Schoeps vs Rode, RME vs Prism vs Grace – A/V Incl.

by Nikolay Georgiev on January 14, 2018
Left a pair of Rode NT5, right Schoeps MK5 - both in cardioid.

Left a pair of Rode NT5, right Schoeps MK5 – both in cardioid.


NOTE: to avoid being biased by my expressed opinion, please go to the end of this post, download the files and do any listening tests before reading what I’ve written below.

Hi there, this is a comparison between RME UCX, Prism Lyra, Grace Design Lunatec V3, Schoeps MK5 and Rode NT5 on acoustic guitar!

So I have been willing to make such a comparison a while ago. The reason?

I won’t hide the fact that to my taste I have not found a better recording chain so far than a pair of Schoeps mics into Grace Design preamps and Prism Sound converters. I am positive that I can record any kind of music to its best with this setup! However, none of these come cheap and some alternatives are available.

In this comparison you will be able to hear how RME UCX’s preamps and converters stand against those of the Prism Sound pres and ADC and some Grace Design pres (no ADC compared). But also, how the much cheaper Rode NT5 mics compare to my favourite pair of Schoeps MK5.

Now, I love how reliable, affordable and rock steady is all RME gear I have ever had is! RME makes the best interface drivers I have ever used! In the years I had a FF400, UCX and the first of UFXs. However, I have always had reservations about the way those bits of gear sound and I prefer to think of them as amazing hubs that need external boxes. From using my RMEs in some sessions I always had the impression that they just doesn’t sound good enough for my liking. They simply add a layer of ‘plastic’ quality to the very rich and fast sound of the Schoeps mics. Unfortunately I have to say that this is exactly what this comparison revealed to me. I should be clear that this does not refer to absolutely all of RME’s gear – there are some newer models and a higher-end gear that I have never tried from them. For example, I have absolutely no experience with the Micstasy or the newest ADI-2 DAC.

Another reason is that a mass of people incl. some very well respected and legendary classical music engineers praise the Rode NT5 mics as being as good as the Schoepses. Well, think what you want, hear what you hear, but to me they are certainly not even near the level of the MK5!

Not that the Rode is that bad on own. I can also imagine how with its brighter sound it may be suitable for distant miking of acoustic instruments. But also in a big studio session where you will probably end up EQ-ing stuff a lot, they may just do their job well. And after all we are comparing a mic pair that is about 10 times cheaper than the Schoeps MK5!

It is worth saying that both the MK5 and NT5 do not have a flat frequency response! The MK5 are more exciting and slightly brighter than the super natural ruler-flat MK2 capsules. But the Schoepses just have this classy sound that it is not only about frequency responses.

Last, I wanted to compare the build-in preamps in the excellent sounding Prism Lyra interface to the Graces. I gotta say, even if I love the conversion stage in the Lyra (IMHO it is one of the very best on the market), I was not expecting from the preamps to be comparable to the Graces. Listening back to the results, to me is clear that I certainly prefer the Graces. But the Prisms aren’t actually that bad at all, even if they offer a very different sound to the Graces. I find the Graces to have better body and more relaxed high frequencies, and overall deliver better sound-stage.

In order to give people a chance to check these without any bias, I have named the audio files simply with numbers. In a separate text file I have revealed which file is which. So don’t open that until you hear the comparison! Below I’ve listed the 8 different combinations of gear I am comparing.

Please note that I’ve used the loudness matching feature in iZotope RX to manipulate the gain of the recordings so that it is a fair comparison! Otherwise, there is absolutely no other processing to the audio provided. They are as recorded!

Another observation I would like to share is that in this particular application the Shoepses sounded soooo much better in omni! However, as a Rode NT55 mic was not available, which also offers an omni polar pattern, we had to stick to cardioids.

The guitar was played by Erez Lado and all rights of the performance and the audio remain his and partly my property. The performances in each take are different, but Erez played pretty much the same bit of music over and over – so comparing these to me are just fine.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Download all audio from DropBox here.

Samples include:

RodeNT5 in cardioid – Prism Lyra Pres – Prism Lyra ADC
RodeNT5 in cardioid – Grace Design Pres – Prism Lyra ADC
RodeNT5 in cardioid – Grace Design Pres – RME UCX ADC
RodeNT5 in cardioid – RME UCX Pres – RME UCX ADC
SchoepsMK5 in cardioid – Grace Design Pres – Prism Lyra ADC
SchoepsMK5 in cardioid – Prism Design Pres – Prism Lyra ADC
SchoepsMK5 in cardioid – Grace Design Pres – RME UCX ADC
SchoepsMK5 in cardioid – RME UCX Pres – RME UCX ADC

A video from the recording. Please note that the audio on this one is from my iPhone!

6 Responses to “Schoeps vs Rode, RME vs Prism vs Grace – A/V Incl.”

  1. Philippe Dambournet says:

    Hi – thanks so much for sharing this. I hear a ‘frying’ noise in file #6 – is that an artifact? (9.5 to 12 second marks, roughly)
    I have some Schoeps gear, including MK5s whose sound I love. Preamps and converters are Apogee and Sound Devices and I’ve been wondering about more refined sound, especially with affordable V3s available secondhand.


    (Schoeps vs Rode, RME vs Prism vs Grace)

  2. Hey Philippe, thanks for the comment. Yeah, I noticed that noise. But it has nothing to do with the gear. I think it was from a plastic bag being squashed or something like that. Otherwise, I have used the Sound Devices 788 quite a bit and they are pretty good, but not really on par with the Prism/Grace combo. The v3 is certainly worth the money. I have never done a direct comparison between the Prism and the newer Apogees, but I my impression is that the Prism is a little better. Cheers, Nik

  3. Philippe Dambournet says:

    Thanks a lot for your impressions, NIk!

  4. Karol says:

    Hello Nikolay, thank you for the very nice comparison. I would like to ask about one missing comparison point: how does the ADC in Grace Design Lunatec V3 compare to the two other ADCs you used? Cheers, Karol

  5. Hi Karol, thanks for the comment. I have compared the Grace ADC to the Prism, yes. The Prism is significantly better, but the Grace held well when compared to lower quality DACs. In the past I did some comparisons between the Lunatec V3 ADC and RME Fireface 400/800/UFX and the it did sound better. Still, keep in mind this is an old design and I am sure the new Grace units have far better conversion.

  6. Karol says:

    Hello Nikolay, thank you for the response. Unfortunately, there are no new Grace Design units that offer the same level of portability and functionality as the Lunatec V3. I am actually struggling to find any recent unit that would have two or four mic-pres with ADC and a toslink output all portable and powered by 12V DC. Do you have any suggestions? Otherwise, I am on a lookout to buy a used Lunatec V3. Cheers, Karol

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