Featured Gear at Catalyst
Neumann KH310A monitors
I reviewed a pair of these monitors for Pro Audio Review magazine a couple of years back and I simply couldn’t get their focused and detailed sound out of my mind. Then I recently learned of their particular tweeter waveguide which is especially suited to horizontal placement in rooms with low ceilings. No wonder they sound so good here at Catalyst!
Come listen for yourself as mixes are evaluated on these fine midfield’s, some “Auratones” and un-hyped mixing headphones for dependable balances and translation.
Hofa 4U+ Blind Test
This software does one thing and does it very well; it allows blind comparisons between a number of different audio sources. So what’s the big deal? It’s a matter of making the right choices, without any bias, without any hassles … it’s a matter of life and death when it comes to pursuing top quality in the studio. Come by Catalyst today or look for my review in a coming edition of Pro Sound News and see how this software makes for a better final product.
Maag Audio EQ4M program equalizer
Amongst veteran mix and mastering engineers the Nitepro EQ is considered a secret-weapon classic. Five carefully selected bands of broad EQ and their patented “Air Band”; a hi-freq band so high and sweet that only golden ears (and dogs) can appreciate it. Today the company founder’s sons have re-packaged the Nitepro into the EQ4M with some modern advantages. Visit Catalyst for a chance to sweeten up your audio with the EQ4M, whether in hardware OR plug-form (via Universal Audio)!
Roland TR-8 drum machine
If the Roland TR-808 is the most iconic and popular drum machine in music history, then what is the TR-8? Its the modern, digital version that keeps all those classic sounds bouncing all over the charts. Yes, the sound is authentic but there’s more … kicks are tunable compress-able and sustainable, snares have numerous new features … and there’s Scatter for those who like the digital chaos and glitches of dubstep and EDM.
Apogee Digital Symphony I/O 32-bit converter system
At Catalyst, we make a habit of buying the best affordable gear on the market. Except this time! … where we purchased simply the best, at any price. Experts (like mastering legend Bob Ludwig) agree, the Apogee Symphony converters utilization of industry-leading ESS Sabre Ultra 32-bit DAC’s and ADC’s leads the market with low noise, low distortion and accurate sonics. The sound is simply neutral, lacking in harshness, lacking in emphasis and there to translate the color and attitude we capture with our careful mic selections and preamp pairings.
Converters define the sound of the modern studio … never ever skimp on conversion!
SPL Mixdream XP analog summing device
Hand-built in Germany, the SPL Mixdream XP uses high-voltage internal rails (+/- 30-volt) for the precise mixing (summing) of the analog signals coming out of the computer via the Apogee Symphony converters. Mixes can be done all-digitally “in-the-box” if that’s what called for … but, if a larger soundstage, more depth, or a desire for greater imaging is required then analog summing is the ideal solution. This system has “total recall”, so in the event a remix is needed, all settings are resumed and the necessary changes made.
It’s like the best of both world’s … the convenience of digital and the euphony of analog.
Avantone CK-40 large diaphragm stereo condenser mic
In the world of stereo mics, this is a mid-priced model … but don’t let that fool you, it’s our “secret weapon” here at Catalyst. It’s pad-able – so it can handle the loud SPL of drum overheads, it’s got a HPF – so we can rolloff lows for beautiful acoustic instrument tracking, it’s got multiple patterns (cardioid, figure of 8, omni) – so we can do all sorts of stereo techniques (including my favorite, tracking drums in Blumlein and hearing the kit as if in the room!)
Custom cork diffusor/absorbers
Here at Catalyst we have to be creative to get nice room sounds out of a small space … and that’s where our custom acoustic treatments come in. These are made of wine and champagne corks and they scatter midrange frequencies as well as dampen high ones. Plus they look kinda cool don’t ya think?
Capturing Bass Guitar at Catalyst
If one considers the wide range of tonal possibilities with bass guitar, it should come as no surprise that there is no one “method” for capturing bass at Catalyst.
For players looking for a very clean and precise sound, the Type 10 DI from Countryman is the most precise of any we’ve ever heard or tested (please see my review of popular DI models in the May 2010 issue of Pro Audio Review Magazine at
with a “condenser-like” high end response and ample punch. For players looking for just a little character, the Proel ADB-1 active DI with mu-metal transformer is the ticket
with a robust bottom and silky smooth top. For rock/punk/metal players who would like some growl (its actually very SVT-ish) we use the popular and versatile Sansamp Bass Driver DI to dial in fuzzy grit.
We don’t stop there … as the amp defines many a bassist’s tone. Here we might use our SWR SM400S with its tube preamp and cool “para-graphic” EQ to get some personality. Looking to go right over the top? Nothing and I mean nothing does super-distorted bass like ADA’s legendary MB-1 programmable tube preamp. Don’t get me wrong, virtual bass sounds and re-amping are both great (and we’ve got the tools within DP8 to do this very well), but the sound of a tube amp being pushed too hard and moving lots of air by a dirty MB-1 and mic’d up with a ribbon or a LDC is awesome beyond words.
The Catalyst Crappy Mic Collection
As much as we love a nice large diaphragm tube condenser or ribbon mic, we are especially proud of our long cultivated crappy mic collection. There’s something special about hearing a really bad, frequency challenged, distorted mic reproduced through a tube preamp, or even sent through a distortion pedal first.
What we have here are a variety of mics, wired for various impedances and terminated with both 1/4″ and XLR ends, allowing various combinations of amplification with pedals, DI’s and preamps. Models include (as pictured L to R) … our newest acquisition a 1960’s E-V 647A “lavalier” mic (it’s as big as a cigar!), a 1960’s E-V 649B news gathering mic, a 1950’s Lafayette (pre-Radio Shack) crystal mic, a Radio Shack Realistic Highball, two 1950’s Lafayette all-metal omni handhelds (one wired for high impedance, one low), a 1950’s RCA BK-12A lav, a Sony tape recorder mic and two 1960’s tape recorder mics, make unknown.
As much as we rely on plug-ins for signal mangling, you still can’t beat the fun of singing through such a “craptacular” mic for some memorable performances. We only use these mics for vocals, but we sure are open to suggestions … come on by for a test spin.
Empirical Labs Fatso Jr.
This digitally controlled, analog compressor is said to be a tape simulator for its warming, smoothing and even distorting tendencies. It’s no one trick pony however, as all the controls and different controls interact with each other providing big rewards for those who like to tweak. Bass guitars love the Fatso when tracking as it can not only tame levels, but it can also reduce spikes and clacks very musically and add some grit to taste.
When mixing the Fatso wants to eat drums! Take a stereo subgroup, slam the Fatso hard in the gut and return it in parallel (parallel compression), then blend to taste … oh my, did your drums just get a big bouncy butt and tremendous density, all the while retaining peaks and punch … why yes they did!
Check this … Catalyst also has the Fatso Jr. and Sr. as a plug-in from Universal Audio. Is it as good as the real Fatso? Read my review in Pro Audio Review magazine. In the meantime let’s just say it might as well be. We are so ready to fatten you up with some Fatsos here at Catalyst!
Currently Being Reviewed at Catalyst
Resident Audio T4 recording interface
The T4 may be an affordable interface but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a serious performer. Using Thunderbolt technology the T4 can record virtually without any latency, has four mic preamps and runs on bus power! Paired with a Mac Book Pro (like here at Catalyst) it represents an ideal on-the-go recording solution.
Check out this recording of Steely Dan’s “Any Major Dude” (as performed by Grey Revell with help from Catalyst’s Rob on fretless bass) as recorded entirely with the T4 …
Read the full review in the September 2016 issue of Pro Sound News Magazine.
Meris Mercury7 reverb and 440 preamp
US-manufacturer Meris has only three products but they all look to be winners. The Mercury7 brings deep layers of control, an ergonomic layout and some killer tone to slay your plug-ins … while the 440 is more than a standard mic amp with two HPF’s, two “presence” settings and a 1/4″ effects loop!
Look for the full reviews in September 2016’s Pro Sound News Magazine.
JST's Toneforge Menace amp sim
Great heavy guitar tones require a great amp … or do they? Amp sims are the “tone du’ jour” today for good reason … convenience, low-cost and killer distortion. We’re reviewing Joey Sturgis’ Tones Toneforge Menace amp sim and it gets that modern rock sound insanely easily from a DI. Come by Catalyst today, lay some tracks and help contribute your opinion to this review.
AMS-Neve 1073 DPX mic preamp and EQ
Everyone agrees that the Neve 1073 preamp is the most revered design of all time and there’s a lot of 1073’ish options available today. This 2-ch mic pre and EQ captures that classic sound like only a true Neve can. Guitars, basses, drums, vox, synths … they all benefit from a trip thru this pristine hardware. Come visit Catalyst while this beauty is in the rack and hear for yourself!
BAE 73MPL 500-series 1073-type mic amp
Brent Averill and company are no newcomers to creating audio gear inspired by classic (Rupert) Neve designs from the 1970’s. They are in fact experts at designing Neve 1073 clones known for their authentic sound … one often described as rich, warm, saturated and distorted (if one know show to massage the settings for rockin’ vocals, guitars, basses and drums). Now squeezed into the smaller 500-series chassis one has to wonder if the same big tones can be found(?). Come on by, rock out and find out!
Antelope Audio - Pure 2 converter and master clock
Antelope Audio has made a name for themselves with some of the world’s best master clocks and their new Pure 2 incorporates one, along with wordclock distribution, analog in and out, a dual-stage DAC converter, headphone amp and all kinds of routing capabilities. I’ll be comparing it to other top-shelf converters here at Catalyst … if your ears are up to it, join me for a test drive.
Sandhill Audio 6011A active ribbon mics
Y’all know how much we like ribbon mics around here … so you can imagine our delight at reviewing this pair of premium active ribbons. Yes, they’re expensive (about $3700 each!), but that’s not the headline … the sound quality is! We’ve already tried them on piano (thanks Matt Stache!), Hammond organ, acoustic guitar, percussion, drum overheads, djembe and more … schedule a session and try them yourself, as they will change your perception of what natural sound is!
Look for the full review coming in the June 2015 issue of Pro Sound News … and don’t forget to listen to the webclips on the PSN Soundcloud (https://soundcloud.com/pro-audio-review-magazine).
Harrison 32cs channel strip
Legendary console maker Harrison (out of Tennessee) has been making great sounding mixing consoles since 1975 and this 32cs captures all that transformer-colored, tunable-filtered and richly EQ’d sonics of the 32-Series mixers … except coupled with some modern DAW-user conveniences (2-mix input, blending facilities, monitor and headphone amp outputs).
Curious? Check out the full review in my column in the April 2015 Pro Sound News … and don’t forget to look for the video on my YouTube channel and webclips on the PSN Soundcloud.
Millennia-Media HV-32P and 35P preamps
Arguably the maker of the world’s cleanest mic preamps has released two PORTABLE versions! Now get MM quality on-the-go with DC power or keep them in the studio. Either way, were gonna give them a full workout and even compare them to our benchmark … the Millennia-Media STT-1 input channel!
Ear Trumpet Labs Mabel condenser microphone
Check out the first video “Review Preview” of this mic on the new Rob Tavaglione YouTube channel …
Coleman Audio Red48 analog summing device and monitor contrroller
It’s like a mixing console in two rack spaces, its the surprisingly compact Red48 from Glenn Coleman and co. 48 channels of summing in 24 stereo pairs, passive source/monitor switching and talkback facilities … all in the space of a typical compressor. Stay tuned to the pages (and webpages) of Pro Audio Review Magazine (www.prosoundnetwork.com) for all the juicy details.
Neumann KH310A nearfiled monitors
Arguably the world’s most prestigious microphone manufacturer, Neumann entered monitor world with compact 2-ways that I reviewed a year ago. Now, with the release of these compact three-way nearfields, Neumann has upped the ante and is posing some serious competition for my trusted Blue Sky 3-way’s. Schedule a session today and mix your music on these fine transducers.
Daking FET III Dual-Channel Compressor/Limiter
Designer Geoff Daking takes his popular FET II mono compressor into dual-channel territory with electronically balanced I/O’s, continuously variable pots, a variable high pass filter on the sidechain detector and an unusual feature, variable stereo linking.
The FET III is fast, clean and extremely versatile … so its suitable for a wide range of inputs from bass guitar, overheads, kick, snare, acoustic guitars, vocals and especially whole mixes. The full review will be upcoming in Pro Audio Review Magazine (http://www.prosoundnetwork.com) but come by Catalyst today for test drive … because I bought it!
Gem Audio Labs Compactor & Preceptor compressor/limiters
Polish boutique manufacturer Gem Audio Labs has sent two of their compressor/limiters to Catalyst Recording for review in Pro Audio Review Magazine. These hand-built, full-featured dynamics controllers offer a full range of features … numerous attack and release time choices, a variable high pass filter in the sidechain, either 2:1 compression or limiting, premium components and meticulous build. The Preceptor also offers advanced features like variable impedance, more time constants and parallel processing (the blending of dry and compressed signal phase coherently, in the unit).
But the operative feature here is the use Zener diodes to bias the VCA. These diodes have a signature sound that is not plain vanilla! Please schedule a visit today to hear these unique and bold dynamics controllers.
Sterling Audio ST6050
There’s a pair of these big beautiful blue babies, designed by Allen Sides of Ocean Way Studios himself and they’re ready for some sonic action. Read my full review in Pro Audio Review magazine if you’re curious, but suffice to say the 6050’s do a nice job of grabbing most anything, anything that can take a healthy 6 dB bump at 10 k (and you might be surprised at just how many sources can – ie vox, pianos, overheads etc).
They excel as drum overheads, or for hat, ride or room ambience for that matter. They do a nice job on our Yamaha upright piano (for the PAR webclips go to www.soundcloud/pro-audio-review) and can translate acoustic guitars very nicely. But best of all, these 6050’s are very nice to the human voice. You guys and (and some altos) can sing right on axis and get excellent detail with just the right amounts of warmth and sibilance. Soprano gals and bright tenors need to rotate off -axis just a bit, to reduce that 10 k bump and they’ll get a nice balance of chest, to mids, to sibilance.
Thermionic Culture Phoenix Mastering Plus Compressor
Like all its avian siblings in the TC line, the Phoenix uses all tube circuitry, thermionic circuits, to process signals. With a variable mu design that increases ratio as attenuation increases, the Phoenix will do incredibly smooth level taming with no discernible artifacts. To further aid with transparency, the sidechain circuit has two levels of high pass filtering; this allows modern bottom-end-heavy mixes to be musically compressed without the big kick drum (or throbbing bass) causing pumping or inappropriate level reduction.
This big, sweet bird is a pricey one at about $7 k, so let’s be honest, I won’t be able to keep it here forever. But hey, what a joy it is right now to squeeze mixes and smooth out masters without a hint of restraint or strain. This Phoenix may not be able to fly, but it will make your mixes soar, come try it out.
Yamaha upright piano It’s beautiful, with warm tones, plenty of definition, records beautifully and it gets tuned quarterly. Synthesizers be damned !
Mic preamps from Millennia-Media, Avalon VT-737, Manley (TNT ), BAE 73MPL (Neve 1073-type), AMS-Neve 4081 (pristine), Focusrite ISA 428MKII (very versatile), True Precision 8 (a little growly, discrete), Meris and Fredenstein (with parallel compression)
Microphones (condenser, tube, ribbon, stereo and dynamic) from Neumann, AKG, Berliner, AEA, Sennheiser, Beyer, EV, Shure, Rode, Audio-Technica. Including Berliner U77 (tube, multi-pattern, vocal perfection), AEA R92 ribbon mic (a very sweet top end), Neumann TLM 103’s (forward and bright), Blue Hummingbirds (small diaphragm sweetness), Avantone CK-40 stereo condenser (gorgeous and flexible), AKG D12 (that classic Motown bottom) and D12VR (the new standard), Sennheiser MD421’s and MD504’s (tom toms), Beyer M201 (flatter than a 57 on snare), A-T 4033SE (electric guitar perfection)… no cheap “budget” condensers here, because mics really matter more than anything else.
Digital editing via Digital Performer 8.07 running on OS X 10.11, very much like ProTools … but better!
Computer interfacing via Apogee’s Symphony state-of-the-art converters for punch, clarity and accuracy . Mixes receive conversion from Antelope Audio’s Pure2.
Analog summing mixdown, of unlimited digital tracks and up to 24 analog channels, through high resolution converters from Apogee (with UV22 process)… summed by an SPL Mixdream XP high-voltage analog summing device, all stored digitally through our converters.
Processing from the EL7 (The Fatso) from Empirical Labs, Daking FETIII, Chandler Germanium, ART Pro VLA, Maag EQ
Monitoring starts out with the SPL MTC Monitor Controller, which feeds Neumann KH310 monitors and Avantone Active Mixcubes. Headphone monitoring from Audio-Technica, AKG, Fostex and Sennheiser via high powered amps from Aphex, Behringer and Fostex.
World-class guitar amps from Marshall (classic JCM800 w/ EL34’s), Mesa Boogie (classic 2-ch Dual Rectifier w/ 6L6’s and DC3 w/ EL84’s) and Vox (AC30, the ultimate clean). Active guitar splitting for multi-amp recording setups. Re-amping via Radial and virtual guitar tones from JST’s Menace.
Guitars from Paul Reed Smith, Taylor and a Fender hollowbody Telecaster (gorgeous feedback heaven). Bass rig includes SWR400S amp with tube preamp and powerful sweepable/graphic EQ, ADA preamp with crazy bass distortions and Amepg’s mighty SVT 4x10HLF. Basses from Kubicki (an “original” Factor – incredible for recording), Fender, Godin (fretless) and others.