AF’s Weblog

October 10, 2012

The Mighty Kick Drum Microphone: Part 2

Filed under: Drums/Percussion, Microphones — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 12:28 pm

To read the full detailed article see:  The Mighty Kick Drum Microphone Part 2

Our survey of kick drum microphones through the years continues….

To read Part I please go here.

Optimized Response

In the 1990s, Shure debuted the Beta 52, the company’s first purpose-designed kick-drum mic, with its response specifically optimized for the task at hand using an internal EQ network.

Its integral mic stand adapter, oversized body (inside is a regular-sized capsule) and passive LC network are strategies that have been copied by many over the last decade. The idea was to make it easier by eliminating the need for EQ.

Shure even knocked itself off, after watching others do so, with its own PG series of inexpensive mics, and its PG52, at half the price of the Beta 52, is about what you’d expect. There have been many imitators of this ‘large body means big sound’ with varying results, but the concept of a contoured response, customized to the needs of the drum is here to stay.


Shure Beta 52 (left) and PG52

Manufacturers have gotten caught up in ‘big mic’ aesthetics, as users are easily invested with the false notion that bigger is better for a kick drum, or that a large diaphragm is better for low frequencies, which is only true in some cases for condensers – other factors really do play a part in determining how well a mics response is tailored for kick drum.

As such, there’s a proliferation of sub-$100 kick drum mics, and the old chestnut that ‘you gets what you pays for’ really applies. I’ve rarely found a cheap mic I could recommend to pro users, while a quality microphone will serve its owner for years while retaining its value.

New Kicks in Town

The following modern kick drum mics are favorites, and are designed to get a sound engineer most of the way there before ever touching the EQ. In efforts made great mics for floor toms, they never quite delivered the goods for kick drum.

The Audix D4 is just one example, but I can single it out because the company did such a great job on the D6, which immediately replaced the M 88 as a personal favorite.

The D6 is a second generation cardioid kick drum mic with a tight low end and smooth contoured response.

The beyerdynamic Opus 99 and M99 are really the same mic. hypercardioid and contoured with passive filters, but the M99’s switches allow the engineer to independently turn off the mid-cut and HF boost, making it useful for a wide range of applications beyond kick drum.

The Electro-Voice N/D 868 is a cardioid kick drum mic that sounds somewhat like an RE27, but with pre-contoured EQ built in. The Sennheiser e602 and newer e902 are both contoured cardioid dynamic kick mics, but the e902 has more high-end snap.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Really Different

Studio guys will tell you that a great technique is using a large diaphragm condenser (LDC) several feet away, often constructing a tunnel of sound, deadened to maintain isolation.

For live gigs this has obvious limitations, combined with the fact that they usually get increasingly omni-directional at low frequencies.

Some engineers have had good results using an AKG C414 fairly dose to the kick drum’s sound hole for lighter acts, but most chose to use their 414 inventory for other tasks before dedicating one to kick.

It’s worth noting that single-diaphragm LDCs like the C3000 maintain their directional pattern in the low end, making them better candidates for all kinds of full-bandwidth live applications, besides being less expensive.

The Audio-Technica AE2500 dual-element cardioid mic places a dynamic and a condenser element in the same housing. This invention borrows from the studio ploy of taping a 57 and a 451 together so they’re time-aligned, and capsules are borrowed from A-T products in both categories.

Some find it has more potential on snare and guitar cabinets, but many swear by it on kick drum. And yes, it costs about the same as two good microphones.

Yamaha SKRM Subkick.

A while back, Yamaha introduced the SKRM SubKick, a 10-mch drum shell with a 6.5-inch woofer inside. This kick drum mic’ing idea is borrowed from the old-school studio approach of using the woofer from a Yamaha NS10 near-field studio monitor (usually available because its tweeter was blown) as a microphone for the kick drum.

Different results are obtained depending on whether tile woofer is in the NS10 cabinet to dampen its response, or is in ‘free-air.’ The frequency response of the woofer naturally rolls off the highs, but this technique has always been used to compliment another, more traditional mic’ing technique, providing a fatness and thickening that complements the transient of a condenser.

It’s not for everyone, but many think it’s “da bomb.”

Earthworks Kickpad/SR25 combination is a kick drum solution from the company’s three-mic condenser drum mic kit. Rather than design a mic specifically for kick drum, the company provides an in-line XLR barrel for its SR25 cardioid condenser which pads it down and contours its frequency response.


Earthworks KickPad

The KickPad can be bought separately and can be used with other mics, especially helpful with condensers, and it can also be used with dynamics, but pre-contoured kick drum mics get far less benefit from a double dose.

Many consoles can achieve the same results by putting in a pad and a mid-range cut, as sometimes they’re just not options on the desk (i.e. PreFade = PreEQ).

Now that we’ve established two inputs as standard, the next frontier is obvious. Someone recently joked that it’s about time we added a third input, but I agree wholeheartedly.

We’re best able to evaluate various combinations and new microphone choices by simply allowing for a third experimental kick drum mic in the input list. You may find that you can replace the two mics you’ve been using with a single mic that works better.

Alternatively, you may prefer some two-mic combination to what you’ve used all along.

How else are you going to find out unless you put some play time and space into the daily grind? Most engineers plan an hour between line check and sound check.

Why not invest a little of that time every day to learn more about microphones that make it go bang!

To read the full detailed article see:  The Mighty Kick Drum Microphone Part 2

October 4, 2012

The Mighty Kick Drum Microphone: Part 1

To read the full article see:  The Mighty Kick Drum Microphone Part 1

Though there are other conventions, it is generally agreed that the kick drum goes into the first channel of the console, and for time immemorial, inordinate efforts have gone into tediously adjusting it.

Sound check never really starts until after this first input has been tweaked to satisfaction.

The kick drum is the cornerstone of rock. It puts the pop in pop music and is the one input that holds it all together. It’s the heartbeat of rock and roll.

With most input channels, the goal is to accurately recreate the original sound, but with kick drum an ideal is constructed from the available material.

Perhaps it’s in channel one because it defines ‘one.’

First Things First

If you want good sounding drums, the drums must first sound good. Though it sounds like a platitude, sound checks frequently grind to a halt while someone looks for a drum key. Crap drums always provide crap sound (garbage in, garbage out), but the same kit, properly tuned, sounds completely different.

You don’t have to be a drummer to know how to tune drums, though it helps. However, plenty of drum techs are living proof that anyone can learn.

When foldback speakers began battling it out with Marshall stacks and Sunn Coliseums, taking the front head off the kick drum became a necessity to provide a degree of isolation and allow the mic to capture the attack of the beater hitting the head.

The use of a pillow to dampen the head began, no doubt by a sleepy drum tech, and as years went by, the art of the hole in the front head evolved.

There are three ways of setting up a kick drum: with heads on both sides, batter head only, or with a hole in the front head. The latter compromise has become the rule, as it provides access for mic placement, while retaining some benefits of the resonant head, and over time the hole has gotten smaller and moved away from the center.

Countless back-lounge discussions have been logged on this topic. It’s generally agreed that anything larger than 6 inches (a roll of duct tape) releases too much air and performs like no head at all (other than to keep the pillow inside), and a hole in the center also releases too much pressure.

Cutting a hole with a utility knife can have disastrous results and is a job for the skilled or experienced. Heating a coffee can on a stove and pressing it into the head can melt a hole that’s even and smooth.

And in case you were wondering, the 4-o’clock position for an offset hole became traditional because a boom arm reaching across the head causes the weight of the mic to tighten the screw on the mic clip and keep the mic in position.

Batter head tension should be no more than a half-tum past taking the wrinkles out. The front head’s tension affects the batter head, and should be slightly looser for the fullest sound.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Classics

By the 1980s other mics contended for the first channel.

The beyerdynamic M 88, originally introduced as a premium hypercardioid dynamic for a wide variety of applications, was eventually discovered to be an outstanding kick drum mic.

However, repeated exposure deteriorates the compliance of the membrane and imparts a “wooly” sound that some actually prefer for the drum, but is no longer acceptable when combined with proximity effect on vocals.

Informed users therefore clearly mark their M 88s as to their designation for drums or vocals.

Top to bottom, EV RE20, RE27N/D
and the newer RE320, which includes
a switchable curve designed for kick drums.

The Electro-Voice RE20, heralded for bringing out the fullness of radio announcers, was also discovered to bring depth to the kick drum.

This mic was followed up a few years ago with the RE27 N/D which employs a neodymium-alloy magnet, hotter output, extended HF, a presence peak at 4 kHz, and provides two low-cut filters instead of one, plus a high-cut.

The AKG D 112 became the first “application specific” kick-drum mic, partly in response to complaints about expensive D 12E studio mics breaking down under high SPL in the kick drum. Today it remains one the most popular, and the first to marry aesthetics to functional contoured frequency response. It looks cool and sounds great.

The Audio Technica ATM25 followed as a great hypercardioid utility mic, and it has been compared to a highly directional rugged D 12E.

 

 

To read the full article see:  The Mighty Kick Drum Microphone Part 1

April 23, 2012

Ddrum’s Reflex Review

Filed under: Drums/Percussion — Tags: , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 7:12 am

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Ddrum’s Reflex Review

For a long time, Ddrum was a name only synonymous with drum triggers. At its inception this made a lot of sense, but lets fast forward through the company history and development.

The brand actually began as a division of Clavia, the Swedish electronic instruments manufacturer best known for the Nord line of keyboards. In 2005, Ddrum was acquired by Armadillo Enterprises, a company who also owns Dean Guitars. The acquisition turned out to be not only a turning point in the company’s history, but it also helped broaden its catalogue by launching them into manufacturing acoustic drum kits. Today, Ddrum offers a respectable variety of acoustic drum kits. Each of the Ddrum series features distinctive construction and sound, providing a quality palette for all types of tastes, budgets, and musical styles.

The Ddrum Reflex is one of the newer drum kit series released by the company. Like all the other series, Reflex also comes with unique features that help characterize not only its sound, but also its market value. Reflex represents Ddrum’s intention of delivering a high-end drum kit with a much more digestible price tag for the masses.

Defying Standards

Some of the features that the user will find on Reflex will certainly not reflect the same standards of the majority of kits out there. Take for instance its bass drum. An unusual and impressive 22” x 20” size brings edge to both its look and sound. The bass drum, as well as its snare, features 8-ply shells enhancing sonic quality. Reflex comes with 10” and 12” rack toms and a 16” floor tom. One might argue about the disparity of jumping from 12” to 16” and avoiding the traditional 14” rack tom. That, once again, is Ddrum’s way of further pushing the limits of conformity in the drum kit market, making their series stand out from the rest.

But the feature that really gives the Reflex kit its uniqueness is the wood from which is it constructed. Apparently Ddrum is the first company ever to use Alder wood (Alnus Rubra) as the prime matter for a drum kit. Commonly used on guitar bodies (and frequently found in furniture) Alder wood resonates a rich tone while simultaneously being lightweight. It is also abundant in the environment, allowing for a more affordable market value when compared to more traditional woods used in drum kits such as maple for example. Interestingly, Fender has used Alder wood for over 50 years

for the bodies of their legendary guitars.

Reflex also comes with a few of the more commonly found features such as the Face-Off Lugs, standard tom arms and clamps and single-ply stock drumheads. This series also offers an assortment of interesting and attractive finishes to choose from.  Chrome and White Bubble Wrap are certainly eye catchers.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

When analyzing construction, sound, look, and especially price, Ddrum Reflex is a drum kit that is worth every penny invested on. I feel it is very difficult to find a kit in this price range that can offer the professional construction and sonic qualities that this kit does. In a recording environment as well as in a live performance setting, the Reflex drum kit is able to handle both quite well. It projects presence and body into a drumming performance.

For those just begging to drum as well as to seasoned drummers, Ddrum Reflex is a kit worth checking out at the store. If Reflex does not fit all the requirements that one is looking for in a drum kit, I can see it serving as the middle of the road kit for such a person. But I feel would be really hard for one to not like Ddrum Reflex. I’m sure even band mates will be impressed once they discover how much of the budget you used to paid for it.

 Advantages:
  • Unique construction
  • Overall sonic quality
  • Affordable price
  • Great sounding stock drumheads
Drawbacks:
  • No rack mounting system (for those who rather have it)
  • Cheap looking lugs

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Ddrum’s Reflex Review

February 2, 2012

Yamaha DTX540K Electronic Drums Review

Filed under: Drums/Percussion — Tags: , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 11:05 am

Yamaha pulls out all the stops with its revolutionary TCS pads in an attempt to make itself appealing to most drummers who still refuse e-drums. As a DTXPress owner and former user, the DTX540K is reminding me the feelings I had when I first left the acoustic path. Thus, I was very excited and had (too?) high expectations when I started this review. Half satisfied.

The End of a Polemic?

Indeed, Yamaha has been making huge improvements on its e-drum kits for several years and has effectively turn some unsuccessful and unauthentic toys into real instruments. From the very beginning of the e-drums history, the pads have been harshly criticized by many drummers because they were wrist damaging, too small and lagged far behind the performance of acoustic drums.

Yamaha DTX540K

Yamaha took this very extended discomfort into account and has come back under the spotlight with a new pad generation. As part of the DTX500 series, whose products are based on the same sound module, the DTX540K offers TCS pads (Textured Cellular Silicone) combining silicone and air blisters for toms and snare drum, and 3-zone pads for cymbals, thus offering extended possibilities to drummers. While in the past they were only practice instruments for drummers living in apartments, Yamaha presents now its new e-drum kits as being much more sexy and capable of competing with products of other manufacturers and even with real acoustic drums.

Ultimate Removal Man

Yamaha DTX540K

Having passed the transportation test — one of drummer’s favorite sports — it’s time for me to unpack the beast. All elements are perfectly well protected in four different cardboard boxes. The box with the RS500 rack is monumental, but after taking it out of its protection cover I was positively surprised to see that it was already assembled. Thus, I immediately forgave the effort required for transportation — and I could vaguely remember the nightmare it was to assemble the rack of my DTXPress. Yamaha has simplified things greatly and assembly is now a breeze: just spread out the two main upright posts of the rack and put the tom supports and the cymbal holders into the right position. All other parts of the product are logically sorted in the three remaining boxes so that assembling is not unpleasant at all.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

To wrap it up, the DTX540K is a mid-range product with some pros and cons. Some elements are just perfect, especially the rack, the XP70, XP80, and PCY135 pads, as well as some features of the module that allow you to practice more efficiently. But the sounds, the PCY100 cymbal pads and the KP65 kick darken the picture a little bit. This results in a wandering between pleasure and frustration that makes you want to look at more expensive drum kits to reduce your dissatisfaction.

The price of the instrument seems a bit too high. But the price certainly has to do with the new-generation pads. For example, the only difference compared to the DTX520K are the XP70 tom pads, which results in a substantial increase in price. The DTX540K is in the same price segment as the TD 9 K2 from Roland — another giant on the e-drums market — whose pads have a different design (meshed heads) and feel. It’s all a matter of taste I guess. The pad war is still raging and there appears to be no end in sight!

Anyway, this Yamaha is a good practice drum set for a wide range of musicians and it offers a good playing comfort in spite of its handicaps. However, it didn’t convince me enough to take it on stage instead of my acoustic drum kit. But who knows what surprises the future will bring…

Advantages:
  • TCS pads
  • PCY135 cymbal
  • RS500 rack
  • User-friendly DTX500 sound module
  • Practice-based features (metronome, groove check, play-along, record)
Drawbacks:
  • KP65 bass-drum pad
  • Samples
  • Badly placed volume control

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Yamaha DTX540K Review

December 12, 2011

Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Review

Two years ago, Native Instruments introduced Maschine, a kind of hybrid MPC combining software and hardware technologies. The software is now in version 1.7 and the manufacturer has also introduced Maschine Mikro — a simpler but cheaper version.

Besides being a huge success, Maschine marked an evolution on the hardware and software levels. First of all, the reader should refer to the user reviews. You’ll surely notice that some cons that we pointed out in our Maschine 1.0 review (in French) have been already fixed. But let’s start with the hardware of Maschine Mikro and the applications for which it has been conceived.

Mikro But Powerful

There is more than a family resemblance between Maschine and the Mikro version, but their dimensions are slightly different: the smaller brother is 12.6″ x 7.7″ x 2.2″ big (against 12.6″ x 11.6″ x 2.4″). This means that the Mikro version is about 6″ shorter, which is not bad considering a small desktop already fully packed with the computer keyboard, a MIDI keyboard, a mouse, controllers, etc. With a weight of 2.6 lbs (1.3 lb lighter than the “Makro” version), the Maschine Mikro is easily transportable in a backpack.

The first visible change is that the Mikro has only one display (instead of two) with a lower resolution (half as many pixels). Second major change: it has far less encoders! From the 11 encoders available on Maschine you get only one, placed above the display. The backlit switches are also decimated: you get only 28 from the 41 present on the original Maschine. Luckily, the number of pads is still the same (16) and the software is identical.

The transport console is almost the same (Loop is replaced by Restart) but there is no more direct access to the groups. With Maschine Mikro, you’ll have to push a Group button and then one of the pads. Two steps instead of one; slightly less practical. Also note that you can select a group using a keyboard shortcut as well, which is the lesser evil.

Generally speaking, it’s more difficult to browse through effects, sounds, patterns, plug-ins, and projects using only the hardware, due to the smaller display and the single rotary encoder. As we expected, Maschine Mikro makes the user more dependent on his computer mouse, screen and keyboard… This is not necessarily an issue if you use your DAW at home with your sequencer, but it might become a problem for live musicians because they don’t have the possibility of storing parameter automation data directly unto the hardware unit nor adjusting several values simultaneously. They’ll have to use an additional MIDI controller, which is not the case with the original Maschine. The last hardware difference is that Maschine Mikro has no MIDI connections on 5-pin DIN connectors!

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Maschine is back — smaller and more affordable ($349 instead of $599). The difference with its bigger brother concern mainly the hardware unit and the fact that it is more difficult to make music without putting your hands on your computer mouse and keyboard. In fact, Maschine Mikro is designed for musicians who work at home with a sequencer and want to use the hardware controller mainly for groove programming. In this case, Maschine Mikro fulfills its role very well because grabbing to your mouse is not an issue. If you want to use Maschine for live performances, real-time sound tweaking and parameter adjustment, and also if you want to control everything from the hardware unit, try the “complete” Maschine version, which thanks to the frequent software updates has become more and more powerful every time.

Advantages:

  • Price!
  • Reliable and comprehensive software (version 1.7)
  • More than 6GB of sounds provided
  • Very affordable additional sound banks
  • Komplete Element for free
  • A real inspiring tool
  • Hardware quality

Drawbacks:

  • Not as powerful as Maschine for live applications
  • Recording automation data directly from the hardware unit is impossible

To read the full detailed article see:  Maschine Mikro Review

 

February 17, 2011

Extreme Drum Processing: Exploring the Art of Filthy Signal Mutation

Filed under: Drums/Percussion, Mixing reviews, Plugin, Software — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:43 am

I like music with a distinctly electronic edge, but also want a human “feel.” Trying to resolve these seemingly contradictory ideals has led to some fun experimentation, but one of the more recent “happy accidents” was finding out what happens when you apply heavy signal processing to multitracked drums played by a human drummer. I ended up with a sound that slid into electronic tracks as easily as a debit card slides into an ATM machine, yet with a totally human feel.

This came about because Discrete Drums, who make rock-oriented sample libraries of multitracked drums (tracks are kick, snare, stereo toms, stereo room mic tracks, and stereo room ambience), received requests for a more extreme library for hip-hop/dance music. I had already started using their CDs for this purpose, and when I played some examples of loops I had done, they asked whether I’d like to do a remixed sample CD with stereo loops. Thus, the “Turbulent Filth Monsters” project was born, which eventually became a sample library (originally distributed by M-Audio, and now by Sonoma Wire Works).

Although I used the Discrete Drums sample library CDs and computer-based plug-ins, the following techniques also apply to hardware processors used in conjunction with drum machines that have individual outs, or multitracked drums recorded on a multitrack recorder (or sample CD tracks bounced over to a multitrack). Try some of these techniques, and you’ll create drum sounds that are as unique as a fingerprint – even if they came from a sample CD.

Effects Automation and Real Time Control

Editing parameters in real time lets you “play” an effect along with the beat. This is a good thing. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to vary several parameters at once while mixing the track down to a loop, so you’ll want to record these changes as automation.

Hardware signal processors can often accept MIDI controllers for automation. If so, you can sync a sequencer up to whatever is playing the tracks. Then, deploy a MIDI control surface (like the Mackie Control, Novation Nocturn, etc.) to record control data into the sequencer. Once in the sequencer, edit the controller data if needed.

If the processor cannot accept control signals, then you’ll need to make these changes in real time. If you can do this as you mix, fine. Otherwise, bounce the processed signal to another track so it contains the changes you want.

Software plug-ins for DAWs are a whole other matter, as there are several possible automation scenarios:

  • Use a MIDI control surface to alter parameters, while recording the data to a MIDI track (hopefully this will drive the effect on playback)
  • Twiddle the plug-in’s virtual knobs in real time, and record those changes within the host program
  • Use non-real time automation envelopes
  • Record data that takes the form of envelopes, which you can then edit
  • Use no automation at all. In this case, you can send the output through a mixer and bounce it to another track while varying the parameter. This can require a little after-the-fact trimming to compensate for latency (i.e., delay caused by going through the mixer then returning back into the computer) issues.

For example, with VST Automation (Fig. 1), a plug-in will have Read and Write Automation buttons.

Ohm Force Predatohm & VST automation

Fig. 1: Click on the Write Automation button with a VST plug-in, and when you play or record, tweaking controls will write automation into your project.

If you click on the Write Automation button, any changes you make to automatable parameters will be written into your project. This happens regardless of whether the DAW is in record or playback mode.

Now let’s take a closer look at some other plug-ins…

So What’s the Payoff?

Drum loops played by a superb human drummer, with all those wonderful little timing nuances that are the reason drum machines have not taken over the world, will give your tracks a “feel” that you just can’t get with drum machines. But if you add on really creative processing, the sounds will be so electronified that they’ll fit in perfectly with more radical instruments synths, highly processed vocals, and technoid guitar effects.

So, get creative – you’ll have a good time doing it, and your recordings won’t sound like million others. What good are all these great new toys if you don’t exploit them?

To read the full detailed article see:  Extreme Drum Processing

December 17, 2010

Multitrack Drum Libraries

Filed under: Drums/Percussion, Samplers, Software — Tags: , , — audiofanzine @ 3:51 pm

More drum libraries are showing up in multitrack format from companies like Discrete Drums, Wizoo, East-West, Reel Drums, etc. Although these are sold on the basis of being useable out of the box for drum parts (with the additional advantage of being mixable), I see them more as a gold mine of raw materials for creating custom drum loops. Being able to process individual tracks separately is certainly a major advantage when deriving loops from multitracked parts, and of course, proper looping allows using these parts at different tempos.

For example, I just did a “remix” of the Discrete Drums sample library for the company, who had received numerous requests for “dirtier,” lower-resolution versions aimed for more hardcore hip-hop and dance musicians. Hard disk recording programs are ideal for doing this type of remixing; this article will concentrate on using Sonar, but most techniques apply to other programs, and specific examples are given for Acid as well.

Dealing with Human Error

Drum libraries played by real drummers are great, because of the additional “human feel” compared to using machines. But due to timing inaccuracies, it sometimes takes a little tempo tweaking to line up measure markers with downbeats.

 

This illustration shows a loop whose stated tempo was 79 BPM, but in the upper view, note how the downbeat at the beginning of measure 9 (the loop end point in this particular case) hits a little early compared to the measure marker. In the bottom view, changing the tempo to 79.03 BPM places the measure marker at the downbeat’s exact beginning.

If you need to change the tempo compared to the original file, then time-stretching becomes necessary. Sonar has a built-in time stretch function that’s very similar to the one in Acid; Cubase SX has a nifty ReCycle type feature that works particularly well with drum loops. For programs that don’t stretch, you have three options if you want to change tempo:

* Import the file into ReCycle, change the tempo as desired, then export back to WAV or AIF.
* Import the file into Acid, Sonar, or a recent version of Sound Forge, “acidize” the file, then export.
* If the tempo change is small, change the pitch withoutcompensating for duration. Tranposing pitch upward will speed up the tempo, transposing down will slow it. For small changes, the pitch difference may not be noticeable (and in some cases, may be desirable).

After tweaking the track mix and setting the tempo, render the file to a stereo loop. Import this into your hard disk recorder or a digital audio editor and set looped playback mode. If there’s a click when the loop jumps back to the beginning, add a 4 ms fade-out to eliminate clicks, and if absolutely necessary, a 2-4 ms fade-in. In drastic cases, I use Sonic Foundry’s Click Removal DirectX plug-in to remove clicks at transition points.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Groove Clip Tricks

* All programs that use slicing to do time-stretching work most efficiently when speeding up rather than slowing down. Therefore, if you want to create a loop that works well from, for example, 100 BPM to 120 BPM, you’re better off creating it at 100 BPM and speeding it up than starting at 120 BPM and slowing it down.
* Editing markers is usually mandatory for drum loops played by human drummers instead of machines, as editing can compensate for any timing variations that interfere with the stretching process.
* Before getting too much into editing, try adjusting the Basic Slices and Transient Detection sliders first. Often choosing different values will solve flamming and other problems, without the need for editing.
* Use the lowest Slice Rhythmic Value possible (e.g., 8th note instead of 16th note), consistent with good sound. Extraneous slices can cut off drum decays. This is particularly annoying with kicks, as you lose some of the fullness and “ring.”
* Sonar will endeavor to keep any markers that you’ve moved manually in their assigned positions, so you can experiment at any time with the Slicing and Transient Detect controls without losing the positions of your carefully-placed markers.
* When you save a Sonar song or bundle, it retains all the Groove Clip parameters. To save a Groove Clip in acidized format for use other programs, simply drag the file to the desktop; it will be copied and saved with its groove parameters intact. However, you will likely want to rename it, as Sonar generates the name automatically.

To read the full detailed article see: Multitrack Drum Libraries

October 27, 2010

SPL DrumXchanger Review

Filed under: Drums/Percussion, Plugin, Software — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 2:17 pm

Drum replacement tools were very rare a decade ago but have become much more common in modern music productions. When the inventor of the famous Transient Designer launched its own sound replacement plug-in, it was obvious for us at AudioFanzine to want to test this tool!

Application

SPL DrumXchanger

With the evolution of music production workflows, the trend seems to be to delay artistic and technical decisions of each production step as much as possible. On the other hand, recording techniques in home studios don’t really allow users to get a fully satisfying result, which can be heard in the final production. Sound replacement tools have become a necessity when it comes to improving the sound of a recording or providing it a different frequency or dynamic response. That’s why SPL developed the DrumXchanger, a mono/stereo plug-in available in VST, AU and RTAS formats, that allows the user to trigger a sound using another one. But as we’ll see it later, the plug-in can do much more!

The DrumXchanger requires an iLok and it is provided with an additional file that includes a small sample bank so you can replace the recorded sound with SPL samples. Installing both files (application + sound bank) is easy and quick; you may install the sound bank in the directory you wish. When you run the DrumXchanger (I inserted it in a ProTools track) you see a… grea user interface! Nothing sad indeed: the DrumXchanger just inherited the visual characteristic of the Analog Code plug-in suite… It’s true, it doesn’t look very joyful — a bit more color would brighten up my session — but then again, we are here to work, right? What are we waiting for!

Five in a Row

The first thing that strikes you when the DrumXchanger opens is the intuitive layout of the different processing stages. In fact, the plug-in is divided into five clear and distinguishable sections, each of them with its own special editing and setting possibilities…

Let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

In a market packed with developers who constantly offer new triggering plug-ins, SPL distinguishes itself once again from with a sound replacer that provides really effective detection and sound shaping features. With a dual detection system, two Transient Designers, three dual filters, a pitch shifter, and a compressor, the DrumXchanger is much more than a simple triggering plug-in. It is a comprehensive sound processing tool that provides plenty of settings for you to always achieve the sound you need. At $199.66 + VAT, the DrumXchanger is a no-brainer!

Advantages:

  • Overall structure, layout and design
  • Sound possibilities
  • Two Transient Designers in a single plug-in!
  • Dual detection system

Drawbacks:

  • Delay control is too imprecise
  • Hey Mr. SPL, how about including more samples with the DrumXchanger? Because your samples sound really good…

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  SPL DrumXchanger Review

June 4, 2010

The Cymbal Rap for Newbies

The Difference Between Bronze and Brass Cymbals

For simplicity’s sake, there are basically three types and price levels of cymbals: beginner brass, intermediate sheet bronze and professional cast bronze. The brass are usually used only by young beginners and are the least expensive. The sheet bronze cymbals, while most fall in the intermediate price range, are used by beginners and pros, and the cast bronze are priced highest and are usually professional level cymbals.

Cast Bronze Cymbals: The Pro Stuff

A 16" medium thin crash

The professional level and most expensive cast bronze type cymbals are what I will describe first, since some of their attributes also apply to the less expensive sheet bronze and least expensive brass cymbals.

Cast bronze cymbals are made of B20 bronze, an alloy of 20% tin and 80% copper with traces of other elements such as silver. It is a fragile alloy because of the amount of tin. Since it is not strong enough to be formed into sheet metal, each cymbal must be individually poured into a mold, then manufactured which is what makes them more expensive to produce. The liquid molten bronze is poured into molds or casts which produce an ingot disc or “flat” which is then beaten, formed, shaped, lathed and hammered into what we know as a cymbal.

Each cymbal has a raised section in the center called a bell. The cymbal is lathed by holding a knife to the topside and underside of the cymbal which produces a spiraled groove. These grooves and the microscopic ridges inside them produce the high pitch zing that is so characteristic of a cymbal. The cymbal may be left like this or it may be further affected by hammering which makes the overtones of the cymbal even more complex and mysterious sounding.

AA Medium Crash 20"Much of this forming, lathing and hammering is done by computers now in the large cymbal factories but many cymbals are still made the old fashioned way especially by small cymbal factories in Turkey where the modern process of cymbal making started over 400 years ago. The cymbal is usually sprayed with a light coat of lacquer to prevent corrosion and fingerprints. Some models of cymbals are polished with a high speed buffer to produce a brilliant shine. Some of the most expensive models have alternating areas of lathed and unlathed sections, hammered and unhammered sections which produce even more exotic and unusual sounds.

The Zildjian A model cymbal is considered the most popular selling cymbal and is the benchmark of cast cymbals. This cymbal was designed in conjunction with legendary drummer Buddy Rich who liked the cleaner, brighter sound of an unhammered cymbal. This cymbal has no hammer marks but does have the lathed grooves. This is the cymbal heard most often in pop and rock recordings of the last fifty years. The Sabian equivalent is the AA model. The Meinl equivalent is the Soundcaster.  A package set of Zildjian A cymbals costs around $649 for a 20″ ride, 16″ crash and a pair of 14″ hi hats (2009).

ByzanceThe Zildjian K model cymbal actually predates the A model and is more complex sounding because of the hammering marks which give it a more ornate overtone series. The K is more expensive because of this extra hammering step in the manufacturing process. The K is the archetypical cymbal for jazz drumming but has become popular with rock drummers as well. The Sabian equivalent is the HH model. The Meinl equivlent is Byzance. The Paiste equivalent is the Twenty series.

Now let’s take a look at the other types…

To read the full article see:  The Cymbal Rap

January 20, 2010

Best of NAMM 2010: The Top 11

The Audio & Musical Gear that Made the Show

As the dust is settling in Anaheim, and the post-buzz is gathering wind, us here at Audiofanzine present to you our Top 11 gear picks from NAMM 2010. Why 11? Well, it’s one louder isn’t it?

With the hundreds of new products revealed and displayed last week at NAMM 2010, it is quite a battle for manufacturers fighting for attention space in the minds of consumers and partners.  It is always a challenge, and everyone of course has their favorite category, brand or particular gear need that directs their attention to this booth or that piece of hot news.  It is also extremely difficult to say hands down- this is the most innovative product to come out because invariable each product can only fairly compete within its own category.  Furthermore, like I said innovation is the outcome of a particular unfulfilled need, and not everyone will share this need.  Some products at the end are not groundbreaking but are just ‘cool’.  And that’s cool too.

Hence, without further ado, the editors of Audiofanzine present to you the Top 11 picks from NAMM 2010, in no particular order- as the products present a mixture of categories that cannot be compared.

Teenage Engineering OP-11.  Teenage Engineering OP-1:

It may look like a Japanese toy, but the OP-1 is the all-in-one portable Synthesizer, Sampler and Controller. With additional features like the FM Radio and a G-Force sensor for pitch and bend effects. Beside a creative approach to sequencing with multiple choice of sequencers, it also has a built-in Tape feature.  Check out all juicy details on Teenage Engineering .  This one is a keeper.

Pearl E-Pro2.  Pearl E-Kit:

What makes the E-Pro Live drumset truly different from other electronic drumsets, the company says, is the “real feel and response from the pads”. Pearl’s Tru-Trac Electronic Heads feature dual-zones that reproduce all of the intricacies the drummer is used to hearing when playing an acoustic drum. The smooth coating on the heads makes moving from drum to drum fast and easy, Pearl says. And of course, let’s not forget the obvious: the real sizes of the drums. The set features 10″, 12″ and 14″ toms, a 14″ snare drum, and a 20″ bass drum. Say goodbye to 8″ practice pads.

Taylor Baritone 8 Strings3.  Taylor Baritone 8 Strings:

Taylor decided to add 2 octave strings to each of the A and D strings. The resulting 8-string baritone GS complements the baritone’s lower tonal range, adding a touch of upper-octave brightness without too much 12-string jangle. The result is a guitar with great tonal range, perfect for walking basslines and rich melodies.  How does it sound?  Simply divine.

Want to see the rest of the list?  Visit us here:  NAMM Top 11

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