Wednesday, May 13, 2009

M-Audio Session Music Producer

Session Music Producer is a USB microphone, designed for home music production. The fact it works via USB makes it more attractive to more amateur musicians, because there is no need for any audio interface. But it is USB, it works like any other device, like printer, digital camera, or flash drive. Microphones are supposed to work like microphones, through XLR cable.

Overall sound quality is pretty good, with the included drivers you can set gain of the main output on your computer. Another thing that is pretty good, is that there is headphone output on the front of the mic. No need to run cable for headphones from the computer. There are however few bad thing about the microphone, included with it is pretty short USB cable which does not allow you to record vocals or guitar far enough from the computer, so we can't hear the computer fan on the record. Buying longer cable will definitely solve this problem. With the mic, there is also included small mic stand (approximately 4 inches) which is enough if you put it on some sort of desk.

Microphone works pretty good even after a couple accidental drops on the floor. I really recommend to buy it if you are just starting producing music at home.

But M-Audio Session Music Producer with USB microphone on Amazon

M-Audio Fast Track PRO audio interface review

M-Audio Fast Track PRO is better version of Fast Track USB, with more capabilities, but it is still designed for home or tour recording. It has 2 mic inputs on the front, either XLR or TRS, 2 line inputs on the back one S/PDIF input, 4 RCA outputs, 2 TRS outputs and S/PDIF output. You can also find MIDI In and MIDI Out on the back. Having 7 outputs you can mix in 5.1, or 7.1, which is good for film score production. It connects to computer via USB, and you can plug in your headphones via 6.3mm Jack plug. On the back you can also find ON/OFF switch.

With the interface M-Audio included Pro Tools M-Powered DEMO, Ableton Live 6 Lite, and a CD with drivers. Included drivers do not work with Windows Vista, so I had to download new ones form M-Audio's website. After installing the device you can choose what audio goes through it with ASIO driver, which is available for free download from

One of the pros for this device is its price, only $199, and compatibility with Pro Tools. However, one of the cons is, that full version of Pro Tools is not included. But if you would like to buy DigiDesign's interface (which comes with full version of Pro Tools LE) with the same capabilities, you'd have to spend around $700.

If you have a condesner microphone - no problem - Fast Track PRO has 48V phantom power, which you can swith on/off with dedicated switch on the back. Fast Track PRO works great with applications I use (Pro Tools, FL Studio, Adobe Soundbooth, Adobe Audition), but after using it for a while, the driver crashes and no sound comes out of it. Usually restarting the device helps. Also, the driver is very easy to use. I really recommend it for everyone.

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M-Audio Fast Track USB audio interface review

M-Audio Fast Track USB is the cheapest audio interface to be compatible with Pro Tools M-Powered, it costs $129 on M-Audio's website. It has one mic input (XLR, but in the manual it says it is only for dynamic microphones), and one line-in input on the back of the device, which is good for guitars. Also, on the back we can find 2 RCA outputs (left and right) for studio monitors, and USB connection to a computer. On the front, there is also headphone output.

Included software (Session) is not good for anyone, who creates beats. I'm sure some people who play guitar would find it useful, but not me. With the Fast Track USB also comes a CD with drivers, which in fact worked on Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 32-bit, but didn't work with Pro Tools M-Powered 7.4. I had to look for newer drivers on M-Audio's site, and I found out that there are two identical devices from M-Audio, one of them is said to work with Pro Tools, other one - no. It was Fast Track Session USB ($129, on the website it says it should work with Pro Tools) and Fast Track USB with Session ($99, didn't say the same), which is the one I bought. I doubted that this device could work with Pro Tools, but it turned out that both devices can work Pro Tools. I guess just the more expensive one already has drivers for it.

The device is working good, however it's lack of phantom power limits me to using only dynamic microphone. Fast Track USB is quite small, but it has what is needed for small Pro Tools users (like me).

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

M-Audio Axiom 49 review

M-Audio Axiom is a product series of affordable MIDI keyboard controllers. It comes on three version, each number indicates the actual number of keys on the keyboard: 25, 49, and 61. The one I'm reviewing is the 49 key version. I bought it, because 25 keys is too few to play with two hands, but if I would have to buy a 61-key version, then I'd rather buy an 88-key keyboard.

The keys on it are semi-weighted, but they don't feel as good, as more expensive models. On the top right corner of the keyboard we can find 8-pads, which are thought to be used for playing drums on the device. They are almost the same as the ones on Trigger Finger. There are also 8 endless rotary knobs, 8 faders, and obviously pitch adjustment and modulation. MMC (transport controls) are obvious to be in a MIDI controller of this type, but unlike the ones on Akai MPD24, these need to be set up correctly in order to use them with software. In order to make it work with FL Studio, I downloaded a FL Studio preset for Axiom 49, which was in .xml format. Then I had to download Enigma software form M-Audio's website (like couldn't they include it with the keyboard). It was a mess...

With the device you get USB cable (kinda obvious), Ableton Live 6 Lite software, and a CD with drivers. I'd have to say that the keyboard is a little bit bulky, and it wouldn't work good on gigs. Also, they use cheap packaging. You know what they say: "a good device comes from a good company. And good company does not save on packaging. "

There is many things about this device, that are not perfect. A couple buttons accidentally pressed is all it takes to get yourself a couple hours trying to figure out how to repair it. They should put those advanced options in the Pro version (M-Audio Axiom 49 Pro). The device itself is too complicated for an average user (let's say me). I don't need to control my sound module from within the keyboard. Why? The answer is pretty simple - I don't own a sound module. Who still does these days? I'm pretty sure some people do, but it's sure they'll buy the Pro version, or completely different device.

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Akai MPD24 review

When I first got my Akai MPD24, I didn't really know how to set it up with FL Studio. You know, I was new to that whole "beatmaking" thing. Well, after hour, I figured out I needed to select correct MIDI In and MIDI Out ports, in Options>MIDI Settings (it was easy). There is one word that comes to my mind, when I think of MPD24 - great! 16 MPC-style velocity pads, 8 assignable knobs and 6 also assignable faders, which are easily assigned, especially in FL Studio. The device has four banks (A, B, C, D), which gives you 64 (4 banks times 16 pads) easily accessible notes. There are also trasnport controls on the device (MMC), which do not require any special set up to work with software (unlike those in M-Audio's keyboards), so if you're using FL Studio, it's almost plug-n-play.

The device itself has 30 presets, so you can set each one for each softare you use. To set them up, you can either use included software, to transfer from your computer, or if you know what you're doing, you can set them manually using buttons on the actual device.

MPD24 will either work with your computer, through USB cable, or with your sound module through MIDI cables (not included), but then it requires an external power supply, which is also not included. If you have MIDI interface, or audio interface with MIDI In and Out, you can also connect MPD24 to the computer through the interface. Remember, Akai MPD24 is a MIDI controller, it DOES NOT make any sound on its own.

Akai MPD24 is a solid controller, and I'm sure it would be great for a gig, even after it's dropped, it'll probably work.

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