Tag Archives for " New Music Gear Monday "
There are lots of great microphones available today that either try to directly copy one of the vintage classic mics, or use it as a starting point for an updated version. So why does the world need another one? Well, when it comes from the mind of the super inventive David Royer, its something that you have to sit up and take notice, which is why the Mojave Audio MA-1000 large diaphragm condenser mic should be on a “must try” list for anyone in the market for a new high-end microphone.
The MA-1000 is part of a new Signature Series and goes for that old Austrian/German sound by using an original new old-stock 5840 tube, a 1 inch 3 microns thin 251-style capsule, and a custom-designed transformer built by Coast Magnetics. Like most tube mics, the pickup pattern can be continuously controlled on the power supply, and the mic itself features both a switchable 15dB pad and 6dB per octave bass roll-off centered at 100Hz.
This mic sounds big and you notice it as soon as you push the fader up. It’s has the same bass extension that we’ve come to expect from those classic large diaphragm condenser mics that we’re all so fond of and can’t afford. And it has the same air that we equate with some of the best vintage mics but with even better definition as well. I absolutely fell in love with the MA-1000 in omni for vocals and dialog recording. Don’t get me wrong, a little proximity effect can be nice and you can easily dial it in with the pattern control, but if you want a vocal free from big pops and a muddy bottom, omni’s the way to go, and with the MA-1000, it’s about as good as it gets.
The thing about vintage mics is that they’re so expensive and most of the time they’re somewhat trashed after 50 years of service, so most don’t sound as good as they used to. The MA-1000 is only $2,495 and for that you get something that will beat the pants off of most vintage mics (and their knock-offs for that matter) and be at its best for a long time.
The Mojave Audio MA-1000 comes with a very substantial carrying case (the folks at Mojave really went overboard here), a shock mount, and Mogami multi-core mic/supply cable. You can find out the details on the dedicated Mojave Audio page, or watch the video below.
One almost essential accessory for any computer-based DAW is the monitor controller, and there are a lot of them to choose from these days in just about all price ranges. Most of them in the sub-$1,000 range, while quite capable, are usually without some feature or features that you wish it would have. That’s what makes the new Drawmer MC3.1 so compelling. It’s one of the few monitor controllers at that price point that has all the most wished-for features covered.
The Drawmer MC3.1 monitor controller (not to be confused with a computer interface with monitor control capabilities) first and foremost allows you to adjust the level of the control room monitors, but it also incorporates a number of features usually found in controllers costing many times more. For instance, it has 3 sets of speaker outputs plus a mono sub output that can be switched individually and simultaneously, making A/B comparisons a snap. Each output also has a level trim to provide precise channel matching.
As far as inputs, there are a total of 5 – 1 digital AES/SPDIF, 2 balanced analog inputs, a stereo RCA analog input on the rear panel, and a 3.5mm front panel AUX input with it’s own level control. The digital and balanced analog inputs utilize Neutrik XLR/1/4″ COMBI jacks. These inputs can be selected to feed two separate signal paths; one for the main speaker output, and a second for the Cue buss to either an external output or to the internal headphone amps. Speaking of which, there are actually two separate headphone amplifiers with individual level controls and input switching so the artist can listen to a different mix than the engineer. There’s also a built-in talkback circuit complete with level control, external mic input, and a footswitch control, which is a very cool and overlooked feature even on high-end controllers.
But the main function of a monitor controller is to control the level of your speakers and here the MC3.1 also has a few extra tricks as well. First of all, the level can be set either with the large variable volume control knob, or by a button that switches to a preset level, which many mixing for TV or films will love. There are also comprehensive mix checking facilities as well, including dim, mono and phase reversal switches, plus mute switches for left, right and both speakers. The MC3.1 also has the unusual feature of Band Solo, which allows the user to listen to just the low, mid or high frequency bands to hear how they’re being reproduced by the speakers. Finally, the unit has timed relay protection on all speaker outputs to prevent power up/down bangs.
The Drawmer MC3.1 monitor controller is packaged in a desktop wedge form factor in a rugged steel box with a stylish brushed aluminum cover. The retail price is $999 and you can find more details on this dedicated page from Transaudio, the U.S. importer for Drawmer.
It’s rare when a modern compressor becomes a standard, but after 20 years, the Empirical Labs Distressor can be found in every major studio, as well as many smaller and home studios, and is as widely used as any of the “classics.” The Distressor has a sound that’s different from everything else, and is one of the few hardware units that’s never had a digital plugin emulation. Until now, that is, as the new Empirical Labs Arousor comes about as close as you’ll ever get to the esteemed Distressor.
The Arousor has a similar look to the distressor, but there are a few things that jump out immediately that are different. For one, there are two new choices for gain reduction – 1.5:1 and 8:1. The much used Nuke setting is gone and Rivet can be found in its place instead (although they do much the same thing). There’s also a control called Attack Modification, which changes the envelope of the attack, as well as a new Soft Clipping control, which adjusts the amount of distortion from none up to plenty. Then there’s the new variable hi-pass filter and a sidechain EQ section (both were fixed on the Distressor). Finally there’s a Blend control that allows you to perform parallel compression with ease.
Does it sound exactly like the Distressor? Even Empirical Labs says that it’s close, but not exactly. According to their webpage, “We say “close” because most of Empirical Labs’ analog gear will pass 150KHz easily, and that is something that is impossible with current digital technology.” Another thing is that the ratio controls don’t exactly line up, according to the helpful online manual, which states that you should always use a ratio on the Arousor that’s one higher than you’re used to using on the Distressor. In other words, if you’re used to using 4:1 on the Distressor, use 6:1 on the Arouser to get close to the sound.
That said, it’s rare when a software emulation compares 100% to its hardware counterpart. We’re in the realm of “really close” and for the most part, that’s been good enough even more the most hard-core of golden ears, so the Arousor is definitely in the ballpark here. The fact of the matter is, it’s great to have a Distressor-like compressor plugin now available, and the fact that Arouser comes from the same company ensures that you’re getting software with its seal of approval.
The Empirical Labs Arouser isn’t inexpensive at $349, but it currently carries an introductory price of $299. There’s a free 14 day trial, and you can get it directly from the Empirical Labs Arouser webpage. Check out the video below for a sample of how it sounds.
Buying an audio interface can often be a confusing process. There are now so many choices that it often comes down to features rather than sound. Antelope Audio’s new Zen Tour interface is one that doesn’t skimp on either, providing far more features than most interfaces while providing the renowned Antelope Audio sound.
The Zen Tour starts with lots of I/O. It has eight analog ins (four guitar/line, four mic/line), 16 analog outs (two balanced monitor output pairs, eight line-outs on D-sub, two stereo headphone outs, two mono transformer-based Reamp outs), plus two ADAT and SPDIF inputs and outputs. Couple that with a touchscreen display, talkback mic and control, and a large volume/controller knob, and you have an excellent interface/monitor controller for any home studio or mobile rig.
Zen Tour also comes with a full compliment of very useful plugins, with Pultec, Neve and API EQ emulations to a wide range of guitar emulations. These include not only a variety of modeled amps, but also speaker cabinets and even the microphones that are being used on them.
Also included are apps to remotely control the unit from a Mac, Windows computer, iOS, and Android device that adjust Zen Tour’s audio routing, built-in effects, input/output metering, and just about any other parameter you can think of. Plus, you can run the app simultaneously on multiple devices/operating systems (PC, Mac, iOS, Android) and have them all control one interface at the same time!
Antelope Audio has long been known for its exceptional internal digital clocks that keeps the jitter low, which improves the clarity, depth, width and 3-dimensionality. The Zen Tour is no exception with a great clock and mastering-quality DACs capable of 129dB dynamic range. It can be connected to your computer via Thunderbolt or USB connectors, making it very easy to use with different computers without having to worry about adapters or interface boxes.
The unit is available now with a street price of $1,495. Check out this page and the video below for more info.
Vocal tuning can be a touchy subject. Many think that it’s putting a big band-aid on a problem while others feel that it’s just a normal by-product of today’s music production. But tuning a vocal in the studio is something completely different from doing it live on stage, where many see that as cheating of the highest order. Putting the moralities aside for a second, when you have a tool available that really helps a vocalists stay in tune, you might as well use it, and that’s where the just released Waves Tune Real-Time pitch correction plugin comes in to play. It’s so fast that it can be used to tune vocals in real-time during a performance either live on stage or while recording in the studio.
Waves Tune Real-Time uses a brand new algorithm to automatically tune vocals with ultra-low latency. It has loads of features that make it easy to correct the pitch while keeping it sounding natural thanks to its advanced formant and vibrato correction, as well as it’s many manual features. It features intuitive controls and a simple layout, and can be easily programmed to the song’s key and customized to the singer’s articulation.
One of the cooler things is that it has a built-in software keyboard to help with the correction programming, or for just playing back guide tones to the singer, which any producer or engineer who spent time connecting a keyboard while the vocalists was waiting will appreciate.
Waves Tune Real-Time works on just about any available DAW and runs on any live mixing console via MultiRack SoundGrid. It’s also compatible with all SoundGrid applications like StudioRack, MultiRack, eMotion ST, and eMotion LV1.
The plugin is now on sale at an introductory price of just $99. Check out the video below that not only provides a demonstration of how it works, but a rundown of all its features as well.
Remember a few years back when “modeling” the sound of a vintage piece of audio equipment was looked on with suspicion? Well, those days are over as we now have successful plugin models of just about any piece of popular gear that even the hardened pros are impressed with. One of the last avenues for modeling has been microphones, however, but even there the walls are breaking down, and the new Townsend Labs Sphere L22 promises to change our perceptions on how we think about modeling microphones forever.
The Sphere L22 is a dual diaphragm large condenser microphone that can record quite nicely on its own, but really shines when the modeling software kicks in. It comes with models of the world’s most popular and desired vintage mics, including the U47, U67, U87, M49, C12, C451, 4038 (the Coles ribbon mic), and even the venerable SM57. There are also nuances like capsule variations built in, in case you happen to prefer the sound of a U47 with a K47 capsule as opposed to a M7 capsule, for instance.
Any of these models can be chosen even after the recording has been completed thanks to the software utility that interfaces nicely with a Universal Audio Apollo, or as a straight up AAX, VST or AU plugin. You can even decide to use the mic as a coincident stereo mic, thanks to its two capsules, or use different mic models on each output. The software allows you to vary the polar pattern, the pickup axis, the high pass filter, and even amount of proximity effect you want to adjust, which has to be a microphone first. There’s also an output control, phase reversal and a mode control.
Townsend Labs is right in the middle of an Indigogo crowdfunding campaign that’s already been very successful, raising more than 400% past its stated goal. There’s still time to get in on it for a special deal though, as there’s about 3 weeks left before the September 1st deadline. You can get a single Sphere L22 for just $1199 (that’s $600 off retail) and a pair for just $2199. This includes the L22 microphone, 10 foot breakout cable, carrying case, shock mount, hard mount, protection bag, and the software plugin. Check out the Sphere L22 Indigogo campaign page to learn more, go directly to the Townsend Labs site, or check out the video below for more info.
When it comes to outboard summing mixers, there are two distinct camps. There are the mixers who claim that a summing mixer is essential to giving their in-the-box mix that analog console sound, and there are those that claim they can do just as well without one. That said, more mixers that fall into the later camp would find a summing mixer useful if it had the ability to impart some additional color, and that’s exactly what the Dangerous Music 2-BUS+ summing mixer does.
Dangerous Music introduced the original 2-BUS back in 1999, and the new 2-BUS+ has a redesigned analog summing circuit that exceeds previous specifications. What really makes this version really different is that it now includes three innovative custom color circuits that provide an array of tonal options as well. The Harmonics control is an odd- and even-order distortion generator that runs in parallel with the unprocessed signal, and can be applied to either the entire mix or to individual channel pairs. Paralimit is an FET-style limiter that has a sound similar to that of an 1176 in the “all buttons in” mode (sometimes called Nuke or British mode). It has a blend knob and assignment buttons so it can be applied to the entire mix or just a stereo pair. X-Former is a pair of Cinemag output transformers with an exclusive core-overdrive circuit to emulate the sound of the “classic” analog consoles. These new controls allow the engineer to add new color to the mix without strapping additional outboard gear across the buss.
The 2-BUS+ has 16 input channels that connect via either XLR or D-sub connectors, switchable stereo analog insert for easy outboard gear integration, and a stepped master output gain control for exact recalls. There’s also mono switches for busses 1-2 and 9-10.
The Dangerous Music 2-BUS+ isn’t cheap at $2999, but it does offer many more features than most other summing mixers, and Dangerous Music has been in this product niche for longer than anyone. If you need your mixes to sound big and fat and can’t make them sound the way you want staying strictly in-the-box, then this is something that you should strongly consider.
We’ve been used to the keyboard, mouse and trackpad as our main computer interface for a long time now, but didn’t you ever wish for more control than these single dimensional input devices provide? Meet the Sensel Morph, a multi-touch pressure sensitive controller that rethinks the way we input data in just about any application.
The Morph is basically a pressure sensitive tablet that can detect large levels of pressure information. While that in itself makes it unique, it goes another step by providing magnetic overlays for a variety of applications, and even a template where you can specify your own control overlay from scratch for Sensel to print it for you, or they can send you the 3D printing file so you can print it at home. As it’s currently configured, the unit comes with one of three standard music control surface overlays: an MPC-style control surface and drum programming grid, a keyboard or a drum kit.
The Morph works out of the box with many applications, and it’s also hackable if you have the technical chops. You can connect it to your computer via USB, to your iPad via Bluetooth, or to an Arduino via developer cables.
The unit is able to work with such precision thanks to approximately 20,000 individual sensor elements at a spacing of less than 1/16” inserted on a custom-formulated highly-tuned polymer layer. That gives each individual sensor element the ability to detect anything from a feather-light tap to a hard push and everything in between (with over 4,000 detectable voltage levels).
The Sensel Morph was part of a Kickstarter campaign that quickly reached it’s $60,000 goal, then it’s stretched goal of $250k, and now sits at $442k, so there’s obviously some appetite for the unit. You can buy a your own Morph now directly from Sensel for $249 with one overlay, and even better, the company is currently delivering.
Check out the video below for more about the Morph, and also take a look at the music section of the Sensel website.
There are a lot of plugins that monitor a single aspect of your mix, like dynamic range, frequency response or headroom, but until now there hasn’t been one that looks at everything and more within the same plugin. That’s where Mastering The Mix LEVELS plugin comes in, a neat bit of kit that instantly tells you exactly what’s happening with your mix.
LEVELS monitors headroom, the stereo field, the “bass space,” and the dynamic range of your mix, as well as provides a mono selection and left or right solo. Just insert it into your master buss you’re ready to go.
The Headroom function provides a true peak meter to make sure your master buss doesn’t clip, as well as EBU R128 compliant integrated and short term LUFS meters to accurately measure the mix’s perceived loudness.
The Stereo Field function features a vectorscope to see the stereo width of the track, a correlation meter to any monitor potential phase issues, a Left/Right meter to check the stereo balance of your mix, and a unique Low Pass button that solos the low frequencies below 300Hz so you can see just the stereo width of the low end.
The Dynamic Range function allows you to instantly see if your music is over-compressed, thanks to an oscilloscope that glows green if your music is dynamic. It also features a ‘DR’ Dynamic Range display based on the Short Term LUFS to peak ratio.
A particularly cool function is the “Bass Space” feature that provides level meters for 40Hz, 80Hz, 120Hz, and 160Hz to help you identify any channels that are too hot in any one low-frequency area.
Mastering The Mix LEVELS is about $89 USD (depending upon the exchange rate of the British Pound) and is available for both Mac and Windows platforms in VST, VST3, AU and AAX formats (both 32 and 64 bit). There’s also a free 15 day trial with no credit card required.
This is a very cool plugin that’s worth a checkout. Thanks to Kurt Hoffler for the heads up!
Anyone who doesn’t use a console has the same problem while recording. You have to manually mute the talkback or listen mic when recording starts, and you have to unmute it when recording stops. Doesn’t seem like much, but doing it dozens of times during a session can be a complete pain. The clever boffins at SoundRadix have created a solution for this though, and it’s a plugin called Muteomatic.
Muteomatic will automatically mute the talkback or listen mic channels according to your DAW’s transport state, opening the mic automatically when the DAW stops and muting it when the DAW is in playback or recording mode, all while clearly displaying when the mic is open or muted, so that you won’t have to worry about talking to yourself for a few minutes without the players hearing you ever again.
In addition, Muteomatic can be used to automatically mute reverb or delay channels so that long effect tails end when the DAW stops playing, so you don’t have to worry about talking over them.
Muteomatic also works the other way as well, opening up the talkback channel when the DAW is in playback or record mode so you can give cues to the players.
The plugin is RTAS, AAX, VST and AU compatible on both Mac and Windows platforms, so it’ll work with any DAW application.
Here’s the best part though. The SoundRadix Muteomatic plugin is FREE, and you can get it here on the dedicated page on the SoundRadix website. You can check it out in action in the video below.
I love it when someone creates a truly useful utility, and it’s even better when they’re priced within reason. In this case, it’s a major bonus that the plugin is free. Thanks again, SoundRadix. You make truly awesome plugins.
Thanks to Oz Amaro for the heads up.