Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.

Archives: 2005

October 9, 2005

DIY Day pt. 2 - Carpentry 101

by Chris Randall

Here we see the console I started last weekend. As you can see, it is pretty much done. All I have left to do is bore the holes for the cables of the various items that live on its surface (e.g. monitors, speakers, etc.) and paint it. I'm actually going to get the paint here in a minute, so chances are good I'll finish this today. In keeping with the theme of Shaolin Fist Of Death Studios, it will get an oriental laqueresque kind of treatment, black with red trim. It should look utterly ridiculous.

For the curious, the whole project took 1 1/2 sheets of 5/8" plywood, a Skillsaw, a jigsaw, some wood glue, finishing nails, and a hammer. And a lot of sanding. Note my fly-ass left-handed hammer. One of the many ways I get back at righties on a regular basis. ("Hey, can I borrow your hammer?" Heh. Sure.)

October 9, 2005

DIY Day pt. 1 - Modular Madness

by Chris Randall

I'm calling Sunday DIY Day, for today at least. Time to update on my recent projects. I finally finished my second DIY module for my Blacet modular, a Digital Noise module from CGS. In the picture, you can see my snazzy panels for the Psycho LFO and Digital Noise modules from Front Panel Express.

I still have to get the tiny LEDs that go above the binary outputs, as you can see, but it is otherwise done. Works like a charm. Total cost to build on the Psycho LFO was about $38, and for the Digital Noise about $44 (the panel cost more; more holes in it.) These are easy-to-build modules. The hardest part of the whole operation was ordering the capacitors.

October 9, 2005

AES: Roll Music Super Stereo Compressor

by Chris Randall

This is one I've been waiting to see. There was a "coming soon" on the Roll Music page for ever and a day about this box, and lo and behold, it dropped at AES. It is quite obvious that it can trace its lineage from the Gyraf SSL 2-buss compressor clone straight to the SSL stereo compressor, putting it in the same family as the Alan Smart C1 and C2. The main difference appears to be the addition of a high pass filter. Price is unknown, but this is one to watch if you need a good 2-buss compresser (and of course you do) and don't want to take on the rather daunting task of building the Gyraf clone for yourself. Since it is coming from Roll Music, it won't be that expensive. I bet it will be under a grand, or right around there.

EDIT: I think it is important to note that my comments above viz. the Roll compressor being a descendent of the GSSL clone were based upon Justin's comments on his own web page. After reading several threads at the various pro audio forums, I personally am convinced this bears no resemblance to the GSSL other than superficially. So, I take back what I said. The people that have heard it say it sounds amazing, as well. The GSSL sounds like an SSL, which isn't necessarily "amazing."

October 8, 2005

Ludicrously good channel strip roundup...

by Chris Randall

Since I was being all snarky yesterday about input chains, I thought it might be an interesting exercise to have a look at the top end of the input strip market. An input strip, in my mind, contains everything you need between the microphone (or instrument) cable and the A/D. In some cases it might even have the A/D, which is handy. I think what I'll do is put up the insanely expensive ones today, then later today or tomorrow a group of more affordable choices that don't completely blow.

As I mentioned in my gear pr0n post yesterday, people tend to overlook this sort of thing in their Quest For Gear. But a good input strip will let the true colors of your synth/bass/kazoo really shine, and is money extremely well spent, IMO. Since there are a lot of these sorts of products, we'll limit the selection to units that contain a mic pre, an equalizer, and a compressor/gate. In short, an entire input chain in one unit. Just add input.

First up, we have the Solid State Logic XLogic E Signature Channel. This is a channel strip cloned from an SSL E-series console. If you ever hear people talk about the "SSL sound," they're talking about the E-series, because it is the most colorful of the SSL lineage, for sure. Of the 14 full-length albums I've released, half have been either recorded, mixed, or both on an E-series, so I have a bit of experience with this particular sound, which could be described using adjectives like "aggressive," "chunky," and "wrawkin'." This strip is brand new, just announced at AES, and I can't find an MSRP. I'll wager it's in the $2500 range, though. Just for fun, it includes the "Listen Mic" compressor, just like the free plug-in that was dropped yesterday. There will also be an A/D option.

The API 7600 channel strip is basically the input section of an API Legacy console. It is, in short, the fucking Shit. As has been mentioned here, there, and everywhere, API is the sound of American rock. This bad boy will set you back $2750, but it is worth every single penny. It is part of API's rack-mount console series, and has sends that work with the 7800 master module, but that isn't necessary to use it, as it will work fine by itself. It includes the mic pre and compressor from the Legacy console, and the 550a equalizer. A strong "buy" recommendation, if you have the means.

After two discrete designs, it might be time for some tubes. Clocking in at $2650, the Pendulum Audio Quartet is chock-full of NOS tubes hand-blown by German virgins in the 50s, when blowing tubes was something the Russians didn't do very well, and people were more innocent. I don't have any experience with this particular unit, but I've seen a lot of people that know about such things write positively glowing reviews of it. The thing to note is that it has a _lot_ of options for carving up your tone. Transformers can be switched in and out, the routing of the unit can be changed (e.g. EQ before or after compressor), all the modules can be patched out and used indepentently, etc. It is an extremely versatile box for the money. There is also the inevitable Mercenary Edition, (every manufacture that has a product in the Mercenary store has to provide Fletcher with a custom job, it seems) which is, like all Mercenary Editions, "more agressive," "punchier," etc. Supposedly a great fucking box, but I don't know from using it.

So, those are but three of the possibilities. The price range for a high-end input strip generally hovers around the $2K to $3.5K mark, with some considerably more. But you get what you pay for here, no doubt. Not only is it a good investment for your sound, but these things hold their value (and in many cases appreciate) so when you finally give up this whole music racket and decide to become an investment banker, you can sell this stuff and put the money in penny stocks.

October 7, 2005

AES: Toft 8-buss console preview

by Chris Randall

Well, truth be told, I don't know if this is actually _at_ AES, but the Toft fellows said they'd be showing it there. (Just wait 'til winter NAMM, because I'll actually be there, and thus won't be sitting here typing out my ass all day.) In any case, this is something you don't see coming down the pike every day: an analog 8-buss console.

Toft is generally accepted to be on the low side of high-end, or on the high side of middle-end, depending on who you ask. That caveat aside, this console is gonna smoke. It is a true 8-buss, and is available in 16, 24, and 32 input frames. It also has a digital option for FW, AES, and ADAT. Nothing I can find says whether the ADAT and FW are both I and O, though. Well, never mind that; this is an ideal front end for your DAW, especially if you have a lot of keyboards (see my rant earlier.) The best part? The price. It has an MSRP of $2495, which means a possible street price of under two grand.

It's also worth mention that Toft is part of the PMI Audio Group, which includes JoeMeek. In conversations I've seen online, folks from Toft have mentioned several times that Joemeek will be introducing the Meekser next year, which should be a nice little mixer for not a lot of money. Something to look forward to for NAMM, I guess.


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