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  #1  
Old 02-14-2007, 12:56 PM
Bezo Bezo is offline
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Default Need some guidance with upgrading options

I record mostly hip hop & r&b, and a fair amount of roots reggae and rock.

I'm looking to upgrade what I understand to be 3 major elements in regard to sound quality... clock, converters and pres. Looking at some other threads, it appears most feel the pres are most important. Anyone disagree?
[*]Preamps: I'm currently using a Digimax LT. I'd like to replace it with 2 4-channel units. I'm looking at the Focusrite ISA 428, UA 4110 and API 3124. Maybe I'm mistaken, but it appears only the Focusrite has digital(optional) output. For those without, how would I connect them to the 002 Rack? And can anyone suggest other 4-channel units in this range($1,700-3,000).

I record most everything direct... bass, synths & sound modules and samplers. Guitars & vocals would be the exceptions, though I go direct with guitars sometimes too. And I use BFD, drum machines & samplers for drums, so I won't be miking those. My second question is, will a higher end pre make a substantial difference on thse direct sources?
[*]Clock: Black Lion mod vs. Apogee Big Ben? Can anyone tell me how Black Lion's clock upgrade stands up against Big Ben's clock? And like I said, I'm currently using a Digimax LT. Would Black Lion's clock mod at least be an upgrade on that?
[*]Does it make much sense to upgrade preamps without upgrading converters? Unless I ignore my preamp needs, I can't do an Apogee Rosetta 800 at this time, but I have my heart set on it. Any chance the converters on the Focusrite ISA 428 are in the same league as the Rosetta 800?
[*]Lastly, how important do you all think cords are in terms of sound quality? This is another area I've neglected for some time.
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Old 02-14-2007, 02:36 PM
lwilliam lwilliam is offline
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Default Re: Need some guidance with upgrading options

It sounds like you've done quite a bit of homework. That's good!

Preamps: The only one I could add to your list of considerations is the GML 8304, but it may go over that $3k mark. You should hook an external preamp either into line inputs 5-8, or through another device like the Rosetta 800. Just avoid inputs 1-4 since there is no way to bypass the preamps there. A higher-end preamp would affect the sound quality if you are using the DI input on it - almost all preamps now have one. You don't say how you're doing DI recording now, but if you're using inputs 1-4, then any of those preamps will improve the sound of DI'ed sources.

One thing to point out, which may be a factor for you: the 428 and 3124 both have inserts on the individual channels so you could add an outboard compressor. The 4110 doesn't. Neither does the GML.

Clock: I would be surprised if the Black Lion upgrade didn't have a better clock than the Digimax. No question that Big Ben would be better than Digimax.

It always makes sense to upgrade a component, whether it's the preamp or the clock/converter.

Here's another approach (food for thought):

1. Get a Rosetta 200 and a really good 2-ch preamp. Use this preamp and a/d combo for your "money" tracks.
2. Clocking from the Rosetta (via word clock) will improve the performance of your Digimax and the 002R. You could clock the 002 from the ADAT port, and use word clock between the Digimax and the Rosetta.

The question to ask yourself is what percentage of the time do you need more than 2 preamps or DIs? Even if it's a lot, I'd still upgrade the clock/converts before the preamp. The Presonus preamps are decent. Others may disagree on the sequence.

Also, you do not mention mics: the 4th major element in regards to sound quality. What do you have there?

[BTW, the 1st major element is really the source sound, but it sounds like you know that... ]
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  #3  
Old 02-14-2007, 06:12 PM
Bezo Bezo is offline
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Default Re: Need some guidance with upgrading options

Thanks for the response!
Quote:
Preamps: The only one I could add to your list of considerations is the GML 8304, but it may go over that $3k mark.
The first 2 sites I checked have it at $2,800, so it's in my range. I'll try to check it out.

Quote:
...or through another device like the Rosetta 800.
Looks like it will be just 4 channels for now.

Clear something up for me if you could. The Focusrite has an 8 channel AD option. How could that help me asuming I went through inputs 5-8 with The Focusrite, and continued to use the Digimax for inputs 9-16?

Quote:
You don't say how you're doing DI recording now, but if you're using inputs 1-4, then any of those preamps will improve the sound of DI'ed sources.
Inputs 1-4 and 9-16 via the Digimax LT. When I DI guitars/basses, it's through Pod/Bass Pod XTs. Vocals through a Voiceworks sometimes.

Quote:
One thing to point out, which may be a factor for you: the 428 and 3124 both have inserts on the individual channels so you could add an outboard compressor. The 4110 doesn't. Neither does the GML.
And I'm already leaning slightly towards the 428 because of the AD option, if it will help.

Quote:
Clock: I would be surprised if the Black Lion upgrade didn't have a better clock than the Digimax. No question that Big Ben would be better than Digimax.
How about the BL upgrade vs. the Big Ben?

Quote:
Here's another approach (food for thought):

1. Get a Rosetta 200 and a really good 2-ch preamp. Use this preamp and a/d combo for your "money" tracks.
2. Clocking from the Rosetta (via word clock) will improve the performance of your Digimax and the 002R. You could clock the 002 from the ADAT port, and use word clock between the Digimax and the Rosetta.
I did think of this. I'm still considering it, but I really want more than 2 "good" pres, though I could manage.

Quote:
The question to ask yourself is what percentage of the time do you need more than 2 preamps or DIs? Even if it's a lot, I'd still upgrade the clock/converts before the preamp. The Presonus preamps are decent.
It's very rare that I NEED more than 2. Most of the time I'm recording just myself playing an instrument or me and a singer/MC. I was about to say it's nice not having to swap cords so often since most of my rig is pretty fixed, but I don't have many pre options at the moment.

Quote:
Also, you do not mention mics: the 4th major element in regards to sound quality. What do you have there?
Not much. SM57 for close mic guitars, male vocals & percussion, and a Rode NT1000 for vocals, distant mic guitars and percussion.
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  #4  
Old 02-15-2007, 01:38 PM
lwilliam lwilliam is offline
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Default Re: Need some guidance with upgrading options

"Clear something up for me if you could. The Focusrite has an 8 channel AD option. How could that help me asuming I went through inputs 5-8 with The Focusrite, and continued to use the Digimax for inputs 9-16?"

If you get the AD option for the 428, you won't be able to use the Digimax. There's only one ADAT input on the 002.

I don't think the AD option would be your best choice. You would need 2 428's to fully utilize it, and then it would simply replace your Digimax.

You could use the 428 with 002 analog inputs 5-8.

I have no idea whether the Black Lion upgrade would be as good as Big Ben. Black Lion may claim it to be so, but even if it isn't, I'd bet the differences would be hard to hear. The specs would probably be measurable, but maybe not audible unless you had a primo mix. I really don't know on this one.

Upgrading the clock is half the story: upgrading the converters is the other half.

You could try posting on www.gearslutz.com There may be someone who has done the Black Lion mod.

I would recommend getting at least one primo vocal mic soon. At least something in the TLM103 or better class (I love mine), or a Rode NTK if you want that sound. It also sounds like you might need a good acoustic guitar and/or sax mic depending on the style of R&B you do.

As far as cords go, get good-quality balanced cords wherever you have balanced connections, but don't spend $100 on a mic cable or anything. I do have one Monster mic cable ($60) for my main vocal mic and will switch it around if I'm recording acoustic guitar or percussion.

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  #5  
Old 02-15-2007, 05:06 PM
Bezo Bezo is offline
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Default Re: Need some guidance with upgrading options

Thanks again for the response.

Quote:
If you get the AD option for the 428, you won't be able to use the Digimax. There's only one ADAT input on the 002.

I don't think the AD option would be your best choice. You would need 2 428's to fully utilize it, and then it would simply replace your Digimax.
That's what I thought since they were offering an 8-channel conversion option with a 4-channel pre.

Quote:
I would recommend getting at least one primo vocal mic soon. At least something in the TLM103 or better class (I love mine), or a Rode NTK if you want that sound. It also sounds like you might need a good acoustic guitar and/or sax mic depending on the style of R&B you do.
Mics are next. It made more sense to me to work on pres, clock and converter first since they effect EVERY track I record.

Quote:
As far as cords go, get good-quality balanced cords wherever you have balanced connections, but don't spend $100 on a mic cable or anything. I do have one Monster mic cable ($60) for my main vocal mic and will switch it around if I'm recording acoustic guitar or percussion.
Would you recommend any brands other than Monster and Mogami? I know everything in the recording chain makes a difference, but I haven't justified to myself yetspending serious money on cords. I have 2 Monster sets for my monitors, and that's it. I guess like everything else, I'll have to hear the difference before I'm convinced.
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  #6  
Old 02-15-2007, 05:20 PM
OddsAre OddsAre is offline
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Default Re: Need some guidance with upgrading options

Don't forget the Audient ASP008-ADAT

www.proaudiodesign.com
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  #7  
Old 02-16-2007, 03:41 AM
Naagzh Naagzh is offline
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Default Re: Need some guidance with upgrading options

If you decide on an external ADDA, like the Rosetta (200 or 800), you should know that in order to MONITOR (use the DAs) through the unit, you'll also need a monitor controller. SPL makes one, the Presonus Central Station is popular and affordable, the Mackie Big Knob, and there are others.

When I wrote Black Lion, they said that clocking externally isn't a perfect solution, because you're relying on the phase detection circuit that's connected to the ADAT input on the 002 (which is not bad, but not great). So, a Big Ben wouldn't make as much of a difference on a 002 as it would on a 192.

So one could argue that, yes, clocking a 002 externally with a Big Ben is sonically comparable to a Black Lion internal clocking scheme. Add to that the modded input stages and mic pres.

(For the record, I don't work for Black Lion, and I actually haven't got my 002R modded... yet.)
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  #8  
Old 02-16-2007, 08:14 AM
Bezo Bezo is offline
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Default Re: Need some guidance with upgrading options

Quote:
Don't forget the Audient ASP008-ADAT

www.proaudiodesign.com
I am considering replacing my Digimax LT with it. Would it be a noticable jump from the Digimax LT?

I was also considering the Presonus M80, but it doesn't have a digital output option, so I'd have no way of routing it... unless I'm missing something.
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  #9  
Old 02-16-2007, 08:53 AM
Bezo Bezo is offline
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Default Re: Need some guidance with upgrading options

Quote:
If you decide on an external ADDA, like the Rosetta (200 or 800), you should know that in order to MONITOR (use the DAs) through the unit, you'll also need a monitor controller. SPL makes one, the Presonus Central Station is popular and affordable, the Mackie Big Knob, and there are others.
Thanks. I didn't know that.

Quote:
When I wrote Black Lion, they said that clocking externally isn't a perfect solution, because you're relying on the phase detection circuit that's connected to the ADAT input on the 002 (which is not bad, but not great).
I've read that elsewhere too.

Quote:
So, a Big Ben wouldn't make as much of a difference on a 002 as it would on a 192.

So one could argue that, yes, clocking a 002 externally with a Big Ben is sonically comparable to a Black Lion internal clocking scheme. Add to that the modded input stages and mic pres.
This is starting to look like an even better option, especially now that you've pointed out additional needs for monitoring through the Rosettas.
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  #10  
Old 02-16-2007, 09:40 AM
Bezo Bezo is offline
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Default Re: Need some guidance with upgrading options

Thanks for the imput fellas. It's looking like...

Clock - Black Lion

Pres - I've only heard the 428 and 3124 in action. I liked them both, but the features on the Focusrite put it over the top for me. I was relying on reviews until I could hear the others, but I really want to go used which would finalize any purchases. So it looks like the 428 is a go.

Clarify something for me. Aside from the 8-channel options with digital capabilities like the Digimax and Audient, how could I get to the other 10 channels(2 S/PDIF, 8 ADAT) on the 002 Rack? Some units that I've looked at, like the Focusrite Red 1, have no digital output options. If I'm going analog from the 428 to the 002 Rack, the Red 1 would be useless to me, right? Am I right in thinking that I need units with digital outputs to get to the other 10 002 Rack inputs, either direct or through an external converter?

Converter - This will probably have to wait another month or 2, but I have questions. With a Rosetta 800 , if I want to convert channels from external preamps, I either need preamps with digital inputs or have the Rosetta converting the 002's channels 1-8 and go analog with the external pre through the 002's 5-8 inputs, right?

Quote:
Upgrading the clock is half the story: upgrading the converters is the other half.
This just hit me. I was only thinking about the Big Ben, not the 800. If I convert with the 800 I also have to clock from it, right? This would nulify the benefit of the Black Lion clock mod. This is getting more complicated than I anticipated. I want to avoid temporary upgrades as much as possible, especially one that I can't sell. Any suggestions?

I guess all these upgrades will be upgraded at some point, I hope.
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