1.4GB SAMPLES ROYALTY FREE • 2 HOURS OF VIDEO TUTORIALS & MORE Issue 154 January 2016
Issue 154 January 2016
The magazine for producers, engineers and recording musicians
GEAR OF THE YEAR
B 1.4G ples,
sam urs 2 ho o Vide
The most essential music production hardware and software revealed inside
Make music now! • Perfect your vocals • Get a vintage sound • Finalise your mix Reviewed
Push 2, Live 9.5 The return of the true Prophet synth Issue 154 Jan 2016 £5.99
www.musictech.net MT154.cover.indd 1
Expert Panel Studio Hardware John Pickford
A studio engineer for over 25 years, John’s a keen sound recording historian who has a passion for valve-driven analogue equipment and classic recording techniques.
Mixing/Mastering/Logic Mark Cousins Mark specialises in sound design and cinematic productions. He’s recorded with orchestras across Europe and is heavily involved in soundtrack composition.
Careers Editor Rob Boffard
A sound designer with a background in TV and radio work, Mark’s a Reason evangelist and – when he isn’t writing for MusicTech – releases hip-hop music under the name Rob One.
Digital/Composition Andy Price
With a Masters in songwriting and a vast interest in music history and recording techniques, Andy works daily on MusicTech. net and regularly contributing to the magazine. He’s currently heading up our Landmark Album features and songwriting/Cubase series.
Recording & Guitar Tech Huw Price
A recording engineer since 1987, Huw has worked with the likes of David Bowie, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, Heidi Berry and Fad Gadget.
Scoring/Orchestral Keith Gemmell
Keith specialises in areas where traditional music-making meets music technology, including orchestral and jazz sample libraries, acoustic virtual instruments and notation software.
Ableton Live Martin Delaney
Martin was one of the first UK Ableton-Certified Trainers. He’s taught everyone from musicians to psychiatric patients and written three books about Live. Martin also designed the Kenton Killamix Mini USB MIDI controller and is now the editor of www.ableton-live-expert.com.
Reason, DJ & Mobile Hollin Jones
In addition to teaching music technology, and producing / writing soundtracks, Hollin is an expert on everything Apple –mobile or computerrelated – and an accomplished keyboard player.
Electronic Music Alex Holmes
Alex has been a computer musician for 15 years, having a keen passion for beats, bass and all forms of electronic music. He’s currently involved in three different dance music projects.
2015 has a proper ‘space year’ sound to it, doesn’t it? A real Back To The Future ring about it… So the fact that I’m now just about to talk about it in the past tense is a little scary. In terms of music production gear releases, 2015 has been an absolute belter of a year. All the signs were there with probably the most exciting NAMM Show ever in January – how next month’s show will live up to it, I don’t know – and since then we’ve had a steady stream of quite amazing hardware and software announced at that show come through the MusicTech doors. Just how amazing you are about to find out, with a huge round-up of the best Gear Of The Year starting on p12. I do get a little over excited when it comes to the technology behind music production equipment – I will admit that – but when you assemble it all together as we have done, you can see that this year, this space year, might well be seen as something of a vintage one for gear. Elsewhere – and just to prove that we are not all about splashing out on new gear – we reveal how you can make more money from your studios with the new Meet & Jam Studio service (see p7). Tutorial-wise, it’s all about improving your performance: your computer’s (p50), your recording (p54) and your vintage sound’s (p38). And check out our next issue, where we’ll be looking ahead – as you do – to the year 2016. Can it be as good? Find out next month. Enjoy the seasonal break, and see you then… Andy Jones Senior Editor Email firstname.lastname@example.org facebook: www.facebook.com/MusicTechMag Twitter @AndyJonesMT Instagram: musictech_official Tumblr: musictechofficial.tumblr.com
Pro Tools Mike Hillier
Mike spent five years at Metropolis Studios, working alongside some of the best-known mix and mastering engineers in the world. He now works out of his own studio in London.
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MAGAZINE January 2016
MT Contents Issue 154
GEAR OF THE YEAR P12 FREE SAMPLES GO HERE P115 PUSH 2 & LIVE 9.5 P60 MT Cover feature
At the cutting edge of techno and performance…
12 GEAR OF THE YEAR!
The results are in! Who will be the winners of the most coveted awards in studio land? Find out here!
4 | January 2016
54 GET A PRO RECORDING … with the latest part of our workshop
MT Issue 154 Full listings… STUDIO 007 | Industry news and opinion
The latest reviews
PUSH 2 & LIVE 9.5 Plus reviews of Sequential’s Prophet-6 and the latest releases from Soundcraft, Rob Papen, Synthmaster and DigiTech… DAW workshops
38 Logic in depth 44 Ultimate guide to Live 54 Perfect DAW recording Getting a vintage feel
Premastering in Live…
Better vocals in Cubase
COVER FEATURE 012 | Gear Of The Year The greatest gear of 2015 revealed right here… INTERVIEW 028 | BT on blending performance, technology, classic and techno TECHNIQUE 038 | Logic in depth Getting a vintage feel 044 | Ultimate guide to Live Final tweaks prior to mastering 050 | 20 performance tips Boost your computer power now 054 | Perfect DAW recording Getting the perfect vocal take SUBSCRIBE 058 | … and get a huge discount! REVIEWS 060 | Lead: New Push and Live 9.5 Updates to Ableton’s standards. Just don’t call it Push 2… 069 | Sequential Prophet-6 A future classic analogue synth. Just don’t call it a Prophet-5 074| Soundcraft Ui16 mixer 076 | Rob Papen RP-EQ EQ plug-in 078 | Melda Mxxx plug-in set 081 | Sonokinetic Sotto library 085 | KV331 Synthmaster 2.7
MT Buyer’s Guide
107 Six of the best… monitors All price points, all uses…
088 | Big Fish Audio The Vintage Collection plug-in suite 090 | Sonic Couture The Hammersmith piano library 092 | DigiTech Obscura pedal 094 | Aston Origin A brand new company with a brand new mic 099 | Mini Reviews REGULAR FEATURES 104 | 6 ways to… avoid amateur mistakes in music production 107 | 6 of the best… monitors 110 | Show off your studio here! 115 | On your MT DVD
MAGAZINE January 2016
FOR MORE OF THE LATEST NEWS
CHECK OUT MUSICTECH.NET
MEET & JAM’S STUDIO
Meet & Jam’s new studio service could help you make money with your studio…
Keep up to date with all the news and new gear launches from California
he biggest music gear show of the year is NAMM, held every January in Anaheim, California. Over several massive halls, all the latest instruments and studio equipment will be unveiled and MusicTech will be there from 20 January to give you daily reports. We are launching a special NAMM channel at MusicTech.net this year and also joining forces with our sister magazine Guitar & Bass (www.guitar-bass.net) to bring you news of every release at the show as it happens. Look out for a special NAMM issue of MusicTech on sale 21 January, the first day of the show, with all of the latest news! www.musictech.net www.guitar-bass.net
NAMM, held in Anaheim, California, is the highlight of the music technology show calendar
ou may have read about Meet & Jam on MusicTech.net. It’s basically a competition and musicians’ service that rolled out in 2015, which allows like-minded musicians to – you’ve guessed it – meet up and play music together. The Jam Nights around the UK include an unsigned band competition, where one lucky new act will get a development deal with Island Records. So successful has the venture been that the people behind it – Peter Fiennes, Nick Ford-Young and Richard Harper – have now launched a studio booking service, which MusicTech readers can get involved with. In the same way that Meet & Jam has connected musicians, Meet & Jam Studio connects musicians with studios in their area, so if they need to record they can choose a studio signed up to the service based on several criteria – not least location and cost – and make an easy booking. That’s the theory, anyway. We asked Richard Harper to explain how you can add your studio to the service… MusicTech: First up, how did M&J come about? Richard Harper: Meet & Jam came about when Nick [Ford-Young, who is an ex touring musician] was looking for other local musicians to play with and he typed ‘Meet and Jam’ into Google. It turned out that there were no good sites for musicians where you could look at a fully accountable profile of their skills and instruments, watch video and listen to their music. In other words, somewhere you could check out other musicians online and get a really good idea of their abilities before you meet. At the time, Nick was working with Peter at a publishing company in Soho. Peter had previously run Time Out Guides and its website and was very happy to hear all about Nick’s idea in a pub one lunchtime. So we launched meetandjam.com in July 2013. MT: How has the competition worked? RH: There are now more than 10,000 musicians using meetandjam.com. Many of them get together at our regular Jam Nights, when we put on a carefully curated (but vibrant!) evening of jams and original acts. We’ve been holding events all over the UK, looking for the best jamming musicians and original artists. It’s open to all genres and instruments – and there’s going to be a grand final at The 100 Club in London on 21 January. MT: Tell us about the prize and what the winners can expect RH: The best original act will win a £5,000 development fund from Island Records, which is an incredible opportunity. MAGAZINE January 2016
make sure that every studio’s profile is complete (with detailed information about their rooms, their gear and facilities). They can also put up photos and audio of their latest work. We’ll be adding video shortly. MT: Are there different levels of exposure on the site, or is it a level playing field for all sign-ups? RH: Everyone is equal! We firmly believe that there’s the perfect studio waiting to be matched with the right musician or band and it doesn’t matter if it’s a £5/hour rehearsal room or something much more high-end. When an artist books a studio, they can search by location and facilities and we hope they’ll find what they’re looking for. No one studio is getting preferential treatment…
The team behind Meet & Jam: Peter Fiennes (left) and Nick Ford-Young
Island’s A&Rs have been to several of the Jams and will be at the final to choose the winning act. The best musicians can win brand new instruments and membership of PRS. And we always have bottles of Jack Daniel’s to hand out at every event to the best musicians on the night. Check out meetandjam.com/nights for all the details. And we’ll be back again next year, so it’s never too early to register your interest! MT: How did Meet & Jam Studios come about? RH: The idea was simple. We were providing an online place where musicians could meet, but we wanted to bring this into the real world. So we spoke to a load of studios, found that most of them didn’t have an online booking system, and we built it for them. Having the idea was a bit easier than getting it made! But we now have almost 200 studios on the site and musicians can find a local studio, browse through their rooms, check their opening times and prices, and book online. MT: How does it work? RH: Studios wanting to be on the site just need to let us know at meetandjam.com/studios. Musicians and bands just need to book! MT: What type of studios are eligible to sign up? RH: We started with rehearsal studios, and then we added recording studios. They’re of every level, and it’s free to sign up. Last month, we also made it possible for ‘home studios’ to also add themselves to the site, and this is now the fastest-growing part. We wanted to create a platform for all the amazing producers, engineers and mixing and mastering experts to showcase their talents, and sell them to our community of musicians. So it doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out in your attic, or if you have one of the UK’s top studios. There’s space for you on Meet & Jam!
MT: What charges are made for being on the site and how does the payment system work? RH: The site is free for musicians and free for studios to be listed. It’s up to the studios to set their own prices. If they’re running a ‘home studio’, they can even negotiate a final price with the musician using our messaging system. Once the deal is made, payment is taken from the musician and we pass it along to the studio after the session (not forgetting a small commission for us). MT: What type of studios are you after and how do you get involved? RH: We love all studios that are passionate about making and facilitating great music. So it’s for every kind of rehearsal and recording studio, but also anyone setting up on their own. It’s a great way to promote your business to our thriving community. Just go to meetandjam.com/studios and follow the simple instructions. MT
WIN A WEBSITE!
Win a subscription to ProQloud and make money from your music making…
imed specifically at studio owners, sound engineers, producers and other studio creative types, ProQloud is a new website management service that utilises an easy to use drag and drop interface to simplify the process of website creation. As they say: “With ProQloud, you create something bespoke, that’s professional and specific to you, but without having to spend a lot of your precious time – so you can get on with making music or editing films, or whatever your creative speciality might be.” We have a subscription to the service up for grabs for one lucky MusicTech reader – just head on over to www.musictech.net over the next month and sign up! Find out more at: proqloud.com
MT: Do they need to fulfil any specific requirements in terms of gear and facilities? RH: Not at all. We are open to every kind of studio, but we do MAGAZINE January 2016
MUSIC IS OUR PASSION
MT Feature Gear Of The Year 2015
MT Feature Gear Of The Year
GEAR OF THE YEAR 2015 It’s time to announce the awards that matter. Take your seats, grab the fizz and settle in for the evening with the MusicTech Gear Of The Year 2015 awards…
usicTech’s last issue of the year traditionally means just one thing. No, not lots of typos and spolling mishtakes as we throw the magazine together while drunk on Sherry, but the MusicTech Gear Of The Year Awards! Since its inception just three years ago, this set of awards has taken the production world by storm, to the point where we now even have our very own shindig where all of the key figures from the industry are invited to receive their awards – hence the odd photo from said shindig on these pages.
12 | January 2016
The most important thing with our awards, though, is that they are voted for by you, the readers, and the MusicTech experts. So, over the last couple of months we have been running an online survey across several varied music production categories. This time round, we have narrowed the competition down to just 12 categories to make things more streamlined, and we’ll detail each one as we announce one winner and one highly commended award from each section. So without further ado ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the results…
Gear Of The Year 2015 Feature MT
BEST ACCESSORY WINNER Audio Technica ATH-M70x Details Price £299 Contact Audio-Technica 0113 277 1441, email@example.com Web eu.audio-technica. com/en/
The Best Accessory award pretty much covers everything that’s not included in the other awards here, so obviously has a wide remit: anything from studio cables to books to headphones. Lots of headphones. Yes, you’d think the headphone market would have matured to a point where we all know which are the best brands for mixing and monitoring by now, but there are lots of young pretenders, and many of the monitor brands you’d expect to be in the marketplace are simply not bothering. This is a shame, as it’s still a rapidly growing market, with many producers monitoring on headphones either by choice, by necessity (depending on where their studios are) or because they are making music on the move. And if you are one of those producers, there is a lot of choice out there. We’ve looked at some great models
closed-back ATH-M70x model that wins the Best Accessory award, thanks to a defined and punchy bass – not coloured but more accurate – and a superb level of comfort. They are light and encompass your head, so they don’t feel obtrusive. Surely the best phones are ones that you don’t realise you are wearing, and after a while that can be true with these. Reviewer Andy Jones said: “The M70s are accurate and great for long sessions – not such a common combination where accuracy can become quite wearing on the ears over long mix sessions. Indeed, we’d say these are probably the best phones you can get for mixing right now. The best just got better.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED Yamaha AG Series Mixers Details Price AG03: £105; AG06: £130 Contact Yamaha UK 0844 811 1116 Web uk.yamaha.com
You’d be amazed at how many mixers we’ve looked at this year. The market for them is booming once more as more hardware is released, and the mini mixer market is especially healthy with an enormous demand from podcasters and YouTubers. These little beauties from Yamaha caught our eye for their compact appeal, ease of use and surprising featureset for the money. Our review noted: “The Yamaha AG Series might look simple, but both units pack a punch in terms of features and represent a great route into audio for a variety of purposes.”
The ATH-M70x model wins thanks to a defined punchy bass and superb level of comfort by Ultrasone, Telefunken, Audeze, Fostex and many more this year, but one brand has maintained a level whereby it has become something of a reference point within MusicTech tests, and that is Audio-Technica. The company’s M50s were the go-to phones of last year, and the M70s pick up the plaudits this time. The M-Series is Audio-Technica’s range of ’phones designed for studio use, with long sessions in mind and accuracy and comfort the main goals. “They are ideal for studio mixing, FOH, DJing, mastering, post-production and listening,” AT says. The latest 70 comes in both open and closed-back formats. The former offers a wider and more immersive experience, and we’ve tested these recently and concluded they are incredibly good. But it is the MAGAZINE January
2016 | 13
MT Feature Gear Of The Year 2015
BEST CONTROLLER WINNER Novation Launchpad Pro
Marin Delaney switched easily between Logic, Live and even a DSI Tetra during the course of his testing. But it’s Ableton Live where the Pro comes into its own, and with that it marries up perfectly. He said: “The Pro is a flexible, expressive, interface, for your clips, instruments and just about everything else. This is a great update all-round, and takes the Launchpad to a new level of Ableton Live control and performance. If you already have a Launchpad you’ll be itching to update. If you don’t, the Pro is the perfect excuse to get on board.”
Details Price £229 Contact Novation (via web) Web www.novationmusic.com
Everybody needs at least one MIDI controller, we think, and unfortunately (or fortunately depending on where you come from) there are stacks to choose from: from simple knob and slider-based racks through to full-on multi-dimensional keyboards such as the ROLI RISE that we looked at in the last issue of MusicTech (and which will no doubt feature in next year’s awards). This year’s list of controller contenders included everything from fairly standard keyboard ranges from the likes of Alesis to this winner from Novation, the Launchpad Pro. This grid-based controller takes all the best bits from the company’s many and varied controllers – the multicoloured buttons, rotaries and incredible workflow – and puts them all within one unit with pro quality and not such a pro price. There are many grid-based controllers out there, but the Launchpad Pro has several features that take it beyond the norm, such as Device mode, which lets you select specific destination devices and quickly take control of its most notable functions; and User mode, which opens the unit up to a host of popular and not so common hardware and software. Reviewer
HIGHLY COMMENDED Akai Advance Series Details Price 25: £299, 49: £399, 61: £469 Contact +44 (0) 01252 896040 Web www.akaipro.com
Featuring Akai’s VIP software, which pulls you away from your computer screen and towards a more hardware-centric studio environment, the Advance series really marries your software instruments to your playing and production style. We hope that Akai stands by this, as it could be a control standard. We said: “It offers a very successful mix and integration of both software and hardware, and one that will have you turning from your computer to your hardware and, what’s more, using your ears to mix rather than your eyes.”
BEST MONITOR WINNER Focal Alpha range Details Price £185-£259 Contact SCV London: 0330 122 2500 Web www.focal professional.com
with Adele for all we know. But if you insist on recording the finest things in life you should always listen back to your efforts with the finest monitors. It’s obvious, so that’s why we keep saying it… But then someone always comes back to us and asks ‘but what if you haven’t got much money?’ which is a fair if slightly annoying and repetitive point. Well, fear not, we have an answer and it’s these, the winner
We always say, when it comes to buying monitors, ‘throw most of your budget at a decent set’. Monitors are the most important thing in your signal chain, the two things (sometimes more) that you listen to the end results of all of your hard work on. You might own the finest analogue synths known to mankind and the most expensive microphones. You might be recording the finest Welsh choir in existence, or a complete orchestra at Abbey Road. You might even be going out
14 | January 2016
Gear Of The Year 2015 Feature MT
of our 2015 Best Monitor Award. Focal has one of the best names in studio monitors, but has resisted the cheap monitor route until now. With the Alpha Range, it has used its considerable expertise to produce a low-budget set of monitors that deliver the goods across a range of low price points. Reviewer Huw Price liked the 80, the largest in the range, but he loved the 50, writing: “Critical listening is where the Alpha 50 really wins out. The clarity, accuracy and sheer audio quality this monitor provides is rare indeed at this price point.” And get this, since the review the mid-range 65 has found a home in the editor of MusicTech’s studio, a welcome low-cost addition, which has been there for a year now with some great results. And you lot voted in spades, too, so while the results were close (there was little between first, second and third-placed Unity Audios), the Alphas
edged it. Finally we have an answer to that ‘what is the best budget monitor for less cash?’ question.
HIGHLY COMMENDED Adam S3X-H Details Price £2,000 each Manufacturer Adam Contact 07590 069007 or 0207 737 3777 Web www.Adam-audio.com
From low-budget to all of your budget. Yes, the S3X-H monitors might cost £2,000 each but if you have the cash, these are the ones to splash it on, and they beat some solid competition to win ‘highly commended’ in our Gear Of The Year poll. Huw Price said: “Ultimately, these Adams deliver the forensic detail, imaging accuracy, transient response, wide frequency range and flexibility needed for top-end professional monitoring. They can go extremely loud – but, most importantly, they’re very enjoyable to listen to.”
Along with the Fat Bustard, this is the
best-sounding analogue summing mixer we’ve heard. A world-class product
John Pickford Music Tech Sept 2015
CHOOSING YOUR BUSTARD ( “or maybe it is just cutting your coat according to your cloth”)
On the one hand we have the long established ultimate analogue summing mixer
The Fat Bustard II
• Hugely versatile, 14 channels, with many extras, for a wide variety of uses. • Pan controls on 4 channels. • Unique Varislope Top and Bass lifts plus filters. • 'Attitude' control for added harmonic content. • Stereo width controls / Bass to centre and mono. • ELMA switch to control main level (fadeable). • Monitor outputs with level control and switching. *** The superb album "Going Back Home" by Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey was Recorded at Yellow Fish and mixed through a FAT BUSTARD at Electric Davyland.
. . . and now we have a 2015 Gear of the Year Award Winner
The Little Red Bustard 16 Channel slimmed down version of the ‘FAT’ keeping same natural sound, ‘Attitude’ and with new ‘Air’ control added.
What the users are aleady saying . . . “ Bask in the warm Glow and Silken Top of this awesome sounding box” Steve Dub 3 times GRAMMY Award winner. Chemical Brothers, UNKLE . . . “I was so impressed with what the Little Red Bustard added to my new mixes that I've gone back and run all my recent projects through it!” Nick Brine, producer/engineer Rockfield Studios. Oasis, The Darkness, Teenage Fan Club . . . “ Amazing Box-makes every sound BIGGER” Alan Emptage owner One Louder Studios. Arcade Fire, Joss Stone . . . “ Vic you’ve done it again you old Bustard!” Dave Eringa Producer, sound/mix engineer. Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey,*** The Who, Manic Street Preachers . . . MAGAZINE January
2016 | 15
MT Feature Gear Of The Year 2015
BEST SOFTWARE INSTRUMENT/LIBRARY WINNER Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2 Details Price £285 Contact www.spectrasonics.net UK Dealer Time + Space
This was by far the most crowded category of our Gear Of The Year awards, not least because it encompasses just about every instrument you can get in software. But there is such a wide range of instruments and libraries out there that we could have subdivided the list into endless categories (best synth, best piano, best guitar, etc), and then we would have been here all day. Instead, they all went into the pot, so we had some amazing instruments that didn’t make it and we must throw out a quick mention to personal favourites Era II from MT favourite Eduardo Tarilonte and also Modartt’s Pianoteq, surely the finest piano out there if your ivories need tinkling. But even though there were a huge number of entrants in this category, Omnisphere didn’t just win, it completely smashed it [never use that expression in this magazine ever again – Ed]. Indeed, both winner and highly commended were like two thoroughbred horses in a race against a bunch of ponies. Are we surprised? No. Omnisphere 2 is the eagerly-awaited, seven years in the making follow-up to (you guessed it) Omnisphere and adds a massive 20GB of content, plus the
ability to import your own audio into the world of Omnisphere. And it is a complete audio world. There are elements of Absynth (the synth not the drink), Massive and many other world-class synths; and the results are just extraordinary: 12,000 sounds, 25 additional effects modules (bringing the total to 58) and one of the most powerful audio engines out there means that the only drawback with Omnisphere 2, according to reviewer Mark Cousins, is that “it might take you a lifetime to explore. While some developers have got close to Spectrasonics’ greatness, there’s little doubt that a revitalised Omnisphere will set a new gold standard for the next five years – an instrument that many developers will seek to emulate, but few will succeed in equalling. Thanks to some genuinely innovative features, not to mention a wealth of extra sonic material to play with, it’s hard to imagine any software instrument delivering the same breadth and sheer sonic excellence as Omnisphere 2.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED Native Instruments Reaktor 6 Details Price £169 Contact +44 207 9207500 Web www.nativeinstruments.com
The ultimate software instrument is the one that can build any software instrument, and for years NI’s Reaktor has been the title for doing just that. Version 6 embraces the burgeoning modular synth scene with Blocks, allowing users to create their own systems using familiar patching. It also comes at a reduced price – just £169, which seems paltry given that this is one of the most powerful audio platforms around…
BEST APP WINNER Korg iM1 Details Price £14.99 Distributor Korg UK/ App Store Contact +44-190-8304600 Web www.korg.co.uk/iTunes
The app market for music making is, of course, huge and several of the more traditional companies are dabbling in it, some more so than others. One company that seems to have embraced it a lot is Korg. With Gadget, it has one of the best
16 | January 2016
all-in-one music-making DAW platforms for iOS out there, and according to our writers is something to behold on an iPad Pro. Korg has also been busy transporting some of its classic synths to iOS, and we’ve seen some analogue favourites go that way, including the iMS-20. Less obvious a choice was the Korg M1, the digital hardware synth workstation from the late 80s that found itself everywhere – on record, in the studio, on Top Of The Pops… its sound very much defined the late 80s and early 90s, so you might either love it or loathe it, but you
Gear Of The Year 2015 Feature MT
You might love or loathe the iM1 but Korg has transported it majestically to iOS
time of the original, Korg has not just added go faster stripes, but a new engine, a new stereo, new reflective paint and a blonde sitting in the passenger seat with more peroxide than the whole of 1989. A page 3 stunner of a synth.” He wasn’t drunk when he wrote that either…
HIGHLY COMMENDED LK for iPad
can’t deny that Korg has transported it majestically over to the iOS format. You get all the original sounds plus expansion packs (some optional). It’s easier to program than the original and you can even run it from within the aforementioned Gadget. If you are of a certain age, you will be transported back in time to that era, shoulder pads and ridiculous excesses ’n all. Whether you want to go is, of course, up to you, but if you are over 35, we defy you to load up the Universe preset and not try pushing your jacket sleeves up your arms. Reviewer Andy Jones laid some old ghosts to rest before concluding: “It’s an M1, but like the cars around at the
Details Price Free (in-app purchase) Web itunes.apple.com/us/ app/lk-live-controller
LK is one of the best apps around for controlling Live. Among its many features are Chorder, an arpeggiator and radial velocity control, plus a Matrix module so that you can control Live remotely. There’s also full MIDI control and 3D parameter tweaking, making it one of the most feature-packed app controllers on the market.
Discover why leading engineers and producers rely on Unity Audio monitors...
“The bass response is surprisingly “When somethings not right in deep, transient response snappy, a mix they really let you know!” stereo depth impressively wide.” Tom Dalgety – Producer Rik Simpson – Producer Royal Blood, Opeth, Killing Joke Coldplay
“The Rocks are my monitor of choice for mid range details – details that give life to a record.” Stephen Fitzmaurice – Producer Cage the Elephant, Sting, Paloma Faith
“I need a very accurate monitor and in my quest for perfection, I found The Boulders are the best I auditioned by far.” James Reynolds – Producer Jessie J, Tine Tempah
“They have a bottom end that belies their size and a smooth modern top. Accurate details abound.” Josh Homme Queens of the Stone Age
“I’ve never been able to find these qualities in a near-field before. They’re smooth in the top and have amazing bass extension.” Mark Rankin – Producer QOTSA, Adele, Plan B
“Scary speakers to listen to your mix on, they really expose what’s there!” John Leckie – Producer Radiohead, Stone Roses, Muse
“I really like these monitors! I love them for balancing mixes, and vocals in particular.” Alan Moulder – Producer Nine Inch Nails, Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters
www.UNITYAUDIOPRODUCTS.CO.UK SALES@UNITYAUDIO.CO.UK | 01799 520 786
MT Feature Gear Of The Year 2015
BEST HARDWARE EFFECT/OUTBOARD
WINNER Chandler REDD.47 Details Price £2,149.99 (inc VAT) Contact Nova Distribution 020 3589 2530 Web www.chandlerlimited.com
It’s been ‘Beatles this, Beatles that’ this year at MusicTech. We’ve been to Abbey Road more times than any other studio – yes we are showing off – and we’ve not only run a great article on the classic gear used there, but also featured Chandler, the only hardware company that has an official licence to recreate the classic EMI gear used on the iconic records that were produced there.
Chandler’s REDD.47 winning another award should not come as too much of a surprise So Chandler’s REDD.47 winning another hotly contested Gear Of The Year award should not come as too much of a surprise, although there were several other great nominations including fantastic outboards from Neve, Elysia, Warm Audio and more. Chandler originally focused on recreating solidstate equipment based upon EMI’s TG series of consoles, but is now revisiting some earlier valvebased gear hardware. The REDD.47 uses the same mixture of valves employed in the original amplifiers
18 | January 2016
found in the REDD.51 valve mixers, which were used to record classic Beatles albums including Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s and The White Album. “It’s hard to review a product such as this without banging on about The Beatles,” said reviewer John Pickford. “However, many potential buyers will want one precisely because of those links. But using a REDD.47 won’t make you Beatles-esque any more than using a Fender Strat will make you play like Jimi Hendrix! That said, the punchy, up-front and unmistakably vintage tone of the unit is instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with those 1960s recordings. The REDD.47 is an outstanding recreation. It has a raw, edgy character and a musically appealing vintage tube sound that puts it in the same league as iconic units such as the Fairchild limiters and Pultec equalisers. For anyone wanting to Get Back to that classic 1960s sound, this is truly a fab (four) product.” Beat(le) that, pun fans…
HIGHLY COMMENDED Thermionic Culture Little Red Bustard Details Price £2,100 Contact Thermionic Culture 01279 414770, sales@thermionicculture. com
The Little Red Bustard updates Thermionic’s small summing mixer and features 16 input channels via XLRs as eight stereo pairs. It’s the ideal unit to add a little analogue warmth to your digital recordings, as reviewer John Pickford noted: “It not only adds warmth, but also depth and space. It can fatten up cold and thin recordings and provide grit and gloss in usable amounts to breathe life into sterile signals. A world-class product.”
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MT Feature Gear Of The Year 2015
BEST SOFTWARE EFFECT/UTILITY WINNER iZotope Ozone 6
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This is another supercrowded category, as ‘software effect and utility’ can cover a varied range of products. We also allowed for any release, including freeware to be eligible, so there were many titles vying for the award. Izotope is one of the biggest companies in music and post production and continues to break ground with yearly updates to Ozone and RX, not to mention its rather fine Iris synth. Ozone concentrates on the job of mastering and can now do it in standalone mode (with the ability to host other VST and AU plug-ins), so you’re no longer tied to working inside a DAW. The software has six slots available in which to drag, drop and rearrange modules, which include EQ, Post EQ, Dynamics, Stereo Imager, Exciter, and Maximizer. Reviewer Alex Holmes said: “Ozone 6 is an incredibly well crafted piece of software that sounds great and is now even easier to use. It is still the most intuitive piece of software for mastering your tracks at home and now has a great new GUI and a crisper sound, and also works well as a standalone version. If you’re new to mastering or to Ozone, then we have no hesitation in recommending Ozone 6 to get you started.”
Fabfilter’s plug-ins have become firm favourites in many producer set-ups, and we have been fans of their releases for years, so there’s no surprise that Pro-Q2 picks up the Highly Commended award in the Best Software Effect category. “We first used FabFilter Pro-Q in early 2010, when we predicted that it would become a staple of our music production process,” said reviewer Mike Hillier. “Little did we expect that nearly five years later, Pro-Q is still the first EQ we turn to, for just about any task, whether mixing or mastering, subtractive or additive. We have no doubt that Pro-Q2 is set to be our ‘go-to’ EQ for some time to come. Brilliant.”
BEST INNOVATION WINNER Novation Circuit Details Price: £249.99 Contact: +44 1494 462246 Web: uk.novationmusic.com
Of course we love innovation here at MusicTech, and this year we’ve seen more innovative products than ever before. As the mad rush to produce bright, colourful and all-in-one hardware units continues, both the winners within this category tick all the boxes above, and both nod backwards as well as forwards… The Groovebox was a hardware unit that took the 90s and noughties by storm, providing beats, bass and leads a-plenty, and while it’s very much been
20 | January 2016
superseded by software over the last decade, it was ripe for reinvention and adaptation. Enter Circuit by Novation, a quite thrilling device that looks like it’s based on the company’s Launch range of products but actually contains all of the noises you need and a lot more besides, so no computer is needed – this is not a controller, it’s an all-new Groovebox. You can use the unit’s grid-style layout as a step sequencer, as you might expect, with four parts and plenty of onboard preset sounds to record. But it’s the real-time control that sets it apart, with all changes on the rotaries recordable (and rerecordable). Interestingly, the latest software update that we’re just hearing about lets you import your own samples, making the unit even more flexible.
Gear Of The Year 2015 Feature MT
But Circuit’s greatest draw has to be its ease of use. You will be making music in no time at all, and pretty damn good music too. Reviewer Andy Jones said: “Once you get the hang of it – again, this doesn’t take long – you’ll be adding hats to one part, fills to another, changing melodies and adding effects, and producing complete songs on the fly. Add in some real-time pattern length changing, a dollop of effects and more rotary spinning and you have a full-on live performance on your hands in minutes… Sure, much of what you will do will be of the ‘happy accident’ variety, but there’s depth and control here – and also some very easy paths to follow, that mean you can go in with an idea and realise it. That said, the random, looping, ‘blimey that sounds great’ stuff does happen… a lot! And while controllers such as Push work (obviously) with software such as Live, and various other hardware (including Novation’s own Launch products) works best with apps and other software, this is different: a truly self-contained
musical marvel. It is without a doubt about the most musical fun you can have with one box and no computer, and I haven’t made music so quickly in 20-odd years of reviewing gear.”
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Also ticking the cool, flashing, mobile, all-in-one groove boxes is the Pocket Operator series from Teenage Engineering, which wins our Highly Commended Innovation award. With one unit for beats, one for bass and one for melody, and a price of just £49, you might as well buy all three. “Great fun, smashing sounds v size and incredible value,” we said before giving them just about every award possible.
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MT Feature Gear Of The Year 2015
BEST MIC WINNER Neumann U47 FET Details Price £2,928 Contact Sennheiser UK 01628 402200 Web www.neumann.com
Surprisingly, given how many companies actually make them, we haven’t reviewed that many microphones over the last year. But of the new models there have been, thankfully there have been some absolute belters – including this, the winner of our Best Mic award. And 2016 looks like being a cracking year for microphones too, with newcomers Aston Microphones already making a splash (see p94) and brand new models from Sontronics, sE and many others promised. The U47 FET is, of course, based on a classic microphone, although the history of that model is rather complicated, but thankfully we don’t have a great deal of room to go into too much detail. Suffice to say, this new version is based on the physical circuit layout of v.2 from 1972, with the circuitry and physical features of version v.6, so if you know your Neumanns you will know that this should be pretty good. And it is! Reviewer Huw Price said: “It is not the subtlest or most nuanced microphone, yet it does have that sense
of enhanced realism that typifies so many of Neumann’s products. The midrange is fat and up-front without sounding woolly or too dominant, and the strong upper midrange and low treble allow the U47 FET to cut through without being edgy or taking up too much frequency space. The U47 FET is no half-baked reissue. Neumann has done a proper job and the results are superb. Rather than thinking of this as a reissue, think of it as a resumption of production.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED Audio Technica AT5045 Details Price £1,299 (£2,399 pair) Contact 0113 277 1441 Web www.audio-technica.com
If you want a mic to do the job for you then this might be the one. We said: “The AT5045 is not exactly cheap, but if we had a pair they would undoubtedly be amongst a handful of our go-to microphones. An outstanding all-round instrument recording microphone.”
BEST DAW WINNER Steinberg Cubase
Cubase Pro is up there with Eccleston, Baker, Tennant and Smith. We’ll stop the Dr Who thing now… “Steinberg has managed to improve both usability and performance, markedly in the case of the latter,” said Hollin Jones. “This is one of the relatively rare occasions when even those on the last version will gain an awful lot of functionality by upgrading, and that cost is relatively small. A comprehensive and beautifully executed update to one of the best DAWs. Worthy of the Pro name, v8 brings powerful new features and refinements to this excellent package.”
Details Price £448 Distributor Steinberg Contact via website Web www.steinberg.net
The DAW is arguably the most important item in your studio. Some use it for everything, others use it just to record or to mix and master. All of the DAWS currently on the market feature extra goodies: effects, instruments and devices, all there to tempt you to buy into a particular brand or production method. The one you choose is very often the one you stick with, so it’s important to get that choice right… With just about every DAW getting some kind of update in 2015, there were around 10 nominations in this year’s awards, including Logic, SONAR, Mixcraft, Nuendo, FL, DP, ABC and 123 (we made the last two up). So to win this award was always going to be tough and it’s hats off to the company that, for many, started it all. Steinberg has been producing Cubase since the 80s and it’s been through more incarnations than Dr Who. But while it had its forgettable Peter Davidson/Colin Baker period,
22 | January 2016
HIGHLY COMMENDED Ableton Live
Arguably the DAW for dance music, Live – or ‘Ableton’ as it’s increasingly being called (do we call Logic ‘Apple’?) – has been updated again since we last looked at 9.2, and 9.5 is even more significant, making it the highest-rated DAW we’ve looked at. Of 9.2, Martin Delaney said: “You get a surprising amount in what could be considered ‘just’ a point update, and while it’s hard to review a Details free update, consider this Price €599 an update review to our Contact main Live 9 review and that Ableton +49 302 887 630 the software is still as Web www.ableton.com essential as it’s ever been.”
Gear Of The Year 2015 Feature MT
WINNER Focusrite Clarett 8Pre Details Price £899 Contact Focusrite +44 1494 462246 email@example.com http://uk.focusrite.com/
The interface category was very crowded, as you might expect, with some fine entrants from iConnectivity, Cymatic, Audient and many more. The 8Pre is one of many audio interfaces from Focusrite, but one touted as ‘better, faster and easier’ thanks to new control software and its super-fast Thunderbolt credentials. And it certainly seems to live up to the hype… The 8Pre has 18 audio inputs and 20 outs with eight analogue
The 8Pre is touted as ‘better, faster and easier’ and it certainly lives up to the hype… ins and 10 outs, plus eight ADAT I/Os and stereo S/PDIF I/O. It’s a flexible recording beast for multiple mic set-ups, with the eight mic pres able to take up all sorts of duties: from drum kit to complete band recording. It also has an ‘Air’ feature on the mic pres that adds a clarity and power to vocals, emulating Focusrite’s own ISA channels strip. But it’s the Thunderbolt power that is the main draw. In our tests, we had near-zero latency – certainly nothing that was worth worrying about in basic recording and playback, and the unit has a pristine sound. With a host of outputs combined with the Control software, you can route pretty much any in with any out, so set monitor mixes for different players or have a couple of separate headphone mixes – easily enough connectivity and routing flexibility for
lots of scenarios, and it’s also dead easy to use. Reviewer Andy Jones said: “Overall, Clarett does everything it sets out to do and does it very well. It’s certainly ‘better’, with some great mic pres offering superb recording and the routing software offering the ultimate in recording flexibility. ‘Easier’, too, with that Control software taking the strain out of having to use another layer of software with your DAW. And finally, ‘faster’? The 8Pre performed admirably well, with zero latency and it will give multi-recordists their speed. So a very solid interface for a whole host of applications – very highly recommended indeed.”
HIGHLY COMMENDED Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt Details Price £2,399 Contact Sonic Distribution 0845 500 2500 Web www.apogee.com
Another Thunderbolt interface proves that you lot do like your speed and that it is the future of interfacing. The Apogee Ensemble will cost you, but it does deliver. “The Ensemble Thunderbolt is a fantastic interface,” said Mike Hillier. “It has plenty of I/O options, making it ideal for high-end project studios. With this, and only a couple of other choice bits of outboard, you could be very well set up to record almost anything. An interface to be proud of in your studio.”
2016 | 23
MT Feature Gear Of The Year 2015
BEST HARDWARE INSTRUMENT was all about the sound. It’s a ‘paraphonic’ synth, which is not quite duophonic but where two notes can be played at the same time and share some of the same architecture. It basically means ‘fat and interesting’. Notes whizz around, sounds have movement but they are all underpinned by that smooth and (where necessary) deep Moog goodness that we all know and love. The Sub 37 also has a varied sound: one minute it will be offering you the perfect backbone bass to any genre, the next it will be cutting through your speakers with an ominous lead screech, but it’s always interesting and easy to program. You can choose to treat the control options on any level: dive in deep or simply tweak, it’s all there. Reviewer Andy Jones said: “With a machine like the 37, you interact to your heart’s content, just dialling, connecting unusual sources and destinations and, more importantly than anything, learning. OK, the sound is more important, but luckily this beast oozes quality at every turn, following solid analogue formulae at one instance and then bizarre twisting snake sonics the next. Beware, you will lose a day or two of your life just playing. And make sure you record everything, as you will come up with wonderful music.”
WINNER Moog Sub 37 Details Price £1,249 Contact Source Distribution 020 8962 5080 Web www.source distribution.co.uk www.moogmusic.com
With the resurgence in music production hardware over the last three years we have promoted Best Hardware Instrument to our final, ultimate award slot. We like to think of it as the equivalent of Best Film in our ceremony, announced to a slightly weary crowd of liggers and B-listers, all eager to get on with the free buffet and drinks that follow. So without further ado…
Notes whizz around, sounds have movement, all underpinned by that smooth Moog goodness Like the Best Software Instrument category before it, Best Hardware was toughly contested, with the likes of the Nord Stage 2 worth a mention, maintaining the Swedish company’s grand reputation for providing ultimate sounds in an ultimate package for both players and producers alike. Also in there and worthy of praise was Korg’s ARP Odyssey, a mini version of an absolute classic that won our hearts back in February. Both of these probably would have picked up awards in any other year, but such was 2015, the year when hardware returned with a vengeance, it was left to the first ever hardware synth ‘brand’ to pick up the Best Hardware gong. Moog’s Sub 37 is the clear winner and this is, we believe, down to a few reasons. There’s the name, of course, but right from its unveiling (believe it or not, at the NAMM show before last) the Sub 37
24 | January 2016
HIGHLY COMMENDED Roland JDX-A Details Price £1,599 Contact +44 (0) 1792 702701 Web www.roland.co.uk
Roland’s 2015 will be remembered for the company embarking on a multi-pronged attack on its own back catalogue, maintaining the AIRA range, returning to analogue and bigging up its new Boutique range – all three strategies concerned with bringing back classic Roland sounds. But it was the JDX-A – an all-new synth – that was the not-so-silent star of the show. This analogue/digital crossover synth offers four analogue parts and massive digital Roland goodness, all within a package with huge appeal and come-hither looks. Look closely and Roland is not just about the past… “A damn fine synth.” MT
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MT Interview BT
MT Feature Interview
ew electronic music artists have had a career as diverse as Maryland native Brian Transeau. Journeying well beyond the scope of your average singer/songwriter, BT’s remix and production credits for the likes of Tori Amos, Depeche Mode and Madonna are almost a footnote compared to his pioneering work in sound design and software development, the results of which are spread across nine eclectic albums, from 2010’s Grammy Award-winning These Hopeful Machines to the more recent A Song Across Wires. BT’s latest leap into the unknown is his Kickstarter project ‘Electronic Opus’. A hugely ambitious venture, it sees the trance pioneer transfigure his songs into orchestral versions to create an electronic symphonic live show, complemented by stunning hyper-synchronised lighting and visual effects. With a first show staged in Miami late last year, there’s more to come, including further outings across Europe and an album release.
Having raised $200,000 to reimagine his songs in a symphonic environment, Brian Transeau’s recent Electronic Opus shows have redefined how electronic and orchestral music can be performed together, shattering the traditional perception of EDM…
28 | January 2016
MT154.INT BT.indd 28
BT Interview MT
MusicTech: Earlier this year, you premiered Electronic Opus at the Winter Music Conference in Miami. Why was this concert so special to you? BT: I’ve been making music, scoring films and collaborating with artists for the past 20 years of my life and have a huge catalogue of music that I’ve written, most of which I can’t play live and would never have made sense in that format, like the movie scenes I wrote for Fast & Furious and Monster, or music from This Binary Universe. First and foremost, I’m a composer and musician, and I miss playing instruments and performing. Some of these songs are so hard to play, and I was rusty because I’ve been out doing all these EDM gigs for ages. It was a great personal challenge to reimagine these songs as orchestral arrangements, and that’s why I really wanted to do it, because I miss getting to be a musician and performing songs that talk to a crowd.
electronic music it’s exactly the same, you have the lowest sub bass to the cymbal, and making those two things work was some of the craziest mixing I’ve ever done in my life. MT: How important was the conductor’s role? BT: Leslie Anne Jones is a multiple Grammy Award-winning mixer at Skywalker Sound, and she mixed all the orchestral stuff. We were trying to do some of the electronic stuff together, but in the end could only use her orchestral music. So I’d have to go back to my stems and do the most insane frequencyspecific sidechaining stuff to make the two function together and still have the headroom. MT: We presume that changing the pitch and frequencies of the songs so that everything fits might lead them to drift too far from the original versions. Was that a concern? BT: That’s a great thing you bring up. It would have been easy to take these and say, ‘OK, we’re going to just do orchestral versions of these tracks or strip back the electronic stuff and create a very cool, of-the-moment, down-tempo feel, but I didn’t do that intentionally because I wanted to retain the original essence of the songs, yet crazily updated. I wasn’t going to change any of the tempos; that was one of the first decisions I made. I was pulling out all my old synths that I originally did this stuff with and re-recording the chords, but instead of trying to do flavour-of-the-minute drum programming I was taking my old drum machines, augmenting the kick with the sub and using compression the way I do now rather than then. It’s a really elegant combination, but it nearly killed me getting there.
MT: How difficult was it to apply your back catalogue to a new, semi-orchestral format? BT: It was an insane process. Typically, when I’m working on a film I’ll orchestrate my own stuff. I studied orchestral writing extensively for years, and if you haven’t had that experience you might think it’s like pulling up a string pad on a synthesiser and plonking some chords on top, but the reality of it is that a middle E on a low viola or high cello is in a completely different timbre. So these songs had to be completely reimagined, including the electronic parts. I worked with six orchestrators; we were flying people in from all over the place and there were Skype calls every day. Once we’d got through that part, we set about programming and reimagining all the electronic parts of the tracks to complement the orchestra, which from a mixing perspective was an almost MT: The track Dreaming is a weird mix of a club impossible task. It was like having two records track and an orchestral track. It felt playing over the top of one another. With orchestral uncomfortable to listen to at first because it’s music, from your gran casa right up to your piccolo almost redefining how we listen to dance music flute, you’ve got a range between 20kHz to 20GHz – – yet not in a cheesy way, like Adagio For Strings ATLASTITANCARD1/3PageHorizontalMusicTechMagazineOCT15_Layout 1 23/10/2015 13:32 Page 1 the lowest low to the highest high, and with BT: When we came up with the idea, the response
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MT154.INT BT.indd 29
MT Interview BT
shows – I’ve only seen it in fragments, but it was an honour working with them.
was overwhelmingly positive, but then there’s always a flame thread on Gearslutz, where they’re like, “He’s rich, why would he try to raise money when Paul van Dyk played with an orchestra?” Has it happened before? Yes, Carl Craig has DJ’d with an orchestra, but that’s not what we wanted to do, we wanted to make an original body of work, 20 years of songs combining electronic with an orchestra – if this has happened before I haven’t heard it, and I feel like it’s something really different and unique. MT: What can you tell us about the visual component of the concert, including your involvement with Volvox Labs? BT: The idea of working with an orchestra was the most exciting thing ever, but the second part was to do something really cutting-edge visually, complementing the spectacle of a live orchestra playing electronic music. I really liked the stuff Dubfire had done using stereoscopic screens for his new show. Ali [Shirazinia] and I went to junior high school together and have known each other for 30 years. So basically, I went to the Volvox Lab guys. One of them was a hardcore fan and knew all of my stuff; their engineers, architects and computer programmers are totally my kind of people, and they sat down with all my music and started talking through some of the things that we were going to do. MT: Did you leave them to their own devices? BT: As a kid, I had a friend whose dad was the only artist/parent that I knew, and he said something amazing to me: when you’re able to work with other artists, hire people whose work you like and let them be themselves. So I really didn’t over-curate the Volvox guys; I just wanted to make an unusual object, but didn’t want to use LEDs because that’s been done to death. They did many design things and created a wall that, when you see it in person, is an insane sight to behold. Every panel is hand-cut; then they coded tens of thousands of lines of software to map onto that dimensional canvas. My cover art literally evaporated into the canvas. If you ask me what the worst thing about the whole production was, it wasn’t the fact that I didn’t sleep for six months, but that I never got to watch the
30 | November 2015
MT154.INT BT.indd 30
Above: The Electronic Opus project sees BT performing live orchestral versions of his compositions
MT: You used Kickstarter to raise $200,000 to fund the production. How confident were you of reaching that objective, and was it able to cover all the costs involved? BT: For films, it’s different because a studio usually pays for me to work with an orchestra, but as a solo artist you just can’t afford things like that – it can cost $250,000 for a three-hour recording session when using A-listers from LA or London. Many artists live hand to mouth and there’s a perception that because you’ve had a modicum of success you’re Tiesto, but that’s not the reality. For this sort of project, you have to go to a record label to finance it because the production costs $150-200k over a two- or three-year period. I had to pay for flights for singers to come in, working with an orchestra, fees for co-writes, hiring a hall, and all the legal paperwork. So this wasn’t going to happen without someone backing it. We were literally bricking it every day; I didn’t put my phone down for an entire month, refreshing Kickstarter. It got to a point where it looked like we might make it, but only had a week to go. I didn’t sleep the entire time and in the end there were tears, man. It made me realise that there are people that have incredible, explosive success, like Martin Garrix or Avicii, and then there’s people that I’ve always idolised like Tori Amos who have this niche audience that intimately
“Working with an orchestra was the most exciting thing, but the second part was to do something really cutting-edge visually” cares about what you do. I’ve been blessed with an audience that really cares. I met people who don’t just think your music’s cool, but think your music’s so cool they’re going to give you $10,000. MT: Did the experience create new ideas for future projects using crowdfunding, or do you think there is a limit to how often that can be adopted? BT: The craziest thing is that out of our highest backers, about 10 of them have said to me that if I want to make something similar, don’t crowdfund it, just come to them. I guess my point is that it’s actually an endless well. You wouldn’t want to be abusive of it, but you do want to go to people when you have an idea that you can’t finance another way, or because a record label would laugh at it. So many A&R guys who turned me down came to the show and now want to sign the record, but I’m not giving them the record, we’re going to put this out ourselves. But I would definitely do this again for the right sort of project. Everyone that participated in this doesn’t feel ownership, they have ownership – it actually exists because of them. This is about
BT Interview MT
people who give a shit about what they’re doing, giving all that they’ve got and going completely to the max. MT: Did the concerts live up to your expectations? What’s the next step? BT: It was such an incredible experience; at the end of it, I met entire families from New Zealand, Pakistan, Ireland and South Africa who had flown there just for this show. They came because, in some small way, I had this universe of music that has somehow had an impact on their life. We’ve had offers to perform this all over the world, just on concept alone. Orchestras are dying across the world – people don’t want to go into these beautiful orchestral halls and listen to Brahms’s Quintet, they don’t have the attention span for it anymore. We’re making plans for everything that follows now, and the record’s coming out soon, alongside all the Kickstarter rewards that I owe to people. Over the next 10-15 years, I want to start writing pieces of music strictly for orchestra and electronic. There’s so many instruments that I would like to see used with an orchestra and so many visual signal processing operations I’d like to do live with orchestral players in an orchestral hall environment. This is the beginning of the next chapter; it made me feel like this is something really special, something I’m supposed to be doing as opposed to jumping around like an asshole on stage. MT: Are you referring to performing live as a DJ? BT: It’s hard to talk about this and not talk about the current state of dance music; I mean, they’re not even plugging in CDJs, and DJs are standing there like an aerobics instructor and the audience doesn’t even care if they’re not playing live. A lot of values have cross-pollinated from hip-hop culture – ‘get money, get paid’, which is a fairly American phenomenon. In England, it’s different, you guys have always intrinsically understood how to appreciate good music, but in a place like Australia they’re really suffering because a lot of this
Amercanised EDM culture has polluted what people love.
Bottom: The Fairlight CMI Middle: BT loves using the Eurorack gear for its incredible individuality and unique creative opportunities Top: BT’s collection of drum machines
MT: Is the current EDM movement and DJ culture something that needs modification? BT: It’s so funny, I was just doing a DJ show this weekend with an Australian producer in Denver, and it became a joke among us about how he was trying to take selfies during the set. He texted me a picture during the show looking broody and serious and said “it looks like you’re working”, and I’m like, “I am fucking working” [laughs]. I was concentrated and focused on all the macro controllers, mixing loops and dub sound system-style effects; it’s just so funny that the expectation these days is that you’re standing there and not even pretending. And I would never say who, but I have good friends that literally pre-mix sets, put a USB stick in one of the CDJs then stand on top of the decks. 15-18-year-old kids here think that dance music is Martin Garrix; the thought of playing them an eight-hour set of Sascha and John Digweed actually makes me laugh out loud. Kids will stand there now at these festivals, go crazy and wait for the next drop, and if it doesn’t happen within three minutes they’re gonna walk out and go to another tent. Carl Cox said recently, “you’ve got to just think of it as an induction, this is how people are getting into it; then they take a turn and go find the cool stuff.” MT: Playing devil’s advocate, is there a case for saying some artists are stifled by a lack of budget, or would you say it’s pure laziness? BT: I think it’s a mixed bag. I’m torn, but I’m going to talk to you very honestly about it. I like the democratisation of the tools used to make music. When I was a kid growing up, I mowed lawns until 10 or 11 at night; I have calluses on my hand through mowing my hands bloody to buy my first synthesiser, drum machine, sampler and computer software. I saved for eight to nine months to buy a Juno 106, and the same again to buy an Akai S900, so you really had to mean it – it wasn’t some flippant
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MT Interview BT
thing where you’re going to use software, watch some YouTube videos, make a track and put it on Beatport. The trajectory has gone from hard work and years of perseverance to literally handing tools to people that are able to watch tutorials and kind of figure out something that sounds cool enough for the audience. I mean, I think we can all agree that music’s very ephemeral, a lot of it is very timestamped and that’s why the refresh rate is so high, because there’s not a lot of substantive value to the music and there’s a kind of ADHD culture.
nothing will ever take away the joy of putting your hands on the cut-off knob of a Rev 2 Prophet 5, but that being said I appreciate and love a lot of things that happen inside the box, too. I’m a real mixed bag of acoustic instruments, actual synthesisers, modulars and things that happen in the box. I find myself sitting behind a computer screen too much, so if you’ve got enough toys around, it makes you think differently even though it doesn’t help in terms of speed and efficiency. Last night, I sat at my Eurorack for three hours making a single patch, but at the end it was something so cool that I could never do anywhere else, and I still do tons and tons of sound design and offline digital signal processing operations. Even though I love plug-ins, I’m not really of the plug-in generation. I’d much rather sit down on an OS 9 computer and do a granular operation using SuperCollider that takes 18 hours to render out and have something that’s magnificently unique. So I still do a lot of offline DSP stuff on LS9 computers – a lot of cool little work environments in my space yield very different things, but they all come together in a Mac.
MT: What’s missing, or is this a cultural change? BT: I think what’s missing is the appreciation of what it takes to make something of lasting value. People can’t even listen to albums now. For Christmas, we bought our daughter a record player. She’s 10 years old and has grown up around music, so I got out a box of old vinyl and gave it to her and explained how it works. The next morning, there’s a knock on my door, and she’s like “Dad, what’s the good song on Power, Corruption and Lies?” and I’m
“Nothing ever takes away the joy of putting your hands on the cut-off knob of a Rev 2 Prophet 5” like “There’s not a good song, the whole album is amazing,” and she’s like “But what do I listen to first?” and I’m like, “Put it on the A side, put the needle at the beginning of the record and get ready for school”. It was the funniest thing to see this lightbulb moment, and now she’ll listen to a whole album all the way through, but I guess a lot of kids don’t get exposed to that experience anymore. MT: Are musicians becoming DJs simply because it’s a money-earner? BT: I know guys in famous indie bands that are doing a DJ set, and they’re like, ‘it’s where the money is’. They don’t need a tour manager, and can show up with a USB stick and crash mix. Instead of letting that depress me, I’d rather just try to make something positive out of it.
Below: BT has enjoyed a richly diverse career in music, releasing nine albums of his own and producing artists such as Tori Amos, Depeche Mode and Madonna
MT: Is Logic 7 still your choice of DAW, as we read you had moved to using Fruity Loops? BT: I use FL Studio a lot, I love it. The two things that I love about FL Studio are that there are no rules; it’s like a modular synthesiser in a DAW. And it’s so funny because it has a reputation for being people’s first DAW – like a toy. I love going in there for idea-making and also, in my own humble opinion, Harmor is the greatest additive synthesiser that has ever been made on anything, hardware or software. It’s worth the price of admission just to go in and do resampling on Harmor, which is fucking mind boggling – not just neuro-based stuff, but anything. But I use so many different DAWS; I’ve still got a Cubase Atari ST rig and an IBM Personal System/2 Model 70 running Voyetra Sequencer Plus Gold in my studio. I also have two OS 9 Pro Tools 24-bit rigs running Logic 6.4.3 – and I run Ableton 3 on that computer, too. I really do jump around a ton, and it’s just a nice head-break because you think differently with different tools. I have a rig now
MT: Over the past 20 years, what major changes have you made to your studio environment? BT: An absolute game-changer to me in terms of film composition has been Kontakt. The deep sampling libraries have quite literally changed my life; the ProjectSAM stuff, Spitfire Audio, LA Strings, Hans Zimmer percussion. 10 years ago when I was writing music for film, I was toiling away on the piano or using some crappy string and brass samples trying to mock up something for a director. MT: Can we take from that you are moving further away from using hardware? BT: I’ve been collecting synths since I was a kid and
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MT Interview BT
that I’ve been setting up that is like a superoptimised version of the one I wrote my first album, Ima, on - it’s the IBM PS/2 Model 70 with an orange monochrome gas-plasma monitor with 16 MIDI channels. There’s not even a mouse on that computer, it’s all step entry, which is fun man; you’re listening more than looking at what your hands are doing, or watching a grid on a DAW.
Association of Music Merchants) is in the basement; that’s where the cool shit is happening. When I started seeing all the heads of R&D and engineers from all the big companies in the basement messing around, I figured it’s only a matter of time before Eurorack systems are in Guitar Centre or their equivalent high-street music shops. It sounds so rich and so different to your run-of-the-mill soft synth. These things are crafted by people who really care about the quality; Intellijel, Bubblesound, Cwejman, 4ms, there’s no proxy equivalent in any other part of music. I just scored a new Charlize Theron film called Dark Places; a terrifying thriller, and over half of my score was modular composition. I performed them into the computer, went back and cleaned them up a little bit and Bob’s your uncle!
MT: For some, generative music is a bit like the Bermuda Triangle of electronic music composition. How much of that experimentation can you call your own? BT: When we think of generative music, we think about pressing the space bar and something magical happens, but it’s not like that. You know those machines they had in Tom & Jerry cartoons, where they’d flip a domino and it would fall and hit a bowling ball and roll down a stairwell? That’s what it’s like. Generative yes, but you’ve made the rule set and the array from which this machine will choose, and you have to curate it. I’ve recorded things that are two hours long and I’d use a minute of it. You feel like a kid, exploring. This is also how I think about something like the Eurorack; you’re curating what’s possible. You’ve built a wall and what happens within those walls can go any way it wants, but you determine how far away they are from one another and what they’re made out of. MT: Eurorack seems to be expanding exponentially. What’s your take on it? BT: First of all, the whole Eurorack world is exciting because you have all these similarly minded people coming together and making these modules; guys that come from digital signal processing operations in Logic through to analogue purists trying to make stronghold component circuits – not surface mount chips. It just sounds ballsy, like a Moog D; busy, fat, pure analogue oscillators. Then you have guys coming from a circuit bending community who are making crazy, broken chiptune-sounding things. All these things are colliding in one environment. MT: How would you typically prefer to use it? BT: I might use it one day to do Stockhausen-type pitching arrays or the next as a controller to control the wet/dry balance on an Erbe-Verb. The cool thing about that environment is every time you go to it it’s different, and I swear to god that every patch I make there’s a point – usually about 30 patch cables in – where you sort of stand back and go, ‘I don’t even understand what’s happening, but it’s alive!’. The possibilities are infinite, and if you sit the same people down at the same modules and allow them to sculpt the aesthetic they like, it really draws their personality out. MT: In terms of the tools that are available today, is this a technology that can turn back the clock yet move things forward at the same time? BT: I do believe that. I think that not only is Eurorack around to stay, but over the next two years every hardware manufacturer will be in the game. My favourite place to hang out at NAMM (National
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Bottom: OSCar and Oberheim synths Middle: A Goike Eurorack Top: A Voyetra Sequencer Plus Gold and Cherry IBM
MT: What can you tell us about psycho-acoustic technology and how you’re working with that to widen sound perception? BT: I’m the son of a psychiatrist and somebody who worked as a drug enforcement agent, so I grew up around a lot of talk about the effect of things. I’ve always been interested in the effect that music has, not just on what we’re able to perceive, but how music affects us, and playing to that in composition. The interest in doing some of the micro-rhythmic things that I’ve become known for has been using myself as a test subject, figuring out this no-man’s land, where you can’t really perceive that something is a pitch but it’s gone beyond the speed of rhythm whereby the brain’s refresh rate is unable to perceive it. Those sweet spots in our perception really interest me in an acoustic sense. Further to that, I’m interested in how these things affect us; why is it that music has the emotional impact that it does, and certain cadences and turns of phrase have a universal impact wherever you go in the world? MT: Is there more to be explored within our existing frequency ranges? BT: Y’know, one of my favourite creatures on earth is something called the mantis shrimp, and if you’ve not heard of this little guy you have to take a look at him. He’s like the Jason Statham of the animal world, this little teeny shrimp who can burst through glass six inches thick with a sound explosion. He can see wavelengths almost eight times higher than humans, so he literally has millions of colours he can see that a human can’t. It’s hard to not talk about how magical the world is. MT: How can we attain those heightened senses and relate them to music? BT: The idea that we’re making something that is beholden to our perception is a fascinating concept, so I love the idea that cochlear and visual implants are coming. If you think about the musical implications of Oculus, a sensory environment based on visuals, I could go in 10,000 different directions, but at the end of the day I’m interested in things that are evocative and emotional, at the edge of our perceptual abilities. A large part of my work is trying to do something that’s interesting and emotional that hasn’t happened before. MT
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MT Technique Getting the best from Vintage Keys
Technique Logic in depth
Getting the best from Vintage Keys
Logic Pro X’s Vintage Electric Piano and Vintage Clav are some of the finest keyboard emulations available. Mark Cousins goes retro.
long with the Vintage B3, the Vintage Electric Piano and Vintage Clav form the trio of vintage keyboard instruments included with Logic Pro X. The appeal of these vintage keyboard emulations is easy to see. Firstly, they provide an instant splash of retro charm to any music they grace – whether it’s a rusty old fender Rhodes in a trip-hop inspired composition, or a more funkalicious Clavinet adding a distinctive 70s vibe. Secondly, they respond and play like musical instruments, with unique sonic quirks and a sound that responds to the dynamics and shape of your playing. Rather than being based on samples of an existing instrument, Logic Pro X’s Vintage Electric Piano and Vintage Clav are both examples of modelled instruments. Rather than simply recording an old Rhodes, software engineers
On the disc Accompanying project file included on the DVD
They provide an instant splash of retro charm to any music they grace – from trip hop to funk… looked at how these instruments behave – the sonic traits of their basic sound, and how the timbre changes in response to the player’s performance and the controls found on the instrument. Although much harder to code, modelled instruments are often highly responsive to your playing and as another bonus, editable in ways that sample-based instrument can never compete with. Pleasingly, both Vintage Clav and Vintage Electric Piano sound ‘on the money’ right from the moment you load the default setting, which is testament to the detail on the modelling. One parameter that you might want to explore immediately, though, is the choice of model, found in the top left-hand corner. In effect, the model selects a completely different instrument, so that, in the example of the Vintage Electric Piano, you might move between the
sound of a Fender Rhodes and that of a classic 200A Wurlitzer (the quintessential Supertramp keyboard sound, in other words). You’ll also find different model numbers, Stage and Suitcase models, as well as clean and ‘distressed’ versions. To keep their operation intuitive and as close to the originals and possible, both the main pages on the Vintage Clav and Vintage Electric Piano feature a simplified control set similar to what you’d find on the original instrument. In the case of the Vintage Electric Piano, the original controls were relatively limited (just Bass Boost and volume) although some units would feature tremolo controls, replicated in the bottom right-hand corner of the interface. Instead, the main controls of the Vintage Electric Piano focus on the additional effects that many players use – chorus and phasing – as well as some basic colouristic tweaking in the form of drive and EQ.
Vintage Clav up close Compared to the Vintage Electric Piano, the Vintage Clav controls are slightly more esoteric and less intuitive to the newcomer, thanks to six elusive rocker switches covering the filter and pickup operation. To modify the tone of the Clavinet, the original D6 had a series of rocker switches (Brilliant, Treble, Medium And Soft) that operated as a series of band-pass filters running in parallel. In theory, the rocker switch is active when it’s set towards the player. As such, the original unit produced no sound when all the rocker switches were away from you – a behaviour that (perhaps thankfully) hasn’t been modelled on Logic’s Vintage Clav. Creating your chosen timbre on the Vintage Clav, therefore, either means using just a single rocker switch to plant the Clavinet’s timbre in a distinct part of the frequency spectrum, or a more full sound that uses a combination of the
CHANGING PICKUP POSITION One of the more intriguing aspects of the Vintage Clav modelling controls is the ability to reposition the pickups. To understand how this works it’s best to start with just one pickup (rocker position C) and move the pickup to hear the different sounds. Positioned horizontally at the middle of the string, the sound is at its strongest, throughout the entire keyboard range. As you move the pickup upwards or downwards the sound becomes thinner, and if the pickup is angled slightly, the sound becomes thinner towards the top and bottom of the keyboard. Add a second pickup, with or without phase reversal and a degree of pickup-based stereo width, and you can achieve some pleasing hybrid tones that balance the thinner and fatter sounds of the instrument.
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Getting the best from Vintage Keys Technique MT
MT Step-by-Step Vintage Keys
The drop-down menu in the top left-hand corner of the Vintage Electric Piano lets you select the various models on offer. As well as the Rhodes models (like Suitcase Mark I), there are also models of various Hohner and Wurlitzer pianos.
The tremolo effect is synonymous with Electric Piano, providing a characteristic ‘wobbling’ effect. Raise the Intensity control (also controlled via the Mod Wheel) to hear more of the tremolo effect – from a light shimmering, to a noticeable amplitude modulation.
As well as intensity, the rate of the tremolo effect is another important control. For example, you could use a slow undulating tremolo that syncs to the tempo of the track, or use a faster vibratolike rate that runs out-of-sync with the track.
Stereo is easy to overlook, but its role is just as vital. At 180º, the tremolo wobbles between the two speakers, alternating left then right. At 0º the tremolo is amplitude modulation, where the volume of the piano is pulsed up and down accordingly.
Adding a small amount of drive is a great way of beefing-up the bell-like sound of an Electric Piano. Use small amounts of Type I for a little extra body, or more extreme amounts of Type II for a heavier distortion on lead lines.
For a more ballad-like tone to your Electric Piano, try using the Chorus and Phaser modules. Of the two effects, Chorus has a softer sound, especially on lower Intensity setting, while the Phaser has a more pronounced and noticeable sweeping effect.
rocker switches, or indeed all the switches in tandem. The other rocker switches govern the pickup selection, much like the pickup selection on an electric guitar. With C active, the A/B switch moves between the Neck and Bridge pickup, with A having a warmer sound to B. With D active, both pickups are used, but this time the A/B rocker switch controls phase, again result in the B sound being thinner than A.
Both the original Clavinet and Fender Rhodes were examples of an electro mechanical musical instrument that used a combination of physical components (tines in the case of the Fender Rhodes and steel strings in the case of the Clavinet) and electromagnetic pickups to amplify the sound. As such, there’s a distinct similarity between the sound of an electric guitar and that of the Vintage Electric Piano and Vintage Clav. Indeed, given the need to play MAGAZINE January 2016
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MT Technique Getting the best from Vintage Keys
through an amplifier to be heard in a rehearsal, most players would play their instrument through a guitar amp like the Fender Twin Reverb, or even use guitarists’ footpedals, like chorus and phasers, to liven-up the sound. Given these similarities, it makes great sense to pair both instruments with instances of Pedalboard and Amp Designer, with Pedalboard’s output flowing into Amp Designer. The use of Amp Designer adds distinctive
mid-range colouration, and if you use a touch of drive, an added layer of distortion, these can help define the instrument’s place in the mix. The use of Pedalboard also increases the possibility of using effects, giving a greater variety of chorus and wah-wah options (in addition to those found on the instrument themselves) as well as the addition of effects like delay that aren’t found on either instrument.
MT Step-by-Step Vintage Keys
For an authentic low-fi sound, consider playing the Vintage Electric Piano through an instance of Amp Designer, as players would have done in the 60s and 70s. You’ll want to lower the drive on the instrument itself, so start by exploring the cleaner amp tones.
This patch takes the amplifier concept one stage further, adding an instance of Pedalboard before Amp Designer. A combination of Tape Delay and Phase Tripper produce a suitably psychedelic sound, with both the delay and phaser being coloured by the amp.
Here’s a contrasting setting, using the Transparent Preamp and just a touch of colouration from the speaker cabinet and ribbon mic. Placing an instance of Space Designer after Amp Designer places the speaker in a natural-sounding virtual room.
Like the Vintage Electric Piano, the Vintage Clav includes a range of different models, some more realistic than others. The Classic I and II models are closest to the original Clavinet sound, with Vintage I and II offering a more ‘aged’ sound.
The filter rocker switches can be a bit confusing. With the rocker switch towards you, the accompanying filter band is active. In essence, these are four band-pass filters (Brilliant, Treble, Medium and Soft), each progressively lower in the audio spectrum.
If you want the Clavinet to sit in a narrow part of the frequency spectrum, use just a single filter band setting, with Brilliant being the shrillest. For a fuller setting, consider using two, three or four of the bands in tandem.
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W W W.O R C H E S T R A LT O O L S .CO M
Metropolis Ark 1 - SoundonSound Montag 7.indd 1
MT Technique Getting the best from Vintage Keys
Going deeper still, both instruments offer a Details page that lets you mod the instrument with incredible levels of detail. Although it’s nice to have control over aspects like damper noise, for example, or the stiffness of the string, you might find that the input of the Details page over the broad sound of the instrument to be relatively negligible. Ultimately, the fun of these plug-ins is to use them like the real instrument – in other words, they should be played
‘by hand’ and subject to copious amounts of abuse thanks to an array of footpedals and an amplifier turned (of course) up to 11! MT This tutorial is endorsed by Point Blank Music School, which specialises in courses on production, sound engineering, the music business, singing, radio production, DJ skills and film production, all run by top British music producers and media professionals, with regular visits from legends in music and media. www.pointblanklondon.com
MT Step-by-Step Vintage Keys As with the filters, the pickup selection might not be that intuitive at first. With the C button engaged, the A and B rocker switches move between the neck and bridge pickups, much like the pickups (and tone) on an electric guitar.
Pickup position D uses both Neck and Bridge pickups together, with the A/B rocker now working a phase inversion switch. As before, the sonic principles are similar to that of an electric guitar, with the out-of-phase option sounding thinner.
The original Clavinet had a mono output, but the Vintage Clav has two options for creating stereo width. The Pickup mode only works when you use two pickups (rocker switch D), while the Key mode simply pans according to keyboard position.
The Effects tab offers some in-built effects options that would have been originally paired with the Clavinet. The wah effect can be set to track your playing by raising the envelope control. The addition of a phaser brings a pleasing 70s vibe.
If you want to control the wah independently, and not have it track your playing, consider changing the default MIDI controller assignment from a foot controller to the modulation wheel. The current controller setup can be found under the Details tab.
Like Electric Piano, Vintage Clav pairs well with an instance of Pedalboard and Amp Designer. Pedalboard can increase the effect options – including a variety of phasing, wah and delay effects – while Amp Designer adds pleasing mid-range colouration.
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MT Technique The Ultimate Guide To Ableton Live Part 11
Ableton Live The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live Part 11
On the disc Accompanying project file included on the DVD
Final tweaks prior to mastering Hold on! Before sharing your finished tune with your friends and fans, Martin Delaney wants you to check and tweak your mix one last time.
ast time, we added movies to the Arrangement View timeline. Now we have to prepare our mix for rendering and delivery as a stereo file. One thing to remember about much of the mixing information you read online is that it’s not oriented to the home producer; there’s a lot of talk about room setup – acoustic treatments and so on – which is less relevant if you’re mixing your own music exclusively. Sure, if you have aspirations of becoming a professional mix engineer, you have to have those things, but if you’re always doing your own music, the rules are different. There’s a small amount of gear needed to mix at home (apart from the obvious computer); the bottom line is you’ll need a soundcard, monitors, and headphones. More people are mixing on headphones these days, out of necessity, but it should be the last resort, and listening on at least one pair of speakers as part of the process is really important. I have my monitors, a good set of headphones, and an old mono speaker that I use for checking in more lo-fi conditions. I also sync mixes to my iPhone and listen to them on the tiny little iPhone speaker – that is the world we’re in. As it says in the walkthrough, I have a sequence that I follow when I’m finishing a song: volume; stereo imaging; EQ, compression, and overall loudness. Everything fails
if you don’t have your track volumes under control – digital recording isn’t like recording to tape, or overloading a tube guitar amp, when you can get some enjoyable distortion; it sounds ugly and it’ll cause problems down the line at the mastering stage. Stereo imaging is also very important. If you’re trying to sonically differentiate your tracks, organising them across the stereo field from left to right will help each one find a space. This relates to your volume judgements as well, because positioning a part differently might make it appear louder or quieter. You should also be keeping ‘mono imaging’ in mind, because people are going to hear your music on all kinds of setups, including systems that are effectively mono. A rule of thumb is to keep your lower frequencies, like kick drums and bass parts, in the centre of the mix. Listen for any areas where your mix sounds too busy, like maybe there are too many parts fighting for the low end, or too much in the middle or top. If you want your composition to come across, cutting chosen
WHY DON’T MY MIXES SOUND ‘PROFESSIONAL’? Even for the more experienced producer, there are times when you wonder why your finished songs don’t sound ‘finished’ or ‘loud enough’. There are several likely explanations but maybe you should start by asking more questions. Where was the song recorded – house or studio? What hardware and software was used? Who mixed it? Who mastered it? Getting a truly finished-sounding song is the result of a long process, so don’t be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t come together straight off. Compression and EQ are key parts of the process, as is mastering, which we’ll cover next time.
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The Ultimate Guide To Ableton Live Part 11 Technique MT
MT Step-by-Step Mixing and compression
I have a checklist I use when finishing a song: track volume, stereo image, equalisation, compression, and overall loudness. This is how I do it, I’m sure there are others who will tell you differently.
You know the routine by now – you can use your own Live set if you’ve been following along, but I’d recommend you use the one on this month’s disc for better compatibility with the walkthrough.
Check that none of your volume levels are showing red (exceeding 0dB on the peak indicators). If one is over, select all the tracks and lower them simultaneously to preserve the mix relationships.
If you’re touchy about overload issues, you could put the Limiter/ Upper Ceiling preset on the tracks in question, although that’s usually something I save for live sets, where it goes on every track!
For stereo interest, use the track pan controls, or even the Autopan audio effect – try it on the Keys track, click the Sync button and set the amount to 100%. That sounds good.
This is where I’d use EQ to thin out tracks that still need it. We did it with our keyboard and speech tracks. Toggle EQ Three off/on in those tracks, to check the difference.
frequencies with EQ can help. When you record traditional instruments or bands, the bulk of the equalisation is done in the instruments themselves. Indeed when you think of a classic rock band, each instrument is designed to cover a certain frequency range. You have drum kits, basses, guitars, and vocals – they’re kind of pre-mixed within the instrument roles and the types of part associated with them. With electronic music, there isn’t always a defined role for each synth or sampler; you have to reinvent the wheel each time and work it out for yourself, although I suppose if you’re sticking to a strict genre, there are rules in place…
Following on from that, compression and limiting help to contain and manage the overall loudness for specific tracks, and later, the entire mix. Compression levels out track volumes – it reduces the chances of an instrument suddenly blurting out loudly from nowhere. There’s nothing to stop you using more than one compressor per track, in fact it can make sense to combine two different compressors, when each has a different sound and does a different job. Then you can also add compressors at group level, and of course in the master track. I use Live’s native equalisers and compressors as much as possible; they are clean, efficient, and they share the MAGAZINE January 2016
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MT Technique The Ultimate Guide To Ableton Live Part 11
MT Step-by-Step Mixing and compression (cont’d)
Live’s Compressor reduces the range between the loudest and quietest parts, making a track’s volume more consistent. This can have a by-product of making these tracks seem louder.
We already put Compressor on the kick in our drum rack, but let’s add Compressor/Brute Compression to the entire track – put it in behind the rack. Wow! Loud. Set the Dry/Wet to 15%.
There’s already a Compressor on the Keys track as well, where it’s there to enable sidechaining, this is an example of how a more ‘extreme’ compressor setting can be used as a more noticeable effect.
Compressor is in every version of Live. However, if you have Live 9 Standard or Suite, you also have the Glue Compressor, which is designed to add a little more colour to the sound.
If you have Glue, swap it for the Brute Compressor on the drum track, lower the Threshold to -40dB, raise the Makeup to 20dB, Dry/Wet to 50%, and enable Soft clipping.
Compression will affect your perceptions of track volume, so be aware you might need to go back and slightly re-tweak any tracks that suddenly seem louder.
classic simple Ableton interface design. Each of Live’s compressors has a Dry/Wet mix control, which makes parallel compression very simple to achieve; it’s useful to set a more extreme-than-usual compressor, but then dial it back and blend it with the clean signal. As well as compressors, I like to use at least one
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non-standard reverb. At the moment this would be something like Exponential Audio’s Phoenixverb, although I also like the Max for Live Convolution Reverb. I also use Waves Vocal Rider and Bass Rider when applicable, to level out the track volumes before applying compression. This reduces the need for heavy compression settings and
MT Technique The Ultimate Guide To Ableton Live Part 11
MT Step-by-Step Mixing and compression (cont’d)
If you’re working on a project with many tracks, group common types of instrument, like drums and percussion. Select the tracks (they don’t need to be adjoining), and type Cmd>G.
Then apply the compression to the group instead of individual tracks. To my ears, this helps bind the sounds together, and takes the heat off using too much processing on the master track.
If you want more characterful compression – an opportunity to change the tone of your production – you will benefit from third-party plug-ins from people like Waves, PSP, Softube and NI.
If you can’t afford more plug-ins, you might find some free Live presets online that’ll step in for now; there’s a good API 2500 simulation available. Otherwise, take the time to build your own racks.
I’ll use tape simulators such as Waves Abbey Road J37, on specific instrument tracks. For guitar projects, or anything retro, I’ll use them more, usually on every track or track group, in the project.
Got hardware compressors? Wire them into Live with an External Audio Effect device, and save it as a preset for future recall. I have presets for the UA LA610, Alesis 3632, and EL Fatso Jr.
gives you more freedom to use ‘colourful’ compressors for their tonal qualities. This is also where I’ll turn to hardware compressors once in a while, because they each have a unique character, or because I’m recording hardware synths and I like to pre-process them before they go to disk. For mono channels I’ll use a Universal Audio LA-610,
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and for stereo sometimes an Alesis 3632 or, for a more upmarket sound, an Empirical Labs Fatso Jr which also does nice tape simulation. We have Live’s Multiband Dynamics on our master track, and for now we’ll call that ‘done’. We’ll review it next time, when we deal with mastering and rendering. MT
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MT 20 Pro Tips Computer performance
Computer performance tips If your trusty PC-based recording setup is struggling to process your tracks, don’t despair, as there are lots of ways to help with frustrating glitches, latency, frozen screens or even crashes without breaking the bank… This is especially true if you use sample-based instruments, which generally have to be loaded into RAM to one extent or another. Buy a computer that’s got plenty of RAM, or upgrade and expand what you already have, if possible – 4GB is an absolute minimum and 8GB or even 16GB is preferable. There’s even an argument to be made for prioritising more RAM over spending money on a fractionally faster CPU, since this will offer you better performance in real world situations. Laptops, especially Apple models, have limited expansion capability and some are even non-user upgradeable so be aware of this if you’re buying one to make music with.
Buy a computer that’s got plenty of RAM or upgrade and expand KNOW THE LIMITATIONS OF WI-FI Although you can use wireless hard drives for storage, they don’t offer quick enough performance to handle things like streaming Kontakt libraries efficiently. So as tempting as it is to offload your libraries onto a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive, it’s better to use a USB or other wired hard drive as it’ll mean far less waiting when you want to call up an instrument.
UNDERSTAND ABOUT RAM Modern audio software can be very memory-hungry and although the newer versions of Windows and Mac OSX have got much better at managing RAM, it’s still one of the main performance bottlenecks on many peoples’ setups.
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Plenty of RAM will aid your computer’s overall performance
USE SSD DRIVES WHERE POSSIBLE Solid state hard drives (SSDs) have come down greatly in price, to the point where they’re now feasible alternatives
Computer performance 20 Pro Tips MT
you a list of what mode your apps are running in. The reason you should run in 64-bit mode is that it enables your apps and system to address large amounts of RAM which, in turn, improves performance and also lets apps execute certain processes more quickly. Most apps are 32-bit compatible so even where, for example, a plug-in is a little older, it should run fine but won’t be able to take advantage of as much memory.
KEEP AN EYE ON WHAT YOU INSTALL A lot of system slowdowns result from rogue or outdated drivers, and applications or plug-ins which are using resources, loading when they’re not needed or just generally taking up space. That plug-in demo you installed which has since expired but flashes an error every time you launch Logic? That’s costing you time. The control panel for a MIDI keyboard you’ve since sold which loads whenever you boot up your system? The same. Be ruthless, purge your system of stuff you don’t need. Use uninstallers where available. On Windows use the Add/Remove software panel. On the Mac, if no uninstaller is provided, utilise something like Appzapper (www.appzapper.com) to get rid of junk. You want to streamline the startup of your computer and DAW, so prioritize deleting unwanted plug-ins, drivers and controller software. Of course, be careful to not delete things if you don’t know what they are, as they might be important.
It’s hard to overstate how big a difference an SSD can make to your life… to the trad ‘spinning’ versions. It’s true that SSDs still offer a less spectacular price-to-gigabyte ratio than conventional hard drives, but their performance is miles better and that’s reason enough to use one as your boot drive. Store sizeable sample libraries on a conventional secondary drive, if possible – a terabyte-sized one will cost you very little. However, for your system drive, a 256 or 512GB SSD can be fairly affordable and you’ll be astonished by the extent to which it speeds up your computer. Such system operations as app launching and memory access get much quicker with an SSD, meaning less waiting and more working. It’s hard to overstate how big a difference an SSD can make to your life.
ONLY RUN WHAT YOU NEED Any running application uses system resources, meaning anything that’s ‘open’ but not in use is taking power away from your DAW. Don’t have Photoshop or Excel open in the background if they aren’t being used – just run the bare minimum you need, which will help with system performance.
PRACTICE GOOD HOUSEKEEPING Being sensible about where you store your stuff will make the likelihood of confusion and data loss decrease. Don’t keep a million files on your desktop. Set up custom folders and subfolders for DAW projects and back up regularly. This should also mean that you spend less time trying to locate ‘missing’ audio files.
RUN IN 64-BIT MODE Windows and OS X have been 64-bit native for some time now, and all modern desktop processors are as well. By now, the majority of DAWs are capable of running in 64-bit mode and some do so by default. You can check this on a Mac by performing ‘Get Info’ on an app and looking at its ‘General’ tab, or in the Activity Monitor. On Windows you can open the Task Manager > Details tab and choose to display the Platforms column, which will show
FAMILIARISE YOURSELF WITH THE PLUG-IN MANAGER Most DAWs have a system for the activation of plug-ins and it’s important to keep an eye on these if you experience any issues with your projects. In many cases it’s no longer necessary to actually uninstall a plug-in, should you decide that you don’t need it to be active, you can just tell your DAW not to load it on initial startup via the ‘manager’ window. However, if you have some plug-ins that you don’t want to delete but also won’t need to use for a while, consider deactivating them. This should speed up the startup of your DAW, simplify the plug-in ‘chooser’ menu and generally make life simpler. Some software now also allows you to create custom lists of plug-ins, which is another great timesaver since it stops you having to plough through endless lists of modules to find the one that you want.
Top: The performance of SSDs is miles better than that of ‘spinning’ drives Above: Good plug-in management will reduce your DAW’s startup time Left: Improve app performance by running in 64-bit mode
STAY UP TO DATE This one is as old as the hills but it’s still relevant. Generally speaking, updates to operating systems, DAWs, drivers and plug-ins make things better, faster and more stable. If someone never updates anything, or some things but not others, they don’t get the benefit of everything working optimally. However, there are caveats. You should always read the system requirements of an update or a new version of
MAGAZINE January 2016 |
MT 20 Pro Tips Computer performance
USE LIGHT VERSIONS OF PATCHES Some sample-based instruments have ‘light’ versions of patches that use less RAM to load. They may have fewer velocity layers, for example, but sound very similar to the ‘full fat’ versions. Similarly, some synths and effects have different quality settings, numbers of voices and so on, and these can be switched in order to save power.
BE REALISTIC ABOUT WHEN TO UPGRADE Every computer will eventually become obsolete. At some point you’ll have to face the fact that your ten-year-old machine isn’t going to be able to run big DAW projects any more. If component upgrades aren’t a sensible option, bite the bullet and go for a new system, if you can afford it.
CONSIDER DSP HARDWARE Although modern computers are very powerful, our expectations of what we should be able to achieve with them also rise constantly. Companies such as Universal Audio (www.uaudio.com) specialize in making specialized Digital Signal Processing (DSP) hardware add-ons for your computer which run high-end instruments and effect plug-ins independently of your CPU. These enable you to run very high numbers of these specific plug-ins without placing any strain on your host system, which remains free to deal with running your system and DAW. DSP solutions aren’t usually cheap, but if you’re serious about audio production they can improve the headroom on your setup massively. As a nice bonus, the plug-ins also tend to be extremely high quality and have found many high-profile fans around the world. There are fewer DSP companies around than there used to be but it’s still an interesting arena.
software. If your hardware is at the lower end of what it’ll run on, make a decision about whether you may actually lose performance by pushing it to do newer things. In the past, Microsoft has been guilty of releasing new versions of Windows which, for many users, made things worse – Windows Vista was the main culprit – but this seems to be less of an issue nowadays. Apple tends to be kinder to its older hardware and, periodically, will officially ‘retire’ certain models from support.
Some people have a lax approach to ‘housekeeping’ but it can be a real barrier to performance… MONITOR SYSTEM RESOURCES To understand what’s going on inside your computer, use a system monitoring tool to look at CPU and RAM use, hard drive capacities and network performance. OS X has Activity Monitor and there are free apps like MenuMeters (www.ragingmenace.com). Windows has the Task Manager and many free apps, such as Rainmeter (www.rainmeter.net).
Above: System monitoring tools keep tabs on your computer’s performance Below: A drive that’s free of clutter means smoother running
CLEAR THE CLUTTER Some people have a somewhat lax approach to ‘housekeeping’ but it can be a real barrier to performance. Understand that a hard drive which is rammed to bursting with movies or an iTunes library means, when you’re tracking audio or loading instruments, your computer’s having to search for free space much more intensively than it would if you had, say, 40% of the drive space free. This is much more of an issue with conventional spinning drives than with SSDs, which have a far faster seek time. A cluttered hard drive can also make simple tasks like browsing for files take much longer, and searches can be tedious, too, as lots of files appear which aren’t actually relevant. It isn’t that you necessarily have to throw stuff away, but do offload things like movie collections, which use tons of space, onto an external USB or even wireless hard drive. Space on your boot drive is precious and you should treat it as such.
TRACK RATHER THAN SYNTHESIZE This one only really works if you have access to hardware but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. Recording sounds as
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Mac OS X and Windows have options to help prioritise performance over, say, battery life, and these can be useful when you need all the grunt you can get audio to your computer and playing them back uses far fewer system resources than generating them in realtime from a plug-in. For example, recording a line from a hardware synth as audio places much less strain on a CPU than generating it live. Similarly, passing audio through hardware effects uses virtually no power, but processing a track using the equivalent plug-in certainly does. A system that’s dealing with 24 tracks of audio is under much less stress than one that has 24 synth and delay plug-ins loaded. Realistically, you might end up mixing live tracks with processed ones, based on what you’ve got access to. Remember that freezing or bouncing down tracks also frees up system resources, by creating audio versions of virtual tracks.
DISCONNECT PERIPHERALS Having 20 things connected to your computer actually uses power, since each one has to talk to the system using a driver. Some peripherals also draw power from your machine. Cut it back to the bare minimum – an audio interface, MIDI device and maybe a dongle. Disconnect printers, scanners, webcams and the like.
15 Above: Optimising your PC frees up more processing headroom
SCHEDULE BACKUPS Backing up your system is essential but it shouldn’t be kicking in when you’re in the middle of tracking drums. Tweak your backup schedule to only start outside of working hours, or set it to manual rather than automatic. This should stop system slowdowns occurring when you least need them.
Left:Schedule backups so they take place outside ‘working’ hours Below:Use fewer synth voices to gain more CPU power
USE FEWER SYNTH VOICES Software synths often have configurable voicing options. More voices means a richer sound but also increased CPU usage. If your machine is struggling, consider using fewer voices as a way to save resources. Alternatively, you can always freeze or render down a virtual part. MT
OVERCLOCK YOUR PC Only do this if you’re confident you’re comfortable with it, but some PC systems can be ‘overclocked’ while remaining stable using freely available software hacks to increase the clock speed of the CPU. It can cause stability issues in some cases, though, so it may be one for the more techy user.
OPTIMISE THE SYSTEM FOR PERFORMANCE Mac OS X and Windows actually have options to help you prioritise performance over, say, battery life or energy saving, and these can be useful when you need all the grunt you can get for running plug-ins or ensuring low latency during tracking. In OS X, look in System Preferences > Energy Saver and turn off the “Put hard disks to sleep when possible” option. Otherwise, OS X does most of its optimization automatically. Windows has more options and these are too numerous to list in detail here. Suffice to say, there are many online guides to optimizing Windows for performance, which include things like disabling animations and unwanted Windows Services, graphical flourishes and folder actions. There are several places to look and find options for freeing up more of your PC’s resources for audio processing.
MAGAZINE January 2016 |
MT Technique Recording Instruments Into Your DAW: Part 2
MT Workshop Recording Instruments Into Your DAW: Part 2
Requirements Our DAW Recording features are illustrated using Cubase, but you can apply the principals to whatever DAW you use.
In the previous instalment of our instrument recording series we looked at recording a basic demo of guitar and vocals into Cubase. Now we’re going to look in more detail at recording one of these elements, perhaps the most important instrument in any song: the human voice. Andy Price annoys the neighbours…
his series on recording instruments in your DAW is primarily aimed at the budget singer/ songwriter and so it’s fairly important that we cover vocal recording before we look at any other specific instruments. Last time we looked at recording a quick, rough two-track demo in Cubase but now we’re going to get more specific with that first track. The vocals are without a doubt the element of your song that is most scrutinised by the average listener. Vocals are infinitely variable in sound, tone, intensity and quality depending on the throat and lungs of the vocalist involved. There is however a vast amount you can do with your recordings to make them more consistent. Numerous singer/songwriters record while playing their instrument, which can be good in some respects – for example, if you wanted to capture a more performance-type take. However, if you’re hoping to get airplay then you need to make sure those vocals are front and centre in the mix and given a great deal of careful thought.
Spaces & signals Perhaps the most frequent problem encountered when recording vocals is that they are either too loud or too quiet, and if you are working with a vocalist who can be quite expressive it can be difficult to get the optimal mic position (particularly if they’re the annoying type that like to move their head around!). This obviously can lead to the track hitting the red and clipping, requiring a re-record. The best solution if you’re in this situation is to use a compressor in the signal chain. This will automatically allow the vocalist to get as vocally dexterous as possible without clipping the track. It does this by applying a decibel threshold that cannot be exceeded. However, with the right kind of pre-amp, mic and vocalist you can get around this without the need to fork out. We can then apply a certain level of compression later at the digital stage
FOCUS ON… BREATHING EXERCISES One of the key things for any vocalist to get in the habit of before they start recording is to warm up effectively, this will help you control your breathing effectively during the recording process so you don’t over strain your vocal chords. You should spend at least ten minutes warming up your voice with humming notes in a scale and five minutes of controlled breathing. There are a variety of useful websites that list more specific vocal exercises you should try, find the ones that work for you and make sure you remember to get that throat limbered up before you start the often demanding process of recording vocal takes.
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On the disc Accompanying project file included on the DVD
You’ll obviously need to bear in mind the acoustic space of the room that you are recording in. The majority of non-treated rooms will have a natural reverberation that will be audible once you have recorded. You may also want to capture the specific ‘sound’ of the room in your track but the general rule with recording is to capture your lead vocal in an isolated, reflection-free environment. This can be achieved artificially by recording in a smaller space, an enclosed booth like the sE Space, or treating your room with foam tiles to dampen the reflections. A decent pop shield is essential to limit the number of plosive sounds that a vocalist may inadvertently make – particularly on the ‘p’ sounds – which cause clipping and can peak the decibel level of your natural singing voice. The pop shield will also protect the mic from corrosive spit. In your signal chain it can help to have a decent pre-amp so you can further amplify your microphone without dirtying the sound, providing stable gain while preventing overloading of the microphone and input source. Again the preamp is only as effective as your microphone – if you have a cheap, dud mic then the pre-amp can only do a little to improve the sound quality. Many modern audio input devices have their own in-built preamp too. So carefully assess what you need – a good room, a decent microphone, a good preamp and, yes, a significant amount of time to capture the very best vocal performance.
DAW a deer… It’s often better to leave a lot of the processing to the DAW itself, and Cubase is more than up to the challenge of quite fundamentally modifying your vocal recordings. One of the biggest things we can do to the track is to add compression, even if you’ve already used a standalone compressor as a technical tool in the signal chain. If you’re ill-informed on compression and what exactly you’re doing then use a preset
Recording Instruments Into Your DAW: Part 2 Technique MT
MT Step-by-step Perfecting vocals As we said before, a good condenser microphone is preferable as is a decent preamp. A vocal pre amp gives your mic signal a boost and (depending on which one you get) can make your signal warmer and more defined than the basic mic input signal.
Re-open the brief demo you recorded last time. Your initial vocal take may have been sketchy if you were playing guitar along at the same time, as opposed to focusing on your vocal by recording in isolation. We can rectify that by creating a new ‘master’ vocal take.
All set-up? Mute the existing vocal take in Cubase and create a new track beneath it. Initiate playback and record a rough take of the whole song vocally, adjust your preamp output volume and the input of your audio interface to reach a comfortable level.
Begin your recording. Of course you don’t have to record the entire song in one go, you can focus on particular elements in your song, although if you do record a full take in one go and certain elements go wrong you can always re-record those sections again.
Once you’ve created this patchwork master take we can start to listen to those recording problems - any plosives (should have picked up that pop shield!) or weird breaths or intrusive background noise can be dealt with as the next section will illuminate…
All recorded? Now go again… record at least three takes of yourself singing any particular track, which you can then create a strong composite track from. Cubase 8.5 has a handy comp tool which simplifies this process, as do most major DAWs.
in your DAW and further tweak and modify from there until you get the required sound. Cubase has a vast array, which are usefully titled to reflect their sonic effects. All DAWs have in-built compression presets (in Cubase 8 it can be found under Inserts > Dynamics > Compressor). One of the key things to remember is that by adding compression you’ll often suffer in terms of track volume – although you can make up for this by adding Gain. Another way of cleaning up your vocal take is to use equalisation (EQ) to clean up the various frequencies that make up the track. If you haven’t already then it’s better to mute all existing tracks aside from your vocal – with the aim of making it sound clean in isolation and getting rid of any additional noise you don’t want on your track.
This is quite a delicate juggling act – you must make sure that the vocal stands out by boosting the frequencies your vocal naturally occupies and reducing the frequencies that aren’t necessarily needed. It’s best to start cutting frequencies that are extremely high and low and working ‘in’ from there. Again there are in-built tools in most DAWs to help but it’s often better to use a dedicated EQ plugin. It’s quite possible that after all this treatment your vocal take will sound pretty isolated and dry. It’s a good idea to add reverb to your vocal track to make it sound more spacious and natural. The benefit of adding digital reverb is that you can control every parameter after the recording, from extremely wet to hardly any at all. Add a small amount (in Cubase you can find Reverb controls MAGAZINE
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MT Technique Recording Instruments Into Your DAW: Part 2
MT Step-by-step Modifying the Take
Now you have your assembled vocal master take, we can think about how we can treat it to enhance it even more. Firstly let’s take a look at your EQ. You can change the sonic characteristics of your take by experimenting with boosting certain areas.
Don’t overdo it. You want a nice balance between the lower aspects of your recording and the higher register. If you boost these areas individually you may notice your vocals take on a different quality, sounding nasally. Use the EQ to gently sculpt your recording.
Try using compression both gently and heavily on your track and gauge its’ effect. Depending on how aggressive/loud your vocal take is you’ll need to tinker, but the overall aim is make sure your track doesn’t fluctuate between being extremely loud and delicately quiet.
Use a gate to eliminate audio that appears at a certain frequency. This can be very useful if a car went past your bedroom studio mid-recording. A gate has to be applied carefully however. It’s best to apply it only to specific sections of your song, not the whole thing.
You’ll have to try out the threshold and release settings yourself to get the accurate settings for your track, making sure that you don’t accidentally take anything away from your vocal performance but that you do remove the elements you don’t want on there.
How does the vocal sound? If it’s sounding a little detached then a touch of reverb can help it appear more ‘real’. Slower, quieter songs generally cry out for nice plate style reverb as they have more space for the effect to flourish. Upbeat dance tracks less so.
under it’s own section Inserts > Reverb – in here you can find a few extremely useful in-built reverb plugins including the excellent REVerence), and keep experimenting by manually tweaking the presets and you should hit on something suitable for your track.
Final Tidy Finally, we must ensure any additional, extraneous noise is cleaned up – we can zoom into our track at any spot where there is rogue noise and reduce the audio substantially so it becomes inaudible, or we can crossfade the end of the last word into the start of the next. Although many swear by it and it can suit certain genres of music I would advise against using any kind of artificial
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auto-tuning software like Melodyne, sudden pitch shifts can really stand out and sound very unnatural if your track isn’t a layered-up EDM composition. It’s always better to just keep trying to attain natural harmony This process is simplified by building your final vocal from multiple takes as discussed last time – so you can choose the best elements from each recording to create a patchwork. Once you’ve got your final vocal take, assess how ‘powerful’ it sounds – you may want to add backing vocals to bolster parts of the track or the entire song. Apply the same principles to your backing vocals but reduce the volume so it doesn’t conflict with your master vocal – the master vocal should be centrally placed in the mix, while backing vocals should be situated somewhere else. MT
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This compact Launchpad grid instrument for Ableton Live gives you 64 mini pads for triggering clips, playing drum beats, controlling your mixer and doing just about anything else, all while making amazing performance videos for YouTube. It’s just like a Launchpad, but smaller! The Launchpad Mini Mk2 retains the features and functionality of the original Launchpad Mini, but it connects to the Launchpad App using only the camera connection kit, as well as Ableton Live, and retaining its FL Studio functionality.
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MT Reviews Ableton Push 2 & Live 9.5
MT Lead Review Hardware
Key Features PUSH 2 ● 64 silicone pads with RGB lights and user-adjustable dynamics ● RGB display enables viewing of text, icons, waveforms, meters ● 11 endless encoders ● Backlit buttons ● 17cm touch strip ● Two pedal inputs ● Weight 2710g/ 6.0lb ● Dimensions 378x304x42mm (wxdxh) ● Included Live 9 Intro software registration card, USB cable, international mains power supply (Live 9.5 or higher is required to use Push 2) LIVE 9.5 ● Improved waveform display with more detail in clip view, and sampling instruments ● Peak and RMS meters ● Simpler with Classic, OneShot, Slice modes ● 3 new Max For Live Essentials Instruments - Bass, Multi, Poli ● Analoguemodelled filters in Auto Filter, Operator, Sampler and Simpler ● Track colour/ clip colour assignment ● Ableton Link, synchronising OS X, Windows, and iOS applications over WiFi ● Updated library content including new drum kits, filter presets, and one-shots
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For PC & Mac
Push 2 & Live 9.5
Price £499 web www.ableton. com System requirements OS X 10.7+/Windows 7+/Multicore processor/4 GB RAM/1024x768 display/DVD drive or broadband internet connection for installation/ Required disk space basic installation: 3GB/Required disk space if all content installed: Suite: 55 GB/Standard: 12 GB/ Live 9 Intro: 6 GB
The ever-cautious folks at Ableton keep the ‘Live 10’ name in reserve, instead issuing a free 9.5 update to Live along with a major overhaul of their popular Push hardware controller, er, ‘instrument’. Just don’t call it ‘Push 2’!
ell, this must be one of the most interesting software point update events ever, as Ableton introduces Live 9.5, with a generous supply of new features, the revamped Push 2 controller, the Link syncing tool, and a bunch of new Max For Live instruments. Most of us would’ve expected a Push hardware update to coincide with the release of Live 10; obviously, Ableton had its own ideas! Either this means that Live 10 will be a monster update of unimaginable proportions, or else Ableton is more interested in hardware than software these days. Let’s dig for clues in all that
new stuff, beginning with Push, which is clearly the sexiest part of the announcement, and Ableton’s biggest news since the launch of the original
comes in nearly half a pound lighter, refined control layout, deeper integration with Live, new improved pads and – sexiest of them all – a new
Surprisingly, Push is now an Ableton-only project; Akai is nowhere to be seen Push itself. Surprisingly, Push is now an Ableton-only project; Akai is nowhere to be seen, and it’s not just the logos that have changed, with a new casing that
full-colour display. Be advised that this is officially not called ‘Push 2’, rather it’s ‘the new Push’, which is maybe a bit too much like ‘New Coke’ for anybody old
Ableton Push 2 & Live 9.5 Reviews MT
enough to remember that. For practical reasons, I’m still calling it Push 2… well, it’s not Push 1 and it’s not Push 3, is it? So what is Push? Push is a pad-based input device for Ableton Live’s Session View. It can launch clips, play instruments and mix. It includes a display and physical controls that enable you to adjust instrument and effect device parameters as part of a performance. Enough? As a Live trainer, I’ve known folks who embraced Push fervently, and others who haven’t connected with it at all. I’m personally semi-sceptical; I’ve had Push 1 since it was first released, yet I still find that for real-world projects and certain tasks I won’t use it. For browsing, it’s slower than a mouse or trackpad, and the unit also demands a big chunk of desk space. As for the pads, well, we’ll come to those… I’ve always wished Ableton would do a keyboard version of Push, or a padless model with the display and all of the controls but without the pads – like Novation’s Remote Zero SL, which is one of the all-time great controllers. Not everybody wants pads, and it’d be a fabulous addition to a studio or a keyboard setup; ergonomically, having to reach over the pads to get to the encoders and see the displays isn’t ideal - an angled display would make this far more usable for me. So, let’s see if Push 2 is going to win me over.
Overview The modest brown box contains Push 2, a rather chunky-in-a-good-way USB cable, mains power supply and registration info so you can register your Push and claim your free download of Live Intro. Physically, the new Push is more or less the same, with only a few millimetres’ difference in the dimensions. That new low weight I mentioned is definitely noticeable, especially when you jam it in your backpack. One trade-off against this ‘flat and light’ business is that, more than ever, Push requires mains power. It was technically ‘optional’ on the original Push, but necessary if you wanted brighter pads. On Push 2, let’s just say mains power is even less optional! You’ll be squinting at some very dim pads without it, so when you’re packing your new svelte Push before your next gig, make sure you’ve got room for the plug in there, because you’re going to need it. Push is still not really a mobile tool, except for the more dedicated gear-humper; I won’t be popping it out in Costa (other coffee brands are available) any time soon. If you are
going to take it out, it does come across initially as being solidly constructed, which is only right for a controller that costs £499. After plugging in to the mains, connecting to the computer via USB, turning Push on, and launching Live, you might be prompted to run a firmware update. This won’t take long, and coincidentally makes a good introduction to the spanky new display, with crisp white-on-black text and the Push logo. There’s a slight lag when loading sets, then Push is right there with track names and colours - and those track colours are reflected in text and pad colours as you change from one track to another. This works well for me - I’m a colour-coding fascist, and this taps right into my obsessive need for colour-coordinated order. The next ‘ooh’ comes when you launch some clips or play some notes and watch the new level meters… this is a huge step forward in usability, and another reduction in the time you spend looking at your computer screen.
In use Browsing and previewing content (now including AU and VST plug-ins) with Push is a more complete experience now - a simple improvement in legibility works wonders, although using knobs to browse presets is still arguably quicker when you can grab your computer mouse and type cmd-f and tear through your content in a much faster way - that’s just the kind of thing computers are better at, although on a more positive navigation note, it’s excellent that Push can now unfold group tracks. While you’re digging the display, you’ll also start thinking “hmm, these
Simpler is the most radically overhauled element of Live this time round, with in-device warping, slicing, pop-out expanded view, deep Push integration, and of course those new filters
pads are not the old pads”, and you’ll be right. These pads are soft and responsive, you can play them with a lighter touch than previously, and suddenly the idea of using Push as a grid-based keyboard device is more realistic; it no longer feels as if you’re trying to squeeze a keyboard out of what are basically drum pads. I realise how much of my disconnect with Push was down to the pads – they weren’t good enough. This is a whole new, enjoyable, experience - it’s what Push should have been in the first place, and it’s become something that I’m far more likely to use for composition. Push integrates with the updated Simpler instrument to create more of a hardware sampling experience; from Push itself, you can browse and load samples into Simpler and view and interact with the waveforms. Unfortunately, you can’t load audio samples directly into audio tracks and bypass Simpler, but you can select currently loaded audio clips and view and zoom their waveforms and access all their controls. Viewing and interacting with waveforms from Push is a major, major, step forward.
Other features The buttons surrounding the grid and display have also changed slightly they’re lower-profile, and when Push is ‘at rest’ they’re almost invisible, but when it’s powered up and they’re lit on-demand, as they do, these buttons are the real deal. After my pad playability issues, the inability to read the text on the buttons was another of my niggles with Push 1 – but happily MAGAZINE January 2016
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MT Reviews Ableton Push 2 & Live 9.5
another obstacle has been removed. The new Push is really quite cool, although, of course, there is stiff competition in the hardware control market these days. Novation’s Launchpad Pro does a fine job and there are plenty of other units that explore the hardware/software
immediacy and hands-on excitement. Having said that, it’s undeniable that Push 2 is a well-executed update on the original, and it’s bound to be more attractive to a wider range of users.
Simpler now has three different modes: Classic, 1-Shot and Slice, with in-device warping available in each mode, featuring each of the usual Live warp modes. I guess Classic exists primarily to accommodate the opening of older Live projects, and will be familiar if you’re already using Live. 1-Shot is self-explanatory - triggered samples play just once, and you have the option of setting it so a note of any length will trigger the entire sample, or gating it so that the sample plays for the duration of the incoming note. Slice is my favourite of these modes, as any loaded sample is immediately sliced, according to transients or note values, and ready to play from notes C1 upwards on a keyboard or in a MIDI clip. The slices are easily editable by dragging their boundaries left and right, and the sample waveform view can be expanded upwards into a larger window, even virtually full-screen, in the same way that we could already do with EQ Eight and Spectrum. Feature-wise, this is a great revision, and Simpler becomes even more
And talking of Live… So to the 9.5 release. We’ll split this
Usually, a humble point update doesn’t merit much attention, but this is an interesting one integration thing including NI’s Maschine Studio. Akai’s MPC Touch has also just hit the MT offices and looks incredible – the bar really is being raised all the time. So looking ahead, I’d like Push to evolve to something a little less conservative and retro, and more cutting-edge and expressive, in line with its own software. Live was and still is a groundbreaking product, and the hardware doesn’t quite convey all of its
review and rate both software and hardware because the software update is significant, and if you are not an Ableton user already, it will tempt you to the Live side. Usually, a humble point update doesn’t merit much attention, but this is an interesting one. I’ve already mentioned the revised Simpler, which was presumably required to enhance the performance of Push when it comes to sample manipulation.
Ableton’s new Push – the top panel NEW TOUCH PADS These pads are not remotely like the originals - they’re far more responsive, and (arguably) for the first time, Push is a viable touch-keyboard controller.
UPDATED BUTTONS Push has new buttons; they’re lower-profile, and almost invisible when at rest, but when lit on demand they’re illuminated much more brightly than before.
THAT DISPLAY Orange is the old orange. Push 2 has a sweet full-colour display capable of showing text, icons and, most impressively, bringing waveforms to the controller.
A NEW LEVEL Still on the display; as well as waveforms, you now get active live track level meters, which makes Push far more useful in the studio.
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EXPRESSION Unfortunately, the new Push still relies on that solitary touch strip, meaning it’s not as expressive as the more cutting-edge controller devices out there.
CRASH DIET Push 2 is lighter, surprisingly so if you’re used to Push 1, although that’s offset by the requirement to carry the mains power supply.
MT Reviews Ableton Push 2 & Live 9.5
valuable for routine Live sampling tasks. It works so well with Push that they feel like a self-contained system in their own right. The only beef I have is that Simpler doesn’t live up to the name anymore - this is no longer an entrylevel simple sample instrument; it’s moved closer to the existing more complex Sampler device. As a Live
end of the spectrum. I can’t vouch for how much they sound like the real thing, but they’ll do the trick in 99 per cent of mix situations. Simpler and the filters are clearly the two stand-out developments in Ableton Live 9.5. There is more, though; if you’re the kind of hardcore nut who likes to mix and maybe even master within Live, you’ll be very excited to know that the mixer now shows both
Operator continues to be the greatest of Live’s instrument devices; everybody should have this magnificent synth instrument. It sounds even better in 9.5, thanks to the new analoguemodelled filters Below: The watching-a-tennisgame effect of switching your gaze between Push and Live is reduced, as Push now shows track level meters - this is an important addition
I really liked using Multi. It has the sounds I like and is like using a little boutique hardware synth trainer, I cringe when I see once-simple tasks become complicated - maybe Ableton should’ve kept Simpler and this could’ve been like a ‘Middler’ (but with a less stupid name, obviously). Simpler is also one of the devices, along with Auto Filter, Operator and Sampler, that enjoys Live’s new analogue-modelled filters, provided by Cytomic, who also supplied the Glue Compressor that you might have used in Live 9. These filters approximate the characteristics of certain classic hardware filters, indicated by acronyms such as MS2 (possibly a Korg MS20), PRD (maybe Moog Prodigy) and OSR (might be OSCar). These are already proving to be popular additions to Live, and they definitely provide a wider range of filter sounds than previously available, especially at the dirty, nasty,
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peak and RMS volume displays simultaneously, so you can keep tabs on the peaks and average levels within your production. Incidentally, these levels are also both reflected on the Push 2 meters which, come to think of it, can act as a workaround for the ever-frustrating failure of Ableton to add a real mixer view to Live’s Arrangement View - you can’t see it on the software but you can see it on the hardware. It all helps, I guess. We’re getting more detailed waveform views throughout the application, and in Preferences, ‘Auto-Assign Clip Colors’ has been amended to ‘Auto-Assign Track Colors’ – every new track created will be assigned a different colour that’ll be reflected in the track header; following on from that, every new audio or MIDI
clip added to those tracks will also take on the same colour. Of course, we still have the option of turning this off, and specifying a default colour, which I do - white; I have a colour-coding system (see above regarding Push) and I’m sticking to it! New Push, new Simpler, new filters, why stop there? If you’re a Max For Live user, you also have a new free Max For Live Essentials Pack. This includes three new instruments, with very straightforward names and functions – that’s not a complaint, sometimes the simplest instruments are the ones you use most. Bass is a monophonic synth dedicated to the low end (although that’s never stopped anybody with a Novation BassStation from making lead parts), and includes some great presets, my immediate favourite being one called Rogue, which I’ll probably use way too much; Poli focuses mostly on string, pad and chord sounds, and finally there is Multi, which is the most straightforward of the bunch. This is designed primarily to provide immediate gratification when controlling it from Push, having a correspondingly simple layout, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a lot of fun to use without hardware. Multi is mainly good for chip tune-type sounds and general synth beeps and bleeps, but it can venture into broader synth territory, as indicated by the presets, and of course, being ‘factory’ devices, we can preview the presets directly from Live’s Browser, or from Push. It contains six separate synth engines, each with just a few top-level controls. The engines are Feedback FM, Mono Arp Lead Synth, Analog 8 Voice Subtractive Synth, Sample Playback, Karplus Strong and Additive Synthesis. For even more immediate gratification, there’s a Random button, which juggles the controls for the currently active engine, every time you click it. I really liked
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MT Reviews Ableton Push 2 & Live 9.5
roots in ‘software as instrument’ it would be a shame for it to move too far away from the laptop-only wielding producer and DJ that has made the company what it is. We also flagged up the increased integration that is being offered by the company’s rivals – with NI and soon Akai on a roll with their hardware and software – and NI especially is active on iOS, a platform which Ableton has recklessly neglected. As for Push 2, there are many other hardware options for Live control, but what Push 2 has going for it is the Ableton brand, the ironing out of some of my biggest niggles from the original and an out-of-the-box functionality that nobody else can really match. MT
using Multi, it has sounds that I like, and the interface is very immediate. It’s a bit like using a little boutique hardware synth, one of those that doesn’t have much range but has some personality. In an ideal world, Multi would be a standard Live device, so everybody can enjoy it!
Link Everything I’ve talked about so far is already out there in the real world. The untested element – at the time I’m writing this – is Link, which has been demoed but isn’t yet publicly available. In Link, Ableton has created a ReWirelike sync functionality; however, while ReWire runs between DAWs on a single computer, Link works over WiFi, and participants can be running OS X, Windows, or iOS. The intention is to Alternatives MASCHINE STUDIO www.nativeinstruments.com Maschine functions at a very high level nowadays - it even has an Ableton Live control template! In the field of software/ hardware integration, this is the one Push must beat. IPAD PRO www.apple.com iOS apps such as TouchAble and Lemur provide unprecedented control, as well as being the only way to see clip names on anything other than the computer! NOVATION LAUNCHPAD Pro www.novationmusic.com Cheaper, durable and with those fantastic velocity-sensitive fades. Mains power and MIDI connections let you use it computerfree with music hardware…
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create a more free-form situation, where Players can enter or leave the network at any time without disrupting proceedings. Like ReWire, this isn’t a separate application; it’ll be added inside a coming Live release. Ableton is making Link freely available to other developers, and there are plenty of supporting apps announced, including triqtraq, Korg’s Gadget, Loopy and Akai’s iMPC Pro. You don’t need to have Live, or even a computer, involved in the jam – it’s self-sufficient on iOS. I wouldn’t like to depend on WiFi for big gigs, but for lightweight informal activity this could hit the spot nicely. Truthfully, Ableton doesn’t have a great reputation for sync, so hopefully Link will change that. Anything that gives us another sync option, and a simple one at that, is welcome.
Conclusion Should you grab the Live update? Duh, yes, it’s free, and it contains hot new stuff, so it’s an absolute no-brainer and whether you are considering Push or not to go alongside it, it is still the most instant cross-platform DAW on the market. Other DAW manufacturers should take note! Taking a more detached view, it does indeed feel as if Ableton has shifted its attention so much to the hardware that the combination of Push and Live has become more important than the software-only experience. And in many ways, why not? It makes total sense for Ableton to offer the complete experience. But for a company with
Group tracks weren’t exactly a strong point with the original Push, in fact not much happened at all. Push 2 changes that, unfolding group tracks with a button press!
MT Verdict ABLETON LIVE 9.5 + Loads more included than the simple point update might indicate + Analogue-modelled filter fun courtesy of Cytomic + It’s free, get it! + The new MFL Multi synth is huge fun - Feature bloat may not be far away - Maybe Simpler is not an apt name for that device anymore
9.5 is a great update, and the additional features such as Simpler and the new filters are great whether you’re a Push user or not.
MT Verdict ABLETON PUSH 2 + The new display is a huge step forward in usability and visual feedback + Feels much more playable with the new pads + Lighter weight = more portable + Waveforms and meters - It’s never going to be backpack-friendly - Grid-based input on a software-specific device, not a transferable skill Superficially, the new Push might not look much different from its ancestor, but check it out close-up and spend some time playing with it and you’ll learn it’s a very different beast. If you’re feeling the limitations of your original Push, or if you were just sitting on the fence about the whole idea, this one is hard to resist.
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Sequential Prophet-6 Reviews MT
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It’s a story to melt your hearts and a synth to melt your ears. Andy Jones finally gets his hands on the synth he’s always wanted, in the shape of the Sequential – yes that name is back – Prophet-6… The story behind the birth of the Prophet-6 almost eclipses anything that the instrument itself can possibly deliver. It’s one that should leave you feeling good, that humanity can be good after all. The history of the analogue synthesiser is littered with great engineers and visionaries: Bob Moog, Tom Oberheim, Alan R Pearlman and Dave Smith to name but four, with the Minimoog, OB, ARP Odyssey and Prophet-5 synths being four iconic models produced by them. At some point in their histories, though, all four pioneers have lost the rights to their own brand names. This happened for various reasons, many of which were down to the march of technology. In some cases, they have won them back, though, to go on and produce some incredible new versions of their classic synths. In Dave Smith’s case, Sequential was the name he lost and the one behind the Prophet-5 (aka the synth I always wanted when I was growing up). He gave up the rights to the name to Yamaha in 1987, but in an
extraordinary move, Roland founder Ikutaro Kakehashi – one of the main men behind the MIDI standard – personally asked Yamaha to return the rights of the Sequential name to Smith. “I feel that it’s important to get rid of unnecessary conflict among electronic musical instrument companies,” said Kakehashi. Incredibly, Yamaha
Sequential’s most famous instrument, the Prophet-5. After such an awesome story – and I’d like to personally thank all of the above people for providing me with such a great and easy introduction to this review – we have the resultant Prophet-6 in for test. So it better be good then, eh? No pressure then Dave…
After such an awesome intro story this synth better be good. No pressure then Dave… president Takuya Nakata agreed, much to Smith’s joy. “To say that I’m grateful would be putting it mildly. Generosity at this level is almost unheard of.” With the name back, Smith didn’t hang about, and decided that the best way to celebrate the return of Sequential would be “by building the most awesome-sounding, modern analog poly synth possible.” The Prophet-6, then, is a tribute to
Is it the new 5? First up, this isn’t a new Prophet-5, not in the sense of the bolts and all recreations of other studio items we have seen of late – Neumann’s U47 or ARP’s Odyssey anyone? The 6 is a celebration of the Sequential name reverting to its owner, and not intended as a straight-up recreation of the 5. That would be limiting, especially when Smith wanted to create the ultimate MAGAZINE January 2016
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Sequential Prophet-6 Reviews MT
analogue poly synth. He has heaped extras into the 6: a dual effects section, more presets, extra power and a modern edge (USB MIDI - hurrah!) so you can, if you like, think of it as an update. A sequel then? Yes, but is it Aliens or Alien 3?
Features Even the filter on the 6 is only described as ‘Prophet-5 like’, so straight-up comparisons are perhaps unfair, but also quite difficult to avoid, especially when the front-panel layouts of the two are so similar, as are – of course – the looks. And in this test I had the chance to play both side by side, so forgive me if the comparisons do slip out. The layout of the 6 is similar, with some sections in the same place as the 5 including Poly Mod, Oscillators, LFO and presets. The oscillator section has superwide frequency, variable waveshape oscillators – ‘variable’ meaning that you are not just stuck with square, sawtooth and triangle shapes; you can select everything in between too. The pulse width of each is also adjustable and you also get fine tuning on oscillator 2. I particularly love the Slop dial, which adds a random tuning element to
all voices, offering the ultimate analogue richness and the kind of vintage drifting that we all thought we wanted to get rid of when unreliable analogues went out of fashion! Oscillator 2 also acts as a lowfrequency oscillator and can effectively be used as an additional one on Oscillator 1 using the Poly Mod section. This is one of the big draws of the synth and something which the Prophet 5 became famous for. You can use Osc 2 and the Filter Envelope as sources – hence the two dials for controlling levels of these – and then the Osc 1 frequency, waveshape and pulse width plus hi- and low-pass frequencies act as destinations. So you get a lot more flexibility in terms of modulation with sections being modulated while modulating other parts, including a dedicated LFO that I’ll now detail. So Osc 2 can be used as an LFO but this ‘true’ LFO sits at the bottom left of the fascia and can operate with several dedicated parameters. You can switch between five waveforms here and modulate across a wide frequency range, doubling up on some of what I described above. But the real beauty of this LFO is its hands-on, ease of use.
Want to modulate Osc 1 or 2? Just press a button! Same with pulse width, amp and filter – it’s there, in front of you. Onto the filters, and the Prophet-6 is packing a lot. You get two filters: a 4-pole low pass and 2-pole high pass. They have an envelope section and also the ability to map velocity to filter parameters allowing for some very expressive playing – hitting a key harder, opens up the filter cut off, for example. Finally, here is the Keyboard effect where you can vary the filter cutoff according to the keyboard position for dark squelchy basses and more searing leads. Unison Mode is very cool. On a standard synth this might let you turn a poly into a mono synth by layering all the oscillators on to one note, thus providing a very ‘big’ mono sound from a poly synth. On the Prophet-6, you can determine how many you want each note to play so you don’t just get a one set of two or six (ie Unison on or off); instead you determine the number. It’s extra flexibility like this that set the 5 apart from other synths and here, combined with Slop to help differentiate and layer oscillators,
Prophet-6 front panel overview POLY MOD Use filter envelope and Osc 2 as your sources and modulate several Osc. 1 parameters here. One of the highlights of the Prophet 5.
SLOP! … is a beautiful thing, despite its name. It provides a more random element in fine tuning between all the oscillators. Great when stacking them.
OSCILLATORS Variable waveshape oscillators mean waves that blend between saw, triangle and square rather than set patterns for extra sonic flexibility in your ingredients.
FILTERS One high-pass, and one low-pass filter gives a huge amount of sonic potential and the Velocity control and Keyboard effect are great additions.
EFFECTS Two banks of digital effects can be bypassed, leaving the Prophet-6 purely analogue, but don’t do this as some of them are great…
FILTER ENVELOPE As well as controlling the filter shape this section can also be used as a modulation source for the Poly Mod section.
LFO SECTION Great hands on LFO routing here means that you can modulate oscillators, pulse width, amp and filter at the touch of a button.
UNISON Turn the Prophet-6 into a stunning 12-oscillator mono synth by stacking oscillators per note and using Slop to add some subtle variation between them…
PRESETS Step through the presets by bank or switch in proper old-school clicking buttons. Great!
AFTERTOUCH Variable Aftertouch allows you to change certain parameters by how hard you press the keys, including oscillators, LFO and filters.
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MT Reviews Sequential Prophet-6
Around the back: you get two outs plus headphone USB MIDI, several pedal connections and MIDI. Standard stuff, but USB MIDI is very welcome…
makes for some huge, stacked 12 oscillator sounds. The last main feature on the front panel is the Aftertouch section, a very easy to understand and implement area where you assign oscillator, filter, LFO and amp parameters to aftertouch so that pressing keys will change each, variable, ie the harder you press the bigger the change. Finally, phew, a big, additional section: the effects. You get two banks of digital effects – A and B – that you can add to any sound. These include
and lots of depth. What stands out – and for the test I was listening with our reference head phones and monitors, before you ask – is the wide dynamic of whatever sound you dial up. Whether it’s just a percussive hit – and yes some presets are just percussive hits – a deep, moving drone, a lead or an arpeggiation, what you select always came across as full, analogue, punchy and, well, real. This is partly as we’re talking ‘analogue’ and compared to the digital, enclosed sounds on my DAW there is a
Don’t expect it to be an EDM monster that will take your head off with too many filter sweeps delay, chorus and reverb and all are digital but, importantly, generated in a separate audio chain to the analogue engine within the Prophet-6. These are, in the main, quite delay-based and some purists will not want to use them so be happy that in Bypass mode the synth remains purely analogue. Don’t be scared to use them, though, as they add a lot to the sound. Talking of which…
The sound First impressions were good, but like any relationship you may need to work at it for a little while. Don’t expect this to be some big EDM monster that takes your head off with massive arpeggiations and filter sweeps. While there are plenty of those in among the 500 presets, this is a more varied bunch of sounds that shows off all sides of the synth. So there are lots of effects – some a little too ‘novel’ for me – and lots of pads, lots of sounds with movement Alternatives
difference between the two – and don’t let anyone tell you any different. It might be simply because you believe it must be better, so it becomes better. But I doubt that because, like my Sub 37, stacking these sounds up in the mix alongside my regular DAW synths – especially in Unison mode and using that Slop dial, or polyphonic chords – well, the Prophet 6 is outstanding. Subtle sometimes, yes, but more often than not, because of that dynamic I discussed, the movement, the extra width or the sheer Slop power, you will just pick it out of a mix and say: ‘that’s the Prophet alright’. And don’t worry, because for every effect, or unusual hit, there is a mighty pad or one-note tune just around the corner. It’s also worth treating each preset as a starting point. You have 500 user patches to fill and if you let yourself go you could go on lots of sonic journeys – especially with those
While I keep banging on about the Prophet-6 not being a Prophet-5 – and then annoyingly making comparisons between the two throughout the main text – I’ll list some software Prophet-5 alternatives anyway. There are a few around, notably the Arturia Prophet VS and the freeware Prophanity, ScP5 and Messiah, although my old favourite Pro53 by Native Instruments is now discontinued. As far as hardware poly synths go, I’ve looked at the Roland JD-XA, which will give you analogue and digital, and as a crossover synth doesn’t really offer the same kind of pure analogue offered by the Prophet-6, but you can use it as a multitimbral synth. The Elektron Analog Keys is another machine that I have tested and sounds incredible, although is a tough one to get your head around. Even though it’s not polyphonic I also have to mention MT Hardware Instrument Of The Year, the Moog Sub37. Great for big, big sounds…
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modulation options – so you might find yourself filling those slots quickly. I programmed five new sounds in the first hour –unheard of for me!
Conclusion Overall, Prophet-6 is a fantastic, solid, great sounding and easy (ish!) analogue poly. The original ‘5’ was notable for its extras and the sequel will be noted for many more, and it’s these that set the Prophet-6 apart from other synths: the routing, flexibility, and the sequencer, which I have not had space to discuss. Getting back to the comparisons, I promised not to make? Like I said, I did play them side by side during the test and the question did enter my head: which would I have given the choice? After all the build-up, it has to be… the 5(!), but only to sell it for the fortune it is still commanding, buy a Prophet-6 and go on holiday with the balance. Sadly, that was a fantasy choice, but I will be putting my money where my mouth is and buying a Prophet-6 and realising a 35-year long dream. I’ll consequently be holidaying in a caravan this year, but who cares? I’ll have this with me, one of the brightest stars in a new era of classic synths. MT
MT Verdict + Modulation options are superb + … and surprisingly easy to get your head around + Effects are better than you might think – don’t be afraid of them + Some stunning sounds + Great build, retro design with modern flourishes + We love Slop! + It’s got ‘Sequential’ and ‘Prophet’ written on it! + Unison mode will get you power! + You could get lost for hours - You could get lost for hours! - Multitimbrality would be very cool - Don’t be surprised by the number of arguably ‘novel’ sounds - It is expensive (but not the £6k you might pay for an original 5) It’s not the return of the Messiah, but the Prophet-6 could well turn out to be an all new synth god.
“WITH GRAVITY ON YOUR SIDE, YOU COULD BE STREETS AHEAD OF - OR ABOVE - THE COMPETITION.” MUSICTECH CHOICE AWARD-WINNER
MT Reviews Soundcraft Ui16
9/10 9 9/ 10
Remote controlled mixers are becoming popular both for live and studio use. Andy Jones tests the latest from Soundcraft, the Ui16. Details Kit Ui16 Manufacturer Soundcraft Price £499 Distributor Sound Technology Contact T: 01462 480000 E: info@soundtech. co.uk W: www.soundtech. co.uk
Key Features ● Remote controlled digital mixer (via tablet, phone, computer) ● 14 inputs (2 double as hi-Z) ● Four Aux outs ● USB record and play ● Controllable via Wi-Fi via the web ● Weight: 3.61kg ● Dimensions (mm): 110x177x483
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he humble mixer is making a studio comeback. There are small analogue models popular for singer/songwriter set-ups; larger ones with DAW interfaces included that offer multiple inputs for analogue gear to connect to your DAW; and a new range of ‘remote controlled’ mixers, where you get the hub of the unit – usually in rack form. I say ‘controlled’ as, in the case of the Ui16 from Soundcraft, you operate levels, mixing and effects with your computer, tablet or smartphone via Wi-Fi and a web browser – no apps, no separate software, you just need a network connection. This should mean you can use the system anywhere, so it’s especially useful for bands on the road. But the Ui16 also comes packed with other features that make it an attractive studio unit, including effects and amp modelling from other brands in the Harman group, such as dbx, Lexicon and DigiTech.
Practical, not eye candy Mixers such as this – and it’s not the first I’ve looked at – are giving you the interfacing bit in hardware and the fancy stuff in software, so are rackable, sturdy and not that attractive. But the Ui16 is also practical. With all of the control done via your tablet or
computer, the connections on the hardware can be within reach at the front of rack, rather than hidden at the back of a mixer – all good in my book. You get eight XLR mic/line combo ins, four XLR ins and two RCA line ins. The first two XLR combos double as Hi Z inputs for guitars, and also neatly route through the DigiTech guitar processing.
hot spot on your computer or tablet/ phone. Select it as such and then go to http://ui-mixer.io, select your screen size (computer or phone) and there it is: complete control of your mixer. The designers have really thought about who is using this mixer, and where and how they are using it. There’s no messing around, just one password
Getting the Ui16 up and running couldn’t be simpler – and I really mean that… You get four XLR Aux outputs, plus level controls for two sets of headphones and left and right main outputs (jack or XLR). Around the side, you get footswitch, USB and Ethernet connections. The USB sockets at the front are specifically for playback or software updates, or direct master output recording (onto a suitable drive).
Setting up Getting the Ui16 up and running couldn’t be simpler – and I really mean that. Simply power the unit up, wait for the Wi-Fi light to stop flashing and you should then be able to pick it up as a
(the default one in the manual on your first boot up) and you are ready. With no apps nor extra software needed, anyone can use it, regardless of experience – no technical knowledge is required. We tested the process using a MacBook Pro with no problems whatsoever. The only thing worth noting is that if you lose power on the mixer you may have to go to Network Diagnostics to pick it up again on reboot – fairly standard Mac stuff. The software in the web browser is functional and very straightforward. It’s not going to win any design awards for prettyness, as it’s designed as a
Soundcraft Ui16 Reviews MT
METER SCREEN Running from left to right in the software, this is the meter screen. We have two inputs (1 and 6) on the left, with all four effects running and the first two Aux sends.
MAIN MIXER FADERS Here are the faders to control those levels – inputs 1 and 6 are shown. Use the cursor keys to step right to see the FX, Aux and Group channels.
EDIT MENU EQ The third menu, Edit, has four sections: EQ, Dynamics, FX and Aux Sends. Here’s the excellent EQ section, powered by dbx.
EDIT MENU DYNAMICS And here’s the Dynamics section within the Edit menu, again excellent for touch devices – especially with overall sliders controlling main parameters on the right.
EFFECTS SENDS Effects and Aux sends can be controlled within the last two sections of the Edit menu, but each also has a separate menu to adjust levels per channel.
GLOBAL Finally, the right-hand menu shows all Global parameters. You can adjust things such as recording quality, function button control and even the fader glow.
cross-platform interface, so what might seem big on a MacBook screen (compared to, say, Logic) is like it is because it’s also designed for fingers to control by touch with iPads, etc. You can’t, then, increase or decrease control size, as it’s a set format for iOS (hence choosing your phone or tablet screen size on start up). This means you get rather less on-screen than you might in your DAW, so you will have to jump to other screens more often. It’s not a huge negative, and iPad users will easily do it via touch. You would expect more of the Apple touchpad swipes to work on a MacBook, but you end up finding the cursor keys are more effective. Again, no biggie, just a tad surprising. The screens of the software are shown above. You can step through each one using menus at the top-left, and you get everything from main meters to effects sends. The EQ section is particularly pleasing, offering multi-band and the curve option shown above where you drag and drop pointers. Importantly, the results are
great both here and within the effects section where reverbs, delays and the like are easily brought in. And with dbx, Lexicon et al providing the muscle, you won’t be disappointed with the sound. Overall, using the software via the browser is a joy. It takes only a short time to get acquainted with it, and you quickly get into the depths of mixing, sending, adding effects and routing.
Conclusion The Ui16 sits between a fully-software and fully-hardware mixer. You get the connections in hardware, but the control is obviously software. I did think that, because Soundcraft is teasing us with a big lump of rack hardware, I might then miss the tactility of the front end, but I didn’t at all. In fact, I love the concept of the Ui16. Every-day musicians can be tapping into Wi-Fi spots and mixing with iOS devices, and can have access to amazing effects and outboard from the big guns in music technology. But the best bit is they won’t even realise what
Alternatives Presonus’ RM16 is the closest mixer to the Ui16 that I’ve looked at in terms of external control. It features 16 XLR inputs, 32 internal channels, effects, 8 XLR outs and some great UC Control external software that can again be used via computer or tablet, this time as a standalone app. It does have more features, then, but also costs twice as much at £1,099.
technology they are using, because the Ui16 and the concept behind it is so simple to use and so transparent in operation. Sure, I can see it as more of a live mixer than a studio one, but on the road the possibilities are many and varied. Small venues can have a mixer that anyone can plug into and use, and bands have something they are used to taking anywhere, which can easily plumb into a venue’s PA. But the best bit is to see new tech being used in such a zero-fuss and downright useful way. Top marks go to the designers, as it’s hi-tech, practical and easy – not always ingredients that mix so well. MT
MT Verdict + Supremely easy to set up and use + Control anywhere via Wi-fi + Especially good for live use + Onboard effects very easy to implement and great quality + Flexible connections and USB + Very rugged and transportable - Computer users may find icons larger than they’re used to, which means more screen swapping - Some touch swiping not included A great concept superbly realised. Practical, easy, versatile and a great sound. Pretty good value, too.
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MT Reviews Rob Papen RP-EQ
Frequency dials, and the idea is that you apply it to lead vocals or across whole mixes to add to the sense of space at the very top. Adding air is quite a common mixing technique and used correctly can help to open up the sound of the track by creating a little shimmer.
RP-EQ Rob Papen is back and this time he’s taking EQ to the next level. Hollin Jones fine-tunes the RP-EQ Details Price €75 Distributor Time & Space Contact Via website Web www.timespace.com System requirements AU, VST or AAX host
Key Features ● Configurable spectrogram ● 8-band EQ ● Stereo or M/S modes ● Saturation and Air controls ● Filter section ● Stereo/mono split section ● XY section ● A/B of presets ● MIDI controllable
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ob Papen is probably known best for his innovative virtual instruments, but he’s also been branching out into creating effects. This isn’t surprising, since skilled developers are able to take technologies built for one product and utilise them in others. RP-EQ is an advanced equaliser plug-in that goes way beyond the EQ processors that you most likely got with your DAW, and is right up there with some of the most flexible EQ modules available. It’s designed to be used on everything from individual channels to whole mixes, and during mastering. Load up RP-EQ and the first thing that strikes you is its interface is fairly large, occupying much of the screen, without the option to collapse any sections. It’s not a major issue, though, unless you’re using a lower-resolution screen. At the top are the preset and bank menus, and a good selection of presets is provided, covering all sorts of bases from tracking to mixing and mastering. Lower down is the main EQ area, where you can work with eight bands of parametric EQ. It’s possible to drag any of the eight points in the display to create EQ curves, as well as holding the shift key to make more fine-grained changes to settings.
Get the point Points can be locked to prevent accidental editing, which is useful in many situations. As well as Regular
mode, it can be switched to work in Mid/ side mode by clicking on a button for greater flexibility. Each of the bands is identified by a colour, which is helpful and can be soloed as well as having bandwidth and frequency dials, so you can enter values for a point manually as well as by entering a numerical value with the keyboard. The EQ sounds really crisp and musical, and was very effective. It was especially enjoyable to use during mastering. Above the EQ is a spectral display that can be switched to show various types of graph depicting what’s going on inside the plug-in. This can be switched off to save CPU and on when you need to see feedback. It’s configurable, too: you are able to show input or output only, both input and output, and freeze the display in place. A boost knob can amplify the readout (though not the audio) and the refresh rate can be altered for a more accurate or more generalised display. Moving to the right, you can A/B settings without having to save and recall full presets and there’s a Saturation section to set the amount of warming effect based on a kind of saturated analogue tape sound. It’s pretty subtle and probably a bonus rather than a core feature, but it’s nice to have nonetheless. Somewhat more important is the Air section. This is an extra EQ band that works by boosting the very highest frequencies using a wide bandwidth. There are Amount and
Below this is a filter section containing some handy shortcuts to regularlyused filter types. There’s high and low pass, each with four filter types, a frequency and a Q control. These are used for dialing down rumble at the bottom end of the signal, or hiss at the top end. Used in conjunction with the regular EQ points to the left, they can help you to quickly tighten up any signal. Moving still further down, you will find a mono/stereo split filter section that is able to divide signal into mono and stereo parts based on frequency. Since the bottom end tends to be more mono, this can be useful for mastering, splitting the signal into two. Another interesting feature of RP-EQ is its XY section, that can be revealed by clicking on the XY button. This uses two programmable LFOs to let you draw in movements with the mouse to alter various effect parameters or use MIDI notes to create playback patterns. Both can be replayed within the effect, a bit like automation. It’s a nice touch and adds another element to this plug-in’s toolbox. There’s extensive MIDI learn support throughout the plug-in too, so controlling remotely is straightforward. RP-EQ is a powerful EQ module with plenty of features, and indeed has more than you will find in most similar third-party EQ effects. It’s reasonably priced and will suit all kinds of mixing and mastering applications. MT
MT Verdict + Great-sounding EQ + Much more powerful than standard models + XY section is clever + Plenty of presets + Advanced visual feedback + Great for mixing and mastering + Well designed - Overkill if you just need basic EQ - Quite large for lower-resolution displays A very solid third-party EQ that goes well beyond DAW-supplied models and suits every part of the production process.
MT Reviews MeldaProduction MXXX
If you’ve ever that wished someone would put a whole collection of effects into a single plug-in, then your day is about to get a whole lot better. Hollin Jones puts the beast through its paces…
ventually, it had to happen. MeldaProduction’s lineup of audio processors got so comprehensive that the company developed a new plug-in which places practically all its others in a single package. However, MXXX isn’t just a container, it actually boasts a bunch of features which make it perhaps one of the most all-encompassing multi-effect products ever released. MXXX looks and behaves a lot like many of the plug-ins that Melda already makes, but the developer has taken the heart of its other effects – though not their interfaces – and placed them inside a modular system. The look and feel of MXXX is familiar if you’ve used Melda’s other products, which is to say that the interface is extremely powerful but does lack a little visual panache. However, many potential users would, quite fairly, point out that looks have little to do with sound, even if they do bear some relation to workflow. Clearly, a lot of work’s gone into the audio processing side, but for this price a little more visual polish wouldn’t have gone amiss. Slicker graphics don’t make all the difference, but they do lend kudos to a product’s image and reputation.
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Details Manufacturer MeldaProduction Price €999 Distributor MeldaProduction Contact Via website Web www.melda production.com System requirements VST, VST3, AU or AAX, host on Mac or PC
Key Features ● 1-6 independent bands ● 16 modulators ● 16 multiparameters ● Up to 8-channel surround processing ● Smart randomization ● Over 70 effects ● Up to 16x sampling ● Auto-gain compensation and limiting ● MIDI controllable ● Visualisation engine ● Free-for-life updates
Load it up Visuals aside, MXXX features over 70 of Melda’s audio processors, ranging from dynamics and modulation through to EQ and even the MPowerSynth. It’s priced slightly cheaper than Melda’s Total Bundle, which boasts a few more products – 82, in fact – including MXXX itself. The main difference, apart from the extra products, is that Total Bundle gives you the processors as individual plug-ins, if that’s something you’d prefer.
There are over 500 active presets and these are combinations of modules and settings which cover a huge range of applications, from preprocessing to mastering, mixing and tracking. Each of the individual modules within an active preset – or indeed, when called up on its own – has its own collection of settings and presets, and can be made to obey the randomization button that’s available throughout MXXX for quickly creating new chains and parameters.
There’s often talk of software with ‘limitless possibilities’ but MXXX is one of the rare cases where it might actually be true MXXX is modular and its edit section allows you to amend – or right click to add new modules – in order to build anything from a simple single effect to a massively complex multi-effect. Routing is handled automatically, although it’s easy to modify this in the plug-in settings window, where you can also enable the generation of feedback, among other tasks.
The settings for presets can be accessed through a ‘quick’ panel, which contains the most important elements, such as dry/wet, and then tools which are specific to each effect. Consequently, it’s easy to tweak the major parameters of any effect – though, as ever with Melda, there’s an entire universe of settings available via menus and extra windows. One of
MeldaProduction MXXX Reviews MT
these is the advanced modulation section, which makes multiple sources available and provides extremely detailed controls that are assignable throughout the effect. This is a little more complex to follow in MXXX than with some other software, partly due to the size of the effect. Having so many sections means ‘drag and drop’ isn’t really workable, as there’s so much which isn’t on screen at any given time. Along the right-hand edge of the interface is a column of global controls, which you can use to manage the eight different live slots, set oversampling, toggle processing modes, activate a limiter, choose A/B presets, copy and paste, set up MIDI control and even undo actions within the effect. A comprehensive settings menu allows the customisation of the themes and styles used in the effect, though not the core design. It can be scaled up or down significantly, to account for different screen sizes, and various parts of the window shown and hidden.
Fostex RP Technology
tremendous amount of versatility here, and thanks to the variety of features on offer, it amounts to much more than the sum of its parts. MT
MXXX is an interesting proposition. Few developers make so many plug-ins that they could have come up with a product like it. It’s supremely powerful and flexible, and the effects sound great. There’s often talk of software with ‘limitless possibilities’ but MXXX is one of the rare cases when it might actually be true. Factor in the modular system and randomization, and you could literally keep generating new stuff ad infinitum. True, it isn’t the prettiest software around and there’s such a mindboggling depth of editability that you inevitably end up dealing with different windows and sections, so there is something of a learning curve, at least initially. There’s also the issue that although MXXX contains most of Melda’s other effects, they’re bound to the package and can’t be opened individually, as they can with Total Bundle. Of course you can open just one effect within MXXX, but that would be to miss out on much of its power. There’s a
MT Verdict + Insanely versatile and powerful + A battery of great effects in a single plug-in + Modular system and modulation take it to the next level + Advanced global options + Fairly kind to your CPU + A crazy depth of programmability + Generous update policy - Looks pretty clinical - The individual effects only exist inside MXXX - There’s some window-juggling to contend with - A significant investment An absolute monster multi-effect. It’s supremely powerful, although a little visual polish wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Fostex RP Technology
The NEW RPmk3 Series Headphones After 30 years of their headphones being favoured by studios all over the world, Fostex have further enhanced their RP driver to provide even greater linear sensitivity and neutral, transparent sound. The RP driver particularly shines in problematic mid-hi frequencies where dynamic designs can fail. Whether your preference is for closed (isolation and focus), open (natural and spacious sound), or somewhere in-between, the new Fostex RP series offer you comfort, durability, and reference quality for all professional applications.
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WITH NEW RP ‘REGULAR PHASE’ DRIVER 03/12/2015 09:58
Sonokinetic Sotto - Delicate Cinematic Orchestra Reviews MT
Sotto - Delicate Cinematic Orchestra
9/10 9 9/ 10
otto is the latest phrase-based orchestral library/instrument from boutique sampling specialists Sonokinetic. Previous libraries in this range, notably Grosso and Capriccio, while definitely not in the crash bang wallop category, have focused mainly on a grandiose cinematic sound. As its sub-title implies (Delicate Cinematic Orchestra), Sotto concentrates on the lighter side of orchestral composition with a variety of soft beds and patterns. Two versions are included – 16- and 24-bit, each with a CPU-friendly ‘lite’ version, and it all runs in the free Kontakt Player. Dedicated patches are also available for Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol keyboards. Sonokinetic is bang up-to-date in this respect and is one of the first thirdparty developers to support NKS, Native Instruments’ extended plug-in format that allows VST and Kontakt instrument developers to integrate their products with Komplete Kontrol. Anybody who is familiar with the other libraries in this series, Capriccio in particular, should quickly be able to get to grips with Sotto because the basic concepts and GUI are very similar. Three colour-coded orchestral sections (we’ll refer to them as instruments from here on) are represented - strings (green), woodwinds (blue) and brass
In contrast to its sister libraries Grosso and Capriccio, Sotto offers a lighter approach to orchestral phrasebased music making. Keith Gemmell tones it down
Right: Sotto’s phrases are represented as icons in its Phrase Picker and can be auditioned using a speaker icon. You can choose high, mid or low versions
Details Price €302 Contact via website Web www. sonokinetic.net
Key features ● 3 recorded sections - strings, woodwinds, brass ● Custom UI with score display ● NI Komplete Kontrol patches ● Time Machine Pro capability ● Custom Chord recognition ● Harmonic Shift system ● Subtle, light phrases in 4/4 time ● Woodwind and brass breath control ● MIDI drag and drop
(yellow), and each one has its own Kontakt patch.
Soft touch A system of presets and fields is used to select and play an array of short phrases by fingering simple major or minor triads on a keyboard controller. These are basic, gentle and minimalist in style and mostly ‘gender neutral’; in other words, they do not contain thirds, sixth or seventh intervals. For that reason, played on their own they are not particularly attention-grabbing. However, because they have been so artfully conceived, once they are layered
They have been so artfully conceived that when layered together the result is magical together the net result is quite magical, and perfect for light orchestral beds and fantasy production underscores. Much can be achieved with just basic major and minor chords, but to spice things up harmonically there’s a Harmonic Shift function for playing simultaneous phrases in different, related keys. A degree of
experimentation is required here, but it’s worth persevering to find just the right combination. The best approach is to apply the feature sparingly to just one or two fields. As with Grosso and Capriccio, choosing and loading phrases into a field is a rather unusual process. Each phrase has an icon that illustrates to MAGAZINE January 2016
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MT Reviews Sonokinetic Sotto - Delicate Cinematic Orchestra
If you use one of NI’s Komplete Kontrol keyboards its key lights will reflect the colours of the Sotto keyswitches. Also, Sotto’s most commonly used functions will be mapped to the Komplete Kontrol’s rotaries
some extent its rhythmic and melodic shape. It takes a little getting used to at first and remembering the sounds and relating them to the graphics takes a while. Still, it’s better than giving them all silly names, that’s for sure. That said, it’s easy enough to audition the phrases using a speaker icon attached to each one and if you read music, the notation can be quickly displayed as well.
breath samples can be added in if you want them. Being very simple to use, it’s possible to produce light orchestral music very quickly. In fact, because all the material is so well matched, it’s almost impossible to not come up with something that sounds musically satisfying. As demonstrated on the Sonokinetic website, entire compositions suitable for atmospheric backgrounds can be realised with just Sotto alone. Whether or not the production process here can be accurately called composing is open to debate. One thing’s for sure, though, Sotto works wonders if you’re stuck for ideas – it’s a
Entire compositions suitable for atmospheric backgrounds can be realised with just Sotto alone
Sotto’s phrases can be seen as music notation in its Score View. From here phrases can be dragged and dropped directly into tracks in your DAW ready for VI assignment and editing.
Do you really need this?
Strings, winds, brass So, what about the music? As the backbone of any orchestra, the strings are probably the most essential ingredient here for writing fantasy-style productions. A wide variety of high, mid-range and low phrases are available - sustained passages, rhythmic patterns, undulating lines and so on. It’s all very delicate, rather beautiful and, of course, mostly piano and pianissimo. While the strings are more suited to backdrop use, the woodwinds are busier with a variety of short melodic phrases and flourishes. Breath samples can be used progressively in this section for a more intimate sound. The brass material is simply beautiful – sustains, gently chugging rhythms, trills and more, all produced with a subtle rounded tone, full-bodied and never the slightest bit brash. Again,
Writing and scoring orchestral music is no mean feat, especially if it’s of a delicate nature. Knowing how to combine the different woodwind timbres and produce soft strings and brass using a conventional orchestral sample library takes time to learn. With Sotto, much of the work has been done for you. So, if you haven’t yet brushed up your orchestration chops then Sotto (and its sister libraries) will prove invaluable. Experienced orchestral composers will also find it useful for quick scoring and inspiration.
MT Verdict + Komplete Kontrol keyboard integration + Compatible with sister libraries + Skilfully scored and implemented + Magical sounds + Fast workflow - Resource-hungry - Limited mic mixing
Sotto was recorded in the same hall as Grosso and Capriccio and shares similar microphone mixing functions - Close, Decca Tree, Wide and Far. You can use just one position or mix between two, which is a bit limiting.
Alternatives They are strings-only, of course, but Native Instruments’ Emotive Strings work on a similar principle to Sotto. They were developed to complement their very successful Action Strings instrument, but are much gentler with a good many smooth legato lines. For woodwinds, there is Hollywoodwinds, which contains a variety of phrases, chords, textures and full ensemble patches. We can’t find a dedicated quiet brass library – brass players clearly enjoy playing loud!
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true source of inspiration to kickstart a composition and maintain a constant mood throughout. Writing delicate orchestral music is not easy, especially for those without a great deal of formal orchestral knowledge, and for composers and producers on a tight deadline this is a marvellous inspirational tool and timesaver. Bravo Sotto. MT
Beautifully conceived phrasebased library suitable for film and game music, where light orchestral sounds are required. Don’t be put off by the phrase-based tag. Yes, it can be used throughout entire compositions, but the best results will be obtained when it’s used more sparingly.
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• Frequency dependent control of Transients & Sustain • Tilt/parametric targeting of frequencies to process • DIFF button to solo the effect • Dry/Wet mix for parallel processing • Warmth control for added harmonics • Many great presets to get you started
KV331 Synthmaster 2.7 Reviews MT
9/10 9 9/ 10
It’s a synth that claims to do pretty much everything, and do it relatively easily. Andy Jones masters the latest update from KV331 Details Kit Synthmaster 2.7 Manufacturer KV331 Price Standard: $129 (1,250 presets); Everything: $379 (2,850 presets) Contact T: +90-312-265-0558 W: www.synthmaster. com Tech Requirements 2.0 Ghz, Intel SSE3 instruction set
Key Features ● Dual-layer semimodular soft synth ● Multiple synthesis inc. VA, Additive, Wavetable, PM, PWM, RM, AM, SFZ Sample Playback ● 1,100 factory presets (+150 user); Everything bundle has 2,850 ● VST, AU and AAX ● Analogue, digital, multimode, comb and dual filters ● Huge mod matrix section
ot a day goes by where we hear about a new release that claims to do so much more than that new release from last week (that claimed to do everything). We’re in a technologydriven world, so everything is improving and as the computers and processors that lie at the core of it all get quicker, so all of our lives get so much better, right? The problem is that when so much is thrown at you, either the number of options become too many or the ease of use goes out the window. Synthmaster from KV331 purports to be all synths to all people, but wrestling with it does not (necessarily) send you running for the hills. The Holy Grail of synths then?
It does what? Synthmaster is semi-modular, has simple ‘click on and off’ icons, very neat graphics and tables and, importantly, a straightforward routing philosophy at its heart, so that a basic understanding of signal flow will get you a long way. Installation was straightforward and we opted for the ‘Everything Bundle’, which has all the banks of presets released. Although it costs $379 we’d probably recommend it down to the sheer number of sounds – nearly 3000! KV331 also suggests the Sadowick Productions video course which sounds
like a chore but is worth watching – informative, if a little laid back. So to the all-important routing and you’ll find, initially anyway, that you will hover around the top left of the synth. Synthmaster is dual layer, with each one playing in Poly, Mono or Legato modes. From there simply think of everything in blocks from left to right, so
section has 95 Modulation Sources and 650 Targets. But before you get overwhelmed, again it’s not as complicated as it might be, with 12 easy (common) parameters accessible within the browser, along with X-Y touchpads to make changes. Also at the far right, you can make adjustments to various settings
Synthmaster purports to be all synths to all people but doesn’t send you running to the hills… within each layer you get these blocks which comprise modulators, the two oscillators, the filter section, effects, envelopes and LFOs (x4). Each of these blocks can be switched on and off or connected, sometimes differently (in the case of the filters in series, parallel, or split) and each is explored in detail within other areas on the screen. So oscillators and modulators are bottom left; envelopes, bottom right; filters, top right; arpeggiator and effects top left; and finally a Matrix area to the right. This modulation section in itself is worth the asking price. The synth has 3000 parameters to edit and this
including changing the skin. While this is very cool, do be careful as you might end up in the more restricted Synthmaster Player Mode and, as I did, struggle to get back to the normal mode (I found the PDF manual eventually!).
The only synth you’ll need? So there is already a lot going on here but there is more, which ultimately gives the plug-in its ‘master’ status. First, the sheer number of synthesis options and oscillator combinations/ types is staggering: Basic; Additive (Basic x8); Vector (using four Basics by way of vector x-y parameters); and MAGAZINE January 2016
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MT Reviews KV331 Synthmaster 2.7
LAYER SECTION The top left of the Sythmaster screen is used to select the layers, and here you see the all-important building blocks including the filters, shown here split.
EFFECTS Effects are also selected in this area, either globally or per layer. You can choose a variety of presets and parameters for each.
ARPEGGIATOR We didn’t touch a lot on this in the main text but you can adjust it graphically by dragging pointers or choose from several presets.
SYNTHESIS! The heart and soul of Synthmaster is obviously its engine or, should we say, several engines. Drill down further and there are stacks of waveforms to choose…
FILTERS & ENVELOPES Both reside to the right of the main Layers section. You can choose filters to be in series, parallel or split, and here you get into the detail of each.
SOUNDS And the results of all of these features are the sounds. 1100 of them split by type, instrument, author, bank and musical style for easy accessibility.
Wavetable, not to mention AudioIn (which reminds me I must also mention that Synthmaster can be used as an effect). FM and AM make use of modulator combinations, audio in and waveforms. If you drill down further to the actual waveform ingredients, there are a huge number to be explored. You start with the normal Sine waves and then go off through just about every wave you can think of and a gazillion that you can’t. There are waveforms based on big named synths, broad FM and AM waves, random waves… In total, a stunning and varied number to keep you occupied. And then there’s the effects. With Layer and Global FX Routing and a screen full of options and dropdowns, you couldn’t ask for more flexibility. Of course, what all of these options mean is masses of sonic potential, and there are 20+ instrument types (keys, bass, arpeggios, synths, etc) and then these are broken down by style, attribute, author and bank into sounds.
And with so many (within the Everything Bundle), I am certainly glad those categories exist as they do make selecting sounds a lot easier. It’s hard to describe an overall theme but ‘big and hard’ springs to mind – sounds with lots of energy, movement, and presence. Generally, you get presets that will sit well as the backbone of your mixes. I also love the way you can quickly up the number of parts to create massive walls of sound – kind of like ‘taking it to 11’ in synth form. Inevitably, there are a few weaker ones – maybe I could have done with less bells, and my quarter-century ‘keep brass out of synths’ campaign seems no closer to success. But there are many hundreds here that show Synthmaster off to the max and a full-bodied beast it certainly is…
Conclusion With so much going on, Synthmaster can be forgiven for occasionally doing the unexpected – preset
Alternatives We usually pick alternatives based on what we’ve tested, so first up is Rob Papen’s Blue 2. It too uses oodles of synthesis starting points and has masses of presets, so can be an alternative to pretty much any synth out there. But I’d also pick Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere 2, not because I’ve used it that much, but because I’ve never known reviewer Mark Cousins to be so animated about something, so it’s certainly beyond pretty much everything else in terms of sonic scope.
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names not changing or the dreaded spinning wheel when changing skins. The sheer scope will also be too much for some but I love the options to use it on a more basic level. Sonically, it should be all you need but I could say that about many soft synths – Blue II, Omnisphere and so on do what you want and a lot more, if you get to know them. And its testament to KV331 that I’m putting Synthmaster on the same level as those. It really does an incredible amount and in a nononsense, almost calm way. So sit back, don’t panic and enjoy the ride. MT
MT Verdict + Masses of flexibility + Well laid out + Lots of sonic ingredients and combinations + Surprisingly easy to get to grips with considering the vast scope + Great effects + Huge number of superb presets + Easy options are a bonus - Some will be put off by the sheer scale of it - Some sounds inevitably not great - Some small niggles and hangs Does what it says. It truly is a master of synths. Simple as…
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MT Reviews Big Fish Audio Vintage Collection
9/10 9 9/ 10 BIG FISH AUDIO
The Vintage Collection Sometimes you want a bit of dirt and warmth in your recordings. Hollin Jones road tests the Big Fish Audio Vintage Collection Details Price £280 Distributor Time and Space Contact Via website Web www.timespace.com System requirements Kontakt Player 5, free or full versions
Key Features ● Three Kontakt instruments ● Plug-in or standalone operation ● Individual instruments and multis ● Multis split by MIDI channel ● Onboard effects ● Harmoniser in string collection ● Drum mixer for drum patches
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n this age of perfectly crisp digital sound, it’s not uncommon to find people searching for a more imperfect quality for their productions. For some kinds of music, a bit of dirt or grime or a very slightly wobbly sound is exactly what’s called for to bring a sense of authenticity to tracks that may have been created inside a computer. The Vintage Collection combines three of Big Fish Audio’s virtual instruments, and each one fits the retro bill. Running inside Kontakt Player 5 free or full versions, it can work as a standalone or plug-in product and weighs in at around 16GB, though the library content can be moved to a secondary drive easily. The collection consists of three products, and when bought together represents a saving of over £130, so you are effectively getting three for the price of two. Thematically, they are linked and make up many of the kinds of instruments you might need if you were producing soul, funk or blues tracks, though they will of course work in other genres as well. The Strings and Horns collections are fairly self-explanatory and the Vintage Rhythm Section contains a range of instruments including drums, guitars, basses and keyboards. For the Multis, where more than one sound is present in a Kontakt patch they have been preset to use different MIDI channels. So if you load up a jazz group ensemble, for example, your drums will be on one channel, bass on the next and so on, and you can click
between them to play them, assigning different MIDI tracks for each one for easy recording. This also saves on loading lots of instances of Kontakt.
Exploring the collections Vintage Horns isn’t supposed to be clean-sounding, but rather captures the essence of 60s and 70s soul and funk horn sections. As such, it has some great preset horn sections, such as Memphis Soul, JBs, Detroit and Philly Soul and Oakland, all with specific combinations of horns. Every individual horn has its own player with a set of controls, each with on/off controls and an Amount knob. There’s tape saturation, high EQ and reverb plus a reverb-type control. It’s the saturation that probably does the most to add grit to the sound, though the EQ helps too. Vintage Strings does the same but for strings, emulating the violin string sections of R&B, soul and funk records of the 60s and 70s. Basing the sampling recordings on session notes from actual Motown recordings, players were recorded in authentic spaces similar to the ones used back in the day, rather than large concert halls. There are patches for two, six or 12 violins, and the interface has the same controls as the horns collection. What’s added here is a Harmonize section, where you can tweak the behaviour of harmonised patches to create chords and intervals. The Vintage Rhythm Section is a little wider in scope and contains different types of instruments, though
the Multis are helpfully pre-grouped into racks of stuff that belong together based on style. There are two interfaces: the first is a drum mixer for drum patches, with a nice old-fashioned look and feel. The other module houses all the other kinds of sounds and has three switchable effects sections. The first contains EQ and tape saturation, the second has distortion and delay and the third gives you reverb, a rotator effect and a wah control. These are available on every instrument, although they’re better suited to specific ones. So you can put distortion and wah on a piano, but it sounds better on a guitar. The Vintage Rhythm Section is basically the rest of your band, and very good it sounds too. There are three categories of instrument presets: jazz, R&B and rock – and within each one, individual instruments that can be loaded such as pianos, organs, Rhodes, drums, basses, guitars and so on. The Multis section has an impressive range of style-based setups, again with the instruments split across MIDI channels for instant playback and recording.
Go retro This is a great collection and achieves the aim of bringing warmth and a retro feel to a production, as opposed to the mechanically perfect quality you sometimes get with sampled instruments. This has been achieved through diligent recording and production as much as the effects in use inside the instruments. As ever with Kontakt instruments, extensive use is made of modifier keys, so you can trigger runs, patterns and melodies as well as playing regular MIDI notes. The Rhythm section is the most diverse of the three collections, but all three hang together very nicely. MT
MT Verdict + Great-sounding retro instruments + Good selection of sounds for whole productions + Simple to use + Rhythm section is highly diverse + Handy pre-split Multis + Variations accessible via keyswitches - String collection not massively diverse A very impressive collection of instruments for anyone wanting a more authentic, old-school flavour for their productions.
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MT Reviews Sonic Couture The Hammersmith
9/10 9 9/ 10 SONIC COUTURE
The Hammersmith Sonic Couture believes The Hammersmith might just be the ultimate grand piano sample library. Mike Hillier warms up the digital ivories and digs in…
onic Couture has made a name for itself with incredible sample libraries of a variety of weird and wonderful sounding instruments, from Balinese Gamelan to the Ondes Martenot and the Crystal Bachet. These instruments are a dream come true for composers who are likely to find it impossible to work with some of these instruments in the real world. So, it was with some surprise that we saw they had turned their attention to an acoustic grand piano. This isn’t the first time the company has sampled pianos, but previously the libraries have been at the weirder end of the spectrum, with bowed and plucked strings. The Hammersmith is a straight-up acoustic grand – a Steinway Model D no less. What Sonic Couture has found with this piano, however, is a rare Model D modified with a MIDI system. This enabled the team to capture the library in incredible detail without having to deal with the inconvenience of having a musician in the room. James Thompson from Sonic Couture tells us that the MIDI system didn’t respond to very quiet velocities, and so a human musician was required, but for the most part the company was able to record everything without a human presence.
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Details Price Standard Edition £99 / Professional Edition £199 Web www. soniccouture.com Minimum System Requirements PC Windows 7 or later, Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon 64 X2, 2Gb RAM (4Gb recommended), NI Kontakt 5.1 or later Mac OSX 10.7 or later, Intel Core 2 Duo, 2Gb RAM (4 Gb recommended), NI Kontakt 5.1 or later
Stop! Hammer time To record the instrument, Sonic Couture took the piano to British Grove, Mark Knopfler’s studio which is suitably close to Hammersmith in west London. The piano was then tracked with engineer Peter Henderson, who selected six microphone options in three different positions. For the close, detailed mic positions, Peter and Sonic Couture opted for a pair of Neumann M49s and a single AKG D19. For the mid positions, a pair of Schoeps MK4s and a pair of
really the only difference between the two editions of The Hammersmith. The different mic options provide a different set of tonal options, and with the Professional Edition you can select up to three microphones – one close, one mid and one room – to blend together to get the required sound.
If I had a hammer The Professional Edition is a pretty massive 52GB, and initial loading times were quite slow, but a quick Batch Re-Save in Kontakt sorted this out,
The sound is bright with a very wide feel as if the piano was laid out right in front of you Key Features ● 21 velocity layers with Anti-Repeat ● True Sustain Sampling ● 6 Mic/Positions (2 for Standard Edition)
Neumann KM133D, and for the room mics, there is a Neumann KU100 binaural head and a Decca Tree arrangement of Neumann M50s. The Standard Edition of The Hammersmith only has the Neumann M49 close mic pair and the M50 Decca Tree room mics, with no middle distance mic options. However, this is
bringing loading times down to only a few seconds. Despite being an enormous library only the mic samples in use are loaded, so you won’t find yourself maxing out your RAM with a single instance. To get started we muted the mid mics and selected just the Neumann M49 and Neumann M50 Decca Tree to
Sonic Couture The Hammersmith Reviews MT
give us an idea of how the Standard Edition fared. The close mics provided plenty of detail, with a strong attack. The sound is bright and in your face, with a very wide feel as if the piano was laid out right in front of you. The M50 Decca Tree by contrast was spacious and roomy. The attack is softened and while the image has width, it comes more from the room with the piano itself a more focussed point in the centre. The close mic is perfect for pop, rock and more modern jazz styles, while the Decca arrangement would suit a more classical style. By blending the two together you should be able to sit The Hammersmith into most mixes, especially when you consider that you can further sub-mix the sound with the built-in EQ and envelope controls.
Super sustain Things got really exciting when we engaged our Sustain pedal. Each note of The Hammersmith has been captured with true sustain, which gives
Alternatives Most samplers come with a grand piano by default, but upgrading to a dedicated library like The Hammersmith is a huge leap in realism. There are many great sounding pianos as alternatives to The Hammersmith, although many of these will have been recorded without a MIDI system, and will have to have relied on a human. One of our favourites is the Spitfire Orchestral Grand Piano (ÂŁ71) recorded at AIR Studios.
the piano an incredible realism when playing this way as compared to other piano models in our Kontakt library. Looking at the expanded Professional Edition the use of the mic positions opens up The Hammersmith even further. The mono AKG D19 close mic has a slightly boxy sound, with less air around the top-end, and a slightly more compressed sustain to the notes. This mic position is apparently based on an old Abbey Road trick The Beatles used, placing the D19 right up in the hole of the soundboard. The two mid-position mics have a similar, natural piano sound, plenty of attack, similar to the M49 up close, but with a little room balancing the sound out, and stereo field, which seemed more
natural than the wide close mic, but much closer than the M50 rooms. The Schoeps MK4 pair sounded a little more compressed than the Neumann KM133D, which seemed to have almost more transient detail than even the close mics. On their own the two mid mics are probably the most useful of all the six positions. However, by combining two or even three different positions together you can get just about every sound youâ€™d want out of The Hammersmith. MT
MT Verdict + Wonderful sounding piano + Six different mic options (Professional Edition) + True sustain - Heavy on system resources The Hammersmith is the most intricately detailed piano library weâ€™ve had the pleasure of using.
32 channels direct-to-USB Recording + Playback for X32/M32 Consoles Also works as a 32x32 computer audio interface
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MT Reviews Digitech Obscura Altered Delay
Obscura Altered Delay Stomp boxes aren’t just for guitars. Marcus Leadley continues his search for the ultimate one to use within a DAW set-up…
sing high-quality stereo effects pedals as hardware inserts with your DAW can be great fun, and lead to some highly creative outcomes. Digitech’s Obscura is an excellent candidate – offering true stereo I/O, a range of useful features controlled by physical knobs and excellent sound quality. The Obscura is designed to deliver distorted, darkened and degraded echos, so it’s ideal for some serious sound manipulation. The top panel graphic, featuring an illustration of a skeleton by the 16th-century anatomist Andreas Vasalius, sets us in mind of sonic surgery, but perhaps not of the sterile variety! Although it’s a digital pedal, analogue emulations are the Obscura’s main attraction: the rotary selector offers an analogue ‘bucket brigade’ emulation and a tape delay simulator. In addition, there’s a lo-fi emulation of a retro, 8-bit digital delay. The fourth mode, reverse, is designed to deliver backwards effects and textures with the initial signal stripped from the mix. The unit can function as both a mono and stereo delay and there’s a useful tap tempo feature. Then there’s the ‘tails’ switch, which allows you to choose whether the delay continues to decay naturally or is cut short when you click the effect off.
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Details Manufacturer Digitech Price £129 Contact Sound Technology Tel 01462 480000 Web www.digitech. com
One of the main advantages of using a pedal with your DAW is the fact that there’s a basic physical interface, which enables you to tweak multiple parameters on the fly. The Obscura is particularly good for this because you get two stacked controls – one for time/ repeats and another tone/degrade. The level control blends delay with your source sound – in reverse mode it controls only the repeat level. The Obscura doesn’t have a battery option, which isn’t an issue in the studio, but you’ll need to get your own 9V supply unit.
Practical tip The Obscura is, of course, a guitar pedal so there are the obvious benefits associated with manipulating their sounds in post-production rather than when you’re tracking. Guitar-wise, you’ll probably be working with a mono source and this lets you can pan the delayed signal in interesting ways. And because you can tweak the delay as the part develops, try doing so at the same time as the guitar is being played.
You may need to address issues concerning delay compensation, depending on how you intend to use the effect. Inserting the Obscura and then
The Obscura is designed to deliverdistorted, darkened and degraded echos so it’s ideal for serious sound manipulation ,
Key Features ● Four delay types: analogue, tape, lo-fi and reverse ● Tap tempo with beat divisions ● Repeat/hold ● Delay tails on/off switch ● True stereo I/O ● True bypass ● Stomplock knob guard, which prevents accidental adjustments
In Use Connecting the Obscura is as simple as hooking it up to a pair of your sound card’s ins/outs – this is particularly easy if you have them on a patch bay – and then managing the I/O at the insert point of a track, where you’d normally open a plug-in. You’ll then need to bus the output to an additional track in order to record the results.
engaging it with the level control at minimum shows how little effect the unit has on your initial signal, as there’s no obvious difference between this and the true bypass mode. The first three delay algorithms exhibit the characteristics of the technologies they emulate – analogue offers little top-end content, the Tape repeats are a mite warmer and more
Digitech Obscura Altered Delay Reviews MT
rounded than the original signal and lo-fi delivers a bright, clean sound which develops a lot of grit when you advance the repeat and degrade controls. Adjusting these controls for the analogue setting creates a dense moving-filter effect that blurs the sound, and with tape the result is to introduce a pseudo-chorusing effect with modelling of wow and flutter. There’s little point in using a hardware insert like this as a ‘set and forget’ processor in a mix environment – you really might as well use a plug-in or a rack effect – as pedals are best used real-time creative interventions. Not every sound you sculpt will be usable, but every now and again there’ll be a moment or two were tonal colour, gesture or rhythm stand out. These moments can be edited, looped or otherwise treated and added to a mix. Alternatively, they can kickstart remixes or entirely new tracks. The results you get very much depend on the source material. Drums, keys and brass can all
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Alternatives If you’re looking for digital flexibility and excellent sound quality from a pedal that covers delays, reverbs and pitch-shifting, the Eventide H9 (£489) is pretty much on the top of the pile. If you want a range of modelling delays that emulate specific bits of analogue kit, then TC Electronic’s Alter Ego X4 (£199) is another excellent choice and the Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler (£233.83) is a tried-and-tested option. And if you fancy a truly oddball vintage echo effect you’ll love the Catalinbread Echorec (£160), a simulator which tackles the Binson original.
be manipulated to deliver great, dub-like results. Vocals can get very trippy and the tonal colouration is extremely interesting. Manipulating field recordings and found sounds takes you into the territory commanded by acts such as Matmos, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Boards of Canada. The reverse setting is particularly interesting when it’s applied to drum tracks and the results can be layered into the original sound or used independently. Generally, reverse is quite difficult to work with but there’s a repeat hold function, accessed by turning the repeats knob fully clockwise, to help you create rich and lasting textures. MT
MT Verdict + Good sound quality + Stereo operation + Vintage echo simulations - Lacking a great sounding digital delay - A little limited by a two-second delay time A robust stomp box offering stereo in/out connections and a good level of parameter control. The sound quality is such that it can be used very effectively in the studio for both instruments and as a ‘punk’ hardware insert with your DAW. It isn’t a polite digital delay, rather a tool designed to create vintage-style tones, and the circuitry is such that you can push the sonic characteristics of various legacy technologies beyond what would’ve been possible with the original units. It’s definitely a cool and creative bit of kit.
MT Reviews Aston Microphones Origin
10/10 ASTON MICROPHONES
This British manufacturer has entered a very busy section of the mic market. Mike Hillier tests its debut, the Origin… Details Price £199 Contact Sonic Distribution Web www.astonmics.com
ston Microphones is a new British company, launched just in time for Christmas with four products – two microphones on sale now and two reflection filters (shipping January). We were lucky enough to get our hands on one of these microphones, the Origin. Origin is a fixed cardioid, largediaphragm condenser, designed and built entirely within the UK. The Aston team behind the Origin, and its sibling the multi-pattern Spirit, included not only the engineers at Aston, but also a selection of 33 producers, artists and recording and mixing engineers working in the UK – a list that includes the likes of Chris Porter (Bowie, Take That), Steve Levine (The Beach Boys, Culture Club) and Tony Platt (AC/DC, Iron Maiden). Multiple capsules and circuit designs were considered by the group before it was whittled down to the design we have here, ensuring the mic not only sounds great, but has a distinct, British sound.
The Origin story Key Features ● Largediaphragm condenser microphone ● Fixed-cardioid pickup pattern ● -10dB pad ● 80Hz high-pass filter ● Frequency response: 20Hz20kHz (+/- 3dB) ● Max SPL: 127dB
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The Aston Origin has a distinct industrial visual design. The body is unpainted steel, individually tumbled for four hours for a rugged finish, which should mean the finish can’t be damaged by scratches, as it’s already taken all the damage it can. The pad and filter legends are etched onto the steel, as is the company mantra “The art of performance”. The capsule is housed inside a random-weave mesh-knit stainless steel pop filter. This filter can be removed and washed if
necessary, and as well as shielding the mic from plosives, acts as electromagnetic shielding too, eliminating unwanted noise from the signal. The pop shield is protected by a waveform head, which can act like a spring, protecting the mic from being bashed about, and reforming to its original shape, even if dropped. Internally, Aston has fitted a shock-mount absorption system, which it claims eliminates the need to use an external shock-mount (in all but the most extreme applications), and enables the mic to be mounted directly to a stand. However, should you feel more secure with one, Aston will be selling the mics with an optional Rycote universal shock mount at a significantly reduced price.
Road test For our first tests with the Origin, we took it along to a vocal session with a female rock vocalist. The Origin had a stunning clear quality, with plenty of depth and a smooth, natural high-end. Blind testing with the artist against an AKG C12 VR showed a clear preference for the Origin, which seemed to capture the elusive ‘warmth’ in the vocal without sounding muddy. The signal from the Origin was also a good deal hotter than the C12, requiring around 6dB less gain. We ended up using the Origin for the rest of the session, without any EQ and only a touch of compression from a Fairchild 660. On our next session, we recorded electric guitar with the Origin. With clean, bluesy tones, the Origin focused
The Aston Origin is a serious contender in the already busy space of inexpensive largediaphragm condenser microphones. However, it held its own against mics 10-20 times its price. Sontronics – another British-designed microphone brand – offers the similarly priced STC-2, while sE and Røde both offer largediaphragm microphones in this price range and below. For more flexibility, you may want to consider a multi-pattern microphone, such as the Aston Spirit.
in on just the parts of the spectrum we wanted to capture. Unlike with many large-diaphragm condensers there wasn’t a lot of fizz in the top-end, which would need cleaning up; instead, it sounded instantly usable. The guitar tone just dropped into the mix, with no EQ at all. Switching to an overdriven, hard-rock guitar sound, the Origin had no problems. Again, the top-end seemed entirely contained, with no harshness, just a full-bodied tone, even in drop-D tuning. Our only reservation was that at extreme distortion settings, as might be used on a metal track, the lack of harshness might prevent the guitars from cutting through in the mix, but for all other forms of music the Origin would make a serious contender. Finally, we tested the Origin out on a grand piano. Placed about three feet above the strings at the front of the piano – almost immediately in front of the pianist – and pointed straight down. The lack of a shock mount made this positioning much easier than it otherwise would have been. The resulting tone was rich and warm, with plenty of attack from the hammers and only a little room spill. The bass notes came through clearly and without any noticeable roll-off, but the overall sound wasn’t hugely inspiring. Moving the mic into a more traditional close-mic position under the lid gave us the sound we were looking for. In this position, the piano had less attack and a richer sustain. We prefer having a second mic for a stereo image, but at the price the Origin is retailing for this shouldn’t be too hard to budget for. MT
MT Verdict + Great-sounding microphone + Built-in pop-shield + Internal shock mount - Natural rather than flattering In a world of me-too large diaphragm condensers, the Origin is a refreshing twist and a superb sounding mic for a variety of tasks.
-i i Acous ic F
1 /11/15 12:21
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Mini Reviews MT
KRK KNS 8400 Manufacturer KRK Price £129 Contact via website Web www.krksys.com
ur headphone catch-up continues, and now it’s the turn of a company that has a great rep for studio monitors, KRK, to go the ‘phones route. The distinctive KRK monitors, particularly the Rokit, have a huge following especially Stateside and a distinctive look – yellow cones anyone? Some would argue a distinctive sound, too. KRK is attempting to transfer the accuracy of these monitors into the KNS 8400 headphones which also come with a few expected and not so expected features. So, on top of a wide frequency response and accurate sound – which we’ll come to – you also get low distortion, an extended LF response and increased noise isolation (not complete cancellation, before you ask). The KNS 8400s also boast ‘memory foam’ ear and head cushions and are
9/10 9 9/ 10 Value
Key Features ● Closed-back, headphones ● 40mm neodymium transducer ● THD: < 0.1% ● Imp: 36 ohms ● Freq response: 5Hz-23 kHz ● Noise isolation: up to 30dBA ● Cable: 2.5 m, (8.2ft) detachable ● Sensitivity: 97dB SPL @1mW ● Weight (g): 232
€£$ light in weight so should fare well in the comfort stakes. Throw in a price of just £129 and you should be looking at a winning combination… if all of the above works out in practice. We can certainly vouch for the light weight, as at 232g they are only marginally heavier than our current reference ATH-R70x headphones, and a joy to use for long mixing at such a weight. The comfort factor is also very
iRig Pro Duo Manufacturer IK Multimedia Price £179.99 Contact via website Web www.ikmultimedia.com
K Multimedia seems to be one of the busiest companies in pro audio. Once renowned only for its software – AmpliTube, SampleTank and T-RackS being the main players – it is now, like other former software-only companies, also releasing all sorts of hardware. One of its main specialities is mobile audio, and iRig Pro Duo is aimed squarely at musicians who get struck with ideas while, according to the website, ‘hiking out in the middle of the woods… maybe mountain climbing in the Himalayas with a Sherpa’. Whether iRig Pro Duo would be among the essentials on an Everest expedition is debatable, but it’s certainly compact enough. You can fit the box in the palm of your (large) hand and it is lightweight and ‘properly’ portable. Use either two AA batteries (supplied), power via USB from your host device (standard USB, Android and
Key Features ● Mobile interface ● Dual XLR/TRS combo input jacks ● 48V phantom power ● 24-bit AD-DA converters ● Mini-DIN to Lighting, Micro USB OTG and standard USB cables ● Battery life: 3 hours (rec); 10 playback ● Dimensions (mm): 127x75x37 ● Weight (g): 197
iPad cables supplied) or with an optional DC adaptor. Connections are surprisingly fulsome too, given the size. As well as the aforementioned power ones, there are two proper 1/4-inch mic/line inputs, two balanced 1/4-inch outs, plus mini headphone and dials for pan and volume. Two switches for 48v phantom power (to connect a studio condenser mic) and direct monitoring (to listen to
good. They wrap around your head like an old familiar glove and in such a natural way that, when combined with their low weight, makes them very transparent in operation – you might even forget you are wearing them. Sound-wise, you won’t be disappointed as they are right up there with our reference ’phones. They have great imaging, you can pick out lots of detail in your mix and the closed feel and noise cancellation make for an incredibly immersive experience. At just £129, they are a third of the price of our reference ’phones, so this is an astonishing performance overall. The only negatives are the slightly enhanced bass might mean you pull back a little when mixing and the feel is a little ‘plasticy’. But these are minor next to the comfort, weight, sound and lack of external noise. Frankly, the 8400s are amazing for the price. MT
MT Verdict Such a mix of sound, isolation and comfort is rare at this price. Some of the best headphones around.
the input or processed signal) complete the line up with mini MIDI jacks and supplied cables. The interface was picked up immediately within Logic and worked straightaway, with the useful LEDs doubling as audio and MIDI indicators. In that sense, you really can get ideas very quickly into either your laptop DAW or mobile phone/iPad device, which is what it’s all about. The only let down was one of the Gain dials being a little stiff on our review model and requiring two fingers to move it, thanks to a not very prominent nodule for turning. Otherwise, it’s a great little mobile solution, and the software bundle is not to be sniffed at: £350 worth of IK goodies for iOS, Mac and PC and 6.5GB of content and download credits, making you glad when former softwareonly companies do go into hardware. MT
MT Verdict Great, compact interface with a much bigger set of features and connectivity than you might expect given both the price and size.
MAGAZINE January 2016
MT154.REV minis p99.indd 99
MT Mini Reviews
Wheeled Rack Trolley
Performance P880 Manufacturer Ultrasone Price £239
Contact Synthax T: +44 (0) 1727 821870
Price £79.56 Contact Studiospares T: 020 8208 9930 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.studiospares.com
E: email@example.com Key Features ● 12U + 8U rack ● Top section adjusts through 20 degrees ● Dimensions (mm) 600w x 600d x 1150h
ou might, like us, have got rid of some of your studio racks a few years ago but the comeback of studio hardware has meant a resurgence in kit like this, and this is one of the best trolleys out there to house your gear. Unlike others with the adjustable 12U angled section – ideal for mixers or rack synths and other gear you want the easiest access to – you also get another 8U section at the bottom. This front-facing part might be more suitable for gear you don’t always want access to – maybe some of your more esoteric outboard - but
it’s a useful bonus section. Wheels obviously help mobility and it’s a sturdy rack at a price much lower than some equivalent racks out there. Highly recommended. MT
MT Verdict Much more space than some wheeled racks and a lower price. Easy, plentiful racking!
couple of issues back we looked at the Ultrasone P820s, concluding that they are one of the most comfortable sets of ’phones we’ve tested and ideal for long mixing sessions. The 880s are at the top of the Performance range so boast a wider frequency range, the same weight and comfort and a higher price tag. The 880s are a great fit and feel snug and assured. We also got less of an emphasis in the bass area, which was slightly coloured on the 820s. The 880 sound is flatter and more accurate then, and surprisingly not too fatiguing which – like flat monitors – can happen with flat responses
Business Basics For Musicians
Creative Muvo mini
Publisher Hal Leonard Books
Contact via website
Contact Creative T: 020 8208 9930 W: www.uk.creative.com
aking music to make money is the ‘next step’ that many of us want to take and, MusicTech aside [thanks – Ed] there are few resources that help creatives become hard business heads. And apart from the over word processing – a symptom of today’s media conscious society where several grandiose words are used when a few simple ones would have sufficed – there is much to admire here. We like the overall message of tenacity and diversity and the changing roles of producers and other execs are explained very well. Inevitably, the business stuff has a US-centricity that might not work where you live, but treat the book as a general advice resource and you won’t go far wrong. MT
100 | January 2016
MT154.REV minis p100.indd 100
Key Features ● FR: 7Hz - 35kHz ● 32ohms ● Driver size: PET, 40mm ● SPL: 94 dB ● Accessories: 3m & 1.2m cable, 6.3mm adaptor ● Weight: 274g
Key Features ● 312 pages ● Chapters cover employment, law, management, publishing, selling and more ● Relationships and roles explored
MT Verdict As the publisher might say: “A resource management initiative to diversify key connections and expand opportunities to enhance global success and career harmony”. Or as we might say: “A thoroughly good read”.
hat could be better than a bit of Bluetooth? Water proof Bluetooth! Creative’s new mini USB speaker is pretty much as portable and loud as you can get from such a small speaker – not ‘house party loud’, but certainly ‘room and outdoor BBQ loud’ – and surprisingly good quality (in that some bass does exist!). It’s easy to set up: simply set your phone or other device to look for it after you press the Bluetooth button and the two will ‘speak’. It also acts as a speakerphone if you get a call. Battery life is good and there’s even a female robot voice to tell you what’s what. We’d suggest splash-proof is okay but wouldn’t risk more. Cool nonetheless. MT
9/10 9 9/ 10 over long sessions. So flat, comfortable and suitable for long sessions? That is a rare and great combination to achieve. MT
MT Verdict Good price, great sound, accurate and comfortable. Win, win, win and win!
Key Features ● Wireless Bluetooth speaker ● 3.5mm aux-in for connection to other devices ● Available in black, white, blue, and red ● Dims (mm) 190 x 37x 59 ● Weight 8kg
9/10 9 9/ 10
MT Verdict It’s portable, sounds louder than it should, and lasts for 10 hours in the rain. What more do you bloody want?
VINTAGE STYLE MICROPHONES Mini Reviews MT & OUTBOARDS «Vintage character for modern ideas»
Optical Compressor / Leveler
Inspired by the classic LA-3A. Using an electro-optical attenuator, a fully discrete signal path and three transformers. Offering a smooth and great sounding compression, a musical sonic signature and ease of use at an affordable price!
Trojan X32 Mixer Case Manufacturer Trojan
PRE-73 MKIII Key Features
Price £168 Contact Studiospares 020 8208 9930 Web www.studiospares.com
e reviewed the Cymatic Audio uTrack X32 last month, an expander for the best-selling Behringer X32 mixer (borrowed from Studio Spares for the test), and it came in this case, worthy of a review in its own right… If you’re investing in a live mixing console like the X32 you’re going to want to look after it, which for touring engineers/bands means getting a good flight case for it. You can get generic mixer cases in a variety of sizes, but getting your mixer to fit snug often means cutting away at the inner foam yourself. But if you’ve invested in a Behringer X32, then Trojan has you covered. The Trojan X32 Mixer Case is custom built specifically for the X32 mixer. The case is made of 9mm plywood backed with plastic to protect from scratches. The corners and edges are reinforced with heavy-duty aluminium and the inside is lined with a high-density foam. Trojan also build mixer cases for a selection of other popular consoles, including the X32 compact, and Allen & Heath Qu-16 and Qu-24. So even if you don’t have the X32 console it can be worth taking a look at their range. MT
MT Verdict Built for the X32 specifically, if you need a flight case, you’ll want this.
● Removable lid ● Designed specifically for the X32 console ● Weight: 27kg
The latest version of our big seller with several new features.
Tell a friend
Are you a happy owner of a Golden Age Project preamp? We will send you one of our microphones free of charge as thanks, if a friend of yours buy one of our preamps. Read about this offer here: www.goldenagegroup.se/tell.html
- the little brother The PRE-73 Jr offers the classic sound at an even more affordable price point. It has everything you need to make great sounding recordings and the insert jack allows you to connect one of our EQ-units to modify the tone of your tracks.
PRE-573 MKII New features: - Soft start circuit, lower noise - Increased «AIR» boost to 6 dB - Revised GAIN switch - Fully balanced Line input pad Add the EQ-573 and get a complete 1073-style unit in a compact format at a low cost.
Several of our outboard products are available in PLUS-versions that uses the UK made Carnhill transformers and inductors. PRE-73 Jr PLUS PRE-73 MKIII PLUS PRE-73 DLX PLUS PRE-573 MKII PLUS COMP-54 MKII PLUS
25%WINTER SPECIALS ON THESE GREAT SOUNDING TUBE MICS
TC 1 - 399 Euro with Accusound tube mic cable
WARM AND MUSICAL SOUND!
R1 Tube Active - 329 Euro two transformers and one tube FAT AND MUSICAL SOUND!
Webshop: goldenagemusic.se MAGAZINE January 2016 | 101
No VAT for customers with a valid VAT number. Free shipping within Europe in most cases.
MT154.REV minis p101.indd 101
MT Mini Reviews
Drum Werks XXX Punk Freeway Choice 9/10 9 9/ 10 Publisher Beta Monkey Music Price $29.99
Contact sales@betamonkey music.com Web www.betamonkeymusic.com
or Drum Werks XXX, Beta Monkey Music has turned it’s attentions to punk rock drum grooves with raw attitude and impeccable timing. The library is divided into seven folders of straight and shuffled beats, plus a folder of bonus loops and fills, and a superb multisampled collection of drum hits. All the loops and single hits are recorded from one session, with a powerful snare, deep but tight kick and sizzling cymbals and hats. This may be an issue for those who want more flexibility in the drum
Defected Percussion Shovell
Key Features ● 469 punk rock drum loops ● 125 to 200bpm ● Modern punk sound recorded in a single session ● 24-bit/16-bit Acidized Wav, Apple Loops (REX2 coming soon) ● 234 multivelocity drum and cymbal samples, plus 10 Kontakt instruments
sound, but makes it easy to mix and match loops or supplement grooves with extra hits. These loops are varied enough to use in multiple genres. MT
MT Verdict A varied and powerfulsounding loop library with a good balance of simple patterns and tight playing, alongside raw energy and exciting fills.
Price £14.95 Contact via website Web www.live-courses.com
ontrolling the stereo content of your tracks is an often overlooked skill in making pro-sounding tracks. This 12-video tutorial looks at basic panning through to more advanced techniques on drums, synths and vocals, and on individual tracks, busses and the master output. Rob Jones mostly focuses on Live’s built-in plug-ins, but the overall techniques are relevant to all DAWs, and one of the chapters covers third-party stereo processors. Throughout the course, various chorus and delay effects racks are made, which come bundled with the course alongside comprehensive written
notes to accompany each module, and a Live Project. The final video is a 30-minute long walkthrough on how to bring together all the techniques that have been shown to mix a finished track. MT
MT Verdict This is an exceptionally well written course that’s very easy to follow and packed with plenty of practical tips and techniques.
Publisher Groove 3 Price $35 ($15 one-month pass to whole site)
Key Features ● Overview of Alchemy 2 ● 37 chapters ● 2 hours, 52 minutes runtime ● Watch online, download or stream to iPad, iPhone & iPod ● Written by Apple Logic Certified Pro Eli Krantzberg
Contact via website
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org Web www.loopmasters.com
efected Percussion Shovell is a new library of live percussion loops and one-shots performed by Shovell from M People. The pack includes 765MB of loops and fills across a wide range of instruments including congas, bongos, djembes, dumbeks, agogos, cowbells, shakers, tamborines and more, all played with a balance of precision and energy. There’s also 256MB of one-shots with sampler patches including exotic oriental instruments and ambient toys. This is an extensive pack that provides a great variety of sounds. The tempos on offer make this most relevant to house music, but the inclusion of hits and REX files opens things up to other genres. MT
MT154.REV minis.indd 102
9/10 9 9/ 10
Key Features ● Over 2 hours of tutorials ● 9 modules and 3 bonus modules ● 10 downloadable Live racks and a Live project ● Covers multiple techniques for creating stereo width in Live ● Written and presented by Rob Jones
Alchemy 2 Explained
Visit Loopmasters.c om and use the co de MUSICTECH10 for an exclusive 10 % discount!
102 | January 2016
Complete Guide to Stereo Width by Rob Jones
● Percussion loops & hits ● Over 1GB worth of 24-bit audio ● 10 Sampler patches for EXS24, Kontakt, NN-XT, HALion and SFZ ● Performed by percussionist Shovell from M People ● 95 to 125 bpm
MT Verdict A large collection of tight percussion loops and hits that favours creative variety of sounds and instruments over purely repetitive riffs and content. Essential for any house producers wanting to add an organic touch to their tracks.
ogic users got an extra special treat in the latest update with a new version of Camel Audio’s Alchemy. The many complexities of this hybrid synth and sampler instrument are explored across 37 chapters in a new tutorial from Groove 3, presented by Eli Krantzberg. The videos are essentially broken into five sections, beginning with the presets and performance controls, and moving through source controls, modulation, the Source Edit window, and finally looking at the arpeggiator and the effects section. Krantzberg does a good job of giving an overall look at each section, and we gained a solid understanding of how the synth works as a whole. However, some of the audio examples used
could have been a little better for explaining the different synthesis types. Although you won’t find any real programming tips here, this tutorial is a great foundation to get you going with this beast of a Logic instrument. MT
MT Verdict A good starting point for anyone new to Alchemy and a thorough overview of the main features and functions.
Tiny Thunder Audio
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MT Feature 6 amateur mixing mistakes
MT Feature 6 amateur mistakes
6 AMATEUR MIXING MISTAKES AND HOW TO AVOID THEM 06
A good, thorough mixing session is essential to the success of your final track, but there are plenty of pitfalls to avoid. Rob Boffard rounds up six of the best, or should that be worst?
ook, we get it. Mixing is hard. Getting a good mix takes time, effort and skill, and getting a great mix takes all those things plus a truly titanic level of talent. The best way to become a good mix engineer is to, well, mix, and the good news is that this particular path is open to anyone, as long as you’ve got music to work with. While you’re
When every DAW comes with dozens of effects, it can be tempting to use everything building up that experience, maybe we can help make things sound a little bit more professional, by highlighting six mistakes amateurs often make. Oh, and we’ll tell you how to avoid them as well… 01
Too many effects
Well, why wouldn’t you? When every DAW comes with dozens of effects, and there are thousands more third-party ones available, it can be very tempting to
104 | January 2016
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use a little bit of everything on a particular sound: compression, EQ, reverb, delay and maybe a smidgeon of distortion on there as well. But let’s pull out an often-used metaphor: mixing is like cooking, and very few dishes are improved by throwing a dozen different seasonings into them. Usually, just one or two are all that’s needed. Same goes for effects. The best way to avoid this is to have a very good idea of what kind of sound you want, and work towards it. Experimenting is great, but you’ll save time and effort if you plan ahead a little bit. 02
We’re going to zero in on a particular effect here. It’s tempting to overdo the amount of reverb on a particular sound, especially if you’re using a really high-quality plugin and it sounds really good. But in almost all cases, you can get away with using very little of it and still obtain a solid-sounding end result. Too much reverb, where the tail is too long or the space too big, will muddy up your mix and make it harder for the sounds to stand out. Fixing this is easy: go with the minimum amount of reverb you feel you need. Trust us: it’s probably just about right.
6 unusual plug-ins Feature MT
EQ too sharp
Your EQ curves should be like gently-flowing undulations in the landscape. They should not look like Ben Nevis. A nice mountain range of curves and spikes may make you feel as if you know what you’re doing, but your sound will suffer in ways you can’t even imagine. A sound that’s been well recorded won’t need a lot of EQ – maybe a couple of tiny bumps here and there to bring out its natural qualities. Any cuts or boosts over 5dB and you’ve definitely gone too far. Cut rather than boost, and keep the Q as shallow as possible. If you find yourself needing massive EQ changes or narrow spikes, then you need to re-record the audio.
Not enough width
Mono versus stereo. We’ve heard every argument there is, ranging from initially doing the mix in mono to the joys of mono masters over stereo ones. We’re not going to get bogged down in things here, but we will say this: the pan controls are your friends. They create space in the mix, letting you raise the levels of instruments in the same frequency ranges without too much masking. Usually we’d advocate not pushing things too hard, but in this case, most amateurs often don’t pan things enough. As a result, the mix comes out sounding narrow and lifeless. Do yourself a favour,
Too much reverb will muddy up your mix and make it harder for the sounds to stand out and push things a little further than you normally would. We’d also recommend a good mid-side plugin, to help you create a more effective mix.
This is a common problem with a simple solution. So many amateurs get to the end of the mix, think ‘It isn’t loud enough!’ and compress the hell out of the master out. Sure, it makes it loud, but if you’re planning to get things mastered it’s going to make your life difficult. Also, you’re almost certainly crushing the hell out of all that good mix work you did. The solution is simple: nothing on the master out, ever, unless you’re mastering. Pull down the master fader while mixing, then slowly bring it up at the end, leaving around -3dB of headroom. 06
You’ve probably heard the term ‘The Loudness Wars’. It refers to the tendency among musicians to make things as loud and compressed as possible, with the hope of being more ear-catching. Whatever you might think of this, you need dynamics. Amateurs push and push, making things louder and louder, squashing their sounds with compression until they’re one big sausage-shaped mess. A pro? A pro respects the quieter parts of the track, knowing that having a few of them makes the loud bits louder. Be a pro. Don’t over-compress. MT MAGAZINE January 2016
MT154.6 ways.indd 105
LOGIC PRO X 2016
On sale now £8.99 with free DVD. Digital version £5.99. Available at WHSmith (UK), Barnes & Noble (USA) and all good bookstores in Australia, Canada, and throughout Europe. Or order online at www.musictech.net/tag/focus
Six of the best Buyer’s Guide MT
Six of the best Hardware
Details Price £5,997 pair Contact 01799 520786 Web www.unity audio.co.uk
Welcome to the MusicTech Buyer’s Guide, where we round up some of the best products recently reviewed in the magazine. This month, six of the best monitors for all price points and a variety of studio set-ups and situations…
Focal Alpha range Details Price £85 - £259 each Contact SCV London 0330 122 2500 Web www. focalprofessional. com
he Alpha 65 is the monitor of choice for the editor of this very magazine (this week anyway), but Huw Price looked at the extreme ends of the range for this test, and also found them to be excellent, particularly the entry-level model… “With the equalisation set flat the Alpha 50 produced more thump and width in the lows. In small rooms or close to walls you may find the port-assisted lift a bit too much, but notching the bass down by about 2dB tightened the 50’s lows. Our favourite thing about the CMS 40 is the sense of acoustic depth and realism in the soundstage. The clarity, accuracy and sheer audio quality this monitor provides is rare indeed at this price point.” He concluded: “Both of these models have much to recommend them, but for high-quality studio monitoring the Alpha 50 is the one we’d choose.”
BEST With sub
Dynaudio BM Compact MkIII
hen reviewer Huw Price tested these, he tried them with and without the sub. “Although the Compact MkIII is an accomplished speaker on its own, we found the BM9S elevated its performance. There was an immediate improvement in clarity, image depth and imaging. Most importantly, the midrange detail was significantly enhanced. The Compact worked superbly with the BM9S II, so if your budget will stretch to it, buy the entire system. Sounds superb, great build quality, easy to use. This is a high-quality near-field that works even better in conjunction with the matching BM9S subwoofer.”
Details Price £514 each, sub £946 Contact TC Electronic 0800 917 8926 Web www.dynaudio.com
Unity Audio Boulder MkII
he Boulder is one of the largest midfields on the market. You might be paying some serious money for them, but they are serious monitors. Reviewer Huw Price said: “Tonally, these are right on the money, and they have a tremendous sense of power and scale. Transient response is also first rate, revealing lightning-fast leading edges and no flabby overhang. Stereo imaging is also excellent, making precise instrument placement within a deep and wide soundstage easy”. He concluded: “Superb monitors with superior bass response, impeccable midrange and treble coherence. The tonal accuracy reveals all the fine detail. These new Boulders really are truly worldclass monitors.” MAGAZINE January 2016
MT Buyer’s Guide Six of the best
Tannoy Reveal 402
BEST Budget Details
Price £99 each Contact TC Electronic 0800 917 8926 Web www.tannoy.com
or the money, there’s little out there to match these. Indeed Huw Price was blown away… “Things are getting a bit silly when you can get speakers as good as the 402s for so little money. Sure you can pick them up on some deficiencies here and there if you want to be hyper-critical, but the frequency balance, imaging and clarity create a
very good overall impression. The bass remains solid, even down to 50Hz or so, below which there’s a fairly rapid roll-off. You may notice a peak around the 120Hz mark, but it’s pretty much in line with what you would expect. They have ample power, great looks and impressive sound quality for the price. Fine-sounding, a range of connection options and plenty of power.”
“You know that things are getting a bit silly when you can get speakers as good as these for so little money …” BEST Midfield
Details Price £2,000 each Contact Adam 07590 069007 or 0207 737 3777 Web www.Adam-audio. com
hese might be among the priciest – not to mention the largest – monitors in this round-up, but they are also right up there with the best sounding. “Ultimately, these Adams deliver the forensic detail, imaging accuracy, transient response, wide frequency range and flexibility needed for top-end professional monitoring. They’re also
commendably quiet, considering the sheer power of the amplifiers, and they can go extremely loud – but, most importantly, they’re very enjoyable to listen to,” said reviewer Huw Price before concluding: “They have an extremely transparent sound. You have every right to expect stellar sound given the price, but the S3X-H ticks every box, and won’t disappoint.”
BEST With amp
Munro Sonic Egg 150
hese Eggs are based on the respected sE Munro system and include a midrange EQ option, so are a great choice for a wide variety of uses. They are an excellent choice for project studios who are on a budget and might not want to invest in multiple monitors, but still want a high-end solution. Reviewer Mike Hillier
108 | January 2016
said: “The low-end feels punchy with a fast response that makes the bottom end sound a little more alive. This in turn leaves the low-mids sounding less strained, making it easier to make fine EQ decisions in this area,” concluding: “The new Egg 150 monitoring system is a solid improvement on an already great pair of monitors.”
Details Price £1,9 99 pair Contact Sonic Distribution 0845 500 2500 Web www. munrosonic.com
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MT Show off your studio
The best studio we’ve ever featured? Quite possibly…
Show off your studio
If you want to show off your studio – as these folks have – just send us a picture via the MusicTech Facebook page and we’ll get in touch with you… This month, possibly the greatest looking studio ever!
Pistol Reklambyrå Interviewee: Patrik Pistol Contact: email@example.com Tell us about your amazing space… The small studio is located at the bottom floor inside of a townhouse from 1961 in the suburb of Farsta, south of Stockholm. It’s a typically Swedish, family-friendly region about 15 minutes from central Stockholm and I live there with my wife and two daughters. The studio room was first my wife’s walk-in closet, so I had to do some really hard negotiation with her to get my hands on it. The sacrifice was huge, but it was worth it. My day job is to work as a marketing consultant with different companies in Stockholm. I pay my bills and drive my kids to school in a Toyota hybrid hatchback. But when I put myself in my ‘cockpit’, I transform into a secret underground agent – that’s how it feels, anyway! Maybe it’s a type of ‘man cave’, but without the draught beer, televisions and soccer scarfs. When I sit there with all my machines and let the creativity flow, I feel like a different person.
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The ceiling was lowered, tilted about a metre and filled with old children’s clothes, to work as a sound absorber and bass trap. I was really lucky to discover that the walls weren’t parallel, as they won’t generate standing waves in the small room. I also had to drill a hole 10 centimetres in diameter through the 30 centimetres-thick concrete wall for all the cables to my Mac Pro, which is in the room next to the studio, so it’s totally noiseless – my wife wasn’t so happy with that, either. The hole also works as a ventilation pipe. There are three important things in the studio that I should mention, aside from the gear. The first one is the little circular rear-view mirror I’ve placed strategically above my left screen. It protects me from silently tiptoeing offspring, who are attacking me from behind. The other thing is the little plastic, colourful and misunderstood Cacofonix (from Asterix). He reminds me that not everybody will appreciate your creations and gives me the strength
to go my own way. He also plays a wonderful miss-tuned melody if you press his lyre. The third thing is ‘The Big Switch’. It’s a power switch for the whole studio that’s placed in the ceiling at the entrance, so you don’t hit it by mistake). I’ve also got a fantastic, homemade talk box that I made from an old guitar speaker, a plastic tube and arena horn driver, which I found. You can make perfect Daft Punk-style talk box sounds with it. Amazing! So tell us about the gear you have in there… I use the analogue synths – Moog Voyager RME, Prophet 08 – and the Virus. Most of the other synths and outboards are just collecting dust. But they look cool. Which DAW? It’s Logic 9 and X. I used Cubase before but I felt that Logic was more stable and, somehow, used the CPU more efficiently. I feel more at home in Logic.
Show off your studio MT
Christophe Bourgouin Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Controllers for monitors and beats
Favourite piece of gear? It’s not a big surprise, really. It’s my Moog Voyager RME. It delivers that high-quality, fat and warm sound that I really love. I use it for all my productions and to make my own instruments (pistolinstruments.com). How do you use the studio? I use it in my ‘day job’ when I’m editing video, recording speakers for radio commercials, composing jingles or music for marketing. I also make songs just for fun. I never know how an idea will turn out. Next buy? I’m sorry to say that I have no more room for equipment – two square metres is a little limiting – but I think I can squeeze in a Roland MKS-80 or a Devil Fish TB-303 if I get my hands on them. Anything annoy you? The heat in the summer can be unbearable. I’ve a homemade ventilation system but it can’t handle the pressure when it’s too hot outside. The small space makes it impossible to record bands or large instruments. Dream piece of gear? The Synclavier II sounds amazing to my ears, or a heavy Yamaha CS-80 would be nice.
Sain’s set-up: The ‘West End’ console… ‘nothing fancy’
What are your components? Cadac J-type console, TK Audio BC1-S, Focusrite RED3 and dbx 160s compressors, Yamaha SPX1000; TC Electronic M2000, Roland SD delay, PMC TB2S-AII and Genelec 8020B monitors, plus mics by Neumann, AKG, Audio-Technica, Sennheiser and Shure. Which DAW? Pro Tools 11 with UA Apollo interfaces. It’s the industry standard and sessions are easily transferable from any pro studio.
The rear-view mirror, Cacofonix…
… and ‘The Big Switch’
Favourite gear? The console was mainly used on West End shows and its fantastically warm analogue sound makes up for the lack of features. It’s the closest to a Neve for a quarter of the price! I’m lucky to have its designer, Anthony Waldron, maintaining it for me.
Any advice? As always, get your listening right. Use absorbers and diffusers to minimize the ‘room sound’. Make sure there are no parallel walls that make standing waves. And my best advice is, of course, to make it look cool. Because it will help your creativity a long way. Patrik in the cockpit
How do you use the studio? I work with solo artists and bands. I don’t have hourly or daily rates as it’s part of the package working with me. Next buy? Some expansion packs for my Superior Drummer software, to widen the sound palette. Anything annoy you? Mixing out-of-the-box makes total recall for a session difficult – you need to make notes of your settings. Dream piece of gear? The Bricasti M7, the best sounding reverb ever. I wish I could afford the full system with the remote. Any advice? It’s better to spend money on acoustic treatment than fancy speakers as you won’t get the benefit of them in a bad room. You need to be able to trust your room to make accurate decisions. MAGAZINE January 2016
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MT Show Showoff offyour yourstudio studio
Robert Mash Tomcik Contact: email@example.com
Robert’s studio, with his prized Tascam 34 in pride of place
Sain’s set-up: ‘nothing fancy’
An enviable outboard setup
Your key studio components? RME FireFace 800 soundcard, Dynaudio BM6 MK1 and Fostex PM1 monitors, Tascam 34 reel-to-reel, Lexicon MX200, Vitalizer MK2 T, TL Audio dual-valve EQ, Ivory 2 and Ebony A2, SSL G Series compressor (clone), TC Powercore Firewire, Access Virus TI, Novation 49SL MK2, Akai APC 20, 2x Technics SL-1210 MK2, Rane Empath limited edition (gold), Grand Master Flash Mixer, and PC. Which DAW? I use Ableton Live, Reason, Cubase. Live was the first DAW I learned and has the best flow. I use Reason Rewired and mix my projects in Cubase. Cubase provides me with more possibilities for mixing but for producing I prefer Live. Favourite piece of gear? Everything I have at home! There isn’t a lot but all of it is in use. My favourites are the Technics decks with my vinyl collection and the Dynaudio monitors and RME Fireface 800. They were hard to get but, as I said, every single piece has a place in my heart. How often are you in your studio? Hours and hours each week. I try to produce and learn something new every day but find a balance so I also spend time with my friends and pets. How do you use the studio? Only by me and for fun. I’m part of two music projects: Robert
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Mash Tomcik (which is mainly deep house and house), and Robodis, a collaboration with a guy from Poland which is more deep, dub techno. Anything annoy you? Nothing really. Maybe, in the future, I’d like to have a specific space for my studio instead of the living room but, for the moment, and as a hobbyist music maker, I’m happy to have it here. What is next on your shopping list? There’s still plenty I want to get but, step-by-step, I’m buying gear I need or want to have at home. I do need a drum machine so next on my shopping list is Roland’s AIRA TR-8 drum synth. Dream piece of gear? I was thinking about the Yamaha DX7 because I played it in the Sensoreal guy’s studio. But as I have limited space, I’d go for Yamaha Reface DX and Reface CP – I think the sound would be great. I also want the UAD plug-ins – I don’t use many plug-ins, but these sound fantastic. There are many dream pieces but I’m trying to be realistic and know what I can afford and what I can’t. I’ll go step-by-step and buy what I need.
full of gear and looked like it was from an old movie. He was full of life stories, played piano for us and showed us posters of his 80s band. He sold me a beautiful Tascam 34 for a very good price and when we were leaving, he disappeared back in his house and came back and gave us a pair of Auratone monitors from the 50s – for free! They’re the same as those used by the Sensoreal guys in the Seta Label studio. In total, the trip took two hours but this man left an unforgettable impression… Any advice? Get to know someone who’ll show you the beauty of analogue machines and give you advice on what to buy. Invest in a good-sounding interface and monitors. Only then should you go after the gear. MT
Any studio anecdotes? When I was buying my reel-to-reel recorder, I responded to an advert. We went to collect the machine, and a lovely, 80-year-old gentleman was selling it. His studio was small but
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Producer Defazed shows how to import samples and create wavetables. There’s also a video from Rob Jones exploring new features in Live 9.5, and producer Capsun creates a vocal trap lead using Maschine. Size 289MB Format MP4 Web www.producertech.com
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The new Alchemy in Logic X is a bit of a monster. Luckily, the experts at Groove 3 are here to help with six videos on the filters, morphing, cross-fading, sequencer and arpeggiator. Size 160MB Format gPlayer Web www.groove3.com VIDEO FEATURE/26MINS
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ROB PAPEN RP-EQ (Windows, Mac OSX) RP-EQ features an X/Y pad, Air section and M/S and mono/stereo split filter modes. www.timespace.com MELDAPRODUCTION MXXX (Windows, Mac OSX) Modular effects beast with over 70 processors. www. meldaproduction.com AUDIOTHING VINYL STRIP (Windows, Mac OSX) Multi-effects plug-in for
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PROFESSIONAL MULTI-PATTERN CONDENSER MICROPHONE Every microphone we design is born from our total commitment to precision. With the new C314, it starts with the one-inch, dualdiaphragm capsule that builds on our legendary C414 XLS capsule. It extends to the integrated suspension, dramatically reducing noise for pure, faithful recordings. And it culminates in the switchable polar patterns and overload detection LED, making it both versatile and user friendly. In short, you can focus on the details of your performance because we’re totally focused on the details of our mics. FIND OUT MORE AT WWW.AKG.COM/C314 © 2015 HARMAN International Industries, Incorporated. All rights reserved. AKG is a trademark of AKG Acoustics GmbH, registered in the United States and/or other countries. Features, specifications and appearance are subject to change without notice. Designed and engineered in Vienna, Austria.