The MT experts are hereto help…

DIY PREAMP BLUES

Can you recommend some decent units and tell me what to watch out for when doing these things? Tom Abbot Sheffield

MT The DIY scene has really grown in the last fewyears and when once there were only a few kits there are now dozens in all shapes and sizes. Seventh Circle Audio (www. seventhcircleaudio.com) has a variety of kits based loosely on several different classic preamp designs from the likes of SSL, Neve and API. However, you will also need to build a Seventh Circle Audio chassis for these preamps (single-unit chassis are available). In the long run it might be better getting a 500-Series chassis instead as there is a much wider range of 500-Series modules, both DIY and factory-built. Last year we looked at the CAPIVP28 preamp (www.classicapi.com), which is based on an old API console. This is a great preamp with plenty of punch and it’s not too difficult to build. It stands up well against preamps costing four or fives times the price. Five Fish Audio (www.ftvefishstudios.com) also makes 500-Series mic preamp kits; however, we haven’t had any experience building these kits as yet. While there are many other kits available, starting with one of these avoids having to deal with power supply voltages and they’re very well documented — unlike some less common DIY kits we’ve seen — which is important at least for your first few builds.

When building a DIY kit the most important thing is to take things slowly. It’s very easy to accidentally put the wrong resistor in the wrong place or to put a diode in the wrong way around. Double-checking everything before you solder it in place will save you time compared to fault finding the problem later on (and then de-soldering and replacing the parts). If you have a steady hand and take care you shouldn’t have any problems. Huw Price

SLUGGISH MAC

I am getting increasingly frustrated with my MacBook Pro slowing down and generally being troublesome. I’ve done permissions, verified the drive and cleared 150GB of contents (it’s a 500GB drive) but the Finder takes 10-15 seconds to preview things and right-clicking in TextEdit takes ten seconds. It’s the latest non-Retina 13-inch model with 4GB RAM.

Are there any obvious things to check before I go to a (not so) Genius at the Apple store who will say it needs wiping? I also just updated to the latest version of Mac

OSX, which made zero difference! I’ve got a basic apps image and Time Machine backups but it’s all still a major time-waster. Ronald Rodgers Toronto

MT It’s worth looking at resource usage here so you’ll want to fire up Activity Monitor from the Utilities folder Although you say it’s a recent model with 150GB free space, 4GB RAM isn’t actually a huge amount these days, especially if you have installed lots of apps or are running lots of things concurrently. Remember that OSX 10.8 likes at least 2GB for itself and then let’s say you’re running Word, Photoshop and Logic — they will easily eat up that remaining 2GB, leaving the system thrashing the hard drive for virtual memory. Use the System Memory tab to see what’s being used, select All Processes and click both the Real Mem and Virtual Mem tabs to sort the list hierarchically to see what’s using the most RAM.

Here’s a trick: quit any heavy running apps and then open the Terminal and type ‘purge’ (without the quote marks). This will flush the RAM. See if your system becomes more responsive after this, in which case you’re generally short on memory for the kind of usage you seem to be putting your laptop through. Also download OnyX and use it to rebuild the Launch Services Database. This cleans up the file associations and can really speed up document and app launching. If you have been installing a lot of apps, OSX can get confused about what it’s supposed to be opening things with and this results in slowdowns. Finally, go into System Preferences>Users and Groups and locate the Login Items tab. See if there’s anything lurking here that is using system resources unnecessarily. Anything you don’t need you can remove from the list. This should streamline your system a little. Hollin Jones

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