I was asked to create some audio examples for the new Moon 3500 MP preamp so that people could hear it for themselves. After reading the reviews of the Moon preamp I had an idea of what it should sound like but I wanted to hear it for myself and I was also interested in finding out what sort of sonic differences there are between it and other high-end preamps. I lined up a session with a few of my crazy talented musicians in NYC and rented a studio for a day so we could put the Moon through its paces and up against a pair of industry standard “transparent” preamps.
How Did We Do It?
We recorded these samples at Engine Room Audio in downtown Manhattan. They have a beautiful SSL 9000, a Yamaha C7 and a huge live room, perfect for creating lots of nuance and character helping to distinguish the subtle differences between three top-of-the-line preamps. We rented a Millennia HV-3D and GML 8300-2 as our benchmark preamps to compare with the Moon 3500 MP. In an effort to eliminate as many variables as possible, we setup our tracking rig in the live room and then patched the output into the control room solely for monitoring and playback. This allowed us short cable runs and we used Vovox cabling exclusively for the test. We used the Universal Audio Apollo as the converters/interface and ProTools 10HD as our DAW. Prior to the session, we tested several isolated mic splitters in an attempt to capture identical performances through two preamps simultaneously however the signal degradation and inconsistency between the outputs was too much and we decided to instead to do multiple takes with our musicians.
To match and maximize the effects of these high-end preamps I carefully selected microphones that would reveal as much information as possible. Here’s a quick rundown of what we used :
Overheads – B&K 4007
Kick – Neuman U47fet
Snare – Lauten Audio Horizon
Nash Guitars Telecaster into Fender Twin
Amp – SM57 and Earthworks QTC1
Earthworks Piano Bar
Fender Jazz Bass into Ampeg Fliptop
Amp – Neumann U47fet
DI – Countryman DI
Schoeps CMC and Earthworks QTC1
Selmer Alto Sax
Schoeps CMC and U47fet
Due to the subtle nature of the differences between these high-end preamps I highly recommend that you download the WAV files below, bring them into your DAW of choice and A/B them for yourself. All these files were recorded at 44.1/24 and have no processing – all you are hearing is the mics and the preamps.
Without further ado, here are the samples :
In this zip you’ll find the ProTools session (compatible with version 7 and later) along with all the audio files. Every track has been manually gain adjusted and with the same start point so you can bring them into your favorite DAW to compare, no other processing has been done to the raw samples. You’ll also find the WAV files of the 3 mixes I prepared.
What To Listen For
To my ears the biggest difference between these preamps is in the transient response, how fast the preamps react to sounds. This is especially apparent in the drum overheads and the piano tracks. The amount of transients that the Moon allows makes tracks such as the Kick and Snare to sound much more present. Listen to the high-end and the punchy-ness of the preamps, do you hear the differences?
Something I thought would be a great way to compare these preamps, in addition to the raw samples, was to present mixes showing the culmutive effect these pres can have on your productions. All 3 of these mixes are using the exact same plugin settings and gain matched audio files; the only differences are the mic preamps and the musicians’ performances. You can hear how the character of each preamp adds up and the differences become even more noticeable.
Why Does Any Of This Matter?
Preamp choice is such a subjective decision and is dependent on so many different factors: the style/vibe of the music, budget, mic choice, zodiac alignment, etc.. When I’m working in real sessions I usually don’t have an entire day to dedicate to comparing mic preamps to create the perfect piano sound; I have to rely on my experience and intuition to help guide my mic and preamp choices. That is why tests like these are invaluable. I now have a great point of reference in the future as to what to expect from each one of these pres and I can chose between them accordingly. The less time I as the engineer have to spend nitpicking to get the sounds I want, the more time my musicians can spend creating what really matters: music.
What Did You Hear?
This post isn’t about my opinions it’s about yours, could you hear the differences between the preamps? What worked for you and what didn’t? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below…
For more information about the Moon 3500 MP visit : www.moon-professional.com/products/3500mp/