Studio Diary #11: Thunderbolt 3 Brings A New Problem

I’m currently getting my home studio more organised, and along the way I’m sharing my thought process, decisions, discoveries and regrets.

When I traded for the Apollo x6, I couldn’t test it right away. Universal Audio don’t include a Thunderbolt 3 cable with their Apollo units. I had to buy one separately from somewhere.

It’s frustrating that UAD (and their competitors!) don’t include an essential cable in the box. But I already knew that they didn’t. That’s an inconvenience, not a problem.

The problem is that Thunderbolt 3 cables are much shorter than Thunderbolt 2 cables. The Apollo x6 is in a studio rack about 3-4 metres away from where my computer normally sits.

Continue reading “Studio Diary #11: Thunderbolt 3 Brings A New Problem”

Studio Diary #8: The Cheapest Way To Expand A Universal Audio Rig … Is To Buy From A Competitor?

I’m currently getting my home studio more organised, and along the way I’m sharing my thought process, decisions, discoveries and regrets.

I’m a huge fan of Universal Audio’s Apollo series of interfaces. I’ve been using an Apollo Twin for the last three years, and I’ve been delighted with the results. And, while the plugins cost serious money, they’re a damn sight cheaper than buying the genuine analogue outboard gear.

What I’m not a fan of is the cost of the hardware for home users like myself. And, specifically, what it costs to get more mic preamps.

Continue reading “Studio Diary #8: The Cheapest Way To Expand A Universal Audio Rig … Is To Buy From A Competitor?”

Slate Digital VRS8 Interface Launched

Slate Digital has launched the VRS8, their 8×8 recording interface for Thunderbolt-equipped Macs.

For home studio enthusiasts who want pro-level gear, there’s really only three ways to do it: Universal Audio Apollo, Slate Digital VRS and the Everything Bundle … or buy a standalone interface and collect your own plugins from lots of different vendors.

The UAD system relies on DSP chips in the Apollo hardware to run emulations of analog outboard gear. You have to buy these plugins separately, and they cost hundreds of pounds each. The results are fantastic, and not only well worth the money, but also far cheaper than buying (and maintaining!) the real outboard gear.

There’s just one problem, and it’s the reason why I haven’t bought any UAD plugins this year. The Apollo hardware is simply underpowered. It doesn’t take many plugins to max out the available hardware. And if you’re a home studio enthusiast, it’s a lot of money to move from the Apollo Twin up to the Apollo 8.

Enough money to consider looking at switching to something else.

Now Slate Digital has its own serious problem to take into account. It’s secured by an iLok key. Look at a modern Mac. Where the hell do you find a free port to plug the iLok into these days?!? One port is taken up by power, one by the external storage that the session is on, one by your audio interface, and one by your external monitor.

Yes, I know there’s a virtual iLok now. I live in the UK, where our broadband is about as reliable as a Trump tweet or a Brexit promise. I don’t want a (rare!) creative day ruined because of a broadband outage.

That said, the Slate Digital VRS looks really interesting. For pretty much the same price as the Apollo 8 Quad, you get 8 preamps and a year’s access to the Everything Bundle. (The equivalent UAD Ultimate Bundle is currently over £2,300 and doesn’t include all of the plugins). And your Mac will be able to run far more plugins at once than the quad-DSPs of the Apollo 8.

Thing is, if I’m going to use all 8 preamps, I’d want the Apollo 8p, not the Apollo 8. The difference? The extra Unison preamps, which model the electrical behaviour of whatever outboard gear you’re simulating. I’m a big fan, and a big believer that part of the organicness of a recorded tone comes from the interaction of the electrical circuit.

Question is, though: is it a difference that is noticeable in a final mix? And is it a difference that’s worth the extra money?

How Rabea Makes Kemper Profiles

Rabea Massaad has posted a video showing us all how he makes profiles for his Kemper.

This video is perfect timing for me perfectly. We have a long weekend coming up here in the UK, and I’m planning on spending all three days with my Kemper. Any tips I can get will save me a lot of frustration.

I hope we see Rabea’s Kemper profiles available soon. Is there going to be an official Victory Amps profile pack, I wonder?

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment.

UAD v9.5 Is Out!

Universal Audio has released v9.5 of their plugin software platform today. The highlights are three new plugins to buy:

  • Helios Type 69 Preamp & EQ
  • Friedman Buxom Betty Amplifier
  • A/DA Flanger

To promote the release, Universal Audio has posted some short promo videos over on YouTube:

If you’re not familiar with UAD … they’re custom software plugins that you buy and run on Universal Audio’s Apollo hardware. Each plugin is a faithful recreation of some of the finest studio equipment around. Although the hardwae and the plugins aren’t cheap – right now, the Ultimate 6 Bundle is £2,999 – they’re a lot cheaper than the real gear, assuming you could get it in the first place.

I’ve had the Apollo Twin for about 18 months now, and I wouldn’t go back. I’ll write some articles about my experiences with it soon.

Universal Audio OX

Henning Pauly has just published an in-depth look at Universal Audio’s OX amp top box. It’s a much-anticipated reactive load box, attenuator, and digital speaker simulator all in one.

If you’ve not come across Henning before, he’s been doing great YouTube gear demos for years. He’s a professional musician and producer, running his own recording studio over in Germany. Anyone who makes living from running a recording studio is worth learning from – they have to know what they’re on about to stay in business.

A long video, so you might want to make a drink before you settle down to watch this one.

Personally, I’m reluctant to sink money into digital gear, as a rule. Digital gear isn’t cheap, and you’re unlikely to still be using it five years down the road. If you put the same money into analogue gear, that gear can last you 20+ years. And it often sounds better.

Universal Audio though is one exception to my rule. The Apollo gear isn’t cheap, sure, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than the gear that the Apollo system models. Much of that gear is unobtainium to us home tone folks … and where would we put it even if we could get our hands on it?

The OX is an option for anyone looking to record real amps silently at home. You plug your amp’s speaker out into the OX, and take a line from your OX into your recording interface. No need for a real speaker, or the hassle of mic’ing up your cab.

You’re limited to the models that Universal Audio provides; this thing won’t run your favourite impulse responses. Henning covers that in his video. I imagine that UAD will make more models available in the future, if the OX sells well enough.

It sounds fantastic in every demo I’ve watched so far. And price wise, it seems very competitive with its main competitor, the Two Notes Torpedo Studio.

At the moment, I’ve gone down the Two Notes Captor route. I’ve built up a collection of impulse responses over the last 4 years, and they’re more than good enough for what I do. (I’ve also picked up a Kemper. More about that soon!)

But I will be keeping an eye on the OX. I really want to move more of the signal chain off the computer, and reduce the amount of work it has to do when I’m recording … and the OX would be a great way to do that.

Please head over to YouTube and leave a comment if you liked Henning’s video.