Improving the signal chain

hi! need some advice as want to buy a passive di box mainly for use it with bass-gtr-synths (mono-passive).
right now my budget is around 200-250€. i´m considering the radial(s), like the jdi, but there are some interesting 2nd hand options out there, like the neve rndi, the fortchcoming warm audio di´s (w/cinemag transformers)…or diy options like the ferrite fe2.

thanks in advance!

I use the FE2 with the Cinemag for bass guitar all the time. It’s clean and works well. Easy build. Your budget allows for more options although for a passive DI, not sure what more you want/need. No experience with the others you mentioned although I expect they work just fine.

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they really do sound that great!
even into the house mics :slight_smile:


yes, his guitar
and also check out how their vocals blend!
(also, what they’re saying)

check the one mic style

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN14W-P8Zdc

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Definitely worth getting a good stereo chain, as it does then allow you to forget about it and get on with the business of writing, practising, and recording music.

I’ve had the mastering chain in its current state for about 9 years now (no new gear added), but as I’ve been recording live things a lot more the last few years, I was doing what I’ll refer to as “the cheap mic dance”. I was always ultimately unsatisfied so a while back I bought a matched pair of KM84s and haven’t looked back. They are fairly forgiving, coloured, but not too coloured, but the main thing is that whatever you put in front of them, they just sound right. They hit the Chandler TG2 dual pre and the Dangerous Bax EQ into Crookwood converters at 24/96, and I have to do far less in the mix than I used to, to get a great sound. Talking mainly about acoustic guitar and vocals. I’ll probably add a pair of the KK83 omni capsules in future too (still available new from Neumann, despite the mics not being in production since the early 90s).

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In the spirit of the minimally viable thread I’m curious about any simple ideas to improve signal chain for live performance. Either to add some subtle saturation or compression to line out from modular. Oto Machines Boum seems like a nice choice? Does the FMR RNC compare? Favourite preamp pedals? DI boxes?

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If you were going for a module RIP seems like it might fit the bill, with the possibility of saturating and bringing it to line level. Also if you are looking for an External DI Box, the Radial ProD2 is pretty highly praised and doesn’t really color the sound.

I can’t make a direct comparison to the Boum but I use the RNC for mild program compression on the Mains Inserts of my A&H mixer for live use all the time.

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Yes Boum is super handy…im preparing for a modular performance in the next few days and everything is mixed into a sherman restyler which I use to add some subtle frequency movement and weight and that into boum…using the low cut, a little boost and nice amount of compression which all in all makes it really playfully reactive to mix into with the modular. It for sure is bringing alot to the final sound and it all goes quite flabby and lifeless when I take them out

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I’ll second @mystasea here. I run my final mix through a Boum and I find the character it adds to be essential. I’m sure it pales in comparison to a full 500 series signal chain, but for live play, or simply as a solution that adds a lot without building out a full home studio, I think it’s great.

I’ll also add that it’s very playable. I love to be able to manipulate the Drive & High Pass filter as a song progresses.

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Have either of you used Analog Heat as a point of comparison? Since AH can also be a DI, I’ve been tempted.

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Actually yes. I just got rid of a bunch of rack mount gear and stripped down to an SSL Six and 3 stereo pairs of 500 series modules. It has greatly improved the quality of my tracks through simplicity in signal + workflow.

I opted for this because I was having ground loop problems. I spent a ton of time chasing ground loops with all my rack gear. Simplifying the signal chain kept me from over thinking just dialing in a simple sound and then getting back to the more important creative side and it also gives grounds loops less of a chance to manifest.

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I have not used the Heat, unfortunately. I know there is plenty mention of it in the Overdrive Everything thread, and of the Boum as well. Someone surely has given both a try!

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@grey
I am an Analog Heat user and it’s one of my favorite devices. It’s a box that can make everything sound better. I don’t have any experience using it as a DI though, as I have only run synths through it. If you head over to elektronauts and look for user sezare56, he has a lot of examples using it with guitars and more.

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Same here, I put everything through it. Just makes everything sound good. No idea if it improves my signal chain or not and how it works strictly as DI but I like it a lot. It’s always between my summing mixer and my Babyface Pro.

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Here’s what I ended up with for now. As nice as it all is, I have to say, I get by far the most satisfaction from the patchbays. Crikey!!!

Kush Electra, UA x8, REDDI, Chandler Germ, Distressors, AEA TRP, Dbx 160x, RNC.

2 CAPI VP28s should be in the lunchbox by the end of the week. :metal:Then saving room for
an Aurora GTQ2 (stereo 1073 pre/EQs), AMS RMX16, and a tube compressor TBD…

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Out of curiosity, was there any one piece of gear that opened up new possibilities more than others? Not so much in the fetishizing sense… from a categorical sense? Looking for an “ah-ha” moment or bang-for-the-buck when it comes to improving the signal chain (and tangentially, workflow). For instance, my biggest “ah-ha” in the last year or so was acquiring my first discrete mic preamp which really changed my approach to recording mics.

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I’ll say it again…for me it’s PATCH BAYS! Hands down.

For work flow alone it has been a game changer. Just makes me a happier person.

But also just for opening my head up to ideas that I probably wouldn’t have thought of. Bussing out “nuked” Distressors and then using a fader to blend in dry/wet for example. It’s a sound (when on its own) is too much. But blended in…sounds awesome. Or the same goes for adding cool guitar pedals to a track after the fact.

I can’t downplay the importance patch bays had on me in that respect. Before I got them I obsessed about everything being AS IS on the way in. To the point where I would re-record tracks constantly when I got an idea of how to tweak them. Silly…but that’s how I rolled for years.

Beyond patch bays…lately I’d say starting on Ableton Live has been equally profound for me. Having used Logic Pro for the last ten years. Logic is still superior in the editing side of tracking I’d say. But as far as being creative with song form, early development of the mix, Ableton is light years ahead. I was doing things within days that took me years to even think about in Logic. But again…that’s just how I thought about recording. Everything was premeditated and refined to the point of slight strangulation before I had even hit the record button once.

As far as gear ah ha’s…my favorite is finding just the right piece for each instrument/track. Having the gear is one thing, but knowing when to use it/when not is really the thing.

When I got my first Distressor I WAY overused it. Put it in every track on every song. Haha. It sounded TERRIBLE.

So I guess restraint is just as important. At least until you end up spending ALL OF YOUR MONEY by have 2-3 gear choices instead of just one. Lesson being, it’s better to have no effect on something sometimes rather than to have the same effect on everything. Seems obvious. But I think most people make this mistake when they get their first nice pieces of outboard. But the same definitely goes for plugins. In fact I’d say much MORE SO. To me those things get old real fast and only sound interesting when used here and there for a little variety to make up for your current lack of a Neve 1073 or a LA-2A. :pensive:

I will say, the importance of a good mic pre/DI in the age of the DAW is often overlooked. Most people seem to take the “fix it in post” mentality. Plugins can do a lot. But I still think the technology when it comes to mic pres is NOT there. I much prefer the sound of even a so so mic pre to a top of the line plugin mic pre.

Plugin EQs and Compressors get pretty close. Close enough that I sometimes hear the difference from one track to another and wonder what I’m blowing my money on. But…you then take that track and spread it across the entire song with 30+ tracks and hear the difference between one done with ALL plugins and one with ALL analog/outboard…it’s night and day. Doesn’t mean it’s not still good or bad music because of how it was recorded/mixed. But for anybody that is a tone geek, it makes a difference. But having that initial sound of a good mic pre on your track ALWAYS is the biggest factor. I don’t skimp on them. I don’t spend all this money on my beloved instruments only to have some plugin muck up how it sounds going into the box.

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Mine was the Chandler TG2 pre. Such a simple device, “just” a dual mic preamp. But whatever you run through it sounds way better.

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Whenever the temptation to buy more gear sets in I try to remind myself of Dan Snaith in Caribou using the Boss SP-303 sampler as a mic pre for his early records. It’s both humbling and refreshing. Truly, a lot of great music has been produced with lesser gear than what I’ve already got.

For me getting a good signal chain has been driven by the vanity/frustration of not really enjoying how my voice turns out.

For now I’ve settled on a Neve:ish preamp (mono) by vintagedesign (TK Audio-sister brand), a Klark KT-2a comp and my Focusrite clarett interface. Mics include an SM7b, MD-421, Røde Nt2a and a Bumblebee Pro RM-7 (ribbon). Now all I need is more time to put the gear to work.

Not making fun of anybody else than myself, the last year has proven that the greatest addition to my signal chain has been vocal lessons.

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I read an excerpt from an interview with Danial Lanois. When asked how to get a good acoustic guitar sound in the studio, he responded “start with a good sounding acoustic guitar”. Of course, this doesn’t stop at the instrument, the musician is the majority of that equation.

While the end result certainly benefits from good gear (not even necessarily expensive), I think your point is very important. Musicianship, creativity, and critical listening are all more important.

I also read a TapeOp interview of Jeff Tweedy where he talks about working with Tom Schick:

I feel like when you touch a knob, consciously you become less aware of the whole. If I touch a knob, all of a sudden I’m thinking about what this knob is doing. I find that to be distracting. I feel like my role is to keep an eye on the song; the big picture and the emotional content. Not what the bass EQ is doing. Your consciousness goes to that. Your ears tune into where you look, too. People don’t realize that…

I don’t mind getting lost in the details sometimes. I think that can be fun. But still, [I want to be] once removed from the actual physical, tactile sensation of controlling it somehow. It also forces me to use language to explain to Tom what I want to hear. Like, “I wish I could hear more of the fingers on this instrument.” It allows me to stay a little bit more in an “imagination world,” as opposed to real-life physics.

I mean, Jeff Tweedy might be the ultimate gear-head but his signal chain is very straight forward. Vocals: SM7b > Neve 33118 > 1176 > Tape or PT. He recorded his last album with a relatively simple chain for guitar but I unfortunately don’t have the article handy. I remember it being a vintage Tele > Princeton Reverb > AEA Ribbon (N22) > Neve or API preamp > Tape/PT. No pedals (or maybe one or two if the context called for it). He stated that his goal was to keep it as straight forward as possible.

Don’t know if there’s a salient point in here other than the gear certainly plays a role but isn’t the end-goal. There’s a correlation between success and a quality signal chain but its not causal. Maybe the primary benefit of “improving the signal chain” is simply so you don’t have to think about it anymore (as already stated by @ermina and @Gregg ) and can move on.

The discussion around the crafting/recording of the song that Jeff goes into is probably tangential to this thread but worth discussing in the context of how you achieve it.

I mean, what would you do to hear more of the fingers on the instrument? (rhetorical)

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