Arturia KeyLab 61 MK II Review
Arturia has been around since 1999; albeit the fledgling company didn’t achieve any great success right away. It took a few years, but in 2003, things began to change dramatically for the French company when they released their first emulations of some best-loved classic synthesizers in VST plug-in format. Said emulations were coined “The V Collection” (V obviating the term, vintage). As time passed, and subsequent product revisions ensued, Arturia’s reputation grew, as did their V Collection; what, with its current iteration numbering 25 vintage synths, e-pianos, pianos and even a Mellotron (as of June, 2019). Moreover, Arturia has continued to refine and improve its TAE® (True Analog Emulation) technology.
Although Arturia’s software developments have generally been well-received, the company wasn’t content to focus solely on that side of the equation so in 2009, they made available their first hardware synthesizer, “The Origin”. Since that time, Arturia has continued to produce a respectable catalogue of hardware pieces including “Mini Brute”, “MicroBrute”, “BeatStep”, “MatrixBrute”, “AudioFuse”, and many others. Consistently, each of Arturia’s hardware offerings has proven itself to be solidly built and well-outfitted with ample functionality and plentiful accoutrements.
Our present investigation spotlights one of these: The KeyLab 61 MK II. This little darling rings the till at a moderate street price of $499 - $549 (USD) / $649 (CAD) in most retail shops. The unit I received is a black model (which I personally prefer), but of course, the KeyLab MK II series is also available in Arturia’s recognizable white carriage. Ensuring that even a first-time customer will be able to enjoy this delightful keyboard controller at its finest, Arturia has included full version licenses of Analog Lab 4 and Piano V 2. Analog Lab is a heaping compendium of Arturia’s entire V Collection, providing approximately 8000 presets culled from the entire caboodle. Piano V 2 is a collection of 12 modelled pianos comprising uprights, grands, and even a couple of unique theorems that marry traditional designs with imaginary metallic and glass cabinetry.
[Exciting Deep] Review of Eventide H9 Max | Reviewer's Revival
So just how much wallet-paper does it take to get an H9 Max onto your pedal board?
Eventide’s MSRP and most nearly every retailer’s listing comes in at $699 (USD) / $899 (CAD). If you’re thinking, “Sheesh! That’s a big chunk of change”, I would agree with you – on the surface. However, when you take into consideration that most nearly every one of Eventide’s enviable algorithms has been gleaned from their entire stomp box line, the price makes a lot more sense. This includes, but is not limited to, all modulation, harmonizing, pitch-shifting, delay, reverberation and tremolo algorithms. In addition, exciting H9-exclusive algorithms are here as well: UltraTap, Resonator, SpaceTime, PitchFuzz, EQ Compressor, Sculpt, CrushStation and HotSawz. Moreover, any algorithms released in the future will automatically be available for H9 Max users to download – at no additional expense. Purchasing algorithms a’ la carte costs $20 apiece (applicable to H9 Core and H9 Harmonizer units only).
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A61 [Exciting In-Depth] Review
Unless you've been imprisoned in Iqaluit, Nunavut, since the early 1990s, you’re no doubt very familiar with music technology mega brand, “Native Instruments” (NI). Chances are, the percentage of contemporary music producers, home-recordists, and DAW users who don’t own at least one NI product, is probably so low that it’s negligible to measure. Be that as it may, NI has pretty much always been the industry leader – perhaps even the industry creator – of all samples-based virtual instrumentation. Well, in regard to the personal computer and software DAW domains that is.
As magnanimous as NI’s sample and software archive is, they've not been strangers to the hardware side of the equation either. In particular, their Traktor rigs became tremendously popular with our musical wannabe cousins (DJs), and many a fine home recording was captured using Komplete Audio devices. Machine hybrid systems, which married percussive pad controllers to software samples, allowed electronic music artists to get as creative and hip-hoppy as their one drop hearts desired. The small studio and home producer crowd really sat up and took notice when NI released their industry-shaking line of dedicated keyboard controllers: Komplete Kontrol “S” series – in 49, 61 and 88 key configurations.
Q Up Arts California Keys [Exciting In-depth] Review
California Keys is not a single instrument. In addition to the acoustic grand piano – which was sampled in configurations ranging from stereo all the way through to 7.1 surround – Q Up Arts has stuffed in a collection of beloved, vintage organs and e-pianos. Albeit, Q Up’s take on some of the instruments is a little off-the-beaten-track, the “Cali Keys” bundle has quite a lot to offer.
The MSRP is a rather ambitious figure of $499 (USD), but the bundle is offered on sale occasionally, and Douglas Morton is conscious of making Q Up products available to students for amiable rates. Quite frankly, this helps Doug and his company stand out from the crowd; well-deserving to be duly commended.
e-Instruments Session Keys Electric Pianos Review
For those who might be acquainted with “Session Horns (Pro)” and “Session Strings (Pro)” - badged as Native Instruments products – e-Instruments’ self-branded “Session Keys” series of highly playable electric pianos will not come across as unheard-of-strangers. In fairness to software giant, “Native Instruments”, the aforementioned strings & horns libraries’ product pages do cite e-Instruments as the actual creators. As a matter of fact, it’s because of the company’s partnership with Native Instruments that e-Instruments gained ground as a relatively new developer at that time.
It’s fair to say that e-Instruments have certainly proven themselves to be top-tier sampling experts since 2010, weaving a pedigree of interest and notability. Enticingly so, their commendable “Session Keys” series of electric pianos are very fairly priced. Each one costs but $79 (USD) / €79 apiece. If at all possible, I do recommend that Canadian customers purchase using US funds. Even though the current exchange rate of USD to CAD (at the time of this publication) would result in an amount of $105 (CAD), for some reason e-Instruments’ online store charges a hefty $129 (CAD).
ESI U22 XT [Exciting, Deep] Review
Ok, ok. I’m just teasing – God bless the younger folks who want to get into recording and music producing – we all had to start somewhere. As a matter of fact, yours truly was only 13 years of age when I “bounced” my first three mono tracks down to a single track; making room for three more ‘live’ tracks on my father’s Phillips 4-track reel-to-reel recorder (circa 1973). For those of you whom are of the millennial generation or even younger - the iGen youngsters - you are seriously more blessed than you might realize. Old guys like me didn’t have nifty contraptions such as: snappy i5 or i7 laptops, multi-track DAW software, and portable audio interfaces when we started out. If I would've had access to a decent laptop, a good-sounding, low latency audio-interface and a FREE bundled starter DAW, I’d have been totally stoked!
Well guess what? This article is devoted to just such a scenario.
ESI’s entry point USB 2.0 audio-interface is prime example of when NOT to judge a book by its orange-y/copper cover. This tidy-looking little box is equally at home in both MAC and Windows setups and like most devices in its class; it features 2-In/2-Out I/O. Expected appointments, such as 48v phantom power and Mic/Line/Instrument connectivity, are at the ready. This sound card delivers an acceptable bit depth and sampling rate, coming in at a maximum of 24bit/96 KHz.
GG-Audio Blue3 v2 [Exciting, Deep] Review
. . . Blue?
If you’re an ol’ skool Hammond maven like I am, you’re expecting to see warm, earthy hues, and graphical textures reminiscent of walnut, cherry, and mahogany woods. Thankfully, these are now the very skin choices within Blue3 v2. And since I've mentioned UI (User Interface) choices, I’m very pleased to report that Blue3’s UI is fully re-sizable between 70 to 200 percent – sure to accommodate most contemporary screen resolutions.
Overall, I assess Blue3 v2 to be solid prospect for anyone in need of a good quality tonewheel organ VI (Virtual Instrument). I know many of us have long held GSI’s “VB3” in high regard, considering it to be the de facto standard where modelled tonewheel emulations are concerned. However, Blue3 v2 is a worthy contender and is poised to offer itself as a fit challenger.
Priced moderately at $99 (USD), Blue3 won’t break anyone’s bank account, but neither can it be considered a cheap, ‘No brainer’ deal. However, Blue3 v2 does not emulate a single organ – rather, it distinctly models five different tonewheel organs; as well as boasting exquisite, high resolution/retina-ready graphics (resizable, to boot). This VI produces good quality Hammond tones and a convincing rotating speaker (Leslie®) experience. Taking these laudable factors into view, Blue3 v2 rapidly appreciates in value.
Let’s flip those Run and Start switches shall we . . .
Overloud Mark Studio 2 [Exciting, Deep] Review
Mark Studio 2 bests its forbearer, Mark Studio 1, by upping the anti from three amp heads and six cabinets to six amps and nine cabinets, respectively. A selection of six modelled close mics is on hand, as is a satisfying (virtual) midi-controllable pedal board layout. Also included in the booty are a couple of front (room) microphones. Polishing off the kit is a built-in precision tuner with optional output mute. All of this bass-a-licious-ness is presented in an easy to use, intuitive UI (User Interface) complete with a robust, simplified preset manager.
A notable change, welcomed by all customers, is whenever a company *lowers* its prices, instead of raising them. This is just such a case in point – Mark Studio 2 offers more, and costs less, than its predecessor, coming in at only € 109/$129 (usd). Mark Studio 1 bore an exorbitant price tag of € 190 a few short years ago. Generous upgrade prices reduce that amount by no less than 40%, and during annual sales events, even more so.
ESI Unik 08+ Monitor Speakers [Exciting Deep] Review
An experienced engineer will have immediately noticed a glaring omission from the $1500 list noted above --reference monitors. That’s right – I’m talking about studio monitors. Headphones are great for privacy and noise isolation in a bedroom studio or college apartment, but when it comes time to render a good mix, those “Dr. Beats” just ain’t gonna cut it, mate. What you need is a (hopefully) treated room and a pair of good quality, accurate, flat-response reference monitors.
As it happens, yours truly is reviewing a pair of reference monitors that behooves our attention and consideration. ESI has upped their game greater than ever before and now produce a select, but very impressive, range of studio-reference-speakers. Crowning their speaker line is the princely UniK 08 Plus. These 140 watt, bi-amped beauties house a potent kevlar-curved 8” low frequency driver and an exceptionally clear-sounding magnetostactic tweeter.
Spolier Alert: Before we even get into the meat of the review, it is my sincere assessment that these powerful, attractive reference monitors contend very well against competitors selling for twice as much. Each “UniK 08 Plus” retails for $399 (USD), essentially costing about $800 a pair. Notwithstanding, the degree of accurate, detailed sonic quality that these speakers provide, for such a modest price, makes them practically a steal!
PreSonus Studio One Professional 3.5x [Exciting In-Depth] Review
It was late Spring, 2015 . . .
In a whirlwind of highly anticipated excitement, PreSonus went live with the release of their powerhouse DAW, Studio One v3.0. The third iteration of said software boasted impressive new features such as: signal/channel splitting, advanced effects routing, a revamped, high DPI interface, resizable mixer faders, “scratch pads”, a multi-tasking mouse tool, an arranger track, and the list goes on.
Readily available for both MAC and Windows PCs, Studio One is offered in three distinct tiers. Prime is the introductory level –it is downloadable completely au gratis. However, it lacks VST/AU support and even lacks most of the built-in effects found in the pay-for choices.
Taking up the middle child’s seat at the table is “Artist”. Artist ($99 usd) includes most of PreSonus’s built-in, native plug-ins, but continues to omit 3rd party VST/AU support. That said, VST support can be purchased from the PreSonus online store for $79 (usd), and once activated, will open up the mid-tier version’s functionality and feature set considerably.
Throughout the entire range of Studio One versions, there have never been limitations imposed on how many midi and/or audio tracks could be added to a song project. This remains a much appreciated gratuity from PreSonus; in both Studio One 3 Prime and Artist.
Lastly, the crowned prince of Studio One’s lineage, and the subject of this article’s focus, is Studio One “Professional”. No holds barred, “S1 Professional” shows off 64 bit (float) internal audio processing –as compared to “Prime” and “Artist” which each employ 32 bit (float) audio engines.
Complimentary mastering features and every one of PreSonus’s native plug-ins are on deck. Close to 30 GB of additional content (loops, samples, VIs, and etcetera), and a license for the full version of Melodyne Essentials 4.x is also included. Tous ensemble, it rings the til at a moderate cost of $399 (USD).
* Crossgrades and upgrade pricing are available for previous version owners.
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All of the articles published on Reviewer's Revival are undertaken to be purely objective, impartial reviews. Reviewer's Revival is not owned, funded-by, nor hired by any company or individual. Reviewer's Revival is the sole property of, and solely under the discretion and direction of, Brother Charles.