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28 September 2005

M-Audio Trigger Finger

Filed under: Hardware at 11:45 pm Comments Off on M-Audio Trigger Finger

M-Audio make the Trigger Finger, a very nice USB MIDI control surface. It’s garnered some rave reviews, so a summary of the official M-Audio information is in order. The Trigger Finger is primarily a pad controller, but also provides faders and knobs as extra control options. Even though many keyboard controllers have pads and other controls built in, it might be better having a dedicated unit like this one.

The website has exhaustive technical details, but here’s an executive summary to give you an idea of what the Trigger Finger is.

Sixteen pads give you immediate access to plenty of drum sounds or other events you wish to trigger. You’ll find the pad size provides just the right balance of compact space and perfect touch. Speaking of perfect touch, Trigger Finger’s pads are both velocity- and pressure-sensitive — and, unlike many control surfaces, you can map the pressure sensitivity to any MIDI parameter you desire for that extra measure of expressive control. Its 8 knobs and 4 faders are also fully assignable to any MIDI parameter you want. With Trigger Finger, you’re in control.

Trigger Finger features 16 presets for storing your setups right on board. Your purchase also gets you a free copy of M-Audio’s Enigma librarian software for PC and Mac for virtually unlimited storage that works with your other M-Audio and Evolution gear as well. You also get pre-programmed maps for Live, Reason, GM Drum, XG Drum, iDrum, and more for instant control over most popular software.

This product comes with a special version of Ableton Live Lite 4, a powerful and unique DAW application. Live Lite 4 brings you much of the audio and MIDI functionality of the multi-award winning Ableton Live, recognized for revolutionizing the DAW experience. In this version you get four audio tracks, four MIDI tracks, incredible looping, VST and Audio Unit support, software instruments, effects, and much more. Live Lite 4 turns your interface and your computer into a complete composition and recording solution.

27 September 2005

M-Audio Trigger Finger review — Computer Music

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Trigger Finger, M-Audio’s MIDI pad controller, gets a great review in Computer Music magazine. They point out that this is more than just a drum pad controller — the eight rotary controls and four faders raise it up a notch or two in the MIDI controller stakes. The pads themselves are pressure-sensitive as well as velocity-sensitive, and the pressure values can be mapped to any MIDI parameter; they are impressed with this and say that it offers “massive creative potential.”

The unit itself is “sturdy and rigid”, which is a good quality in something that will spend a lot of time being tapped, stroked, knocked, and occasionally thumped in the pursuit of the perfect beat. And the pads are “sensitive and responsive, making the controller productive and rewarding to use.”

The pads, faders and dials can be mapped to your chosen application, and the Trigger Finger comes with pre-programmed maps for Ableton Live, Reason and other programs. Speaking of Live, Ableton Live Lite 4 is included with the Trigger Finger — sounds good, but the MIDI assign function is disabled in this version, which they say “seriously negates its usefulness”! You’ll just have to buy Live 5 separately then.

Overall, they love this controller. They say it’s responsive and easy to use and give it 9 out of 10. “Well designed and very playable, the Trigger Finger sets a whole new standard for ppad-based controllers.”

Numark PT01 turntable review — Create Digital Music

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The always-good Create Digital Music website reviewed Numark’s PT01 turntable. In fact, they didn’t just review it, they took it out into the desert and played a gig with it. “Using the PT01s in the desert was a dream. The dust covers kept them clean while packed away in my tent and they were easy to grab, setup and spin due to their light weight. The sound was great, the pitch control was super-useful and the built-in cartridges saved me from near disaster when I completely forgot to bring a set.” Hmm, built-in cartridges on a DJ deck? Well, it is meant to be a cheap portable.

I don’t know if I would take it out into the desert (if I ever go to one), but they do come up with a much more practical use for the PT01: record shopping. “If you live for climbing through stacks of vinyl at used record stores or garage sales, it takes nothing to bring along a PT01 to preview a record before you buy it via in the built-in speaker.” Forget the iPod Nano — how much cooler to sit in a coffee shop listening to 12″s on a turntable?

Their verdict: “If you’re looking for a portable turntable to try-before-you-buy or to breathe new life into your long-forgotten vinyl collection, then the Numark PT01 is for you.” I think that means it’s for me.

26 September 2005

E-Mu 1616M laptop audio interface

Filed under: Hardware at 5:50 pm Comments Off on E-Mu 1616M laptop audio interface

E-Mu’s 1616M laptop audio interface system has received some attention recently. And with good reason, if E-Mu are to be believed — they call it “the most powerful and portable laptop audio system ever created,” with the same DSP effects, zero-latency monitoring and mastering-grade 24-bit/192kHz A/D and D/A converters as E-Mu’s high-end systems. The system consists of a PC card and a breakout box, and it also comes with E-Mu’s rather good production tools software bundle.

E-Mu’s full list of features looks like this.

  • Mastering grade 24-bit/192kHz converters – the same A/D converters used in Digidesign’s flagship ProTools HD 192 I/O Interface delivering an amazing 120dB signal-to-noise ratio
  • The ultimate portable system — for recording, editing, mixing and virtual instruments – use the E-MU 02 CardBus Card alone for its hardware-accelerated effects and premium stereo headphone/line output or together with the MicroDock M for complete analog and digital I/O flexibility
  • Hardware-accelerated effects – over 600 standalone and E-MU Power FX VST plug-in effects with no CPU overhead
  • PatchMix DSP zero-latency hardware mixing and monitoring — with super-flexible patchbay — no external mixer needed
  • Ultra-portable MicroDock M offers 16 inputs/16 outputs plus MIDI I/O — everything from balanced analog and turntable inputs to ADAT and S/PDIF (switchable to AES/EBU)
  • Two E-MU XTC studio-grade, ultra-low noise preamps (-127dBu EIN) with analog soft limiter — Mic/Line and true Hi-Z inputs via Neutrik connectors, 48V phantom power and 60dB of gain
  • Compatibility with most popular audio/sequencer applications — ultra-low latency 24-bit/192kHz ASIO 2.0 and Stereo WDM drivers
  • E-MU Production Tools Software Bundle – includes Cakewalk SONAR LE, Steinberg Cubase LE and Wavelab Lite, Ableton Live Lite 4 for E-MU, IK Multimedia AmpliTube LE and T-RackS EQ, Minnetonka diskWelder BRONZE, SFX Machine LT, plus E-MU’s Proteus X LE Desktop Sound Module — everything you need to create, record, edit, master and burn is in the box

E-MU’s Laptop Digital Audio Systems feature the powerful E-DSP chipset, which features a hardware-accelerated effects processor with over 28 effects plug-ins (over 600 presets). This effects architecture is fully expandable, allowing you to add more effect plug-ins to your system as needed. E-DSP also provides zero-latency, hardware-based mixing and monitoring via the included PatchMix DSP mixer, delivering unmatched flexibility in routing audio between all of your physical and virtual (ASIO/WDM) inputs and outputs- no external mixer needed.

23 September 2005

Numark PT01 portable DJ turntable

Filed under: Hardware at 10:54 pm Comments Off on Numark PT01 portable DJ turntable

Numark’s PT01 is a DJ turntable with the usual features including pitch control. It also has some unusual features — it’s battery powered, and small enough to fit in a record crate. And it only weighs 2kg, or 4 pounds 8 ounces as some would have it. It also has a little built-in amp and speaker for that “all-in-one” vibe. Even if you’re not planning to take your scratching skillz on the road, you still need a turntable. A lot of great music is only available on vinyl, and you’ve got to get it onto your laptop somehow.

Possibly the most amusing thing about the PT01 is that, apart from 33 and 45, it also plays 78 RPM records. First, not too many DJs spin 78s at their all-night underground raves; second, many 78s are bigger than 12 inches — too big to fit on this turntable, in fact. Still, aside from this it looks very nice. I do have a turntable somewhere, but maybe it’s time for a new one.

Numark say: This full-featured portable turntable features battery and AC power, built-in speaker, and multiple RPM speeds with pitch control. An efficient belt-drive motor operates at 33, 45, and 78 RPM and there is ±10% pitch control, as well as tone and volume controls. A built-in phono preamp and speaker allow convenient monitoring. There are also RCA line level outputs as well as 1/4″ and 1/8″ headphone outputs. The PT01 plays all standard record sizes up to 12 inches. A built-in cartridge with removable stylus is included, along with a slipmat and 45 RPM adapter. Key features:

  1. Portable — Fits in 12″ record case; Integrated carrying handle
  2. Multiple speeds — 33, 45, and 78 RPM; ±10% pitch control
  3. Versatile monitoring — Phono preamp and speaker built in; RCA line level outputs; 1/4″ and 1/8″ headphone outputs
  4. Flexible powering — Takes 4 “D”-type batteries (not included); AC power supply included
  5. Supports multiple record formats — Plays all standard record sizes up to 12 inches; 45 RPM adapter included;
  6. Dimensions and Weight 12″ H X 12″ W X 3.875” D, 4.5 lbs

22 September 2005

E-Mu Xboard 25/49 keyboard controller

Filed under: Hardware at 12:47 pm Comments Off on E-Mu Xboard 25/49 keyboard controller

Hardware manufacturer E-Mu have released the Xboard USB/MIDI controllers. The Xboard 25 and Xboard 49 are 25- and 49-key controllers respectively, as you might expect. They feature a full complement of control knobs and switches in a portable package — especially the little Xboard 25.

The E-Mu website has a few more details, including these: The new E-MU Xboard Professional USB/MIDI controllers for PC and Mac offer unmatched playability, real-time control and programmability in a portable keyboard package ideal for studio and stage use. The Xboard 25 and Xboard 49 both feature fullsize velocity sensitive keyboards with aftertouch, 16 programmable real-time controllers, Xboard Control editing software, E-MU’s new Proteus X LE Desktop Sound Module with over 1000 sounds, and can run on USB, battery, or AC power.

For all you Windows users, the keyboard bundle includes Proteus X LE Desktop Sound Module with over 1000 presets and Ableton Live Lite 4 for E-MU so you can start working on that album right out of the box.

18 September 2005

M-Audio Trigger Finger review — Keyboard

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The Trigger Finger MIDI control surface from M-Audio gets a good review in Keyboard magazine. From their description of the control pads on this device, you can tell they love it — maybe a little too much: “”They seem to have taken great care in choosing the best-feeling pad material I’ve ever had the pleasure to caress. It’s like a baby’s bottom. Like real Corinthian leather. Had Solomon’s beloved had skin that felt like this, the Song of Solomon would be pages longer and steamier than it already is. These pads are dead sexy.”

While they didn’t like the display (the three-digit LED display is pretty minimal), they like the functionality of the Trigger Finger. They even go so far as to inspect the MIDI control data that the Trigger Finger sent out to make sure it wasn’t skimping.

Overall, they say the Trigger Finger is a pretty impressive value. “The TF has excellent pad feel, arguably the most important thing. It’s stoutly built, and offers far more in the areas of programming feedback and available controls. M-Audio even thought of the little things, like the Kensington lock and the provision for a stand mount.” The final word: “if you’re just now considering a pad controller for drum programming, the Trigger Finger represents an inexpensive gamble on whether or not you’ll like the idea.”

15 September 2005

Mobile Laptop Studio Backpack

Filed under: Hardware at 11:44 pm Comments Off on Mobile Laptop Studio Backpack

M-Audio make a nice Mobile Laptop Studio Backpack, which I feel must be included on this website simply because of its name. As M-Audio say, you can “carry your studio on your back — and in style. Our padded ballistic nylon Studio Pack conveniently carries an M-Audio Ozone or Oxygen8, a laptop and accessories.” Unfortunately, it does not come emblazoned with the Laptop Studio logo.

This Studio Pack backpack holds a 25-key MIDI keyboard controller along with your laptop, and has various compartments for assorted paraphernalia. It’s very convenient to have everything in one bag. As they say, it “lets you carry your studio with you”!

13 September 2005

Pro Tools M-Powered review — Remix

Filed under: Hardware andMusic software at 10:41 pm Comments Off on Pro Tools M-Powered review — Remix

Remix magazine reviews Pro Tools M-Powered by Digidesign and M-Audio. They note that this version makes Pro Tools quite affordable, and even the cut-down version included in Pro Tools M-Powered is still a powerful music production system. “In light of the new level of accessibility that Pro Tools M-Powered offers, those who may have overlooked Pro Tools in the past should consider giving it another look, especially if you already own an approved M-Audio interface. Even if you don’t make Pro Tools your primary sequencer, learning the software and having the application available make working on other people’s projects and remixes that much easier.”

They also discuss other recent improvements such as the Time Trimmer for on-the-fly timestretching, and the Beat Detective LE audio quantisation tool — “perhaps the coolest addition” to Pro Tools M-Powered. On the downside, Pro Tools M-Powered is limited to 32 simultaneous audio tracks — in the old days this was ample, but these days some musicians may find 32 tracks inadequate.

Overall they are excited by the features and stability of this package. Digidesign also point out that there is another benefit — the experience you gain working with an inexpensive Pro Tools M-Powered system will be very useful when looking for work in the music industry, where Pro Tools has long been an industry standard. The review concludes positively: “There’s no question that Pro Tools M-Powered lives up to Digidesign’s reputation. I’ve always said that choosing a DAW is a matter of preference and comfort. Now, with Pro Tools M-Powered on the scene, excluding Pro Tools because of budget concerns is a thing of the past. I am a bit disappointed that M-Powered doesn’t come bundled with as many extras as LE, but the good news is, the company didn’t skimp on the application itself, as it is just as powerful as LE.”

11 September 2005

FlashMic self-contained recording microphone

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The FlashMic DRM85 is a professional-quality microphone with built-in power and Flash memory so you can record without any extra hardware. This is probably out of the price range of the average Laptop Studio person, but a neat idea anyway, and sure to get cheaper in the future. Not much more I can say, so here are the full details from the makers, HHB:

Portable recording specialist HHB Communications has developed the FlashMic DRM85 — the world’s first professional Digital Recording Microphone. Perfect for all voice recording applications, in particular broadcast and press interviewing, the FlashMic combines a high quality Sennheiser omni-directional condenser capsule with 1GB of flash recording memory to create a convenient, durable and portable recording device that’s extremely easy to operate.

With no fiddly cables and connectors to worry about, journalists can be recording instantly with just a single button-push. Either .Wav linear or MPEG 2 encoded audio files can then be transferred quickly and easily via USB to Macintosh or PC computers and laptops for editing and onward transmission. A Date/Time stamp is stored along with the file, with the internal real time clock-set/synchronized automatically by the host computer.

The FlashMic is powered for more than six hours by a pair of standard AA batteries (either primary or rechargeable cells can be fitted), with the remaining battery power displayed along with time, level and status information in a backlit LCD on the microphone body. In addition, a visual low battery warning alerts the user to the imminent need to change batteries.

Users can operate the FlashMic straight out of the box using default settings, or create and store nine custom configurations using the straightforward Mac/PC GUI software supplied. Parameters including Audio Mode, AGC (Automatic Gain Control) On/Off, Record Level, Pre Record Buffer (0 – 10 seconds) and HPF (High Pass Filter) On/Off can be individually adjusted to create the optimum configurations for a particular operator’s typical applications. In addition, an ‘Expert Mode’ allows all variable parameters to be accessed directly from the FlashMic body.

With a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz and less than 0.1% Total Harmonic Distortion at 16-bit/48kHz, FlashMic makes recordings of the very highest quality. Recordings can be played back under independent level control on headphones connected via a socket on the base of the unit.