This eight-track digital recorder dubbed the DP-03, is the latest offering in Tascam’s Portastudio range. Capturing your music at CD quality to SD/SDHC cards (it comes ready loaded with a 2GB card), this neat little unit is fitted with a pair of remarkably sensitive and well balanced stereo condenser microphones which are built into the front panel, making it ideal for recording a rehearsal, or a live performance. However, for those who wish to set up their own “off-board” mic’ing systems there is a pair of high-quality XLR microphone preamps with phantom power. A couple of 1/4” line inputs are there too plus a headphone input and an instrument-level switch that allows you to record a guitar or bass without a direct box. Routing the inputs to one of the eight tracks is simple, and you can record two at a time until you fill up all eight. A built-in metronome and tuner are useful additions, with each having their own dedicated buttons for quick access.

Track editing functions include copy/ paste, silence, clone track and undo and bouncing is also available, with the possibility of bouncing all eight tracks down to just one or two. There is also a separate three-button footswitch available for control and punch in – and you can even import a recording through USB or audio CD. Each track has its own send to a stereo reverb processor as well as two-band shelving EQ. Once you’ve perfected your mix with the faders, pan knobs, reverb and EQ, you can then record it to the dedicated stereo master track which can then be processed with mastering effects like EQ and limiting. Then when you’re satisfied with the result, you can either transfer your mix to a computer over USB 2.0 or burn it onto an audio CD using the integral CD burner facility. We reckon that the DP-03 would be the perfect partner for the touring band that’s looking to produce a live album.

For more go to www.tascam.com

With the proliferation of home studio set ups today meaning practically anyone can produce high quality recordings with a fraction of the gear, and the cost, of using a top of the range studio space, it’s the tricky issue of finding the perfect space to mix your finished recordings that’s increasingly an issue. It’s been standard practice for donkeys years for engineers to listen to working mixes on everything from high end studio monitors to tinny ghetto blaster speakers, booming car stereos or audiophile home hi-fis all in the name of nailing the perfectly balanced mix.

Yet music technology company Focusrite have come up with a neat solution to this messy, time consuming, problem By using monitoring headphones with their VRM – Virtual Reference Monitoring – box this pocket-sized device enables the listener to reference multiple audio perspectives all at the touch of a button. The slick looking box with its single volume control and headphone socket (priced £79) is both Mac and PC compatible, the software loads easily and as the unit runs off a USB input there’s no need for an external power supply (great for mixing literally anywhere on your laptop), it also has a digital input making it compatible with Pro Tools HD. The three virtual listening environments on offer are logically divided into Professional Studio, Living Room and Bedroom, each with its own set of monitoring selections to choose from.

These include the likes of KRK Rokit6 62s, Japanese White Classics (based on Yamaha NS-10M Pros) and some British 90s Hi Fi speakers (based on KEF Q55.2) among 15 speaker choices available. In practice the differing sounds are uncannily accurate with each environment and set of speakers all revealing potential frequency imbalances created by hearing the mix in a specific room and speaker selection. The really ingenious part here though is that by using the VRM Box as your audio interface while working on a mix, one is able to go right into individual parts, isolate them and adjust the mix accordingly. While the VRM Box isn’t a total solution to solving the headache of hearing things ‘accurately’ it’s a compact, affordable and ultimately a hugely practical step towards it. For more go to www.focusrite.com/products/

Time was when lugging several huge Real Books to every jam session or pick up gig was par for the course – a necessary evil in packing essentials for the night of on-the-fly music making ahead. However the iReal Book emerged two years ago as a logical pocket-sized alternative, packed with hundreds of popular standards all accessible through a scrolling A-Z. Yet thanks to copyright laws finally catching up the app’s developers the current incarnation of the app no longer comes pre-loaded with such jam session favourites as ‘Stella By Starlight’ or ‘Softly As In A Morning Sunrise’.

Now renamed the iReal b the functionality has improved exponentially enabling you to transpose any existing chord charts – that can either be generated via the iReal b online editor (see www. irealb.com/editor/) or downloaded free from the same site’s forums (see www.irealb.com/forums/) – to any key, magically changing every chord in the chart before your eyes, the app now also offers a very handy, and surprisingly good quality, built in ‘jazz trio’ play-along facility too. The clever bit here is not only will it play the song to your desired number of choruses, but you can also export the song as a WAV or AAC audio file for use on desktop computer or iPod.

Also allowing easy editing to change incorrect or add alternative chords and with the added bonus of being able to export the charts as printable PDFs, as well as write a set list of charts, this really is the ultimate gigging musicians jazz app, and all at the astonishingly low price of £4.99 from the iTunes App Store. For more go to www.irealb.com

The whole point of the TC Helicon Voice Tone range is to bring vocal effects that were once solely the preserve of the studio to the live stage in as simple and in as straightforward a way as possible. We tested the Doubling & Detune D1, one of seven Voice Tone effects boxes available, each of which can be run in a chain if you really want to move your sound around. Solidly built with a die-cast metal case and a non-slip rubber base, each of the Voice Tones carries a clean, quiet mic preamp that rivals high end touring mixers and studio quality analog to digital conversion. Apart from the ‘power in’, ‘mic in’ and ‘mic out’ and

Antigua Pro Alto Pro 1 saxophone the sensibly recessed ‘mic gain’ control, there is also a USB port for computer connection so that the user can register and get the latest version and tips from the TC -Helicon Voice Support site. Placed on the studio floor, the non-slip rubber base certainly kept the unit stable, but we preferred to work with the Voice Tone to hand, allowing any adjustments to be made easily and swiftly.

The click-stop knurled rubber effects dial is located on the top left face of the box and offers eight different effects, that include ‘Group’, ‘Loose’, ‘Thick’, ‘Oct Up’ and ‘Oct Down’. We found these to be the most useful and also the most effective, although ‘Thick’ and ‘Group’ provided a very similar take on a mix of sound, albeit with slightly more depth and colouring, provided by one of the Chorus/Reverb options on the house Shireking 60 Acoustic amp.

 Located just to the right of the effects dial is a similarly knurled rubber dial that offers a mix of Dry to Wet, while centered below is a red LED ‘in use’ indicator, positioned just above the solid ‘foot stomp’ style on-off switch. We’re sure that vocalists will want to try out this amazing little box with it’s footswitch and dials that can certainly do wonders for your vocal arrangements and will effectively ‘thicken’ your voice with extraordinarily realistic doubling emulations... and who knows what might be possible in combination with its six cousins. For more go to www.tc-helicon.com

With Apple shifting an enviable 1 billion apps for its ubiquitous iPhone and iPad tablet computer it should be no surprise that there are now hordes of music applications with practical uses, as well as being highly entertaining. Among the more serious minded of these is Music Theory Pro, developed by USC music professor Dr Joel Clifft and selling for the princely sum of 59p. Aimed at beginner or intermediate level musicians it’s the perfect on-the-move way to study key signatures, intervals and chords through some clearly laid out screens, and slick functionality that combines piano keys, notational staff and sound samples. This also extends to ear training in tempos, intervals, scales and chords. Having tried some of the more clunky music theory and sight reading apps available, Music Theory Pro beats them with ease thanks to its comprehensive content, easy to use navigation, and sheer value for money. It’s also better than those other ‘brain training’ games as through daily practice with this you might actually learn something useful! (MF)

For more go to musictheorypro.com

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