Apple Logic Pro 7

Apple Digital Audio Workstation Software

Review by Carlos Garza
Originally Published in Pro Audio Review

Apple’s professional digital audio and MIDI production environment has been updated with new sounds and a new look.  As with other Apple offerings, it is available in both Pro and Express editions.

Both versions of the program integrate digital audio and MIDI recording with software synthesis, sample playback and notation.  With version 7, the improvements include user interface, workflow enhancements, new instruments and effects and, with 7 Pro, distributed processing for networked Macs.

Both products retain their previous list prices of US $999 for Logic Pro and $299 for Logic Express.  Upgrades from previous versions are available and a $19.95 upgrade from Logic Pro 7.0 to 7.1 was recently released.  This review will focus on the features of Logic Pro. 7.0

Logic Pro 7

Logic Pro 7


The core of Logic’s flexible environment is the Arrange window, where recorded regions are visualized and where most editing takes place. MIDI and audio can be edited side-by-side in the Arrange window or in dedicated editing windows. Logic has extensive formatting features for notation printing. Logic incorporates synchronized playback of QuickTime video formats including playback to FireWire devices.

Logic Pro 7 includes four new software instruments. Pro 7.1 adds an additional pair of hybrid synth instruments. Sculpture, a component-modeling synthesizer, simulates the physical properties of acoustic instruments. Models starting with strings or woodwinds are modified by selecting materials, such as steel, nylon, wood or glass. Software “Exciters” are added to the model to modify the sound based on how a sound is actuated — picking, blowing or bowing, for example.

Ultrabeat is designed after the drum machines that were popular in the 1980’s. Sounds are generated through sample playback, virtual analog synthesis and FM for bass sounds. Ultrabeat is capable of 25 voices and incorporates filtering and distortion effects along with swing and human factors quantization. The 7.1 upgrade adds the ability to export patterns from the drum machine to the Arrange window.

Both products include EFM1, a software based FM synthesizer, and a set of instruments from GarageBand. Some of the Apple Loops provided with GarageBand incorporate the original MIDI note information in addition to the segmented sound data. Dropping this type of loop onto a MIDI track allows substitution of the loop segments with new sounds. GarageBand songs can be imported into Logic.

There are several new audio processing plug-ins, including Guitar Amp Pro, a plug-in incorporating tube amplifier and speaker emulations for electric guitar. Pro 7.1 adds a Bass Amp plug-in.  Ringshifter combines a ring modulator circuit with a frequency shifter. The Vocal Transformer separates fundamental frequency from its overtones allowing male-to-female and female-to-male voice changes.

The Pitch Correction plug-in takes a monophonic sound source and enforces pitch conformance to a musical scale with adjustable tuning.  Using an extremely fast setting creates something akin to Cher’s “Believe” effect.

The 7.1 upgrade includes plug-in delay compensation for native plug-ins, support for nine additional control surfaces and a number of performance and workflow enhancements.

The Distributed Audio Processing capability now lets users supplement the CPU resources of a G4 workstation or a PowerBook with the resources of additional networked G4 and G5 machines.  The user picks a lower powered machine as the workstation and then enables distributed processing for plug-ins on selected tracks.  Audio is routed through the Gigabit Ethernet port to the node machines for plug-in processing and routed back to the workstation host for mixing.

Among the workflow improvements is the ability to import audio from Final Cut Pro with XML metadata describing placement of audio clips on the time line.  Logic 7 can detect movie cuts to place markers in the global tracks, import QuickTime movie soundtracks and insert soundtracks in existing QuickTime files.

Interoperability with other DAW applications is expanded through support for Advanced Authoring Format (AAF), which includes information on the placement of audio files in the project.  Bouncing to AAC is now supported along with enhanced ID3 tag editing for bounced MP3 files.

The Arrange window has been enhanced with several new editing modes.  Control of the shuffle and snap modes is available at the top of the Arrange window.  A new cross fade mode automatically fades between regions that overlap on the same track.  A track solo feature is now available in the Arrange window.  While previous versions had a single Autoload (template) song, users can now pick from a set of templates predefined for various project types.

Logic Express 7 has the same visual workspace as Logic 7 Pro and includes 26 software instruments and more than 40 effects plug-ins.  The software instruments include the EXSP24 sample playback engine with a modest sample library, a variety of software synths including analog and FM emulations.  Effects include a preset version of the Multipressor multi-band compression, Guitar Amp, pitch and time effects, reverbs and supports audio resolution up to 24-bit/96kHz and QuickTime synchronization.  Logic Pro 7 supports audio resolutions up to 24-bit/192Khz.

In Use

I tested Logic 7 Pro on a G4 dual 1 GHz under OS X v10.3.7.  The audio interface was a Digidesign 96 I/O going into a Pro Tools HD|1 card.  I monitored through a pair of Mackie HR824s.

I found that Logic pro offers a number of improvements in both the “getting started” stage of a project and the polishing stage.  GarageBand instruments make a nice starting point for sketching out arrangements.  Rather than spending valuable time sifting through hundreds of sounds or hundreds of parameter settings, with the GarageBand instruments you just pick the instrument family and perhaps tweak a few basic settings and you’re making music.  And yes, they sound nice.

The new filmstrip in the Global Tracks is far easier than the older thumbnail tracks.  The improved ability to edit tempo changes graphically against the bar lines and filmstrip was a huge timesaver for me in matching hits to video events.  A lot of my film music uses odd meters to help me line up cues and hits.  Seeing the meter in the Global Track along with the filmstrip was very handy.

The main thing that distinguishes Logic Pro 7 from other professional tools is the sheer number of musically useful instrument sounds that are incorporated.  Anyone looking to Logic 7 for sound design features will be in audio heaven.

The first stop for sound designers is Sculpture.  The random tremolos and otherworldly breath effects make these sounds come alive.  The accelerating and decelerating tremolos are very tempting.  Imagine a plucked string instrument with the attack of a coin rolling on the table or a bouncing ball.  The edgier sounds based on breath models are well suited to film score and alternative music.

I set out to explore the different ways of using Logic as a composition tool.  For example, what if I want to approach writing songs like I did in the 80’s, using a drum machine and a keyboard?  Logic gives you a number of drum and keyboards options that would work in rock, pop, hip hop or electronica.  Ultrabeat has a variety of acoustic and electronic kits.  A word of warning, the ultra low kick drum sounds in the electronic kits will seriously rattle your speakers.

Support for Apple Loops has been expanded to allow more flexibility in importing GarageBand songs into Logic.  However, you can just as easily start in Logic.  I found a jazz/rock drumbeat that worked well with a reggae bass line loop.  But it needed some electric guitar.  So, I turned to Guitar Amp Pro.

Most of the preconfigured settings work fine but you will want to tweak things to work with your guitar and playing style.  The crunchy Woodstock setting put some meat on my Strat copy and enough bite to cut through the swirling electric piano part I had going on the EVP88.

Next, I ramped up an instance of the EVB3 organ emulation.  The “Whiter Shade of Pale” sound would have been perfect in the right setting.  In my case, a grittier sound was needed and EVB3 came through with some excellent sounds.

The Apple Loops drum beat that I picked worked well with the GarageBand fretless bass.  The gritty EVB3 organ and the edge from Guitar Amp Pro made the mix more authentic and much less “MIDI band”-like.  And all of this without waking the kids.


There are enough sound making and shaping tools in Logic 7 Pro to keep an army of sound designers employed for years to come.  The Space Designer convolution reverb and the EVOC vocoder continue to amaze me.

The workflow enhancements from Garageband song file imports to environment templates make this the user-friendliest version of Logic yet.  The new Arrange Window settings for region placement and crossfading of audio regions make for more efficient editing.

I realize that some may find the price tag of Logic 7 Pro a bit on the high side but I can’t say it’s over priced.  It’s actually a bargain when you consider the extensive features for sequencing, high-resolution audio recording, notation and video synchronization.  I had no trouble on a G4 Mac but if you like to use a lot of plug-ins and a lot of tracks you should consider a G5.

Logic has matured into a very productive and versatile environment.  Logic 7 Pro offers a wealth of features that will be useful to composers, musicians and arrangers.  Both products are a great way to awaken your music and sound design creativity.

Carlos Garza is a film composer who produces and engineers film scores for broadcast and DVD and is a regular contributor to Pro Audio Review.

(c) 2007 Carlos Garza

Final Cut Pro 5 & Soundtrack Pro

Apple Computer Inc.

Final Cut Studio Part 1

By Carlos Garza

Originally Published in Pro Audio Review


Video post production has never been easier or more challenging than it is today.  Easier because of all the tools available, but also more demanding in terms of the complexity.

Broadcast video and optical discs are making strides towards High Definition (HD). TV shows are increasingly being produced in HD with surround sound with more and more network affiliates broadcasting in digital. Motion graphics are everywhere from DVD menus to the evening news.

Apple Computer looked at the workflows involved in video post and integrated a suite of products to address the escalating demands. Final Cut Studio ($1299) comprises three upgraded products, Final Cut Pro 5, Motion 2, DVD Studio Pro 4 and a new product, Soundtrack Pro (all products available separately).

This review will focus on Final Cut Pro 5 and Soundtrack Pro. The remaining products will be covered in part 2.


Final Cut Pro 5 (FCP5) supports editing in a variety of formats from DV up to uncompressed 8-bit and 10-bit HD video. Native editing is supported for long GOP MPEG-2 (HDV), DVCAM, DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO050, Panasonic P2 and Sony IMX.  SD and HDV can be transferred to DVD Studio Pro 4 with markers.

High definition video can be previewed on a high definition monitor or it can be downconverted to standard definition for previewing on SD monitors. External video output devices, such as a second Apple Cinema Display, permit previewing of HD video with real-time effects. The primary monitor remains available for editing windows.

FCP5 supports frame rates ranging from 23.976 to 60 fps. The timeline can display timecode as well as frames and feet for film projects. Audio waveforms with level overlays are displayed in the timeline.

FCP5 allows real-time editing from multiple clip sources. Up to sixteen clips can be viewed at one time and a total of 128 clips can be edited on-the-fly.

Real-time effects processing minimizes the need for rendering and is supported for DV, SD, HDV, DVCPRO HD and uncompressed HD video. Playback quality and frame rate are adjusted dynamically to scale performance based on CPU availability and user settings.

FCP5 supports up to 24 channels of audio for input and output at resolutions up to 24-bit 96kHz.  Each track has level, pan, mute and solo controls.  More than 25 audio filters are built-in.

Many of the products in Final Cut Studio (FCS) are integrated by “round-trip” processing. For example, audio can be sent from FCP5 to Soundtrack Pro for non-destructive editing. Likewise, video clips can be sent from FCP5 to Motion or Shake for non-destructive processing.

FCP5 can control FireWire devices and supports various capture modes. Video clips can be captured on a single workstation and shared by editors with access to an Xsan consolidated storage pool.

FCP5 supports film editing through Cinema Tools 3 and includes support for 35mm 3-perf, 35mm 4-perf, and 16mm-20. 24-fps Edit Decision Lists (EDL) can be converted to and from 29.97 fps. Output includes cut lists, change lists and audio EDL.

FCP5 uses an XML interchange format to export projects to other editing environments, asset management systems and other post production applications.  Audio tracks can also be transferred to Apple’s Logic Pro with XML metadata or other systems using OMF.

The bundled, Compressor 2, provides distributed encoding for MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4 and H.264 encoding and performs 2-pass variable bit-rate encoding.

Up to 99 audio and video tracks are supported in addition to 99 levels of undo. Window arrangements and keyboard commands are customizable. The included LiveType application provides animated text and includes a royalty-free animated content library.

Soundtrack Pro (STP) is designed for editing, processing and mixing of multi-track audio sets.  It can be synchronized with MIDI but it is not a MIDI sequencer.  Soundtrack Pro also supports audio resolutions up to 24-bit, 96kHz.  Multi-take recording is possible but with only a single mono or stereo track at once.

Its real-time processing and audio editing features can be applied to mono/stereo files and multi-track projects.  The interface has a timeline view, a global waveform view, a frequency spectrum view, actions list and a waveform display that features animated waveforms. Both FCP5 and STP provide a console mixer interface and support control surfaces using Mackie Control protocol.

Soundtrack Pro uses flexible “action lists” for non-destructive signal possessing. Actions can be rearranged, bypassed or removed from the processing sequence. There are over 50 effects plug-ins, including the Space Designer convolution reverb, Match EQ and a multi-band compressor. Both products accept Audio Units plug-ins.

Other features include time compression/expansion without pitch change, and audio restoration features, such as broad-band noise reduction and “find and fix” for clicks, pops and power-line hum. Room tone can be copied and pasted into or added to sections to maintain consistency.

A library with 5000 or more sound effects and musical Apple Loops is provided. The effects were licensed from third party libraries include Foley effects and ambiences from mostly real-world environments. An Apple Loops browser is included.

In Use

I tested Final Cut Pro 5 (FCP5) and Soundtrack Pro (STP) on a Dual 2.7 GHz. G5 with 4 GB of RAM and Mac OS 10.4.  The control surface testing was performed with a Mackie Control Universal and an Unitor8 MKII MIDI interface. I monitored through a pair of Mackie HR-824s and Sony MDR-7506 headphones.

When I took piano lessons all those years ago, they didn’t tell me I would one day be editing films and producing DVDs. That was a long time ago and I guess one thing leads to another. Thanks to our friends at Film Preservation Associates and Image Entertainment, our scores appear on two surround sound DVDs of classic silent films. We also have an upcoming CD and a film score demo reel.

In addition to the classic silent films I’ve scored with my group, Silent Orchestra, I’ve also become an experimental video producer – in fact, we are producing new silent films for live performance and DVD.  The Final Cut Studio (FCS) suite of products is ideally suited to my demo reel project and to cleaning up the audio of student film projects that were shot on my Canon Elura II mini-DV camera. I love the compact size of this camera but the built-in mic picks up a lot of motor noise.

My first goal was to add some pizazz to an abstract video that we’re scoring. The new 3-way color correction effect was intended to fix colors that aren’t quite “right” and it does a good job of it. In my case, I wanted to actually turn my footage into something that was not quite right. The results were stunning. My muted black and white imagery was bursting with color. If you remember David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes music video, you’ll get the idea. Of course, it also works well for less dramatic uses, such as making snow look really white when it’s “kind of blue” or, um, yellow.

Next, I chose a set of colorful clips of roughly similar length and made a working “multiclip.” While the sequence ran with my music track, I dropped video onto the timeline by clicking in the frames of the multiclip. Once the editing pass was complete, I tweaked the edits and added some artistic cross fades.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my cross fades without rendering. The improved real-time processing, and the dual-processor G5 cut my work time drastically.

Other work flow improvements in FCP5 include “edit overlays” or contextual menus similar to what I saw in the previous version of DVD Studio Pro.  Now when you drag a clip onto the canvas and hold the mouse button you will see a menu of things to do with the clip — insert, replace, fill to fit, etc.

Using the multiclip editing feature is an efficient way to cut video to audio, especially rhythmic audio. Editing a music concert or sporting event footage locked to a common timecode is another great use for multiclip editing.

I added some sound effects tracks and launched the console mixer. The on-screen controls and vertical meters are simple but effective. I had no trouble using my Mackie Control to mute and solo tracks, ride the volume and control the transport.

Soundtrack Pro is not designed to replace high-end DAW applications such as Logic Pro, Nuendo and Pro Tools. The limits on simultaneous track recording and the lack of MIDI support make this clear. But Soundtrack Pro fills a void. First, it’s a resource-friendly waveform editor for mono or stereo files with a boatload of DSP.

Secondly, it’s a multi-track editing and mixing utility — a valuable tool for video post production. Editors dealing with multiple dialog tracks, Foley, ambiences, sound effects and music stems are frequently faced with more than just a mixing challenge.

Apple has made round-trip transfers fairly straight forward. Here’s how it works: A set of audio clips is selected in FCP5 and “sent” to STP as a multi-track project. After editing and processing, the mix is exported (bounced) to a new mix file (usually mono or stereo).  The new mix is imported into FCP5 and added to the timeline, replacing the original clips. When you want to edit the mix again, you just control-click the mix file in the browser and FCP allows you to open the multi-track project that created the file. Individual audio clips can also be sent to the STP waveform editor for editing and cleanup.

I tested Match EQ by recording a few sentences with an AT4033 large diaphragm condenser and again with a Shure SM58 microphone. The recordings were done on a Pro Tools HD|1 with a 96 I/O and transfered as 24-bit 96KHz audio files to Soundtrack Pro. I used the Match EQ in STP to set the template EQ based on the AT4033 recording and then let the Match EQ learn the characteristics of the SM58.

I then played the SM58 recording using the match button and sure enough, the complex EQ curve that was drawn caused the SM58 recording to sound much closer to the AT4033. Obviously, there is more to matching a mic sound than the EQ but this is a very valuable tool.

The spectrum display is a useful way to visualize the effects of EQ and can show parts of the signal that you can’t hear. For example, I saw bands of high frequency sound above 22kHz in my 24-bit 96KHz Pro Tools recordings.

The room tone repair feature is brilliant. It’s as easy as copying a sample of background sound and using it to replace a section of silence or merging it, for example, with a voice-over that was recorded in a dead room. This is a nice feature but I think it could be made even more automatic than it is.

I recorded myself speaking in front of a computer fan to test the noise reduction. I couldn’t use the G5 for this because, it was too quiet! Then I selected a bit of pure noise as the sample and applied it to the whole track for reduction. I listened closely on my Sony MDR-7506 headphones and the results were impressive. My voice remained full and natural sounding while the background was reduced significantly. Albeit, I only did one small test but from what I heard, this feature is comparable if not better than software costing far more than the price of Soundtrack Pro itself.

I tested time stretching with a rhythmic pop mix and slow legato strings. The new length can be specified in samples, seconds, frames or HH:MM:SS. One annoyance was having to change the default specification of “samples” to “seconds” each time I wanted to change the length. You can also drag the selected region with the stretch tool but this works better for shortening than lengthening.

The New Frontier by Donald Fagan served as my rhythmic test sample. After adding roughly 10% more time, I heard only the slightest warble in the tremolo electric piano part. Pushing the length to 150%, resulted in surprisingly listenable audio. The vocals were smooth and the tempo was even but some of the instruments were showing the tell tale warble of time expansion.

I then tried a four part symphonic string arrangement of my own music realized with Vienna Symphonic Library.  At 10% longer, there was almost no degradation in quality.  At 20%, I heard a bit of warbling grunge but it was very minor.  By comparison, time expansion of both pieces in Pro Tools was un-listenable at 10% longer.

I found that reducing the length of a stretched selection sometimes results in a stray tone at the end of the selection. Soundtrack Pro also crashed once when I was deleting an Action. I expect these to be fixed in a future release. (I tested version 1.0.1).

STP can export a multi-track project directly to AIFF with bit-depth and sample rate changes but no dithering. Using Compressor, you can export to AAC, AIFF and Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 (AC-3). In the case of 5.1, you can map each track to a specific speaker. Very nice but why no support for exporting to the cross-industry standard, Broadcast Wave?

The sound effects files and loops provided with STP cover a wide enough range to be useful in many projects. If you are looking for a specific engine or gun sound or an unusual animal sound (bat sounds please), you may need to supplement the set but there are plenty of basics here. I really liked the ethnic music loops, especially the Gamelan loops and ethnic strings.


While it’s not something everyone needs (yet), Apple’s extensive support for native HDV in its products is already in demand. There are good reasons why FCP is so popular with film and video editors.  Version 5 brings support for a host of new HD formats. The enhanced real-time effects, work flow optimizations, multiclip editing and round-trip integration make Final Cut Studio a great value.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Apple has come up with so many cool ways to interface with software.  From the pen-based gestures and MIDI control of Motion 2 (more on this in part 2) to the action scripts of Soundtrack Pro, Apple continues to innovate user interfaces that make complicated tasks easier.

I found Soundtrack Pro to be very useful for audio clean up tasks, especially the kind of problems I found in location productions. Noise reduction and other audio cleanup chores are quick and simple. The ability to view video in a small window was a plus when editing audio from FCP5.

This is a bountiful set of tools at a very reasonable price. The room tone filler, noise reduction, convolution reverb and multi-band compressor make Soundtrack Pro a real bargain.

So, yes, there’s more the think about but like I said, it’s never been easier.

(c) 2005 Carlos Garza

Aphex Systems Model 204 Aural Exciter

By Carlos Garza
Originaly Published in Pro Audio Review.

Aphex Systems, celebrating 26 years in the pro-audio industry, has unleashed a revitalized version of its famous Aural Exciter. The Model 204 Aural Exciter with Optical Big Bottom is a big name for this single rack space box that packs a lot of flexibility into an affordable package. Engineers are constantly dealing with customers who want the loudest mix. “It has to go to 11 and have a big bottom.” Aphex was obviously listening and came up with a pair of effects that create the impression of a cleaner, louder mix without dangerous side effects.


So, what’s new in this replacement for the original Model 104? The new model adds frequency and dynamic control of low-end response, a revamped front panel and an internal power supply. The new millennium shiny finish and slightly textured knobs add a bit of sex appeal. The rear panel has a pair of operating level switches allowing independent selection between -10dBV and +4dBu. Inputs and outputs now include XLR connectors in addition to the 1/4-inch TRS found on the older model. Both inputs accept unbalanced inputs as well.

The manual is loaded with useful information on cable wiring and avoidance of ground loops. This includes diagrams for “pseudo-balanced” wiring of unbalanced equipment (for example, 1/4-inch TS to XLR).

The Model 204 also has separate controls for the Aural Exciter and Big Bottom. This means that you can use one channel as a low-end enhancer and the other as a high-end enhancer and bus each channel into separate effects sends on your console. The Aural Exciter and the Big Bottom sections each have a tuning knob that lets you select the range of frequencies for processing. You have to refer to the manual if you want to know exactly which frequencies you are selecting. A continuously variable knob is used to select the amount of harmonics added by the Aural Exciter.
The Tune control for the Aural Exciter sets the corner frequency for the high-pass filter. The lowest setting enhances frequencies from 800 Hz on up. Turning it completely clockwise means that you are only enhancing frequencies above 6.1 kHz. Likewise, the Tune control for the Big Bottom sets the highest frequency for bass enhancement (from 49 to 197 Hz).

The big story is the Optical Big Bottom circuit. This new circuit features a Light Dependent Resistor (LDR) that allows coupling of a controllable light source to a variable resistor. After passing the signal through the low-pass filter, the signal is fed through the adjustable drive circuit, which feeds the LDR. In principle, the LDR reacts immediately to the bass signal but fades slowly like a long release on a compressor. If you have the drive knob set correctly, you should hear more sustain from only the loudest notes. This is designed to produce a dynamic and resonant bass without a big increase in peak level.

In Use
I set out to restore some 1980s-era garage band recordings that originated on 1/2-inch 8-track and were mixed to 1/4-inch 2-track. I transferred the tracks into Pro Tools at Pepperland Recording and attached the Model 204 to the Digidesign 888 I/O using the balanced XLR connections. I created an effects loop using channel sends and an auxiliary bus for the return.
On some tracks, I wanted to bring out the vocal so I dialed in the lowest frequency on the Aural Exciter tuner. In cases where the vocal presence was fine, I went for enhancement of higher frequencies with the single goal of getting more “air.”  The manual says the 204 can “restore presence and clarity, improving transient response of individual tracks or the whole mix.” The 204 did not disappoint in this regard. Some of the tracks suffered from a distant and muted-sounding snare drum. The Aural Exciter made the attack transients brighter and sharper.

Of course, it will not fix a bad mix, but it can help produce a cleaner overall sound. When bypassed, I felt like I had to work to hear all of the instruments. With the effect in, I had no trouble hearing each part. The whole mix was up front, wider, and more balanced. Every instrument seemed to sit more consistently in its own space. The guitar had more bite, the keyboards were shimmering, the vocal was present and the words more intelligible.

One important aspect of the Aural Exciter and the Big Bottom is that the effects are more perceptual than physical. It sounds like there is a lot more bass and high end than is present on the signal meters. I found myself using less EQ in general. The Model 204 can also be used to preprocess tracks for low-quality playback. Listeners can be fooled into not missing the high frequencies that are lost in typical MP3 and cassette recordings if the high end that they do hear is enhanced.

I created some MP3 files and found that the effect was less noticeable than I had hoped. Cassettes had a more noticeable improvement (possibly because I used a high-grade tape). Some of my customers ask me to prepare backing tracks for dance and vocal competition. The final product, which goes out on cassette, has to sound clear and big. I found that the Big Bottom added a lively punch on most mixes.

Some of these sessions are rush jobs and it’s nice to be able to quickly see the when the input signal is being processed by the Big Bottom. I started with the Tune set at “12:00” and drive knobs turned all the way down. I then raised the drive slowly until the LED showed that the effect was active on most of the bass hits. Then I adjusted the Big Bottom Tune to focus the effect on the kick drum.

The result was more interesting than just adding low end EQ. The louder notes seemed to hang a bit more than the quiet notes. The intelligent transient sensitivity also made a muffled kick drum on one track sound crisp and clear. The effect was like changing a soft beater to a wooden beater. This is a very musically useful effect.

I only had a few quibbles with the 204: I would like to see the frequencies labeled on the front panel for the tuning knobs. I can imagine in a mixing situation dialing in frequencies on a shelving EQ and wanting to adjust appropriate frequencies in the Aural Exciter.
I also wish there was more control of the Big Bottom effect. Specifically, a release control for the low-end enhancer would really help tailor the effect to the tune/tempo.

I have had several studio customers that wanted to digitize and “restore” old recordings. Remember that a processor like this will not put back something that has been lost. When an analog tape has lost its high end, it is usually gone for good. However, the Model 204 can put a lot of life into a dull sounding track.

The harmonics that it constructs are useful and musical. You will hear each part with more clarity and presence. The versatility of inputs and separate channel processing makes this a worthy addition to any studio rack or live sound rig. At a suggested retail price of under $400, it is something to get excited about.

At a Glance

Tracking; mixing; restoration; broadcast; webcast; live sound; dance clubs.

Key Features:
XLR and TRS I/O (+4 and -10); independent channels; independent control of aural Exciter and Big Bottom processing.

$399 MSRP
Contact: Aphex Systems, 818.767-2929,, or circle Reader Service XX.

Product Points

• Independently operable channels for effects bussing
• Safely adds perceptual loudness
• Improves attack transients
• XLR connectors

• Front panel lacks frequency indicators
• No Big Bottom effect release control

The Score
Versatile effects in a refined package for a reasonable price.

(c) 2001 Carlos Garza