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January 27, 2012

sE Electronics Munro Egg 150 Review

Filed under: Monitors — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 11:13 am

sE Electronics is a Chinese-British company that was founded over 10 years ago to compete in the microphone market. Now sE Electronics has decided to enter the studio monitor market. In order to break into this market segment, the manufacturer went all the way and asked Andy Munro, a famous designer, to give an original look to its brand-new product. Egg laying has begun!

sE Electronics Munro Egg 150

The introduction of the Egg is a big challenge for sE Eletronics, considering that entering a new market is never an easy process. That’s why sE Electronics wanted to have a famous name on board. They met Andy Munro from Munro Acoustics who has had many well-known recording studios (Air Studios, Sphere Studios, Metropolis) and several famous artists (Massive Attack, U2, Coldplay) as his clients. He also collaborated with Dynaudio, so it is not his first attempt at this! In the past, sE Electronics already cooperated with Rupert Neve, another big name in the audio industry, to launch high-grade microphones (RNR1 and RN17). So it is not a first attempt for sE Electronics either!

London Hen

sE Electronics Munro Egg 150
Also available in white finish, other colors coming soon.

The first step of this review took place in Hitchin (less than 30 minutes from London) at Sonic Distribution’s office, the headquarters of Ishmaev-Young and Phil Smith who have been sE Electronics’ partners in the UK since 2002. There, we had the chance to meet the agreeable Andy Munro to talk about his new babies. Of course, it was also the opportunity for us to listen to the Egg 150 in the studio built in Sonic Distribution’s basement.

Andy Munro explained to us everything, starting with the very original shape of the speakers. Even if its original design is a plus with regard to marketing and sales — the Egg is definitely an eye-catcher in the studio monitor market segment— there are, first and foremost, acoustical reasons to it. The manufacturer asserts that this shape reduces diffraction interferences and smooths the frequency response curve, while reducing the size of the speaker and lowering the crossover frequency to avoid phase shift. Of course, the goal of this development was to get the most linear frequency response curve and a smooth energy diffusion within a room. Munro asserts that the ovoid shape is the second best solution after the wall-recessed speaker installation you can see in high-end recording studios. By the way, do notice that the transducers are mounted on a flat surface instead of being part of the egg shape itself.

For the shell construction, Munro chose a rather thin but very rigid plastic material in order to reduce resonances. That way, the resonance frequency is way above the woofer and the crossover frequency. And since the tweeter is mounted in a sealed volume, there is no resonance frequency problems anymore. As for the electronics, the designer made very clear choices. He designed a fully analog system using neither DSP nor digital processing.

If you want more information, watch the full video presentation with Andy Munro here:

 

We had a very good impression when we heard the Egg for the first time in Sonic Distribution’s studio (very good acoustic treatment by the way). A well-balanced frequency response and a tight and precise bass reproduction (although we had no other monitor for comparison). However, before giving our opinion about it, we wanted to wait until we received the Egg two weeks later so that we could compare it with another well-known 6″ studio monitor: Focal’s Solo6 Be.

But first of all, let’s have a look at the Egg.

Conclusion

sE Electronics Munro Egg 150

The Eggs need not be ashamed in front of the Focal Solo6 Be. In fact, these speakers signed by sE Electronics and Munro prove to be very versatile thanks to the controls on the external amplifier. They allow you to get a typical hi-fi sound reproduction when you want to listen to music for yourself or show your work to your clients, but also a Focal-like analytic monitoring (by boosting mids and attenuating the high and low ends). It’s obvious and it’s no secret that sE Electronics aims for two different markets (hi-fi and pro audio). Anyway, this versatility is a priceless advantage for home-studio owners who want to use their monitor speakers for purposes other than studio work.

sE Electronics has bet on originality (both at the concept and design levels) and it could prove really profitable. With its acceptable price and new 4″ and 8″ versions coming soon, the new studio monitor range signed by sE Electronics and Munro seems to have a bright future ahead.

Advantages: 
  • Original successful design
  • Sold in matched pairs
  • Easily accessible settings thanks to the external amplifier
  • Detailed and well-balanced sound
  • Mid-frequency control
  • Aux input
  • Headphones out on the front of the amp
  • Zero downtime three-year warranty
  • LEDs for a better placement
Drawbacks:
  • The amp takes space
  • No separate headphones volume setting
  • No scratch-resistant Egg surface

To read the full detailed article see:  Munro Egg 150 Review

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January 11, 2012

Roland Quad Capture Review

Filed under: audio interface — Tags: , , — audiofanzine @ 3:33 pm

Do you want a small sound card with a high quality sound, clever features, a good construction, and an affordable price? If you do, follow me to give Roland’s Quad Capture a try. If you need even more, follow me too because Roland has something in store for you.

When it comes to audio interfaces, if you ask for renown manufacturers you’ll hear many brand names but probably not Roland.

The brand’s visibility is rather low in this market segment where it used to go under the name Edirol until a couple of years ago. Edirol audio interfaces were no “reference products” but offered a rather good value for money for beginners. Its audio quality didn’t quite meet professional standards. However, Roland has the knowhow for professional audio products: just consider the V-System digital live mixers sold under the brand name RSS (Roland System Solution).

So why not put RSS’ technology into a Roland sound card? That’s what Roland did with the Quad Capture… And it worked!

Description

Roland Quad Capture

The Quad Capture is a 4×4-channel audio interface with 2 analog plus 2 digital inputs and outputs.

Both analog inputs are on XLR/TRS combo connectors, while the line outputs are on balanced 1/4″ jacks. All digital ins and outs are on coaxial connectors. You also get a 1/4″ headphones out.

If we do the math, we have 4 input channels but how many output channels? 2 analog line-level output channels + 2 analog headphones channels + 2 digital output channels = 6 output channels, right?

Unfortunately not! Like the Duo and Tri interfaces, the headphones out doesn’t use dedicated channels, but rather the main output signal is just split inside the hardware to feed both outs. The monitoring quality doesn’t seem to be affected by this. However, in use it can become a bit annoying.

Add a pair of MIDI ins/outs and you get a full overview of the available connections. Surprisingly it lacks ADAT connectors, but considering the price…

Roland Quad Capture

All this is packed in a 19″ half rack typical for 4×4 sound cards. The housing is made out of black metal except for the plastic front plate — and it looks nice. The rounded edges and the chrome binding surrounding the front panel give the unit a sleek but classy look. The big chrome BTR screws give it a professional touch. Considering its light weight (1.26 lbs, it seems that the metal sheet used for the housing is quite thin. But it is made out of aluminum instead of iron, which increases rigidity while decreasing weight. Thus, you can easily fit this sound card together with your laptop inside a (large) carry bag.

Moreover, the quality of the controls and buttons is pretty good. The same applies to the LED indicators on the front plate.

The rear switches are the only negative aspect. These small plastic switches feel quite cheap — the low price doesn’t come without compromises.

However, the quality of the switches is not the main problem, it is the functions they are assigned to.

The Quad looks nice and provides a quality feel that is very different from the abundant plastic products in this price range that try very hard to look pro. Pro musicians or sound engineers won’t be ashamed to take it out of their bags for a session.

Now let’s take a closer look….

Conclusion

If this audio interface had different audio channels for the main and headphones output, I would award it with the “Top Value” Award. In spite of the few cons detected, this audio interface is well built, offers MIDI and digital connections, low-latency operation and premium audio quality for only $270 —easily worth a “Value for Money” Award.

If your are seduced by the premium audio quality but need more connections, give the Octa Capture a chance — my first choice if I had to change my RME Multiface.

Advantages: 
  • Build and look
  • Sound quality
  • Amazing Auto-Sens function
  • Ground lift
  • No additional power supply
  • Price
Drawbacks:
  • Speakers and headphones share he same analog channels
  • Average-quality switches on the rear panel
  • No phantom power indicator
  • No ADAT connectors

To read the full detailed review see:  Roland Quad Capture Review

 

January 9, 2012

A Guide to Re-Amping Techniques

Filed under: Amps, Bass, Guitar reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:05 am

Re-amping is a technique that gained a lot of popularity in the last 15 years. The technique’s obvious advantages are numerous…

 

Direct recording is an ideal way to reserve tonal flexibility for mixing (especially useful in the DIY world);

Instrument amplifiers and stomp boxes offer virtually limitless opportunities to create the right sound with a not-so-virtual interface;

It’s fun, which is still allowed.

Sometimes the re-amping goal is simple. An electric guitar can be recorded direct while monitoring a software amp simulator. During mixing the direct guitar track (sans faux amp) will be re-recorded through an actual amp.

Re-Amp Signal Flow

Now let’s take a closer look…

Either or Both?

Sometimes it can be difficult to decide whether the original signal should be used in combination with the re-amped signal. In these cases there’s usually something unique about each signal, but they may not be working together well. This conflict can often be resolved by creating more contrast between the original and re-amped signals. On keyboard tracks, for example, I will frequently make significant, crossover-style EQ choices that allow me to more subtly combine the unique elements of each signal type. Another technique that can be used with remarkable ease is one I dubiously call “Sum and Amp-ness”. I think it kills for gritty bass, particularly with tight, close drums.

  1. Use a DI bass right up the middle of your mix. Get it sounding great, and setup a re-amp path;
  2. Setup a nicely overdriven bass tone on an amp. Somewhere in signal flow, HPF this path in the 300 – 500Hz neighborhood. I like to do it before the amp;
  3. Use the return from the amp just as you would use the ‘side’ component of a mid-side mic array. For maximum sum and difference affect, mic the amp off-axis.

This set-up leaves you with strong, centered low frequency focus, but adds an interesting distorted ‘width’ component. Try it out in mono-tending drum and bass situations. Finally, don’t be afraid to let the re-amp path hang out in input monitoring while you mix. There’s no real reason to record it until you’re getting close to printing mixes. It’s incredibly easy to make changes as long as it’s all still live.

To read the full detailed article see:  How to Re-Amp

January 5, 2012

Hiwatt T20 Review

Hiwatt has launched its tube series, a full range of compact amps presented as offering the typical British sound of their legendary brothers in spite of their small dimensions and their more affordable price. You can currently choose between three different output powers: 40, 20 or 10 watts. Every amp is available as a combo or head. Let’s check out if their bet is successful by reviewing the T20 combo.

Hiwatt to Know More

Hiwatt T20

From a technical standpoint, the T20 is based on a pair of EL84 power tubes plus two 12AX7 and one 12AU7 preamp tubes. The amp provides you with two channels (clean and overdrive) switchable via the dual footswitch provided (OD/clean and Reverb on/off). You can also select the active channel from the front panel, which also offers a gain control for each channel plus a master control (meaning there is no dedicated output level setting for each channel). The 3-band EQ is shared by both channels. Notice that the mid-band control is a push-pull potentiometer allowing you to shift the mid boost towards higher frequencies. This can be quite useful, for instance to have a slightly brighter sound when recording lead parts. The front panel also features a reverb level control and a couple of Standby and Power switches… and that’s it with the front panel! On the rear panel you have a connector for the dual footswitch (channel selection & reverb on/off), a line out (to feed a mixer or a power amp with the T20 preamp signal), and an 8-Ohm speaker out. This way, you have the possibility to use the T20 as an amp head feeding an external speaker cabinet. The 12″ speaker in the T20 is a Fane Medusa 150. Hiwatt has been using Fane speakers for almost 40 years…

As a summary, the T20 has all features of an amp conceived for recording applications, for playing at home, and for gigs in small clubs. I tried out the T20 with three different guitars: a Les Paul Custom, a Tom Anderson Strat and a Gretsch Billy Bo.

Now let’s take a closer look and a listen…

Conclusion

The T20 is a very good tool! You get the typical Hiwatt sound in a compact and easily transportable amp (only 35 lbs). Ideal for playing at home, small club gigs (unfortunately not in larger venues) and especially for recording applications… As a summary, this amp offers you an amazing and versatile clean channel and a (too) typical lead channel that you should consider as an extra. For about $625 (street price), it is the ideal choice for a first high-quality amp or for a professional musician who wants to add another sound to his tone palette. For about $100 less you can get the T20 amp head, and for about $200 more, the T40, which will allow you to play on larger stages while having the possibility of reducing the power to 20 watts via a simple switch on the front panel. Yeah!

Technical notes:

The sound samples were recorded with a Shure SM57 in front of the speaker and a Brauner Phantom V as room mic (about 6 ft from the amp). Both mics were connected to a MOTU 896 audio interface. No audio processing was used on the recordings, except for a 120Hz low-cut filter on some distortion sounds.

The other AF samples were recorded with a Shure SM57 and a Sennheiser e906 in front of the speaker.

Advantages: 
  • Clean sound
  • Legendary sound in a transportable format
  • Right output level for recording applications
Drawbacks:
  • Very peculiar distortion
  • No FX loop (…is this actually a con?)

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Hiwatt T20 Review

 

 

January 3, 2012

Native Instruments Komplete 8 & Komplete 8 Ultimate review Unpublish

Native Instruments has been offering a selection of its software products grouped under the brand “Komplete” for several years now. The selection is updated every year with the latest versions of several products plus some additional tools. And it offers a rather unbeatable value for money ($499).

Native Instruments Komplete 8 et Komplete 8 Ultimate

Considering that products like Kontakt or Reaktor are sold for $399 each, it would be a huge mistake to ignore Komplete and the 26 other tools it includes for only $100 bucks more. You would be missing synths like Massive, FM8 and Absynth, effects like Reflektor, The Finger and Transient Master, drums like Studio Drummer and Abbey Road 60’s, as well as Guitar Rig Pro and some acoustic and electric pianos. The full product list is available here. Add to this a $25 voucher and you get an extremely appealing product.

People who already own a previous version of Komplete (v2 or higher) can upgrade for $199, which might be especially attractive for those thinking about buying Studio Drummer ($149). People who own Maschine, Kontakt, Reaktor, Kore or Guitar Rig Kontrol can crossgrade for $369.

The Ultimate Pack

Native Instruments Komplete 8 et Komplete 8 Ultimate

Komplete 8 marks the arrival of a new version sold for $999, which includes nothing more than all 50 Native Instruments software tools available right now. If you’re not sure which version of Komplete 8 is right for you, take a look at the comparison chart on this page. The most interesting products included in the Ultimate version (and missing in the normal version) are Session Strings Pro (it’s a pity that Komplete 8 doesn’t include a “non-pro” version!), the VC 2A, 76 and 160 effects, Abbey Road 70’s and 80’s drums, Modern Drums, Scarbee bass, Funk Guitarist, Alicia Keys piano, and George Duke Soul. That’s a lot, all the more considering that some of these tools are very interesting (look up their reviews on AudioFanzine). It’s up to you to decide if you need them or not…

List of the programs included in Komplete 8 and Komplete 8 Ultimate already reviewed on AudioFanzine:

To read the full detailed review see:  Komplete 8 & Komplete 8 Ultimate Review

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