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AudioTechnology THE MAGAZINE FOR SOUND ENGINEERS & RECORDING MUSICIANS

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THE EVENT FOR SOUND ENGINEERS & RECORDING MUSICIANS

MORE INTEGRATE NEWS Stav Returns!: Mike Stavrou will be back in 2011 demonstrating key ear-opening concepts from his Stav’s Word column and top-selling book Mixing With Your Mind. Simmo Returns!: Greg Simmons will also be reprising his day of Studio Fundamentals, including: ‘Getting it Right the First Time’, Monitoring Fundamentals’ and ‘Microphones – Choosing & Using’. AFTRS 5.1 Mixing Workshop: Learn the fundamentals of 5.1 mixing for feature film and TV from Australian Film Television & Radio School’s Head of Sound, Chris McKeith. Soak up real-world examples of surround mixing at work in the school’s main mix theatre. Perfect for aspiring sound-forpicture mix engineers.

2011

AT 6

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AT 7


ED SPACE

Editor Andy Stewart andy@audiotechnology.com.au Publisher Philip Spencer philip@alchemedia.com.au

Leaving a space for the of the show.

Editorial Director Christopher Holder chris@audiotechnology.com.au

Text: Andy Stewart

Online Editor Brad Watts brad@audiotechnology.com.au Art Direction & Design Leigh Ericksen leigh@alchemedia.com.au

The perennial question of ‘how loud the vocal’ has returned to haunt us once again. This time I spotted the ghoulish beast at a music festival, where different bands and solo acts were entertaining a crowd of around 2000 people, most of whom were sitting enjoying ham sandwiches and remnants of their previous evening’s barbecued snags. The acts came from far and wide – both local and overseas – as did the mix engineers, and what was fascinating was how each of them presented the main vocal. Some engineers had it loud and clear, others preferred it buried in what I like to call – though never like to hear – a ‘socialist morass’, where every instrument is represented equally… and indistinguishably. Nikolai Lenin would have been proud of some of these mixes. Problem is, Lenin knew nothing about sound mixing – but plenty about Communism – and I’m sure if he ever stood up in front of a mic, he would have expected his voice to well and truly tower over everyone else’s, ironic though that may be. ALL SOUNDS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL The problem with the ‘socialist’ approach to vocal levels is self-evident. Though there may be five or six great musicians on stage at any given time, only one of them is pulling the vast bulk of the audience’s focus – the singer. Almost everyone at the festival that day was focused on the singer on stage. It wasn’t on the snare or the second violin or the rhythm guitar. Q.E.D.: the vocal needs to dominate the mix, otherwise all you’re doing is frustrating the vast majority of your audience. Now I’m not advocating main vocals dominating other band members such that they’re reduced down to Smurfs. What I’m simply urging fellow engineers to reflect upon is their mental approach to the audience, the band, and lastly the console. For mine, it’s a mistake to approach a mix with the psychological misconception that every sound should be represented equally. There are two basic approaches a mix engineer can adopt to ensure a vocal remains clearly focused in a mix (and several more complex ones that we don’t have time to discuss here). Live or in the studio, it doesn’t matter: The first of these is to put your finger on the fader and slide it in an upwards direction. That’s right, simply turn the damn thing up in the mix! All sarcasm aside, it’s not hard to do, and should be higher on any engineer’s list of priorities – especially live – than micro-managing the reverb settings or soloing the AT 8

floor tom in the cans halfway through the set. The second approach is more involved but was never adopted by any of the engineers at the festival that day – not one. This involves sculpting the tone of the instruments around the vocal to provide it with space… tonal space. When a snare has twice as much spikey 6kHz information, and is as loud or louder than the vocal, what’s going to happen? They’re going to clash! Now, even though I play drums occasionally and could argue that my focus was sometimes on the drums that day – even though I would have been in the vast minority – I still would have been frustrated because the vocal was occupying the same space and frequency range. Having the snare relentlessly smashing into the main vocal is just bad mix practice. In that situation neither the vocal nor the snare can be heard properly regardless of which one you’re focused on. A good mix – be it representative of a large group of complex, messy signals or well arranged, clearly defined ones – is better served when a central scorch mark is burnt into the tone of the other instruments to allow the vocal to sit either in it, or on it. That might mean taking away some midrange information from instruments that could happily exist with less, or filtering frequencies above 8kHz from the ones that blind you with unnecessary top-end. This again is self-evident to any good mix engineer, yet I hear the mistake made over and over again. So the next time you’re grappling with a mix, endeavouring to elevate the vocal to ‘Star’ status, try softening the crack of that snare, the blistering top-end of that guitar, or better still, turn a few things down. I mean, do you really need those hi-hats annihilating the perceptual depth of your mix for 50 minutes straight? Leaving them riding loud and bright in the mix is like adding a channel of white noise 2dB down on the vocal. You wouldn’t do that in a pink fit if it actually was white noise, so why do it with the hi-hat? Regardless of how hard he or she is hitting them, neither the drummer nor, more importantly, the audience, want you to give that cacophony equal billing with the vocal. After all, how many bands do you know called ‘Some Singer and the Zildjian Hi-Hats’? As far as I know it’s usually the singer who gets named in that circumstance. Draw a star above the vocal fader next time you mix a band, and tell yourself before they hit the stage: ‘I am no fan of Lenin’s communist manifesto’. Oh, and one more thing, when the singer talks between songs, turn the bloody thing up would ya?

Additional Design Dominic Carey dominic@alchemedia.com.au Advertising Philip Spencer philip@alchemedia.com.au Accounts Manager JenTemm jen@alchemedia.com.au Circulation Manager Miriam Mulcahy mim@alchemedia.com.au 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 Greg Simmons Rob Squire Robin Gist Michael Carpenter Mark Woods Andrew Bencina Mark Bassett Chris Vallejo James Wilkinson Gareth Stuckey 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: info@alchemedia.com.au W: www.audiotechnology.com.au

All material in this magazine is copyright © 2011 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. 24/3/2011.


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CONTENTS 80 32

40

FEATURES

REGULARS

32 BRETT ELIASON & PEARL JAM – LIVE ON TEN LEGS

It’s been many years in the making but Brett Eliason has finally nailed down the definitive live Pearl Jam album. This is how he did it. 40 RIHANNA LIVE

AT catches up with Tony Blanc and Bill Chrysler to chat about Rihanna’s larger-than-life R&B sound. 46 LOST IN SOUND

Post production veteran Doron Kipen shares his philosophies on film sound, and the immersive nature of the Soundfield microphone.

16

YOUR WORD

Readers’ Letters.

20 NEWS

News and new product information, including a glimpse into Berlin’s latest rock ‘n’ roll hotel. 62 HOME GROWN

Greg Walker catches up with one of Australia’s new breed of producer/engineer/ recording artists, Nick Huggins. 66 WHAT’S ON

Studio roundup featuring Damien Gerrards and D4 Studio. 70 PC & MAC AUDIO

Martin Walker circuit-bends his PC while Brad Watts delves further into the future of tablet-based song production.

TUTORIALS 50 STAV’S WORD

This issue Stav teaches us how to expose bad compressor plug-ins while at the same time revealing a compression technique that will blow your mind. 52 ON THE BENCH

Rob Squire talks about noise in all its forms. He also suggests you don’t use the word ‘noisy’ around techs. Apparently it puts them on edge. 56 TIME TO SHELVE THE LOW END

Howard Page discusses what to do with all that low end.

REVIEWS 76 SENNHEISER MK4

Large-Diaphragm Condenser 78 BRICASTI M7M & M10 REMOTE

Digital Hardware Reverb 80 BEESNEEZ PHELICITY, ELLY & TRIBUTE T1

Studio Condenser Microphones 84 JLM AUDIO MAC RACK

Stereo Opto Compressor 86 RME FIREFACE UFX

Digital Interface 90 HEIL SOUND PR 35

Handheld Dynamic Microphone 92 KAWAI MP10

Stage Piano

58 TOO LOW FOR ZERO

‘Recording as loud as possible without clipping’. Is it a dead concept?

95 THE THINGS YOUR CLIENTS REALLY WANT...

But are never going to tell you.

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REGULARS

YOUR WORD Readers’ Letters

A HEAD FOR MIXING Re: Last Word Issue 79: I’ve been reading your mag for a while now. The highlights for me are Rick O’Neil’s Last Word and Stav’s stuff… especially his psychology behind a mix. That’s been a lifeline for me at times; the psychology pages – hearing what people I respect are thinking when they’re mixing and the reasons for their work methods.

especially true for me as a ‘live guy’ because of the one take I get at it after a soundcheck.

I’m a live sound engineer who’s always looking to improve what I’m doing, and I find the lines are really blurring between recording and live sound. Indeed, engineers are crossing over and working in both areas much more these days than when I was starting out.

––

The challenge for me has always been to try to get a near-perfect stereo two-track desk recording of a live show – one take, no excuses. It’s a bar I set for myself to keep me honest and ensure I don’t get complacent in my job. Nobody knows but me, but once the show is over and everyone goes home and the gear is packed up, I look forward to listening to my ‘historical record’. Of course, I can’t really do anything with it because of copyright laws; it’s purely a selfish indulgence that I treat mostly like homework. It’s a bonus if the show is repeated the next day and I can experiment with a few little tweaks here and there. Of course, there are always compromises with the recording as the primary focus is obviously the live sound in the room, but I’ve been having fun with it for a while now. Rick’s latest column had comments regarding sound engineers (in general), sound memory, and everyone’s obsession with the latest trickery or new thing. I’ve been thinking exactly the same thing lately and that article had a crystallising effect on me: it’s like people don’t listen anymore, they’ve got their heads in the gear and not in the music. Rick’s comments related to the recording chain and equipment selection to achieve a certain sound for a given project. I’m sure that would change daily in a multitrack recording environment depending on the style of music and the music itself, but there would only be small changes, because I’ve found the more you maintain a work method (like his Festival Sound procedure) the more brain space you have left to do what we’re paid for – mix music. This is AT 16

Thanks for striking a chord with me in that article. I thought I was going crazy and started feeling old and out of touch – it was just the thing I needed. Timmy A

BUYING FROM OS? A RETAILER’S PERSPECTIVE Q: I bought this off the internet from the US because it was cheaper and I can’t install it – it might be stuffed? A: Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t but it will cost you $88/h for us to tell you ‘yes, it’s stuffed’. Q: But it’s under warranty isn’t it? Is this how you treat all your customers? A: It’s not under warranty here, and you are not our customer. If you were, we wouldn’t charge you to test it. And yes, you were right, it’s stuffed. That’ll be $88. Q: But If I send it back to the US that will take weeks and cost more than one from Australia. A: Correct, and you still have no warranty. But we can install it for you for $88/h. So, are you thinking about going into the importing business? Save a few dollars, especially now the AUD is as strong (or as weak as) as the US? Let’s investigate some of the pros and cons. Firstly, most US dealers advertise what’s called a MAP price that is set by the distributor. It stands for Minimum Advertised Price, so it’s effectively a discount price. If you compare that to a RRP or Recommended Retail Price in Australia the overseas price will often appear much cheaper. Before hitting the ‘Buy’ button make a few calls or send a few emails to local shops and find out what the local ‘discount’ or ‘street’ price is. Compare apples with apples for a start. When the nightly news talks about the Aussie dollar buying 99 US cents, that might be how big banks exchange funds but credit card providers won’t give you that rate – there are always ‘charges’, so expect to get 2–5% less than

the ‘official’ currency rate. This is only a small difference but when you add up all these ‘small’ differences you may reconsider your online overseas purchase. Warranty: Parallel or privately imported goods have no local warranty – this is a risk the individual takes. Yes, they are covered by warranties but the goods have to be shipped back to where they came from. Freight, in the case of warranty – even if DOA (dead on arrival) – is at the customer’s expense. This is particularly relevant these days with more and more goods, or at least the parts, coming from China, Indonesia, and India. Of course, these countries can, and do, produce some high quality products, but have you noticed how much cheaper almost everything is these days, especially electronic products? That’s because they’re being built more cheaply and they break down more often. Okay, so you’re prepared to take a chance and if something breaks down then you’re happy to pay to get it fixed. Think again. It is an increasing trend for Australian distributors to refuse to provide service or even parts for goods that were not originally sold locally. Even if you offer to pay for it! When internal or external power supplies are ordered from your local shop or service centre they will often have to provide the serial number of the goods, before spares are dispatched. There are even some legal barriers with this: All electronic goods sold in Australia must conform to Australian safety regulations, or C-Tick. These ensure that goods are compliant with Australian power and radio emission standards. Privately imported goods do not comply and it is illegal for a technician to replace the internal power supply unless the unit is then tested, which costs over $1000. So if you get that guitar amp from the US, plug the 110V power supply into 240V and blow it up, it’s not covered under warranty even if you send it back because you blew it up! And if it starts a fire and burns down your house, your insurance company will wash their hands of you as well! GST: All goods sold in Australia have GST included. This is 10% of the ex-GST price. All goods brought into the country, whether via post, freight or as personal luggage over $1000 in value, legally attract a 10% GST. Add this into the equation. If you fail to declare the goods… there’s a word for that, it’s called smuggling.


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Try and get into the US and elsewhere with a ‘Convicted Smuggler’ on your record – you won’t. Remember: ignorance is no defense. Support goes in both directions. If you support the local industry and shop locally you keep Aussies employed. And when you need support there is someone there to ask for help. This is extremely pertinent when referring to products, hardware or software that are computer related. In the business where I work we have two fulltime computer technicians, Mac and PC! And they’re both flat out. We don’t like to, but we have to ask all enquiries: ‘Did that come from us?’ Mark Coghlan Turramurra Music ––

NEW GEAR OR A NEW APPROACH? Dear Stav. My home studio has been using Cubase SX for a few years now where the line inputs to Firewire go through a Tascam FW1804 interface. The mic pres are an assortment of Focusrite, Symetrix and Aphex. The clients have been very happy with this audio chain through to the final product, however, I feel the need to upgrade. A friend of mine recently purchased ProTools HD and is happy with that audio quality, and I was wondering what your opinion was on the best (to the musical ear) DAW program-mic preampA/D converter chain that you know of? Over the years the best sounding chain I’ve used has been: Schoeps mics, into a Neve desk, into a Nagra tape machine. Never have I been able to recreate that quality again in the digital world, despite years in the biz trying my best with excellent musicians. Yours, Russ Bell. Stav responds: Russ. How, indeed, can we compete with Schoeps microphones into a Neve console and quality tape machine? Digital, at its finest, merely strives to be analogue and, in my opinion, cannot surpass it. Your question is complex because you’re not merely asking which is the best digital recorder, but also the converter and microphone. That’s at least three questions if you only count the headings! To hear the difference in audio quality between different mix engines you need perfect program material, perfect speakers, and golden ears. But anyone can hear the difference between a good and bad mix! That difference is mostly created by the ease with which the sound engineer can experiment and try out all of his ideas. The easier it is to get your hands on all the controls the better your mix. Once the sound becomes digital – all things being equal – you’d be very hard pressed to hear or measure the difference between Nuendo or ProTools. It will be much easier to hear the difference between a smart EQ setting and a silly AT 18

one. For that reason I would rate the sonic quality of all digital recorders of similar specifications (24bit is better than 16-bit, obviously) on a par with one another. I’m not known for my recommendations of what to buy. Everyone can tell you to spend as much as you can. Meanwhile, I think the answer you’re looking for is a change in your recording technique. Most great engineers can walk into any studio empty-handed and pull great sounds with no EQ. How is that possible? Once you get into a certain price bracket – and it sounds like you’ve done that –you’re already above all the crap out there and comparing pretty good stuff with pretty good stuff. The extra edge that you’re looking for I honestly don’t believe is in the next box you buy. You talk about the quality and warmth that you remember your Nagra tape machine had when it was strapped to a great mic. When positioning your mics you must hunt for the quality in the air that notoriously disappears once it comes back off the digital medium. You must try to get too much of that quality so that there are still some left to be heard. For instance, when I record acoustic guitar, I like to take 10 minutes looking for the angle that projects the warmth and body that analogue tape used to capture that the CDs forget. It’s all about the angle and choice of microphone. I know this is not necessarily the answer you were looking for, which might explain why it’s eluded you thus far. Stav. ––

CAJON SPICE Anybody had any luck Recording a cajon? Obviously with a great-sounding room you can just stick a mic in front of it, but, failing that, any close-miking tips? I’ve tried every imaginable position with an SM-57, but to no avail. I’ve downsized the mic collection of late, so I’ve only got a Shure SM-57, 58 and a Rode Classic to work with. Any tried and tested tips would be truly terrific. Sam Quigley Melbourne Graeme Hague responds: Sam, I’d be tempted to treat a cajon (you do mean a box-like drum, right?) a bit like a kick drum. Although you get a certain amount of definition from the sharp sound of the hand-slap, the cajon’s real appeal is that deeper, more resonant tone underneath. I’d experiment with two mics: the 57 for those handslaps and the Rode Classic at a fair distance for the bottom-end.

! Want to give Rick a kick, Andy a rev-up or Stav a serve? Get in touch: andy@audiotechnology.com.au


AT 19


BIG CANS ARE BACK

NEWS: GENERAL

Ear buds? Pah! How can you express yourself with intra-aurals? tinyurl.com/4fbkw2o

IN BRIEF DUAL CONTROL Audient’s Dual Layer technology is now available for its flagship ASP8024 console, in the form of the Dual Layer Control (DLC) module. The ASP8024 can now be the centre of the computer session as well as the heart of the analogue mixing experience. With the Dual Layer Control module the large format console is transformed, giving the user control of the computer session plus eight channels of analogue moving fader automation. The DLC module connects directly to the computer via Ethernet, supporting control of ProTools, Logic, Cubase and Nuendo. National Audio Systems: 1800 441 440 or sales@nationalaudio.com.au

A-T MOUNTS UP Featuring breakthrough audio and mechanical design innovations, the phantom-powered AudioTechnica U851RO omnidirectional microphone offers speech intelligibility and transparent sound quality for surface-mount applications. The mic is equipped with a PivotPoint rotating output connector, UniSteep filter and UniGuard RFI-shielding technology. It also accepts interchangeable condenser elements in cardioid and hypercardioid polar patterns. With a heavy die-cast case and silicon foam bottom pads – to minimise coupling of surface vibration to the microphone – the U851RO is equipped with self-contained electronics, eliminating the need for an external power module. Technical Audio Group: (02) 9519 0900 or info@tag.com.au

RØDE TV Rode Microphones is amp’d to announce the launch of its new online video portal, RØDE TV. More than a collection of corporate videos, Rode has invested hundreds of hours creating original programs for music and audio enthusiasts alike. Comprised of six channels, the team at Rode has assembled a line-up of programs that they themselves would watch. “RØDE TV is what we’re all about,” commented Peter Freedman, founder and president of Rode Microphones. “RØDE TV gives both myself, and the wider Rode family, a voice to share that passion with the world.” Rode Microphones: (02) 9648 5855 or www.rodetv.com

THUNDERSTRUCK

APOGEE’S I/O

$TBA | apogeedigital.com

In late February, Apogee Electronics announced its move toward a new paradigm of digital audio interconnection based upon Apple and Intel’s new Thunderbolt data transfer system. Apogee’s Director of Marketing, Sean McArthur, spoke about the advantages gained by Apogee’s customers: “Simply stated, Intel’s Thunderbolt technology on the Mac marks the end of difficult choices and the beginning of unlimited performance. In the near future, Thunderbolt will take the confusion out of choosing a professional connectivity standard for audio production.” McArthur cited the customers’ frustration with current options, primarily the conundrum presented when choosing between USB 3, Firewire 800, PCI cards and Ethernet-based protocols. Apogee argues that manufacturers and customers alike at least now know where the future is headed.

According to McArthur, Apogee’s architecture is perfectly suited to latch into the Thunderbolt – the Symphony I/O is a modular, user-definable system. Moreover, because the A/D and D/A conversion modules in the Symphony I/O were designed to be independent of the Symphony I/O chassis, Apogee can now address interfacing from the chassis level without impacting I/O module implementation. This makes the Symphony I/O platform Apogee’s foundation for future digital audio production systems, providing high-performance recording regardless of whether you’re in the Hollywood soundstage or a hotel room. AT will have more information and a timeline for Thunderbolt implementation on the website soon… SOUND DEVICES (02) 9283 2077 or info@sounddevices.com.au

WHICH CAME FIRST?

THE EGG?

$TBA | seelectronics.com

Tascam has launched the DR-05. The stereo recorder funnels sound onto microSD or microSDHC media in MP3 or WAV (BWF) file format at up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution. It features a pair of condenser microphones with sensitivity up to 125dB SPL and a mini-jack mic/line input that can also supply power to microphones. Variable-Speed Audition allows changes in playback speed without affecting pitch, looping is also available during playback for transcription or learning new music. The DR-05 is powered by two AA batteries, an optional AC adapter or USB bus power.

It’s been known for years that cabinet resonances and diffraction are the main causes of colouration in sound radiation, yet few manufacturers have addressed the difficulty of forming a rigid acoustic enclosure of such complex geometry. The Egg boasts no spectral distortion other than from the drivers themselves. These drivers have been chosen for the best possible performance in their class and ‘exhaustive testing’ has reportedly proved their reliability and accuracy. We’re told the result is an accurate and truthful monitor, unique in terms of both looks and accuracy.

Electric Factory: (03) 9474 1000 or sales@elfa.com.au

MUSICLINK (03) 9765 6565 or atdept@musiclink.com.au

PINT SIZE PORTA

AT 20


MOD YOUR MONOTRON

Give your Korg a going over. tinyurl.com/4om6spv

CULTURE VULTURE

49 Years – A Brief History of Korg

THE FREEBIRD VALVE EQ $3399 | thermionicculture.com

Thermionic Culture’s ‘The Freebird’ is a three-channel EQ offering broad but versatile valve EQ. The unit is Thermionic’s own half-rack design and can be installed in a 19-inch rack case with another unit to give six channels of EQ. There’ll be other products in this format to follow. The unit is 4U high, allowing for an easy to read front panel with large knobs and indented pots. At the heart of the EQ is a baaxandallstyle circuit, effectively providing two shelving equalisers. AUDIO CHOCOLATE (03) 9813 5877 or sales@audiochocolate.com.au

AMP MODELIFICATION

KEMPER PROFILING AMPLIFIER

$TBA | kemper-amps.com

Here’s an interesting device. The Kemper Profiling Amplifier is an entirely new concept for guitar amplification in the digital domain. The concept being that every guitar player should be able to bring his personal sound of the tube amp setup he or she owns into a versatile and reproducible format. The Kemper Profiling Amplifier reportedly ‘learns’ the sonic behaviour of any amplifier. It comes stacked full with profiles of classic tube amps and classic speaker cabinets. The unit is a lunchbox size device, with all the professional connections for home, studio and stage use. INNOVATIVE MUSIC (03) 9540 0658 or sales@innovativemusic.com.au

RARE BIRD

FIREBIRD X

$7999 | gibson.com

Gibson’s limited edition Firebird X is the company’s latest foray into uberhigh-tech axe weilding. The visually incongruous guitar features incredible slants on modern six-string amenity with integrated ‘Pure-Analog’ effects, coil switching in the three minihumbuckers including single coil modes with noise-cancelling – there’s even a piezo pickup for acoustic-style sounds. Effects can be designed, stored and swapped using the supplied software, and the guitar even incorporates McDSP’s Chrome Tone plug-in for amp simulation. The low-impedance output allows connection directly to a mixer or audio interface – it’ll even tune itself! GIBSON AMI (03) 8696 4600 or www.gibsonami.com

On March 15, 2011, the musical instrument industry lost one of its greatest innovators. Mr. Tsutomu Katoh was the driving force behind Korg – a company that pushed the envelope for electronic instruments over the last 49 years. Here are just some of the milestones achieved by Korg and Tsutomu Katoh. 1962: Tsutomu Katoh and Tadashi Osanai establish ‘Keio Gijutsu Kenkyujo Ltd.’ and later ‘Keio Electronic Laboratories’. The aim: develop a superior rhythm machine to the ones currently available. 1963: Keio introduces its first product: the Disc Rotary Electric Auto Rhythm machine or Doncamatic DA-20. 1967: Katoh commissions engineer, Fumio Mieda, to develop a keyboard. Mieda completes a prototype organ which is sold under the Korg moniker. 1973: Katoh sees the potential of using Korg’s organ designs to produce a low-cost synthesiser. The Mini-Korg serves as the springboard for some four years of synthesiser development. 1975: The introduction of the Maxi-Korg and the 900 PS polyphonic synth. Korg also introduces the world’s first hand-held electronic tuner, the WT-10. 1978: The MS10 and MS20 are introduced – now both are highly coveted synths. 1981: Polyphonic synths become a reality. Korg’s answer is the Polysix – a six-voice, programmable synth at less than half the price of the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. 1983: Korg introduces the Poly800 – the first fully programmable instrument available for under US$1000. 1988: The M1 Music Workstation. It was the first ‘workstation’ and was enormously successful. 1991: Korg continues the workstation ethos with the 01/W Series – more polyphony, more effects, more memory, and WaveShaping. 1995: Korg overhauls the workstation concept with the Trinity DRS Workstations. The Prophecy analogue modelling monosynth follows, as does a polyphonic version – the Z1. 2000: MS2000 and MS2000R. The MS2000 pays homage to the original MS Series. 2005: Korg releases the OASYS – the granddaddy of Workstations, followed by the even grander-daddy Kronos in 2011.

AT 21


THE PEDAL THAT ROCKS

NEWS: GENERAL IN BRIEF MEGA METERING TC Electronic’s DB4 MKII and DB8 MKII conform to new EBU, ATSC and ITU Loudness and True-peak level standards across all platforms and all formats. The MKII versions feature the new EBU R128 and ATSC A/85-compliant LM6 Loudness Meter, new SNMP functions and one week of detailed logging, even without connection to a computer. In the DB4 MKII, the LM6 meter is always available in addition to its two multichannel audio processors. There are also redundancy features such as two power supplies, fuses, mains inlets and Papst fans that further augment reliability. Amber Technology: 1800 251 367 or professional@ambertech.com.au

GREAT RIVER 32EQ The Great River Electronics 32EQ is a 500-Series incarnation of the EQ and filters from the renowned Harrison 32-Series consoles. The high band extends from 800Hz to 16kHz, while the two midranges overlap: one extending from 400Hz to 8kHz, the other rising from 200Hz to 4kHz. The low range covers 40Hz to 800Hz. Additionally, the low and high bands are selectable as either shelving or peak, and the parametric high- and low-pass filters provide 12dB per-octave cut. Continuously variable controls allow both subtle corrections as well as EQ effects. There’s also a separate switch for the filters for insertion independently of the EQ. Awave: (03) 9813 1833 or sales@awave.com.au

AVID PROTOOLS COURSES MORE ACCESSIBLE Avid has ‘unlocked’ its ProTools curriculum, freeing up the previous ‘prerequisite hierarchy’. Now anybody can jump in and attend all existing courses and sit most exams, a departure from its previous policy where you had to start at PT101 and pass each course before moving onto the next. As well as taking up time, this also represented a significant financial outlay to get to the topics that most industry folk are interested in. UTS: Proschool has most courses scheduled in the June university break, particularly the 201 and 210M courses that are full of advanced tips and tricks for PT9 audio production. www.sound-base.com.au

NEW INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION FORMED ACETA – Australian Commercial and Entertainment Technologies Association – has announced it has achieved critical mass and will shortly be forming. Frank Hinton of ATT Audio Controls, delegated by the industry to bring the concept to fruition, said: “This is a red letter day for the industry and one that we are working hard not to squander. I’m pleased to say that more than 25 companies have committed to join and will become founding members with founder member benefits. The first meeting will be announced shortly, for a date in mid to late March. The first Board will then sit to map out the association’s plans. For more info contact: sara.hood@mortongroup.com

AT 22

Awesome doco on the wah. tinyurl.com/4ejk2b6

SHAKE YOUR MICS UP

VARIOHM

$399 | magnetoaudiolabs.com

Now here’s a good idea: The VariOhm from Magneto Audio Labs allows engineers to control the impedance relationship between a microphone and a preamp or audio interface. Utilising impedance control, one can achieve a variety of tonal settings, expanding your selection of sonic textures and colours. The VariOhm will make your current microphones, preamps and interfaces and make them sound like completely new tools. Impedance settings cover 50, 200, 300, 500, 1.2k, 2.4k- and the unit requires no external power. What’s more, it’s cheap – costing about the same as a budget microphone. Ace! INNOVATIVE MUSIC (03) 9540 0658 or sales@innovativemusic.com.au

SYNTH ON!

ROLAND GR-55

$ 899 | rolandcorp.com.au

Roland recently announced the release of the GR-55 guitar synthesiser, combining PCM synthesis with digital instrument modelling from the VG-99 V-Guitar System. Driven by Roland’s newest proprietary technology, the GR-55 delivers lightning-fast tracking. It features two independent synthesiser engines, each loaded with over 900 of Roland’s latest sounds, including pianos, organs, strings, vintage and modern synths, percussion, and more. A third sound engine is driven by Composite Object Sound Modeling (COSM). The GR-55 allows players to combine all three sound engines with their guitar’s normal input. Hell, you can even trigger samples stored on a USB memory stick. ROLAND CORPORATION (02) 9982 8266 or info@rolandcorp.com.au

THIN FILM RESISTANCE

PATCH 4M: PASSIVE CONTROLLER/SWITCHER $ 449 | sound-music.com

The MPatch 4M delivers monitor control with mute, mixing, level-matching, headphone monitoring, along with stereo-to-mono summing, and talkback. Control room outputs are automatically ducked 20dB when talkback is engaged, and you can use either the built-in mic or plug in your own. The master attenuator features a discrete film-resistor network for accuracy at all volumes, and the unit rides desktop or rack-mount style. Other highlights include a 1/4-inch TRS headphone output with selectable source, balanced XLR and 1/ -inch TRS inputs, and 4 rack-mount ears (should you require them). SOUND & MUSIC (03) 9555 8081 or info@sound-music.com


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NEWS: GENERAL WHERE THERE’S SMOKE ON THE WATER, THERE’S FIRE The Swedish Fraudhofer Institute – home of the first successful MP3 compression algorithm – handed down a finding last month that could have far-reaching and unexpected consequences for the copyright protection of digital, intellectual property. Initially the Institute was trying to determine at what stage during a song’s creation a very small sample of someone else’s material constitutes a reasonable breach of copyright. A group of local hip-hop composers were arguing that snippets of some music (such as the opening riff to Smoke On The Water for example) had become so entrenched in popular culture that they belonged in the public domain. Amazingly, the institute ruled in the hip-hop group’s favour – with a caveat. A key factor in the decision was recognition that “the digital deconstruction of the source material during a new song’s production meant the resulting tune was so far removed from the original recordings that copyright no longer applied.” Put another way, little bits and pieces of samples scattered throughout another song didn’t represent enough of a complete song to breach copyright. The problem is that other less scrupulous organisations are now claiming that some editing processes available in software also result in a complete digital deconstruction. The argument goes something like this: that any wave file which is, for instance, completely reversed has, by definition, been “digitally deconstructed” and is no longer copyright protected. Furthermore, they’re asserting that their argument should have double the credibility if the file is then re-reversed, since it’s been digitally deconstructed twice. Of course, we all know the outcome is still a perfectly playable wave file that’s indistinguishable from the original. However, remarkably this may well now be regarded as copyright free music, because of the applied software processing – it’s no longer the original song. Record companies are alarmed that new releases could be pirated, “digitally deconstructed” and then legally re-released within days at a huge discount. Other record companies are considering reversing illegally re-reversed files themselves, re-reversing these again, to which copyright could then be re-applied. Of course, this wouldn’t prevent someone from re-reversing these re-reversed re-reversed files, but other record companies are already considering automating the process: re-copyrighting re-reversed files on a daily basis. That’s a lot of re-reversing. You would expect common sense to prevail here but the Institute is unrepentant, with a spokesman, Mr Kim Reggaj, releasing a statement that they “get no satisfaction from the incidental damage caused, but unfortunately findings can’t be reversed or withdrawn.” The real winners of the debacle could be those people who’ve held onto analogue recording equipment and vinyl record presses. A return to multi-track tape machines and “real” records with grooves might be the only way for audiophiles to ensure they get a genuine release from an artist. – Graeme Hague

AT 24

NHOW HOTEL BERLIN: TAKE MY BREATH AWAY Berlin has traditionally been a Mecca for creative types. Back in the ’80s there was no better way to craft your album than to install yourself in a Berlin squat, pump yourself full of heroin and hang with other dangerous über-cool creative cadavers. Times have changed somewhat. The nhow Hotel in Berlin comes crashing at ya like a defenestrated Bang & Olufsen Beovision 7. Essentially, it’s a rock ’n’ roll hotel for Bono or Eno circa 2011, rather than Nick Cave circa 1987. The hotel itself is designed to within an inch of its life, full of ‘blobjects’ masterminded by men in white loafers and snake-skin jackets. A large pink caterpillar serves as a check-in desk while the carpet was designed by a man with a spirograph in one hand and crazy pills in the other. This hotel is so cool you not only need to have gone to Cool School, you need a PhD in Cool from Cool University. So how does this fortress of style qualify as a rock ’n’ roll hotel? Glad you asked. Hovering 32 metres above the river Spree, with a sensational view over the water and Berlin, is the Sound Floor, comprising two studios and a multifunction lounge. The studios are apparently operated by the guys behind Berlin’s Hansa recording studios – so nhow isn’t mucking around. The main room features a 48-channel SSL Duality mixing console, Adam monitoring, and some desirable outboard. The digital mix suite packs either an SSL or Euphonix controller, 5.1 Adam monitoring, and all the software you need to mix or edit.

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FAIRLIGHT APP FOR IPAD AND IPHONE

NEWS: PC RECORDING IN BRIEF CUBASE ON TRIAL The Cubase 6 Trial includes all the new features introduced in the latest major update to Cubase, Steinberg’s advanced music production system. Also provided in Cubase 6 Trial is enhanced MIDI functionality and a new audio and MIDI editing workflow that expedites the transformation from creative ideas to professional results. The VST Expression 2 comprises Note Expression for drawing controller values onto single note events, updated VST Expression Map functionality, and the Articulations/Dynamics Lane in the Key Editor. Yamaha Music Australia: 1800 805 413

A Fairlight CMI in your pocket. tinyurl.com/4e6myr2

MK II

IPAD 2

$TBA | apple.com/au

In early March, Apple introduced the iPad 2, which features an entirely new design that’s 33% thinner and up to 15% lighter than the original iPad, yet maintains the same 9.7-inch LEDbacklit LCD screen. iPad 2 features a dual-core A5 processor for super-duper performance and two cameras: a frontfacing VGA camera for FaceTime and Photo Booth, and a rear-facing camera that captures 720p HD video. iPad 2 still claims up to 10 hours of battery life, and is now available in black or white. APPLE AUSTRALIA apple.com/au

WITH OR WITHOUT Following on the heels of the ProTools v9 launch in November 2010, Avid is now offering Mbox recording solutions bundled with ProTools 9. These bundles consist of ProTools 9 software and either an Mbox3 Mini, Mbox3, or Mbox3 Pro. Plus, for the first time ever, customers can now also purchase Mbox3 units as a standalone recording interface for use with their favourite third-party audio software. Hardware-only packages include the MBox3 Mini, MBox3, and MBox3 Pro at $333, $555, and $889 respectively. The same options with ProTools 9 software are $778, $1000, and $1221. Available worldwide on March 21st. Avid Australia: 1300 734 454 or www.avid.com

REDDS UNDER THE BED REDD is a virtual synthesiser based on a wavetable recorded from popular analogue and virtual analogue synthesisers like Minimoog, Korg MS20, Doepfer, Virus B, and Oberheim. Modulations, envelopes, filters and FX are based on the Kontakt engine while the reverb used by REDD is based on impulse responses created with a Bricasti M7. The REDD wavetable set contain 35 sampled waveforms including VCOs, DCOs, noise generators and analogue tape hiss. Like any good trance machine, REDD includes an arpeggiator with legato, portamento and mono settings, for only €49. Soulviasound: www.soulviasound.com

MOTU DO IT AGAIN

AUDIO EXPRESS $529 | motu.com

MOTU has introduced the Audio Express: a 6x6 hybrid Firewire and USB 2.0 audio interface and mixer. The interface features hands-on mixing, MIDI connectivity, and plenty of I/O. Advanced features include front-panel control of four stereo mix buses, standalone mixing, digitally controlled analogue trim, DDS (Direct Digital Synthesis) audio clocking for low-jitter performance, and a tuner. Audio Express connects to any current Mac or PC via Firewire or USB 2.0 and provides six simultaneous inputs and outputs. The front panel provides straightforward mixing of all six inputs. MAJOR MUSIC WHOLESALE 1300 306 670 or infohound@majormusic.com.au

PORTABLE iSTUDIO

GARGEBAND FOR iPAD $5.99 | iTunes App Store

V-DRUMS FRIENDLY JAM If you’re a V-Drummer, you can now connect your V-Drums via MIDI to your Mac or PC and join in with the online community of V-Drummers around the world, and mount your assault on becoming ranked amongst the top five all-time high scorers! Sound like a game? It’s not really. It’s a practice tool with a competitive twist! V-Drums Friend Jam keeps a record of your practice, making it easier to establish a practice routine to hone your chops. Then Tweet your results across the globe via Twitter. Head to www.roland.com/V-Drums/ FriendJam Roland Corporation: (02) 9982 8266 or info@rolandcorp.com.au

GarageBand for iPad offers eight-track recording and compatibility with OSX. The application has been revamped to take advantage of the touchscreen modus operandi, with features like Smart Instruments allowing for the less musicallyinclined to get involved. The accelerometer also helps with dynamics – tapping the virtual keyboard harder will effectively give you velocity sensing. Once you’ve mixed, you can email your tune from your iPad, or export the masterpiece to your iTunes library. You can even send a project to your Mac and open it in GarageBand or Logic for further refinement. APPLE AUSTRALIA www.apple.com/au

AT 26


WANNA JAM?

Guitar input for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch and OSX tinyurl.com/4po63we

POCKET OPERATOR

KLING KLANG MACHINE NO.1

IN BRIEF

$11.99 | iTunes App Store

TROUSER!

How cool is this! Developed by those whacky gentlemen from Kraftwerk, the Kling Klang Machine No.1 is an ‘interactive 24-hour music generator’ for iPad or iPhone. The application features four processing screens, the first being a world time zone map for up to 24 hours of automated music (that’s as much as we can work out).

Subbooom Kicks from Analog Factory is a sample library dedicated to the deep and energetic sub-kicks heard on industrial/hip-hop and metal productions. 110 kicks, with frequency ranges from 70Hz to 13Hz are superbly distorted, detuned, or simply mangled ready for use in NI Kontakt 4, NI Battery 3, Logic EXS24 and Studio One Impact. All samples have been sampled in 24-bit/44.1kHz, mono .WAV format. This means all samples can be mapped into your soft or hardware sampler, or your DAW if that’s how you like it. Blow your car doors off for US$10.99

On the second screen, via a bi-directional cross line, The Matrix then sets up sequences with variations of 16 steps, while the mixer provides access to various parameters through a bunch of sliders. Other than that we can’t really tell you much other than it churns out loads of ambient noise for 24 hours. Umm… neat.

Analog Factory: www.analog-factory.com

MORE TRAKTOR

Scoot to the iTunes App Store.

TINY RIG

iRIG MIC

$79 | ikmultimedia.com

The first of its kind to arrive in Australia, IK Multimedia’s iRig Mic is the first handheld, quality condenser microphone for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad designed for all mobile recording needs. The iRig Mic features a highly unidirectional electret-condenser microphone capsule and real-time monitoring via its dual minijack connector. A three-level gain switch makes it roughly adjustable for any sound pressure condition. iRig Mic also comes with a free copy of VocaLive, IK’s real-time effects suite for vocalists, and AmpliTube. SOUND & MUSIC (03) 9555 8081 or info@sound-music.com

MEET MIKE

APOGEE MIKE

$TBA | apogeedigital.com

Apogee Electronics is keen to introduce you to Mike, the most compact studio quality USB microphone available for iPad, iPhone and Mac. Standing roughly as tall as an iPhone, Mike is a portable microphone for use with GarageBand on your favourite iOS devices. Finally, you can capture your best take with Apogee quality, wherever your music takes you. Record any sound you can imagine, from vocals to vibraphones, acoustic to lap steel guitars, pianos to percussion and everything in between, and build a track right on your iPad with GarageBand. ‘Coming soon’. SOUND DEVICES (02) 9283 2077 or info@sounddevices.com.au

Native Instruments recently announced Traktor Audio 6 and Traktor Audio 10, offering six and 10 analogue inputs and outputs respectively. The Audio 6 and Audio 10 both offer two additional channels over the previous Audio 4 and Audio 8 models. With their 24-bit/96kHz Cirrus Logic converters and +12dBu output volume, the Audio 6 and Audio 10 maintain DJ-specific audio characteristics. The improved high-visibility LED indicators also allow for clearer and more intuitive monitoring of the signal chain – even in low-light club environments. Both units also include Traktor LE 2. CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or www.cmi.com.au

SSL DITCHES DSP Solid State Logic has announced the release of Duende Native. Duende Native plug-ins are functionally and sonically identical to the now discontinued DSP-powered Duende plug-ins, but run natively using your host computer’s processing resources. All Duende Native Plug-ins are available as a free, fully functional 30-day demo – available individually from SSL’s web store. Two boxed product bundles are available from SSL resellers worldwide: Duende Native Essentials (which includes EQ & Dynamics Channel and Stereo Bus Compressor) and the Duende Native Studio Pack (which includes EQ & Dynamics Channel, Stereo Bus Compressor, Drumstrip, Vocalstrip, X-EQ and X-Comp). Amber Technology: 1800 251367 or professional@ambertech.com.au

UA OPENS DOORS Universal Audio recently announced an agreement with German-based companies, SPL and Brainworx, to become 3rd-party audio plug-in developers for the UAD Powered Plug-Ins platform. SPL and Brainworx, two of the audio industry’s most respected developers, are also working with Universal Audio to finalise a software development kit (SDK) that will allow other developers of professional audio plug-ins to create software for the UAD platform, and to sell these plug-ins via UA’s online store. CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or www.cmi.com.au

AT 27


SENNHEISER MKE-1

NEWS: LIVE

Sennheiser’s new paintable microphone. tinyurl.com/6dhasdt

IN BRIEF HILLSONG’S NEW ADAMSON PA Hillsong recently installed an Adamson speaker system. The new rig is a four-way system and will be dead-hung from the rigging superstructure, which runs on tracks allowing the entire rig of screens, lights and speakers to be moved 12 metres downstage. The main array is flown as a stereo pair with each side made up of 10 x Adamson Y10s with 2 x Spektrix boxes underneath for downfill. The Y10 contains two Adamson NDL (10-inch Kevlar/ neodymium) drivers, one Adamson YX9 (nine-inch Kevlar mid-frequency) driver and 1 x JBL 2451 high-frequency driver. Adamson: www.adamsonsystems.com CMI: (02) 9335 2244 or www.cmi.com.au Cuepoint: (02) 8006 1486 or www.cuepoint.com.au

CLAIR BROTHERS OPENS AUSSIE OFFICE Barry Clair, President of Clair Brothers USA, recently announced the opening of Clair Brothers Australia. “As international sales and distribution builds, the opening of the Australian office will allow us to support key areas throughout the region,” he commented. “We recognise each region in the world is unique, and apply our collective expertise to meet those unique challenges. At the same time, our history of providing loudspeakers all over the world lets us quickly match the market requirements with appropriate design, technology and manufacturing.” Managing Director of Clair Brothers Australia is Wayne Grosser. Clair Brothers Australia: (07) 5522 0748 or sales@clairbros.com.au

AVID REVEALS CARD Avid has announced the availability of its Venue IO16 Option Card for the Venue SC48. This optional analogue and digital I/O expansion card enables Venue drivers to connect their favourite outboard gear, such as auto-mixers, EQs, dynamics and multi-effects processors directly to the Venue SC48 console, alongside DSP-based processing plug-ins. Features include: eight channel pairs of analogue inputs and outputs on ¼-inch TRS connectors, eight channels of AES digital I/O through four XLR connectors, and seamless Venue Software integration. Price: $2827 Avid: www.avid.com

NOT BLACK At the recent ISE show, d&b released a range of loudspeakers dubbed the ‘White’ range, heralding d&b’s foray into the integrated systems market for permanent installation. The White range is designed for visual, physical, acoustical and electrical integration into permanently installed applications. The range consists of two Series: the xS-Series and xA-Series, both of which include compact loudspeakers and subwoofers, and the same qualities of established d&b products. Both series can be driven by either the D6 or D12 amplifiers. National Audio Systems: 1800 441 440 or www.nationalaudio.com.au

AT 28

GIGPIGLET REPORTS FROM SXSW

the new Soundcraft Si1, which was a dream to use. But the most common by far was the humble Allen & Heath Mix Wizard.

For those of you who haven’t been to South by Southwest before, I can only describe it as chaotic (in a good way). 3000 bands play to 50,000 punters. There’s no ‘venue’ as such, rather, the whole of downtown Austin, Texas, is the venue: every pub, club, café and carpark becoming a stage. Just imagine putting the BDO on in The Rocks in Sydney.

The standouts for me were:

What I love about SXSW is how everyone is on the same level. There are huge artists playing here (Kanye West, The Strokes etc) alongside tiny artists looking to get ‘noticed’. Every major music company worldwide is represented here in some way or another and everyone’s thrown into the same pot. There is no parking, lots of the stages are ad-hoc, and no-one gets soundchecks – there isn’t time! The Americans call it “throw and go,” a term I rather like, and it’s just as hard on the engineers as it is on the artists. And funnily enough, nearly every console is analogue… and why? Because they’re fast! I was in town representing both Jack Carty, and Brooke Fraser, so I mixed a lot of shows over the week. I saw everything from a Peavey powered mixer (okay – so that show was a solo gig… in a soup kitchen) to a Digidesign Profile, and most things in between, including

Family of the Year, at ‘Emos’ (a rock club with A&H GL), Young Magic at ‘512’ (an ad-hoc venue on the roof of a bar with speakers on sticks and a Presonus mixer), Foster the People at ‘Stubs’ (an awesome 1500-cap outdoor venue surrounded by food card vendors, with a full hang of VDOSC) and The Lonely Forest at ‘Maggie Mae’s’. I might be biased but the ‘Aussie BBQ’ (a showcase of Australian music to the world) was the venue that stood out to me as being consistently the best. The PA was some stock standard double-15-and-horn boxes and the console was a Vi1 – nice – but what made this place sound awesome was the house engineer. It was the only venue where I wasn’t saying, “I just wish there were more vocals.” It was front and centre every time, making the singer (and hence the band) accessible to anyone who was there. I appreciate there are times and styles of music when the vocals get buried on the records (Tool anyone?) but live – it’s the single most important thing. Especially when bands are playing 25-minute sets showcasing their talent. If you don’t have a strong vocal you’ve got squat. Gareth Stuckey

dB FLEXES

FLEXSYS MONITORS $TBA | dbtechnologies.com

dBTechnologies is set to launch a number of products – three Flexsys stage monitors: FM8, FM10 and FM12 as well as two digital subwoofers: Sub 12D and Sub 05D. The Flexsys range offers active coaxial speakers housed in a compact enclosure, which can be tilted at two different angles for accurate sound-to-audience alignment. Reputed to deliver extraordinary sound quality, the FM Series has been engineered for precise directivity and uniform throw patterns, along with surprisingly high resistance to feedback. The two additions to the active subwoofer range include an active crossover, allowing the user to operate in mono or stereo mode. Available May/June. CMI (03) 9315 2244 or www.cmi.com.au


“Pro Tools|HD Native is amazing. I am able to run a ridiculous number of plug-ins with really low latency and it sounds great.” –Andrew Scheps, Mixer/Producer (U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Elevate your studio production.

Get Native – www.avid.com/hdnative © 2011 Avid Technology, Inc. All rights reserved. Product features, specifications, system requirements, and availability are subject to change without notice. Avid, the Avid logo, and Pro Tools are trademarks or registered trademarks of Avid Technology, Inc. or its subsidiaries in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks contained herein are the property of their respective owners. AT 29


Capture it, because you can.

Brilliant l liant Stereo with h Full ll HD Video d One Size Fits All The H1 features Zoom’s renowned audio recording technology & fits it into their easiest-to-use, most portable device ever. Ideal for anyone who needs stunning audio quality in an ultra-portable device.

Record video in FULL HD video resolution and include audio with two studioquality condenser microphones configured in a wide 120° X/Y pattern. Use the Q3HD as an audio recorder with clarity that far exceeds CD-quality. Upload your videos to YouTube, Myspace or watch direct to your HD TV via the HDMI output. With the Q3HD’s 2.4-inch LCD screen, you can monitor important information while recording, and the screen can also be used to show video file thumbnails or to display the menu screen with graphic icons representing the unit’s functions. Turn the Q3HD on its side and press play to watch your videos in “widescreen” 16:9 format.

Recorder. Control Surface. Interface. Sampler. Simultaneous Simultaneous 8-track recording; audio interface; control surface; sampler. Built in mics, guitar FX, drum machine, XLR/1/4” inputs plus phantom power. 96kHz/24bit encoding. Connects to PC & MAC via USB2.0. 8-track recording; audio interface; control surface; sampler. Built in mics, guitar FX, drum machine, XLR/1/4” inputs plus phantom power. 96kHz/24bit encoding. Connects to PC & MAC via USB2.0.

G\QDPLFPXVLFFRPDX AT 30

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‘BITCHIN’ POWER CHORD’ CAUSES BLACKOUT

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BRAND X

ELECTRO-VOICE LIVE X SERIES

IN BRIEF

Electro-Voice’s Live X series of portable powered and passive loudspeakers comprises three powered and four passive models. Live X features durable, lightweight, solid wood cabinets, ‘best-in-class’ SPL output, powerhandling, and frequency response, and clean, stackable designs. Three powered systems are available as two full-range loudspeakers and a matching subwoofer. Each self-contained powered system features Electro-Voice components optimised for use with the integrated 1000W and 700W Class-D amplifiers. All full-range systems can be pole-mounted or stacked with the acoustically-matched powered subwoofer. Four passive configurations are available, including a dual-15-inch system.

MULTI-MANAGEMENT

$ POA | electrovoice.com

The DLM26 from FBT is a DSP-based two-input, six-output digital loudspeaker management processor for fixed installations and live events. It combines the functions of a multitude of conventional products such as EQ and compression in a compact 1RU form factor with extensive PC remote control capabilities. Features include AKM5392 24-bit A/D converters and 4396 24-bit D/A converters, optimised double-precision signal processing (coupled with 24-bit conversion ensuring a dynamic range of greater than 110dB), and remote control via RS485 or USB. Up to 32 units can be networked. Innovative Music: (03) 9540 0658 or sales@innovativemusic.com.au

iLIVE ON YOUR iPAD

BOSCH COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS (02) 9683 4752 or stsales@au.bosch.com

LINE ‘EM UP

KARA LINE SOURCE

$ POA | l-acoustics.com

New from L-Acoustics is the KARA modular line source element. KARA features a two-way, bi-amplified design equipped with two eight-inch neodymium LF speakers in a bass-reflex tuned enclosure. The HF section features a three-inch neodymium diaphragm driver coupled to a DOSC waveguide. The K-shaped coplanar transducer configuration generates a symmetric horizontal coverage of 110° without secondary lobes over the entire frequency range. The KARA enclosure is made of Baltic birch plywood to ensure maximum acoustical and mechanical integrity, while the fourpoint rigging system allows up to 24 KARA to be suspended in a single array.

EASY PEASY

EZICOM COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM $TBA | jands.com.au

Jands recently launched the new Ezicom communications system. Intended for use in all stage and theatre productions, the systems are ideal for low and medium complexity systems and intended to be set up and operated by untrained users. The system comprises the E101 single-channel belt pack and E401 four-channel master station. A system can use up to 20 remote E101 units across the four isolated outputs of the E401. JANDS (02) 9582 0909 or info@jands.com.au

Allen & Heath has released an iPad application for its iLive digital mixing system. iLive MixPad connects to an iLive MixRack on a wireless network and provides controls for mixing, including channel faders and mutes, DCA faders and mutes, image controls, aux sends, channel processing, mic preamp control and full metering. Channel processing encompasses high-pass filters, gates, parametric and graphic EQs, compressors, limiters, de-essers and delays. iLive MixPad also offers useful tools for system setup, including channel assignment to mixes, a real-time analyser and the facility to name and colour channel strips. Technical Audio Group: www.tag.com.au or head to the Apple App Store

FIND THAT JUPITER APP The Symetrix Jupiter series of digital signal processors utilise a ‘smart phone-inspired’ method of compiling applications to meet various DSP requirements. To keep track of the growing library, Symetrix offers the Jupiter App Finder utility. Users can now approach the Jupiter’s app library from two directions; either by the intended market/system type for the App, or by a specific feature in an App. Look for Apps best suited for Sound Reinforcement, or look at the Apps that have include Feedback Fighters. Bound to make life easier at the helm of a Jupiter system. Grab it at www.symetrix.co Production Audio Services: (03) 9264 8000 or info@productionaudio.com.au

MIDAS WELL Production Works, based in Hobart, Tasmania, has become the first business in the country to upgrade its Midas Pro6 digital audio system to a Midas Pro9. The Pro9 package, supplied by National Audio Systems, tops the Midas Pro Series and features a massive 88-channel input count and 35 buses. Production Works CEO, Tony Miller, is delighted with the rig, saying, “The Pro9 gives us identical features to the Pro6 but with expanded input channels live on the surface. Most important of all though is the sound. A digital Midas Pro sounds like an analogue XL4!” National Audio Systems: 1800 441 440 or www.nationalaudio.com.au

AT 31


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AT 32


Some people complain that studio albums take time, but Pearl Jam’s live CD was eight years in the making! Imagine going through that many years of takes! Text: Paul Tingen Photo: Marty Philbey

“Face the fact, some things never come together… parallel lines running on forever…” sang Todd Rundgren in his classic 1989 song Parallel Lines. I dare say he had other things on his mind besides audio engineering when he wrote those lyrics, but the analogy seems a perfect fit when describing the disparate worlds of live and studio engineering. There’s always been a strange chasm between these two audio camps for some reason. Is it because one side somehow feels threatened by the other? Or is there just an outright lack of respect between the two camps? This often notso-friendly rivalry seems odd when you think about it: each group uses similar technology and techniques and, of course, has the same aim: to present a cohesive audio image of a musical event. Beyond these similarities, however, studio and live audio engineering are worlds apart. But not always. Engineer/mixer/producer Brett Eliason is one of the very few who has successfully, and over a longer period of time, managed to straddle this chasm. On his management company’s website (BK Entertainment Group), he’s billed as specialising in “Live mixing, recording, and 5.1 mixing,” and hailed as “one of the pioneers in live recording and mixing.” Eliason’s credits certainly are of the highest pedigree, and include live recording/mixing work for the likes of Pearl Jam, R.E.M., My Chemical Romance, Avenged Sevenfold, and System of a Down. In the studio, Eliason has worked with Pearl Jam, Neil Young, Dave Matthews, Ian Moore, Madseason, Jewel, and many others. Eliason has experienced both sides of the divide, and recalls; “when I began doing live stuff, I heard a lot of whispering along the lines of: ‘what does this studio guy know?’ and as I became more known for doing live stuff, when I returned

to the studio, people would say, ‘what does this live guy know?’ People do have very exclusive viewpoints!” So why are the live and studio worlds perceived as such disparate universes? Eliason explains: “It’s true that it takes a long time to learn both, and I’d probably already spent eight years in a recording studio before I started doing front of house. The PA during that initial tour with Pearl Jam – who were supporting the Red Hot Chili Peppers – was provided by Rat Sound, and I spent quite a lot of time looking over owner Dave Levine’s shoulder, picking his brain about how a PA works and disperses in a room. As FOH engineer of the headlining act you’re responsible for the PA, which might consist of 150 boxes to cover everybody in the room as evenly, cleanly and clearly as possible. The point being: it’s not a perfect science, but modern tools make it easier and easier. In the studio, on the other hand, you have two speakers, an amplifier that drives them, and you know what you’re dealing with. By contrast, I like to make the comparison that, live, you’re mixing and mastering at the same time; by manipulating the signal processing, the system curve and EQ, you’re basically mastering your mix for the hall. And, of course, unlike in the studio, you can’t spend a couple of hours getting a good snare sound, and most of all – as is so often stated – there are no second takes!” OFFICIAL BOOTLEGS Eliason has a long-standing connection with Pearl Jam. In fact, his work with the band has been the mainstay of his career over the last 20 years. In addition to having been Pearl Jam’s FOH engineer from 1991 to 2003, Eliason also acted as engineer and mixer on several Pearl Jam studio albums, and over two decades has recorded and mixed almost all of the band’s live output. With some bands this would, at most, amount to one or two live albums, but with Pearl Jam, Eliason’s

work has been of truly epic proportions. The main reason for this is not only that Pearl Jam love touring and are an impressive live outfit, but that in 2000, having previously encouraged their fans to make amateur live recordings, the band decided to use modern technology to make each and every one of their live concerts available to their fans. Over the course of 11 years the resulting Pearl Jam Official Bootleg series now amounts to the commercially available recordings of an epic near-300 shows, selling an amazing 3.5 million copies in total. Eliason has mixed all of the Pearl Jam Bootleg Series until 2006 – the 2007 tour was unreleased, and Eliason was on tour with R.E.M. in 2008, so a different mixer [Greg Nelson] was brought in that year, who also mixed the 2009 and 2010 material. He’s also recorded almost every Pearl Jam show he has engineered. Eliason’s very first Pearl Jam live recordings were to compact cassette (yikes), then in 1992 he switched to DAT Walkman, a year later to 16-tracks of ADAT, then to Sony PCM-800s beginning with a European Tour, before finally migrating over to ProTools. “I recorded right off the live console and in the ’90s I had only one set of machines, so when a tape ran out, I had to put a new one in, which inevitably meant I’d miss some of the show, and the live sound was my first responsibility, of course, so I wasn’t always in a position to instantly swap tapes. But we culled a lot of B-sides from these recordings, and eventually this resulted in the band’s first live record, Live on Two Legs (1998), which came from three sync’d ADATs, so these were 24-track recordings, which I later transferred to two-inch analogue tape for the album mixes.” Live On Two Legs was Pearl’s Jam’s first official live album and its commercial success – it reached platinum status in the US, Canada and Australia AT 33


Eliason at the Digidesign D-Command console.

– probably helped pave the way for the Bootleg Series. Over the next 10 years five of the ‘bootleg’ recordings were also released as separate official albums, often in ‘special’ or limited edition, and in one case (Live At The Gorge 05/06) as a 7-CD set. While the Bootleg Series albums were mixed “broadcast style, immediately after the shows” – as Eliason describes it – these five albums were later mixed again by Eliason. Finally, early this year we saw the release of Live On Ten Legs, which is – as the title implies – intended as a companion piece to the 1998 live album. It features songs played at shows between 2003 – 10, which were specially selected by the band and a few band insiders, and remixed by Eliason. HARD COPY With close to 300 Pearl Jam live albums under his belt during the last decade – many recorded and mixed in different ways – Eliason has quite a story to tell. During 2000 – 2002, a split from stage would go to a bus, where the then assistant engineer, John Burton, would record the show. Afterwards – often the same evening – Eliason would remix the show again on-the-fly, this time in the bus, and each show would be available soon afterwards on CD. “Then, in 2003 I tried a little experiment,” Eliason continues. “I mixed the band in the truck, and sent stems over to another engineer sitting at FOH. It worked okay, but it wasn’t the same as AT 34

sitting in the hall, and when I discussed it later with the band, they said: ‘we want you either at FOH or recording, not both.’ So I stuck with recording after that. I’d done FOH for 11 years, and was ready for a change. At that point I was using Grace Designs 801R remote controllable preamps as a front end on stage and the signal arrived at line-level at the analogue Midas XL4 console in the truck. The multitrack recordings were taken from the direct outs with only the EQ settings and dynamics; no effects or other treatments. I prefer to remix from scratch. “Pearl Jam weren’t touring much during 2004, so that year I went on the road with R.E.M. That gig lasted until late 2005, at which point I went back out on another Pearl Jam tour, which carried over into 2006. By this time we’d set up the recording side of things in a 24-foot shipping container, which was always transported to wherever the band was touring. “I was recording and mixing the show on a digital desk, the Digico D5. I had two racks under the stage – one for the Grace Design preamps and one for the Digico input – I took a split from the stage, and ran 1000 feet of fibre-optic cable to the container. I also had armoured Cat5 for a video display and preamp remote control, so I could see what was happening on stage. I then went MADI from the Digico to a Euphonix FC726 format converter, and from there, AES/EBU into the ProTools HD rig.

“By now we were digital the whole way down the line, and made the show available for download within hours of the show ending, as MP3 or FLAC files. The download situation was pretty cool, but the thing we bumped into was that these files were becoming collectibles, and people still wanted hard goods. So for that reason, later releases were also made available as CDs. After the 05/06 tour it was decided that the expense and logistics of having me, John, another tech, the container, the tractor pulling the container, and transport costs were becoming too much of a financial burden. So John Burton continued recording the concerts to ProTools multitrack, and I decided to stay at home and focus on my work here at my studio outside of Seattle. From that point onwards, John would ship me the drives by courier in as timely a manner as was possible, and I’d turn the mixes around as quickly as I could and upload them via broadband.” FOLLOW THE TRAILMIX Brett Eliason’s Trailmix Studio is a homely, woodpanelled space full of natural daylight, idyllically located in the middle of a mountain forest. The engineer recalls that he began his studio in 2000 in the basement of his house, much to his wife’s “chagrin”, who “for some reason or another didn’t enjoy the sound of endless soloing of bass drums reverberating around the house.” She must have been relieved in May 2007 when Eliason finally moved to the studio’s current location – 50 feet


SENNHEISER’S FIRST LARGE DIAPHRAGM STUDIO MICROPHONE

Ahh, the ‘90s... long hair and analogue consoles.

away from his house, above the garage. Throughout, Eliason has been proud to call Trailmix an analogue/digital hybrid. Until 2006 he was working on a Digidesign ProControl, and since then a D-Command. But while ProTools and a digital control surface are clearly at the heart of his studio, it’s also awash with several racks of analogue outboard, all of which was used in his mix of Live On Ten Legs. Eliason gives us the lowdown… “My automation, bussing structure, sends and so on are all within the mix platform inside ProTools, but the majority of my EQ’ing, dynamic processing, and effects go on in the analogue domain, via the ProTools A/D and D/A converters. Digital converters and delay compensation engines have become much better over the years, so plugging analogue outboard into my digital system has become a lot easier. I don’t like using plug-ins too much – I have yet to bump into one that sounds anything like the analogue stuff. There’s an inherent phase distortion in the analogue circuitry that has a really wonderful effect. I have heard people do beautiful mixes entirely inside of DAWs, but in my opinion they still sound two-dimensional. It doesn’t mean that it can’t sound gorgeous, but there’s no air or depth. I’m very entrenched in what happens when you grab an API 550 or 560 EQ or a Neve 1073 or 1081, and so on. “My studio is built as a mix suite, although I have recorded people’s vocals here. It has an A-frame roof and pine ceiling. When I had it constructed, I looked into formulas for angles and ceiling heights and square footage and all that, and got it as flat as I could, but also with an eye towards the aesthetics I wanted. And it turned out great. The ceiling in the old basement was only 7½ feet high, and I had to deaden it like crazy to get rid of the weird reflections. That worked pretty well, and I did many a great project in there, including in 5.1. But my current room sounds better. I have Adam S3A nearfields in front of me, M&K MPS2510Ps for surround, and the M&K MPS5310 sub. But 5.1 mixing is limited to sound for DVDs these days. The studio is remote, and I’m quite happy to mix on my own. People rarely come out here, other than to hang out. I have a high-speed broadband connection

The best large diaphragm true condenser microphone for under AU$500 Syntec is pleased to introduce Sennheiser’s first large diaphragm true condensor microphone - the MK 4. Designed and built by Sennheiser in Germany, this newly developed microphone features fine resolution, a vivid mid range and solid bass. It is highly versatile, suitable for vocals, acoustic guitars and pianos as well as strings and wind instruments. It is even great for drums. The combination of outstanding performance and a suggested retail price of AU$499 the MK 4 is the ideal choice for professionals and project studios alike. Main features include: ™ ™ ™ ™

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AT 35


If Jeremy was played 30 times over that eightyear period, we had 30 versions to listen to. To avoid going insane we split the songs between the four of us

and am now sending full-quality CD cuts to people. The big advantage there is that clients can listen to them in environments that they’re used to, whether it’s their car or living room.” EXCITING LIVE CUTS Eliason did all his mixes for Live On Ten Legs at Trailmix after an extended preparatory process. He explains: “Again, Live On Two Legs and Live On Ten Legs were considered companion albums, so we had the same approach on both – edit recordings from different concerts together to make it sound like one show. The recordings for Two Legs were all taken from (two US legs) in 1998, whereas the songs for Live On Ten Legs came from various different tours over eight years, recorded in different venues, cities and countries. The first step was to make a song selection. The band were looking for high-energy songs, and wanted these to represent each album era, while making sure some of the classics were included that didn’t make it onto Two Legs. “So the band created a set list as a starting point, and then poor John [Burton] had to pull up the stereo mixes of the live recordings that we had of each song spanning 2003 – 10. Tim Bierman (head of Pearl Jam Ten Club), Christian Fresco (head of A&R for Pearl Jam’s record label, Monkeywrench), John and myself went through all of the versions we had of each song. So, for instance, if Jeremy was played 30 times over that eight-year period, we had 30 versions to listen to. To avoid going insane we split the songs between the four of us, and each one of us selected what we thought were the top two performances of each. We were looking for energy, groove, technical performance, vocal performance – all the things that make an exciting live cut. We also had in mind that we weren’t planning on doing any overdubs; I might fix a small clanger in a repetitive part in ProTools by moving something around, but that was all. After that we presented our selection to the band, to make sure they were happy with these versions as well.

STARTING OUT Eliason: “While my friends became electrical engineers and were making 40 grand a year, I was making tape copies for five dollars an hour! It was during this time that I met Jeff [Ament] and Stone [Gossard] – then of Green River and later of Pearl Jam. I did more and more engineering on my own and eventually went freelance. I started doing some engineering for Ann and Nancy of Heart, who had a side project called The Lovemongers, and did a benefit concert for the Red Cross, which I recorded. Fast-forward two years: The Lovemongers were performing at another Seattle area club, and at that concert I bumped into Kelly Curtis, manager of Pearl Jam. He asked me if I knew someone who could do live sound for a tour of the east coast with Pearl Jam. I took a breath, thought, ‘how hard can it be?’ and said, “I can do it.” My first concert with Pearl Jam was on July 4th, 1991, in a Seattle club called The Rock Candy.”

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“I’d already mixed some of the material for Live On Ten Legs ‘broadcast style’ for the Bootleg Series, which obviously meant pulling a concert up and going for it. I was doing an average of four shows a week at the time, so I had to churn these things out, and didn’t have two or three or four hours to mix each song. I simply had to make things sound decent, rough it in like it was a FOH mix, the only difference being that if I blew a cue, I could step back and fix it. That worked fine for the Bootleg Series, but it’s not an album approach. So once the versions of the songs for Live On Ten Legs were selected, I grabbed the original multitrack ProTools sessions for each song, and loaded them all up. I had 56 inputs on the list, which included all the instruments that weren’t played on every song. I began by picking one of the songs that had a little bit of everything on it: keyboards, Ed [Vedder] playing guitar, etc… things that didn’t happen in every song. There were multiple mics on many

of the instruments, and initially I would decide on the blend I liked best, whether it was a kick drum, a snare drum, a keyboard or guitars.” THE BIG MONSTER Before dealing with his biggest challenge, which was to blend all the songs into a unified whole, Eliason mixed each song individually, making intense use of his analogue outboard. He explains, beginning with his treatment of the drums: “I have a rack of Helios Type 69 mic pre/ EQ modules, which I used on the snare, toms, and overheads. Dynamics control was taken care of by my dbx 160VU and 160S compressors, and that was mostly it. I have a couple of Trident 80B modules that I used on the kick drum, and I also layered the kick for some more depth and snap. Matt Cameron is an amazing drummer, and I don’t replace his sounds completely, but because he’s playing the heck out of the same kit for two or three hours on stage, things can get tired and out of tune – there are temperature changes, and so on… all sorts of things that change the sound of the instruments for better or worse. Instead of adding a ton of 60Hz on a channel that’s also picking up the bass guitar, it’s more effective to add some extra drum sounds and mix them in. “On the bass guitar I had the Rupert Nevedesigned Summit EQP200A, which is a digitally-controlled analogue EQ that works great on bass. I combined that with the ELI Distressor for dynamic control. On guitars I used some Neve 1081 EQ, and more of the Helios Type 69 modules, but predominantly my go-to boxes are the API 560 10-band graphic EQ, and compressors like the Neve 2254a, Manley Vari Mu, and Crane Song STC-8. I choose any combination of those, depending on the song, the sound, the parts, and the instruments the band members are playing. For example, I like to run acoustics through the Vari Mu and sometimes the STC-8. I might put a Telecaster through a tube compressor, just to take some of the edginess off the top. On heavier parts I like to use the 2254 because it smoothes things out. “On keyboards I will typically use the API 554 EQ, sometimes the API 560, along with the Neve 33609, which I like a lot. On the vocals I had my Shep SN8 modules – which are basically Neve 33115s – and a Crane Song Trakker, which is a single-channel compressor/limiter made by Dave Hill, who used to work for Summit – they’re really neat. That works really great on vocals, because you just start flipping models on the compressor, and you quickly find something that sits perfectly in your track. I will also set up some effects, like a Lexicon PCM60, AKG spring reverb, my EMT 240 plate, and so on, which I’ll blend in on various instruments. “But the biggest challenge when mixing live recorded material remains the room itself. That’s the real monster you have to wrestle with. The way the PA reacts to the room has a huge influence on the audience microphones


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Woody on the outside, woody on the inside: Trailmix studios has surround sound monitoring

as well as with what’s happening on stage. If everybody on stage has in-ears, which is another big advancement in the monitor world, it helps to clean up the stage an awful lot. Audience microphone placement is a big thing too. Throwing them all over the hall doesn’t really work, because of timing delays and phasing issues. I tend to use six audience microphones: an Audio-Technica 8035 shotgun and Oktava MK012 condenser on the downstage stage left and right areas, with the condensers angled towards the centre of the floor for a more close-up sound, and the A-Ts aimed at the back corners, giving me more of the white noise crowd sound. I’ll also have a Shure VP88 stereo mic on a high stand close to the FOH desk. I can’t mix that signal in with the music because of time alignment and phase issues, but I use that to fill in the gaps between songs. It also gives me a beautiful back wall element when I’m mixing 5.1. When setting up a mix, I spend quite a lot of time sending these mics through an RTA (real time frequency analyser). I like to use the Klark Teknik DN6000, set in high, 1/6th -octave resolution, and digital EQ, which allows me to get very narrow notches going, and flatten out the peaks and valleys in the room as much as I can. I’ll then sum the audience mics to a stereo track, and run a two-channel limiter across them to control any big swells or peaks.” COMMON THREAD Moving onto the subject of creating the illusion that all songs came from one concert, Eliason explained that there were two aspects to this: one was to match up all the crowd noise, the other was to address any sonic inconsistencies within AT 38

each of the songs. Eliason first elaborated on streamlining his mixes: “Over the eight years this album covers the guys had changed their rigs, their amps, their instruments, and so on, plus I was dealing with different room acoustics. But of course, you don’t want the guitars and other instruments to change too dramatically from track to track. So once I’d mixed a song or two, I was looking for a common thread, a common sonic quality that made the album sound like one show. “As I progressed, I would sometimes go back to earlier mixes to touch something up. For this reason, and also to be able to incorporate feedback from the band, I made sure I could do a mix recall. After I’d completed a song mix, I bussed each audio track to a new track, internally (within ProTools), post fader and insert – i.e. with plug-ins and hardware outboard included. Trying to recall a 10-band graphic analogue EQ is impossible – a hair’s width can make all the difference! I also copied the effects sends over to the new tracks and then made the originals inactive. With the new faders set to 0dB, my mix plays back exactly as I completed it and from there it was very easy to do a volume ride here and there, which is what 99% of requests for changes are about. No recalling of outboard gear necessary, other than effects like reverb, because the sends follow the fader, and if I changed the volume it wouldn’t have the same dynamic structure. So I did charts of the effects I used and how they were set. “After all the songs were mixed, I threw them into one session, and started conforming, crossfading and turning everything into one show. I would

listen to bits of each song and made sure they blended and sounded like a cohesive set that could have come from one show. If not, I’d go back to the multitrack sessions and change a few things. With regards to the audience noise, I’d mixed each song with handles of audience noise in and out of the song. In some cases these were very short, in other cases I had a lot of audience to work with. If I had enough crowd noise in these handles, and if the dynamics were right, I would stretch and blend them together, but I also found a good segment of audience noise from one particular performance that had a really nice neutral sound and energy about it. I mixed that to stereo and blended it where necessary until it sounded natural. It’s a task that took a few hours, for sure. All the songs were finally mixed back into ProTools, and from there went to Ed Brooks at RFI/CD Mastering in Seattle for the finishing touch. Ed did a great job, and also did a separate vinyl version that’s not as dynamically controlled as the CD version; he allowed it to breathe a bit more.” In unifying live and studio, digital and analogue, different live recordings into one concert, mixing and mastering, and a final album as download, CD and vinyl versions, it appears that Brett Eliason, contrary to Todd Rundgren’s assertion, has managed to make parallel lines meet.


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FEATURE

BOOTY SHAKER Rihanna live is a raucous, rockin’ R&B show with ’tude … and auto-erotic tank stunts. Text: Christopher Holder

Rihanna doesn’t shy away from a bit of raunch. It’s an all-ages show but she pulls some moves that most parents would prefer their teenage daughters didn’t rehearse in front of the mirror. Auto-erotic acts performed with a full-size pink tank might be high on that list. “Courtney-Bree, get off your father’s tank this minute!” I also fear for Rihanna’s Sennheiser SK2000 wireless mic – at least, the extra-curricular activities it might be asked to be party to during the show – but FOH engineer Tony Blanc allays my concerns: “no audio equipment was harmed in the production of this concert.” DOIN’ THE DIVA Tony is a good-natured Pom who’s a decadelong veteran of pop-diva touring. Prior to the Rihanna tour he spent seven years with Christina Aguilera. Meanwhile, good-natured Yank, Bill Chrysler, the monitor engineer, spent 11 years touring with Aguilera… 11!. But don’t ask Tony how he’s got himself a name as a diva tamer, it’s not something he’s cultivated, but no-one’s holding a gun to his head; he’s clearly enjoying himself. And why not? Rihanna is right at the top of the pop music tree. She’s got a kick-arse band behind her, a genius musical director and some of the best songs money can buy. Tony Blanc: I’ve worked with the Tony Bruno [Musical Director] before and he’s incredibly

talented. He takes the song and translates them so they have a very different energy to the record – a whole new live personality. Management wanted a live, rock profile and they definitely created that. The guitars certainly contribute to that because some of the songs don’t have any guitar in the production. Our guitarist is Nuno Beckencourt and he’s full on – a 44-year-old shredder. Unfortunately we lost one guitarist and one keyboardist for this leg of the tour – so those ‘second’ parts are on ‘tape’. But it’s still a very deep-sounding show and about 80 or 90% of the parts are played live. The only things in the ‘box’ are the loops – the samples. You need those distinctive parts that the kids can relate to from the record – the funny little guiro sound every second bar… that sort of thing. CH: Rihanna sings the whole show I assume? TB: She does. And she has two backing vocalists for support. CH: But she’s fit enough to sing and do all the onstage calisthenics? TB: She’s not yet figured out she doesn’t have to sing. Christina Aguilera figured that out. When I started my seven-year stint with Christina, not a single word was in the box. When I left, only one third of the show was live. Saying that, for the last part of the tour, she was very pregnant and she figured out pretty quickly she didn’t have to sing it. AT 41


Bass (Eric Smith) and keyboards are DI; guitarist (Nuno Bettencourt) uses Sennheiser MD421s and Shure SM57s. Bill Chrysler: The bass player has this 4 x 3-foot piece of ply with two shakers on it. He stands on it and man it really shakes. Makes me dizzy. But it’s really cool.

MICS: AN UMBRELLA STATEMENT CH: What’s been your approach to mic selection, and pulling a big R&B mix?

MONITORS: IN ONE EAR CH: Rihanna uses just the one in-ear monitor. Does that fill a monitor engineer with dread? Bill Chrysler: I’m not a fan. I think I can create a room, a space in her ears. Meanwhile, we’ve got 100 speakers and tens of thousands of Watts and it’s hard to compete with that. If you only have one ear in, you end up turning it up. From where I’m mixing I can hear the sidefill, so I take one ear out just to hear what she hears. Boy, the ear with the earpiece really takes a battering when you balance it to the PA. CH: Does the fact Rihanna spends so much time out in amongst the crowd create problems for you? BC: By using the one ear she really works off from the PA a lot. The way I dial her ear up, I balance her with the rest of the room. I give her a mix that she uses to tune and keep time to – she gets the rest from the PA. CH: So there’s no ‘special sauce’? BC: Well, I know the things she likes to have in there, the little extra candy, the frosting on the cake. There are the little noises she likes to hear that other people play. Also she does a bit with some wireless drums – it’s not necessary, but she likes to feel and hear them. She does another thing with the guitar and she thinks it’s fun to hear it like it’s a big rock guitar. So we’re now beyond giving them what they need and we can give them what they want, and they’re having fun.

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TB: I don’t want to come across like I’m some kind of rocket scientist, because it’s not that hard. It’s about controlling what you’ve got and figuring out where you’ve got to control it. Mostly it’s in tasteful compression, intelligent gain structure and putting the right mic in front of the instrument in the first place. It’s about ensuring it sounds like the instrument rather than trying to sculpt it later in EQ. CH: You work on a Digico SD7 – what are you referring to, when you’re talking about intelligent gain structure? TB: Digital boards have a sweet spot. You need to know how hard to drive it. It’s not like a Midas XL4 where you can have it squirting blood and it still sounds great – using the board’s inherent harmonic distortion. There’s natural limiting on a digital board if you get up into that zone. But if you overload it and get right up to the top of that zone, then it’s all over. CH: I assume you don’t need to run the SD7 too hard – there’s plenty of clean gain there? TB: You could probably run a kettle at the back end of it, what with the amount of current it produces! It’s ridiculous. You’ve got 60dB of continuous gain. But it’ll be red for days and it doesn’t sound good when it’s distorted.

VOCALS: WHIPPED INTO SHAPE CH: What’s Rihanna like to work with as a vocalist? TB: She works hard. She uses one in-ear monitor and works off the house sound, and it’s not a quiet show. She sings loud. CH: What mic are you using on her vocal? TB: It’s a Sennheiser e965 one-inch condenser capsule, with a SK2000 body. We went through a bunch before we settled on this combination. I’ve done a lot of tours with Shure products and the Sennheiser stuff I thought sounded weaker. They’re a funny bunch because they didn’t tell me what the top of the range kit was until I figured it out myself. “Oh, you’ve picked the best mic in our range.” “Funny about that, I did want to drive the Rolls, not the Mini.” We’ve got the best stick and receiver now as well. It sounds good. There’s enough bling on it, so she likes it. It’s a large mic but it suits her. CH: She does something unmentionable with the mic though? TB: No she does that with the tank, the machine guns and the whips. CH: Right, my mistake. Do you have to keep a constant eye on Rihanna’s fader? TB: The problem I have is that she spends a third of the show holding an open condenser mic 20 metres in front of the PA on the stage thrust.


Drum mics include AKG D12s and Shure SM91s on kick, Shure SM57s on snare, AKG C460B pencil mics on hat, ride and overheads, and Beyer Opus 88 clip-on condensers on the rack and floor toms. Tony Blanc: “There is no rocket science to microphones; it’s about the placement. Also helps to have a ridiculously good drum tech like we have [Chris Achzet] – sounds huge.”

But I figure, if she can stand in front of sidefills she can stand in front of a PA. Plus, she’s bright enough to realise she needs to have her head between the capsule and the speaker box. Or move if it starts to take off. It’s either her moving the mic or me moving the fader to get that feedback to drop. RACKED ’N’ READY CH: It’s a little unusual to see a FOH rack of outboard goodies like yours these days? TB: Yeah, it’s all thanks to eBay. CH: So it’s your gear then? TB: That’s right, I bought it all. Some of it’s esoteric stuff that I like and I’m too embarrassed to ask the service companies to buy this stuff every time I turn up.

do with the band. The idea is, especially with PAs that have compression in them like we have here, and you want to cheat it, and in the same way you’d make a record loud on the radio – chop the peaks off so that your average level is higher. I’ve had shows where I’ve been ‘quieter’ than the support band, when in fact we’re much louder, just without the peaks.

THE JPS PA

CH: Have you given the Crane Song HEDD a crack as well? [The HEDD adds tube ‘warmth’ to a digital signal.] TB: I have. In fact, I have a HEDD across the band sub master. By using the Pentode setting, the HEDD warms up the sound of the digital board nicely.

CH: Clearly you’re a Crane Song fan?

R&B: SLAP & TICKLE CH: You’re an old hand at booty-shaking mixes. What’s the secret?

Jands Production Services, with the unflappable Nick Giameos calling the shots, was called upon to supply its Clair i5 system including:

TB: I am. I like the fact I can dial up very different compression characteristics out of the Trakker and the STC-8. Very versatile.

TB: In a nutshell: bass and kick, and make sure everyone blinks every time the snare goes off. There’s a lot of low end in the show. It’s not polite.

44 x i5

CH: How do you use the STC-8?

CH: But it’s about achieving the results without simply throwing a huge amount of voltage at it.

8 x P2 front fill cabs

TB: That’s right. It’s about getting the desired effect at a lower volume. I must confess, I do have a dbx 120x bass synth in the back of my rack – when I really want to rattle bones. The thing is, the kick drum doesn’t go down below 100Hz. Below that the lower frequencies are

4 x Crown 5002VZ JPS sub amps

TB: I have one in my rack for snare and bass. CH: Do you use an output bus compressor? TB: I do, but the way I set up my mix – and I’ve done it this way for years with console compression – is: I run a vocal master (lead and backing vocals), and a band master. So I can run a different ‘PA’ compression on the vocal than I

40 x i5Bs 20 x JPS subs 16 x Crest, QSC FOH Clair amps 1 x Crown P2 Amp JPS System Engineer & Crew Chief: Nicholas Giameos Monitor & RF Technician: Dave Richardson PA/Stage Technician: Duncan Kaye

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created by a hole in the drum head which gives the thump – but it’s not the drum that goes down that low, it’s the electronics. The 120x gives you those harmonics straight off the bat – down to 40 cycles, pumping out air. So long as the sub-bass is tight, with plenty of punch, it works. CH: You must spend a lot of time fine-tuning your subs? TB: You can’t have a ‘note’ in the subs. A lot of manufacturers tune a cabinet to a frequency that they want it to be efficient at. But on a kick drum you can’t have it efficient from 40-80Hz when you’ve got an 808 kick drum sample going down to 30Hz – it’ll have a big bump in the response. So the subs should be as smooth as possible down to 30Hz, without any inherent notes. FUN WHILE IT LASTS CH: What’s the best part about mixing Rihanna? TB: I like the songs; the material is nice and the playing is great – the drummer is incredible…

they’re all good players. In fact, turn the machines off and it wouldn’t make any difference, it’d still sound great. Actually, the drummer wants to play the machine parts because he’s offended by the fact there’s a backing track! So there’s a lot of stuff going on. It’s not as busy as the Christina show, which was like mixing a Phil Spector record! CH: What next? TB: We’ll have a month off to get a new show prepared based on the current record and then we’ll be back on the road. We actually recorded the current record on the road – we had a truck with us and she recorded ‘after hours’. But there will be a break this time around; they anticipate us finishing March next year. CH: And then do it all again? TB: Yeah, I’ve gotta retire somehow! FOH Engineer, Tony Blanc (foreground) with Monitor Engineer, Bill Chrysler.

TONY BLANC TALKS US THROUGH HIS RACK AMS RMX 16 Clean reverbs don’t ‘read’ so well in this digital age, you need something with a bit of grit. This reads beautifully. Wendel jr Kick and snare cartridge for EQ’ing the PA. Developed by Roger Nichols, best known for mixing Steely Dan. TC Electronic D-Two Short delay on one unit, and a long delay on the other. SPL Transient Designer Fantastic for shaping the kick and tom. Some rooms I’ll decrease the sustain on the kick so it’s nice and tight. Other rooms I’ll increase the sustain on the toms for some controlled extension on the sound. It’s one of those things where it just makes drums sound better without turning a knob. BSS DPR 901 Multi-band compression on vocals. 3.5kHz is the problem area for many female artists. I use the other filters to give air when she is talking and clean up the low mid occasionally. Crane Song Trakker I set this to the ‘Vintage’ compression setting on Rihanna’s vocals. Crane Song STC-8 Gives you a mix of valve, solid-state, soft or hard compression sounds. One side is used for the bass guitar, the other side is across the snare. Waves Maxx Bass I use these on toms. Allows you to squash the hell out of the them and they don’t change the colour of the sound. Drummers think they’re doing great by tapping it to go full flam but trying to follow that in a mix and keep them ‘reading’ is impossible. Maxx will compress them and smooth out the sound.

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FEATURE

LOST IN SOUND Post production veteran Doron Kipen has been losing himself in sound for nigh-on 40 years. We decided to pay his Music and Effects studio a visit after the Oscar success of The Lost Thing. Text: Andy Stewart

He’s one versatile engineer, is Melbourne sound recordist, Foley engineer, and re-recording mixer, Doron Kipen. Doron has worked in the industry for almost 40 years, on everything from Mad Max III – Beyond Thunderdome, where he was officially credited as the analogue ‘eight-track operator’, to the recent Australian academy award-winning short film, The Lost Thing, for which he was the re-recording mixer. He’s mixed Underbelly for TV, Van Diemen’s Land and Wasted on the Young for cinema and DVD release, along with countless other films, documentaries and TV shows too numerous to mention here. He records location sound for both work and pleasure, and is still the proud owner of the first ever Soundfield mic in Australia – something he bought back in 1982 with every cent he possessed, and with which he has compiled an extraordinary library of immersive soundscapes. He’s recorded a veritable sack full of ADR, film soundtracks and even band demos since way back in 1974 when he bought his first TEAC A3340 four-track and set up a recording studio: “I couldn’t get a job anywhere else so I hired a shop-front and started doing demos – I’m pretty sure it was one of the first ‘demo’ studios in Melbourne.” This was only after he’d convinced his father that sound engineering was a legitimate job title, different from the word ‘drop-out’, although the two terms are indeed related. “Dad couldn’t understand the job title at all until I appealed to his understanding of classical records: ‘Dad, you like listening to classical records, right? Well, someone has to know how to capture the sound of the orchestra and get it onto the record. That’s the job I want to do’.” Doron was literally running off the print masters for his latest mixing exploit – the soon to be released Big Mamma’s Boy – when I caught up with him at his sound post production studio, Music and Effects, located like the Tardis just off Toorak Road in South Yarra, where it has been since 1982. During our long chat, Doron chewed the proverbial leg off the chair [the Foley sound for which is being re-recorded by Doron’s master Foley Artist, Gerry Long] about everything from analogue and digital recording formats, the history of digital consoles, converters, patchbay wiring, jingle musicians of Melbourne (1974 to present day), even early high-school flute lessons. FILM MIXING Doron Kipen: I was interested in music and technology, as so many people are who start in this industry, and from a very young age I had a highly developed fascination for the gear. I played flute and guitar as a kid but wasn’t very good at either, nor was I ever going to be a true engineer, but I was totally into both – I soon discovered that sound engineering was somewhere in the middle. Andy Stewart: How did this passion for sound eventually evolve into working on films? DK: About the third professional job I ever did was music for a film for the composer, Jon Mol. It was a porno flick, which I hasten to add there were no accompanying images for at the time! I recorded the soundtrack in my little setup in Elsternwick. I did quite a bit of work there before eventually scoring a

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job at AAV working for Roger Savage, doing jingles with co-engineers Ian McKenzie, Ross Cockle and Jim Barton. That was a true baptism of fire, where pulling a sound quickly, getting it on tape and mixing it lightning fast were the highest priorities. The thing I learnt most doing that job was that, without the great session musicians we were working with at the time, it simply wouldn’t have been possible to do our job. That was a seminal year for me in terms of experience and craft-building – the best and worst of this sound engineering caper. Problem was, I ended up getting very sick with cancer that year and was very lucky to recover from it. ROLA-OVER To take a break from the relentless hours the recording industry was serving up, Doron moved to Adelaide, where he worked for a short while at a studio called Soundtrack Australia, doing voice-over recording and editing on a 1/4inch Rola: DK: It was all valuable stuff – working there with Bob Allen taught me a lot about the craft of dialogue editing, which came in very handy later when I started working on film dialogue. But the real link between audio engineering and film mixing came by chance when I travelled to London with the Australian Dance Theatre and went to an APRS trade show. There I discovered the Soundfield microphone. I distinctly remember I was played a recording of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa singing inside Westminster Cathedral for the wedding of Charles and Diana. The guys on the stand said: ‘Here’s a four-track, there’s the original recording, have a play’. It was fascinating. I was able to zoom, tilt and pan in full 360º and immediately thought: ‘right, I get all this, this makes sense to me’ so I bought one on the spot – with everything I had. In fact, I think I had to get the family to wire me some more money. It was about $3,000 – in 1982. Later I bought an Otari eight-track half-inch machine to go with it – which I still have around here in a road case somewhere – some dbx noise reduction and a little Alice 12-into-2 mixer, which I still use. I did lots of interesting things with that gear, mainly location work. Probably the most notable thing I recorded with that rig was Mad Max III: Beyond Thunderdome. The location sound for that film was primarily recorded – except for the desert sections – to that eight-track setup with the Soundfield on four tracks, another three tracks for sync dialogue and a 50Hz control track on the eighth track. AS: Can you tell us a bit more about this original Soundfield mic; you still have it I take it? DK: I do, the control unit for it is in the rack right there behind you, although the mic itself is now unusable. These days I’m using a Soundfield ST350/Sound Devices 744T rig. The Soundfield mic, which has been around for quite some time now consists of four mic capsules placed in a diamond shape sitting on an apex. The plane of each microphone is tilted off-axis by 45º [the mathematics of this setup was developed by Michael Gerzon who passed away in 1996]. Basically what is recorded to tape is three figure-eight signals: one facing forward, another sideways, and the third

up and down, and finally an omni track, which is the sum of all. This creates a ‘three-dimensional sound graph’, which allows you to – by doing sine and cosine manipulations – zoom, sweep and pan the focus around the space. That’s the simplest way I can explain it – you can read dozens of pages of mathematics about it on the net if you Google it. AS: It sounds to me like you just answered my question about how you got into film mixing – you obviously like immersive sounds… DK: Absolutely. MIXING FILM: COMPRESSION VS DYNAMICS AS: Given you’re in the middle of printing the final mixes for Big Mamma’s Boy right now, it seems appropriate to ask you about the different ways you compress the ‘deliverables’. Is what I’m hearing right now the ‘cinema mix’ or a DVD mix, and tell me, how are they different? DK: They aren’t all that different, but yes, one is more compressed than the other – this is the DVD mix. It’s fundamentally about the excursion – if you like – of the dynamic shifts rather than the panning and the mixing. AS: Why isn’t the DVD mix simply the same as the theatrical print? DK: Primarily because most people don’t want a theatrical dynamic, nor do they have the playback systems when you think about it. In the end the dynamic of the cinema release requires a system that can handle it and a relative amount of ambient quiet around you to appreciate those dynamic shifts. One thing I’ve come to realise over the years is that, as much as there’s supposed to be a standard for reproducing level and angles of playback in every cinema, the best you can hope for is that the relationship between the dialogue, the music and effects holds up. If you’ve achieved that your mix is good and it will translate to the cinema environment. Tonally, and in terms of reverberation and distortion, every cinema experience is going to be different. All you can hope for is that those relationships have been maintained. AS: You never find yourself going, ‘Oh bugger, now that I’m doing the DVD prints, and my compression has been altered, I need to go back into the multitrack mix and adjust something else’? DK: No because when you get into a noisy domestic environment where the kids are making noise, someone else is washing the dishes, what gets lost is all of your background sound, so your dialogue must always be punchy and upfront. The music always needs to be upfront too, telling the main story. If not it was secondary. Effects – if they were key effects – were always going to be up there. So what you find is that by adding a bit of compression you’re pushing all that primary stuff back. With classic compression, what’s your biggest problem? Bringing up the noise floor, but for our purposes that’s exactly what we want. And when do we want to hear it? Only in the gaps, so effectively, compression over an entire mix is the perfect solution. AS: As a general rule, are you clipping say 3dB off the peaks for the DVD deliverable, or more? DK: It very much depends on the program. It could be, say, AT 47


“ ”

When you do things today the same way as you did yesterday it’s time to go home!

FOLEY: AGGRESSIVE STIRRING According to Doron, the whole nature of Foley is essentially a deconstruct/reconstruct process: DK: The thing to understand about film is that most of the time you need to be able to produce an international version, which essentially means it needs to be constructed without language; i.e. everything you record on set needs to be replaced. You have to reconstruct the sound for everything: background atmos, every chair creak, every coffee cup pickup and putdown, every footstep. But of course in the process of this reconstruction you’ve also got the potential to emotionally interpret the content of every sound: the way the coffee cup is stirred – is it contemplative or aggressive? Every footstep – how much weight is in it, is it passive, is it tired or excited? All this requires a subtlety of performance. That’s the true art of Foley work. We’re lucky here to have a great team of editors – Dialogue Editor, Peter Palankay; Fx Editor, Peter Crooks; and Foley Editor, Avital Dror – and an intuitive Foley Artist, Gerry Long, who all make the job far less torturous.

six-ish. I would be quite happy to take 6dB off the peak of a cinema mix. Especially on explosions and things like that. Because again, you don’t want to be responsible for destroying people’s home hi-fi equipment, but obviously if there’s a gunshot or something, you want it to have some dynamic. FULL IMMERSION AS: Your experience of working with the Soundfield mic obviously means your preference and your focus is on immersive sound. How does that manifest in your film mixing would you say? DK: It can be truly immersive, certainly, if you want it to be, but – and at the risk of being boring or sounding like an evasive politician – it really just depends on the material you’re working on. The way I describe this process to film students who come in here regularly is that film is essentially made up of two half-spaces. The pictorial half-space starts at the surface of the screen and goes backwards, away from the audience. Conversely, the sound half-space starts at the screen and travels towards the audience. The sonic environment is where the audience is, so how you control the connection of the audience to that moment of impact at the screen is best done with sound, because you can quite literally put the audience in the space. AS: Do you nevertheless still use surround speakers as atmospheric sources rather than

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point sources – given that the traditional approach still seems to harbour a reluctance to ever pull focus away from the screen? DK: You’ve got to remember that in the cinematic environment the surrounds are designed to be diffuse. They’re not point source, whereas the Soundfield mic most certainly can be. Again, even though it’s a relatively boring point to make, how you mix something for a film is very much program dependent. You’re talking to somebody here who is fascinated by immersive sonic experiences, that’s certainly true – that’s what drew me to the Soundfield microphone in the first place – but in the end, as a film mixer, you’re telling the story that is represented on the screen, and until someone comes to me with a multi-screen setup, those front speakers behind that big perforated screen in front of us there will always dominate the mix. That said, it doesn’t discount the possibility of deliberately unsettling the audience with sound or creating a ‘disconnect’ from the screen. In the end there are no rules and each day is a new one in the vast world of sound. You’ve got to utilise all of your tools and skills, but above all else, you’ve got to continually challenge your own understanding of the craft. I mean, that’s the joy of what we do here isn’t it? When you do things today the same way as you did yesterday it’s time to go home! But, of course, that’s the dance, challenging yourself not to reach into your


back pocket of past experiences all the time and call up an old solution, although having that capacity does make you more flexible at times. AS: It must be frustrating sometimes though, given that most directors want a solution from your back pocket, or worse, theirs. DK: Many of the filmmakers that we work for are inherently traditional – they want dialogue and music. Some just don’t understand the capacity of the storyteller and that is, I would say, our biggest frustration in the world of film sound: that the film schools are so dominated by people who are visual aligned – cinematographers, visual editors etc – that sound is often sent to the back of the queue.

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I’m constantly amazed by how misunderstood sound is in the film world. I have film students in here all the time; I see first-hand how sonically unaware and disinterested they are. Incredibly, many of them come in here thinking they know all there is to know about it so they don’t open up their minds and ears to the capacity of the aural storyteller. Some of them don’t even know there are speakers behind the screen or that the screen is perforated. When you ask them to point to the speakers in a cinema they all point up there to the side walls! Hell, I even know of an incident where a film director, who had already directed two films, ended up in a screaming match with a mix engineer – apparently he had no idea there were speakers behind the screen! WASTED ON THE YOUNG AS: Have you done anything you’d regard as relatively radical or new in recent times with a film mix? DK: I have indeed. If you go and check out Wasted on the Young, there’s an example in there of something interesting. I was working with first-time filmmaker, Ben Lucas and Sound Designer Jed Palmer – both of whom did a brilliant job. There’s a scene at the end of that film where a bad guy is affected by drugs – he trips, he falls, things get knocked over. We had Foleyed that scene entirely accurately but when it came to the final mix, for whatever reason I became completely possessed. I had no idea, how, why, when, where or what happened at the time but I grabbed hold of the Foley masters and pulled them out so that when our drug-affected guy hit something we didn’t have the sound for it. We only heard the consequences of the action – which was perfect because in fact the whole film is a Greek morality play about consequences. It was never a conscious decision, or maybe it was, I don’t know. I was only responding to the total dynamic of the film at that moment, as a handson ‘performance’. And despite having the capacity to visit and re-visit the mix almost endlessly, that moment in the film was only ever mixed once – one pass. The director loved it, the sound designer loved it and I loved it. It might just be the peak of my professional career! We worked very well together on that film. In fact, there was another incident during that time that I wish every cinema student could have witnessed. We went back in to touch up the final reel of the film, which I just didn’t feel we’d nailed in the previous session, and six hours later we had it. We had pulled it together sonically in what could only be described as the most positive, collaborative, beautiful working day of my life. It’s amazing what you can do when you take sonic signatures from other parts of the film, consider the emotional value of them, draw them together, and manipulate them in space and time to achieve the emotional outcome. Six hours earlier there had been ‘stuff ’ there but it wasn’t complete. Six hours later we had something that was absolutely satisfying, tied up with a bow, ready to deliver. I treasure those six hours. It was like being on stage with a band going: ‘Where did that come from?’ Beautiful.

If you want to get Doron to mix your next doco or feature, email him at: dkipen@musicandeffects.com or phone (03) 9827 3348.

Australia-wide delivery Ph: 02 9283 2077 Fx: 02 9283 1337 265 Sussex St, Sydney 2000 info@sounddevices.com.au AT 49


TUTORIAL

ON THE BENCH WHAT’S THAT NOISE? Is that sound you’re hearing ‘buzz’, ‘hiss’ or ‘crackle’? Let’s find out. Text: Rob Squire

As I sit on a flight, returning to The Bench after a week’s solder-free holiday, this issue’s topic – discussing noise in all its annoying guises – weighs heavily upon my ears. Only when we can travel in silent aircraft that circulate lots of fresh air, and can provide scattered beanbags on the floor for seats, will enjoyable long-distance travel finally be said to have arrived. In the meantime we have to put up with the shortcomings of commercial air travel to reach our destination, just as noise is an inescapable yet undesirable part of our audio systems. This issue, let’s examine the different types of noise, their origins and characteristics, and – where we can – ways to minimise the impact of noise on audio quality. For the purposes of this article I’ll be casting a wide net around noise, and defining it as ‘any undesired or unintended artefact of an audio system’. HISS-Y FIT The most common noise – and indeed the sound we generally associate with the term ‘noise’ – is hiss, sometimes called white noise. White noise has a constant spectral density, meaning that

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the level of noise at any one frequency is the same as at any other. This noise is caused by the random motion of electrons in a conductor and is technically referred to as thermal or Johnson noise. The voltage level of this noise is directly related to the resistance and temperature of the conductor. It can only be reduced by lowering the temperature – as is done in the detectors and electronics of large telescopes, which are often cooled to within spitting distance of 0ºK or –273ºC – temperatures not easily achieved in the studio! I know studios can be ‘cool’ at times, but not that cool! Taking the typical minimum possible noise from a microphone (see the Noise Calculations box item for details) and applying 60dB of gain to bring it up to a useable line level, will yield a noise floor of –73dBu, still very low. What it shows, however, is that even in a ‘perfect’ system there will always be some degree of noise. Realworld electronics, including resistors, contribute other noise sources besides thermal noise. For example, as soon as current flows through any electronic part, a particular type of noise is created called ‘shot noise’; the level of this noise


White noise has a constant spectral density, meaning that the level of noise at any one frequency is the same as at any other.

being proportional to the current flowing. This is the dominant noise mechanism in transistors (anything built using transistors including integrated circuit opamps). Shot noise is also a white noise. Both of these noise mechanisms are fundamental as gravity, and anyone who designs electronic equipment is obliged to optimise their design by minimising circuit resistances to reduce thermal noise, and circuit currents to reduce shot noise. As is often the case in any of life’s trade-offs, compromise is usually required to achieve the functional objective of the electronic device while at the same time minimising its inherent noise floor. One area where designers do have greater choice, however, is in the actual selection of the parts they use. Manufacturing irregularities or material impurities involved in the construction of solid-state devices – or indeed tubes – introduce a noise mechanism called ‘I/f ’, or flicker noise that, unlike white noise, has a spectral output that increases as the frequency decreases. This is sometimes referred to as ‘pink noise’, which has an equal-energy-per-octave spectrum. Pink noise is typically what’s used for tuning PA systems as its equal energy per-octave matches the octave-based centring of graphic equaliser controls. Audio components specified for low-noise performance minimise internal resistances for lower thermal noise, and typically use high-grade materials and superior manufacturing processes for low flicker noise. Good audio design thus balances the contribution of all the various noise sources to achieve not only the lowest noise possible but also the final spectral content that results from summing these noise sources together. Certainly one of the most common complaints that customers report to me when shipping

‘I/f’, or flicker noise, unlike white noise, has a spectral output that increases as the frequency decreases. This is sometimes referred to as ‘pink noise’, which has an equalenergy-per-octave spectrum.

me something for repair is that the device in question is ‘noisy’. Unfortunately, the term ‘noise’ – at least from an audio tech’s point of view – is somewhat frustratingly bandied about as a one-size-fits-all description for all sorts of unwanted sounds. My first response to anyone using this term is typically: “what sort of noise?” The reason being that the type of noise a device is producing can tell a service technician a lot about the likely source of the fault. Becoming familiar with specific types of noise – rather than merely describing something as being ‘noisy’ – will allow you to get off to a good start with the service technician should you have a faulty unit that requires their help. Being able to describe the fault to them as a ‘a hum’ or ‘a buzz’, ‘hisses’ or ‘crackles’ rather than just saying ‘it’s noisy’ will definitely get you well on the road to solving the problem. HO-HUM ‘Hum’ is the bane of many a studio setup and, in the case of a new studio, is often the result of ground loops – as discussed back in Issue 64 where we looked at studio wiring. However, sometimes hum is a problem that has nothing to do with external wiring or ‘grounding’. Anywhere that current flows, magnetic fields are created. If that current is alternating, as is the case with mains power, then a 50Hz (in Australia) or 60Hz (in the USA) field is generated. This field can induce a corresponding voltage in any electronic component that falls within that field. Mains power transformers generate quite strong fields, and generally the larger the transformer the greater the current flow and therefore field strength. Unfortunately, some parts used in audio devices pick up this field more efficiently than others. An extreme example that demonstrates this effect is the single-coil guitar pickup: take your Fender Strat and lay it down on the head

NOISE CALCULATIONS Mathematically, the noise voltage expressed in decibels for a given bandwidth, is:

noise(dBV) = 10 x log (4kbTRB) 10 Here, ‘kb’ represents ‘Boltzmann’s Constant’, ‘T’ is absolute temperature (in degrees Kelvin), ‘R’ is resistance and ‘B’ is the bandwidth under consideration. For most audio purposes a bandwidth from 20Hz to 20,000Hz is specified. Plugging in some real-world values, the noise level that comes out of a microphone with a 200- output resistance at room temperature is –133dBu. This is pretty darn quiet, but keep in mind this is noise inescapably produced by a perfect resistance in the output circuit of the microphone. If the microphone is a dynamic then this will essentially be the only source of noise; if it’s a condenser there will be other noise sources from the active electronics in the mic, whether tube or solid-state. We can also see that low-impedance or low-resistance devices and circuits result in lower noise. The state of the art in microphone preamp design can yield a design that only adds a couple of dB of additional noise to the inescapable noise generated simply by the resistance in the output of the microphone.

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of a Marshall stack. With a bit of gain dialled up on the amp the hum coming out of the speakers should be more than obvious. Guitar pickups, inductors and audio transformers – which all contain coils of wire – are excellent ‘receivers’ of magnetic fields. Since mains power is a sine wave, the resulting hum from the Marshall will sound like a pure 50Hz note, just below G1. Most audio equipment contains a mains transformer and considerable design effort is often required to ensure radiated hum doesn’t find its way into a device’s audio circuits. This is especially the case if the device uses audio transformers, inductors, physically large capacitors, or where high gain is employed, as in a mic preamp. Of course, the situation can – and does – arise where the mains transformer of one unit radiates into the sensitive components of an adjacent unit in the rack. There are a few ways to resolve this situation, the most obvious of them simply being to physically rearrange the position of the equipment – up and down and at different angles. Frustratingly, this is often the least practical method for studios since fixed 19inch rack units make positioning things at odd angles all but impossible [See the Leave it There! box item about John Nowland of Broken Arrow Ranch, who positions his equipment to minimise noise first and foremost]. Returning to the demonstration with the guitar and amp head for a moment, the other thing that quickly becomes apparent is how much the hum level can drop by simply moving the guitar relatively small distances. Magnetic field strength decreases with the square of the distance so doubling the distance between the generator (mains transformer) and receiver (guitar pickup) will drop the hum level fourfold. Another not uncommon way hum is induced in a system is when devices with large mains transformers – i.e. power supplies or power amplifiers – are placed underneath a console. Most consoles have unbalanced summing buses that are not only unshielded, they span the width of the console and have high gain applied to them in the mix amplifiers – a perfect recipe for picking up radiated hum from equipment placed directly under the console. ALL THE BUZZ Buzz – as characterised by a low-frequency sound with many higher-order harmonics that make it far more perceptible – is generally the result of a failure in the power supply section of a device. Analogue or linear power supplies create a sawtooth-shaped waveform, which is regulated to produce a clean DC voltage for suppling power to the audio electronics. If this regulator fails the raw sawtooth waveform quickly makes its way into the audio circuits and finally the output of the device. This is a far more objectionable noise than hum or hiss, and typically the offending unit is soon pulled out of any audio system. In some

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cases where the designer hasn’t allowed for the widely varying Australian mains power voltage, a device can often ‘drop out of regulation’ if the mains voltage gets low enough. This results in a buzz that can be frustratingly intermittent; coming and going as the mains voltage varies at the power pole. Another noise source that’s often described as a ‘buzz’ is interference from light dimmers and other mains power control systems. The switching supplies used in some fluorescent lights, computer power supplies and dimmers can often feed significant levels of higherfrequency garbage onto the power cables. If these run in proximity to audio cables the noise can be easily picked up. To prevent this, it’s always a good idea to keep some spacing between audio and power cables and to definitely avoid running them alongside each other for long distances. Instead, try to ensure that audio and power cable cross each other at right angles. RUMBLE IN THE CAPSULE Inside my workshop I have a small acoustic isolation box that I use to entomb mics while I’m trying to ascertain their noise floor. While this setup is more than effective at screening out the fan noise from the office PC and the birds in the gum tree outside the workshop window, the isolation isn’t sufficient to block low-frequency noise. It amazes me how readily most mics sitting inside this isolation box still manage to pick up rumble from traffic on the main road several blocks away. Having performed this test countless times, I can easily imagine the amount of very low-frequency noise that can build up in a multitrack recording done in most inner city studios. While the perception of this noise is weak because of the very low frequencies

LEAVE IT THERE! Neil Young’s ‘transfer master’ and recording engineer, John Nowland, uses the ‘put equipment where it makes the least noise’ principle like virtually no other. At Broken Arrow Ranch, Neil Young’s private studio in California, John has achieved what he describes “the quietest two-track transfer facility in the world.” One of the main ways he has achieved this is to place equipment housed in the Redwood Digital ‘truck’ wherever it produces the least noise. So, rather than things being placed neatly in racks, some of the equipment at Redwood Digital is freestanding on the bench and at an odd angle, with the high-spec’d cables flown precariously between devices during actual transfers. It doesn’t look all that flash but the end-game – an extraordinarily low noise floor – is impressive. When Andy Stewart visited Broken Arrow a few years back, John apparently turned the system up full throttle, and even then barely the faintest noise could be detected, John quickly adding that, “If I hit play on the tape machine right now the volume would be so loud it would probably pin the speaker drivers to the wall behind you!” Sometimes ‘neat and tidy’ doesn’t equate to ‘quiet’.

involved, cleaning up recordings with the careful use of high-pass filtering is a worthwhile process by removing this unwanted rumble. At the same time lowering the level of the flicker noise from mics and preamps, as we learnt earlier, increases in level as frequencies go lower. MICROPHONIC TUBES Tube-based equipment seems to be having some sort of sustained renaissance, and is increasingly finding its way into studios – of course other engineers never turned their backs on it to begin with. One characteristic of tubes is how much they can react when tapped, a bit like a spring reverb. But what’s not so obvious is the way they respond when exposed to loud acoustic sounds within their immediate surroundings. While electric guitar players are often experienced at knowing what happens when a tube becomes microphonic – when an amp starts singing and feeding back all on its own – a studio operator is often quite surprised to discover how much tubes can pick up acoustic sounds, amplifying and resonating with them in sympathy. It can be a life’s work finding a set of very low microphonic tubes – just ask Rick O’Neil – nevertheless if you start noticing a weird ringing or distortion, check that you haven’t just positioned your new tube preamp right under the main monitors. Loud sound and tubes only play together nicely when you’re pulling a screaming guitar solo! As a teenager I’d spend hours sitting in front of the family’s old gramophone (yes it had tubes) playing Led Zeppelin records. My dad would walk in yelling: “what the hell is that noise?” I wish I’d known enough back then to say – as I lifted the needle off the record – “I think that’s shot noise in the first preamp tube!”


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TUTORIAL

TIME TO SHELVE THE LOW END Why so many concerts are being wrecked by too much low-end and what to do about it. Text: Howard Page

I’ve enjoyed a long career where I’ve been lucky enough to mix concert sound for the likes of Sting (both with and without a 60-piece orchestra!), Van Halen, Sade, Phil Collins, The Bee Gees, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Mariah Carey, Paul McCartney and in earlier times Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs plus many, many others. Now, in my role as Senior Director of Engineering at Clair Global I don’t get to actually tour as much as I used to but I find myself parachuting into a lot of situations to rescue a tour that’s going wrong. Normally it starts with management calling our office and saying, ‘Help!… the sound is going off the rails!’. Most of what I hear in this regard relates fairly and squarely to badly tuned PAs, where the system is simply not reproducing what the mix engineer is sending out of the console. I come across far too many guys – who are otherwise competent, knowledgeable mix engineers – who have fallen into a seemingly obvious trap: excessive low-end. By tuning your PA with too much low-end you’re setting yourself up for a bunch of problems you could easily do without – problems for you, the band and the audience. “But I need the impact of the subs to get the audience going. Everyone expects that in a big rock or pop concert.” I don’t buy that argument for a minute – and believe me, I hear it a lot… mostly when I’ve been called in to rescue a show that’s spiralling out of control! Okay, I can accept that there’s a hardcore

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minority of concert-goers that are happy to go deaf and want to be brutalised by the subs, but the vast majority want the excitement and impact of a big PA without the low-end woolliness of too much sub. Too much low-end will cause audience fatigue – their hearing wears out over the course of the show, as does that of the engineer. And when the kick drum is louder than the vocal, towering over it like a 10-storey building, it creates a false audience focus – it’s all wrong. And the band? Well, if the band heard some of these bass-heavy mixes that are becoming so prevalent, they’d be horrified. After spending years honing their craft and creating amazing recordings in the studio, their sound is being slaughtered! STUDIO QUALITY I’ve recently returned home from Sting’s Symphonicity tour [see last issue for more]. It was a long world tour that took in just about every major city on the planet and along the way I got to use just about every name-brand PA on the planet. But regardless of what PA I was confronted with, I tuned it to be flat and true, without excessive low, or mid, or high. My goal is to make the sound system exactly reproduce what is coming out of the mixing console. I want to have that control; I want to be able to fine-tune my mix and for those fine tonal and dynamic adjustments to be reproduced as faithfully as possible through the PA. As I’m writing this, the point I’m making seems obvious – self-evident even: and yet, far too many rock sound systems are overdone in the lowend… often with disastrous consequences.

SUB SYSTEMS: BALANCED RELATIONSHIP Tuning the main hang of your PA to be as flat as possible is one thing, but the reality of concert touring today is having the PA augmented by a big inventory of subs. And here’s where many engineers get into hot water, especially those taking the leap up from club rigs to stadium or arena systems. If the subs are in balance with the rest of the PA they’re a great asset – no question. The problem is, they’re all too often overused and end up colouring the whole sound, making the task of mixing on that system very, very difficult, especially for an inexperienced mixer not used to large scale systems in bad rooms. A MATTER OF LFE & DEATH The uncomfortable reality is, many large venues around the world have an RT60 in the low frequencies that’s so long it will tend to ‘hold on’ to low notes, and in the case of a kick drum this hold will extend beyond the typical 4/4 timing of most rock music. The result is a complete mess – boomy, unintelligible low-frequency energy that ruins the show experience for the audience. When setting up the balance between the low frequency elements of the main sound system and the sub-bass systems it’s vital the balance be very carefully matched. The sub-bass systems should only ever be set as an extension of the main system low-end, not as a separate (often louder) entity. Tune and balance the main system without any of the sub systems turned on. This way the main


system can be configured to sound as good as possible with perfect balance between the lows, mids and highs before you introduce the subs. After the subs have been time-aligned to the low end of the main PA, play a favourite track and slowly bring up the subs until they become a true low-end extension (only!) of the existing mains low-end. Turn the subs off and on a few times to check what they’re actually adding to the low-end and ensure the room is handling all that extra low-end extension. If the room can’t cope with the extra sub energy then adjust it accordingly – downwards! There have been times – in really bad rooms – where I’ve turned the subs off entirely, as they’re doing more harm than good. Once that low-end/sub balance is set correctly, make a note of the levels. This is especially crucial when you’re feeding the subs from a separate mix output. Once you’ve made a note of the levels, stick to that balance for the duration of the show. Later in the night it’ll be nigh-on impossible to get the balance reset correctly if this critical levels relationship gets out of whack. TUNING: A STEP UP We’ve determined what excessive low-end can do to a show, but I realise that many reading this article will still be shaking their heads thinking they can’t do without the high-energy impact of some extra power in the subs. And I get that. So try this technique that I call ‘stepped low-end’ tuning. This technique tunes the PA such that the system is absolutely as flat as possible down to 100Hz (no higher!) and then has a ‘step’ up of approximately 3 – 4dB (no more than that!) from that point down. This eliminates the lowend-into-low-mid overtone that tends to colour the whole system (we’ll delve more into that in a minute) but gives most mixers of rock/pop music the extra punch they need with a tight, solid low-end. Personally, I still tune flat all the way down, and get any extra low-end punch I need out of the channel strip on the console. As a knock-on benefit, I find this also delivers a much better result when I’m recording the gig or feeding it to media or an OB truck. LOW MIDS: DO THE SUMS The other area that gets out of control is between the frequencies of 100 and 300Hz. One of the things I teach

in my system engineer tuning classes at Clair is that the range between 100 and 300Hz is the critical ‘frequency summation’ area that must be treated very, very carefully when tuning a large-scale system. If you look at a chart of the frequency ranges of most musical instruments – rock or orchestral – in your mix, where do they all overlap? Between 100 and 300Hz. Some don’t go that low, some not that high, but for the overall summation of any set of good mics on most instruments – guitars, keys, drums etc – that’s the area. If that wasn’t tricky enough, guess where most of these arenas and bad rooms sum and interact with the system? That’s right, between 100 and 300Hz! These two factors really do conspire against us, so in this frequency range we need to be especially careful. Make sure the 100 – 300Hz range is as flat and as tight as possible. In fact, when in doubt I always ‘underdo’ this frequency range (trusting my ears, not Smaart!) because it will inevitably get filled in when I excite the room with my mix. In other words: even if I left the console completely flat, a mix would always have more summation in the 100 – 300Hz area. TAKE CONTROL I hope I’ve made a strong case for taking back control of your mix, rather than being a slave to low-end. Still not convinced? Think of it this way: if you tune a system with 4 or 6dB too much low-end energy relative to the mids and highs of a large-scale system, you’ve effectively gone along every single low-frequency EQ section on your mixing console and turned up a full low-frequency shelf 6dB to 8dB! This is before you’ve even started to mix on that console! Always remember: everything you do to the overall system tuning applies to every single channel on the mixing console. The sad reality is that when this happens all those lovely state-of-the-art microphones with their flat response curves have had that response totally ruined and will now have to be ‘hacked up’ with channel EQ to get them to sound vaguely decent. So before you’ve even started mixing – before you’ve even done a line check – you’re already chasing your tail; trying to compensate for the bass-heavy system tuning. The answer is: don’t! Don’t let the low-end master you. Take control and pull the best mix you’re capable of: the band and the audience will love you for it.

GET SMAART (BUT DON’T TOTALLY RELY ON IT) Smaart is a great reference tool for tuning PAs, and quickly puts you in the right ballpark, but it doesn’t tell you everything about the interaction of the sound system installed in a particular venue. Unlike our ears, Smaart can’t determine where the problem frequencies are coming from. The system alone? No. They’re coming from the system summing and interacting with the room. I believe Smaart is leaned on far too much as the final reference to tune systems. The reality is that a system completely tuned using just Smaart sounds far less ‘musical’ than one that has been voiced correctly. Some of the greatest, musical sounding systems don’t look all that great

when analysed with Smaart. Although they will definitely be in the ballpark they won’t actually be ‘ruler flat’. So get yourself a personal reference microphone (make sure it’s pretty flat, with minimal proximity effect) and actually ‘voice’ the system – that’s right, check one, two. You need to train your ears to pick up on problem areas and then use Smaart to help you focus on them – it’s a great tool but training your ears to know what those problem frequencies are and knowing how to correct them will make you a better engineer. Remember: Smaart alone won’t tell you exactly what that ‘something’ is. While we’re on the subject of

Smaart, one of the greatest benefits it can offer is the real-time FFT function used either to check your system tune before a show, or have running during a show. To set it up create, within the console, a true mono summed mix of the stereo master outs and feed that into the reference channel (Channel 2) of Smaart and put up a reference mic next to the console as normal into Channel 1. Put Smaart into FPPO Mode (with an average of 32 and smoothing of five points), turn on the phase function, make sure you’ve set up the delay offset correctly, balance the two channel levels and then let it run. What you’re looking for is an average on the FFT measurement. With a really

good system tune you should get a pretty flat line (i.e. what’s coming out of the console is – on average! – being reproduced in the room). If the line is constantly high in the high-end, the system tune is too bright; too low, and it’s too dull. The same applies to the mids, ditto for the lows, although the lows may be inaccurate (always too high!) due to room reverb etc (use your ears for the lows!). The key here is you’re only looking for an average, over two or three songs – don’t chop and change things based on one song, which may have many peaks and dips based on its particular texture. Remember: the goal is for the system to reproduce what is coming out of the console!

AT 57


TUTORIAL

!""#$"%## &"'#()'" Recording as loud as possible without clipping. Text: Jan Muths

The words: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;as loud as possible without clippingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; brings up a respectable 15,000 results on Google. From Europe to Australia, in books and online, among amateurs and professionals alike, this gain structure approach has embedded itself in the collective memory of the digital recording industry worldwide. But where did it come from and is it still the right digital recording method to employ today? Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s look at the two most commonly stated reasons behind it and investigate the truth of the claim: 1: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Only when recording as loud as possible does one actually use all available bitsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. This is almost true. As you may already know, each bit represents around 6dB of the dynamic range, therefore the last bit is only used if the signal peaks between 0 and -6dBFS. This is a little simplistic, but weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll discuss the details of this idea a little later. 2: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Every decibel of unused headroom reduces the signalto-error ratioâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. This statement is a fact â&#x20AC;&#x201C; no doubt about it â&#x20AC;&#x201C; but what it fails to take into account is that digital audio has evolved a great deal since studios swapped their EHORYHGDQDORJXHWDSHPDFKLQHVIRUĂ&#x20AC;UVWJHQHUDWLRQELW recorders. Moreover, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s now around 10 years since 24-bit converters squeezed their 16-bit counterparts out of the market, so itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s probably high time we had another critical look at the facts behind the above statementsâ&#x20AC;Ś FROM 16 TO 24 There is wide acceptance in the audio industry that with higher bit resolution comes better sound, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s for a different reason than some may think. The step up from 16-bit to 20-bit doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t necessarily make our digital audio recordings any more aesthetically pleasing to the ear â&#x20AC;&#x201C; at least not in the way that the switch from an entry-level compressor to a Neve 2254 might. Instead, this extra bit depth simply results in a lower quantisation error, not beautiful colouration. Of course, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s also a big difference between entry-level converters and high-end A/Ds, which inevitably leads us to conversations about wordclock accuracy, jitter and other factors. But thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a different story, one that has the potential to hijack this conversation and distract us from the issue under the PLFURVFRSHKHUH7RGD\OHW¡VVSHFLĂ&#x20AC;FDOO\ORRNDWELWGHSWK Bit depth represents the amplitude of a signal and this is

AT 58

OLPLWHGE\WZRIDFWRUVWKHPD[LPXPOHYHO GHĂ&#x20AC;QHGDV G%)6 DQGWKHPLQLPXPOHYHOGHĂ&#x20AC;QHGE\WKHOHYHORIWKH quantisation error. The â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;distanceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; between these two limits GHĂ&#x20AC;QHVWKHG\QDPLFUDQJHRIDGLJLWDOZDYHIRUP%HWZHHQ them the digital audio amplitude is scaled into small quantisation steps. The more of these a digital waveform possesses, the more accurately the amplitude-value can be captured. As we know from watching TV, the higher the pixel-resolution the more detailed and sharper the picture becomes. And the similarities continue. Just like the pixel resolution of a Full-HD TV, the number of quantisation steps is limited to a particular number. There cannot be an amplitude value between the quantisation steps, any more than there can be picture information between the pixels. Consequently, an A/D converter must either round the amplitude up or down to the nearest step in the grid. This process is called quantisation. The rounded (or truncated) value generates the quantisation error, essentially the HTXLYDOHQWRIÂśQRLVHĂ RRU¡LQWKHDQDORJXHGRPDLQ:LWKRXW TXHVWLRQWKLVĂ RRUVRXQGVZRUVHWKDQDQDORJXHQRLVHRI equivalent level. Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s have a look at how bit depth changes the level of quantisation error. ERRORISATION Figures 1 and 2 show an incoming 100Hz sine wave signal converted into a digital waveform using both 4-bit resolution (left) and 5-bit resolution (right): The quantisation error can now be â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;isolatedâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; (as seen in Fig.3) by summing each signal from Fig.2 with the phaseinverted source signal. Notice that the 5-bit converter has a noticeably lower quantisation error level than the 4-bit equivalent. The range between 0dBFS and the quantisation error level â&#x20AC;&#x201C; or signal-to-error ratio â&#x20AC;&#x201C; can be calculated as follows: Signal-to-Error [SER] = (n x 6.02) + 1.76dB; where the variable â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;nâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; equals the amount of bits weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re recording with. Recording at 16-bit thus establishes the SER as 98.08dB, while 24-bit converters establish a window of 146.24dB. In truth we should also quickly mention at this point that these Ă&#x20AC;JXUHVUHSUHVHQWWKHtheoretical maximum at which 16- and 24-bit converters can ideally work. In the real world, and for several reasons we wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t delve into here, converters always provide a couple of dB less.


As mentioned earlier, as a rule of thumb each additional bit adds around 6dB to the dynamic range of a digital signal. Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ponder this fact for a moment: even 16-bit converters have a respectable dynamic range of almost 100dB, but how much dynamic range does a typical music CD actually possess? Not much by todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s brutal loudness standards. 100dB is far in excess of the dynamic range typically rendered to a mastered CD. The issues associated with dynamic range are really only relevant when multitracking is involved, particularly where the bit depth is the same as the destination format (ie: an album is multitracked at 16-bit and mastered to a 16-bit audio CD). Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s discuss an example in more detail. DOUBLE TROUBLE Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s say weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re mixing down multiple tracks of a piece of music, each with the quantisation error level at â&#x20AC;&#x201C;98dBFS (rounded down to a whole number to make the maths simpler). Every time we double the number of tracks, the quantisation error increases by 6dB â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and that adds up fast! The step from one to two tracks will increase the combined quanisation error by 6dB. So with a two-track mix our SER decreases from about 98dB to 92dB â&#x20AC;&#x201C; still pretty good. But letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s double the track count again shall we? Now weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re working with only 86dB for four tracks. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sure you can see the pattern emerging here: as we double the track count we reduce our SER in steps of 6dB â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 80dB for eight tracks, 74dB for 16, 68dB for 32 and so on. To be fair, we should mention that the quanisation error may not add up by exactly 6dB. It may be less depending on the errorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s correlation. :RUVHVWLOOLIZHOHDYHRXUVHOYHVDFRXSOHRI decibels of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;headroomâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; (which isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t very much) to prevent us from straying â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;overâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; the digital precipice, these must also be subtracted from our signal-to-error value, lifting the quantisation error value even higher. And weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not even using

compressors yet, which reduce dynamic range and effectively make soft signals louder still. So, when we record at 16-bit we really need to keep the quantisation error low by recording as â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;hotâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; as possible. This is of course how the philosophy: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Record as loud as possible without FOLSSLQJ¡RU5$/$3:&GHYHORSHG²DZRUNĂ RZ derived from 16-bit conversion. This fact alone has lead most of us to higherthan-16-bit resolution multitrack recording, even ZKHQWKHĂ&#x20AC;QDOSURGXFW¡VIRUPDWLVDQWLFLSDWHGWR be 16-bit. Although high-quality 16-bit converters still have their place in mastering and in two-track recorders, in 2011 they should be avoided for multitracking. ABOUT HOW â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;HOTâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;? At this point in the discussion there may now be even more readers feeling the need to convert audio from the analogue domain to digital as â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;hotâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; as possible, to use more bits and keep the error value low. And if more bits means less error, we should all use higher-bit converters, right? In fact, why not use 32-bit converters, or even higher? 64-bit processing is currently being implemented in software processing, so why shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t we abandon 24-bit converters for 64-bit A/Ds? All modern digital mixers (consoles and '$:V DOUHDG\XVHKLJKHUWKDQELWSURFHVVLQJ internally after all. But while this is certainly useful for digital summing and processing, it offers no advantage in terms of conversion. Bear in mind too that the human ear has a range of around 120dB from threshold of hearing to threshold of pain. The dynamic range of a 24-bit converter, with its 16.7 million quantisation steps, is theoretically 146.24dB! I say â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;theoreticallyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; EHFDXVHLQSUDFWLVHWKHQRLVHĂ RRURIWKHDQDORJXH circuits inside a converterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s line inputs and outputs effectively limits the dynamic range. The analogue front-end actually has a higher noiseĂ RRUWKDQDELWFRQYHUWHU In truth, the best converters typically offer a

usable dynamic range of somewhere between 118 and 125dB. It is therefore impossible to use all 24 bits in any meaningful way let alone 32 or 64. In reality, only 20 to 21 bits of the 24 are available to us. The lowest of these are rendered useless, covered up by the omnipresent analogue QRLVHĂ RRU7KLVLVZK\ELWFRQYHUWHUVWKRXJK theoretically possible, couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t offer us any practical advantage since all these extra bits ZRXOGRQO\GLVDSSHDUXQGHUWKHQRLVHĂ RRU/RQJ story short: 24-bit is more than enough in terms of conversion. Nowadays, and with 24-bit resolution being WKHQRUPWKHDQDORJXHGRPDLQLVZKDWGHĂ&#x20AC;QHV the noise level. It accumulates when signal is passing through microphones, preamps, dynamic processors, EQs, channel strips and leads. In reality, for a 24-bit recording, the so-called â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;nasty soundingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; quantisation error is masked by analogue noise (unless one makes serious gainVWUXFWXUHPLVWDNHV :KDWWKLVPHDQVLQSUDFWLFH is that 24-bit recording allows us to handle input levels in a much more relaxed way than the RXWPRGHG5$/$3:&GRJPDVXJJHVWVDQG provides leeway for more headroom than many of us typically allow for. GAIN THE ADVANTAGE /HW¡VORRNDWJDLQVWUXFWXUHIRUDPRPHQW:H know from experience that 0dB (or +4dBu) is pretty much the optimal level in the analogue domain. 0dB makes sure our signal travels to the tape machine and back with the minimal introduction of tape hiss, it allows signals to travel long distances with minimal interference and keeps signals clean when routing music through GDLV\FKDLQHGXQLWV:HVKRXOGDOVRKDYHDFRXSOH of decibels of headroom up our sleeves in case the talent gets a bit too excited. At â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;0dBâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; on a VU PHWHUWKHVLJQDOVLWVZHOODERYHWKHQRLVHĂ RRU and a bit of headroom keeps our signal below the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;redâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; (where distortion starts to creep into the SLFWXUH 1RLVHĂ RRUOHYHOVDQGKHDGURRPGLIIHU from unit to unit, but all professional devices

AT 59


Fig.1 Source signal: Sine wave, 100Hz (at 44.1kHz).

Fig.2: (Top) 4-bit resolution. (Above): 5-bit resolution (at 44.1kHz).

work well at 0dB. If you stick with 0dB/+4dBu you should never have a problem with noise or distortion.

results in an analogue signal being represented on a VU meter at â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;0dBâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, and â&#x20AC;&#x201C;20dBFS inside the '$:

ZEROS AINâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;T ZEROS So how does this relate to the digital domain? :HOOWKLVLVZKHUHVRPHSHRSOHJHWYHU\ confused. A major misunderstanding Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m often confronted with is the relation that exists between meters on an analogue console and the meters LQVLGH'$:VOLNH3UR7RROVHWF

â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;What the heck"¡,KHDU\RXDVNÂś:HMXVWJDYH away 20dB! Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t we get in trouble with the quantisation error if we do that, especially when we start summing heaps of tracks together?â&#x20AC;&#x2122;

First up, we must establish one simple fact: 0dB on an analogue meter is not the equivalent of 0dBFS in the digital domain! It never has been and never is. AT has covered this fact on several occasions in past issues, most recently in Andy Stewartâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s editorial back in Issue 74. So, how many dBFS is a dBu? This is not so easy to answer because one is measured in voltage, while the other is a digital value. In reality it depends on the converter itself and how it has been calibrated. Unfortunately, there is no international standard for this relationship, although there are a few accepted norms, the most notable among them SHUKDSVEHLQJLQWKHĂ&#x20AC;OPLQGXVWU\ZKHUH 0dB = â&#x20AC;&#x201C;20dBFS. In a calibrated system, this

THEORETICAL SIGNAL-TO-ERROR RATIO ESTIMATES AFTER SUMMING AT 16-BIT (with 4dB of headroom) 2-channel mix: 4-channel mix: 8-channel mix: 16-channel mix: 32-channel mix: 64-channel mix:

88dB 82dB 76dB 70dB 64dB 58dB

AT 24-BIT (with 4dB of headroom) 2-channel mix: 4-channel mix: 8-channel mix: 16-channel mix: 32-channel mix: 64-channel mix:

AT 60

136dB 130dB 124dB 118dB 112dB 106dB

No, we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t â&#x20AC;&#x201C; this is the beauty of 24-bit: Our signal level at this point is still 126.24dB above WKHTXDQWLVDWLRQHUURU:KLOHWKH²G%)6 quantisation error of 16-bit converters sits aboveWKHDQDORJXHQRLVHĂ RRULQWURGXFHGE\ decent analogue front end â&#x20AC;&#x201C; potentially causing headaches in the mix, particularly in soft passages of orchestral music, fade-outs or decay tails â&#x20AC;&#x201C; our 24-bit quantisation error sits well below the DQDORJXHQRLVHĂ RRU ,I\RX¡UHVWLOOQRWFRQYLQFHGOHW¡VEULHĂ \ORRN at two popular devices â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the Yamaha 02R96 and the new Avid HD I/O â&#x20AC;&#x201C; as examples of how calibration works. The Yamaha 02R96 operating manual comes with a detailed level diagram featuring dBu, dBFS and bit scale. Yamaha has chosen to calibrate +4dBu at â&#x20AC;&#x201C;20dBFS. Therefore, if we maintain gain VWUXFWXUHRIG%XDFURVVRXUVLJQDOĂ RZFKDLQ and route this signal digitally into ProTools, there would be little in the way of visible level â&#x20AC;&#x201C; level only in the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;greenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; area, barely halfway up the meters! No need to worry though, this is not a problem if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re recording at 24-bit. Avidâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s HD I/O operating manual states a similar level: +4dBu is set to â&#x20AC;&#x201C;18dBFS as a factory default, but these interfaces can also be calibrated to different levels via their rear-mounted calibration screws â&#x20AC;&#x201C; giving them the ability to interact with devices calibrated at higher or lower levels. Recording â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;hotterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; than +4dBu (1.23V RMS) is not wrong of course, but always keep in mind that DERYHWKLVĂ&#x20AC;JXUH\RX¡UHH[FHHGLQJWKHVWDQGDUG operating level and driving signals into the realm of analogue â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;headroomâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. If thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what you want to do, great! Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s entirely your decision. Just be

Fig.3: The Quantisation error isolated (top): 4-bit resolution. (Above): 5-bit resolution (at 44.1kHz).

aware that the harder you drive your analogue signal above the standard operating level, the more distortion youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re adding to the recording signal. An example of this would be to record a signal XVLQJWKH$YLG+',2ZLWKDĂ&#x20AC;QDOGLJLWDOSHDN level of â&#x20AC;&#x201C;6dBFS. In this case the analogue front end requires signal to be gained up to +16dBu (or 4.887V RMS respectively) â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a level that not every analogue device can handle! SSL consoles may have enough headroom, but donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t try this with the original SPL Goldmike (unless you want lots and lots of distortion). :LWKWRGD\¡VELWFRQYHUWHUVRIIHULQJVRPXFK room within which to move, we now have the choice. Record hot, record warm or even cool levelsâ&#x20AC;Ś itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s up to you. Just remember, regardless of what â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;temperatureâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; you choose, this decision should be based on your taste for the sound of the DQDORJXHIURQWHQGDQGLWVQRLVHĂ RRU7+'not the digital domain and its quantisation noise. WHO CARES ABOUT RALAPWC? Today, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nothing wrong with dropping the Âś5$/$3:&¡GRJPDDQGIROORZLQJWKHJDLQ structure of the good olâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; tape machine days. You may want to prove this to yourself by testing your own recording gear: track a long guitar chord or a crash cymbal and listen carefully to the HQGRIWKHGHFD\WDLO:KDWGR\RXKHDUGLJLWDO TXDQWLVDWLRQHUURUVRUWKHDQDORJXHQRLVHĂ RRU" Now try the same recording again with levels 10 or 20dB under your previous to-tape levels. Chances are youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll learn more about the noise Ă RRURI\RXUDQDORJXHIURQWHQGGRLQJWKLVZKLOH at the same time discovering that your modern converters will almost certainly handle both recordings equally well. This should give you a good indication of how â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;hotâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; to record and how much headroom to leave yourself. ,W¡VWLPHWROHWJRRIWKH5$/$3:&ZRUNĂ RZDV the problems that led us to this theory mostly no longer exist. Test your gear â&#x20AC;&#x201C; you may well end up with recording levels around +4dBU â&#x20AC;&#x201C; back to the good old days!


!"!#$%&"'!("$ !)*++%,+-%./,0*/11+*2%3*/4%#*05*67%0)70%869+%5,:*+.+;+,0+;%)7,;2</,%./,0*/1%0/%7%472269+% 7**7=%/3%1+8+,;7*=%#*05*67%2=,0)%2/5,;2%>%!"#$%&$!'#$("#$)*+,'-.

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Stereo microphones, simplicity and sounds as characters. Text: Greg Walker


Nick Huggins is one of the new breed of producer/ engineer/recording artists who’s made his mark producing consistently interesting and great sounding records for others as well as himself in recent years. His records have a real sense of space and dimension and often seamlessly integrate organic and electronic instrumentation to make music that is modern but also full of human emotion. When I caught up with Nick to talk about his work he was far from his home base of Point Lonsdale on the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria. Instead, he was hunkered down in Geraldton, five hours drive north of Perth on a boiling hot Western Australian day, busily mixing his forthcoming solo release on his new mobile rig. Luring him away with a cold drink, I managed to get him to offer AT some insights into his stripped back approach to recording and production.

had gone by, and I realised I didn’t have time for a ‘real’ job any more. So I started charging a bit more and taking it a bit more seriously. I’ve also been really lucky to have a few people like Michael Pollard, Anthony ‘Tok’ Norris and Jonathan Burnside share a lot of knowledge with me.

Greg Walker: Given we’ve rudely caught you in the middle of a mix I've got to ask, what’s your portable rig consist of?

NH: I’d like to but often there just isn’t enough of a budget. I mainly record at my place in Point Lonsdale, or if people can’t make it down the coast I’ll record in my folks’ garage, which has strawbale walls and sounds pretty good. I like working in domestic spaces so it’s not really a big problem.

Nick Huggins: It’s just a couple of RME Fireface 400s, the tiny ones, some small Genelec 8020 speakers and a laptop running ProTools. I can check the whole rig onto a plane and still come in under the excess baggage weight! This system is pretty new. At home I track with an older TDM rig with Apogee converters but this year I knew I’d be coming over here a fair bit [Nick’s partner has moved to Geraldton for work] and I needed something smaller. I’ve got a guy in Perth making me up some half-rack cases for the converters and some home-built JLM mic pres as well. GW: Glad to hear it’s all surviving the 40º heat! Are there any other bits of kit you just can’t do without? NH: The one thing I can’t do without is my stereo AEA R88 ribbon mic. I record that through the AEA TRP mic preamp and the combination is just amazing. Pretty much the only thing I wouldn’t use that combination on is really quiet acoustic stuff where you want some condenser sparkle. Most of the time I’m pretty happy to record with just that mic. GW: What other mics do you use on your recordings… on those rare occasions? NH: I’ve got these cheapo vintage reel-to-reel mics that I use kind of like effects mics. Also these funny little Crown PZM mics which are pretty noisy but they’re good as room mics. I also use the Mojave MA-200 tube condenser, the Rode NT5s for cleaner room miking, a couple of Shure SM57s and a Beyerdynamic M88 kick mic. BACKTRACKING GW: How did you first get interested in this recording caper? NH: When I was a teenager I was pretty nervous about playing with other people in bands so I saved up all my beans and bought a Tascam 424 cassette four-track. It cost me $800 and I absolutely treasured it. I wouldn’t even let dust get on it! Recording became my main way of making music for a while. Later I stopped recording so much and played in bands a bit. Then after working in some big studios with various bands I got really enthused about recording in domestic spaces again – I just figured you could have more fun at home. This was just at the start of the independent homemade music scene when people were beginning to put out really interesting stuff they’d done themselves. GW: So how did that lead into production work for other people? NH: Some friends asked me to record some stuff for them, which led to other projects, and before I knew it a year

GW: Did you work with Jonathan when he had his Eastern Bloc studios? NH: Yeah, I worked there with Jonathan kind of as an assistant. He’s a fantastic engineer and also one of those people who’s really generous with his knowledge and time. While I was there I learnt the specifics of big studio production: how to use all the nice compressors and a big console. GW: Do you use any other recording studios around Melbourne these days?

SPACE SAVING MEASURES GW: I wanted to ask you about the sense of space on your recordings. It’s particularly noticeable on your new album, Five Lights, that you allow lots of space around the individual elements. How has that choice come about? NH: The albums that inspired me to record my own stuff were all really uncompressed and used a lot of room mics. A Meeting By The River, which is a fantastic record by Ry Cooder and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt really blew my mind. It used a tube condenser Blumlein setup straight to tape with no EQ, compression or limiting on the whole thing, not even the CD master. It’s two guitarists and two percussionists in a church and it sounds amazing! It’s a really quiet record and the spatial stuff in it is so beautiful. Before I knew anything about recording that was the record where I thought ‘now that’s how things should sound’. I always had really strong opinions about sounds and there are lots of records I can’t listen to because of the production. The things I like are quite open and dynamic. GW: Does that have an impact on the way you use compression? NH: I don’t really go too hard on the compression. I often find the things I’ve strived so hard to create in tracking tend to disappear under compression. It took me a while to realise that. The sound I really like is more open with unaffected transients, basically the sound of straight mics and good preamps. I prefer detailed automation, that’s a good way of sculpting dynamics without changing the tone. GW: There are some very cool drum sounds on the new record too, although I couldn’t quite tell if they were samples or real drums. NH: No, there are no samples involved. It’s just a few wood blocks, a little bongo drum, toms and a big kick drum tuned really low. I recorded that drum with the ribbon mic and maybe a few close mics. The plate reverb on that sound also helps to give a really spatial feeling to it. GW: Is that a plug-in plate or the real thing? NH: It’s a plate reverb that my mastering guy Tim Sigmund built for me. You can use it in a whole lot of ways: when you sing into it it’s just this glorious sound. When you get close to the pick-ups, depending on how you use it, it can be quite drastic. It gives you a really great spatial feeling. It doesn’t have a box around it at the moment so I use it as a mic quite AT 63


NICK HUGGINS’ SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY Whitley: The Submarine Kid Sam: Kid Sam Otouto: Pip Seagull: Council Tree, Goodbye Weather Hello Satellites: Hello Satellites Psuche: Psuche Skipping Girl Vinegar: second album to be released mid year. Oscar and Martin: For You Young Werther: Knights Of The Department Store Laura Imbruglia: The Lighter Side Of Houlette: Bless Bless Luke Watt: Examples Of Farewell Speech Solo Work: Shipwreck LP, 2007 Five Lights (to be released mid year 2011 through Two Bright Lakes) Touch Typist: You Cannot Kiss a Laughing Mouth. Soundtracks: Further We Search (collaboration with Seagull) I Am Eleven documentary.

a lot too! GW: Where do you set up the stereo ribbon mic on drums? Is it generally positioned like an overhead or more of a room mic? NH: Kind of somewhere in the middle. That mic is so amazing because if you leave all the parts of the stand open you can move it around above the kit to get the right spot and then swivel the left and right mic elements inside the housing to get more low tom or more hi-hat. Being able to move the right and left elements without having to worry about phase issues is fantastic. When it’s quite loud in the mix compared to the close mics and you hear a tom roll or something like that – it just sounds so good. GW: And that crazy looking synth machine in your studio, what is that thing? NH: Oh yeah, I’ve been building little electronic instruments and what you’re talking about is a homemade sequencer. A lot of the electronics on my new album are just little 9V circuits that I’ve built. I wanted to have more electronics on this album but I had some problems with that sequencer – a lot of the arpeggiated parts ended up being done on guitar instead.

finished I’m glad I didn’t have some gorgeous old analogue synth because not having something like that meant I had to discover new sounds. When I started the record I really had a certain, almost Kraftwerk-type sound in my head but I think if I’d fleshed it out that way it would have been less interesting than where I ended up with it. Another thing I started doing was focussing on each sound as a character, and generally I’d find between two and four characters in each piece. When I found a character I’d try and really let it speak with its own flavour and then look for another character that rubbed up against it in an interesting way. I didn’t want this record to be impressive or snazzy sounding. In the end I really just wanted it to be a simple, easy thing. LESS IS MORE GW: Given that creating space around the parts seems such a big part of your new record, how do you go about doing that when you’re working as a producer with other artists?

GW: A lot of times I can’t tell whether it’s a guitar or an electronic instrument.

NH: Working with other people, I reckon pulling stuff out is one of the bigger parts of my role. It’s easy to come up with lots of cool stuff when you’re recording. It took me a long time to realise that when you’ve got three cool ideas happening at once you actually don’t have any cool ideas happening.

NH: Yeah, looking back on it, now that it’s nearly

GW: Are you onto people pretty early in the

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process about cutting stuff back? NH: Sometimes right at the start we’ll do a bit of work smoothing out the edges of the songs in terms of arrangement. But more and more these days I’m letting people express themselves, and then maybe three quarters of the way through I’ll do a de-clutter. I’ve realised that when I speak up early on it can sometimes limit their scope. It’s good to let people explore what’s in their heads more fully before I speak up. Maybe it’s also that a lot of people these days are more clued in about the recording process, and it can be really inspiring watching them do their thing. You can learn a lot from watching different people’s approaches. GW: Have you ever had the experience where people make your best mic sound like your worst mic or vice versa? NH: Yeah, the guys in Oscar & Martin are two of the most inspiring musicians I work with, but often we totally disagree about some detail. Martin will describe something as ‘dark’ that I think is ‘bright’ and we have totally different perspectives on rhythm. But now I know that I just have to trust them and let it sit and eventually I’ll understand their logic. I learn so much from the people I work with, and that’s what keeps it exciting.


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WHAT’S ON

Got any news about the happenings in your studio or venue? Email Brad at brad@alchemedia.com.au or go to the AT website and register online: www.audiotechnology.com.au

Text: Brad Watts

This issue’s What’s On hears producer and mix engineer, Darren P. Jenkins (aka jENK), has spent the last couple of months at The Grove Studios in Somersby recording Orange (NSW) metallers, Deprivation. He’s currently mixing the debut album at Barnhill Studios. jENK’s also putting the final touches on an album from Aussie heavy metal legends, Mortal Sin. Mixing will take place in April at L.A. Studios. Future projects over the coming months see Darren producing albums for punk rock outfit, The Strawdogs, Sydney’s Paradigm, and NRL footy star Eric Grothe Jnr.’s band, Shinobi. Mr Michael Wordley is in the Mixmasters bunker with DJ Barry – master of the cheesiest Hammond organ and beatbox this side of Darwin. He’s also about to complete Jackson Firebird and Lee Morgan records while still reveling in The Dingoes’ live record, which has been heralded as the ‘best Australian live album ever’. Gear-wise, Mick’s stocking up on Neumann U47s, while he turns vocals into slush with the Retro 176 (that’s nice slush by the way), and thanks multiple religious deities for the Telefunken V76. The latest addition to the Mixmasters studio is the Vertigo Satellite mastering hub – Mick’s encouraging shonky behaviour in the workplace; unadulterated distortion via the unit’s Zener and FET crushing harmonic distortion inserts. At HeartBeat Studio, Glen Santry’s been mastering for solo artist, Leon Spencer (who also plays drums in the Wild Frontier), and is in the final stages of editing, mixing and mastering for veteran folk artist, Phyl Lobl. Glen’s also been getting in early to record carols for the

NSW Baptist Union along with producing and recording tracks for The Motor City Stacks. Toyland Studio in Northcote is approaching 22 years in business! This last month, engineer and producer, Adam Calaitzis, has been working on a variety of projects including production with Joe Mandica, completing work on popular Italian singer, Tony Fortunato’s new album (making good use of a Telefunken V72 preamp on vocals). He’s also compiling and restoring old ¼-inch masters of ’60s band, Sergio G and the Flippers for CD release, drum tracking with super-fast grind band, The Kill, and Royal Parade. He’s editing with musical director Greg Mills for National Radio, and doing TV spots for comedian, Fiona O’loughlin and One Man Lord of the Rings, voiceovers for induction-based training at Smorgon Steel and an intro tape of music and effects production for female world boxing champion, Susie Q Ramadan. Toyland acquired a Shure SM7 mic that’s so far been used on vocals and bass amp with unmitigated success. In Queensland, Dom McGlinn of DOMC Mastering is working on a five-track EP for Dot. Ay, featuring some infectious chiptune music. Doug Saunders returned with some followup tunes to his successful relaxation music compilation, Levi Pendrana dropped in some great new dance music, and Thomas Green also dropped in his first cracking attempt into electro music – quite a departure from his normal classical compositions. Dom recently acquired one of the last Universal Audio UA 2192s in the country. Dom’s also impressed with the Sonnox noise reduction plug-ins on some cassette and vinyl restoration projects. Dom’s more pertinent

‘acquisition’ is his newly birthed son – he apparently scored the model with the modified output level and no mute button. Congratulations Dom! Blair Joscelyne from Nylon Studios has recently finished the theme music for the Melbourne Rebels International Rugby Team. He also delved into the bargain bin using a $50 eBay bass guitar and a Korg Kaossilator Pro to create the music for an Arnott’s Shapes TVC. He and audio engineer Marty Mulholland have just finished their first feature film, shot entirely in Japan, which was released through Hoyts in February. The film was made as part of their YouTube show called Mighty Car Mods – Australia’s most watched online car show. At Megaphon, Bob Scott engineered Suego Lento – a gypsy, tango outfit featuring some of Australia’s best session players; Brent Clark engineered Lah Lah (Australia’s jazz scene answer to The Wiggles); and Shane Fahey engineered Romano Crivici – Romano from Sydney Symphony Orchestra has been bringing in a quartet and a few session players to record some of his new compositions. Shane also engineered This Filthy Seed, while Chris Hancock engineered pop/rock outfit, St Leonards. March’s commissions include Rack & Ruin, Grand Fatal, Ashleigh Mannix, Kortini, Scattered Order, and Fag Panic. At Audrey Studios, The Dames (Clare Moore, Rosie Westbrook and Kaye Patterson) have been laying down album tracks, Alex Hallahan and Band are finishing off overdubs on an album produced by Craig Pilkington, and Oh Deanna

For the past 25 years Damien Gerard Studios has been the go-to studio for affordable quality recordings. Starting out as a rehearsal complex in Ultimo during the ’80s, the studio gradually refurbished its rooms to become two separate recording studios and a Neve mix room within the remnants of the old Charing Cross Studios. Relocation in 1999 saw the facility sharing space at the renowned Festival Studios and setting up the main ‘two-inch room’ at the original Electric Avenue Studios in Balmain, built by Phil Punch many years before. With the demise of Festival, a second room was built at the Balmain space and the two studios – the main room and Red Stairs Suite – have been happily toiling away for the past 10 years or so. DAMIEN GERARD STUDIOS AT 66

The studio prides itself on excellent service and results. In-house engineers include Russell Pilling, one of the Australian recording industry’s unsung heroes, and the humble USA producer/ engineer, Andrew Beck. The environment is friendly and relaxed, with a gear list that includes MCI JH24 two-inch, Fostex G16, Tascam 80-8, Revox B77, and Studer B67 tape machines. Preamps include Neve 33115s, 1073 Gold Channels, a BAE 312A, Avedis MA5, ATI Paragon Voice channel, and a UA 610, amongst others. Outboard includes JLM PEQ500 and API 550 EQs, UREI 1178, UREI LA12, Amek 9098, dbx 160x, 160A, Dramastic Obsidian, and RNC compressors. Damien Gerard Studios: (02) 9331 0666 or www.damiengerard.net


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have been in to tweak mixes on their debut produced by Craig. Joe Talia brought in a team of actors for spoken word performances in the new Chunky Moves production, Abby Cardwell’s album recorded by David Badrick at Audrey is getting rave reviews and airplay, and the Audrey crew congratulate Frankie Andrews who won the Music Slams songwriting competition and an EP production package. They also congratulate Chantelle Delaney who has taken her Craig Pilkington-produced demos to LA and landed veteran manager, Lori Leve, and agents William Morris Endeavour, before performing with Leann Rimes at the Leeza Gibbons Oscars ball. Audrey has also been auditioning prototypes from Sebatron: the ‘Thorax’ channel strip. Great on vocals unsurprisingly! At Studios 301 in Sydney, Jebediah, Cloud Control, Little Red, Short Stack, Icehouse, Tex Perkins, Triple J, and Motocade have all been in for mastering, while the recording studios have hosted Foals, Sia, Plan B, John Butler Trio, Deep Sea Arcade, and Sneaky Sound System. Angus & Julia Stone also spent the better part of the summer at 301’s Byron Bay studios. 301 is also proud of Arcade Fire for winning Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammys! The album was produced by Nick Launay, who mixed one of the album tracks, Rococco, in Studio 2 last January. And lastly, if you head to soundcloud. com/studios301 you can download free impulse responses of 301’s recording rooms. Nice one! At Deluxe Mastering they’ve been flat-out with Tony ‘Jack the Bear’ Mantz working on releases for Matt Van Schie, Matt Sonic, UK producer Nick Warren (Way Out West), Jam X-Press, Hedflux, and James Harcourt, as well as projects for Art vs Science, Chad Mason (Wagons) and remixes for Jessica Mauboy and Justice Crew. Filming has also been done for a new iPhone app for Mark Opitz. Adam Dempsey’s been mastering releases for Crooked Saint (Tim Wheatley, exRushcutter), singles for Kate Vigo, The Fearless Vampire Killers, and The BK, as well as albums for Adam Simmons’ jazz trio, Origami, mixed by Myles Mumford, a dose of ‘voodoo swamp-funk’

for Adam Rudegeair, debut CD and double 10inch vinyl for Tangled Thoughts of Leaving, and a full band album for Tracy McNeil (of Fireside Bellows). Releases completed by Finn Keane include Little John, Roller One, The Whitegoods, and Jaguar Spring. 2011 remains busy for Phil Trelfall and The Base Recording Studios, with recent tracking sessions from Ryan Ritchie, and Grant Smilie from TV Rock following up sessions for Zoe Badwi and singer/songwriters Lyd & Soph. Diafrix were in with producer, Styalz, to mix their track, Simple Man. Fiona Price has been tracking a live band after she won the ‘What Comes First’ songwriting competition, and Rhiannon Bahree brought Jase Herrah, Luke Hodgson, Aaron Mendoza and Marcel Yamouni in for an EP. Melbourne punk rockers, I am The Riot, kicked off recording an EP, Evoke have been in for a day of drums, Michael Paynter has been tracking grand piano, and Compliments Of Gus began their next album project. Mark McKinnon-Bassett (neé Bassett) has launched his Sydney-based acoustic consultancy specialising in home studios. With a focus on the fundamental principles of acoustic design, his goal is to achieve the best possible acoustic environment for recording and mixing within the perpetually troublesome home studio environment. Check out the site at http:// mckinnon-bassett.blogspot.com/ William Bowden of King Willy Sound massaged D.I.G, Dave Calandra, Joelectrics, Sidewalk Diamonds, vinyl for Jebediah, Rogue Gene feat Belle Hendrix, The Bungalows, To Dusty With Love (a Sheila Crouch tribute album), Forenzics, The Charge, House of ADA, Kirsty Aikers and Bob Evans (single), and Fushia. The King is still enjoying his Fairman TMEQ. Marc Scully of Omegaman notoriety has a Skankin’ Riddim 12-inch out soon on Super Hi-Fi Recordings, and remixes by All Good Funk Alliance, Busta, Fretless, Stickybuds, and Thomas Blondet about to carve things up. Sascha Budimski, an Adelaide-based sound

designer and electronic composer kinda guy, recently wrapped up a score for Sydney choreographer, Fiona Malone. The dance piece entitled, Picture Perfect, involved making some fresh sound design and remixing original songs by Adam Synnott. Sascha also created the score for Kurruru Youth Performing Arts’ recent dance work at the Adelaide Fringe festival, entitled Min Min. The show was choreographed by Deon Hastie and was featured at the Tandanya National Aboriginal Centre. At Blackfoot Sound, Jim Blackfoot recorded and mixed the Smoke & Mirrors cast album. He’s also been tracking drums for Diesel, tracks for Fouulhawke, and album tracks for Kerry Webb, with the fabulous Julia Day on drums. Blackfoot also had a visit from John Stuart for some mouthwatering pedal steel guitar, and Jim completed a Franklins commercial, which apparently involved “over a billion” variations. Glen Phimster re-ribboned the RCA 77D resulting in some smooth-as-silk top end, and on hot days, Billy the Alaskan Malamute acted as a fuzzy diffuser in the overly air-conditioned vocal booth. She resonates at 666Hz apparently. Love Hz Studios saw Michael Carpenter at work on projects for Perry Keyes, Hanoch, Ben-David, Kate Martin, Charles Touber, Lynda Carr, Bryan Estepa, Joel Crawford (US), Elle Kennard, Sergio Cerro (Spain), Helen Barron, and Martyn Badoui, and has tackled a new version of the Parramatta Eels theme song featuring the legendary Jon English, and Eels icon, Eric Grothe Snr. Matt Fell has been racking up the hours with EPs for The Harmonators, Dana Hassal, Esther Lamb, and albums for Phil Davidson, Ride The Wombat, Sam Hawksely, Blanche Dubois and Luke O’Shea. Matt’s also been producing tracks for Kirsty Aikersand and has started production on Tim Freedman’s album. Glen Schollum has completed a range of projects, including an EP for Lani from The Sooks, a kids album for Susie Hobday, a collection of chilled out meditation music for New Age artist, Alana Fairchild, and promotional tracks for the launch of a health product: Max.

D4 Studio is the play-pen of Matt Dever, an all-rounder of the music industry for almost a decade now. You’ll find Matt at the helm of a live gig as often as he’s in the studio. D4 is located in Beaudesert, Queensland – a picturesque country town 45 minutes inland from the Gold Coast. D4 is the realisation of Matt’s need for a dedicated studio space. The room was primarily designed as a post-production studio to cater for mixdowns of live recordings – somewhat of a specialty for Matt. The room also features a number of tasty microphones, preamps, and compressors that make it a very capable overdubbing facility.

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At the heart of D4 is an Apple G5 running a ProTools HD2 system. Mic brands include Neumann, AKG, Sennheiser, Shure, Rode, and Audix. Preamps are from JLM Audio, Presonus, and ART. Compressors are from UREI, FMR, and

dbx, and the 5.1 surround monitoring is courtesy of KRK. Perhaps the most notable feature of D4 is that it’s been designed and hand built by Matt inside a ‘high-cube’ shipping container. The brief was to construct a simple, functional room that remained as spacious as possible. This was achieved with a floating room design, with walls acting as acoustic absorption. Matt’s spent a couple of years bringing the project to fruition, and now it’s ready to roll. An opening party is scheduled to run for the weekend of May 28-29. Anyone interested is welcome to attend and enjoy the free sausage sizzle and beers! Get in touch with Matt if you’re keen. D4 Recording Studio: 0438 136 804 or www.d4studio.com.au


Get Ahead Of The Curve Whether you’re just starting out in desktop recording, or you’ve already laid down a few thousand tracks, you’ve probably heard of the KRK Rokit. For years RoKit has been the popular choice for accurate monitoring in home and studios large and small. Rokit enthusiasts include guitar players, bass players, electronic musicians, re-mixers, beginning artists, and industry professionals. Now is a great time to check out the all-new, Generation 2 RoKit Powered Studio Monitors. Generation 2 RoKits set a new standard with even better performance and accuracy, raising the bar once again. So “Getting Ahead Of The Curve” means even more than ever. Our new Generation 2 RoKits have radically curved edges which virtually eliminates diffraction and provides a wider sweet spot. Our engineers also gave the Generation 2 RoKits a more accurate response curve to match the new cabinet, custom drivers, and our true bi-amplified and active crossover systems. Designed for the studio and not just a showroom demo, Rokits allow you to hear your “Real” mix. Rokit 8 Rokit 6 Rokit 5

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PC AUDIO Glitches and design flaws can be disasters or opportunities, depending on their context and repeatability. Read on to discover the difference between the good, the bad and the ugly.

Subtle it’s not, but once again you can coax some fascinating results out of the interface, cartoon skulls and all

Text: Martin Walker

As I mentioned briefly last issue, Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processor range struck a technological iceberg on January 31, when the company admitted a design flaw in the associated ‘Cougar Point’ chipsets. Apparently revision B2 of this chipset had a weakness that could eventually result in data problems with the four SATA2 ports after a few years of ‘normal use’. Since the two SATA3 ports remain unaffected, many SB laptops/ notebooks and simpler SB desktop systems with only two drives remain totally unaffected, and are still being sold to customers. However, thankfully even those SB systems that do use their SATA3 ports should remain perfectly functional until replacement motherboards become available, since Intel projects the design flaw is only likely to result in about a 5% failure rate after five years use. Intel has admitted that its revenue is likely to be $300 million down in the first quarter of 2011 thanks to this unforeseen disaster, although it remains quietly confident that overall projected revenue for 2011 should remain largely unchanged. Sandy Bridge motherboard availability began to dry up by mid-February, although to its credit, Intel had already fabricated modified B3 revision chips to replace the affected ones, arranged return procedures for all affected products, and was desperately attempting to get its shipping quotas back to normal by around mid-March. If you’ve recently bought a Sandy Bridge system you can check whether or not it’s affected by downloading the Gigabyte 6 Series SATA Check utility (www. gigabyte.com/support-downloads/utility. aspx?cg=2), which despite its ‘Gigabyte-only’ display, is said to work with other manufacturers’ motherboards. Most PC Audio specialists I know have stated that once the replacement motherboards become available, anyone who has already bought one of their SB computers will be able to return it, have its motherboard replaced and the system returned to the user within about a week for a nominal shipping charge, although in many cases shipping AT 70

the customer a SATA port expansion card may do the job with far less hassle for the user. Meanwhile, those PC audio specialists who refused to rush lemming-like into the fray and have instead quietly continued with tried and trusted X58based machines must be relieved that their tech support lines will remain relatively peaceful. Of course, AMD is already rubbing its hands with glee at this unexpected turn of events! PC CIRCUIT-BENDING Circuit-bending is defined as ‘the creative shortcircuiting of electronic devices such as low voltage, battery-powered guitar effects, children’s toys and small digital synthesisers to create new musical or visual instruments and sound generators’. An intrepid band of experimenters explore this brave new world of sonic serendipity, and if you want to find out more, have a read of Reed Ghazala’s bio (www.anti-theory.com/bio) – he’s known as ‘The Father of Circuit-Bending’ and has written a book on the subject, while his experimental instruments now feature in the collections of many worldfamous musicians. However, if you’d like to simulate the effect of design flaws in your audio, why not have a go at PC circuit-bending? Thanks to the various endeavours of several enterprising software developers you can emulate the effects of circuitbending inside your PC by just dropping a new DLL file into your vstplugins folder, without risking your health or your favourite synth. First up is the freeware Bend Box VST Instrument from Tonebytes (http://tonebytes.com/bend-box), which has a fetching graphic interface featuring an ‘exposed circuit board’, along with 15 unmarked knobs that interact in strange ways. Its sound output is unpredictable (just like the real thing), and nearly as much fun – just start tweaking any of the knobs while playing your music keyboard to see what new sounds you can discover. Bend Box is more flexible than it first appears because its controls can be MIDI automated, and is capable of a wide range of interesting results, ‘from soft

gurgling to ringing grinding, or even strange melodic timbres’. Another one you might like to try is the freeware Mr. Alias 2 (www.thepiz.org/mralias2), a rather more sophisticated synth that employs ‘non-bandlimited’ oscillators, so that instead of filtering out the digital nasties that result when you approach the Nyquist frequency, it revels in folding them back into the audio spectrum as audible nonharmonic frequencies. Although it features a more conventional signal path of two oscillators with 18 waveforms, plus six filter types and an envelope generator, the results are uncannily like circuitbending, varying considerably in timbre from note to note. Although the results are not as ‘musical’ as Bend Box, Mr. Alias offers rich pickings for the sound designer in search of inspiration – a Pro version is also available as donationware, offering a better-sounding ‘Pro’ GUI with realistic wood sides, plus lots of additional features, but which once again “exploits the properties of digital audio to achieve extremely bad sounds.” I kid you not! If you want to circuit-bend existing sounds, why not try Bent (www.delamancha.co.uk/bent. htm) from de la Mancha? This cryptic-looking VST plug-in recreates incoming audio into an approximation of itself using a waveformmorphing audio oscillator. Depending on the volume and pitch of the audio, it will gate, stutter and morph the output in sync with your host tempo. I found it the most unpredictable item on offer here, but it was still fun to try and produce some rewarding sounds. Finally, Bertill (www.shuriken.se/?page_id=85) is a distortion unit modelled on circuit bent hardware, the original signal chain being a car loudspeaker picked up by a kazoo, sent to a tape recorder, and picked up again by a toy microphone. Its eight controls are labelled, although with names like ‘MonsterClip’ and ‘Moonshine’ they remain enigmatic. Subtle it’s not, but once again you can coax some fascinating results out of the interface, cartoon skulls and all. Have fun!


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REGULARS

MAC AUDIO DAW with plug-in instruments, audio interface, microphone and the hardware to run it all on for $765? Pull the other one! Text: Brad Watts

Despite some claiming the iPad is a fad, the statistics are in and it’s not looking good for the nay-sayers. Already the iPad2 has sold over two million units, and that’s within a two-week period! Pundits are predicting the tablet format will become the mobile computing platform of the decade, and are anticipating sales of around 126 million devices – that’s right 126,000,000 – by 2015. The tablet is here to stay, and Apple is leading the charge without question. Of course, here in audio-ville we’ve been witnessing this paradigm-shift for a while now. It seems like virtually every second news item in AudioTechnology in recent issues has related to yet another audio doo-dad for either an iPhone or iPad – often both. There are literally hundreds of applications available for your portable 800MHz ARM processor (iPhone 4) that allow you to noodle away for hours, with more appearing every day. Whether you’re after a DAW remote control, software instrumentation, or yet another wacky way to mash loops together, there’s an iOS application to fit the bill. Like all computing platforms, each new model brings faster processing speeds, and the recently announced (and perhaps only just available by the time you’re reading this) iPad2 sports a dual-1GHz processor – an ample playing field for further, and even more complex, audio tom-foolery. In anticipation of the iPad2 release on the 25th of March, and given the general direction of Apple’s audio stratagem, I couldn’t help but download GarageBand for iPad. GarageBand for OSX (i.e. your desktop or laptop Mac) is looked upon, in some circles, as the beginner’s version of Logic Pro – it’s a fair comment. Indeed, the nuts and bolts of GarageBand were liberated from Logic Pro when Logic itself was ‘liberated’ from Emagic and reshaped many moons ago. It made a lot of sense. Apple needed a simplified recording and arranging platform to dovetail with its suite of newbie-style applications such as iMovie and iPhoto, and Logic is – and was without argument – a complex application. And it worked. GarageBand is plenty enough DAW for many people. It records; you can manoeuvre those recordings into any arrangement you like; and you can pull up a virtual instrument and record that too. Believe it or not, that’s pretty much all that countless musicians need. Simple as that. Well now, GarageBand is even simpler, thanks to Apple’s total revamping of the program to work within the touchpad environment. Eight recording tracks is the maximum limit, no doubt due to the processing speed of the iPad. But for sketching a solid AT 72

idea of a song most will find this more than adequate. If you need more you can export the song out to your OSX machine and load it into GarageBand proper, or even Logic Pro for that matter. There’s a raft of instrumentation, including built-in loops, and your typical software instruments such as guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, and a sampler. What’s neat is there’s even some semblance of velocity sensitivity with the instruments – the iPad’s accelerometer relates information on how far the unit moves when you hit a keyboard key or virtual drum skin. It isn’t as sensitive as ‘real’ velocity sensitivity, but it works. This feature actually works better when you hold the iPad in one hand and play with the other – obviously if you have the iPad sitting on a table the device doesn’t move so readily and the accelerometer doesn’t detect as much movement. Another neat feature of GarageBand for iPad is the suite of ‘Smart Instruments’. These pull off a number of tricks, but behind each one is the ability to set either the keyboard or guitar fretboard to only play notes in a particular scale and key, along with four variations of riffs. In the case of building drum rhythms, there’s an innovative matrix where you place individual drums onto a grid, moving them up or down for volume, and left to right for complexity of rhythm played by each element. It’s a really fast method for compiling a rhythm, and a good deal of immediate fun, and of course, it brings results. Smart Instruments could easily be considered a ‘painting by numbers’ method of churning out music, or they could be looked upon as both a way for the novice to get an idea solidified, or a more accomplished musician to come up with ideas and progressions they normally wouldn’t. Whichever viewpoint you take, there’s no denying these are clever software implementations. Now to step away from the Apple stable and look to Apogee to complete the production package, two products about to hit our shores will make GarageBand for iPad a veritable powerhouse for the sketching musician. The first is JAM, a guitar interface that employs Apogee analogue-to-digital converters to transfer analogue signals to the iPad – a mere $110 or so. The second item is Apogee’s ‘Mike’, a microphone that again uses Apogee A/D conversion to pipe your audio into the iPad. Now, say you grab yourself an iPad v1 for $449, an Apogee JAM for $110, then Apogee’s ‘Mike’ lands for about $200 (we’re unaware of pricing right now but I’ll speculate here), and GarageBand for iPad for the ridiculous price of $5.99 – you’re looking at a very capable and terrific sounding system for 765 bucks! Cheers Apple!


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www.focusrite.com/Saffire

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AudioTechnology THE MAGAZINE FOR SOUND ENGINEERS & RECORDING MUSICIANS

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Thanks to Amber Technology, we’re over the moon to be giving away an SSL Nucleus audio hub and DAW controller!

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This amazing new console and controller features a complete SuperAnalogue monitoring path, monitor outputs to separate +4dBu AND -10dBV connections, a 2+2 channel USB audio interface providing a record and playback path to your DAW, and two combi XLR mic/line/instrument level inputs to feed the audio interface. There’s digital I/O via S/PDIF feeding the audio interface enabling both a ‘digital to DAW’ record path and a ‘mic/line/instrument to digital’ output path. One incredibly fortunate AT subscriber will win this fabulous prize, valued at $5999! For that subscriber to be you, all you have to do is subscribe (or re-subscribe) to AudioTechnology magazine between 15/2/2011 and 26/5/2011, and correctly answer the following multiple-choice question:

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AT 75


TUTORIAL

SENNHEISER MK 4 Incredibly, this is Sennheiser’s first ever sideaddress large-diaphragm condenser. Text: Calum Orr

NEED TO KNOW Price $499 Contact Syntec International 1800 648 628 sales@syntec.com.au www.syntec.com.au Pros Smooth and articulate sound. Modern looks. Two-year warranty. Great value for money. Low noise and high SPL handling. Cons Modern looks may perturb ‘retro’ aficionados. Summary For the asking price, the Sennheiser MK4 is a total bargain. It’s a polished and refined microphone with a pedigree that shines through every aspect of its design, without ever leaning on old-fashioned styling or ‘retro’ thinking. Modern through and through, the MK4 is a worthy contender for microphone of the year.

The new Sennheiser MK4 hits the already teeming large-diaphragm condenser market sector with a modernistic, post-retro bang. It’s sleek, futuristic styling doesn’t take you back to Decca record sleeves of the 1950s or ’60s, but rather propels you 10 years into the future. Indeed, Sennheiser hasn’t bothered to re-manufacture the classic U47 or U67 designs that have sat relatively unmolested in its Neumann stable for years, choosing instead to embrace the future of sound and microphone design with new models that chase other contenders out of the market with their superior value and sonic performance. LIBERATED DESIGN The MK4 is very easy on the eye. Not once did I ever catch myself thinking ‘ooh yuck’ while setting the microphone in position for recording, despite its clear departure from ‘classic’ styling that has so many other companies trapped in a ’50s vortex. Reminiscing over past glories is simply not in Sennheiser’s makeup. The MK4 comes across, both visually and aurally, as a microphone that’s been through a fastidious testing regime rather than a yesteryear comparison test. Sennheiser has fairly and squarely aimed the MK4 at the budget-conscious home and project studio market, but I can assure live engineers and professional studios alike that a couple of MK4s on hand would make valuable contributions to anyone’s mic collection. With its one-inch, 24-carat gold-plated diaphragm and a highly effective internal shock mounting system, the MK4 has a low handling noise that’s able to nullify all but the heaviest of floor stomps and boomstand bumps without the need for calling into duty a separate cradle. (A matching cradle mount is also available as an option). To keep production costs down, the MK4 has a cardioid polar pattern only, and is devoid of pads and high-pass filter switches. The absence of these onboard facilities is becoming the standard amongst budget-conscious microphones the

AT 76

world over, and fair enough too, as you’d be hard pressed to find a decent modern mic pre or mixer that lacks either pads or filters in its preamp section, along with the requisite 48V phantom power needed to bring the mic to life. UNIVERSALLY To further enhance the sonics of the MK4, Sennheiser has used a single-layer protective mesh design, coupled with a drop collar on the front of the grille, which gives the mic its Star Trek crew-neck appearance. Both of these design elements conspire to make the diaphragm’s housing less reflective and resonant, which, to my ears, works beautifully. The MK4 also has a low-noise (10dB A-weighted), ‘big picture’ (35mm) sound. I tested this mic against several other players in its class – to borrow a road test cliché – as well as against classic condensers like the solid-state Neumann U47FET and valve AKG C12a. Up against this latter pair the MK4 faired surprisingly well: smoother and airier than the U47FET on voices, though perhaps not as ‘magical’ sounding overall as the superlative C12a valve mic. Modified and unmodified Oktava M-319s, Rode NT-1s and NT-2s meanwhile possessed similarities to the MK4, but none matched its ability to sound good on every source it encountered. In part, this is inevitably due to the fact that Sennheiser’s condenser design is at least 10 years younger than the other mics roped in for comparison – and the MK4’s ability to handle high SPLs (140dB) was particularly impressive – but it’s also the result of Sennheiser’s considerable testing across myriad applications and decades of German microphone manufacturing expertise. DELUXE SOUND To be more specific, in front of my Fender Blues Deluxe (turned up to un-neighbourly SPLs), the MK4 sounded robust, yet detailed. Being an all-rounder, the mic exudes quite a bit of emphasis in the ‘air’ bands (above 8kHz),


Not once did I ever catch myself thinking ‘ooh yuck’, while setting the microphone in position for recording, despite its clear departure from ‘classic’ styling that has so many other companies trapped in a ’50s vortex.

making it silky smooth on vocals. However, on this particular guitar cabinet I had to administer a substantial dose of low-pass filter action between around 6 and 10kHz to prevent the sound becoming too shiny and glossy. Doing this to some mics can often result in the collapse of the mid-sheen of the instrument, which then requires you to follow up with some judicious EQ to restore the sound back to life. Not so with the MK4: with low-pass filters activated, the representation stayed solid, and when required the MK4 responded nicely to EQ. In all the tests I conducted I felt comfortable boosting and cutting without the tone ever breaking up or falling apart. I loved the MK4 on acoustic guitar up close, and for that matter at a distance, where it captured a superb impression of my fantastic sounding, 4.5-metre tall hallway – albeit in half-hourly intervals between helicopter take-offs at my local aerodrome! In particular, the test that impressed me most was the MK4’s handling of my ’70s Ibanez 12-string acoustic. This can be a very difficult instrument to record without a multi-mic setup but the MK4 was totally up to the task on its lonesome, capturing the soundboard in a honeyed way, without losing the articulation in the strings or the sweet sound of unison when plucking individual notes. While this particular test was an eye opener on a personal level – it confirmed that Sennheiser is well and truly onto something with the MK4 – I had to resist the temptation to forge my opinion right there on the spot, and go the distance by putting the mic through some rigorous vocal hardship. POLISHED PROVERBIAL I say ‘hardship’ because I had to use my voice for the testing! Contrary to what my enemies say, I don’t like the sound of my own voice at all. Nevertheless, the Sennheiser was able to ‘hear’ all of the things I don’t like about my voice with aplomb: a wavering end-note here, a raspy, spluttering chorus there. All uniquely me, but perhaps not surprisingly, a bit more expensive sounding courtesy of the MK4… the ‘polished proverbial’ concept springing quickly to mind here. During the review I even downgraded my mic pre from a Phoenix to an Allen & Heath and still the MK4 refused to sound average. Wow! For the asking price of $499 I’d buy two of these straight out. I think I’m warming to the new Sennheiser ethos. The age of classic mics hasn’t come and gone, it starts now! AT 77


REVIEW

BRICASTI DESIGN M7M & M10 REMOTE CONSOLE Hardware reverb processing par excellence. Text: Andy Stewart

Back in Issue 59, Robin Gist reviewed the Bricasti Design M7 hardware reverb processor, remarking at the time on its pristine sound and exceptional build quality. I had the M7 myself for several weeks around the same time, using it on several mixing projects, and was amazed by just how beautiful these reverbs were. They sounded like ‘real’ spaces, the algorithms artfully creating the illusion of a physical environment – a place for an instrument to inhabit, if you will, rather than simply providing hissing tails for snares and vocals etc. In the wide world of mixing, this aural trickery is a great asset to have at your fingertips, and difficult for any hardware designer to achieve. Back then, however, I couldn’t shake the feeling that, though admirable in a romantic kind of way, the main designers at Bricasti were pouring their hearts and souls into a hardware reverb that was destined for relative obscurity, despite how good it sounded. Even though the aim of its chief designers, Brian Zolner and Casey Dowdell, had been to trump every other digital reverberator ever produced – and arguably they succeeded – the old ‘hardware reverb unit and remote controller’ concept made famous by Lexicon in the early ’80s seemed like an outdated horse to be riding into the 21st century. The idea of making a ‘cutting-edge’ 480L-styled reverb unit seemed to fly in the face of a future dominated by plug-ins and host-based reverb algorithms. Sure everyone AT 78

likes a great reverb, and the M7’s sound was truly epic… but who would buy it? As it turns out, lots of people. Bricasti has been struggling to fill orders ever since the M7 hit the market, proving that great reverb remains highly prized by engineers the world over, no matter what form it may take. Perhaps more importantly – and although at several thousand dollars they may seem relatively expensive compared to most plug-in reverbs – the price of an M7 is a relative bargain compared to older Lexicon and TC hardware systems that were often several times its price. More recently Bricasti released the M10 – the long anticipated remote control for the M7 rack unit – along with a new ‘faceless’ version of the M7, the M7M (the latter ‘M’ standing for ‘Mainframe’). There’s also new v2 software that features an expanded preset list and additional algorithms. The ‘faceless’ M7M and M10 Remote Console combination is what I’ve had setup at my studio for the last couple of months… MAINFRAME & REMOTE Lacking the main LCD screen and adjustment controls, the M7M is designed to act primarily as a machine room dweller, with the M10 remote performing all the interactive functions via a standard (and lengthy) RS422 serial interface


cable. If you’ve ever used a 480L it only takes a few minutes to get acquainted with the M10, although the tactile and visual differences are substantial.

Professional

The M10 Remote allows a user to maintain control over up to eight M7s at once – should you be so lucky – with stereo input meters for four units at a time clearly visible on the red monochrome display. Each M7 unit is easily selected and manipulated via a dedicated ‘Machine’ button, which can either toggle between two M7s (when only two are connected to the system) or scroll through all eight with the aid of the effortless jog shuttle wheel. Like the M7 rack unit, the M10 Remote is built like a Ferrari. Its solid construction and stylised looks are as glamorous as they are robust. (Beside it, my 480L LARC looks like an old Holden Camira – complete with blown head gasket). The casing of the M10 is milled from a solid block of anodised aluminum; its exquisite build quality making you slightly paranoid (as a Ferrari owner might also be), for fear that its beautiful finish might get scratched or damaged, even though in reality it’s extremely hard wearing. The M10 is also designed to be “dead simple to use,” presumably quite unlike a 480L. Some argue the old Lexicon LARC is one of the most illogical controllers in the history of audio and not a device worth replicating in any shape or form. Like the 480 – though by no means to the same extent – the Bricasti M10 Remote is not the most intuitive device to master, and while the M10 obviously lacks 480L-styled fader controls, its scroll wheel is a simple and elegant replacement. However, for younger engineers raised on plug-in interfaces, the M10 may feel a little ‘retro’ at first. Once mastered, however, the M10 is a pleasure to use. V2 SOFTWARE As mentioned, all new M7 and M7M models come with the latest v2 software, which includes some outstanding new and arguably more ‘radical’ presets – some based on the original Bricasti algorithms, others based on new reverb and delay algorithms. These appear in the menu as new presets and programs banks, with names like Halls 2, Rooms 2, Plates 2, and Spaces 2. Generally speaking, these new preset additions are designed to be ‘heard’, meaning that they’re less subtle and more extroverted sounding than v1’s mainstays. There’s also an algorithm called ‘Non Linear’ that’s based on the classic AMS RMX 16 reverb from the mid ’80s, which sounds great. Hardware reverbs don’t come any better than the Bricasti M7 system. If reverb is your bag you simply must hear it to decide for yourself.

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Contact Studio Connections (03) 9874 7222 info@studioconnections.com.au www.studioconnections.com.au Pros Reverb to die for. Advanced algorithm controls. Exquisite construction and design. A bargain by comparison with equivalent hardware reverb systems. V2 software offers some great new sounds.

!"#$%)*"'

!"#$%$&'

+",) Monitor System Controller with RMC Room Mode Correction TM

Designed from the ground up to be the best performing and most accurate in their class, with unsurpassed output and extended low

Cons Remote Console a little hamstrung by old-world thinking. Wired remote feels antiquated.

frequency response required for today’s production styles. Since

Summary In terms of sound quality, it’s hard to beat the Bricasti for authentic sounding reverb algorithms. Instruments, voices and sounds of various kinds come to life when tastefully combined with M7 spaces. If creating the illusion of three-dimensional space is vital to your work, do yourself a favour…

RMCTM Room Mode Correction technology into an ingenious desk-

the acoustics of your room can play a big part in what you hear, the MSC1 Monitor System controller integrates JBL’s highly acclaimed top unit that not only provides essential monitor system controls, but also tunes the LSR2300 series or any speaker system, for greater clarity at the mix position.

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AT 79


REVIEW

BEESNEEZ PHELICITY, ELLY & TRIBUTE T1 Three different mics with three different sounds. Text: Greg Walker

NEED TO KNOW Price Tribute T1: $5060 Phelicity: $2860 Elly: $1429 Contact BeesNeez Microphones (02) 6633 1463 info@beesneezmicrophones.com.au www.beesneezmicrophones.com.au

AT 80

I first came across the Australian mic manufacturer BeesNeez when I was asked to review the Arabella, Jade and James ‘Studio Series’ tube models back in Issue 67. I immediately fell for their detailed, vibey sound and the Arabella ended up staying on in the studio permanently. This has become my no brainer, go-to mic for mono drum overhead and it never fails to deliver – I put it up somewhere over the kit, hit record and enjoy. It also handles vocals, guitar amps and other duties very nicely. So I was pleased when three new additions to the BeesNeez catalogue arrived at my doorstep for review: the Phelicity and Elly are from the upgraded Producer Series while the T1 is the first offering in the new Tribute Series. All three mics feature a weighty brass and bronze capsule construction, chrome-plated brass bases and a very heavy-duty build quality. They’re big, heavy and great looking. The Phelicity is a multi-pattern long body valve microphone that derives much of its design inspiration from the classic AKG C12. The shortbody Elly is more of a hybrid, using the same K7 capsule as the T1 model, but with a fixed pattern cardioid transformer-balanced FET design that dispenses with any external power supply and is optimised for vocal work. The T1 is the biggest microphone of the three, being reminiscent of the famous long-body Neumann U47, albeit with a nine-position polar-pattern selector on the power supply. All these BeesNeez mics are made near Kyogle, in northern NSW, right down to the casings, capsules and power supplies.

PHELICITY The Phelicity has a commanding presence in the studio with its long barrel and large retro-styled BeesNeez badge. The textured silver body and gleaming chrome base and cage lend it a timeless look, and when you put it up on a session people are suitably impressed. It’s worth emphasising that this mic is a very heavy piece of kit due to the extensive use of brass in the construction. My standard K&M stands can just about support the Phelicity’s weight but I’ve generally used one of my old-school stands with a more weighty steel base to stabilise it when extending a boom out to any real distance. Fortunately the supplied 51mm suspension mount is well and truly up to the job and is a good match visually for the mic. My only gripe here is that the smallish clips that secure the mic in place tend to want to hide under the elastic, making adjustments somewhat fiddly. The Phelicity has a dual-backplate edgeterminated K12 capsule and utilises a NOS (new old stock) Mullard RAF tube and Cinemag 2461 NiCo transformer. There’s a selection of nine polar patterns on the external power supply, ranging from figure-eight through to omni and a three-metre Gotham seven-pin cable connects it to the mic. I’d advise prospective buyers to shell out the extra $50 for the six-metre length cable, otherwise you’ll tend to find yourself moving the power supply around a lot. Another cool feature of all three mics is the internal damping in the capsule, which means handling noise and environmental transference via mic stands etc are noticeably reduced compared to most other large diaphragm


condensers. Better still, I rarely had to use a pop-screen for vocals with any of these mics, a pleasant surprise given their vintage pedigree and diaphragm size. PHELICITY WITH ELECTRICITY The first thing I did with the Phelicity after it arrived was plug it into a Neve preamp, stick it in front of a Fender guitar amp and start tracking some stacked guitar parts. My initial reaction was that it sounded very nice indeed, with the valve flavour of the microphone really augmenting what was best about the amp’s low and midrange frequencies, while smoothing out the highs in a pleasing ‘valvey’ kind of way. Next I tried it as a drum overhead (in the same role where my Arabella repeatedly excels), but here I wasn’t so convinced as it tended to bring a rather thin tone out of the kit and room, even when I switched from omni to a more directional cardioid pattern. Different story on percussion though, where the Phelicity worked wonders on tambourines, shakers and pretty much everything else I could bang, shake or rattle near it. In this application the tops were full of detail but not hard sounding the way some condensers can be. There’s a definite vintage quality to these sounds that makes you want to turn them up in the mix – always a good sign! The Phelicity gets a big tick on percussion. On vocals the mic has a definite upper midrange bite to it, which can be either good or bad depending on the vocalist and the delivery. I enjoyed it on my voice, especially on quieter material where the mic’s presence and detail allowed it to punch through the mix effortlessly. I also liked singing into it set to the full omni position; not sure why but it just seemed to suit my voice that way. I put it up on a female vocalist for a session but found the mic too hard sounding on her louder songs (I eventually chose a very dark ribbon mic for this task). Having said that, her voice sounded superb through the Phelicity on the quieter material. I also used the Phelicity a lot as a room mic for some live duo recordings in a small hall, and as a piano room mic, and was pleased with the realism of the results. On violins and cello it was also very impressive, giving depth and clarity without undue emphasis on the bow and rosin artefacts. The Phelicity has plenty of character – a trait I’ve always liked about the BeesNeez sound. My only question with the Phelicity is how the upper midrange presence behaves on ‘harder’ voices and whether this emphasis might make the mic less of an all-rounder in some applications. ELLY: ELLISHLY GOOD VALUE The short bodied Elly is only a bit less impressive looking than the Phelicity, and being a fixed cardioid design is very simple to set up. The mic features a transformerbalanced FET circuit, the new BeesNeez K7 capsule, and a Cinemag 24110 transformer. Again you need to take some care setting up the Elly with a decent stand, as it’s a hefty customer (despite being utterly dwarfed by the giant T1). My first impressions of it were similar to the Phelicity: great on guitar cabs through both Neve and API mic preamps. It delivered a warm character-filled version of what I was hearing in the room, although perhaps not quite as flattering as the Phelicity. On my voice, however, it seemed a better fit, offering plenty of detail in the midrange and a better tonal balance overall. I also used it on another male voice for backing vocals. Here again it worked a treat and sat very naturally in the mix with no treatment whatsoever. The real surprise came when I experimented one afternoon

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PHELICITY Pros Great valve tone on guitar cabs and percussion. Nine polar patterns. Superb vocal mic on softer singers. Great looking and excellent build quality. Cons Upper midrange a bit harsh on some louder voices. Not the most versatile mic. Summary A great valve mic on guitar amps, acoustic instruments and softer voices. Upper midrange presence can either help or hinder depending on the source.

ELLY Pros Consistently good sounds on a wide range of applications. Great vocal mic that also works wonders on snare drum. Affordable member of the Producer Series. Cons As is the case with all three mics, the suspension mount tensioner is a little fiddly. Summary This mic is a real bargain and will no doubt sell like hot cakes. Built to the same standard as the others, but with obvious limitations in terms of polar response, the Elly is a great mic to have in the arsenal.

TRIBUTE T1 Pros Wonderful sounding valve mic with imposing presence. Extremely versatile, vibey sound. Awesome for rock and pop vocals. Excellent tonal balance. Nine polar patterns. Cons Expect to invest in a new, decent mic stand to hold it up. Expensive, but apart from that… Summary A no holds barred contender for the U47 re-creation crown. A superb vocal mic that also excels in many other applications and is a joy to use.

AT 82

and placed it about six inches above the snare as part of a three-mic drum setup. Going through an API preamp the snare sound absolutely knocked me for six; it had so much beef, snap and realism I kept checking to see if I was actually hearing things right. Being a condenser microphone there was a lot of bleed from the kick, hats and toms of course, but they all sounded fantastic too, with tons of depth and weight to them. As a consequence I kept going back to this setup whenever I recorded drums, and it was just a matter of filling out the toms and cymbals with a carefully placed overhead and a dynamic mic inside the kick drum. The Elly also rocked as a drum overhead more in the vein of the Arabella and was very impressive in front of a kick drum too. As a room mic the Elly did a very nice job on a variety of sources, although unfortunately you can’t switch it to omni, which limits its room applications somewhat. Above the open top of an upright piano the Elly leant weight and presence to the sound without getting harsh, and once again the sonic picture felt quite complete. Overall I’d say the Elly is a real bargain and I’m very impressed by the build quality and sonic performance of this mic. I’ve got a feeling BeesNeez has a real winner on its hands with this more affordable member of the Producer Series and that Ellys will be spreading through the audio community ‘like ribbon mics’ in no time. TRIBUTE T1: CLONE WARS And now to the elephant in the room. The T1 is a ginormous beast of a mic, looks great and is an absolute pleasure to address either as a singer or instrumentalist – and well it should with a price tag well in excess of four grand. On the flipside of this argument, it’s still only roughly half the price of a used U47 in today’s vintage marketplace, and then of course you’ve still got those rather large questions of maintenance, repair and tube sourcing hanging over your head. The T1 features a dual-lapped K7 capsule, an oversized NiCo 2461 transformer and a NOS EF Series steel tube from the ’40s. Here, for the first time, the BeesNeez badge doesn’t look too big and the impression you’re left with is that the Germans may have invented the original U47 not so much as a sound capture device as an offensive weapon. I haven’t sung into a real U47 for about five years so I won’t try to compare the T1 sound to this much-revered classic, although you can find a bit of discussion online if you search for it. Vintage Neumann guru Klaus Heyne speaks very favourably of the new BeesNeez K7 capsule in comparison to other recent Neumann K47 capsule reproductions, so you can take it as given that BeesNeez has got a lot of things right in trying to reproduce arguably the most well-regarded microphone in history. The T1 ‘Tribute’ arrived a little after the other mics so I already had my ears attuned to their sonic qualities, and when I plugged the T1 in I hoped to be able to hear another step up in performance from the Producer Series models. I recorded an entire song straight off the bat using only the T1 set to cardioid on each source, via a UA 2108 solid-state mic preamp: acoustic guitar, drums (with a dynamic in the kick drum for fairness’ sake and the T1 hovering just above and in front of the kit), vocals, piano, bass amp and electric guitar. Then I sat back and listened… and was very impressed by what I heard. Basically the track sat together amazingly well given there was no EQ or compression to be seen anywhere. The track had tremendous tonal balance, warmth and valve mojo but with excellent presence and

detail to the point where it sounded like it had already hit some tasty outboard processing. It wasn’t overly bright but zesty in the upper mids and highs, clearly marking it out as a superior microphone. The Tribute struck me as a real rock ’n’ roll microphone geared towards delivering big, bold sounds, as well as more than a hint of harmonic distortion. I wouldn’t recommend it for classical recordings or applications where a pristine sound image is required, but as a pop/rock microphone it’s as good as anything I’ve used since I last bumped into a real U47. While perhaps lacking a U47’s huge bottom end, I didn’t really miss this in my time with the T1 and there was no mud or mush to deal with in any of the subsequent applications I used it in. DIAL UP A SMILE I recorded quite a few vocalists performing different kinds of material with the T1 and every time it felt like the right mic, and vocals sat in the track effortlessly. As a drum overhead it immediately evoked the kind of retro cool that you wish you could coax out of your cheaper condensers and it certainly ate my U87 for dinner in this application. Guitar cabs sounded great too, the T1 making them sing out with smooth clarity up top and plenty of oomph down below, although for my preferred guitar amp sound the Phelicity edged it out with its extra bit of zing. I did some more vocal tests with the other two BeesNeez mics, singing into each one in turn – just to confirm my feelings about them – and sure enough the Tribute beat them hands down as a vocal mic. It’s not that the Phelicity and Elly sounded bad; the T1 simply took things to another level of sonic performance. On classical guitar and cello, the Tribute 1 delivered nice articulation of the lower frequencies while smoothing out the highs and again providing a result that already felt very much like a finished product. The key to all these sounds for me was the even tonal balance which, time after time, whether six inches or four metres away, gave me the sound I was looking for straight off the bat. I haven’t been as impressed by a microphone since I reviewed the AEA A440 ribbon mic and there’s only a select group of mics out there that can give you these kinds of excellent results in this many applications. It’s a wonderful thing to have access to such amazing reproductions of classic microphones without the headaches of the vintage gear merry-go-round, albeit at a price most of us mere mortals might still balk at. Nevertheless, if you’re ready to take the plunge I think you’ll find the T1 a serious contender in the U47 clone wars, and one that’s more than capable of putting a smile on the dial of even the most jaded recording engineer or lighting up the most jet-lagged of singers. WEAK AT THE NEEZ A pretty awesome trio of microphones then. All three do nothing to dispel my view that BeesNeez is seriously cooking with gas up in Kyogle. I love the new improved look and feel of the Producer Series and the fact that they’re now made lock, stock and barrel in Australia. The Phelicity may not be such an all-rounder but it’s a great vocal and guitar cab mic on the right source. The Elly is very good value and rules on snare, and the T1 can basically run your studio for you while you pop off down the beach. Seriously though, the presence of any of these microphones in your studio will make it a better place to work in, and if you can stump up for the T1 in particular you’ll find that recording just got a whole lot easier and more fun. Meanwhile, for those of us in the real world, the Elly looks to be a great all-rounder at a great price that can give the international competition a real run for its money.


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REVIEW

JLM AUDIO MAC RACK

Made in Australia – by you if you’d prefer – this opto compressor is as brilliant sounding as it is simple to use. Text: Andy Stewart

NEED TO KNOW Price $1195 Fully built and tested: $2195 Contact JLM Audio (07) 3891 2244 sales@jlmaudio.com www.jlmaudio.com Pros Easy to use. Sounds big and fat, never thin or edgy. Bucketloads of headroom. Great looks. Quality components. Full email and phone support during the ‘construction period’ for anyone buying a kit. Cons No instructions with the do-it-yourself kit – only via download. Summary If you can build the Mac yourself it’s a total bargain. If you do, I’m sure there would also be the added satisfaction of knowing that one of your best compressors was also hand-made in Australia – by you! Great sound, forgiving controls and classy looks. Full marks.

AT 84

It’s taken ages for me to review this fabulous new Mac compressor by JLM Audio. Joe Malone, Australian audio circuit designer extraordinaire and owner of the company, initially sent the compressor down to me in kit form – it’s a compressor you make up yourself you see – and for months the unit sat optimistically on my workbench waiting for me to find spare time to construct it. It seemed appropriate, I thought, that if I was going to review it, I should be the one building it. But that day never came. I went close on one occasion, but on that ill-fated day I quickly discovered there were no instructions – crazy – you have to download these from the JLM website, which I wasn’t in a position to do. Damn! The box was opened on the workbench, and there the components lay in neat plastic-wrapped piles for some months. Later still it became an unwrapped shemozzle of resistors, capacitors, opto cells, VU meters, transformers, switches and screws… which were somewhat disturbingly starting to merge with all the other VU meters, transformers, switches and screws already on the workbench. Eventually I had to admit that, for as long as I was the one constructing it, this thing was never going to come together. Sheepishly, after some months, I rang Joe, asked if I could send it back and get him to build it for me, which he most graciously agreed to do. Only then did I find out you can buy them already made-up! “Now you tell me!” MAKE-UP GAIN The Mac is a single-rack unit dual-mono/stereo compressor based around an opto cell, which delivers the gain reduction to the circuit. The Mac shares this design component with some very famous analogue compressors of yore, the LA2a and LA-3 by Universal Audio being the most notable among them. But that’s basically where the similarities end. The Mac is a solid-state design of arresting simplicity, but which also offers plenty of controls on the front panel for manipulating the audio signal – quite unlike an LA-2A. Look inside the unit and its mostly made up of wide-open space. Joe’s approach to the design of the Mac was to essentially, “keep the circuit well out of the way of the audio

signal,” by which he obviously meant, maintain the audio integrity of the signal by building an elegant and simple circuit featuring low-distortion components, high-voltage rails and plenty of headroom (+28dBm). In this regard he seems to have succeeded brilliantly. Like all kit-form compressors I suspect the most critical aspect of reviewing the Mac for others is to describe in some detail how it sounds, given that the compressor is not something you can test by walking into a shop and trying out yourself. For my part I’ve never bought a kit-form compressor for this very reason, no matter how much hype surrounded it, mainly because there’s essentially no way to decide whether it sounds sublime or crap until after you’ve paid for it and spent ages building it – assuming you even can. TO THE SOUND THEN… If you’re contemplating building a JLM Mac compressor yourself, take it from me: the sound of the device is quite simply fantastic. I have a stack of compressors in my rack these days but none sound like this one. The simplest way to describe the Mac is that it makes things sound bigger and fatter the harder you hit them. Whether the signal you feed into it is an out-of-control, overly dynamic pair of raw drum overheads, or a nearly finished stereo mix, the Mac has an uncanny ability to place a resistive, near transparent elastic film across it that sonically presses back against the signal in a most luxurious, forgiving and almost tape-like manner. Things get appreciably bigger sounding, less edgy, brittle and sharp, and all in a beautifully attractive way. The Mac is brilliant at taking edges off harsh guitars, spiky cymbals and sibilant singers. It makes overly dynamic mixes come together with class, almost like a half-inch Studer tape machine – creating a big, round bottom-end with attenuated tops. The harder you compress a signal – and believe me you can give this thing a damn good pasting – the bigger, fatter, flatter and mellower the signal gets. Eventually of course the thing starts to pump and sound pretty squashed and dull, but even strapped across a mix bus I regularly found there was a window open to me of around 15dB, depending


on what I wanted to achieve. There are very few stereo compressors I know of that can provide this many options when called up for mix bus duty. Indeed, some barely provide one, and many of the more famous among them can get pretty jumpy at gain reduction levels barely above 4 or 5dB. With the Mac you can tickle the signal for ultra-transparent compression, give it a moderate amount of control for a slightly fatter, more curvaceous tone, or perform a half nelson on it and wrestle it to the mat. The best thing about all these options is that every one them sounds sonically valid, you just have to choose which one you prefer. I think that’s the main thing I’ve drawn from my experiments with this compressor; that no matter how ludicrous the compression you apply seems, the signal still holds together in a way that’s musically worthy of consideration. CONTROL OPTIONS The other great thing about the Mac is that it’s fantastically simple to use. Moreover, you’d be hard pressed to cause a train wreck with it unless you wind the controls way out of whack. Like on an LA-2A, two of the Mac’s central controls – repeated on the left and right sides of the stereo unit – are ‘Gain Reduction’ and ‘Output’. The more you turn Gain Reduction clockwise the more action you draw from the compression circuit. It’s worth noting here also that although there’s a ‘Link’ switch for stereo operation, all these controls remain active, and it’s better to manually adjust setting for left and right first before you flick the link switch in – easy enough to do.

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Between the fancy round VU meter and gain reduction knob (on both sides of the unit) there’s a vertical trio of three-position switches. The uppermost of these provides ratio control of 3:1, 5:1 and 10:1. Below this is a ‘VU/GR’ switch that controls the VU metering of either the overall output of the unit, or the gain reduction value of the compressor. The middle position of this switch bypasses the compression altogether and simultaneously turns the meters off. This is an unusual feature of the Mac that I initially found slightly odd, but quickly grew to like. Having all activity on the meters cease when the compressor is in bypass is a perfectly lateral and logical way to show – even from metres away – that the unit is merely passing signal. The bottom switch provides high-pass filter control over the sidechain input to the compressor, to help it avoid undue pumping when it comes up against bass-heavy transients like monster kicks and the like. Remember, these aren’t filters you hear in the same way as an EQ on a desk, they only affect what goes to the compressor side-chain inside the unit. The overall output doesn’t get thinner sounding. The three positions offered here are: ‘Flat’, ‘100Hz’ and ‘200Hz’, the two rolloff crossover points kicking in gentle 6dB per-octave filters. Funnily enough I virtually never used these filters during my time with the unit, even when logic suggested maybe I should. Switching them in certainly makes a difference but any pumping the compressor does generate I actually seem to prefer. Each time – sooner or later – I’ve eventually disengaged the roll-offs, even when using it as a mix bus compressor. They’re handy to have onboard though… BIG MAC The sound, look and feel of this compressor is very impressive – frankly, I’m hooked on it. I’m surprised the Mac is as versatile as it is, that it looks as good as it does in the rack (with its fancy pearlescent white VUs and green and red link and power LEDs) and that it sounds so much like tape compression on some signals. (If you’re thinking of buying a tape machine, perhaps just consider this instead). What’s more, it’s nice to have something this good made in Australia – by you no less, if that’s your preference. It’s a shame I didn’t get to experience making the review unit myself, but it’s nice to know that JLM can make them for you if, like me, you’re a bit ‘time poor’ or incompetent on a soldering iron. The Mac is a worthy analogue opto compressor for your rack, even if you think you’ve already got everything analogue compression has to offer.

t Up to 150MHz tuning range t 256 bit RC4 signal encryption for secure audio transmission t 2-channel digital true-diversity receiver t No Compander (used in analogue systems): higher sound quality t On-board DSP per channel (Compressor, EQ, Limiter) t Quick setup via infrared data link to the transmitter t Graphical spectrum analyser helps find clear channels t Remote monitoring and control via PC

AT 85


TUTORIAL

RME FIREFACE UFX Regime change is back in style. RME may have the threeletter acronym, but just how good is its intelligence? Text: Andrew Bencina

As mainstream computer manufacturers are increasingly inclined to serve a user-base that’s focused on web browsing, media consumption and gaming, the more technical user is becoming somewhat marginalised. While people are storming the barricades throughout North Africa and the Middle East, the voice of protest from the computer music minority barely amounts to a peep. If you’re working in a studio (or bedroom) where you rely far more on virtual studio equipment than real analogue gear then you’re probably getting used to commercially enforced cycles of obsolescence by now. For my part it makes me mad as hell but, like everyone around me, I seem to keep taking it on the chin. In the past 12 months AT has reviewed RME’s several attempts to buffer itself (and end-users) from such fickle fluctuations. The Fireface UC (AT 72) introduced its programmable USB core; developed in direct response to increasing instability in Apple’s Firewire hardware. The Babyface (AT 78) expanded on the theme with an increased commitment to hardware DSP routing and processing isolated from the driver. Now with the flagship Fireface UFX, RME has produced the most complete manifestation of its current ideology to date. POWER SHARING AGREEMENT Like its cousin, the UC, the UFX carries the torch of the enduring Fireface product line. While the UC was very much a Fireface 400 with a core transplant, the UFX is far more than a surgically enhanced Fireface 800. Much of the early discussion surrounding this device has focussed on the UFX acting as a dual USB/Firewire interface. Despite the continued success of the Fireface 800, RME has – somewhat bizarrely – elected to equip the newer UFX with a slower Firewire 400 connection. RME claims there would have been no benefit – in terms of either track count or latency reduction – in employing the higher speed 1394b interface. Despite this assurance, however, a section of the user manual details some limitations of the Firewire option and the driver helpfully provides a channel-limiting setting to free up bus AT 86

bandwidth and solidify performance. While this is intended to assist users when debugging less than perfect computer hardware it still suggests the UFX is pushing the Firewire 400 bus to its limit. While the UFX is capable of stable performance when connected via Firewire, for some users its full resolution, track count and low-latency stability may only be truly realised on the USB side of the device. The UFX carries a USB 2.0 port and despite its programmable USB core it will remain as such. With the backwards compatibility of USB 3.0, however, there should be no problem locating a suitable port for some time to come. Unfortunately, as Martin Walker warned us last issue in his regular PC Audio column, this is by no means your only concern. To achieve advertised performance benchmarks you’ll still need a computer that allocates adequate resources to its USB buses and avoids potential conflicts that will certainly see you raising buffer settings and associated latencies to disappointing levels. RME addresses this issue with additional instructions for debugging USB performance, particularly under Windows. An ‘Errors’ meter, for instance, has been included as part of the USB driver, and this should be used alongside third-party system latency tools, to identify issues and tune performance. With an appropriate system, audio latency of around 2ms (when working at 96kHz) is certainly possible. My experience suggests that while an affordable PC laptop will fail abysmally to reach these standards, most (but not all!) high-performance desktop machines allow the UFX to live up to the hype. While error-free recording is generally my highest priority, I should note that I encountered some momentary audio stuttering during playback on all four Windows machines with which the interface was tested. These occurred when executing a range of simple actions – pause, stop record, bypass plug-in group, enable channel input monitor – inside a number of audio applications. These interruptions are disconcerting rather than destructive and one would hope they would be eradicated with future updates. Most notably, they do not occur when connected via


Firewire. Limited testing on a MacBook Pro demonstrated stable performance without these somewhat intrusive issues. GENERAL ASSEMBLY The all-in-one solution branding has been applied to any number of audio products over the years. With the increasing power and use of FPGA (and other DSP) chips, a compact and affordable internal solution is growing ever closer. The UFX’s hybrid operation extends far beyond its two-faced bus connectivity. Its ability to operate free of any computer with the aid of (only) six user-configurable setups ensures this device covers a lot of ground in a single rack space: mic pre/DI, A/D & D/A converters, MIDI interface, patch bay, digital mixer... hard disk recorder? Just be sure to leave it some breathing space in the rack or you’ll risk suffering overheating-related faults down the track. To start, the UFX is a four-channel mic pre/DI utilising front-panel Neutrik combo connectors. All controls are accessible within the TotalMix FX software mixer and via a full colour two-inch screen at the front-right of the unit. Different ‘Settings’ screens can be easily navigated via two dual-function continuous rotary encoders that also act as momentary push buttons. 48V phantom power is switchable on a track-by-track basis. Gain is adjustable individually in 1dB increments from 10 to 65dB, even when pairs are grouped as a stereo channel. This quartet of inputs, assigned to Channels 9 through 12, can also serve as additional linelevel inputs. Selecting ‘Instrument’ mode and setting the gain to 19dB comes pretty close to matching the rear panel inputs when using their ‘+4’ level calibration. As has come to be expected from RME, the performance of the preamps inside the UFX is more than serviceable, their ‘sound’ characterised by a musical midrange that’s complemented by an extended bottom end. I wouldn’t describe them as ‘airy’ so if you’re chasing that clarity in the top end you may want to look elsewhere. Nevertheless the pres offer a balanced colour that I was happy to include in my palette. As instrument DIs they excel, outperforming many of the more expensive options. This performance is further enhanced by RME’s use of ‘parallel conversion’ on these channels. Simplistically understood as a form of hardware oversampling, this feature has been included to take full advantage of the preamp chip’s capabilities. BORDER CROSSINGS The rear panel of the UFX is crammed with connectivity for the remaining inputs and outputs. It’s here that the unit’s function as both A/D & D/A converter and digital format hub comes to the fore. Eight servo-balanced TRS connectors handle the inputs while a further six servo-balanced TRS outputs cover Channels 3 to 8. Outputs 1 & 2 are provided via balanced XLRs. Unlike all the TRS connectors these main outputs will not automatically adjust to the use of unbalanced cabling, so if the need arises you’ll have to make the necessary modifications to XLR pin assignments and level calibrations yourself. All of these analogue, rear-panel connections feature three pre-defined level calibration options (–10, +4, Lo/Hi gain), while the XLR outputs deliver a fourth ‘Reference’ calibration (+24dBu = 0dBFS). Converter performance has again edged further forward. While the difference between converter generations seems to be narrowing, there was an audible difference in depth and clarity best described as an increase in the sense of reality versus representation. Additional digital connectivity is supplied via two ADAT I/O channels and a pair of AES/EBU I/O via XLR. S/PDIF is available optically via ADAT 2 or through the use of an

AES/EBU converter cable. All of these connections operate to the full 192kHz audio resolution, although SMUX4 operation will reduce the ADAT channel count from 16 I/O at 48kHz to four I/O at 192kHz. It’s worth noting that the UFX’s internal converters have a very low latency of 12 samples. Other converters I connected via the digital inputs demonstrated varying performance with the greatest difference being 42 samples. If you’re looking to maintain sample-accurate phase coherence between different inputs and outputs it may be necessary to either nudge the track position of certain recordings or employ a simple sample delay plug-in to realign files. The cornucopia of connectivity is completed by wordclock I/O, two ports of MIDI I/O and a front panel USB ‘Memory’

While the UFX is capable of stable performance when connected via Firewire, its full resolution, track count and lowlatency stability can only be truly realised on the USB side of the device

connection. While this connector is yet to be made operational, a future firmware upgrade is currently in public beta testing that will deliver standalone multi-channel recording to, and playback from, an external storage device. That’s right! RME has always provided a multi-channel recorder as a part of its Digicheck utility software. It seems this functionality will be incorporated into the TotalMix FX software within the interface itself – wow! COUP DE MIX But in some ways, most of this is just old hat. So what else would you expect from a new RME interface? Where things get really interesting is how all these and a few other elements are now linked. RME has provided some version of their DSP mixer for over a decade now. It has always allowed routing and submixing possibilities far beyond those available in most interfaces. Its current incarnation – TotalMix FX – hasn’t exactly broken new ground but it’s a significant advance in features and usability, made possible by increases in offline processing power. The basic structure has not significantly varied from the previous Hammerfall DSP mixer but the user interface has been greatly updated and enhanced. Three rows of nameable fader channels represent the available (depending on sample rate) hardware inputs, software playback channels and hardware outputs. While TotalMix FX is not fully scalable and the size of channel strips cannot be changed, the width of the mixer window is variable and the fader rows can be arranged in the familiar three-row, or a new two-row, configuration. Unlike the previous version, horizontal scrolling is now possible within each I/O section, allowing access to all channels on even the smallest of monitors. The mixer is complemented by a ‘Control Room’ master section and an ‘Options’ pane on the right. I still can’t help but wish AT 87


Each Hardware Output channel (bottom row) is like an analogue mixer’s bus returns. Rather than cluttering the upper channels’ rows with send controls, the parameters of the Hardware Inputs and Software Outputs can be tweaked, including the new EQ, Dynamics and Reverb/Echo settings. Monitor mixes can be auditioned via a pre-defined Master Control Room output using the Cue buttons.

NEED TO KNOW Price $3299 Contact Innovative Music (03) 9540 0658 info@innovativemusic.com.au www.innovativemusic.com.au Pros Programmable core provides some futureproofing and endless updates. Flexible connectivity between analogue and digital. Full-colour screen. TotalMix FX offers unparalleled routing and submix solutions. Cons TotalMix FX needs further development. Hardware layout biased towards desktop installation. Performance machine dependent. Some of its most exciting features still in the wings. Summary The Fireface UFX is the next step in a movement towards high performance via the most ubiquitous and generic of interface connections. It currently falls short of its aspirations as a legitimate alternative to the digital mixer but its reprogrammable core ensures these hopes are not lost. In the meantime it delivers an infinitely flexible solution to most users’ audio interface requirements.

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the sizing of all this was more configurable and a full-screen mode was possible. Many of the controls are half the size of what we’ve come to expect within DAWs and I’d seriously consider dedicating a monitor to TotalMix FX if the UI was developed further. There may be graphics processing limitations that enforce these shortcomings but these still need to be addressed to further the device’s claims as a digital mixer. While TotalMix has improved its looks, it’s the feature set of new DSP processing options and channel controls that constitute the most significant development for users. Channel pairs can be grouped into single stereo faders and channel strips can now be minimised to an ultra-compact meter display. All hardware input and output channels now feature three-band parametric EQ, low-cut filter, compressor, expander and auto-level processor arranged within two EQ and Dynamics panes. Per-pane presets have been included. While I’m not sure I’d describe the effects as ‘musical’, they’re certainly very helpful, particularly when constructing individual monitor mixes. I noted the omission of gain reduction metering in the dynamics section and would welcome its inclusion in a future update. For me, here again, size was an issue. I’d love to see a single full-sized global channel inspector with enlarged effects sections that could display the selected channel’s settings in detail. Both EQ and dynamics processing can be globally added to the recorded audio input via a single toggle within the driver. Perhaps in the future an either/or selection could be included too. All channels feature phase invert and the software output channels are equipped with both width control and MS processing. A dedicated 24-bit/192kHz Reverb/Echo section is also located on its own chip. Inputs and software outputs provide a send to this effects section, while each hardware output has its own return level control. A variety of reverb and echo types are modelled here, and again a full preset implementation is present. I personally favoured the ‘Classic’ reverb – for that Lexicon-styled lushness – and while the current delay options are reasonable, I’m not sure you’d be using them for live dub mixing. In fact, I found many of the mixer controls suffered from some zipper noise when adjusting settings during playback. This is certainly an issue that would need to be resolved before you’d try an ‘in-the-

box’ mix in a live setting. But wait, there’s more. TotalMix FX delivers a new Loopback system which simplifies the recording of material processed in the box. The combination of saveable workspaces, mixer snapshots, temporary and stored fader, solo and mute groups facilitates the flexible management of latency-free monitor mixes like never before. Each hardware output pair can receive its own dedicated mix, including the two front panel headphone outputs. Mono outputs have been implemented and will be made available via an update to TotalMix shortly. Settings for talkback, listenback, a second alternate speaker output, dim, mono, and default level recall all mean there’s now little reason to place any other device between the computer and your monitors. A master volume knob, located to the left of the colour screen, allows control of the assignable master output channel and the two headphone outputs, in increments of 0.5dB. Basic support of the Mackie Control MIDI protocol also means that, with the right control surface, you can even get hands-on. Further developments of the MIDI system which would allow full control of all mixer parameters have been discussed but are still yet to be announced with any certainty. COUNTING THE COST The Fireface UFX may not be quite ready to take control over of your entire studio but it’s certainly nominating itself for the leadership. Its significant use of front-panel connections hints at its leaning toward prosumer rather than professional use and personally I would like to see the return of the rear panel analogue D-sub, featured on previous RME devices (such as the ADI 8-DS). This could possibly allow half of the front panel connections to relocate to the rear for permanent patchbay connection. While its USB implementation is capable of delivering low-latency performance it’s susceptible to interference by less-than-perfect machines, and while not strictly necessary, I can’t help but ponder whether the added bandwidth of USB 3.0 or Apple’s new Thunderbolt interface will deliver some welcome operational ‘headroom’. At this point in time, however, the UFX is an excellent option for a range of home recording, installation and live performance applications. Fingers crossed that the climate is right in your studio republic for the RME revolution. Viva El UFX!


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HEIL SOUND PR 35

All heil the king of rejection – the PR 35 – the dynamic microphone that sounds like a condenser but doesn’t feed back. Text: Mark Woods

Vocal mics have the most demanding job in live audio and while most singers would bristle at being labelled ‘conservative’ they often stick with the ageing technology of yesteryear when choosing stage mics. The time-honoured dynamic vocal microphones, complete with muddy proximity-effected lows and presence peaks – but not much else above that – are still regularly seen on concert stages. ‘Predictable performance’, ‘reliability’ and ‘low cost’ are the usual reasons given, and there’s nothing wrong with that rationale per se, but times change, and in recent years competition, modern materials and manufacturing processes have produced new breeds of vocal mics that provide better sound quality without costing the proverbial arm and leg. The development of handheld condenser microphones has raised the bar in terms of accuracy and detail but the best models are relatively expensive and potentially more fragile than dynamic designs. Condensers also have a wide and deep pickup pattern that often results in them hearing too much stage sound. This inevitably restricts how much signal can be fed to the front of house and foldback speakers – not ideal. Like all directional mics they have a pronounced proximity effect. Condensers also need phantom power to operate. Lots of audio channels need phantom power of course, but vocal mics in particular are more susceptible to having their leads accidentally pulled out by an over-enthusiastic singer – or fan – and I hate the noise that disconnection makes through the PA. PR NO STUNT Enter the Heil Sound PR35 dynamic microphone, designed and built by US manufacturer Heil Sound [its company owner, Bob Heil, played a pioneering role in the development of PAs in the ’60s and ’70s, and invented the Talk Box used by Joe Walsh and others]. The PR35 is a very different type of microphone that combines elements of dynamic and condenser designs with a few tricks of its own. Better still, it sells at a price that shouldn’t frighten anyone away. Physically, the PR35 is a big mic, though it’s not as heavy as it looks and it feels well balanced in the hand. The mic is finished in a matte black, non-slip paint and there’s a sunken, threeposition HPF switch below the head assembly. But it’s under the foam-lined grille where the fun really begins. Squeezed inside the head assembly AT 90

is the largest diaphragm I’ve seen in a dynamic mic, and herein lies the secret to the mic’s performance. The low-mass 11/2-inch aluminium diaphragm is claimed to be light enough to allow the accurate transmission of transients but tough enough to take extreme levels. Evenly spaced phasing plugs below the grille have been designed to ensure sound entering from the rear is out of phase with sound entering from the front, resulting in an extended frequency response with minimal proximity effect and a tight pickup pattern. A CHANCE ENCOUNTER The first time I heard the PR35 in action was through my PA at last year’s Maldon Folk Festival, months before any review of the mic had been arranged. The headline act was Celtic-rockers, Claymore, and here the singer Willie Hutton had his own Heil PR35. During their setup I noticed how loud the vocal was in the foldback. My first thought was that Willie simply had a very loud voice. When the show started the vocal was so detailed I figured it had to be a condenser mic, but I kept looking at the desk and, no, there was no phantom power engaged on the singer’s channel. The other noticeable feature was the way the vocal sat easily out in front of the (loud) band and the almost disconcerting isolation of the vocal from the rest of the band. I spoke to the band’s mixer, John Boshua, afterwards and he was happy to enthuse about how good the mic was for that band. When the PR35 later arrived for review I had high expectations thanks to the Claymore show and it’s been fun getting to know the mic since. It’s very different to the usual vocal mic suspects, and it challenges preconceptions about what dynamic mics can sound like. It has a distinctive tone and some outstanding qualities, but like all mics, it suits some situations better than others. Firing it up on stage, the first thing I noticed was the tight pickup pattern and the extreme rejection of sound arriving from the side, and particularly the rear. Don’t worry about the quality of the off-axis response; there isn’t any to speak of. As a result, this mic will run louder in the foldback than any other vocal mic I’ve yet come across. It loves a ‘check-one-two’, and I didn’t really want to find full volume as the wedges were starting to rattle before it wanted to howl. High stability in the foldback will be


greatly appreciated by singers who need lots in the wedges. In this respect it’s essentially the opposite of a condenser mic – while a condenser may sound good in the PA it usually sounds live and loose in the monitors. The PR35’s output level is also hotter that normal, and given that it’s a dynamic mic it’s possible to hot-swap it with other dynamic mics for A/B comparison. If it weren’t so stable, performing this switcheroo might cause feedback problems, however, its stability simply means it’s just much louder than regular vocal mics when it’s swapped over.

peak sitting higher than normal offered mixed results. While it removed bark from some voices, 6kHz is a risky area, especially for female vocals, and with a sharp voice it could cut your head off. Conversely, I liked it a lot when the going got tough. If you have to hear the vocal as loudly and clearly as possible, with maximum articulation, this mic could quite easily be the best you’ve tried. I did one small-PA-in-a-largeroom show, and here – surprise surprise – the singer with the PR35 was the only one I could hear clearly; the normal vocal mics were muddy and indistinct by comparison.

It’s a big sound too. The frequency response is flat across the midrange, with a slight rise above 2kHz and a peak between 5 and 6kHz – higher than the usual 2 to 4kHz presence peak found in many vocal mics. The idea here is that the relatively nasal, sometimes harsh bark of regular vocal mics is replaced by a shinier and more pleasing presence. There’s also a surprising amount of detail all the way up to 10kHz and beyond, and this high-frequency fidelity is partly what gives the PR35 its condenser-like quality. Despite its presence peak being in a higher frequency range sibilance is not unduly exaggerated. At the other end of the scale the low-frequency response is rich and deep with the –3dB point quoted at 40Hz. For close vocals, and with the HPF disengaged, the low-end loads up slightly but when switched to the –3dB position the thickness all but disappears. In the –6dB position the HPF delivers an accurate and uncoloured low-end. Less appealing is the slightly higher than normal handling noise and prominent plosives that are not so effectively removed by the HPF.

More than any other vocal mic I can recall using, the PR35 suited some voices better than others. An example was a show with three pop/rock bands where I used the PR35 on each of the lead singers. The first band’s singer had a deep and husky voice, and sounded great with the desk channel run ‘flat’ – it would have been muddy without the Heil mic and I’m certain I would have had lots of low-end wound out on the channel. The second band was younger and noisier, and during this gig the singer/guitarist couldn’t keep still while he was playing. As he moved across and away from the mic the level would rise and fall noticeably and unpleasantly. When he was in front and up and close to the mic it sounded great, but as soon as he moved away it would drop in level precariously and suddenly. We’d talked about it at soundcheck but it was the same throughout the show – the singer’s problem you might argue – and here a mic with a wider pickup pattern would have been a better fit. The male vocalist in the third band had a high voice, and while the PR35 worked reasonably well, I found I was pulling 5kHz out of his channel to reduce hardness.

“ ”

this mic will run louder in the foldback than any other vocal mic I’ve yet come across

HEILIGHTING THE DIFFERENCE In use, the PR35 is certainly different to other mics. Performers who tried the mic at gigs while I was testing it usually noticed the difference straight away. I used it on vocals for a lot of different acts and found it evoked a range of responses. Most were fine with it once they became used to it, but twice I had singers try it and within seconds say, no, they didn’t like it – “not warm enough” – and didn’t want to use it. Others tried it in the foldback, heard the level and clarity and said, “Yes please.” From my FOH perspective I had to get used to it as well but the noisier the act the more I appreciated the way the mic put a voice in its own space, separate to the rest of the band and with no apparent limit to how loud it would go. I found rich, weak, or dull, male vocals seemed to benefit most, with improved articulation and easy level. The lack of proximity effect left some vocalists sounding a little thin however, which made me realise just how much some singers rely on a microphone’s proximity effect for fullness in their tone. I didn’t like it as much on vocals for quiet, delicate acts. Here the mids tended to push too far forward. So too the presence

HEIL-HATS ETC When I wasn’t using it as a vocal mic I tried the Heil on various instruments with good results. It’s a natural on drums with its tight pattern, good snap of the stick on skins and deep lows. Unusually, it also works well on cymbals, and is great at isolating what you want to hear without the washy sound of the overheads amplifying the whole stage sound. Stringed instruments were good too; the restrained proximity effect, excellent isolation and detailed highs combining well to define and lift the instruments in the mix. In the studio I gave it a try as a vocal mic for recording. I used it for guide vocals but, as I suspected, it wasn’t a full enough sound for me to want to try it for the lead part. It did, however, make a cracking good snare mic and if I’d had lots of them and wanted to close-mic the drums, I could have used them on all the toms, the kick drum, and the overheads. NO FEAR OF REJECTION I liked this mic a lot and came to look at it as both a problem solver and a viable alternative to commonly used dynamic vocal mics. It excelled in situations where articulation is important and has the potential to improve the sound of most rock bands by improving the singer’s diction and reducing spill into the vocal mic. It would also make an excellent broadcasting mic – even callers at race meetings and users of public address systems would be better understood if they used this mic. Finally, being a dynamic mic, it also gives performers with dodgy leads (where phantom power would prove problematic), or powered speakers without phantom power, the opportunity to use a mic with similar detail to a condenser. The PR35 ships in a padded carry case with a clip and windsock and retails for a very reasonable $379.

NEED TO KNOW Price $379 Contact National Audio Systems (03) 9761 5577 info@nationalaudio.com.au www.nationalaudio.com.au Pros Condenser sound quality. No 48V phantom required. Extreme rejection from sides and rear. Excellent articulation. Controlled proximity effect. Built-in HPF. Good price. Cons Hard sounding on some voices. Some handling noise. Pops easily. Summary The 1 1/2-inch diaphragm supercardioid Heil PR35 dynamic is a surprise packet in many respects. It’s articulate and clear, and offers better feedback rejection than virtually any other microphone on the market. If you’re struggling to cut through because the band’s too loud or you’re not loud enough, the Heil Sound PR 35 is well worth checking out.

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KAWAI MP10 STAGE PIANO It may not have the gravitas of a grand piano, but the MP10 certainly plays like one. Text: Greg Walker

NEED TO KNOW Price MP10: $4595 MP6: $2995 Contact Kawai Australia (02) 9882 2000 mark@kawaioz.com.au www.kawai.net.au Pros Great action and weight in the full-length 88-note keyboard. High fidelity grand and electric piano sounds. Lots of handy extras like speaker simulators, reverbs and EQ. Well laid out with lots of hands-on control over sounds. Cons Heavy for a ‘stage’ instrument. Limited amount of piano varieties and alternative sounds. Sounds may be a bit too pristine for those working outside the traditional, classical and jazz genres. Summary Kawai’s MP10 offers full-tilt grand piano emulations in a heavy-duty package. It delivers a large degree of expressive control over a limited but quality set of sounds with a lot of subtle tweaks available under the bonnet.

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Kawai’s new stage piano is all about realistic performance and nuanced sounds – just don’t try throwing one under your arm on your way out the door to rehearsal! Kawai has been in the piano business for over 80 years now and is probably best known for its acoustic piano offerings. As with many of its competitors, Kawai’s electronic pianos can be broadly divided into two camps: the portable type that sacrifice a certain amount of playability for flexibility and space saving, and the full-scale piano emulations that strive to make the playing experience as realistic as possible. The MP10 falls like the proverbial ton of bricks into this second category. A GRAND ADVENTURE The MP10’s impressive 88-note keyboard does indeed play beautifully, the result of its ‘RM3 Grand’ wooden-key action. This is essentially a comprehensive emulation of a grand piano’s action, featuring contrasting hammer weights, bass key counter-balancing and ‘see-saw’ pivot points for each individual note. There’s even a special ‘let-off ’ feature (if you please) that recreates the feel of the subtle click felt when playing the keys very gently – pretty darn impressive. It really did allow me to play with more sensitivity than any electronic piano emulation I’ve previously come across. The only possible downside was the rather synthetic feel of the ‘Ivory Touch’ key surfaces – after going to all the trouble of recreating the feel of a grand piano’s action it seems a shame to surface the keys with something so plainly fake. But to put this concern into context, other people who played the instrument thought I was nuts when I pointed this out, and as the manual points out, this textured matte substance absorbs moisture and prevents fingers slipping, which might be an advantage during sweaty piano work under bright lights.

All this playing action realism of course comes at a cost in portability. The MP10 weighs in at a somewhat beastly 31.8kg and I’d imagine that by the time it’s appropriately road cased it would be bulky enough to cause the drummer to smirk during those long lug-ins. If that all sounds like too much weight to carry around, Kawai also offers a slightly stripped down model of the keyboard, the MP6. The MP6 is a somewhat lighter and less bulky affair than the MP10, but offers some of the same sounds (and same number of keys) as its big brother. The MP6 also has a smaller control panel and different hammer action but still plays very well. One noticeable difference in the MP6 is the addition of organ sounds to the keyboard’s palette, which makes it a bit more of an all-rounder. The MP6 offers most of the same MIDI, effects and USB features as the MP10 but in a shallower and lighter frame. ULTRA SOUND Allied to the realistic touch of the MP10 is the digital sound engine that makes all the noise. While the variety of sounds are comparatively limited, what is presented here is very good quality. The highlights are the quite subtle variations of grand and concert pianos, all sampled note by note from top of the line Kawai acoustic piano models and available for tweaking in the main control section. There are also some useful electric piano sounds in the second control section. Use of Kawai’s proprietary Ultra Progressive Harmonic Imaging technology allows for very effective dynamic performance and again the strength here is in expressive playability. Once you’ve settled on a sound you like there’s a tremendous amount of fine-tuning that can be done via onboard EQ, reverb, amplifier and speaker emulation effects. In fact, the MP10 is quite a ‘deep’ instrument when it comes to these features. A sub-section offers strings, pads and other sounds as well as ADSR parameters and a resonant filter. Extensive MIDI facilities, external input, memory


The smaller MP6... well, not this much smaller! The MP6 still has a full complement of keys (88), but this model is both lighter and less bulky than the MP10. The MP6 also has a smaller control panel, different hammer action and extra organ sounds. More of an ‘all-rounder’ than the MP10 but also less of a two-man lift.

Small, Versatile & Under $1000 52mm

Kawai deserves credit for delivering superior playability and some very tweakable sounds in a monster package

116mm

storage and USB connectivity are also provided and the neatly arranged groups of button and slider controls on the MP10 provide simple and quick navigation of all the main parameters without the deck feeling too crowded or confusing. REALISM VERSUS REALITY It’s been interesting having the MP10 in my studio at around the same time as a rather beaten up old upright arrived. Curiously, while I thought ‘old Gladys’ would only get a guernsey on the odd sepia-tinted track, the upright has proved to be a hit on numerous projects, wonky action, dubious tuning and all. It’s got me wishing that these highend sample-based pianos would include some slightly more character-based upright sounds as well. It’s amazing how useful they can be, especially when punching through a busy mix, where no matter how ‘perfect’ the sampling techniques may be, the pure tonality of immaculate tuning can lead to a distinctly artificial sound. This is no criticism of Kawai in particular as all the major brands are the same in this regard. These instruments are mainly aimed at the soloist or classical accompanist who probably has no need for these kinds of ‘sub-standard’ sounds but I think it would open up the range of uses for an instrument like the MP10 no end. I would also have liked to see some form of onboard speaker, so the pianist can noodle around while the monitor guy finishes his kebab and gets his levels sorted at soundcheck. KNEE BENDER Kawai deserves credit for delivering superior playability and some very tweakable sounds in a monster package that will suit those looking for a high-end performance-based electronic piano down to the ground. Just remember to bend from the knees when lifting!

TLM 102 The newly developed TLM 102 features include:

Cardioid directional pattern Newly developed large diaphragm capsule Maximum S.P.L. 144 dB Exceptionally fast transient response “ ...it was a testament to the TLM 102 that it remained my main microphone choice for days on end, on everything from strings to dulcimers to junk metal” Greg Walker: Audio Technology: Issue 76 August 2010 Audition one today!

For more information contact Syntec International; Australia: Free Call: 1800 648 628 New Zealand: Free Call: 0800 100 755 www.neumann.com

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REGULARS

THE THINGS YOUR CLIENTS REALLY WANT

(But Are Never Going To Tell You – Part IV) Text: Rick O’Neil

I was talking to a mate of mine who lives in Ireland the other night, who I’ve been making records with off and on for over 20 years. We started back in the ’80s working on a demo together. Then we recorded ‘the minor hit single’ which lead to ‘the major record deal’ and the quarter-million dollar album that was played on the radio but failed to sell enough units to give him the option of a second. From there he went through the whole record company catastrophe – trying to get back in the label’s good books, finally getting dropped, forming another band, getting signed again by somebody else, recording a few more EPs and another album that flopped again, and then getting dropped again. Some things just don’t happen as planned no matter how hard you try. I’ve worked with this guy from lowly assistant, through the ranks as engineer, then producer… he was even my housemate for a while. Through the fog of time, and even though we now live on opposite sides of the world, I still regard him as a good friend. So imagine my surprise when the other night I hear about his new band. They’re “getting ready to cut an EP in Dublin,” you see, and despite having given him what I thought was the finest schooling in how to make records – be they commercially successful or not – this is what he had to say about it… words from a veteran musician. “Ya see Rick, here in Ireland the economy has totally tanked. So what we’re going to do is record in this big studio where they have an old Neve, and where they usually charge 1200 Euro a day. But because the economy is so bad we’re getting it for 450 per day on a lockout deal for cash. We’re going in on Friday night and finishing up on Sunday night… or more likely daybreak on Monday – we’re going to do seven songs… waddaya tink?” “Umm, just drum and bass beds you mean?” I enquire with bemusement, knowing all too well what the response down the phone line is likely to be. “Oh no, dat’s recording and mixing de whole ting... but you see, we’re going to do heaps of pre-production, just like in the old days – just like you taught me to do.” “Then why are you doing seven songs?” “Well, it’s an EP and that’s what we need. We have a show AT 94

lined up to launch it in a month with this guy... big star over here… everybody’s going to be there.” And so the whole ‘who would want to be the poor studio owner that lets this guy in the door’ saga rolls on. Don’t get me wrong, I love this guy. That said, I also know this guy, and he cannot record seven songs in a week let alone a weekend. He will cry poor to the studio owner, cry about his deadlines to the engineer, and in the wash-up miss the deadline of the EP launch because the record won’t be finished. He will end up spending another 3000 Euro on the EP and complain forever about the beds not being right because he was ‘so rushed’. He will feel ripped off by the ‘cheapskate’ studio owner who gave him ‘a kid’ to record his mission-critical, career changing lockout session – ‘they robbed me blind’ he’ll say… ‘bastards!’ There’s nothing new under the sun it seems. I was that very same studio kid in 1986! It’s an age-old tale that gets played week in, week out. People jam themselves into the bigger studios on the weekends and try to do too much with too little money, and nowhere near the right amount of time. Ironically, these same people will hardly ever consider using a cheaper studio or a better engineer and the luxury of more time. Why? I dunno. It seems they would rather buy their own home studio setup and delay their career by two years while they learn how to use it, than ‘lower’ their collective egos to the middle ground and get the EP done at a studio they can afford. It’s a pity really. Some of the ‘middle ground’ guys I know do things with budgets and timeframes I could never agree to, and on the whole they do it better than I ever could. Bottom line: they’re generally doing better records with less money, but for some reason there’s a bunch of would-be clients out there who think these guys are beneath them... hmm. THE POINT BEING… What I wanted to talk about this issue relates directly to this problem – and pardon me if some loyal AT readers feel like they’ve read this all before. I thought it might be fun to run through a list of ‘What your clients really want – but are never going to tell you.’ While we’re doing that, maybe you can tick off the ‘been


â&#x20AC;&#x153; â&#x20AC;?

If any of us won Lotto Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sure on Monday we would all be back at work doing the job for free. Find me another job on the planet like that!

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there, done thatsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; from your own list as they appear. If I miss a few â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and I surely will â&#x20AC;&#x201C; drop me a line at AT; maybe Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll run the article again (with a few words changed) in another two years! I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t mind covering old ground; it gives me a chance to get better at things. 1: IMPORTANCE OF BEING IMPORTANT First and foremost, your clients want to feel like the most important thing in the world just got underway, and they want you to feel that way too. Be careful here. The slightest slip up, like answering your phone to your girl who wants you to come home sometime in the next month for her birthday, which you missed last night (after a week of 4am finishes and 10am starts) is a sure sign that youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not really dedicated to the project! That little slip of taking her phone call while the bass player was waiting to redo his part for the twelfth time will be the excuse for the band to dump you without a second thought, as they move up the ladder (as they see it) to a â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;better, more dedicatedâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; engineer. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a solution to this â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;dedicationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; problem. You must understand that, for the client, the record youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re making is the most important thing in their world and you must treat them like that at all times. But â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a big suburban-sized â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;butâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x201C; you must limit the time you spend with that client to precisely one hour less than it takes you to lose interest in their plan for worldwide domination. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a much smarter, more sustainable career move to give a band six to eight of your best hours than repeated days of exhausted 16-hour â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;lockoutsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. Hook lines that work on clients â&#x20AC;&#x201C; but only if you mean them â&#x20AC;&#x201C; are usually statements like: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Listen, I really like your band, and I want to make a great record with you guys, but Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been doing this for long enough to know that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m only at my best for a certain amount of hours in the day. If you want

to hire me you should really only hire me to be at my best, so hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the schedule Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d like to work toâ&#x20AC;Śâ&#x20AC;? Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s that simple! And, as I said, the client wants to feel like what theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re doing is as important to you as it is to them. In my experience clients love to do shorter, more productive sessions â&#x20AC;&#x201C;your new clients will at least. Your old clients will probably drop you like a hot potato when they find out youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re suddenly only prepared to do eight-hour days when you used to do 20. It simply wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;dedicatedâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; enough. 2: ATTRITION IS OKAY Okay, this next one is an oldie but a goody: what your clients are never going to tell you is that in three to five years, for the most part, you are never going to see them again! This business runs in cycles. What you really need to understand is that the band you dedicated all that time to when your partner was leaving you for her workmate â&#x20AC;&#x201C; he understood her needs and you couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t leave the studio because the band really needed you â&#x20AC;&#x201C; well, those guys are going to grow up and drop out of the business in five years time. Check your diary from five years ago or five years hence â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 80 percent of those names will have changed. Whatever you do, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t develop a chip on your shoulder or fall into the trap of thinking your clients control your destiny, they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. Nor do they owe you anything laterâ&#x20AC;Ś the day you walk into a bank for a housing loan and discover the manager is the bass player from that band you worked with 10 years ago, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be surprised when he knocks you back for a loan because â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;its not up to himâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. Take comfort and learn from those words. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s your life. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s up to you how you choose to prioritise things. Learn to balance your job and your life, thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the short lesson here. Start by realising that you actually do have a job. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not your hobby any

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AT 95


more (if you’re actually getting paid to run a studio). Learn that your clients will come in cycles and make sure you’re always on the lookout for new work – the earlier they are in their evolution cycle the better.

treat all your clients exactly the same whether they’re Madonna or the Maybe Nots

As my Irish mate once sang while he was supporting Thin Lizzy across America in his first band: “From the top you drop, from the bottom you rise.” Which brings us to: 3: TREATED THE SAME Your client doesn’t actually expect you to treat every other client the same way. Mostly they assume you’re doing the ‘other’ work for money… while (of course) you’re doing their work for ‘love’. The ‘it-looks-like-I-just-married-the-band-forthe-duration’ camp is a dangerous place to find yourself in. When the record is over it’s inevitable somebody is going to get confused when they discover you talking to the other band at the pub, not them. Ahh the stony silence of the ‘band divorce’… I know it all too well. I have no answer to this conundrum. The real lesson here is to learn to treat all your clients exactly the same whether they’re Madonna or the Maybe Nots (yeah okay, so I stole that line from my own website. I’ll admit it). The thing is, though I’ve worked with Madonna and a bunch of other stars, it’s much easier to deal with them if you teach yourself that their money is the same as everybody else’s. If you can remember that you’re miles in front. It also makes you feel less nervous and on edge, and remember, nobody wants to hire somebody that looks and acts out of character. Your application to the task at hand and your studio manner needs to be the same for each and every client. It’s the only way to stay in business long term. And trust me, it’s not easy to maintain the ‘everybody gets treated the same’ game. Learn the discipline – it’s well worth the effort. Your long-term clients will notice it and respect you for it, respect brings more work and around we go again. 4: DEADLINE DISCONNECT Your clients really think they know how long it takes to make a record! You think you do as well but, hmm… the numbers don’t correlate do they? Here is what’s going to happen more often than you’d like. You’re going to suggest they take more time – to do the job properly – they’re going to pull out the evergreen excuses of ‘a lack of money’ and ‘a deadline for the launch that’s locked in’. And, as always, you’re going to take the bait, even though you already know what’s going to transpire. Then before you know it they miss the deadline for some other reason, at which point you’ll then proceed to do a whole bunch of work for free to ‘help them out’ and then one day they’ll suddenly stop calling. Three weeks later you’re going to find out they’re

AT 96

paying somebody else twice what you were earning to finish the job. It’s going to happen, it may have already happened, or maybe it’s happening to you right now. Regardless, it’s okay: consider it an occupational hazard. Don’t forget the point I made earlier: anything you do willingly in this business that ends up sucking as a life choice is not your clients’ fault, it’s your own. Forewarned is forearmed. 5: BEST LAID MUSICAL PLANS At some point your clients are going to talk about the kind of record they want to make, and you’re going to find common ground and bond with them as you bring their ‘musical plans’ to fruition. Then, at the last minute, usually in the middle of a mixing or mastering session, your client is going to suddenly let the elephant loose in the room; you’re going to find out their newest plan – for the record “to sound great next to those old Stones or Zeppelin records… and the new Rihanna single as well” – AutoTune hell and all. “Huh, what do you mean? Rihanna; where did that come from?” “My new manager thought the album should sound more ‘current’...” Moral of the story here is that it’s your job to find out what’s going on; and don’t be surprised that it’s almost never what was discussed earlier when you ‘really got to know the band’. Indeed, I heard Bob Rock on TV the other night say: “it never ends up being the record they said they wanted to make in the first meeting – never!” 6: KUDOS WILL COME Your clients want to tell their friends that they’re doing their record with the best guy in the business, even if that’s not you. So don’t be miffed when, in the interview you subsequently read in Rolling Stone, they only talk about that one song out of 10 that got sent off to some magic mixerman in The States. He will probably get all the lines of print for his eight hours of unattended work and you’ll get none for your two-month saga. It’s a weird world, but clients always want to put what they think is their best foot forward, no matter how bizarre or far from the truth that step actually takes them. Again, for this problem I have no solution, except to say that you must step up to the challenge, give your clients the best you have – it will be your turn for that kudos soon enough. 7: MONEY FIRST PLEASE Always remember, your clients don’t know that you can’t pay your rent with kudos. Make sure you ask for money as well. 8: TIME TO DEFER WITH DIGNITY On occasion one of your clients is not going to trust your judgment. That’s okay too. Learn how to see it coming, learn how to give a quick and honest A/B switch-style response to whatever decision is being debated. Then, if they don’t see it your way, let them have their own way with grace


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and dignity. No matter what the consequences are it’s really important to remember the timehonoured cliché: that the artist is the person with his or her name on the front cover in really big writing, and yours is on the back in tiny little writing… if you’re lucky. In some cases – particularly with 84% of records now being downloads – the artist’s name is on the web page – and yours is nowhere.

just not worth losing them over it. But when you identify that client as a true 10-percenter, bend the rules slightly – particularly No. 4 (above). Have them around for dinner… socialise with them, introduce them to your family. In the fullness of time one or two of these clients will probably be listed amongst your best friends and well entrenched in your own life story… enjoy that ride.

The difference here is, we get paid for the music the artist made on the day – that is, they pay us to make it. It’s probably worth remembering that the next time somebody forgets to put your name on something. That ‘something’ is their record no matter how much you may have come to feel that it was ‘our’ record. But of course, they’re never going to tell you it’s not ‘our’ record are they?

I only ever seem to remember the truly great or the truly bad records I have made, but I’ve led a really interesting life so far and I owe that mainly to the pool of artists I’ve worked with. Sometimes it’s not the actual clients themselves but the people they bring into your life that’s the reward.

9: LOOKING AFTER THE 10 PERCENTERS If you’re really lucky you’re going to meet the ‘10% clients’ sooner rather than later – the ones that will bring you 90 percent of all your work for the next few years. While you’re treating them just like everybody else it’s important to recognise their real worth to you. It’s not just money they bring in. With the amount of time you invest in them it’s the life experience you’re working for – so don’t gouge them for cash just because they’re loaded. It’s

So I guess the point here is: it’s not all about the music and the payment for services rendered. A great client can reward you in so many other ways. And just remember, nobody hires a studio guy with a chip on his shoulder twice, or rehires a guy that took more money than he was due. 10: EXPECTING A FREE LUNCH Your clients do not expect a free lunch. But trust me on this; shout them one and they will remember it forever. Humans are simple creatures… a good free meal does wonders in the grand scheme of things, and this is a great way to be on people’s ‘he’s first on our people to call’

list. Pay for, or better still, provide lunch without letting anybody know, then stand back and watch. It’s not a trick, just good business. 11: BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE If you’re doing your job right chances are you’re going to make the client sound better than they really are... and if you’re really good, they will never know… until they jump ship. Don’t despair, it takes most artists a few years to see what’s what before they’re ready to pick up the phone again and call you. I have a bunch of clients I’ve been making records with throughout their long careers, and sometimes they go missing for a while, but when they return I find there’s always a stronger bond between us and a greater understanding of the bigger picture. We’re making music professionally for money, but truth be told we’re all just music fans. If any of us won Lotto I’m sure on Monday we would all be back at work doing the job for free. Find me another job on the planet like that! Rick O’Neil runs Turtlerock… which has a forum. The forum just made its own members’ T-shirts. What’s next!

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AudioTechnology Issue 80  

AudioTechnology Issue 80