Author Topic: Digital to analog converters  (Read 5144 times)

Castleview

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Digital to analog converters
« on: November 20, 2013, 03:47:10 PM »
I was thinking about getting one and I was wondering if they're really as good as some people say they are. I imagine that somebody here has one, or maybe almost everyone does except for me.

Will it make a drastic difference when recording or playing back music?  It seems like could help me a lot in terms of sound quality since I use my laptop to record a lot.

mgriffin

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2013, 04:02:14 PM »
If you're recording real world sounds with your computer, then you already have a DA converter -- though if it's the one built into your laptop, then it's a very poor one.

What are you trying to record? If you're using a microphone, you might be better served by a pre-amp / DA converter combination.
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Castleview

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2013, 04:12:01 PM »
Right now, just soft synths and various string instruments which I usually like to hook up to my computer (guitar, mandola, cura saz, maybe a zither) through my Lexicon Alpha and record in real-time.

mgriffin

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2013, 04:23:29 PM »
If you're recording soft synths, are you outputting them from the computer and running them through FX and then inputting them back into the computer? Or are those just staying inside the computer the whole time?

It sounds like the bigger issue is the string instruments. There are a lot more variables with recording acoustic instruments into a computer. You have to worry about microphone, preamplification and AD/DA conversion. Your Lexicon Alpha is a mic preamp and AD/DA converter. For recording, it's the analog to digital conversion that matters. For playback, it's digital to analog. So strictly speaking the digital-to-analog converter will not improve your recording in any sense, other than possibly allowing you to monitor your own performance more clearly and maybe do a better job mixing/mastering.

The Lexicon Alpha may not be a high-end recording device, but it's certainly better than just sticking an analog microphone into the mic port on your laptop, and using the built-in mic preamp and AD/DA convers.

Maybe if you let us know what problem you perceive in your own recordings, somebody here can advise you whether your Alpha is worth upgrading, or if your efforts and money might be better spent on microphones and/or effects.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

Ekstasis

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2013, 04:37:04 PM »
Converters matters, in a typical studio setup you use atleast 2 converters, one for the input signals from your pre amp, and one for the output signal to the speakers.
Both are very critical, but if you do mostly stuff inside your computer I guess your monitor controller/converter is more important, cause this will represent the true audio which your computer send.

But it looks like you use kind of a lot of external instruments so yeah... a good converter would really make a big difference.
but a great pre amp is a ls also good, of course you set the bar yourself what you are ready to pay for the best sound quality.
Antelope audio Orion 32 is good converters too..same goes with Prism Titan/orpheus, you can get lynx aurora second hand for good price.

Burl do the best converters right now, I will buy them I am saving up money to buy them

http://www.burlaudio.com/products/b2-bomber-adc
http://www.burlaudio.com/products/b2-bomber-dac
« Last Edit: November 20, 2013, 04:40:30 PM by Immersion »

Castleview

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2013, 04:38:09 PM »
If you're recording soft synths, are you outputting them from the computer and running them through FX and then inputting them back into the computer? Or are those just staying inside the computer the whole time?

It sounds like the bigger issue is the string instruments. There are a lot more variables with recording acoustic instruments into a computer. You have to worry about microphone, preamplification and AD/DA conversion. Your Lexicon Alpha is a mic preamp and AD/DA converter. For recording, it's the analog to digital conversion that matters. For playback, it's digital to analog. So strictly speaking the digital-to-analog converter will not improve your recording in any sense, other than possibly allowing you to monitor your own performance more clearly and maybe do a better job mixing/mastering.

The Lexicon Alpha may not be a high-end recording device, but it's certainly better than just sticking an analog microphone into the mic port on your laptop, and using the built-in mic preamp and AD/DA convers.

Maybe if you let us know what problem you perceive in your own recordings, somebody here can advise you whether your Alpha is worth upgrading, or if your efforts and money might be better spent on microphones and/or effects.

With the soft synths, I usually use just one main laptop and record within that, with the soft synths and FX all in it. Sometimes, I use another laptop with soft synths that goes through some external FX, then through the Lexicon Alpha and into my main laptop.

When I'm recording, I just don't feel like I'm getting a clean enough sound with the soft synths, even with effects off and the volume up enough. I feel like it's just a tad bit off. It might even be my external speakers, which aren't exactly high end but I was thinking it might have something to do with recording primarily through a laptop. I never upgraded the soundcard on it, so it probably is pretty lousy.

Maybe it's just me though.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2013, 04:41:30 PM by Castleview »

Ekstasis

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2013, 04:47:08 PM »
well I would not expect much of the Lexicon Alpha, it is a very cheap interface with the price of like 5-6 pizzas.

I think when it comes to analog recording there is not much shortcuts.. every part of the signal chain is important. 

Castleview

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2013, 05:02:53 PM »
I should also note that for acoustic instruments, plugging them into the laptop is not my only option available for recording. I do have a Tascam DR 2D portable recorder that I can use. I do find the recording quality to be better from that but that's still not ideal either. I thought about upgrading from that too.

mgriffin

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2013, 05:06:52 PM »
Immersion, I don't think you should insult somebody because their budget for equipment is lower. I don't want to discourage people from asking questions here if they are just starting out, or if they aren't able (or ready) to spend thousands of dollars per item.

When I started out, I used cheap Hosa cables, a Mackie 1202 mixer (which I still have, and use as a secondary mixer), and inexpensive ART compressor and multi-FX. I recorded everything to a portable Sony DAT, and monitored on Sony headphones that I still use about the half the time.

After that, I upgraded gradually, and in steps.

I have some more expensive pieces of gear in my studio, like Avalon 747 or Lexicon PCM91, but I also have some good and useful pieces of equipment that cost hundreds rather than thousands. I have gotten rid of some esoteric or extremely expensive gear (such as the Cranesong HEDD 192 AD/DA I had for a couple of years) because the high cost simply wasn't worth it.

Of course, if a device costs $4,000 everybody will be very impressed, and nobody would ever suggest that my choice in gear was "wrong," but lately I am more impressed with a solidly-made and reasonably-priced piece of equipment. Every place you save money, and find gear that will allow you to do what you want to accomplish and spend less money, saves money for something else.
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Castleview

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2013, 05:17:34 PM »
I'm in grad school so I don't have a lot of money.  :(

I'm definitely looking for something that's not going to run me broke.

Also, I wasn't offended by Immersion's post at all, so it's no big deal.

mgriffin

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2013, 05:21:57 PM »
Also, I wasn't offended by Immersion's post at all, so it's no big deal.


That's good -- and I didn't think Immersion's comment was all that bad, but I hope we won't get started telling people their equipment choices are terrible. Also, if someone says they're thinking about upgrading from their entry-level audio interface, I don't know if $2500 devices are the best suggestion. That's so many steps above what you're using now, I think you'd be better served by a recommendation for something by Presonus or Focusrite or maybe M-Audio.
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Ekstasis

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2013, 05:28:46 PM »
I am just telling him the reality, he said the sound did not feel "clean" enough.
If you want clean and transparent sound it comes with a price. I wish there was a shortcut.

But there is goldcorns even with cheap gear if you are good at founding them so price does not automatically equal quality.
even if you have a smaller budget you can get quite high quality if you buy the right stuff...and do you research.

I was also interested to buy HEDD, but is a kind of old product..it is based from what I understand on software code there is plugin versions
of the saturation stuff... but all I can say I would love to try it.. I am a big fan of summing boxes like that..which can bring that extra magic and luster to the sound..

My days are over when I did try to do "clever" buys, to save money, but what I have learned is that it is better to buy good stuff first,
otherwise you will never get really satisfied you will always have that itching feeling of unsatisfactory... also it makes your "job" easier..to mirror
you artistic expression.

One other aspect I have really got to enjoy starting to buy really expensive gear is that these gear does actually have a very good second hand value and in many cases the prices on the second hand market can stay very stable for a long time even they can increase in price if it the product becomes rare.

If you buy budget stuff, they have simply zero second hand value you can get a fraction of that price that's it.
Of course every one decide what is best for them, personally I prefer to think more long term and that life is too short to invest
in cheap gear, I want to live my life in full satisfaction so I do not compromise, of course I understand not all people are as fixated some people
might prioritize to buy a new car or travel.

But I personally find it highly paradoxical that in the ambient genre which is supposed to be "advanced" sound design most people use
a lot cheaper gear then normal studios... cheap effect cheap everything, most ambient artist have it with some kind of side activity they use a laptop and some software plugs but not a real studio.  All I am saying is I find it paradoxical why the bar is not set a lot higher in the genre.. if ambient genre is supposed to be some kind of cutting edge when it come to advanced sound design.  In most other recent produced music the production is very important nowdays often very polished I do not feel that way when I hear most new ambient unfortunately I just hear cheap reverbs with no transients at all left in the sound just 100% reverb

Ekstasis

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2013, 05:31:14 PM »
I'm in grad school so I don't have a lot of money.  :(

I'm definitely looking for something that's not going to run me broke.

Also, I wasn't offended by Immersion's post at all, so it's no big deal.

you have to beleive you do not need a big budet to great high quality ambient. But a good sounding reverb is the most critical part in this genre, if you do not have a good reverb everything will sound bad.  If you are on a budget and want a expensive lexicon sound the best is to buy an second hand PCM unit or to use some of the software reverbs..there are a few that sound very good for the price.

Ekstasis

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2013, 05:34:19 PM »
Also, I wasn't offended by Immersion's post at all, so it's no big deal.


That's good -- and I didn't think Immersion's comment was all that bad, but I hope we won't get started telling people their equipment choices are terrible. Also, if someone says they're thinking about upgrading from their entry-level audio interface, I don't know if $2500 devices are the best suggestion. That's so many steps above what you're using now, I think you'd be better served by a recommendation for something by Presonus or Focusrite or maybe M-Audio.

of course I do not want that have the discussion either it is not a competition, but he was saying he was not satisfied and that and the sound quality was not clean enough... I was just trying to explain possible factors...that is all..
A good reverb comes first I would say... To make it more clean sounding a good trick is to use tube saturation try wavearts tube saturator or something.. increase the treble a little bit you will feel the high end is opening up and becomes "cleaner" and takes away a lot of the "dust" in the reverb also..

mgriffin

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2013, 05:39:38 PM »
I would definitely agree -- if you have some money to spend, buy a really good reverb. That's most important.

And I also agree, I have heard more ambient recordings lately that sound like they were made with cheap gear, especially poor reverbs.

I remember being surprised when I first got started making ambient music that most of the other people I knew had very nice gear -- expensive mixers, high-end Lexicon reverbs, good monitors, and that sort of thing. Now lots of people just buy an audio interface for their computer and use the default effects built into their DAW software, and that's it -- they don't pay for any effects, either outboard, or higher-quality plugins.
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Ekstasis

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #15 on: November 20, 2013, 05:54:41 PM »


I remember being surprised when I first got started making ambient music that most of the other people I knew had very nice gear -- expensive mixers, high-end Lexicon reverbs, good monitors, and that sort of thing. Now lots of people just buy an audio interface for their computer and use the default effects built into their DAW software, and that's it -- they don't pay for any effects, either outboard, or higher-quality plugins.

well, I am a part of the  younger more "forward thinking" generation,  about 10 years ago when all software plugs did look to have a promising future and also computer performance was getting better and better I did kind of look down at the old things, I wanted to replace as much as possible with software plugins,  I felt smart, and I thought other where "stupid"  why pay so much money when you can just have a cheap plugin that sounds the same... I think most younger ambient artist is still stuck in this kind of "mentality" that software is the cutting edge in audio and that everything sounds best and can be down "in the box" with software.  No need for expensive mixers or expensive analog outboard gear now when you can use high quality plugins.

As I said I did grow up under this software "revolution"  about 10 years later I realize not much has happen in the last 10 years when it comes to creating music with software, the development has slown down extremely.. only more of the same..   analoge still sound superior even so many years,  you only get close with plugins in that use between 50-80% on the latest intel cpus overclocked you get close the analgoue "essence" of the sound. 

Yeah so personally I have changed radically, I am going away more and more from software "in the right places". I still use soft synths for instance, it is ok if your other signal chain is high quality, for instance analgoue outboard gear can make even a digital soft synth glow to life.
I am not anti software but I do not compromise in sound quality. I realize its strength and weaknesses.  The weaknesses is 100% due to the lack of CPU power, almost all plugins compromise in audio quality in favor of less cpu usage, all this are hearable... CPU needs a lot of power to crate those complex and precise harmonics that analogue gear make..it just kills the cpu... this is the reason I buy more and more external gear, to get more power cause the CPU can't do all processing on it's on... The lack processing power is one of the main reason why all ambient produced "in the box" sound so cheap..  however there is expectations of plugins that sound incredible with minimal cpu power, Lexicon PCM native is one of them, but I think one reason of that is because the algorithms have been refined for about 30 years the algorithms where made for a different time with a lot less processing power then what we have today...so with the right miracle could is probably possible but extremely hard craft to program such things.. most virtual analogue stuff consume the cpu totally...the plugins I use that I think sound good, such as digital slate, SPL, SSL, D16,  etc they all have one thing in common..the use a lot of cpu..

I will still use both software and hardware...
« Last Edit: November 20, 2013, 05:56:35 PM by Immersion »

Castleview

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #16 on: November 20, 2013, 05:59:08 PM »
Thanks for all the advice guys. I'm definitely going to take these recommendations into consideration.

I'll admit that I've probably been guilty of too much reverb (some of it probably too cheap in quality) in the past. I did buy ValhallaRoom recently and that's definitely a huge improvement over almost every plugin I have. I was blown away TBH. I'm definitely going to be more conscious of reverb when I record in the future.

Ekstasis

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #17 on: November 20, 2013, 06:12:04 PM »
Thanks for all the advice guys. I'm definitely going to take these recommendations into consideration.

I'll admit that I've probably been guilty of too much reverb (some of it probably too cheap in quality) in the past. I did buy ValhallaRoom recently and that's definitely a huge improvement over almost every plugin I have. I was blown away TBH. I'm definitely going to be more conscious of reverb when I record in the future.


for ambient I tend to use mostly halls..but for string instruments I guess valhallaroom can be good, I have only tried the valhalla shimmer..
it sounded quite big and lush..but unfortunately a lot of the source audio will become muddy and you will lose a lot of details ..it is not a clean reverb..but works good for pads and stuff..

I recommend

http://www.d16.pl/index.php?menu=228

http://www.robpapen.com/buy-rp-verb.html

http://www.ariescode.com/index.php

The very sily saturation in RP verb is extremly beautiful... but it sounds more flat and less 3D then a expensive lexicon reverb..

Ariesverb the algoritms I think was supossed to be and hardware reverb box but it did never make it to the market...I do not remember the complete story, but after been using lexicon PCM native plugins for a long time I must say Aries verb comes most close.. it has a more Deep 3D sound...
good for very long reverb tails.. the GUI sucks..but for this style of music..you often have the same preset all the time on the mix.

Toraverb is a good secondary reverb.. Robert Rich have talked highly about it. You are not able to create big 3D Lexicons halls with it, but you can create very detailed reverbs with unique saturation and character sounds very clean with almost a little bit "metallic" sound just very subtle though..

Castleview

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #18 on: November 20, 2013, 06:26:37 PM »
I had never heard of Toraverb before but seeing you mention Robert Rich's endorsement and the fact that it's a bargain at that price, I might buy that really soon. It seems like it would also probably be different enough from the ValhallaRoom.

The other ones seem like they would be awesome too but they're noticeably more expensive.

APK

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Re: Digital to analog converters
« Reply #19 on: November 20, 2013, 06:48:26 PM »
Hopefully some more people will jump in on this topic, with other recommendations too.

I will certainly look though my software tomorrow and see if I can suggest something in the reverb line. I think reverbs can be very personal, in the sense that they must, to your ears, fit your sound, and also operate in a way that makes intuitive sense.

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