The Studio Hardware

Reference Equipment for the people!

We can work with such a high-quality equipment today, I feel as a major social step: whereas previously the highest quality was only available to institutions, in studios or through millionaires - you had to brush handles, pass tests and bend well - it has become more accessible today. In addition, it is housed in a few boxes - and not on several floors.

My hardware has to perform many different tasks: it is an electronic instrument, at the same time live mixer and recording equipment, also for involved, acoustic instruments. Optimized for everyday life (still stereo), as production studio, up to mastering in audiophilic quality. Small size and weight, as well as simple set-up should ensure mobility.

With the fairly exclusive, but definitely reduced hardware described below, up to 32 channels of I / O can be technically used in a reference class.

The preferred resolution to work is 96kHz/24Bit. The decisive difference to 44.1 kHz appears at about 90kHz, the difference from 96 to 192kHz is not so clear.

The overview is divided into four parts:


The center of the setup

  • Metric Halo ULN-8 and LIO-8 are amazing audio interfaces, high class and the heart of my DAW. ULN-8 and LIO-8 are technical twins, the LIO-8 comes without Mic-Pre's and +DSP license. It can be fully retrofitted and is then identical to the ULN-8. My Lio-8 has 4 mic preamps. For cascaded interfaces it is sufficient if only one device has the +DSP license.

    Fantastic microphone preamplifiers, two integrated DI inputs, reference class AD-DA conversion, internal 80 bit processing, hard- and software excellently designed, stable. A headphone amplifier that lets hifi freaks jubilate. These devices appear big and expensive at first sight, but on closer inspection they are small and extremely affordable! They replace hardware that, in comparable quality, would be more than 10 times more expensive and would have to be transported in heavy flightcases.

    The included software "MIO Console" allows all conceivable configurations: monitoring, MS circuit, analog summation, arbitrary bus structures and cascading of several interfaces are possible. The most important parameters are externally controllable. It can record more than 100 tracks at the same time. A host software is therefore only necessary with the the editing.

    The +DSP license includes a wealth of fine Plug-Ins (EQ, Compressor, Limiter, Gate, Delay, Reverb, Transient-Designer etc.), partly with good Presets. Live, editing, or Mastering setups are easy to store and retrieve. Two very important points: the Plug-Ins do not feel like Plug-Ins, nor do they sound like that! The interfaces have their own processors, which conserves the computer resources.

    My favorite, the MIO-Strip, is also available without +DSP license. It contains a Gate, Compressor and a six-band EQ and has a quality with which one could actually work exclusively. Even after years, I can only praise and praise the Metric Halo overall concept.

    Special ideas can be implemented at the "graph level": full studio-processors can be built with the "Building Blocks". Building Blocks are e.g. Summer, Adder, Delay, LFO, Filter ... An incredible toolbox! These interfaces are a complete studio - including summation and monitor controller. Soundwise there is no critics, but a never-ending surprise and pleasure.

    With SpectraFoo, Metric Halo also offers an analysis software that makes these devices a first choice for sound engineers. For the majority, the standard version of the software should suffice - but there is also a full version with which also halls can be measured and more.

    My now 13-year experience with this company and its products - represented in Germany outstanding by Anne Goerth and Stefan Bahr - is without comparison - and these audio interfaces are genuinely rich!

    Because ULN-8 and LIO-8 are equipped with many connectors, they are designed as D-Sub25 connectors. This means that multicores and breakout cables or stageboxes are needed.

    Metric Halo 3d Upgrade (August 2018)

    Metric Halo did it again! The 3d upgrade is finally here: Improved clock (more transparent sound), significantly more DSP performance. Multiple interfaces can be connected via Ethernet (MH-Link, 128 channels @ 192k bidirectional). Therefor the upgrade comes with a new backplane, now without Firewire, but with Audio over Ethernet and USB-c. The maximum additional latency at 8 combined interface is 16 microseconds, that is 0.16 ms! Also new are the EdgeCards (far right) and the EdgeBus. Now the interfaces can be expanded, optionally with SPDIF, ADAT, AES, MADI (copper or optical) or MIDI.

    With Metric Halo, you do not have to buy a new device every few years - you get a relatively cheap upgrade with a "few" pcbs, a new rear, etc. and you'll have all new achievements and the interface is up to date again! There is still the first, almost 20 year old interface - of course with the latest technology! Absolutely unique!

    For me the upgrade - on the left are the two upgrade bags for my ULN-8 and LIO-8 - produces a huge weight reduction of the recording setup, because, instead of the heavy stagebox with 30m cable (about 40kg), can now the audio interface remain on stage (quasi as a stage box) and only a max. 100m long Ethernet Cat5e cable (about 3kg) still leads to the computer (for example, in the director's room or in the audience at the sound director). An absolutely crazy change - after all, the multicores were not only extremely heavy and bulky, but also expensive and associated with a lot of work (laying and connecting). Even with the small, mobile synth setup (see picture above) it will be easier because the "new order" (Thunderbolt3, Ethernet) also saves some cables here. The separation of Firewire is most welcome! I did not like Firewire 800 anymore (plugs!). You also somehow felt that it had not been loved for a long time..

    For both maximized and minimized setups, the hardware savings resulting from the upgrade are truly significant. The improvement of the sound of the TB3 to Ethernet (not via USB!) is huge! It's immediately recognizable! The sound "lays" better - more like a large (analog) console. The visually different, new console software - now programmed in JUCE and matching the Mojave Dark Mode - is still in beta, but already functional.

    M A D N E S S. More and more hardware has to compete with this interface.

    Other manufacturers release new interfaces - Metric Halo cares for customers with hardware upgrades! Fantastic! Chapeau!

    Metric Halo website


    At Apple, there was the same time switching to Thunderbolt3 (with USB-c plug), more powerful processors and faster DDR4 Ram. Since this also involves a change of periphery, I have written something in more detail about it: Macs 2018. Basically I'd like to warn about the (hot) 6 core i7 and i9 models with T2. The devices with 4 core i5 seem to be less problematic, but the problem is not out of this world - better a pre-2018 or pre-T2 Mac, if you just want to work with it. There are too many individual problems when working with audio!


    Balanced - Unbalanced Converters

    Often DI boxes are sufficient, but often not. Especially with modular synthesizers, DI boxes (or simply plugging the unbalanced connector into the balanced jack) give unsatisfactory results. This is also due to the rather unusual outputs of +12dB with around 1k (1000 ohms) impedance. After trying all sorts of things, including expensive output modules with transformers, the Sonifex devices were so clearly superior that I bought several of them over time. I started with the small (2-4 channel) devices, but meanwhile I switched to the big versions (19 inch, 8 channels).

    Pictured are the Sonifex RB-BL4 (top), a bi-directional converter (4x bal. IN to unbal. OUT and 4x unbal. IN to bal. OUT) and the Sonifex RB-UL4 (bottom), an 8x (4x Stereo) balancer (8x unbal. IN to bal. OUT). For 2x unbal. Out I prefer to abuse the headphone out of ULN-8 or LIO-8 and save me a device, since the headphone out's impedance is not a problem. Therefore, in the synth setup the RB-UL4 is now firmly integrated. To have the IO's outside, unfortunately, the completely overpriced rack ears are needed.

    Not only that these devices can handle up to +28dB input - the sound is electronically converted and the output is below 50 ohms. The converters in the audio interface are happy because otherwise they would have to work against the "infinite resistance". The output volumes are trimmed with headless screws - so set and forget.
    Oh yes - Sonifex is "Broadcast Quality".


... for ULN-8 and LIO-8


    The Mamba XDB has been specially designed for the ULN-8 and LIO-8 (with D-Sub25 connectors) and is quite ideal for a 19 'format everyday setup.

    It offers 16 analogue Inputs and 8 analogue Outputs as well as 8 AES-EBU IN/OUT, which are connected to four D-Sub25 sockets on the back. Due to its low depth (design), the Mamba "generates" space for power supplies and other small devices in the case and it can be installed on the rear. For me, these were the reasons for the purchase, because, from an audiophil standpoint, there are actually too many plugs in the game. However, the Mamba is fantastic in the day-to-day work and transportation (and I don't hear any difference). After all, there are four D-Sub25 plugs, which do not have to be removed every time - D-Sub25 plugs are not intended for frequent switching.

    Especially because the Mamba has been developed for the ULN-8, I find it incomprehensible that combo-plugs are installed on the first eight inputs. This is a real danger source, because phantom power and jack plug just do not belong together! XLR would be the better choice. In order to be sure, one should possibly provide the jack plugs of the combos plugs with rubber plugs - a simple and safe solution.

    Networksound -


for Stage and Recording
  • Stageboxes

    Since I have four Mic-Pre's in the LIO-8, I have a 12-Stagebox with 3m cable for the Microphone Inputs of both interfaces. The box has a 12-channel Mogami Multicore and at the end a Y-piece with two D-Sub25 connectors, which are connected to the audio interfaces. For the second D-Sub25, only the first 4 channels are used (my LIO has 4 Mic-Pre's): 1-8 ULN-8 and 9-12 LIO-8.

    Such specially configured Stageboxes can not be bought, of course. This can be seen as an advantage, because the interior of the configured Stageboxes, which I had bought (also from well-known manufacturers), did not match what I expected. The Stagebox is therefore the task for a good manufactory!

    In situations in which I only record (or mix and amplify), I used to need a big stage box with 30m cable (+40kg). That was big luggage - the biggest and heaviest bag of my equipment! Since August 2018 (Metric Halo 3d Upgrade) I don't need it anymore and just sold it for refinancing. Now I use the audio interfaces as a stagebox and only one, up to 100m long, very light Ethernet cable runs to the computer.

Mic Pre- and Leveling-Amp

"Vintage" Telefunken V672
  • Two "racked" Telefunken V672 (1970) selectively form a "Vintage" front or back up to +70dB gain. In spite of their weight, these old radio studio amplifiers are still legendary and an excellent sounding solution. It was also convincing to hear this clean preamp in connection with a passive summing bus, as a Leveling Amplifier.

    The three center switches (48v/Pad/Phase), the Volume control, the DI input and the Power Supply were JLM Audio Kits. To the Go Between Kit (48v, pad, phase) I'd like to note, however, that the Pad Switch is in before the transmitter and therefore not recommendable - it has a negative effect on noise behavior and sound. My 19 'stereo V672 therefore has the outboard extra switches (inside blue / pad, but behind the transformer).

    The solid quality of the V672 was really surprising to me! Such a discretely constructed amplifier is a completely different kind of "body" than it is accustomed to from modern IC designs or even digital amplifiers. You can not speak of a coloring - the amp is very clean and sounds full. Finally the Telefunken V672 has been developed for the Radiostudio at the NWDR in Bremen in 1958. It wasn't solely a microphone pre-amplifier, but has been designed to take over various functions, which are switched via the connection socket.

    How much for this fun? I bought the V672 cassettes for about € 100.- the piece (very cheap). The JLM components, 2x Go Between Kit, Power Supply (plus postage and customs), housing, rotary control and Neutrik built-in sockets cost about 500 € together. Still the work has to be added. The left picture shows a ready-built Go Between Kit (48v, Pad, Phase).

Primary Source Enhancer

Rupert Neve Designs Portico 5045
  • The Portico 5045 from Rupert Neve Designs is a feedback killer and can raise two microphone signals by up to 20dB before the feedback without negatively affecting the source signal. This processor "detects" when signals come into the microphone and lets the signal pass, or decreases the volume when the signal goes off. It is noteworthy that the 5045 does it without filter and / or digital technology. However, Rupert Neve's excellent transmitters, which reproduce the signal (and also provide a surprisingly high weight despite small dimensions of the 5045) are included.

    In fact, the sound of the transformers even undergoes a sort of refinement. In the live electronics there are so many unwanted encounters with feedback that the 5045 feels like a trump in the sleeve. This processor is useful. For church acoustics or stage monitors. Feedback problems are a thing of the past with the Portico 5045.

    Rupert Neve Designs - Portico 5045 Website

Back-End / Monitoring

Wichtig ist, was hinten rauskommt. (Dr. h.c. Helmut Kohl)

    Dangerous Music D-Box

    The Dangerous D-Box has proven itself as a very high-quality and practical Back-end. Apart from the analog summing, it offers exactly the things that make sense as an extension of an audio interface - if you do not want to use half of the outputs for monitoring. For stereo applications there is an 8 channel sum bus, channel 7/8 with panorama, a speaker A/B and Mono circuit as well as a Talkback Microphone.

    One analogue and two digital Inputs with very good converters can be used for further monitoring points. Two individually adjustable, very good headphone outputs round off the device. Technically and acoustically, the D-Box is already moving in a quality that is difficult to surpass - it is a kind of summary of the fantastic Dangerous Music Equipment and was my entry-point to the studio. Building the D-Box was a really good idea!!

    Dangerous Music -

    Here is the passive Little Red Cue Box - a practical accessory for the D-Box. It turns out four headphone connections with individual volume control of a headphone output of the D-Box. Very practical, too, that the Little Red Cue Box can be screwed onto a microphone stand.

    Redco Audio Website


    Since the DAW-softwaresided coherence problems have been corrected, the analog summing is no longer the trump, provided you have top audio interfaces. The ITB (ITB = In The Box = digital) summation within the ULN-8 software Console V5 sounds "just as good" - perhaps even more transparent. Analogue summing (OTB = Out The Box) is always an interplay of the components because it involves a change in the impedances. This fact does not lead to a fundamental statement about the quality of analog summation as such. It is always a question of the interplay of the components. I never use the summing bus of the D-Box, but I can still enjoy it's magic!

    Often the term "console-sound" is used in the context of analog summation - this is more of a wish and does not quite correspond to the facts. It is perhaps a step in the direction, but not ultimate.

Room Simulation

Not Reverb: Room Simulation!
  • Quantec Yardstick

    Quantec's 2496 Yardstick is not a reverberator but a room simulator. Sort of a favorite reverb for many reverb naysayers. It's a unique device for fixing problems with the room; even if you emphatically don't want any reverb; or reverb would be too much of a good thing.

    Following a different policy, Quantec's unique approach is like a lodge in a garden of cucumbers.

    The Yardstick 2496 has 2 Inputs and 6 Outputs (surround) in AES - it has no converters and only one algorithm. Since firmware 3.x the Yardstick can be edited and managed via the webbrowser.

    The decision for the Quantec Yardstick fell because the computer generated Reverb consumed a lot of computing power and because modulated early reflections (FX Reverb) are big destroyers of transparency during studio work. In addition, I had enough free AES I/O's with the MH audio interfaces ULN-8 and LIO-8 and the perfect transducers to make the Yardstick sound.

    Especially for productions with acoustic instruments without effects, the machines of Quantec have been a first choice for over 30 years and teach us to distinguish between modulated Hall (reverb) and phase-neutral space simulation!

    Even after years of daily use, it is always fascinating - a device that is not heard but clearly perceived. It is also noticeable how uncomplicated percussive sounds can be transformed into new spaces - with "normal" reverbs, this is a destructive adventure!

    No other device creates these rooms. Amazing. The spatial stimulation of the Quantec is always an impressive work of art!

    For me the yardstick has become irreplaceable.

    Quantec Website


Fine technology

    My Mics

    Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphones:
    AKG C414 B-ULS (2x), Brauner Phanthera (2x), Stam Audio SA-47F (U47 Replica) and United Minorities B1.

    Small-diaphragm Condenser Microphones:
    DPA 3521 (= 2x 4021 + Holder).

    Dynamic Microphones:
    AKG D112, Electrovoice RE20, Beyerdynamik TG X 580 (2x), Shure SM-57 (2x)

    Miniature Microphones:
    DPA 4065 Headband, Sony ECM44B (3x), Sony ECM-122BMP, Sony ECM-MS908C.

    For the deepening into the microphone technique I recommend the websites of the big manufacturers (DPA, Schoeps, Neumann etc.). They offer quite informative PDF's freely as a download.

    An anecdote on the microphone that was given to Rudi Strauss during a concert of the SWF's experimental studio in 1995. Rudi Strauss is probably known as a collaborator in Luigi Nono's electronic work. In Nono's scores, you can find notes like "ask Rudi" or "Rudi knows the values". This Rudi just fastened a few mics on cables hanging from the ceiling and I noticed that it was Shure SM57 microphones: dynamic microphones - used in Rock Music to pick up snare or amplifier. Good, but simple and very cheap mics, which I had not expected in the expensive environment of the Südwestfunk in connection with string-instruments.

    It was about a slight amplification of the strings for a better balance to the electronic part. Rudi explained to me that the reasonably bad SM57 is optimal for stringed instruments because it takes up exactly the part/portion that is needed for a subtle amplification and no sharpening. In addition, they are designed as dynamic microphones so that they have only a small "listening range" and therefore do not tend to recouple (feedback) or record "strange" sounds. And indeed: the trio was much clearer to hear and it sounded as unreinforced. Only the "body" of the entire trio had been enlarged - not the instruments. I was impressed.

    This situation made it clear to me that performance restrictions for microphones do not mean any poorer quality - here the weaknesses of the microphone become strengths in coping with the acoustic requirements. Bernard Parmeggiani has allegedly recorded some of his characteristic sounds with a microphone in his bag.

Effects (FX)

digital Processors
  • UAD Emulations

    For FX Reverbs and the emulation of Studio Processors, I have the UAD Satellite (Quad-Core). It has now become a central post in the color center of my setup! The Reverbs Lexicon224, EMT 140 and 250, or the AKG Federhall BX20 are simply excellent - also for live sound reinforcement!

    The plug-ins are expensive and one needs to be careful not to create a money-tomb. Hardware updates are not supported - new hardware must be purchased at full prices.

    Annoying is that you can't sell individual Plug-Ins again. Either all or none. A hard solution for the clientele. When switching from UAD1 to UAD2 and from Solo to Satellite, the transfer (with or without licenses and demos) was never as I wished. laborious...

    But you get outstanding Plug-Ins - it was not like that before! The high price and the many, now unused, previously acquired plug-ins, may be seen as a prize for the UAD concept, in contrast to the competition events.

    The two digital Reverbs EMT 250 and the UAD Reverb flagship Lexicon 224 (with original algorithms) can basically be regarded as positive, because the originals were also digital. Combined with good converters, these Reverb processors are a special experience! These devices were very expensive and have disappeared from the market. The return as an affordable Plug-In is very enjoyable. But also the "analog" EMT 140 (Plate Reverb) and especially the AKG Spring Reverb BX20 are fantastic.

    The tape group is very interesting: with the Ampex ATR-102 UAD has succeeded, because tape saturation is a science for itself and the learning process is no longer payable (tape material). The Plug-Ins come with good Presets, which help you to get along and learn.

    The tape effects such as Space Echo and EP34 I find not so convincing, because these effects live as they sound at edge loading - digitally simulated limit load is somehow vile against the analog original.

    Universal Audio/


Analog Post-Processing

Tracking, Summing, Mastering
  • Up to this point, it was about the core of the equipment - what is required in any case, also "live". It is sufficient for sound reinforcement and recording, and actually the previously mentioned equipment is also great, to edit everything from A-Z (digital). But, just like with the synthesizer, the handling of analogue devices simply gives more pleasure. In the end it can be almost indistinguishable - but at work, it is a skyward difference. It is therefore possible to argue about the necessity - so there should be people who are willing to forgo to any pleasure for a good result. ;-)

    What was missing on my Summing Buses/-Amps (Dangerous 2-Bus LT, D-Box and RMS216 Folcrom), was the possibility for individual analog tracking. Also the presumed "console-sound" by the Summing Amps did not happen. Both actually came with the Console. I use the Console mainly for Tracking and Summing - of course, it is also a first choice when recording, if mobility is not the focus. Naturally, the following devices are also suitable for live operation. However, it increases the size and weight by a multiple.


Console and Outboard

Tracking, Summing

Studer 961
  • A historic STUDER 961 console, the smallest version of the 960 series, is another very special jewel of the studio. Studer 96x consoles are still one of the best-designed and best sounding consoles in the world today!

    I use the 961 as an analog summing mixer. Due to the design (with transformers), an analogous shaping of the material can be achieved during tracking. Also the problem of double conversion (latency) is fixed, which would result from a second ADDA conversion with analog tracking, only with audio interfaces. My 961 is therefore configured as 10/2 I/O: the masterfaders are removed and the outputs are calibrated.

    A welcome change, by the separate processing of single Tracks or Stems, is the breakthrough of the pure Sum processing in the analog path (daisy chaining). Although the 961 has its own Equalizer and Compressor/Limiter - with additional, external Equalizers, Compressors, etc. in Inserts or Aux I/O's, Tracks or Subgroups can be edited separately before going to the 2-Bus.

    For my projects, 10 input channels at work are quite ideal and I have no longing for more channels. But I also rarely mix big projects.

    Even if the console offers everything needed - a little selected Outboard brings out a changed/modified characteristic. The selected processors all produce a clear analogue impression, but they are quite distinct from digital emulations.

    The looping can be done via Direct I/O (and Bantam connectors on the Studer 961), AUX (for looping) or a mixture of both. Or via line inputs into the 961 - on my 961 it's ch 9/10 (blue fader caps) - a separate bus can be generated.

    The Pullet Mini Passive Equaliser

    The Mid-EQ "The Pullet" from Thermionic Culture is a "classic Pultec design" and because of its passive construction (no power connection, no catching-up reinforcement) in this genre a bargain - but a free stereo mic-preamp is needed. The Output signals need amplification by approx. 35dB.

    Wonderful as things can be revitalized with this EQ, but a parallel bus can be helpful. Together with e.g. the Bax EQ, "The Pullet" is also quite suitable for Mastering (and gives the Bax EQ a center control with a slightly tart character). This combo was my first analog "Mastering EQ" and these EQ's complement each other in a very special way, excellent. For Mastering the Pullet's Highshelf should stay neutral, because it is too strong - but this is in the combination of Bax and Pullet anyway part of Bax (s.b.).

    As a Leveling Amplifier I use my stereo Telefunken V672 Preamps (s.a.), or the Mic-Pre's of the Studer-Console.

    Thermionic Culture Website

  • Stereo Buss Compressor SA-4000

    This Compressor is a remake of the legendary SSL G Comp. It is a stereo VCA Compressor without transformer, ideal for the drum bus. The original has a place in history.

    It leaves a clearer impression, as e.g. the UAD emulation of the SSL G Comp - and I mean this positively. You can hear this compressor working. The sound image is clearly animated. Meanwhile, it is built with XLR jacks. Stam Audio rules.

    Stam Audio Website - SA-4000

    Leveling Amplfier SA-2A

    Also the SA-2A openly shows the reference (Teletronix La-2A). Also it is not a 1: 1 clone, but a replication with some modern components. This unit is mono. A good Opto-Compressor in the setup is always good. Even with extreme level reduction, it produces no additional harmonic overtones - the sound is only given size and warmth. The SA-2A is equipped with tubes and a specially designed cinemag transformer.

    Optical compressors are especially good for single and less complex signals. I use the SA-2A for bass or voice. Of course he is also good with guitar, kick and many mono signals.


The Mastering Buss

as 961 2-Buss Insert or after 961 Console
  • To improve the overview, two flowcharts of the equipment are shown on the left.

    Top picture: above are the digital and AES-EBU devices, in the center the console, the connected outboard and the monitor section. Below are the processors in the mastering bus. The dashed lines are optional connections. The lower picture (left) shows the cabling.

    What is the Mastering Buss?

    In the Mastering Buss (or 2-Buss) the final processing of the stereosum takes place. Usually, EQ's, DeEsser, Compressor and Limiter are used here again - which are, of course, only used in accordance with requirements. Since all of these devices still demand individual treatments (Parallel-Mix, M/S, Trim, etc.) and the transmission to the monitors, a volume compensation is needed for A/B listening. Therefor an architecture is added to the 2-Buss (or Main Buss) of the Console (or behind the Sum of the Console). That is called a Transfer Console. The Transfer Console is the "Hub" for external Processors, such as EQ, Compressor and Limiter, and is especially designed for Mastering. There is only one Stereo Input and -Output with Insert-points.

    This setup allows me to compare three different Summing buses (ULN-8, D-Box, Studer 961). For this I needed two Switchboxes (see right). They spare complicated patching and allow real comparisons (because of the switching speed). Although there are very expensive Audio DB25 switchboxes - for me the simple quality is enough. After the decision for the routing, in order to exclude unnecessary cables, I connect the devices directly anyway. The DB25 A/B/C/D Switchbox sends 8 channels to the Summing Buss (D-Box or Studer). The summed stereo signal goes into the Kramer VS-4X (from Studer 961, D-Box or ULN-8). From there it goes to the Transfer Comsole.

    Kramer Website - VS-4X


SPL Masterbay S
  • The Masterbay S from SPL is perhaps the most minimized Transfer Console on the market - or a trunk Transfer Console. It is absolutely transparent/inaudible and can either be connected directly to the Audio Interface or to the analog Summing-Box. It can also be connected to the Mix-Buss patch points of a Console and then lends its architecture to this Buss.

    All those useful "little things": Input and Insert Trimmer, Swap function for the Inserts 2 and 3, Master Fader, Volume Compensation, Daw-Return and a Bypass that can be put into an interval circuit. For the Inserts 1-3, there is a Parallel Mix Blend, Insert 4 is behind (for example, for Brickwall Limiting). All functions can be bypassed via relay circuits. The Rec-Out is doubled by the Monitor-Out and there is an extra output for Metering. This device improves the "workflow" and helps me to solve 95% of all typical elusiveness in the Outboard-Chain.

    The peculiarities of the Swap Inserts and the Parallel Mix on the Masterbay S are often mis-communicated and subsequently discussed as weaknesses. It relates to the fact that inserts 1 to 3 always run together into the Parallel Mix. It is correct that the Insert 2 is removed from the Parallel Mix when the Swap function is activated. This means that the term Swap is somewhat inaccurate - one gets rather a "diagonally" switched and therefore "other" device.

    For me it is perfect, because the MBP-Compressor (see below) is suitable by its own Parallel Buss ideal for the Insert2 of the Masterbay. By Swap behind Insert 1+3 and the Parallel mix, it creates a second Parallel Buss in the setup, which allows the Parallel Compression to be mixed with parts other than the Parallel Mix of the EQ's. If you have a "normal" Compressor and a MasterBay S, you moight consider the purchase of an additional Parallel Blend (eg TK-Mini Blender or Aveson Blend) to get this functional range - financially it would still be far from The competition.

    What the Masterbay S lacks in comparison to large transfer consoles are a Mid/Side function and Width/Depth control with Filters. SPL has extra processors for this. I have a Width/Depth controller with Filters in the RND Mastering Buss Processor (see below) and and I can implement M/S operations via the ULN-8.

    SPL Masterbay S Website


    Analog and Digital

    At the latest during mastering a good visualized measurement is very helpful, if not necessary. Metering not only includes volumes (and peaks), but also phase correlation, mono compatibility, field distribution and spectral measurement. I used to do this with plug-ins, because hardware real-time audio analyzers, vector displays, various peak meters etc. were just way too expensive.

    Despite that some analysis plug-ins are quite good (like Izotope's Insight 2), it's annoying to keep them always open. With each new session, the PlugIns need to be placed first, and especially if you work with only one monitor (as I do meanwhile), you need to constantly push the windows around, because they are in the way or a waveform must be brought to the foreground etc. - it is a miserable clicking! The "death argument" (to me) is the hunger of analysis PlugIns for computer resources. The lavish graphics are much more hungry than EQ or Compressor PlugIns. In continuous use, this results in e.g. the MacBookPro 2018 quickly becomes very hot (i.e. fan noises). For me, the torments are over, because I now have two hardware meters that meet all my wishes.


    Since the SPL Masterbay (see above) has analog meter outputs, I have connected an analog peak meter. It's a RTW1108 in a 1120ER housing and it significantly improves the setup, because the transfer console gets its own display and the loudness compensation of the Masterbay can be adjusted very precisely. Since it is an analog meter, the device needs to be calibrated every few years. I have summarized the trimmer calibration routines for the RTW1108 in a Max patch to use it next time.

    These (historic) devices from RTW are offered occasionally (used) for € 100.- to 200.- (analog or digital). But they are pure peak meters with memory function (for the highest peak) - and they come in a bewildering number of variations! Therefore, you should check before buying, if it is the right / desired meter.

    Unfortunately, there is very little information in the net. Here is the RTW archive and a PDF of the successor model: Peakmeter 1108E Data-Sheet


    With the "Clarity M Stereo" from TC-Electronic, there is finally an affordable Meter device! It only costs € 250.- (and therefore less than some PlugIn solutions) and it looks / feels more like a + $1000 hardware! The Clarity M provides all the important displays in one place, without consuming resources from the computer. Fantastic!

    The display of the Clarity M can be individually edited and saved. In the spectral display, the individual bands can be scrolled thru via encoder knob. Radar, VektorScope and RTA (RealTimeAnalysis) views can be switched via buttons, the Radar can be started / stopped and peaks can be reset - making Clarity M more than just a monitor. Also, there is another reason not to place it somewhere in the background, but within reach: the 7 'monitor is "just right" - not big, but big enough. It stands very stable and doesn't leave any traces (scratches) through some small rubber feet.

    The Clarity M Stereo can operate in two modes: in "disk mode" with a digital stereo audio input signal, and in "PlugIn mode" via VST, AU, or VST3 PlugIn and a USB connection. It comes with a breakout cable and can deal with TosLink, BNC, SPDIF and AES connectors. There even is a dual pedal connector in the breakout cable to start / stop the "Radar" measurements (Ped. A) and reset the Peak display (Ped. B) - the functions of the first two buttons. The Clarity M Stereo works in both modes (USB / PlugIn and digital audio) up to 96kHz!

    I clearly prefer the AES (or the digital audio) mode of operation - because no computer connection is necessary. If the Clarity M is connected to the computer in "disk mode" (ie, the digital audio mode) via USB, it is mounted as a hard disk. There is a.o. a folder with the Presets (which can be easily renamed here as well). Also, they can be copied to another medium as backup. There are many useful Presets that can at least serve as a starting point for your own Presets.

    A really complete device! Very, very helpful! It makes a huge difference to my workflow and simply banishes a whole "problem block" from the computer.

    Clarity M Stereo Website


in the 2-Buss
  • Great River MAQ 2-NV

    The MAQ-2NV from Great River Electronics is a modification of the popular EQ-2NV. It was implemented under the label of the (unfortunately closed) dealer "Mercenary Audio" in Boston. The changes were based on the desire of many sound engineers to use the EQ-2NV also during Mastering. Therefore, Input Gain, stepped pots (=switches), a Link function for simplified stereo operation, altered corner frequencies, lower Boost/Cut values and Transmitters with less coloring were selected. Due to the low Boost and Cut values, the Equalizer is therefore no longer required for surgical EQ-ing. Particularly noteworthy are its additional, unbalanced outputs and patch I/O sockets, via which a compressor can be looped in. At high input levels it can sound really dark. A strong character and my analog EQ flagship.

    The MAQ-2NV is a very versatile EQ, whose strengths lie in the middle and high range and especially in the general sound picture - it sounds great and good. An unobtrusive giant that sounds different than it looks. Its versatility is demonstrated by how many musical genres this EQ can confront without becoming alien. Technically, it is a descendant of the legendary Neve 1081 EQ.

    Although the MAQ-2NV with 2U is twice as large as the initial model - its modest appearance seems to me the reason for the fact that there is so little hype around this EQ. In the "Mastering Scene", 4 or 5U units with extra-large buttons are simply more popular - as silly as it sounds. There are hardly any reviews, tests or reports about the MAQ-2NV. But those who say something of this EQ, speak in the highest notes. The understanding of this situation is additionally made more difficult by the fact that the MAQ-2NV is at least 1/3 cheaper than its, in my view, direct competitors.

    Great River Website

    Langevin/Manley Mini Massive EQ

    The Mini Massive EQ by Langevin / Manley (produced 2006-2011) is the small brother of the large Manley Massive Passive and has the same transmitters and preamps, but no tubes, only 2 instead of 4 bands and no filters. But it is quite different from the sound of the big brother.

    With this EQ, the outputs can be switched between +4dB/balanced to +4dB/unbal. or -10dB/unbalanced. In addition, there is the possibility to switch the "Iron" transformers to "vintage", with a different winding and other current intensities producing a rougher sound image (good for electric guitar). Finally, the transformers can also be bypassed. This minimizes the harmonic distortion and increases the frequency range from 1Hz-100kHz. This EQ is MUCH larger than it looks.

    It is important for this EQ that the back is accessible at any time, because the switches for dB and transmitter make the device so versatile, but thy are placed on the rear. Whether Mono, mutated to a 4-band EQ through daisy-chaining, with extra Roll-Off (vintage), as a Buss EQ, possibly expanded by "The Pullet" for Mid Bands or as transientless Mastering EQ - it is an enormous versatile processor.

    The sound is clearly suited for Mastering, but it is not for everyone because of the "un-stepped" Bandwidth- and Level controls, which are extremely light. If these controllers were stepped (ie switches), I believe that it would still be built today. A magical EQ.

    Langevin Mini Massive Passive on the Manley Website

  • Dangerous Music Bax EQ

    The Bax EQ is hard to hear but everything sounds better. For me, it is usually the last device in the Mastering Chain. The low frequencies are powerful, clear, clean and without any boom, the heights are simply fantastic! It clears down - and makes up, lends body, space and "expensive" transparency - the stereo image also seems more tidy.

    This is especially noticeable at the moment when the Bypass is activated. This EQ seems to be a virtuosic Hi-Fi loudness button rather than an EQ. It has two "Baxandall" curves, as well as low and high-cut filters. On the low end, you can cut below 12 Hz, where headroom-eating, infrasonic rumble and DC-offset live. On the high end, you can dial out ultra-sonics like 70 kHz that can carry out-of-band noise that translates as harshness in many A/D converters. No questions remain open and it becomes clear why the Bax is to be found in so many Mastering Studios.

    If you want to work mainly ITB and looking for a "sweetener" in the analog Masterbuss, the Bax-EQ is one of the best available (and affordable) solutions.

    As a Mastering EQ for a slightly narrower budget, the Bax is worth considering - especially when coupled with a mid-range EQ (like The Pullet), very convincing results can be achieved.


in the 2-Buss
  • Rupert Neve Dexigns Portico II Master Buss Processor

    The Portico II Master Bus Processor is a Compressor, Limiter, Stereo-Width & Depth Editor, including Filter, MS, Parallel Processing and Saturation Apertures, integrated into a buss, with four LED meters for Compression and Volume.

    The MBP offers extra high currents (72V/±36V). "Huge" transformers provide excellent dynamics and pulse reproduction. Sidechain I/O's are also available. The Stereo Field Editor is the most effective I've ever used.

    This processor alone can already go through as a complete "Mastering Buss" (without EQ), because it provides the crucial tools and gives a very solid, analog fingerprint - perhaps exactly the kind of "console-sound" that so many were looking for in the Summing-Amps. The integrated Compressor is simply impressive: you can not hear it work. A Compressor with its own Parallel Blend is also a great idea! Before I had a Console, the MBP was the biggest step toward the coveted "console sound" - technically this processor is a colossus.

    The Stereo Field Editor has a longitudinal and a transverse axis, each with a switchable Filter (2 bands), so that Phase problems can be avoided. Not to mention the very good Limiter. Really amazing - and there is only one knob! The Master Bus Processor is one of my absolute favorite devices!

    For me this processor was a stroke of luck. Rupert Neve still has a hand for compressors. Fantastic!

    Rupert Neve Designs Website

The digital 2-Buss

  • Weiss EQ1 Dyn/LP

    The Weiss EQ1-DYN-LP is probably the most widespread Equalizer in Mastering Studios worldwide. Many Mastering engineers regard it as a kind of "measure of things" and swear by this precision tool. Its reputation is legendary, as is the reputation of Weiss as a whole.

    The 7-band Equalizer has no converters and only digital IO's - so it has a special place in the setup (in the virtual console). My version of this EQ is the DYN-LP version - this is the maximum configuration level and means that it can be started in different modes: as a Dynamic EQ (not unlike a compressor) or in Linear Phase Mode. Especially for surgical interventions the LP-mode is certainly unmatched. In LP mode, the maximum slope of the Cut Filter is doubled to 24dB.

    Advantages of this processor are also the good user interface. Thanks to its digital nature, it offers many efficiency-related advantages. Nevertheless, I have programmed a little Editor to become acquainted. It is much much faster (no "stepping" and less turning the MIDI encoder on the device) - finally, the EQ1 understands MIDI. On the right is an iPad screenshot of my Editor.

    It is verbally difficult to mediate, but unlike analogue Equalizers (IIR/Infinite Impulse Response), this EQ comes without phasing. This and the extreme Q values allow the material to be precisely prepared or repaired (e.g., with hairy notches). The Weiss EQ1 is just so unruffled and confident - there is no "rocking" of the curves (also in the cut). With this Equalizer it is as if you could clean up the whole universe and rearrange it! For Mastering I use it (as last device) - also in zero position, since the Weiss EQ1 works internally with Up- and Downsampling. The result sounds clearly better. When tranferring old DAT cassettes I noticed, in comparison to the direct recordings into the ULN-8, the clearly better sound. Madness! Everything in Weiss-Order.

    Weiss Website

    Weiss DS 1 Mk3

    It's not hardware, but the plugin of the WEISS DS1 Mk3 deserves a place among the hardware. It forms for me together with the (hardware) EQ1 the "digital gilding stage" in my mastering setup (behind the analogue bus). This plug-in is a line by line port of the code and no hardware emulation - a digital de-esser, compressor and limiter. The counterpart to EQ1, so to speak. Through its filter, the DS1 also comes "close to" an EQ and is unique in that it can streamline, give transparency, shine and elegance. So far, the price of over 10,000.- made it almost unaffordable, it is now available natively!

    The Weiss DS1 Mk3 also features Parallel Compression, M/S Mode, Sidechain Link and a monitor switch, similar to the solo switch on the mixer - very useful for setting the optimal settings for M/S and sidechain operations. In addition, the plug-in offers a real-time waveform as helpful visualization and two new limiting algorithms, which extend the functionality mainly stylistically. Now the DS1-Mk3 is also capable to make it loud. The new algorithms open the doors to popular music and today's editing needs. Both algorithms do not pump as fast as the original algorithm and grab deeper / stricter / harder.

    The release of the DS1 Mk3 as a plug-in is a landmark for me and the beginning of a new era. Fantastic. The two Weiss processors do not replace the EQs and compressors of the analog mastering bus, but allow in combination a final "fine tuning" or the final touch. But they would already be alone an ultimate mastering combo - something "for the island".

    According to Daniel Weiss, the plug-in sounds identical to the hardware. I like the arrangement and selection of parameters. Even if the device is MIDI controllable (7bit) - I recommend a look at the Weiss DS1 Mk3 manual, because many parameters have less than 128 steps.

    Congratulations to Daniel Weiss and Softtube! A fabulous step!

    Softube Website

    In my setup the digital processors are usually at the very end, behind the analogue bus, they can of course also be placed in front of it. They're also not just for mastering because the versatility of these two processors also makes them the first choice for all surgical operations in mixing/editing.

    For electronic music, the DS1 is a weapon! Particularly in monitor mode, it is possible to realize strong filtering: 24 dB filters and max. 70 dB knee range. Via M/S sounds can be everted through the filter outright.

    I also built an iPad controller for the DS1. Especially when mastering it is very pleasant, if you do not have to move the head or body while changing values. With the iPad, the required movements are minimized.



in the Studio
  • Especially in the studio (and for recordings) the quality of the cables should be as high as possible. The differences are amazing! My cables are mainly from Mogami, Sommer, Vovox and Isoda. Plugs and sockets are from Neutrik and Switchcraft.

    Unfortunately (or: fortunately) there are countless different cables from each manufacturer and not all cables are suitable or equally good. The Vovox cables are rather too sensitive for "on the road" and also for the bank-account a (for me too) heavy load, so I only use them with some selected microphones.

    While my multicores are largely from Mogami (and the selection is not difficult), it is quite different with Sommer cables. By chance, I came across a 2m 16ch Sommer Pegasus cable that I took for the cabling of the Transfer Console (because I needed the short Mogami cable I had there, somewhere else). The surprise was great: the Pegasus cable sounded much better!


sound exposure

Amps + Speakers

    Studio-Monitors Neumann KH 310A and 810 Subwoofer

    Since the beginning of 2014 I work with Neumann KH 310A and am very happy with it. Amazingly, how untroubled everything is to be heard! They offer a fantastic stereo image and allow uninhibited listening!

    The closed construction makes the handling very easy. Due to the 3-way and 34Hz lower limit, they are also suitable for mixing without a subwoofer. Real Top Monitors! (The use of a subs makes phase variations probable, so mixing without a sub is simpler, more efficient and less tiring.)

    Neumann KH 310 - Website

    The KH 810 Subwoofer is the perfect addition to the KH 310A monitors. It offers a 7.1 High Definition Bass Manager ™, which meets all requirements, from mono to 7.1 HD formats, and is 65 cm deep!

    Neumann KH 810 - Website

    Utility-Monitore Tannoy Reveal 402

    The Reveal 402 are located somewhere between HiFi-Box, Studio-Monitor and Computer-System and astonish: these small speakers are really able to map the whole music!

    Of course, due to the compact size both the depth staggering and the spatiality is more imperfect than in the large KH310A. It would also be questionable if not - but it is possible to work with these speakers and for me they are good enough even as B-speakers.

    The basses are somewhat over-emphasized, but, with regard to the actual listening habits, this is certainly realistic. The high frequencies offer even a kind of microscopic view (without being painful). Of course, everything is more direct, because more compact.

    I really can recommend these speakers as Utility Speakers. On the rear side, in addition to balanced and unbalanced Mono Inputs, are also a Stereo Mini-Jack Input and and a Monitor Link Output (Mini-Jack). Cable is supplied.

    I got these monitors for € 130.- (offer). In the meantime they are significantly more expensive and thus not so unrivaled.

    For "resetting" the acoustic meatus and for a better idea, as it may sound on "normal" systems, I feel this solution as quite suitable.

    Tannoy Reveal 402 - Website

  • Nexo PS-8 PA

    Nexo PS8 - this miniature PA is a delight! Their performance (transmission range) and their sound image is equivalent to the very big names of this industry - like MeyerSound or D & B. With the really small PS 8, Nexo succeeded a big hit! The PS 8 has very clear heights and can give a stable, musical and balanced sound picture! The subwoofer is very fast and early enough to hear - this was a smaller weak point of the PS 10 MkI (in old design). This PA is also suitable for "instrumental" amplified live electronics in chamber music ensembles. Despite its small size, it achieves incredible 1750 Watt. The best: for 4-channel or extra "fat" 2-channel performances, I've got two of these PA's!

    The subwoofers are even suitable for car transport and car trunk. The illustrated Nexo Power Amplifier - with integrated controller - is no longer available. The new solution consists of two 19 'devices, controllers and amplifiers, is even bigger, heavier and more expensive.

    Nexo Website - PS-Series

    Traynor K4 Keyboard Combo

    For the Fender Rhodes, my choice fell on the Traynor K4 combo amp, which is only a little popular in Europe. Assertiveness and sound are impressive. This Amp is a small PA in a Combo. 2 Equalizers, 3 Amplifiers, 4 Channels, 5 Speakers and very loud 300W (200W low and 2x 50W high). It's "charisma" on the stage is sovereign, balanced, compact and powerful.

    Also as amplification of live electronics, I like this amp very much! Very plastic and "physical"!

    Combo Amps for keyboards/synths have always been a problem - that's history. A super Amp!

      Traynor K4 -Website

      Furman AC-210 A E Power Conditioner

      Sometimes - it can not be avoided - you get an unclean power line - and Combo Amps are known to be very sensitive. For these cases, I have a Furman AC-210 A E Power Conditioner. The AC-210 can even be fixed in the combo amp - brackets are supplied. It has saved more than one night!