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REGULARS

ED SPACE Fishing Around for the Right Tool Editorial: Mark Davie

Editor Mark Davie mark@audiotechnology.com.au Publisher Philip Spencer philip@alchemedia.com.au Editorial Director Christopher Holder chris@audiotechnology.com.au Graphic Designer Daniel Howard daniel@alchemedia.com.au Art Director Dominic Carey dominic@alchemedia.com.au Advertising Philip Spencer philip@alchemedia.com.au Accounts Jaedd Asthana jaedd@alchemedia.com.au Subscriptions Miriam Mulcahy mim@alchemedia.com.au Proofreading Andrew Bencina

There’s plenty of fish in the sea, I just couldn’t bloody hit one. It was the Queen’s Birthday weekend and I had the pleasure of heading out for an afternoon of recreational spearfishing. Typically, I would have gone out with whatever surf wetsuits I could layer on top of each other and a manual Hawaiian sling. Beginner stuff, tried and tested, nothing fancy. But when I mentioned to a friend I was heading out — a friend who also happened to be a spearfishing enthusiast and eBay dweller — the next minute I found myself loaded up with a carboot full of his performance snorkelling apparatus. I donned the pure neoprene twopiece hooded wetsuit, mask, snorkel, flippers, strapped weights to my waist, tethered myself to a buoy, and waded backwards into the shallows with a three-foot long, menacing speargun. Scuba Steve eat your heart out… the fish would have no idea what hit them. An hour of peacefully drifting around various rock outcroppings had unearthed a couple of stingrays, plenty of parrot fish, and a token puffer fish daring me to shoot. I’d only taken a single practise shot when I found myself surrounded by a school of salmon. Literally, hundreds of them circling and giving me just enough of a wide berth to make it difficult for a novice. Five minutes and three tangled reloads later they’d scooted off to another location and I was left rueing a rolled-gold, missed opportunity. Good gear does not a fisherman make; it’s all in knowing where the fish are going to be and how to catch them. I had a top notch rig, but when the time was ripe I didn’t have the experience to match. It’s like that with audio production. Entranced by the prospect of unlimited possibilities, we rush headlong into accumulation mode. I’m as guilty of it as the next guy. Plug-in or DAW for this, microphone or outboard gear for that. And after your initial excitement fades, every subsequent time you try it on for size, it just doesn’t seem to fit right. Or worse, it sits there while you keep going back to the same handful of gear you always have. Lately, after talking with Franc Tetaz, I’ve been paring

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back. His approach to gear is workmanlike. If it’s not something he’d use daily, like a carpenter would a hammer, he’ll pass on it. That way, if he has an idea, he’s not randomly firing off shots trying to get a hit. He has the tools to creatively build on his ideas with confidence. For me, paring back has meant limiting my list of plugins to staples and adding others back only if I can’t get a sound I’m hearing. It also means, for instance, I’m not guessing at what kind of knee, speed of attack, or design a compressor is emulating.

Regular Contributors Martin Walker Michael Stavrou Paul Tingen Graeme Hague Guy Harrison Greg Walker James Roche Greg Simmons Tom Flint Robin Gist Blair Joscelyne Mark Woods Andrew Bencina Jason Fernandez Brent Heber Gareth Stuckey

From there, I plan on a stocktake of samples, and reorganising my libraries, filtering out what instruments I actually use, and doing the same with hardware and mics.

Cover photo Michael Christian

The plan is to have the leanest, most creatively agile setup I can get down to.

AudioTechnology magazine (ISSN 1440-2432) is published by Alchemedia Publishing Pty Ltd (ABN 34 074 431 628).

I was reminded again of how effective a practise this can be by Henry Wagons this issue. While not as ‘to the letter’ as the studio Welcome To 1979, which only has gear from before that year, Henry has been steadily building up a collection of mics and outboard that will sonically put him in the ballpark of his favourite era, the ’70s: EV dynamic mics, tube mics, Neve and Sound Workshop preamps. With that he’s also embraced the working spirit of the time; live performances and plenty of spill. It’s a recipe he’s got down pat. And his latest album is a cohesive, inspired piece of work, due in no small part to this pared back aesthetic. I’m also constantly fighting the temptation to DAW jump. It’s hard, because despite plenty of opinions to the contrary, they’re not all the same. Especially when you really start digging into what platforms like Maschine have to offer, and the unique toolset an upstart like Bitwig can pull together right out of the blocks. Embracing an ecosystem and running with it has always been the smoothest ride through creativity; the question is, which one fits you? Sometimes simple is best. I swear, if I’d just had a basic Hawaiian sling in my hands I would have had a bag full that day. Or at least spent less time reloading and more time registering hits.

Distribution by: Network Distribution Company.

Contact (Advertising, Subscriptions) T: +61 2 9986 1188 PO Box 6216, Frenchs Forest NSW 2086, Australia. Contact (Editorial) T: +61 3 5331 4949 PO Box 295, Ballarat VIC 3353, Australia. E: info@alchemedia.com.au W: www.audiotechnology.com.au

All material in this magazine is copyright © 2014 Alchemedia Publishing Pty Ltd. Apart from any fair dealing permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process with out written permission. The publishers believe all information supplied in this magazine to be correct at the time of publication. They are not in a position to make a guarantee to this effect and accept no liability in the event of any information proving inaccurate. After investigation and to the best of our knowledge and belief, prices, addresses and phone numbers were up to date at the time of publication. It is not possible for the publishers to ensure that advertisements appearing in this publication comply with the Trade Practices Act, 1974. The responsibility is on the person, company or advertising agency submitting or directing the advertisement for publication. The publishers cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions, although every endeavour has been made to ensure complete accuracy. 10/06/2014.


COVER STORY

Circle The Wagons: with Mick Harvey & Matt Linesch

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Jeff Lang’s Album is Mixed in Surround, Just Not in the Way you Might Think

19

Hercules Street: Harry Vanda’s New Studio

21

15

Rode M5 Matched Pair Pencil Condensers & Stereo Bar

Shure SE846 In-Ear Monitors PC Audio

He’s The Real Thing: Russell Morris’ Sharkmouth

25

27

Korg Taktile Controller Keyboard

SM Pro 500 Series Gear

29

30

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GENERAL NEWS

MOTU THROWS THUNDERBOLT Thunderbolt and AVB. Right, now you have our attention. MOTU has announced three new Thunderbolt audio interfaces with I/O configurations, A/D/A conversion with high dynamic range, 48-channel mixing, DSP effects and AVB Ethernet audio networking for system expansion. Based on a new, shared technology platform, the 1248, 8M and 16A differ only in their analogue I/O configurations and are equipped with the latestgeneration ESS Sabre32 Ultra converters. Check out our website for the configurations. The 1248, 8M and 16A are equipped with latestgeneration DSPs that drive a 48-channel mixer designed after large format mixing consoles. With 32-bit floating point precision, the mixer’s 48 inputs can take signal from the physical inputs on the interface itself, audio channels from host software on the computer, audio network streams and mixer outputs. The mixer provides seven stereo aux buses, three groups, a reverb bus that can alternately serve as a fourth group, a Main Mix bus

and a separate Monitor bus that doubles a solo bus. Effects include classic reverb, four-band modelled analogue EQ, modelled vintage compression and gating. A flexible matrix routing grid makes it easy for users to route audio to and from the mixer, the computer and audio network streams, including the ability to split a single input (or input pair) to multiple destinations. All three interfaces are equipped with a single AVB Ethernet network port, which allows users to daisy-chain additional MOTU interfaces to their system using either a simple CAT-5e Ethernet cable or build a system of three to five interfaces connected to the five-port, 1-Gigabit MOTU AVB Switch. Multiple computers can be connected throughout the AVB network and can simultaneously send and receive 128 channels of network audio I/O. Price A$2199 each. Network Audio Solutions: www.networkaudio.com.au

KURZWEIL STAYS STRONG In the pantheon of stage pianos, Kurzweil has always held its head high. Now it has the Forte, which packs new German and vintage Japanese concert grand pianos, as well as new Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Clav, Harpsichord, Orchestral Percussion, Celeste, Glockenspiel, Chimes, Bells and Crotales along with a wide selection of sounds from the PC3 and Kore 64 expansion, all delivered with the sort of expression and an obsessive attention to detail

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you’d hope from Kurzy. In fact, there’s 16GB of sample content with zero-loading time, heaping mounds of powerful DSP and ultrafast performance. The classic organs sounds are matched by nine drawbars. There’s plenty of horsepower left over for an array of effects and processors. Can’t wait to get our hands on the 88-note fully weighted action. Innovative Music: (03) 9540 0658 or www.innovativemusic.com.au


iXY LIKES LIGHTNING Røde Microphones has released its new updated iXY stereo mic with Lightning connector for iPhone 5, 5s and 5c. Equipped with the same broadcast audio performance as the original 30-pin microphone, the iXY with Lightning connector features a matched pair of 1/2-inch condenser capsules arranged in a stacked X-Y configuration, with on-board analogue to digital conversion. Interchangeable rubber mounting clamps are supplied to suit both iPhone 5/5s and 5c, which also provide shock mounting and help to minimise

vibration transferring to the microphone capsules. A foam windshield for outdoor recording and protective storage pouch are also included. The RødeGrip mount is optionally available for mounting the iXY and iPhone on a camera or microphone stand, and a ‘deadcat’ windshield for high wind conditions will be available shortly. Røde Microphones: www.rodemic.com

MINIBRUTE’S NEXT STEP Arturia has given its MiniBrute some more performance chops with the addition of a step sequencer. The MiniBrute SE maintains its 100% analogue audio signal path which features a VCO wave mixer, the classic Steiner-Parker multimode filter, as well as numerous analog innovations such as the Metalizer, Ultrasaw, and the Brute Factor. Boasting complete MIDI, CV and USB connectivity, MiniBrute is right at home with your computer or your vintage synths. CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or www.cmi.com.au

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SOFTWARE NEWS

LAUNCH CONTROL IS GO Launch Control XL mixer and device controller for Ableton Live packs in eight 60mm faders, 24 LED-fitted knobs and 16 multi-colour performance buttons. Placed alongside Launchpad S’s 64-button grid, Launch Control XL offers a superior Live control experience. Whether you’re triggering clips in the Session view or playing drum racks with LED feedback; Launch Control XL aligns perfectly with Launchpad S’s 8x8 surface. The software editor

allows you to design your own templates. You can customise knobs with your own colours and effortlessly switch between your own mappings and Live’s built-in functionality. You can even combine multiple units. XL ships with Ableton Live Lite, 1GB of Loopmasters sample content and ‘rock-solid mixer integration’ straight out of the box. Innovative Music: (03) 9540 0658 or www.innovativemusic.com.au

iPAD CAPTURE PreSonus has introduced Capture for iPad and Capture Duo, two new audio recording apps for Apple iPad based on the company’s Capture software for StudioLive mixers. Capture for iPad can record up to 32 tracks simultaneously at up to 24-bit/96kHz. The app provides basic mixing and editing features using iPad-style finger gestures. Free Capture Duo lets you record and play two stereo tracks and is otherwise identical to Capture for iPad. With either app, you can record and save

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multiple songs on an iPad, then wirelessly transfer them directly to PreSonus Studio One (Mac or PC, version 2.6.3 or later), where you can edit and mix. Songs and individual tracks can also be copied using iTunes if the iPad is connected to the computer with a USB cable. Recordings are saved in the compact Apple Lossless format to save iPad memory and reduce transfer times. National Audio Services: (03) 8756 2600 or www.nationalaudio.com.au


GLITCHY & LOVIN’ IT GlitchMachines’ Hysteresis is “geared toward creating robotic artifacts and abstract musical malfunctions.” (If you search for the demo on Soundcloud you’ll soon get the idea.) The VST plug features a delay effect with stutter, low-pass filter and modulation effects thrown into the feedback signal path. It allows you to easily add glitchy

articulations and abstract textures to your projects. GlitchMachines has designed Hysteresis to process anything from drums and percussion to synth lines and sound effects. On top of being able to create incredibly wild signal mutations, it can also be used to generate classic delay effects. As of going to press, Hysteresis was a free download.

WAVES LEADS GRID Gotta love the swings and roundabouts of native versus DSP. The likes of Powercore, Duende, the UAD card… their fortunes have variously risen and fallen. Now we have the Waves SoundGrid Studio System – yes, a real-time processing and networking platform to ‘outsource’ your plug-in processing… but there’s a little more to this than meets the eye. The system promises to integrate with all DAWs and SoundGrid-compatible I/Os; anything from single DAW with one SoundGrid I/O, to an entire network of host computers, I/Os, and SoundGrid DSP servers. And it’s possibly the networking and centralised hub approach that is most interesting. The SoundGrid Studio System includes the SoundGrid Studio Application, which manages the SoundGrid network on a host computer; the eMotion ST mixer, which runs plug-ins in real-time for recording, mixing, and lowlatency monitoring while tracking or rehearsing; and StudioRack, which runs plug-in chains (including the individual preset of each plug-in within your chain!), saves and loads their presets (no matter on which

DAW you saved your presets, StudioRack will load them on any DAW!), and offloads their processing to a SoundGrid DSP server. You’ve probably heard about the new DigiGrid system from Digico. All DigiGrid I/O interfaces come with the complete SoundGrid Studio System software. Current owners of DigiGrid MGB and MGO units can receive the complete SoundGrid Studio System software free of charge. The DigiGrid/SoundGrid combo enables users to process plug-ins in real time, monitor and network with near-zero latency, take advantage of old DigiLink interfaces, and expand their studio by connecting everything and everyone through one central I/O. Head to AT’s YouTube Channel for more on DigiGrid (/ audiotechnologymag). Sound & Music (Waves): (03) 9555 8081 or www.sound-music.com Group Technologies (DigiGrid): (03) 9354 9133 or www.grouptechnologies.com.au

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LIVE NEWS

EON SMOOTHES RESPONSE JBL has added two new models to its EON600 Series of portable PA loudspeakers: the EON610 10-inch two-way loudspeaker and the EON612 12-inch two-way loudspeaker. Both models feature built-in, 1000W power amplification and custom JBL high- and low-frequency transducers promising high SPLs and low distortion. JBL has revisited EON’s waveguide design, endeavouring to solve the inherent beaminess of conventional speaker systems that causes them to have a different frequency response off-axis than on-axis. They

NEXO GEO M6: MICRO POWER Powerful, flexible and compact, Nexo Geo M6 is an ultra-compact full-range unit designed to be a real problem solver. The M6 cuts a subtle silhouette with its internal rigging system and custom colour options. Comprising two identically-sized cabinets — the Geo M620 main and Geo M6B bass extension – and complemented by a comprehensive range of mounting accessories, the M6 will be a welcome option for installation contractors and sound rental companies. Systems can be flown, groundstacked or pole-mounted on subs. Lightweight polyurethane composite cabinets measure just 191mm high x 373mm wide x 260mm deep. Cabinets, fabric grilles and accessories can be specified in any RAL colour. A single NXAmp — the smallest of Nexo’s powered TDControllers — can power up to 12 x Geo M6 cabinets. Group Technologies: (03) 9354 9133 or www.grouptechnologies.com.au

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both share an iOS and Android supported interface. Paired via Bluetooth, Smart Ready 4.0 controls the master volume, a five-way, parametric EQ, user presets and a 32-bit, 130mHz, ultra-low power, DSP subsystem. Each unit has four handles to allow easy handling, indexed feet to allow secure stacking, transportation and storage, and extra-strong enclosures for rugged reliability. Jands: (02) 9582 0909 or info@jands.com.au


PERECT 10? Cerwin-Vega has a new addition to its P series range of powered loudspeakers. The P1000X is a two-way, bi-amped, full-range bass-reflex speaker with a 10inch woofer and high-frequency compression driver. Powered by a 1000W Class-D amp, the P1000X has a proprietary ‘hemi-conical’ horn designed for improved sound clarity and even dispersion over a wide coverage area. A built-in mixer allows for simple and fast setup, while the EQ, ‘Vega Bass’

boost and high-pass filter controls provide extra tuning possibilities. Its lightweight, robust polymer enclosure includes a self-tightening pole cup, as well as ergonomic handles. Built-in rigging points and a remote volume port make the P1000X ideal for suspended installation. Australian Musical Imports: www.gibsonami.com

MLA CRASHES GLASTONBURY PARTY Martin Audio is claiming a victory at this year’s Glastonbury. According to Martin the headlining acts had the highest sound levels ever for a Glastonbury audience (without exceeding noise pollution levels), all thanks to its new Multi-Cellular Loudspeaker Array (MLA) system. Making its Glastonbury debut, the system deployed on the Pyramid Stage was impressive, utilising cabinets from the entire MLA range of loudspeakers. This comprised a total of 72 MLA for the main hangs, eight MLA Compact for stereo infill at the pit barrier and four delay positions of 14 MLA each. The latest addition to the range, the MLA Mini, provided stereo infill behind the FOH control structure and onstage coverage of artists’ guest viewing platforms. A massive broadside array of 38 MLX stretched across the entire width of the stage to provide sub-bass support to the entire system. MLA boasts superior pattern control due to its multi-cellular (address each driver with its own amp/DSP) approach, meaning the system could go harder without a red flag from the noise police. Martin Audio’s R&D Director Jason Baird: “Headliners,

including Arcade Fire and Metallica, could play at 104105dBA – this is the first time such high levels have been achieved in the history of Glastonbury as noise limits are really strict.” There was also a lot praise from the stream of FOH engineers over the weekend. One of the biggest draws of the weekend was Metallica, engineered by Mick Hughes: “MLA is a new system to me, a new experience. I was surprised how easy it was to get the mix I wanted out of it. When I first used it I thought ‘whoa’ there’s some serious horsepower here. It just sounded really alive; I wouldn’t shy away from using it again.” One of the most enigmatic performances was from Lana Del Ray, engineered by Max Bisgrove: “In half a song, I could get out what I needed from the MLA system… it’s by far my favourite Glastonbury mixing experience so far.” Technical Audio Group: (02) 9519 0900 or www.tag.com.au

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REVIEW

Griffin Technology iStuff Review: Brad Watts

Price: StudioConnect – $179.95, GuitarConnect Pro – $79.95.

I’m beginning to get the hang of this iStuff for audio recording. I know I’m probably quite late to the party but in all honesty, recording to and from an iPad or iPhone has generally felt a bit toy-ish to me. Now the 64-bit A7 chip in current iPhones and iPads is here, there’s ample processing power for audio work. The other hinderance for me has been the seemingly glacial transition of third party peripherals from Apple’s original 30-pin USB connection over to the Lightning connector. Griffin Technology has stepped up to the plate with a couple of useful items for the muso or engineer on the go. First up is the GuitarConnect Pro, a simple high impedance connection for guitar, bass, or even a keyboard if needs be, to your iPad or iPhone. It’s got a nice weighty enclosure so it doesn’t slip about on your desk and provides an analogue gain control on the side of the unit for quick and intuitive level adjustment. What’s nice is the inclusion of three alternative connection cables: 30-pin, Lightning, and standard USB so you can plug it into any iDevice or a lap/desktop. It does exactly what the box says — without any hitches. I wouldn’t say it’s deserving of the ‘Pro’ moniker as it’s a 44.1/48k, 16-bit-only device.

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Upping the ante is the StudioConnect Lightning. This unit is squarely aimed at iPad recordists and provides a great platform for interfacing the ‘real’ audio world with iPad applications such as GarageBand, or if you’re serious, WaveMachine Labs’ Auria — the ‘ProTools for iOS’. What’s great about this unit is the provision of real world access to the iPad. RCA stereo outputs, a stereo 1/8-inch input and 1/4-inch mono input along with five-pin MIDI in and out. It’s also powered via a mains wall-wart so your iPad will charge when connected. All these connectors are around the rear of the StudioConnect’s chassis, which of course, acts as a stand for your iPad, with the front section offering an input volume/gain control, and a big silver, blue backlit headphone level knob, with the 1/8-inch headphone output situated immediately below the volume knob. The entire package, again, does exactly as the box says. Perfectly formed for the odd bit of scratch pad recording, or indeed, interfacing iPad based synth apps with your ‘grown up’ DAW.


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STUDIO FOCUS:

Hercules Street Studios Story: Robert Clark

ARIA Hall of Famer Harry Vanda and his son Daniel Vandenberg have been a fixture in Surry Hills for almost a decade now, producing the likes of The Wrights and British India via their Flashpoint Music production house. They’ve just made a huge move, though, launching Hercules Street Studios; situated on the second floor of a swanky new complex not too far from their previous location. “We all just felt it was time for a change,” says Vandenberg, as we stand in the industrial-chic foyer. The first thing that strikes you is the amount of natural light in the place. The ceilings are high and the windows are large. I think musicians using this studio will be receiving unprecedented levels of Vitamin D. There are two production rooms in the facility that will be occupied by some high-profile figures in producing and A&R (take my word for it). One of these features a grand old Harrison 3232C console, the same type of desk used to mix Thriller Vandenberg tells me [the band Phoenix apparently bought the actual one last year - Ed]. In an overdubbing booth connected to this room is a small collection of his father’s guitars: a Martin acoustic used in some of the classic Vanda and Young recordings of the ’70s and ’80s, a 1959 Les Paul Jr., a Fender Precision bass from the ’70s. There’s also a small Writing Room available for hire, with a comprehensive suite of DAWs, a Yamaha 02R and a Digidesign 002 console, and a nice range of outboard gear from the relatively new (Focusrite Liquid Channel, dbx 1066) to the reasonably vintage (Joe Meek VC6, Alesis Quadraverb GT). There’s a niche collection of AT 18

keys available, too, such as a Roland SH101, ARP Omni and a Juno 106. It’s compact but comfortable. A group of trendy young things occupied it during my visit and one of them referred to it as the “vibe room” — which augurs well for its potential. The main studio, known as Studio 1, is incredibly spacious. It would need to be, too, with an SSL 8096 G+ (all 96 channels of it) taking pride of place in the control room. It was shipped from LA because Record Plant Studios no longer required it, so it has quite a rich history. Sitting off to the side is an old Neve Broadcast console, too, the twelve 33116 Pre/EQs often coming in handy, says Vandenberg. For lovers of tape recording, there’s an Otari MTR 90, two MCI units and a Sony 3348 digital tape recorder at the ready. Sitting behind the SSL is a vast array of outboard gear accumulated over Vanda’s long career: Three UREI 1176s, a Teletronix LA2A, Avalon VT737SP, ADR Compex, Neve 2254A, AMS RMX 16, Eventide H3000 SE, Peach Audio valve preamps and many, many more. Not that it’s all ‘out of the box’. They are running ProTools 9 (via HD4) and 10 (via HDX), Logic Pro X and Cubase 7, with comprehensive DSP plug-ins to complement. Everything is also networked via Cat7 ethernet. The live room is large enough for a 14-piece string section, is bright and sunny and is adjoined by two roomy isolation booths. It also features a Yamaha C7 grand piano. Anyone could comfortably spend days on end working in here, and I’m sure they will.


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FEATURE

CIRCLE THE WAGONS Wagons are a great live band, but studios haven’t always felt like home. So Henry Wagons bought a holiday house, called Mick Harvey and laid a sonic foundation in the spirit of the ’70s. Acid Rain & Sugar Cane is a live, spill-laden record, mixed by a long-lost brother from across at Ocean Way. Story: Mark Davie Session photos: Michael Christian

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Henry Wagons wears his heart on his gold chain. The lounge room of his holiday house-cum-recording studio is dressed in shag pile, Harry Nilsson plays on the boombox and an Elvis Presley photo book makes for an impromptu mousepad. Henry has been steadily building up his recording environment based on how he imagines the kings of the ’60s and ’70s did it: Live, plenty of dynamic and ribbon mics, and recognising spill can be an asset. Which is why he bought this joint. The alt-country performer has managed to procure himself a double-storey getaway in the Eastern hills with a divine view overlooking Port Phillip Bay. It’s in holiday house territory, but for Henry, it’s the perfect place to get some work done. IN HOUSE STUDIO

Henry recorded his band Wagons’ latest album Acid Rain & Sugar Cane here. Before that, Henry had released a ‘solo’ record of duets Expecting Company?; an album he recorded all the instrumentals for by himself. It was an experience he enjoyed, but the solitary effort made him more eager than ever to get the band back together. This time though, he felt a traditional studio wasn’t going to cut it. “I always feel I’ve had to battle a disconnect in tracking environments,” explained Henry. “If people want to talk in the control room then someone needs to press a talkback button. Your bass player can’t just get on top of the console to control his own monitor mix.” But he had an idea of what might work. “I saw this documentary of The Who recording,” said Henry. “All of them in one room with not a headphone in sight, and Roger Daltrey was coming through a PA in the room. I wanted to see if it was possible. Not only because a lot of the songs I was writing were leaning towards ’70s rock, and communication would be perfect, but also, maybe part of the secret of those ’70s bands sounding so powerful, so immediate, is because of a little spill in the room.” Wagons decided to test his theory with a few stress-free live demos at his house. The main living area is split level, which provides some natural separation. Up top, overlooking the lounge would be the bass amp and keyboards. At one end of the downstairs area would be the drums, surrounded by a mix of wood panelling, glass and a stone fireplace, with the guitars on the other side of a buffer of sofas. Henry drove the sessions from behind his mixer, singing into an Electro-Voice RE-20 he routed out through a PA, with one speaker pointing at him and the other out into the room. “Sometimes I’d feed a click through a headphone to the drummer, but he’d be the only one wearing headphones,” said Henry. “I can do a headphone setup here, but headphones were the enemy in that session.”

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Sure enough, his hunch paid off. Everyone could manipulate their own levels — if the bass player wanted to turn up, he just did it, and let Henry know — and, with the help of a bit of shag pile, the natural acoustics of the hillside house’s internal architecture were as studio-like as he could have hoped. After that, it was no question the rest of the album would be recorded in a similar fashion. VINTAGE SETUP

The success of the process hinged on getting conditions just right. Enough beer in the fridge, easy feedback, a great view — all of it contributed. The other half was his gear. His collection of mics and preamps are all handpicked to put him in the ballpark of vintage ’70s sound without having to try too hard. Leaving him free to drink and ramble on with everyone else instead of finicking with every mic angle between takes. Lately he’s been collecting Elvis audio memorabilia; specifically RE-15s, the same vocal mics The King used on stage in Vegas. Long, skinny grey things with odd grooves in the handle that would also pop up on Harry Nilsson TV specials and Neil Young live concert DVDs. Henry’s collection of Electro-Voice mics doesn’t stop at the RE-15 and RE-20. One of his favourites is ‘The Buchanan Hammer’ EV 635A omnidirectional dynamic, famous for its toughness. Henry dangled it over the front of the Fender Reverb Deluxe, saying, “There’s no proximity effect. It’s almost got a high and a low pass on it, and brackets the cab in this immediately recognisable vintage ’70s way.” Sometimes he used a Heil PR30, a cardioid dynamic, for its “brutal accuracy”.

CUTTING REAL RECORDS A confidence booster for Henry was a record Wagons cut above the United Records vinyl pressing plant in Nashville last year. “United do all Third Man Records stuff,” said Henry. “They liked my solo record and invited me to be part of this series they do called Upstairs at United. They bring in Chris Mara who runs a studio called Welcome to 1979, where he hasn’t got a piece of equipment that’s newer than that date! “He sets up a whole bunch of Royer ribbon mics around us, and records and mixes live to ¼-inch, two-track tape. If you don’t like the take, you rewind and record over, and stop when you’ve got it right. That take is mixed and mastered immediately, and pressed to 45rpm 12-inch vinyl. It was a very exciting process to be involved in. “He miked up the stairwell to use as a reverb. It was all spill, it was all live, and it sounds awesome. I wanted to do it at home. That’s essentially what I’m trying to pull off. The ability to play and then stop, listen back and hear it as if it’s just hit tape already mixed. That more or less happened.” Listen to it at vimeo.com/87810774 AT 22

Other pieces Henry keeps in his furry toolbag are a 12-channel Sound Workshop Series 20 console he picked up from the ABC’s children’s programming department. “Apparently they only used channels one and two, and then 11 and 12 had tape returns on them. As soon as I fed the kit through here, it sounded like Superstitious!” He always runs the drums through those preamps, using the combination of preamp gain, trim and fader output level to drive the channel, and provide a bit of transient shaping. There are a few neater pieces, like an Avalon 737 for bass, a Focusrite Platinum Twin Trak Pro for vocals and keys, and an API 500 series lunchbox filled with two AMS Neve 1073 lunchbox preamps that let the mids punch on guitars, a Great River MP-500NV for a little more transparency than the Neves, a super clean Millennia Audio HV-35 preamp he used for vocals, and a Lindell Audio 6X-500 preamp and 2-band EQ that came in handy for shaping a few sources on the way in. He also has an Advanced Audio tube U47 copy, which fits snugly into the palette. He recorded an a cappella group, influenced by the Andrews Sisters, with just the mic in an omni configuration, and a couple of room mics. The

result was perfect for the ’40s vibe, and again showcased the flexibility of the space. He also bought a couple of Advanced Audio pencil condensers in the mould of the AKG C451 to alternate with the EV 635A for overheads. “Because of the equipment I have, I find I don’t have to fiddle around too much to pull the sounds I want,” said Henry. “The digital age is only now just catching up with an influx of analogue saturation plug-ins, desk simulations and tape emulations. They’re finally figuring out all of the songs we loved from back in the day went through so many stages of analogue saturation. Every single mix was tracked through a desk, to tape, back through another console, through its master bus, back to tape. In-the-box mixes don’t naturally have any of that. You can essentially record transparently without screwing with the sound in that amazing harmonic way. I feel like we’re grappling, clutching at straws, in this digital world. So I’ve become less and less afraid to imprint preamp drive, saturation and compression on the way in.” Henry uses Reaper as his DAW, with RME converters. He’s working on PC and loves the rock solid nature of Reaper: “The CPU load is really low, the compression and convolution reverb that it comes with is amazing. It’s incredibly transparent, functional and solid… and the whole program is 10MB. It’s just an insanely efficient and beautiful piece of software. I also love that it’s the same guy who invented WinAmp, which is another old school thing.” MOLLY CODDLING

Henry put in a bit of behind the scenes work each session to make sure everyone else felt fully laid back. “Molly-coddling” them, he called it. He’s recorded in enough studios over the last 12 years to know that time wasted “dicking around” comprises performances. So he always tried to pull a basic tone from all the instruments before anyone arrived. Then he’d “dose people up on a combination of Baileys and coffee for a daytime downer and upper at the same time, in the spirit of Elvis Presley. Loosen them up and shove them in front of an instrument.” But beyond that, it was a team effort. The drummer kept an eye out for droopy under snare mics, and everyone else kept tabs on their own gear. “One of the secrets to recording in here,” said Henry. “Is it requires an understanding from the whole band about the equipment they use. A big part of it is not to have a Slash-esque guitarist insist on playing through Marshall stacks. Some of the biggest, most epic guitar sounds from The Rolling Stones to Queens of the Stone Age come from 4W valve amps driven hard.” The two amps that got most action were a Vox VT20+, with too much “digital bullshit” that Henry duly bypassed, and a modded Fender Tweed Pro Junior. Once Henry had figured out the sounds he wanted, he also recorded with plug-ins on: “It was real important to me to be able to press play


Maybe part of the secret of those ’70s bands sounding so powerful, so immediate, is because of a little spill in the room

the minute we’d stopped recording and have some sense of a mix. There was that immediate morale boost and satisfaction of the vocal compressed a bit with some reverb, the guitars had a little bit of help, the kick pedal was already thumping. It had a sense of power to it which created excitement.” SEEDING GOOD IDEAS

Because Henry already owned the ‘studio’ and all the gear, the band was able to spend any advance on hiring “amazing people” they all revered. There wasn’t much labour in the decision; Mick Harvey from The Bad Seeds, who’s weaved his magic behind the scenes for Nick Cave and PJ Harvey among others, slotted perfectly into the group as co-producer/multi-instrumentalist. The sessions went for months, working mainly around a schedule of weekends where everyone including Harvey would converge on the house, instruments in hand, get a little drunk, tell a few stories (mostly the boys picking through Harvey’s back catalogue), and when the feeling was right, hit record. It was Wagon’s version of Bob Dylan and The Band’s The Basement Tapes: “A double album of them getting shit-faced together and pressing record.” Other than being a great producer who brought a wealth of experience and individual talent, just his presence was an automatic lift. “We were slightly in awe of and always trying to lift our game for Mick,” said Henry. “Mick wasn’t a producer in what I imagine is the traditional sense, where he’s behind a desk in the control room. Mick feels he can most contribute on a production level by being there at the inception of the song. “He’s an amazing multi-instrumentalist. He played something on every song, drums on a couple, guitar on a few, and a lot of keys. “I more or less had the verses and choruses written, but in terms of structuring the songs he was an important part of the conversation. And it was great to have someone you could ask, ‘What’s your take on keeping guide vocals?’ He’d follow up with, ‘Well, who are you talking about? Nick? Polly?’ And I’m like, ‘What names to drop! I’ll take either one!’

“It was great to have that weight of experience. We thought we were old hands at this, but he’s been around the traps.”

BROTHERS ACROSS THE OCEAN WAY

Engineering your own record is one thing, but mixing it as well is often one step too far for the same pair of ears. You tend to go one of two ways when balancing your own instrument; egomaniacally pump up the volume, or hide it behind a wash of other instruments and reverb. It’s a personality test that Henry falls on either side of. On the one had, he usually mixes his vocal too loud, and his guitar too soft. This time, he let Matt Linesch take over. Linesch is probably best known for his work on the last couple of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros albums, so he wasn’t afraid of spill or bold statements. “A lot of the way I work is live with no click, so it’s natural for me,” said

Linesch. “Both records I’ve done with Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros were all live with a few overdubs.” Linesch had recently moved into a studio at Ocean Way where he has a hybrid digital and analogue system comprising a ProTools HD rig, and a Trident Series 80 24-channel analogue console with plenty of outboard including an EMT 140 plate reverb. He typically starts in-thebox, then after getting through a couple of songs, and committing to a direction, he’ll dust off his Pultecs, outboard compression and plate reverb as inserts on the Trident, printing things down for ease of recall. His process and experience matched Henry’s ’70s sandbox approach and dynamic mic collection to AT 23


a ‘t’. “There’s an interesting element that happens when you use dynamic and ribbon mics that doesn’t happen as much with condensers,” said Linesch. “Don’t get me wrong, condensers can make for amazing mics and I use them all the time. But they tend to have boosts in the high end and a hi-fidelity type sound. All that data is still there with dynamic and ribbon mics, you just have to know how to manipulate it. “When I’m working on Edward Sharpe records, we don’t wait till the end to manipulate things. If we want something to sound like it’s coming out of a megaphone, we’ll go get a megaphone and record it with some crummy mic. I’m not very conservative. If you listen to old Hendrix albums, on some of those songs all the drums are coming out of one channel. I use a Nagra to create slap backs, and sometimes I’ll make all my reverb come out the left channel or I’ll make my bass come just out of the right channel. Very often I close my eyes, put my hands on a piece of gear and just turn things until I like how it sounds. And that lets me go purely from instinct.” CLOSE UP

In fact, closing his eyes was the first thing Linesch did when he got Henry’s record. The first thing he does with every record is sit back and soak in the energy and feeling of the songs to see how he can enhance it, then he has in-depth conversations about what the song means. AT 24

“The reason I would do that,” said Linesch. “Is because I know how to make a drum kit and instruments sound good. But I like to have a philosophy of being fearless, and make broad brush strokes. If I have a grasp on the feeling of the song and the message he’s trying to get across, I can embody that and then I can take risks mixing-wise that will still support his feelings. A lot of people forget that mixing is a hugely creative stage of the process and at that point you can take a song in many different directions. “If Henry tells me a song is supposed to be dark and from a place not of anger, but angst, I can mix it in an aggressive way that makes someone feel that angst. And then a song like Beer Barrel is an easy, silly song — let’s not get too heavy, and have a beer and fun with our friends. The mix lets the song wash over you. Just sit back, let your foot tap along and not be too intense about it.” Linesch knew it wasn’t going to be difficult getting into Henry’s head from the first time they clapped eyes on each other on Skype — it was like they were long-distance brothers. “We laughed when we saw each other,” said Linesch. “Because we both have glasses, hats, big hair and jewellery, we felt comfortable right off the bat.” “We were kind of like doppelgängers,” agreed Henry. “This mystery man who mixes Edward Sharpe stuff, looked exactly like me and had very similar sensibilities about music.” Henry sent mostly raw tracks through, except

for the odd re-amped guitar and a vocal reverb on the verse of Caroline he’d become attached to. And Linesch got to work with some broad brush strokes. “I like to start with three options for panning — left, centre or right,” began Linesch. “Obviously that can’t work all the time, but that’s how I start out. I might have a lead vocal down the centre and then a slap at 15ips or 30ips panned hard right. Then I’ll trigger a reverb off the slap and pan it hard left. Or if I have a lead guitar, I might put a pre-delay on a reverb and pan it hard right so it creates movement. Even though the lead guitar is coming out hard left, it’s moving the sound across your speakers. It creates excitement for the listener’s ear and widens the image. “Sometimes putting background vocals all in one side and then having reverb on the other opens up the mix. Some songs on Henry’s record have plenty of vibe going on, plenty of room, so why not put all the reverb in one side and clean it up a little bit? “Sometimes I might move a reverb to create depth at a certain key moment. And I’m also pretty habitual about riding EQ and compression throughout the song. So maybe through a verse, a piano part could have more high frequencies and when the chorus hits I might bump up some lows or low-mids and create some depth to it. Or at that moment manipulate my reverb, or trigger a delay, just enough to feel it.


“By doing that you can guide your listener through an experience. That’s what mixing is, guiding your listener through an experience. And more than anything, recreating an experience that a person may have if they were sitting in a room with Henry while he was playing a song. That’s a very difficult thing to do because most of the time people are listening through little ear buds through their smartphone. So you have to get creative and do things like ride EQs and compression, use your reverbs, delays, and slaps in a way that’s not stagnant throughout a song, but ever moving and ever changing.”

saturation that feels like a dimension I can almost reach out and grab.

SPILLING THE BEANS

“I’m always rolling out the low end from the overheads. Sometimes I’ll push a little bit of mids to high-mids because they might have data that is really crucial on bringing out elements I like of the toms, kick, or even snare sometimes. But to me the highs are where the money is at for overheads because that gives me the beauty of the cymbals and the crashes and it will also support the crack of the snare and attack of the toms.

Linesch loves spill, precisely because it naturally does what he’s trying to re-manufacture in his mix — bring life to a record. He’s aware of the phasing issues it can cause, and sometimes he’ll gate or cut it out. But for the most part, his treatment is a simple case of finding the key frequencies of that instrument, and notching out other areas where there might be spill. Or if he’s compressing something that has a lot of bleed, he’ll give it a fast release so the bleed is not sitting up after the initial attack of the instrument. He also mixes with as little soloing as possible. While an instrument might sound “gnarly” on its own. He often finds it will sit fine in the mix. Also, when you’re mixing tracks with lots of bleed, you’re not going to hear any phasing issues by soloing individual instruments. Sometimes spill is exactly what the doctor ordered. And on one song, there’s no way he could have replicated the mix any other way than let the spill shine through. “At the end of Never Gone everything cuts out,” said Linesch. “There’s just his vocal with very minimal snare and a little bit of piano. There’s a delay that occurs on the snare whenever it hits… pop-pop-pop-pop, and that’s all just bleed from his mic. I actually muted the drums at that point and compressed his vocal a little bit more. The sounds you hear are just coming from the vocal delay affecting the bleed. It was great.” CLOSING IN ON DRUMS

The rest of the drums on the album weren’t as ambient. Drum sounds are something Linesch prides himself on, which has a lot to do with his mentor, Ross Hogarth. Hogarth was hired to record drums a lot, and Linesch shadowed him all around LA, everything from the Doobie Brothers to Don Henley, and the last Van Halen record. “If I get my drum kit into a place where it’s a beautiful kick/snare sound, typically I bring my kick above my snare, and bring in a parallel chain with heavy compression or use a distortion plugin like Soundtoys’ Decapitator in conjunction with a compressor and an EQ,” said Linesch. “I find through the use of distortion I can create a cool three-dimensional image. It’s also why I continue to use my Trident Series 80 console because it has a sweet spot to it. If you push that console ever so slightly to the edge there’s a

“That’s why I use the Decapitator in conjunction with compression and EQ, because then I can really grab the frequencies or sound that’s adding that extra thump to the kick drum, or extra pop to the snare, that ever so slightly breaks it through the song. You have to be careful. If you put your overheads or hi-hat through the parallel chain, you might get yourself into a situation where it’s sounding really shrill. There have been times I’ve automated a little bit of the overheads to kick in, but it can get really bright, really fast.

“I’ll edit or gate my tom tracks so that just the toms are coming through, and put them through that treatment too. I’m a huge fan of upfront toms that cut right through whatever is going on.” TAKING TO SATURATION

Henry recorded most of his vocal takes live, and even though the RE-20 had the best rejection zones of any of his mics, it still caught plenty of spill. On the takes he overdubbed, Henry had to match the vocals spill in the drum overheads. But, he said, as long as he “had the same meter and general phrase it was never an issue. There are a couple of moments on the album where there’s a slight divergence or I didn’t grunt or hold a note for as long. But I think it adds to the trippy-ness of the album having strange little ghosts appear from the right and left because they’re in the overheads.” Overall, Henry was surprised by the amount of clinical post-production he could achieve. Even drums that needed to be straightened played along just fine. Bass parts fixed, guitar parts floated. He never found any ghosting to be unpleasant. Because Linesch was dealing mostly with single live vocal takes, with only a couple of doubles, he would sometimes engineer a simple slap by duplicating the track and offsetting it in time. “Sometimes I’ll use one of my tape machines to create a slap, or a plug-in,” said Linesch. “But a couple of times on Henry’s record I used this method because it would allow me to really hone in exactly where and how much of a slap I’d like. And I’d trigger my reverbs and delays off that. Most of the time I kept it pretty low, or I’d mute the slap in different places and bring it in at others.

I always feel I’ve had to battle a disconnect in tracking environments

Trident console or Soundtoys Decapitator plug-in. “There are a couple different ways to do it on the console. I might push it with the line in. Sometimes I push it going from the channel back out from the bus, and the distortion is a little bit different. It’s very subtle, saturation more than distortion. “When you’re recording a distorted guitar, unless you have the ability and time to really dial it in, listen to it, think back and try it again, sometimes it’s just a distorted guitar. But when you’re mixing, the subtleties count for what is captivating. “When saturating an electric guitar that’s already distorted, it’s more for the sake of bringing out an element of that instrument. The bite to that part to make it cut through a mix, but also something that people say, ‘damn that sounds good!’ “The Culture Vulture is another piece I used to add saturation to pianos, synth work, and guitars. That was the breakthrough moment for me. I had been mixing his record and had all the songs sounding good and we were all feeling pretty good about it but there was something lacking. I said, ‘I’ve got an idea, I’ll get back to you in a week.’ “I went back to all the songs and went through a process of very selectively adding saturation and distortion. I sent it over and he was ecstatic

about it. Each album I have a breakthrough moment and that was it. And through it all, Henry found the key to those great albums. It wasn’t just one great song, one piece of gear, one extra set of ears, or a comfortable room with a well-stocked bar. From head to toe, everyone involved not only embraced the live process, but enhanced it. Henry laid the foundation, the band played along, Mick Harvey brought a wealth of experience, and Linesch saturated it with a lot of extra colour.

“The content of his voice is really exciting and I really wanted to bring that out with the Stalevel compressor and saturation, either with the

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WORKING THE ROOM

Jeff Lang’s latest album was mixed in surround, but not in the way you might think. Story: Mark Davie

Maybe I can record the session as I normally would‌ Then reconstitute the band by positioning speakers around a stereo microphone

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Dave Manton was getting plenty of weird looks as he rifled through the ABC studios’ storerooms in Southbank, Melbourne, rooting out a growing pile of Genelec monitors. It was one thing to be hoarding that many, but another to bypass the control room and start lining them up in the live room instead. It wasn’t stocktake time, and the ABC engineer was looking suspicious. But Manton had more to worry about than incredulous looks. He’d just signed up to the oddest mix adventure he’d ever been on, and he still had to find his way through a routing nightmare. Manton’s odd behaviour was at the behest of Jeff Lang. Lang, an avid singer/ songwriter and one of Australia’s best guitarists, has been nominated seven times for Best Blues & Roots Album at the ARIAs, and won twice; once in 2002 for a collaboration with Bob Brozman, Rolling Through This World, and again with his last album Carried In Mind in 2012. He also won an ARIA for Best World Music Album with Mamadou Diabate and Bobby Singh for Djan Djan. For his 15th album, I Live In My Head A Lot These Days, Lang decided to try his hand at mixing in a way he wasn’t sure had ever been done before. The idea came to him when he ran out of interesting movies on one of many long haul flights. Lang: “I was listening to a playlist my manager Jordan had put together, and a track by Charles Mingus came on. It noticeably had more depth of field: The drummer was over here, the piano player on the other side of the studio, but slightly closer — you got a real picture of the players

in the room. Then the next song started and it felt like the instruments were cling wrapped across my face by comparison.” What Lang envisioned was a small group standing around a Blumlein pair, allowing their natural spacing and timing to create the record’s depth. He was immediately hooked on the idea. But Lang’s material can often feature electric guitar and robust drumming alongside vocals — it’s not in string quartet or four-part harmony territory when it comes to acoustically balancing levels in a room. And the more he thought about recording live vocals in a stereo field, the more problems he conjured up. For example, Lang said: “If I’m playing an acoustic slide guitar and turn my head to look down at my instrument, my voice isn’t in the centre of the picture anymore.” Lang played out scenario after scenario, and technically, it never seemed to stack up. Live recording his band material with a stereo pair was just never going to work. GETTING INTO POSITION

But he couldn’t let the idea rest, so he moved on to a second line of thinking that went, “maybe I can record the session as I normally would but as opposed to welcoming the room into the sound I can record everything fairly isolated,” said Lang. “Then reconstitute the band by positioning speakers around a stereo microphone. That way we’ve got the take we like and can keep moving the speakers around until the balance is right. It did occur to me though that if it was a good idea, how come I don’t know of anyone else doing it?!”

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Manton: “The inputs from the tracking room come up as XLR. From there we can patch into outboard or direct into the SSL. The analogue out patches are bantam. From there we can patch into Master control or other production studios. I ran them back down the mic lines into the studio and then used a passive split box we have to do the sex changing at the other end. Convoluted to say the least.”

Colin Wynne On The Mix Mark Davie: What were you thinking when Jeff originally pitched the idea to you? Colin Wynne: I’d been collecting AudioTechnology for years, and very early on there was a great article about Chesky Records in The States. I always wanted to do a recording using that Blumlein technique and have tried my own experiments often in the past. Jeff just ran with it. Hearing that sound in a more three-dimensional environment was the goal. MD: What were some of the potential fail points? CW: We were lucky the ABC had such a big room where you could change the walls to get different reflections. That was eye-opening. If you have a rather square-ish room, the technique falls on its face. The key is the reflections in the room rather than the technique itself. MD: Can you roughly describe the room’s size? CW: The room might be about 12m long and probably 7m at its widest. It actually curls around in a shape of the letter ‘C’, and broadens out in the middle. We positioned the speakers around the microphones in the centre of that area. I would say, for the technique, the room is on the small side of medium. It would be absolutely magnificent in a bigger room, but depending on what you were doing, you could also fail there as well. The room is paramount. MD: What was it like mixing through a ribbon microphone? CW: Because you’re mixing out of ProTools, through the board, out the speakers, into the mic, and back through the board again, the EQ is very, very spongy. You almost believe it doesn’t work. You had to really slam the EQs in order to hear AT 28

them to any great effect. It’s very tricky to mix in that environment. We had a lot of trouble getting pinpoint accuracy and isolation in the upper end of the frequencies. That said, once you accept and work with it, the results are fantastic. It’s just something you’re not used to in this modern day of ProTools with really high Q points and scalpel-like digital EQ. All that went right out the window. You could scalpel away on ProTools but its effect was next to nothing through the speakers. Using multi-band compressors enabled me to compress in a rather specific area. And that seemed to work brilliantly through the speakers, using compression as a type of old-fashioned, broad EQ. Whether it was gaining up a section to bite, or compress the areas around it and leave that area to shine. The EQs worked best with low-pass or high-pass filters. MD: So you had to work doubly hard? CW: The best thing about working with Jeff and Dave is they’re both supremely confident engineers. I wouldn’t have done such a good job if those guys weren’t there, because you’d lose the plot after a while. We did it in two grouped bookings and both times we came in on the second day and played what we’d done on the first, just to check that we weren’t kidding ourselves. And I think that’s the problem with engineers. When you’re used to that magnificent ability to scalpel anything in this day and age, you can lose yourself in that. Recently I was EQ’ing a hi-hat, and the client said, ‘Are you trying to take out that truck noise?’ And I had honestly not heard this huge truck go past because I was so focused on the scalpel and excruciating top end.

MD: Did you walk into the live room at any stage and think, ‘Oh gee, that EQ sounds over the top?’ CW: No, but I have got a couple of movies on my phone of walking into the room and being astonished at how brilliant everything sounded through the speakers. Much better than walking into any room and hearing a pair of stereo speakers. It was absolutely sensational. It was a band in a room but in such a controlled way, you could have had a Marshall stack next to someone playing a triangle and hear them both brilliantly and clearly. MD: What changes had the most effect on the end result? CW: It was a lot to do with positioning speakers inside the room and much less to do with the standard fare of plug-ins on Pro Tools or even the beautiful SSL console. We put Jeff’s voice through two tiny 10cm-diameter Genelec speakers, and right behind him were the larger Genelec 1030s. When we went in there I just thought every part would be through the larger Genelecs and that would be it. But we needed the small speakers in order to give Jeff’s voice and guitar that stand-up front presence in the mix. We tried the bigger speakers first, but as soon as you bring them closer to the mics, they effectively block the other speakers out of the picture. MD: Would you do it again? CW: Only with people like Dave and Jeff. I wouldn’t sit there with the clients around and do it by myself. It’s a job where you need someone who is an equal of yourself in the engineering field who can jump in and take charge without having to ask if it’s the right thing to do. But it’s such a great mixing technique and the results speak for themselves.


There wasn’t much of a precedent for this kind of mix, but Lang wasn’t entirely flying in the dark. A previous session was his ray of hope the plan would come off. Lang: “I made an album for Alison Ferrier where there were a couple of looped atmospheric parts. It didn’t matter what I did with them, even though they were required parts of the arrangement they just felt stickytaped on. “So I piped them back through a couple of little guitar amps and put a stereo Blumlein mic in front of them at a distance. They were still left and right, but the fact they were in the one space, the same space everything else was recorded in, meant they fitted into the track really easily. So that was a little bit of a precedent. It could work!” Doubts aside, Lang pressed on with the help of long-time engineer Colin Wynne from Thirty Mill Studios. Lang has his own studio in a four-car garage-sized shed where he recorded his last album. Although Lang was planning to reconstitute the session from its pieces, there was still no doubt his band would be tracking the bed tracks together live, so he built a vocal booth and isolation boxes for guitar and bass amps to cut down on spill. His setup is based around a Toft console and Tascam ATR60 1/2-inch, 8-track tape machine he bought from Joe Camilleri’s studio. While he does dump tracks into ProTools for sundry overdubs, much of the core band is done in eight tracks. “It’s fun constricting yourself to eight tracks,” said Lang. “By and large it’s good. You make all these decisions going in and it makes mixing so much easier.” Which in this case, was pure gold when it came to the end game. PIECING THE PUZZLE

For drums, Lang often opts for a Glyn Johns arrangement to let the drummer manage their own balance. He uses a couple of Beesneez James tube condensers for the top and side positions, with a Beyer M201 on snare and Colin’s EV RE20 for kick. Lang used a Beyer M380 figureeight dynamic for bass. He likes the “bird-cage looking thing, because it’s figure-eight so it’s got proximity effect up the ding-dong. It gets thicker and thicker the closer you get it to the cab.”

For vocals Lang tends to opt for a Shure SM7. He also has a couple of Sony condensers he digs, he considers his C48 the closest thing to a swissarmy knife he’s found: “The treble is really sweet and it’s got extended high end. It’s a really neutral, all-purpose mic, but it’s got a little more character to it.” His Sony C37P FET condenser is his acoustic guitar go-to mic, with a bit more detail than other condensers and a darker tonality closer to a ribbon. He says it’s killer on his main instrument. Lang is also a fan of ribbons and can’t get enough of his Bang & Olufsen BM5 ribbon he had repaired with NOS RCA ribbon and upgraded with active circuitry by Steve Sank in Tucson. “The mics can be really quiet so you get a fair bit of hiss getting the gain up,” said Lang. “Having it converted into an active mic makes it way more usable.” Lang prefers to work in his own space, but while

he does engineer other musician’s albums, Lang finds it crucial to have Colin engineering when working on his own records. “I don’t enjoy having the two hats on,” said Lang. “I don’t want to be doing a lead vocal take with the band and worrying about whether I’m hitting the preamp too hard.” LIVING OUT OF HIS HEAD

Once everything had been recorded, the mix for I Live In My Head A Lot These Days turned into one big re-amping session at the ABC Studio. Lang used the studio for a couple of reasons: firstly, the ABC was releasing the album, so he was able to test his concept on borrowed time; and secondly, it was one of the few places with enough spare monitors floating about. It also had movable baffling and curtains in the roof which tightened up the room and helped bring focus to some songs. Manton was in charge of re-routing the SSL C200 console and ProTools system to send multiple lines back into the recording space, which was an unusual request. According to Manton, it was “a routing nightmare. We basically had to run the studio in reverse, everything usually heads toward the control room, not the other way around. I don’t think anyone ever considered the prospect of running that many lines back into the studio.”

At the ends of the cable returns were a collection of the ABC’s Genelec monitors, which catered for the instrument sends and a smaller monitor from Lang’s collection served as the centre vocal channel. At the centre of the speaker cluster a Royer SF24 stereo ribbon mic provided the main stereo image capture. And after a bit of experimentation with spaced pairs and other mic setups, it was decided a Neumann M150 omni tube mic would help solidify the mono centre and provide a little more extension at the low and high ends. “Having a few different speakers — like the vocal coming from its own small speaker and quite close, and the delay coming through a guitar amp that was distorted — helped separate it in the room,” said Manton. “But having most things running through the same kind of speaker gives you a level playing field if you have to rearrange instruments into different speakers. That way you’re only dealing with the change in relationship with the microphone and room.” THE VISION

The record was mixed by EQ’ing and compressing a little at the board and pumping the tracks out speakers arranged around the two mics. Balances were crafted with a combination of adjusting levels on the console and physically moving speakers around the space. It all came back through the mics, with about 70% of the sound coming from the ribbon and the rest comprising the omni centre feed, all barely tickling an Al Smart C2 compressor on the stereo bus. While Wynne was mostly at the board, and Manton was keeping the ship patched, Lang was still dictating the vision of the reconstituted band from the sounds he was hearing in his head.

(top to bottom) Colin Wynne air-drumming in Jeff's garage studio, while Greg Sheehan played the toy tambourine and Danny McKenna, the real drums. Jeff Lang: “Greg has a particular technique with an SM58 right up close to the skin. It sounds like a cross between a drum kit and a tabla, with this wide range of tone right through to the low end.” AT 29


Lang: “Greg Sheehan played percussion and Danny McKenna was on drums. There were some songs where Greg was playing a toy tambourine. He has a particular technique with an SM58 right up close to the skin. It sounds like a cross between a drum kit and a tabla, with this wide range of tone right through to the low end.

“The closest speakers were a foot and a half away, with the rest generally spread about three or four feet away. On some songs, speakers were placed right out in the corners of the room to energise the space. Sometimes instead of turning up a guitar solo, I might just bring it up in the room so it gets bigger, not necessarily louder.”

“I pictured it working with the kit on one side of the stereo field and the tambourine on the other. The drum kit would have three speakers; one for kick drum, plus left and right, to give it the physical size a kit would take up.

There were no subs in the room, but Lang did opt to use ported monitors for bass and kick drum.

“There was a small near-field monitor speaker for the lead vocal. We found a spot early on far enough away to not get too much roominess, and right in the centre of the spectrum. That speaker didn’t move. “Acoustic guitar, or anything else I wanted fairly upfront and central was fairly close and aimed down 45 degrees. “The bass was on the other side of the Blumlein pair. Because you’ve got a centre spot that’s at zero degrees and the other one at 180. “Seeing as we were reconstituting sounds anyway, rather than unhook my Roland 555 tape echo for slap back, I brought a small guitar amp and used a digital echo. We could get the time spot on and colour it as dark or as bright as we wanted. Being an open-back amplifier, when I wanted the echo to be slightly more diffuse I’d set the amplifier far away from the microphone and fire it sideways so it was coming out the front and back but not directly at the mics. “There were a couple of songs where we used the ABC’s EMT plate reverb, with the returns back out to a pair of speakers in the room as well.

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MIXING INTO THE MIC

At first, the team tried pre-balancing the tracks before sending them out into the room. But after a couple of songs they abandoned that method and just started each song flat and monitored through the mics. “If you’re going to be mixing it through those speakers, it may as well be the place you start,” said Manton. Lang: “For each song, we’d get the vocal to where we were getting enough level without overdriving the speaker and bring everything up to its relative level. If we started the other way round, with the instruments, invariably we were setting everything else too loud. Because it can kind of fool you. A lot of the time it wasn’t that loud in the room and it could sound quite raging. “While I’d be moving speakers around, Colin would be doing most of the compressing and EQ, and one of us would be scoping it out on a pair of headphones to see how it was imaging in a really dry, upfront way.” For Manton, mixing ‘through’ a mic was akin to mixing to a completely new medium. The way the ribbon mic reacted wasn’t exactly like tape, or bus compression, but it definitely had its own response characteristic unlike anything he’d heard before: “The transient, percussive instruments really benefited.”

The next song started and it felt like the instruments were cling wrapped across my face by comparison

Level differences were noticeable, said Manton, but the biggest changes to the mix were when sounds were moved to different speakers. “It was about everything finding its own place within the mix.” Overall, Manton thought the experience was hard to evaluate against a normal mix. “The process was so different,” he commented. “That you can’t help but react differently to it.” Lang is wary of over-egging the process too. It did achieve the sense of space he was after, and he’ll definitely do it again. Though next time he might try a big wooden hall, and maybe different microphones that would suit specific pieces. It’s a great example of persistence with an unheralded technique that may seem like too much work when you could just make a record without leaving your computer. Thankfully Lang isn’t living entirely in his head these days. Thanks to Tony ‘Jack The Bear’ Mantz from Deluxe Mastering for the tipoff.

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The most successful Australian record in the past year was a concept album by a 60-year old man, produced by a comparative novice with almost no budget or industry support. That album has just gone platinum, won an ARIA award, and provided a 45-year industry veteran with the biggest success of his career. Russell Morris’ Sharkmouth is a real Aussie battler yarn. Story & Photos: Michael Carpenter

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Russell Morris has outlasted generations of industry movers and shakers. His iconic hit from 1969, The Real Thing, is a significant part of the late ’60s Australian rock story, and was recently made a new exhibit at the National Film & Sound Archive’s Sounds of Australia. Morris enjoyed considerable commercial success through the early-mid ’70s. Since then, although hits have been scarce, he’s worked consistently and tirelessly as a live performer, releasing countless records that largely went unnoticed. That all changed recently with a bit of help from a petty criminal. In an A Day In The Life moment, Morris, while reading the paper, came across a photo of con man Thomas ‘Shark Jaws’ Archer taken in January 1921. It captivated the songwriter. “I love history,” explained Morris. “That’s all I watch on television and read about. I saw the photo in the paper. It was almost like it spoke to me, saying, ‘I lived. No one knows about me. Tell them that I lived.’ And I thought to myself, ‘I’m Australian. This is my roots. These are my blues’.”

sound like anything in particular. “While I’m making a record,” Cairns explained. “I don’t really listen to reference CDs. I’m more interested in getting a bunch of guys I know and trust in a room with good songs and seeing what happens.” The occasional imperfections work perfectly in the context of what the album is trying to say and be. Cairns: “There were times where a part would speed up, or lean forward in the groove. Or Russ would push a little sharp on a vocal. These were some of our favourite bits. In fact, when we’d go to fix them, it almost always sounded contrived. That was one of the other big rules for the album: If anything came across as contrived, I immediately deleted it.” This became such a big part of the story being told that even later in the process, when there were options to send the record to Nashville or LA for mixing, Morris and Cairns declined. Cairns: “They’d have put it all on the grid and fixed it all up. But that would have defeated the purpose of what we were trying to say.

We play blues like it’s pub rock… like it’s a pub fight. Americans can’t do that.

Almost instantly, the lyrics to the song Sharkmouth were written, and that became his direction. Morris would research the history of other Australian characters — from boxer Les Darcy, to gangster Joseph Lesley Taylor (‘Squizzy’) all the way to Phar Lap (‘Big Red’) — and phrases would start to appear from which he’d piece together poems.

Initially four songs were written and long-time touring band bassist, Mitch Cairns, who at that point was a relatively new producer/engineer with a modest studio setup, suggested they ‘put them down and see what happens.’ This low key starting point liberated them, allowing them to work without boundaries. Morris: “We had no sense of expectations, except our own.” PRIMITIVE SOUNDS

A historical Australian narrative presented in a contemporary blues idiom was a road rarely travelled. But from the start, Morris had a clear idea of how he wanted the record to sound. “I wanted it really basic,” said Morris. “Primitive… I’m writing songs about the 1920s.”

“I’m also a firm believer in commitment to sounds. The choice of player, instrument and microphone can really affect how the record takes shape, so it’s important to keep focus on the result and make decisions accordingly. I like to go through and delete stuff. I don’t need 300 takes of something. Mistakes can be fixed, but money can’t buy vibe!” The effect of these production guidelines is that the album has a life and a feel to it, that, when combined with the stories, presents a distinctly Australian record. Cairns said of Australian Blues: “It has a certain edge to it. The groove pushes forward a little bit. We play blues like it’s pub rock… like it’s a pub fight. Americans can’t do that.”

INDULGENCE IN MINIMALISM

The initial sessions for Sharkmouth took place at Cairns’ old space at Rooftop Studios (owned and run by Steve Morgan) and Little Red Jet Studios in Melbourne — a modest setup with an Amek BC2 console “and a tiny dead booth.” Cairns and Morris worked together on getting structures, feels and tempos outlined. Between them, they worked up guitar and vocal guides to a click in ProTools, ready for drummer Adrian Violi to play over. The guide tracks were hardly inspirational for Violi, which made the work he did even more admirable. With no demos to listen to ahead of time, Violi relied on instinct, Cairns’ direction, and a long discussion about the meaning of the songs and the mood being created by the narrative. He nailed the four tracks in the first or second take — an evening all up, with no comping. As Violi explained, “Knowing what the song was about was absolutely the most important thing. The structures were relatively simple, and what was being asked of me wasn’t that tough. But knowing what the song was saying meant I played the songs with meaning.”

Cairns concurred, “It's really only drums, bass and main guitar (often one guitar and a solo all in one pass). There’s no percussion, hardly any keyboards, minimal backing vocals, and a couple of Russ’s twopart harmonies we wanted right down in the mix. Super minimal.”

This narrative-driven approach was reinforced by Morris throughout the process: “For every part of this record, from the drums all the way through to the mastering, I made sure that the people involved knew what the song was about. In every case, they approached their part differently — as if they were being guided by the characters in the story.”

The album almost has a classic ’70s sound without being overly retro. Morris explained, “On my previous record, I was chasing the pied piper — I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. So this time, I was really committed to just doing what I liked.”

On a record as unadorned as this, every colour is critical. Arguably the most important colour on the record apart from Morris’ vocal were the guitars of Shannon Bourne. Once Morris heard his own rhythm guitar parts reinterpreted in Bourne’s hands, he instructed Cairns to delete the guides, to avoid them colouring Bourne’s own interpretations. Working from Morris’ ideas as the writer, and basing the songs around a single acoustic guitar

Sharkmouth is an honest sounding record that doesn’t

PRIMARY COLOURS

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(clockwise from top left) Producer Mitch Cairns is pretty happy with the results. Drummer Adrian Violi kicks back and shows off some other talents after smashing out yet another perfect take. And Dave Carr brought plenty of Aussie character to the mix. With a bit of help from his new HD Native rig and his new favourite McDSP plugs. Oh, and plenty of great outboard like his Space Echos and an AKG BX-20E spring reverb.

Mixing Sharkmouth Michael Carpenter: At the time of mixing the album, what was your setup? Dave Carr: When the guys first approached me I was still mixing with my good old ProTools 5 Mix rig with 24 outputs through my Soundtracs Megas. I’ve always been a late adopter with new tech and had a workflow that still delivered, so I saw no need to enter the endless upgrade cycle. I have a nice collection of analogue effects I’ve collected over 25 years and it was all patched into the desk: Three Roland Space Echos, a Master room reverb, an AKG BX20E spring reverb, a Roland RV-800 and a huge whacky assortment of analogue delays, including my favourite the Yamaha E1010. I mixed five songs on that rig as submissions to labels. Shortly after, I sat the Avid ‘Heat Listening Challenge’ and managed to score 100%. This had quite a profound effect on my neo-luddite brain. I immediately bought a PT9 HD Native rig and quickly rounded up plug-in versions of my favourite outboard gear. I settled on the McDSP Channel G as my bread and butter console replacement as well as McDSP’s CompressorBank, MC2000 and FilterBank. I can’t rave enough about McDSP plugs.  When the guys came back to me (with zero interest from labels to hand over a modest amount of cash) I started the record from scratch with my shiny new HD Native rig and haven’t looked back. You gotta love total recall! MC: What sort of directions were you given by Mitch and Russell in approaching the mixes? DC: Mitch was very clear about the sound they were chasing, a very organic sounding record that had elements of both the roaring ’20s dryness and ’60s quirks. There was to be minimal synthetic AT 34

additions (reverbs, pitch modulation) and nothing that stopped the listener from being drawn into the space. MC: There’s not a lot of tracks in each song, did this make you approach the mixes in any particular way? DC: Yes, it was important each element occupied its space for a good reason. I still have my Sennheiser HD414 headphones I purchased in 1979 (age 13) and use them when I’m making critical decisions about placement. With Sharkmouth I had to ensure I didn’t create fatigue by leaning too heavily on panning that put the mix off balance.  MC: The sounds feel very ‘fleshy’ and ‘tactile’, particularly the drums and Russell’s vocals. Can you talk us through your process to get such a great, physical sound? DC: Thanks! All of the performances on the record were a joy to work with and I felt a sense of duty to not screw up such great playing. I mix from the ‘standing in front’ perspective because I quite simply love the sound of a live drum kit, especially if it’s a classic kit setup with minimal deadening.  I like vocals to sound as natural as possible. I always approach refining the vocal sound last because I’ve already established what it has to get over the top of. I find if I listen at low levels I can identify the natural overtones and resonances in vocals I feel will draw energy away from presence in the mix. I normally give the trusty Waves Q10 a good work out removing any annoying tones between 2-5k, then the Massey De-Esser and finally into Channel G for compression and final EQ. If I need to pin the vocal more I’ll use the input saturation modelling in McDSP’s Analog Channel, which I

prefer over hard limiting. MC: The album has a beautiful ‘classic’ tone. Did you have any sonic templates in mind for how you wanted the album to feel tonally? DC: Since many of my favourite records were purchased as a teen during the ’70s, the pre digital era is part of my musical DNA. I wanted the record to feel close and personal. The last track on Cold Chisel’s Just How Many Times was always in the back of my mind. I made sure any artificial reverb had a classic tone to it. The vocal reverb chain was a setup I’ve used for years. I feed two Space Echos (301 and 501) and set them up in what I call an infinite figure-8 feedback loop. The more level I feed them the more delay cross regeneration is developed. These then feed either the Micmix Master Room analogue reverb or the AKG BX-20E and I print them to a track in ProTools. This method gives me a lot of control over the intensity of the reverb and means I can do a pass recording a reverb ‘performance’.   MC: How do you feel the end product sits, as a reflection of the production aesthetic you were given and the way you like to hear records? DC: It was a bit of a pinch myself gig for me. Russell has been a constant musical figure throughout my life and is an incredibly talented performer as well as brilliant songwriter. To be asked to work on such a great record and approach it in a way that was completely natural for me was the highlight of that year. I’m my own harshest critic and I dare say in three years I’ll listen to the record and pick my work to pieces but the clients were over the moon and it was a jolly successful release. What more can I ask for!


wherever possible, the team took their time to get the sounds and feel right. Morris says of Bourne’s guitar playing process, “Sometimes he nailed it straight away. Some of the songs he bent out of whack from where I saw them… some in a good way, some in a bad way… he’s such a genius at times.” Cairns: “If it’s going to be one acoustic guitar, it’s not only got to sound great, but it’s got to be the right guy, playing it with absolute conviction.” The acoustic guitars (made by Churchill Guitars in Ballarat) were usually recorded with a combination of a Neumann U87 and AKG C451, through the Amek, with minimal tracking compression through a UREI LA4A. It took a long time to get any electric guitars on the record, as Morris had been trying to avoid them. When they finally did appear, they were always unusual rustic old guitar/amp combinations, with a deliberate absence of Fenders and Gibsons. They were recorded with a combination of the U87 or FET47 and Beyer M88, through the LA4A. The cosy room at Rooftop painted Cairns into a corner with the drum sound, a suffocating lack of ambience he relished. Cairns: “I wanted to make it as dead as I could, and Adrian threw a lot more gaff on the heads and made them really dead. We tuned the snare down as low as we could too. Because the room was so small, we ended up with this fat, fleshy, lifeless, dry tone, that drives the songs perfectly. I like dry recordings, dead

drums and not a lot of toms.”

Cairns took care of the bass tracks himself. His chosen tools were generally a ’62 Fender Precision with flatwounds, mostly played with his thumb, through an Avalon U5 DI, into his trusty LA3A compressor, just grabbing 4-6dB of gain reduction. Cairns: “I wanted the bass parts to feel substantial and add weight to the drum tracks, but never draw attention to themselves.” Finally, there was Morris’ vocals, recorded through a Neumann FET47, through the Amek BC console with a little top end EQ, into the LA3A, grabbing 6-8dB on the loudest phrases. “Russell is such an amazing singer,” said Cairns. “But more than that, he just knew what he wanted. I thought most of what he sung was incredible, but he would subtly change approaches from take to take. And we were always aware of that moment when things sounded even the least bit contrived. It was really important to Russell that the vocal reflected the story, and that it never came across as Russell ‘putting on’ a voice and approach.” REVIVING THE ACT

After the first batch of four songs were completed (Black Dog, Les Darcy, Sharkmouth and Big Red) there was an extremely long pause. At this point, it was just recording a bunch of songs — it wasn’t considered an album project yet. More than 18 months later, Morris’ upcoming live show bookings looked a little slow, so he and Cairns decided they’d better finish the record.

Fortunately, the process of these initial sessions had ignited Morris’ imagination, and the remaining eight songs were mostly formed, with some notable co-writes, including Jim Keays, Gary Paige and Cairns himself. They approached these next sessions in a similar format, keeping the ensemble small and focused, including Cairns, Violi (who smashed his way through the remaining eight drum tracks in one evening) and Bourne. They acted quickly and instinctively, with simple recording processes and character in performances being preferred over artifice. Some of the guest artists featured on the record include Renee Geyer, Mark ‘Diesel’ Lizotte, Troy Cassar-Daley, Chris Wilson and James Black. Cairns explained the process: “We were very careful about asking too many guests. They had to have some sort of connection with Russell. We were aware they probably get asked to play on people’s records all the time, so we had to have a different angle. For example, rather than approaching Diesel to just play another cracking guitar solo, we asked him to play banjo and cello on Squizzy. It ended up really guiding the tone of the track.” The conscious lack of layering means that when guests appear they become real events in the story of the album. For instance, Renee Geyer’s vocal on The Drifter pops up halfway through the album and provides a change of tone that draws you further into the narrative. The guests’ parts were sometimes recorded by Cairns at his studio, and the rest of the time recorded by the guests in their own studios and sent in via the internet. As is the case with most recording projects, there’s always a track that has a difficult birth. On this record, it was The Bridge. After Morris struggled to complete the lyrics (co-written with Alan Howe), they also found it difficult to get chord progressions and melodies they were happy with. Frustrated by the way the track had evolved in the writing process, the instruction to drummer Violi was to “really lay into it and give it something”, while guitarist Bourne pulled out the baritone guitar, tuned down to low C, and came up with one of the most distinctive guitar tones on the whole album. On the back of this sonic rejuvenation, Morris, frustrated with how average the vocal was, came in right near the end of the album sessions and sang the vocal an octave higher, in an attempt to give the song some life. “I screamed it,” he said. “If you listen. It’s sung at the end of my range.” Where many may have ditched the track after the writing process, Morris had no choice: “We only had 12 songs — there was nothing in the tank. So we had to finish it!” THE FINISH LINE

By the time recording was finished, both Cairns and Morris were creatively fried. Cairns didn’t feel he was in a position to mix the project, so he called on David Carr of Rangemaster to reprise

the role he took after the initial four songs were recorded. Given an email brief with the full story on the character driven material, and the tonal concepts of keeping it ‘primitive’ and ‘classic’ were reinforced, Carr was left to his own devices, mixing a few songs at a time and then inviting Morris and Cairns to come in and critique the work and tweak the results. Cairns: “Some of them were right on the mark and some needed to be brought around to where we wanted them to be. There was only one (Mister Eternity) where he really missed it, and even then, once I’d explained what I wanted, he got it straight away.” Once the mixes were signed off, the final step was mastering. Aware of the fact the budget was almost non-existent for both mixing and mastering, Morris looked for a cheaper option just to get it done. But Cairns pushed to have the record completed by John Ruberto at Crystal Mastering. Cairns: “I told John, ‘It’ll never get played on the radio, so don’t fucking slam it.’ And he did a fantastic job. Which just goes to show, you don’t have to master for radio.”

PERSEVERANCE PAYS

Between and after the two sessions, Morris, who felt the first four completed songs were among the strongest of his career, had started shopping them around through his many industry contacts. The reaction was underwhelming. Morris: “We got rejected multiple times by people who I thought would understand what we were doing.” At the last minute, after the initial, selffunded pressing of 500 was completed to sell at gigs, Fanfare Records, who’d rejected the album, gave it another listen and decided to throw a little bit of money at it. The rest, as they say, is history. The album was released in 2012, and slowly, on the back of Morris and his band’s relentless touring, started to gather attention. “Radio DJs had been dismissing me for so long,” said Morris. “When they finally heard it and realised it was good, they got behind it.” Airplay on national stations, positive reviews and word of mouth fuelled interest in the record. After a few months, the album entered the ARIA charts at No. 80. (Morris: “We were over the moon at that. We never expected it to go any higher.”) The album continued to climb, eventually reaching No. 6. It has been in the charts now for almost a year, and has held the No. 1 position on the iTunes Blues charts for over 12 months. It also went on to win the 2013 ARIA for Best Blues & Roots Album. It seems like the perfect marriage of a talented, experienced artist who has continued to create after any real hope for commercial success had gone, and a young producer who believed not only in the artist, but also in the musicians he assembled for the project. As Cairns explained, “The hardest part was keeping an absolute focus. Russell had a focused vision right from the start — primitive and simple. Having that focus over

two years, and having to drive it into everyone… that’s what made the album.”

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The new EQ2 from The 500 series EQ2 is a no compromise one ® channel, 2 band equaliser with AIR BAND , Low Mid Frequency (LMF) bell boost from SUB to 1.4 kHz, and an INPUT ATTN to control down to –12.5 dB of attenuation

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REGULARS

PC AUDIO Audio PC connected to the Internet, but worried about its audio performance being degraded? Read On! Column: Martin Walker

For many years I kept my audio PC away from the Internet and all its dangers. Indeed, my previous computer ended up with a triple-booting Windows XP setup, so each time I switched it on I could choose from its General Purpose Internet-enabled partition running a virus checker, firewall and the rest, an entirely separate and very stripped-down Music partition, or a Review partition on which I installed software that might only be in place for a matter of days before being deleted. This arrangement worked well, since if I ever caught anything nasty via the Internet it never affected my audio software on its hidden Music partition, and the review install was a wonderful test bench for trying out loads of new software without any long-term worries. However, I found myself needing to be online more and more often, and began to miss the social and business advantages of being able to receive emails and Skype messages even when I was making music. So, on my latest PC I simply put everything into a single Windows installation that remains permanently connected to the Internet, the only tricky thing being to make sure my PC would remain safe while online, without having its performance degraded in any way. In an ideal world a malware utility would intercept incoming viruses, spyware, adware, scareware and any other malicious software while maintaining a miniscule footprint (i.e. consume very little RAM and very few CPU cycles at any time it is running). In practice, some are better than others in this respect — some besiege the user with pop-ups and nag them to download and run updates on a regular basis, and some may even on occasion grab sufficient system resources to produce audio clicks and pops during an otherwise perfect recording. The simplest solution for any Windows user is to use what comes with the operating system. I installed Microsoft Security Essentials along with Windows 7 18 months ago and haven’t experienced any virus-related problems since, and I know plenty of other musicians have done the same and not lived to regret their decision. MSE may not be the most thorough virus checker around, yet it should AT 38

prove perfectly adequate for a host of people (especially if you don’t visit dodgy web sites!), is completely free, unobtrusive, and has a minimal footprint that shouldn’t interfere with audio performance. If you’d feel happier with a slightly more thorough but still free malware utility, I would personally recommend Avast! Free Antivirus (www.avast.com/en-au/index), or BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition (www.bitdefender.com. au), both of which should perform their tasks with a minimum of fuss and interruptions. AviraFree Antivirus, while effective, does have a reputation for impacting performance a little more than some of its competitors, as does Kaspersky Anti-Virus, and AVG AntiVirus Free 2014 is somewhat too keen to advertise their more sophisticated paid products at every opportunity. For musicians who want the added security of a paid utility that offers global support in a host of different languages, I would recommend ESET NOD32 Antivirus (www. eset.com/au), as it also has the reputation of being particularly compact and lightweight on system resources. It’s simply not worth running the risk of doing without malware protection at any time, so whichever utility you decide to install, always leave its real-time protection option activated so that any incoming files from any source are automatically checked in the background as they arrive. After all, infections may also arrive from unexpected sources such as USB sticks and external audio/backup drives plugged in by friends, family or studio clients!

If you’ve got a good memory and organisational skills, you could rely on this real-time protection running in the background, disable the deeper ‘scheduled’ scans (normally found on the Settings page) altogether to avoid any possibility of audio clicks and pops occurring during vital recordings, but manually run the deeper virus checker scan once every few days when it’s most convenient. Or you could leave Scheduling enabled, but make sure it’s set to perform only a quick scan of the most important files, adjust the start time of this to when you’re highly unlikely to be making

music, and tick any available options that skip the scan if you nevertheless happen to be actively ‘using’ your PC at that time. It’s also wise to perform a more thorough deep scan once every couple of weeks across all of your internal hard drives (along with any USB sticks and external hard drives) to catch any infected files in more obscure locations. Sadly, no single virus checker will catch 100% of all virus activity (especially since new strains are being released on an almost daily basis), so whichever utility you choose, it’s wise to run another on-demand scanner occasionally to intercept any thugs that have broken through your outer defences yet remain undetected. It’s normally a bad idea to install two background virus checkers on the same PC, as they are likely to regard each other as a virus needing to be destroyed, with unpredictable results. However, a few are specifically designed to run on demand (without installation) alongside an existing checker to give you this extra layer of security. I can recommend Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware Free (www.malwarebytes.org) for this purpose, along with the wonderfully-named EEK (Emisoft Emergency Kit, from www.emsisoft. com), both free for personal use, and which on occasion have picked up a suspect file missed by my main virus checker. Some malware utilities, in addition to scanning for matches in their regularly-updated database of offenders, employ ‘heuristic’ techniques to flag as a threat any file that they deem to be acting suspiciously. Essentially they are making educated guesses, so you can’t always believe them. The safest approach if you’re not sure is to ‘quarantine’ the flagged file so it can’t do any damage, and then either check with its developer about false positives, or see if any of your audio applications subsequently complain that something is missing, whereupon you can return it to active duty. Finally, if one of your checker utilities does find something nasty in the woodshed, but can’t for some reason remove it unaided, pay a visit to www.malwareexperts.com or www.rescuemybrowser.com, as they may offer specific step-by-step instructions. Stay safe!


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REVIEW

RODE M5 MATCHED PAIR PENCIL CONDENSERS Rode’s M5 matched pairs are a no fuss intro to stereo miking: small enough to fit in your back pocket, and handy enough to want to keep them there.

NEED TO KNOW

Review: Mark Davie

PRICE M5 Matched Pair – $249 Stereo Bar – $50 CONTACT Rode Microphones: (02) 9648 5855 or sales@rodemic.com

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PROS You will use them Easy to wrangle So cheap

CONS Lacking a little low mid body While great, stereo bar is still an option

SUMMARY Rode’s M5 matched pair of condensers and stereo bar pairing are a great intro into stereo miking. The fixed cardioid condensers get into configuration without any stress so you’ll be using them whenever you have a chance.


Rode has long held that its robotised manufacturing and surface mounting techniques are allowing better, or at least the equal of, tolerances any white-glove, hand-reared gadgetry can adhere to. And its M5 matched pair of pencil condensers is Rode’s ‘proof-in-thepudding’. Making a matched pair is supposed to be a tough gig. Each mic that comes off the line is tested, its frequency response plotted and sensitivity measured, and then it goes into a holding pattern waiting to be married with the perfect X to its Y. Or custom modified to comply. Either way, this mating game is a costly exercise, in that it forces a time gap between getting it built and putting it in a container. It’s typically why matched pairs command a little premium over just buying two of the same model. Rode, on the other hand, is flinging M5s out the door only in matched pairs and at a crazy price. And it doesn’t appear Rode is simply relying on its tolerances to match them either. Every box of M5s comes with its own gold foil-embossed certificate to declare that specific pair of mics has been hand-selected with sensitivities closer than ±1dB of each other. You get a scrawly ballpoint pen signature authenticating its handpicked-ness. What you don’t get are two individually prepared frequency plots. Putting them up on a couple of stands, directly over each other. I recorded a few passes while I shuffled around the mics giving them the best of my vocal range and playing acoustic guitar. Flipping the phase with mono monitoring and matching levels allowed me to get decent cancellation. Most of what was left seemed to be room reflections and a little bit of high frequency content. Flipping the phase back and listening to the two mics panned hard left and right, the image stayed very centred, which was a good sign for a decent matched pair. There were slight deviations to the sides when I had a high ringing overtone in the guitar, but overall they seemed very well-matched across the frequency spectrum. SMALL STUFF ADDS UP

The M5s are permanently polarised, 1/2-inch condensers. They have a fixed cardioid pattern, with no interchangeable capsules. They’re also tiny at 10cm long, and featherweights in the hand. The lack of size is a big advantage when you’re trying to rig up a stereo configuration in a hurry. Together, they make up half the weight of a single large diaphragm condenser, so, even with a stereo bar on a normal mic stand you’re not going to battle a serious case of the droops. And unlike longer pencil condensers with shockmounts, you’re never going to run into problems trying to rig them up in ORTF configuration, which can be a right hassle sometimes. The clips are also nifty, with a spring-loaded tensioner you can spin out of the way without it changing the mic’s angle.

While the M5s don’t come with a stereo bar, you can pick one up from Rode which is as good a stereo bar as any. Its ABS plastic construction seems particularly durable, and it has distance markings of 10, 15 and 20cm between the pair, as well as an ORTF marking at 17cm. Referring, of course, to the distance between capsules, not clips. In the middle of the bar are two angle markings, 90° for XY stereo and 110° for ORTF. It also comes with two snap-on spacers, just the right height to get a perfect XY setup. And because they snap on, you can go from XY to ORTF without having to unscrew your mic clips from the bar — perfect. You can also grab a pivot adaptor from Rode to make the whole setup extra flexible, as well as deluxe fluffies if the included pop filters aren’t cutting it, and shockmounts too. A LITTLE BODY

The M5s are a no nonsense intro to stereo miking; a well-matched pair for next to nix. And without omni or figure-of-eight capsule options, its point-and-shoot level complexity with XY, ORTF or a spaced pair. Compared to their more sophisticated brethren, the NT5s, the M5s have slightly higher noise (though at 19dBA equivalent noise, not high for a pencil condenser), and slightly lower SPL handling. But again, 140dB maximum SPL is nothing to sniff at. Suffice it to say, you’re not going to run into any issues in the studio or out in the field in most scenarios. The quoted M5 frequency response graph is relatively flat up to 3kHz, with a broad 3dB bump centred around 8kHz. The M5s sounded good on most sources. They picked up the voice quite well and would make for a great field recording setup. Against tough competition, they didn’t have the body of the sE Rupert Neve RN17s we had in the office, but that’s a completely unfair comparison. Against more modest competition of an Oktava MK-012, they still lacked a little of that lower mid range, and felt a little artificial in the high end, but it was much more comparable. It was when

The perfect supplement to an existing mic collection that’s lacking a little width

switching between the sE mics and the M5s that you truly hear what you’re missing. It’s as if the sE balances out the transients better, allowing you to hear more of the detail, like hanging overtones in a guitar, without it getting masked by the downstrokes. Depending on how you’re miking your kit, they wouldn’t be my first choice as overheads. Again, a lack of lower mid range body wasn’t helping the snare sit in the balance of the kit, but the high frequency response represented cymbals well, so they would make for a great spaced pair of cymbal mics if you weren’t relying on them for the kit body. They’re definitely not just another pair of bright microphones though, and easily capture a range of sources well. I found that EQ-ing a bit of low-mids back in helped bring the body back to a lot of sources without it getting boxy. If you don’t have a matched pair of pencil condensers already, do yourself a favour and grab some of these. They’re the perfect supplement to an existing mic collection that’s lacking a little width. And you’ll want to pull them out of the cupboard at every opportunity, especially with the stereo bar, because they’re so simple to wrangle. Even without other capsule options, you can still attempt a wide variety of stereo positions.

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REVIEW

SHURE SE846 IN-EAR MONITORS High-end generics aren’t the poor cousin of custom moulds anymore, as Shure innovates in the smallest of spaces. Review: Mark Davie

Shure has been manufacturing generic in-ears for years. In fact, they were the first to come out with dual-driver generics, with a little help from JH Audio’s Jerry Harvey (when he still owned Ultimate Ears), and show they were serious about performance earbuds. Shure is one of the world’s biggest wireless monitoring manufacturers, which requires them to have some decent accessories in the box. And for a lot of people, these single and dualdriver generics do the job. They’re comfortable, provide good isolation, decent sound, and are cheap to replace. Also, if you decide to get a little fancy you can get Sensaphonics to whip you up a pair of add-on custom moulds for $150. The upside to having custom moulds is their ability to whip in and out of your ears without having to squish and roll foam inserts. But the main benefit is a consistent response. By getting the same locked-in fit every time, you get good solid bass response, which is crucial to the inear experience.

NEED TO KNOW

One of the other touted benefits has been superior isolation. But with its range of foam inserts, Shure claims a reduction in ambient noise by up to 37dB, yards better than its competitors, which typically quote under 30dB of reduction. Being a frequency dependent measurement, it’s impossible to compare, but the message is crystal clear and direct into your ear canals; foam inserts won’t let you down when it comes to sound isolation.

PRICE $1349 CONTACT Jands: (02) 9582 0909 or info@jands.com.au

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PROS Low pass filter makes for best-in-class sound Top-end custom filter choices Plenty of isolation

CROSSING UP

Lately, I’ve had my ears wrapped around a set of Shure’s latest high-end generic in-ear model, the SE846 — a three-way design, with four balanced armature drivers (two powering the low end). There’s been a lot of development in in-ears over the years. Balanced armature drivers that require no venting have become more common than dynamic drivers, and ergonomics have mostly been settled to an over-ear wireform cable design. So where to next? Well, Shure has found some wiggle room to innovate. Custom-moulded in-ears have one advantage over generics; more space for more drivers. While generics are usually limited to four drivers before the whole thing pulls like an awkwardly attached hoop earring, custom in-ears have been seen containing up to eight a side. In the end though, at best they’re still usually operating as a three-way design shooting out the same hole. Some other manufacturers have started to divide the high and mid frequencies from the low end, delivering them via different passageways as a means of creating better phase response. Still, more drivers won’t solve the biggest issue for in-ear designs — the crossover. With hardly any space to work in, the best manufacturers can hope for is a passive crossover using miniature capacitors and resistors. While sufficient for band limiting the higher frequencies and acting as a high pass for the high and mid drivers, you

CONS The pricey end of generics

would need much larger, more complicated circuitry to be able to low pass the LF driver output. With the SE846, Shure splits the response of its drivers across the 20-200Hz, 2002000Hz, and 2-20kHz regions. But getting the response of the low-end driver isn’t that clear cut. Typically, the low-end driver will reproduce much of the mid range into the bargain and muddy up the sound. Without the ability to add active circuitry, Shure had to resort to the most mechanical of filters. By welding 10 stainless steel plates together, Shure is able to carve out a four-inch long tunnel attached to the output of the low frequency driver. This essentially traps the shorter wavelengths of the unwanted mid-range frequencies and starts to rolloff the low end response above 75Hz, giving you plenty of bass and clear mid range. These are definitely the best generics I’ve heard. The low-pass filter gives a much better balance to the sound. While other in-ears can sound punchy, they lack low end by comparison. The effect of stacking mid-ranges from multiple drivers gives a compressed, lumpy character

SUMMARY With some miniature innovations, Shure acoustically filters the response of the drivers in its SE846 high-end generic in-ears. It really clears up the middle and gives a balanced sound worthy of the higher price tag.


Free & Easy

that can work fine for some sources but uncomfortably poke your eardrums on others. The SE846 delivers a much more consistent tonal response across the spectrum — more balanced and natural. FILTERING CHOICES

Shure didn’t stop there. After finding success with a mechanical low-end filter, attention turned to the top end. The SE846 allows you to customise the mid-range and high-end response with three interchangeable filters inserted into the nozzle. It’s a fairly painless process that uses a keyed tool to undo the metal retaining ring, releasing the nozzle. A quick changeover and you’re back in business. The added benefit is the nozzle — typically one of two points of failure (the other being the cable) — is replaceable. The filters are colour-coded: Blue provides the ‘balanced’ neutral setting, black is ‘warm’, which reduces between 1-8kHz by 2-2.5dB, and white is the ‘bright’ filter, which boosts the same range by an equal amount. Of course, a passive acoustic filter can’t actually boost, so the white filter is a straightthrough piece which gives the true frequency response of the ear piece. Also, the insert separates the mid and high frequencies from the low frequencies (which travel around the filter), resulting in better clarity. They are all potentially good choices, depending on your preference. None sounded bad, but I did find myself gravitating to the more pronounced ‘bright’ setting. I’d like to tell myself because it’s the most natural, straight-through response, but I think I just liked the extra brightness. FITTING IN

To ensure you get the right fit, Shure provides nine pairs of interchangeable sleeves: black tapered washable foam in three sizes with a double of the mediums, grey soft flex in three sizes, a pair of throwback yellow foamies and a set of triple flanges suited to really deep ear canals. For once, the standard black foam pieces were the best fit for me, and there wasn’t an ear I couldn’t find an appropriate sealer for. Indeed, it was the best isolated sound a drummer friend had ever experienced, without any chance of it flinging out mid-roll.

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Also in the neat hard case are two detachable, kevlar-reinforced cables (46- and 64-inch), an airline adaptor, cable clip, inline volume attenuator and a canister for your spare filters. Shure has managed to cram a lot of innovation into its highend generic, and the results are beautifully balanced. Definitely worth it for those unconcerned with custom moulds, who value great sound, or as a high-end backup pair for anyone worried about sitting on their moulds. AT 43


REVIEW

KORG TAKTILE

CONTROLLER KEYBOARD Review: Brad Watts

OK. It’s a documented fact I’m a self-confessed Korg junkie. But in all honesty, when an instrument company continually serves up superb sounds combined with innovative products and a truly visionary outlook toward electronic instrumentation of the future, why wouldn’t I be? While other companies are beavering away reinventing wheels and crayons, Korg offers an endless parade of diversity: modular kits for building synths, faithful remakes of classic analogue instruments, excellent iOS applications and brilliant mini-instruments for analogue audio upheaval. Revolutionary stuff indeed.

NEED TO KNOW

Joining the parade is Korg’s latest MIDI controller, dubbed ‘Taktile’ and for very good reason; there’s enough data entry methods on this controller to drive pretty much anything with a whiff of MIDI about it. Like most self-respecting control keyboards, the Taktile aims to cover all the main DAW platforms used throughout the planet, including, Cubase, Digital Performer, Logic Pro X and Garageband, Live, ProTools, and Sonar. Not bad coverage.

PRICE Taktile 25: expect to pay $319 Taktile 49: expect to pay $449 CONTACT CMI Music & Audio: (03) 9315 2244 or sales@cmi.com.au

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First and foremost, Taktile is a MIDI/virtual instrument controller offering 49 keys, pitch bend and mod wheels, a touchpad, ribbon controller and 16 velocity sensitive pads. It’s also available in a 25-note model which supports an identical feature-set apart from the lesser number of keys and eight, rather than 16 trigger pads. The playing action of the keys feels pretty good, with the semi-weighted keybed supporting velocity of course, but unfortunately not aftertouch. There are other manufacturers offering aftertouch in this price bracket so if this mod source is important to you I’d look elsewhere. Colour schemes follow the Hobson’s rule of choice; available in matte charcoal black on black and grey under-chassis. The only colour emanating from the upper surface is via backlighting in the trigger pads and buttons, and the OLED display. This is infinitesimally small at 128 x 64 dots, which will force the optically challenged to wear suitably prescribed eye wear; my only niggle thus far. Obviously OLED is gaining traction relatively slowly, and smaller seems to be the cost effective option at

PROS Wide variety of DAW control 16 trigger pads Trackpad

CONS No aftertouch Diminutive screen size.

this point in time. Nonetheless, OLED screens do look really cool. MIDI connection to the Taktile is either via USB, or if you require, via old-school MIDI ports — both in and out. However, bear in mind if you need Taktile to function in 5-pin MIDI plug world it’ll still need power, which is derived via the USB port alone. You’ll need to jimmy up a 550mA USB power adaptor to drive it — not difficult. To get back to the actual controller options, what I found particularly useful was the built in X/Y trackpad. This can function in three distinct modes: as an X/Y modulation source, ‘touchscale’ for triggering notes, or as a garden variety trackpad to control your DAW mouse pointer — very useful indeed. The Taktile is a fine choice in what is a ‘cheek by jowel’ market. The options presented with Taktile, including 16 trigger pads, 5-pin MIDI I/O, and the trackpad functionality may make this controller the one for you.

SUMMARY Korg’s Taktile controller keyboards cover all your garden variety DAWs, with plenty of control options, including an X/Y touch pad. Just don’t ask for aftertouch.


MEDIORNET

2.0 More info? INTEGRATE E78

To make a long story short ... Thus, Riedel with its decentralized real-time network Mediornet has developed a solution with exible topology and realtime routing function, which combines various transmission standards and can be perfectly used as an alternative to conventional video routers. The low installation depth makes the system ideal for use as a stagebox. Thanks to the integrated WAN transmission technology, remote MediorNet Systems can be connected in an easy and intelligent way. Due to the extremely high bandwidth, MediorNet has proven itself as an ideal backbone solution in many major projects. MediorNet 2.0www.riedel.net is Riedel’s next step www.riedel.net of this technological evolution. www.riedel.net

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REVIEW

SM Pro Audio 500 Series

Modules & JuiceRack8 SM Pro Audio has more than embraced the 500 series concept of flexibility, it’s taken it to heart. Review: Brad Watts

NEED TO KNOW

During the last decade the 500 series format has made quite a resurgence, with dozens of top-shelf and budget units available. The initial concept was birthed by API. The company’s mixing consoles were modular, allowing preamp, EQ, or dynamics modules to be swapped in and out according to the operator’s taste and needs. Over time, audio engineers expressed the desire to carry a few of their favourite 500 series modules between studios or for field use, and the 500 series ‘lunchbox’ was created, capable of housing four modules. While there’s nothing utterly earth shattering about the idea (no doubt API lifted the concept from vintage German modular designs such as those from TAB and Siemens), API’s pseudo standardisation of the system has allowed dozens of manufacturers to piggyback on the platform and release tools to readily slip into 500 series specification power racks.

PRICE JuiceRack8 500 Series Rack: $799 MBC 502 Compressor: $549 PEQ 505 EQ: $549 Tubebox Preamp: $449

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CONTACT Sound & Music: (03) 9555 8081 or sales@sound-music.com

PROS Bang for buck JuiceRack patching system and power is a big bonus Optical compression all round Great intro to 500 series format

Joining the 500 series fray is Australian manufacturer, SM Pro Audio. Quite the innovative development team, SM Pro offers a wealth of affordable audio products. Sitting on my test bench is the company’s eight-slot 500 series JuiceRack8 — a ‘smart’ rack power system capable of accepting eight 500 series modules. While the JuiceRack8 is, of course, capable of housing any 500 series module, the unit has come loaded with three modules made by SM Pro itself, and these I’ll get to shortly. I should note, the price of the JuiceRack8 is not that dissimilar to typical pricing for most eight-slot 500 series power racks; around $100 per slot is the going rate for units of this capacity (lesser numbered units such as four and two-slot units raise that figure to around $150 per slot). What does set the JuiceRack8 apart from other manufacturer’s offerings is the additional features.

CONS Terrawatt nuclearpowered backlight on the TubeBox

SUMMARY You won’t find much more packed into a 500 series slot than what SM Pro Audio has on offer. There’s an eight-slot 500 series rack with heaps of juice and flexible routing; a preamp with an optical compressor; an EQ with five bands; and an optical compressor with two.


Firstly, the 500 series spec calls for a minimum of 130mA for each slot. The JuiceRack8 provides 350mA per slot so you’re assured of supplying enough power to your modules — even those red herrings that require more power than the spec defines (and yes, there are a number that do require more). Build-wise the JuiceRack8 is very solid. It’s all plate steel construction and seems as sturdy and serviceable as any other power rack I’ve used. Secondly, and this is the very cool part of the JuiceRack8, is the digitally controlled audio matrix built into the unit. From the front panel you can choose to send the audio output of one module into another, split a single balanced input and send it to multiple modules simultaneously, or split a single unbalanced input and send it to multiple modules simultaneously. That’s quite impressive in 500 series land as you can set up some complex channel strip-style setups with your modules without requiring any repatching of cables. Plus, your setup is stored in memory and will survive power cycling. Very, very cool. The patching procedure can be a little cryptic, but once you run through it with the manual in hand you’ll get the hang of it. The rear of the JuiceRack8 features both balanced XLR I/O and unbalanced jack I/O for each module slot. Again, not all 500 series racks even offer a choice of connection for I/O, so, another handy inclusion. FEED THE BEAST

Of course it’d be remiss of SM Pro to release a rack without offering its own processing units, and the company has a number of devices ready to go. Supplied was the single slot TubeBox, a mic preamp and optical compressor, a dual slot PEQ505 parametric mono EQ, and a dual slot, multi-band compressor, predictably dubbed the MBC502. All units are finished with a red anodised aluminium face with knobs reminiscent of the Focusrite Red series. The knobbage is all tightly packed in and can get very fiddly, but this is true of pretty much all 500 series designs from any manufacturer as there’s not a great deal of ergonomic real estate available. The control pots are also oil-dampened so they feel pretty schmick. TubeBox Preamp

My initial tinker was with the TubeBox. This is a transformerless Class A mic pre design with a 12AX7 tube circuit and LME 49720 low distortion/low noise op amps. Input gain and output level controls are available, as are 48V power and a phase reversal switch. There’s a -20dB pad switch and low cut filter — all the necessities of a completely equipped mic preamp. One small caveat is you’ll need an adaptor cable to plug a mic straight into the front of the unit as this is a TRS jack input — hey, space is at a premium with 500 series units. The unit also features a well specified compressor with release, attack, and compression ratio controls which is quite a capable dynamics tool. Being an optical compressor it’s easy to pull an

LA2A-style squash from it. Interestingly, in the good ol’ USA style, switches activate in their upward positions. When the compression circuit is switched in the extremely brightly backlit (perhaps terrawatt and nuclear powered) VU meter swaps from representing input level to gain reduction. But overall, it’s a smooth-sounding preamp and quite a tidy compressor. Very nice. PEQ505 PARAMETRIC EQ

Next in line is the PEQ505 parametric equaliser. This unit takes up two slot spaces, no doubt so there’s enough front panel space to fit the controls. There are five bands of fully parametric EQ. Each band has its own bypass switch and there’s a global bypass. This is EQ I’d definitely

The JuiceRack8 with its patching system is sheer brilliance

put into the ‘Swiss Army knife’ category. The five bands all offer the same spectrum — from 100Hz through to 2kHz, with three-way multiplier switches for x10, x1 (i.e. what’s printed around the EQ control), and x0.1 for low end equalisation. Consequently you can create some huge overlaps between each band to basically eradicate a particular frequency, or you can set the bands up with more gentle curves for overall sweetening and closer to shelving-style EQ. The frequency bandwidth or ‘Q’ is adjustable from 0.03 through to two octaves. I’d actually just spent a week installing and using some API, SSL, JLM and Great River 500 series EQ units (all at least triple the price of the PEQ505) and while I can’t say the PEQ505 was as ‘sweet’ as these units, it does sound very good, keeping in mind the versatility it offers — there’s a bunch of EQ there for a minimal fiscal outlay. Harnessing the choices is a matter of studying other EQ devices and making appropriate adjustments to bandwidth. This will get you in the ballpark for setting up this EQ for countless equalisation duties, both broad and surgical.

a single 16-way notched pot. Master level is represented via a VU meter and gain reduction for each channel is shown via two five-segment LED meters. This is quite a fun unit. If you can imagine: two optical compressors with the ability to quickly alter the crossover point at which they each affect a signal, then screwing in the compression. Muting either compression circuit renders that channel as a filter only. It’s actually really fast and intuitive in use — a true ‘sound sculpting’ device, and again, very affordable. SQUEEZING MORE OUT OF JUICE

Personally I can’t fault these 500 series units. In a perfect world we could all afford SSL and Neve processing, but these prices combined with the manufacturing quality are an outstanding combination. Plus the JuiceRack8 with its patching system is sheer brilliance — there isn’t another power supply unit on the market offering such a feature; until you start looking at power supply units offering built-in mixers and summing amps, and at that point the costs rise considerably. However, the beauty of this format is you can swap out units as you desire. You could for example, accrue dozens of 500 series processors and preamps and swap them in and out of a power rack with very little downtime — it’s almost like a studio engineer’s guitar pedal board. The other attractive aspect is the easy upgrade path. Once your power rack is patched into your studio system, your upgrading options are left open to extract lessor favoured units and replace them with more upmarket or more suitable devices as deemed necessary — and all according to taste and budget. The other, perhaps more obvious advantage is you can fit a bunch of processing into an extremely small footprint. Eight processors in a 3RU space is efficient indeed, especially if your intention is to make your system transportable. I’d certainly recommend these as an ideal orientation to 500 series-ville.

MBC502 MULTI-BAND COMP

Thirdly, included in the JuiceRack8 was the MBC502 multi-band compressor. Again a two-slot design so the knobbage has plenty of room. The MBC502 is a dual band optical compressor utilising the same LME 49720 super low distortion op amps employed in the TubeBox preamp. This is quite an interesting compressor with separate attack, release, and compression ratios for the two bands which are defined via AT 47


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AudioTechnology App Issue 14  

Wagons Get Real with the Bad Seeds' Mick Harvey & Matt Linesch; Jeff Lang's Album in Surround, Just not How you Might Think; Russell Morris'...

AudioTechnology App Issue 14  

Wagons Get Real with the Bad Seeds' Mick Harvey & Matt Linesch; Jeff Lang's Album in Surround, Just not How you Might Think; Russell Morris'...