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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.

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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

August 27, 2008

Digidesign Velvet review

Filed under: Computer music reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 1:11 pm

Electric Pianos never seem to go out of style; and because they’ve now gone virtual, Digidesign has decided to come out with their own version of these timeless instruments.

Since its acquisition/creation by Digidesign, the A.I.R team has been very busy, giving the virtual world nothing less than Xpand!, Hybrid, Strike, Structure and Velvet, the latter being the subject of this review. In recent years, Rhodes and Wurlitzer instruments have made their return to the stage and in numerous productions, from pop to hip-hop. By emulating these famous pianos, Velvet aims to be, for Pro Tools users, the direct rival of Scarbee, AAS and Native Instruments.

Seamless integration within Pro Tools
Global quality
Stability
Nice FX section
Versatility and creative power
Total automation
Quality of presets
Unusual features
Well, Pro Tools only…
Velocity setting
MkI quite agressive
Wurlitzer’s lack of “wurlitzerity”
No global volume for FX section

Digidesign Velvet review is fully available here.

Arturia Analog Factory Experience review

Filed under: Computer music reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 1:05 pm

Arturia has been showing more and more interest in software/hardware solutions, as can be seen with some of their top of the line projects, such as Origin. The editor also offers a more affordable solution with Analog Factory Experience (AFE), combining v2.0 of its Analog Factory and a keyboard controller made by CME. Let’s see what this tempting bundle has to offer…

What’s in the box?

Clavier

The first surprise when you lift the cardboard box is its weight: 3.7kg. Does this mean there’s a good keyboard inside? In any event, its metal case and solid wood-style sides make a nice impression in this all-plastic era. On one hand there’s the keyboard controller, on the other there’s v.2.0 of the Analog Factory, a Windows and Mac software program that compiles all the audio engines of Arturia’s former soft synths. The v.2.0 now offers 3500 presets grouped by style, synth model and other tags, while v.1.0 “only” has 2000 presets and doesn’t include the Jupiter-8.

The Arturia sound
Audio engine of each of the seven synths
3500 presets
Classification and fast access
Standalone and plug-in
Keyboard seems to be solidly built
Full-size keys with a nice touch
Controllers
Pedal inputs
USB or Midi
Low price

Some presets are too loud
Some clicks when changing presets
No direct monitoring of Key Parameter assigning
Pitch bend values are fixed in presets
Polyphony is fixed in presets
Some faulty connections (ADSR sliders)
No aftertouch
Lifespan of keys?
Some issues with other Arturia synths in standalone mode
Optional DC adapter
Multifunction Level knob

Read the full Arturia Analog Factory Experience review on Audiofanzine.

Line 6 Micro Spider review

Filed under: Guitar reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 12:55 pm

Determined not to let Roland’s Micro Cube and Vox’s DA5 be the only contenders for portable-amp champ, Line 6 has entered the ring with its Micro Spider.

Micro Spider

Traveling with your electric guitar is not an easy task, especially if you have a heavy tube amp and no roadie. Of course, certain solutions like the POD exist, but you won’t be able to play your last song for your entourage unless you take turns with the headphones or plug the device into a hi-fi system. So you need a good sounding portable amp. That’s where battery powered mini-amps come in.

While Roland has been the undisputed champ with its Cube, Line 6 has completed its line of amps with the Micro Spider, a small 6 watt amp with a 6.5″ speaker. In order to work, it needs either a DC adapter (included), or six C batteries. With its 5 electric guitar amp models, acoustic guitar model, six effects and built-in tuner, the Micro Spider hopes to get a piece of the portable-amp pie.

Clean and Crunch sounds
Price
Integrated Tuner
Integrated Effects
Mic input
Size and Weight
Sound Power

Metal & Insane sounds
Line Out Quality
Battery cover/Rear panel
Strap

Read the full Line 6 Micro Spider review.

Wallander Instruments Visual Instruments Brass 1 review

Filed under: Computer music reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 12:52 pm

While certain sound libraries have been waging a gigabyte war, others have taken the synthesis route, such as the Wallander WIVI, who with only its few hundred megabytes takes on the sample library titans.

Ouverture

The power of modern computers has made it possible to virtually and realistically emulate complete orchestras, which seemed almost impossible a few years ago. Not so long ago, you needed a full rack of Akai or E-mu samplers or a battalion of networked Pcs and/or Macs to properly simulate orchestral scores, with libraries whose sound quality didn’t always merit the resources used.

Then came along gigantic libraries, such as the Vienna Symphonic Library or East West’s Symphonic Orchestra. Not only did you need powerful computers, but you needed huge storage space as well… However, you could set up a complete virtual orchestra with two or three 8-core Macs or the equivalent PCs.

Concept
Ergonomy
Powerful & Inspiring
Sound quality
Expressiveness
Realism
Stability
Instrument extensions
Optimization
Polyphonic mode

Wind/Breath controller strongly recommended
A few clicks or artifacts on some parameters
You can’t enter values with the numeric pad
No pull-down menus
No .pdf manual

Read the full Brass 1 review on Audiofanzine

Fender Champion 600 review

Filed under: Guitar reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:28 am

It’s very fashionable to be mini. It’s very fashionable to be vintage. Fender is very fashionable… but why? Because Fender has released the Champion 600, a reissue of a mini, vintage, guitar amp, originally sold between 1949 and 1953. The concept is very basic, a 5 watt tube amp with a volume knob. So, is it a hit or a miss?

Champion 600

Life in modern cities can be a bit annoying when you’re a musician trying to practice, without disturbing your entire neighborhood. Naturally, manufacturers have been quick to propose various solutions, for a multitude of situations.

Some amp manufacturers have created solutions specifically for guitar players, with a range of small or mid sized amps, allowing the musician to turn the volume all the way up, without fearing a police raid.

Read the full editorial Fender Champion 600 review on Audiofanzine

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.

Audio-Technica review: ATH-ANC3

Filed under: Recording reviews — Tags: , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 4:03 pm
Audio Technica ATH-ANC3

Audio Technica ATH-ANC3

For travelers who want to listen to their favorite music without bothering others or being bothered, using an ordinary pair of headphones doesn’t always give you total isolation. So then came along in-ear headphones (that go directly into the ear canal and therefore isolate the listener). Then, after that, noise-canceling headphones, featuring electronic circuitry that reduced extraneous noise, appeared on the scene. Audio Technica now offers headphones with both these features, but is it enough to provide total isolation?

Read the full test of Audio-Technica ATH-ANC3 on Audiofanzine.

I personally bought them and use them everywhere now, from plane to the street. It’s such a comfort to listen to music in the silence! 🙂

August 24, 2008

Ibanez RG420EG-SBK review

Filed under: Guitar reviews — Tags: , , , , — audiofanzine @ 5:14 pm

It’s already been 25 years. You wouldn’t think so, but the RG model from our Japanese friends, Ibanez, first appeared a quarter of a century ago, and has since made its way into the Metal and shredder guitar hall of fame.

I didn’t know anything about this particular model beforehand, so I was quite surprised when I opened the case. Though the strat-like shape, the neck, and the hardware are standard for an RG, the finish was anything but typical. A spider web, at the center of which is a volume knob, is sculpted into the very wood of the guitar, and covers the whole body. The body is also covered with a rough black granular finish. After endorsing the likes of Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and Paul Gilbert, is Ibanez now endorsing Spiderman? The answer is probably negative, but I imagine that if he played a guitar, it would look like this RG420.

Read the test of the Ibanez RG420EG on Audiofanzine.

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