Monday, 13 April 2009


Wanting to improve the overall quality and performance of our set-up, plus adding a couple of new sound sources. This is the list of equipment that I'm looking to buy.

The first item is the audio interface used for capturing any live audio and presenting this back out for monitoring. Currently I use the MOTU 828MK3, this is fine however it's really a mid-level product that also offers onboard effects, it works well for live use but I only ever really use one of it's many input channels for Sarah's vocal. I'd like to get a good quality A/D convertor so I have been looking at the Apogee range of interfaces. The only real need for this type of device is to capture Sarah's audio from the mic we use. Although Apogee produce a wide range of products the DUET looks like it will do the job. It also integrates with Logic really well. I would consider their Ensemble product but I think it's probably overkill for our needs, my issue with the DUET is that it's a desktop product and not a rackmount but the difference in cost doesn't seem worth it.

The next thing I'd like to get is a better Mic Pre Amp, Currently I use the Focusrite ASA1 but the Liquid Channel, also from Focusrite looks great. Essentially this product will allow me to call up a number of simulated Mic Pre Amps and compressors, these are essential for getting a variety of different sounds for Sarah's vocal. We also need a Mic, our current Mic an AKG SolidTube as been on loan from a friend for a few years so I think it's time we bought our own. By far the most talked about industry standard is the Neumann U87. Not cheap but hopefully worth every penny. Choosing a Mic is something of a personal preference so I I'd like to audition at least a couple before making this decision. Neumann also make a model called the TLM103 which is based upon the capsule inside the U87, it's pretty much half the cost so I'd like to hear these two for a comparison.

I really found the Euphonix MC Control useful for giving me tactile control over the mixing stage, I'd like to expand this with the MC Mix which will function as an add on channel set for the MC Control. What I love about these products is their connectivity with Logic, you can also use them to control parameters within the AU synths I use, the interface within the MC Control re-configures to match whatever window is in focus and also if you switch apps. Great products.

Next is the real work horse of the set-up, currently I have a Mac G5 Quad which has been great however it's now a couple of generations old. I'd like to upgrade to the MacPro 8 Core machine. I nearly ordered one of these a while ago but as the album wasn't quite finished I didn't want to spend a couple of days swapping these around, plus the hassle of updating all the various bits of software. The beauty of working within the Logic environment on a Mac is that you can pretty much guarantee that the performance of the system will increase two fold every few years.

There are a couple of planned upgrades to a few of the soft synths I use, Minimonster and impOSCar, I have also looked at Reaktor 5 & Absynth. Most of my synths apart from the ones in Logic are emulations of older machines so I'm intrigued by these as they seem to offer a new take on making noises.

The MacBook pro's I use for music is in a bit of a sorry state, the screen has developed a fault which causes half of the screen to display a psychedelic pattern, looks cool but is totally unusable. There was hope that this would be covered under warranty as there are recognised issues with video cards but that's not the case with my machine. So it looks like I need to order a new MacBook too.


Gary said...

Fascinating read again Matt and had a look at some of the products and had a heart attack when I saw the price of the microphone!!! I had no idea that some of them were so expensive.

On VSTi I have used the imposcar synth, have you not tried the Vanguard software synth it is exceptional.


Northern Kind said...

Hi Gary

Yeah Mics are something that I find difficult to justify the cost of but they do make a huge difference.

I spent some time a few weeks ago looking at all the various soft synths out there. I though the Vanguard product did sound good but I think the demo on the site was a bit too dance orientated with lots of arpeggios and big lead sounds. I usually find those types of sounds tend to dominate mixes too much.

I tend to make many of my sounds from layering a number of synth sounds together which gives you something a bit more unique (hopefully) With synths that are big and fat you can't really do that as they swamp the mix.

Someone recommended this which looks pretty good.

In general there are lots of soft synths out there which I think are capable of producing similar sounds, I guess the presets are what give the initial impression of a synths capabilities but that's just down to the people that create them.

I'm interested in Absynth & Reaktor because they seem to take a different approach and not just be a different flavour of a subtractive analogue.

I'd like to incorporate more sampled sounds in future material, I bought an album by Fever Ray (singer from The Knife) the percussion sounds on that are great.

Hopefully you should have your copy of WIRED: by Saturday.


Gary said...

Hi Matt

I have come across the fab filter synths and I think they would be useful to you regards the sounds you get and can manipulate. The Absynth is a strange beast as it is pretty much a collection of strange and weird sounds and it would be very interesting to see the sounds you could create from that synth.

Reaktor I know very little about but will have a look around now you have mentioned it to see what it is all about.

Out of interest what do you use for drum sounds? Presume drum machines and percussive synth sounds. I love the drum elements of your tracks I have to say.

It will make my weekend if "Wired" arrives tomorrow mate!

Have a good weekend.


Northern Kind said...

HI Gary,

All the Kick and Snares are from synths. Usually the Kick drums come from the ES1 synth that comes with Logic. The snares are usually layered sounds from the ES1, Albino, ES2 or the Minimoog. Hats again are mostly synths or the Ultrabeat drum synth.

Glad you got the album.


jsd said...

audio interface: can't go wrong with apogee or RME. apogee is probably the 'mac approved' solution. we've got rosetta, ensemble, and the desktop thing which i forget the name of. i use RME on my PC. love it.

mic pre - get something with a tube (valve), don't go for digi simulated bollox... you can do that with a plugin anyway. i've fallen in love with the universal audio 610.

mic - i've been using the blue kiwi for a bit and it is pretty good although i also like the r0de mics... don't knock them because they are inexpensive - they sound great. industry standard for sarah's voice type seems to be the akg c414 though.

you're gonna wet yourself when you get the 8 core mac pro... MONSTER machine.

vanguard is great if you want to make trance but can't afford a virus. otherwise... it's just OK, nothing you can't do with what you already have.

absynth and reaktor are great fun but be prepared to invest substantial amounts of time... (or just use the presets and tweak them a little bit - there are thousands of them and they sound great.)

you might also consider KORE... loads of sounds, some tweakability, but more optimized for playing.