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Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Video: Toontrack EZDrummer 2 Review Part 2: First Impressions

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

EZDrummer 2_part 2 logo

For part 2 of my EZ Drummer 2 review I’m exploring the interface and demonstrating some of the presets. Gotta say, so far this is pretty damned intuitive and I’ve barely dug into it yet.

The plugin is out next month, check out the video below for a preview.

Are you already an EZDrummer user? Thinking of upgrading? Are there any features you want me to dig into for the 3rd video? Let me know in the comments below!

Video: EZdrummer 2 Review Part 1: Install

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Toontrack sent me EZ Drummer 2 this week to try out and make some videos. Prior to this I had never used EZDrummer but I could usually identify it in indie releases. It’s pretty exciting to be one of the first reviewers of this product. My first impressions of it are very positive.

The first video is a bit boring, I admit. Install went perfectly as it should. I intended to show more in the first video but my screen recording had major sync issues, user error. So I’ve broken it up into a few parts, part 1 below covers the install and authorization, part 2 explores the interface, and shows off the sounds and patterns, first impressions kind of stuff. Part 3 will be my final review after using the software on a few projects, this should be done by the end of the month.

Check out part 1 now, and stay tuned for part 2 and 3.

If there is a specific feature you’d like me to cover in part 3, please leave a message here, on Youtube or email me directly.

 

 

Review: iZotope RX3 Standard

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

RX3 is the latest version of the magic audio repair software from iZotope. I’ve had a few weeks to play with RX3 standard and I’m pretty impressed with the new features.

RX is a suite of audio repair tools made by iZotope, who also make several popular plugins such as Ozone 5, Nectar, Alloy, Trash, and Stutter Edit. RX is a standalone application as well as a set of plugins you can use in any daw.

When you load a file in RX you can view the spectrograph or the waveform or a mix of the two. Editing within RX is a bit like editing images. You can make selections on the frequency axis or time, both or use brush, lasso and magic wand tools to isolate any noise you want to remove.

RX3_screenshot

Within RX there are several processing modules, Declip, Declick & Decrackle, Remove Hum, Denoise, and Spectral Repair. These modules are the ones available as separate plugins in your DAW.
There are also more utility modules for simple gain change, eq, spectrum analysis.
One of the great new features in RX3 is VST or AudioUnit plugin support. There is a catch with that though. RX is a 64 bit application so your plugin options is limited unless you force it to open as 32 bit.

Theres a lot of stuff to love about iZotope RX, especially in the latest version. The tools are both intuitive and powerful and there have been very few audio issues I haven’t been able to overcome with this software. All the processing is non-destructive with full undo history that is actually saved along with your exported audio files. One of the new additions to RX is project tabs, so you can open up several files to work on in separate tabs within RX.

The results of processing with RX are almost too good to be true, it’s pretty amazing how cleanly you can remove hum, broadband noise, clicks and anything else.

Examples

I think the best way to explain this is with some before and examples.
The most obvious test is to reduce excessive noise floor from a mic or signal chain.

Here is some electric guitar recorded with a bit of hum.

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I make a time selection around some of that hum, then I bring up the Denoise module and click learn to load the noise profile, the hum, into the module.
Keeping everything else at default I’ll hit process for 12dB of noise reduction. And here’s how it sounds.

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Recently I used RX on a mastering project that was a full set from a wedding cover band. The first few songs had several feedback interruptions that can be  easily removed with RX.

Here is a clip of the problem audio

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You can hear several short squeals of feedback. There’s also a rogue bongo tap we can take out.
The feedback is plainly seen as bright orange horizontal lines in the spectrograph. I’ll use the brush tool to draw my selection over the feedback, then I might use spectral repair in attenuate mode or simply hit the delete key, or a combination. For this it was a bit of both for the best results.
To remove the bongo hit I used spectral repair in Partials + Noise mode.
Here’s how it sounds after repair with RX

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Workflow

When I’m working in REAPER I am using the RX plugins in most sessions. The Declip and Declick modules are the ones I use most when editing and mixing. Sometimes I run them on the entire track and sometimes as realtime item fx if there are only a couple problem spots. The declip module is useful for repairing flat topped waveforms, I’ve used it on voice, bass, guitars, organ and occasionally on drums. The Declick module can help hide bad edits, crackling distortion and the new thump mode is helpful on P-pops when a high pass filter isn’t working.

For bits of audio with serious problems I have a key command in REAPER to make a copy of that section of audio, and open it in RX. I do the spectral editing, save as and then replace the item in the timeline. For me this is a great workflow.

Tips & Tricks

RX3BoxI have a few random tips for working with RX.
The Declick, Remove Hum and Denoise modules have the option to output just what is being removed, this is really helpful for tweaking the controls to reduce artifacts before you commit the edit.

You can click and drag or mouse-wheel over the frequency rulers to adjust scale and zoom. Double click to reset.

When you take a file out of your mix you’re back to hearing the raw audio, sometimes it’s hard to hear the issues without compression, or at least without a volume boost. My solution is to use the gain module for a 6 or 12dB boost, but the trick is to only preview with the boost. Alternately you can bring in a compressor or limiter with the plugin module and preview it through that.

The last tip is to learn the key commands for zooming and the tools so you can work more efficiently. At the very least remember that T is for Time Selection, B is for Brush. Delete key will shuffle edit a time selection and alt+S will silence it.

Recommended without hesitation

RX seems like a highly specialized piece of software, but the reality is, it’s incredibly useful whether you’re mixing, mastering, making podcasts or doing field recordings. If you work in post production, this is essential. If you work in music I’d have to say this is pretty essential. Highly recommended for all studios and independent engineers.

The standard version list price is $349, but retail prices will be lower. The best deal is probably going to be the Studio and Repair bundle which includes, Alloy 2, Ozone 5, Nectar 2 and RX3. List price on that is $849 but I picked that up for $500 at Audio Deluxe. There’s also an advanced version of RX 3 that has a few extra modules; Dereverb and Dialogue Denoiser. It also includes advanced options for the Denoise module and others. RX3 Advanced lists for $1200.

Are you using iZotope RX 3? Let me know what you think of it in the comments below!

Review: Lynda.com Music Production Secrets: Larry Crane on Recording

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Last night I saw the announcement of Larry Crane’s (TapeOp Magazine, Jackpot! Studio) video tutorial at Lynda.com and I immediately signed up for a free trial to watch. I was pretty excited about this short course because of Larry’s extensive experience in recording and mixing, plus it’s filmed in his really fun studio. That’s right – a real engineer in a real studio moving the mics.

Larry_crane_video
While a lot of the content is simplified beginner recording concepts (what is a DI box, mic types), it covers a few thing I haven’t really seen in video tutorials before (how to find the best place for drums in the room, recording a faux ensemble), and interesting tips & tricks that anyone can experiment with (garbage can kick drum, damping drums with blankets). It moves at a pretty good pace never dwelling too long on one topic (the longest segment is only 13min) and we don’t hear the same examples and shootouts over and over. On the other hand, at times more detail, clarification and demonstrations would have been nice for certain topics that felt a little rushed. Larry presents the content clearly and in a fun and really encouraging way and most segments seem to be a single take, mistakes and all (phase/polarity).

Highlights for me are the videos on checking the phase of the drum mics/tracks on the console, mic positions for upright piano (loved the sound of the non-obvious underneath position), and the when they record the handclap ensemble and the one guy messes up every time. Larry has a lot of creative ideas and seems like a really fun guy to work with in the studio. 2hrs 20min flies by and I just want to keep watching. Not to diminish Larry’s great info and tips that will help you get better sounds in tracking but it’s not really a how to be a music producer tutorial that the title might make you believe. Hopefully this is just part 1 and we’ll see Larry hosting more courses for Lynda.com in the future and we’ll see more production and mixing ideas. I’d rate this 8/10, definitely recommended.

Go here to sign up and watch the videos

Lynda.com is a subscription service and for $25/month you get access to the entire library of video tutorials, which is pretty cool but not everything will be relevant to you.

Review: Auralex Mudguard

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Way back in July 2012 I was told about a pricing mistake at Musicians Friend for the Auralex MudGuard. It was actually a 4-pack of them for $110, just $11 more than a single unit. I don’t know if it was an error or just clearance but it seemed like a pretty good deal. I told some friends and got a little group buy going with 3 guys in California – Eric @rhythminmind; Cory @createmusicpro; and Andrew @cremasterandroo
Cory made the order and got them a few days later. After he shipped mine to me in Vancouver from Orange County I owed him $68. Still less than buying one in store or any other competing product.

The Mudguards have arrived

Off-axis microphone isolation
If you’re not familiar with this sort of product, it’s a barrier that mounts behind a microphone intended to reduce the pickup of off-axis sounds – noise, other instruments, or reflections from the room. A compact portable vocal booth is the concept.

There are several of these on the market in a wide range of prices. The SE Reflexion Filter was the first of these products to my knowledge. That one is certainly a more sophisticated design then the MudGuard, however in my previous experience with the SE, it wasn’t worth the effort or high cost.

Opinions vary greatly about their effectiveness and value in the studio. In every discussion I’ve read on these there’s always some guy that claims he can build one himself for $10. I’ve never seen a DIY option that didn’t look like a steaming pile. My own attempts at a DIY stand-mounted absorber have been garbage, definitely not something I’d want to be seen in a paid session. (more…)

Review – Soniccouture Crowd Choir for Kontakt

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

A while ago James at Soniccouture contacted me about their new crowd-sourced sampling project called Crowd Choir. 1000 participants from all over the world contributed 4000 voice recordings to the project. The result is a 500MB sampled choir spanning 3 octaves. 1000 voices in 1000 different mics in 10000 different rooms. Pretty cool idea and it turned out very well. I don’t normally review sample libraries but I made an exception because it’s a unique idea, it’s useful, inexpensive and it’s for a charity.

Soniccouture Crowd Choir

Soniccouture Crowd Choir

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Review: MXR M-80 Bass DI+

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Recently I bought the MXR M-80 Bass DI +. It’s much more than a DI box, it’s a bass preamp with clean and distortion channels, and 3-band EQ. It’s also a shortcut to awesome bass tones.

MXR Bass DI+

MXR Bass DI+

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