AF’s Weblog

June 30, 2009

Charter Oak – SCL1 Compressor Limiter

Charter Oak gives us an exclusive presentation of their new discrete Compressor Limiter, the SCL1.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

June 29, 2009

Spectrasonics Omnisphere: Omnipotent & Omnificent ?

Introduction
After many years of development, Spectrasonics has released their new flagship virtual instrument, Omnisphere, which has been heralded as a completely new ground-breaking hybrid virtual instrument incorporating a myriad of realtime synthesis techniques, an epic library featuring ‘psychoacoustic’ sounds, and many other innovative features. It’s also the first instrument to be built upon their newly developed STEAM Engine. So, when Spectrasonics, who has always been a heavy-weight in the world of VSTIs and Sample libraries, makes a claim like this, many of us stop to listen. What have we heard…..


When I first got wind of Spectrasonics plans to come out with Omnisphere, I , like no doubt many other people, was wondering why they’d go to all the trouble of  trying to improve upon the already impressive Atmosphere when there were so many other things they could do. What I didn’t realize at the time was that Spectrasonics had developed their own Steam engine and was now poised to create a hybrid synth worthy of their new engine and that would dwarf Atmosphere in sheer scope, design, and capabilities. And while Spectrasonics has gone to great lengths to point out that Omnisphere is not merely a successor to Atmosphere but a completely new virtual instrument, many people might erroneously continue to think of it that way. But 5 minutes with this instrument is enough to convince anyone that it goes well beyond being just an Über-Atmosphere and is in its own “sphere”.

Give me some STEAM

One of the most important features of Omnisphere is Spectrasonics’ own STEAM engine, as opposed to the UVI engine found in Atmosphere. The Steam engine was created by their own in-house development team and will, they say, be used as the basis of all of their future performance instruments. As well as providing development possibilities into a variety of hybrid synthesis and control capabilities (high resolution streaming, Sample playback, Integrated FX, Timbre Shifting, etc.), Spectrasonics says that it will also make future technological transitions easier. An additional advantage of having their own engine is that their own software can be more flexible and open, allowing patches to be shared across hosts and computer platforms as well as allowing all instruments based on their engines (S.A.G.E. & STEAM) to better interact, which is already evident in the interaction between Stylus RMX and Omnisphere (more on this later).

Installation

Nowhere is the contrast between Atmosphere and Omnisphere more obvious than with the difference in library sizes. Atmosphere fit on 6 CDs and took around an hour to install. Omnisphere has a core library of  40-plus gigas and comes on 6 DVDS! Installation can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes per DVD (depending on the speed of your drive) which means that it could take up to 4 and a half hours to install! In my case, each DVD took around 35-40 minutes which meant the whole thing took about 4 hours. Fortunately you can interrupt installation and resume where you left off (starting at the beginning of the next DVD), even if you turn off the computer. Once everything’s installed, it’s time to go to Spectrasonic’s site to register and get the latest versions of the driver and the patch & soundsource libraries. Registration and updating are pretty quick and painless and you should take the opportunity to start downloading the truly excellent video tutorials on their site.

Multi-timbral

One of the main differences between Atmosphere and Omnisphere is that the latter is Multi-Timbral while the former was not. This means that while you needed to open multiple instances of Atmosphere when you wanted it to play more than one part or sound, one instance of Omnisphere can play up to eight different parts at the same time (cpu willing) thanks to the new STEAM engine.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion
I’ve been a big Spectrasonics fan ever since I first came across their products. So does that mean I’m not objective and automatically like everything they do? Not really. It’s more like a long time fan who becomes more and more difficult to please and who has high standards for the object of his adulation (I’m a big Sting & Stevie Wonder fan but that doesn’t make me less critical of their latest releases; rather the opposite is true). But somehow Spectrasonics just keeps getting better and better at what they do. Of course one can always find negative things to say about anything, even Omnisphere. So some might say that the sounds are too big and won’t easily fit into a mix, or that Spectrasonics’ sounds are too easily recognizable and ubiquitous. Or that its sounds are too geared at certain styles of music. But these arguments, which I disagree with, would only be valid on the surface (if that!). The complexity and versatility of the instrument and its massive sound library make these points irrelevant.

In light of this test, Audiofanzine gives Omnisphere a Best Product award

At around $480, it’s a very good deal, especially when you think of the sheer number of sounds that come with it. You won’t find a better sounding instrument with such an enormous palette of sounds in the virtual world. Its only competitors are to be found in the hardware world, and when you look at it like that, the price now takes on a new light! Add to that the fact that Spectrasonics has included many sounds from their award winning sample libraries of the past (the wonderful Symphony of Voices alone costs around $500!) and the ‘value for the money’ ratio starts to tilt even further in the buyer’s favor.

Advantages:

  • The Sound, the sound , the sound
  • User friendly
  • Flexibility, and the possibility to go in deeper
  • Arpeggiator
  • Live and Stack Modes
  • The sound library (and the inclusion of a “best of” compilation of Spectrasonics older libraries)
  • Midi learn, Automation, and Modulation (the majority of parameters can be controlled & it’s easy to do!)
  • Interconnectivity of all it’s aspects and features
  • Interface (both simple & complex sections)
  • Excellent Video Tutorials and Presentations
  • STEAM engine: present and future interaction with other instruments built on their engines (like RMX)

Drawbacks:

  • Resource Heavy
  • No Stand alone

To read the full detailed article see:  Spectrasonics Omnisphere Review

June 26, 2009

Charter Oak – PEQ-1 Equalizer

Filed under: Equalizers — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 11:47 am

Charter Oak presents their new PEQ-1 stereo program equalizer.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

June 25, 2009

Vintage Tools Sonic Summarizer & NTP Dual Limiter

Vintage Tools presents their Sonic Summarizer and the NTP Dual limiter.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

June 22, 2009

Steinberg Cubase 5 Review

Filed under: Sequencers, Software — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:38 am
Introduction

Cubase, one of the titans of the sequencer pantheon, has come out with an attractive looking 5th version, at a time when the sequencer wars are raging more than ever. Let’s take a look…

One of the oldest sequencers, along with Logic (old-timers may remember the golden era of Pro 24 and Notator), Cubase has over the years, imposed numerous ergonomic, technological, and conceptual standards on the competition. Releasing a new version of Steinberg’s flagship software is still an event in itself, although it must be admitted that today, the pretenders to the throne of the king of sequencers are quite numerous. As a result, innovation and excellence are no longer unique to Cubase and, without even mentioning other sequencer heavy-weights (Logic, Sonar, Pro Tools, Samplitude, Digital Performer and Ableton Live), the last decade has seen many new challengers, with varying price tags and popularity, but packed with great features: Fruity Loops, Melodyne, Tracktion, Energy XT, Reaper … In a market as competitive as this, it’s obviously increasingly difficult to stand out. Cubase 4 had its critics even though it launched the VST3 standard, brought its effects and virtual instruments up to date, inaugurated a new media management system and you could finally move effects from one track to another by drag & drop. But it seemed more like they were trying to catch up to the competition rather than really innovating … Even the more original innovations, like management of external hardware (particularly Yamaha’s, since the Japanese manufacturer had recently bought Steinberg) and the emergence of control room targeted features were interesting, but did not effect all users and therefore didn’t necessarily justify the increased software price: around $879! Fortunately, when the impressive Logic 8 came out for around $500 it forced Steinberg to rethink its rates and marketing strategy: you can now find Cubase 5 for around $500! With relatively interesting updates: 4.1 and 4.5 (side chain management for their effects, better routing management, additional sound banks for HALionOne, etc..), and this 5th version, Steinberg is doing its best to seduce us. Let’s get into details…

Conclusion

Cubase 5 is undoubtedly a success and shows progress in several areas. More user-friendly, more powerful and better equipped, Steinberg’s baby is alive and well! Sure, we’d always like to have more (especially virtual instruments), but features like VariAudio, VST Expression, Tempo/Signature tracks, or the multitrack export feature make this an essential update. To the question “Should you upgrade from version 4 or lower”, the answer is a 1000 times yes, but keep in mind that the Studio version of the software doesn’t include (and it’s an important point) VariAudio, amongst other things.

If however, you don’t have a sequencer or you intend to change, the problem is more difficult because after a quick web surf, it was pretty surprising to find out that no brands except Magix, Cakewalk and Ableton, have demo versions of their sequencers! And it’s a shame that you can’t try before you buy at a time when the differences between sequencers is often summed up by a few features and different work-flows. But, speaking as an unconditional Cubase user these past fifteen years, I can’t recommend Cubase 5 enough…

Positives:


A penalty goes to Propellerhead for still not addressing the 64-bit ReWire and Rex format issue
  • Full 64-bit!
  • VariAudio, efficient and fully integrated.
  • VST Expression.
  • Finally there’s a multitrack export!
  • Finally a hi-quality reverb!
  • Tempo and signature tracks, so much easier…
  • A complete all-in-one solution.
  • Printed manuals and video tutorials.
  • Groove Agent One, simple and effective.
  • Loopmash
  • The automation panel
  • The concept of an iPhone application to control the sequencer

Drawbacks:

  • No sampler, no organ, no piano outside of the presets in HALion One
  • Synthesizers that aren’t up to par with the competition

To read the full detailed exclusive article see:  Steinberg Cubase 5 Review

June 19, 2009

JBL – PRX PA Series

Filed under: Monitors, Musikmesse 2009, Speakers — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 7:33 am

JBL presents two models in their PRX portable PA series, the 512Mi & the 718s.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

June 18, 2009

Brauner – Pure Cardioid Microphone Series

Dirk Brauner talks about the new Pure Cardioid Series, which includes “pure cardioid” models of the Valvet X, VM1, and VMX microphones.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

June 17, 2009

Antelope Audio – Zodiac D/A Converter

Antelope Audio presents their new Zodiac D/A converter with 64 bit clocking technology.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

June 15, 2009

EQ and Compression Techniques for Vocals and Acoustic Guitar

As an engineer/producer, one of my biggest early challenges was getting my mixes to sound as polished and balanced as the mixes of songs on my favorite albums. Living in Nashville, I knew the problem wasn’t the players (some of whom had even played on those same favorite albums). I also knew that I was happy enough with the sounds I was recording because when I’d solo a particular track, I liked what I heard. The problem, in a nutshell, was getting all the parts of my mix to fit nicely together. What I’ve learned over time and will describe below are a few simple compression and EQ techniques for vocals and the acoustic guitar in your mixes. These techniques, when used properly, will go a long way towards allowing the vocals and acoustic guitars in your mixes to effectively share the sonic space.

Compression

When I first started reading about compressors I was hopelessly lost. The terminology was technical in an almost mean-spirited way and I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was being written. To keep things simple, I think of compression as a way of evening out the loud and soft parts of any vocal or instrument so that its behavior is a bit more predictable. In other words, compression brings up the really soft spots and tames the really loud spots so that you’re not constantly reaching for the volume fader on your mixing board (or virtual mixing board on your DAW). In its simplest form, a compressor, whether a hardware unit or a plug-in, will squeeze the audio so that its highs and lows are less pronounced. This allows you to do things like bring down the volume level of the compressed track without fear that its softer parts will get lost, or bring up the volume level without fear that the loud parts will jump out. It might help to think of all compression settings (attack, release, ratio and threshold) as ways to squeeze your audio more or less aggressively. Not enough compression will leave tracks that jump out of a mix at inappropriate times or get lost in the sound of the other instruments; however, too much compression can make a track sound lifeless or uninspired. My rule of thumb is to be less aggressive compressing audio on the way into your DAW (because you’re stuck with whatever you do) and more aggressive with my plug-in compression (because you can always dial it back).

EQ

While a wonderful (and essential) tool, EQ is also quite possibly the quickest way to royally mess up the sound of a mix. Overuse of EQ ranks second only to overuse of reverb as the hallmark of an inexperienced mix engineer. EQ should be used to subtly (or not so subtly) color the sound of the particular track you’re working on so that it relates well to and leaves space for the other tracks in a mix. My experience has been that it’s what you pull out and not what you put in that makes EQ work best. For example, even when you’re looking for a boost in the high frequencies of a track, it’s often more effective to pull a few dB from a lower frequency which, in turn, brightens the sound.

Conclusion
Compression and EQ are two very powerful weapons in your mix arsenal, but as with anything, overuse will do more harm than good. I think back to the words of an engineer whose work I really respect who liked to say “I’ll compress until it sucks and then back it off from there.” In other words, knowing when to say “when” is an equally useful skill. A final thought…as far as signal path is concerned, I tend to place compression after EQ because EQ effectively raises or lowers the volume of the track and I’ve found I get a more effective response from the compressor if I hit it with the EQed audio. I would highly recommend using the above EQ and compression settings not as an ironclad rule but rather as a jumping off point. Every mix is different and your ears will tell you what’s working and what isn’t.

To read the full detailed article see: EQ & Compression Techniques

June 12, 2009

Antelope Audio – Trinity Clock

Antelope Audio presents their new Trinity, a multi channel, all format audio & video master clock that uses 64 bit DSP.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

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