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Entries in review (105)
No sooner had we posted the news about the new IK Multimedia EQ 73 and EQ 81 than Eli over at Logic Pro Expert has a complete review of the new Neve 1073 and 1081 Eq models from IK Multimedia.
His complete review gives audio examples as well as suggested applications for these new plug-ins from the IK Multimedia team.
IK Multimedia EQ 73 and EQ 81 Features
As we said in our earlier news item, IK Multimedia have gone further than simply modelling the EQs, these version include pre-amp modelling and MS processing too. Other features include;
- Fully compatible with Mac OS X (Universal Binary), and Windows (XP / Vista / 7 / 8)
- Supported plug-in formats: VST, RTAS, AAX, and Audio Units
- Works within the T-RackS CS Standalone application
- High-quality oversampling
- High-precision and high-transparency digital processors
- Accurately analog-modeled vintage classic devices
- Full-latency compensation support
IK Multimedia EQ 73 and EQ 81 Review
Head over to Logic Pro Expert for the extensive review of the new IK Multimedia EQ 73 and EQ 81 plug-ins.
In this video James takes a look at the new GAV19T guitar amp plugin.
He shows you around the amp and shows how real this thing sounds.
If you missed Podcast 112 then you would have not heard us talking about this email from community member El Sidius.
“Thanks for inspiring me over the last 2 years in getting more deeply in love with what I already love and that is music production. Without you I would have never finished my degree in audio technology.
Drumbank’s Top 5 Drum Virtual Instruments
It’s every bands dream to have a reliable, hardworking and committed drummer who doesn’t turn up late to every rehearsal session usually hungover and stinking of whiskey and cigarettes. While this is a very broad stereotype, in some cases it’s not far from the truth. Add to the fact that hiring one to play for you is even more of a pain in the backside, let alone recording one. “What’s a condenser?…Who’s Glyn John?…Why does his snare sound like a tin cat?”
Fortunately, If you really cant be bothered to find the answers to these questions, help is at hand by means of drum sampling software instruments. Sampling drums is nothing new. In fact if you listen to the song ‘Amen Brother’ by The Winstons and fast forward to about 1:26 you’ll instantly recognise the “famous loop” used on hundreds of early hip hop, drum-and-bass and Jungle music that inspired a youthful generation for decades to come. So what am I actually going on about I hear you ask? Fast forward about twenty years and you will see that it’s all in the software.
At it’s heart, drum samplers are powered by the individual sampled sounds of the drum and cymbal hits mostly at different velocities. It’s these velocities that adds realism to your beats. A real drummer would never hit the same drum at the same force, power and attack more than once. While this is the basis of any drum sampling software instrument, they also offer the songwriter and producer the ability to “go in deep” and shape/contour the sound suitable for your mix. Modern drum samplers offer monolithic mixing options. Anything from controlling the room /ambient microphones to even mixing in/out the “bleed” and spill on each individual drum, like you would in a real drum recording session.
Naturally, it’s these artefacts that make the overall drums sound more realistic and organic. Add these to your drum programming ability and humanization skills and you’ve got yourself a “real” drummer in your music without any actual human contact. Of course, extensive sample libraries exist that can be used with sampler plug-ins like Kontakt and others sample players but they do not offer an all in one solution like dedicated drum virtual instruments offer. While these features are expected by today’s top producers and professional songwriters, software manufacturers are quite forgiving to most of us bedroom musicians by offering presets and templates for us to quickly load up without losing focus on the actual song we’re writing. The recorded samples in most drum samplers come pretty much pre-mixed and sometimes you don’t even have to do a lot to have yourself a decent sounding drum kit. While these features are a given, CPU power isn’t and most samplers are very RAM hungry, so the way this is overcome is by software manufactures offering RAM saving features that help your computer deal with all the sample stress without having to upgrade to the latest tech. Although most modern DAW’s include a drum sampler built-in, it never feels as satisfying to use as a dedicated third party drum sampler. In this article, we run down five of our favourite Drum VI’s. They are in no particular order as each one is different and suited to a particular user.
In this video James takes a look at the USB 500 Rack from Aphex. Is it a 500 series rack? Is it a USB interface?
Is it an all in one hardware audio solution. James checks it out and puts it to work.
Watcht the Aphex USB 500 Rack review.
If you’re an Avid Omni interface owner like me, then you probably feel the same frustration with the limited and somewhat crippled connectivity. For example you get a vast array of connectivity options but when all is said and done you are left with 8 inputs, 2 XLR, two jack and the rest via either ADAT, SPDIF or AES/EBU. You can’t use the internal inputs inputs and then add an additional 8 via ADAT. I was once told by an Avid engineer (off the record) that it would be possible to do this one day - that was two years ago, so I’m guessing that’s a no then.
Some may think that this preamble is an odd way to start a review about the Audient ASP880, but when I was first told about the new Audient ASP880 I thought this may be the addition to my Omni powered Pro Tools HD system I had been looking for. Granted there are a lot of 8 channel ADAT enabled options, but what the Audient ASP880 offers seems to be exactly what this Avid Omni Owner was hoping for.
Audient ASP880 - The Basics
ASP880 is an 8-channel microphone preamplifier & ADC it offers;
- 8 Audient Console Mic Pres
- All new, Burr Brown AD converter technology
- Variable Input Impedance
- Variable High Pass Filters
- 8 Insert points between the mic pre amps and AD converters
- 2 Channels of Class-A Discrete JFET D.I instrument inputs
- Digital Outputs - ADAT, AES & S/PDIF
- XLR/Jack combo inputs
To unpack the list a little, the pre-amps are Audient’s renowned Class-A console mic pre amps. They have been developed by Audient’s David Dearden and are the same mic pre used by thousands of professional studios around the world.
Each channel features an A-D button that allows the ASP880 to function as an 8 channel mic pre while you use the converters separately in stand-alone mode.
Variable impedance allows you to match the pre to your favourite mic, in particular this feature has been added to account for the modern resurgence of ribbon mics but will work on other types of microphone but with less of an effect. There’s a helpful section in the manual explaining how changing the impedance will change the sound.
Each channel features a variable (thank you!) hi pass filter.
Finally and not to be underestimated the ASP880 has no fan, so promises whisper quiet operation, an important factor in the modern studio where many engineers and producers have everything sat in the control room.
Audient ASP880 - In Use
The Audient website offers plug and play operation, yes I’ve heard that line before too. So I unboxed it, plugged the IEC power cable in, connected an ADAT optical cable from the ASP880 into the Avid Omni and fired it up. the only minor set-up was to jump into Pro Tools hardware set-up window, assign all 8 ADAT inputs as the inputs on the Omni and select the ASP880 as my external clock source. There’s a button on the front of the ASP880 where the clock in set offering 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96Khz, so I simply selected the right one. That’s it, so on that score it really is as simple as plug and play. One thing to note, that ADAT connections offer 8 channels at 44.1 and 48Khz and 4 channels at the higher 88.2 and 96Khz. However 2 ADAT ports are available offering all 8 channels over ADAT at the higher rate using 2 optical cables and thankfully the Omni supports this too.
Russ takes a look at the new Waves Vitamin plug-in and reviews this handy plug-in.
He gives examples of using it on drums, piano, synth and guitar as well as on an entire mix.
Find out what he thinks with this review of the Waves Vitamin plug-in
In this video review James takes a look at the new Session Keys Grand S and Grand Y from e-instruments, two grand pianos from the team that brought us Session Strings and Session Horns.
James discovers that the new Session Keys are far more than just another set of sampled pianos.
This is an extended video review that shows all the features of these virtual instrument libraries.
Mike tries out the Nifty Drive Pro in his MacBook Pro to see if it would work as an audio drive with Pro Tools 11. Watch the video and see how many tracks he was able to record onto with 3 different SanDisk Micro SD cards in the Nifty Drive.
Details of the Nifty Drive Test With Pro Tools 11 & Sandisk Cards
- The test was with brand new SanDisk Ultra, Extreme and Extreme Pro Micro SD cards.
- New Sessions were created in Pro Tools on each card at 44.1K sample rate and 24 bit depth.
- The cards were not reformatted fro Mac OS Extended, they were used staright out of the box.
- The test system used…
- MacBook Pro 15” Mid 2012 2.3GHz Intel Core i7 with 16 Gig of RAM
- Mac OS Mountain Lion 10.8.5
- Pro Tools 11.1.2
- Apollo Twin Duo Interface connected by Thunderbolt
- Nifty Drive Pro with Sandisk Ultra, Extreme and Extreme Pro cards.
The Nifty Drive Pro
The Nifty Drive is avaialble for 34.99 Euros from Nifty in silver or red for the MacBook Air, Macbook Pro Retina and MacBook Pro. Buy them here.
In a recent article I mentioned some of the delight I had when trying new synths in my distant past, part of that was finding presets that made me smile often just because of sheer gratification, the other part was the sheer enormity of the sound.
Two moments in time were the first time I played a Korg M1 and hit the notes in Universe, what followed was what seemed like an entire film score unfolding, remember this was 1988 and was Korg’s response to the Roland D50. The second memory is the first time I played the MemoryMoog, a 6 voice, 3 oscillator monster, imagine 6 Minimoog’s in one (although getting the early version to stay in tune was a challenge.)
I start this review with those two stories to give my first impressions on firing up the Rob Papen Blue II, being presented with a 6 oscillator monster and finding one of the first presets in the demo sounds being a modern day rendition of the Korg M1 Universe, perhaps not one to appear in many tracks but still impressive and fun.
Rob Papen Blue II Synth Background
Is it possible to get the sound of a Neve Portico 5033, which in hardware form costs around $1725 in a plug-in costing $39? We got an email from a community member suggesting we check out the DDMF 6144 Eq, which is indeed a model of a Neve Portico 5033 for $39.
At Messe last week I was up late drinking with some of my fellow writers from other blogs and news sites and we all agreed that the constant “but does it sound like the hardware” is a little silly.
I have a dbx160 UAD plug-in and I also own the hardware, which I purchased after owning the UAD version, I have them for different reasons, some of it completely irrational and for the same reason I buy books and don’t own a Kindle – there are times when you simply want to grab a knob (cue Frankie Howard impression!)
We buy plug-ins for various reasons; cost, flexibility and portability and as technology gets better so do the plug-ins. If I had limitless funds and choice and din’t need to travel then I would probably grab the hardware all the time, again mainly for reasons you can’t show on a spec or spread sheet!
Russ takes a look at the new Waves Abbey Road Reel ADT plug-in to see if they have managed to capture some of the magic of this process pioneered at Abbey Road for the Beatles.
About The Waves Abbey Road Reel ADT
This process was invented for the Beatles by sound engineer Ken Townsend at Abbey Road Studios to help thicken up the vocal tracks of John Lennon who it is believed got fed up of having to record doubled vocals.
The ADT (Automatic Double Tracking) used tape with LFO applied to give the unique effect that simulated the effect of two vocals having been recorded.
Download A Demo Of The Waves Abbey Road Reel ADT
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.