Crane Song Egret by mouthbleed
Living near Superior, WI where Crane Song products are designed (by Dave Hill) and built (by a great group of talented people), I've been to Dave Hills studio 'Inland Sea Recording' many times. I've observed that Dave currently uses two Egrets for his summing, while his Spectra Sonics console sits idle. This observation, and the sound of Daves mixing and mastering, made me want an Egret.
The first thing I realized, holding the Egret for the first time is the INCREDIBLE build quality. There is no gear built better than Crane Song, at least none I've encountered. The front panel is thick, sturdy aluminum, the chassis is very rigid, vented steel, and the knobs/buttons are super smooth in tactile response with zero slop/play. Everything is executed to tight tolerances, and the overall effect really is a thing of beauty. You will not find ANY detail of this box where quality has been shorted for economy. The thing weighs 19 pounds!
After connecting it to a patchbay (21 cables) and to my fireface800 with two adat lightpipe cables, it was ready for action. Turn it on, route a mix out to it in subgroups and press play.
heh OMG! Same song, but with many more balance and timbre shortcomings of my mixing exposed. The wide open, clear, tight, smooth bass and treble extension is like nothing I've ever heard. Certainly way better clarity, separation, depth and stereo imaging than I am used to. This box allows me to position elements of a mix way more easily, with less fighting for space in a dense arrangement.
With the channel insert points, and their individual in/out buttons, analog processing is fast and easy to A/B. Solo and mute functionality is great and operates with no audible clicks in the audio path.
The 'color' knobs on each channel are a level-dependent mix of second and third harmonics, with a really useful, wide range. This color is much different than the 'tape saturation' knobs or 'fat' switches on my Crane Song Spider, and a very handy addition to my available sonic palate. I had to learn to hear the range of the color knobs over the course of the next month or so. With high-RMS compressed material, the range is very noticeable and you can, in fact, go too far with the harmonic distortion on some sources. With all color knobs at 12'oclock, a mix definitely takes on a bigger, warmer, more engaging vibe, with subtly softened transients. I find the color knobs getting used all the time, (and with pretty heavy handed settings) on electric guitars, synths, and bass guitar. Often felt more than heard, take this 'color' away, and it is missed. To me it is like having very adjustable transformer saturation on each channel, but with the option of clean and clear class A transformerless sound as well.
The analog summing and inserts make beating ITB mixes easy, and the 2buss output attenuator is too cool to ignore. With 1db stepped clicks for most of its range, and discrete little green leds around the knob, displaying the current output level setting (and allowing for easy recall), this ultra high quality sealed relay system is something clients wants to physically experience. Let a client turn this knob, and they seem to be instilled with a new confidence in the quality of the equipment being used to enhance their project. This effect on a client is good.
The output level metering is accurate and fast and the headroom of this box will never be an issue, as the dynamic range is equal to, or greater than, any other equipment you are likely to be using.
The headphone output is pristine and high powered, and the mono aux send/stereo aux return allows even more flexibility in mixing. The headphone output could alternatively be connected to your monitors, if you like, providing an independent volume control for monitoring.
These D/A converters are not only extremely musical, but very fast. In SRC (sample rate conversion) mode, latency is not an issue. Disable SRC and the conversion is even faster.
The 25 pin expansion port allows you to access the signal paths in even more ways, and/or chain the Egret to other Egrets or Spiders. The pinout diagram is available in the manual.
I use the Egret and Spider tied together with the mix buss appearing at the master fader of the Spider. Lots of parallel processing and mixing of effects is available in this scenario.
There is even a built in spot for future D/A convertor technology to be implemented, when it arrives from the future.
In my experience, every Crane Song box is a forward-thinking gamechanger. The Egret is no exception.
The only problem I see after owning an Egret for 6 months now, is that I WANT A SECOND EGRET!
Hope this was useful. Thanks for reading,
EDIT: Got another Egret. My idea of heaven!