Snapshot Product Reviews

Oct 1, 2005 12:00 PM

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SOUNDTOYS ECHOBOY VERSION 1.2
Echo/Delay Plug-In

EchoBoy from SoundToys (formerly Wave Mechanics) is an ingenious echo/delay plug-in for Mac OS X and Pro Tools HTDM/TDM/RTAS/AudioSuite. With its imaginative and musical design, comprehensive parameters/options and editable Style section, EchoBoy emulates new and classic echo units, creating just about every conceivable type of delay effect.

EchoBoy has four modes: Single Echo, with a single delay value and up to two outputs; Dual Echo offers two delay times and two outputs; Ping-Pong is similar to Dual with two delay times and outputs, except that one delay (Ping) feeds the other (Pong); and Rhythm Echo for creating a rhythmic sequence of delays using up to 16 taps from a single delay line. Rhythm Echo's GUI has a grid of up to four measures long (4/4 time) that shows each tap's delay time, level, panning, repeats and number of sequence recycles. Besides a page of main parameters for each mode, Tweak submenus allow mode-specific fine-tuning.

Delay times are entered by keystrokes or up/down delay adjust buttons, with times expressed in milliseconds or as musical note subdivisions (sixteenth, eighth, quarter, half-note); you can also have dotted or triplet notes. Master tempo is set (in bpm or milliseconds) by typing in values, tapping or by following session MIDI tempo. A Groove knob sets the delay output's groove anywhere between shuffle and swing; a Feel control shifts the onset of the first echo between Rushin' (ahead of the beat) or Draggin' (behind the beat).

Adjusting the relative timing and feel of echo and its repeats can affect how the echoes mesh with the music and the feeling it imparts on the song. EchoBoy is the first processor to offer precise control over timing/feel and the sound character of both the echo and the way the repeat echoes devolve in fidelity.

There are 30 specific Styles that change the quality of the echoes. These range from pristine Master Tape echo, to harder-sounding Digital Delay echo, to Tube echo — where saturated echoes get thinner with each repeat — to the low-fi repeats of Telephone. There are more than 300 factory presets, each with a style that's editable in its Tweak submenu.

On a lead vocal track, I used EchoBoy in Dual mode with each output panned left/right and each having slightly different delay times. I adjusted the Feel knob to the Draggin' side so that the eighth-note delay echoes were late. The Accent controls let me make the even repeats (2, 4, 6, 8, etc.) hotter than the odd-numbered repeats. I then used the Width control to distance the lead singer's main track from the delay. For a low-fi effect, I used the Tel-Ray Style, turned the Saturation control down, added high frequencies and increased Wobble to add a wowing varispeed to the echo.

At $495, Echoboy is a sure winner and a must-have for anyone's plug-in list. If you can dream it up, EchoBoy can do it with style.

SoundToys, 802/951-9700, www.soundtoys.com.
Barry Rudolph

A DESIGNS REDDI
Single-Channel Tube DI

Great DIs are like expensive cars. You can go through life without driving one, but once you do, you'll never want to go back. At $750 retail, A Designs' REDDI is in the high end of direct input devices and has made me a believer, as well as other audio pros who used it during this review.

REDDI weighs a hefty 10 pounds and is 14.5 inches long. The vented all-steel case provides cooling for the tube and power supply. On the inside are top-quality components, including a beefy toroidal power transformer, custom-wound output transformers and a 6NI-P tube. An optional rack adapter can handle up to two REDDIs.

The front panel has a Neutrik Combo XLR/¼-inch input, an XLR output, power switch and level control. A piercing blue LED indicates that the unit's on. One of REDDI's best features is that it offers 16 dB of gain for easily matching any source to your console's mic input, especially notoriously hot active basses or weaker passive ones. The rear panel has a ground lift switch and an IEC AC connector. One downside is the lack of a thru jack so that you can also connect the input to an amp. A Designs claims there is no room for this, but on a box in this price range and size, it's an expected feature. (A Designs recommends the use of any cable or switcher box for this application.)

REDDI's first outing was on an active bass. The bass player's head turned as soon as he heard his instrument in the 'phones. REDDI was an instant hit both in and out of the control room. The tone it provides is rich and full with plenty of low-end punch and high-frequency definition (up to 60 kHz, according to A Designs). Next, it was used with a Wurlitzer electric piano. Wurlitzers have limited bandwidth but REDDI delivered, making the Wurly sound great. Even when playing hard, there wasn't a hint of overloading REDDI. Because of its combo input and level control, REDDI is versatile enough to take a dynamic mic input and give it the neo-classic REDDI warmth and tone. This is a nice feature and almost makes up for the loss of a thru input.

REDDI's warm, punchy tone, solid construction and level control make it a versatile studio tool that will make engineers and bass players drool with audio glee.

A Designs, 818/716-4153, www.adesignsaudio.com.
Kevin Becka

DISCRETE DRUMS SERIES FOUR
The Heavy Mental Drum Library

There are a least a bazillion drum libraries on the market (pop, rock, hip hop, R&B, techno, industrial — you name it), but so far, the genre of drum collections catering to the metal connoisseur has been pretty limited.

Discrete Drums has launched The Heavy Mental Drum Library. Produced by Rick DiFonzo, it's available in three formats: 16-bit stereo and 24-bit multitrack, both in universal .WAV format on CD-ROMs for loading into virtually any — or any virtual — system and a $119 DVD with 1.8 GB of 24-bit samples as 27 kits formatted for EXS-24, Kontakt, GigaStudio, MachFive, HALion, Reason, SampleTank and Battery.

The 16-bit stereo set is $189 and has two CD-ROMs of tracks and two audition discs in standard audio CD format to quickly find something to your liking. The mega $349 pro bundle has 14 CD-ROMs and two audition CDs — almost 9 GB of full performances, solos and individual hits. It includes 13 tracks (kick, snare, hi-hat, stereo toms, stereo overheads, stereo close room, stereo big room and stereo “gak”). (Pro Tools edition offers Pro Tools sessions, Live sets and SampleTank kits on DVD for $329.) The latter is a nasty, rude-sounding track recorded using an excessively cheap (and overcompressed) distance mic for effect.

Loading the 48kHz multitrack files into Pro Tools was a snap. Just have a quick listen on the audition CDs, find what you like and start working. The cuts feature popular session drummer Tony Morra and were cut at Sound Kitchen's Big Boy room (just outside Nashville in nearby Franklin, Tenn.). The quality of the performances and audio throughout is impeccable — except for the intentionally bad gak tracks, which, like any spice, has its use in some dishes and not in others. I appreciated accessing 13 separate channels on each project, and for more variation, alternate endings are provided with each project, along with a collection of miscellaneous crashes, count-offs and extra endings for use anywhere. Also, all of the drums are dry-miked and can be combined with the distance mic tracks or with outboard reverb to your taste.

Is this collection for you? Some of the track names — such as “Neuronic Whip,” “Nail Gun” and “Brain Matter” — should give you a clue, but if you need powerful, mind-numbing backbeats or crushing double-kick grooves, you might have the answer. Or, go to the company's Website and download a demo sample for yourself.

Discrete Drums, 484/582-0727, www.discretedrums.com.
George Petersen

SYNTHOGY IVORY
Sampled Grand Piano Library

The sampled grand in Kurzweil's original 1984 K250 keyboard was the best from that era. Tapping the formidable horsepower and the disk streaming available in modern computers, the 32GB Ivory takes off like a jet from where the K250 left off.

Currently only available for the Mac (a PC version is coming soon), Ivory contains three complete grand pianos: a powerful Bösendorfer 290 Imperial, a 9-foot German Steinway D with lots of personality and a Yamaha C7 with its characteristically resonant low end. Each was sampled with four to eight velocity layers, plus several release samples taken at different times, soft-pedal samples and key noise. The pianos are beautifully recorded, miked fairly close for maximum versatility.

In addition to the presets, Ivory provides all the control you need over its performance characteristics. You can select soundboard models with different amounts of resonance and then adjust the level that sounds when you press the sustain pedal.

You can select stretch or equal-tempered tuning; tune or transpose the instrument; select player/audience pan perspective; and adjust the stereo width, dynamic range, key noise level, overall timbre, release time and velocity response. The software includes a surprisingly well-programmed ambience processor with none of the typical problems in “free-verbs.” An effects screen provides access to basic reverb parameters, chorus, and low- and high-shelving EQs.

Minimum requirement is a 450GHz G4 450 with 512 MB of RAM. I ran it on a dual 1GHz PowerMac G4 with 1.5 GB of RAM under OS 10.3.4, inside Apple Logic 7, MOTU Digital Performer 4.12 and Pro Tools 6.3.2. On the review machine, a full 8-layer Bösendorfer took up roughly 630 MB of RAM over what the host sequencer required, although lower-memory versions of the pianos are available.

Ivory has a very effective note-stealing algorithm: You can set the polyphony limit as high as 160 stereo voices, but I never noticed notes being cut off at the default 24-voice setting.

Features aside, the transitions between samples are absolutely seamless, and the velocity response is impeccable. Ivory feels/sounds like you're playing a real piano. At a retail of $349, it's a bargain.

Synthogy, dist. by Ilio, 818/707-7222, www.ilio.com, www.synthogy.com.
Nick Batzdorf






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