Saturday, December 10, 2011

Studio Projects CS-1 review and audio samples

Olla, long time no see. I got a microphone recently that highly impressed me for it's price. The Studio Projects CS-1. Very full and rich sounding microphone with lots of bottom and no harsh sounding high frequencies. Very flexible with a four step bass cut and a four step high cut. Great to tame deep frequencies of an upright or bass cabinet. I use them much more often than I thought. It has a very high output and is very quiet as well. In combination with a nice tube preamp it really shines. Street price was 600 Euro a few years ago and I got this one for not even a third of the original price. I know it's Chinese - but it's the best Chinese microphone I had so far. It's very good on vocals and doesn't push sibilance.
Here are some acoustic guitar samples:

The shock mount is very functional and much better than the ones from SE Electronics for example. All in all there is more love in this product, and that's why I rate it a 8/10

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sennheiser MK 4 review and audio samples

Aloha, this time I want to give you some quick impressions on the Sennheiser Mk 4 large diaphragm cardioid microphone that just arrived in my studio. I use several older dynamic Sennheiser mics and I usually like what they do and the quality of their products. This mic is made in Germany, it's solid, pretty heavy and sells for 300 Euros which is an amazing price in my point of view. You get no case or suitcase and no shock mount or any other extras - just a small bag and a (good working) clip, thats it. The mic itself has no features like a bass roll-off or a pad switch and you can not change the characteristic. So there are a lot of "no's". But what you get is a great microphone that feels and sounds just right - and thats what its all about. This microphone is a great tool, my test recordings with male vocals, acoustic guitars and amps had been very promising. I was "instantly" happy. There is a slight boost in the upper mids that can be nice on certain things (especially vocals and acoustic guitars) and I love the fact that it doesn't sound harsh in higher ranges and handles sibilance well. Very nice.

Sennheiser MK4 vs. Neumann TLM 127 on custom made tube preamp

Sennheiser MK4 vs. Neumann TLM 127 on MOTU Traveler built in preamp

Regarding the price it's great when you are "on the go" or if you want to invest in a stereo set. I rate this thing a 8/10 for now and will be back with more details after I've used it for a while...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Review: Nord Electro 3 61

I was not really prepared for this one to be honest. Once I had too much time in a music store in Berlin and I started to check out all the electronic pianos they had. I have an old piano from the 1920s in my studio and I never really enjoyed playing on an electric piano - for me it's always something that can work in a band context but not really on it's own. I think it's something for people who really learned how to play. For me, as I have a slow left hand, it's easy to get some kind of mood on a real piano but it's hardly possible to play pieces "with feeling" on an electric simulation. Anyway, I found that red little thing and I was  happy not to have to choose out of 500 sounds and even more gimmicks to get what I want. It's simple and offers just three piano sounds to choose from - one grand, two uprights and an easy set of effects and an eq that's it. Just a few but very good sounds! I found myself playing on it for another hour in that shop. Now I own one myself and use it a lot in the studio or with my band. I ordered it with the bag (that perfectly fits of course) and I love that it's very easy to carry and super light. High quality made, real wood, a very interesting organ section (B3, Farfisa, Vox) and the possibility to upload new sounds and samples really got me stunned. Clavia offers a lot of other piano samples on their homepage - the only bad thing is that it's connected via usb 1 (!) and it needs super long to upload a few MB. And the fact that I can not upgrade the memory is also not nice... The biggest mistake they made is the power supply that is damn noisy and really goes on my nerves easily. Not really made for a studio jam. It's fun to play and very very useful to me and but regarding the power supply I rate it a 7/10.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Review: Genelec 8020 Monitor & 5040 Subwoofer

Once I lent a pair of these from a friend for a mixing job. I was very skeptical when I unpacked them and could hardly take them serious regarding their size. They are so small you can call them "portable" but they are also damn heavy for their size... When I first listened to them I instantly fell in love - easy as that! I just came back from mixing at a guys place with KRK monitors (don't remember which models) and the genelecs sounded way more sophisticated and natural. It's just another league. Much more of a working tool than a compromise! I didn't want to let them go and decided to buy a pair for my home studio setup. As they lack some deep frequencies I decided to get a subwoofer and ordered the 5040A that is big enough for my mixing room (25sqm). This is a beautiful little setup and I think the 5040A fits perfectly with the 8020s (even if this sub is usually advertised in combination with the even smaller 6010s). Genelec states that the 5040 was designed for both models and I can say it works and sounds great. You have to put the monitor volume at 12 o'clock and control the overall volume via the funky remote control of the subwoofer. The connectors of the bigger brother 7050 are more professional but for a small studio the chinch connectors of the 5040 are ok. The only real bad thing is that it's not possible to sync the two volume controls of the monitors, which means there is always the chance that one side is louder than the other one... I rate this speaker combination a  8/10 cause it really makes me happy.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review: Focusrite Saffire Pro 40

Well, personally I had some problems with the "pro". It seems like a good feature set on paper but I got disappointed several times since I unpacked it. The case looks stable and the fact that I don't need an extra power supply is a plus. So far for the good things... Lots of other things frightened me. The buttons are made of plastic (aluminum color...), the mic preamps offer not enough noise-free gain and you also can not really control that gain you don't have. Almost nothing happens until you turn the knob to 8 and then you have around 30 db available between 8 and 9. Above 9 the signal is too noisy. It's so bad I even thought that my device was broken and so I sent it back. Just to find out that it's the same problem with the bigger brother that I already reviewed here: Liquid Saffire 56. It's better to save some money for a device that is more "pro" and less a cheap compromise. I rate this box a 3/10.

Review: TC Electronic Impact Twin

When I got it I was surprised by its size - it's pretty big for what it is. Much bigger than a RME UC for example. It's kind of wrapped in black plastic which protects the knobs and buttons a bit and seems solid. A Firewire 800 to 400 adapter is included in the package as well as a very short Firewire cable. The sound is ok when you are on the go and I tend to describe it as transparent and clear. It has a few gimmicks like two headphone output, three useful monitor options (stereo, mono, side!), it comes with onboard compressor and reverb and both are good things to have. Don't use the compressor to much - just a bit can be nice... The software seems smooth and offers some some more features that can come in handy (de-esser is shit / eq is ok). For me it's an good interface. Enough preamp gain and satisfying results. ADAT and MIDI are nice - I could recommend it to beginners with ambitions as it seems to have everything that you need to get started. I use it in my drum room with two additional external preamps. I got mine in 2nd hand (in very good condition) for 160 Euro and for this price you can't go wrong. I keep it and rate that thing a 7/10.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


A big wannabe... Made in China and designed in England - maybe it would be better the other way round? It's big and of course full of features. I read so much about the Liquid Pres and I heard so little. The front panel is designed by "Anarcho" - which means no system required. Some channels have this feature some have that feature and others lack just almost everything. Cheap plastic buttons sprayed with aluminum color make me think of rednecks in red Mazdas who act like they where driving Ferraris.
I was not happy with the pres. Not enough clean gain - even less when using the liquid pres. The way the potis react is a joke - nothing happens until 8 and then you have to fine adjust the gain with the finger tips of your finger tips. But you can only do that until 9, cause than the noise is too loud. Focusrite should ship some tweezers with the unit so we'd be able to really control the gain. This unit just doesn't feel right, sometimes the hardware didn't react on the software and all in all I just don't want to spend 700 Euros for this! So I rate this thing a 2/10.


This one I almost liked! It's nicely built, pretty big and definitely made for rack installation as it needs a lot of space on the table. You can feel the quality of the hardware "made in Japan". Neutrik jacks (sadly without xlr cable lock), good buttons and potis. Power supply comes with long cables and an On/Off switch - seems durable as well. The latest software was stable and reliable for the testing period and I had no software problems on my mac with snow leopard. I missed the MIDI connections. This is boring as it's essential to my workflow. Two headphone output jacks can come in handy. It has pretty clear mic preamps I could work with and a good overall sound and converter quality. But still my Motu Traveller MKI provides more clean gain and is easier to set up for stereo recording. I like digitally controlled gain more than "just" potis - it's not possible to control the gain via the software. Switches would be even better sound wise (and no problem as we record digital) but it's not very common. You can bypass the mic preamps of the MR816 by using the insert jacks for channel one and two in the back of the device. Price is 650 Euros and that's ok. I rate this little big thing a 7/10.


First of all: This device is small! Much smaller than the pictures will make you believe. I was really surprised... for sure the smallest 8 IN audio interface on the market. It's built nicely - pretty good quality.
Everything seems very durable and stable. Good buttons and knobs. AutoSens function is yeah but lead to overload on the very first take. Since then I didn't trust it, but maybe I didn't give myself enough time to get used to it. The software is ok and works, the reverb is a nice gimmick but it all looks kind of too amateur. A little goofy. Like something for teenies. The mic preamp gain is pretty low. Ok for condensers, but for dynamics with low output (441/421) it will be a problem. They are noisy when driven too high but enough for a loud rehearsing room if thats where you want to record. USB had been no problem - very stable and ok latency. MIDI is nice on board - ADAT is missing as well as optical out. Can be the right thing for a band that wants to record in the rehearsal room. The ad says it has less noise than other interfaces as it's all digitally controlled but I didn't notice that. If you find one for under 400 Euro second hand it's interesting as it seems to last...  Street price is 600 Euro and that's not amazingly cheap. I rate it a 6/10.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: Zoom H1

After having spent two happy years with the Zoom H4N I finally ordered the little brother - and as size matters for me when it's about portable recording I decided to keep it. It's much lighter and portable and only uses one battery. I also like the fact that it just has one main recording button - even my singer can use it. But there is a lot I don't like: It's 100% plastic and needs special care if you want to keep it for long. So be sure to have some warranty - I would not buy it second hand... I can't use it as an audio interface via USB and this is really not nice. Shame on you Zoom. Would be great to use it for multitrack recording with a laptop or with an iPad while traveling. The recording quality is very ok for it's size - and that's the most important thing. A standard SM58 pop filter fits and is able to get rid of some wind noise while recording outside. But the handling noise is almost unacceptable due to the plastic case. So make sure to put it on a tripod. It has a bit less noise/hiss than the mobile tascam recorders. I rate that thing a 6/10.


Well, this one was quick. I have just been interested how much gain the mic preamps supply and had been very disappointed. Unusable on medium level and quiet sources and that means if you want to go mobile - you better get some mobile external preamps as well. It's built very well but the mic preamps are noisy in higher range and thats where you have to go if you record some sensitive vocals or acoustic guitars with dynamic mics. I don't get the concept - could be an amazing device but for someone like me who records with microphones 90 % of time it's a no go. 8 (!) phantom powered mic preamps via Firewire with no gain? Great... The software is pretty nice. I rate this thing a 4/10 on the rough scale.

Review: Apogee ONE

Well, I got this one new for 220 Euros and the break-out cable connector was kind of broken from the start. It lost contact easily and the whole device would not work when it was not plugged. I searched some forums and I was not the only one who had this problem. Some people think it's normal -but it's not. Keeping the cable connected when using the internal mic on a mic stand would make no sense anyway. So i sent it back and got another offer the same week almost new in perfect condition with 2,5 years of warranty for 150 €. I think thats a more reasonable price... And the warranty really matters for me regarding the amount of plastic.
When comparing the D/A conversion with the output of a actual iMac I have to say there is not as much difference as I hoped there would be. So I'm a bit disappointed with that but the level of the headphone amp is very strong. Pros are (for once) the USB connection regarding flexability with apple notebooks, portability, phantom power and the good mic preamp quality. Cons are plastic, price, the usb connector and the break-out cable. The internal mic is useable for "emergency recording" - it's always better than having no recording at all. I rate that thing a 6/10.

Review: Mackie 402-VLZ3

This one arrived at the same time as the m-audio DMP3.
I had my girlfirend unpack it and the first thing she said was "wow it's very solid!". And that's what it is: a very solid, small mixer that makes me think of a swiss army knife. It's around 115 € and of course there are cheaper small mixers out there that offer more features but this thing is great when size and quality matters. I have it next to my drum kit and it's perfect for this. I also love the idea of taking it on tour for small shows. This toolbox can come in very handy in a lot of situations. I like that you can lock the power cable and the leds are great as well. Soundwise I'm totally happy - haven't tried it on ribbon mics but thats not what it's made for. It sounds nice with a Sennheiser 421 on kick drum - nicer punch than the dmp3 for example. I decided to keep it and rate this thing 9/10. That means it really made me smile.

Review: M-Audio DMP3

Well, so here is my first post! Welcome everybody...
I just had the m-audio dmp 3 in the studio and tested it as it seems to be everybodys darling. It's a two channel mic preamp for 170 € and to make along story short: I was not amused. When I unpacked it I had to be very careful not to break this little thing. Doesn't look durable at all. I thought that as it was small it could be a portable solution for some projects, but I guess it would break immediately on tour. Seems a bit like a kids toy. If you plan to put it on one place and never gonna move it again you can think about getting it. Sound wise it's nothing special. It does the job but every preamp of an audio interface aorund 500€ will sound equal. Quality wise it's a pain in the.... I rate that thing 4/10. I'm nice, no?