EXCLUSIVE: INSIDE HILLTOP HOODS’ NEW STUDIO & ALBUM STUDIO BENCH TEST
Pro Tools HDX Just XS?
Apollo Out Of This World
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WHAT DRIVES OK GO’S VIRAL HITS STAV: RETHINKING REVERB Smaart 7: Multi-Mic Setups Lewitt Mics First Review: Who? RME UCX: iPad Marriage in Heaven Ernie Rose Speaks! ISSUE 88 AU $7.95(inc gst) NZ $10.95 (inc gst) File Under ‘Music’
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CONTENTS88 UNDER THE AT visits the new Hilltop Hoods studio to talk about latest album Drinking From The Sun, and the technology that has changed their lives.
PRO TOOLS HDX
Card On Test
RED BULL BEAT SUITE More than just 2MC’s & A DJ
18 Ginger Studio Build Diary 34 OK GO, What Drives A Viral Video Hit 54 Stephen Witherow, Mixing For Screen 66 Cutting The Cord On Wireless Audio
70 PC Audio, Test Instruments 72 Home Grown, Last Dinosaurs 98 Last Word, Ernie Rose
TUTORIALS UNIVERSAL AUDIO’S APOLLO Shoots For The Stars
58 62 76 84
Stav’s Word, Crunchy Reverb In & Out Of The Box Part II Deadline Music, Tim Tam Truly Madly Smaart 7 & Audix TM1 Measurement Mic
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86 Lewitt Microphones 90 RME UCX Interface 94 Lampifier Microphones
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Story: Graeme Hague
GINGER STUDIOS Ginger Studios is located in Cremorne, Victoria a few drop-punt kicks away from the MCG. It’s a diverse suburb with swanky, three-storey luxury homes in the same block as a panel-beater and a mannequin manufacturer. However, studio owner and Principal Producer, Jimi Wyatt says the 300sqm property, which was previously home to a printing company was chosen because of its potential for the layout of a studio and this area is “at the centre of the music scene” in Melbourne. Jimi has been painstaking in the development of his vision for the studio, commissioning Peter Brown (Peter L Brown Architects) to orchestrate the arrangement of recording spaces for construction within the four walls. A lot of work went into the acoustic design of the rooms, building stud walls with extra sound-proofing, floating floors and baffles in the pursuit of creating a world class, professional studio. Jimi had enough space for the luxury of sound-locks between the recording spaces and the Green room behind the central control room. The sound-locks also serve as further separation from the machine room on one side and a workshop area on the other. Machine room? Like… a real machine room? Almost — there’s no tape machine yet. Ginger Studios prides itself as an analogue-based studio thanks to the SSL Duality SE mixing console in the control room (which hogged more than its fair share of space in his parent’s house for more than a year, before being moved very carefully to the new facility). Jimi cut his teeth on old MCI consoles, but he didn’t want to invest in any kind of vintage desk that ran a risk of a high servicing regime. The SSL Duality offered the right combination of true analogue circuitry in a console that wasn’t going to be obsolete service-wise in the near future. At the same time Jimi decided the price difference between a 24-channel and a 48-channel AT 4
desk was worth going for the bigger mixer (he obviously didn’t consult the removalist). When it comes to recording media Jimi has his eye out for a decent tape machine — he’s open to suggestions and offers he can’t refuse — but until then he uses ProTools as a “big tape machine”. He’ll happily oblige clients with all the functions that PT has to offer and Jimi quickly acknowledges that digital recording workflows are better suited to some genres, but his heart is kind of old school. We suspect that a tape machine isn’t far away. The lounge and green room area are comfortable, but they’re a compromise of Jimi’s early plans to have a second isolation booth and perhaps a post-production studio. When the budget started to bite a little too hard these were shelved for a while. By default, with its concrete floor and less-treated surfaces the public areas of Ginger Studios have proven to be a handy live recording space and echo chamber — just don’t put the kettle on at the wrong moment. Mentioned in dispatches: Rutledge Engineering installed all the cabling and patch bays and managed to make something like 12km of wire almost disappear. Given early access to the build and the opportunity to plan ducting and routing at the beginning, the result is an almost wireless studio — not the radio-signal kind of wireless. The hardwire cabling’s all there, but you just don’t see it. Ginger Studios is ready to go and although Jimi hasn’t quite hung the shingle out yet, don’t hesitate to drop him a line. Ginger Studios: 7-11 Jessie St, Cremorne VIC 0438 172 808 or email@example.com
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DRIVING A VIRAL HIT OK GO have jumped off the treadmills to play a song with a car. Singer Damian Kulash talks AT through the six months it took to create a 4km-long course of found instruments, and how they recorded and mixed their latest viral hit. Story: Mark Davie
It all started with four grown men running on treadmills, watched over 13 million times. Trained dogs on spinning chairs, always a classic meme, netted another 13 million views. Then there was the Rube Goldberg machine designed with the help of NASA scientists that pulled in a whopping 35 million views. Even if the OK GO name isn’t familiar to you, you’ve still probably seen one of the band’s viral videos. Their latest video stunt put the four guys in a Chevy Sonic with robotic appendages, and sent them careering down the guts of a 4km-long course, playing Needing/Getting, a song off their latest album, using the car as a stick/beater/ plectrum/fist. It was one of a handful of videos bankrolled by Chevy to promote a new car. It’s been watched around 20 million times. THE PITCH
A while ago, as is the norm for OK GO, they were asked to pitch video ideas. This time, using cars. A while later, the ad agency where the band’s co-conspirator/director Brian Perkins works, happened upon Chevy’s advertising campaign. He pitched the idea, and they loved it. “It’s pretty thrilling to be able to have that type of network,” said singer Damian Kulash. “Anyone can have an insane idea but actually getting the meal ticket to do it is the hard part.”
individual miking was on the guitar amps. The guitars were all sub-mixed into little DOD pedals that have four inputs and one out. MD: Did you have any issues with some instruments being too soft while others were ridiculously loud? DK: The PVC basses were the most frustrating. In the chorus tunnel the paddle on the driver’s side smacks along PVC tubes. They give a great sound, but it’s not super loud. So filtering down to get the fundamental, and make it loud, was a bit of a sound chore. And the string basses were quieter than we wanted them to be — the low end stuff was the hardest to get to sound right. MD: Was there a lot of filtering in the mix to sculpt that raw sound? DK: It’s definitely the prettiest picture you could hear. There was a lot of filtering, a lot of compression, and a lot of gating. If we needed a lot more low end, we’d just crank up the EQ. The truth is, in most places what you actually heard was much more like ‘clank, clank, bonk, bonk’ than how it sounded once we had sweetened it up. We were treating it like a live recording session of an extremely strange event. Any mixing tools we could use to make it more musical were necessary, given what a difficult set it was.
The shoot went for four days, but preproduction went for a staggering six months — four intensive, with two months of prep. The team included an MIT media lab expert in experimental instrument design, a member of Glank, a band that makes music from found and junkyard instruments, Bo Sundberg, who was the sound designer that helped rig up the recording, and about 20 people to build the contraption.
MD: What were some of the difficulties of playing the song with a car?
The song Needing/Getting was chosen because it had a linear structure, without complicated chords, and was rhythmic. As Kulash pointed out, “the sounds we could make with the car were heavily skewed towards rhythmic sounds. Because all that energy of the car is a lot harder to translate into a long sustained note than it is to just bang.”
We’d get the key before we’d start and then we’d sing along with the click. The sound within the car was mostly rumble, so it’s pretty easy to filter out. Outside the car there was a lot of gravel noise and rumble. But again it’s pretty easy. From there you have 20 tracks for each pass and you just figure out which one counts the best.
MD: What were some of the main physics basics that affected the construction of the instruments?
With nine Go Pro cameras recording audio, three shotguns on top of the car, as well as three more external mics, and the headsets each member sang into, the final mix was track heavy. Damian Kulash: “Each pass we got about 20 takes of audio. Even the final mix, which was heavily culled, was 180 tracks. We were able to chop between parts that worked the best. If the rhythm on one take was really good but we missed a couple of notes, then we could just cut in a couple of notes from a different take.” Mark Davie: Would the set up change between takes? DK: The three roof-mounted shotguns moved around from take to take. Each section of the track was done separately, so the stereo pair would move to get the best picture of that piece of track. The only place where there was any
DK: Inside the car we’re singing along with the click. That’s actually how I kept my speed in time with the song. In every bar there’s a flag to my left shoulder. So the way I’m timing my speed is listening to the click and trying to make sure I’m hitting those downbeats side to side.
DK: What we discovered, and should have known going into it, was that low notes are a lot harder to make with kinetic energy than high ones. The studio version of the song is almost all bass with one guitar line over the choruses. We didn’t have a lot of options for basses. What can you bang that makes a low note? Bells for instance, are like the third octave of a piano. They get to be all overtone and no fundamental. Think about church bells, even the lowest ones become indiscriminate notes — they’re all overtones. We found it very hard. We did a lot of experimentation with propane and other cylindrical tanks. You could tune them decently but it was really hard to get more than one note out of a given bass material. You can take a propane tank and cut it down to AT 7
UNDER THE Meticulous, hardworking, obsessive/compulsive: The Hilltop Hoods’ success hasn’t happened by accident. AT tours through the past, present and future sound of Australia’s premier hip hop crew. Story: Mark Davie
Hilltop Hoods lyrics typically focus more on the hard life, or at least real life, not swilling flutes of Cristal, new watch alerts, or likening drug trade flirtations to The Great Escape. It’s the kind of identifiable, ground up, grounded work common of skip hop. But sheesh, does it look different from the Hoods’ hilltop pads: jacuzzis, MTV Cribs-style nudes on the wall, imported Shelby Mustangs, and two sets of 10-grand-a-pair Barefoot Micromain MM27 studio monitors, that’s enough to have any gear slut salivating. Success has its perks. It’s just one of many toys that DJ Debris has kitted out his latest home studio with. He’s had a number of different home setups in the past, but decided to do things the right way this time, with studio designer Chris Morton putting in a dedicated control room, and recording space that’s capable of fitting an eightvoice choir or just a solo MC. Not many Australian artists or groups have been at the right place at the right time, and managed to convert an opportunity into a growing audience. But behind the combination of hard touring and a dedication to improving their recorded output, is: a DJ/engineer who meticulously logs every setting, every precise mic placement, and every recording session detail so that he can replicate it or know what to build on next time; and an MC/producer who will sit for hours on end listening to the same beat, and converts a week of ‘downtime’ into a remix album. So obsessed, they even run their own record label, Golden Era Records. AudioTechnology spent the day with MCs Suffa and Pressure, and DJ Debris, at Debris’ home studio, and talked about how they went from work-a-day life to Australian hip hop superstars. Suffa: Not trying to sound modest, but a lot of it was good luck and good timing. Hip hop was exploding at the time we came out with The Calling, so we were lucky in that respect. If we’d come out with a record like The Calling five years earlier it would have gone underneath the radar and five years after, it would have been too late. Pressure: There was a compilation in 2001 or 2002 that was called Culture Of Kings. That brought a lot of attention to Australian hip hop and a few major radio networks really started playing it. The Calling blew up for us a year after that in 2003, so there was already a positive buzz around Australian hip hop at the time we dropped the right album. Right place. But I think we’ve continued to do well since then. There’s no formula to it. DRINKING FROM THE SUN
The Hoods’ latest album Drinking From The Sun went platinum within its debut week. Over the years, the Hoods have thrown themselves curveballs to swing each album’s trajectory away from the predictable. Like rerecording The Hard Road album with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, simply calling it The Hard Road Restrung. For the latest album, the Hoods invited more external producers than usual, with One
Debris’ new home studio control room, with Barefoot monitors pride of place amongst his more recent gear acquisitions.
Above, Jaytee, Trials, and Pokerbeats supplying tracks as well as Suffa. Debris also re-tracked some of the programmed string sounds with a real quartet in his own studio, as well as an eight-voice choir. It’s part of keeping not only their own, but the zeitgeist of Australia’s hip hop community on the move. Even for an act that admittedly prefers to reference the genre’s roots, this record’s arrangements vastly expand on traditional hip hop. Pressure: We went in with a pretty open mind about a few different things we wanted to try. We worked with an eight-voice choir on one of the tracks, which we’d never done before. We started thinking a bit more sideways after we did The Hard Road Restrung project where we remixed the entire project with a symphony orchestra and it just opened our minds a little — that there were no limitations or rules to what we could or couldn’t do with our music. Suffa: Basically we said, “Well we can use as many session musicians as we want!” And we did. Though we were careful not to do that Dewey Cox thing: “This doesn’t sound like a song, it sounds like five songs on top of another song!” Hip hop can be The Roots, it can be an eightpiece band or it could be Guru from Gang Starr standing in front of DJ Premier on two turntables, or even with an eight-track and 16-piece string orchestra. There are no rules, but I do like going back to the roots of it and making a simple beat, with a sample. I like the monotony of hip hop. I like the drone of a one-bar or twobar sample. I can listen to the beat in Speak Ya Clout for eight hours straight, and enjoy it.
T he first E.P. we released was recorded on 16-track in an analogue studio, and that’s really f**king hard to record on. You’ve got to physically rewind that shit
I was so excited when I found the Mad Lads piano and chorus on Chase that Feeling, that I walked out of the room. I put on the break and AT 9
AVID HDX CARDT
Is the X in ProTools’ new HDX card purely eXcess, or a necessary step for the industry giant grabbing 64 bits between its teeth? Review: Brent Heber
Unless you’ve been living under a rock since Christmas you will have heard by now that after over a decade of general audio industry dominance, ProTools HD has finally been superseded with the release of Avid’s new HDX card series. But do we really need it? Many studios happily run HD rigs that support up to 192 voices with rock solid reliability and can even go up to 192k sample rates. But how many users are pushing these envelopes? HD users don’t often complain about feeling a ‘voice pinch’ and most work at either 44.1 or 48k with the occasional 96k audiophile amongst them. What’s driving this change? THE PROBLEMATIC BITS
The Problem? 64-bit operating systems. ProTools usurped the role of turnkey solutions of 20 years ago by developing software and hardware solutions around consumer computers. Those computers keep changing and developing and that’s where the aging HD architecture is finally being surpassed. HDX was partly a response to the need for a true 64-bit OS architecture that could use the host’s processing power alongside the DSP chips seamlessly, and the need for 64-bit memory addressing to harness more than 4GB of RAM. Some composers shun ProTools as a writing platform due to its virtual instrument power (or AT 10
perceived lack thereof). Other DAWs on similar hardware often run rings around ProTools if you start counting instances of common processor intensive plug-ins like Omnisphere, Kontakt or convolution reverbs. Avid needed to migrate to a natively 64-bit application to address this (and get access to that valuable RAM), but couldn’t do that without a dramatic change in architecture. So PT10 came along as a ‘transition release’ (still a 32-bit app running on 64-bit OS) and with it, support for the new ’64bit ready’ plug-in architecture AAX (Avid Audio eXchange) alongside the existing RTAS and TDM plug-ins. Quite a feat getting all those bits working in concert! The AAX plug-in format was designed to work on native processing power as well as newer DSP chips from Texas Instruments. HD was based around Motorola chips and they haven’t been made for years — yet another critical reason the TDM architecture had to change from the ground up. AAX Native plug-ins run on the host CPU(s) and AAX DSP plug-ins will run on the new HDX cards. These are a significant upgrade over the Accel series cards. They load plug-ins and allocate DSP much faster, making opening and closing sessions much quicker. By comparison, an Accel card had 2MB of onboard memory, while the new
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BEATZ N STRINGZ
What do you get when you toss five beatmakers, three soul vocalists, 15 orchestralists and a percussionist into a concert hall? Red Bull wanted to find out and created Beat Suite. Story: Christopher Holder
Daltron @ Beat Suite Daltron describes his Red Bull Beat Suite setup
Beat Suite in full swing: Most of the house sound was coming off stage, either acoustically or via Meyer UPJs behind each of the five DJ/producers. The Recital Centre d&b C Series PA is barely ticking over. Visuals from Melbourne outfit, ENESS. Photo: Chris Polack, Red Bull Content Pool
Beat Suite was about to kick off and the buzz backstage was palpable. There again, with every fridge in the venue packed to the thermostats with cans of Red Bull, I guess that was inevitable. No napping on this production. This was not your average gig: Scratch DJs and beatmakers, facing off against crack musos from the Australian Youth Orchestra, and punctuated by performances from soul singers led by Aloe ‘I Need a Dollar’ Blacc. And the venue? The acoustically spectacular, 1000-seat Melbourne Recital Centre. It all sounds like an uneasy ‘square peg in a round hole’ concept; maybe something you’d catch in a tent at a fringe festival… where ‘experimental’ is a byword for ‘don’t expect it to be any good’. Not so, Beat Suite was an outright success, but risky nonetheless. THE FIZZ WHIZS
Beat Suite was the brainchild of Creative Director Kano Hollamby. Kano is a DJ and graphic designer, and has been a Red Bull associate for some time now: “The Red Bull Beat Suite has been an idea that’s been sitting on the Red Bull desk for a number of years, only without a name. I took the idea and formulated it into something a bit riskier, that hasn’t been done before, which is to throw two different cultures together in the one place and see what comes out of that. So we’re taking two vastly different musical backgrounds and putting them in a prestigious concert hall.” Kano handpicked the ensemble and then engaged conductor Tamil Rogeon to pull it all together. “We needed someone who had lived in both these realms — the classical and the beat making realms — and there was only one person who came to mind and that was Tamil Rogeon. He is a master of putting these genres together.” Tamil is well known here and internationally for his work with The Raah Project and True Live (a hip hop ‘chamber ensemble’). “The Raah Project draws on those same principles,” noted Tamil. “Urban beat culture meets light instrumentation. We nutted out a good plan for the show artistically and joined the dots.” Right. Sounds easy. Although… “One of the biggest challenges I recognised early on in the piece was delivering a show with clarity, from a front of house perspective, in a big concert hall designed for acoustic music. To mount a work that involved five beatmakers, vocalists, percussion and orchestra was, at first, alarming. “The problem lies in amplifying sound into spaces that’d prefer you didn’t. But that was always the intention: for this music to inhabit a concert hall space… not to simply mic everything up and let rip.” Tamil had a plan. “So I hatched a plan: instead of miking everything up, and having foldback blaring from the DJs, I developed an approach where the DJs were embedded as part of the ensemble. So their sound was predominantly going to come from where they were, much in the same way as an orchestral percussionist sounds like they’re coming from the back row and their sound resonates through the rest of the hall from that point.” In essence Tamil was forming a multi-headed hydra of an orchestra, the like of which hadn’t been seen before, with himself as the conductor, hanging on for dear life, balancing the sound. “In an analogue way that’s what the conductor does, they mix the FOH sound for the hall. It’s their role to balance all
To mount a work that involved five beatmakers, vocalists, percussion and orchestra was, at first, alarming
the elements; ensure the bottom end isn’t muddy and there’s enough clarity. “I thought it’d be great to bring that model to what the beatmakers do, with the majority of their sound coming from behind them, from a single-source speaker. We did some tests that confirmed the necessity of doing it and, indeed, the value of doing it.” So the plan worked. But with the orchestral venue selected, Tamil had to ask himself what the alternative was. And he was sanguine: “To have five dudes blaring through FOH and then foldback? It would have been a nightmare.” In fact, Tamil intended to keep his concept so pure that only the vocalists would be using the d&b C Series house PA. Turns out FOH engineer Dan McKay did have a little bit of work to do on his Digico SD8, judiciously sweetening the acoustic mix with some instrumentation. SCRATCH MY BACKLINE
Let’s meet our backline of beats and scratching: there was Aussies Galapagoose, Amin Payne, DJ Perplex, Daltron and Kiwi Scratch 22, while Javier Fredes supplied live percussion. According to Tamil, all the backline talent enthusiastically threw themselves into the Beat Suite experiment. Each is a master of their art, but they’d not jammed with each other before, let alone with a 15-piece orchestra. Daltron picks up the story: “Initially we were given 100+ samples of the string section. Tamil had been in the studio with the orchestra, recorded those and handed them over, which we chopped and processed. We also had some drum sounds, lead lines and bass lines.” For Daltron, his weapon of choice is the Akai MPC and he’s a quick-fingered maestro of the pads. The MPC is also a sequencing behemoth, but there was none of that for Beat Suite. “Around 90% of the program doesn’t have a click track. There’s a tempo, of course, set by Tamil as the conductor but almost all of the program is live performance.” That said, it’s not a free-for-all, it’s heavily orchestrated. Tamil composes in Logic, does his notation in Sibelius and records in ProTools. “Rehearsals were about learning what each of the backline guy’s ‘thing’ was,” recalled Tamil. “That way I could orchestrate it such that each could step to the fore when it was their time AT 13
Boring but important:
THE CORD ON
WIRELESS AUDIO Do you own or run a wireless audio device? Well, it’s likely that Senator Conroy’s Digital Dividend will affect you. Ian Harvey from ACETA lays out the gory details. Story: Mark Davie
Senator Conroy’s Digital Dividend is going to do wonders for mobile internet. At the beginning of 2014, the major telcos will face off in an auction for portions of Australia’s wireless spectrum and begin the process of rolling out better coverage to its customers. Great, right? Who knows, maybe even Vodafone might be able to hold on to a few customers until then. Nevertheless, what it means for audio is that users of about 130,000 wireless microphones and in-ear monitors will likely be up the creek. Leaving only about 20-25,000 devices in safe territory. Sounds scary, and well, for a lot of people it is. I’ll try and give a concise explanation of the digital dividend, and then let Ian Harvey from ACETA explain where it leaves the audio community for now. THE DIGITAL DIVIDEND
Analogue television has always been broadcast over a block of radio spectrum from 520–820MHz — 300MHz of bandwidth. With the switch to digital television, the government has rethought its use of that big block of spectrum. At the moment, during the switchover period, digital television channels are still peppered through that big block of spectrum, alongside the analogue ones. But on December 31, 2013 analogue television will be switched off. After that point, the digital television channels will be ‘restacked’ into a smaller part of the spectrum, from 520-694MHz — 174MHz of bandwidth — freeing up the remaining 126MHz of the original ‘broadcast’ spectrum from 694-820MHz (commonly referred to as the ‘700MHz band’) to be broken up and sold to the highest bidders at auction. Traditionally, wireless audio devices have happily co-existed in this broadcast spectrum under a class license. There are many gaps in between the broadcasted channels, and your radio device would happily just pick out a free channel to use here or there within its operable bandwidth. Unfortunately, 130,000 devices, the vast majority sold in Australia, operate in that top 126MHz. If you’ve bought a device from one of the major brands since the digital dividend announcement, you’re probably safe, as most have stopped importing devices in that band. But what happens to the rest? AudioTechnology talked with Ian Harvey from the Australian Commercial Entertainment & Technologies Association (ACETA, the body that represents the manufacturers and distributors of pro audio gear, among other categories like lighting, in Australia) about the state of play with wireless devices post 2013. ACETA has also been handed the reins of the Australian Wireless Audio group (AWAG), with support from the Australian Music Association (AMA). Mark Davie: Can you explain how the digital dividend changes specifically affect the pro audio industry? Ian Harvey: There are really three major potential impacts. The first is that the spectrum that will be available once the digital dividend is in place (sometime after December 31st, 2013) is about 40% less than what we have access to now. So the first question is, particularly in the major markets and major CBD areas of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, how do we fit the equipment we’ve been using over 300MHz in the past into 174MHz. Can we get all the devices, or all the use that we historically have, in this smaller space? The second user issue is, within that smaller space is there any potential room for growth? The third issue is that after that December 2013 date, the new
owners of spectrum will have paid significant amounts of money, we’re talking billions of dollars to access this spectrum, and they’re going to want the spectrum clean. Although it’s going to take them a little while to build up their own capacities within that spectrum, they don’t want 130,000 radio mics dirtying up the spectrum that they’ve just spent billions of dollars securing. There’s this sense from the government that the radio microphone people will just voluntarily vacate the space and go off and do something else or buy other devices. After that December 2013 date, the people operating in that space will be breaking the law, as the law’s been changed already. So the question for the government is; are they going to prosecute anybody for operating in that space? Now the indication so far is that initially they won’t, but at some point they will. MD: So the class license that everyone has been operating under doesn’t exist in that spectrum anymore? IH: In November last year the class license was amended to that reduced spectrum of 520-694MHz. Theoretically, the date it will become active is the 1st of January, 2014. The Minister hasn’t indicated precisely what that date will be yet but the actual amendment change with the date to be slotted in comes later. The reason they’re not sure when the telcos will take the space they’ve bought at auction is because they don’t know how long it’s going to take to redeploy the TV that’s in that spectrum. All of the TV broadcast has to be reallocated, which may require new transmitters and different frequencies. 2014 will likely become the year where all the TV broadcast channels are moved to the new space that’s been allocated, and then from 2015 the telcos actually take possession of it. RACE FOR LESS SPACE
MD: So we’ll be losing use of 40% of the radio spectrum. But will there also be a lot less space to operate after the ‘restacking’ of the digital channels within that reduced 520-694MHz spectrum? IH: Inherently digital is more spectrum efficient than analogue which is why each TV station frequency is 7MHz — that 7MHz can carry the four stations like you’ve seen with the ABC1, 2 & 3, and Nine’s GO!, etc. Essentially, there are two ways of doing a restack. One is known as ‘interleaved’, which is where they slot stations at opportune points throughout the available spectrum in that 7MHz block. The other is what they call a ‘block’ option, which they’ve opted for. It means that all six TV stations (ABC, SBS, Nine, Ten, Seven and the community station) are given blocks of 7MHz that butt up to each other and all together that block is 42MHz. So let’s take Sydney for example, because it’s a bit more complicated than Melbourne. Because the TV stations in Sydney can’t get above the hills that separate the northern beaches and Manly there’s a repeater station on the northern beaches which has a different frequency (so you don’t get shadowing and interference from the primary broadcast), which is a different 42MHz block from the original block. And then as you move further up to the Central Coast there’s another block of 42MHz, and when you get to Newcastle there’s another block of 42MHz. So across the whole spectrum there are four patches of these 42MHz quilted across the geography of the country. What we don’t know just yet for radio microphones and the non-broadcast environment is where those blocks will be. What will the primary block of 42MHz be in Sydney and Melbourne and Adelaide? Once we know where they are, we can look at the sweet spots for wireless audio devices in and around that. AT 15
Las t Dinosaurs
HOMEGROWN Jean-Paul Fung would win Apprentice Of The Year, if the recording industry awarded one. The young producer is only 23, but has learnt from the country’s best, and produced one of this year’s best indie records. Story: Mark Davie
Trusting a 23-year old to manage a sizeable album budget is more than risky. It’s a bit loony. Think of your closest Gen Y’er and imagine giving him or her responsibility for the household bills, let alone a chunk of record company money. But when the biggest excess indulged on the record company dime is a home cooked, gourmet dinner every night, you’re in safe hands. FUNG SHUI
Producer Jean-Paul Fung is 23, and the band he produced, Last Dinosaurs, are all younger than him. Signed to Dew Process they’d already recorded a single Time & Place with Fung that had gone gangbusters on Triple J, and decided to stick with him. Their indie songs, and pop musicality, a perfect match for Fung’s production style. So, the band and Jean-Paul started a recording process that sounds idyllic, picture-perfect even — how every indie kid dreams of making a record: pre-production out in the countryside, long walks in the bush to workshop lyrics, midnight runs along the main road of Yarramalong to hammer frustrations out on the pavement, riding pushbikes to and from one of Sydney’s premier studios, and every night, sitting down together for a luxurious dinner. Everything was carefully orchestrated by Jean-Paul, who for someone so young, has acclimatised to the traditional producer role with aplomb. The result is this year’s standout indie-pop record, the band’s debut album In A Million Years. Jean-Paul Fung: Around May last year, we did one week of pre-production up in Wollongong on a 500-acre farm owned by a friend of Sam, the bass player. Then a couple of weeks later we went down to my 60-acre farm on the Central Coast and spent two more weeks writing, and more pre-production, before heading into the studio.
are right and then go down and overdub the rest over the top of the drums so we can get a better understanding of the song, the individual parts and the tones.
It was late June when we started tracking at BJB in Sydney. We did drums for five days, then moved into a smaller overdub room for all the guitars, bass and vocals — it took about two weeks. We finished up vocals at my farm. Then it got shipped over to England to be mixed by Elliot James who’s worked with Bloc Party and Two Door Cinema Club.
MD: Can you describe your farm setup?
MD: How far do you go in pre-production? JPF: We had about three weeks of pre-production to get the songs finished; everything written, all the structures and the tempos down, and just constantly re-working the songs until everyone involved is completely happy with them. The band was really great because they had that same approach in their mind, they didn’t want to stop until it was great. Once the songs have reached maximum potential I’ll demo every single one properly as if we were to go into the recording studio to do it. I’ll record the drums properly and even edit them and Beat Detective them. Then I’ll workshop all the drums with the drummer to make sure all the patterns
When we go into the studio it’s about getting the best performance and recording and not reworking any parts. JPF: Since getting interested in production, I started building quite a collection of gear. My philosophy was to make sure I got the very best. I’ve hardly sold anything in the time. I would just save up and get the best gear I could afford. The thing I use on almost everything would be a Retro Instruments 176. It’s an amazing, very versatile compressor and makes everything sound better. MD: Don’t you usually have to sell the farm to get one of those? JPF: They’re not cheap! True to his word, Jean-Paul’s home setup also includes a couple of Chandler LTD-1 EQ/ preamp, Chandler TG channel, Mercury M72s preamp, two Quad Eight MM403 channel strips, EL-8 Distressor, as well as Coles 4038 ribbons, Schoeps CMC6 mics with MK4 capsules, Shure SM7b and SM57s, AKG 451EB and D112, Beyerdynamic M201 and TG-X50, and a Heil PR30, into ’Tools. Definitely nothing to be sneezed at.
PEDALLING GOOD SOUNDS
Jean-Paul’s initial notes to the label describe a band that captured the imagination, but needed a little more finesse to keep the listener’s attention: bouncy, catchy, playful rhythms that needed a little fine-tuning; great vocals that had a little too much filler; a talented guitarist who’s style wasn’t so easily identifiable; and boppy bass lines that could be potentially non-stop groove if worked the right way. Jean-Paul nutted out most of the parts in pre-production, but the final stages at BJB helped ice the sonic cake. JPF: They are an indie rock band so getting tight, slamming drum sounds but with that cool roominess of the BJB room was important. But the most notable sonic aspect of this album would be the guitars — that’s what everyone seems to comment on. We really spent a lot of time getting the right guitar tones and making them as cool and unique as possible. One of the most unique chains on the album would be on their latest single Andy. What sounds like a steel drum is actually Lachlan, the lead guitarist, playing through an old shitty Behringer reverb into an Electro-Harmonix POG, with a Jekyll & Hyde overdrive at the start of the chain. That went into a Fender Reverb Deluxe, which we used on most of Lachlan’s guitar, miked up with a Beyer Dynamic M201 into the Chandler LTD1 and the Retro 176 compressor. MD: Did you go on a pedal buying spree before the recording? AT 17
DEADLINE MUSIC TIM TAM TRULY MADLY Bin your Neumanns and set your grand piano on fire as we go lo-fi for this chokky bikkie ad. Tutorial: Blair Joscelyne
Client: Tim Tams Song Length: 0:30 seconds Time To Record: One Day Final Media: TV Commercial
How many microphones do you have sitting in your studio right now? And how often do you go for the same setup because it’s what you’re used to? Well, you’re not alone, and knowing what works and what doesn’t is the best way to stay productive when you’re on a deadline or in a hurry… and I am usually in a hurry! I write and record around 10 commercial tracks a week and this doesn’t often leave a lot of time for lengthy experimentation. I often have to rely on tried and tested methods of recording instruments that will result in sonically interesting productions ready to be approved by a client and broadcast on TV within 48 hours. The result of this means my experimentation usually involves processes that make my production quicker rather than slower. Using lapel microphones on instruments, mis-matched stereo pairs, the cheapest microphone that money can buy and limiting the use of plug-ins were all on the agenda for the production of this music track for Arnott’s. TINY TIM TAM
I recently composed and produced a new piece of music to appear on the TV commercials for everyone’s favourite chocolate biscuit, Tim Tams. The goal was to make a catchy pop song and make it sound as authentically ‘indie’ as possible. What does ‘indie’ mean you ask? I have no idea to be honest but I know it can’t sound like a Celine Dion single. I take ‘indie’ to mean, in this commercial sense, not sounding too ‘expensive’ which contrasts directly with what most of us are striving to do. But how do you get an inexpensive sound when you’re surrounded with the best plug-ins and microphones money can buy? For starters you bin all your good gear (metaphorically speaking) and make some decisions about how you’re going to slim down your production line to make use of a simpler setup. Surprisingly, AT 18
it was a lot of fun to get back to budget basics. So bin your Neumanns and set your grand piano on fire. Done? Good. Let’s enter the exciting world of budget production. BUDGET PHILOSOPHY
If you’ve read any of my articles in AT before you’ll probably know that I’m a avid fan of setting limitations to get things done. When you’re sitting in front of the Kontakt Ultimate library you can be lost in a world of choice, unless you know exactly what you are trying to achieve. Being a composer for hire means you don’t have time to play around with lots of sounds and wait for inspiration to strike. You just have to start something, even if you have no idea where it’s heading. Even though I am performing and recording all of the instruments (except for the female vocals) I like to imagine myself in the persona of different characters as I lay down each take. Fiction writers often have photos above their computer of their characters to reference when writing from different perspectives. Pick up a guitar and think of Kirk Hammett and you’ll definitely come out with something different compared to imagining George Benson. (This tip works with mixing too by the way!) For this project I imagined a garage populated by a rag-tag band of musos, who are regarding their random collection of instrument as if to say: “do you think we can make a song with that?”. I made a few rules to get me going that I hoped would help replicate a non-engineer’s budget home setup: BLAIR’S RULES… HE JUST MADE UP
• Use budget recording equipment • Limit use of plug-ins to the factory ProTools plug-ins • Record in ‘normal’ residential environments
Keeping it Cheap: (Clockwise from Above) Reamping in a Hurry, with an SM58 hanging over a KRK monitor. The Joys of Bud Mics — stick them places where other mics can’t go. The Cheapest Condenser in Town — with free tambourine, for a limited time only! Kitchen Ambience — recording where you shouldn’t, for that ‘at home’ vibe.
For me, constraint is often the shortcut to creativity, so with a Shure SM58 in hand I headed to the live room upstairs. I walked around the drum kit and hit each drum a couple of times and recorded directly into the DAW. Once each drum was recorded they were thrown into ProTools and arranged in a pattern within a grid. For a truly rough and raw drum take I could have recorded them live (see breakout box) but this commercial required some very specific points that I needed to sync, and there was also the possibility of a variety of versions, so I knew that I would need to have control over the drums and tempo later. Later in the process hi-hats and cymbals were recorded live over the top of the programmed sounds and tambourine performed live and recorded through the SM58. All the drums were sent through an auxiliary into an AIR Distortion set at around 15% mix to give them some crunch. Drums done! BASS
I usually record bass directly into my Avalon 737 but this time a jack went directly from the bass guitar into the back of the Digi002 interface. I felt this was the most appropriate way to record based on the philosophy of the budget production. No external preamps; no plug-ins or EQ were used; how it was recorded was how it stayed. GUITARS
I always use a variety of different guitars and picks when I’m recording to try and replicate
different players in the band. In my room I have eight different guitars and there’s easily that many again in the other producers’ rooms. I also have a big box full of different picks so I can create a different sound for each take, which is really important when you’re a one-man band. Using my budget microphone choice technique (see breakout box) I recorded the first take with a steel string going through the SM58 and then a cheap nylon string going through an old 1960s Dictaphone microphone that I use on many of my tracks. I made sure to record each single note of the chords I was playing in case I needed them later, as these ad hoc setups are much harder to re-create if changes are required. During the chorus section I hacked the notes into a sequenced pattern that goes underneath all of the other parts. I have also been doing a lot of recording in the studio with lapel microphones, I’m loving the fact they’re so tiny and can be positioned in interesting places. The Rode lavalier I’m using sounds great and with the Micon5 XLR adaptor connected, it can go straight into a preamp or DAW. I needed an electric guitar part and so I dusted off my old Behringer V-Amp (which has been used for nothing more than a shelf support in my rack for the last few years) and recorded one tubey distorted line then re-amped it by hanging the SM58 over one of my KRK monitors. I panned it hard into the left speaker.
ONE SONG, ONE MIC I took this stripped down production model to new heights (or lows) with a new track for Lexus recently. With nothing more than an SM58 in hand I decided to do the whole track with no external preamps, no click tracks, no headphones, and no plug-ins or fancy gear. Just a digi002 and a 58. I started in the live room at Nylon Studios by hanging the 58 over the drum kit with a hook and laid down the drum track as a live performance. Once the drums were done, I moved into my studio where the same SM58 hung over the top of a Fender Twin amp – the same way you often see at pub gigs. Just one guitar part was recorded with some fuzz coming through the speaker, and then the bass was plugged into the same amp and recorded with the same setup, with a little less fuzz. Each pass was recorded with the monitors up loud. The final component was the lead vocals. Vocals were recorded with the SM58 handheld standing in front of the monitors. (If this setup is good enough for Bono, then it’s good enough for me.) The vocals were performed by Glenn Cunningham (of <The Voice> fame) who smashed out an amazing one-take vocal. All of the components were level mixed together without plug-ins and then mastered out. The whole job was done in around three hours and resulted in a very happy client who couldn’t believe how authentic we’d captured the garage/indie vibe they’d requested.
PREAMP On the left of the unit are two Hi-Z jack inputs and a large rotary preamp input knob which, when pushed in, switches between the four preamp channels as indicated above the meters. The knob has a gentle detented feel to it and an illuminated strip around it indicates current levels of each channel.
UNIVERSAL AUDIO APOLLOT With on-board UAD powered plug-ins, combined with unique input routing, and the perfect combination of digital and analogue know-how, Universal Audio Apollo rockets to a new frontier for recording interfaces. Threatening to jettison previous generation gear as space junk. Review: Greg Walker
Universal Audio’s Apollo has been turning heads in industry circles and overseas markets for quite a few months now. More than just another high quality recording interface, the Apollo is UA’s bold attempt to corner the market. It seriously raises the stakes by incorporating eight cutting edge A/D converters and a software input mixer called the Console that can operate either independently or within any existing DAW environment providing hitherto unexplored routing and low latency monitoring options. Last but not least, the Apollo integrates the company’s UAD-2 powered plug-in processing chips in a choice of Duo or Quad configurations and allows the user to process audio either in traditional mix applications or en-route to your DAW during the tracking itself with negligible latency. All this is offered in a sleek and compact 1U chassis that seems destined to further blur the already fuzzy boundaries between bedroom recordists, project studios and pro setups. While not cheap, the Apollo’s feature list and price point is guaranteed to send shivers up the spines of many of UA’s competitors in the hotly contested interface market. AT 20
ALL IN ONE
The Apollo pulls together the various strands of UA’s previous technologies and expertise and is its first attempt at an all-in-one recording solution. As such I tried to evaluate each of the unit’s functions — preamplification, converters and digital processing — before coming to any conclusions about the unit as a whole. Suffice to say that with all the hype surrounding the Apollo, I was very keen to try it in some real world situations and to see how it would perform. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to work with the Apollo for an extended length of time in the studio but I did have about a week of tracking and mixing sessions, and by the time we parted I had a pretty good handle on its capabilities. CONSOLE-ATIONS
Getting the Apollo up and running with ProTools 10 proved to be a very easy process. Once the software and drivers on the supplied disc were installed, I connected the Firewire cable between an Apollo port and my iMac and went through a simple authorisation routine to enable
SPACE RACE Straight out of the box I liked what I saw — the Apollo has a clean, stylish look to it with a minimalist silver faceplate and large backlit black screen that houses informative metering and status information for the preamps’ I/O and converters. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking you were looking at the faceplate of a modern outboard reverb unit.
MONITOR BUTTONS Once you’ve selected your desired channel, the neighbouring pushbutton switches enable mic/line, phantom power, high-pass filter, pad, phase and stereo link. In practice it’s a simple system that quickly becomes easy to ‘read’ and operate while looking and feeling very much the part of the ultra-modern space-age kit.
the supplied UAD plug-ins. The unit ships with the three basic Analogue Classics bundle plugs only — though the included 1176LN Limiting Amplifier, LA-2A Leveling Amplifier and Pultec EQP-1A Program Equaliser are not to be sneezed at. After that I was up and running, although the next challenge was to get my head around the Console application which was admittedly a little more time consuming. The Console offers a whole new level of control over your incoming signals, and operates alongside your usual DAW mixer functions. Initially I found it a little confusing, especially when toggling back and forth between it and my usual ProTools windows (I’d highly recommend dedicating a keyboard shortcut to controlling the Console’s entries and exits from your workspace). The important concept to keep in mind here is that the Console is an input device, not an output mixer, and that’s where the real power of the application lies. Not only can you track and print with UAD plugs on the way into your DAW (i.e. print your vocals with compression, EQ etc.), you can make two additional headphone mixes in the digital domain, whack on some sweet reverbs and effects for the players that you don’t have to print, and do it all in the order of 2ms latency, which eats most host-powered DAWs for dinner. The Console has dedicated input strips for the preamps that duplicate all the controls found on the front of the hardware unit as well as strips for the remaining four analogue inputs, ADAT
and S/PDIF sources. It also has two auxiliary sends, four inserts per channel and a range of output metering and routing options. There’s a global toggle switch that selects between ‘Rec’ where any effects on the inserts are printed along with the source signals, and ‘Mon’ where the effects go through to the keeper as monitor ear candy only. This is one of the Console’s limitations as it would have been nice to select individual channels for either effects printing or monitoring only. The other big limitation is that you can’t create new channels, headphone mixes or auxiliaries. Hopefully UA will roll out future software revisions to extend the flexibility and performance of the Console as it feels like they have really just scratched the surface of what is possible with this application. Having said that, there are several other thoughtful features in the Console, including auxiliary and headphone output monitoring options, a mono switch and real-time sample rate conversion of errant S/PDIF sources to avoid clocking mismatches. It’s also worth getting to know the Console UAD2 Recall plug-in which allows instant storage and recall of all Console settings by simply opening your favourite DAW project. By hosting a single instance of the Console Recall plug-in in the master bus of your Ableton Live project, for example, the next time you open that project, the entire setup of Console can be recalled (along with all the UAD2 plug-ins you have
On the other side of the screen is another large monitor gain control that mutes the monitor outs when pushed in. On the far right of the unit are a toggle power switch and two headphone output jacks with accompanying volume controls. These allow for the routing of two separate low latency headphone mixes in addition to the monitor output path via the Console software.
I honestly wasn’t prepared for such a radical difference in tone and I had to reluctantly concede that the Apollo delivered a superior musical image
LEWITT MICROPHONES A new range of microphones has arrived from Austria via China and Sydney. But is Lewitt a genuine title contender or just another purveyor of cut-price cannon fodder? Review: Guy Harrison
Just what the world needs, another brand of Chinese-made microphones! That’s probably what you’re thinking and I have plenty of sympathy for that opinion. But Lewitt immediately strikes me as a different proposition. Here’s a new name in microphones that isn’t making U47 copies (good), or nobudget knockoffs. Here’s a brand that’s come to market with a range that spans studio, live and wireless mics. So who exactly is Lewitt? With its products designed in Austria and built in China, Lewitt is a new company established by a partnership of Roman Perschon (an ex-AKG product manager) and Chinese-born Ken Yang, who resides in Sydney and is a second generation owner of one of the largest microphone manufacturing facilities in Asia. This partnership brings a very professional-looking brand and product to the marketplace. I was supplied with a whole swag of mics but for the purpose of this review we will focus on Lewitt’s Studio offerings the LCT240, LCT540 and LCT640, and in the sound reinforcement arena the MTP540DM and MTP340CM. SOUND REINFORCEMENT
NEED TO KNOW
MTP540 DM ($119) Lewitt’s top-of-the-line dynamic stage mic is a worthy entrant, combining a classy black aesthetic with rugged build quality and very low handling noise thanks to a cleverly designed elastic shockmount system. It looks not dissimilar to an AKG D5 in shape if nothing else. By way of a benchmark, in side-by-side comparison with an SM58 I found the MTP 540 to be more detailed in the crucial mid range area, though the proximity effect seemed a little more pronounced — something I grew accustomed to over time. It is also quite a heavy mic, so make sure your mic clips are tight! The extra weight probably contributes to the low handling noise, and feels reassuringly solid in the hand. I used the MTP540 DM on a number of singers, both male and female, and the responses were resoundingly positive from all. If you’re looking for a rugged, workhorse handheld dynamic — and you’re happy to be the first on the block to own a Lewitt — then you should audition the MTP540 DM.
PRICE (as printed in the review)
PROS Build quality
CONTACT National Audio Systems 1800 441 440 email@example.com www.nationalaudio.com.au
CONS Clipping History needs fine-tuning
MTP340 CM ($179) Lewitt’s stage condenser shares its styling with the rest of the MTP range, black on black, which will keep the rock fraternity happy. It’s hard not to want to compare it to the industry standard stage condenser mic (the Shure Beta 87) so I will! For starters, the MTP340CM is a cardioid compared to the super cardioid of its competitor. This means a slightly wider pickup pattern for the MTP340 CM which will suit some but may become an issue on noisier stages. Sound-wise the MTP340 CM is a little smoother and less hyped in the top end. In the mix it sat nicely and performed in the way you’d hope and expect from a high-quality condenser mic. Foldback tuning with the 340 was straight forward, a testament to its smooth frequency response. This is a quality microphone and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. STUDIO STABLE
The LCT 240, 340 and 540 all share the same distinctive styling and build quality, which is reassuringly top notch. As far as the livery is concerned, ‘Understated Black’ is the order of the day and all the mics sport the same hexagonal steel mesh grille. With the mic body shape also being hexagonal, the feel of these mics is one of rugged sturdiness. They’re impressively weighty as well, which again adds to the impression of quality straight out of the box. Lewitt’s studio mics are extensively featured. For starters, all the mics light up when supplied phantom power. Electronic soft switching is employed for polar pattern adjustments (LCT640), pad and high-pass filters. These mics also feature clipping history and auto attenuation features… I’ll explain. In practice, when set to Auto Attenuate mode (hold the attenuation button in for two seconds), the mic’s logo will
SUMMARY A new range of workhorse mics need to do something special to get noticed. Fortunately, Lewitt has the price low enough and quality/features high enough to instantly win fans.
SUBSCRIBE TODAY switch to red indicating the mode is active. When clipping occurs it will switch to the next attenuation level. Clipping History is accessed by holding the filter button for two seconds. Clipping is then indicated by the attenuation lights. The set attenuation level will light solid and, if clipping has occurred, the attenuation level above will flash. This setting is cleared after you have viewed it but, somewhat frustratingly, it’s not cleared when you unplug the mic — at some point you’ll need to ‘view’ the clipping history to clear it. I like the feature, and it’s clever, but could be better implemented. Also included is a lockout feature to stop any accidental button pressing by the talent! LCT240 ($319) This is the most compact of the studio mics on review here. Although the same width and depth as its brethren, it loses a little in height. It also differs in capsule type: the LCT240 uses a ¾-inch back electret. Despite this it still manages a fairly healthy (quoted) 78dBA signal to noise ratio. The LCT240 has a fixed cardioid polar pattern, signal pads are available at 10 and 20dB, and 40Hz and 300Hz high-pass filters at 12 and 6dB per octave respectively. I put the LCT240 to use in a number of scenarios and it performed admirably. With a published ruler flat response up to 4kHz and a presence peak centred at 7kHz, I found the LCT240 particularly impressive as a drum overhead. It possesses an open sound that also lends itself nicely to acoustic guitar applications. It’s a great all rounder for live use or the budget conscious studio owner. LCT540 ($649) Essentially, this is a cardioid version of the multi-pattern LCT640. This fixed-pattern one-inch cardioid diaphragm boasts a miserly 8dBA of self noise and 135dBA dynamic range. The LCT540 is one of the quietest and most revealing mics I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. While very full sounding in the bottom end, high-pass filters are provided (12dB per octave at 40 and 150Hz and 6dB per octave at 300Hz). I must admit, the 300Hz filter initially struck me as a strange choice but in use it proved effective and made the LCT540 a very versatile performer — the gentle slope of the filter compensating for the fullness of bottom end when used up close for vocal work. The LCT540 is not a character mic but what it lacks in ‘personality’ it more than makes up for in expansiveness and depth. I would describe the LCT640 as modern sounding with a very smooth top end. But beware, it will
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