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Entries in review (92)
Russ takes a look at new UAD Dangerous Bax Eq, aimed at those who want to use precise EQ to add that something extra special either in mix, mastering or even on individual tracks.
This video looks at the extra Mid/Side option which is offered with the plug-in and is used on a final mix to add punch, definition and space.
Russ takes a look at the Blue Cat Patchworks plug-in. It offers the chance to host multiple VSTs, parallel processing, channel strip saving and multi synth hosting in two different formats. Find out how it works and what he thinks.
Show & Tell Review Of Waves Metafilter Plug-in On Bass Synth
Russ shows the extent to which the Wavesmetafilter can mash up a bass sound using some of the built in features.
Show & Tell Review Of Waves Metafilter Plug-in On Drums
In the second example he shows how automation can be used in a DAW to change the filter in Waves Metafilter.
Show & Tell Review Of Waves Metafilter Plug-in On Hi-Hats
In this final example Russ uses the Follower function in the Metafilter to change how hi-hats sound.
Is this a filter on steroids? Watch this review and decide.
I have to admit I never really understood the Softube Console 1 until I started to use it. I remember the first time I saw it last year and I couldn’t help thinking to myself, oh another control surface, it’s not like we don’t already have too many of them and I have never been a huge fan of those kind of things. I had a Focusrite Liquid Mix and soon sold it, I’ve got numerous other controllers for Pro Tools, but when push comes to shove I still end up using my keyboard and mouse, for me it’s just the way that works best for me. Until now.
I’ve not really had a lot of in depth conversations with the Softube gang about the Console 1, we are buddies so most of our conversations are usually about the Saunas, Abba, The Chef from the Muppets, Ulrika Johnson, Volvos, Meatballs or IKEA furniture.
So having missed out on the chance to grill them regarding the Console 1, I have to guess what was going through their minds (other than Ulrika Johnson) when they decided to create the Console 1. There’s a nod in the manual to the fact that too often we mix with our eyes, rather than our ears, so I’m guessing this was one of the core ideas when the decided to make the Console 1.
I’ll get to the meat of the review in a minute but at the very outset I do think they missed a huge trick with the name, after the bar being set so high by IKEA calling everything from Billy to Skanka (really) I wish the guys at Softube had given this baby an equally fun name – perhaps Miksbich? I might see if they will run a contest to give this baby another IKEAesq name.
Anyway, enough rambling for one review – the Console 1.
Softube Console 1 Review - The Hardware
A box, a mixer, a USB lead. Simple as that.
The hardware is built like a Volvo and could double up as a deadly weapon, in the event that some scumbag tries to rob you in your studio then the Console 1 would do the trick at flooring them.
You go to Softube register the serial number and then they deposit a licence to your iLok account. You need an iLok account, but the Console 1 license is the new type of iLok license that can be placed on the computer. So no iLok hardware required. The user can install the license on three different computers, then you download the software which is a new version of the Softube plug-in package. It installs Console 1 as plug-ins on your computer.
You plug the USB cable into the back (no annoying PSU) and start your DAW of choice. Then you simply insert the Console 1 as a plug-in on every channel you want to use it on, I decided to put it on every channel, as suggested in the manual (which I read after using it, not because I had to). The CPU usage is low and should allow an instance of Console 1 on every channel of even big mixes.
So now my mix has an SSL4000 on every channel, plus a few other goodies such as transient processing and Drive that can be used to add extra warmth or sheer filth, depending on how hard you drive it.
I tried two mixes with the Console 1, one of James’ tracks with a live set-up of guitars, drums, bass, keys and vocals and one of my new tracks with lots of Vis.
You may have read a recent article I wrote about my go-to plug-ins that I use for mixing, I decided to not use those and simply use the Console 1 SSL4000 for all EQ, Filters and Dynamics. The only thing I used other than the Console 1 was a reverb and delay.
As I’ve already said, I’ve never been a fan of control surfaces, I always find myself looking at the screen and that then defeats the object of using them in the first place, however this was not the case with the Console 1, in fact I had been mixing for some time and the screen on my Mac went to sleep. I was mixing with my ears!
However as there’s no visual feedback on the Console 1 to tell me what is on each track I had to revert to the screen, I suppose I could have simply soloed each track to check what was on it, but even a simple read-out to tell me what was on each track would have been nice and then I could have turned my monitor off altogether.
Anyway, without getting too wrapped up in the operation, what about the sound?
Russ checks out the updated AAX version of Nerve Drum VI from Xfer Records. Does this drum virtual instrument on steroids offer anything extra for those looking to make beats? Find out what Russ thinks in this extended video review.
I’m late to the 500 series party, when I say late I mean really late. For those too young to remember the 500 series appeared at the end of the 1970s, but they made a resurgence as a popular studio format in recent years, but the 500 series format still did not tempt me to dive in. However when a company like Maag Audio offer a pre amp packed with features and with their AIR band included then a rethink is in order.
There are certain actors who could paint a wall and I would watch - I just love what they do. Having both used the Maag EQ4 plug-in and spent some time with Cliff Maag Sr., I can say the same for Maag Audio gear - I just love the sound and the man - so I’m declaring an interest at the start of this review, he also bought me a beer at NAMM so as far as I’m concerned he’s a friend for life!
But friend or not, does the Maag PREQ4 really deliver the goods as a pre-amp?
The Maag PREQ4 comes packed in what seems like a custom designed box that offers it the kind of protection usually given to a computer hard drive, although to be frank the build quality of the Maag hardware is so good I’m guessing they could send them around the world in a Jiffy bag and still have them arrive in one piece. It does beg the question… will it blend? I think not!
The PREQ4 (500 Series) is a one channel microphone pre amplifier with AIR BAND® (shelf boost from 2.5 to 40kHz via VARI AIR™), compatible with the API 500-6B lunchbox® and 500VPR rack systems.
The PREQ4® offers the AIR BAND®, 65dB adjustable gain, phase reverse capability, 70Hz high pass filter, +48V phantom power, and -20dB PAD.
I decided to test the PREQ4 with both voice and acoustic guitar and to use the Shure SM7 as my test microphone - partly because the SM7 requires a serious amount of gain - about 60db. The SM7 is the mic of legends, used by Quincy Jones to record most of Michael Jackson’s vocals on Thriller and the voice of Vincent Price too! Legend or not, finding a pre-amp to make this baby sing has filled the pages of many of forum.
The guitar, a Taylor 414 which I’ve owned for about a decade, it offers a balance of tone that makes recording it easy and to be frank if you put a decent condenser on it then you could put it through a $5 pre-amp and it would sound great.
The voice, mine. Which has a nasal quality that can be difficult to get right when tracking, so there’s no better (or worse) voice to throw at the Maag PREQ4 to see what it can do.
The guitar was the first thing to record - the mic was placed around 12” from the front just at the bottom of the neck, this allowed for me to get a nice warm sound without too much excessive boom from the sound hole. Engaging the hi-pass filter also helped to keep the low end under control, the knee starts @ 160 Hz and is –3 dB @ 70 Hz. I decided to add some AIR too, which may not be as required when using a condenser mic, but with the SM7 it was a welcome addition to the sound, I selected 5Khz with about 4db of boost. The sound was clean and smooth, allowing the guitar to breath without sound too hyped.
Then on to the greatest challenge - my voice. The settings were much the same, the HP filter remained in to deal with any low end but with the AIR Band pushed up to 20Khz to give my nasal voice breath without it honking like duck - I decided to leave compression until the mix.
Seldom am I happy with the sound of my own voice (irrespective of what my wife says!) but the PREQ4 is one of the few pre-amps I’ve used that actually achieved what I hoped for - I think the combination of the quality of the pre-amp coupled with the AIR Band was the winner here for me.
The guitar sound was also pleasing - offering clarity without a harsh top end and enough body to ensure it wasn’t too thin, the HP filter also stopped any boominess giving a nice balanced guitar sound that would be at home in rock, pop or country.
A cursory glance on any 500 series dealer site and you’ll find just shy of one hundred 500 Series Mic Pre Amps, with everything from Neve, BAE and LaChapell tube based units right down to much cheaper brands at a few hundred dollars. Choosing a mic pre is a very personal thing, a lot has to do with what sound you like and what you need it to do.
As I said at the start of this review, I love what Maag Audio do, so this Pre Amp would have had to have been very bad for me not to like it. Unsurprisingly the Maag PREQ4 is very good, both in terms of build and sound. In the short time I’ve spent trying it out I feel sure that this will be a pre-amp I’ll be using most of the time - it makes my voice sound good - that in itself is a minor miracle.
If you are looking to join the world of 500 series or the owner of a 500 series rack with some spare slots, or someone looking for a high quality pre-amp, then the Maag PREQ4 should be on your short list. It’s not the cheapest pre-amp you can buy but neither is it the most expensive by a long shot, but this $849 pre-amp with its complete feature set, as well as their legendary AIR band is a something that’s not leaving this studio anytime soon.
The transparency of the Maag PREQ4 helps me to get a great sound with the minimum of fuss, BUT the AIR Band can then help me add that magic shine. It’s great to have both options in one unit and not many other units offer this. Last time I saw Cliff Maag Sr. he bought the beer - next time the beer is on me!
I’m time poor, there’s never enough time for me to do what I need to do, so even my down time is precious - if I watch a movie or listen to an album that I think was not good then I feel like it’s minutes or hours I can’t get back and time that could have been better spent.
When I first saw the new ‘The Story of the Focusrite Studio Console’ doing the rounds on social media, although I’m friends with many of the Focusrite team and have huge respect for what they do, I asked myself do I really have 40 minutes to watch what may be a long advert? I’m glad I made the time.
The conceit of the movie is a simple one, to track down the ten Focusrite consoles designed and built over the time they were in production and see what they are doing now. As thrillers go it’s not the complex plot of a CSI episode, but then again anyone who is well read and geeky enough to care will know where many of these desk started and ended their lives. However simple the story is, it’s genuinely interesting and as documentaries go it can stand its ground with anything you will see from the Beeb or Channel 4.
This movie has everything; from the bizarre story of a fully assembled console in a spare bedroom, the heartbreak of a console immersed in water after a studio is hit by a hurricane, right to the stuff of legends, with one console turning up hidden in a Texas storage lock-up underneath a fake Christmas tree.
‘The Story Of The Focusrite Console’ is beautifully shot, skillfully edited and the gentle and unobtrusive style from Chris Mayes-Wright (the man on the mission) ensures that the star of the show is the Focusrite consoles.
This documentary is what I hoped Sound City would be, simply a beautifully shot story of audio history. It is a beautifully shot story of audio history, but on this occasion it does not feel the need to create a polemic on the demise of the analogue recording industry.
If like me you never have enough time to do the things you need (let alone the things you would like to do) then I suggest you make 40 minutes to watch this. I guarantee it won’t be time wasted and you will leave you satisfied by this story, which is without doubt a genuine part of audio history worth documenting.
Russ takes a look and listen to the Rob Papen RP Amod, a plug-in featuring modulation based effects that is FREE to existing Rob Papen customers.
In this video James takes a look and listen to the Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast an shows just how much tone you can get from a beast.
Russ takes a look at Air Hybrid 3 synth plug-in and at the new features and sounds shipping with the latest version of this super synth.
The latest addition to the Universal Apollo range of UAD powered audio interfaces is the Apollo Twin, a baby brother of the Apollo and Apollo 16 and firmly aimed at the home musician and composer.
Pro Tools Expert were fortunate enough to get our hands on a pre-release full production model and spent a couple of days putting it through its paces, you can see James Ivey extended video review here.
The Apollo Twin is a 2x6 Thunderbolt audio interface for Mac and it combines the same high-quality 24/192 kHz audio conversion of Universal Audio’s acclaimed Apollo series with onboard Realtime UAD SOLO or DUO Processing. So it is effectively a desktop audio interface with a UAD card inside it which goes up firmly against hardware such as the Avid Mbox and Apogee Duet, however the APollo Twin offers a desktop user the same features found in the more powerful Apollo models, namely UAD powered plug-ins and of course near-zero latency tracking via those plug-ins, the user can also use the UAD powered plug-in processing for mix down as well. An added bonus is that the new Apollo Twin now ships with an updated set of plug-ins which include the new Unison 610 Tube Pre-Amp and Softube guitar amp models.
Features At A Glance
- Desktop 2x6 Thunderbolt audio interface with world-class 24-bit/192 kHz audio conversion
- Realtime UAD Processing for tracking through vintage Compressors, EQs, Tape Machines, Mic Preamps, and Guitar Amp plug-ins with near-zero (sub-2ms) latency
- Thunderbolt connection for blazing-fast PCIe speed and rock-solid performance on modern Macs
- New Unison technology offers stunning models of classic tube and transformer-based mic preamps
- 2 premium mic/line preamps; 2 line outputs; front-panel Hi-Z instrument input and headphone output
- 2 digitally controlled analog monitor outputs for full resolution at all listening levels
- Up to 8 channels of additional digital input via Optical connection
- Includes “Realtime Analog Classics” UAD plug-in bundle, featuring Legacy editions of the LA-2A Classic Audio Leveler, 1176LN Limiting Amplifier, and Pultec EQP-1A Program Equalizer, plus Softube Amp Room Essentials, 610-B Tube Preamp, and more
- Runs UAD Powered Plug-Ins via Audio Units, VST, RTAS & AAX 64
- Available with either UAD-2 SOLO or UAD-2 DUO DSP processing onboard
- Estimated street prices of $699 (SOLO) and $899 (DUO).
Russ takes a look at the new iZotope Breaktweaker plug-in, beat generation on steroids. Find out what he thinks in this extended video review.
James from Pro Tools Expert gets an exclusive first look at the new UAD Apollo Twin desktop audio interface from Universal Audio, find out what he thinks in this extended show and tell video review.
He finds there are interesting similarities as well as differences and not all keyboards are the same, even small differences can have an impact on your workflow and be as personal as the choice of a pair of monitor speakers.
We currently are offering the Editors Keys PC Pro Tools Keyboard at £42 which is over 50% off the RRP.
Following on from Russ’s show & tell review of the new Waves Scheps 73 EQ, Mike takes a look at the other plug-in Waves have just released the WLM Plus. This is a new version of their established Waves Loudness Meter (WLM) and adds a True Peak Limiter and a Trim option, to their loudness meter. See how you can use the WLM Plus and how it can impact on your workflow.
In the video review Russ takes a look at the new Waves Scheps 73 plug-ins and asks does it give anything new compared to other Waves emulations?
For a lot of Pro Tools plug-in developers 2013 was spent porting to AAX, thankfully they still managed to create some new innovations or AAX versions of classic hardware.
Here is my list of AAX Plug-Ins That Got My Attention In 2013.
Softube Abbey Road Studios Brilliance Pack
These 3 EQs reissued by Soiftube prove that less can be more. The Softube Abbey Road Brilliance pack offer simple, fixed band EQs that add that something special when mixing tracks. We reviewed it here.
Arriving recently on the UAD platform the Maag EQ4 could possibly be the only EQ you would ever need, it is pure class and reminds me of mixing on an old console. Sell a body part and buy it. We reviewed it here.
There’s a lot of love for Maag products on our team, their hardware is awesome and thanks to team Plug-in Alliance now we can have the EQ4 in a plug-in too!
We found this interview with Cliff Maag Snr of Maag Audio from the 100th Annivesary Pensado’s Place recorded live at NAMM 2013, it doesn’t take long to discover the passion that drives Cliff to make the products he does. To see a man of the calibre of Cliff Maag talk about a generation that will create “the grestest engineers that have even been” is both exciting and moving.
Cliff not only builds some cool recording gear but also runs his own Studio the Record Lab and has worked on countless albums for both high end and aspiring artists.
We will be having Cliff Maag Snr on the Pro Tools Expert Podcast in 2014 to talk about his work, his ethos and more about that passion that drives him to create audio excellence.