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Author Topic: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2  (Read 8393 times)

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Offline bhadella

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Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« on: February 20, 2011, 05:55:23 PM »
I just completed a 3 day run of comparisons between my Sonosax SX-M2 preamp and the Sound Devices USBPre 2.   The source is Umphreys McGee recorded in three different venues using DPA 4022 mics setup DFC at FOH.  Mics were in the DIN configuration approximately 8' up.  I split the signal coming from the mics to both preamps.  Phantom power was provided by the Sonosax.  I've uploaded the 16 bit filesets to the archive where you can download them.  Gain was set to peak around -3 dbs, post processing included adding gain till both sources had the same RMS.   On the 1st and 3rd nights, I used the a/d function on the USBPre 2 in addition to the preamp.  On the 2nd night, I ran analog in to the R44 (set at unity). 


02/16/11 - The Music Farm, Charleston, SC   
http://www.archive.org/details/um2011-02-16.usbpre2.flacf16
http://www.archive.org/details/um2011-02-16.sax.flacf16

02/17/11 - The Orange Peel, Asheville, NC
http://www.archive.org/details/um2011-02-17.usbpre2.flacf16
http://www.archive.org/details/um2011-02-17.sax.flacf16

02/19/11 - The Fillmore, Charlotte, NC
http://www.archive.org/details/um2011-02-19.usbpre2.flacf16
http://www.archive.org/details/um2011-02-19.sax.flacf16

I'd love to get some feedback on how everyone feels the two pre-amps compare. 

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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2011, 10:14:34 PM »
I pulled a set of tracks from the first night and I'll listen later. Any recommendations on what other nights/tracks to hear that you think the difference is most pronounced?
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"Nostalgia ain't what it used to be." - Jim Williams

Offline bhadella

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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2011, 06:35:22 PM »
"Jimmy Stewart" on the 16th for some thick bass and heavy synthy keys.
Mulches Odyssey on the 17th for big rock dynamics.   
Morning Song on the 19th for vocals and lots of vocal effects.


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Offline ashevillain

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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2011, 07:23:10 PM »
Wow. I'm surprised! They sound really similar to me! I think the majority of casual listeners would be hard pressed to tell a difference.

Listening to Jimmy Stewart from the Orange Peel on Audio-Technica ATH-M50s headphones:

1. The Sonosax source sounds like the low end is just a hair tighter (not by much).
2. The USB Pre source sounds like it is a tiny bit more edgy overall and has a tiny bit more "air" in everything above the extreme low end.

To be honest I think I might even be tricking myself into hearing these minor differences. Knowing they are different preamps I know there has to be a difference but it's really not at all very pronounced to my ears. Having heard this I would definitely never pay the premium for the Sonosax unless I absolutely had to have the slightly smaller size. Sonically, there is not a $1000+ advantage.


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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2011, 09:16:43 PM »
Wow. I'm surprised! They sound really similar to me! I think the majority of casual listeners would be hard pressed to tell a difference.

Listening to Jimmy Stewart from the Orange Peel on Audio-Technica ATH-M50s headphones:

1. The Sonosax source sounds like the low end is just a hair tighter (not by much).
2. The USB Pre source sounds like it is a tiny bit more edgy overall and has a tiny bit more "air" in everything above the extreme low end.

To be honest I think I might even be tricking myself into hearing these minor differences. Knowing they are different preamps I know there has to be a difference but it's really not at all very pronounced to my ears. Having heard this I would definitely never pay the premium for the Sonosax unless I absolutely had to have the slightly smaller size. Sonically, there is not a $1000+ advantage.

I've sat and played with one before and I found there are two traits of a sax, the low end can have a little extra punch depending on the note/force it's played and the top end becomes hazy/gooey. I did some samples (not using mics, but played from CDs) and could pick apart differences but it wasn't crazy different like some pre-amps are and took a fair amount of listening and hunting to find passages that I could isolate differences of. There is a certain harmonic distortion that it imparts, but it's subtle and I can pick out tracks that sound nice, but I can't ever put my finger on that aspect. I had it set to the approximate mic-gain I'd need in the field, and was pushing the headroom when I was playing with it (to just under the +20dbu limit), but it gave me an interesting take on the differences and there definitely can be some. I once asked someone here how they described it, and one thing they mentioned was that at the end of the day, it's a rather transparent amp all things considered, and I'm inclined to agree with that based on both this test, and my own against an SD box (assuming the SD boxes are transparent ones, a designation I'm willing to make). Another person mentioned how it adds a little punch around 80hz or lower and some "shitty on top." I've heard it both ways. When it's one versus the other and what prompts that is still a mystery to me.

btw brian; the 19th sounds really good, nice room. Strong work.  ;D
"This is a common practice we have on the bus; debating facts that we could easily find through printed material. It's like, how far is it today? I think it's four hours, and someone else comes in at 11 hours, and well, then we'll... just... talk about it..." - Jeb Puryear

"Nostalgia ain't what it used to be." - Jim Williams

Offline F.O.Bean

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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2011, 09:59:33 PM »
So Brian, you just used Y-Splitters ??? Because that's what I want to do w/ my MBHO's. I want to run:

MBHO>722
        >LB>R09

And I'm HOPING that all I need are some Y-Splitters :P :'(

 8)
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Offline bhadella

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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2011, 06:55:41 AM »
So Brian, you just used Y-Splitters ??? Because that's what I want to do w/ my MBHO's. I want to run:

MBHO>722
        >LB>R09

And I'm HOPING that all I need are some Y-Splitters :P :'(

 8)

That's what I did.   Sonosax provided the phantom power. 
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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2011, 05:13:59 PM »
So Brian, you just used Y-Splitters ??? Because that's what I want to do w/ my MBHO's. I want to run:

MBHO>722
        >LB>R09

And I'm HOPING that all I need are some Y-Splitters :P :'(

 8)

That's what I did.   Sonosax provided the phantom power. 

Awesome, thanks for the info :)
Recording Gear:
Schoeps MK 4 (MP) & MK 41V (MP) Capsules ->
Schoeps 250/0 KCY's X2 ->
Naiant +60v/Low Noise PFA's x2 ->
DarkTrain Right Angle Stubby XLR's x2 ->
Sound Devices MixPre-6 & MixPre-3 ->
SanDisk 128gb Extreme Pro & 64gb Ultra Plus

Portable Playback Gear:
Campfire Audio Andromeda & Dorado IEM's ->
Linum G2 SuperBax & Bax 3.5mm | FiiO LC 2.5c 2.5mm ->
Shanling Audio M5s | Sony NW-A35 DAP's

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stevetoney

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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2011, 01:20:06 PM »
My preference goes to the Sonosax samples.  Better detail.  Crispier and more authentic sounding.  Less subdued/muted.

Offline alpine85

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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2012, 04:55:33 PM »
My preference goes to the Sonosax samples.  Better detail.  Crispier and more authentic sounding.  Less subdued/muted.

+1

Sonosax, hands down.

I'm guessing you feel the same, Brian (seeing that it looks like you've relegated the USBPre to A/D duties only)?
MICS: AKG CK-1/CK-63/CK-8/CK-22 --> AKG 460/JW460/JW452
CABLES: GAKcables and Mogami
PRES: Apogee Mini-Me, SD USBPre-2, Busman UA-5
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Offline DATBRAD

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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2012, 11:36:07 AM »
I prefer the sax over the USBPre when the SD is providing the A/D stage hands down. However, on the sample with the Edirol A/D, I like the sax and SD preamps equally.
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Offline alpine85

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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2012, 03:00:43 PM »
I prefer the sax over the USBPre when the SD is providing the A/D stage hands down. However, on the sample with the Edirol A/D, I like the sax and SD preamps equally.

I agree that there is less of a difference on the 2/17 (but I still prefer the Sonosax)...  hmmm...   Could this mean that the weak link on the USBPre is actually the A/D and not the Pres?

Brian - have you tried a comp between the R-44 A/D and the USBPre2 A/D ?   
MICS: AKG CK-1/CK-63/CK-8/CK-22 --> AKG 460/JW460/JW452
CABLES: GAKcables and Mogami
PRES: Apogee Mini-Me, SD USBPre-2, Busman UA-5
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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2012, 03:30:33 PM »
Could this mean that the weak link on the USBPre is actually the A/D and not the Pres?

That is one posibility. It could also mean the opposite; that the ADC in the R44 loses enough micro/soundstage/transient detail that you are left with stuff that is harder to tell apart.

Won't know till you test.
"This is a common practice we have on the bus; debating facts that we could easily find through printed material. It's like, how far is it today? I think it's four hours, and someone else comes in at 11 hours, and well, then we'll... just... talk about it..." - Jeb Puryear

"Nostalgia ain't what it used to be." - Jim Williams

Offline DATBRAD

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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2012, 04:23:14 PM »
What I hear in the sample using the USBPre's A/D is almost the same sound the 7xx boxes have.I don't hear a loss of detail, and the sound stage seems wider and deeper with the Edirol A/D to me. All things being otherwise nearly equal, the sax is still a little sweeter sounding overall to my ears. But, I don't think combo boxes like the USBPre or the V3 used as preamps only stack up against preamp only boxes like the V2 and Sax anyway, to be fair. If I was going to get a preamp today, it would be a Sax.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2012, 04:25:07 PM by DATBRAD »
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Offline bhadella

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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2012, 04:28:54 PM »
Brian - have you tried a comp between the R-44 A/D and the USBPre2 A/D ?

Yes. 

http://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=142208.0

I'm not sure if the mediafire links work anymore.  I strongly prefer the USBPre2 a/d over the R44......
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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2012, 04:35:01 PM »
What I hear in the sample using the USBPre's A/D is almost the same sound the 7xx boxes have.I don't hear a loss of detail, and the sound stage seems wider and deeper with the Edirol A/D to me. All things being otherwise nearly equal, the sax is still a little sweeter sounding overall to my ears. But, I don't think combo boxes like the USBPre or the V3 used as preamps only stack up against preamp only boxes like the V2 and Sax anyway, to be fair. If I was going to get a preamp today, it would be a Sax.

fair enough. I'm partial to the SD ADC stage; I picked it out of the ADC comps done against the Sony D50 and Oade ACM V3. Personal preference, especially in the V3 attempt.
"This is a common practice we have on the bus; debating facts that we could easily find through printed material. It's like, how far is it today? I think it's four hours, and someone else comes in at 11 hours, and well, then we'll... just... talk about it..." - Jeb Puryear

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Offline Todd R

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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2012, 04:50:44 PM »
I don't think combo boxes like the USBPre or the V3 used as preamps only stack up against preamp only boxes like the V2 and Sax anyway, to be fair.

Ok, threadjack I guess (especially since I haven't listened to the comps):

I can't comment on the USBPre since I haven't really listened much to one, but I'm curious about your V3 vs V2 comment.  I can see how the V3 A/D might not be worth it to some (many?) or that it was an add-on to what is essentially a preamp, but why do you think the V3 doesn't stack up to the V2 as a preamp?

Mike Grace said they are essentially the same thing as a preamp (other than one is surface mount vs thru-hole, and use slightly different Burr Brown instrumentation amps since the earlier one had been discontinued I believe before the V3 came out).

Other than those changes and some changes to the gain structure, I thought the V2 and V3 were pretty much the same preamp.
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Offline DATBRAD

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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2012, 11:59:14 PM »
I hear you, and know they are supposed to be the same, but I swear I hear a difference between the V2 and V3 as a pre-only.
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Offline Todd R

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Re: Pre-amp Comp: Sound Devices USBPre 2 and Sonosax SX-M2
« Reply #18 on: April 12, 2012, 01:08:49 AM »
Oh, I can totally understand that -- change things just a little bit and you can change the sound.

I've run a V3 for years, but have only run a V2 a couple of times, so I can't really comment on whether they have a different sound. I just don't think it wa any conscious decision by Grace to lessen the quality of the V3's preamp section to make room costwise to add an A/D section. I think it was just the reality of needing to move manufacturing towards surface mount (which by the way should reduce stray board capacitances and actually improve the sound, if anything) and need to move to a new inamp since the original was discontinued.
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