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

Archives: 2006

November 22, 2006

Bundle? No problem...

by Chris Randall

Cakewalk is selling Audio Damage plugins for the holidays, and you can (for the nonce) pick up a bundle of Reverence, Dubstation, and Phase Two for $109. The bundle is Windows only, sorry to say. (This is a promotion mainly for Sonar customers, but anyone can partake.)

The Audio Damage store page on the Cakewalk site is here. So if you're a little tight for the holidays, but still want to grab a big slice of the AD sound, this might be the way to go.

November 22, 2006

And We're Off To The Races...

by Chris Randall

I know I keep mentioning my next album, in fits and starts, like "as I continue the interminable process of writing my next album..." and other pithy comments along that same vein. Well, for what it's worth, it's almost done. As my lovely and talented wife gets the website for the new project in order, she put up a MySpace page, which contains three songs from the new record.

So, assuming you were curious as to what I've been up to for the last 18-odd months, well, that's it. The album will be out in January.

November 21, 2006

New Tom Waits album(s) out today.

by Chris Randall

Don't forget the Tom Waits "Orphans" boxed set is out today. An excellent Christmas gift for the person in your life that has good taste in music. $39 at Amazon.

November 20, 2006

Novation ReMOTE ZeRO SL Initial Impressions...

by Chris Randall

We got our Remote Zero SLs today, and I thought I'd throw up some random thoughts about the installation and usage. To wit:

INSTALLATION: One thing I've noticed in my years is that high-end gear Just Works. The cheaper a unit is, the more hoops you have to jump through to get it to do what it is supposed to do. For instance, my Lynx AES16/Apogee Rosetta combo just worked out of the box. I installed the driver, and that was that. The combination was over $2500. This RemoteSL was, what, $299? Inversely proportional indeed. It took me about three hours, a download, two installs, and two reboots to get the transport buttons to do anything in Nuendo. The high end Nuendo controllers (like the ID and the Euphonix) just plug in and go, but this was a real dog-n-pony show. In its defense, Adam told me that it worked fine with Live without installing anything, but I didn't try that, so I can't vouch for it.

QUALITY: It's a big hunk of plastic. The endless encoder knobs and buttons feel firm, can't complain about that. The 60mm faders are essentially useless, except maybe in a live situation. There's these stupid little plastic leaning things that you have to screw on the bottom to get it to lean at a viewable angle. My unit came with neither the screws nor a USB cable, so I had to use my imagination. No external power supply is included. If you just want to control a piece of hardware, you're gonna have to either buy a wall wart or fill it with batteries. In use with a computer, it is buss-powered. The transport buttons are pretty whack; no tactile features whatsoever, so you have to look at them. I'm so used to my keyboard setup for Nuendo that I don't think I'll get much use out of the transport buttons, anyways.

IN USE: Since none of the buttons are labeled, you kind of have to figure out what goes where. However, once I read through the manual and puzzled around, I got the hang of it. The Automap feature is pretty spiffy. You just start up Nuendo, and presto, it's a Nuendo controller. It does all the normal hardware control shit you'd expect. The one thing it _doesn't_ do in Nuendo (and I assume Cubase) is allow you to control insert and send effects. You can control the sends per channel, but that's it. To do anything deep in the channel controls requires such a ludicrous amount of button pressing it's not worth the effort. So, in short, for high level control, it's pretty slick. For deep mixing, it is so much more complicated to use this than to just mouse around that it is literally not worth the effort.

Controlling VSTi parameters is really nice, in a weird sort of way, especially if the box knows about the VSTi (like V-Station, for instance.) You can get some pretty hefty control going there. That's where this unit really shines, I think. For a simple mixing surface, you're better off spending the money for Mackie Control or one of the more sophisticated offerings.

I can see this unit being really quite good for controlling, say, Live, in a live setting. But for home studio use as a mixing surface, I'd say skip it. It's a jack of all trades, master of none kind of affair.

EDIT: Okay, I just set up a Nuendo project for old-school house music group mute arranging, and had a fucking blast. That's what this unit is for. If you play live, using some variation on group mute arranging, you're gonna be in heaven with this box. It makes me want to book a Micronaut show. For this alone, it is well worth the money. But as I said, as a mixing surface, it leaves a _lot_ to be desired.

November 19, 2006

Direct Injection...

by Chris Randall

Since this can obviously become a point of contention, I'll nip it in the bud. Normally, I don't use a dedicated D.I. box in my own studio. I tend to either mic an amp, or use the front panel line input of my Brent Averil 312. (Usually only for bass, and even then only about half the time.)

But, on stage I bring my own D.I.s (this is a good habit everyone should have...) and I also have a pretty thorough experience with D.I.s in general. So, barring using the front panel input of a thousand or more dollar mic pre, here are my three choices for D.I. boxes, low, medium, and high-end:

GOOD: Countryman Type 85. $159 a throw. This is the standard the world over for stage D.I.; if you're a musician that needs to D.I. an instrument when you play live, and you're not rolling in cash, you should own one (or more) of these. Personally, I have 8. You literally can't go wrong with a Countryman. Another nice bonus is that if you show up to the gig with your own D.I.s, and they're these, the soundman (assuming he isn't a complete asstard) will automatically assume you know what you're doing, whether you do or not. (Note: sometimes the soundman will try to steal these from you when he's wrapping the stage. Make sure yours are well-marked, and you grab them literally before you do _anything_ else. The single most commonly stolen item in the music industry is the Type 85. How do you think I got 8 of 'em?)

BETTER: D.W. Fearn Passive Direct Box $300. Unless you have techs that will guard your shit, you generally don't want to be taking anything more expensive than that Countryman on stage, unless it's bolted in your rack. Thus, this isn't that good an idea for that particular course of action, as it's tiny and easily stolen. But if you need a good D.I. in your studio, you could do worse than this box. The thing is that in order to really see any benefit over the Type 85, you need a good mic pre to grab the info from this fucker, and if you have a good mic pre, it probably has an instrument input, which kind of obviates something like this. So it's in a hazy grey area. But I've used it, and it doesn't suck, not one bit. Handy if you have racked console pres, and they don't have instrument inputs.

BETTERER: Avalon U5. $575. Now we're getting in to heavy duty territory. The thing about the U5 isn't that it'll make your shit sound better than it already does. (In fact, its clarity will bring to light maybe some things you didn't want to hear, like fret buzz, hiss in your analog synth, and the like.) Rather, the U5 is the most eminently controllable D.I. made. It can grab pretty much any signal coming down a 1/4" cable and turn it in to something an Apogee can swallow whole. The best feature is that it has a power-soak input, so you can plug the speaker output from a guitar or bass head directly in to it. This is quite handy in today's home studio. I won't say it sounds great, as it doesn't sound at all. One of the most color-free devices made. If you're looking for an all-around studio D.I. that will absolutely be able to do whatever you ask of it without altering the input in the slightest, this is the box for you. Well worth the money.

BEST: Tab-Funkenwerk V71. $750. This is a D.I. made using the topology of everyone's favorite tube mic pre, the Telefunken V72. Absolutely the best thing going for bass D.I. If you want something that will fatten up the input, and give it some nice overtones, this is the box for you. Stellar for vintage analog synths, as well. Now, a caveat: if I was you, and I was looking at this box, I would just save a little more money and buy the TAB-Funkewerk V78 mic pre and a Countryman. Same net effect, but the V78 is a mic pre, and thus more useful in general.

As far as I'm concerned, the above are all one needs to know about D.I. boxes. What's stated is my opinion only, based on my personal experience.


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