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Offline Brian Skalinder

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Edirol UA-5 FAQ
« on: February 23, 2004, 02:11:00 PM »
I'm a little confused about how all this stuff works, generally, much less specifics about the UA-5.  Where should I start?

Getting Started, of course!

What is the Edirol UA-5?

The Edirol UA-5 is a preamp and analog to digital converter (ADC) used by many tapers for field recording.  If you're unfamiliar with the terms "preamp" and "ADC", check out the Getting Started thread.

Where do I purchase a UA-5?

Edirol has discontinued the UA-5 and while some retailers may still carry a small amount of stock, they're generally no longer easily found new.  Best bet:  buy used a UA-5 originally purchased from the Oade Bros to maintain the option of future Oade Bros modifications (they only modify units originally purchased direct from them; see below for mod info).  Second option:  buy used a UA-5 not originally purchased from the Oade Bros and modify yourself.

How do I power the UA-5 in the field?

The UA-5 accepts both 9v and 12v.  Most UA-5 owners seem to be running DIY RC battery packs for their power, though some are using DIY or retail SLA battery packs.

How long will my battery last?

Depends on the battery's capacity (usually measured in mAH, or AH).  The UA5 draws about 450mA.  Divide your battery capacity (mAH) by the current draw (450mA) to get an approximate run-time.  For example, a 3000mAH 9.6v RC battery will yield ~6.6 hours of run-time (3000/450) .  Better to be a bit conservative in your calculations for practical usage, though - the battery may not be fully charged and you likely won't eek out every last bit of juice from the battery.  A good 5 hours is probably a reasonable estimate in this case.

Why does the UA-5 require a modification for standalone operation while taping (if I'm not running the UA-5 over USB into a laptop)?  What's this so-called "digi-mod" all about?

The UA-5 in stock form outputs a digital signal to the USB port.  The coax S/PDIF and optical outputs in stock form are only active with a PC hooked up to the UA5.  Why?  The digital signal output path in stock form is:  UA5 USB-out > laptop > USB-in > coax/optical.  What does this mean?  With a stock UA-5, you can only record digitally to DAT/MD/JB3 if you have a computer hooked up to the UA5.  Not good for field recording!  The digi-mod offered by the Oade Bros modifies the UA-5 so the coax/optical/USB outputs are all active simultaneously, without a laptop in the chain.  This allows tapers to run UA-5 > coax/optical out > recording device (e.g. DAT/JB3) without needing to hook up a PC.  From the Oade Bros website (info no longer available on their site, but accessible via the Wayback Machine):

The first mod [so-called digi-mod] enables the digital coax and optical outputs for stand alone operation without a computer. It can also be used with a computer to output data simultaneously to a both coax and optical digital connectors, in addition to your computer ! The mod disables the digital output from a computer to the UA5 via the USB port, so you cannot send data from the computer to the UA5 on the USB buss. This does not affect your ability to record with it, only your ability to send data from your hard drive to the UA5 via USB.

Note: the Oade Bros will only modify UA-5s purchased directly from them.  After the Oade Bros mod(s), the unit maintains its warranty.  David Klein put up a webpage with DIY digi-mod instructions, and there are two others (possibly from the same author?): one, two.  Note: self-modded units break the UA-5s warranty and may not be sent to the Oade Bros for preamp upgrades (see next question).

What are the Oade warm / presence / transparent / PLUS mods all about?

The Oade Bros also offer three preamp upgrades: "warm", "presence", and "transparent", often referred to by simply w-, p-, or t-mod..  All three mods are available on UA-5s purchased directly from the Oade Bros, but NOT on units purchased elsewhere.  These mods significantly improve the quality of the UA-5s preamp (however, even the stock preamp sounds pretty good).  They also now offer a w/p/t-PLUS mod which includes further improvements.  Check out their website for more details.  From the Oade Bros website (info no longer available on their site, but accessible via the Wayback Machine):

W/P/T Mod - General Info
The second series of MODs add an analog input rebuild. This replaces the input capacitors, which are SMD electrolytic ( higher distortion and noise) with SMD film caps ( lower distortion and noise) as well as the input Op Amps. We use very high grade, very low noise Op Amps for this, chosen by ear for a natural and pleasing sound. Three versions are available to suit the tastes and needs of any recordist.  All three MODs disable the 1/4" inputs on the front panel, leaving the front panel XLR's and rear panel RCA inputs intact. For computer only use, any of the three analog input MODs can be ordered without the digital output MOD.

Warm Mod description
The first version or Warm MOD© gives the UA5 a warmer sound, with better depth and high frequency character. Tube like in character with a huge soundstage that satisfies the tube lover!

Presence Mod description
The second "flavor" available is the Presence MOD©, chosen by ear for a maximum clarity and detail. This mod gives the UA5 a more "up front" sound, with better presence and high frequency detail.

Transparent Mod description
The third version available is the Transparency MOD©, chosen by ear for a neutrality, speed and detail. This mod gives the UA5 a very fast and clean sound that accurately conveys the character of the source.

And a few quotes from Doug on his messageboard regarding the Transparent MOD:

The transparent mod gives sonic transparency, quick transient response, low noise floor and absolute minimal coloration. (this first part quoted from Bob W's post, by Doug...Doug's response follows...)

Yes, it is the most accurate MOD I could do to the unit...It not only has less noise than the stock unit (as does the Warm, MOD) but also has less distortion and is much faster with amazing transient response.

PLUS Mod description
We also offer a PLUS MOD that can be applied to any of the three analog input MODs. This further reduces noise and distortions in the UA5 by improving the DC supplies, phantom power and RCA inputs.

And a blurb from Doug on the Oade Bros messageboard regarding the PLUS mod:

The plus in the plus MOD is additional work to the power supply and analog stages that decrease noise and enhance low level detail. Any MOD UA5, T, P or W, can be improved with the plus MOD.

Can I run a soundboard + audience mics mix (matrix) with the UA-5?

Yes.  Run your mics into the XLR inputs on the front as you normally would for an audience recording.  Run the soundboard feed into the RCA inputs on the back of the UA-5.  Use the gain knobs on the front and the single knob on the back to adjust the relative level of the soundboard input to the mic input.  Depending on how far back the audience mics are from the sound source, there may be more to this.  But this topic isn't covered here - search around or ask in the Ask The Tapers forum.

Can I run a 3-mic or 4-mic mix with the UA-5?

Yes.  Run your primary pair of mics into the XLR inputs on the front as you normally would for an audience recording.  Run the 3rd/4th mic(s) into the RCA inputs on the back of the UA-5.  Use the gain knobs on the front and the single knob on the back to adjust the relative level of the 3rd/4th mic(s) to the primary pair.  Note: this 3-/4-mic mix requires you have a way of powering your 3rd/4th mic(s) and possibly supplying external gain to the 3rd/4th mic(s) signal (search the Archival Info forum for "line transformers" for an inexpensive way to provide this gain).

Is the UA-5 bit-perfect for digital transfers?

No.  Using the UA-5 to transfer a digital signal from an external device through the UA-5 to a PC is not bit-perfect.  The UA-5 resamples all incoming digital signals before transmitting them back out.  But for most tapers, this is a non-issue as we use an analog input like mics or soundboard patch.  An inexpensive soundcard is a better option for bit-perfect transfers.

What's the coax/optical switch on the back all about?

The switch is for selecting which digital input the UA-5 should use.  It does not determine which digital output is active - both the coax and optical output are active simultaneously.

What's the ADV switch on the back all about?

The ADV switch in the ON position output a 24-bit signal.  In the OFF position it outputs a 16-bit signal.  The UA-5 only outputs one or the other, not both simultaneously.

Can I run a Nomad JB3 with the UA-5

Yes.  The UA-5s optical output feeds the Nomad JB3 well without problems.  In fact, it should feed any device which accepts an optical input.

Can I patch MDs off the UA-5?

Yes.  Via the coax digital output (unlikely as I don't know of many, if any, MDs that accept coax digital input), the optical digital output, or the analog outputs (typically using a 2xRCA > 3.5mm stereo plug adapter).

Will the UA-5 function as a digital format converter, i.e. receive a digital coax signal and convert it to an outgoing optical signal (or vice versa)?

Nope.  If you need to perform digital format conversion, consider the Hosa ODL-312 and ODL-276 digital format converters.

Why the heck is the UA-5 so dang popular?

There are good reasons so many tapers are using the UA-5 for field recording!  The UA-5s feature set, overall quality, and price point make it an extremely attractive option for both newbie and experienced tapers alike.  At ~$300 for an Oade-mod digi-mod UA-5, or even less for a DIY digi-mod UA-5, the UA-5 offers a broad, quality feature set:
  • 16-bit or 24-bit
  • phantom power
  • preamp
  • ADC
  • selectable sample rate (32kHz - 96 kHz)
  • may be used for running audience + soundboard mixes
  • may be used for 3- or 4-mic mixes
  • easily powered via RC batteries
  • simultaneous USB, coax, and optical outputs if digi-modded
I'm sure I've forgotten plenty here, but hopefully this helps answer some of the more common questions about the Edirol UA-5.

How does the Monitor button work on a digi-modded UA-5?

Big thanks to David Klein for this one:

I've been wondering about all the variations myself so this post prompted me to do a little testing and I'm glad I did - it has revealed some very important info for anyone who uses the UA-5 as an analog unit (like me) or gives out an analog patch.  Some implications for people who run meters on the analog outs as well.

Without the digimod, the instructions make sense:
monitor button on - UA-5 outputs (headphones/line outs) are monitoring the analog input signal (a>d---d>a)
monitor button off - UA-5 outputs (headphones/line outs) are monitoring the USB signal from the pc (which may end up being the UA-5 inputs but could have effects and other signals mixed in)

The digimod cuts the USB audio input path and connects the a>d output directly to the src/spdif chip.  So the monitor button doesn't affect your digital outputs.  I confirmed this by testing both optical and USB outputs.  At the same time, the digimod puts the UA-5 permanently into 'monitor' mode because the signal was jumped over to the src/spdif chip, where it runs into the signal path that would be followed by a USB source (normally heard with monitor off).  A trace cut could stop this but there's no reason.

What I hadn't considered is that the monitor button does still function, and from what I can tell, it is adding a second layer to the analog output - this is very bad!  Following the signal path, the monitor button 'cuts in' to the serial output of the main codec (a>d and d>a) and takes that digital signal, converts it to analog and runs it through all the analog outputs.  These observations confirm that:
1. monitor off sounds the same as the original source (I plugged my headphones from cd source to UA-5)
2. monitor off sounds the same as monitor on with the volume set at 0
3. turning up the monitor volume adds to the overall level but strips the high frequencies (likely from mixing a slightly delayed source)
4. the mono/stereo does have some effect when monitor is on

And through all of this, the 'output' pot also affects the overall signal.

So for me, who is sometimes using the UA-5 to feed into a separate a>d, I need to remember to keep that stupid monitor off and that the output pot acts as a kind of post-gain.  I could calibrate the output so the peak light matches up with the meters on the pc but metering has never been a strong point on the UA-5  ;)

For people running meters off the analog outputs, the sound quality doesn't matter so I suppose you can calibrate it to anything as long as all the settings stay the same.  Keep in mind you are always affected by the output pot, and if you have the monitor on, then your meters are also affected by the monitor volume and stereo/mono button.  If you keep the volume monitor down to 0, then it won't matter if you have the monitor on or not.  I'd probably calibrate to something easy like monitor off, output at full.

For anyone giving analog patches, although this seems backwards, if you have the digimod you actually want the monitor off and then give them levels by adjusting the output knob.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2006, 03:50:45 PM by Brian Skalinder »
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Re: Edirol UA-5 FAQ
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2006, 06:15:58 PM »
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Offline cgrooves

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Re: Edirol UA-5 FAQ
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2007, 10:00:20 AM »
It appears that a recent discovery about the digi mod UA-5 requires an edit to be made about the ADV switch in the UA-5 FAQ (see ShawnF's post below, which came from the Team UA-5 thread).  Verification by a second / third party may be in order.

Well, I just did a test and can confirm SmokinJoe's assertion that the digimod UA-5 outputs 24 bits with the ADV button on or off.  Makes no difference at least for the coaxial digital output.

Here's what I did:
Ran a stereo analog RCA output from an analog cassette deck (easier than setting up the mics) into the RCA inputs on the back of my Oade T+mod UA-5 (available in the YS, btw!).  Took the digital coaxial output into an MT set to record at 24 bits.  I did this first with the ADV setting on the UA-5 turned ON.  Then I turned everything off and turned the ADV switch to OFF.  Powered everything back up and recorded again (MT still in 24 bit mode, of course).  Transferred both recordings (about 50 secs for both) to the 'puter, opened each one in CEPro2.0, highlighted everything and ran Analyze/Statistics.  Both recordings came back with an Actual Bit Depth of 24.  Not a surprise for the "ADV on" recording, of course, but I was really expecting 16 bits for the other.  So . . .

The digimod UA-5, at least, neither dithers nor truncates after all.  Exactly the same as the Mic2496, as it turns out, and everyone has been relying on your 16-bit recorder to do the truncation all these years.  So, I guess this did prove something pretty significant after all.  I suspect the answer shaggy got (that the UA-5 truncates) would be true for an unmodded box running signal via USB to a computer, then?
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Offline cgrooves

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Re: Edirol UA-5 FAQ
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2007, 12:52:59 PM »
Tried to edit my last post, but was unable to.  I should have also stated that the proposed edit to the FAQ should clarify that the setting of the ADV switch does affect the sample rate settings available (although it does not appear to affect the bit rate based on ShawnF's testing).
Open:  Busman Audio BSC1-(K1/K2/K3/K4) > Fostex FR-2LE (Busman T Mod) 
Unopen:  AudioReality Omni Mics (Panasonic capsules)> AudioReality Battery Box (depending on SPL's) > iRiver H140 w/ Rockbox

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Offline yousef

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Re: Edirol UA-5 FAQ
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2009, 03:21:44 PM »
Just in case anyone didn't know, the Busman BM2p+ mod does indeed disable the TRS inputs on the front of the box.

I did not know this. :(
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