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#1519941 - 02/16/17 02:41 PM How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps?
haysonics Offline
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Loc: Sydney, Australia
I was of the mindset that the VS preamps were quite clean/transparent but I recently bought some external pres and am now questioning that assumption. I am hearing more bottom end and smoother highs with the VS pres compared to a PREQ73 (Neve style) and a WA12 (API style) preamp. The vintage pres are sounding brighter and less weighty than the VS. I expected the opposite. I actually prefer the sound of the VS preamps. I am surprised there is not more colouration with the vintage designs; they sound clean compared to the VS. BTW, I am running the external pres at line level so there is no transformer saturation artifacts that might account for this.

How do you find the VS preamps?

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#1519993 - 02/16/17 06:33 PM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: haysonics]
uptildawn Online   content
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But you're running the external preamps through the VS preamps in order to hear them, right?

How do the externals sound through a neutral mixer/amp/speakers, when compared to the same mics/instruments in the VS preamps run into the same neutral amp/speakers? In other words, if you plug the VS and both external preamps into their ow set of inputs on a different multi-channel mixer/amp system, how do you stack them up? Do the still compare the same?

I suppose the answer would be a mute point, if you're always going to run the preamps into the VS inputs and record to the VS.

It might still be interesting to find out, if you actually own the two preamps and are wondering if it was worth the cost...
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uptildawn

2013 Iowa City JazzFest sets!
Dr Lonnie Smith Trio w/Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar
Pharoah Sanders Quartet
Fred Hersch Trio
These are post mixes set to single camera video (by Rich Rauch).

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#1520011 - 02/16/17 10:14 PM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: uptildawn]
haysonics Offline
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Yes, a cheap but decent ADC like Eric recommended would help with determining the facts but I don't hear much colouration from the VS preamps when set at line level so i have not bothered getting one. I could be wrong, the VS preamp could be a fixed gain circuit and the mic/line rotary a simple attenuator (like the volume control on an amp). Does anyone know?

I suppose my question is more for those using external preamps.

"How do the externals sound through a neutral mixer/amp/speakers?" LOL I had been under the impression that's what my setup was. To really test this would require an interface that allows you to bypass the preamps. Those are expensive. Most interface line level inputs are still going through the preamp circuits. Yes, you definitely have to compare a single vocal take. I have tried many times to sing the same on different vocal takes and have never achieved it. So the other thing would be a good quality active mic-splitter (a Y-split cable would be useless as the mic would "see" the impedance sum of multiple, unmatched transformers). Having said that, multiple takes is how i have compared the different preamps.

OK planeteers, what do you think? Don't be shy, its not like it is going to affect sales of our beloved units.

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#1520015 - 02/16/17 11:47 PM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: haysonics]
uptildawn Online   content
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The issue of an neutral interface for testing the three preamps doesn't necessarily need to be expensive - just not one of the three preamps/amps being tested (which is what you're doing in running the two preamps through the VS, no?). I'm not suggesting a high end transparent ultra-clear circuit - just a multi-ch mixer that all three preamps can be tested through.
Does the VS have a way to send the output of its input section directly to an external amp, bypassing the track mixer section?.... I don't recall.

But regardless, I imagined hooking the output of the VS and the two external preamps up to a mixer/amp/speaker setup that would allow you to judge the merits of each through a common system, rather than through one of the preamps being questioned and compared. It seems obvious to me that the VS preamps must be coloring the external preamps, maybe even altering their output character somewhat, being chained to the VS and the interaction that must be happening there.

I would hardly imagine that the VS preamps are "neutral", or that they were designed to be such..... as you say, that requires an awful lot of cash..... more than the VS is worth for sure.

A single vocal take can be a pre-recorded vocal from a commercial CD, even mic'd from a speaker playback of the CD for that matter... if mic'ing is a must for a simple character evaluation. The exact same performance can be played over and over without worry and with no need to split the source to the three preamps simultaneously, necessarily. It just needs to be something that can be compared between the original and the three preamps.

It's not an incredibly precise test by any measure, but the point is to determine IF the VS preamps are affecting the "normal" sound of the two external preamps to any noticeable degree and to find out how different all three preamps sound with the same source material.

It's no more exact than deciding that the VS preamps record a source sound, leaving it uncolored from the original source, when there's no way to compare the original source after the fact....... especially if WE ARE the original source (as in singing into a mic). What we hear in the room, or in the headphones as we are singing only exists for that moment and we really can not conjure up that sound again for comparison.
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2013 Iowa City JazzFest sets!
Dr Lonnie Smith Trio w/Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar
Pharoah Sanders Quartet
Fred Hersch Trio
These are post mixes set to single camera video (by Rich Rauch).

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#1520158 - 02/18/17 02:44 PM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: uptildawn]
haysonics Offline
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Thanks, I appreciate the detailed response. I agree the VS preamps will still be colouring the external preamps somewhat even at lowest gain (line level) and that sending the outputs of all 3 preamps through a common system, rather than through one of the preamps being questioned, is the smart move.

I'll run with the idea but will avoid a mixer as I suspect all but expensive ones will alter the character enough to void the results. Its tricky to test preamps as their differences become much less obvious when you add in other audio sections. I'll see if i can hire an interface that has true line inputs (bypassing the preamps) and an active mic splitter. The aim is to go from line input straight to ADC.

The idea of using a a pre-recorded single vocal take from a commercial CD either direct or played through a speaker and recorded with a mic has actually been debated quite a bit over the years. If you google Zen Pro Audio Clipalator you'll see one attempt at doing that. They shootout a lot of gear (including the preamps I bought) but unfortunately I couldn't hear differences on either of my high end headphones. Folk figure things in their chain smear the results. I suspect either their mic, room or speaker (or all) impart too much character. You need high end monitoring speakers (which I don't have) to hear results with their method.

I will post sound files with the VS, Neve style, API style and Neutral (high end interface preamp) when done.

I'd still appreciate opinions on the VS preamps if anyone has them. Hoping to avoid the expense and time (too many hours doing mic shoot outs over the years :0)

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#1520184 - 02/18/17 06:08 PM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: haysonics]
fngrstck1 Offline
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Lets take something like the gap73. I have two of them. I also have a art mpa gold with upgraded tubes. They do what there supposed to do.....saturate. Read up on saturation. Second and third order harmonics do these types of things. Now the question is, do you like the saturation or not. Don't let someone tell you. You determine that on your own. If you like the vspreamps, great it saved you a bunch of money. It can record a snare too. Just like an api or a neve. If you want some coloring and saturation, look into them, but imho don't expect your snare sound to suddenly become a hitmaker snare. So many other things that make sounds improve. I don't buy the hype. I do however do things like my di bass going into the art, then cranking the input, and listening to a heavily spanked bass with little dynamics and a growl that needs little eq or compression(which driving the distortion basically is compression)...
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#1520205 - 02/18/17 09:00 PM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: fngrstck1]
haysonics Offline
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Loc: Sydney, Australia
Thanks for the response. I like colour and saturation, especially cranking my bass through the preq73, WA12 and tube preamps. I agree there is a lot of hype surrounding preamps and the main benefit comes from driving tubes and transformers hard. Still keen to find out what planeteers actually think of the sound of VS preamps. Un-coloued? Coloured? In what ways? etc
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#1520209 - 02/18/17 10:15 PM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: haysonics]
fngrstck1 Offline
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I think there a fantastic all around preamp. I really like them for my overheads. Clean and transparent. I would use them for anything without feeling like I lost something. I record to my pc with m-audio profire 2626 preamps. They were highly praised when they first came out, then they became cloudy and murky as new interfaces came out and everyone jumped on the next big thing. I personally think the vs preamps are just as good as the profire preamps and I have not noticed any improvement with my sounds since I moved to them. I use the pc for better editing and such.
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#1520212 - 02/18/17 10:38 PM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: fngrstck1]
haysonics Offline
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Loc: Sydney, Australia
Thanks! That is what i was hoping to find out. Seeing you own the pre73, how would you compare their sound at line level (no saturation) to the VS? I ask because I found my preq73 had more top end and less bottom end than the VS, the exact opposite of what I was expecting. I tried replacing the output transformer with a Carnill but got the same result.
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#1520933 - 02/24/17 09:53 AM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: haysonics]
canefire Offline
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I think they just capture audio at a low volume level. I do not know enough about preamps to define the color or what not. In my usage since 2004, recording singers, rappers, guitars, basses and my roland fantom s keyboard, I have gotten a wonderful representation of the original sound.
THen I started to use an electro harmonix mic pre. So the path was Rode NT1A to EHX (phantom power on) to VS2000 (or VS2480) XLR input (no phantom power obviously). This combination has created a wonderful sound and I use it for vocals and acoustic guitar.
I also use a Joe Meek compressor pre. This definitely has a distinct sound. Once in a while I use it for vocals. People generally do not choose this option. On electric guitar I get a bit of interest in it from people.
I live in Silver Spring MD and there is a great professional guitarist in my area who is from Berklee and he loved my VS setup so much that he went out and bought a VS2480 about three months ago. He can play every Prince riff and he knows a large amount of songs. Recording his vocals into the VS or his electric guitar coming from his pedal board to the VS is what made me realize that the VS2000 and VS2480 are phenomenal. With a pre, without a pre, you are not lacking on the hardware end. It is more than good enough to capture a work of art well.

Cheers,
Ian
_________________________
"A Cobra never wastes its venom on dead and fleeing things" - The Mantra of the Cobra

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#1520982 - 02/24/17 03:24 PM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: canefire]
haysonics Offline
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Posts: 80
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Thanks Ian for sharing your experiences. I have heard a few raves about the colours of the Electro Harmonix pre and Joe Meek compressor pre. I am glad to hear both you and your guitarist friend also find the VS pres excellent.

I am waiting on delivery of a Switchcraft RMAS1 (3 way mic splitter) to conduct tests but from what planeteers are saying I expect it will just show colours the external pres are adding rather than deficiencies with the VS pres. So far i have only used external pres to DI bass (Epiphone Viola) as keyboards and vocals seem better represented by the VS pres. The test should settle the matter with a comparison based off a single vocal take. The Switchcraft has a transformer and isolation circuitry so the mic will only "see" a single impedance. I have read many contradictory reports about these external pres and owning them hasn't helped solve the issue as it is impossible to sing from the exact same position and volume twice. I'll do different takes, but that can now act as confirmation of the differences with the pres rather than confuse the issue.

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#1523214 - 03/14/17 06:43 AM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: haysonics]
haysonics Offline
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The Switchcraft RMAS1 (3 way mic splitter) arrived today and the results were surprising (to me anyway). Doing a comparison with the same vocal take is essential !!! First i shot out the VS against the Steinberg UR22 and the GAP PREQ73.

The Steinberg uses the Yamaha D-PRE which is a solid state discrete circuit and is hailed as an affordable neutral sounding preamp. Up til now i have only used it to record sounds into a PC. As you will hear from the sound files its close to the VS preamp. That's great news for the VS as the Steinberg UR22 was released in 2013.

The GAP PREQ73 sounded as you might expect a Neve 1073 copy to sound; it has a big bottom and a smooth top. On a previous (multiple take) shootout it sounded anemic but i must have been an inch further back from the microphone (my C12 style mic has massive proximity effect).

I then did a shootout (which i wont bother including) with the VS against the GAP and a WARM AUDIO WA12. I found the same difference comparing the VS to the GAP and confirmed that the WARM AUDIO WA12 does lack a little bottom end and is a tad brighter compared to the VS.

https://soundcloud.com/dean-hayson/sets/preamp-shootout

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#1523231 - 03/14/17 09:43 AM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: haysonics]
uptildawn Online   content
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FYI - the GAP recording has its phase reversed relative to the other two.

To my ears, the VS has a slight boost in the bottom, compared to the Steinberg, which I found the most "natural" of the two..... although I would also say that the VS sounded pleasing.
The GAP certainly sounded cloudy and uninspiring to me, even when not comparing to the others.

A null test is interesting - no two cancel each other out (that would be expected, since they all sound different), but the closest to cancelling out was the VS and Steinberg.

Of course, given different "instrument" and environment, any of the three might serve quite well and the GAP may actually be a better choice in some circumstances.
_________________________
uptildawn

2013 Iowa City JazzFest sets!
Dr Lonnie Smith Trio w/Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar
Pharoah Sanders Quartet
Fred Hersch Trio
These are post mixes set to single camera video (by Rich Rauch).

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#1523342 - 03/14/17 07:52 PM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: uptildawn]
fngrstck1 Offline
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Glad to hear you figured it out. I really do believe the vs preamps have aged well. I personally think the whole 2480 was thought out and designed really well without sacrificing anything including preamps and conversion.
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#1523519 - 03/15/17 10:29 PM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: fngrstck1]
haysonics Offline
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Thanks chaps.

Roland did an amazing job with the 2 series machines but unfortunately cheap interfaces and software won the battle. You still can't beat pushing faders. And the 3 card emulations are so good that the only thing i use the pc for is running Native Instruments and gain matching when doing mic and preamp shootouts.

LOL about the reversed polarity on the GAP. I took a guess when replacing the output transformer. The Chinese input and output transformers sound clear. You have to replace the output with a Carnhill to make the GAP really sound like a Neve. The Carnhill is not HiFi. Cloudy is an apt description. The pursuit of "vintage" can lead into murky territory. I am going to use the splitter so as to have the clarity of the VS preamp in case the outboard gear doesn't cut it come mix time.

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#1523528 - 03/16/17 12:52 AM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: haysonics]
uptildawn Online   content
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 Originally Posted By: haysonics
...
LOL about the reversed polarity on the GAP. I took a guess when replacing the output transformer...


Just remember to think of that, if/when recording one source with two mics sometime, so as not to be dismayed when they sound out of phase. \:\)


 Originally Posted By: haysonics
...
I am going to use the splitter so as to have the clarity of the VS preamp in case the outboard gear doesn't cut it come mix time.


Great idea, the splitter...
_________________________
uptildawn

2013 Iowa City JazzFest sets!
Dr Lonnie Smith Trio w/Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar
Pharoah Sanders Quartet
Fred Hersch Trio
These are post mixes set to single camera video (by Rich Rauch).

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#1523541 - 03/16/17 07:35 AM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: uptildawn]
haysonics Offline
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Loc: Sydney, Australia
Thanks for the reminder about phasing as funnily engaging the EQ on the GAP flips the polarity (it wasn't on for the shootout). For the next test i'll drive the GAP above line level and see if that brightens the sound (using the VS as a baseline). With a splitter i'll be able to compare it to the VS preamp which doesn't seem to change the sound at different gain levels. I'll include the Redd47 clone in the test.
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#1523545 - 03/16/17 09:57 AM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: haysonics]
uptildawn Online   content
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that seems awfully strange for a device, hardware or not, to flip the phase for any reason other than an intentional phase flip by the user by pressing a button specifically for flipping phase. I would think that could be problematic in a multi-mic recording session, if the user is not made acutely aware of this behavior.
_________________________
uptildawn

2013 Iowa City JazzFest sets!
Dr Lonnie Smith Trio w/Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar
Pharoah Sanders Quartet
Fred Hersch Trio
These are post mixes set to single camera video (by Rich Rauch).

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#1523644 - 03/17/17 06:58 AM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: uptildawn]
haysonics Offline
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I figure it is due to the EQ section being inductor based. It's mentioned in the manual and says users can flick the polarity reverse switch when phase alignment is crucial. It doesn't give an example of when which is remiss seeing the GAP is aimed at the prosumer market. If the regular (no EQ) model did this there would have been an uproar on that gear forum the kiddies hang out on.
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#1523856 - 03/19/17 01:06 AM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: haysonics]
haysonics Offline
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I did the next (and maybe last) shootout; this time with the VS, GAP and REDD47 clone. All with around 55dB of gain and then gain matched using Audacity.

I expected the GAP to sound brighter this time as it's way above line level but nope. The Carnhill may not sound HiFi but it certainly handles a hot signal.

Another surprise was the REDD47 clone. The DI input always lops a bit off the top but, as you can hear below, the mic input displays a lot of clarity. I would put it in the same camp as the WARM AUDIO WA12. The REDD47 uses a EF86 for gain.

If the WA12 (API style) and Redd47 were seen as a benchmark you could be forgiven for thinking the VS preamp lacks a smidgen of clarity. But I am not sure i like that extra clarity. I definitely prefer the bottom end i am hearing with the VS. As for the GAP, i think it goes a little overboard in the bottom and looses too too much of the top.

After two rounds of shootouts I think the VS is my favourite preamp and the Steinberg my 2nd favourite.

https://soundcloud.com/dean-hayson/sets/another-preamp-shootout

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#1523866 - 03/19/17 08:22 AM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: haysonics]
uptildawn Online   content
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Interesting...
the gap had a smoother response to the 'ssss', but still sounds too cloudy for my taste.
The VS and Redd have similar overall sound, but the 'ssss' were too sibilant on the Redd.

The VS sounds pretty good, compared to these others you tested/compared, in these tests, with your voice, in this singing/speaking context and over my playback system.
_________________________
uptildawn

2013 Iowa City JazzFest sets!
Dr Lonnie Smith Trio w/Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar
Pharoah Sanders Quartet
Fred Hersch Trio
These are post mixes set to single camera video (by Rich Rauch).

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#1523958 - 03/20/17 07:07 AM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: uptildawn]
haysonics Offline
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Loc: Sydney, Australia
That's the beauty of the splitter and a single vocal take, we are listening on different amps and you on monitors and i on headphones and we are discerning the same differences.

Something interesting with the GAP; i have tried it on a reasonably bright mic and it smoothed out the top end, making it sound natural.

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#1523969 - 03/20/17 10:56 AM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: haysonics]
uptildawn Online   content
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There ya go... you can make pretty much any decent preamp and mic work, given the right context.
_________________________
uptildawn

2013 Iowa City JazzFest sets!
Dr Lonnie Smith Trio w/Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar
Pharoah Sanders Quartet
Fred Hersch Trio
These are post mixes set to single camera video (by Rich Rauch).

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#1527229 - 04/18/17 06:01 PM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: uptildawn]
JonnyDjango Offline
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Registered: 06/19/14
Posts: 63
I've spent years banging my head trying to figure out what it was about the vs sound.

It's become a sort of game where the object is to avoid the sound in order that the recordings suck less.

I had the good fortune to run across a YamahaAW2816 for comparison. It seemed obvious that the Roland sound gets strained in the high frequencies. They don't do audiophile they do keyboards,drum machines, and synths....things with weight and density.

Without rambling on trying to describe it, I can say that, for me, it was a very useful lesson. Each preamp/system has it's own strengths and virtues that it does better than anything else,

The one that was a problem- apparently- for most people was the vs1680. The quality of the preamps is just about exactly what you would expect from any of the cassette porta studios. The difference being that the slight harmonic distortions are no longer blended in the shadows of tape.




Edited by JonnyDjango (04/18/17 06:02 PM)

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#1527680 - 04/22/17 02:16 AM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: JonnyDjango]
haysonics Offline
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Registered: 12/10/13
Posts: 80
Loc: Sydney, Australia
This thread is about the type of preamp used in the 2000/2400/2480. Apart from an issue with the first batch of 2480 (the 5534 ICs being incorrectly biased), I'd say the majority of owners like their sound. I am sorry to hear you don't like the hi end on your 1680 preamps. I haven't owned one of those. Have you considered ditching the 1680 for a pc? As part of the shootout I trialled a Steinberg UR22. That is a great sounding cheap interface. If I didn't like the preamps on my 2000 I would have made the move to pc. Bad preamps are a deal breaker in my book. I had an Akai DPS12 in the 90s and sold it after a couple of months for that reason.
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#1527799 - 04/23/17 03:43 PM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: haysonics]
canefire Offline
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Registered: 11/02/04
Posts: 619
Loc: Silver Spring , MD USA
The preamps sound great to me and the people who pay me to record them. Playing with people's insecurities is what makes our capitalist world go round.

The trick is to always make you feel like you are not quite there. Whereas people from what was once called the third world come to places like the US and England and run with what they can get there hands on and make do.

How many of you actually record in 96khz the whole way through your process? How many of you use a Neumann and a LA2A in a $30,000 soundproofed room.

Just record and continue to get better by experimenting. The Roland VS2480, 2400, and 2000 are great units. Theses are professional items not toys.

Cheers,
Ian
_________________________
"A Cobra never wastes its venom on dead and fleeing things" - The Mantra of the Cobra

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#1527822 - 04/23/17 07:50 PM Re: How would you describe the sound of the VS preamps? [Re: canefire]
haysonics Offline
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Registered: 12/10/13
Posts: 80
Loc: Sydney, Australia
Eric Clapton recorded Pilgrim with Pro Tools. Bruce Springsteen recorded Nebraska with a Porta Studio. Comparing the sound of both albums is an enlightening experience. I am not suggesting a return to cassette, just that the increase in knowledge and experience over time far outweighs the increase in expenditure on gear. Once you get to pro (which i consider the 2 series units to be), there is a steep slope of diminishing returns.

My (over sampled & uncompressed) 16/44.1 VS living room recordings at the moment sound better than earlier 96/24 Cubase studio sessions. These days I use the 3 card LA2A whereas the earlier sessions used an actual LA2A. Again, gains in knowledge outweigh an increase in spec. Moving a mic an inch makes a huge difference.

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