Recording - January 2013 - 8
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Live tracking with plug-ins
This email is intended as a question for Mike Metlay following his review of the Toontrack EZmix 2 software and various expansion packs in the October 2012 issue of Recording. Mike, I am wondering if this software would lend itself to live performance use? I know it is intended for mixing applications but are the various signal processing chains suitable for a musician seeking to emulate a studio recording path in live performance applications? I am a bass player and have often read about Nashville bassists providing a studio recording session with a tube preamp, Tube-Tech compressor, equalizer, etc., so that the send they provide goes straight to the recording input without the engineer having to do any additional preparation. I have never tried to emulate this kind of gear in software but it sounds like EZmix might be capable of doing a reasonable approximation. Would you let me know if you consider that this product could be utilized as a replacement for a preamp, amp, compressor, effects chain etc. for live use? Thanks very much,
David Brown via email
David: Thanks for your question! There is no reason why you couldn’t use EZmix in a live situation. Certainly the effects are of very high quality, and the ease of setup is a major plus... you could design tweaks to the plugin’s presets for particular situations, call them up in a flash, and be ready to roll. However, there is one place where I would caution you to test heavily before going into a gig, and that is with respect to latency. One thing an all-analog signal chain (like the ones used by Nashville bassists) has over a digital one is that everything happens literally at the speed of light. Without A/D and D/A conversion in the process, what you play is what you hear, instantly, and you don’t realize how important that is until you start playing through a signal chain that has conversion in it. In that case, the audio signal gets converted to digital, processed, and converted back to analog, and by the time it comes back out of your speakers it has been delayed. If the delay is tiny, a millisecond or two, you don’t notice it. But the longer it gets, the harder it becomes to play with accurate feel, and the result is a crummy performance. This is especially problematic on the bass, which is as important as—or more important than—the drums for determining the overall time and feel of a song. If the bassist can’t hear himself properly and can’t play properly, your whole track is sunk! The theoretical limit for latency is getting shorter and shorter every year with faster interfaces and buses, smaller buffer sizes, and more CPU power to burn. But to get the really short latencies where you can barely, if at all, feel the delay between what you play and what you hear, you can’t skimp on anything. An inexpensive computer with an inexpensive USB audio interface will require a fairly high buffer setting, from 256 to 512 or even 1024 samples, to prevent overloads and audio problems; that much latency ranges from definitely audible to unplayable, and will really mess with the feel of what you play. Now, EZmix is not tremendously CPU-heavy, and if you were to throw enough horsepower at it, you could run a signal chain with it and have little or no trouble with buffering, clicks, pops, dropouts, etc. But we’re talking about using it on a fast computer not trying to do anything else, a buffer size set very small (128 samples at most, 64 would be better, 32 better still), and preferably an audio signal at a high sample rate (88.2 or 96 kHz). This last is important because a buffer of a particular number of samples presents half as much delay when you double the sample rate. Again, that’s a huge CPU hit, but that’s what it takes to get stuff like this to play comfortably in real time. If your interface has the option for all-analog zero-latency monitoring and you don’t mind hearing yourself without effects, you can play your part without latency delay; the recorded signal can always be time-shifted forward to line up with the other tracks laer, when editing. But if you want to hear what the engineer is hearing, and be inspired by the great sound EZmix is hopefully giving your bass playing, the only real option is to tweak your system until latency is as low as you can get it and you feel like you can play comfortably without being distracted by delays in what you hear. Good luck and let us know how your experiments work out!—MM Corrections In our review of the MOTU 4pre interface (December 2012), we mistakenly listed the DSP software included with the interface as CueMix DSP, when the proper name for it is CueMix FX. In our API A2D review in the November 2012 issue, we misnamed API founder Saul Walker as Seth. Recording regrets the errors.—MM
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RECORDING January 2013
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - January 2013
Recording - January 2013
Table of Contents
2012 AES Convention Report.
Universal Audio Apollo.
ADAM Audio F5 and F7 Monitors.
Earthworks ZDT 1022 Mic Preamp.
Trident HG3 Close Field Monitoring System.
AKG K702 65th Anniversary Edition Headphones.
Grace Design m903 Reference Headphone Amplifier.
Monitors & Monitoring.
Lauten Atlantis FC-387 Condenser Microphone.
Recording Fundamentals. Chapter 13: Monitors Part 2.
PreSonus BlueTube DP V2.
Getting Into Your Head.
Shure SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones.
iOS Music Tools: Last-Minute Audio Gifts!
Sennheiser HD800 Headphones.
2012 Annual Index.
Recording - January 2013 - Recording - January 2013
Recording - January 2013 - Cover2
Recording - January 2013 - 1
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Recording - January 2013 - Fade In.
Recording - January 2013 - 5
Recording - January 2013 - Table of Contents
Recording - January 2013 - 7
Recording - January 2013 - Talkback.
Recording - January 2013 - 9
Recording - January 2013 - 2012 AES Convention Report.
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Recording - January 2013 - Universal Audio Apollo.
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Recording - January 2013 - 23
Recording - January 2013 - ADAM Audio F5 and F7 Monitors.
Recording - January 2013 - 25
Recording - January 2013 - Earthworks ZDT 1022 Mic Preamp.
Recording - January 2013 - 27
Recording - January 2013 - Trident HG3 Close Field Monitoring System.
Recording - January 2013 - 29
Recording - January 2013 - AKG K702 65th Anniversary Edition Headphones.
Recording - January 2013 - 31
Recording - January 2013 - 32
Recording - January 2013 - 33
Recording - January 2013 - Grace Design m903 Reference Headphone Amplifier.
Recording - January 2013 - 35
Recording - January 2013 - Monitors & Monitoring.
Recording - January 2013 - 37
Recording - January 2013 - 38
Recording - January 2013 - 39
Recording - January 2013 - Lauten Atlantis FC-387 Condenser Microphone.
Recording - January 2013 - 41
Recording - January 2013 - Recording Fundamentals. Chapter 13: Monitors Part 2.
Recording - January 2013 - 43
Recording - January 2013 - PreSonus BlueTube DP V2.
Recording - January 2013 - 45
Recording - January 2013 - Getting Into Your Head.
Recording - January 2013 - 47
Recording - January 2013 - 48
Recording - January 2013 - 49
Recording - January 2013 - Shure SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones.
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Recording - January 2013 - 55
Recording - January 2013 - Readers’ Tapes.
Recording - January 2013 - 57
Recording - January 2013 - iOS Music Tools: Last-Minute Audio Gifts!
Recording - January 2013 - 59
Recording - January 2013 - 60
Recording - January 2013 - 61
Recording - January 2013 - Sennheiser HD800 Headphones.
Recording - January 2013 - Advertiser Index.
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Recording - January 2013 - 2012 Annual Index.
Recording - January 2013 - 71
Recording - January 2013 - Fade Out.
Recording - January 2013 - Cover3
Recording - January 2013 - Cover4