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California Dreamin’: Pacifica & Ventura Compare and Contrast

Since its release in 2006 the TEC nominated A-Designs Pacifica has won a rabid following and high regard amongst the world’s top engineers and producers, not to mention being used on countless hits. This year we released a sister product to the Pacifica, The Ventura. Like its predecessor, the Ventura takes its core inspiration from the 70’s Quad Eight consoles and now introduces the EQ section from these classic desks. We have had many questions from engineers regarding the similarities and differences between these two units and this document is designed to help answer some of these questions.

Similarities

Op Amps AKA Amplifiers

Both units utilize a discrete op amp and run at the same high rail voltage of+/-28vdc for maximized headroom. The op amp in the Pacifica is identical to the original amplifier in the Quad Eight Consoles down to the PCB layout while the op amp in the Ventura has tweaks to the original design that gives it a slightly faster response.

Mic Pre Topology

The basic mic pre topology is the same in the two units. They both utilize a similar gain structure with input and output transformers. Both units are fully balanced in and out. The Ventura has 70db of gain while the Pacifica has 72db. They both have a gain control, -20db pad, phase reversal and +48v phantom. The -20 db pad feature on both units performs the typical function of lowering the input gain of high level sources, but also serves as a tone shaping control by allowing the user to push the gain to higher levels to achieve variations in tone. This is somewhat similar to balancing the master volume and preamp level control on a guitar amplifier.

Cosmetics

Both units share a unique vintage style which time has proven to be very popular. Of course it’s the sound that really sets the Pacifica and Ventura above the pack, but these units also stand out in a rack and make people ask Whats That!?

Sonics

Both units are highly versatile and can be used across an entire album without the muddiness of some vintage styled pres. They both have very wide frequency response and high headroom with just a touch of color through subtle harmonic distortion that engineers and artists love.

Made in the U.S.A.

A-Designs Audio is dedicated to American manufacturing. Both the Pacifica and the Ventura are built right here in Southern California and utilize some of the same build partners that Quad Eight had back in the 70’s including transformer houses. We literally live right down the street from where those Q8 boards were made and are able to work face to face with some of the original designers.

Differences

The Basics

The Pacifica is a dual mono mic pre and D.I. The Ventura is a mono mic pre, D.I. and a 3 band band parametric EQ.

Ventura Routing Options

The Ventura may be used in a typical inline channel strip type application utilizing the mic pre or DI into the EQ from a single source, but it also has a very unique feature that sets the Ventura apart from a typical channel strip. The Mic Pre/DI and EQ sections can be used independently with their own separate amplifiers and output transformers. EG. You can track a guitar with the mic pre while eq’ing a kick drum, simultaneously.

Moreover the mic pre section can send its’ output to its own dedicated output transformer for a one tonal option, the EQ amplifier and output transformer for another option, and from the EQ amplifier and output transformer with the EQ in bypass for yet another color altogether. Its a tongue twister we know, but this gives the user a great deal of tonal variation and routing flexibility. The Ventura signal path is displayed below.

Ventura 3 Band Parametric EQ

The Ventura features a 3 band parametric EQ whose inspiration comes straight from the 70’s Quad Eight Ventura console. The 33 Frequency points and +/- 15db cut/boosts are on custom rotary switches for full recall. All three bands feature switchable “Q” control to adjust the frequency center widths and the high and low bands may be converted from peaking to shelving with a flick of a switch. This EQ performs surgical and broad stroke duties equally well.

Ventura Filters

The Ventura features switchable lowpass and high pass filters at 150hz and 9k to eliminate low end boominess and to gently roll off the top end. EG. The high pass is great for vocals or acoustic guitars while the lowpass works well at quickly getting rid of excess string noise on bass guitar or for reducing high hat bleed. HP and LP filters always come in handy.

Sonics

Without any marketing exaggeration, the Pacifica has a magic top end that makes people choose it in shootouts more often than almost any other pre. It is not brash shrill or exaggerated, but gently forward. By comparison the Ventura has a cleaner sound with a rich midrange.  The Pacifica is a quick pick for vocals, acoustic instruments and overheads while the Ventura excels at vocals, electric guitars, kick, snare and keyboards.

Transformers

The Ventura features a Jensen input transformer and a pair of steel core Cinemag output transformers, one for the mic pre and one for the EQ. The Pacifica features Cinemag input transformers and extra large Cinemag hybrid nickel/steel output transformers. What does this mean? The steel core material in the Ventura helps contribute a touch more harmonic distortion when pushed hard. The more ‘hi-fi’ nickel core materials and transformer size in the Pacifica contribute to its’ more airy top end. Cinemag and Jensen are the two most highly regarded transformer manufacturers in the U.S.

“Direct Inject” or “Instrument Input”

While they have different names the 1/4″ inputs on both of these units have one thing in common: They rival the most expensive dedicated direct boxes and this places both units head and shoulders above the rest. The Pacifica’s 1/4″ differs in that the signal drives through a ultra high impedance circuit into the mic pre’s input transformer for a bit of iron warmth via subtle harmonic distortion. The Ventura’s instrument input also features an ultra high impedance buffer, but is transformer-less, yielding a bit cleaner sound by comparison. The Ventura instrument input also has its own dedicated gain control. The Ventura has a switch which selects between the mic or instrument input while the Pacifica automatically switches the inputs with the insertion or removal of a 1/4″ TS cable.

We hope this has helped clear up some of the differences, but if you have any questions please feel to contact us.

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