I own a pair of VP28s and have been looking at some of the other non-VP offerings. Specifically the Heider FD312s.
I'm lost among all these various models specifically the FD312, VP312 and how they differ from the VP26 and VP28 in terms of overall tone and sound. Anyone out there able to provide a brief sentence describing the general characteristics of these different preamps using all the famous words we've come to abuse so much (warm, fat, punchy, colored, etc.) lol. Also, what would you say is the Holy Grail of all of CAPI's preamps (whether currently in production or past?).
Fist off, disclaimer, I don't own all of the CAPI pres. Haven't used them all.
But I think you can get a good sense of them from Jeff's descriptions.
VP26 and VP28 are basically the same. The main difference is tha the VP28 has an output stage. Jeff basically took a VP26 micpre and added the output of a API Fader amp to it. This is why it's a "dual stage" mic pre.
312 vs the VP26 are just different eras of API mic pre's. But both are clones of API circuts.
312: "The preamp is essentially an exact recreation of the legendary API 312 preamp circuit that has become the benchmark for the API sound. "
VP26/VP28: "The VP26 preamp is essentially an exact recreation of the legendary preamp circuit found in the vintage API consoles of the mid to late '70's. The 528/536 input modules have precisely this same exact circuit. The rest of the circuit is slightly different than the ever popular 312 schematic or what is found on the 312 cards themselves. You will find a few more components in the audio path like coupling capacitors on both sides of the discrete opamp. The use of series and loading resistors, along with a few decoupling capacitors is also faithfully implemented."
Now the Heider is a 312 stype pre but modeled after the mods the Wally Heider did to his API console at Heider studio's.
Heider 312: " The preamp stage has been carefully modeled after the preamps in the famous Wally Heider Recording Studio 4 console custom built by Frank DeMedio circa 1972. The original pre's were stock 312 cards modified by DeMedio. Frank removed the AP2622 input transformer and replaced it with a custom wound Ed Reichenbach RE-0887. The RE-0887 has a very special tonal quality with some of the most buttery smooth mids you will ever encounter! CineMag owns Reichenbach Engineering and continues to manufacture all of the original designs to original specifications. CineMag has done a fantastic job with the current RE-0887's, working straight off of Ed Reichenbach's original notes and winding data from 1972. For those who don't know, Ed Reichenbach's son Tom went on to form CineMag in 1979 after working with his father for some 25 plus years. After Ed passed away, David Geren and Tom Reichenbach bought Reichenbach Engineering to continue the legacy. I am so very glad they kept all of the old notes!"
The Platium VP28 has a different input transformer which is more true to the original design. "The mic audio path is very much similar to the popular kit VP28. The main changes are Platinum exclusive CA2618 1:8 input transformers and Platinum exclusive CA2623-Pt Litz wire output transformers. In addition, Scott Liebers has created a ground up exclusive Platinum Super Dot opamp. Scott has referred to the Super Dot as his best sounding opamp yet!"
Also check out this great video that Jeff and John made showing off all the mic pres. I think it shows a lot about what the pres sound like:
Not sure if this helps but I've owned the vp312, vp28, and vp26. At one time I had ten channels of these pre's. Sold most because I had way too many pre amps, now I just have 4 vp28's. IME, they're all very similar. Almost interchangeable. Yes there are differences, and you can go around forever trying different DOA's and transformers etc. But for me, the most important difference was the feature set. Some have di's on the face plate, some have high pass filters, some allow for different gain staging (vp28, heiders etc). But they're all great, and all in the same family of sound. If I only had vp26's I wouldn't feel like I'm missing anything, even though I like the vp28's better.
The CAPI stuff made me stop caring about pre amps. I already had a pair of Neve type pre-amps, and some tube pres too. So for me, the CAPI's handled everything else. You can throw them on anything and its going to sound great. The quality is there in spades. I no longer have to worry that I'm "missing something".
I believe there are files on CAPI’s site that accompany that video. Some people find the differences between CAPI pres to be subtle and negligible. Others find them to be shockingly different.. same thing with opamps. It’s best to listen to the clips and decide which camp you fall into.
All I know is my VP28s crush everything I put through them. Just a great sound. Have a 312 too and it's great. VP28 has great features, a tiny bit less extended sounding very top and bottom, and a bit more mojo/color.
A Fairchild 660 and a Blue Stripe 1176 walk into a bar...
Post by bricejchandler on May 2, 2021 2:47:10 GMT -6
I've had the VP26, 28, Heider and I've used the 312 a lot.
I don't find the differences subtle at all, They're obviously all in a similar family of sound but they're different enough where it's worth it to try and see what works best with your mics and setup.
Now you can also get a very large variation in sound with the opamps. I found for my tastes I liked Red Dots a lot more than the Gar2520s. So all my impressions here are using red dots.
The VP26 is rather mid focused, not a ton of high end and not a huge low end making it a great all around preamp. It's not hifi, to me it really has a 70s record vibe. It compresses everything a little bit. Maybe it sounds a tiny bit blurry compared to like a modern 512c but it's actually a sound that works great in a mix.
The VP28, is more muscular, it sounds a little more agressive in the upper mids, a tiny bit tighter but overall a similar vibe to the 26. The HP filter is really really great and I miss it on the other Capi preamps. Great on drums, electric guitars.
The Heider; I've read a lot of people say it's very close to the 312 but to me it's really somewhere between the 28 and the 312 and a BAE1073. A little more High and low end extension that the 28 but it retains a certain muscular character of the vp28 that I don't hear so much in the 312. It's probably the best preamp I've ever heard on guitar amps. The low mids are very very thick, almost like a BAE1073. It's great to thicken up an instrument, I've had great success using it on ukulele for example. I also like it on bass to really push some mid presence. I haven't been lucky with it on vocals though, I find it too thick in the 500-1000Hz region for my mics. I can imagine it would really help thicken up a bright microphone though. The esses are super smooth.
The 312 is the cleanest, most transparent to my ear. Extended High end, rather flat mids ( for an APish preamp) and the transients seem faster than on the others, but maybe that's just the frequency balance. If you find the 26 a bit dull and too vintage I think the 312 is the ticket. It's probably the safest bet in the Capi range for most people as I feel it would work on pretty much any style of music.
Now if I were to have only one, I think I personally would go the VP26 for my taste. I know it's the cheapest but there's something simple and elegant about that preamp, it just works for the sounds I like. I do mostly folk, americana, roots acoustic stuff and when using the 312 for example I'd often end up, cutting a little high end and smoothing the transients a bit. The vp26 gives me that sound right off the bat.
BTW, if you haven't seen it already, go download the shootout that Colt Capperrune did where he compares all the preamps on drums, egit and bass. It really gives a great presentation of their differences and if anybody is wondering which one to get, that shootout is an invaluable resource.
Brice nailed it, I agree with brice. But my preferences are different, I prefer the VP312 for it's flatter more all purpose response. Mainly, if I can guess at why, the larger output transformer.
The VP26 was good for me getting an explosive rock guitar sound, things like that, metal drum overheads. But I wanted something more "hi fi" for my main channels. It's very mid focused, a little reverse smiley curve. Super punchy, not just mids, but an overall "focused" sound, up front, a little compressed, ready to mix. I like them. Reluctantly sold mine for some reason. If I was going for a Led Zeppelin I-IV sound I would go with the VP26.
VP312 is closer to the API 3124+ I started out with back in the day, and to get even closer I modded them with Cinemag CMMI-8PCA input transformers, for a more modern, less vintage sound, just for my taste. Nice big output transformer. I like big transformers. I've been using the same pair of VP312 for 7 or more years now, they are my gold standard, reference mic pres. They sound like the mic pre in my head. Flat enough and neutral enough for any purpose, but with the je ne sais quoi sonic fairy dust we all love about this style of mic amp.
I haven't tried the VP28, Heider, nor the VP25 or Platinum pres. But they are all related to these first two "original" preamps, as blackdawg demonstrated.
I'm a bit of an op amp nerd. My favorites in the 312 and the 3124+ for a very long time were the GAR2520. They are better than the modern API 2520. Now I love love love the CA0252. I haven't A/B'd them though.
For my main 312 vocal channel, I prefer the GAR AM10 "Quad Eight" op amp. It gives a rich bass response, a little energy in the top, not as mid focused as the 2520. Not to piss off A Designs users but it's at least a bunny hop in the direction of using something like a P1 or a Pacifica. Not the same thing I know but the op amp is a chunk of that sound. Just sounds good, that's all. A cheap way to get a different sound from a 312, plug and play.
For instruments the 2520 is much better, but for voice, specifically, I really like the AM10.
I think, for me the next step is a pair of VP28.
And, in my dream build, a 1U 19" 6 channel 312 build, for drums, mobile recording, whatever, an "API" preamp sidecar.
When I first saw Jeff's website back in the early 2010's I was thinking, "this can't be real." I thought it was some kind of joke or something. $200 bucks for a 312 type mic pre. It was the Rubicon moment for me with pro-audio DIY. I had already been building guitar pedals and things like that. Never thought I would be building high end mic preamps and tube microphones. Anyway, in my mind, CAPI did change the game and I'm not surprised they seem to be doing well.
I love the 25/26/312 stepless versions for driving the preamp just on the edge of "too hot". Vp28 has very useful features (line input and low cut) but they are a lot harder to build. The simpler ones are so simple and well laid out a 12 year old could build them after some guidance.
I remember reading someone’s description of the difference between the VP28 and the VP312 that felt right to me...it was something like...the 312’s sound “taller” almost as if the ceilings were higher.
I appreciate the responses very much, super helpful! I like preamps that contrast each other more than anything as opposed to tiny slivers of difference in tonal quality. That said, and as always, will probably need to order individual kits of a a couple types to decide if I want to go ahead and own a pair. Thanks everyone!