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March 31, 2010

Best of Musikmesse 2010: The Top 11

They came to Frankfurt, Germany, showed their stuff, we looked, touched and video taped. Now with everybody back home, it’s time to make sense of the best gear presented at Musikmesse 2010.

Wrapping up a trade show like Musikmesse is no easy feat.  The editorial purpose here is not to declare that such and such product is the best, because as we all know it’s comparing apples to oranges in most cases.  For us here at Audiofanzine is it an opportunity to give a congratulatory nod to the products that we felt stood out in the crowd and did something for us.

Audiofanzine’s Top 11 picks from Musikmesse 2010 is presented in no particular order.

1.  RME Babyface:

Equipped with 192 kHz AD- and DA-converters and two microphone preamps the bus-powered Babyface uses the USB 2.0 high-speed bus and has been optimized under Windows and Mac OS. The Babyface combines analog circuit design with AD/DA converter chips of the latest generation. On top RME’s SteadyClock is designed to ensure an AD- and DA-conversion. Both digitally controlled preamps provide individually switchable 48V phantom power.  The Interface allows to record multiple channels and it’s still very simple setup. It is very small and actually fits in a laptop bag. Most other small interfaces are a lot bigger…

2.  Line 6 Variax James Tyler:

james tylerThis new line of guitars is designed to ”deliver the feel of the finest boutique instruments and the optimal tonal performance of Line 6 guitar modeling technology,” the company says.

Variax guitars are designed to reproduce the sounds of a collection of 25 vintage electric and acoustic instruments, and a dozen custom tunings. The modeled instruments include solid-body, semi-hollow guitars and hollow-body electrics with a variety of pickup configurations, six- and twelve-string acoustics, and other guitar-related instruments including a resonator, banjo, and an electric sitar.  This new line of guitars will be available in three styles, said to reflect the designs of James Tyler in each curve, component and control.

3.  Roland GAIA SH-01:

roland gaiaThe triple-stacked engine of this synthesizer features a “fun, friendly and inviting” designed to attract first-timers, according to Roland. The signal flow is said to be simple to grasp, with logically arranged knobs, sliders, and buttons.

This instrument is designed for music students, songwriters, session players, and live performers of all styles and skill levels and features, among others:

  • Three virtual analog engines onboard, each with a dedicated oscillator, filter, amplifier, envelope, and LFO
  • Layer up to five simultaneous effects, including distortion, flanger, delay, reverb, low boost, and more
  • 64-voice polyphony for massive sounds without note drop-out

To see the rest of the Top 11 from Musikmesse please see: Best of Musikmesse 2010

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March 3, 2010

Digidesign Eleven Rack Review

Digidesign surprised the world last year when they brought out a guitar amp simulator for Pro Tools called Eleven. They have now launched Eleven in rack format for applications in the studio and on stage. Let’s take a look at Digidesign’s youngest child…

Eleven RackGuitar amp simulations have already won their place in the hearts of guitar players years ago for several reasons: they give you a big sound without having to disturb the neighborhood, they save space and provide all the effects and amps you ever dreamed of. These advantages are decisive both in the studio and on stage. But most guitar players get very sentimental when it comes to their gear and it can be hard for them to set their favorite amp aside. The only reason they would do that is because of the sound–with capital S–, which is the holy grail for any electric guitar player. Amp simulations sound better and better every time with more sophisticated algorithms and convolution technology that faithfully recreate speakers and mics.
Eleven RackConvolution technology started to make its way among hardware speaker simulators like the Two Notes Torpedo, but also among software tools like the latest Guitar Rig version, Revalver and Digidesign’s Eleven. In fact, Eleven is basically a plugin for Pro Tools developed to compete with the leading products on the market; but it was hard to set it apart from its competitors, in spite of its good sound.

Thus, Digidesign decided to put its plugin into a hardware rack making it a convenient tool for studio and live guitar players. How did they do? The answer is here…

Hardware Amp Simulation

Eleven RackEleven Rack is a two-in-one product: it’s a fully standalone amp and effects simulator (it doesn’t require to be connected to a computer), as well as a digital audio interface compatible with Digidesign’s sequencer Pro Tools. Let’s start from the beginning, the amps simulations.

Eleven Rack offers few surprises in this regard, it includes the same amp simulations as the software version with the addition of some effects and interesting features…

Once unpacked, you’ll discover a nice looking 2U orange/black rack piece. The front panel has an aluminum border and plastic buttons and knobs. It looks nice and serious; time will tell if the knobs can withstand the assaults of a guitar player. The front panel also has a large and easily readable backlit display surrounded by switches and knobs, whose function depends on what the display currently shows. In normal mode, the “Scroll” encoder allows you to browse among the different presets (about 100) and the “SW1” switch allows you to select the different display types, while the knobs under the display are assigned to the different amp settings. The knobs are not motorized, but they turn on orange when close to the saved value and red otherwise. A “save” button allows you to store your settings and an “edit/back” button gives you some insight on the unit’s heart.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Eleven RackDigidesign tackles the guitar market with an interesting product for both studio and stage applications. It provides less amps and effects than Guitar Rig or Pod X3 Pro but the sound quality is very good – convolution certainly plays a key role in that. Eleven Rack is very versatile thanks to its numerous inputs, outputs and routing possibilities, and it can be used for many applications, especially reamping. The True-Z input is a real treat. The Pro Tools 8 LE bundle with its plentiful effects and virtual instruments adds a lot of value to Eleven Rack. At about $900 ($200 more than the Pod X3 Pro with its numerous modelings), it seems to be a bit expensive at first sight, but the bundle is very interesting and Digidesign took a lot of care with the sound quality, which is almost impeccable. We only miss a dedicated volume control for the phones output. Nothing is perfect!

Advantages:

  • Nice design
  • Simulation of famous amps and effects
  • Convolution technology for speakers and mics
  • Overall sound quality
  • Versatility
  • Possibility to make reamping
  • Number of inputs and outputs
  • True-Z guitar input
  • No need for a computer on stage
  • Comprehensive digital audio interface
  • Mic input with phantom power
  • Sold with Pro Tools 8 LE and its plugins
  • Eleven’s GUI in Pro Tools

Drawbacks:

  • No Eleven plugin version
  • GUI only available within Pro Tools
  • It lacks some amps and effects
  • Only two mic positions
  • Plastic knobs
  • No independent phones volume control

To read the full detailed review including sound samples see: Digidesign Eleven Rack

December 31, 2009

Zoom R16: All-Rounder

Filed under: audio interface — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 7:38 am

Zoom R16 Review

DAW systems are good but you don’t always have a computer by when you feel the rush to record music. Mini studios were created for that purpose: they are practical solutions but not very comprehensive nor ergonomic. That’s why Zoom launched the R16, an hybrid tool you can use as digital audio interface, controller and standalone mini studio. Let’s take a look at the result…

Zoom R16The R16 seeks to reconcile two different worlds: DAW fans who are willing to bear bugs and system crashes to get the utmost versatility and ease of use computer systems provide, and mini studio fans who enjoy integrated, reliable and compact systems at the cost of ease of use and expandability. So, the target user of the R16 is a half nomad, half sedentary musician who needs an audio interface/MIDI controller for his computer in order to comfortably mix and fine-tune his songs at home and a fully standalone and easy transportable recording system. First things first, so let’s begin by unpacking this two-headed beast…

The first impression is good. The white and gray finish provide it a sleek look and the plastic seems sturdy. Its lightness is surprising.  That’s a good point for people planning to take the R16 everywhere with them. This compact interface has nine faders but is slim enough to fit in any backpack. It’s obviously much more bulkier than a portable recorder, like M-Audio’s MicroTrack II or Zoom’s H2, but it offers incomparable recording possibilities! It reminds me a lot of digital integrated studios from Tascam, Roland, Korg, or… Zoom! The plastic buttons and faders feel a bit toyish but you can’t really expect more for the price. Do watch out for the faders because they get loose pretty easily. The R16 is sold with Cubase LE 4, a 1GB SD card and an external PSU. You can also use six AA batteries for 4.5 hours of life (according to the manufacturer’s specifications).

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Zoom strikes a decisive blow offering hybrid technology at a very affordable price. Surely many musicians looking for a portable 16-track recorder, an audio interface and a MIDI controller will enjoy the R16. The R16’s main advantage is that it’s a real standalone product with effects, mics, SD card reader, tuner, and metronome. Nevertheless, we wish it had more headphones or line outputs because It is impossible to provide different monitor mixes to several musicians, forcing you to buy an additional headphone amplifier. The fact that only two mic preamps have phantom power, the headphones and master output level controls are on the rear panel and the documentation doesn’t describe sound card and MIDI controller applications enough might annoy some. But considering the price, such details won’t keep you from trying to get your hands on it. Hats off Mr. Zoom!

Advantages:

  • Three different and complementary applications
  • Eight inputs on XLR-1/4″ combo connectors
  • Battery operation option
  • Effects by the dozen
  • Incredibly light
  • Four-segment LED level meter per track
  • Nice price
  • Nice design

Drawbacks:

  • Only one stereo out
  • Rather ineffective tuner
  • Obsolete ergonomics
  • Average quality of the preamps and some effects
  • MIDI controller application totally ignored in the user’s manual

To read the full detailed review see:  Zoom R16 Review

June 4, 2009

Serato Rane SL 3 Audio Interface

Serato presents their Rane SL 3 audio interface for DJs.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.


April 2, 2009

Musikmesse 2009: Cakewalk V-Studio 100

Cakewalk presents their new V-Studio 100 at Musikmesse 2009.

cakewalk

For more Musikmesse videos and news visit Audiofanzine Musikmesse

March 23, 2009

Line 6 POD Studio UX2: The Test

Back in Black
Line 6 POD Studio UX2: The Test

Well known for its guitar amp simulators, Line 6 has recently updated its Toneport range of audio interfaces, and renamed it POD Studio while they were at it. Let’s take a look at the new UX2 and see what changes have been made.

POD studio UX2

At around $200, there are many interfaces that are likely to attract beginner home-studio owners. Brands like PreSonus, M-Audio, Lexicon, E-MU, Alesis, Tascam, and Novation usually offer more or less the same thing, technically speaking, both in terms of features and quality. Within this context, Line 6 was able to differentiate itself with its Toneport range, whose success was based on its look, and especially the promise of giving access to the POD’s famous amp modeling through GearBox software. You never change a winning combination, so after a few variations of this basic concept (See the test of the UX-8), the time was ripe to update the TonePort GX, UX1, UX2, which were renamed for the occasion to POD Studio GX, UX1 and UX2. The difference between these respective models remains the same: POD Studio GX is geared at guitarists and/or bassists with only one instrument input, while the UX1 and UX2, which also have mic inputs, are designed to be more general purpose devices and therefore target home-studios. The UX1 is a product that could interest tight budgets (around $150) but which would soon show its limitations, since it only has one microphone input, which in addition doesn’t have phantom power (forget about stereo micing, and especially forget about using condenser mics). For this test, we’ll be taking a look at the UX2, which is much more comprehensive and sold at the very aggressive price of $190.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Even if it doesn’t really change much on the hardware side compared to the TonePort, the POD Studio UX2 interface remains, for around $190, one of the best gear choices a beginner could make, provided he/she doesn’t need a MIDI connection. It’s stable, efficient, and easy to use and has one of the best software bundles in this price range, thanks to the presence of POD Farm which makes it particularly attractive for guitarists.

Ease of use.
Stability.
GearBox changing to POD Farm.
POD Farm, Live Lite, and Reason Adapted: a generous bundle.
Excellent value for money.

POD Farm’s lack of flexibility.
No MIDI connection.
Plastic hull.

To read the full detailed article see:  Line 6 POD Studio UX2 Review

February 12, 2009

NAMM 2009: Video Demo New Ionix External Audio Interfaces from Lexicon

Filed under: audio interface, namm 2009 — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:11 am

A short tour of the brand new I-Onix series of external audio interface from Lexicon.

To watch all NAMM 2009 video demos visit us on Audiofanzine NAMM 2009.

February 11, 2009

NAMM 2009: Video Demo Focusrite Saffire Pro 40

Oly Burke shows us the new Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 external audio interface.

To watch all NAMM 2009 video demos visit us on Audiofanzine NAMM 2009.

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