Tools of the Trade

AMS NEVE MMC 300/400 CONSOLES These two new post-production consoles from AMS Neve ( both offer a new central panel and touch-sensitive
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These two new post-production consoles from AMS Neve ( both offer a new central panel and touch-sensitive controllers, giving engineers total control over monitoring, source and surround mixing. Both boards also feature eight assignable faders that can be used as group, stem, aux or master faders — or additional input channel faders. The difference between the two is that the MMC 400 is fitted with conventional channel strips while the MMC 300 offers a knob-per-function assignable channel. Both consoles are Dolby-compliant and offer Encore automation with Encore Plus as an option. Other features include automation reconform; offline automation editing; and control of Pro Tools, Nuendo and Pyramix workstations through HUI and Oasis protocols. The consoles support high sample rates and up to 1,000 paths from a single rack. Priced per configuration.

Crafted with durability and road-worthiness in mind, these new two, three and four-space rackbags feature a hard plywood shell covered with GigSkinz's ( carbon fiber — style fabric. The bags come standard with mounting hardware, feature a big and roomy pocket to hold cables and accessories, and provide a quick-access zipped back panel for easy connections. The inside of the bag carries a plush felt lining and offers two carrying options: a nylon shoulder strap or a molded rubber top carrying handle. Prices: GSRB2, $119; GSRB3, $139; GSRB4, $149.

Anyone at the home level wondering how to produce a Podcast will have all of their questions answered by the Podcast Factory ($179.95) from M-Audio ( The bundle of products includes an audio interface with mic preamp operating up to 48k/24-bit and a dynamic microphone. The interface offers two channels, an XLR input for the microphone and a second ¼-inch input that toggles between instrument and line-level. The box also offers a zero-latency headphone output that shares a level control with the dual RCA outputs on the back; a handy mono switch is also included. Podcast Factory includes software (Mac or PC) that allows users to create a Podcast, add sound effects and then post MP3s with RSS feeds to the Web. It also comes with a collection of music loops in a variety of styles.

This new bundle from Applied Acoustics Systems ( promises to be “the ultimate solution in physically modeled software instruments.” The collection includes Tassman 4, Lounge Lizard EP-2, Ultra Analog VA-1 and String Studio VS-1. Tassman 4 is able to process and synthesize by combining subtractive, additive, FM and acoustic objects. It also offers more than 1,000 patches. String Studio VS-1 is a string modeling synthesizer that re-creates guitars, basses, clavinets, ethereal pads, organic textures and otherworldly sounds. Ultra Analog VA-1 models vintage to modern analog synthesizers, and Lounge Lizard EP-2 models various electric pianos. Price: $499; upgrade paths are available for users who already own one or two AAS products at the price of $375 and $249, respectively.

This attractive, new front-address condenser mic from CAD ( features a roll-off at either 75 or 100 Hz and a -10 or -20dB pad. The frequency response measures in at 20-20k Hz, and the manufacturer claims a low-noise design and exceptional sensitivity of -38 dBV (13 mV) @ 1 Pa. It will also take up to 15dB SPL, and it comes in a black-satin finish. Price: $249.

Ready for both Apple G5s and upcoming PC computers carrying PCI Express card slots, Digidesign's ( new PCI Express cards will take advantage of the blazing speed offered by the new information highway. Transmitting data across a series of “links” and “lanes” (each PCI Express lane is capable of 250 MB/s in each direction), the new format almost doubles the bandwidth that AGP 8x could offer. If you need more than the three slots that most computers will carry, the company is also releasing the Expansion|HD, a brand-new six-slot PCI expansion chassis that connects to the host Windows or Mac computer using either a PCI/PCI-X or PCIe expansion slot. The best news of all is that PCIe-compatible Pro Tools|HD systems are the same price as their PCI counterparts. Digidesign has expanded its hardware exchange program so that you can upgrade your Pro Tools LE or legacy Pro Tools TDM system to a Pro Tools|HD system for PCIe or PCI. There is also a crossgrade program for PCI users who want to move their Pro Tools|HD system to a host computer with PCIe slots.

The balanced power crowd will love Furman's ( new IT-20 Series II ($1,799). It supplies 20 amps of balanced AC power with more than 80 dB of common-mode noise reduction from a frequency range of 20-20k Hz. The unit includes Furman's proprietary Linear Filtering Technology (LiFT), which reduces transverse noise — making it a comprehensive noise-reduction solution. LiFT is part of Furman's SMP+ technology, which also offers non-sacrificial surge suppression and extreme voltage protection. The IT-20 II also includes a switchable ground isolator and a laboratory-grade digital voltmeter.

For those looking to build beefy audio platforms for the road, Alienware ( is now offering two new mobile base platforms featuring Intel Centrino technology. The MJ-12 m5700i ($1,499) offers dual-SATA hard drives in RAID configurations and a 17-inch widescreen LCD with ClearView technology. The MJ-12 m5500i ($1,049) weighs only 6 pounds and features a 15.4-inch widescreen LCD.

Fairlight ( brings it all together for music and post users with the latest addition to its DREAM console series. Each fully featured channel on the ANTHEM system provides six bands of parametric EQ; a two-stage dynamics processor with gate, expander and limiter; and up to 12 auxiliary sends. Channels can be configured in any format, from mono up to 7.1. Console layout is user-configurable in one of three modes. For tracking, Split mode comprises 48 fully featured inputs with 96 fully featured monitor returns, each with an associated recording and playback track, for a total of 144 channels. For mixing or for users wanting a more up-to-date desk, there is In-Line mode, which is available with 96 long faders and 96 short faders (192 channels in total, EQ/dynamics shared). In-Line Plus offers 72 long faders and 72 short faders (144 channels, each channel having its own EQ/dynamics). The third mode, Constellation, offers the company's industry-proven post-production technologies. Starting price: $130,000.

Six is your lucky number if you're purchasing the Anthology II ($1,195) plug-ins from Eventide (, a completely new bundle for TDM users comprising 15 plug-ins (six new). The newest of the group includes the EQ65 and EQ45 48-bit double-precision vintage equalizers; the E-Channel and Ultra-Channel channel strips, both with configurable signal path; Precision Time Align, which provides the ability to align separate tracks; and Quadravox, which features four voices of diatonic Harmonizer pitch shifting. Eventide's tried-and-true plug-ins model the company's legacy hardware units and others, including the H910, H949, Instant Phaser, Instant Flanger, Omnipressor, Eventide Reverb, Octavox, H3000 Band Delays and H3000 Factory.

Those looking to add some tube “essence” to their signal path will want to check out the new M4 console from TL Audio (dist. in the U.S. by Independent Audio, The console is available in 16, 24 and 32-input channel configurations, each with tube preamps, a direct track output with level control, 4-band EQ, four auxiliary sends and optional 24-bit, 48/96kHz mix output option and 24-bit, 48/96kHz ADAT interface I/O. Each channel features switchable phantom power, preamps with a gain range of +16 dB to +60 dB with a 30dB pad, mute and PFL switches with LED and a highpass filter (-3 dB @ 90 Hz). Prices: $5,050, 16-channel; $9,025, 24-channel; $11,350, 32-channel.

Looking tempting in its 18-carat-gold jacket, the Royer ( R-122V ($3,495) features the same large-ribbon transducer assembly found in the R-121 and R-122 active ribbon microphones. The “V” ups the R-121 ante because it offers -29 dB of output, approximately 25 dB hotter than the R-121. The R-122V's active electronics use a NOS 6AU6 vacuum tube and Royer's proprietary toroidal ribbon-matching transformer. A Jensen 8:1 ratio output transformer provides an electrically isolated, fully balanced output signal. Because of its powered output, the R-122V can easily drive virtually any preamplifier and long cable runs (from power supply to preamp). The active circuitry provides optimum impedance to the ribbon element at all times, preventing over-damping. The R-122V employs a pure (99.99%), low-mass, 2.5-micron-thick aluminum ribbon.

Previously only available in Japan, this affordable line of circumaural audiophile headphones from Audio-Technica ( features the ATH-AD700 ($249), ATH-AD500 ($169) and ATH-AD300 ($119) open-air dynamic headphones and the ATH-A700 ($299) and ATH-A55 ($179) closed-back dynamic headphones. The units offer large-aperture drivers, double air-damping system, copper-clad aluminum wire (CCAW) voice coils, a self-adjusting 3-D wing support housing, velvet or leather ear-fitting pads and high-quality titanium-alloy cable or oxygen-free copper cable with a gold-plated stereo ⅛-inch connector and ¼-inch adapter.

Versatile and feature-packed are not often words that go with “affordable,” but Soniccouture ( has married all three in its Variable Ambience Drums ($49). Programmed for Native Instruments' Battery 1 and 2 and Kontakt 1 and 2, the kits comprise more than 1,300 24-bit samples with seven velocity layers and up to five positions on the snares. Users can mix real room ambience samples recorded with the drums via MIDI controllers, giving the ability to mix the kit from dry and intimate to big and wet. Kits include variable ambience kits, a loud rock kit and a kit recorded in an anechoic chamber, making it perfect for use with added reverbs and rooms.

In collaboration with studio designer Russ Berger, Auralex Acoustics ( has released the SpaceArray ($399). The wood-finished diffuser offers hemispherical acoustical diffusion and is based on a quasi-random series that provides superior performance without visual patterning. Each 24×24-inch solid wood panel is strong and light and can be used in a variety of placement options. The SpaceArray is one of the first offerings in the new pArtScience product line, a family of acoustical treatments designed for exceptional performance with a custom look.

Hot from Winter NAMM, Sony's ( new plug-in bundle for Pro Tools incorporates six existing products into one affordable bundle. The package features Sony's EQ, dynamics, transient modulator, inflator, reverb and limiter. Prices: $2,695 (HD), $1,075 (LE) and $2,150 (upgrade price for Oxford EQ owners).

TC Electronic ( just keeps putting out the plugs. The Fabrik R (reverb) and Fabrik C (channel strip) both feature the company's Meta Intuitive Navigation Technology (MINT), allowing users to intuitively respond to any audio material with just a few simple knobs. Below the user interface, hundreds of high-resolution parameters are adjusted, leaving the user with simple controls to execute any creative decision. Fabrik R combines four new TC reverbs: FabrikLive, FabrikHall, FabrikPlate and FabrikClub. Fabrik C comprises a high-resolution channel EQ, de-esser and 3-band/full-band compressor. Price: $375 each.

Based on its 603 mic, MXL's ( 604 ($179.95) is a front-address cardioid condenser that's targeted toward instrumental recording. The slender small-capsule mic is able to fit in tight spots and offers a -10dB pad, making it able to withstand high SPLs. The satin silver — finished mic also features a low-frequency roll-off, and ships with a mic clip, a windscreen and a wood storage box.

Antares ( is now shipping Auto-Tune 4 for Pro Tools TDM systems on Windows XP. Auto-Tune 4 TDM XP offers Windows users all of the power of the Macintosh TDM version, including compatibility with the iLok USB Smart Key. In related news, maintenance releases of Auto-Tune 4 RTAS PC and DirectX are now available to add compatibility with iLok USB Smart Key authorization…Apogee ( is offering firmware Version 1.72 for the X-HD card. It resolves a timing issue in Pro Tools 7 that caused inconsistent recognition of Apogee and Digidesign interfaces during boot up. X-HD V. 1.72 is also backward-compatible with earlier versions of Pro Tools|HD…CreamWare's ( SCOPE line of DSP cards is now shipping with software V. 4.5. The software package features new plug-ins such as the “SBC” Spectral Balance Controller mastering plug-in. Upgrades are also available for current SCOPE users; see the company's Website for details…Metric Halo ( has released ChannelStrip V. 2.1 for TDM and RTAS, making it compatible with Pro Tools 7 within Pro Tools 7 TDM, LE and M Powered…Cubase ( System|4, Steinberg's integrated music production system, now includes Cubase SL 3.1 with new features and capabilities, as well as a new driver for Mac OS 10.4 Tiger…MOTU's ( 828 mkII interface now supports high-speed USB 2, allowing connection to any compatible Mac or PC. Both 828 models are identical, except for their connection to the computer via either FireWire or USB 2…Roland ( has released V. 3.5 for its MV-8000 Production Studio. The free ugrade features audio track and mute automation, recordable MFX control knob movements, 3-band EQ added to the audio and instrument parts, a Pencil tool added to the Piano Roll window and a Patch Preview mode added to the Import function…In a major collaboration with Sound Devices (, SoundField Ltd. now offers its SoundField B-format surround decoding on Sound Devices' 744T 4-track production audio recorder. 744T firmware revision 1.57 (and later) now offers B-format-to-stereo decoding without additional hardware. In related news, SoundField ( has released a new update for the Surround Zone plug-in for Nuendo/VST (V. 1.02) for both Mac and PC platforms.