Red5 Audio RV8, RV10 + Waves MAXX BCL

Next up for review? The Red5 Audio RV8 and RV10. The RV8 is a cardioid large-diaphragm condenser mic and the RV10 is its multi-pattern companion. These mics are yet two more additions to a glut of large-diaphragm condenser mics built in China. What sets these apart from their competitors? For starters, both mics seem fairly sturdy in construction. Both mics feel substantial to hold. They’re slightly bulbous in design, but well finished. No rough edges or metal burrs as can be the case with other cheapo mics. Both also come stock with hard cases, foam windscreens and shock mounts. Both mics are equipped with LF roll-off and a 10dB pad. These features alone put these two mics ahead of the competition.
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As for audio quality: Both mics are sensitive and clear sounding. Not too bright. Mellower than an AT 4050. A little boosted in the middle midrange. The RV8 seemed to have a comparable output to the 4050 while the RV10 seemed to have a slightly higher output. Used on acoustic guitar, both the RV8 and RV10 performed well. My searing rendition of “Night Moves” by Bob Seger had that gives-you-chills vibe that I’d been searching for. Vocals are loud and clear and the windscreen worked well for the up-close test. Both mics also worked well as distant drum mics. The omni pattern with a ton of compression over the beater edge of the kick drum had added a nice thickening effect to my drum mix. As overheads the mics weren’t too brash, as some cheap Chinese mics tend to be.

So the bottomline with these mics? The price. Maybe the cheapest I’ve seen for the build quality and accessories provided. Better than the MXL mics, for sure. Probably built in the factory next door. I wonder who’s got a better factory softball team? The RV8 costs a measly $225 and the RV10 $305, both available directly from the company through their website: red5audio.com. As is stated on their website, they deal directly with their customers as a way to keep costs down. They also build their mics in China, which is another good way to keep costs down.

Next up for review? The Israeli designed and built Waves Maxx BCL. This mysterious black box is a powerful multi-functional audio tool designed for a broad range of uses that include tracking in the studio, live sound, and mastering.

Honestly, I wasn’t really sure how to approach this unit, as it has so many different applications. I have experience with the Waves plug-ins like the L1 Ultramaximizer. The Maxx BCL includes the hardware version of this limiter, plus the MaxxBass low frequency enhancer and the Waves Renaissance Compressor.

My interest was most piqued by the mysterious MaxxBass function. What does it do? The manual explains that it generates harmonics above the selected low frequency to give the apparent boost in low end. It does this by splitting the input signal into two parts. The crossover frequency, which is controlled by the Frequency knob on the front panel, determines the split point. The high frequencies are passed unaffected while all frequencies below the selected frequency point are analyzed by the MaxxBass processor, which generates harmonics based on the low frequency program. This could be useful in situations where a speaker system is unable to reproduce low frequencies that are contained in an audio program. The manual suggests that this function is very useful for commercial sound systems, theme parks, outdoor distribution systems, personal stereo systems, and so on.

I decided to give this MaxxBass function a spin on a rough mix of a band I’d recorded that was lacking in the low end. Now this lack of low end wasn’t because of my incompetence as an engineer, as you might have guessed. They actually don’t have a bass player. So the only instrument generating any considerable low end is the kick drum. The MaxxBass function really did add something to the mix that was lacking though. And I can’t really call it low end. It’s apparent low end. It’s not a subharmonic synthesizer because the frequencies it generates are all above the selected low frequency. Bypassing the MaxxBass, the mix suddenly sounded thin and anemic. Uh oh. I’m hooked.

Now to the compressor function. The Renaissance Compressor is a “classic warm compressor and expander.” There are two compression modes: Electro and Opto. The Electro mode has a release time that becomes increasingly faster as the gain reduction approaches zero. This mode is best suited for increasing the RMS (average level), which is useful for music mastering or in live sound applications. The Opto function is the opposite. The release time gets slower as the “needle comes back to zero.” There is also the ARC (Auto Release Control) function. This calculates an optimal release time based on the program. This compressor acts a bit like HAL from “2001.” Just switch on the ARC as it knows what’s best for you. Somehow I trust it, though.

When using the compressor function, I was reminded of why I always use the L1 as a premastering tool when burning CDs of a mix. It really does a great job boosting the program’s volume without leaving artifacts that change the sound of the mix. One could call it transparent. This is achieved through 48-bit internal processing. Even with extreme compression settings, only the slightest bit of coloration seems to occur.

On to the limiter: The L2 is very useful in this unforgiving world of digital zero. The L2 is a powerful brickwall limiter that allows for setting the maximum output ceiling, above which the signal is prevented from exceeding. Upon testing the unit on several different mixes, the Limiter function appeared to be the most obviously powerful tool of the Maxx BCL. The brickwall limiter allows for mixes to come within 0.1dB of digital zero. This is great for getting the most sound to the CD player on to you, the listener. Again, it achieves this with incredible clarity and no noticeable artifacts. Truly amazing. No wonder John Golden has one of these in his mastering lab.

The unit is heavy at 8.8 lbs. Transformer coupled inputs and outputs and a thick, solid metal chassis might account for some of the weight. There are many different digital and analog connection options. The front panel controls are simple and well laid out. The metering is comprehensive and detailed with 1/2dB increments above –3dB — especially useful for mastering or when fine level detailing is needed. This is one of those rack units that you probably don’t feel the need to have, but once you’ve tried it, you’ll want to use it on everything.

Oh, and start saving; it’s not cheap either, unless you think $2,400 is cheap.