Ultimate Ears UE-7 Pro Custom IEM Review

Ultimate_Ears

Ultimate Ears UE-7 Pro Custom IEM 

Church Use:  Custom In Ear Monitor

 

Introduction:  As a musician and engineer, I’ve been hearing great things about Ultimate Ears for years.  In fact, it’s hard to have a conversation about custom in ear monitors without hearing the name Ultimate Ears somewhere in the mix, so you can imagine my excitement when the crew at UE offered to let me review a pair of the UE7s, a triple driver custom in ear monitor specifically recommended for keyboards (my main instrument).  The process was quite simple, I found an audiologist (a comprehensive list by location is located on Ultimate Ears website) a few miles from my house visited and got impressions made of my ears so the folks at UE would have the detail they needed to complete my molds.  After filling out a brief order form and picking my colors, I sent my impressions to Ultimate Ears headquarters where they constructed my custom IEM and specifically molded them for my ears.  The turnaround was very quick, a little over three weeks from their receipt of my impressions.

 

Features:  The UE7s are a dual low/single high triple driver custom IEM, which basically means there are three speakers in the earpiece, two for bass and one for treble.  Made of a hard plastic, they actually fit quite comfortably into the ears to deliver the sound directly into eardrums and block outside noise almost entirely.  The UE7s come in a heavy-duty, solid box to protect them while they’re not in my ears and include a cleaning tool to keep the earwax from building up in the canals.  I was very impressed with the packaging and they even included a custom engraving on the box with my name on them.  Inside the box were my UE7s and a black cable with a right angle 1/8” plug on the end.  An ambient port option (which I decided not to get) allows controlled stage bleed into your ears if the idea of complete isolation doesn’t appeal to you.  The fit was simply perfect, the best I’ve ever had in a pair of custom IEMs, not too tight but they stay firmly planted in my ears no matter where I move my head.  A good fit is one of the most important things in a custom IEM and I was quite impressed with this little attention to detail.

 

Sound:  The sound of the UE7s is wonderfully open and balanced.  The highs are incredibly clear without being overly bright while the lows are powerful and punchy.  The frequency range is quite balanced; the kick and bass don’t overpower vocal clarity and listening to music, especially pop, is a ton of fun.  Solo piano was one of my favorite instruments to hear through the UE7s.  You can really feel the power of the low notes as well as get the midrange punch of each note’s attack.  After listening for an extended period of time, I would describe the UE7s fine tuned and refined, with no obvious frequency spikes, boomy bass or harsh midrange.  Of all the custom IEMs I’ve used, the UE7s provide the best music listening experience and fit my ears the best.  The price of UE7s may be slightly higher than other custom IEMs on the market, but when you purchase a pair of Ultimate Ears you pay for attention to detail that goes above and beyond in every step of the order process, from years of fine tuning their product, to communication with the customer, to the custom engraving on your personal box.

 

More:  Great sounding custom IEM with incredible attention to detail every step of the way

Less:  Custom IEMs are molded for each individual, so only one person can wear them.

Price: $850

 

Visit ultimateears.logitech.com for more info and to see all color and custom artwork options available for your personal IEM.

Casio PX-5S Review

Casio PX-5S Review

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Church Use: Stage piano

Features:  The last time I had a stage piano was probably 10 years ago…and it had a floppy drive, no MIDI capabilities and made helicopter sounds on patch 100.  Needless to say I’ve since become more of a synth player myself, but after spending some time with the PX-5S, I’m thoroughly impressed with the new Casio stage piano. 

The PX-5S sports 88 hammer-action keys with 256 notes of polyphony and utilizes the Hex-layers feature of layering up to 6 samples on one patch.  Four knobs and six sliders can control a variety of internal effects when using the PX-5S as a standalone keyboard, and can be assigned to control almost anything inside the keyboard.  MIDI I/O and USB/MIDI connectors are included on the back panel of the stage piano, and can be used as a controller and a standalone device at the same time.  The entire stage piano weighs in at just 24 pounds, (that’s under half the weight of a Yamaha Motif) and runs off an included power supply or 8 AA batteries.

Sound:  The full 88-key, hammer-action keyboard is much more than a stage piano.  Powered by Casio’s proprietary AiR sound engine, the factory sounds are deep, realistic, and very useable in any worship service.  I tend to favor the more mellow piano samples, which the PX-5S nails exceptionally well, in addition to a few electric piano, harpsichord, and clavinet patches.  The effects section is quite robust, including reverb, delay, EQ, compression, phaser, chorus, tremelo, auto pan, rotary, ring mod, pitch shifter, and many more.  One of the nicest features of the PX-5S’s sound engine is the seamless transition when changing from patch to patch, meaning that when you change from say piano to strings, the piano does not stop sustaining until you let the keys go. 

More: Great sounds and feel, the perfect stage piano for the worship leader

Less: The sounds are limited, making it less ideal for a synth player

Price: $999

For more information visit casio.com

Launch Minis Review

novationb_090513Function: MIDI controllers

Price: $99

What’s New:  In addition to the brand new Launchpad S, Novation has added three brand new mini MIDI controllers to the “Launch family”.  The Launchkey Mini, Launch Control, and Launchpad Mini are great standalone controllers and are designed to work flawlessly with existing Launch hardware, Abelton Live, and the new Launchkey and Launchpad apps for iPad. 

Launchpad Mini:  The compact version of the Novation Launchpad, the Launchpad Mini features 64 three-color illuminated pads and 16 control buttons.  The layout remains the same as the original Launchpad, with all the features and controls intact.  Smaller than an iPad, the Launchpad Mini is designed for portability, lightweight, compact, and completely bus-powered via iPad or computer.  Included with the Launchpad Mini is a version of Ableton Live Lite and the Launchpad App for iPad so you can start making music right out of the box.  Priced at just $99, the Launchpad Mini is a great option if you’re short on space for your laptop rig, travel a lot, or just want a low profile MIDI controller on stage. 

Launchkey Mini:  Our favorite of the three “minis”, the Launchkey Mini is a 25-key, 16-pad MIDI controller.  The Launchkey Mini (like its big brother the Launchkey) bridges the gap between keyboard, drum pad, and Ableton controller with its mini keyboard, 8 rotary controls, and velocity sensitive pads.  The mini keys, while they take some getting used to, are perfect for playing in simple ideas and recording phrases.  We were quite impressed with the quality and feel of the pads: playing MIDI drums and samples felt and sounded natural and the velocity sensitivity is top-notch.  Included in the $99 price tag are Abelton Live Lite, both the Launchpad and Launchkey Apps for iPad, and over a gigabyte of soft synths, plugins, loops, and samples for use with your DAW.  We found the Launchkey Mini is the perfect MIDI controller for the studio, giving you drum pads, piano keys, transport options and rotary control.

Launch Control:  Designed as the perfect partner for the Novation Launchpad, the Launch Control gives you 16 assignable knobs and 8 illuminated pads.  Great for tweaking filters, effects, and adjusting levels, the Launch Control fits like a glove underneath the Launchpad and Launchpad S controllers and also works with the iPad.  Each one of the rotaries and pads feel great, and the pads especially have great velocity sensitivity.  Just $99, Launch Control comes with Ableton Live Lite and a huge library of loops.  Launch Control is great for the advanced Launchpad user who needs a few more live controls, or for someone who wants a MIDI controller with lots of options for rotary controls and drum pads. 

 

For more information about the Novation Launch family visit novationmusic.com. 

 

Yamaha MGP32X Mixer Review

Yamaha MGP32X Mixer Review

38804_3Church Use: Analog/digital hybrid mixer 

Features: The MGP32X is the newest analog/digital hybrid mixer from Yamaha.   Using a blend of analog and digital technology, the MGP32X is an analog-style console with faders, buttons and knobs but utilizes digital effects and EQ, and even offers iphone/iPad connectivity.  With 24 microphone preamps and 32 line inputs, and 6 aux sends, the MGP32X offers more than enough channels to cover most setups, and features a great sounding channel EQ and one knob compressor. 

 Application:  The MGP32X offers some features that you don’t see very often on an analog mixer, such as the priority ducker, which automatically changes the volume of the music just by speaking into a specified microphone, and control over the stereo image spread.  The iPhone connectivity offers control over three digital reverbs, 16 digital effects, and a 14-band graphic EQ.  One of the best features of the MGP32X is the ability to record the board mix directly to a USB flash drive just by pressing a button.

More:  Affordable, good sounding 32 channel console

Less:  No presets or recall available

Price: 1399.99

For more info visit yamahaproaudio.com 

Akai MPX8 Review

Akai MPX8 Review

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Function: Drum sampler/MIDI controller

Price: $99

What’s New:  The latest in the long line of the legendary MPC samplers, the MPX8 is an 8-pad SD card-based sampler and MIDI controller.  Lightweight and portable, the MPX8 can play back classic MPC samples off its internal memory or your own samples on an SD card.  Full MIDI I/O capability covers your software and hardware control needs and MPX8 connects to a computer via USB. 

Features:  The MPX8 has 8 great feeling, backlit pads that can be assigned to one-shot, hold, or loop trigger mode and have their own individual level, panning, tune, and reverb settings.  Each pad is velocity-sensitive and changes color when you hit each one.  In addition to stereo outputs, the MPX8 has a headphone out for monitoring.  The MPX8 can be powered by an included power adapter, or bus powered from a laptop. 

Application:  The power of the MPX8 comes in the SD card sampler.  Samples are loaded onto an SD card via the MPX8 editor software.  Simply plug the SD card into the MPX8 and you’re ready to play.  The ability to load your own samples on a hardware drum pad is extremely rare in an age where you scarcely see a band perform without a laptop on stage.  By loading up a few samples on the MPX8, one can effectively eliminate the need for any software-based MIDI and take the risk of a computer out of live performance. 

Bottom LineYou’ll be hard pressed to find a unit that does what this does for the price.  They just simply don’t exist!  The MPX8 is a fine controller and great compact, portable alternative to an MPC, but if you want to play a set without using a laptop, you have to get one of these.

For more information about the MPX8 and other products by Akai Professional, visit akaipro.com