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The culture of Doing-It-Yourself is enticing, but can be the slipperiest of slopes. At first, a few drops of control stirred into your creative juices can be a sweet tasting tonic. If all goes the best it can, you’ll use the gear you have, work with the skill set you’ve developed, hopefully learn something new along the way, but most importantly, focus on the music and get a finished product out the door. The worst case scenario takes a bit longer. It looks like this: You’ve been burned by not saving enough cash, over ambition, and a cowboy demo studio trying to sell you an EP deal for less time then it takes to set up your drums. A weekend wasted. You’ve got a modest level of gear at home, an eightchannel interface, some decent nearfields, and a raft of plug-ins. So you figure you’re better off tracking your work at home. Of course, you’ve got to treat your room better, now that you’ve got a client: yourself. So you start trawling forums for the best Helmholtz Resonator design for your spare room and start yet another DIY project to transform your monitoring environment. A $400 dropsaw, three trips to Bunnings, and a couple of months later, you’ve finally got a contraption that resembles a resonator roughly tuned to a problematic mid-range frequency, though which, you couldn’t say. But wait, you read somewhere that quadratic diffusors were the bees knees of studio acoustic design — a must have. You put off all mixing until you’ve rectified your poorly situation. Six months flies by and you finally give up, realising you neither have the skills or grasp of maths to calculate the geometry. Instead, you make up your own version of Live End/Dead End by coating the rear wall in insulation bats. Finally, you get down to some tracking, but you open your now cobweb-covered mic cupboard to reveal a pair of lowly 57s, and a budget cardioid condenser. That won’t be enough flavours, so you jump on Ebay and grab the cheapest pair of ribbon microphones you can find, because they’re ‘sweet’
on drums and you can whip up some mods in a hurry with some quality aluminium and fresh Lundahl transformers. A month later, everything has arrived, and you spend all day trying to cut and crimp just one ribbon. You realise your fingers are no match for such a fiddly task, and resign yourself to the stock design. Once you’ve tracked your beds, you start working on some vocals, but for some reason, you hate your voice. Must be that the preamp is wrong for you. Thankfully, you can grab a DIY kit online that’s exactly like your favourite vintage preamp for a fraction of the price. You jump in, get lost in the bill of materials for a while, and reemerge with a new soldering iron, a step-by-step instruction guide, and hundreds of components. Then you realise it doesn’t come with a case. Nothing a bit of generic case drilling and label-making can’t fix. By this time, it’s well over two years later, Do-ItYourself has become Do-Everything-Yourself, and you’ve still got to mix, master, do the artwork, organise your single launch, and produce a music video. It’s endless. It’s tempting to assume that DIY will give you total control over your end product, but once you get it in your head that everything is possible, it’s hard to regain the self-control to know it’s not. While this issue is all about DIY music production, remember that at the absolute minimum, it’s wise to have a sounding board at your disposal; band mate, mix engineer, mastering engineer, anyone that can instil a modicum of perspective. Because you can’t be great at everything. So even if you’ve been burned by a cowboy, find a great engineer you can work with. Just because you have a few mics and an interface, doesn’t mean you should abandon studios altogether. And just because you can get a preamp kit online, doesn’t mean you should if the only thing you’ve soldered together is a guitar lead that lasted two gigs. Not saying you shouldn’t either, but at least have the self-control to know when to hand over control.
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All material in this magazine is copyright © 2012 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. 1/11/2012.
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O VO LUTI
THE DIY REVOLUTION Tame Impala, Dandy Warhols, Wayne Connolly and more talk about the ups and downs of self-production and let us inside their creative clubhouses.
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DIY: Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker DIY: Dandy Warhols DIY: Wayne Connolly & Neve Returns To Alberts DIY: Home Grown, Glenn Cardier Horsing Around with Fable The Journey Inward Connections’ Steve Firlotte & The Roots Tube Console
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‘Crazy Frenchman’ Philippe Zdar despises the cancer of comfort.
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Stav’s Word, Too Many Hats? Mac Notes PC Audio Last Word, Rory Kaplan
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YOUR WORD Readers’ Letters
We asked: How do you know when your project is ‘finished’? Self-imposed deadlines, dinner time, your partner needs the spare room back? This is what you came back with. When it sits alone and forgotten for a couple of days/ weeks/months. — Matt Sephton Often, when there’s a self imposed deadline, we run out of money, or a combination of the two! Beyond that, though, there comes a point when we’ve just done our best, and it’s time to put it to bed, so at best it’s probably just a gut feeling that it’s done. You learn to trust your instincts and know when any more tampering is just going to suck the soul out of it, and you make yourself walk away! — Jared Haschek When you realise it’s never finished but you are prepared to walk away. But seriously, after CD replication, distribution and publicity/promo, the time is probably right to feel a sense of finality. — Ian Munn When we’ve worked on it for so long everyone just gets sick of it, the band writes new songs, and then breaks up. — Jacob Munnery When I feel I’m beginning to make changes for the sake of making changes. — Andrew Clark Whenever I see the bin men driving past my window at 5am I know the sun isn’t far behind it, that’s the time to finish. — Cory John Rist My projects are finished when the sounds have virtually nothing I dislike. — Tommy Grules Honestly, I never finish anything. — David Ashton In my case, creating mixes for dancing schools, a project is finished when I can’t tell where the edits are, even though I did the cut-ups! And when I add that really nice-sounding reverb onto the tail of a dance mix — at some random spot they’ve selected for reasons of time-limitation rather than count or logic — and the client is really happy, feels they’ve got something special, and therefore doesn’t mind paying the extra hour or so. Client happy, project finished! — Michael Spooner When your mum can sing along to the song! — Rob Care When adding more becomes too much! — Gavin Healy It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. — Garry Coker When I’m happy to admit the limitations of my abilities... for the time being! — Karl Frederick I usually work on projects with a friend, so, when we can both sit and listen to the song without reaching to change anything. — Edward Jones When I come back after a break and can listen back to the songs without hearing anything that makes me cringe and simply must be fixed then and there. — TheLord Dags
Theres a remark in Zen and the Art of Mixing that I related to a lot as a DAW composer, where he talks about printing a mix and hearing it with different ears afterwards, knowing you can never get it back exactly as it was in that moment. After having just gone through the process of launching my first ever EP, it was only when I sat in the car with the manufactured CD that I could listen to the mixes with a new ear. — Matt Mclean Mixes are never truly completed. Only ever abandoned at their most convenient point. Usually when the client runs out of money or mastering has been booked and you’ve already pushed it back three times! — Troy Mccosker Only after not making a single change for a whole week. Then one whole week without listening to it (to clear the ears). I listen just one more time, and if there’s no changes that I can possibly think would make it better, it’s done. — Julian Nichols An artist’s work is never complete, merely abandoned. — Trevor Rose It’s finished if all instruments are in their right acoustic space, each audible element adds something positive to the mix, and overall the mix creates the intended emotional response without drawing attention to the mixing itself. — Thoko Malizani I’ve been self imposing deadlines for a few years. Unfortunately, I keep breaking them. That said, I’m sticking to my plan of not releasing anything I’m not 100% sure is my best work. I don’t see the point in putting out anything generic or half done just to flood the already flooded market of average home productions. I’m hoping it will pay off... First impressions last after all, and you only get to make one. — Lucas Black Sounds obtuse, but when I can’t get it sounding any better and I’m out of ideas. — Sensitive Stew’s Music Blog Usually when a record label is interested in a specific track. Then I make one last mix and after that I allow myself not to think about it again and go on with a new project. — Baz Reznik
Sometimes I need to accept that the mix is the way that it is (and it will be). Especially if I’ve spent hours, days, etc., working on it. So I agree, it’s not so much that the mix is never finished but that the version you mix today would be different from the version you do next week. That allows me to ‘let go’ of the track (or album) allowing the chosen version to reflect that moment in time and move on to something else. Set a release date two weeks after you’ve been told you will have the album mastered and replicated by. This allows for any problems with mastering, shipping, packaging etc. — Brendan J Boyd DJ Shadow once said he won’t release anything that hasn’t had six months to sit and await re-evaluation. Makes sense to me but it’s something of a luxury. — Jason Richardson Thanks for instigating an interesting discussion. It’s great to hear so many others have trouble letting go of a mix, affirming that it’s common. I agree with all key points: evaluation with fresh ears and away from the mixing desk is imperative. When the result of that evaluation is nothing annoying you/sticking out of mix and the conglomerate of instruments sounds mixed. Then it’s cooked. That’s assuming that individual tones are carefully selected for their contribution to the mix at the time of recording. Self-production is so much harder to call last drinks on than paid work. I think this may be due to the inherent subjectivity of the paid gig when compared to the personal project as much as the budgetary restraints of the paid gig. Hence the importance of a lengthy time period to accrue the fresh ears. It generates a ‘Clayton’s’ sense of subjectivity. — Darren Ponman
Once the fat lady has sung on your record? — Eli Stowe When ‘Computer says no’ (insert best Little Britain impersonation). — Dave Miller I set a deadline but rarely meet it. It just works well to get 99% of the project finished. I know better than to ‘sign off’ on something before it’s done. More than once I’ve tweaked and replaced files after they’ve already left. So now, I call it done when I can sit on my couch and listen through until there is nothing sticking out at me that I want to correct. It can take anywhere from an hour to a few days. — Greg Reason When it’s louder than Refused. — Daniel Lambert Once it meets all the requirements. — Geoff Swan
We’re mostly working on other people’s stuff right now, which is finished I guess when they’re happy with it. But it means that much of the stuff we do for ourselves is perpetually on the back burner and may in fact never finish. It may make one hell of a patchwork quilt one day. — Rach Sol Bosch
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WHAT’S ON All the latest from around the studio traps.
Jim at Blackfoot Sound just finished final playback after a month of tracking Baby Animals with David Nicholas at the helm. Apparently the majority of the tracks are goosebumps material, and the monitor mixes sound fantastic. David is mixing the album at Sing Sing, and it’s suddenly very quiet and empty around Blackfoot, like the day after a huge party. “Back to the real world of winding leads and searching for cleverly hidden coffee cups,” said Jim.
Dalby State High School has recently purchased the Behringer X32 digital mixing console for its Performing Arts Centre, finally bringing the school into the digital age. Students are very excited about learning to use the new desk as they can now record, edit and mix student performances. The Performing Arts Centre is currently undergoing some major changes and renovations to make it more user friendly and technically up to date. Students at Dalby State High are trained in all aspects of theatre and are responsible for managing and running lights and audio for all productions. The purchase of this desk has definitely increased the number of students interested in undertaking training in sound production, which is a great thing. At Deluxe Mastering Tony ‘Jack the Bear’ Mantz has been involved in projects for Dirty Three’s Mick Turner, Matt Van Schie, Prequel, The Immigrant, D-Cup, The Neighbourhood, Mercian, Crash Tragic, Alex Anonymous, Paradise Found, Boom Temple, Bass Kleph,
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tyDi and a few more the editor had to cut loose for economy of space. Adam Dempsey has been mastering the Australian tribute album to the classic ‘Nuggets’ compilation of garage rock/punk/psychedelia, along with releases for Courtney Barnett, Sticky Fingers, Houndsteeth, OSH10, Tinsmoke (featuring members of Howl at the Moon), Canvas, Sway Resistor, The Weeping Willows, as well as 2012’s NMIT Bachelor of Music double album compilation We Went Down to the River Vol 4. Andrei ‘Ony’ Emerin has mastered a myriad of new electronic releases, including a new EP for I’lls (with legitimate musical content going right down to 28Hz), Naysayer & Gilsun, Lower Spectrum, Flight Tonight and Alex Albrecht, as well as rock and indie material from I Told You I Was Ill, SMILE, Mouth Tooth, Return To Youth, Written In Ruins and Sleepy Dreamers.
Damien Gerard’s has just bought a new in-house John Bonham-style Ludwig kit direct from Chicago. It has the classic 26-inch kick, a 10x14inch rack, and 16x16-inch floor tom. They’ve also made some updates to the API Lunchbox, and added some Neve Portico Compressors. On the work side, Cam Nacson has been tracking vocals with Andrew Beck, there’s been live tracking of the Sydney Lyric Orchestra 13-piece string section, drum tracking with session drummer extraordinaire Thunderchild, and Russell Pilling has been working with Calling Mayday and Lepers and Crooks.
StudioStav has moved from sunny Sydney to even sunnier Byron Bay. At Coloursound studio, Mat Robins has been following up on the Dandy Warhol’s tracking sessions earlier this year by taking to the studio with Dandy’s drummer Brent De Boer’s Aussie band Immigrant Union. They’re working on their second album. Also going the full-length route are The Sons of May, Crying Sirens and Grand Transatlantic.
At The Alley, producer Steve James was back in working with Sam Hannan on multiple projects including EPs for Skyways Are Highways, The House of Honeys and a couple of single releases for Greenthief. Sam has also been recording and mixing an EP for Jack Runaway and doing some mixing for Written In Ruins. Andrei Eremin has engineered and mixed a special Chet Faker live recording, mixed debut albums for Brightly and Rat & Co, and EPs and single tracks for Naysayer and Gilsun, Flight Tonight and Return To Youth. Photo: Samara Clifford. At King Willy Sound, William Bowden has been mastering two albums and vinyl for The Basics, The Hard Ons (Double album), Majestic Kelp (featuring Dom Mariani), Dan Conway (EP), TV Snow (album), Simon Russell (album), Rain Party (single), Loene Carmen (EP), Ngaire (singles), Hunting Grounds (remixes), Mandy Kane (Quelshocker EP), Axe Girl (EP), Russell Morris (album), Polly (EP), Bedouin Seal (single), Holly Rankin (EP), Merise (EP),
The Vernons (single), Trigger Jackets (EP), The Disappointed (EP), Doc Holiday Takes a Shotgun (singles), and way too many more to print.
Dax Liniere of Puzzle Factory just returned from his Winston Churchill Fellowship-funded European trip that included two Mix With The Masters sessions (Michael Brauer and Joe Chiccarelli), meet-ups with various plug-in developers and visits to many studios (including Air and Wisseloord), plus two weeks with Alan Moulder and Flood (in which time he designed and built Alan a new computer desk!). Now that he’s returned, Dax has turned his attention to planning out his new studio. Lucky duck. The Grove Studios has launched a brand new mastering service in October. $99 per track eMastering service. Email info@thegrovestudios. com for more info. Artists lately at The Grove: Phebe Starr, Selahphonic, U:CODIA, Spiral Conspiracy with USA Producer Yaron Fuchs (Bob Dylan, Herbie Hancock, Faith Hill, Ben Harper). The mess of construction has been drawing to a climax at Studios 301 as they finish work on the new production studios. Next door to the new rooms, Steve Smart has been mastering tunes for Henry Wagons, New Gods (Members of Little Red), Triple J’s Like a Version, Tex Perkins, Timomatic and Lisa Mitchell. Leon Zervos has been mastering Angus Stone, Delta Goodrem, Damien Leith, The Janoskians, Reece Mastin, Guy Sebastian, Gin Wigmore and Johnny
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Ruffo. Andrew Edgson has been working on Bloods, Shannon Noll, Smalltalk, Chance Waters and also Angus Stone. Whilst Sameer Sengupta has been tweaking Clubfeet, Ruby Rose, Purple Sneakers DJs Remixes and Ricki Lee. And, Ben Feggans has mastered upcoming EPs by Fanny Lumsden, Boy Outside, Jo Fabro and Carl Fox. Over in the recording studios has been Delta Goodrem, Matt Corby, Taikoz, Justice Crew, 5 Seconds of Summer, Washington, Ernest Ellis, The Axis of Awesome, Rai Thistlethwayte, Urthboy, Ricki Lee, Thundamentals and Bob Evans. Birdy did a very special performance in 301’s main recording space, with Sydney media and VIPs in attendance to see her playing a very nice Steinway piano in a room dressed up as luxurious bohemian parlour! They also hosted the inaugural ’50 songs in 5 days’ songwriting camp.
Toyland Studio is picking up the pace for the end of the year with multiple concurrent albums being recorded. Solo artist Sean Kirkwood has been laying down an acoustic blues type of album, Melbourne’s Marching Orders (pictured) has finished their latest full length CD in the street punk genre, The DC3 have been back to lay basic tracks for their upcoming album with their new drummer, Thomas Madden has completed his string quintet project, and hard rock band band Killshot have spent a week recording their album that will be sure to separate most girls from their knickers.
Bob Scott has been doing the music mix for the 1:47 PMAround Pagethe 1 Block score composed by Nick Wales.
Sound design for Electric Preludes, a concerto for electric violin and orchestra, performed and record in Moribor, Slovenia with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. An album mix for Chloe Sinclair, and mixing for Moth/Synergy Percussion, and Neilson Gough. Sound design and music composition for Concrete and Bone (physical theatre set in a skate park in Dulwich Hill for Sydney Festival). And sound design and composition for Alexandra Harrison and Rowan Marchingo’s Idea of North. Equipment-wise Bob is loving the new acquisition of a second-hand Lexicon 960L. “The machine is just so usable!” said Bob. “Great sounds and all those little faders just encourage me to get in there and tweak and automate. It’s really made a difference to the quality of my work.” Digital City Studios has a busy run to Christmas. Currently sound and picture posting a three-part TV series call Holy Switch about young people of different religions swapping families — a classier version of Wife Swap USA. At the same time, post work is happening on three short films, part of the annual Raw Nerve initiative to help emerging film makers. A doco about Bourke & Wills is booked in early December before the studios shut for a Christmas break. Michael Gissing is also working on sound and video installations in the refurbished Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. A huge bond store area has been opened up to the public with video projections and soundscapes in the outside garden area. Omegaman has been working on his own release, El O’man Boogaloo due for release early 2013, with remixes by AGFA, Fort Knox Five, Mo’ Horizons, and Skeewiff. Omegaman has also been returning the remix favour for Afrolicious, AGFA/Empresarios, Brand New Heavies, Fuzzbox Inc, Los Chicos, Altos Mo’ Horizons, Orelha Negra, Skeewiff, and The King Rocker featuring Maya Jupiter and Aloe Blacc.
“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
custom moulded and generic fit in-ear monitors
Ear Monitors Australia ® 38 Hall Road, South Warrandyte VIC 3134 T: 03 9844 2524 W: www.earmonitorsaustralia.com Ear Monitors Australia and the EMA logo are registered Trade marks of Australian Hearing Laboratories Pty Ltd.
MORE COLOURS FOR YOUR SONIC PALETTE
The world of MASCHINE is constantly expanding. The latest leap forward delivers new hardware, in a choice of black or white, and with highly sensitive multicolored pads. New software offers color-coding, new effects and more, plus the legendary synthesizer MASSIVE. The ever-growing range of MASCHINE Expansions provides tailored contemporary sounds, personalize your setup with MASCHINE CUSTOM KITS (see below). And for the perfect viewing angle, check out the MASCHINE STAND (see below).
For more information, find a dealer at www. cmi.com.au/native-instruments-dealers.html Distributed by CMI Music & Audio: Ph: 03 9315 2244 E: email@example.com Web: www.cmi.com.au
FREE SATELLITE or UAD-2 QUAD CARD YOUR CHOICE OF FREE SATELLITE QUAD OR UAD-2 QUAD IF YOU BUY A 4-710d MIC PREAMP
Four TEC Award-winning 710 Twin-Finity™ microphone/line preamps, each featuring: • Dual-path 285-volt Class-A tube and transimpedance solid-state preamps • Phase-aligned tone-blending of tube and solid state circuits, creamy to crunchy • Newly designed 1176-style compression circuit per preamp channel • JFET Direct Input with 2.2MΩ ultra Hi-Z impedance w/auto input override • Monolithic balanced output stage
UAD-2 Satellite QUAD features: • • •
PURCHASE OF 4-710d
External Firewire 800 and 400 DSP accelerator unit Includes “Analog Classics” plug-in bundle, featuring LA-2A Classic Audio Leveler, 1176LN / 1176SE Classic Limiting Amplifiers, Pultec EQP-1A and Realverb Pro plug-ins. High-bandwidth Firewire DSP Accelerator with four Analog Devices SHARC processors
UAD-2QUAD card features: • •
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Flagship quad-processor DSP Accelerator Card for UAD Powered Plug-Ins on Mac or PC Includes “Analog Classics” plug-in bundle, featuring LA-2A Classic Audio Leveler, 1176LN/1176SE Classic Limiting Amplifiers, Pultec EQP-1A and Realverb Pro plug-ins. High-bandwidth PCIe card w/ (4) Analog Devices SHARC floating-point processors
Offered while stocks last. Find your nearest UA dealer at: www.cmi.com.au
GENERAL NEWS NEW NORD TIMES TWO The new Nord Electro 4D and Electro 4 HP feature everything from the Electro 3 series, adding the new Nord C2D tone wheel engine, 122 Rotary Speaker simulation and USB MIDI. Both the Nord Electro 4 models feature the B3 tone wheel organ engine from Nord’s flagship Nord C2D organ and include a redesigned Key Click simulation as well as that Rotary Speaker simulation of a vintage 122 unit with a new overdrive. The percussion model has been improved to offer increased control over the percussion levels when playing near-legato. The vibrato and chorus scanners have been carefully
AKG BIRTHDAY PRESENTS Celebrating its 65th anniversary, AKG has released a line of limited edition products including the C451 condenser microphone and K702 headphones. AKG’s C451 65th Anniversary Edition condenser embodies sound from the legendary C451 EB with the CK1 capsule. Since its introduction in 1969, the C451 has been continuously improved and its transformer-less preamp enables high sound pressure capability, allowing for close miking of high-energy sound sources up to 155dB SPL without distortion. The reference small-diaphragm is excellent for capturing the smallest details of
At the end of last year we reviewed the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, a small USB audio interface with 2-in/2-out connections featuring two Focusrite preamps. Now Focusrite has released the Scarlett 2i4. Take a wild guess at the improvement — yes, it’s now a 2-in/4out interface and also offers a few tweaks to reflect those extra outputs. You could almost say the 2i4 is now what the 2i2 should have been in the first place. But its original attributes are still there — it’s a neat little interface. Electric Factory: (03) 9474 1000 or www.elfa.com.au
modelled to be just as alive as the tone wheels. Both the Nord Electro 4D and 4 HP come loaded with a selection of sounds from the Nord Piano Library — a specialised library of Grand, Upright and Electrical Pianos, Clavinets and Harpsichords. The Nord Electro 4 HP has twice the memory capacity of its predecessor, Nord Electro 3 HP and the Hammer Action Portable (HP) keybed offers great-feeling, expressive, fullyweighted keys in a keyboard weighing just 11kg. The USB port now doubles as a MIDI interface connection. For Windows you’ll need a readily-available driver, but Mac OSX is fine. Electric Factory: (03) 9474 1000 or www.elfa.com.au
any instrument due to its lightweight membrane and sophisticated acoustic design. The K702 Anniversary Edition headphones bring a new level of precision to the line with newlydesigned genuine leather headband and soft velour ear pads for maximum comfort during long recording or listening sessions. K702’s referencestyle headphones are an over-ear, open-back design with extremely accurate response. So you can convince your clients you’ve bought these special, anniversary releases and not just spruced up the old ones, both the C451’s and K702’s come in a new Titan semi-gloss finish. Audio Products Group: (02) 9578 0137 or www.audioproducts.com.au
Blue Microphones has started its international Free Fall 2012 promotion and before you shake your head and think of the inevitable fine-print that says ‘US & Territories residents only’ we can assure you this is a truly world-wide deal. The general gist is, buy a Blue studio mic and get something free, either a live mic or preamp depending on your purchase. Amber Technology: 1800 251 367 or www.ambertech.com.au
Rode Microphones has released a new edition of its Soundbooth online listening application, extending it to demonstrate the complete range of Rode broadcast and video mics. Select from different scenarios and applications to hear the difference between each. Rode Microphones: (02) 9648 5855 or www.rodemic.com
SSL is making its A-FADA automation system available beyond the AWS 948 console and has also released a Pro-Station version of their Duality console. A-FADA (Analogue Fader Accesses DAW Automation) uses DAW automation to drive the analogue faders on an SSL console. The winged layout of the new Pro-Station is designed to allow operators to work from a single central position and also enables the console centre section to accommodate a 27-inch Apple Cinema Display. Amber Technology: 1800 251 367 or www.ambertech.com.au
APOLLO SENDS A THUNDERBOLT Universal Audio (UA) has announced the release of the Thunderbolt Option Card for its Apollo interface. Compatible with Intel’s new Thunderbolt technology on the latest generation of iMacs, MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, and Mac Minis, the Thunderbolt Option Card provides greater UAD plug-in instances, improved performance at higher sample rates, and reduced UAD plug-in latency versus Apollo’s standard FireWire connection. UA has “worked hand-in-hand with Intel to create rock-solid Thunderbolt connectivity for Apollo.” The user-installable Thunderbolt Option Card includes two Thunderbolt ports and easily slides into the expansion bay of Apollo. Bus power is provided to all downstream Thunderbolt peripherals, allowing music producers to connect devices in series with the Apollo interface — including hard drives, processors, and computer. When the Thunderbolt Option Card is engaged, Apollo’s FireWire 800 ports are instantly reconfigured as a hub for connecting FireWire devices such as a hard drive or UAD-2 Satellite. CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or www.cmi.com.au
Audica MICROseries - Style and Flexibility
A NOT-SO-DIRECT DI BOX Radial Engineering has released a new, advanced direct box called the Radial PZ-DI designed to work with all types of acoustic and orchestral instruments by enabling users to optimise the input impedance to match the pickup or transducer. The design begins with a 3-position impedance selector switch that lets you match load with the pickup. This includes a 220kΩ setting to warm up magnetic pickups, a 1MΩ setting to replicate a classic DI box and a super-high 10MΩ setting to eliminate the squawk and peaks that are common with piezo transducers. To eliminate resonance and modulation between instruments, a variable lo-cut filter lets you dial out unwanted low-frequencies. A -15dB pad should deal with any high output active basses or digital keyboards and you get a hi-cut filter too. The PZ-DI deploys 48V phantom power via an internal switching supply that elevates the rail voltage while reducing distortion of all types to deliver a smooth, natural tone. The PZ-DI is made tough to handle the rigours of professional touring including a Radial’s signature book-end design that creates protective zones around the controls, switches and connectors and, of course, it can work as a bogstandard direct box. Amber Technology: 1800 251367 or www.ambertech.com.au
Audica Professional combines leading-edge design and acoustic engineering in flexible audio solutions for commercial background music, corporate AV and audio communications. Applications include retail outlets, restaurants, hotel public areas and guest rooms, meeting rooms, museums and visitor centres.
“I thought the audio industry had already given us every option, until I saw and heard Audica Professional- MICROseries sets new standards for aesthetics and audio quality for background music” Kai Böckmann, Trius GmbH & Co. KG, Germany
Call 1300 13 44 00 or visit www.audioproducts.com.au
A BLUE RIBBON, RIBBON MIC Royer Labs has released the SF-2 active ribbon microphone. Designed as a premium microphone for use in classical performance applications or to capture acoustic instruments, the SF-2 is a phantom powered version of the company’s original SF-1 ribbon microphone. It has an output level of -38dB — putting its sensitivity on par with that of phantom-powered condenser microphones. The SF-2’s unique electronics and custom-designed FET’s deliver ultra-quiet operation with self-noise of lower than 18dB. A bonus is that with Royer Labs’ Active Series ribbon technology Royer claims the ribbon element cannot be damaged by phantom
power, electrical glitches or incorrectly wired cables — the work experience student is allowed to touch it (okay, but only touch it once). The Royer Labs SF-2 active ribbon microphone ships in an aluminium presentation case with an SFS-2 shock mount, wind sock, documentation, and owner’s manual. There is also an optionally available SF-2 deluxe package that includes a beautiful Padauk wood presentation case, a Royer-made 20-foot microphone cable and a premium RSM-24 shock mount all packaged in an aluminium carrying/ storage case. Atlantis Asia: (03) 9818 7778 or firstname.lastname@example.org
LAWO GETS SLIMED Building a brand new, state-of-the-art HD truck isn’t a simple undertaking and it’s taken nearly 12 months of turning plans into reality, before the OB Group could announce that their brand new HD OB truck is finally on the road and operational. Equipped with a Sony MVS-6000 HD vision mixer and Harris Platinum router complete with multiviewer, an EVS XT2Plus and X-File system, Chyron Hyper X3 HD, Sony HSC 300HD cameras, Link Research wireless camera and various Sony VTR’s and solid state recorders, the truck offers clients access to all the latest technology in television equipment. When it came to audio, the main router
FAIRLIGHT XSTREAM & QUANTUM Australian-based Fairlight has been busy at the drawing board. First, in a move to attract a broader market to its audio post production system, Fairlight has introduced the XSTREAM, a new tactile, ultra compact desktop control surface for Fairlight’s CC-1 Media Engine. The XSTREAM is a costeffective option suited for audio and video engineers working in the postproduction fields of advertising, TV production and music project recording. Alternatively, not so compact and with more control options the new QUANTUM offers fast and ergonomic operation of its tactile control surface AT 20
with faders, switches, knobs and jogger wheel, augmented with touch screen and mouse-based functions. QUANTUM’s motorised faders combine with a dual row of rotary encoders to provide touch-triggered automation of all mixing parameters. The system touch screens complement the physical controls with multiple switching options and project navigation. QUANTUM employs the same CC-1 Media engine as the XSTREAM and includes an embedded Edit controller that also utilises Fairlight’s self-labelling Picture Keys. Flexible mounting systems to attach speakers and screens are on the rear of the console. Fairlight: (02) 9975 1777 or email@example.com
of the truck is a LAWO NOVA73 HD core with DALLIS I/O boxes, connected to a mc2 56 32-fader mixing console. Dual power supplies are on all Dallis and HD Core systems. When it was considering options for a new audio console and routing system, the OB Group decided on Lawo as it was best suited to the clients’ needs and was more flexible; highlighting the expansion options and the simplicity of interfacing to other OB vans. The truck has already been hard at work for FOX Sport and the Nickelodeon ‘Slime Fest’ — yes, even slime fests require state of the art equipment apparently. Professional Audio Technology: (02) 94761272 or firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1987 Focusrite, then owned by Mr Rupert Neve, introduced the ISA 110 wide bandwidth Microphone preamplifier and EQ module, designed at the request of Beatles producer Sir George Martin for the custom Neve consoles at his AIR Studios in London and Montserrat. Like all ISA Range products ISA Two specs out beautifully! • EIN is -127dB (at 60dB gain, 150 Ohm source impedance). • Noise at main output is -97 dBu (22Hz-22kHz bandpass filter). • Frequency response at 60dB gain -2.5dB at 20Hz., -3dB at 120kHz. ISA Two joins the ISA One, ISA 430 MkII, ISA 828 and the ISA 428 MkII in the 2012 edition of the legend that is the Focusrite ISA Range.
This was the genesis of the Focusrite brand and an uninterrupted progression of the ISA family from then until now. The ISA (Input Signal Amplifier) microphone preamplifier, featuring a Lundahl input transformer and proprietary Zobel network, has remained essentially unchanged and at the heart of every ISA Range product and of course the famous Focusrite Studio consoles. Announcing the latest chapter in the ISA legacy, ISA Two. Responding to numerous requests Focusrite is pleased to offer two channels of this highly praised mic pre in a 1U, 19” rack-mounted format. The only things we’ve added to the original design are four switchable input impedances, balanced inserts and two useful user-calibrated eight LED output meters. At the heart of every great studio is great sound. That will be your legacy. It’s ours too - Sound is Everything.
www.focusrite.com/ISATwo Focusrite is Proudly Distributed & Supported by Electric Factory Pty Ltd 188 Plenty Road Preston VIC 3072 email@example.com AT 21
GENERAL NEWS AUDYA-BLE DIFFERENCE Audya 5 by Ketron is a powerful arranger keyboard that includes video support, and three USB ports to hook up a computer and multiple external hard drives. It comes with 560 styles and 370 audio drum sequences, and can play up to six tracks simultaneously. It also comes with 430 stereo orchestral presets, and 320 new programs that make use of Ketron’s latest Voice Character Emulation and sophisticated performance controls. Audya 5 also has a new Vocaliser, which incorporates five
voices, and can work in real time with one of the two mic inputs. It has dedicated reverb and delay facilities and can be controlled manually with the keyboard or set to automatic. The 61 semiweighted keys are accompanied by 17 sliders and a 320x240 pixel LCD. It also has two stereo line inputs, four MIDI ports, two combo XLR/TRS inputs and a headphone output. Gospel Pianos: (02) 9724 2022 or www.gospelpianos.com.au
ANTELOPE 32 IN 1 Antelope Audio has announced Orion 32, claiming it to be the world’s first 32-channel AD/DA converter and audio master clock in a 1U rack. The new device supports both MADI and USB interfaces, clocked by Antelope’s 64-bit Acoustically Focused Clocking (AFC) technology. Connectivity abounds with Orion 32 allowing 192k I/O streaming of 32-channel digital audio through its custom-built USB out, 32 channels of 96k audio through its Fibre Optic MADI I/O ports and a further 16 channels of I/O supporting ADAT protocol. The multi-channel converter inputs and outputs pass the analogue signal through 8 D-SUB 25 I/O connectors. In
RADAR STANDALONE iZ Technology is the Canadian owned and operated company that manufactures the RADAR line of multi track audio recorders and ADA audio converters. With the introduction of the ADA II series, RADAR’s converter technology is available for the first time in a stand-alone device. Featuring pristine iZ conversion, an innovative modular I/O structure, intuitive touchscreen controls, and direct interfacing to native DAWS and Pro Tools, ADA is designed to meet the creative and technical needs of audio professionals. ADA converters use the high-quality Classic 96 or Ultra Nyquist converter technology found in the newly-released iZ RADAR 6 recorder. AT 22
Connections to native DAWS such as Logic, Nuendo, Reaper, and others is via low-latency, low-jitter MADI digital I/O. For Pro Tools|HD users you can add an iZ Dual Pro Tools|HD Option Card to ADA and plug directly into the Pro Tools Core Card. Each ADA is made-to-order in 8-, 16-, or 24-channel configurations with customisable I/O ratios. ADA’s Graphic User Interface controls settings and preferences — including the comprehensive AD and DA routing options. Full screen mode brings all 48 high-resolution meters into view for accurate reference monitoring. The new front panel is fingerprint-resistant and offers a high-contrast white LED ringlit power switch. Mixmasters: (08) 8278 8506 or firstname.lastname@example.org
addition to being a high quality audio converter, Orion 32 is also an audio master clock. The Orion 32 employs Antelope’s proprietary 4th generation of AFC and oven-controlled oscillator, technologies that made Antelope Audio clocks well-recognised for accuracy and reliability in recording, mastering and post-production facilities. The four word clock outs, together with the 10MHz input, make Orion 32 suited to be in the centre of any project or highend studio. If the five preset buttons aren’t enough, the device is managed through a user-friendly desktop application available for both Windows and OS X. Audio Chocolate: (03) 9813 5877 or www.audiochocolate.com.au
BUY STUDIO, GET STUDIO SOUND LIVE
BUY A BLUEBIRD
GET AN en•CORE 100
BUY A BABY BOTTLE
GET AN en•CORE 200
BUY A REACTOR
GET AN en•CORE 300
BUY A GREAT MIC, GET A GREAT MIC PRE
OR BUY A CACTUS
BUY A KIWI
GET A ROBBIE
OCTOBER 1ST THRU NOVEMBER 30TH, 2012
AT PARTICIPATING STORES, WHILE SUPPLIES LAST Distributed in Australia by Amber Technology Pty Ltd Unit 1, 2 Daydream St, Warriewood NSW FREE PHONE 1 800 251 367 email@example.com AT 23
LEXICON MPX NATIVE REVERB PLUG-IN Review: Mark Davie
It’s amazing that Lexicon has been able to hold off this long without releasing something like the MPX Native reverb plug-in. You would think as soon as plug-ins arrived on the desktop that there would have been no easier plug-in to create than a reverb with algorithms already written and ready to roll out. But perhaps wisely, they started from the top and worked their way down — with the PCM Native plug-ins predating the cheaper variants. It helped avoid the temptation for users to just jump onboard with something like the MPX and stop there.
On the control side, you’ve got 10 parameters split over two pages, as well as a mix knob. ‘Color’ is a nice touch that lets you send the reverb to the dark or bright side, and in conjunction with the Rolloff control, gives you plenty of command over the reverb’s tone. Reflection and Reverb Levels, Diffusion, Reverb Time and Predelay are your other main shaping controls, while the Reverb Type (the fundamental Halls, Chambers, Plates and Room behind the more elaborate presets) are bundled with Reflection and Reverb Attack on the second page.
The MPX plug-in is based on the MX hardware, and shows it in the GUI. The knob and button styles, and blue faceplate colour are mimicked on the plug-in version. The PCM Native series has entirely separate plug-ins depending on whether you want to apply a Hall, Chamber, or one of the other five reverbs on offer. While MPX stacks them all in the one plug-in shirking the more standardised nomenclature for a range of spatial sizes; from Tight Spots with Voice Over Booth preset, through Rooms, to Giant Spaces like Stone Cathedral and Gymnasium. There are of course chamber, plate and hall presets within those categories, you’ve just got to wind through to find them. It’s a pretty neat, simple navigation system that encourages discovery.
MPX also has an input level meter that’s really handy when setting up bus levels for each channel, as well as a real-time Spectral Intensity Analyser that display’s the effect’s amplitude over frequency.
One noticeable difference between the Native and MPX plug-ins is in the processing power. While Lexicon assured us that the quality of algorithm is the same across all of its hardware and plugins, the difference lies in the control and CPU implementation. Allowing you finer detail over the reverb tails and allowing more delay taps as you go up in the range. This was certainly obvious when testing the processing limits in ProTools. 48 stereo 96k tracks, each with an instance of MPX had a 2012
2.6GHz i7 Macbook Pro with 8GB of RAM hovering at around 60% of native CPU usage. It only took the more processor hungry PCM Native Hall half that many instances to reach the same 60% usage, and it really started to take its toll on the system with only a few more instances. The MPX plug-in sounds great, but there is a noticeable difference in class between it and the Native version. In attempting to try similar parameter setups on each plug-in (not easy, considering the controls vary between the two), I found the MPX to be more ‘in-your-face’ and crowd the source material a little more than the Native version, which was more subtle and let the source shine through, making it a better choice for vocal material. Overall, the MPX is a great buy, and would fit in anyone’s DAW mix environment as a great go-to tool for quickly finding an appropriate reverb within the single plug-in, with plenty of instances available. Then if a little more detail is required, just jump up to something like PCM Native. MPX supports VST, RTAS and AU for Mac and Windows, but does require an iLok 2. Price US$219 Contact Jands: (02) 9582 0909 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Available from now until the release of Live 9 at your local dealer and at ableton.com Buy Ableton Suite 8, get up to 25% off plus a free upgrade to Live 9 Suite. Buy Ableton Live 8, get up to 25% off plus a free upgrade to Live 9 Standard. Buy Ableton Live Intro, get up to 25% off.
Distributed by CMI Music & Audio. Ph: 03 9315 2244. Find a dealer at: www.cmi.com.au/ableton-dealers.html
A different species of pad controller for electronic musicians, DJs, VJs and DIY hackers. It covers all of the functionality of other pad controllers but the power of touch recognition in other dimensions. Features: Tactile Pads, Sliders, Rotary Sensors and Switches | LED Light Feedback | Trigger Pads | Rotary Sensors | Multi-touch Sliders | Switches | The Size of an iPad | Class Compliant and Open Source Development Kit
12 Step is a chromatic keyboard foot controller with polyphonic capabilities and can play up to 5 notes per key. Keys are velocity and pressure sensitive and can use the tilt of your foot to control pitch bend, polyphonic aftertouch, or any MIDI CC value.
Frees musicians from heavy footswitch pedals while expanding their control. The SoftStep application works with the SoftStep hardware controller to manipulate sensor data for finely tailored control.
Enables you to use the SoftStep, 12-Step or QuNeo to control your MIDI world. Program your SoftStep, 12-Step or QuNeo with our easy-to-use control mapping software, plug in your MIDI rig, and youâ€™re ready to send and receive data to external MIDI hardware.
Keith McMillen Instruments: Distributed by CMI Music & Audio Ph: 03 9315 2244 Find your nearest dealer at: cmi.com.au/keith-mcmillen-dealers.html
SOFTWARE NEWS LIVE PUSHES THE ENVELOPE Maybe Ableton planned this all along? For years it has sat back and quietly watched its Live software controlled by third party devices from the likes of Akai and Novation – taking notes and listening to user feedback, benefitting from a kind of free product development. Now Ableton has swooped and announced Push, a controller of its own and the very first hardware product of its type to come from Ableton – with a little discreet help from Akai. Initial impressions are that Push seriously trumps all before it with 64 velocityand pressure-sensitive pads and a host of additional controllers and
H3000 GOES NATIVE We tend to chuck around the term ‘legendary’ a lot in this business, but the Eventide H3000 is a multi-effects unit that definitely deserves induction into some kind of Outboard Gear Hall of Fame. Finally the H3000 is taking the inevitable leap into the virtual world with Eventide announcing the immediate availability of the H3000 Factory Ultra-Harmonizer plug-in for AAX, VST, and AU with 64-bit support. The H3000 Factory native is a re-creation of several algorithms from the hardware H3000 that combine pitch, delay, modulation and filtering in a
Universal Audio has announced the impending release of the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor Plug-In for the UAD Powered Plug-Ins platform and Apollo Audio Interface. Created by UAD Direct Development partner Brainworx and Shadow Hills Industries founder Peter Reardon, it’s a highly accurate plug-in emulation of the hallmark Shadow Hills mastering compressor. CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or www.cmi.com.au
CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or www.cmi.com.au
new modular interface. It features over 450 presets including over 100 new presets from a raft of big-name producers and engineers. It also includes over 100 presets from the original H3000. The H3000 Factory uses a re-imagined UI that allows the user to patch together any combination of 18 effects, including the H3000 Function Generator with 19 wave shapes. H3000 Factory is available directly from www.eventide. com for a special limited-time only introductory price of $199 (regularly $349). By comparison a mere shadow of the investment those early studios made. The special pricing ends November 23.
Earlier this year Izotope released its virtual instrument Iris along with associated sound libraries. Now with the new Voice library available iZotope has packaged together the Iris+5 bundle comprising Iris and five complementary sound libraries including the new Voice. Iris isn’t your run-of-the-mill sampler, described by Izotope as a must-have tool for sound designers and composers looking to evoke emotion through ‘ sonic experimentation’. Yes, that means weird stuff. Musiclab: (07) 3332 8188 or www.musiclab.com.au
In response to Avid’s introduction of its AAX plug-in format, CEDAR Audio has developed DNS One AAX, an AAX Native plug-in that combines the DNS One process with the DNS CS remote control for the DNS2000 and DNS3000. CEDAR’s DNS process is something of a standard for noise suppression in film and TV studios. Compatible with the latest Pro Tools 10 systems, DNS One AAX retains the zero latency of previous versions. Existing users running DNS One on Intel-based Mac systems may upgrade to DNS One AAX (which also supports Audiosuite) free of charge. Those running a more complete suite of CEDAR Studio processes may do so for a nominal charge. CDA Professional Audio: (02) 9330 1750 or www.cda-proaudio.com
switches. The design logic behind Push cleverly morphs between a software controller and a musical instrument, although it’s not an audio interface — you’ll still need one. Ableton has put a lot of thought into Push to make it quite a quantum leap forward for this kind of device and still left room for personalising the interface. A large degree of userconfiguration will breed a rush of new forums and user websites. Live fans will be getting very excited. It’s no surprise that Push is expected to be available with a concurrent release of Live 9 early next year. In fact, Push will only work with Live 9 and not earlier versions.
Based on a real 60-piece string orchestra, Native Instrument’s 14GB Action Strings delivers a new approach to cinematic strings, using played phrases to deliver realistic sound. You can control the 60 musicians that comprise the FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague as sampled by experienced score producers, Dynamedion. The phrases range from basic rhythm patterns to complex melodies, each recorded live in every key and in two dynamic levels. CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or www.cmi.com.au
NEW TUBES FROM NI Native Instruments has introduced a new collection of effects designed to capture the warm, natural sound of tube-driven hardware. The Premium Tube series is made up of three individual effects called Passive EQ, Vari Comp and Enhanced EQ, all available either individually or as a bundle and for the first time as native plug-ins that run individually within a DAW in VST, AU, RTAS or AAX format. The effects are modelled by Softube, the team behind NI’s Vintage Compressors plug-ins. Passive EQ is a fully-parametric, two-channel, four-band equaliser with additional high and low pass filters. Vari Comp offers a ‘clear, warm analogue sound’ and in limit mode uses a unique automatic ratio and knee adjustment, altering the compression ratio from 4:1 up to 20:1 automatically in response to the input signal. Enhanced EQ is modelled from a ‘boutique studio standard’ and used for adding warmth and weight to the low end of individual tracks, thanks to a special curve produced by simultaneously cutting and boosting the low frequencies (c’mon, Pul the other one). Enhanced EQ works equally well at adding clarity and shine to midrange. Download demos are available which will ‘freeze’ after 30 minutes use. CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or www.cmi.com.au
FADE IN TO SILENCE Reasonably accurate noise reduction and noise suppression has been available for ages in wave editors like Sound Forge and Audition, but it usually involved some hairy algorithms and number-crunching, and even then it was often a balance between an acceptable result and not introducing audible artifacts. In fact, Waves has its own Waves Noise Suppressor and Waves W43 Noise Reduction plug-ins which already promise a world of perfect, post-production silence. Waves has developed a plug-in that can provide noise suppression in real-time. Waves’ new NS1 Noise Suppressor comes in the form of a single fader and an attenuation meter that displays how much ‘energy’ you’re removing from the input signal. An intuitive noise suppression plug-in, Waves’ NS1 Noise Suppressor intelligently differentiates between dialogue and unwanted noise. Designed for post production, broadcast, voiceover, audio forensics and musical applications alike, NS1 instantly analyses and adapts to a user’s signal in real time, bringing the foreground into focus as it eliminates unnecessary background noise. It sounds like a magic formula for all those acoustic issues you may have in your studio. Before you part with any hard-earned there’s a demo you can try for both native and TDM systems. Sound & Music: (03) 9555 8081 or www.sound-music.com AT 27
SOFTWARE NEWS TAKE KONTROL Native Instruments announced Traktor Kontrol Z2, the world’s first 2+2 control mixer combining NI’s popular DJ controller design with a high-quality sound card and a host of new features. All housed inside an aircraft-grade aluminium chassis. New creative features inside the Traktor Pro software expand creative possibilities while premium-quality Innofaders assure rock-solid dependability when DJ’ing. The Kontrol Z2 is the first professional club mixer from Native Instruments. The Kontrol Z2’s 2+2 design unites analogue and digital DJing techniques. Two standalone channels provide connectivity for turntables or CDJs while two
additional channels offer control over Traktor Remix Decks, cue points and effects. The Kontrol Z2’s 24-bit sound card and XLR outputs deliver high-quality audio to any PA system while a separate booth output and microphone input allow Kontrol Z2 to integrate into any DJ booth. Advanced HID technology delivers seamless integration with CDJs including enhanced visual and tactile control of key features. Traktor Kontrol Z2 also includes the latest version of NI’s flagship Traktor Scratch Pro 2 software, as well as Traktor Scratch timecode vinyl and CDs, which rounds out this powerful hardware control mixer with software options for all popular club workflows. CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or www.cmi.com.au
MORE POWER TO UA Universal Audio (UA) has dug deep into its Roget’s Thesaurus and announced a complete ‘reimagination’ of the UAD Powered Plug-Ins platform based around the release of the new UAD-2 DSP Accelerator card. Featuring eight SHARC processors, the top-of-theline UAD-2 OCTO DSP Accelerator is still only a single PCIe card and easily installs into a PCIe-equipped Mac or PC workstation or compatible expansion chassis. It gives music producers and engineers twice the processing power of its UAD-2 QUAD DSP Accelerator counterpart and has taken over as UA’s flagship product.
Accordingly UA has put together a bunch of new bundles to go with the release. Alongside the new UAD-2 hardware and software introductions, UA is offering more affordable pricing for the Core models of UAD-2 SOLO, DUO, and QUAD PCIe hardware and UAD-2 DUO and QUAD Satellite FireWire hardware. All UAD-2 Core models include the Analogue Classics plug-in bundle. It’s all a bit much to take in. Apparently UA also reimagined we could absorb all this in one lump. Tricky. CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or www.cmi.com.au
NOT ANOTHER PLUGIN Relatively new kid on the plug-in block Plugin Alliance has been steadily building its inventory of plugs including another three releases recently, one of them in partnership with Pro Audio DSP in the UK. The DSM V2 Plugin was developed by Paul Frindle and Paul Ryder of Pro Audio DSP and in the promotional blurb Plugin Alliance has made the point of explaining what the DSM V2 is not, which is apparently easier. It’s not an equaliser, EQ curve adaptor, auto frequency corrector, analyser or any such thing. Instead, the DSM V2 will capture both the frequency-domain and the dynamic characteristics of even the most complex
audio material. This ‘capture’ can then be used in its original form or be altered to control the dynamics of the audio material and increase the loudness. That’s if you use the DSM V2 plug-in as a mastering limiter — but you’re encouraged to use it on individual channels or mix sub-groups as well. It’s different and even Plugin Alliance take the path of least resistance and suggest you download the trial to best fully appreciate the DSM V2’s merits. More details, videos and the trial download are at www.plugin-alliance.com along with an introductory price of US$279.
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LIVE NEWS NEW NEXO MONITOR IS SMILES AHEAD Nexo is calling its 45N-12 a true innovation in stage monitoring and we have to agree that Nexo has certainly been thinking outside of the square box — in fact, Nexo has been thinking outside of the traditional wedge-shape, too. Unlike conventional high frequency waveguides which are rectangular, the NEXO monitor waveguide has a curved ‘smile’ (Nexo’s words, not ours) enabling cabinets to be linked together to form arrays — yes, arrays for monitors — with no interference between wavefronts. It’s a completely scalable stage monitor system designed to keep everybody happy, which as we know is no
NICE ICE FROM A&H Before you write this gizmo off as just another 16-channel audio interface, look again. The Allen & Heath ICE-16 is in fact a 16-channel standalone audio recorder — without an internal hard drive. Instead, it has both firewire and USB ports for you to record directly to an external hard drive in real time. It will even record to a USB thumb drive in real time. Simply arm the amount of tracks you want to record, for example 12, and the ICE 16 will create
Here’s a great opportunity with JPJ Audio once again opening its doors for traineeships. There is more than one position available — in fact, within reason JPJ Audio are keen to hear from anyone who shows a serious desire to get involved in the audio industry. Get all the info and exactly how to apply at www.jpjaudio.com.au
12 separate wave files on your recording medium. No software is required at all. The concept is for engineers to record live shows without having to fuss around with a laptop and DAW application, although the ICE-16 comes with ASIO drivers that lets it function as a normal audio interface, too. It’s a neat idea, but beware the ICE-16 doesn’t offer any DSP on the inputs — not even a gain control. You have to take care with the signals you feed it, because the ICE-16 doesn’t give you any functions to tweak or adjust. The inputs are 6.5mm TRS
The new V4.7 release of software for Harman’s Soundcraft Vi Series range of digital consoles brings a major input capacity increase up to 96 channels for the Vi4 model, as well as new Virtual Vi software for the Vi1 and a number of feature upgrades across the board. Other software enhancements in V4.7 include EQ width control options in Q or octaves, delay unit settings in milliseconds, metres, or feet and inches, and a number of other user interface enhancements. Jands: (02) 9582 0909 or email@example.com
Group Technologies: (03) 9354 9133 or www.grouptechnologies.com.au
balanced with RCA outputs — bummer. Perhaps connection options aren’t ideal, still the ICE-16 is a clever box of tricks that will solve that constant problem of bands coming up to audio engineers, especially at festivals and such, asking if they can record the gig. Send ’em down the shop for a decent thumb drive and the job will be done with no mucking around transferring enormous files from your own lappy. RRP in Australia should be $1595.00 and stock is arriving soon. Technical Audio Group: (02) 9519 0900 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Yamaha’s Rio Series remote I/O boxes were released with the new CL Series digital consoles in March 2012. Now, with the latest upgrade of the Dante audio networking software using Rio isn’t restricted to just the CL consoles. All existing users of other digital consoles can also benefit by upgrading. To mark the release of the latest upgrade, Yamaha Commercial Audio Australia is giving away Dante-MY16-AUD expansion cards with each purchase of Rio Series I/O. Each card provides 16-in and 16-out per card slot, and Yamaha is giving away however many are needed for the I/O bought. Yamaha Commercial Australia: (03) 9693 5111 or www.yamahamusic.com.au
mean feat. The 45N-12 delivers extremely high headroom before feedback and focuses coverage only where it’s needed. SPL and frequency response is consistent for up to 2.5m back. The magnetic locking system joins multiple monitors together to form arrays instantly and the design allows you to join them as opposing monitors too. The compact, low profile design is less conspicuous than conventional monitors and has a non-slip base, skid system and ergonomic handle, the 45N-12 is designed for fast and easy manoeuvrability on stage. There’s just the single model; the 45N-12 has a 300mm driver and a HF voice coil.
The Sydney Theatre Company has bought itself a DiGiCo SD9 for its venue The Bar at the End of the Wharf, plus the Wharf 2 theatre has benefited from a total overhaul with improvements to the signal patching, speaker patch points, upgraded data distribution, the UPS, the addition of a Coda Audio isolated splitter/distribution system and last, but not least, a Nexo PA upgrade. Break a leg, as they say. Group Technologies: (03) 9354 9133 or www.grouptechnologies.com.au
LEO STARTS TO ROAR FOR MEYER
KLARK TEKNIK DN9610
Normally new PA systems are revealed to the professional audio market with a very loud, perfectly phase-aligned fanfare. However, Meyer has chosen a more low-key approach to letting us know about the impending LEO systems, drip-feeding us information from overseas, and so far there’s not much to tell — but we’ll tell you anyway. The LEO linear largescale sound reinforcement system is Meyer Sound’s first live sound product packaged as a complete system. Engineered specifically for longthrow live applications, LEO consists of the LEO-M line array loudspeaker, 1100-LFC low-frequency control element, and the Galileo Callisto loudspeaker management system. MICA can be integrated seamlessly as down-fills and JM-1P as in and out fills. So far, Meyer has been less-thanquietly giving the LEO system test-runs at some significant festivals in the US and, as you’d expect, all the reports are glowing.
Klark Teknik has launched its DN9610 AES50 multichannel digital audio network connector. The DN9610 is a device for extending any Cat-5e/ Cat-6 cabling beyond what your present network may allow. Each DN9610 lets you extend two AES50 streams by up to 100m and they can be used in series. In critical applications (when isn’t it critical?) provision is made for dual redundant power supplies with automatic, seamless recovery in the event of a power supply failure. Power supplies are multi-region and feature locking DC connectors to ensure against inadvertent disconnection. Housed in a rugged, compact, alloy case, and enclosed in a shock-absorbing silicone sleeve, the DN9610 is about the size of a DI box. It’s capable of both 24-bit/48k and 24-bit/96k operation, and can operate its two AES50 streams at different clock rates simultaneously. Through-unit latency is just 0.03ms. The four RJ-45 sockets are Neutrik EtherCON connectors and the DN9610 promises to operate with any AES50-compliant devices.
Meyer Sound: 1800 463 937 or email@example.com
National Audio Systems: 1800 441 440 or www.nationalaudio.com
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Your Total Digital Mixing Solution from Roland The Total Solut ion from Roland The V- Mixing System is a powerful live audio production solution built on five components: Digital Consoles, D i g i t al Snakes, Pe r sonal M i xers, Recor d i ng, and Br i dg ing. There is no need for third - party products o r optional cards to make a complete live mixing system.
Simple and Flexible System The V-M i xing System separates mixing ( V-Mixer ) from the input /output sect ion ( Digital Snake ) enabling pure sound and minimal loss of transmission with very flex i ble system configuration and setup. It allows effortless add-ons for monitoring solutions ( M-48 Personal M ixer ) as well as mu lti-channel live recording R-1000 48-Track Recorder/Player and SONAR REAC Recording . The V-Mixing System encompasses the entire live sound process expanding the possibilities far beyond a mixing console.
Easy to Set up - Plug and Play Devices are automatically recognized by the system and the appropriate menus present themselves. With no configuration required, simply connect the devices wi th Cat 5 e/6 cable and the system is ready to go.
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Bridging Digital Snakes Enjoy superior clear sound, great intelligibility with minimal latency and the freedom to split or extend your audio sources anywhere.
The S-MADI REAC Bridge enables connectivity bet we e n M A DI - e quippe d digital audio m i xers/systems to any REAC-based devices.
Personal Mixers The M-48 is the â€œnext generationâ€? live personal mixer that offers musicians the flexibly to control exactly what they want to listen to during their performances.
REAC MADI BRIDGE
LIVE PERSONAL MIXER
The SONAR RE AC Recording System when used in conjunction with the V-Mixing System or Digital Snakes provides the most comprehe n s ive live re c o rding, mix ing, mastering and deliver y product available.
Recording Digital Consoles Boasting Boasting powerful powerful mixing mixing engines engines to to support support multiple multiple channels, channels, buses, buses, EQ, EQ, effects, effects, dynamics dynamics processing processing and and unprecedented unprecedented digital digital patching, patching, the the V-Mixer V-Mixer lineup lineup represents represents aa premium premium console console choice. choice. More More than than aa digital digital mixing mixing console; console; itit is is the the heart heart of of aa V-Mixing V-Mixing System System ideal ideal for for any any live live event event applications applications in in corporate, corporate, church, church, education education or or rental/staging rental/staging environments. environments.
Multi - c ha nne l re c o rding a nd play back , including virtual rehearsal is accomplished with reliability and stability using the dedicated R-1000 48-Track Recorder/Player.
Pristne quality sound is obtained with ease and flexibility REAC ( Roland Ethernet Audio Communication ) technology is the cornerstone of the V-Mixing System. REAC is an Ethernet based technology that enables multiple components to be easily integrated using lightweight Cat 5e/6 cable.
For more information, contact Marc Allen at Roland Systems Group Australia Ph: 02 9982 8266 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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E X T R E M E M I X I N G AT 34
W I T H P H I L I P P E
Z D A R
The ‘Crazy Frenchman’ behind Cassius, Phoenix and now Cat Power’s latest album Sun, shuns digital workflow, and overworking in general, to make sure he eradicates the ‘cancer’ of comfort and takes risks with his mixes. Story: Paul Tingen
In the Anglo-Saxon world, the French are often seen as connoisseurs of the good life — romance, sex, art, great food, wine, long holidays — and it’s no accident that we use their term joie de vivre. Conversely, the French are also often judged as chicken at the tough stuff, like working hard, waging wars, occupying other countries, and so on. It’s odd, therefore, that many of the world’s most extreme risk takers were and are French. Consider the likes of Charles Blondin, who was the first man to walk across the Niagara Falls on a tightrope in 1859 and whose name in his time became synonymous with the high wire; or Philippe Petit, who walked on a wire between the Twin Towers in New York in 1974; or Alain ‘Spiderman’ Robert, who climbs the world’s highest buildings with his bare hands; or Jean-Marc Boivin, one of the world’s foremost pioneers of several extreme sports and the first to paraglide from the summit of Mount Everest. NO CANCER PATIENCE
The exploits of Grammy-Award winning French musician, mixer and producer Philippe Zdar do not involve putting himself in physical peril, but it’s nonetheless striking that he, also, appears to have a mentality that greatly emphasises the importance of taking risks and of not having a safety net, more so than any other creative studio person this writer has interviewed. From his Motorbass studio in Paris, Zdar says, rather starkly, “I believe that comfort is the cancer of every artistic expression. If there’s an artist whose work you love, and suddenly you don’t care for what they do so much anymore, you’ll find out that they most likely had become too comfortable.” Comfort as a “cancer”? It’s an extreme statement, but it clearly has its roots in that noble French tradition of turning risk into art. Zdar acknowledges that his cultural outlook may have something to do with his approach. In contrast to the 21st century Anglo-Saxon way of life, where every effort appears to be made to not just manage risk but to eliminate it (health and safety inspectors at one stage wanting to ban kids playing soccer at British schools is one good example). By contrast, risk, anarchy, chaos and danger continue to be highly regarded in the French way of looking at life, the universe, and the creative process. For Zdar this isn’t only a crucial part of the musical decisions he makes, it also is at the heart of his technical approach and the gear he prefers to use. “It’s one reason why I prefer to work in the analogue domain,” he explained. “I’ve seen a lot of friends getting great results in
the studio, and then, after they get a DAW, they were doing really shitty stuff. They tell me it’s better, because they can recall and they can do this and they can do that. But it doesn’t work for me. The problem with ProTools is that it’s easy to forget to take risks. But you have to take risks. I say to the record company and artist: ‘if you work with me, I don’t recall the mix, except if I made a big mistake. So you have to make decisions while I’m working, and you have to take a risk in the moment.’ I love that, and I hate the comfort and the safety net that digital provides.” BEASTIE TOYS
Philippe Zdar is one of only a handful of French mixers and producers who have made a name for themselves outside their home country. Although he’s been active as a musician, DJ, engineer and producer since the late ’80s, his international breakthrough on the mix and production front only came very recently, in 2009, when he produced and mixed Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the album by French alternative rock band Phoenix that signified the band’s, and Zdar’s, breakthrough in the Anglo-Saxon world (it reached #37 in the US and #13 in Australia). It also earned both parties a Grammy Award. Zdar’s work on this album was one of the reasons why the Beastie Boys asked the Frenchman to mix their most recent album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (2011), again to great effect (it reached #2 in the US and #7 in Oz). The Beastie Boys and Zdar had never met before the Frenchman went over to New York for the mix, and the tragicomic events of their first two days together provide further evidence of a French predilection for taking risks and Anglo-Saxon bewilderment in response. Zdar: “We had considered mixing in the Beastie Boys’ studio, but although their Neve is great for recording, it’s not good for me to mix on. When you mix, you have to be the boss of your own decisions, and I knew that if I agreed to do a test mix at their studio, it wouldn’t be very good. I wanted to mix on an SSL, so we went to Electric Lady Studios. I also hired a lot of additional outboard, and many of the Neves and Pultecs and Ureis and Fairchilds and EMT reverbs arrived with a lot of dust on them, making me realise that people don’t work with this stuff anymore. The Electric Lady studio assistant was pulling out his hair when I was installing all the extra outboard, because I was doing all sorts of unorthodox stuff, but he was also fascinated, because it had been a long time since he’d done a session like that.
“Electric Lady also had a lot of outboard, and the Beasties brought some great cheap spring reverbs that you can’t find anywhere anymore, so I had a great setup. But when we started to work there was a big problem. I’m used to slamming my E-series SSL at Motorbass very very hard, so much so that I have to set the twotrack tape recorder I mix on to -7dB, so it can handle the level. I did the same with the SSL at Electric Lady, and we found that we had this 4Hz frequency going through the mixes. We could see but not hear the waveform, of course, but it did seem to affect the way the ProAc monitors were handling the music. For two days we didn’t understand what was happening, and in the end we called in an SSL guy, who couldn’t understand what I was doing either and who was probably thinking something like ‘crazy Frenchman!’ The atmosphere became a bit charged at this point. In the end he told me that the J is not like the E and that I can’t overload it in the same way, so I took the input down a little bit, and then the 4Hz sound disappeared. He eventually realised that
I did know what I was doing and why, and we became good friends. The Beastie Boys were also wondering, ‘whooaa, what’s going on?’ and for those first two days things were a little hairy.” THE SHORT LIST
The risk-taking ‘crazy Frenchman’ was born in eastern France, in the Alps, as Philippe Cerboneschi. When he turned 17 in the late ’80s he moved to Paris, where he became a tea‑boy at Marcadet Studios, and gradually worked his way up to become an engineer. Around the same time, he met Hubert ‘Boom Bass’ Blanc‑Francard, with whom he worked on the first album by MC Solaar, Qui Seme le Vent Recolte le Tempo (1991), and he produced several subsequent albums by France’s number one rapper. During the ’90s, Zdar also realised his ambitions to be successful as a musician with the groups Motorbass (with Étienne de Crécy) and, with Blanc‑Francard in Le Funk Mob. And most famously and still ongoing, the electronic music group Cassius. The latter’s 1999 hit, appropriately called Cassius 1999,
earned him his first international recognition. Since then Zdar has become increasingly known for his Midas touch as a producer and a mixer. Following the international success of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix he has produced and mixed The Rapture’s In the Grace of Your Love (2011) and Kindness’ World, You Need a Change of Mind (2012), and mixed Chromeo’s Business Casual (2010), The Beastie Boys’ Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 (2011), most recently Cat Power’s Sun (2012), plus several songs on Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke’s solo album The Boxer (2010). And that, err, is it. Most mixer and producers have credits lists as long as one’s arm, and then some, with some top professional mixers mixing over 300 tracks per year. By contrast, Zdar’s rather short mix and production discography is another indicator of his unorthodox approach. “I’m not a mixer,” he explained. “I am an artist who produces and mixes. And I only occasionally mix and produce. I have plenty of people calling me to mix or to produce, and most of the time I say no, because I don’t want it to become a job. For me mixing is a passion, and I will never mix something that I don’t like. I like and respect what mixers do, but I really don’t want to do hundreds of mixes per year. My DJ and producer careers are very important to me and intricately connected, and mixing is something that takes a lot of time and energy, so for me it really has to be something that I love. For this reason there are only very few projects that I mix without also producing, like with the Beastie Boys and Chan Marshall [Cat Power].” Because of the intensity, focus, and, presumably, risk-taking that Zdar brings to the projects he works on, his involvement is often described as ‘career changing’. The man’s unusual methods are further illustrated by a quote from The Rapture band member Gabriel Andruzzi. In a lengthy article on Zdar in the New York style and music magazine The Fader, Adruzzi remarks, “Mixing is where I really think Philippe becomes an artist. There were always moments with him where he’d be like, ‘We can do it your way, and it’ll be shit. We can do it in between my way and your way, and I will not be happy — it’ll be shit. Or, we can do it my way, and it’ll be fantastic.’”
I believe that comfort is the cancer of every artistic expression
It’s a rather far cry from the ‘helping the artist realise his or her intentions’ ethos that’s almost universal amongst today’s engineers, mixers and producers. So is Zdar an egomaniac control freak, or a benevolent dictator, or was Andruzzi overstating the case? Zdar laughs when confronted with Andruzzi’s quote. “That’s a bit of a joke from Gabriel,” he responds. “Because I’m actually very collaborative with the artist, and I really want the artist or band to be there when I mix and give me their input. But there is some truth in what he says in that many artists don’t yet know exactly where they’re going until the mix, so it is important that I give them my input at that stage. Of course, when I produce or mix a band I bring my expertise from my musician and DJ backgrounds. DJ-ing in particular keeps me at the cutting edge. With many producers,
D RU M S The edit window screen shot of Ruin shows 16 drum tracks, consisting of two room tracks (one stereo and one mono), a stereo ‘Distressed Drums’ track, two kick tracks and a Kikoo track, six snare tracks, a hat, two toms, and a stereo overheads track. Zdar explains, taking the session from top to bottom: “There were a number of Digidesign EQs in the session, which I left on, as they had become part of the sound. The other plug-ins I took off. I used only a minimal amount of the two room tracks, just to blend things together. I treated the room sounds with lots of Quad Eight EQ and dbx160 compression. The ‘Distressed Drums’ are the toms at the beginning of the song, which had been treated during the recording, and I tweaked them some more — I tweak everything during mixing; when you tweak one thing something else will start to sound weak. I used the Tornade Music Systems W492 stereo EQ, which is a copy of the old Neumann W492 EQ. It’s made here in France, and I love it. It’s very easy to use and not expensive and sounds fantastic; I think everybody should have one. I often use them on toms and synths, but they work on everything. You can really add life to dull-sounding stuff with them. “The two kick tracks went through my Neve 1073, my Massenburg 8200 EQ and my Neve 33609 compressor, as always. I also added my Kikoo bass drum, which is based on a process that involves using the old AMS delay to sample sounds to replace original sounds with. (Gabriel Andruzzi and I developed a similar process for the bass, called ‘Bassoo.’) It took me an hour to add the Kikoo sound in and make it sit, and it has its own desk channel with the Massenburg EQ. I put it on every track that I work on, because it allows me to get the kick sound that I love, even if the original kick was badly recorded. It’s completely different for each track, sometimes I only add in 20Hz, sometimes it’s just to get the speaker to move, but inserting it, using Sound Replacer, is the first thing we do when I work on a track. While working on the Kikoo sound I listen on the big monitors, my Eastlakes, and I make sure everything is perfectly aligned and in phase. Three of the six snare tracks are duplicates: Chan had done some crazy editing with Jeff [Dominguez], they had been experimenting a lot. The original snare tracks came up on Channel 1 on the board and the duplicates on Channel 2, and I put them through a Pultec EQ2H for some more low end and the Urei 1176 compressor. The two tom tracks were treated with two Pultec EQ2H’s and the Quad Eight, and the overheads with two Lang PEQ-2 EQs, adding lots of high end and little bit of bass.
The edit window for Ruin
their musical references stop at a certain point in time, and they end up always referring to older records. But when I’m DJ-ing, I listen to a lot of new records, and that updates my musical skills and outlook, which I bring back to my work as a mixer and producer.” CAT POWER FINDS NEW HOME
Zdar’s mix of Cat Power’s Sun album has been the most recent project during which he wove his risk-taking mixing magic. American singer/ songwriter Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall, came
out of the ’90s Indie rock scene, transformed herself into a soul and folk-influenced torch singer, and took another new direction with Sun. On it she experiments with electronica and drum machines and plays all instruments herself, apart from on the first single, Ruin, which features the Dirty Delta Blues Band, her stage backing group. In terms of international chart positions, Sun is Marshall’s most successful album to date. She wrote and recorded the material for the album in studios in Silverlake and Malibu (both in
“I also used various reverb units on the drums. In fact, I use reverb on almost everything. I have an extensive collection, which includes the EMT 140, 240, 246, and 250, the AMS RMX16 and DMX1580, the Lexicon 200, the Eventide 2016, the Ursa Major Stargate 323 and Space Station — the latter was a present from the Beastie Boys — the AKG BX20 and various other spring reverbs. I also have the Eventide Orville and H3000. I’m obsessed with EMT, though. Every time I encounter an EMT reverb, I buy it! Many of these reverbs come in on the Neve 8816, but some of them need to come in on the desk, because they are noisy and I need to EQ them and use a noise gate on them. Generally the Space Station, 250 and the AMS units come up on the desk. Of these units I used the 246 and the 140 on the snare, the latter with heavy EQ and also a little bit of 250. The kick had both a long and a short reverb.”
BASS “I always have the bass come up on Channel 22, which has a Neve 1073, Pultec EQP1A, the Massenburg 8200 and finally the Neve 33609. I always need a lot of stuff on the bass! I have two 8200s, which gives me four channels, and eight 1073s. The Massenburg is very important to me, I could not do a mix without it, and the kick goes through one channel, the bass through another, and that leaves me two channels for other applications. I just remembered that I also put a phaser or a chorus on the bass, from the H3000. Everything also goes through the main compressor on the mix bus, which is the Esoteric Audio 660, and that is what creates the bass sound. The EAR 660 is another unit that I couldn’t do a mix without. I have three of them.”
K EY B OA R D S & G U I TA RS A rack full of Pultecs keeps the doctor away, as do enough effects racks to keep a mix risky...or riské.
California), and Miami, and produced it herself. When her thoughts turned to mixing, she sought out Zdar, because she liked his mixes of the Beastie Boy’s Hot Sauce Committee Part II. “She came over to Paris in the beginning of July 2011,” recalls Zdar, “and played me what she had and asked me whether I would mix it. The album wasn’t quite finished, but I loved what I heard. I felt that the basics were there, and there was a charm and honesty and naivety about her production that was important to keep. So I recommended she didn’t complete the album with another producer, but finished it alone. It shouldn’t become too polished or professionalsounding. We were on the same wavelength on this one, but she hadn’t always been comfortable working in the studios where she had been so she asked whether she could finish the album off in my studio. I agreed and also suggested a few friends of mine she could work with, like Jeff Dominguez [arranger and engineer], and Bastian Vandevelde and Julien Naudin [both assistant engineers]. It was supposed to take a few months, but she ended up recording in Motorbass for seven months! I occasionally walked in and gave advice. She wasn’t always working, so I could also use the studio when I needed it for my own projects.” Motorbass is a top-quality studio, centred around Zdar’s favourite 40-input E-series SSL desk, plus a Neve 8816 sidecar that’s used to plug in many of the studio’s impressive collection of outboard effects. The latter contains vintage boxes by the likes of Neve, Pultec, EMT, Lexicon, Teletronix, Quad 8, many old spring reverbs, and more. Though the studio has the obligatory ProTools system, it also houses a 24-track MCI tape machine, as well as an Ampex ATR102 twotrack tape recorder, and Auratone, NS10 and refurbished Eastlake monitors. Zdar completed the studio in 2009, having built it over seven years with money earned mainly from DJ-ing. Today he has income streams from producing, mixing, DJ-ing and music, though not from his studio. Renting it out to Marshall was a rare AT 38
occasion. “I could rent it out every day,” Zdar explains, “but I don’t want to, because there’s too much music out there that I don’t respect. When you rent out your studio commercially, it will sometimes be hired by people who make horrible music, and that is impossible for me. So I can’t stand the idea of renting out my place.” SKETCHING A BLUEPRINT
After close to seven months of Marshall working in Motorbass, with Zdar occasionally drifting in and out to see how things were going and offering words of advice, the Frenchman finally set about mixing the album. He began with Ruin, which was to be the first single, for reasons that by now will sound familiar… “I always like to begin with mixing a big song,” he explains. “Because it puts some pressure on everyone. I don’t like to play it safe. I like taking risks. When you mix a big song first, it means that everyone has to concentrate and it also instils confidence in an artist or band. If you begin with an easy song, it can be cool, but it doesn’t mean you’re good enough to mix the rest. I also took Ruin because there was no sound for the record yet, no blueprint. I still had to find that sound and Ruin was perfect to create that with. Also, it was the first song she played me when she came to see me seven months before. The same happened with Phoenix. The first song they played me was If I Ever Feel Better [from the album United, (2000)], and that was also a big song and became the first song by them that I mixed.” The blueprint that emerged from Marshall’s years of hard work and Zdar’s mix is a heady mix of smoky, impressionistic, often multi-layered vocals, backed by sparse-sounding arrangements featuring atmospheric reverb-drenched synths, pianos and electric guitars, and in-your-face drums that sound slightly ramshackle, whether played, programmed, and/or looped. It’s unlike anything Marshall has done before, and pretty much unlike anything else released in 2012, making the creation of a blueprint doubly important, and perhaps also more of a challenge. Zdar, however, insists that for him it was just a
“All the piano tracks in the session came up as three stereo pairs on my SSL, and on one pair I had the Pultec EQP1A EQ and two Teletronix LA2A compressors. On the second stereo piano pair I had the Tornade EQ going into the SSL compressor. And for the last one I used two 1073s. I also had a lot of EMT 250 reverb on the pianos. The guitars came up on two different pairs on the desk, with one of the pairs being treated with the Helios EQ and then the Urei LA3A, and the other pair going through an API 550a EQ and the Urei LA4, with very light compression. I also used some reverb from the EMT 240 and the Lexicon 200.”
VO CA LS “I tried some new things on the vocal and ended up with a rather long vocal channel. The two lead vocal tracks came up on Channel 25, on which I had a very old Klein & Hummel UE100 tube EQ, which I used to add lots of bass, going into an EAR 660. I split the signal and sent the other signal to a Neve 1073 and an Urei 1176. Between these two I could find a balance between the bass, the mid-range and the high frequencies. The vocals also had AMS RMX16 and EMT250 reverbs on them. All backing vocals came up on Channel 26 — the tracks that are called ‘Motorbass’ at the bottom of the sessions are backing vocals recorded at my studio — and I kept them in mono. The other songs had millions of backing vocals that were panned in stereo and almost functioned like pads, but in this case I wanted them to be very tight and not take up too much space.”
ST ER EO M I X “As always I mixed to ½-inch tape on my Ampex ATR102, at 30ips. I also mix back into the session for safety and to have a listening copy. Tape wears very fast these days, and if Chan or someone from the record company came in to listen I played them the ProTools copy. As I mentioned before, I had the EAR 660 on the master bus insert and I also used a bit of SSL desk compression, just a very small amount with a very fast setting, to control the sound a little bit before it reaches the EAR, which is more mellow and lazy. I then sent it to Mike Marsh at the Exchange in London for mastering. I always work with him, because I trust him not to compress the sound too much.”
I was obsessed with the idea of it sounding like the Rolling Stones doing disco, but in a modern way
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ProTools session that needed to be knocked into shape with his tried and tested analogue signal paths, working methods and headspace. Zdar: “No challenges. I just went for it. I simply went for a good drum sound, a good bass sound, a good piano sound, and so on, even as there was a lot of experimenting. My vision for a track emerges while I’m mixing, especially during the first hour. That first hour of mixing is very important to me. It’s the time when the mix is taking shape. That’s a time when I don’t like being distracted. Afterwards you can talk to me, I can go to the restaurant, whatever. I’d say that 80% of the mix is there after that first hour. I generally start by working on the drums and the bass, and then I add the other elements in one by one. I bring the vocal in very early, because when I worked as an assistant engineer I saw so many guys creating incredibly good mixes of the music, and then when they put the vocal in, it wasn’t working. If you’re mixing a song, the vocal is the most important element, of course. “With Ruin I actually started with the piano, because it’s the most important element. There were many piano tracks, because of the way she had recorded and produced the song. They all play the same riff, and they came up on three stereo pairs on the SSL, which each had slightly different compression and EQ. I then added the drums, the bass, and then the guitars. I really wanted the guitars to have a Keith Richards sound. I was obsessed with the idea of it sounding like the Rolling Stones doing disco, but in a modern way. For the same reason I wanted the bass to sound very clear, like a disco bass played by a rocker. I love this. That determined what I would add in terms of EQ and compression. If it’s a disco bass played by a disco guy, I’d be less into it. “There were quite a few plug-ins on the ProTools session, which was in 24-bit/48k, but I took almost all of them off. I sometimes use specialist plug-ins, like the Izotope de-esser, because it works really well and there’s no analogue one that’s better, but I have all the hardware compressors and equalisers that I love. Digital doesn’t only sound like shit, it also makes everything sound the same. Plus working with outboard is very fast for me: it’s all hardwired into my desk, and I touch it with my hands, I set it and it’s working. Another advantage is that I don’t have to watch a screen. Because I can’t save the settings in analogue outboard, it forces me to have a mind-set of taking decisions in the moment. As I said, I don’t like to have a safety net. Mixing is a controlled performance, and digital takes the performance out of mixing. This is why I don’t use it. A tightrope walker who has a net is not interesting, because there’s no performance. But if there’s no net, it’s fantastic. Mixing in the analogue domain is like that.”
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Doing-It-Yourself isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Ever since Bunnings moved into every vacant block, halffinished pergolas and other projects-on-a-budget carrion have been wasting away in backyards across the nation. While it’s admirable to want to brave the waters and go it alone, actually having the mettle to finish a project is another thing altogether, let alone be happy with the result. We asked Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Wayne Connolly, The Dandy Warhols and Glenn Cardier how they cope with the responsibility of producing themselves, and get a sneak peek inside their creative spaces.
I A L•
The story behind Tame Impala’s one-man production process. Story: Mark Davie
Some kids create imaginary friends. Kevin Parker just replicated himself. Parker is Tame Impala, a one-man psych rock band in which he does the lot: sings, drums, plays guitar and keyboards. And he records it all himself. So convincing is his act, that unlike sample-based artists, or bedroom DJs, there’s no distinguishing between the recorded ensemble constructed of versions of himself and a real live band.
In retrospect the genre-less minute of one-finger clunking wasn’t as spectacular as the young Parker thought, but at the time it was the most “fantastical discovery”. He became obsessed, not because he’d figured out how to dub, but because he was jamming along with himself. “I couldn’t even play for shit. But it was amazing!” Said Parker. “There’s been no real structural change since then, I’ve just slowly gotten better at it.”
But even after the year-long solitary confinement in his bedroom that resulted in Tame Impala’s second album, Lonerism, Parker says he never actually gets lonely going about it the way he does. “I’m usually thinking and doing so much I feel like I’m in a room full of different versions of myself, all having a big conversation about the next step,” muses Parker. “It’s pretty egotistical now that I think about it!”
The crux of Parker’s recording methodology was formed at an early age — 11, 12, maybe — between the heads of two tape decks. His older brother had pioneered the way, recording tapes of himself playing drumbeats. Not quite at the same level of proficiency on drums, but inquisitive nonetheless, Parker followed suit. Then in the annoying way that younger siblings do, he one-upped his elder. Once he’d laid down a rudimentary backbeat, he dug up another tape deck, realising he could dub the contents of the first onto this new device, all while adding a single-note Casio keyboard solo.
By ‘better’, he mostly means as a player, drumming especially. On the technical side, he still admits it’s a game of trial and error. “I still do things where a professional would have a heart attack,” said Parker. Taboo moves like plugging microphones into unbalanced laptop line inputs, with the help of some makeshift jack adaptors sticky-taped together. The result was a completely out of phase vocal take, that while sounding trippy in ill-placed stereo speakers, had no chance when summed to mono. Not even psychedelic maharishi mixer, David Fridmann, could fix that one. “There are so many things I don’t know, and I just do them anyway,” he continues. “I’ve just gone blindly into the dark, because if I enjoy listening back to it right there and then, then I’m happy. I don’t feel a need to be as good as real professionals.”
I felt like I should get some boxes with knobs on them with the album budget
His pet area is drums. Perfecting the art of playing, recording, and mixing them in the Tame Impala mode is like an addiction. It’s a ’70s AT 43
revival sound that dovetails perfectly with his Lennon-like vocals and fuzzy guitar. “I do love the idea of getting an awesome drum sound. I spend literally months on them,” he said. “If you tallied up the hours I spent on the drums for this album it would be ridiculous. Probably more time than the vocals.” And it’s worth it. Each track on a Tame Impala album is treated to a cleverly constructed, and perfectly fitting drum track. His fluid style works because he doesn’t track the drums first, preferring instead to wait for inspiration to strike, rather than committing to rigid rhythmic structure. “I’ll do the drums when I start feeling inspired to do a drum beat,” he said. “If I’ve got the guitar down, and there’s a drum beat playing in my head, then I’ll just go on the drums and try and play along to it until it sounds cool.” When you’re recording on your own, emulating that feeling you get feeding off the energy of other musicians is the hardest part, especially when you’re trying to track energetic rhythm sections. Though Parker doesn’t bother with elaborate monitor mixes, he just turns it up. “If you’ve got it up loud enough in your headphones then the headphones are going to start distorting, which gives you a kind of natural compression,” said Parker. “But that’s the thing. When you’re in a room with a drum kit, it’s so f**king loud that it doesn’t need to be compressed. The natural sound of a drum kit is so bad ass that it doesn’t need the effects when you track it, you just need to be feeling the groove. You just have to do whatever you can to enjoy what you’re listening to while you’re doing it. If it’s in any way annoying, or you have to endure it, you’re not going to get the most expressive take, which is what it’s all about. So you have to set up your environment so you’re in love with what you’re hearing as often as possible.” KICKING CONVENTION
As for how he mics them up, he wouldn’t give too much away. The bulk of it is three mics, though not in any Glyn Johns-style arrangement. It’s basically a Rode K2 valve condenser (given to him by a friend that felt sorry for Parker’s mic collection) as a mono overhead, and Shure SM57s for kick and snare. Where he puts the snare mic, he says, is top secret. And while he draws the ire of engineers for using a 57 for the kick, it achieves exactly what he’s after. Parker: “Our sound guy always says, ‘It’s not a very good mic to use. Are you sure you don’t want to try something else that’s meant for a kick drum?’ But I just love that ‘bop bop’ sound of the kick. I hate the kick drum sound that’s way too clicky.” As for the K2, he says, “I’m not even sure if you’re meant to use that as an overhead. I think it might be a vocal mic or something. But it works, and at the end of the day, even if you’re doing it wrong, the fact that you’re doing it wrong is going to make it sound different to how everyone else used it, which is ultimately a good thing. If you make it sound different in some way, then it’s going to AT 44
Parker’s bedroom studio, great for naps inbetween takes
give it a flavour different to everyone else that’s using the gear as it should be used.” IF IT’S GOOD, IT’S GOOD
His total disregard for convention is admirable for a guy that’s been recording music since his childhood. You can only have respect for someone that goes completely his own way — technical proficiency be damned — yet still manages to release two of the most stimulating records of recent times. The latest of which, Lonerism, just debuted at #34 on the Billboard charts, #14 in the UK, and #4 in Australia. And he’s not worried about anyone judging him for a perceived lack of technical nous, because “if it sounds good, it sounds good.” Too true. With all this cosmic mangling of sound and makeshift technique, you’d think Parker would also be allergic to capturing natural sounds. But he doesn’t see it that way. Take the drums. To him, the typical sound of drums in a room is so loud that it’s “bad ass” and already compressed. So, naturally, he uses a lot of compression. Parker: “Compressors are what make awesome drum sounds. So I have a couple of vintage compressors. One of them is a dbx 165 that’s pretty much responsible for making the drums sound like John Bonham. I got it purely by chance. I bought it just before working on Innerspeaker because I felt like I should get
some boxes with knobs on them with the album budget. I thought, ‘alright, I’ll just go on eBay and get a vintage compressor.’ I didn’t even know what I was doing the first time I used it, but I put the drums through it and it sounded pumping, like hip hop — it sounded awesome.” As for vocals, Parker usually holds on to a Sennheiser 421, and either sits or stands, depending on how his mood grabs him. It’s nice to know too, that even someone who regularly sounds like John Lennon reincarnate, hates his voice on record too: “I usually double track it because I hate the sound of my voice on its own. If I’m still hating it after that I’ll just lob it into the great sea of echo.” GOING LIVE
Parker recorded Tame Impala’s first full-length Innerspeaker in a rented mansion entirely on a Boss 16-track digital recorder his dad bought him when he was 16. Not exactly the most spec’d out of interfaces. Fridmann, who has mixed both Tame Impala albums, got in his ear about upgrading after the first album. “I still love them. But Dave was encouraging me to try a more versatile recording format, rather than just a physical multi-track,” said Parker. “I just kept it until someone gave me something else to record with.” That ‘something else’ ended up being a copy of Ableton Live recommended by
his friends because it was, ‘full-sick, and you can make electronic music and stuff.’ From the outside, it seems an odd choice of DAW platform for someone that’s mostly recording live psych rock, but Parker started fooling around with it, and fell in love once he realised he “could make Tame Impala music with it”. He doesn’t delve too deep into Ableton’s onboard synths though, and if he did, they would be treated to the typical Tame process of “putting it through some really crazy things, just to make it sound f**ked up.” For the most part he uses analogue synths,: “The first one I got was a Sequential Circuits Pro One. There’s a lot of that on the album,” said Parker. “I fell in love with it from the first moment I pressed down a key, and it pretty much kicked off my love of synths. Then I got a Roland Juno 106 and one of those Radioshack synths. I just love the way they have this completely different origin of sound to something like a guitar. After all the effects and everything they can both end up in the same place, but the way the sound is produced makes you think a bit differently about how you’re going to play these chords, this melody, or whatever. They have this laser beam kind of sound that makes me want to cry every time I hear a chord played.” ROUGH MIX
David Fridmann, also being the custodian of the Flaming Lips and MGMT mixes, is the perfect engineer to harness Tame Impala’s cosmic energy. The issue is finding the balance between creative sonic arrangement and listenability. Parker supplies Fridmann with the tracks in a state that’s “sometimes totally raw, sometimes post-‘me messing with it’.” But he usually knocks up at least a rough mix to give Fridmann an idea of what he’s going for. “I’ll do a mix of the song as best I can with all the weird shit that I’m dreaming about, which is another thing that takes me so much more time than it should,” he said. “I’ll spend weeks and weeks trying to get a good mix of the song that’s not even going to be used. I don’t even know why I do it. I usually give him a drum mix to use, and the individual drums if he wants to poke them in there. He usually replicates it, but in a way that’s so much more dynamic, and with crunch and groove in all the right places. Whatever it is that he’s doing, he makes it sound 10 times better than I ever can. It’s crazy and cosmic, but still listenable. “When I play it to Dave he says, ‘Alright, cool. But what the f**k is that flange on the whole mix?’ My methods usually aren’t conducive to a ‘pleasant’ sounding mix. “Sometimes he goes totally rogue and throws in a wild vocal delay that lasts for the rest of the song once it’s set off. The effects and sounds are pretty important to the song. I usually start adding those kinds of things while I’m still writing the song, so they totally influence the evolution of it. For example, about halfway through Mind Mischief, a giant sweeping flanger falls over the whole mix, it’s at this moment that the chords change and it gets really emotional for me. That flanger coming in is just as important to the overall feeling of the song as a new lead melody or any other instrument part coming in.” SELF TURNED PRODUCER
Ironically, Parker’s production and mixing skills are now sought after by like-minded artists. Particularly for his drum sounds, but obviously also for his incredible ear for what sounds good, and experimental nature. Good friends, Pond, who Parker also plays drums for, have got him turning the knobs. Which could be a very regular gig, seeing as Pond has intentions to release albums every six months for the foreseeable future. And his latest efforts for Melody’s Echo Chamber have so far been highly rated. “Luckily, so far I’ve been really good friends with the people whose music I’ve mixed/produced, so we already have a great communication about music and sounds, and I usually get what they’re trying to do,” said Parker. “And messing with sounds is easily my biggest hobby, so that makes it pretty fun... not having to think artistically and just being the guy with the hands on the knobs and switches.”
INSIDE THE ODDITORIUM
TI • CLE
The Dandy Warhol’s have ‘settled down’ into their bastion of creative independence — The Odditorium. But to keep from getting complacent on their eighth studio album This Machine, they instituted a single rule. Drummer Brent De Boer and engineer Jeremy Sherrer explain. Story: Mark Davie
The Dandy Warhols have always stationed themselves at the confluence of creative independence and the mainstream. They used the cash from commercial advertising publishing to buy up a quarter of a city block in Portland, Oregon, that they made over as an emblem of their independence: The Odditorium. Modelled in the style of Andy Warhol’s Factory, it’s a band clubhouse, studio, stage, bar, video set, and giant chess set, wrapped in psychedelic trim. Dandy Warhols drummer Brent ‘Fathead’ De Boer said it was the logical next step for the band to set up their own base outside the typical studio network: “We used to always rent a place that was not a studio — once it was an office building, while for Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia it was an exercise facility. We would just rent a room, load all of our gear in, set it up and make it work as our own studio. It turned out to be a lot more fun. Plus it’s nice to have the keys to the place yourself, instead of having to call the studio manager, and pay ridiculous amounts of money to rent a studio. We found that we get more interesting sounds from odd locations than making some professional-style, normal sounding record.
beds, so no one can live there. Instead of wiring networks and phone lines like a conventional office might, they cut troughs, and re-cemented over a network of underground audio cabling so you can run mics in any room, for any flavour. “There’s really dead, isolated rooms and there’s really huge basements,” said De Boer. “The main room is like a giant reverb chamber. And it’s really an ongoing project. We’re constantly adjusting and moving things and experimenting with different setups. The board’s moved to a second room now so that’s changed the whole dynamics of the studio. It’s such a massive space, you can endlessly experiment.” FISHING OUT A SOUND
Engineer Jeremy Sherrer is credited with coproducing This Machine, and after bonding with vocalist Courtney Taylor-Taylor over The Fall seven years ago, has become part of The Odditorium’s furniture. “There are plenty of rooms to provide variety and the band was
savvy enough to outfit each of them with unique interior design and lighting,” said Sherrer. “There’s even a patio on the roof for the occasional journey for fresh air! Though the Odditorium houses all the necessities for audiovisual creations, it manages to be far from a conventional studio space.
We bought this old machine shop in NorthWest Portland — it’s a quarter of the whole city block
“We were successful that way. So we’d always been keeping an eye out for a permanent location and finally had enough funds saved up to go for it. So we bought this old machine shop in North-West Portland — it’s a quarter of the whole city block.” THE ODDITORIUM
The Odditorium has one large live space, a control room, a dining room, kitchen, office area, video editing room, a green screen, a few isolation rooms, and some other fun areas. Like a human-sized chessboard made from 20,000 gallons of poured and stained concrete, a basketball court, a bar right in the middle of it all called ‘Best Bar’, a rooftop patio and BBQ area, and a full stage to rehearse on. “We thought we’d have gigs there,” said De Boer. “But we’ve only had a few private parties. “There are two rows of yellow-tinted skylights that give the room a yellow hue during the day. And we have a friend who painted a mural of sand dunes and clouds around the entire outside of the big room and split the room in half by hanging a giant, gold curtain. There’s a jukebox, pool table, and giant church pew around that area. It has iron columns holding the roof up, so we removed the centre one and brought in a giant I-beam to hold the ceiling up where the chess board is. Then we wrapped the columns in this plastic material that looks like Roman columns and had that painted in faux marble, and we have the stage painted that way too so it looks like Roman ruins in the desert somewhere. It’s pretty cool!” The Dandys weren’t concerned about any negative effects ‘settling down’ might have on their creativity, they were just glad to finally have a club house. In functional terms, it’s like an office for rock ’n’ rollers. There are no showers, no AT 47
HOME GROWN: COLOURSOUND It’s not every day that a small Aussie studio in the suburbs of Melbourne lands the job of tracking part of a record for a high profile band like the Dandy Warhols. But Mat Robins’ Coloursound Recording Studio has been preparing for exactly that. With an impressive collection of outboard (Quad Eight, MCI, Neve, and Harrison preamps, Pye compressors, AWA valve limiters, etc) and an eclectic array of microphones, the moderate space was perfect for laying down some drum tracks and backing vocals. Having married an Aussie, these days De Boer splits his time between Melbourne and Portland, and so he ended up recording part of his contribution in Melbourne. Engineer Tim Johnston already had a good working relationship, having recorded Brent’s Australian band Immigrant Union, so was the perfect choice. Johnston chose Coloursound because, “I had to track drums and some backing vocals, so I didn’t need a huge space, but I needed something that sounded good. It’s got a nice wooden floor space and there are little rooms that run off it to position room mics. It had a high amount of flexibility, and a nice bunch of eclectic gear and mics.” Each night they would send back MP3s with around five subtle variations, and wait for a response. And without knowing exactly what sound to shoot for, Tim provided as many choices as he could within reason. Johnston: “We ended up having something in the order of 16 tracks, varying from traditional close-mic techniques to some more retro placements, room mics, and mics out in the kitchen, so he could go for tight or roomier versions in the final production. I also did a little bit of squashing through compressors to give him some options of different sounds from the rooms. We’d track a couple and send them overnight and get some feedback to go a bit edgier in one area or wider on a pair, and so forth. “I had a little Sony electret condenser off to the right-hand side and facing the drums to try to capture the overall drum kit using a one-mic technique.
So you’re getting a bit of spill from snare, kick, hats and trying to blend it all together. And squashing it a little on the way in with a nice compressor to see if you can get close to a kick sound just off the one mic. The Sony used to be a favourite when I was working at Metropolis in South Melbourne. I used to grab that mic for underneath the snare. It has a slightly boxy sound that suits the whole retro approach.” Johnston loves the Harrison preamps for drums too, having had a Harrison 32/24 console at his South Melbourne studio in the ’90s. “They’re a bit of a fave for me, with a sort of airy top end. Mat’s also got those ribbon mics that have a unique character to them. They can be a little noisy at times but it’s all part of the flavour and the fun, and adds a bit of that analogue flavour to the digital world these days.” On the other end, Sherrer was enthused about the results. “I thought it worked out great! Brent said he had a guy who could capture drum and vocal performances over there in Melbourne and we’re all stoked about the prospect of being able to make an album happen with him on the other side of the globe. Fortunately technology now makes it very easy for us to collaborate with artists all over the world. As for guidance, honestly there wasn’t a lot of that type of dialogue. There were a few brief chats along the way to determine the best method of delivering sessions back and forth and some technical details, otherwise I trust that if someone is getting the call from the Dandy Warhols they have a capable skill set. Creatives do their best work when they are trusted and given freedom to approach things in ways that inspire them, and one of the great things about the band is their desire to abandon convention when it comes to artistic endeavours so I wouldn’t hamper the process with protocol. Tim sent very well recorded tracks; he gave us plenty of mic positions close and far and used a great collection of microphones. I was also pleased to hear some of my favourite RCA ribbons in there!”
“There’s a sizeable control room that we use a lot to get ideas out quickly. And we often drag pieces of Pete’s pedal board into the control room and run that signal to amplifiers in the live rooms via tie lines. One of the nearby rooms has shag carpet on one side and a green screen for video on the other. It’s one of the quietest rooms in the building so I end up using it a lot. The shag side is great for dry sounds, and to achieve more ambience we can reposition closer to the green screen, which is naturally reflective. For really ambient sounds there’s another very large warehouse-sized room that’s wired to the bay. I like recording heavily compressed piano in there. I haven’t been able to get a similar piano sound in any other studio I’ve ever worked in; it’s truly unique. There’s also a large stage in that room where the band rehearses, so we’ll drag lines up there to capture Pete and Courtney’s live rigs. And there are a couple other rooms wired that we’ll use for the vintage organs or a dditional isolation. “The console there is a newer SSL AWS900. It’s a fine desk but doesn’t have as much colour as some of the older consoles that I love. I lean more toward the rack of original Neve 1073 and 1081 modules for preamps, EQ, and running program material through for that Neve bus flavour. Since we aren’t recording to an analogue medium we have some great outboard gear including Inward Connection tube preamps, Kush UBK Fatso, and Neve 2254s to add some of that flavour. There are also some great instruments and effects worth mentioning like the Roland Dimension D,
DRUMMING IT IN Brent has two identical 1966 Ludwig drum kits. One he keeps in a storage facility for when the band is touring Europe, and the other at The Odditorium. While in Australia he has a Gretsch. “I just like them to be airy, acoustic and alive,” he said. “The one in America is a little bit groovier, because the same model kit always has a little different sound to it for some reason. I also use a Ludwig steel snare. “But in the studio, you could be playing along with someone and just can’t get it to sound close, so you grab a different floor tom or snare, or switch up the hi-hats until it sits in the mix in the most appropriate way. I’m open to whatever. At The Odditorium we also have a brand new DW, a 1999 Pearl drum set, a red Tama that used to be Courtney’s drum set, and a whole bunch of snare drums. We just keep moving them around until something works. “I use a pretty stripped-down setup. Typically it’s just a snare, rack tom and floor tom, bass drum, hat, ride cymbal and a crash cymbal. But in the studio, depending on what the song is and what’s going on I’ll just play a hi-hat, bass drum and snare or that same setup with a floor tom. If I’m not using the ride at all, of course I don’t have one set up. Basically the same kind of setup that Simon and Garfunkel would use. We also have the Roland SPD pad live — I use it to play a triangle on one song, and a keyboard sound on Sad Vacation.” AT 48
Eventide H3000, original LinnDrum and Sequential Circuits drum modules, Korg MS20, Roland Juno, and much more. Pete [Holmstrom]’s guitar and pedal collection is outstanding, too. When I first started working over there I was also working with a small company called Hamptone where we built boutique microphones and preamps, so I was able to mod a few things in the studio that allow us to do things like run line levels through the Leslie speaker.” THE LIVE RECORD
It’s been about 10 years and a couple of records since The Odditorium’s inception, so they decided to set a single ground rule that would discourage the day-becomes-night experimentation trap of owning a studio. After listening back to live recordings and really digging the sound, for This Machine, their eighth ‘studio’ album, they would attempt to only record what the four of them could reproduce live. “It was just a natural evolution, we didn’t think about it too hard,” said De Boer. “We usually have a couple of basic ideas on which direction we want to lean and this time the idea was for us to record only what our four limbs could pull off when we were playing live. In the past we would overdub lots of guitars and layers of swirling stuff, so it’s a bit more stripped back. “Of course, we didn’t completely stick to it because I played bass guitar in a couple of songs and there were a handful of overdubs. Just stuff that you definitely want to get on there for texture and execution. “The tracking process went a lot faster because we all spent time playing the songs together live. Then we worked on them at home before showing up with definite parts that were the trippiest, coolest or most beneficial to the track. Actual studio time was cut down to probably a tenth of what we’d usually spend.”
Sherrer: “It evolved into a loose rule where each band member aimed for one instrumental performance per song, which encouraged a ‘make it count’ attitude. Of course, none of us really believe in rules when it comes to artistic endeavours, but we hoped to make this record a bit simpler with regard to track counts.” MINIMISING FOR MAXIMUM EFFECT
The minimalist notion also influenced Sherrer’s technical approach to the number of feeds and mic placement. “For instance, when you hear a trap kit in a room it is, for the most part, a monophonic instrument,” explains Sherrer. “Tom fills aren’t panning across the room, etc. That can be a fun effect, but a few well-placed mics can achieve a great recording without the accumulation of phase incoherencies that often blur the picture. We kept the process pretty simple using only about five to eight feeds on the drums and
TUNING TRICKS Brent De Boer: “If the toms aren’t sounding too cool I’ll just loosen all the lugs and then tighten them by hand. I press down with my palm above the lug, and spin the lug tight using that open threaded area along the side of the drum. I go around little by little, spinning each until I can’t go any further. You almost always get that perfect low thud. “You can’t really do that live because they get loose, but if you’re recording they sound great throughout the song. Between songs I’ll reach over with my palm, press down and twist them in case one of them’s rattled loose. For live, I’ll go finger tight and then one 360-degree turn per lug and that’s just about enough to get a similar sound and not have them come loose when you’re playing. “With the snare, I crank up the bottom real tight and start working the top from there. But I usually just leave the snare and bass drum to the drum techs and sound engineer.” AT 49
the minimum required on other instruments. We also did our best to make solid choices regarding instrument, pedal chain, and amp selection for each element.
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“I usually use a variation of the Glyn Johns-style drum approach with ribbon microphones on top fed into Neve 1073s, 2254 or 1176 limiters and the UBK Fatso to give a bit of a tape sound. Guitars sound great through the Inward Connection preamps and a little API EQ. I usually have Sennheiser MD421s or Royer 121 microphones on the cabinet. Bass is the Korg MS20 synth straight into the tube preamps. Zia has those things on lockdown when it comes to dialling them in, so they don’t need much else. I’ll usually call up the Soundtoys Decapitator in the box which always does pleasant things on the MS20s. The string bass made a few appearances on This Machine. We used Peter’s vintage Gibson EB-3 outfitted with flat-wound strings, which is an amazing instrument. This guy usually goes direct into an API 512 preamp and levelled with the 1176 or 2254. “As for ambience and depth I have to give a lot of that credit to Tchad Blake who mixed the album. He has a remarkable talent for blending and enhancing songs in a very musical way. I’ve been a long-time fan.” Brent: “Everything sounds better when you run it through real great gear, with a guy like Tchad Blake that understands it all really well. He opened it up and let the mix breathe. It has a nice deep psychedelic sound. I have a digital stereo recorder that I sometimes set up across the room when we’re rehearsing, and at the front desk for some of the live gigs. This album sounds way more like one of those recordings than any of our other records.”
We have the stage painted so it looks like Roman ruins in the desert somewhere
FORT FATHEAD Fort Fathead, a structure assembled around the drum kit in the main room, was Brent’s cubby hole for the last couple of records made at the Odditorium. But this time round, Sherrer presented the idea of building yet another addition to The Odditorium’s diverse spaces — a custom drum room in a vacant garage area that shared a common wall with the control room. Sherrer: “Courtney and the band were keen on the idea so I used some of my design experience to create a room with irregular dimensions, double studded and insulated walls that results in balanced acoustics across the broadband frequency range. Without parallel walls the potential for standing waves is reduced, which can cause buildup in the low-mid frequencies and result in boomy drums. Courtney had the idea of all wood surfaces in the room, including floor, walls and ceiling. We called our carpenter friend Jeffery Wonderful for the build and it turned out quite nicely.”
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A G N I K A TT A K I N G A E K O O L D R A HH A R D L O O K E S R U O Y T AA T Y O U R S E L F O I T C U D O R PP R O D U C T I O N h secudorp-fles ,recudorp eht ,yllonnoC enyaWWayne Connolly, the producer, self-produces his t woh no spit xis serahs eH .leveinK ,dnab nwoown band, Knievel. He shares six tips on how to idne morf ti evas dna ,kcart no ybab ruoy peekkeep your baby on track, and save it from ending .kcerw gnimalf a ni puup in a flaming wreck. eivaD kraM :yrotSStory: Mark Davie
• AT 52
These days Wayne Connolly operates out of a little slice of studio at Alberts in Sydney. Originally designed and built for radio comedian Doug Mulray, the mix room is sizeable, but pretty dead... perfect for when Connolly wants to pull that big radio sound. It might not be perfect, but between the main studio downstairs, and his custom Neve console stacked with vintage 1073 modules upstairs, he manages to get by. Connolly has been stationed at Alberts since 2007. It’s an arrangement that works well for him. While remaining mostly independent of the company when producing highly-rated albums for Underground Lovers, Josh Pyke, The Fauves, You Am I, The Vines, Custard, Youth Group, Dallas Crane, and too many other great artists to name. His own band, Knievel, has signed publishing, and their most recent record, a straight-up Go-Betweens-influenced rock record titled Emerald City, over to Alberts. Knievel is Connolly (vocals/guitar), Tracy Ellis (bass/ vocals), Nick Kennedy (drums) and Tim Kevin (guitar). It’s been a while in-between drinks for the band, partly because they all have day jobs, and also, when you embark on rebuilding a vintage Neve console and commit to settling into a new studio like Connolly did, things can easily go on the backburner. “It’s what’s happens to so many people,” said Connolly. “It can just take years.” Here’s how he kept the faith while self-producing Emerald City. SELF-PRODUCTION 101: THE SONG THAT NEVER ENDS
The problem with self-producing your project is knowing when to stop. Whether it’s handing someone the metaphorical big red stop button, or setting a self-destruct timer on your computer, you’ve got to find a way of saying, ‘enough’s enough’, or you’ll never release your baby into the wild. The best inspiration is setting a release date. Wayne Connolly: “It’s that often repeated quote that ‘art’s never finished, it’s just abandoned’. We fit into that theory!
I A L• C E
STOPPING WAS JUST BASICALLY THAT POINT WHEN WE HAD TO PUT IT OUT. Fortunately I mastered the record myself as well, so
I did 20 or so revisions. Whereas if you take a record to someone else, you do one revision and it’s done. When you do it yourself you can always tweak it and listen to it on a different stereo and hear something different that might be wrong. “The first master I did would be something that most people would think is fine. I couldn’t say really specific things that I revised, but mostly related to brightness of cymbals and the way it can bury vocals. The process is not so easily delineated when you do it yourself. You go back and forth within one long, streamlined process for recording, mixing and mastering.” SELF-PRODUCTION 102: HOW TO GET PERSPECTIVE
Recording an album can take you on a long journey, especially a self-produced opus you’re slotting in between other people’s mixes, a day job, family commitments, etc. So being able to keep a fresh sense of perspective is a big key.
WC: “It’s obviously a lot more difficult to write your own music and record it. You don’t have a lot of objectivity. You get really close to things and you can’t really judge them clearly. When you’re recording someone else, part of your job is having that objectivity to help them achieve what they’re hearing and try and guide them when they’re going down cul-de-sacs.
“But in another sense everything I do is collaborative as can be. When you record a band you’re trying to collaborate with them to make a great record. So usually it’s four or five
members plus you, and you’re all trying to push forward. It’s a bit the same for Knievel. Everyone’s got ideas on things, we’re all collaborating and trying to keep moving forward. It would be so much harder if it were just me trying to do it — I would never finish anything. “ALWAYS REFERENCE MUSIC YOU LIKE, BECAUSE YOU CAN REALLY GET LOST IN THE JUNGLE — A SONIC SOUP. If you listen to a track by someone you like it’s easy to get some perspective. “I also tried to leave it how we tracked it. I’ve recently looked back at my mix, and there’s not a single plug-in on any of the drums — no EQs, no compressors at all. In a sense that was part of my decision to make it easier. I knew if I started EQ’ing everything like I normally would it would drive me mad, so I started to keep it as raw as possible. Not that it sounds all that raw, but that was certainly our approach. “Keeping in mind we are big fans of The Go-Betweens, the way they did records was relatively simple. Not trying to do anything too elaborate, or have too much artifice makes it a bit more timeless for us. Although we’re certainly drawn to the swathes of reverb that has been in fashion for some time now.” SELF-PRODUCTION 103: SETTLE ON A PRODUCTION PROCESS
Knievel’s records are a snapshot of how, deep down, Connolly likes to record music the most. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it works for all, or any of the other bands he produces. The trick; find the process that works best for your project. WC: “There’s almost no point me giving our record to anyone else to do. I can’t even bear to watch them move an EQ, because I know exactly what I have in mind. I had an American friend come and help out with some mixing. He did some really interesting work, which was all very different from what I do — super narrow on the EQs, he’d have four or five boosts and four or five cuts with Q’s of six. “It was very interesting to see him work. It wasn’t what I was particularly going for, but it also brought the mix forward and made the final result sound better. I kept elements of it where I thought it worked really well. But it’s agonising to see someone else work on it. You’d love there to be some other way. You’d love to be able to sit back, but your vision is so attached to the music. Which in one respect, makes you right. “We basically did all of the main guitars, drums and half the bass live, and some of the lead guitars. It depended on who could make it on the day. If our lead guitarist could make it we recorded it live, but if he had to work we didn’t. We prefer to work that way, it’s so much quicker. A song called They Listen Out is all recorded live. We did four takes, listened to it and it was done. Then I spent two years trying to fix lyrics! “We did zero pre-production. I’d come in about three or four hours before the band, and make sure I had four or five ideas laid out ready for them to listen to. We’d really try to stop at three or four run-throughs to keep the freshness. I want to capture the first excitement of rehearsing an idea, that first spark, when you’re all playing together and you go, ‘Wow, that’s something we can keep.’ “IT’S EXACTLY HOW I LIKE TO DO IT — MY DEFAULT SETTING. AND THAT REALLY DOESN’T WORK FOR MOST BANDS.
“You’ve got to really stretch yourself and try new things on every single project you’re doing. I’m working on Hungry Kids of Hungary at the moment, and there’s a great emphasis on obliterating all the drums and making everything AT 53
sound fairly distorted and smashed. That’s a whole different learning curve in itself. It’s really interesting. It’s a challenge for a lot of engineers because people bring in a record that’s got some really distressed drum sounds and go, ‘Okay can you recreate that?’ And there’s probably a million ways to do it, but finding that exact sound is usually very tricky.”
directionality of mics, it doesn’t come through all that loud into the drum kit. If you get the balance right, it adds a nice ambience to the drums from the guitar mic, and vice versa. It’s all a matter of balancing. If it’s really blasting, then it’s hard to use too much of the room mic. Having said that we’re not going for the big compressed room drum sound.
SELF-PRODUCTION 104: KNOW THY SPACE
“For the room mics I usually use one close mic, which would be a ribbon, and a stereo pair of whatever I have lying around, which tends to be Neumann TLMs. It’s always really nice to have a mic lying on the floor. And then I have one omni mic, which might be a Neumann U87 or U47 either in the room next door or wherever I want it for a particular style.
Knowing the sound of your space is crucial if you’re going to self-produce. For Connolly — who has to not only record the band, but lead it through its paces — knowing the room at Alberts like the back of his hand is one of his biggest advantages. WC: “ONE OF THE BENEFITS OF HAVING WORKED AT ALBERTS IS THAT WE’VE GOT A PRETTY GOOD ROUTINE FOR SETTING UP AND GETTING GOOD DRUM SOUNDS FAST.Also, when you record the whole band live,
you tend to focus less on the drum sounds and try and get the whole ensemble to sound good. We didn’t over-think the drum sounds because we knew it would sound decent.
“I’ve got quite a few Neve 1073s, which really help. They seem to be at the core of it — you can’t really go wrong if you’re using those. On a kick, as long as the room sounds good, an AKG D112 through a Neve always sounds good no matter what you’re doing. I always use Neumann U67s for overheads. It’s a nice, full, true sound. And I usually have them pretty high in the mix. Then I also have about five room mics, pointed at the drums to keep the guitars out of them as much as possible. “I normally have the guitars in the same room and isolate them a bit with a couple of screens around the amp. It’s surprising because it will still sound quite loud in the room, but with the
“I tend to use nearly all of them to almost an equal degree. I spend a lot of time getting the phase right. That’s really where the art, or the challenge is. The more room mics you’ve got, the more they start to sound a bit grey because of the phase relationships. They can either sound thin, or once you’ve got them all sounding fatter because they’re in phase, the top end can start to sound a bit grey and smeary. So it’s a matter of making sure it’s in phase from the top to bottom end. “For guitars and vocals I tend to keep it as tried and true as possible so I don’t have to muck around. I love the AKG C12Bs on guitars, I’ve got a really nice Grundig ribbon that I like, and I often use just an AKG C414. Then there’s Neumann KM84s, and I like EV RE20’ and a few others as well, depending on the amp and the sound I’m going for.” SELF-PRODUCTION 105: TRY SOMETHING NEW
With any production, if you stick rigorously to how
you’ve always done it, your project runs the risk of winding up flavourless. Or worse, you won’t learn anything new. Always try something different, though be warned, it might not always work out as good as you thought it might. WC: “For vocals I actually went the opposite to tried and true. I normally always use a fantastic sounding Neumann U67, which according to Günter Wagner is way out of spec. This example has got far too much bottom end for a U67 and just as much top end, so it’s got this loudness curve on it and it sounds absolutely fantastic on
CHASING THE TAME TAIL Of course, Connolly’s bread and butter is producing other bands. Which unlike self-producing, requires a wholesale dumping of the ego. WC: “You’ve really got to leave your ego aside, which is the hard bit because you get what you perceive to be a really great guitar sound and invariably the response is, ‘It sounds great but we don’t want it to sound great, it sounds too good or polished, or too real.’ More and more, I’m finding you’ve got to be ready for that. You have to be ready to make a guitar sound or a drum sound as unusual as possible, and not take it personally when someone says they don’t like what you’ve done. Because tastes are widening so drastically these days. Everyone’s following the Tame Impala tail a little bit, because that was such a brilliantly executed record and unusual, so it’s influenced a lot of bands and their approach.”
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STICK TO TAPE? Caught up in an internal dialogue over digital vs analogue? Lusting after a bit of analogue warmth? Connolly doesn’t see it that way, for him, tape is primarily a great levelling device. WC: “I just didn’t find tape necessary on our project because our drummer has got a lovely, extremely even style with his dynamics. If it’s an extremely dynamic and percussive drummer then I’ll bounce stuff out of ProTools, onto tape, and bring it back into ProTools again. I find that works great, and you don’t get a lot of loss at a decent sample rate. “I do miss it a bit. Tape has a great way of evening things out. And it’s basically quicker. It will almost de-ess a vocal, it will make a vocal sit smoother in the mix, it will take the clang out of guitar and make it sit in the mix. It just makes everything quicker. It probably explains why I spent so long mixing and mastering Emerald City, because it wasn’t on tape! You’re really trying to finesse all these little things that jump out. You never have to do that with tape. Just put the faders up, add a bit of compression and it’s done in three hours. “I don’t ever go to it as any kind of tonal control, unless you want things smashed… but then you might just use a dictaphone if you want something smashed. It’s great when you put digital files onto tape and bring them back into your DAW, you can see exactly what’s happening and the amazing power of tape — how it can make the waveforms less than half the size, but they’ll sound louder. The RMS value of the audio is a lot louder. “Mixing it through my Neve also helps a lot. It has a passive mix bus with big transformers at the end of it, so I blast it pretty hard to saturate the transformers, and sort of replicate what tape can do. You can only do it so much on a console, or you tend to run into distortion, on a Neve it works great.”
anything, but particularly vocals. I nearly always use it on vocal, but for our record I just didn’t want that sound. “I USED A BOX OF VERY OLD DYNAMICS THAT ALBERTS HAS. THEY ALL DATE FROM THE ‘70S AND MOST OF THEM ARE UNMARKED. I don’t really know what they are,
Italian dynamics and all kinds of things that look like they were stolen from Countdown. I tended just to use those and I kind of regretted it in the end. I mixed and mastered it and kept thinking it sounds a bit lifeless. But it’s because I was writing and recording at the same time, and it’s easy to have a dynamic mic in front of the speakers. But almost the whole record is done with a dynamic mic in front of the speakers. “I wouldn’t let anyone else do that! Ultimately it would have been better if I had done it with the Neumann, because it gives you more room to move — you can always lo-fi things later. My favourite device for that is the AWA Big One. It’s a fantastic smashing compressor for getting that ripping, torn drum sound. On vocals I’ll try a whole variety of things, the Decapitator, probably try the old Line6 Echo Farm or Echo Boy, set to zero milliseconds on one of the grungier settings.” SELF-PRODUCTION 106: OPEN EARS & MIND
Often, engineers or producers will comment on how they’ve picked up a technique or way AT 56
of working while assisting another producer or engineer. Sometimes you can be inspired by another musician. For others, Wayne included, you may have had to develop your techniques from scratch. You can graft inspiring techniques into your arsenal from anywhere, so long as you trial and test it to see how it works for you. WC: “There are all different ways to approach a project. I get a lot of chances to look at how people have approached things. But I spent a lot of time on my own techniques as well. I NEVER REALLY ASSISTED ANYONE, I JUST WORKED IT OUT MYSELF BECAUSE I PLAYED IN BANDS AND I KNEW WHAT RECORDS I LIKED THE SOUND OF, SO I JUST WORKED OUT HOW TO GET THE SOUNDS. IT TOOK A LONG TIME IN THE PRE-INTERNET DAYS — A LOT OF TRIAL AND ERROR.
“I’ve changed almost completely from the approaches I had in the early days, which was no bottom snare mic, the front head off the kick drum and the shotgun mic over the snare. All those things people did in the early ’90s. I’d say I’ve gone completely the opposite way to that. It’s been a combination of things I’ve read, snippets of conversation over the years, or trial and error. I haven’t really learned much from working with other producers, because I haven’t actually done it that much.”
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THE NEVE RETURNS Connolly has managed to assemble a custom Neve 8026 console as the centrepiece of his new mix room at Alberts. One very similar to the Neve console that resided in Studio 1 at Alberts when the company was at the Kings Street location. In a twist of fate, near the end of his three-year sourcing journey to find all the parts and modules, he came upon the original Alberts console master section. While most of it had been parted out or junked, it was the final piece of the puzzle, and a nice bit of history returning to Alberts. Wayne Connolly: “It’s a pretty long story. It was three years of rebuilding it from a piece of aluminium. It was half a frame when I bought it,
so I basically gutted it of every single wire and connector, found another half, joined the two halves together and started rewiring the whole frame with the help of a friend and Colin Abrahams. “Colin advised me and helped me custom design it so it’s just a simple, relay-switch sort of console that doesn’t have the elaborate matrix on the end of it that most Neves of that era had. Ordinarily they would have all the passive routing networks, while this one basically goes straight from the mix bus output to the actual output. “I spent years buying parts from all around the world. It was really difficult because they’re a pretty unusual console. At one point I was
despairing that I hadn’t quite found all the main centre section of the console, the output routing and the passive mixer and the reverb return. And I found the guy who had bought the old Alberts console from the auction in 1984 when they closed the King Street studio and he had taken the console frame to the tip some time in the ‘90s and he’d sold all the 1084s out of it. But he’d kept most other things, so I was able to buy all the routing modules, the centre section and passive mixer section. “It was the final piece of the jigsaw after three years of searching. It was amazing to find them all in one swoop.” WHEN A NEVE ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH
Colin Abrahams, now of Studio Connections, was one of the technicians at Alberts back when it was at Kings Street, hired just as Alberts was making the switch from the Neve board to a more up-to-date MCI console. In fact, his first job was to get the MCI online over the weekend, just in time for the first session on Monday morning. For Connolly’s Neve though, the timeframe was a little longer. Colin Abrahams: “The brief was to keep the desk as original as possible. Only in respect to the monitoring did we go our own way in terms of the design. Things have changed so much with the way people work now, you just don’t need that anymore. You’re sending stuff off computers. But the way it worked, in terms of the summing buses is how it was originally. You had to do calculations according to the number of modules that were in the desk to get the gain right, because it’s a passive summing bus, as opposed to the active summing buses that modern consoles have. We even used the original control room monitor pots, which weren’t pots at all but giant switches with resistor banks wired to them so they were very accurate.”
IT’S ALL A BIT FUZZY Colin Abrahams: “In the photo you can see the Neve in 1981-1982 when they were doing a bit of work on Alberts Studio 1 Control Room. It shows the 24 input channels, eight groups, the 16-channel monitoring section and the built-in patchbay. In the fader area in front of the monitoring section is an extra set of eight monitor inputs built by Bruce Brown to accommodate the later 24-track machine. The monitoring section is passive so the additional section just consisted of switches and pots. A good thing, since it regularly had drinks poured down it! The eight groups were normalled to multitrack inputs 1-8, 9-16 and 17-24. For example, Group 1 went to Tracks 1, 9 and 17. The 24 meters on the left would read either tape input or tape return. In tape input mode, the meters looked at the machine side of the patchbay. For example, if you patched AT 58
a channel’s direct output to a multitrack input, the meter would read the direct output. In the panel to the right of the main meters is a very important tool, the built-in console speaker! This could be used for talkback from a listen mic in the studio and also to monitor the mix in mono. It sounded really bad and was used to check how a mix would sound on AM radio and also for final balancing. A single ‘auxiliary’ meter could be switched to read Reverb Sends 1-4, Cue Sends 1-4, or an external patchable input. The four small meters monitored the Reverb Returns. Behind the patch cords is the EMT remote control for adjusting the reverb time of the EMT 140 plate. Above the group section were various plug-in effects devices, including a HPF/LPF (featured heavily in Flash & The Pan albums) and two plug-in
compressor/limiters. These were in demand and were often borrowed by the other studios. Alberts also had another set of four in a portable rack. The patch row above the desk was a set of tie lines to the other studios, enabling a second 24-track to be locked up and the sharing of outboard gear between the studios. There was no stereo mix bus on this desk. When you went to mix down, you had to manually switch the input selector on every single input module to ‘line’, assign every channel to Groups 1 and 2, and use this for the mix. As there were only 24 input channels and four mono returns, the monitor mix was used for additional reverb returns. You still had the remaining groups to use as subgroups, so the overall setup was surprisingly versatile. But it was a pain in the proverbial to change between record mode and mix mode!”
And now...the Neve in Connolly’s Alberts studio
In his time as a technician, Abrahams has seen a lot of audio gear come and go, and sees the irony in the way gear-purchasing goes in circles in the hunt for perfect sound.
“The irony was that back then, as that analogue gear was starting to approach digital quality, we had the same arguments that we do now about digital.
“It’s gone full circle. The old MCI consoles only had four or six sends on them. And of course during the ’80s, when they were gating every instrument and putting separate reverbs on just about every channel, consoles like the Ameks had 16 sends or something on them.
“It gets a bit tricky talking about vintage gear because a lot of it is seriously not good in terms of specifications. With some of the old compressors, if there is something special about them that sounds good on sources like drums, it’s not so much the actual technology in terms of how good the distortion is, it’s just how the thing works with sound.
“So a lot of the older desks got put aside. But ironically, in recent times with computer-based workflows, some of those old, simple desks are actually more useful now than they ever have been, either for tracking or to mix through without too much garbage in between to muck up the sound. “Around the end of the ’70s, everything was still being developed and people were very aware that they could hear sonic issues with some of those big, old desks — when newer ones came out you could hear the difference sonically. Then when the MCI JH-24 tape machine came out, in actual figures it was as far as I know as good as it ever got with tape technology. Obviously Dolby A, was the technology of the time, before Dolby SR came out. And it pretty much got to the point that it was so good that even in 1980, you had a few people saying, ‘I like the old machines. They sound warmer.’
“I’ve certainly seen modern compressors that on paper might be just fine but they sound like shit. And a lot of it’s in the parameters. With the old Urei 1176, it’s not a particularly fantastic compressor, but even when you push all the buttons in at once it’s virtually impossible not to get a good sound of it. Whereas some of the modern ones have such extremely short attacks and decays that if you didn’t know what you were doing, you really could make it sound terrible. “I used to get complaints about the BSS compressor. When I went to look at them there’d be nothing wrong with them, the problem was with how they were set. There are special things like the old LA-type opto compressors — they have a distinct behaviour in the way their release works that makes people rave about them. “I guess all I’m saying is old stuff isn’t inherently
good or bad. I mean, when you actually measure some of the distortion figures that come out of some of those old pieces of gear, they’re really not that good. But then maybe it doesn’t matter. Distortion sometimes warms things up. Take an old Pultec EQ, they’re absolutely shocking in terms of modern context — they’re a dirty EQ. But I was trying to mix this horribly dull DI’d electric guitar, and the usual way was to reach for the EQ on the desk and try and get some kind of sound out of it. But no matter what I did, all I’d get if I turned anything up was hiss. So I tried dialling in the same frequencies on an old Pultec and got this incredible sound out of it. It made the sound. “And when those things were being made, it was all being done for the first time and people were just striving to make them as good as they possibly could. Money wasn’t even an object to them. That’s certainly not the case now.”
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Four-star Sydney Morning Herald reviews for albums recorded in a mud brick home studio on the computer-age equivalent of a steam-powered engine might sound like fantasy. But meet Glenn Cardier, now self-producing the second phase of a recording career that began back in the days of contracted ‘recording artists’. Story: Ian Dearden
Glenn Cardier is a working class lad from Brisbane, who after appearing in Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds, and on Channel 9’s New Faces, entered into a national songwriting competition on Bandstand. Glenn didn’t win the competition, but he did score a major label recording contract with Festival Records, which lead to the release of three albums, Days of Wilderness (Festival/Infinity, 1972), Only When I Laugh (Festival/Infinity, 1974), and Glenn Cardier (Interfusion, 1976). It was both an exciting and frustrating time for Glenn. Because although he was surrounded AT 62
by great in-house talent and cutting-edge gear for the time, the template for recording would typically involve Glenn laying down his guitar and lead vocals, then sitting on the sidelines watching his tracks get ‘dressed up’ by in-house arrangers, producers and A&R men. In early 1980, he recorded one final single for Festival (Expectations/I Saved Annette From Drowning), but its lack of chart success signalled the end of his major label career. Glenn then fronted the Bel-Aires for five years in Sydney’s booming pub rock circuit of the early 1980s. And he also wrote and recorded the
flipside of the hugely successful Mojo Singers single C’mon Aussie C’mon, (a song called Establishment Blues) under the pseudonym Sidney Hill (because he was still contracted to Festival at the time), before disappearing from public view. MUDDY MAGIC
Glenn eventually moved into a mud brick house that he built on the Hawkesbury River, just north of Sydney. And there, in a 3m by 4m downstairs studio, after a long gestation period, emerged the second stage of his career, which has shaped as more successful than the first.
While performing with the Bel-Aires Glenn, like many musos of that era, taught himself the basics of arrangement and recording within the constraints of a four-track Tascam Portastudio and drum machine. It was only then that he started “learning his chops as a songwriter.” The next step was an Atari computer, running Steinberg’s Cubase program (MIDI only), syncing to timecode on Track 1 of the Portastudio, running a drum machine and MIDI modules. Although Glenn had dropped out of live performing, he kept writing and recording with this basic setup (his clients included Coca Cola, Nickelodeon and the World Youth Soccer Championships), and was also producing demos for local songwriters. Glenn still had a publishing contract, and he kept trying to place songs through his publishers with some successes over the years: Ol’ 55 recorded Iridescent Pink Sock Blues, Olivia Newton-John recorded New-Born Babe, and Jethro Tull bassist Dave Pegg recorded Dance Numbers on his solo album. Later on, Glenn moved to a Mac, still running Cubase on a MIDI-only basis, but synced to a pair of Akai DR4 hard drive recorders, with tracking and mixdown (to a TEAC DAT recorder) through a Mackie 1604 16-track mixer. He used limited outboard gear, primarily Roland and Yamaha reverb and delay units, along with the occasional guitar pedal for reverb, tremolo and the odd distorted snare hit. Finding his creative juices flowing after a Loudon Wainwright III/Richard Thompson concert in 1997, he began recording Rattle The Cage (2002), the first album of this second phase of Glenn’s music career. Airplay on ABC local radio in Darwin lead to a general release of the album through MGM Distribution. IN ISOLATION
The recording studio is a downstairs room in Glenn’s house, and has no isolation, either from outside noise (family members walking overhead, parrots screeching outside) nor is there a separate control room to deal with noise from the inside. As Glenn describes it, he could “hear the Akai DR4 hard drives clicking and parking” when recording, but that didn’t deter him! Glenn’s most recent technological leap saw him abandon the two synced Akai DR4s for the relative luxury of a basic computer-based DAW. One of Glenn’s demo clients, a “young, alternative, grungy songwriter,” Wayne Connolly, offered to build Glenn a recording computer in return for recording time. This generic Windows XP PC, with a single Dell screen, remains the centrepiece of the studio to the present, running an ancient (2004) version of Cubase SX. D/A conversion comes courtesy of an M Audio Delta 1010. Glenn no longer relies on outboard processing gear. “I wouldn’t know how to patch it in,” he says, preferring to stick to Cubase’s basic bundled plug-ins. ONE MIC WONDER
Recording usually starts with an acoustic guitar recorded either to a simple drum loop or bass
and snare groove, with layers of instruments, vocals, manipulated drum loops, one hits and percussion overdubs, up to a limit of “about 35 tracks or so — Cubase goes crazy after 50 tracks.” Without space for recording live drums, Glenn has been collecting drum samples for years, and has a knack for cobbling them together with occasional overdubs of hand drums, tambourine and assorted percussion to create drum tracks that sound for all the world like a ‘real’ drummer. Glenn is a superb acoustic and electric guitar player, and his amplification chain can vary between a Line6 POD and/or through a Fender Twin, a Fender Blues Junior, a Danelectro ‘Nifty Fifty’ and an Alesis Quadraverb GT. All microphone duties these days are exclusively taken care of by a Shure SM7b, which replaced his previous ‘go to’ mic — a Røde NTV. “I read somewhere that the SM7b was used by Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Tom Waits and Michael Jackson, I looked at it on the net, and I’ve used it ever since.” Routed through a Presonus Tube Pre, the SM7b
All microphone duties these days are exclusively taken care of by a Shure SM7b
is used by Glenn not only for recording guitar amps, but also for all lead and backing vocals, acoustic and resonator guitars, and hand percussion. Though it’s only a slight update to the indie approach of recording everything with an SM57, the minimalist approach is helped along by a guitar collection that includes a 1956 Martin D28 acoustic dreadnought, a 1932 Gibson L4 he uses for slide guitar, a Beeton resonator, a late 1960s Fender ‘hockey stick’ 12 string, a 1959 Gretsch electric, and a Fender Strat. Bass duties fall to a Danelectro Longhorn reissue, DI’ed through a Presonus Tube Pre and compressed. Keyboard sounds now come from an Ultra Proteus module (still with an Ensoniq EPS16+ as a keyboard controller), although most recently Glenn has purchased an IK Multimedia iRig, hoping to explore the possibilities of synth modules on his iPad. Glenn still uses a pair of Yamaha NS10Ms he bought in 1985, supplemented with a Yamaha subwoofer of uncertain nomenclature that Glenn purchased after his mastering engineer, William Bowden, told him that his mixes were muddy. Glenn rather sheepishly acknowledges that there’s been no ‘tuning’ of this setup. As far as he’s concerned, “It just works.”
BACK TO THE BEGINNING
Glenn’s most recent album, Stranger than Fiction (2012), saw him return to his recording roots. For the first time since the early 1980s, Glenn went into a mainstream recording studio (Alberts), with his live band The Sideshow for basic tracking of seven of the album’s 12 tracks. This provided him with access to “a great grand piano and drum kit,” as well as the ability to record acoustic bass and experience the vibe of the band playing together. But most importantly, it was finally on his terms. Glenn then headed home to track lead and backing vocals, overdubs, as well as the entirety of the five remaining non-band tracks, in familiar territory. On the Springsteen-sounding track, Hollywood, Glenn points out that although the basic tracking was done with the band in the Alberts studio, “All those layered guitars were done in the home studio... and all the vocals.” AN ALBUM IN THE HAND
After many years of performing, singing and songwriting, with experience as an artist in old-school mainstream recording studios, as well as years of home-based recording, for himself and others, Glenn has no hesitation in expressing his enthusiasm for self-production. “I’m a songwriter, I love writing songs, and I can hear songs presented in different arrangements and ways over and above my voice and guitar.” As he says, “I realised I could do my style of music again here [in my home studio] and actually put it on a CD. With Rattle The Cage I couldn’t believe I actually had a CD in my hand. When you think back to having to hassle record companies for studio time, or trying to get downtime in the middle of the night, it just suited me — I could write songs and have them realised and play them to people, and maybe do business with them.” Glenn is ready to admit that there are trade-offs in self-production — the immediacy in writing and recording a song at home means that there’s no delay in recording an arrangement but “you lose in terms of other creative input at the time.” He notes that it is hard at times to stand outside the production process and see it objectively, although he feels that he has now become very good at self-editing. Though he admits there’s the odd hard lesson: “Sometimes although I’ve spent 50 hours on it, or 100 hours, I then realise that a song’s in the wrong key, and I need to rework, or restart it. However, I’ve self-produced for so long that I’m very comfortable with it and when I take the songs to the band it usually works out pretty well.” Glenn is proof that it’s not how flash your recording studio, DAW, plug-ins and equipment are, but rather, as that other great songwriter Si Kahn once put it, “It’s what you do with what you’ve got!” Check out Glenn’s four albums (three entirely, and one partly self-produced) at www.glenncardier.com
FABLE: THE JOURNEY The new Kinect-controlled Fable game features an epic journey of destiny undertaken in the company of a rather fine filly called Seren. AT saddled up and trailed the footsteps of Russell Shaw and Steve Brown. Story: John Broomhall
As an avid fan of the near-hallowed Fable franchise, Steve Brown has spent more time than most roaming the beautiful, enigmatic world of Albion. He joined the audio team for the fifth instalment in the Lionhead Studios-created series — commandeered by composer and music/audio head Russell Shaw — as sound supervisor. It was not only a dream come true for Brown, but a once-ina-lifetime opportunity that many audio guys would give an ear for. STARTER’S ORDERS
Fable: The Journey is a spin-off from Fable III, giving the creators license to change up the format of the game. The main difference is that it’s an Xbox Kinect game, where you use your limbs as controls. It also means the game is in first person perspective, which is a big departure from the previous titles, requiring a level of detail in the sound design that would entice you to reach out and touch Fable’s virtual world. Steve Brown: “Part of my ethos behind the sound design for a Kinect project is that the audio should tell the story and convey the actions of the user who is literally using their body to interact with the game. We don’t want lots of HUD (Heads-Up Display) abstract noises that don’t really communicate the physical action of the user. For instance, when you’re riding the horse, Seren, if you make a gentle whipping action with the reins, you’ll hear a nice whip crack sound that makes you think, ‘Good, I’ve got the action right.’ But errant players might keep whipping Seren till her health level drops. If they kept on, you would see her heart health indicator on the HUD eventually drop down to just one heart icon. At that point we would alter the mix and choice of cracking sounds to be much more abrasive, psychologically telling the player they’re overdoing it, rather than using a warning beep.” ON THE HOOF
From a technical point of view, using Audiokinetic’s Wwise middleware for the audio ‘engine’ (the software system that controls sound replay based on instructions from the main game engine) enabled the team to deploy real-time parameter controls (RTPCs). In practice, this means the audio re-play system can ‘poll’ or monitor data being sent from the main game and interpret this intelligently to determine re-play of a sound element. For instance, when a player moves their arms as if to stroke the horse, the movement detected by Kinect would be intepreted to modulate and pan the audio on the fly, using sound to viscerally link the player to the graphics. “Wwise is geared towards the sound designer’s perspective rather than a programmer’s perspective,” said Brown. “And it influences the way game sound is designed.” Russell Shaw: “It’s very intuitive. You can get straight in and implement a sound, attaching or associating it to an object in the game. Then you start to think, ‘I wonder if it could do this or that?’ And as you delve deeper, you realise there’s a whole sub-layer of functionality allowing you to do some amazing things. You can get lost very quickly if you’re not careful.” DIALLING UP THE DETAIL
Brown: “Fable’s always had a high level of detail, but Fable: The Journey required more. Because it’s ‘first person’, the creatures in the game can get right up to your nose, so we needed to re-design them by adding extra layers of detail. For instance, we listened to the Balverines which persisted
from Fable 3 and although the essence of what we already had was right, we worked with Soundelux to create separate sound character elements to be mixed together on-thefly — the roar, the guttural stuff, and the airy breath. These creatures come at you from 20m away. Now we can dial in the detail as they get closer, until they’re so in-yer-face, you can almost smell the sound elements!” These multiple layers of sound design elements to be switched in and out using Wwise’s ‘blend containers’ place a significant load on the CPU, so Brown and Shaw had to work smart, trading off voice-count, against run-time DSP effects, against data compression quality. “The voice-count teetered around 130 with a memory limit of 30MB of data-compressed audio loaded at any one time,” said Shaw. “We use the Xbox’s XMA compression across the board and WXMA compression on the dialogue. Someone
once asked Valentino Rossi the secret of his success. He said that throughout the whole race, he rides as fast as he possibly can until he’s just about to fall off. That’s pretty much our approach to pushing the Xbox hardware to its limit. We throw as much as we can at it until it ‘breaks’, then we rein it back a fraction and that’s how it’s running all the time. Our games are a real testament to the hardware given the number of people working on the game and the amount of content it’s handling.” ON A LIMB
Brown: “Another key area of detail was the bodyfall system we developed. There’s a spell which whips out a kind of tentacle that extends out from the player into the game world. You can grab your enemies with it, then à la Star Wars, you can force–push them up and chuck them around. When they land on the floor, we didn’t want just a simple bodyfall sample. We wanted to build a system that had limb dexterity. The game engine would ‘do the physics’ and calculate whether an individual arm or leg was hitting the ground, as well as the body, as they were all separately defined and identified physics ‘characters’ — head joint, two legs, two body parts, eight joints — all with individual samples, to be composited together according to the player’s actions.” Shaw: “With the evil Hollowmen enemies, you can actually rip off their limbs with the tentacle and even their heads with all the associated gore detail you’d expect — you literally hear the tendons ripping and the limbs drop on the floor with a bespoke replay sequence of sound detail created on-the-fly according to the specifics of each incident.” When it came to the environmental sounds of world, the same modus operandi applied. Shaw: “We wanted to have AT 67
MUSIC FOR THE ROAD For Russell Shaw, the new title provided a fresh canvas on which to develop the much-loved Fable music canon — resulting in a staggering five hours’ worth of score, orchestrated and conducted by long-time collaborator, Allan Wilson, and featuring the Slovak National Symphony, percussionists from the London Philharmonia, The Pinewood Singers and Celtic instrument specialist, Bob White. Shaw created 120 minutes of orchestration, recording multiple versions of some music cues e.g. ‘alts’ of strings only, or strings and brass. The result was some 200 minutes’ worth of actual recorded material. Added to this is the specific Celtic music, created with
Bob White. Overall total: 4-5 hours. Though the music is generally linear, reflecting the nature of the game, the combat music uses Wwise’s ‘interactive music’ engine to segue different versions of the same music, each characterised by a different intensity plus synchronous triggering of ‘stingers’ at key points in the gameplay. The Stomp-inspired combat music features complex rhythmic percussion for which Shaw and Wilson engaged the services of six percussionists from the London Philharmonia to play a huge range of instruments selected at Bell Percussion, suppliers
that sense of things rushing past, so we littered the world with very individual pinpoint sounds placed in specific geographical positions in the 3D geometry. Take an area where you have to drive through lots of trees and there’s a storm raging — for this we had lots of 3D ‘point emitters’ with leaf rustle sounds attached to each. As the evil wind gets up, these emitters are triggered to play and as the gust becomes more intense we switch in more aggressive rustling sounds. If you’re riding along, you get this incredible sense of speed and the world whooshing by.”
complete with sundry dangling objects. We wanted the cart to be incredibly rich because you’re surrounded by it for nearly 14 hours and we needed it to evolve with the terrain it travelled. So we have a spindly element for the wood of the spokes which we layer on in Wwise, with an RTCP for velocity controlling pitch. Then we have to pick the gravel wheel loop or snow wheel loop, or whatever is appropriate to the surface. But if you go over cobblestones, as well as picking a cobblestone wheel loop, the whole cart will react — for instance, the lanterns will jiggle creating metallic sounds. If Seren is moving too fast over very rough terrain which could damage her, we bring in a very iconic footstep sound — very slatey, with a sharp, abrasive feel. Again, it’s all a question of embedding the sound into the things that you’re interacting with, as you use your hands and arms via Kinect.”
CART BEFORE THE HORSE
For Steve Brown, the audio equivalent of the big money shot, was always going to be the horse and cart, which the player will experience for the vast majority of the game. A lack of detail or repetitive sound triggering for this game feature, above all others, would have been unforgivable. Brown: “As you travel through the world, you cover many different surface types. For these, we recorded 19 sets of foley — not only horse footsteps, but also wheel loops for the cart. The technical approach for the cart was much the same as a racing car simulation game like Forza. We broke the cart down into its component parts — the wheels, the chassis, and its canopy AT 68
FOUR LEGGED FRIEND
Meanwhile, the horse, Seren, was treated very much as a character in her own right, with Brown seeking to tell the story of her bond with main protagonist, Gabriel. There are times in the game when Seren will look after him and her vocals are used to pre-figure or even warn him about future events. This meant figuring out how, without articulating words, she could ‘speak’ and express
of instruments for major motion pictures like Star Wars. The 60 instruments selected included Chinese, African, Samba and Celtic sets, including a monster 60-inch taiko. They were recorded at London’s Air Studios. Much of Fable: The Journey’s music is written using the Mixolydian mode, which the Shaw describes as “all the white notes on a piano keyboard, played over a G root. The beauty of this is two things — firstly, it gives the music a really nice Celtic feel and secondly, I don’t have to use any of the black keys on the keyboard. I find the black keys really scary!”
GETTING WWISE: SEREN’S FOOTSTEPS
FOOTSTEPS 1 In the prototyping and placeholder phase, individual library samples were edited tight around a hard attack transient, which will work best to ascertain if the individual sample for each foot fall approach would work.
feelings through emotive vocalisations. Brown: “For me, horses in Hollywood movies have been misrepresented. There’s always this thing that they just whinny all the time — or blurt — the exhale sound you often hear. I really wanted to broaden the vocabulary of the horse so we did a lot of research into, and learned to recognise, all the individual sounds that horses make. We sent the Microsoft Games Studios (MGS) audio team out to do some field recording at local stables to get an idea of what was possible to capture from different horses. What they got was pretty good and some of it was used in the game, but it was mostly whinnies and blurts. However, there were some sounds which were like the horse communicating to you — more characterful noises that make people ask, ‘Is that really a horse?’ “I started to categorise what we had based on how each sound made me feel emotionally. I’d go through the library and think, that one sounds like the horse is distressed, that one sounds like it’s expressing agreement. I started to broaden out the vocabulary of the emotion of the horse, but there were still holes to be filled. So we contacted Ann Kroeber, a horse and animal recording specialist, who’s worked on some movies where horses appear to go through great pain. This was important because a nasty Fable: The Journey player can actually hurt Seren in the game, plus the horse may be hit by a splintering arrow which you then have to pull out to help her. The sounds we got from Ann were very shocking to the team. People couldn’t quite believe that the squealing, almost
9 9 557 e 9 6 9 +61 2 your fre -up to set ite demo. on-s
When gamers were feeling sorry for whipping Seren too hard, they were really thinking of this bloke
pig-like sounds, were actually a horse. “Thanks to a contact by one of our MGS creature designers, we were able to take some advice from sound design legend, Gary Rydstrom who had recently done the movie War Horse. He said one of the best ways of conveying horse emotions was to focus on the breath — so then I started wondering how on earth are we going to get breathing noises for the horse, not just when it’s static or when you’re petting it, but when it’s at high locomotion, breathing very heavily — what I call the ‘battle breath’. We did two recordings with a range of horses — all at night-time, as there was too much bleed in the day. With a horse, you have to capture everything you can, so we had four radio mics on the body, and a couple of digi-recorders on the saddle plus a radio
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FOOTSTEPS 2 The sounds were then placed in a random container so each foot fall would trigger a different sample to avoid repetition so as not to draw the player’s ear. These sound events are incorporated into the Unreal game engine by tagging the horse’s locomotion animations, with every footfall tagged specifying which leg bone is hitting the ground.
FOOTSTEPS 3 To use real-time parameter controls (RTPC) to change the sound of the horse’s footsteps at different speeds you program the game engine to calculate the speed of the horse in the world, feed the value into the sound engine as a Wwise RTPC value, and use the value to change the values of parametric EQ and volume changes to the footstep samples playing, to convey the heavy and dense feel of a horse’s hooves on the ground when travelling at speed, providing drama and a sense of speed to the player.
mic along the brow of the horse, down its face between its eyes and also by its mouth. The result was a big ProTools session with lots of takes but the small on-board mics on the face didn’t actually work that well. There was too much bleed. So then the Soundelux guys simply got a shotgun mic on a boom and rode the horse one handed, holding the short boom in front of the horse’s mouth. This time, we got some really phenomenal breathing loops when the horse was at high exertion.” Meanwhile, to create the sounds of Seren in complete pain and agony, the team sourced and manipulated recordings of horses in heat in close proximity to an enthusiastic stallion. There were even some recordings where the stallion was probably smiling, but we will draw a veil at this point… “It’s actually a very powerful moment in the credits when the list of horses’ names comes past,” said Shaw. “It’s amazing when you realise the amount of work that went in to just producing these horse sounds for Seren.” “We’ve had reports that players actually apologised to Seren,” said Brown. “Because the pain noises have such emotional intensity, they make you physically wince. But as a game sound designer, you know you’ve achieved something when there’s that level of emotional connection.”
GETTING WWISE: ATMOSPHERE In Wwise, individual sound events for each object or element are hand-placed within the game world’s 3D geometry maps, literally painting the sound-scape of the world around you. Maps can contain thousands of pin point 3D sound details. The game calculates the player’s real world position in relation to the objects on the maps and decides what the player should be hearing at any moment based on the replay rules and parameters you set. Then you can define roll-off and distance parameters of the 3D emitters — e.g. if the player is 20m away from a babbling brook you would perhaps dull the high frequencies a little and attenuate the volume until they get much closer.
ALONG FOR THE RIDE Number of people working on Fable: The Journey sound design: 35 Time taken: Eight months Foley artist for the project, Pete Burgis, also worked on all the Harry Potter movies Animal recording specialist, Ann Kroeber, who assisted with horse recording, also worked on the Gladiator and Horse Whisperer movies. There are 20,000 lines of dialogue in the game, managed within a bespoke in-house database called LHTS. The final versions of dialogue are recorded late in the process to ensure the script is completely finalised first. Before that, placeholder material from the motion capture stage may be used as well as placeholder performances by Lionhead staffers, and before that, synthesised robotic speech files generated by the database software text-tospeech function (Shaw jokes that it’s a toss-up as to whether ‘Robo-voice’ or the Lionhead staff deliver the most convincing performances). Performance dialogue was recorded on the motion capture stage at Giant (of Avatar fame). However, it couldn’t be used due to the overspill of extraneous noise from the actual metal cart and a real live horse used during the mo-cap process. Instead, the performances were used as a guide and ADR’d using lavalier radio mics mounted just in front of the actors enabling them to physically ‘perform’ their lines again. The final voice recordings were also captured with a distant uni-directional shotgun microphone used in-game when characters are shouting or in an exterior location. Altiverb convolution reverb is used as an extra plug-in to Wwise to create a believable acoustic environment that helps bed the dialogue into the world of Albion. Pinewood Studios recorded specific impulse responses as did Steve Brown on his holiday in the south of France (much to his partner’s chagrin). AT 70
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MAC NOTES The battle of the big cats. Mountain Lion performance test and tips for installing a new Mac OS Column: Anthony Garvin
Mountain Lion, aka Mac OS X 10.8 has just been released. Most of its top new features follow on from the Lion release, continuing to align Mac OS with iOS, and to me look like pretty cool tools for day-to-day use — Reminders, Notes, iMessaging (including to iPhone users), sharing and more. Particularly for anyone teaching (like me), Airplay mirroring looks useful as it allows you to send video and audio from your Mac to a television wirelessly, via an Apple TV, for the benefit of other viewers. And then there are 200 or so more additions to Safari, Mail, Preview, iCloud, security and so on. But I’m finding nothing that will make a huge difference to DAW use. However, sooner or later, if you intend to stay current with your computer-based tools, you will have to update — no developer or manufacturer can keep support up for noncurrent systems indefinitely. Along with the usual pains of upgrading your operating system and having to deal with software and hardware incompatibilities, I’ve often wondered how much of the computer’s performance is sacrificed for the new Mac OS features. So with the Mountain Lion release I decided to put this to the test. TESTING, TESTING...10, 9, 8
I set up Mountain Lion, and its predecessors Lion and Snow Leopard, on three identical Macs and ran the latest versions of Pro Tools 10, Logic
9 and Ableton 8 on each of the three systems to see how they performed. The systems I used were Core 2 Duo 2.8Ghz MacBook Pros with 4Gb RAM, which are by no means the latest and greatest machines available, but what is currently a fairly average in-the-field computer. By running the included demo sessions with each of the DAW’s and using Activity Monitor to observe the ‘idle’ CPU I could gauge the performance differences across the three OS’s. I chose bar 32 to be the benchmark location, and by repeatedly playing back the projects, I observed the CPU meter at this point. I performed over 60 playback tests, interspersing them with restarting the applications numerous times, rebooting the systems and changing playback buffer sizes — and the results were quite surprising! Because across the three OS’s, there wasn’t a tangible difference in CPU performance. Regardless of the DAW, the difference in CPU performance was so insignificant each time that I couldn’t prove one OS was any better performing than another. I did notice that in some cases, more RAM was consumed on the newer OS’s, but that varied between applications, and was not a large enough difference to cause concern for me. So, there’s one less reason not to update your OS. The price of Mountain Lion, at $20.99, is also one less obstacle. KEEP IT CLEAN
OS X RE-FRESHENERS Pro Tools guide for OS 10.6 avid.force.com/pkb/articles/en_US/ troubleshooting/en349739 Pro Tools guide for OS 10.7 avid.force.com/pkb/articles/en_US/ troubleshooting/en423791 (Hopefully we will see a guide for 10.8 soon) OnyX maintenance utility www.titanium.free.fr
If you do decide to take the plunge, here are a couple of tips for undertaking the install: • D o a clean install, and preferably don’t use the migration assistant to copy accounts or applications over. Start fresh! In fact, if you are updating/installing any software frequently, do a clean install once every 12-18 months. You’ve probably heard it before, but it really does make a huge difference to performance. I have the same model mac as the computers I was testing on, and they were more responsive
on all OS’s due to the fact they were running on fresh installs. • Th ink about setting up a dual boot system whilst experimenting with a new OS. This way you don’t have to erase your old system to make way for the new, and you can switch between both just by restarting. To do so, start by using Bootcamp Assistant to create an additional MS-DOS (FAT) partition on your boot drive (intended for installing windows). Once that is done, quit the Assistant and run Disk Utility to re-format the new partitions as Mac OS Extended (Journalled). This is a quick and no-cost method for creating a second bootable partition on your mac. • C heck out Avid’s Mac OS X Optimizations and Troubleshooting guides on their website, regardless of whether you are using Pro Tools or another DAW. • D ownload OnyX and run the ‘automated scripts’ periodically, for a quick spring clean on your system. • Th ink about setting up two user accounts — one for your music use and another for general day to day use. It provides an extra safety net if something goes wrong, but it also helps me keep a bit of separation between emails and music… When I log into the music account, I’ve got a specific setup free from ‘office’ applications, and a layout to keep me focused on music without distractions. • U nfortunately, internet security has recently become a bigger issue for Mac users, with the Flashback trojan recently infecting hundreds of thousands of mac users. Keep your wits about you, and keep an eye on Software Update for security updates. Mountain Lion includes a feature called Gatekeeper, which allows you to automatically block software installations that either aren’t from the App Store, or from a source that has a recognised Developer ID. I think I’ve convinced myself to upgrade…..
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PC AUDIO Microsoft’s Windows 8 is now out, so what’s the verdict from musicians and specialist builders? Column: Martin Walker
Well, Windows 8 has finally been released into the community, and as I mentioned in Issue 90 it offers various advantages to the musician, including typically booting up in half the time of Windows 7 and offering further improvements in on-line security. However, it also arrives with a radical new graphics interface designed primarily for the touch-screens that so few of us so far have (Microsoft’s Surface had only just been released at time of press — Ed). Opinion seemed to become even more polarised for and against Windows 8 during the pre-launch run up, with some users so enthusiastic at the prospect of a new interface experience that they could camp out to get the first retail copies, while at least three specialist audio PC vendors of my acquaintance claim they won’t touch this new touchy-feely interface with a bargepole until they absolutely have no commercial alternative. Nevertheless, I still expect Windows 8 will become a popular upgrade for the musician, especially until the end of January 2013 while the bargain upgrade price of $US39.99 from Windows XP, Vista or 7 remains in place, and the even cheaper $14.99 price for those who bought Windows 7 more recently than June 2012. PULL OUT THE DRIVER
However, contradictory rumblings have reached my ears from various quarters, so I feel it’s only fair to report them to you before you come to any final decision. Cakewalk’s blog (http:// blog.cakewalk.com/windows-8-a-benchmarkfor-music-production-applications) claims Windows 8 CPU improvements of between 17.5% and 30.6% running Sonar X1 compared with Windows 7, while on the Gearslutz forum, Cubase 6.5 user ‘UltimateOutsider’ documented performance drops of between 30 and 50% running the DAWbench benchmark with Cubase 6.5 using either a Firewire and a PCIe-based audio interface, but measured very similar performances between the two Windows versions when using a couple of USB audio interfaces (www.gearslutz.com/board/ music-computers/762183-my-windows-7-vs-
windows-8-dawbench-results.html). Australia’s own DAWbench developer Vin Curigliano subsequently ran his own DAWbench tests with both Sonar X1 and Cubase 6.5 and concluded that Windows 7/8 performance was almost identical when using an RME HDSPe audio interface card (which is generally regarded as having about the most efficient drivers available, and generally the interface I request to be fitted if asked to review any audio PCs). From these and other anecdotal on-line reports, it seems that audio interface drivers can prove a huge variable to Windows 8 performance, particularly with Firewire-based models. As I’ve said before, the majority of Windows 7 drivers should also run well under Windows 8, mostly because the latter is described by Microsoft as “Windows re-imagined and reinvented from a solid core of Windows 7 speed and reliability.” However, there are no guarantees. Even worse, audio interface manufacturers can be extremely slow off the mark if new drivers are required — some took over a year to release official Windows 7 drivers after its release, and I’m sad to report that nothing has changed. When I visited the web sites of around a dozen audio interface manufacturers on the Windows 8 release date I spotted only one that had posted compatibility details of its drivers, despite nearly all manufacturer’s forums being awash with user queries on this topic. Take a bow Focusrite! The availability of efficient, bug-free hardware drivers can make or break PC audio performance, especially when attempting to run audio drivers with latencies below 6ms to achieve a ‘near instantaneous ‘ response with soft synths, soft samplers, and audio monitoring with plug-in effects. So, although I realise that manufacturers aren’t legally obliged to write new drivers for each operating system that gets released, or even to check that their existing ones will still work on it, let’s hope a little more effort is put into this area before too many early adopters start complaining. If you’re considering the jump to Windows 8, it’s vital to make absolutely sure all your other
hardware items have suitable drivers too, or you won’t be able to use them. Don’t forget external hardware peripherals such as printers and scanners either. It’s unlikely that any motherboard or graphic devices will have driver issues, especially if your PC is no more than two or three years old, since most mainstream companies such as Intel, AMD and nVidia are likely to already have suitable drivers included in the final Windows 8 release, and to be quick to release newer ones for download if required. DONGLING FREE
However, sometimes the most critical items can be the smallest ones — if you need dongles in place to run various audio applications and plug-ins, make absolutely sure their drivers run on Windows 8 or you could be in a pretty pickle. I’ve already noticed a few Windows 8 beta users reporting problems in this area, ranging from occasional PC crashes and slow license scanning times with an iLok (although the ilok.com web site does claim compatibility with Windows 8) to not being able to run Waves plug-ins at all from a valid USB flash drive license (I could find no mention of Windows 8 on the waves. com web site). Let’s hope such frustrations can be quickly resolved. Meanwhile, one Pro Tools owner reported getting the latest version of Pro Tools to run under Windows 8 by first installing Pro Tools 10, then installing Pro Tools 9 and then uninstalling Pro Tools 9. I suspect we’re all in for some fun until the dust settles! Ironically, as I sit writing this column I’ve today taken delivery of a set of components to build my next PC, and they include a copy of Windows Home Premium 7 64-bit. I totally rely on my PCs for daily audio work, and simply can’t risk finding myself unable to use this new machine for any unexpected reason. Of course I’ll take advantage of the $14.99 Windows 8 upgrade offer mentioned above, but I won’t be installing it for daily use for at least a month or two (and possibly even longer), until I’m absolutely convinced that there are confirmed and measurable audio performance reasons to do so. I’ll keep you up to date with developments!
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BEHRINGER X32 DIGITAL MIXING CONSOLE
Behringer has packed Midas under the hood of its digital mixer. Is it a game changer or the emperor in thrift store clothing? Story: Guy Harrison
Behringer has an immense product range, and with umbrella company The Music Group now holding the title deeds to Midas, Klark Teknik and Turbosound, there’s a big base of R&D to draw from. The new X32 digital mixing console from Behringer does just that, with ‘Powered by Midas’ proudly emblazoned across its surface. This console has been a long time coming and was initially glimpsed at NAMM as an empty case with no internals quite a few years ago. Since then it has laboured on Behringer’s ‘Coming soon’ web page. I must admit that after viewing the specs on that page and knowing Behringer’s keen pricing, I never thought the X32 would make it to market. But it’s here! And the audio industry is abuzz with opinion. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, the Behringer X32 is a 32-input, 16-bus digital console with eight stereo effects buses and a comprehensive feature set. Aimed at the live sound market, though entirely AT 78
capable in a recording setup, its street price has a lot of people using terms like ‘game changer’. Lets take a peek under the hood and see if the game has really changed. SCRATCHING THE SURFACE
The Behringer X32’s control surface follows what is the generally accepted standard for today’s digital consoles. The most frequently used channel strip controls are spaciously laid out in sections on the console’s surface for quick access. On the Behringer X32 there are 10 sections. The first six: Config/Preamp, Gate, Dynamics, EQ, Bus Sends and Masters, pertain to input signal and routing, and Monitoring, Talkback, Scenes and Assignable Controllers round out the control surface. Each section contains a view button which brings up its finer details on the 7-inch, 800 x 480 pixel, daylightviewable TFT screen for editing via six dedicated rotary encoders.
Faders on the X32 are split into two sections. The first 16 are switchable in four layers: The first two layers for the 32 inputs; layer three for auxiliary ins and effects returns; while layer four handles bus masters. Another group of eight faders are switchable between VCAs, buses and matrix’s. All fader channels feature an LED bar graph meter and 128 x 64 pixel, colour LCD screen (more on this later). The Scenes section provides space for saving 100 snapshots while the Assignable Controllers section is heavily laden with four rotary encoders and eight buttons, switchable in three banks. In effect, that amounts to 12 assignable rotary encoders and 24 buttons. The rotaries can be assigned to things like reverb time, etc. And the buttons can be used as shortcuts to your effects, FOH graphic EQ, tap tempo for your delay, or just about anything you can think of. Mute groups are also provided, with six dedicated buttons. A dedicated smart phone holder is even integrated into the X32’s surface. Handy! INBOUND
The back panel hosts the X32’s I/O with 32 mic inputs on XLR. These present a reasonably high 12kΩ impedance and therefore will also accommodate line level signals. A further six line level aux inputs are provided on TRS, two of these inputs are also mirrored by parallel RCA unbalanced connections. Some will miss the inclusion of any kind of digital input here. The other input available is USB, which offers play back of uncompressed WAV files at either 44.1k or 48k. The Behringer X32 offers no sample rate conversion so files playable are governed by the console’s sample rate. This is something that could be addressed with a future firmware update. Personally I would like to see the ability to play mp3s as this would allow a plethora of BGM tracks to occupy a small capacity USB stick. This USB input can also be used to record shows with a simple click of the record button. This generates WAV files derived from the L/R stereo bus named by time stamp for easy recognition. OUTBOUND
Sixteen bus outputs are provided, though no dedicated master outputs means the last three will be tied up by LCR masters. A further six aux outputs can also be found on TRS jacks, and as with the TRS inputs, two of these have unbalanced RCAs. These TRS sockets can be used for anything but are especially useful for inserting outboard effects like compressors. Dedicated monitor outputs are supplied on XLR and TRS.
boxes you can still only process a maximum of 32 mic/line input channels through the X32 — although you can mix a combination of local and remote I/O. A remote control port allows Ethernet connection to PCs running Behringer’s XControl app (currently PC only, with Mac to follow) which allows complete control of the X32’s functions as well as offline editing such as show preparation for routing, channel naming, etc. Behringer also has an iPad app to keep the Mac faithful happy, although it requires a wireless router connected to the X32 for use. It’s currently fairly basic but does allow control over all levels, channel naming, and more. I expect Behringer will expand its feature set with future updates. Lastly a card slot is provided and comes filled with a USB and Firewire interface. This allows the X32 to be used as a recording interface with up to 32 channels of I/O between any Mac or PC. THE ARCHITECTURE
The Behringer X32 DSP features 40-bit floating point processing with 40 input channels (32 mic/line input channels, six aux and a stereo USB input) and 25 mix buses (16 internal, six matrix and LCR). The 32 mic/line input channels have access to all DSP sections and are very well featured. First up is Gain (-12 to +60dB), polarity, channel delay (up to 500ms max), adjustable high-pass filter, and a gate/ducker. An insert point is included next, which can be set before or after the compressor/expander and EQ (four-band parametric) block. This insert can be routed to the internal effects or physical I/O for external processing. Gates and compressors feature key inputs with filters (hi-pass, lo-pass and band-pass) which can be driven from any channel, aux, effects return or mix bus. The signal path continues through mute, fader and pan (L/R or LCR depending on pan mode). From there, signal can be routed to any of the 16 analogue output buses. The buses are where you route all aux’s, subgroups and LCR master buses to the
outside world. The six TRS aux inputs and USB inputs feature a somewhat reduced signal path losing the Gate (gate/ducker) and Dynamics (compressor/expander) sections. The internal effects are simpler again with just mute, fader, pan and bus routing. The main output (L/R, LCR) and submix buses feature more powerful EQ (six-band parametric), plus a compressor/expander. Talkback facilities are comprehensive: an internal mic is included, or an external mic can be plugged into the XLR provided on the X32 surface, so a gooseneck mic could be employed. Two separate talkback buses are available each with their own dedicated talk button that can be set to momentary or latch. An oscillator is included too which, like the mic, can be routed to any of the mix or main output buses. EFFECTS OF POWER
The Behringer X32 is a powerhouse of effects processing power. There are eight stereo effects processors available. The first four can be used as send and return effects or inserts, though numbers 5 through 8 are for insert only. These latter effects slots will probably be used primarily as graphic EQs for your master bus and monitor sends. A standard setup might be four stereo send and return effects for FOH duties, while running dual-mono graphic EQs for monitor Sends 1-6 on Effects 5, 6 and 7, and a stereo graphic EQ in Slot 8 for FOH. If you only need four Monitor sends you could free up a processor to use as an insert; perhaps a limiter for your drum bus? There are plenty of effects on offer. Some are apparently based on classics with GUI stylings making clear references to Lexicon, EMT, Quantec, Roland, even Yamaha gets a look in! These effects sound brilliant and as a bonus there are quite a few multi-effects like delay/chamber or delay/chorus, which make even greater use of
Inside the X32, with 14-layer boards, a legacy of tooling up at The Music Group factory to handle production of the Midas Pro range
A digital AES output port is provided along with MIDI I/O and Behringer’s proprietary Ultranet port for connecting their personal monitoring system. A pair of AES50 ports provide 48 channels of bi-directional connection to Behringer’s S16 stage boxes using Cat5e cabling and utilising Klark Teknik’s low latency SuperMAC technology. It’s worth mentioning that while you can add these remote digital stage AT 79
your available effects slots. Just about every effect style is catered for and some more esoteric ones too like stereo/dual guitar amp, rotary speaker and dual tube stage/overdrive. Perhaps these won’t see a lot of use… but better to have than not. IN USE
The Behringer X32’s footprint is relatively substantial, but weighing in at 21kg and with thoughtfully placed handles it is easily managed by one person. The build quality feels reassuring, there is no flex in the console chassis and generally the Behringer X32 gives the impression it will stand up to the rigours of live sound. Navigation is straightforward. I particularly like the way the X32 is laid out. It’s uncluttered, and with so many assignable buttons and rotary encoders, you can get to everything with ease.
NEED TO KNOW
The fact that I can get at the aux buses on rotary pots in banks of four pleases me. It has been a frustration of mine since the dawn of digital consoles that level-wise I apparently only need to adjust one thing at a time! It’s a pleasure to be able to ride a delay send on a vocal while still being able to turn that guitar solo down a bit! While we’re on ergonomics, Behringer (or perhaps Midas) has provided another two ways to get at your bus sends. With the Sends On Faders button pressed you can select a mix bus — say Monitor Send 1 — and see all the channels that contribute to that bus on the channel faders. Which is (so far) standard digital console procedure, but on the X32 you can also select an input channel, and the bus faders on the right show you the levels of the buses it is contributing to. Great when the band says, ‘Can we have a bit of the lead vocal in all our wedges?’ No more stepping through all the sends. Instead select the lead vocal channel and turn it up on the bus send faders. Nice!
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NOT NAMING NAMES
With an LCD scribble strip atop each fader I was surprised that I couldn’t connect a keyboard for channel naming. That said, this feature is handled cleverly once you find the menu, which is not obvious! A bit of googling and all was revealed. It turns out you need to select a channel, then go to the Home page, step right to Config, then press the Utility button. Why didn’t I think of doing that…? Apparently it’s easier on the iPad app. From this page you first select a picture of the instrument, in this case a snare. Once selected it narrows the naming field down to a few choices Snare Drum, SD, Fat Snare, etc. My snare was indeed going to sound fat so I naturally selected that one! You can of course name the channel whatever you like via the rotary encoders, but it’s a little time consuming. Unless you have a glockenspiel player turn up, you will find most bases covered. You can also colour the LCD scribble strip window in one of seven colours for easy visual recognition of instrument groupings. Black is also provided in case you’re mixing Spinal Tap. Although, with black, you can’t read any of your channel naming or see the pictures — very Tap! The effects on this console are stellar and wouldn’t be found wanting on a console costing thousands more. Also worthy of mention is the four-band parametric EQ, which coupled with the separate high-pass filter, is very versatile. All bands have at least two shapes to choose from. The middle bands have bell and peaking options while the high and low bands have bell, peaking, shelf and pass/cut filters available. The scene saving and loading is comprehensive with all the channel and parameter safe options catered for. I was surprised by the omission of an
PROS The price! Great feature set 3-year warranty Low latency input/output <1ms Great sounding effects & plenty iPad & computer-controllable
CONS Can’t be expanded beyond 40 inputs 44.1 & 48k sample rates only No local digital inputs Only plays uncompressed WAVs from USB
‘insert scene’ option. This will not please anybody thinking of using this console for theatre, of course this again is something that could be added with a future firmware update. GOLDEN EARS
Is the X32 a rival for Midas’s baby, the Pro1? I don’t think so. The Music Group is not that silly. In reality the two consoles cannot be compared. The Midas Pro1 [see Guy’s review in the last issue] is a swiss army knife that will do just about anything, while the X32 is perhaps a Leatherman. Not as versatile but does what it’s intended to, admirably, and with little fuss. SIX WEEK TEST
My time with the Behringer X32 saw me try this console in a number of different scenarios from rock/pop, to theatre and dance, and it excelled in all. I watched and helped several different engineers step onto the console for their first time. All remarked how simple the Behringer X32 was to navigate and said they would be happy to use it again. By this reasoning and by virtue of the very reasonable price point I would like to bet you will see this console popping up in venues all over the place. The sound of the X32 is something that everyone is asking about, and specifically, whether it sounds like a Midas. The Behringer X32’s mic pres are reportedly derived from the Midas Pro range, so comparisons will be made. Having just spent time some time with the Midas Pro 1 I would have to say that, as consoles, they really can’t be compared. I don’t mean that to be a criticism of the X32, just an acknowledgement that they are very different beasts. From a marketing standpoint I’m sure that’s not by accident either. The X32 is designed to be perfect for the pub, club or small theatre that will never
SUMMARY With an impressive feature set, including 40-bit floating point processing, tons of quality effects, super-low Klark Teknik latency, and of course, Midas-inspired preamps, there’s a lot to love about Behringer’s X32 digital mixing console, especially the price. Game changed.
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need more than 32 mic inputs and some line level inputs at the console end for CD payback, etc. The large theatre, or perhaps production company that has to deal with many styles of acts with bigger channel counts and constantly changing needs is more likely to be in the market for a Midas Pro range with its focus on expandability, versatility and redundancy. Two clearly different markets I’m sure The Music Group had identified. But how does the Behringer sound I hear you cry? Great! I can’t fault it. Mixing on the X32 always felt easy with the 40-bit floating point processing, giving the feeling of headroom to burn at the stereo bus. I really liked the mic pres and enjoyed their classy midrange depth and clarity. Sure they don’t quite exhibit the same punch and top end sheen of the Midas Pro range but should we be surprised? The Midas Pro 1 is three times the price! So if you have the money... What you do get in the Behringer X32 is a console that sounds great, has great effects, a brilliant layout/workflow and is very versatile with its 40-input, 16-output framework. It may even be suitable in a home studio environment so long as you’re happy to work at 44.1 or 48k sample rates. It will also perform as a control surface for your DAW with HUI Protocol and Mackie Control data supported. In summing up, I will say that this console didn’t throw up any surprises. In fact, in over six weeks of testing it didn’t skip a beat. Sure there are a few caveats to be aware of — aux sends can only be changed pre or post in blocks of two for instance — but all consoles have their limitations. It is currently Version 1 software, so you can expect the X32 will gain more features over time. The inclusion of an interface slot means that further options may be added there too. The ability to do virtual sound checks and a multi-channel record with nothing more than a laptop is a bonus, not to mention being able to record the show to USB at a button press. Some have been weary of Behringer’s reliability in the past but with a three-year warranty on the X32 it looks like Behringer is serious about addressing those concerns. The simple fact is that currently there is nothing that comes remotely close to the Behringer X32 in terms of versatility and features at this price point. Will it stay that way for long? Probably not. Already we are seeing some manufacturers lowering their retail prices as a result of the release of this console. Does that mean the game has changed? I think it probably has.
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AT arrived for the Australian launch of STM to be greeted with the news that the first system had already been sold. Right. Wow. That didn’t take long. STM had been launched at the Frankfurt show earlier in the year and I was curious as to when this intrepid rental company had first heard the rig. “About two hours ago.”
A new flagship PA that loves stadiums as much as small clubs? Pull the other one.
NEED TO KNOW
Preview: Christopher Holder
PRICE $POA CONTACT Group Technologies (03) 9354 9133 email@example.com
So let’s get this straight: These guys are betting the farm on a new PA that almost no one has heard. Seeing the obvious incredulous look on my face, the situation was explained further. I was told how the STM would be their first concert rig, how it was the right time for them
PROS Supremely versatile Great tonal balance, even at distance Plenty of impact and headroom from amp pack
to invest, how they decided to not commit until they’d seen the STM in action, how they were effectively sold on the concept of the STM — the flexibility, the ease of riggin — before the first boxes had landed, and how the fact it actually sounded really good was, well, almost a bonus. “Put it this way: if it sounded terrible, it would have made for a very awkward conversation!” Are these guys cloth-eared idiots? I don’t think so. The fact they were sold the business case for the STM before they were sold on its sonic performance is a clear demonstration of how Nexo has approached the design of its new flagship PA. “We [Nexo] didn’t want to develop something in
CONS With extra versatility comes more ways to get it wrong. No install version yet. But planned.
SUMMARY Not just another large-format line array, and all the better for it. STM will put Nexo back on the rental map.
R&D that was technically really very clever, then take it out to the rental companies only to be told, ‘why the hell do we want that?’” Stuart Kerrison, was brought onboard to fill the newly created position of International Touring Manager. If Nexo was going to make a concerted tilt at the top end of touring, it needed someone with the experience and connections to liaise with the rental giants and find out what they wanted in a new PA before committing the factory to a concept. Stuart was that bloke. “Initially our questions to the industry were technical in nature: ‘powered or not powered?’, ‘12s or 15s in the full-range cab?’ etc. We quickly discovered that these weren’t the questions exercising the minds of these guys. What we were hearing was the rental market is super tough and budgets were going down.” This feedback set the Nexo course inexorably toward a more flexible, scaleable, lightweight system that would be quicker to rig and break down. Yes, it would be Nexo’s new flagship — going head to head with the Ks, Js, and Ms of the other industry heavyweights — but wouldn’t be restricted to festivals and stadiums. It would be a system equally at home in clubs and theatres. In other words, you wouldn’t need three systems, you’d only need one, and it could be a system you’d use every day of the year. SCALE JUST THE TONIC
STM stands for ‘Scale Through Modularity’. As a name it has the stolid ring of a marketing department that’s under the R&D thumb. Not a bad thing. STM comprises four modules, plus the amps and processing. There’s the Main (M46), Bass (B112), Sub (B118) and Omni Module (M28). You can have a look at the spec of these boxes elsewhere on this page. But conceptually what’s interesting is the physical uniformity of the different boxes. The Main and Bass modules, for example, have precisely the same dimensions, weight and centre of gravity. This allows for the Main and Bass boxes to be arrayed side by side, performing effectively as one arena-sized line array element — in the same mould as competing three-way, double-15 cabs. The Omni is a downfill element with a wider dispersion, but can happily function as a fullrange, standalone array element. The single 18 sub can be flown — again, they all have the same footprint. Nexo has certainly taken modularity to a whole new level here. The possibilities are endless. The rigging options allow the system engineer to design a hang with two Bass modules either side of a Main module, and have the triple configuration hung 28 deep! That’s at one end of the spectrum. At the other, you can just as easily mount a Main and a Bass on a Sub and have a stonking ground-stacked club setup. Somewhere in the middle, you can achieve great results with a Main-only hang (bottoming out at 50Hz when arrayed) where weight limitations are a concern.
UNIVERSAL AMP RACK The Nexo Universal Amp Rack feeds 12 STM modules in any combination in groups of three. Comprising NXAMP4x4 amplifiers, two digital input patches, two digital output patches and network card (Ethersound or Dante), the NUAR forms a compact, powerful and scalable amplification solution for STM systems of any size. You can even fly it.
MAIN MODULE Polyurethane composite cabinet with some innovative ‘smarts’, including flat-membrane drivers to ensure a more even and full-range coverage over the entire 90° horizontal dispersion. A ‘Kepton’ Polymer material is used for the HF devices designed for greater durability than titanium for enhanced tonal response and long throw. • 4 x 6.5 inch LF/MF Drivers • 4 x HF Compression Drivers • 145dB peak SPL • Frequency response: 85Hz-20kHz • (H) 350mm x (W) 575mm x (D) 715mm • 55kg • Dispersion 90° H x 0-10°V
BASS MODULE Polyurethane composite bass cabinet featuring a Neodymium high excursion 3000W 12-inch bass driver with four-inch voice coil. It has the same format – dimensions, weight, gravity centre – as the Main Module M46. The hybrid horn-loaded design maximises the efficiency of the driver. • 1 x 3000W ±3cm excursion 12-inch LF driver • 141dB peak SPL • Frequency response: 63Hz-200Hz • (H) 350mm x (W) 575mm x (D) 715mm • 55kg
SUB MODULE Sub bass cabinet featuring a Neodymium high excursion 3000W 18-inch driver. It has the same width, but double the height of M46, so the S118 can be flown in the array or ground-stacked in line. Can be run in omnidirectional or arrayed to work in a cardioid sub mode. • 1 x 18 inch LF driver • 143dB peak SPL • Frequency response: 25Hz-120Hz • 3000W
OMNI MODULE Polyurethane composite all-purpose loudspeaker cabinet which fulfils the role of downfill, providing 120° of horizontal dispersion and 0° to 15° splaying angle between modules. Same width as M46, 2/3 height, the M28 can also be used independently of the M46 or B112. • 2 x 8-inch LF drivers • 4 x 4-inch MF drivers • 2 x HF compression driver • 140dB peak SPL • Frequency response: 60Hz-20kHz • (H) 233mm x (W) 575mm x (D) 715mm • 38kg • 3000W
CONFIGURATIONS The schematics above demonstrate some of the various ways you can hang STM. 1. The more standard large-format line array configuration, where a Main module teams with a Bass module. 2. A ground stacked club system comprising two each of a Main, Bass and Sub module. 3. A Main-only hang where perhaps weight restrictions don’t permit arraying the Bass module. 4. A monster stadium/festival rig, where two hangs each of Main and Bass are supplemented by a double hang of Sub modules. 5. For extra whallop, STM rigging hardware allows you to configure a Bass module either side of a Main.
Having heard STM perform in a variety of configurations the results are always impressive. In full-spec mode, STM will mix it with any rig in the world, and when pulled down, broken apart and redeployed, will perform without the compromises you may reasonably expect. With STM you will, without question, have one of the world’s best stadium, theatre and club systems at your disposal. Which, frankly, is an R&D/ engineering triumph. RIGGING: YOU’RE THE ONE
Rigging isn’t generally something to get excited about. But with tour budgets being squeezed, saving on crewing costs is a very enticing prospect indeed. STM is designed to allow for a one-man setup. For safety reasons, a minimum of two people would be present, but practically it’s a one-man job. All the manipulation is achieved at the rear of the array. And there are two main innovations that permit this. The conspicusous ‘RedLock’ handle that takes care of the front rigging points — release and lock; and a ‘PistonRig’ control that allows you to preset the inter-cabinet angles. Then with the compression-mode rigging method, the system remains completely flat during rigging — with the bumper and array
angles realised after lifting. In action, it’s clear why Nexo is so proud of its rigging. Everything about it is quick and idiotproof. Touches such as the inter-cabinet angle value having a corresponding letter means the system tech can give the riggers instructions such as: “A, A, B, D, F”; instead of risking “2°” being confused with “0.2°” in the clamour of bump-in, for example. Or if a setting is incorrect, then thanks to the compression-mode rigging, there’s no need to entirely pull down the cluster — simply lower the hang, reset the angle on the PistonRig, and lift it back in the air. PRAGMATIC INNOVATION
Nexo is a successful company. It sells a lot of speakers. I gather it’s sold 7000+ Geo-T alone and the evergreen PS range seems about as popular as ever. But that doesn’t stop it from craving a much higher position in the rider ranking. Nexo has built this system to be demanded by the world’s premier rental companies. And I reckon that’s exactly what they’ll get. Nexo’s über-pragmatic approach of designing a PA that people want, rather than attempting to lead the market by the nose with something subjectively technically superior, will surely bear
ONE MAN RIGGING STM is designed for a one man setup. The two main innovations are: the RedLock handle (which you can see fairly conspicuously in the photo). RedLock takes care of (un)locking the front rigging points. PistonRig controls the inter-cabinet hang angles. As you can see in the photo, the steel ‘dial’ allows you to make the setting, from 0° to 10° in a variety of preset increments. Once set, the cluster remains flat until in its hang position. The system does away with quick lock pins and all the control is in one position, at the rear of the cab.
fruit. It’s an easy story to relate and to sell. But don’t confuse Nexo’s pragmatism for any lack of innovation. Along with the aforementioned rigging improvements, the mid-range flat piston drivers, innovations in the port geometry (to all-but eliminate air turbulence when the system is going full tilt), and the adoption of a new polymer for the HF devices are all of note — clearly, STM isn’t a repackaged Geo-T. Actually, STM has more in common with another Nexo product: Alpha. The essence of the much-loved Alpha (notably, it’s still a currently manufactured product range) is in its modularity — scale your system to suit the job. Long-term
industry watchers — who have seen modular systems of the ’70s move to the compact, all-inone systems of the ’80s, to the high-q systems of the ’90s, and onto the line arrays of the ’00s — will not be unduly surprised. Like a snake shedding its skin every 10 years, maybe, just maybe, we’re witnessing another generational change. Why would you want to buy STM? Like our intrepid early adopter from the beginning of this article, you’ll probably be seduced by the business case. At the very least you’ll be intrigued enough to want to hear STM in action. And if that is the case, I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed.
We [Nexo] didn’t want to develop something in R&D that was technically really very clever, then take it out to the rental companies only to be told, ‘why the hell do we want that?’
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What does Philippe Zdar call his AMS delay kick sound? [A] Kick Drum
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MARTIN AUDIO MLA COMPACT A new medium-format PA with the sort of control system designers crave. Checkmate? Preview: Christopher Holder
I very occasionally play chess. Mostly against the computer, and, given my lack of chops, it’s normally on the Easy mode. Quite often I’ll win, which isn’t as satisfying as you might think. In Easy mode, it’s obvious the computer is only thinking one move ahead. If, for example, you offer up a bishop as bait, with the next move being checkmate, the computer falls for the obvious sacrifice every time. There’s no consideration for the next move.
COMPACT CV Dimensions: (W) 788 x (H) 280 x (D) 500mm Weight: 49.5kg Drivers: 2 x10-inch, 2 x 5-inch, 4 x 0.7-inch Power: (LF) 500W AES, 2000W Peak; (MF) 180W AES, 720W Peak; (HF) 40W AES, 160W Peak Dispersion: 100° (-6dB) Frequency Response: 65Hz–18kHz ±3dB Max SPL @ 1m: 135dB Peak
Witnessing really experienced system designers in action is a little like watching chess grandmasters going at it. They know all the opening gambits — there’s nothing in the first 10 moves or so they’ve not seen before — and it’s not really ‘game on’ until quite deep into the match. Good system designers will get you 90% there with experience and their ears. The system’s modelling software and processing can then take over. But most software relies on you punching in some ‘what ifs’ and it’ll show you the predicted results — put another box in the array, splay the array a little more etc. Not exactly what you were hoping for? Then throw some alternative what-ifs into the mix. But to continue the chess metaphor some more, what if half way into a match — with the remaining pieces poised on the board — you could ask the computer to show you the best, most elegant means to checkmate your opposition in 10 moves. The software would need to consider every permutation, not just a couple of ‘what ifs’. After all, every move impacts the options available on every other piece on the board. The complexity is mind boggling. This is where Martin Audio is heading with MLA. Once it has the details of the room and your aims for the sound, it can marshall its chess pieces with an unprecedented level of sophistication. FROM BIG CHEESE TO FINE GRAINS
When L-Acoustics revolutionised the PA world with V-DOSC it encouraged us to understand its technology by considering the array as one large line source — a giant speaker, essentially. Thanks to speaker coupling, a V-DOSC array was (and
is) chucking out a single ‘iso-phasic’ wavefront… like a big wedge of cheese. It was an utter revelation, without the destructive interference of the overlapping patterns of multiple speakers, music lovers were enjoying ‘nearfield’ sound in a concert environment for the first time. Over the years, line array sound has been tidied up even further with the advent of more sophisticated DSP processing. The likes of the Lake DSP (now owned by lab.Gruppen) made the most of the best in DSP processing to largely eliminate crossover distortion, and to apply EQ without phase incoherencies. By being able to address each speaker box individually, or better still, to address the highs, mids and lows within the box, the system engineer/designer has considerable control at their fingertips. The logical end point to all this fine-tune-ability is having the luxury of individually addressing every single driver in the array, with its own DSP processing and amp channel. In so doing, you would have enormous scope to tweak the coverage and frequency response of the array to best fit the venue and the demands of the audience. Essentially, this is what Martin Audio is promising with its ‘multi-cellular loudspeaker array’. MLA SHOE HORN
Before you start thinking MLA is a triumph of algorithms over acoustics, it’s worth noting that the MLA Compact is a primo piece of engineering. Martin has shoe-horned a seemingly impossible complement of drivers, processing and amp modules into a very tidy package. The three-way enclosure houses 2 x horn-loaded 10-inch drivers, 2 x five-inch horn-loaded mids, and 4 x 0.7-inch HF devices. This firepower is driven by five Class D amps (delivering a total of 2.1kW continuous) boasting 135dB @ 1m for one enclosure, along with 65Hz–18kHz ±3dB frequency response and 100° horizontal dispersion (6dB down). At less than 800mm across and 280mm high, it’s an impressive piece of design.
BRAINS BEHIND MLA COMPACT
DISPLAY2.1 How do you show the coverage of a system across all frequencies on the one plot? Like this. IndexPlot is like a vertical slice through the room, with dotted and full lines showing where seating areas and walls or stage zones begin/end. Denote certain surfaces as ‘hard avoid’ zones (like balcony fronts) and Display2.1 will crunch the numbers to steer the array’s sound away.
Squeezing eight highly efficient drivers into a compact enclosure is one thing but to achieve the party tricks Martin Audio are justifiably proud of takes some sophisticated software and a decent amount of processing grunt. Martin’s Display2.1 software does things a little differently to your average modelling program. Don’t panic, I won’t start talking about chess again. Once you punch in a 2D model of the room geometry (see top right), you then help Display2.1 to distinguish between the stage, the ceiling, the audience and other no-go areas (like a balcony front). Display2.1 will give you the hang height and splay for the number of elements you have in the truck. All fairly normal thus far. Except in the way the software does its coverage plots. Called IndexPlot it shows a 2D slice through the venue, allowing you to see how loud the array is at all measuring positions and at all frequencies. It takes a little getting used to but once you’re accustomed, it’s a potent visualisation of the vertical domain. From this point you can get your array in the air, whereby Martin’s VU-Net communication protocol (over Cat5) will send the onboard DSP processors the optimised EQ settings (along with the other DSP parameters). The approach is arguably more deliberate than what most system engineers have at their disposal — ie. tweak, tinker, measure, repeat — and takes advantage of the fact Display2.1 is addressing the system on a cellular level. In fact, let’s not kid ourselves, that cellular level control is the game changer. You can have the most sophisticated software in the world but it’s not until you’re able to address every single driver
AT talks to Martin Audio Research Manager, Ambrose Thompson, about the MLA multi-cellular approach. AT: Martin Audio has gone out on its own with this multicellular approach. What prompted this ‘line of enquiry’? Ambrose Thompson: If you cast your mind back to the start of the modern touring line array era, everyone assumed a line array must be uniformly driven — the same signal to every single point. For a long time it was the dominant dogma we heard preached. When Martin Audio began experimenting with line array we realised that approach simply wasn’t flexible enough — because using just the array shape to compensate for air absorption wasn’t always practical. Instead, we looked at our sixchannel system controller and contemplated how to get the most out of it. So we decided to split the array into six zones. We used three channels for the HF, two channels for mids and one channel for low frequencies. We found that it gave us a much higher degree of control in compensating for environmental effects and we developed individual settings for different array shapes. That was back in 2001, and the technique we’re using now is a development of what we did then. Really, it started off with the motivation that the users were getting a pretty raw deal — they were handed a whole bunch of speakers and just told to get on with it. AT: So it was the lack of flexibility of line array that you were responding to? Ambrose: Sure. When we made our first line array, we put a uniform flat signal through it — like the dogma told us to — and it didn’t work properly. At the time we had no acoustic model and didn’t know what to expect. We ended up with an enormously bass heavy output. We quickly applied global EQ to balance the system and while it sounded impressive in some positions, it was frustrating that the only way we could alter the tonal balance relative to a position was by mechanically changing the shape of a very heavy array. AT: What next? Ambrose: We began to think about how best to optimise the array. The first step was getting its shape and splay angles right for the room it was in. We started to apply our ‘numerical optimisation’ to achieve that. AT: ‘Numerical’ optimisation? Ambrose: I qualify the word ‘optimisation’ with ‘numeric’ because ‘optimisation’ is a term bandied around in an inaccurate way. People talk about optimising an array, but what they’re really talking about is manual trial and error. What we’re doing is quantifying the output of the array (or the ‘quality’ of the array) on the audience (and, just as importantly, not the audience) with numbers, and these numbers are optimised. AT: So you used maths to optimise the shape and splay of the array elements. What next? Ambrose:: We thought, now let’s try doing a similar thing with EQ. We did an experiment in software and the results — the level of control and uniformity of sound over a designated area — were astonishing. We built some prototypes and eventually we got to the point where we released a product. AT: The MLA?
small elements and a fixed requirement for coverage. In this application pure shape control and numerically optimised global EQ works well. And, actually the first ever system to use numerically optimised elemental EQ was an Omniline array that [Australians] Glenn Leembruggen and David Gilfilian fitted to the Royal Institute in Adelaide. Then we released the MLA. AT: And that’s the MLA’s secret sauce isn’t it. You’ve gone a long way to perfecting the EQ optimisation. Ambrose: It didn’t come easily. We realised that we needed an accurate acoustic model and we needed to do a lot of work to be broadband accurate. The early models were good enough at high frequencies to do the array splay optimisation, but needed fine tuning for EQ. If you don’t know what’s really coming out of your speaker then there’s a good chance you can make it a lot worse. AT: How did you arrive at the new IndexPlot? Ambrose: The new plot is quite a nice side effect of our optimisation work. Let’s not forget, there are two domains we’re interested in as system designers: Space (a position in the audience) and Frequency. These were always served too much in one area — you’d have loads of frequency plots in one position or loads of positions at one frequency. Part of the optimisation process was to look at all frequencies at the one time, together with this accurate acoustic model. The model needed to be comprehensive and, above all, needed to be really fast — in fact, we can solve the acoustic output of an array at all frequencies in a medium-sized venue in way less than a second, which is one or two orders of magnitude under what is currently available elsewhere. AT: The plot takes a little getting used to. Ambrose: But once you’re accustomed to it you’re seeing so much more — what the array is doing throughout the venue at all frequencies. And once you’ve got it into your head, it’s a case of ‘why would you want to look at anything else?’. Alternatively, most software programs plot the output of a system in the air. You look at a plot, a section view, and it shows you colouring in the air above people’s heads. That’s computationally very wasteful. I mean, who cares what’s going on above people’s heads? AT: Are you asking more of the user? Is a more accurate room model required to drive the MLA Compact? Ambrose: There’s a minimum effort required. You need a reasonably accurate description of the room in 2D. The software was designed from the perspective of a touring user, so we’ve set very tight time limits on how long a process should take. Put it this way, it would surprise me if anyone would take more than 20 minutes to map out a room well enough for optimisation; plug in some defaults; optimise it; and get the results. That was the philosophy behind it: we can’t be faffing around with forensically accurate measurements. Saying that, I think the system will especially reward those with very specific problems — something they really would like to avoid or enhance. I see that more as a consultant’s job. The consultant has more time to spend, and will be rewarded.
Ambrose: Actually, the first system to benefit from this approach was the Omniline, an install product with very
Are your wireless mics
SIDE BY SIDE The speaker configuration is a little unusual for a compact system. The lows are horn-loaded, while the mids and highs sit side by side. According to Martin, by avoiding the usual co-entrant/crossfiring/co-ax approach the MLA Compact can achieve a far more even and predictable horizontal coverage pattern.
ready for the Digital Dividend ?
individually does the ‘resolution’ of that tonal and SPL control increase exponentially. It’s like comparing a game of chequers to chess… after all, the biggest CPU in the world won’t make a game of chequers any more sophisticated. EYEING OFF COMPACT
OURS ARE ! By the end of 2014, all analogue TV transmitters will be turned off and all digital TV transmitters will have changed frequency. The band between 694 MHz and 820 MHz will be cleared of all users so it can be used for mobile data services. Check your wireless microphone systems now ! If they operate between 694 MHz and 820 MHz you need to start planning to operate between 520 MHz and 694 MHz before the end of 2014.
Make certain your systems are ready!
So who’s the MLA Compact for? Aspirational rental companies, willing to buy into MLA philosophy, will be rewarded with arguably the most technically advanced PA on the market today. The rental kit has everything you’ll need, including a road-ready tablet PC, rigging, dollies etc. Yes, there are companion subs as well. As for the price? Expect to pay much the same as the other ‘AAA’ rated mid-sized PA systems. Installers will have access to the most ‘finess-able’ system on the market. The system can be remotely controlled and with the tools that are on offer, and the level of modelling sophistication, system designers will be in hog’s heaven. MLA Compact couldn’t have existed not that long ago. Fortunately with highly efficient/low weight amplification, lightweight switched mode PSUs, ever more sophisticated DSP talking to today’s grunty portable PCs, a ‘multicellular array’ like this is possible. Undeniably it is a step forward and there is no question that in coming years we’ll see other manufacturers doing something similar under a variety of other three-letter acronyms. But for the moment, when it comes to being ‘the thinking man’s PA’, Martin Audio is the only game in town.
NEED TO KNOW
for more information
The large-format MLA has made a creditable international splash since its launch a few years ago. But without technical rider pressure from touring bands it wasn’t going to find much of a home in the crowded Australian rental market. The MLA Compact is a different kettle of fish. It’s a far more versatile beast with much broader appeal. A 12-box array will happily fill a 5000-seat venue, while a larger rig (up to 24) will take care of just about any festival gig Australia has to offer. Having heard the MLA Compact in action on a couple of occasions, there’s no doubting it’s a great-sounding, punchy system with great clarity and vocal reproduction — much like other highquality competing medium-format systems from the likes of d&b, Adamson, EAW and others — but where Martin has stolen a march on its opposition is in control. The MLA Compact offers a superbly consistent performance across the entire audience area.
PRICE $POA CONTACT Technical Audio Group (02) 9519 0900 firstname.lastname@example.org www.tag.com.au
SUMMARY Is it the best-sounding PA on the market? That’s up to your ears. But there’s little doubt it’s the most controllable, ‘finess-able’ PA on the market. A no brainer for installers/consultants, and will reward early-adopter rental businesses.
THE ORIGINAL PORTABLE VOCAL BOOTH
t: 03.9555.8081 e: email@example.com w: www.sound-music.com SoundMusicDistribution SoundAndMusic1
KEITH McMILLEN INSTRUMENTS QUNEO 3-D MULTI-TOUCH PAD CONTROLLER
In his ongoing quest to really play his computer, Keith McMillen’s latest controller adds a new dimension of feeling to pad performance. Story: Andrew Bencina
NEED TO KNOW
In November of last year Keith McMillen Instruments (KMI) sought public financing for the initial production run of its QuNeo controller via kickstarter.com. A target of $15,000 was set and supporters would be remunerated with factory fresh units, merchandise and other KMI controllers commensurate to their contribution. After less than two months the offer closed with the backer count at 678; having raised $165,914.
PRICE $299.95 CONTACT CMI (03) 9315 2244 or firstname.lastname@example.org
PROS Pressure sensitivity & multilayered control sensors take expressive pad performance to a new level. Easy to use software editor with ample calibration to complement your unique touch.
At only 397 grams the QuNeo is just over half the weight, and less than half the thickness of the Novation Launchpad. The QuNeo cleverly shares its dimensions with the iPad and as a result can take advantage of many of the stands and accessories already on the market. The class compliant USB device requires no driver and connects via a micro port at the centre of the left hand edge. Like the iPad, it’s so thin that every connector seems fragile and exposed so I’d advise
caution. For those wishing to use the QuNeo to control other MIDI-enabled sound sources KMI offers an optional MIDI expander for $59.95. An Open Sound Control (OSC) bridge, currently in beta development, is freely available from the download page while a development kit and an API is offered to any and all capable of hacking their own software interface to repurpose the controllers’ sensors and lights.
CONS Pad surfaces can be grippy. Micro-USB connection and cable demands caution. Indented sliders not ideal for fat fingers. 3D sensors compromise feel for pad drummers.
SUMMARY With the Quneo, Keith McMillen and his team have delivered a next generation controller. Like any instrument it rewards those most willing to master its nuances. It may not be the best at anything it does, but its innovation lies in the sensor combinations. This first public iteration will hopefully be enhanced by future software updates. However, the QuNeo approach will likely entice many into a new dimension of expression right away.
Affordable price and support for MIDI, OSC and custom implementations make it a controller for many user demographics. Form factor compatible with iPad accessories.
NOT ANOTHER PAD CONTROLLER
On the face of it the QuNeo appears to be a 16pad, nine-fader, dual rotary, 17-button control surface. In fact, faces and surfaces are all that’s on offer here with the eight 55mm sliders, two rotary encoders and single 100mm fader all provided as touch sensitive strips and regions. This first impression belies the QuNeo’s full power. At its most expanded configuration any one program may include 111 velocity-sensitive note triggers and 159 continuous controllers. Every one of the QuNeo sensors is both trigger and CC, some offering multiple of each; all at the same time. The QuNeo is dominated by the now ubiquitous MPC-style four-by-four grid. At 29mm square these pads are consistent with equivalent Akai and Korg models. They differ, however, in a number of important ways. In Drum mode the pads operate as velocity sensitive note triggers, small X-Y pads and pressure sensitive continuous controllers. In Grid mode they each become four velocity sensitive triggers and pressure sensors — that’s a 64-pad scene controller and 64 CCs! Feedback is provided by multi-coloured LEDs in the corners of each pad with 16 levels of brightness. As one colour fades the next illuminates to denote corner promixity, velocity or pressure. LEDs can simply reflect local activity, be configured to respond to external messages, or both. With all this control at your fingertips there is a small trade-off. Perhaps to maximise the performance of pressure and location sensors the main pads do lack some of the additional cushioned thickness, present in competitors’ products. To my touch, this makes them a less ideal option for specialist pad drummers. UNDER PRESSURE
For more general use, however, their advantages far outweigh this reduction in physical feedback. I was surprised at how quickly I took to the pressure sensors as a viable CC alternative. I enjoyed the relatively fine control I was able to achieve with little practice and it’s a lot easier to use multiple fingers on different pads than it is to twiddle multiple knobs. However, there is no pressure latch mode or threshold control so the pressure CC always returns to 0 on release. As X-Y pads they are slightly more difficult to master. It is possible to execute smoothish transitions when using large parameter modulation tools, like the full-screen MetaSurface in AudioMulch, but at present the pads are better suited to the type of coarse and momentary modulations that we’ve all become accustomed to in genres like Dubstep. Trigger a sample or launch a sequence and then keep your finger on the pad to sweep a filter cutoff or engage some chopper effect. If the software was tweaked, and per pad range-mapping added to the X and Y parameters, it would be possible to create a preset in which all 16 pads acted as a single X-Y surface, or indeed four medium-sized surfaces. As a controller for Ableton Live the four-in-one
QuNeo pads are not as instinctively easy to use as the smaller discrete pads of Novation’s Launchpad or Akai’s APC models, but my experience did significantly improve with practice. A number of cross-talk parameters are provided via the software editor to ensure that while it doesn’t look like a 64-pad matrix it behaves like one. The 16 smaller buttons also function identically to the pads in Grid mode, with velocity sensitive triggers and pressure controllers in each. Alternately, their shapes and locations imply other uses. At the top left, three of the buttons create a transport section while the remaining 13 (12 of which are presented in Up/Down and Left/Right pairs) can be switched into service as bank selectors for the remaining controllers. Disappointingly, each of these pairs, and the Rhombus button, can only be assigned to change the banks of certain corresponding sensor types — allocated by proximity. Again a software adjustment to support bank groups for multiple sliders would free up even more of the buttons for other triggering, pressure control and switching duties. At the same time I’d recommend they unify the LED bank colour sequence across all bank switches as I’m sure I’m not the only one to find the current variations confusing. GRIP & SLIDE
The final 11 sensors are grouped as a block of four short horizontal sliders, four short vertical sliders, a pair of rotary discs and a single long crossfader at the bottom of the unit. Like the pads and buttons, all are velocity sensitive triggers and pressure sensitive in addition to their primary function as touch emulations of traditional controllers. As alluded to above, this final bundle of sensors also differ to the pads and buttons in that they can each be configured with four banks of different MIDI controller assignments. Aside from the rotary controllers, which are paired as a bank group, all the individual faders can presently switch through their banks in isolation from other controls. While the sliders unsurprisingly behave like traditional sliders, except for the large crossfader which is also capable of controlling min/max range parameters, the rotary faders will likely feel alien to new users. They have two modes of operation. The first, a standard pot behaviour with a beginning and end position, is controlled by running your finger around the outside of the ring. The second, a continuous rotary controller or jog-wheel, tracks the speed and direction of your revolution to send a series of maximum or minimum value ticks. Again a series of LEDs provide excellent feedback for both the sliders and rotaries. With the use of a third-party free VST plugin it’s even possible to trigger the slider lights as level meters. Unfortunately, I found the surface material of all of these controls to be somewhat grippy for my skin; to the point of causing jumps in transitional slider movements. This combined
with the slight recess of these controls, causing my chubby fingers to be lifted off the sensors at the ends of their travel, dented my confidence in these controls, particularly for applications where accuracy and consistency are critical. Notwithstanding, when it worked, or perhaps more accurately, when it and I worked together I was again pleasantly surprised by the touch and control achievable. LEARNING CURVES
The QuNeo’s software editor, easily identified in your program or applications folder by the Darth Fader... I mean Vader icon, is worthy of its own article. Here you will find detailed settings for all 16 internal preset slots. The unit ships with presets tailored to a range of common software applications but from my own experience they are best thought of as starting points. You can save and update, export and archive and copy between these programs to customise your own personal layouts and calibrations. Indeed, one of your most important tweaks will likely be the disabling of certain sensors. I’d recommend that every user read the provided manual and get to know it backwards. The available global response curves and per sensor sensitivity adjustments do make a difference and dialling in the right feel to suit your touch will significantly accelerate your development as a QuNeo virtuoso. In edition to the editor it’s essential that you master the Controller Mapping Assistant mode (CoMA) until you can perform its procedures in your sleep. Put simply, CoMA makes it possible to utilise various software quick-mapping functionalities with the multi-layered sensors without everything becoming confused. For example; a pad in Drum mode will send its trigger note when you press the top-left corner, pressure CC from the top-right, X-axis CC from the bottom left and Y-axis from the bottom right; and so-on. If you want to perform and improvise with the QuNeo it’s imperative that all of these locations and gestures be memorised. The CoMA mode is currently activated by a one-second depression of the blue Mode key (at the top left of the QuNeo — this is also used for preset selection) but I’d love to have the option to enter CoMA only while the button is held down. Not having to wait would speed up the operation during a performance and the momentary nature of this refinement would help to minimise mistakes. DON’T JUST TAP IT
The QuNeo is best understood as a controller instrument that will reward practice and the development of your own gestures, style and configurations. Unlikely to be your first-choice drum trigger pad or DAW mix controller, it is a hardware interface designed to further expand your chosen software’s playability. By experimenting with how you map certain sensors to certain parameters you may find that you not only discover a deeper interaction with your software instrument but a new sound as well. AT 91
MASSEY CT5 COMPRESSOR PLUG-IN Massey’s new vari-mu-style CT5 compressor plug-in is a real weight off your CPU. Review: Brent Heber
Back in the days of yore, when Waves plug-ins were either expensive or cracks, before Valhalla DSP and their ilk and a healthy second hand license market, there was Massey. Whispered of, in the rooms of foam and egg cartons, hoping that Mr Massey doesn’t realise he’s onto a great thing and puts his prices up...
NEED TO KNOW
You see, Massey plug-ins were one of the first plug-in offerings to come in under $100 for a decent processor. In context a plug-in from Digidesign, the manufacturers of the platform, would cost $400 and upward to arguably do a similar job — that’s with the benefit of a massive engineering team and marketing force to be
PRICE Massey CT5 USD$75 Massey L2007 USD$89 Massey De:Esser USD$89
reckoned with. The Founder, Steve Massey, also worked for Digidesign for many years, coding TL Space (the only TDM plug-in to manage to run across multiple DSP chips within the TDM mixer), TL Drum Rehab for real time drum replacement (a massive step up from industry standard Sound Replacer) and many others. He knows his craft and he knows the Pro Tools host very well. Over the years one of Massey’s plug-ins has seen particularly wide adoption and that’s his L2007 limiter. More recently his compressor, the CT4, has been overhauled and evolved into the newly released CT5. I use the L2007 all the time but
PROS Transparent dynamics processing Low CPU usage Affordable!!
hadn’t explored his compressor until this review and unsurprisingly it’s a great little dynamics processor. VARI-MU, VERY NICE
Looking at the CT5’s interface, it’s pretty clear this is not a tweak-head’s compressor. Attack and release each get three settings a piece, and the threshold and ratio behaviours are combined into a single ‘compress’ pot, like a vari-mu compressor of yesteryear. There are two compression profiles on offer: the default behaviour is for a reasonably gentle compression curve centering at a ratio of 5:1. As you turn the compress pot up, the threshold lowers and the ratio rises. If you select
CONS RTAS only, no AU or VST versions
SUMMARY The updated Massey CT5 is a transparent, light-on-CPU compressor plug-in in the vari-mu style. Great for detailed acoustic sources when you don’t want to lose anything, and priced to move.
the ‘Limit’ button the ratio shifts up towards the 20:1 range of an analogue limiter and again turning the Compress pot up lowers the threshold and increases the ratio simultaneously. The attack and release characteristics are based on optical compression — principally that they react to the incoming signal. A hot transient in your audio will trigger a longer release time compared to the generally lower amplitude audio — this is one of the key characteristics that makes opto compressors so desired, they behave more organically and ebb and flow with the signal which some might describe as imparting a more ‘musical’ compression profile. The thing is, for all its ‘heritage’ and operation feeling like an LA2A or a Fairchild, this is no tube/saturating compressor. When you hit it hard you don’t get that thumpy, hard wall that I associate with vintage compressors, but rather an almost imperceptible tightening of gain structure — who would have thought? A compressor that doesn’t sound like it’s compressing! The air is still there, as is the body and bottom end that often disappears with moderate compression. It has a similar character and transparency to the Waves Renaissance compressor but without the coloured low mid boost of the R-Comp. None of the harshness of many free compressors that may come bundled with your DAW. A lovely addition for a compressor is a ‘Blend’ pot — which seems to be all the rage these days. The ability to parallel compress, mixing wet compression and dry signal gives another dimension to your sonic options — without setting up sends and returns is a bonus! The CPU usage of the plug-in was great. On my three-year old Core i5 2.4GHz Macbook Pro, I had no problems running 100 instances of the CT5 on active audio tracks doing a fair amount compression and my CPU usage was tickling 35%. About three instances per percentage of CPU power as a rough guide on a three-year old laptop — a fairly light load! LIGHT ON CPU & THE POCKET
To get a feel for the sound that the compressor imparts I created a Pro Tools session with a bunch of different compressors all across the same content. I set each compressor to the same ratio and rough attack and release times, where possible. I then lowered each threshold until they were compressing by the same amount, measured with loudness meters against the original uncompressed source and A/B’ed each on a variety of material — bass, drums, acoustic guitars, vocals, dialogue, stereo mixes of jazz, rock, classical and a few other bits and pieces of reference audio. I hadn’t done this sort of critical listening to compressors for some years and the results with the current crop were surprising in some respects. To me, the CT5 is the perfect compressor for acoustic instruments. It takes care of the pesky attack and decay characteristics in such a way that your ambience is unmolested, leaving no tell tale traces of compression. I would also throw it over a submaster without hesitation for the same reasons. Mix a bit of wet and dry on a stem to fatten your guitars/drums without a radical sonic departure. I could also see this compressor in a dialogue chain for a TV or film mixer. It’s no surprise really, given that the L2007 is such a revered limiter for exactly the same reasons (apart from value for money!) Massey really understands dynamics processing, this much is abundantly clear. If you’re in the market for a de-esser while visiting his site, be sure to grab the demo of his. Like the McDSP de355, Massey’s De:Esser responds to the incoming signal with the same vari-mu characteristics of the CT5 for super clean sibilance suppression. Also, a great audition feature is built in so you can see how hard you’re hitting it and dial in the amount to suit your application. In my opinion, all the Massey plug-ins are fantastic value for money. You’re buying them direct from the programmer, which is nice as well. Clean processing, a low CPU hit and affordable pricing make them a winner and if you don’t have any of them in your plug-in list be sure to download the demos. The demo versions of his plug-ins work completely, no clicks or pops or crippled signal flow, the only catch is that you can’t save/recall presets or automate them. If you have a phone with a camera it’s easy enough to take snapshots of key settings for future recall as needed.
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THE ROOTS TUBE CONSOLE American audio electronics guru, Steve Firlotte, of Inward Connections and Tree Audio, gives his new, all-tube console the going over. Story: Mark Davie Photos: Nik Harrison
Inward Connections has come up in a lot of sound engineer’s gear lists lately, you pretty much can’t talk to an American engineer these days without them name checking a piece of Inward Connections gear. In recent times that’s included Eddie Kramer, and even Jeremy Sherrer in this issue’s Dandy Warhols feature. Australian Alex Richardson, was introduced to this relatively American obsession while working with LA-based, grammy-award winning engineer Helik Hadar on Tina Harrod’s album Temporary People. Hadar had brought along his sidecar, with some preamps, compressors and equalisers. Richardson was hooked, and contacted Inward Connections about getting some of the MP820 preamps with a few modifications. As it happened, the preamps were out of production, but there were already plans in the works for a summing mixer using the MP820s feeding a summing section using Inward Connections’ SPA690 op-amps.
The new console would be a collaborative effort between Inward Connection’s Steve Firlotte (electronic engineer who received tutelage from the revered John Hall of Langevin, Altec, Electrodyne, and Quad-8), and Boutique Audio’s Ian Gardiner, who is responsible for the console building and chassis electronic integration side of the business. Together they formed Tree Audio. And with a bit of back and forth with Richardson, including some additions of EQ, limiting/compression, busing capabilities and four 500 series slots, the eight-channel Roots Tube Console was born. Steve Firlotte took the time to shed a little light on Tree Audio and the Roots Tube Console, which will be available following its debut at the AES show. Mark Davie: What brought the Roots console into being? Steve Firlotte: Eight years ago we built a hybrid console, which we named Dymaxion 48, using
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tubes and SPA690 discrete amp blocks for 16 Ton Studios in Nashville. Thus, the idea of manufacturing more custom consoles came about. In 2011, we decided that the time has come to start manufacturing an eight-channel tube hybrid version with added features. MD: What attracts you to tube as opposed to solid state designs? SF: Since 1993, Inward Connections has been manufacturing products using tubes. Although we’ve also made all discrete consoles we found that there was a market for small tube-based sidecar consoles, so I teamed up with Boutique Audio to form our new company Tree Audio. On the Roots console, the first tube stage is used for amplification of the mic/line signal through our custom input transformer. The second stage is used for the EQ/limiter circuitry plus the output transformer drive. The reason we’ve developed a tube power supply for the console is because audio runs through the B+ side of the tube power supply, along with the impedance of the PSU, so it makes a huge difference in the sonic signature of the sound. MD: What makes the Inward Connections SPA690 op amps different from John Hall’s other design? SF: Through the combination of the percentage of THD intermodulation frequency response and phase shift and harmonic distortion, John Hall and I discovered a way to balance the technical specifications that sounds pleasing to the ear.
John Hall and I discovered a way to balance the technical specifications that sounds pleasing to the ear
The Equaliser includes low and hi shelf frequency boost/attenuation selections. The low frequency EQ has selectable frequencies of 50, 80, 100 and 400Hz with 6dB of boost/attenuation.The Hi Frequency EQ has selectable frequencies of 7, 10, 12 and 16kHz. The equaliser itself is incorporated in the feedback loop of the output tube amp for smoothness and accentuating even order harmonics.
MD: How did you land on those specific EQ frequency bands? SF: It was designed to be a sweetening EQ. We polled a few top notch engineers and we asked them for their opinions on the most useable frequencies and that’s how we came up with our choices.
The limiter features only a gain reduction pot and switch for in, out or HPF, which rolls off the bottom end below 250Hz.
MD: Can you describe the type of limiter used, and how it operates? SF: This is an optocoupler-based limiter and the signal is derived from pre-channel level control into the detector circuit. The optocoupler is located between the first and second tube stage pre-channel level. MD: When designing your circuits, who are some of your technical heroes that you take cues from? SF:I had two great designers that I had the previlege of working with, John Hall (Langevin, Electrodyne, Quad Eight, Sphere, Altec to name a few) and my late brilliant VacRac co-designer, Steve Barker. One of John’s philosophies that I’ve never forgotten and always implement in all my products is to never cut corners when it comes down to choosing good components and never sacrifice quality, real estate, proper ventilation and serviceability to cut costs. MD: What is the biggest challenge for you these days? SF: Right now we’re trying to find ways of producing more high quality consoles in a shorter period of time without cutting costs. AT 96
The Roots Tube Console’s regulated vacuum tube power supply uses four 6L6s as pass tubes and a 12ax7 as the control tube. It’s sectioned into three power sources; the first powers the console tubes, the second powers the summing section (VUs, op amps, etc.) and the third is for the 48V phantom power in the mic pre stage.
LAST WORD with
According to Rory Kaplan he’s had a charmed ‘Forrest Gump’-style, 37-year career of working with his childhood heroes and hugely talented giants of music and audio. Which might have something to do with his own prodigious talents as a producer, programmer and musician as well as being a great bloke to work with. Pictured is Rory in Gothenburg, Sweden, on a day off during the 1988 Bad tour, with a familiar figure in the background!
Out of high school I took a job at Valley Sound Repair in LA, where touring bands came to get their instruments fixed. They worked with Studio Instrument Rentals (SIR), which had offices in all the big cities. I learned to fix things like Fender Rhodes and guitars. That was in 1975.
When Michael arrived at rehearsals a few weeks later he was very interested in the Fairlight. Right away we worked on Wanna abe Startin’ Something and I came up with that big orchestral hit. The Jacksons’ Victory tour was phenomenal and turned my life around.
SIR asked me to be their in-house repair guy and sent me to the studios to make sure their gear was perfect for all the session guys in LA — musicians like Ralph Grierson and George Duke who I became acquainted with.
After some more work with Chick, Michael’s manager rang: “Mike’s thinking of doing a solo tour. Do you want to do it?” Yes! Again, I was screaming, I was so thrilled.
During September ’76 at a big charity telethon that Jerry Lewis did every year I got a call from my brother saying Ron Moss, Chick Corea’s manager, just called asking for me. Chick? You’re kidding me? (Along with Herbie Hancock and Keith Emersen he was one of my idols.) Chick? No way! I went to Chick’s house in the Hollywood Hills and we opened up his garage. It was filled, 20-25 feet deep, with road cases. I set about logging all the keyboards he had, and making sure they worked. I then toured and recorded with him. Working with Chick opened a lot of doors. In 1981 my friend Will Alexander — an incredible technician — got a job working at Fairlight. Geordie Hormel, the heir to Hormel Meats and owner of the Village Recording Studios in LA, bought the rights to distribute Fairlight in the US. They needed someone plugged into the community of artists and asked me if I wanted to join then. Sure, I’d love that! For many years, Fairlight became my life — I ate, slept, and breathed that instrument. I helped Stevie Wonder with his machine and Herbie got one from me and we did the Future Shock album with it. Returning home after a couple of tours as the Fairlight guy, I was told Jermaine Jackson had a Fairlight and wanted some help. Jermaine asked me over: “My brothers and I are doing a tour next year do you want to do it with us?” My jaw hit the floor. Some months later I was hearing about The Jacksons’ tour on the radio and figured Jermaine had changed his mind. Then two weeks later Jermaine phoned me: “Hey Rory, you need to show up at rehearsals. My brothers are there and I’m flying back from London.” What? “Yeah. I want you to do the gig.” I was screaming at the top of my lungs like a teenage girl I was so happy. I called the rehearsal studio and talked to tour manager Nelson Hayes. “Let me check… no, we’ve got all the keyboard players we need. I think there’s been a mistake.” Oh no! I left a message for Jermaine saying what happened: thanks for the consideration, enjoy the tour. Next day: “Rory I’m not doing the tour unless you’re doing the tour.” I’ll never forget those words. I walked into the rehearsal room and I knew it would be tricky with the other keyboard players, Patrick Leonard and Jai Winding — both monster musicians; top of their game. I WASN’T A GUN, HARDCORE MUSICIAN, I WAS THE GUY BRINGING IN A FAIRLIGHT. BUT I WAS VERY WELL PREPARED.
My Top 10 all-time keyboards and synths would definitely include the Clavinet, Mellotron, Fender Rhodes, Arp 2600, Prophet 5, Oberheim OB8, Moog Modular, and Roland MKS80. All those instruments are dynamically impressive as all hell. But the MiniMoog and Fairlight CMI are in another league. Things changed when PCM synths arrived. It spawned a lazy preset generation. You didn’t stamp your personality on a DX7 or an M1 — or at least very few people did. But when Chick played MiniMoog, that instrument sounded like Chick, ditto Jan Hammer or George Duke. In 1996 I was producing an album for Edgar Winter with engineer Shelly Yakus. The label boss had a chat with me: “There’s a company that Stephen Spielberg has started called DTS I thought you might be interested in meeting these people.” DTS played me stuff they’d already done with Alan Parsons and Bob Margouleff. It made me really listen again. It reminded me of being a kid and getting an album for the first time, like Sgt Pepper or Dark Side of the Moon. I sat listening to the Dallas symphony doing the 1812 Overture in surround. I could feel the energy and the detail of the room environment. I was blown away, I hadn’t had that feeling for years. “We want somebody who can get quality content for us, do you want to do that?” Yes! DTS started to get some good traction among producers. But it was getting [big-time Manager] Irving Azoff interested that really changed everything. It took a lot to get him in to listen to DTS surround but when he did he was blown away. “Let’s talk. Do you want The Eagles? Let’s do Hell Freezes Over.” That release was such a huge success. DTS brought together some of the best producers in the country to talk about surround standards. We were forming committees with Frank Filipetti, Phil Ramone, Elliot Scheiner, Ed Cherney, Chuck Ainlay, Al Schmitt, Alan Parsons, George Massenburg — they were all coming together and talking. Everyone is still in touch, and DTS is going strong now that Blu-Ray has become a standard. We had to wait it out I think until the format wars were over — DTS CD, DVD Audio, Hi-Def DVD, to SACD. We think Blu-Ray format will be around for a while, and I am hopeful for a standardised format in streaming, and devices for portable media and car audio. And the headphone technology: DTS’s headphone technology is stunning. Geoff Emerick and I went to DTS and heard it, we couldn’t believe it. Music is now just some background wallpaper on a laptop, and it’s sad. This new listening experience will get people listening again!
Coming soon for iPad
Click, Listen, Demo. The new RØDE Microphones Soundbooth Broadcast application allows you to listen to RØDE microphones in real-world broadcast situations.
Available now at
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