Yamaha MSP5 Studio Monitor Review

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The Crucial MX500 is a 2.5 inch SSD designed to be installed inside a notebook computer. We tested it by…

KRK 8s V2 Subwoofer Review

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SampleTank 4 Max Review

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JBL 306P MkII Powered Monitor Review

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SampleTank 4 Max Review


SampleTank 4 Max is packed with instruments and effects wrapped in a workflow that is simple to understand and inspiring at every turn. Reviewing SampleTank 4 Max was like a serendipitous journey of discovery versus a methodical approach of dissecting features. We simply wanted to know if SampleTank 4 would inspire us to make music and how easy it would be to drop into our creative flow. The more we tried to do the more SampleTank responded. This is simply a beautiful product that will give you an endless sonic palette.

We used SampleTank 4 Max by itself and with other VSTs but for our review we focused on making compositions where ST4 Max was the only instrument source. There are so many ways to get inspired with ST4 Max. Sometimes we'd start with drums and bass, build a foundation and lay some instruments over the top. Other times, we'd start with more exotic instruments and create some phrases to get started. We generally prefer to play and create riffs live but ST4 has some incredibly useful loops and phrases that are ready to be sequenced into a track. This was a great way to create something interesting quickly, especially with more exotic/ethnic/world sounds for example.

Discovering the Billy Cobham and the Neil Pert drums was an F-yeah moment, especially when assigned across multiple channels. The acoustic stuff is solid. The quality of the bases, keys, horns, strings and ethnic instruments just makes you want to keep exploring. We really enjoyed exploring the variety of basses. From vintage upright to fretless, gritty, clean and everything in between. We got lost in bassland for hours. Need something gritty from the 60s, you got it. Want it clean and chorused, easy. Fret noise, string vibration, intonations. It's clear a lot of love went into sampling these instruments and making them expressive even when triggered from the most basic of MIDI controllers. We banged out these sample tracks entirely with the MPK225 and we're happy with the dynamics and playability of the instruments.

MISSION DISCOVERY all SampleTank 4 instruments

MISSION CHASE all SampleTank 4 instruments


The ability to customize sounds using analog style controls and built-in effects and filters gives you exponential creative freedom to dial in a sound just the way you like it. It takes a little time to figure out how to do things in ST4 Max. At first we couldn't figure out how to get to the effects rack for each channel. But sans manual we were able to figure it out. That's kind of how it went for the entire review. We'd keep clicking around until we worked out the flow and the best way to navigate ST4. Most of the time that worked.

We still don't have a great feel for the strummer or apreggiator. We know how to use them but navigating in and out of that experience was less intuitive for us. Especially the strummer. We'd add a guitar to a channel and sort of stumble on the strummer but for some reason it's just not intuitive for us to get in and out of that experience. We managed to create some very realistic acoustic guitar phrases that would have been very time consuming to create on a keyboard. IK has an in-depth 165 page manual that goes into more details of the various capabilties ST4 and we'll need read up a bit more on the strummer.  

st4 ethnic

ST4 Max also has a good variety of electronic and synth sounds and icons for all the instruments to help you recognize the kinds of timbre it's capable of. So you can quickly dial up a more digital or analog sound. There are plenty of parameters that can be tweaked for every sound in synth land. So if you have some experience with programming synths you'll appreciate the options.

There is plenty to work with from pads to dynamic leads but you won't be replacing your vintage synths anytime soon.

The ST4 Max UI is attractive. It's a bit dark, but we got used to it. Not sure if there are shades available for the UI but could be worth exploring options for a light, medium and dark setting. Overall, it took us a little time to get familiar with how to do things but mostly was easy to figure out. This is a deep instrument with lots of capabilities so it really requires a deep dive to appreciate all that it can do. Even though we've had it a couple of months, we feel we won't master it for quite some time.

st4 loops

After experimenting with the different ways to play instruments in SampleTank 4 we decided our favorite way was to simply create a multitrack project in our DAW and play instruments in real time versus building loops and phrases or using the strummer. In other words, we like to use it as an instrument or multitimbral instrument across MIDI channels. We could also see using ST4 for sound design in real time for animation or other post production projects.

In terms of overall value, we'd say we were most impressed by the sampled acoustic instruments. This would be our primary use for SampleTank 4 Max. The synths amd electronic instruments we were less impressed with and feel like we're already pretty well covered with our existing VSTs and standalone analog synths. Even if ST4 Max shipped without all the synths it would still be a good value for all that acoustic sampling love and tweakability.

In terms of performance and stability. It's been pretty solid. We've been primarily using SampleTank 4 as a plug in with our MPC Live DAW. The initial installation was crash city. But after subsequent updates it's been very solid and a joy to use.

For music, sound design and post, SampleTank 4 is a very powerful instrument to have in your arsenal and worth taking the time to learn how to use.

Visit IK Multimedia for more information.

KRK 8s V2 Subwoofer Review

krk 8s front

The KRK 8S V2 subwoofer is a fairly compact powerhouse with myriad connectivity options at a reasonable price making it friendly to both professional and consumer environments. The 8S will compliment systems that are lacking in low frequency energy and is able to generate low end you can hear as well as feel. You could quickly overpower satellites with rumble if you aren't careful pairing this with the right speakers. The 8s could become a problem in too small of a space and you have to take the time to set it up correctly.

KRK makes that relatively easy to do with a wealth of settings on the backside of this little monster. Arguably the two most important knobs are the volume and crossover. This will allow to make sure there is minimal frequency overlap with your main monitors and ensure that the sound pressure levels are in the same ballpark. This way the KRK 8s will drop seamlessly into the sound stage. The idea is not to notice the subwoofer versus overall clarity and response in your mix. If the subwoofer is too present it can actually make it harder to get a good mix. There are lots of tutorials and technical documentation on how to set a subwoofer up properly and it begins with the crossover and volume controls.
krk 8s back

Next up is input sensitivity and polarity. For pro system levels nominal should work. For consumer levels set this to high. Polarity can help compensate for phase irregularities. Essentially toggle this back and forth until the bass sounds the cleanest and loudest.

Standby is a smart power control that can be toggled off it need be. When there is not signal present the 8s will go into a power saving mode. However, if you're in a long session you may wish to toggle this off. Very cool that KRK added this switch.

Ground lift can help eliminate noise. We didn't experience any with the 8s.

The fit and finish of the 8s it quite good. We love the industrial quality of the front grill and are glad we don't have to worry about kicking a cone in when kicking off our slippers in the edit suite. We really like the quality of the knobs and toggle switches. Overall the 8s exudes a quality build and very good value at $350. Where we start to get a little leery is the front vinyl surround. The finish around the edges where the vinyl meets the main box feels like an afterthought and it is strangely juxtaposed with the metal grill. So while we generally like the fit and finish and love the metal grill, the strange snap-on looking vinyl surround is a bummer.

The 8s sounds good, packs plenty of punch and will play well with lots of different studio monitors once you take the time to set it up properly. We're not sure there is a better value in the $350 price range for a studio subwoofer.

JBL 306P MkII Powered Monitor Review

jbl 360P

The JBL 306P MkII Powered 6.5" Two-Way Studio Monitor is a bi-amplified reference monitor that packs good sound at a very low price point. We've seen these on special regularly under $250 for a pair, which is competitive for this level of sound.

It's like the JBL product managers were given a challenge to make a really good sounding monitor that looked and felt cheap. It's odd. The 306P MkII monitors have this glossy look and cheap feeling lightweight design. When you consider the price, the cheap looking design is not unexpected. However, when you connect them to a clean quality source they sound pretty darn good and fairly transparent. We wouldn't call the sound tight and we would not use these for critical mixing.  So, yes it's a case of you get what you pay for.  

We played a wide variety of music and instruments at all volume levels and could generally push these as hard as we needed to. There's enough low end and they get plenty loud, far exceeding what you would expect for their size and weight.

The 306p MkII include balanced XLR and 1/4" TRS inputs, a +4dBu/–10dBV input-sensitivity switch, and volume control. JBL uses class D amps for efficiency and also includes an auto off feature so the monitors will power down automatically after 20 minutes of no signal. This feature can be toggled on and off too.

The JBL 306p MkII monitors do generate an ever so slight hiss while powered on. You have to put your ear in the vicinity of the tweeter to hear it, but it's certainly there and louder than hissing we've heard form other powered monitors with class D amps.  In a room with any kind of white noise or while mixing it's not noticeable.  We still found this a bummer and it would likely irritate us into returning these just knowing it's there.  

That said, let's get back to price.  If your budget is tight and your sound requirements are large, and you favor output level versus accuracy,  the JBL 306p MkIIs offer a reasonable value if you find them on sale under $250/pair.  They're a decent starter set of monitors for aspiring musicians and video editors on a tight budget. The trick with these monitors will be learning how they translate to playback on other systems. Once you do that you've got yourself a true bargain in studio monitors.  

See all the specs and learn more here.

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Rush - Spirit of the Radio

Oct 28, 2020 Music Mix
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It's been a tough year in so many ways. This tribute to Neil Pert and some of the DJs…