SBS Designs S1

The hardest thing about having NS-10M Studios, aside from an exhausting listening experience, is picking the right power amp.  I had a chance to demo an SBS Designs S1 for a few weeks and found it interesting how big of a difference a power amplifier can make on your speakers.

SBS Designs operates out of New Jersey and was founded by Craig Bernabeu in 2001. They do HiFi installations and have their own amps, isolators, and a unique tube processor. Their line of amplification includes the Series M mono block amplifiers and the Series S stereo amplifiers. For the last few years SBS Designs Series S have been making replacing the power for studio main monitors like Augspurgers. The S1, as recommended by SBS, is for tweeters, compression drivers, and bookshelf type speakers.  Performance specs are 65 watts per channel @ 8 ohms, Class AB output with a 10 Hz-100 kHz frequency response. I decided to give this one a try over the 125watt S2 and the 275watt S3 because my current amp is a Bryston 2B.

SBS Designs S1 on Desk

The front of the panel has to steel hands (presumably to protect the power switch or to help carry in out of racks), a nice big power switch, and 3 pairs of LEDs to indicate output level: Ready, Active, Max Out(clipping). The rear is surprisingly clean and simple: a really big heat sink, two XLR line inputs, knob-less gain pots, recessed banana connectors for speaker out, AC input, and a reset button for the thermal/current sensing circuit breaker. The circuit breaker is a good idea since, to have amp be suited for a recording studio environment, it is without a cooling fan or a built limiter.

SBS Designs S1 Rear

Getting it out of the box and racked was easy enough. The unit itself weighs just a bit over 15lbs and the handles on the front help keep it steady while I screwed it in. Turned it on and started listening to music. The highs on the NS-10s opened up quite a bit and the bump on the 2kHz crossover smoothed out. With earlier NS-10s this would probably prompt a user to do the tissue trick but since my pair are the studio version its not a problem. I turned on a few go to tracks that I am most familiar with and noticed things like distortions, reverbs, and noise that I hadn’t noticed before. The response from mid to high revealed detail that I was previously missing. This would probably be due the 10 Hz-100 kHz frequency response and 100v/us slew rate giving it greater definition and transients. The lows were much tighter than the Bryston. The NS10M Studios, being a closed-cabinet, need high wattage and damping to get more out of the lows. Engineers will go with an amp that is 100watts or more per channel to get the lows to come out more and make sure the signal is above distortion. An SBS Designs S2, which is 125watts per channel @8ohms, would better drive the low end. Hooking the S1 up to a less stubborn speaker like the ProAc Studio 100s or Alesis Monitor1 MKII that have a ported design will give a complete sound from low to high. For my personal use the S1 worked just fine since I listen to the NS-10s at a strictly whisper quiet level and with these high end amps you don’t have to worry as much about low level distortion burning your voice coils.

At the end of the three weeks of using the SBS Designs S1 I came to listen more to my NS-10s. Mixes were translating and I could work long hours without fatigue. The S1 gave me more detail and a comfortable listening experience than my current amp, which by comparison sounded like it had holes in the upper-mids and sluggish overall. I would recommend an S2 for NS-10 users to get the detail on top and the wattage for the low end.

SBS Designs ISO-Q2

Last week Shorty from SBS Designs dropped by our office with some new gear for us to try out. One of the products was the ISO-Q2 isolator. This is already in use by a number of a-list touring dj’s, and if you’re a fan of outboard gear or are putting together a club installation the ISO-Q2 has some unique features that definitely make it worth taking a look at. I set up the ISO-Q2 and gave it a quick run through:


On the front panel of the ISO-Q2, right in the middle you have the standard knobs you’d expect on any DJ isolator – Bass, Mid, & Treble. What sets this one apart is the addition of 2 extra knobs that you won’t find on other isolators – bass frequency cutoff and the treble frequency cutoff. These are super nice for a couple of reasons. First, because you can tailor your frequency cut offs to the particular track or genre you are playing – you would want a different cut off point for techno and disco for example.  These are also useful for creating some neat effects where you can, for example, cut the bass gain and then change the cut off frequency for an added sweep effect.

SBS-ISOQ2 Back Panel


On the back panel you can find 2 more features that set this apart from other isolators out there. The ISO-Q2 has an effects send / return (I set up with a Mini Kaoss Pad to test it out) that is by passable with a switch on the back panel.  The other notable feature on the back is a Master Gain knob, which can be useful for a couple of things. You can use it to provide a little headroom for your system to protect from dj’s who go a little heavy on the gain, or you can use it to boost a signal from a lower-output mixer.

I recorded a quick demo using the ISO-Q2, you can listen below. Track info: Beto Cravioto – Inherent Vice (Cameo Culture Remix), out now on Plant Music. 

Can a Launchpad be a Monome?

The Monome has been long revered as the holy grail of DIY controllers. It’s open format and active community of builders and developers make it great for people who want to completely customize their music making experience. But building your own can be a steep climb for those not familiar with electronics or programing. Novation recently introduced their own Monome-like controller that begs the question, can it work the same way?

A Monome works with Open Sound Control (OSC), which allows it to send and receive control information in a variety of ways, and many Monome users have developed and shared applications built specifically for the Monome. These applications either work standalone, letting you chop and sequence within one program, or as bridges to other software sending midi and control information to your DAW (Ableton the popular choice among Monome users). While a lot of the standalone apps are built in Max/MSP, they only require you have Max Runtime, a free program to run them. Almost as soon as Novation’s Launchpad hit the market, Monome programs and emulators were adapted to work with the Launchpad and have it function much the same way.

To get the full scoop on how the Novation Launchpad stacks up in the Monome community I hit up Adam Rubaido, developer of the popular Monome Ableton control program 7up. Check the questions below to get inside with an insider:

How has the Launchpad been received by the Monome community?  It’s design and functionality have obvious similarities.  Is this a bone of contention among Monome users or wanna be Monome users (Wannomes)?

Understandably, the release of the launchpad was initially seen as a big corporation’s affront on a much loved independent business’ success story.  It’s hard to argue that the Launchpad and APC40’s designs weren’t lifted from the monome, but the fact is that the demand for grid-based controllers far exceeded supply and those companies made what proved to be a business savvy choice by meeting that demand.  At this point, launchpad users have been accepted as a source of fresh blood in a community of enthusiastic hackers and musicians.

Does the new version of 7up work natively with the Launchpad?  Do you need an emulator?

Using any monome application with the Launchpad will require an emulator to translate the messages coming from the Launchpad into messages that monome applications understand (OSC).  That being said, the process has become relatively painless with a number of emulators out there including MonomeEmu and NoNome.

MonomeEmu works especially well with SevenUp 2.0 as we’ve included support for Launchpad’s multi-colored LEDs.  However, it’s worth mentioning that any time you use an emulator, you’re adding overhead to both your workflow and CPU utilization.

How does 7up compare to the native Launchpad functionality when controlling Ableton Live?

This is something of an apples and oranges comparison as the Launchpad’s built in control surface capabilities serve different purposes than SevenUp’s capabilities.  But, I will however say that in *general*, and especially since the release of Max4Live, you’re going to find more features to play with, more creative capabilities, and more surprises from community-developed monome applications than the out-of-the-box Novation functionality.

Has the Monome community set the standard for open sourcing controllers?  Do you see more commercial products and software becoming user programmable?

I don’t know if the Monome community has set the standard but it’s certainly a successful example of how a business plan can be crafted with community and open standards as a key component.  Right now the community is Brian’s [Monome creator Brian Crabtree] best salesman and also his support department.

Taking a step away from music and software, I think as consumers become more tech savvy, more curious hackers will emerge and businesses will see the benefits of letting their users take the products to places they had never envisioned.  You see this already with video games (did John Carmack ever envision Team Fortress) and with social apps (did Mark Zuckerberg ever envision Farmville?).  So absolutely, I see user programmability a huge part of tomorrow’s marketplace, music or otherwise.

You’re a producer/Monome user yourself. What’s your favorite thing about using a Monome?

I had a vision for how a grid controller would react to my button presses and I was able to *gasp* act on that vision.  That’s powerful stuff.

But my favorite part of the monome has to be the community that surrounds it.  I’ve met so many amazing people, traveled to so many places, and played so many shows all because of this dumb little box of blinking lights.  It’s been a beacon that’s brought together programmers and musicians and everything in between.  Turns out we get along ok.

Thanks very much Adam!

Adam produces and plays live with his Monome as Making the Noise. You can listen to his new album at You can also see the latest version of his program 7up in action with Ableton Live and and MaxForLive at

Novation’s Launchpad could be a great route for people looking to break into the customizable Monome community, and is a pretty slick little Ableton controller on it’s own.  Check through some of the links above to see videos of Launchpads and Monomes in action.  Check it out in the store using the link below, and for getting to the end of this article you get a special discount code on the Launchpad! Use the promo code “launchpad7up” for the best price on a Launchpad anywhere on the net.

Fund your next project with

KickStarter.comDid your last order with us leave with no money to record your new album, pay rent on your practice space, or hire that killer producer? Well, your in luck because the website is here to help you. The website allows artists and bands to collect donations from fans, friends, family and even total strangers. Over $1.5 million dollars have been raised on the site — just in the last month. A well planned Kickstarter campaign could refill that bank account, and help you complete your next project sooner then you thought.

How it works

To use Kickstarter you must post a project along with a funding goal and a deadline to reach that goal. You will receive the money people have pledged only if you reach your goal. So it’s all or nothing. People will only be charged once the goal is reached.

Once your project’s goal is reached Kickstarter collects the payments and deposits the money in to your bank account, after taking a 5% commission.

Raising Money.

You may be wondering why people would just fork over their hard earned money to your project? Obviously you need to offer some incentive for them. For some people, if your project is exciting/cool enough, they might just pledge because they just want to see your creation come to life. But generally its important to offer them some kind of piece of your final product.

  • Describe your project

    Of course it is important to describe your project in as much detail as possible. People will want to know exactly how the money they give you will be used. Tell them why you need the money, and what it the money is going towards.

  • Offer Rewards

    On your Kickstarter page you can set additional rewards for people who make pledges. A reward can be as simple as a free album download for anyone who pledges $5. You can also have rewards for different pledge amounts. If someone pledges $1000 bucks, you can reward them with a custom song, free tickets to shows, or even rewarding them by cleaning their bathroom. Offering fun and valuable rewards is crucial to raising money. Be sure to browse around other projects to get some ideas.

  • Post a Video

    If you want random strangers to invest in your project, making a fun video introducing yourself and your project goes a long way. People want to know that you are actually serious about your project, and that you are not just gonna take the money and do nothing with it.
    Check out this Kickstarter page with a really entertaining video

    You don’t have to get too crazy with your video. Even a simple video with you talking to the camera can increase your odds of getting pledges.

  • Tell People

    Once your project is up you have to get the word out. Link to your Kickstarter page on your MySpace page, your website, on Facebook, on Twitter, anywhere and everywhere. Ask your friends to share your page on their facebook as well. And if you know someone with a popular blog or website get them to link to your page.If most of your friends are young and poor, try to get the word out to adults, a good way to do this is to ask your parents to tell their friends about your project. People who have held down steady jobs and have savings are more likely to throw you a few bones then your starving artist friends who are more likely to start their own Kickstarter page. A lot of projects can be funded just by family support, the site makes it easy for aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc to help you out.

  • Tell ProAudioStar

    If you start a Kickstarter page, let us know and we may decide to feature your project on our website which will drive lots of traffic to your page. We are in the works of giving people discounts on gear who support our customer’s projects on Kickstarter, stay tuned.

You might be surprised with how much money you can raise, and how much support is out their for your project. Kickstarter’s platform is great for helping you to articulate your project, and give it visibility. So don’t wait, get your project up there today.

This post was inspired by Mike, who runs our returns department. He posted a Kickstarter page to help his band raise money for a vinyl release of their upcoming album. Check out his project and throw him a few bucks, as of this writing his band is about half way to their goal.

Grandfather – “Why I’d Try” – Straight to Vinyl

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