Review: Resident Audio T4

Review: Resident Audio T4

Alistair McGhee checks out the world’s first bus-powered four-channel Thunderbolt interface from the new NYC-based manufacturer. 

The death of the ISA bus, the lack of Windows 7 drivers and beer. All have taken out much-loved audio interfaces. With two of the three untimely demises down to obsolescence, buying outside the crowd takes a bit of courage, which punchy newcomers Resident Audio seem to have by the bucket.

The upstart firm out of New York City has launched not one but two affordable Thunderbolt-based audio interfaces. And boasting a design guru with a backstory at ESI, Resident may be new but there’s plenty of audio interface experience under the hood.

Now you can probably shake your cynical old head and reel off 20 reasons for ignoring Thunderbolt – but I’m going to be contrarian and cheer for the underdog. If Apple in cahoots with Intel can be called the underdog.

Why is Thunderbolt a good idea? Well, first because Thunderbolt is PCIe-configured for outside the box and that means cool things – big bandwidth, low latency and an adapter cable to your existing firewire interface is twenty quid. Pretty neat from the legacy perspective. Of course every new Mac, bar the new MacBook, that rolls off the line has a Thunderbolt port and much of our industry is OSX-centric. And as Thunderbolt is not just PCIe but also DisplayPort it doesn’t necessarily even add an extra port. Not last or least, the Thunderbolt power bus offers 18V and carries 10W of power.

What can you do with a mighty 10W of power? Well, Resident Audio can make a T4 interface with four mics amps – all with 48V phantom – and power them all down the interface cable and then throw one of them in with the T4. Now Resident’s silicon supremo (the enigmatically named ‘Chess’) claims that even with the extra electrons provided by Thunderbolt, Resident has had to implement some custom chip wizardry to get this to work. I suppose time will tell. At the moment Zoom’s TAC 2 seems to be the only bus-powered alternative, but offers only two mic amps.

Call me lazy but not having to plug in a wall wart makes me feel like a better person, so bus power is good news. The T4 is at the affordable end of the market and I wasn’t expecting the rather satisfying heft of the product in my hand. This is well made kit.

The front panel has four combi XLR/jack inputs (MIDI in and out round the back) with individual gain controls, some switches for selecting line or instrument inputs and a 48V phantom switch. There are also two more controls – the big one labelled monitor and a smaller knob for ‘input mix’. The T4 does need a driver on OSX and the software comes on a rather neato folding credit card-style USB stick. My Mac has Yosemite 10.10.2 and the install was painless.

In Use

Let’s start with inputs. Open your DAW (Reaper in my case) and select the T4 and you will have four inputs available for recording. The software panel has some metering for inputs and outputs and gain control for outputs. The panel also allows sample rate selection; buffersize is controlled by your DAW.

Each input knob has a wrap-around tri-colour LED (as does the input to mix control), which indicates signal level. It’s enough visual feedback to get you in the zone – use your DAW’s meters for fine grain adjustments. The mic amps are clean and capable of getting your audio goodness down. Against my Nagra LB using a Neumann KM 184, I thought the Resident was possibly a shade brighter and a tad thicker in the low mids. Moving to dynamics I tried SM58s and my SQN mixer. Again, the T4 did a fine job but was slightly noisier than the SQN. As you might expect, all in all high-quality sound.

At 44.1 and 24-bit I worked my way down the buffer sample size. The absolute bottom seems to be about 14 samples. At 16 samples I was able to record all four inputs and record a three-minute song without problems. This was into a clean EDL. Having got four tracks down, I was able to play them back with no processing or effects and record another four tracks. Reaper declares this latency to be round about 1ms, which we will take with a ladle of salt. But not too shabby. More complex EDLs are going to require an adjustment to the buffers. And with just the Thunderbolt connection, phantom to three Neumanns and an AKG wasn’t a problem, and often overlooked there was ample headphone drive.

And so on to outputs. You have five – four line level (with output three doubling as a second headphone output) and one headphone output. In stereo mode, your monitors are plugged into outputs one and two and the level is controlled by the monitor knob on the front panel – as is the volume to your headphones.

When you plug up all four outputs then you automatically engage multichannel output mode. Now the monitor knob controls the headphone levels while the line outputs are controlled from the software panel. In multichannel mode the input mix control feeds only the headphones, while in stereo mode it also mixes the inputs with the stereo line output. Confused? I kind of am too, but it all seems to work and keeps things clean and simple.

I like the T4 – it is an intriguing blend of high-quality sound and finish with functional and operational simplicity. There’s no digital I/O or word clock but the sound, convenience and usability make it a worthy flag bearer for Thunderbolt. And if you want that package cheaper and smaller and only need two mic inputs, then the T2 is a steal.

Alistair McGhee began audio life in Hi-Fi before joining the BBC as an audio engineer. After 10 years in radio and TV, he moved to production. When BBC Choice started, he pioneered personal digital production in television. Most recently, Alistair was assistant editor, BBC Radio Wales and has been helping the UN with broadcast operations in Juba.

http://www.residentaudio.com

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Review: Samson RXA5 Active Studio Monitors

Resolv_RXA5_angleA great sounding set of studio monitors can do wonders for our productions. We’re not looking for something to add magic to our tracks; instead we want an honest representation of the music. Most people will be listening on systems that color music in one way or another. Clear sounding monitors with a flat response will help us sculpt a mix that sounds good on any system. Today we look at a set of affordable studio monitors that do just that, the Samson Resolv RXA5 Active Studio Monitors.

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Music Production: Ten Methods for Increasing Productivity in the Studio w/ Curl Up

Have you ever had a session that just didn’t go anywhere? We’ve all been there, and that’s quite alright! It’s all part of the process. However, there are a few things we can do to keep these types of sessions to a minimum or turn ‘em around into something useful. In this article, Dubspot’s Dan Salvaggio (aka Curl Up) explores ten methods for increasing productivity in the studio.

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1. Environment

This tip is an easy one. Your studio should be a place where you can focus and aim to enter what is known as a Flow State. A common misconception here is that cleanliness is an automatic boost to productivity. However, as Albert Einstein once said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?” As a fairly messy person, this statement has always stuck with me. The point is that your studio environment should be a positive, comfortable, inviting, inspiring space.

2. Minimize Time Away from the Studio

The best weapon you have to combat this is solid preparation. Instead of starting your day by rushing to the computer and trying to force out a song, consider taking care of anything that’ll surely pull you from your project. Have to feed the cat? Take the dog out? Go grocery shopping? Do your laundry? Taking care of these tasks before entering the studio eliminates many potential distractions. Are you a coffee addict? I sure am! Purchasing my own coffee maker and absolutely massive coffee mugs has removed the need for hourly deli trips.

3. Take Breaks

While maximizing the amount of work completed in a session is key, taking small breaks is a healthy necessity and will actually help support that goal in the long run. Frustrated with a project that just won’t come together? Take a break, but keep it brief! You want to break long enough to feel refreshed when you return to the project, but not so long that you lose any inspiration or momentum. I utilize something akin to the Pomodoro Technique. I set a timer on my phone for 55 minutes and when it goes off (*dogs barking.wav*), I take a 3-5 minute break to stretch, pet the cat, grab a snack, or maybe even pop outside for some fresh air. How you spend your breaks is important as well. You don’t want to get pulled into a compelling YouTube video or engage in a heated Facebook debate when there’s work to be done!

4. Structure

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and speak with many producers I am fond of. When speaking of production, one thing seems to be common amongst all of them. Many say that while in the studio, they almost always go in with a game plan or goal they hope to achieve by the end of the session. This approach could be as simple as, “I’m going to make a Garage track today.” I’m sure we’ve all had those moments when we stare at a blank session in our DAW, and the first move to make eludes us. Having a plan of action is excellent for avoiding that whole mess. Mind you, this doesn’t exclusively pertain to genres or even full songs; set goals for designing sounds or deconstructing your favorite tunes. There’s never nothing to do in the studio. Setting goals is not only a great way to get the ball rolling, but it also feels good. In many ways validating to achieve them, no matter how small they may seem.

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5. Set up Templates

If you aren’t utilizing templates within your DAW, prepare for a HUGE boost in productivity! Inspiration often hits us at very inconvenient times. Even when we’re able to act on these ideas immediately, there’s that whole step of finding workable sounds to use to get said ideas down into the software. This method can be detrimental, as it pulls you away from your idea, running the risk of losing it forever. Having a template already set up removes this step entirely. Simply create one or several new project files loaded with kits and sounds you’ve made or just enjoy. When that great idea manifests itself in your brain, pop open a template and get to work! That’s all there is to it! You can always come back later and edit/replace sounds as you see fit. The most important thing here is that you’re able to get your ideas down quickly so that you can immediately begin developing them into full songs.

6. Stay Organized

Organization is by far easiest thing to lose sight of, especially these days when we’ve got terabytes of sample libraries and synths at our disposal. Knowing where your best, favorite, go-to sounds are can quickly become a valuable producer skill for a number of reasons. For one, being able to keep your momentum up is a beautiful thing. Second, less time spent browsing folders and fiddling around with synths leads to more time spent focusing on composing robust content. By no means am I suggesting foregoing any experimentation in a general sense. When your goal is to complete a project in question in a timely fashion, it’s very easy to get caught up playing around with new things and losing sight of the true task at hand.

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7. Less is More

A long time ago when I was just beginning to transition from instrumentalist to producer, I made the very common rookie mistake of investing in far too much gear and software without knowing what I actually needed. This mistake led to countless months of toying with gear and my output (in terms of actual songs) suffered greatly because of it. Over time, I learned that less is more. By that, I mean having fewer tools at your disposal, ones that you know like the back of your hand, is far more beneficial than having every hot new device on the market. As with many of the points made in this article, the less there is to think about outside of producing quality songs, the better. When you’re in the middle of composing a new work, throwing your momentum out the window to learn a new synth is going to throw off your whole flow. Use fewer tools and use them well.

8. Finish Your Songs

One of the most common things I’ve heard budding producers say is “I have a folder of loops I made, but when I come back to them, I can never turn them into full, finished songs.” A method I picked up at a lecture from super-producer ill.Gates a while back was aim to finish your composition in one session. As I’d mentioned before, you can always come back and edit/replace sounds. When it comes to the writing stage, ‘striking while the iron’s hot’ is crucial. This approach leads to more songs written, more ideas explored and, as a result, more progress made! Additionally (a bit of advice I picked up from my friend and awesome house producer, Alex Burkat), finish ALL your works whenever possible, even the songs that aren’t very serious. Developing ideas is a skill in itself and practice makes progress, especially if it’s outside of your comfort zone.

9. Make a LOT of Songs!

I am a firm believer in that every artist needs to produce hundreds, maybe even thousands of terrible pieces before getting to ‘the good stuff.’ “It takes 10,000 hours to become an overnight success.” As any successful person will tell you, failure leads to new perspectives (i.e., seeing what works and what doesn’t) which leads to future successes. As long as you’re learning from them, making mistakes is one of the most beneficial things you can do. The creative portion of your brain is a muscle, and you should exercise it like any other. Eyal Levi, an accomplished metal producer, wrote a fantastic article about just this for the metal blog, MetalSucks.net. I highly recommend reading it. Eyal makes a compelling argument for working whether you’re inspired or not. The more often you work at your craft, the more likely you are to see a return on your investment in the form of quality work.

10. Put Yourself out There

Full disclosure: this is and has always been my greatest struggle. If I could, I’d spend months in the studio toiling away at all kinds of weird songs I’d never show anyone. As Mr. Carmack, “make music like nobody’s listening,” and that’s very true when it comes to the creation aspect of making music. Beyond that, there are immense benefits to be reaped from allowing others to hear your work, be it privately or on a larger scale. Feedback from producers and fans alike is a valuable resource. Not only is it extremely validating and inspiring when people respond positively to something you posted, but putting your work out there brings a sense of closure. The project is complete, it’s out there. There’s no need to go back and change anything. It’s time to work on new music, grow, and explore new ideas!


EDU Summer Sessions

Music Foundations

The best producers, DJs, and musicians in the world strive to be well-rounded. So should you. In Dubspot’s Music Foundations Program, you’ll explore three major aspects of music: rhythmic theory, melodic theory, and critical listening.

Unravel electronic music’s origins, build your chops, learn musical language and theory, and make and play music the way you want.

Click here to view the embedded video.

What’s Included:

  • Music Foundations Level 1: Pads & Rhythmic Theory
  • Music Foundations Level 2: Keys & Melodic Theory
  • Music Foundations Level 3: Critical Listening

“This course exceeded my expectations. I went through everything I needed to have a solid knowledge of basic music theory.” – Jonathan Crespo, Miami

“MF has been an amazing experience! I didn’t realize I was going to learn so much about electronic music history, something my generation missed.” – Yianno Koumi, United Kingdom

Start dates and information about payment plans can be found here.

Or if you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.

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The post Music Production: Ten Methods for Increasing Productivity in the Studio w/ Curl Up appeared first on Dubspot Blog.

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The Joy of Little Boxes, and Lovely Music by Recue x Jolea

From small boxes, big sound, and enormous fun… Something has happened in the evolution of electronic music production. What was once so often a slow process has become a jam, what was carefully orchestrated on screens finds itself embodied in gear. And small and affordable “toys” can often deliver the greatest “switch-on-and-play” satisfaction. Helsinki’s Recue … Continue →

The post The Joy of Little Boxes, and Lovely Music by Recue x Jolea appeared first on Create Digital Music.

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Interview: Troy Miller

Interview: Troy Miller

Having begun his journey in music as an acclaimed drummer, Troy Miller has developed into an equally in-demand producer, recognised for his work with Laura Mvula and Rebecca Ferguson. Following Ferguson’s recent chart success, now seemed a good time for Adam Savage to seek more on Miller’s story.

Tell us a bit about your early career. You were a successful drummer before going into production, so why did you make the change?

I started out in a few bands really, and come from a jazz background.  I spent years playing with Jean Toussaint, an American saxophone player, and also Soweto Kinch. I played on Soweto’s album Conversations with the Unseen, and it turned out to be one of Amy Winehouse’s favourite records, who I ended up playing with for the last five years of her career. 

When she passed, I thought I would invest in my studio and have a go at doing my own producing. I’d already started at that point, having done two albums for Sony in Poland.  

When and why did you set up your London studio?

Around 2007, but since then I’ve extended it. I’ve spent a lot of time in other studios – I was a session musician before, and in those sessions you absorb a lot. When you look at many successful producers and composers they started out as musicians – guys like Trevor Horn and Hans Zimmer. It’s a good starting ground.

You must have learnt a lot from other producers from your time as a musician. I imagine working with Mark Ronson was pretty helpful?

Definitely. I spent a good two years in his band. A lot of this stuff you absorb through osmosis – just being there in the room for these sessions and it’s experiential. I found when doing as much recording as I have, on both sides of the glass, you do pick up tips. Mark is very open minded and he’s quite organic in the studio, letting musicians play and he leaves a lot down to being in the moment and seeing where it goes, which I think is a good ethic to have as
a producer. 

With Amy Winehouse, Laura Mvula and Rebecca Ferguson on your client list, you must see yourself as something of a soul specialist?

I’m very open minded and eclectic in my musical tastes, so style is not really something I think about. What I do think about is trying to create something real, and I like working with artists who are first and foremost honest with what they do and not afraid to do something a bit different. I think ultimately that’s what has longevity in music – when you’re true to yourself – and that’s not easy. If you can draw that out of people as a producer then that’s a bonus. 

I also spent years playing gospel music with the church, so the soul element is a big part of what I do, but I love classical music as well so I’m doing a project at the moment where I’m scoring the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Philharmonia this year, which is something different for me, but close to my heart. 

Let’s talk about Rebecca’s new album. I understand you teamed up with Peter Beckmann of Technology Works for that?

He was a key part of the mixing stage – initially I asked him to just master it, but I realised that we needed to bring out some more detail in the mixing stage and he was a key part of that. I’ve worked with Peter quite a few times before and I like his attention to detail. He’s very thorough – he should be as he’s a mastering engineer! – and he really cares as well. He doesn’t want to just to do the job to an acceptable level; he wants the music to sound as good as it could possibly be, even it means going the extra mile.

Was there any specific equipment that you relied on for this project?

The first for me on this project was doing all three stages of the recording on PMCs – the tracking was done at Capitol Studios in LA and they’ve got a pair of PMC QB1-A monitors, which I found to be very realistic. Moving on to the mixing and mastering stages, we used Peter’s PMCs, and that was good for the sake of consistency, and not having to adjust your ears from one session to another. I found it very comforting – you can sometimes lose the benchmark when you’re using different gear.   

What about your own personal setup? 

My console is an Amek BC2 – two of them strung together. I’ve also got API and Neve outboard mic pres, as well as a Tube-Tech PE1C EQ and LCA2B compressor. I use the Apogee Symphony, which I’ve been really impressed with. Mic-wise I’ve got an RCA 77-DX, lots of Neumanns, but the main mic I use for tracking vocals is the AKG C12, and sometimes a [Neumann] U87 or U47, depending on the vocalist. With Rebecca we used a U47 because that’s what we used at Capitol as well. In fact we used the very mic that Frank Sinatra used. That’s one of the advantages of using a studio like that. And because the PMCs have won me over I’m looking to get a pair of twotwo.6 or twotwo.8 monitors. 

Going back to those other studios, where else do you like to record?

I did Laura Mvula’s album at Abbey Road and I also like working down at RAK because I love API. I produced a single for Gregory Porter and we did it at Gang Studio in Paris where they’ve got an old ‘70s API, and I just love the EQs. One of my big things is getting the sound how you want it going into the computer so the mixing stage is more than just balancing; I find it a more enjoyable process that way. 

Picture: Troy Miller and Rebecca Ferguson

http://www.troymiller.net

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PLASA reports record number of UK debuts for Leeds show

PLASA reports record number of UK debuts for Leeds show

There will be more UK product debuts than ever before at this PLASA Focus: Leeds, the organiser says.

The show takes place at the Royal Armouries on May 12th and 13th, and a number of audio manufacturers will use the event to unveil their latest lines to UK visitors for the first time.

Here's a rundown of some of the new gear attendees can expect to see next week:

CDC six, the new addition to Cadac's digital console family, is based on a further development of the advanced gesture-navigation interface developed for the flagship CDC eight, and promises all of the same high quality audio characteristics of the existing larger model, including very low latency. It claims to offer the fastest, most intuitive user interface and highest possible audio performance of any audio mixing console.

Digico’s new S21 console, which harnesses the power of QuadCore SoC and is designed to deliver high functionality and sonic quality, can be seen on the Five Star Cases stand. “We’ve been exhibiting at PLASA Focus for a number of year, and it always works really well for us,” said Five Star’s Keith Sykes. “This year, we’re lucky enough to be showcasing Digico’s new S21 on our stand. It created an incredible buzz at its launch at Prolight + Sound and we’re sure it’s going to do the same in Leeds.”

Funktion-One will present its new Evolution Series. The two models – Evo 6 and Evo 7 – are both high intensity loudspeakers which utilise Funktion-One’s latest technology. “The first users of these systems are reporting remarkable coverage and performance,” according to the company.

Pro Audio Systems (PAS), Meyer Sound's official partner for the North of England, has announced that the event will be the very first showing of Meyer's new LEOPARD and 900-LFC anywhere in the UK.

"LEOPARD and 900-LFC are the latest members of Meyer Sound's LEO family, and also by far the smallest and lightest, delivering extraordinary power and definition from very compact enclosures,” stated Dave Simpson, PAS sales manager. “PAS is a long-term supporter of PLASA Focus and is delighted to be able to debut these important products at the show.”

Source Distribution will be showing products from a range of its distributed brands, including the first-ever UK demo of the PreSonus StudioLive AI digital mixer linked via AVB to an RM series rack mixer.

Christopher Toulmin, director of the Events Division at PLASA, added: “PLASA Focus: Leeds 2015 is ideally positioned in the industry calendar and we are delighted that so many companies have chosen as the UK Launchpad for their new products. It’s a real testament to the success of the show and its relevance to the UK entertainment technology market.”

www.plasafocus.com/leeds

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame stars rely on Audio-Technica

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame stars rely on Audio-Technica

Various Audio-Technica microphones were once again selected for the 30th Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony held in Cleveland, Ohio recently.

One notable highlight of the show was the segment honouring soul legend Bill Withers, who made a rare appearance and an even rarer on-stage performance.

This particular part of the event saw R&B singer John Legend (pictured) and Hall of Fame member Stevie Wonder each perform using Audio-Technica’s 5000 Series UHF wireless system with AEW-T5400a handheld microphones/transmitters. Wonder performed Ain’t No Sunshine, followed by Legend’s performance of Use Me and both singing Lean on Me.

The backline mic complement of Audio-Technica wired microphones included AT4050 multi-pattern condenser microphones used for drum overheads and bass; AT4050ST stereo condenser microphone for audience ambience; AE5400 cardioid condenser handheld microphone on background vocals; AE5100 cardioid condenser instrument microphones taking care of the hi-hat and audience ambience; AT4047/SV cardioid condenser microphones deployed on the B3 organ cabinet and AT4081 ribbon microphones placed on guitar amps.

The technical staff for the induction ceremony was made up of several industry veterans. Remote recording specialist M3 (Music Mix Mobile), which also handled the live broadcast of this year's Grammys, was responsible for both recording the programme and mixing the show for broadcast. M3’s Mitch Maketansky served as audio coordinator, John Harris as recording engineer, Joel Singer as truck engineer-in-charge and Brian Flanzbaum as Pro Tools operator.

Maketansky stated: “I and many of my associates have relied on Audio-Technica microphones and wireless systems over the years for a variety of live broadcasts on account of their consistency from mic-to-mic and their reliability as products. Across artists and genres, there is an Audio-Technica solution for any application you can think of, allowing us to capture the performance the way it’s intended to be heard.”

www.audio-technica.com

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