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Author Topic: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.  (Read 7122 times)

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Offline Toki

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Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« on: March 25, 2010, 08:07:01 AM »
Hi!
I've got a Church Audio ST-20a preamp, quite an old version. I only know that it provides +6db and +30db according to the two positions on it's switch.
Can someone please help me out to find it's specifications, and, more important, how does it compares to any other preamps? I'm considering an upgrade, but if this model is not that bad I'd better spend my money on a mic.
I mostly tape loud concerts so I don't usually need preamp, but on quiet shows my rode stereo videomic + iriver h340/cowon x5/edirol r-09 seem to be unable to provide good amplification.
Thanks a lot for any help.

Offline canbelto

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Re: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2010, 01:46:07 PM »
Toki,

I have the 20b version (-30/+30) gain.  I don't have the specs but I have compared it to the Sound Professionals SP-PREAMP.  Other than having some additional gain, I found them to be equal performers.  Which means, to me, they are both very good.  As I record classical music, I have a chance to listen to silence between music and have not noticed any added noise from either (that I can tell) other than ambient noise from the surroundings.  I set the preamp at +30 and adjust the volume on the R-09HR.  I'm not anywhere near as knowledgeable as most on this board so this is just my opinion.  I know Chris Church's newer versions have a lower noise floor but the older one seems to suit me fine.  I may upgrade to his newer one a bit later.  Hope this helps

Offline Toki

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Re: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2010, 02:22:04 PM »
Thank you very much, you are very helpful. I believe that it's really a good piece of gear since it even suits for classical recordings.

Offline sunjan

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Re: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2010, 06:34:25 AM »
I'm considering an upgrade, but if this model is not that bad I'd better spend my money on a mic.

PM Chris Church, I recall he used to have a trade-in program for older preamps.

If you're not using the Videomic for video taping as well, the best thing you could do, IMHO, is to ebay that Videomic, and invest the proceeds ($150-200 or so, depending on where you live) in some Church mics. CA-11 or CA-14 for stealth...

Talk to Chris and ask him to set up a package deal for you!  ;D
Mics: A-51s LE, CK 930, Line Audo CM3, AT853Rx (hc,c,sc),  ECM 121, ECM 909A
Pres: Tinybox, CA-9100, UA5 wmod
Recorders: M10, H116 (CF mod), H340, NJB3
Gearbag: High Sierra Corkscrew
MD transfers: MZ-RH1. Tape transfers: Nak DR-1
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Offline Toki

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Re: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2010, 09:44:10 AM »
I'm considering an upgrade, but if this model is not that bad I'd better spend my money on a mic.

PM Chris Church, I recall he used to have a trade-in program for older preamps.

If you're not using the Videomic for video taping as well, the best thing you could do, IMHO, is to ebay that Videomic, and invest the proceeds ($150-200 or so, depending on where you live) in some Church mics. CA-11 or CA-14 for stealth...

Talk to Chris and ask him to set up a package deal for you!  ;D
Thanks for an advice. I've talked to Chris and he said exactly what you suggested - that I should sell my videomic and buy his mics+preamp :)
I'm still not sure that I want to sell the mic which works great for me, I've taped more than 100 shows with it and it never was bad at anything. It just doesn't give strong enough signal on quiet music (but still it's self-noise is quite low). Most concerts I'm taping are very loud, so I only need some amplification for those quiet ones I'm taping time to time (not frequently). And it's very easy for me to set it up almost in any environment (I'm not sure if CA equipment will be same "all-in-one" gear easy to use when operating the camcorder).
I always make both audio+video and never do stealthing.
Chris didn't tell me anything about ST-20 and about his trade-in program, so I had to start this topic.
Still hope to hear more details on the preamp I currently have in comparison to anything else...
And if someone can tell me why CA mics are better than Rode stereo videomic for music recordings please share what you know.
Thanks in advance.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2010, 09:51:14 AM by Toki »

Offline sunjan

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Re: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2010, 05:23:09 PM »
If you're not using the Videomic for video taping as well, the best thing you could do, IMHO, is to ebay that Videomic, and invest the proceeds ($150-200 or so, depending on where you live) in some Church mics. CA-11 or CA-14 for stealth...

Talk to Chris and ask him to set up a package deal for you!  ;D
I've taped more than 100 shows with it and it never was bad at anything. It just doesn't give strong enough signal on quiet music (but still it's self-noise is quite low). Most concerts I'm taping are very loud, so I only need some amplification for those quiet ones...

IHMO, you're fooling yourself here. Pretty much all mics need added gain, it's just a matter whether your built-in gain in the recorder is enough for your purposes or not.
So when you're saying that you don't need any amplification, I assume you're still adding some +10-20dB going mic-in on your recorder.
So the main reason for getting an external preamp is to "swap" those dBs from the recorder to the pre, since the pre is has cleaner sound/less noise.

And it's very easy for me to set it up almost in any environment (I'm not sure if CA equipment will be same "all-in-one" gear easy to use when operating the camcorder).
I always make both audio+video and never do stealthing.
Chris didn't tell me anything about ST-20 and about his trade-in program, so I had to start this topic.
Still hope to hear more details on the preamp I currently have in comparison to anything else...
And if someone can tell me why CA mics are better than Rode stereo videomic for music recordings please share what you know.

If all you do is non-stealth video taping, by all means keep the Videomic.

As a stealth taper, the two main issues with it would be:
1. Size! (Weight  176gm, Dimensions 65mmH x 250mmW x 102mmD)
2. Single point stereo. With two individual mics, you have much more flexibility when it comes to placement (body mount) and changeable caps if you opt for different polar patterns. I used to run a single point stereo in the 90's but since I upgraded I've never looked back. So much more convenient with body mounted mics, and better sound...

TS.com is all about gearslutting, so if you're asking for advice - be prepared to spend.  ;D
Mics: A-51s LE, CK 930, Line Audo CM3, AT853Rx (hc,c,sc),  ECM 121, ECM 909A
Pres: Tinybox, CA-9100, UA5 wmod
Recorders: M10, H116 (CF mod), H340, NJB3
Gearbag: High Sierra Corkscrew
MD transfers: MZ-RH1. Tape transfers: Nak DR-1
Photo rig: Nikon D70, 18-70mm/3.5-4.5, SB-800

Offline Toki

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Re: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2010, 06:23:33 AM »
IHMO, you're fooling yourself here. Pretty much all mics need added gain, it's just a matter whether your built-in gain in the recorder is enough for your purposes or not.
So when you're saying that you don't need any amplification, I assume you're still adding some +10-20dB going mic-in on your recorder.
So the main reason for getting an external preamp is to "swap" those dBs from the recorder to the pre, since the pre is has cleaner sound/less noise.
You're right, I am adding some amplification on the internal pre, but in my case the noise on my "loud" recordings is negliable compared to the other noises (audience, feedbacks from the on-stage mics etc). At least I can live with it. Adding a preamp for loud shows will complicate my set up and it's just not practical in my case.
But when it comes to quiet music, the noise becomes an issue. ST-20 allows me to record better sound, but is it really so much worse than newer versions - that's the question. 

TS.com is all about gearslutting, so if you're asking for advice - be prepared to spend.  ;D
Unfortunately I'm tight on budget so spending as much as I already did and having 10% increase in sound quality wouldn't be a right strategy for me.
Besides, video+audio taping for a single person is sometimes quite tricky (at least I often have problems with time and space in the venue to set everything up properly) so I'm trying to keep the things as simple as possible (even at the sake of the sound quality).
And I still cannot figure out - if I stay with my mic, which other part should be upgraded?
Maybe it's better also stay with ST-20, but replace my R-09 with R-09HR or any of the Sony recorders as they have much better preamps?
Sorry for this mess with questions, also I'm not a native english speaker so probably can't always spell my thoughts the right way.
Thanks again for the helpful discussion.

Offline sunjan

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Re: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2010, 01:27:12 PM »
Unfortunately I'm tight on budget so spending as much as I already did and having 10% increase in sound quality wouldn't be a right strategy for me.
Besides, video+audio taping for a single person is sometimes quite tricky (at least I often have problems with time and space in the venue to set everything up properly) so I'm trying to keep the things as simple as possible (even at the sake of the sound quality).
And I still cannot figure out - if I stay with my mic, which other part should be upgraded?
Maybe it's better also stay with ST-20, but replace my R-09 with R-09HR or any of the Sony recorders as they have much better preamps?

Before we can suggest the ideal rig, you need to tell us a bit more about your method. You're usually filming video with the bands consent, ie open. And you're usually recording the sound separately, to sync in post.

If you want to improve your sound, the main issue here is mic placement. From what you told us, I understand that the videomic is mounted to the camera, but the signal is routed to your R-09?! Is your camera in a tripod, or are you moving around throughout the gig?
Either way, a single point stereo (SPS) is far from ideal if you want to capture live music.
If you're already tripod mounted, I see no reason why you can't run a pair of individual mics. You're already stuck to the stand.
And if you're moving around, a camera mounted mic would give you lots of phasing issues.
This should worry you a lot more than pondering about whether the gain is clean enough.
Separate mics instead of a SPS will give you way more than the 10% sound improvement that you're after, in terms of stereo separation and flexibility.

Read this thread:
http://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=122459

Everyone pretty much agree that if you tape open and move around with your video camera, the only sensible thing is to get a stand/clamp and leave the rig running.

Another thing I don't get is that you're on a tight (zero?) budget, but at the same time considering upgrading to a new recorder, which will set you back $260 or so. Makes no sense at all to me.

Did you run the Videomic>ST-20>R-09 yet? Could you tell exactly which aspects of the sound that you're not satisfied with?
Noisy gain? Then a CA-9100 is your next logical step, not a new recorder. Always improve the signal at the earliest part of the chain.
Tinny sound, phasing and bad separation? CA-11 (cards + omni caps) is the answer here. Or a pair of open mics and a stand/clamp.
Mics: A-51s LE, CK 930, Line Audo CM3, AT853Rx (hc,c,sc),  ECM 121, ECM 909A
Pres: Tinybox, CA-9100, UA5 wmod
Recorders: M10, H116 (CF mod), H340, NJB3
Gearbag: High Sierra Corkscrew
MD transfers: MZ-RH1. Tape transfers: Nak DR-1
Photo rig: Nikon D70, 18-70mm/3.5-4.5, SB-800

Offline Toki

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Re: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2010, 04:20:02 PM »
Before we can suggest the ideal rig, you need to tell us a bit more about your method. You're usually filming video with the bands consent, ie open. And you're usually recording the sound separately, to sync in post.
If you want to improve your sound, the main issue here is mic placement. From what you told us, I understand that the videomic is mounted to the camera, but the signal is routed to your R-09?! Is your camera in a tripod, or are you moving around throughout the gig?
Sorry I should have given more detailed description of how I tape concerts.
As I said, I mostly tape loud shows, and at first I deal with sound recording rig. I'm finding a place where I can put my videomic+edirol (or videomic+st20+edirol). Sometimes it's very exotic mount (for example, hanging from the ceiling attached to some wires, or at the soundboard - quite annoying for sound engineer  ;)) as most venues don't have any free spot where I can just put my stuff on. I need to be sure that the crowd (which can get really crazy) won't slam anything of it. After that, I turn on both mic and edirol, and leave it completely until the end of the show (so I am unable to monitor levels or anything else, or watch for exhausted batteries). I set edirol gain (line-in) to 25-30 depending on the supposed spl. In most cases, I get no clipping but I have to add a significant gain in post-processing.
After that I only deal with the camera - looking for a best shooting position and seting up all other video settings. The camera gives poor quality sound which I then replace with the sound from videomic and (if available) from soundboard (mixing, cleaning and amplifying them).
I find the results to be satisfactory in most cases, but not every time...
If you can please check some recent example of videomic+edirol recording http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1KV1uzQdB0
Perhaps it's slightly inferior to most other bootlegs discussed here but at least it sounds better than most native camera mics.

Either way, a single point stereo (SPS) is far from ideal if you want to capture live music.
If you're already tripod mounted, I see no reason why you can't run a pair of individual mics. You're already stuck to the stand.
A "regular" tripod will be destroyed in seconds after beginning of death metal concert so I'm not even thinking about placing my precious mic in the pool of the slamming teenagers :) I'm using very small tripod for mic and place it in some really secure place. Yeah I know that I cannot obtain hi-fi quality but I just do what I can...



And if you're moving around, a camera mounted mic would give you lots of phasing issues.
This should worry you a lot more than pondering about whether the gain is clean enough.
Separate mics instead of a SPS will give you way more than the 10% sound improvement that you're after, in terms of stereo separation and flexibility.
I have once mounted a videomic on a camera instead of a "stationary" edirol and the result was horrible. However placing the videomic separately made a major improvement on the result.

Read this thread:
http://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=122459
Everyone pretty much agree that if you tape open and move around with your video camera, the only sensible thing is to get a stand/clamp and leave the rig running.
Thanks, it looks interesting, there's even mentioned one recording with SVM - rode stereo videomic :)



Another thing I don't get is that you're on a tight (zero?) budget, but at the same time considering upgrading to a new recorder, which will set you back $260 or so. Makes no sense at all to me.
Ah that's just more like a theoretical considerations. However, if an upgraded recorder will be so much better than R-09, and I'll not need to purchase a preamp - then it will be a worthy investment in the future (when I maybe have more money, and sell R-09)

Did you run the Videomic>ST-20>R-09 yet? Could you tell exactly which aspects of the sound that you're not satisfied with?
Noisy gain? Then a CA-9100 is your next logical step, not a new recorder. Always improve the signal at the earliest part of the chain.
Tinny sound, phasing and bad separation? CA-11 (cards + omni caps) is the answer here. Or a pair of open mics and a stand/clamp.
R-09 is my recent purchase so I haven't had the possibility to test it on a quiet concert yet.
Videomic>ST-20>Iriver H340 gave me decent result (here's some example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPRJJDUjkcY ) but there was a feeling that a preamp made it sound a bit unnatural, added some "digital" feeling to the music. I cannot say for sure as both the mic and the post-processing could have lead to such result too, but +30 db of gain on a relatively cheap device (I mean ST-20) in my opinion could be the bottleneck in my chain.
Could you please tell me if the preamp change the sound? I mean not just the level and noise, but other aspects such as tonal balance or stereo separation?
« Last Edit: April 02, 2010, 04:21:44 PM by Toki »

Offline sunjan

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Re: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2010, 05:25:16 AM »
Videomic>ST-20>Iriver H340 gave me decent result (here's some example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPRJJDUjkcY ) but there was a feeling that a preamp made it sound a bit unnatural, added some "digital" feeling to the music. I cannot say for sure as both the mic and the post-processing could have lead to such result too, but +30 db of gain on a relatively cheap device (I mean ST-20) in my opinion could be the bottleneck in my chain.
Could you please tell me if the preamp change the sound? I mean not just the level and noise, but other aspects such as tonal balance or stereo separation?

OK, from a strict noise level viewpoint, the ST-20 gain is probably your bottleneck, Chris Church could judge this better. Still, it shouldn't colour your sound, and certainly not the separation.
But if you aim to capture the atmosphere and stereo image of a gig (or classic performance), it's pointless to just upgrade the pre if you intend to run the videomic. Money down the drain, IMHO.

Either way, this is the answer:
http://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=130844.0

For $200, the best upgrade for your rig:
Quote
CA-9000 w/ca-11 omni caps and ca-11 cardioid mics $199.99!!
...or top up a few bucks more for a CA-9100.

Add a clamp and a T-bar to this, for another $20-30 or so.
Mics: A-51s LE, CK 930, Line Audo CM3, AT853Rx (hc,c,sc),  ECM 121, ECM 909A
Pres: Tinybox, CA-9100, UA5 wmod
Recorders: M10, H116 (CF mod), H340, NJB3
Gearbag: High Sierra Corkscrew
MD transfers: MZ-RH1. Tape transfers: Nak DR-1
Photo rig: Nikon D70, 18-70mm/3.5-4.5, SB-800

Offline Toki

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Re: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2010, 01:31:11 PM »
Thank you very much for a lot of interesting information and explanations. You are very helpful.
I should really consider purchasing this "quiet rig" some time in the future when I'll have money.
I would still like to know about the level of difference between ST-20 and other preamps, but it seems that I won't be able to obtain this info :(


Offline sunjan

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Re: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2010, 06:33:30 AM »
I would still like to know about the level of difference between ST-20 and other preamps, but it seems that I won't be able to obtain this info :(

Like I said, PM Chris Church himself...
Capnhook here at TS would also be able to chime in:
http://www.dimeadozen.org/torrents-details.php?id=249262
http://www.dimeadozen.org/torrents-details.php?id=288988
http://www.archive.org/details/donna2010-02-06.matrix.flac16

Download a few alternate sources and let your ears hear the difference.
Mics: A-51s LE, CK 930, Line Audo CM3, AT853Rx (hc,c,sc),  ECM 121, ECM 909A
Pres: Tinybox, CA-9100, UA5 wmod
Recorders: M10, H116 (CF mod), H340, NJB3
Gearbag: High Sierra Corkscrew
MD transfers: MZ-RH1. Tape transfers: Nak DR-1
Photo rig: Nikon D70, 18-70mm/3.5-4.5, SB-800

Offline Toki

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Re: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2010, 08:48:52 AM »
Like I said, PM Chris Church himself...
That's what I did before starting this thread.
Two citations:
1)"The problem is your using the wrong mic for recording shows.. That mic is not very sensitive. I would suggest you think about upgrading to one of my mics and sell the rode."
1)"I recommend the ca-14 omni / cardioid and 9100 package for $269 + shipping. This will give you the best results for taping live shows. And they are on sale for the rest of this month."
No one of my several questions about ST-20 were addressed.
I don't know how much different is sensitivity of CA mics and rode, and how do they compare in a loud concert... Everyone here say how good CA mics are but when it comes to an objective comparison I cannot find any information. Any help in this will be highly appreciated.

Capnhook here at TS would also be able to chime in:
http://www.dimeadozen.org/torrents-details.php?id=249262
http://www.dimeadozen.org/torrents-details.php?id=288988
http://www.archive.org/details/donna2010-02-06.matrix.flac16
Download a few alternate sources and let your ears hear the difference.
Thank you for the links, downloaded from archive.org now (will have to install torrent later). I can say that it sounds very good.  But as far as I can see, the 3rd one is a mix of 3 different sources, and the only component of the chain which is similar to mine is ST-20, while the mics and recorders are completely different. Is it possible to judge on a preamp quality from such a mixture?
I should search for the recordings of the same show made with the same gear except preamps, right?

Offline Toki

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Re: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2010, 09:53:27 AM »
Dear sunjan, after listening to the samples made with Rode SVM vs CA mics I cannot say that the difference is that big quality-wise. In my case, it is certainly not worth getting into all the hassle with selling SVM, then ordering CA mics (it will need much time and some additional investments, I will miss several shows for sure, and will have to get used to a new mic for some time). So, if I find no other arguments, I will be firm at staying with SVM. It never failed in my 100+ recordings, I feel really comfortable with it, and it's only drawback for me is the low output which requires quality external preamp or a recorder with silent built-in preamp. And it again sends me into a vicious circle - to the start of the topic :(
Maybe the best is to remain at what I've got now. Since now I know that ST-20 shouldn't be bad for my purposes, it's ok to run low-volume recordings using it.
Thank you again for the valuable comments.

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Re: Any info about Church Audio ST-20 preamp please.
« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2010, 09:57:13 AM »
Make sure you ask Chris about the gain markings on the ST-20...I seem to recall him saying the stickers didnt match the actual gain settings on some models...?

 

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