Focusrite 2i2

Focusrite Release Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface

There are so many routes for manufacturers to go down when it comes to a market as saturated as the audio interface market that the only way to really make a splash is to be either flat out the best or by far the best value.

the price tag means it’s almost certainly going to be in the value for money shortlist

Without having one in our hands we obviously can’t speak on the newly announced Focusrite Scarlett 2i2′s quality, but the proven track record of Focusrite (they make some of our favourite interfaces because of their excellent pre-amps and converters) crossed with the $150/£120 price tag means it’s almost certainly going to be in the value for money shortlist. A simple card with a 1/4″ headphone jack, pair of 1/4″ TRS outputs and Neutrik combi jack ins, each input with switchable +48v phantom power, 24/96 operation and a large level dial and space saving multi colour metering ‘halos’ around the gain knobs, it looks very interesting nonetheless…

Listen to this beautiful track by Jono Mcleery too. We like.

Propellerhead Balance

Propellerhead Announce Balance Audio Interface

Coinciding with their announcement of Reason 6 and Reason Essentials, Propellerhead are taking their first step into the third dimension with the unveiling of Balance, a 2/2 USB bus powered audio interface. 24/96 recording quality and a heap of inputs, including two XLR mics with+48v, two guitar ins with a pad, and two stereo 1/4″ inputs.

interesting features include the ‘Clip Safe’ dynamic level attenuator and an onboard tuner

A headphone and two 1/4″ outputs come out the other end, and which of each you use at any given time is selected atop the unit. We love the look of the unit – it’s something of a design statement and we’re big fans of things out of the norm (the bright red Monkey Banana Turbo monitors we have in for testing at the moment will attest to that. We never want to see them leave!). More interesting features include the ‘Clip Safe’ dynamic level attenuator and an onboard tuner, and the built in Ignition key will make it easier to use the upcoming Propellerhead software – considering that Balance is only available as part of a package with Reason Essentials but there’s a free update to Reason 6 for existing owners of Reason or Record on purchase we think that Propellerhead are really taking the Studio in a Box idea to the next logical step: including the audio interface.

Balance is out on the 30th of September just like Reason 6 and Essentials, but until then you can take a look at the Propellerhead made video…

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6

Review: Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6

Native Instruments, in their quest to streamline their product lineups into easily understandable categories, recently released the Komplete Audio 6 and booted their Audio Kontrol 1 into retirement. Rather than a simple rebadge however, they’ve designed a whole new product; we take a look to see what’s changed…

Product: Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6

Compatibility: Mac/PC

Connectivity: 4x 1/4″ TRS outputs and stereo S/PDIF out, 2x 1/4″ TRS inputs, 2x combi inputs with +48v and stereo S/PDIF in. MIDI in, MIDI out, headphones.

Price: £249GBP / $299USD

The Komplete Audio 6 doesn’t stray too far from the design blueprint NI laid out for their audio interfaces a while ago; a thick steel coat wraps around three and a half of the box’s surfaces, with the sides tough matt plastic and the fascia a glossy black with lights to indicate levels and inputs.

The Komplete Audio 6 doesn’t stray too far from the design blueprint NI laid out for their audio interfaces a while ago

NI have given the displays a refresh, and the new look (shared with the Traktor Audio 6 and 10) makes it easier to take in information at a glance… and we think it looks nicer too.

Input and output wise, every analogue connection is balanced, with a stereo S/PDIF input and output, four ¼” TRS outputs and two inputs round the back, and two combi jack inputs on the front which can provide phantom power. There’s also MIDI in and out on the back, as well as a clever USB port that locks the cable in and makes it really difficult to pull out by mistake – perhaps a feature developed more for NI’s Traktor Audio range than what will in most cases be a somewhat sedentary piece of equipment, but cool nonetheless.

The Komplete Audio 6 supercedes the Audio Kontrol 1, and the hardware is much more streamlined.

Komplete Audio 6 supercedes the Audio Kontrol 1, and the hardware is much more streamlined

The top panel now simply features an analogue 5o’clock – 7o’clock dial which attenuates the level of output one and two, with gains for the inputs and direct monitoring channel on the front of the unit. Output three and four adjustment no longer have analogue gain attenuation, permanently set to 0dB.

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NI Komplete 6

NI Komplete Audio 6 Out Now

The Komplete Audio 6 from Native Instruments has just been released – one’s winging its way over as we speak, and there’ll be a review of it very soon.

one’s winging its way over as we speak

Until then, check out the announcement and all the specs in my previous post here – this could be the ideal small interface for home and project studios…

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6

Native Instruments Announce Komplete Audio 6

Native Instruments are streamlining their product line to make associations between their hardware and software lines as clear as they can; they recently appended the word Traktor onto their new range of DJ focused audio interfaces, and have followed up by doing the same with their production focused interface, now the Komplete Audio 6.

NI promise even clearer sound and lower latency

As the successor to the Audio Kontrol 1, the Komplete Audio 6 features a similarly production focused set of attributes. Certain less popular features – such as 192kHz sample rate and the MIDI control on the unit – have been removed in the transition, whilst others have been added. Whilst the sample rate is now a maximum of 96Khz, NI promise even clearer sound and lower latency, and the front knob is now a simple, smooth analogue volume control. There are now two XLR/TRS combi inputs (with 48v phantom power) and a S/PDIF pair in addition to a TRS input pair, two sets of TRS outputs, headphone out and MIDI I/O, and having had a brief fondle of the unit it definitely has that NI stamp of quality all over it.

It’s due out on the 2nd of May, and will retail at €299. Keep an eye out for the full review on Oh Drat very soon – until then you can take a look at the specs of the Komplete Audio 6 at Native Instruments’ site.

Arturia Analog Experience

More Musikmesse!

So, today is the final day of Musikmesse, and it’s open to the public – are you down there? I’m safely home now, and sorting through the mountains of information and footage I have; things will start getting uploaded over the next few days. My Day One Highlights post has some of the things that really caught my eye, but it’s by no means everything!

I was very lucky to be able to run my hands over Native Instruments’ Komplete Audio 6

It was great to be able to get my hands on Apogee’s Duet 2 interface, I was very lucky to be able to run my hands over Native Instruments’ Komplete Audio 6, I got a nice preview of Arturia’s Spark and Analog Experience Laboratory ahead of my reviews,

I got a nice preview of Arturia’s Spark and Analog Experience Laboratory ahead of my reviews

a new monitor range from ESI featuring ribbon tweeters, Presonus’s 16 channel StudioLive, and Tascam’s new 8 track digital recorder. It’s all in the works, so keep checking back, subscribe to RSS, Like the Oh Drat Facebook page and Follow Oh Drat on Twitter!

Apogee Duet 2

Apogee Announce Duet 2

Apogee’s new product announcements this year, Jam and Mike, have been focused on providing mobile markets with low cost, single input interfaces – until now, with the unveiling of the two in, four out Duet 2.

The Duet 2 takes Apogee’s beautiful design ethic to a new level with its sleek black and aluminium looks, and a full colour OLED display which shows off metering, grouping, muting, limiting and phantom power status. The large front encoder is now complemented by two touch sensitive pads, assignable in the newly updated Maestro software.

Redesigned converters and preamps that take advantage of Apogee’s research in their top end Symphony system now support ultra high quality 192kHz sample rate

Beauty’s only skin deep, of course, so it’s just as well that Duet 2 features totally revamped inner workings. Redesigned converters and preamps that take advantage of Apogee’s research in their top end Symphony system now support ultra high quality 192kHz sample rate, soft clip limiting promises to smooth out hot signals and provide warmth instead of nasty digital clipping, and fully balanced outputs.

Two final upgrades to the initial incarnation of the Duet may be of particular interest to music producers and live musicians; the interface has changed to USB2 from FireWire400, and yet achievable latency has been decreased, and outputs have been increased to allow a separately adjustable headphone output. A review of ONE is in the works, which will be shortly followed by Duet 2 – keep your eyes peeled! (until then, head over to the Apogee site for more information…)

MOTU Audio Express

MOTU Announce Audio Express Interface

MOTU have just announced a new desktop audio interface: the six channel in/out, hybrid USB/FireWire400 Audio Express. Featuring two TRS jack and two pre-amped combo inputs, four TRS outputs and 24/96 stereo S/PDIF in/out.

The most interesting feature of the Audio Express is its standalone capability

 

There’s also MIDI I/O, complemented by MOTU’s Direct Digital Synthesis for sample accurate clock locking,and a headphone out.

The most interesting feature of the Audio Express is its standalone capability; aided by front panel mixing controls, the Audio Express doesn’t require a computer connection to accept inputs and route them through to its outputs, and MOTU’s Precision Digital Trim technology enables 1dB audio adjustments with save and recall of channel settings.

Audio Express looks to be a really interesting purchase for a home and small band user that uses a computer for tracking and finishing, but has standalone instruments they use for composition – its £330GBP retail price is quite high in light of competition from Focusrite, but its hybrid nature and combination of portability and mixing control sets it apart slightly. More news on how it sounds when it’s released and I get to test it… until then, you can check out more at MOTU’s site.

Footnote: I’m also conscious of the number of forward slashes I’ve put in this piece.

Intel Thunderbolt

Apogee Announce Thunderbolt Product Development

The new Intel Thunderbolt interface is one of the most promising new technologies to be announced in years – true bi-directional 10Gbps bandwidth, which equates to roughly 20 times that of USB2 each way, daisy chainable, and combined with DisplayPort compatibility (well, it is Apple co-developed) – and according to Sean Mcarthur, Apogee’s Head of Marketing, “Thunderbolt will take the confusion out of choosing a professional connectivity standard for audio production.”

“Thunderbolt will take the confusion out of choosing a professional connectivity standard for audio production.” Sean McArthur, Apogee

With the brand new MacBook Pro models already supporting Thunderbolt, and many other models (presumably the new iMacs will sport a connection, and maybe even the new Mac Mini, who knows?) and hardware manufacturers – PC included – following soon, Apogee’s large studio scale power is going to be available to even laptop users, with a single connection. Exciting times are afoot…

jam-gain-control-knob

Apogee Announce JAM

Apogee make some gorgeous audio interfaces. From the studio level I/O and quality of the Symphony series to the refined, minimalist features of the ONE and Duet, their A/D converters are some of the crispest on the market. Until now, though, they’ve commanded a premium that’s placed them out of reach for some.

we’re reaching the level of technology where professional level recordings can be made anywhere

Enter JAM – a sleek single channel audio interface featuring Apogee PureDIGITAL converters, designed not only for Mac but for iPhone and iPad, too. Better still, it’s $99USD. This is potentially a very exciting release, especially when twinned with Apple’s impending iPad 2 (in fact, there’s a JAM in the premiere video for iPad 2); we’re reaching the level of technology where professional level recordings can be made anywhere, affordably.

The JAM has been designed for electric guitar and bass, but it will of course accept any similar input source. One thing is it tied to, however, is Apple. Mac, iPhone, and iPad are supported, but in grand Apogee tradition Windows is left out in the cold. JAM launches on the 31st of March, and I’ll be getting my hands on one to test the quality in due course…

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