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THE SOUND OF SILENCE The RØDE NT-1 is the quietest microphone in the world. With an imperceptible 4.5dBA self-noise, the RØDE NT-1 is the blank canvas upon which you can create your masterpiece.

Make some noise.

RØDE NT1

1” Condenser Microphone Made in Australia AT 2

www.rode.com


Editor Mark Davie mark@audiotechnology.com.au Publisher Philip Spencer philip@alchemedia.com.au Editorial Director Christopher Holder chris@audiotechnology.com.au

Regular Contributors Martin Walker Paul Tingen Guy Harrison Greg Walker Greg Simmons Blair Joscelyne Mark Woods Chris Braun Robert Clark Andrew Bencina Ewan McDonald

Assistant Editor Preshan John preshan@alchemedia.com.au Art Direction Dominic Carey dominic@alchemedia.com.au Graphic Designer Daniel Howard daniel@alchemedia.com.au Advertising Philip Spencer philip@alchemedia.com.au Accounts Jaedd Asthana jaedd@alchemedia.com.au Subscriptions Miriam Mulcahy mim@alchemedia.com.au

info@alchemedia.com.au www.audiotechnology.com.au

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

All material in this magazine is copyright Š 2017 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. 27/06/2017.

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COVER STORY

ROLI’s Seaboard: A Whole New Dimension of Contro l

ISSUE 39 CONTENTS

Gettin’Twiggy Wid It: ’60s DIY with Foxygen’s Rado

18 16

Pro Tools Cloud Nine or Nein?

24 18

30 20

Bose DeltaQ ShowmatchTouringPA

Arturia Drumbrute Analogue Drum Machin e AT 6

44

40 26

Archie Roach Lets Lo ve Rule

48 30

ARP Odyssei App

DiGiGrid Desktop Interf aces

16 14

28 52 32


StudioLive 16

StudioLive 24 StudioLive 32

Up to 55x55 AVB interface • 32/24/16 recallable XMAX preamps • Touch-sensitive motorized faders • Top panel SD card slot • 7-inch color touch screen • Channel scribble strips • Input meter on every channel • RGB Select buttons with assignable colors • Fat Channel with 8 scribble strips, 8 encoders, 8 RGB buttons, intuitive nav between processors, customizable user layers, input meter, and full-size Gate and Compressor gain reduction meters • Ethernet control port • Ethercon Audio port • USB port • Bluetooth tape input • RCA tape I/O • Subgroup, Monitor, Main, Main summed, AES/EBU and headphone outputs • Save and recall channel preset options: Channel Type and name, input, Fat Channel A & B settings, bus assignments, Aux and FX levels/pans • 24 DCA assignments • 8 31-band GEQs • Way more, but we’re out of room

The new StudioLive Series III mixers from PreSonus are here in 16, 24, and 32-channel configurations. While varying in I/O and channel counts, these mixers share nearly identical tech and workflow. All include touch-sensitive, motorized faders, recallable channel presets, and a gorgeous 7-inch TFT touchscreen. All-new vintage-style compressors and effects reside on every channel. And with recallable XMAX preamps on every XLR input, you can rest assured that you’re giving the Series III the bestquality signals it can work with. Recording? Leave your laptop at home. Record complete multitrack sessions using the onboard SD card. Expanded connectivity supported by Series III include but are not limited to AVB, Ethernet, Ethercon, USB, and Bluetooth. For stage, studio, stateroom or stadium— There’s a StudioLive Series III right for your project. Visit presonus.com to learn more.

Multitrack Capture™ SD Card recording without a computer —leave the laptop at home.

Totally re-designed Fat Channel with State Space Modeling now has vintage EQs and compressors in an all-new UI.

100mm touch-sensitive motorized faders maintain that intuitive 1:1 fader-per-channel workflow that StudioLive is famous for. You can also switch to classic split console mode!

Includes new versions of Studio One® DAW, Capture™, QMix® UC, and UC 2.0 —all with groundbreaking integration.

Proudly distributed in Australia by

P: 03 8373 4817 www.linkaudio.com.au

©2017 PreSonus Audio Electronics, Inc. All Rights Reserved. PreSonus, StudioLive, QMix, and Capture are trademarks or registered trademarks of PreSonus Audio Electronics, Inc. Studio One is a registered trademark of PreSonus Software Limited.

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GENERAL NEWS

Genelec’s original 1032 studio monitor , 1032A, ceased production in 2013 when it was replace d with the 1032B. N ow the 1032C replaces its predecessor with the most notable addition being Smart Activ e Monitor (S AM) technology for a mor e ‘intelligent’ speak er system. The latest gener ation of Genelec ’s SAM-equipped models (1032 C included) boast features lik e delay alignment, video compensation delay, l evel calib ration, an d input sensing for automatic po wer saving and wak e up. Besides S AM’s arrival, the 1032C has a hi gher

The Aust ralian National Univ ersity has uppe d its appeal bec koning music arts students wit h the opening of its ne w $1m recording studio . The facility is in the shell of the School of Music’s former studio space, only no w it boast s a 48-channel N eve Genesys sitting centre stag e in the control room, an impressi ve microphone collection, and a sizeable tr acking room. Professo r Samantha Bennett, ANU Music Technolog y Convenor, played a major role in the re vamping of the studio space, including the push for AN U to install the Gene sys console. She remar ked,

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maximum SPL than the 1032B (114dB) and digital I/O has been added too. The monitor itself hasn’ t changed much. It’ s still a 10-inch, tw o-way, small footprint, near-field spea ker that fuses the soffitmountable classic styling of the iconic 1000 serie s with a host of n ew Genelec d evelopment. Onboard Class D amplification p owers both the woofer and one-inch metal dome tw eeter with an acti ve crossover splitting the signal. Studio Connections:

“The creativ e research and educational value i s huge. Recording opportunities will underpin al l of our majors especially in the deliv ery of ou r new underg raduate Composition for Film and Video Game Major .” Professor Kenneth Lampl, Head of ANU’ s School of Music, said, “This ne w recording studio pr ovides students a unique 21s t century musical e xperience by creating a vib rant intersection bet ween performance, composition , and technology, nurturing the values of creativity, excellence and entrepreneurship. ”


FOCSUR ITE GOES PRO WITH NEW BUSINESS Focsurite’s RedNet and Red ranges have experienced significant gr owth of late. In an effor t to formalise its offerings to the professional market, Focusrite has initiated a n ew division calle d Focusrite Commercial & Pro Audio. Rich Ne vens has been appointed Vice President of Worldwide Sales for the ne wly-formed business unit which consists of RedNet, Red inter faces, and the I SA range of products. N evens joins F ocusrite from A vid, where he held a number of positions for the last 12 years,

most recently Director of Str ategic Solutions, WW Audio Sales. N evens said, “ Focusrite has ta ken a clear leadership position in pro viding the mos t expansive line of great-sounding, Dante-enabled modular audio products, and I’m thrilled to lead a team focused on impr oving the workflow of the professional audio community with our po werful networked audio solutions .” Electric F actory:

ROLI S EABOARD BLOC K Roli has mashed both Blocks and Seaboar d products together to form… Seaboard Block. Featuring the same multidimensional polyphoni c expressiveness of the original Seaboard, Seaboard Block presents itself in a small package tha t adds another l evel of inter action to the Block s experience. Sporting a tw o-octave keywave that resembles a miniature Seaboard Rise, it’ s totall y modular and e xpandable for ultimate fl exibility. You can connect tw o or three Seaboard Block s

together to ma ke on long Rise-li ke playabl e surface, or you can mix and match Seaboard Bloc k with Lightpad Blocks to build y our own instrument . Seaboard Block comes with Equator Play er and Blocks Dashboard for desktop functionality an d DAW integration. You even get an additional six fre e sound-packs in the Noise app . CMI Music & Audio:

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LIVE NEWS

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Allen & Heath’ s new DX168 portable expander rack brings even more I/O for its dLi ve console r ange. The DX168 has 16 XLR mic inputs and eight XL R line outputs. It communicates with a dLi ve system via Cat5e cable allo wing audio t ransfer up to 96 k over a cable run of up to 100m betw een the dLi ve system and D X168 unit. In Redundant mode, dua l cable redundant connections can be made to dLi ve S Class hardware as well as non-redundant singl e cable connections to S Class and C Class systems. Cascade mode (available in u pcoming firmwar e

1.60) allo ws a maximum of six DX168 units to b e connected to any dLi ve S Class or C Class system for up to 96 remote inputs and 48 remote outputs. The DX168 comes in a robust stage b ox format, with hard- wearing rubber bumpers and a carry handle for direct placement on the stage floor . An optional r ackmount kit allo ws the unit to b e mounted in a standard 19-inch rack.

SSL’s new mid-scale L200 li ve console has a unique inverted T chassis design driv en by ergonomi c considerations. The sprung arm-mounted e xternal screen is k ept closer to the centre of the consol e and all essential controls are a short reach away . Arms can be mounted on either side of the consol e and can be specified as screen mounts or laptop/ utility t rays. 38 faders sit across the sur face as three sets of 12-channel f ader tiles, with a pair o f master faders. A cent ral multi-touch 17-inch screen lets you access all of the console’ s functions an d

combines quick control in the centr al fader tile for immediate hands-on hardware control. Onboar d effects are the same as you’ll find on SS L’s L300 and L500 consoles. The L200 lets you use up to 4 8 instances of effects processors at any one time. SSL also announced a V2.1 update to its Sigm a analogue summing mix er which introduces Eucon control and three ne w plug-ins .

Technical Audio Group :

Amber Technology :


Linear 3 is HK Audio’ s new series of activ e speakers designed to deliv er high definition sound fo r bands and DJs. The first members of the Linea r 3 family are the 12-inch L3 112 FA, the 15-inc h L3 115 FA, and the multi-purpose L3 112 X A which can function as both an FOH top bo x or an on-stage monito r. The mid/high units offer plent y of headroom thanks to their 1200 W Class D amps . Intelligent multi-band limiters keep the frequency spectrum at its o ptimum res ponse at every volume

level, and precision directivity aims the soun d straight for y our audience, not the walls. The Linea r subwoofers, including the b rand new 15-inch L Sub 1500 A and 18-inch L Sub 1800 A, are perfect pairings for the Linear 3 mid/high bo xes. The new subs are each equipped with a stereo input so th ey can be configured in half stacks, full stacks, 2.1 setups, and in mono sub clusters.

Waves Audio introduced three b rand new controllers called Icon that pro vide hands-o n control over the eMotion LV1 mixing system. Platform M giv es you nine touch-sensiti ve, motorised f aders. If you want more, add a Platfor m X which can function both standalone or as an expansion for Platform M. Platform D2 is an LC D display for both M and X. All controls on the sur face are mapped exclusively to the eMotion LV1 mixing

console, including control of inputs, outputs, plug ins, bus sends, and more. Platform M has e xtra illuminated buttons and a jog wheel. Both M and X feature select, solo, mute, and record buttons plu s rotary encoders abo ve each fader. The modular D 2 LCD bar gi ves extra channel pa rameter vi ewing options for more visual feedback while mixing .

CMI Music & Audio:

Sound & Music:

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SOFTWARE NEWS

ARTURIA UP DATES V COLLECTION Arturia has updated its famous suite of software instruments, bringing more speed, ease and fu n to the experience. V Collection 5.3 no w includes the Sound Store. Sound Store lets y ou acces s fresh preset sounds designed b y producers an d big-name artists, and add them to your collection . Arturia Software Centre (A SC) has been re vamped and is no w more streamlined and simplified . Installing and updating instruments is just a single-click oper ation. The individual br owser within each instrument has also been optimised t o

automatically detect the presence of any Arturi a controller or k eyboard and intelligently assign functions to preset navigation. Ext ra fields ha ve been added to the bro wser filter so you can hone i n on your target sound even quicker. Never heard of Arturia’s V Collection? Check out Audi oTechnology’ s review on our site. V Collection 5.3 is a free upgr ade for all owners of V Collection 5 . CMI Music & Audio:

SOUND FORGE FORGES AHEAD It’s official: Sound Forge lovers will be pleased to hear that Magix has committed to pro viding upgrades for the entire Sound Forge family of products. Currently under d evelopment b y engineering teams in the US and Germany, n ew upgrades have started sh owing up and will c over the entire r ange over the next 12 months. Sound Forge Pro Mac 3 gi ves you support for 64-bit float/192k and 32 channels of audio. Editing functionality is included, along with loudness metering, professional filters and processing, plus

the CD authoring capabilities Sound F orge is kn own for. iZotope plug-ins RX Elements and Ozone 7 Elements are included as well. A new 64-bit v ersion will arriv e on August 8th including impro ved DSP algorithms for nati ve audio effects, slice-oriente d edit mode, VST3 compatibility, and enhance d accessibility. And after four years without a n ew version, Sound F orge Pro 12 is e xpected to roll ou t at the end of 2017. Innovative Music:

IK MULTIMEDI A’S SOFTSYNTH POWERHOUSE IK Multimedia has a cutting-edge n ew virtual synt h called Syntronik for Mac and PC With 70,00 0 individual samples and 50 GB of quality sounds . Available in July, Syntronik boasts a br and new combination of advanced sampling techniques with a new hybrid sample and modelling synthesi s engine, an arsenal of high-quality modelled effects and inno vative instrument features for a n impressive collection of vintage synthesizers t o date. Syntronik includes 17 instruments available as a collection or se parately, with over 2000 preset

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sounds from 38 iconic multi-sampled vintage synthesizers. Its synthesis engine has a b rand new analogue modelled filter section built wit h the new Drift technology to accu rately reproduc e the behaviour of oscillators from real hardwar e synths. You’ll also find four-part la yers, splits an d arpeggiators. Syntronik sounds can be opened in SampleTank 3 to be used together with the gr owing library of sounds available from IK Multimedia . Sound & Music:


REVIEW

WESTONE AM20/AM30 PRO

Ambient In-Ear Monitors

Busisoft AV: (03) 9810 2900 or www.busisoft.com.au

Anyone who’s made the switch from wedges to in-ear monitors is familiar with the accompanying challenges — primarily, trading the ‘liveness’ of the open stage for a more isolated albeit cleaner in-ear feed. It takes getting used to, and for this reason folks often semi-commit by leaving one ear monitor in and the other dangling from their collar. Aside from looking daft, it’s a surefire path to hearing loss. Westone’s new AM Pro ambient IEMs attempt to solve this problem by allowing some stage sound to seep into your ear canals through the earpieces’ assembly. There are three models in the product family. The AM Pro 30 has a triple-driver design with a three-way passive crossover, the

Pro 20 has two drivers, and the Pro 10 has one. We got to test both the Pro 20 and Pro 30, and there’s a noticeable difference in sound quality between the two, predominantly in high end extension. The AM Pro 30s have more high-end detail and are very efficient. For all models, the construction feels solid, the cord is tough and the small waterproof orange ‘mini-Pelican’ carry case is a neat touch. Sonics aside, the big deal with the AM Pro products is their ‘ambience’. Naturally they do block out a lot of noise, so don’t expect it to feel like there’s nothing in your ears. The drop in SPL seems quite linear across the frequency spectrum, not as good as custom filtered in-ear plugs, but

better than squishy foam earplugs. They’re not going to help you hear a bandmate whisper a chord change, but it will plumb you into the vibe of your surroundings a little. You couldn’t, for instance, chuck a backing track in your ears and play drums along to it without tailoring the level of the track to a pretty low level. Even then, you’d probably want to feed some drums back into your ears to get the vibe pumping. IEM comfort is important, and the AM Pros feel good worn for long periods. Perhaps hearing the outside world has something to do with that too. You get a heap of rubber earpiece options, and as a general rule, the better the fit, the better the sound. AT 13


REVIEW

ARP ODYSSEi iPad App Review: Brad Watts

Price: $30.99 www.korg.com

When is an ARP Odyssey not an ARP Odyssey? It’s a reasonable question, as there’s now a number of ways to measure this conundrum. Before 2015 there was only one ARP Odyssey; the one originally built during the early 1970s — early days for a production run synth. As of 2015, Korg revived the ARP Odyssey as one of its exemplary mini-key recreations. It was, and remains the only way to own an ARP Odyssey without spending two months’ wages and a raft of repair costs. In fact, at the time of writing there are only a handful of ‘real’ ARP Odysseys available planet-wide, ranging from $3000 through to almost $8k. The revamped Korg version is the sensible choice, both fiscally and maintenance-wise. You can pick one up for less than a grand. However, there’s now a cheaper way to attain Odyssey goodness. Korg has shoehorned the ARP Odyssey into iOS form for a mere AU$30.99 — the ARP ODYSSEi. It’s the final Revision 3 (1978-’81) of the ARP Odyssey, with the earlier Rev 1 (1972-’75) and Rev 2 (1975-’78) available as in-app purchases for $7.99 a piece. Not bad for a total of $47 — lunch money compared with both Korg’s hardware version and an original. The technology behind the ODYSSEi is Korg’s well travelled CMT (Circuit Modelling Technology). The same smarts that drives Korg’s AT 14

brilliant Legacy collection — a set of plug-in instruments everyone should own. In short, the ODYSSEi sounds authentic, with stark differences when flipping between the three revisions. This is where we see the benefit of an iOS version. Patches can be saved, unlike Korg’s hardware model. The initial Rev 3 purchase ships with 100 presets, while both in-app purchased revisions come with 50 presets of their own. Edits can be stored as User patches. The ODYSSEi also includes polyphony past the original’s duophonic status, a set of effects encompassing chorus, flange, phase, delay, EQ and distortion,

along with a sequencer that can sequence both notes and a vast array of synth modulation destinations. All tricks neither the original ARP or Korg hardware model could pull off. You’ll need a relatively recent iPad or iPhone for ODYSSEi. iPad Air, iPad Mini 2, iPhone 5S and up, iPad Pro, etc... basically any iThing with 64-bit architecture. But think about this; a second-hand ODYSSEi will set you back less than half the price of Korg’s hardware ARP Odyssey, with way more versatility. If you can work within the iOS ecosystem, this is a brilliantly inexpensive and capable ARP Odyssey.


WHERE THE LEADERS AND PROFESSIONALS IN AUDIO CONVERGE

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INTEGRATE EXPO AT 15


FEATURE

Artist:The Lemon Twigs Album: Do Hollywood AT 16


The Lemon Twigs — aka the D’Addario brothers — teamed up with Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado to record their debut on tape in his garage. A healthy sibling rivalry has helped turn the teenagers into prodigious talents who wrote and recorded every part on the kaleidoscopic record themselves. Story: Paul Tingen Rado Studio Photos: Cara Robbins

It’s the perfect Hollywood script. Take two teenage kids from New York with an obsession for ’60s and ’70s music and fashion, and deck them out in all the tawdry trappings of the era-that-taste-forgot: mullets, Bay City Rollersstyle jumpers, bell-bottom trousers, and Pete Townshend-esque jumpsuits. In short, make the youngsters look like easy targets for ridicule and throw in a musician father who never made it big, but is their biggest influence. The duo’s plan is to record an album in a garage on funky, semiprofessional analogue equipment with an eccentric young producer who claims to only have an amateurish grasp of recording. Then flip the script and let them confound expectations by proving to be stunningly-good musicians, with the youngest channelling the spirit of Keith Moon. The album echoes acts like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Who, as well as vaudeville and Broadway musicals, and sounds so out there that on first hearing it, most don’t know whether to love it or laugh at it. Lastly, in against-all-odds fashion, the teenagers take the world by storm. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. That entire story-line has recently occurred in real life, the ‘reality stars’ being teenage brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario from Long Island who call themselves The Lemon Twigs. Brian, 19, plays drums, guitars, bass, keyboards, cello, violin, trumpet and whatnot, and his brother Michael, 17 — spectre of Keith Moon — also plays guitars, bass and keyboards. Both sing and write all the Lemon Twigs’ material. Behind the scenes is father Ronnie, a singersongwriter who had one song covered (though not released) by The Carpenters, and played guitar for Tommy Makem of The Clancy Brothers. The fourth character in this real-life script is Jonathan Rado (pronounce ‘raydo’) in whose LA studio the duo recorded. Rave reviews have accompanied the resulting album, called Do Hollywood, with accolades like “It’s fun, it’s weird, and like nothing you’ve ever really heard before”, “completely unconstrained by any idea of what’s appropriate”, and even “utterly bonkers.” The reviews add a grain of credibility to the hyperbolic blurb on 4AD’s website, which heralds The Lemon Twigs as being of “such singular originality that they change the very nature of their art.” Try living up to that as a teenager. LITTLE HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK

On the phone from London, where The Lemon Twigs were playing as part of a European tour, Brian D’Addario seemed unbothered by the hype. He was holed up for lunch in a Vietnamese

restaurant where he expanded on his and Michael’s background, and how it eventually resulted in Do Hollywood: “We started playing the instruments we’re actually good at because our parents had them lying around the house. My father got us started on the guitar and drums. He initially showed us simplified versions of guitar chords, so even when we were very young we could feel accomplished and make songs, despite our hands still being small. Then our father taught us the full versions of the chords and from there we learned by ourselves. I started taking classical guitar lessons at age 12, which introduced me to classical music and expanded my guitar-playing technique.” Adding to the D’Addario brothers’ creatively intense childhood were stints as child actors. Brian appeared in an episode each of Law & Order and CSI: NY, and several Broadway musicals like Les Misérables and The Little Mermaid, while Michael played substantial roles in the movies Sinister and People Like Us. However, music always came first. They founded a high school band called MOTP, aka Members of the Press, and went through phases of obsession with various musical genres and artists, including rap, My Chemical Romance, Nirvana and psychedelic rock. Their development was publicly documented by their dad on YouTube (username MisterRD) and his sons’ obsession with psychedelic rock resulted in an album — released in 2014 as a cassette run of just 100 copies — called What We Know. “That album was done in a 2007 version of GarageBand that we never updated because we were too lazy,” recalled Brian D‘Addario. “We were just trying to fit in with the psychedelic rock wave, which wasn’t very suited to our personalities and approach to songwriting. It’s not nearly as much who we are as the new record. I think classical guitar, musicals and ’60s-’70s pop music are the three main influences on our new album.” EACH TO HIS OWN

As if the brothers’ story isn’t unusual enough, it also turns out they wrote and demoed the album separately from each other, each playing almost all instruments on their own demos and the corresponding final versions. It’s one way to resolve, or perhaps prevent, sibling rivalry. In between bites of Vietnamese food, Brian gave us the lowdown: “Usually if I write a song, I’ll demo it and play all the instruments. I like to demo quickly, so I do it on an iPad with GarageBand. Michael also does his own demos, and uses a Tascam cassette Portastudio, because he likes to do it on tape. But for Do Hollywood we did a lot of demos on our father’s Tascam eight-track reel-to-reel to get in the

habit of recording on tape, because we knew we would be working with that at Rado’s. We also use a Mackie desk, which is meant for live stuff. At the time we didn’t really invest in our studio, because we knew we would only be recording demos there.” It’s hard to get a lot of technical detail out of the young D’Addario, who answered many gear questions with “I don’t know,” or “I’m blanking on the name.” So he offered his father’s e-mail address for help. According to Ronnie, the eight-track is a Tascam 80-8, which runs 1/2-inch tape at 15ips. The Mackie turned out to be a 16-channel 1604-VLZ Pro. The monitors at the D’Addario’s home studio are Yamaha HS7s. There’s also an old Alesis XT reverb, and a dbx 1066 compressor. In other words, a smattering of new gear and a bunch of stuff from the heyday of D’Addario senior. Brian and his brother contacted Rado because, “we love his band Foxygen, and his solo stuff as well. I like their production style and he writes good songs. He’s not trying to fit in with what’s happening today, he’s just trying to make music he thinks is good.”

The title of the demo said, New Brian Wilson song, and I wondered whether it was a Brian Wilson song I hadn’t yet heard. When he told me he had actually written it, it completely blew my mind

RADO ON THE RADAR

Originally from New York, multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Rado now lives in Los Angeles, where he broke through to cult fame with Foxygen, a duo with singer Sam France. The band’s psychedelic and avant garde-tinged music is strongly influenced by the 1960s and ’70s. The band’s third album, We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic was its most commercially and critically successful. Rado released a solo album in the same year called Law and Order. On the phone from New York, where Foxygen was playing a show, Rado recalled how and why The Lemon Twigs and he hooked up: “They sent me a tweet, something like, ‘Hey Rado, listen to our music!’ I did, and I thought they were really good. There were some influences from modern psychedelic bands like MGMT, but underneath that I felt their song writing was stellar, especially considering their age. I could tell there was extreme talent. We met up in New York and I met their dad, Ronnie. I found out they’re into The Beach Boys and The Beatles, which to me is very organic whereas the psychedelic music they were trying to play at the time was rather inorganic, with AT 17


Foxygen's Jonathan Rado (below) has a 'basic' tape-based studio called Dreamstar: "I have a Tascam MSR-16 16-track, an old Tascam 288 eight-track, and I recently got a Tascam 24-track. The Lemon Twigs record was done on the 16-track, which is a half-inch machine. I also have a 32-channel Yamaha desk, and a 16-channel Tascam M2516 mixer that we used for monitoring."

a lot of phaser and reverb effects. I was like: ‘You guys need to write 10 great, timeless pop songs, not worry about influences and make a really drysounding pop record.’ They were clearly capable of doing that. “A little later Brian sent me his demo of I Wanna Prove To You, and it blew me away. The title of the demo said, New Brian Wilson song, and I wondered whether it was a Brian Wilson song I hadn’t yet heard. When he told me he had actually written it, it completely blew my mind. After that I received a Lemon Twigs demo every week, with each being better than the previous one. We agreed on a series of 12 days in February 2015 for them to come to LA and record their album at my studio with me recording and producing.” Rado qualified his last statement by adding “quote-unquote” after the word “producing,” because, he explained, “They are genius musicians, by far the best musicians I have ever seen. Michael is the best drummer in the world and Brian is an incredible guitar player. They knew what they wanted in every little nook and cranny of their songs. They knew they wanted a little triangle here, a little bell there, or this or that synthesiser sound. They were very prepared. I had a little bit of input in some ideas and shaped the way everything was recorded and sounded. It was a really cathartic process for me, because until that point I hadn’t really produced that much.” SURF’S UP, LO-FI DOWN

Brian remembered the sessions at Rado’s being a blast: “We stayed at his house for a week and a half and recorded all hours of the day. We were rushing because we were there during a school holiday AT 18

and needed to get back before that ended. We had a limited amount of time and didn’t want to screw things up. It was the most fun I’ve ever had. Michael and I knew exactly what the arrangements were going to be, and because Rado was on the same page as us there were hardly any decisions he made that we couldn’t get behind, and vice versa. It was a great match; like having a third brother in the room.” Given D’Addario and Rado’s love of analogue and the 1960s and ’70s, and their general off-hand approach to recording technology, you’d imagine they were aiming for a lo-fi aesthetic. Apparently not the case, as both referenced the Beach Boys’ 1971 masterpiece Surf ’s Up. “We were talking a lot about the fidelity of the Surf ’s Up album,” recalled D’Addario, “because it has a very full sound, and the arrangements are very clean, even though things distort a bit sometimes. We didn’t want to make a lo-fi album. We aimed for it to sound as good as possible, and if that ended up sounding mid-fi because the equipment we were working with was semiprofessional, that was fine with us. We weren’t trying to channel a particular era, it was just allowing the record to be based on a wide array of sounds we all like.” “I was trying very hard to make a clean, drysounding record,” said Rado. “I was thinking of Surf ’s Up a lot, that was the sound I was trying to recreate. Tape hiss comes in and out of the Lemon Twigs album, and I like that. Everything is pretty clear. I’m never trying to make things intentionally lo-fi. I was trying to make a good-sounding record, just with the most basic gear in the world, because I did not have anything else at the time.”

It was a great match; like having a third brother in the room

SEMI-PRO DREAMS OF TAPE

So what exactly was the “semi-professional,” and “basic” equipment Rado recorded Do Hollywood on? “My studio, which is called Dream Star, is a converted garage in my house in LA,” explained the musician-producer. “My girlfriend’s dad helped me build it. We put up a dry wall and we soundproofed it. It’s pretty much a two-car garage with tons and tons of recording gear, so there isn’t really much room to move around. There’s an upright piano, a drum kit, tons of guitars and several keyboards, like a Wurlitzer, a Minimoog, an ARP Quartet, and a Roland Juno 60. “Dream Star is a tape recorder studio. I have a Tascam MSR-16 16-track, an old Tascam 288 eight-track, and I recently got a Tascam 24-track. The Lemon Twigs record was done on the 16-track, which is a half-inch machine. I also have a 32-channel Yamaha desk, and a 16-channel Tascam M2516 mixer that we used for monitoring. I love Tascam as a brand, because their stuff is so geared towards home studio recording. It’s meant for the average person to buy and be able to use straight away. It is very simple. I didn’t go to recording


school or anything, and have never worked in studios, so I taught myself everything, and they are very easy machines to learn on.” Rado’s strong preference for tape recorders is as much about the working process as the sound. “A tape recorder is so much easier to use than a computer. I don’t have Pro Tools, though I do have a laptop with Logic and an AD converter so I can digitise recordings if I need to. But I never keep my laptop open. I don’t ever use a computer while working in my studio, because for me not having a screen around is amazing. Not having any kind of modern technology, and being in an environment in which all equipment is from the ’80s or older, means that people don’t get distracted and don’t sit on their mobile phones as much. When I record in Pro Tools or Logic, it ends up sounding very clinical, very clean, and sterile. Whereas when you record on tape, and use it in a creative way, you can get an amazing sound. “I learnt to record on a four-track tape recorder, but that was limiting. Once you start bouncing a million times you get a muddy lo-fi sound. I used GarageBand for a while, when I couldn’t afford a tape machine. We made the first Foxygen album on that, and after that I got the 16-track tape machine. With the computer I can create hundreds of tracks, but I like the idea of recording many things on one track. When recording the Lemon Twigs album I’d have a vocal harmony, a shaker, a drum overdub, a synthesiser, and then some more harmonies all on the same track. The way those things punch in and out gives you an interesting sound. Another thing that’s great about it is the total lack of control. You can’t go back, there is no undo, which is great for the type of music I make.”

Strangely, the music that Rado makes, whether with Foxygen or solo, is rather kaleidoscopic in nature. While the sound indeed has an analogue quality, one imagines that the complicated, collage-like nature of his output actually would be far more suited to working on a DAW. But Rado disagreed: “When I work with Sam in Foxygen, we just love the unpredictability. If something doesn’t work in the way that we thought it would, all the better. We have learnt to embrace that type of thing. With the Twigs it’s the same. It was a really great experience working with them because they embraced all the unpredictability of tape, and they worked with it better than anyone. Often when I’m working with a band, we will hit a certain point with tape where we have filled up all the tracks and there is nowhere to go and they want to finish on the computer. That’s fine. I’m okay with doing that. But for an album to be made completely on tape is a really beautiful thing.” SIBLING RIVALRY

There’s another reason why the idea of recording and overdubbing Do Hollywood to tape stretches the imagination — the endless tempo changes. How did the D’Addarios record those without the benefit of tempo maps, variable clicks, or elastic audio? According to Rado, the explanation is old-school simple. “Brian is the best drummer on the planet!” he explained. “That’s how they did it. Also, the brothers have played with each other their entire lives and are totally synced, even when changing tempos. They just feel these changes and get through them together. I can’t stress this enough: they are the best musicians I know. We don’t use clicks with Foxygen either. I have never

liked using clicks. I only use them when I’m producing someone who wants to record more radio-friendly music. For me, the feeling you get of two people playing together is the best. Getting a natural take with a drummer and a guitar or bass or keyboard is important for my sound.” “We recorded everything live at Rado’s studio,” added Brian. “Michael cut almost all the drums because he’s tighter, with me on keyboards. It wasn’t too much of a challenge because we rehearsed a lot beforehand and those tempo-changes are so ingrained. Other than drums, whoever’s song it was, he would overdub most of the instruments on that song. The other person then sprinkled a few textures on top. There were some exceptions where we switched things up a bit more.” “Brian and Michael’s demos were very different,” Rado continued. “Brian’s demos were almost like you would hear them on the record. Michael’s demos were a lot looser and lo-fi. He had a lot more going on in his head than what was on the demo. They would cut the track in one take. Very occasionally we would punch in if there was a mistake. “We alternated between a Brian track one day and a Michael track the next, just like it is on the album. If we did a Brian song, Michael played drums on it and Brian layered the rest of the instruments and his lead vocals, then at the end they would sing harmonies together. For his own songs, Michael would play drums on his own without a click, and he’d overdub the other instruments and maybe Brian would have a guitar part or piano part to contribute. The only song that Brian played drums on was Frank.”

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The D'Addario brothers' home studio has a smattering of new gear and a bunch of stuff from their father's heyday including; a Tascam 80-8 eight-track, which runs 1/2-inch tape at 15ips, Mackie 16-channel 1604-VLZ Pro, Yamaha HS7 monitors, an old Alesis XT reverb, and a dbx 1066 compressor.

MIC DISPLACEMENT

SELF-MIXED DEBUT

Do Hollywood sounds remarkably clean and transparent. Despite having two larger mixing consoles, some of the tracks were pre-mixed on a small Allen & Heath ZED mixer. “I recorded the drums on two tracks with the kick and the overhead on one track, and the snare on the other track,” said Rado. “My basic setup was a Shure SM58 on the kick and an Akai dictation mic that came with a reel to reel on the snare. It has this really mid-range response, and I EQ-ed the hell out of it. “The overhead mics were two Michael Joly Neumann re-creations, using a Rode mic base. They were the main mics I used on the album, on vocals and so on. The kick and snare would go into the A&H mixer preamp and the overheads into the UA 610 mic pre, then through a UREI 1178 twochannel compressor, and into the tape machine. It was a very basic setup. My favourite drums sounds are kind of naive. I will just move a mic until it sounds kind of cool then leave it there. If someone accidentally bumps the mic and it moves it, that may sound cooler. “There is a lot of natural room sound on the album,” acknowledged Rado. “That was kind of an accident because I might have overcompressed things. At the time I may not have fully understood how to you use compression. There are many things on the album that work but are total amateur mistakes on my end. On These Words, you can hear Michael’s foot on the hi-hat more than the actual hi-hat. We were all pretty inexperienced. Reverb sounds would have come from a spring reverb in a Shure PA system and we had some Space Echoes and stuff. I also have an old modular synth from the 1960s that has a great spring reverb we used on vocals and the snare. Michael’s acoustic guitar and vocal on As Long As We’re Together was recorded live with two mics, without drums or click, and he overdubbed to that. I did a stereo mix off the Tascam board into GarageBand, which is the only mix by me that made it to the album.”

The Do Hollywood credits list Rado, and Brian and Ronnie D’Addario as mixers. According to Rado, he did rough mixes of all the songs, which the band used to shop around for a record deal. “Initially it was a difficult sell for them,” he recalled. “I remember a few labels passing on the project. They then continued mixing the album, which was fine by me. I’m not a mixer. It’s a very scientific type of process that I don’t particularly like doing. People can get very sensitive, and I don’t necessarily like to deal with people when emotions are running high. Recording albums is hilarious and fun because people are completely caught up in the moment, but when they get to a mixer and they listen to it and it sounds like shit, the mixer gets all the blame. I don’t mix for that reason, but I think my rough mixes were pretty good.” Back at the Vietnamese restaurant, Brian D’Addario picked up the rest of story. “After we completed the recordings at Rado’s, I overdubbed strings, trumpet and replaced the vocals on These Words and Frank because I had done some very bad vocal takes. By this stage the sessions were in Logic. I then mixed most of the album. I overdubbed the strings over and over, so it sounded like an orchestra. It took a lot of work! I’m not too good at those instruments, so it was a lot of repeating the same line endlessly. I was using an AKG choir mic, I don’t know what the model number is. It’s meant to capture sound from faraway, so I had to put it at a distance to make sure things didn’t sound too muffled.” Via email, Ronnie D’Addario added, “The mic was an AKG C1000. We had two different tape transfers done, because the first transfer wasn’t very good. On the song, How Lucky Am I, the piano and background vocals were better on one and the lead vocal was better on the other transfer. They asked me for help on that one, so I made a new digital master out of both and synced the two together. I mixed that song with Brian approving.” “What also happened,” continued D’Addario junior, “was that we had taken the recordings to a

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professional mixer, who made it sound different than what we wanted. After two weeks we told the label we couldn’t use what he did, and that I’d try to mix the album myself. The other mixes were very compressed and I was telling him to build dynamics back into these mixes. I had to be so hands-on that it made no sense to use an outside mixer. I mixed everything inside Logic, and it taught me a lot about how Logic works. When I didn’t know how to do something, I’d look it up on YouTube! “I only used Logic plug-ins while mixing, and sometimes many of them. The problem with the tape transfers was that the first one had a very low level, and the second one was a lot louder, but also had more hiss. We didn’t know whether the tape had been damaged or what. I hadn’t noticed this until I compared it to the rough mixes, which didn’t have hiss. So I had to use Logic’s noise reduction plug-ins to eliminate as much hiss as possible.” DIGITAL SAVES TAPE

Interestingly, for a band that wears its 1960s and ’70s influences on its sleeve and loves to record on tape, today’s technology saved the day. It hasn’t dented the D’Addarios faith in tape, who’ve since acquired a 24-track Otari tape machine they aim to use for their next album. Similarly, a new Foxygen album was recorded to tape at ElectroVox recording Studio in LA, with the Lemon Twigs as the backing band. “We kind of treated that studio as my garage, with really amazing gear, and not being afraid to go after sounds that are cool, rather than correct,” said Rado. Brian D’Addario, meanwhile, explained, “We’re going to produce the new Lemon Twigs album ourselves, because we want to build up our recording and production chops. Do Hollywood definitely has Rado’s stamp on it. I feel really happy we did it this way, because he taught us a lot, but we really want to have our own identity.” On the evidence of Do Hollywood and their dress sense, the last thing The Lemon Twigs have to worry about is carving out an identity. But then, in good Hollywood tradition, this story demands a sequel!


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FEATURE

LEADING WITH LOVE Archie Roach took his latest album slow to let the right collaborators fill the gaps, including a makeshift children’s choir. Story: Mark Davie

Artist: Archie Roach Album: Let Love Rule

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Archie Roach was warm but subdued when talking about his new album Let Love Rule. As a heralded activist not shy of engaging with tough lyrical content, like the domestic abuseconfronting ballad Walking Into Doors, out of he and producer Craig Pilkington, I’d expected Archie to take the lead. Instead, he deferred to Pilkington. I guess Archie’s stock in trade has always been a contemplative, soulful gravitas. He wouldn’t attribute it to having half his lung removed either — the result of a multi-year battle with cancer — because Roach doesn’t idealise his hardships, he exorcises them by telling their story. Mostly through song, but any means will do. Earlier this year he joined his doctor, Lou Irving, onstage at the World Indigenous Cancer Conference to discuss his recovery from lung cancer. It was part of a program designed to shed light on disparities of care for indigenous people around the globe. Even his personal battles aren’t kept personal if he can use them to help someone else. Like the rest of his life — whether it’s been his stolen childhood or the grief of losing his wife and soulmate, Ruby Hunter — Archie has learnt to work with this latest hand he’s been dealt. “My voice isn’t quite the same as it was when I was younger,” reminisced Archie, “so I’m exploring different parts of my voice and using it a little differently, but still conveying the same depth of meaning.” On Let Love Rule, Archie turns his attention to universal themes. Love; but a healing, not romantic love. One that leaves the specifics of pain at the door to answer a global exhortation to ‘forgive and forget’. Each song sounds like the urging of a man who knows that hanging onto the past will only eat you up. The album cover uses an image of Ai Weiwei’s recent Letgo Room installation at the National Gallery of Victoria. A cuboid room with

portraits of Australian human rights activists — accompanied by their own words — built into its walls and ceiling. Archie’s quote, ‘Let Love Rule’ is a phrase he’s been saying for years now, the album is another paragraph added to a statement that feels especially pertinent today. “Even though you can go back through the years I think it relates more to today,” said Archie. “What’s been happening in the world, how it affects us as a country and how we’ve become less inclusive. We travelled overseas recently and played in Monaco, but in order to get to Monaco, we had to land in Nice. It was recently after that tragedy happened in Nice on Bastille Day. It’s all got to do with things like that, songs like No More Bleeding… there’s got to be a better way.”

When someone walks in with a guitar and says I’ve written this song about domestic violence, I don’t know what any producer would say as their default, ‘Well, this is what we do for domestic violence songs!

SOUL IN THE BLOODSTREAM

Pilkington produced Archie’s previous album, Into the Bloodstream, which followed a gospel heading and looked to Solomon Burke’s phrasing as a source of inspiration. Archie wanted to continue that search into more soulful territory on Let Love Rule. Most of the record was recorded in Melbourne at Pilkington’s Audrey Studios. Now situated in Coburg, Archie has a long history with the studio as Ruby was one of the first artists to record at Audrey’s original North Richmond location back in 1999. The timeframe for the record was purposefully stretched out, a slow deliberate approach allowed the pair to accommodate all of Archie’s desired collaborators, including a makeshift children’s choir flown into Melbourne from around the country for a weekend workshop with soprano and composer, Deborah Cheetham. “The timeframe allowed us the ability to evaluate things and have a few goes at some songs,” Pilkington explained. Arrangements would naturally evolve from a

starting point of guitar and vocal. Then as the pair discussed the song’s intent in pre-production, potential collaborators would pop into Archie’s mind. “Whereas previously if you’re booked into a studio for two weeks, the people you planned to come in during that time are the people that play on it and that’s it,” said Pilkington. “Because of the intensity of the lyrics and vocals, we ended up stripping some arrangements back to let that really shine. Even when we were 90% there, Archie would have another go at a vocal if he thought he could do it better.” No More Bleeding went from a bombastic power production to relying on Archie’s voice with the children’s choir as backing. “We replaced the canons with the children!” laughed Pilkington. Archie’s voice, which he describes as “a bit more gravelly”, has always been the anchor of his songs. He’s been lucky enough to work with producers who understand that. Pilkington gave the example of David Bridie’s work on Walking Into Doors:

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“When someone walks in with a guitar and says I’ve written this song about domestic violence, I don’t know what any producer would say as their default, ‘Well, this is what we do for domestic violence songs!’ Bridie’s approach to the pianobased song, was to add this beautiful, powerful, mournful cello line that’s very dignified. In Archie’s productions, any power can’t be brutal, it has to have a strong dignity to it.” That consideration for Archie’s central role made arranging easy, but Pilkington occasionally found himself having to coax a bit more out of the musicians who were almost too respectful. “Steve Hadley, is an incredible bass player, he was AT 24

really aware not to get in the way or distract,” said Pilkington. “If anything, I’d be asking him to play just a little bit more. It’s the same with Bruce Haymes’ piano playing. He’s very respectful of what’s going on in the song and aware that everything we’re doing is in a supportive role.” LAYING IT DOWN

After the pre-production, the bulk of the main tracking was recorded live at Audrey Studios, with Pilkington playing guitar, Archie singing, Steve Hadley on bass, and Dave Folley on drums. “Wherever possible we were trying to get the interaction of the instrumentalists listening to

Archie,” said Pilkington. “I prefer to do it with a band,” agreed Archie. “It just feels better than layering it too much one over the other.” While tracking with the band, Archie used a handheld Neumann condenser, then Pilkington shifted him to a U47 FET through the Sebatron valve preamp for any re-tracking. Sometimes Bruce’s piano parts would be laid down live too, using Audrey’s 1980 Yamaha baby grand. Pilkington set up a pair of Beyerdynamic M160 ribbons, which “have a fantastic way of capturing the top end that’s not brittle or harsh,” and a Neumann U47 or KM86 set back off the piano to let the bottom end develop. The lightweight M160s also let Pilkington fiddle with their positioning over the hammers without fear of them drooping onto the strings. He changes the positioning to suit the voicings from song to song. “People have become so used to hearing fake or sampled pianos that have so much exaggerated top end. We’re really looking for the tone,” he said. “The thing about those sampled pianos is everything is perfect, but what you don’t hear is the harmonic interaction between a string that’s open and another note that’s being played. We really try to capture those harmonics in the midrange that create the unique aspect of what’s being played at the time.” As for the how much space to put between the condenser and piano, “it never works how you think it’s going to work in theory,” reckons Pilkington. “Because there are other instruments in a space, you might have to have one much drier than you would think for it to sound like it’s at a particular distance. It’s a matter of working out what your starting space is and placing things relative to that. On a few of those songs the piano was the starting space.”


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Recording the children's choir in the Melbourne Recital Centre's Salon. Craig Pilkington set it up with a spaced out series of directional mics picking up the different choir sections, then staggered two stages of room mics placed at different distances from the choir to capture the ambience. “Then it was a matter of keeping everyone else really quiet,” said Pilkington.

CHOIR MOVES

Dave Folley does a lot of work at Audrey, so he leaves his maple-shelled Premier drums permanently set up. Up close, Pilkington places Sennheiser 441s over the toms, Beyerdynamic M160s again as overheads, a mic in the hole for the kick beater, and a U47 in a blanket tunnel placed a metre away from the resonant head to catch the bottom end where it’s developed, rather than trying to boost it in the mix. “A lot of it comes down to the tuning,” said Pilkington. Audrey also has an elaborate system of pre-installed room mics to choose from. “We’ve got an old ’50s Reslo ribbon mic pointed away from the kick, and we’ve always got a couple of room mics attached to a boom on the ceiling. It’s more to save on floor real estate than anything else.” For the double bass, Pilkington would always use a Peluso valve mic, occasionally paired with a Shure SM57 down the bottom for its proximity effect. He would whack a padded down Mann M21 condenser on one guitar amp, and a 57 on the other. Audrey isn’t huge, but it comfortably handles a AT 26

band. Pilkington isn’t afraid of stretching out the space to bigger projects too. In the past, they’ve had a 15-string ensemble record in the live room, and a 20-person musical recently recorded their cast album there. “It’s good because it’s not an enormous space,” said Pilkington, “but the design is very adaptable and versatile with room for the sound to develop.” They did have to relocate to the Salon at the Melbourne Recital Centre in order to record the choir singing two of the album’s songs. “I had rehearsed there with an orchestra for a Gurrumul Yunipingu concert and it was such a beautiful room to play music in,” recalled Pilkington. “I knew we’d be able to use the room in the final product.” He set it up with a spaced out series of directional mics picking up the different choir sections, then staggered two stages of room mics placed at different distances from the choir to capture the ambience. “Then it was a matter of keeping everyone else really quiet,” said Pilkington. “Camera guy and record company, a couple of parents, but it seemed to work.”

The kids were only down for the weekend, and the venue hire wasn’t trivial. To minimise the risk, Deborah had rehearsed both songs with the choir but when everyone had arrived, “Archie came in and spoke about the ideology of the album and what he was representing in these songs lyrically,” explained Pilkington. “That really helped guide them.” The song No More Bleeding, which was stripped back from its power production, was fully re-recorded on the spot with the choir. Archie sang, Pilkington played guitar and Steve Hadley was on the double bass while the choir sang. Each of them had a sneaky click track in one ear so they could quickly check between playlists to make sure they had a full take. “Throughout the day there were a series of intense takes where everyone felt the energy,” said Pilkington. “They got a lot out of the day singing with Archie. Archie got a lot out of the day. Steve Hadley reckons it was the most spiritual experience he’s had recording music. It was high risk but high gain.” Love is like that. Risky, but rewarding.


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REVIEW

PRO TOOLS CLOUD NINE OR NEIN? Is collaborating in the cloud still a pie-in-the-sky pipe dream or ready for mainstream uptake? We put inter-office relations at risk to find out. Review: Mark Davie & Preshan John

I have no idea whether this is a good idea or not. Mark here. I’m attempting to write this review in realtime, with all the foibles and miscues reported as they happen. Preshan and I have been talking about doing this review of Pro Tools’ cloud collaboration features for a while now, but while Preshan has been eager to get started… I’ve been stalling. We’re about to get in bed together, creatively, and I’m nervous. Will it work out, will it be a steaming pile. I’m not looking for a long-term commitment at the moment — again, creatively speaking — so what if one of us likes the outcome and it’s unrequited by the other. Inter-office relations have never been at greater risk.

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At the moment, all is well. We’ve both sorted out our Pro Tools subscriptions so we can use the same version — he’s on the vanilla Pro Tools, and I’m on HD. The latest version happens to be 12.6, one whole version after the introduction of Cloud Collaboration, so it should be relatively stable by now. In a way, we’re approaching this review with the wrong intentions. We’re not coming at this to solve a pre-existing problem. We don’t need to collaborate, in the manner a vocalist might need to phone in a performance. Likewise, we don’t need to collaborate on a mix in progress. That said, we like to think we’re alighting upon this cloud adventure with a utopian outlook. That

by both having a dynamic link to each other via Avid’s umbilical cord, it will bring two dissimilar musicians together around a common purpose — one with a reverence for cleanly perfection, the other who revels in the flaws. Enough stalling, let’s get on with it. START YOUR ENGINES

To start on your first collaboration all you have to do is sign in to your Avid Master Account then create a Project (on the cloud), as opposed to a Session (a normal local version), from the Type drop-down menu. It shows you how many projects you have available, and how much of your storage quota is used up.


So far, 0/3 Projects and 0% of 500MB storage used. Ready and willing. When you first open the project, Avid’s cloud engine gets busy and automatically begins to upload the project, tempo, and any other bits your collaborator might need. You’ll see a new Cloud Collab panel next to your Edit Modes from which you can add collaborators and open the chat window. You have to make a fresh chat identity — which is distinct from your Avid Master Account details — and get your collaborators to do the same before your can link them into the Project. Preshan John: As if embarking on this selfexposing collaborative journey wasn’t perturbing enough, there were a couple of obstacles to hurdle. Once I’d signed up to the Avid Cloud collaboration chat room, Mark was playing a little hard-to-get. We eventually figured out that searching each other out via email addresses was the way to connect on the chat. Perhaps we were too eager to get started, and Avid hadn’t logged our freshly minted chat profiles yet. Anyway, Mark invited me into the Project he’d already started building. It was a fast moving relationship — kinda like, “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy. But here’s my session. Collaborate, maybe?” Once our chat line was established and I joined the project, I was watching Mark set it up in real time while on the phone. We’re both on decent NBN connections, so the information only took a little time to squeeze out the pipe at my end. It took a minute for the project to first download. If there’s a bit of track data, the Task Manager will show the download progress. CHECKS & BALANCES

Mark: It must be said, there are a few built-in limitations that make this less of a wholesale sharing of your session, and more selective. For one, tracks populate each collaborator’s session in the order they were downloaded not in the way the original Project was laid out. Preshan: I noticed this very early on, but it took me a while to realise. I simply thought Mark had a bonkers way of ordering his Project, with vocals at the bottom, Master fader three channels from the top and auxes scattered throughout with seemingly no rhyme or reason. It makes sense though, for collaborators who are only sharing bits of a Project. Mark: It seems Avid’s logic is that the collaboration features are designed with music creation in mind, not so much post production, because you can’t share Video, nor mix, edit groups or clip groups, or HD-only VCA tracks and HEAT settings. It can be used in that environment, but you’re not going to be winging around entire Projects, just components of them. Similarly, mix engineers will be able to collaborate with recording engineers and producers on a session, but that sort of collaboration will mostly be about updating the mixer with the latest track versions or new inclusions, not sharing the current status of a mix if it has any grouping or VCA data. The standard collaboration mode is to manually upload and download any changes you’ve made

The chat window lets you invite collaborators, keep up to date with Project changes and search by keyword.

to tracks. You do that by pressing the main up or down arrows in the task bar, or the up or down arrows on each track. Likewise, there’s a button to download All Shared tracks, and a little Share button on each track that looks like the share icon you’ll see on social networks. The selective Sharing system lets you keep trial arrangements close to your chest before uploading a finished part, but you also need to be proactive about sharing tracks if it’s not your default setting to Share All. There were a few times where a track didn’t show up on either one of our sessions because we never originally shared it. PROJECTED OUTCOMES

Mark: While Preshan already had a few halffinished projects we could have used as a starting point, it seemed like cheating and counter to the enterprising spirit of our pursuit. After a bit of digging, I found a live take of a ballad one of my old bands used to play. The sort of song we ended up cutting from our set because it gave people too much of a chance to ramp up the chit chat. I called up our singer, Sev, and ran the idea past him. After a few rain checks, we finally figured out a time to start putting the project together. We began by tracking the vocals and main acoustic guitar. I used a Shure SM7 on Sev’s voice, because it helps even out his top end while cutting down spill, and went with a Røde NTR ribbon on the acoustic guitar. I wanted a figure eight pattern to put the vocal in the null, and I’d tried another condenser, but it didn’t suit the mid-heavy guitar. It’s an older Maton dreadnought without much extension at either end. The ribbon helped catch some woody bottom end, leaving us free to dial in some sweeter top end if required. Sev was a bit rusty, but he did remarkably well, and after talking through the delivery of each take, he nailed it on the ninth. I comped in a couple of phrases from earlier takes, but we were primarily

looking to hold the entire thing together with the single pass. By then we were already at 50% of our total 500MB space and we had only printed two tracks. It wasn’t looking good for the Free plan. After that, we spent the next hour laying down doubles and harmonies as Sev was feeling it, building up the arrangement as we went. The remaining space went well before we were done and I still had the ‘autoupdate and download’ buttons selected so the OCD Task Manager was having a conniption because it wasn’t able to complete its task. It crashed at one stage, after I quit the Task Manager. It was mostly smooth sailing though, and thankfully Avid doesn’t cut you off from working on a project when you have insufficient cloud headroom. I could still work on it locally, then upload the changes once I purchased more space. When I checked my emails the next morning, Avid had sent me six emails warning me how dangerously close I was to my memory threshold. Annoyingly it had sent me double the number of emails it needed to; two at 50%, two at 75% and two at 90%. Now well over quota, I went back to check out what was going to set me back to upgrade to the next plan tier, and… hold on a minute. Avid just updated the Free plan to 1GB! Awesome. Onwards and upwards! The extra space really freed things up. Avid does some work in the background to keep your Cloud usage at a minimum. It uses WavPack lossless compression (data not audio compression) to zip files around, which can reduce file sizes by 70%. While the Project climbed to 500GB with only a few tracks and comps, it was quite light on storage requirements from then on, suggesting there’s a lot of data in the setup of a session. Towards the end, while my Project Cache — where the local versions of your Project are stored — was up to 2.5GB, my actual cloud storage was only 738MB. You can AT 29


Cloud Controls: Add a collaborator, start the chat, or click the exclamation point when lit orange to focus in on any track conflicts.

Big Arrows: Here are your projectwide Upload, Download and Download Shared Tracks buttons. Set them to Auto if you want to be kept up to date.

Share Button: Use this social-looking icon to share individual tracks, or keep them close to your chest.

Orange: A collaborator currently 'owns' this track. Request ownership to move forward.

Yellow: Means a conflict has occured between what exists in the cloud and the local changes you've made. Remember to take ownership of a track before making any changes.

Green: Means you've got a change that's ready to upload or download.

Blue: You own this track. Go forth and make changes.

specify where you want your Project Cache to be stored from the Operations tab of Preferences. Kindly, Avid doesn’t count Projects you’ve been invited to towards your own Cloud storage quota. Preshan: On my side, as the project grew, so did my local cache, but so far my Cloud usage is sitting static at 0%. Annoyingly, I wasn’t given the option to choose a folder before it began its downloads. I figured Pro Tools had to be saving all those files somewhere and I uncovered the destination only by manually searching for it in Finder. But as Mark said, you can set your Project cache location in Preferences. CLOUD DELIVERY

Mark: About a week later I finally got back to the track to record some guitar parts. I had one simple lead line I knew I wanted to play, but decided to try out some other parts in the couple of hours I had spare. In the end, I’d added and subtracted a host of guitar licks, ranging from some bluesy distant riffage to a pitched down tremolo outro part, all still in an embryonic idea stage. It was getting late and I had to ‘hand over’ AT 30

the session to Preshan the next day. Deadline anxiety was hitting, but then I realised that I didn’t have to ‘hand over’ anything. The whole idea of collaborating in the cloud was to leave a Project open to iteration. I could keep making changes even if Preshan had the session open. I get that it sounds totally obvious. Of course, I knew it was possible, but actually having that realisation while I was stressing about it was an ‘aha’ moment for me. The next day I handballed the session to Preshan, and the weirdness began. I tried not to lay any ground rules. But as soon as I told Preshan to go for it, he said, ‘Great, I’m thinking more guitars and some strings.’ ‘Ummm… sure… you know, it already has three guitars on it.’ Pfft, who ever said handing over creative control was hard? Preshan: Aware of Mark’s suspicion of my instinctual production decisions, I thought I’d try treating the song like he would. In other words, I’d do precisely the opposite of what feels normal. Besides, this ‘fake it ’til you make it’ approach might expand my musical horizons. That’s the point of collaboration, right?

I got stuck in, mirroring the song’s main guitar hook with a gnarly (and slightly annoying) synth. Mark and I both have Arturia’s V Collection 5 suite of instruments, so I used the Minimoog emulation knowing it’d show up correctly at his end. Next, I decided to replace Mark’s mangled bass sound comprised of a pitched-down guitar and an actual bass mashed together. Finally I added some sweetsounding strings on the choruses using samples from Kontakt’s Factory Library. It’s a strange feeling diving into another person’s work. From track colours to bus configuration, Pro Tools sessions are very personal affairs. And it’s hard to shake the feeling you’re trespassing on private property when you jump in and rummage through someone else’s carefully arranged track. Apparently Avid is aware of this and has taken appropriate measures to give control and ownership where it’s due. For example, if I wanted to make changes to Mark’s drum tracks (printed audio from Kontakt’s Abbey Road sample pack), I had to first request ownership of the track. There’s also a ‘Seize’ option, but I couldn’t bring myself to be that rude.


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Mark: During the day, I was surreptitiously downloading Preshan’s additions to check in on his progress. Here’s the basic rundown of how Cloud Collaboration works, and the checks and balances the system has in place to hopefully ensure you and your collaborators keep working on the most up-to-date session. Other than the upload and download icons, there’s a track ownership button that displays the name of who has current control of a track, and changes colour to suit. Blue means you’ve got control, orange means someone else has their fingers in the pie. It’s all very polite; you can ‘request’ ownership of a track, in which case a different colour outline will appear around your collaborator’s ownership button. However, if you feel like you’ve been a bit pushy, you can rescind that request. On the flip side, you can ‘reject’ a request for ownership by right clicking. Your collaborator’s colour outline will disappear, other than that, they’ll be none the wiser about your refusal to relinquish control. The ownership structure is an important one to adhere to when you’re collaborating. It doesn’t stop you working on a track, but the changes made by the collaborator who currently ‘owns’ that track are the changes that will be updated to the Project in the cloud. If you work on a track while someone else has ownership of it, that creates a conflict with the main cloud version, highlighted by yellow upload or download buttons. It doesn’t stop you uploading or downloading the latest changes, just be aware that you may be instantly overriding someone else’s work, or vice versa. Luckily, there’s also a broad level of undo which will revert a track you’re working on to the last uploaded state. Say you don’t like the progress you’ve made or the change you’ve just downloaded, you can simply right-click on a track’s Upload button and select Abandon Changes to revert back to the previous state. There’s all kinds of ways you can share or not share tracks, even excluding single tracks from the Upload All Changes command, while still being able to share that particular track’s changes manually. Also, a red arrow means you’re out of space and the changes you were trying to upload never made it. COLLABORATION BREAKDOWN

Mark: Collaborating requires a bit of knowledge about what plug-ins and virtual instruments your collaborators are running. While Preshan recently got Native Instruments’ Kontakt, he didn’t have the Abbey Road drum pack I’d used to play in a basic drum pattern. Avid has made an option to upload track changes as frozen tracks, which makes it really easy to ensure it plays back correctly. The same obviously goes for plug-ins, though it was easier when we nailed down a standard list to use, or kept it within the Avid family. The chat works well for communicating while collaborating. It’ pretty well-featured in that you can pin chats related to current Projects to the top of your list, invite new collaborators, change your online/offline status, hide transaction logs so you can just focus on the chat portion, and search by AT 32

OWN IT The ownership structure is an important one to adhere to when you’re collaborating. It doesn’t stop you working on a track, but the changes made by the collaborator who currently ‘owns’ that track are the changes that will be updated to the Project in the cloud. If you work on a track while someone else has ownership of it, that creates a conflict with the main cloud version, highlighted by yellow upload or download buttons. It doesn’t stop you uploading or downloading the latest changes, just be aware that you may be instantly overriding someone else’s work, or vice versa.

keywords like ‘guitar’ or ‘verse’ to find a thread. If you’ve already started a local Session and want to collaborate on it, it’s easy convert it into a cloud-based Project, or vice versa if you’re finished with a Project and want to free up space in your cloud account. You can also go ahead and delete your local cache of a particular Project by right-clicking on it on the dashboard. This will free up space on your local hard drive when you aren’t working on that Project. When you want to get back to it, the Project will automatically redownload from the cloud. At the moment, Avid only allows three collaborators (including the original owner) to be active on a project at any one time. That said, you can have unlimited collaborators join in the fun, as long as no more than three are working on a Project at a time. Saving and quitting always takes a little time at the end of a session as the latest version of the Project needs to be uploaded to the Cloud. While this can just happen with a single dialogue box in the background, I force quitted out of this process multiple times with no issues when I booted up the Project again. FINAL THOUGHTS

Mark: On my end, the whole collaborative process was really simple. Although I jumped into it without knowing what all the arrow colours stood for at first, it never actually presented a problem. Though having a better grasp on it definitely smoothed out the process. I’m really much more impressed than I thought I would be. Sometimes new features like this are riddled with gaps and missing features that seem obvious to the average user, but Avid seems to have really nutted this one out. Even from an efficiency standpoint — where Avid is competing with other Silicon Valley tech companies who spend billions of dollars and millions of man hours developing seamless communication — the Pro Tools cloud collaboration process happens relatively quickly. The only slight annoyance was the save and quit taking longer than usual, but again, forcing it to shut down never caused an issue if I was in a real rush. And if you have anything else to shut down on your studio, it’s not going to hold you back. Cloud collaboration isn’t new, Rocket-Power was around in the late ’90s, and Avid has already tried this with Pro Tools once before. But with

track freeze and offline bounce capabilities native in Pro Tools, combined with the speed of communicating over fibre, it’s a much more seamless experience. That’s the ticket really, if realtime collaboration was going to work, it had to operate as close as it could to ‘real time’. The concept definitely feels more ‘of it’s time’. While this collaboration was a forced one, there are other instances where I can see this being really powerful. I’m currently working on songs with a couple of friends in Ableton Live, partly because it’s a program we all have access to. We get together often to finish off tracks, at which point we’ll be constantly flitting between computers to help lay down or modify a part on each other’s session, or Collect & Save sessions to share with each other. While Link enables us to jam in real-time, it’s still a process to amalgamate the findings. Cloud collaboration in this scenario would be a godsend, even when working in the same room together. While I don’t think we’ll release this particular Project — I don’t think Preshan and I are a match made in Heaven, he’s far too good for me — it was an eye opener to actually use the tool and see its potential for future collaborations. Preshan: There were times when I felt like it’d be easier to just Dropbox Pro Tools sessions to each other rather than travail through the collaboration Project. In many respects, this would work out less complicated with the ‘ball is in your court’ method keeping session alterations clean. But what makes the Avid package special is the one thing the DropBox approach can’t give you — real-time collaboration. Like Mark said, with the kind of internet speeds we’re used to today, there’s no issue running a complex session in real-time over the cloud. I thought this worked particularly well with MIDI/ Instrument tracks where each collaborator had the same suite of VIs. Upping the free storage allowance from 500MB to 1GB proved plenty for us to complete a Project. And because Avid doesn’t impute storage amounts to a Project’s non-owner collaborator, that means I could’ve comfortably shared a second Project with Mark with my free 1GB quota. If you’re really digging it, the upgrade options aren’t pricey when you factor in that it’s not a dumb service — US$9.99/month for 30GB and US$24.99/month for 80GB. I’d expect these figures to grow too, considering Avid has already bumped the quotas.


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REGULARS

PC Audio Windows 10 may now update itself while you’re recording a session. Is this regime proving beneficial to the musician, or turning into a nightmare? Column: Martin Walker

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update (aka Version 1607) has been getting a mixed reception over the last few months after it rolled out automatically to users. New features included a smarter Cortana assistant, a redesigned Start Menu, more desktop Apps and Games to choose from in the Windows Store, more theme options, Microsoft’s Edge browser finally supports extensions like most others, and of course there were a host of other smaller updates, bugfixes and enhancements. Nevertheless, many musicians decided this update largely consisted of unwanted bells, whistles, and baubles, when what they really want is a trimmed down and utterly reliable machine for their working environment. Some users are still attempting to pick and choose their W10 updates, by setting their systems to a ‘metered connection’ or the Deferred upgrade option available to Pro, Enterprise and Education editions; they can decide when and if to install them. Notwithsdtanding such attempts, Version 1607 was a biggie. In fact, at around 3.5GB it was essentially an entirely new operating system that got installed over the top of the previous one. If you are truly determined to keep your Windows 10 PC running exactly as it is at the moment then all you can do nowadays is never connect it to the Internet. Of course doing this does risk missing vital security updates and risks nasty folk trashing your computer out of malice; which can happen by someone inadvertently plugging a virus-infected USB stick into your PC. So, the vast majority of people just have to accept Microsoft’s new update regime and hope for the best. The reason I’m discussing it in this column is that it is an ongoing scenario; Microsoft now typically releases a couple of updates every month. While many musicians seem to sail through these automatic updates (especially those with newer PCs), others have been experiencing a variety of issues, either during the installs or after them. Knowing that, it’s advisable to be aware of what can happen and how to resolve any issues.

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ON AUTOPILOT

Windows 10 generally waits until a suitably idle moment to suggest downloading and installing any required updates, but quite a few people have reported their computers crashing, followed by the automatic pilot downloading updates and re-booting. A few machines have reportedly locked into an endless reboot cycle. This process often seems to resolve itself in the end once all the required update files are finally in place, so if this ever happens to you I would just leave your PC to get on with it. However, if it still hasn’t reached completion after a few hours then you can try the portable freeware utility FixitWin for Windows 10 (www.thewindowsclub.com/fixwinfor-windows-10), which claims to resolve quite a few update issues. It’s also difficult to predict when updates may occur, one musician found his studio computer had updated itself while he was out of the room having a shower! Like a pet, it’ll eventually get in your business when you’re not looking. Several people have reported Windows 10 performing beautifully until the Anniversary update, after which their boot and start-up times have greatly increased. Other post-anniversary gremlins include previously operational audio programs being reported as ‘unavailable’, and media files becoming unplayable. Sometimes these faults are easily resolved by updating (or even just reinstalling) your audio interface or dongle drivers, so do pay regular visits to software and hardware developer web sites after W10 updates to get speedy resolutions. If you do ever find a hardware driver update causes you audio performance problems that haven’t yet been resolved by its manufacturer, Microsoft do at least explain how to prevent this driver getting reinstalled each time Windows subsequently attempts new updates (https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3073930). Another annoying aspect seems to involve unexpected trashing of various user preferences during an update. It can be resolved by changing them back, but this can be a frustrating experience,

especially if you took the time and trouble to carefully remove unwanted bells, whistles and in particular games, only to find that an update has restored each and every one of these undesirables, as well as changing carefully chosen preferences such as Power Management and Security settings. LEGACY CATCHUP

Legacy Windows users (those musicians who are still desperately hanging onto Windows 7 in particular, along with a lower number running 8.1) are no longer immune to the above problems, as they also now have a new ‘patching model’ to consider. From October 2016, their monthly updates now incorporate all their bug/security fixes into a single larger file similar to the approach used by Windows 10, combining any new fixes with all those from the previous month, so most users will get them all installed en masse. As I write this I have just let 230MB of Windows 7 updates be installed on one of my PCs instead of the slew of tiny updates I usually expect — thankfully with no issues. At least I can still (at least for the moment) decide when and if I install them. From February 2017 these monthly updates will be further expanded in scope to add even older fixes to the mix, the intention being to bring Windows 7/8 PCs completely up to date so that you no longer have dozens of smaller files to install across multiple reboots. Meanwhile, Windows 10 users can expect a ‘Creators Update’ to arrive in Spring 2017 with a focus on 3D content creation, including a new Paint 3D imaging tool with a touch and penfriendly user interface, and a 3D update to its Powerpoint app. Virtual Reality headsets will also become available from various Microsoft hardware partners at the same time. No doubt many people will find it hard to wait for these new features, although I suspect once again that musicians will simply prefer their PCs carry on running as reliably as they previously had. May all your updates remain bug-free!


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DYNACORD L & C SERIES FIR-DRIVE POWER AMPLIFIERS Best of Show at InfoComm 2017, the L Series and C Series Amplifiers highlight Dynacord's focus on best-in-class electronics. Four models for each series have been unveiled in a new industrial design with tour-grade features, protection circuitry and high-performance digital signal processing with easy-to-use remote control software. Packed with features usually found in more expensive amplifiers, the "Live" & "Contractor" amps ensure superior audio quality and reliability at a great price.

ELECTRO-VOICE PROSOUND, INSTALLATION, AND PORTABLE SPEAKERS Electro-Voice will feature four new loudspeaker families at Integrate 2017. These will include two new portable speaker families, once again offering unbeatable value-for-money feature sets and class-leading performance. A new prosound installation family will also be unveiled for mid-to-large applications. Additionally, the renowned EVID commercial speaker family will grow with the introduction of five new models that have won Best of Show at InfoComm 2017.

BOSCH DICENTIS CONFERENCE SYSTEMS & PAVIRO PA/VAC SYSTEM The new DICENTIS Conference System family features four models with increasing features as you move from the discussion device through to the multimedia device. The system is ideal for corporate boardrooms, local, state and federal governments. The PAVIRO PA/VES system offers a networkable public address system with call stations, programmable alarms and messages based on time or triggers, professional sound quality and ability to grow from 4 to 984 zones.

RTS ROAMEO CELLULAR DECT-BASED WIRELESS INTERCOM SYSTEM Best of Show at NAB 2017 and InfoComm 2017, ROAMEO provides a professional, easy-to-use and future-proof solution based on the license-free DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) standard with a protected frequency band. ROAMEO allows full integration into all existing wired digital RTS matrices. The ROAMEO wireless solution allows users to address either individuals or specified groups, seamlessly roaming across wide areas. AT 35


REGULARS

Apple Notes Touched by an Apple. Column: Brad Watts

Many pundits speculate Apple has again fallen into the rut of offering too many computer designs. On one hand Apple is heralding the demise of the traditional desktop and laptop, with the future touted as being tablet based. Yet on the other hand is continuing to pump resources into MacBook and iMac designs. All the while there are dozens of ‘two-in-one’ designs from the likes of Microsoft, Lenovo, Dell, HP, and Asus which integrate tablet and laptop functionality into a single unit. It’s befuddling why Apple hasn’t gone in this direction. Apple has the touchscreen capability from its iPhone and iPad technology, yet is apparently reluctant to integrate a touchscreen into a laptop. It feels a little like 20 years ago when Steve Jobs regained control of Apple, immediately setting about paring down the company’s cumbersome range of almost 50 Mac models. As of now, with the demise of Steve Jobs just over five years ago, Apple offers five iPad models, five iPhone iterations, four laptop options, a couple of iMacs, the Mac mini, a watch, and the built-to-spec Mac Pro that hasn’t seen an update in over three years. Is Apple a little bewildered with its own product lines, or will this gaggle of platforms eventually converge? There’s been ample consternation over the recent MacBook Pro release, and I read many were underwhelmed. I disagree. The 2016 MacBook Pro is very much a new platform, with features that show many signs of convergence as the company continues the evolution of its laptops. Unable to help myself, I took a few of hours out of a day to check out the 2016 MacBook Pro, and was seriously overwhelmed by gear-lust. My brain immediately began selling off what’s left of my analogue synth stash to support the purchase of a magnificent 15-inch MacBook Pro. It’s a sexy machine, and even more desirable in the flesh than via images and spec sheets. After the initial gadget-lust subsides, the first thing you notice is how slim and light the 2016 MacBook Pros are. The 15-inch model is a mere 15.5mm thick, and weighs 1.83kg, while the 13inch model is 14.9mm thick and a travel friendly 1.37kg. What’s interesting is that the 13-inch MacBook Pro is actually thinner than the 17mm AT 36

thick MacBook Air, and weighs a mere 20 grams more than the Air. The 13-inch MacBook Pro is also about 21mm tighter in width and 14.6mm shallower in depth. For $350 more than the upmarket Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro provides a much faster processor and better graphics capability in a smaller form-factor. The 15-inch MacBook Pro is a scant 15.5mm thick and around 35x24cm, still resoundingly portable. Graphics capabilities are impressive, with the 15-inch offering 2880 x 1800 native resolution, and 5120 x 2160 to an external Thunderbolt capable monitor — ample for 4K resolution. The 13-inch designs use onboard Intel Iris Graphics 540 or 550, and the 15-inch models can be configured to Radeon Pro 460 with 4GB of GDDR5 memory. Both the 13- and 15-inch sport Retina displays that are reportedly 500nits of brightness with 67% higher contrast. System RAM is also faster at 2133MHz, as opposed to last year’s 1866MHz — useful if you’re running the onboard Intel Iris graphics which use system RAM rather than dedicated DDR5 Radeon Pro RAM (2 or 4GB if you choose to configure). Processing speed remains pretty much where we were in 2015, with the i7 (standard in the 15-inch format and configurable in the 13-inch model). The top-shelf i7 is a 2.9GHz Skylake processor, Turbo Boosting to 3.8GHz. Skylake processors are much quicker at accessing the logicboard’s ports, so data travelling via USB, LAN, Wi-Fi, and Thunderbolt ports move about 40% quicker than last year’s Haswell CPUs. The manufacturing process also brings advantages with 14nm architecture (as opposed to the 22nm Haswell), resulting in a cooler running processor, less power draw, and consequently extra battery life — up to 10 hours according to Apple’s claims. Specs aside, the big news, and part of Apple’s converging singularity, is the Touch Bar. When I first read of the Touch Bar I was sceptical, putting it down to gimmickry. Once I saw it, all scepticism evaporated. It’s a very classy input device, exuding Apple sophistication from head to tail. Obviously Apple’s iThing tech has spawned the Touch Bar, but unlike iPhones and iPads, the Touch Bar has a slightly satin finish — it feels really good.

Intrinsically a screen, the Touch Bar displays controllers and commands dependent on which application is running. In the Finder you have the usual function keys assigned, such as volume, brightness and contrast. Boot iTunes and the Touch Bar offers transport controls, volume, scrolling through a song among others, and Photos gives you Touch Bar control of scrolling through your photo library. Plus of course, all the Touch Bar controls can be customised in much the same way as you’d customise buttons for a Finder window. What I found impressive was using the Touch Bar to scroll through project windows in applications such as GarageBand and Logic Pro. Having an overview at your fingertips in these apps is convenient. It feels intuitive, and quickly becomes second nature. So far, Apple has only shown off the smart controls integration for GarageBand, keeping mum on Logic Pro X developments thus far. Word is to expect more Touch Bar handles next year. At minimum, you’ll be able to quickly adjust plug-in parameters, but I’d expect to see channel level controls like levels and pan to be de rigueur across DAWs that support it. Equally impressive was the application of the Touch Bar as a security point. Like the fingerprint recognition on iPhones and iPads, the Touch Bar allows you to unlock your MacBook and confirm purchases reliant on your Apple ID with a finger press. You can even use it for accessing password protected sites — Brilliant! It is a step forward. After a scant couple of hours with the new Touch Bar enabled MacBook Pro I’d forgotten Apple’s stubborn reluctance to move into touchscreen territory. I realised the Touch Bar is an advancement — and doesn’t inflict horrid oily marks on your screen — something those working in graphics fields would appreciate. So, after spec’ing out my most desirable 15-inch model? Space Grey (we don’t get the rose gold option in Australia), 2.9GHz i7, 2TB PCIe SSD (I can’t live with less than a 2TB system drive these days), 4GB Radeon Pro 460 — $6649 Aussie. That’s a lot of analogue synths.


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REVIEW

ARTURIA DRUMBRUTE Drum Synthesizer True analogue drum synthesis inspired by the TR808… but that’s just the beginning.

NEED TO KNOW

Review: Christopher Holder

17 PURE ANALOG DRUM SOUNDS

64 PATTERNS WITH UP TO 64 STEPS

16 SONGS

All analog, all the time. Two flavors of kick drums, wide-ranging snare and clap settings, two hi-hats with separate tone and decay controls, and more. The DrumBrute offers a wider sound palette than any other analog drum machine on the market.

Easily create your own patterns by using the STEP and ACCENT buttons or play them in real-time from the pads. The looper lets you instantly modify your beat and create realtime pattern effects, making this the perfect performance drum machine.

Make your own song by chaining up to sixteen patterns.

PRICE Expect to pay $599 CONTACT CMI Music & Audio: (03) 9315 2244 or sales@cmi.com.au

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PROS True (and gutsy) analogue sound Price Individual outputs Fun filter over the mix

CONS Lack of digital patch memory will drive some crazy Not ‘808 enough’ for some

SUMMARY ‘Analogue’ doesn’t equal ‘better’ — history is littered with plenty of dodgy/weedy analogue synths — but Arturia has nailed it: a gutsy drum synthesizer inspired by the likes of the TR808 and 909 of the early ’80s. To truly appreciate the DrumBrute, get it out of the studio and get it in front of an audience. It’s a delightful performer, priced just right.


What is it about the Roland TR808 and TR909 drum machines of the early ’80s that have so entranced electronic music producers across generations? In my favourite DAW (Reason) I have a folder of 20-odd 808 kits — they were supplied as standard. There are some subtle variations in tone and emphasis, but if I’m honest… I have 20odd TR808 kits when one would do fine thanks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an 808/909 ‘denier’. I totally understand the fascination. Back in the mid ’90s when the secondhand market was white-hot and the real thing was financially out of reach (all I could afford was a TR707 — which was great for the DIN sync but its digital samples sounded lame in comparison), I saved up for the Roland R8 MkII drum machine which had some excellent sampled 808 and 909 sounds. Then I got my hands on a copy of Propellerhead’s ReBirth, which was almost like having the real thing. Subsequently, everyone got in on the act. If you can’t lay your hands on excellent 808 samples then you probably don’t have an internet connection. Arturia’s DrumBrute isn’t living or dying on an ability to slavishly recreate the TR808 experience. That sacred duty rightfully belongs to Roland. Saying that, it is most definitely scratching an 808 itch, and although it will contentedly sit in the studio alongside your other synths, its true value is as a performance instrument.

BOLT OUT OF THE BLUE Supercharge your desktop DAW system Ultra-low latency Lightning quick 10Gb/s Thunderbolt transfer rate 2 x great-sounding preamps Full metering Auto gain feature Pro-grade converters

ANALOGUE RUNNING

Arturia has identified that an analogue drum machine (and the DrumBrute is all-analogue) is no longer a niche item for dads who can afford the $2000+ price tag. A growing cohort of electronic music producers are after a performance synth that has guts and authenticity, but they don’t necessarily have their dad’s income. Here’s the DrumBrute’s second most compelling feature (after the all-analogue sound source): its price. For under a grand it was almost immediately worth a pre-order. Given the feature set, the more I got stuck into using the DrumBrute the more I shook my head in smiling disbelief… DrumBrute is great value.

SWING Swing can be global or per drum. This gives your music a feel and groove that will light up the dance floors.

RANDOMNESS Randomness can be applied to all instruments globally or to individual tracks. This ranges from adding small variations to change the feel, to huge variations generating crazy, random patterns for more experimental music.

Zoom TAC-2 Thunderbolt Interface

OUTPUT FILTER The Steiner-Parker filter on the output allows you to create interesting sweeps and do on-the-fly tricks like dropping out the bass and emphasizing the highs, ready to kick in the low end at a moment’s notice.

ZoomAustralia

dynamicmusic.com.au

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SYNC TO THE WORLD

HEADPHONE OUTPUTS

INDIVIDUAL OUTPUTS

DrumBrute can sync to external MIDI devices, vintage sequencers using DIN sync, modular synths with 1PPS clock and to a computer via USB. The DrumBrute is made to be the rhythm center of your production setup.

3.5mm and 1/4-inch outputs allow you direct connection with any kind of headphone.

You can listen to and mix all your drums via the MIX output or you can remove them from the mix by connecting to the individual outs. This allows for external processing of each sound.

CONNECTIVITY

POWER INPUT

With USB, MIDI, and our trademark clock & DIN sync I/O, you can connect to almost any device on the market today.

12V DC input powers the amazing sound of this drum machine. The strain-relief T-bar will prevent your DrumBrute’s power from accidentally disconnecting.

NO CLONE

The feature set is epic. As you can see from the photo there’s a generous selection of sounds (17 in all), each with tone shaping controls. In the spirit of the 808, some channels make you choose between sources, such as maracas and tambourine. Unlike the drum machines of yore there are two kick sounds — ostensibly one for thump and the other for sub. The subby kick will please 808-o-philes — the sound will set mastering engineers the task of not skipping the needle straight out of your vinyl pressing; and I’m sure herds of pachyderm were scattering on the Serengeti during some of AT’s tests. The sounds, in general, are all very successfully presented. Like I mentioned, if you’re searching for an 808 clone (no, there’s nothing that resembles an 808 cowbell), look elsewhere, this is a drum synth with its own story and it’s a joy to get to know its character and foibles. At times I was scratching my head as to whether a DrumBrute sound was more 909 than 808, and the truth is, I don’t care — if it sounds good then roll with it. PATTERN OF BEHAVIOUR

If you’ve ever used a step sequencer then creating a pattern is easy, and you will want to create patterns. You can even create indepth polyrhythms, with per-channel sequence lengths. Although the drum pads are fine to use, this isn’t an MPC-style workstation for those who like to drum live with their dancing digits. The performance aspects of the DrumBrute lie in the real-time manipulations, not in the silky, responsive feel of the pads. AT 40

MORE PLAYING, LESS PLANNING ‘More Playing, Less Planning’: I like this Arturia motto, it acknowledges the nature of the DrumBrute beast. It’s a thoroughbred performer. Don’t expect DAW-level programming predictability, but as you’re shaping tone, muting instruments, embracing randomness and tweaking your resonant filter, it’ll be the serendipitous stuffups and snafus that will at times frustrate but otherwise surprise and delight you and your audiences. This is a genuine analogue machine and it’s the quirks and never-repeated moments of unanticipated magic that will find their way into your heart.

Once you’ve created a pattern you can fine tune the sound using pattern effects — Swing and the aptly titled Randomness (either globally or perinstrument). The filter across the mix is a coolsounding glacé cherry for shaping your buildups and the like. Be aware: a pattern only saves the rhythm of your drum loop it doesn’t save the tone/volume settings of the instruments you’re employing within the pattern. Stepping out of a digital world into an analogue one, this is quite a shocking revelation! (The sound and volume of the instruments in your pattern are set to where the knobs are currently at!) More seriously, this does impact on how you play the DrumBrute. You’re constantly fiddling and fine tuning, muting and goosing the sounds. You may have nailed a perfect-sounding loop when you saved that pattern but chances are it’s sounding very different a day later when all the pots have been reset. If you’re an OCD producer who counts ppqn ticks in their spare time then this aspect may well drive you batty. If you love the ‘can’t wait to hear what happens next’ unpredictability of the DrumBrute

in all its analogue glory, then you’ll revel in it. CARDIE CARRYING FAN

The price really is the clincher. For sub-$700 I really have no right to expect the individual mix outputs; I probably shouldn’t expect such a broad range of sounds; while the effects and HPF/LPF are also a welcome bonus. (As an aside, the TR808 launched in 1980 with a starting price of US$1195, which itself was a much more thrifty option compared to the incumbent Linn Drum.) This is a gutsy performer that will always deserve a place in your sonic performance arsenal. Long after the circus has left town and the latest genre craze is over, DrumBrute will reliably be knocking out solid electronic beats. In fact, come the day you’re a cardie-wearing dad (lady readers notwithstanding), long after all your plug-ins are distant binary blips in the memory of a computer you dropped off in the e-waste bin at Officeworks, you’ll still have a powerful performance instrument as cool as the day it was released. I think I’ve just talked myself into one.


PROFESSIONAL

ShowMatch™ DeltaQ™ loudspeakers provide better coverage for outstanding vocal clarity. With DeltaQ technology, new ShowMatch array loudspeakers more ©2017 Bose Corporation.

precisely direct sound to the audience in both installed and portable applications. Each array module offers field-changeable waveguides that can vary coverage and even create asymmetrical patterns. The result is unmatched sound quality and vocal clarity for every seat in the house. Learn more at SHOWMATCH.BOSE.COM

NEXT-GENERATION ARRAY TECHNOLOGY

AT 41


REVIEW

ROLI SEABOARD RISE & GRAND Multidimensional Controllers Riding the new keywave takes a bit more practise than you might expect, but it’s worth it.

NEED TO KNOW

Review: Preshan John

PRICE Seaboard Rise 25: $1199 Seaboard Rise 49: $1999 Seaboard Grand Stage: $4999 CONTACT CMI Music & Audio: (03) 9315 2244 or www.cmi.com.au

AT 42

PROS Enhanced creative expression at your fingertips Solidly built Works well with third-party VIs Use it wirelessly

CONS Expensive Grand’s onboard DSP is limited

SUMMARY Roli's Seaboard would have to be the most original product we’ve seen in a while. It offers creative expression in ways that’ll make you rethink (and relearn) your playing from the ground up. Sure to energise your music production process, especially if you feel like you’re in a creative rut.


It’s not often our industry births something that’s genuinely new. Most ‘new’ gear is often just a reworked rendition of an old idea; iteration over innovation. Alternatively designs harken back to something familiar. Sure, traces of piano DNA are obviously interwoven into Roli’s Seaboard. Nevertheless, any vestiges of its ancestry have been so heavily mutated that the descendant bears little resemblance to, and feels unlike, anything we’ve seen before. Maybe that’s why this ‘keyboard controller’ has caused such a ruckus. Product reviews typically have an element of ‘compare and contrast’ woven into them. Finding a similar product as a touchstone for the Roli Seaboard was tough. It’s truly one-of-a-kind. The Seaboard could be the beginning of a whole new paradigm of music creation. Good music producers are all about expression. They’ll use any means to inject life and dynamics into a performance in order to make virtual instruments sound less like robots and more human. The Seaboard’s grand idea is that it offers all those dimensions of expression right under your fingertips. When you press a key on a typical keyboard controller, you have three dimensions to ‘play’ with; static pitch information, velocity and aftertouch control (if you’re lucky, polyphonic aftertouch). You either have to thumb a mod wheel to add vibrato, or jockey a pitch wheel to bend the note up or down. The Seaboard has those things licked. Want vibrato? Just wiggle your finger on the ‘key’ like a violinist on a fretted string. Want to pitch up or down? Simply slide your finger over to the next note. Need to control a filter effect? Merely slide your finger up and down the key. It’s a radically new way of interacting with digital instruments. RIDING THE WAVE

I’ll be honest, I’ve been waiting to get my fingers on a Seaboard ever since it appeared on Kickstarter. The demos all looked incredibly promising — riffing off against a real guitar, a full band track played on one instrument — and as a keyboard player, I was drawn to the idea of an instrument that looked so natural to play. Still, nothing quite prepares you for that first touch. The rubbery surface is squishy, yet firm. Smooth enough to slide around on, but holds its shape to give enough distinction between notes. The Seaboard’s playing surface is dubbed a keywave,

not a keyboard, because adjacent ‘waves’ can be flowed into each other by simply sliding down one side and up the next. It makes you completely rethink your playing style. I quickly found my piano knowledge was of limited benefit with the Seaboard. Sure, you know where to find an A or F#, but in reality this is a completely new instrument that requires an entirely new muscle memory. Forget about the jump from a grand piano to an unweighted synth, this is like going from a mouse to a touchpad. You can navigate to all the same places, but pinches, swipes and three-finger presses can condense multiple commands into one. The most tedious challenge when learning how to play the Seaboard was the difficulty of consistently hitting keys in the right spot, especially when playing chords or runs. Unlike a normal keyboard, sharp or flat notes are extended down on the keywave to occupy the recessed space between the ‘white’ C-scale notes. That means the ‘white’ notes don’t butt up against each other, and if you’re not hitting a key squarely in the centre, you’re likely triggering a semitone up or down — or even worse, somewhere in between. Not nice. Trying to knock out a classical piece your first time on the Seaboard will almost definitely result in frustration and some very iffy accidentals (not the sharp or flat kind). However, after putting in the hours my fingers became accustomed to the slimmer notes and those dodgy mis-hits showed up less and less. Similar to when multi-touch smartphones first appeared, you’ll need to learn some new gestures to get the most out of the Seaboard. Say I want to pitch bend a note up a fifth from F to C. Ideally this should be a smooth slide. Thumbing the F, you’d drag it down to the flat section of the keywave, slide your finger across and ‘relay’ the note to your index finger on the C key. But nailing even this simple move is trickier than it seems. If you hit the C too early or too late, it’ll trigger as a separate note. Or if you just slide your finger over the keywaves you’ll misfire a bunch of in-between notes on the way up. So it needs to be said: the Roli Seaboard will not immediately replace your conventional MIDI keyboard controller. If you practise long and hard you’ll manage to feel as at-home on the Seaboard as you would on a familiar keyboard. Just don’t expect it to happen in a hurry. It’s quite literally like learning a new instrument, providing scope for each person to develop their own Seaboard style.

WHAT ELSE IS THERE? At the time of writing this review, Keith McMillen Instruments’ K-Board Pro 4 (funding on Kickstarter) is probably the closest thing the Seaboard has for a direct competitor. The K-Board Pro 4 has individual keys (not a continuous surface), but transmits MPE MIDI data with expressive control across many Seaboard-like gestures.

SEABOARD’S GRAND RISE

The Roli Seaboard comes in two forms — the Seaboard Rise (available in 25- or 49-key models) and Seaboard Grand (available in 37-, 61- or 88-key models). Both types arrive in a rigid black styrofoam case for easy transport. From the packaging to the design, the units appear very Apple-inspired. They’re much heavier than I expected, extremely slim, and immaculately put together. Interestingly, the keywave on the Grand feels softer than the Rise, and it doesn’t have the white stripes on the black notes, or the plateaued tops. The smaller Seaboard Rise is a MIDI keyboard controller on steroids. The multiple dimensions of expression give you heaps more control than just the run-of-the-mill data from a standard controller. But, like any MIDI controller, the Seaboard Rise has no built-in sounds — it’ll only work with software (either Roli’s own Equator or third-party plug-ins). The Rise also has three touch-sensitive assignable sliders and an X/Y pad. Toggling the power button changes these between different modes. A cyan-coloured backlight means it’s in Expression mode which Roli preassigns to adjust sensitivity of the Press, Slide and Glide dimensions, while white shows it’s in MIDI assign mode, where the user can assign MIDI CC parameters at will. Green, amber or red blinking lights show the Seaboard is charging, with relative levels of charge, and blue blinking denotes bluetooth pairing mode for wireless control. The Rise can be USB bus-powered, which automatically recharges the built-in battery. The Seaboard Grand is the ‘stage’ version. It has Roli’s Equator engine onboard, so you’re ready to AT 43


It’s quite literally like learning a new instrument, providing scope for each person to develop their own Seaboard style

roll computer-free with a decent selection of preset sounds. A single rotary SoundDial has a backlit halo that shows which preset you’re on, and the central button gives access to octave shifts, etc. It’s probably the most minimal dashboard of control on a keyboard since the invention of the piano itself. While the Seaboard Grand transmits MIDI from the port on the back for use with VIs, it doesn’t have the level of functionality offered by the Rise. It also doesn’t comply with the Slide dimension (i.e. front to back movement on the keywave). Apparently Roli hasn’t built much DSP headroom into the Seaboard Grand because heavy-handed use of sustain resulted in clicks and pops; much like what happens when Pro Tools freaks out your computer’s CPU. This is something to keep in mind if you plan to make the Grand a gigging workhorse. FIVE DIMENSIONS

Seaboard’s expressive parameters are defined by five ‘dimensions of touch’, as Roli describes them — Strike, Glide, Press, Lift, and Slide. Strike is the initial contact of the keywave; Press is pressure applied after making contact (aftertouch), Glide is left to right gestures typically mapped to pitch shift, Slide is front to back movement, and Lift is how quickly you terminate contact with the keywave. Once the novelty has worn off, a solid mental grasp of these five dimensions will help you get some serious results using the Seaboard as a MIDI controller for your third-party VIs. For example using an orchestral patch in Kontakt, you could assign Strike to attack time, Press to vibrato, and Glide to another expression (like pizzicato up top, AT 44

legato at the bottom). Instantly you have a plethora of articulations available, dictated by how and where you touch the keywave. Combine that with the Seaboard Rise’s three sliders and X/Y pad (plus some practise) and you can recreate extraordinarily lifelike performances using sampled instruments. It’s just as fun using it with synths. I had a ball configuring Arturia’s Mini V Moog emulation for use with the Seaboard. Assigning Slide to filter cutoff and Press to LFO rate gave control over parameters I’d usually have assigned to sliders or knobs. Tweaking the MIDI CC settings to taste, especially start and end values, will help you get results that better match where you initially set your fingers down on the keywave. Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression (or MPE) is an enlightened version of the MIDI protocol that enables the Seaboard to communicate all these messages to software. Without getting too technical, MPE manages polyphonic expression by using individual MIDI channels for each note played, so parameters like pitch bend affect just the note you’re modulating and not all the keys at once. MPE is gaining traction as a universal standard and is already fully supported by selected instruments in Logic Pro X, MainStage, Bitwig Studio, Cubase, FXpansions’s Strobe2 synth, UVI Falcon, Native Instruments Reaktor, and more. Check the Roli site for a full list. DIVIDED ON EQUATOR

Equator is Roli’s own MPE-compatible soft synth. The preset library is pretty healthy. I gravitated to the more Eastern patches — eclectic woodwind emulations, sitars, duduks, dulcimers, pan flutes

— because it felt natural to bend and warp these kinds of sounds with the Seaboard’s fluid approach. The same went for synth basses, leads, and most electronic sounds. On the contrary, pitch bending a Rhodes emulation or saxophone by seven semitones doesn’t sound quite right. Naturally, Equator’s patches have been optimised to take full advantage of the five dimensions of touch through MPE. Graphs for each dimension let you visually adjust how a parameter will react to it and the GUI has a mesh-like display of the notes that are being pressed, where, and how hard. The patches offer a lot of sensitivity to delicate touches on the keywave, but I found them to fall slightly short in delivering sound quality on par with other sample-based instruments. GRAND PRICE

It’s impossible to ignore the price tag on these things. While the Seaboard Rise is around a more attainable $1k, the aptly-named Grand is about four grand more. Overall impression of the Seaboard? It certainly delivered a unique musical experience like nothing else. What blind-sided me was the amount of effort required to properly learn it. I’d discourage impulse purchases of the Seaboard. Yes, it’s exciting watching an epic Roli demo video on Facebook, but don’t expect to do the same out of the box. However, if you’re willing to commit to it like a new instrument, then your patience and perseverance will certainly be rewarded with a whole new level of creative expression in your recordings and performances.


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www.sounddistribution.com.au AT 45


REVIEW

BOSE DELTAQ SHOWMATCH Touring PA

Bose Professional has thrown its hat back into the concert touring market with this mid-size line array. Who wants it and why? Review: Christopher Holder

WHAT’S DELTA Q? Bose’s term DeltaQ, combines ‘Delta’ or Greek for ‘change’ and ‘Q’ for directivity. Using ShowMatch’s combinations of three vertical pattern boxes and three waveguides for a variety of horizontal control, system engineers have more ways to physically match the PA to the room.

NEED TO KNOW

DeltaQ offers the ability to build traditional (J-Array or Constant Curvature) and DeltaQ array configurations, allowing both portable/rental and installed applications to deploy selectable coverage control. ShowMatch arrays are capable of generating a maximum SPL of “up to 145dB (peak)”, or when SPL is less critical, they offer the ability to achieve full coverage with fewer modules for significant weight, height and cost savings.

PRICE $5895: full-range module $5425: SMS118 sub CONTACT Bose Professional: 1800 023 367 or pro.Bose.com

AT 46

PROS Flexible dispersion characteristics Well priced Sounds accomplished straight out of the box

CONS Could be easier to switch out waveguides Tricky to quickly determine which waveguide is installed

SUMMARY Five years ago Bose Professional re-established its PA credentials with RoomMatch and now it hits the road with ShowMatch. Well engineered, versatile and priced right, ShowMatch won’t immediately jump onto Australian rock ’n’ roll tech riders but will soon be a favourite in the AV staging sector.


Talk to any sound guy over the age of 50 and they’ll regale you with tales of Bose 802. Bose 802s for days. Rental companies with sheds of Bose 802. Hanging strings of Bose 802 as long as the Rialto North Tower. These tales are now rooted in live sound’s dark ages when Bose last had a significant presence in live touring sound. Since then Bose Professional has played in the permanent installation space. More than that, Bose has in many ways been the dominant installation speaker. Its banana speaker (the 502) has for years been a defacto standard fixture of airports and other public spaces, for example. Five years ago, Bose made a significant entrance back into the main PA market with RoomMatch. Designed for permanent installations, RoomMatch comprises 42 different boxes that provide various dispersion characteristics. The idea is to more capably match the array’s dispersion pattern with the geometry of the room it’s filling. And given it’s a job that only needs to be done once (as a permanent installation) there’s no advantage in having a once-size-fits-all full range line array element, it’s better to have the luxury of many. FROM ROOM TO SHOW

The other significant difference between RoomMatch and other line source systems is in just how physically large a number of the RoomMatch modules are. The largest is the 120° x 60° behemoth — 60° coverage in the vertical! The hero is the HF device and Bose manifold. With the 120° x 60° element venues that don’t need 110dB+ levels in the room can attain excellent/ even coverage with one box instead of, say, four. Conversely, RoomMatch can allow you to leverage more boxes to provide you with more level and greater degree of pattern control — it all depends on your budget and SPL requirements. RoomMatch is classic Bose. While Bose has plenty of haters, mostly I think people resent Bose’s marketing slickness in the domestic world; almost a case of ‘how dare they play in the pro sector!’ Whatever you think of the sound of Bose professional product there’s no doubting the company values its R&D and engineering. RoomMatch could have been done far more parsimoniously and cynically; it wasn’t. It’s certainly not a slick, style-over-substance solution to the install problem, far from it… the Bose RoomMatch whiteboard markers were most definitely in engineering’s hands, not marketing/PR’s. As far as I can tell, RoomMatch’s success has been solid without being world-beating. It has given installers loyal to Bose another string to their bow — allowing them to spec the theatre as well as the foyers of a venue. I’m not entirely sure it’s had those ambivalent or hostile to Bose reaching out to demand a demo. One piece of RoomMatch feedback Bose has been getting from contractors is the larger proportions of RoomMatch have been an occasional sticking point; and it’d be good to have a streamlined rental version.

MATCH MAKER

ShowMatch is Bose’s response. It takes RoomMatch’s philosophy and refines it into an everyday arrayable, truckable concert PA system. ShowMatch comprises three full-range loudspeaker models (5/10/20° vertical) in a compact two-way design, that includes four improved Bose EMB2S compression drivers and two Bose eight-inch neodymium LF devices. Each model ships with two sets of field-changeable horizontal waveguides for narrow or wide pattern control. An additional horizontal waveguide can be purchased separately. To change a waveguide you need to remove the grille and undo four screws. (The waveguides come in two sections, which means you can have asymmetrical horizontal dispersion patterns.) It’s not something you’d do once you’ve arrayed the system but something taken care of in the shed after you’ve mapped the venue in Bose Modeller. In other words, the waveguide options will reward the conscientious operator. As an aside, it would have been great if Bose could make it outwardly obvious which waveguide is installed in an element. Funktion-One colour codes its boxes, perhaps Bose could have some small (coloured?) part of the waveguide protruding from the grille to make the box easy to interrogate.

A ShowMatch element without the grille revealing the waveguide. It comes in two pieces allowing for asymmetrical horizontal throw.

Removable rigging-guard/handle side caps allow ShowMatch modules to be suitable for both installation and portable applications. FIT FOR LAUNCH

ShowMatch is a big deal for Bose. Certainly the carefully-choreographed worldwide launch was an impressive thing to behold. Australia was the last leg of a tour that saw Bose take over a venue, bring in a hot live band, and allows sound professionals to hear the system perform without any apparent smoke and mirrors. Well-regarded Australian sound engineer Anatole Day was engaged to babysit the rig for the Melbourne and Sydney dates. AT last caught up with Anatole while he was on a Guy Sebastian regional tour. What I like about Anatole is he’s a pragmatist and he trusts his ears and instincts. Anatole is just the kinda pro that Bose is hoping to speak to: he loves mixing on the million dollar rigs whenever he can but will take a new PA as he finds it — he can see past the badge. The demo was quite impressive. The system

SECOND OPINION; FIRST IMPRESSIONS FOH Engineer, Anatole Day, offers his thoughts on the Bose ShowMatch. “First impressions? Pretty amazed actually. Straight out of the box it sounds good. “It rigs easily — two guys can get it in the air, no trouble. That may not be the first thing you think of with a new PA but as a touring engineer, a systems engineer, as a rigger, it’s vitally important that it goes up quickly and easily. “After flying the PA I began playing tunes I know well and it was good, I was impressed. “The things I was expecting, and inherent in many new PAs were not there: not a lot of barkiness or harshness in the HF and not too boxy in the low mids either — nice and clean across the board. “We were giving it some good level at times. It was a good test in Sydney in a large room. We were sitting on 110dB at the console and it was doing that easily. We could have gone to

120-125dB without it anywhere near limiting. Personally I don’t want to get near that sort of level but if you have lots of elements rigged high and you’re asking a lot of it, well, it’s nice to know the PA and the amps can handle it. “Bose has moved the crossover point away from the vocal range. A lot of PAs have a crossover point in that 1-4kHz vocal range and you often get a dip or some summation around that crossover point. ShowMatch doesn’t have that problem. It sounds simple but talking to engineers that know better, it’s a hard thing to achieve. “I like the fact that Bose has done its demo with a live band. Almost any system will sound good with particular tracks chosen to highlight certain positive attributes of a PA. But no matter how hard you drive a track you don’t get the same SPLs as you do from a live band, with open mics and instruments. It gives people a much better idea of what this PA is capable of.”

AT 47


comprised seven elements a side and four single 18-inch subs a side in an end-fire configuration. (A front grille-mounted NL4 connector on the sub enables easier wiring for cardioid configurations.) We were assured the system was set flat, with only some low-Q 4-5kHz gently removed by Anatole to slightly smooth out the rig, which was oversized for the room at Chapel Off Chapel. They’d run the same-sized array at the Sydney event, which was held in a much larger bay at Carriageworks. There Anatole said the top end was spot on, and he only took out a little low mid to offset the room’s natural buildup. So, ‘out of the box’ ShowMatch sounds like a proper line source concert PA. As I mentioned earlier, the HF units are the heroes. The four EMB2S compression drivers are matched to a Bose proprietary manifold (pictured right). What makes them special is their wide frequency range — from 18kHz all the way down to 300Hz. It’s an impressive feat. Crucially the EMB2S takes care of all the vocal frequencies. And this has been one of Bose’s key design philosophies since the 802: make the vocal the hero, and make it easy for the sound person to lift the vocal out of the mix. The EMB2S is the sound of ShowMatch. Everything rests on its performance and it’s a winner: efficient, loud and still sweet-sounding at lower levels. WHO’S FIRST?

Bose isn’t the first to market when it comes to preaching the variable dispersion gospel. Some 10 years-plus ago L-Acoustics released Kudo which had/has adjustable dispersion vanes. More recently the variable dispersion cat can be skinned in software, with systems such as EAW’s Anya and Martin’s MLA doing some fancy footwork in DSP to match the rig to the room. My gut feeling is that the ShowMatch’s DeltaQ variable dispersion smarts (which has been so AT 48

pivotal to the RoomMatch success) won’t be the ShowMatch dealmaker for Bose — it’s a cool feature, but not one that small to mid level, shootfrom-the-hip, rental companies will be exploiting on most jobs. (That said, ShowMatch’s neat low profile design will ensure it finds its way into plenty of installations where the DeltaQ flexibility will be used to the max.) So if my surmising is well founded, what’s ShowMatch got going for it? Easy. It’s a properly engineered, well resolved, mid-size line array that’ll take care of a wide range of gigs. Fly it (up to 24 in an array), ground stack it, put it in a constant curvature array (for pseudo line array performance) if you have to, hang it in a conventional J array for that outdoor festival, or get your geek on and design the best DeltaQ array to tame that tricky (or not so tricky) room. THE APPEAL

Finally, in a market like Australia (small and tribal) the question isn’t necessarily “is the PA any good?”, it’s “who’s the customer?”. I don’t see too many rock ’n’ roll rental companies sticking their necks out to gobble up the first shipment of ShowMatch — until ShowMatch makes it onto technical riders that’s unlikely. But for rental companies that do most of their work on corporate and AV gigs, Bose ShowMatch is a very appealing choice. And, finally, the real kicker. The price: it’s keen. Interestingly, Bose hasn’t built a road-ready amp. They’re recommending the Powersoft X Series (specifically the X8 Dante model), probably in recognition that Powersoft’s price/performance is hard to beat. It’s always difficult to price a ‘system’ as such (given the myriad permutations) and hard to get an ‘expect to pay’ price on something like this but I’ll let you do the maths on what a RRP module price of ~$5900 might mean to you if you’re ‘in the trade’. Definitely at a price point that gets the cogs turning.

(Above left) The seven-element Delta-Q array used at the ShowMatch Australian launch. (Above) A detail of the rigging pins that set the inter-box array angles. (Below) The HF manifold joined to four EMB2S compression drivers. More than anything, it's this baby that defines the ShowMatch sound. (Bottom) The Bose SMS118 ShowMatch sub. The sub can be flown or stacked and features a front-mounted NL4 connector for easy wiring of cardioid configurations.


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REVIEW

DIGIGRID

Desktop Interfaces The promise of audio over Ethernet was ‘I/O anywhere’. Waves’ Soundgrid meant you could take DSP along for the ride, too. Now — with power over Ethernet — DiGiGrid’s new line of portable interfaces allow you to capitalise on that DSP, while wangling I/O into any nook or cranny. Review: Andrew Bencina

NEED TO KNOW

MATCHING EARS — While none of the knobs on any of the units are continuous encoders there’s not a knob indicator dot or line in sight. Though the LEDs provide robust metering, the lack of position indication will relegate the level matching of stereo mic configurations to your ears.

PRICE DiGiGrid D $1249.99 DiGiGrid M $809.99 DiGiGrid Q $759.99 DiGiGrid S $539.99 CONTACT Sound & Music: (03) 9555 8081 or info@sound-music.com

AT 50

PROS Sounds great Good low latency performance Simple configuration & straightforward functionality Unique live monitoring & mounting options PoE allows experimental positioning

CONS No direct monitoring while recording Lack remote software access of bigger DiGiGrid devices Some I/O choices less suited to the studio Multiple modular system cost will escalate quickly

SUMMARY DiGiGrid’s portable interfaces expand the applications of audio over Ethernet; meaning you don’t have to duplicate costly rackmount hardware for a couple more channels. While the functionality of individual modules may be a little too focused for some, those already benefitting from the scalability and processing power of Waves SoundGrid will find greater freedom to move. As standalone entrees to a new platform, the devices lack some of the options of similarly priced interfaces but there’s been no skimping on what you’ll hear.


Up until now, the hardware/software DiGiGrid collaboration between Soundtracs (DiGiCo) and Waves has produced mostly staid-looking, black rack devices. Recently, the joint effort has hit a purple patch, and the new portable desktop interfaces are promising to spread Audio over Ethernet (AoE) out of the rack and into infinite studio space. Included in the 24-bit/96k-compatible desktop range are the DiGiGrid [D], [M], [Q], and [S]. And no, we’re not using some weird editorial device there, the brackets come packaged with the name. While the [D] looks like your standard four-in, six-out tabletop interface — just chunkier — the remaining three are housed within extremely solid nine centimetre minimalist metal cubes. All four units have rubberised bases but the cubes have an optional fluted base bracket, compatible with the threaded end of any standard microphone stand. This attractive and original option had me thinking outside of the square from the word go. DiGiGrid’s underlying protocol, Waves’ SoundGrid, is uniquely powerful amongst the AoE crowd in that, in addition to routing audio over Ethernet, it can also share DSP resources [see Are You Being Served? box]. Though not quite as prevalent as Audinate’s Dante, SoundGrid has been adopted by multiple manufacturers. Beyond DiGiCo and Waves, it’s been wrapped into console interfaces and studio hardware from Yamaha, Allen & Heath, Apogee, Burl, Hear Technologies, Roland and Behringer. If you factor in DiGiGrid’s already established range of MADI and analogue I/O-wielding DigiLink interfaces, the number of potentially compatible hardware options is endless. Even Avid, rankled by Waves’ refusal to port plugins to AAX DSP, recommend using SoundGrid via MADI to plumb Waves plugs into its flagship S6L live console. Still, aside from the Hear Back PRO personal monitoring system, the vast majority of these items constitute or are tied to key pieces of studio or live sound infrastructure. As such, they tend to suit a fixed location within a system. The new DiGiGrid devices encourage a greater shift towards genuinely portable, and modular, networked audio. MAKING THE SWITCH

Installing the modules wasn’t plug and play but it was straight forward. Once installed, the SoundGrid Studio (SGS) application is used to configure the attached devices, channel routings and driver settings. A single device can either be connected directly to your computer’s gigabit Ethernet port or an appropriate network switch can be used to link multiple devices. While probably the least exciting member of this DiGiGrid quartet, the [S] is a Gigabit switch featuring a single upstream port (connected to the host computer or another switch) and four Power over Ethernet (PoE)-enabled downstream ports for SoundGrid devices. [S] requires its own 48V DC power supply, featuring a smart yet simple twist-lock connector, but is subsequently able to power all of the other compact DiGiGrid modules over cable runs

extending to 75m. Without it, or another suitable PoE switch, you’ll be stuck using 12V wall-warts throughout. Waves provides a short list of approved third-party non-PoE switches, all of which were available locally for between $100-160. Reputable PoE solutions seem to range from the top end of those prices upwards. Once everything’s connected an automated wizard can be selected from within SGS to create a generic configuration. While this process was easily navigated on both a Windows10 and OSX system, I noted some audio stability issues with SoundGrid on my older Windows machine. Testing, with cooperative assistance from Waves support, revealed a presently undefined interaction between SoundGrid Studio and Windows storage drivers on my system; significantly raising system latency and compromising real-time audio. This is not an issue I’ve experienced in previous years of testing for AT, and apparently not one DiGiGrid had encountered before either. Thankfully, it was promptly resolved. It’s a useful reminder that digital audio systems rely on friendly communication between hardware and software layers from multiple providers. Trying before you buy is always worthwhile, if only to get a jump debugging your configuration. GLEANING THE CUBES

If you’re adding to an existing SoundGrid network, setup will be a doddle. However, for newbies to SGS, most of the action takes place on the ‘Setup > Setting’ page and the ‘Device To Device’ page of the Patch tab. The SGS window is not fully scalable to fullscreen so depending on the number of attached devices you may find yourself scrolling around to find patch points. While this is a bugbear of mine — as is the absence of signal metering within the patcher to aid channel identification — the system’s ability to scale to hundreds of inputs means scrolling may become inevitable, and incorporating hundreds of live signal meters would significantly tax the CPU. Patching is simply a matter of checking the appropriate boxes but it’s worth noting that while you can send one source to multiple destinations the patcher is not capable of bussing multiple sources to a single output. Also, unlike the rackmount DiGiGrid interfaces, at present none of the new devices support any form of remote control, which seems counterintuitive given the promise of networking remote I/O over the SoundGrid protocol. Seeing as the actual devices don’t sport endless rotary encoders or digitallycontrolled preamps, this will be a lasting omission. DiGiGrid told us the analogue front end was a design decision to realise best audio performance, and that introducing digitally-controlled mic amps would take away some of the system’s simplicity. It’s a perfectly adequate explanation for home-oriented, single unit users. However, given DiGiCo’s high-end consoles and the rest of the DiGiGrid rack range relies on digitally-controlled preamps, it appears they’re audio quality is sufficient. While it seems DiGiGrid is positioning these boxes as entry points into the SoundGrid/ DiGiGrid family, not including digitally-controlled

SELECT SOURCE — With a press of its knob, [Q] allows selection between four headphone input sources including the SoundGrid network, AES/EBU, unbalanced analogue and Bluetooth. If only it stopped the Bluetooth lights flashing, too.

POWER ON LOCK — All the devices feature a nifty locking DC power connector while remaining compatible with standard plugs. Simple, clever and long overdue.

preamps only shortchanges the system’s promise to expand via remote I/O points. Without a SoundGrid server connected, the desktop devices do not support low latency pre DAW-created monitor mixes. The lack of onboard DSP makes them limited when used as standalone interfaces; particularly when you consider their retail pricing in a flooded market. As some consolation SoundGrid does allow you to nest third-party Core Audio and ASIO drivers within their network, via SG Connect. I would generally insist that the differing devices share a Word Clock connection — with ASIO I found this to be prerequisite — but I was able to add some Lynx Aurora Thunderbolt-connected converters to a [D]-based SoundGrid system, when testing AT 51


socket disconnecting the smaller. On the rear are three of the four input connections (AES/EBU on XLR, analogue RCAs and the Ethernet port) with Bluetooth rounding out the source options. Input selection is achieved by pressing the Master knob with the otherwise-hidden selection labels backlit by coloured LEDs. Annoyingly, until a Bluetooth device is paired two LEDs flash incessantly, even when monitoring other sources. I think [Q] is a fantastic audio utility for any studio, irrespective of the level of SoundGrid investment, yet, as with [M], the inclusion of additional options — a pair of balanced outputs, perhaps — would only have expanded such utility. TICKING BOXES

REACH ANYWHERE — With DiGiGrid [S] delivering Power over Ethernet to all three audio interfaces with a maximum cable run of 75m, the potential surface area of your studio just got a whole lot bigger.

on an iMac. While the latency performance of the Aurora was significantly compromised I can imagine situations where a similar combination of devices could be invaluable (for example, sending and returning reverb chamber channels to unusual spaces using a single Ethernet cable). D IS FOR DESKTOP

While [M] and [Q] are more limited, I’d describe [D] as the entry point of the DiGiGrid line. With two phantom-powered microphone inputs on XLR, two TRS line/instrument DI inputs, four TRS outputs and a headphone amplifier (with its own ‘big-knob’ volume control and metering), the [D] provides a practical solution to all of your basic recording requirements. A low cut and polarity inversion switch on the mic channels round out the standard features. As a tabletop device I’d love to have seen further connection options on the front face of the unit. The Master channel LED meters are configured pre-fader, differing from both the [M], [Q], and the [D]’s own headphone metering. If possible, this is one of a few options I’d like to see software switchable. With the master knob approximately positioned at 12 o’clock (no markings meant I was estimating somewhat) the output of the unit was equivalent to the loudest ‘+8’ setting on my RME converters. Not far beyond this the outputs began to distort, meaning a significant range of the knob is wasted. The [M] is intended for musicians and is basically a baby two I/O version of the [D], with a single DI, mic channel and headphone amp. Notwithstanding the clear design focus, I’d have found a dual channel unit with switchable mic/ DI channels to be more flexible and a great little stereo all-rounder. Finally, the [Q] is a multi-input headphone amplifier (presumably with cue mixes in mind) with both ¼-inch and mini-jack outputs on the front panel. It’s either/or here, with the full-size AT 52

While I might be a little frustrated by certain design choices I cannot seriously fault these boxes when it comes to audio performance. SoundGrid’s roundtrip latency is not quite up there with my records of the best performing interface/driver combinations but it falls well and truly within the next pack. Surprisingly, I even found that these units slightly outperformed the rackmount DiGiGrid IOS. Using Radial splitters, I recorded a quick demo track via the [D], [M] and a range of DIs and preamps from Radial, Universal Audio, Phoenix Audio and Quad Eight. All gain levels were calibrated using test-tones and accurate metering so barely any post recording level matching was required. The [D] and [M] recordings are as close to identical as you could hope for and comparisons with the other channels was relatively favourable. This type of test always makes me question how I’ve allocated my studio budget and while you can clearly differentiate between the unmixed recordings, with the DiGiGrid DI channels in particular having a more emphatic top end, I wouldn’t hesitate to use either interface to access some new corners of the property. All headphone outputs are amply powered and when compared with the other monitoring options on hand, preferences were more often determined by the combination of source material and headphones. In isolation these units may lack the flexibility and software features of comparably priced audio interfaces but within a broader SoundGrid network they’ll stand level with most other devices you’re likely to connect. JUST DESSERTS

For a few logistical reasons, my introduction to SoundGrid has ended up being a little topsy turvy. These new modular DiGiGrid units expand and complement an existing audio network platform founded upon a strong reputation in DSP. If you’re looking for an AoE system that also distributes DSP, there’s no other game in town. However, while the DiGiGrid desktop devices are simple to use, sound great, and offer standalone functionalities that will be useful to many, they are perhaps more of a sweet reward for those already fully immersed in SoundGrid than a tasty lure for the uninitiated. One warning though, like one of Zumbo’s macarons, if you take the bait it may be difficult to stop at just one.

ARE YOU BEING SERVED? Unlike other AoE platforms, Waves SoundGrid has been primarily sold on its capacity to offload plug-in processing and reduce latency when mixing live input signals. Running a modified Linux OS, referred to in-house as SoundGrid Processing, these devices are basically rackmount computers connected to your live console or studio machine via the SoundGrid network. Through either the MultiRack (console) or StudioRack (DAW) plug-in shells, it’s possible to run the extensive suite of Waves plug-ins and third-party plugins from developers including Plugin Alliance, Flux::, and, in the near future, Sonnox. The Waves Public API (WPAPI) format allows for continued growth in this selection. For those times when you need to escape the studio, StudioRack freely switches between native and SoundGrid processing while the eMotion ST mixer — run within the SoundGrid Studio application — opens up further possibilities for low-latency monitoring, input processing and even live mixing. Waves SoundGrid branded servers have been around for a while now with three current flavours: the Impact (Intel Core i3-4150K, 4GB RAM); Server One (Intel Core i5-4590K, 8GB RAM); and Extreme (Intel Core i7-4790K, 8GB RAM) models. To give you a sense of the performance range, in a studio application running at 96k, the Impact will happily accommodate 138 instances of Waves’ SSL E-Channel (mono) strip while the Extreme can handle 512. At present 192k operation is not supported by the servers but it is scheduled for a future firmware update. DiGiGrid models have added to the server range, combining SoundGrid processing with either audio I/O (DiGiGrid IOS — Intel i3) or Pro Tools DigiLink interfaces (DigiLink DLS — Intel i5), and their performance matches that of the equivalent SoundGrid models. Unfortunately, I’ve only just begun to explore the possibilities afforded by a DiGiGrid IOS so a deeper discussion of SoundGrid processing will have to wait. However, in the context of this review, it is worth pointing out that any modular DiGiGrid system relies on the presence of a SoundGrid DSP server to fully maximise the potential of the platform. While the scalability of SoundGrid allows for this to be added at any time, the absence of a server reduces the low-latency monitor mixing options of the system considerably — especially when compared with the DSP mixing options included with current interfaces from companies like MOTU. DiGiGrid’s competition may not support any form of plug-in hosting (UA Apollo interfaces being the obvious exception), but basic mixer functions are universally available with all interfaces.


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AUDIOTECHNOLOGY: DIGITAL EDITION

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AudioTechnology App Issue 39  

The next-generation of MIDI controllers is here. We review two ROLI Seaboards — the Grand and Rise — to see how MIDI Polyphonic Expression c...

AudioTechnology App Issue 39  

The next-generation of MIDI controllers is here. We review two ROLI Seaboards — the Grand and Rise — to see how MIDI Polyphonic Expression c...