Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

It may be just a monophonic synth with a GUI that’s prejudiced against fat fingers, but Argon has won our hearts. From wispy, nostalgic leads drowned in noise and delay, to formant wobbles, croaking basslines and the soft pulses of thirds and fifths, Argon can – and frequently does – sound awesome. It’s not a broad palette, trapped somewhere between 1972 and 1984, but it’s a sound full of character, complexity and fun.

The GUI presents two horizontally scrolling layers. The topmost provides access to ten pages of parameters and each parameter is drawn in a radial, anti-aliased style that Ableton Live users will immediately recognise. The lower layer is a scrollable keyboard that lets you switch octaves by dragging the lower border. [read]


AmpliTube for iPhone is a collection of five virtual amplifiers, clearly based on (but not licensed versions of) classic tones by Marshall, Fender, and Mesa/Boogie. Each amp suits a different tonal purpose–clean, crunch, lead, metal, or bass–and offers your choice of cabinets and microphones to tailor the sound. You also get a collection of 10 stompbox-style effects, including specialized units like an octave pedal and an envelope filter. As on real stompboxes and amps, the controls are clearly labeled and easily tweaked: Tap the knob and adjust the volume or intensity by sliding your finger up or down. AmpliTube offers a surprising amount of tonal versatility; it’s easy to save presets along the way. Most impressively, whereas PRS Jam Amp featured noticeable latency, AmpliTube passed our signal along with almost no lag, and even has a setting for even less latency at the cost of fidelity. The best praise we can offer is that we quickly forgot we were playing guitar through a phone. [read]

Fishman’s Aura 16 is the latest in what is now quite a long line of Aura products. Fishman’s first foray into the world of acoustic ‘sound imaging’ resulted in the 2004 launch of the initial Aura floor pedal unit.

The technology, designed in conjunction with Akai Professional, isn’t modelling as used, for example, by Roland or Line 6 in their VG and Variax products, but instead is more instrument specific. You can’t turn your six-string dreadnought into a 12-string, for example, but thanks to Fishman’s now extensive online Image Gallery you should be able to find a recorded image of a quality instrument that can be blended with the undersaddle pickup tone to produce a highly realistic ‘mic’d acoustic’ sound (without the potential hassle of using an actual mic) direct to your acoustic amp, recording device or PA. [read]

If you enjoyed the Tube mic shootout for voiceover we posted a few weeks back, you’ll be happy to know that the powerhouse team of Mark Keller and Mathew Trogner sent a second beautiful HD movie of the same three tube mics being used on Keller’s acoustic guitar.

The Contenders

Here’s a recap of the mics in the lineup:

The MXL Revelation is a multipattern mic with MXL’s K67-style capsule and a Russian-made EF86 pentode tube. It has a higher noise floor than does the Gemini II, but probably less self-noise than a vintage U47. Hear more samples in our MXL Revelation review.

The SE Electronics Gemini II is a dual-tube condenser with a fixed Cardioid pattern. The use of a second tube in the output stage gives the mic a distinctive color. (If you like this mic, be sure to check out the new multipattern Gemini III.)

The Neumann U 47 needs no introduction, but for the sake of comparison we’ll state that it was a tube-and-transformer mic with a unique combination of components — capsule, transformer, tube, circuit design, grille — that give the mic a sound that has never been truly replicated. [Source:]

As a drummer, live musician, and regular self-recordist, my right foot has faced most every good (and not so good) kick-drum microphone out there. And while I received useable results with all those typical make and model choices over the years, I finally discovered (and subsequently bought) my current kick microphone three years ago: Heil Sound’s flagship dynamic, the PR 40.

While not advertised as a “kick drum mic” (but recommended as such among many other applications), the PR 40 sounded more natural, open, and overall better to me on kick than any of my former favorites; the PR 40 in front of a good drum in a good sounding room (with a touch of EQ) suddenly took me pretty much wherever I needed to go stylistically. [read]

Like us, many of you will probably have less-than-fond memories of your first practice amp. Often a single-channel affair, even those graced with such luxury features as an overdrive switch tended to rasp harder than a surform in a wasps’ nest – the AM radio in your parents’ kitchen probably had a richer bottom-end response.

Hang on a minute though, it’s 2010. Most of us are walking around with telephones in our pockets that allow us shoot video, access the internet and listen to our entire record collection. And thanks to AmpliTube for iPhone, we’ll soon be using our mobiles as headphone amps too. That’s considerably more practical, not to mention rocking, than anything Tomorrow’s World ever promised. [read]

Unlike mobile microphones such as Blue’s Mikey which take a simplified approach to capturing audio, the Alesis ProTrack goes in a more complex, but still portable, direction. The device itself is relatively large—about seven and one-half inches long, just under three inches wide, and not quite two inches deep. The ProTrack provides a sled, with dock connector, into which your iPhone or iPod is placed. The device records to the iPod classic, fifth-generation iPods, second- and third-generation iPod nanos, and the second-generation iPod touch. It also worked with the iPhone in my testing. [read]