Neve 8816

outboard-88-series-8816-1AMS Neve has always been one of the leading names in the professional audio industry.  However, many of their products were large analogue consoles.  So for many with home studios, Neve products have been a bit out of reach.  Neve has kept up with the times, however, and created products aimed for these smaller studios.  One such product is the 8816 Summing Mixer.

Right out of the box, you may be surprised at the size of this device.  The 8816 hangs 14 inches behind the rack braces.  It’s not as heavy as you might expect, though.  The smooth, sleek knobs and buttons might not seem too durable, but the 8816 is actually solidly built.  Part of the lightness is due to the back that the power supply is external.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the many different controls on the front—you’ll get used to them, and they really give you many different options.  This is more than just a 16-to-2 mix engine, after all.

The 8816 can be summed up in one word, and that word is “flexibility.”  You’ll be amazed at how much you can do.  Part of this is because almost every knob and button has two functions, which means you’ll need to be certain you’re on the right setting each time.  You’ll have no trouble with that after reading the handbook (a must in this case).  Some controls aren’t really intuitive. Continue reading »

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Dynaudio BM 12A

Dynaudio BM 12AEvery studio needs a good set of reference monitors that accurately reproduce sounds coming from the mixer.  Cheap monitors just don’t do this.  While the Dynaudio BM 12A set of monitors may be a little expensive, they are also very accurate and well-designed.  Dynaudio, a company based in Denmark, has 25 years of experience in creating speakers, and they’ve put all of that experience into the BM 12A.

The BM 12A isn’t meant for use in a huge performance space.  Instead, this two-way, active near-field monitor is designed for use in home and project studios in relatively close quarters.  Opening up the box, you might be a bit surprised at how it looks.  Sometimes monitors are simply boxy, unattractive things, but someone took the time to make the BM 12A look pretty nice.  It’s also lightweight—each one only weighs about 27 pounds.  On the back is one XLR connector for input.  There aren’t any RCA or ¼ inch plugs, so note that you may need to buy a new cable. Continue reading »

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Coles 4050 Stereo Ribbon Microphone

Coles 4050 Stereo Ribbon MicrophoneColes Electroacoustics has been developing microphones for more than 30 years.  While their first mics were broadcast models, they later branched out into ribbon mics for recording vocals.  While the 4038 has been their most recognized studio model for several years, their new 4050 model is poised to take over as their main mic.

The 4050 is actually a matched pair of mics mounted on a very versatile magnetic mount.  Each of these mics is a 4x2 inch cylinder that can be completely detached from the magnetic center ring mount.  Thanks to the stereo/dual mono mounting system, you can use the capsules individually if you have a second mount, or combine them and use the double capsule setup.  Coles actually offers a second mount if you want to use the two capsules separately.  Coles even offers a combo package that comes with two mounts.  The 4050s have a hotter output than a lot of passive ribbon mics, but they need a clean preamp with a lot of gain to sound outstanding. Continue reading »

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Radial Engineering Workhorse 500

Radial Engineering Workhorse 500Radial Engineering has created a number of top quality, very sturdy devices that are incredibly useful and innovative.  The Workhorse 500 merges two different ideas into one.  First, it offers eight different 500 Series card slots, but it also has an eight-channel mixer with main, panning, and more.  The entire unit is rackmountable and actually fairly affordable.

But the Workhorse 500 is more than just a 500 Series rack and more than a mixer.  In fact, it has plenty of little features and differences that truly set it apart from other devices.  One example is the Feed switch included in the I/O section of each card.  This takes the output from one unit and internally transfers it to the input of the adjacent card.  You can also have the module feed the mixer internally.  Each module also features a ¼ inch TRS Omniport.  This provides extra abilities depending on the function of the module.  For example, it can become an instrument input if you’re using Radial PowerPre.

The mixer is a very clean device that has a nice, solid design and operates with very low noise.  Each channel features an on/off switch, confidence meter, panner, and rotary level control.  The control feeds into the main output bus, volume control, and monitor bus.  The Workhorse works very well with both Radial 500 Series modules and modules by other manufacturers.  Unfortunately, not all of the third-party devices make use of the added feature set on the Workhorse (the Omniport, for example), but some do.

Despite any small issues with third-party devices, you’ll find that the Workhorse 500 is definitely a great device for multitasking and combining all of your 500 Series modules (and others) into one device.  It’s got a lot of features and it sounds really nice.  It retails for $1,600.

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ADAM A8X Powered Monitor

ADAM A8X Powered MonitorMany engineers have been using ADAM speakers for years, and there’s  good reason for it: they’re incredibly good.  Based on Dr. Oskar Heil’s Air Motion Transformer, ADAM has taken the idea and ran with it.  Over the years, they have improved on the Air Motion Transformer, but they’ve also worked to bring the cost down.  The A8X employs some of ADAM’s innovative technologies while staying within your budget.  The ribbon tweeter, another name for the Air Motion Transformer, is at the core of the A8X.  It actually uses something ADAM calls X-ART, or extended accelerating ribbon technology.

When you take the A8X out of the packaging, you’ll notice right away how powerful it looks.  It features a 8.5-inch carbon/glass-fiber/Rohacell woofer that gets 150WRMS and a 56mm X-ART tweeter that can receive 50WRMS from the amps.  The frequency reproduction is divided between the two; the woofer handles everything below the crossover frequency of 2.3 kHz, while the tweeter deals with the upper range up to 50 kHz.  The A8X is front-loaded and features dual-ports, which extend the LF response time down to 38 Hz.

On the rear panel, you’ll find inputs for unbalanced RCA or balanced XLR.  Both are active all the time, so you’ll have to use one or the other—there’s no switch to control which is on.  Once your monitors are up and running, you’ll hear some really nice imaging and a huge sweet spot.  The bass response is really nice and fills up the room.  However, some sounds like female sopranos or midrange string instruments recede a bit and aren’t as pronounced as you might like.

Overall, the A8X is a good speaker system, even though it does have some drawbacks.  Some sounds might seem different on the A8X, especially the critical midrange.  However, for the price of $999 each, these speakers are certainly a good bargain.

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M-Audio ProjectMix I/O

The M-Audio ProjectMix I/O is a multi-DAW mixing platform that features motorized faders.  It’s designed to offer professional mixing equipment for those who mix from home or small studios, making them competitive with larger studios.  This I/O device borrows a lot from M-Audio’s FireWire 1814 audio interface, but it goes beyond that.  It adds in even more I/O abilities and a durable control surface.  It’s compatible with a number of different software, including DirectX, WDM, Core Audio, Pro Tools M-Powered 7, and GSIF2.  With one of the widest compatibility range out of any I/O, the ProjectMix can be quickly and efficiently integrated into almost any set up.  It also supports Mackie Control, Logic Control, and HUI, so it works with Live, SONAR, Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, and Nuendo.

The device features eight channel strips with touch-sensitive motorized faders.  There are also solo, channel select, record-arm, and mute buttons, plus eight rotary encoders that can be assigned to different functions.  Illuminated locater and transport controls, a channel zoom with four navigation buttons, channel/bank shift, fader flip, and a job/scrub wheel complete the controls on the device.
ProjectMix I/O features almost every kind of I/O possible.  It has eight analog mic inputs with individual control switches and gain knobs, an ADAT Lightpipe I/O, word clock, S/PDIF I/O, a MIDI interface, and a hi-Z instrument input.  It supports sampling rates of 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96 kHz on all ports.  It can truly handle just about anything you may need it to.

There’s really just one major downside to the ProjectMix I/O, and that’s the cost.  It retails for $1,599.95.  However, for everything it does, that’s not a huge expense.  You can also add Pro Tools M-Powered 7 for an extra $299.

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Sennheiser EW112P B-Band G3 Wireless Mic

Sennheiser EW112P B-Band G3Sennheiser’s EW112P B-Band G3 wireless mic system features three different components: there’s the ME 2 clip on mic, the bodypack transmitter, and the diversity receiver, which can be mounted on a camera for easy use.  The wireless mic transmits on the B band between 626 and 668 MHz.  This combination is great for recording and reporting out in the field where more powerful mics are not an option.  The portability and flexibility of this package is going to win over a lot of people.

The EW112P’s clip on mic is designed to reproduce speech in a very clear and natural way, making it easy to both hear and understand.  The bodypack transmitter is as compact as one can be, while the diversity receiver easily clips onto the shoe mount of any camera.  This mic is capable of providing the same quality sound asy ou’d get in a professional TV studio, even if the elements are against you.  There’s nothing more you need, either—this package contains everything requires to record sound.

Here are a few additional features found on the EW112P: it has an enhanced frequency bank system that is capable of 12 different frequencies.  It eliminates RF interference when you have the transmitter off, and it uses adaptive-diversity reception to transmit without any loose of signal integrity.  Everything is done wirelessly.  The system is easy to set up and modify, too, thanks to its illuminated graphic display and user-friendly menu.  It’s all right at your fingertips! Continue reading »

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Sony PCM-D50 Handheld Recorder

Sony PCM-D50 Handheld RecorderThe PCM-D50 handheld recorder by Sony is a nice, compact recorder that features many of the same features as the PCM-D1, only it doesn’t include the high price.  The P50 is also smaller and more portable than the larger D1.  This is because Sony has removed the D1’s peak meters, titanium case, and rechargeable battery pack and replaced them with aluminum, four standard batteries, and an AC power supply.  While these features may be missed, the fact that the D50 is much more affordable, lighter, and smaller are definite pluses for many.

Taking the D50 out of the box reveals a small control unit and two swiveling electret cardioid condenser mics.  This gives you the same type of point and record features that the D1 has.  The unit also features a headphone out jack, external mic input, and analog and digital I/O options.  The device has 4GB of internal flash memory for recording, but it also has a Pro HG Duo slot so you can add more memory as needed.  It records files in either 16 or 24-bit depths and at rates of anywhere from 22.05 kHz to 96 kHz.  The files are in WAV format.  A USB 2 connection lets you connect and transfer files to a PC or MAC, but you can always record to the memory stick and transfer files that way if you prefer.  The recorder comes with Sound Forge Audio Studio LE sound editor software.

The D50 features an internal file system that has ten different folders.  Each one can hold 99 recorded files in it, so you can have a total of 990 files on the internal memory.  The menu system on the control unit lets you view the current folder, search and delete files, and play back files.  The backlit LCD screen is viewable in most areas, although it may be a bit hard to see under bright lights or outdoors.

The D50 records very clean digital audio, and it’s very easy to use.  It retails for $599

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Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter

Waves Aphex Vintage Aural ExciterThe Model 402 Aphex Aural Exciter was produced during the mid 70s, and it was instantly popular.  However, there were only a few units produced, and they were never available for sale—they could only be rented, and the price was not cheap.  These devices used a tube-powered processor that added harmonics to the audio signal, and many of the big names of the era loved them.  It could add or enhance the details on each track and on the overall mix.  Following the huge success, Aphex created a cheaper solid-state version for retail, and it looked like the monstrous tube units were gone.  However, that all changed when Waves got their hands on one of the original tube-based devices and recreated its distinctive sound.

The Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter is a cross-platform plug-in that brings everything the original product had right to your studio.  It comes in Native and TDM versions.  It features mono and stereo configurations, and you can record in resolutions up to 24-bit/192 kHz.  While the original model may not have had these features, Waves wanted to bring the Aural Exciter into the modern world while still keeping its amazing sounds.  To that end, they kept the original’s idiosyncrasies.  For example, the first Aural Exciter created different sounds when used on a mixer’s channel insert than it did when using the aux send/return path.  Waves has recreated both types of sounds and created a mode for each, the MIX2 and AX modes.  It’s easy to switch between the two and get the most out of them.

If you want to capture sounds from the past, you’ll love this plug-in.  It sounds especially great on snares, vocals, and electric bass.  You can purchase the Aural Exciter individually, but it also comes as part of the Waves Mercury Bundle.  By itself, it retails for $250 (Native) or $500 (TDM).  The Mercury Native costs $6,300; the TDM version is $9,900.

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Neve Quad 4081

Neve Quad 4081The Neve Quad 4081 mic preamp builds on one of Neve’s top devices, the 1081 and its upgrade, the 1081R.  The Quad 4081 offers a lot of control over your sound, especially vocals.  The Quad actually takes four 1081s and merged them into one device.  These are the exact same preamps that Neve has been building since 1972, and they’re just as amazing and great since then.

You can control each of these 1081s from the front panel or remotely using the Neve Remote Control software.  It makes it very easy to adjust all of the different features.  Each 1081 has a dial for adjusting the gain plus six buttons to activate different options.  A digital display lets you easily see what the different 1081s are set on.  The software functions with both Macs and PCs and can be used with various DAW systems like ProTools.  You can even control multiple 4081 units by linking them together.  You can create a chain of 64 different 1081s together, giving you many options.

Neve has also included an optional digital card with the Quad 4081.  It provides a FireWire/AES interface for the device, giving you four channels of A/D conversion to FireWire or AES.  You can use the insert point on each channel for external Outboard equipment, switching it into the signal path quickly and easily.  Another option is the 19” rack mounting kit, which you can use for two 4081 units.

If you truly need a large number of 1081 units, there’s no need to buy them all separately.  Since you can chain a number of 4081s together, you might as well go for convenience.  The remote control option is very useful, as is the FireWire option.

For more info be sure to check out the AMS Neve website: http://www.ams-neve.com/products/outboard/4081/4081.aspx

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