AF’s Weblog

October 30, 2009

Mackie Onyx 820i Review

Filed under: Mixing reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 5:29 am

It’s been a while since the first Onyx mixers with the FireWire option first came out, and now Mackie carries on with the Onyx 820i, which comes with Pro Tools M-Powered. Hmm…so what does M-Audio think about that?

Mackie Onyx 820iAt AudioFanzine, we were very surprised when we first received the Onyx 820i. We have not heard anything about a new Mackie analog mixer series sold with ProTools M-Powered, and there was also no information about it to be found on the web! The unit comes with “universal” drivers compatible with DigiDesign’s sequencer. As we write this review, we still don’t know if this is the result of a cooperation between ProTools and Mackie or if the manufacturer just took the liberty to use the software. What’s more, even though the pack we received included the Onyx and Pro Tools M-Powered, the latter is not an integral part of the product that you will find in stores. So let’s focus on the mixer then…

Unpacking

We like the overall design of the mixer, and the aluminum chassis gives it a sturdy and classy look, which is a very good point considering it’s an entry-level mixer. The plastic knobs–from the solo and mute buttons to the EQ controls–will be familiar to all Mackie users. The mixer’s compact dimensions (14.2″ x 9″ x 3.8″) and weight (9.7 lb.) make the mixer seem sturdy. We’ll have to see if this holds true under real-life conditions. It also has four rubber feet on the bottom side so it’s a mixer that will surely stay in place.

Now, let’s have a closer look at the technical features of the Onyx…

Conclusion

Mackie did an amazing job breaking the $500 price barrier with this compact analog mixer with three mic preamps, effective EQs and an 8 in/2 out FireWire interface. The quality design and manufacturing of this small Onyx make it a pleasant surprise. Mackie learned from previous mistakes and the 820i proves to be very comprehensive, as well as a good solution for live and studio musicians. The fact that it is ProTools compatible is already the focus of heated discussions because it seems Mackie might have tampered with DigiDesign’s system. Nonetheless, you’ll still have to pay an extra $250 for the sequencer, which raises the price to $750. It’s not that expensive but it makes us wonder why instead of bundling their highly recommended Tracktion software, Mackie encourages us to buy a competitor’s software…

Advantages:

  • Quality/performance/price ratio
  • Manufacturing quality
  • Effective Perkins EQ
  • Comprehensive connections
  • Pre or post-EQ FireWire

Drawbacks:

  • Preamps too limited for some applications
  • Only two computer output channel
  • Pro Tools compatibility smells like hacking…
  • Pro Tools M-Powered not included ($250 extra)…

To read the full detailed article see:  Mackie Onyx 820i Review

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January 12, 2009

Test: Digidesign Pro Tools 8 Review

The Return of the King?
Pro Tools 8: The Test

The new Pro Tools has arrived armed with a bunch of new features: Elastic Pitch, thirty new plugins, five new virtual instruments – Boom (drum machine), Mini Grand (piano), DB-33 (tonewheel organ), Vacuum and Xpand!² (synthesizers), as well as Structure Free and Eleven. Let’s take a closer look at this latest release from DigiDesign…

First glance

lancement

While installing everything seemed to proceed normally. I chose my options and off it went! After a few minutes, I was asked to reboot the computer, which I did. Everything seemed ok…, well, almost everything. The old PT7 version was overwritten by the new version without any warning. It nevertheless kept my old plugins and extensions. Note that PT7 plugins work in PT8, and also vice versa!

I started the program up, but immediately ran into a problem. It crashed while trying to execute “stereo mixer.dpm” and “surround mixer.dpm”. I got rid of these files in the Plugins folder in Applications support. I re-started the software and it worked! Now during startup it checks for Digidesign product updates, and in the future it will also check for updates for certain brands’ plugins. One pleasant surprise: the LE version is compatible with the full range of Digidesign interfaces, from the Mbox 1 to Digi003 and TDM cards.

fenêtre edit

Once past these startup issues, a new window appeared: “Quick Start” which manages the opening of sessions. So you can choose to create a new session from models (templates) that finally have their own extention (.ptt) and a folder to manage them, located in Applications/Digidesign/Pro Tools/Session Templates. You can therefore create many templates without the risk of overwriting them with a simple backup. There are basic templates for creation, recording and mixing. The different models are nice to start off with, but it’s better in the long run to take the time to create your own to have your specific routing and display. You can also create a blank session, open a recent session, while choosing different session attributes in the lower part of Quick Start. This can sometimes be slow, but you can choose whether or not to show Quick Start at startup, which is a good point. You can also open a session, while pressing “shift”, that will load the session without loading its plugins and therefore avoiding the many issues that can arise when there are no plugins installed on your machine. You should be aware that when you close a session, the plugins stay loaded in the DSP (HD version only), which speeds up the process when opening similar sessions.

fenêtre mix

Once a session is started, you’ll finally discover the new graphic interface that looks softer and more curved. It’s nothing too extreme and you’ll be able to recognize your good old Pro Tools despite a trendy “glossy” look and sober colors. There’s a light gray background for the editing window and darker one for the Mix. Some people will be reminded of Logic, while others will think of Live or even Cubase. In any event, the colors are less aggressive, so staying in the studio for hours in front of your screen is less tiring for your eyes, and also for your morale.

Now let’s take an in-depth look…

Conclusion

PT8 has been developed to attract those who still have reservations or who use other sequencers. The virtual instruments sound good, which makes you want to use them. Plug-ins are much more numerous and sound surprisingly good. You still can’t export preferences with a session other than with Finder, but this is a small detail. Templates, that you’ll need to take the time with to record display configuration, tracks, routing, and other features, will be a real time saver in the long run. The Arrange function allows you to store all windows in cascade or tile, this has been used in a lot of other software. PT8 has had a considerable face-lift with its new design that’s not bad, especially for long sessions. Ergonomics are in general very nice and remain coherent with earlier versions. Omnipresent in professional audio and video, Digidesign is now targeting, more than ever before, home studios, composers, musicians and DJs … basically, everybody who makes music, because they would henceforth be able to export demos to a professional studio project using the same software. A multitude of small improvements make it a very serious competitor of other sequencers. It’s therefore a complete music production tool from start to finish.

New GUI
Alternate playlists
MIDI and Score editors
New keyboard shortcuts
48 track support (LE & M-Powered)
Template management
Virtual instruments
AIR plugins
MIDI offset Beatclock

AIR plugins – GUI too similar
No keyboard shortcuts for creating playlists
Score editor slows the system down in writing mode (LE)
No latency management PT

To read the full, detailed article see:   Pro Tools 8 Review

December 22, 2008

Gifts for Music Lovers

Christmas Shopping

Are you tired of receiving boxes of chocolate every Christmas? You can’t take another hand-knitted sweater from your aunt and you’d like the bottom of the tree to look a little more…musical? Here’s a selection of gift ideas for your loved ones who may lack inspiration …

For Home Studios

The ultimate audio interface?
Prominently listed among the highlights of this year, TC Electronic’s Studio Konnekt 48 is a Firewire audio interface that features 24 inputs including 4 preamplifiers, 22 outputs, 12 simultaneous analog channels and world class DSP effects. Supplied with a remote control for around $1200, it’s one of the select few able to overshadow RME’s FireFace which, despite its numerous qualities, took a serious blow …

ProTools to go!
ProTools on a USB key; who would have imagined it? They did. Of course, the audio interface is ultra basic but thanks to the MBox 2 Micro, you can work your ProTools session on any computer, for a little less than $250. And since Transfuser currently comes with the package …

Little Adam
Halfway between a multimedia speaker and a near-field monitor, the Adam A5 is somewhat unique … There is the famous ribbon tweeter for which the brand is famous, guaranteeing quality highs, and bass response, which, given the size of the speaker, is no joke and makes it a worthy sibling of the famous A7, for a little less than $440 each. The ideal monitors for working in your apartment without disturbing the neighbors?

A half-legend?
Walking in the footsteps of the illustrious C414, the C214 is meant to be a more accessible version of the classic AKG mic. Featuring only one polar pattern but having the essential of what made the reputation of the large membrane microphone for under $600.

Night terror
It’s small, cute, inexpensive and it works like a charm. For less than $150, the Novation Nocturne will let you control your DAW and plug-ins while tasting the comfort of Automap technology.

26+26=2626
M-Audio’s high-end Profire 2626 has it all for those home studio owners who need a lot of inputs/outputs. Its preamps and converters meet our expectations and the price is around $700; did someone request a great deal?

Deus in machina
Widely used by the pros, the UAD-1 DSP card was nevertheless beginning to get old. So imagine our joy when we saw the UAD-2 arrive with a cornucopia of new plugins each as attractive as the next. And with prices that are not so “pro”, because between the small Solo to the big Quad, prices range from $500 to $1800.

Big Groove
The reference in virtual drummers is back! With 10 full kits and 55 GB of sounds and above all a complete mixer with a great effects section, Fxpansion’s BFD2 is a must for just under $400.

U47 USB?
If you’re looking for a simple way to connect a microphone (static or dynamic) to your computer, know that MXL has created the Mic Mate, an XLR to USB “adapter” incorporating a mic preamp and phantom power. It works without drivers, at the very reasonable price of around $50!

Multimedia Killers
Of course, with their 4″ boomers the Studiophile AV40 won’t do as studio monitors. Still, we’ve rarely come across such good multimedia speakers, with surprising lows for the size of the speakers, highs that’s aren’t bad at all, and great balance … The latest speakers from M-Audio have struck a strong blow to the competitors who offer roughly the same thing for much more, like Creative Labs, Logitech or Altec Lansing. At $150, the AV40 is probably one of the best options you can find for a traveling setup …

What if you changed sequencers…
We’ve got a thing for Reaper, a customizable sequencer, extremely stable, only a few MB, and costs, for non professional usage, fifty dollars. Where’s the catch? Why the discrepancy in prices? Well, we’re beginning to wonder …

Swiss army knife?
A recording studio in your pocket? It’s possible with the Boss Micro BR, a genuine Swiss Army knife that combines 4 tracks, a multi-effects processor, 300 rhythmic patterns and basic editing functions. It’s MP3 compatible, stores on SD cards, has a tuner, and an integrated microphone. What more do you need to know? The price? Around $200.

What a sound!
They look good, and work great, and what a sound. These tube and/or transistor preamps from Universal Audio give the best of both worlds …

Still haven’t found what you were looking for?  For more ideas read the full Gifts for Music Lovers article.

August 26, 2008

M-Audio Fast Track Ultra review

M-Audio recently presented their latest addition to the Fast Track family: the Ultra, a USB audio interface with 4 Octane preamps, integrated effects, and advanced routing. Is it a worthy successor to the Fast Track dynasty? Lets take a look…

Fast Track Ultra

M-audio already has quite a bit of experience with audio interfaces, and models such as the Firewire 410 or the Fast Track pro were big hits (technically as well as commercially). Since they’re on a roll, they’ve decided to expand their “Fast Track” USB interfaces with an “Ultra” model, which has evolved out of the Fast Track Pro, which itself evolved out of the first Fast Track.

You can read the full test of M-Audio Fast Track Ultra on Audiofanzine.

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