AF’s Weblog

December 8, 2010

RME Babyface Review

Most manufacturers have been adding compact audio interfaces to their product range for several years, and now is time for RME and its Babyface. Many mobile musicians and sound engineers have been eagerly waiting for this new USB2 compatible interface…

This end of year is full of new launches at RME: the high-end Fireface UFX (already reviewed by AudioFanzine) and the Babyface, which belongs to the affordable line of RME products. The word “affordable” is relative, of course, considering that the Babyface’s price tag is nearly $750… However, the Babyface is the German manufacturer’s most compact and affordable external interface and it will surely appeal to mobile home-studio owners searching for quality.

Inside the box you’ll find the user’s manual, a breakout cable and an extension cable to add inputs and outputs to the Babyface (see below), a USB2 cable, a nice transport bag to carry the interface, the cables and a mic (for example), and the Babyface itself with its blue and gray finish. The interface is quite compact (3.9″ x 1″ x 6.3″) but it is heavy enough (1.1 lb.) to sit stably on your desk — it feels sturdy. This impression is reinforced by the metal housing with the typical RME blue finish. Only the knobs and the jog wheel are made out of plastic. The wheel doesn’t seem to be too tough; the first few months of intensive use will show if it has what is takes…

Plug-in Baby

RME Audio Babyface

In spite of its compact size, the Babyface offers comprehensive connections: two mic inputs on XLR connectors, line outputs (on XLR connectors as well), MIDI in/out on 5-pin DIN connectors, and a headphones minijack output (which can also be used as line out). All connections are routed through the breakout cable, linked to the Babyface via a 25-pin D-Sub connector, similar to the ones on VGA graphic cards. On the interface itself you have an instrument input, which replaces the second mic input when activated via the TotalMix FX software, and a second phones out which is electrically linked to the first one. This means that the maximum output volume decreases when two headphones are connected at the same time, and also that both outputs deliver the same audio signal. In other words, you can’t send different mixes to the headphones. You’ll also find an ADAT Toslink input and output, which is a rather nice surprise considering the size and price of the interface. The ADAT option allows the user to connect an external converter and add 8 in/out channels. Nice! Finally, the interface features a connector for an external PSU (not included) and a USB cable with two connectors, in case the USB bus of your computer doesn’t provide enough current (the manufacturer states that the Babyface requires 300 mA).

RME Audio Babyface

On the top panel you’ll find some LEDs and buttons to control certain parameters without having to use the TotalMix FX software. The jog wheel allows you to control the gain of both analog inputs (simultaneously or separately), the volume of the main line outputs or the phones out level. You can select the mode (In, Out or Phone) using the select buttons underneath the jog wheel. A simple click on the jog wheel allows you to activate the dim function (temporary volume reduction) while in Out or Phone mode. The last LED shows the sync status of the digital clock. The source of the clock can be internal or external (via ADAT and S/PDIF).

Two 10-segment LED meters show the level at the inputs or outputs, which is a very valuable feature considering the size of the interface. Usually, manufacturers use only one or two LEDs for similar products… Well done RME!

Now, let’s take a look at the software package included…

Conclusion

RME succeeded in launching a compact and rugged interface with remarkable sound quality. At about $750, this baby provides two quality mic preamps and converters, ADAT in/out, a jog wheel, a transport bag, and a pair of nice-looking VU-meters. Add TotalMix FX —the virtual mixer that allows you to manage all 22 channels and process the signals (EQ, filter, reverb, and echo)— to the package and you get the best mobile audio interface on the market. It obviously has some drawbacks, like the poor precision of the gain controls, the fact that the two headphones outputs are not independent and the sturdiness of the jog wheel, but nothing is perfect in this world…

Advantages:

  • Quality of the preamps and converters
  • ADAT input and output
  • TotalMix FX with EQ, reverb and echo
  • 10-segment LED level meters
  • Size (it does matter!)
  • Metal housing
  • USB powered
  • Convenient jog wheel and buttons
  • Nice transport bag
  • Xmas is coming soon

Drawbacks:

  • Input gain control in 3 dB steps
  • Will the plastic jog wheel survive over the years?
  • The two headphone outputs are not independent
  • I have to send it back

To read the full detailed article see:  RME Babyface Review

May 16, 2009

Ableton Live 8 Suite: The Test

Long LIVE Ableton
Ableton Live 8: The Test

Ableton’s Live has been with us for some time now and since it’s initial release in 2001 it has proudly sported a simple one window interface and transparent ’no frills’ operation. This simplicity initially led some producers and musicians to believe it was perhaps a step down from other more complex DAWs, but seven years down the line Live has more than stood the test of time.

Many musicians, engineers and DJs have now adopted Live as their primary production or performance environment and Ableton is now onto an impressive eighth major release. Their constant development of the application is also relentless with version 8.01 of Live being released only weeks ago, which sees stability and workflow further improved.

Ouverture

Live has never been short of virtual instruments, hardware quality effects and cool production tools but each major release manages to expand this sequencer’s inventory, and version 8 is certainly no exception. With a brand-new virtual instrument, updates to the interface, new production tools, extra effects and even an expanded sample library, the folks at Ableton certainly aren’t running out of ideas.

How Suite it is

Live now comes in three different versions: Live LE (medium), Live (Large) and Ableton Suite (XL). Live LE is essentially a cut down version of Live for the entry level user or budget conscious beginner and is limited in some areas such as number of tracks and effects that can be used. Live and Ableton Suite are pretty much the same core application but the Suite contains a pretty large sample library (including the new Latin Percussion collection) and you will also get all ten virtual instruments that Ableton offers for the higher price tag.

Let’s take a look at the major changes and hear some audio examples of them in action to see if this new update is a step in the right direction…

Conclusion

This is a really major release for Live and although the application remains the same at first glance the changes could literally change the way you use it. What could be a new set of toys to the seasoned user, could potentially be the feature that convinces the new user to switch.

Plan de groupe

Installation is a breeze and can be completed by download without the need for any dongles or iLoks. Activation is an automatic process that takes a matter of minutes so you’ll be up and running in no time. So if you haven’t checked it out already then do yourself a favour and upgrade or a least test drive the demo.

Feature rich update
Very cost effective (from €49 to Live 7 users to €549 for full Ableton suite)
Exciting new effects processors and instruments
Long list of interface and workflow enhancements

Overall interface and metering may be a little basic for some pros
Lack of support for multiple monitors maybe an issue for some

To read the full detailed article see Ableton Live 8 Review

April 25, 2009

Making a Studio Pt.1

Studio Considerations

The magic of the recording studio has often mystified even the most seasoned professionals. With all the knobs, switches and buttons on various gear and large format consoles, no wonder confusion sets in to most non-techies. Many people, especially artists, composers, producers, and engineers, will end up putting together their own studio for writing and preproduction, with some eventually deciding to take the plunge and create a full-fledged recording complex that is capable of recording major albums. This series of articles will try to shed some light on the considerations to take into account when making a studio, be it a small home studio or a professional recording studio.

Ouverture

Is bigger better?

Is size important? Some may say it is so but this is not always the case. The dimensions of the studio are very important. A room too large may become over-reverberant or full of unwanted echoes. A room too small may sound tight and unnatural. It is important that the room size and room sound is relevant to the type of music you are recording. You don’t want to go into a very small tight room to record BIG rock drums. Although, big room sounds can be achieved by adding external reverb effects to simulate rooms at a later time when necessary.

It is best to find the room that suits the sound you are trying to achieve from the beginning of the recording process. The smaller the room, the smaller and tighter the sound will be; this is not necessarily a bad thing. Small tight rooms can be good for vocals, guitars and percussion if you are going for a tight clean sound. Larger rooms have more air for the sound to travel in, so it will be in fact a bigger more open sound. The sound has a longer travel time for the sound wave to move, therefore the reflection from the walls will take longer to bounce back creating a bigger more spacious sound. The decision of size and sound has to be made early on before the recording starts. One advantage that a larger room will have is the ability to be scaled down by closing up the room using modular baffles or gobos (go betweens). Gobos are structures that are partitions, that help to block sound by placing them in between the musicians, instruments, and microphones. Placing the gobos around the microphone at a close distance will help a large room with too much ambiance sound smaller. This will eliminate the reflections coming off of the walls that are further away.

Ouverture

Small rooms can produce big heavy tight sounds with the absence of the decay from the reverb that is caused from big rooms. Sometimes a large room can sound like it’s washed out, or far away. With a good engineer any room can sound amazing with a little adjusting. A poor sounding room can be manipulated to sound good, although it requires much more work and time. Deciding on the proper room size for your needs is critical to the sounds that get re-produced. This will highly dictate the type of sound the microphones will pick up.

Clapping your hands in a room can give a good representation of what a room will sound like. The reflection coming off the walls will be picked up by a simple hand clap. The true test is to try out some instruments or vocals and position them in various sections of the room until reaching the optimum sound quality. If one side of the room sounds bad try a different spot or move around into a corner until the sound is improved.

Experimenting with different sections of the room also keeps the sound fresh when recording many instruments. If the acoustic guitars are recorded in the center of the room, when the time comes to record the electric guitars you may try recording them in a corner of the room for a different room sound. This gives clarity on the final mix creating separation and providing more distinction on various sounds.

If you are starting your own studio, remember that the bigger the studio the higher amount the bills will be. The benefit is that larger studios can charge more for their studio rates.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Check List: Part 3

Plan de groupeA Sony CD Recorder

CD RECORDER

Records and plays back compact discs. Gives the ability to record stereo mixes and playback these mixes on other CD players. CD standard for consumer playback is a sample rate of 16 bit and a sampling rate of 44.1kHz. Sony, Tascam, Alesis, and Yamaha all make good studio CD recorders.

Plan de groupeStuder 24 Track Analog Tape Machine

TAPE MACHINES

Recording machines that use analog or digital tape for recording and playback of music. Some purists in sound recording prefer the sound of analog tape. There are many digital tape machines used for recording both music and video.

CABLING

Literally miles of various cabling could be needed for a single studio. Common cables in sound reproduction are XLR balanced mic cables and Unbalanced 1/4 inch instrument cables.

MONITORS / AMPS

Speakers in the studio are referred to as Monitors. Powerful clean amps are needed to run monitors. Many monitors are self powered, which means that they have built in amplifiers. Monitors usually consist of high frequency tweeters, low frequency woofers and cabinets that contain the speakers and components.

Plan de groupeActive Studio Monitors

HEADPHONES / DISTRIBUTION

By using a set of earphones this allows communication between the control room and the studio, also allows pre-recorded tracks to be heard during the overdubbing process. Headphones are also referred to as cans.

INSTRUMENTS / KEYBOARDS / DRUMS / GUITARS

These are more of the tools of the craft. You may have all the best studio gear in the world, but if the instruments sound bad you are starting in the wrong place. Anything could be considered an instrument if it makes noise that could possibly be recorded on a record.

AMPLIFIERS

This is often referred to as an amp. Amps increase the amplitude or volume of electrical signals from sound waves. These are used in powering speakers. Guitar and Bass amps can be used for many other applications such as running a vocal or snare drum through them.

Plan de groupe

MICROPHONE STANDS

A wide variety of sizes and styles are needed for a proper studio. The mic stand helps to get the microphone placed properly for the best sound quality possible.

STUDIO FURNITURE

There are many types of racks and furniture designed to hold consoles and outboard gear. The interior decoration of the studio completely sets the vibe of the working environment.

To Be Continued…

That’s the end of part one. For part two, we’ll be discussing electricity, A/C requirements, separate rooms, location, and more…

To read the full detailed article see Making a Studio Part 1

April 20, 2009

Universal Audio – Moog Multimode Filter: The Test

Mojo Filter
Universal Audio – Moog Multimode Filter: The Test

While there is a huge choice of filter effects available on the market today, it could be argued that many of them lack the character and warmth of some of their hardware counterparts and while some claim to capture the sound of vintage hardware, the reality is few have come close. It’s just possible that all this is about to change though, as one of Universal Audio’s latest offerings for the UAD platform is the Moog multimode filter. With a well respected pedigree in emulating prized vintage hardware, Universal Audio are perhaps the best people to attempt the recreation of the classic Moog sound.

MIDI Learn CC

Most of us are accustomed with multi mode filters and have used them in our productions at one time or another. Obviously some genres call for these tools more than others but its safe to say that many of us see them as an integral part of our production arsenal.

For those of you that aren’t so familiar with multimode filters, they are simply filters that allow various modes or models to be set by the user. For example a typical plug-in will present the choice of low pass, high pass and band pass filter models, as opposed to a hard wired low pass filter, seen in some filters and synthesizers.

Some filter plug-ins not only offer this multimode flexibility but additional features such as resonance, overdrive and modulation capabilities are not uncommon and offer the user the ability to create diverse effects.

Gearing Up

Of course one issue some people will have with any Universal audio plug-in from the offset, is the fact that they only run on the UAD1 platform and lack any kind of native support. In the platforms defense, the UAD1 and newer UAD2 are now extremely popular amongst all levels of engineers and musicians alike and the entry level cards are extremely affordable making the plug-ins a realistic option for most budgets

As is the case with all of the UAD plug-ins, the Moog Multimode supports VST, Audio Units and RTAS formats, so most DAW users can join the party. Installation is a breeze as the plug-in will already have been installed with your UAD software. If you don’t see it in your plug-in list fly over to the Universal Audio site and grab the latest UAD driver release.

Once the appropriate UAD software is installed you can enjoy a nice feature supplied by the UAD folks and that’s the full 14 day demos that come as standard. Every plug-in you haven’t yet purchased is available to preview and this is a nice way to try the processors out in your projects before you lay down your hard earned cash.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

This is hands down the best software filter I have ever come across. It sounds truly analog and it has an interface that even a beginner would find accessible. It is slightly CPU hungry but considering Universal Audio has recently released the all powerful UAD2 range of DSP cards and that a light SE version of the plug-in is bundled with the full version, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem for most users. If you are in the market for a filter plug-in and own one of the UAD DSP cards this is certainly a must have. It is so good it is even worth considering buying a card just to run it, as a hardware filter of this quality would cost an arm and a leg.

Stunning emulated analog filter effects
Warm, fat and fuzzy drive input circuit
Easy to understand, well laid out interface
Cost effective

Possibly slightly too CPU hungry for UAD1 owners
Might not contain enough routing for some power users

To read the full detail article see:  Universal Audio – Moog Multimode Filter Test

February 23, 2009

Review: Digidesign Transfuser

Sample Transfusion
Digidesign Transfuser: The Test

A.I.R., Digidesign’s virtual instrument division, continues to provide creative tools for users of their Pro Tools software. This time, it’s a sequencer within a sequencer, dedicated to loops of all kinds and their unlimited use. Let’s take a look…

Presentation

Ouverture

There’s a big box, a DVD, an activation number. Download the iLok license key, install the sound bank (requiring 1.65 GB of disk space) and RTAS plugin, nothing complicated, it’s Mac and PC compatibility, but you must (still …) have Pro Tools (LE, M-Powered or HD, from version 7) and it’s done. Then all you have to do is open the instrument in a session. Let’s take a look at its interface and how it works.

The idea is to create Tracks within Transfuser. These tracks, which bring together several modules, read audio files (according to various processes). On the left, there’s a browser pane that can be used to load Tracks (complete ensembles) or audio (separate sounds to build your own loops), whether factory or user-created. You can preview a sound by clicking on the file, preview lasts as long as you hold down the mouse, or, if Latch is enabled, for the duration of the file. A sync option synchronizes preview to the Pro Tools session tempo. There’s also a pitch and volume setting which can be adjusted as you preview. And lastly there’s a filtered search field that searches for all items in the list that match the typed-in criteria.

At the top there’s the area to which you drag and drop complete Tracks and audio files from the browser, Pro Tools region list, Pro Tools audio tracks, or the desktop (or a folder) of your computer. Either you import Tracks, in which case the modules are directly positioned, or you import audio, which opens a window offering the choice between three types of recognition/import: Sliced Audio and Slice Sequence, Time-Stretch Audio and Trigger Sequence, or Drum Kit and Drum Sequence (we’ll come back to these three types of Tracks later on). Corresponding modules will be opened in this section. Note that you can also use an external audio signal (more on this later).

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Gater

Though Structure, Hybrid, Velvet or Strike may do their jobs perfectly, there’s nothing revolutionary about them (sampling, synthesis, emulation of electromechanical keyboards and Drumstations). Transfuser, without being completely revolutionary, does have a real concept, and can claim to be the first totally original VSTI by AIR. It’s definitely the most complete instrument geared at loop-based music at present. The number of tracks and effects available let you do almost everything necessary solely within it. To get the most out of it nevertheless requires a certain amount of learning time. The use of external controllers is also particularly well thought out.

Beatcutter

This opens up new horizons within Pro Tools, particularly for live settings. This may seem strange, to say the least, since Digidesign software is largely studio geared. But you can also see a pattern (or strategy) developed for live musicians and DJs that started with the Mbox Micro, both of which are also being offered in bundles.

Pro Tools on stage? Is it possible? The competition is fierce, from Live to Mainstage, Usine to Reason, Receptor to SM Pro … Digidesign’s version would really have to deliver, seeing how it’s Pro Tools exclusive. There’s no problem recognizing that Transfusion, which is extremely comprehensive and powerful (you’ll need a powerful computer for prolonged use) is up to the challenge. Especially since it’s use in the studio is equally handy for working with loops.

Its concept
Its three modes
Comprehensive Drum Machine
Pitch and time stretch Algorithms
Worlfkow despite its power and complexity
Midi Learn and automation everywhere
Well adapted for live settings
Audio
Drag’n’Drop Audio and Midi
Internal audio recorder
20 quality effects included
Effects are applicable just about everywhere
Numerous presets, Sequences with effects
Loop library

Info is sometimes difficult to read
Slice screen is too small
Doesn’t import MP3, AAC, CAF, Apple Lossless
Resource hog
Pro Tools only …

To read, the full detailed article see:   Digidesign Transfuser Review

February 21, 2009

NAMM 2009: Video Demo BeyerDynamic Head-Worn Microphones

Filed under: Microphones, namm 2009 — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 7:58 am

Presentation of BeyerDynamic’s new head-worn microphones.

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

February 4, 2009

NAMM 2009: Video Demo New Headphones from Audio-Technica

Filed under: Headphones, namm 2009 — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:55 am

Short tour of the new Audio Technica headphones.

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

February 1, 2009

NAMM 2009: Video Demo Sony Acid Pro 7

A short tour of sony Acid Pro 7 new features.

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

NAMM 2009: Tascam DR-07 & DR-100 Recorders

Jeff Laity from Tascam says a few words about their new handheld recorders, the DR-07 and the tougher DR-100.

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

January 23, 2009

NAMM 2009: Video Demo Alesis Pro Track

Filed under: namm 2009, Recording reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:57 am

Exclusive overview of the new Alesis ProTrack that can turn your iPod into a stereo recorder.

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

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