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Editorial Director Christopher Holder chris@audiotechnology.com.au Publisher Philip Spencer philip@alchemedia.com.au Assistant Editor Preshan John preshan@alchemedia.com.au Art Direction Dominic Carey dominic@alchemedia.com.au

Regular Contributors Martin Walker Paul Tingen Brad Watts Greg Walker Andy Szikla Andrew Bencina Jason Hearn Greg Simmons Mark Woods Ewan McDonald Guy Harrison Rob Holder

Graphic Designer Daniel Howard daniel@alchemedia.com.au Advertising Philip Spencer philip@alchemedia.com.au Accounts Jaedd Asthana jaedd@alchemedia.com.au Subscriptions Sophie Spencer subscriptions@alchemedia.com.au Proofreading Andrew Bencina

AudioTechnology magazine (ISSN 1440-2432) is published by Alchemedia Publishing Pty Ltd (ABN 34 074 431 628). Contact +61 3 5331 4949 info@alchemedia.com.au www.audiotechnology.com PO Box 295, Ballarat VIC 3353, Australia.

All material in this magazine is copyright Š 2019 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. 30/09/2019.

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COVER STORY

Making ‘Free’ Pay The Man Behind Free to Use Sounds

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ISSUE 60 CONTENTS

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Matt Corby Matt’s push for self sufficiency

Immersive Audio Mix Tips: First Hand Pointers

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Korg Krome EX Music Workstation

Aston Stealth Large Diaphragm Dynamic Mic AT 4

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Apple Notes: But where’s the next fully 32 customisable Mac?

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Neumann NHD20 Studio Headphones

Røde Microphones PodMic Podcasting Mic

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M A K E YO U R M A R K

305P MkII 306P MkII 308P MkII

Detailed Imaging | Wide Sweet Spot | Superior Accuracy · Image Control Waveguide originally designed for the M2 master reference monitor · 1” Neodymium tweeter with superior transient response

· Refined low-frequency transducer for improved linearity · Deep, accurate bass via a patented Slip Stream™ low-frequency port

· Powerful, integrated dual Class-D custom amplifiers · Boundary EQ and HF Trim tailors performance to your environment

P R O U D LY D I S T R I B U T E D I N A U S T R A L I A B Y C M I M U S I C & A U D I O

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GENERAL NEWS

TG MIC TAKES TAPE EQ The TG Microphone’s on-board EMI ‘Tape Equaliser’ section combined with its ‘Dual Tone System’, dedicated PSU and other features create an extremely flexible microphone capable of ‘rivalling scenarios where the FET47, C414 and U47 traditionally have found favour’. The Tape Equaliser is adapted from the NAB/IEC tape equaliser facility found on vintage EMI TG12410 transfer consoles or mastering consoles, and applied with great effect in the TG Microphone. The ‘Dual Tone System’

modifies the input stage of the TG Microphone and extends the versatility of the microphone to accommodate a greater array of sources. Much like tube microphones, the TG Microphone relies on a dedicated power supply (PSU). The use of a dedicated PSU, rather than 48V phantom power is integral to the TG Microphone’s larger than solid-state sound. Mixmasters: www.mixmaster.com.au

MORE CORE PROMISE Dynaudio is adding two new models to the Core reference series, introduced at the 2019 NAMM show. Core 47 is a compact three-way monitor with a seven-inch woofer, a dedicated fourinch midrange driver and the new 28mm Esotar Pro tweeter. Core Sub is a powered subwoofer with four nine-inch longthrow woofers and 2x 500W of power. Core is touted as the most revealing reference monitor series in Dynaudio history: ‘breathtaking accuracy’ for when every single detail must be heard in order to make wise mixing decisions. It introduces

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new technologies in all areas that focus entirely on reproducing the most accurate sound possible – everything producers need to hear. Core 47 and Core Sub have digital inputs (AES3) and support up to 24-bit/192k signals, and the internal DSP (digital signal processor) operates at the same high level when using the analogue inputs. Amber Technology: www.ambertech.com.au

MORE NEWS AT www.audiotechnology.com.au


Mic America Great Again Peluso Microphone Labs Handmade in USA Made with Vintage & New components Competitively Priced 3 year warranty Each microphone is extensively hand tested Available at Musos Corner

Musos Corner Celebrating 50+ Years in the Music Industry www.musoscorner.com.au

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MULTIPLE ONES The announcement of the new 8351B and 8361A coaxial threeway monitors alongside the complementary W371A Adaptive Woofer System has expanded The Ones family from Genelec encompassing ultra-nearfield through to mastering-calibre and main monitor applications. The new 8361A three-way coaxial monitor refines the point source concept further, with high dynamic range, improved directivity and imaging and a

short term SPL of 118dB with peak levels even higher. Now the largest coaxial monitor in The Ones family, the 8361A will deliver an ‘exquisite monitoring experience’ at any listening distance up to five metres, making it well suited to small to medium sized rooms. Studio Connections: studioconnections.com.au

SHURE UPGRADES SE EARPHONES Flexibility, improved audio quality, and longer wireless battery life are some of the most important features for earphone consumers. Shure’s innovative line of detachable SE Sound Isolating Earphones are now available with enhanced features that improve audio quality, wireless battery life, and provide convenient options to switch between wireless or wired listening. The Company’s established line of SE earphones now includes Shure’s High-Resolution Bluetooth 5 Earphone Communication Cable (RMCE-BT2), offering music lovers and mobile listeners the best wireless audio experience to date. If the wireless charge runs out, the SE earphones quickly and conveniently switch AT 8

to a wired connection to an Apple or Android device through the innovative detachable cable system. The flexibility of the SE earphones extends to calling features, where the audio continues to shine. The inline microphone and three-button remote ensures clarity for calls and voice prompts and provides volume and playback control with ease, so key details won’t be missed like who joined the conference call late or the big news from mom about holiday plans. Jands: www.jands.com.au

MORE NEWS AT www.audiotechnology.com.au


THIS IS STATE-OF-THE-ART WIRELESS COMMUNICATION

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BOLERO WIRELESS INTERCOM • • • • • • • • • • •

Up to 10 beltpacks per antenna 100 antenna, 100 beltpack system capacity Best-in-class voice clarity “Touch&Go” beltpack registration 6-channel beltpack plus dedicated REPLY button Built-in microphone and speaker for Walkie-Talkie mode Smartphone integration via Bluetooth Ergonomic, robust beltpack design Sunlight-readable display with Gorilla Glass™ Decentralized AES67 IP networked antennas Seamless integration into RIEDEL‘S ARTIST intercom matrix

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LIVE NEWS

A&H AVANTIS COMPLETE TRILOGY Allen & Heath has launched a new 96k digital mixer, Avantis, the third to be based on the company’s XCVI FPGA engine. Avantis is a 64-channel/42 configurable bus console, with two 15.6” touchscreens – unlocking a new, flexible workflow across physical controls and on-screen software that A&H has called Continuity UI. Avantis has a companion 48 in/16 out GX4816 audio expander, but the console will work with a huge range of audio expander hardware. Avantis is also compatible with Allen

& Heath’s range of ME Personal Mixers and IP hardware remote controllers. For local I/O, Avantis is well equipped with 12 XLR analogue inputs, 12 XLR analogue outputs, plus AES and space for two option cards. Avantis is loaded with processing tools from A&H’s RackExtra FX units (12 slots). Avantis surfaces will retail for A$19,999 with the GX4816 audio expander A$6999. Technical Audio Group: www.tag.com.au

NEW ENTRY POINT TO LIVE DPA VOCALS The 2028 Vocal Microphone is DPA’s newest addition. Delivering DPA’s reliably natural sound, this mic is designed to suit just about any live performance situation, along with broadcast and pro AV applications. Wherever it’s used, the 2028 has been designed to provide a clear, natural sound, akin to standing next to the singer and hearing them acoustically. Engineers need only worry about shaping the vocal, not fixing their clean signal. Little EQ should need to be used and no artifacts evident, mimicking the sound of its flagship sibling,

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the 4018 VL. The new model features a newly designed fixed-position capsule, as well as a shock mount and pop filter (the outer grille and inner pop filter are rinsable). The polar patter is supercardioid, with a DPA-standard off-axis response, delivering high gain-before-feedback and minimising bleed. The 2028 is available wired, and in Shure, Sony and Lectrosonics or Sennheiser compatible wireless variants. Amber Technology: www.ambertech.com.au

MORE NEWS AT www.audiotechnology.com.au


MACKIE SRM FLEX-IBLE FOR ANY GIG The Mackie SRM-Flex Portable Column PA System features a compact, lightweight form factor, the signature SRM Series sound quality, and intuitive Mackie mixer design for maximum flexibility. With 1300W of power, a custom six-driver widedispersion array, and 10-inch subwoofer, SRM-Flex has plenty of headroom to ensure crystal-clear, room-filling audio. The builtin six-channel digital mixer allows users to easily dial in optimal sound and provides full control of levels, EQ, reverb and more via the unit, or using SRM-Flex Connect wireless technology via a smartphone. Application voicing modes tailer the system to

the gig or venue, with Music, Speech and Live modes available. Users can also stream music or backing tracks via any Bluetooth enabled device, which makes it the perfect solution for solo acts or bands. Suitable for audiences up to 100 people, the SRM-Flex is also perfect for applications such as corporate events and education facilities. Amber Technology: www.ambertech.com.au

QSC KW181: DEEPLY DISTURBING Succeeding the KW181 powered subwoofer, QSC is pleased to introduce the KS118. With its robust design, QSC amplification and versatile DSP features, the KS118 is well suited to applications in mobile entertainment, AV rental, event production, clubs and performance venues. Featuring a long excursion 18-inch direct radiating driver powered by a 3600W Class D amplifier, the KS118 delivers high sound pressure levels with dynamic and musical sound reproduction of very low frequencies. On-board DSP optimises and protects system performance while also offering advanced capabilities

such as the ability to array two units in a cardioid arrangement, maximising low frequency output in front while minimising unwanted energy around the sides and rear of the system. DEEP mode provides additional low frequency extension and driver excursion processing. Technical Audio Group: www.tag.com.au

MORE NEWS AT www.audiotechnology.com.au

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SOFTWARE NEWS

ANTELOPE OPTO HOMAGE Antelope Audio announces availability of Opto-2A (compressor) alongside the Space Flanger and Vari-Speed Tremolo — three new Synergy Core effects for the Discrete 4 Synergy Core and Discrete 8 Synergy Core audio interfaces. Both are equipped with two DSP chips paired with a proprietary FPGA, respectively handling up to four effects channel strips with eight effects slots each and eight effects

channel strips with eight slots each. Antelope Audio’s Opto-2A carefully captures all the subtleties and nuances of an iconic ’60s-vintage electro-optical compressor. Key to its unique personality is the T4 optical attenuator, the outcome of time spent developing optical sensors for the US military. Its sonic signature is the two-stage release, greatly contributing to its smooth and musical compression.

8PRE RELEASE The AudioFuse 8Pre is now available worldwide. It’s based on the bespoke DiscretePRO mic preamps with some of the best specs going, boasting tonal transparency, huge gain, and practically zero noise. AudioFuse 8Pre can either be used as a standalone multi-in/out interface, or as a high quality expander for another interface. The rack ears can face forward to mount in a 19-inch studio rack, or face down to use the unit as a desktop interface. As you’d expect, 8Pre comes with a tasty array of software,

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including accurately recreated vintage preamps and legendary studio effects. Arturia is putting the 8Pre forward as an ideal solution for drum recording, for boutique mics that need lots of gain, live recording situations, and as an easy way of expanding your existing setup. CMI: www.cmi.com.au

MORE NEWS AT www.audiotechnology.com.au


MORE NEWS AT www.audiotechnology.com.au

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NOVATION MORE MINI With the new Launchkey Mini, Novation has made its popular 25-mini-key portable MIDI keyboard controller for Ableton Live more versatile, adaptable and playable. Now you can make tracks anywhere using Launchkey Mini’s new arpeggiator, Fixed Chord mode, Capture MIDI, 16 big RGB pads, transport controls and more. Featuring their best, most responsive mini-keymech to date, all-new pitch and modulation touchstrips, a sustain pedal input, and 16 newly RGB-backlit pads, Launchkey Mini is the perfect platform for expressive performance and colour-matched

clip launching. The new Fixed Chord mode and arpeggiator help you take your melodic and harmonic ideas in new creative directions, enabling chords to be triggered from single notes, and turning held chords into riffs, melodies and sequences on the fly; and thanks to the Capture MIDI button, you’ll never lose a note, even if you forget to hit record. Innovative Music: www.innovativemusic.com.au

MORE REASONS Reason 11 is now available featuring six new devices (including a new chorus effect and a Scenic Hybrid Instrument), a host of workflow improvements, and a new Reason Suite offering. The big news is you can now load any of your favourite Reason devices into any DAW with the Reason Rack Plugin (VST/AU). Reason 11 comes in three flavours: Reason Intro, Reason and Reason Suite. Reason Suite is a vast collection of instruments, effects and other music making tools – more than 70 devices in

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total, including the newly released Scenic Hybrid Instrument along with top-selling Reason Studios devices including Complex-1 Modular Synth, Umpf Club Drums, Umpf Retro Beats, Reason Electric Bass, Reason Drum Kits, Processed Pianos, Layers Wave Edition, Layers, Parsec Spectral Synthesiser, Radical Keys, Polar Dual Pitch Shifter, Rotor Rotary Speaker, PolyStep Sequencer, Quad Note Generator, and Drum Sequencer.

MORE NEWS AT www.audiotechnology.com.au


SK 6212

Size matters — performance counts.

Huge expectations meet a compact design. Performers find this mini bodypack transmitter neither heavy nor conspicuous. Technicians appreciate an easy set up and proven reliability. The digital SK 6212 is now heralding a new era. This mini bodypack provides 12 hours of operating time and its intermodulation-free transmission concept enables more reliable channels, even in congested frequency ranges. Meet the next generation of an industry standard: sennheiser.com/SK6212

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REVIEW

NATIVE INSTRUMENTS KOMPLETE KONTROL M32 First there was S, then came A. and now we have M. Say hello to the third tier of Native Instruments’ keyboard controllers for the Komplete Kontrol platform. Review: Preshan John

Native Instruments’ Komplete Kontrol S Series keyboards leave little to be desired for even the most discerning producer with their hi-res colour screens and the handy Light Guide system. Following that, the relatively new A Series brings a wealth of control to a less budgeted demographic. Now the mini-keyed baby of the family arrives and adds a new dimension of portability to the NI Komplete Kontrol ecosystem. The new M32 weights in at 1.45kg and is a cute 475 x 167mm. Many of the A and S Series’ physical controls are shared by the M32, such as the pre-mapped touch sensitive knobs, hybrid scroll wheel/joystick and backlit buttons. Ribbon sliders replace wheels for pitch bend and modulation

Expect to pay $189

and a foot pedal can be plugged into the back. Don’t be discouraged by the tiny OLED screen; as we discovered with the A Series, its size belies its considerable utility — be it scrolling through preset categories in Komplete Kontrol or reading out parameter values. The mini keys are great for laying down bass and lead lines but don’t expect to comfortably bash out a classical piece. Ableton Live 10 Lite is bundled with the M32. You also get a heap of Native Instruments goodies such as Maschine Essentials, Komplete Start (a siginificant production suite of synths and samples), Komplete Kontrol, Monark (monosynth), Reaktor Prism and Scarbee Mk I (Rhodes emulation). It’s not el cheapo beginner software —

this bundle is capable of producing serious sounds. For out-and-about musical sketching at an airport lounge or your work lunch break, the M32 is perfect. It’ll neatly flatpack next to your laptop in a bag or backpack for alacritous composition when inspiration strikes. When performing, the M32 makes a neat supplement to a larger keyboard for triggering virtual instruments. At under $200, it’s a thrifty purchase for any producer but especially those who use Ableton Live and Komplete Kontrol. CMI Music & Audio: (03) 9315 2244 or www.cmi.com.au

REVIEW

RODE PODMIC

Large Diaphragm Podcasting Microphone If you’ve got money for an SM58, but want a mic built for podcasting, Rode’s got you covered. Review: Mark Davie

When Rode released the Rodecaster, it felt like someone in the audio biz was finally taking podcasts seriously. Up until that point, most podcast products had been USB mics – something simple a dreamer could buy to try out their big idea without breaking the bank. The Rodecaster still kept things simple, with basic controls and vocal presets for specific Rode mics. One of those mics is the Podmic. It’s an end address large diaphragm dynamic microphone — a la Rode’s broadcast-looking Procaster — but just over half the length. It looks the part, with its yoke stand mount allowing you to suspend it from a sprung boom arm like Rode’s PSA1. The Podmic is surprisingly heavy for its size, but the tensioners on the yoke keep it firmly in place while you swing it around the studio. AT 16

There are no bells and whistles, it’s simply got an XLR output on the rear. However, it is perfectly set up for podcasting. Out of the box, it has high sensitivity, which means you don’t need to push a cheap preamp into its nasty ranges. And if you do happen to shout into it, the internal pop filter will help keep your plosives from blowing out the recording. It also comes voiced with a moderate high-pass filter and a presence peak, so it won’t need a lot of processing when you fire it up. If you do happen to have a Rodecaster to record your podcast, just flip through the onboard presets and find one that suits you. Like a lot of Rode

Price: $149 Contact: www.rode.com products, the Podmic’s price puts it firmly in the category of no-brainer. If you’ve been itching to get off the mic you borrowed from a friend and look like a real podcaster, the Podmic costs about the same amount as an SM58.


ERIS, REMASTERED.

We made sure these monitors maintained the clarity and flat frequency response that Eris has become synonymous with. Eris XT monitors deliver the same smooth, accurate character of their predecessors, and add improved transient response, a wider top-end, and tightly-focused lows. The 100° x 60° elliptical wave guide provides a wider stereo image for a larger sweet spot, while the narrow vertical dispersion reduces reflections from your desk. The silk dome tweeter delivers a smooth, refined sound that accurately reproduces transients and high frequencies. Both the weave and nature of the Eris XT custom-woven composite lowfrequency driver deliver a constant dispersion pattern throughout the frequency range. A larger cabinet and improved port deliver deeper bass response. It’s Eris, remastered. Rest assured that your clients and fans are getting what they deserve: your best work. Visit us at www.presonus.com to learn more.

ERIS XT ™

High-Definition Active Studio Monitors

©2019 All Rights Reserved, PreSonus Audio Electronics. PreSonus is a registered trademark of PreSonus Audio Electronics, Inc. Eris is a trademark of PreSonus Audio Electronics, Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.

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

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FEATURE

Matt Corby made a commitment to go completely DIY in five years. Rainbow Valley, which he played and sang solo, is a big step in that direction. Story: Mark Davie

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Matt Corby’s next record may well be a completely self-produced affair. “I’ve always been heading that way,” he said. “It started pre-Telluric. I did this album in LA with my band and a couple of epic producers. A few too many people got involved, and it ended up being total dog s**t.” He came home from that experience and decided he would take the next five years to learn how to do everything himself. It was too soon for his debut album, Telluric, to show much fruit of that labour. It was recorded rather traditionally: a full band in Sing Sing Studios, with producer Dann Hume and engineer Matt Neighbour at the helm. Since then, Corby committed to practising a range of instruments and learning to play the drums properly. A few years of this ultra-private music school gave him enough confidence to tackle the next hurdle in his DIY plan; recording every single instrument on Rainbow Valley. “It felt like it could work this time. That I could do everything myself, but not have it sound too much like it was just me,” explained Corby. “When I was younger, guitar and piano were just there to facilitate my singing. Now it’s kind of the opposite. The singing facilitates me having fun in the studio. When something comes to life and is working, it’s like being on drugs. It feels great to hear something that was originally just white noise, come together into a bunch of cool moving elements and production.” NOT COMPLETELY SOLO, YET

He still relied on a few helping hands. Long-term collaborator, Alex Henrikkson, helped him jam up a ton of ideas in the early stages. “I spent probably eight months with Alex. He’s one of my close mates who I write with a lot,” said Corby. “We’d spend about four or five days at a time experimenting in my home studio. There were so many jams — there’s a folder of about 80 tracks sitting in my iTunes — and a few of them turned into songs.” Matt Neighbour was also back in the picture. He helped Corby set up his home studio in his old place on the South Coast of New South Wales. “It was a bungalow where he and Dann had done a lot of the vocals for Telluric,” said Neighbour. “He had a couple of BAE Neve pres, but not many mics. Then we ordered a pair of Coles ribbons, a pair of Chandler TG 500 series preamps and a pair of API 500 series pres. “When he moved up to Byron, we set it up so everything was, more or less, ready to go all the time. We slowly added a few things when I saw a used piece pop up for sale. We got a UA 1178 compressor and a dbx 165 from Italy that was barely used. At some point he got a Distressor, and a bunch of cool dynamics mics; a Sennheiser 421 and a 441. Then a pair of old AKG 414s, which we used on the pianos.” Corby also has a ’70s Ludwig kit, and a bunch of synths. The studio is “a separate dwelling to the house, just dedicated to making music,” explained Corby. “Eventually my goal is to build a proper studio out the back. I’d like to get to a point where there’s a hub for people who want to make records.”

STOKED ON RAINBOW VALLEY

The album title is lifted from Corby’s spacious plot — north of Byron in Stokers Siding — which the previous owner named Rainbow Valley. “It’s fitting because nothing would have been made without this place,” said Corby. “Just being able to have my own studio space, peace and quiet, and no neighbour close by to disturb. Songwriting is so funny; it’s kind of like playing the lottery. On any given day, you can come across something that’s hecticly amazing or something that’s utter s**t. It can come down to the conversation you had the night before or the fact you only had one piece of bacon for breakfast. Any little thing can change how your body is operating, or how your mind feels. This place facilitated me making this record.” After hanging a few sheets of Tontine to tame the top end, Corby and Neighbour took those Logic demos and started fleshing them out into actual songs. Figuring out the arrangements and recording them properly. Three of those songs ended up on the record — Light My Dart Up, Get With the Times, and Rainbow Valley. After that, Corby and Hume went to Music Farm. It’s one of Byron’s famous home-based studios which was brought back to life a couple of years ago and loaded with a lot of Wayne Connelly’s gear, including “a f**k off $300,000 Neve that sounds stupidly good,” said Corby. “It was Dan’s call. I think it was the hi-fi-ness in him. He just wanted to record the s**t out of this music. It was nice going to a super dry room and hearing different mics going through a different desk. It definitely puts you in a different mood and brings out different stuff when you’re recording.” He and Hume co-wrote much of the album together over a month. “We did about two songs a day, then every now and then we hit a good one and would polish it up,” said Corby. “It was pretty quick fire songwriting.” After that, Neighbour came back into the picture. The three of them polished up all of the songs at Music Farm, including the three from Corby’s studio, and pulled the final album together. For most of the record it was just Corby and one other person in the room at a time. “It’s pretty good with two people, because you don’t have to consider anyone else’s day or feelings,” said Corby. “You could just say, ‘that sounds like s**t, I’m going to change it.’ Or jump on drums again. Whatever is necessary. We had a general direction of what sound and tone we wanted from each instrument. “I’ve never been in that sort of situation where it’s just run so unanimously and smooth, where we all knew when we were hitting the vibe and objectively agreed on things sounding good.” “It wasn’t necessarily conscious,” agreed Neighbour. “The deeper we got into the record, the stronger the existing palette felt.” TAKE IT AS IT COMES

Neighbour credits Corby’s musicality, not any studio tricks, as the key to pulling off the one-man band effect. “The time between him picking up an instrument and sounding musical is really quick,” said Neighbour. The rest is just about listening to what he’s doing and picking out the best bits, which

Neighbour reckons comes from the first take 90% of the time. “He’s not the kind of person to plan out the drum patterns and then do 10 takes of roughly the same thing. If he’s got an idea, you’ll get it once and then not again. His instincts are so strong, you have to be careful not to dismiss what he was doing before he was thinking about it. “When you have one person playing all the instruments, the goal is to have it sound like a group of people playing well together. So you want a part that’s got his character, but you also want it to be restrained enough that it sounds like someone who’s listening to his surroundings. That’s usually why the first take is so good, because he’s playing and adding flair based on his instincts but ultimately he’s still listening to the track and figuring out where the space is.”

It felt like it could work this time. That I could do everything myself, but not have it sound too much like it was just me

HOME-MADE MELLOTRON

Those instincts led Corby to chase a vibe that was new soul, but “without much stereotypical soul in it.” Dirty Art Club’s Basement Seance was a big inspiration for Corby. “I don’t normally get that attached to records. It kind of sounds like a Tarantino film; new soul, but with all these samples on it.” Corby had an even deeper objective, he was “aiming for the stuff that gets sampled in hip hop. Where everything is its own new sample but gets created from scratch.” A big part of that was finding a balance between his penchant for lo-fi and Hume’s ability to pull “super-duper hi-fi sounds. The combination of our tastes works harmoniously,” said Corby. “With a lot of the instruments, the thing you would associate with lo-fi was more the pitch modulation, wow and flutter, and graininess,” said Neighbour. “A lot of that was there in the palette of sounds, rather than the process of recording.” Sometimes that simply played out organically, like with the piano recordings. “Matt’s piano has a lot of chorus because certain strings are out of tune, and there’s a lot of hammer noise. The piano at Music Farm was pretty similar. It’s a European piano that’s probably 150 years old, and although it’s in tune, there’s a lot of stretch in the notes. Whether you record it with a couple of Neuman U67s, which we often did, or an old broadcast mic, either way it’s going to sound lo-fi.” Other times, that meant recreating the character of old machines. There’s a lot of Mellotron on the AT 19


record, but when they were recording the opening track they didn’t have access to a real one at Corby’s studio. Instead, they made their own. “Matt plays flute, so he played the parts,” recalled Neighbour. “Then I went through and cut up all the organic notes and looped the waveforms so they were in blocks and played like a keyboard. That way it sounded like it was note on, note off, rather than stopping for breaths. Then I ran all that through a tape delay without any delay for a lo-fi effect. We would never have got the same result if Matt was playing keyboard. He would have played something very different to three harmonised flute parts.” GROOVIN’ IN MONO

“The emphasis wasn’t on ultra-clean studio recording,” said Neighbour. “It was always earthy and about capturing the character.” That’s why mono drum recording techniques formed the core of the record’s rhythm sound. It not only fit the aesthetic, but also suited how Corby plays drums. “There’s not a lot of separation in his playing,” explained Neighbour. “His sound depends on a lot of the sympathetic energy between the drums. He’ll dig into the hats when he hits the snare. When he hits the tom, it’ll be going into a snare roll. Everything is really gritty and together, so a simple, compressed setup brings out the best in the style of playing that’s already there.” The mono mic used during the Music Farm sessions was often Neighbour’s vintage Australianmade Zephyr ribbon placed over the kick drum, pointing at the snare; equal parts between the rack tom and the ride. At Corby’s studio, it was common to find a Sennheiser MD421 tucked up under the rack tom pointing upwards, looking at the bottom snare, and running through a Distressor in Brit Mode. “When he hit the tom, the snare would ring, and the kick and snare would distort well from that position,” said Neighbour. “On songs like No Ordinary Life and All Fired Up, the drums were from Matt and Dann’s original demo sessions at Music Farm. Some of those sounds were just an omni U67 in the spot in the room where it was used on vocals, maybe nudged a bit closer to the kit and compressed with the dbx 165, or sometimes even just Soundtoys’ Devil Loc. Dann would then add a kick sample in later.” The drum grooves also dictated the entire palette of the record. “On a song like No Ordinary Life, it has such a busy groove that it lends itself to be played with low attack instruments like Mellotrons and pads,” said Neighbour. So despite Corby’s reliance on guitar for much of his career, there’s barely any on Rainbow Valley. “We kept thinking, ‘oh maybe Wednesday, we’ll do some guitar.’ Then it became, ‘oh, maybe Sunday,’” recalled Matt. “The grooves cover a lot of rhythm already, so there just wasn’t a big need for other instruments like guitars to fill that role. It became a lot of piano, harp, flute, horn, and taped keys samples.” OMNI PRESENT VOCALS

Most of the vocals on the record were done with one of the Neumann U67s at Music Farm. It would be set in an omni pickup pattern, with no pop filter or compression, and Corby standing two AT 20

or three feet from the mic. “He had headphones on, and would move around and closer during the intimate sections,” explained Neighbour. “Getting to that point was a long process. We had to develop a way of recording that showcased his tone but also allowed him to deliver really dynamic performances. He’s got an amazing range not only pitch-wise, but dynamically. When he hears a compressor clamp down, it’s almost like he loses his place. Imagine driving a car and suddenly the windshield goes black, then clearing up again but you don’t know where you are. Compressors make him lose his point of reference. “We did a similar thing with Telluric with an AEA ribbon mic and no pop filter, just letting him move around the room and react to the mic so he can be his own compressor. “Moving to an omni was the final touch, because unlike directional patterns, it doesn’t have a sweet spot for your tone as long as you have a good sounding room. That room at Music Farm sounds really balanced. Loud sounds return a nice bottom

He’s got an amazing range not only pitch-wise, but dynamically. When he hears a compressor clamp down, it’s almost like he loses his place


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end bump, which is the opposite of what I’ve found in rooms with with similar dimensions. “Even from a physical point of view, it helps Matt get really into it. The outro of the song Elements, where he’s letting rip. He’d be back a metre and a half from the mic and singing up towards the roof, but the room sounds good enough to capture it well. “Most of the vocals I did with Matt were done with a Shure SM7 at his place, or a Gefell tube mic I had. They were done more traditionally with a close cardioid, but those songs are also not the dynamic ones; they’re the softer, tender moments.” BACKSEAT PRODUCER

Corby hasn’t quite reached the point of complete self-sufficiency. It might take a little longer than his five-year plan, but he’s actively pursuing his production education. Even if it’s mostly overthe-shoulder of Hume and Neighbour. “I’m super novice, but I was just over Dann’s shoulder every day asking, ‘What’s that plug-in? What are you doing there?’ Said Corby. “He’d get so annoyed and started pulling his plug-ins up and doing something really quick so I couldn’t even ask.” Neighbour likes Corby’s enthusiasm but thinks part of the reason he’s such a good artist is precisely because “he doesn’t think in the ways you do when you spend all your time in Pro Tools or Logic. He can think about music more freely than most producers and engineers I know.” Still, Corby plans to battle on with it. We’ll see how far he’s come next record. “I’m getting better and better at producing,” reckoned Corby. “Hopefully there’ll be something I put out there in the next couple of years that I’ll be happy with.”

AT 22


AT 23


FEATURE

Greg Simmons talks to the prolific Marcel Gnauk, co-founder of Free To Use Sounds. With no background in audio, Marcel started recording sounds and giving them away on the internet. Now he makes a living from it. Story: Greg Simmons

AT 24


It was less than two years ago when the name ‘Marcel Gnauk’ started popping up on numerous audio-related groups on social media, offering free sounds for people to download and use. Coming out of nowhere, he quickly became a regular; posting daily updates of his sound recording adventures and offering entirely new libraries of free-to-use sounds almost every week. Through clever and consistent internet marketing, his website – freetousesounds.com – now gets over 30,000 page views per month, and is one of the first that comes up in Google searches for free sounds. It also supports his lifestyle of continual travelling and recording. In this interview, Marcel talks about how he got started, how he took freetousesounds. com to the forefront of Google searches – and people’s minds – in less than two years, and how he makes a living from giving sounds away.

crowds, anything. At the moment I’m on a road trip through Vietnam and I’ve been recording rainforests, markets, restaurants, doors, showers, faucets... I LOOK AT THINGS AND I SEE SOUND! THAT’S WHAT I LOVE DOING. I also record a lot of sounds we can’t normally hear – I record underwater sounds with hydrophones, and I record with contact microphones mounted onto things that move, vibrate or can be struck. I also record electromagnetic fields. GS: Electromagnetic fields? Who uses them? MG: They’re mostly used by electronic music makers and sound designers. GS: How do you capture those? MG: It’s a special type of antenna called a Priezor, made by LOM. The company is based in Slovakia and they make some very interesting and specialised microphones and accessories.

STARTING OUT: FOR THE LOVE

Greg Simmons: How did you get started doing sound recordings? Marcel Gnauk: In 2017 I was in Cambodia with Libby — my partner — and we were working on a video for an NGO [Non Government Organisation]. We’d filmed some birds flying and Libby said, “we should add some bird sounds”, so we looked on the internet but couldn’t find anything suitable that fitted our meagre budget. Then we went to Youtube and discovered several videos of a pigeon flapping. We couldn’t believe how many people were searching for and viewing these videos! While most of the sounds were low quality and unusable, they were still free. Not being able to access quality sounds free of charge was what sparked our interest in recording our own sounds. Back then we only had a Zoom H1 recorder. I went out on the streets of Siem Reap with the H1 and saw some women working on a construction site; they were shovelling gravel into trays and shaking it around to clean it, making a sound like ‘Phor! Chh chh chh...’ So I turned on the Zoom, put on my iPhone earbuds, and at that moment I heard the women working, of course, but I also heard everything around me: the cars honking, ‘meep meep’, and ‘vroom’ as they went past, all these thousands of sounds that just hit me. It was the first time I’d ever focused on sound like that, and it was so amazing that I wanted to record more stuff! I was hooked. I ending up walking around Siem Reap recording things until my battery died. When I came back home and played the sounds to Libby, she said “That gravel sound is cool! Let’s put it on YouTube.” After Cambodia we travelled to Portugal and Germany, and I bought the Zoom H6. The first recording I used it for was capturing high-speed traffic on the Autobahn. We added some video footage, uploaded the sound to YouTube and shared it on Reddit. There were so many clicks, views, and comments; that’s when we decided to create the website freetousesounds.com. GS: What sort of sounds do you put on freetousesounds.com? MG: I record almost everything that makes a sound. I love recording industrial sounds, people,

I started with zero knowledge about sound, and now I’m supporting myself from it

CAPTURE KIT

GS: That sounds like a cue to ask about your recording gear. Tell me what you’re using. MG: From the Zoom H1 I upgraded to the Zoom H6 so I could connect other microphones. Then I got a Rode NT4G+, a Rycote Blimp and a matched pair of DPA 4060s. I’m super happy with the 4060s and think they’re one of the best choices for field recording. They’re so small, so discrete, and you can record anything with them: ocean sounds, people, traffic, etc. I can use that one pair of tiny microphones to record hundreds of different things that I might not be able to record with many other types of microphones. I use them with Rycote’s lavalier windjammers, which work really well. GS: And then what? MG: My website was starting to do very well, so I reached out to Zoom in the USA. I knew they had the Zoom Creator program, and they sold me a Zoom F4 at the Creator program price. Then I got the Usi Pros, the Mikro Usi Pros and the Priezor, all from LOM. GS: LOM is a brand that most readers would not have heard of, but they are highly rated by their users. MG: LOM is run by Jonas Gruska, and what he does for the sound community is incredible. He manufactures microphones in his hometown, choosing local circuit board manufacturers and local connector distributors, and he tries to have a positive impact on the environment.

The Usi series – which I love to use – are very small and discrete microphones. The Usi Pros are about 2cm long, not as small as DPA’s 4060 but small enough and very well made. They’re specifically designed for recording very quiet sounds; I find they’re quieter than the DPAs, however, you can’t really record loud sounds or they will distort. For recording quiet ambiences the Usi Pros are a better choice for me than the DPAs, but for louder sounds I use the DPAs. They sound very similar, but the Usi Pros are only 125 Euros [~A$200] for a pair compared to about 850 Euros [~A$1350] for the DPAs! The Mikro Usi Pros are smaller than the Usi Pros but still a bit bigger than the DPAs. GS: DPA’s 4060s and Lom’s Usi Pros are all omnis. Do have a preferred spacing for them? MG: Not really. I have a stereo bar and stand I use, but I also like handholding them and adjusting the space between them to suit the recording and what I’m hearing. They’re all very small and light, including their cables, so it’s not a problem holding them apart for the duration of a recording. That approach allows me to move around a bit if I need to follow some action; it also saves me the extra weight of carrying a stand and stereo bar, and the time needed to set it up. I do it all the time with the Usi Pros because they’re long enough to hold comfortably between the fingers. With the recorder and mics in a small bag, I can pull out the mics and headphones and be ready to record very quickly. Sometimes I mount the mics on other things. For example, I recorded all day today with the Mikro Usi Pros inside Bubblebee windjammers mounted on the top corners of my LowePro ProTactic daypack. Stealth recording in Hanoi! GS: Cool stealth trick! What came after the Zoom F4 and the LOM gear? MG: Last year I connected with the Zoom distributor in Europe and got the brand new Zoom F8n. Then I added Limpet contact mics and hydrophones, and an AKG C411 contact microphone. I recently added the Zoom H3-VR Ambisonic recorder, so I can record in 360°. I also have a pair of Soundman binaural mics, the OKM II Rock-Klassik Studio model — their flagship, which cost about 375 Euros [~A$600]. They’re great for doing stealth recordings in airports and places, because they look like you’re wearing ear buds. GS: You’ve got a lot of Zoom stuff there... MG: Yes, because I love Zoom products! I’ve been using their recorders from the beginning and they’ve never disappointed me. EDIT MODE

GS: What about editing? MG: I use Adobe Audition. I do very light editing, and I don’t process too much because I like to keep the sounds as original as I can. I edit out all the unwanted things. Sometimes I use a filter or a little bit of compression or de-noising. The de-noiser is a plug-in from Waves called NS1, it’s really nifty because it has just one slider! I do all of my monitoring through a pair of Sony MDR7506 headphones; they’re an industry standard, and good for the price. AT 25


GS: There are thousands of sounds on your website and you’re continually adding more, so I assume you have developed a very fast workflow? MG: MY WORKFLOW IS PRETTY INTENSE, BUT I LOVE IT! I TEND TO RECORD EVERY DAY, LOAD THE SOUNDS INTO MY LAPTOP AND DO THE EDITING WHEREVER I’M STAYING.

The real work starts when I feel I have enough sounds to create a library. Nowadays, I put a lot of effort into metadata descriptions; finding the right keywords that people can use with SoundMiner, Soundly, BaseHead or any program with search functions. After the sounds are edited and metadata has been added, I upload them to Bandcamp. Then I make a compilation of all the sounds in that library, and that goes to YouTube and Soundcloud so that people can get an overview of the sounds in that library. Finally, I create a blog post for the website; that means I have to do some research, write something about the recording and choose photos to go with it. When all of that is ready to go, I publish the library and begin the marketing. For every post or new set of uploads, I share about it on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and Instagram, and also send out a newsletter. GS: It sounds like you spend more time doing administrative and marketing stuff than audio stuff! MG: Of course, because that’s the most important thing! Many people don’t understand that [adopts movie preview voice] “the world turns, the world has turned” [laughs]. I COULD BE OUT THERE FOR 15 HOURS A DAY RECORDING SOUNDS AND SPEND ONE HOUR PER DAY ON ADMINISTRATION AND MARKETING, BUT THEN NOBODY WOULD EVER FIND MY SOUNDS ONLINE. You have to put the time into marketing if you want people to find you.

WEB WHISPERING

GS: Right! That brings us to one of the main reasons why I wanted to interview you. Less than two years ago you followed a newfound passion: recording sounds. You made a website and started giving your sounds away, and now those sounds are funding your travelling lifestyle and enabling you to record more sounds to give away. How did you make that work? MG: To be honest, I never anticipated such support from the sound community. It seems that I offer something that people have been wanting and have been looking for. Yes, I provide free highquality sounds but the sound community knows value when they see it and they have continued to give back by purchasing the premium libraries. GS: So you have free sounds and libraries that people can buy? What’s the difference? MG: On the website, I have high-quality sounds that have blog posts; those are free and can be downloaded through Bandcamp. Then there are the premium libraries that can be purchased and downloaded from my cloud storage. Right now I have the Complete Library, the Pro Edited library, the new VR Ambisonic Library, and the All-InOne bundle (which includes all the libraries). The Complete Library contains all of the sounds I have ever recorded, pre-edited by me. The Pro Edited AT 26

(Top) Street recording with DPA 4060s in Rycote windjammers. (Bottom) Recording electromagnetic fields with the Priezor.

Library contains sounds that have been edited and processed by other sound libraries I work with, so they’re usually ready-to-use for professionals. The VR Library contains all the recordings I have done so far with the Zoom H3-VR Ambisonic recorder. GS: Right about now I can imagine the more cynical readers thinking “So that’s how he does it... I bet those premium libraries are expensive!” MG: No, they are not expensive, that was never the intention. You can buy any of those libraries for a price between US$5 and US$15. Also, all of the premium libraries can be accessed from my Sync cloud, 24 hours per day with unlimited downloads,

and when someone buys a library they have access to the new sounds I add to that library in the future. USE CASE

GS: Are there any sound quality differences between the free sounds and the libraries? MG: No, they are all the same source files; 24-bit wavs with 96k or 192k sampling rates, the highest quality I can provide. GS: So what are people getting when they pay for a premium library compared to downloading the free sounds? MG: Apart from what I’ve already described


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about the Pro Edited Library, the difference between the premium libraries and the free sounds is that there is no attribution or credits required for using sounds from the premium libraries, whereas the free sounds require attribution in the form of a link or credit to my website. If you are using the premium libraries, you don’t have to add any credits; you can even use the sounds to create your own sound libraries. GS: Nice! Earlier you mentioned that the Pro Edited Library contains sounds that have been worked on by other sound libraries who are working with your sounds... MG: Yes. I have non-exclusive deals with a few different sound libraries; they buy the sounds from me, add value by spending time making them more suitable for their customers’ needs, and sell them. They also pass them back to me and I put them in the Pro Edited Library. SPECIAL SOURCE

GS: Speaking of other sound libraries, is there anything that makes freetousesounds.com different or unique? MG: I believe our sound website is unique because it is based on blog posts. All of the recordings are captured by me and have a story behind them. AS WE’VE BEEN TRAVELLING THE WORLD WE’VE BEEN ABLE TO DISCOVER SOUNDS AND CATALOGUE THEM FOR EVERYONE. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think there is another sound website that provides such a variety of field recordings all made by the same sound recordist who travels full-time around the world capturing sounds. GS: And because it’s based on blog posts you can share the stories about each new sound library on social media? MG: Of course. I love sharing the stories behind the sounds! That way people can get a feeling for where I am and how I recorded the sounds there. Through social media, I’ve also been able to connect with other sound enthusiasts while I’ve been travelling. GS: Who uses your sounds? MG: The list of users includes filmmakers, music makers, sound designers, games developers, podcasters, YouTubers, app developers, and other sound libraries.

CAREER ADVICE

GS: What advice do you have for people who read this interview and think “Wow, I want to do what Marcel does! I want to travel the world and support myself by selling sounds!” MG: I’d say don’t worry about your past or your experience. I started with zero knowledge about sound, and now I’m supporting myself from it. So start where you are and follow where your interest and excitement takes you. The best piece of advice I can give is don’t compare yourself to others, and be laser-focused on what you’re doing. GS: Thanks for your time and information, Marcel. Hopefully we’ll bump into each other during our travels and I’ll buy you a coffee... MG: Depending on where we meet, buying me a coffee might be more expensive than buying one of my premium sound libraries! AT 28

(Top) Marcel: “I like handholding mics and adjusting the space between them to suit the recording and what I’m hearing.” (Bottom) LOM’s Usi Pro microphones


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REGULARS

PC Audio DDMF PluginDoctor exposes all the engine room secrets of your plug-ins. Revealing a few charlatans along the way. Column: Martin Walker

People quite rightly say that you should mix with your ears and not your eyes, yet I’m still a firm believer that understanding some of the processes and limitations involved can help you extract the best from them. I’ve installed and reviewed hundreds of software plug-ins since I wrote a PC Audio column for the very first AT magazine (way back in 1997), and have learned a huge amount about them along the way. However, sometimes a new product gets released that opens new doors of perception, and for me that’s exactly what happened when I purchased the bargain-priced DDMF PluginDoctor (https://ddmf.eu/plugindoctor/). This standalone utility comes with both 64-bit and 32-bit versions (so you can explore both new and old VST plug-ins), and provides a suite of tests that can help you understand how an individual plug-in works, compare those results with other similar plug-ins, and you can even use it to test external audio hardware, connected via your audio interface. PluginDoctor is a great utility that with practice will help you learn more about what exactly makes your favourite plug-ins sound so good, yet is also sufficiently sophisticated to help plug-in creators during the development phase. Apart from a learning tool, I also use it to quickly evaluate demos of new products before making a purchasing decision (for instance, is that exciter plug-in really adding upper-end harmonics, or is it simply a high shelving EQ, or is that analogue emulation really modelling low-level harmonic contributions, or is it just adding some hiss?). KEEPING TABS

The main PluginDoctor window shows all the test results, is helpfully re-sizeable, and has six main function tabs across the top – LinearAnalysis, HarmonicAnalysis, Hammerstein, Oscilloscope, Dynamics, and Performance. LinearAnalysis essentially maps out frequency response, displaying by default a range of levels from +10dB to -10dB over the entire audio frequency range, although you can change this anywhere between ±5dB and ±40dB via the Settings window, and also click/drag part of the display to zoom in on smaller details, and switch between multiple sample rates at any time to check (for instance) how the EQ top end extends (or not) when using 96kHz and beyond. I’ve used LinearAnalysis to explore and compare not only the shelving and bell curves offered by various EQ AT 30

plug-ins, but also the slopes and shapes of their HPF and LPF responses, which can teach you a lot about why some seem more effective or sound ‘nicer’ than others. You can also switch from Freq to Phase response, which may be the key to understanding why some ‘air’ EQs sound better than others, and explore the difference between minimum phase and linear phase designs. Easily missed (but essential once spotted) is the ‘Store’ button at the top left of the main display area. You can save multiple EQ curve plots and then load in a completely different plug-in to directly compare their frequency/phase responses – I’ve used this extensively to match the curves of one EQ to another (why buy another plugin if you can match it with one you already own?). HARMONICALLY RELATED

The HarmonicAnalysis tab displays Total Harmonic Distortion or Intermodulation Distortion across the frequency range for your chosen spot test frequency (once again adjusted via the separate Settings window), and is for exploring the non-linearities found in character plug-ins offering analoguelike ‘mojos’ of various sorts, such as transistors, valves, transformers, consoles and the like. The results can be surprisingly informative, as some of the more realistic recreations can turn out to be surprisingly subtle, while quite a few plug-ins exaggerate hardware effects to make them more obvious to the novice. Seeing the levels of each harmonic at different test frequencies can help you decide whether or not a particular plug-in is suitable for mix bus duties, or whether it’s more suited to special effects on individual tracks. It also helps you establish whether or not a digital plug-in suffers from any ‘aliasing’ problems that can make them sound harsh and unmusical. Later releases have added a Sweep frequency test option so you can see how distortion varies over the audible range – perfect for seeing if those transformer emulations really do offer low-end heft, or if those boutique preamp plug-ins really capture the flavour of the original hardware. While in Sweep mode the Fundamental option plots the frequency response of those plug-ins with dynamic variations (which can baffle the more straightforward LinearAnalysis test). WAVES & ENVELOPES

The Oscilloscope function will already be familiar to most musicians, letting you view the test

sinewave at the output of your plug-in to examine how it’s changed in shape, run into clipping, and so on. Watching the waveform change as you alter plug-in parameters such as Drive can also teach you an awful lot about their design and how best to use them. Dynamics is the perfect tab for exploring the action of compressors, expanders, limiters, and saturation plug-ins. Its Ramp display of input level against output level across a 100dB range means you can easily see at what input level compression/ expansion starts to kick in as you change the threshold; whether it’s a hard or soft clip, and so on. Meanwhile, its Att/Rel option shows how the audio envelope responds over time, so you can see how much of your transients get through – it’s an educational feast! Just a couple of days before I submitted this column, yet another update appeared for PluginDoctor, not only adding more refined options to some existing functions, but also adding a completely new page devoted to Hammerstein analysis, which can simultaneously display the frequency response/level of the first seven harmonics of your test signal – a great way to explore mojo saturation devices in even more detail. This 1.2.2 update also added a Store button to the Dynamics tab, plus very handy Min/Max/ Step options that let you zoom in accurately to more closely explore the clipping area of so many plug-ins, which often only occur in the upper 10dB or so of their range. INTERPRETING RESULTS

It does take a little knowledge to interpret some of the results, so a few beginners have in all good faith rubbished some aspect of a new release because they don’t fully understand how a particular feature functions, although thankfully such mistakes tend to be quickly corrected by more knowledgeable folk. On the other hand, since plug-in developers now know that many users can more closely examine how their products work, they tend to be even more on their toes to avoid releasing new products with bugs, since these are likely to be spotted and exposed on the internet within hours of release. Hopefully, it will also help ensure that marketing departments can no longer get away with exaggerated claims for new plug-ins, as we will be able to measure them for ourselves. Personally, I love PluginDoctor to bits!


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REGULARS

Apple Notes The hyper-competent new iMacs are the Apple desktop workhorse. But where’s the next fully customisable Mac? Column: Brad Watts

I’ll confess to being a bit of a snob when it comes to the iMac. I suppose that derives from witnessing the very first iMacs inveigl their way into the marketplace. The fruitily coloured iMac G3s were a huge departure from the stale beige designs previous. The iMac was a roaring success. Suddenly there multicoloured iMacs in high street businesses everywhere you turned. Thousands of people were inducted into the cult of Mac. Of course, the iMac was the brainchild of the now deceased Steve Jobs, and his first brushstroke of genius after being appointed as the interim CEO of Apple, years after being frozen out of the company. iMac sales significantly contributed to turning around Apple’s sales figures slump. It was also the first Apple machine to eradicate the floppy drive in favour of the emerging USB standard. That certainly sent the audio world into a spin, as most plug-in and DAW copy protection involved authorisation via floppy disks. But the iMac was a consumer computer, and it melded with Steve Jobs’ vision of an all-in-one design, much like the Macintosh 128k from 1984. While it was quick, courtesy of a 233MHz PowerPC G3 processor, it wasn’t workstation material. It had no upgradability in terms of PCI slots, which was the typical bus for anything considered capable of delivering multitrack 24-bit recording. Sure, it had Firewire, but a Firewire audio interface could only manage a handful of tracks recording to the sole internal ATA hard drive. Your best bet was an external Firewire drive. A USB hard drive wouldn’t cope at all. ALUMINIUM NOT FOILED

So you’ll understand, in some way I hope, why I’ve shunned the iMac ever since, despite the fact the iMac platform has morphed into an extremely capable platform. Since the Intel-based aluminium design iMacs from 2007, the concept has become the standard Mac for the typical Mac user. And, of course, the only Mac option apart from laptops since 2013 following the ‘trash-can’ Mac Pro. Obviously there’s the iMac Pro, which is a vastly more capable machine than the 2013 trash-can Mac Pro, but the 2019 ‘Aluminum’ iMac AT 32

models are seriously quick and very professional machines, too. Only today was I sitting in a colour grading suite checking out some work being done on Davinci Resolve Studio – a standard platform for grading colour on everything from television commercials to feature films. Sat between the JBL monitoring and below a seriously large OLED display was the new 2019 iMac. When asked if the iMac was up to par in terms of speed and capability the resounding answer was “hell yeah!”. Here’s why: OPTION UP

The top of the range 2019 iMac can be ordered with some alarmingly healthy specs. For the sake of a bit of frivolity, let’s order the most spanking iMac Apple can provide on a custom order basis. No doubt we should kick off with the 27-inch model, then lace it with the best processor on offer. A 3.6GHz eight-core Intel Core i9 processor that’ll boost up to 5.0GHz if you push it. That’s an I9-9900K with 16 threads, so Logic Pro X is going to run 16 plug-in meters — plenty of gumption for as many instruments or processors you care to throw at it. Apple will sell you this for $640 — a processor that’ll cost you $859 off-the-shelf. For an additional $1600 you can have 64GB of 2666MHz DDR4 RAM, which feels a little iffy when you can buy 64GB of 3000MHz DDR4 RAM for 800 bucks. Apple tax, I guess. Storage-wise you could sit with the standard 2TB of Fusion Drive storage, which for all intents is a combined SSD and traditional hard drive. Quick-ish, but not as quick as an SSD. If you want 2TB of proper SSD you can add $1760 to that custom order. Now here’s where that Apple tax rears its dainty head again. Personally, I need a 2TB drive for my system drive, and SSDs of that size aren’t the cheapest. When I initially considered an SSD for my workstation rig a 2TB SSD was about $900. However, recently I’m feeling like it’s time to make the leap, as I can pick up a 2TB SSD for as little as $339. Why is a 2TB SSD in a new iMac $1760? What’s all that about? Even a 2TB M.2 SSD is about $700. It’s a hefty fee for sticking a drive into a machine. Finally, let’s add the upper option GPU, with the Radeon Pro Vega 48. Hell, you don’t need

this for audio work, and if you’re doing graphics intensive work, that choice will primarily come down to what software you use. Anyway, Apple want $720 on to to whack that card in. Regardless, we now have the best custom iMac you can buy, excluding the iMac Pro of course. Cost? $8269. I’ll let that sink in. $8269. There’s no denying this machine would keep up, nay, plough through countless professional pursuits, but for that kind of money I’d be building something from scratch, or, rebuilding a 2012 Mac Pro. The iMac is still a platform I prefer to avoid. I really can’t see the value. In the meantime I think we’re all still waiting on a truly customisable Mac Pro. It’s coming soon. ‘Soon’, Apple says.


Bose Pty Limited,

61 2 8737 9999,

info@bose.com.au,

61 2 8737 9922

C

2019 Bose Corporation. AT 33


TUTORIAL

What’s it like mixing in Immersive? Is it a brave new world of ‘anything goes’? Experienced live sound engineer, Dennie Miller, breaks it down. Story: Dennie Miller

Stereo has been with us for a long time. Over the decades, audio engineers have come to master a whole range of techniques in order to make all the elements of a composition fit within the limited sonic space afforded by stereo systems. We are now at a place where we can relearn some of those rules. If you’ve not experienced an immersive live show, then as an engineer or concert goer, you owe it to yourself to find an opportunity. It’s an entirely different sonic experience. Everybody’s favourite sound engineer, Dave Rat, once said ‘nowhere in nature does the exact same sound radiate from two different points in space [simultaneously]’. Which made me think: stereo has served us pretty well, but ultimately it’s only properly served a narrow band of the audience in the sweet-spot. Immersive breaks that limitation. The energy is all around you. It transforms the concert experience from a battle of compromises into a visceral process of creativity. It’s the next evolutionary step in mainstream concert production. At this point, I’ve used a number of immersive audio platforms. Most recently I’ve spent time at Meyer Sound HQ working with its new SpaceMap Live platform — using it and offering my feedback. It’s been amazing fun, and they are really onto something with their take on immersive tools. This issue I’d like to share with you some insights. Immersive has the power to transform the way you mix.

PANORAMIC POTENTIAL

The last 20 years has seen the rise and rise of live sound fidelity. Line array and in-ear monitoring have been two key drivers, but what hasn’t changed much (until the emergence of immersive audio) is sound source localisation. Stereo record production allows the virtual placement of instruments across the sound stage. Stereo live mixing doesn’t. Not really. As I mentioned in my Dave Rat ruminations, stereo in a concert setting only adequately serves a small portion of the audience. The rest of the audience do not enjoy anything like precise sound source localisation. So how important is localisation? Let me paint an intentionally outlandish sonic picture for you: Imagine how bizarre it would be to see your favourite artist in concert, and see them singing on stage, but you are near the back of the audience hearing his/her voice obviously coming from a speaker just behind you? That would be a serious psychoacoustic disconnect. Our mind wants to hear the sound radiate from where we see it originating.  Immersive audio goes a long way to joining the psychoacoustic dots. When you hear an Immersive system with five, seven (or more) sources across the sound stage, you’ll be amazed. You’re not relying on the phantom placement of sound sources any longer. Instruments emanate from their position on stage because they’re being reproduced by those corresponding loudspeakers. It means so much more of the audience enjoys sound localisation — not just the lucky, sweetspot, few. FREQUENCY FIX

Here’s how I like to think about what’s going on in an immersive PA setup: more speakers are doing less work, which yields more sonic space for the engineer to preserve the frequency content and dynamics in our independent sources. In the past we’ve been compelled to hack and squash our sound sources to help create the illusion of space. With Immersive, you don’t need to brutalise your sound sources… unless you want to for creative reasons. This is a profound difference for two reasons. No. 1: It means you don’t necessarily need to spend so much time and energy working to make elements in the mix sit correctly with each AT 34

other. No. 2: Since the sounds are less adulterated, perhaps even familiar, it’s easier to localise them in your immersive system — it’s easier to pinpoint a sound’s location because it retains more of its original character. HIGH FIDELITY

It’s an exciting time to work in the touring industry. The days of loud stages and tube amplifiers are slowly coming to an end, and loudspeakers have come so far that we can now use the loudspeakers to judge the quality of our music... not just the other way around! All of these are factors very much to the benefit of the concert experience. There’s another sonic improvement that’s been a hot topic in touring as of late, and it’s certainly one of my favourites to discuss. Amp modellers. Not so long ago, touring musicians would rather die than part with their fastidiously curated combination of amps, cabs and effects. Now, the amp modellers are so good (and I’m thinking of the likes of Fractal and Kemper) that to move from loud and temperamental hardware to the virtual/digital world of guitar tone is no longer anathema. This is great news for we, the sound engineers. Traditional amplifiers’ tone fluctuates with ambient temperature, humidity, altitude, A/C line voltage, and physical placement. Consistency was impossible. Then there’s also the less discussed point that the microphones we use are imperfect.


THE MEYER M.O. Dennie Miller: Meyer Sound has long been a benchmark in sonic excellence, and they have an unparalleled commitment to quality in the way they hand build and test their loudspeakers. (If you’ve never toured their factory in Berkeley, you need to do this at least once in your lifetime.) After using a number of immersive mixing tools, I have to say the UI of Meyer’s SpaceMap Live is my

There’s simply no microphone in existence that can capture 100 percent of the nuanced sound of a real amplifier with zero distortion. The amp modellers have negated these factors. They’re digital (perfect consistency night to night), they don’t need miking up, and they greatly lower the level of stage sound volume thanks to the absence of a speaker cabinet. It feels like a happy coincidence that a world of increased consistency and sonic fidelity can now be reproduced in the format of an immersive audio system with such ease. And now — through the combination of Immersive and superior amp modelling — we can localise the guitarist properly in our PA. There’s no backline sound to compete with. We can simply place the guitar where we want with precision and finesse. RIPPING UP THE RULE BOOK

Some engineers will find immersive intimidating. It’s certainly a change in our way of thinking. But you don’t have to throw away everything you know. Take your drum sound, as an example. Whether you have only three mics or 30 on your kit, you can achieve a superior result with the wider canvas of Immersive. You can use the same creative parallel bus compression you’re familiar with to create the dynamics and energy you desire, but rather than pan your two-channel drum mix hard left and right you can place them in front of you and, say, slightly left or right (depending on where the drums are placed on stage). There’s no need to unlearn everything you’ve refined over the years.

favourite, thus far, and it carries on their tradition of creating some of the best tools in the business. It’s a little different compared to the look of many other platforms we are familiar with. I have to say the matrix view available in Compass is by far my favourite feature, since it allows you to see what the SpaceMap Live software is actually doing in the background. This is an imperative, as you move

OUT OF MY WAY

There’s always been a very distinct demarcation between creative and corrective compression. Guitars provide another great example of that when it comes to corrective compression. I might find that the piano is treading on the toes of the guitar. So when using a stereo system, I’ll likely reach for a sidechain crosscompression approach to dynamically get those two elements to happily coexist in stereo. Now, with Immersive, I can simply move the guitar a little bit and now I’ve got a whole world of sonic separation. All because I have more than two places to go — left and right. Now a 130-channel pop show can become as clear and as defined as a guitar/bass/drums rock show like AC/DC.  BREAKING THE RULES

I’ve mentioned how our brains find it pleasing to hear and see a sound source emanating from the same, matching point in space. But for elements that don’t have a physical presence on stage, like special effects and certain playback tracks, you’re not constrained. I’m talking about percussive elements, synths, or even background vocals. They all have one thing in common: when they’re a playback source, you can’t see anyone performing these sounds. This is where the fun begins, you can begin to pan things around the rear of your venue, or have realtime movements happening that really grab the attention of the audience. Of course, to mess with an audience’s head you do need surround speakers:

your production from venue to venue and inevitably your loudspeakers can’t be in exactly the same place, or perhaps you need to scale up or down from a line array to a point source. Having the visual perspective of the matrix will make adjusting for consistency in a new venue far easier.

respond to hearing sound moving behind and above them. Pink Floyd figured this out years ago. I acknowledge, it’ll be hard to rig those surround speakers in some venues, but it’s becoming easier with lighter, more compact, yet powerful loudspeakers. There will always be plenty of design work to be done in advance, but those special effect channels are what gets people excited — people aren’t hearing that in other concerts and it may very well be the justification for the ticket price necessary to carry the required loudspeakers. CREATIVE POTENTIAL

With the rise of Immersive, the sound engineer potentially takes on a new level of creative responsibility. In the past, creative decisions were primarily the concern of the artist and/or the producer and it was the FOH engineer’s job to simply replicate the band’s recorded (stereo) sound. That’s changing. In the same way that the lighting designer currently works with the tour’s creative director, the sound engineer will need to be involved in the audio aesthetic of the show. It’s a new avenue of possibilities for artists, creative directors, and engineers alike. Personally, I’m excited for the future as artists begin creating content with immersive performances in mind. About Dennie Miller: Dennie is a Nashvillebased FOH Mixer and Systems Engineer. His company, Miller Audio Industries, has been bringing music to the masses with a wide range of clients such as Miguel, Volbeat, The 1975, Godsmack, the legendary Bob Dylan and more.

BEST BANG FOR BUCK

My view is you absolutely need some surround speakers to really bring the wow factor into an immersive setup. You might have seen deployments with seven or more sources across stage and that will serve to give you a highly detailed sound stage, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s amazing how people AT 35


REVIEW

ASTON STEALTH

Large Diaphragm Dynamic Microphone Aston reinvents the large diaphragm mic from the clip to the head basket and all the voices in between.

NEED TO KNOW

Review: Mark Davie

PRICE $599 CONTACT Link Audio: (03) 8373 4817 or info@linkaudio.com.au

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PROS Built-in preamp Four voice settings Innovative mic clip

CONS Super tight pattern not for everyone

SUMMARY Large diaphragm mic design has typically been low on the bells and whistles. Aston’s Stealth disrupts that balance with four internal voicing settings, a switchable onboard preamp and a mic clip that doesn’t get in the way.


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You know you’re pushing the envelope of mic design when you have to include a separate one-page manual explaining how to adjust a switch. For a long time, mic switches have had opposing outcomes. On the one hand, you want the switch to make it obvious what you’re, you know, switching. But you also don’t want to place it in a spot where it can accidentally switch between polar patterns, or bump in a pad, while it’s in use. Accommodating for this pragmatic tension, switches are typically either incredibly tiny and stiff (if mounted on the mic face), or hidden out of sight and out of reach. The switch on Aston’s Stealth has four positions. So how do you place it topside and not subject it to constant flicking between states? Enter the rotatable collar, which requires you to wrap your entire thumb and forefinger around it in order to engage rotation. If you simply grasp it with your fingertips, as would seem natural to do, it won’t budge one bit. Hence the manual. As much as I love my Shure SM7, I do hate having to peer into the slots of its backside to know whether I’ve switched in the high-pass filter or left it flat. Then having to find a key or screwdriver to toggle them back and forth… eurgh, finicky. (Almost as bad as having to unscrew a thread adaptor that hasn’t been moved in decades.) Stealth’s unique rotatable collar does both jobs: it keeps your filter selection visible without leaving it susceptible to accidental bumps. The switch contains four voicing selections. V1 is the flattest of the lot and aimed at male vocals. The high-pass filter gets progressively more pronounced on the V2 (female vocals suggested) and G (for guitars) settings. Then the bass gets a big broad bump for the D (for dark) setting, designed to mimic more of a rounder, ribbon-like capture. There’s no switchable pad or separate high-pass filter. The pushbutton on the rear is only to turn the purple ring light on and off that appears when you give it phantom power. ASTONNOVATION

Aston has also shaken up the rest of the mic’s design. When you think of a normal mic clip — whether it’s a standard issue accessory, shock mount or ring mount — it usually involves inserting the mic into the clip. Aston has flipped it the other way around so you insert Stealth’s stand mount into a slot in the rear of the mic. It doesn’t require a push button, or a locking mechanism. Once it’s clicked into place, you can comfortably hang Stealth upside down by the clip. If you want to take it off, you simply yank the mic off. Most large, cylindrical broadcast mics like Stealth are tethered to a yoke stand mount. The yoke is fixed to the chassis, which means you have to unscrew the entire mount to take the mic off its stand. Or in the case of the Procaster, its ring mount requires you to screw it onto the stand, then onto the mic. Aston’s method makes mounting or de-mounting Stealth from a stand as quick as it can get. The one downside of having it clip into the rear is all the

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weight of the mic is levering against the clips swivel joint. While it stays in place, it only takes a bit of downward force on the mic to move. It doesn’t seem to sag after it has moved, like other swivel joints can, but at least the central yoke design of the SM7 means it will always stay balanced. The new insertable clip means there’s no external shock mount, which is why Aston has incorporated an internal Sorbothane one so you don’t have to deal with excessive handling noise. As it has done before with the Origin’s squishable head basket and Starlight’s sintered capsule, Stealth’s front end is also unique. It’s made of a flexible, but tough plastic that won’t shatter when you drop it. It’s likely also a simpler material for Aston to mould, making the gills required for its polar pattern directivity easier to construct and highly reproduceable.

Aston includes a number of innovations that aren’t just gimmicks, but improve on the accepted mode of microphone design

GAIN INSIDE

I put up the Stealth against three other large diaphragm dynamics; a Shure SM7B, a Rode Procaster, and one of the new Rode Podmics. Presented with the same level source, the Rode Procaster is the most sensitive, followed by the Rode Podmic, then the Aston Stealth, and coming in at the rear is the Shure SM7B. Anyone who has used an SM7B will know it takes a preamp with 60dB of clean gain — or a Cloudlifter ‘mic activator’ — to get the most out of it. The Rode mics are built to interface with affordable equipment like the Rodecaster podcasting interface, and have sensitivities to match. The Aston Stealth has its own trick to play. Feed it phantom power and it triggers the internal preamp. It doesn’t act like a booster — in the way a Cloudlifter simply adds a handful of gain to your SM7 — in most cases it provides all the gain you’ll need. So make sure to turn your mic preamp right down before turning on phantom. PATTERN PERFECT

The Aston’s off-axis pattern is incredibly tight. I’d always thought of the SM7B as a way to tame less desirable room acoustics. But it’s more about the falloff of its sensitivity at distance. It’s a mic that’s

designed to get right up on. Move more than a foot away and you lose the directness of your sound very quickly. However, when you’re up on the mic, it’s got a forgiving cardioid pattern. If you’re off to the side of the mic, you’re not going to instantly lose tone. The Aston is much tighter. It wants you to station yourself directly on axis with the capsule. If you swing to either side the high mids and top end disappears. It’s not unworkable given the size of the sweet spot, but if you have talent moving around on the mic, you’ll be doing a lot of coaching. On the flip side, it’s an even better candidate for less than ideal recording spaces — which many recordists will find themselves in more often than not. GOT A SETTING FOR THAT

The natural home ground for all these mics is vocal recording. In that guise, the SM7B is the most natural on my voice in the flat setting. When I’m right up on the Podmic, it has a similar tone, but is barkier and not as smooth. Then when you pull off the mic, it starts to get a little grainy. The Procaster had more of a broadcast-y polish to it in the lower end. I’d probably use a low cut on it if I had it. However, it handled distance a bit better than the Podmic. The Aston Stealth in its V1 setting was similar to the Procaster in the low-end stakes, but with a little more natural mid range. It’s a very polished sound straight out of the box. It had slightly less top end than the Procaster, which comes out more on the V2 setting. The Guitar setting has a noticeable presence peak which screams ‘electric guitar’. I didn’t love it on acoustic guitar, as it didn’t have enough bottom end to that voicing for me. But when paired with a ribbon on a guitar cab, it made for a fantastic combination – really detailed pickup of funk strumming, while capturing all the body. I’m glad Aston chose to label it D for Dark, as opposed to R for Ribbon. It’s definitely in the vicinity, from a tone perspective, but it behaves quite differently to a ribbon. It’s not as relaxed, however, its broadband low-end bump can be a benefit to some sources and was the nicest of the lot on acoustic guitar for me. LARGE RANGE DIAPHRAGM

I’ve always found large diaphragm mics to be very versatile, and Stealth’s four voice settings make it even more so. It gives you enough flexibility to record different boxes straight out of the box, but if you get a hankering to chuck it on a guitar cab, or place it in the proximity of a drum kit, there’s a voicing that will work there, too. It’s a fantastic mic, which not only looks and sounds great, but in Aston’s now-typical way, includes a number of innovations that aren’t just gimmicks, but improve on the accepted mode of microphone design. With four voice settings, and an onboard custom-tuned preamp, there’s a lot of mic included for the money.


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REVIEW

KORG KROME EX Music Workstation Review: Christopher Holder

Krome is a spectacularly big seller — it’s priced right, combining a great array of sounds, with just enough control and features. The seven-inch touchscreen is an excellent focus of any programming — logical and legible. Otherwise, Krome is housed in an unspectacular lightweight chassis with a synth keybed that will please most people most of the time. Krome EX is an upgrade option for would-be Krome klients. For an extra $500 (or so) you’ll score a selection of superior piano samples. The new grand piano is grand and the new upright is righteous. This is a semi-weighted keyboard so the EX won’t find piano perfectionists jumping onto the deck of SS Krome, but it’s currently a welcome secret weapon. Krome EX also offers some additional up-tothe-minute sounds, many contributed by the Korg Gadget team. I’m a Gadget fan, so I was pleased to hear the Gadget Geeks were the ‘insane’ kids gaining control of the Krome EX ‘asylum’. LIKE IT OR LUMP IT

NEED TO KNOW

Krome, unhappily, uses a ‘lump in the lead’ power supply. If it becomes separated from

PRICE (Expect to pay; with free soft case) Krome EX 61: $1495 Krome EX 73: $1999 Krome EX 88: $2250

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CONTACT CMI Music & Audio: (03) 9315 2244 or www.cmi.com.au

the synth on the way to a gig then you’re kinda screwed. I think this is my only real gripe. Krome takes its time to boot up. Once awake you can begin to explore the 700-odd sounds — all sonic bases are more than adequately covered. Krome follows the time-tested Korg MO of supplying Program and Combi sounds. The Combis (which can combine as many as 16 Program sounds) are heavy on keyboard splits, big layers, double arpeggiations and drum accompaniments. The Combis are amazing fun. They will trigger your creative juices without even touching your computer. Some of the Combis sound a little dated (probably intentionally), like a crazy wave sequence from my ’90s Wavestation SR. Others sound bleeding-edge contemporary — instant party starters with dancefloor-ready drums etc. Either way, it’s hard to imagine how one uses the auto accompaniment features beyond idea exploration. (If you find yourself locked into a great groove, just hit the EX’s Record button.) That said, I’ve found myself in enough hotel lobby bars in the Far East to get a sense of how workstations and auto accompaniments are expertly used in entertainment settings (think: girl/boy vocal/ keyboard duo playing karaoke-style favourites).

TAKE A SHINING

PROS Superior piano samples Array of highly usable programs

SUMMARY Krome hits the sweetspot as a highly playable studio and stage all rounder, at the right price. The Krome EX throws in superior piano sounds along with some other Gadgetderived sonic sweeteners for those who like to option up.

CONS Lump in the lead PSU

Krome is a great all-rounder. It’s enough of a workstation to record ideas, and for performers to have a set list of backing tracks, but it’s not a blue-blood arranger (Korg has that covered by the PA series). It’s enough of a synth to ensure you’ll always have an appropriate bass, lead, pad, or orchestral sound. You’ll never get caught short (which you can’t say of Korg’s more specialised analogue synths and emulations). And now, with the EX, it’s enough of a piano to attract the envious eye of even ardent piano purists. Krome EX is a worthy workhorse, whether that be for the studio producer who needs a keyboard to take out ’n’ about; a gigging keys person; or as an excellent all-rounder for churches and schools.


A V A I L A B L E

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J-Curve slim line array

STAGEPAS Editor App

Includes speaker cover, dolly available separately

$1,899 RRP* • Compact 12" subwoofer • 1,000W Class-D amplifier • 5-Channel Digital Mixer

FIND A DEALER

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• Link two STAGEPAS 1Ks for stereo playback and set to mono-mode for a total of 6 mono inputs & 2 ST inputs • Connect your Android or iOS device via Bluetooth and playback music or mix remotely using STAGEPAS Editor

The prices set out in this advertisement are recommended retail prices (RRP) only and there is no obligation for Yamaha dealers to comply with this recommendation. *Errors and omissions excepted.

yamahamusicau

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REVIEW

NEUMANN NDH 20

Closed-Back Monitoring Headphones After seven decades of history in the microphone-manufacturing world, Neumann diversifies its portfolio with its first-ever pair of headphones, the NDH20.

NEED TO KNOW

Review: Preshan John

Let’s get straight down to business: the Neumann NDH20 is a closed back headphone with 38mm drivers, 150Ω impedance and a stated frequency response of 5Hz–30kHz. Orange accents are splashed around the futuristic design, on the foam inside the ear cups and at the tip of the cable. The headphones are large but comfortable and don’t feel like 388g when on my head. Build quality is second to none. The folding ear cups rotate on a solid quarter-circle joint connected just under the proudly embossed Neumann logo either side of the rubber-lined headband. The coiled cable plugs into the right ear cup. (A small gripe here — the plug tends to rub against my right shoulder with movement and this is quite ‘audible’ with the headphones on.) Also the cable’s generously thick and long coiled section results in a weightiness that gets irritating if unsupported (the NDH20s aren’t trying to be your iPod headphones). Besides the minor inconveniences, the NDH20s are certainly a premium piece of gear with a design that conveys both class and roadworthiness.

mate who unapologetically says what you need to hear even when it hurts. Play a bad mix through them and it will undoubtedly let you know. On the flip side, mix a banger on them and they translate well to other playback systems. Some may perceive the NDH20’s modest high end as a lack of detail, others will hear it as refreshingly flat and unhyped. The lows are reined in a little too much for my taste, especially sub frequencies, however it’s not to the detriment of a natural overall balance. With some headphones, certain chunks of the frequency spectrum jump out briskly, but it’s not so with the NDH20. It all feels contained and neutral just like any good monitoring headphone should. Even the soundstage feels this way, presenting as tight and focussed rather than wide and majestic. My AKG open-backs are more ‘fun’ to listen to but the NDH20’s absence of exaggeration bolsters confidence for mixing and monitoring purposes.

ON THE EARS

IN THE ZONE

After comparing the NDH20 to various other headphones lying around the traps — models from AKG, Shure, Ultrasone and Beyerdynamic — it became clear these cans are designed for honesty more than flattery. The NDH20 is that

Isolation is commendable — both incoming and outgoing spill is well controlled. Take a moment to position the memory foam ear cups for the best seal because, for my (admittedly small) head, this came only after a little shuffling.

PRICE $869RRP

CONS Ear cup cable connection a little obtrusive

CONTACT Sennheiser: (02) 9910 6700 or sales-au@sennheiser.com

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PROS Beautiful design & build quality Flat & neutral sound Very comfortable with great isolation

The more I listened to the NDH20 the more they grew on me. While initially I felt they sounded unexciting, my ears settled into hearing them as transparent and honest — precisely the kind of portable tool an audio engineer needs. There’s no doubt the NDH20 is a solid entry into the headphone world for Neumann. I keep going back to the lux look and design — like any Neumann mic it’s built for business and makes a lot of other headphones look like toys. With excellent isolation, it’s a trusty companion for recording or mix engineers who do location work, and you can just as easily pass it to a musician to monitor during a recording session. While it’s not my go-to headphone for leisure listening, the NDH20 is an ideal option for all manner of mixing and music production applications.

SUMMARY Neumann’s headphone debut addresses the sound person who needs a studio or in-the-field workhorse. Like a luxury utility vehicle, they’ll deal with everything you throw at them in style.


Wherever songs are made. With the transparent XMAX mic preamps, high-end 24-bit/192 kHz

Studio 24c 2x2 USB-C audio interface

converters, and flexible monitoring, there’s a PreSonus Studio USB-C interface that’s right for the job. They’re perfectly integrated with the

Studio 26c: 2x4 USB-C audio interface

included Studio One Artist DAW and Studio Magic Plug-in Bundle. Studio 68c 6x6 USB-C audio interface

Wherever songs are made, Studio USB-C interfaces are there. Start making yours at www.presonus.com Studio 1810c 18x8 USB-C audio interface

STUDIO USB-C SERIES AUDIO INTERFACES 192 kHz, USB-C Recording Interfaces

Studio 1824c 18x18 USB-C audio interface ALL STUDIO USB-C SERIES INTERFACES INCLUDE

PLUG-IN SUITE

OVER $400 VALUE INCLUDED FREE

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

©2018 All Rights Reserved, PreSonus Audio Electronics. PreSonus is a registered trademark of PreSonus Audio Electronics, Inc. Studio One is a registered trademark of PreSonus Software Ltd. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.

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ORION STUDIO UNPRECEDENTED F X PROCESSING W ITH 6 DSP & 2 FPG A CHIPS

• Cross-platform Thunderbolt™ 3 & • 6DSP + 2FPGA FX processors allow for up to 256 FX instances per session USB device • Minimum latency stacking when chaining multiple FX

• Digital patch bay provides flexible routing for pro studios

• 12 ultra-linear Discrete MP micpreamps with 75 dB of pristine gain

• 50 hardware-modeled studio FX included

• 130 dB Dynamic Range D/A for critical listening AT 44

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Profile for Alchemedia Publishing

AudioTechnology App Issue 60  

Matt Corby’s push for full studio DIY production took another huge leap forward with the making of Rainbow Valley. Meanwhile, Free to Use So...

AudioTechnology App Issue 60  

Matt Corby’s push for full studio DIY production took another huge leap forward with the making of Rainbow Valley. Meanwhile, Free to Use So...