What’s New: What can possibly be better than the Apogee Duet 2? How about a Duet with twice the inputs, twice the outputs, and upgraded hardware? Meet the Apogee Quartet. Apogee Quartet goes far beyond a two-channel upgrade from Duet 2: loaded with features, simple to use, charming to look at, this is our favorite Apogee interface yet. Bridging the gap between the Duet 2 and the Symphony, the Quartet runs off of an included power adapter and connects via USB 2.0, providing four XLR/1/4” inputs with selectable 48v, six outputs plus a dedicated headphone out, ADAT/SMUX in, word clock out to sync external AD units, and even provides a USB input for an external MIDI keyboard. Quartet keeps the touch-pads and individual LEDs like the Duet 2, but features individual pads for each input, master and headphone output, and three user assignable pads for functions such as dimming, sum to mono, output mute, or switching between outputs. In addition to seamless connectivity to Mac, Quartet also connects to iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. We got to go hands on with the new Apogee Quartet and were thoroughly impressed on every level.
Build Quality: Apogee products have always been built like a tank, and Quartet is no exception with its aluminum exterior, slanted front, signature Apogee single big knob, and solid connectors on the back panel. As a rack mount aficionado, I was a bit surprised when I heard the Quartet would not be rackmountable, but after using it for a few weeks, it’s easy to see why the Quartet should sit on your desk. The single knob volume control is perfect for a desktop application, and the output switching makes you feel like you have a dedicated monitor control in addition to a pro interface. No dangly cords or breakout cable for Quartet; all the connectors are neatly positioned in the back of the unit with the exception of the headphone out, which is on the right side near the bottom.
Functionality: Quartet could not be simpler to use. Each of the four channels have their very own touch pad with color LED’s to indicate input type, metering, phantom power, grouping, phase, soft limit and clip data. The output section has three meters for each set of outputs and a dedicated headphone meter to see all the outputs individually. Maestro 2 provides settings for I/O routing, sample rate, and individual control all the ins and outs of the Quartet. The digital inputs provide an extra 8 channels for connecting an additional A/D converter. USB 2.0 works perfectly, and I don’t miss the firewire connection of the Ensemble at all.
Sound Quality: Sound quality is where Quartet really shines. The microphone preamps are clear, pristine, and quite transparent, a big upgrade from the Ensemble. For a clean, clear, full sound, Quartet pres beat out several vintage and high-end outboard pres that added a bit more color to the sound. Apogee pres sound fantastic on dynamic, ribbon, and condenser mics, and I was especially blown away by the sound quality of the direct ins. When tracking my Nord Electro 3, I found the pianos to be more focused and more three-dimensional than I’ve ever heard! My other favorite sounds were male vocals and acoustic guitars. Quartet pres also do a great job loading ribbon mics, and I loved the combo on drum overheads, acoustic instruments and room microphones. The Quartet’s clocking and AD/DA is terrific and provides a big, open, pristine sound quality that makes every outboard unit sound better than ever. Quartet’s latency was so low it was essentially a non-factor in my test, but if you’re using an older machine, Maestro 2 offers an even lower latency recording option. A longtime Apogee user, I ran the Quartet side by side with both an Ensemble and a Duet 2 and noticed marked improvements in sound quality from the Ensemble. The Duet 2 was closer in sound, but to my ears, the Quartet had a smoother top end and slightly more depth the to the music. Technically, the mic pres and conversion on the Duet 2 and Quartet are nearly identical, although I have a hunch that Quartet’s hefty, dedicated power supply might be the determining factor in my sound test between the two.
Value: Apogee Quartet blew away my expectations in both build and sound quality, and in ease of use and functionality. Using the Quartet feels like you have two devices built into one: a professional 4×8 interface and a monitor control device with fantastic digital to analog conversion. Quartet connects seamlessly to Mac, iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad but still has no Windows connectivity, so if you’re a Windows user you’re out of luck for now. Digital inputs increase the value of the Quartet as you can use Apogee’s clocking and conversion to expand to up to 8 more channels. At $1395, Quartet is not cheap, but its intuitive design, superior sound quality, and seamless, integrated iOS connection make it head and shoulders above any other interface in its class and well worth the money.
Bottom Line: The look, feel, and sound of the Apogee Quartet make it a perfect interface for serious musicians and producers in any recording situation.
For more information about the Quartet and other Apogee products visit apogeeditigal.com
Function: Mixer labels
What’s New: How many times have you walked into church on Sunday morning, dialed in your Aviom mix and nothing seems to be in the right channel? If you’ve ever been frustrated with white tape, sharpies, or leftover settings from the choir rehearsal on Wednesday night, NoMixups provides a great solution to mixer and monitor labeling. Sturdy, color-coded plastic labels attach to a strip of hook and loop (similar to Velcro) that attaches to the mixer, providing easy-to-read, moveable labels you can use every week. A standard mixer set comes with 24 labels covering all the basics of a band such as vocals, drums, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, keyboards and piano. Also included are labels for DVD player, computer, CD player, as well as “Handheld wireless” and “Lav mic” and two blank labels for customization. NoMixups packages are available for mixers from 24 to 64 channels and offer a specific set for Aviom mixers. Additional add-on packs for keys, drums, brass, percussion, guitars, choir, FX, and pretty much anything you can think of are available separately. NoMixups will even work with you to produce a fully custom set with individual text (vocalists’ names, stage left guitar, etc) color and text size options. High quality material, easy-to-read, and easy-to-move, NoMixups are the perfect compliment to front of house boards, Aviom systems, or any other mixers or personal monitors.
For a list of full labels and package options, visit noMixups.com.
Church Use: A leap forward in the acoustic sound and feel of a portable piano.
Casio has a long history of producing electric keyboards. Their Privia line has some new members with both home and stage models. The PX-350 is compact and versatile enough to be both. It represents a significant advance over previous generations with its combination of a new keyboard feel and a more powerful sound engine.
The new Px-350 uses three times the memory of the previous generation and Casio’s “AiR” (Acoustic and intelligent Resonator) delivers the best acoustic piano sounds yet. There’s a hammer response and damper resonance simulator and 250 tones built-in including strings, organs, electric pianos, brass, drums and more.
The PX-350 features a redesigned 88 note, Tri-Sensor scaled action. The keys have a simulated Ebony and Ivory textured feel, while 3 sensors capture all of the dynamics of your performance. A timing nuance even takes into consideration the speed at which different hammers move inside a piano for ultra-realism.
There are 180 drum patterns with full auto-accompaniment and a 17-track recorder. A USB port offers class-compliant connectivity to MAC/PC and a convenient SD card slot lets you record your performances—with every intricacy—as an audio file directly to the card.
List price $1099.99
Street price $799.99
More: Authentic feeling keyboard and acoustic piano sound, a good library of other usable sounds, built-in sequencer, onboard SD card recorder
Less: Not much
By Eddie Vincent
Lets you focus on making music rather than staying in tune
It’s indisputable that being able to tune your instrument is vital to becoming a competent guitarist and no technology should replace ear training. However, there are times when keeping a guitar in tune with itself and with others is a challenge. New strings, temperature variations, personal playing technique and the nature of how guitars are intonated all work against you. The AT-200 addresses these issues seamlessly and adds a number of cool features and sounds that make it worthy of serious consideration.
Peavey have been making innovative guitars since the ‘70s and I’d been looking forward to getting my hands on their latest offering ever since reading about the AT-200 last summer. The one I got for review came well-boxed and set-up to play. The action was low and the neck relief spot-on with no buzzing. Inside the guitar is housed a DSP chip with Auto-Tune for Guitar (ATG) technology from Antares. The system is powered by 4 AA batteries or from an optional breakout box, the AT-200B.
ATG controls pitch by two means. The first is called “String-Tune” and that’s what tunes your guitar. It’s armed by pushing the Tone knob into the down position, strumming the open strings and pressing the Volume knob momentarily. You can hear the strings tune to pitch without any moving parts. If you finger any notes during the process, then alternate tunings are the result. Press the second fret on the sixth string as you strum and you get a drop-D.
The second component is called “Solid-Tune” and that’s what keeps the guitar in tune up and down the neck, even if the guitar’s intonation is off. Mine was pretty well intonated at the 12th fret, but with ATG activated it was perfect everywhere. I tried playing various sorts of chords all along the fingerboard and each one rang perfectly in tune. Intonation has always been a compromise for the guitarist, but no longer with the AT-200.
Other benefits of this technology include Virtual Capos, Alternate Tunings and Doublings, as well as the capability of emulating acoustic and other electric guitars. All of your settings can be stored as patches that are quickly retrievable, either by fretting a note while pressing the Volume knob or via MIDI. There’s an 8-pin DIN plug on the AT-200 that connects to the AT-200B breakout box or directly to an iPad or MIDI foot controller using a standard 5-pin MIDI cable.
I took the AT-200 to band practice to hear how it sounded live with bass and drums and wasn’t disappointed. We practice in a garage and while the other guitarist was frequently re-tuning his guitar as it adjusted to the ambient temperature, my tuning was locked in. Plus, we’re all tuned down a half step to Eb and it was a snap for me to “capo down” virtually and concentrate on making music.
The AT-200 I received came with all of the expansion packs pre-installed that are now available from Antares. I tested the virtual capos, alternate tunings and different guitar sounds. These include an acoustic 6-string and 12-string, and 8 different pickup types. I particularly appreciated the acoustic guitar sound and the vintage lipstick-tube pickup emulation. Antares is currently offering free demos of the acoustic guitar patch and more.
There’s too much to describe about the AT-200 Auto-Tune guitar and its potential in just one page. I highly recommend that you check out the links below and learn more for yourself.
More: Ideal for sharing with volunteers, perfect tuning every song, ability to store alternate tunings and capo positions for different singers, upgradable with more sounds and features, works as a normal electric guitar too
Less: MIDI interface and computer required for updates and add-on packs
List price $999.99