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Old 9th February 2006, 05:05 PM   #1
amperex is offline amperex  United States
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Default Tube based mic preamp mixer

I was told tube type mixers even if custom built with top grade parts will not sound any better than average cost new solid-state mixers even if voices are amplified with a seperate amp into high quality & seperate PA speakers on live performances. Is this true?
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Old 9th February 2006, 05:20 PM   #2
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Default Re: Tube based mic preamp mixer

Quote:
Originally posted by amperex
I was told tube type mixers even if custom built with top grade parts will not sound any better than average cost new solid-state mixers even if voices are amplified with a seperate amp into high quality & seperate PA speakers on live performances. Is this true?
I would have thought so - cheap and simple solid state electronics can beat valves/tubes on quality and accurate performance every time.

Where valves/tubes score is in people wanting a specific type of 'incorrect' sound - higher distortion, higher noise, poor frequency response, coloured frequency response. Probably the main use is guitar amps, where many guitarists want that specific type of distortion.

It's really down to personal choice, but I would have thought a valve mixer would be a HUGE step backwards (never mind the expense). If you listen to 'Stairway To Heaven' off Led Zep IV on CD, you can hear the tape and valve hiss from the original recording as the song fades out.
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Old 10th February 2006, 03:34 AM   #3
Enzo is offline Enzo  United States
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I am not so sure that tape hiss enters into the discussion of mic pre circuits, but perhaps...

It can be fun to discuss things in terms of absolutes - these are better than those no matter what. I am not a tubes at all cost guy, let me say up front. But tube mic pres can sound darn good. Or you can make some dumb little tube circuit that sounds OK and has nothing special going for it. The fine high quality tube pres sound terrific.

Guitar amp distortion is one thing. They are designed to have a certain sound when they are overdriven. A mic pre is a different situation. Unless someone is abusing the gear to obtain some special effect, they are not driven into overdrive. Within the limits of the system, they can be great performers. Same can be said of any gear tube or solid state.

What a lot of producers like is the "warmth" of tube circuits. While I admit this is a form of distortion in that the freq response is not flat, it is nothing like overdriven circuits. We can get all purist and say we want pristine reproduction of the original signal etc etc. But this affect on the tone is not unlike putting some salt on your steak. It doesn't make the steak taste more pristinely steak like, it just makes it taste better.

While any particular comparison depends upon the specific units in question, I think making a blanket statement like the OP is not valid. To say that the $3000 tube pre won't sound any better than the $200 solid state one is unfounded. I think the serious tube pre will sound better. For that matter the $1500 solid state pre will also sound better than the $200 SS unit.

The big question is whether it will sound better in your application. If you are recording on a TASCAM 424 multichannel cassette recorder, it won't make a difference what pre you use. Or if you are using cheap mics to start with. SO if someone told you spending a large amount of money on a fancy tube pre wouldn't get you any better than the basic SS unit in YOUR studio, that might be the case.

And you do run into the law of diminishing returns.
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Old 11th February 2006, 06:46 PM   #4
amperex is offline amperex  United States
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Default Mackie CR1604 vs DuKane vs DIY Tube mixers

Well, finished the Altec 'tube clone' with better parts, an upgraded Dukane with newer Burr-Brown ICs plus higher grade coupling capacitors, better power supply, etc & a stock Mackie CR1604 mixer. Compared the three with vocals played thru my tube amp system with audiophile grade speakers. Not exactly apples to apples without using a PA system & high grade speakers (I am working on that).

The tube mixer sounds best, but has a somewhat higher noise floor. The modified Dukane is second best but only after the upgrades. The Mackie is in last place.

Being advised by others (not at diyaudio) I would hear no difference using a Mackie CR1604 is bull. However, the Mackie did sound fair- no complaints here.
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Old 14th February 2006, 06:52 PM   #5
rafaro is offline rafaro  Guatemala
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Where tubes naturally excel in is in preamplification where their simple circuits and high overhead before clipping plus smoother primarily even order HD on clipping make for superior preamps.
Tube power amps although they can sound really good are hot and heavy beasts which are not to every one´s fancy therefore the often recommended combo of tube pre amp and SS power amps.
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Old 20th February 2006, 09:33 PM   #6
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Default Re: Re: Tube based mic preamp mixer

Quote:
Originally posted by Nigel Goodwin


It's really down to personal choice, but I would have thought a valve mixer would be a HUGE step backwards (never mind the expense). If you listen to 'Stairway To Heaven' off Led Zep IV on CD, you can hear the tape and valve hiss from the original recording as the song fades out.

Tape hiss is one thing and valve noise is another. Todays tube gear (yes they still come out with new stuff every year) is different than tube gear of the past. a good tube pre will only introduce the "tube sound" and not any hiss. Analog tape can even be hissless. But there is really no advantage to using it these days with all of the hard disk recording stuff that is out there. In a recording situation tubes will always be here even if it is a software patch that emulates a tube. It really come down to how much you want to spend and personal preference and nothing else.
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Old 22nd February 2006, 05:51 PM   #7
amperex is offline amperex  United States
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I have been experimenting with some op-amp based mic mixers in the last few days. After replacing some older op-amps with newer & better versions, I am getting hard pressed to hear much difference in-between a tube type I breadboarded & these newer op-amps. These newer op-amps have a lower measured noise floor than the tube type.
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Old 22nd February 2006, 09:06 PM   #8
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Most opamps are quieter than valves, valves tend to be noisey and microphonic, opamps are generally far more 'accurate'. However, some people like the colouration valves give to the sound (rather than the natural sound itself), so you should probably try both and see which you prefer?.

Personally I wouldn't consider using valves (but I come from the valve days!).
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