Mojo’s Pick of the Week – Dragonfly Black DAC

DragonflyThe Dragonfly by Audioquest is a pro quality Digital Audio Converter and headphone amplifier for converting your digital music to analog for a much richer, truer listening experience. It plugs into your USB port (adapter available), and comes in two flavors, Black and Red, at price points of $99 and $199 US respectively. There are some differences outlined here, but essentially the Red is the higher end version (and a bit out of my price range). The Black is still well worth it.

Essentially, this plug & play DAC takes over for the built-in audio output of your computer, which is not necessarily optimized for sound. I’ve been mixing in the box for many years, and I was just listening to a long interview with Andrew Scheps talking about how much he loves mixing in the box for all the reasons I do. At the very end, he said “but don’t use your built-in audio out, it’s built as an afterthought and not optimized for high end audio”. Which believe it or not, has never occurred to me. I did notice sound was richer when listening through my Presonus AudioBox out instead of my Mac but because I don’t always have the AudoBox with me, that just wasn’t a practical option.

Enter the Dragonfly.

Note: when I first plugged it in, it was LOUD. I mean, throw your headphones off loud. So set the Dragonfly’s output volume before listening through it. Once I set the volume (easily done in the menu bar or the sound Preference Pane), I opened the Audio-Midi Setup App* and tried it at all sample rates before setting it at a conservative 24/48K.

Sample rate Dragonfly

Very cool feature: the Dragonfly LED changes color to indicate what sample rate it is processing. This is true even if it’s set to one setting and your DAW is set to another, it will switch to reflect the current output. Easy way to tell at a glance what your session is set to.

One thing I did notice: it’s better for mixing than tracking; I had noticeable latency when tracking through the Presonus and listening through the Dragonfly. Too many converters, I’m thinking.

To be honest, I’m still getting used to hearing music through it, the range and depth is expanded in every dimension. But it’s definitely a game changer for me. I feel like I can feel the air from kick drums now!

*Something I discovered in the process of setting it up that was very cool and somehow NO ONE HAD TOLD ME before is that you can set your built-in audio out from the default 24-bit/44.1K to up to 32-point/96K. I don’t mean the Dragonfly, I mean your actual MacBookPro audio out. I can definitely hear a difference between 44.1K and 96K even streaming an MP3, so if you do nothing else, do that. This is set for your default audio out using the Audio-Midi Setup application under Utilities.

 

 

 

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Mojo’s Pick of the Week – Musician’s Survival Guide to a Killer Record

Survival GuideThe latest book by award winning producer, mixer, and recording engineer Eric Sarafin (aka Mixerman) is hot off the presses and already stirring up controversy in the indie recording world. His hold-no-punches style is frankly a refreshing change in a sea of know-it-all experts that offer endless tail-chasing advice on how to record, mix, and write music at home.

What his new book “Musician’s Survival Guide to a Killer Record” does best is tell you how to get out of your own way and learn to enjoy the process of making music again. In other words, you don’t need to know everything there is to know about recording and mixing, just use what you have and make the music that stokes your own fire.

Along the way, he lays out all the basic info you need to buy and use recording gear, audio software, and even how to record and mix unusual instruments. There is recording advice, production advice, mixing advice, but above all, the means to get back to focusing on the fun part, making music. Recommended for struggling indie musicians.

Buy it here on amazon

Mixerman on the net
https://mixerman.net/
https://twitter.com/Mixerman
https://www.facebook.com/mixerman/

Eric’s discography

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Mojo’s Pick of the Week – TDR Nova Dynamic EQ

It’s one of those things that I knew was over my head when I first downloaded it, and now that I know a little bit more about what the hell I’m doing, I happily remembered that I already had this tool in my arsenal to fix some tricky mastering EQ problems.

What Nova basically is, is a multiband parallel dynamic EQ with optional high pass filter and low pass filter. So instead of picking an EQ band that is problematic and adjusting it once for the whole track, you can quickly and intuitively dial in dynamically responsive EQ taming or boosting.

TDR Nova

What a bonus for, say, mastering, where you don’t want to affect the whole song, just the spots that need some EQ adjustment as they arise. It’s extremely easy to use, very responsive, and extremely transparent sounding. It does way more than that, including acting as separate EQ and compressor, but that’s the basic use case.

The original Nova plugin was called Nova 76 and was written by the amazing Vladislav Goncharov of Molot and Limiter No 6 fame… for a CONTEST. So he released it free, with a very basic UI Even as I downloaded it years ago I knew that even the concept was over my head at the time, but I trusted it would come in handy someday.

Vladislav’s partnership with Tokyo Dawn Labs has resulted in a new, slick, and very intuitive update to Nova called TDR Nova, sporting much the same look as Slick EQ and the Kotelnikov compressor (also both free, and both great).

Features:

4 band parallel equalizer with auto-gain.
Optional high-pass and low-pass filters.
Full-band frequency dependent and/or split-band compression.
External side-chain support.
64-bit internal processing.

And, did I mention that the basic version is free? I highly recommend all of Vladislav’s plugins and all of Tokyo Dawn Labs plugins as well. Glad to have this one in my bag of tricks.

Tokyo Dawn Labs
Vladislav Goncharov / Vladg

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