Category Archives: Reviews

Yamaha Audiogram 6 USB Audio Interface Review

Yamaha has been building audio products for some time, and their Yamaha Studio Monitors are actually praised by a lot of musicians. This audio interface powered by USB has been designed with care (at least according to the manufacturer) and it actually packs surprising features. It should make your job on building a home recording studio easier, since it’s easy to install and easy to use. Although it looks like a mixer, it has the same common functions of a normal external audio interface found at the same price. But we’ll get into that later. For now, let’s talk about …

The body
Most users love the fact that this audio interface looks like a mixer. I’m not necessarily a big fan of this design, but I will admit that the body is light weighted, sleek and solid. I got my hands on a white model, and as far as I know, this is the only available color.

audiogram 6 usb

The controls, inputs, outputs
Once you take a quick look at the control area, you will learn that the device has knobs that control the preamps, the compression and the input level. You will also find a DAW control know and a master level. Just like most audio interfaces today, this Yamaha device has 2 microphone / Hi-Z inputs and additional 2 more stereo line-in inputs. The control panel has 4 buttons: two for switching between a microphone and an instrument, a mono/stereo switch and a Phantom Power switch for condenser mics. Every input has a red peak LED that will notify you when the audio levels are getting too high. There is also a stereo output and a headphone output.

The back panel
There is no actual back panel for this audio interface. You will find there just the USB cable slot that connects the device to the computer.

yamaha audiogram 6

Features and functionality
This is probably one of the audio interfaces that I would recommend for entry-levels musicians and folks involved in audio podcasting. One of the features that got my attention was the hardware compression. The other audio interfaces in this price range lack this feature, and it is one of the reasons you could think of getting this interface. Even so, having a single knob for compression seems too simplistic to be real, since audio compression is more than switching something to on/off. The preamps are ok, but I didn’t notice something spectacular in that regard. I noticed some pops and clicks when recording the vocals on multiple channels and I guess that working with USB 1.1 technology (12 Mbit/s) is one of the reasons for this issue. Yamaha should upgrade this interface to USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/s) technology. But again, if you’re using it for simple projects or for podcasts, this interface is great! I was curios about its compatibility with electric guitars, synthesizers and drums, so I scouted for some user reviews. No complaints there, as long as the projects were not getting too complex. There is no MIDI I/O on board and the maximum sample rate is 48 kHz @ 16-bit.

The Price
The Yamaha Audiogram 6 can be found on most shopping websites at prices between $130 and $200. For instance, you should look for it on Amazon.com for $129.

Conclusion
This entry range audio interface is not for the audiophiles. It’s based on an obsolete technology (USB 1.1), it has a feature that seems to be there just for marketing purposes (the compression) and it lacks the MIDI I/O. The package also includes the Cubase AI recording software which is not enough for make me place this device in a positive light. At this price, you can consider a better interface, like Focusrite Safirre 2i2.

Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 Interface Review

If you’re looking for a great audio interface to use it as the core of your home studio then you are lucky because there are plenty of options to choose from. I still remember the first time I decided to go external with the soundcard: I got confused by all the options available, all the features, the prices and all the reviews. Finally, I decided to get the Audio Kontrol 1, the previous version of Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6. The two interfaces resembles a lot so you can say that I have some experience with both of them.

The body

Let me start with this: this audio interface does not feel cheap in anyway. Once you get to hold it in your hands you will immediately notice that it’s solid and weight balanced. It’s aluminum and black glass finish, it’s knobs and the main volume control looks great and professional. The device is not that big, it measures 11 x 4 x 7 inches and weights around 3 pounds.

Audio Kontrol 1 Audio Review

The front controls and inputs

If you’ve tested few soundcards and audio interfaces in my lifetime you know that you can tell a lot about the quality of the product if you test at the front controls, especially the knobs. For me, the knobs on Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 are perfectly balanced, absolutely no wiggle here. Maybe I’m subjective, but I really loved this feature on any audio interface. The front face features two XLR combos, gain knobs for the inputs, volume level and switch for the headphone level. Using the button under the headphone level, you are able to switch between audio source 1 or audio source 2. There is no control light on the front face. All lights and main audio level wheel are placed on top, as seen in the above image.

Back Panel

The back panel

On the back panel you will find the Phantom Power button, the MIDI In/Out, the SPDIF connects, the output for monitors and the secondary balanced line input. The audio interface is powered through a USB cable that’s connected to the computer.

Functionality

As inputs, you can use the XLR microphone cable or a 1/4″ instrument cable. If you do use a mic cable, it will automatically detect microphone level signal. The gain control is very smooth and the quality is above average. Compared to Audio Kontrol 1, this audio interface has no programmable buttons, and the upper face of the interface was replaced by a big volume and control lights. For me, it seems like a waste of space. On the good side, this audio interface has a lot of pros like direct monitoring for live and for latency-free recording, the high-quality preamps and the solid construction. Also, the interface is really easy to setup and to work with. There were few complaints from users regarding crashes. I’ve also experienced this in my old Audio Kontrol 1. From time to time, the Cubase refused to play any sound and I needed to disconnect and reconnect the audio interface in order to fix things. This process was not long since the interface starts almost instantly (if you’re using the same USB slot).

The Price

You will find the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 in most online stores at prices between $220 and $250.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for an audio interface with solid construction, with plenty of inputs/outputs and with great preamps then you should definitely take your time to test the Komplete Audio 6 interface. If the hardware features are not enough for you, maybe the software package will convince you: Cubase LE5 and few cool plugins. Everything you need is right there in the box.

Do you already own it? What’s your own review on Komplete Audio 6 Interface?

Steinberg UR22 vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. A short comparison.

A recent comment from DavidT inspired me to write an article about the similarities and differences between Steinberg UR22 vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interfaces. If you find yourself in the position of having to choose one of these two devices and you need the ultimate reason to choose one of them, then the following comparison might be of help. I will try to point the main differences between these two audio interfaces but in the end, you have to make your own decision according to your own needs.

Background
I had the pleasure of working with both devices for different periods of time. I’ve tested the Steinberg UR22 for few hours at a friend’s house and I worked on Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 for a longer period of time. While my overall opinion on these interfaces may be slightly biased, the comparison will be made on actual features and real user reviews.

A short comparison between these two interface.

A short comparison between these two interface.

Build quality
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is packed in an aluminum case that seems solid and resistant to shocks. The UR22 has a similar metal body, making it heavy and durable. Both interfaces have sturdy and superior level buttons. We have a tie here.

Sample rate and audio resolution
There are some features on the UR22 that may surpass Scarlett 2i2, like the sample rate: 96kHz on Scarlet 2i2 vs 192kHz on Steinberg UR22. This is not necessarily a definitive difference between these two audio interfaces, since most users record at 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz. For a home studio, recording at 96kHz is more than enough. The maximum resolution is the same on both interfaces: 24-bit. UR22 won this round.

Preamps
Included preamps are of great importance and they should weight a lot in your decision to buy an audio interface for your home studio. After testing both devices, I truly believe that Focusrite’s 2i2 is superior in terms of preamps, since it features the same D-Pre mic preamps found in their flagship device, the Liquid Saffire 56. While UR22′s preamps are pretty clean (I would say “common” is the right word to describe them), the preamps on Scarlett 2i2 are spectacular. As you may already know, Focusrite has an established 25 years history of manufacturing great audio devices with outstanding preamps. Focusrite Scarlett won this round.

MIDI in/out feature
This round is won hands down by the Steinberg UR22 interface, since there are no MIDI connectors on Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. UR22 won this round.

Software support
Again, I do believe that Steinberg UR22 is better in terms of software support and compatibility especially if you are working on Steinberg Cubase software. While I was using the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 with Cubase 5 I noticed rare crashes and buffer problems when I was using too many effects. The UR22 worked flawlessly in Cubase. Both devices have recording software included in the box, the 2i2 has the Ableton Live Lite 8 while the UR22 has the Cubase 6 software. I think that Cubase 6 is better for a home studio project. UR22 won this round.

Users’s reviews and price
Steinberg UR22 costs $149.99 and Scarlett 2i2 costs $114. In terms of users’ rating, the UR22 has 4/5 stars while the 2i2 has 4.5/5 stars. As you can see, 2i2 is cheaper and is has better rating (according to Amazon).

Steinberg-UR22-vs-Focusrite-Scarlett-2i2 coremic

My conclusion
As you can see in the feature comparison above, Steinberg UR22 could be seen as a better choice if you need an audio interface for your home studio. Now, I will share my own conclusion.If you plan to record vocals and you have an aditional MIDI port on other device in your studio then Scarlett 2i2 is a wiser choice. Its outstanding preamps will definitely make the difference. Users on Amazon have given this interface a better rating. If you need quality, go with Scarlett 2i2.

If you already own a great preamp in your home studio, then you should go for Steinberg  UR22, since it has better features and software support. Also, it has a superior sample rate.

What’s your favorite audio interface? Read complete review on UR22 and on 2i2.

Steinberg UR22 USB Audio Interface Review

The field of low-budget audio interfaces is definitely crowded, and we will find outstanding products like the ones manufactured by M-Audio or Focusrite. After successfully making a name into the music software niche with its Cubase, Steinberg is trying to penetrate the hardware market with its audio interface. Steinberg UR22 USB is a fresh audio interface that aims the musicians to create a music studio on a low-budget. Here is the Steinberg UR22 USB Audio Interface review.
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Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface Review

If you read my previous articles on “How to make a home recording studio” you know that I usually recommend Focusrite audio interfaces in most of them. Now, it’s time to see more details about one of the best audio interface for a home studio that’s actually affordable. No, it’s more than affordable, it’s cheap! In this article I will present an extended review on Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface USB 2.0. There so are many pros about this small device, starting with its price, its small dimensions or the input combo feature, but I think its ultimately feature is represented by the two Focusrite microphone pre-amplifiers that brings unparalleled  clean signal path for the condenser microphone, for the guitar or for line-in sources.

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A review on Rode NTK Tube Condenser Microphone

Rode is one of my favorite microphone manufacturer and if anyone asks me for a home studio microphone recommendation, I will gladly reply with one of Rode’s mics. Although the NTK mic was listed as a thousand dollar mic, this celebrated large-diaphragm valve mic can be found at half that price on various online stores. But we’ll get into that later. This home recording item brings exquisite sound quality while maintaining the classic design and technology that made the Australian company famous in the first place. The main feature of this mic is probably the HF-2 capsule designed and manufactured by Rode with care and special attention to its performances.

Rode NTK Box

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Neumann TLM-102 microphone review: great features, affordable price

You’ve probably heard generally very good reviews from specialists and clients about this small wonder microphone and now I will tell you why. The Neumann TLM- 102 captured musician’s attention in positive ways, mostly due to the magnificent speech reproduction in comparison to its small size, and great performances compared to its price. These are the reasons why Neumann TLM-102 is one of my favorite choices from the Neumann product range.

The TLM-102 made quite a few waves on the audio equipment market firstly because of its extremely small dimensions, measuring 4,5 inches in height, being almost half as the size of other products in its range. However, don’t let this detail fool you. This compact size microphone, built with a newly engineered large-diaphragm capsule, could easily become the first mic for anyone who owns a small studio or who wants to start a professional audio career using quality equipment. Even more, it was launched at a starting price of only $699, almost pocket change if you think Neumann’s other mics range from $1500 and go up to $2800 for the U87 microphone. Still not convinced? Read the followings and you will learn more details about it:

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Rode NT1-A review: the perfect microphone for a home studio project

They say that you will never find a professional microphone under $500. In order to prove everyone wrong, Rode decided to create the perfect microphone for a home recording studio at half the price. Even more, the mic comes with a lot of physical features that will definitely worth your money.

If you plan to make a solid investment in your home recording studio microphone, Rode NT1-A is probably the first mic you should take into consideration. This large diaphragm condenser microphone with cardioid polar pattern has the same quality and performance of mics found at prices over $1,000 but you can actually buy it for $229. But before going into further details, let’s talk about the physical aspects of this exquisite microphone.

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