Native Instruments Guitar Rig 6 Honest Review

Guitar Rig 6 from Native Instruments comes in two separate forms: Pro and Player. Whilst Pro is the paid for version, Player is so great for the novice musician that it is equally popular and can be a welcome addition to any collection of plugins you have begun to build.

What is included in Native Instruments Guitar Rig 6?

Guitar Rig 6 has all the things provided to create amazing sound that hits the mark, emulating true to life instruments in an astounding way, and packed full of bonafide, real instrument modelled plugins – both modern, vintage, and boutique amps as well as effects from both Native Instruments and Softube. It also contains Native Instruments’ Patented Intelligent Circuit Modelling, the ability to colour code and personalise presents, and the chance to discover Native Instruments’ own FX which can be found with no other company on the market – plus turn it up to eleven by running multiple amp heads at the same time (with the Pro version).

How does Native Instruments Guitar Rig 6 differ from other products out there?

There are a lot of options out there and it’s sometimes hard to wade through the mass of similar VST products. One problem is that many products claim to be all encompassing. However, any great piece of studio software will have stand out features which set it aside from the rest. For Guitar Rig 6, this is the Intelligent Circuit Modelling. Native Instruments have gone so far as to work with the creators of the corresponding analogue products to perfectly simulate each individual component in the circuits of their amps, pedals, and effects. This means that every single part of the FX chain on Guitar Rig 6 is completely true to life. For the musician who may not have the space or money to amass such a collection, it’s an amazing way to see what gear there is out there plus use it in your own projects without having to fork out a hefty fee or track it down. And because of the ICT, unless you are a hardcore audiophile with a need/desire for analogue instruments, it’s as good as the real thing – and having so much true-to-life gear in one place means that you can compare and contrast different sounds to really find something which ties all tracks together.

Check out the latest price and possible deal on Guitar Rig 6 by clicking here (redirects to the official Native Instruments website)

How can Native Instruments Guitar Rig 6 be used?

Guitar Rig 6 contains digital copies of real amps favoured by all your favourite guitarists, and it is set up in such a way so as to be completely intuitive for the creative minded player looking for analogue quality from their digital equivalents. Guitar Rig 6 allows you to build a wall of sound out of many different amps, meaning that you can combine sounds to create the perfect medley of different FX. In discovering this feature, I was almost reminded of the way the legendary producer Butch Vig mixed the four different layers of guitar for Smells Like Teen Spirit on Nirvana’s classic album ‘Nevermind’. The sounds involved in Guitar Rig 6 would actually be perfect for this kind of grungy, effects heavy production, yet the rig is so versatile it can add to everything. At first it appears there is a vintage bent, but the sounds are such classics they can be used in all genres and the rig also contains specialised amps created directly with Native Instruments alongside some of your favourite legendary guitarists and companies. Scroll through the NI browser to find hidden gems and refine your sound – Guitar Rig 6 has something for every mood.

Guitar Rig 6 Pro vs Guitar Rig Six Player

Guitar Rig 6 is split into two different models: Guitar Rig 6 Pro and Guitar Rig 6 Player. The difference lies mostly in the price and amount of features. However, Guitar Rig 6 Player is just as useful for musicians on a budget. It may not contain as many effects and pedals as Pro but if you use it creatively you can easily design fantastic walls of sound and boutique, specialised effects which can add verve and colour to your music.

Native Instruments Guitar Rig 6 – not just for guitarists!

Native Instruments Guitar Rig 6 stands out in containing all of the above plus plugins with unusual variants of noise such as radio effects which can be used for more creative, avant-garde production. In some ways this is a package primarily aimed at rock, blues, funk, and indie musicians, which leaves out the heavier and more technical, crisper, cleaner sound of metal and shred guitar – but some individual plugins have been modelled with legendary musicians from all genres including Richard Z. Kruspe of Rammstein.  And despite it’s name, Guitar Rig 6 is not just for guitarists. In fact, the Native Instruments site has a demo video that shows how FX such as the eerie ‘Area 51’ can be used for violin, creating ethereal and unearthly sounds which can be extremely atmospheric. More natural FX such as reverb and delay are also there to enhance almost any instrument. This is one of the biggest plusses of the rig – its insane ability to adapt to other instruments which, through present FX chains, can be used for just about anything.

Check out the latest price and possible deal on Guitar Rig 6 by clicking here (redirects to the official Native Instruments website)

Final thoughts

Why buy Guitar Rig 6? Whether Pro or Player, it does not hurt to have something this all-encompassing on your side when producing. And though the bias towards classic sounds could be considered restrictive it actually makes this plugin super easy to apply to any genre of music – with enough care taken in its creation that it is not merely a vanilla, one size fits all piece of technology but instead something which gives way more bang for its buck than you would expect from the surface. The sounds are great crowd pleasers – but all have been displayed, chosen, and arranged carefully enough that they give a real fresh spark of creativity to any musician in need of some new kit.

If you enjoyed this piece of gear review, we have a full category waiting to be explored, so dig in by clicking here!

IK Multimedia AmpliTube 5 honest review

Billed as the industry’s favorite amplifier and effects modelling software, this is a totally honest review of the IK Multimedia AmpliTube 5 guitar processing pack, which has recently been updated to version 5.3 with a bunch of new features. With obvious reasons why it is so popular amongst the industry, AmpliTube 5 turned out to be intuitive and easy to use in terms of interface and a design. It works with the flow of the average musician and it has really been created with the thought processes of the user in mind.

How is IK Multimedia AmpliTube 5 set up?

What stood out to me first was the way the entire signal chain has been modelled, with a crisp, clean overview of the chain including everything from direct input to pre-amps, gain, stomp-boxes, and more. You can see the whole thing from a bird’s eye view and drag and drop the different parts around to experiment with positioning. Different lines are color coded – and you can go with dual input or even three different parallel lines of FX connected to the same DI, which makes it extremely nonlinear and versatile. I was refreshed by the way that AmpliTube 5 seems to go above and beyond in terms of having a layout which explicitly works with the way most musicians seem to think and practice. It almost feels as if it was designed for guitarists, by guitarists. The gear selection process has been updated to drag and drop, and the gear view window is photorealistic and designed to be as hands on as it can possibly be without having the actual gear there in front of you – with a mixing window which is along the same lines too.

What makes IK Multimedia AmpliTube 5 stand out?

This is software which isn’t messing around. It’s been designed with a wholistic view of the production process and includes the following features:

  • The entire signal chain is covered from start to finish in terms of modelling.
  • Sound is hyper realistic due to IK using its own specifically trademarked DIM and VIR technology.
  • 8 track recording software allows the creation of nuance, layers, and walls of sound.
  • Set up and ease of use speed up each part of your workflow and thus minimizes processing power needed to create great sounds.
  • All FX are based on real gear and IK Multimedia has worked with real manufacturers including Orange, Mesa Boogie, and Fender thus allowing them to focus on what they do best with intuitive interface design while simultaneously including pro-level sounds created by those who have already hit the sweet spot with tone and popular appeal.

What does IK Multimedia AmpliTube 5 include?

The FX themselves are extremely well chosen. Some modelling software tends to have a bias or bent towards one side or another. AmpliTube 5 is a clean, neutral territory. There are over 400 different bits of gear and the designers have taken their time to work with classic, crowd-pleasing companies such as Fender to hit the sweet spot between familiarity and the ability to spice things up enough to spark ideas. IK Multimedia has split it into three sections, with the signal/FX chain modelling being the main focus and a mixing window which is positioned above, as well as the gear selector window to one side which contains AmpliTube 5’s magnetic selection of options bound to draw in any gear lover.

Why purchase the IK Multimedia Amplitube 5?

Personally, I found it was in the realm of inspiration where the AmpliTube really comes into its own, and while I investigated it, I realized this is not just FX modelling which attempts to cram as many different options into one rig as possible but instead includes carefully chosen collections of software which bring new options and idea combos to the table. AmpliTube 5 has focused on user interface and managed to combine creativity, a format that actually works for musicians, and an excellent level of variety, so it doesn’t feel just like a set of different VSTs and tech. Instead, it’s an interconnected ecosystem of sound design which works equally well for indie rock as it would for hardcore punk. I also found because of how different components are deliberately linked, they connect to each other in a way that ensures your workflow won’t be interrupted. As a result, this is a setup which works for both beginners and pro sound designers in separate ways. Beginners will find the fact that it is easy to use – without much technical detail needed to create amazing blends of sound – a real bonus when struggling for inspiration. On the other hand, anyone with a deeper grasp of the production process will be pleased with the sheer level of different plugins available for creative use, and how IK Multimedia has laid them out to spark new combinations of ideas.

Pricing and availability

Amplitube 5 can be bought off IK Multimedia’s website at $299.99. At this kind of price, it’s beyond the budget of the average bedroom producer or beginner, but it is a bit of software which is well worth investing in – in terms of sheer density of different options per unit of cost plus the way it frees up workflow and creates a smooth, easy-going sound design process.

Click here to check the latest price on their website!

Final Thoughts

I found everything about the AmpliTube 5 to stand out in terms of care and consideration taken to make a top tier product which focusses on the user as opposed to bunching a lot of different techs together. It has two main points of appeal – the variety of FX and thus possibilities in sound design and chain modelling – and the creative, non-linear set up designed to release workflow issues for speedier and more enjoyable music production. Personally, the workflow and interface design make it sold for me – but it’s the sheer number of options in terms of how you want to work with sound that means it has an appeal beyond any single genre. And if you want to read more reviews by us, head on down to our Reviews category by clicking here!

Audio-Technica AT2035 Review

The Audio-Technica AT2035 is a side-address cardioid condenser microphone that is perfect for both studio and live applications. It has a large diaphragm that provides natural sound reproduction, and its low-profile design makes it ideal for use in tight spaces.

The Audio-Technica AT2035 is a great microphone for anyone looking for an affordable alternative to some of the more expensive models on the market. This mic is perfect for home studios, project studios, and even live applications.

Audio-Technica AT2035: Build quality

The Audio-Technica AT2035 is very solid with a metal body casing and a durable metal grill protecting the microphone capsule. The mic is made of all-metal construction, and it feels very solid in your hand. This makes it less likely to suffer damage from accidental drops or impacts, which can be important if you’re using it in a live setting.

The shock mount on the Audio-Technica AT2035 is very well-designed, and you won’t have any issues with it. The mount will help to keep the mic stable and free from vibration, which can cause noise and degradation in your recordings.

Audio-Technica AT2035: Recording pattern

The AT2035 has a cardioid polar pattern, which is ideal for capturing vocals and instruments in a close-up setting. This ensures that the sound picked up by the mic is focused on the front while minimizing noise from the sides and rear. This makes it well-suited for recording solo artists or small groups in a studio setting.

Audio-Technica AT2035: Frequency response

The AT2035 has a frequency response of 20 Hz-20 kHz, which makes it suitable for a wide range of applications. It will provide accurate recording of vocals, guitars, and other instruments, making it a versatile option for studios of all sizes. 

However, if you need a mic with a greater frequency response, then you may want to consider looking at some of the other options on the market.

Looking to build a studio or just for a refresh in your gear? Be it digital or hardware, come on down to our Reviews category by clicking here!

Audio-Technica AT2035: Sensitivity

The AT2035 has a sensitivity of -33dB, meaning it is capable of capturing sounds at lower volumes. This is great for recording quieter sounds, like a singer’s voice or a piano.

This is great because it means your pre-amp won’t be overloaded. In other words, you can use a lower-powered microphone pre-amp to get the same or better results than you would with a higher-powered pre-amp. This is important if you’re using a portable audio recorder, which often doesn’t have a lot of power.

This low sensitivity makes it very difficult for the AT2035 to pick up background noise, making it ideal for situations where there are lots of things that could cause interference. This is why the AT2035 is such a great choice for home studios and professional studios, where capturing every detail is critical.

When used in a quiet recording environment, the AT2035 can produce very clear and rich sounds. This is due to its low sensitivity which allows it to capture quieter sounds without being overwhelmed by background noise. This makes it an ideal microphone for use in professional studios and home studios.

Audio-Technica AT2035: Sound quality

The Audio-Technica AT2035 microphone is designed to provide the best sound possible. This microphone has a cardioid polar pattern, which helps to isolate the sound source and reduce feedback. It also has a low-cut filter to remove any unwanted low-frequency noise.

The AT2035 microphone is also designed for durability. It has a die-cast metal housing that can withstand regular use, and the included stand mount helps to keep it in place. This microphone is also compatible with most standard audio interfaces, making it easy to use with any recording software.

The Audio-Technica AT2035 produces very clear and natural sound. This is due to its large diaphragm, which helps to capture all the nuances of your recordings. The mic is also very sensitive, allowing you to capture sounds at lower volumes without having to worry about background noise.

This mic is known for its clear, crisp sound. It’s perfect for both home and studio recording, as well as live performances. Additionally, the AT2035 is very versatile, and can be used with a variety of sound sources.

The Audio-Technica AT2035 is an excellent microphone for the price. It produces sound quality that is comparable to much more expensive microphones. I have tried several other microphones in this price range, and the AT2035 is the only one that comes close to matching the sound quality of the NT1-A.

Microphone Setup

The Audio-Technica AT2035 is a condenser microphone that connects through an XLR interface. It requires phantom power, which is pretty much standard for condenser microphones. This microphone is also back electret, meaning it is forgiving about voltage (Rated 11-52V DC).

If you are interested in a bundle for setting the microphone in the studio (alongside a microphone arm and the associated cables), Amazon has you covered, click here to see the bundle at a very good price point!

Conclusion

The Audio-Technica AT2035 is a great all-around microphone that is well-built and has some great features. The mic is perfect for recording vocals, acoustic instruments, and other sources.

If you are looking to spend under $300 on a microphone, the Audio-Technica AT2035 is one of your best choices. This microphone has great sound quality, and it is built to last. It also comes with a variety of accessories that make it easy to get started recording right away.

TrainYourEars – GREAT Music ear training software – Honest Review

What is Train Your Ears?

Train Your Ears is a revolutionary new Music ear training software tool for fine-tuning your ears and mind to the frequencies of different bandwidths, thereby showing you the differences between different sounds at a technical level as well as comparing before and after a bandwidth is changed. A fantastic product for both beginners and seasoned musicians alike, it goes into the granular details of equalisation, bringing a new perspective to a tool all music producers have encountered yet which is so commonplace that it normally becomes an accepted part of production. Train Your Ears is an incomparable way for all musicians to think more deeply about EQ – and in turn about their own music.

Why purchase this music ear training software?

Outside of simply requesting the user to match EQ bands with examples of noise which has been cut or boosted, this music ear training software allows you to move bands around to your liking and experiment with the interface to fine tune your understanding of how it works. In fact, Train Your Ears lets you literally take sound apart and reconstruct it – simply by listening to the different frequencies which resonate within it. So far, no other product comes close to giving the user this amount of freedom to experiment with sound – Train Your Ears is virtually unparalleled in giving musicians a way to EQ which matches their composition process.

When purchasing a DAW, there are many options for an EQ plugin which works for you. We have just recently reviewed probably the best new EQ software right now – Eventide Split EQ, read the review here. However, all of these tend to leave the user alone in terms of working out how to use them. In fact, they presume a pre-existing knowledge of the EQ process. Train Your Ears is therefore totally novel in letting artists combine it with any EQ plugin they wish to show you not just how the technology itself works but how noise itself interacts, creating real effects on the sounds of a song.

How to use the Train Your Ears music ear training software?

Too many articles on the internet attempt to teach EQ and fail because they are explaining a very nuanced concept in words – and yet it is one which is much better shown than told.

Train Your Ears does away with all the unnecessary written details and goes straight into showing you the difference between two versions of the exact same piece of music – one with EQ and one without. A typical practice session has seven bands which correspond to the division of EQ into bandwidths on a typical DAW such as Logic or Ableton.

It is very important for music ear training software products to provide the user with as much interaction as possible.

After a sample is played, it encourages you to match the audio with the corresponding bandwidth change, determining by how much it has been boosted or cut. Checking afterwards will then confirm how accurate your ear is.

The training session will then ask you to change the EQ’d signal so that once again it manages to sound the same as the original, and you are able to check afterwards to see if it is correct. The product also contains a monitor which allows you to see the exact level in decibels by which the signal has been boosted or cut, allowing a precise measurement of the amount of sound.

You can check the price for this product on the Train Your Ears website, by clicking here.

Once you install the product, be sure to check their own documentation and exercises by clicking here.

Here is an example assignment for Train Your Ears

Personal Review

I personally found that the software easily translated from a digital product to actual, tangible results which I was able to apply to my own music. At first, I was not able to hear the difference between the subtleties of different bandwidths and the smaller, technical divisions music falls into such as bass and sub-bass, but with even a small amount of time spent listening to Train Your Ears, I found myself becoming more finely attuned, simply because I had reference points.

By allowing the usage of songs which are already familiar, the music ear training software product manages to hold attention and makes the process of getting deep into some of the most subtle and technical aspects of music much easier. It translates terminology which is understandable first and foremost to those who are intimately familiar with the equipment into something manageable for most if not all musicians to turn into a fantastic reference for their own production skills.

It could be assumed that the applicability of this technology heavily depends on the style of music you are producing. Some genres, such as heavy metal, have very specific, niche methods of production which do not necessarily align to the customary methods of EQ’ing. Therefore, for those working in these genres, one key point for Train Your Ears would be if it is adaptable to managing other methods of working. Personally, I found the interface had a beautiful cleanliness and simplicity – which means it is flexible enough that in the hands of someone familiar with their genre, it can be adapted to suit any kind of music.

Pointing out the different bandwidths numerologically also means that there is a tangible, logical, concrete result for any EQ changes. EQ changes are not just an abstract wall of sound – instead they are given as precise numerical data so you can see exactly which bandwidth has been changed and where – as well as keeping track of multiple boosts and cuts.

You can check the price for this product on the Train Your Ears website, by clicking here.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Train Your Ears is an indispensable way to get more in depth and understand the full picture of how EQ works before applying it to your own music. Any musician can benefit from it – whether novices or pros, it shows the real vibrations and elements which make up any production. Not only this, it does this in the abstract whilst also directly linking the sound you hear to measurable values.

In this way, it is a really valuable piece of kit – and most importantly gives you a way to change in real time an equalised piece of music to make it match the original again – demonstrating how much EQ’ing can change the sound of a song but also how, with the right skills, it is possible to manipulate it at multiple levels to reach a broader and more nuanced picture of your production, therefore giving the artist more freedom.

Native Instruments Massive X: The NeXt Generation of Synth Plugins

Hello Friends, and welcome to our honest review of the Native Instruments MASSIVE X VST synth. In the digital audio space, it can be easy to overlook just how much great software is available to us with only a few clicks. Gone are the days of relying on expensive hardware and studio-time alone to make great music. For most of us, a laptop and a MIDI controller is all we need to open an entire world of musical possibilities. I often find myself in front of a laptop, with a MIDI controller next to me and a VST synthesizer loaded into my DAW. So, what options are available to us as home producers, and what’s new in the world of digital synth plugins?

What is Native Instruments MASSIVE X?

Native Instruments, a well-recognized name in the world of audio production, brings us MASSIVE X, a follow-up to their highly successful and appropriately titled software MASSIVE. Available for download and as a demo from their website, it doesn’t take long to see why so many people love this next generation synth.

Early impressions of the software are very positive. The well laid out user interface isn’t just functional, it’s familiar. MASSIVE X is a plugin that prioritises the modular aspect of synths, and it does so very effectively. For a definitive list of the BEST VST Plugin synths we have a huge article right here.

What makes Native Instruments MASSIVE X stand out?

The power of synths largely comes down to two core elements: oscillation and modulation, and how much control users have over these parameters. With dual wavetable oscillation at its core, MASSIVE X is a ton of fun for seasoned producers and beginners alike. MASSIVE X gives users all the conventional wavetables we expect, but also provides a wealth of new options for creative inspiration.

Here is an example of the complex modulation possibilities with this VST synth

For users already familiar with MASSIVE, Native Instruments has included remastered versions of their wavetables as well. MASSIVE X allows users to manipulate the wavetable position, level and pitch easily. The interface is well thought out and retains separation between sound generation and various effects, including routing and modulation.

For other reviews you should check our dedicated REVIEWS section by clicking right here.

What are the key features of Native Instruments MASSIVE X?

MASSIVE X allows users to connect inputs and outputs without restraint, just like it should be. Routing in MASSIVE X allows users to bypass, feedback and reroute modules with total control, and without sacrifice. The level of controllability in MASSIVE X is arguably it’s best feature, and the software comes packed with tons of presets to get you started.

The oscillators in MASSIVE X provide endless options for producers with over 170 wavetables and 10 different oscillator modes to read them. Each wavetable mode is completely adjustable, and two-phase modulation provides even more opportunities for mixing and layering. Effects can be applied in series, parallel or at random anywhere along the signal chain. For users who want full functionality of plugins with a MIDI controller, MASSIVE X is fully compatible and provides 16 assignable controls for your DAW.

A great overview of Massive X, straight from Native Instruments

Pricing

While not cheap, Native Instruments MASSIVE X is more than worth it, in our opinion. Worth arround 200 USD, you may get a deal from time to time by checking the NI official website: click here to check the current price.

There is also a special price if you already own the first MASSIVE VST Plugin Synth, and you can see this crossgrade price on the official website by clicking here.

Last but not least, Pluginboutique.com is offering a lot of presets for MASSIVE X – see them all by clicking here.

Final thoughts

Native Instruments has packed MASSIVE X with an incredible number of user controllable options in a familiar, modular interface. Producers who are already familiar with other synths will appreciate not just the clean aesthetics of the user interface, but also the familiar functionality of the software as well. MASSIVE X is not simply a digital imitation of a modular synth, it is a modular synth, and it’s right there in your DAW.

Eventide Split EQ: A new approach!

Welcome to our review of the Eventide Split EQ VST product! There are few things more crucial to a good mix than equalization (EQ-ing). As the digital audio marketplace continues to grow, it becomes much easier to find new tools to add to your production toolbox. However, it becomes harder to find new products and plugins that do something that is in fact, well, new. With this in mind, Eventide sought out to solve some longtime problems in audio mixing and production with their latest offering, Split EQ.

What is Split EQ?

Eventide, a well-known name in the world of audio effects and digital production, brings us their latest VST plugin Split EQ, and it doesn’t take long to see why producers are so excited. For a home user like myself, well versed in DAWs, and VST plugins, Eventide Split EQ goes well beyond the parameters of others I’ve used. Equalization is a fine art, and our final mix is often limited by the quality of recordings available to us. Where conventional equalizers often come up short, Eventide Split EQ rises to the occasion, offering new mixing possibilities by approaching equalization in a whole new way – a split way.

What makes Eventide Split EQ different?

SplitEQ is two equalizers rolled into one. Through a literal ‘split’ of the audio signal – using a patented technology Eventide calls Structural Split – SplitEQ provides users with two controllable signal parameters – two entirely independent equalizers. Eventide calls these parameters Tonal and Transient.  Where conventional EQs alter the entire sound envelope as a whole, SplitEQ provides two signal paths. This is the magic behind this plugin.

The best price for this product can be obtained on Pluginboutique, and there is also their fidelity program where you get points for spending money in their store, points that can be used for future purchases.

CHECK OUT THE OFFER ON PLUGINBOUTIQUE BY CLICKING HERE

How does Eventide Split EQ work?

Signal splitting allows users to adjust individual elements of a track with much more control. The tonal signals are in many ways the body and soul of the track – they are ambient, resonant, and sustained. The transient signals are the more dynamic elements of a track – attack, harshness, and hiss. With SplitEQ, users can mix these distinct elements individually without sacrificing the overall mix. Signal parameters are easily adjustable through a click and drag user interface which is very intuitive and allows for easy audio monitoring. Most producers can appreciate how quickly things get muddy when trying to reign in a harsh treble response on a track; by using Evende SplitEQ, users gain a whole new level of maneuverability within a particular aspect of the sound envelope, thereby eliminating many of the concessions inherent to other EQs.

Where does SplitEQ really stand out?

Audio producers are always trying to find that sweet spot of a mix. With Eventide SplitEQ, users can preserve distinct elements of a track, maintaining clarity and crispness to vocal melodies without suffering top-end harshness or sacrificing bass response. SplitEQ also provides new options for spatial dynamics which are especially useful in high energy mixes, helping create motion for drops and adding variation to heavy electronic bass-lines.

Here is a very nice comparison between Split EQ and Fabfilter Pro Q3

Final thoughts on Eventide Split EQ?

Split EQ provides a wealth of new possibilities for home producers and addresses many of the limitations of conventional EQs. It’s clear the designers at Eventide know what users need and expect from their software and Split EQ is no exception. Eventide has managed to change the way we interact with equalization, and I look forward to adding Split EQ to my regular toolbox.

CHECK OUT THE OFFER ON PLUGINBOUTIQUE BY CLICKING HERE

Make sure you also check the DEALS category on idesignsound.com

Conductive Labs NDLR – opinion and ideas

So we have had this excellent Conductive Labs NDLR sequencer, or how we like to call it: the midi “brain” for quite some time now. And boy what a brain this is.

We have been comparing it a lot to the Torso T-1 sequencer (review coming very soon). It is different but not quite that different. As loopop said in it’s video, the NDLR is quite unique. Traditional sequencers allow you to input notes fast on a grid type structure. In turn, they allow you to listed to the idea that you have laid down pretty fast, and judge A. it’s own musical qualities and specifics and B. how it sits along with the rest of your tracks. Thus, sequencers are a very powerful creative tool, most of us techno and minimal heads consider them the centre of our creative process (mostly because we can’t be bother to take the proper time to learn to play keys properly).

Traditional sequencers vary in complexity and flexibility, from the very primitive ones that can be found in groove-boxes (like the old Roland drum machines and Korg volca line) to very sophisticated ones that can allow you to program velocity, note length, probability and all the other parameters that can be tweaked on that specific piece of gear (think Elektron with it’s parameter locks). At the top of the line of traditional, note-input sequencers is the Cirklon, which is a dedicated step sequencer that can do all kinds of fast, creative tweaks and has a great workflow that most producers swear by. Let’s not forget software, basically all DAWs have a sequencer, be it direct like fruity loops or a piano roll (which is a two-dimensional sequencer, with time and pitch in the same screen). Also, pad-style instruments like the Ableton Push and Novation Launchpad can be configred so that the pads work as a sequencer.

Conductive Labs NDLR: a non-traditional midi sequencer

Now, let’s move it up a bit. We talked about the traditional sequencer, what they all have in common is that they always start with a blank slate, a noteless sequence of 16 steps (usually). You place notes there in the order and pitch that you desire and you can instantly hear how that ‘sequence’ sounds. You can ajust the notes and hear changes, so you immediately get a feel for where you want to take the melody of drum tracks of your music.

Non-traditional sequencers differ because you usually input the ideas and the midi hardware takes care of the notes. For the NDLR, you input the key, the degree and if we are talking about chords, the type of chord that you want and it spits the notes on it’s own. There is swing of course (called “Humanization”) and there is velocity. For monophonic melodies, there are two aspects that contribute the most to your notes: the patter and the rhythm.

Conductive Labs NDLR: Motifs

So the way sequencers work is that they create a rhythmic pattern for your sound generators. With the NDLR midi sequencer you get two dimensions to control this: pattern and rhythm. The pattern controls the notes, or pitch of each step in the sequence. There are three types of patterns: scale, chord and chromatic. The values that each pattern step takes indicates the note in an imaginary piano roll: chromatic is in absolute terms, not keeping any scale, scale limits the values to notes in the selected scale and chord is like scale, functioning with limited note choices but also makes the notes relative to the degree of the chord that you choose from the main panel.

Rhythm is similar to pattern but the value per step actually indicates velocity. You can create ties and rests here. For both rhythm and pattern you can select clock division and total length, separately from each other to get extremely interesting sequences.

The way that NDLR presents the sequence pattern and rhythm that you chose this is truly unique. Instead of providing you with a blank slate for rhythm and pattern settings, it always provides you with a filled sequence. This is so you can get grooving A.S.A.P. There are 20 presets and 20 user generated rhythms and patterns. To mark the departure from traditional sequencers (which present the sequence is a straight line), NDLR shows the pattern and rhythm as a circle, going clockwise.

This is just a slight scratch on the surface for what NDLR can do. The way described above is called Motif in NDLR, and represents the monophonic sequence way. Other than Motifs (which NDLR has two independent ones), this midi sequencer can output two more midi sequences, which are polyphonic and independent.

The way it works is very simple, you just select the rhythm, pattern, the way you want it to be played (left to right, right to left, random 1, random 2), clock division, etc and just press play. The sequencer takes care of all the note placements, so you can start tweaking in real time.

Conductive Labs NDLR: Drone and Pad

While Motifs are the core aspect of the NDLR Midi sequencer and the most flexible parts that this tool has to offer, they are monophonic. We like monophonic sequences but there is much more composition possible than this. NDLR has two poly modes as well: Drone and Pad.

Drone is a very basic form of note generation. It can be polyphonic but also in mono. What it does is play the root note of the scale that you selected, and if you want, you can add a 5th interval, and then you can add an octave on top. It has a simpler rhythm section than Motifs, but it is there in case you want to go a bit deeper.

Pad mode is for chords. You have a bit more flexibility than Drone and also you can select which chord you want NDLR to play. You do this with the circle of buttons that is close to the centre screen. With the same buttons you select the degree of chord in that scale as well as the type of chord you want to play. This is especially useful for producers that do not know music theory. You can instantly listen to any chord progression that you want, with pushing a minimal number of buttons. You can have the option to strum the chord, playing each note with a small delay so that they individually stand out.

We said Pad mode is a bit more complicated than Drone. This is in part because you can set up the voicing by using some presets that in NDLR talk are called “spread”. There are a lot of spread types, and we fully encourage you to explore them as they can lead to extremely interesting harmony. You can also select the number of notes in the chord, which goes pretty high if your synth has the proper polyphony.

NOTE: There is no rhythm section for Pad mode, The Conductive Labs NDLR midi sequencer sustains the chord for as long as you don’t press the chord type/degree button. If you want to trigger the same chord again, press the same degree button.

For an in-depth feature and usability review, we recommend this excellent loopop video. It is from an earlier firmware version, but still pretty much on-spot:

very in-depth Conductive Labs NDLR review

Extra modulations and MIDI I/O

This Midi sequencer has a lot of modulation options, you can use a multitude of sources to modify any parameter that you want. There are LFOs and Randomisers as sources, and they can be synced to time as beat divisions or actual seconds. There are four modulation busses, so the possibilities are virtually endless.

As far as Midi I/O goes, the offering is diverse. You have four channels on midi USB mode. Then you have two midi ins and two midi outs. You can configure each NDLR output to your preference. There is no power connection and on-off switch, NDLR gets power from the USB.

Overall, this little piece of gear has become the centre of my midi synths, the ones that don’t have a sequencer. It is flexible and it is fast, with extreme ideas flowing extremely fast. There is always a melodical touch to what it outputs and I really can’t part ways with it, nor can I see myself doing this in the foreseeable future.

Arturia Pigments 3 – new features

We truly love Arturia Pigments 3. We actually love all Arturia software here at idesignsound.com. Today we bring you an update on the new features of this full fledged “polychrome” VST synth. And for a full fledged review, our friends at musicradar.com have a very nice review.

Introduction

Arturia Pigments is a very nice and very modern VST instrument. It initially started out as a wavetable synth with a lot of features. What is striking about the Arturia Pigments is the visualisation of the modulation sources. Thus, it is very very intuitive and also very easy to learn.

Other than this, it has some very nice effects onboard, a great sequencer and the option to load your own wavetables. For a detailed review, you can also check our article here at idesignsound.com.

Version three, which is free for existing users, brings incremental updates like more sound engines, more wavetables, more effects and so on, but there are two features that are brand new and strike out, we will analyse them below:

Arturia Pigments 3 – Additive mode

Dubbed the “Harmonic Engine”, Arturia Pigments 3 introduces one of the earliest forms of sound synthesis, additive synthesis. The very early experimental synths had this, where each oscillator would create the fundamental and each of its partials to create a complex sound. So if you would imagine a spectrum analyser, the highest spike (usually the lowest in frequency) is the fundamental frequency of the sound, and then the next ones (usually to the right, higher frequency) are the partials. Together, they form the timbre or the style of the sound. Regular synths, or “subtractive” create this frequency pattern with a single, complex oscillator, then use a filter to reduce the partials. But this has some issues, namely you can mostly reduce partials to the left or right, it is very hard to fully remove partials in the centre of the frequency spectrum (you can with an EQ, but not fully and you more than often reduce other partials than the ones you want to).

But if you really want to design timbre, it is much better to not include what you don’t want than to filter it out. The problem with additive synthesis in hardware form is that you need a lot, and we mean A LOT of oscillators to add up. This is why subtractive is preferred from a practical standpoint, even if filtering the oscillator it is not really adequate for full control of the oscillator timbre. Of course, we are talking about hardware synths, so for VSTs it was a real shame that no real, serious additive synths were made.

In Arturia Pigments 3’s additive engine you can add up to 512 partials and you can also modulate them. This should bring a brand new sound palette for your productions.

Arturia Pigments 3 – Utility Engine

This is more of a fine tuning addition to your ability to design complex sounds with the VST. This new feature is not that “in your face as additive” synthesis but it is, in my humble opinion, at least equal in importance. Usually, it is the subtle things that make us like something.

The Arturia Pigments 3 Utility Engine contains two individual distinct noise sources and a virtual analog sub oscillator. This will make your sounds fat in no time. While you would be able to have this in the past, it would also meant you would sacrifice valuable space in the for of one of the two slots the VST has. Now, the Utility Engine is separate, so you get to keep the two original sound sources.

Other new additions come in form of new effects and filters (legendary analog emulations from Roland), plus pitch delay and multi-band compression.

You can buy Arturia Pigments from pluginboutique.com, with a special introductory price of 99 eur (original price 199 eur).

IKMultimedia iLoud Micro Monitor Review

Today we bring you a long overdue review of the IKMultimedia iLoud Micro Monitor system. This one is something new, and we were pretty much inclined to use it in our everyday productions. This is why it took so long, but rest assured we have used it extensively, in the studio and on the go and are here to tell the story.

IKMultimedia iLoud Micro Monitor Review: Portability

From the start, what strikes us the most is the weight and size of this monitoring system. And yes, it is meant to be used on the go, with build quality more than enough for touring with it. And this is precisely what we did. Well, no tours are live right now due to COVID-19 but still, we managed to do some extensive travelling. We are pretty much into this mobile musician thing, and we can pack some gear with us when we do it, like an Elektron Analog4 which is a great synth, doubling as a sound card, to which we connected an Elektron Machinedrum MK1 and an MFB-522 to handle the drum works. Coupled with the power of Ableton and the best VST Synths around (check our article on the best VST Synths in the market right here) we are fully able to make ourselves a nice little studio that more than fits into a VW Golf 6.

Sure, the makers claim that this is the smallest active monitoring system in the world, but we are not sure that this is 100% accurate. But for sure you can snug it in your cabin luggage and take it on flights, to work in your hotel room. You can even buy a dedicated carrying bag on the IKMultimedia website.

IKMultimedia iLoud Micro Monitor Review: Sound

The second thing that shook us was the IKMultimedia iLoud Micro Monitor’s sound capabilities. This was not a full review if we would not have touched on this, as the sound profile is the most important thing with studio monitors.

Sure, this is no 8 inch powerhouse nor is it a subwoofer, so from the start you have to manage your bass expectations (they go down to 55hz). But sound profiling is more than power. In the upper registers the monitoring system is good to great, but not wow. You get crisp and you can judge your hi-hats with good accuracy. There is some air present, also. The monitors shine in the mid range tho, and are extremely good for vocals, guitars and some synth work.

The woofers are 3″ and the twitters are 3/4″. They are perfectly balanced and tuned from the factory, and this thing astounded us for such a small and lightweight package. You are getting a lot for the package, trust us on this. The bass port is in the front, so there is no worry that the bass will reflect from the wall behind the speakers. Also, we found that the monitor pair produced more than adequate headroom. Of course, you cannot compare it to systems costing ten times the money, but for what they are, they bring a lot of utility to the table.

Another thing that surprised us was the stereo field. You get a really immersive experience and can fully work on your tracks with these. When using a stereo widener, you can really feel the setting, as well as for panning and summing into mono. Stereo effects come alive, delays, reverbs, choruses totally make sense and you can pretty much get a feel for each setting that they can offer.

IKMultimedia iLoud Micro Monitor Review: Connectivity

Ok so sound is good, portability is good, what about gear compatibility. This is possibly a weak point for these products, as they do not offer TRS and XLR connections, only RCA. So there is no option to add a balanced cable to this and get rid of interferences. Also, since you will be using them on the go, you should buy a very good quality RCA cable pair, as plugging and unplugging RCA sockets ruin them fast.

We would love to have an XLR and TRS connection just for the sake of it, because most pro studio gear has them and not RCA. But we think that these monitors are perhaps aimed at a different audience, one that travels a lot and simply does not own big studio equipment to plug them in.

The fact that they have Bluetooth connectivity confirms this, you can get away with using just a laptop with no sound card with these, and Bluetooth being fully digital you will not get cable noise in your audio signal path.

You only plug one into your wall socket and audio source, and the other one has a single cable connection and acts as a receiver only. So this might open other issues like imbalanced panning, just so you know. This can also be an advantage when travelling, if you don’t want to pack a power extender with you, two sockets will do just fine, one for your laptop and one for your monitors.

IKMultimedia iLoud Micro Monitor Review: Processing

IKMultimedia has a lot of experience in digital sound processing (DSP). Thus, they have fitted the iLoud Micro Monitor system with a very powerful 56-bit chip that can do this, as a unique selling position. DSP features include controlled diffraction / low resonance enclosure and time-aligned crossover. Their chip also handles the linear frequency response, providing real-time micro adjustments to the output sound. Also in control is the dynamic range and the twitter/woofer crossover, so rest assured that you are in good hands when you use this product.

The monitors also have a very nice selectable EQ room correction so you can adjust them to where you are at that particular moment in time.

Included in the package is also a very nice software monitoring suite, so you can get to work straight away. Yes, we are talking about IKMultimedia’s own T-RackS 5 metering VST suite, worth $125 + VAT.

Final Thoughts

For what it is, this product is great. Yes, you get a very small package and this is by far the best feature of the IKMultimedia iLoud Micro Monitor system. You can adjust them both physically and sonically to your listening environment. They fit in a small bag and are very lightweight.

The sound is much better than expected. Sure, they lack low end but that is natural and it is advised to use headphones for bass anyway. The materials are quality and the productivity increase is huge, especially when travelling.

The monitors have very powerful DSP features built-in but they lack professional connection types, which can be a let-down in some cases. However, you will not be travelling with your full-sized mixing desk and the use of a direct Bluetooth connection with your laptop eliminates the need for a sound card entirely.

For the price, there is no better travelling sound monitoring solution than the IKMultimedia iLoud Micro Monitor system.

The Best Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Reviewed and Compared [2022]

So you are starting your channel and are in the market for the BEST Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube. Starting your own media outlet feels very nice, but not having the best gear can really ruin your day. Follow us further and we will guide you to get the best gear for your needs, without breaking the bank.

Editor’s note: This list is always updated to always reflect the status of the market, so make sure you bookmark it and come back for your future purchases.

You are going to need a couple of things, a good microphone, a great microphone arm, a sound card and a good computer that allows you to also record video on top of your microphone and voice. You should never overlook the basic stuff, like cables, internet connection and software.

The best thing about microphones for podcasts and youtube is that there are a lot of choices for you in the market right now. This niche is no longer narrow and expensive, and there are even some microphones that run on USB so you don’t need a sound card. We picked a winner for best performance and one for best value. Both our winners only have the USB audio option, so if you want a better sounding piece of hardware, be prepared to also pay for a sound card. If you are on a laptop and prefer to be on the move, then get an USB-only microphone as the value is extremely good.

Note: if you are on a mobile device, scroll left and right in the table to see all the entries, and up and down in the cells to see all the content.

Product Name Main Features Our Rating Price
Editor’s BEST Choice
Blue Yeti USB Microphone
– USB Only
– Excellent build quality
– Versatile microphone
– Small footprint
– Does not need arm
9.4 100$ – 150$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE
Editor’s VALUE Choice
Blue Snowball USB Microphone
– Does not need arm
– USB only
– Mini stand included
– Choose your own color
8.9 50$ – 100$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE
Audio Tehnica AT2020
– Accessible studio quality
– Very correct sound reproduction
– XLR/Audio connection only
– Does NOT come with XLR Cable
9.4 150$ – 200$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE
Shure MV7
– Built in Headphone Output
– May be too expensive for what you need
– Never needs an upgrade
– A lot of software control for it
9.8 Under 300$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE
Presonus Dynamic Broadcast/Podcast Microphone
– Made for podcasts
– Interesting design
– XLR/Audio connection only
– Good bang for buck
9.0 100$ – 150$
CHECK CURRENT PRICE

Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – market overview

Over the last few years or so, we’ve seen the rise of famous YouTubers and it seems that many other people are trying their luck in this field. They, or at least the ones that aspire for greatness should be using good microphones in order to sound great, especially on headphones where a bad quality microphone can simply ruin the viewer’s overall experience. Especially true for podcasts and content where only the voice is heard.

We have rounded up our own little Top 5 of aspiring products for the title of BEST Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube. We have a varied selection, ranging in the 50$ to 300$, and all products can be found on amazon.com. Our overall winner is a flexible, trusted solution that sends audio signal straight to the computer via USB. If you want more sound quality though, you will have to go with an XLR connection and a sound card. But if you are travelling for interviews or just don’t have the space, an USB connection only microphone could be more attractive.

Luckily, we have an article on the BEST Sound card for Podcasts and Youtube here.

#1 BEST USB Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Blue Yeti USB Microphone

After much deliberating, we’ve decided to award the title of BEST Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube to the Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Yes, you will say that it is standard but it is there for a reason. We like the Blue Yeti product because it has USB audio, so you get to cut a lot of the costs associated with your podcast or youtube channel, that is has a very small footprint and that you don’t need a stand for it.

The microphone is extremely easy to use and sounds great because of the three condenser capsules it has. The microphone just sits neatly on your desk and captures your voice in good isolation. But if you also want to capture some background sound for any reason, you can have it do this as-well due to the shape selection switch.

The Blue Yeti USB Microphone has a headphone output and volume control on the front.

This microphone has four mic type patterns, depending on the way you want it to capture sound: Cardioid, Omni, Figure-8 and Stereo. Cardioid is recommended for just recording your voice, but if you want to delve deeper or require also ambient sound or effects, you can use it to capture more with ease.

#2 BEST Value USB Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Blue Snowball USB Microphone

This is somewhat of a cheaper product if you don’t feel like investing a lot of capital in great microphone right away, and want to try the waters first and see if you like doing podcasts or Youtube content. The Blue Snowball is the younger, smaller brother of the Yeti microphone as both products are made by same company.

Again, we have an USB-only audio connection. Fitting for simple setups, with limited budgets. Unfortunately, the DAC (the component that translates analog sound vibrating through the air into digital signal for your computer to process) is integrated into this cheap microphone. You don’t have the option to upgrade the DAC like you would a sound card so you are stuck with average sound quality.

The Blue Snowball Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube shines in the value department, you pay a small entry price into the world of content creation and you honestly get a lot for this cost.

Just like the Blue Yeti USB Microphone, the Snowball also has a selection of geometric modes, but sadly the “stere” one is missing. And if lighting is your thing, you can choose from up to six color styles with the brushed aluminium variant. If you don’t want vibrant coloring and are going for a more professional, refrained look, try the “Textured White” or “Gloss Black” finish.

XLR connection vs. USB connection

And now we would like to move to the professional segment. These microphones require a sound card with an XLR socket to function, they also require phantom power (supplied by the sound card). But having these things means actually means that there is more space in the microphone for actual sound components.

XLR connected Microphones for Podcasts and Youtube are always a better choice than USB ones.

This is because instead of having a DAC and a power supply built in (so it can take power and send direct digital messages to USB), they offload this task to the sound card so that they can pack a much better sound quality puch.

The downside is that you also need something to plug them into via XLR connection. This secondary device captures the analog sound signal from the microphone and transforms it into digital data for the computer to read. That is what the sound card does, and this is why you pay for it.

XLR connected Microphones and their soundcards cost way more than the USB option.

Still, these types of content creation microphones are very relevant to those that need sound quality, especially if you also create sound that is not voice based for your content and thus use instruments that you plug into your sound card as-well.

#3 XLR Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Audio Tehnica AT2020

This one is the first XLR product on our list. It represents a mid-range condenser microphone pretty well. We would always recommend this one as an entry level XLR microphone because it will introduce you pretty well to the dynamic nature of voice recordings. You will be able to sound more dramatic or more mellow depending on your content.

For this market segment we decided to award the Audio Tehnica AT2020 the title of BEST Value XLR Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube.

The battle was with another Audio Tehnica product that is a bit more expensive, the AT2035. We have a whole article about the AT2035 vs AT2020 them here. The article also explains the XLR standard to some extent, so you can understand analog sound specifications.

#4 USB+XLR Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Shure MV7

This one marks the entry into the high end market space. If you are here, you know what you want and you can specify it. The Shure MV7 is a mixed connection type microphone, it will take USB or XLR depending on your label.

It is fully advised that you if you can spare the money and don’t have a sound-card yet, get the Shure MV7 and use it on USB until you can afford it.

The specifications of this microphone look very good, and there are also a lot of “handling” features like an integraded headphone output, panel touch controls and the software suite you can use to process the sound on a desktop or laptop further. Imagine that this is three times more expensive that the BEST USB Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube, but believe us, it is worth it. We cannot recommend an upgrade mic to the Shure MV7 that doesn’t cost more than 1000$.

#5 XLR Microphone for Podcasts and Youtube – Presonus Dynamic Vocal Microphone

And we had to have a Dynamic microphone in our top because sometimes you don’t have the best studio out there and you want something that can just work in any conditions.

The Presonus Dynamic Vocal Microphone for Broadcasting and Podcasts is a budget XLR-only option that can deliver. Sure, it will lack mostly all the features that the 300$ option puts on the table, but at least sound quality is good.

We can recommend this microphone for content creators that already have a sound card for other projects, and want to describe their projects with a microphone. Just pay a small fee for this microphone, plug it into your sound card and start creating.

Final Thoughts on Microphone Choice

As you can see, the microphone market is very mature and options abound in 2022. Still, we stick to our internal way of thought, and would recommend an USB option if you want to start your channel pretty fast and don’t know how to operate audio equipment. We have provided two choices here.

If instead you know how to record audio and have a soundcard, we would recommend the high end or the budget option for XLR Connections.

Still, there is a third way, if you know how to record sound, but don’t have a sound card yet, buy the Shure MV7 since it has both XLR and USB.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comment section.

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