World's Best Tube Preamps?

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by mark4man, Oct 28, 2004.

  1. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    That’s an interesting g perspective. Perhaps it is the scarcity, and of knowledge of working on these things that is balancing the relative simplicity of the circuit. Certainly with the modern incarnations your getting diligence and care component choices.

    Yeah I’m in no way saying the LA610 is somehow compromised as a unit, I like them very much and have been interested in them since they came out. They sound very nice.

    My reason was for pointing this out wasn’t to call it a fake, rather to show just how different something could be, and how marketing wording can be misleading. Like the “based on the design of” or “uses the same t4 opto cell”, or naming it “LA”. I think it’s up to the buyer to beware, but really it’s lame to be selling gear of some other gears reputation. I mean are all dynamic mics “inspired by the sm57?” Lol.

    I wish companies would be more transparent with this stuff. There’s plenty of people who won’t care about the subtle differences, plenty who can’t afford the “original”, and some who’ll just wait and save for the other unit.

    Yeah I think pluggins touting the sound of hardware is a joke. I find there’s good pluggins everywhere and even the Lofi and cheesy sounding stuff has a creative place.

    I wish companies like warm would let go of the nastalgia and just market their products as their own, and forget the piggy backing. From
    What I’ve heard about warm stuff, it’s very good and can stand on its own.

    I think there’s a great misunderstanding about just what it is that makes certain gear what it is. Not claiming i know a whole lot, but certainly find it interesting.
     
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Well-Known Member

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    I don't find that to be the case of all
    Plugs. I've used some - where I've also used the hardware it's based on - and if I turned my back I'd never know the difference. The new Slate FG Stress falls into this category for me. If you A/B'd it against a real Empirical Labs Distressor I would not be able to hear the difference in a blind test. Acustica Audio's Gold VST, which is a collection of 3 different Neve console series channel strips, including preamp section, EQ and inline compressors are having Neve veterans questioning which is which. We're talking about guys who have serious time on the hardware ... and many are saying they'd not be able to tell the difference. Modeling technology has grown in leaps and bounds. I no longer think it's impossible to model hardware to ridiculously close accuracies.
    I think a lot of what makes certain gear what it "is" bends towards the popularity of its use. You'd be hard pressed to hear a song recorded between 1970 and 1990 that didn't incorporate LA2's, or 1176's, etc. somewhere in the mix.
    Are they used because of their sound? Or were they used because that's just what everyone used?

    Tough to answer.
     
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  3. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    Yeah not having been fortunate enough to actually use the ssl, or neve, or tape machines my pluggins emulate I can’t say for sure. I also wonder about whether or not these guys opinions are super truthful. Not saying they aren’t, and a lot of guys are ITB, but it’s interesting when they’re saying the “can’t tell the difference” and there’s $500k rack behind them. Could be used mainly for tracking too.

    The thing that pluggins tend to miss is the (non-linear?) saturations, and interactions that you get with hardware. Also perhaps some element of analog summing for better or worse. I’m not saying one Is better, ideally everyone has both at their disposal.

    I’ve heard very few, if any pluggins that overdrive like hardware, or “add depth”.

    When I did A/b the API 550b vs the waves plug at Normandy, it wasn’t even close. The pluggin was far more drastic and sensitive to the selections, and a lot brighter. Admittedly it’s not one of my fav pluggins anyway. The silverface 1176LN again, not even close to the BF or CLA renditions. Again w the pluggins being for more exxhaggerated, the BF being good in general, and CLA being good but bright as most waves stuff tend to be. Perhaps the ‘76 was burnt out, maybe it needed new caps. And after all, waves of BF wasn’t moddeling that particular model either.

    I’m not saying the settings should match, it’s fine if you have to tweak the setting on the virtual ones or vice versa, I just haven’t experienced the “can’t tell a difference” thing myself. I like both, and maybe even couldn't tell you which one was the hardware or not upon the first blind test, but to me they are surely different animals. And also I did this in a relatively casual non-scientific way for curiosity, not to prove a point. If anything, I’d love my $30 CLA to smoke the hardware lol.

    I think a lot of the hardware was used because their wasn’t the ton of options out there back then, and more so, it’s what worked on the hits, so why try and mess w success. Plus a lot of gear was modified. I know Phil immediately modded his McIntosh amps, and LA3, and ssl, for more headroom.
     
  4. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Well-Known Member

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    I get you ;) I pray we don't all end up as sheeps and buy anything we've been told to be good !!!
     
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  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Well-Known Member

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    The best thing to do is to try before you buy. I can't think of any VST manufacturer anymore who doesn't offer fully functioning trials of their software. Try them for yourself, forgoing any endorsements or advice, apply them to what you do in your situation with your own workflow and then decide for yourself. It's all relative to the individual. What works for one person might not for another. And use your ears and not the power of suggestion laid out by advertisers. Also, keep an open mind... so, okay, maybe that 550 or 1176 plug doesn't sound exactly like the hardware you've worked with in the past - but if you like what it does, and you like the result of using it on your mixes, does it really matter if it's 100% accurate to the hardware or not?
    ;)
     
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  6. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Well-Known Member

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    Agree Donny !

    Thing is, when starting off many won't have our trained ears to discern the subtle differences.
    Good Thing RO exists !! ;)
     
  7. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    I do t think it matters one bit. Which is why I wish manufacturers would stop piggy backing the hardware so often. Fabfilter makes no claims of analog anything, and they’re prospering as a company, and well acclaimed by many engineers top and bottom.

    My two favorite waves pluggins are the R-Series, and the H-Comp. H-comp is highly underrated and sounds great. Both pluggins are original waves creations. R stuff may be inspired by hardware sound, but they’re not piggy backing.

    Lol it’s ok to be original and unique, this is the business of art.
     
  8. Davedog

    Davedog Well-Known Member

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    THIS is so very important to remember. And is a major reason for much buyer remorse or the phenomena known as G.A.S. What a lot of beginners and even those with a number of years don't seem to 'get' is it takes so much time to acclimate your hearing and the brain to know what to listen for when getting into a dense mix of differing sounds.

    Train the brain to translate what the ear hears. THEN buy new stuff.
     
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  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    Part of the reason it takes so long I think is the rooms, and source material people work on are usually very compromised in the beginning. Working on good gear or in a good room can really excel things quickly. I wish more beginners rented a few sessions at well built rooms.

    I feel it took me my first 15 years to really start knowing what I’m hearing. My stuff only started to get truly pro sounding quickly in the last couple years. Then I took hiatus from overworking lol. Ahhhhh cycles.
     
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  10. rmburrow

    rmburrow Active Member

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    Compare the schematic of the LA-2A and LA610. There are a lot of similarities. There is a thread somewhere on here about repairs to a LA610. I own LA2A's and my schematics are from 1965 but I did check the LA610 schematic before offering my $0.02 worth to someone trying to fix a LA610...
     
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  11. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    I wish I had the ability to read schematics, i’m slowly learning the electronics/componentry side of things.

    In a unit like the La-610 is it possible that some of the parts from the pre amp section can make up for some of the parts omitted from the compressor section. Like say the input transformer?
     
  12. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Well-Known Member

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    From what I understand, the LA610's compressor section doesn't share the same tube-transformer routing... The LA2 had(has) a 12ax with a transformer following stage that the 619 apparently did not. (?) and that is a big part of the sonic vibe of the 2A.
    I've used LA2's many times, but never the 610. Those who I've talked to say that the 610 is a really nice preamp, and not a bad compressor, sounding pretty decent, but at lower GR settings, but when pushed, it starts clamping down pretty hard, resulting in it sounding "thin"...and losing depth ....unlike the LA2, which sounded great no matter how hard you drove it, and in fact could open up and sound really nice at higher GR levels.
    Those people I know who love and own UA gear claim that the 6176 - a pre with an 1176-ish compressor built in, sounds better, in that it's compressor section reacts and sounds much more similar to the 1176, than the 610 did against the LA2.
    Of course, if you're looking for the LA2 vibe, the 1176 isn't going to sound like it, either.
    I'm very curious to try the Warm Audio WA2; I wish there was a place locally that I could rent one, or even buy it and then return it after I got a chance to use it for a week.
     
  14. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    Interesting. Gear design is fascinating.

    Ya know D, just about every retailer has a return policy. I think vintage king also has units of some gear available for loan to try. GC doesn’t allow mics to be returned if opened.

    For things like speakers and most pro audio gear, it really is necessary to take it and use it wherever it’s gonna live. When I was shopping for monitors I got both Mackie and Yamaha 8’s and decided on one pair after a couple weeks. Woulda kept both if my budget allowed. It’s perfectly legal to buy something and return it. We can’t be expected to shell out hundreds and thousands on something without knowing what it’s gonna do in reality.
     
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  15. rmburrow

    rmburrow Active Member

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  16. rmburrow

    rmburrow Active Member

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    The input transformer is required. The LA-2A uses a UTC HA100X input transformer to the input stage (12AX7) and the output transformer is a UTC A-24. UTC has been out of business quite a while so I have to assume a Jensen or other transformer is used in the LA610. Jensen is a good product, don't get me wrong. The "sound" of a piece of gear effectively is the composite of ALL the components working together, not just an individual component. However, using questionable quality tubes can "trash" the sound of a piece of gear quickly....
     
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  17. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Well-Known Member

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    True ! But they both use an opto cell which is mostly responsable of the behaviour.
    I suspect ; Same action, different sound...
    In the end, different does mean bad vs good !

    BTW UA never claimed it was an LA2A in the LA-610, just that it is similar. (It says T4 optical compressor)
    The LA-610 came 30 years after the LA2A, it's normal that the design is different, the technology has changed a lot since them.
    They also had to reduce the amount of parts to keep the price down.

    I'm sure the 610 preamp itself also had some design modifications along the way, but if the combinaison put in to the LA-610 works... Why making it a fuss ? ;)

    Here's the text from their website :

    Toneful Tube Compression
    The LA-610 Mk II’s T4 tube compressor provides the same ultra-warm limiting that has made the Teletronix LA-2A the king of fat opto compression. The electro-optical detector, or "T4 cell,” is the heart and soul of the Teletronix LA-2A. Its photo resistors are the crucial circuit components, giving the compressor its signature warmth, making it a “go-to” for tracking vocals, bass, or acoustic guitars. Taken together, it’s impossible to get a bad sound out of the LA-610 MkII’s legendary preamp and compression circuits.

     
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  18. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

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    Again, the LA-610 is a great value in gear, and I nice unit reguardless of price. But it at its price your certainly get a lot.

    If you change transformers, and alter or omit the “12ax7 + 12bh7 cathode follower stages” as, it’s seems to me you could be altering the sound and behavior of the compressor in a fairly significant way.

    Perhaps maybe because it’s based on a well loved classic unit, or maybe because tube gain stages are more suseptable to alterations vs transistor based stuff?

    I know I had 2 different Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier heads, manufactured a year or two apart, and sounded significantly different. Those are handmade amps. And I think that hey make them even if they have to substitute certain components.

    I’m just wondering if perhaps UA is overstating the role of the T4 opto cell, or not, in their marketing material.

    Having never used a true la-2 I wouldn’t be able to tell. Also interesting is with the reissue La-2’s, are they using NOS transformers, or have they been supplemented with something available today. I could see this as a potential difference on sound or snobbery with regard to the la-2’s.
     
  19. Scott LaChapell

    Scott LaChapell Active Member

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    Yep, that's me :)... Thanks for the welcome! It's hard to state where tube gear is at the moment, actually. There will always be ups and downs but, IMO, the quality units will withstand troubling seasons. Either way, I don't think the industry will ever abandon tube gear. It's just too good at capturing the organic nature of sounds and provides incredibly pleasing harmonics. Period. While it is odd that the ADL600 was discontinued along with (I think, not totally sure) the Manley dual mono (can't find it new anywhere and their web page for this product is gone...). The Manely dual mono was my second high end tube preamp I ever used (first was the Summit TPA-200). It was great. I used an older one that was rated for either 40 or 44db w/out Hi-Z. There were several iteration over the years. Not sure what the reason is but you've got the M2-b, ADL 600 and dual mono all out. As a fellow tube company, I consider that an opportunity <smiles>.

    My late father and I started building the 992 tube amp back in the early/mid 1990's when he was still at Lawrence Livermore. He was a genuine vacuum tube man. He made his first tube amp when he was in Jr. high from a kit; brought it for show and tell. His job in high school was as a TV repair man. He would go all over Turlock CA in the 60's with his tube caddy filled with USA made spare tube. The 992 might have a modern look but I can assure you that the topology is old school quality ... without old school noise :)
     
  20. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Well-Known Member

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    A warm welcome to you Scott, glad to have you onboard at RO !!
     
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