AF’s Weblog

September 27, 2012

Acoustic Treatment for Small Studios

Filed under: Home Studio — Tags: , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:01 am

To read the rest of the interviews please see:  Acoustic Treatment for Small Studios

Whether you’re a self-recording hobbyist or a professional mixing engineer, studio work is about making decisions. If the room you’re making decisions in isn’t a reliable listening environment, then the decisions you’re making won’t be reliable either.

Luckily there is a community of experienced acousticians, design consultants, and studio contractors dedicated to providing specialized services to musicians and engineers, in studios large and small. This article compiles some thoughts from two such studio acoustics professionals:

Tom Day began working on studio design projects in the late 1980s with a friend who had recently opened a consulting firm in Los Angeles. In a couple of years, they built a series of musicians’ studios within, and outside of, the constraints of zoning and code in L.A.’s complex, competitive, and restrictive collection of communities.

In 2001 Tom restarted his business, Wirebender Audio Systems, to provide a variety of services to studios and other customers. He has provided consulting for project studio designs, college studio facilities, industrial and business-space noise control, and a couple of industrial products that required noise output reduction analysis.

Bryan Knisley has been providing custom studio design and contractor services for 12 years. His company, North Orbit, serves a wide range of home, project, and commercial studio clients. Most of the people Bryan works for are musicians or studio owners working in the commercial music industry.

In addition to studio projects, Bryan works on a wide range of commercial and residential sound control projects. He also helps test various products and designs at Orfield Labs, an acoustic laboratory in Minneapolis.

What is the most common acoustic problem you find in the typical home studio or under-designed commercial studio?

Tom: Too much emphasis on reverberation treatment before creating reasonable noise isolation. If the room isn’t quiet, reverberation and reflection problems may not be the biggest problem in the room design. Absorption provides little-to-no value if you are bothering your neighbors, or if outside noises are finding their way into your recordings.

Bryan: I would have to say that most often I find speaker placements and/or mix positions that need to be adjusted before room treatments even start going in. Nearfield monitors are often way too far apart, too close to a front wall, or the engineer is seated too far forward or back for the particular room.

Subwoofers are often right up against a wall, or stuck in a corner. That will excite the existing room modes even more and enhance low frequency problems. Most home or project studios are small, and the fundamental axial mode frequencies are easily reproduced by a subwoofer (or any monitor with a low enough frequency range). For example, a 12-foot wide room has a fundamental axial mode of about 46.5Hz.

What is the most common room treatment question you hear from home studio clients?

Bryan: “How can I treat my low frequency problems so my mixes will translate better?”

Tom: “How do I keep from irritating my neighbors when I’m recording drums?” Next would be, “How do I do all of that [the answers to the first question] cheaply?”

In your experience, are there any particular elements of a typical small studio treatment project that lend themselves to a DIY approach?

Tom: Absolutely. With reasonable knowledge, decent construction skills, patience, a critical eye to detail, and time, I think building a decent small studio space [yourself] is incredibly practical.

Bryan: Yes! Absorption panels are fairly easy to make, and a great place to start. Diffusers, bass traps, resonators, etc. are all very fun to make, and you’ll learn a ton along the way.

Unfortunately, you’ll probably make a ton of mistakes as well. Asking around and finding someone experienced who’s ‘been there and done that’ to come to your space for an hour is probably money and time better spent! I’m very much a DIY guy, but I’m lucky to have worked with very knowledgeable folks over the years and continue to learn new things every day.

A lot of beginning engineers, and even some working engineers and studio owners, dismiss the importance of detailed room treatment, or delay it because of expense. How would your simplest argument against those attitudes go?

Bryan: Unless you’re mixing with headphones, your room is coloring what you hear. You can spend a truckload of money and chase an “ideal” room forever, but with good ears and some effective room treatments you can make a huge improvement in your mixing and/or listening environment. When it sounds good, it’s fun to go to work.

Tom: There is, of course, a return-on-investment to be considered with any expense. However, a well done acoustic treatment can be reasonably priced and can make the difference between a workable space and a constant fight to figure out what is coming out of the monitors.

When room resonances, isolation problems (and the resulting signal-to-noise/dynamic range capabilities of the studio), and reverberant character of the room are appropriate for the work being done, the client can get a lot more work done in less time with more confidence. If the room in question is used for music performance, competent acoustic treatment will make the difference between a recording that sounds professionally done, and one done in a closet.

Sometimes a visit from an acoustic designer can provide useful DIY tips so the client can do the work on a tight budget and get a reasonably professional result.

To read the rest of the interviews please see:  Acoustic Treatment for Small Studios

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August 27, 2012

Dynaudio DBM50 Review

To read the full detailed article see:  Dynaudio DBM50 Review

The Danish manufacturer which has been very quiet these last years has decided to come back and take front stage with a new speaker model from the BM Series. The DBM50’s most unique characteristic is that it has an angled front baffle and it was designed to sit on a desk. Is it a good idea?

Dynaudio DBM50Dynaudio DBM50The BM5A and BM6A are still reference models when it comes to near-field studio monitors, so Dynaudio wasn’t very active in this market segment the last couple of years; meanwhile competitors were frequently renewing their product ranges. That’s why we were very pleased to get a new product from the Danish manufacturer whose know-how and skills are tried-and-true.

There’s not much to say about the overall look of the product, since they look very similar to the BM MKII: dark finish, with a typical Dynaudio woofer and the round gray plate around the tweeter.Surprise, surprise: the DBM50 distinguishes itself from Dynaudio’s product range — and also from similar products — with an original design based on the fact that most home-studio owners place their speakers on their desks, next to their computer, without any speaker stands. Dynaudio’s front-panel angled design allows to direct both transducers towards the ears of the user, which is crucial for monitor positioning. For standard speakers cabinets, some foam manufacturers offer tilting mats that also reduce resonances. By the way, we recommend all home-studio owners to buy such accessories: even though they can’t quite match the performance of a speaker stand, they are easier to set up and less expensive. For people who want to use the DBM50 on speaker stands, do notice that you can place them horizontally.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Dynaudio DBM50The new Dynaudio offer several advantages and they are naturally angled to distinguish themselves from competitors on a fully saturated market. The idea is quite good for home-studio owners who want to put their speakers directly on their desk! We also like the look, the manufacturing quality and the sleep mode making up for the inconvenient rear power switch. It’s a pity that no remote control is included, all the more considering that the speakers have no volume control… The sound is well-balanced for a speaker sold for about $600. As usual, the response is contoured around the crossover frequency (1.5 kHz), the low-frequency reproduction is quite good and not overemphasized (unlike the ADAM A7X); however, some users might find that the high-end should be a bit more present. Luckily, the EQ settings allow you to adjust the frequency response if needed. A top monitor without a doubt.

Advantages:
  • Practical angled front-plate design
  • Good overall sound balance
  • Comprehensive EQ
  • Look and manufacturing quality
  • Sleep mode

Drawbacks:

  • No volume control and optional remote control
  • Slightly contoured frequency response (around crossover frequency)
  • High-end slightly weak with flat EQ settings

To read the full detailed article see:  Dynaudio DBM50 Review

August 23, 2012

4 Steps for Effective Guitar Mixing

Filed under: Guitar reviews, Mixing reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 10:46 am

To read the full detailed article see: 4 Steps for Effective Guitar Mixing

The world may not revolve around guitar music anymore, but there is still a lot of it out there. Whether you’re working on face melting hardcore or a gentle country ballad, the presentation of the guitar content in the mix has a lot to do with the overall stylistic impression of the song.

Here are a few tried and true techniques for working with guitar tracks:

Hear the Arrangement

Some guitar tracks are played and recorded to stand out as focal points in the mix. Other guitar parts are intended to work as tonal layers of another instrument. Before you dive into the mix (or even the tracking session), take a moment to consider why each guitar track exists.

You’re probably going to come up with one of three answers:

  • It’s a musical focal point, a source of interest and energy in the song.
  • It’s a rhythmic element that adds tonal complexity to a percussive instrument.
  • It’s not musically functional at all (and should be muted).

With your answer in mind, you’ll have a great benchmark for evaluating the guitar parts within the mix, as opposed to evaluating them as individual elements.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Refine the Tone of Your Guitar Content ‘In Place’

With the musically essential choice about function established by rough balance and reinforced by smart panning, it makes sense to address how the harmonic content of the guitar tracks can be optimized.

There’s no point in pretending to relate EQ specifics (or even most generalities), but if the guitar tracks you’re working with haven’t already fallen victim to knob twisting, there are some themes that might help organize your decision-making.

The fundamental frequencies of the guitar lay largely between 160Hz -1300Hz. In reality, your typical rock or country rhythm track is probably played in the 160Hz-700Hz range.

This frequency band will provide ‘fullness’, ‘warmth’, or even ‘muddiness’ when accentuated. The same range can be attenuated to get thinner, less supported tones. Try starting in the 350Hz-500Hz range with your center frequency.

Boosting a wide peak approximately two octaves above the fundamental frequency center can very easily, naturally brighten picked performances on metal-stringed instruments. This is the frequency range in which these instruments are naturally bright, so it pays to play along.

Below about 80Hz even the most theoretical harmonic contribution to your guitar sound has been exhausted. Don’t hesitate to high-pass filter guitar tracks to prevent non-programmatic low frequency content from messing with your gain staging and dynamics control.

Working From a Musically Relevant Basis

Notice we haven’t touched a single multi-band compressor or 8-bit distortion-cruncher-thing. Tricks aren’t tricks unless the tracks are working in the arrangement (i.e. for the song). Starting with these types of basic considerations can take decent tracks most of the way to musical effectiveness, and take excellent tracks all the way.

To read the full detailed article see: 4 Steps for Effective Guitar Mixing

February 24, 2011

How to Create Wide Open Mixes

Filed under: Mastering, Mixing reviews — Tags: , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 11:15 am

Here are some secrets behind getting those wide, spacious, pro-sounding mixes that translate well over any system.

We know them when we hear them: wide, spacious mixes that sound larger than life and higher than fi. A great mix translates well over different systems, and lets you hear each instrument clearly and distinctly. Yet judging by a lot of project studio demos that pass across my desk, achieving the perfect mix is not easy…in fact, it’s very hard. So, here are some tips on how to get that wide open sound whenever you mix.

The Gear: Keep it Clean

Eliminate as many active stages as possible between source and recorder. Many times, devices set to “bypass” may not be adding any effect but are still in the signal path, which can add some slight degradation. How many times do line level signals go through preamps due to lazy engineering? If possible, send sounds directly into the recorder—bypass the mixer altogether. For mic signals, use an ultra-high quality outboard preamp and patch that directly into the recorder rather than use a mixer with its onboard preamps.

Although you may not hear much of a difference when monitoring a single instrument if you go directly into the recorder, with multiple tracks the cumulative effect of stripping the signal path to its essentials can make a significant difference in the sound’s clarity.

But what if you’re after a funky, dirty sound? Just remember that if you record with the highest possible fidelity, you can always mess with the signal later on during mixdown.

The Arrangement

Before you even think about turning any knobs, scrutinize the arrangement. Solo project arrangements are particularly prone to “clutter” because as you lay down the early tracks, there’s a tendency to overplay to fill up all that empty space. As the arrangement progresses, there’s not a lot of space left for overdubs.

Here are some suggestions when tracking:

  • Once the arrangement is fleshed out, go back and recut tracks that you cut earlier on. Try to play these tracks as sparsely as possible to leave room for the overdubs you’ve added. Like many others, I write in the studio, and often the song will have a slightly tentative feel because it wasn’t totally solid prior to recording it. Recutting a few judicious tracks always seems to both simplify and improve the music.
  • Try building a song around the vocalist or other lead instrument instead of completing the rhythm section and then laying down the vocals. I often find it better to record simple “placemarkers” for the drums, bass, and rhythm guitar (or piano, or whatever), then immediately get to work cutting the best possible vocal. When you re-record the rhythm section for real, you’ll be a lot more sensitive to the vocal nuances.
  • As Sun Ra once said, “Space is the place.” The less music you play, the more weight each note has, and the more spaciousness this creates in the overall sound.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Mastering

Mastering is the Supreme Court of audio—if you can’t get a ruling in your favor there, you have nowhere else to go. A pro mastering engineer can often turn muddy, tubby-sounding recordings into something much clearer and defined. Just don’t expect miracles, because no one can squeeze blood from a stone. But a good mastering job might be just the thing to take your mix to the next level, or at least turn a marginal mix into a solid one.

The main point of this article is that there is no button you can click on that says “press here for wide open mixes.” A good mix is the cumulative result of taking lots of little steps, such as the ones detailed above, until they add up to something that really works. Paying attention to detail does indeed help.

To read the full detailed article see:  How to Create Wide Open Mixes

 

December 30, 2010

Compressors: How They Really Work

It’s one of the most used, and most misunderstood, signal processors. While people use it to make a recording “punchier,” it often ends up dulling the sound instead because the controls aren’t set optimally. And it was supposed to go away when the digital age, with its wide dynamic range, appeared.

Yet the compressor is more popular than ever, with more variations on the basic concept than ever before. Let’s look at what’s available, pros and cons of the different types, and applications.

Introduction

Compression was originally invented to shoehorn the dynamics of live music (which can exceed 100 dB) into the restricted dynamic range of radio and TV broadcasts (around 40-50 dB), vinyl (50-60 dB), and tape (40dB to 105 dB, depending on type, speed, and noise reduction used). As shown in Fig. 1, this process lowers only the peaks of signals while leaving lower levels unchanged, then boosts the overall level to bring the signal peaks back up to maximum. (Bringing up the level also brings up any noise as well, but you can’t have everything.)

Fig. 1: The first, black section shows the original audio. The middle, green section shows the same audio after compression; the third, blue section shows the same audio after compression and turning up the output control. Note how softer parts ot the first section have much higher levels in the third section, yet the peak values are the same.

Even though digital media such as the CD have a decent dynamic range, people are accustomed to compressed sound. Compression has been standard practice to help soft signals overcome the ambient noise in typical listening environments; furthermore, analog tape has an inherent, natural compression that engineers have used (consciously or not) for over half a century.

There are other reasons for compression. With digital encoding, higher levels have less distortion than lower levels—the opposite of analog technology. So, when recording into digital systems (tape or hard disk), compression can shift most of the signal to a higher overall average level to maximize resolution.

Compression can create greater apparent loudness (commercials on TV sound so much louder than the programs because they are compressed without mercy). Furthermore, given a choice between two roughly equivalent signal sources, people will often prefer the louder one. And of course, compression can smooth out a sound—from increasing piano sustain to compensating for a singer’s poor mic technique.

Now let’s look at some compressor basics…

Compressor Types

Compressors are available in hardware (usually a rack mount design or for guitarists, a “stomp box”) and as software plug-ins for existing digital audio-based programs. Following is a description of various compressor types.

  • “Old faithful.” Whether rack-mount or software-based, typical features include two channels with gain reduction amount meters that show how much your signal is being compressed, and most of the controls mentioned above.
  • Multiband compressors. These divide the audio spectrum into multiple bands, with each one compressed individually. This allows for a less “effected” sound (for example, low frequencies don’t end up compressing high frequencies), and some models let you compress only the frequency ranges that need to be compressed.
  • Vintage and specialty compressors. Some swear that only the compressor in an SSL console will do the job. Others find the ultimate squeeze to be a big bucks tube compressor. And some guitarists can’t live without their vintage Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer, considered by many to be the finest guitar sustainer ever made. Fact is, all compressors have a distinctive sound, and what might work for one sound source might not work for another. If you don’t have that cool, tube-based compressor from the 50s of which engineers are enamored, don’t lose too much sleep over it: Many software plug-ins emulate vintage gear with an astonishing degree of accuracy.

Whatever kind of audio work you do, there’s a compressor somewhere in your future. Just don’t overcompress—in fact, avoid using compression as a cop out for bad mic technique or dead strings on a guitar. I wouldn’t go as far as those who diss all kinds of compression, but it is an effect that needs to be used subtly to do its best.

To read the full article see:  Compressors Demystified

May 11, 2009

Making a Studio Pt.2

Making a Studio Pt.2
Electricity

Nothing will work without electricity unless you’re jamming at the local drum circles down on the beach. Electrical installation studio power is often overlooked. Studios will setup a “clean feed” that is a separate breaker from the rest of the general power that is being used for air conditioning, lighting and the basic necessities of the rest of the building. Have you ever plugged something in and heard that horrific buzzing sound coming from the speakers or guitar amp? This is usually due to bad electrical wiring, which causes ground noise. This is the first thing to listen for when going in to a studio session. A simple solution to the problem would be to use a simple ground lifter on the gear or lift the ground from a direct box which can also solve the problems. We will go into details later.

Ouverture

Isolated electrical circuits for each individual room are a must in a recording studio. The proper amount of amperage is also a must. Not enough amperage will surely cause your breakers to blow. Consult with an Electrician who is familiar with studio setups to insure that wiring and voltage is regulated and conforming with local codes.

Unregulated Power Supplies (UPS) should also be in place just in case there is a power failure. This will insure that valuable equipment will not blow up or cause a fire. If there is a case of a power outage the UPS will provide enough time to backup important computer files and safely turn off your equipment. Some studios will have complete generator systems in place to keep the studio running for the remainder of the session.

Improper lighting can also cause buzzing ground issues, especially fluorescent bulbs. Avoid using these in any studio. Dimmers can also cause many problems. The average household dimmers will surely put a damper into a clean sound. Make sure that professional grade dimmers are installed to avoid ground noise. Always listen carefully to signals being recorded before committing to a final take. There are a countless number of accounts that the engineer discovers electrical noise on takes during the mix process.

Plan de groupe A simple ground lifter can help to eliminate buzzes in the studio.

If you are serious about your studio, may I suggest balance power or a separated panel with neutral power conditioning. The evil problems of ground issues are a direct reflection of sources returning or looking for a different ground. Voltage potential between neutral and ground will certainly change your way of looking at things… for example, .5 volts between neutral and ground is the maximum allowance by UL code that electronics will operate optimally without potential induction issues. I would suggest having a meter installed to rate this. Logging this information and having a good rapport with the local electric company would not hurt at all.

Now let’s continue…

Location

Booking the proper studio

Where one decides to record is as important as what they are recording. If a band is located in Los Angeles why not just find a studio in L.A.? There are plenty of studios in L.A. with amazing gear and fabulous rooms yet the distractions of being in their hometown could take away from the focus of concentrating on the recording process. Many artists will book studios in remote locations to avoid outside interference and distractions. Privacy is very important in the entire process. Friends coming over to drink beer during the sessions could definitely hinder the process.

When budgets do not permit then finding a studio in a location that is suitable for the logistics of all who are involved in the project must come into play. The most important thing is that everyone feels comfortable in the location. If you have to pack your 9mm to get from the car to the studio then you may want to reconsider. When booking the studio look for a good location, a good price and make sure the gear and the room is adequate.

Deciding where to build a studio

Plan de groupe Urban…

In business, location is everything. Asking yourself if you have enough clients in that area to sustain all of the bills that incur for your studio, must be the key to your decision. Only a few very talented industry pros have the luxury of clients going out of their way to work in a remote location.

Purchasing a building for a studio is a great option for many reasons. By owning the property you become the landlord. Therefore you can do a build out as you please. This is a great investment as an alternative to a lease. Many Artists these days are buying houses and renovating them as Recording Studios. Many mansions have been converted into studios. This option for obvious reasons definitely brings the comforts of home right to the recording process.

Plan de groupe or Rural?

Whether building a private studio, a home studio or a commercial facility, they all take a bit of investigation before committing to the expense. Parking should be considered as well as local conveniences such as anything that your focus client base may desire. If your clients are country artists I don’t think they would like recording on South Beach and if your clients are looking to be around where the action is the mountainside resort studio is probably not ideal.

Visit Audiofanzine soon for part 3 of Making of a Studio, talking about acoustics, commercial studios, home studios and more.

To read the full detailed article see Making a Studio Part2

April 22, 2009

Video Demo: JoeCo Blackbox Recorder

JoeCo talks about their new Blackbox Recorder.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

December 29, 2008

Test: M-Audio BX8a Deluxe Review

After having updated its entire range of audio interfaces, M-Audio now looks to update its monitors, especially in the wake of their excellent high-level EXS66 monitors. These updates have had great results on the small Studiophile AV40, so let’s see what’s happened to the BX8a, for which a Deluxe version was recently released.

M-Audio BX8a Deluxe

The BX8a Deluxe monitors are equipped, as their name suggests, with an 8″ boomer. The latter, made of curved Kevlar, is paired with a 1-1/4” natural silk, waveguide-loaded tweeter for a frequency range extending, according to the manufacturer, from 30 Hz to 24 kHz … In terms of power, these monitors are said to deliver 130 Watts. This means bi-amplification of 70 watts for the bass amplifier and 60 watts for the treble, which is more than sufficient for nearfield monitors. As for their looks, there’s nothing special to mention. Even if they’re not as original looking as the EXS66 monitors, the sober design, black matte finish, and the little blue power LED all look very nice. The well-adjusted ensemble and weight (26.4 lbs./unit) complete the impression of solidity and quality.

You might be a little surprised by the absence of features on the back of the monitors. In addition to the On/Off switch, the power cord jack, and TRS (Jack 6.35) and XLR inputs to connect the monitors to your audio system, there’s only a volume knob. No filter, no EQ, no boost: just a volume control with a middle position that’s not serrated. So it’s not possible to adjust the response curve of these monitors to adapt them to the room in which they’ll be used. Also you should be aware that there’s a vent at the rear of the enclosure: you will have to keep them a safe distance from the wall or it will affect the bass. This is a defect that was already present in the BX8a and which hasn’t been corrected in this version. In short, make sure you have enough space …

Conclusion

M-Audio BX8a Deluxe

Well-built and elegant looking, the BX8a Deluxe are nevertheless not perfect. Between the vent at the rear and a tendency to over-compensate the bass, we wonder why they didn’t include more than just volume settings in terms of adjustments. But compared to other speakers in the same price range, they clearly have their advantages. You’ll particularly like the width of their spectrum, particularly the highs which are very convincing. These latest M-Audio monitors have an excellent value and are likely to interest those who want to make their debut into the difficult science of mixing. Admittedly, there are better monitors, but more expensive,…even much more expensive.

Design.
Lows, and very detailed highs.
Pleasant to work with.
Excellent value for the money.

Lows too prominent .
Almost no sound settings.

Read the full M-Audio BX8a Deluxe Review.

November 10, 2008

Test: Novation Nocturn review

Novation’s Nocturn: The Test
Novation is well known for quality keyboards, MIDI controllers and synthesizers, whether it be hardware or software. Does Nocturn, the newest member of the Novation controller family, featuring the Automap system and a low price, live up to the brand’s reputation? Let’s take a look… 

Nocturn

Automap

In recent years, several developers have been working on coming up with systems that would spare the user from having to go through arduous settings when using their control surfaces. MIDI learn, now almost universal, was a first step, but some have tried to implement systems that detect software settings and automatically affect them to the controls of the controller. Several companies have developed solutions along this line, notably Cakewalk with ACT (Active Control Technology) included in Sonar and Project5, and Novation with its Automap. The idea is that when you activate a plug-in, its various parameters will automatically be assigned to various controls on your controller. Nocturn is based on this system but can also function as a classic MIDI controller.

 

Conclusion

Even if the “Universal” Automap term is slightly misleading, we see that Nocturn still offers practical possibilities given its size and price. Above all, using it is pleasant and fun, … basically, everything you like when it comes to music. If you are well aware of its shortcomings, mainly its non-universality, it’s a purchase that is quite good for both the person without a controller and for someone well-equipped who’d like an additional controller that’s elegant and user-friendly, whether it be for a studio or mobile setup. It’s a success.

 Nice look 
 Pleasant controls 
 Easy installation and user-friendly 
 Stability and efficiency 
 Small 
 Video tutorials on Novation’s site

 Automap not “universal” 
 USB only (can only use with a computer) 
 A few aspects that are a little cheap 
 Necessitates another window on your screen

Read the full review of the Night Controller on Audiofanzine.

 

Test: Audient Mico Dual Preamp review

Audient’s Mico: The Test
When a brand as serious as Audient comes out with a dual mic preamp with tube simulation circuitry, variable phase adjustment and digital outputs for around $1100, one thinks that this type of product may interest more than one home-studio owner. So, disappointment or revelation?  

Mico

The Mico, as it’s called, has the width of a half rack but is as deep and high as a 1U. It’s a compact and lightweight product that will not take up much space in a small home-studio and that is easily transported along with a mobile recording setup.

Obviously, it’s got external power, but there’s no inconvenient adapters here. It’s a cable with two pins connected to a small box which powers the Mico with a nice long wire. It’s a shame that Audient didn’t fit it with front handles, even removable ones, in order to protect the knobs during transport. If it’s transported frequently, it will be necessary to provide better protection for the Mico. And it deserves this care: its esthetics are particularly successful with a pro look without the usual austerity. With its brushed metal facade, its chrome knobs (metal) and bright colored buttons, the appearance of the Mico is quite pleasant, even elegant, whether in daylight or in the twilight of the studio.

Conclusion
   

The Mico is not perfect and has a couple of small shortcomings. One of the most important is the lack of inserts. Reference was made to the lightness of the knobs, and one could also mention that gain incrementing, which is smooth for most of the way, suddenly becomes over the top near the end. So handle with care if your looking for high gain. Similarly, it’s too bad that each time you press a button (HMX, Variphase, low-cut) it generates a small noise. This is not dramatic, but it does stop you from making any adjustments during a take.

Despite these details, the Mico is a purchase worthy of consideration. Someone already well equipped will thereby get, for around $1100, two quality preamps with really nice features, especially considering that the Variphase is usable on line-ins. For those seeking a good first preamp, it seems an even more relevant buy, having a reasonable price, great sound quality, portability and features that expand the palette of one’s sound. And since it has a quality digital output it can put off or even stop an eventual sound card upgrade. The few sacrifices made in order to make the Mico reasonable priced and compact should not make one forget that we’re dealing with a pro product, with its finish, its sound quality and its many features. In short, a really attractive device.

 Sound quality 
 Intelligent concept 
 Very useful features 
 Elegance 
 Portability 
 Wealth of connections 
 Integrated converter

 No inserts 
 Knobs a little

 

 

Read the full review of the Mico Dual Preamp on Audiofanzine.

 

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