Using the ART Pro MPA II to Warm Up DI Guitars

Using the ART Pro MPA II to Warm Up DI Guitars

My go-to preamp for DI guitar.

Plenty of people love guitar amp sims, and plenty hate them.  This video doesn’t get into that; it is simply a demonstration of how you can use the ART Pro MPA II to introduce real tube saturation into your signal before processing it with a guitar sim.

There are going to be naysayers.

Plenty of musicians go a bit overboard in their search for tone.  While no one would claim that a sim can recreate the exact sound of a vintage tweed amp, plenty of us get excellent results out of amp sims that are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing once it is in a mix.

The purpose of this video.

I’m not here to convince you that you should sell your ’65 Deluxe Reverb.  I’m here to talk to the people that are looking into the ART Pro MPA series.  It will have a discernible effect on your tracks, and you will be probably be happy with it.

Notes:

I recorded this using an RME ADI-8 as the D/A converter.  The guitar was a custom-built Tele with single-coil pickups.  I also had the low cut filter turned up to cut frequencies up to about 150hz.

YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN THIS POST: My Review of the Art Pro MPA II

Apollo Twin Solo Review | The Little Red Light

Apollo Twin Solo Review | The Little Red Light

Maybe more of an overview than a review…

I love this piece.  The Apollo series offers professional quality, it’s built like a brick, it is very portable (allowing me to use it on a few different computers), and it is STABLE.  I’ve never had anything resembling an issue with it.

Installation

The hookup took less than a minute, though I was disappointed to find that the thunderbolt cable that it came with was about 4 inches long (I ended up buying the white one that you see in the video for around $25 on ebay).

The software to control it was a cinch to get installed and running.

The sound

Pristine.

My video overview of the Apollo Twin.

 

The Focusrite ISA 220: An Ebay Gem

The Focusrite ISA 220: An Ebay Gem

Review of the Focusrite ISA 220

The Focusrite ISA 220 is one of many channel strips that have be born of Rupert Neve’s ISA 110 design of the 1980’s.  It is a lush, 3d, rich preamp/di that also features EQ, Compression, a De-esser, and a limiter.  For whatever reason, not many people in the recording community know about it, and its price has remained fairly reasonable.  It has been discontinued, and used units go for around $800 USD.

Here is a quick overview of the unit:

ART Pro MPA II Review | Great Sound at a Great Price

ART Pro MPA II Review | Great Sound at a Great Price

Review of the Art Pro MPA II

What do people say about it?

I have heard people talking about the ART Pro MPA preamps for a long time. I tend to take much of what I read on forums with a grain of salt, since most interactions go something like this:

Guy 1: OMG, I just got a new preamp, and it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever heard!

Guy 2: I have one too, it’s the best thing ever!

Guy 3: As a preamp, it sucks. As a doorstop, it’s great.

Guy 4: You should throw that out and buy a vintage Neve.

What sold me on giving the ART Pro MPA a shot was Sound on Sound’s Oct 2013 Preamp Shootout. They put the ART up against a number of other, much more expensive preamps, and let people listen. I did the blind test, and it was my second favorite; my first was a $4000 Prism Orpheus. I decided to pick one up on eBay for $215. (More on that preamp shootout here.)

My personal take on it

The Art Pro MPA II on guitars

It has a glassy, lush high end that goes very well with DI guitars.  I’ve been able to do recordings with this as a DI, then ran it through Amplitube, and was able to get a convincing guitar/amp sound that no one ever took for a DI guitar. All of the guitars on this track were done with this preamp running through Amplitube: The Nearing – Two Strangers.

YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN THIS POST:  Using the ART Pro MPA II to Get That Tube Sound

How about on bass?

I have never recorded bass with it.  It would definitely work on bass, but I have a Focusrite ISA One that I prefer on bass.  I find that the ISA One has a bigger bottom end than my Art Pro MPA II.  Now, if I were going for an overdriven, present rock bassline, I would reach for this, but I don’t really record that much of that kind of music.

What about on vocals?

I think it sounds great on bright microphones.  It probably wouldn’t be my first choice if I wanted to get R&B style vocals with lots of sheen, since I have the ISA One for that, but it’s definitely usable with any mic that I own.

Overall

I really like this preamp. I have preamps both more and less expensive, yet I continually use this one.  It has a nice effect on sources whose content is primarily in the mid range (vocals, guitars, amps,) and I’ve found it useable on sources such as bass depending on the application

Video overview of the preamp:

Can You Tell a $100 Preamp From a $4000 Preamp?

Can You Tell a $100 Preamp From a $4000 Preamp?

Do you hear with your eyes?

In marketing programs, there is talk about the Coca-Cola paradox. In blind taste tests, people prefer Pepsi over Coke. However, in taste tests where the participants know what they are drinking, they choose Coke. Why?

The feelings that the Coke brand elicits from drinkers make the difference. The ads, the design of the can, the classic logo, all of them contribute to override your taste buds, making your think that you like their soda more than the Pepsi.

There is a lot of this in audio. We all have the idea that a certain classic album was recorded with a certain microphone or preamp, and in turn, start to believe that a recording sounds better because that piece of equipment was used.

The Sound on Sound Preamp Shootout

In October of 2012, Sound on Sound did a preamp shootout. The idea was to use a player piano that played the exact same performance every time, with the same microphones, but different preamps. The preamps were:

  • API 3124+
  • ART Pro MPA II
  • GP Electronics PML 200E
  • Maselec MMA 4XR
  • AMS Neve 1073LB
  • SSL XLogic VHD
  • Mackie VLZ Pro

Participant Impressions vs. Reader Impressions

One of the most interesting aspects of the article was about how they thought that certain units sounded better than others while they were doing the shootout. In essence, some of the more inexpensive units sounded “cheap” while some of the more expensive ones sounded “fuller”—all impressions by presumably experienced audio engineers. None of these impressions held up once the readers of the magazine got hold of the files used for the article. Unmarked files were made available for readers to rate, and the staff posted the results at the end of the month.

Results

For the tests done with the condenser mic, most highly-rated preamp out of the bunch was the $299 ART Pro MPA II, a unit that readers preferred over units costing 8x more. What is most remarkable about this was the similarity between preamps costing very little (one can get 8 channels of the Mackie VLZ Pro preamps for $100 on eBay) and famous preamps such as the AP! 2124+. What is even more remarkable is that the staff “heard” the preamps differently based on what unit was actually being used.

Try It Yourself

Sound on Sound has the files available for download here. Give them a listen and tell us what you hear. Before checking out which file is which, do you hear the difference? Is it still worth dropping thousands on a new preamp?

Final results

Curious about which preamp was which?  You can find the results here.