Apogee Electronics Big Ben Master Clock. $1495 list. - So, on the surface, it's not nearly as sexy as, say, a tube compressor, custom made guitar, or a decked out mega console. But, what it can do for your sound goes far beyond sexy. Big Ben from Apogee is a master clock and much more. And in my constant drive to maintain and improve on my pristine sound quality, I added Big Ben to my studio's arsenal.
Why a 'master clock'? You've got digital gear. Recorders, computers, converters, consoles, effects. You've got them all working together in your studio. Great! Or is it? You might be surprised. When digital's "not so great" you can tell. It shows up in the form of a harsh sounding high end, little random pops and clicks, an unnatural stereo field, a "smearing" of sounds. What Big Ben does is make digital sound great. It also provides digital format conversion and improves the clock of digital signals sent through it - all with the quality that Apogee is well known for.
Here's what Big Ben does to already great converters. I slaved my (now vintage) Apogee AD-8000 to Big Ben's clock. The difference in quality was immediate. My AD-8000 sounded even better with a more detailed stereo field, and a more open high end (which really nice to begin with). Switch back to the AD-8000 on it's own clock and there was sort of a "veil" over the sound for lack of a better term. Back to Big Ben's clock and there goes the "veil". And all of this was at 44.1 sample rate. Big Ben will do this all the way up to 192k (which I don't have in my studio now, but it means that Big Ben will be humming along here for many years to come). The addition of Big Ben also gives my much loved AD-8000 more service time as well.
Big Ben improved the sound quality of my ancient and crappy consumer CD player (circa 1990) via it's optical digital output. AND, that player is now a useful part of my playback system because of Big Ben. It's nice to be able to accurately check mixes and masters on an ancient CD player as well as on a new one.
I'm using Big Ben as a router in my studio, too. A DAT machine, 2 CD players, Pro Tools TDM, Mbox and other digital devices now play together easily and accurately without repatching, saving me time and improving on accuracy and sound quality.
Big Ben is very easy to use. 4 buttons on the front and LEDs for termination condition and as indicators for routing, clock quality, sample rate and more. I've hardly looked at the manual in the 3 months that I've had the unit. There's a lot more that Big Ben has to offer such as a Firewire option, up to 192k operation, lots of digital I/O, and 6 word clock outs, which larger studios can take advantage of. But I wanted to "angle" this review towards my studio and my uses (and there are plenty of smaller studios, like mine, out there who can take advantage of the benefits offered by Big Ben).
Anything I don't like? I would like to see more information on proper word clock termination. I think the manual could be a little better at explaining how to properly terminate and why we need to. Even better would be if Apogee threw in a couple of terminators. They're real cheap, but having them when you open the box.... Just a thought.
Bottom line: I love what this box does for my studio and it's a must have for my studio.
Check the Apogee website for specs and other details - www.apogeedigital.com
Zaolla Z sub Analog Breakout Snake. 3' D-Sub to XLR Male - $138.00 US Retail - Silver audio cables instead of copper? Zaolla says that silver makes a difference and they've made the cables to prove it. I've been using a "standard" D-sub breakout snake on my AD-8000's DA-8 digital to analog converters for 5 years. No problems, no hassles, no big deals. But remember, I get stoked if I can easily improve the operations of my studio. Could a new D-sub snake get me fired up? To find out, I ordered the Z-Sub snake.
When the Z-Sub arrived, I quickly compared it to my old snake. The Z-Sub felt much more sturdy and solid than my original snake. Great, but what did it do for my sound? I played some music through my old D-sub as a 'baseline'. Then swapped out snakes to the Zaolla Z-sub. Same music, same volume, same room, same me, difference noted. What? Yes, I heard a difference, just from a cable swap. And that sonic difference translated into a more present quality. More details in the mids and highs and a bit better imaging. I was sold. I was so sold, I ended up purchasing a pair of Zaolla's XLR mic cables (3' $60 each) to connect my Manley Vari-mu to my AD-8000. The mic cables were equally as impressive as the Z-Sub. Money well spent.
Zaolla's website has specs and details on their entire product line - www.zaolla.com
Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive pedal. approx. $124.50 (list) Yet another wonderful distortion pedal (and you can't have enough distortion)! This offering from Boss is marketed mainly to bass players and sounds great on bass (ever tried to run a bass through a 'guitar' distortion box). However, since when should a piece of gear be used 'only as suggested'? In my case it's almost never.
Yes, this pedal works great on bass, featuring a nice, full, thick overdriven distortion which compliments the instrument (instead of working against it like most 'guitar' pedals do). Bonus features are the 2 band eq which adds flavor to the pedal's distortion, and (best of all in my opinion) variable balance from dry to only overdriven signal!!!! Extra nice.
But wait, there's more. Try running drum machines through this box. I had a blast processing my trusty Roland TR-606 into distorted bliss. Varied amounts of the dry drum sounds mixed with the distorted sounds (via the 'balance' knob) gave focus to a smeared distortion and brought in some character. Don't stop with drums, however. Synths and vocals are good candidates for a little "Boss Bass Overdrive".
Most women can't have enough pairs of shoes. When it comes to distortion, I'm kind of the same way. Never enough shades and patterns. I like my Boss ODB-3.
Visit Boss on the web - www.bossus.com