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 | 84 Comments »

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

  1. Aaron Lyon

    August 31st, 2009 at 9:03 am

    These tracks sounded nearly identical, though, just as you did, I noticed a difference in high-end on the pick over the strings on the final strum. Track A is definitely brighter.

    Did you have the mics placed horizontally or vertically (that is, in-line or perpendicular to the fretboard)?

    Anyway, pre-amp and clock mods (and especially power supply mods!) live in the same dreamy world as high-end Monster cable and the like–a good way to make money if you can get it. If you want to hear a definite improvement, compare with a track recorded on your good old Tascam cassette deck!

  2. Uwe Effertz

    August 31st, 2009 at 9:16 am

    I hear a difference:

    – a little more high end on track A
    – a little more more beef on track B

    my guess is: A is the mod

    Just like this (by itself) I prefer B but it’s very subtle and of course mics can’t ever be 100% matched…. hmm

  3. matthew mcglynn

    August 31st, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Aaron, good question. The mics were side-by-side, much as pictured in the article. Had they been arranged above-and-below, the lower mic would have been nearer to the high strings on the guitar, but that wasn’t how we set it up.

  4. don

    August 31st, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for the comparison. As far as I’m concerned, it was definitely brighter on #1, so I was surprised @ the results.

  5. Rollmottle

    August 31st, 2009 at 11:56 am

    A sounds a bit tubbier and less controlled in the lows and brighter in the highs. Compare those low hits on the last 5 seconds. B seems to be able to handle the dynamic change between low and high more smoothly and it feels more controlled., I’m guessing B is the mod.

    It’s extraordinarily subtle, but I can see how A could stack up unfavorably after many tracks.

  6. doug makofka

    August 31st, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Yep, A was brighter and my preferred track. Might be interesting to try a piano or some other source with a more complex/dynamic ‘signal’.

  7. stefan kartman

    September 9th, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    I think the test (regardless of whether it was, scientific or not) didn’t go far enough to make a proper comparison.

    I would be curious to hear a similar comparison of the two units with bowed acoustic instruments such as a violin, viola, or cello. I imagine depth of sound within each range, tone color, and overall resonance might be more evident. All of these considerations might be more obvious in vocals as well.

  8. Tom Yurik

    September 13th, 2009 at 9:28 am

    I think what people are actually missing in this comparison test is the overall benefit you who hear in a full mix down with multiple instruments playing together. I believe the test should be done to a full song, where you would really here the overall bigger stereo field, punchier mix and overall clarity that you wouldn’t really hear with just an isolated instrument on it’s own. I think that’s where the BLA mod would be really noticed, compared to the lifeless, dull mixes of the stock digi 003.

  9. Morgan Ellington

    September 14th, 2009 at 2:36 am

    not deaf, you nailed it. the stock 002r is a little cleaner, the modded one a little “softer.” Not a mic position difference. I was thinking of buying my own Burr brown opamps and doing a mod myself to my 002r but now I’m not sure I want to! Thanks.

  10. Dean

    September 14th, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    FWIW – I preferred B. It seemed more balanced and a bit smoother. The whole thing seemed more defined. Track A seem a little brighter and just a tad brittle. I could hear a difference and it seems I like the modded track better…

  11. Aaron Lyon

    September 15th, 2009 at 11:12 am

    BTW, if you had mismatched mic cables, that have made more of a difference than the upgraded Digi 003!

  12. Jay

    September 28th, 2009 at 3:31 am

    I think the signature series pres are “not” the highlight of the mod, more like an extra. It’s the clock , converters, analog stages etc. I would like to see someone do the same comparasion test with an outboard pre, maybe a great river or something in that caliber. High end pre. And like Tom said, a full mix.. Then we will finally get to critic this mod to professional standards. Let’s face it, the big studios, or highend home studios are usually “not” using the sig mod pres, as there pres. I think all of us got the sig done to our oo2’s so we can run our outboard pres into it. So I hope someone can dish out a new test in this fashion. I got my 002r modded (sig) a month ago too. Not much of a difference from the stock pres, but still sounds good. But I am looking to get an outboard pre hopefully before xmas. However, if someone else can do an outboard pre test running into the stock and sig, I think that will call the final verdict here. Someone!!!!

  13. Tom

    September 29th, 2009 at 5:37 am

    Yes, I think by using a nice outboard pre into the BLA you would hear a much more noticeable difference that brings out a much truer, uncolored sound of that specific piece of gear being used, instead of using the upgraded BLA pres in the digi 003 while recording. You also have to think again if some people are hearing a little difference with one track recorded, smoother highs, more controlled bottom, you would have to imagine how that would translate into say 24-48 tracks stacked on top of each other. The end result you would hear more of a difference in the mix with multiple tracks as far a stereo separation, less phase cancelation due to the better clock, and a much more punchy, clearer mix.

  14. Rob Ziemba

    October 1st, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    I could hear the difference immediately.
    Listen for the grainy-ness of the first one.

    The second is way clearer.

    I’m not so much listening to the frequencies really… just the smoothness and clarity.

    That grainy sound drives me nuts!

  15. Beezy

    October 19th, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    B is much warmer, and has a lot more depth.

  16. MC

    November 3rd, 2009 at 11:38 am

    I’ve listened to both of them. A is definately the stock as B is the mod. Much more depth on the B clip. Sounds is more defined, thicker. Its almost like A is being played thru a studio monitor with a 5″ woofer and B is played on and 8″ woofer. Definately can notice the difference, especially if u playback at low volumes/level. B sounds more like u spent the $1200. Would love an A & B on vocals tho.

  17. Lenny Dodge

    November 6th, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Agreeing with Tom, doing a test on just an acoustic guitar will not really show you as much as working on an entire mix. I had the signature mod done on my 002 rack and all I could say was WOW. It drastically improved previous mixes, but recording new tracks really showed how much of an improvement there was. The drums and bass were big and meaty, with tons of punch. The acoustic and electric guitars had a quality that I had tried to get but never achieved before the mod. Now it is effortless. There is also a spaciousness to the recording that was lacking before. I used UA LA-610 and Avalon 737 pres before and after the mod. For me, the mod was totally worth it.

  18. MG

    November 11th, 2009 at 8:16 am

    I could hear the difference by way of feeling right away, they sound similar but B feels different, B is a clear a BLA mod, but to the average listener they would not pick this up.You have to Listen to the way the sound effects you, how you respond to it…..

  19. Jay Gee

    November 17th, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Read the replies and you will see the progression of the herd mindset in action.

    The first few replies questioned any audible difference, but after the first reply that mentioned a real audible difference, the herd marched in step and all could really hear that B was the mod.

    Look at some of the quotes:

    “B is a clear a BLA mod, but to the average listener they would not pick this up.You have to Listen to the way the sound effects you, how you respond to it…..”

    “The end result you would hear more of a difference in the mix with multiple tracks as far a stereo separation, less phase cancelation due to the better clock, and a much more punchy, clearer mix.”

    Do some research and you will find university double blind studies on the effect of clock jitter in digital audio.

    But if you just slapped down $1200 for a couple of caps and Burr-brown op amps, then I too would want to justify the purchase.

  20. David

    November 20th, 2009 at 12:51 am

    I would like to hear drums. These recordings sound the same.

    Honestly whatever sounds most natural will be the right pre-amp for the job. Any coloring whether it’s high’s or low’s or what ever is no good. Record drums and I’ll tell you if you gotta a good deal.

    BLA gives you a better quality box that will last longer, take more heat and provide a good foundation. It might be a little pricy but you’re paying for the woork.

    One should always search for a pre that works for them.

    However my friend has a mod and he says it’s all about the clocking and the low noise power supply. I would like to know if that is true??

  21. Brett

    November 23rd, 2009 at 10:34 am

    In my opinion you don’t need “golden ears” to tell the difference between these tracks. Stick them in a playlist on your iPod, put it on shuffle and let them play all week long. By the end of the week you’ll be able to name each track by ear. You’ll also have a preference and it will be the mod track. It’s more natural.

  22. Tom

    November 27th, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    I just hooked up my new Signature Series modded Digi 03 Rack unit today, and bumped down a couple older mixes of mine that I recored with the unmodded 003 to compare the audio, and the difference is really quite astonishing I really have to say! I have listened to my mixes a million times over and believe me I should know what they sound like! I can honestly say I never heard my mixes and monitors sound as open and clear after getting this thing overhauled from BLA! I can actually hear the stereo mix widen and everything has a smoother less cloudy sound to it, and the punch? Their is all this definition in the low end and high end transients that were missing from before, that just weren’t ever audible before. Their is quite a definite distinction and separation between all the instruments now, and you don’t need to have the greatest studio ears in the world to hear the difference at all! I am just blown away!!! I haven’t even recorded into this thing yet to take advantage of the AD side of it’s inputs, so I’m only hearing the the DA side of it’s conversion right now. I can only imagine what I’m in store for when I start recorded some new stuff into this beast! Goodbye grainy, muffled, lifeless sound!!! Hello open, clear, smooth, punchy ass mix!!!

    P.S. If you need me to send anyone files so you can compare the mixes and hear the difference, feel free to hit me up and I can send the the unmodded mix and the modded Signature modded mix! You’ll have to change your drawers after you listen to them!

  23. Simon

    November 28th, 2009 at 8:16 am

    I’m led to believe that the people knocking this Black Lion Audio mod are mostly in denial and don’t want to believe! Sure they don’t want to hear it that the money they spent on their $100,000 recording rigs are being matched and even surpassed by a $2000 piece of modded gear especially a digi 003! It would certainly make me a little mad after spending that kind of doe! Trying to convince yourself or disprove 1000’s of satisfied BLA customers that these mods are all in your head is pretty darn funny, If I have to say so myself! Black Lion is the real deal! Just listening to my own mixes with my own ears is good enough for me and overall how much better they sound convinces me without doing a study over the internet if clock jitter is all in your head!

  24. Brad

    November 30th, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Matthew, how can you say that you don’t hear any improvement at all and actually prefer the stock 002?? I think you’ve gone deaf or maybe you just prefer the sound of lo-fi digital audio.

    The differences are subtle, but significant. I agree with the people who say that B sounds much cleaner and smoother than A. That has more to do with the ambient sound than the sound of the guitar itself. As for the guitar, I can totally hear why the manufacturer claims that the harmonies sound deeper and more extended, leading to more apparent loudness. I just put in my order today, and can’t wait til they finish my upgrade! Too bad there is a 6 week waiting list.

  25. yo

    December 16th, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    The subtle difference in you’re recordings don’t prove to much.
    I’m pretty sure you’ll hear dramatic differences recording percussion or say a classical piano recital, were the handling of transients and your systems headroom really makes the difference. I’m just a hardworking recording engineer and no gearslut or goldenear and made a few weeks ago the mistake to grab a digi 002 set for a 5.1 location recording of a classical piano concert. I got it on disc, but it was a narrow escape. The 002 pre amps will probably do for some home made recordings but I will never use them again.

  26. Tom Edwards

    December 23rd, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    I have to admit…at first listen, listening to about 10 seconds of each recording, I thought “wow, he’s right…there isn’t a discernible difference”. then I read which recording was which and I thought “wow, he’s right, there is no discernible difference”. Then I listened to both recordings again…all the way through. the BLA mod DEFINITELY has a much better low end sound a towards the end of the piece, and sounds more “real”. it’s hard to describe, but I feel like I am sitting in the room with the guitarist…more “3-D” close attention to the finger-squeaks…that tells the difference, and the low -end strumming part at the end. I guess I am a member of the “herd”…and BTW, I own and use a bunch of BLA-modded gear, and I have a Signature Series Digi 003R that I just bought used. I am currently mixing a local bands rock tracks on it that was brought to me recorded on un-modded “pro-sumer” gear, and I had to do a TON of EQ and various other “tricks” (midi-kick and snare tracks) to get it to sound good. I recorded a Van Halen tribute band (with a very well-known guitarist as “eddy”, but I promised to never to post the stuff because he said he had a “bad night”) through a BLA “tweakhead” modded M-Audio 1814, live from the floor, close mic’ing the kit, guitar and bass, vox through a mixer, and I didn’t work NEARLY as hard to make the mix sound cohesive as I did on the rock bands stuff. That was with 1 sm57 on the guitar rig! Say what you will, but I agree with the “herd”…come mixing time…there is a HUGE difference. I believe in what BLA offers the home recordists that want to step up and maybe the guys that don’t believe are the guys that spent 10K on a certain company’s “flagship” system…BTW, BLA mods those interfaces as well :)

  27. kalai

    January 10th, 2010 at 1:03 am

    B sounded better, imo. Thicker, more depth. you scared me as I’m planning an 003 bla mod soon, but I hear it. I hate the almost gated sound my stock 002 gets. I think the “broghter” sound people are hearing is actually bite or pinch created by jitter phase issues in the stock. I could be lying but I swear I heard it straight off. More excited than ever to get that mod.

  28. Paul

    January 11th, 2010 at 11:41 am

    This is the worst possible test for this application, in my opinion. The difference comes in how much “stacking” effect you get while mixing multiple tracks. For me, “B” sounds like it’s gonna mix alot easier than “A”. I’m gonna have to eq “A” more to get rid of that brittleness at the top.

  29. james

    January 18th, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    The low mids on a were just a little muddy on A which will become a problem in the stacking. Since all the mids will be muddy in that same frequency range as you record It just becomes a problem in mixing. Plus the BLA was not grainy. I am starting to think that the wow factor at Black Lion is the clock they use. I want to hear a stock 002 with their external clock compared to the mod.

  30. Piedpiper

    February 4th, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Those who prefer the edgier sound of the stock 002 are typical of the average person who is impressed with aggressiveness and coarseness. When someone hits you in the face, you pay attention; but do you enjoy it? Poor quality often shows up as noise that rides the waveform, contributing to rough textures, lack of depth and punch, and an opaque window on the event. True high quality represents a lack of this noise which reveals natural detail rather than thrusting it at you. The exception to this is the improved dynamics and punch that comes with a less polluted and constrained signal.

    The guy who cites double blind testing and herd mentality is missing the point that probably most of the posters here did the test before reading the comments. There will always be naysaying cynics who like to think they have the inside scoop.

  31. t w

    February 9th, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    To anybody that couldn’t tell the difference… I’m appalled! I listened to 25 seconds of A, then started on B and didn’t need to get 5 seconds in before I realized how much better it sounds… I haven’t even looked at the results but I don’t need to. It’s a night and day difference. B sounds like it could be on the way to being a record, A sounds like it’s on the way to getting 3 plays a day on a backwater MySpace page.

  32. JoeBuck

    February 18th, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    B sounds markedly better. If you guys can’t hear the difference then I feel sorry for you, especially the guy that paid for the mod. I think that B sounds pretty damn good. I am definitely getting this mod done.

  33. Dave Men

    February 25th, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    The difference is more obvious if you download the wav files. I ran into wavelab and saw ‘fast’ attacks due possibly to faster opamps. B is less shrill and more dynamic sound, more mids and bass. Is the mod worth the money? As you can see, don’t spect dramatic differences in the pre stage BECAUSE IS THE DESIGN NOT THE COMPONENTS ITSELF what makes the difference. Some pres are good and some are outstanding, and sometimes the audible difference is more evident in the mid priced ballpark. I think this mod is not for everyone. If i want a good pre i go for it, without cutting corners. I think the mod is ok, and works (with the limitations of the design) but expensive since it’s just an upgrade. $450 or 500 tops.

  34. GraphaSound

    March 27th, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Yes I think you have gone deaf.

    What I immediately heard was the instruments sustain and clarity in the B track. Notes from the guitar sound cleaner, last longer and decay smoothly. I also noticed that because of the clarity of the recording in track B, the relationship or interaction between the intervals in the guitar notes gives an apparent depth to the instruments even though the music is in mono. I imagine, as people have said here, a full mix would sound incredibly obvious as the clarity and interaction between instruments would make for a very full pleasing sound.

  35. James

    April 20th, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Seriously, B is much better than A?

    I think, if anything, this poll shows that people prefer a warmer, rounder sound than that to a brighter, clear sound.

    Perhaps it’s psychoacoustics. We think we’re in a warm, wood paneled room instead of a clinical, tiled lined room?

  36. willem

    May 12th, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Let’s revisit this particular section of Matthew’s well-written report:

    “…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. …”

    Consider this: “My 002″ is the sigmod. To copy “the raw audio file from Michael’s DAW to my own” is a key feature of Matthew’s experimental design. This may also hold a hidden revelation for some of you.

    The sigmod circuit/clocking will “rehabilitate” the stock 002 captured raw file transferred.

    There will be differences post-transfer, and these differences are well described in the test and the subsequent discussion. What has been missed is the phenomenon of a “rehabilitated” digital file “normed” by the sigmod. The differing responses are correctly attributed to personal qualitative preferences driven, in part, by nuances and artifacts of trapped in the initial recording and arising from the post-sigmod characteristics unique to the playback equipment and environment.

    The playback, however, is all about the sigmod. The sigmod is dominating what is being listened to; the actual comparison is dominated by the norming effect of playing back and comparing what is coming out of the sigmod environment. The stock 002 is not being listened to; essentially the stock 002 is little more than a donor of the digital data in this particular experimental design. Matthew’s design is not defective, but instead an effective first stage in what is needed to get a lock on comparing a stock 002 with a sigmod 002.

    It would be very interesting if Matthew could repeat his test with two reasonably similar computers; one using the stock 002 and one using the sigmod, with the source coming from mics side-by-side in the same manner. Have both systems play back through the same monitors for reference. If the differences between the computers are problematic, do two recording passes with the 002s changing computers on the second recorded pass.

    Then print the files within each environment to identical formats.

    Compare those files on a common playback (iTunes,etc) and then you will listening to the difference between the stock 002 and the sigmod. I think you’ll be surprised.

    Then return to the raw file on the stock 002 set, and copy that raw file into the sigmod environment. Check levels and then print that file to test and compare for the rehabilitation effect.

    Compare the rehabilitated file to the stock 002 file.

    Compare the rehabilitated file to the sigmod file.

    Matthew’s test is well done and well presented, and ironically his test may reveal more about the rehabilitative effect of the sigmod than the difference between a stock and a sigmod 002. Such is the nature of good research protocol. Matt passes that test with flying colors.

    Could be fun to experimentalize the above and let everyone subjectively compare.

  37. Gustavo Brett

    May 20th, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    I don’t know what to say y’all. The difference is night and day to me. I did this test blind and knew right away B was the Black lion. It’s all about depth, articulation, and room around the sound. Sound A more like a wall, B like a room. Listen closely to the bass response at the end of the track. I would also mention that what might be thought of as warmth of A is really just lousy low end. Duplicate this track 4 times and listen to them both. I bet you’ll hear the mess that the stock 002 will show as the sonic qualities build up. Simply put one sounds more professional or expensive. Or maybe I’m wrong. I’m really glad I listened to this, it helped me know what my BL Sig Series is doing for me in my own studio. Thanks Y’all!

  38. Theo Mordey

    May 27th, 2010 at 9:30 am

    I can totally hear the difference even on my cheap computer speakers. The BLA is more present, full, warm, and has a 3D effect, where the Stock is more brittle sounding, and less Hi Fi. I haven’t listened to the test on my studio speakers yet, but I am sure there will be a huge difference. My mod date is next week on June 2nd, and I am really looking forward to it. Got several clients just waiting for its return.

  39. orpheust

    August 20th, 2010 at 8:40 am

    I’ve been following this BLA stuff for a long while, I haven’t heard them other than their own A/B’s posted on their website.

    I picked track 1 was the stock 002R because the transients are more defined, the high end is sharper and you can hear slight imperfections in the actual instrument.

    From following this topic for about a year online out of my own stupid curiosity, I’ve concluded that the BLA mod makes things sound nicer, but removes some detail, high end and articulation from the source – articulation which is actually there in real life. I’d concluded that, and pretty easily guessed track 1 was unmodded.

    I expect an 18″ mic job in mono to sound still fairly up close and personal, capturing some early reflections. What I hear in the BLA mod is smeared imperfections and more space, which sounds to me smoother and silkier. In my opinion though, though I think it actually sounds quite musical and nice, it’s not as accurate a representation of the source.

    This is all my own concluded theories though. Also there is a problem listening to a recorded A/D source back through our own D/A, but double blind tests are the best ones, and I haven’t seen many of those for BLA stuff – so well done and thank you for doing this test.

    I agree, I prefer track 1 for a better representation, dare I say honesty?

    But at the end of the day, it’s what each of us personally like – AND can I add that room treatment, choice of mics and monitors will likely make far greater difference than any stupid AD/DA. We’d all probably spend our time much better by going and picking up an instrument.


  40. orpheus

    August 20th, 2010 at 8:53 am

    To willem:

    Respectfully, seeing as this is a peer reviewed forum ;), I disagree with your statement “The sigmod circuit/clocking will “rehabilitate” the stock 002 captured raw file transferred.”

    Once jitter error is caputured by the AD on the stock and modded 002R, then digitally transferred to any DAW, the normalisation is processed internally by Protools and does not touch the audio interface; it’s done by the CPU of the computer, so any previously captured jitter remains.

    I agree as per my previous post, I haven’t seen anywhere near enough testing on this to draw any conclusions. People’s subjective tests are extremely subjective, I would like to see some A/B inversion tests, and proper THD & SNR testing equipment to back up BLA’s claims before I believe anything.

    I hear people swearing this power bracelet with a hologram infused with a frequency of 7.14MHz (or whatever) is incredible. Never mind that embedding a frequency in a hologram doesn’t make any sense, and that people given “fake” bracelets consistently guess wrong in a double blind test.

    Anyway, I’m just indulging myself now and I really should go and play synthesisers.

  41. Laurent Vergnac

    September 9th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    A is brighter not as rich in the mids as B, B is fuller in the midrange. A sounds brighter/brittle like a good mic through a behringer preamp… :( May be the Mic itself does actually sound like the B sample (through an ideal clean transparent preamp)…
    Reminds me of the Neumann U47 samples… They sound rich and crisp in the mid range, and accurate in the high frequencies.
    I believe that after finishing a full production with the modded 002R it would sound “warmer”, the same full production through the 002R unmodded would sound “edgy”… for lack of a better word…

  42. Matt

    November 22nd, 2010 at 11:28 am

    B sounds better hands down, thanks for the review I’ve been considering the Black Lion mod pretty heavily and this has helped me make my decision for sure.

    I’ve been recording live bands every weekend my main band i’m engineering for is a five piece with drums and percussion and the cleanliness and low noise is amazing, this will help the bleed on stage for sure.

    I know the whole world has been conditioned to like like the mids and highs right in their face but personally I like to hear the rest of the music and while it may sound better to some, i’d say mostly because it sort of sounds “eq’ed” on the first one if you want to think of it like that it sounds like the pres are just hyping frequencies which you do not want at all.

    LINEAR is key

  43. Bradford Nel

    November 25th, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I feel its impossible to hear the difference on the same system that you are accustomed too
    and I will have to see to myself as i have paid for the mod lets see what happens .date :25/11/10
    If it does not live up to rep I will tell you Honestly
    Costly mistake maybe
    love you all Brad

  44. Fith

    December 21st, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    I think the problem most people have with the example is that both are good recordings.
    But only an acoustic is not a revealing test.
    Although it is clear the modded unit is thicker and has more low and mid range. I can tell a big difference just listening on my iPhone.
    The reason you hear more articulation is that the recording is thin on the unmodded unit. Thin recordings will create big problems down the line as it is much harder to try and add more low end after you have recorded than adding high frequencies. After proper EQ the modded track will be much nicer. Not to mention once the full band kicks in and even after the song goes to mastering. All these things need to be considered as something that seems subtle will multiple into night and day when it’s all said and done. For my ears I think this demo reveals a lot about the improved sound quality.
    Take a listen on some other devices like your phone or even burn to a disk and a/b it in your car.

  45. Dan

    December 24th, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    The true test is, which one sounds like the guitar being recorded? Don’t know, wasn’t there. But what you can listen for is the quality of the file and that’s B, hands down. What I hear in A is high end noise, shakiness, artifacts and low end congestion. B is more like being in a room with an unprocessed live quality acoustic guitar. Give me that track to work with over A anytime. Not that you can’t work with A but if all your tracks carry the extras it comes with your multitrack end result will not be what you were hoping for.

    I don’t have the gear to get the results I want and am always disapointed with the lack of precision and clarity I end up with even though on their own each track has potential. It’s just then when you stack more and more noise on top of noise that rides each wave of each track you cannot hope to end up with a pristine recording.

    Maybe someday I’ll get a BLA modded 003 and Autuer pres?

    Thanks for the test. I am more convinced than ever.


  46. Sam

    March 15th, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Man! B Sounds amazing!!!! Listening on some PMC’s! Blown away that a 003 modded can sound like that!

  47. Bob Hoppa

    May 12th, 2011 at 5:36 am

    I have been reading this and I am very intrigued. I just got my 002 back yesterday after receiving the signiture series modification. I will post some band recordings soon. This should help satisfy the need for some to hear more complicate recordings win the mod. Stay tuned.

  48. Bob Hoppa

    May 14th, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Hello again. I said stay tuned so here we go.

    Here you will find 2 edited versions of the same clip. This stripped down clip was recorded several years ago. The drums are from a Boss DR-770 and the Guitars were played through a Marshall JCM 900 50 watt amp using a single SM57 microphone. The Bass was recorded direct. All tracks were done through an old Studiomaster board (wish I still had it!!) into a Black Face Alesis ADAT machine. The signal chain could not be anymore bare boned, no pre-compression, EQ or anything. Nice and simple.

    I first bought an 002 as a cheap way to get a quick home studio set up to do editing for the home studio I work out of. I quickly found the need to add tracks to things I brought home. I figured if I was going to keep up with Apogee converters using a “Big Ben” master clock I better get my shit together. So instead of buying an Ensemble for home, I spent the cash to get the BLA signature series Modification. They boast about their low jitter clock and analog upgrades that “easily compete with high end converters”. SO I figured what the hell.

    First let me say that they were very cool to deal with. They were very up front with me about some aspects of my 002 that needed some repairs as well. None of the experience felt like I was getting ripped off. Everything was done as promised. The business end of BLA was never in question.

    Now lets get to what I think of the Mod. I like it. There are substantial audible differences. I am not going to go into the details. The rest of this forum takes care of that very well.

    Now back to the clips. I dumped one pre mod, then again post mod. Please note that the pre mod clip was not bounced to disk, so the D/A conversion is the mod. However I think there are still noticeable differences. There is NO EQ, compression or any effects whatsoever on these. I dumped them from the DAT machine, panned the drums and Guitars hard left/right then matched the db settings the bast I could. There was no mixing involved really.

    I hope this helps.

  49. Bob Hoppa

    May 14th, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Now I just need to figure out how to get the audio to this forum…. Hahahahah

  50. Bob Hoppa

    May 14th, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Just go here….. lol

  51. 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.


  52. 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.

  53. 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


  54. 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.


  55. 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…

  56. 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.

  57. 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….

  58. 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.

  59. 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:)

  60. 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

  61. 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.

  62. 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

  63. 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.

  64. 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.

  65. 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

  66. 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)

  67. 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.

  68. 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

  69. 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.

  70. 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!

  71. 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?

  72. 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.

  73. 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.

  74. 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.

  75. 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.

  76. 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.

  77. 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.

  78. 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.

  79. 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?

  80. 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.

  81. 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.

  82. 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.

  83. 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

  84. 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.

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