When is a recording interface not a recording interface? When it is, but it’s also an amp. Words by Peter Hodgson.
Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #134. Subscribe to our print edition here!
The biggest challenge for the modern guitarist (even bigger than writing something insane in Guitar Pro then trying to play it) is the monstrous task of getting a good guitar tone down in a home recording environment. You might not have the space and the understanding neighbours to mic up a guitar cab. And even if you do, you need an audio interface that will do it justice.
A lot of interfaces out there are designed to give you a nice clear pristine sound, but one of the really great things about old classic recordings is the way analog technology smoothes out the harsh bits and enhances the warm stuff. Legendary recording console maker Audient has taken on a number of these concerns with Sono, audio interface that combines 12AX7 valve, three-band tone control, with Two Notes power amp modelling and cabinet simulation for a unique approach to home recording, and even onstage performance.
What we have here is a ten-in/4-out USB interface with two Audient Console mic preamps, high-performance AKM AD/DA converters, ADAT input for expandability, reamping output, independent headphone output, USB 2.0 compliant, 24-bit/96-kilohertz, in an all-metal enclosure that feels like it could take some hits.
There’s enough gain in that 12AX7 and the built-in preamp to create a very amp-like guitar sound, especially once you send it through those Two Notes power amp, speaker, room and mic sims. There are eight live rooms available, 20 cabs included and over 150 available online, and eight mic models including SM7B, 421, and 161.
It’s all controlled with the TorpedoRemote app so you can customise things like the overall bias of the power amp, the distance of the mic, and the type of room right there on your screen as you’re recording. If you have a preamp or distortion pedal that you love you can run it into the Sono preamp, warm it up with the 12AX7 and use the power amp, cab, mic and room of your choice to create an otherwise nonexistent amp.
Chances are you’re going to be very happy with the tones you conjure up with Sono’s existing guts, and that’s a good thing because...
WAIT, IT CAN DO THAT TOO!?
...You can save up to three amp presets in Sono, unplug it from your home recording setup and take it to a gig. Plug it into a PA system and it’s your amp, cabinet, and mic, with all the ambient goodness you programmed in back at home. There are a lot of players who will appreciate this capability. If you’re the kind of guitarist who doesn’t need a jillion different sounds per song – maybe you’re used to plugging into a single-channel amp and riding the guitar’s volume knob for your gain changes, maybe you run most of your tone from pedals.
Basically, if you’re a traditionalist but you need to record digitally and you have a real appreciation of classic analog warmth, you’re gonna love this. The Audient preamp has enough gain on its own for most genres but taps out around the heavier of the metals, so you could easily take this to a blues or rock gig without any pedals whatsoever and have a rollicking good time – or you can pop it on your pedalboard and effectively turn your pedalboard into a mic’d amp running into the PA system.
Ah, but that’s not all this baby can do! Use those two mic preamps to record a live drum kit, warmed up with all your tubey goodness. Lay down some vocals and place the singer in the room of your choice. Impart some 12AX7 grit onto analog synth sounds, and of course, let’s not overlook the sheer utility of having a dedicated Amp out for sending a completely dry, unprocessed signal out to your amp or processor for reamping at a later date.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Audient has done something very clever here: they’ve provided you with the hardware and software but they leave it to you to use it in a way that best suits your needs. All-in-one recording interface, great tube mic preamp, headphone amp, standalone processor... It can do it all without running into any speedbumps.
This is largely down to the simplicity of the design; you don’t need to re-learn the unit for every different use it’s capable of. And it’s so sturdy and stage-ready that you really can stick it to your pedalboard and take it on the road without fear.
• 12AX7-powered preamp
• Reamping out
• Two Notes power amps, cabs, mics, rooms
• Two Audient Console preamps
• Can be used standalone
• Warm analog sound
• Standalone flexibility
• Flexible EQ
• Needs Two Notes software for editing
• Not enough gain for some genres
Ph: (03) 9416 8097