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AudioTechnology THE MAGAZINE FOR SOUND ENGINEERS & RECORDING MUSICIANS
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MASTERING IN BYRON? Leon Zervos returns to 301
A NIGHT AT SING SING The multi-media experiment
LOCATION LOCATION Rick finds a new space
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Editor Andy Stewart firstname.lastname@example.org
The State of Play, Pause, Stop: Victoria.
Publisher Philip Spencer email@example.com
Text: Andy Stewart
Editorial Director Christopher Holder firstname.lastname@example.org Deputy Editor Brad Watts email@example.com Editorial Assistant Mark Davie firstname.lastname@example.org Design & Production Heath McCurdy email@example.com
It used to be called ‘The Garden State’ back in the day when pubs booked bands (and pokies were banned). A decade or two later, after several inner-city police shooting incidents involving mentally-ill people wielding broom handles and the like, many in Victoria began coining a different phrase – ‘The Police State’ – though this rarely appeared on the number plate. In 2009 the State of Victoria is perhaps now more deserving of another name: ‘The Wowser State’. Now this might seem a tad ironic given the amount of alcohol-fuelled violence that’s been reported on the streets of Melbourne’s CBD in recent months. If you’re to believe the hype – and for the benefit of everyone who lives beyond the borders of Australia’s most preoccupied state – drunken stabbings, ‘glassings’ and shootings are now a nightly occurrence in some parts of Melbourne’s CBD. Ten years ago you were far more likely to be lacerated by a startled possum or swooped by a magpie than attacked by a drunken numbskull. Of course, most people in Australia don’t consider wandering around Melbourne’s inner city at 4am, pissed out of their mind, to be entertainment. A few do of course, rocket scientists all of them. So what has the unrepresentative slurry of self-serving ex-footballers and accountants down at the Victorian Parliament decided to do about the problem? Crack down on every entertainment venue across the wide state of Victoria by demanding that each business employ a bouncer whenever any form of live entertainment is provided – at least that’s what they’re proposing. This must be stopped. In what can only be described as a decision worthy of a drunken yob, the Victorian Government’s proposal not only threatens the economic viability of the majority of small entertainment venues, it threatens to tear apart the very fabric of live music as we know it. At $250 (on average) per bouncer per shift, most venues simply cannot afford the added financial burden. The criminal behaviour of a few thugs in one tiny part of the state is no justification whatsoever for placing an economic millstone around the neck of venues as far flung and diverse as the Downstairs Café in Leongatha and the Bowls Club in Bentleigh – venues where the only history of violence ever reported was the launching of a lamington, accidentally flicked from the fork of a patron in the act of swatting a fly. The blanket knee-jerk reaction by the Victorian Government punishes financially the vast majority of well-behaved music goers at smaller venues where no violence has ever occurred. Surely this wasn’t the aim of the reform? As one person recently put it: “Even a Bouzouki player in your local Greek tavern will require the venue to hire security… to watch over four families eating the mixed grill and Greek salad.” AT 2
Indeed, according to the Liquor Control Reform Regulations of 2009, this crackdown goes against its own explicit code: “risk factors need to be substantiated by a sound evidence base and rationale” (page 17). This reform clearly hasn’t met its own guidelines. The vast majority of venues to which this proposal applies have no history of violence whatsoever, and thus the “sound evidence base” in these cases simply doesn’t exist. This reform measure will inflict untold damage on the grass-roots music community and cause widespread job losses among the service and entertainment industries. This is where the term ‘Wowser State’ seems so appropriate. The whole reform seems so unreasonable, so illogical and so poorly conceived, you could be forgiven for drawing another conclusion – that the Victorian Government simply doesn’t like people having fun anywhere south of the Murray River, unless its in a sanctioned venue like Crown Casino. Hmm, the plot thickens. Clearly, local venues need to form a lobby group and pay big money for a meeting with the State government to have their voices heard. NEW SOUTH WALES – THE PLACE TO BE The New South Wales government, on the other hand – as inept as it has proven to be in other ways – has just removed the requirement of pubs, cafés, restaurants and clubs etc to seek a ‘Place of Public Entertainment’ approval prior to establishing live entertainment as part of their main business practice.
“Entertainment”, in the form of bands, DJs and afternoon jazz performances etc, is now considered part of “normal activities” in NSW, unless adding this aspect to a business “fundamentally changes the principal use of the venue.” This single move will no doubt hasten the revival of the live music scene right across the state. It’s a law designed to encourage and restore (not damage and ignore) the artistic community. It will also inevitably cause its own problems – noise complaints from neighbours are a common issue in Sydney. It might be time for New South Wales to put a lock on its gate. Musicians all over Victoria may well head north in droves to the greener pastures of ‘The Premier State’, as implausible as that may seem. New South Welshmen should be on the lookout for Victorian number plates that either read: “Victoria: On The Move” or “Victoria: The Place To Be”. The first of these slogans is only just now beginning to make sense, while the irony of the second is inescapable. Having said all that, there’s always South Australia, “The Electronics State.” That’s what at least one number plate I’ve seen over there reads. I kid you not. Victoria: ‘The Place To Flee’?
Additional Design Dominic Carey firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising Philip Spencer email@example.com Accounts Manager Jenny Temm firstname.lastname@example.org Circulation Manager Miriam Mulcahy email@example.com Proof Reading Calum Orr Regular Contributors Martin Walker Rick O’Neil Michael Stavrou Calum Orr Paul Tingen Graeme Hague Paul McKercher Hugh Covill Adam McElnea Greg Walker William Bowden Anthony Touma Greg Simmons Rob Squire Robin Gist Michael Carpenter Mark Woods Jonathan Burnside Andrew Bencina Mark Bassett Chris Vallejo Distribution by: Network Distribution Company. AudioTechnology magazine (ISSN 1440-2432) is published by Alchemedia Publishing Pty Ltd (ABN 34 074 431 628). Contact (Advertising) T: +61 2 9986 1188 PO BOX 6216, Frenchs Forest NSW 2086, Australia. Contact (Editorial) T: +61 3 5331 4949 PO Box 295, Ballarat VIC 3353, Australia. E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.audiotechnology.com.au All material in this magazine is copyright © 2009 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. 31/10/09.
CONTENTS 71 – Full magazine out now
FEATURES 28 SLAYER & MEGADETH LIVE
AT dons its black merch for a night of metal mayhem. 36 A NIGHT AT SING SING
AT goes behind the scenes of a multi-media studio experiment. 42 LEON ZERVOS – MASTERING MASTER
Australian ex-pat mastering engineer, Leon Zervos, returns to Australia after many years working in the US. Andy Stewart catches up with him for a debriefing.
REGULARS 10 YOUR WORD
News and new product information. 50 HOME GROWN
Brad Watts takes a trip to the bottom of the garden with Alex & the Ramps.
TUTORIALS 58 ON THE BENCH
This issue Rob Squire explains how the different types of amplifier designs used in audio circuits function. 62 STAV’S WORD
This issue, Stav mixes up a storm using the download files from last issue’s Mute or Moot article. It’s a mix with a twist.
54 WHAT’S ON
REVIEWS 74 IN BRIEF
TC-Helicon VoiceLive 2, Nomad Factory Pulse-Tec, Euphonix MC Transport, The Excelsior Hotel gets a speaker upgrade. 78 DIGIDESIGN ELEVEN RACK
Guitar Amp Modeller
82 AKG D7
Handheld Dynamic Mic
84 SSL X-DESK
68 PC & MAC AUDIO
88 QSC K10
On the Mac front, Brad Watts decides it’s time for a fresh install of Snow Leopard… Meanwhile, Microsoft Windows 7 is finally out and about – Martin Walker urges us to look before we leap.
Powered PA Speakers
92 NEUMANN KMS 104 PLUS
Hand-Held Vocal Condenser
94 SONAR PRODUCER 8.5
96 ROOM TO MOVE – PART II
Rick O’Neil is moving studios… again.
SUBSCRIBE & WIN Digidesign’s Eleven Rack! SEE PAGE 73 AT 3
Simmo’s Studio Fundamentals Online Check out über-educator and AT stalwart, Greg ‘Simmosonic’ Simmons, in full flight at Integrate 09. Online you’ll catch a highlights package of Simmo laying down the law of investing in the right gear without wastage or regret. If you’re new to the studio game or about to splash some cash then you need to view this footage. While you’re at it, have a look at the Sound in the House video. Sydney Opera House has a new d&b PA in its concert hall and the main players came to Integrate 09 to tell you all about it.
Here’s what you’ll find on the AT site: www.audiotechnology.com.au
George Massenburg Headlines Integrate 09: This is a 10-minute highlights package of George’s ‘keynote’ address. Here he exhorts and cajoles a room full of willing disciples to reject the mp3 status quo and aim a touch higher… maybe even 24-bit/192k higher.
There are a couple of entertaining roving reports that sees AT’s Deputy Editor Brad Watts asking the tough questions of Joe Malone and Mick Wordley. Joe knows more than a thing or two about audio design and appears to enjoy his time in the AT easy chair. Mick Wordley, he of Mixmasters fame, takes us on a tour of the weird and wonderful items in his Class-A Aladdin’s cave. ‘PA Shootouts – Buying the Right Rig’ was a hugely popular Headroom panel discussion bringing together some industry heavy hitters to discuss the pitfalls and pratfalls of PA system shootouts. How do you make them work for you? This video highlight package will provide you with some invaluable advice, including the dangers of relying on EASE models, how to properly demo a PA in your space, and how best to make the final leap of faith.
New videos are now being posted all the time so it’s worth regularly checking in on the AT site for updates. While you’re there, why not sign up to receive our tweets and/or become a fan of the AT Facebook page? That way you’re sure to receive a heads up as soon as we post something new.
Sydney August 24-26 2010 Hordern Pavilion & Royal Hall of Industries AT 4
Metal’s princes of darkness roll into town. AT brings its daughters to the slaughter. Text: Brad Watts
f you know your metal then you’d know it doesn’t get much bigger than this. Megadeth and Slayer – they’re two of the big four metal acts of rock history. Most fans would crawl over broken goats’ horns to witness just one of these leviathans in full flight… let alone both.
responsible for the tour. Finding a safe haven among the pre-show smoke, sound-checks, obligatory merchandise stands (‘got ’em in black?’) and pyrotechnic test-runs, Spud showed me around the FOH crib. Immediately I was assured that this was out-and-out rock – not a digital console in sight.
Having both Slayer and Megadeth on the one big double bill is even more amazing if you know anything about the long-running acrimony between these guys. Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and Kerry King, one of Slayer’s founding guitarists, have never seen evil-eye to evil-eye. So much so that getting these two bands to tour together seemed about as likely as the Hell’s Angels and the Gypsy Jokers attending the same Christmas barbeque. Faggeddaboutit. But the power of filthy lucre shouldn’t be underestimated. Differences have been put aside and weapons have been holstered… for now.
WALL OF SOUND Brad Watts: Hey Spud, as we all know, metal is about volume. Talk to me about the subs.
BACKSTAGE PASS Enter Melbourne’s Festival Hall on the day of the gig and you’re immediately ushered into the extreme world of heavy metal. Scrutinised thoroughly from top to toe, as is customary these days, I half expected to be strip-searched. Thankfully I was spared – maybe my black Slayer T-shirt passed muster. Passes had to be unearthed for our photographer and myself, and I was suddenly made aware of the near military hierarchy these seemingly hardened rock dogs adhere to. Once anointed with the required backstage passes, I made a bee-line for the FOH console(s) and made myself known to Peter ‘Spud’ O’Leary, the systems tech from Johnston Audio Services, the Australian production company
PO’L: Well we’re touring with 32 subs, but in the Hordern [for the Sydney gig] there were another eight subs sitting around as part of the house system, so we thought we’d use them as well. Last night at the Hordern was probably one of the loudest gigs that will ever happen in this country. BW: What sort of levels were you reaching? PO’L: I dunno if I want to say on record, we might get in trouble! But, hey, it was about as loud as I’ve heard in a long time. BW: No noise police were in attendance then? PO’L: Well there are no limits inside, and the Hordern is well and truly locked down. The big thing with Slayer, especially with [Tim Quinby] mixing, is that his mixes are so physically loud. It gets to those levels because there are so many subs, but the mix is still crystal clear. If it wasn’t for the subs you wouldn’t actually need earplugs. Some metal bands will play and they’ll be so ear-piercingly loud it’s ear-shredding, physically damaging, whereas this is the complete opposite. It’s such a beautiful crystal clear sound, and that’s where the V-DOSC really come into its element [the show was
PO’L: The subs are getting fed via an auxiliary, that way you get a lot more horsepower out of the subs because you’re not putting a lot of unwanted source in there that simply isn’t going to be used. BW: Can you elaborate? PO’L: Here’s how it works: you’ve got your left and right mix – in 90 percent of cases the mix comes solely from that left and right mix. The problem with that scenario is you can end up with feedback problems from toms or vocal mics, because they’re all being amplified through the subs. Because these acts are running so much sub power, we run them off an auxiliary, so therefore the only things we want to be in the subs are routed there. That way – let’s say you only put kick and bass into the subs – you don’t have all those other mics in there causing feedback problems. You’re also maximising the horsepower on your sub because you’re not putting extra sources in there that the sub isn’t going to reproduce. BEASTLY STAGE VOLUME BW: So no in-ear monitoring I’d imagine. Is it all wedges for monitoring up on stage?
PO’L: A bit of both. Slayer use d&b M2 wedges and Megadeth are all on in-ears. Megadeth haven’t got the stage volume as such, there are no wedges on stage but their guitar cabs are still blaringly loud. So the FOH area still gets affected by the guitar cabs. Whereas Slayer have your standard wedge setup. BW: What’s the difference in the sound between the two acts? PO’L: One of the things about Megadeth is they’re not as loud on-stage because the singer [Dave Mustaine] is very quiet. Obviously if you can’t hear the singer, people aren’t going to be very happy, so they’re not able to turn everything else up so loud [the irony of this statement will be revealed later]. That’s one of the drawbacks of the Megadeth sound, so there’s a limit on how loud you can turn his mic up before you’re getting feedback. Whereas Slayer is just pulverising. BW: Are the shows recorded so you can do a virtual soundcheck?
Dave Mustaine trips on a guitar lead... either that or he’s a heavy metal guitarist par excellence.
After the first gig the band were like, ‘We want more subs!’ So we put in 32 and then they were saying, ‘Yeah, it’s getting there’.
” AT 8
using JAS’s V-DOSC rig]. There are other PAs that can be more suited to metal – but they’re often a bit harsher, a bit edgier. BW: So Tim has the upper range riding nicely on top of the sub bass then… PO’L: Yeah. When you hear the gig you’ll see what I mean; it’s all in the sub. Every kick drum feels like a punch in the guts. That’s why we put this system together with 32 subs. Our standard for arenas is typically only 24 subs. I did the last Australian Slayer tour and after the first gig the band were like, “We want more subs!” So we put in 32 and then they were saying, “Yeah, it’s getting there.” So it was 32 for the rest of the tour. BW: Do you have to work hard to get the most out of the subs?
PO’L: No. That’s fine if you have a ProTools rig connected. But we tune the rig with CDs and a mic, then we time align it using Smaart Tools. That’s the industry standard. I reckon a lot of people over-analyse the system. They run noise for three hours and try and get the whole spectrum exactly flat – which I don’t entirely agree with. I use Smaart for time alignment. You know the physical time and phase alignment of the system and then you stick on your CD and go from there – just listen and use your ears to tune it. A lot of people blast it out for hours, which makes it extremely difficult for anyone to work in the venue with all that noise going on, and I don’t think it provides the same result. It’s like getting a computer to do a human’s job. DETH WARMED UP With a good idea of the system setup I decided to track down the two men responsible for the house mix for both Megadeth (Doug Short) and Slayer (Tim Quinby). Both were keen to talk shop, with Doug divulging his past life as monitor engineer for Van Halen and FOH engineer for David Lee Roth (he swore me to secrecy… but hey, what’s to be embarrassed about?), and Tim revealing his ‘other life’ mixing for the legendary Kool and the
Tim Quinby (foreground) stands transfixed while Doug Short gets blinded by the exploding drummer! And no, that’s not a punter reaching for a mic input, that’s ‘Spud’ from Johnston Audio.
Gang! Each engineer openly offered their distaste for mixing metal via digital consoles, asserting that this was a “real rock show.” Their preference for, nay, requirement for an analogue console, is paramount to such shows. It’s balls-out rock – guitars, bass and drums – seriously pushing the envelope of sheer force and brutal musical power. BW: Doug, what are some of the secrets to a Megadeth mix? Doug Short: Microphone placement is the key ingredient. That’s the first thing everybody should learn. And to learn what mics perform the best in a specific role. BW: What are you miking the drum kit with, for example? DS: Shure Beta 91s on the kicks and 98s on the toms. I haven’t had any problems with those. They’re not my favourite mic, but they’re very durable. The overheads are AKG C214s; I don’t feel that Shure really makes a good overhead option – they all sound too brassy to me. As you might have already noticed, we’re using four mics for overheads here tonight. On our normal touring kit the cymbals spread 270° around the kit, and I simply can’t get two overheads to represent them evenly in the mix. Using only two makes the kit feel like it’s leaning forward, so I’m using four. But when it comes to overheads I really like the AKG C214, the little brother of the 414. They’re much more rugged as well – an excellent touring mic. If it gets dinged by ‘Bubba the stagehand’, you can remove two screws and reform the windscreen yourself. Field
maintainability is a huge bonus! BW: I couldn’t help but notice how many guitar cabinets there are on the Megadeth stage; how many of those are actually being used, and what’s your miking preference for that proverbial wall of Marshalls? DS: Let’s see: we’ve only got 12 guitar cabinets this time, whereas we usually have 24. They’re all live, but I only mic one cabinet for each guy of course. I take a Shure SM57 and a KSM32, and I also take a DI line out of the preamps. So there’s a DI from each Digitech preamp, and two mics on each guitar and the bass. BW: Can you show me through the outboard you’re using? You’ve got racks of dbx 160 compressors, for example. Is that your choice? DS: You know what? If I’m not carrying my own racks on tour, I use the 160s because everybody has them available and they’re generally very consistent. They’re not anything spectacular, but they are consistent and plentiful. Sometimes that’s what you’ve got to go for if you’re not carrying your own gear. If I carry my own stuff I use Aphex 661s – which are a single rack tube compressor. Those things are lovely, but they’re expensive, and consequently not many people have them. BW: So what else does the ideal ‘Doug Short’ processing rack of choice consist of? DS: My regular touring rack has 12 Aphex 661s and four Aphex 622 gates. There’s also a TC Electronic 2290 delay, an M6000 reverb, the Eventide H4000
Harmonizer, and two Yamaha SPX990 effects units. That’s what I own, and those are my weapons for just about any gig that comes my way. BW: What are you doing with the Smart C2 compressor? DS: It’s on my left and right output. You could say that’s one of my tricks, I like to compress the left and the right mix just a little bit. BW: I was listening to soundcheck earlier where you were putting that full-on grotty process/distortion over the vocals. What was that all about and where the hell did that come from? DS: What you heard was my ‘Demon’ patch, so ‘hell’ is perhaps the right choice of adjective! I only use it for two measures in the middle of one song. The sound is coming from the Eventide. I only use it once for the whole show and then it’s gone. BW: How’d the shows go in Sydney and Brisbane? I’m told there were 40 subs in the Hordern for the Sydney outing. DS: Brisbane was okay. The PA sounded good but there was a decibel limit there so I couldn’t really mix aggressively that day. It was like 100 A-weight at FOH – which is not level friendly. BW: What do you call ‘level friendly’ for metal, in either A or C weighting? DS: Well it doesn’t matter what the weight is, it’s the number in front that matters! I like to mix metal at about 105 to 110dB A-weighted. A hundred is just a little bit weak. It lacks impact for this kind of music. AT 9
You want subs? You want Marshalls? The Slayer/ Megadeth show had it all!
BW: So what happens when you cross that threshold? DS: Well, below that you’re just not getting that force – it’s not in your face like it needs to be. It feels like you’re listening to the stereo on your couch, only a little bit louder. Hopefully we won’t have those issues at the remaining shows. We’ve got five all up and tonight is number three. Then we’ve got Adelaide and Perth. It’s been a pretty rushed tour. I mix a show each night then fly the next morning and hope my ears are ready by showtime. My hearing is still funny from flying today. I don’t fly that well; it really messes with my ears. BW: I understand you feed the subs via an aux send. What’s that bringing to your mix? DS: Yep, that’s the only way I’ll do rock music – with subs off an auxiliary – because that way I’m not working the high-pass filters much on all my channels, and the subs get what they need exactly. I mean, vocals aren’t producing a lot of stuff down there. It’s essentially bass drum, any strong keyboard stuff, floor toms, maybe some bass guitar stuff occasionally – if I’m working with a five-string bass I’ll generally throw some down there. It’s funny to talk about this in some ways; I’ve been doing this so long, I just act instinctively. I don’t even think about it. I’ve had some students come and watch me and they’ve learned more by watching what I do than talking about it. BW: What are you telling the kids? DS: I tell them first and foremost to go out and
intern at a sound company for a summer or so. You’re not going to make any money, you’re going to have to go out and lug boxes for awhile. You gotta know how things work before you’re allowed to touch a console. Even though that’s not a popular theory these days, it gives you a great grounding for the work that’s involved. Recording schools think they can teach a kid how to mix an arena, and they’re glad to take thousands of dollars of their parents’ money for a year of that education. Those kids then think they’ll get a gig mixing Janet Jackson – all because of a piece of paper. You gotta push the boxes and pull the feeder, and you gotta burn your hands soldering for a couple of years. That’s what I did. I worked at the local sound companies when I was younger and then hit the clubs hard. Go in and mix for free just to get your name out there – it’ll help you in the long run. BW: At a recent gig I saw the FOH guys using ProTools to play the previous night’s show for soundcheck. Have you guys ever tried to run a Megadeath soundcheck via a recording? DS: Hell no. I’ve seen that done, but whatever. Virtual sound-checks? I really wouldn’t like to risk that. I personally think sound-checks are a complete waste of time. I think a line check is all you need once you know the act well enough. SLAYER IN THE AISLES Tim Quinby, Slayer’s FOH mix engineer, has been part of the team for years – 12, in fact. Sounds like
THE RIG BW: Spud, what’s the rig consists of?
agrees it’s one of the best.
Peter O’Leary: It’s a V-DOSC rig, so we’re trying to put as many V-DOSC boxes into the venues as possible because it’s Slayer obviously.
BW: So why are you running analogue systems rather than something with a little more re-callability?
BW: Why V-DOSC? PO’L: V-DOSC? It’s the best! It’s definitely one of the best sounding systems – there’s not a sound engineer on Earth that would object to using it. Plenty of people would say ‘no’ to other sound systems, but when it comes to the V-DOSC, everyone AT 10
PO’L: Both bands are old-school metal bands, and their mix doesn’t change a hell of a lot. Everything sits in basically the same dynamic range. Because of that they’re able to use a Midas XL4, which is generally accepted as sounding better than most of the digital consoles on the market. Of course, it’s a lot harder
getting it in and out of every show, and you’ve got racks of effects to deal with, but it definitely works for these bands, and works really well. BW: So who’s on each board? PO’L: We’ve got Slayer on the Midas XL4 and Megadeth on the Midas H3000. BW: How many channels on each act? PO’L: There’s about 35 channels on both boards, so it’s a fairly big setup with a huge stage changeover between acts.
the Slayer touring posse is full of old-hands and pretty close knit as a result. I kick off by asking Tim about a few unusual items in his rack. BW: I noticed some Radial Phazor units in the rack. What duties are they taking on? TQ: I’m balancing the guitar signals with them. Our guitar rigs have three heads a side running through six cabinets, and from the three heads I take a DI off one, and a mic on each of the others. So I’m using those units to phase adjust the guitar DI with the main microphone. BW: To keep them bang in phase? TQ: Yeah, it literally brings my guitars together. It’s a night and day difference, to the point where Doug was asking me about it when we did a tour in Canada. I just popped the process in for the answer and he was like, “Wow! It does that?!” Being able to not simply time-align, but actually phase-align the two main sources that are obviously happening at different times – because one feed is a direct cabinet simulator and the other’s a live mic. BW: What cabinet simulations are they using? TQ: We’re using Radial JDX cabinet simulators – made by the same company. I talked to them about it five years ago and said somebody needs to make a phase adjustable DI box. So they sent me pictures of the JDX cabinet simulator with the phase adjustment on it and I was like, “That’s exactly it!” Then the production model arrived without the phase adjustment! So they sent me some especially for our rigs with the continuous phase adjustment
AudioTechnology THE MAGAZINE FOR SOUND ENGINEERS & RECORDING MUSICIANS
Full magazine out now
THE MAGAZINE FOR SOUND ENGINEERS & RECORDING MUSICIANS
Tim Quinby, Slayer’s FOH engineer (left) and Doug Short (Megadeth) just prior to showtime.
built in and I was like, “Alright!” Now Radial have made these with the adjustment, it’s the best thing that happened to analogue since the digital delay! BW: So how long have these units been around? TQ: I’d say I’ve had them about a year and a half. I used them all last summer. I took them out on all the festivals last year. I’d show up at the European festivals with a mic package and those two inserts – that’s all I carried with me. BW: What else do you like to see in your rack? TQ: I love the Distressors, the Avalon stuff is great – it all sweetens things up. BW: What are you enjoying about the Distressors? They’re such a bread and butter compressor these days – what’s your attraction to them? TQ: Exactly, they’re everywhere now. You can put them into your rack for a stack of different situations, but the thing is they do colour the sound, but in a way that really works well with this band. BW: I gather the Avalon 747s in the outboard rack are patched across the left and right bus? TQ: That’s correct – it doesn’t do anything most of the time, but its there because it adds that little bit of fairy dust when it’s just set to nothing. Then the EQ section is really smooth if I have to do something really quick, it’s there. BW: It’s interesting to see studio outboard increasingly going out on the road. TQ: I had the same conversation with our tour manager recently, because the band’s just spent the last six months in the studio recording an album, recording 13 songs [Actually the 747SP was originally designed for live keyboard players – Ed.]. Basically, I’m doing the exact same thing the studio engineers there did during that six months: I’m mixing 13 songs and producing stuff out of a set of speakers. With the album they just happened to put it to tape. The only difference is: I have to get it right the first time. The band goes in and plays, and I mix the show. So it’s doing the same thing to my mind. BW: Any other effects to talk about? TQ: I have a vocal delay, and a vocal reverb. Neither is on all the time. I have a guitar delay that I use for
one song, and I have a second guitar delay that I’m not using at all because that song isn’t in the set. It’s just a matter of spec. And the drum reverb gets pulled in only where it needs to be, and that’s only occasionally. In reality this band sounds best raw. I mean that’s what Slayer’s about. They don’t need a whole lot of effects. BW: Would you agree with Doug: that 100dB is too low for this sort of music? TQ: Yeah, well Spud could tell you about last night. He said, “You’re the only guy I’ve ever seen do that!” I was like, “What are you talking about?” Then I realised he was talking about the SPL. We were at about 103-104 A-weighted, and 124 C-weighted, which I thought sounded about right. I had a system tech tell me that at one point I was 107dB A-weight at FOH, and we tipped the meter at 136 C-weight. I can’t help it, I love my subs. Again, it fits the band. DETH OR GLORY After thanking Doug and Tim, I had a couple of hours to fill before heading back into Festival Hall. The dedicated show-goers are filing in, with Double Dragon, the Australian support, soon to kick off their set. This is a gig for the true believers. There are even families with two generations of metal fans, all getting in early to see what should be one of the highlights of the Australian metal calendar.
Megadeth truly rocks the place, with the PA delivering countless blistering body-blows before I take refuge for some respite. Then, not long into Slayer’s set Tom Araya’s voice gives up the ghost – his voice is shot and nobody seems too happy. To add insult to injury, impromptu singers are dragged onstage. It’s at this point that I decide to bail. As it happens, the following night’s Adelaide show is cancelled, and the next night’s Perth show has issues with sound abatement (who’da thought?). It’s not until the final Sydney show that Tim Quinby tells me via email that they had a genuinely successful gig. There again, this isn’t Britney Spears… you can’t press ‘play’ and let these guys lip sync or go through some choreographed dance moves. This is metal, where hearts are on sleeves… it’s blood, sweat and tears. It feels like everything is on a knife’s edge, on the brink of disaster even. But when things fall into place? Well, you best be lining up early to witness it.
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DIGIDESIGN ELEVEN RACK All puns aside, even Spinal Tap will want one of these – it’s all about the sound… minus the Dobly. Text: Michael Carpenter
Amp simulators. They’re part of the digital revolution. They’ve been around in a variety of forms for ages, but in the last 10 years or so the science behind both the hardware and software emulations has become alarmingly refined. And, much like the discussion about digital and analogue multitracks and consoles, there are heated, passionate and sometimes illinformed opinions both for and against their use and application. One of the trickiest aspects of developing a decent amp simulator is finding a satisfactory modelling framework for capturing that unique, physical interaction between guitarist, instrument and amplifier. The relationship between these three elements is crucial to both the tone of a performance and the musical outcome. Playing electric guitar is an event – one that many argue is simply impossible to ‘model’. It’s a physical experience where creative energy flows between the performer and the instrument, and it’s this X-factor that’s one of the most elusive elements to simulate. There’s certainly more to amp modelling than simply developing something that sounds like the real thing – it has to feel good to play to be truly successful – a product’s success or failure depends on it. ON THE RACK In typical fashion, Digidesign – the industry leader in all things digital multitrack – has attempted to redefine the way the amp simulator works in the world of contemporary recording, with its release of the new Eleven Rack.
The idea is that the Eleven Rack hardware – a DSP-laden device that reportedly houses identical algorithms to Digidesign’s celebrated Eleven plug-in – integrates seamlessly with all current versions of ProTools software, but importantly, will also work independently as a ‘virtual amp head’ – so you don’t need to be anywhere near a computer to make it work. It’s a virtual combo amp one minute (as opposed to an analogue AT 14
amplifier) and an audio interface for ProTools the next. IMPEDANCE MATCH Probably the biggest selling point of Eleven Rack is its ‘True-Z’ auto impedance-matching guitar input. To quote Digidesign’s literature, “It’s almost as if the True-Z input morphs into the 1/4-inch input jack of whatever classic stompbox or amplifier you’re using. When you plug into Eleven Rack, you get the same response – and same great tone – as when plugging in to a vintage stompbox or guitar amp.” It’s certainly a big claim – no surprises there I guess – but funnily enough, it works. Via a proprietary analogue circuit, the True-Z input (shame about the cheesy name) delivers impedances equivalent to that of individual loadings which occur when different combinations of a guitar, pedals and amps are patched together. The electronic relationship between these various components is a key aspect of the final sonic outcome that most modellers simply ignore.
Other ins and outs on the Eleven Rack include a USB 2.0 connection, support for eight channels of simultaneous high-res recording (up to 24-bit/96k), an XLR mic input with phantom power and pad, stereo XLR and 1/4-inch outputs (including the well-designed placement of output channel one on the front for easy connection to guitar amps), AES/EBU and S/PDIF digital in/out, an easily accessible 1/4-inch headphone jack on the front panel, two 1/4-inch line-level inputs and one MIDI in/out patch point. All in all, it’s a pretty comprehensive and flexible collection of ins and outs, allowing the device to be used in a multitude of studio and live configurations. THE EMULATIONS Almost inevitably, the Eleven Rack emulates many of the big name guitar amp/speaker combinations, though the collection is far from extensive. It also offers a bunch of emulations of some of the most widely used effects, a whole selection of
virtual microphones and control of the mic axis positioning (but not the virtual ‘distance’), tap control of time-based effects, an excellent, fast and accurate tuner, a selection of input impedances (for those who want to go beyond the clever ‘auto’ setting on the True-Z input), and finally, an effects loop. It also comes with ProTools LE v8 and a whole bunch of plug-ins and virtual instruments. Overall, it’s an impressive package. I have to confess, when I first heard about the Eleven Rack, I wasn’t really sure who it was targeted towards or what it was trying to be. Was it an amp simulator with ProTools tacked on? Was it ProTools with an audio interface dedicated to running the DSP for the existing, resource-hungry Eleven plug-ins? Was the guitar amp-centric design (with additional mic input) meant to provide guitarists with a tokenistic demoing platform using just a single box, or was it designed as the next logical step for current Digidesign hardware users? In practice, it turned out to be all these things. Eleven Rack truly covers a wide range of bases. It’s an extremely well thought out device, functioning as a stand-alone amp simulator for live work, a high-quality addition to an existing ProTools setup that can be linked via the digital outputs to whatever your current Digidesign setup is (assuming your current setup has a digital in – otherwise, the analogue input will work fine), or the hub of your project studio, including the ability to record other inputs via the full-featured mic preamp. STAND ALONE I started my time with the Eleven Rack like most guitar players would with a new tool at their disposal – by cracking open the box, plugging in a pair of headphones [headphones? – Ed.] and seeing what this baby would do. With the usual plethora of presets available, I dived straight in and was immediately… underwhelmed. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but my first impressions of the Eleven Rack presets weren’t great. Many of them were too fizzy and overly driven-sounding, while other cleaner sounds seemed bright and two-dimensional. I was so disappointed in fact that I left it for a day or so, while I recovered from the experience, only to find I had a similar reaction the next time around, this time with a different guitar. Hmm… troubling. It did give me the opportunity to get to know the front panel controls, however, so that was something…
But then the tide slowly turned. While I twiddled the variety of buttons and dials, and engrossed myself in the excellent large display, I started to grow a little more encouraged by what I was hearing. Modifying the presets made all the difference and getting to the nuts and bolts of the sounds, effects, and mic placement options showed promise. By this stage, in all fairness, there had already been a tangible sense of immediacy to the playability of the unit, which I definitely attribute to the True-Z input. The sense of the guitar reacting to the amp was definitely more apparent than on any of the other simulators I’ve tried. Even better, playing around with the impedance settings in the appropriate menu really brought out the tone of the guitar – definitely a bonus feature. I was starting to feel a little better about the Eleven Rack by this stage, but I was still sceptical, and keen to hear it through studio monitors via a ProTools session.
IN THE RIG Rather than incorporating it into my current LE system, I was keen to see how the Eleven Rack worked as the front end to ProTools LE. The USB connection, along with the installation of the appropriate drivers saw ProTools boot up just as it always does. Opening up my work session, I went straight to the I/O menu and installed the default Eleven Rack setup. This was an important and revealing step. I’d read in the (excellent) manual about the ability to record a post Eleven Rack signal and a clean direct version easily at the same time. Sure – this is not the hardest thing to do anyway, but it normally involves a certain amount of wiring/patching before you go into your interface. By opening up two new tracks (in this case a stereo and a mono), assigning the stereo track as the ‘Eleven Rack’ from the input menu, and the mono track the ‘guitar in’, I was immediately recording an effected stereo track and a clean mono track simultaneously – simple, and extremely functional. Accessing the Eleven Rack’s editing functions was as simple as opening up the dedicated pane in the ‘Window’ menu, revealing all the editable functions on offer. The layout was appealing to look at, simple to navigate and a doddle to use. And as easy as the front panel of the hardware is to get around, this interface makes it all too simple.
After reaching for my favourite virtual amp, the AC30 emulation, I was struck by how much more impressive the emulation felt through speakers rather than headphones. I’m not sure whether it was the act of listening through monitors that changed things, but there was a tangible sense of depth to the mildly overdriven tone that was lacking through headphones. However, I still needed to get my hands dirty tweaking the default sounds to really bring out the nuances of the guitar. But things seemed to fall into place reasonably simply, with the controls working in much the same way as my real AC30 sitting in the corner of the studio. And it really was fun diving in there and working through the various emulations. The included effects were particularly useful, as were the various mic selections, which seemed far more extensive than others I’ve used. The ability to place the mic on or off axis was handled effectively, although I would have liked an option to vary the mic’s distance from the speaker cabinet, but I was hardly starved for options at this point. Once again, I found having the ability to modify the impedance of the input very useful. So if I was impressed then, imagine how impressed I was when I realised that whenever I recorded a guitar part, the amp settings were embedded as metadata into the audio file, allowing for simple sound recall and even transfer of those settings to another user on the other side of the world? As the Eleven Rack software doesn’t strictly operate as a plug-in, but more as a process, I found this extremely useful. In a nutshell, if you want to return to a guitar part you recorded earlier, it’s simply a case of plugging in the appropriate axe, arming the track and recalling the sound from the drop-down list of stored sounds. This is a very easy and streamlined way of managing the recall of sounds.
NEED TO KNOW Price $1395 Contact Avid | Digidesign 1300 734 454 www.digidesign.com Pros Great sounds. Densely packed with well thought out features. Excellent value for money. Great all-in-one solution. Versatile configuration. Embedded metadata in files a winner. Cons Clean sounds still not quite there. Somewhat limited number of amps, cabinets and pedal emulations. No ‘distance’ parameter of virtual mic placement. Summary Amp simulators are sophisticated tools these days and the Eleven Rack takes the whole concept to yet another level of authenticity. The sounds are more than capable of holding their own against real-world alternatives and the future of the concept is looking bright.
HOW’S IT SOUND? That’s the million-dollar question. I did a lot of comparing – not only to various other simulators, but also to the AC30 in the
The rear panel of the Eleven Rack offers a wide choice of analogue and digital I/O, as well as inserts, MIDI ports and an external footswitch control.
by the relatively small numbers of amps, cabinets and effects on offer when compared to some of the more celebrated modelling software options, but while less in number, these emulations seem to cover a lot of ground, and I never found myself wishing for much else. (And of course, being software, there is always the ability to add more emulations to the fold in a later update.) Not everything is perfect though. The sounds definitely favour the more driven variety – and the gruntier the better it seems. Though there’s a great amount of detail in the overdrives and distortions, the Eleven Rack suffers the similar fate as many other simulators (and some amps) – the less driven the amp, the less convincing the model. Cleaning the amps up resulted in a sound that felt relatively flat and two-dimensional. After the successes of even the mildly driven sounds, I was quite surprised by this limitation. The ‘stomp box’ compressor certainly helped, as did fiddling with various impedances of the input, but my search for a clean amp simulator continues. RACK SOFTWARE Overall, I think the emulations are pretty amazing. They certainly compare favourably to other simulations, and while I still don’t feel the Eleven Rack absolutely nails the comparison to the real amp, its versatility and tonal quality more than compensate. The moral of this story is that the Eleven Rack will cover many, and for some people, all of your amp requirements. It can’t replace every guitar amp, but it does a really good job of ‘faking it’.
Oh, and before I forget; I must quickly mention the mic input on the front panel. This has phantom power, pad and a healthy looking gain knob. I had no problem getting good results recording vocals and percussion through it. It’s not the greatest sounding mic pre I’ve ever heard, but it does a more than satisfactory job. THE LIVE GIG Digidesign also claims the Eleven Rack can be used as the front end to a live guitar rig. I didn’t get the chance to use it this way at a gig but I did have some success plugging into a powered wedge. This scenario let’s the Eleven Rack do all the work, with the powered wedge just giving the unit the grunt needed for the gig. It’s also important to note that the outputs can be assigned to being either mono or stereo, despite their positioning on the front and rear of the unit respectively.
Stack ‘em up! The Eleven Rack has a clear software interface that’s a cinch to use. Each amp model is well crafted and easily tweaked to suit the occasion.
corner. The results, as expected, were all quite different. I think the mistake people make with amp simulators is they expect them to be a simple replacement for every amp they could ever imagine needing. That, of course, is way too much pressure to put on any product. In some ways, it’s like expecting one amp to cover all the bases – not really feasible. Regardless, the Eleven Rack sounds fantastic… as you can see, my initial impressions were eventually swept aside and now I’m loving it. It’s great to place in a mix, and the sounds have a depth and playability that makes it feel very ‘familiar’. And to reiterate my earlier point, it felt more like playing into an amp than any other emulation I’ve encountered. It’s a subtle distinction in many ways, but I suspect the True-Z input and the zero latency within the DAW help to capture that feeling more completely. And despite my initial reticence, I felt like multiple tracks of Eleven combined well in a track also. I was initially concerned
ALL THE WAY TO ELEVEN? I could go on and on about a whole bunch more little things it does (including how simple it is to ‘re-amp’ the direct recorded guitar sound), but I think you get the idea. This is a deceptively well thought out piece of equipment: versatile, easy to use, inclusive of tons of little features that illustrate the amount of effort invested in the product’s conception, and it sounds really, really good. (A minor point – I was particularly impressed by the amp-like ‘power on’ switch. The devil’s in the detail, as they say!)
Eleven Rack may not replace every amp you’ll ever need, but it does a great job of providing you with a very convincing palette of amp sounds to get you working, either within, or independent of, the ProTools environment. At a street price of around $1200, the value is obvious, especially given that ProTools LE and a host of plug-ins and virtual instruments are thrown into the bargain. Eleven Rack would make the perfect complement to the recording guitarist, and not just those making demos at home. All in all, another substantial winner for Digidesign.
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Powered speakers from a dedicated amp manufacturer might seem like a bit of a stretch to some, but the results speak for themselves. Text: Mark Woods
Previously known in Australia as a dedicated amplifier manufacturer, QSC has hit the ground running with its first foray into the crowded portable powered speaker market. The new QSC K Series range already stands out from its competitors in three important areas: sound quality, cabinet design and price. There are three models in the range, each one utilising the same 1.75-inch HF driver, 500+500W Class D amplifier and extensive internal processing. The main difference between the models is the coverage angle rather than the sound. The K8 has an eight-inch driver and 105º coverage, the K10 has a 10-inch driver and 90º coverage, while the K12 has a 12-inch driver and 75º coverage. These can be teamed with the 1000W K-Sub dual 12-inch driver sub-speaker if required. Out of the box I immediately liked the cabinet. The strong and rigid black ABS (plastic) from which the K10 is constructed feels solid as a rock, and far more substantial than the common grey/ black polypropylene alternatives. It should also be more scratch resistant. The K10 design is non-symmetrical with all sorts of interesting angles working to combat cabinet resonances. The steel grille over the front is concave, there are deep scoops molded into the cabinet to provide handy access to the recessed caste aluminium handles and mouldings that protect the rear panel. The K10 can lie on its side for use as a floor monitor (a common practice these days) and there are clever slip-resistant feet to prevent the cabinet itself from touching the floor. MOUNTING & CONNECTIVITY M10 installation points and M5 yoke attachment points provide a range of mounting options. The pole-mounting hole has a Tilt-Direct function enabling the cabinet to be angled down by 7.5º. The idea is to keep the sound focused on the audience rather than the reflective surfaces around the room, although, ironically, the first time I used the speakers as an off-stage sidefill it was on a high stage where I would have preferred them to tilt up!
The rear panel offers several connection and control options. The sockets and controls have been laid out and labelled to make it as simple as possible to use. There are two combo XLR/jack inputs AT 18
(with XLR links): one has a mic/line switch, and the other is connected alongside a pair of RCA sockets. The mic/line channel has its own level control, as does the line/RCA channel and these get mixed to a single XLR output for connecting another speaker. Sadly, for singers who use condenser mics there’s no phantom power on the mic input. Low frequency EQ switches between ‘Sub’ (for use with a separate sub-speaker), ‘Normal’ or ‘Deep’ – a process QSC claims boosts perceived bass levels by restricting bass peaks. High frequency EQ can be switched between ‘Flat’ and ‘Vocal Boost’. There are LED indicators for power, limit or standby mode and an in-built three-pin Euro connector enables remote control of gain and standby. To conserve power the K10 enters standby mode automatically after five minutes of no input signal. The cooling fan is also automatic. Another thoughtful feature is a switch that controls the LED on the front of the cabinet; which can be used to indicate power on, limiting or be switched off, if you’re one of those people who hate bright LEDs. BIG & TRANSPARENT I first tried the K10s outdoors with music and a microphone and immediately heard a big sound; full like a PA but transparent and detailed enough to draw you into the music. The HF driver sounds particularly good with its pleasantly subdued response in the middle of the horn and smooth, extended highs. Quoted response is –6dB at 18kHz. The LF driver punches well above its 10-inch weight with surprisingly strong deep notes. The quoted low frequency response is –6dB at 60Hz and extra sub-speakers would only be needed if the K10s were being used in a large system like a club installation or similar. The EQ works best set to ‘Flat’; the ‘Deep’ setting seemed somewhat syrupy but might be useful for dance music in a crowded room or as a loudness boost for background music. The HF vocal boost gives the tonal response a kick in the vocal presence region that would be useful for voice-only applications.
The next test was using a pair of K10s as part of the foldback system for Sarah Blasko’s rehearsal/performance at the Theatre Royal in Castlemaine. This theatre has proved a great place
to test monitors. It’s easy and convenient to compare them to the theatre’s old-school but time-proven JBL wedges, and a reminder of just how convenient powered speakers are. There are racks of amps and outboard gear everywhere, but the K10s simply get put on the stage, powered, connected to a send on the foldback desk and that’s it, you’ve got sound. And in this case, very good sound. The voicing is somewhat scooped around 2 – 4kHz so normal vocal mics, often boosted in this frequency region, don’t sound harsh and don’t feed back. There’s a pleasing smoothness to the high frequencies and plenty of body in the low-mids. The dynamic and EQ processing is noticeable at times. If you give a big woof into the mic the limiting grabs the sound quickly and cleanly, and there’s a feeling that whether you speak softly or loudly into the mic the voice always seems to be right at the front of the speaker. Sound quality is maintained at high levels with the processor helping keep everything tidy and distortion free. If you keep raising the level the20 low-mids get loose before the horn, which is a good thing, but they’re reluctant to feed back and there’s plenty of level for normal use well before they become unstable. Compared to the aforementioned timeproven JBLs, the K10s weren’t ultimately as loud but they were definitely a lot more coherent and controlled. Certainly for anything other than balls-out rock they’re a far better monitor. During the show they were used as floor monitors for the two-piece string section – after which the performers seemed particularly impressed with the K10s’ clear and accurate sound. They’re the right size too; I often complain about wedges blocking singer’s ankles but the K10s are sleek and unobtrusive on stage.
I also used the K10s in place of my usual side-fill speakers for a couple of outdoor shows with great results. A single K10 easily fills one side of a small- to medium-sized stage with high quality sound and even coverage. Acoustic instruments were particularly detailed and the vocals could be turned up as much as anyone wanted without any hint of feedback. External EQ was not required; some low cut on the vocals was enough to tame the proximity boost. The FOH benefited as well, a lot of sound from monitors gets back into the mics and the whole sound seemed cleaner than usual, even when the stage sound was loud. And, again, nothing but good reports from the performers.
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…the K10s simply get put on the stage, powered, connected to a send on the foldback desk and We also make Musicians’ Custom-Moulded, Earplugs in all styles and Multi-Driver In-Ear that’s it, you’ve got attenuation levels. Monitors sound. And in this Australia-Wide Service: 247good 282 case,0434 very Ear sound. Monitors Australia® 38 Hall Road,
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NEED TO KNOW
The K10s also work well as FOH speakers for small shows; I used them for a duo in a small room and was impressed with the easy level, appealing tone and even coverage. The only small problem is they seduce you into thinking you’re hearing a larger system so it’s almost surprising when they reach their limit, but they don’t freak out when they do, and there’s already more level and quality than you’d expect from a 10-inch speaker and horn in a small box so it’s unfair to complain. The QSC K10s provide pleasurable and controlled sound at medium to high volumes and would be suitable for any foldback/sidefill application, club installation or FOH for small venues. They’re a convenient size for acts or solo performers who carry their own PA and because of the several input options many wouldn’t need a mixer. At 14.5kg with welldesigned handles they’re easy to transport and use. The other good news is the price. At around half the price of some of its more vaunted competition and much better sounding than the cheapies, I predict the K10s will become very popular.
Contact Technical Audio Group (02) 9519 0900 firstname.lastname@example.org www.tag.com.au Pros High sound quality. Effective processing. Advanced cabinet design. Multiple in/outs. Competitively priced. Cons No phantom power on the mic input. Summary The QSC K10s are a real surprise packet. They’re the newest kids on the block yet already they show strong signs of becoming leaders in their field. They offer great tone and versatility, they’re easy to carry, a doddle to operate and a pleasure to listen to.
AudioTechnology THE MAGAZINE FOR SOUND ENGINEERS & RECORDING MUSICIANS
Full magazine out now