Since I began working in the music industry, I’ve started to develop other skills; and while I started as a drummer, I’m now the MD (Musical Director) for a few up and coming artists and a big part of this these days is programming and providing playback solutions for backing tracks.
My introduction to any kind of playback and programming was on an MPC making basic loops to play along with in Praise & Worship sessions in church. When I got involved in bigger/touring projects, Alesis HD24’s were (and still are) very popular but the size and weight of the machines meant that having a HD24 playback rig with a back up system was very big, very heavy and a pain to transport; not to mention that you’d also need an audio interface of some sort to get the tracks from your DAW to the machine.
If you’re not big on reading and want to get the the main reasons I’ve gone with Cymatic Audio (in particular, the LP-16) scroll down to the bullet points.
Over time I saw MD’s I work(ed) for experiment with different options, from using laptops with varying DAW’s for playback to Joeco’s (a 1U, 24 in/out playback machine – on D-subs) and other various kinds of playback machines and methods.
While I was working with Chlöe Howl, the MD made the transition from HD24’s to a Joeco system. It was half the size of the single HD24 rig (which included an audio interface – See photo), included a back up machine, didn’t require an audio interface to get audio “printed” on to it as well as other cool features. I was the one firing off tracks on that gig so I got to know the Joeco’s well. Ultimately though (in my experience) I found that what they offered in sound quality and portability, they lacked in durability and usability.
The build of the machine wasn’t great, the buttons were unresponsive and the OS was buggy, often crashing and not working properly. At one point the back up machine consistently failed and so we would end up running the show from one machine and while the main machine held up well, it was touch and go at pretty much every show and for how much they cost, that shouldn’t be something you’re worrying about. For me it seems like Joeco’s are fragile and best suited to installs, not the rigorous demands of touring, but this isn’t a fact but rather, my experience. For the price they just aren’t solid or consistent enough for me.
All of this led me to Cymatic Audio who were brought to my attention by a good friend and mentor, Donavan Hepburn. Cymatic Audio are a new company that have multiple machines in their arsenal for live playback and recording. What Cymatic Audio have managed to do is bridge the gap between software and hardware with their U-Tool which (to keep it short) allows you to balance all of your stems and get your stems “show ready” without needing the machine present. The machines are very competitively priced with their flagship machine, the U-Track24 (comparable to the Joeco’s on features but at a fraction of the price – Joeco – £2598.00 – U-Track 24 – £599.00) boasting great sound quality, robust buttons, a software companion that allows you to get your stems from your DAW to the machine (U-Tool), easy creation of playlists, assigning outputs of your backing tracks on the machine, and it even has balanced outputs so technically you don’t need D.I’s…
Then there’s my favourite feature of them all… It’s also an audio interface as well as stand-alone playback machine so if you need something versatile for different gigs where you need the flexibility of a DAW on stage or the stability of a standalone playback machine the U-Track 24 (and LP-16) can meet your needs.
I recently purchased the Cymatic Audio LP-16. I got this over the U-Track 24 for a number of reasons. Here they are:
- It’s small, light/portable and unobtrusive (which is important for me as a lot of the artists I MD for are still at early stages in their careers so venues are small and a playback rig that takes up too much space just can’t work.
- For the projects I’m working on now I never use more than 8 channels so the LP-16 is perfect as I still have 8 channels left vacant if I do need more outputs.
- It has 16 unbalanced jack outputs so no need to get any special cables.
- It’s an audio interface, as well as a playback machine. In rehearsals I use it as an audio interface and balance all of my levels against the band and once everything is set, I bounce all of the stems and then use the machine in playback mode.
- It has midi functionality.
- You can find LP-16’s to buy (brand new) from as little as £249.00.
When the projects I’m working on grow I’ll get a full U-Track 24 rig and keep the LP-16 for smaller shows and fly gigs where we need to save money on flights etc.
An interface as well as a playback machine, an “A and “B” rig for a the price of one Mac Book (in reality, a lot less if it’s spec’d high to make sure it can handle the demands of a live show), great usability, big, solid buttons that are easy to see and feel on a dark stage and great sound… To be honest, there’s still a part of me that think what these guys are offering is too good to be true… Trust me it’s not. If you’re looking for playback solutions, Cymatic Audio are definitely worth serious consideration at the very least!
See top photo to see me using the LP-16 in standalone playback mode and the bottom photo to see me using it in audio interface mode with a DAW.
Find out more about Cymatic Audio on http://cymaticaudio.com.Tags: 16 Outputs, 1U, 24 Outputs, Ableton, Audio Interface, Backing Tracks, Click, Click Tracks, Cymatic Audio, Experience, Feedback, Logic, LP-16, Playback, Playback Rig, Playback System, Portable, Programming, ProTools, Review, Small, U-Tool, U-Track 24, USB