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The First Annual Invitational 3D Audio Pre-LP

(Preamp Listening Party)

"Can YOU Hear the Difference?"


The 3D PRE CD is the easiest way to hear $75,000 worth of preamps in your own studio. Volume 1 includes 34 preamp paths with female vocal and over 30 stereo samples recorded with a McPherson acoustic guitar. Volume 2 includes Male vocal and snare drum samples.

To order your copy of the 3D Pre CD, Volumes 1 or 2, click here.


(You want to see what $75,000 worth of preamps looks like?

Click here to see the scrapbook of pictures from the Pre-LP.)


On April 1 & 2, 2000, 3D Audio Inc. hosted the 3D Pre-LP (Preamp Listening Party) at Classic Recording in Franklin TN. We gathered as many mic preamps as we could fit into one room and listened to them all with a range of musical sources. We enlisted mic pres ranging in price from $130 to $8000 per stereo pair. Our goal was to determine how great a difference a mic preamp makes in the quality of a recording. Not only did we listen to 33 preamps side by side, but all the results were recorded and compiled onto a CD that allows engineers around the globe to decide for themselves whether they can hear any differences among these pres.


This was a very thorough evaluation with each mic preamp level-matched to within .02 dB and polarity-matched to insure that the preamps were accurately and equally represented. (For a complete description of the testing setup, click here.) The listening evaluation was completely blind. All preamps were identified by number only until the listening was complete. None of the listeners had any idea which preamp they were hearing. Each preamp's identity was revealed only AFTER the listeners stated their opinion of what they heard. The sources were male and female voice, snare drum and stereo acoustic guitar. The microphones ranged from an SM-57 on snare to a Manley Reference microphone on female vocal. A modified C-414B-ULS (from Jim Williams, of Audio Upgrades) was used on male vocal and a Neumann KM-84 and Audio-Technica 4033 were used on acoustic guitar. The 3D Pre CD, Vol. 1, features individually ID'd cuts of the female vocal and acoustic guitar. Volume 2 will feature snare and male vocal.


Technical evaluation procedures for the Pre-LP were established after consulting with designers Dan Kennedy of Great River, George Massenburg of GML, John LaGrou of Millennia Media, Greg Mackie of Mackie Systems, and Tim Farrant of Buzz Audio, NZ. Dan Kennedy of Great River assisted in supervising the testing and level matching the units. We kept the signal path as short as possible to minimize external circuit colorations. George Massenburg contributed his GML 3500 to the tests. John LaGrou of Millennia Media sent two preamps, solid-state and tube. EveAnna Manley agreed to loan us her Manley and Langevin designs. Other manufacturers who sent units were Grace, dbx, Great River, Earthworks, Aphex, Buzz Audio-NZ, Amek, Presonus, Audio Upgrades, DW Fearn and Crane Song. The balance of the preamps were on loan from engineers all over the US.


This was an historic event. Never has any preamp evaluation of this scope and depth been undertaken in the history of recording. Writers and editors from Audio Media, EQ, ProSound News and Tape Op are all covering this unique event. (Read some of what's been written so far. There are more stories in the works.) Representatives from AudioMedia magazine and ProSound News were on hand at the Pre-LP. The whole event was videotaped, but may never be seen due to the embarassingly stark honesty of the participants as they critiqued the preamps without knowing which was which.


The explosive sales of inexpensive digital recorders and home recording has created an enormous market of people that want high quality recordings, but are sometimes confused about how to accomplish that, due to lack of experience and equipment. According to 3D Audio's owner Lynn Fuston, "I am frequently asked, both in person and on my web bulletin board Ask 3D Audio, 'what stage of recording makes the greatest difference in the sound?' All engineers want to know which preamp sounds 'better, richer, fuller, brighter.' There is no way to adequately describe with words what a preamp can contribute to the recorded sound. So after 20 years of evaluating preamps on different instruments and vocalists myself, I decided it would be very valuable to come up with a way for other people, who don't have the luxury of having 5 or 10 preamps in the same room, to be able to hear the differences for themselves. That is what this listening exercise will hopefully accomplish. Can YOU hear the difference between a $65 preamp and $4000 preamp? Now you can get the 3D Pre CD and decide for yourself, in your own studio on your own monitors."


To order your copy of the 3D Pre CD, Volume 1, click here.

Here's the List of Pre's That We Auditioned at the 3D Pre-LP.


Interest in acquiring a copy of the Pre-LP CD is already very strong. The list of those who have expressed interest ranges from engineers like Ed Cherney,

"Geeez, you certainly have your work cut out for you. It sounds like it could take a week to hook up 30 plus mic pre's.....let alone finding an objective way to log your preferences. I hope you let us know what your observations and preferences are."

and designer Greg Mackie ("the man who has made and sold more preamps than anyone else in the world" by his own account) all the way to non-engineers like music producers, studio musicians and programmers.

"I sure wish I could be a part of this test! I can't tell you how important I think these kind of tests are for me personally; I regularly test mics and compressors this way, but I seldom have the wonderful collage that you've rounded up for the preamp shoot-out. If done properly, this will be great information!"

said Paul Grove of Summit Audio.

"Your preamp 'shootout' is an EXCELLENT idea. I am one of those newbie project studio owners that you describe on your 3D website. I buy preamps on faith. It's impossible to try and evaluate preamps in music stores (like G___r Center). Your plan is the best system I've heard of for this evaluation to take place in a fair arena. Please let me know when this is available. Thank you."

writes Doug Czajkowski. And Dan @ n-Space says

"PLEASE let me know when the CD is ready! Whooho! My own preamp auditioning room!"


To order your copy of the 3D Pre CD, Volume 1, click here.


Manufacturers who have preamps that they would like to submit for the Second Annual Preamp Listening Party, please contact Lynn Fuston at 3D Audio via email at <go3daudio@aol.com>.


If you want to talk preamps, ask questions, or share your opinions about different preamps, then check out 3D Audio's Bulletin Board (3DBB)


Want to read about a typical mic and preamp shootout on a great singer? Here's how we do it.


The 3D PRE CD-The easiest way to hear $75,000 worth of preamps in your own studio.


To order your copy of the 3D Pre CD, Volumes 1 and 2, click here.


3D Pre CD Ordering Info | Pre-LP Press | Pre-LP Pictures | Pre-LP Testing Setup |

Main Pre-LP Page | Preamp Lineup | Mic/Pre Shootout Sample | Let's Discuss Preamps-Your $.02


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Contact Lynn Fuston at 3D Audio at 615-591-3433 or go3daudio@aol.com

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updated 12:00AM CST on 1.1.2002

*All writing and content is Copyright 1996-2002 by 3D Audio Inc.