The HPFX headphone monitor system with built-in effects from Applied Research and Technology (ART) answers the need for performers in computer-based recording suites to monitor their performance with good-quality effects by the simplest means possible.
The HPFX ($299) eliminates the practice of stringing together an auxiliary mix with effects so vocalists or instrumentalists can hear reverb along with their performance. The device includes a self-contained DSP that creates a direct plus ambience mix in the headphones that can enhance performance and help generate a great take.
The device also sidesteps another problem: latency. Computer soundcards can cause delays when recording, processing and playing back mixed audio on the fly. Singers hearing a headphone mix experience delayed vocals. In some systems, the time delay can be quite intolerable.
Performers can create a personal mix of the computer playback and their own live performance plus effects, while sending a dry feed of their performance directly to the computer. The type and amount of a desired effect is dialed in (reverb, slapback, echo or flange/chorus effect) and heard only in the headset.
The front panel features Mic/Level and Effect Blend controls for two microphones, Effect Selector and Parameter rotary controls (with a Bypass button) and 1/4-inch jacks and level pots for four headsets.
The back panel has XLR jacks for Mic Input and Mic Thru. Connect the microphone to the input jack then patch the Mic Thru jack to a mic preamp or “mic in” on the computer. Run a return audio feed from the soundcard into one of the 1/4-inch TRS Stereo Mix Input jacks. Plug in the enclosed 9 VAC power pack and fire up the session.
There are some slight boinginess and gritty tails in the reverbs. But the effects are meant for personal ambiance rather than the recorded product and generally are not dialed in to excess. Narrators and voiceover artists might want to select a touch of ambience, while singers can experience Memphis-like slapbacks all the way to over-the-top, Andy Williams-style vocal reverbs.
The double-sided PC board inside the ART HPFX is well made, with mostly through-board components, ALPS pots, Rubycon electrolytic caps and ART’s 24-bit audio engine. An octet of Texas Instruments 5532 ICs provides the drive for the headphones.
Use your favorite phantom-powered microphones with the HPFX. The circuitry will not load down the microphone signal and a trio of 100 V-rated capacitors blocks current from blowing the hat off the HPFX.
A 1/4-inch TRS Effects Output jack lets you use the HPFX as a dedicated effect box, feeding a Mic+Effect stereo signal back into your mixer. And the Stereo Mix Input jacks automatically accept mono or stereo signals on separate or combined cables. Whether recording into a high-end PC-based system or a tabletop mini-studio, the HPFX hooks up to either with a minimum of hassle.
Come up with your own way to mount the HPFX. ART designers left off microphone stand flange mounts and rack ears. A blob of hot glue and some nylon hook-and-loop fabric rip-fasteners work for me.
Perhaps headphone monitoring has not been a big priority in your studio and you’ve managed just fine until now. But for those experiencing computer latency problems, try out the ART HPFX on an upcoming vocal session. Having control over the sound heard in one’s own head frees the artist, helping to turn in a good performance.
Contact: Applied Research and Technology at 716-436-2720; www.artroch.com