There was a time once where it was the standard to record a track with nothing but hardware. From an engineer’s perspective, the band would come in plugin. The engineer would then mic up the vocalist, guitarist, bassist and drummer based on the style demonstrated by the band. These tracks would then be routed though a massive console and outboard effects would be patched in via a patch-bay. The signal would then be routed to a tape machine for record and playback. If there were any errors, the band would have to do the take again. In those days recordings were great not only because the band was great but also due to the fact that they had to practice more in order to get the perfect take.
Fast forward to now and we have DAW software. The workflow for the most part continues on the same path as before with the exception of TAPE and plugins. The signal is routed to the console and from the console to the DAW software. From the DAW software the output channels are routed back to the console in order to enable playback. It is now up to the engineer to decide whether to record to tape or not. Many opt to do so as they claim that the tape enhances the sound.
In reality, all that is necessary to record a band are great microphones, A low latency audio interface with great preamps, with enough inputs/outputs and a reasonably powerful laptop. That is all that is needed. There have been many arguments over hardware vs. plugins that try to emulate that “analog” sound. But let us take this a step back without being over zealous in mentioning any names. In today’s age we have superior audio with a resolution of up to 192 kbps and 24 bit. We never had any where near that resolution with tape. Now that man have accomplished this massive feat, plugin manufactures are now placing the illusion that great mixes cannot be made without these “classic” hardware models. This is simply not true.
In simple terms: a compressor is a compressor, an eq is an eq, and distortion is distortion.
A compressor is designed with only one thing in mind, and that is to reduce dynamic range.
An equalizer was designed to accentuate favorable frequencies to better sculpt the audio spectrum. Anything else is distortion, which in many cases can prove to be unfavorable and yet quite favorable in some instances. Alexander Lindo has experienced many different pieces of hardware and software used to emulate the corresponding hardware and he can confidently say that the differences are greatly exaggerated. A knowledgeable engineer can get a usable sound out of most compressors. Having said that the SSL 4000 Buss compressor and the 1176 are two excellent compressors. The 1176’s super fast microsecond attack time distorts the incoming signal, giving it a perceived “liveliness”. The SSL 4000 Buss compressor add life and consistency to a mix through the use of distortion as-well.
Apple fixed the GUI bug present in some of its Retina-Optimized instruments and plugins in LPX 10.3.2. For those who took notice, some of the stock Logic Pro X instruments and plugins produced an annoying graphical bug in regards to the number entry field when placed on any scale factor other than 100%.
Some of the plugins affected by this issue included: Retro Synth (in the screenshot above), Vintage B3, Vintage Clav, Vintage Electric Piano, Drum Kit Designer, Compressor, Channel EQ, Linear Phase EQ.
In the past: The blue halo that appears around the number entry field was distorted and out of place. That issue has now been resolved. The blue halo that appears around number entry field now complies with the scale factor of the plugin. Rock on Apple!
Music is an art-form. It builds, strengthens and enhances the human life. It is built with the purpose of delivering a message. It is therefore extremely important to ensure that (as artists, producers, and engineers) our message is delivered in the most accurate way possible. In the “Studio Tips” series I discuss methods on how to enhance the experience and delivery of “the song”. Enjoy!
Ensure your environment is optimal as an uncomfortable environment will leave you with a poor performance. Surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, what you do, both as an artist and as a person. Do not be quick to “take what you get”, as you always have options. Never let anyone make you think that you don’t have options. If you are unhappy with the situation it is bound to show.
If your intention is to record, make sure that you have adequately practiced the material before hand. Magic can and may happen in the studio but it is always best to prepare. If you are a singer ensure that you are hydrated, as failure to do so may leave you with some dry sounding vocals. If you are a guitarist ensure that your guitar is properly tuned and that you have at least 2 extra set of strings available. Other than failure to prepare it can be equally disconcerting when the performer is unable to record a take due to technical difficulties. If you are the producer/engineer set up your project with plugins that introduce the least amount of latency / CPU usage during tracking / recording.
Vocals / Lyrics are the most important part of every song (that contains vocals). They tell the story, and you want them to shine to the best of their ability. Be sure that your engineer is providing you with a space carved out just for you. Listen to the mix. If you cannot hear yourself clearly when the music is playing, you will be shouting above the mix and this is never recommended. The same goes for performing live. If you cannot hear yourself, you will not perform correctly. It is therefore extremely important to get the balance right, before you open up.
It is that special time where we dive into the internals of arguably the world’s best selling audio interface: The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. The company, founded in 1985 by Rupert Neve, has been well known throughout the recording industry for making high quality microphone pre-amplifires and audio interfaces.
Today we look at their most recent and most popular contender. Featuring two Focusrite mic pre-amplifires, the Scarlett 2i2 has made it into the hands of many “singer-songwriters” and audio professionals alike. The 2i2 hosts the same microphone pre-amplifiers found in Focusrite’s premium RedNet series of audio interfaces thus providing little compromise in audio fidelity. The interface is class complaint for OS X and Linux and thus can be connected and ready to go without installing any drivers. We are able to record audio at up to 24bits @ 96 kHz, providing us with great headroom and fast sampling rates. All together in a rugged brushed aluminium construction, it is no wonder it is an all time favourite.
Time for the reveal…
Once the screws and plastic nuts were removed from the plastic back-plate it was now time to delve inside to see what makes this unit tick.
In order to eject the circuit board from the aluminium chassis, Alexander Lindo reached for my handy flat head screw driver and gently pried the to plastic latches downward (located at the top front of the unit) and gently pushed the circuit board forward until it was completely out.
On board we have a Cirrus Logic CS4272 codec for all audio conversion duties. The codec is actually able to run at up to 192 kHz but has been “scaled down to 96 kHz to function reliably” on the USB 2 protocol. Above, we can see the green and red clip LEDs next to the gain knobs. In addition we also have a red LED indicator for 48V phantom power. Beside the two gain knobs we have two Neutrik combo jack connectors which are firmly screwed into the plastic face plate alleviating any stress that may have been placed on the circuit board when inserting an XLR or TRS cable. The connections are gold plated to improve conductivity.
With the 2 Focusrite microphone pre-amplifiers, solid aluminum enclosure and gold plated Neutrik combo jacks I can definitely say that the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a solid piece of kit.