VMeter Review

Function: USB MIDI Controller
Price: $59.99
What’s New: Blue lights, a sleek black exterior, and touch sensitivity, what’s not to like?   VMeter is a USB MIDI touch strip designed with the electronic musician in mind.  The touch-sensitive pad allows you to control different parameters with a flick of your hand, with blue LED lights to mark the last position of your finger.  Touch position, pressure, touch/release, note on/off, pitch wheel, and crossfader are some of the many output possibilities of the VMeter.  Practically, the VMeter has almost unlimited applications, such as track volume, pan, effect send volume, delay feedback control, string vibrato, filter pass, and many more. 
            The VMeter is extremely light but feels sturdy and durable enough to travel with in a gig bag or laptop case.  The touch sensitivity is great and works incredibly well, even giving the ability to jump to higher or lower levels instantly and an unlimited amount of VMeters can be plugged in alongside each other. 
            While many might scoff at a MIDI controller with a limited scope of controls, a single dedicated fader control can actually be a lifesaver, especially in low-light situations, or if you are a drummer or guitar player running tracks, it’s a great way to control track volume, start/stop and digital effects.  At just $59.99, this unique, great looking USB controller is a great asset to any computer musician. 


For more information about VMeter visit vmeter.net.


-Andy Toy

Phocus for iPhone

Function: iPhone case and lenses

Price: $119.95




What’s New: Phocus for iPhone is a sleek camera case designed especially for the new iPhone 5.  Included in the 3-lens package is a case for the iPhone (that allows full phone functionality and access to all features) and a macro, wide-angle, and telephoto lense for the built-in iPhone camera.  Phocus offers increased stability and camera quality as well as tripod, monopod, flash, and microphone mounting ability.  Easy to use, portable, and inexpensive, Phocus is a great utility for shooting high quality photos or videos on your iPhone. 

For more information visit http://www.smartphocus.com.  

-Andy Toy

TC-Helicon Voicetone Mic Mechanic Review

Function: Microphone Effects Processor
Price: $149.99
What’s New: The Mic Mechanic is an effect pedal for vocalists featuring reverb, delay, EQ, compression, de-essing, gating, and even pitch-correction. The simple interface includes 8 presets of reverb, delay, and a combination of the two, a mix knob, a correction knob, and tone button. Powered by an included power adapter, the Mic Mechanic sports XLR in and out and a side mounted gain control and “mic control” for use with the separate TC-Helicon MP-75 mic.
Features: Like its name implies, the Mic Mechanic is a Swiss-army knife of a pedal for vocalists. 8 presets include settings for three reverbs: room, club, and hall, 3 more each with echo, plus a simple echo and a slap delay. A single knob allows you to navigate between the presets, while a separate knob allows control of the wet/dry mix. A third knob controls the amount of pitch correction and an on/off switch bypasses the pedal. A tone button activates EQ, compression, de-essing, and gate while a knob on the side controls mic gain. An indicator lights turns from green to red depending on how much signal it sees, and XLR in and out are located on the top of the pedal next to the power input, and provides phantom power if necessary. The pedal is extremely light for a pedal its size, making it extremely convenient to carry around in pocket of a flight case, laptop bag, or even purse.
Sound: An industry standard in digital effects, TC Electronics has always impressed me with the quality of their reverb and delay. Verb, delay, EQ, compression, de-essing, gate, and pitch correction is a huge list of effects for one pedal, and all performed incredibly well. In short, I was extremely impressed with all the features of the Mic Mechanic! Not only do the effects sound great, but the entire pedal is very, very useable, and the effects are subtle, warm and easy to use.
Reverbs: The reverbs are all incredibly useable with the Hall my favorite and the Room a close second. The club definitely has a vibe and provides a cool effect especially when paired with a quick echo.
Hall: This is a big, extremely warm, smooth reverb. What I love about the Hall is that it is big and long but subtle at the same time. It never gets cheesy or too “digital”-sounding; it’s a nice, big verb that sounds great under your vocal.
Club: The club reverb is a medium reverb that has almost no trails, simulating a microphone in a medium to small sized club. For big rock vocals, a hint of the club makes the vocal almost sound doubled, and paired with the echo, it makes a great effect.
Room: Last but not least, the room setting simulates singing in a small to medium sized room. If you’re looking for something subtle, the room is perfect. Warm and short, this preset gives the vocal just a little space, which is nice if you’re singing in a quiet, intimate environment.
Echo: The echo is a simple, straightforward delay that has tap tempo and feedback controls. Only one style of echo is available, a digital echo that is clear and clean sounding. Feedback is controlled by holding the tone button and moving the dry/wet knob to the right or left. Tap tempo is quite effective and is controlled by holding the bypass switch until the LED flashes, then tapping it to the desired tempo. When paired with a reverb, the controls are a little bit more limited, the dry/wet controls both the reverb and the delay level, so there’s no way to bring up the level of one effect without affecting the other. This for me is the sole drawback of this pedal, because I like to set my reverb high with just a hint of echo for added ambience. The slap is a great sounding quick delay, that’s perfect for folk or country style songs.
Tone: All the other effects (besides pitch correction) are activated by pressing the tone button. The effect is subtle at first, but after a little bit of singing, I recognized a huge difference in sound. The first thing I recognized is the EQ: the tone button cuts boomy lows and adjusts to the frequencies you sing to give a good quick mix, even compressing the spikes in high sibilant frequencies (de-essing). Compression works incredibly well, almost inaudible except when the vocal goes from extremely quiet to extremely loud, the mark of a great vocal comp. The gate adjusts to the ambient noise on stage, but was never too much and was almost indistinct.
Pitch Correct: The pitch correct is very subtle, providing a gentle nudge to the pitch if needed, but never too much, even when the correction knob is turned all the way up. The pitch correct adjusts each note to the chromatic scale, making it useable in any key. While I’m not a fan of hard autotune, this understated application was quite a nice touch.
Value: The TC-Helicon Voicetone Mic Mechanic is a vocalist’s dream come true. With a tap of the foot, it engages all the nuances utilized by great studio and live sound engineers to make your voice sound great. The biggest strength of the Mic Mechanic lays the subtle nature of all the effects; the engineers at TC did an outstanding job of fine-tuning the effects to be perfect for any voice, male or female. I was amazed at the difference the Mic Mechanic made on stage and at just $149.99, it’s affordable, sounds great, portable, and subtle enough to bring to any live situation. While not every singer needs one, it certainly brings a highly polished quality to the vocal sound, and helps fine tune things that your sound engineer might not be able to do. Overall, the Mic Mechanic is an outstanding tool for any vocalist and a great value for the price.

For more information about the Mic Mechanic and other TC-Helicon products, visit www.tc-helicon.com.

-Andy Toy

Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina Review

Function: Microphone
Price: $499
What’s New: It may look like a nautical instrument from the 16th century, but the Edwina is actually a unique, hand-built, large diaphragm condenser microphone. Hand made in Portland, OR, the Edwina is a FET design mic tuned for live vocals.  The diaphragm sports a built-in pop filter and cardioid pickup pattern ideal for live use mounted in a pivoting capsule for upright, side-address, or end-address for any position. 


Sound: Condenser microphones on live vocals have been a struggle for many audio engineers over the years.  While condensers often sound bigger and fuller than their dynamic counterparts, their proneness to feedback and pick up too much ambient stage noise has many engineers sticking with dynamic mics.  The Edwina surpasses all the hurdles that a live vocal condenser may have and offers a stunning sound and visual on top! 
I first tried the Edwina on vocals in a studio to capture the sound as accurately as I could.  The first thing I noticed was how big the sound was!  The highs were exceptionally clear and bright while retaining the low mid body of the sound.  As a room mic the Edwina is gold.  Placed at six feet, the Edwina picked up a guitar and singer and the two balanced perfectly.  The FET design is exceptionally quiet and is sensitive to every nuance of vocal inflection.  Acoustic guitars sound smooth and big through the Edwina, and the pivoting capsule allows for almost for almost any mic position. 
On stage, the Edwina is a wonder.  With a full band, the vocals were clear and warm and the microphone never had any problems with feedback (unlike the dynamic mic on stage we used for backup, which proceeded to feedback until I turned it off).  The built-in pop filter works incredibly well, even at close proximity. 
Value:  Clear, bright highs with warm mids and body make the Edwina a top-notch studio condenser and with its elegant looks and feedback resistant-design, the Edwina is an outstanding live vocal mic.  If you’re looking for something unique and new for your vocal on stage, the Edwina is a perfect choice. 


For more information about the Edwina and other Ear Trumpet Labs products visit www.eartrumpetlabs.com


-Andy Toy


Alto iPA Review

Function: Loudspeaker
Price: $299
What’s New: The Alto iPA is a two-way, 400 watt loudspeaker with a unique feature: a fully integrated Universal Dock for the Apple iPad.  The iPA is self-powered and features XLR, RCA, and ¼” inputs controlled by a volume knob as well as the 30-pin iPad connector with its own dedicated volume control.  Included with the iPA is an Alto ADM10 dynamic microphone and 10 foot XLR cable.  A contour switch provides a bass and treble boost for better clarity and bass power and the XLR output is able to send either a left, right, or summed mono signal to an optional external speaker. 


Features: An iPad connects seamlessly to the iPA.  When I plugged in my iPad to the back of the speaker, it worked right away without any setup or calibration and even charged the iPad!  All the input channels sound terrific and the built-in mixer provides a nice touch to control volumes of individual devices.  The RCA inputs are especially nice for connecting a laptop computer, CD player or iPod.  The inputs and output let the iPA function completely like a standard PA speaker and it even sports a 35 mm socket for speaker mounts.  Possibly my favorite feature of the iPA is that it is unbelievably light!  A handle on the side makes it easy to transport and anyone can easily lift and move the speaker. 


Sound: If the features alone weren’t enough, the sound of the iPA is amazing!  I’ve used several different models of self-powered loudspeaker and the iPA holds its own against any of the leading loudspeakers in its class.  I was blown away at how much clarity and sparkle the iPA has in its top end as well as powerful, deep bass response.  The contour switch acts as a built-in EQ to boost bass and treble frequencies, providing more definition to the sound.  The iPA sounds great even when both channels (iPad and microphone) are used simultaneously, making it perfect for karaoke or sing-along tracks.


Value: At just $299, the iPA is a great value.  The iPA offers iPad, CD player, instrument, and mic connectivity, great sound quality, plenty of power, and its own mixer.  This is the perfect speaker for churches that need a lightweight portable speaker option.  Users can run their entire audio system from the iPad connection and microphone and the built-in mixer eliminates the need for powered mixers and messy cables.  The iPA is the perfect system for children’s ministries utilizing sing-along tracks or choirs rehearsing without live musicians.   The iPA is also a perfect utility speaker to place around the campus to provide music such as a wedding chapel, outdoor greeting area, or gymnasium. 


To learn more about the iPA or more products from Alto Pro Audio, visit altoproaudio.com.
-Andy Toy