Sytek Vs. 500 series Vs. SCA - help please

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Which Pre-amp option?

A) Sytek (4 ch)
B) FiveFish SC1-mk500 (2 ch)
No votes
C) SCA C84 (2 ch)
No votes
D) Other (please explain)
Total votes: 9

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Sytek Vs. 500 series Vs. SCA - help please

Post by manganeech » Sun Apr 19, 2009 10:38 am

I'm looking to upgrade my pre-amp situation. Currently I am using the 8 pres in my Yamaha 02R desk. They are fine(if boring) for louder sources/hotter mics but they get noisy pretty quick at gain settings above 1 or 2 o'clock.
I also need more channels. 4 more would be nice but I could make do with fewer in the short term if there were compelling reasons to.
More background; I record demos for local artists who tend to need help with their sound - i.e. more fix it in the mix, fighting bad mic technique, need vocal sweetening, etc.
My major concern however, is the live shows I record. I've been lucky enough to get to run sound and record some great acts in intimate settings here in my small town (pop. 6000). Howe Gelb, Jason Lytle, Lonna Kelly, Venus DeMars, and others. Upcoming possibilities include Calexico, John Doe, M. Ward, Neko Case. I want to make the best of these opportunities.

O.K. here is what I need help with:
Budget = $1000 give or take
Do I go for :
A) 4 channel Sytek ($900)
B) a 500 series rack with 2 cheaper(<$400) modules (rack= $425 + 2x FiveFishStudios SC1-mk500 $370+$370 -- total= $1165)
C) Seventh Circle Audio (assembled rack + 2 C84 modules = $855)
D) Other suggestions

The pluses and minuses as I see them:
Sytek - Pluses = simple, great bang for the buck, excellent quality.
Minuses = Can not add modules.
Questions for you = Will these pres help me get great vocal sounds or are they too clinical? Will these pres bring out the best from lesser mics or just emphasize their weaknesses?

500 series - Pluses = Extreme expandability, some day I could get "The Pants", "The Juggernaut" and a Deresser.
Minuses = would start out with fewer channels, expensive
Questions = How do the cheaper 500 pre modules ( FiveFish, other sub-$500?) compare to the Sytek sonically? Should I start out with only 1 higher end ("The Pants" + lunchbox = $1150) for lead vocals and build from there?

SCA - Pluses = Some expandability (4 different modules), good price to fill the rack, sound quality.
Minuses = Proprietary rack format, no comps, EQs, or de-essers - Start out with 2 ch compared to syteks 4.
Questions = Has anyone compared the C84 units to the Sytek?, Are the SCA modules sonically on par with the $725-$1000 500-series offerings?

Notes: I live too remotely to find a store to do shoot outs. I'm too busy with my day job (carpentry) to find time to build kits. I don't make any money doing this so I can't justify a larger budget right now. However, after 16 years of sound as a hobby, I am trying to build toward making it a component of my living.

Sorry this post is so long but I wanted to be as specific as possible. Thank you for any input. I welcome ideas I haven't mentioned - bring it on.

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Post by rty5150 » Sun Apr 19, 2009 11:55 am

do you HAVE to have outboard pres? why not buy a decent console and use the pres from it? i am surprised that you have not looked into the mackie onyx 800r as well. me personally, i am getting a sytek from a fellow tapeopper soon, so my opinion will be biased accordingly, but keep in mind that i own several outboard pres already and the sytek is for filling a gap in my preamp sounds.
for consoles, look for older ramsa, tascam, soundworkshop, soundtracs topaz, and soundcraft boards. killer pres in each for less than $1000 in the used market.
for the mackie, you should be able to feed it into your o2r digitally for better pres and more channels going in, so you have a win/win scenario. just another option.


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Post by T-rex » Sun Apr 19, 2009 12:22 pm

Man there are so many options but since you asked. . .

The sytek is great. They constantly sell used for $650 so you could snag one way under budget. They are clean but I wouldn't say sterile. I think they make dynamic and ribbon mics sound amazing and they are quiet as hell.

Since you are looking for suggestions, I have no experience with these units but they seem perfect for the type of live recording you are doing. Although its a a little out of your budget it has 8 channels; each channel has phantom power, a limiter and the whole tihng mixes to a stereo output or eight direct outs. ... 2-two.html
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Post by manganeech » Sun Apr 19, 2009 2:07 pm

Thanks for the answers.
rty5150 - I have a Soundcraft LX7 that I can use to boost my pre count,but space is a concern so having both consoles at mix position would be tough. Also, I'm hoping for a big jump up in sound quality. The Lx7 pres are more forgiving but I don't think of them as being super hi-fi. I would like to hear what your reaction to the sytek is when you get it. Am I unrealistic in hoping for a big upgrade in sound with the options I have suggested?

T-rex - The ATI sounds interesting but I don't know if it would work for me. From what I have read the older units (<$1500 ) run hot and have a loud fan. Fan noise has been a problem for me in the past with the way I work. Also, they sound like they may be better for more aggressive sounds and not so much for delicate accoustic instruments - I do a fair bit of that. I think if I were to spend that much I would go for a variety of colored and uncolored channels rather than 8 of the same. thanks.

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Post by digitaldrummer » Sun Apr 19, 2009 8:48 pm

I really like the 500 format and I have the Five Fish but I don't know that it would be your best bet witha $1K budget. the Sytek looks like a good bang for the buck. I've never owned one but everyone seems to love them. the other very underrated 500 series pre is the OSA (old school audio) and I'm not just saying that because I have one for sale. :-) I actually have 6 of them right now and I am only selling one of them. but seriously they are very nice pres and the used price is fairly affordable. But then again maybe something like a Focusrite OctoPre and some good EQ may do the job if you are doing live recordings? and maybe have soem $$ leftover for some quality mics or DI's to supplement it? just an idea..
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Post by minorkeylee » Mon Apr 20, 2009 6:15 am

I bought the Sytek in January for many of the same reasons you are wanting to make a change. While the Syteks are really great, clean and quiet, don't expect them (or any other pre amp) to change your life. I kinda had that notion, and it just isn't realistic.

That being said, I'm glad I have the Syteks and they do make a difference when it comes to depth and clarity....But again, it isn't earth shattering/mind-blowing.

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Post by losthighway » Mon Apr 20, 2009 7:22 am

+1 on Sytek. You should also think of the Burr Brown mod on a couple of the channels. I use those channels more than the other two. This will help achieve the vocal sound you want.

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Post by manganeech » Mon Apr 20, 2009 8:50 am

Thanks for the input. You've all got me leaning toward Sytek.
As much as I would like to have a 500 series shit-to-gold converter, what I really need is more quiet hi-fi gain. My original post is more about what pre-amp set up will be most versatile on a limited budget.
Questions for those who own Syteks: is there a noticable change in character if you drive them hard? Are they just clean up to the point of nasty distortion, or do they have softer "knee" of usable crunch? I'm using it for live recordings so I often get surprised by an extremely loud guitar or vocal passage that will distort my signal chain. Any descriptions of how the Sytek behaves in this situation?
Thanks again TOMBers

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Post by japmn » Mon Apr 20, 2009 10:51 am

I have a J-Fet Sytek. It is great, but I rarely use it for vocals. Clinical may actually be a good word to describe it.

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Post by ott0bot » Mon Apr 20, 2009 11:28 am

I didn't vote because several of the options will work, it's really going to be up to your budget.

The Sytek will be you're bread and butter if you want clean gain to simply help capture the sound accurately. If you want a little variety get 2 channels of bb as suggested.

If you don't mind the work of soldering the Seventh Circle option will work great. i have a friend who is builing one for a mobile recording rig. He's doing it in stereo pairs and there is alot of variety with the different modules.

The 500 series lunchbox is probably the most vesitle of the choices as stated. You can always add more as time goes by. If you want some good cheap pre's the Old School Audio Mp-1 modules are pretty affordable and sound great. Not sure if they are as clean as the Syteks...but I wouldn't say colored either. Ok I change my mind. I'm thinking this is your best choice. Mercenary has the API racks for like 375 right now too. And $50 of each module you buy.

By the way...sounds like you've got a cool gig down there. Oddly enough alot of these guys don't even play Phoenix to often...gotta drive to Tuscon if I want to see them. Have fun man.

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