AF’s Weblog

April 30, 2012

Gibson Les Paul Faded Blue Stain Review

To read the full detailed article see:  Gibson Les Paul Faded Blue Stain Review

A soft launch last Christmas, the Les Paul Blue with roasted maple fingerboard caught our attention. Get your pick and come meet the beauty.

FBI, Gibson’s official partner?

When special agent Jack Malone arrived at Gibby, we thought it would be for an endorsement contract. But we were wrong. John M. Rayfield (his real identity) was followed by several more agents, who were heavily armed to fight against wood smuggling. In order to cover the event, American media was invited and they broadcast this private showcase to the world. Screeching tires, counter-terrorist arsenal (in case of counterattacks from Nashville’s luthiers), war cries — just like a Hollywood action movie trailer. In spite of a legal loophole to substantiate the claim and ask for the wood purchase and export documents in question, the officer in charge of the investigation, Rayfiled, seized part of the rosewood and ebony in stock, some guitars and computer data.

Roasted? Like coffee?

To make up for the lack of rosewood and ebony, the manufacturer had to improvise in a very unorthodox manner because the only wood at their disposal was maple. Imagine a Les Paul Custom with a maple fingerboard… it’s out of the question! To give the guitars a real Gibson feel rather than a California touch, they decided to roast the fingerboard (yes, in an oven). This made it look like rosewood, but with a dryer feel to it. Skeptical but open-minded, it’s time for me to open the cardboard box and give this new affordable US beauty a try.

Getting Started

Gibson Les Paul Faded Blue Stain

After opening the cardboard box, you’ll discover that the guitar is sold with a classy gigbag with the Gibson USA label on it. Some sort of black quiver with an immaculate white zip. Inside the bag a white and very soft protection foam will fend the guitar against the aggressions of everyday life. First surprise, thanks to a new chambered body, the guitar weights almost the same as an SG (the visits to the physiotherapist won’t be that often, I guess). As for wood, the chambered body and the neck are made out of mahogany with a maple top and the already described roasted maple fingerboard. Everything within typical dimensions: 628.6-mm scale length, 42.8-mm nut width, 22 frets and a ’59-type shape. As for electronics, you get two Burstbuckers Pro pickups, a three-way toggle switch, two volume and two tone controls. The beauty wears a translucent blue dress showing the grains of the wood and the maple top. The faded finish gives the guitar an aged look — you’ll either like it or not at all!

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Gibson Les Paul Faded Blue Stain

Once again, Gibson adds a new Les Paul Studio to their product catalog, but this time for under $800. Sold with a Deluxe gigbag, this young beauty will fulfill the expectations of vintage-sound fans who want a real US-made guitar. The sound variations emphasize the mid-frequency range because of the chambered body and the maple fingerboard. This will certainly not meet everybody’s taste. Moreover, I asked several luthiers about the roasted fingerboard and none of them could tell me how the wood would age and if the fingerboard would withstand a future refretting. Glossy finish fans won’t be too excited about the “old-school” finish. I had the opportunity to see two different guitars of this same model and I noticed inconsistencies in the finish quality. Thus, I recommend you to choose your guitar in a brick and mortar store.

Advantages: 
  • Design
  • Weight
  • Vintage tone
Drawbacks:
  • Finish inconsistencies
  • Lack of low frequencies

To read the full detailed article see:  Gibson Les Paul Faded Blue Stain Review

April 25, 2012

Korg Monotribe Review

Filed under: Synthesizers — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:13 am

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see: Korg Monotribe Review

Presented during the Musikmesse 2011, the Monotribe is the big brother of the Monotron. This standalone sound module includes one synth voice and three analog drum sounds and was conceived to change patterns while playing live. To write this review I decided to take it with me on my skiing vacations…

Korg Monotribe

You know, February is time for holidays in the mountains among friends. Usually when night falls, Paulo grabs his guitar and steals the hearts of the girls present… I mean women — time flies! Like every year, Paulo plays while the fire crackles inside the chalet covered with snow. But I have decided Paulo will have a serious competitor this year! While the mountains disappear behind the thick clouds, a wonderful Bang Bang Chack Bang Wiiiiizzzz will pierce the silence. This year our dear Paulo lost the competition (Sylvia won’t be waiting for him) — a small analog box took his throne. “But, what the heck is that box with a black ribbon keyboard and trashy loops?” .” Explanation…

Unpacking

Korg Monotribe

The Monotribe is a small drum machine that includes four different instrumental parts (one mono synth and three drum sounds) and a 16-step sequencer. Battery operation and the small integrated speaker ensure autonomy. That’s why I didn’t hesitate to take it with me to the mountains in spite of the very low temperatures. By the way, the announced battery life is 14 hours — enough to compete with Paulo the whole week. As for design, the Monotribe is a small black box (8.2″ x 5.7″ x 2.8″) made out of plastic and weights 1.6 lbs (without batteries). The product seems to be sturdy and well manufactured. The front panel provides quite a lot of action: five rotary controls, six slim trim pots, six three-way selectors, 17 push buttons, 15 LEDs, and a ribbon/keyboard controller.

Korg Monotribe

On the rear panel are all connections, which aren’t many! Besides the on/off switch and the power in for external 9V DC power supply (ref. KA-350, unfortunately not supplied!), you get only four minijacks and one 1/4″ jack: step sync input (impulse-type sync with adjustable polarity, for example the rim shot of a drum machine), sync out (delivers +/- 5V during 15ms for every step), phones out, audio in, and mono audio out (1/4″ jack). No CV/Gate or MIDI connections! This means you can program and sync the Monotribe but you can’t control it remotely… at least in the original version since some DIY fans have managed to create upgrade kits. The bottom side gives you access to the integrated speaker and the battery compartment for six standard AA batteries (this time, Korg does provide the batteries).

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

In the end, this small box can serve more purposes other that annoying Paulo when he’s sitting next to the fire. This mobile solution is made for people who prefer intuitive and spontaneous creativity rather than complex menus and multiple memories. It’s a pity that the hidden features accessible via button combinations are not printed on the device. The ribbon keyboard is really hard to use to use if you are looking for precise triggering. With the Monotribe, Korg reinforces the idea that live electro musicians can be unexperienced keyboard players or programmers. If you want to trigger real analog, MS-20-like loops in real time without spending a fortune or learning by heart the product manual, the Monotribe is probably your instrument of choice.

Advantages: 
  • Dirty, intuitive analog sound
  • Resonant low-pass filter inherited from the MS-20
  • Fast and versatile LFO
  • Clever features (gate, flux, …)
  • Independent number of steps for each part
  • Easy to use and fun
  • Good manufacturing quality
  • Mobile device with battery operation and integrated speaker
  • Hardware modifications possible
  • Very affordable price
Drawbacks:
  • Only for live applications
  • Ribbon doesn’t allow precise triggering
  • Only two user sequences possible
  • Playback only in one direction
  • Drum sounds not editable
  • Button combinations not printed on the unit
  • No CV/gate nor MIDI
  • Optional external KA-350 PSU

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see: Korg Monotribe Review

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

April 20, 2012

Mixing Rap Vocals – Part 3: Compression

Filed under: Compressors, Mixing reviews — Tags: , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:54 am

To read the full detailed article see:  Tips for Mixing Rap Vocals: Compression

Time for the third installment of the Mixing Rap Vocals series: Compression.

I highly recommend you check out part 1 & part 2 before reading this article.

Compression is a difficult subject because there is a lot you can do with it. So let’s look at the main reasons to grab a compressor before getting into some of the more intricate uses.

Quick Macro-Dynamic Control

Macro dynamics refer to words and phrases. These are the clear dynamics you can hear as “this part is louder, that part is softer.” The most transparent way to get things sounding even is to actually automate the vocals manually. But sometimes time doesn’t allow for this approach. So if you aren’t automating, a light ratio, slow attack, slow release, just catching the louder moments with the threshold is a good way to even things out.

Micro-Dynamic Control

What volume automation might not catch is the very quick dynamic changes – loose spikes at the fronts of words. These spikes aren’t heard so much as “volume” but more as an overall quality to the vocal.

The issue with these spikes is two fold – first, they eat away at your headroom pretty quickly– second, they will trigger any compressors you are trying to use for purposes besides micro-dynamic control.

It can be useful to dedicate a compression stage toward pulling back these vocal spikes. Generally a fast attack and release, and a light ratio does the job. The light ratio is to retain the articulation of the word and minimize frequency skewing. The key is to set the threshold low enough to catch as much of the peak as possible while effecting the body of the signal as little as possible. I try to avoid using limiters for this purpose. I like the Empirical Labs Distressor for this (especially for controlling peaks while tracking), as well as digital style compressors such as the Logic or Pro Tools stock compressors or the Waves C1. The attack setting is very important – it’s usually between a number of nano-seconds and two or three milliseconds in the digital world, and on the faster side of things for the analog world (totally varies unit to unit).

Getting a Vocal to Stay Audible Through a Mix

The power of compression is that you can make something louder while not actually raising the peak volume of the signal. This becomes extremely useful for making something cut through a dense mix or to come forward. This is probably where the majority of compression work for rap vocals come in.

Rap is generally an in-your-face, visceral style of music. The kick is physical, the snare is physical, subtlety isn’t really the overall goal. And the vocals are paramount. I’ve mixed a number of rap records where the vocals are lower in the mix, but never have I thought it was a good idea. Generally I want the vocals to be equally as strong as the drums or stronger, and I want them as “forward” as possible. Compression is usually a part of that equation.

Let’s consider some more issues…

Conclusion

Compression is a powerful tool that many people struggle to fully understand, so try to get your hands on one and start experimenting. As always I’ll keep an eye on the comments in case there is anything that needs clearing up. I also encourage you to share your own compression tips!

To read the full detailed article see:  Tips for Mixing Rap Vocals: Compression

April 16, 2012

Fender Modern Player Marauder & Jaguar Review

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Fender Modern Player Marauder & Jaguar Review

This time, Fender comes from an unexpected direction! The Fender Modern Player series includes four different guitars (Marauder, Jaguar, Telecaster Plus, Thinline Deluxe) and three different bass guitars (Jazz Bass, Telecaster, Jaguar), while trying to distinguish itself from the countless Standard Stratocaster and Telecasters variations available either as reissue or special versions (with different neck width, wood type or pickups combination).

The Modern Player is Fender’s entry series. Manufactured in China, these guitars can be considered Super Squier models: for instance, we noticed that Fender was not as thrifty with the lacquer layers… Today, we will review the Gibson-inspired Jaguar and the Marauder, a wink to the instrument that never saw the light of day back in 1966, but equipped with the brand new Fender Triple Bucker. We won’t review the Telecaster Plus (three pickups) nor the Thinline (P-90) nor the bass guitars. All instruments are available at the same price $400 (except for the Jazz Bass that sells for $500).

Marauder, the stillborn baby

Fender Modern Player Marauder

After launching many products in the early 60’s (Jazzmaster, Jaguar, Mustang, …), Fender assembled two different guitar prototypes to create the Marauder, a new instrument based on a Jaguar and a Stratocaster that never hit the stores. The first prototype was equipped with a tremolo bridge, three pickups and nine switches for tone variations! The second prototype had a hardtail bridge and the pickups were hidden behind the pickguard! The Marauder had already been announced, photographed and included in Fender’s product catalog. It had even been ordered… Like the ’57 Gibson Modern, the Marauder remained a mystery due to its high manufacturing costs. The legend says that there were eight Marauders actually manufactured, making it Fender’s rarest guitar…

Let’s go back to our Marauder Modern Player! You’ll immediately notice that the guitar didn’t inherit the myriad of switches from the original instrument. You get two pickups: a Jazzmaster-type single-coil in bridge position plus a triple-coil on the bridge controlled by a Strat-type five-way toggle switch. Yes, you read well: you get a real triple-coil pickup, not a single-coil+humbucker combination — it’s almost like having a volume control going up to 11 on your amp. Here is an overview of the different pickup combinations provided by the toggle switch. A, B and C refer to the three coils of the Triplebucker (A next to the bridge), while N refers to the neck pickup:

  • Position I: A + B
  • Position II: A + B + C
  • Position III: C
  • Position IV: C + N
  • Position V: N
Fender Modern Player Marauder

The other features are less original… The maple C-shape neck has a rosewood fretboard, 22 Medium Jumbo frets and a 25.5″ scale length. The headstock is equipped with vintage-type machine heads requiring you to cut the extremity of each string and insert it into a hole before winding the string up. Two controls (Tone and Volume) and a Strat-type tremolo bridge…and that’s it! There is another unusual detail caught our eye: the body is made out of Koto, an African wood rarely used for guitar manufacturing, at least not often enough to have fans or detractors. Certainly Fender used this wood for cost reduction reasons. However, I noticed nothing unusual when playing the guitar. As a summary, you face a guitar based on two legends: the body recalls the Jaguar, while the electronics and tremolo bridge are inspired in the Stratocaster.

Fender Modern Player Marauder

I had no problems except for the tuning stability of the tremolo bridge. But with a new guitar this is rarely a problem: don’t forget that a classic and simple tremolo bridge can work perfectly if you pay attention to the friction points on the bridge and the nut. Consider carving them a bit so that they match the thickness of your strings (this also applies to very expensive instruments) and rubbing a pencil on the friction points (graphite helps the strings to slide better through). Apart from that, nothing seems to be fragile or improperly made on this Marauder. The neck feels very pleasant and inspiring, although the combination of a long-scale neck and a Jaguar body is pretty surprising. All five pickup combinations are pleasant, appealing and special. The sound ranges from very thin and twangy (position 3 is the least twangy) to full and rich (especially with position 4 combining all three coils of the Triplebucker). To wrap it up, this pickup combination recalls a HSS Strat with the center pickup next to the bridge pickup and the bridge pickup of a Jazzmaster to produce a rather low-level output and a very contoured sound.

Now let’s take a listen…

Conclusion

Both guitars are definitely modern instruments conceived for Brit rock and pop: the different pickup combinations aren’t suited for high distortion because they turn too noisy. The Marauder has something special to it — an extra that will please beginners, experienced players and even pros looking for a “small” guitar with a real sound personality both for live and studio applications. As a summary, the Marauder has something “Asterix”-like to it… What’s that you say? It reacts fast and bravely, and the electronics are really clever! Plus, owning a guitar with a triple-coil pickup can be lots of fun! The Jaguar is also a good guitar but it seems to have less personality compared to the Marauder. Considering the price ($400), there’s no risk in buying a Modern Player guitar, but you’ll have to decide which one. Don’t forget to give the Modern Player Telecasters a try, especially the Tele Plus and its three pickups. The Tele Thinline equipped with P-90 pickups can be an excellent alternative to the Jaguar.

Technical note:

The sound samples were recoded using an Egnater Tweaker amplifier head and a Two Notes Torpedo VB-101 speaker simulation.

Advantages: 
  • Value for money
  • The Marauder is amazing: a real breath of fresh air!
  • Nice finish
  • Triplebucker on the Marauder
Drawbacks:
  • Marauder: for this price, nothing! …Except maybe for the unusual look of the pickguard
  • The Jaguar is not inspiring
  • Volume control position on the Jaguar

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Fender Modern Player Marauder & Jaguar Review

April 11, 2012

Capturing The Energy Of Live Shows

To read the full detailed article see:  Audience Mic Techniques to Enhance Recordings

What makes a live recording sound live? The audience, of course. A live recording is all about the energy of the event, and that energy comes from the crowd, so some real thought has to be given as to how it’s captured.

Just setting up some microphones haphazardly usually produces less-than-desired results.  To avoid that scenario, let’s have a look at some proven mic techniques for live recording.

First, it can be tempting to use approaches that engineers recording classical music deploy, such as spaced pairs, X/Y, ORTF and Blumlien.  What they’re trying to do is capture the ambience of the environment and a “perfect” stereo image, but our primary concern is capturing the audience.  Note that these are two different beasts and have to be handled that way.


Figure 1: Center hall position.

Sure, capturing some of the ambience is essential to a great sounding live recording, but it will come as a byproduct of a well-mic’ed audience, so it’s not important to worry about it until the primary mission is accomplished.

Audience mic’ing is a situation for omnidirectional mics if you have any, but never underestimate the value of a couple of short-scale shotgun mics.


Figure 2: Mono center hall position.

These are especially useful because they help to attenuate the intimate conversations from the crowd that happen around where the mic is placed.

In you don’t have the option of either an omni or short shotgun, make sure that the mics that you do utilize are identical models. Also, don’t forget to engage the low-frequency rolloff switch if the mic has one.

Let’s take a look at some other mic positions…

The Great Outdoors


Figure 8: Mics at multiple positions.

Mic’ing a crowd outdoors poses a different set of circumstances in comparison to the indoor experience. For one thing, placement is usually a lot more difficult, with fewer options for hanging mics.  In addition, the ambience of the venue is lessened, so you usually need to resort to using more mics as a result. And don’t forget the windscreens, because nothing makes a track unusable like wind blasting across the mic capsules.

To read the full detailed article see:  Audience Mic Techniques to Enhance Recordings

April 9, 2012

Presonus Studio One 2 Review

Filed under: Sequencers — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 6:18 am

To read the full detailed article please see:   Presonus Studio One 2 Review

Launched about two years ago, the first Studio One version impressed with its maturity. The program was stable, practical and well thought-out. It had almost nothing to envy the leading sequencing tools. Studio One has gone a long way since the first version: it was dramatically enhanced in v1.5 and now comes back with a really amazing version 2. Let’s check it out.

Presonus Studio One 2

Never change a winning horse! Once you install the software and the numerous plug-ins and sound banks included, you’ll find a familiar user interface. In fact, the philosophy of the product didn’t change much: the software distinguishes between a Song (single song to be recorded/edited/mixed) and a Project (which can include several songs for mastering tasks, for example).

Based on this philosophy, the product is organized in three different parts: Start (to create or open a Song or a Project, to access the setup options of the application, to load updates or to get news about the product), Song (to record, edit and mix a song), and Project (to master and export one or several songs, or even a full audio CD). You’ll obviously use the Song mode the most, which is also the one that has the most comprehensive features.

The layout of the GUI is still the same. On the right-hand side you have a Live-like browser that allows you to browse your audio/MIDI files, plug-ins, ReWire apps like Reason, and all their presets (via category, manufacturer or a search engine). On the left-hand side you have a track inspector. In the middle is the arrange window. The lower part of the screen is dedicated to the edit window, which displays either the audio editor, the piano roll or the mixer. Each of these components can be collapsed and you also have the possibility to move the editor and mixer windows freely, regardless of the position of the main window. This can come in very handy, for instance, when you want to display the main window permanently on a second screen… The Project GUI is still the same: besides a pre/post-fader stack of inserts, it includes an area dedicated to the waveform of your different songs and several large-sized displays for the frequency spectrum, the main level or the stereo field.

In short, the new features are not visible at first sight and you’ll have to dig deeper into the software to discover them.

One click away from groove

Presonus Studio One 2

That’s it? Nothing new? On the contrary, you get lots of new features, starting with a crucial one: you can now manage comping tracks, which wasn’t possible before in Studio One. In v1.6.5 when you recorded in loop, the software recorded all takes and then allowed you to generate a new track for each of them. Although this function is still available (via the “Unpack to Tracks” option), you can also extract the takes to different Layers, which is more convenient for future processing. You can solo each layer and you have the possibility to select a segment of a take with a single click in order to create a comping track with the best segments of the different takes. The software adds an auto-crossfade to avoid audio artifacts when placing segments from different takes side by side. It is also worth mentioning that this feature can be used with grouped tracks (which can be especially valuable for drum tracks). This is certainly nothing revolutionary and you can find similar features in most competitor products. However, it is very well achieved in Studio One so it is very welcome!

Among the new audio features, you’ll also find the many advanced options for sync and quantization tasks. Although v1.6.5 already gave you the possibility to quantize audio clips by splitting them in as many sub-clips as required taking transients as reference, the new Studio One version makes this process much easier because it can now detect transients automatically. This feature is extremely easy to use and very useful for groove extraction and quantization tasks. It can even operate in the background without you noticing a thing or needing to start or set the transient detection.

Presonus Studio One 2

To quantize an audio clip, just select it and press Q. The quantize function can be edited and is available in different modes: Time Stretching or Slicing (like in REX, segments are more or less spaced out instead of being stretched). Are you afraid that a very strong quantization might give robotic results? Press Alt + Q instead of Q to quantize 50%. It’s in such details that Studio One makes the difference. True, all sequencers allow you to quantize more or less strongly, but only a few provide you with a clever 50% quantization that is accessible with a simple shortcut. And not every sequencer indicates (with colors) which segments of the audio file are affected by the quantize function, so you can check the precision of the processing and make fine tuning manually if needed. It may not seem much but such features are quite valuable in terms of efficiency: you save one click here and there, so in the end you work quicker and more effectively.

The Groove Extraction function is also very easy to use: simply drag and drop a MIDI/audio clip into the quantize window and you have a new groove preset that you can use as a reference. Now drag and drop the groove into the sequencer to create a MIDI file automatically so you can assign it freely to any virtual instrument…

Once again PreSonus tackles a flaw that was present in the first Studio One version and does it in a very clever way. But there is something even better in this new version: it’s called Melodyne.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

There is only one conclusion: Bravo! With this second version, Studio One hits the nail on the head and could turn the very quiet market of standard DAWs upside down. It’s true that Studio One does nothing that competitors can’t do, but it often does things better (i.e. simpler) while being perfectly reliable and stable (not one single crash during the two months we needed for the review). And this ease-of-use has a huge impact on user’s creativity because going from the idea to actually making it real is shorter and easier — everything flows. You stay focused on what you have to do, instead of thinking about how to do it. When you want to make music, it’s not normal to spend half the time with useless signal routing and menu search tasks. This is the main problem that the developers at PreSonus have tried to tackle — and all other sequencer manufacturers will have to take notice as well if they don’t want to lose clients. Not to mention the great value added by integrating Melodyne into Studio One, which bears no comparison with the poor quality algorithms developed by its competitors…

Apart from these essential features, we also appreciate PreSonus’ commitment to develop a modern sequencer: excellent SoundCloud integration, user resource sharing, etc. It certainly has still a long way to go. Some missing features must be added (especially OMF support or any other solution that makes it easier to exchange files with other sequencers) and Studio One can be improved in many aspects, but PreSonus is on the right path.

Now, let’s talk about the pretty aggressive price ranging from $49 to $319, depending on the version. In order to match every budget, the different versions omit several features. Basically, the main difference between both Artist and Producer versions is that the first one doesn’t support third-party plug-ins or MP3 files. Moreover, the sound banks provided with each version are different. The Pro version includes many more features than the Producer version: more plug-ins (Open Air, IR-Maker, Multiband Dynamics), external hardware effects support via the Pipeline plug-in, Soundcloud integration, Quicktime video format support, 64-bit processing, and especially the mastering section of the program, plus Melodyne Essentials (provided as a trial version in Artist and Producer) and the Komplete Elements bundle.

Considering that Melodyne Essentials and Komplete Elements are sold for $150, the Pro version is certainly the best value for money. Personally, I’m not sure if such a wide product range is useful: an “Artist” version without SoundCloud integration or MP3 and third-party plug-in support seems a bit cheap. I guess it would be more clever to have only two versions: Producer and Pro… Anyway, I suggest you to buy the Pro version. You’ll save time and money.

And if you hesitate with other allround sequencers around, I recommend you to download the demo version from PreSonus’ website and try it out. Compare it with the trial versions of competitor products — if they are available — and make your own opinion. Some products will attract your attention due to their effect/instrument bundles (Sonar, Samplitude), others due to their incredible value for money (e.g. Reaper). However, I’m pretty confident about how Studio One will rate as soon as you stop reading the specs and start making music with it.

Advantages: 
2012 Safe Bet Award
  • Practicality and simplicity for music creation
  • Stability (not a single crash in two whole months)
  • Very good value for money
  • Excellent Melodyne integration
  • Excellent SoundCloud integration
  • Great freeze function
  • Track comping
  • Audio quantize and groove extraction
  • FX inserts into clips
  • Easy routing management via Folder Tracks
  • Track List, which makes it easier to browse complex projects and create MIDI tracks
  • New indicators in the mastering section
  • DDP support
  • OpenAir and IR-Maker
  • Ampire revisited
  • Well thought-out Music Loop format
  • Resource sharing between users
  • Melodyne Essential and Komplete Elements provided with the Pro version
Drawbacks:
  • Some fonts are too small
  • We wish the GUI was customizable (macros, keyboard shortcuts, skins, etc.)
  • No OMF support
  • No de-esser nor Transient Designer, improvable instrument bundle in both Artist and Producer versions (Komplete Elements is missing)
  • Both Artist and Producer versions could be replaced by a single $149 version with MP3 and SoundCloud support…

To read the full detailed article please see:   Presonus Studio One 2 Review

April 6, 2012

Setting Up the Lead Vocal Mic for The Red Hot Chili Peppers

To read the full detailed article see:   Setting Up the Lead Vocal Mic  for The Red Hot Chili Peppers

 

The attention to detail that takes place in preparing a rock show can be mind boggling. For example, I listed out the factors we account for in setting up the lead vocal mic for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Check it out:

1) The mic. Anthony has been using Audix OM7 dynamic mics for over 20 years now. The OM7 exhibits high feedback stability and picks up very little room sound compared to other mics. This allows me to capture an “up close and personal” vocal sound, and if I need more air or space, it’s easy to add with a vocal reverb. Also, these mics are very durable, and the spring steel grills don’t dent when dropped.

Conversely, the OM7 pick-up pattern falls off in volume very quickly if you’re not lips to grill on the mic. Also, it tends to be more susceptible to moisture than other microphones. Since Anthony sings close to the mic and we switch to a fresh mic at mid-show and again before encore, those drawbacks are not an issue in this application.

2) The mic stand is integral to the performance so it must be exact. We use the Atlas MS12 – a straight stand, no boom. The “12” stands for 12 pounds, and that is the weight he’s used to swinging around. These stands have a slightly larger diameter tube than the Euro manufactured metric stands and are less likely to bend. The metal clutch is more durable than the plastic clutches, and the larger diameter cast metal base makes it less likely to tip over as well.

3) The cable must be extremely durable. We use Belden 8412 or equivalent with real rubber jacketing (not plastic), braid shield, multiple fiber wraps and preferably a twine filler. It must have minimal stretch, withstand abuse and be resistant to tangling.

Now let’s take an even closer look…

8) Clip rotation tension. The clip needs to hold the mic firmly at an angle and not loosen easily. Cheaper imitation clips do not have the tension washer stacks inside and will come loose when repeatedly rotated.

9) Cable length. The mic cable is 50 feet long and plugged into a stagebox located center stage.

10) Spare mic. An identical spare taped vocal mic is coiled at center stage. The main mic, spare, and a wireless mic all are plugged into a three-way SoundTools switcher located at the monitor position. This allows Anthony to grab any of the three mics and have it instantly switched in line to both monitors and house.

There you have it – now you know how we prep snake channel 24!

To read the full detailed article see:   Setting Up the Lead Vocal Mic  for The Red Hot Chili Peppers

 

April 4, 2012

Tips for Mixing Toward Loudness

Filed under: Mixing reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 7:25 am

To read the full detailed article see: Mixing Toward Loudness

Some people want their music really loud, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If loudness is part of their aesthetic and the audience likes it, then I say let’s go for it. In order to deliver the most musically effective loudness, that goal must have been addressed in the mixing process, but not as directly as you might think.

It’s important to remember that there are mix masters, and then there are replication or download masters. Your project isn’t finished until it has been mastered, so the relative loudness of a mix does not represent the final level of the project. Comparing the loudness of a mix master with a finished commercial CD is not particularly useful.

However, there are a lot of aspects of mixes that directly contribute to the eventual loudness of a finished master. So what should you be listening for while you’re mixing? Here’s an example scenario:

My client has brought me a set of 5 multi-track recordings to mix. The client is very concerned that her project should fit in with the latest release from Artist X as much as possible, including being equally loud.

Here are some things I would be sure to pay attention to while mixing her project:

The Loudest Instrument

What is the loudest instrument in Artist X’s mixes? 

The answer is probably pretty consistent across the whole CD; and I’ll be sure to use a similar approach with my client’s project.

This may not seem like a pivotal factor, but the relative loudness relationships within a mix establish a lot about the eventual absolute volume of the mix (and the project). If one hip hop mix has a lot more vocal content than another, the relative loudness of the two mixes will be confused.

If I’m mixing in a drum-heavy genre, I’ll be careful to reference that primary balance benchmark. If my next project is a vocal-driven style, I’ll simply re-establish my benchmark. In either case, I’ve setup the balance relationships within my mixes so that they can directly compare with other albums in the presumed audience playlist.

Now let’s take a closer look….

Mastering

These types of musically relevant aspects of mix structure will help you create consistent, engaging mixes that fit into a genre in a lot of fundamental ways. The mastering process can then more effectively finish preparing those mixes for their commercial audience, including addressing their market loudness.

To read the full detailed article see: Mixing Toward Loudness

April 2, 2012

Fender Bronco Bass Combo Review

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Fender Bronco Bass Combo Review

Do you feel like a cowboy? Do you like the smell of ponies and old leather? Do you like riding on a weird mount and sweltering under an old stinking hat?

Me neither! Personally, I’m more of a take-the-law-into-my-own-hands kind of bass player, a guy who isn’t put off by anything except effort, and who has enough respect for stallions and bulls to avoid them. Even on an early Sunday morning after having spent a full night playing a drunk upright piano in a saloon. My Bronco is a Fender. It eats no oat but it surely spits 40 watts of power when you give it a bass guitar to chew on. Let’s go — or as they used to say in the old west: Yeehaw!

Small Pony

Fender Bronco

It’s so gray and small… And after all, it isn’t so tiny: it’s the size of a 20-liter bourbon barrel (11.25″x18″x15.25″) and weights 30 lbs. It looks pretty sleek: dark gray vinyl covering, black metal grill, only eight controls and three flashing buttons. You could almost walk past the amp without noticing it, like if it were a marmot crossing a valley. In short, it’s one more combo in a product range that already includes a dozen. Fender’s range even includes a 75 watt amp at almost the same price: the Rumble 75.

So, why should I buy an amp with less output power and a 10″ instead of a 12″ speaker? Do they think we bass players from the west are all dumb deadbeats?

“Now, hold ya horses,” says the sheriff, “yuh’re wrong, kid! The Bronco ain’t one of ’em combos like all others. Ptooie!” (that was the sheriff spitting…)

– Really? What’s in for me then? If I wanted to give my money away, I’d rather play poker in the saloon…

– Why, son, with this Bronco, yuh can ride through th’ F-key Prairies while whistling “Down th’ Mountain” in 80 different variations. An’ that ain’t nothin’! If yuh plug it into yuhr computer via th’ USB port, yuh can use it as an audio interface, edit as many presets as yuh want an’ share ’em on the web using th’ Fuse software. Yuh get ’bout 10 effects, eight amp models, an integrated tuner, an’ a free Ableton Lite version.

– Why, Sheriff you sure know a lot of things!

– Wal, kid, I jest read AudioFanzine when I ain’t have nobody t’ track down…

So, this small combo makes all these things for only $250. I’ll have to track it down to see if it’s true. Just give me a mule and my rifle, no French Cancan for me tonight…

Let’s take a closer look …

And for a few bucks less…

Like the Mustang, its counterpart for guitar players, the Bronco 40 is an appealing alternative to many products currently available on the market for about $250. The amp doesn’t have enough output power for rehearsals with a drummer, but it can be the perfect practice amp. We can also imagine ourselves in a home studio recording some bass grooves with it and taking the best out of its wide sound range. Add to that the unique, easy-to-use and intuitive software tool Fuse, the possibility to use the amp as an audio interface, the good manufacturing quality, and the value for money, and you end up with a very attractive combo for people looking for a higher-class practice bass amp.

Advantages: 
  • Good manufacturing quality
  • Ease-of-use
  • Simple control panel
  • Fuse software
  • Can be used as a (backup) audio interface
  • Value for money
Drawbacks:
  • Output power: almost too much power to play at home, but not enough for rehearsals with a drummer
  • Modulation algorithms from the same modulation stage can’t be used simultaneously
  • Some effects seem useless to me
  • Fender offers four different Mustang combos but only one Bronco

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see:  Fender Bronco Bass Combo Review

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