Mark Studio 2 bests its forbearer, Mark Studio 1, by upping the anti from three amp heads and six cabinets to six amps and nine cabinets, respectively. A selection of six modelled close mics is on hand, as is a satisfying (virtual) midi-controllable pedal board layout. Also included in the booty are a couple of front (room) microphones. Polishing off the kit is a built-in precision tuner with optional output mute. All of this bass-a-licious-ness is presented in an easy to use, intuitive UI (User Interface) complete with a robust, simplified preset manager.
A notable change, welcomed by all customers, is whenever a company *lowers* its prices, instead of raising them. This is just such a case in point – Mark Studio 2 offers more, and costs less, than its predecessor, coming in at only € 109/$129 (usd). Mark Studio 1 bore an exorbitant price tag of € 190 a few short years ago. Generous upgrade prices reduce that amount by no less than 40%, and during annual sales events, even more so.
An experienced engineer will have immediately noticed a glaring omission from the $1500 list noted above --reference monitors. That’s right – I’m talking about studio monitors. Headphones are great for privacy and noise isolation in a bedroom studio or college apartment, but when it comes time to render a good mix, those “Dr. Beats” just ain’t gonna cut it, mate. What you need is a (hopefully) treated room and a pair of good quality, accurate, flat-response reference monitors.
As it happens, yours truly is reviewing a pair of reference monitors that behooves our attention and consideration. ESI has upped their game greater than ever before and now produce a select, but very impressive, range of studio-reference-speakers. Crowning their speaker line is the princely UniK 08 Plus. These 140 watt, bi-amped beauties house a potent kevlar-curved 8” low frequency driver and an exceptionally clear-sounding magnetostactic tweeter.
Spolier Alert: Before we even get into the meat of the review, it is my sincere assessment that these powerful, attractive reference monitors contend very well against competitors selling for twice as much. Each “UniK 08 Plus” retails for $399 (USD), essentially costing about $800 a pair. Notwithstanding, the degree of accurate, detailed sonic quality that these speakers provide, for such a modest price, makes them practically a steal!
It was late Spring, 2015 . . .
In a whirlwind of highly anticipated excitement, PreSonus went live with the release of their powerhouse DAW, Studio One v3.0. The third iteration of said software boasted impressive new features such as: signal/channel splitting, advanced effects routing, a revamped, high DPI interface, resizable mixer faders, “scratch pads”, a multi-tasking mouse tool, an arranger track, and the list goes on.
Readily available for both MAC and Windows PCs, Studio One is offered in three distinct tiers. Prime is the introductory level –it is downloadable completely au gratis. However, it lacks VST/AU support and even lacks most of the built-in effects found in the pay-for choices.
Taking up the middle child’s seat at the table is “Artist”. Artist ($99 usd) includes most of PreSonus’s built-in, native plug-ins, but continues to omit 3rd party VST/AU support. That said, VST support can be purchased from the PreSonus online store for $79 (usd), and once activated, will open up the mid-tier version’s functionality and feature set considerably.
Throughout the entire range of Studio One versions, there have never been limitations imposed on how many midi and/or audio tracks could be added to a song project. This remains a much appreciated gratuity from PreSonus; in both Studio One 3 Prime and Artist.
Lastly, the crowned prince of Studio One’s lineage, and the subject of this article’s focus, is Studio One “Professional”. No holds barred, “S1 Professional” shows off 64 bit (float) internal audio processing –as compared to “Prime” and “Artist” which each employ 32 bit (float) audio engines.
Complimentary mastering features and every one of PreSonus’s native plug-ins are on deck. Close to 30 GB of additional content (loops, samples, VIs, and etcetera), and a license for the full version of Melodyne Essentials 4.x is also included. Tous ensemble, it rings the til at a moderate cost of $399 (USD).
* Crossgrades and upgrade pricing are available for previous version owners.
“With 72 subtly-different modelled channels reproducing the nuances of a large analog console, bx_console E as a mix tool is huge, powerful, and satisfying.”
Ask any experienced, old skool mix-engineer what his/her preference is, in regard to getting “that hit record sound”, and I expect that the answer will most nearly always be the same: “Use a studio-grade analogue recording chain.”. However, this is easier said than done. After all, how many bedroom producers and home studio enthusiasts have access to $150, 000(+) SSL, Harrison or Neve recording desks?
Great strides have been taken within the digital (and computer) domains to achieve some decent approximations of the hallowed large-desk-console sound. By my estimation, one of the first developers to really come up with something good was Waves; back in January of 2006. Mind you, the release price of Waves’ SSL 4000 Collection was steep --peaking the money meter at around $1200 USD! Ouch.
There have been others whom have produced some pretty good-sounding plug-ins: Metric Halo, Solid State Logic themselves, Universal Audio, and a few others. However, very few “real” mix engineers, who were well acquainted with the genuine article, were ever highly convinced by said console emulations plug-ins.
Then came Dirk Ulrich & the crew, from over at Brainworx, touting their new “Tolerance Modeling Technology” as (hopefully) the definitive solution to everyone’s console emulation quest. Superb “brain work” it certainly was indeed! Not only has Brainworx’s team of programming engineers painstakingly modeled each component in the respective SSL 4000 “E” & “G” series channel strips, they did so across 72 separate channels! The likes had never been done before.
This is an exciting development, friends. Stick n’ stay --let’s find out just how good these hopeful accessories are. At full MSRP, bx_Console E and bx_Console G each requires a debit of $299 (USD) from a buyer’s bank account. I realize that $300 bucks is far from cheap, but bundling these high end plug-ins together with other Plugin Alliance dandies will result in goodly discounts. It’s important to note that each one has been on sale for $179 (USD) respectively. Of particular interest, if you buy one or the other of bx Consoles, you can get the alternate version for a low "crossgrade" price of only $99 (USD).
Unlike some of Softube’s other analogue-modelled fare, “Drawmer 1973” is not actually a piece of vintage kit. That said, the “1973” *is a FET design which automatically propels it into the classic, vintage-ish sound category. Drawing from its valve powered predecessor, the “S3” (No puns intended), the “1973” has quickly gained recognition as a superb, mastering-grade, multi-band stereo compressor. Fortunately, it is available at a more affordable price point --this is due in part to a completely new gain-cell design that hasn’t been used on any of Ivor Drawmer’s previous compressors. Sounds spectacular *and* is more affordable!? What’s not to love . . .
I can honestly say, right from the ‘get go’, that this processor is one of the best multi-band compressor plug-ins that I’ve ever used; however, it doesn’t exactly come cheap. At the time of this publication, the MSRP listed on Softube’s web site is a healthy $225 (USD). The good news is that this is $25 less than the year before. Pssst . . . If you’re a keen shopper, Softube does offer good sales every once in a while. *Wink.
Compressors of all sorts are becoming “a dime a dozen” now-a-days; what could capture the average home or small studio engineer’s interest enough to make them willing to invest in yet another plug-in? Stick n’ stay – hang out with yours truly for a few minutes, and let’s find out why the Softube Drawmer 1973 is a worthy consideration.
Don’t you just get all a-tingle when you find out about a new Krazy, Kool Delay plug-in? Of course you do! We all do. User forums are replete with tomes and scrolls of fanfare regarding all types of time-based and ambience plug-ins. For good reason. How bland and stale would our tunes be if we didn’t bring them to life with reverbs and delays? Perish the thought!
You know what I mean. There’s the vintage-inspired fare, there are pristine digital taps, there are virtual tape echo machines and most nearly everything else imaginable, available to us now-a-days. Unquestionably, there’s no shortage of delay/echo/multi-tap accessories to choose from.
But . . . just when you think that it’s all been said and done, Plug-in Alliance affiliate, “Unfiltered Audio”, unveils one of the vibe-y-est, and most interesting, delay/tap/echo thinga-ma-bob-a-roonies that has even been dreamt up.
As with most Plugin Alliance collectibles, Sandman Pro doesn’t exactly come cheap. However, considering that its basic “Classic Tape” mode alone sounds just as good as other dedicated tape delay plug-ins in the same price range, plus all the really, really cool alternate modes if offers, it makes for a very attractively-priced choice -- $99 USD.
What are these aforementioned “really, really cool alternate modes”, you ask? Stick n’ stay. Let’s open it up and see what’s inside . . .
I’m excited to bring this investigative report to you. I admit that I get a little extra bit stoked when an opportunity is presented to bench-test a new piece of hardware. This is certainly one of those times. ESI is not especially well known here in Canada, or anywhere North America for that matter, but I was highly intrigued when the U168 XT press release came across my desk.
Have you seen the ESI press release on Reviewer’s News? U168 XT Press Release
As it turns out, German technology builders, ESI, have decided to enter the North American audio interface fray. I’m honored that Reviewer’s Revival is one of the original six entities to have received a demo unit.
At 24 bit/96kHz, there is plenty of audio resolution on tap to produce über quality recordings, but since this is a USB 2.0 device, and thus limited to USB 2.0 transfer rates, it won’t take you into the stratospheric 192+ kHz range. I suspect that if you’re using a system powerful enough to handle the incredible amounts of data storage, and CPU capacity, that ultra high resolutions demand, you’re probably using a $3000 “Antelope” HDX interface and Pro Tools HD – in an elite LA Mastering studio. *Wink.
The U168 XT is an upper mid-class prosumer peripheral -- compatible with both MAC and Windows PCs. ALL the boxes are ticked with big, bold check marks: build-quality, features, speed, performance, I/O, sound quality and useful appointments. We must keep things “on-the-level”; I have a few shards of neutralizing commentary to share, but for the most part, I’m very impressed with the U168 XT.
Things have progressed quite a lot since those days. Most of us have retired our old x86 Windows XP and Vista machines in favor of newer, more powerful, multi-core 64 bit designs. Many of the well-established plug-in makers have developed impressive Tape emulators and these kinds of accessories have now become a fairly common digital audio commodity.
I enjoy throwing ToneBooster’s “TB_ReelBus” on drum tracks. It sounds great, it’s easy to dial in, and it offers plenty of configuration options. What’s more, it can be had for only €20. Other times you’ll find me smiling with satisfaction at the even better executed tape emulation heard in Slate Digital’s “VTM”. That said, I was more than a little intrigued when I received the official press-release concerning Softube’s “Tape”. If “Tape” exuded the same kind of highly convincing analogue vibe that other Softube treasures do, it must be something to behold – er, listen to, rather. *Grin.
Softube Tape lists for $99 (USD). I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I’m especially eager to delve into it and find out what everybody’s favorite “Rock-n-Roll Scientists” have come up with this time!
I’m more than a little excited to announce that these failings are nowhere to be heard or seen in version 2. This redux sounds, plays, and operates extremely well (dare I say near perfectly?). The Leslie (rotating) cabinet emulation is very impressive. Microphone positioning and room size virtualization are superb here. Tonal balance and faithful, authentic-sounding tonewheel character are exploited to the fullest.
B-5 V2 normally lists for €99, but AcousticSampleS generously provide it au gratis as a FREE upgrade for those whom had already purchased the original version.
* At the time of this publication, B-5 V2 is available for a short time at only €69!
The question I immediately posed was: “Is this just another ho-hum, hum-drum distortion plug or is the name on its tin aptly deserved?” I’ve been bench-testing Karacter over a period of a few days, comparing it to other Saturation plug-ins that I have on hand, and I’ve concluded that it imparts smooth, controllable harmonic color and character – it does so very nicely indeed.
Karacter is not actually a single plug-in; herein are two iterations of the processor banded together. First, there’s the Mix variant tailored for individual track tasks. Its larger, more feature-laden compadre, Master, is geared towards BUS duties, or even full mix processing.
Maybe it’s just my age showing, or perhaps it’s all the time and effort that we engineers have put into trying to “clean” things up, but me thinks that $199 (USD)** is an overly aggressive price point for a Saturation/distortion plug-in. Stick n’ stay – hang out with yours truly for a few minutes, and let’s find out if the steep MSRP price tag is merited.
**Excluding Plugin-Alliances special sales and bundle offerings - which by the way, there’s a sale ongoing at the time of this publishing: Get Karacter for $129.
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