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Author Topic: SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me  (Read 8286 times)

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Offline alpine85

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SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me
« on: April 10, 2012, 04:41:57 PM »
So... I was about 99% sure I wanted a USBPre 2, based on the feature set and what I had heard from Sound Devices in the past.  (I even had an ISO post in the yard sale)

Then I started poking around and actually listening to some recordings on the LMA.  I listened to Brian Hadella's Sonosax/USBPre2 comparisons, and I listened to everything else I could find where the preamps on the USBPre v2 were actually being used (there really aren't that many recordings out there yet, by the way). 

My conclusion is that I am thoroughly unimpressed with the USBPre 2, or at least the preamp section of it.  Listen to Brian's 3 shows he recorded with both the Sonosax & SD > R-44 (links posted below).  I was really surprised at how much more "musical" and realistic the Sonosax recordings were and how much more impact they have,  and how flat and sterile and lifeless the USBPre recordings were in comparison.  And that's with DPA 4022s!!  (frankly, if a preamp can't play nice with DPAs, you've gotta wonder if it's worth having).   None of the other stuff on the LMA sounds much better.  I listened with 2 different playback systems and 2 sets of headphones... same thing. 

Is this a subjective thing where it's just me, or are the pre's in this unit really that bad?  Can anyone point me to a recording or 2 made with the USB Pre 2 that they really like?  I'd be very interested in hearing it.  Like I said, I really wanted to like this unit, because feature wise it has everything I'm looking for.  I just want to hear one recording that really knocks my socks off and shows me that this thing has the potential. 

Anyway, then I saw the 2 Mini-Mes in the YS and started to think "why not a Mini-Me? What can the SD do that the MiniMe can't?"  I started going back and listening to Mini-Me recordings and had the exact opposite reaction - I liked almost all of them!  Yes the technology is 10 years old or whatever, but with the firewire or USB card it basically meets my needs as a computer interface for mastering, and supposedly has a nice headphone amp (can anyone confirm this? I need a high current amp to drive my AKG K240DF's). 

So I'm wondering... am I missing something?  Is there something that gives the SD unit a distinct advantage that I'm just not seeing?  (other than the pretty lights, of course)

Here's what I'm looking for:

(1)  A quality preamp/ AD converter all-in-one -  to go Mics > Pre/AD > Tascam DR100MK2 for a second rig, or to use on 2 channels into the Oade R44 for some extra flavor

(2)  USB (or Firewire) interface for mastering - to go digital out from computer > Yamaha receiver > monitors (if it could pass multichannel audio files through to the surround decoder on the receiver, that would be a big plus)

(3)  High quality, high power headphone amp

(4) ability to use for webcasting (digital stream to computer for encoding with simultaneous digital out via SPDIF)...

by the way - I have a USBPre v1.5 that I bought for functions 2, 3, and 4... I'm not even going to get into my issues with that unit... (I almost titled this thread "Has Sound Devices jumped the shark?")


Thoughts?   


Oh yeah - you can hear Brian H's comparisons here:

http://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=143118.msg1845070#msg1845070

Thanks Brian!



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
RECORDERS: Oade R-44, Tascam DR-100-MKII, JB3

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2012, 06:03:01 PM »
So... I was about 99% sure I wanted a USBPre 2, based on the feature set and what I had heard from Sound Devices in the past.  (I even had an ISO post in the yard sale)

Then I started poking around and actually listening to some recordings on the LMA.  I listened to Brian Hadella's Sonosax/USBPre2 comparisons, and I listened to everything else I could find where the preamps on the USBPre v2 were actually being used (there really aren't that many recordings out there yet, by the way). 

My conclusion is that I am thoroughly unimpressed with the USBPre 2, or at least the preamp section of it.  Listen to Brian's 3 shows he recorded with both the Sonosax & SD > R-44 (links posted below).  I was really surprised at how much more "musical" and realistic the Sonosax recordings were and how much more impact they have,  and how flat and sterile and lifeless the USBPre recordings were in comparison.  And that's with DPA 4022s!!  (frankly, if a preamp can't play nice with DPAs, you've gotta wonder if it's worth having).   None of the other stuff on the LMA sounds much better.  I listened with 2 different playback systems and 2 sets of headphones... same thing. 

Is this a subjective thing where it's just me, or are the pre's in this unit really that bad?  Can anyone point me to a recording or 2 made with the USB Pre 2 that they really like?  I'd be very interested in hearing it.  Like I said, I really wanted to like this unit, because feature wise it has everything I'm looking for.  I just want to hear one recording that really knocks my socks off and shows me that this thing has the potential. 

Anyway, then I saw the 2 Mini-Mes in the YS and started to think "why not a Mini-Me? What can the SD do that the MiniMe can't?"  I started going back and listening to Mini-Me recordings and had the exact opposite reaction - I liked almost all of them!  Yes the technology is 10 years old or whatever, but with the firewire or USB card it basically meets my needs as a computer interface for mastering, and supposedly has a nice headphone amp (can anyone confirm this? I need a high current amp to drive my AKG K240DF's). 

So I'm wondering... am I missing something?  Is there something that gives the SD unit a distinct advantage that I'm just not seeing?  (other than the pretty lights, of course)

Different sonic signature is basically it. I've found the SD preamps to be fine if you're intended output is a transparent view (even to a fault) of what you're recording. The soundstage and transient capture of the SD boxes are where they shine, not in creating a recording that is euphoric or lively (courtesy harmonic distortion of some type).

There were things I really liked about the sonosax when I had one; it created a great transistor-like sparkle and euphoria and it widens the soundstage a touch. Conversely, there were many things I didn't like about it; it smears both the soundstage and transient response, and as a result of the smear which creates the soundstage widening, it wants to push certain elements wider but not in a way that I thought was realistic. Sounds great depending on the mic used with it and content genre that you're recording, but I never thought the sax sounded "realistic" per se.

Just depends on your goal.

I've heard some mini-me comps against a the grace pre-amps and I thought the mini-me wanted to etch the upper mid-range and create a touch of goo and thump in the trunk. Not bad, but it's a specific sonic signature (or coloration if you will).
"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 acidjack

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2012, 09:04:26 PM »
I make lots and lots of recordings with it.  They're on the LMA and nyctaper. 

The DPAs are very dry, flat mics.  They are great mics.  I thought them and the USBPre2 gave a very dry, crisp, transparent sound.  I liked it when I wanted to hear the mic, not the preamp.

I run Schoeps now, and well, they're to be more "musical" for better or worse.  Still like them with the USBPre2.  Admittedly, I don't think I've ever run a comp, but I rarely feel like I thought, "oh, if only I had a different pre...."

I also have an Aerco now. It's got transformers, it's more old-school, it's "warm".  I like it, too. 

Guess it just depends what you are looking for.  If I didn't care about size I'd probably go with a V3 or something, but I just cannot justify the size.  Along similar lines, there is no way in hell I'd buy a Mini-Me... literally no way.  I don't care how it sounds (by all accounts, great).  It just wouldn't fit with what I was doing.  YMMV and all that.
Mics: Schoeps MK4V, MK41V, MK5, MK22> CMC6, KCY 250/5, KC5, NBob; MBHO MBP603/KA200N, AT 3031, DPA 4061 w/ d:vice, Naiant X-X, AT 853c, shotgun, Nak300
Pres/Power: Aerco MP2, tinybox v2  [KCY], CA-UBB
Decks: Sound Devices MixPre 6, Zoom F8, M10, D50

My recordings on nyctaper.com: http://www.nyctaper.com/?tag=acidjack | LMA: http://www.archive.org/bookmarks/acidjack | twitter: http://www.twitter.com/acidjacknyc | Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/acidjacknyc

Offline capnhook

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2012, 09:45:19 PM »
An R44 and a stack of DVD batteries fit on top on my MME just fine.  Velcro is your friend.
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kirk97132

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2012, 11:15:29 PM »
The USBPre2 is very transparent, similiar to a V3.  The Apogee has that "Apogee sound" it's a nice warm full sound but not transparent.  I've run an Apogee AD-1000, USBPre2, V3, BM2p+ and SD MP-2.  Only the V3 and Pre2 are about the same sonic footprint imho.  The Apogee and MP-2 are both warmer yet they are both different and the Busman UA-5 falls between the MP-2 and the V3 to my ears.  The bottom line is some people prefer a certain preamp just like they prefer mics.  Here is a recording with the Pre2 that really made the mics being used shine:
http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=549535
I think that you are equating your taste in sound, which is not a transparent neutral, colorless preamp, to being a bad sound.  And for the feature set you are listing the pre2 is going to be the one preamp the has the bulk of what you are looking for.  I love my pre2 and my V3 and MP-2 but each is different
« Last Edit: April 11, 2012, 12:36:09 PM by kirkd »

Offline mepaca

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2012, 04:50:33 AM »
I used to run schoeps>v2>mini-me. I then got a usbpre2. I sold the mini-me, put the grace on the shelf and not looked back.

Offline dogmusic

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2012, 07:43:29 AM »
I'm running Beyer MC 930s>USBPre2 dig out> TASCAM DR100 MK II to record my piano. I really like the clarity. The recording sounds the way the piano sounds when I'm playing it -- for better or worse!

If I want a warmer, more-coloured sound, I run the mics through my Audient MICO. Unfortunately, the Tascam won't accept the dig out from the MICO, so perhaps the line out is what's making the warmth and colour.

I can sympathize with what you're saying. All those great records benefited from tape distortion. It really depends on what you need or like to hear for a particular purpose.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2012, 07:47:46 AM by dogmusic »
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Offline alpine85

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2012, 02:26:18 PM »
Thanks for all the input, guys!  Maybe I was a little too harsh on the USBPre2.  It could very well be just a matter of taste, or maybe I just haven't heard the right mics with it yet.  Who knows... my AKGs and this thing could be the perfect combo for me... I could plug them in and choirs of angels would start to sing... I'm just not willing to take that chance for $650 and based on what I've heard from it so far. 

Acidjack - I'm only finding like 10 shows on the LMA where you use the SD, and most of them are matrices.  (?)  I will say that your Mandolin Orange recording from the Bowery is about the best thing I've heard with this unit so far (I actually prefer it to the matrix of the other band on the same night).  The Portugal The Man set sounds pretty good to my ears too (with the AKGs no less, so that's definitely encouraging to me - although you did mention in the notes that you had to do a lot of tweaking to that one).

KirkD - thanks for the link - I'm downloading it now and will give it a listen later on.  (edit: there are no seeders - could you possibly re-seed it for me?)  It's interesting that you feel the V3 and USBPre2 are so similar... I really like the sound of the V3 generally.  I also have a Busman UA-5 which I like a lot, and I agree that it falls somewhere between the V3 and some of the warmer sounding pres. 
« Last Edit: April 11, 2012, 03:07:11 PM by alpine85 »
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
RECORDERS: Oade R-44, Tascam DR-100-MKII, JB3

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2012, 02:33:19 PM »
It's interesting that you feel the V3 and USBPre2 are so similar...

yeah, I could go for that.

If you're looking for samples, you might expand your search criteria to the general 7 series boxes. They use the same ADC and the preamps are extremely similar (the ones in the 788 are the same). But yeah, it's a clean, unflattering box. Depends on your objective.
"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

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2012, 09:20:45 PM »


KirkD - thanks for the link - I'm downloading it now and will give it a listen later on.  (edit: there are no seeders - could you possibly re-seed it for me?)  It's interesting that you feel the V3 and USBPre2 are so similar... I really like the sound of the V3 generally.  I also have a Busman UA-5 which I like a lot, and I agree that it falls somewhere between the V3 and some of the warmer sounding pres.

getting reseed up should be working tonight.  Remember that source is a pair of ADK SC-T mics, not the most expensive mics out there, but I was very suprised and ccan only attribute it to the preamp, as I've run those mics before....(I think it was with the Bm2p+ but I'd have to check)...but this time they really did well and even held their own against multiple sources including a set of Nak 300's I ran that night.  In fact I ran 4  mic set ups for that show so if you want another one just let me know

Offline acidjack

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2012, 01:20:20 PM »
Thanks for all the input, guys!  Maybe I was a little too harsh on the USBPre2.  It could very well be just a matter of taste, or maybe I just haven't heard the right mics with it yet.  Who knows... my AKGs and this thing could be the perfect combo for me... I could plug them in and choirs of angels would start to sing... I'm just not willing to take that chance for $650 and based on what I've heard from it so far. 

Acidjack - I'm only finding like 10 shows on the LMA where you use the SD, and most of them are matrices.  (?)  I will say that your Mandolin Orange recording from the Bowery is about the best thing I've heard with this unit so far (I actually prefer it to the matrix of the other band on the same night).  The Portugal The Man set sounds pretty good to my ears too (with the AKGs no less, so that's definitely encouraging to me - although you did mention in the notes that you had to do a lot of tweaking to that one).

KirkD - thanks for the link - I'm downloading it now and will give it a listen later on.  (edit: there are no seeders - could you possibly re-seed it for me?)  It's interesting that you feel the V3 and USBPre2 are so similar... I really like the sound of the V3 generally.  I also have a Busman UA-5 which I like a lot, and I agree that it falls somewhere between the V3 and some of the warmer sounding pres.

Try this one: http://www.nyctaper.com/?p=7975  Now this is actually only using the USBPre2 as a preamp - I ran it into the M10, but I think it's pretty nice.  Straight AUD, 4021>USBPre2>M10, no EQ.  Same night, other band: http://www.nyctaper.com/?p=7891

That Portugal the Man recording was an absolute mess.  That venue is awful for taping, and it was a stack tape (because of how the venue is set up), and they had moved the PA to this weird position, and there was a horrific house mix.  I EQ'd the hell out of it.  I like my tape best of the three on the LMA, but they're all pretty bad IMO. 

I dunno, like I said, I like the USBPre2, but I also prefer a pretty dry sound.  We shall see if that changes now that I have the Aerco to play with, since I feel like sonically it's kind of the exact opposite. 

If you don't care about size, though, for what V2/3 are going for these days, I admittedly would probably just go that route and be done with it. I've never used one, but it seems the Grace pres are favored by many on here, and they seem to make great tapes.  And the Grace gear I do own is pretty incredible in terms of build and quality, and I wouldn't hesitate to buy another of their products.  I just don't want to carry around another large box and another DVD batt, esp since my Tekkeon can run the USBPre2 and my R-44 simultaneously.  That was a huge benefit - along with its ability to be a headamp and computer interface - that put the USBPre2 over the top for me.
Mics: Schoeps MK4V, MK41V, MK5, MK22> CMC6, KCY 250/5, KC5, NBob; MBHO MBP603/KA200N, AT 3031, DPA 4061 w/ d:vice, Naiant X-X, AT 853c, shotgun, Nak300
Pres/Power: Aerco MP2, tinybox v2  [KCY], CA-UBB
Decks: Sound Devices MixPre 6, Zoom F8, M10, D50

My recordings on nyctaper.com: http://www.nyctaper.com/?tag=acidjack | LMA: http://www.archive.org/bookmarks/acidjack | twitter: http://www.twitter.com/acidjacknyc | Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/acidjacknyc

Offline alpine85

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me
« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2012, 11:58:10 AM »
OK, you guys have changed my thinking on this a little bit  ( I still went ahead and snagged AndyJah's Mini-me in the YS though, and I'm holding off on the USBPre 2 until further review). 

kirkd - that Warren recording is a good one!  Hadn't ever heard those ADK mics before, but I'm impressed with the sound of that one all the way around. 

acidjack - downloading the Brokeback and Sea & Cake sets now... thanks!

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
RECORDERS: Oade R-44, Tascam DR-100-MKII, JB3

Offline alpine85

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me
« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2012, 12:12:45 PM »
It's interesting that you feel the V3 and USBPre2 are so similar...

yeah, I could go for that.

If you're looking for samples, you might expand your search criteria to the general 7 series boxes. They use the same ADC and the preamps are extremely similar (the ones in the 788 are the same). But yeah, it's a clean, unflattering box. Depends on your objective.

I keep hearing that the A/Ds are the same in the 7xx series and the USBPre 2, and I also keep hearing that the Preamps share the same "topology", but do we have any definitive proof of that?  Maybe I'm too skeptical, but I have a hard time believing that a $650 multi-purpose box like that shares that much with a $2500, $4000, or $6000 recorder.   Frankly I don't believe much that SD says after they allowed the original USBPre to be sold with that crap D/A converter. 

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
RECORDERS: Oade R-44, Tascam DR-100-MKII, JB3

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs. Apogee Mini-Me
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2012, 01:09:58 PM »
It's interesting that you feel the V3 and USBPre2 are so similar...

yeah, I could go for that.

If you're looking for samples, you might expand your search criteria to the general 7 series boxes. They use the same ADC and the preamps are extremely similar (the ones in the 788 are the same). But yeah, it's a clean, unflattering box. Depends on your objective.

I keep hearing that the A/Ds are the same in the 7xx series and the USBPre 2, and I also keep hearing that the Preamps share the same "topology", but do we have any definitive proof of that?  Maybe I'm too skeptical, but I have a hard time believing that a $650 multi-purpose box like that shares that much with a $2500, $4000, or $6000 recorder.   Frankly I don't believe much that SD says after they allowed the original USBPre to be sold with that crap D/A converter.

couple of things:

  • You're not getting a recorder, any of the fail-over redundancy, many of the professional features, or as configurable of a box as you would in the 7 series lineup. There are clear differences that would lead a pro-user to not use the usbpre2 and instead use a 7 series box. These differences are hit and miss as to whether a hobbyist like us would use one or the other, depends on the personal goal and individual environment. Most hobbyists though aren't served by the 7 series boxes anymore, too many of the features that we value showed up in the usbpre2 to justify the additional expense.
  • In some other ways, if you're not willing to believe what a company says and it's users say, then I suspect that companies products are likely not for you. If I didn't believe something that Sonosax told me, I probably wouldn't be willing to trust their equipment when I go out and do recording. I personally won't use Tascam's gear, but there are people who love it. I'm willing to go to bat for Sound Devices because I own multiple products, have had a couple of service requests that were resolved in a positive and satisfactory manner, and value the size/sonic/price/feature set that they provide. If you've been burned, I can understand that you wouldn't think highly of them, thats natural, but I suspect it's a minority opinion.
"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

 

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