Many musicians these days have home based recording studios. With some experience in the recording process and the correct set of computer components, a talented artist can produce final results that can sound as good as any professional level recording studio. Over the past few years Apogee Electronics, who are well respected in the professional recording industry, has released a number of legendary hardware/software products and recently with the release of The Duet 2, the company has attracted a lot of attention among Macintosh computer recording artists.
There’s a reason that Apogee Electronics is one of the most respected manufacturers of portable audio interfaces – simplicity of design, quality built products and their hardware/software combinations work flawlessly on the Mac. The Apogee Duet 2 audio interface is the perfect compliment to the Apple Macintosh in both quality and performance. Following the success of the original Apogee Duet Firewire version, Apogee recently released the much anticipated USB version of this exceptional audio interface.
Apogee Duet 2 – USB
With this new USB version, any of the technical issues that surfaced around the original Duet with FireWire, have now been completely resolved and the re-designed Duet 2 which is not only a pleasure to use, is also a very reliable piece of hardware/software which produces outstanding audio quality. As with the original Duet, we have experienced NO latency issues with this USB version. The Duet 2 USB hardware is bundled with the required Maestro 2 driver/mixing software which is also very easy to configure and use.
There is little need to investigate the pre amps, the AD/DA converters or the circuit boards residing ‘under the hood’ of the Duet 2, because the sparkling, crystal clear sound quality of the Duet 2 speaks for itself. Besides, the Apogee brand is already world renown in its association for hi end audio quality components.
Maestro 2 Software
The really great thing about Apogee Duet 2, is the fact that the hardware and software are designed specifically for the Apple Macintosh, creating an Audio Interface that works seamlessly with Logic, Garage Band, iTunes, in fact all Apple software, under previous OS’s and Lion OSX 10.7. The Duet 2 is simple to set up and along with the Maestro 2 software, you can be making quality sounding recordings in a matter of minutes. The software portion of the audio interface package is very important and in this case the Maestro 2 software, as an integral part the Duet 2 experience, provides complete, versatile control over Input/Output and mixing levels. Control over phantom power when required is also built into the Maestro 2 software. The Maestro 2 is stable, completely responsive to the Duet 2 hardware, and provides every feature needed to create great mixes.
Simplicity of Design, Quality Built, Solid Construction
The Duet 2 hardware is functional, durable cast aluminum design, solid enough to house the delicate components within and compact enough to transport easily. On the front edge of the Duet 2 is a standard, QUARTER INCH stereo jack input (APPLAUSE!!!) for a set of studio headphones. The top panel of the Duet 2, now sports a full colour hi-rez, interactive OLED display complete with recognizable Icons that deliver responsive visual information for multiple functions including metering, input output levels, grouping, muting, phantom power and more. The Duet 2 even has configurable touchpads on both sides of the encoder knob to allow handy access to various functions such as Mute, Dim, Sum to mono, Headphone source etc.
On the rear panel of the Duet 2 there is a place for an optional DC power supply but since the Duet 2 is bus powered off the USB you probably won’t ever need to make use of it. We did not run into any issues at all using the Duet 2 directly off the USB therefore there was no need for us to use an optional Power supply but it is great to know that the option is there if it is ever needed. The USB connection to the computer is on the rear panel as well as the breakout cable connector.
The Duet 2 includes a redesigned Breakout Cable which has been greatly streamlined from the previous model and comes with 2 combination mic/instrument connectors. The output from the breakout cable on the back of the Duet 2 accommodates quarter inch balanced out connections. You can use regular quarter inch guitar cables for shorter distances. Running audio cables over longer distances to hi end audio equipment will often cause interference or possible noise from external sources and Apogee has addressed this issue by designing the breakout cable to accommodate quarter inch balanced out cables if you need to run cabling over longer distances. With the release of the Duet 2, Apogee has gone a step further by offer an optional aluminum Breakout Box Accessory for that accommodates the running of left and right XLR outputs from for Duet 2 to a mixer or powered speakers.
Record 2 Sources Simultaneously
The Duet 2 accommodates the ability to record 2 sources simultaneously such as at keyboard and vocalist – this device is a powerhouse of quality and design. Don’t let the compact size of the item in relation to the apparent premium pricing be a deterrent to consideration for purchase. Once you try the Apogee Duet 2, its ease of use, will be a pleasure, its compact design will be a bonus for transport and desk space and its price will be worthy of the sound quality that it provides. The Duet 2 is an outstanding combination of software and hardware that is up to Macintosh standards in terms of quality, ease of use and design – the perfect audio interface for the Macintosh computer.
MRSP: $595.00 US and Canada
M-Audio promotes the new C series Fast Track recording interfaces to be the best sounding, best looking and most feature rich audio interfaces they have ever designed. When M-Audio designed the new C Series audio interface, the company wanted to use technology from their higher line of interfaces with the aim of delivering exceptional sound quality by including boutique quality pre amps and premium audio converters . M-Audio claims to have sought customer input in order to create a completely redesigned form factor, with the intention of simplifying the music making process for the user.
If Darwin was observing the tech revolution, we suspect the evolution ofthe USB flash drive would likely be noted in his journal of interesting developments. It is fascinating to watch just how the USB memory chip has now evolved to a mere fraction of the size it was only months ago. What practical adaptations are there for the miniaturization of the actual conventional USB Flash Drive? Read more…
Incase makes great cases for Apple Macintosh products. Not only are incase products stylist,
there are very well constructed. Andpop recently had the opportunity of reviewing the incase Perforated Hardshell case and the Protective Sleeve Deluxe for the Macbook pro and we are as about excited as one can get about cases and covers from incase, the reason is that incase creates quality products for the Mac.
The Perforated Hardshell Case is an injection-molded case which is custom fitted to the Macbook Pro that provides excellent protection and fits perfectly snug to the laptop.
The molded case is perforated, as shown in the photo, which not only looks cool, it runs cooler – and lightens the load.
• Made to fit with Apple’s latest Apple MagSafe Power Adapter
• Exterior gloss coating
• Precision cut-out features for trouble-free access
• Vents and rubber feet elevate notebook away from surface, to allow the notebook’s internal fans to circulate air
If you are having a party, you’ll want to play music that will set the right tone. DJAY is a very capable Macintosh audio software solution that will provide both beginners and veterans the tools needed to mix the music just the way it sounds in a night club. – at a very reasonable price. Recently released version 3 of Algorithm’s DJAY provides a solid software system that can appeal to beginners and experts. Simple enough to use right out of the box, with a little time and a bit of talent, you’ll be mixing the digital music from your Mac just like the pros.
Upon launching DJAY with the usual click of your mouse, you will be presented with three basic panels: The largest panel on the left will be a familiar to most – the good old ‘DUAL TURNTABLE’ metaphor. To the right of this fully active ‘DUAL TURNTABLE’ design, there will be a couple of re-sizeable panels that represent your iTunes PLAYLISTS and CONTENTS, providing access to your complete Macintosh audio collection. As expected, these playlists can be promptly sorted or viewed as Albums, Artists, Composers, Genres, or Playlists. Assuming the average Macintosh user is as familiar with iTunes, as one is with standard Mac OS software, getting up and running with DJAY for Mac will be pretty easy for most and you will be spinnin’ in no time at all. Read more…
The name ‘Bento’ is from the traditional Japanese lunch box that compartmentalizes the food in separate sections of the lunch box and such is the name that Filemaker has selected to describe this relatively new database software program which compartmentalizes information.
Bento is a simple attractive data base program for the Mac with a fettered interface. Bento can be easily set up to elegantly store and manage basic information such as recipes and CD collections to addresses and memberships. In September, Filemaker released version 3.1 of Bento which integrates with iPhoto to allow you to store specific information about your photos and link them with contacts, projects and events. ‘Bento 3 also delivers new ways to share your information with other Bento users. Just like sharing iTunes and iPhotos over a local area network (LAN) using Apple’s Bonjour technology, you can now share your Bento libraries with up to five users over a wired or wireless local network. You can also encrypt any field and assign passwords to secure your information in Bento 3’…. ‘Bento 3 boasts a new Grid Display for viewing thumbnails of photos, text and numeric-based information, as well as an improved File Lists which shows image thumbnails, instead of only text.
DriveSafe.ly is an application that will read aloud your emails and text messages. In a time where new laws and regulations are coming to the forefront, this application is a fantastic way to stay connected and to “Drive Safe”. A free application demo can be found at Blackberry App World or at www.drivesafe.ly. The demo version of drivesafe.ly will read aloud up to 25 words per message while drivesafe.ly pro can read up to 500 words with a few additional customizable options (Including both male and female voices, optional auto responder, and Auto-select voice by contact gender). The full pro version of the application can be purchase for a one-time fee of $13.95.
After installing the application check the default settings and set them to match your personal preferences. Most people will be unaware and possibly surprised, but the demo app has a default setting where it automatically replies to the sender with “DriveSafe.ly is free! Download it at http://www.DriveSafe.ly I’ll get back to you soon.” after reading the message. So make sure that the Auto Text Reply Setting is turned off or with the pro version that the message is changed.
DriveSafe.ly is a fantastic innovative product that has hit the market just in time for a major evolution in our society’s mobile phone usage while in the car. This application allows you to stay informed of your incoming text messages and emails while on the road, making driving safer and in some places legal.
The application is currently available for Blackberry and Android phones, with an iPhone version coming soon. The web site also lists Palm Pre, Symbian and Windows Mobile versions as under development.
Until now, current Mac Users who wanted to run a pro level accounting software package on the Mac platform in Canada, CBC’s (Canadian Bean Counters), had precious little to choose from. CBC’s could install the US version of AE, however, the effort was, by and large, futile. Not being able to obtain current tax table updates or easily account for and track dual Canadian taxes such as the GST/PST really left MacCanadians, right out in the cold. As of September 2009, Acclivity Software has picked up the ledger, where MYOB/ Account Edge left off in 2001, with the release of a Canadian Edition of Account Edge for Mac. AE for MacCanada, is a number crunching powerhouse with a pretty face, and straightforward enough to grasp. AE verson 13.4.1 is Snow Leopard compatible. Read more…
Astound Stereo enhancer for Macintosh is a software program that can change the way the music sounds from your mac. It really does make a difference to any audio file, in a way that I would compare to putting on 3D glasses while watching a 3D enhanced movie. Some listeners will love it, purists won’t. That being said, the great thing about this particular audio software enhancement package is that you can completely control the amount of audio enhancement you want to hear – from OFF to HIGH. It is also worth noting that this audio software enhancement program does not modify or alter the actual audio files, since it works as a system preference that can be enabled, disabled or completely removed altogether with the uninstaller.
How all this musical magic is actually accomplished is not the focus of this review, but suffice it to say, whatever it is, E.Qing, reverb, delay, or whatever, it does change the sound- and once again, the amount of change to the audio file is completely user controllable and completely reversible – very cool! Read more…
Talking about Databases can be a real lackluster experience. Talking about Filemaker Pro 10 changes all that. First and foremost, Filemaker’s main strength has always been the ability to provide businesses, organizations and individuals with a powerful customizable database tool that is relatively easy to use. Secondly, Filemaker Pro has always included a handful of professional looking sample templates which I have always found to be helpful and motivating towards taking the first step into the world of personal database creation. Thirdly, Filemaker is cross platform with internet savvy, providing the ability to communicate, access and share database information and templates on Apple Macintosh computers, Windows computers as well as on the World Wide Web. In Filemaker, while there are a few road blocks to perfection, no other database product that I know of will get you up and running as elegantly, as easily and as personally as Filemaker Pro. Here is my report on the most recent release: Filemaker Pro 10
The definition of a database is a collection of ‘like’ information with underlying attributes. We use databases everyday, in the form of address books, spreadsheets, even google, perhaps without even realizing it. A database stores, indentifies and sorts data in ‘Fields’ for easy retrieval at some future time often in the form of what is called ‘Records’. Filemaker has been around for well over a decade and was one of the first database programs to offer an intuitive interface that is simple to use, easily customizable along with powerful reporting capabilities. Read more…
‘The world Standard in Business Productivity’
Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac, primarily made up of four Core Applications, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage is available in several versions:
Home and Student Edition ($199.00), Special Media Edition ($649.00) Standard Edition ($549.00) and of course, upgrade editions for current owners of previous versions at reduced prices. Office 2008 can be installed on up to three Macs and arrives with three separate Product Keys. In addition to file compatibility with the rest of the outside world, the 2008 release of MS Office has provided users of Macintosh computers with a universal version of Office that runs natively on the Intel Macs. Anyone familiar with previous versions of MS Office will find the look and feel of MS Office 2008 quite similar and therefore will be quite comfortable migrating to this most recent version.
After opening the retail box, inserting the CD and following the simple installation procedures for MS Office 2008, it is advisable to download and install the most current update available from MS website. As stated on the MS website ” This update contains several improvements to enhance stability, compatibility, and performance.” From my research, it should be noted that some Office 2008 users have reported the need to re-install Office from scratch, in order for the updates to work. Therefore performing all the current updates at the time of original installation will provide the best chances of success in updating Office 2008 without having to deal with frustrating upgrade/installation issues. For the Office update visit Mactopia-MS Office 2008 update Read more…
The newest release of Suitcase is really exciting and practical, taking advantage of the latest Apple OS technology. Typography is a beautiful thing. With Suitcase Fusion 2, typography becomes a pleasure to work with and responsible font management can resolve many of the common ailments facing Mac users such as poor system performance. A splendid upgrade, the newest version of Suitcase takes advantage of Apple’s newest animation technology as well as Leopard’s modern interface to provide the user with new visual functionality. What iTunes does for cataloging your music selection, SF2 does for activating, previewing and cataloguing your font collection.
SF2 Sports a modern and entirely new user interface. A Font Libraries and Sets Pane is located on the upper left hand side. This is the character based area where you organize your fonts to suit your needs. Located on the lower left is the Attributes Pane where fonts are classified. The Preview Pane is where you will spend most of your time and takes up the central part of the interface. There are numerous ways to preview fonts in SF2 which utilizes some of Apple’s newest and most impressive animation technology. With the Waterfall View all Fonts can be sized with a slider allowing you to zoom in and out of fonts sizes seamlessly. Of course you can type your own text for previews with the Quicktype selection as well in any of the preset views from the drop down menu at the bottom of the Preview Pane.
In terms of new functionality, SF2 has a feature called Floating Previews that is way cool. Floating Previews is a convenience feature that allows you to manipulate your fonts directly from SF2 while working with outside documents. Type any text in the preview pane, grab that preview as a floating panel or ‘tear off’ palette and put it in any outside document you are working on in order to see exactly how it looks on that particular document. The ‘Drag-and-drop your previews into a live document’ feature is just too wild to explain, so take the time to view this on the On Line Demo (third video demo) called ‘Comparing and selecting fonts’.
If you need to use Wingdings, Symbols, Dingbats or fonts that are not of the usual roman characters, you will find The Glyph viewer very useful. The Glyph view allows us to view all if the different characters in a particular font. By hovering over that particular character, additional useful information will become available including how to create that particular character. The ‘Codepoint’ indicates the Key Commands used to create that symbol or dingbat. Adobe Pro Fonts are accommodated in the Glyph view as well by allowing you to view particular portions of the font family, which can be a real time saver in these pro fonts families that have so many variations available. Here is a link to the Apple Key Command Symbols that provide a visual table of the keyboard commands. This ‘key command’ table should be listed in every user manual but never is.
A plug-in based auto activation feature automatically activates fonts needed for a particular document. Font Sense creates a ‘finger print’ of your fonts by applying a unique I.D. to each font in order to activate the exact font you want for a document. For example, there are many versions of Helvetica, and it may be the Adobe version of Helvetica that you actually want to activate instead of the version from Linotype. In addition to Font Sense, the Auto Activation preference panel allows the user to have control over Font substitution, embedded fonts, and entire font families. Duplicate fonts can cause a lot of headaches on the Mac OS. ‘Name duplicates’ are allowed but SF2 will not allow the loading of exact duplicates.
Fonts from Suitcase Fusion can be imported to SF2 so you will not have to re- construct all your existing font sets if you are upgrading. This did not work too well when I was upgrading. During the process an alert box appeared telling me that a particular font on a particular external drive could not be located. In the end I had to re-construct my sets for the upgrade, but ultimately it was time to do some housekeeping anyway.
Suitcase Fusion 2 is a well constructed, solid must have program for every Leopard user. It is hands down, the best version of suitcase ever, with incredibly useful new font management features. Used properly, SF2 will help you manage your fonts effectively and greatly improve the performance of your Macintosh. Download the 30 day free demo online and see for yourself and wonder how you ever lived without SF2.
Minimum requirements: Leopard 10.5 (will not work in 10.4)
$99.95 for Suitcase Fusion 2
$49.95 to Upgrade from Suitcase Fusion
Available on line or as a retail package.
There’s nothing worse than uploading photos from your shiny new digital camera, and realizing your snaps didn’t turn out as great you’d imagined. Thankfully, the digital age has given photographers the power to repair and retouch their ugly ducklings.
Readily available programs like Apple’s iPhoto and Google’s Picasa come bundled with retouching tools designed for beginners. While handy, these tools merely scratch the surface of what is capable with the grand-daddy of editing suites, Adobe’s Photoshop.
Photoshop has been the gold standard in image manipulation for more than a decade, but its seemingly limitless capabilities can be overwhelming for the everyday snapper. Enter Alien Skin’s Image Doctor 2, a powerful all-in-one Photoshop retouching plug-in designed for both beginners and professionals. It takes some of the most complex and time-consuming Photoshop processes and bundles them into a bite-sized, easy to use plug-in.
Image Doctor 2’s first photographic antidote is the Conceal Blemish filter. This is perhaps the most powerful portion of Alien Skin’s software. Amateur photographers often try to remove facial blemishes manually with Photoshop’s clone and blur tools. The end result usually resembles a horribly distorted Japanese anime character.
Image Doctor makes facial retouching remarkably straightforward. Users can select special settings for removing moles, pimples, stains, and wrinkles, all which work with astonishing effectiveness. Rather than just focus on the blemished skin, the software evaluates the surrounding skin tones and shadows of the entire face. Apple’s iPhoto employs a similar technique, but executes the removal with an unsightly blur. Image Doctor repairs problem areas with a superbly uniform aesthetic and minimal blur. The resulting images look flawless and, more importantly, natural. This is sure to blow the minds of amateurs and save professionals countless hours in the edit suite.
The Skin Softener filter takes skin retouching to the next level. Modern digital cameras have a nasty habit of accentuating oily patches and wrinkles with harsh flashes. This Skin Softener is like a virtual application of makeup. It evens out wrinkles and ousts oil with ease. A manual application of this technique with Photoshop’s brushes can take hours. For pros, the skin softener is an invaluable filter.
The Smart Fill option is another brilliant time saver. Sometimes, great photos are ruined by obtrusive objects. With nothing more than a simple selection, Image Doctor removes these unwanted objects and blends the selection to look as natural as possible. Before Smart Fill, a similar task would take hours with Photoshop’s clone stamp tool.
The great thing about Image Doctor is that it features a relatively flat learning curve without compromising on beefy options for the professionals. Photographers with limited Photoshop experience can jump right in and retouch their photos with excellent built-in presets while the pros can create their own batch of expert settings to meet their retouching needs.
The Image Doctor plug-in can be had for $200 US. That’s chump change for an established photographer, but might scare away amateur snappers with smaller pockets.