Category Archives: Reviews

My review of the Audio-Technica LP120 turntable

Hi there!

I had long wanted to gradually switch to vinyl records, either for mixing or simply listening purposes. I have bought myself an LP120 vinyl turntable from Audio-Technica for Christmas and I just LOVE it! If you’re looking into switching to vinyl records from CDs or even digital music and/or if you’re wondering what turntable should you get, then you’re at the right place: these are my first thought as a vinyl newbie and my mini review of the AT-LP120-USB.

My AT-LP120-USB playing a vinyl record

My AT-LP120-USB playing a vinyl record

So let’s get straight into it, I’ve always been a pretty big music listener, and I like composing/mixing too as I created my band a few times ago (house & complextro stuff if you want to check it out). So obviously, sound quality matters to me and I always used to download my music either in lossless or in 320Kbps+ format. When I find one particular artist/band especially awesome (such as Daft Punk, Jamiroquai and more…), I like getting their music directly on CDs because having the hardware media always feels much cooler than just buying a simple file. In the past few months, I’ve become more and more interested in getting my first vinyl turntable ever. So I’ve spent a lot of time stumbling-upon and Googling to find the one that would suit my budget and my needs as a beginner in the vinyl world. After a pretty long decision period, I’ve chosen to get myself the LP120-USB from Audio-Technica, this is a really nice-looking turntable (same layout as the Technics SL-1200) that is direct-driven and has a pitch control knob (important for DJing) for a pretty reasonable price.

When I came to an electronics store in my town to buy one of these, the first impression that I had as someone who had never ever touched a vinyl turntable was the weight of the package. It’s really heavy, and I seriously mean it, the whole thing weights about 12Kg, sure it’s a token of quality but it’s quite surprising when you take the package for the first time! Anyway, after unpacking everything, I set the whole thing up really quickly. It’s quite easy to understand how to assemble all the pieces, even for a complete beginner as Audio-Technica provide a little quick-guide to get started with the LP120.

Now after having set everything up came the moment to play my first vinyl record with this turntable. I bought myself “The Wall” by Pink Floyd, such a masterpiece, that’s a real pleasure to re-discover it in vinyl! The sound quality is awesome, even with the included AT-95E cartridge. As said previously, the LP120-USB features a fully professional metal tone-arm on which you can set the counter-weight and the anti-skating amount. It also has a pitch control knob with a 10-20% button to change the speed factor and a “Quartz” button to get back to the original pitch value without having to move the fader.

One thing that I love on this turntable is its global look-and-feel, it looks completely like a Technics SL-1200. Everything is shaped like one, the red light inside the on/off switch is there, the tone arm is almost exactly the same (high quality metal, curved shape), buttons are placed in the same way, even the target light is there! Trust me, next to an SL-1200, the Audio-Technica logo removed, it’ll be difficult to differentiate them. The only con I can relate concerning the look-and-feel of this turntable is the body itself, it looks like metal but it’s actually not, it is just made out of a metal-styled plastic that looks nice but feels a bit cheap when you touch it.

The other thing that made me buy this one is that the platter is direct-driven, no belt in there which is perfect for DJing/scratching. Of course I bought a turntable to be able to play vinyl records, but I also wanted it to be suitable for DJing. If I ever want to get myself a vinyl setup, I’ll just have to get a mixer, a second LP120 and two needles to get started; no need to get two turntables! Plus it has a switch on the back that enables you either to use the built-in preamp, or the phono output. Note that this turntable only has – in addition to the USB output – a pair of male RCA plugs that are soldered. It means that if you break them you’ll have to re-solder new ones by yourself or contact Audio-Technica.

In a nutshell, I really love this turntable and am completely satisfied, as a beginner. I think it’s probably the best one you can get for this price, it looks nice, feels nice to use, sounds great with the included cartridge and the built-in phono preamp… If you’re looking for the best vinyl turntable you can get within this price range, then go ahead, you won’t be disappointed. :)

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 review

Well, a month ago I dropped my PreSonus Audiobox USB and the main stereo output stopped working due to a broken knob. I was some kind of obligated to order a new sound card because I cannot use Ableton and run my projects properly without one. So I had two options, the first one was to order another Audiobox, the second one was to get a new, better, interface, in the same price range. So I basically chose to get a better interface, as I experienced some serious problems with PreSonus’ ASIO drivers.

My Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 (N.B. crocodile not included in the packaging)

My Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 (N.B. crocodile not included in the packaging)

After lots of hours spent on Googling “best USB audio interface under €200″, I finally ordered a Focurite Scarlett 2i4 from Thomann. I received it three days after, nothing to say about Thomann’s service quality, fast and professional as usual. This sound card looks great, entirely made of red metal and grey resistant plastic. It has two hybrid XLR/Jack inputs on the front panel, followed by gain knobs, headphones/monitor volume control knobs, a stereo/mono switch (depending of your setup), Phantom switch (to enable or disable 48V power on every input), pad switch to use your inputs with a guitar or anything that requires a -10dB level and finally a stereo 6.35 Jack headphones output. On the rear panel, we can find the standard setup for a classic USB audio interface, a main stereo (2x 6.35 mono jacks, left and right) monitoring output as well as two unbalanced RCA stereo outputs and a set of Midi in and out connectors.

This hardware is quite big and heavy compared to my PreSonus which used to fit in my laptop bag, now I’m sort of obligated to carry it separately when I have to move on. But that’s not a big con, as I usually don’t bring it outside my home-studio. Finally, there is something that I really love on this sound card, the input’s gain knobs are “illuminated” with a sort of color ring, which is green if the level is good and switches to orange or red if it is too loud. That’s a great way to quickly monitor if your input signals are saturated, this is certainly the feature that I like most with this hardware!

This sound card is great, fast and supports my heavy Ableton projects without any trouble, ASIO drivers works perfectly once downloaded and installed. As a bonus, Focusrite allows you to freely download a set of VST plug-ins and miscellaneous softwares which are usually paid, as Novation Bass-Station and Ableton Live 8 Lite. Compared to my “old” PreSonus Audiobox USB, I must admit that this is another world, PreSonus doesn’t give any extra software in their packaging. The only con I can notice with this interface is that Focusrite doesn’t deliver any sticker with their hardware, what a shame. 😀

Well, to summarize this post, this sound card from Focusrite is an excellent piece of hardware, in that price range it’ll be hard to find a better interface. I got mine for €180 at Thomann but you can certainly order it cheaper if you manage to get a discount or if you order it on another website. So if you’re looking for the perfect USB audio interface under €200, go ahead. 😉

Logitech G700, an awesome mouse leaded by shitty drivers.

I’ve finally bought a true mouse so I can at least work properly. Before I bought my G700, I had to work during approximately four years with a little wired piece of plastic from Dell and I honestly think that its DPi resolution could be a negative value.

So I looked for the mouse that suited me the best, the most comfy, considering that I have pretty big hands and that I like mice which takes the whole hand. Way more comfortable to my views. It had to be wireless (I don’t like wires), no matter the responsiveness, I’m clearly not a big gamer. After lots of searches, I kept in mind the Logitech Performance Mouse MX and the G700, from Logitech again. The first one is a desktop mouse, and the second one is more for gaming, with more macro buttons etc…

My choice, the Logitech G700.

My choice, the Logitech G700.

So, finally, I chose the G700 for its dozen of programmable buttons (assigned to macros or to keyboard shortcuts, that very useful on Photoshop or Ableton), its five profiles and of course its 5700 DPi maximal resolution! The mouse cost €100, a little bit expensive but that mouse is great, except a few little details.

I get back home, unbox the mouse and I start to use it… Very good feeling, the mouse “takes” perfectly the shape of my hand, macro buttons are just under my fingers, that’s quite good. Then I start playing around a little with the driver, record some macros… But after only an hour after I unboxed it, the two principal buttons don’t respond anymore! Hower, the cursor is still moving, my other buttons are still working… I open the LGS application (the equivalent of SetPoint, but for all the gamer stuff from Logitech) to check my settings and I realize that two macros have been created on those buttons, which is normally impossible to do, simply because there is no option to do this in the software… to avoid that kind of mistakes (sic). I was lucky, only one profile out of five had been affected, but LGS cannot erase my mouse’s internal memory or even delete a profile! So I have an unusable profile out of five, an unimaginable situation on a high-end mouse like this one.

Fortunately, my issue has been solved (completely unintentionally) by leaving my mouse powered off during two days. All the content of the internal memory has been completely wiped. Yes. WTF? Does it mean that if I make the best profiles in the world on this mouse and then switch it off during a few days, my “work” will be lost? That’s not really serious, I really expected better from Logitech on that point…

Moreover, why do they give to their customers TWO different drivers for the same hardware? SetPoint and LGS are completely similar in their features, only the look changes. Furthermore, the G700 was supported by SetPoint before LGS has been released. At this point, all the gaming hardware from Logitech was no longer supported by SetPoint and customers had to switch to LGS. That means it concerns keyboards, mice, and more…  Why have they done this? Why not continuing with SetPoint to keep a single software for all their stuff? Logitech’s strategy isn’t clear, they drown their customers in a complete maze… I spent over two evenings on my laptop trying to get that stuff working!

Except this big driver problem, this mouse is really handy and it’s a real pleasure to use it everyday, I just hope that Logitech reacts about LGS and SetPoint. At this point, I’d highly advise you to go for a Performance Mouse MX instead of the G700 if you’re not a gamer.

PreSonus Audiobox USB review

Well, I think lots of my readers have been a little bit lucky for Christmas, as usual we saw loads of smartphones and useful/less miscellaneous gadgets under the tree. I’ve been lucky as well, I received as a gift the brand new flagship midrange soundcard from PreSonus that I’m going to review in this post.

Front view of the Audiobox USB from PreSonus

Front view of the Audiobox USB from PreSonus

So if you follow me on Twitter (or if you know me IRL), you may certainly know that I make music, and more precisely with Ableton Live. When you’re begging music production, you start to make simple projects with a few VSTs and some loops, that’s a pretty basic workflow and your laptop’s integrated soundcard can handle this without any trouble, it works fine and you can get a quite low latency by using Asio4All drivers… But when your productions becomes more serious and complex, when you start to use mastering plugins, pretty heavy synths as the Sylenth or the Nexus², your integrated chipset cannot handle your projects anymore so crackles and noise apears, which makes you unable to work properly.

And here comes this external soundcard, the Audiobox USB from PreSonus. Its goal is to basically replace your computer’s integrated chipset, which isn’t supposed to be used for music production (managing pretty quickly inputs, outputs and audio decoding). In other words, it allows you to work on significantly heavier projects, to use many iZotope Alloy, an Ozone on your master, Sylenth or Massive layers and much more… It enables you to work on whatever you want without any crackle. Personally, I haven’t seen the limits of this soundcard yet, no crackles, no noise, and anyway I think my laptop would burn first!

So if you’ve got a computer which has problems running your projects, before buying a new one you better try this kind of soundcards, you’ll save lots of money and you won’t be disappointed by the result… The other good point about this card is that it allows you to get rid of the enormous quantity of noise present on your chipset’s main output -I’m talking about HP’s and Packard-Bell’s laptops for example- when you plug your charger in. The Audiobox USB’s converters are great and outputs a clear crystal sound compared to my DV9000′s jack plug.

About this card’s features, this card has got 2 XLR inputs on the front panel with a 48V Phantom power supply to connect a microphone which needs to be powered this way, a USB plug obviously to connect it to your computer, a jack 6.35 stereo headphones output (you should buy this kind of converters to allow you connecting standard headphones into this plug), two 6.35 left and right jack monitoring outputs and finally two Midi connectors (in & out). On the front panel there are some knobs to set inputs volume, the balance between the 0-latency loopback and the computer’s sound, monitoring output volume and headphones output volume as well. In other words, this soundcard is great and quite cheap ($135 is the average price, but it depends of the reseller) regarding the features it offers.

So if you guys are looking for a great pro soundcard at a reasonable price, don’t hesitate a moment. I can say that I am completely satisfied, for sure.