Found this video comparing the Focusrite Clarett 8PreX ($1,199) against the Scarlett 18i20 ($549). Actually, until this moment, I didn't realize the Scarlett was so inexpensive. Anyway, while there's a 2x difference in price, I'm pretty surprised about the difference in sound.
Curious? Check the vid here. I wonder whether the lower-pre count Claretts share that audio signature because their specs are different.
Post by Michael Lawrence on Jan 4, 2019 23:48:54 GMT
Interesting. Thanks for sharing. I think this is a tricky one because not all the audible difference can be attributed to the preamps themselves. He's comparing two different performances, and so there would be differences there even without changing the preamp. In that sense, the results are a bit misleading. What I would have done is wired the mics with Y cables into both pres at the same time to capture the SAME performance through both pres. The other thing I noticed was that the differences between the two are far smaller when listening in mono....especially the first one (overheads only) and solo kick, which actually moves a bit in the stereo field. So there's something funny going on with the mixing there.
The "air" feature which is a hi shelf EQ also sounds like a bigger difference than it is because it increases the bleed from the other drums at HF. If you put a hi shelf on the Scarlett you'd get the same thing.
I'd say there are very slight audible differences but I think this video makes them seem much much larger than they actually are. I would be interested in hearing a reamping test, which would have a much higher validity.
Anyone else hear that nasty 420 Hz ringing in his narration? Yikes.
Ok, fair enough. I've gone ahead and level-matched these to -24.7 integrated LUFS using MLoudnessAnalyzer by looping each example three times & also isolated the left channel from the kick examples. After that, I rendered them to a 'Quality: 100 (Best)' via REAPER's LAME 3.99.5 encoder then used a random letter generator to obscure the file names. The greatest audio peak of any of these examples was -1dBTP prior to encoding, according to the plugin. Given that this is in the spirit of criticism, research & teaching, use of these files are protected under U.S. 'Fair use' doctrine. Hence, the uploads are in the following posts:
Just wanted to add that, beyond the file names, I don't want to say which groups are Clarett (with air) or not. In any case, that's probably the most obvious difference of all. While I also noted that the kick example in the video had stereo problems, I also want to withhold my detailed opinions until others have a chance to chime in. Whenever you guys want, I'll post the answers. Cheers.
I didn't bother to watch the guy's entire video, or listen to all of the level matched clips, but I have some comments anyway.
You can't compare preamps or anything else using separate performance. Well, you can if the differences are huge, like a 6 dB boost at 1 KHz on only one thing being compared. But two competent preamps will vary much less than two adjacent hits on a snare or tom. So this is a standard rule when testing audio gear: it's better to re-amp playback of the exact same source through a speaker. This is from an upcoming article:
Microphone preamps are surprisingly difficult to compare because you can’t just use a Y splitter to send one microphone to both units. Well, you could do that, but the preamps might interact, and the increased load on the mic from driving two preamps in parallel is different than when only one is connected which could change the sound. Some preamps have a variable input impedance which further confounds matters. You could split the microphone's output using a special transformer having two secondary windings, but that too might change the sound more than the preamp differences. Therefore, a better method is a re-amp setup which lets you create identical sound sources repeatedly.
... [four more paragraphs]
Another option, besides re-amping, is a player piano that’s (hopefully) consistent every time it plays the same music. Yamaha makes a MIDI controlled acoustic piano, but it's very expensive so few people have access to one. To compare preamps for drums and other percussion instruments, you could drop a small ball bearing onto a drum or cymbal from a fixed platform above to create the same sound repeatedly. Then move the microphone output wire from one preamp to the other as you record each drop for later comparison.
I'll add that the snare and tom files I listened to here were lossy-compressed twice, which is another no-no, though they sound okay anyway. YouTube compresses the audio when you upload a video, and I assume Hexspa had to compress again when the created these MP3s after level matching them.
Fair points, Ethan. I haven't your experience but I'm on the fence anyway Indeed, the audio has been compressed twice. I could share .wav links but perhaps the premise is flawed from the start. To be sure, there were many critical errors in their demonstration to include: differing performances, panning issues as well as level imbalances. Who knows what other skeletons might be lurking in their mic closet?
On one hand, I feel the differences are obvious and that I could bet a domestic 6 pack I could pass an ABX with at least 80% accuracy. On the other hand, being the part-time gear slut that I am, I watch a lot of demo videos and, using the same basic models of equipment, I can get a very different impression of a piece of gear based on other factors like microphone distance, room quality, camera lighting (for those awesome mirrorless cameras I'm eyeing), etc.
Thank you for that snippet regarding preamp shootouts - I was not aware. I wonder if we can message these guys and convince them to redo their demo - Winer Style!
And, yeah, all the bigger files are the Clarett. Not because the preamps give more data but because the drummer slowed down as he played so I had to shorten the Scarlett examples, which were always first, to make them loop correctly.
I have this Clarett 8pre, and that drum sample i posted earlier were thru it. I think its really clean sounding pre. What goes in, comes out. Air mode also pretty good.
Hexspa If you're more interested i can record some speech, shaker, tambo etc through it.
Hey, pasim - sorry I missed your post. Sure, why not post it? I've been thinking about what Ethan said and I feel like I should read his book before I ever speak again Seriously, I'd love to perform valid comparisons among various pieces of equipment. Whether you post more examples or not, those drums sounded killer!