Review of the NemoSyn NDrive by Chris Huff

NemoSyn NDrive Product Review

New plug-and-play device allows for one-touch multi-track recording and playback for virtual soundcheck and more.

 

Imagine mixing any time you want. This virtual sound check ability is present in most modern digital mixers so once the band leaves, you can keep mixing because multi-track recordings were made. All that’s needed to make it work is a computer for storing and playing back the tracks.

But there’s a problem.

I’ve seen a number of churches that can’t use the virtual sound check feature because they don’t have room for a computer or don’t want to use their video computer for double-duty or are afraid of all of the configuration problems…or don’t have a laptop to spare. Those excuses end now.

Gary Zandstra, along with his group at NemoSyn, have created the perfect virtual sound check device. The NDrive, about the size your hand, is a plug-and-play device that allows for one-touch multi-track recording and playback.

I’d heard about the NDrive and, at the WFX conference, Gary gave me one to try out. Was it really that easy to use? Was it reliable? Was it worth the price? I’d soon find out.

What it does

The NDrive connects via USB cable to a mixer’s multi-track output jack and records as many as 32 tracks at the touch of a button. Markers can be set during the recording, such as when a guitar solo occurs, for easy reference later. Recording can easily be stopped and new recordings added. This means you could record each song as a new file.

Once the band leaves, change the mixer routing for the output to read as an input and then hit the play button on the NDrive and start mixing. Playback allows for stop, pause, fast forward, and rewind. And you can jump between files.

To see how easy it is to use, check out the NemoSyn Facebook page with a video.

As a bonus, the NDrive uses a removable SD memory card, for recording, so you can copy the files to a computer for mixing at home, such as if creating the worship teams first worship album. You could also compile files for training and use them during a training meeting with your other techs.

Features

The NDrive uses both touch screen and physical buttons for navigation. It’s powered via the included power cable or a secondary USB cable (two USB cables are included). It includes a 64GB SD card.

The NDrive currently works with the Behringer X32-series, XR18, and the Midas M32 digital mixers. From my understanding, they are working on expanding that to the Digico S21, Allen & Heath QU-series, Mackie DL32R, and the Yamaha TF-series. Contact them if you have one of these other mixers to find out where they are in their testing.

Testing

I put it to the test by visiting a church with a Behringer X32. Rex Hutto, audio tech at First Evangelical Presbyterian Church, met me at the church and within a short period of time, we had the NDrive connected and recording.

This is why I never worked as a product model.

 

We could easily stop a recording, add recording markers, and start a new recording. The NDrive display showed each track that received a signal so that was comforting. The band left, we changed the routing (in about 10 seconds), and hit the play button.

We can put a man on the moon and we can send emails across the globe but despite these huge technological advancements, I was still amazed as the recorded tracks filled the sanctuary. Then our mixing continued.

No bugs, no tracks delays, no concerns…no problems.

My Thoughts

One of the features of the NDrive is all of the channels are represented in a metering graph at the top of the screen. This way, you can see it’s recording all of the channels. The NDrive is designed to record all of the channels sent out from the mixer but the visual is a comforting reminder that it’s working.

It really is as simple as it gets. You could record the whole practice in one recording and add markers for song changes or stop and start for each song. That’s what I prefer so I can easily work on one song over and over.

Also, I can pop out the card and put it in my computer if the band wanted to get into creating an album so I could do mixing in a program like Reaper.

And did I mention it’s plug-and-play? No more messing with file drivers and software input sources. Also, the firmware for the NDrive can be updated when they push out a release.

Song / File Names

Each file gets a generic file name with a number. So recording on an empty sim card could get you files starting with 1.

I wondered if it would help if I was given the ability to edit the file name. Would it help come playback time? Honestly, I’m usually only dealing with 6 songs per service and even then, a cheat sheet would take care of anything beyond that.

If I really wanted to go the extra step, I could pull out the memory card and put it into my computer and rename the files (or mix it in something like ProTools or Reaper). Using the auto-numbering file names is fine with me.

At my church, our mid-week practice consists of practicing the songs and then running through all of them in a row. That last time would be perfect for recording each song.

Not Their Fault But Mine

I found the NDrive easy to use with one exception. The touch-screen buttons are the same size as the clickable buttons below the screen. So, when I was first using it, I thought the clickable physical buttons were doing double duty and I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t work.

Once I realized the touch screen and the buttons were independent, I was fine. I call that user error – and I was the user!

My Recommendation

I don’t give glowing reviews for everything I test. Some gear isn’t as great as a company may think – I once did a review for a magazine that never saw the light of day. But Gary Zandstra and his crew at NemoSyn got it right with the NDrive.

It’s plug-and-play, it’s easy to record and playback, and if home mixing is your thing, it’s got the capability to do that as well.

We, as audio techs, need all the practice time we can get and imagine how much better your band could sound if you had the ability to mix when the stage was empty.

Check out the NDrive by NemoSyn and make this next year your best mixing year ever.

How does a Sound Tech Practice?

Practice for Sound Techs: 3 Best Multitrack Recorders for Church

 

How does your sound tech practice?

Your vocalists practice, your guitar player practices, your drummer well… he may practice, but how does your sound guy or lady, practice?

Assuming that you have a 5-piece band – there are at least 15 hours of practice that the entire band has put in.  This is assuming a 2-hour band rehearsal and that each musician practiced 1 hour on their own during the week.

I believe that is an extremely conservative estimate. Those 15+ hours can be wasted by a bad mix during the worship service.

So how does your sound guy practice? 

Some would argue that in the above scenario, the sound guy did get in 2 hourw of practice with the band. 

But really was it practice? 

Sure, the sound guy was able to mess with the faders, play with some eq, maybe dial in a little compression.

More than likely, this was mixed with taking care of the band’s needs.  It was also pretty fragmented.  He could have been in the middle of trying to set the gate on the kick drum and the band stops.

A friend of mine jokingly refers to the stop button.  You are right in the middle of dialing in something and the band stops and leaves your hanging.  So, what is the solution? 

Enter Virtual sound check.

Today most digital boards have a multitrack digital out.  The most common form is USB. 

With inexpensive, or free software, you can record 32 or more tracks of live audio to a computer.  Waves Tracks Live, for example, offers a free version that is fully functional (you can pay $99 and get phone support and priority updates).

Once you have recorded the band, then you can flip the inputs on your console to digital in and playback the multi-track recording. 

It is just like the band is there live.

Now you can take your time, mute everything but the kick drum, and really hear the changes that your compression settings are making on that input. 

You can also replay a section as many times as you would like and listen to how it sounds as you change your settings.  You can do this with all of the channels.

You can turn everything back on and play with your overall mix.

No more having the musicians wait around or play individually as you tweak the sound.

There are also devices on the market that are stand alone, purpose-built.  They do not need a computer to operate and you do not have to mess with any software. The advantage of a stand-alone device is that you have little to no set up and no computer to lug around. 

There are many multitrack recorders that can do a virtual sound check. 

The following are three of the best fit units for the worship market:

  • JoeCo has Blackbox
  • Cymatic has Utrack 32
  • NemoSyn has Ndrive

JoeCo blackbox comes in 3 flavors, Analog, Madi and Dante.  
You hook up a hard drive to the usb on the blackbox and you can record full uncompressed wav files. Physically a single rack mount unit, the Black box is geared towards the professional user and requires an interface if you only have usb out on your console.

Being rack mounted It is the most “pro version” and is great if you are on tour and want to capture audio from the show.  Your recording length in limited by the hard drive size that you connect to it.  Cost for the Madi version $3995,00 plus hard drive http://www.joeco.co.uk/BBR_models.html

The Utrack 32 by Cymatic is a purpose built card that fits in to the popular Behringer X32 digital mixing console.  
Once inserted in to the board you simply hook up a usb hard drive, download the app, connect the Ethernet port on the card to a wireless network and then you the app to control the recording and playback of your files. Cost $499.00 plus hard drive http://cymaticaudio.com/products/recorders-players/utrack-x32

Nemosyn has the Ndrive a portable usb recorded that can connect to any mixer that has a usb multitrack out.  
(Behringer, Yamaha, Soundcraft, Allen and heath and others have mixers with usb connectivity for multi-track).  There is a large record button, a large play button and a touch screen to control playback and recording.  The unit records to an onboard SD- card.  Nemosyn ships the Ndrive with a 64 gig SD card.  Cost $599.00 (includes everything needed) www.nemosyn.com

Virtual sound check is the by far the best tool a sound guy can have to hone his craft.  One of the really beautiful things is that now the sound guy and worship leader can sit together and work on the mix together. 

It is well worth the investment; with practice you can perfect your mix!

How does your audio person rehearse? Can a sound tech practice their craft? The answer is yes, and here are several of the best options in today's digital multi-track recorders.