by the way - hardly any noise on the tracks (recorded in a moderately treated room and a puter in the corner cussing at me. I'll use it in other configurations in the next few days and report back. If you have been considering a Tonebeast, it is VERY versatile and probably just made my GAP redundant.

Now go outside in the sun and play with the other kids!
Old 4th September 2013
  #2
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changeng's Avatar
After spending some quality time with the Tonebeast, I couldn't be more impressed. I have used it on acoustic and electric guitars, electric bass and vocals so far, as well as reamping some tracks and the options it gives are just beyond its pricepoint.

It is a fantastic first amp for someone for a few reasons; first off, you'll never outgrow it. This pre will always find a use, regardless of what you have at your disposal. Second, it offers a great education. In one box, you get to hear the differences between electrolytic and tantalum caps, steel and nickel transformers, clean and vintage opamps, as well as the various stages of saturating a source from clean to hursute. And since these thingseses share the rest of the circuitry, you actually CAN hear the differences in a pure fashion. The Tonebeast should be in every engineering/production classroom.
Old 4th September 2013
  #3
Try the Aurora Audio pres after that, see if you feel the same way about the Tonebeast! I returned the WA12 (needed $$$ for other things), but I did A/B and even though I liked the WA12, the Aurora Audio was just better in a full mix, especially for vocals. But again, it's a lot more expensive too.
Old 4th September 2013
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by changeng View Post
I had not noticed that the GAP (with the TT mod, stock transformers) was somewhat spitty on top. I just accepted that I was a spitty singer and would always have to de-ess after a vocal. The tonebeast said NO.

The vocal on the tonebeast had the transformer yum-factor in spades AND not a sibilant moment. I even TRIED to be spitty and consonant-mad and it said NO.
I don't have any experience with the Tonebeast, but I suspect, from your description, that, among other processing, it's rolling off the higher frequencies and influencing what you hear with color. I think this feature probably masks poor performance from mics in a lower price-point category (which would be in the TB's target market), but doesn't result in a vocal signal that's easy to bring forward in a mix. Maybe that's OK in rock and rap?

YMMV...
Old 4th September 2013
  #5
Jai guru deva om
 
warhead's Avatar
 

Actually the tantalum capacitors within that 1073 clone design tend to accent the upper mids with an "edge" that on certain sources probably could be described as "spitty". Neve used / uses tantalum capacitors in the original 1073 so it has worked for many users as a desired tone for decades. Doesn't mean it's for everyone on every track.

I'd say it's more the PRE73 accenting that range, rather than the Warm rolling off highs. The Warm unit definitely delivers a full bandwidth and open top.

There are so many combinations with the Tone Beast TB12 though that you can accomplish lots of goals by tweaking and finding what you like. You can even switch tantalum caps into the Warm's audio path and experiment there, among other options.

War
Old 4th September 2013
  #6
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In the case of reducing spittiness, it's possibly the way transformers handle transients that helps suppress it.
Old 4th September 2013
  #7
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TB12 not the WA12

the tb12 contains the circuitry of the WA12 and additional circuitry. Think it silly for someone who hasn't used the TB12 nor matched it with a good hi end mike to suggest the Warm Products are designed for low end mikes ?

Gee a really good api clone with custom designed CineMag trannys is not designed for hi end mikes: fail !

Last edited by Kcatthedog; 4th September 2013 at 08:25 PM.. Reason: add
Old 4th September 2013
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kcatthedog View Post
the tb12 contains the circuitry of the WA12 and additional circuitry. Think it silly for someone who hasn't used the TB12 nor matched it with a good hi end mike to suggest the Warm Products are designed for low end mikes ?

Gee a really good api clone with custom designed CineMag trannys is not designed for hi end mikes: fail !
No need to call me "silly" and ridicule me. Correct me, fine, if I'm wrong...how 'bout leaving out the venom?

Thank you, Warren.

BTW, I auditioned a WA12 and didn't like what I interpreted as a lack of highs. Again, YMMV...
Old 4th September 2013
  #9
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silly is as silly does

no venom, simple comment, i do think it silly for someone who has not used a piece of gear to speculate about its quality or intended audience.

i would be fine with you saying" i tried the tb12 with my cv-4, or blackspade, pick your mid to higher end mike and it didn't work for me".

Couple of people who have used the tb12 seem pretty pleased with it. It is actually designed by a very qualified and experienced individual, with a high quality of components and manufactured to high QC standards.

i also know others on gs who have used the tb12 with really good mikes who are also very pleased with it. I respect your right to your opinion, just suggesting you try things, then state opinions.
Old 4th September 2013
  #10
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changeng's Avatar
actually, the highs are there in spades, they're just not covered in that jangly, unfocused "esh" sound (to use "s" as an example) And Warren is dead-on right about the tantalums - they enhance that quality, however in a subtle fashion.

My GAP seems to accent the 1-3 Khz range - not wildly, just a skosh. The WARM does not. Even when using the WARM's "tone" button, which pulls the highs down a bit, everything is still very clear. It surprises me how often I use that "tone" impedance button. And having a mic AND 1/4 inch jack on the front AND back of the unit is wonderful.

"I think this feature probably masks poor performance from mics in a lower price-point category (which would be in the TB's target market), but doesn't result in a vocal signal that's easy to bring forward in a mix"

you're not speaking from a place of experience with the unit or what I'm using, so...not sure what your point is. The vocals sit quite swell in a mix, thank you very much.
Old 4th September 2013
  #11
Not sure what people are perceiving in the Warm audio pre as having lack of highs? It has more highs than any 1073 I've used, and it has more highs than my Aurora Audio Pre. And by the way, Let's not compare a 1073 style pre with an API style pre, they're like apple and oranges.
Old 4th September 2013
  #12
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changeng's Avatar
the tonebeast has gain and volume controls, two transformers in the audio path and the option of tantalum caps. So it does have it's hairy toes in the 1073 camp.
Old 4th September 2013
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by changeng View Post
the tonebeast has gain and volume controls, two transformers in the audio path and the option of tantalum caps. So it does have it's hairy toes in the 1073 camp.
Having transformers in the audio path of a preamp doesn't make it compare to the 1073. Using the WA12 vs what I have, I can tell you that they sound different, as they should be, yet it was my voice in both clips. The 1073 has a pillowy low end, and the WA12 doesn't, 1073 has a pronounced mid end, and the WA12 doesn't, and it has less highs than the WA12. The 1073 sounds a lot creamier and 3d than the WA12 from the get go. The WA12 sounded more sterile, and that's ok. I don't think the tonebeast would sound drastically different than the WA12, even with its added options. How many times have you used a vintage 1073 anyway? I've used them tons!
Old 5th September 2013
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Lago View Post
Having transformers in the audio path of a preamp doesn't make it compare to the 1073. Using the WA12 vs what I have, I can tell you that they sound different, as they should be, yet it was my voice in both clips. The 1073 has a pillowy low end, and the WA12 doesn't, 1073 has a pronounced mid end, and the WA12 doesn't, and it has less highs than the WA12. The 1073 sounds a lot creamier and 3d than the WA12 from the get go. The WA12 sounded more sterile, and that's ok. I don't think the tonebeast would sound drastically different than the WA12, even with its added options. How many times have you used a vintage 1073 anyway? I've used them tons!
Not going to argue about the utility of the 1073. When its the pre for the job it's just a joy to hear.

The wa12 and the tone beast are very different animals however. The 312 circuit is as simple as it gets. An input and output tranny with a gain block in between. Because of that simplicity, changing any one of these stages can dramatically influence the sound you get at the output. The TB12 contains the same parts as the WA12 as well as a hybrid nickel/steel output transformer alternative, a Jensen 918 op-amp as an alternative to the melocor, the option to switch from tantalum to modern electrolytic capacitors in the signal path, and the option to remove the output transformer altogether. It also has an output attenuator to allow driving the input to your heart's desire. It really offers an unbelievable palette of tonal combinations. To say you heard the wa12 and therefore must know the tonebeast is an irresponsible assumption.

The chassis, knobs and pots might not be as substantial as your Aurora 1073 clone, but in design and function it's every bit the sonic equal, even if altogether different.

Don't get so enamored of that creamy 1073 sound that you think it'll do for every source. Knowing what mic to pair with what preamp for each source is what gets magic to tape. The TB12 might complement that Aurora quite well.
Old 5th September 2013
  #15
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different topologies

ya, I think that is the key point; the Warm is an api type and the 1073 the neve style

they are not supposed to sound the same

the TB12 is also not the wa12; the whole point of the tb12 is to build on what the wa12 does to add in more features; a cleaner signal path and the ability to interlink the signal internally

So, use the right tool for the job, ie, the sound that suits your mix !

I certainly look forward to having a really great neve 1073 style pre too !
Old 5th September 2013
  #16
Man I feel like I really need to defend my tone beast here! I have used very expensive preamps, very cheap preamps, and everything in between. Api, Neve, ect.....the tone beast might be based off api, but it is definitely it's own thing. I feel like there is a trend in this forum for people with really expensive stuff to play down the ability of someone else's cheaper gear to do the same thing that their pricier stuff does. The tone beast and wa12 are amazing all around. If someone stuck a $2000 price tag on them and started marketing to a higher end market, people would be claiming how its the next neve/api killer ect.....don't assume this stuff is anything till you try it. I was skeptical at first, but then I tried one. I now own one and plan on getting a second one day. And FYI, for my voice, it is the best preamp that I have used yet.
Old 5th September 2013
  #17
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thesolipsist's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by nick8801 View Post
I feel like there is a trend in this forum for people with really expensive stuff to play down the ability of someone else's cheaper gear to do the same thing that their pricier stuff does.
I agree with this. I haven't used any Warm Audio stuff yet (the tb looks cool and I really wanna demo it after hearing it in the clipalator), and I HAVE used vintage 1073s. Will they be on the same exact caliber? Probably not, but I feel the truth is closer to "the staggering difference in price doesn't equal the smaller difference in quality," even if they produce different vibes. Any piece of gear that raises the bar for what under $1000 should give you is a good thing.
Old 5th September 2013
  #18
When I go to a studio and the deadline is tight, I choose 1073s all the time, I really wouldn't trust using a pre that's been out for a month! Once the honeymoon phase is over, people might think otherwise. Yes, Warm audio are great preamps, and their prices are amazing, but sometimes it's hard no to choose recording staples in crucial situation. I don't think any established artist will wait for you to set your Tonebeast specifically to record, they want to be in and out asap!
Old 6th September 2013
  #19
It really doesn't take long to set the tone beast. Most of the time I have it set like the wa12 anyway. Besides, I'm pretty sure a 1073 doesn't set itself. You have to balance the gain vs output to get the right amount of character for the track you are recording. I do the same with the tone beast. It's not like I'm recording 50 takes with every option to see what I like best. The options on the beast with the exception of the tone switch are subtle anyway. Isn't there are neve inspired pre that gets a lot of love called great river or something. I believe it has two switches for impedance and loading. I don't hear anyone complaining about those options getting in the way of making a record.
Old 7th September 2013
  #20
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warhead
Jai guru deva om



Joined: Feb 2003
Location: South Carolina
Posts: 13,199


I just uploaded 10 versions (out of the 24 we printed here) of combinations for the Warm Audio Tonebeast TB12 to our preamp section of the Clipalator.

You can hear the "18" and "731" opamp versions combined with tantalum (vintage) capacitors or electrolytic (clean) capacitors, as well as transformerless vs both nickel and steel transformers in the path. You can also hear the "tone" circuit engaged on one track within each opamp version.

So this is a glimpse of the available combinations of this preamp, it's just too much to upload so I chose these as a way to showcase each option best.

War
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Warren Dent, Owner - ZenPro Audio: Gear Now & Zen
Old 7th September 2013
  #21
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changeng's Avatar
now I know why you call it Zen Pro Audio - Warren, you've gotta hit some serious spots on your Chi's to do all that work!
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