What a Difference a MicroClock Makes

From guest blogger Erik Zobler:

In the March issue of Mix magazine I reviewed the Black Lion Audio-Requisite Audio FM 192 upgrade for the Digidesign 192 interface.  Part of theclock.jpg FM 192’s sonic improvement was no doubt due to Black Lion’s clock.   BLA also makes a stand-alone version of their clock called the MicroClock.  I read reports that it improved the sound of live digital consoles, so I bought one to take on tour with the George Duke Band.  It is “micro� sized and it fits nicely in my back pack along with all the other junk I need like flashlights, CD’s, console tape and sharpies.

I had already used the MicroClock in the studio while mixing Duke’s (yet to be released) new album, so I was somewhat familiar with the sound of the MicroClock (or at least how it changed the sound of the device that was clocking to it).

Our first date was in Copenhagen on a Yamaha M7CL.  Unfortunately I could not get the M7CL to lock the MicroClock, so I was not able to use it.  After a few analog shows, I had the opportunity to try the clock again on another Yamaha M7CL. This time it synced to the MicroClock without any problems.  My assistant from the sound company said he had heard about externally clocking digital consoles, but expressed a healthy skepticism about whether it would actually make the M7CL sound better.  I too was skeptical, even though I had heard a difference in the studio. I was not sure if there would be any noticeable benefit in a live situation.  We fed the analog output of a CD player into the console while I switched the console’s clock back and forth between external and internal.  After a few switches, I was convinced that the sound was much improved. The technician was so impressed that he called his boss to tell him he needed to buy one.

A few more analog consoles (and shows) later, I was working on a Digico S7.  This time the console locked with no problem.   Once again the sound was improved, but it was not nearly as apparent as it was with the Yamaha console.

Last night we worked on an M7CL again.  I used the clock during the show.  After the band finished and while we were playing a CD to accompany the guests as they were leaving, I called over the technician from the sound company to show him that I was unhooking the clock.  When I switched the console from External to Internal clock, his jaw dropped.  And my eyes widened too.  The sound on internal was MUCH WORSE.  For some reason, on that console, in that venue, the difference was HUGE!  A sonic analogy would be as if you were speaking with your hands cupped in front of your mouth, closing off any direct view of your mouth, and then opening them up.

So far, I have only tried the MicroClock on two brands of consoles.  The improvement on Digico boards was minimal, but on the Yamaha it was significant. I look forward to trying the clock on other digital boards that are no doubt coming my way.

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