Steinberg Nuendo 4

By Steve Murphy | Originally published in Pro Audio Review magazine

It’s Post-Time for Steinberg’s promising workstation workhorse

In the eight years since its introduction, Steinberg Nuendo has matured into a full-featured, high-end studio and post production workstation system – one that is increasingly recognized by post and studio engineers as an attractive alternative to the reigning Digidesign Pro Tools. A major push towards the post-production market started in earnest with Nuendo 3, so it t is no surprise that it is in this area of Nuendo 4 ($1799) that the most competitive and impressive strides are made. Ladies and gentlemen, start your audio engines…

Hustle and Flow STEINBERG Nuendo 4 Screen Shot Full copy

Nuendo 4’s default layout and workflow are quite intuitive, allowing new users to get up and running with a minimal learning curve. The program generally follows the traditional DAW layout with a timeline-based Project editor and associated channel-strip mixer. These are augmented by a number of fixed, floating and pop-up tool sets and dialogs. Digging a little deeper rewards users with a tremendous amount of custom control over Nuendo’s look and operations, thanks to its expansive Preference, Key Command/Macro and external Sync/Control dialogs.

Nuendo uses a 32-bit floating-point audio engine, has delay compensation throughout (including external hardware), supports up to 192kHz/32bit recording (plus import, editing, and mixing up to 384kHz.). The cross-platform DAW supports all 32-bit versions of Windows XP, Vista, and Mac Universal Binary. A 64-bit “preview” version is available for Vista 64 , and a Mac Leopard counterpart is in the works.

For a complete rundown of general features and specifications, please refer to Steinberg’s website (; also check out. PAR‘s previous Nuendo reviews, which are available at

Natural Scale Enhancement

Nuendo 4 includes wealth of enhancements that span the gamut from expanded editing tools to a spanking-new, first-class automation system. Composers will be pleased with a new global Transpose track that significantly speeds up the process of roughing-in, rescaling or repurposing cues. Transpose affects all events and parts; though it is easy to exclude elements, and changes can be limited, bypassed or compared. An An Arranger track also helps to quickly build up longer composition frameworks – sections of the timeline can be quickly defined and then reordered, repeated, chained, queued and/or triggered in various ways. Arrangements can later be “flattened” to the timeline for traditional editing, overdubs, transpositions, etc.

All users will enjoy the 38 new and generally multichannel-aware VST3 plug-ins. While the previous fare provided utilitarian coverage, I have found the VST3 plugs to be on par with – and occasionally superior to – the best third-party plug-ins. My fav new processing perk is the terrifically improved four-band parametric channel equalizer that replaces the previous rudimentary model. The EQ – built into every mixer channel – now includes a variety of high- and low-pass, shelf and parametric filter choices, filter-inverse switch, and an excellent GUI.


Applications: Studio, Post-Production, Location, Live


New in N4: comprehensive automation; extensive media management; 38 new VST3 plug-ins; expanded routing options; track presets; quick controls; unified instrument tracks; dedicated post editing tools; 32-bit Vista PC and Universal Binary Mac compatibility; expanded Euphonix EuCon integration.

Price: $1799


Post and design editors will appreciate the 20 dedicated editing commands and tool modifiers that N4 brings to the desk, including heads/tails, range-size and positioning and cross-track alignment tools. An enhanced EuCon adapter (optional) further expands MIDI, automation, routing and plug-in integration between Nuendo and Euphonix consoles & controllers. General post features including MP3 surround support, audio and video pull up/down, replace audio in video, file conforming, split-timeline and personal favorites Edit Mode (video scrubs while moving and resizing events, adjusting fades, etc.) and comprehensive Control Room speaker management/cue/TB section add to the power and speed of posting in Nuendo.

Several of the new items that have topped Nuendo users’ wish lists for some time will also go far to make Pro Tools users feel more at home. Most notable is the ability to copy, move and reorder plug-ins via drag & drop, thoughtfully implemented throughout all relevant sections of the program. Also of note is the native support of plug-in side-chaining that is part of the new VST3 spec, plus a vastly expanded channel routing system that, among others, permits the recording of FX returns and groups to audio tracks for stems. And there was much rejoicing!

Automatic For The People

The richly expanded automation system not only wins the “Best in Show” award, but significantly ups the ante for the competition as well. The customizable control panel at center of the automation system is notable not only for the new features – the majority of which mirror those found in Euphonix’ excellent System 5 series – but also for its clean, touchscreen-like design that provides at-a-glance visual feedback of essential control states.

The range of Fill tools are particularly handy for finding a desired setting and then retroactively writing that value throughout a designated area. Fill To Start and To End writes the “punch-out” value (the last recorded value when a control was released) in the direction indicated; Fill To Punch fills from the punch-out point back to the punch-in point; and Fill Loop uses the punch-out value to fill the area within the L/R “loop” markers.

In earlier versions, all controls related to a mixer channel were affected when its Read or Write button was engaged. A new Suspend section permits seven different control subsets – Volume, Pan, EQ, Sends, Inserts, Mute, and all Others – to be individually excluded from read and/or write operations. A new Virgin Territories mode writes automation data only while a control is actively engaged, and leaves gaps of unwritten, virgin territory in between. Controls simply coast from the end of a written section to the start of the next, and can be freely adjusted within the empty sections. A button is provided to fill in the gaps if desired.mc_head_on_nuendo_web

Perhaps the most powerful of the new auto functions are found in the Preview section. Beyond the ability preview, compare (Suspend) and write (Punch) automation changes, punched sections are automatically stored and can be recalled for use elsewhere in the project. A group-select tool with the particularly obtuse name of Touch Collect Assistant writes a data point for all related controls when one member of that group is adjusted (e.g., when an Aux Send is adjusted its On/Off status is also written). This ensures that all relevant control settings, not just the one adjusted, are copied/pasted.

Any of the global write modes (Touch, Latch, Trim and new X-Over) can now also be selected on a per-track basis. While not the most glamorous of the new features, this unexpected gem has boosted the amount I can accomplish per pass by allowing a number of tracks to be placed in “set-and-forget” Trim and/or Latch modes, while the tracks on which I am most focused are in Touch.

Logically Managed & Media Savvy

Two other set-piece additions to N4 are the Project Logical Editor and the MediaBay database system. Similar to Steinberg’s staple MIDI Logical Editor, the new PLE enables the use of logic-based filters, operators and functions to automate simultaneous changes to edit-window elements. Specific tracks, track types, audio events, MIDI events, automation data (and many settings related to the above) can be targeted using a range of filter conditions, whereupon desired editing and transformation operations can be performed. New and modified logical routines can be stored as named presets, and these can be assigned to a key command and/or called directly from other macros.

When the logical filtering abilities of the PLE are combined with macros (which draw from a nearly full range of program commands), powerful new utilities – such as application-specific conforming, automated ADR alignment or multitrack drum quantizing – can be crafted. As an avid user of custom macros and key commands – in conjunction with a Radikal control surface and a couple of PI Engineering’s excellent X-Keys USB controller/keypads – I am very excited about the timeline-element specificity added by the PLE, and the creative and labor-saving possibilities it affords.

On the utilitarian front, Nuendo 4 includes many new media file and preset management tools. The sheer number and variety of seemingly redundant management features – MediaBay, Loop Browser, Sound Browser, Sound Frame, Search Media, Project Browser and the original Project Pool – was a touch confusing at first, to say the least, but the pieces fell into place eventually.

The first key to making sense of this apparent mess is that the above named are, for the most part, spawned from the same omniscient entity called the Media Management System (managed file types include: MIDI; video; Track, EQ and plug-in presets; sound effects, loops and samples; and all project-related files and data). MediaBay is the primary user interface for organizing, tagging, searching and auditioning system-wide and project-related files/data. The MediaBay has expansive search and sorting options, and supports auditioning of files at project-tempo and in sync with the project transport.

The second key is that Nuendo historically has emphasized user flexibility, especially when it comes to accessing preference settings and menu commands via shortcuts and hardware controllers. To that end, many of the aforementioned dialogs and browsers are simply stripped-down subsets of the MediaBay, which makes access to specific data quicker and more control-surface friendly.

Sound Frame is the link between the database system and the expanded set of objects and locations throughout the Nuendo GUI that permit the storage and recall of presets. Presets relevant to the selected object type can be stored, tagged, edited and/or searched using the MediaBay dialogs, or simply browsed, previewed and recalled using a simple list. Portions of presets (e.g., just the EQ) can also be extracted from complete Track presets. A healthy collection of already-tagged and categorized presets for all of the above object types is included.

Glad You Asked

On my wish list for Nuendo: expanded implementation of the [Alt/Opt] modifier as used to affect selected tracks (e.g., as it does now when setting multiple channel I/O’s and automation write mode, but not when adding plug-ins, setting tracks to Read/Write, record etc.); integrated edit conforming/matching for replacing scratch-res files and matching video cuts; allow the tempo track to be displayed in the timeline like the Marker, Arrange and Transpose tracks; and build the Project Logical Editor conditions and commands into the macro interface (as line items or subroutines).

Lastly, one niggle – please implement the automation write-mode-per-track function on Group and FX tracks – and one old rant: the program’s woeful channel linking and hiding hasn’t effectively improved since N2. Nothing can be added or subtracted from a link group; linking can’t be bypassed/re-engaged; links can’t overlap (e.g., an overheads and a all-drums group); and there is no visual indication of which channels are linked. The barely useful “Can Hide” function (Now Convoluted With Command Targets!) are no more than Band Aids. Still only one group of user-selected channels – those set to “Can Hide” – can be hidden in the mixer display, and there’s no option for this to affect the edit-window track display. Steinberg, please take a moment to look at PT’s elegant, unified linked-channel and channel-hiding section. Rant over.

Summing Block

Nuendo’s speed and exceeding flexibility has been a breath of fresh air, especially following a decade of avid PT use (which I necessarily continue to use when working in area facilities). Integrated features such as networked processing, multi-room and multi-seat project sharing, IP-based collaboration, built-in support for all major project exchange standards and media file formats, and the development-friendly VST plug-in spec all serve to reinforce the open nature of Nuendo. And, of course, as a native application, users’ systems can be configured to specific needs using the wide range of computer components, audio and video interfaces, clocks and DSP plug-in cards available on the market.

Nuendo Version 4 is without a doubt the most ambitious and rewarding upgrade to date. Though its multitude of new post and management features – including top-notch automation and media management systems – have kept me busy with the books for months, I’m looking forward to see what Steinberg will do for an encore.

For more information on Stephen Murphy v41.5 please visit New version includes measured increases in S/H (scalp-to-hair) and Gear-to-Debt ratios; same user-friendly interface.




+First-class Euphonix-like automation and expanded EuCon integration

+ Many new post-production tool sets & features

+ Comprehensive media management system


– Lacks decent edit- and mix-channel linking/hiding


For the review, I principally used Nuendo 4 on my main quad-processor XP Pro system that also includes two TC PowerCore and two Universal Audio UAD-1 DSP cards, an RME Fireface 800, a DeckLink HD video card and a Radikal SAC-2.2 control surface. I also added N4 to my backpack Nuendo kit comprised of a dual processor Dell laptop, a TC PowerCore Compact, a Frontier AlphaTrack controller and a mini Pelican case to protect the Hub o’ Dongles.


Solid State Logic Duende Mini

By Steve Murphy | Originally published in Pro Audio Review magazine


In the 1965 article entitled Cramming More Components Onto Integrated Circuits, Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore observed that the number of transistors that can be inexpensively placed on an integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years, and predicted that this exponential trend is likely to continue. This prescient analysis became known, quite famously, as Moore’s Law.

I am not invoking Moore in reference to the small size or processing power of the Solid State Limages-1ogic Duende Mini, but instead to the Mini’s ever-expanding primary market: laptop-based, native digital audio workstation users. Moore’s Law, loosely applied, suggests that as laptop contemporary performance continues to increase, more DAW users will be attracted to the potential benefits inherent to going mobile. Lightweight, DSP add-ons such as the Duende Mini significantly increase the allure and, of course, power of portable production setups.


The Duende Mini ($995) is a 1RU FireWire-based plug-in processor. Its sleek and lightweight brushed aluminum chassis sports a spartan set of features comprised of a front-panel power button; parallel six-pin FireWire 400 connectors and a 12V DC power input jack. Included with the Mini package is a FireWire cable, adhesive rubber feet, and a universal power supply with a variety of AC outlet adapters. The Mini can also be powered by the FireWire bus over1394A (6-pin) connections.

Minimum system requirements for Windows PCs include: Intel Pentium IV 1GHz or equivalent; XP SP2 (32-bit Vista is also supported); and 80MB of free hard disk space. For Macs: PowerPC G4/G5 or Intel 1GHz; OS X (Version 10.4.8 or higher); and 60MB hard disk space. Both platforms need 512MB RAM though 1GB is recommended.

VST and RTAS versions of the EQ and Dynamics Channel Strip plug-in are provided for Windows, and VST, AU and RTAS versions are provided in a universal binary format for both Intel and PowerPC Macs. A selection of optional plug-ins, including the famous SSL Bus Compressor, the Drumstrip drum processor, X-Comp and X-EQ are also available from SSL for $399- $599 each.

In Use

Installation of the Mini on my laptop (a 2GHz dual-proc Dell with 2GB of RAM, XP Pro and Steinberg Nuendo 4) was quick and painless. The latest software version offered online is a full install package so there’s no need to bother with the boxed CD, and the installer auto-upgrades the firmware if required – nicely done.

I was a bit surprised when I found that, unlike competing DSP systems, the Duende Mini includes includes just one plug.-in. That plug-in, however, is the quite substantial EQ and Dynamics Channel Strip – outfitted with trademark SSL filtering, EQ, compressor/limiter and expander/gate sections. The Mini can power up to 16 mono instances of this plug-in at 44.1/48kHz or eight at 88.2/96kHz. In a bit of brilliant strategic planning, the Mini can be field-upgraded to 32 channels ($399) via a software authorization process that simply unlocks the power of additional, pre-installed SHARC chips.

Fast Facts

Applications: Studio

Features: DSP-powered plug-in processor; FireWire 400 interface; bus-powered with 6-pin 1394A equipped computers; universal power supply with worldwide AC socket adapters; 16 mono channels of plug-ins at 44.1/48kHz, 8 at 88.2/96kHz; includes the EQ and Dynamics Channel Strip plug-in.

Price: $995

Contact: Solid State Logic at

It wasn’t long after loading up 16 channels of the strip into the Nuendo mixer that SSL’s intentions with its singular approach became apparent. The Nuendo mixer instantly took on the appearance and – as subsequent knob twiddling revealed – much of the sonic signature of a 9000. The latter, as it turned out, is not surprising given that the Mini’s processing engine and analog modeling is derived from the C200 digital consoles, which in turn emulate the EQ and dynamics sections of SSL’s flagship “SuperAnalogue” XL 9000 J and K consoles.

The Channel Strip plug-in is comprised of sweepable high- and low- pass filters, a four-band EQ section (two parametric mid-bands, two bell/shelf switchable semi-parametric outer bands and E/G curves), and dynamics section that includes the classic SSL channel compressor/limiter and gate/expander. Input and output meters and level knobs are provided, as are gain-reduction meters for both dynamic processors, and a phase-invert button. 

The Channel Strip sections are nearly identical* to those found on the SSL Duality console/controller I reviewed in April 2007, and in the SSL X-Rack modular system reviewed this past December and January; both reviews are available online at and on my website. Each control and unique feature – including the dual E-/G-series filter response curves, EQ-to-Dynamics side chaining, the compressor’s hard-knee peak sensing mode, auto-makeup gain and more – is covered in detail and in-use, so please take a look. *The only actual feature differences I found were that the plug-in EQ is G-Series mode by default (swichable to E), the sweepable high-pass maxes out at 500Hz instead of 600Hz, and the plug-in benefits from the ability to display EQ/Dynamics signal flow and side chain mode graphically.

All in all, the emulations of the XL9000 K (via the C200) in the Channel Strip are a joy to behold outside their original environments and, more to the point, in my DAW. And I definitely get the “virtual console through channel strips” concept. What I don’t get is why the individual processing sections of the Channel Strip – EQ, Dynamics and Filters – couldn’t be provided as discrete plug-ins as is done in most other systems. This, of course, would allow more economical use of available processing (and encourage interesting combos with other plug-in makes), and reduce the temptation to use the whole channel strip when only the EQ was needed – you know, the “because it was there” and “couldn’t let them go to waste” rationalizations that lead to overuse.


After many weeks of using the Solid State Logic Duende Mini and Channel Strip plug-in in a number of ways and in varying amounts and on a variety of project types, I came to two overall conclusions: 1. The SSL Duende Mini running the EQ and Dynamics Channel Strip plug-in does a super-impressive job of capturing the sound of its SuperAnalogue XL9000 K counterpart and, 2. All things in moderation.

Having the mixer in Nuendo look, behave and sound like an SSL C200 has been a joy – a real blast, to own the truth – but I found that it’s also easy to get carried away with such a fun and singular processing tool that an overly aggressive buildup can occur. Mixing up the SSLs with my old friends from the UAD and PowerCore platforms not only broadened the overall sonic scene but also served to spotlight in the mix the tracks that benefited most from the familiar SSL sounds-like-a-record signature sound.

Having the Duende Mini in my system and the many Channel Strips a mouse-click away feels like owning a piece of rock – highly recommended.

PAR Studio Editor Stephen Murphy was engineered and produced by his parents a little over 41 years ago. Despite the visible scuffing, he should be able to bring in a fair price.


Product Points


+ Spot-on analog emulations

+ Minuscule (6.5″ x 6.5″), light (3lbs) and bus-powered

+ 2 pre-installed DSPs can be software-activated for 32 channels of processing


– Only includes one plug-in

– Individual Channel Strip sections not broken into discrete plug-ins for DSP-economical use

The Score:

No substitute for the real SuperAnalogue stuff, but super-close!


API 1608 Analog Console

By Steve Murphy | Originally published in Pro Audio Review magazine

– A Classic Console is Reborn

The API 1608 console is outwardly modeled on the original API 1604 console, whose production run spanned much of the 1970s and into the early 1980s. These vintage workhorse consoles continue to hold a great deal of value and demand; to wit, many stock (as well as Franken-modified and resurrected) 1604s are still in daily use in tracking rooms, broadcast facilities and mobile recording operations.

Internally, the 1608 can perhaps be described as the child prodigy born of the vintage 1604 console and the more mopar_api_1608b dern, largeformat Legacy range. In its stock configuration, the 16x8x2 console ships with 16 input channel strips and faders, 12 550A semi-parametric EQ modules and four 560 graphic EQ modules, a stereo-bus master fader, an eight-input summing-bus sub-master module, four dual echo/send return modules (accommodating the console’s eight auxiliary sends and returns), eight unpopulated 500 Series module bays, a complete central facilities and monitoring section, and a full meter bridge with illuminated analog VU metering for all 16 input channels (capable of monitoring preamp output, direct output and sub-master output levels) eight echo return busses (capable of monitoring send output levels) and the L/R main program busses.

API also offers an expansion frame loaded with 16 input channels and the same EQ compliment for $39,900, as well as unloaded (no EQ) versions of the both the console and expander for $35,000 and $25,000 respectively. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you about the automation fader package upgrade for a little over ten grand (rumored to also include a DAW fader-control layer!) but perhaps they will make an announcement soon…

Let’s start with some generalities: All of the console’s generous input and output points are located on the rear panel; all input/return points are actively balanced (excepting instrument inputs) using API’s trademark all-discrete 2520 and 2510 op amps, and all output/send points are transformer-balanced; all external I/O connections are on XLR and TRS 1/4-inch jacks with the exception of several DB-25s principally used for multichannel input and monitoring groups; and virtually all buttons on the 1608 illuminate when engaged, which proves to look very cool in a dark control room.

At the top of the channel strip — or bottom rather, as the 1608 retains the reverse-orientation of the original 1604 — is a mic/line/instrument input section outfitted with an API 212 preamp and its customary controls: Gain knob, Mic/Line selector, 48V phantom power, Pad (-20 dB mic/-6 dB line) and polarity reverse. The Mic/Line selector button doubles as a peak level indicator by glowing red (regardless of which input type is in use). Mic and line input connectors are XLR, the Hi-Z instrument input is a switching (overrides mic) TS 1/4-inch jack, and the preamp output is available on a TRS 1/4-inch jack.

Continuing up the strip are the send controls that feed the 1608’s eight auxiliary busses. Sends 1-4 are configured as mono sends with individual level controls (in concentric pairs) and send on/off buttons (nice!). The remaining four sends are grouped into stereo pairs 5/6 and 7/8, with each pair having a concentric stereo level and pan knob plus send on/off switch. All sends can be placed pre- or post-fader in odd/even pairs. Borrowing a feature from the Vision range, a To Bus switch on 7/8 routes its level to any of the first four sub-masters, where it can then be summed back into PGM (to aid in independent parallel processing tasks).

At the top of the input strip is the routing and output section. Each input channel can be routed to the main stereo program bus (PGM button) and/or directly to any of the eight submaster summing busses (using assignment buttons 1-8). By engaging the PAN button and using the channel’s pan pot, also located in this section, the output signal can be placed across a panorama between any selected odd and even summing busses. Note that a channel’s post-fader/post-mute XLR direct output is always active.

Fast Facts

Studio and project studio

Key Features
16 input channels with 212L mic preamps; 12 x 550A and 4 x 560 equalizer modules; 8 aux sends, 8 returns and 8 sub-master busses; full stereo and multichannel (5.1) monitoring section; 8 open 500 Series bays; analog VU metering; extensive patch connections on rear panel.
Starts at $49,900
API Audio | 301-776-7879 |

This section also includes controls for highpass filter engage (FLTR, -3 dB @ 50 Hz, 6 dB/octave) and insert return engage (INS). The half-normaled insert path is placed between the equalizer output and the fader input, and external gear can be connected using the corresponding rear-panel TRS 1/4-inch points. Speaking of equalizers, each channel’s preamp output is half-normaled to the input of the EQ module fitted immediately above it; EQ modules can also be patched for alternate use via the rear-panel 1/4-inch TRS EQ I/O points on the rear panel. Since the proportional Q, reciprocal filtering and other features of the excellent API 550As and 560 are well-known and documented, I’ll save the space for more 1608 coverage.

An Alps 100mm fader serves as the channel’s primary output level control to the direct out, summing busses, stereo program bus and, of course, designated post-fader sends. Immediately above the fader are the channel’s Mute and Solo buttons. Two much-appreciated inclusions here are a solo-safe button, and an assignment button to add the channel to the 1608’s single master Mute Group (remember no VCAs/no automation). The specific function of channel Solo buttons is determined by the global selection of PFL, AFLor SIP (destructive soloin-place) on the 845B Central Facilities module Also located on the 845B are the Mute Group master controls, including the thoughtful option to also mute the pre-fader send outputs on channels assigned to the group.

The 1608’s center section provides a wealth of monitoring functions including the selection of three sets of monitor outputs (Main, Small1, Small2), with the Main monitoring outputs supporting up to six channels for 5.1 surround monitoring. Other monitoring features include Mono summing, speaker cut, monitor dim (with dedicated level knob) and a master input selector that offers the choice of three external sources (all six-channel capable), the eight aux busses in stereo pairs and the main PGM out. There is also a dedicated headphone amplifier with on/off switch and under-armrest stereo 1/4-inch jack, as well as a full talkback compliment that includes a built-in mic and T/B To Aux, T/B to All and Slate momentary buttons.

Each of the eight summing bus sub-master sections on the 168B module has separate L and R main program bus assign buttons, a bus on/off switch, a bus Solo button (AFL/PFL), and a Trim knob that provides from 0 to 84 dB of attenuation of its respective balanced (unlike the original 1604) 2520-based active combining amplifier. The 1608 also provides similar control of its main stereo bus summing amplifiers, with individual left and right master on/off switches, Trim attenuators and a stereo insert (PGM INS) engage/bypass.

One of the most impressive and flexible sections on the 1608 can be found in a fairly unlikely place: the E1608 Echo Send/Return modules. The echo VU’s read echo sends. The VU Return button allows monitoring of the echo return signal. Each echo return input provides a full output and routing section similar to that found on the channel strip modules, with eight assignment buttons for routing to the sub-master busses and a PGM button for assignment to the main stereo bus, plus a Pan engage button and knob to enable L/R panning across the main L/R busses and odd/even sub-master bus pairs. A return output level knob is also provided along with Solo, Mute and Safe buttons identical in function to those on the full channel strips. Additional Aux and Mix buttons select as the return’s input a corresponding rear-panel auxiliary input (on TRS 1/4-inch and DB-25) or the output of the corresponding send bus, respectively.

If the possibilities for this section (and the console in general) aren’t already swimming about in your head and expanding exponentially, let me help you along. Not only are these eight mild-mannered “echo returns” really Super Inputs with multiple switch-selectable input sources and full channel-strip solo/mute and routing control, they are also — Tada! — normaled to the console’s eight open 500 Series slots. Add in eight 512C preamps and, well, you can guess the rest…

The API 1608 is endowed with refreshingly unfettered internal routing and external patching facilities, leaving the user is free to create, configure and reinvent how the console is best used for any immediate purpose or to adapt it over time as needs change. While the use of the 1608 can be as simple and straightforward as desired, some more creative options are certainly possible. For instance, by patching the console’s preamp outputs directly to a DAW’s inputs and the returns from the DAW into the EQ inputs, the 1608 becomes a simultaneous high-end API multichannel DAW front end and a full-featured multichannel summing mixer with all EQ, sends and sub-master features available for the mix. Likewise, by putting the board’s sub-master outputs and routing capabilities to good creative use, multichannel surround mixing is easily possible, complete with built-in, fully calibrate-able surround monitoring.

When I first heard about the API 1608, I couldn’t help but wonder what corners were cut and where the skeletons were buried to bring out an API console at under $50k. As I delved deeper into the product literature and block diagrams, and as confirmed firsthand on my visit to API HQ, not only did I not find cut corners but on the contrary, I was repeatedly impressed with the 1608’s expansive and imaginative features: a full compliment of balanced I/O points along all audio paths, full access to individual channel circuit components, adjustment pots at all the important calibration points, extraordinary internal routing options, and an expansive central configuration and monitoring control section.

These are the hallmarks that make large-format — and large-investment — consoles a joy to use and a relative breeze to maintain. They are essential elements in the hub of a busy, multi-purpose commercial studio and the first things I expected cut to meet such an attractive price point. To say I was pleasantly surprised to find them at all — let alone in such abundance and in such a thoughtful implementation — is a great understatement.


Solid State Logic Pro-Convert

By Steve Murphy | Originally published in Pro Audio Review magazine

– This well-appointed conversion solution from SSL puts the Holy Translation Grail within reach. –

Transferring a multitrack session with edits and handles intact from one DAW application to another is a generally fragile process—a process that can break in many different ways and at many different places. The commonly supported EDL (Edit Decision List) and object-oriented exchange standards—most notably OMF, AAF, MXF, AES31 and OpenTL—are no doubt powerful tools. Developpar_ssl_proconverted to varying degrees of success by manufacturer consortiums and associations, these standards have gone a long way towards  realizing the near-divine quest for free and unfettered media project exchange.

But unilateral changes, application updates, multiple standards versions, handling errors, unsupported/mismatched features and file formats, and countless other quirks introduced by specific platforms conspire to routinely shift the sand underneath what those of us on the sending or receiving end hope will be a stable and predictable transfer process. Add to that the large install base of programs that offer no standard EDL standards support (many “LE” versions) and/or charge a premium to get it as an add-on, and the shifting sands start to spin.

See the complete review [PDF]


Primacoustic London Primakit Acoustic Treatment

By Steve Murphy | Originally published in Pro Audio Review magazine

With the miniaturization of professional quality recording gear comes the miniaturization of recording spaces. The prohibitive costs associated with building a studio from the ground up combined with smaller space requirements have led many to utilize existing – and typically rectangular – rooms for project and professional studios.Primacoustic1
Unfortunately, typical home and office rooms are not ideally suited for professional audio purposes. Worse, many people pour all their resources into accumulating equipment and give acoustic matters little or no regard.
Primacoustic, a decade-old architectural and industrial acoustics design group based in Vancouver, has responded with a range of affordable acoustic treatment systems targeted towards existing-room situations.

Primacoustic has designed its Primakit acoustic treatment systems to tackle the most predictable problems associated with rectangular rooms. Primakits include a collection of absorptive and diffusive products specified to provide basic broadband acoustic treatment. Although they do not address other serious acoustic issues like structural isolation, kits such as these ensure greater potential for acoustic accuracy over haphazardly applying foam everywhere – a common practice that can actually make the room’s acoustics worse.
Primacoustic makes several exotically named Primakits (Rio, London, New York, Montreal) geared towards specific-use rooms including control rooms, voice over booths and video post suites.
The London Primakit systems are specifically designed for use in control rooms and single-room project studios. Four different London models are available to treat a range of approximate room sizes: London-12 for 12-foot x 9-foot rooms ($450); London-14 for 14-foot x 10-foot rooms ($600); London-15 for 15-foot x 12-foot rooms ($700); and London-16 for 16-foot x 12-foot rooms ($875).
The London systems are comprised of four separate high-density, open-cell foam elements, each treating a different acoustical condition. The kits are based on the tried-and-true live-end/dead-end (LEDE) theory of studio acoustics which provides for a neutral balance of live reflective ambience and broadband absorption.
The first element in the London system, the Europa Flutter Wall, is mounted behind the speakers, forming the “dead end” of the studio. Comprised of varying foam shapes and thickness, the Europa is stated to evenly absorb frequencies 400 Hz and above and aid in reducing standing waves, slap echo and back reflections from the monitors.
The second element is the Orientique Washboard. These angled foam panels are mounted on the side walls opposite each other and are designed to reduce side-to-side flutter and “smear” as well as absorb primary reflections.
Next are the Scandia Scatter Blocks, comprised of smaller blocks of the same angled high-density foam. Intended as the “live end,” the blocks are mounted in a spaced-apart fashion on the rear wall to diffuse direct reflections and standing waves.
Last are the Australis Corner Traps. These large wedges provide solid mass for bass absorption to a stated frequency of 45 Hz.

In use
For review I was sent the London-16 kit, the largest of the London series. The kit arrived in seven UPS-shipable cartons and came complete with Liquid Nails adhesive for mounting the foam.
Included in the London-16 are six Australis Corner Traps, a Europa 83 Flutter Wall (8-foot x 3-foot) for the front, four Orientique Washboards and Scandia 85 Scatter Blocks (8-foot x 5-foot) for the back wall.
The target install room was 19-foot x 11-foot and has several windows. Primacoustic notes that if your room size does not quite match the specified kit sizes, additional elements can be purchased individually.
I chose to mount most of the foam on foam core poster board and then mount the completed element on the walls using mirror channel strips. This worked well, allowing flexibility in fine tuning the room and portability should I have to move the studio.
One of the coolest features of the Primakits is its modularity. The Europa Flutter Wall, for instance, is made up of several sizes and shapes of foam strips and blocks that can be arranged in a variety of patterns.
The foam can also be lightly sprayed with latex paint to fit the decor, as I did in this installation. This worked well, but care must be taken to ensure an even look. On one wall that has a painted mural on it, the Orientique Washboards and Australis traps were painted into the design (see photo).
After installing the London kit, the acoustics of the room improved measurably. Compared to the untreated room, one of the biggest gains was a large reduction of corner bass build up. This alone served to improve clarity and imaging by eliminating low and low-mid anomalies and masking.
Another obvious improvement was the general reduction of quick reflections that cause wash, distraction and listening fatigue; a more pleasurable listening experience in general.
I found the rear “live end” Scandia Scatter Blocks, comprised of intermittent angled foam blocks and bare wall, to be less effective in reflecting/diffusing sound than I hoped. Instead, it seems the foam absorbed more than it diffused, which is not unlikely, give it is the exact same foam used in the absorptive walls. The high frequency diffusion was significantly improved when I thickly painted the face of the individual blocks (which also helped with the bass/low-mid build up along the rear wall by adding mass and retaining the larger waveforms).

There’s no substituting the results of a professionally designed and constructed studio with something that comes in a kit. Likewise, there is no comparison between an untreated home or office room (or an improperly treated room), and one that has been treated with a broadband acoustic system such as Primacoustic’s Primakits. The London system installed easily, looks professional and successfully improved the existing poor acoustics of the test room.

Westlake 8.1 and Mackie HR824 studio monitors; Hafler H3000 power amplifier; Digidesign Pro Tools MixPlus workstation; Zaolla Silverline analog and digital cables.
Contact: Primacoustic at 604-942-1001, Web Site


Overcoming Aural Adversity

By Steve Murphy | Originally published in Pro Audio Review magazine

by Stephen Murphy

I trace my start as an audio engineer back to my brother David, older by four years. He was already a good guitar player at 16, playing in a rock band that practiced in our basement.

More than anything else, I wanted to be in the band, too. And why not? I was getting better at the guitar and I could sing OK. Since I had nothing to lose, I swallowed my little twelve year old pride and begged — a lot.

You’re too young, not good enough and your voice hasn’t even changed yet!,” was his dismissive mantra.

Being a stubborn little  bugger, I was not going to some minor technicalities stand between me and the band. So I tried a different approach: I pleaded my case that I

could bring a unique musical angle to the rock band.

No clarinet, final.”

Come on, man. What band doesn’t need an electric fuzz-wah clarinet? Hey! Gimme back my reeds!


Good thing I didn’t ask about my bass clarinet.

I decided to try another tack: I offered to be the “soundman” for the band, not that I knew what a “soundman” was yet. I found out quickly.

What’s a Soundman?

A “soundman” is the one who runs upstairs and shuts the basement door when it is accidentally left ajar, preventing the “sound woman” (Mom) from shouting at us during rehearsal.

A “sound man” is the one who breaks down microphone stands, unplugs cables and cleans up after rehearsals – again, preventing the “sound woman” from becoming irate.

A “soundman” is the one who records the band’s practices on my Dad’s old two-track Revox reel-to-reel. Aha! Now we’re getting somewrealmic1here.

So began my long quest to ever improve my engineering skills and make higher-quality recordings. Once I figured out that the two tracks on the Revox could be recorded separately, I suggested to the band that we record the music first so they could concentrate on their not-so-stellar vocals later (yes, I am still bitter about them rejecting my “high-pitched girlie vocals”).

The infectious Recording Bug bit hard, and I schemed about how to add tracks and improve fidelity. Complications arising from the Recording Bug led directly to my contracting the chronic Accumulate Audio Gear syndrome, for which there is no cure. Except money — or, more precisely, the lack thereof.

So I made do with what I had, adding new bits here and there. I bounced tracks between two cassette decks, and later, open-reel decks. I bought a noisy mixer and built my own electronic projects (thank you, Craig Anderton and PAiA).

At one point, I am embarrassed to admit, I dreamed of owning a couple of Radio Shack High Ball microphones for recording. Nineteen-seventies home recording veterans take note: that’s the High Ball, not the better fidelity High Ball II model pictured.

Aural Adversity

The beauty was that my budding audio engineering career could only go up from there. That is to say, there is inherent value in aural adversity.

Certainly I am a better and more versed engineer for having survived “innovative” recording techniques, time-consuming electronic kits and tedious troubleshooting. The old adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” comes to mind (although some of those improperly wired electronic kits came awfully close to the former).

Most professional engineers, producers and studio owners will conceed that they started the same way: making the most of what they had available at the time.

And at that time, all my recordings had the same non-musical opening – a tide of white-noise modulated by the wow and flutter of recorders in service well beyond the manufactures’ best expectations.

Maybe one day I’ll be asked, “Daddy, why did you always start your old songs with the sounds of the ocean — and what’s up with those high-pitched girlie vocals?”


SSL Duality Analog Console/DAW Controller

By Steve Murphy | Originally published in Pro Audio Review magazine

The appropriately-named Duality adds fully featured digital audio workstation control to a fully analog large-format console.

The concept of combining a digital mixing console with computer workstation control is a natural match. In fact, it’s not so much a match as the same thing. In both cases, the same hardware faders and controllers are communicating with digital mixing/processing software, whether residing locally (in the mixer) or remotely (in the workstation computer). At this point, I am not aware of any professional digital console — whether $500 or $500,000 — that does not offer external control capabilities. This is no longer news.

What is news is when one of the most respected high-end console manufacturers announces its latest fully analog large-format console is equipped with full-featured workstation integration and control. Combining a “best of” set of features from its large-format analog consoles with the comprehensive control technology of its AWS 900+ workstation system, Solid State Logic’s created just such a beast with its new Duality console.


Despite stiff competition for a shrinking market, UK-based console manufacturer Solid State Logic could be successful well into the future based simply on the respect and momentum generated by its juggernaut analog consoles of the last three decades. But throughout its recent history, SSL has continued to develop its products and expertise, emerging as an early pioneer in analog surround, computer-controlled analog and fully digital console and workstation technology.
It could be easily argued that the Duality represents the epitome of all that SSL has produced, both conceptually and literally. I say “conceptually” because Duality’s dual functionality adeptly takes a head-on tack towards the large control surface arrays and I/O banks that have made their home where large-format consoles used to reside. I say “literally” because the console literally features the best bits of many of its most popular consoles and, in some cases, when the designers (and the vocal SSL user base, I’m sure) were faced with a devil’s choice between two equally popular same-type elements, they included both.

As for specific pedigree, the Duality console features the sharp TFT channel displays of the C-series digital consoles, both E- and G-series channel equalizer curves, SSL’s peak-sensing and RMS/over-easy channel compression circuits, moving-fader and VCA-style (actually DCA) automation, multi-operator (!) Total Recall, the extended-range “SuperAnalogue” mic preamp (first introduced in the 9000 J), as well as a second “Variable Harmonic Drive” mic preamp path — quite the “Greatest Hits” playlist, complete with alternate versions!

The Duality is a 24 track-bus analog console with a central digital routing and monitoring control section. In addition to the 24 output busses, the Duality employs a six-buss main mix output path (divided into pairs A, B and C) that can be configured for 5.1 surround purposes or as three discrete stereo pairs.
Central section features include 5.1 (with flexible LFE source and bass management control), stereo and stereo down-mix output and monitoring, four stereo returns with full routing options, stereo analog VU and phase meters, and a LCD bar-graph section with 5.1 and stereo bus meters, 6-bus follow-monitor meters (what you are listening to), stereo solo/AFL meters, 24 track-bus meters and meters for the console’s two stereo cue/aux and four mono fx/aux output busses.

The console maintains balanced signal paths throughout and, according to SSL literature, boasts a frequency bandwidth that exceeds 192 kHz.


Key Features
24 track-bus analog console; TFT channel displays of the C-series digital consoles; E- and G-series channel equalizer curves; peak-sensing and RMS/over-easy channel compression circuits, moving-fader and VCA-style automation, multi-operator Total Recall, the “SuperAnalogue” mic preamp; second “Variable Harmonic Drive” mic preamp path; feature-packed central digital routing and monitoring control section.
Starting from $240,000
Solid State Logic

In Use

I had the pleasure of spending a day in Sheffield Audio-Video Productions’ (Phoenix, MD) Studio A, exploring their 48-channel SSL Duality console. Sheffield’s Jake Mossman and SSL’s Don Wershba quickly brought me up to speed with an overview of the console before diving into the finer points of this impressively innovative yet refreshingly easy-to-navigate console.

Users of SSL consoles — especially of the analog 9000 K- and digital C-series, and the AWS 900+ natch — will be right at home with many of the features found on the Duality, though there are plenty of new features and twists on some old ones to explore. Those who haven’t worked on an SSL previously will face a steeper learning curve, but I can’t imagine a professional independent engineer with a couple hours to spare before a session not being able to master the core console and control operations.

Let me first run down the channel strip before getting into the overall console/control-surface implementation — kind of like eating my desert before dinner, as the strip is always the sweetest part of an SSL.
The console breaks away from the traditional in-line model (full channel and monitor paths per strip) and moves to what SSL calls “Split-Mode” architecture. In this similar-but-different, streamlined approach, each channel has the traditional two input sources (channel and monitor) but one shared (via flip, split and routing functions) set of EQ, dynamics, filter, aux and cue paths/processors. Given that the Duality is weighted heavily towards use with a multichannel DAW system (with its own layer of channel and output controls etc.), this approach makes good sense from economic and console-complexity standpoint.

In its most direct configuration, the channel output (CHOP in SSL-speak) is derived straight from one of the two input preamplifiers and routed to any of the 24 track busses, which in turn feeds the DAW system inputs. The CHOP output section provides your “to tape” level control (+/- 20 dB), phase reverse and the option to move the strip’s third-order 18 dB/octave high-pass filter (range: 20 to 500 Hz) and second-order 12 dB/octave low-pass filter (range: 3 kHz to wide open) out of the monitor path and into the record path.

The two preamp choices provide one of the most useful creative options I’ve seen/heard on a large-format console (or any size for that matter). The direct-coupled SuperAnalogue preamp satisfies the “SSL jones” in us all with its ultra-wide and quiet signature sound, while the variable harmonic drive (VHD) circuitry imparts a gentle tube-like quality when set conservatively, and pleasing-to-extreme overdrive can also be dialed in. A flip button routes the monitor (“from tape”) signal from the buffered line input into the variable gain amp, allowing post-DAW preamp “processing.”

The dynamics section reflects the schizophrenic (I mean it as a complement) nature of the Duality perfectly, providing both the classic RMS side-chain over-easy compressor (with selectable fast-attack mode for that trademark drum compression!) and an aggressive-sounding peak-sensing compressor for overt effects. The gate/expander, uh, expands on the usability of the familiar three-control 4000-series section with an innovative Hold option that turns the release knob into a hold-time control and imposes a fixed release curve. Pushing the eminently useful hi-res TFT channel metering/routing screens (situated above each group of six channels) into a higher level of usefulness, compressor and gating gain reduction is displayed in two small simulated LED meters.

Each channel has its own dynamics section key input for linking gates, frequency-driven compression etc. Adjacent compression sections can be linked for preserving multichannel dynamic relationships (using the voltage-summing method). The aforementioned filter section can also be routed into the dynamics section sidechain, and the whole dynamics section can be placed pre- or post-EQ. The inclusion of a side-chain/key-input listen (routed to the PFL bus) is the cherry that sits on top of this feature-rich slice of SSL dynamics goodness. Mmmm.

With no treatment in sight for its split-personality disorder, the Duality insists on providing even more creative options in the EQ section, simultaneously providing the look and operations of the classic SL4000E EQ section, and the option to switch to the steeper curves and gain/bandwidth interdependency of the G-series. No complaints here! The four-band EQ features two fully parametric mid-band equalizers and high and low shelving equalizers (each switchable to a fixed-Q bell curve).

An Insert In button routes the balanced send/return insert points into the channel input path (post trim). Pressing the Post button cycles the insert point routing to two alternate locations: post EQ and post dynamic section. The Duality features a highly flexible stereo cue and fx sends implementation, including the ability for any fx or cue send to derive its source from a number of points including the default monitor path, the channel output (for latency-free phones mix), or an ALT alternative input (the input not assigned to the main channel path). Any send can be disengaged completely by pressing its knob.

I found the channel surround panning section to be intuitive, well implemented and highly flexible — certainly not the case on most analog consoles whose principal architecture is designed around stereo busses. For 5.1 mixes, the Duality uses XY-style panning, with LR (Left/Right) and FR (Front/Rear) controls plus a LFE bus feed/send and a Focus control, which alters the proportion of signal fed to the L/R busses versus the Center bus. A pan-to-track function routes the LR pan outputs to odd/even pairs of track busses.

Finishing out the traditional bits of the channel strip are two scribble strips (electronic and good-old analog grease pencil type), cut and solo switches (with options in behavior determined by central control and console mode), eight fader group assign switches (for VCA-style group control), a select button (for including that channel in central control routing operations), console and DAW automation controls and a 100mm motorized fader.

One of my favorite parts of the Duality design is its bank of TFT screens, which provide an immense amount of channel information in a logical and legible manner. A generous peak meter indicates analog or DAW levels (determined by a Focus button), and three DAW indicators display channel select, record and plug-in editor status. A channel processing order display indicates the placement order and on/off status of the EQ, filter and dynamics sections, as well as the routing of the channel and monitor path I/O. At the bottom of the TFT channel display is a mix-bus routing status display (bus pairs A, B & C), and routing status to any/all of the 24 track busses.

The central control panel of the console features an expanded version of the AWS 900’s DAW master control section, as well as a unified channel routing panel with soft-switch control of many elements of one or several channels’ routing, ordering and processing functions. Also in this section are the 24 track-bus output trim knobs (with smart AFL solo for single-bus centered or bus-pair stereo auditioning – very nice!), four stereo returns, cue/sends masters, the traditional dim, cut, mono, and CR volume controls. The monitoring, bus-summing, downmix and external input source routing functions are quite flexible but take a little more time to explore, for this is one of a very few places where a menu/layer system is employed. After some initial confusion on my part (partly due to the logic and simplicity employed throughout the rest of the console), I eventually came to recognize the Duality master section as the All-Knowing, All-Powerful Supreme Being it is.

Hmmm…. I have this nagging feeling like I’m forgetting something. Oh yeah, the other half of why it’s called Duality. SSL designed the Duality console with DAW systems at heart, with major consideration given not only to its direct mix-surface control of software applications, but also to the console’s channel/monitor audio-path architecture, the seamless switching between DAW and audio console control modes, and the instant per-channel auditioning without the need to reconfigure all channels.

The Duality DAW control is compatible with any workstation that supports the HUI or MCU (Mackie Control Universal) protocols. Control templates exist for the most popular DAW systems in professional use including Pro Tools, Nuendo and Logic. The console connects to the DAW via 16 (eight in/eight out!) MIDI ports in order to emulate an array of linked HUI/MCU controllers and provide a dedicated MTC/MMC communication path.

The console focus button globally switches the Duality between controlling the analog console and the DAW. The central control section of the console features dedicated DAW navigation/motion controls, a plug-in editor, and DAW master control section (a la AWS). In addition to the fader, mute, solo and select functions expected of any control surface, each channel strip features its own “D-pot” rotary control and secondary solo/cut button set. In addition to providing typical rotary control functions (pan, sends, parameter adjust etc.) in DAW focus mode, the dedicated D-pots are also available to control DAW functions in Analog focus mode. A hybrid Digital In-Line mode allows the channel D-pots and associated solo/cut switches to control analog levels and channel status while the rest of the console is in DAW focus. This is a very cool and much appreciated design — no matter which focus mode you are in, you can always reach for and adjust the most immediately needed functions from the other mode.

In DAW focus, channel meters duplicate the DAW meter functions including pre/post and mono/stereo settings. The electronic scribble strip switches from displaying fader number to DAW track names (albeit, highly condensed). The analog scribble strip continues to display your grease-pencil scrawl, regardless of focus mode.

One thing I think would be extremely helpful would be for the electronic scribble strip to steal the first two characters to display the DAW track number. When swapping between multiple banks of DAW tracks and scrolling the faders up and down by single tracks, it’s very easy to become frustrated trying to quickly find a track that from strangely abbreviated names (a lot of my mix work comes from other studios, and the client usually doesn’t want to pay me to rename 48 tracks for my control surface’s limited display) may or may not be currently accessible on a fader. Just a general wish…

In addition to the meat-and-potatoes control functions, the Duality also provides plenty of in-depth control over DAW transport, channel routing, automation, edit window, mix window, plug-in editing, tempo and timeline, group enable/suspend, and I/O assignment functions. Between its dedicated (and excellent) plug-in editor, depth of functionality and fantastic focus mode switching, the Duality is easily the best control surface — dedicated or mixer-associated — that I have encountered. Download the Duality manual and check it out.


With the introduction of its Duality console, Solid State Logic has very effectively leveraged its analog circuit design-, console architecture- and digital control-expertise, as well as its immense amount of goodwill in the industry to create a very comfortable and logical direction for the company. The impressive Duality carves its own path straight through the clutter of linked controllers, computer peripherals and digital mixing engines that have taken over many control rooms and mix stages. Duality elegantly and simultaneously provides SSL’s unassailable analog recording paths and large-format stereo and surround mixing functionality, full-console automation, multitudes of non-virtual (i.e., real) SSL compressors and equalizers, Total Recall of all analog settings, comprehensive, high-resolution control of DAW mixers, comprehensive integration with workstation editing and processing functions, and — best of all — any combination thereof, at any time, with no reconfiguration.


Red Microphones Type B

By Steve Murphy | Originally published in Pro Audio Review magazine

Formed as a division of Blue Microphones, is a direct-to-consumer source of replacement capsule000000095s, shockmounts, pop filters, cases and other parts for classic microphones as well as a Blue designed line of vintage-style microphones. Available on the site are such items as replacement wood cases for ELAM 251, SM69, U67 and U87 mics, shockmounts for U47 and U48 mics, and “The Wonder Mount,” a universal shockmount that can accommodate a huge range of mics including the AKG 414 family, Earthworks SR series, Audio-Technica 40XX series and many others. is also the direct source for the Red Type B condenser microphone. Designed by Blue Microphones, the Red Type B microphone kit ($699) includes the Type B solid state microphone body, the Red lollipop cardioid capsule, a 22-AWG Cranberry mic cable, shockmount and wooden case.

The Red Type B microphone body features a Class A discrete solid state transformerless amplifier circuit, and is designed to act as a foundation for interchangeable lollipop-style capsules. The capsule mount is compatible with the full range of Blue Microphone’s bayonet-style capsules (the ‘Bottle Caps’) as well as vintage capsules such as Neumann M7, M8, M9 and 55k. The included Type B pressure-gradient capsule features a 6-micron gold-sputtered 1-inch Mylar membrane. It is designed to be a good, all-around cardioid capsule appropriate for a wide variety of recording applications.

Fast Facts

Applications: Studio
Key Features: Cardioid pattern; Class A discrete solid state transformerless amplifier circuit; bayonet design for interchangeable new and vintage capsules; includes Type B pressure-gradient capsule features a 6-micron gold-sputtered 1-inch Mylar membrane; ships with 22-AWG Blue Microphones Cranberry mic cable, wood case, shockmount.
Price: $699
Contact: Red Microphones at

Frequency response of the Red Type B microphone plus Red capsule is stated as 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The mic’s frequency response chart shows a significant 8 dB boost in the high end starting at around 3 kHz and ending at 11 kHz, with its peak at around 5.5 kHz. The chart shows flat response from 100 Hz to 3 kHz and a gentle 3 dB low-end rise between 35 Hz and 100 Hz.
Manufacturer’s specifications for the mic include a sensitivity of 27mV/Pa (1kHz into 2.5K ohm), output impedance of 50 ohms, A-weighted noise level of less than 7.5 dB, a dynamic range of 130 dB and a maximum SPL of 138 dB (0.5% THD into 2.5K ohm).

In Use
Well, if initial impressions are worthwhile, I wasn’t terribly impressed by the Red Type B microphone right out of the box. Within minutes of unpacking the mic, the “Blue” emblem glued to the capsule popped off right into my hand. And attempting to adjust the angle of the shockmount from the right angle in which it came shipped resulted in the over-tightened thumb key breaking off from the screw (To its credit, Blue said it was aware of this and has corrected the problem; a new shockmount was shipped out immediately.).

But none of that really matters in the scheme of things because, friends, after considerable use on a variety of applications, I have concluded that this is an awesome mic. And at $700, the Type B is an incredible value to boot.

I first used the Red Type B on a male singer whom I have recorded many, many times. Needless to say, I am intimately familiar with his vocal sound. I have yet to hear a mic capture the range of his voice with such nuance and detail as well as the Type B. The singer now refers to the Red Type B as “his mic” and practically refuses to entertain using any other mic (previous favorite mics on his voice have included current and vintage mics costing two to six times as much).

While the sound of the mic is definitely on the bright side, it is not nearly as severe as the frequency response chart would have you believe. Perhaps this is because it is tempered somewhat by the gentle rise in the lower end, and my preferred use of “warmer” tube preamps for vocals instead of more clinical and uncolored solid state ones. My overall impression of the various vocal recordings I have made with the Red Type B mic is a sound that is detailed, throaty and full, without any trace of harshness or breakup in the high end. The only singer on which I found the Type B to be inappropriate was a female vocalist with very little low-register energy and a naturally bright high-end spread.

In other uses, I found the Red Type B to be a guaranteed winner on cello, tenor and baritone sax, and bass clarinet. I also used the Type B to record a fair amount of jazz electric guitar with excellent results. Although the mic handled the SPLs nicely, for high-energy distorted electric guitar, I preferred the old standbys over the Type B when it came down to placing the tracks in the mix.

The Type B also made an excellent out-of-shell kick drum mic, and performed well on a floor tom (though I was a bit shy about putting this loaner close enough to the head to get decent proximity effect). I would have liked to have two of these mics to try out as overheads; I suspect the emphasized highs and low boost would have yielded an excellent overall kit sound with little or no EQ.

Straight out of the box, the affordable Red Type B is a great-sounding cardioid condenser microphone that proves to be an excellent choice for a wide range of recording applications. For those with bigger budgets, its interchangeable capsule design allows for an even greater range of uses.