Steven McNair


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GEAR Review.
Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hey Blog readers. Here's a couple gear reviews I wrote up for one of the Audio recording and gear forums I'm active in. This is strictly tech so watch out. :) (also, the reviews are written in a GP way so don't mind the straight up talk) PTL, I'm so thankful for your supply, Jesus.

(May 31st 2009)Hello Studio central, I've learned too much from Y'all over the years, and I'm making a living Mixing and Producing records. As everyone else here, I'm always adding gear to the rack, and I though I'd do a review of one of the latest additions to the rack. I chose the Octopre LE as I haven't seen much on Focusrite platinum products here.

One of my weak point's is preamps. I have A GT brick, pre's on the 828MKII, JOEMEEK 3Q....and the preamp's in the mixing desk Which has gotten me by without complaint from Clients. I have used A Joemeek oneQ and Focusrite Twintrack pro in another studio several times. I saw this Used for 30,000 yen or Just under 300$, and Since I was Still in the market for a 8ch pre (I was so close to buying a Yamaha MLA8 or similar a couple times But chose to put the money Into other things that go toward a well rounded recording studio) and I HAD the money, I went ahead a bought it, figuring I can't lose with that price. (The unit is 669$ new as of now) and I used the twintrack pro which sounded good enough- though I didn't get too critical at the time.

First Impressions:
I did a little shootout with all my preamps as soon as it showed up. Self noise noise at +60DB was around -70db.
It is bright. It's not really subtle either, It is just a bright preamp. talking through a 57 at first it sounded real great. BUT I was wary. I tried my brightest rode NT-2 mic, and then I preferred the brick. I figured though, In most of the mixes I do, I find my vocal tracks need a bit of air or 3K boost. Or both. I tryed making lots of "ssss" sounds and listening closely to the differences. Now this was subtle, but it sounded as if the higher frequencies running through the focusrite were being compressed. they were slightly less open and loose then what the Brick was doing. The focusrite sounded...How do I put it...Ever sooooo slightly, the highs sounded hyped in a lispy sort of way. Now I was comparing two very different preamps, and there was no song context to really make decisions on, so I left it there for the first day. Basically I thought the highs could get me in trouble in a couple spots, as I wanted to be able to track vocals through it when I wanted a super clean (not brick) sound. Good impressions would be the body of the sound was pleasant, and didn't break up. The Image was relatively tight and focused. I couldn't really tell a difference in breakup of the body of the sound compared to the brick try as I did, and that was encouraging. So essentially we have a clean forward image, but highs hyped not in a good way.

In Actual Use.
A week After the unit came in, I got to work. A friend and I were recording 5 Brit-punk and "Madchester" songs for a software soundtrack. Obviously, first order of the day was drums. Standard SM57s, Beta52, and Rode NT-5s covered the kit. We noticed...There are NO pad switches. OH NO. Setting levels, the Clip indicator on the unit was not lighting up, however the snare was being clipped on the big hits. We thought that to be strange. But, what's more strange, we did not hear ANY distortion. we tryed to. We pumped the gain up a couple DB until the focusrite was clipping each snare hit fairly hard, and we listened for the type of distortion it was giving the signal. But...I really didn't hear any. It sounded like a limiter on each channel. Anyway, sounds strange, but we had work to do SO we brought the gain back down and recorded drum with some of the hits being clipped off by the focusrite. Right there, No pad switch is a High Minus for the unit. The weird part is, In the mix I once again really tried to hear the distortion that was supposed to be there. But...It really sounded cleanly recorded. I don't know why this is, But the drums were easy enough to work with in the mix, and there was really, absolutely no noise. The hyped Highs didn't work negatively at All. So on drums, the conclusion is: The octopre is doing something- either limiting, or overloading and clipping the tracks. But Even when we tried to visually get something Big and Bad going on, It still sounded fine. What?
Vocals: We used the brick for most of the tracks on this project, But 2 songs I wanted a cleaner sound. I also just wanted to try this thing out.
Tracking was great, so into the mix: Lets just say it was necessary to De-ess pretty much all the tracks. I ended up wanting more 4k in my tone and the Focusright sound didn't help. But after the DE-esser, the Image was what I wanted: A Clean in your face track. It worked like I expected it to, Thank God.
My friend and I were curious about Not being able to hear the clipping on the drums, so We pushed a vocal track real quick so the focusrite was really leveling my singing. Sung real loud for a bit, then we listened. And again, Strange, but we could not hear the clipping. It only sounded limited. there is none of that horrible preamp clipping sound I get with my other preamps. It remains a clean sound....Just totally crew cut. There MUST be a limiter in the Octopre. which sadly...for me Is a Minus. I would have preferred a simple pad switch. Anyway, for Vocals this didn't come into play as we kept the signal under clipping.

In Closing:
Well, I have it. So I have to make it work. I am happy with it, but I paid 300$. If I bought it new, I would be disappointed. I hope there are better 8ch preamps out there for the price. If someone is buying new for their studio, I would NOT recommend this piece. If your getting the deal I did, I would.
Things I like about it, are
1: it's clarity. It is clear and rather in your face (partly to do with the compressed sounding highs) If you watch the highs in the mix, Its a clean image that is easy to move around. The body doesn't have that "Phasey" cheap preamp sound. Then again, this is what It is supposed to do.
2: Looks. Shiny! Rest of the rack is dull colors so this is nice.
3: the 1/4 channel inputs on the front. I want to plug an effector or synth or Keyboard into the DAW, there's my jacks right there on the face of the unit, rather then having to go back in the rack.
Don't like:
1: No Pad switches. In that case I'm glad it doesn't distort when Clipped, I guess. But I would have preferred a Pad.
2: The Highs. While possibly alright in Angry music where you want the punchy highs, This unit would probably sound pretty cheap on a jazz Vocal, for instance. Also I can see a Mix getting a little frayed in the top end if one was to record all the tracks through this. The hype in the highs sounds like it has the potential to make things tough for the a super critical ear, If you aren't careful."sss's" tend to get the brunt of the "character" this pre has to offer. It's not bright in the sense that It sounds "EQ'ed"- It's doesn't have so much of an overall brightness- Its more of the way the Preamp Color's the highs that are in your signal already with a sort of compressed sound. Of course it's subtle though. I doubt most folks would deduce this unless they were in the business for a while.
This Preamp Is the same preamp in all of the focusrite platinum products. (like the twin track pro for example) So parts of this review could help shoppers for focusrite's Channel strip options out as well.

For 669$...
5 out of 10.

Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:26 pm
Hello once again to all Studio central Long-timers.
For newer members, here’s a brief background on your reviewer:

I Have In-studio tracking or mixing experience with Yamaha Ns-10ms, Event tr-5, Event 20/20BAS, Event ASP6, JBL 4410a, JBL 4410, JBL 4412, KRK V4.
I am currently a more or less self-employed Semi-fulltime Studio geek doing all sorts of things.


I was looking around for a set of 8 inch Speakers to complement my Event-tr5s and 10 inch mid field JBL4410a. After a few months of quietly making my mind and asking questions, I went for these guys. The Bass extension was low enough, and the price was right- not to mention the Brand name. Yamaha, in my mind, has always put consistently Great products out in pretty much every area. I wanted a “Mid range” monitor speaker. As in- not the Cheapest Budget 8 inchers, And I didn’t quite want the plus 1k “professional” systems. Sure, if I didn’t need to put aside for a new drumset, But hey, this is the real world. This was the choice in that price range that stood out for NO1, Price and Support in Japan for MIJ products Is always easier, NO2, Prices for Yamaha are Lower here VS the other choices, and NO3…The White cone. For real NO3 was simply all the great reviews I’ve been hearing from a lot of places on the net (Take those with a grain of salt….People tend to “love” what they decided to buy)

So, they show up, Nice Boxes, Nice packing, Yeah whatever. Plug them in, Get all set up. The first track I ran through them was Plus44’s “When Your Heart Stops Beating”. First impressions are naturally good. First thing I thought was the stereo field was wider then what I was used to hearing from the same position where I used to stand the Tr-5. I like the way the low end felt, but that’s to be expected from any half-decent active 8in woofer. After a bit more listening and A/B/Cing, I Decided the High trim switch needed to come down 2db desperately. They must have added the “plus 2db” option for 70 and 80 year olds with hearing loss….or something. God forbid I ever engage that. These Speakers are Bright! After the -2db switch, Things sounded right in the highs. Still a Bit shrill around 3K, but after using the -2db switch at 2k, The speakers Sounded too warm: I brought 2k back to flat, and I figured this must be where they incorporated the NS10 sound into the HS80.


I got to work the Next day, to see how my first mix on these would come together. This mix was one of 12 mixes I’m doing for a Texas rock band. It’s just standard hard rock. They recorded the Tracks at home with some phase and tone Issues: Well…..I guess that’s my job. The Lead vocal also had a lot going on right at 2K, a pretty aggressive tone. Mix did not come together easily. I can’t blame the HS80’s though, and I Don’t. At what I thought was the end of the mix, I started A/Bing with commercial tracks, and realized my mix was very shy in the 3-4K area, something that doesn’t happen with my other system. Guitars weren’t thin, but just had the treble sitting funny. I don’t know how much is fault goes to the fact that I’m on new speakers and my ears are hearing something else, OR the fact that this was a new band and they had different sounding tracks that were tough to work with. Probably both. I had the do the mix again a different day, this time in a real world using the HS-80 AND my friends of 4 years the Tr-5.

2 weeks later:

Low end on the HS80m is nice, not very “deep” as it was “warm”. They seem to work well in conjunction with my other speakers in spatial imaging. They also Sound the best out of my 3 systems, the JBL’s being a 3way mid field monitor I never quite got used to that sound Very clear and Smooth, very silky and pleasing (especially now to the HS80) . The HS80 are Harsh. It’s true, it sounds to me like their mid-2db switch should have been set at 3.5k or so. It’s going to be a few more mixes before I’m sure of myself on these. It’s not insane or impossible to work with, but they follow after the NS-10 in that respect. Other then the upper mid-range, these sound very different from the NS-10. They aren’t “boxy” in the least and DO have a thump in the low end. In other points, the HS80s DO have a nice spatial quality. For Example a mix I did previously that I thought was as wide as a particular commercial track, sounded a little less wide in comparison then it sounded before. Subtle, But they reveal more about the space then my JBLs.

In closing

If you are an old school Ns10 Guy, Don’t pass these up for the harsh midrange! It was done on purpose I suppose. To everyone else, these are great speakers as far as sonic clarity and cohesive sound go. I wouldn't say they are miles ahead of any other competition, mainly because I haven't heard much of the current competition in a proper environment. But I will say I know these are a run for any makers money. I’m not too thrilled about the 3K thing, but I will get used to it. If I made it sound like 3k Is All I hear coming from the speaker, Don’t mis-understand me. Good lows, Good Middle, and Nice Highs are all there. It actually sounds Much Flatter then my Tr-5 with hyped 500htz. I’m thinking maybe because I am so used to hearing a lot of 500htz, when that’s gone in the Hs-80s it just brings out the upper mids even more.

Good Looks: white cones do add to the typical “black” look of a studio.

Good Imaging: Expose more then I am used to concerning the stereo field.
Good Bass: Not too Awesome, But warm and punchy.
Good overall sound: Crystal clear sound, with refreshingly nice response.
Hyped upper mids: There’s a lot of treble here. It doesn’t sound BAD, and in fact sounds perfect after the pad. Other sets I’ve use are also heavy on the treble like the 20/20s for example. But they don’t have the 3K of this speaker. I will most likely find myself shying away in that area when mixing the first few months.

(Update one year later)
I love these! I got used to them fast and I know them well. I've grown to like the aggression in the speaker.

9 out of 10

posted by Steve @ 6:04 AM   3 comments
LOTS of recent pictures (Kando Bando)
Monday, May 11, 2009

This is a gig in Makuhari a couple weeks ago.Nice Sign!
Playing Inside the next day for some sheep
View from our Hotel room about 2 weeks ago
Before the show
The show
After the Show
THEN THE CLIMAX...dinner at 9:30PM
We played at this 2-day arts festival, hosted at one of the places we busk at sometimes. This is the day one show.
Shun looking good
These guys rocked
This guy was the worst sound man I have ever seen. There was Howling, loud clicks and pops, not to mention 1 blown speaker flapping least it wasn't facing the main audience. It took like 15 minutes between bands...This poor guy didn't have much experience. The girl is even plugging her ears.
The very hippie bazzar. I swear I smelled pot smoke, and sure enough theres this dude hiding behind some boxes on a table with a joint. I bought a cool T-shirt
Day 2 show
Another Recent show during golden week that got rained out
Another Golden week show, Indoors, Thank God. Crowd looks small but gig was real good and sold 13 CD's with Pay.
3 days ago, Heres the fun gig, at a jazz restaurant. The place had about 30 people each paying 4500 to come watch us and eat food and drink. Writing set lists below
About 1/3rd of the place
I think were probably singing "twist and shout" in the pic
This older man in the center really enjoyed us...gave us each a 10,000 tip, thats 40,000 Yen added onto the day (got some other smaller tips too!)...Plus 13 CD's, A meal, more networking, and a blasting fun show. And the place paid our transportation, of course. This place was in Makuhari.

posted by Steve @ 8:53 PM   5 comments
NEW songs
Friday, May 8, 2009
Hey guys, The gig's all went well, we had a gig last week were we had to play 2 hours of different music, Finally these awesome LONG shows where you feel done when it is done. Tonight we are heading up to Makuhari again to do another LONG show (probably 3 sets of 40 mins each) at a fancy restaurant. so please pray we can sells lots of CD's cause this place is only paying our transport costs...It's kind of a trial run. But it'll be fun.
Other news, for all you Japanese Christian rap fans....look to the left in the "newest music" box, where there are 2 new singles from Kibou, the Japanese rap act I am helping out. If you don't understand Japanese, download them anyway. I think it might feed your spirit through osmosis.
Maybe I'll post some pic's from a few of our recent shows soon.
posted by Steve @ 5:56 PM   1 comments
Friday, April 24, 2009
Ha, last night was rest night. I went up to the wing to talk to taka about something....and then...I saw them. Lego's. That's right. I spent an hour in the corner all alone...making this. Just when I was about finished someone pokes their head in all like " WHAT! we were looking for you! I gotta go get my camera!" and she did...and...Anyway. I like to think I still have some chops left over from my OC through to JT shipbuilding years.
Yep, I cut my Gorgeous locks of gold. I'm same old bald Steve again, except now with more facial hair overall perhaps. Our show today got canceled to to rain, bummer. it was in Makuhari so we were going to go to Costco for a pizza lunch. Maybe next week eh? Well at least our gig for tomorrow is still on, and we get to eat Buffet dinner at the Rotary club hotel dinner, among other things. Pray the lord can come through, and that we play well. If we impress this time it means more gigs. On the 29th, there's a good Chance Florence and I will go with Iko and crew to Primary Record's office in Shibuya, the Boss heard the song "Kibou" and wanted to meet the band, Esp Florence. Either It'll just be a good experience, Or the Lord wants to do something different....On the 1st, Friday, I'll be having a Visitor from DAG music, so pray that goes well.
The Party was Rocking. I haven't had that much fun DJing in Ages...I miss turntables so bad. Iko was kind enough to lend'm to me over the week.

posted by Steve @ 10:41 PM   9 comments
Sunday, April 19, 2009
You've all been keeping up with the SBJ website and stuff, thats where I've been. I went to tokyo for a week and I've been back for a few days, getting back into the grind. Oh, I had a Nice time a Bayside with Mas and Cherio, thanks guys for putting me up. It's always a pleasure. Well I suppose the big news is, were hosting a BIG area party tomorrow night with 43 people including SGA's kids coming over plus our own massive home's population. I managed to borrow turntables from a friend, and It's going to be a real kickass party, God willing. Pray that no marbles get thrown into the speakers or something, Yes. Speaking of our homes population, it's grown by one. JOAN from Mexico....JUST KIDDING...has moved in about 2 weeks ago and is settling in nicely. She's a terrorist. Now I have to work out, it's been 3 workouts in 4 days and I am SO SORE EVERYWHERE. I don't know...what the goal is at this point. To die and move on, or to get muscles big as... eggs? Just trying to be Honest. Well, Take care world, Please pray for me, I'm pretty swamped with PMA / SBJ / Kando Bando / WSA and then my own little moments of beer time. I love Ya'll.
posted by Steve @ 4:30 AM   3 comments
Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Here we are last Sunday under our local tree. I ran into town and bought some 6-packs and chips while Marie headed up the guacamole team, and in the end it was a lot of fun. Everyone has to do this at least once during the spring.Nozomi, PMA mentor Looking more hot everyday
Mary and I in surrender to the camera

We tried a new Kind of Happoshu, the new Asahi cool draft. It's like 125 yen a short. For you folks in Japan, I was impressed. It's a little less bitter then my current favorite Asahi Clear, and it's basically a tad easier going down but still has some balls for a Happoshu. Try it. A shout for Asahi...No Happoshu from Suntory or Sapporro comes close! (for me...agree? dissagree?)

posted by Steve @ 6:55 AM   10 comments
Friday, April 3, 2009
Were done phase one, we came out with 10 songs, and we will probably scrap one...which leaves ups with a few more tracks to pull out of somewhere before we start producing the actual record. But I'm sure that'll all come together.
Flor and I were going to hit the road for four days with Taka and raise some funds busking over the sakura weekend, but at the last minute Florence couldn't make it. PC home found a awesome witnessing opportunity which- If it's God's will- Includes a house... so Flor was needed. It was her hour. Alas, I'm still here...In I pray Sakura will still be in bloom in Shizuoka next weekend. Maybe we can find something to do.

Here's Audio blog #6. This is....for real, the second EVER piece of music I EVER made. 15 years old....256 Mhtz...64 megs of Ram....and some computer speakers, all in fruity loops 2.0. I didn't know what EQ was...Those days. Anyway, just posting it because I was rummaging through my CD's not long ago and found this. This has not been tampered with at all since It was "mixed down" (to mp3 I might Add...I seem to recall not knowing what WAV. was...) then ripped off CD and encoded once again into MP3. Be careful.....It's weird.

posted by Steve @ 1:39 AM   4 comments
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