ibarakishi wrote:I just mainly would like to hear everyone's personal experiences with their gear that they have tried so far and what problems, if any, they have had with their choices
I have no first hand with anything you've mentioned so far, but I have hung a mic or two... I'll begin with mixing boards, because that's the bulk of my experience - hopefully any information that slips out will be of use.
TOA RX-212. Early 1980s mixing board. Input transformers on the microphone feed (I love iron in my signal path), 4558 opamps doing active duty. I like the desk for noise & synth work, as the input is enriching (the output of main stereo bus and two foldback (effect sends) channels are also transformer fed). The summing section does not have nearly enough headroom so the mixer will distort like a motherfucker when it's tasked with big sounds. Phantom power section was also really dirty and noisy, which inspired me to buy a fucking Behringer 602 mixer for condenser work, as it had clean power. This was the year 2000 if memory serves, these days I'd just fix the fucking phantom. Lovely noisy board with many beers spilled and rust on the inside. I need to repair the PSU in that one, but I liked it enough to accept an RX-208 in my life to do fill in duty while the 12 channel is hobbled.
Behringer MX-602. Sterile but clean, (while I owned it) I purchased this for phantom power alone. Did the trick, but I have a deep hatred of the sound that modern high slew rate low noise budget circuits make when abused, so I miss that one not. To recap:
Fostex 454, Biamp 1621, Fender MX-5200. I believe all of these are (were) input transformerless operational amplifier based circuits preceding the Mackie VLZ topology that Behringer borrowed above which ushered in the "new era of clean" across the board. These old circuits are not without their charm, but they suffered greatly from congestion in the summing stage and inherently thin and noisy channels. It can be a useful sound but I wouldn't want to subject my entire mix to it. In my opinion, you can reap whatever gains you would get out of this class of circuit by going into strange channels, like old video SEGs, galvanometer or piezo amplifiers and doing away with the mixer altogether. Not that it is a fantastic path, mind you, it's just nice to have a source of contrast between elements.
Ramsa WR8210, Ashly SM-16, IRL Voicematic....
Holy fuck, what am I doing here? Gotta cut to the chase or I'll be at this shit all day:
Transformer input with discrete transistor topology (Langevin) this thing can sound awesome, but it is particular about what microphones it loves and there's a lot of inconsistency across the channels. I feel that going primitive (statement includes tubes) can reap the biggest rewards - but is the most demanding on synergy between source and capture. One day it can sound amazing, the next you're riding a pogo stick into a pond of muck. Old stuff will also have noise floor prominence over almost anything around today - unless you're made of money and have hired a self important guru (AKA not slave labor, before anyone tries to beat me down over the self important part - fucking assholes
) to manually search for the perfect part to lovingly embed in the rectal canal of your vintage piece of gear.
Ooof, sorry, I think my PTSD is showing.
Rolling tubes can be fun and informative, but the impact the tube has on the sound is going to hinge a lot on the circuit the tube is in. My favorites are, unfortunately, in line with common opinion regarding the old stuff. Telefunken (flat plate over ribbed, most of the time), Amperex (Bugle Boy), and Mullard can be fantastic, but so can black plate RCA, Sylvania and a multitude of others. There are duds, these were made with more actual fingers in the process than with modern production techniques - but the accepted metallurgy allowed for far more toxic recipes to be employed - which results in slightly different operation which can be construed as superior in some circumstances.
Operational amplifiers resolved a lot of inconsistency across earlier topologies, but they have kind of done so at the expense of the magic I tried to describe above. You can buy back the most consistent aspects of that magic through using a transformer (let's be honest, there is essentially an EQ network embedded with the root function) or grabbing a tube (losing a PN junction is often like finding a $20 in the pocket of a coat you have not worn in a long time. Voiced circuits are awesome, but they are supported by dead clean and neutral circuits, so I guess my advice is to grab something that crosses your path/is in your price range, and then don't rule out maintaining a vigil around that particular watering hole.
I guess while I'm at it I'll plug a project I am working on (that's right, all that garbled mess above that I'll probably read again in two days and edit the ever loving shit out of is nothing more than the build up to an advert, HAHAHAHA)(j/k). I've drafted a microphone preamp based on Deane Jensen's 918 discrete operational amplifier publication from 1977 (you can find links to the document through google I am sure). Since this is not an RMA design I don't really plan on building these out (I don't think I have the throughput power to do that at the moment anyway), though if the PCB is a success (tonally speaking) I'd be happy to sell boards to the DIY sort:
It's not the simplest of builds, though I'm trying to support a variety of implementation on it, including output section based on ECB TO-92 or BCE TO-220 if the output is driven transformer or just a direct unbalanced cap coupled output, and the option of an SMD matched pair or two throughhole transistors at differential input.
Again, the actual purpose of these is to infill a small mixer I'm building, but DIY remains a huge option on the microphone preamp front.
Sorry about the huge post, been chewing on it for a while..