Category Archives for "New Music Gear Monday"

New Music Gear Monday: Eventide Fission Structural Effects Plugin

Eventide Fission pluginMost processor plugins these days fall into roughly the same categories (EQ, compression, effects, denoise and utilities), so when a plugin comes along that starts a new category it’s big news. The plugin I’m talking about is the the Eventide Fission, which uses what the company calls its new Structural Effects (that would be the name of the new category) technology to break a signal down into its separate transient and tonal components.

Why would you want to do that? A number of reasons actually. For one, you can take any sound and twist it in a new and wonderful way to create something completely different, so it’s perfect for sound design.

But for those of us that just do music, it has lots of uses as well. For instance, it can provide much more convincing pitch alterations since you can keep the transient as it is, then tune just the body of the sound (there’s a great example on both snare and toms in the video below). Maybe you want to soften (or emphasize) a transient of a guitar to reduce the string or fret noise, or do the same with the body of the sound to reduce the room ambience. Maybe you’re doing a dance track and just want to completely mess up a synth sound into something totally new. There are tons of uses for Fission.

Keep in mind that Fission isn’t just another transient designer tool since it works on more than just the transient as you can manipulate the body of the sound as well. The plugin includes six effects (Delay, Tap Delay, Dynamics, Phaser, Reverb, and Gate + EQ) for the transient component, and seven (Delay, Compressor, EQ, Pitch, Chorus, Reverb, and Tremolo) for the tonal component. Fission’s Structural Split controls (Smoothing, Trans Decay, Source Type and Focus) combine with a real-time waveform display to show the user just how they are adjusting the split.

The Eventide Fission Structural Effects plugin has a list price of $179 but has an introductory price based on your Eventide purchase history. There’s also a free 30 day trial period. Go here to learn more, and check out the video below. Very cool!

New Music Gear Monday: Von Erickson Skull Microphone

skull microphoneSometimes style and image is a higher priority than the actual sound of a device, and if that describes your place in the music business, then you’re going to want to check out the Von Erickson Labs Skull Microphone. Von Erickson already makes jewelry based around a certain creepy zombie theme, so a microphone was an easy reach for the company that knows what its audience wants.

The Skull Microphone looks like a venerable Shure Model 55 only in the shape of a skull. While there’s no mention as to exactly which diaphragm is being used, the specs are pretty good. It has a frequency response of 60 to 17,000 Hz and a supercardioid polar pattern, which is not expected from the mic of that shape that we know and love. It’s also manufactured in the U.S., which is always good.

There’s not much more to say expect that the Skull Microphone is available in three styles – Bright Chrome, Dark Chrome and Satin Gun Metal, and sells for $375. Come on, you know you want one.

Thanks to my buddy Steve Harvey for the heads up.

New Music Gear Monday: Exponential Audio R4 Reverb Plugin

Exponential Audio R4If you grew up in the days of recording studios built around consoles and hardware, then you were probably used to using a Lexicon reverb. Although not the first digital reverb, the Lexicon 224 and subsequent versions became a must-have for every studio to have in its arsenal in no time, and we all grew to love its sound. Michael Carnes helped design and perfect these reverbs for Lexicon for 25 years before he began making reverb plugins with own Exponential Audio. The company already has some pretty cool reverb plugins, but Michael’s new R4 gives you the best features and character of those old hardware units at a very reasonable price.

The Exponential Audio R4 has a super amount of flexibility, allowing you to conjure nearly any reverb sound you can imagine, or it can be dead simple, with dozens of meaningful presets that can be easily searched for a quick solution to every situation. Among its many features (taken from its press release, which I couldn’t top) include:

  • A character reverb that outdoes all the classics
  • 6 independently-selectable types of EQ for input, early reflection, and reverb tail. 
  • Early and tail EQ can be dynamically modulated.  Whether a subtle pulsation or a sweeping notch, modulated EQ is a powerful new weapon in the producer’s toolkit.
  • R4 retains the Chorused Hall of earlier Exponential Audio plugins. And it adds a second Hall with density modulation that adds motion to the tail without adding pitch change. Of course, you can add pitch modulation on top if you want it! These halls are the perfect solution for sparse or sterile mixes and solos.
  • There’s also a Plate and Chamber; updated from R2.
  • Multiple early-reflection patterns
  • Warp section with compressor/expander, overdrive and word-size reduction.
  • Pre-delay and reverb delay now adjustable by tempo
  • Tail suppression circuit for more dynamic response
  • Gated reverb effects
  • Over 1200 presets
  • Helpful tool-tips to guide new users.
  • Freeze function to capture the reverb tail and run it forever.
  • Industry-leading CPU efficiency–run as many reverbs as you want.

I’ve been playing with the R4 for a while, and I can tell you that unlike many reverbs that you have to struggle with to make sit in the mix, this one just works with almost no hassle. Dial up a preset and you’re ready to go, or you can get as tweaky as you desire with all the available parameters if you want.

The Exponential Audio R4 reverb plugin is now available on all platforms for $299, with a free demo available. If you’re an Exponential customer already, there’s also a $150 discount available. Check out the product page for more details, as well as the excellent videos that explain the features of the R4 supplied by Groove3.

New Music Gear Monday: Yamaha HPH-MT8 “NS10 Inspired” Headphones

yamaha-MT8 headphonesFor a generation of engineers prior to their discontinuation in 2001, Yamaha NS-10′s were a monitor fixture in every control room, no matter how big or small. They weren’t used because they sounded good, mind you, but quite the opposite – they sounded rather ordinary.  That’s why it’s a bit of a mystery that the company’s new HPH-MT-8 headphones bear the moniker “NS-10 inspired.”

NS-10’s were never particularly accurate (legendary mixer Bob Clearmountain started the trend of putting tissue paper over the tweeter to tame the high-frequency response), so when Yamaha touts the MT8 as its “most accurate headphone set ever offered” you have to wonder whether its marketing and engineering departments are on the same page. That said, with the number of home studio engineers relying on headphones more and more to keep the noise level down, the need for an accurate headphone that closely mirrors real world acoustic monitoring is greater than ever. Still, you’d probably never hear “most accurate” and NS-10 in the same sentence from anyone that used them, but that dichotomy of perception makes me want to give these a try all the more.

Now for the tech: the MT8 features custom 45mm drivers with a 15Hz to 28kHz frequency response, built with copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils, and neodymium magnets. Other features include a detachable straight 10-foot cable and coiled 5-foot cable (you see this combination supplied with more and more headphones these days), corrosion-resistant gold-plated stereo mini plug and quarter-inch stereo adapter.

The Yamaha HPH-MT8 has a street price of $199. A less expensive version, the HPH-MT5, is also available at $99. There’s more information on Yamaha’s dedicated webpage. If monitoring on NS-10s is your thing, then you probably want to check these out.

New Music Gear Monday: PSI Audio AVAA C20 Active Bass Absorber

PSI Audio AVAA-C20One of the problems with most studio control rooms or small home studios is that fact that there are problems in the low end response. We try to control these with bass traps, but to be effective, normal passive traps take up a lot of precious room. There is an alternative however, and that’s to use a new breed of low frequency absorption that’s active, and that’s exactly what the PSI Audio AVAA C20 Active Bass Absorber does.

The AVAA C20 works on frequencies from 15Hz to 150Hz and it’s dead easy to set up in that there are no settings or calibration, only an on/off switch. So how does it work?

When audio sound waves hit a wall they build up pressure, which makes them bounce back into the room, reinforcing some frequencies and attenuating others, which creates an uneven frequency response. A normal passive bass trap takes that pressure wave and turns it into heat with material like fiberglass or rockwool, but you need a lot of it to be effective, especially at lower frequencies. The AVAA C20 has a microphone that measures the pressure of the sound wave. An acoustic membrane then is driven to absorb the volume of air going through the acoustic resistance of the front panel of the unit, turning the pressure of the sound wave to zero so it doesn’t bounce back into the room.

The interesting thing is that the AVAA C20 is totally analog and there’s no DSP involved. No, it’s doesn’t make a sound either, but it does the job of a bass trap up to 20 times as large as the unit!

The PSI Audio AVAA C20 is not a small investment at $2000 each, and you’ll need 2 for a 400 square foot room (one for each corner). Unlike physical passive traps though, these are easily portable, so you’re buying something that you can use in any environment for a long time. Check out the video below or go to the website for more info.

New Music Gear Monday: Two Notes Torpedo Live Digital Amplifier Load Box

two notes torpedo liveA guitar amp load box lowers the volume to, or even eliminates, the speaker cabinet so you can crank up your favorite amp without tearing the walls down with SPL. I go way back when it comes to guitar amp load boxes, even building my own before there was one on the market. I then purchased an Altair (which I still have) and a Scholz, and every other one that came on the market there for a while. They did the job, but there was always something missing from the sound. That was then and now is now, as the latest load boxes are a whole different animal, which brings us to the Two Notes Torpedo Live digital load box, the next generation of the device.

Actually I’m a bit late coming to the party on this one, as the Torpedo Live has been available for a few years. That said, it’s put back what was missing from the old boxes and then some, thanks to digital processing.

I was speaking to an old friend who works at a rather famous company that specializes in amplifier simulators, and he told me the formula for a good sounding amp model. “It’s all in the cabinet simulation,” he stated, and that’s exactly what the Torpedo Live gives you – not only models of 8 of the most widely used speaker cabinets, but 8 on the most used guitar amp mics in multiple positions and distances on the cab. Add in 8 different types of amp simulators and some EQ and you have an amplifier load box like no other.

What’s more, the Torpedo Live can also be further controlled by a very nice software interface via USB, and switched via MIDI. It has both balanced analog and digital outputs (with sample rates up to 96kHz) to connect directly to your DAW.

The Two Notes Torpedo Live goes for $995, and there’s a newer Torpedo Studio that adds more cabinets and effects for $1850.

If you’re a guitar player who loves his amp but needs the output level controlled, or wants to use a cranked amp in a home studio,this is for you. Check out the video below for more info or go to the website page.

New Music Gear Monday: Black Box Analog Design HG-2 Plugin

Black Box Analog HG-2 pluginHow many times has it happened where you have a great mix going, but it just needs something a little extra to bring it all together? Of course, there are now a lot of plugins available to add some “glue” to your mix, but they usually bring just one sound to the party. The Black Box Analog Design HG-2 from Plugin Alliance is different in that it’s one of the most versatile plugins mix buss plugins of its type on the market.

Like the hardware version of the HG-2 that it’s modeled after, the Black Box Analog Design HG-2 plugin brings a wide range of harmonics to a mix, thanks to the careful emulation of the 6U8A pentodes and 12AX7 triodes found in the original model. There are separate gain controls for both the pentode and triode emulations so you can dial a blend between both. You can then adjust the Density control to drive both tubes harder without changing their relative balance or the plugin’s output level in order to get more girth and mass.

The Calibration menu emulates the internal trim adjustment in the original hardware unit by modifying the HG-2’s high-frequency response to produce Dark, Normal or Bright coloration. Then there’s the Air knob, which lets you add some extra 10kHz+ to open up the mix. The HG-2 also has a saturation circuit to add either tube sheen or blistering overdrive distortion to just low or high frequencies or across the entire frequency spectrum. There’s a lot that this plug can do, and it’s certainly a lot more than meets the eye.

The Black Box Analog Design HG-2 retails for $249 but it’s currently on sale for $149. There’s a 14 day free trial available. Check out the video for more info, or go right to the dedicated page on the Plugin Alliance site.

New Music Gear Monday: Aston Starlight Laser Targeting Microphone

Aston StarlightFrom the beginning of recording time we’ve been aiming microphones at the source by eye when first setting up. For the most part they’re pretty forgiving if we don’t point them exactly perfectly, and a quick listen will tell us if we need to adjust. But wouldn’t it be cool if there was a more precise way to position a microphone? Now there is with the new Aston Starlight laser targeting microphone.

The Aston Starlight is a small diaphragm condenser mic that features a built-in class 2 laser (the same strength as what you’ll find in a laser pointer) to show you exactly where the mic is pointing. I know that Sennheiser experimented with some prototypes of something similar 7 or 8 years ago, but the Starlight is the first mic to actually go into production with this technology. The laser can be turned on or off with a chassis mounted switch.

It would be cool enough if that was the only unique feature of the mic, but there’s a lot more. The mic features a sintered metal head over the diaphragm, and a 100% stainless tumbled steel chassis, making it virtually indestructible (just like the old E/V mics). The sintered head is made up of micro ball bearings that can be manufactured in such a way as to tune both the capsule and the cavity around it.

There’s more. The Starlight also contains a unique voicing circuit that gives the mic 3 different sounds. When Vintage is selected on the 3 way switch, the mic has a lift in the bass frequencies and a gentle rolloff in the top end. The Modern position provides more of a flat frequency response, and the Hybrid gives a combination of both. There’s also a 3 position bass rolloff switch, and a pad switch that provides both -10 and -20dB pads.

The Aston Starlight is also priced very reasonably. The mic has a street price of $349 while a stereo pair goes for $699 and includes a stereo bar. You can visit the dedicated page at AstonMics.com or check out the video below.

New Music Gear Monday: Ultimate Ears Sound Tap Personal Monitor DI

Ultimate Ears Sound TapIt looks like the days of the floor monitor are numbered as the live gig world quickly adapts to in-ear monitoring, something that the concert industry embraced many ears ago. Today IEMs are priced within reach of just about any gigging musician, but what really holds back many players from jumping in is the complicated setup and expensive wireless packs involved. Not anymore, as Ultimate Ears (one of the leaders in IEMs) recently released its ingenious Sound Tap personal monitor DI that puts in-ear monitoring easily within reach.

Sound Tap allows you to plug the speaker cable going to a floor monitor directly into the box, which you then plug in your IEMs and control the level to taste. There’s also a Speaker throughput connector to keep the that floor monitor working if you don’t want to lose it, yet still keep your in-ears going. If you want to eliminate the floor monitor altogether, there’s a combo XLR/1/4″ connector that can accept the monitor or aux output feed directly from your mixer, eliminating the floor monitor yet still keeping you hearing what you need to hear.

The unit has two combo Speakon/1/4″ jacks, two XLR/1/4″ combo jacks, and an 1/8th inch jack for your IEMs. There’s an Input control to adjust the level so it works with the unit, then a Master Volume to adjust the level of the in-ears. There’s also a switch that selects between the Speakon and XLR inputs, and two sets of level LEDs so you can drive the unit to its optimum. One of the best things about the box is that it also has built-in protection against feedback or anything else that might hurt your ears.

Sound Tap uses two 9 volt batteries that can last up to 35 hours. If the batteries die, only the IEM output goes dead, as the signal still throughputs through the box.

Ultimate Ears Sound Tap retails for $249 and comes with a number of adapter cables as well as an IEM extension cable. You can find out more on the dedicated web page or from the video below.

 

New Music Gear Monday: Antelope Audio Orion32 HD Interface

Antelope Audio Orion 32 HDOne of the problems with audio interfaces is they just don’t have enough I/O sometimes. Most interfaces are either 8 or 16 channels, which is plenty in some cases and not enough in others. While the price for a single 16 channel interface might seem reasonable, when you put two of them together to meet your I/O needs, the costs can quickly get out of hand. Antelope Audio’s Orion32 has been a great solution, with 32 analog ins and 32 analog outs in just a single rack space. The new Orion32 HD takes that yet another step forward.

The Orion32 HD is unique in that it’s compatible with any DAW on the market, making it an option for users of both Pro Tools and Native systems via HDX or USB3 at up to 192kHz/24 bit. It also includes MADIADAT, and S/PDIF connectivity and 32-in/32-out analog connections via DB25. There are also two word clock or loopsync outs that allow the Orion to serve as the center of a recording setup (thanks to its outstanding internal clock), or make an easy connection with an external clock. Two monitor outputs that Antelope calls “mastering-grade” since they’re the same as the ones on Antelope’s Pure2 Mastering Converter complete the I/O setup.

Orion32 HD also includes a library of over 30 free plugins that include the latest collaboration between Antelope and BAE Audio, with two new EQ models based on their 1023 and 1084 equalizers, as well as a free version of PreSonus Studio One Artist DAW software. The unit retails for $3,495, which may seem high, but it’s still cheaper than paying for 2 high-quality 16 channel units. Find out more on the dedicated webpage or view the video below.

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