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The Death Of The Focusrite Liquidmix And Other Victories

Brandon Drury —  January 9, 2012 — 1 Comment

Liquid Mix vs UAD

It wasn’t but just a few years ago and there was a Lord of The Rings-like battle between UAD and the Liquidmix. You saw threads all over the web with people needing help making the tough choice with their gear. I remember being very excited about the Liquidmix and came very, very close to pulling the $800 trigger. Something held me back. Probably Gandolf.

Taking a look at Ebay today, a search for Focusrite LiquidMix made me wonder if I typed it in wrong. I even tried it “Focusrite Liquid Mix”. Ebay knows what I meant. No one seems to be buying or selling these things anymore.

This is just another reminder of the fickle nature of our little recording world.

An Eternity

Looking back to 2007 or 2008 actually seems a bit like an eternity. This “Facebook World” moves faster than ever. That’s good because progress has been tremendous and anyone who can find the time to discover the new tools and fully master them can get a LONG way on just a few bucks.

The bad news is there were 60,234,332 American car companies in 1950. In 2012 there are 60,234,332 – 60,234,332 + 2…maybe 3 car carcasses left to fertilize the soil.

No one really seems to know what the future of recording toys will be in 2017, but it’s safe to say that that a whole bunch of brand new “MUST HAVE” gear that debuted in NAMM here in 2012 and will be debuting in 2013 will end marinating in a combination of mustard and engine oil as you take out the trash 2017. It’ll safely reside in an appreciating (sarcasm) shoebox in your closet.

The worst problem is no one really knows how to predict which toy has long-term staying power. With anything new it’s a total guessing game. The only safe bet is to go with what has already worked in the past. Gibson Les Pauls, Nuemann U87s, and Shure SM57s probably aren’t going anywhere in the next 5 years.

The concept of profiling guitar amps was a hot topic as this year’s NAMM. This isn’t a whole lot different than the topic of storing our memories, “intellect”, and thinking tendencies in a hard drive so a digital clone of us lives forever. (A great way to get uninitiated to stop talking about this 2012 Mayan business at parties.) Anyway, take a look.The profiler takes what sounds like a Matchless-style amp (by far the hardest style of amp to emulate) and 100% nails it. No one would  pass this A/B test in controlled conditions. While fancy emulators aren’t new, this notion of full-blown cloning of amps is just a few rungs down from the moral implications of cloning humans.

What we are looking at is this monopoly of the elite on guitar tones is about to go through the same very thing the record labels went through with the mp3. It ain’t the end, but it sure as hell isn’t the beginning. (If I was Mesa Boogie I’d be hiring a slew of 5′ 1″ brown dudes who spoke binary fluently because grandpa ain’t gonna be buying tubes much longer…..not when he can download them.) The idea of needing 10 amps is about to die. People will have 10,000 of them right beside their “Asia – Heat Of The Moment’ mp3 folder.

What’s interesting about this whole affair is maybe the $2,000 Kemper Profiler will be going on Ebay for $80, too, in 2017…maybe 2027. I’d be surprised if the Iphone 7 would have any trouble at all with this kind of number crunching. I’ve heard positive feedback from Amplitube 3′s phone app. Live shows are about to change…again.

Even if phones aren’t replacing Matchless amps, I’m curious how far along Behringer is in their clone. I’m guessing it’ll cost $299. Assuming this profiler requires a pristine audio path of 100111001110 I suspect Behringer could do the unthinkable and match a Matchless. When Behringer figures out how to build a robot to actually test their damn products before shipping them, we’ll see yet another revolution.

For me, the one thing I know is while the world is chasing it’s tail, I’m gonna grab a Long Island Ice Tea or three (or maybe just a 12 pack of Sam Adam’s) and relax. I like to catch the last bandwagon train out of Dodge (City) generally after the dust has settled. Now that I picked up an Axe FX Standard (for recording purposes making my Rivera Knucklehead, 5150, and 1971 Marshall Superlead obsolete for anything other than client manipulating wallpaper (A concept I cover heavily in SURVIVING AND THRIVING IN THIS BS RECORDING STUDIO BUSINESS).

The Liquidmix tells us that just because a plugin has a hardware box you can hold, doesn’t necessarily mean its value will.

the Kemper Profiler tells us that it won’t be long until all real amps ARE plugins, give or take.

Drums already are plugins. (Speaking of revolutions, check out Steven Slate Drums 4)

Synths already are plugins.

I’m starting to see a pattern here.

The only problem with that is plugins don’t hold their value, either. Maybe we are moving from “home ownership” to “renting”. (More than one study has concluded that “most” people actually save money renting a home than buying it.) I struggle with that model a bit, but I may struggle the day when I want to sell my API and Neve preamps and no one wants those either.;)

Conclusion

No one has any freakin’ idea what’s going on. The idea of buying a used high-end toy and selling it for about the same price seems like it may be harder to pull off. Guitar amps are officially prime time digital gadgets.

So what does a value-conscious home recorder buy these days? No idea. All I know is it’s going to be awesome and worthless in four years. ;)

Brandon

Saved Comments


richiebee – 01-31-2012, 06:43 AM
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What happens when the post PC world really arrives… if indeed its ever going to. Will we return to hardware audio systems because they’re cheaper and easier to get? Will our iToys have audio quality, more DSP, more memory and more storage space than anyone will ever need in ten lifetimes, sample rates of 384Khz at 64 bit floating point?

As I contemplate whether I wish to teach undergrad music students an introduction to music technology, I have to seriously consider the lifetime of the material I will have to prepare. I see it being 3-4 years max. I doubt its worth the amount of money the university will pay me to do it.

m24p’s Avatar
m24p – 01-31-2012, 08:22 AM
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“When Behringer figures out how to build a robot to actually test their damn products before shipping them, we’ll see yet another revolution.”

LOL. I work on stuff that’s often used for automated test and this is important. More and more things have more and more features that need testing, and pricing are being driven down lower and lower. You need a good automated test system.

rook2c4′s Avatar
rook2c4 – 01-31-2012, 08:30 AM
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I don’t know what the future will bring, but I sure hope this is one: plenty of choices. And affordable choices.

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JayGee – 01-31-2012, 08:40 AM
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Products come and go. I like to ride the wave on the way out, and pick up the equipment
for a deep discount.

I got a Liquid Mix for $100 on Ebay, and it works well for me.

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paul999 – 01-31-2012, 08:49 AM
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Ever take a look in your grandpas shed and notice the 50 year old hammer that still works or the 30 year old drill that looks like it could eat most of todays drills for breakfast? This is how I view recording gear. I went on a bit of a “plug in” binge and after re-vamping my studio I’ve noticed I’ve settled back into most of my old habits which is to reach for my good old standard tools instead of the new shinny tool. A couple plug ins are part of the good ol’ tool box now but that is it. If I can sell my antiquated gear in 2030 for anything I really don’t care. For me it is worth how much it earns me in the present. There is no reason I can’t make kick a$$ recordings with it in the future.

The problem is that people make bad decisions for themselves in the present. Buying hype is always expensive. The problem with liquid mix is that it didn’t evolve. Focusrite seems to be looking for a static digital product. There is no such thing. UAD is going to face the same thing with it’s standard plug ins when it needs to update the 1176 etc. Is it going to admit that it doesn’t sound like the hardware enough and needs an update. It will be interesting. Imagine if UAD had stayed only with it’s original offering of UAD. It would suffer the same fate as the liquid mix.

Determining what it timeless in a trend setting industry such as music is tough with a capitol T. The thing we can count on IMO is that there will be very little that will replace what we have but many new niches will start. For example people have said for years drummers are obsolete but we still keep hiring them and it is a more popular instrument then ever. Are we replacing guitar amps? Of course not, we are offering another must have making it so that guitar players not only own an amp but a simulator as well. Digital technology has almost replaced tape but it has not replaced hardware compressors, eq’s mic pre’s etc. In fact it has made us need more of this crap trying to make the front end more colored before hitting digital. So for all this technology all we get is more tools not replacements. I’m cool with that. I’m also cool with the fact that I don’t need every tool out there.

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Windmill Sound – 01-31-2012, 10:01 AM
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Well I’m in the UK so I can’t comment of your prices, but I got my Liquid Mix for about £250 a few years ago and those UAD boxes and cards are still going for upwards of a grand – and then you have to pay extra to get plug-ins on them. The Liquid Mix is never going to sound like £150000 of equipment in your studio, but equally it sounds great for its price – possibly the best value piece of equipment I have ever bought. Consider this £250 I paid for the Liquid Mix next to the £2500 I paid for Waves Platinum – and I use it on every single mix that I do.

JayGee’s Avatar
JayGee – 01-31-2012, 10:20 AM
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Quote Originally Posted by Windmill Sound View Post
Well I’m in the UK so I can’t comment of your prices, but I got my Liquid Mix for about £250 a few years ago and those UAD boxes and cards are still going for upwards of a grand – and then you have to pay extra to get plug-ins on them. The Liquid Mix is never going to sound like £150000 of equipment in your studio, but equally it sounds great for its price – possibly the best value piece of equipment I have ever bought. Consider this £250 I paid for the Liquid Mix next to the £2500 I paid for Waves Platinum – and I use it on every single mix that I do.
I agree. I’m a studio hobbyist, and can’t justify spending $1000-2000 for a UAD quad card + plugins.
The LiquidMix does what I want. Sounds great, and offloads some of workload from my pc.

brandondrury’s Avatar
brandondrury – 01-31-2012, 10:59 AM
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The LiquidMix does what I want. Sounds great, and offloads some of workload from my pc.
Just for the record, this article isn’t really about the sound of the Liquid Mix. It’s more about it’s $$ value….which you would think would be joined at the hip.

The few I’ve seen on Ebay for $100 appear to be a total steal.

As I contemplate whether I wish to teach undergrad music students an introduction to music technology, I have to seriously consider the lifetime of the material I will have to prepare. I see it being 3-4 years max. I doubt its worth the amount of money the university will pay me to do it.
Yeah, I’m with you. I need to rewrite another KHR: SU or at least severely update because many things have changed so much.

Ever take a look in your grandpas shed and notice the 50 year old hammer that still works or the 30 year old drill that looks like it could eat most of todays drills for breakfast?
Good point about the hammer.

I got my lesson on this the hard way about 13 years ago. I bought a Rocktron Prophesy for $1,400. The thing sounds worse than most $200 guitar processors now. (Forget the MIDI controller and VHT power amp). I was torn between the Prophesy and a Marshall JCM800, which at the time were going for about $600. If I could go back….

Are we replacing guitar amps? Of course not, we are offering another must have making it so that guitar players not only own an amp but a simulator as well.
I’m iffy on this one. Yes, guitar players who probably have $10k or more in amps will run out and get this one, too. However, as technology improves to the level of the Kemper Profiler and the price goes down, I can see less and less and less people buying real amps.

It’s gonna happen when the digital stuff sounds BETTER than the real amps. Whether Marshall Superlead is grandpa’s hammer or not is the question. At the moment, under real-life conditions of fighting small rooms and having time limitations, the Axe FX is gonna win 98% of the time for electric guitar recording in my shop. As mentioned above, the real amps just provide wall paper for the clients interested in such things. From a tools perspective, I already believe the real amps are inferior in terms of recording.

If the gating and feel were better on edrum kits, I’d imagine that Slate 4 is gonna sound better than 99% of recordings done with the real thing especially when working in bad rooms, poorly tuned drums, etc.

So I don’t know.

Brandon

Electriclight’s Avatar
Electriclight – 01-31-2012, 11:48 AM
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Testing is soooo old school. You know how much testing Sony does on their products before they go out the door? Zero. Zilch. As Behringer is an ISO 9000 company, you would think they would have their processes pretty much perfected. But no, it’s still a crap shoot. Actually, the only malfuntioning thing I ever got from them was a set of monitors. But even then, I do get some quality exercise by banging around on the cabinet, trying to get another 5 minutes of usage.

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Prado Escondido – 01-31-2012, 12:23 PM
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I’ve got to agree with Paul999 on the hammer. The problem is that it is much harder to choose your hammer today as there are bewildering choices and few of us have free access to adequate information to make well-informed choices as we start down the digital audio path … four audio interfaces gathering dust in my closet painfully pointing that out to me, anyway.

UAD is another beast, in the Latin, ‘Donglus elitis.’ There are now approximately 50,000 (according to ‘insider scoop’ from the UAD forum) owners. Hardware and software companies are partnering up in droves. Why? ‘Donglus elitis.’ You will soon see Brainworx, Sonnox and other develop ‘premium’ plugins that will not be available in native equivalents.

Back to the point … is UAD a good investment? I don’t know. Was the Fairchild? With the development of the Apollo and the forthcoming Thunderbolt connectivity in external, portable units, it certainly looks like the format is here for the long haul.

Prado

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thejonesatwork – 01-31-2012, 01:06 PM
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Is any peice of computer software a good investment? Lexicon wants the same $$$ for it’s software that it put in PCM 90s back in the day. No tangible cost for Lexicon, so free money. But you want it because their reverb algorithms have been used and are tried and true. Peoples ears are familiar with the sound, which is more valuable than hyping up technology. honestly, the Sapphire Firewire Boxes and their Mic Pre’s clarity and accuracy are what sends people there, not there DSP. Start adding crap on top of it folks are still willing to pay for the mic pre but the other stuff is just fluff. The jouney to build a logical representation of a $10M studio for $1000 marches on, but so long as it does the old tech will degrade in price. So, what’s my point? Paul999 is right. Gauging a classic before it’s become one is like catching a falling knife, impossible to do without some bloodshed. But elements of gear that are already proven will continue to be useful, and hence valuable. So like vegas, scared money never wins. If you want a sure thing, spend the money for it. Only gamble with money you can afford to lose.

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jaystar – 01-31-2012, 01:57 PM
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As a general rule, if it has computer processors and chips, it WILL drastically lose it’s value within a few years, if not months. This is why a new computer is always the last thing on my shopping list. I’d rather buy that Neumann mic first rather than say, the latest Apogee converters.

Every once in a while, a company like Universal audio runs a promotion where if you buy one of their $1500-2400 dollar channel strips, you get free UAD Quad or UAD Duo card.

Even I couldn’t pass up a deal like that and since I was working at Sam Ash at the time I bought mine, I got an additional 40% off ON TOP OF ALL THAT. So I ended up spending $1,458 dollars for a 6176 AND a UAD Quad Satellite!!! It was a sweet deal. I will probably end up selling my QUAD card at some point because the 6176 is the ONE piece of gear out of the two that will hold its value in 10 years.

And now UA comes out with the Apollo, which is basically a thunderbolt version of the Apogee Ensemble with a Duo OR Quad card build right into it. I predict it won’t be long before you see these Quad cards selling at half of what they are selling for now.

Another great way to predict the longevity of a product is to do some homework and see who each company is partnering up with. Universal Audio made a deal with Avid not too long ago where they are now an official Pro Tools Plugin Developer. This is a pretty big deal which basically says that UAD is working very closely with AVID. I wouldn’t be surprised to see NON-UAD RTAS plugins running on UAD hardware in the future.

It’s never a bad investment to buy something with vintage tubes and transformers in it. On ebay, the gear that seems to hold its value over time is the staple name brands such as Avalon, API, Neve, Neumann, Universal Audio etc…..

There is a guy on ebay right selling extremely well built API 312 clones. 4 Preamps for $1200 built exactly to spec of the 1970s API console pre. And this thing arguably sounds better than the 3124MB+ API is selling now for $3140 on sweetwater. The ONLY reason I hesitate to buy it is because it has the word “CLONE” on it and I know if I try to sell it one day, it won’t hold its value like the 3124MB+ would.
But as a rule of thumb, unless you plan on keeping it, it’s better to stick to the household name brands that have been the bread and butter of the music industry for the last few decades.

Now I DO believe that as more and more young people become used to the sound of plugins, you will see more and more big name producers doing ITB mixing out of convenience. And the new generations won’t even know what they are missing.

The bottom line is that if you can make a multi-platinum selling hit without using a million dollars worth of mixing gear, then WHY NOT? I mean, look at the porn industry for Christ sake. No makes these hollywood budget type movies anymore because there simply isn’t a market for it. Someone figured out that you can make just as much money filming your wife’s sister in the shower with a SONY camcorder.

And now with all these Youtube sensations popping up, the average joe can make a hit single with a USB microphone and an out of tune guitar, as long as it has entertainment value.

But I digress. My point is, what you are buying will drastically lose it’s value if it has processors and dsp chips. Buy the analog gear first and hold off on the computer technology for as you can until you really need an upgrade.

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cporro – 01-31-2012, 04:43 PM
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congrats on the fractal. i got one too. money well spent even if it’s worthless in 5 years. good guitar sims are finally arriving from a few places. only took 25 years.

don’t know about the renting model being so great. i see people regularly using pretty old versions of my daw and getting the job done fine. they even offered a “subscription” model. not sure how it did. but you never actually owned the software so when the subscription ended so did your use.

what that really tells me is skill is what brings value not the latest tech.

and i still think our society punishes home renters. i’ve seen the stuff claiming it can be better to rent. i’m skeptical. for one you get a big deduction for interest payments on the mortgage. second you get to keep any appreciation (or depreciation) on the property.

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cky751 – 01-31-2012, 04:48 PM
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Great article Brandon! I think about this all the time. Now you can buy a pod xt and dfh superior 1 for roughly 70 bucks on ebay, and make amazing sounding recordings. Now they have the axe fx 2 out, and sure it sounds amazing, but my ultra still can make amazing recordings. Where do we draw the line?

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Vic Demise – 01-31-2012, 07:23 PM
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I have a setup that was virtually free- donated by friends, etc.
My Cubase software is 10 years out of date, my soundcard is an equally old Creative 24 bit/192kHz-
and I am drowning in VSTs (many free) and frankly my biggest problem is too dang many options!
I could tweak and twiddle my tracks forever- and I think I mean that literally.
My point is I am a happy camper, and I sort of laugh at the gearheads.
I’m not running a “working studio” for clients, in fact I’m often inclined to record people out of a love for the art. I couldn’t really record a full band, but I can realize my visions quite adequately.
I have all the sample rates I could require- and a decent (not stellar) condenser mic.

Save your money and just get in there and do your thing.

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PunkGuy – 01-31-2012, 09:51 PM
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The problem with digital is that the next generation always sounds better than the previous. But wait a second, the previous generation sounded better than the real thing didn’t it? WTF happened!? Hype, insanity, and placebo effect if you ask me. Sure, digital is improving, but analog still sounds better if you use the right tool for the job and know how to use it. Digital has it’s place, but I wish I could record_in_mostly_analog… at least with the instruments themselves and probably compressors… Just my two cents.

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Nanowire – 02-01-2012, 03:56 AM
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I’d actually be interested in a plugin version of my Engl 570 i.e. IK German Gain. This would mean I could actually one day forego the schlepping and still have that sound. I’d gig with it, yes. It’s just that I don’t know how it interacts with my guitar volume knob. Is it the same. Also the tangible version has to be retubed every once in a while. It is both an advantage and a disadvantage. ++ you can experiment with different tubes and tune it to your liking, — new tubes, while not as expensive as powertubes, cost money. What’s next: virtual retubing and modular preamps. That would be very interesting especially in regard to NOS tubes and the ever diminishing stocks of the real deal.

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adorian – 02-01-2012, 04:50 AM
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My recent experiences with outdated software and the convoluted protection schemes that are later on dropped because such software is not supported by the company any longer, drive me to believe that my ancient analog mixer will still most likely work in 10 years while none of my software will. With that in mind, it makes it really hard to splurge on software plugs, samples or anything as you get about 2 yrs lease on them and have to splurge again on another upgrade…unless the company goes out of business or decided to work on Mac only (Logic).

How about digital recording hardware? There’s nothing wrong with my Presonus FP10, and yet again driver development on it is gone since they decided to drop it from future releases. That could never happen with my old mixer.

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dudermn – 02-01-2012, 11:38 PM
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The Profiler can-not for example emulate a tube screamer. It says so in the manual. The battle has been lost already.
It also has problems with ‘pre and power amps’. Where the gain is to high and it just can’t splatter the mud. Hum and hiss will create installation and location problems for some studios as it is “a negative influence on the profiling process”, and this will not work for a live gig considering how many technical deficiencies are created….I’m not gonna even mention spring reverb…
On the plus, it can simulate rotary speakers by profiling too, though it turns it into a mono mix.
I can imagine that it probably beats the crap out of guitar rig and amplitube while chasing um around with a guitar cable for a noose.
But the worst part is they fail to mention if their amplifier is class A, B, C, D, F. Obviously it’s a solid state…like the Valvetronix from Vox. But it will never compare to my (kustom) defender (5h).
We already took out the need for a singer a long long time ago,
Singing Synthesizer – Microsoft Research
the modern version of this, Vocaloid…. seems to be big in japan and it looks it uses holograms and a live band :|
Vocaloid Live Concert [Part 1] – YouTube
Also colorfirefly made some progress in pyrotechnics with 30 foot long colored flames, but 30 foot long flames don’t really got much use in the studio.
There’s also ghost pick-ups from graftek, which turns a guitar into a keyboard, or whatever….
The technological achievements we’ve made have been ‘good’…but how does the ‘Abbey Road’ drum thingy do against Steven Slates?
I’m still shocked at the technical challenge it takes to ‘capture and amp’. Surprized they didn’t get the Nobel prize
What I’m spouting on about might be 2 years old, hope I’m still up with the trends. Can’t wait to get back to the States and visit Namm and E3
P.s. Take a look at 3:01 Richard Z. Kruspe on the Rammfire amp emulation – YouTube

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smnoben – 02-16-2012, 12:38 AM
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Personally, I take a lot of comfort in the fact that math will always be math and the fundementals of sound will never change. Stay tuned for the results of our investigation of the seemingly over relience on the quadratic residule series. Sorry to hijack but IM SOOOOOO EXCITED!!!!!

 

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.
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One response to The Death Of The Focusrite Liquidmix And Other Victories

  1. The probable reason that nobody is selling the liquid mix on ebay is because they still sound fantastic when placed against the latest high end plugs! Ok the LM GUI may not look as nice as the latest clones (although the hardware controller is very effective once you get used to it), but it’s the sonic quality that is second to none. I’ve been mixing with analogue outboard for many years and have demoed pretty much every plug I have been able to find and also bought many in search of the holy grail of plugs, none of which (imho) are as good as analogue outboard. But the LM is a real winner still in 2013/14 and can be found (if you search in the right places) for a £80-£150 or so. Do not underestimate this piece of kit, it IS as good as the latest and greatest plugs….Just use your EARS not your EYES!

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