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The Scan Pro Audio Picks Of The Year 2017

At this time of year, there is one thing that is as inevitable as the papers proclaiming that an incoming weather front is going to cause the end of the world (again) and that is, of course, the annual end of year retrospective lists.

Not to be left out, we have here five bits of kit that stood out for us over the course of the year and more importantly, just why that might have been. In fact, some of this kit proved to be slow burning in earning the teams support and admiration so that in itself lets us take a slightly longer-term view of the gear in hand.

Presonus Quantum

Presonus over the last few years have managed to elevate their brand through the highly praised Studio One software continuing to grow in popularity as many users sequencer of choice. Their audio interfaces, however, have been a mixed bag and up until now, with little to help them stand out from the crowd.

That was until their entry into the Thunderbolt foray brought us this little gem.

Presonus Quantum Front Panel

Goalposts were moved and expectations were raised as Presonus brought us this absolute winner. Extremely low latency times that challenge the very best out there, plenty of I/O, great conversion and a respectable signal path throughout the interface means that this is frankly a great all-around package.

Hedd 05

From Klaus Heinz, the original designer behind the ADAM speaker range comes the company HEDD (Heinz Electrodynamic Designs) and their own range of studio speakers. Built around the same crystal clear AMT-based tweeters that Klaus has always favoured in the past, but with refinements to the sound that clearly illustrate that these are certainly their own thing.

Whilst they have the larger HEDD 20’s & 30’s in the range, it’s the entry-level 05’s that we’ve picked here. They have superb balance and depth to them, and frankly for the size an astounding bass representation. The 05’s themselves stand up well against speakers many times their price and the slightly larger 07’s do little more than add a bit more depth to the sound with a few more notes at the bottom end of the scale but still retain the first rate tonal balance found on the smaller edition.

We’ve been so blown away by these a few of us have even taken sets home as secondary pairs for our own studios, so they’ve certainly left a lasting impression.

Friedman Sir Compre

Friedman is best known for creating high-end rock amps with a Vintage Classic Rock tone inspired by British tube amps from the 60’s and 70’s, and similarly, their pedal range is also shaped by this legacy. In this instance, the Sir Compre isn’t a pedal that sets out to emulate and given amplifier, rather a compressor with a very subtle overdrive circuit built in, adding body a little bit of grit to your sound.

With a bit of tweaking it’s very easy to get a wide selection of classic rock tones and as our team noted if you want to nail that classic 70’s rock sound, it’s extremely easy to do so with this pedal and we’ve already found it perfect for recreating the tones found on the classic “Rock Steady” by Bad Company.

Novation Peak

Novation is a company with a bit of a history of producing great, affordable synths and this one is certainly a quality all-rounder.

A digital subtractive synth at its heart with added wavetable and FM synthesis possibilities all being fed into an analogue filter. Now add in a couple of LFO’s along with a matrix modulation table offering 16 routable slots and a CV gate for the more adventurous and we have one very well featured synth and it’s easy to see why Tom enjoyed himself so much when he finally got his hands on one.

Check out the video below to see Tom getting to grips with it.

Audeze MX4

Quite possibly on the best studio oriented headphones currently available, they simply need to be heard to be believed.

Based upon Audeze’s planar magnetic driver design, the MX4’s continue to improve on the previous flagship LCD-4’s by offering a new durable magnesium housing along with a carbon fibre headband design that makes them 30% lighter overall, helping to ensure comfort during those longer studio sessions.

A premium product with a premium price tag, but capable of delivering a level of sonic quality that rivals speakers 2 or 3 times its price, making them the ultimate secret weapon for many a mastering engineer.

Audeze MX 4

Optoma Nuforce BE6i – Is It Time To Ditch Those Pesky Wires?

So right off the bat I have to confess that I’m not the biggest fan of wireless. Every computer in my house is wired to my router, every pair of headphones I own is wired and my past experiences of Bluetooth didn’t exactly persuade me that it’s time to ditch those pesky wires. Infact besides a cool little BT speaker I bought, my experience has actually been pretty shocking. Constant connection interruptions, poor battery life, annoying loud and heavily compressed Chinese vocal prompts that deafen you and the worst offender of all was noise. A little BT receiver I bought had so much noise that you literally had to listen at uncomfortable levels to drown the horrible electrical noise being pumped down your ear canal. We recently had a sample pair of Airpod wannabes for us to test in the office and they were catastrophically bad. And that was that, Id had enough of this technology and the “wireless audio revolution”.

With all that in mind, I’m a little surprised at what I’m about to say…The Optoma Nuforce BE6i have become my weapon of choice for commuting to work, listening to music in the office and watching movies and TV shows at night. So what has brought about this change of heart? Let me tell you!

The BE6i’s are available in 2 colour schemes and come in a really nice looking package with a lovely selection of tips and clips including 5 pairs of custom designed silicone tips. The inclusion of 2 pairs of Comply tips (Medium and Large) is a bonus for me as I’m an absolutely massive fan of them and they also help keep the heavier than usual earphones to stay in while you’re on the move. Optoma have also included a high-quality hard case to protect your earphones which is a welcome touch. They support aptX and AAC codecs for best quality on all your devices.

The earphones themselves are understandably chunky, have a nice aluminium finish, 10mm drivers, they come with a flat, tangle-free cable and an in-line remote that strangely doesn’t quite match the finish of the rest of the product. Aesthetics aside, the remote works perfectly even in torrential rain! The BE6i are also IPX5 water resistant which is quite a high rating, especially useful in England. They connected to all devices I tried them with – Android phones, an Ipad, multiple USB BT dongles without any problems – the BE6i will also store up to 8 seperate device connection settings! The battery life is outstanding too, Optoma state up to 8 hours and I can confirm this isn’t a pie-in-the-sky number as they seem to last forever.

So how do they sound? Well, there is absolutely no inherent noise which was the first thing I noticed and one of the most important things I was listening for. The BE6i’s have quite a flat sound signature which may disappoint bassheads but with some EQ you can remedy this and the earphones will pump out the extra bass without deteriorating into an awful mess. The very top end of the treble region seems to be slightly clipped but this I imagine is at the mercy of the aptX protocol rather than a limitation of the earphones, The stereo seperation is there, the soundstage is wide enough for in-ears though depth does suffer a little and the midrange vocal region is probably their strong point. These will probably be more of a hit with rock lovers, the sound signature definitely leans in that direction and doesn’t disappoint when listening to Trent Reznor scream on NIN – Terrible Lie!

In conclusion, against expectations, I really like these earphones. Do they hold a candle to my favourite wired setup – no they don’t, but there was no expectation for them to do so. Have they replaced my go-to wired setup for the commute to work and in-office listening – yes they have indeed. They sound good, they’re weather proof, they don’t get caught on things, they do what they are supposed to do and they do it very well! They have also made it possible for me to watch TV shows in bed without annoying the hell out of my neighbours or dealing with my crazy dog jumping up and ripping my earphones out. Unfortunately some of the problems inherent to Bluetooth have still not been rectified such as audio delay. This makes them useless for gaming imo, although the delay can be compensated for from within KODI (ahead by 0.100s works for me) so watching movies and TV shows is fine. They also play ball with Waves NX which is another bonus for me.

If you’re looking for a pair of Bluetooth in-ears then you should definitely check these out, just be aware that some of the limitations of the technology have not been overcome yet. Otherwise I’m pretty confident in recommending these earphones and also happy to announce that they are on sale at the moment too so theres no better time than the present to give them a try. Reduced from £99.99 to £79.99 for a limited time!

https://www.scan.co.uk/products/optoma-nuforce-be6i-bluetooth-earphones-ipx5-water-resistant-30m-range-comply-tips-aac-aptx-(grey)

https://www.scan.co.uk/products/optoma-nuforce-be6i-bluetooth-earphones-ipx5-water-resistant-30m-range-comply-tips-aac-aptx-(gold)