AF’s Weblog

March 29, 2012

Arturia Oberheim SEM V Review

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Arturia Oberheim SEM V Review

Arturia has been launching a myriad of products since early 2012. Among the new products you’ll find an Oberheim SEM emulation with new custom features. Let’s have a look at the beast…

Something is for sure: Arturia’s team never stops working! They are constantly updating their existing products and have launched Analog Experience, Oberheim SEM V and MiniBrute in a very short time. The Oberheim is the latest addition to the series of legendary synth emulation plug-ins that started in 2003 with the Moog Modular V, followed by the Minimoog, CS-80, Prophet 5 and Jupiter-8 simulations. Arturia even attempted to create a virtual version of another legend of Tom Oberheim’s company, but they didn’t succeed…

It’s probably not necessary to present Oberheim, a mythical company that has had its successes and troubles after being bought by Gibson and Viscount. The SEM (Synthesizer Expander Module) was the first synth officially presented by its inventor in 1974. It was brought to life again in 2009 with a Patch Panel providing all 33 internal connections as mini-jacks and a Midi to CV Converter. These new features certainly gave customization ideas to Arturia: their virtual version also has many new features.

Introducing Arturia Oberheim SEM V

Arturia Oberheim SEM V

Arturia Oberheim SEM V

Test System:

  • MacPro Xeon 3.2 GHz
  • OS 10.6.8
  • Logic Pro 9.1.6
  • Arturia Oberheim SEM V 1.0, later 1.1

Out of curiosity, and because I always read that all Arturia synths sound similar, I compared the Minioog V and SEM waveforms (in this order) as well as a filter setting at 3,406Hz with maximum resonance (the release parameter settings are different but they have no effect on the sound in our example). Look at the screenshots and listen to the sound: No similarity…

Conclusion

Let’s be clear: I have no ’74 SEM in my studio. So a one-to-one comparison is impossible. I have only my memories of when I played the instrument and the many records where it is used… Therefor, it would make no sense to say this plug-in is an exact and faithful copy of the original. However, the virtual synth does share many things with the original synth: the features, the spirit, the typical Oberheim sound (soft filter clearly different from Roland and Moog filters). In short, don’t hesitate to add this tool to your synth library if you’re looking for SEM sound.

However, we also found a few problems: the envelopes/effects extend to the next preset, audible steps in some modulations. But considering the huge possibilities, the sound and the wonderful modulation section, we can only praise the quality of this synth. The ease-of-use, that doesn’t limit the sound possibilities, makes it the ideal tool to start in the world of sound synthesis.

Advantages: 
  • Same sound DNA as the original hardware synth
  • Design
  • Ease of use
  • Faithful to the original concept but more comprehensive
  • Modulation section
  • Amazing 8-Voice Programmer
  • Almost fully synced
  • Good product manual
  • Excellent Midi Learn function
Drawbacks:
  • Some bugs
  • Envelopes/effects extend to the next preset
  • Some audible modulation steps
  • Maybe the price, compared to similar products (DIVA for example)

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Arturia Oberheim SEM V Review

March 28, 2012

The Top 10 Products of Musikmesse 2012

To read the full detailed article with the rest of the Top 10 products please see:  Best of Musikmesse 2012

The 2012 edition of Musikmesse at Frankfurt closed its doors on Saturday. The Audiofanzine team, has rounded up for you the top 10 products that made their mark at the show, in no particular order.

Bogner Pedals

Bogner Pedals

The names should speak for themselves: Uberschall, Ectasy Blue and Ecstasy Red. Lovers of the Bogner sound who could not afford the amps will now be able to enjoy it without going broke.

Jupiter 50

Roland Jupiter 50

The new Roland Jupiter-50 combines the expression of the Jupiter-80 with the portability of the JUNO series. The Jupiter-50 houses the SuperNATURAL acoustic sounds found in the Jupiter-80 (with Behaviour Modelling) as well Jupiter-80′s SuperNATURAL synthesizer tones and Live Sets. You can import the Jupiter-80′s Live Sets and Synth Tones into the Jupiter-50 via USB memory key.

Zynaptiq Unveil

Zynaptiq Unveil

Without doubt the most impressive software of the show. Unveil is a real-time, de-mixing based plug-in designed to allow attenuating or boosting reverb components within a mixed signal of any channel count, including mono sources, as well as modifying contained reverb characteristics.

To read the full detailed article with the rest of the Top 10 products please see:  Best of Musikmesse 2012

March 26, 2012

KRK Rokit Powered 10-3 Review

To read the full detailed article see:  KRK Rokit Powered 10-3 Review

KRK —the brand with the yellow cones— took everyone by surprise at Musimesse 2011 when they announced the coming of a new three-way monitor with a 10″ woofer for about $500. The weight-to-price ratio is unbeatable for a monitor speaker, but what about the specs?

A December afternoon in the AudioFanzine office:

- Knock, knock, knock.

- Who’s there?

- I’m the delivery boy.

- Good, we were waiting for you. Please put the package in the kitchen, next to the stove.

- Isn’t that a bit awkward?

- Why, if I may ask? A fridge is usually placed in the kitchen!

- I think you’re mistaken, this is not a fridge, but the KRK Rokit 10-3 speakers!

- Oh! When I saw the size of the package, I thought you were delivering the fridge. Do you want a drink?

- I’d love one. I sweat a lot and it’s very hot in your office, I feel so dizzy…

KRK Rokit Powered 10-3

Sorry, we have to interrupt the story here and go back to the new KRK speakers. The Rokit 10-3 are huge! Considering their 46.3 lbs, we had to double-check if our monitor stands could withstand the load. It measures 21.2″ 12.7″ x 14.3″, and you can setup the speakers horizontally or vertically depending on your room. The speakers have the typical KRK look with two yellow-cone speakers — 4″ aramid-glass composite midrange and 10″ aramid-glass composite woofer. The monitor also features a soft-dome tweeter and a back-lit logo that indicates the speaker is on. The monitor has the exact same design as the other Rokit speakers, which constitute the budget series in KRK’s product range. In fact, in spite of the three-way design, the 10-3 are very affordable: $500! Few manufacturers offer three-way systems in this price category and we hail KRK’s initiative.

KRK Rokit Powered 10-3

The rear panel offers no surprises: you get a pair of shelf filters to adjust both high and low-frequency ranges (+/-2dB @ 300Hz and -2/+1dB @ 5kHz). The speakers also feature a sub-filter (30Hz) and a volume control (-30/+6dB). The bass port is placed on the rear panel, which is a good thing, even if the manufacturer recommends to place the speakers at least 3 ft away from the nearest wall. The connections are comprehensive enough: balanced XLR and 1/4″ jacks plus an unbalanced RCA input. Unfortunately, the power switch is placed on the rear panel, as is generally the case with most budget monitor speakers.

The 10-3 are real three-way active monitors with three class AB amps: 80 watts for the woofer, 2×30 watts for both the midrange and the tweeter. The crossover frequencies are set to 350Hz and 3.5kHz.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Three-way studio speakers with a 10″ woofer for $500 — very rare! This KRKs are designed for people who want a speaker reaching low frequencies down to 30Hz and have enough space in their home studio to set them up properly. Faultless look and sturdiness: the manufacturer has proven its skills in the past. We like the comprehensive connectivity and the rotatable tweeter/midrange baffle that allows you to set up the speakers either horizontally or vertically. As for sound, we were surprised by the low-frequency response, which we expected to be more emphasized due to the 10″ woofer. In fact, the response stays flat and authentic. The only disadvantage is the uneven high-frequency range including an attenuation at 3.5kHz and a boost at 6kHz. However, you can partly solve the problem with the high-shelf filter on the rear panel. For $500, the KRK Rokit 10-3 are definitely an appealing product. Just make sure your monitor stands can withstand such a load and watch out for backaches when you set them up!

Advantages: 
  • Price considering it’s a three-way speaker…
  • … Actually reaching down to 30 Hz
  • Manufacturing quality and sturdiness
  • XLR, 1/4″ jack and RCA input connectors
  • Can be used as near-fields
  • Horizontal and vertical setup
Drawbacks:
  • 3.5kHz attenuation and 6kHz boost
  • Very heavy and bulky
  • On/off switch on the rear side

To read the full detailed article see:  KRK Rokit Powered 10-3 Review

March 14, 2012

Exclusive Interview with Chris Lord Alge

World renowned mixer/producer Chris Lord-Alge granted Audiofanzine an exclusive interview. The man behind Green Day, Paramore, Deftones, Madonna, Tina Turner, James Brown, among others, shared his working methods and ethics from his studio in Tarzana. Let’s see what the master has to say.

The Beginnings

AF : Hi Chris, can you tell us what are you currently working on at the moment?

CLA : What I am currently working on right now is finishing up an album by a band called Shinedown, just wrapping that up. The single is already out to radio and then the record comes out. Just before I finished Shinedown, I just finished mixing Bruce Springsteen. I kinda co-mixed that with Bob Clearmountain. Bob mixed it himself and then Bruce wanted me to mix a few songs. I literally just had dinner with Clearmountain last night and we were definitely having some good laughs about it.

There’s a good partnership between engineers! I’d like to go back to the beginning of your career, and just to know a little bit more about how you started and the reasons for why you do this job today?  What pushed you to become a sound engineer?  Specifically, a mixing engineer…

It started with my mom having a band. My mom is a Jazz musician and a professor of music theory.  She’d have her trio set up at my house, so here I am 12 years old and there are musicians rehearsing every day at my house, with tape recorders, a small board and a few microphones. Every chance I could get, when they would leave to go do a gig, I would take the gear down into my basement and let the experiments begin there.

So it’s a family thing?

Yes, absolutely, my mom is a musician, I’m a musician, it was just what I wanted to do since I was young, and by having some gear to tinker around with it was fun to start there. I already had my own band when I was 12, I just used that gear to start recording it. At that point I played keyboards, and then I moved to drums; I kind of filled in where the weaknesses in the band were.

Is there any personality or mentor who showed you the path or took you under his wing?  Showed you some tricks, who gave you the will to do this, someone apart from your family?

Yes, of course! So what had happened was that my mom had realized that I really wanted to do this, so she took me to a studio to interview for a job. I got a job at H&L Records under the mentorship of Steve Jerome(GrandMaster Flash, Bobby O, Pet Shop Boys, NDA). They had hired me for $50 a week to be a runner, an assistant. I started with the toilets, to the tea, to the coffee, to the track sheets, until I finally became an assistant and then Steve Jerome had trained me and showed me how he’d like me to do it. He was in essence, my mentor at that time. When I was at a young age 13/14, he showed me the ropes, all the disciplinary moves that became embedded in my life.

So then I read that you’ve been working at Unique Sound Studios?

Well, let’s not cut to that straight away. I put in a bunch of years right there with Steve with Hugo and Luigi, and that studio ended up being taken over by Sugar Hill Records, which in essence was the birth of rap.  So I was right at the beginning of rap, with Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”, GrandMaster Flash’s “The Message” and  “White Lines”; all the big initial rap records were all done under that roof with Steve or with Eric Thorngren. So I was there for all of that.

What a period! So then Unique Sound Studios came later on?

At that point I started to work in New York freelancing with a few artists, and then I actually apprenticed to get a job. I went back down the food chain to be an assistant at Unique because I saw it as the cutting edge hip studio that was happening at New York at the time, at 82’- 83’. It kind of ended around 87’- 88’. I became an assistant and then staff, basically kind of took over, had a few reasonable hits, and then I just kind of took over working there. Just doing what I wanted.

So it was kind of the normal evolution : you started as a runner, then an assistant, and then as an engineer, very naturally.

Exactly. But you can always go back from an engineer back to an assistant, it helps put you in your place.

Part 4: The Bernard Pivot Style

What’s your favorite memory from mixing an album or working on an album?

My favorite memories would probably be from records I produced. They are all favorite memories, it is hard to say “this was the best”. I think the ones I got the most laughs on were albums I produced by Tina Turner, or John Miles or Rick Price or Joe Cocker, where being the producer, it was basically tweaking your last rough mix, with the artist in there and having some laughs and some fun with it. Knowing that you are playing on it and you’re producing it… And it came out great and you are excited. Rather than, mixing something that you didn’t produce. Of course, working on “American Idiot”, which went by so fast… It was exciting because the songs were so good and you didn’t really realize it at the time. But the best memories are definitely the ones I produced because there is more at stake because you are a producer. Human wise, because you are artistic about it, you play parts of it, there is more “blood” on the tape, than you just mixing someone else’s record.

You mean that this job is 60, 70% human aspect?

It’s 100% human. It’s not a business at all. It’s a personal, emotional business, that unless your heart is into the song, you’d might as well go back into the car and go home. You have to be emotionally attached to the music or there is no point in doing it.

Your worst memories/moments from mixing of all time?

There have definitely been some moments, I am not going to name the bands, but that had full-on fights in here internally with the band mates. No one agrees with what you are doing. Each guy leaves the room and comes back with a different idea. It makes it really difficult when the band doesn’t get along. There have been a couple where the band is breaking up or fighting at the time you are mixing it, or completely unsure of what you are doing. It’s not you, it’s them, and that’s what makes it difficult. A lot of the best records I ever mixed are when nobody is here but me, and I say this to them. Sometimes, they are their own worst enemy. It’s not their fault. They are really better off coming toward the end. When they want to come in here and do battle with it, sometimes they can unglue some of the magic that you’ve put into it by isolating their favorite parts.

Which artist would you still like to work with and why?

I want to work with Paul McCartney, I want to work with Coldplay; I want to actually mix a full fledged U2 album, not just one or two songs like I have done in the past, I want to be in the room with the band. I’d like to mix a new Rolling Stones record with the whole band in here. I want to go after the last of the mohicans, the biggest guns that are left while they still have something. It’s more the absolute legends of rock and roll that I prefer to be working with. Of course, I want to work with Muse and Foo Fighters and all the newer bands, but still they have some time. I want to get the old guys while they still got some action. I want to get it while there is a chance.

You’re engaged to mix an album for an artist you love but the requirements are : less is more. You have to pick only 5 pieces of your equipment.  Which do you choose and why?

If I can pick only 5 pieces of equipment, I’d pick my favorite vocal limiter, I’d pick my favorite vocal reverb, drum reverb, that’s three…

Which ones?!!

It would be my Urei Blue1176, my original EMT246, my Sony DRE 2000, then it would be a pair of Pultecs on my bus, and my Focusrite Red. The Pultecs I say they are one piece of gear cause they are a pair.

You are cheating! (Laughs)

They come as a pair.  With those 5 pieces of gear in a rack, I can go anywhere !

Just to finish up this interview, do you have any leitmotiv or quote/catch phrase about music that you like to use?

One of the things we say in the studio is “Don’t try this at home”! (Laughs) Everything I have here is not going to work at home. It’s really meant to be in the proper facility, in a temple of sound. Not your garage. For me it doesn’t work!

To read the full detailed interview see:  Mixing with an Attitude

 

March 12, 2012

Tips for Effective Buss Compression

Filed under: Compressors, Mixing reviews — Tags: , , , — audiofanzine @ 2:31 pm

Buss compression is certainly not a new concept, however, it is an effective and reliable engineering tool and its basic principles are vital considering you are affecting multiple voices.

When approaching buss compression, there are two essential tools at your fingertips: Attack and Release – these two tools, when properly utilized, will have the ultimate say in the outcome of your efforts.

The attack and release functions of a compressor will tell its detector how to react to signal that passes through. An effective use of attack and release will essentially allow you to make conscious envelope changes to the signal rising above the threshold at the detector. This brings about the main philosophical concept behind compression, which is to shape the signal, rather than merely restrict its dynamic range (dynamic restriction is part of shaping the signal, not the end purpose). The attack and release controls are what really provide the push and pull effects of compression.

With this in mind, I have provided examples of effective and ineffective buss compression, focusing on attack and release settings, for a few simple approaches.

All of the following audio passed through the same compressor with the same settings (beside attack and release) and a ratio of 1.5:1 with an average gain reduction of 4 dB.

To read the full article with sound samples visit:  Buss Compression

March 5, 2012

Propellerhead Reason 6 Review

Each new Reason version brings a bunch of surprises with itself, meeting some of the demands of its users. Here you have the new features Propellerhead added to Reason 6.

Like every other serious piece of software, Reason has been updated many times since its launch back in 2000. Each update has brought improvements, bug fixes (plenty compared to other DAWs) and new features, especially in terms of modular elements. Version 2.0 (2002) introduced the Malmström and NN-XT, version 2.5 (2003) included three new effects (Scream 4, RV7000, BV512) and two routers (Spider Audio and CV). Version 3.0 (2005) added the MClass Mastering Suite and the Combinator. More recently, version 4 (2007) impressed the audio world with Thor (an excellent polyphonic synth that combines different sound synthesis technologies), as well as ReGroove and RGP-8. Finally, version 5 (2010) included instruments like Kong and Dr. Octorex (full review here).

As you can see, each new version provided real new features (and we only mentioned Reason’s virtual instruments, effects and routers), making the sequencer and its standalone virtual rack more powerful every time. However it never quite fulfilled the demands of some users (the others are really satisfied with the current features) in terms of audio recording and external plug-in support. The real audio sampling feature of Reason 5 was seen as a sign for the upcoming addition of audio data management features, especially considering that Propellerhead had already proved to have the skills for multitrack audio recording with the introduction of Record in 2009.

Finally the time has come! In version 6, Propellerhead combined the two software programs and added some other functions and elements. Detailed overview.

Introducing Propellerhead Reason 6

Propellerhead Reason 6

Reason 6 is sold in a box including a DVD, the Ignition Key (containing the authorization key for the program) and some other documents. Unfortunately, I can’t give you more details because I received Reason as a download (3.68 GB) for the review. The installer still includes a Reason folder to be copy-pasted into the Applications folder (on a Mac). This folder includes the documentation (the printed version disappeared with Reason 5), the application itself and two Refills required to use Reason (Factory Sound Bank and Orkester).

Test system
MacPro Xeon 3.2 GHz
MacBookPro i7 2.3 GHz
OS 10.6.8
Reason 6.0.2
Reason Essentials 1.0.2
Balance

The online authorization process uses the Ignition key and the Authorizer server. Since version 4, it is not possible to use all Reason features without this key anymore, which isn’t good. Instead of a proprietary key (which means one USB port less), the manufacturer could use a Syncrosoft/Steinberg-like key, an iLok or nothing at all, which would be better…

However, Propellerhead allows you to use all features in Reason without the key if you have an Internet connection and have previously registered the product on their website. Or you can use the Demo mode, which allows you to record and save your songs but not to open them.

Besides combining the features of the two software packages —which means adding to Reason the multitrack recording capabilities and some modular elements (Neptune, ID-8, Line-6 models) from Record—, the manufacturer also added three new effects (Pulveriser Demolition, The Echo Delay and Alligator Filtered Gate), enlarged the content of the factory bank, implemented Record’s mixing console (presented as an SSL 9000K emulation), and introduced 64-bit support (also for ReWire) as well as other improvements.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Like every new release, this Reason version brings a lot of new features with itself — and we must point out that Propellerhead really pampers its users with this 6th version. To have a multitrack recorder within a reliable, familiar, powerful and stable environment is a huge advantage. All the more considering that it compromises nothing in terms of philosophy and ease-of-use. The new modules (Alligator, Pulveriser and The Echo) are without a doubt on the same level as their predecessors.

To wrap it up, Propellerhead has struck a decisive blow once again. We could even expect them to exchange technologies with other manufacturers —like UA does with other famous brands—, not to add plug-in formats that would make Reason less reliable (don’t forget that this piece of software is a paradigm of stability), but to bring together different skills to improve this closed environment that keeps on getting better and better every time.

Advantages: 
  • Original philosophy unchanged
  • Ergonomics
  • Stability
  • More standalone every time
  • All the power of Record within Reason
  • Internal audio inputs management per channel
  • Powerful new modules
  • More CV connections…
  • We finally get a real mixing console
  • 64 bit audio summing
  • Creative and powerful Pulveriser module
  • Original Alligator module
  • Alligator’s pattern and manual control systems
  • The Echo, a powerful delay
  • Analog-like behavior
  • Ducking function in The Echo
  • Dry/Wet balance in all three modules
  • Comprehensive manual with search engine and hyperlinks
Drawbacks:
  • No possibility to change the level meter display in the tracks
  • No drag-and-drop audio import
  • Different quality and performance of the time-stretching tool
  • Always more difficult to use with only one screen, specially if you have a notebook
  • I missed the possibility to choose form several distortions/saturations in Pulveriser and Alligator
  • Not enough vertical zoom in the sequencer window
  • Proprietary Ignition key: one USB port less…

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Reason 6 Review

March 1, 2012

Yamaha THR10 Travel Amp Review

Filed under: Amps — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 9:22 am

Yamaha’s new amplifier range now includes a brand new product: the THR10. It looks like a standard compact amp head. But in fact, this product holds some surprises…

Yamaha THR10

It weights 6.2 lb and has the following dimensions: 14.2″ x 7.2″ x 5.5″. Its cream finish and metal housing with vintage-style knobs give the THR10 an old-school touch although the amp design is definitely modern. The effects hosted in this small amp are based on Yamaha’s VCM modeling technology (Virtual Circuitry Modeling) you’ll find in many other products of the brand. The goal of this technology is to reproduce the behavior of old analog circuits to produce a classic warm sound.

The sleek design of this amp is ideal for musicians who are looking for a simple but effective tool.

Baby let’s play house!

Yamaha THR10

The amp is provided with an external 100/240V (50/60Hz) power supply and some accessories including a comprehensive product manual with lots of images, a USB2 cable to connect to a Mac/PC, and a stereo minijack in/out to connect the amp to a recorder (MD, MP3, etc.). If you want to record your guitar with your Mac/PC, Steinberg’s sequencer Cubase Al is provided for free on the DVD-ROM.

The rear panel of the THR10 includes a DC IN connector for the external PSU and a USB port to communicate with your computer. Later on we’ll tell you about the settings provided by the THR interface. The front panel is a perforated metal grill with stripes that protects two 5-watt speakers. So the “head” can be used alone without the need of an additional speaker. Sweet! The four screws on the front panel contribute to the sleek and classy look of the amp. All settings and tuner LEDs are placed in front of the handle, making access to all features of this small sound machine easier.

Yamaha THR10

Setting up the THR10 is almost “plug and play.” After powering on the device, a soft orange light (recalling the lights of tubes in standard amps) shines through the stripes of the perforated grill. The amp is equipped with Yamaha’s new “Extended Stereo Technology,” which offers a wider stereo image by simulating a greater separation between both speakers. This feature can be disabled with the TAP/TUNER key.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

This small amp surprised us with its compact size and good sound quality. The THR10 meets the needs of both beginners and experienced guitar players looking for a small practice amp. Thanks to its design and sturdiness, you can use this amp at home or even outdoors with batteries. We couldn’t test the battery runtime but the manufacturer states an estimate of 6-7 hours of operation. The price is a bit high, but the product is really appealing.

Advantages: 
  • Great vintage design
  • Light weight and compact size
  • Very good overall sound
  • Internal tuner and effects
  • Manufacturing quality
  • Battery operation
  • Integrated USB audio interface
  • AUX input for play-along applications
Drawbacks:
  • A bit expensive
  • ACO mode is a bit disappointing
  • EQ sometimes ineffective

To read the full detailed review see:  Yamaha THR10 Travel Amp Review

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