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Focusrite Liquid Mix Reviews
At Winter Music Conference this year, I was able to spend some question and answer time with the Focusrite Rep (which also deals with respectable manufacturers Allen and Heath and Novation). I knew that the Liquid Channel exhibited patented ground-breaking technology and is an industry standard mic preamp, and quickly learned the technology behind the Liquid Mix is just as revolutionary. After a demonstration of the Liquid Mix, I found myself instantly intrigued by what this product offers, and knew that I needed one.
The Liquid Mix uses dynamic convolution to emulate the sonic qualities of 40 classic compressors and 20 classic EQs. Basically, this unit is able to add the warmth of a variety of different tube compressors or the crunch of many different solid-state compressors, all in a small package.
The Liquid Mix uses an onboard DSP to reduce the strain on you CPU, and is run as a VST/AU/RTAS plug-in within Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, and most major DAWs. It is connected via a Firewire 600 port and can be bus powered, however it is recommended that the AC power supply is used (due to the amount of bandwidth used.) Focusrite also notes that the Liquid Mix should not be daisy-chained to other Firewire devices where possible. Instead use separate Firewire ports for other items to prevent the unit from acting “glitchy”.
Up to 32 Tracks can be used simultaneously at a 44.1 sample rate. This means a total combination of 32 tracks (16 of compression and 16 of EQ, for example) at a time. The amount of tracks that can be used changes according to sample rate. Sample rates go up to 192. The amount of total tracks can be increased by adding an expansion pack (that I have not tested). Any different combination of EQs and Compressors can be used, and each emulation carries the subtle nuances and glitches of their original respective hardware units. The EQs can be selected in up to seven bands of hybrid mode… this lets the user combine specific elements of different EQs – a nice feature.
The user interface is comfortable to use after getting acclimated. There are dedicated knobs and buttons for threshold, input levels, frequency, Q value, bands, bypass, post-EQ compression, track selection, jog selection, and others, depending on the compressor and/or EQ that is currently selected. Color-coded lights offer ease of use and an easy way to monitor peaks and levels at a glance. An LCD screen also can be used, however it may be just as easy to look at the graphic interface on the plug-in (because it’s larger). The user can also save and load snapshots; also downloading snapshots from Focusrite’s website.
The only minor issues that I faced have been resolved, thanks to the recent universal binary release (version 2.0) of the Liquid Mix software for Mac. Previous “core audio overload” messages in Logic Pro 7.2 are no longer a problem. After making sure that the AU plug-ins were validated in Logic Pro, there were no other issues with instillation. Also with the software update there is a variable low-latency setting, and optional high/low/band pass filters in some compressors, too. Latency can be noticed if recording live. Also included in the recent software is sidechaining capabilities.
In today’s digitally-based studios, the Liquid Mix offers an amazing value for the money. The drastic change in sound is evident when used to “warm up” virtual soft-synths, giving them a more vintage or live sound. The Liquid Mix also adds more punch and depth to soft-synths that may sound “synthetic” or “cold” otherwise. The technology presented is quite impressive and very useable, thanks to the layout and design of the Liquid Mix unit itself. I definitely recommend this unit, based on all variables involved. You will notice yourself using it in just about every track you have, as well as during mix-down. I have come to rely on my Liquid Mix for every project I do, and am able to use each setting for its specific abilities to obtain the exact color and texture of sound I desire. The Liquid Mix is a definite must, and at this price, it’s a no-brainer.
Note: do to copyright laws, Focusrite does not name the specific settings used on the Liquid Mix, however there are places on the web that you can look up what each of the setting are “based on”.
Compressors include: API2500, Avalon VT737SP, DBX 160S, Empirical Labs EL8, Manley Slam!, Focusrite Red, Neve VR, SSL SL4000, Tube-Tech LCA 2B, just to name a few.
EQs include: API 550B, Neve 1073, SSL E and G series, Manley Massive Passive, Avalon VT737SP and 2055, Chandler Limited, and more.
The first impression of the unit itself is that it is more solid than you think it might be for the money, considering that the goodies are really in the software you might think the Hardware controller may have been skimped on, not so. Installation on my Texas Instruments Firewire port (ASUS motherborad onboard 1394) was a breeze. The unit was self powered from the firewire bus meaning no need to carry the external PSU provided. When the unit boots it gives you a nice LED light show which makes the Liquid Mix a "presence" on your desktop.
Now to the fun bit, I loaded up a 24bit/44.1kHz session in Nuendo and started insertin instances of Liquid Mix into the channels. At this stage you realise you need a document that lists the name of the original equipment emulated as the names given by Focusrite are a little cryptic. I couldn't wait to hear the SSL G+ bus compressor, and low and behold it did what I expected very nicely indeed, thickening the sound adding a little punch and agression to the dry mix up on the faders.
It is a little overwhelming at first as the sheer number of emulations on offer leaves you wanting to try everything immediately. Other compressors such as the Tube Tech, UA 1176 all have a charateristic sound which you would expect from their hardware counterparts.
Character is what this unit is about and bags of it, the EQ's are
also mixed in character, some are super clean and others can take your sound into a different direction. The sound sculpting power of this box is immense. So far stability has been very good indeed and remember you get 32 channels of EQ and compression simultaneously at 44.1/24bit which is astonishing, I keep imagining the 19" racked up versions across one of my studio walls and marvel at the fact it's all in 1 small, good looking box on my desktop.
Also worth remembering is this does not have any hit on your CPU either.
It has to be product of the year and marks the revolution of "in the box" mixing, I am sure it has depths unfathomed, which I shall continue discovering for years to come, it's that deep.
If any criticism is to be levelled, It is with the user interface on the Liquid Mix. I found the parameter resolution better when operating the GUI on the plug in compared with the hardware controllers, the Hardware controller can feel a little "snapshot" driven where the GUI is a little smoother. In addition many who have used hardware will be expecting to see some legend around the knobs of the unit, but looking at the blue LCD can be a little alien at first.
However it cannot be denied that this unit is the bees knees
and is surely unrivalled at it's price point. For adding density and
quality EQ to your music it is a no-brainer. Get it and enjoy it.
This thing is a God send and I'm atheist!
I've been in several recording bands as a drummer (a nearly musician) I now record in my loft studio. Cubase SX fast pc bought recently dual core blah blah, if I’d have seen this before I’d have kept my old pc and bought something else!
This makes old mixes sound awesome without even trying. I sent a re-master I done in about 30 mins to an ex band member and he thought I’d been on it for ages.
As long as you understand the fundamentals of eq and compression you're on to a winner.
It's cheaper than a new pc and ten times better.
If your pc is tired of effects and eq etc....buy this!
I can't imagine mixing in cubase again!!!
Focusrite could do a Remington 'or your money back' deal on this unit and I don't think they'd loose a bloody penny!
Only thing I could say as a negative is that I can’t compare most of the emulations as I’ve never heard the originals...but those I can sound awesome...
My best ever buy was my Mackie 824's... not anymore!
I love it!
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