Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

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slentthndr
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Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by slentthndr » Sat Sep 26, 2020 9:44 am

I have an Apollo Twin x, and I need to be able to record at least 1 additional channel, so I'm looking for a mic pre that will interface with my adat/spdif input.

I'm having trouble finding good info online about this, so I thought I'd ask the hive mind. Do y'all have recommendations?

Priorities:
1) Relatively inexpensive (sub $500, ideally less)
2) Not giant (I don't need a huge 8 channel deal)
3) Tube would be a bonus, but not essential

Obvi it has to sound good, whatever that means to you/us.
And it has to have an optical out.

Thanks!

EDIT: side question.... can I use an amp that's marketed as a headphone/phono type amp? as long as it has an optical out doesn't that mean it's doing the analog-to-digital conversion and it will work?

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by rowsbywoof » Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:28 am

Hmm... A mic pre with ADAT or optical might be hard to find, but XLR to ADAT a lot less so. Maybe go standard mic pre with a converter box in line to the Apollo? You can probably find relatively cheap boxes to do that conversion.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by GGW » Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:59 am

ART Digital MPA II?
It's stereo, tubes, optical output available.
I've got one going into an RME PCIe card and it sounds pretty good to me.

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... eamplifier

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by slentthndr » Sat Sep 26, 2020 12:28 pm

rowsbywoof wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:28 am
Hmm... A mic pre with ADAT or optical might be hard to find, but XLR to ADAT a lot less so. Maybe go standard mic pre with a converter box in line to the Apollo? You can probably find relatively cheap boxes to do that conversion.
Oh interesting. Do you have an example of such a converter box that you could link for me? Maybe I'm missing something, but my searches are coming up empty. The mic I'm trying to add in via ADAT is a Rode NTK, and it comes with it's own tube 'power supply' which might amplify the signal already? Idk, but maybe there's a chance I wouldn't need much additional amplification... that's probably stupid. I'm sure I'll need something.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by blakeq » Sat Sep 26, 2020 1:07 pm

Focusrite isa one has an optional digital in/out.


https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/focusrite-isa-one

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by Dave Peck » Sat Sep 26, 2020 1:39 pm

slentthndr wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 12:28 pm
rowsbywoof wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:28 am
Hmm... A mic pre with ADAT or optical might be hard to find, but XLR to ADAT a lot less so. Maybe go standard mic pre with a converter box in line to the Apollo? You can probably find relatively cheap boxes to do that conversion.
Oh interesting. Do you have an example of such a converter box that you could link for me? Maybe I'm missing something, but my searches are coming up empty. The mic I'm trying to add in via ADAT is a Rode NTK, and it comes with it's own tube 'power supply' which might amplify the signal already? Idk, but maybe there's a chance I wouldn't need much additional amplification... that's probably stupid. I'm sure I'll need something.
The Rode power supply is only a power supply, it does not function as a mic preamp. You still need a separate preamp. If it has to be an optical out, the ART looks like the best bet in that price range. The option of using any analog pre amp and a separate A/D converter would be more flexible, but it would be hard to beat the price/performance of just using the ART box.
Last edited by Dave Peck on Sat Sep 26, 2020 1:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by Dave Peck » Sat Sep 26, 2020 1:41 pm

double post

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by slumberjack » Sat Sep 26, 2020 1:54 pm

blakeq wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 1:07 pm
Focusrite isa one has an optional digital in/out.


https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/focusrite-isa-one

It's designed by Rupert Neve, so the price is a steal.
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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by Michael O. » Sat Sep 26, 2020 2:28 pm

blakeq wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 1:07 pm
Focusrite isa one has an optional digital in/out.


https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/focusrite-isa-one
Came here to recommend this one. Excellent and versatile preamp that you’ll never outgrow or need to upgrade.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by Dave Peck » Sat Sep 26, 2020 2:36 pm

The Focusrite is single channel, the ART is two channels. If you are pretty sure you won't need two mic pre's / stereo inputs, the Focusrite is the better choice. Focusrite ISA series is very nice stuff.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by GGW » Sat Sep 26, 2020 3:02 pm

I'm not advocating for any specific product here, but careful on the Focusrite if the budget is $500 and you want optical output. The AD converter is an optional add on and costs close to the price of the preamp.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by sir stony » Sat Sep 26, 2020 3:06 pm

Audient Mico
It's not being made new anymore, but there's one on reverb...

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by blakeq » Sat Sep 26, 2020 3:28 pm

Yeah. The board is optional. Would need to either pick up a used one with the digital board or one without and then add it.

GGW wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 3:02 pm
I'm not advocating for any specific product here, but careful on the Focusrite if the budget is $500 and you want optical output. The AD converter is an optional add on and costs close to the price of the preamp.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by col » Sun Sep 27, 2020 6:05 pm

Wouldn't you just get a Behringer ADA8200?

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by slentthndr » Sun Sep 27, 2020 7:24 pm

Hmm. I was about to pull the trigger on the ART Digital II but then I realized it only runs at 16-bit. I imagine I'd have to run my apollo at 16-bit as well then to use the ensemble, and I don't really want to do that. The Focusrite ISA One looks cool, but with the cost of the A/D board factored in its nearly double my intended price range. Soooo, back to the drawing board I guess!

sir stony wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 3:06 pm
Audient Mico
It's not being made new anymore, but there's one on reverb...
Looks cool but I don't see it on reverb.

col wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 6:05 pm
Wouldn't you just get a Behringer ADA8200?
Hmm. Looks like this only goes up to 48k and I like to record at 96k. Also I don't trust behringer, but that's just a personal thing I'm sure I could get over.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by rowsbywoof » Sun Sep 27, 2020 8:18 pm

I have two of these: https://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-aud ... -converter

They're usually cheap (< $100 on average, and under $50 from time to time), solid, and work great for getting digital to analog and the reverse. Just great boxes that are easy to find used, but... Didn't see you were recording at 96k. The Flying Cows only do up to 24bit/48kHz which is perfect for my uses, but a bit under for yours. Not sure if you need to record at that high of a sample rate, but if you do, that probably does reduce the cheap side of the market a bit.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by Dave Peck » Sun Sep 27, 2020 9:07 pm


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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by LNerell » Sun Sep 27, 2020 11:19 pm

The old Presonus Eureka mic channel. They didn't come with digital out but you could buy it as an option.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by blakeq » Mon Sep 28, 2020 12:34 am

I saw some completed eBay listings that were around $500 and included the digital board if used is an option and if you can wait.

That card is spendy new! I thought it was a couple hundred. Not closer to 500...
slentthndr wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 7:24 pm
The Focusrite ISA One looks cool, but with the cost of the A/D board factored in its nearly double my intended price range.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by slumberjack » Mon Sep 28, 2020 1:23 am

Well there are the DBX tube preamps with EQ, comp and de-esser and digital out. I had one but sold that piece, it sounded not round rather harsh to my ears for a tube. But you find them for 200-300 used and they are useful.

If you don't want to spend on and ISA AD option you might look after an other AD conversion option like an audio interface. As in another post mentioned, the ISA is something that will never leave your studio since it's pro level stuff nor consumer or prosumer type electronics and in that case you'll maybe want to get the ISA DUO so you can use in on synths with stereo signals too and rack it up.
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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by sir stony » Mon Sep 28, 2020 1:52 am

A really cost effective way would be the Mindprint DI Port.
It's not top shelf stuff, but definitely useable.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by bobbylandry » Mon Sep 28, 2020 8:57 am

slentthndr wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 7:24 pm
Hmm. I was about to pull the trigger on the ART Digital II but then I realized it only runs at 16-bit. I imagine I'd have to run my apollo at 16-bit as well then to use the ensemble, and I don't really want to do that. The Focusrite ISA One looks cool, but with the cost of the A/D board factored in its nearly double my intended price range. Soooo, back to the drawing board I guess!
You can usually run 16bit into 24bit SPDIF without any problems, it's sample rates that cause the real problem. SPDIF will just puts 0s in place of the missing bits, or something, I'm not sure the technical reasons why it works. ART mentions dithering in the product description so they seem to be expecting people will connect it to 24bit gear.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by slentthndr » Mon Sep 28, 2020 12:26 pm

Super helpful comments all around. Thanks everyone. I also discovered the ART VoiceChannel tube channel strip, and now I'm sorta leaning towards that. It does 24bit 96k, has some extra controls for eq/comp, and by all accounts sounds nice/usable.

I guess the 16bit dither into 24 on the ART Digital would be fine. Thanks bobby for explaining that! But I'd rather encode all 24 bits since it's for a vocal and I'd like it to be as expressive as possible. Hopefully I'm not being an extremist about the numbers... idk. Plus I've heard that you're supposed to dither as few times as possible on a track - ideally just once for the master. Not sure exactly what the mechanics of that are, but that's another reason why I'm leaning in favor of the VoiceChannel.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by bobbylandry » Mon Sep 28, 2020 3:52 pm

The dither shouldn't make any practical difference but the Voice Channel looks pretty sweet anyway. The dither would only happen going from 24 bit to 16 bit, so in your case leaving the computer and going into the MPA. I believe what happens when going from 16 bit to 24 bit, the MPA into the computer, is that since the bits don't exist they are set to 0s. All the same I've never actually tried this with the stuff you're looking at and might be totally wrong so absolutely don't make a purchase based on anything I've said! Also if you have to raise the signal a ton once it's recorded you might get a higher noise floor with only 16 bits available, though the noise of the tubes would probably be higher.

You don't need more channels but if you ever do I use the old M-Audio Profire 2626 over ADAT with my RME setup. You can get 8 preamps with that, which I think sound plenty good, or it has combo jacks so if you connect another preamp via 1/4 inch it bypasses the internal one. You unfortunately need an old computer with Firewire that can run the old drivers to setup the standalone mode. The ADA8200 is the modern cheap option for almost the same thing which is why it was suggested above.

Not trying to make this more complicated, the Voice Channel looks sweet.

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Re: Inexpensive mic pre with optical out?

Post by slentthndr » Sat Oct 03, 2020 9:27 am

Thanks! I got the VoiceChannel and it sounds nice. I like it so far but I'm also having wicked problems getting the audio to route correctly in UAD Console. That's a topic for another thread though, I suppose. Gaaah.

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