Wednesday, August 17, 2011

You Rock Guitar Review

     In the past 5 years or so there has been a huge influx of popular video games focused on “virtually living the dream” and promising to transform your youngster or teen into the next “Guitar Hero”. This insurgence of guitar based gaming has done a great job of reintroducing REAL guitar driven music to the modern music market and has introduced countless young potential shredders to some classic music that they may have never been exposed to otherwise.  The drawback to these games is that they never really focused on true musicianship or had anything to do with even closely simulating actual guitar playing as pressing colored buttons has absolutely zero benefit to learning notes, pitch, fingering etc. But a little company called Inspired Instruments wants to change all of that with the new You Rock Guitar!

   The You Rock Guitar is a fully functional game controller that features real feel and playability using real strings to pick and a touch sensitive fret board complete with simulated strings, fret markers, etc., all created in a way that makes gaming much more like actually jamming! Impressive right, but that’s not all! The You Rock guitar is MUCH more than just a game controller (which in hindsight is really the least impressive function this little sucker packs), it’s a fully functional instrument that can be used with an amp, headphones, your computer, your mobile phone, and even works as a midi controller (a function that I think is amazing considering how difficult it is to accurately replicate stringed instruments when using the standard midi keyboard to trigger sounds). The You Rock boasts 25 sound presets for guitar, an additional 50 guitar synth presets, 25 jam tracks with “You Rock Modes” for learning scales etc., 50 built-in drum tracks, 65 alternate tunings with open space to save your own, 100 customizable parameters and presets, multiple play modes, removable neck for travel or storage, multi-directional whammy bar, game controls, and the ability to interchange headstock designs.

   Overall a very impressive little unit! The tracking is fast so for recording with midi alone this is a great tool for the recording guitarist. The preset sounds are decent and have a vast array of tones and effects making this a great axe for practicing or jamming anywhere.  The removable neck makes it easy to toss in a backpack and take anywhere (even on a plane). You Rock comes complete with chord and scale charts and some other beginner guitarist training tools and the ease and versatility of connectivity to so many different applications makes this a piece of gear that is no one trick pony. So saddle up and take one for a ride, you may just be the coolest cowboy at the rodeo! Check one out today!!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Quick Review of JBL PRX612M

We just got these bad boys in, here is a quick review….

LIGHTWEIGHT!! I know, you have already read that they are incredibly lightweight, and so had I, so why would I mention it first thing? I work every day around thousands of speakers, active speakers are heavy, the PRX612Ms aren’t. If you are a mobile audio DJ, or a working musician, the mere 34lbs will be such a relief!  Besides being lightweight, they seem durable, and the sealed design and heavy scratch resistant coating on the exterior makes me believe these will endure the test of time. 

Setting them up was easy, however, I must say I was a little surprised at the lack of features on the rear, I expected more EQ capability out of JBL. It has a Monitor/Main control switch basically means if you are using them on their side or on the floor as monitors, they roll off at about 90dB to keep from sounding muddy and produce less coupling. That might be a cool feature for bands, not a big advantage for mobile audio djs. 

The overall sound is AWESOME and wow…they get so loud! The specifications state that they are an incredible 134db, and I absolutely believe it. The PRX612M reproduce tight low end with very crisp mid and highs. Pair with a stand alone sub like the EON518s, if you are looking for booming bass, but for this size of speaker, the PRX kicks some decent bass.  The sound quality is excellent, one of the best that I have ever heard and add that to the sheer awesome power and lightweight cabinet the PRX612M is the perfect mobile audio dj / karaoke speaker.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mackie's Onyx BlackJack Recording Interface Review

Mackie ONYX Black Jack

The Mackie ONYX BlackJack is a rugged bus-powered USB audio interface that is small with great sound quality and versatile monitoring, making it an ideal portable companion to a laptop but equally at home in a fixed location such as a personal studio.  

Mackies ONYX BlackJack offers the quality preamp so recognized in their higher priced line of Onyx Mixers. The BlackJack features two Onyx preamps, having mic/line inputs on combination XLR / ¼” jacks, with individual DI switching for using the line jacks as high-impedance inputs, and switchable global phantom power. The monitor outputs are on balanced quarter-inch jacks, governed by the Monitor level control, and there’s a headphone output and accompanying level control on the front panel.  

The Onyx preamps are designed to go beyond standalone microphone preamps in headroom, transparency, and fidelity. Additionally, the Onyx preamps have a full 60db gain, improved radio frequency (RFI) refection and an ultra-wide dynamic range. Onyx preamps rival even the most expensive boutique mic preamps for sound quality a good part due to the Cirrus Logic converter. Power for the circuitry comes from the USB port, so there’s no need for a separate PSU. The 24-bit Cirrus Logic converter is capable of a 114dB dynamic range (A-Weighted), which is way beyond the signal-to-noise spec of most studio gear. Importantly, the gain staging within the unit means that the preamp circuitry is correctly matched to the A-D conversion, to sustain headroom while minimizing noise and distortion. Zero latency recording is possible by routing the input directly into the monitors and into the computer simultaneously, reducing any audible delay form player to computer (allowing the computer buffer to be directed towards the CPU). It also allows you to track in mono or stereo.  Overall, comparable interfaces do not possess this sound quality, and audio interfaces that do typically cost ten times as much as the Mackie Onyx Blackjack.

The Onyx Blackjack’s overall design is rugged and due to the unique 25 degree angled structure making it easy to see the controls, extremely user friendly. On the front there are five knobs, two gain (-20dB to +40dB), one “To Mon”, Monitor, and Phones knob. The gain knobs are linked to an LED light that remains green to show a healthy signal and blinks red when it is experiencing overload. The Monitor knob offers Mute to Max control with a Mono/Stereo button. The “To Mone” knob sends the input signal directly to the monitor outpurs for no-latency, analog monitoring. The Monitor and Phones knob also is Mute to Max with a 48V Phantom power button to drive condenser mics and then a headphones ¼” jack port to the far right. The sensible lay-out of the components, add to the usability of this unit. The back of the Onyx Blackjack has a USB port, R/L Monitor Outputs for balanced or unbalanced ¼” jacks, and two XLR & ¼” combination mic analog inputs. This unit is built like a tank and we give the overall usability an A+.

Overall the Onyx BlackJack is considered a real bargain and a very affordable interface and delivers both superior sound quality and flexibility. If you want to make high quality recordings this is the unit for you.

Available Now at for only $149.99 with FREE SHIPPING in the main 48 states.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What's the Deal with this Auralex Isolation Padding? MoPads Under Review

The Auralex MoPad Isolation pads are one of the most affordable ways to sonically take your recording studio to the next level. It's hard to believe that having your monitors on a shelf, cabinet, or desk could cause so much excitement, but that is exactly what it does. It "excites" or vibrates the wall or surface that it is in contact with, especially during the low frequencies. Adding Auralex Mopads to your set-up, your monitors will sound deeper, the bass will be tighter, and your overall sound will have more definition.  Even adding them to inexpensive computer speakers will make a huge difference.

The official terminology is "acoustic decoupling" or Acoustic quieting which is the process of making quieter by damping vibrations to prevent them from reaching the observer. Speakers vibrates, causing soundwaves in air and negatively impacts thesound or recording. Quieting is achieved by absorbing the vibrational energy or minimizing the source of the vibration.

In addition to the acoustic benefits, MoPads also have a cool little feature that allows you to angle your monitors up or down by 4 or 8 degrees using a fiew extra pieces of angled foam. Ideally, your monitors will be placed at ear-level height, so if your desk or shelf is too high or low, make the adjustment using the Auralex foam. All in all, again this is a super affordable way to improve the sound in your home studio, and you won't regret the investment.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How do the Podium Pro Audio PP1204CA Powered Speakers Stack Up?

As most musicians will tell you, finding good quality PA speakers without breaking the bank is no easy task. To make matters worse, many affordable products are either cheaply made, lack quality, or are totally void of important functions and accessories.  Well, I have discovered an exception to the rule; Podium Pro Audio’s PP1204CA Powered Speakers with built in Mp3 Player.  Although fairly unknown to most, Podium Pro Audio provides very functional and cost effective products backed by a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defect (something almost non-existent anymore in the music retail world). When stacked against other name brand items of similar caliber, the Podium PP1204CA not only held its own but outshined its higher priced competitors in some areas.

The PP1204CA is a powered 2 way PA speaker featuring a Class A amplifier that delivers 300 watts (RMS) & 600 watts (Peak Power) to a Deluxe 12"  woofer with a 75oz Driver with a 3” voice coil and wide dispersion titanium membrane tweeter. It also features an onboard MP3 Player that works with a USB thumb drive or SD card (a 4gb thumb-drive is provided), a very sensitive EQ with Master Volume, Treble and Bass Control Knobs. The PP1204CA powered speaker also offers two XLR or ¼ inch inputs, an additional XLR or RCA input, and an XLR or ¼ inch line level output to connect multiple speakers. The rugged ABS plastic housing features top & side handles, as well as wheels on the rear bottom for ease of transport. The rubber feet are also contoured so that they can be easily stacked on top of one another and can be elevated with speaker stands with the built in pole mounts.
Here are a few of the key ingredients that make this product a delectable delight. As I mentioned, the tone controls are very sensitive meaning the slightest adjustment makes a huge difference in the tonality of the speaker. Most on-board equalizers or tone controls make very slight changes in tone (ie: you turn up the treble and just get a tinnier sound but no added clarity), however these controls really work to sculpt and color your sound with very little effort. The built-in MP3 player is also great for all kinds of jam on the go type events (such as BBQ’s, tailgating, sporting events, church camps, etc.) and makes it very convenient to just plug in a small memory card and have hours of music at your fingertips.

Ease of connectivity and portability make these great speakers to take on the road, considering the wattage and sensitivity for a pair would suffice for larger gigs or a single speaker for smaller gigs or functions. I see the smaller version of these used throughout a live band set-up as monitors. With the addition of a few small accessories like an Alesis LineLink cable and a Sendstation PocketDock, one can easily and safely hook up a laptop or iPod giving you endless musical possibilities! The only real drawback is the 50 lbs weight per speaker, but with the added top handle and rear casters the weight issue is offset by such conveniences. 

 So if you’re in the market for an affordable PA system with great sound and tons of awesome features check out the Podium Pro Audio PP1204CA, available exclusively from

Review written by Scott “SVH” Von Heldt, professional touring/recording artist, author, and journalist.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What Do I Need to Connect My Laptop to My Speakers?

Here is a great video Scott our Pro Audio Technician made to explain why it is important that you use an audio interface with your powered speakers. He also reviews several Alesis Cables, the Alesis LineLink, MicLink, PhonoLink, and GuitarLink.