Steven McNair


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GEAR Review.
Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hey Blog readers. Here's a couple gear reviews I wrote up for one of the Audio recording and gear forums I'm active in. This is strictly tech so watch out. :) (also, the reviews are written in a GP way so don't mind the straight up talk) PTL, I'm so thankful for your supply, Jesus.

(May 31st 2009)Hello Studio central, I've learned too much from Y'all over the years, and I'm making a living Mixing and Producing records. As everyone else here, I'm always adding gear to the rack, and I though I'd do a review of one of the latest additions to the rack. I chose the Octopre LE as I haven't seen much on Focusrite platinum products here.

One of my weak point's is preamps. I have A GT brick, pre's on the 828MKII, JOEMEEK 3Q....and the preamp's in the mixing desk Which has gotten me by without complaint from Clients. I have used A Joemeek oneQ and Focusrite Twintrack pro in another studio several times. I saw this Used for 30,000 yen or Just under 300$, and Since I was Still in the market for a 8ch pre (I was so close to buying a Yamaha MLA8 or similar a couple times But chose to put the money Into other things that go toward a well rounded recording studio) and I HAD the money, I went ahead a bought it, figuring I can't lose with that price. (The unit is 669$ new as of now) and I used the twintrack pro which sounded good enough- though I didn't get too critical at the time.

First Impressions:
I did a little shootout with all my preamps as soon as it showed up. Self noise noise at +60DB was around -70db.
It is bright. It's not really subtle either, It is just a bright preamp. talking through a 57 at first it sounded real great. BUT I was wary. I tried my brightest rode NT-2 mic, and then I preferred the brick. I figured though, In most of the mixes I do, I find my vocal tracks need a bit of air or 3K boost. Or both. I tryed making lots of "ssss" sounds and listening closely to the differences. Now this was subtle, but it sounded as if the higher frequencies running through the focusrite were being compressed. they were slightly less open and loose then what the Brick was doing. The focusrite sounded...How do I put it...Ever sooooo slightly, the highs sounded hyped in a lispy sort of way. Now I was comparing two very different preamps, and there was no song context to really make decisions on, so I left it there for the first day. Basically I thought the highs could get me in trouble in a couple spots, as I wanted to be able to track vocals through it when I wanted a super clean (not brick) sound. Good impressions would be the body of the sound was pleasant, and didn't break up. The Image was relatively tight and focused. I couldn't really tell a difference in breakup of the body of the sound compared to the brick try as I did, and that was encouraging. So essentially we have a clean forward image, but highs hyped not in a good way.

In Actual Use.
A week After the unit came in, I got to work. A friend and I were recording 5 Brit-punk and "Madchester" songs for a software soundtrack. Obviously, first order of the day was drums. Standard SM57s, Beta52, and Rode NT-5s covered the kit. We noticed...There are NO pad switches. OH NO. Setting levels, the Clip indicator on the unit was not lighting up, however the snare was being clipped on the big hits. We thought that to be strange. But, what's more strange, we did not hear ANY distortion. we tryed to. We pumped the gain up a couple DB until the focusrite was clipping each snare hit fairly hard, and we listened for the type of distortion it was giving the signal. But...I really didn't hear any. It sounded like a limiter on each channel. Anyway, sounds strange, but we had work to do SO we brought the gain back down and recorded drum with some of the hits being clipped off by the focusrite. Right there, No pad switch is a High Minus for the unit. The weird part is, In the mix I once again really tried to hear the distortion that was supposed to be there. But...It really sounded cleanly recorded. I don't know why this is, But the drums were easy enough to work with in the mix, and there was really, absolutely no noise. The hyped Highs didn't work negatively at All. So on drums, the conclusion is: The octopre is doing something- either limiting, or overloading and clipping the tracks. But Even when we tried to visually get something Big and Bad going on, It still sounded fine. What?
Vocals: We used the brick for most of the tracks on this project, But 2 songs I wanted a cleaner sound. I also just wanted to try this thing out.
Tracking was great, so into the mix: Lets just say it was necessary to De-ess pretty much all the tracks. I ended up wanting more 4k in my tone and the Focusright sound didn't help. But after the DE-esser, the Image was what I wanted: A Clean in your face track. It worked like I expected it to, Thank God.
My friend and I were curious about Not being able to hear the clipping on the drums, so We pushed a vocal track real quick so the focusrite was really leveling my singing. Sung real loud for a bit, then we listened. And again, Strange, but we could not hear the clipping. It only sounded limited. there is none of that horrible preamp clipping sound I get with my other preamps. It remains a clean sound....Just totally crew cut. There MUST be a limiter in the Octopre. which sadly...for me Is a Minus. I would have preferred a simple pad switch. Anyway, for Vocals this didn't come into play as we kept the signal under clipping.

In Closing:
Well, I have it. So I have to make it work. I am happy with it, but I paid 300$. If I bought it new, I would be disappointed. I hope there are better 8ch preamps out there for the price. If someone is buying new for their studio, I would NOT recommend this piece. If your getting the deal I did, I would.
Things I like about it, are
1: it's clarity. It is clear and rather in your face (partly to do with the compressed sounding highs) If you watch the highs in the mix, Its a clean image that is easy to move around. The body doesn't have that "Phasey" cheap preamp sound. Then again, this is what It is supposed to do.
2: Looks. Shiny! Rest of the rack is dull colors so this is nice.
3: the 1/4 channel inputs on the front. I want to plug an effector or synth or Keyboard into the DAW, there's my jacks right there on the face of the unit, rather then having to go back in the rack.
Don't like:
1: No Pad switches. In that case I'm glad it doesn't distort when Clipped, I guess. But I would have preferred a Pad.
2: The Highs. While possibly alright in Angry music where you want the punchy highs, This unit would probably sound pretty cheap on a jazz Vocal, for instance. Also I can see a Mix getting a little frayed in the top end if one was to record all the tracks through this. The hype in the highs sounds like it has the potential to make things tough for the a super critical ear, If you aren't careful."sss's" tend to get the brunt of the "character" this pre has to offer. It's not bright in the sense that It sounds "EQ'ed"- It's doesn't have so much of an overall brightness- Its more of the way the Preamp Color's the highs that are in your signal already with a sort of compressed sound. Of course it's subtle though. I doubt most folks would deduce this unless they were in the business for a while.
This Preamp Is the same preamp in all of the focusrite platinum products. (like the twin track pro for example) So parts of this review could help shoppers for focusrite's Channel strip options out as well.

For 669$...
5 out of 10.

Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:26 pm
Hello once again to all Studio central Long-timers.
For newer members, here’s a brief background on your reviewer:

I Have In-studio tracking or mixing experience with Yamaha Ns-10ms, Event tr-5, Event 20/20BAS, Event ASP6, JBL 4410a, JBL 4410, JBL 4412, KRK V4.
I am currently a more or less self-employed Semi-fulltime Studio geek doing all sorts of things.


I was looking around for a set of 8 inch Speakers to complement my Event-tr5s and 10 inch mid field JBL4410a. After a few months of quietly making my mind and asking questions, I went for these guys. The Bass extension was low enough, and the price was right- not to mention the Brand name. Yamaha, in my mind, has always put consistently Great products out in pretty much every area. I wanted a “Mid range” monitor speaker. As in- not the Cheapest Budget 8 inchers, And I didn’t quite want the plus 1k “professional” systems. Sure, if I didn’t need to put aside for a new drumset, But hey, this is the real world. This was the choice in that price range that stood out for NO1, Price and Support in Japan for MIJ products Is always easier, NO2, Prices for Yamaha are Lower here VS the other choices, and NO3…The White cone. For real NO3 was simply all the great reviews I’ve been hearing from a lot of places on the net (Take those with a grain of salt….People tend to “love” what they decided to buy)

So, they show up, Nice Boxes, Nice packing, Yeah whatever. Plug them in, Get all set up. The first track I ran through them was Plus44’s “When Your Heart Stops Beating”. First impressions are naturally good. First thing I thought was the stereo field was wider then what I was used to hearing from the same position where I used to stand the Tr-5. I like the way the low end felt, but that’s to be expected from any half-decent active 8in woofer. After a bit more listening and A/B/Cing, I Decided the High trim switch needed to come down 2db desperately. They must have added the “plus 2db” option for 70 and 80 year olds with hearing loss….or something. God forbid I ever engage that. These Speakers are Bright! After the -2db switch, Things sounded right in the highs. Still a Bit shrill around 3K, but after using the -2db switch at 2k, The speakers Sounded too warm: I brought 2k back to flat, and I figured this must be where they incorporated the NS10 sound into the HS80.


I got to work the Next day, to see how my first mix on these would come together. This mix was one of 12 mixes I’m doing for a Texas rock band. It’s just standard hard rock. They recorded the Tracks at home with some phase and tone Issues: Well…..I guess that’s my job. The Lead vocal also had a lot going on right at 2K, a pretty aggressive tone. Mix did not come together easily. I can’t blame the HS80’s though, and I Don’t. At what I thought was the end of the mix, I started A/Bing with commercial tracks, and realized my mix was very shy in the 3-4K area, something that doesn’t happen with my other system. Guitars weren’t thin, but just had the treble sitting funny. I don’t know how much is fault goes to the fact that I’m on new speakers and my ears are hearing something else, OR the fact that this was a new band and they had different sounding tracks that were tough to work with. Probably both. I had the do the mix again a different day, this time in a real world using the HS-80 AND my friends of 4 years the Tr-5.

2 weeks later:

Low end on the HS80m is nice, not very “deep” as it was “warm”. They seem to work well in conjunction with my other speakers in spatial imaging. They also Sound the best out of my 3 systems, the JBL’s being a 3way mid field monitor I never quite got used to that sound Very clear and Smooth, very silky and pleasing (especially now to the HS80) . The HS80 are Harsh. It’s true, it sounds to me like their mid-2db switch should have been set at 3.5k or so. It’s going to be a few more mixes before I’m sure of myself on these. It’s not insane or impossible to work with, but they follow after the NS-10 in that respect. Other then the upper mid-range, these sound very different from the NS-10. They aren’t “boxy” in the least and DO have a thump in the low end. In other points, the HS80s DO have a nice spatial quality. For Example a mix I did previously that I thought was as wide as a particular commercial track, sounded a little less wide in comparison then it sounded before. Subtle, But they reveal more about the space then my JBLs.

In closing

If you are an old school Ns10 Guy, Don’t pass these up for the harsh midrange! It was done on purpose I suppose. To everyone else, these are great speakers as far as sonic clarity and cohesive sound go. I wouldn't say they are miles ahead of any other competition, mainly because I haven't heard much of the current competition in a proper environment. But I will say I know these are a run for any makers money. I’m not too thrilled about the 3K thing, but I will get used to it. If I made it sound like 3k Is All I hear coming from the speaker, Don’t mis-understand me. Good lows, Good Middle, and Nice Highs are all there. It actually sounds Much Flatter then my Tr-5 with hyped 500htz. I’m thinking maybe because I am so used to hearing a lot of 500htz, when that’s gone in the Hs-80s it just brings out the upper mids even more.

Good Looks: white cones do add to the typical “black” look of a studio.

Good Imaging: Expose more then I am used to concerning the stereo field.
Good Bass: Not too Awesome, But warm and punchy.
Good overall sound: Crystal clear sound, with refreshingly nice response.
Hyped upper mids: There’s a lot of treble here. It doesn’t sound BAD, and in fact sounds perfect after the pad. Other sets I’ve use are also heavy on the treble like the 20/20s for example. But they don’t have the 3K of this speaker. I will most likely find myself shying away in that area when mixing the first few months.

(Update one year later)
I love these! I got used to them fast and I know them well. I've grown to like the aggression in the speaker.

9 out of 10

posted by Steve @ 6:04 AM  

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