I have always been updating the new OSX versions whenever they were released but this time i was a bit hesitant because my Late 2009 model iMac is about to be quite old already. I haven’t had any problems with it though but when it comes to music making, it’s critical that the performance is not affected too much when updating core components of your system. I installed the new macOS Sierra 10.12 and after using it for a week and i haven’t noticed any performance issues so far. Logic Pro X 10.2.4 is working like it did with the previous OS.
About the iMac itself. I bought this workhorse in 2009 and it was the cheapest 21,5″ iMac available at the moment. So nothing fancy even at the time of purchase. However, i have been more than happy with this computer even though sometimes it can feel a bit slow when booting it up or when watching 1080p youtube videos (which you can’t). Most importantly this iMac can be described as rock solid. I don’t remember it crashing not even once. I can use the computer for weeks without ever booting it – only putting it to sleep mode in the evening.
The 3,06 GHz Core 2 Duo with 8 GB of RAM is enough for Logic Pro X if you don’t get too greedy with many instrument channels. My projects have usually something between 25-60 tracks (usually about 4-5 audio tracks and the rest are Audio Units or Logic’s own software instruments) with multiple effect busses. Sure, the loading times for different Alchemy presets can be a bit longer as with any sample based synths on a computer with traditional hard drives. And yes – i still have the original 500 GB spinning hard drive on this machine! I have been thinking of updating it to an SSD drive but due to incompatibility issues between the Nvidia MCP79 controller and most of the currently sold SSD drives, i have decided to stick with the original setup so far.
I have been thinking on buying a new MacBook Pro some time this year but even though i know i would be getting a faster computer with an SSD drive with the added bonus of portability, i still cannot justify myself spending 1500-2000 euros into a new MacBook. At least not until Apple releases the new models because current MacBook Pros are based on a few years old designs.
Apple is about to release new products in 27th October and possibly new Macbook Pros are on their way. Interesting to see what’s coming.
I started having problems with the combined instrument and microphone connector in my two-year old Behringer Xenyx 302USB audio interface. The 1/4″ instrument plug connector was fine but the XLR connector for the microphone cable started to make loud cracking and popping noises when slightly moving the cable. At first i thought i need a new cable and i actually went into the local musical instrument store Pihlajamaan Musiikki Oy to buy a new cable but walked out with a new audio interface as well. When i got back home it turned out that the problem really was with the Behringer’s connector and not the cable.
I plugged in the Scarlett Solo and instantly noticed an improvement in the playback sound quality. The difference was noticeable with both the Behringer Truth B2030A active speakers and my Sennheiser HD650 headphones. I have been suspecting the audio output quality is not that good with the Xenyx and by having a new interface i could confirm my doubts. I don’t mean the Xenyx is really that bad but there are some minor glitches you can hear when turning the volume knobs such as the channel balance (Left/Right) altering slightly when adjusting the gain knobs and i also think that routing all the audio via the EQ faders just adds another component into the signal path altering the sound even though the faders would be set to zero. The Scarlett Solo sounds a lot more versatile and especially the high frequencies sound much clearer. The sound feels more neutral and transparent.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo 2nd gen pros and cons
- Good overall build and sound quality for a home studio
- Very nice software bundle. Especially the Time and Tone Bundle by Softube AB was a really nice surprise and definitely worth another post!
- Instrument inputs are difficult to overdrive and can handle higher sound levels with ease.
- No switch for selecting between the line out or headphone outputs. You have to power off your active speakers to listen with headphones only.
- Sometimes the Scarlett doesn’t power up when waking up my Mac from sleep mode and i have to unplug the USB cable to make it work again.
Scarlett Solo and the headphone output
So how does the Scarlett Solo perform with my Sennheiser HD 650 headphones which can be classified as high impedance (300 ohm) headphones with higher power requirement from the headphone output? To my experience this far – they do just fine. As with the Behringer, i can make these headphones sound way too loud even without cranking the volume knob up to the maximum level. In my usual listening volumes the volume knob position is somewhere between 9 and 12 o’clock. I also don’t notice any distortion or loss of ‘punchyness’ in the sound with higher volumes. I don’t think i need a headphone amp quite now but might try one some day to see if there really are any big differences.
I have to say that the Scarlett Solo was a really good purchase. If you need an interface with one XLR and one 1/4″ plug input with a selectable direct monitoring ability or if you just need a computer DAC to control your active speakers, the Scarlett Solo gives you a lot of value for the money.
Wrapping up the 2015 challenge
I recently finished my last year’s challenge to create 2 new tracks every month. It all started pretty well and up until the summer i was in schedule. But after the summer vacation i had a new job assignment which required me to travel a lot (i’ve actually been totally 11 weeks on business trips since August 2015) so the progress in creating music slowed down quite a lot. However i was still able to release new tracks every now and then even in the autumn. I was able to release 18 tracks during the last year which i’m quite happy with. There are a few remix versions of other songs but all in all i’m happy with the amount of tracks i created.
The results can be listened in Soundcloud under this playlist: https://soundcloud.com/westis/sets/two-tracks-a-month-2015
Eventually the challenge was a good thing and i can recommend everyone to try to challenge yourself in a similar manner. When it comes to composing and finishing tracks, the challenge gave me a reason to not overthink tracks too much and not to enter the endless phase of finishing and polishing tracks up to the point where you feel like the track is over produced and lost a lot of the original ideas. This time i had a “permission” to just let go and release tracks which sounded ok enough to just release them. Somehow the challenge also opened up my inspiration and i was able to create new ideas in a lot less time than before.
I also realized that the variation of musical styles i’ve released under my main alias Westis has been too broad. Therefore i decided to create a new alias “Materia Obscura” which i will be using with the more chill out and ambient styled tracks i’m creating. Under my original alias Westis i will be releasing faster tracks under genres like electro house and trance just like before.
So from now on my new releases can be found in two separate Soundcloud profiles:
Materia Obscura: https://soundcloud.com/materiaobscura
Clash of Sounds EP
I also released an EP with some of the tracks i think make a nice compilation being quite similar in style, the Clash of Sounds. The EP is now available in most stores and streaming services such as Spotify, iTunes, Deezer and Beatport.
Spotify: Westis – Clash of Sounds
iTunes: Westis – Clash of Sounds EP
Beatport: Westis – Clash of Sounds
As you might have noticed, i challenged myself to compose two tracks every month during the year 2015. I have now released a total of eight tracks and so far i haven’t felt that the challenge would’ve been too demanding for me. Actually it’s been quite easy to start working with something new right after you’ve completed the previous one!
The biggest change has probably been that i’ve streamlined my workflow in many ways. One great example would be mastering the final product before uploading it online. I now have a template project where i import the bounced project as a stereo file and have some “basic” settings which i have now found working quite well. Then the final mastering phase needs just a few tweaks (EQ, gain limiting etc..) here and there and the track is ready to be published.
In the old days i would’ve used the original project file with all the separate tracks while mastering my track and i could have used weeks for the mastering phase. It was a mess because i couldn’t resist the temptation of tweaking the track specific settings while mastering. However, now i clearly have two distinctively different phases in creating a track: 1) Composition and general mixing phase 2) Mastering phase.
My challenge can be followed in Soundcloud:
I recently created an artist page in Facebook to separate my personal and artist profiles. My artist profile can be found at https://www.facebook.com/westismusic