Audio Comparison – Black Lion Audio mod for Digi-002R

Monday, August 31st, 2009 | by

Jon from Audio Geek Zine pointed out a thread on the DUC that gives readers a chance to compare a stock Digi 003 to a Black Lion Audio-modded Digi 003. I’m a big fan of aftermarket mods for audio hardware, so this is a question that I have a lot of interest in — in part because I spent about $1200 getting my Digi 002-Rack modded by BLA earlier this year.

Is the mod worth the money?

The Black Lion Signature Series mod includes a complete rebuild of the mic pre’s, line inputs, headphone amp, and line outputs, using upgraded opamps from Burr-Brown (TI). According to BLA, “these modifications result in a cleaner signal, with much more high end definition.”

Next, the master clock is replaced with a new, low-jitter design. Clock improvements are said to deliver “improved signal clarity, fuller harmonic extension of the instrument you are tracking, an apparent increase in volume over the stock design (because of lower phase cancellations), and pinpoint image placement during mix-down.”

The ADC and DAC are upgraded by swapping “low-grade ceramic capacitors” for premium units. This reduces distortion and phase cancellation during conversion. Additional noise-reduction circuitry is installed as well.

Finally, the power supply is upgraded. I believe a fully separate supply is installed for the analog circuitry. This brings an increase in headroom that BLA claims gives audio more “heft” and “presence.”

Last month I had an opportunity to record a quick A/B comparison. I’ve just now circled back to do some comparative listening.

It was a very limited test. But I can’t hear any improvement at all.

My test was small: I recorded one track of a single acoustic instrument. I can imagine that different instruments or voices might reveal sonic improvements that this test does not. But still, I’m not sure I’d have spent the money if I knew I would only hear a difference sometimes.

Two mics, one shockmountFor this test, I took a matched pair of 3 Zigma CHI microphones with small-diaphragm cardioid capsules. These are transformerless FET mics with low-noise amplifier circuits. We rubberbanded the two mics together and hung them from a single shockmount.

We positioned them so the capsules were about 18'' from the 12th fret of Michael Capella‘s acoustic guitar.

We plugged one mic into my BLA-modded 002 Rack. We plugged the other mic into Michael’s stock 002 Rack. We matched the audio levels visually as best we could. No, this was not a scientific test; I left both my tone generator and my oscilloscope in some other reality in which I’m an even bigger audio nerd.

We recorded a single performance simultaneously on both DAWs at 24-bit, 44.1kHz.

In my experience, performance differences tend to produce greater changes in the audio signal than would a swap of preamp or converter, or even microphone in many cases. So while it’s true that these two mics would have recorded subtly different signals by virtue of being in slightly different locations, the difference is far smaller than it would have been if we’d recorded two different performances with a single mic.

I copied the raw audio file from Michael’s DAW to my own, imported it to a new track in my Pro Tools session, and gain-matched it to the track I’d recorded. I first played them back through my BLA 002R into good headphones. On that first listen, the track recorded by the BLA unit sounded warmer in the mids. The last chord of the piece had more midrange presence than on the track from the stock 002R. It was a subtle difference, but favorable.

Later, in a blind playback test through a different DAC into the same headphones, I preferred the stock 002R track. Oops.

Playing the tracks back through the modded 002R and a pair of Mackie HR824 monitors, in a blind test I again picked the stock 002 track for its articulation — for example, in that final chord, I could hear the attack of the pick on every string. In the track recorded by my modded 002R, the chord seemed to have a softer attack, less articulation. Is the warmth I perceived in the BLA track really just a lack of high-frequency extension?

These differences are minor, and will evade notice by casual listeners. That’s a problem. I’m damn disappointed to not be hearing dramatic improvements in the modded unit.

Please, give these a listen and tell me I’ve gone deaf for the day. The two tracks are below, unlabeled. To find out which is which, click here.

(Here are the original 24-bit WAVs: track A, track B.)

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Posted in DAW, Shootouts | 89 Comments »

89 Responses to “Audio Comparison – Black Lion Audio mod for Digi-002R”

  1. Bob Hoppa

    May 15th, 2011 at 4:42 am

    I have received questions on my A/D statement and I must correct myself. I meant to say D/D. Meaning the bounce was done with the improved clock.
    D/A has nothing to do with it.


  2. David Mendoza

    June 25th, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Track A: Stock. Generic Sound. Not Bad but definitely that sound is found anywhere stock pres.

    Track B: The real clue is when the guitarist hits the chord hard. You can almost feel the hit. Harmonic context is more complex. On track A the hit ‘eats’ the rest of the harmonic content. Some people trend to prefer A because they think that more highs meant better resolution or high end. But sound harsh. Not Boutique High end pre, but can be usable IN PROFESSIONAL ENVIRONMENT. Stock pres are designed for project or home use.

  3. gb

    November 11th, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    3rd year Sound Technology student here, can explain some things.

    The difference between A n B is somehow subtle yes but I agree with people that prefers B.
    BLA unit has a better clock, meaning, more stable, less jittery. There is no doubt about that, so what?
    Imagine u r sampling (recording) a sine wave. And ur clock is irregular (the dots are not evenly spaced). When those dots are reconstructed back to audio (D to A), your un-even clock will make those irregularities bigger in some cases and smaller in others.
    When u join the dots, u dont have exacly what u sampled, rather a slightly ¨distorted¨ (different) reproduction of ur recording.
    So u have a distorted signal. One type of distortion in audio terms is the one that ADDS harmonics, which develop upwards the frequency spectrum, THAT IS WHY A sample SOUNDS BRIGHTER, because its distorted!

    And yes, if both tracks where recorded on the non mod 002, then the difference will be very subtle. Jitter issues are crucial and irreversible while recording. If ur recording was done using X clock and the repro is using a better one, the improvement is subtle as the samples still as jittery as recorded but the reproduction (playback) clock is nor both exaggerating and evening out the irregularities (the jitter), rather the repro is only more truthful to the already recorded jitter. The is obviously no way of making a jittery recording less jittery, if u use a better clock for playback that the one used for recording, u will just be NOT making it worse.

    Its worth knowing what u should be expecting to hear on a Mod Unit, that uses a more stable clock, when doing A to B comparison. Although, its worth having a completely blind and naive tests too, like people that prefers A, yes its brighter, as it is more distorted. The attack its not more defined, it has more high freq content due to the extra harmonics that distortion introduces so u can hear them more clear, but those extra harmonics are not present in the real instrument, its distortion, subtle, but distortion at the end of the day.

    I am testing BLAudio´s Micro Clock atm on a 003. 500 dollars and not 1200 for the whole mod thingy. If u can afford the signature series or similar, yes, should be better sounding that just replacing the clock as I am doing myself.

    But just by replacing the clock the difference is noticeable. Not huge yesss, but I agree with most positive comments about B sample stated above, some exaggerated but mostly true.

    An A B comparison its not easy to do. Its useful to know what specifically to listen to. Any core book of audio engineering courses clarifies this very well.
    The recording is the one that should be done switching the clocks, the playback is way less important and noticeable.
    To get exactly the same signal its not straight forward.
    If u dont have two identical systems, plugged to the same mic (using a dedicated mic level splitter), and so on, its very easy to get slightly different recordings, because say, a 1 dB diff betwn recordings somehow ruins the comparison.
    I am trying pink noise, djambe, shaker, music, my voice, and curiously, the voice recordings result easier to hear the difference, not quite sure why, maybe because its what we humans know better.

    I would really like to compare clocks. Say apogees, BLA, prism sound, auoras, etc. Both, againt them and using clocked and non cloked interfaces.

    i know people that uses BLA micro clock to clock their 192s, and say its better.
    192 have better clocks that 003, mostly the new black ones, but if u want really nice clock (conversion as a whole) then u r looking at least to auroras or prism sound ones.

    I think BLA upgrades are an excellent choice for us low budget people. And I just own their micro clock MkII and I like it. Dont think its night and day diff, but I wouldnt record with out it now that I have it.

    thanks for reading


  4. Paolo Tramannoni

    November 12th, 2011 at 7:28 am

    With my (original) MOTU 828 MkII and Mackie 824 monitors, I can clearly hear some differences. On track B you can clearly hear harmonics that are barely perceived on track A (for example, starting at 45″, or in the ending chord). Also, track B sounds sometimes ‘meatier’ and the guitar’s body seems more apparent (for example, from 55″).

    I agree some differences can be attributed to the different mics, but everything seems to point to track B as the modified version.


  5. Audio Anonymous

    November 14th, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    B Sounds Better!!!! Mic A is brighter than Mic B, but that aside, listen repeatedly to the
    highest note on 0:36, and how that note speaks by itself. I find that I can better hear
    harmonics on Track B for that note, while also maintaning a clearer picture for the previously played notes. On Track A for that same note, it sounds like its leaning more towards a nylon string sound. The difference is subtle for this particular track, but very real and you can feel it…. I bet that with several tracks recorded the accumulated sonic difference is big…

  6. Jason McGuffin

    November 14th, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    I liked B, it seemed to pop in the first section, then have a warmth in the rhythm section. Kinda like Ampex 440. Just my opinion though.

  7. Audio Anonymous

    November 14th, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    I first heard A trying to hear and memorize transients, harmonics, and the overall feel, with my eyes closed, but still very concentrated into details….when I heard B I heard some subtle differences right away, but by the end of the track with the strumming I was DANCING TO IT, that didn’t happen, and has not happened with repeated listening of A….

  8. Jeff Bialick

    November 15th, 2011 at 6:20 am


    Has your sound technology program stressed the importance of spelling? You bring up some interesting points, but it must be said: the credibility of “ur” statements is limited by the language used to present them.

  9. Zeno

    November 16th, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Being a paid from my own pocket owner of a first version, BLA Modded Digi 003, and plugging them by my own accord, I should note for the record, that the 2 cuts up on my page right now, (track 2 being more guitar) were done before I knew of BLA, so & with that said, by the time I got 13 seconds into the first track, the last thing I thought to myself was “this better not be the modded one” and before I explain what impressions preceded the one in quotations. let me add the following caveat…

    I realize that there’s always going to be someone that, for one reason or another, isn’t going to like what anyone has to say, no matter how hard you try, and regardless of ones credentials, accuracy, experience, or lack their of, etc., some people are only going to hear what they want to hear, and agree with what they want to agree with, etc, etc. So with that said, here goes…

    Beginning with the smooth arpeggiated, (E3,G#,B3,E4,A3) triad lick, that outlined the [E Major to A Major], movement in the first measure of the | E / A / | E / A | E / A / | A / E | chord progression,( l naturally hear & explain things better as notes, and arrangements) used in the intro /verse sections (i guess)?. I thought, oh! Right on!,The guys a seasoned pro, and you can hear that he is really serious about his guitar! But something bothered me, and it wasn’t the playing. So I reset track (A) back to the beginning, so I could confirm what bugged me. Yeah, sorry, it was the pixelated sounding harmonics, or digital distortion artifacts, that bugged, (the same way they have on my own recordings I’ve done on my home gear in the past) and being a fairly well seasoned, guitarist first and foremost, I know that they weren’t (the digital distortions) the natural byproducts of a mic’d up steel string guitar. So .. .

    NEVER MIND! IT FIGURES! Sorry, but I decided to go and read the comments of others(Should have done that first,I know)! In any case,, and not discounting anyone else who may have shared similarly pertinent, objective, & technically accurate information, I have to vouch for Post. #53. By GB, as his was the most textbook accurate post, here, that immediately stuck out. And he did a superb job of wording it in a very, easily digest-able way, IMPO. Perhaps we should be thanking him for his generous & gracious contribution. Read his! Cheers:)

  10. Charlie Mizza

    December 1st, 2011 at 10:08 pm


    one instrument – a guitar

    that’s not at all enough to tell, and as Tom Yurik earlier had said – you need a full mix to really tell the difference. Try panning several instruments along the field. Put a sheen of reverb on some stuff. Hell, throw a little compression on the master fader and THEN AND ONLY THEN make a judgement. End of story. Do we really need to deliberate anymore? I’ve heard the difference between an Avid 192 i/o and BLA’s FW192 and there’s a very noticeable difference. Of course this is the 003, but I’d imagine it does make a difference. What makes music sound better is having the overall* mix more ‘3-d’ and dynamic…..idk – i got nothing else

  11. Adam Wisz

    December 26th, 2011 at 2:44 am

    Ok, I must admit on the first blind listen through I could not for the life of me tell which was which. ‘A’ seemed to be slightly brighter and I could not muster a preference for either… Actually I still think either are fine, I don’t get the folks saying that A sounds totally terrible, the differences are SUPER subtle….BUT

    It may be my mind messing with me but I swear on that last chord I hear a bit of “inharmonicity”(look it up) on example A. It’s an E major chord(sans the third) and its perhaps the 9th ordered harmonic above the low tonic that’s out??? Whatever it is listen for the note G# waaaaaayy up in the stratosphere 10khz+ region(im to lazy to look up the frequency). In the A example it’s phasey and ever so slightly out of tune(flat?) and in B it decays smoothly and is positively pythagorean. Also it takes a second for that particular note to fill in on A(phased out via jitter??) whereas in clip B that G# starts right with the strum and decays gradually with the string.

    It’s not conclusive… but inaccurate (distorted) harmonics could very well jack up (phase out) the harmonics between strings. I’m glad he played that last chord without the G# because even temperament would’ve made those harmonics a mess anyways.

    I dont really get subjective terms like “3D” or even “warmth”. Focused is something I do get though and I remember mixing through my old stock 002 for years and fighting tooth and nail to get stuff to sound like it wasn’t totally phased out. The drums ALWAYS sucked(no punch, annoying cymbals). I was always filtering and squashing the high end because the 5khz region would start to fry my ears. Squash a drum bus with all that in there? It was hard times let me tell ya.

    I’m still mixing in the box with my BLA sig and utilitarian mic collection but I can at least get my drums to punch me in the chest! Also(assuming the inharmonicity is actually being caused by jitter)those little errors build up quick, imagine a distorted electric guitar track! Dear gawd. Now I can get some juice and midrange fire from high gain guitars. Before it was a loosing battle every time. I could never get it above “I-recorded-this-in-my-basement quality”

    Listen to this, the mix took me no time at all(it was not a big paying job, notice the clams on the drums). Listen to the sparkle on the electrics and cymbals, the punch of the kick,..

    I can not imagine getting a recording like this with so little effort with my old 002. I remember mastering engineers saying my mix was in a knot that they had to untie! This isn’t a grammy winner but it came together easy and sounds pro. $1300 placebo? I guess it’s possible that my mixes have improved because I have a false confidence in my gear? I could be imagining that I can get stuff I produce to be as loud as the rest of my iTunes now?

    One last note… HEY GB! TAKE AN ENGLISH CLASS, YOU’LL NEED TO SOUND PROFESSIONAL WHEN COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR FUTURE CLIENTS!!! (If I didn’t read his post I would’ve never remembered what to listen for, this has been very educational).

    it’s 4:30 am, time for bed.

  12. Bill

    February 9th, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Wanna bet that the pro black lion advocates have all had their units upgraded? Heh heh! Snake oil, my friends… it’s all snake oil! It’s the “Emperors new clothes” syndrome! John Lennon made some spectacular recordings on a cheap cassette recorder. The secret is in the creativeness of the musicians, folks… not in the tiny details! Take the money you were going to spend on the upgrade, and buy some old records from days gone by, study them maticulously, and you will learn what makes music “magic”! bb

  13. Sharon

    February 16th, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Well I think a fairer test would have been to record one track and then swap the inputs and record another track. That way if would be a bit more apparent how much of the sound was coming from the DAW and how much was coming from the mic itself. And even better would have been with a matched stereo pair.

    From what I’ve read about the BLA mod, its improvements are most noticeable when old mixes are loaded up. One of the things I remember a good few people saying is they heard more definition on reverb tails and greater clarity.

  14. George Kaye

    February 21st, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Matt – I don’t know what you have for the rest of your recording chain but the differences could be masked by speakers, the speaker amp, cables. In fact powered monitors are usually nowhere near (and I mean NOWHERE) the transparency of a good hi end amp/speaker system.

    Also, once you trim the gain in your DAW you are no longer listening to the original recording. DAW gain is math crunching, not an analogue adjustment as with a potentiometer.

  15. NICK

    May 12th, 2012 at 6:46 am

    B is def more pleasing on my work computer. i checked and b was the mod i believe i would spend the money for the results. im dying to get home to check in my studio

  16. Dano

    June 26th, 2012 at 6:46 am

    Off the bat, I preferred B. By far even. Not subtle. And I was listening through imac speakers. Sometimes the real world tells the real story. (sometimes). B just opened up, leaving A to sound tired and dull. I could imagine the benefit in a full mix (with B)

  17. Scott Stano

    October 10th, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    I own a Digi 002 with the BLA Signature Series Mod that I’ve had for several years now. I agree with many on this post about analyzing a song that’s been mutitracked to the max, so that you can get an overall picture of how effective this mod really is and what a huge difference it definitely makes in the final product!
    It has dramatically improved my mixes to be ultra reliable, in that what I hear coming out of my monitors is what I actually get when I bounce down the song. The definition of the audio is a huge step forward from the former, whereas before the audio was muffled, unclear and caused ear fatigue after periods of listening. No so anymore.
    My work has taken a huge sonic leap forward due to the BLA Mod on my 002. I could say a lot more about it, but in closing I would simply say that it was one of the best investments I made and I have absolutely no regrets. My advise to anyone that owns a 002 and is thinking about getting the mod is GO FOR IT, you won’t be sorry you did!

    Remember, this is coming from a guy that’s been working with the BLA modded 002 for a number of years now, so I can say from experience after having used it on many projects/songs that the difference is not minor to say the least. I hope this helps.

  18. odyssey

    May 27th, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    I have the BLA mod DIGI 002. All I can say is that there is no question of the mods merits. I spent a few months listening to my music collection… in a highly treated room… before I sent my unit to BLA for modification. When I received my mod unit back…the difference in sound literally brought tears to my eyes. Not only that… I was actually able to hear the difference when I switched the audio cables connected my speakers from cheap under $10 cables… to Mogami Gold. At the time I was working as a sales person in the Pro Audio dep of Guitar Center, and prior to my BLA mod … I would tell my customers in all honesty… I couldn’t hear the difference between the cheep Hosa and the Mogami Gold(of course I was listening on stock gear in the noisy environment of a music store with no treatment). The BLA mod allowed me to hear subtleties I had never heard before. It was especially noticeable due to my listening environment. If you don’t have a treated room…or accurate monitoring…sure the difference will be less noticeable…but that does not mean the improvement isn’t huge! The better your monitoring… and your room… the more obvious anything regarding to listening will be. The mod allowed me to instantly notice any change in quality of any other component in the system. I could even here a dramatic difference when I added vibration decoupling to the mix through use of Bright Star Audio Isonodes. Yes… they are for real too…and used under your BLA mod unit instead of screwing into a rack… you will hear a motor improvement! i also use Isonodes on my speakers. The biggest surprise of the BLA mod however… was not the sound of the unit itself…but how much it improved any device connected to the spdif output. Since a device connected to the spdif output of a BLA mod DIGI 002 is slaving to the incoming clock signal… it receives the benefit of the awesome BLA clocking to improve it’s sound. It literally doubled the clarity of my JBL LSR4328 speakers and made them sound like nothing I had ever heard before in terms of clarity, separation, and instrument placement.I was able to feel music as i used to in the analog days! I literally spent the next few months listening to music for hours and fell back in love with music as a whole. I verified this improvement by matching the levels on my analog inputs, to the digital volume and switching back and fourth. Night and day difference! Everyone in my family…including my two daughters and mom could hear a dramatic and obvious difference! Do yourself a favor . Get the mod. – Odyssey

  19. JOn

    June 16th, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Here is my 2 cents.
    COmparing a single acoustic guitar track is not ideal. I really notice the improvements of the BLA mod once I have several tracks going and start panning and mixing. The overall image is greatly improved. The clarity and definition is also improved. I noticed a very big difference between my stock 002 and the BLA Mod and also my 003 stock and 003 BLA mod.
    As far as the clock goes, this is another area that you will really notice once you start stacking tracks. The more tracks you have, the more noticeable a quality clock becomes.
    If you are just recording singer songwriters, i.e. voice and guitar, not very many tracks, then yeah, I could imagine that you may not hear much of a difference.
    You also have to account for the monitors you are using, right?
    What kind of monitors. Are your monitors of good enough quality to fully demonstrate the results?
    I am very surprised to read that many of you don’t hear the difference.
    In my humble opinion, if you can not hear a difference, then you may be in the wrong field.

  20. Fernando Silotto

    August 20th, 2013 at 6:52 am

    Heard 2 times with my Genelec’s 8040a, and the difference is pretty clear to my ears!
    B has more depth, more realistic, 3D and smoother sound, even with a single track I can tell the difference, imagine with a 20-30 track full mix!

  21. Jon

    April 9th, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    To Willem and Orpheus:

    I know I’m way late to the party, but here we go…

    ““…I copied the raw audio file from Michael’s DAW to my own, imported it to a new track in my Pro Tools session, and gain-matched it to the track I’d recorded….”

    Upon realizing that the author didn’t CAPTURE the audio using both pieces of hardware, I can’t say that this test even has the potential to prove anything more than the the alleged existence or lack thereof the “rehabilitation effect” described by Willem and challenged by Orpheus in previous posts.

    For the record, I agree with Orpheus on his point (assuming his description of the signal chain is correct) that once the sound is captured by a specific device and saved as a file, that file is what it is. Sure, I’ve done mixes and masters of imported amateur-recorded tracks on HD gear and made them sound great….But I was also using a $800k board, it’s EQs, and whatever pro outboard gear I wanted (there was pretty much everything there)…At the end of the day though, those original files were what they were: recorded in shitty rooms with shitty mics at low fi sampling rate and bit depth.

    That said, I also could believe that while the mod may not be correcting particular engrained traits like jitter, it may very well improve playback quality to whatever extent possible (which means that I agree with Willem on that single implied point).

    In any case, you two are the only people who have brought up the important point that he didn’t actually RECORD the instrument through the mod, but only used it as a playback device.

    Can we all not agree that this would have to be done in order to get anywhere remotely close to an A/B comparison highlighting the true abilities between these two pieces of gear?

  22. matthew mcglynn

    April 9th, 2014 at 5:24 pm


    “Upon realizing that the author didn’t CAPTURE the audio using both pieces of hardware”

    Of course we did. What part of this was not clear? The article states, “We plugged one mic into my BLA-modded 002 Rack. We plugged the other mic into Michael’s stock 002 Rack.”

    To be completely clear: we recorded one performance through two devices simultaneously, using matched microphones that were as physically close together as their housings would allow.

  23. Dean Wuksta

    November 12th, 2014 at 8:03 am

    I thought A was the mod and actually sounded better, had my standard 002 rack for 10 years.

  24. Dean Wuksta

    November 12th, 2014 at 8:16 am

    btw people are gonna flip when they find out A was really the mod, see some serious back pedaling then. I also know audiophiles who say they can detect the finest details in audio signals, but on a blind test they fail miserably.

  25. Lynnae

    December 7th, 2014 at 12:42 am

    B was the mod! It was pretty clear to me. I can imagine that if an entire album full of instruments were using the BLA 002, it would sound WAY better than the same album with the stock 02. More headroom for sure.

  26. Strooth

    February 23rd, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    Listening to just the mp3’s through event 2020BAS through a steinberg UR28M in a semi treated room (left, right, rear, + bass traps in all 4 corners)

    turned it up halfway, learnt back and listened….

    Picked B after hearing both back twice.

    A sounded very centered and more mono, while also dirty/harsh.

    B was much more defined, resonated, sounded wider and beefier. Cleaner.

    If you can’t hear it, its gotta be your ears or your listening environment. Or you don’t know what your listening for.

  27. Michelangelo

    April 27th, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks for posting this! I slightly prefer “B”, but I’m not sure how much that’s due to the mic positions, but overall is just a tad more pleasing to listen to. A nice way to get around the slight differences from two mics (no matter how closely place) is by using a Radial JS-3 mic splitter. I use it to compare mic preamps all the time. Great box.

  28. Adams

    May 19th, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Well I have a Digi 002r, and I was just contemplating the mod.. as well it’s actually a convenient piece of gear with the right in and outs for what I need..
    I listened to the sound files, and sound A was instantly familiar to me.. the way it presented the bass, mids & treble.. and the depth of field.. I’m listening on Dynaudio BM15’s in a controlled environment and well the difference is kinda huge when I switched to B.. a lot richer, more even display of the frequencies, extended lows, extended less harsh highs.. just because the highs are softer doesn’t mean they are less.. they just seem to distort less than in example A.
    En It seems B is the mod, so I’d say that’s maybe not a bad investment.. anything good with all the functions will cost money.. I agree with some posters that the difference could be due to other factors, but if you are listening to converters, or how a medium or machine (as in tape machines etc) you listen to how the sound is presented how it breathes, resonates, chokes or not.. if it’s pleasant, I rather have something pleasant than something that can give me more in specs.. I mean like in old style da’s, I rather you give me nice sounding low pass filters at the output than some extended range that sounds harsh, uneven or distorted.. hmm I’m kinda impressed.. should be more tests though to see if the difference carries through… Does anybody know if BLA makes sure the DIGI is fully functional, and could the pots be replaced? they are fine on the unit, but I hate the feel of them., didn’t have to use them a lot in a previous setup, but now I would like it as a main workhorse interface to track myself.. I just need functionality and sound.. most of the sound is in the playing and the song.. I mean we all love a million different albums recorded in all kinds of different circumstances and different types of gear.. still in this case.. B is more workable than A.. A will eventually translate into something that sounds tiring and thin compared to lots of other things out there… like a demo you once recorded in a miss matched studio.. it’s a bit like recording and listening back on a high quality 16track 2″ machine and recording on a 16 track 1″ or recording with an 8 track machine with unbalanced ins and outs.. there’s a lot of bottlenecking going on.. and well everything can do a really good job at recording music.. people have made amazing sounding albums using their computer mini stereo jack in.. music gets it sound from the music and the use and abuse of the devices to capture that moment and make it transferable through time. And in this case B seems a lot more useable. Thanks for this test and remarks.

  29. OD

    September 26th, 2015 at 10:41 am

    So… in 2015… how would you say your BLA002Rs are holding up? Compared against the newer (black) UA Apollo 8 Quad, or even the MBox 3 PRO…which wins?

  30. Young

    October 10th, 2015 at 3:53 am

    Immediate impression was both sounded quite similar, and I wasn’t able to figure out the mod from the two. But then I started concentrating on the image of both clips, it was very apparent that B was the mod as B sounded much more focused, leaving a solid center image, while A sounded almost smeared by comparison. This suggests that the clock of the mod actually works really well. Other than that, I was not sure if I like the modded preamp….

    BTW I’m listening through Prism Orhpheus on a pair of PMC TB2s through Bryston amps. Listening on a lesser revealing system may not render such difference.

  31. Flomulous

    December 1st, 2015 at 7:31 am

    B does sound ‘better’ and many tracks would be more easily mixed, I suppose.
    However, and not to cast aspersions, but $1200 in 2009 for that is way way way way way way too much money. In reality you could mix the original sound just fine. It’s done every day. However I AM a person who owns a $30,000 dollar stereo system so I may have skewed perceptions. I’m trying to say that had I been sent well recorded tracks made with the original 002, I am pretty confident I could have made them sound good, no, great – even though I am no fan of digital musical recording in any form it IS something we must unfortunately deal with.

  32. Martin Criss

    February 25th, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    My gut was right, and when I second guessed myself I got it wrong. Guitarists always want too much tone. In a mix with many tracks the mod track will sit pretty while the original will require eq to avoid sitting on everybody’s face. I bet you the mod track sounds more like the guitar sounded in the room.

  33. Anton Pyvovarov

    October 25th, 2016 at 3:38 am

    Prefered the B Clip, which was the moded unit. Subtle? Yes., no improvement at all? I don’t agree

  34. Amedeo

    October 30th, 2016 at 8:11 am

    Nobody will convince me that B track sounds better than A track.

    I Did the blind test and A was much better than B. Then I clicked on the spoiler and I said “wtf???, there must be an error or someone is bullshitting me”.
    I found in track A much more clarity and dynamic presence than in track B. I really can’t convince myself that track B comes from the modded 002.
    If so, don’t waste your money is such things, you’d better go to vegas and have fun.

  35. Shinya Miyamoto

    March 17th, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Track B sounds smoother, has much fine grained high end… sounds more like really good analog recording, not vintage analog, modern analog sound. I’m sure the difference would be bigger if you have more sophisticated play back setup, like acoustically controlled listening environment with good clock and matched paired speakers… I listened to 24bit wav files with a nice pair of headphones (ATH-M50x) on iPad Pro… still able to hear the difference… the difference is the biggest I’d say the quality of upper middle to ultra highs.. overtones, not so much of more or less highs.. it was like cheap chocolate vs high end chocolate kinda thing

  36. DJW

    December 1st, 2017 at 7:12 am

    8-year thread!

    Two observations.

    1. Track A is brighter and I disagree with an earlier commenter that it is due -only-to jitter/distortion. That is almost certainly playing a part, but listen to the high scratch of pick upstrokes – they’re much more present on recording A. Whether or not this is desirable to you, I don’t know. Recording B does seem to have some HF roll-off. That said…

    2. Listen to the ring of the last chord! You can hear a major triad (possibly more) of harmonics, they sound like little bells and are easily discernible above the fundamentals of the guitar chord itself. In recording A, they sound sort of “nasty”, edgy and vanish very quickly. Recording B? Ring, ring, ring. Very nice.

    Still, both tracks strike me as very usable. If I were stacking 20+, i’d want recordings like B.

    BTW I am listening on Equator D8s via an Audient iD14 in a well treated room.

    Great test and writeup!

  37. L Meyer

    December 16th, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    For what it’s worth, I preferred the one that turned out to be your BLA-modded sample. That’s the opposite of confirmation bias because I’m a skeptic and was probably inwardly hoping for a different result.

    However, I totally agree that for $1200 the differences should be much MUCH greater than what comes across. They are very very subtle. So subtle it is absurd to think they could translate to any real difference for the earbud or Beats-wearing millenial who is the ultimate end consumer of for most music. I have high-end audio equipment and I could barely hear the difference.

  38. Bill

    January 6th, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    Sorry I like A better.
    I wanted to like the modded track B better but I picked A.
    The lower high end in the B track sounded like an impedance mismatch.
    Thank you for posting this.
    There are almost no comparison examples out there besides this one.

  39. Jacob

    May 24th, 2022 at 2:47 pm

    The B tracks a lot more rich and more professional to me

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