Arturia 3 Compressors You’ll Actually Use Review

Today I posted a new video review to Real Home Recording about new unofficial 1176, dbx 165A and Retro Instruments Sta-Level plugin software emulations.

Here is the video:

The script/notes are below. Many of these notes are opinions that were lifted from Gearslutz users:

– By my request Arturia hooked me up with a license to review their three new compressor plugins.

As of this video recording they are still on intro sale for $99. $33 for each plugin.

Let’s take a listen to the different compressors on a few tracks.

Arturia install process wasn’t exactly smooth. Requires VST2.4 32-bit or 64-bit installs. A VST3 only option would be nice. Told me to close all applications so I did and it still kept giving me error messages. Clicked ignore a couple times and it finally went through.

Quick tour. Didn’t realize it wanted me to click the control instead of the next button.

Doesn’t clamp down on signals like hardware might but I do like the way they manipulate sounds. If you need them to catch peaks, use the time warp feature.

Besides compression, the coolest feature is how each compressor can affect the tone of the tracks, just like real hardware.

Usually, to change values in the plug-in controls, we click on the corresponding control and drag the mouse up or down. If the controls are switches, we simply click them to toggle On or Off. If we want finer editing values, we can use Ctrl+Drag (Cmd+Drag on macOS). Alternatively, we can mouse Right-Click and Drag. Using this key combination, the values change in a slower way, which allowus to get more precise values easily.

Double-clicking a control changes it automatically to the default value. This also works with

Alt+Click (Opt+Click on macOS).

Tube STA: Retro Instruments Gates STA Level emulation. Program dependent tube compression. Easy to use and sounds transparent. Almost to the point of being boring. Not for use if you want a punchy sound.

The STA is kind of like having an LA-2A that is more transparent and has a release control.

Sadly, no gain reduction range knob like the other two.

Lots of gain reduction without artifacts.

Single: Great for smooth bass. Long attack/release times.

Double: Perfect for nearly everything. Closest to the vintage Gates model.

Triple: Fast transient eater. Faster attack/release times. Perhaps best mode for vocals

Mid-side functionality.

there is an area highlighted in the VU Meter that suggests the ideal range of gain reduction

the original preset should be used on to achieve the best results.

STA level did not sound good to me on the vocal. I switched back to MJUC and the sound was happening again.

Bass DI went into a UAD Ampeg B15n amp sim, and then the STA. In this case, I really liked what the compressor was doing. It’s a pretty slow compressor, I guess, which limits it to specific uses for me.

FET-76 – Described as big, bold and in your face. Adds excitement to a track. Great on electric/bass guitars, drums and rock vocals.

input link function, dry/mix knob, external sidechain/advanced panel, a sidechain listen, Time Warp = lookahead, sidechain EQ which makes it very useful, COMPRESSION GAIN REDUCTION RANGE LIMITER!!!!, distortion only with the comp range set to 0 dB, GUI scaling, photorealistic  GUI, tool tips at the bottom that can be disabled with the upper right light bulb, all ratio buttons in, A-B mode,

Comp FET-76 has no direct control over the threshold. The threshold level is variable and

depends on the chosen compression ratio (the higher the compression ratio, the higher the threshold).

At 4:1, the threshold is around -18 dB, while at 20:1 it is around -12 dB.

Clearly labeled attack/release settings. Like the hardware, fully clockwise is fastest.

Typical ratio settings: 20 for buss limiting, 12 for drums, 4 and 8 on vocals/instruments. All buttons in for drums and try it on other material as well.

5.4. Sound Design Tips

Pigments was Arturia’s first plug-in to offer this feature, and we dare to say it will

revolutionize the way users look at presets.

The Sound Design Tips feature identifies parameters the preset creator defined as the most

relevant while developing the selected preset, and which are the best for the user to edit.

When On, a brief explanation of each parameter (tip) will also be displayed in the left-hand

side of the lower toolbar.

Very good user manuals as well.

True Analog Emulation (registered trademark)

In my opinion the Arturia model has the basic problems of virtually all of the other models. It gets “grainy” quite quickly. Basic drumloop with a lot of cymbals exposes this. It’s as if it’s running too hot all the time. I think the Slate manages better in this regard, or at least we have 3 different options (and 2 additional circuit emulations for the modern and vintage blue) for this. The attack on the slate original FG-116 is very close to the hw in the studio. It’s a tiny bit more clicky in the plugin but it grabs the transients in a pretty convincing manner in my opinion. It does however also break up a bit more than the hardware when slammed. I find this to be a general problem with all of the 1176 plugins.

VCA-65: dbx 165A. Versatile. Can be clean but can also be used to get some smack.

Awesome on snare, bass, kick, different type of drum buss sound,  and distorted vocals.

That VCA 65 is INCREDIBLE especially when you abuse the piss out of the limiter setting. I was messing around with the settings just pushing everything to see exactly what it does when abused and I am impressed. Instant grit. I liked it pushed to its limits so much I just left the compressor like that on the guitar I was pushing. Haha.

Anyway, as far as my knowledge of digital compressors go, some of them really flatten things up, in a bad sense. I don’t like those. The way I judge compressors is by how much they can control dynamics without making things sound sterile and lifeless, and these plugins sound really rich in that sense.

The 1176 sounds great too, lot’s of personality,

The DBX now: WOW ! Worth the price alone. Smacko organico ultimo! But you can do so many other tones with it too.

However, I think the attack time on the Arturia is by far superior than UAD’s. It tamed the peaks so smoothly, almost like hardware.

The STA is absolutely perfect. It adds body and smoothness to anything.

the 1176 had vibe, colour and punch.

As for the 165 – just tried it on kick. I would buy this bundle for that alone.

The 65 will definitely be used on stuff that needs punch, movement and attitude.

I decided to re-load FET76 & STA tto the same track that has the VCA-65 and guess what… GUI went back to default I believe 80% GUI size. How come it does NOT remember the size I left them at??? Normally it should remember no? I

The view should be flat, no fake angles which just get in the way of usability. These are plugins and not hardware, and the GUI should acknowledge that. Keep the skeuomorphic design with photo realistic renders but keep the view flat!

I compared it to Timp U76 (nebula) yesterday and although they were different in tone (treble rolloff and punch in arturia), cohesiveness, smoothness they felt like equals in a lot of the areas that matter to me. Not necessarily the same, but like equals…in sound quality and function. The arturia 76 does what I expect from an algo 76. The highfreq rollof sometimes disturbs me (it’s not as present in Timp u76), and I wish I could control it from within the plugin, but that’s the only thing that bugged me yesterday.

the sta level is good but not better than MJUC comp 2.

except for the 165 but even in this case I don’t really that kind of compression all that often and when I do, I recreate the “snap” I need with Klanghelm DC8C which can do snap/punch ridiculously well.

I also much preferred the Slate 1176 versions. The blue “modern” was closest to the sound of the Arturia 1176 but as it’s the one I like the least in the Slate pack it immediately showed that it’s not the type of 1176 sound I’m after. The replica/homebrew version we have in hardware at the studio is much faster and “squishier” and closer to how the original FG-116 sounds and it’s the way I prefer this kind of compressor.

That left me with the STA and it is indeed wonderful! Alas, I have MJUC and now also the RA6 from Tim Pethreick for N4 and there’s just no contest at all. The RA6 is in a completely different league in terms of “sounding real” and present.

arturia was closest to our 1176. my friend is bring his dbx over to shoot it out with arturia. the thing i like to do is use plugins aggressively and in ways they would normally break up in and see how they stand. arturia was the only ways that didnt break up as quickly. less clicky as well. agressive while still retaining smoothness and cohesiveness to the material.

Open up the top end, add some transient punch with Time Warp, decouple the stereo link for a little extra character, and so on. Drum bus sound is punchy and wide with a great sound stage.

On snare and kick I was shooting out the VCA-65 against my go-to NI Vc160. The NI VC is sort of more punchy and in your face, but it also sounds small. The Arturia VCA has a more acoustically open sound, sounds more natural. Kick drum and snare seem louder somehow with this one. It made the NI compressor sound a little cartoon-like.

Sta-Level was really nice on bass. Fat and round and smooth sounding.

In my opinion the Arturia model has the basic problems of virtually all of the other models. It gets “grainy” quite quickly. Basic drumloop with a lot of cymbals exposes this. It’s as if it’s running too hot all the time. I think the Slate manages better in this regard, or at least we have 3 different options (and 2 additional circuit emulations for the modern and vintage blue) for this. The attack on the slate original FG-116 is very close to the hw in the studio. It’s a tiny bit more clicky in the plugin but it grabs the transients in a pretty convincing manner in my opinion. It does however also break up a bit more than the hardware when slammed. I find this to be a general problem with all of the 1176 plugins.

I also felt the transients of the Arturia version get let through a bit too much compared to what I’m used to.. even on fastest attack. This can be completely accurate to their modeled HW though. I’m just saying that in my case most of the 1176 units I’ve used have a “squishier” attack where the transients get smacked virtually immediately on the fastest setting.

For my own stuff I love it on almost anything synth pluck/bass/lead that needs to stay prominent in the mix. This is where the plugins fail in my opinion when fed with a strong analogue synth sound. They become somewhat weak and grainy rather quickly whereas the hardware can smash the sound without making it “smaller”. Hard to explain but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

STA level did not sound good to me on the vocal. I switched back to MJUC and the sound was happening again.

STA wasn’t great on this particular acoustic guitar, but I really liked the VCA65 on this acoustic, it just sounded nice.

Bass DI went into a UAD Ampeg B15n amp sim, and then the STA. In this case, I really liked what the compressor was doing. It’s a pretty slow compressor, I guess, which limits it to specific uses for me.

That VCA 65 is INCREDIBLE especially when you abuse the piss out of the limiter setting. I was messing around with the settings just pushing everything to see exactly what it does when abused and I am impressed. Instant grit. I liked it pushed to its limits so much I just left the compressor like that on the guitar I was pushing.

sE Electronics sE7 Microphone Review

Adam takes an in depth look at the new small diaphragm condenser microphone from sE Electronics:

Script notes:

  1. You came to watch this video to hear whether the sE7 microphone is worth buying. The quick answer is yes and I could continue to talk about the microphone but it’s best that you listen to some samples first.

    *insert RHR Logo*

2. Full disclosure, sE Electronics are letting me keep both microphones. My opinion is not swayed, however. All recordings that you are about to listen to were not modified in any way except volume level matching. Youlean Loudness Meter Pro 2.1 and Airwindows PurestGain were used.

These audio clips are available at their original native sample rate as FLAC files. They will not be level matched. Links are in the video description box.

For the first test, let’s hear how the sE7 sounds on drums compared to my prized $300 Ultimate OktavaMod/Michael Joly modified MXL 603S. It supposedly sounds close to a vintage Neumann KM84. Apologies in advance…I tried to  find a good drummer with a better drum set than mine but I couldn’t make it happen.

3. Now, a couple acoustic guitars.

4. I also recorded a voice over track while hand holding the modified 603S and sE7.

5. Next up here are some stereo acoustic guitar recordings because sE sent a matched pair for this review.

6. For gits and shiggles I even recorded a harmonica.

7. Keys jangle test. Does either microphone sound like aluminum foil being crumpled up or do they sound like keys?

8. I almost forgot…here is the sE7 next to a Shure SM57 on snare drum.

10. On snare drum vs. an SM57, I think the 7 is the clear winner. Pun intended. Finally, I tested the 20 decibels attenuation pad with some pink noise and used Blue Cat’s FreqAnalyst Multi to compare frequency response differences.

Does the sE7 sound as good as my modified MXL 603S? No. And I didn’t expect it to. There is a $200 price difference, after all. With some EQ and noise reduction the differences can be made up to a degree.

That’s not to say the sE7 is noisy…it’s not. The modded 603S is just less so.

The sE7 features an 80 Hz high pass filter at 6 dB/octave and a 20 dB gain attenuation pad. It can handle up to 156 dB of sound pressure level with the pad switched on, which is very impressive!

Both switches require use of a paper clip or thumb tack so that they aren’t accidentally turned on or off. This is a good thing.

It has low self noise and doesn’t sound very harsh compared to a lot of sub $100 microphones . The sE7 also comes packed with a stand clip, a metal ⅝” thread adapter and windscreen. sE logo stickers and a small printed user manual are also included.

Like the other sE Electronics microphones I have tried, It looks classy and doesn’t feel cheap. It has weight to it.

The front grille is solid protection. It and the rest of the microphone’s exterior could probably take many drumstick smacks without breaking but I wouldn’t slam it down on a stage. It could probably take a mic stand fall and if it breaks or someone steals it you’re out $100 instead of $300 or more.

A 2-years transferrable limited warranty is included. 3 years if you register it.

I think the sE7 sounded great with everything I tested it on. It should also work well on Piano, clean electric guitar, violin and maybe even close tom drums.

If you have $150 more to spend (or $300 for the matched pair) the big brother sE8 may be worth investigating. The main differences between the 7 and the 8 are shown on screen.

A more consistent off-axis frequency response.
Has a flat frequency response from 30 Hz to 4 kHz. the sE7 begins to roll off slightly around 400 Hz.
A smaller high frequency bump.
Has two roll off options
Has two attenuation options.
Has a higher max SPL rating (159 dB vs 156 dB) than the sE7
Is 3 dB quieter than the sE7
The matched pair comes with a precision stereo bar and metal road case.
Costs $150 more.

The only negatives are that the capsule is very susceptible to plosives. If you are using it for vocal recordings then the 80 Hz filter and windscreen plus an additional pop filter are musts. Record singers like a boom microphone above their head for best results.

The mic clip is very tight…but at least you know that it’s not going to fall out of the clip once it’s in! Also, the XLR connector doesn’t accept cables as easily as my other microphones. You need to give the connectors a good shove before it clicks. Unless you hold the XLR cable connector switch down first. Then again, it may just need some breaking in.

I would feel comfortable having only two sE7s to record music with. It’s an affordable desert island microphone. In other words, they are the perfect microphones to start off with if you are building a new home studio. They are detailed without being too harsh and cost $200 for the matched pair or $100 for just one. The 3 years warranty seals the deal for me.

The sE7 is the first microphone that I’ll be recommending to low budget home recording studio engineers going forward. That’s about the biggest compliment I can give. sE’s research and development team did an amazing job on this one.

JoeCo Cello Review

Adam from Real Home Recording takes an in-depth look at JoeCo Limited’s first ever desktop audio interface. Here are script notes (there are definitely duplicate notes):

I have been using the JoeCo Cello audio interface for nearly two months. I used it to record many different audio sources and put it through a bunch of tests. In this two part video, you’ll hear many audio samples and my honest opinion on whether you should consider buying this interface.

This video is a two parter. In this one, I’ll give you a quick run down of the Cello’s benefits, some of its flaws and whether I’d recommend it or not. The second part goes more in depth with audio clips, gear shootouts, test graphs and brief tutorials.

The Standout Features for me are

– Two channels of simultaneous raw/processed recording, before the signal hits the converter. That way, you can maintain the purity of an analog processed signal but if you mess up there is a safety net.

– 78 dB preamp gain. With the 20 dB pad, it can handle virtually any microphone you throw at it.

– True mastering grade converters with five analog inputs. Quality was onfirmed with loopback tests. Even the front panel line inputs are super clean/transparent.

– Converter filtering settings. I haven’t seen a feature like this on a desktop interface before.

– Can be USB powered if your computer can handle it. Wall power is recommended, however.

– 1 Million Ohm instrument input

– Up to 384 kHz sample rate in a small desktop form factor.

– Super loud headphone output, so drum recording isn’t a problem.

– Built-in talkback/slate microphone that can be recorded.

– Mid-side AKA sum and difference matrix during recording setting

– Scalable control panel GUI. Hopefully one day they will make it 4K ready.

– Can be used as a standalone device with user controllable startup state settings.

– LCD Status indicator, which actually does come in handy.

– Latency figures are solid. It’s not the fastest interface out there but I had zero issues recording with a MIDI keyboard or a bass guitar. If you need processing during voice recordings, you’ll need to look at interfaces with onboard DSP options.

– Manufactured in the U.K.

– Finally, I saved the best for last. Cello stays out of the way and rarely lets you down. It shocked me when I had over 80% CPU usage on a big mix and was still able to record a track without glitches. On other audio interfaces that I’ve used, there would have been pops and clicks every 10-20 seconds.

When I used it on a Dell laptop, it did not fare as well. There were about four pops per song when recording 5 tracks at 96 kHz. Every time I recorded with my Lenovo desktop computer there were zero issues. So certainly your mileage will vary in this department.

So, would I recommend the Cello?

Unfortunately it comes up short for a full recommendation. If you need an interface with more inputs and outputs, faster latency, a longer warranty than one year, included software or are on a tight budget then look elsewhere.

However, if you need its stand out features then I 100% recommend it. For some, myself included, the processed signal safety net, transparent preamps and mastering grade converters alone are worth the price.

The Cello has nuances that audio engineers care about. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles compared to the competition but the ones it does have work very well.

Go to part 2 for an in depth look at the Cello.

Up to 13 inputs at 96 kHz not including the talkback mic or 23 inputs up to 48 kHz.

Ins and outs aren’t smashed together. Evenly dispersed between the front, back and one side panel.

Up to 8 monitor mix outputs, including one for SPDIF and pre-fader listen mode.

Buffer settings aren’t restricted. You can even uncheck Safe Mode for faster latency if you are feeling dangerous! I’m glad that they give you the options instead of assuming your system can’t handle it. JoeCo didn’t put on the kid gloves.

Switch seamlessly from ASIO to Windows sound as long as the sample rate is the same. If you want you can even have sound playing while recording with ASIO.

Reverse stereo is a nice feature.

Top plus isn’t analog so it’s nice to have but gimmicky.

ADAT output would have been nice instead of 2 channel SPDIF.

With 384 kHz, performance does go down in terms of in/outs and noise/frequency response.

I can’t fully recommend it because of the price and because a second set of line outputs, so that one could easily process mix elements through hardware while monitoring through speakers is something that the more affordable competition has had for years.

Pan knob on the Stem outputs would be a nice finishing touch.

Audient iD14 vs. Cello

Acoustic guitar
Voice over

DI bass and electric

Cello Review

Sound samples right up front

Marketing vs. experience with it

Cello Positives:

Simultaneous unprocessed + processed recording

78 dB of gain (80 dB may be possible on some microphones)

Very reliable. Was able to record with a ton of plugins on and zero glitches.

Ruler flat frequency response at Maximally flat.

Converter options for a smoother high end roll off and slightly better latency.

On my computer rig the roundtrip latency figures were better than what’s listed on JoeCo’s web site.

Can be USB powered if your computer’s port supports 1,000 mA output.

“125 dB of dynamic range” confirmed on the instrument and line inputs at 192 kHz. Noise is in the upper frequency range.

1MOhm inpedance instrument input.

MIDI in/out

Made in the U.K. instead of China.


Gain bunching

A longer warranty would be better. Even if it is an optional upgrade. Some stores give you two.

A second set of line outs and ADAT output may have helped.

Converter filter tests along with clipping tests.

Test Top + with pink noise

Record silence. Gain all the way down and all the way up. Pads and no pads. 441, 48, 96 and 192.

Try the Slate button (it enables recording of the talkback mic)

Sample rate usage scenarios

RightMark Audio Analyzer Tests and Latency Tests from the other program. (re-do 384 kHz through the line inputs with the DC filter on)

YouTube + ASIO in REAPER (as long as the sample rate is 44.1 kHz) playback at the same time? Not a problem

Line input volume control down to 1/2 decibel.

Use with the Direct Box tests.

Fully scalable GUI, once you click the orange arrow. Works best on 720p or 1080p monitors.

Apparently in the 384kHz mode there is a DC filter option under the ADC control. Calibrate!

I didn’t like the GUI at first but it grew on me. Contrast is good and although it’s plain looking it’s not a huge deal.

Monitor mix matrix is intuitive. Three tiered volume level setting (software + hardware)

Up to 22 inputs at 44.1/48 kHz, 16 at 96 kHz, 8 at 192 or 4 at 384 kHz.

USB power vs. wall power performance test including phantom power, low buffer MIDI and line out (to EX1 line in) JoeCo does warn that conversion quality may take a hit and not all  

computers can handle powering the interface properly.

“Cello can be bus powered from hosts able to supply 1500mA.” Mac computers can handle it and some Windows machines. Not mine.

Class compliant USB 2.0…it worked on my smartphone and would have worked on my tablet with an accessory!

Separate stereo DAW mixes for each output (main, headphones and digital)

I see the cello like I see my Galaxy s9. Some people will look at it and they’ll see an audio interface in a silver box. But what is going on under the hood is what counts. Not everybody will need a Cello or can appreciate all of its features but is it worth the money yes. It is properly priced for its capabilities.

You’re getting a mastering grade converter, word clock, two transparent preamps, the ability to record two raw microphone signals along with two processed ones simultaneously, midi in and out, and finally a great quality instrument input.

It can be a USB powered or wall powered. It can be operated in standalone mode. It is a reliable/stable son-of-a-b****.

ADC/DAC Filter options: At flat settings, the cut off frequency is sharp. Some will find this unmusical. There is also slightly more latency with flat settings.
Where would a more musical filter response sound better? Instruments like triangles or tambourines. Best thing to do? Use your ears and run some RMAA tests to see if you like the trade off.

Core Audio as well

Converter clipping was relatively graceful with a voice over. Lots of analog headroom!

Preamp converter clipping at different settings

Cables/controls are not crammed together. Microphone/instrument/headphone connectors are all on the front panel.

Round Trip Latency (already done but do 96 kHz at 32 samples and 192 kHz at 32, 64 and 128 samples) compared to marketing. Marketing figures are actually higher! (44.1 at < 9.8 mS, 384 kHz at < 3.6 mS)

Low buffer stability including MIDI at 384 kHz

Weak power button…I am afraid it will snap off.

Mixing stability (done)

I like the way the iD14’s DAC converters sound over the Cello when not recording/mixing. But the Cello’s sound closer to what I here when Sonarworks Reference is turned on.

Alerts are a nice, professional feature

Headphone amp volume (done)

Locking Neutrik XLR inputs

Top + digital effect on input

MIDI inputs aren’t just for keyboards. Lots of controllers on the market.

Test MIDI recording/stability with 384 kHz.

384 kHz vs. 96 kHz vs. 48 kHz

I think what happened is when this product was designed, the Babyface Pro, UAD Apollo win, Audient iD22 were its closest competitors. I don’t believe the others offer USB power only. They also do not offer 80 dB of gain.

No extra software included.

The status indicator is cool but I am concerned about it and the JoeCo logo LED lights adding noise to the signal. Or at the very least they will eventually burn out. The option to turn them off would be nice, if possible.

The DAC alone may be worth the price to some. It truly is mastering grade.

Klevgrand Reamp Review

I made a video review on Klevgrand’s relatively new saturation plugin. Watch it here:

And as per the usual, video script notes:

Test guitar tracks through them with Recabinet.

Available for AU, VST and AAX on Windows/Mac computers as well as the iPad’s AUv3 format.

GUI magnifier

Model: The obvious one. Set which emulated preamp module that you want on your audio signal.

Input and Output knobs with meters.

Optimum input level = green. Yellow on transients.

Phase-free mix knob.

Drive four four frequencies. How much saturation?

Post saturation volume controls for each frequency band.

Harmonics switch. Useful on bass heavy tracks.

I like to start with flipping through presets as a starting point.

Preset menu bug

Also, presets reset the Input knob.

sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite Review

Check out my review video on the DM1 in-line microphone pre audio recording accessory:

Script notes:

DM1 Review

In this video I am taking an in-depth look at sE’s new DM1 inline microphone preamplifier. By my request, they sent me one to review. I’ll be testing most of their marketing claims, to the best of my ability.

Clean/transparent gain: (DM1 Voiceover project) Frequency response test with sweeps and pink noise.

The pink noise average was perfect. The frequency sweep was not but it could be due to the slight change in distance when I unplugged/plugged in the XLR cable. Or that I did not exactly match the preamp levels. Either way, I think this claim passes the meter test very well.

Now, let’s test it on some music material…

28 dB of gain, consistently between loads/microphones (Mic Test for Video project)
Using Youlean Loudness Meter Pro and JoeCo Cello interface…
767a – 30.1 True Peak difference

CO4 – 29.1 TP

SM57 – 29.2 TP

D112 – 29.1 TP

ND 767a Pink noise – 29.6 TP and 29.5 LUFS integrated loudness

Certainly passes and hey I’ll take that extra decibel or two over the 28 dB product specs.

Low noise. (set gain to lowest setting. Boost both. Does the noise sound different? With and without a microphone attached. The AKG may be best for this test next to the SM7b)

Direct plugin vs. short cable vs. long cable performance test.

So four tests:
Direct + 30 feet Mogami

Direct + 10 feet generic

Livewire Advantage → DM1 → 10 feet generic

Livewire → DM1 → Mogami 30 feet

Gain bunching advantage. Set precise levels easier. Ideally every segment would be equally divided. Unfortunately, they are not.

Sound Magic Blue Grand 5 Review

Here is the Real Home Recording video review:

And here’s the script/notes:

The Best Computer Music and Acoustic Technology Inc, better known simply as Sound Magic, have released version 5.1 of their Blue Grand virtual instrument. I requested a license to review it. So, let’s take a listen to it.

Sound Magic sampled four different Steinway pianos. A vintage Steinway B. Nearly antique 1927 Steinway D. Another Steinway D that was built in Hamburg Germany. And then one more Steinway D library that is designed for lower end computers with two different microphone positions.

If you’re not familiar with the Steinway brand, let’s just say that is by far the preferred concert piano, worldwide. And they cost as much as brand new luxury automobiles.

This Blue Grand collection gives you a good variety of mellow and semi-bright grand pianos. My favorite is Blue X then VGS (Grandma Dream). Then Blue, LCD and LSD in that order.

Approximately 16 GB library.

Hybrid sample/algorithmic.

(show on screen)

These are Sound Magic’s descriptions.

– Legacy Blue aka Blue. A Steinway B boasts an elegant sound associated with a Steinway grand piano, yet its inherent versatility works well with a wide range of today’s most popular music genres.

– Vintage 1927 aka BlueX. A 1927 Steinway D offers a rich, luxurious sound with a dynamic range suited to accompanying all music genres, including classical, jazz, pop, and more;

– Living Stereo aka LCD and LSD. Steinway D. Blends crisp, rich tones and great sounding resonance to provide users with a live, vibrant feel that is a great fit for real time performance; thanks to its balanced frequency and singing tone. LSD = player microphone position. LCD = close mic position.

– Grandma Dream aka VGS. Steinway D built in Hamburg, Germany. is characterized by mellow bass and expansive resonance, embracing its Germanic heritage while flawlessly fitting a variety of musical genres;

Authorization is through a machine ID challenge/response system. The web site, email and PDF manual walk you through it pretty well. If you run into any issues, Sound Magic are quick to respond.

I ran into trouble with pasting the keycode. I normally control-V to paste but had to Right-click within the plugin. Also, for some reason one of the codes wouldn’t go through but that was resolved within an hour.

Sound Magic already has a walkthrough video of the features and their manual is well written. So to avoid being redundant, I’ll just give you my opinion and some of the standout controls.

Instrument names aren’t the same as the marketing literature. I wish that wasn’t the case.

Because Neo Piano is a hybrid sample library/algorithmic VI, to a point you can customize all of the pianos to your liking.

Switching dynamic settings after the fact (far right side) can produce interesting results.

Mouseover help hint pop ups.

There were noise blast bugs. Once I loaded the libraries completely into RAM I didn’t run into those issues.

F3 key on REAPER to drop all MIDI.

I didn’t care for the built in reverb.

How to judge piano VIs, courtesy of Sweetwater:

Stereo separation
Attack of the strings
Definition between the notes in the midrange
Tuning of the notes
Overall dynamics of the performance

Choice to store samples in RAM or read off a disk. As with all virtual instruments, solid state drives are recommended for best performance.

I wish they would add the name to the icon. Luckily, if you know how to modify image files you can make your own like I did.

Offers both a standard resolution and 4K ready GUI. For now, the 4K GUI is just a quick up-rez from their standard GUI but it’s better than nothing.

By default the RAM allocation is set very low. If you have a 64-bit computer with 8 GB of RAM or more then set it to 4000.

LCD/LSD are quieter than the others.

Keyboard/pedal velocity response curve detection.

$150 price tag is real good for what you get. May possibly be on sale right now until January 7th. At the normal price, I can’t fully recommend it because right now it’s a half baked product and there is some good competition in the $100-200 price range. Once the major bugs are ironed out, installation process is more streamlined and the 4K GUI is made then yes, I can recommend it.

No demo available except their Yamaha C7 Piano One, which they just put a new version out today.

Blue Cat Audio Axiom Review

Blue Cat’s jam-packed-full-of-features plugin has been out for a month or two and I finally got a chance to review it. The video:

And the script notes:

Version 1.11 was reviewed. BlueCat sent a license for review.

Jam packed full of features. Primarily it is a guitar amp/cabinent simulator…but it’s so much more than that.

In addition to the guitar section, there are over 40 built-in effects. You can even put Axiom inside of itself!

Features List:

distortion pedals, Bit Crusher, Chorus, Comb Filters, Compressor,

Ducker, Echo, Harmonizer, Multitap Delay, EQ, Multimode Filter, Flanger, Frequency Shifter, Gain, Gate, Stereo Pan, Phase Shifter,

Phaser, Pitch Shifter, Pitch Bender, Reverb, Stereo Strip, Sweep Filter, Tremolo, Wah and Waveshaper

Axiom also allows you to host third party plugins in the signal path, INCLUDING VIRTUAL INSTRUMENTS! This is a monster of a plugin, all for 200 dollars or Euros.

All major plugin platforms are supported along with MIDI control. It’s also zero latency, as long as you don’t add third party effects.

A standalone application is also available.

It’s actually difficult to review a plugin like this, because there are so many features.

The amount of controls can be overwhelming. Thankfully there are tons of factory presets to help get you started. The 37 pages long PDF manual is well written

Thanks to the Global GUI Zoom control, the GUI is ready for small screens and 4K monitors alike.

The handy Undo button should maybe be larger and a different color. Redo is also available.

Signal chain: flows left to right and up and down.

Volume Input –> Input Effects –> Parallel amp sim channels A/B with pre and post effects –> Master Channel

Load virtual instruments into the Tools Rack.

Lock parameters button, to prevent preset changes.

The tuner must be enabled.

You can save global presets or presets for each section.

Set up Axiom how you would like it to load, with the Default User preset. I like it at 130% zoom, show controls on (three buttons)

Amp simulator editor (lower case E button, top right corner). This is actually the Destructor GUI, which even has its own PDF manual.

Actually, most if not all of the built-in effects have their own PDF manuals. Just click the question mark icon when their editor windows are displayed

The plugin worked flawlessly with built-in effects. It would crash when loading or unloading certain plugins. Be sure to save your projects before doing so.

Drag and drop functionality was recently added and it is super useful. Duplicate by holding control and dragging an effect. You can even drag between instances of the plugin! .dll files from Windows Explorer right onto Axiom? Yep! There are a few other options, but yeah Blue Cat really thought this feature out.

Dynamics and flexibility are best part. Cleans are great but distortion and pedal effects need a good deal of work to become competitive with other guitar amp sims.

A simple mode would be very beneficial. Their Free Amp plugin is a step in the right direction.

Klevgrand Degrader Review

Degrader is a new bit crusher/resampler/saturation plugin from the maker of Brusfri and GoToEQ. I took a listen to it in the following video.

Script notes are as follows:

Controls: Off, Low-Q, high-Q/steep roll off.

Sample rate goes from 250 Hz to 96000 Hz.

Bit depth 3 bits to 24 bits.

Link buttons

Hold Alt for precise control

Double click for default.

The ever handy input/output and Mix knobs

Pop free bypass Power button.

Preset menu

GUI is not 4K ready

No output meter

VST3 not optional.

Oscillot Audio Perspective Review

I made a double plugin review for two products that are similar and were released within 7 days of each other. Here’s the video:

And here are my script notes for the Oscillot Audio Perspective portion:

With version 4.1 of Sonarworks Reference the speaker emulation and averaging feature was removed for some odd reason. Less than two months later, two new plugins that address this need were released. IK did not remove this virtual speaker function from their ARC system.

Oscillot claims to have been developing this plugin for at least two years. 

The goal of both programs is to save you money on buying new speakers and allow you to quickly flip through them while still in the sweet spot. Listening to your audio on a variety of playback systems is a crucial step of audio production. Making sure the mid range is defined and the lows or high frequencies aren’t too much is a common practice. This also helps avoid ear fatigue. Can also be used for sound design purposes.

You should be listening through a nice set of speakers, because these plugins cannot turn crappy speakers into nice sounding ones. They can turn nice ones into simulated crappy ones though. For my test, I used Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 speakers with the subwoofer off.

These plugins are also a good lesson in that no matter how good your mix is, it will never sound perfect on every playback system.

Tools that save time and money are a great thing. Now, the question is which of this is better?

I really liked the introduction in Perspective’s manual. It gave a lot of background information on how the plugin came into existence/who is behind the making of it.

It has a talkback feature.

Allows for speaker to speaker calibration. The original MixChecker had a broad feature like this but they got rid of it for the Pro version due to variables in speakers. That’s why calibrating speakers with Reference or ARC and then using Perspective in No Speakers mode may be the best bet.

Illustrated speakers without logos and generic but guessable names are shown, so the guessing game is a little easier.

Intro Price until August 15: $149

Very difficult to read the settings menu.

Noise only works on the automobile speakers.

Minimize button (bottom right).

Perspective has more studio speaker types.

I like Perspectives GUI better but I think MCP sounds more realistic. It has a more 3D sound to it whereas Perspective sounds more like an EQ. Like the speakers are being replaced as opposed to hearing the true devices. If I owned a pair of speakers that Perspective supports then I may feel differently.

Perspective has radio simulation…although it is kind of gimmicky.

Perspective uses less 63 MB less RAM compared to MixChecker Pro.

Perspective takes source speakers into account.

Does not require an iLok dongle.

Perspective accounts for your subwoofer.

Perspective has a good 20 minutes long video tutorial.

Has polarity flip

Perspective is cheaper right now, until August 15, 2018.

Perspective officially supports MacOS 10.7 Lion while MCP only officially supports Mavericks or newer.

Both are Perspective and MixChecker Pro are competent programs that will get the job done. It is a toss up on which is better.  I would recommend both as quick ways to check mixes on virtual speaker setups. Right now, Perspective is the better value and does not require iLok software to run. Audified sounds better to my ears but you may feel differently. The nice thing is, if you are in the market for software like this both can be demoed.

If you use speaker calibration plugins such as Sonarworks Reference or IK Multimedia ARC, you should put those AFTER Perspective.