Education app of the week: Coach’s Eye

Education app of the week: Coach’s Eye

Working with iPad in schools and colleges week in, week out, we test out hundreds of apps to see just how they can benefit learners. So we thought we’d start picking out our favourites in this weekly blog. The first to get the Jigsaw24 Education treatment is Coach’s Eye – an app designed for video analysis in PE, but which is equally suited to any subject where students need to review evidence of processes, especially in science. Check it out… 

What is Coach’s Eye?

Coach’s Eye (TechSmith Corporation, £2.99) is an app for Apple iPad and iPhone that lets you record video, add a voiceover and make annotations using simple markup tools. Similar to the Dartfish video software, it’s ideal for sports analysis, letting you slow down, speed up and freeze individual frames of your video independent of your voiceover, so you could, for example, review how a student’s breaststroke or batting technique in cricket was progressing. You can then really easily share the finished analysis by signing up for a free online Coach’s Eye account and upload the video (either publicly or privately) on the site, or share via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Evernote, Goodreader or any other number of services.

How will it benefit the classroom?

As well as the obvious application in PE for sports analysis, Coach’s Eye is great in any subjects based around analysing processes, especially science. Students can provide evidence of their own work, and you can analyse their thought processes by noting which parts of their video they found important to annotate, slow down and explain.

One of the most interesting uses I’ve seen for Coach’s Eye is in a physics experiment. Students work in groups to design and build bridges made from paper straws, then test their strength by applying weights to different stress points. They can use Coach’s Eye to record the resulting destruction, applying a voiceover and annotation to explain the weak points of the bridge, and how they would strengthen them in future.

What’s the most useful feature?

The best thing about Coach’s Eye, by far, is the fact you can record a voiceover independently from editing the video. So, students can speed up sections and add freeze frames as they’re speaking, rather than recording the video part and adding their analysis over the top. Coach’s Eye packages it all up as a single file ready to be shared with staff and peers.

Where can I get it?

Coach’s Eye (TechSmith Corporation, £2.99) is available for Apple iPad and iPhone from the Apple App Store and iTunes. It’s also available under the Apple Volume Purchase Programme (VPP), which means you can get it for £1.49 per download if you buy in bulk of more than 20.

– Check out the next app in our series – Explain Everything.

For more information on Apple iPad for the classroom, get in touch with the team on 03332 409 333 or email You can also keep up with all our classroom technology news and reviews by following @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’-ing our Jigsaw24 Education Facebook page.

Why should we upgrade to iOS 6?

Why should we upgrade to iOS 6?

It’s always good to be running the very latest versions of Apple software – especially when the updates are free – so you’re probably tempted to update your iPad from iOS 5 to iOS 6. Before you do take the plunge, remember you might end up with an iPad that behaves slightly differently to previously, but here are a few of the features that we think make the update well worth it.

Improved app updating

Now you can update all of your apps on the iPad without needing to type in a password. I suppose the theory is that the app wouldn’t be on there if you didn’t want it to be, and you needed the password to install it in the first place (you still need the password to purchase and install any new apps though). One potential downside for some schools though is that previously if the pupil didn’t know the password, they couldn’t update the apps. Now they can, so you run the risk of some pupils updating and some not. Different app versions might behave differently so it’s one to watch. The other thing I like is that apps update without the iPad going back to the Home screen. You can see the progress of each update inside the App Store. Of course you can exit the app and do something else without interrupting the updates, just like before.

Getting work out of Pages, Keynote and Numbers

Pages, Numbers and Keynote finally get the ‘Open In…’ sharing function. The obsolete option has gone, and your options now read: Email, Print, Open In…, Copy to iTunes, Copy to WebDAV. Just like with email, Open In… offers you three export options, iWork native, PDF or Office (doc, exs or ppt). Pick the format and then choose your app. Dropbox, MobilEcho, Evernote, Skydrive… All the usual options are there. Brilliant!

Open In… has had a global facelift too. In all apps which use it, the menu now has a grid format, and supports multiple pages, instead of the short list we had before, limited to ten apps only.

Upload pictures to websites and add them to emails

In Safari Mobile, the buttons on websites allowing you to upload a picture or video now actually work. Previously, clicking the typical ‘Choose file’ button on a standard website wouldn’t work on an iPad, but now it does, allowing you to pick a picture from your Photo Library or Camera Roll, or take a new picture. It works with photos and videos but nothing else at the moment.

Similarly, when you’re writing an email you can now stop to insert a picture from your Photos library. Previously you had to start with the picture and choose to share it by email. This method makes much more sense, and means that you can now insert more than one picture into an email really easily as you type.

Keeping young minds focused

Guided Access is a new feature aimed at shop environments, but with some potential in schools. Basically you give it a four digit pin code and you can then force iPad to stay on one app, disabling parts of the screen and Home button. At that point the iPad basically can only be used with the one app, until you type the pin number in again. For learners with attention difficulties, motor skills issues or simply a tendency to go off topic this could be very useful.

Also worth knowing

Apple are changing their relationship with Google, and this affects Google’s apps. There is no longer a YouTube app by default, and the Google Maps app is also gone. You can get around both of these by opening either of those services in Safari, and then tapping the Share icon and selecting ‘Add to Home Screen’. This creates a shortcut to the web page which works like an app. Apple have included their own Maps app now, which is a collaboration with TomTom. There are good points – better navigation, low res maps are there even without a WiFi signal, and 3D views of major cities are incredible. At the moment the satellite views are a bit patchy, and my own home town of Nottingham is in black and white, and covered by dense cloud! Give it time though – Google was the same for the first year.

I’d like to mention the Clock app too. Usefully, it will display six clocks side by side, showing time all over the world, and the map underneath shows where the day/night dividing line is in real time. Really handy for teaching about the date line and the rotation of the earth.

Finally, for those of you who have had trouble getting Evernote and Dropbox to synchronise, try it again with iOS 6. Apple have changed the way iPad uses Proxy Server information, and we’re getting reports from some schools that it’s letting these apps sync where they wouldn’t before.

To find out more about iOS 6 and Apple’s iPad, get in touch on 03332 409 333 or email

How to become an iBooks Author

How to become an iBooks Author

“Whenever I talk to teachers about eBooks, the feeling seems to be that they’d be a great way to get students creating and sharing information, or to create custom textbooks with the most up-to-date content – if only they didn’t take six hours of painstaking formatting to make, and involve you knowing your EPUB from your MOBI. I used to have a ten minute speech about how making them in Pages wasn’t that awkward really, but thankfully Apple have saved you from that by creating a new, free authoring tool that makes the entire process far easier: iBooks Author.

“Available free from the Mac App Store, iBooks Author allows you to create Apple’s preferred format of eBook, an iBook, by dragging and dropping your content into a template. You can then share it with your classroom iPad deployment through the iBooks store, iTunes U, or a web server. With a simple interface, controls much like the ones you’ll already know from apps like Pages, for teachers looking to keep students’ attention or students wanting an innovative way to deliver a report, it’s more than enough to get the job done. “

Are you Mac enough? A word about formats

There are a few things you need to be aware of from the get go: iBooks Author will only run on Macs, and will only support very specific file types (.m4v video, .m4a audio and Collada 3D files, though more video and audio types are supported since version 2.0). It can be used to create PDFs and text documents as well as iBooks, but only the iBooks will retain interactive elements like video, animations and annotations, so it’ll work best if your school has an iPad deployment. Come to think of it, if you’ve just joined an iPad scheme, putting together an iBook is a great way to help students get to grips with tablets without straying too far from the curriculum.

iBooks Author for teachers

The obvious advantage of using iBooks Author is that it effectively lets you create a textbook you can edit at will. You can drag in diagrams and text from existing handouts (even entire Word documents if you like), then combine them with up to date information, supporting video and audio, and even create multiple versions of texts for classes of different abilities – all without spending 40 minutes swearing at the photocopier and spending a small fortune on paper every time the curriculum changes.

iBooks Author comes with a range of templates and, while making changes to the templates themselves is more difficult than it’s worth, adding content to the pages is purely a matter of dragging, dropping, cutting and pasting until you’re happy with what you’ve got, then hooking up an iPad to your Mac to preview it. Text auto-wraps around any media you drop, while titles, headings and paragraphs are all pre- formatted, so you don’t need to be a closet design genius to end up with a good looking, easily readable iBook.
Other features that will come in handy include the ability to embed whole Keynote presentations (so any slides that you’ve used during lessons can be slotted in the iBook for revision later) and the ability to create quizzes at the end of each chapter, so students can see how much they’ve managed to retain. Admittedly, there’s no way for you to see their results yet, but you don’t need to tell them that…

…and for students!

Creating an iBook and getting it to work properly on an iPad is an engaging challenge for students that makes them think critically about the resources they encounter (what best supports the information they’re trying to share?), work collaboratively and creatively (why not get them working together to create their own multimedia content?) and brush up their IT skills in any subject at the same time.

I’d recommend having a practise yourself before putting students to work, as tasks like reordering pages can take a couple of tries to get right, but once they’ve mastered the basics, iBooks Author quickly becomes a more interesting alternative to writing another five-page essay. You can even get students to create iBooks on different areas of a topic and then lead a session on them. If you don’t like the idea of students creating their own textbooks, iBooks are still an excellent learning tool. Because any notes, highlights and bookmarks made are stored in a single file on a student’s iPad, it can be used for revision anywhere at any time, and PDF and text versions of the books can even be used on Macs or PCs if students don’t all have access to an iPad. The range of media you can include means that you can cater to a wider range of learning styles and create a richer, more memorable text for students to revise from – always helpful in the run up to exam day!

Now for the important bit: How to make an iBook in 7 easy step

1. Open the iBooks Author app on your Mac.

2. Choose a layout from the Template Chooser. Choose either a Portrait Only template, or a Landscape one with a simplified view when the iPad is turned to Portrait orientation.

3. Type in your text or copy and paste it from an existing document. All the templates have their headings and titles pre-formatted for you, but you can edit these in the Inspector if you need to.

4. Drag and drop elements like images, tables and video into your layout. These can come from the desktop or from your Mac’s Media Browser – best if they are m4v files if they’re video and .m4a if they’re audio, but Author will convert them for you if not. The text should automatically wrap itself round any new elements so that it stays readable, and you can edit how it aligns itself in the Inspector.

5. Connect an iPad to your Mac, start the iBooks app and hit Preview to check everything’s working. Your iBook should display on your Mac with all the interactive elements fully usable. If anything isn’t displaying properly, you can edit on your Mac and the changes will be visible on the iPad as soon as you hit Preview again.

6. Save your work and from then on iBooks Author auto-saves every edit you make. Easy!

7. Upload the finished textbook to the student iPad through iTunes U, a web server, your VLE, cloud services like Dropbox or apps like Goodreader and iFiles.

Think it sounds too good to be true? Watch the video demo on our education YouTube channel here.

Get in touch with us to find out more about iBooks Author on 03332 409 333 or email For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter.

Expandable iPad storage with AirStash

Expandable iPad storage with AirStash

Always looking for ways to expand the storage capability of iPad, I’ve been testing Maxell’s AirStash wireless flash drive. This little device lets staff move up to 32GB worth of files wirelessly to and from their iPad, while still being small enough to carry in your pocket.

Essentially, AirStash is a USB-dongle-shaped device made of a durable plastic, which has a slot at the end furthest from the USB connector into which you can shove an SD memory card. While it’s connected you can copy files to it just like any data stick or pen drive.

Moving and sharing files over WiFi

Here’s the good bit. Pressing a small button on the AirStash activates a battery-powered WiFi chip, allowing Airstash to broadcast its presence over its own WiFi network without even being plugged in. You can then connect your iPad, Mac, PC or any other WiFi computing device to that WiFi network (it’s called Airstash by default and has no security, but you can change that easily via an app, or utility on your computer).

On an iPad it acts as a webDAV server, and you can push and pull documents to Pages, Numbers and Kenote using the ‘copy to/from’ webDAV functions in those apps. You can actually move any content you like on and off AirStash using file management apps like Goodreader and iFiles.

Strong security, simple charging

For security, AirStash can be configured to be visible to everyone for use in a primary school, or non-critical meeting, or can be WEP-encrypted for more sensitive information. The use of SD cards for memory is inspired, as users can carry lots of data for different events and scenarios at very minimal cost.

To charge, you just plug AirStash into your computer and let it power up its internal battery, which takes about two hours if it’s nearly empty. Reassuring lights tell you what’s going on there. Once charged, you can just unplug it and take it away.

Recommended for teachers

There are very few snags to AirStash actually – only eight users can connect at any time, and at present you can’t connect your iPad to AirStash and your internet WiFi connection at the same time – you have to manually switch. However, Maxell are working on a technique called SideLink to try to overcome that one.

I’d recommend AirStash for anyone who needs to move data from a computer to multiple iPad devices, particularly where they won’t ever be in the same place as the computer. Teachers, especially, will welcome this one.

For more information on AirStash and other mobile storage devices for the classroom, get in touch with the team on 03332 409 333 or email You can also keep up with all our classroom technology news and reviews by following @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’-ing our Jigsaw24 Education Facebook page.


Ever wished you could rewrite your textbooks?

Ever wished you could rewrite your textbooks?

They say everyone’s got a novel in them, but if you’ve ever spent a frustrating afternoon trying to get your Kindle to acknowledge paragraph breaks or embed a cover image in a HTML document when you can’t actually read HTML, you’ll probably have decided not everybody is a potential eBook author. Thankfully, that’s all about to change.

What’s so different about iBooks Author?

Apple’s new iBooks Author app makes creating an eBook incredibly easy – if you or your students have ever used desktop publishing software or know your way around iWork, you’ll pick it up no trouble.

While other authoring apps rely on you having someone tech-savvy developing a set of rules and specifications for each document (actually, there’s an idea for an IT lesson…), the iBooks Author interface is basically a more interactive version of Pages. You simply type in text then drag and drop images and interactive elements into place. You can wrap text to images, format heading and sections and even create tables of contents just as you would in Pages – they’ll even auto-update when you edit content. All of which means you can spend less time creating resources and more time making the most of them.

How to make an iBook in 8 simple steps

iBooks Author boils the eBook-making process down to eight simple steps. You can read them below, or take a look at the video to see one I made earlier.

1. Open the iBooks Author app on your Mac.

2. Choose a layout from the Template Chooser.

3. Drag and drop elements like images, tables and video into your layout.

4. Don’t worry about fonts, spacing or headers – they all get automatically formatted.

5. Connect an iPad to your Mac and hit Preview to check everything’s working (you can keep it hooked up if you want to check your progress as you go along.)

6. Save your work.

7. Upload the finished textbook to the class iPad deployment.

8. Make a cup of tea, catch up on marking, finish your lesson plan or whatever else you’re free to do now that you don’t have to spend an hour formatting or reformatting an eBook.


The simplicity of it means that as well as being great for teachers, iBooks Author is actually a powerful tool for peer-led learning or project work. Students can put together interactive reports, create revision guides, or write their own eBooks on different areas of a topic to supplement and reinforce lessons from existing course materials. The key advantage over traditional note-taking and handout-making activities is that students can share their iBook through iTunes U, a VLE or a Wiki, meaning that they can access key content at any time, and easily review each others work as part of group projects or peer assessment, no matter where they are.

Want to know more about what iPad can do for your classroom? Give us a call on 03332 400 333 or email For the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Facebook page.



iPad in education: How to use iTunes U

iPad in education: How to use iTunes U

Following on from his iBooks 2 tutorial, education consultant Rob Williams looks at the classroom benefits of iTunes U on iPad. With free content from top universities and institutions, the app could be a very interesting addition to traditional learning materials.

Some of the features Rob covers in his videos include:

  • How to navigate and organise courses from the iTunes U bookshelf.
  • How to view videos, audio and books from directly within the app.
  • How to find specific courses that are relevant to your subject area.

 Want advice on integrating iPad into your classroom?

We’re Apple-certified and can help with everything from providing iPad and AppleCare protection to integrating devices into your existing infrastructure. Give Rob and the team a call on 03332 409 333 or email and request a callback.

To see our full range of iPad with AppleCare Protection, visit For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter.


iPad in Education: How to use iBooks 2

iPad in Education: How to use iBooks 2

In these three videos about iBooks 2, our education consultant Rob Williams takes a look at the new features on offer in Apple’s latest release. These include:

1. Manoeuverable 3D models, embedded video content and interactive diagrams.

2. Annotation tools for adding notes to margins and highlighting text.

3. Ways to categorise iBooks and PDFs for creating reading lists.


Want advice on integrating iPad into your classroom?

We’re Apple-certified and can help with everything from providing iPad and AppleCare protection to integrating devices into your existing infrastructure. Give Rob and the team a call on 03332 409 333 or email and request a callback.

To see our full range of iPad with AppleCare Protection, visit or follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter for the latest news. 

The best education accessories for iPad

The best education accessories for iPad

I was recently at the BETT education expo in London, and noticed how many different accessories for the iPad there were. With hundreds of cases, charging solutions and accessories to improve learning available, I’ve put together a round-up of which we think are best for education.

Music and media accessories

In the music department, iPads can be used both for sheet music and as musical instruments; in media studies they make great monitors and prompters; and the built-in camera means they’re great for animation projects too. In all these cases though, you need to somehow mount the iPad on a stand. I’ve seen a few tripods out there for this purpose, but they all seemed pretty flimsy. My favourite solution is the IK Multimedia iKlip – a bracket into which you can slide the iPad or iPad2, then attach it to a standard microphone stand. Because it attaches anywhere on the pole part of the stand, you can still have a microphone on there if you want to, or put it on a low mic stand such as the Quiklok A341 and you’ve got an articulated stand for camera work.

Recording podcasts, music, interviews and video reports is great with the iPad 2, but you may decide you want to use a better quality microphone to achieve the best sound quality possible. For the iPhone and iPod touch, the new Tascam iM2 gets great results, but I’m concerned about how tough it would be when attached to the larger iPad. That isn’t the case with the IK Multimedia iRig Mic. This is a familiar looking handheld microphone, with a simple 3-way sensitivity switch for different types of recording, and a built-in adapter on a long cable to plug the mic and some headphones into the jack socket on your Apple device. It sounds great and will open up lots  of possibilities for sound measurement and recording.

IK iRig iPod iPad

Charging solutions

Charging one iPad is as simple as plugging it in via its USB cable, but when you need to charge ten or more, a charging station is a helpful solution. For a charging station that won’t take up too much space, but is still secure, the Griffin Multidock is worth looking at. This chunky cabinet will hold ten iPads and its vertical design means it can also be locked away in a cupboard when not in use. The sloping top means you can sit a MacBook comfortably on top when uploading content to the iPads, and you can even chain two or three Multidocks together to sync more devices in one go.

If your iPads are going to be moving from place to place, you need a tough but portable solution to carry them in. Trolleys like the Monarch TabCabby make transporting up to 32 iPads easy, and with a small footprint they’re great for storing in an office or cupboard. But the best portable charging solution I’ve found is the Leba iCase Charge and Sync case. This durable plastic transit case has foam cutouts which can house 16 iPads, but also comes with a sophisticated power management unit on board so you can charge the iPads while the lid is closed and locked. This is smaller and more manageble than a full trolley, with wheels and a pull-out handle that make it easy to manoeuvre around site.

Griffin Multidock Macbook iPad

Durable cases

There seems to be an endless flood of cases for the iPad with all sorts of styles and colours available.  While I don’t think an iPad needs a case for day to day use, for SEN and outdoors you need something that can withstand a drop. The Survivor case, by Griffin, has a thick, bouncy rubber coating, with a handy screen protector and hinged flaps over the camera and the dock connector, and also worth a look for SEN is the Griffin Airstrap. Although it’s not as protective as the Survivor, it has a clever strap on the back so you can hold the iPad securely with one hand at any angle. This makes it easier to position when using it with a disabled student, with no fear of it being dropped.

To find out more about using iPads in education, call our team on 03332 409 333 or email For more news on technology in Education, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter.

– You can take a look at our full range of Apple iPads here.

Our verdict on Zoom’s H1 Handy Recorder

Our verdict on Zoom’s H1 Handy Recorder

A customer recently asked me if I knew of a handheld recorder that would produce better quality sound than their mp3 dictaphones, without breaking the bank.

I looked into the Zoom H1 portable digital recorder and was taken aback by the sound quality and features for such a small, affordable gadget. This would be ideal for anyone who wants to record small-scale live music performances, podcasts, interviews or gather location samples music production.

My first impressions out of the box was how tiny it is – only 135mm long and 35mm wide across the body. It’s lightweight too, even with the single AA battery in. Two mic capsules are positioned in an XY pattern and protected by a plastic grid, giving stereo recording. It features external mic in sockets in case you want to use a different microphone and a mini jack headphone output for monitoring. There’s even a tiny built-in speaker which will come in useful if you ever go out on location and realise you’ve left your headphones behind.

The Zoom H1 also has an optional accessory kit for the Zoom H1, which includes a desktop tripod that makes it easier to record in an interview setup, a tough looking case and a windshield to cut out background noise when used outside. Interestingly, video accessory maker Rycote has already produced aWindjammer cover for it, suggesting the H1 is also aimed at professional journalists, news gatherers and videographers.

After setting the date and time, like you do on a new camera or phone, you’re off.

Simple controls

One of the best things about the Zoom H1 is just how easy it is to control. The level controls help you to get a good strong signal, and you simply hit Record – the only button on the top panel – to start. When you want to stop, you press the button again. While you’re recording, you can also add markers by pressing the Play button – this makes long recorded interviews and performances much easier to navigate when editing them later.

All other buttons are on the sides and back, and recessed so nothing gets pressed by accident midway through recording. There’s a ‘Hold’ slide switch too, just to make sure. Buttons on the bottom switch Auto Level and Low Cut Filter on and off, and the transport controls are on the side, along with the Delete button and volume controls.

Recording quality

When it comes to recording, pressing the REW and FWD buttons allows you to select from a huge array of WAV and MP3 record formats, depending on what quality is needed. The display tells you the Zoom H1’s included 2GB memory card gives three hours of 16 bit 44.1k WAV recording (this is CD quality audio – great for situations where quality is important, such as music performances or sample gathering) or an astonishing 34 hours of lower quality 128kbps MP3 (where quality isn’t so much an issue, like interviews which are going to be transcribed later).

When it’s time to transfer the files, you just plug a USB cable between the H1 and a computer (make sure the H1 is turned off first!). The SD card pops up as an external drive, then you can simply drag and drop the files onto your computer or external drive.

The verdict

I’ve been really impressed with the recording quality of the H1, both for all varieties of WAV up to 24-bit 96kHz and for all but the very lowest MP3 rates. It’s quite a shock to hear such results from a tiny, lightweight and deceptively simple device like this. The mics are good enough for interviews, podcasts, sample and atmosphere gathering and the like, and handling noise is well controlled. There really isn’t a more easy to use, quality handheld recorder out there at this price.

To find out more about the Zoom H1 Handy Recorder, call us on 03332 409 306, email or leave us a comment in the box below. You can also keep up with our latest pro audio news and offers by following us on Twitter (@JigsawAudio) or liking our Facebook page.

Ever wondered why so much music sounds the same?

Ever wondered why so much music sounds the same?

They say you can’t have too much of a good thing, and at the moment anyone making music using a computer will never have had it so good. Modern DAW packages come loaded with just about every effect you could wish for, at much higher quality than a project studio could have imagined a mere ten years ago.

Unique, sought-after processors are available in plug-in form for a fraction of the original price of the hardware units, and the ease with which the techniques of studio maestros can be recreated means there’s really no excuse for a bad mix any more.

But the more I watch demonstrations and listen to material, the more it feels like we are being spoilt by the luxury. While productions are undoubtedly getting better, they are also tending to sound more ‘the same’ than ever before. In a way, by having the best of the best available at our fingertips, we’re missing the character which having to improvise brought to recordings.

First of all, I want to make one thing clear – I’m not one of those exponents of anti-fidelity, obsessed with using cheap, nasty equipment as some sort of musical statement; just that there’s value in everything. Consider the humble studio reverb. Most project studios would start off with an entry level unit that would get used on just about anything. Something like an AlesisMidiVerb or Yamaha SPX. You’d have to bounce drums through it in order to free it up for use elsewhere, and if you needed to use two at once you might have had to jury rig a spring reverb from a guitar can to make up the numbers.

When you could afford it, you’d buy a better reverb, but your original unit would still get used, maybe as a snare reverb or backing vocals. Now, compared to modern convolution reverbs or even high-end DSP processors these units sounded pitiful – grainy, 12-bit algorithms with truncated tails bearing little relation to any real ambience and in many circumstances forcing you to commit to a sound just to free up the unit. But often it’s these limitations, both sonically and by the fact that you couldn’t infinitely tweak as you built a mix, that added a unique character. What could be termed a mistake or a failing became the seed of an identifiable sound.

Fastforward to today, and this is a thing of the past. Modelling has arrived and everyone is on a mission to have an emulation of classic hardware, but the units that imparted a character are unlikely to ever be replicated. The trouble is, there are very few ‘classics’. Case in point: the compressor. Hundreds of different compressors have been made by different manufacturers at different price points over the years and have contributed to the sound of countless recordings. Yet it seems like every time you turn around, there’s another 1176 plug-in or LA-2A; buss compressors and EQs based on Solid State Logic consoles; reverbs from the very best spaces on the planet, or sampled directly from the flagship processors.

As the quality has improved, the variety has decreased. And with presets, the studio techniques of pioneering studios are recalled, without any experimentation whatsoever, sometimes including whole signal chains. Need to make your dance mix pump? There’s a preset for that. Want the John Bonham drum sound? Click, there you go. What, then, is ever going to make your production sound different from everyone else’s?

If your quest is for original-sounding production, then you’re going to have to get creative with the tools. Impose some restrictions on what plug-ins you have available. Remember, a top-spec studio may have formerly only had a couple of Urei compressors, so it was important to find the best way to use them. Experiment with the basic plug-ins that come with your DAW. Commit to decisions and don’t be afraid to try compromise, for example sending guitars and backing vocals to the same reverb. Because right now everyone has access to the same tools and the chances are the best way to make your mixes stand out is by not doing what everyone else is!

– What are your thoughts? Leave us a comment in the box below and we’ll get back to you.

To find out more, get in touch with us on 03332 409 306, email You can also keep up with our latest pro audio news and offers by following us on Twitter (@Jigsaw24Audio) or liking our Facebook page.