This months issue of Sound on Sound has reviews of the MFB-522 and 503 drum machines. The 522 is sort of a Roland TR-808 clone. It is full analog and in the ballpark but really sounds like it’s own machine. I’ve have a lot of music on my to do list and because I’m using a lot of analog hardware these days I decided to put a mini studio on my dining room table. The heart of it is the 522. I also have an old Boss BX800 mixer from the 80s. I have fond memories of the way it distorted. Unfortunately after playing with it a bit I ended up switching it out to a new Yamaha MG102c. The kick’s attack is much sharper on the new mixer and that’s very important to me. The 522 has individual out, lots of knobs to control the sounds, a fill pattern and it’s fun to program. Check out the little video above of my MFB in action. You can hear it has a nice tight groove and how fun the fill is. The video was recorded with an iPhone though the iPhone’s speaker with the audio coming from a TDK Boombox. There is a suped up version of the 522 called the 523 coming this year. You can buy a 522 for $425 USD.
“MFB-522 is a drumcomputer with a fully analogue sound engine that offers plenty of editing capabilities. It includes a step-sequencer with popular TR-style running-light-programming. Memory locations are available for 72 patterns as well as for 8 songs.” – mfberlin.de
Tony Rolando’s Make Noise Eurorack modules are usually noted as the best or in the top few on people’s lists. The 6 channel RXMX which comes out this summer will surely be awesome for some wild panning, pinging and much more. Thanks to Nick and his team at Sonic State for the video.
“The RXMX is a concept we are working on with Grant Richter. It stands for Richter’s Exquisite Mixer. The concept behind is a to apply the surrealist techniques of the exquisite corps game to patching.” – Tony Rolando (Make Noise)
I like many others once owned a Mackie 1604 mixer. At the time it offered major bang for your buck and it was built like a tank. Mackie thinks they have their next big hit on their hands with the DL1608. All I can say is they have created the best mixer commercial of all time (not that I know of any others…but). Please do watch.
“The Mackie DL1608 redefines live mixing by combining the proven power of a full-featured digital mixer with the unmatched ease and mobility of an iPad. With 16 boutique-quality Onyx mic preamps and the performance of 24bit Cirrus Logic AD/DA converters, you have unparalleled sound quality. Seamless wired to wireless iPad control means you can mix from anywhere in the venue. This gives you the mobile freedom to control not only the mix, but also powerful plug-ins like EQ, dynamics, effects and more. The sleek DL1608 even supports up to 10 iPads. Forget bulky consoles and racks of gear. The power is at your fingertips.” – Mackie
Here is a simple tip that most people overlook when mixing down in Ableton Live. If you hover the mouse pointer above the faders and below the sends you can grab the dividing line (see the pink arrows) and drag upwards to make your faders longer. I also like to click the Show/Hide triangles (see the red arrows) and hide the Browser and Clip Views.
If you want to focus on an individual channel you can drag it wider or if your running out of room you can make tracks super thin (see the orange square). You can also Show/Hide the In/Out section, Send/Returns, Track Delay Info and the Crossfader by clicking the small icons at the bottom right of the interface (see blue arrow).
I like to mix by ear as I am making the song. Then I create a mix view like above and see if anything strange is happening like the snare being 6db louder than everything else (it happens all the time!). With the channels fully stretched you can make tiny adjustments in volume and fine tune what your ears were telling you.
I am a mouse and keyboard shortcut guy. I work faster sitting in front of a LCD screen than in front of a hardware mixer. If your an Ableton Live user I highly recommend opening Live, go to the Help menu and select Read the Live Manual… Next, head directly to Chapter 26 “Live Keyboard Shortcuts” and start memorizing.
For those of you who still want to touch some knobs there is an interesting new device from Vestax that was announced at NAMM. The VCM600 was designed in partnership with Ableton and it’s specific use is Live.
There are lots of controllers out there and almost all of them will work Ableton Live but this one is in my radar for a few reasons. First off, it’s designed for Live. Second, Vestax is a on a roll lately. Have you seen the VCM-100/VCI-100? Highly gearlustable DJ controllers that match Apple’s Macbook Pro line perfectly. The third reason is: metal. These things are made of metal. The faders sit and slide in a metal chassis. Lastly, check out the sides of the unit. From underneath the curved edges is a row of white LEDs that light up the face of the unit in the dark. Wicked!
If you buy a hardware controller it’s for how it looks and feels. The new Vestax makes me want to touch it. That said, I’m still sticking with my Matias Tactile Pro Keyboard and Apple Mighty Mouse.
One of the best things about Ableton Live is it’s mixer’s flexibility. You can route any channel into another allowing for groups, vocoding, Rewire-ing instruments and side-chaining. One often overlooked feature of the mixer is Resampling.
So what is Resampling exactly? This fast and awesome feature lets you record anything coming out of the Master into a new clip. Let’s take a look how this works. First, open an Ableton Live project you have been working on. In Session View hit Command (Apple)-T to create a new audio track. Make sure the In/Out Section is showing. Above the Fader and Send amount knobs and under the Clips you will see “Audio From”. Click to view the drop down menu underneath “Audio From” and choose “Resampling”. Now when you hit play notice underneath where it says Resampling you will see a tiny meter moving with the music. This track will now record anything coming out of the Master.
Why is this good and how would you use it? One example would be to create a crazy fill. Because you Resampled into audio you can now really mangle it. Adding a multi effect plug-in like PSP Audioware’s Nitro or Audiodamage’s Dr. Device will do the trick! Let’s say you have a nice vocal and two back up vocal tracks. They all have different effects on them and also are pulling reverbs and delays from Send Returns. Your 100% satisfied with the vocal sound and want to free up space? You want to have those vocals on together in one audio file so you can create some stutter edits? Resampling is your friend.