Universal Audio 4-710d Preamp/DIs Review

May 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Kevin Becka

FOUR TUBE/SOLID-STATE UNITS WITH 8-CHANNEL A/D CONVERTER

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The back panel offers XLR mic in, line in and out, and balanced insert sent/returns on TRS plugs, as well as four extra TRS inputs for the extra line inputs.

The back panel offers XLR mic in, line in and out, and balanced insert sent/returns on TRS plugs, as well as four extra TRS inputs for the extra line inputs.

Next, the 4-710d was used to record a Yamaha C3 grand piano using a Royer SF-24 active ribbon microphone with the Trans/Tube adjustment set at 12 o’clock. It offered a sweet top end that cut through the mix with a solid midrange. Another preamp was used as a bass DI with the Tube setting all the way “on.” This offered a nice bottom end—not quite as fat as the SSL 4000 preamps usually used in this room, but it still sounded great.

A Fender Guitar amp recorded with a Voodoo VR1 passive mic into preamp number 4 with Trans/Tube set at 12 o’clock had the strat cutting through the mix nicely, with plenty of body and a nice edge that wasn’t strident.

Next, I used the preamps on different drum sessions. On the first, I used them for kick in and out, and snare top and bottom. In this case, I wasn’t getting the thump and transient presence I’m used to when using SSL 4000 console preamps in this studio. After playing with the settings on the 4-710ds a bit, I quickly swapped them for the SSLs and it was much better. Keep in mind that the price jump here is considerable and an A/B comparison is unfair. The point is to offer a reference to a different preamp.

In the next session, I used the 4-710d on toms 1, 2 and 3 top with Heil PR30, PR40 and a Sennheiser 421, and on tom 3 bottom powering an AKG D112. This was just the ticket, offering plenty of stick-hit detail and bottom end from the low-tom bottom mic when I flipped it out of polarity with the top. I also used the 4-710d to power two Blue Bottle mics placed above the kit with great results. It offered nice detail, no brash cymbal wash and great stick detail. I did kick in the individual compressors in this application with a slow attack/release, and it was good but not what I needed in this application.

ON THE BENCH
The 4-710d preamps showed impressive stats when put to the test with an Audio Precision APx525 test and measurement system. (Download the tests.) When testing analog in to analog out with the Tube option completely bypassed, inputs 1 and 2 showed very low distortion levels (0.001% and 0.005%). This was retested using the digital out at a 96kHz sample rate with the same two channels showing 0.002% and 0.004% (solid-state) and 1.408% and 1.621% (tube). The distortion figures jump considerably with the Tube, but that’s to be expected. In all tests, the frequency response was razor flat from 20 Hz to 80k Hz (analog), while the same was true testing analog in to digital out at 96kHz sampling rate.

FOUR IS MORE
I found the UA 4-710d to be a versatile and worthy go-to set of preamps across a range of applications. The feature set is very good and urges you to experiment. The tube vs. solid-state option is a great way to play with nonlinear distortion in the signal path. The manual is well-written and goes beyond the usual “this and that” to offer deep insights into clocking, digital operations and more.

Although I found them to sound great on almost everything I recorded and loved the converters, they wouldn’t be my first choice for kick and snare drum as I found them to lack the punch of higher-end preamps. However, for detail work like vocals, percussion, acoustic guitar, horns and piano, they stand head and shoulders above anything in their price range.

The bottom line is that the value is incredible. Four solid preamp/DIs with compression and a great-sounding 8-channel digital back end with soft limiters is unheard of below $2k (street). For the project studio owner looking for a versatile, affordable front end for a DAW, this is not only a must-hear, it’s a must-buy.


Kevin Becka is Mix’s technical editor.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the 4-710d product page.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the 4-710d product page.






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