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February 2, 2009

Test: Line 6 POD X3 Pro Review

Filed under: Amps, Guitar reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 10:03 am
In POD We Trust?
Line 6 POD X3 Pro: The Test

126518After releasing their POD X3 and X3 Live in 2008, worthy descendants in their own right of the Pod XT, Line 6 felt it necessary to update the POD Pro. So, it’s no surprise they’ve come up with a POD in rack format, offering a plethora of inputs and outputs, called the POD X3 Pro.

The idea behind the Pod Pro was to feature numerous inputs and outputs (analog and digital), to satisfy the most demanding user, either on stage or in the studio. Its rack format makes it easier to integrate it into a studio and therefore it could more easily find its place within professional situations. Though the size of the original POD makes it easier to transport for a guitarist, it’s more complicated to fit it in front of a console, for one thing. The same applies to the Pod Live, which is aimed primarily at guitarists who often play live and want to have the controls of their sound at their feet.

So the POD X3 Pro has the same concept as the X3 and X3 Live versions: it features Line 6’s famous modeling (78 guitar amps, 24 guitar speakers, 98 effects, 28 bass amps, 22 bass speakers, 6 mic preamps and 4 positionnable microphones) and its software, POD Farm, lets you record, edit presets more easily with a nice graphic interface, and re-amp the sound after.

But first let’s take a look at what interests us most: its controls and inputs/outputs!…

Conclusion

Pod X3 pro

Line 6 has managed to improve the POD by adding more models and making it even more complete. The sound quality is good and the number of inputs and outputs makes the POD X3 Pro ready for all situations, in fact it’s hard to find a situation where it wouldn’t suffice. We commend the new interface and screen that makes navigation and editing easier, and the POD Farm plug-in, which opens up new horizons for home studio guitarists. For around $699, the POD X3 Pro offers a POD, an audio interface rich in connections with microphone preamps, and an amp/effects simulator plug-in. A real must for fans of all-in-one solutions!

The number of models
The sound quality
The number of inputs and outputs
The big backlit LCD screen
The GUI – practical and easily readable
The POD Farm plug-in
USB interface with 8 channels

The look
3U Rack, the POD has gained weight
Effects chain not completely flexible
Mediocre mic preamps

To read the full, detailed article see:   Line 6 POD X3 Pro Review

December 9, 2008

Test: M-Audio ProFire 2626 review

With no fewer than 26 inputs, 26 outputs, 8 integrated Octane microphone preamps, and ProTools M-Powered compatibility, the latest interface from M-Audio aims to find its niche in the category of intermediate-level FireWire audio interfaces. Should the competition be worried?

trois quart

M-Audio has been releasing quality products at very attractive prices (even aggressive prices) for some time now: microphones, MIDI controllers, sound cards and other Home Studio accessories. Bought in 2004 by Avid, which also owns Digidesign, M-Audio now offers sound cards that are Protools M-Powered compatible.

This Protools version allows Home studio owners to use this “legendary” software and create sessions that are compatible with TDM versions, something which had already been possible with Digidesign cards (like MBox, DIGI002, DIGI003) but which has now become more affordable thanks to M-Audio.

The product we’ll be reviewing is the M-Audio Profire 2626 digital audio interface, which has the following specs:

  • 26 x 26 simultaneous analog/digital I/O
  • Up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • 8 mic/line preamps using Octane technology including 2 instrument inputs on the front panel
  • Two ¼” TRS headphone outputs, and a user-assignable master volume knob
  • An onboard DSP mixer that allows routing of internal signals without taking up processor resources
  • Standalone operation (functions as eight-channel mic pre/eight-channel A/D-D/A converter)
  • JetPLL technology – jitter elimination (unwanted variation of one or more characteristics of a periodic signal)
  • Wordclock I/O

Basically, it’s got a lot of nice features which, for an average price of USD 899.95 MSRP (around $699 average street price), could be a very good alternative for people who want to mix with an analog or digital console. There are enough inputs & outputs to put down your tracks without a problem.

What’s in the box?…

Conclusion

M-Audio has come up with a very good product at an interesting price with their Profire 2626. Except for some minor installation issues and control panel display bugs, its internal routing, quality preamps and converters, and numerous inputs/outputs (almost boggles the mind considering the price) make this interface a must-have for people who want to record numerous tracks or who want to try venturing outside of their favorite sequencer to use a console (and thereby use external effects). The icing on the cake is that it works as a standalone A/D-D/A! So with an average street price of $699 it definitely deserves a value for the money award.

Number of Inputs/Outputs
Quality preamps and converters
Internal Routing
2 headphone outputs
Has Wordclock
Compatible with Protools M-Powered

Knob push/pull quality
Phantom common to inputs 1 to 4 and 5 to 8
Installation slightly arduous
Display bugs in M-Audio control panel

Read the full M-Audio ProFire 2626 review here.

November 28, 2008

Test: Line6 Backtrack review

Filed under: Recording reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 1:42 pm
Line 6’s Backtrack+Mic: The Test
Unfortunately, we often realize too late that we should have recorded what we just played. How many times have you wished that you could go back in time and hit the record button right before inspiration hit you? Line6 has come up with something along these lines with its portable recorder, the Backtrack, a small device that lets you save a take after the fact. Is it magic? 

No, there’s nothing magical hidden in this little box the size of a pack of cigarettes, and the process is simple: Backtrack continuously records after being activated and automatically splits out audio events thanks to its silence detection. Just press the big Mark button in the center of the device when you want to keep something you just played. It’s both simple and original! But let’s take a closer look at the device.

Backtrack

The Backtrack is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and is therefore easily transportable. It has a belt clip on the back, a ¼-inch guitar input as well as a ¼-inch output so you connect it to an amp. There are two versions: the Backtrack, which is designed to record instruments via a jack, and the Backtrack + Mic with the same features, but which also has an integrated microphone which allows you to record any acoustic instrument. We’ll be testing the latter.

The first thing that should be mentioned is that the device is USB powered. This connection lets you get to the audio you recorded with the Backtrack as well as recharge the internal battery. The manufacturer claims an autonomy of more than 8 hours and its memory (2GB) allows the user to record 4 hours of audio in 24 bit/48 kHz or 24 hours in 16-bit/11 kHz. There are also intermediary settings (22, 32 and 44.1 kHz) for greater flexibility. Note that the Backtrack only supports WAV format. It seems that Line6 didn’t deem it necessary to use less space-consuming formats such as MP3 or AAC. Of course WAV offers better sound quality, but is this the real point of a device like this? A compressed format would have easily fit 10 times more audio in its memory without sacrificing sound quality, which, for a tool of this kind, is not the priority. Moreover, it’s too bad they didn’t integrate a built-in speaker; if you record via the mic you’ll need to listen back to your takes with headphones (not included). If on the other hand, you’ve got the output connected to your amp, you can listen back to your takes through the amp.

But let’s take a look at how it works …

 …

Conclusion

 

Backtrack

Line 6 offers a highly original product that differentiates itself from the competition through its well thought out ergonomics, though they may be confusing at first. Its size and weight will be appreciated by musicians on the go, and its audio quality, without being extraordinary, is adequate for use as a type of audio capture device. Its few flaws remain bearable: only uses WAV format and its start time is a little long.

This recorder was clearly designed for musicians: it goes against the trend of the more expensive recording devices that offer better sound quality. Those who do serious field recording will no doubt turn to these more expensive models, while musicians hoping to easily capture a moment of inspiration will no doubt appreciate this product.

 Ergonomics: original and practical 
 Small 
 Price 
 Integrated microphone for the “+ Mic” version
 Ample autonomy and memory

 Impossible to un-mark a file 
 WAV only 
 Starts up after 10 long seconds 
 No built-in speaker

Read the full Line6 backtrack review here

November 10, 2008

Test: Fender Classics Re-issue Pedals review

Classics Live Again
Fender Classics Re-issue Pedals: The Test
Though not as well known for their pedals as they are for their guitars and basses, Fender has been making classic pedals for more than 50 years. Following the recent re-issue of the Fender Blender Custom pedal, Fender decided to launch a range of new classic-inspired stompboxes with some vintage tones and looks. Let’s take a closer look….
 
Vue générale

The Fender Classics – Reissue Pedals include the Fender Blender (octave/fuzz), a Volume, a Volume/Tone, a Phaser, and the Fuzz-Wah pedal. In this test we’ll be taking a look at all of the above with the exception of the Fender Blender.

At first glance these pedals look vintage: robust, big, and heavy! And they are heavy! Though made in Korea, there’s nothing cheap about these pedals. If you buy all five you’ll probably have to end up getting them their own separate pedal board. Just incorporating one or two into your existing pedal board will require some measurement and planning. But in look and feel, they certainly live up to their vintage counterparts.

As for packaging, there’s the strict minimum, but in style. They each come in a chic black velour stocking-like cover, complete with an embroidered Fender logo (It would look great next to the fireplace for Christmas if you don’t use it for anything else). The only other thing in the box (besides the Styrofoam) is a catalog of the other pedals in the collection. There’s no manual, and you don’t need one. It’s basically intuitive plug-and-play.

There’s a minimum of knobs on all of the pedals with an emphasis on foot controlled parameters. The Fuzz/Wah and Volume/Tone feature clever dual action treadle plates that not only rock forwards and backwards like a traditional wah-wah, but also move from left to right. And the Phaser has a big back-lit rate control knob, that alternately illuminates blue and red at the same rate as the phase shifting, that can easily be manipulated with your foot.

Let’s take a closer look at their ergonomy and see (and hear) how they sound.

Conclusion
Made in Korea with Californian know-how, these vintage re-issue pedals give the best of both worlds: quality products at a relatively inexpensive price. They might not have many fancy settings or adjustments but they definitely deliver the goods. They do however have a somewhat fancy look to them with all that shiny chrome; all except the Phaser, but the Phaser has that cool synchronized back-lit dial. Though they’re heavy and bulky, they do look, feel, and above all, sound vintage. There are a couple of details or features that could have been done differently and one or two downsides, but on the whole they’re a great addition to anyone’s pedal collection. And considering that they’re fairly inexpensive for such quality Fender products, there’s not much of a reason not to run out and test and eventually buy one, if not all.
 

 Price
 Solidity
 Sound – especially the Fuzz and the Phaser
 Nice look – Chrome or Back-lit dial
 Expressiveness with two-way control (Fuzz/Wah & Volume/Tone)
 Volume pedal transparency
 Smooth pedal action

 Weight and bulk
 Phaser noise 
 Tricky switch-stomping and difficult volume-level switch access on the Fuzz/Wah
 Tone variation on the Volume/Tone a little too narrow

 

Read the full review of the Fender Classics re-issues pedals on Audiofanzine.

 

October 25, 2008

SKB Stage5 review

t’s no secret that many guitarists like effects and that some are even addicted to their pedals. But of course there comes a time when it becomes necessary to make all these small boxes easier to transport and connect. That is partly why pedalboards were invented and marketed by brands such as SKB with their Stagefive, which we’ll be taking a closer look at …

Vue générale

In Audiofanzine’s forums or elsewhere it’s clear that when it comes to guitar effects, 2 schools of thought battle it out on this almost philosophical question. If you don’t count the “direct into the guitar amp” believers (poor guys), there’s on one side the multi-effect enthusiasts with it’s cumbersome digital programming and sub-sub-sub menus. And on the other, the stompbox fans (2-knobs and let’s play).

So you ask, how has the ultra-archaic effects pedal resisted the digital invader? There are objective reasons on the one hand: ease of use due to there being only a few knobs, the “one pedal, one effect” concept , the case where guitarists only need one or two effects (yes they exist!), and their robustness compared to the average multi effect. On the other hand, we find more subjective reasons: people talk about the warmth of analog compared to digital, not to mention trying to get the exact effects used by many of our idols, who recorded legendary music way before the advent of digital technology. What would “Voodoo Chile” be without a Wha Wha? “Message in a bottle” without a Boss Chorus, or any U2 song without 2 truck loads of all kinds of pedals?

 

After several weeks of use, Stagefive has proven to be a well thought out guitar pedal tool. The possibilities for routing and electrical power, plus the extra cable tester meets 90% of the needs of digital-phobic effect lovers.. If its weight and dimensions are somewhat imposing (start weightlifting immediately), it is unfortunately the price to pay for a single, comprehensive, and safe solution! And still it’s nothing compared to the weight of some custom wooden pedal boards. Among its slight shortcomings are the too concise manual, and the lack of a switch button between the 2 effects loops. At about 400 €, it’s not for everybody, but its strength and quality, in my view, make it worth the price.

Ruggedness
Quality of power outputs
The integrated cable tester!

Manual too light
Doesn’t handle some less common adapters – check before!
Lacks an A/B switch to go from one effects loop to the other

Read the full review of SKB Stage5 on Audiofanzine.

 

October 14, 2008

TC Helicon VoiceTone Harmony-G review

TC Helicon VoiceTone Harmony-G - AudioFanzineTC Helicon’s Harmony-G: The Test
After having delighted singers with their Voicetone pedals, TC Helicon is trying to seduce guitarist/singers with a pedal capable of simulating vocal harmonies that follow your voice and guitar playing. Extraordinary as this may sound in theory, does the Harmony G keep its promises in practice? That’s what we’ll see in this test …

You won’t feel so alone anymore

Setting up live vocal harmonies has always been relatively complicated. A bad balance between the main speakers and the monitoring speakers will often cause out of tune vocals which will quickly get on the nerves of any audience. But there are worse situations! How do you get harmony vocals when you‘re alone on stage? Even if you have all the talent and determination in the world, your voice is still monophonic. Fortunately, TC-Helicon was thinking of singer/guitarists and singer/ pianists who play solo when they created two pedals allowing them to be, as if by magic, accompanied by two virtual singers who even know the set-list by heart! But how is this possible? It’s simple: the pedal, thanks to the guitar or keyboard that is plugged into the device, follows the chord progression, analyzes it and figures out the vocal harmonies that go along with your voice. That’s, roughly, the idea behind the Harmony G (guitar) and Harmony M (for MIDI, the keyboard is connected via MIDI). Sounds tempting doesn’t it? Being a six-string enthusiast myself, I naturally chose the Harmony G model for this test.

So I eagerly opened the nice looking box with the TC Helicon logo …

C Helicon strikes another strong blow by allowing singer/guitarists to have 2 virtual singers at their command. With its effects and its integrated tuner, the little box is like an audio Swiss-army knife. It will undoubtedly attract many musicians thanks to its ease of use, sound quality, solid construction and very realistic vocal harmonies. The Harmony G also offers small features which have been intelligently thought out (changing the reference tuning or Manual mode) and its few defects are quickly overlooked in light of how enjoyable it is to use. Watch out Crosby, Stills & Nash!

Convincing vocal harmonies
Very good mic preamp
Quality effects
Solid construction
48 V phantom power
Guitar through
Automatic mix of voice and guitar
Tone mode
Integrated tuner
Manual

The balance of guitar, harmony levels and effects not stored in presets
Needs AC adapter
Pressing both switches at the same time is not so easy
Sometimes hangs when changing chords

Read the complete review of TC Helicon Voicetone Harmony-G.

Egnater Tourmaster 4112 review

Egnater Tourmaster 4112 - AudioFanzineMaking tubes more accessible seems to be the trend these days: in the wake of Fender’s big hit with their 5-Watt entry-level amp, the Champion 600, and Line 6’s collaboration with Bogner to warm up its algorithms to the good old sound of tubes, it’s Egnater’s turn to come out with a product that has a rather aggressive price for this manufacturer, since the Tourmaster 4212, an all-tube 100W combo amp, goes for under 1500€ while their 4100 Head, without its 4 x 12 cabinet which sells for 799€, costs 1390€ …

HP

 

Let it be said, for those who might not know, that wattage doesn’t mean quite the same thing for transistor amps as it does for tube amps. Without simplifying too much, let’s just say that in terms of volume, a 30 Watt tube amp can blow away a 100 Watt transistor amp. So, imagine what a 100-watt tube amp is capable of: endless fights with the neighbors, of course, or breaking all of your grandma’s crystal and plates with one C chord! Incidentally, you wouldn’t need a PA for a small concert hall (for a Stadium it would be cutting it close … just a little).

What can be said except that basically this amp lacks almost nothing. We could have wished for a lighter amp, but this seems difficult to achieve with so much to offer in terms of power choices. We might have wished for a footswitch with more than 6 buttons for more flexibility, or even MIDI capabilities. But that would be splitting hairs. The truth of the matter is that the Egnater offers, at a relatively nice price, an amp that sounds very good and that could very well be the only amp you’ll need, if you get past the transportation issue. Bravo.

Versatility, with its 4 channels.
The possibility of adapting the power to your needs.
The sound.
Very complete.
The price.

Not appropriate for metal (but with some good pedals …).
No MIDI connections.
43 kg (roadies not included)

Read the full review of Egnater Tourmaster 4112 on Audiofanzine

September 27, 2008

Olympus LS-10 Linear PCM review

Olympus LS-10: The Test
When Olympus, famous for their clout in the photography world, takes on the audio market, we get the LS-10, a portable digital recorder determined to stake its claim in new territory …

LS-10

Many manufacturers specialized in audio have recently released portable digital recorders, among them renowned experts like Marantz or Nagra, but also more accessible brands like M-Audio, Edirol and Zoom. There’s something for everyone and especially for all budgets. Olympus has therefore ventured into a field already populated by brands well known to audio lovers. Despite this, Olympus hopes to take advantage of its photography experience and expertise in order to find its niche in the audio world.

At first glance, the LS-10 has very interesting specs, judge for yourself – two electret microphones, a large backlit display, 2GB built-in flash memory, an SD SDHC card reader, encoding on the fly in MP3 or WMA , recording in 96 kHz wav … Add to that a nice but serious look, and construction that breathes quality, and you get a very attractive recorder … Right off the bat you’ll get the feeling of solidity and robustness: Olympus’s know-how seems undeniable here. This is clearly a notch above what some brands like Edirol or Zoom have to offer: you won’t be afraid to take the LS-10 along with you wherever you go. It’s weight, slightly more than some of its competitors, (165 grams including batteries) probably contributes to this feeling of ruggedness.

But let’s see if the little guy delivers the goods…

 

he LS-10 lets you record in three different formats: linear PCM (WAV files without loss of audio information, but relatively space consuming), MP3 (compressed format) and WMA (also a compressed format made by Microsoft). The first format allows a sampling rate of 96 kHz 24-bit, which would be suitable for ‘def’ recordings but would be totally overkill as a ‘notepad’. Mp3 format (128 Kbps to 320 Kbps) will save a lot of space, and WMA (from 64 Kbps to 160 Kbps) will be even lighter. With an integrated memory of 2 GB, the LS-01 will let you save up to 3h10mins in WAV 44.1 kHz/16 bits 17h45mins in Mp3s 256 kb/s or 69h35mins WMA 64 kb/s! That’s quite a bit of recording time, especially if you add a SD HC card (up to 8 GB) which will multiply the above times by 5!

As for autonomy, the LS-10 claims 16h recording 44.1 kHz WAV/16bits and 35h playback. Knowing that the device takes 2 AA batteries, it will be easy to take along a couple of spare batteries in your pocket … This small recorder, therefore, lets you make long recordings without having to empty the memory onto the computer or change the batteries, a good point!

In terms of inputs and outputs, there’s a mini headphone jack, a mini-jack mic input (with ‘plug-in power’ and an impedance of 2 Ohms) and a mini line input jack. It would have been nice to have one or two XLR inputs (like on the Zoom H4) to broaden the scope of the LS-10, but only MiniDisc type microphones can be used, unfortunately. Here are some examples of compatible microphones: ME30W, ME51S, ME-15, ME-52W, ME-12.

Olympus has made a nice entry into the professional audio recorder arena. One will greatly appreciate its quality of construction, its overall sound quality, its autonomy, and generous integrated memory. Of course, in certain situations, the LS-10 will be showing it limitations, for example, recording an instrument with very low frequencies. But we forgive this quite easily in view of its compactness and its numerous strengths.

Quality of construction
Sound quality
Autonomy
2GB + integrated SD card reader HC
Windscreens supplied
Integrated reverb
Looping feature
Big backlit screen
Cubase 4 LE included

No adapter for mic stands
Bass Frequency less pronounced
Volume Knob not easily adjustable
Unable to rename Files
No XLR Connections

Read the full  Olympus LS-10 Linear PCM review on Audiofanzine.

 

 

September 17, 2008

Rupert Neve Designs Portico 5014 Stereo Field Editor

Rupert Neve Designs Portico Series
Portico Series: The Test
Neve. If there’s one name that causes the studio professional’s pulse to quicken, this is it! Even if the company has gone their own separate way with AMS since 1985, Rupert Neve, creator of the brand, has not hung up his soldering iron and is still creating new modules for his Portico range.
5032 avant
5032 arrière

After designing products for the likes of Focuriste or Amek this famous engineer is now working for his own Rupert Neve Designs. Through their Portico products, Rupert Neve Designs makes several pledges. First and foremost a no-compromise sound, worthy of their name, but also technical choices favoring more accessible prices.

Well, I can already hear your credit cards coming out of your wallets, so let’s be clear. At an average 1200€ per module, we are not in the same league as the slew of chinese products that litter the walls of many stores. But even if Portico isn’t looking to break into the entry level market, if they keep their sound quality pledge Rupert Neve Designs will have the additional appeal of their prices.

The Portico series isn’t new, the first model came out in 2005. But since they’ve had a ‘face lift’, we decided to take a new look at these products.

There are currently 8 modules in the Portico line:

  • The 5012 – Duo Mic Preamp. Rupert Neve Designs’ first product.
  • The 5014 – Stereo Field Editor. A tool for stereo image and phase manipulation
  • The 5015 – Mic Pre / Compressor. A preamp / compressor combo
  • The 5016 – Duo Mic Pre / DI, here again a preamp / DI combo with phase adjustment
  • The 5032 – Mic Pre / EQ, preamp and 3 band EQ
  • The 5033 – Five Band EQ, as its name indicates, a 5 band EQ with shelving filters
  • The 5042 – Tape Simulator, true tape simulator
  • The 5043 – Compressor / Limiter Duo, double compressor limiter
Conclusion

 

Rack

It was about time that we lent an ear to these great achievements from a legend of the audio world. With their new look, which is much nicer than the old cheap-looking facade, they now look the part. These modules have, in all cases, impeccable sound quality and a genuine character.

With their 2 distinct modes, the preamp and compression modules are very versatile and very useful tools for handling all kinds of sources.

Because of their interesting price, at least for the stereo modules, they should be on your test list.

The Sound!
My Favorite: the Compressor
The price of double channels
Compactness

The price of single channels
Power Switch on the Back

You can read the full review of  Rupert Neve Designs Portico 5014 Stereo Field Editor on Audiofanzine.

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