Archive for Buying Guides

Universal Audio 4-710d Preamp

Universal Audio 4-710d PreampUniversal Audio’s 710 Twin-Finity was one of the top preamp devices: versatile, innovative, and even affordable.  However, it did not come in stereo.  A few years later, Universal Audio addresses this concern with the 4-710d Preamp, which includes everything the 710 did plus stereo and more.  It’s a four-channel preamp that includes compressors for each channel, a digital 8-channel A/D converter, switchable inserts, a clock subsystem, and soft limiting, just to name a few of its new features.

Each preamp channel has DI input and six switches.  It has controls for insert, compressor, input and output gain, and a feature that blends solid-state and tube sounds.  You’ll find inputs for XLR mic, line, and a balanced insert send/return, plus four extra TRS inputs.  There are also AES/EBU outputs, a word clock I/O, and two ADAT outs.

The preamp outs very nice with just about any instrument.  When used with a piano, for example, it can really create a nice, sweet top end that cuts through other sounds.  Likewise for a guitar: it can help it cut through a lot of other sounds, giving it a bit of an edge.  This preamp may not be the best for drums, however. Continue reading »

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Universal Audio UAD-2 Satellite

Universal Audio UAD-2 SatelliteThe Universal Audio UAD-2 Satellite is a plug-in accelerator that allows you to use your UAD-2 plug-ins via FireWire.  There are two different versions of the Satellite: a two-chip version and a four-chip version.  While other companies seem to be getting out of the plug-in accelerator industry, Universal Audio has gone all-in and has included many different options with the UAD-2.

The UAD-2 is about the size of an external hard drive, so it doesn’t take up a whole lot of room.  It comes with different plug-ins depending on which bundle you get.  The Analog Classics bundle, for example, features two compressors (LA-2A and 1176LN/SE), an EQ (Pultec EQP-1A), and the RealVerb Pro plug-in.  You also receive a $50 voucher for other plug-ins from the large UAD library, letting you instantly customize your UAD-2.  Connecting the device is also very easy.  Just connect the FireWire port, install the software off the CD, and then complete the registration on the Universal Audio website.

One of the new features on the UAD-2 is that it allows Mac users to access all of the UAD-2 plug-ins if they have FireWire 400 or 800 ports.  The  Satellites use two or four SHARC processors to allow access, which frees up each computer’s RAM for other programs.

Once everything is up and running, you can explore all of the new UAD-2 features.  Their new control panel lets you configure your plug-ins, organize your licenses, and even get help.  The UAD Meter tracks your system resources.  It’s all laid out very nicely and is intuitive. Continue reading »

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Audio Technica AT4033

Audio Technia AT4033Audio Technia is known for a number of creating top quality mics, and the AT4033 definitely keeps up that tradition.  The AT4033 cardioid mic has actually been updated and slightly revamped into the AT4033a.  This redesign has updated a few things Audio Technica wanted to change and features new internal electronics.  By changing up the mic’s capsule suspension system, they’ve managed to even further reduce the noise the mic picks up.  While the original was a hit and is now a studio classic, this redesign takes it even further.

The AT4033a’s capsule is built around a gold-deposited, two-micron diaphragm.  It doesn’t use any transformers.  The diaphragm has been artificially aged to ensure long-term stability.  The amp can handle anything up to 145 decibels without more than one percent of total harmonic distortion.  The AT4033a also has a high-pass, 80hz, 12 decible/octave filter that can be turned on or off via a switch on the body. Continue reading »

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API The Channel Strip

API The Channel StripAPI’s The Channel Strip is a 500 series compressor, EQ, and preamp all on one rack mountable device.  It’s more or less a combination of three of their 500 series processors, so if you own the 512C mic preamp, 550A EQ, and 527 compressor, you won’t notice any major changes in quality.  However, if you don’t, it’s great to be able to combine three devices into one and rack mount them out of the way.  With 11 different I/O jacks, including XLR channel out and TRS line input, you’ll find plenty of ways to connect devices.  The Channel Strip does have a few faults, but it is handy to use and does get the job done.

One of the issues is that the layout of the controls is a bit odd.  For one, API didn’t just fuse three products together—the controls on The Channel Strip don’t always match up to the controls on the three individual devices.  That’s not too big of a problem, but it does mean you’ll need to get familiar with The Channel Strip before you can really use it effectively.  A few other things, such as the lack of a dedicated output gain control on the compressor, are a bit annoying. Continue reading »

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Project SAM True Strike 2

Project SAM True Strike 2Project SAM was formed by three composers in 2002: Vincent Beijer, Marco Deegenaars, and Martin Spruijt.  These three wanted to create a sample library that featured well-recorded, high quality music that packed an emotional punch.  Their main audience for their library collection was film composers.  In 2002, they released their Horns library, followed by a number of other brass library collections.  In 2004, Project SAM created True Strike, a collection they called a Cinematic Orchestral Percussion library.  True Strike 2, an updated version, has the subtitle of Cinematic World & Effects Percussion, and it features some incredibly high quality samples.

All of the recordings are done in three variations: close, far, and stage.  True Strike offered the same samples recorded in each of the three settings, but True Strike 2 offers up different material for each variation.  If you have to make a choice because of hard drive space, the Stage setting is probably your best bet.  You can add reverb to each of the stage sounds to make them sound like they’re being played in different sized spaces. Continue reading »

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Kurzweil SP2X

Kurzweil SP2XThe Kurzweil SP2X is a slim, sleek looking stage piano that is designed to take up little space while still delivering amazing sound.  The keyboard is also very lightweight, making it a great selection to haul around from gig to gig.  The SP2X makes use of Kurzweil’s stereo grand piano sample, but they’ve upgraded it a bit.  It’s a little smoother than previous keyboards, such as the PC1X, and more expressive.

When it comes to controls, the SP2X lets you adjust just about everything.  Four knobs handle MIDI control, effects, and zone volumes for layers.  LED insets tell you which bank, function, or sound is active, although it might take you a little time to become familiar with how Kurzweil has labeled the sound selection buttons and LEDs.  However, it’s not that difficult, and you’ll be used to the layout after a few hours. Continue reading »

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Big Fish Audio LA Drum Sessions 2

Big Fish Audio LA Drum Sessions 2There are a number of different drum and percussion libraries out there, and sometimes it can be hard to tell which one is perfect for your projects.  Among the number of offerings from Big Fish Audio was the popular volume one of LA Drum Sessions.  This sample library was a huge hit, but they weren’t 100% happy with it.  They went back to the drawing board and created LA Drum Sessions 2, another set of amazing drum sounds that is a must-have for anyone who uses loops. These samples really bring you a nice variety of genres, tempos, and feels that you can use to make some killer scratch demos and beyond. The approach of the LA Drum Session offering is live tracks played by top session players.

The content in LA Drums Sessions 2 is available in a number of different formats.  You can pull the files off the disc in WAV, AIFF, Apple Loops, or REX file format.  There are over three gigabytes of files here, so you’re going to need some free space to play with this library.  Of course, if you don’t want all of the samples, you can pick and choose which ones you want to import.  After installing them, you’re free to play around and do whatever you want with these top quality sounds.

The library features room, wet, and dry versions of each sample.  You can tailor each to individual productions.  The loops have been sampled at 15 different tempos, and these can be mixed and matched very easily.  They were all recorded from high quality instruments using outstanding mics.  If that’s not enough, you also get some great fills that you can use as a starting point for a project or edit in your favorite sound editor until they’re just right.  The LA Drum Sessions 2 also has a great price tag: you get this huge library for $99.95.

For audio samples check out the Big Fish Audio website:

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Focusrite ISA828 Review

Focusrite ISA828The ISA828 by Focusrite is a powerful eight-channel microphone preamp that is like a super powered version of the Focusrite Octopre.  It can function exactly like this older product if that’s what you want, but it has a lot more to offer than the Octopre, especially in terms of versatility and function.  The eight original ISA preamps are compacted into a small space, creating an awesome sound quality.

The ISA828 features circuitry based on the design created by Rupert Neve.  It’s a classic, and Focusrite has used it in a number of their products.  It also features the Lundahl L1538 audio transformer, another standard for Focusrite.  The ISA828, however, was also designed to be incredibly affordable, and it has the lowest cost per channel of Focusrite’s products so far.

In addition to the preamps, there are eight line inputs and four instrument inputs.  Four of the preamp channels feature high/low impedance switching, plus four of the instrument inputs are unbalanced.  While some devices don’t feature a very good layout, the ISA828 places these inputs on the far left of the front, letting you use them as high-performance DI boxes.  There are also a number of other controls can be easily accessed.

The ISA828 interfaces easily with ProTools and other popular apps, so you’ll most likely be able to use it with whatever software package you prefer to use.  A switchable input impedance, one for each channel, gives you four different settings, so you can adjust your sound in a number of different ways.  There are also switchable input points for each channel, plus a vintage high pass filter to help you eliminate any low frequencies you don’t want.  The Focusrite ISA828 may seem to be expensive at $2,499, but you won’t find a cheaper device that does all of this.

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Vienna Symphonic Library Appassionata Strings

Vienna Symphonic Library Appassionata StringsThere are many different music libraries out there, and the ones you need depend on what projects you’re working on.  The Vienna Symphonic Library has become the standard by which all libraries have been judged against.  They’ve got an incredible amount of depth and are set up in a very easy to access and use format.  The past collections have been criticized for featuring strings that lack emotion and depth.  To answer that, they have created the Appassionata Strings collection.

This collection features a huge amount of instruments—10 basses, 12 celli, 14 violas, and 20 violins.  Other dramatic effects were added to the large collection, such as the legato articulations that the first library was so well-known for.  One interesting section of samples is out of tune.  Every instrument in this section hits the pitch after taking a few seconds to center.  It’s different than what you might expect to find in a sound library.  You can also access exaggerated portamento samples of different instruments, too, although you’ll want to use these sparingly because they can be quite overpowering.

The clusters and random pizzicato patches are also very interesting and show off the power of aleatory music.  Another nice addition is the grace-note samples, which rise and fall at a minor third and can be used individually or combined.

All in all, the Appassionata Strings collection is very well designed and very useful.  If you need strong strings for your music, you’ll find this collection absolutely perfect.  The standard library retails for $595, while the extended library is $1,130. Continue reading »

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8020b Genelec Review

8020b Genelec ReviewThe 8020b Genelec bi-amplified monitoring system is a handy set of monitors that really pump out the sound.  They’re specifically designed for environments that, for whatever reason, don’t have good acoustics and make listening difficult.  These are the perfect monitors for someone dealing with a really small space or a space that just doesn’t really let you get a good feel for your sound.  However, don’t pass on these monitors just because you have a good space.  The 8020b system incorporates a two-way active monitoring system that minimizes all types of distortion and adjusts to the size of the space, giving you great sound in a large, small, or medium area.

In addition to the active monitoring technology, the 8020b also uses Directivity Control Waveguide, a system that creates a smooth on and off axis response.  You’ll get amazing bass articulation out of these monitors thanks to this system.  The Iso-Pod Isolation Positioner/Decoupler is standard on the 8020b and lets you point the monitors exactly where you want them without worrying about any odd sounds.  Mounting them on the wall or on a mic stand are also opitons.

The 8020b has a number of different drivers and ports.  You’ll find a four inch bass driver and a ¾ inch tweeter.  The field frequency response goes from 66 Hz to 20 kHz.  It has a max peak SPL output of 105 decibels.  The whole thing is wrapped up in a die-cast aluminum Minimum Diffraction Enclosure that has fairly large internal volumes, nicely curved edges, and is very sturdy.

All in all, the 8020b is a great monitor that seems to have just about everything.  It provides great natural sounding sounds that have very low distortion.  The Genelec 8020b retails for $499 each.

For more info be sure to check out the Genelec website:

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Genelec 8010b Producer Compact Bi Amplified Active Monitor System 24900
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