AudioTechnology Issue 84

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State of the Art



SCRUMMING IT AT Goes behind the scenes of the Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony

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WELCOME TO PARADISE Inside Lenny Kravitz’s Bahamas studio – ‘retro’ is an understatement! ISSUE 84 AU $7.95(inc gst) NZ $10.95 (inc gst) File Under ‘Music’


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Editor Andy Stewart Publisher Philip Spencer

ProTools TeDiuM systems: tomorrow’s doggy doo?

Editorial Director Christopher Holder

Text: Andy Stewart

Online Editor Brad Watts Art Direction & Design Leigh Ericksen Additional Design Dominic Carey

There are two things in my life that suddenly need replacing – my ProTools HD system and my driver’s seat. I’ll admit, there would appear to be no connection whatsoever between the two on the face of it, but let me tell you they’re both shit! Excuse my crass language here, but let me explain why I’m sounding a little rough around the edges. The old HD rig and the driver’s seat are on the nose and I need them out of my life immediately. The decision has been made and the reasoning is clear; it’s now just a case of working out what to replace them with. Let me backtrack a little here and explain a few things. The other day I took my dog down the beach for his morning run and on my way there I stopped at a beachside café for a cup of tea with a couple of friends. In the time it took me to have a quick chat and an Irish Breakfast, Rupee, who was locked in the car with a window down, had felt the seemingly uncontrollable urge to go to the toilet – No. 2s no less. My morning was about to change. As I wandered back to the ute whistling Flame Trees there was Rupee patiently sitting in the passenger seat. This was odd only because normally no sooner am I out of the car than he assumes the position of driver, and imagines tootling around all by himself – to the beach, to the dog food shop, back to the beach etc. This time I didn’t have to evict him from my side at all. I was curious. When I opened the driver’s-side door the reason became clear – a giant smelly, sloppy mess that covered nearly the entire seat base and half the backrest. The sight and smell of it was enough to turn my stomach, and I was grateful I hadn’t had bacon and eggs for breakfast. I won’t go into any more detail than that, other than to say that the ute has cloth seats and no amount of scrubbing or steam cleaning has been able to cure the driver’s seat of its newly acquired odour. It’s simply got to go. So too my ProTools rig. Based on an Apple G5 loaded to the gills with PCI cards, my HD3 rig is similarly on the nose. Like the seat, I’ve been trying desperately to keep it in service, but no amount of dodging and weaving around the constant upgrade salvos fired at me from every quarter will save it from the Jawa scrap merchants. Maybe I’ll turn it into the studio’s iTunes player, who knows. What I really want to do is set to it with an axe, so painfully slow

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and frustrating has it been of late. I call it my ‘ProTools Tedium’ system. The seat and the ’Tools rig share something else in common: they both need replacing like for like. Both need to slot into pre-existing structures without turning their surroundings upside down in the process. I can’t really imagine drilling new holes in the floorpan of the ute, for instance, to accommodate fancy seats from some other vehicle. Nor am I prepared to abandon ProTools right now for another DAW that’s unfamiliar to me. Problem is, the HD PCI cards won’t fit into a newer machine, and even if they did, the new ProTools software doesn’t support PCI now anyway. Let’s face it, my G5 is a dead duck, as is PCI generally. So the seat and G5 are heading for eBay: “For sale, one Mazda Bravo driver’s seat – a bit smelly but otherwise tip-top…” I’m trapped inside my own systems it seems. I can’t replace the ute with a whole new vehicle just because it smells bad, but I have to upgrade the seat at the very least. Actually, I’m now also contemplating leather seats – so that would probably mean two seats, not one – only because Rupee is so hairy that he also covers them in swathes of blond hair that sticks to the fabric, and of course, if he repeats his new trick... it’s just like computer technology: the moment you contemplate upgrading one element, shit goes down. The ’Tools rig is no different. I’ve tried to cheat the system by mixing and matching old and new software and hardware but technology is moving too fast, and obsolescence is like death and taxes. I have to face up to it and move on. Of course, my rig is under exponentially more pressure now, with the announcement of new Avid ProTools 10 technology that I suspect will quickly turn TeDiuM systems into the historic equivalent of a Mix Plus rig – remember them? But bring it on I say. I work in audio for a living and the one thing I can’t abide – even more than being rounded up like a member of the herd and forced down the upgrade race – is anything that gets in the way of me doing my job to the best of my capacity. I want to blame Avid for not supporting PCI any more, I really do. As it is, I blame another company starting with ‘A’ – Apple – for not keeping at least a couple of these slots in their newer machines. COVER CREDITS: Photography: James Bryans Body painting: Emma Hack Scenic art: Howard Clark Original artwork: Frank De Backer.

Advertising Philip Spencer Accounts Manager JenTemm Circulation Manager Miriam Mulcahy 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: W:

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. 18/10/2011.

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Wally de Backer is a home-grown self-made success story, the likes of which we’ve not seen in years. We catch up with him at the Forum in Melbourne to chat about his live tour, and a whole lot more besides. T-BONE CAPTURES MR. RETRO

Lenny Kravitz seems to have more vintage gear than most, and an attitude to go with it, but in the end it’s the sound that matters. And besides, not all the gear is retro. Paul Tingen gets the low-down from two of the album’s main protagonists. SCRUMMING IT

The Opening Ceremony at Auckland’s Eden Park was a 20 minute high-octane spectacular. We learn from the event’s audio designer, Scott Willsallen, how the sound played its part.









Readers Letters. NEWS

News and new product information. HOME GROWN

Channel Seven’s new series, Wild Boys, doesn’t just feature crazy blokes on screen, there’s also at least two involved in the music and post-production. WHAT’S ON

Around the studio traps, featuring The Docking Station and Tommirock studios. PC & MAC AUDIO

Martin Walker provides us with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Glitches, while Brad marks the passing of Steve Jobs. MEATLOAF: LIKE A BAT OUTTA TUNE

Whichever way you slice it, Meatloaf’s recent performance was flat as a pancake. Chris Holder accepts the poison challace.






Stav hits a home run in the living room with an orchestral hit. STEREO MIXING: THE ART, THE SCIENCE, THE FICTION PART V: PANNING (Take 2)

In ‘Take 2’ of this two-part exploration of stereo panning, Andy Stewart offers different ways panning can be used to create interest, choreograph focus and how panning helps you achieve a vast empire. ON THE BENCH: 10 STUPID THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T DO!

Everyone’s keen to break into one music industry Top 10 or other, but this is one hit parade you’d best avoid. Electrocution anyone?




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YOUR WORD Readers’ Letters


problems I find when mixing is creating basic width and depth, and this is most likely because the majority of my samples are in mono! I produce instrumental hip-hop layered with jazz, funk, soul and vintage drum ‘Breaks’ (a la A Tribe Called Quest, Black Sheep, Jurassic 5, Public Enemy etc), of which all samples are recorded from vinyl. Typically, I will record in stereo then, during editing, convert the recording to either summed mono, or separate Left and Right files. This technique has become a habit especially when converting drum breaks to mono. I like the creative freedom that comes with mono samples in that you can create your own stereo sound with use of reverbs and short delays. I still have immense trouble trying to give every element its own space, and after a while it all just sounds like a big block of mono! Looking at your ‘Blue Mountains’ panning diagram (page 46) it seems that most elements are simply mirrored left/right. Is this something I should try to mimic as a guide when panning in mono? A technique I used to imitate was to pan a source then send its reverb in the opposite direction, much like early 60’s jazz/soul. Matthew Barton Andy Stewart responds: A ‘big block of mono’ doesn’t sound very good Matthew! It sounds like you’re on the right track with putting mono sources off-centre though. The key is to create scale, width and symmetry all at the same time – not easy sometimes. I find if you’re creating big-scale sounds using mono sources and reverbs it’s often best to create width with one sound panned left (or right) and a mono delay or predelayed reverb on the opposite side bearing little resemblance to the original sound’s tone. The trick is to try and ‘see’ the space you’re creating. Imagine the scene physically and then try and pan things where they would go in that landscape. One other tip to try – if you’re trying to create a sense of physical realism – is to understand that sounds back near the horizon should have progressively less and less top and bottom-end as they recede further into the background. In nature there are lots of sounds that get less and less hi-fi as they recede. Try putting a delay on a guitar, but distort it a bit, filter it to make it more midrange-y and make sure the delay is subtle rather than obvious – adjust to taste. Playing around with subtle delays and reverbs is a massively important part of mixing, and what creates ‘transparency’. It’s simply a trick of the ear, in the same way as shadows on the face of a masterful portrait are a trick of the eye (it’s just paint in the end, but it has to be the AT 12

right colour and shape to create the illusion). Be experimental and think laterally. –– BEATLES ARTICLE HAS LEGS RE: GEOFF EMERICK INTERVIEW [ISSUE 83]:

Dear Andy, I greatly enjoyed your article on Geoff Emerick. I’ve met Richard Lush and we’ve used him for some recording work before but never had a chance to really chat (even though he lives not far from me!). Geoff ’s insights were fascinating. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the Integrate event with them both. David McCarthy –– HI-FI, LOW EXPECTATIONS

I recently decided to buy an entertainment system, consisting of a receiver and a floor standing 5.1 speaker package, to make my listening activities more pleasurable. I researched and short listed products suitable for my needs and budget plus I located the closest stores carrying this stock. I brought my reference CDs, which I used to reference the systems’ sound against each other. My goal was to find the package I thought sounded the best at the lowest price. After a series of trips into some of the largest electrical goods stores in the country (who I won’t name and shame) a pattern emerged. The level of product knowledge and sales abilities was appalling! I don’t know where to start, as there were too many shocking experiences throughout this whole process so I will share the worst, which was in a company’s own show room! The sales person began to play my CD in the desired product and I instantly heard it sounded different – it sounded EQ’d and reverb was applied. I told him I was looking for a system primarily for music listening but also TV/ DVD. I asked him if I could hear the sound flat without any effects but he did not know how to change it (I was shocked but tolerant). I then asked if anyone else in the shop knew how to use or change the device and he said “no” (I was shocked again and losing tolerance fast). I unknowingly fiddled with it and eventually found it was on a ‘Hall’ preset, which made sense. I then toggled through the presets to hopefully find a ‘Flat’ preset but couldn’t find a setting free of effects. He then strangely asked me if I wanted the Jazz preset after I told him I wanted it flat, with no effects! (This time I was shocked and amazed). I then asked for the manual to which

he responded: “I don’t have one” (shocked and speechless). He then randomly said, “This unit is not for music”! (Shocked and looking for hidden cameras). I decided after that comment to give up, stay calm and asked him what product he thinks is for music. He guided me to a small portable MP3 player! (Shocked, no confidence and gone). I left knowing little more than when I went in (it has presets). • He didn’t ask me any questions to find out what I wanted and awkwardly stood there in silence. • He (and everyone else on staff apparently) knew nothing about the product and I was in their own showroom. • He didn’t try to answer my questions or help me in any way. • He made up lies about the product not being ‘for music’ even though it had the word ‘Music’ on a button and speakers attached! • He tried to cross-sell me something 10 times cheaper that did not suit my needs, which meant he lost a big sale, any repeat business and no recommendations. I later downloaded the manual, read how to make it flat, went to another retailer and tested it myself. In the end I found a great product at a great price but did not find any stores where I’m confident to go back to in the future for informed opinions or great service. The point of this letter is to expose an opportunity for audio students looking to capitalise on their skills outside the small window of studio work. All you need are basic sales skills and product knowledge and you could be making bonuses and building repeat business in no time. Lee McDonald –– MANUAL LABOUR RE: ON THE BENCH [ISSUE 83]: I enjoyed

reading Rob Squire’s article in the recent issue of AT. I have the opposite problem to Rob: what to do with those precious manuals, odd bits and pieces that no one seems to be interested in anymore. Rather than toss them in the bin, I still hang onto them until I find someone who is interested. For instance I have the full manuals and schematics for an Ampex MM-1100, Dolby ‘M’ series, a Sony RAR board (DABK-1630), VUs and phase meter, amongst other things. I’ve tried eBay and asking other people in the industry, but alas, no interest. So, do I chuck these and other beautiful artifices of wonderful engineering and technology in the bin? St Vinnies won’t accept them, or doesn’t

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know what to do with these items. I really don’t want to hear the sound of these things being crushed in the local garbage pickup! If anyone is interested, contact me. Meredith Brooks: ––


DODGY POT RE: ON THE BENCH [ISSUE 78]: I have a question regarding that passive

volume controller Rob Squire featured in On The Bench some time back. I have successfully put it together using mostly recycled components and a box from some otherwise useless MDF. The only outlay was for the three Altronics switches – a great wee project to keep the soldering hours up! Now, while I’m not a novice when it comes to electronics (I recently fixed my own Laney Linebacker amp and generally make all my own connections), the volume pot has me in a quandary. Prior to building the controller the settings on my MOTU/Samson setup were: MOTU (828 mkIII) –10 to –5dB (almost ‘full volume’) into the Samson (Servo170) where the volume dials were generally between 10 and 25% of their potential rotation (let’s say between 2 and 4 on a scale of 1 to 10). After installing my DIY model, the MOTU remains about the same, whereas the Samson now rides the dials at about 5 – 7. So the controller has markedly attenuated the signal. But the biggest problem, and the root cause I think, is the volume pot (which I scavenged from a defunct Panasonic turntable). I only get about quarter of its rotation for 0 to ‘full’ volume. Turning the dial further does nothing to the signal. This suggests to me that using 4k7 resistors into a 50k pot rather than the 10k spec’d in the article may be the issue. So, my question is A: am I right?, and B: what resistors should be in place? Nico, Sunriser Sounds Rob Squire responds: It seems that the root of your problem lies with the ‘type’ of pot you’ve used. There are three basic flavours of pot that describe the relationship between the rate of change of resistance as you rotate the shaft. Two are readily available – logarithmic and linear types – the third type is less readily available and is antilogarithmic. Logarithmic pots are found in volume controls and faders, linear pots in EQ boost or cut controls and antilogarithmic in gain controls and frequency sweep controls. The type required in the passive monitor controller is a logarithmic pot. While a linear pot will work, it will yield the behaviour exactly as you describe where all the of volume change happens within a small rotation of the control, leaving the rest of the range of rotation doing very little. While scavenging the parts for the passive monitor controller is a noble exercise Nico, it pays dividends to spend the dollars on a high quality pot as it’s the only way to achieve good left/right balance. Nevertheless a $5 10k log pot from your local electronics retailer will get this issue sorted out for you. ––


Racking a console is no easy task. Even for a tech like me, it’s a considerable challenge. After putting it off for some years, I finally took the plunge, and I am very happy with the outcome. My old Soundworkshop Series 30 is now three racks of eight channels, housed into some custom-made plywood boxes. And while the channels do not conform to 19-inch standards, the boxes take standard panels on the rear. At this point, each channel has provisions for ‘line in’, ‘line out’, and ‘mic in’. Tape return is handled by a custom 24-channel mixer built into a 3U case. So, briefly, some details on why I did it; whether the outcome satisfied the expectations; and whether it’s something other readers may consider for their own setup.


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Firstly, parts of the desk were at the end of their service life. Most of the main bus cables connecting the channel strips needed replacement, and I had already surmised it was going to be very labour intensive to make some AT 15

new ones. The bus cables were fitted with IDC (insulation displacement connectors) and the copper was well oxidised at the contact point for every contact (it has been 30 years!). I was also unable to source ribbon cable with the 3.96mm spacing, although this is only one barrier. Admittedly, I could have used standard ribbon cable, but the whole thing was getting enormous. So racking would eliminate this problem. My use of external mic preamps and strips was also stretching the limitations of the console. The Soundworkshop channels can have either ‘line in’ or ‘tape return’, and this meant that any channel used with an external pre (line in) had to have a second channel setup for the corresponding tape return – easy for small projects, but a real pain for a full house. The patchbay was not flexible on this point, and despite working on possible ways to allow a channel to be used as a ‘line in’ and ‘tape monitor’, this was not going to be simple or cheap. And on the topic of the patchbay, some of those sockets (many actually) were in need of replacement, and at $10 apiece it wasn’t going to be cheap. They had been given some TLC, and things improved, but the decreasing spring tension on the normalised contact leads to inevitable intermittent operation. Soon after I got the console (more than 10 years ago), it was clear that cigarette smoke had ruined all the contact points in the desk, and remedies would be required. Some of pots on the buses were not zeroing properly, and crosstalk was becoming a problem. Once again, should I replace all these parts or simply rationalise my setup? In my new setup, with the channels racked, I have a bespoke

summing mixer for the occasions when summing is required, such as for multi-miking a guitar amp. This summing mixer is superior to the one in the Soundworkshop and represents a great step forward. Apart from the desk needing a heap of work, another reason to rack the channels was the changing role of the console. The ‘control room’ features in most DAW these days are now good enough to use for things like headphone sends and the like. All the things I formerly used a desk for in the tracking mode can now be successfully achieved within the DAW and soundcard control panel. “What about mixing?” Almost every external project I have done in the last three years has been mixed elsewhere. Most folk take the tracks away and spend a gazillion hours on the mix process. It makes sense, especially when you consider that many people have every plug-in crack under the sun, and a good enough computer setup to get a decent outcome. Progress!? I still have the option to use analogue summing for my own projects if I want. But I cannot argue. In-the-box mixing is now the norm, and admittedly 64-bit summing is excellent. Recently, my eyes have started to show their age, and struggling to see a screen propped up behind the console was becoming unworkable. I could get the screen closer, but of course the console then became the poor cousin as the view of channel strips disappeared behind a 24-inch screen. The ergonomics of using a computer keyboard propped up on a console were also starting to take their toll. Spending long periods of time with

the keyboard and mouse in a ‘non ideal’ position had always been a limiting factor. I now have a desk with the keyboard and mouse at the right height with good support for my forearms, and this has made a great improvement to my mix position fatigue point. The lower back ain’t so good these days after 20-odd years of lugging PA gear around, so I need to make these concerns a priority. My mix space was too small to consider a separate computer table, so there was no deliberation on this point. It also became apparent that with so much of the production process now focused ‘in the box’, the console was, at times, something of a barrier. Having the channels racked over to the side has presented no problems at all, and the extra space is welcome. The extra space freed up is a nice (co) incidental benefit. As far as whether this may be a prospect for you and your setup, consider the pros and cons for yourself. If you have an ageing console that is used primarily as a ‘front end’ for your DAW, and many of the features of the the desk such as bussing and FX sends are being used less and less, and repairs and maintenance are starting to become a headache, it could fix the problems and offer new possibilities. If your console is not easy to move, racking the channels could also open the option to use the channel strips for location recording. Furthermore, if you have other people paying to use your gear, it may well be a more attractive option for them if the studio is focussed around a DAW rather than an unfamiliar, imposing and sometimes cantankerous old relic (not me, the console!). Andrew Emery

Join the AudioTechnology Editorial Team!

AudioTechnology Magazine is looking for a talented individual to join its editorial ranks. You’ll be based in AT’s Editorial & Graphic Design office in Ballarat, west of Melbourne, where you’ll be contributing to the magazine’s print and online editions. Before you tart up your CV, ask yourself these questions: • Are you young (under 25) and motivated? • Do you have strong English skills? • Got good web chops? (Ideally Wordpress experience.) • Are you a team player and willing to learn? • Love audio (and coffee)? • Excited by a future in publishing?

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If you can answer ‘yes’ to all the above then send in your CV along with a short review (under 800 words) of a piece of audio gear you’re familiar with to AT’s Editorial Director no later than close of play November 30th: Christopher Holder:

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RRP 3,199

SPARK DRUM MACHINE: Combining the power of analog synthesis, physical modelling and samples, through the intuitive workflow of a hardware drum machine, Spark is a highly creative beat production centre.


THE ONE is a DVD containing 8 of Arturia’s software products and their manuals. Install 8 of their best virtual products (Analog Factory 2.5, Minimoog V Moog Modular V ARP2600V CS-80V Prophet V Jupiter-8V Brass 2) and use them with no function limitations for 15 days. Once you’ve $ tried them all out you pick The ONE you want to activate. The V COLLECTION is the complete solution when high quality, authentic and modern synthesizer sounds are demanded. The luxury box contains the highly awarded Minimoog V, Moog Modular V, CS-80V, ARP2600 V, Prophet V, the Prophet VS and the Jupiter 8-V. On top of that Arturia have added the brand new Analog Laboratory to make the package even $ more complete.

RRP 299

RRP 599

Visit to find a stockist.

Distributed in Australia by CMI Music & Audio 03 9315 2244

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NEWS: GENERAL IN BRIEF AFTRS COURSE APPLICATIONS CLOSING SOON! You’ll need to act fast because applications for the specialist sound courses at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School are closing! These allow in-depth practical and theoretical training to prepare students for a career in the Screen Industries. ‘Sound Studio Practices’ is a part-time course that investigates the techniques and technologies within sound studio facilities relevant to sound production roles for the screen industries. ‘Screen Sound Recording focuses’ on the specialist skills, knowledge and practical experience required to capture the sounds on location and in the studio that form the backbone of the soundtrack for drama, documentary, animation and other screen productions.

Roland RCS for Mac & PC

I HEART NUCLEUS Earlier this year we had the pleasure of bequeathing an SSL Nucleus Control system to one very lucky AudioTechnology subscriber. Carl Dedic was the fortunate studio dweller to take possession of the controller, and wasted no time installing the unit as the nerve-centre of his home based ‘Lost Road Recording’ studio digs. Judging by the image he’s sent in, we’d say he looks pretty happy with the prize. And why wouldn’t he be – hell, we were subscribing ourselves! Congratulations Carl, from all of us at AudioTechnology. You can check out what Carl’s been doing with the unit at his MySpace site –


‘Sound Post Production’ provides theoretical, operational and evaluative skills necessary to design and create compelling soundscapes that are integral to screen productions including drama, documentary, film, television, animation and more.

$POA |

Smart AV has announced with excitement the release of Tango 2, the next generation of its innovative audio workstation controller. While the latest changes to the Tango are functional as well as cosmetic, the physical size and footprint of the system will remain the same, retaining the Tango’s stylish design and unique efficiency. Features include long-throw faders, silent pushbuttons, OLED displays on all programmable buttons, the ability to switch the input of the LCD screen to the DAW display, six programmable GPI ports, a neat sliding keyboard tray that retracts into the body of the controller, and fully customisable graphics that utilise programmable colour grading control. Looks to be the bomb!

Visit for more information.

KORG WAVEDRUM MINI Korg’s Wavedrum Mini provides a playable pad, speaker, sounds, effects, patterns and a loop recorder, as well as a Sensor Clip to transform any object into a second sound source. The Wavedrum Mini offers 100 ready-to-play sounds, from acoustic-emulating drum and percussion to cutting-edge sounds possible only on a synthesiser. Additional sounds can be accessed simultaneously by attaching the Sensor Clip to a table top, cup, a user’s foot or any object, transforming the object into a percussion instrument. Effects are included, and the device can be run on batteries (as well as AC) for added busking flexibility. Price: $399. Musiclink: (03) 9765 6565 or

JANDS@HOME NEAR YOU The Jands@home program places management and product engineers for a week in cities around Australia for meetings with customers and end users alike. The aim is to give the local industry access to Jands business and product managers as well as an up to date overview of the company’s range of audio, lighting and staging solutions. The second round of Jands@home for 2011 is coming to Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth throughout October and November. Head along to the URL below for dates and details: Jands@Home: events/jands_at_home

Smart AV (02) 9648 6744 or


Earthworks Microphones’ hand-built SR20 cardioid condenser microphone has been updated with a metal mesh windscreen more traditionally associated with vocal microphones. Quite rightly too – singers would poke their eye out with the narrow tip version. The SR20 can now be used in a wide variety of miking scenario live or in the studio, including main vocals on stage. The windscreen can be removed to reveal the small diaphragm tip of this well-known mic by unscrewing the cover grille from the body. The new grille presumably acts as more that a cosmetic appendage: minimising plosives and protecting the capsule from the rigours of handheld performance. All Earthworks microphones come with comes with a 15year warranty. Audio Chocolate (03) 9813 5877 or

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The groovy new VoiceLive Rack is based on the renowned effects engine that also powers TCHelicon units like VoiceLive Touch and VoiceLive 2, which basically means that all imaginable types of effects for vocals are covered: µMod (detune, chorus, flange), Echo & Delay, Reverb, Harmony, HardTune & Correction, Doubling, Transducer (distortion & megaphone), Rhythmic (stutter, tremolo, etc.) and Tone (Adaptive EQ, compression, de-esser, etc.). Setting up a smooth ‘produced’ sounding vocal on stage is now a simple matter of recalling a setting, including mic channel gain and phantom settings. The wide palette of effects on offer provide tons of creative possibilities for adventurous singers everywhere. VoiceLive Rack also comes with a TC-Helicon MP-75 microphone that allows the singer to control the effects of VoiceLive Rack directly from the microphone. In a live setting this offers the obvious advantage of freedom to explore every corner of the stage while controlling effects, and in the studio, both the engineer and the performer can access the effects – a never-before-seen flexibility that makes spontaneous creativity while tracking and mixing an real option. VoiceLive Rack can also be controlled via a footswitch. VoiceLive Rack comes with an impressive 238 presets, with memory for an additional 400. Any more than that and you might spend half the set testing out the options.

Helping musicians for 20 years

Amber Technology 1800 251 367 or


Thermionic Culture ‘Mastering Plus’ $6699 |

Thermionic Culture has released a new version of its Mastering valve compressor, the ‘Mastering Plus’. The classic hand built point-to-point wired soft-knee compressor offers compression ratios from 1.2:1 to 5:1 at 15dB of compression and uses Mullard and Siemens valves and custom Sowter transformers. The new model features switched and stepped rotary controls for quick and easy recall, the same input gain structure as the standard model Phoenix, enabling it to cope with tracking and mixing of individual instruments and vocals that may require high amounts of compression, and a standby switch to extend valve and capacitor life. (In standby mode the HT current through the valves is only 50% of the normal value.) The meter zero level adjusters have now been brought to the front panel to make calibration easier. The side chain filter section meanwhile is the same as in previous versions. The beast is shipping now! Audio Chocolate (03) 9813 5877 or

161-163 St Georges Rd North Fitzroy Vic 3065 Ph: 03 9486 8555 AT 21



Rode Retires the Classic with Anniversary Edition

IN BRIEF CONTROL LOGIC FROM YOUR IPAD xMix Logic Edition is the first release in the new xMix series of dedicated DAW Controllers for iOS devices. Here’s some details from the developers, Digital Music Technology Ltd. The xMix application connects via WiFi to any Mac running Logic Studio and forms an interactive DAW control environment. The app gives control over almost all aspects of the Logic Studio workflow. Features include: • Unlimited tracks (in banks of eight). • Eight virtual faders assignable to almost any purpose. • Eight virtual multi-purpose rotary pots for controlling EQs, pans, and auto-mapped plug-ins. • Instrument parameters. • Complete Channel Strip Control over pans, solo, mute, record arm. • Full VU meter displays for each channel. • Scribble LCD strip displays name for each highlighted track. • Full transport control. • Multiple function control. • Logic screen and Views control.

NATIVE GOES SOLID STATE Native Instruments has announced a bunch of plug-ins based on the ubiquitous SSL-style mixing console. Dubbed the ‘Solid Mix Series’, the suite encompasses the three console sections you’d want when emulating the omnipresent mixing console. Solid Bus Comp offers bus compression known for ‘gluing together’ stereo and drum sub mixes. Solid EQ provides six bands of transparent yet musical equalisation for broad or precision EQ’ing, and Solid Dynamics brings the ‘works on anything’ channel dynamics of the SSL design to your DAW. The plug-ins are sold separately or as a bundle (the three plug-ins are also included in Komplete 8 Ultimate). Both individual plug-ins and the bundle are downloadable. CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or

iPAD ANIMOOG Animoog, powered by Moog’s new Anisotropic Synth Engine (ASE), is being touted as the first professional polyphonic synthesizer designed exclusively for the iPad. ASE allows you to move dynamically through an X/Y space of different timbres and the iPad’s touch surface is ideal for quickly sculpting fluid and dynamic sounds that live, breathe, and evolve as you play them. Animoog’s diverse library of timbres is derived from analogue waveforms captured from classic Moog oscillators, both vintage and modern, and run through a boutique’s worth of high-end outboard and analogue signal processors. These include modular synth panels, Moogerfooger pedals and more. Animoog is available at a nextto-nothing introductory price on the App Store. Moog Music:


M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 $109.95 |

The new M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 ultraportable controller is a 32-note, USB bus-powered keyboard designed for musicians on the go. Small enough to fit in a backpack (well, it might stick out a bit), this ultraportable controller reportedly delivers ‘unmatched playability’ for its class, with features including: 32 low-profile mini-keys, musical velocity curves (allowing keyboard sensitivity customisation to individual playing styles), four assignable controls, USB bus-power, and plug-and-play connectivity (including iPad compatibility). Keystation Mini 32 is available now in shops around the country for a paltry retail price of $109.95 Avid 1300 734 454 or


Cakewalk recently announced a new layer to rest atop its Sonar DAW series. ‘X1 Expanded’ is a combination of expanded features integrated into the existing flagship ‘Producer’ package. The expanded version will be available as an affordable update for existing users and will provide new file sharing functionality via direct links to SoundCloud, support for the universal MIDI scoring export format, MusicXML, an expanded Browser with improved drag-and-drop functionality and soft-synth routing, an enhanced FX plug-in chain system incorporating user-definable skins and controls, and an expanded version of the Pro-Channel supporting third-party modules. ‘X1 Expanded’ is also – dare we say it – expandable via the Sonar X1 Production Suite. The Suite will include a full version of X1 Expanded along with the new Z3TA+2 wave-shaping synthesiser and the PC4K S-Type Expander/Gate module (an SSL emulation) for the prochannel. Existing users can purchase the Gate module separately for $49 or as a part of their Expanded upgrade for $79. Intelliware (08) 8277 1722 or


Steinberg has unveiled a range of USB controllers that can be individually combined to form a custom Cubase control system. Each of the six slim-sized controllers offers unique features, and comprise dedicated sets of rotary encoders, touch faders or pads designed to take handson control of a specific section within Cubase. The included joining plate allows up to nine CMC units to be combined to design a personal controller system. Yamaha Music Australia 1800 805 413 or

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HDX systems start from $10,599 | This is the biggest ProTools news to hit in quite some time. At the recent AES in New York Avid has unveiled the ProTools HDX digital audio workstation and ProTools 10 software. The ProTools HDX system enables customers to mix bigger, more complex productions. This new system represents a genuine milestone in Avid’s development of DSP-accelerated hardware, delivering up to 5x more DSP per card, over a thousand dB of additional headroom, and up to 4x the track counts and 2x the I/O compared to its ProTools HD Accel predecessor. And as your needs grow, the system can be scaled to increase track counts, power, and I/O, using up to three ProTools HDX cards and multiple ProTools HD Series interfaces.

IN BRIEF RHYTHM STUDIO FOR IOS PUTS RECORDING STUDIO AT YOUR FINGERTIPS Pulse Code is stoked to announce the release its first universal application for iOS – Rhythm Studio. Rhythm Studio includes a full 808-style drum machine, 303 synthesiser, sample-based synthesiser, XY-style control pad, and mixer with FX. Rhythm Studio offers a ‘real life’ recording and mixing experience on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Every button does the exact same thing as it would on real life hardware – knobs turn, switches slide, and buttons press. The workspace represents a virtual desktop containing all of the devices of the song. The app offers three different ways to create music. Users can manually program the drum machine and synthesisers like the original hardware, create randomised patterns based on the key and scale of the song, or use the control pad to play the drum machine or synthesisers live.

You can choose the ProTools HD Native system if you need the workflows and sound quality of ProTools HD, and want to leverage your host computer to get the best performance and lowest latency. Or you can choose the new flagship DSP-accelerated ProTools HDX system if you require consistent peak performance and near-zero latency to handle extremely large and complex productions.

Rhythm Studio is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, and requires iOS 4.0 or later. It’s a steal at a paltry 99c from the App Store.

ProTools HD 10 also sees the introduction of the new AAX (Avid Audio eXtension) plug-in format, enabling better workflows and sound parity when sharing sessions between DSPaccelerated and native-based Pro Tools systems. With two formats available – AAX DSP and AAX Native – AAX opens the door to future advancements in ProTools technology.



PRESONUS: THE OL’ ONE TWO Studio One Version 2 Released $111 – $440 |

Version 2 of PreSonus’ Mac-based DAW, Studio One, offers more than 100 new features and enhancements, including fresh takes on multitrack comp’ing, multitrack MIDI editing, transient detection and editing with groove extraction, and Folder Tracks. Here’s a brief run through of some highlights: Integrated Melodyne pitch correction: Studio One 2 tightly integrates Celemony’s Melodyne. You hear your edits in context with the rest of the arrangement, and when finished editing, render the audio in place — no track transfers or manual rendering. Transient detection, editing, and groove extraction: select an audio event and press Q to quantise. Groove extraction is ‘as simple as drag-and-drop’; extract a groove from any audio and apply it to any other audio. Multitrack comp’ing: no tool switching is needed, and crossfading between takes is automated, although you can edit the fades.

Pulse Code:

Focusrite has posted an update to its Saffire Mix Control, the Mac and PC-compatible mixer software that comes free with all Saffire Pro and Liquid Saffire Firewire audio interfaces. The highlight of the release is compatibility with Mac OS v10.7 (Lion), as well as improved performance under ProTools 9, and a streamlining of the snapshot loading and saving process. There are also various bug fixes in the new version. Saffire Mix Control v2.4 is available for free download now from the Focusrite website: saffire_mix_control_2_4. It’s compatible with Focusrite’s Saffire PRO 14, Saffire PRO 24, Saffire PRO 24 DSP, Saffire PRO 40, and Liquid Saffire 56 Firewire audio interfaces. Electric Factory: (03) 9474 1000 or

McDSP V5 WINDOWS SUPPORT Windows support for McDSP’s v5 line is now available. The McDSP v5 line includes Audio Unit (AU) support, the 6030 Ultimate Compressor plug-in and the Classic Pack Next Generation plug-in collection. McDSP v5 now includes support for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 along with Intel Mac systems running Mac OS 10.5.x (Leopard), 10.6.x (Snow Leopard), and 10.7.x (Lion). McDSP:

Plug-in collection: the Ampire guitar amp modeller is now Ampire XT and features new amp models, a new convolution-based cabinet-modelling section and an effects section. There’s a new OpenAIR convolution reverb and the IR Maker to capture your own impulse responses. Rode Microphones (02) 9648 5855 or AT 23


SCARLETT SEES RED The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a 2-in/2-out USB 2.0 audio interface with the ‘highest specifications in its class’. Alongside Focusrite mic/instrument preamps, high-quality 24-bit/96kHz digital conversion and flexible monitor control, it features a new unibody industrial design, which is visually striking, functional and robust. Other key features include: unique LED-halo signal indicators, Direct Monitor function for zerolatency tracking, powered by USB connection, comes with Focusrite Scarlett plug-in suite and Ableton Live Lite.


Lexicon’s new MPX Native Reverb Plug-In brings Lexicon’s famous digital reverb to a wider range of users thanks to some keen pricing (US$199, but yet to have a local price as we went to press). The MPX Native Reverb Plug-In offers seven different acclaimed Lexicon reverb types (Small Plate, Large Plate, Small Hall, Large Hall, Small Chamber, Large Chamber and Room) and more than 100 finely crafted studio presets, all accessible via an easy to use on-screen interface. It’s PC and Mac compatible, native only, and requires iLok2 authorisation. Jands (02) 9582 0909 or

Electric Factory: (03) 9474 1000 or

MARK 3 OF THE UNICORN MOTU’s 896mk3 Hybrid is a souped-up version of the original mainstay 896 audio interface, that now provides connectivity to Mac or Windows computers via Firewire or high-speed USB 2.0. Features include eight XLR/TRS combo-style analogue inputs with high-quality preamps, 10 XLR analogue outputs, a total of 28 inputs and 32 outputs, 192kHz analogue operation, signal overload protection, a 32-bit floating point DSP for digital mixing and effects processing, two banks of configurable optical I/O, and support for timecode sync. Other feature updates include computer-controllable pad and 48V phantom power switches for the eight mic inputs. Naturally, the much-loved original features of the 896 remain. Price: $1499. Major Music: 1300 306 670 or

SIX GOOD REASONS Reason 6: Now With Audio $499 |

Reason v6 adds audio recording and editing, along with Propellerhead’s mixing console with modelled EQ and dynamics on every channel, multiple parallel racks, Line 6 amp models, new effects devices, ‘seamless and pristine’ time/tempo stretch, plus additional features. Some of the new creative effects designed for using directly with instruments or inserting into tracks are: Pulveriser, a so und crushing effect with crunchy compression, dirty distortion and flexible modulation; The Echo, advanced stereo echo with modern delay and analogue tape echo emulation; and Alligator, a three-band pattern gate for complex rhythmic texturing. Interface enhancements, high definition audio transpose and true 64-bit compatibility highlight other new feature improvements. Musiclink (03) 9765 6565 or

M-AUDIO FAST TRACK The next-generation M-Audio Fast Track C400 and C600 recording interfaces combine advanced audio interface technology with hands-on controls and monitor management for fast, easy music creation. The interfaces are available bundled with Pro Tools MP software or as standalone units. An assignable Multi button delivers hands-on software control, enabling musicians to maintain the creative flow (Fast Track C600 also features re-assignable transport controls). Onboard MX Core DSP technology supplies reverb and delay on headphone outputs, and delivering low-latency monitoring without taxing the host computer. Fast Track C400 and C600 are available now for $329.95 and $529.95 respectively.. Avid: 1300 734454 or

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Welcome to the Sweet Spot It’s simply the best way to test-drive PA speakers and studio monitors…

Visit the Soundcorp Showroom and find The Sweet Spot, a purpose-built listening room designed so you can compare the latest PA speakers and studio monitors. Best Brands. Best Choice. Best Price. Soundcorp.

Find The Sweet Spot for PA Speakers at Soundcorp The Sweet Spot is a purpose-built listening room featuring the best PA speakers from around the world. Inside you’ll find a range of speakers set up ready for comparison. Our staff can help you get started and answer any questions you may have. Come on in and experience The Sweet Spot for yourself, we know you’ll love it.

Huge PA Clearance. On Sale Now. Save $$$

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authorised stockists for:

* We will match or beat any advertised price on a stocked item from an authorised Australian dealer. Excludes stock liquidations and commercial quantities. E&OE.

Find us on Facebook for exclusive deals!

Showroom & The Sweet Spot located at 570 City Road South Melbourne 3205 • phone. 03 9694 2600 • fax. 03 9694 2626 • email: AT 25


NEWS: LIVE IN BRIEF SD11 & GOTYE: EURO ADVENTURE Digico’s most compact console yet, the SD11, is making the trip to Europe with Gotye’s touring band (see the full feature on page 28) – serving as an entirely self-contained monitor console that can travel easily. As a standalone rackmountable mixer, the SD11 features 12 touch-sensitive moving faders below a 380mm touchscreen, 16 microphone preamps, eight line outputs and two mono AES I/O. Alternatively, you can connect it to a Digico D-Rack via the Cat5E port. This provides a remote I/O rack frame with an additional 32 microphone inputs and up to 16 outputs. Further connections are a MADI port, GPI/O, MIDI, Overview screen output, wordclock I/O, an Ethernet port for console remote control/ networking and a USB port for file exchange and session backup. Monitor City is taking care of Gotye’s touring requirements. Matt and Ade already have a couple of SD8’s currently out with Gotye, so being able to package up monitors prior to heading off the Europe and enjoying the same sound as the SD8 was a very attractive option. They’ll be using house wedges on tour and carrying their own in-ears. Group Technologies (03) 9354 9133 or

SYMNET SOLUS 16 The Symnet Solus 16 from Symetrix is the most powerful SymNet DSP hardware yet; ideal for small- to mid-sized installations not requiring I/O expansion. It’s a 16-input/8-output device configured using open architecture SymNet Designer to customise signal path and DSP modules. Solus 16 also sports Ethernet, ARC and RS-232 ports, two external control inputs, four logic outputs and a thrifty price tag. Production Audio Services: (03) 9264 8000 or

SHURE COPS A SPRAY Currently playing at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre, the musical Hairspray has been wowing audiences with its cartoon-like LED virtual sets and the sing-along, ’50s-inspired music. Michael Waters from Jands Production Services designed the audio system, which included 26 Shure UHF-R Micro Bodypack Transmitters (UR1M) and Shure UHF UR4D Dual Receivers. James Kohler, deputy head of sound, has been impressed by the lightweight and discreet Micro Bodypacks: “I’ve been using the Shure Micro Bodypacks for the past 18 months and they’ve been rock-solid,” he stated. “In the past, packs have been too sensitive to heat problems and obviously with them strapped to the dancers’ bodies, heat can become a bit of an issue.” Jands: (02) 9582 0909 or

EARTHWORKS WIRELESS AT AES Earthworks has released its first ever wireless product, the WL40V. The WL40V has been adapted from the SR40V vocal mic and is interchangeable with any screw-on-type handheld that receive a 31.3mm/pitch 1.0mm threading. Audio Chocolate: (03) 9813 5877 or

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GCEC Contenders Duke it Out


d&b’s new E4 and E5 are lightweight two-way passive loudspeakers that employ a four- and five-inch LF driver respectively, and a coaxially mounted wide dispersion dome tweeter. They have built-in passive crossover networks with a frequency response extending from 130Hz – 20kHz for the E4 and 85Hz – 20kHz for the E5, and while weighing in at a miniscule 1.1kg and 2.2kg, they produce a maximum SPL of 115 and 117dB respectively. Enclosed in injection-moulded boxes, both loudspeakers are weather protected and suitable for temporary outdoor use. The E4 and E5 are specifically intended for mobile nearfield applications for speech and music reinforcement in theatres, conferences, industrial presentations and broadcast studios and as surround sound, delay and fill systems. National Audio Systems 1800 441 440 or


“The E15 combined with the T21 is a force to be reckoned with. This changes everything. Watch out, there’s a new kid on the block, and he’s a bad ass.” So says Ken ‘Pooch’ Van Druten about his experience mixing Linkin Park on the new Adamson ‘Energia’ E15 rig in Jakarta, Indonesia. A set of shows over two evenings was the Asian maiden voyage for the new Adamson E15 system. Big Daddy Productions based in Jakarta, together with Team 108 – Adamson’s Distributor for Southeast Asia – came together to provide a large-scale E15 system for the two back-to-back events. A total of 60 x E15s, 38 x T21s and 16 x Metrix were deployed to cover the stadium show. The key components of Energia, include a series of new loudspeaker systems, with networkable Class-D amplifier modules, DSP, cable and power distribution, AVB network hardware with software integration of control, three-dimensional simulation and diagnostics. CMI (03) 9315 2244 or

LAKE LM44 IN THE MIX $7549 |

The Lake LM44 is a powerful, full-featured digital audio processor based on Lake Processing technology – effectively it’s an LM26 Digital Audio Loudspeaker Processor with different input and output configuration. The LM44 provides four analogue inputs and four analogue outputs, in contrast to the LM26’s 2-in/6-out. In addition, the LM44 accommodates 8-in/8out AES3 and 4-in/8-out Danté digital audio transport. The LM44 benefits from the latest implementation of Lake’s ‘Mesa EQ’ configuration, utilising four Mesa modules, each with an independent input mixer and output signal processing chain. With this configuration, the LM44 is suited to a wider number of different FOH applications, including as a matrix and full system EQ – sitting between a mixer and virtually any high-end performance loudspeaker system – switching between consoles on large events, inserted EQ for monitor systems, FOH to stage digital transmission, line driver for self-powered systems, and as a Danté break-in/ break-out box. Hills SVL (02) 9647 1111 or


$749-799 |

DPA recently introduced its ‘d:fine’ headsets to join the classic DPA 4066 and 4088 headworn models used by the theatre, broadcast and conference markets. Like their counterparts, the new models offer consistent audio performance at all SPLs. Available in omnidirectional and directional versions, the headsets have been named to reflect their accurate audio definition and natural sonic characteristics. The earpieces are made from a sprung material used to manufacture hearing aids, making them extremely comfortable to wear. The fine spring automatically adjusts the headset to each wearer, ensuring that the earpiece stays in place by applying consistent pressure regardless of lug size.


20 YEARS of great advice and service to musicians, songwriters and producers nationwide from

Amber Technology 1800 251 367 or

CMI Music & Audio


Australian distributors of:

L-Acoustics has launched its new ARCS II constant curvature line source. Intended for medium to large rental productions, the ARCS II reportedly delivers ‘remarkable’ power, bandwidth and coherence, along with flexible and predictable coverage. The biamplified ARCS II enclosure is based on a two-way active design. It offers a number of improvements over the previous generation, primarily L-Acoustics’ K1-grade transducers for increased SPL (140dB) and lower weight (50kg). It also features a new front grille for enhanced durability and appearance, and is driven by a single factory preset to more efficiently accommodate just about any application. Like the original ARCS, the MkII can be deployed either horizontally or vertically, and be quickly deployed as a tightly-packed FOH system for medium-throw applications with high SPL, LF impact and excellent stereo imaging. No doubt you’ll also find ARCS II used as a distributed system, centre cluster for theatrical work, sidefill monitoring, flown or stacked centre fill, stereo front fill, offstage fill or delay system for concert audiences in stadia and arenas. Novatech Productions (08) 8352 0300 or


Conceived, engineered and built in the United Kingdom, the new Tannoy Professional VX and VXP Series loudspeakers represent the latest evolution of Tannoy’s professional loudspeaker design. There are 10 passive models in the range, each with the company’s acclaimed dual-concentric point-source driver, but Tannoy hasn’t stopped there. It’s also produced self-powered loudspeakers with all-new integrated Lab.gruppen amplification. The brand new Lab. gruppen IDEEA module has been designed to handle the demands of fixed installation audio: around-the-clock operation, extreme durability, unmatched power output and clarity required by portable applications. Backed by a five-year factory warranty the VXP Series will be available. Audio Products Group (02) 9578 0181 or

The warmth of analog. The simplicity of Firewire. IntroducIng uAd-2 SAtellIte. The UAD-2 Satellite puts the world’s finest analog emulation plug-ins within easy reach of Firewire 800 and 400-equipped computers, including select iMacs® and MacBook Pros®. In developing UAD-2 plug-ins, our renowned DSP engineers work with leading hardware manufacturers – using their FeAturIng PoPulAr Plug-InS FroM tHeSe PArtnerS:

exact schematics, golden units, and experienced ears – to give your mixes all the warmth and harmonics of classic analog recordings. Visit to learn more. • The world’s finest plug-in emulations of classic analog gear, now on Firewire 800

and 400-equipped computers* • Compatible with a wide range of iMacs and MacBook Pros • Run larger mixes in Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Cubase, Live, Performer and more – without taxing host computer CPU • Available in both DUO and QUAD processor models

Visit for a list of compatible desktops and laptops.


© 2011 Universal Audio Inc. All trademarks are recognized as property of their respective owners.

Mannys Musical Instruments & Pro Audio 161-163 St Georges Rd North Fitzroy Vic 3068 Ph: 03 9486 8555 E: Web: AT 27


Thought you needed to be riding a Smash Hits, major-label juggernaut to score a No. 1 hit? Wally de Backer is a home-grown, self-made success story. Text: Christopher Holder Live Photos: Brenner Liana

As this article was being written, the ARIA singles charts told a very familiar story. Popular music in Australia has been almost entirely outsourced to the Yanks. A handful of primped and preened US artists trade places in the Top 10 in a carefully choreographed merry-go-round of promotions, tours, radio airplay, Pepsi Smash Hits and ‘360’ deals. Cynical? It’s hard not to be. There’s no room at the top for serendipity – either you have the full weight of Sony or Universal behind you or you’re noodling away in obscurity. Then you have Wally de Backer (aka Gotye) who restores just a little bit of faith in the music biz. Wally is a reluctant pop star. In fact, he’d no doubt blanch at the use of the term ‘pop star’ but… he does write pop songs and, right now, with his album Making Mirrors and Somebody That I Used to Know hitting No. 1 in the charts you’d have to say that makes him a ‘star’. So, is Wally the Australian pop music messiah? Perhaps, but the more I get to know the man, the more I’m confused. He’s a good bloke; that much I can be sure of. Affable, unaffected, candid… But things get a bit hazy after that. As drummer for The Basics, in recent years he’s been one of the hardest-working live musicians in the country, yet his ‘solo’ project, Gotye, is almost entirely comprised of synths and samples. Did I mention Wally’s a drummer? That’s right, and not just any drummer, a genuinely talented drummer, that in previous outings as Gotye would sing and drum… yet there’s hardly any live drumming on his latest album, Making Mirrors. AT 28

Almost no live drumming on Making Mirrors? Right. So can someone tell me why the heck, on this tour, he’s got a drummer, a percussionist and a ‘recreational’ kit for Wally when he’s not singing?! I mean, there’s so much live rhythm going on you half expect three ‘blue men’ to jump out with some plumbing and start playing along. Wally’s a self-made man. He’s been working hard at this music biz game for all of his adult life, enjoying successes here and there, enduring the inevitable kicks in the guts; promoting his own music; being his own manager/booking agent etc., yet he loves nothing more than to collaborate – bringing creative people into his orbit and feeding off that. Did I mention Wally loves to collaborate? Sure, but he’s got a steely vision for what he wants, and isn’t afraid to hit the proverbial (or literal) Mute button on a painstakingly recorded overdub at the death knock of a mix. So there you have it: Wally de Backer, the musician’s musician; the studio geek’s geek; the mother hen for creatives; and the single-visioned taskmaster. Oh, and a good bloke… from Belgium… I mean, Merricks south east of Melbourne. This story isn’t so much a live sound report than an insight into how a creative artist takes the ideas in his head and does his best to convey them to the world. FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY…

I spoke to Wally just prior to the fourth show on his nationwide tour at Melbourne’s mock-classical gem, the Forum theatre. The Gotye stage is quite crowded with all that aforementioned drums and percussion, along with a horn section, synths, guitar and bass – 10 musicians in all. Avant garde animation accompanies a number of the songs.

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There’s a certain theatricality about the show. I kicked off the interview asking him about the level of ambition he had for the production. Wally de Backer: I went through a few stages of ‘ambition’ in preparing for this tour. My first thought, about 18 months ago was: why not have a one-man show that was based more on a theatrical lighting/production vision. I was thinking that I’d probably have a very bare stage – relying heavily on projection and lighting – and I’d be singing off stage at times or singing on screen, coming on stage doing a song with one instrument and switching to another for the next track… as opposed to hiring a group of musicians and having a stage full of mic leads. But after exploring this idea with four different production companies around Melbourne, the budget proved not to be there. I thought I had a decent amount of money to throw at something like that but the more I looked into it… nup. Turned out that 50 grand was not going to cut it for three months of production for that type of show. So I was running out of time, and rang Tim Shiel – who’s a mate and plays laptop and samples in the band – asking him to join me. So he’s been with me for the last nine months and has taken a huge load off me in terms of data management – he’s the custodian of the projects, keeping things organised. Hiring Tim also means that on stage I can always be addressing the audience and not turning to the side and changing something on the laptop between every song – which is what I was doing in the previous version of the band, and really inhibited me. CH: So we’re now talking about late 2010 here?

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WdB: Yes. The early Gotye incarnation was a trio at first: me on drums and singing, Tim on samples and some guitar, and Lucas on bass (I’ve known Lucas [Taranto] for years – we were in the highschool band together). We did some shows in January this year – the Sydney theatre, the Sydney Festival and some performances at the Laneway Festival. After those shows I soon realised that I couldn’t play drums and sing the songs off the new album well enough. I set myself such a challenge with this album, stretching my vocal range and ability that to do that and play fairly energetic drum parts… it just wasn’t cutting it. CH: And the 10-piece grew out of that realisation? WdB: Sure. I’ve been working up to the big band since then. Michael Iveson started on drums and we did some festivals as a four-piece. The next addition was my friend Gideon [Brazil] who plays sax in the band. I asked him to pull together a horn section. Slowly the lineup took shape. CH: What would be the grand plan? WdB: I’m aiming for something that’s on par with the type of shows Massive Attack and Portishead put together in their pomp. They came out with amazingly developed ‘theatre shows’, I guess you’d call them. Unfortunately, my ambitions have been curtailed by simple economics. I spent three quarters of my album advance on making the current release. That was more than I’d hoped, which ate into the amount I’d set aside for the live show. So it wasn’t a case of ‘here’s 200 grand to develop a show’. The band I have is great, so the live aspect feels really good but the overall show concept – the world you enter for the music to exist in – that’s

not really there yet. I need to find a key creative collaborator I can work with to develop a topdown concept. CH: Right. But for now you’ve gone from the concept of a one-man smoke ’n’ mirror theatre run, to a 10-piece Gotye Orchestra! It must alter your approach as the composer/vocalist/ frontman? WdB: It does. And as much as I might be inspired at times to have a ‘get the band together, jam and see what happens’ approach, that just wastes 10 people’s time. You have to be a music director as a starting point. We had three months – rehearsing twice a week – to pull together as many songs as we could (13 in total). The backing vocals probably took the most work. Now, just four shows in, we’re realising that there are a couple of moments where we might be able to open things up a bit more, come up with alternative introductions to songs or segues. But otherwise it’s been quite composed. AT PIN-UP BOY

CH: You’re an AT pin-up boy Wally: you’ve had to learn the art of recording through hard-won experience – no-one’s whisking you off to L.A. for a Lord-Alge mix session and lunch with Beyonce. You’ve had to figure out what you can achieve by yourself and what’s best to leave to the experts. WdB: It’s been a real ‘seat of the pants’ journey. CH:

What can AT readers learn from that journey? WdB: Persistence is the key thing. In retrospect, there have been plenty of ‘if I’d only known’ moments – especially with my knowledge of gear or my lack of ability as an engineer. I recall making my first record and doing things like recording a sample off a CD, from a Discman, running it through a secondhand ’80s amplifier and using the headphone jack, without a preamp, straight into my computer. Now there’s a pretty messed up signal chain but I was happy to capture what I wanted and make the best of things. I’ve been making mistakes like that all along and you learn as you go. From an audio perspective, I’m still not confident in how to best record the ideas I have. I’ve got better. I can hear that I’m making cleaner, better signal-path decisions. I have a more intuitive sense of how I want my vocal or an instrument to sound, and to better select the mic or preamp to get that result. But I’m still not a really wellversed engineer. Take the latest record as an example: I’ve found this really good vocal chain with a Neumann M147 microphone that goes into an SSL Alpha Channel preamp. It seemed to work really well for most things, but almost after I finished the record I realised, ‘nah, it didn’t work so well for some songs’ and that’s why they were hard to mix – it was way too ‘polite’ and clean a signal for that particular song. On some level I was thinking – great, I can finally afford a high quality signal chain for my vocal – but it’s not always the answer. Some songs were recorded very intentionally with crap gear. Some songs I sang into the internal mic of the MacBook

Pro – for whatever reason it sounded really good in that room and I left it in the final mix. CH: I guess it comes back to the ‘make the most of your gear’ truism? WdB: Sure, make the absolute best of what you have but at the same time attune your ears to realise when your gear is being pushed past its limits. If your vocal chain, for example, sounds too garage-y for the type of song you’re trying to record, then it might be time to hire some good mics. I now regret not doing that in the past. I should have scraped a hundred bucks together and pulled in some favours to get a couple of really good vocal mics to hear what they sounded like on my voice. Rather than, ‘oh well, this is what I’ve got, they don’t sound right on this record but that’s the best I can do’. CH: You talk about ‘persistence’. There must have been times when you thought ‘yes, I’m well on my way here’? WdB: Well, there have been plenty of times when I’ve felt inadequate. But you’ve got to keep going despite the setbacks and take stock after the successes. If you’re lucky enough, those scattered successes will give you a leg up to help you keep going.

Some songs I sang into the internal mic of the MacBook Pro – for whatever reason it sounded really good in that room and I left it in the final mix

I feel like my experience with The Basics has shown me the other side of the coin. There have been junctures when the band has had a chance to capitalise on a lot of hard work – self management, booking our own tours, touring a lot, writing a lot of songs, recording them ourselves – but from there the chink in the door hasn’t resulted in real opportunities and it’s been

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(Left): Tim Shiel on keys also takes care of the Ableton Live show files, freeing Wally from the responsibility of noodling with a laptop between songs. (Middle): You’ll spot a couple of Novation Launchpads for Live control, the finger-like Korg NanoKontrol, Boss Voice Transformer VT-1 for his State of the Art robot lyrics, a Roland SPD-S for triggering samples, and an Akai MPK Mini MIDI keyboard… and, yes, that’s the glock for Someone That I Used to Know.

a real knock. So to not get down because of those knocks has been the challenge – persistence again. CH: And I guess some perspective that comes with experience. WdB: That’s right, those successes or barriers, what they mean to you, will change over time. 10 years ago, if you asked me what it meant to get a little airplay on SBS radio or to have someone review my album in the street press – I’d be thinking ‘does that mean I’m going to sell more albums?’ ‘Does that mean I’ll have more people turn up to my show I’m advertising at the Corner Hotel?’ Over time you can build a map in your brain about what it all means and how you use that information to plan for the future. CH: So what do you think your current success all means? WdB: It’s still a bit outlandish how well this single [Someone That I Used to Know] is going – I’m not sure I’ve processed it yet. The level of sales, the No. 1 single, and being played on commercial radio and how that feeds itself and becomes a phenomenon... that’s all, like, ‘wow!’. I couldn’t have expected it and I don’t know exactly what it’ll mean. I know that it means people recognise you on the street, you get more weird emails and people start parodying you! BARN: STABLE ENVIRONMENT

CH: Of course, a big part of being in control of your own destiny is having your own studio. Last time we spoke you were camping in your folks’ loft. What stage are you at with your own space? WdB: Right, last time we spoke I was still doing casual shifts at my library job and about to give the full-time musician gig a go. Now my Dad and I have completed more of the barn that’s at the bottom of my folks’ block.

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It’s developed a lot inside and has been a permanent place for me to set up my gear and store my stuff. The barn has been great on one hand – I can hang out there for however long I need to, making music there day or night – but it’s not soundproofed, which can hamper things. There were times when I went to record a soft vocal and the guy next door would decide he was going to get on the tractor and mow the adjacent paddock. At one point I walked out and waved him down. He stopped, got out and I explained to him that I had four hours to finish a vocal and would he mind slashing the paddock some other time? “Right, sure, okay, I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll go do the other field.” Or there would be birds landing on the roof or you’d have 100kmh traffic on the main road outside. So no matter how hard I tried there would still be takes where Franc [Tetaz, the album’s mix engineer] would pull up a vocal and say, ‘if I apply this compressor I really want to use I’m getting a lot of road noise’. So, the barn hasn’t been an ideal setup, but I was into it because I could put all my gear in there and work largely uninterrupted. Unlike in years gone by when if I decided I was recording vocals that day I’d have to move the bookcase out of the room, get some mattresses in and spend two hours preparing, then put everything back in time for my housemate’s return so there wasn’t crap all over the house. So the barn was nice in that regard. CH: And how has your setup altered in the last few years? WdB: Between Like Drawing Blood and Making Mirrors there were a few significant changes in my setup. Right at the end of Drawing Blood I made the switch from Acid to Ableton Live.

I began using Live for my shows. I used it in Session Mode for a lot of click track triggering and chopping things up. So by the time I got to sampling more records and taking field recordings [for Making Mirrors] I was fully switched to Live on a MacBookPro. Switching from Acid on a crusty old desktop PC – which was all I could afford at the time – to a laptop running Live felt really liberating. Even with Drawing Blood it was very much a case of: hand-on-mouse, shifting boxes of colour around the screen, working around the limitations of the program. Acid was amazing at the time but if I jumped on it now, I’d be thinking, ‘woah, you mean I can’t stretch this sample out?’. You get very used to the amazing things a program like Ableton Live can do for you quickly and intuitively. Being able to quickly throw lots of sounds around and triggering samples on pads in an effort to come up with hooks and lines is very powerful; much better than spending 20 minutes snipping away at a loop… If anything, Ableton makes me a little too impatient. Maybe you hear something; you try it and it’s a bit rough and you dismiss it because you don’t spend the time trying to sculpt it. CH: And plug-ins? WdB: I’ve become a lot more interested in plugins and virtual synths. Previously I had a few on the PC which I loved, including a TC reverb and a distortion plug called Quadrafuzz that I really miss. In fact, lots of people online lament the passing of Quadrafuzz. It had specific bands of distortion… but it’s died a DirectX death. I use the Speakerphone effect quite a bit – it instantly re-shifts the whole space and sound. Altiverb has been really cool. And some of the NI Kontakt plug-ins. I was lucky enough to be given Komplete by Native Instruments.

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artist, producer, engineer AT 33

CH: From memory Komplete also has about a squillion gigabytes of samples. WdB: It’s pretty massive. It made me realise that I’m not the type of guy who gets off on having 100GB of orchestral sounds at my fingertips. That’s pretty overwhelming and you’ve not put any of your own energy into it. But it’s nice to have if you really need an authentic French horn… I still get into creating my own gigabytes of samples from all over the place: records, CDs… I’m right into VHS at the moment. CH: Wow, VHS: the unexplored frontier of car boot sales! WdB: They’re great… but hard to work with sometimes. I have a collection of old VHS, and I’ve been trying to create a collection of visual elements as well as audio samples. I’m hoping to make my first film clip that’ll be entirely based on obscure cartoon samples. So I’m learning about VJ software, and Adobe Premier. Stu Padbury at FOH get hands-on with his Digico SD8.

DIGICO CITY Monitor City is supplying the PA for the Gotye tour. The main men behind Monitor City, Matt Dufty and Adrian Barnard, joined forces a few years back while working on a Pete Murray tour together (Matt mixing FOH and Adie on monitors), when they decided they’d invest in some specialist wireless monitoring gear. Since then, Monitor City has bulked up its inventory with the addition of Digico SD8 consoles, a Nexo Geo-S line array amongst other juicy items. Matt: “For this tour have an SD8 at front of house and monitors sharing the same SD Rack on stage. We’re using gain tracking, which means the front of house console tracks the input gain setting of the monitor board. We have a few analogue sweeteners at front of house, including a Klark Teknik DN360 and Smart C2 compressor. The output of the board runs into a Xilica processor which splits the audio into the zones: the flown Nexo Alpha house PA, the stacked subs, front fill and some d&b delay speakers for the back section of the theatre. “We have 56 inputs from stage. The SD8 can handle 60 inputs (mono or stereo), so we’re nearing something like its capacity. The SD8 has been a great console for us. As a FOH guy I love its sound. Plus there are plenty of ways in which you can ‘skin the cat’: I set the console up in a traditional way, with the centre section providing VCA-style control; while Stu [Padbury, Gotye’s front of house engineer], relies heavily on snapshot automation.”


CH: Did you use the barn studio to do any drum recording? WdB: No. Although I recorded some drums with Franc for Eyes Wide Open. He did a few interesting things. He put up a couple of mics in an open cabinet of an upright piano. He was using the resonance of this piano cabinet to apply ‘reverb’ to the toms that were half a room away. CH: I remembering speaking to Franc about his sound design work on Wolf Creek and, from memory, he loves nothing more than to torture a piano. WdB: Yes, anytime he can get a piano involved his eyes light up. Eyes Wide Open also has this explosion sound leading into the second verse that we created with a rush of hands over the bass strings of the piano. Franc’s got a lot of creative ideas from a sound design perspective. CH: But that experience didn’t enthuse you to record more of the songs from scratch, rather using samples as the basis? WdB: I did embark on some live recording but went back to sampling and felt energised by that. I think that’s partly because I didn’t feel the approach of recording live parts had proven itself. So it was back to taking op shop records and snipping things up again – writing songs with home synths and samples and putting it together again. FROM IDEA TO FOH

CH: Can you pick a song from Making Mirrors and take us on a journey from idea, to recording, to it translating to a live performance? WdB: Bronte is an interesting example. It’s one of my favourite songs on the album. It’s the last song and it’s pretty simple – not a huge number of sounds – but it’s interesting as a process. It started with a percussion loop off a Les Baxter exotica record from the mid ’60s that I really

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liked. It’s a very incidental snippet of percussion in the middle of one of his arrangements. You can hear a tape splice and this little African percussion bit kicks in, then another splice and it returns to the original performance. I used that incidental percussion loop as a starting point and edited out a way-too-loud wood block, which I’ve replaced with other bits in the bar. I married that to a sample from a record called Calypso from an orchestrator called Leo Addeo who was not super notable like Mancini but recorded a number of Western takes on exotic musical cultures. Leo Addio did a steel drum version of the Banana Boat Song which had these out-oftune, harmonically-weird overtoned parts. I particularly liked it because of the back cover of this album explaining how ‘we struggled with the tuning of these drums’, so much so he hardly used them, even though they were the whole concept behind the album. So I had this steel drum loop, which married nicely to the Baxter afro loop. And it immediately prompted me to sing this two-part vocal harmony. And that was as far as I got in that session. Which happens – you follow your intuition and see where it takes you but it may not result in a full-blown song. That idea sat on my hard drive for five or six months until one day when I was hanging out with my friend Marty… He was called back home because his wife was convinced it was time for their old and frail dog, Bronte, to be put down. I knew that Marty was going home to get his three girls together from primary school and go to the vet with Bronte, and I was touched by that. I was sitting there at home and decided that I would cycle through various instrument snippets and I chanced on this one, and the thought of Marty and his family laying Bronte to rest in their front yard was really in my head. When I heard those four chords on the percussion and steel drum loop, the song just started from there – writing lyrics and finding chords by hitting single bass notes on the piano. I mostly finished the arrangement that day, including singing the backing vocals – all directly into the MacBookPro mic. It’s a very heavily double-tracked lead vocal. One I sang in an upper register into the MacBook along with my demo vocal as I was writing it. I went back a couple of weeks later after borrowing a cheapy Axis ribbon mic from Andy Stewart and testing it out [so that’s where it went! – Ed]. I did some takes of Bronte with that and found that if I dulled down the already dull tone that it had, it created a beautiful double track tone when mixed with the MP3-ish tone of the MacBookPro mic. CH: So the primo Neumann M149 had to wait its turn again! WdB: It did. Some of that is trying to stay true to the vibe of the demo vocal regardless of how rough it might be. I’ll try and keep the demo vocal and double track a slightly better signal path that could imbue it with enough clarity for it to be up-front. But it was important to use the

vibe and space of the original demo vocal sound. CH: Is it a problem preserving that vibe in the final mix? WdB: It was hard. Franc was always trying to make the mix a little more hi-fi, because the original recordings wouldn’t have a lot of high-end or bottom-end extension. But often the more we tried to do those things the more it would reconfigure the perception of the samples working in the midrange of the song, to the point that I felt it was losing the vibe. So it was hard to strike a balance there. CH: And how hi-fi was Bronte? WdB: It was a fairly dull track without much low-end extension. I did record some fretless bass with Lucas – our bass player in the band. I ended up deciding to press the Mute button before the final mix because I wasn’t liking the subby bottom-end extension – it wasn’t making sense to me. For the album I ended up using a very bare bass synth sound. In the first verse of the song it maybe sounds a little bit exposed and lacks some personality... but I still felt it worked, as it helped place the focus on the story and the vocal. LIVE TRANSLATION

CH: Okay, that’s the recording phase done. What about Bronte live? WdB: Translating it into a live context was hard. Like many of my sample-based Gotye songs it

was well off concert pitch – it was 30 cents flat. So for one show prior to this tour earlier in the year, Lucas took a second bass (tuned 30 cents down) just for that song, because we couldn’t find a way of shifting it in Ableton that made sense. When we got the 10-piece band together we tried a version with Tim on my MalletKAT playing the steel drum as a sample. Even though we pitched it up, I found it was really messing with my head – I felt like I was in this tonally-fruity world of not knowing what’s going on, which was deadly for such a delicate song. So it was a big step forward when I decided not so use any of the samples – we’d play it live. Jim found a really nice electric piano sound which gave us a more sonorous midrange tone. That was a good reference point. Then I have Lucas on the bass providing more bottom-end extension because it wasn’t making sense live without that. Josh on percussion and Michael found a really nice way to marry with the horns who are playing shakers, producing this loping gentle afro beat peppered by Josh doing a finger-lick tuning roll on the conga.

– that pretty much takes up most of the song, to the point that you almost can’t hear the transients of the steel drum… they just melt away. That’s hard to achieve live. We might see if we can get there in the mixing. EYES WIDE OPEN

CH: Finally Wally, is being a full-time muso the job you were hoping it would be? WdB: There is an aspect of it being a job and that’s something my manager has suggested I downplay – it’s better you don’t speak about that because you ruin the mystique; people imagine an artist as immune to all that, just making music for music’s sake. That hasn’t been my experience; it’s been a lot of hard work. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, feeling like you’re pretty crap a lot of the time, wanting to be a lot better. I think that’s what keeps me going a lot of the time: let’s see if I can aspire to bigger/better things and achieve those things.

CH: So you’re happy with Bronte’s live incarnation? WdB: It’s hard to play live. The vocals drive the song so strongly in the recorded version. You’ve got double-tracked lower and upper octave vocals answered by a double-tracked vocal in the middle


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Lenny Kravitz Welcome to Lenny Kravitz’ home studio by the lapping shores of The Bahamas. Feeling sick with envy yet? Text: Paul Tingen Photos: Matthieu Bittan

More than any other modern-day rock star, Lenny Kravitz wears his love for the music and recording gear of yesteryear on his sleeve. In this context, the recent photograph of him walking the streets of New York with the receiver of a ’60s telephone handset plugged into his mobile phone seemed very apt. The photo became a minor internet sensation, and in some quarters Kravitz was criticised for concocting such a completely incongruous and seemingly impractical piece of kit, given that the handset was several times the size of the mobile phone. On the face of it, it did appear to display an obsessive and arguably unhealthy degree of nostalgia for all things retro. But it quickly turned out that the handset was an ultra-cool, brand new 21C gadget that allows mobile phone users to prevent their brains from being fried by their mobile, while looking fashionable in the process. It’s sold for 30 bucks on Amazon and goes by the catchy name of – wait for it – Native Union MM01HH Moshi Moshi Retro POP Handset (try remembering that), or ‘POP’ for short. With Kravitz also being an interior and clothes designer, the phone gadget perfectly typified the man: ultra-hip and ultra-retro at the same time. The ultra-hip and ultra-retro have been the main themes of Kravitz’s entire music career, probably best highlighted by the hit single (and associated film for) Are You Gonna Go My Way. Kravitz recently released his ninth studio album, Black and White America, which has garnered rave reviews along the lines of “Kravitz’ best in years.” The album contains Kravitz’ trademark mixture of soul, funk, rock, reggae, folk, psychedelic, and blues – performed, arranged and recorded in ways that are heavily influenced by the past, but with a contemporary edge. Black and White America once again sees Kravitz team up with Craig Ross, his guitarist and righthand man since Are You Gonna Go My Way, with the two of them playing 90% of the instruments on the album. Kravitz played guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion and drums, and produced and co-mixed the album, while Ross didn’t only play guitars, but also engineered, programmed, co-mixed and occasionally manned ProTools. In addition, there were some session musicians on horns, strings and keyboards, plus guest performances by rappers Jay-Z, Drake and the Bahamian MC DJ Military. AT 36

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‘T-Bone’ Edmonds, Lenny Kravitz’s long-time studio associate: “we bounce ideas off one another all the time.”

The above may make it sound as if the making of Black and White America was in essence a two-man-plus-occasional-guest affair, but a third man was right at the heart of the album’s two and a half year gestation period. Tom ‘T-Bone’ Edmonds was the album’s main engineer, and he also co-mixed it with Ross and Kravitz. Edmonds has worked with Kravitz since 1989, and is perfectly placed to relate the ins and outs of the rock star’s working methods, and the recordings and mix of Black and White America in particular. Edmonds spilled the beans on the phone from Paris, where he was working at Kravitz’ Studio Noir. He confirmed, “Yeah, Lenny, Craig and I operate as a trio. We bounce ideas off one another all the time. If someone has an idea, it has to be approved by the other two. It’s definitely a team effort.” Before delving deeper into the recording details of Kravitz’ new album, Edmonds briefly digressed with a potted history of his own background and how he became involved with the singer. ‘POTTED’ HISTORY

T-Bone Edmonds: “I moved to Woodstock when I was very young, where I met Todd Rundgren, who became perhaps the biggest influence on my life. I began as Todd’s tour bus driver, but after hearing me play the guitar he asked me to become his guitar technician. Soon after that I became his all-round roadie, gaffer, and then assistant engineer in the studio, before he eventually asked me to engineer Patti Smith’s Wave album in 1979. From there we worked on albums with Tom Robinson, The Tubes, and Meatloaf, and I continued touring with him as well. I eventually left Todd and went to work at Bearsville Studios in New York State, where I recorded four albums with the Isley Brothers. AT 38

I also worked with legendary engineer Tom Dowd – I had a lot of amazing teachers. I began working with Lenny in 1989. “Funnily enough, in 1987 I’d retired from the music business because I was fed up doing 12-inch mixes and disco, but a friend asked me whether I would be willing to be the front-ofhouse mixer for Lenny. I didn’t want to, but the friend gave me a CD of Let Love Rule and I was knocked out by it. It was real music again, that went back to my past. It also had an amazing freshness to it so I went on the road with Lenny and worked with him until 2005, when I took a break, and then again from 2008, working on the new album.” GREGORY TOWN SOUND

Black and White America was recorded at Gregory Town Sound; Kravitz’ studio which is located next to a beach at Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas. The studio houses a lot of the analogue gear, guitars, amplifiers and other music gear that the artist has collected over the years. Kravitz explains: “I initially had a garage built to have a place to store all my things, but then I decided to turn it into a studio. I designed the layout, but you never know exactly how it’s going to come out. The math may say that it’s going to sound great, but until you put a drum kit in there and start playing, you don’t know for sure. I was going for a sort of ’70s California studio with wood and cork and stone, to get that real clean sound, and it ended up working amazingly well. It immediately felt really comfortable, and of course it’s filled with equipment I’ve acquired through the years that I’m already comfortable with. And the material on the new album is strongly affected by the new studio. When I started putting the gear in the place, it sounded amazing, so it inspired a

lot of what was coming out.” Edmonds gives more details on the studio, and how it was used to record Black and White America. “Lenny began building the studio in 2008. The aesthetics are very much Lenny’s, but Ross Alexander [a Miami-based studio designer and acoustician] took care of the technical side. The studio is maybe 200 yards from the beach, and what I particularly like is that there’s a big glass door through which you can see palm trees, mango trees, and the beach. The sun is always shining in. With most studios you feel as if you’re sitting in a box. But this studio has the nicest atmosphere of any studio I’ve ever recorded in.” RETRO HEAVEN

“When we started work on the album the studio had a Trident Series 80B desk, and the title track, Black and White America and Push were both tracked using the Trident. Then we went away for a while, and when we came back Lenny had moved the Trident to his Studio Noir in Paris, and Gregory Town Sound suddenly had a British Helios desk that used to belong to Leon Russell. It has a very different sound to the Trident, but with me engineering, no matter what I do, it’ll always sound like a T-Bone recording! [laughs]. In addition to the Helios desk, there’s also an EMI-designed Redd 37 desk, that once resided in Abbey Road Studio 1, and a lot of API mic pres, Fairchild limiters, LA-2As, EMT plates, a Bricasti reverb, the Studer J37 tube four-track [also originally from Abbey Road and used by The Beatles – Ed.], a 16-track 3M M79 machine, a Studer 827, a ProTools rig, and so on.” There are also more modern goodies such as Apogee AD16X and DA16X converters, ATC 25 and 200 monitors, Amels Audio custom mic

© 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. in the U.S. and other countries. All other trademarks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

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AT 39

we go back to that original take we did?’ Like Lenny’s harmonies on the song Stand, that took him no time at all. He always sings the whole song too. We don’t just record a piece and then fly it around.”

Lenny Kravitz does it all in the studio: playing a lot of the instruments as well as twiddling knobs on the console – hard to resist a console like this one.

Kravitz played guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion and drums, and produced and co-mixed the album.

pres, Millennia and GML EQs, Focusrite and Waves limiters, an Eventide Ultra Harmonizer, the Lexicon 960 Digital Effects System, and mics by Coles, AEA, Audix, and others. There’s also a ProTools HD3 system clocked by an Antelope Trinity wordclock. WHERE THE CLASP & THE ANTELOPE PLAY

The presence of endless vintage analogue gear plus some more up-to-date stuff at Gregory Town Sound won’t come as a surprise to many, but the way the singer is working with ProTools and analogue tape may. It turns out that one of the studio’s more important pieces of kit is not dissimilar in function to the POP Handset, in that it allows retro and modern gear to work seamlessly together. The piece of kit in question is called the Closed Loop Analogue Signal Processor – almost as much of a mouthful as the Native Union MM01HH Moshi Moshi Retro POP, but equally neatly abbreviated to ‘CLASP’. LATCHING ON

Edmonds, “The CLASP interfaces our tape machines with ProTools. It’s a time compensation box that takes the sound directly off the tape repro head, but nothing gets archived to tape; instead it only gets recorded into ProTools. So you don’t have to go through the whole process of first recording things onto tape and then later dumping into ’Tools. Instead, everything gets recorded in ProTools immediately after being imbued with the qualities of analogue tape – it’s an extremely clever device. Before we had the system setup I had already recorded two songs to tape – the title track and Push – and then AT 40

transferred them to ProTools; a time consuming business. But with the CLASP system I can keep things moving, which is very important because Lenny and Craig work really quickly and prefer to be rolling non-stop. They do a take, and boom, that’s it. It’s done. We had some problems initially with the old 3M machine – a 16-track M79 that has travelled quite a bit – so we subsequently switched to the Studer. I’d say about 50% of the album was recorded using the 3M and 50% using the Studer.” BISH BASH BOSH

Edmonds stressed repeatedly that Kravitz and Ross like to work really quickly, and described in more detail how he worked with them on the actual recordings. “Those guys are amazing. They show up, and new songs are usually recorded with Lenny playing drums and Craig on acoustic guitar. We often cut the basic tracks for a song on the first take, and I’ll often ask Craig whether he rehearsed the song at Lenny’s house, and he’ll say, ‘no, I just learned it now when we cut it.’ It’s like magic. I don’t know how they do it. Lenny might say, ‘I’d like to play my funk kit today’, so he’ll go to that. I’ll use my ‘funk kit’ recording setup, and they’ll play a song two or three times that they’ve never rehearsed before. I roll the tape every time, and then, boom, it’s done! It’s funny the way Lenny works. Every time he goes to do the vocals he’ll say, ‘Let’s do it quickly. Don’t worry about the sound – we won’t use the take, I just want to get it down.’ I always make sure I get the best sound I can, because I know it’s going to be used! He’ll always say later, ‘Can

“We usually begin with Craig playing the main riff,” Kravitz added, “and me playing drums along with it. I’ve already explained the arrangement to him, and I’m usually moving pretty fast because I’m in the moment, so I’m just saying: ‘Okay, intro, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus,’ and we’ll be recording from the start. I’m pretty adamant about getting the first take, because I like it when we know what we’re doing, but not really. I like being on the edge, where you know just enough to get through it, but you also get some really nice and interesting mistakes. After that we fill in the arrangement. I pick up the bass – I have three or four – and play it in the control room, and record it via my favourite Acoustic 360 amp head. After I’ve laid down some bass I’ll usually add a scratch vocal and then start to orchestrate it: guitar, percussion, keyboards and so on. I might put down string parts with a sample or a Mellotron. With the synths, I’ll have a sound in my head that I’m looking for and try different things. For this record I used more synths than any other record I’ve done. I’ve gotten into collecting them and I was just in the mood. The great thing about a synth, whether it’s from the ’60s, ’70s, or ’80s, is you can make them sound as futuristic and new as you want, but at the same time they still sound so organic. What I’m looking for in a synth is character.” CAPTURE NOT FRACTURE

Clearly, the tracking approach favoured by Kravitz, Ross and Edmonds harks back to the ’70s in terms of both gear and attitude. No sweating over individual vocal lines let alone individual words or even vowels, as is common today. No micro-editing, AutoTuning, or ‘we’ll fix it in the mix’ thinking. Edmonds detests this last attitude and, just as Ross and Kravitz get their takes right the first time around, Edmonds likes to get his sound right from the start. “We don’t ‘fix things in the mix’,” stated Edmonds. “That is such a lie. I always hated hearing producers or mixers say that to their clients. What you have is either good, or it’s not. You colour things, you polish them, you pan them, you flange them, and so on in the mix, but you don’t fix anything. You can’t take a bad snare sound and make it sound great later on. Everything that we record therefore has to sound amazing from the moment we put it down! I get great sounds going in. My drum sounds are my drum sounds, and I take great pride in them!” And so, Mr Edmonds, please enlighten us… The engineer seemed more than happy to take the bait: DRUM SOUNDS

Edmonds: “I don’t have just one drum miking technique. I use different microphones and different mic placements depending on what I want to do. One of my approaches is to go for a

AT 41

I record Lenny’s vocals with a Neumann U47, into the Helios mic pre, a Sphere EQ, the Fairchild 660 or an LA-2A and then onto tape. That’s a beautiful signal chain. Not many people have the luxury of that chain.


Artist: Lenny Kravitz Mixed by: Tom ‘T-Bone’ Edmonds, Lenny Kravitz and Craig Ross on a Helios desk at Gregory Town Sound at Eleuthera Island, The Bahamas and on a Trident Series 80B desk at Studio Noir, Paris. Edmonds: “The track Stand has a really great story about it, which is that it’s written for a friend and employee of Lenny’s called Stan, who hurt himself badly, and became paralysed. So Lenny wrote this song for him, with the chorus going, “come on stand up again, Come on Stand, you’re gonna run again.” I really love that he did this for a friend; it’s a pretty cool thing to do. For the music Lenny wanted to go for a kind of ’80s sound. So he began with a real kick and snare, and after that we added a LinnDrum kick, and an 808 sound, real handclaps, and more. I think I recorded the live kick drum with the Audix D6, which is a cheap microphone, but it’s fantastic on the kick. I also used an SM57 on the snare and a U87 as an overhead. That’s a different technique than the three microphone technique I mentioned earlier, because the 87 is placed about four to AT 42

’70s Olympic Studios drum sound, which I used for instance on the song Everything. We have two completely different drum kits in the studio, and a lot of the time we begin with tuning. For the ‘Olympic’ setup I use just three mics, one being a Neumann U67 placed right over Lenny’s right shoulder, an AKG D19 on the kick – sometimes an AKG D12 – and a Shure SM57 on the snare. That’s it, and I think that’s basically my sound. We also began recording The Faith Of A Child like that, plus another song that may be a B-side, Put Your Guns Down. All the drum mics usually went through the Helios. “The acoustic guitars are also always recorded differently. I didn’t want a pristine guitar on Everything but something chunky and percussive, so I used a Neumann U87 with Craig sitting in the centre of our live room – no bells and whistles. That was patched into the Helios mic pre and an LA-2A limiter. For other songs we used the Neumann U67 and Craig played in Lenny’s vocal booth because when we’re cutting acoustic, Lenny is normally playing drums. I generally used API mic pres, or the Helios or Trident mic pres for the acoustics. My recording setups for the electric guitars also change depending on what guitar and amp they used. Both have a vast array of Les Paul guitars and guitar amps to choose from. I tend to use a Neumann U67, U87, or the [Shure] SM57. On the song Come Out And Get It, I had a 57. The 57 miking technique involves having it between 15 and 30cm away from the speaker – not jammed

five feet above and right over the centre of the drum kit. After that Lenny dug out his antique harpsichord, which I recorded using a Coles 4038 BBC ribbon microphone. There’s also a real bass guitar, bass synth, acoustic guitar, electric guitars and a French horn. The chorus has a three-part vocal harmony. “Every mix is different, and it’s difficult for me to answer the question about what I actually did on one particular mix during a project that lasted more than two years. As I said, for me the main thing is to get great sounds going on. All my compression and most other treatments are pretty much done during tracking. We might add a haze of something here and there later on, but we don’t have a stage during the production where we go: ‘now we’re going to mix this song and change it’. The haze may be reverb, like from our EMT plate, or tape slaps from our Studer tape machine, or a new reverb called the Bricasti, which I really like. It’s my favourite new box. It’s very user-friendly. I don’t like boxes that have too many switches and buttons for which you need a doctorate in engineering to figure out. They often don’t sound particularly good anyway. I like boxes that have one or two buttons. The Bricasti has some amazing plate and chamber modelling and it has a really great sound called the A&M chamber. “But other than that the mix is simply a matter of adjusting very small things. We have

in close. The 67 and 87 are usually about a metre away, depending on the width I’m trying to achieve. The 67 has a lot more breath and air to it; I believe that mic is alive! There’s something about it. The 87 is similar, but tighter sounding. “On this album I primarily used the Helios desk mic pres on the electric guitar mics, and also a bunch of outboard, like the Sphere 900 EQ, which is fast to set, which helps because Lenny always wants to get his ideas down immediately. The Sphere is a 12-band graphic EQ that has a really good sound about it. I’ll also use the LA-2A on the electrics, and for the rest it’s to do with the guitar, amp and pedals that Lenny or Craig has picked. On many songs I also record a ‘direct’ [D.I.’d] guitar. I pride myself in my direct guitar sounds. They allow me to get a really funky sound. The guitar goes directly into the Hi-Z instrument input of an API mic pre, then into an API EQ, then an LA-2A or sometimes a dbx160 or an LA-3A. One of the guitar tracks in the song Stand has a direct guitar sound. It’s that funky little Michael Jackson-like rhythm guitar. I record Lenny’s vocals with a Neumann U47, into the Helios mic pre, a Sphere EQ, the Fairchild 660 or an LA-2A and then onto tape. That’s a beautiful signal chain. Not many people have the luxury of that chain. Finally, I used Coles ribbon mics for 80% of my percussion and all my horns on this record, with a 421 for the saxophone. I always recorded all the horns at the same time, all in the same room, so I had lots of leakage.”

the luxury of being very picky and making really good recordings and then doing small enhancements on the board. That’s what we did in Paris, and later again in the Bahamas. We cut all the tracks in the Bahamas, and we’d cut them really loudly: we like it to rock! We had worked our butts off for many months, so after that we took a break, during which I went back home to Philadelphia. “Then we went to Studio Noir in Paris, and the idea was to approach it a little differently: let’s turn it down and listen quietly to the ATC25 monitors and the NS10s. Craig, Lenny and I improved all the songs in Paris, and later we regrouped again back in the Bahamas where we went over everything again with a fine comb, improved things again and finalised them. But these were small changes, subtle things that nobody in the world but us would notice. If I was to hand someone a CD from our Paris mixes and then again from our Bahamas mixes, most people would go: ‘what are you talking about?’ Only a real audiophile would notice the difference! It’s just a matter of panning and EQ and levels. “So the project happened in three stages: we recorded and started mixing in the Bahamas, then we cleared our heads before going to Paris. Then later we went back to the Bahamas again. That’s an important aspect of mixing: clear your head!”

AT 43


SCRUMMING IT Audio for the Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony in Auckland. Text: Christopher Holder

There once was a more innocent time when colonial outposts could successfully hold ‘world games’. The CWA would bake like their lives depended on it, the Jaycees would billet athletes, and a new cinder track would be laid at the sport centre. These days, an important date on the international sports calendar is beyond the means of most cities or sometimes even nations. It’s a huge undertaking that requires vast amounts of money, and you’d better not screw up, because the eyes of millions are upon you. Which is why New Zealand is unlikely to bother bidding for the Olympics, or the FIFA World Cup; they’re unlikely to take the F1 off Melbourne, or even get that wife-carrying championship you see on Wide World of Sports every year. But the Rugby World Cup is different. It’s like Rome not staging the next Papal Conclave, or Waco not maintaining some kinda compound for a doomsday sect – it’s in the blood, and the Kiwis would sooner sell their children to talent scouts from the South Sydney Rabbitohs than forego their right to host rugby’s best of the best. The opening ceremony sets the tone. Cheesy? Inept? Go home. The proven insurance against an opening ceremony disaster is to call one number, and AT 44

one number only and that’s (cue the Ghostbusters theme): David Atkins Events. Going back to Sydney 2000’s Victa lawnmower spectacular and beyond, DAE has reliably served up colour, pathos and spine shivering spectacle for years. The Rugby World Cup 2011 opening ceremony didn’t disappoint. It was quite a show. AT caught up with the show’s Audio Designer and Rugby World Cup old hand, Scott ‘swa’ Willsallen, to get a handle on the joys and challenges of this particular event. BIG HITS: PA WITH MAX IMPACT

Christopher Holder: What were the key challenges with this gig? Scott Willsallen: Designing and fine-tuning the PA without a full-throttle rehearsal; mixing the pre-recorded material so it was optimised for the night; and getting 10 tonnes of gear off the field quickly when we were finished. CH: Right. First thing’s first, let’s hear about the PA. SWA: The show was short. At only 20 minutes you need a PA that’s going

The audio system used 18 L-Acoustics Kudo arrays comprising four corner arrays, three in each end zone, and four down each length of the field. Most are made up of five Kudo boxes. A pair of EAW BH760 subs are located either side of each array (36 in all), spaced as far as possible. There was more subwoofer firepower than usual to provide immediate impact for a short show.

to have high impact – the energy level and the way it’s delivered to the live audience had to be big. That’s why the PA was big and loud with a lot more subs in the design that I’d typically use. CH: And this isn’t using the house PA? SWA: No. It’s on the perimeter of the field of play. So the PA wasn’t in place for very long. In fact, we only heard the entire sound system playing the show content twice before the gig, and we never heard it at show level prior to the gig. CH: Why? SWA: The field has to be in really good shape for the players, so placing a bunch of loudspeakers on the ground blocking the sunlight and bending the grass was pretty unpopular. Secondly, Eden Park is in the middle of a residential area so our noise restrictions were stifling. CH: So you had to have faith in your slide-rule calculations? SWA: Yep. Rely on the maths and your experience. I had to be confident that the rehearsal at –5dB was going to equate to what we wanted on the night.

Australia-wide delivery Ph: 02 9283 2077 Fx: 02 9283 1337 265 Sussex St, Sydney 2000 AT 45

“Andrew Rodd, Norwest Project Manager: your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to clear the field of 10,200kg of speakers, masses of cabling, and a dozen field of play monitors prior to the first game in under 10 minutes.” Andrew and his crew did it in nine.

It’s interesting, because at an Olympic ceremony you have more than three hours to play with and if you notice something has changed or is not quite as predicted, you have time to make some adjustments. But our show was half the length of a typical olympic preshow. We didn’t have any time to make changes and we didn’t make any changes. It was really a case of trusting the numbers. I couldn’t even walk around – the show would have been all over by the time you got from one end to the other. It helped that it was a [L-Acoustics] Kudo PA and I know those boxes very, very well, as does Shappy [Ian Shapcott, who mixed the show]. MICROPHONE EXPOSURE

CH: Has miking up performers in huge auditoriums progressed much over the years? SWA: Not really. Wind is still your enemy. We were fine. We had perfect weather, and considering it rains most days in Auckland at that time of the year we were very lucky. To cover ourselves, we had each live performer doublemiked, with a hypercardioid and a cardioid. We resolved that if it was windy we’d bury the mics further down into the costumes and sacrifice a bit of top end to avoid wind noise. But it was so still that the mics were actually exposed. There was top-end in all those live mics. CH: Where best to put the bud mic? SWA: It’s a function of the costume. The best spot is the one that gets the mic as close as possible to the mouth, bearing in mind the movement of the head, while at the same time protecting it from wind. Combine those factors and you have the best spot. It could be down the front of a dress; could be up in the headware. It depends... MIXING: THE 2.5 RULE

CH: Okay, next. What are you referring to when you talk about optimising the pre-recorded mix for show night? Are you talking about fader mixing on the night?

AT 46

SWA: There was a lot of mixing done, but mostly in the week prior to the show. All of the music was broken down into stems and then we did a mix that helped to ‘thin’ it out. CH: We’re talking about orchestration and backing choirs here? SWA: That’s right. We spent time with the musical director and composer, Victoria Kelly, simplifying the recordings somewhat – ‘time sharing spectrum’. For example, in the first 16 bars we might let the log drums sit forward, then in the second 16 the percussion comes forward and the log drums sit back. Sharing spectrum becomes really important so that you don’t have all these layers landing on top of each other creating a great big mess. CH: Where do you acquire this mix trick? SWA: Featuring different instruments over time that don’t overlap spectrally? That’s a film mixing technique that goes back to the days of Tomlinson Holman. One of the most celebrated applications of the technique was in Apocalypse Now. It’s the ‘two-and-a-half things at once’ rule – if there’s more than two and a half things happening in the same spectral region then we need to thin it out. CH: And the main vocal? SWA: A featured instrument or vocal is the equivalent of dialogue in film mixing – it sits front and centre. Really, it’s thinning out the underscore so the vocal comes through. It took a long time. We spent a week or more going through things piece by piece, track by track, tidying it up as best we could. It was worth the effort, it tidied it up a lot. CH: Clearly, that finessed mix wasn’t what you sent to the host broadcaster? SWA: No, they got the original stems. Then we also gave them direct feeds of any speech mics or live mics. Ambience? No, they took care of the ambience mics themselves.

A pair of Digico SD8s in a dual-redundant configuration at FOH, with Ian ‘Shappy’ Shapcott in control. The signal is distributed via 14 nodes of Optocore fibre supported by XTA DS800 analogue backup. Every network node has the ability to run off the analogue or the digital and the switch between the two occurs within a single sample.

CH: So you’re trying to make the broadcast mix engineer’s life as easy as possible, I guess? SWA: Sure, because remember: the audio mix engineers don’t see the show much prior to the first camera rehearsal. They really only get two cracks at it before they’re live to air, and that’s nowhere near enough rehearsal when you consider we’ve rehearsed it for three weeks. In my view that’s always been the biggest risk with these big shows – the broadcast guys sometimes flying blind. So we deliver as much pre-packaged audio as possible. CH: How does the pre-packaging extend to live mics? SWA: Every mic on the field has three receivers. So if they’re double miked, we’re effectively giving the broadcaster six channels of receive on digital and six channels on analogue – for every live performer. And without much rehearsal, it’s a bit daunting for someone to just jump in and throw faders around. So we organised a radio mic group for them. Which comes off Shappy’s console. So whichever fader he has open – based on the one with the best RF performance – that’s the one that appears on that fader for the broadcaster. So ultimately, all the broadcast mix engineer had to do was leave the 5.1 mix stems open (they were straight off the replay machine to him); leave the radio mic open; leave the speech group open, and another stereo replay group for prerecorded video audio. That’s not a lot of faders to deal with and if you left them all up at unity it would sound fine. All you’d have to do is ride the crowd in and out, and the camera mics. 10 TONNES OF PA IN 9 MINUTES

CH: Finally, let’s talk about the ‘quick change’ PA conundrum. SWA: Well, the issue was how to get 10 tonnes of PA off the field as quickly as we could. There was less than 30 minutes between the end of the speeches and kick-off for the opening match. And in that time there needed to be warmups,

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singing of the anthems etc. CH: Sounds like you needed to fashion some trolleys. SWA: Right. These are five-element Kudo arrays – 18 positions in all – which are quite tall. And to manufacture a trolley to get them onto the field and then on the floor was quite expensive – and I thought spending 30 or 40 thousand dollars in a pretty limited budget to get the PA off the field in a hurry wasn’t good value. There must be a better way. The ‘better way’ was to use typical courier-style hand trolleys for the subs. And then a lot of time went into coming up with a set of rails that bolted onto the back of each Kudo array. And that enabled the array to be rolled onto a trailer and three or four of these trailers to be hitched up in a line and then taken off with a Gator.

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

CH: Like collecting shopping trollies. SW: Yeah, that’s right. Shopping trollies that weigh half a tonne each! But it worked really well. I mean, they cleared in nine minutes!

AT 47



(Line of symmetry)



In this second installment of our two-part exploration on stereo panning, Andy Stewart explores some different techniques to help us gain mix perspective. Text: Andy Stewart



RECORDING PERSPECTIVE A couple of issues ago [Issue 82] I penned a The assumption that every sound source tutorial on stereo panning that outlined recorded in stereo should appear fundamentally some of the basic ways this simple sweep control in the middle of the image when two mics are can be used to recreate three-dimensional space panned hard left and right is a grand assumption and perspective between two speakers. This issue indeed, and more than a tad ironic. Ironic I’ll attempt to explore a few other panning because in the end, many of these recording techniques of the slightly more radical setups sound virtually mono by the time they’re persuasion, and discuss how these influence both placed in a relatively complex mix. recording and mixing generally. (Line of symmetry)


But first to a technique that’s by no means radical, just overlooked by the vast majority of engineers and musicians. It’s actually a recording technique, not a mixing tool – although ironically a lot of panning methodology used during mixdown tries to mimic its effects when it’s absent from the raw tracking. There’s no fancy name associated with it or mathematical formula designed to decode its sonic information. Here we’ll simply call it recording perspective – where two (or more) mics contribute to a picture that is fundamentally unbalanced. Stereo miking techniques needn’t always be about placing a sound source in the middle of a stereo image, after all. While this technique might seem obvious to some, almost no-one I know uses it – at least not to anything like the degree they should.

MISMATCHED IDEAS Many engineers won’t even consider recording in stereo without ‘like’ or ‘matched’ microphone pairs; a method that implicitly carries with it the ill-conceived notion that balance between left and right should always be virtually identical. Some even go so far as to insist on mics with consecutive serial numbers! All this is fine for certain types of recordings of course – particularly when the stereo pair in question is destined to dominate the final mix image and a balance between them is paramount – and sometimes phase issues can be minimised by ‘like’ pairs. But, in reality, creating interesting asymmetrical perspectives is not so much about the mics themselves as where they’re placed.


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For every stereo recording technique involving two mics placed neatly and symmetrically around a sound source there must be 1000 asymmetrical ones overlooked, either because the engineer: a) has no concept of what impact these other perspectives might have on the a final mix; b) can’t conceive how a different perspective is relevant at the time; or c) can’t commit to a sonic image during the recording phase if they do. (The issue of pwhase coherence also comes into play here, but has little or no impact on countless asymmetrical mic setups.) The result is a missed opportunity… to discover a more interesting and compelling view of the sound source that no amount of plug-ins or digital trickery can ever hope to recreate later. At this crucial stage of a production there are myriad ways a sound can be recorded in a physical space via the imaginative positioning of a sound source relative to the mics, or viceversa. (It’s a common misconception that mic placement has somehow become less critical in the age of non-linear digital recording. No DAW program or fancy plug-in can move a mic into a different piece of ‘air’ after the fact, only alter its time response – a different concept altogether.)

ELECTRIC GUITARS Final mix outcomes aren’t taken into account

nearly often enough during the recording process, and even when they are, panning – where a sound is placed in the stereo image – almost never figures in the thinking (unless you’re a classical recording engineer). If it were, questions like this would arise more often: ‘I


wonder where this acoustic guitar is going to be positioned when the track is finally mixed… maybe I should find out before I mic it up. If it’s going to be panned to one side maybe the left mic should be placed one foot away from the sound hole and the second 10 feet away and switched to omni?’ To emphasise this point, I can honestly say that for the last two years – for every song I’ve mixed that was recorded by another engineer – I cannot recall one stereo sound where the recording was crafted asymmetrically… unless the instrument itself was asymmetrical, like a piano. As a result, every time I’ve panned a stereo instrument away from the phantom centre during mixdown I’ve had to do it artificially: with pan-pots, EQ, delay and reverb etc.



Placing mics in positions that create different, uneven or unbalanced – call them what you will – perspectives is a powerful way to achieve wide yet beautifully realistic final mixes without the need, in many cases, for artificial reverb, EQ or delay. Unfortunately, most people can’t typically see far enough into the production of an audio project to predict where a sound might ultimately be placed in any final mix (unless they’re recording classical music). And it’s fair enough too. It’s sometimes virtually impossible to say from the outset in a long chain of anticipated overdubs where that second acoustic guitar or fifth backing vocal might ultimately be positioned between two speakers. But that’s not to say it’s always unpredictable. It’s often quite easy to anticipate where things will be placed in a final stereo mix given certain known expectations.


Take, for instance, the example of a song that only involves the recording of one vocal and two separate acoustic guitars. In that situation it’s highly likely that the two guitars will eventually wind up being panned away from one another to

some extent, and yet more often than not, despite this expectation, 99 times out of 100 an engineer will insist on recording both acoustics via an X/Y mic configuration (or similar) with no regard for their final mix perspective. Why not? This circumstance provides the perfect opportunity to record each acoustic guitar in such a way that when the two mics around each instrument are panned hard left and right, the first guitar will end up with a ‘nine o’clock’ (left-heavy) perspective, and the other a ‘three o’clock’ (right-heavy) perspective, with the more ambient mics dominating the middle-ground. This naturally leaves space for the vocal in the centre, and a sense of depth behind the voice that may even negate the need for artificial reverb altogether. Exploring the space during tracking sessions while maintaining a careful lookout for phase issues can produce recordings that are naturally bigger, wider and more spacious sounding. For acoustic-based music in particular, the outcome can be far superior to standard mic placements followed up with artificial reverbs. This ‘asymmetrical’ mentality can be applied to all kinds of tracking sessions of course, and involve everything from subtle imbalances that create almost imperceptible depth perspectives through to radical changes involving one close mic and a second placed 20 yards down a tiled hallway. Pan this latter combination left and right for truly mind-blowing electric guitar echo.



(Line of symmetry)










(Line of symmetry)







Recording in stereo?: There are all kinds of ways to place an instrument off centre in a stereo mix. One approach that’s often overlooked is recording the source asymmetrically in the first place. All too often stereo pairs are used to create recordings where the source is placed in the phantom centre of the image (as per Fig.1). In many instances, a song production might have 10, 20 or even 50 elements recorded in stereo, but all too often these are captured featuring the source in the centre of the image. If the vast bulk of this stereo information is panned left and right in the final mix you can end up with a giant lump of


information in the phantom centre. Instead, why not explore the relative distances between the mics and the source during the recording session. When two mics are placed at different distances from a source, a whole world of new perspectives opens up. Paying careful attention to phase issues, try experimenting with your recorded sounds: pan the mics hard left and right before you even place them around the instrument, then place the instrument inside the stereo field using only your ears.



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These days, some of the more radical forms of panning used during mixing are concocted using digital automation. Needless to say without this advanced control many of the elaborate moves we make today would be impossible. The potential for weaving these automated panning scenarios into other simultaneous mix changes – whether they be arrangement- or mute-based changes, EQ mods or compression overhauls – is literally endless. Compelling and/or complex mix changes very rarely require the adjustment of only one technical component. Take for instance the example of a relatively simple sound that’s designed to crescendo at the end of a song’s verse, adding impact to the first downbeat of a chorus. This sound might involve some sort of combination of backwards elements – say a detuned piano and a cymbal. The obvious thing to do with these sounds is simply start them off low and ramp them up as the chorus approaches. But there’s another more convincing technique that consistently produces superior results (to quote a popular washing detergent commercial). Although it’s a more complicated operation involving a balance of automated moves all working together, once you get used to working this way it quickly becomes second nature. In combination with automated volume, EQ and reverb, panning changes can be used in this instance to create the illusion that our sounds are genuinely coming at us with 3D-like realism. You can’t achieve this by simply increasing their volume. Let’s starts with our collection of backwards elements first appearing imperceptibly low in the mix. When they first kick-in, they’re mono – either placed in the dead centre of the stereo

PANNING VS EQ One of the main reasons an engineer pans a sound left or right is to ‘separate it’ from another sound. There is validity in this idea, but how is this solution likely to fare when the mix is replayed in mono? Of course, mono is the snake-bite that renders this whole discussion null and void, but it’s still something to consider if your stereo mix is going be played back in mono on AM radio etc. The point to consider here is that when all the sounds in your mix are piled on top of one another in mono, panning is given the big heave-ho and any poorly conceived tonal balances will be revealed in all their horrifying inadequacy. So don’t just pan something away from something else because one sound is clashing tonally with the other. There are other ways to separate the two sounds besides panning them to far-flung corners of the mix. When it comes right down to it, mono mix compatibility is all about compromise in the end – sometimes great stereo mixes feel lacklustre in mono, and vice-versa. Just remember, if you’re panning one mix element away from another in a stereo mix simply because the two clash tonally, panning will only achieve so much. Attacking the problem from a tonal, spatial or gain-based perspective as well will likely produce a better solution. AT 50

image or off-centre; it doesn’t matter, so long as they form a point source on the horizon, as almost any object would. The sound montage is also very wet initially (perhaps 80% or so, with no predelay) and EQ’d to possess less top and bottom end. As the sound races towards us for the dramatic arrival of our chorus, the sound changes in several ways all in the space of a few seconds: the source sounds get louder (via volume automation); the reverb dries up, and as it does, increasing the predelay helps isolate the sound from its reverberant surrounds (and the bigger the predelay, the larger the environment our sound appears to have raced towards us from); the fidelity of the source sounds improves by restoring top and bottom end (again via plugin automation), and finally the panning spreads from mono to stereo as the sounds quickly take up our entire field of vision. In the case of this specific example – where the sound effect is made up of two distinct noises – it might be interesting to pan one sound to the left and the other right in the last half-second of the crescendo, to create the impression that the two sounds have raced towards us from afar and then flown past either side of our head at the last moment. CONSCIOUS OR UNCONSCIOUS?

But not all panning is about sound effects is it. Unlike the example above, the bulk of panning that contributes to the creation of fantastic mixes doesn’t necessarily figure in the consciousness of the listener at all. Even panning that’s movement based can be divided into two basic categories: movement that can be tracked (ie. witnessed) by the listener – like our backwards crescendo example – or panning automation that’s crafted to function invisibly as part of a sound itself. Here are some other brief examples of both: • A rapid-fire autopan setting that makes a sound shake or shimmer in the stereo image might go unnoticed by a listening audience but add greatly to the impact of song transitions. Typically derived from an outboard effect or plug-in, fast autopan on drum overheads at the transition points of a song can make the drum sound ‘shake’, adding impact where the performance might have understated the transition. • Big effects on things like vocals etc – basically anything that plays a significant role in a mix – can sometimes benefit from their own movement, particularly at key points in a production. Sometimes a particularly long and vivid reverb tail can sound more 3D if it reduces from stereo to mono as it fades, inferring depth and horizon-bound movement. Whether this change goes unnoticed or conversely becomes a dead-set hook is hard to predict. • Sounds can also appear to be moving without there being any panning automation at all. For example, recording two similar tremolo electric guitar performances with different speed and depth settings on the amp can generate some truly ‘wide and wobbly’ mix interest. Again, the recording process does all the work here;

all the mix engineer has to do is pan the two recordings apart and leave the instruments to it. Panned in wide stereo, the two individual sounds appear to wobble as one in an unpredictable manner. Again, nothing is being pan-automated as such; the two individual (though similar) sounds are simply rising and falling in volume independently of one another – your brain does the rest. • Non-core rhythm elements or melodic phrases can sometimes be shared between both speakers: one phrase voiced in the left, the next in the right, and so on back and forth. Panning instruments that are intentionally designed to be elusive in the mix in a constant, even unpredictable, manner is another good way to conceal them without turning them down. ‘TECHNICAL’ PANNING

Where panning goes almost undetected, yet has arguably the greatest impact on a mix is where it helps choreograph ‘focus’, and fundamentally, instruments panned dead-centre tend to command greater focus than things panned hard to one side (though not always). All good mixes have an element of ‘focus’ control about them, whereby different instruments are brought to a listener’s attention at different points along a timeline. But regardless of whether this manipulation is done subtly or bluntly, panning often plays a significant role. Here are some other examples. Pan automation is great at subtly ‘moving things aside’ as a new element steps into the limelight. Take a guitar lead break that plays through an instrumental chorus, across the transition and into the next verse before the finally trailing off. As the performance falls away, panning the guitar from dead-centre to the middle-left while simultaneously increasing the space around it (with reverb, delay or room mics etc) emphasises its retreat, and fluidly anticipates the approach of the next new focus element that’s swinging into view in from the middle-right and panning deadcentre as it reaches its maximum volume. A song’s plainly-strummed intro acoustic guitar might start off mono but then spread slowly left and right in anticipation of the arrival of the main vocal, by panning the close guitar mic left and adding a second ambient mic to the equation on the right-hand side. This works well if you perform the shift just as the vocal kicks in. That way the change of spatial balance occurs as if by magic. If you perform the shift too early and the trick’s mechanics are revealed this manoeuvre can sometimes sound dodgy, although occasionally this exposure is a good thing, maybe even a hook – it’s impossible to say until you try it. Backing vocals might sit well panned, say, 60% left/right around a main vocal but then open out to 85% when the chorus hits. Sounds that draw focus as they grow louder in the centre of a mix can sometimes feel as though they’re pushing other elements aside that were previously panned Distributed in Australia by: Magna Systems and Engineering, Unit 2, 28 Smith Street, Chatswood, NSW 2067 Australia Tel: (02) 9417 1111 Fax: (02) 9417 2394 AT 51



(Line of symmetry)



Panning automation helps generate focus: In the three illustrations left, a simple mix arrangement featuring a lead guitar (coloured red) is replaced by a vocal (coloured orange). As the lead guitar fades naturally away its panning automation pulls the instrument left, simultaneously ushering in the vocal from the right in a simple switch of focus.


R I G H This is but one small example of how lead elements that overlap musically can be made to work together. T Rather than simply separating the overlapping











(Line of symmetry)















(Line of symmetry)










to the middle-left or right. If that seems to be the case, act on your instinct: as something grows louder in the centre, pan things slightly wider to accommodate it. Then, as the sound recedes, close ranks back in around it. Almost no-one will notice this happening, not even the artist half the time, but it keeps the mix sounding fluid in an unconscious way, and in some situations creates the illusion that the mix is alive without people really ever grasping how or why. This is a particularly important skill to hone when you’re working on material that superficially requires ‘no production’ or visible signs of mix tampering. Flexibility is one of the greatest gifts 21-century DAWs have provided us and automation is one of the most advanced tools in the shed. A WORD ON MOVEMENT

Panning that’s fixed in position – ie. doesn’t move – during the course of a production is relatively simple to craft, and for these static audio elements, the overall balance that panning establishes between the left and right speakers is crucial to the final outcome. For ‘on the move’ sounds, however – moving either because the source was shifting its position during tracking (like a rallycar flying past a fixed mic position etc), the mics were spinning on a turntable while AT 52



elements left and right, it may be more effective to have them trade places if the timing seems appropriate. The simplest way to find out if this method will work is to try it. If the two elements clash too much you may need to try something else, but the devil may be in the detail. If the crossover period is only a few bars long it may be worth trying to modify the volume, tone and spatial automation of the first instrument, to ‘soften’ it as it fades, while sharpening the second instrument as it comes into focus. Establishing a panning regime for a song is a subtle art that takes practise. Developing an awareness of what elements should make up the framework for your mix is an important aspect of panning to master. This may involve a bit of experimentation at first. You may go through several changes of scene before settling on the one that provides the right framework for the music. Your first placement decisions may suck – no matter how experienced you are – so it’s vitally important to the success of the mix that you remain open to change at any point. Be honest with yourself, and above all else listen to the song, paying careful attention to the arrangement. Get to know what instruments come in and out, and when and what role each one plays. Pick out the featured instruments among them and keep interest in the stereo field by sharing the focus of these elements around. If one strong riff comes in far left, the longer it plays over there the more it will create a temporary imbalance in the stereo image. This is resolved best by filling the space opposite with the next featured element. There’s no point having all the hooks coming in on one side, you’ll eventually just tip over! Share the focus around, keeping in mind that these switches of perspective work best when the core framework – made up of elements that don’t change (or change very little) – are balanced and rock solid.


you were recording, or panning automation is being deployed – the mix balance becomes trickier. There are several reasons for this, all of them subjective and ultimately resolved only by your own intuition and taste. The key to understanding which explicit panning movements best benefit your mix involves knowing what roles these instruments that you’re setting in motion are performing in the first place. Panning a main vocal all over the place, for example, would only likely prove annoying to most listeners. Judging whether or not movement of this type adds to, or detracts from, your final mix is a personal judgment call that only you and those around you can make. My two-bob’s worth on the subject would be that if an explicit panning shift seem gratuitous or silly within the context of the overall mix, ditch it. Sometimes movement for the sake of it can feel tacky, and undermine the contribution that sound or instrument is making. At other times it’s ‘cool’ and has the capacity to hook the listener in. Judging the difference is a nebulous affair that takes practice and involves making a mistake or two along the way. In the end, a mix usually comes across best when

it features (or invisibly contains) a combination of static and automated panning setups. If it’s all static, the mix can tend to feel a little boring (but hey, maybe ‘boring’ suits the song!). Conversely, if everything is on the move, your mix may start feeling like a tank of tropical fish: every element too flashy, everything hard to focus on. Sturdy static elements help anchor a mix and allow movement-based components to create extra interest. Like all this stuff, in the end it tends to come down to the tasteful balance of ideas rather than an over concentration of one. EXPLORING THE SPACE

Panning ultimately allows you to craft a stereo image to suit a collection of audio elements presented to you. Like all mixing, there is no ‘one way’, no ‘rule that always applies’. While panning can be one of the most elusive aspects of recording and mixing, it’s also one of the most powerful. Significant aspects of it relate to the ‘illusion of depth and width’, and like all good illusions, the trick only works if it’s performed in harmony with all the other elements. Once you start to discover its potential you’ll be opened up to more space than you ever thought was possible between two speakers.


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10 STUPID THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T DO! This issue we’re publishing the tech’s Top 10 – handy tips to prevent death by electrocution, fire etc. Text: Rob Squire

In my music room I have a framed photo of Albert Einstein that captures him talking into a pristine RCA 77DX ribbon microphone. I like to think he had musicians and recording engineers in mind when he said “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” I also like to think he made this famous quote speaking into that nice ribbon mic on the very occasion that this photo was taken. This issue I thought I’d compile a list of the 10 stupidest things we should avoid falling foul of in the studio or on stage. Feel free to nod in knowing appreciation as we stumble, trip and stagger through the list. 1: FUSES ARE NOTHING BUT TROUBLE

The industry standard approach to a blown fuse: ‘wrap foil around it and jam it back in’ is no approach at all. It’s only a shortcut to equipment damage or personal injury. Avoid this technique like the plague.

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There is no single component that consumes more time on my ‘free advice’ hotline than questions about fuses. I hear all too often the frustration that gives rise to the industry standard approach to a blown fuse: ‘wrap foil around it and jam it back in’. Sure we’ve probably all done this – it’s 10:50pm on a Saturday night, the band’s on stage at 11 and the Marshall head has just popped a fuse. What else are you supposed to do? Well, regardless of the old adage, ‘the show must go on’, and despite what it seems, fuses aren’t just there to drive us all to despair. They actually serve to protect both the equipment and the people using it. This fact was made all too clear to me only last week in spectacular fashion when

my workshop bench power supply caught fire. I bought it secondhand about 10 years ago and it’s always done its job well, so I’ve never had reason to look inside or question its construction. This week it was sitting there powering up some nice Electrodyne modules when I looked up to see smoke billowing from the unit’s slotted lid, quickly followed by a small lick of flame. Once the pressing need to pull the mains power out of the unit and get it outside had passed, I had the chance to pull it apart and look inside to see what had happened. Lo and behold, this thing had been built without incorporating any mains fuse. This is not only illegal, it’s downright stupid. In this instance the transformer had failed, and since there was no fuse to blow, it just kept sucking mains current, heating everything up to the point where it finally caught fire. This story highlights one of the fundamental and practical roles of a fuse: it prevents things failing with catastrophic results. Of course, the thing about fuses that leads to frustration is that sometimes they blow for seemingly no apparent reason, or at least no reason that coincides with an apparent fault within the equipment. Also, just like anything else, a fuse can simply be faulty in and of itself. Not all fuses are created equal and sometimes that hair-thin wire inside just snaps off. This leads to the proposition that replacing a blown or broken fuse is an entirely reasonable step to take.

Now back to our gig: it’s 10:55pm and you need a fuse pronto. Of course you have a couple of spares in the gig bag, don’t you? I mean, you have spare strings and probably even a spare guitar lead so naturally you’ll carry a couple of spare fuses of the correct type for your amp, right? Forget the Alfoil – you only use Alfoil for cooking! 2: I CAN’T HEAR IT!

Whether or not it’s at a live gig or a studio session, sometimes audio just disappears in the headphones. Even though you’re sure playback is happening, for some reason the audio has mysteriously gone missing. We’ve all experienced it. You’ve probably knocked a switch somewhere or a plug’s fallen out and so you’re hunting down the source of the trouble. The heat is on of course – isn’t it always? – and so you’re furiously flicking switches, cranking dials and wiggling connectors, and then presto! It was just that source select button that you must have knocked earlier. Unfortunately, this innocuous discovery sometimes coincides with pumping 140 decibels into those headphones you, or the patient vocalist you’re working with, is wearing. At other times the rejuvenated signal is headed straight for those expensive main monitors like a tweeter smoking tsunami. That’s right, you did try turning up the monitor volume to 100% seven steps back while hunting down the missing audio, before you discovered and flicked the pesky source selector switch. When you’re tracing lost signals like this, take off the headphones and power down – or at least turn down – the monitors. 3: HO HUM

We’ve all heard of (ie, read or talked about) earth loops and plenty of us have actually experienced them. Like so many problems in life, there are usually a couple of solutions available that eliminate earth loops. One of these is exceedingly dangerous and downright idiotic: cutting off the earth pin on the offending power lead. For those afraid of commitment, yet predisposed to electrocution, you might just choose instead to fold the earth pin over. Either way, you risk killing yourself or others. Mains power earths exist for a reason that has nothing to do with audio quality and everything to do with safety. Every earth loop problem can be solved in a way that is safe and leaves the mains earth pin intact. Feel free to fiddle about with the wires inside XLRs and TRS plugs; just don’t fiddle with mains plugs. 4: LEAD ON

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Electric guitarists take note (everyone else can jump this section): if you have an amp that consists of a separate head and cabinet, then you’ll be using a speaker lead to connect them, right? A speaker lead is not a guitar lead... you do realise this I hope? Sure, they both have tip and sleeve connectors, and sure, a guitar lead will work to some degree between the amp head and speaker cabinet but it isn’t a lead that’s capable of transferring the voltages and currents involved. If you do this and you’re lucky you’ll just waste a tad of power in the cable. Less lucky and you’ll burn the cable out. But if you’re really unlucky you’ll blow up the amp. There’s a cable for every job – use the right one. 5: THE GREY IMPORT

I know, I’ve harped on about this before but it’s such a common occurrence that I need to slap you all again. The simple fact is that in the USA mains power is 115Vac. In Australia it is 230Vac. That’s double the Volts folks and if your grey import is set for 115Vac when it lands fresh from the USA and you plug it into Australia’s mains supply, the experience will be overwhelming… for your new shiny toy and your pocket as well. If fortune is still on your side, you’ll blow a fuse. However, chances are you’ll do a lot more damage than that, damage that’s not covered by any sort of warranty. Oh, and please also note: simply using an Australian power lead or changing the rating of the fuse does not magically convert the unit’s operating voltage. Stop and think before plugging in anything you’ve imported from the USA, unless it’s a Twinkie. 6: WRONG AGAIN

Speaking of wrong voltages: increasingly, manufacturers are turning to the plug-pack or wall-wart for power. Plug-packs are not a universal black box of power. Different machines need different voltages, AC or DC supply and consume different amounts of current. There are devices on the market that will be destroyed if you plug in the wrong plug-pack, or a pack that sports a reversed plug orientation. Now, while I’ll admit this issue clearly suggests some rank stupidity on part of the designers of these products as well – yes,

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Plugging power cables into audio cables is a death sentence for any piece of audio equipment. Figure-eight cables coincidentally fit into XLR sockets, which happened in this case when someone was fumbling about on a darkened stage trying to plug a DJ console in. Don’t make this mistake or it will be curtains for the audio device.

we can all share the stupid hat – nevertheless, beware the plug-pack. Read the label next to the socket to ensure that all the specifications of the plug pack, including the polarity of the connector, match the unit before you plug it in. As a repairer, when someone is arranging a visit to the workshop of any plug-pack powered unit I always insist that the one currently being used with the unit is sent along as well. Not only does this save me having to rummage around in my carton of assorted plug-packs for the correct type, it also allows me to rule out any faults caused by the wrong one being used. 7: DUST BUSTER

The manufacture of condenser microphones has transformed from an esoteric European black art into a mass factory production, with the resulting benefit of them becoming available at low cost. However, nothing has changed as to their capsule’s sensitivity to contamination by dust. The high voltages, gigaohm impedances and microscopic dimensions involved in condenser capsules means that a tiny amount of dust, particles or general crud can stop them working, or at least working noiselessly and consistently. If you have a condenser mic and you like to leave it on a stand ready for action 24 hours a day, at least find a nice plastic bag to slip over it when you’re not using it. If your mic came with one of those slip-on foam pop filters then give serious thought to throwing it away and getting a real pop filter. Not because it might sound better but because most foam filters degrade quite quickly and begin to rain tiny foam particles down through the grille and onto the capsule. This AT 56

is aggravated even further when you slide the pop filter on and off regularly – the grille screen typically acts like a cheese grater, scraping off the foam particles through the grille and onto the capsule. 8: FALLING OVER

Just yesterday a client returned a guitar amp head to me that he had picked up only two days earlier. “It was sounding great,” he said. “I was really going for it... jumping around, and then the next minute the amp slid off the top of the quad box and smashed on the floor. Now it doesn’t sound so good.” If something can fall over, slip off the table, snap, be tripped over or generally broken it will happen wherever musicians are involved. Call me a bigot but it just seems to be fact that musicians will realise the potential danger in any situation. Gaffa tape is the universal panacea. 9: POWER ON

Okay, I admit this one seems unbelievable, but I’ve seen the evidence and got the photos here to prove it. Fate has allowed the humble figure-eight mains power lead to mate seamlessly with the male XLR plug leading to catastrophic results. If the authorities catch wind of this it could mean the demise of the male XLR as, by the book, nothing should physically mate with any sort of mains power connector unless it’s designed to accept mains voltages. Just because a plug and socket seem like a match made in heaven doesn’t mean you should bring them together. If you have figure-eight mains leads don’t be tempted to plug them into male XLRs, it’s unnatural. 10: OLD SCHOOL

Never do this! Earth loop problems can always be solved in a way that’s safe and leaves the mains earth pin intact. Apart from it being illegal, removing an earth pin to resolve an audio hum could kill you.

If the lesson wasn’t driven home firmly enough by Meatloaf ’s opening performance at the recent AFL Grand Final, let me make one thing abundantly clear: old is not necessarily good. Purchasing equipment based on a sentimentality that’s usually reserved for old folks is not a smart idea. There’s plenty of vintage audio equipment that was not particularly good in its day and won’t be in the future. Not all new equipment is great either of course, but that’s precisely the point. Everything that’s new eventually grows old, so will all the $50 compressors built this year eventually become vintage classics 50 years from now? No, they won’t. 11: ROCK ’N’ ROLL

Sure, the title of this article may have convinced some AT readers that this ’ere list would only go to 10, but it wouldn’t be rock ’n’ roll if a list of ‘10 dumb things’ didn’t crank up to 11, so let me just close with something that, if nothing else, is a reminder to myself: don’t make assumptions. We work in a complex world that combines technology with technique, machinery with magic, all of it creating lots of potential for things to go wrong. And it’s when things go wrong that we often make our biggest mistake – we make assumptions. Whether troubleshooting a faulty piece of equipment or mixing a masterpiece, assumptions can divert us from seeing or hearing the truth, wasting time, effort and sanity. Rule number one: assume nothing.


Thanks to the members of AARG (Australasian Audio Repairers Guild) for their insights.

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Michael Lira & David McCormack – Two Wild Boys

AT catches up with a couple of rock ’n’ rollers with Marxist tendencies. Text: Greg Walker

Wild Boys is a swash buckling, gun totin’ bare-back ride through Australia’s colonial history with lots of sweaty horses, dirt-stained blokes with five-day growths and fearless heroines emerging from amongst the gum trees. The Channel 7 series also sports a killer soundtrack courtesy of the collaboration between two talented screen composers with genuine rock ’n’ roll backgrounds. Many of our readers will know of David McCormack’s standout songwriting with his former bands, Custard and The Polaroids, and many others will know the mad megaphone antics and astonishing musicianship of Michael Lira and his notorious band Vicious Hairy Mary (not to mention his new project, Darth Vegas). Both of these gentlemen are multi-award winning, multiinstrumentalist music nuts and it’s easy to see how they’ve taken to the film and TV scoring game like pigs to mud. About a year and a half ago Michael and Dave threw their lot in with some other like-minded composers and music makers under the umbrella of ‘Sonar’, and the collective approach is bearing some impressive fruit. Sonar’s other members are Antony Partos, Andrew Lancaster, Jono Ma, Matteo Zingales, Wes Chew, and Karina Pitt. These people all possess weighty individual screen composing CVs but it’s the collaborative approach to all aspects of screen composing and production that makes Sonar really stand out. Michael and David recently collaborated with Animal Kingdom and The Slap composer Antony

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Partos on the popular ABC series Rake, and Michael also co-wrote the score for Hollywood feature The Hunter with Matteo Zingales, which was mixed by Andrew Lancaster. Thanks to a fortuitous lunch break at a café outside Sydney’s Hordern Pavillion during this year’s Integrate show, I happened to bump into Michael and David (even more fortuitously I had just been handed a brand new Zoom H2N portable recorder to review for this magazine)! This set of circumstances seemed too good to be true and so, two hours later I found myself venturing into one of the most happening postproduction, scoring and tracking environments in the country. Sonar is quietly tucked away in Moore Park’s vast Fox Studios precinct and behind the front desk lies an impressive stateof-the-art multi-room studio layout that can function as a series of discrete tracking rooms or as one larger facility. After looking in on Antony Partos hard at work on The Slap score and Wes Chew shuttling clients between a spacious live room and a large mixing suite replete with tasty outboard and large format mixing console, I found Mike and Dave ensconced in a more modest sized room packed to the gills with all manner of instruments ranging from quirky acoustic nick-nacks and old analogue synths to the latest digital composition tools. I started off asking them what equipment they were recording Wild Boys with and Dave pointed at a silver AKG 415b pencil condenser above a makeshift drum kit.


David McCormack: Look, this is me and Michael’s hi-tech; we’ve got a mic and two headphones! Everything goes through there. That’s us done, we’ve told you everything you need to know! Michael Lira: (laughs) Yeah, the AKG does everything: drums, double bass, violin, you name it! We run that through a Universal Audio Remote Control preamp that we’ve recently started using and really like. Seriously though, we work in ProTools using an [Apogee] Ensemble interface and listen back on the big Focal Twin 6 monitors. We’ve also got a bunch of software sample libraries to complement the acoustic instruments. Greg Walker: And you’ve got access to the big tracking room out there when you need it? DM: Yeah this whole place is us! ML: That’s the cool thing about this set-up, all the rooms are connected and we’ve got sight-lines right through the place. When we recorded the new Darth Vegas album we had drums, bass, electric guitar (the amp was in the VO booth), DI’d keys, two horns in the front room and sax in the far room. So we did a seven-piece band in here, no problems. We had a fair bit of separation and we could all see each other! WILD BOYS TAKE CONTROL

GW: So how much input do the other inhabitants of Sonar have on Wild Boys? ML: Freelance engineer Luke Mynott is doing the final mix for this show, but Wes Chew is doing the ADR and also project managing the post, so a fair bit of the show is in-house. GW: So do you guys usually pitch for a show and say ‘we can take care of all this for you’? DM: Not always, but that’s how we’re doing this

one. This is the first time we’ve done all these jobs for the one project. ML: Wes is very keen to develop the postproduction side of things and integrate it with the scoring work we already do. GW: It must make it easier to cross-pollinate ideas between Foley, FX and score, that kind of stuff? ML: Yeah, it’s been amazing like that, just being able to walk into the next room and check something. Also at mixdown it’s really easy to go back and stem things out to get it just right. It’s been working really nicely. There’re seven of us in Sonar: six composers and Wes who’s the engineer. He’s the one who takes care of the technological side of things. All of us produce our own music and Wes does the final output to post-production unless we’re delivering it elsewhere. GW: How many stems would you normally output for a cue? ML: Initially we just stem out percussion and music tracks and then from there we do more stems if required. Everything goes to a central server and a backup machine so everyone has access to everything as soon as it’s recorded. DOWN & DIRTY

Sometimes we just hit the Marxophone with brushes, or we bow it. Sometimes we actually use the levers like you’re supposed to…

GW: Coming back to the show, what was your approach to the Wild Boys score in terms of instrumentation? ML: Because it’s set in the colonial era we decided the score should be primarily acoustic. Initially Dave, Antony and I all pitched for it together. Our pitch included a handful of pieces using entirely acoustic instrumentation with no synthetic elements at all. We just put heaps of reverb on everything! I suppose we were going for a bit of an Ennio Morricone vibe, pretty rough and ready with a bit of a Dirty Three kind of

There’s some tasty gear in the rack including dbx and ELI compressors, and API, Sytek and Aphex mic preamps. AT 59

Five Wild Boys (and one Wild Lassie) from left to right: Antony Partos, Karina Pitt, Wes Chew, David McCormack, Michael Lira, Andrew Lancaster.

we can map out a full orchestra onto the keyboard controller and basically play a whole orchestral performance in one pass

attitude in there as well. But then after we got the job Antony had to peel off to work on The Slap, so it ended up just the two of us doing the Wild Boys score. The approach has changed a little in that the producers wanted it to sound bigger so we’ve added some orchestral elements, mainly using the Symphobia classical sample library. Those sounds are amazing and it’s really quick and easy to work with. Given that we mainly use the string samples to get bigger sounds than we can get acoustically in a little room, it’s a great solution and we can map out a full orchestra onto the keyboard controller and basically play a whole orchestral performance in one pass with full dynamics. Rather than play in the French horn part and then the cello part and so forth, we can play everything at once, which is awesome. Michael demonstrates this by playing a scarily realistic sounding orchestral passage. Everything from soft strings to full bombastic orchestral hits are at his fingertips by using a combination of dynamic playing, keyboard controller aftertouch and sleight-of-hand switching of presets. It’s quite staggering how good it sounds and it’s indeed all done in one keyboard performance. ML: It’s very useful for things like cartoons too. I used to do a series called Stains Down Drains, and to get this effect back then I would have needed 20 tracks and had to play everything in individually. Doing it this way saves massive amounts of time. DM: We’re using Symphobia 2, which also has a lot of 20th Century sounds in it. We use things like ‘trailer hits’ a lot. (Dave makes a massive Doooomph sound). We love that stuff! ML: The other sound library we use a bit is East West. There’s a nice harmonic string sound we use for the eerie moments, but we always put some real violin in there too. Actually, we often add all these layers of samples and end up taking most of them out again.

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GW: So how does it work in terms of your collaboration: what is the division of labour when you’re working on a piece of music? DM: We basically do everything together. We take turns in the hot seat, have a bash on the drums etc. The hybrid kit works really well and then of course there’s the Marxophone [a type of fretless Zither], which has been a bit of a feature in this series. ML: Sometimes we just hit the Marxophone with brushes, or we bow it. Sometimes we actually use the levers like you’re supposed to, or play it like a zither with some little mallets. Chuck on a bit of verb and distortion – cue done! DM: It’s a bit Marxist but hey, it does the job! GW: And you are all obviously happy working in ProTools? ML: I actually used to work on Cubase, and when we started doing the score for Rake on ProTools I knew how to press the numerical 3 for record and that was about it. Actually I think that project was a bit rough on Dave because there were three composers, but Dave was the only one who could operate the sessions. When we started work on the new Darth Vegas record which Wes engineered, I had these ProTools sessions staring out of the computer at me and I thought ‘Oh I’ll just do a few preliminary edits’, and I ended up just switching over. In the end I found it really easy to work with. Now one of the biggest plusses about working together is being able to share all the different workloads as well as being able to create music together. There are a lot of music cues in Wild Boys, but we’re able to work 9.30 to 5.30 five days a week and at the moment that’s delivering a one-hour episode every week, mixed and finished. So that actually means we keep sensible hours and that’s never happened to us doing a TV show before. It’s almost like we can have normal lives!

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Got any news about the happenings in your studio or venue? Email or go to the AT website and register online:

Text: Brad Watts

The studio beavers have been beavering, with plenty happening around the recording traps. South of the Murray, Audrey Studios started work on a new album for mod legends, The Little Murders, tracking live and loud with Rob Griffiths who started the band 32 years ago, along with members of the Coral Snakes, The Hitmen, Jonestown, and Weddings Parties Anything, with the project being produced by Craig Pilkington. The Killjoys new album, Pearl, was mixed and mastered and their ARIA-winning debut, Ruby, was remastered. Oh Deanna did some final tweaks on their debut, and the Crayon Fields recorded beds for their next album. In the gear department, Audrey is baby-sitting producer/ composer Jen Anderson’s studio toys while she holidays. The collection includes a vintage Optigan. The Optigan was a temperamental instrument developed by Mattel in the late ’60s and reads spinning 12-inch celluloid discs for selectable rhythms, accompaniments, melodies and effects. At Coloursound Recording Studio in Altona, it’s been a case of out with the old, and in with the… old. The studio has just installed a 40-channel Neve 5106 and has wasted no time in firing it up. Mat Robins has begun working with Melbourne acts September Falls, and Tessa and the Typecast, while engineers Tim Johnston, Paul Tipping, and Mark Kelson are all spending time on the new board with their various projects. At Toyland Studio in Northcote, Sydonia is tracking drums for their upcoming release, Spider Goat Canyon has mixed their latest epic album, Fuck I’m Dead has tracked some fast

and brutal tracks, and Melbourne band, The DC3 had an album entitled, The Future Sound of Nostalgia, mixed and mastered (including the songs I Was The Guy in TISM and Henry Fucking Wagons). New equipment includes a vintage Beyerdynamic M260DX ribbon mic featuring a new Stephen Sank RCA ribbon, and a brandspanking Electrovoice RE320 dynamic. However, the crew seems more excited about updated air conditioners in the control and drum rooms – all systems go for the Melbourne summer. It’s been a bit quiet at Wombat Rd. Studios of late, so they’ve taken advantage of the downtime to do some general maintenance and funny noise tracing and elimination! Hey, it happens to everyone. Amongst the troubleshooting the studio completed an album for Gerry’s Fifth Soul, a local band who will be launching their CD mid October. The crew also dusted off some old analogue masters of The Bandicoots Bush Band, recorded in 1984 and in the breach for a 21st century remix. Although the old Tascam machine was a bit reluctant to get going, it eventually rose to the challenge and performed without incident. The end product was very satisfying by all accounts. Paula Hammond has also been in doing a couple of demo songs ably backed by Lindsay and Gail Hammond. Melbourne’s Crystal Mastering recently reinvigorated material for Zombirds, Ballads, Young Mavericks, Voodoo Economic, Late Arvo Sons, Rouge Fonce, Wasabi, Shoot the Sun, and DJ Havanah Brown. Bass cones were flexed courtesy of In Good Company, Eloquor, and The Affiliates. Australian hip-hop guru, Trem One, was also in the house mastering his next album,

For the Term of His Natural Life. The album was mastered for both CD and vinyl. The Base Studios and Mr Phil Trelfal never stop, with sessions for James Roche and Anne Wood on her first studio album. Jono Steer did a couple of tracks with Ben Abraham, Sean Callanan and Scarecrow Blonde recorded some big guitars for their EP, Nigel Hutchins began his solo project, Cathy Menezes and her trio tracked five songs for an upcoming release, Bellusira recorded a couple of band tracks, Adrian Corti put together an acoustic set, The Beauty Pageant recorded a track for release, and jazz trio Kerberos with John Turcio, recorded an album in one sitting! At Deluxe Mastering Tony ‘Jack the Bear’ Mantz has been mastering for David Cosma, Violet Town, Giulietta, Fort-Deez, While The City Sleeps, Impossible Odds, Roots of Redemption, Liam Burrows, Indonesian popsters Nidji, debut albums for Rich Davies and Tomcat, The Immigrants, Howl At The Moon, and Thomas Keft. Adam Dempsey’s been mastering releases for The Bon Scotts, Jackson Jackson, The Orbweavers, a solo album for Danny Widdicombe, an EP and album for Tim Reid, Kieran Christopherson, debut release for Kodo Motif, The Broken Splendour, Crooked Saint, Al Parkinson, The Velocettes for CD and 10inch, singles for Butcher Blades, vinyl masters for Plastic Palace Alice, Trappist Afterland and Pre-Unit, and a compilation for community arts organisation, Roarhouse Melbourne. Phew. T-bone Tunes Recording Studio has been recording more Broken Splendour tracks. Tony also welcomed industry veteran, Graham Schultz, into the studio with a re-mastering session of his

The Docking Station is a new Brisbane recording studio owned and designed by producer, Stephen Bartlett. Located in Moorooka, just eight kilometres from the Brisbane CBD, the facility boasts five recording rooms (including three isolation booths) and two control rooms! All rooms are linked and allow full live band recording, with independent headphone mixers. The booths can be used for everything from amps through to drum rooms. Perhaps the greatest asset the Docking Station provides is the equipment. Imported from New York, the centrepiece is a 1974 Neve 5316 custom 31-channel desk featuring classic 33114b channel strips. This is all sent either straight to the Studer A80 MkII tape machine or to ProTools HD2 Accel – or a combination of both. THE DOCKING STATION AT 62

The studio also has an Otari MTR 12 1/ -inch tape machine for mixdown, 4

and monitors via B&W 805 signature speakers with a Classè amp. This is all backed up by a high-end mic collection and a selection of instruments: from a Yamaha grand piano through to classic Fender amps and guitars, and Orange County and Pearl drum kits. With a focus on doing whatever it takes to capture a performance in a sonically interesting way, Bartlett built the studio with the ability to record straight to analogue tape, from conception through to mastering, or to interlace tape with digital recording. The studio also provides band-friendly comforts such as a pool table, coffee machine, video games and boutique beers – on tap, no less! The Docking Station: (07) 3160 8173 or

’60s ‘Brit Invasion’ style demos. Equipment wise, new microphone additions include a Shure SM7b and a Golden Age ribbon mic. Also added are two unique tube microphone preamps extracted from a 1940s PA system – modified by Rob Squire to make records sound old, yet clean. Rob also added a direct instrument input, providing instant ‘Zeppelin fuzz’. Heading north to Sydney, SoundEngine is the new moniker of long established audio post production company, Hullabaloo. Run by Geoff McGarvey, SoundEngine continues with audio post production as its primary focus, but also dabbles in music composition and recording for television. Located in McMahons Point, SoundEngine shares studio facilities with Greg Crittenden’s Take 2 Creative Audio. Greg originally built the studios and also runs a stable of post production outfits including Arizona Productions (Pete Kaldor, composer), Gondwana Productions (independent television producers), and The Mustard Factory (video editing). SoundEngine is based around Pro Tools HD, and Take 2 uses a Fairlight Xynergi. Bob ‘dodge you long time’ Scott has finished audio production and composition for Legs on the Wall’s Beautiful Noise. The production premiered at Brisbane Festival on a large wall outside the powerhouse theatre. Worked with the Australian World Orchestra on performance of Brett Dean’s Vexations and Devotions. The Australian World Orchestra is made up of ex-pat Australians working overseas in various orchestras. They convened under Simone Young, Alexander Briger and Brett Dean for an impressive series of concerts.

Sonamax. He’s already got stuck into mastering Clare Morgan, Mark Walton, Meem, and the Bump DJs. Steve Smart’s recent sessions include Washington, Goldfields, Icehouse, The Bamboos, Angus and Julia Stone, and Deep Sea Arcade. Leon Zervos has been busy with Tim Freedman, Avalanche City, Marvin Priest, Stan Walker, Guineafowl and The Vasco Era. Sameer Sengupta has been working on some material for The Aston Shuffle, and remixes for the Grates, while Andrew Edgson has been mastering tunes for Strangetalk, Zowie, Boy and Bear and Winter People. The Church infiltrated Spacejunk for a psychedelic moment while mixes for the XYZ TV broadcast of the band’s April 2011 Sydney Opera House show were finalised. Jorden Brebach mixed the overall show, both live at the SOH (with madly brilliant Dodgy Bobby Scott on the orchestral faders) and post the event – initially at Bob’s studio. Then TimEbandit and Dave Trumpmanis tweaked the orchestral balances prior to mastering at Spacejunk. The mixes are to air on October 6th, with repeats on the 7th, 12th and 23rd.

William Bowden of King Willy Sound recently acquired a heavily modified Focusrite Blue 315mk2 mastering EQ. Mods included new op-amps, higher rated caps, and a new input stage. Will reports it’s “punchy and clean with a –94dB noise floor!” As usual, William’s been massaging a swathe of material into shape from the likes of Magnetic Heads, Gotye, Spring Skier, Shady Lane, Ben Preece, Richard In Your Mind, Artur Cimirro, Gregg Arthur, Voltaire Twins, Jessamine Finlayson, Laneous and the Family Yah, Briscoe, Day of the Dead, Vintage Studios 301 recently welcomed Ben Feggans1:47 PM Page 1 Ear Monitors Australia #44 1/12/05 Season, The McMenamins, Blanche Dubois, to the mastering team following his tenure at

The Secret City, Hailer, Def Wish Cast, City Riots, Lanie Lane, Hermitude, Thundamentals, The Last Kinnection, Kodak, Loki, Ghost Hotel, Emperors, Russian Winters, Faker, King Cannons, Kill Devil Hills, Peabody, Professor Groove and The Booty Affair, Phil Davidson, December Scene, Simon Starling, Paper Scissors, I A Man, Richard Cuthbert, Inland Sea, Hero Fisher, Bob Piggot, M Jack Bee, Eskimo Joe, Mar Haze, DJ Soup. We’ll say it again: The man is a machine! Megaphon Studios has played host to Ross Nobel, Bridie King, Rose Of York, Rand and Holland, George Palmer, Mar Haze, and Ungus! Ungus! Ungus! As is du rigueur at Megaphon, musical stylings are as diverse as it gets, with everything from pop and rock through to orchestral and alternate country. On the South Coast, the hearty Pirate Studios crew has been hard at it completing albums for Brad Cox, Corey Legge, Garry Carson Jones, and a number of projects with Richard Lawson. New projects were commenced for local artists, Jillian Rheinberger, and Martine. For the Four Winds festival, performances by Rachel Botsman and The Sydney Children’s Choir were recorded on site at the Bermagui Hall, for use as podcasts on the Four Winds’ website. Most used pieces of studio kit have been the Jerry Jones Coral Sitar and the Funky Box (valve envelope filter from Guyatone). The Pirate crew also ran a number of venues at the Merimbula Jazz festival, and provided production for Marshall and the Fro, Pugsley Buzzard, Heath Cullen and Chris Parkinson, and Daniel Champagne. In the deep dark north, feeling the DOMC love has been the latest EP from Daniel Recker. Jason Delphin came in with his duo act and a

“My EMA in-ear monitors are really good when it comes to pitching my vocal. And the vocal sounds great – it’s right up close. My in-ears let me go anywhere on stage and I get the same result.” Jimmy Barnes

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slamming house tune, and The Drive came in to unleash some metal. Jake from Recording Oasis popped in for a session with the next Lyre CD, then Mace and the Motor with their first EP, and Daywalker made an appearance on the DOMC monitoring chain. Rodeo had the DOMC treatment, as did Paul Patterson with some Aussie hip hop. Edward Guglielmino’s first single is in from an imminent album; mixed by Jamie (former venue runner from the iconic Brisbane club, The Troubadour). Matt Dever of d4 Recording Studio has taken on perhaps his biggest chunk of work to date. He’s recording six of the eight stages at BigSound Live in Brisbane, recording around 70 bands over the two nights. The six stages were a mixture of existing venues and temporary stages dotted around Fortitude Valley. Matt multitrack recording each of the stages, using direct outputs, mic splits, and a number of ambient microphones for crowd ambience. Four stages were recorded onto hard disk recorders, and two went straight to ProTools from Avid SC48 consoles. The only (minor) issues he had were with the ProTools systems, so if anyone is selling some Alesis HD24s he’s looking for more. The recordings ended up on radio as ‘Live from BigSound’ features. Check them out on the d4 website. Hospital Hill Recordings has a surround sound concert coming up for Chronology Arts. Matt is composing a piece for the show and both Matt and Jake will be running the sound. They’re also doing the live sound for an electronics and visuals concert to launch Scott Morrison’s new album. The boys’ recording of Georges Lentz’s Ingwe recently received a five-star review in Limelight Magazine, and the new Hospital Hill website has just been launched

PERFORMANCE YOU CAN TRUST Your audience deserves to hear every note, every word, and every beat. PRX600 Series speakers were designed from the ground up to perform in the real world where difficult acoustical environments, high ambient noise levels or loud volumes are the norm. With four new full-range models and two new subwoofers you can tailor a system to fit your unique needs. And our 60 years of building speakers is engineered into every PRX600. Knowing that you can rely on your system to deliver gives you the freedom to deliver your very best.

TOMMIROCK Founded initially as a music production facility, Tommirock in Newcastle has expanded to become one of the more innovative music companies in Australia, with a national and international presence. The team and its associates have worked with some great artists, including Delta Goodrem, Christine Anu, Diesel, Alex Lloyd, Marcia Hines, Grinspoon, Col Finley, Josh Pyke, Kisschasy, Hillsong, The Whitlams, Jade McRae, Normie Rowe, Ian Moss, and various Australian Idol stars. The studio ordinance includes a Yamaha 32:8 console, SSL E 4000+, Neve 1073 and 1081 preamps, compressors such as the UREI 1176LN/SE, Teletronix LA-2A, LA-3A, an SSL 4000G, API 2500, Empirical Labs Distressor, Manley Vari-MU, and a Fairchild 670. EQ is via Pultec EQP-1A, SSL G-Series, API 550A, 550B, and 560, Cambridge, GML, and Sony Oxford plug-ins. Effects include an EMT140 plate reverb, Lexicon 300, PCM42, Line 6 Echo Pro, Roland

RE-20, Marshall Tape Emulator, and TC Electronic units. Microphones comprise a Neumann U87ai, AKG 414 x2, D112, CK12, and C3000 pair, Audio-Technica AE3000, AE2500, AE5100, Shure SM57s, SM58s and an SM52, Oktava MK319, and a Rode NT-2. Monitoring is via Yamaha HS80s, Adam S2.5a, Tannoy 5As, Auratone Cubes, and six Sennheiser HD280 headphone sets.

That’s performance you can trust.

Software consists of ProTools 7.4, Steinberg Nuendo and Cubase, Sony CD Architect, Universal Audio UAD-1 cards, Waves Mercury, Spectrasonic Stylus RMX, Drumagog, BFD, and TC Electronic Powercore cards. For a fly-on-the-wall peek inside Tommirock, head to www.livestudiocam. com where you can spy on sessions via cameras mounted within each of the studio areas. Tommirock: (02) 4915 6917 or

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PC AUDIO Does your PC audio playback exhibit the occasional tick, click, crackle, or sometimes stop altogether? Follow our Hitchhiker’s Guide to Glitches, and don’t panic! Text: Martin Walker

While cogitating on a suitable topic for this issue’s PC Audio column I Googled ‘PC Audio problems’, and soon discovered what a huge difference there is between the audio problems faced by musicians and those of the general public. Many mainstream ‘how to fix computer sound problems’ tutorials simply describe how to update your audio interface drivers and advise checking that all audio cables are plugged in. By contrast, while many musicians sail through without a hitch, others face a host of issues ranging from the occasional click or pop through intermittent playback to no sound at all, unacceptable time delays between playing a sound and hearing it, and audio degradation compared with a known original track. Apart from driver and cable issues, the causes may be unsuitable interface buffer sizes, CPU overloads, incompatible hardware components, incorrect BIOS settings, digital clocking issues, mains interference, ‘behind the scenes’ sample rate conversion... Enough already – I don’t want to frighten you all away! TRACKING DOWN THE CULPRIT

If you have an audio problem on your PC, above all else the most important thing is to be systematic. I’ve known musicians to buy a new audio interface in the hope of curing clicks and pops, only to discover later that the real reason for their problem was an incorrect BIOS setting that was subsequently resolved with a couple of easy changes to the bios. So, before you start replacing parts or adjusting arcane parameters in the nether reaches of your PC, there are certain things you should and shouldn’t do. THE DOS & DON’TS

First, don’t be tempted to indulge in overclocking your PC processor, RAM, or graphics card unless you really know what you’re doing, since this can exacerbate any audio problems. Get your recording and playback working well at default clock settings before exploring the boundaries. Also, don’t blanket-bomb the problem with every Windows tweak you can find, as this could possibly make the problem worse, or degrade your overall audio performance. Believe me, I’ve tried all the

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obscure Windows Registry tweaks, and most of them make no qualitative difference to audio performance. The two important Windows settings tend to be selecting a High Performance power plan (or ‘Always On’ power plan for Windows XP) to avoid unexpected CPU throttling, and changing Processor Scheduling to ‘Background Services’ instead of ‘Programs’, which can sometimes make a significant difference to the low-latency performance of ASIO drivers.

any hardware device that occasionally takes more than its fair share of resources, by examining its graphic display for performance spikes. Classic culprits include network adaptors (particularly wireless ones) which can generally be deactivated during audio work, and a few rogue PCI/PCIe cards. Even if you don’t hear audio glitches, a ‘spiking’ device can prevent you operating your audio interface with small buffer sizes for low latency.

Try to note down details about what’s happening when the problem occurs – in particular what software you’re running, which song, and even where in that song the problem arises. Sometimes studying the evidence will make the culprit more obvious! Moreover, if your PC has been running happily for months and then suddenly pops and clicks appear, try to remember what you changed or installed just before you noticed the problem.


Very occasional and tiny ‘ticks’ in the audio could be external digital clocking issues, in which case check your interface clock settings and make sure you’re using proper 75Ω (S/PDIF) or 110Ω (AES-EBU) cables rather than audio ones (which can also, on occasion, prevent a digital signal from getting through at all!). More serious audio interruptions such as clicks and pops or even your sequencer playback stopping completely may indicate a CPU overload – try temporarily deactivating a few softsynths or plug-ins to see if the problem goes away. If it does, try increasing the ASIO buffer size of your audio interface a little and then reactivating them.

If you actually capture some clicks and pops in your recordings, another way to narrow down the cause is to zoom in on the waveform in your audio editor for a closer examination. The classic ‘digital dropout’ has vertical sides and zero data throughout the interruption, and can usually be tracked down to faults inside your PC. If, on the other hand, you find each glitch less predictable or more ‘analogue’ in shape, they’re more likely to be due to external problems such as faulty synths, central heating boilers and the like. This sort of click can often be traced by noting when it happens, and then seeing if the heating or air conditioning has just switched itself on, or if the problem disappears after you’ve temporarily unplugged the fridge/heating/synth.

If you suspect your sequencer – or one of its settings – is the cause of audio glitches, try other basic audio software like Microsoft’s Media Player or a stand-alone softsynth using the same type of audio driver and similar latency. If these too exhibit clicks then your problem is more likely to be system-related rather than software-related.

If you’ve eliminated most of the above options and are still suffering audio glitches, search the internet for users complaining of similar issues, to see if you have any software or hardware in common. Incorrect BIOS settings may pop up here, so enter your motherboard make and model in your search, and occasionally an obscure setting in your audio interface’s Control Panel utility may be to blame. If you post your symptoms, you may even be lucky enough to get someone who recognises them and replies with some helpful suggestions. This approach can also track out soundcard driver bugs that may be cured by an update.

If audio glitches happen occasionally and seem unrelated to high sequencer activity, the freeware DPC Latency Checker ( latency_check.shtml) is a handy and rather more scientific method of finding nono audio culprits. Run it while your sequencer is operating to spot

Finally, if your audio emerges smoothly but is accompanied by a background of low-level digital whistles in sync with graphic, mouse or hard drive activity, you have a digital ground loop, which I discussed in AT75. May your audio streams emerge smoothly!

An Ideal Mix

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AT 67


MAC AUDIO An iBituary of sorts. Text: Brad Watts

I was quite a way through penning a Mac Audio column this morning when the news came through of the death of Steve Jobs. I’ll confess to being a person who is seldom moved by the deaths of people I don’t personally know – I don’t believe I’m being particularly callous or insensitive – that’s just how I am. However, right now, like no doubt many are at this moment, I feel shocked by the realisation that Steve Jobs is no longer among us. So much of my working life has revolved around the sheer fact Apple and the Macintosh computer existed. It’s Steve Jobs I must thank for keeping me in wages for many years. It’s as if Steve Jobs became a part of my life along with the machines and concepts he created. But I’m not writing this to express my emotions, I’m merely one of the millions of Apple users across the globe who has Steve Jobs to thank for his immense vision and foresight. No doubt odes and obituaries for Mr Jobs will have been written and read millions of times by the time you find yourself reading this particular text. In fact, as I type, the statistics for Tweets about his death are apparently running at 10,000 per second. The man has influenced so many industries: publishing, design, photography, film, animation, music, telephony, and home entertainment – not to mention the computer industry itself. Perhaps here it’s more appropriate we remember and re-appreciate the influence both Steve Jobs and Apple had, and for my money, hopefully continues to have on the field of audio. APPLE VS APPLE

Perhaps most pertinent to audio and music is the wellchronicled fiasco between Apple Computer and The Beatles’ Apple Corp. This started way back in 1978, with Apple Corp filing a trademark infringement against Apple Computer. The tiff was settled in 1981 with a purported $80,000 in compensation (although much larger amounts have been reported), and a provision that Apple Computer never dip its toes into the music market. The wound was reopened in 1986 when Apple Computer released the Apple IIGS. The machine featured the Ensoniq 5503 DOC sound chip, incidentally designed by Bob Yannes, creator of the SID synthesiser chip used in the Commodore 64. The Ensoniq 5503 chip was used in the Ensoniq Mirage and Ensoniq ESQ-1 instruments – both revolutionary instruments in their day – and allowed for MIDI and 16 stereo sound channels, although one pair was reserved for operating system sounds. Apple Corp litigated, and audio development on the Apple II platform ceased. In 1991 the two Apples butted heads again, when Apple Computer included the infamous ‘Chimes’ sound to the operating system. When the dust settled Apple Computer

AT 68

parted with US$26.5 million and renamed the sound ‘Sosume’, supposedly to be read phonetically as “so sue me”. What was interesting about this agreement was that Apple Corps retained the right to use the Apple logo on “creative works whose principal content is music,” with Apple Computer retaining the right to use the Apple logo on “goods or services... used to reproduce, run, play or otherwise deliver such content,” but not on content distributed on physical media. In a nutshell, Apple Computer agreed not to package, sell or distribute physical music products. These are important points to consider in hindsight. In 1991 the internet was embryonic. The case was ruled in Apple Computer’s favour, with Apple Corp ordered to pay back Apple Computer’s legal fees of two million quid. By 1997, Steve Jobs was back at Apple having been ousted from the company in mid 1985. Steve was by all accounts quite shattered by the divorce, yet later claimed the period to be the most cathartic and creative time of his life. In that period he began Pixar animation studios and kicked off NeXT Computer – a high-end workstation platform based on the Unix operating system initially developed way back in 1969! (The BSD variant of Unix later became the basis of OSX. He returned in 1997 when Apple Computer bought NeXT Computer.) From 1997 onwards, Apple Computer quickly made a comeback from its floundering performance of the previous 13 years. Steve introduced USB, banished floppy drives, introduced the iMac and showed the world computers didn’t have to be grey, non-descript boxes. With OSX he once again set Apple on the path to becoming the gargantuan success it is today. FOUR LETTER WORD

In October 2001, Apple Computer introduced the iPod. The unit didn’t interfere with the 1991 agreement not to distribute physical music products – it was a player, the equivalent of a Sony Walkman. Sure there were plenty of MP3 players circulating the market, but in true Apple form, the iPod was sleek and refined by comparison. The iPod was big news, and combined with iTunes provided an exciting and exceedingly functional method of storing and cataloguing the end-user’s entire music collection. Come 2003 and the internet was now commonplace. Download and bandwidth quotients were far in advance of anything anyone would have considered possible in 1991. Apple Computer opened the iTunes Music Store in April 2003 – again, Apple wasn’t distributing physical music products, this was pure data! To my mind this is without doubt the cleverest move ever accomplished by Apple, and indeed, Jobs


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Your self-composed music can be up on the iTunes store and selling to the public without the slightest whiff of a record label coming near it. Audio production and sales is now a far more open playing field.

himself. Of course there was plenty of controversy about Apple’s digital rights management technology, dubbed ‘Fairplay’. No doubt this would have been a stipulation set by the major recording labels with whom Apple had signed deals in order to get the iTunes music store up and flying – Universal Music Group (UMG), EMI, Warner, Sony, and BMG (now Sony BMG) weren’t going to let ‘their’ products out into the datasphere without some form of copy protection. Recently we’ve seen DRM disappear, and it’s now possible to hand around music bought on the iTunes store – not that it was difficult to avoid in 2003 – you’d simply burn a CD of your iTunes purchased music, then re-import the audio into iTunes. So why did iTunes become as successful as it has? Simplicity. iTunes brought together users’ music libraries – cataloguing, storage, purchasing and playback – into the one easy to use platform. The complexity of keeping track of your music was now rolled into a single application. That same platform now consolidates your personal contacts, movies, calendars, phone numbers, email, social networking, and the plethora of specialised applications available for the evolution of the iPod – the iPhone. iTunes has altered the paradigm of how we buy and listen to music, along with countless other aspects of our increasingly digital lifestyles. No other technology company on the planet managed to succeed in this. Apple and Steve Jobs did. THE NEW WORLD

For audio content producers, the present and prospective future are vastly different landscapes to the one viewed back before 2001, or indeed, the one we might have inhabited had not Apple Computer and Steve Jobs graced our lives. Nowadays, one can compose music in an Apple-designed application such as GarageBand or Logic Pro, using a variety of hardware platforms be they a traditional desktop computer, an iPhone, iTouch or the relatively recent iPad. Your self-composed music can be up on the iTunes store and selling to the public without the slightest whiff of a record label coming near it. This is precisely the conundrum music producers complained of a mere 10 years ago, and now their wish has come true. Audio production and sales is now a far more open playing field. Ironically, in November 2010, The Beatles’ vast catalogue of music became available on the iTunes Store – the years of bickering and litigation now over as the saga had finally come full circle. It’s difficult to imagine this could have ever happened without the tenacity and open-ended thinking of one Mr Steven Jobs and the company he created. This free-spirited approach is so clearly exemplified when quoting the slogan first used by Apple in its ‘Think Different’ advertising campaign of 1997 – the year of Jobs’ return to Apple Computer: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels? We make tools for these kinds of people. While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” May the misfits and rebels prevail. We need them. Rest in peace Steve. AT 70

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JLM AUDIO VU/PPM METER any pre-existing space you require. So if, like me, your console has a blank panel that’s begging for work, JLM will modify the meter to suit it. The meter has even been reconfigured to replace plasma meters on several old SSL consoles, with further applications in the pipe. This is a versatile little unit.

JLM Audio has a handy new PPM/VU meter kit available that’s a perfect little addition to almost any audio setup, whether it be in the studio or out on the road. Weighing in at bugger all, powered by a wall-art, and comprising a pair of colour coded LED meter arrays housed in a plain plastic box with rubber feet, this modest little unit is designed to sit on top of a desk, console or for that matter, other meters. JLM Audio is even happy to custom build the meter into virtually

If you work with audio but don’t have some reasonable meters in your setup to show basic VU (Volume Unit) or PPM (Peak Program Meter) measurements then you owe it to yourself and the people you work with to get some. The beauty of these meters is that they incorporate VU and PPM into the one readout – green for VU and red for PPM. When they’re measuring the voltage of a typical stereo audio track, the bulk of the readout displays VU as a series of green LEDs, broken up in 1dB steps. Above that, displayed in red, are the PPM ‘peaks’, the uppermost voltage measurement of which can be ‘held’ indefinitely by selecting the ‘PPM Peak Hold’ option via the three-position toggle switch on the back panel, directly beside the XLR inputs. In this mode the VU measurement includes a peak decay component that lingers for only a few seconds. The other two options on this switch are: ‘VU Peak Off’, which removes the VU peak measurement altogether but retains a lingering PPM peak decay readout; and ‘PPM Peak Decay’ which displays lingering peak values of both VU and PPM measurements. This can all be a trifle confusing at first, but like any meter, once you

get to know how it works, understanding it at a glance becomes second nature. The JLM VU/PPM meter can be calibrated to any peak threshold you require by adjusting the internal screw pots on the circuit boards – one per board. If you buy the unit complete – you can opt to build it yourself too of course – you will need to lift the lid off to adjust the sensitivity. (You can also buy a single LED array if you only need a mono meter.) Frankly I can’t get enough meters in my studio. I put them all over the place: in the outboard racks, on the console, in the machine room… I even put a portable stereo VU meter on the coffee table sometimes. I use PPM meters, VU meters, Goniometers and phase meters, and I much prefer outboard equipment to have some sort of meter, regardless of what the unit’s role is, than nothing at all. JLM’s new stereo VU/PPM meter is a bewdy. It’s clear and simple, and can essentially be placed anywhere: put it right in your eyeline or out the back, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know what’s what with the gain structure in your audio system. Andy Stewart Price: Stereo Kit: $260; finished product: $450 JLM Audio: (07) 3891 2244 or

SHURE SRH940 HEADPHONES attenuating of outside noises, even noise-cancelling. Occasionally, they can play a ‘one-size-fits-all’ role but as their sheer numbers increase, headphones are becoming more specialised and job specific. The new Shure SRH940s meanwhile are placed somewhere in between these two scenarios. They are circumaural, closed-back ‘reference-quality’ headphones, designed for live use (on or off stage), studio recording and/or critical listening. In other words, they’re versatile – almost one-size-fits-all but not quite – well-constructed and robust, and designed to cope with the ‘rigours’ of the audio industry – ill-treatment basically. The fact they have the word ‘Shure’ printed on them is almost enough to guarantee they’ve been designed to cope with a calamity or two.

Headphones play all kinds of roles these days, from monitoring, critical listening and recording through to recreational listening and live performance. Depending on the role you want them to play, headphones may need to be visually discrete, loud, bright, accurate, open-backed, closed, fashionable,

AT 72

Physically the 940s look substantial and durable, and I must admit I’ve dropped them off the recording console several times now, as well as tripped over them and ripped the cable out of the headphone socket on my adjacent outboard rack – I must stop doing that. Even my dog has tripped over them and sent them flying across the room at one point, but the headphones seem unharmed by these incidents. Like most headphones these days the 940s are mostly made from reinforced plastic, with rotatable (90º rearwards) and collapsible earcups, for easy storage and comfortable performance. Tonally the 940s are clear, tending towards bright, with a boost in the

upper midrange from around 4kHz – 10kHz, almost like a condenser mic. Great for recording studios where detailed monitoring is critically important, these cans will reveal every fret squeak, every jacket rustle and piano buzz in the room. For mixing they sound quite shiny, so if you want your monitoring to reveal sibilance, spatial cues and depth to a slightly exaggerated degree these headphones are for you. They’re not ‘flat’ sounding in the true sense of the word; if they were a speaker they’d be a Genelec. The 940s are extremely comfortable to wear, offering just the right about of pressure on the head to feel snug without causing headaches after extended use. They come with a second pair of velour ear pads (that are neatly concealed in the storage compartment inside the zip-up hardcase – that also comes complimentary with the headphones), a 1/ -inch threaded gold-plated adaptor and an extra 4 straight 4.5ft cable to replace the 10ft coiled lead that’s connected to the headphones out of the box. Both these cables reassuringly lock in place with a simple twisting action to prevent the cable pulling out at inopportune moments – more’s the pity! They’re moderately priced and well worth taking for a test drive. Andy Stewart Price: $335 JANDS: (02) 9582 0909 or

Stav’s shortcuts to great sounds! “ Stav, Thank you so much for this wonderful book.

My mind is sufficiently blown. The claims were true. It's sparked so many ideas in me and given me, what I believe, are the concepts to help climb to the next level. … you've given such great inspiration to approach the art in a whole different light. It does make me very skeptical of all of the other books I've read. It's very contradictory and yet feels like the hidden truth. Joseph LeVie - Miramar, FL, United States

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AT 73


EVENT 20/20 BAS V3 One of the most popular active two-ways of the late ’90s is back with a vengeance. Text: Andy Stewart

Either I’m going soft in the head in my dotage or these new Event 20/20 bas V3 nearfield monitors have broken through a new price/performance barrier. If I’d been told in advance how much these speakers were I might have thought less of them – although I’d like to think I’m immune to pricing and the influence it has on the mind. As it is I’ve been playing with these black-on-black powered two-ways for several weeks now without knowing their price. Then today I found out how much they were… I’ve only just managed to pick myself up off the floor. I had assumed – yes, silly me – that Event Electronics’ third-generation 20/20 nearfields were significantly more expensive, and I’m now beginning to wonder if I’m any judge of retail price at all. In terms of the sound they emit, and given the speakers I’ve been comparing them to – Event Opals, Quested V2108s, PMC DB1s, Yamaha NS10s, Mackie MR8 MkIIs – the ‘V3s’ have held their own in every important respect. They are powerful, fast as lightning, balanced sounding and produce virtually no distortion, even at 90dB+ SPLs. They’re good-looking, modestly proportioned given the size of the main driver (7.1-inch), and easy to set up – ie, there are no curves to destabilise them or special feet upon which they prefer to be mounted. 20/20 HINDSIGHT

So what gives? The first thing these speakers make abundantly clear (along with the $59 belt sander I just bought from Mitre 10) is that the beginning of the 21st century has clearly become the period in history where a product’s price is determined as much by where it’s made as how it’s constructed and from what. For many years now I’ve been making the joke that certain very cheap audio products, particularly those made in China, were made from ‘beaten egg white’ and that there could be no other explanation for why these sorts of products are made so cheaply. But the observation that everything produced in AT 74

China is poorly manufactured with inferior components is a bit of an old cliché these days, partly because it’s been propagated by countless companies that have since quietly shelved these rantings in favour of manufacturing their own products there. Needless to say the Event 20/20 bas V3s are also made in China, though not from beaten egg-white. Meanwhile, their design and development has taken place in Australia and the US. TWO-WAY RE-EVENTED

Event Electronics has enjoyed an impressive reputation since the original 20/20s were launched to wide acclaim across the studio world in the mid ’90s. The company was among the first speaker brands to popularise ‘active’ speaker systems – a design philosophy that incorporated dedicated amplifiers into the cabinet itself. This concept has become so popular since that there are now very few passive speakers on the professional market. The original 20/20s were apparently particularly popular amongst hiphop producers in The States at the time; meanwhile, most of the people I knew who owned them in Australia probably thought ‘hip-hop’ was an ice-cream. Suffice it to say, the 20/20s were powerful, moderately priced speakers with a reputation for good SPL handling, distortion specs and extended bottom-end – a capacity that was becoming more important as the years rolled by. The new 20/20s are clearly launched off the back of this reputation, but also owe a debt of gratitude to the development of Event’s more recent flagship – the Opal – inheriting much of that speaker’s Class-AB amplifier technology and design smarts. The result is a speaker that packs an impressive punch, reproducing audio signals in a fast and accurate manner, with low levels of distortion… even during some of my more recent unpredictable tracking sessions.

Apart from that – oh, and the backlit Event logo (which on the Opals can be dimmed or switched off – not so on the 20/20s) and the stealth-bomber black regalia – there aren’t too many similarities between the two designs when you look closer at their specifications and construction. EVENT-FULL

Certainly, both house the same key components – a 180mm (7.1 inch) low-frequency driver and one-inch tweeter, but whereas on the Opals the driver is of a carbon fibre composite and the tweeter a beryllium/copper metal dome, on the 20/20s the driver is Polypropylene and the tweeter a ferrofluid-cooled silk dome. Both speakers feature powerful Class-AB amplification, but the 20/20 produces a maximum output of 105dB (long-term SPL at 1m) while the Opal produces 111dB (long-term SPL at 1m). Both are very loud, one particularly so. The 20/20 also sports a more conventional MDF cabinet construction and weighs only 17kg, whereas the Opal is fashioned from aluminium and weighs a hefty 21.2kg. The latter also has two ‘variable impedance’ bass ports that curve down either side of the front panel like a Ferrari’s air intakes, whereas the 20/20 has a single eccentrically mounted front reflex port. The 20/20 also offers only rudimetary tone and gain adjustment controls – the Opal meanwhile has a veritable phalanx of selectors at the bottom of the front panel. Why am I making so much of these physical differences? Mainly because these days a pair of Event Opals reside on my Neve console 24/7, and since I first took delivery of the new 20/20s I’ve been curious about one question in particular: did the Event 20/20 design team try and replicate the Opal’s tone or ‘change the subject’ slightly? Turns out it’s the latter. The 20/20s are more articulate in the midrange and thus produce a slightly clearer, more hardedged image. Overall, mixes sound more aggressive, with transient elements (like sibilance and percussion) having a slightly more defined edge around them. The impact this trait is likely to have on your mixes depends on the type of production outcomes you prefer, how loud you like to monitor, and how long you tend to work for at a stretch. Opals are slightly less fatiguing overall, I find, although this assertion is only based on having worked with the 20/20 V3s for a couple of weeks. Of my experiences with both these Event models, the tonal differences between the two is actually a good thing. The added clarity the 20/20’s more forthcoming midrange afforded to mixes helps place instruments in the soundstage without the bottom end feeling compromised at all. (Basic specs comparison also bears this out, with both models capable of reproducing frequencies down to around 35Hz – although curiously the response graph of the new 20/20 hasn’t been published on the web.) REAR MOUNTED CONTROLS

One frustration I have with the new 20/20’s design is that its tone and gain controls aren’t stepped or bypassable. Why, I couldn’t say. Adjustment controls on active monitors are commonplace these days, of course, but more often than not their accuracy leaves a little to be desired. On the 20/20s there are three rotary controls, none of them stepped or indented: a high-frequency shelf that manipulates frequencies above 2kHz (±3dB), a low-frequency shelf for bottom-end adjustment (±3dB below 400Hz), and a gain control (±12dB). I’d assert that dip-switches would have been a superior choice for the tone controls in particular, simply because they provide for repeatable adjustment that

can be set identically on both speakers. As things stood I was reluctant to touch the controls on the 20/20s – I’m generally paranoid about system imbalance anywhere it might exist in the studio. I also bemoan the loss of comprehensive user manuals to complement pro audio products generally, and I only mention it again here – even though manufacturers hate me for saying it – because the one that comes with the new 20/20s is a typical case in point. It’s little more than a flyer similar to the one you might find slipped under your door by the Mormons. I searched around for the ‘real manual’ when I first opened the boxes but eventually came to the realisation that the single folded sheet of paper was, in fact, the manual. I guess that’s one of the ways Event has chosen to keep its costs down and make the speaker so competitively priced. Fair enough I guess. EVENT HORIZON

Overall, I am most impressed by the Event 20/20 bas V3s, particularly in terms of how they sound. Actually, in that respect I am bowled over by them. I wasn’t expecting to be. They go loud, they’re dynamically liberated, they hold together at almost any volume, they’re tonally balanced and represent amazing value for money. Despite what some of the marketing and hype might lead you to believe, these are non genre-dependent speakers – mixers of folk music or jungle ambience will be equally at home in front of a pair of these monitors, as will the aforementioned hip-hop community who will appreciate their low-end extension and power. At almost any price point these speakers are a viable nearfield option for home or commercial studio facilities.

NEED TO KNOW Price $599 each Contact Event Electronics (02) 9648 5855 @eventmonitors Pros Powerful and tonally well balanced. Low distortion. Great value for money. Subtle and modest good-looks. Cons Variable tone and gain adjustment controls. Scantily-clad manual. Summary Event 20/20s were groundbreaking when they were new, and the most recent incarnation – the ‘bas V3’ – refines the model yet again. Somehow the Event technical staff have taken this speaker to a whole new level while simultaneously making it even cheaper to buy. In some bizarre and twisted way many will feel more comfortable paying twice the price.

AT 75


MACKIE ONYX BLACKBIRD Firewire recording interfaces have spread like wildfire, but the Onyx is one of the gems among them. Text: Brad Watts

NEED TO KNOW Price $1099 Contact Musiclink (03) 9765 6565 Pros Built like the proverbial. Super useful direct monitor switch. Copious I/O versatility. Smarter-than-the-averagebear mic preamps. Cons Honestly, what’s not to like about it? Maybe your fingers are too big for the front panel gain knobs? Summary The Blackbird has a lot going for it. Besides the rock solid operation and versatile monitoring and routing options, you get eight terrific preamps thrown in. If this style of unit is on your shopping list the Blackbird deserves your immediate attention.

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Does the world need another Firewire audio interface? Mackie certainly believes so, and has accordingly let fly with the Onyx Blackbird interface. Mackie is a relative newcomer to the world of audio interfaces, yet it seemed almost inevitable, after the company began slipping Firewire connections onto small-format mixing consoles with the optional Onyx Firewire card, that Mackie would eventually incorporate DAW compatibility into smaller rackmount units alongside its well regarded microphone preamps.

setup, such as a separate console, to achieve zero latency monitoring. A dedicated level control adjusts the volume of the channels going to the main monitor outputs (and headphones, should you wish) and the monitoring can be set to stereo or mono. What I also like about the ‘Super Channels’ is the metal plate that surrounds the combo XLR input jacks. These channels will be the ones to suffer the most punishment from other musicians as well as yourself – shoving leads into these inputs willy-nilly. So the surrounding plate should protect the front panel nicely.

Onyx is a name given to Mackie’s most recent mic preamp design, and is one of the drawcards of the Onyx interfaces. The Blackbird includes no less than eight of these ‘boutique-style’ preamps – two of the connectors for which are mounted on the front panel, while the remaining six connecting via the back of the unit. The front panel preamp inputs include high-pass filters (80Hz), high impedance switching for guitar input, and a phantom power switch that’s common to both. Phantom power, I’m pleased to report, is a healthy 48V via these channels – unlike many previous Mackie designs that could only summon around 35V.

Input gain controls for the entire eight channels are spread across the front panel, with the two ‘Super Channel’ gain pots separated by their direct monitoring level control. All eight also feature signal overload LEDs. To the right of all this is a larger knob for overall output monitoring level, followed by two headphone outputs with individual level control. These can be independently switched to monitor either the main monitoring outputs or either of two alternate headphone mixes that can be set up within the Blackbird’s mix software. The power switch is also situated on the front of the unit, as it should be with a rackmount unit. My only quibble would be the tight spacing of the six input gain controls – you may bump one while adjusting the others.

The rear preamp inputs, while we’re on the subject, can have phantom power applied globally across the six channels by way of a single front-panel button, and these appear to offer approximately 46V. But getting back to the front panel preamps: these are dubbed ‘Super Channels’ according to the Mackie literature, offering a couple of useful aspects not found on the remaining six, aside from the already mentioned filter and high-impedance attributes. First up, they can be set to output directly to the monitor output, alleviating the need for a direct monitoring


The tail-end of the Blackbird is nicely appointed; mic/ line inputs three to eight feature Neutrik combo XLR connectors – no surprises there. Analogue audio outputs include: a main stereo output, the monitor output (controlled via the front panel monitor knob), and an ‘Alt’ output – all three of which present as left and right 1/4-inch jacks. All are firmly bolted into the chassis – just as you’d

expect from Mackie. Additionally, a pair of 1/4-inch jacks provide insert points across the two ‘Super Channels’. Non-analogue ports on the Blackbird’s tail include four ADAT optical ports for access to the further eight audio streams – these will allow operation at 88.2 and 96kHz sample rates using the S/MUX II protocol. While we’re on the subject of sample rates, the Blackbird will capture audio at rates up to 96kHz – there’s no 192kHz option even when only using the onboard converters (ie. forgetting about the ADAT ports for additional I/O and their 96kHz restriction). In fact, Mackie has never really chased the 192kHz sampling dragon – apart from the Onyx 400/800/1200F series – perhaps it was technically more trouble than the super sample rate was sonically worth. Interestingly, the Blackbird’s buffer settings will only lower to ‘64’ using 44.1 and 48kHz capture. Further I/O to the Blackbird includes two Firewire 400 ports and BNC wordclock in and out. Sonically, the Blackbird flies with the much licensed JetPLL jitter reduction, and uses a Cirrus Logic A/D and D/A converter chip-set. The unit delivers 114dB of dynamic range (A-weighted).



Keeping the Blackbird in the air is the Blackbird Control software. Not surprisingly, this application looks like a Mackie mixing console and features plasma-esque metering and numeric peak indicators for each of the 16 inputs, DAW output and main outputs. Adjacent channels can be linked to act as stereo channels, and there’s also the facility to run eight separate mixes; an Aux mix, two headphone mixes, and four stereo mixes from adjacent ADAT outputs. Entire setups can be saved and reloaded, and you can copy and paste mixes between sub-mix sections, and route any input to any output with zero-latency tracking of all inputs. The software is about as comprehensive as audio interface control software gets, but what sets it apart from other control software I’ve experienced in the past is the clearly laid out GUI and ease of use. There’s no software weirdness or bespoke operational methods – it just works, and worked admirably running on OSX 10.6.8. It will also run on 10.5 and a lowly G4. OSX Lion (10.7) compatibility, meanwhile, is yet to materialise – so if you’re running Lion you’re out of luck with the Blackbird (for the moment). PC folk can use Windows 7 32/64 RTM, Vista 32/64 SP 2 or XP 32 SP3 on either a Pentium 4, Celeron or Athlon XP processor. And just so you’re up and running without the added expense of a DAW application, Mackie also throws in a free copy of Tracktion 3. Incidentally, if you’re after more I/O, up to four Blackbird units can be cascaded together for up to 64 input channels including 24 preamps. I’ve got to say I’ve not tried this with any Firewire audio interface claiming to support such expandability.



In terms of fidelity there’s nothing to complain about with the Blackbird, and in this era why should there be? With JetPLL jitter reduction and respectable D/A conversion you’ll not regret employing the Blackbird as your primary monitoring device. Nor will you be disappointed by the Blackbird’s A/D conversion. The real question will be whether you like the Onyx microphone preamps, and frankly, at this price you get a lot of mic pre for your money. The preamps are clear and precise, yet not so clinical that you’re reaching for something to soften their tone. I put them alongside similar preamps in similar interfaces, along with some mid-priced preamp units and the Onyx preamps were actually the pick of the bunch. They’re certainly not ‘boutique’ in the conventional sense of the word, and as we all know there are countless stunning mic preamps in the ‘boutique’ audio market, but nor will you need to justify equally stunning prices to own them. As an everyday, go-to mic pre the Onyx devices are a cut above the norm, and definitely set the Blackbird apart from direct competition has similarly specified interfaces. Would I recommend the Onyx pres? Yes I would. So in answer to the question posed earlier: Does the world need another Firewire audio interface? When it comes to the Blackbird the answer is a resounding “bring it on!” For around a grand you get a great deal of facility: dual headphone outputs with individual mix settings, ADAT I/O, supersturdy build quality, monitoring control, along with eight very good mic preamps. For the dollar you really couldn’t ask for much more.

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AT 77


BOSE ROOMMATCH ARRAY MODULE & POWERMATCH AMPLIFIERS A ‘revolutionary’ new class of curvilinear array or just another PA? AT investigates. Text: Gareth Stuckey

Whenever a new PA system is released it’s almost par for the course that the manufacturer will tout it as a ‘completely new’ product line, ‘a revelation’, or ‘something we’ve never seen before’. But as we all know, in reality, most ‘revolutionary systems’ are usually only a slightly different take on something we’ve already used many times before. So, to be honest, I wasn’t all that excited when I got wind of this new Bose RoomMatch Array system. But after mixing on it for a few days all that started to change.

module is a two-way externally bi-amped configuration (more on the amps in a moment), with a full range performance down to 60Hz. The optional sub takes care of 40-80Hz, and can be ground stacked or flown. That all sounds pretty standard, right? Nothing revolutionary there… But this is the cool part: the 15 different models all provide different horizontal and vertical coverage patterns – from 55º x 5º through to 120º x 60º, and 13 options in between!

The RoomMatch Array system looks like a pretty standard line array at first glance, but there are several aspects of the design that are different. The boxes can be used individually, (like a point-source speaker), or in an array of up to eight elements. It’s targeted at the ‘pro sound’ end of the install sound market: churches, performing arts centres, sports arenas and so on. It’s a bit of a re-entry product for Bose… into a market from which for many years it had been conspicuously absent.

The Bose Modeler software allows you to specify the room you want to cover, how many modules you want to use, and from there the software can choose the most suitable components for the job from the many different dispersion patterns available in the range. This allows the coverage to be tailored extremely accurately. For example, look at how tight and even the coverage pattern is in the example below:


The company had identified three design goals that it wanted overcome with this new product: to reduce phase interference seams found in point source arrays (overlapping); seam ‘gaps’ in line arrays with splay angles (when splay angles are too wide the array ceases to act as a true line source); and side wall reflections in indoor venues. I agree with Bose that all these problems need to be addressed if possible, but in the install market, I can’t help but thinking that there are also the even more basic concerns of coverage and speech intelligibility in difficult situations that are worth solving. ROOM TO MOVE

The RoomMatch product line consists of 15 full range modules – that’s right, 15 – and a sub module. The array AT 78

Coverage is very even from front to back, with virtually no spill onto the side walls. Even more impressively, the second scenario (below) shows us how you can change the coverage pattern to follow the seating angles by using the different boxes for the different sections, and end up with next to no spill. (Obviously another two hangs of PA would be required to complete this system. CHOOSE YOUR AMPS

Another added bonus is that the system can be driven with basically any amplifier, allowing you to potentially replace only the boxes in a refit scenario, or use amps from your existing inventory if you’re a production company. Having said that, for this review I simultaneously demoed the RoomMatch system with Bose’s newly created PowerMatch 8500 amps. The 8500 is a Class-D amplifier that Bose claims has the reliability and sound quality of a Class AB unit. The design boasts some very clever technology. Firstly, the PeakBank power supply delivers power to whichever amp channel needs it most, drastically improving efficiency and transient response. Even better than that is what Bose calls its ‘Quad-Bridge’ mode. This allows the user to set up the amplifier as needed, resulting in any system that you build only requiring a single model of amp to drive it – power can be allocated in different ways depending on the system requirements. In a nutshell, there are 4000W of power available, and up to eight outputs per amp. This allows you to configure the amp as a stereo 2kW beast, four 1000W amps and so on. That’s not only a fantastic facility, it’s downright convenient – one amp can act as two 1000W channels plus four 500W channels and so on. Perfect for powering the whole system! All eight in and outs on the amp have DSP for setting up a system, including presets for all the Bose range (old and new). They can also be configured from the front panel, or through USB connection to drive any loudspeaker. Wow. FLEXIBLE & POWERFUL

Bose has been very smart in allowing such flexibility – the end-user can choose, if they want, a complete system, or just new boxes that can be driven with previously installed amps. But onto the real test – what did it sound like? The system I was mixing on for demo purposes had five boxes per side, and a further centre cluster of three boxes. As I usually do with any new system, to familiarise myself with the RoomMatch Array I put on my iPod of familiar tracks and had a good walk around the room. The L/R system sounded pretty awesome – extremely smooth in its response. The main thing I noticed (or didn’t) was that from the front to the back of the room the top end was extremely consistent. I sometimes find with line arrays that the tops can be AT 79

RoomMatch comprises 15 different models, all provide different horizontal and vertical coverage patterns – from 55º x 5º through to 120º x 60º, and 13 options in between!

NEED TO KNOW Price RoomMatch Modules: $4995 each RMS215 sub: $4195 Powermatch 8500 amp: $4995 Powermatch 8500 amp (networked version): $5495 Contact Bose 1800 023 367 Pros Configurable to pretty much any room. Simple product line (one array box, one amplifier). Excellent gain-beforefeedback. Configurable with any amp system. Competitively priced. Cons Once it’s installed that’s it – any room/venue/use change might see the current installation become outmoded. No weather rating – can’t be used outdoors. Summary A great line array system at a very competitive price, with options that allow the designer to very carefully match dispersion patterns to the room requirements. The flexibility of the amplifier means very little ‘wastage’ in system design and continuity throughout the system (not to mention a truckload of power from one 15A power circuit!).

AT 80

almost too directional – you can find yourself walking out of the coverage of one box before entering the pattern of the next. There was none of that going on here. Front to back it was impossible to say which box you were listening to – the system sounded like a single element rather than the sum of four. Bass response was very solid and powerful right down into the nether regions. Kick drums and bass were fully reproduced, and the top end extremely smooth. It didn’t sound like a horn at all, more like a dome tweeter. The midrange was very clear and defined, however, if I was to be critical at all I would say the system lacked a little ‘crack’. It was all there, and certainly not missing anything tonally, but snares and guitars didn’t leap out at me. Having said that I find this to be the case with lots of line array systems – I sometimes miss the directness of a point source box. SHOWTIME

So – on with the show – I spent the next three days mixing on this system. A number of presentations featured both headset and handheld mics, there were demos of prerecorded music, and a live band. I noticed particularly with the presentations that gain-before-feedback was excellent, due in no small part to the very specific dispersion patterns of the system and hence the reduced reflections back to the stage area. These presentations were done with just the centre cluster providing coverage to the entire room. Prerecorded music was very accurately reproduced as already mentioned. The live band meanwhile was a standout example of what the system could handle. With a full band on stage consisting of grand piano, keyboards, two guitars, bass, drums, sax and two singers – it was certainly a full mix. Everything sounded how it should without too much work. I was particularly impressed with the size (width, depth and realism) of the grand piano. Occasionally grand pianos seem to shrink when you mic them up, but not so in this case. Again, I noticed excellent gain-before-feedback on this sometimes troublesome instrument (especially in the low end – an even better indicator of the directivity of this system).


One thing that really stood out during the three-day demo was the excellent imaging of the system. Even though there were no in-fills or front fills, no matter where I sat in the theatre I felt like the sound was coming from the stage. There was none of that ‘PA way up there’ feeling that can happen with some array systems. This was especially noticeable with the presentations on the centre cluster. I felt right there, in the space, like I was listening directly to the person speaking. Not bad at all in a 700-seat venue. After putting the system through its paces in a variety of ways, I can confidently say that Bose has achieved its design goals. No one is suggesting we should think of this system as a V-DOSC killer – that’s certainly not what it’s meant to be. What it is, however, is a great tool for system designers around the world. I can see the RoomMatch Array being used in all manner of situations where budget would otherwise have precluded an array system – say a small regional theatre or church, or a large-scale installation where an expensive concert system simply wasn’t required, but would have been the only option available. After the demo my mind started to imagine all the possible scenarios where the RoomMatch system might benefit troublesome venues, and my first thought went to the extremely expensive refit of Sydney Town Hall: a very difficult reverberant, reflective room – long and narrow with a second level of seats that cover the entire perimeter. The current system is a centre hang of D&B J-Series, but with no products available to ‘narrow’ the throw to reach the rear seats, or ‘widen’ it to get to both the floor and the raised seating nearer the stage, a number of point source boxes have had to be utilised slung underneath the main system for in- and out-fill. The result is less than perfect, and certainly doesn’t contain the coverage to help with the already difficult reverb times. I can’t help but think that the flexibility of this Bose system would have allowed for a more tailored coverage pattern, and hence a better end result. For a Town Hall that likely only sees corporate speeches, school presentations and the odd government function, this system would have suited perfectly and likely cost significantly less!

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NEUMANN KH120A The most famous microphone manufacturer on earth has a new active nearfield monitor. Eh? Text: Mark Woods

As we’re all well aware, microphones are typically the first link in any recording chain, making their ability to accurately capture a sound source arguably the most important factor in producing high quality recordings. Studio monitors take up the slack at the other end of that chain (unless you’ve wired a speaker up as a DIY ‘speaker mic’) and while they don’t directly affect the quality of the recorded audio, they invariably play a central role in how sounds are captured, used, mixed together and finally presented as a finished product. It’s well known that Neumann has long been the world’s leader in microphone technology and while it doesn’t necessarily follow that being good at making mics gives you the inside running on speaker design, there’s an instinctive appeal to having some of that established credibility at the listening end of the recording process. Neumann’s new KH120A active nearfield speakers are the first in a range of studio monitors that Neumann has planned. MEAN & KEEN

Ultimate audio quality has never been the main criteria for judging nearfield monitors. Traditionally, it’s been more about their ability to predictably transfer what the engineer creates into the real world of radios, MP3 players, car stereos and nightclubs. When I first started out in the recording game the standard affordable monitors were Auratones (sometimes called Horror-tones) and while these speakers had no bass at all, and hardly any treble, they were quite flat across the midrange. As long as you didn’t try to force too many highs or lows into your sounds, mixes done on them translated quite well… sort of. Then the Yamaha NS10Ms came along; passive two-way monitors that possessed more bark and bite than the Horror-tones, but still negligible amounts of bass response. They were hard sounding speakers to be sure, but if the bass drum was kicking the woofer cone out about an inch and the tweeter was starting to peel the skin from your face then the ratio of high to low was probably about right. During the ’80s and ’90s these monitors were the default standard in studios worldwide. Then the floodgates opened and now there are AT 82

countless nearfield monitors on the market. It’s into this market that Neumann has taken the plunge yet I suspect the world of nearfield monitors will never be the same. EVOLUTIONN

The Neumann KH120A actually evolved out of Klein & Hummel’s O100 studio monitors after that company was purchased by Sennheiser back in 2005 (Sennheiser is also the parent company of Neumann). Productive corporate co-operation since has seen the original K&H speaker redesigned, re-branded as a Neumann product, and offered for sale at a lower price than the original. An active design, the KH120A is powered by integrated 80W + 80W Class AB analogue amplifiers and managed by in-built limiters and protection circuits. Out of the box the feel of the KH120As is solid at 6.2kg, resonance-free and cool, literally, as the cabinet is made from painted aluminium. The front panel is distinctively shaped with the one-inch titanium fabric dome tweeter centred in a sunken, elliptical waveguide. This has been designed to offer wide horizontal dispersion, for a wide sweet spot, but narrow vertical dispersion, to avoid reflections from the console or operating surfaces. The 51/4inch long-throw composite sandwich dome cone woofer is protected by a metal grille and mounted forward of the cabinet body, above two bass reflex ports. The design is strictly Bauhaus and while they look purposeful it’s the optionally-illuminated Neumann logo that lets you know you’re looking at an up-market product. The rear panel has quite a bit going on. At the top are acoustic control settings that cut bass and/or low-mids, and boost or cut the highs to compensate for environmental placement issues. There’s a helpful section in the manual that details typical situations that may require response compensation (hard walls, corners, live/dead rooms) and the suggestions were spot-on for my control room. Alongside the acoustical controls there’s a four-position sensitivity selector and an input gain knob. There’s a large cut-out at the bottom of the rear panel to connect the IEC power and XLR audio leads, and while it’s not easy

to either access or see back there, it is neat once the leads are connected. The plugs end up enclosed within the cabinet’s dimensions, pointing upwards, so the speakers can be mounted in as small a space as possible without the plugs sticking out. There’s a power switch beside the IEC socket that can be activated by reaching along the side of the cabinet and stretching your fingers around the back to find it… once you know where it is. The speakers have been designed to fit into OB vans or other tight spaces but the rear panel contains cooling fins that still require a minimum of two-inches of air space, so I guess that’s the access to the power switch if they are built-in. Between the power socket and the XLR input there’s a bank of four jumper switches. These contain a ground lift and settings to switch the illuminated Neumann logo off or on, or switch it between bright or dim. To see or operate these you have to be behind the speaker and have it turned upside down but these are generally set-and-forget switches that don’t need to be accessed often. NEW PERSPECTIVE

There is always a sense of anticipation when trying new monitor speakers. Engineers get familiar with their own choice of speakers so they can hear subtle differences between microphones, recording positions and audio processing devices, but new monitors mean everything is heard differently. I always get slightly nervous about playing tracks I’ve recorded through new speakers. Are they going to expose fundamental flaws or make me realise I’ve only been hearing half the sound? I turned them on and the first thing I heard before playing a track was nothing; the KH120As are extremely quiet when on and idling. I started with a track that I knew sounded good; several acoustic instruments in the intro, then the vocal, with the bass kicking in after about 30 seconds. I hit play and instantly noticed how good the instruments sounded and the outstanding stereo image. ‘Great,’ I thought, ‘just wait for the bass’. The bass kicked in and to my ear it was just right – more than what I was expecting… it was what I had hoped for. I had a smile on my face by now and spent some time happily playing tracks I’d recorded, as well as selections from my folder of mastering examples just to hear what they sounded like. It’s a cliché but the Neumann KH120As were letting me hear things I hadn’t noticed before; subtle low-level sounds, transient details, room sounds and stereo placement were all enhanced. Pleased with what I was hearing at normal volumes I tried them up loud with some aggressive content and discovered two things. Firstly, they sound as good up loud as they do at low or moderate levels. Maximum volume is quoted at over 111dB SPL, and that’s probably true, even though they started to load up and develop some distortion before the illuminated Neumann logo started to flash red to indicate the limiters were working. Overall they are surprisingly loud given the speaker size and there’s enough clean volume for anything I do. Secondly, heavy/metal music sounds great through them: punchy, but clear and detailed. A large part of why these speakers sound so good is their accurate frequency response and it’s worth noting its allanalogue design. Cabinet, drivers, crossover and amps… not a DSP in sight. I have noted before that the frequency response of many speakers is far from flat and it’s quite common for speaker manufacturers not to include a frequency plot with their products, despite the fact that it’s a fundamental measurement of a speaker’s accuracy and/ or colour. Neumann has not only provided a frequency plot but it’s as flat as I’ve seen for a loudspeaker: 52Hz – 21kHz

(±3dB), 54Hz – 20kHz (±2dB) is outstandingly flat. Below 50Hz they roll off sharply but for most applications the bass extension is fine and it’s surprisingly full and warm all the way down to 50Hz. (Speaking of warm, one quirky feature is the way the whole cabinet acts as a heat sink and gets warm after they’ve been in use for a while – handy as a hand-warmer in winter). If you want more depth to the bottom end you can always add a sub. The K&H 0810 ($4366) is recommended. The trouble is it costs almost as much as four KH120A speakers, and while it has integrated processing for up to 7.1 surround sound and reaches down to a rumbling 18Hz, it’s a big investment with more features than many users would ever need. I’m sure there are other subs out there that would do the job for less. GOING IT ALONE

I put my usual monitors away and started using the KH120As during recording sessions and after a little familiarisation I found them to be friendly, non-fatiguing and trustworthy. What you hear is what you get, and no detail goes unnoticed. Mixing seemed easier than normal and the exceptional stereo image and depth-of-field made placing instruments a pleasure. Their wide horizontal dispersion means you can move across the mix and still hear the whole sound. They’re great for mastering too (I wear a lot of hats here in central Victoria) with an ability to create confidence in my EQ and dynamic processing decisions. These are genuine all-rounders. Tracks that I already knew sounded great did sound great, but neither did the speakers flatter everything that went through them. I tried some tracks I was still mixing and they quickly exposed both balance and tone issues that I hadn’t got right yet. The KH120As have an honesty to them that marks them as genuine reference speakers; if a track has faults, particularly with its overall frequency shape, it’s easy to hear. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL

There are optional extras too. Each speaker has two M8 mounting points on the rear panel and there’s a wide range of mounting brackets available to suit different applications and mounting situations. For casual transport, a soft carry bag for a pair of KH120As is available and there’s also a flight case for added protection on planes or trucks. The Neumann KH120A will eventually be joined by the KH120D, which uses the same cabinet, speakers and amps but features digital inputs, remote volume control and the ability to delay the signal, but this looks unlikely to hit the market until at least this time next year. Neumann might be entering the studio monitor market at the right time. It’s possible the audio world is ready for a new standard in nearfield monitors that can be used for recording, mixing, mastering or any sort of broadcast or post-production application. They’re a convenient size, the sound can be tailored to different placements and they’re very well made. Neumann claims its manufacturing standards are so tight that any two KH120As can be considered a matching pair. The highest sound quality, established brand credibility and the perceived symmetry of having high-end products at both ends of the recording process should ensure they become a familiar sight in studios both large and small. Even the pricing seems reasonable, particularly compared to many of its microphones. As well as being a fantastic recording tool the Neumann KH120As will have you pulling out your favourite tracks just to hear what they sound like. I want a pair.

NEED TO KNOW Price $1249 each Contact Syntec International 1800 648 628 Pros Impressive sound quality. Versatility. High standard of manufacture. Embedded Neumann credibility. Cons Fiddly jumper switches. Summary Neumann has a massive reputation to uphold, and the new KH120A active nearfield does just that. Its refined manufacturing tolerances and overall sound quality are a step up from most nearfield studio speakers. Will these speakers become as famous as the company’s mics? Only time will tell. Key Features Two-way bi-amped design. Integrated 80W + 80W Class AB amplifier. Magnetically shielded aluminium cabinet. Titanium fabric dome tweeter. Composite sandwich cone woofer. Wide horizontal/narrow vertical dispersion. EQ options and integrated protection. Universal switch-mode power supply.

AT 83



Every software program on earth is running up the numbers – Native Instruments’ Komplete is now locked in at No. 8. But is it complete yet? Text: Graeme Hague

It’s the Murphy’s Law of software reviewing. It feels like only a few months ago that I was writing about Komplete 7 and all it had to offer, and yet already Komplete 8 has been sitting on my hard drive for the past three weeks. A bit of digging around reveals it was Issue 79 – that means it’s still in the toilet magazine rack, right? This latest incarnation of this Native Instruments bundle of almost everything the company produces has, as you’d expect, a lot in common with K7 so I’m not going to rake over not-soold ground here. More importantly, there are a couple of stand-out additions to NI’s stable of software thoroughbreds that come with K8 that you should know about. You can buy them separately, but here we’ll deal with them as new components of the Komplete 8 bundle. Briefly, just in case you inexplicably didn’t read my earlier review, Native Instruments’ Komplete is a software suite of virtual instruments, plug-ins and effects that pretty much covers the entire spectrum of any DAW tricks and treats you’d need in a virtual studio. For the record, you can go one better than the ol’ garden-variety Komplete with ‘Komplete 8 Ultimate’ which does have absolutely everything they make, and comes included with a USB 2.0 external hard drive to handle all the samples. Aside from the Solid Series of EQs and effects being available as stand-alone components (more about these later) and the Vintage Compressor plugs, the extra Ultimate content is a little like scraping the bottom of NI’s barrel with some stuff you might never install. Still, you can’t argue that Ultimate represents an enormous cost saving compared to buying everything on its own, so make sure you consider it if Komplete tempts you. AT 84

Right, let’s get back to the new goodies in K8. STUDIO DRUMMER

Straight away, I’m going to say that Studio Drummer has set the bar considerably higher when it comes to virtual drum samplers. ‘SD’ has been threatening to appear for a while as the next logical step after NI’s Abbey Road series of drum collections, except it was always a bit of a puzzle whether or not NI might finally revamp its venerable Battery 3 drum sampler instead. Well, I’m guessing Battery 3 is heading for the scrapheap – sadly, it’s been great – now that the new Studio Drummer has so much more. Studio Drummer is a Kontakt instrument so you’ll need the latest Kontakt 5 (or the free Kontakt 5 Player) to launch it. Selecting an SD drum kit as an instrument brings up the tasty Studio Drummer GUI with an impressive illustration of your chosen drum setup. There are three drum sets to choose from: the Garage, Session and Stadium kits. They’re faithful to what you’d expect: the Garage kit – a Sonor SQ2 system – is a little loose-skinned, the cymbals are a bit trashy and it has one less floor tom; the Session kit – a Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute – is the opposite with tight tuning, quality cymbals and a second floor tom; while the Stadium drums – a Pearl Masters Premium Maple kit – sounds big with ringing toms and thumping kick drums. Just in case it needs stating – these are real drum samples folks. The three kits were painstakingly recorded at the Teldex Studio in Berlin. All three kits can be loaded in as ‘Full’ or ‘Lite’ configurations, with the latter sacrificing some samples –

and therefore a degree of potential realism – to make life easier on your system resources. There’s also supposed to be a ‘Template’ mode where nothing is loaded and you choose the individual kit pieces one by one to make up your own, but don’t spend ages trying to find it – it doesn’t exist. Turns out it’s an error in the manual. TWEAKING THE GROOVE

Studio Drummer has a large library of pre-programmed Grooves to play. However, there is no means by which to compile a drum track inside the software. Anything you do must be dragged into a timeline track on your host DAW software. However, SD has some neat tricks to try beforehand. For example, after you’ve loaded a Groove into SD’s preview player you can then alter the overall velocity, apply swing and adjust the tightness (how strictly quantise settings are applied), and then drag the Groove into your host with all the tweaks automatically applied. It’s like instant, yet complex editing. Next, you could return the settings back to default before dragging the exact same Groove into your project again where it’ll play back unaffected. It greatly simplifies what could otherwise be some time-consuming MIDI reprogramming to create that elusive ‘real’ sound in the dynamics of a song. The Tightness control, by the way, is quite cool. At 50% it’s as the Groove was originally recorded, at 100% any human quirks have been quantised into extinction, while at 0% your virtual drummer needs to be taken home and put into virtual bed to sleep it off. Funny. Each individual kit piece can be fine-tuned for attack, hold and decay levels, the amount of overhead and room mic mix, and actual tuning. When you’re finished with that, you can turn your hand to Studio Drummer’s own mixer. THE MIXER

First of all, the mixer is well laid out so you’ll probably find you want to use it, unlike others of this type. Seriously, usually these sorts of inside-the-plug-in mini-mixers are too finicky to work with. Most users end up routing the individual drums directly to their host DAW’s console instead. But SD’s mixer is different. It’s large and detailed enough to operate without breaking out your best bifocals. Standard channel assignments are there with overhead and

The Session Kit in all its glory. Shiny drums without any stick marks, shiny cymbals without any fingerprints, shiny floor… hmm. Where’s the beerstained, fag-burned drum mat? They call this real?”

room mic faders, too. Even better, it has a range of EQs and effects that are probably superior to anything your DAW can offer. They’re called the NI Solid Series of EQ and Compression, and any resemblance in appearance, operation and audio quality to Solid State Logic plug-ins is, of course, entirely coincidental and unintended – although there is a small concession to SSL in the manual – the compressor design is apparently based on something ‘legendary’. Maybe the legal dudes at NI are nervously watching the caller ID on their phones with a serious block on SSL’s number… maybe not. All we care about is that these Studio Drummer mixer effects are excellent. There’s also a Tape Saturation plug-in and NI’s new Transient Master plug-in (more on that in a moment). Effects can be re-ordered, bypassed or routed to a different bus for further processing. The final result is a vast range of possible sonic flavours for each kit piece or the drums overall. If this amount of mucking around seems daunting, the mixer has its own selection of presets that apply specifically to each kit. Thus the Stadium Kit has a “Metal-o-Rama” preset among the choices, while the Session Kit has “Power Punch” on offer. Both work really well. It’s worth noting also that the ranges of presets can’t be used on the wrong kits. Studio Drummer has plenty of other now-standard tools such as Randomise settings, Humanise… plus the Kontakt 5 shell around it offers even more. Before you twiddle or turn anything, the sound of SD is brilliant, the Grooves library is useful and extensive without being bewildering, and I’ve already raved about the mixer. HANG ON, BUT…

You may have guessed by now that I’m impressed. Surely, there must be something wrong? It’s a niggle, but SD has no method of importing your own MIDI drum programming into the browser without you being clever. Lots of keen drum programmers like myself like to start with a groove of our own and embellish it with the fills, flams and such from SD’s library. If you could, then those nifty Velocity, Swing and Tightness functions might be applied to your original programming, too. But the only way to do this is create a new project in your DAW, compose any

The Studio Drummer mixer section showing a Solid G-EQ tab open. Nothing to do with SSL… no sirree, nothing at all. Just one of those crazy coincidences.”

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Guitar Rig 5 with the new Van 51 Amplifier ready to rock ’n’ roll. Guess which famous guitarist it’s probably named after? Clapton? Stevie Ray Vaughan?

NEED TO KNOW Price Komplete 8: $699 Komplete 8 Ultimate: $1299 Komplete 8 update: $269 Komplete 8 Ultimate upgrade: $699 Contact CMI (03) 9315 2244 Pros Studio Drummer alone worth the upgrade from previous versions. Great new Guitar Rig 5 sounds. Nice new effects plug-ins. Cons Full install requires heaps of hard drive space and lots of patience installing it… unless you get the Ultimate version. No easy way to import your own MIDI drum programming into the browser. Summary If you’re not already a Komplete owner and you’re tempted by Studio Drummer or the new Guitar Rig 5 content, go the whole hog and buy Komplete 8. If it’s an upgrade, it’s still good value.

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Retro Machines Mk 2. Old keyboards never die – they’re resurrected as ‘retro’ sounds. Which means disco isn’t dead either.

programming you want, then export it as a MIDI file to Studio Drummer’s library folder. Some DAWs will give you better workflows to achieve this, but you’ll still have to create a new MIDI file somehow. The kicker is you can’t refresh the Groove Library to access them. Only quitting Studio Drummer and restarting it will allow your own, new Grooves to appear. If you have the full Stadium kit of over 400MB loading each time… face it, it’s a workaround for something NI didn’t provide. Also, in Abbey Road Drums a dialogue box tells you which drum piece you’re playing and how. Like “Snare left of centre,” “Kick drum, wooden beater” and even “Snare, tea-towel” (really). It’s not included in SD. I realise you’re supposed to know these things by the actual sound – but hey, would it be so hard to have it in SD, if it’s good enough for Abbey Road? Anyway, enough complaining. ANOTHER STRING TO THE NECK

Guitar Rig gets a promotion to Guitar Rig 5 with additional modules that’ll satisfy any Big Hair Band fans. It’s time to dig the spandex pants out again folks. No prizes for guessing where the inspiration for the new Van 51 amplifier came from. The Hot Solo + Amp comes from the same vintage and both have a huge, authentic guitar sound rather than seemingly emulating a CPU trying to rip up a paper bag. There are also new effects and improvements to components that were introduced in GR4 for Guitar Rig’s significant makeover following GR3 (which worked fine, so the redesign copped some flak). The GR5 fixes look sensible and should appease the critics. Personally, I’ve been using GR playing live for some time and I can’t wait to stun the punters with a face full of Van 51, but my initial experiments are hinting that GR5 has perhaps left NI’s own hardware and drivers behind a little. In the studio and safely cocooned in a DAW, GR5 is exciting. On the road, and subject to the vagaries of different laptops and different controller hardware, stability issues can make you nervous. You might want to extensively test the performance first. The truth is, Guitar Rig has always been a little intolerant, although it works great once you iron out your specific computer’s requirements.


The aforementioned Transient Master is a new plug-in that NI is promising will transform your mixes to sheer genius. It’s a simple compressor effect that can be applied to any DAW track or bus from inside Guitar Rig 5 or the free GR5 Player (the freebie plug-in host for the likes of Transient Master), and it’s also there as that effects option in the Studio Drummer mixer. As the name suggests it focuses all its energy on transients, so drums can work well. But things like plucked strings or percussive organ sounds can also benefit. The concept is to push back or bring to the fore those fleeting, transient parts of the audio – the clicks, pops and blats of percussive instruments – and the results are surprisingly effective, if subtle (although the best effects often are). Since it’s included in Komplete 8 you’ll probably try it out on everything. Being a trifle esoteric, I’m not sure it’ll be high on the shopping list as a stand-alone product. Likewise, the Discovery Series West Africa instrument is a collection of (take a wild guess here) African rhythms and single drums that may only appeal to a dedicated enthusiast or film post-production facilities, so you’d think it’s not going to fly off the music store shelves in droves. As a part of Komplete 8, it might come to mind more often when you’re searching for something different. There’s plenty of variety and the rhythms are cool. You will find a use for it. RETRO MACHINES MK2

Finally, Retro Machines MK2 is a suite of 16 vintage analogue keyboards. Most of the sounds emulate keyboards that you can buy for five bucks on eBay and if you ask me it’s a mystery why anyone would want any of them back. After all, we’ve just spent a trillion dollars on software development to get away from these cheesy sounds. Okay, there are some classic sounds, but you know what I mean… An extra 1300 presets have been added in K8 across the board to NI’s whole range of instruments like Absynth, Massive and FM8. It’s always fun to devote a few hours purely to checking these out and filing them into Favourites for future reference. Talking of which, the future will no doubt bring us a Komplete 9, Komplete 10 and so on, and it can be difficult to decide which update to buy and which one to skip until next time. For mine, the inclusion of Studio Drummer alone makes this a worthwhile investment. The rest is a happy bonus.



The brand new ADAM A77X is a real game changer: similar to ADAM Audio’s two-way A7X monitors, the A77X distinguishes itself by much higher, compression-free maximum sound pressure levels and dynamics. Due to its power and radiation characteristics, it’s just as well suited to both near- and midfield monitoring. One very lucky AT subscriber must win these awesome speakers! Here’s what to do next: subscribe to AudioTechnology, correctly answer this tricky brainteaser and you could well find yourself the owner of these dream monitors, valued at $3995.


[C] Ribbon

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EAR MONITORS AUSTRALIA CUSTOM HD TRIPLE DRIVER IN-EAR MONITORS The debate is over – in-ear monitors are here to stay. Text: Andy Stewart

This is the third set of moulded in-ear monitors I’ve had custom made by the guys at Ear Monitors Australia. The HD Triple Driver System – as this review model is known – is effectively an update to the Triple Driver system I reviewed back in Issue 53, and represents almost a decade’s worth of development work.

THE SYSTEM EXTRAS When you purchase a pair of Triple Driver HDs from Ear Monitors Australia you also get a 12-month warranty that includes accidental damage and any re-moulding or fitting issues that may occur. You also receive a set of EMA A1 Generic IEMs with fit-over moulds, a spare cable, antiirritant/lubricant which makes them easier to fit, and a free set of soft sleeping plugs. All this comes in a groovy new hardcase that looks for all the world like an iPhone hardcase. I checked though… it’s a little short. If they’re accidently damaged – even out of warranty – they can be replaced, in some circumstances the same day. Last but not least, buying a set of custom Triple Driver HDs from EMA sends you back in time 100 years, or at least that’s my impression. The unique level of professionalism and friendly service that Tim and Anthony Plumb provide to seemingly all their customers is very reassuring indeed. Now I know what it’s like to have your own tailor.

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It goes without saying then that the new model is the culmination of extensive research by EMA. The new HD Triple Driver in-ears are highly refined, tonally balanced and extremely well fitting systems that produce balanced tone right across the frequency spectrum – 20Hz to 20kHz (a world first for in-ears they say). But to a significant extent this ‘research’ hasn’t just involved countless hours updating and honing the technology back in the lab – which EMA is interestingly quite secretive about – it’s also been about the genuine hands-on (literally) relationship between EMA and its customers. One-on-one feedback from end-users is eagerly sought by the EMA team – and is readily forthcoming once the large impression-taking syringe appears – and this information is quickly ploughed back into the ongoing development and refinement of the products, which ultimately benefits everyone. Like no other product I can think of in the pro-audio world, the work of producing custom in-ear monitors is a labour of love that involves a close working relationship with each and every user. Visiting performers at odd hours, and often with time being crucially of the essence, is par for the course with these guys: “I can’t go on stage without my in-ears man, and we’re on in four hours!” is a call Tim and Anthony Plumb of EMA are all too familiar with. To many acts across Australia, EMA has almost become an extension of the production crew. GOOD MONITORING

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: being able to hear yourself on stage is about as fundamental as live performance gets. Good monitoring (and confidence in the person managing it) is a liberating experience that cannot

be overstated, let alone overlooked. In fact, from the point of view of some performers, foldback is more important than the front-of-house sound. Bad monitoring, meanwhile, has the potential to savagely undermine a show by sapping the confidence of those on stage, rendering everything else that’s good about the production – the PA or the lighting etc – impotent and futile. The great advantage of IEM systems is that they work consistently well regardless of the stage environment, travel for free in your hand luggage, and take much of the risk associated with unfamiliar and/ or dysfunctional foldback systems out of the performance equation. TRIPLE THREAT

The new EMA HD Custom Triple Driver IEM system – which comprises the moulded drivers and some handy extras (that are listed in the box item below) – offers a full, natural and ‘mature’ sound. This has mainly been achieved thanks to several significant advancements in sealed speaker miniaturisation technology that was previously unavailable in the marketplace. Achieving ‘full bandwidth’ sound reproduction from a sealed unit – conventional speakers require an air intake source from somewhere, like a car’s motor; these don’t – is a big step forward for EMA. Somewhat frustratingly however, the company is quite secretive about how it has achieved such a natural 20Hz to 20kHz response. So much so that my so-called ‘clear’ (i.e., uncoloured – you can choose any colour) HD Customs had a smokey white paint mixed through the moulds to conceal the internal drivers, making my new in-ears look uncannily like bird poop – not a very flattering on-stage look I might say. [Tim, you should have advised me to run with black!] The other improvement over my previous Triple Drivers is that the new HD in-ears are now made to fit a little tighter in the ear, making the sound of these monitors quite superb. Ironically, this snug fit combined with the wider bandwidth response makes you feel less cut off from the outside world, not more so. If your on-stage in-ear mix includes crowd

ambience for instance, this can be replicated more naturally and therefore sound less artificial. (There are also passive and active ‘talk though’ options available for those who tend to feel claustrophobic wearing IEMs.) No matter how loud you drive them – and they can go dangerously loud if you’re not extremely careful about how you manage audio signals feeding into them – and regardless of what instrument you’re playing, these HD in-ears pack a punch. The significant change, however, is not just that they’re even louder than before, or even that the new ‘bird poop’ model makes the old one look out-of-date. The important difference is that the tone of this latest version is fuller, particularly below about 200Hz and above 10kHz. If you’re a singer, especially if you’re one who’s inclined to open your mouth wide, the beauty of these new ‘snug fitting’ customs is that they prevent the seal being compromised by the movement of your jaw, which often generates distracting swishing or swirling sounds and a loss of bass response. This has improved my experience of wearing custom in-ears significantly, and given me far greater confidence in the whole concept of IEMs than I’ve had before. No longer am I concerned that the tone will suddenly become too thin or harsh the moment the seal is broken. Of course, given this fuller sound, and particularly with a decent foldback system behind them, the tone of these HD Triple Drivers can now be essentially anything you want it to be, particularly live. To some degree the ‘flat’ response of the HD Triples is less important live than the fact that they can now reproduce any tone you want: loud and smooth, bassy and mellow, hard and cutting – whatever you require. They’re essentially a blank canvas for you and your foldback engineer to manipulate. Saying that, without EQ the tonal balance of these in-ears is very reassuring. They’re capable of recreating a very big and impressive soundstage on a scale befitting the physical surrounds of a big stage environment – psychologically it makes no sense, on a big stage in particular, for your in-ear monitor mix to sound small, constricted and dominated by midrange. WEARING THEM IN… & OUT

It goes without saying that in-ears are an acquired taste live, and even among those lucky enough to be in the position to choose their on-stage monitoring format, many are still sceptical of the technology. Meanwhile, there’s hardly an engineer left on the planet who wouldn’t agree that in-ears ultimately benefit a live production in several respects: they clean up the stage spill, they virtually eliminate feedback, they increase on-stage real estate, they reduce the production costs… if you’re touring they can even make the truck smaller! Musicians can monitor at any level they want, loud or soft, rather than simply compete with the loudest player on stage, and in some situations this can lead to vastly reduced on-stage SPLs for both the performers and stage crew. These benefits also impact hugely at front of house. FOH engineers can mix the sound for an audience without being compromised by spill from out-of-control on-stage volumes. But all of this means nothing of course if the musicians aren’t comfortable wearing them. But that’s not all in-ears do. If you’re a musician that plays live, chances are you’re also in the studio recording at some point and in this environment in-ears work brilliantly. Wherever standard headphones are used, custom in-ears (or for that matter ‘generics’) can act as a perfectly viable replacement. As with on-stage performance, the benefits of in-ears in the studio are several: they’re light, inconspicuous and less cumbersome than headphones or wedges, they reduce spill and virtually eradicate feedback – yes, you

can get feedback in the studio too, I assure you. (Just like a conventional foldback wedge, headphones can sometimes cause feedback when they’re in close proximity to a mic – during vocal tracking etc.) General spill from click tracks and other instruments is also mitigated by virtue of the headphones being in your ears not on them. They’re great for drummers too, who can often accidentally clock bulky headphones with a stick at particularly ‘expressive’ moments of a take. Personally, I use in-ear monitors everywhere now: on stage, in the studio, behind the drumkit, tracking vocals… even when I’m mixing and mastering. FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTENT

Familiarity with them is the key. Once you’re over the hump of feeling self-conscious about wearing them and used to the essential differences that exist between in-ears and wedges (or for that matter headphones), using them in different situations ultimately makes you feel more comfortable wearing them everywhere. By that I mean: the more you wear them the more natural wearing them seems. Once you’re in that zone you’re free to carry your own personalised monitoring system with you everywhere you go, in your pocket no less. Try doing that with a wedge! Live performances feel less alienating and unpredictable, recording sessions feel more comfortable and less fatiguing and the two situations start to feel more like one another. From where I stand that’s a good thing. DRIVING BLIND

The main problem with expensive custom in-ear monitors like the EMA HD Triple Drivers remains the fact that they’re impossible to test drive, which makes outlaying significant wads of cash for a pair all the more difficult. As I probably mentioned the last time I reviewed EMA custom in-ears, I wouldn’t advise lashing out on a pair until you’ve at least trialled ‘generics’ for a while and gotten familiar with the idea of performing live with something shoved in your ears. Some find the physical reality of monitoring this way completely incompatible with stage performance. Discovering that inears aren’t for you after you’ve spent thousands on a pair that only you can wear is just plain silly. You can’t on-sell them later… unless you have an identical twin, I guess. Having said that, generics don’t offer quite the same experience as custom-moulded in-ears, and may turn some people off the idea prematurely. But as a general rule: if you hate wearing generics, you probably won’t feel much different about customs. What I can say with assurity is that the EMA HD Triple Drivers sound amazing, fit snugly without feeling tight or causing fatigue, and can reproduce a wide bandwidth of audio signals. No matter what instrument you play – whether it’s drums, bass guitar or Bach trumpet, these IEMs will ably represent your instrument. Personally – and I keep saying that because it’s a very personal experience – I much prefer these EMA HD Triple Driver in-ears to my ‘reference headphones’ nowadays. To me, the in-ear experience is far more satisfying and accurate than conventional headphone monitoring. The left/right balance, spatialisation and depth perception of mixes is unmatched and makes placing sounds in three-dimensional space much easier to finesse. Much of the guesswork is taken out of it; minute details relating to delay and reverb setting and the like are clearer, and generally speaking, things panned hard and mixed low are more audible. Now that EMA’s new Triple Driver IEMs offer such a broad frequency response, I can’t resist using them everywhere. I’m a convert, no question.

NEED TO KNOW Price $2600 Contact Ear Monitors Australia (03) 9844 2524 Pros Full-range, natural tone. Snug and reassuring fit (guaranteed). Great backup service and extras. Well constructed and presented. Cons In-ears still not for everyone. Extremely dangerous if you’re in the hands of an unreliable foldback engineer. Expensive, particularly if you’re on the fence about IEMs. Summary EMA HD Triple Drivers represent another step forward for custom in-ear monitoring. They fit well – mainly because the team at EMA are so experienced – sound superb and are capable of representing just about any instrument regardless of its dynamic or tonal response. They go loud – almost too loud – and singers in particular will love their capacity for natural human voice reproduction.

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Even classier looks disguise the upgraded converters and preamps. Text: Calum Orr

NEED TO KNOW Price From $659 Contact Sound Devices (02) 9283 2077 facebook: /sounddevicesaus Pros Sleek styling. Great converters. Nice preamps. Rock-solid drivers and software. New assignable soft buttons. Cons Less physical inputs means more unplugging and plugging leads than the original Duet. Lack of wordclock or digital ins and outs may bother some. Summary The Duet 2 furthers the Apogee tradition of Maccentric soundcards. The new styling and increased resolution of the new model should find many admirers. With monitoring of input and output levels via the unit’s OLED screen, the converters can now be operated as far away from your potentially noisy computer as your USB cable can reach.

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Being a reasonably committed Mac user these days, about a year ago now I bought a secondhand Apogee Duet for the studio. Aside from the fancy styling, the original Duet had decent converters, drivers and software, and I was pretty taken by the idea that its ‘Maestro’ software could change the Duet’s output fader volume via the Mac’s volume keys – F3, 4 and 5. The software also featured pop-up visual representation on the Mac screen when you changed gain, outputs or settings. All up, it integrated well with the Mac, and was great for controlling the family iTunes library in the lounge while providing a ‘lounge room’ sketchpad soundcard. When I bought the Duet it was already four years old and the new Duet 2 was almost certainly well into its final development phase. It’s clear that this long period on the drawing board has been well worth it. The Duet 2 looks sleeker and more restrained than the old model, sporting a black opaque glass insert on the top of the unit which houses the full-colour OLED display, touch buttons (more on these in a moment) and aluminium data wheel. The result is one very classy-looking device – very Mac-like. But all this superficiality belies the Duet 2’s real news – redesigned mic pres and better-sounding converters with higher sampling rate capabilities (192kHz) than the original. TESTING ONE, TWO

Kicking the test drive off I used the Duet 2 on some voice recordings and immediately there seemed to be a vast sonic improvement over the Duet. Using a variety of different microphones the midrange of the Duet 2 remained detailed across the board, making the original Duet preamps seem a little ‘closed in’ by comparison. Used as a DI for electric guitars and bass I had no problem getting good representations of these instruments, and coupled with a decent amp simulator such as Guitar Rig 4 or Logic Pro’s own amp sim, convincing sounds were easy to dial up. Dare I say it, these sounds seemed consistently more convincing than the same setup captured via the Duet. I’ve compared

countless DIs now and conferred on the subject at length with fellow AT writer, Andrew Bencina. Up until now we agreed that the ‘best built-in DI on a soundcard’ were those from RME. Now I would say the Duet 2 DI joins those illustrious ranks. Ditching the amp sims and routing the signal to my Fender Blues Deluxe via Rob Squire’s Broadcast Audio re-amp box also sounded great, with the DI signal needing no EQ or filters prior to the amp. So, what else is different about the Duet 2 aside from better styling, a better input stage and nicer converters – assuming that’s not enough? Well, a larger, lower profile and altogether more comfortable aluminium data wheel and a change from the Firewire 400 connection to the more ubiquitous USB2, for starters. TECHNICOLOUR DISPLAY

The new full colour OLED display on the unit means visual representation of input gains, output levels, phantom power etc now appear on the unit itself as well as the screen, which is great when you’re using a long USB cable to record things at a distance from the computer screen, say, in the live room. Looking at the display, from left to right is: mic, guitar, speakers and headphone. Push the data wheel as a button to scroll through the options and turn the data wheel to change gains and outputs. The ‘Overview’ mode returns whenever you cease inputting data via the wheel. In keeping with the touchy-feely way things are going at Apple, Apogee has also included two user programmable touch buttons on the top of the unit, at 11 and one o’clock with respect to the data wheel (I hate calling it a data wheel actually because it looks far nicer than the name suggests!). I initially set the ‘11 o’clock’ touch button to Output Dim control duties and the ‘one o’clock’ to Mono fold-down, which I still like to do a lot when I’m mixing. MAESTRO, PLEASE

Overall, the new Apogee Maestro 2 software interface has been nicely redesigned. While most things have remained largely unaltered, assignment of the aforementioned touch

buttons is found under the Device Settings tab. The main screen now has dedicated output controls with mutes and you can also name channels – although this doesn’t mean the channels show up in your DAW as ‘Pete’s voice’ or ‘Gibson Les Paul’. Labelling channels simply helps remind you of what’s plugged in at a glance, so long as you remember to keep renaming things when your input sources change. On that note, even though the newly redesigned breakout cable on the Duet 2 looks better and less cluttered, the combo jack means you don’t have the physical sockets to leave stuff plugged in. I find myself having to plug and unplug things all the time now, whereas with the original Duet I was able to have bass and guitar permanently plugged in as well as a couple of different mics. Thankfully Apogee also make an optional breakout box featuring two XLR and two 1/4-inch inputs and two balanced XLR outputs, for those who want a more permanent setup. One other significant design change is that the Duet 2 comes with a 5V DC wall-wart power supply, to help power the unit if there’s too much current being drawn from multiple devices on your Mac’s USB2 system. This can occur for instance when both mic inputs are drawing phantom power and the user is running the soundcard at high output levels. A warning to plug in the adaptor is shown either on your Apple screen or the Duet 2’s OLED display (As it was, I kept mine plugged in all the time). Finally, the new Apogee Duet 2 has a fancy new one-piece rubber slip mat on its underside, which is definitely a step up from the original Duet’s rubber feet.

THUNDER STRUCK With the advent of the new mega throughput of Thunderbolt now becoming standard on new Macs, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Firewire protocol is about to face its demise, particularly with the uptake by major manufacturers of the faster USB3 standard. Not to speculate too much here but the Apogee Duet 3 will most likely have either Thunderbolt or USB3 as its protocol. I guess some may argue that Apogee should have implemented one of these protocols on the Duet 2 but with all Intel Macs already sporting USB2 frankly, it’s no wonder they went with that standard. Plus with just 2-in/4-out and no digital I/O, I guess the Duet 2 doesn’t really need to have that amount of wideband, super fast throughput.

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Pictured is the Pro2C. The Pro2 has eight extra channel faders.


AT’s Trevor Cronin gets his hands on a pre-production unit of Midas’ baby of the digital range. ‘Made in China’ may have never sounded so good. Text: Trevor Cronin

Midas has always been regarded by many as one of the best audio mixers available, and they’re also a personal favourite of mine. Its analogue consoles old and new have always been very popular thanks to the ‘Midas sound’ and great features. In fact, there was so much affection for the Midas marque that most were willing to overlook the fact it was about two years late in releasing a digital console. The company’s first offering was the top-of-the-line XL8, a very sophisticated, large-footprint monster with an equally large feature set and corresponding price tag. The next product release was the more compact and affordable Pro6, which competes with many other large digital mixers on the market. Next the Pro3 and Pro9 came along, which interestingly (and as an industry first) used the same frame size as the 6 but came loaded with either more (Pro9) or less (Pro3) ‘capacity’. This upgradable frame configuration is unique to Midas. I visited the factory in Kidderminster UK just before the release of the Pro9 and Pro3, and spent a good many hours with the R&D team looking at these forthcoming products in the concept stage and added some input. They were all impressive designs and the design team displayed considerable passion for the new products and were very interested in what one of their customers thought. SINO OF THE TIMES

Not long after, Midas was bought out by entry-level audio behemoth, Behringer. The reputations of these two companies could hardly be more different: one, a muchAT 92

loved audio institution that makes top-end gear for life; the other a commodity supplier of high-volume budget equipment. The whole audio industry was a little shocked at the move and wondered what it would mean for the Midas console company. To this point, the new parent company has honoured the company’s legacy it seems and, indeed, has pumped a substantial amount of money into Midas, setting up its own distribution in the US as well as a new manufacturing facility in China run by some key staff from the UK factory alongside some new talent. So the Pro2 is the first Midas digital product featuring the ‘Designed in the UK and made in China’ label on the rear (the VeniceF, released last year, was the first Midas mixer to be built in China). Okay, so it’s a Chinese Midas – but what does it have to offer other than a cheaper price? Firstly, there are two versions of the unit, the first of these being the Pro2C (Compact, pictured above) with its smaller footprint and eight fewer channel faders. The Pro2 systems are ‘ground up’ products, made with a different design concept to the previous models. For starters, Pro2 contains the system computer and signal processor inside the control surface, rather than externally (as with the other models), so they’re a neat feat of electronic engineering. The Linux operating system/control software and AES50 24-bit/96k multi-channel audio-over-network protocol is still used – the same as the larger consoles. So the show files and input/output hardware are compatible with all the company’s other digital mixers, no matter the version, which is a handy feature. A Pro2 can even be used in a

Pro6/XL8 system as an additional control surface. A ‘touring package’ comes as a flight-cased console, a cable drum with 100m of four-way Cat5 cables and a DL251 stage rack. So it’s a complete system from stage microphone output to speaker system input.

All up, it’s clear Midas is going after the market share dominated by the likes of the Yamaha M7CL, Digidesign Profile and Digico SD9 mixers. INS & OUTS

The DL251 rack unit is basically a 48 XLR mic input, 16 line output fixed configuration stage box with additional MIDI in/out/thru and a general network connection. This can be used for connecting equipment such as amplifier or radio mic computer control systems and comms. This unit connects to the console via the three AES50 ports, one of which is a spare and can be used as a redundant in case of connection malfunction. The unit also has two power supplies for added peace of mind security. The console itself has eight mic/line XLR inputs and eight outputs as well as L/R/C mix outputs, two sets of monitor outs and talk in/out. There are two AES/EBU digital inputs and three outs along with MIDI, AES3 clock, wordclock BNC, and video sync BNC. There’s a foot switch connection, USB for keyboard and mouse, DVI for an external monitor, ethernet from the stage box and of course the AES50 connectors (6) for connecting the stage box and some extra hardware. So as a quick summary it’s a 56 mic in/27 output bus audio mixing system, with multiple onboard effects engines and more than enough graphic equalisers etc available for all outputs. So there’s plenty of mixing horsepower – in fact, the Pro2 actually has more processing capacity than a Pro3. GET WITH THE PROGRAM

I spent many hours with the compact version and although not mixing a show I mixed some live multitrack recordings to get a feel for the console. It comes across as a robust system with a similar user experience as the other mixers in the Midas digital range. It has powerful channel EQ and a great set of features with enough effects to keep most people happy. Saying that, like most modern digital mixers, there’s an unavoidable level of complexity that would prove overwhelming for a novice user. Many hours can (and should) be spent authoring your own custom show templates, so the process of doing your first live show would be fairly stress-free. That said, doing a show on this console out of the box wouldn’t be a problem for an experienced engineer accustomed to using digital mixers from the other manufacturers, and a walk in the park for those who have spent time with the other Pro or XL8 mixers. There are three pre-programmed setups: Front of house, Monitors and Advanced user to help get things started. The offline editor software (Apple Intel only) and wireless control system (on Apple iPad only) are in an early beta testing stage, so were not available for review. I hope Midas makes these applications available for both Apple and PC in the near future. I wonder if the team have tried it on a PC running VM ware with Linux? MIDAS METHOD: NO LAYERS

Navigating around a digital mixing console can be a daunting experience at times, where the ergonomics of traditional analogue designs are sacrificed in exchange for extra features and functionality.

mixers by having dedicated ‘screen access buttons’ and assignable ‘population group’ buttons, which are also on this model. These user assignable hot keys quickly access pre-programmed groups of channels – say, vocals and their effects returns, which you may want to work on simultaneously. The Pro2 expands this workflow concept with the new ‘Advanced Navigation’ section. The advanced navigation section comprises four buttons, that allow you to (respectively) flip to faders on aux sends, access the effects rack, access the graphic equaliser rack and access the mix control association (MCA) groups – which is a quick way of interrogating all the input channels assigned to an auxiliary send. There’s a ‘home view’ button that instantly switches the screen to the main overview of the console input/output or (with two pushes) the input channels. A dedicated tap delay button takes the hassle out of delay time settings. Finally, not having a touchscreen, there are four ‘cross hair’ buttons to navigate the screen, although I preferred using a mouse. KT EFFECTS

The onboard effects are all from the Klark Teknik range and all sound great: KT DN780 reverb/multi-effects; multiband compressor; Square One dynamics; DN370 graphic equalisers; and the digital delay, flanger/phaser. The effects can be inserted into channels or used in a more traditional send/return manner. Furthermore, I’m informed that a bunch of additional effects are due for release before year’s end – free of charge. There’s no word yet as to a future upgrade to use third-party effects from people such as Waves – I’m pinning my hopes on a simulated Roland SRE555 chorus echo effect. DIGITAL CONNECTIVITY

The AES50 multi-channel audio format this system uses can be made compatible with other formats via the optional DN9650 network bridge, allowing for connection to MADI, Danté, Aviom, Ethersound and Cobranet devices. The stand-alone DN9696 multi-track recorder can be directly connected to the console for recording and virtual soundcheck playback. An AES50-compatible soundcard from Lynx and your favourite recording software is a cheaper option but limited to 24 tracks. Some Midasinfluenced products from Berhringer now also use AES50. There are a number of other connectivity options available from Midas, such as a mic splitter system. BRIDGING THE GAP

Generally, the smaller and cheaper the console, the harder and slower it is to operate. The Pro2 goes a long way to narrowing that ease-of-use gap. The controls feel powerful just like they always have with a Midas. The programmable colour coding of features is a nice touch and makes a helpful difference in finding your way around. Once you have your show file saved, the feature set will keep most engineers happy. I’m looking forward to mixing a show on this system and checking out the additional software features in the finished version. Sonically, the Midas is still amongst the top performers in the industry and I can see this company and its new owners doing very well with this new competitively priced product.

NEED TO KNOW Price From $21,895 Contact National Audio Systems 1800 441 440 Pros Great sound. Powerful. Fast to get around. Colour coding set by user. Same converters as the XL8. Cons Sticky trackball. No touchscreen AES50 format not very popular. No PC support. Summary Pro2 is the smallest and cheapest digital offering from Midas thus far. Operates with the same hardware and software as all the digital Midas machines – so no compatibility issues. It’s a 56 mic in/27 output bus audio mixing system, with multiple onboard effects engines and more than enough graphics available for all outputs – more than enough horsepower and actually more processing capacity than the Pro3. ‘Made in China’ never sounded so

I’ve never made my love of Midas consoles a secret, but even an old acolyte such as myself had a tinge of apprehension when approaching the new Chinese Midas. I needn’t have worried.

Midas has addressed this issue somewhat in earlier AT 93


MEATLOAF: LIKE A BAT OUTTA TUNE Whichever way you slice it, Meatloaf’s recent performance was flat. Text: Christopher Holder

Woah, when the Aussie public and, indeed, the Aussie audio biz, decide to sink the slipper in, nothing can prepare you for the sheer brutality of the backlash. Meatloaf has been absolutely savaged. I don’t think I need to describe the back story here, not even for those states following the other oval-ball codes. Of course, I’m referring to Meatloaf ’s AFL Grand Final appearance. Firstly, sure, let’s be clear, the performance was a total train wreck. There’s no getting around the fact that Meat’s performance was risible. The only respite came when he let his mic drop and egged the crowd on. And that’s about as low as things get when the MCG ‘outer’ sounds better than the performer. Prima facie, the case for Meatloaf looks pretty grim: here you have a big-time international star waltzing in, doing the absolute bare minimum to collect the fat pay cheque (money a local band could well do with), and then sodding off back to his deluxe condo on the Sunset Strip or wherever it is that a huge washed-up rock ’n’ roll leviathan chooses to call home. Scant regard. No respect. The bloke deserves a kicking. That’s only half the story. But let’s arm ourselves with some more facts. Meatloaf was clearly not himself. You could be totally cynical and say he was high or low on something – prescribed or not. My sources on the day tell me he looked NQR – not quite right. Something was up and it didn’t appear to be drugs. How can you be so sure? Meatloaf ’s entourage was, from all reports, a pleasure to deal with and his crew highly professional – they didn’t have a bad word to say about Meatloaf; they were knowledgeable, and on the ball. You don’t get that sort of expertise and loyalty if you’re simply an ageing drug addict. His band was hot – top-class musicians who played the songs note-perfect and had obviously spent many weeks working on the parts of some pretty epic rock songs. AT 94

Meatloaf after his 12-minute disaster at the MCG then had to back up for a two hour gig in the corporate wining/dining marquee after the match. Did he redeem himself with a post-game tour de force? Sadly, no. It was more of the same. His Bonnie Raitt-esque chanteuse accomplice sung for her life, covering for Meatloaf as best she could, but ultimately it was a second trainwreck. But the man himself, clearly in distress, honoured his commitment and endured when many lesser a musician wouldn’t have left the hotel room. So let’s examine all the facts: Meatloaf hasn’t done himself or his upcoming tour any favours. Bat Out Of Hell is belted out thousands of times a night in karaoke bars around the world yet few vocal performances would reach a nadir as low as the writer and performer himself. But before you join in the chorus of abuse just remember who you’re bagging. Love or hate his music, Meatloaf has written some of the most popular rock ’n’ roll music the world has ever heard (with his co-conspirator, Jim Steinman). He’s given millions of people enormous pleasure over the years and his work has always been ambitious – epic even. So will all that be undone because ‘one day in September’ (well, October this year for some reason)? Of course not. Despite clearly not being himself, he faced his audience, gave what he could (including plenty of trademark Meatloaf histrionics) and indeed continued to soldier on for another two hours at the corporate gig. Is that the actions of a ‘stuff em all’ Yankee prima donna? I don’t thinks so. Now, at the age of 64, he’s embarking on a tour with a welldrilled band and crew that will doubtlessly fill arenas the world over. I’ve also no doubt that Meatloaf will be match fit and put the Grand Final behind him. Give the man a break. Reserve your vitriol. He deserves the audio industry’s respect, and we shouldn’t be the first to bring him down at the sign of weakness. Are we really that small-minded? !

Rick O’Neil is absent from this issue of AudioTechnology for unforeseen personal reasons. We look forward to his charismatic return next issue.

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