AF’s Weblog

August 27, 2008

Fender New American Standard Telecaster review

Fender has added some new features to a few of its classic instruments and announced the New American Standard series. Here’s a great occasion to come face to face (or body to body) with two of rock’s oldest and dearest friends: the Stratocaster and Telecaster.

Fender Telecaster New American Standard

For those few who don’t know, the Stratocaster and the Telecaster are kind of the mothers of all electric guitars, with their Gibson cousin, the Les Paul. Created in the beginning of the 50’s by the master Leo Fender, these guitars kick-started the solid body concept (bodies without sound chambers, and therefore solving the feedback problem of amplified acoustic guitars ) and establishing the principles of electric guitar building; to the point where 50 years later, these very same principles are still used by electric guitar builders.

As far as deciding whether these New American Standards are worth it, the answer is a 200% yes. Of course, if you bought an older model a few months ago, don’t worry:, the new features, though all valid, aren’t major. So if you’re thinking about getting yourself a Strat or a Tele, you can rest assured: The Fender sound is there.

Two legendary guitars with classic sound and playability
Nice new cases that are both light and rugged
Sustain Improvements
Neck varnish gives it a nice feel

Nothing really revolutionary, but we weren’t expecting it anway

Read the full Fender New American Standard Telecaster review on Audiofanzine.

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E-MU Tracker Pre USB 2 review

E-MU TRACKER PRE-USB 2.0 - AudioFanzineIn a world of myriad low-cost audio interfaces, E-MU has made a bold move with it’s new Tracker Pre USB 2.0. Though somewhat similar to it’s predecessor, the 0202 USB 2.0, the Tracker Pre has created a stir due to E-MU’s new CurrentMorph circuit design, which allows the Tracker Pre to offer +48V phantom power and the use of its converters (24-bit/192kHz A/D and D/A ) while using only USB bus power! Is this the answer to the nomadic recording artist’s prayers? Here is the pros and cons

Value for the Money
Software Bundle
Preamps – value for the money
Completely USB Powered – including Phantom Power!
Drivers – Low Latency
Direct Monitoring
Inserts
Ground-Lift Switches
Versatility – Can also be used as an autonomous Preamp

Phantom Power Pop – when turned on and off
The GUI (or lack of it)
Level Indicators – could have used at least one more
Continuous Direct Monitoring Knob

Read the detailed E-MU Tracker Pre USB 2 review.

QuikQuak RaySpace 2 review

Filed under: Computer music reviews — Tags: , , , — audiofanzine @ 1:17 pm

There’s such a plethora of software reverbs, that an editor who wants to be a cut above the rest has to rely on originality. By allowing you to create any reverberating space you’d like, and to precisely define a vast amount of its sonic characteristics, for a reasonable price, QuikQuak RaySpace is a reverb that has a lot going for it.

QuikQuak RaySpace 2 - AudioFanzine

An original concept, numerous possibilities, complete automation allowing you to move your Listener or sources within a space/room, very efficient ergonomics, low CPU consumption and an interesting sound: RaySpace offers way more than its price might suggest. But you have to be aware that, despite the 90-plus factory presets (classified by type, very good programming), the plug-in needs a certain learning curve when you want to start from scratch. It is not as simple as choosing an algorithm, and setting the pre-delay,

reverb time and EQ… You have to tweak and refine each parameter, sometimes randomly, and the whole process is very different from the usual way of working with reverbs. For example, the EQ isn’t there only for small adjustments; it is essential for creating the final sound. And the interaction between the various parameters also implies a certain amount of practice. Luckily, the ergonomics are really well designed, and the various displays will be of great help.

In a nutshell, RaySpace is a nice surprise, and anybody can verify this by simply downloading the demo version from Quikquak’s site.

Concept
Customized space creation
Visual approach
3D visualization
Automation
Ability to move objects around within the spaces (Listener and/or sources)
Lots of parameters
Creative potential
Surround
Fast Impulse export
Undo and Recall
Low CPU consumption
Price

Needs a learning curve
Loss of bearings – very different from most reverbs
Can’t handle all scenarios
High frequencies sometimes a bit harsh
No zoom in Edit mode
Only one automatic box shape (parallelepiped)
Only one global height
Only one definition of wall material

Check out the complete QuikQuak RaySpace 2 review.

Digidesign Velvet review

Filed under: Computer music reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 1:11 pm

Electric Pianos never seem to go out of style; and because they’ve now gone virtual, Digidesign has decided to come out with their own version of these timeless instruments.

Since its acquisition/creation by Digidesign, the A.I.R team has been very busy, giving the virtual world nothing less than Xpand!, Hybrid, Strike, Structure and Velvet, the latter being the subject of this review. In recent years, Rhodes and Wurlitzer instruments have made their return to the stage and in numerous productions, from pop to hip-hop. By emulating these famous pianos, Velvet aims to be, for Pro Tools users, the direct rival of Scarbee, AAS and Native Instruments.

Seamless integration within Pro Tools
Global quality
Stability
Nice FX section
Versatility and creative power
Total automation
Quality of presets
Unusual features
Well, Pro Tools only…
Velocity setting
MkI quite agressive
Wurlitzer’s lack of “wurlitzerity”
No global volume for FX section

Digidesign Velvet review is fully available here.

Arturia Analog Factory Experience review

Filed under: Computer music reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 1:05 pm

Arturia has been showing more and more interest in software/hardware solutions, as can be seen with some of their top of the line projects, such as Origin. The editor also offers a more affordable solution with Analog Factory Experience (AFE), combining v2.0 of its Analog Factory and a keyboard controller made by CME. Let’s see what this tempting bundle has to offer…

What’s in the box?

Clavier

The first surprise when you lift the cardboard box is its weight: 3.7kg. Does this mean there’s a good keyboard inside? In any event, its metal case and solid wood-style sides make a nice impression in this all-plastic era. On one hand there’s the keyboard controller, on the other there’s v.2.0 of the Analog Factory, a Windows and Mac software program that compiles all the audio engines of Arturia’s former soft synths. The v.2.0 now offers 3500 presets grouped by style, synth model and other tags, while v.1.0 “only” has 2000 presets and doesn’t include the Jupiter-8.

The Arturia sound
Audio engine of each of the seven synths
3500 presets
Classification and fast access
Standalone and plug-in
Keyboard seems to be solidly built
Full-size keys with a nice touch
Controllers
Pedal inputs
USB or Midi
Low price

Some presets are too loud
Some clicks when changing presets
No direct monitoring of Key Parameter assigning
Pitch bend values are fixed in presets
Polyphony is fixed in presets
Some faulty connections (ADSR sliders)
No aftertouch
Lifespan of keys?
Some issues with other Arturia synths in standalone mode
Optional DC adapter
Multifunction Level knob

Read the full Arturia Analog Factory Experience review on Audiofanzine.

Line 6 Micro Spider review

Filed under: Guitar reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 12:55 pm

Determined not to let Roland’s Micro Cube and Vox’s DA5 be the only contenders for portable-amp champ, Line 6 has entered the ring with its Micro Spider.

Micro Spider

Traveling with your electric guitar is not an easy task, especially if you have a heavy tube amp and no roadie. Of course, certain solutions like the POD exist, but you won’t be able to play your last song for your entourage unless you take turns with the headphones or plug the device into a hi-fi system. So you need a good sounding portable amp. That’s where battery powered mini-amps come in.

While Roland has been the undisputed champ with its Cube, Line 6 has completed its line of amps with the Micro Spider, a small 6 watt amp with a 6.5″ speaker. In order to work, it needs either a DC adapter (included), or six C batteries. With its 5 electric guitar amp models, acoustic guitar model, six effects and built-in tuner, the Micro Spider hopes to get a piece of the portable-amp pie.

Clean and Crunch sounds
Price
Integrated Tuner
Integrated Effects
Mic input
Size and Weight
Sound Power

Metal & Insane sounds
Line Out Quality
Battery cover/Rear panel
Strap

Read the full Line 6 Micro Spider review.

Wallander Instruments Visual Instruments Brass 1 review

Filed under: Computer music reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 12:52 pm

While certain sound libraries have been waging a gigabyte war, others have taken the synthesis route, such as the Wallander WIVI, who with only its few hundred megabytes takes on the sample library titans.

Ouverture

The power of modern computers has made it possible to virtually and realistically emulate complete orchestras, which seemed almost impossible a few years ago. Not so long ago, you needed a full rack of Akai or E-mu samplers or a battalion of networked Pcs and/or Macs to properly simulate orchestral scores, with libraries whose sound quality didn’t always merit the resources used.

Then came along gigantic libraries, such as the Vienna Symphonic Library or East West’s Symphonic Orchestra. Not only did you need powerful computers, but you needed huge storage space as well… However, you could set up a complete virtual orchestra with two or three 8-core Macs or the equivalent PCs.

Concept
Ergonomy
Powerful & Inspiring
Sound quality
Expressiveness
Realism
Stability
Instrument extensions
Optimization
Polyphonic mode

Wind/Breath controller strongly recommended
A few clicks or artifacts on some parameters
You can’t enter values with the numeric pad
No pull-down menus
No .pdf manual

Read the full Brass 1 review on Audiofanzine

Fender Champion 600 review

Filed under: Guitar reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:28 am

It’s very fashionable to be mini. It’s very fashionable to be vintage. Fender is very fashionable… but why? Because Fender has released the Champion 600, a reissue of a mini, vintage, guitar amp, originally sold between 1949 and 1953. The concept is very basic, a 5 watt tube amp with a volume knob. So, is it a hit or a miss?

Champion 600

Life in modern cities can be a bit annoying when you’re a musician trying to practice, without disturbing your entire neighborhood. Naturally, manufacturers have been quick to propose various solutions, for a multitude of situations.

Some amp manufacturers have created solutions specifically for guitar players, with a range of small or mid sized amps, allowing the musician to turn the volume all the way up, without fearing a police raid.

Read the full editorial Fender Champion 600 review on Audiofanzine

August 26, 2008

M-Audio Fast Track Ultra review

M-Audio recently presented their latest addition to the Fast Track family: the Ultra, a USB audio interface with 4 Octane preamps, integrated effects, and advanced routing. Is it a worthy successor to the Fast Track dynasty? Lets take a look…

Fast Track Ultra

M-audio already has quite a bit of experience with audio interfaces, and models such as the Firewire 410 or the Fast Track pro were big hits (technically as well as commercially). Since they’re on a roll, they’ve decided to expand their “Fast Track” USB interfaces with an “Ultra” model, which has evolved out of the Fast Track Pro, which itself evolved out of the first Fast Track.

You can read the full test of M-Audio Fast Track Ultra on Audiofanzine.

Audio-Technica review: ATH-ANC3

Filed under: Recording reviews — Tags: , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 4:03 pm
Audio Technica ATH-ANC3

Audio Technica ATH-ANC3

For travelers who want to listen to their favorite music without bothering others or being bothered, using an ordinary pair of headphones doesn’t always give you total isolation. So then came along in-ear headphones (that go directly into the ear canal and therefore isolate the listener). Then, after that, noise-canceling headphones, featuring electronic circuitry that reduced extraneous noise, appeared on the scene. Audio Technica now offers headphones with both these features, but is it enough to provide total isolation?

Read the full test of Audio-Technica ATH-ANC3 on Audiofanzine.

I personally bought them and use them everywhere now, from plane to the street. It’s such a comfort to listen to music in the silence! 🙂

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