Studio Hardware & Setup
I consider it to be a great social advancement working with such high-quality equipment today: whereas in the past, the highest quality was only available from institutions, pricey studios or millionaires - meaning you had to do your homework, pass tests and bend over backwards - it's a much easier accessible option nowadays. Furthermore, it can be stored in a few boxes - rather than on several floors.
My hardware has to fulfill many different tasks: it is electronic instrument, live mixer and recording equipment at the same time, also for participating, acoustic instruments. Optimized for everyday use (still stereo), as a production studio, up to mastering in audiophile quality. Small size and weight, as well as simple assembly and disassembly are to ensure mobility.
My preferred frequency for working is 96kHz/24bit. The perceptible difference in kHz, compared to 44.1 kHz (CD), occurs at about 90 kHz. Therefore, the difference from 44.1 to 96 kHz is more perceptible than the difference from 96 to 192kHz, which is rather noticeable only with top equipment in studio acoustics.
With the rather exclusive, but quite stripped-down hardware described below, it's possible to operate with up to 48 channels of I/O, technically at a "reference" class.
The overview is divided into five areas:
- Audio-Interfaces, Mic-Preamps, Accessory
- Back-End, Monitoring, FX
- Summing, Tracking
- Monitor-Speakers, PA, Combo-Amp
ULN-8 and LIO-8
Metric Halo ULN-8 and LIO-8 are audio interfaces of a class of their own and the heart of my DAW. ULN-8 and LIO-8 are technological twins, but the LIO-8 comes without mic pre's, yet can be upgraded with two boards (2x 4 mic preamps) and will then be identical to the ULN-8. My LIO-8 has 4 mic preamps. The two mic preamp circuit boards can be plugged in with ease.
Amazing microphone preamps, two integrated DI inputs, reference-class AD-DA conversion, internal 80-bit processing, hardware and software superbly designed, rock-solid - and a headphone amplifier that makes Hifi freaks rejoice. These devices may appear large and expensive at first glance, but, upon closer examination, they are small and extremely inexpensive! These devices replace hardware that, in comparable quality, would be more than 10x the price and needed to be transported in weighty flight cases.
The software "MIOConsole3d" provides MS switching, parallel mix, summing, arbitrary bus structures, IO or inserts for external hardware - even cascading of up to 8 MH interfaces has become possible.
The software also includes a variety of the finest PlugIns (EQ, Compressor, Limiter, Gate, Delay, Reverb, Transient Designer, etc.), some of them with excellent presets. Live, editing or mastering setups can be easily saved and recalled. The "most important" console parameters are controllable externally.
Two very decisive points: due to the "processor-near" 80bit processing (in Assembler) on their own processors, the PlugIns neither feel like PlugIns, nor do they sound like PlugIns. I guess this simply cannot be achieved at AU or VST level. It also saves a significant amount of computer resources. The whole package comes with a quality that you might as well work exclusively with and be very pleased doing so.
To me, the PlugIns - EQs, Compressor, Limiter, Reverb, etc. - seem to be so good that I expect each of the hardware processor counterparts to be more expensive than LIO-8 or ULN-8. - and this might be true even for the headphone amplifier. Among the band characteristics of the EQs, there is also an RIAA curve that converts the inputs of the LIO and ULN into excellent Phono input channels.
The "Session" window is a perfect recording window - with lots of features / options included. More than 100 tracks can be recorded simultaneously. A host software becomes thus only necessary at the editing. The advancements of the MH software are convincing across the entire line.
Unique - and especially interesting for sound engineers and electronic musicians is the "Graph plane": this is where entire studio processors can be built with the "Building blocks". Building blocks are e.g. summing- and adding blocks, Delays, LFOs, Filters... The gray boxes can be opened with a double click and are like a plug-in window - here you can adjust the parameters of the Building-Block... An incredible toolbox! These interfaces represent a complete studio - including summing and monitor controller. Metric Halo does not simply build "audio interfaces". Sonically, there's no complaint, just a never-ending amazement.
There are special features on the hardware as well: To accommodate the many connections of ULN-8 and LIO-8 on one U, most audio IO's are designed as D-Sub25 connections. This means that multicores, breakout cables, patchbays or stageboxes are required.
The ULN-8 provides 34 analog in- or outputs (plus headphones, DIs and ch 1-2 TRS outputs) and 8 AES I/O. Mic IN and Line IN have dedicated inputs - whether Mic or Line should be on the channel (active) can be set in the Console software. Next to the inputs is a "Balanced Send" output, which can be used for signal splitting - e.g. for a live/stage mix. This provides a latency-free output of the signals behind the preamp - even before AD conversion. Yet another highlight is that there is also a "Mic S/R" mode (S/R=Send/Return) - i.e. an analog insert. In this setting the "Mic In" serves as input, the "Balanced Send" as "Send" and the "Line In" as "Return".
The "Edge Buss" - which accepts the "EdgeCards" - is another special feature. The number of digital IOs can be extended significantly via an "EdgeCard" (with SPDIF, AES or Dante). One of the EdgeCards also offers 1x SPDIF and 1x MIDI I/O. These cards increase the flexibility even more, especially on the road. EdgeCards can be easily exchanged even without tools.
The truly insane about this company is that they are releasing the technical improvements - including the switch from Firewire to Ethernet - not in new audio interfaces, but as an upgrade (in circuit board form) that can be applied by yourself - and which is available for all Metric Halo interfaces ever built - even the 20 year old MIO 2882!
This image shows how the flexibility of the interfaces is evident in the everyday life. While the interface is completely wired in the studio (on all inputs and outputs), I need a different (simpler) wiring for "live" performances - I don't take all devices with me. This means that I just disconnect all the plugs when I take the unit out of the studio - and reconnect them when I get back. Almost like a simple dock.
Going to play with the Buchla, all I need is 2x output to the amp - for that I use the two TRS outs. All line-in signals come via a D-Sub25 cable and, if I also need microphones, I have a breakout cable for that as well.
In order to send 40x CV (via SPDIF) to the Buchla, I got the EdgeCard, the one with SPDIF and MIDI. The MIDI I/O port allows me travel without a MIDI interface and still control my D-Loop or Yamaha TX81z (or both). I've been getting a little lazy about carrying over the last few years. This interface prevents others from noticing that.
Metric Halo 3d Upgrade (August 2018)
Metric Halo has done it again! The 3d upgrade is finally here:
Improved clock (significantly more transparent sound) and significantly more DSP capability. Up to 8 (eight) interfaces can be interconnected via the MH-Link (Ethernet) into one (!) Interface (128 channels @192k bidirectional). Thus the upgrade comes with a new back panel, now without Firewire, but with audio via Ethernet and USB-c. With 8 interfaces linked together, the maximum additional latency is 16 microseconds, that's 0.16 ms! New are also the EdgeCards (far right) and the EdgeBus. This allows to expand the interfaces, optionally with SPDIF, ADAT, AES, MADI (Copper or Optical) or MIDI. With Metric Halo you don't need to buy a new unit every few years, but you get a "few circuit boards", a new backplane, etc. relatively low priced and then all of a sudden you have all the new achievements and the interface is up-to-date! For instance, you can still get the first, 20 years old interface - of course with the latest technology! Utterly unique!
In my case, the upgrade results in an enormous weight reduction of the recording setup, because now, instead of the heavy stagebox with 30m cable (approx. 40kg), the audio interface (quasi as a stagebox) can stay on stage and instead a Ethernet Cat5e cable (max. 100m long , approx. 3kg) runs to the computer (e.g. in the control room or in the audience when directing the sound) - on the left you can see the two upgrade bags for my ULN-8 and LIO-8.
This is an almost crazy improvement - the multicores not only used to be extremely heavy and bulky, but also expensive and involved a lot of work (routing and connecting). Even the small, mobile synth setup (see top picture) becomes easier, because the "new order" (Thunderbolt3, Ethernet) reduces some cables here, too. The breakup of Firewire is most welcome to me!
For either maximized or minimized setups, the hardware reductions resulting from the upgrade are truly significant. The improvement in the quality of sound from Firewire to Ethernet (not USB) is huge! Really noticeable right away! The sound "sits" better - like a big (analog) console. The new console software, visually significantly changed, now programmed in JUCE and matching the "Dark Mode" - is still in beta, but already functional.
A W E S O M E. More and more hardware has to compete with this interface.
Other companies release new interfaces - Metric Halo takes care of their customers with hardware upgrades! Amazing! Chapeau!
Metric Halo ULN-8 Mk IV Upgrade (2023)
A new analog and converter design with even more detail, body and soul
A huge reduction in converter round trip latency (RTL)
Next-gen design optimized for low-latency unity-gain analog loops
A relay-based output mute system for click & pop-free power cycles
35% reduction in power consumption - it runs cooler (which should also preserve the components)
The differences between ULN-8 Mk IV and ULN-8 3d:
And another upgrade worthy of the name! For me, of course, the reduction of the round-trip latency is the most igniting factor, because I run "real-time live electronics" and 18 samples of latency at 96 kHz equals a delay of only 0.19 ms - it corresponds to a listening distance of 6 cm!!! Compared to the acoustic conditions on a stage, this means that the sound of an instrument playing 3 meters away from me will take 50 times more time until arriving at me.
A welcome "side-effect" is that this has to do with the new converters, and they are as welcome to me as all the other hardware improvements.
A lot has been changed (improved!) in the PlugIn section as well. Not only the new generation of MIO plugs has become part of the "MioConsole3d", also some additional PlugIns have been added. Many of the PlugIns have now also a visual support, which comes from the analysis software "Spectra Foo" (see below). A whole new set of PlugIns from "Make Believe Studios" have also been added, which are very intuitive in use. However, the main highlight for me is the Sontec MES-432 D9D, a digital replication of what is perhaps the most sought-after analog Mastering EQ in history.
For the implementation of the Sontec EQ a new technology developed by Metric Halo was used, and besides Make Believe Studios there was even Burgess Macneal, the inventor of the Sontec, involved in the development of the PlugIn! With the upgrade to V2, an Options Panel has also been added, with which the individual bands can be switched on and off and a Mid-Side function can be activated.
Even better, a Sontec "Bump Box" will be released, equipped with the output amplifiers of the Sontec EQ, bringing the digital replica back into the analog world! As if I had asked for it!!
In order to come to a conclusion on Metric Halo at this point, which I obviously find difficult, I refer to the somewhat more extensive review and the assumed effect of the Sontec PlugIn for my own Setup at my "Mastering Page" - this is the direct link: Sontec MES-432 D9D
While the PlugIns and the Sontec MES-432 D9D EQ are provided immediately and free of charge to owners of the 3d hardware with a download of the current Console software, the Mk IV hardware upgrade for this particular gear is probably not available until the second half of 2023, and at $ 999.- it doesn't seem very cheap either - however, for a complete set of new converters in this grade of quality it is a very good offer - and after all Metric Halo doesn't ask us to purchase a completely new unit for € 4500.- every couple of years! Yet the new ULN-8 and LIO-8 are already Mk IV. So: all is well! Very, very good!
My experiences with this company and their products (I was one of the first clients over 20 years ago) is without comparison! Metric Halo is represented by Anne Goerth and Stefan Bahr in Germany for several years now - and these audio interfaces are and continue to be a stroke of genius!
Metric Halo Analysis Software
In SpectraFoo, Metric Halo also offers analysis software that turns these devices into the first choice for audio engineers as well. Spectra Foo is used for analysis in the areas of mixing, mastering, acoustic analysis, live audio and electronics. For most users, the standard version of the software should be sufficient - there also is a "Complete" version, which can also measure auditoriums and much more.
SpectraFoo Complete has a high-resolution multi-tone, multi-noise, sweep and burst signal generator that runs in real time and can write the signal to a capture or to an AIFF or SDII file. The interfacing to the signal generator is numeric, which makes it very precise.
- high-resolution, distortion-free 24-bit signal generation
- Up to 9 simultaneous Sine Sweeps - Pink and White Noise Generation
- FFT synchronized Sine Wave Generator
- Direct generation into audio I/O, captures, and files
Microphone / Line Preamplifier
An perfect expansion for ULN-8 and LIO-8 is the ASP880 from Audient. It has an excellent sound and an integrated AD conversion with AES output. This means that (since the MH-3d upgrade and an AES EdgeCard in the audio interface) even two ASP880 can be connected to the LIO-8 or ULN-8, expanding the analog inputs to 24 per interface.
The ASP880 operates up to 96kHz and its first two inputs can be used alternatively as DI inputs. Each of the 8 channels have their own insert point (Send/Return).
Recently I got another audio interface - a MOTU M4. It was purchased in order to provide an audio interface for my iPad, running an app with the virtual Buchla 700, an extremely rare FM synth that has had its resurrection as the ID700 here.
I have been using it regularly since and there is not much that can be said about it. It sounds amazingly good! It runs without problems using a USBc port, which also supplies the power. It features 4 inputs and 4 outputs, but no digital IOs. There are two Mic/Line/Guit (HiZ) inputs available at the front, and the phantom power can be switched individually. On the rear side there are Inputs 3 and 4, laid out as Line IN. There are also 4 outputs, which are mirrored in unbalanced form (as RCA / RCA). I have not yet tried the integrated MIDI interface, but I assume it works well. MIDI has always been a domain of MOTU. I don't want to forget to mention the knob on the front that controls the input to the (playback) monitor. However, I have never worked with it. The low latency can be further reduced with a driver to be installed (Mac).
One negative point is present, nevertheless - but it's possible to live with it: When turning on and off, the interface produces a (slight) DC offset ("pop"). Thus, the power switch should only be operated when no open line to the speakers is present.
The design is also very appealing and it is, overall, pleasingly uncomplicated - in all respects. It's amazing what you can get today in audio technology for € 250!!! Hence, I can only recommend it. A " Utility " audio interface that doesn't disappoint and is at your fingertips when you need it.
This will probably not attract negative attention even in professional studios.
- MOTU M4
- ID700 (FM/waveshaping software synthesizer based on the voice architecture of the Buchla 700)
RB-BL4 and RB-UL4
In many cases DI boxes are sufficient, but in many cases they are not. Particularly with modular synthesizers, the DI boxes (or plugging the unbalanced plug into the balanced jack) deliver unsatisfying results. This is because of the rather unusual outputs of e.g. +12dB (unbalanced) or impedances of 1kΩ (1000 ohms). After trying all sorts of things with a variety of synthesizers, including expensive output modules that used transformers, the Sonifex units proved so significantly more superior that I ended up buying several over time. I started with the smaller (2-4 channel) units, but have since moved to the larger versions (19 inch, 8 channels).
Depicted are the Sonifex RB-BL4 (above), which is a bi-directional converter (4x bal. IN to unbal. OUT and 4x unbal. IN to bal. OUT) and the Sonifex RB-UL4 (below), that is an 8x (4x Stereo) balancer (8x unbal. IN to bal. OUT). Both devices combined give me 12x balancing and 4x de-balancing - plenty for my modular synthesizers. In order to get the IO's on the front, the expensive rack ears are required unfortunately, which must be bought separately.
These devices can handle up to +28dB input - the signals are electronically transformed and delivered at less than 50 ohms.
The Output levels will be trimmed via grub screws - that means 1x setting and forgetting.
The audio interface converters will be happy, because they would otherwise have to work against "infinite resistance".
Oh yes - Sonifex is "Broadcast Quality".
- RB-BL4 Dual Stereo Bi-Directional Matching Converter
- RB-UL4 Quad Stereo Unbalanced to Balanced Converter
The Mamba XDB has been specially designed for the ULN-8 and LIO-8 (with D-Sub25 connectors) and is pretty convenient for an everyday 19' format setup.
It offers 16 analog inputs and 8 analog outputs, as well as 8 AES-EBU IN/OUT, coming in four D-Sub25 connectors on the rearside. Due to its shallow depth, the Mamba creates space in the case for power supplies from other devices or even can be installed on the rear side. For me, it was the reason to buy the Mamba, as there are actually too many plugs involved from an "audiophile" point of view. However, the Mamba is fantastic for daily use and transport (and I don't hear any noticeable difference). Anyway, there are four D-Sub25 plugs, which now do not necessarily have to be disconnected every time - D-Sub25 plugs are not made for frequent swapping.
Because the Mamba was developed for the ULN-8, I find it incomprehensible that the first eight inputs are fitted with combo plugs. This is a real source of danger, because phantom power and jack plugs simply do not belong with each other! XLR would be the better solution. For safety's sake, the jacks of the combo plugs could be fitted with rubber plugs - a very simple and safe solution.
Because I use four mic pre's in the LIO-8 and eight in the ULN-8, I have a 12 channel stage box with 3m cable for the mic inputs of both interfaces. The box has a 12-channel Mogami multicore and a Y-piece at the end with two D-Sub25 connectors which connect to the audio interfaces. On the second D-Sub25, of course, only the first 4 channels are assigned: 1-8 ULN-8 and 9-12 LIO-8.
Of course, you can't buy such specially configured stageboxes ready-made. However, this can be seen as an advantage, because the interior of the constructed stageboxes, which I had bought (also from well-known manufacturers), did not correspond to the quality I had expected. Hence, the stagebox is a task for a good manufacture!
For recording-only (and amplifying) occasions, I used to carry a big stagebox with a 30m cord (40kg). Now that was big luggage. Since August 2018 (Metric Halo 3d upgrade) I no longer needed it and immediately sold it for "refinancing". Now I just leave the audio interfaces behind the stagebox on stage and just one, up to 100m long, very light Ethernet cable runs to the computer. According to the requirements, I may mix with self-programmed MAX patches the setup from an iPad or using the motorfader bank.
Microphone- and Make-Up-Amplifier
Two racked Telefunken V672 Cassettes (built in 1970) optionally provide a "vintage" Front- or Backend with up to +70dB Gain. Despite their heavy weight, these old radio studio amps are still a class act and an excellent sounding solution. Also convincing was to listen to this clean preamp in conjunction with a passive summing bus, as a make-up amplifier.
The 2x three switches in the middle (48v/Pad/Phase), the Volume control, DI input and the power supply came as kits from JLM-Audio. However, I would like to note about the Go Between Kit (48v, Pad, Phase) that the Pad switch is located before the transformer and thus is not to be recommended - it has a negative effect on noise behavior and sound in this location. My 19' stereo V672 therefore has the extra switches on the outside ( blue on the inside / the Pad switch, but located behind the transformer).
The excellent quality of the Telefunken V672 was really surprising to me! Such a discretely built amplifier builds a very different kind of "body" than you would expect from modern IC designs or even digital amplifiers. But there is no coloration to speak of - the amp is very clean and sounds rich. After all, the Telefunken V672 was originally designed for the Radio Studio at the NWDR in Bremen in 1958. It's not only a microphone preamplifier, it was designed to take over various functions, which is set on the connector socket strip.
How much does the fun costs? I had purchased the V672 cassettes for about 100 € each (very reasonable) - but these times are probably over. The JLM components, 2x Go Between Kit, 2x Fet DI Kit and a power supply (plus postage and customs), enclosure, knobs and Neutrik mounting sockets all together came to about 500 €. Still the work has to be added. The picture shows a ready built Go Between Kit (48v,
Primary Source Enhancer
Rupert Neve Designs
The Portico 5045, a secret weapon of Rupert Neve Designs, is a feedback killer and can boost two microphone signals by up to 20dB before feedback sets in, without negatively affecting the source signal. The processor "senses" as signals are coming into the microphone, allows the signal to pass through, and then lowers the volume when the signal goes silent. Remarkably, the 5045 does not use any filters or digital technology at all for this task. However, included are Rupert Neve's excellent transformers that reproduce the signal (and cause an amazingly high weight despite small dimensions?).
There are so many unintentional encounters with feedback in live electronics that the 5045 is a true asset up your sleeve. This unit is particularly beneficial for church acoustics or stage monitors, among other scenarios. In fact, the sound even experiences a kind of refinement due to the transformers. Feedback problems belong to the past with the Portico 5045.
Back-End / Monitoring
The Dangerous D-Box has proven to be a very high-quality and very convenient backend. Apart from analog summing, it offers exactly the things that make sense as an extension of an audio interface, unless you want to use half of the audio interface's outputs for monitoring. For stereo applications there is an 8 channel summing bus, channel 7/8 with panorama, a speaker A/B and mono switch as well as a talkback microphone. An analog and two digital stereo inputs with excellent converters can be used for additional monitoring points. Two individually adjustable, high-quality headphone outputs complete the device. Technically and sonically, the D-Box already operates in a quality that is difficult to surpass - it represents a kind of summation of the fantastic Dangerous Music equipment and was my gateway drug. Building the D-Box was a really good idea!
Shown here is the passive Little Red Cue Box. It turns one of the two D-Box headphone outputs into four headphone jacks with individual volume control (for your guests).
Very handy to be screwed to microphone stands through a recessed thread in the base.
Since the fixing of DAW software coherence problems (ca. 2008), analog summing is no longer THE key if you have top audio interfaces. ITB summing e.g. within the ULN-8 software console V5 sounds "just as" good - maybe even a bit crisper (ITB = In The Box=digital). Analog summing (OTB = Out The Box) will always be an interaction of all components, as it involves a change of impedances. Due to this circumstance, no fundamental statement can be made about the quality of analog summing as such.
I actually do not use the D-Box summing bus anymore, but I can still enjoy the blessing of the D-Box (due to the other functions).
People frequently use the term "console sound" in the context of analog summing - this is rather a wish and does not quite correspond to the real situation. The D-Box is perhaps a step in the direction, however not ultimately. I also think that most people, when mentioning "console sound", rather think of coloration coming from transformers.
The Quantec Yardstick 2496 is not a Reverb but a Room Simulator. The favourite reverb of many reverb haters. A unique device - particularly where there is no need for reverb or it doesn't do any good, but the room isn't quite right.
Quantec pursues a different path than "the others" and is by its concept alone in the open field. The Yardstick 2496 has 2 inputs and 6 outputs (surround), implemented as AES - it has no converters and just a single algorithm. From firmware 3.x on, the Yardstick can be edited and managed via the web browser.
I chose the Yardstick because computer-generated reverb consumes a lot of processing power as well as modulated early reflections (FX Reverb) are big destructors of transparency in studio work. Besides, with the MH audio interfaces ULN-8 and LIO-8 I have enough free AES I/O's and already the perfect converters to make the Yardstick sound amazing.
Particularly in productions with acoustic instruments and no effects, Quantec's processors have been a household name for over 30 years, teaching us to distinguish between modulated reverberation ( Reverb) and phase-neutral room simulation! Still, after years of constant use, it's always fascinating - a device that you can't hear, but you can clearly perceive. Also positively striking is how effortlessly percussive sounds can be transformed into new spaces - with "normal" Reverbs this is a devastating undertaking!
No other device or PlugIn will do these rooms. Amazing. The Quantec's room simulation always is an impressive work of art!
For me the Yardstick has become an indispensable tool.
PlugIns undoubtedly have caught up significantly with hardware during the last few years. In contrast to hardware processors, they offer the advantage of being used in numerous instances at the same time. Certainly I have plug-ins from various companies, but here I would like to present just two of the companies that play an important role in my everyday life. These are the PlugIn Alliance and UAD. Both companies do have "unique proposition features" - UAD was probably the first company that could convince with emulations of existing (historical) hardware and PlugIn Alliance has the TMT circuit (Tolerance Modeling Technology), which creates minimal deviations between individual channels when using the same plug-ins on multiple channels, so that e.g. 10 channel strips thereby come much closer to the sound of a console, because the sum adds up richer (and PlugIn Alliance also offers busses!). Both companies sell virtualized audio processors from a similar technical range.
PlugIn Alliance is a very welcoming company. They are "good" to their customers, they offer regularly tempting special offers, they communicate in a pleasant way and they are interested in their customers' requests. Their PlugIn quality has improved tremendously during recent years, and the PlugIns are also at the forefront of user-friendliness. The selection of emulated processors is (for me) the most interesting on the market. I'll try to show this with just two PlugIns:
The channel strip of the Amek 9099 console, my favorite channel strip. You don't really need much more! An excellent rendition of a very rare and pricey, historic piece of hardware (with a huge history) - and there are other Amek processors in the lineup (Amek 200 and 250 EQs and Amek Mastering Compressor) which are delightful as well. Particularly with the channel strips, the in-house TMT circuitry is a benefit not to be underestimated.
However, not only emulations of historical processors exist. A recent example is the mastering EQ SPL PQ - still a fairly new EQ, which has taken off in the mastering scene, yet has "its price" as a hardware. With its 120V rail technology and many special features, SPL belongs into the top class of the mastering segment.
A prominent feature of the SPL PQ is the ability to toggle the Q-factor (resonance) from constant to proportional, i.e. the band of the Q-factor becomes narrower as the volume increases. This makes cuts or boosts much easier to apply and no longer a permanent destructive effect on the whole material. The SPL PQ is the first analog EQ that offers this functionality.
The lower part (the lower "device") is not part of the SPL hardware, but a "PlugIn-only feature" (which can also be turned off and hid). The module includes Tolerance Modeling Technology, Mid/Side Processing, Mono Maker, Stereo Width, THD, Auto Listen for all five bands, Filter, Gain and Metering. Brainworx (part of the PlugIn Alliance) manages to leave a very good "imprint" of its own, adding valuable enhancements to a very good processor.
The communicational delight of the PlugIn Alliance is also evident in the number of interesting contractual partners (such as SPL). The newly released PlugIns regularly generate a "relieving" joy, this thrill. Some other vendors manage that too, but they only do it once or twice. One more important thing before I get to UAD: The PlugIn Alliance PlugIn licenses can also be transferred to other accounts. This means that you can sell "used" plug-ins to other people.
I have been very well treated by the Alliance and it is the company which for me is at the forefront of the great movement towards ITB, which means away from hardware. I can only recommend them and tip my hat.
My UAD history goes back to the beginning and has developed a pale aftertaste that is becoming more and more pervasive for me and has triggered a subsequent gradual departure. In short, the company's policy is a real pain in the neck (and wallet, if you go with it). It starts with the obligation to (expensive) hardware. If you don't want a UAD audio interface, you have to get an "accelerator", the UAD Satellite. For all its "professional" looks - even in February 2023, the current Thunderbolt Satellite still has a TB3 connector, not contemporary, and you need an (ugly and expensive) TB4 adapter if you're not working with outdated computers. Inside, the issue continues - 4 or 8 totally outdated Sharc microchips are at work. When it comes to hardware upgrades, you'll have to pay a lot again - I don't remember any preferential offers for the existing customers.
This problem runs through the entire hardware area of the company, and it comes still worse, because even after the purchase of the PlugIns the paternalism by the company will remain. You are not allowed to resell the plug-ins individually, but only your entire account, i.e. either all plug-ins or none. One does not have to calculate for a long time to find out that enormous financial losses are to be scheduled when selling the PlugIns. The PlugIns are pretty expensive and the bundle offers, e.g. 3 PlugIns for € 699.- do not tear me out of my chair.
Therefore, the longer you are " with it ", the larger the quantity ( crowd ) of the PlugIns, which occupy space in the computer and become rotten. That's thousands of Dollars that disappear from the financial circulation of the studio! Everybody knows this: to finance new equipment, you need to resell older equipment. It's just the same like with cars. This UA pseudo-exclusivity gives me a feeling of being blackmailed.
I haven't bought additional plug-ins for a while now, but I still hold (and enjoy) my Satellite and finally I want to get to the positive aspects of it.
Especially some of the reverb PlugIns (e.g. Capitol Chambers, Ocean Way Studios or AKG BX 20) I appreciate very much. Also when it comes to tape plug-ins, UAD has been ahead of the game and there are a few personal favourites. But at the latest with the M1 chip (from the Apple point of view), the external "acceleration" is no longer necessary. It used to be a great relief, especially on Reverbs, because the computers would go on their knees quite fast. Today I would probably still buy a Satellite (preferably used) and use UAD primarily as a reverberation device - and leave out the rest (especially the circumstances) or don't think about it any further.
More about PlugIns is on my website: Mastering ITB / OTB
Analog Post-Processing - Console and Outboard
Tracking, Summing, Mastering
Up to this point, it was about the core of the equipment - that which is needed in any case, including live. It is plenty enough for sound reinforcement and recording, and actually the equipment mentioned so far is also easily enough to process everything from A-Z (digitally). But, just as with the synthesizer, dealing with analog equipment simply gives more pleasure. In the end result it can be almost indistinguishable - however, while working it is a vast difference. Thus, it is arguable about the necessity - after all, there are supposed to be people who are willing to sacrifice any pleasure for a good result.
Something I missed with my summing buses and amps (Dangerous 2-Bus LT, D-Box and RMS216 Folcrom) was the chance to do analog post-processing (tracking) on individual tracks. Also the advertised "console sound" from the summing devices did not occur - in fact both came along with the Studer Console. I mainly use the console for tracking and summing - but of course it is also the first choice for recording when mobility is not a primary concern.
A vintage STUDER 961 console from the 80s, the smallest variant of the 960 series. A very special gem in my studio. Studer 96x consoles are still today among the best sounding consoles in the world!
For me, the 961 serves primarily as an analog summing mixer that can also be the Input and / or Output of a mastering chain. Due to the design (with transformers), an appropriate analog expression of the material can be achieved when tracking. The Aux I/O is also very well suited for looping into the mastering chain via transfer console.
My 961 is configured as 10/2 I/O: the Master Faders have been removed and the Outputs are calibrated. A welcome shift that comes from processing individual tracks or stems separately is the breaking of the "daisy chaining" in the analog path. The 961's equalizer and compressor/limiter are kept simple and sound excellent, but even with just a few external Equalizers, Compressors, etc. added to inserts or Aux I/O's, tracks or sub-groups can be processed separately in analog before entering the sum. The character of the console may be varied very well by using Outboard!
- A very informative Studer 961-962 Website
The Outboard on my Studer 961
The Pullet mini passive equaliser
Thermionic Culture's mid EQ "The Pullet" is a "classic Pultec design" and a bargain in this genre due to its passive construction (no power supply, no make-up gain) - however, a free stereo mic preamp is needed to boost the output signals again by about 35dB.
It is wonderful how things can be brought to life with this EQ, but a parallel bus may be helpful. "The Pullet" is also quite suitable for mastering, e.g. together with the Bax EQ (and gives the Bax EQ a vital midrange control with a bit more harsh character). This combo was my very first analog "mastering EQ" and these EQ's complement each other in a very special way. On the Pullet, however, it is better to leave the Highshelf neutral, because it grips too hard - but in the combination of Bax and Pullet, this is up to the Bax anyway. (see below)
As a recovery amplifier I usually use my "self-built" Stereo Telefunken V672 Preamp (see above) - a superb match.
Stereo Buss Compressor
Stam Audio SA4000
This compressor is a remake of the legendary SSL G Comp. It is a Stereo VCA Compressor without a transformers, perfect for the drum bus. The original has its place in history.
The compressor leaves a more distinct impression than, for example, the UAD emulation of the SSL G Comp - and I think of that as a positive statement, because in this case it's what I wanted. You can actually hear this compressor at work. The sound image is noticeably energized.
By now it is built with XLR jacks. My model is the MK1, in the meantime it has been somewhat expanded and is now called SA4000 MK3.
Mono Leveling Amplifier
Stam Audio SA-2A
Also the SA-2A openly shows its reference (Teletronix La-2A). It is also not a 1:1 clone, but a replication with some modern components. This device works in mono. Having a good opto-compressor in the setup is a "household item". Even at extreme level reduction, it doesn't introduce any additional harmonics - it just gives size and warmth to the tone. The SA-2A uses tubes and custom-built Cinemag transformers.
Optical Compressors are primarily good for individual and less complex signals. I like using the SA-2A for double bass and for vocals. But of course it is also good on guitar, kick and various mono signals.
In the meantime the SA-2A has become a SA-2A+.
The Mastering Buss (2-Buss)
either directly at the audio interface, or as insert, in the aux path or behind the 961 Console.
To give a simple overview, here is an older flowchart of my setup, but it has remained the same in terms of principle. The view goes to the circuits during mixing, summing and on the integration of the mastering buss.
At the top is the digital equipment (Quantec Yardstick, Weiss EQ and audio interface), in the middle is the console and to its right, the outboard connected to the console as well as the monitor section. At the bottom is the analog mastering chain, consisting of a transfer console and the analog processors connected to it. The dashed lines represent optional connections that are available for switching.
A transfer console adds an architecture to the buss - it is the "hub" to external processors. Rather than being in the console's buss, it may be located behind the console's sum or directly on the stereo output of the audio interface. After all, it's going towards mixing ITB (In The Box) and just appending an analog Mastering Chain onto it.
In the Mastering Buss (or 2-Buss) the final processing of the stereo sum is carried out entirely. This is where EQs, DeEssers, Compressors and Limiters are usually located - these are only used as required (and only "gently"). In mastering, merely the final touches and a loudness adjustment, i.e. overall more of a refinement, are applied. Most often, these are EQ notches to eliminate distracting frequencies or - in conjunction with the compressor or a dynamic EQ - to unmask masked frequencies (in my case, the Weiss EQ does this). Some of these devices also allow complex circuits, such as parallel mix, sidechain, M/S, soundfield editor - besides the final loudness, depth and width of the sound image are also optimized. The last device in the mastering chain is usually a Limiter - mainly to prevent overloads. In analog mastering chains the emphasis is also on a certain degree of coloration of the overall signal by the transformers used in the chosen audio processors.
I stick to the rule "The best cable is no cable" and I have, also because my hardware is not that extensive, renounced an expensive TT patchbay. I therefore only got two switchboxes, one for 8-channel and one for stereo connections. With the 8-channel switcher I can send the (8) analog outputs of the interface to different analog sum buses and the stereo switcher switches the way of this sum into the mastering buss.
This is my current studio setup (since 2021). On the left is the "live electronics section", in the middle the Summing and on the right the Mastering Buss.
Due to the 3d upgrade of my audio interfaces (and the move from Firewwire to Ethernet) this setup finally allows me to compare the different summing buses (ULN-8, D-Box, Studer 961 and optionally an RND Orbit 5057). I actually can work on the synthesizer and switch directly to mastering (without having to reconnect cables) - only a different assignment of the "console software" is loaded.
The two switchboxes are indeed handy and very helpful - they save time-consuming patching and allow real comparisons (because of the switching speed) - but surely at least the D-Sub25 box is the weak point among all those expensive processors. So far, however, I haven't perceived any negative effects on the sound. There are also more expensive Audio DB25 Switchboxes, like the "Model 8454" from ElectroStandards (also shown in the picture on the right), but for me this simple design is enough. After the decision for the summing buss, or rather immediately before mastering, I prefer to connect the devices directly (so take out the switchboxes) - and thereby also take out unnecessary wiring (the best cable is no cable). For such a sensitive process, the reconnection of 3 cables (2x XLR and once D-Sub25) is absolutely ok - and rather a ritual than a working process.
The D-Sub25 switchboxes are available in various versions for 10-20 dollars. Actually they are made for printers, but mine work very well. The passive input selector from Kramer is truly helpful and can be recommended.
SPL MasterBay S
SPL's MasterBay S is perhaps the most minimized transfer console on the market - or rather, a torso transfer console. It is completely transparent/inaudible, can be easily connected between the Mix-Buss patch points of a console and then provides this buss with its architecture.
Most helpful "little trimmings": Input and insert trimmers, swap function for inserts 2&3, master fader, volume compensation, daw return and a bypass that can be turned into an interval circuit. For inserts 1+2 or 1+3 there is a Parallel Mix blend, Insert 4 is behind it (e.g. for 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 unit improves the "workflow" significantly and helps me to solve 95% of all typical issues when chaining Outboard Processors.
The specific features of the Swap Inserts and the Parallel Mix on the MasterBay S are often communicated incorrectly and subsequently discussed as a weakness. It concerns the fact that the inserts 1 to 3 supposedly always run together into the parallel mix. What is correct is that when the Swap function is activated, Insert 2 is taken out of the Parallel Mix. This means that two of the four inserts will be in the parallel mix - besides the first one, it's either the second or the third one.
For me it's just perfect, because all that is missing in contrast to big transfer consoles is in my RND Master Buss Processor (see below). It is by its own parallel buss just ideally suited for the Insert2 of the MasterBay. By "swapping" behind Insert1+3 and the parallel mix, it creates a second Parallel Buss in the setup, which can be used to mix the Parallel Compression with other components than the Parallel Mix of the EQs..
Thus, if you have a "normal" Compressor (and the Masterbay), you might consider buying an additional Parallel Blender (e.g. TK-Mini Blender or Aveson Blend) for the MasterBay S to get this range of functionality - financially it would still be far away from the prices for a full-fledged transfer console.
The one thing the MasterBay S lacks compared to large transfer consoles is a Mid/Side function and Width/Depth controls with filters. With the RND Mastering Buss Processor (see below) I have an excellent Width/Depth control with filters and I can achieve M/S operations with the ULN-8 or LIO-8. einen hervorragenden Width/Depth-Regler mit Filtern und M/S-Operationen kann ich über die ULN-8 oder LIO-8 realisieren.
At the "metering" outputs of the SPL MasterBay S I connected an (already older) analog RTW 1108 Peakmeter. It's an RTW1108 in an 1120 enclosure, and it makes a significant improvement to the setup, partly because it allows the Masterbay's loudness compensation to be adjusted very precisely, and the transfer console to get its own display. Since it is an analog meter, the unit needs to be calibrated once every few years. I have summarized the trimmer calibration routines for the RTW1108 in a MAX patch, just in case.
These vintage devices from RTW are occasionally available (used) for €100.- to 200.- (analog or digital). But they are pure peak meters with memory function (for the highest peak) - and they are available in a confusing number of variations! Therefore you need to check before buying, if it is the right and desired Meter.
Unfortunately, there is little info on the net. Here is a PDF of the successor model:
Clarity M Stereo
For Mastering at the latest, a good graphical representation of the Metering is very helpful, if not necessary. Metering includes not only loudness (and peaks), but also phase correlation, mono compatibility, field distribution and spectral measurement.
Although some analysis PlugIns are quite nice (like Izotope's Insight 2), it's quite annoying to have them open all the time. With every new session the plug-ins have to be placed and especially if you work with only one monitor (like I do these days) you have to move the windows around all the time because they are in the way or the waveform has to be brought to the foreground - it's a miserable clicking job! The " Death Argument" (for me) is the computational resource hunger of good Analysis PlugIns. The complex graphics are much more hungry than EQ or Compressor PlugIns.
The "Clarity M Stereo" from TC-Electronic is finally an affordable Display unit - and indeed it certainly is one! It only costs €250.- (and thus less than some PlugIn solutions) and it rather creates the impression of a really solid hardware! The Clarity M offers all important displays in one spot, without consuming resources of the computer and it's absolutely great!
The views in the Clarity M can be individually configured and saved. In the spectral display, the individual bands can be "scrolled" via the encoder. Radar, VectorScope and RTA (RealTimeAnalysis) views can be switched via buttons, the radar can be started/stopped and peaks can be cleared - making the Clarity M more than just a monitor. It is also 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 create any "marks" (scratches) due to its little rubber feet. I have attached it to the free arm of my double monitor holder - so I can pull it up when needed.
The Clarity M Stereo can operate in two modes: in "Disk Mode" with a stereo digital audio input signal, and in "PlugIn Mode" via a VST, AU, or VST3 plug-in and with a USB connection. It comes with included wire whip and is capable of accepting TosLink, BNC, SPDIF, and AES connections. There even is a connector on the cable whip for a double pedal to start/stop the "radar" measurements (Ped. A) and reset the peak display (Ped. B) - these are the functions of the first two buttons. The Clarity M Stereo works in both modes (USB/PlugIn and digital audio) up to 96kHz! (This is frequently communicated incorrectly! The 48kHz limit only applies to the multi-channel model "Clarity M", not to the "Clarity M Stereo").
I clearly prefer the AES (or digital audio) mode simply because it does not require a computer connection. If the Clarity M is connected to the computer via USB in "disk mode" (i.e. digital audio mode), it mounts itself as a hard disk. Among other things, the presets can be found on it, which can also be renamed here (if desired). They can also be copied from here to another medium for backup. There are numerous useful presets, which are at least suitable as a starting point for your own presets.
A genuinely complete device! Very, very helpful! For my workflow it makes a huge difference and simply banishes a whole chunk of problems from the computer.
Processors on my analog Mastering Buss
The following devices are connected to the I/Os of the transfer console.
Compressor - Limiter - Buss
Rupert Neve Designs
Portico II Master Buss Processor
The Portico II Master Buss Processor is Compressor, Limiter, Stereo Width & Depth Editor incl. "EQ" (Filter), integrated into a bus with parallel processing and saturation blend - with four LED meters for compression and master volume.
The MBP provides extra high currents (72V/±36V). "Huge" transformers provide excellent dynamics and impulse response. Also, Sidechain I/O's are included.The Stereo Field Editor has a longitudinal and a transverse axis, each with switchable EQ (2 bands), against Phase problems, or for M/S Compression (SFE to Comp button). An excellent Limiter - truly amazing - features only one knob and works remarkably well without being noticeable. The Neve signature Blue and/or Red-Silk circuitry is magical and really gives the sound a "shine" of its own.
This processor alone may already pass for a simple "Master Buss" because it provides the crucial tools and gives off a very solid analog fingerprint - some call it "three-dimensional". Perhaps it's just the kind of "console sound" that so many had been looking for in the summing. The integrated Compressor, as well as the Limiter, are truly impressive: you can't hear them working (but in fact, the MBP can be steplessly adjusted all the way up to "brutal"!). A Buss with own Parallel-Blend and Compressor, Limiter and Stereo-Field-Editor is moreover a super idea! Prior to my Studer console, the MBP was the biggest step towards the desired "console sound" - technically, this processor is a giant. The MBP greatly alters the incoming signals (for the better) without making you actively aware of the components involved. Incredible! A true Masterpiece.
Despite its weight, I used the RND MBP in a live setup (together with the RND Portico 5045 and the D-Box) on my NEXP PS8 PA. It revealed what the PA can do and really made it sound, An adventure!
For me, this processor was a lucky pick - and Rupert Neve has always had a knack for compressors. Fantastic! The Master Buss Processor is one of my all-time favorites! It would be the last analog processor I would hand over again.
Great River Electronics
The MAQ-2NV by Great River Electronics is a modification of the popular EQ-2NV, which was implemented under the label of the (unfortunately closed) dealer "Mercenary Audio" in Boston. The modifications were based on requests from many audio engineers to use the EQ-2NV in mastering as well. Therefore, input gain, "gridded pots" (=switches), a link function for simplified stereo operation, altered, respectively extended corner frequencies, lower boost/cut values and transformers with less coloration were selected. Due to the low boost and cut values, the equalizer is therefore no longer to be used for surgical treatments.
A striking feature are its additional unbalanced outputs and patch I/O jacks, which can be used to loop in a compressor, for example. At high input levels it can sound really dark. A strong character.
The MAQ-2NV is an extremely versatile EQ with strengths in the midrange and treble and especially in the general sound - it sounds big and pretty great. An unobtrusive giant sounding different than it looks. Its versatility is evident in how many musical genres this EQ can confront without being alienating. Technically, it carries much of the DNA of the legendary Neve 1081 EQ.
Although the MAQ-2NV at 2U is twice the size of the outgoing model - its modest appearance seems to me to be the main reason why there is so little hype about this EQ. In the "mastering scene", 4- or 5U units with extra-large knobs are simply more popular - as silly as that sounds (and I'm sure it is). There are hardly any reviews, tests or reports of the MAQ-2NV to be found. But those that do say something speak highly of this EQ. The understanding of this situation is further complicated by the fact that the MAQ-2NV is at least 1/3 cheaper than any of its, from my point of view, direct competitors.
The Mini Massive EQ by Langevin/Manley (produced 2006-2011) is the little brother of the large Manley Massive Passive and shares the same transformers and preamps, but it has no tubes, just 2 instead of 4 bands and no filters. Soundwise it is however completely different, than its big brother.
With this EQ the outputs can be switched from +4dB/bal. to +4dB/unbal. or -10dB/unbal. In addition, there is the option to switch the "Iron" transformers to "Vintage", where a different winding and current levels produce a rougher sound (e.g. good for electric guitar). Lastly, the transformers can also be circumvented by "bypassing" them. This minimizes harmonic distortion and extends the frequency range from 1Hz-100kHz. This EQ is MUCH bigger than it seems.
With this EQ it is crucial that the rear panel is always accessible, because the switches for dB and transformer, which make the device so versatile, are located at the back. Whether in mono, transformed into a 4-band EQ by daisy-chaining the two channels and with extra roll-off (vintage), as a Buss EQ, possibly extended by "The Pullet" with mid-bands or as a transformerless mastering EQ - it is an enormously versatile processor.
Soundwise it is clearly suitable for mastering, but it is not everyone's cup of tea because of the non-gridded bandwidth and level controls, which are extremely sluggish. If these knobs were detented (i.e. switches), I think it would still be built to this day. A magnificent EQ.
The Bax EQ is barely audible, but everything sounds better. For me, it is usually the last EQ in the analog mastering chain. The bass is powerful, clear, clean and completely without boom, the treble is simply fantastic! It cleans up the bottom - and makes up the top, gives body, space and "expensive" transparency - also the stereo image seems noticeably tidier.
You will especially notice this EQ at the moment the "Bypass" is activated. This EQ seems more like a virtuoso hi-fi loudness knob than an EQ. It has two "Baxandall" cow tail curves, as well as low and high cut filters. There is similarly little that can be said about this EQ as it has parameters. But after auditioning it, no questions are left unanswered, and it becomes clear why the Bax is found in so many mastering studios.
If you are on a budget, the Bax is worth considering as a mastering EQ - especially when coupled with a midrange EQ (like The Pullet), very convincing results can be achieved.
Digital Processors in my Mastering Buss
The Weiss EQ1-DYN-LP is (or was) probably the most widely used equalizer in the world's leading mastering studios. Many engineers regard it as a kind of " benchmark " and insist on this precision tool. Its reputation is legendary, as is the reputation of the Weiss company as a whole.
The 7-band equalizer has no converters and comes with only digital IO's - therefore it has a special place in the setup (in the virtual console). My version of this equalizer is the DYN-LP version - this is the maximum expansion stage and means that it can be started in different modes: as a dynamic equalizer (not dissimilar in behavior to a compressor) or in Linear Phase Mode - probably unsurpassed in this discipline, especially for surgical procedures. In LP mode the maximum slope of the cut filters doubles to 24dB.
The merits of this processor also include its good user interface - thanks to its digital nature, it offers many efficiency-related benefits. Nevertheless, to get acquainted with it, I programmed a small editor for myself, which allows much faster input (no "stepping" and less twiddling of the MIDI encoders on the device) - after all, the EQ1 understands MIDI. On the right you can see an iPad screenshot of my editor.
It's hard to convey verbally, but unlike analog equalizers (IIR/Infinite Impulse Response), this EQ does not use phase shifting. This and the extreme Q values make it possible to precisely prepare or repair the material (e.g. with hairline notches). The Weiss EQ1 is just so unagitated and sovereign - there is not any of that "build-up" of curves (even in the cut). With this equalizer, it's like cleaning up the universe and rearranging it! For mastering I use it ( as the last device) also in zero position, because the Weiss EQ1 works internally with up- and downsampling. The result sounds distinctly better. When transferring old DAT cassettes, I noticed the significantly better sound in relation to the recordings transferred directly into the ULN-8. Madness! Everything in Weiss order.
Weiss / Softube
This Weiss DS1 Mk3 is not a piece of hardware, but this PlugIn from Softube deserves the place next to the Weiss hardware. Together with the (hardware) EQ1 it forms the "digital gold-plating stage" in my mastering setup (behind the analog bus). This plug-in is a "line by line" port of the code and not an emulation of the hardware - a digital De-Esser, Compressor and Limiter. So to speak the companion piece to the EQ1. Because of its filter, the DS1 also "comes close" to an EQ and it is unique in de-muffling, slimming, adding transparency, shine or elegance. Previously rather prohibitive due to the price of over 10.000.-, it is now available natively!
The Weiss DS1 Mk3 also offers Parallel Compression, M/S Mode, Sidechain Link and allows "cross listening" via its monitor switch, similar to the solo switch on the mixer - very helpful to find the desired settings for M/S and sidechain operations. The PlugIn also offers a real-time waveform as a helpful visualization and two limiting algorithms that extend the functionality, especially stylistically. Since Softube, the DS1-Mk3 is also suitable at making loud - the new algorithms open the gates to popular music and today's processing requirements. Both algorithms do not pump as fast as the original algorithm and grab deeper / tougher / harder.
The software is identically to the hardware in terms of operation and effect, and according to Daniel Weiss, the PlugIn sounds the same as the hardware. However, I doubt that the sound is really identical, because the internal processing speed and bit width with the plug-in may not be quite achieved. I don't know the key data of the hardware (and can't find any information about it), but I know it from "good" sounding digital hardware that it achieves these good results internally with 80bit width and via assembler, a "fast" programming language that can access the processor directly via instruction sets. A plug-in in VST or AU format can rather not do that. I also say it because the Weiss EQ1 I have (hardware) creates a certain aura that the plugIn completely lacks, and I seem to recall that the DS1 hardware created that aura as well. Unfortunately, I can not compare 1to1 for lack of hardware (and am no longer in Switzerland). Nevertheless: great PlugIn! I like the arrangement and selection of parameters. Because DS1 Mk3 is MIDI controllable: I recommend to have a look in the Weiss DS1 Mk3 manual (pages 28-32), because many parameters have less than 128 steps (7bit).
For electronic music the DS1 is a weapon! Particularly in Monitor Mode, blatant filtering can be realized: 24 dB filter and max. 70 dB knee range. Via M/S you can virtually turn sounds upside down using this filter!
I usually place the digital processors at the very end, behind the analog bus. But of course they can also be placed in front of it. They are not only suitable for mastering - the versatility of the two Weiss processors also makes them the first choice for all surgical operations in mixing/editing.
I also built an iPad control for the DS1. Especially when mastering, it is very pleasant not to have to move the head or body when controlling, and with the iPad the necessary movements are minimized.
Many thanks to Daniel Weiss and Softtube! A terrific move.
Especially in the studio (and for recordings), the quality of the wires 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 a heavy load (too heavy for me) on the bank account, so I only use them for certain microphones.
While my multicores are mostly from Mogami and the choices are not difficult, it's quite different with Sommer. By chance I got a 2m 16ch Sommer Pegasus cable (picture), which I took for the wiring of the transfer console, because I had to use the short Mogami cables, which were plugged in there, somewhere else. The surprise was great: the Pegasus cable sounded considerably better!
Amps + Speakers
Neumann KH 310A Speakers and KH810 Subwoofer
I have been working with Neumann KH 310A since the beginning of 2014 and I'm very happy with it. Amazing how everything can be heard in an unstressed manner! They provide a fantastic stereo image and allow unstrained listening!
The enclosed design makes handling very straightforward. Due to 3-way and 34Hz lower limit, they are also very well suited for mixing without a subwoofer. True top of the line monitors! (Using a sub makes phase deviations likely, so mixing without a sub is easier, more efficient and less tiring). As an old Klein+Hummel aficionado I was at first suspicious whether the Neumann takeover was a good thing, but in this case my suspicions have since disappeared.
The Reveal 402 are somewhere between hi-fi box, studio monitor and computer system and are astonishing: these small speakers are really capable of reproducing all the music!
Of course, due to the compact size, both the depth and the spatiality are more imperfect than with the larger KH310A. It would also be questionable if not - but it is quite possible to work with these speakers and for me they are even suitable as B-speakers.
These speakers are especially recommended as "utility" speakers because on the rear panel, in addition to balanced and unbalanced mono inputs, there is also a stereo mini-jack input and and a monitor link output (mini-jack). The link cable is included.
I had gotten these monitors for €120.- ( special offer). In the meantime they are a bit pricier (pair: 178.-) and maybe not that competitive anymore - but they still do their job to my satisfaction even after 6 years.
For "resetting" the aural canal and for a better idea of how it may sound on "normal" equipment, I find this solution quite suitable.
These two small PAs are a lasting pleasure for me! Their performance (coverage) and their sound image are in no way inferior to the very big names in this industry - such as MeyerSound or D&B. With the truly small PS-8, NEXO has hit the big time! The PS-8 has very clear top end and can deliver a stable, musical and balanced sound! The subwoofer can be heard quickly and early enough - this was a minor weakness of the PS-10. The NEXO PS8 is also excellent for "instrumentally amplified" live electronics in chamber music ensembles. Despite its small size, it produces an incredible 1750 watts. Most importantly: all the details are still audible even from the 12th row!
Because I also do 4-channel performances, I immediately purchased a second PS-8 PA after a short test (see picture). For extra "fat" 2-channel performances, the PAs can also run in parallel and then double the output to 3500W!
These PAs have really brought autonomy to me. Not only do they sound better, but they are not hard-wired (for an altogether different sound reinforcement "philosophy"). Everything can now be arranged by me in the way that suits the situation best. The performance of the small PAs cannot be guessed by just seeing them. You have to hear them - and you will not believe that what you hear comes from this small PA alone!
nitially only for the Fender Rhodes, I opted for the Traynor K4 combo amp (3 amplifiers, 4 stereo channels, 5 speakers), which is not very common in Europe. Assertiveness and sound are impressive. This amp is a small PA in a combo.
The "Ch" (channel) designations are somewhat confusing, because they are always stereo inputs (only left = mono). The Ch 1+2 ( i.e. Input 1-L+R and 2-L+R) each have a 3-band equalizer. Ch 1 is also equipped with Overdrive and Lead Level, which can also be toggled via footswitch. Ch 2 has an alternate XLR input and Ch 3 has two alternate RCA (RCA) inputs (and gain control only). Ch 4 is on the rear panel (with volume knob) and is designed for an incoming stage monitor signal. It is therefore only sent to the combo speakers, but not from the line output of the amplifier.
The very loud 300W (200W low and 2x 50W high) are not lost even on large stages. Lovers of extra low frequencies may also connect an (active) subwoofer to the dedicated outlet. The charisma of the K4 on stage is sovereign, balanced, compact and powerful. I also really like this amp for amplifying live electronics! Very sculptural and "physical". The dimensions are 60 x50 x40 cm and the weight is 23 kg.
Combo amps for keyboards/synths have always been a hassle - but not the Traynor K4. A superb amp! I was lucky enough to get the last model before the RoHs changeover. After about a year, RoHs compliant models (with a changed logo on the grille) showed up, but it became quiet about this amp. Unfortunately, it has since been discontinued. There are still Traynor Keyboard Amps (up to max. 200W), but I have no knowledge of them.