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AU $7.95(inc gst) NZ $9.95 (inc gst) File Under ‘Music’


Are you

Are you ready for the Digital Dividend Restack? From the

> Restack Overview

1st January 2015 you may not be able to use your current

> FAQ’s

wireless audio products. There is a lot of confusion and

> Updates and Articles

misinformation out there about the Digital Dividend and how

> Online Forum

it will affect you, so we’ve created the one website where you

> Frequency Guide

can find everything you need to be Ready for Digital.

> Helpful Links




Use the coUpon

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Rupert Neve Designs Portico The RND Portico 5033 EQ and 5043 compressor plug-ins bring the legendary Neve sound to your DAW. By combining the best in analogue and digital technology, these plug-ins represent a milestone in the history of sound modelling.

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AT 4

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Nuendo Live Nuendo Live is a professional yet easy-to-use multi-track recording system designed specifically to capture live performances. Feature highlights include on-the-fly session setup, a 60-second pre-record buffer, auto-save and seamless integration with Yamaha CL-series digital mixing consoles.

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Editor Mark Davie


Publisher Philip Spencer Editorial Director Christopher Holder

Digital comes from analogue.

Graphic Designer Leigh Ericksen

Text: Mark Davie

Art Director Dominic Carey Advertising Paul Cunningham Accounts Jaedd Asthana

Are there any other historical parallels to the recording studio? Where discontinued technologies become so beloved they’re canonised into modern recreations. There’s the classic car industry. But for the most part, it celebrates vintage without hauling it into the modern age. No one’s going to drop an old 350 Chevy long block into a Nissan GT-R. There’s just no call for it. Even Rupert Neve, lauded for creating the best analogue gear of the ‘golden’ era, is critical of the past. In a recent interview he lamented consumers chasing after his old designs when his new ones are far better spec’d. Which is why there’s more room in the market for companies dedicated to building ‘Carnhill-equipped’ 1073 clones than Rupert Neve Designs itself. Even in the movie Sound City — a documentary half about a studio, and half about its centrepiece Neve 8028 analogue console — Neve’s interview was cut to engineering speak, goofy looks from Dave Grohl and overlaid subtitles admitting he had no idea what the hell Neve was on about. The legend reduced to vintage subtext in another example of idolising the man, but not actually listening to him. In Sound City, digital was the enemy. Old ads about early digital gear were spun into montages like broadsheet Nazi propaganda in a wartime documentary, with straplines reading ‘No Patience Required’. It was an easy target. And two-hour edit renders and marketing schtick didn’t help matters. The mega-million-unit-selling producer Keith Olsen was portrayed as a weirdo when he jumped ship from Sound City’s analogue haven into an early digital setup. But he still made mega-records, is still in business, and even now uses a hybrid digital and analogue system.

AT 8

And if we learnt anything from Sound City, it’s that an analogue console and two-inch tape does not Nirvana make. So, why do we keep coming back to the analogue fountain of youth? And why do the GUIs of latest plug-ins still look like an homage to a 1960s radio station? We’re obsessed with accumulating digital recreations of gear we could never afford, is too rare to find, and probably have never used in the flesh. And marketers know it. Here in the office, when we were floating tonguein-cheek ideas of how to illustrate the idea of crafting ‘analogue’ results from digital tools, we came across an ad for Avid’s Heat, proudly labelled Analog Warmth and Color Emulator complete with a glowing ‘warm’ VU meter graphic — couldn’t have done it better ourselves. And that was 2010! Maybe the mythology helps us make better records, perhaps putting a big tube mic up in front of a singer does help them perform better, likewise a Neve console for an engineer. And maybe that Fairchild plug-in will give you exactly the sound you’re looking for, even if it doesn’t necessarily sound like the real thing. Better than rote emulation, is deep comprehension. And that’s what we’re hoping Dax Liniere’s Thinking Outside The Box series will do — take away a dependence on myth, and replace it with a little bit more understanding.

Subscriptions Miriam Mulcahy Proofreading Andrew Bencina Regular Contributors Martin Walker Michael Stavrou Paul Tingen Graeme Hague Guy Harrison Greg Walker James Roche Greg Simmons Blair Joscelyne Mark Woods Andrew Bencina Brent Heber

Distribution by: Network Distribution Company. AudioTechnology magazine (ISSN 1440-2432) is published by Alchemedia Publishing Pty Ltd (ABN 34 074 431 628). Contact (Advertising, Subscriptions) T: +61 2 9986 1188 PO Box 6216, Frenchs Forest NSW 2086, Australia. Contact (Editorial) T: +61 3 5331 4949 PO Box 295, Ballarat VIC 3353, Australia. E: W:

All material in this magazine is copyright © 2013 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. 04/06/2013.


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Part 1:

Starting out on the right terms.



Nick Cave & The Magical Fabrique Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds decamp to France for their 37 latest record.

32 SSSH, It’s A New Sennheiser 44 The Great Gatsby 54 The Sound Of A Car Crash: Recording The Drones 62 Mix Masterclass: Pop Vocals with Phil Tan 66 The Genesis Of Eve 72 That Human Touch: Recording PVT

REGULARS 14 What’s On 68 Mac Notes 70 PC Audio 98 Last Word

Ableton Live 9 Tim Shiel roadtests the latest version of the popular DAW.

SUBSCRIBE & WIN! An Antelope Orion32 worth $3299



REVIEWS 34 Rode iXY iDevice Stereo Mic 84 Korg MS20 Synth 86 Charter Oak SCL1 Compressor 88 Arturia SparkLE Rhythm Controller 90 Izotope Ozone 5 Advanced Mastering Plug-in 94 Avid Pro Series Plug-ins AT

“We just plug it in anywhere, and it just works. it sounds great too!” John Crossley – University of Derby

“Set up time is tiny, and the bottom line is that it works and it sounds great. They’re the only things that matter.” Matthew Weiner – Sound recordist

New flexible studio across an existing network SySTem DeTailS: 2 x RedNet 1 (8 Channel A-D / D-A) 1 x RedNet 2 (16 Channel A-D / D-A) 3 x RedNet 4 (8 Channel Mic Pre) 2 x RedNet 5 (32 Channel HD Bridge) 2 x RedNet PCIe Cards

RedNet’s rapid penetration into the audio industry has been far-reaching, and some of the earliest adopters have been educational facilities. The University of Derby, UK, chose RedNet in their impressive new recording studio facility. Using their existing Cat 6 networking infrastructure and a mixture of RedNet 1, 2, and 4 units, they’re able to record 24 channels of audio from anywhere within the Arts, Design and Technology building, straight into Pro Tools HD* with RedNet 5. From their ground-floor auditorium, for example, students can track a live concert from their fully-equipped control room on the second floor. All they need to do is to connect their microphones to the portable RedNet 4 preamp rack, and patch a single Ethernet cable to an RJ45 socket in the wall.

laptop concert recording 238 feet away SySTem DeTailS: 1 x RedNet 2 (16 Channel A-D / D-A) Dante Virtual Soundcard (Direct to laptop Ethernet)

It’s not just in large-scale applications that RedNet shines. Matthew Weiner is a freelance sound recordist from New Jersey, USA who records lots of jazz and classical concerts, and uses a RedNet 2 to capture high-quality audio on his laptop recording system. Matthew’s rig consists of a rolling rack case with some ADAT-enabled eight-channel mic preamps, a selection of mics, and a 238-foot reel of Cat 6 cable, enabling him to be a long distance from the stage if necessary. “The weight of that reel versus the 75-foot snake I used to rent is fractional, and it’s more than three times as long and has almost double the capacity!”

To get in touch with a RedNet specialist today, head to Pro Tools® is a trademark or registered trademark of Avid Technology, Inc. or its subsidiaries in the United States and/or other countries.

The Focusrite Sound. Networked. For Focusrite, Sound is Everything. Over the past four decades, the Focusrite sound has influenced countless hit records. Focusrite mic preamplifiers and converters rest pride of place in many of the world’s finest audio facilities. A relentless pursuit for sound excellence has fuelled Focusrite to become the audio interface company of choice for discerning ears across the globe. RedNet continues this proud tradition of placing sound first – with one twist – RedNet is entirely networked. An Ethernet-based professional audio networking system, RedNet features a full range of remote-controlled, high-quality input/output devices for microphone, line-level analogue and digital audio signals. RedNet interfaces to any DAW and is entirely modular. You can expand the network as your needs demand, with a single system linking multiple workstations and multiple rooms with near-zero latency. Build a system today knowing it can grow for tomorrow. RedNet is based on industry-standard DanteTM ‘audio over IP’ architecture. This proven, robust system employs economical, standard Ethernet cabling and standard managed gigabit Ethernet switches – minimising costs and maximising flexibility. Eliminate the downsides of traditional audio wiring, while enjoying superb Focusrite quality sound anywhere you need it. Because it combines the best in sound with unmatched flexibility, Focusrite’s RedNet technology is being implemented in a diverse range of applications. From single-unit laptop recording setups to multi-room studio environments, RedNet is proving to be a hugely popular audio interface system.

“i was blown away. The preamp is flat, and the phase coherence is perfect.” Philip Reynolds – Systems Engineer

Optimising ‘The Killers’ sound, live

SySTem DeTailS: 1 x RedNet 4 (8 Channel Mic Pre) 1 x RedNet 1 (8 Channel A-D / D-A)

For the front of house rig of The Killers’ world tour, a RedNet 1 and RedNet 4 perform a number of duties for Systems Engineer Philip Reynolds. His key responsibility is to set up the tour’s state-ofthe-art sound system to perform as well as possible in venues across the globe. In order to do this, he uses audio analysis software coupled with a reference mic, to match the sound system response as closely as possible to the output of the front-of-house desk. RedNet handles all his inputs and outputs to facilitate that process, including the mic preamps for his highly sensitive audio test mic.

Whether you’re in the studio, an auditorium, school or out on the road, there’s a RedNet system for your application and a way to wire your future with RedNet.

POWereD by DaNTe

Focusrite is Distributed, Serviced & supported by Electric Factory Pty Ltd 188 Plenty Road Preston VIC 3072 Tel. (03) 9474 1000


WHAT’S ON All the latest from around the studio traps.

Myles Mumford is currently volunteering with Australian Volunteers International (AVI) in Swaziland (southern Africa) working with a local NGO doing a variety of work around health development and communication. He’s working in radio production producing two weekly, nationwide youth-focused radio shows, building a studio, and training local engineers and producers in radio and music production. Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world and more than 50% of the population are under 24 with a life expectancy in the mid 30s! So as well as setting up the NGO to deliver high quality radio broadcasts, Myles is developing radio projects that will foster greater dialogue in the youth around issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights. The intention is also for the studio arm to create revenue for the NGO so they will be less reliant on donor funding. On top of all that, Myles has been producing and mixing albums for local artists (including a single that is currently charting in the Swazi Top 20!), creating fundraising albums with other NGOs, and supporting the Bushfire festival (a local international music and arts festival). You can follow Myles’ blog at Chris Hallam has set up a live recording studio in Baha, a local music venue on the Mornington Peninsula. The setup is centred around his recently restored 1968 Audek custom recording console and a collection of mostly Australian built recording gear from the late ’60s and ’70s including Audek 1176-type compressors and Optro solid-state Pultec-style EQs. Emphasis is on faithfully capturing all the vibe of the band’s performance and room/audience energy with great analogue equipment. Chris’s aim is to support bands by providing high-quality recordings with the option of video for promo purposes and live albums.

of the Audek, also restored the console for Chris. The desk was originally built for Arthur Lewis who owned and operated Rambler Recording Company. According to Chris’ research, many engineers who went on to work at Armstrongs started their recording career with Rambler and the old Audek. Darren ‘Jenk’ Jenkins has just completed mixing EPs for Adelaide metal bands Alkira and Voros, along with Central Coast rockers Bleeding Gasoline. Jenk has also mixed a single for Canadian artist Ryan Takahashi and produced and mixed Fijian singer/songwriter Knox at The Grove Studios. Other recent projects include recording and mixing Canberra three-piece band Orbis Tertius, also at The Grove. As well as redesigning a shiny new website to be debuted soon, DG Studio’s Damien Gerrard also stepped onto the bus/plane for Dig It Up tour with the Hoodoo Gurus, Blue Oyster Cult and The Flaming Groovies. DG Studios was also proud to host Dave Immergluck, the bass player from Counting Crows, at a tracking session this month. The session was for an upcoming release by fellow US band Monks of Doom with long time collaborator Chris Pedersen (who now resides in Sydney). Also Steve Balbi (Noiseworks) was in tracking drums and bass. DGs is proud to announce that Red Stairs is now an officially approved iTunes-preferred Mastering House and will be added to Apple’s list of official suppliers. Recent mastering jobs have included Daxton’s new EP From Out of Nowhere, while The Kings Cross Conservatorium had Andrew Beck tweak their latest 30-track, double CD offering. Over the last two weeks of May Mixosmosis played host to Sydney band Fly By Wire for

overdubs and mixing with an anonymous (yet legendary) Australian rock producer. June will see Mayhem 101 roll down from the North coast to record and mix they’re debut album with inhouse audio ninja Nathan Johnson. Several TV commercials have graced the halls for post production, and new gear include an Avalon U5 DI, and a pair of JLM Audio TG500 preamps. Very nice! Bernard Fanning, Tex Perkins, Paul Dempsey, Nic Cester, Jess Cornelius, Laura Jean, Clare Bowditch, Matt Walker, Darren Middleton, Dan and Mike from The Drones, Pony Face and Buchanan all dropping in to record some tunes at Tender Trap Studios in Northcote. AJ Bradford has just completed tracking the new Teeth and Tongue album. Roger Bergodaz has just finished tracking the new Tex Perkins project, The Ape, featuring members of Dallas Crane, Gin Club and Magic Dirt. And AudioTechnology cover girl/producer extraordinaire Catherine Marks flew in from Assault & Battery studios to record the debut album for Buchanan. Alongside a busy mixing/engineering schedule including four tracks from Phebe Starr’s new EP Zero, album mixes for electro duo Sun Comes Out Twice As Bright, new single Sirens for Lucy Mason, mixes for Toni Jordan’s Empty Arms EP and engineering for Triple J Unearthed artists Jay Smith And The Kids, Josh Telford (formerly in-house engineer at The Grove Studios) has launched M8 Pro Audio. Acting as a hub not only for his freelance engineering but a high-end hire concept that’s launched with a Wagner U47w microphone. “The Wagner allows you to capture so much natural tone at the source that the whole process down the line becomes easier,” said Josh. To hire the mic go to Don Bartley of Benchmark Mastering has been

Alan Jenkins, who used to work with Graham Thirkle of Optro and was the original builder

WHAT’S HAPPENING? Got any news about the happenings in your studio or venue? Be sure to let us know at AT 14

Myles Mumford is live on location in Swaziland

Chris Hallam’s Audek custom console built by Alan Jenkins using Optro preamp cards, hand-wound transformers and inductor EQ.

Going digital ain’t so bad...

busy working on projects such as The Baby Animals new album, Don Walker’s new album and live material, Underground Lovers’ Weekend album, Tamara Stewart’s Appleseed album, The Easy Beats Best Of for vinyl and iTunes (from the original masters), New Zealand’s The Phoenix Foundation, The Mutton Birds live, The Adults live, The New Wiggles, Brendan Gallagher’s new project and many more. The Grove Studios was honoured this month to have Grammy Award Winner UK Producer/ Engineer Peter Henderson (Paul McCartney, Rush, Supertramp) in both Studio 1 and Studio 2, recording drums with Chris Whitten for a sample bundle to be released soon. The drum samples will be included with other samples recorded at AIR studios in London and a few other great studios around the globe. Studio 1 also hosted Keyim Ba — with engineer (and AT

World First? — Greg Simmons and Ross A’hern have been busy recording and mixing an album of Euro-style jazz for composer Ben Gurton. The album was tracked over two days in the large room at Studios 301, Sydney, and mixed at The Chapel of Sound. Some of Australia’s finest musicians performed on the album, including Hamish Stuart on drums, Brendan Clarke on double bass, Brendan St Ledger on piano, Julian Gough on saxophone and Ben Gurton on trombone.

Burke Reid at The Grove Studios.

The fabulous Neve 88R at 301 was not used for any of the tracking or mixing, being relegated to a very large monitor controller and headphone system.

It’s a purist recording tracked live to multitrack in high-resolution DXD format (352.8k sampling rate, 24-bit word size) on a Pyramix workstation with Horus interface supplied by The Chapel of Sound. The DXD capabilities were installed into the 24-channel Horus only two days before the recording took place. According to the guys at Pyramix HQ it is the first jazz album in the world to be recorded in DXD through the Horus interface.

“I wasn’t a believer in sampling rates higher than 96k,” said Simmons. “But the newer converter technologies used in the Horus have changed my mind. It really has to be heard to be believed; tinkling piano sounds remain crystal clear, cymbals are smooth and airy, and double bass is remarkably solid and ‘grounded’. Also, the very high-resolution sound offered an unexpected surprise: The motivation it gave the musicians every time they came into the control room to listen. The quality and ‘reality’ of the sound was a regular talking point among them. It raises an interesting question: regardless of whether there is enough demand in the market to justify investing in such high-resolution technology, what price will you pay for inspired and motivated performances?”

All microphones went through the mic preamps built into the Horus interface, and all mixing was performed in the Pyramix system.

The album is due to be mastered in DXD by Morten Lindberg of 2L, and destined for release as high resolution downloads.


Lower latency, cheaper and more in tune ...but with all the soul of the original The new AudioTechnology App has arrived on the iPad and will soon be ready for Android tablets. All the latest news, reviews, features, columns and tutorials every month for next to nothing. Stay tuned for more news at or like us on Facebook.

GET IT NOW Find us on iTunes or go to The Pyramix system on the extremely large Neve monitor controller. AT

Alex Richardson (pictured far left) with some of the talented team from Keyim Ba playing djembes, talking drums and other traditional percussion instruments in the big live room.

Heliport’s new back room, designed by John Sayers.

Box Hill Institute’s new API 1608.

writer) Alex Richardson — an eight-piece group combining sounds from Guinea in West Africa with soul, funk and pop. In Studio 2 Dan Nash was recording drums and violin for his upcoming album with engineer Brandon Gillies, Trent Dobson another regular engineer at The Grove, brought in artist Peter Dixon for a few days, and Andy Mak has been keeping busy in Studios 2 and 4, working with some budding industry songwriters and artists. The Grove also hosted a group of young adults from Regional Youth Support Services on the Central Coast, to help train and equip them for potential careers in the music industry.
The Toot Toot Toots have been in Studio 1, recording their album with Canadian (ex-Gerling/previous Sydney-sider) producer Burke Reid and the help of the iPhone drum machine.

Andrei Ony Eremin has mastered new projects for Jumping Jack William, Engine, Clock Towers, Shunya, SMILE, Mousseline, Naminé, Fatal Attraction, Sex On Toast and Ray Sorenson.

Blackbird Studios in Nashville. And sneaking in was a Moog Little Phatty, Virus Ti61 and Korg SV1 keyboard.

At Deluxe Mastering Tony ‘Jack the Bear’ Mantz has been tweaking for Ebi Zaref, Electro Mafia, Suzie Stapleton, Whitley, The Resignators, Tully On Tully, The Neighbourhood, and Jonny Taylor. Adam Dempsey has been mastering The Stillsons’ second album (mixed by Ben Franz), new releases for Yeo, Grayling, Grizzly Jim Lawrie, Nick Batterham, OSH10 (mixed by Myles Mumford in Swaziland), Elissa Goodrich (recorded and mixed by Russell Thomson at ABC Melbourne), Brooke Russell & The Mean Reds (mixed by Neil Thomason at Head Gap), Lucas Paine (recorded and mixed by Adam Casey at EMA_AT94_HR.pdf 10/04/13 The True Vine Studio), Brother 1Johnstone, Caity10:46 Fowler, and Tom Dickens & The Punintentionals.

Heliport’s Studio B is due for completion midway through 2013. Situated atop Lake Heliport, John Sayer’s design consists of over 70% glass, and includes a generously-sized overdub room. The gear list so far includes: Manley Stereo Pultec EQP-1A, Chandler Zener, and Neve analogue summing. The recent client list at Heliport has included John Butler Trio, Ty Noonan, Anthony Garcia and William Barton as well as production from Justin Tressider (Wolfmother, Delta Goodrem) and Wade Keighran (Wolf and Cub, The Scare, Empire of the Sun).
The Studer A827 tape machine is now up and running after an alignment from Warren Huck. It passed with a clean bill of health and has miniscule running hours for its age.
Making their way into Heliport’s outboard rack has been Neve 1073LBs, API 512Cs, a pair of dbx 160 VUs, a Bricasti M7 and a pair of LA3As that complete the Universal Audio holy trinity. New microphones include an Electro-Voice RE20, Shure SM7, Shure 520DX ‘Green Bullet’, a pair of AKG C414XLIIs and a Coles Ball & Biscuit. Coming along for the ride is a Fender Deville 4x10, American Standard Jazz Bass, ’60s Silvertone 1478, mint condition 1988 Gibson 349, and a 1997 American Standard AM Telecaster from the owner’s recent trip to

At Mixmasters — ‘where the ‘plug-ins’ are the ones that plug into the wall’ — Ross McHenry, Paul McKercher with Loren Kate, Tom and the Salvadors, and Stomp the Orange all made the trek up the hill to do some fine work in a very analogue way. May dragged in Phil Barbuto, and Josh Williams from the West Coast worked out the door locks so The Angels could continue with their new record. Most of these records were made on two-inch tape spinning on the Studer 827. “Ah, the smell of oxide in the morning, even better than coffee,” said owner Mick Wordley. In between these great projects was plenty of analogue mastering, for Steve Pigram, Joseph Cheek, and the Shiny Brights. Mick says accommodation is always available, and beer o’clock gets earlier and earlier at Mixmasters. Adam Quaife, lecturer in Audio Production at Box Hill Institute, recently had the enviable job of picking out a new analogue console for the studio. The compass eventually settled on a 32-channel API 1608 console that now sits pride of place in Studio R of the Whitehorse campus in Melbourne. “The sound of the console and the 550A EQ is awesome. The whole thing feels and functions like a high-quality studio instrument,” said Quaife. It slips in alongside other choice API gear including a 2500 stereo bus compressor, 5500 dual equaliser and an A2D mic preamp.

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STUDIO FOCUS: BLACK PEARL STUDIOS Yury Kogan was a partner in Melbourne’s Salt Studios until about two years ago. He’d been hunting around for a factory to build a new studio, one big enough to achieve the acoustic he desired and hold what is probably Australia’s largest studio collection of microphones and instruments. And he found it, in Moorabbin. Yury’s been an engineer for years, originally learning the trade from an American in Vienna before there were audio schools or any other means of educating yourself on the finer points of mic placement and mixing. Black Pearl Studios hold two main studios, with separate control and live rooms. Studio A is based around a 5m-long SSL 4000 E series console with a G+ computer. The live space is about 110sqm, with 5m-ceilings. Studio B is slightly smaller at 97sqm, and is home to a hybrid Tonelux/API console. The size of the studios was the most critical factor for Yury. Yury: “My philosophy is that you cannot get good sounds in a confined space. Led Zeppelin’s sound was based on large rooms, The Beatles AT 18

were the same. You need the space and right acoustics to do most things. You can create micro-acoustics for particular instruments, but you cannot go the other way if you’re in a tiny room.” He enlisted a handful of people to help him with the design, the most helpful being an acoustician from Belgium. Yury: “There are no straight walls, no standing waves. The wood panelling on the walls sits on acoustic rubber that allows the panelling to move and absorb a little. Behind that is more standard construction with Fyrchek plaster, and insulation. “We have absorption built into some of the walls up to 1.2m, though the opposite wall will typically be live. The rooms are pretty balanced, especially the smaller room, which is great for jazz and classical. And of course we have gobos with different backings, say tiles, to give different feels.” Black Pearl’s incredible collection of gear follows the bigger is better mindset. Not just the beautiful and large collection of high-end outboard

gear, of which there’s a lot, but the instruments and microphones. Here’s some numbers. 350 microphones, 120 guitars (all-upmarket and custom shop), 130 amplifiers, 450 guitar pedals, nine drum kits, 40 snares, two grand pianos including a Yamaha C7 Concert grand, over 30 synths, electric pianos and organs including a Hammond B3, a big collection of cymbals, oh and you can either use Radar, Lynx and Apogee converters synced by an Antelope clock or glorious 24-track analogue tape. Best of all, it’s all-inclusive. You can use any mic, instrument, amp you want for the day rate of $550, no extra charges. “We wanted to do something that no one in this country does,” said Yury. “We have the biggest inventory of instruments, one of the best in the world I would say, a huge collection of quality analogue tools, and the way we run the business is about giving everyone the full value for their money.”


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$349 apiece | Joe Meek is the latest company to jump on the 500 Series bandwagon releasing the meQ Meequaliser, preQ Preamplifier and meC Compressor. All three come in Joe Meek’s distinctive green colour that you’ll either love or hate. The designers haven’t gone out on any limbs with anything too radical. The Meequaliser is a straightforward four-band parametric EQ with a switch for converting the bell shape on the high-mid and low-mid bands between wide and narrow, or a similar button changes from bell to shelf modes on the high-frequency and low-frequency bands. The Preamplifier has an extra de-esser feature which will be handy and a high-impedance input on the front. The compressor can be linked to another meC unit via a 6.25mm TRS jack on the front for stereo operation and there’s a Slave button. All in all, Joe Meek probably think its reputation for quality, professional audio gear is enough to get a big, green foot through the door of the 500 Series market without trying to re-invent any wheels. Nothing wrong with that thinking at all Atlantis Asia (03) 9818 7778 or

SM Pro Audio has released two new 500 Series devices. The Pre-Z Variable Impedance Microphone Preamplifier features mic and instrument inputs and a full complement of controls allowing users to expand any given microphone’s tone palette simply by adjusting the preamp’s input impedance setting. The core benefit of variable input impedance is the ability to create a variety of tonal colours without introducing additional noise or degrading the signal. The Pre-Z’s high-pass and low-pass filters offer additional control and signalshaping options, and its LME49720 op-amps ensure low noise, wide dynamic range, and up to 68dB of gain. The Phase Box provides continuously variable control over the phase of an audio source signal across 360 degrees. The Phase Box can be placed in-line directly after a microphone/instrument preamp or fed via the insert bus of a mixer or DAW. The source audio’s phase can be adjusted using the front-panel rotary encoder in combination with the phase reverse switch. True bypass, low-cut filter, output level adjustment, and VU metering are also provided. The Phase Box design also features low noise/wide dynamic range LME49720 op-amps.

MORE SSL 500 SERIES $2599 | Solid State Logic has released its SSL Stereo Bus Compressor in a 500 series format. The centre section compressor from the 1980s G-Series analogue console is an audio production legend credited with making mixes sound bigger, with more power, punch and drive. To this day it remains a key element of the SSL sound. The availability of the Stereo Bus Compressor in a module for the 500 series should be a popular one with users of the format. SSL already has 12 different modules for SSL’s own modular X-Rack system. The release of the Stereo Bus Compressor Module for the 500 Series modular rack platform makes another small slice of the legendary SSL sound available to a wider user base. Amber Technology: 1800 251 367 or

Sound & Music: (03) 9555 8081 or

Audient has launched its new recording interface, the iD22. Features are two-in, six-out + ADAT I/O with 24-bit/96k AD/DA converters, and console-like monitor controller functions in a desktop package. ID22’s Class A mic pres are exactly what’s used in Audient’s standalone units and consoles. You get three programmable function keys (F1-F3) and you can expand iD22 via ADAT. Awave: (03) 9813 1833 or

Based in Canada, Sage Electronics has released the SE-D.I.3 Mighty G DI Box, a palm-size direct active DI box featuring NOS vintage germanium transistors. The Mighty G is 90mm long and 40mm wide housed in a die-cast enclosure and is designed to plug directly into most instruments. Sage Electronics promise that the Mighty G’s germanium transistors contribute a ‘magical sonic presence’. You can buy the Mighty G direct from Sage Electronics for US$299. Sage Electronics:

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SSL has unveiled Sigma, a remotecontrolled analogue mix engine. Designed for the DAW user that seeks the sound of an SSL console while retaining the convenience of working in the box, Sigma is an analogue mix engine in a 2U rack unit that is remote controlled with MIDI via Ethernet using a DAW or an iDevice-compatible software interface. Using proprietary MDAC control technology Sigma’s 100% analogue summing engine can be driven by automation data created within your DAW of choice. Amber Technology: 1800 251367 or

The Studer Vista 1 console is now available in a 22-fader version suited to small spaces such as found in OB vans. The Vista 1 still provides a comprehensive solution requiring no additional racks, integral I/O, DSP and surround sound management including up and down-mixing. The Vista 1 is based largely on the Vista 5, so existing Vista users will be familiar with all the functionality of the Vistonics user interface. The Studer Vista 1 also features a redundant PSU and Relink integration with other Studer Vista and OnAir consoles. ATT Audio Controls: (03) 9379 1511 or

NEW CANS FROM AKG Following up on its K702 headphone line, AKG has introduced the K612Pro reference class and K712Pro reference studio headphones. The Viennamanufactured headphones with two-layer diaphragm patented Varimotion technology promise exceptional imaging and distortion elimination. The K612Pro is an open-back, circumaural dynamic headphone, delivering high detail for a full, spacious sound. The selfadjusting glove-leather headband with aluminium arches and solid rivets provides a lightweight, maximum comfort fit. The K712Pro

is the new top-of-the-line reference headphone with the K702 aligning itself in the middle of the two new headphones. It has an open-back design, 3dB improved low-end performance, revolutionary flat wire voice coil and a detachable professional cable. K712Pro has the same genuine soft leather headband for a lightweight and comfortable fit. Its pre-selected transducers provide consistency and accurate localisation. K712Pro comes with an additional coiled cable and a premium carrying bag. Audio Products Group: (02) 9578 0137 or


From Rupert Neve Designs comes the 5060 Centerpiece 24x2 Desktop Mixer, designed to be the Class A analogue heart of your recording studio – and who’s ever going to argue with Rupert? Sized for the desktop, the 5060 provides the tone and centre section features of Neve’s flagship 5088 console, bringing outboard equipment together with custom transformers, flexible monitoring, and DAW transport controls. With an abundance of interconnectivity the 5060 can be the core of any modern studio. Using the Centerpiece, existing gear can be integrated with this mix bus, plus it’ll integrate stem

outputs from your DAW with the rest of the control room, sums the final mix, and provides two-track outputs, source selection, and multiple speaker feeds from the monitor section. With its custom transformers, a Class A mix bus and variable ‘Silk’, the 5060 can also provide a large range of tonal flavours. For a rich, vintage vibe, the mix bus can be driven hard and Silk/Texture can be implemented in either of two different transformer saturation modes, or Silk can be disengaged entirely for clear, wideopen sonic sound. Awave: (03) 9813 1833 or

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BASS STATION $649 | With all the apps and VSTi’s around it’s always nice to see a new piece of real noise-making hardware, something with honest-to-goodness keys and pots – especially one with a slice of history attached. The Novation Bass Station is officially 21 years old and to celebrate Novation has brought out the Bass Station II. The name has always been a bit of a misnomer since the Bass Station has been responsible for some classic synth lead sounds over the decades. Bass Station II has been completely re-worked for the 21st century, with two filters, two oscillators plus a sub-oscillator, patch save and

a fully-analogue effects section. Plus there’s a step-sequencer, arpeggiator, a two-octave (25-note) velocity-sensitive keyboard with full-sized keys and a powerful modulation section. There’s also MIDI I/O and USB connectivity. In addition to the original (now called) ‘Classic’ Bass Station filter, there’s a brand new Acid diode ladder filter for squelchy TB303-esque bass sounds. You get 64 factory patches on-board with room for 64 more of your own and you can save more to your computer via USB. Innovative Music: (03) 9540 0658 or




Launchpad S is an update to the original grid controller for Ableton Live, the Novation Launchpad. To recap, the 64 tri-colour pads can launch loops and clips, trigger drums and samples, and also control effects, volumes, mutes, solos and more. Launchpad S can do all this, but has vastly brighter LEDs, a significantly faster refresh rate and is now plug and play with other software such as FL Studio. It also now works with the iPad – of course – although you’ll need the Apple Camera Connection kit. The Launchpad S comes complete with the Ableton Live Launchpad edition which will let you start composing straight away, or if your looping DAW of choice is something different, a selection of

Arturia is launching its KeyLab range of professional-grade MIDI keyboard controllers with all-new accompanying Analog Lab synthesiser software. As you might guess, the KeyLab 25 features 25 keys with velocity sensitivity. Larger KeyLab 49 and KeyLab 61 models are available with aftertouch and an additional 16 backlit pressure-sensitive pads. KeyLab controllers come complete with a new version of Arturia’s Analog Lab synthesiser software solution. CMI Music & Audio: (03) 9315 2244 or

control overlays are included – you might get lucky. The Launchpad S is bus powered, even from an iPad. And, talking of iPads, there is, naturally, an app that Novation has developed which enables loop triggering and effects independent of Ableton Live. The app features a 1GB sample pack of brand new hand-picked loops curated by Loopmasters, ranging from drum samples to artist packs across a variety of modern genres.

Hot on the heels of announcing ProTools 11 comes the Fast Track Solo and Fast Track Duo interfaces. Bundled with the none-too-shabby ProTools Express, these basic mobile USB interfaces also have a direct 30-pin connection capability with your iOS device of choice and promise compatibility with iOS apps. No prizes for guessing the Fast Track Solo is a single preamp and single instrument input box with headphone out and a pair of RCA outputs on the rear. The Fast Track Duo gives you two preamps which can be switched instead to a pair of 6.5mm balanced inputs on the rear for synths, etc. Outputs are also 6.5mm TRS. The specs say

Avid: 1300 734 454 or

Innovative Music: (03) 9540 0658 or

It’s taken a while and there’s even an 8.02 update for the Mac DP8 in the meantime, but Digital Performer 8 for Windows is finally here with 64-bit Native operation. MOTU say it’s ‘nearly identical’ to the Mac version. Features in DP8 are 17 new plug-ins including two new classic guitar amp models, the Subkick kick drum enhancer and the Springamabob vintage spring reverb processor (gotta love that name). It’ll be interesting to see how much a Windows version raises the profile of Digital Performer in the fiercely-contested DAW market. Major Music Wholesale: (02) 9525 2088 or

Notable new features in Image-Line’s FL Studio 11 include a Performance mode and multi-touch support for recognised Microsoft gesture functions. The Playlist has been beefed up to 199 tracks, increased from 99 and overall the GUI has benefited from a host of workflow tweaks. Three new plug-ins in FL Studio 11 are the BassDrum, Groove Machine Synth (GMS) and Effector, while FL Flowstone now uses Ruby high level programming language. Image-Line reckon this means that connected to the right robot, FL Studio is the first DAW in the world that can now make you a coffee. Sounds like the folks at ImageLine need to cut back on the caffeine a little, more than anything. Major Music Wholesale: (02) 9525 2088 or

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you need two USB ports on your PC – one being for an included iLok for ProTools Express. Aside from the bundled ProTools software, which will surely come in handy, at a local RRP of $197 and $329 respectively, these Fast Track devices are a viable iOS interface on their own. One snag – there’s no MIDI connection or USB input, so a controller/Fast Track/iPad setup isn’t possible. The case and chassis are full metal with reinforced knobs and connections. Avid reckons you can happily chuck these around.

Brief News Version: DTS (originally Digital Theater Systems) and Fairlight have collaboratively announced the release of Fairlight’s new 3DAW, a 3D audio production platform with native MDA mixing and format support. The first of its kind, Fairlight’s 3DAW enables sound designers to truly mix object-based audio in unrestricted 3D space, monitor on any configuration, and output in DTS’ proposed future specification— MDA. The new Fairlight 3DAW is available as a turnkey solution based on Fairlight’s Crystal Core Media processor and software. Fairlight: (02) 9975 1777 or


IK Multimedia has released three new modules through its T-RackS Custom Shop. The concept is similar to IKM’s virtual store for buying extra bits for its AmpliTube guitar plug-in, except T-RackS is a mastering effects rack and you can purchase individual mastering components or entire suites. Everything is purchased via a ‘credits’ system after you’ve bought a swag of these credits with real cash – it needs a little mental arithmetic to figure exactly how much these plug-ins are costing you. The new modules are the White Channel, which models the dynamics and EQ sections of ‘one of the most widely used large-format consoles in the studio world’, while the Bus Compressor emulates the

sound of ‘the classic processor that was found on the master bus of a world-famous console’. Feel free to play the game of guessing what consoles IKM is referring to here. Finally, the Tape Echo emulates the Echoplex EP3. Also, an existing plug-in called the British Channel has been given a make-over to match the new White Channel – the original hardware was made by the same company. Once you download and install T-RackS CS Free which has two freebie plug-ins, everything else in the store works fully for 72 hours as a trial period.


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Universal Audio has developed the Apollo 16 Audio Interface as its new flagship audio converter. With 16x16 analogue I/O, the Firewire/ Thunderbolt-ready interface combines flexible routing with onboard UAD-2 Quad processing. The unit has DB-25 connectivity and multi-unit cascading over MADI for up to 32x32 analogue I/O and eight UAD processors. Building upon decades of UA hardware expertise, Apollo 16 promises meticulous analogue circuit design, top-end converters and DC-coupled outputs — providing ‘the lowest THD and highest dynamic range of

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any converter in its class’. With its standard UAD-2 Quad processing onboard, Apollo 16 allows real-time processing with UAD Powered Plug-Ins with as low as sub-2ms latency. Apollo 16’s onboard UAD processing is also available during mixing and mastering, so that music producers can employ UAD plug-ins (VST, RTAS, AU) throughout the creative process. Apollo 16 also offers compatibility with Intel’s high-bandwidth Thunderbolt technology via an optional dualport Thunderbolt option card.

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from US$84,000 | Solid State Logic has announced the launch of ‘Live’, the first SSL console for live sound production. Based on SSL’s new Tempest processing platform, Live has plenty of power and it is deployed in a unique way. The specs are impressive with 976 inputs and outputs and 192 full processing audio paths at 96k. How those paths are configured depends on how power is allocated to channels, auxes, stem groups and masters to suit the needs of each show. All processing is built into the console surface and it has a collection of I/O connectivity built into the frame. A full range of Stagebox I/O connect to the console via MADI with the potential for larger

systems to make use of SSL’s Blacklight technology. Live has a control surface that combines multiple tablet-style multi-gesture touchscreens with hardware ergonomics, visual feedback and a collection of innovative new features. The console provides 30 new effects and audio analysis tools. Live is due to ship in September 2013 and Amber Technology hopes to have one to show at Entech at the end of July. Only as a guide to Australian costs, depending upon configuration we can tell you that prices will range between US$84,000 and $130,000. Amber Technology: 1800 251 367 or

AVID RE-SURFACES LIVE Avid will set tongues wagging with its new S3L live sound system. It’s a modular, all-networked system based around a 16-fader control surface (not a typical console) called the S3 that’s small enough to tuck under your arm. It connects via Ethernet to the Stage 16 remote I/O boxes that can be daisy-chained up to four times for 64 input channels in total (with eight outputs per box) — making the system scalable. The overall system runs on a 32bit floating point, HDX-powered mix engine called the E3 Engine running Venue software and AAX DSP plug-ins (you get 12 bundled plug-ins, including Pultec, LA-2A and tape emulations). It’s capable of handling 24 aux buses, LCR, eight mono matrices and eight VCAs on top of the 64 input channels. And the compact S3 will be a EUCON-

The skeptics among us always question why any significant software update doesn’t rate a ‘whole’ number. No doubt there’s method in the madness at Midas, which has announced the first public viewing of Generation 2.1 software for their entire range of digital consoles. Midas has added a rack-full of new latencycompensated FX plug-ins and dynamics processing options to every console in the PRO series, plus the flagship XL8. G2.1 will be available as a free-of-charge download to all Midas owners. National Audio Systems: 1800 441 440 or

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enabled control surface (it’s listed as a future feature, but since the S3L won’t be available until Q3 maybe Avid will sneak it through in time) allowing it to control the bundled ProTools software, making the S3L system an integrated live sound mixing and recording package. The size and modular design has Avid promoting the S3L as a live system, but it can be equally at home at the centre of an established studio. The system uses the open AVB Ethernet protocol so you can record directly into ProTools through your computer’s Ethernet port, no extra Avid interfaces are required. Right now Avid is saying the S3L will ‘start’ at a price of A$19,799 for 16 channels of I/O. Avid: 1300 734 454 or

AKG introduces the latest version of its WMS45 wireless system with revised operating frequencies for the European market. WMS45 Band 10 operates on frequencies between 823 and 832MHz known as the ‘duplex gap’ in that part of the world. This frequency range lies between the areas that will be used for upcoming high-speed Internet service for mobile devices, and will enable future proof, interference-free operation. Audio Products Group: (02) 9669 3477 or

Digico’s SD9 and SD11 desks are now capable of a 96k sample rate without any reduction in I/O. And, introducing the SD Convert application which redefines an existing session for the resources available on another (different model) SD console. And 2013 sees the arrival of a matrix-style Audio Router, providing a user-defined recording path for every system input, whether from stage or locally on the console, for seamless recording and playback – and all without taking up any of the console’s resources. Group Technologies: (03) 9354 9133 or

L-Acoustics has confirmed the LA4X is now available. The LA4X is an amplified controller based on a four input/four output architecture that delivers 4 x 1000W RMS power at 8Ω (or 4Ω). The LA4X inputs are available in analogue or digital format. The design of complex systems is made possible by the integration of the L-Net Ethernetbased network with up to 253 units simultaneously controlled and monitored in real-time. Hills SVL: (02) 9647 1411 or


How many times do we hear about “innovative, ground-breaking” products? About 10 times a day around here. But maybe, just maybe, Powersoft is <really> onto something after announcing M-Force, which is what it calls “the ultimate paradigm shift in low frequency applications”. Designed specifically for loudspeaker manufacturers and powered by Powersoft proprietary switchmode amplification, M-Force is a linear motor characterised by a moving magnet and genuine push-pull behaviour. M-Force integrates perfectly with other technologies developed by Powersoft such as Differential Pressure Control (DPC) already used in subwoofers using IPAL technology. M-Force is currently

being tested in the field in collaboration with a select group of loudspeaker manufacturers and live sound engineers. The goal is a complete paradigm shift from the traditional moving coil and cone. With respect to conventional transducers, M-Force requires less power from the amplifier to produce a higher SPL with ‘extremely low levels of distortion’. M-Force has been designed with the environment in mind with high power efficiency, extended lifespan and with low Neodymium content. M-Force is a worldwide patented technology. Production Audio Video Technology: (03) 9264 8000 or

Play. Capture. Stream CUE THE NEW QU-16 $3449 |

Allen & Heath has gone all <Star Trek> with its new digital desk, the Qu-16. And, with its rackmount form factor, it should send few road case designers grumbling back to their drawing boards. You can see what Glenn Rogers, MD of A&H, meant when he said, “The Qu-16 represents the best technology we could pack into a 19-inch unit.” A&H has certainly stuffed some features in. Inheriting technology from the GLD and iLive digital mixing systems, Qu-16 packs some processing punch. Five high-speed dual-core DSPs provide channel and FX processing with room for future processing updates. Five latest generation 200MHz super-efficient ARM core processors run in parallel, one to drive each of the touchscreen and surface, the Qu Drive USB interface, USB streaming, Ethernet port, and the moving faders (you might be able to sneak <Battlefield 3> onto this thing). Allen & Heath is promising an entry-level cost, but at this stage of the game it’s hard to pin down a price tag in Oz. However, the signs are good that you’ll get change out of $3000 on the street.

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L-Acoustics has introduced two new systems – the 5XT ultra-compact coaxial enclosure and SB15m compact subwoofer. The newest and smallest member of L-Acoustics’ XT coaxial series, the 5XT is based on a two-way passive design with a nominal impedance of 16 Ω hms. The compact system contains a oneinch diaphragm compression driver coaxially loaded by a five-inch lowmid frequency transducer mounted in a bass-reflex tuned enclosure. Its design makes the 5XT suited to various distributed applications, as a main or fill system. Power and processing for the 5XT is delivered by the LA4/LA8 and the recently announced LA4X amplified controller. Recommended for use

with L-Acoustics’ Kiva and XT series enclosures – including the 5XT – the new SB15m extends the operating frequency range of these systems down to 40Hz. The SB15m features a single 15-inch driver in a bass reflex tuned enclosure. A polemount socket is integrated into the top of the SB15m cabinet allowing one XT enclosure or two Kiva to be mounted directly above. SB15m subwoofers can be flown or groundstacked as a standalone vertical array or within a Kiva/SB15m array. Like the 5XT, the SB15m is powered and processed by the LA4/LA8 and the LA4X amplified controller. Hills SVL: (02) 9647 1411 or


JBL Professional has tweaked its JRX100 series to create the new JRX200 series portable passive PA loudspeakers. Improvements include a better high-performance compression driver, an updated, more professional appearance and additional enhancements. The four models in the new JRX200 lineup are the JRX212 12-inch two-way loudspeaker/stage monitor, JRX215 15-inch two-way speaker, JRX225 dual-15-inch two-way speaker and JRX218S 18-inch compact subwoofer. Every JRX200 Series loudspeaker (except the JRX218S subwoofer) now incorporates the JBL 2414H-


With the demand for so many mobile devices to be run through PAs and the like, the humble DI continues to be an important tool in the gig-bag. Klark-Teknik has added the new DN200 Multi-Mode Stereo DI box to its product line. The DN200 Dual-Channel Active DI Box delivers the usual connectivity, plus some innovative new features. Housed in a robust alloy case, and further protected by a replaceable silicon sleeve, the DN200 features inputs on pairs of XLR, TRS and

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RCA sockets, plus a switchable 20dB pad and ground lift switch. In addition to the normal applications of a stereo DI, the DN200 can operate in Sum mode, where left and right input signals are merged and routed to both left and right outputs, or Split mode, routing the left input signal to both the left and right outputs. The DN200 supports 24–48V phantom power operation. National Audio Systems: 1800 441 440 or

C one-inch polymer diaphragm compression driver mated to JBL’s Progressive Transition waveguide, which provides constant beamwidth and directivity across a 90° horizontal/50° vertical coverage pattern. The JRX200 enclosures feature a dual-angle 36mm pole socket (JRX212 and JRX215), allsteel handles and a perforated steel grille. The JRX218S subwoofer also has a 36mm pole mount. All JRX200 designs were subjected to JBL’s 100hour torture test to ensure longterm reliability. That’s 100 hours of Tiny Tim’s greatest hits? Nasty. Jands: (02) 9582 0909 or

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Crown announced the introduction of the USBX, a simple but clever accessory that enables Crown XTi, CDi and DSi Series amplifiers with a USB port to be operated via an Apple iPad/ iPhone using the Powered by Crown App. The USBX allows Crown amplifiers equipped with a USB port to be controlled via Ethernet. The USBX plugs into an AC outlet and up to eight compatible Crown USB products can be connected to the USBX. The USBX has built-in wi-fi, enabling wireless control of connected Crown amps via the app without the need for a separate wireless router. The app also allows wireless control and monitoring of Crown Ethernet-enabled devices and JBL loudspeakers that are equipped with DrivePack DPDA builtin amplifiers. Since this app uses the same protocols as Harman HiQnet System Architect, users can import custom control panels from System Architect into the app for added functionality. While the range of applications is wide, the USBX and accompanying app are well suited to controlling installations and setups where access to the actual amplifiers is restricted. Jands: (02) 9582 0909 or



The Italian pro-audio manufacturer Outline celebrated its 40th anniversary by unveiling the GTO C-12 line source array. The footprint of the new C-12 is exactly the same as all the other modules in the GTO range, allowing full compatibility in terms of rigging and flying hardware, etc, however the GTO C-12 cabinet is 21.6% smaller in the vertical plane than the GTO and the overall cabinet weight is down by 30%. The new GTO C-12 contains dual high-power 12inch LF drivers, 4 x 6.5-inch midrange units and 2 x three-inch throat compression drivers. The use of a special aluminium alloy for the integral rigging hardware, originally developed by Outline for GTO, contributes to the weight saving. This system also provides 12 different adjustment settings in the angle between connected GTO C-12 cabinets. GTO C-12 is fully compatible with the Outline GTO-SUB, DBS 18-2 and LAB 21 HS subwoofers. Outline can also supply suitable DSP controller presets for any combination of GTO C-12 and Outline subwoofers. Outline’s design team are developing a new lightweight flybar for GTO C-12 that will allow up to twelve GTO C-12 cabinets to be flown from a single one-tonne flying point.

RME has come up with what it’s claiming is the world’s first USB 3.0 audio interface — okay, we won’t argue. Without doubt RME has certainly designed a clever box of tricks that finally makes intelligent use of the massive bandwidth USB 3.0 has to offer. From the front the MADIface XT looks like your bog-standard twochannel interface, right? Nope, look closer. The rear panel reveals three MADI I/O connections capable of carrying 64 channels each, plus two XLR line outputs and one AES/EBU I/O – a total of 196 audio inputs and 198 audio outputs when you include the two mic/line inputs and stereo phones output on the front. You also get several MIDI ports via USB, MADI and DIN. What are you going to do with all this audio? The MADIface XT uses an external PCI Express and USB 3.0 ports to guarantee high-speed data transfer and sufficient bandwidth. Critics might immediately point out that no one has developed a reliable USB 3.0 chipset and RME’s reply is — the company developed its own. RME assures it has tested the XT to the limits without a single audio glitch. Still, the MADIface XT needs a few more tweaks and we probably won’t see in shops for a few months. RME is also tossing around figures like 2000 Euro, but nothing’s definite. More info at

Ambient Technology: (03) 9689 1777 or

~2000 Euro |

Innovative Music: (03) 9540 0658 or

CERWIN-VEGA P-SERIES $1199 & $1499 |

Cerwin-Vega has put all its eggs into… well, two baskets with its new P-Series professional PA system. Rather than offer a herd of different cabinet sizes and configurations, the P-Series is only two active speaker products, the P1500X and the P1800SX. The P-Series P1500X is a twoway, bi-amped, full-range bass-reflex speaker with a 15-inch woofer and high-frequency compression driver, powered by a custom 1500W Class-D amp. A proprietary hemi-conical horn provides enhanced sound clarity over an even and wide coverage area. A built-in mixer with I/O connections allows for simple setup and provides enhanced EQ, ‘Vega Bass’ boost and

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high-pass filters. The P1500X can be used as a FOH speaker or side mounted as a floor monitor for a band. The P1800SX, a powered subwoofer, uses an 18-inch woofer with a custom 2000W Class-D amp. Like the P1500X, the P1800SX has frequency-shaping controls, a Vega Bass boost and a high-pass filter switch (as a built-in crossover). Thru and Mix output options allow for system expansion and daisy-chain connections between components. Pricing in Australia is $1199 and $1499 respectively and stock is available. Australian Musical Imports: (03) 8696 4600 or



The great Digital Dividend auction has happened. Our wireless spectrum has been sold off to the highest bidder. But Senator Conroy may be a little underwhelmed at the turnout to the big day with one-third of the bandwidth in the 700MHz band passing in. And what was supposed to be a great windfall for the government ended up a couple of billion dollars shy of the estimate. The highest bidder was Telstra, buying up two 20MHz chunks (one in the block designated for uplink, and the other for downlink), while Optus bought two 10MHz blocks. TPG was a surprise bidder in the 2.5GHz band, buying a small share for $13.5m, along with Telstra and Optus. The only carrier not taking a bite was, of course, Vodafone. In all, the dividend was just below $2b. The unsold spectrum is split into two blocks of 15MHz, one between 733-748MHz, and the other between 788-803MHz. And, as it happens, the lower block is right next to the 10MHz mid-band gap (which acts as an unoccupied buffer between the uplink and downlink zones). For a while, the Australian Wireless Audio Group (AWAG) has been petitioning the ACMA to be able to use the

mid-band gap for community-level wireless audio products. And combined with the adjacent unsold spectrum, it effectively leaves a 25MHz slab free — an even tastier slice that could potentially service wireless audio. Of course, Conroy could well decide to hold another auction tomorrow, but the market has already told him what the spectrum is worth, and if it was sold off more cheaply, Telstra and Optus would be none too happy. For now, it looks like the government may have to sit on the unsold spectrum until demand increases. What it means for users is that, yes, it’s likely your wireless devices such as mics and in-ears will continue to work in this unsold spectrum. But no, the use of them won’t be legally covered under the Low Interference Portable Devices (LIPD) class license from 2015. So, if you fancy hanging onto your wireless devices a little longer, then write a letter to Senator Conroy, or your local representative telling them how the use of this spectrum could be beneficial to your profession. You might just get a few more years yet out of your devices.







748 … 758



The two main distributors of wireless audio products are Syntec (which distributes Sennheiser) and Jands (Shure). Both companies have put together some great information websites and mobile applications to help everyone make the transition early, and not be left holding a useless mic in 2015.

“It’s real. It’s happening.” That’s the message that Jeff MacKenzie, Jands’ wireless road warrior, wants people to get. While anyone that’s been following the Digital Dividend knows the auction would always happen, for others it should be a wakeup call that the reality of the digital TV restack is one step closer to completion. And Jands isn’t sitting still. Its Ready For Digital website is up and running. On it you can find everything you need to know about what’s happening to the wireless spectrum in Australia. It pulls all the confusing tidbits and information updates into one spot. But crucially, rather than regurgitating the news about TV stations and the like, Jands distils the information as it pertains to what’s going on with wireless microphones. Jands is due to release its own app shortly, which will help users find clear spectrum. But at the moment, you can keep up to date by checking out the all-in-one Frequency Guide. It lists all current TV station blockings, where they’ll be after the restack, the date of the restack for that area/ station and plenty more. On top of that, it also shows the bandwidth of current Shure wireless devices and how they relate to your area, which is a great resource. The site will also suggest which model you should update to, based on what you already have. If, after you’ve visited the site, you’re still having trouble getting your head around what all this means for you, make sure to catch one of Jeff’s presentations. He’ll be at all the upcoming tradeshows, and they’re well-worth checking out. You can also sign up for the Shure Wireless Workbench school presentations in Sydney and Melbourne on the website.

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803 MHZ

SYNTEC Syntec recently debuted Frequency Finder, an up-to-date web and mobile app that analyses your position and lets you know exactly what spectrum is available for wireless audio use, and the parts of the spectrum TV stations are using to broadcast in your area. It’s a great way of keeping on top of the ever-changing 700MHz spectrum as the restack process is carried out and TV stations jump around the spectrum. You can check out our guide to using it on Another key part of Syntec’s operation is its wireless buy-back scheme. The idea is pretty simple: Take any brand of old or non-compatible wireless microphone system to a Sennheiser dealer and they will give you a trade-in offer on a new Sennheiser system that will work perfectly for your application. It’s a one-for-one deal, so don’t expect to swap 10 faulty no-name receivers for a top-of-the-line system. Once you’ve done a deal, you can feel good about the fact that your old unit will go straight to Sims Metal Management for proper recycling, saving it from being just another addition to landfill and keeping hazardous materials out of action.

Apollo 16

16x16 Cross-platform and future-ready. Apollo boasts Mac and Windows 7 compatibility, plus a Thunderbolt option* for ultra high-bandwidth connectivity to the latest Macs and peripherals.

16 analog inputs and outputs. Apollo 16 puts all analog I/O on DB-25 connections — perfect for interfacing with mixing consoles, outboard processors, cue systems, and more. Cascade two units for up to 32 channels of analog I/O.

Raising the standard. Again. Introducing Apollo 16. Universal Audio’s flagship 192 kHz audio interface, delivering world-class conversion with twice the analog connectivity of the original Apollo. With stunning sound and Realtime UAD Processing, it’s raising the standard, again. Distributed by CMI Music & Audio: ©2013 Universal Audio Inc. All features and specifications subject to change. *Apollo and Apollo 16 interfaces are Mac/Win7 compatible; Thunderbolt Option Card is Mac-only and sold separately.

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SSSH, IT’S A NEW SENNHEISER SSSH Audio were the first to take delivery of Sennheiser’s new flagship wireless system, the digital 9000 series. And its first gig? The Logies. Story: Mark Davie

when I first call him, he’s getting pulled by the lei towards a luau — lucky (Hawaiian) duck. Likewise, Brendan works on a lot of TV shows, in fact, the first show he used the 9000 system on was the TV Week Logies. If it had stuffed up, the entire broadcast industry would know. Talk about a baptism of fire.

SSSH Audio recently took delivery of Sennheiser’s flagship wireless system, the digital 9000 series, and they’d rather you kept it to yourself. While Sennheiser’s Australian distributors Syntec might have something to say about it, SSSH Audio would be perfectly happy if not another 9000 unit made it into the market. Why? It’s their competitive advantage. While Shure’s Axient product line has helped transform mega-event wireless systems, the first word on broadcasters lips is still German. And right now, the 9000 is the cream of Sennheiser’s wireless crop.


SSSH Audio is made up of Colin Swan and Brendan Drinan, two professionals that decided to start a company together dedicated to providing wireless audio with zero dropouts. So far, so good, they reckon — not a single bit of hiss, or any instantaneous interruption to report. Colin’s other main gig is traipsing around exotic locations with TV show Postcards, and

The system is intended to be an eight-channel device (the screen layout, case size and

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In fact, the Logies was the first time Brendan had ever used the system on a gig. So if setting up was going to be an issue, he would have found out the hard way. At the core of the 9000 system is the EM9046 receiver that’s tuneable from 470-798MHz, though the operating frequency range depends on which transmitter you purchase, with each of the four transmitter bands extending through a wide range of 88MHz.

connection panels are all geared to handle eight channels) but purchasers are able to tailor the number of DRX processing modules installed from one up to eight. That said, it’s not a plug-nplay operation — the distributor has to crack the unit open — and if you buy eight channels worth, it works out to roughly $11,000 per channel, so you can’t exactly dip your toes in. THE FAT WILL FLY

The 9000 system has two modes of operation: Long Range (LR) and High Definition (HD). Long Range uses the Sennheiser Digital Audio Codec (SeDAC), while HD provides uncompressed audio. That’s right, no data compression, over wireless. Using Sennheiser’s HD mode, what comes out of the A/D conversion stage at the transmitter is exactly what gets transmitted to the receiver. Analogue wireless devices had to use compansion that limited dynamic range in order to transmit the signal. D9000 has none of this in either mode.

It means that, according to Brendan, the 9000 series passed the ‘keys test’ with flying colours. Most wireless mics struggle to transmit the sound of car keys being jangled in front of them. “The compansion is trying to handle those really short, sharp, high transients. It just can’t hack it,” explained Colin. “Another example is a cooking segment when the fat starts spitting in the pan, I’ve had radio microphones sound terrible. You can hear all the weird artefacts. Sennheiser has totally gotten rid of that in the HD mode, it’s about as good as a cable.” “Mind you I have heard other sound guys tell me their plug-in transmitters sound better than a cable,” said Brendan. “I don’t know how they come up with that!” Though there are limitations to using HD mode. “HD mode is 10mW transmit, which would work for onstage purposes,” said Brendan. “You lose range because the power is a lot lower. The Long Range mode runs at 25mW, which is fine for a room application.” The night of The Logies Brendan ran the system in LR mode because the main event is held at The Palladium in Crown Casino in Melbourne, and performers could be anywhere in the 1500 capacity (banquet mode) venue. “The artist might walk all the way off stage to the other end of the room,” said Brendan. As for the range: “We were running the handhelds in LR mode from the stage and the FOH guy was chatting on them at the other end of the room to tune the system. He had his hand over the antenna as well and it wasn’t dropping out. We had it running in HD mode at the other end of the room as well, but we didn’t run with it on the night because it was a live night and our first time.” It was also the lowest noise floor they had ever heard in a system. “We had 15 channels of handhelds onstage and we had clean silence,” said Colin. “Usually when you’ve got 15 handhelds onstage you’ve got all this noise floor as well. It was fantastic.” IN IT TO SING IT

In a way, because most of the major networks want to use Sennheiser, the decision was already made for Brendan and Colin. But one of the key updates on the new system was to the handheld transmitters, and with talent shows like The Voice, Australian Idol, and much of Australia’s Got Talent relying on vocal performances, it puts them in the box seat for those jobs. Brendan: “The things about the 5200 series handhelds operators didn’t like have been resolved in the 9000 series microphone. A big complaint was they suffered from handling noise, and it’s such a lightweight microphone. Both have been addressed in this mic.” Colin: “Also, the newer series doesn’t pop as much. Broadcasters don’t like using windsocks because of the look. With these microphones

you can put the windsock on in the inside of the capsule, not on the outside. The mics are squarer in shape so they’re less likely to roll around, and they feel better than the 5200 transmitters.” Indeed, the 9000 transmitters do feel much nicer to hold than the 5200 versions — weightier, in a comfortable way. The system is different, it’s a screw-on system like the 2000 series, which immediately seems more robust. So far there are 12 different capsules available for the SKM9000 transmitter. There is a range of Neumann condenser and Sennheiser dynamic and condenser heads with different polar patterns and response characteristics. At the moment, SSSH Audio has Neumann and Sennheiser cardioid and supercardioid condenser heads, as well as a Sennheiser dynamic. BIG GAINS

There are loads of features packed into the 9000 series, and a lot of them are designed to make life easier. Colin points out a handy one: “You don’t have to add gain into the antenna anymore, it automatically boosts it back up at the receiver. And if you run a faulty BNC-to-BNC-type RF cable, it’ll let you know if the cable is faulty and you can replace it instead of running around trying to figure out what’s wrong.”

If it had stuffed up, the entire broadcast industry would know, talk about a baptism of fire

“The more cable you have, the more gain you need to get it back to zero,” said Brendan. “With the other system you had to guess, ‘Will I add 5dB or 10dB?’ The trouble is the more gain you add to the cable, the more shit you drag in, so there’s a trade-off.” THE LOGIES

At The Logies, Colin was doing the other RF component — the red carpet and The Today Show following the event. So he had 30-odd channels of 5000 series operating downstairs leaving Brendan upstairs with the 9000 series. So how did he find it? “It’s really easy to set up,” said Brendan. “The great thing about it is because of the incredibly steep filters, you can run 40 channels in a 24MHz frequency range without intermodulation, whereas in the analogue system the maximum was about 16. You’re more than doubling your channels within a given bandwidth. If you’ve got eight mics, you can easily find space for them in 40 channels. If you need more space, you just set up another eight rack with another pair of antennas to grab 40 more channels.” You can use Sennheiser’s Wireless System Manager (WSM), but Brendan found everything he needed to set up the system on the front panel LCD. “It’s simple because if you just run the 9000 series, you don’t have to worry about intermodulation anymore — you don’t have to plot frequencies. You just run it 600kHz apart in an area that’s clean and you should be fine.”

SSSH Audio’s Brendan Drinan all set to take on The Logies broadcast with a fresh Sennheiser 9000 series wireless rack.




TAKING THE HIGH RODE One of the most compelling features of iXY is its ability to record at 24-bit/96k. But it’s only possible with the $6 Rode REC app, which some might see as a Catch-22. Not wanting any iXY owners to come up short, Rode also released Rode REC LE. It’s a free version that opens up the 96k recording, just with limited EQ and cloud output (half Soundcloud capabilities and no Dropbox).

iXY, an accessory to your next iPhone hit. Review: Mark Davie

Rode has a knack for over-delivering. iXY is a case in point. While for some manufacturers the iDevices are just another opportunity to graft a few bucks from the general public with adjunct plastic bits ’n’ bobs. Rode has really bought into the design story of Apple’s devices and designed an accessory that would even satisfy Jonny Ives’ aesthetic sensibilities. iXY turns your iPad (1st to 3rd gen), iPhone 4 or 4S, and 4th gen iPod Touch into a 24-bit/96kcapable stereo microphone/recorder with the help of the Rode REC app. Unfortunately Rode was shocked by the same Lightning connector update as every other accessory maker. So while we may see an iPhone 5 compatible version in the future, this one is not. But no matter, there’s plenty of out of contract iPhone 4’s floating about. BETWEEN X & Y

Up top, iXY has two 1/2-inch cardioid capsules in a 90-degree, near-coincident stereo setup,




PRICE iXY - $199 Rode REC - $6.49 CONTACT Rode Microphones: (02) 9648 5855 or

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Check out this video to hear the difference between our office staple Zoom H4n and the Rode iXY at a roundabout, cafe, and at the station. Obviously there’s a bit of compression on there that deflates the 24-bit/96k capture, but it should give you an idea. Each is directly above the camera, level-matched in post, no processing.

PROS Quality build, yet small 24-bit/96k recording App makes all the difference

onboard preamp and A/D converter, all packaged into a svelte metal unit that slips right into a 30pin slot. It’s gorgeous. When you plug iXY in, and boot Rode REC, you can choose any sample rate from 8-96k. And as well as stereo recording, you can use either mic in mono if you’re doing some voiceover work on the fly, or even sum the stereo pair to mono. The real magic is in the Rode REC app, which slaps DAW functionality into a phone-sized touchscreen. After you’re done recording, flip the phone on its side and with your finger, you can fade in/out, adjust the curve of the fades, pinch to zoom, adjust region lengths, change gain or normalise a selection, slice or create a region, move it, copy it, do just about anything with it. THE META GAME

Once your track is manipulated into place, you can fill out metadata for AIFF, WAVE, Broadcast WAVE, CAF, Ogg Vorbis, iXML, Radio Traffic and Soundcloud. Use some compression, expansion and EQ, adjust playback speed, and share it straight to Soundcloud, link to Dropbox, FTP it, email it, share it via iTunes, or even access it via a web browser. After getting frustrated with the speed of Dropbox, which can be pretty slow, I tried the web access, and it’s fantastic. It quickly makes any recordings you’ve outputted available on your local network. Handy for downloading them to your computer if you couldn’t be bothered dealing with iTunes.

CONS 30-pin connector only at the moment

Rode has also included some handy preset processing from iZotope, with options for rumble and hiss reduction, compression and limiting, as well as situations you might find yourself in like a lecture or outdoor concert. You can also opt to monitor your signal, which is automatically turned off above 48k. Rode says it’s an iOS limitation, and seems to be the only thing holding Rode REC back. BUMPER CROP

The manipulation doesn’t stop there, one of the most useful features of Rode REC is the ability to import ‘bumpers’ into the app via iTunes file sharing. Handy if you’re live podcasting and need to get your show online asap. Just add your pre-recorded show intro and it’s ready to go. You can also use the bumpers feature to add iXY recordings together in the app. One of the only downsides is the labelling on the metering. There is none. You can change the ballistics between VU/Peak, VU/RMS and PPM Type 1, and scale between VU, K12, K14 and K20, which is great, but it gives you no indication of where you are on the scale till you hit orange, or red. Hopefully it’s something Rode can add in an update. The combo of iXY and Rode REC is far more formidable than a phone ‘accessory’ and an app should be. Not to mention it comes in a miniature moulded, zip-up case you can carabiner to your key chain, and a custom windsock. Rode’s on a winner with these two.

SUMMARY Calling iXY an iPhone accessory is almost an injustice. It’s a device that can hang off your keychain, but can turn the phone you already carry into a pocket recording studio. Genius. Just not for iPhone 5… yet.

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NICK CAVE & THE MAGICAL FABRIQUE Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds spent three weeks with Nick Launay recording in luxury in the French countryside, before holing up in Los Angelesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Seedy Underbelly to mix the beautifully honest album Push The Sky Away. Story: Paul Tingen Cover Image: Cat Stevens



“It seems this album is really touching people, more than any other album I have ever worked on,” mused producer Nick Launay at his home in Los Angeles Launay was talking about Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ 15th album Push The Sky Away. And considering the producer, mixer and engineer has worked on albums for Public Image Ltd, Midnight Oil, Kate Bush, David Byrne, INXS, Eric Clapton, Lou Reed, Arcade Fire, and more, for him to say that the response to Push The Sky Away has been stronger than any other album he’s been involved with is a big statement. But with a Metacritic rating of 8.2 out of 10, and reaching No. 1 in close to a dozen countries, he’s backed up by overwhelmingly favourable critical and public sentiment. Even the US is starting to bend to Cave’s charm, with the album hitting No. 29 on the Billboard charts. “People appear almost overwhelmed by it,” continued Launay. “I’m noticing women especially love it. The whole idea was to make a very touching and beautiful album. Not only does it sound organic and warm, with loops, squeaks, buzzes and hums deliberately kept in, its stories are told in an unusual way and with an incredible sense of humour, making the album very entertaining. In fact, every album I do with them is getting wilder and more unusual.” Outstanding albums don’t always have outstanding making-of stories, nor does an exceptionally inspired production process necessarily lead to great results, but as Launay related the story of the writing, recording, and mixing of the album, there were enough hints, details and anecdotes to at least partially explain Push The Sky Away’s greatness. FANTASTIQUE FABRIQUE

The London-born Launay first worked with Nick Cave right at the beginning of his studio career, in 1981, on a single for the Australian’s post-punk band The Birthday Party. The two re-united in 2002 when Launay recorded, mixed and produced Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ album Nocturama (2003). Since then the band lost a founding member with every album: Blixa Bargeld was AT 38

Launay: “I recorded Nick’s vocals with a Neumann M49, going into a Neve 1081, a Tube-Tech CL1B, and then to ProTools. All the vocals on this album were original takes done with the band, and were not overdubs apart from a couple of songs where Nick had changed the lyrics. With the Bad Seeds many decisions about what take to use are based on the vocal performance.”

no longer there for Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus (2004) and Mick Harvey left before Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (2008), but Launay, as producer, remained a constant. Launay and Cave also worked together on two albums by Grinderman, Grinderman (2007) and Grinderman 2 (2010). Push The Sky Away is by far the most introverted and atmospheric of the albums Cave and Launay have worked on together. It wasn’t exactly planned that way, but when the ensemble decamped to La Fabrique studios in the French countryside, surrounded by gorgeous grounds, a pool, wine and good food, the soothing effect of these environmental anodynes conspired to bring out something far more filmic and expansive than anything they had previously done. “The environment definitely helped,” agreed Launay. “One thing that also played a part was that Nick and Warren [Ellis, multi-instrumentalist] have been doing quite a bit of film music in recent years, so they’ve been breaking down the whole rock approach of music needing to have a drumbeat with a snare on two and four. I’ve also been doing some film music, so we all recognised that the most important thing is the way music makes people feel. “Nick also had fantastic words, poems, stories to tell and feelings to share, many of which were written before the music existed, so the process was a matter of everyone trying to find the right music for the lyrics. This contrasted with the way previous Bad Seeds albums were done, with most of the songs written by Nick before the recordings, and the band rehearsing, then recording them very fast in the studio. Whereas The Grinderman records started with the band jamming, messing with sounds and loops, then Nick writing lyrics to that — the exact opposite of the way Push The Sky Away came into being. “Each of Nick’s albums have a different feel. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! was recorded in four days at Terry Brittan’s State of the Ark Studios in London


While the picturesque La Fabrique certainly had a strong impact on Push The Sky Away, the record had its genesis elsewhere. Launay: “The album was done in three parts, and the first happened before Christmas 2011. Nick called me up and said that he wanted to try recording some ideas at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne — one of my favourite studios in the world. I flew out to see a Grinderman gig at the Meredith Festival on December 11, and the day after we went to the Neve room at Sing Sing where there’s a vintage Neve with 1073s. We jammed for four days with Nick, Warren, Thomas [Wydler, drums], and Marty [Casey, bass]. They were simply throwing ideas around to see what would happen, though the possibility that it could become an album was in the back of our minds. We recorded absolutely everything, made notes of the good bits and also did rough mixes of them, and then we all went off to do other things. Later, in the spring of 2012, Nick and Warren got together twice in a small studio in Brighton, England, to play around with things and come up with some new ideas. They also recorded with [bassist and Bad Seeds co-founder member] Barry Adamson, and at that point we all felt that we had the makings of an album. It was then that Nick booked La Fabrique for three weeks, which is a very extravagant amount of time for The Bad Seeds!

WARREN ELLIS Launay: “Because I never knew what Warren was going to play, I took feeds from absolutely everything. I had DIs before and after pedals, even though we rarely used the DI signals in the mix. They were more for backup, and I’d usually re-amp them. I always had two mics on his amps, usually a Beyerdynamic M88 up close, and a tube mic further away, like a Neumann CMV lollipop mic, both of which went through a Neve 1081 mic preamp, two Urei 1176 compressors, and then into ProTools. He plays violin and viola, and although they go through an amp, I also mic’ed them acoustically with a Bock 507 microphone going through an 1176. The Bock microphones are handmade by David Bock in the same manner as vintage microphones and sound even better than the originals. I recorded Warren’s flute with the same mic, or maybe an AKG C12.”

— incredibly fast by anyone’s standards. Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus was recorded in Studio Ferber in Paris — a fantastic studio that absolutely affected the way that record sounds. And there was a deliberate idea behind the making of Push The Sky Away. I was asked to look for a residential studio in the UK so we could all stay there and really focus on the recordings and feelings we were getting without having to deal with hotels and getting cabs every morning. But I couldn’t find any residential studios in the UK that didn’t have an SSL. I prefer recording on a Neve or any other vintage desk, and it appears that every beautiful English desk made in the 1970s has been sold to the US. It’s a real shame. I spent my first 10 years recording on SSLs, but once I encountered a Neve, I immediately thought: ‘my goodness, this sounds so much more natural, the headroom is much higher, and the depth of sound so much better.’ And the bands that I work with benefit from the honest sound I get by using vintage desks. “I was really frustrated I couldn’t find a suitable residential studio in the UK, and in the end I asked my friend [producer] Nigel Godrich if he knew any. He suggested I check out La Fabrique, which is close to where he occasionally lives, in the southeast of France. I visited the website, and it looked great. It has a 72-channel Neve 88R desk in a huge control room, and is located in a large old house with an incredible history — for example, the dye for the uniforms of Napoleon’s army was made there. Nick went to visit the place and immediately loved it. He called me while he was still there and said, “The studio has a great vibe, with no overhead lighting. I’ve booked it!” The studio, and the house as a whole, has a very homely atmosphere, with lampshades, and thousands of classical vinyl records stored in woodpanelled shelving. The Neve desk is quite new and doesn’t have a lot of character, but it’s clean and clear, has a lot of headroom and at least it doesn’t sound like shit!”

“We reviewed the stuff that was recorded at Sing Sing and in Brighton and found that parts of it were really good, with a great vibe, and some of it ended up on the album. The basic tracks for Jubilee Street, Finishing Jubilee Street and Higgs Boson Blues were all recorded at Sing Sing. And although the Brighton recordings were intended to be demos, we also used the bass tracks played by Barry on Finishing Jubilee Street and Push The Sky Away. Almost everything else was recorded at La Fabrique. “All the music is based on loops that Warren would make up using various instruments and his sample pedals. He has two Boomerangs, which are very old and probably still 8-bit, a couple of Eventide pedals, a Digitech Jam Man Stereo Looper/Phraser pedal and a Boss RC30 Dual Track Looper pedal, plus a lot of distortion, EQ and other pedals. He plays with them and his instruments [violin, viola, tenor guitar, mandolin, flute, synthesiser, electric piano] until he gets something that feels good, and then the band plays to the loops. The loops often have odd ‘mistakes’ in them, are never consistent, aren’t necessarily in 4/4, and it can be debatable where they start and end. It always led to interesting things! All our decisions about the music were about what felt good and not about whether something was correct or not, so we kept things like the out of tune tenor guitar in Jubilee Street because we liked the vibe!” FOLLOW THE MAGIC FLUKE

Launay added that although he’s still a big fan of the sound of analogue tape, he recorded Push The Sky Away on ProTools at 24-bit/96k because they wanted to be able to extensively edit the recordings. “Our aim was to capture all the performances and then distil and edit all the bits of magic that we had recorded. Especially Warren’s loops, which are a real mysterious thing. He’s tinkering and tinkering, and suddenly it sounds great. They’re often like some magic fluke, and it would have been impossible to recreate or replace them. Sometimes we would record his loop and the band would play to that, but more often than not he’d trigger it live. Most songs were played for much longer than needed, and editing was part of the arrangement process. We’d chop things down to a length that would keep the listener’s attention and then edit further, swap things around, overdub, and so on. For example, the original jam at Sing Sing for Jubilee Street was 20 minutes long, and we cut it down and edited sections together, which meant that there are sudden changes in tempo. “In the past my job as a producer was to do pre-production with a band and help them arrange their songs as best as possible, and then go into the studio to record them performing these arrangements as best as they could. This is where analogue tape worked well, and I might do razor-blade edits between takes (in some cases up to 30 per song!) to get the best feeling. But this album wasn’t done that way. Instead it was a lot about cutting, editing and moving things around in a track. We would AT

PIANO Launay: “Because Nick usually plays piano while he sings, I had to find ways to isolate the two. For this I use a microphone that fits into the piano with the lid down, the AKG C12B, which looks a bit like a 414. I have two C12Bs and, with permission of the piano owner, I use two layers of gaffer tape to construct a suspension bridge over the metal piano frame, and tape the mics to that, so they are suspended over the strings. The lid stays down, and I very often seal the underside of the piano as well. The sound I get in this way is very dead and close-sounding, but actually works surprisingly well. The piano mics go into Neve 1081s if I have enough of them, or API 550s. With electric pianos, like the Wurlitzer or Fender Rhodes, I’d have a DI and also a mic on the amp. Another keyboard that was often used during the sessions was the MicroKorg, which is almost like a toy keyboard, but it has some really cool sounds in it. We tended to put it through guitar pedals so the sounds aren’t so obvious. Wherever you hear a synthesiser on the album, it was a bastardised MicroKorg.”

BASS Launay: “The bass went into an old 8x10 Ampeg SVT cabinet and then a DI going into a Drawmer 1960 compressor, and it was miked up with a Sennheiser MD412 as a close mic and a Shure SM57 as a more distant mic, which went through a UREI 1176. The latter gives me a lot of grit for songs that need it.”

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sometimes move an entire vocal take slightly in time to get the best feeling. These are all things that ProTools is great for. We never abused ProTools to get technically perfect recordings, like fit the drums to a grid or tune things. Every decision was based on how things felt, and probably half of what’s on the album is technically wrong. But if it felt good, we would use it, or even exaggerate it. This is what my job as a producer is all about: capturing and recognising great bits of magic, and then editing and manipulating them — ProTools is an incredible tool for that.”

whisper to extremely loud, which meant I had compressors on all microphones. Most of the time they were just ticking over, but if the band started playing really loud the recording wouldn’t overload in an unusable way.

The mandate to capture absolutely everything, while continuously editing and crafting rough mixes meant Launay had to dig deep into every bit of skill and know-how he has amassed over 30 years of working in studios. “I had to be really on the ball with no space for distractions, no picking up of cell phones or anything,” said Launay. “It was a matter of being ‘on’ all the time. Warren may start playing one instrument, and then halfway through decide to pick up another one, and the very first thing he plays on that second instrument may be the bit that we need. So I had to set things up in such a way that no matter what and when he played, it was going to sound great. It was the same with everyone else. Also, The Bad Seeds have the greatest dynamic range of any band that I’ve worked with, going from a


“I always tried to catch things with two different mics, so I could later choose one, or a combination of the two and play off the differences between the mics against each other using phase reversal or time shift in ProTools. You can create many different sounds like that.” The La Fabrique sessions began on June 24, 2012. And two weeks into the three-week booking, Launay said they had essentially finished their work. They spent the last week trying different things, but deep down it was mostly an excuse to spend a few more days in the studio’s idyllic surroundings! On July 15th they loaded any rented gear from the UK into the truck and drove back north. Everyone took a break for one and a half months, after which Launay began to mix the record at Seedy Underbelly Studios in Los Angeles, a place he rents from a friend for up to eight months a year. Seedy Underbelly is a tiny studio filled to the brim with Launay’s favourite gear, including a late ’80s 32-channel API Legacy desk and Adam P22 monitors.

“I’ve mixed almost every album I’ve done in the last 12 years at Seedy Underbelly,” explained Launay. “The desk is pretty much identical to the ’70s API desks, which may sound a little rounder and warmer, but not by much. API desks are relatively simple and the electronics are very similar. They sound great. I like them because they don’t give me a mushy low end. When I record an album on a Neve and also mix it on a Neve, it ends up so fat-sounding that it gets too big and flabby and you end up EQ-ing things during mastering. So I prefer to mix on an API. The one at Seedy Underbelly has Uptown automation that runs on a Windows 98 computer. It’s very basic mix automation, but I like it. It does what it needs to do: move the faders up and down and cuts, and you can store your mix. What more do you need? I love my Adam P22 monitors. I have a pair in Seedy Underbelly, and a pair in the UK I took to La Fabrique. I used to work on Yamaha NS10s, but I found they sound too harsh when working with ProTools, which prompted me to look for speakers you can listen to at high volume all day long without getting fatigue. The P22s have ribbon tweeters that help a lot. “Warren and Nick came over to LA to mix the album at Seedy Underbelly. The way we worked was I’d go in one or two hours before them, and I’d set up a basic mix, then they’d come in with fresh ears and give their comments, and I’d take it from there. Most of the mixes at Seedy Underbelly were very quick, usually taking between five to six hours for each song, after which I’d spend time laying down the various mix takes and stems. My mix process is I first get a basic balance of the entire song, and then EQ and compress things to make them work together, while doing minimal fader movements and only very rarely solo-ing. I find that your mixes flow better and sound more natural that way. It’s different from the days when I mixed on SSLs. I would solo certain sounds, like the kick or snare, and then would put the whole thing together, hoping everything would fit — sometimes it didn’t! “What I do very often, and with this album in particular, is that once I get the mix to a place where I feel that it is pretty good, I will listen to the rough mix again. Many of the rough mixes I did in France were really vibey. They were very simple, but really worked, so I didn’t want to stray too far from them. Instead I’d just try to improve on the rough mixes a little bit. In fact, there are two songs on this album that are the rough mixes I did at La Fabrique: We No Who U R and Push The Sky Away. These rough mixes had a magic that I can only describe as: they were distorted in a really good way!’ At Seedy Underbelly I added new backing vocals to the rough mix of We No Who U R, and also mixed in a bit of a loop by Warren that sounds a bit like a space ship. I obviously couldn’t recall the La Fabrique mixes, because they had been done on a completely different desk, but I will very often take photos of the desk for reference of a rough mix and refer to these. “My main gear at Seedy Underbelly consists of eight Neve 1081s and eight Neve 1073s and compressors like the ELI Distressor, and Drawmer noise gates, an EMT 140 plate reverb, a Furman spring reverb — which is pretty cheap, $300, mono, and sounds like a guitar amp reverb — and a Roland RE301 tape echo, which was a major part of the sound of this album. I have all the outboard I use for mixing more or less permanently wired into the board, and lay the mix out so the kick is always on the same channel, and the snare, and so on. I didn’t actually use many effects for the mixes on Push The Sky Away. It’s quite a natural-sounding album. There are a couple of tricks I always use, like a gated Sansamp PSA-1 on the kick drum and I like to compress the snare a lot with a Distressor. I usually have the snare uncompressed on one channel and I’ll compress it on another channel that I will dull down so the hi-hat spill doesn’t pump unnaturally, and I’ll mix that in with the uncompressed snare. So I use the compressed snare sound for low midrange and low end and the non-compressed snare for the top end. “Because Warren used loads of pedals, most of the effects were already in the sounds. So all I did was add a little Furman spring reverb, EMT vintage plate or a slap back echo from the Roland RE301. I used the same effects on the vocals, as well as the dual Tube-Tech LCA 2B compressor. I’ll also compress the room mics a lot. The Urei 1176 is really good for that because it adds quite a lot around 2-3kHz and also distorts in that area, which makes the effect very exciting. But because you can lose a bit of low end and get these exaggerated high-mids they’re not as good for vocals, because they tend to bring out the ‘ess’-es. Instead I’ll often use the Tube Tech CL1A on vocals,

DRUMS Launay: “For the drums I usually had a Beyerdynamic M88 on the kick, and I EQ lots of low end into that. The snare had a Shure SM57 or a Unidyne 57, toms I recorded with AKG C414s, overheads were Neumann KM84s, Schoeps 402 pencil mic on hi-hats, all of them going into 1081s, if I have enough. If not, I’ll always use 1081s on the kick, snare and hi-hats, and will use whatever desk is available for the other mics, so in this case the Neve. I always had room mics at La Fabrique because everything is happening so quickly and they often started recording before I had even managed to set levels, so I had two Neumann U87s as room mics, going into two API 550 EQs and then two UREI 1176s with minimal compression, as well as a tube mic like a Bock or a C12 with lots of compression.”


La Fabrique’s control room. A 72-channel Neve 88R dominates the room, while a tantalising library of vinyl invites further investigation.

which is modelled on the 1176 but it doesn’t have the mid-range boost. It sounds very warm and works great on Nick’s vocals.” MEAT IN THE MIDDLE

Launay is proud to declare that he uses a hybrid of analogue and digital gear in his work. “I use analogue and digital absolutely 50/50, and I am very happy with that. There are things I can do in ProTools that I could never do in the analogue domain, particularly very detailed things and problem-solving. I basically do all the broad strokes in analogue, on the desk using the faders and with outboard, and detailed adjustments in ProTools before it goes out to the desk. But on this album I also used several plug-ins for controlled digital distortion, like the SoundToys Decapitator on bass, and sometimes on the vocal, as well as on Warren’s stuff. In the past I’d use compressors like the Gates on the kick drum, but I found the Decapitator pretty much captures all these things. It has five buttons that allow you to change the tone and to find the best harmonic distortion for the sound. “In addition I also used the EchoFarm plug-in a lot, which emulates vintage echo machines. I’m a bit worried that ProTools 10 doesn’t support TDM anymore, and EchoFarm is TDM only. I also use the Waves DeEsser, which is amazing. De-essers compress a certain frequency in a very narrow bandwidth, so you can also use them to get rid of low booms and other sounds, so I use de-essers to get rid of all kinds of sounds I don’t like. I also often use the ProTools EQ3, as a notch filter. It doesn’t do much sonically — i.e. it doesn’t make the sound warmer or colder — but it’s a AT 42

great tool to boost or cut very specific frequencies. The SoundToys Crystallizer is another favourite plug-in, as well as the Devil-Loc, which is great. I do a lot of controlled distortion! And I use the Waves Expander/ Gate a lot.

The loops often have odd ‘mistakes’ in them… and it can be debatable where they start and end. It always led to interesting things!

“The stereo mixes went through two EAR compressors, and then two Neve 1081s, with which I added a bit of top and bottom and sometimes a bit of 2kHz, just brightening up the mix and making it thicker. The mixes went back into ProTools via Lavry AD 122-96 converters. I also use a Lavry digital clock, because the main problem with ProTools is the clocking. So all the above is how I make up for not using analogue tape! The other reason for no longer mixing to ½-inch tape is that mixing stems back into ProTools allows me to adjust my mixes afterwards. For example, we may have chosen Mix 4, but then I might decide there’s one section where I want the snare a bit louder. So I just get the snare stem and feed that in, or if I want the snare less loud, I’ll put the snare stem slightly out of phase so it subtracts. You could never do that before. Using ProTools allows me to have my cake and eat it!

“I’m still not 100% happy with the sound of ProTools, even though 24-bit/96k is a big improvement over 44.1k or 48k. I recorded Push The Sky Away on 24/96, but the reality is that 80% of people will end up listening to the album on MP3. That may be sad and frustrating, but it’s the truth. So as long as I am happy with the warmth and the feeling of my mixes, in part because I use a lot of analogue gear while recording and mixing, then I am OK with recording to ProTools and mixing back into ProTools. I could have mixed to ½–inch and then back into ProTools, but it’s arguable whether that would have made any noticeable difference to the sound. More often than not, all it ends up doing is cutting off the transients, and you end up trying to get them back during mastering, using EQ. You can easily go round in circles, and in the end it’s better to simply accept that people listen on MP3 or, at best, at 16-bit/44.1k. So I use ProTools, and every trick in the book I have learnt over many years to make my recordings and mixes sound as good as possible. I think I managed to make Push The Sky Away sound pretty analogue, despite the fact no analogue tape was used. I am really satisfied with the way it came out. It’s interesting that the album has struck a chord with so many people. It’s nicely surprising, and it also gives us hope!”




















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Story: Christopher Holder & Abigail Sie

The budget is huge, the stakes are high and the pressures are enormous. AT goes behind the scenes to understand what it takes to work on a Baz Luhrmann epic.

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No one’s wingeing. Especially not after you actually see the film. Love it or hate it (and a Baz Luhrmann film does tend to polarise) The Great Gatsby is a sumptuous production where music and, indeed, audio commands a very prominent position. But working on a Baz film is not just a job, it’s an ordeal. And I mean ‘ordeal’ in the medieval sense of the word: where key personnel are driven to the very edge of their capacities and endurance, then on… right off the scale to the point of physical and mental collapse. Like I said, no one’s wingeing. Most of Baz’s team has worked with the director before and know exactly what they’re signing up for. And none of this is some kinda trade secret, it’s common knowledge and on the public record just how challenging it is to work with Baz. When you hear professionals talk about Baz, he’s described as a force of nature. A disarmingly charming raconteur. A visionary. An iconoclast. A reactionary even. Naturally, what’s implied very often is the Yin to the Baz Yang: a side that’s as often infuriating as it is inspiring, a dimension that can simply make you sit in a dark corner and weep as much as it can elevate you to places you didn’t know you could go. In short, working on a Baz film will leave you utterly spent. BLOCKBUSTER BUILDUP

AT caught up with a number of the key audio personnel in the weeks after The Great Gatsby’s completion. For these guys there was still some of the demeanour of a hostage victim fronting the media for the first time after a year in solitary confinement. And it has been about a year. Last March Tim Ryan, Supervising Music Editor, fired up the Gatsby machine at Trackdown Studios, Sydney, where he’s one of the directors/owners. Meanwhile, Sound Designer and Re-recording Engineer, Wayne Pashley, was collecting sounds and working out of his Big Bang Studio in Sydney. But it wasn’t until the beginning of this year that the Gatsby machine really kicked into overdrive. Wayne, Tim and fellow mix engineer Phil Heywood decamped to StudioOne, at Deluxe in Sydney. During the ensuing three months the final mix of the key audio components — dialogue, atmos, FX, and music — came together. And here’s where you had to grit your teeth and keep yourself ‘nice’ because the final mix was never final. What’s hard to describe is how often the goal posts moved. In fact, more than that, how often the goal posts were replaced, or turned upside down, painted mauve, chopped into random toothpicks, and glued back together to form the statue of David. The movie was edited endlessly almost until the moment it was delivered. FLAPPERS TO RAPPERS

Much has been made of how the music is like another character intricately woven into the film. Leading the charge was Jay-Z, taking on the role of Executive Producer and ensuring the sound track would have the necessary street cred. He, Baz and his long-time lieutenant Anton Monsted, worked to harness the energy and riskiness of modern day artists to evoke the danger and excitement of the fresh jazz sounds of the Gatsby era. Wayne Pashley elaborates: Wayne Pashley: Baz made an interesting call with music. He put himself in the position of Fitzgerald, back in 1922, when jazz was new. Louis Armstrong was just hitting his stride and all that big band material was very new. So with that same concept, he took what Gatsby would be experiencing today in modern music, and put it in this film. The great thing he did, though, was not just throw in a Jay-Z rap. He combined it with extraordinary material from the Bryan Ferry Jazz Orchestra. And now you have tunes of that era intermixed into Jay Z, Will.i.Am, Fergie, The XX.

It’s a mash of styles that actually does relate to what was probably happening in 1922 in the way Fitzgerald would have seen it; that sort of new age of music and the excitement of it. It’s a great strength of the film. AT: Was it difficult to pull together something that resembled a common DNA throughout the underscore and the featured songs? Tim Ryan: It was a big challenge. Often the source cues were augmented by newly recorded jazz overlays, giving them that common DNA you’re talking about. Craig Armstrong’s score you could say lived in a fairly traditional place, as underscore in the movie, and would be used to expose some of the main themes — the Gatsby theme, the Dark Gatsby theme — they could anchor the whole sound track. Then the source music could be the breakouts from that. But it was those jazz underpinnings that helped to glue it together. And when you marry that to the picture it all helps to make sense. WP: One of the biggest challenges was the use of voiceover against that sort of music. It’s Nick Carraway [the narrator] telling the story and no one is going to thank you if the voiceover is not heard. And with so much voiceover it’s sometimes quite a compromise between where you feel you want to push the music and let the voice tell the story in a natural and smooth way. I hope we’ve succeeded there. AT: Did the music arrive in such a way that it was easy to control in the mix? WP: It depended on the artist delivering it and their understanding of the requirements of film, in terms of stereo versus 5.1, things like that. That was probably the biggest deal for us, to make them understand that we needed the mono track so we could then segue into 5.1 on the vocals, for example. And Tim mentions the score [written by Craig Armstrong who worked on Moulin Rouge with Baz], which is absolutely sensational and really acted as subtext. Plus, it was a joy to mix because the themes Craig wrote are so rich, yet had so much air in them that they never stepped on the dialogue. AT: Music really is the star here. TR: It’s wall to wall music. In fact, I can only think of one scene in the entire film without music. WP: Yes, and there’s an interesting story there as well. It’s an eightminute scene and the climax of the film — a showdown of the protagonists — and Baz always maintained there would be no music. In the book this scene is also set on the hottest day of the year. Each character had a fan blowing on them; porters were bringing in buckets of ice. That was probably the most challenging thing, to get the heat happening and, when it comes to audio, it’s pretty hard to get heat happening without insects. Basically, New York City and the fans in the room were used like score. We started by using the city and all its construction and making it musical: horns, the construction of the Empire State Building, distant hammering and sirens. Then we recorded all of the 1920s fans on each character and used the different tonal aspects of each, even down to rattling of the blades and things like that, to increase the tension. Plus ADR, breathing, all those sorts of things, it all came together in the mix and then we would play it back and work out where the moments of tension needed to be put and where we should move away. The performance of the cast is extraordinary. So I hope we’ve backed them up.


Baz Luhrmann attends a Florence and the Machine session.


AT: I’m guessing in those last three months of the final mix the number of audio channels to deal with was astronomical? TR: Technically, it was a lot to wrangle. As far as the music goes, each orchestral cue would typically comprise 15 stems, 5.1 wide (90 tracks). Then there would be overlaps [one cue running into another] with the same number of tracks again (180 tracks). Then we would have the breakout tracks as well that could easily be 100 tracks wide, what with multiple vocals, jazz overlays… the trackcount very easily racked up. I recall for Spool 2 we hit the 512-voice wall a couple of times and had to strip it back. For the final mix we would have our own music rig on the mix stage. I would be there with my pre-mixed music mixes, and I’d send stems to Wayne and Phil via 48 outputs from my ProTools I/O. That might sound like a lot to have active at any one time. But we needed to keep all our options open, even so late in the process. The demands on Baz were such that it was a struggle to get enough review time with him and sign-off on the finals. Combine that with Baz’s penchant for constantly reinventing material right up to the 11th hour and you really did need to remain as flexible as you possibly could. WP: It was a lot to deal with but I have to give credit to the crew and how efficient we became. We could turn around a 20-minute spool in a day. Besides the conform [realigning/adjusting the audio to match the newly edited visuals], suddenly we might spot a steam train passing through an environment that wasn’t there before. So the steam train would get tracklayed and we’d hit the mixing stage (StageOne at Deluxe) by 5:30 that afternoon, we’d conform the Neve and we would mix it in live, no predub first, and we’d be done by 8:00. So that’s how fast we were able to pull it together. That went on for three months. AT: How did you tool up to deal with the onslaught, Tim? TR: When the workload was ramping up in 2012 and Craig Beckett joined me at Trackdown as a music editor, I realised there was no way — with the amount of material coming in — that we were going to be able to maintain our own local versions and keep them in sync. So we installed a Synology NAS (server) system. Also around that time we upgraded our ’Tools rigs to HDX2 on fullyloaded Mac Pros. I could see that there was no way we were going to be able to cover this with 256 voices. One thing that made life faster and easier to respond to changes, was to have the tempo maps from all the orchestral recordings — any tempo maps we could get our hands on. Work in tempo maps always made things a whole lot faster. The other thing to note was the project was entirely in 48k. I don’t think we could have done this film in 96k. It would have been too wide.

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AT: Just to go back a step. Wayne, how did you approach the overall sound design of this film? WP: The directive from Baz was quite simple but very potent. It was: Protect Fitzgerald. Basically there were two authentic approaches as described in the book. One was the truth of New York back in 1922, which was a progressive city, full of life, a city of construction. Buildings were going up faster than any other city in the world. Then there was the Long Island set which were the rich establishment living in palatial escapes. Dialogue was king, particularly in this case – you can’t afford to miss a word. Tom Buchanan, Daisy Buchanan, Myrtle Wilson, George Wilson – and with their dialogue came the embodiment of those words which is everything they’d wear. The costumes of the women, the jewellery, cigarette lighters, were all recorded as sound effects quite separate to foley which gave them a sense of great focus in terms of the Nick Carraway point of view [Nick being the book’s narrator]. I want to do a spoiler here because Baz has taken the fact that the book is written in first person and done an interesting visual device that allows the audience to experience Nick Carraway‘s subjective point of view of the world. Sound had to support that. AT: And from your perspective Tim, given the importance of music to the film what’s the role of Music Editor? Tim Ryan: The edit is almost always picture driven — the music is chopped where the visual cuts are. So my job on receipt of the new cut is to try and restore the musicality of the edit; restore the melodies and beats so it’s musically satisfying. It’s not always easy and you always have edits where you’re not entirely satisfied. You can do some little tempo changes under the bonnet that as a punter you may not notice, where the ear is distracted by the eye — there are workarounds. Then there are some of the more satisfying musical edits. Early on in the film there’s the introduction to Gatsby, all set to Gershwin. That was a matter of making a three-minute Gershwin item out of a 17-minute performance. It was a challenge to make that as musically satisfying as possible. Conforming the new edit to the music is a manual task. There are autoconforming tools available to dialogue editors that work very well, but for music we can see where the music begins and starts from the guide tracks and we make those edits in between with an ear for what’s most musical and rhythmic.

BRING OUT YOUR 8 CYLINDERS? DAMN STRAIGHT! Wayne Pashley: We recorded about 15 or so vintage vehicles, from Rolls Royces through to a hero vehicle in the film that is called the Duesenberg Straight 8. Now that car, our hero vehicle, is a very important prop in the film. I suppose you could liken it to the DeLorean in Back to the Future. Warner Brothers actually bought two of them — but they were replicas and had V8s in them. Baz, in his enthusiasm for attention to detail, wanted the original straight 8 engine, which is similar to a Mack truck. But recordings of that original engine didn’t exist. There are only two places in the world that had these vehicles. One was in Indiana and the other is at Jay Leno’s garage, in Burbank. Now Jay has great enthusiasm for vehicles. He’s poured a lot of money into his incredible, museum-like place. He actually has eight Duesenbergs, all of them restored to spec. He buys vehicles that are run down from some dusty old garage and falling to pieces. Then he gets the blueprints and re-machines the engines back to original form. This particular one we wanted was also supercharged. So we went to Jay Leno and he agreed to let us record it with a donation to one of his favourite charities. He actually spent the day with us. We ripped the

car from head to toe, hooning around Bob Hope Airport. So I just think it’s wonderful to have that sort of magic, that sort of degree of authenticity in gathering sounds for the film and the Duesenberg is one of them. The film is probably the only recording of that sort of vehicle in existence. Sound Designer Fabian Sanjurjo: The main Duesenburg scene sees Gatsby driving through Long Island all the way to New York City. That was a huge undertaking. I tracked up our hero car with Jay’s original Duesenberg sound. That was the main sound for the car. But it still needed enhancing — I mean, Jay’s car is a great car but it doesn’t have that high-performance-sounding edge that Baz was looking for. It needed sweetening. I went through shot by shot and added elements such as the sound of animals roaring, bears and big cats, on the passes. We also added the sound of a supercharger that we recorded quite separately from the car, and stuck it on top. I also used recordings that we did of the replica Duesenburg for high intensity passes. All in all it was just a building up of layers on top of the authentic Duesenberg. So what you hear in the film is Jay Leno’s car with all this sweetness added to it as well.

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Sound editors would love to work to a final picture edit, but it’s rarely the case, especially now with films being made with so many visual FX shots. The picture edit keeps getting updated, often right up until it goes to final mix and dubbing (exporting) for cinema prints. Audio ‘re-conforming’ refers to the process of re-fitting the sound to the updated picture edit. Traditionally sound engineers would have to find the changes by eye and move everything by hand, one laborious step at a time. There might be thousands of edited source

tracks on half a dozen ProTools machines, hundreds of tracks of 7.1 premixes, final mix stems. Conformalizer (a program by Justin Webster) is an audio post production tool which automates both the process of comparing the picture cuts and the process of ‘re-conforming’ the audio to the new version of the reel. Using EDLs or ‘edit decision lists’ supplied by the picture editor it can accurately find every little change, including CGI tweaks, thereby removing human error and freeing up the editor to focus on creative stuff.

Wayne Pashley, Fabian Sanjurjo and co. employed a variety of mics including the Sennheiser 816 and 416, Electro-Voice RE20, and Countryman radio mics. Normally, elements such as the sound of vintage fans, a supercharger, or a old-school typewriter would be the domain of the Foley artists, but as Sound Designer Wayne Pashley wanted hands-on control.


AT: Wayne, how does the 3D finish affect the way you tracklay and mix? WP: No matter where you care to look in that 3D world, you’ll be able to find a little sound to match. And that level of visual detail impacted on our mix. It’s such a busy screen, in terms of Catherine Martin’s amazing production design, that the eye could easily wander over here when in fact you want the audience to look over there. So we used foley, particularly foley ‘star’ sounds to help focus the audience. And because of the richness of detail in the 3D rendition, we found we could really push the surrounds so much more, actually lean on them, which helps envelop the audience into their world. The environments, the atmospheres; quite a lot of times we were pushing the strings of the music to the back. Also a lot of hard FX and hit-points in the music were raised, to kind of push you into the world. The production design in the 3D is extraordinary. EXTRA MILE

AT: So why go through the agony? Why endanger your health (both physical and mental) to be involved in a Baz Luhrmann film? TR: The simple answer is: Baz can pull together a big budget production and how many are there of those in Australia? There’s him, George Miller, Peter Weir perhaps… they don’t come along that often. As a result, people will put in the extra work for the opportunity. It has to be said that Baz’s ‘shoot for the stars’ approach does inspire people. WP: I’d support that. The inspiration from Baz as a leader is just extraordinary. We were all willing to go the extra mile because we knew we were working on something very special. AT: Still, it takes a special kind of individual to thrive in that sort of environment.

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WP: Sure, and we had a wonderful mixing crew with Steve Maslow and Phil Heywood. Phil was on effects and Steve on dialogue and music. I’ve worked with Phil Heywood for over 15 years. And, of course, I have worked with Steve before and knew he was one of the coolest guys on the planet, so I knew that he would work for Baz. Steve’s prowess is in dialogue mixing and particularly EQ – I’ve never seen anyone as good at it. His command of the room in the final mix was tremendous – his ability to maintain a cool head was invaluable. It was a great team and one I hope to work with again because they were so much fun and so easy to communicate with. AT: Writing about a Baz film is also tinged with sadness, given it reminds AT and our friends that Simon Leadley is no longer with us. [Simon was one of the founders of Trackdown, long-time AT contributor and veteran of a number of Baz films.] Tim, you worked with Simon for more than 25 years what was it like doing Gatsby without him? TR: Simon always had a great overarching view of the whole production — something sorely missed. I certainly did find myself at times thinking: ‘What would Simon do in this situation?’. I could find the answer there; use his guidance in what I thought he would have done and that certainly helped get me through. At the end of the day I am sure he would have been proud of what we managed to achieve. AT: It’s only been a few weeks since finishing, but what are your reflections? TR: It’s a genuine challenge. You learn a lot about yourself and the profession you’re in. The lessons you learn? You have to: always be adaptable, never be precious, make changes quickly on the fly, know your material and try to understand your director. Thanks to the Australian Screen Sound Guild (ASSG) for its help with the Wayne Pashley interview.

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START ON THE RIGHT TERMS In this first instalment we bust a few analogue vs digital myths on our way to baking a digital cake that tastes pure analogue. Tutorial: Dax Liniere

For a long time, there was a clear and undeniable winner of the analogue vs digital, OTB (outside-the-box) vs ITB (in-thebox) debate. Digital technology just could not match the euphonics (those tonal harmonics we find so pleasing to the ear) we’d grown used to in the analogue domain. But as the understanding of digital signal processing has advanced and processing power became faster and more affordable, ITB has found firm and equal footing with what was once only achievable in the analogue domain. A FIRE WITHIN

This series of articles is not intended to throw fuel on the fire, but help you blaze your own trail. While the rest are busy arguing, we can work to better ourselves at our craft and get out-of-thebox results from within it. To really understand how to get a rich, full sound in-the-box, we need to know what’s really happening to our signals as they pass through analogue consoles and outboard gear. You often hear people say that songs mixed on an analogue console have more ‘depth’, ‘width’ AT 50

and ‘punch’ than ITB mixes. As a scienceminded person who understands electronics, I’ve always found some of these descriptions to be a little dubious.



Analogue equipment has an affliction called crosstalk, which is where signal from one signal path ‘leaks’ into adjacent signal paths. This can occur when one or more tracks on a printed circuit board are in close proximity. In a DAW or

Analogue consoles, as much as we love them, are imperfect. They have background noise, present as hiss, and although a professional console will have an acceptably low noise-floor, it still has more noise than well-designed digital audio workstation (DAW) software.

The term ‘depth’ describes how far into the soundfield you can hear, or the contrast between the closest and farthest sounds. The impression of distance or depth is caused by the psychoacoustic properties of volume and delay, hence reverb. As the tail of a reverb decays, it becomes exponentially quieter until, at some point, it drops below the noise floor, becoming masked. It’s true that the human brain is capable of discerning sounds below a constant, steady-state noise floor, but it also stands to reason that we could hear ‘deeper’ into the soundfield with less noise present.

‘Width’ is even easier to define and can be used to explain away another one of the myths surrounding analogue consoles.

digital mixer, crosstalk cannot naturally occur since each ‘signal path’ is a separate stream of data.

In a stereo mixing scenario, a mono sound that’s panned centre is obviously not coming out of the centre, since there is no centre speaker. It’s created in what we call the phantom centre. This is simply the psycho-acoustic phenomenon where an identical sound of the same volume and phase arrives at both ears at the same time. This gives the impression that it originates from directly in front of us. When you pan a sound hard left, none of that signal is routed to the right channel and viceversa. If you adjust a pan control away from

hard left, you are directing some of that sound to the right channel. The closer to centre pan, the less volume difference there is between left and right channels, until you reach the centre position where both channels receive the same signal and it appears to originate from between the stereo speakers. If you have a pair of non-identical sounds, panning them less than hard left and right will result in the soundfield becoming narrower. Crosstalk obviously affects width, therefore claiming a mix done on an analogue console intrinsically has more ‘width’ than an ITB mix is complete nonsense. PUNCH — CAPACITY FOR ATTACK

While the terms ‘depth’ and ‘width’ are either being used incorrectly, or relate more closely to the skill of the person who can afford to use a large-format console, we still have to address the term ‘punch’. A ‘punchy’ sound can be described as having a strong attack (without being too sharp or biting) and where the attack of the signal is quite even, despite fluctuations in input signal. There are many parts of an analogue console where distortions and colourations are induced on the signals passing through them. The most significant are transformers and other reactive components such as capacitors. A transformer uses two coils of wire — a ‘primary’ and a ‘secondary’ — wound in close proximity around a metal core. There is no electrical contact between the individual coils or the metal core — the signal is induced into the secondary coil by the primary coil via electromagnetism. When the coils are driven too hard, i.e. by a large signal, the transformer will saturate or ‘soft-clip’ and introduce harmonic distortion to the signal. In the right quantities, this can be quite pleasing and musical, but as with anything, it can be easily overdone. Being a magnetic device, the sound of the saturation is somewhat like the sound of analogue tape when it is pushed too hard. Different types of transformers have different saturation characteristics, mostly depending on the type of metal used in the core (to my ear, the cleanest is nickel, followed by iron, with steel core being the most coloured). By their nature, low frequencies have more energy than high frequencies. It’s the kind of energy found in a kick drum signal that can saturate a transformer, causing excitation of low frequencies which produces easily audible upper harmonics. Capacitors are often used in consoles to ‘decouple’ one circuit from another (eg. the mic preamp from the EQ). In many circuit designs the audio output signal contains a portion of the DC power supply voltage and it is not desirable to pass that on to the next circuit. Capacitors are used to make that bridge, passing the audio signal voltage but blocking the power supply voltage. In other words, decoupling the DC component of the signal or removing DC bias.

Dax Liniere is a producer, engineer and owner of Puzzle Factory. A Winston Churchill Fellow, he recently attended Mix With The Masters seminars with Brauer and Chiccarelli, and was in the studio with Alan Moulder while he mixed the latest Foals album.

Although a professional console will have an acceptably low noise-floor, it still has more noise than well-designed DAW software

Capacitors are reactive components, meaning their behaviour changes with frequency. They are capable of altering a signal’s phase and frequency response, and can therefore impart their own subtle tonal colouration on the signal. Some analogue audio circuits use many decoupling capacitors in each channel strip, collectively contributing significantly to the overall sound of the console. (Transformers are also reactive devices and can alter a signal’s phase and frequency response, in addition to introducing saturation.)

IN SERIES There’s plenty more to come in this series. I’ll cover how to control your bottom end, explain many different compressor, EQ, reverb and delay options, guitar amplifier modelling, feature interviews with top plugin developers, plus show you how to get the thickness and cohesiveness we attribute to a good analogue mix.

The important thing to remember is that every time your signal passes through another circuit stage, you introduce another layer of distortion and/or colouration. It’s this short-duration saturation of transients that increases the apparent ‘punch’ of a sound.

Since this soft clipping is due to the input level reaching a finite ceiling, the resulting harmonics are produced at a consistent level. AT


Another difference between OTB and ITB is bandwidth. While console manufacturers and DAW developers all strive to give their products the widest and flattest frequency response, in reality, the limitations of physics come into play in both worlds. Any digitally sampled signal has an upper limit on the frequencies that can be captured and reproduced. Harry Nyquist, in his sampling theorem, states this is half the sample rate, which for people working at 44.1k, gives a limit of just over 22kHz. Analogue consoles, on the other hand, extend to at least 30kHz. Rupert Neve believes consoles should be ‘clean’ up to 100kHz. Whether those ‘inaudible’ high frequencies are significant is an entirely different argument, but the only way to match this ITB is to run your system at greater than a 192k sampling rate. On the other end of the spectrum, a properlydesigned DAW has a frequency range that extends flat down to 0Hz. Compared to even the highest spec’d analogue consoles which roll off around 15-20Hz, there’s a fair bit more going on down there, not to mention the phase shift caused by that roll-off.

Though most DAW developers have accomplished what console designers set out to achieve, is that actually useful? Unless you’re using your DAW for scientific purposes, the answer is a resounding no. AT THE CROSSROADS

Of course, sonic differences aren’t the only thing setting OTB and ITB apart: ergonomics and workflow play a large part in the experience of mixing a song. A hardware console is undoubtedly a more physical, more tactile way to mix. Even a control surface can’t offer the same level of physicality due to the reduced number of controls. I quite enjoy balancing a mix spread across console faders; it’s a great way to experiment with different combinations far quicker than is possible with a mouse alone.

LET’S BE CLEAR, IT’S ABOUT DISTORTION It’s all well and good to talk about all this theory, but what steps can we take to get the best of OTB while working ITB? In the next issue, I’ll begin uncovering saturators in detail, but for now, I invite you to download the latest free plug-in from Klanghelm, called IVGI. Pop it on your master bus (my preference is directly after the bus compressor) and start with the settings shown in the screenshot. Have a play and a good listen to what it does to your mix and next issue I’ll go into more detail, covering several other plug-in options, plus the allimportant when to use saturators. TIP: Remember to set IVGI’s output level to achieve unity gain when you toggle bypass, otherwise you won’t get a fair comparison of what it’s doing.

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But I’ve observed something interesting. For most ‘A-list’ engineers if the balance of a mix doesn’t feel right… swish, all the faders go back down and they’ll try a different tack. But when mixing ITB, people seem less likely to start over from scratch, which is odd, because it’s even easier to achieve in a DAW. Just save a copy and try something completely different, if you’re not happy with the road you ventured down, a few clicks and you’re back at the crossroads.

Another difference from ‘the old ways’ is that now we have a computer screen to steal our attention. Whereas before, there were no visual cues to pre-empt, and less distractions from our primary task of listening. Thankfully, there are solutions. Basically, what we want to do is blank our computer monitors quickly and easily when we’re doing our critical listening [which some would argue is all the time — Ed]. On a PC, this

is easily achieved by setting your screensaver to a blank screen. Then use a free program like ShutdownTray to trigger the screensaver with a quick keyboard shortcut. Mac users have it even easier with Hot Corners. Just pick your corner and set it to ‘Put Display To Sleep’. THE CHOICE IS YOURS

Working in the analogue domain imposes other limitations, but often, those limitations can be used to our advantage. OTB, the number of mixable tracks is limited by the available console inputs and D/A converter channels, and the amount of outboard processors is limited by budget and available space. ITB, our track and processor count is only limited by the computer’s available system resources. Buy a plug-in and you can use as many instances as your system will bear. When you’re working on a production ITB, don’t leave all of your decisions until the mix phase. While it seems logical that no-one would want to paint themselves into a corner, leaving options open can be an enabler of indecisiveness. Limitations can challenge you and make you grow. They can force you to think in a different way in order to solve a problem to reach your end goal. Quite simply, practice the act of committing to decisions early in the production process. Sure you might make some mistakes, but without mistakes, how can we grow? ANALOGUE TIME-SOAK

As mastering engineer Sean Diggins says, “We are in a time-based industry and analogue is a time-soak.” OTB mixdowns are restricted to realtime; stems are more difficult to produce; and recalls take time and leave room for error. The sound of hardware can change due to heat, power and atmospheric variations, plus deterioration through ageing. While reliability issues can be mostly mitigated through meticulous maintenance, this requires money, time and expertise. Every mixdown, revision, stem and repair takes time. Every extra ‘instance’ of outboard gear costs money, compared to a plugin which is bought once and inserted many times. To be fair, plug-ins can also break compatibility with system upgrades or lose support completely (as in the case of the fantastic Voxengo Marquis compressor). You also never have to worry about copy protection with outboard gear. Are the perks of analogue mixing worth the drawbacks, or vice versa? Ultimately, that’s for you to decide. To me, there is a clear-cut winner, and that is ITB. It has everything going for it — instant recall, full automation, ‘unlimited’ processors (restricted only by your CPU power), no noise and minimal maintenance, editing capabilities that open up new sonic and production possibilities, faster-than-realtime bounces and a great sound that can be relied upon to give the same results every time. But remember, to get the most in the box, we must think outside it.


The Drones frontman Gareth Liddiard recorded I See Seaweed in a demountable classroom from the ’60s that he’d reno’ed for 10 grand. Then he turned it into a kitchen. Story: Mark Davie

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Gareth Liddiard lives up a dirt road “in the middle of f**king nowhere” where he recorded his band, The Drones’ latest album I See Seaweed in a renovated demountable classroom from the ’60s. He spent 10 grand on the classroom-come-studio conversion, and after just the one album, it’s already been turned into a kitchen and lounge for he and his partner/Drones bassist, Fiona Kitschin. It’s illustrative of Liddiard’s fear of complacency that he would exert the effort to construct an entirely new studio, only to abandon the future possibility of recording there after a single album. Oddly though, place has played a significant part in their previous two full-length albums. 2008’s Havilah was named after the Victorian alpine valley it was recorded in, and 2006’s Gala Mill was made in a mill on Gala Farm, a 10,000-acre sprawl on Tasmania’s east coast. But the names seem more about putting it ‘on the record’ — a statement of origin rather than any kind of nostalgia. “We don’t really record anywhere twice,” said Liddiard. “It’s fun finding a different room and being surprised. It’s enough to be good at knowing mic and preamp combinations and amplifiers, I’m happy with knowing my way in and out of that shit, but the room is something I like to change.” As for the demountable shell: “It’s big, 11 by nine metres, hardwood floor, the ceiling’s about 3.5m tall and there’s windows down both sides — a lot of glass and shiny surfaces. We renovated that up, and it was a lot of work… about three months. I was really worried it was going to sound like a basketball court. But we bought a bunch of cheap and nasty velvet curtains off eBay and threw a Persian rug or two in there and it ended up sounding really good. “It was a big open space and we all went in there with the amps, or sometimes set them up outside under the house, or in a bedroom nearby. We would all sit in the room with cans around the drums, and most of the singing is live so it’s feeding into the drum mics and vice versa, otherwise it’s all isolated.” KIT STUDIO

Given Liddiard’s nomadic recording patterns, he’s wisely decked himself out with some mobile recording gear… okay, maybe ‘mobile’ is an overstatement, let’s say shiftable. He’s had a few bits and pieces over time, but after wrapping Havilah, he started to build his collection of outboard, mics and recording gear [see sidebar] into quite a formidable setup, racked and ready to roll. As well as a strong collection of outboard preamps, he also has a collection of compressors, including JLM Audio LA500 opto compressors from kits. “I built a bunch of it from kit form, because I’m not loaded, and I’ve done it a million times,” said Liddiard. “I learned about electronics whilst touring Europe a lot and constantly having old, irreplaceable pedals f**k up. So I’ve always taken a soldering iron with me and fixed everything. It was all a part of making the

album too; factor that into the six months and it was actually quite busy.” To help pay off his new collection, Liddiard hires the rig out to other bands making albums in non-studio locations, which means “it’s sort of paid for itself — a wonderful thing.” KNOW THY BEYER

When you’re constantly setting up to record in new environments, Liddiard says the key is knowing your gear inside out so you can focus on mastering the space. “I’ve got about 20 mics and now I’m intimately knowledgeable about what they do, down to their impedances,” said Liddiard. “I know them as intimately as I know my amps and pedals now. So whether it’s a violin, or an amp that needs recording from six metres away, I’ll know what combo and pre will kill it. I’m a Beyer man. I’ve got a bunch of M201s. I’m fanatic about them. M88, M69, and I love the M160 ribbon mics because they have a hyper-cardioid pattern. Everyone always goes on about Coles 4038s, and all those classic ribbons. But they’re all figure of eight, so when you’re miking up a guitar cab you can never get it in phase. I find that so annoying. With the M160 it doesn’t matter. You just put the capsule near whatever mic you’re pairing it with, and it’s always good. It means you can move fast. They sound good, are the most chilled overheads, and the cheapest of all the ribbons — I don’t know why they’re not more popular.”

Liddiard describes the Beyerdynamic mics as austere — a no-nonsense character that complements the band’s wilder aesthetic. “The guitars sound harsh enough,” said Liddiard. “When it comes to recording it’s more a matter of toning them down. Say you had [Pink Floyd’s] David Gilmour, you could mic him up real harsh and get quite a technically harsh sound, but it would still sound cool and smooth. With us, you could technically try and smooth it out, but it would still sound harsh. It just translates. So if something sounds really nasty and thin, I use the mic that would fatten it up.” Before setting any mics up though, Liddiard spends plenty of time walking the room and listening to it. “If an electric guitar, especially one of ours, tears your head off in a room, it’s probably time to deaden it down a bit,” he said. “For drums you can walk around with a floor tom banging it. You hear the bass traps and stay clear of them, and put it in the most neutral area.”

Liddiard has always been heavily involved in the process, and enjoyed having people around to learn from, but I See Seaweed was the first time The Drones didn’t hire an engineer for the sessions, leaving Liddiard to do all the heavy lifting. “I’m not an expert by a long shot, but I’m getting there,” said Liddiard. The definitions of a producer or engineer are getting looser these days, and Liddiard saw it as a group effort. All the members of The Drones have recorded countless times, so it’s not exactly a foreign concept to any of them. Previous collaborator Burke Reid came in to mix, and Liddiard’s neighbour,

LIDDIARD’S MOBILE SETUP MICROPHONES Beesneez Arabella Producer Rode K2 Rode NT2-A 2 x Beyerdynamic M160 Shure SM57 Neumann U87 Beyerdynamic M88TG Beyerdynamic M201TG Beyerdynamic M201N 2 x White Sennheiser MD421 Electro-Voice RE320 AKG D12E 3 x Rode NT5 Rode NT4 4 x Rode M1 OUTBOARD PREAMPS 2 x JLM 99V Pre/DI 2 x JLM NV500 Pre/DI 2 x JLM TG500 Pre/DI 2 x VP25 PRE (API 312/512 Clone) 4 x VP26 PRE (API 528/536 Clone) 2 X Quad Eight Coronado Channel Strip/DI Presonus Eureka Channel Strip/DI RECORDING INTERFACE ProTools 8 HD3 Accel rig in a Mac G5 with road cases 192 I/O with 16-ins, 8-outs and digital I/O card MONITORING Yamaha MSP5 Powered Monitors Event 20/20BAS Powered Monitors Mackie Big Knob Studio Controller

AT 55

[clockwise from far left] Liddiard’s lunchboxes of home-built JLM pres and API clones; repairing gear just never ends; the bus on Liddiard’s property where he wrote the album; watching on as studio-to-be arrives in halves… the upside, plenty of light.

Andrew McGhee, was often able to lend a helping hand. McGhee happens to run The Empty Room studio just a couple of klicks down the road where he’s recorded Spencer P Jones, Kim Salmon and plenty of other Aussie artists. SOUND OF A CAR CRASH

Noise has always made up a big part of The Drones’ sound. There’s an art to good noise, which by nature doesn’t seem to stick to any rules, but Liddiard has a simple idea that makes simple sense. “You can’t really invent a noise that the natural world hasn’t already invented,” said Liddiard. “The sound of cymbals is the sound of waves crashing. The sound of a drum beat is like a pulse or footsteps which could be meandering down the street or marching to war.

great success with an old Sennheiser MD421 — it worked wonders. MD: Do you find it easier to work with a dynamic mic?

“You mimic. As long as the noise you’re making reflects what’s currently a noise that’s naturally out there, then I think it’s a valid noise.”

GL: I’m a guitar player, so my hands are on the guitar, but when I’m doing a vocal overdub I do feel better with a mic I can grab. And there’s something really disconnected about not being able to touch large diaphragm condensers. It’s not a natural way to sing. Singers spend their whole lives singing into dynamic mics, and then someone plonks a mic you can’t touch in front of you, and it f**ks with you. It’s like if I used a Jaguar [guitar], and then when I recorded I suddenly had to use a Les Paul — that’s awkward and weird.

Mark Davie: Do you create noise purely as a musical release, or is it more constructed than that?

MD: Are you a one guitar man then?

Gareth Liddiard: Bit of both really. There’s a release in it. It’s a modern sound and on Grey Leader Dan [Luscombe]’s got a pedal called a Noise Floor, and I’ve got a custom-made fuzz pedal I’ve modified — a huge, weird thing from a company called 4ms in The States — that has oscillators built into it. It’s a really organic, living, little thing.

GL: I’ve got two hot-rodded Jaguars — on the inside they’re like a ’52 Les Paul.

“Miles Davis said it really well, that as the 20th century moved along, the harsher elements of popular music like John Lee Hooker or Jimi Hendrix, they changed with the sound of car crashes.

Early on car crashes were these screeching, tearing of metal sounds. A huge thwack, followed by a hubcap going dling, dling, dling along the ground. And then the later 20th century it was just the sound of crinkling alloy and plastic. And now it’s all computer sounds and glitches.

MD: Do you wrestle with the balance between recording fidelity and what people expect of The Drones as a raw noise band? GL: Maybe once upon a time I did. But you can’t really hide what we are. If I’m playing guitar and singing, it sounds like The Drones-ey thing. I feel a bit freer now. We can bury things in a wall of verb and wash them out completely. It can be very opaque, or dry as anything and it would still sound like us. VOCAL DYNAMICS

MD: Similarly to the guitars, your voice is quite dynamic. What mics work well for you? GL: Over the years I’ve used heaps of stuff. Early on, transformer-less U87-type things work really well on me. A Rode Classic II worked spectacularly well on me, weirdly enough, because they’re quite toppy — the tube pickup is slow, so it helps smooth out what I do. But then some prick flogged it. I’ve had

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MD: Do you like them because you use the whammy bar a lot? GL: Yeah the whammy stuff, and I like the really skinny necks. The necks are also short, so they go ‘boing’ more than long-scale necks. And you can do all sorts of weird things with the strings behind the bridge. But I sounded too much like Roland Howard with the single coils they come with, so I stuck a PAF [pickup] in it. And now I sound like Neil Young. So I can’t win! MD: Yeah, you really need to find your own sound… GL: It’s too late. I’m 38.

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[clockwise from right] Beyerdynamic M160 hypercardioid ribbons as overheads leave plenty of room for snare down the middle; the dining table has moved in and the studio’s well on its way to becoming a kitchen; a classy stack of amps.


MD: The main change on this album is you’ve got Steve Hesketh on keys full time. How did that come about? GL: Well he’s done a bunch of stuff with us. Early on, he played on Way Long By The River and The Miller’s Daughter. He’s been a buddy for over 10 years. Usually Dan would play keys if we wanted keys. But we just thought it would be a good idea to have someone else in there to flesh things out. And we couldn’t play a lot of songs live because the way they’re arranged on record — we were short on people. It’s fun having him around because it’s been the four of us for years. It’s like siblings — you get tired of each other and you run out of things to say. MD: These days it seems that if you’ve got a keys player in a band, they’ll play every sound under the sun. It’s different to hear primarily piano playing on a rock record.

I built a bunch of it from kit form, because I’m not loaded, and I’ve done it a million times

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GL: Yeah, it’s mostly piano and a little extra string pads and Hammond. A piano is just one of those instruments, one of the mainstays of the last 150 years. You can do anything with them. I listen to a lot of 20th century classical music when I’m doing the dishes, and I’ve always found the piano is the most engrossing thing because you can hear what they’re doing, rather than a huge orchestral arrangement. It’s laid bare. You can hear the scales, the techniques and the mind of the composer ticking over better. The ideas are clearer. Things are a bit simpler with a piano. MD: How did you record it? GL: It’s just Native Instruments’ Kontakt. A DI into a shitty old Allen & Heath desk from the ’70s to brown it up a bit. Technically it’s a piece of shit but you know those old sepia-filtered photos of cowboys? It does that to sound.


Despite the guitars dominating much of the landscape on Drones records, Mike Noga’s drums certainly drive the dynamic forces. Songs can range from brushed tom work to an all-out up-tempo beating, and capturing that natural feel without losing power led Liddiard to some interesting mic placements. “Having a drum kit essentially in your lounge room after the band’s gone home is good,” said Liddiard. “I just messed with it until I got it sounding big. So the mic setup is quite weird on this album.

“We used to have left/right overheads panned left/right, and then left and right guitars were panned left and right. But now, I’ve started to learn the stereo picture can be better achieved if you run one overhead through a chorus pedal and spread it even wider. For some reason the stereo image is more panoramic, and then you put everything inside that. Ultimately I end up turning the guitars up too loud so you can’t hear the kit anymore and that’s The Drones mix! “I found the best way to mic a kick drum is to surround it. You put the classic Neumann U47 FET or whatever a couple of feet in front of the resonant skin. But around the other side — under the snare and about four inches from where the kick is hitting the batter head — I put a Neumann U87 about an inch from the skin, which gives massive bottom end. You mix the two together to taste (they’re both large diaphragm so they pick up a lot of ambience) and you get the fattest thing you’ve ever heard. You can even go too fat, which is a luxury I’ve never had before. “Under the crash cymbal there’s a large diaphragm condenser, sitting evenly between the crash, rack tom and snare. And another one under the ride cymbal, sitting evenly between the ride cymbal and floor tom. Both are set to omni and pick everything up, which is kind of weird. Over the top, I spread two Beyer M160s wide. The M160s are hyper-cardioid, so they leave the biggest hole in the middle for your snare mic to punch through. It’s like a vacuum in the middle, and you can properly control your snare, whereas most times the snare bleeds into the overheads and you don’t get as much control. And then a mono overhead on top. “Sometimes we’d simply use one mono overhead, a large diaphragm condenser underneath the snare, and then maybe one of the other large diaphragms under the cymbals, and that was it, with the room mics. And then we’d do things like run that mono overhead through a chorus, which came back in stereo.” MESSING IT UP ’TIL IT’S RIGHT

GL: I don’t think we’ve ever had anything except a DI’d bass on a Drones record. Just DI’d into any old Neve, then maybe through a UREI 1176 compressor, and a bit of EQ. We usually leave it as is, and it seems just fine. The guitars are just in another room, and what we had on them changed. The Beyer M201s or Shure SM57s, next we had one of the Royer 121 ribbons, but it was annoying to get in phase.

Years ago I read Andy Johns talking about his approach to a mix, and he literally said, ‘Just f**k with it until it sounds good’

“Then we had room mics, and all sorts of other weird shit, depending on the song. We’re not scared of doing anything weird. We often DI guitar and mix it with a reamped signal — whatever works. “Years ago I read Andy Johns talking about his approach to a mix, and he literally said, ‘Just f**k with it until it sounds good.’ And that’s what you do. It’s an empirical thing. If you’ve done it a million times, you’ll just get quicker at finding where it sounds good. Otherwise it might take a while. But whoop-di-do… it takes time. It’s just a process of doing it until it sounds good.

LIVE PARTY It would be a disservice to write anything about The Drones and not mention their live show. It’s the combination of a frontman spitting incendiary poetry, dynamic musicianship, and the sum of the parts so tightly intertwined at times it seems they’re developing completely new instruments right in front of you. The Drones are on a label called All Tomorrow’s Parties (ATP), which is perhaps better known for its festivals of the same name. The complete antidote to something like Big Day Out, ATP events are often curated by bands and put on in idyllic or recreational locations, like holiday camps and chalets. Recently, The Drones curated one day of a two-day ATP festival in Melbourne. The event was staged at Westgate Leisure Centre, a rec centre in the industrial heartland of Melbourne’s outer west. There was no camping (thank goodness), but as the centre is usually flooded with people flapping about on an indoor tennis court, beach volleyball or soccer pitch, it certainly fulfilled the recreational aspect. Gareth Liddiard: It’s not a bunch of young hooligans with Southern Cross tattoos. It’s mellow, and everyone’s pretty respectful. When they do them in The States and the UK, they’re in holiday camps, with tennis courts and things like that — so for them, it’s definitely normal. The only difference is in England or The States there’ll be on-site accommodation in chalets. Mark Davie: How did it sound?

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GL: The big room is used for indoor soccer and has a soft rubber composite floor that cancels out the horror you’d get out of a hard floor. They put drapes up around the side, and it sounded amazing. The organisers are quite hands-on with the sound. In the UK they’ve won awards for sound production. MD: How was the experience of picking the line-up? GL: It was good, fun, and hard. I have a new respect for festival organisers. You can’t always get everyone you want because everyone isn’t available. We had a really long list that got whittled down quite substantially for all sorts of reasons. For instance, a couple of people couldn’t make it because their countries were at war — a guy from Syria, and a guy from Mali — understandable, really. MD: Did it feel a bit like playing favourites when you had to choose playing times? GL: Yeah. Our real stipulation was that Einsturzende Neubaten had to go last because you just can’t follow them. It would be pointless for another band, especially a rock ’n’ roll-type band to get up after, because you would just look silly. The other stipulation was that we played early so we could have a few beers and enjoy the whole thing, rather than having to wait till midnight to go on.

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Tutorial: Paul Tingen Born in Malaysia, Tan graduated in 1990 from Florida’s Full Sail education facility, and was given his big break by rapper/producer Jermaine Dupri. Since then Tan has amassed credits like Mariah Carey, Usher, Justin Bieber, Whitney Houston, Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin, Outkast, Jay-Z and many others, and won three Grammy Awards as a mix engineer on Mariah Carey’s album The Emancipation of Mimi (2005), Ludacris’s album Release Therapy (2006), and Rihanna’s Only Girl (In the World). A staggering eight of Rihanna’s 10 US number one hits were mixed by Tan.

Diamonds is the 10th US No. 1 that Barbadian mega-star Rihanna has scored since her international breakthrough in 2005. It was written and produced by the Norwegian duo Stargate and American hitmaker, Benny Blanco, and mixed by Phil Tan. It’s the kind of melodic mid-tempo pop ballad on which Stargate appears to have established a 21st century monopoly, the odd-ball ingredient being its four-to-the-floor dance kick drum that gives it movement and bite. It’s also lavishly arranged with strings, piano and a whole panorama of keyboard sounds all competing in the mid-range frequency area. According to Tan, the rough mix was already in great shape, and his main attention during the mixing of Diamonds went into making sure the vocal sounded great and cut through the track. He explains some of the things to focus on when mixing vocals, using Diamonds as an illustration. 1. MAKE SOME ROOM

“When you’re mixing a pop record, you’re always aware that the listeners will be focusing on the vocals. The vocal is the star of the entire show. It has to keep the listener’s attention for the entire track. They might like the instruments and arrangements, but they won’t necessarily care as much for them as for the vocals. In the case of Diamonds, the balances in the rough mix were pretty decent, and their sketch was very distinctive, so I didn’t have to do much in terms of surgery.”

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“As a fan I care more about how something makes me feel than technical perfection, any day. You want to be sure every word/syllable gets heard, but you don’t want points of emphasis in the performance to be subdued too much. There’s Autotune on all the vocal tracks, because that has become part of her vocal sound. But in this case the tuning is very minimal. If you bypassed it, you’d hardly hear the difference. It’s not there to create an effect, but just to keep her vocals in place.” 3. A MIX OF FRESH INGREDIENTS

“Spend time capturing a good recording. That’s the key, really, to a good mix. Just like with cooking, your dish will come out better if you have fresh ingredients.” 4. DO EXPERIMENT

“Finding the right EQ or compressor is a bit like finding the right mic for recording. That LA-2A you used and worked great on the last song may not seem right on this one, for any number of reasons, the tempo and key of the song, for example. I don’t have specific settings I use on everything, unfortunately. I wish I did: everything would go so much quicker! Instead, every setting in every mix is done on a case-bycase basis. I basically just adjust things until I think it feels good. For some of the less experienced,

consulting a frequency chart might not be a bad idea. Analysers can help too, when trying to identify problem areas. “Mixers sit for hours every day in a room, and like to try new things, and with Diamonds, I tried the VintageMaker summing box. It has 16 inputs, and I sent stereo pairs of drums, music, vocals and effects returns to the VintageMaker from my Mitch Berger-modified Avid 192 I/O. The VintageMaker is passive and has no sound of its own, so to bring it up to line level it needs to be sent through a stereo mic pre, which also adds some character. In this case I used my two Neve 1079s, which went into my Manley limiter. From there the stereo mix went back in ProTools, coming up on Track 3, on which I had the Waves S1 Stereo Imager to create a bit more space and width for the image, and the Metric Halo ChannelStrip.

The SSL Channel adds small boosts at 1.8k, 5.5k and 9kHz, with nothing larger than 3dB, as well as a high-pass filter at 70Hz. Notably there are no cuts in the chain other than a de-esser, which points to quality engineering and mic choices.


“The EQ1B is the ProTools EQ, which just acts as a high-pass filter, taking out some messy rumble in the low end. I also had the Waves SSL Channel.”

“The tracks at the bottom of the session are all vocal effects tracks, with a Waves Rverb, ProTools Extra Long Delay II, Waves MetaFlanger, and two different Doublers, one acting more like a micropitch shifter. Their aim was to fatten the vocal up a little bit.”

Phil Tan currently works from his own studio in Atlanta, called Ninja Beat Club where he mixed Diamonds using his Avid Icon D-Control desk, some choice outboard, and Dynaudio M1 and JBL LSR6332 monitors, both powered by Bryston amplifiers. He also has a pair of RCF Mytho 8 speakers and Digidesign RM1 monitors, and adds, “Sometimes I’ll check my mixes on a little mono Deadmau5 monitor or the Ecko Spray Bluetooth speaker.” Tan has spent most of his career mixing on a desk, usually an SSL, and explained that his decision to install a D-Control desk at Ninja Beat Club was purely due to the practical needs for mixing pop music in the second decade of the 21st century. Tan: “I work on many different projects at the same time, so recall is essential for me. This is the main reason why I stopped working on analogue desks, even though I still prefer the way they sound. I try to compensate somewhat by having a number of analogue pieces in my studio, like a Manley Variable Mu limiter/ compressor and an Inward Connections DEQ-1 EQ, plus I also have the SSL XRack (which has 16 channels of summing), a Tube-Tech CL-1B compressor, and mic pres like the Millennia HV-3B, two Neve 1079s and the Universal Audio LA-610 tube recording channel. Just before I mixed Diamonds I acquired the VintageMaker summing unit, and I first used it on that track.”

The Waves Renaissance Reverb Dark Plate reverb rolls off the high end, while the MetaFlanger adds some movement to the vocal



VOX (Bus 43-44) RCompressor


ALL VOC (Bus 39-40) EQ1B

SSL Channel




VERB (Bus 3-4)

FLNGR (Bus 27-28)



DELAY (Bus 5-6)

DBLR (Bus 25-26)

CompLim II

Doubler 4

ExtraLongDelay 3

VOCAL (A 13-14)

MCRPTCH (Bus 35-36)

CompLim II Doubler 4

VOCAL FX (A 15-16)

VOCAL ROUTING NOTES The vocal is sent to the ambience plug-ins (reverb and delay) before Tan compresses it a second time, leaving more dynamic content in the ambient feed. However, he does compress each side of the delay. After compressing the vocals a second time with the Renaissance Compressor, Tan then sends that information onto the widening effects before applying final compression and de-essing to the vocal. The EQ1B high-pass filter only appears in the last stage of the vocal chain. Tan already had a 70Hz high-pass filter activated on the SSL Channel, so the second filter acts as insurance. The widening and ambience treatments are combined in the single auxiliary, so Tan has separate control over the dry and wet signals.


“Compression (in the conventional sense) lowers the loud parts and brings up the quiet parts, so if someone is singing their heart out and the signal is overcompressed, what the performer is trying to communicate emotionally may not come across. When some of the less desirable parts are really loud (breaths, ess’s, eff ’s etc.) it’s not a bad idea to check or re-tweak your settings. “I shy away from using too much compression on my tracks in general. The whole loudness war issue is a big issue, and I find myself constantly fighting the rough mixes of the songs that I mix. What often happens is that rough mixes are done late at night, after a day’s work, and the engineer brickwalls it and calls it a day. But often people get used to hearing things in that way, and many record company executives think that something that’s less loud is less good, whereas in fact it can be better, because there’s space in the track and it can breathe properly. The problem for me is that I have to make sure that whatever I turn in is at least as loud as the rough mix, or maybe a little hotter. “I prefer not to handcuff the mastering engineer by giving him something that’s so loud that he can’t do anything with it. I tend to send a version that’s anything from 5-7dB quieter, giving him headroom to be able to do his thing. This can vary per genre, and if it’s more of a clubby song where the low end needs to be really powerful, a limiter is part of the sound. I still try to make sure that the mix does not fall apart without the limiter, and that the balances are intact and the different parts of the song are doing their jobs, and the limiter basically enhances everything. In the case of Diamonds, I sent both versions to the mastering engineer, Chris Gehringer, who mastered the entire Unapologetic album, so he could do whatever he needed to do to make sure it fit in with the rest of the album.” AT 64

Tan uses the Waves Renaissance Vox dynamics plug-in at the start of Rihanna’s vocal chain to get a little control early on, and progressively adds compression in multiple stages.

The combination of vocal tracks in Diamonds



“Eve is quite different to Adam,” said Kerstin, but for one key element. “We use the same tweeter technology. We have supported that tweeter technology for 11 years, so it would have been odd to come out with a speaker using something different. But Roland has made changes to the tweeter construction in order for them to be made more easily and for production to be more accurate, which obviously leads to more accurate sound reproduction.

Eve Audio intends to break Adam’s mould, just not the ribbon. Story: Mark Davie

“There’s a folded diaphragm at the heart of the tweeter, and Roland implemented a method that holds the folds of the tweeter exactly in place. He also opened up the plate in front of the tweeter, with fewer but larger openings, which leads to less sound colouration.” ONE SOUND FOR ALL

Eve debuted at the Frankfurt Musikmesse in 2012. In just over a year, the company has released a massive range, from the four-inch, two-way SC204 to the soon-to-be-released four-ways and subwoofers — an incredible achievement for such a young company. “It was clear the only way to be heard was to come out with a range, not just one or two choices,” explained Kerstin. “To be attractive to distribution partners and dealers means you have to offer a serious range. You can’t look like a hobby company. It has worked very well for us. In less than one year we have managed to find distribution partners all around the world. At the moment we have covered 45 countries — a huge success for such a small company.

Out of Adam’s rib came Eve. It’s the oldest origin story in the book. But there’s a fresh take that’s only a year old: Out of Adam’s ribbon came Eve. For Roland Stenz — previous CEO/ minority shareholder/electronics designer of Adam Audio — naming his new company Eve Audio makes its history loud and clear. The message: If you liked Adam, well, you’re going to love Eve. Roland worked at Adam for 11 years. He’s an engineer first, and was in charge of designing all the PCBs for the S and P series. But a couple of years ago, he found himself without a job and a company, having been forced out by a majority shareholder wanting to go in a different direction. Being the CEO, and an electronic engineer, he wasn’t about to open a florist, it was in his DNA to start Eve.

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All the R&D and prototyping happens at Eve’s headquarters in Berlin, with the production outsourced to the same manufacturer in Asia — nursery of many a brand of monitor speaker. From there, all the units are sent back to Berlin for a second round of testing and then shipped. Roland managed to find a facility in Berlin’s Media City, a part of town that formerly housed the East German broadcaster where he began his career in the mid ’80s. It includes 350sqm of office area with a showroom, an 800sqm production area used for testing, and just happens to have a ready-made nine-metre cube anechoic chamber. Kerstin Mischke, worked at Adam for 11 years too, and when Roland told her he was starting Eve, she immediately jumped onboard.

“We have just one range that comes with one sound language that goes from small to medium to large units. All our monitors have silicone woofers, glass-fibre layer, honeycomb construction, all our bass ports fire backwards, and we include the same built-in DSP across the entire range.” It’s one of the key Eve differences. It means you can buy into the smaller (not lower) end of the range and if you upgrade to larger speakers, can either integrate the others into a 5.1 setup or another listening space with the assurance the voicing is going to remain similar. On the flip side, smaller Eve speakers are relatively more expensive, because they carry the same DSP and feature set as the larger units. The range helps Eve to compete globally. While in some markets the biggest sellers are the smaller five- and 6.5-inch two-ways, other markets lean toward the bigger models and can’t wait for the four-way systems to land.

We have supported that tweeter technology for 11 years, so it would have been odd to come out with a speaker using something different

The new SC407 four-way will extend down to 35Hz, while the SC408 will go all the way down to 32Hz. The crossover is actually a three-way, but there are four amplifiers, meaning the models are symmetrical. With the three-way speakers — where one woofer controls the low end, and the other, the low midrange — there are dip switches on the back so that users can select which is which. It makes it easier to warehouse and means Eve doesn’t have to hunt around for an A and B pair to ship. And more importantly, users can switch the driver orientation without having to wrestle the speakers off the stand. The new TS subs will include a passive radiator. A down-firing diaphragm that Kerstin says is about 10 times more expensive to manufacture than a standard bass port, but the advantages of the sealed design — no vent resonances or turbulence — are worth the additional effort. After just one year, Eve is starting to gain a strong foothold in the market. “Since last June we have over 4000 speakers out in the field. People are open-minded about listening to new brands and they are willing to accept a good product.”

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MAC NOTES Down to the core. What it’s like to sink your teeth into a fresh Apple. Column: Anthony Garvin

I have recently purchased a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro and for the most part am very happy with the new machine — the display is incredible, the power is great, and the size and weight suits my daily 20-minute return trip between home and studio to a T. I have, as usual with any new computer setup, come across problems, solutions, facts and myths… and as a result have put together a State of the Union for Apple’s 2013 model portable computers. SSD STORAGE

SSD storage is still far more expensive byte-forbyte when compared to HDD storage, however it is coming down in price and is within reach now for new purchases. However, there is a caveat to be aware of. Unfortunately SSDs have a far more limited write lifespan than HDDs, and data will eventually stop being able to be written to the drive, rendering it unusable (well, on a practical day-to-day level anyway). There is no exact lifespan figure, but I’ve heard about people getting a few years out of their SSD drive in the best case, to worst case, only a couple of weeks. In the latter, this was for intense reading and writing to the drive for sophisticated modelling software, so I don’t think DAW users have to freak out just yet. However, it does pose a problem long-term if you plan to use SSDs as your audio drive, which may have projects copied on and off it on a frequent basis. But, the storage is user-replaceable in current model Macs (albeit more difficult in some models), so by the time a drive is showing signs of wear and tear, the storage is probably going to be much cheaper and easier to replace. THE RETINA DISPLAY

It’s incredible. So much so that I’ve just plugged in a new 24-inch display at my desk and am already seriously considering ditching it and going back to the 13-inch display. The Retina image is comfortingly crisp and sharp, so much so that looking at a conventional display now makes my eyes hurt!

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Mind you, applications need to be updated to be compatible, and Logic and Ableton (the DAWs I’m currently running on my laptop) still need a bit of work to take full advantage of these very hi-res screens. 64-BIT VS 32-BIT

Remember when the G5 came out and Apple was referring to the amount of RAM the G5s 64-bit processor could access as being ‘Manhattan’ compared to a 32-bit processor’s ‘postage stamp’? Well, it’s nearly 10 years later, and not only did practical 64-bit processing only become a reality very recently, some are still catching up. Avid/ ProTools only just announced 64-bit support in ProTools 11, which isn’t available yet. Having said that, DAW developers are saying the primary benefit of 64-bit processing is that more RAM is now accessible to memory-hungry plugins. For the most part, that means instruments using samples — which almost all have their own virtual memory/streaming functionality that works rather well. So there’s no rush to jump on the 64-bit wagon. And in the case of Ableton, it still recommends using the 32-bit version for stability reasons. THUNDERBOLT

As per my last Mac Notes, I’m of the opinion that Thunderbolt is the way of the future, though we are yet to see dramatic steps forward in embracing the technology on a large scale. However, if you’re purchasing a new Mac there are a few Thunderbolt docks available. Belkin, Sonnet and Matrox have offerings which allow various combinations of DVI/HDMI, Firewire, Gigabit Ethernet, USB and audio I/O — many of which are no longer available on newer Macs — to be ‘broken out’ from a Thunderbolt connection. Sonnet’s soon to be released Echo 15 also includes an optical drive and/or HDD storage, though at a starting price of US$399 it’s not exactly cheap. At the very least, the relatively cheap Gigabit Ethernet and Firewire-to-Thunderbolt adapters from Apple are very useful — particularly for

getting that little extra bit of life out of all those Firewire drives many of us own. WATCH OUT FOR…

Upon setting up my new Mac, it’s not so much the DAW and plug-in re-installs I’ve had trouble with, but configuring some of the standard Apple software. Firstly, I should have picked up a problem a long time ago on my previous laptop, but moving my Mail data from old to new machine has been a nightmare — because the data on the old laptop at some point became corrupt and now isn’t importing very easily to the new machine. If for any reason your Mail application becomes slower than normal, erratic, or crashes, I highly recommend doing a rebuild of any suspect mailboxes. You can find this option by selecting the mailbox and heading to the Mailbox Menu > Rebuild. And another lesson I learnt the hard way … If you are using a Gmail account with Mail, watch out — Google’s recommended settings for Mail mean that mail is actually never deleted from your Gmail account if you delete or move messages offline in Mail. Not great for your quota if you are receiving and sending demos or rough mixes regularly! See for the fix. Lastly, I’m not much of a fan of migrating my user data and preferences over from an old Mac to a new one. Yes, it makes it very easy to move your ‘stuff ’ but all your junk comes with it as well! Resetting your preferences manually also has the benefit of stumbling across all those new features released in the updates to your OS that you’ve largely ignored. You may end up learning more about using your Mac and improving your general workflow.

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PC AUDIO With new Intel CPUs and a Windows 8 update on the horizon, should you stick or twist? Column: Martin Walker

Haswell is the codename for the next generation of Intel’s Core processor range, and its official unveiling will take place at the Computex computer expo in Taiwan on June 4th, 2013. This fourth generation range is the successor to the popular Ivy Bridge, and this time promises significant improvements in processing performance, as well as significantly lower power consumption. Those of us buying Haswell ultrabooks and tablets are likely to get nearly double the battery life compared with similarlyspeced Ivy Bridge-based machines, with Intel claiming 10 hours as a realistic possibility, while on-board graphics performance is also likely to be double that of the previous range. Moreover, entry-level Ultrabook systems featuring Haswell CPUs are expected to drop to $599 by the end of Q3, and NEC has already announced their first model (the LaVie L, with 15.6-inch touchscreen, 8GB of RAM, 1TB HDD and 32GB SSD). Ultrabook pricing has thus far been the main stumbling block to higher sales, so a flurry of new Haswell laptop, convertible, detachable and tablet models may just reverse the current sales slump. PC builders certainly hope so! Although most of the advance publicity has been focused on mobile devices, desktop PCs will also benefit from Haswell improvements, although Intel has once again created a new CPU socket to partner their Haswell-DT (DeskTop) range, so you’ll not be able to plug one into an existing motherboard. You’ll instead need a motherboard featuring this new LGA1150 socket along with Intel’s new Z87 chipset, and possibly even a different power supply, since Haswell’s power saving state requires so little juice that some cheaper PSUs may randomly shut down. A few websites are reporting rumours that Haswell desktop motherboards will drop PCI and SATA II 3.0Gbps support in favour of all PCIe slots and SATA III 6.0Gbps support, although Intel’s own DZ87KL motherboard does feature a single PCI slot, so nothing seems set in stone. On the positive side, Haswell desktop on-board graphics could have three times the

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performance of Ivy Bridge, which should reduce the need for separate graphics cards, while new instruction sets will offer significant performance improvements once software has eventually been updated/re-compiled to take advantage of them. The most encouraging news for the musician are the initial audio benchmarks carried out by Scott Chichelli of ADK Pro Audio with an early engineering sample of the Haswell quad-core 4770K model. The tests suggest that running at its base 3.5GHz clock speed with audio interface buffer sizes of 128 samples and below (i.e. low latency), it’s at least 50% more capable than the current favourite for musicians, the Ivy Bridge 3770K CPU model running at exactly the same clock speed. It even approaches the performance of the current power user’s favourite CPU — Intel’s significantly more expensive Sandy Bridge hex-core 3930K running at its default 3.2GHz speed. I have heard unofficial comments from other specialist audio PC builders that suggest they are already experimenting behind the scenes with systems based on sample Haswell CPUs, which should hopefully mean that Haswellbased desktop machines for the musician will be announced quite quickly following the official Intel launch. With pricing likely to be around the same as similarly-clocked Ivy Bridge CPUs I predict the Haswell range will become a popular choice for audio work. WINDOWS 8.1 RESTART

With purchases of Windows 8 licenses now up around 100 million, Microsoft has announced that the next iteration of this operating system will be available from the Windows Store later this year, and it also looks likely to be a free update. The most significant rumour is that this Windows 8.1 update will see the return of the traditional Windows Start button (which launched the Start menu at the left end of the Taskbar, and much missed by users when it was discontinued in Windows 8 after a 17-year tenure), although probably not exactly as before. Windows 8.1 may also include adjustments to the Start Screen that make it easier for non-

touchscreen users who are prepared to persevere with the tiled Metro interface, as well as an option for those who want to ignore it and boot directly to the desktop. Microsoft certainly claim to have closely listened to customer feedback, and that Windows 8 “is getting better every day” (apparently there has been over 739 fixes to Windows 8 since its release in October of 2012). They won’t confirm or deny any of these latest rumours, so we’ll just have to wait until the Windows 8.1 public preview on June 26th to find out the truth. An August launch is predicted. Meanwhile, if you’re currently using Windows 8, and still miss the Start button, it’s quick and easy to reinstate it, courtesy of various free/ donationware utilities. StartW8 (www.areaguard. com/startw8) is a simple utility that does the job for Windows 8, Pro, or Server 2012 as well as letting you automatically switch to the traditional desktop interface immediately after signing in. Pokki for Windows 8 ( is slightly different, offering a new style of Start button/menu with the ability to pin and organise your files, apps, widgets, control panel and so on, making your PC look rather like a smartphone screen. If this emphasis on ‘apps’ appeals to you then Pokki even lets you download and install its own app versions. One of the most comprehensive utilities is Classic Shell (, “A collection of features that were available in older versions of Windows but were later removed.” It started life as a Windows Vista enhancement, and the latest version now works under Windows Vista, 7 and 8 in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, adds many optional usability enhancements to Windows Explorer, as well as offering three different styles of Start Menu, plus some very useful extras such as a replacement Copy File dialogue for Windows Vista and 7 to avoid all those infuriating merge/ replace choices in favour of the familiar Confirm File Replace dialogue — personally I think it’s worth downloading Classic Shell just to enable this latter feature!

Electronic act PVT move from cult label Warp and head to a country manner to inject their new record Homosapien with a breath of fresh air. Story: Mark Davie

PVT’s writing process is a finely-honed intercontinental square dance between London and Sydney, where files are swapped between band members like partners on a dance floor. The electronic band is made up of frontman Richard Pike (living in London), his brother Laurence and Dave Miller (both in Sydney). PVT recently left cult electronic label Warp Records, home of Aphex Twin, for Create Control to release their latest record Homosapien. Music can be a rough cycle. After sweating over an album, it’s not just a matter of washing off, rinsing and repeating. It’s straight into the tumble drier of a tour — a similar machine, just hotter, and prone to meltdowns. The cycle usually ends in post-tour blues. Exhausted, summoning up the effort to go round again can be tough. The force required to drag each other out of the post-tour blues helped shape Homosapien, it was like starting all over again. “We took a little break, a deep breath and tried something different again,” said Richard. “The record felt really fresh in that regard.” AT 72

A little break, deep breaths, and fresh air were exactly what PVT found in a country manor in Yass, a small town just north of Canberra. It’s a place not unfamiliar to Australian bands. Both Jack Ladder and The Drones’ Gareth Liddiard have recorded there before, the common link being producer Burke Reid, who had worked on PVT’s previous record. Even DZ Deathrays (a band Richard is producing an album for) are writing at the mansion. It’s buzzing by Yass standards.

These days we’re more impressed with ourselves if we can make a song sound fantastic with less tracks, and make every track count

“We liked the idea of getting out of the city,” said Richard. “We’ve always done concentrated recording sessions that are on the clock in nice studios with nice gear. It’s a good process if you’re on a budget. But this time we wanted to do the Rolling Stones thing. Go away to a mansion in the countryside and turn it into a record. It was exciting for us to discover a new way to make a record.” PVT hired Gareth Liddiard’s mobile recording setup for the sessions (whose latest album serendipitously happens to be the feature of another piece in this issue, check it out for more info on his gear). “It’s funny, his town is like where the Sims Brothers live in Chris Lilley’s We Can Be Heroes — one main drag and two pubs. We met him there in his ute looking like some kind of modern Henry Lawson and then we drove the gear back up to Yass — that was a cool process in itself.” LEADING WITH VOCALS

One of the main differences between Homosapien and PVT’s previous albums is this is the first time Richard has truly embraced the lead vocal role start to finish. “It was organic,” said Richard. “We started doing it live more and more. Dave was taking live samples of my voice, pitching things and doing dubby delays with it. It seemed like the right time to sing again. We feel more mature as songwriters.” Relying on vocals to lead the way meant another change to PVT’s songwriting regime. Taking 2010’s Church With No Magic as an example, the songwriting process was primarily studio based, where the band would come in with vague ideas and loops, then jam on them in a Can/Krautrock cut-up method. The obvious problem to the approach is trawling through countless hours of material trying to find 10 songs worth of gold. “It becomes a lot of post work,” said Richard. “And it mainly ends up as my job. So this time we wanted to have about 20 solid-ish ideas to choose from. And a record came out of that.” DOWN TO BUSINESS

To go with this fresh start, and the new vocal approach, the aim at Yass was to get as much recorded live as possible in three weeks. “We didn’t want to spend too much time bogged down in electronics,” said Richard. Which seems odd for an electronic band. “We wanted to get as much live stuff as we could. We brought all the synths we could. We put together a little workshop upstairs so we could work on any keyboard stuff while the drums were being

VOCALS Richard used either a Bees Knees Arabella large diaphragm condenser, Rode K2 or Oktava ML-52 ribbon mic through a Golden Age Pre 73 preamp for vocals.

tracked in the main room. We were also in quite beautiful bushland, so if you weren’t tracking you could go for a walk. It was a perfect scenario in a lot of ways. That feeling was nice to be around, rather than having to worry about where you’d park your car every morning when you’d go to the studio in Surry Hills.” Each morning, everyone would congregate for a meeting and go over the plan for the day. A bit business-like for a creative enterprise, but an organisational necessity that kept the selfproduction on task. The danger of whittling away the days without getting anything done was one they were keen to avoid. “We didn’t want to walk away and go, ‘You know what, we really should have… or, this song isn’t cutting it,’” said Richard. “When you’re in that situation you’re isolated and every day you’re getting up and doing the same thing, there’s a concern that you’ll lose focus. It becomes like Groundhog Day. It was important to us to keep a routine and then smash it out and walk away with all the material we wanted.


“I’m of the belief these days that less is more. When we were younger we’d layer the hell out of everything, but these days we’re more impressed with ourselves if we can make a song sound fantastic with less tracks, and make every track count.”

Richard’s inspiration for bass is a guy called John Mouse, who does really lo-fi recordings — usually a drum machine, some New Order-sounding synths and a really pumped DI bass. Richard selected between a ’70s Fender P Bass with flatwound strings and a warm-sounding ’60s Rickenbacker depending on the song. His secret weapon was a Bixonic Expandora distortion pedal. Richard: “It’s just got the most bizarre, cutting, feedback distortion that works nicely on bass.”


PRODIGIOUS TALENT Ivan Vizintin engineered the sessions at Yass. He used to front a band called Ghoul, and is in a band with Laurence from PVT and Alex from Seekae. So he’s connected. Richard calls him an engineering prodigy, which Ivan laughs off… but at just 24, he pretty much is. As well as engineering and producing, he has a Masters of Music from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and has composed music for the film Animal Kingdom, and Mimco and Bonds TV campaigns. When I catch up with Ivan, he’s just finished an EP for a Sydney band called <Bearhug>, and mixed an R&B album, which was a first. Next, he’s working on a record with a garage trio, and later in the year might be doing a record with disco funkinspired Donny Benét… at the very least, he’s got a diverse resumé. Ivan: “At The Con they had a creative production program where they teach you to record jazz groups, big bands and orchestras, and I did a short internship with ABC Classic FM. I had known Laurence for ages, so I suggested we get a room at The Con and record some solo drums. And that went really well, then I did a record with him and jazz pianist Mike [Knock], and he asked me to come and engineer down at Yass. “As far as I know, James, the guy that owns the place in Yass, has only rented it out to four or five bands. It all started when Jack Ladder did his record there, and the only reason they chose that place was because it was a midpoint between where Gareth’s gear was in Melbourne and where they were in Sydney. It’s a great solution because it’s so isolated. You can get up at seven, start recording and go until four in the morning and no one’s going to stop you. “The house has so many nooks and crannies that you can put a guitar amp in, or Richard could sing in. When I was doing drum tracking, I left five or six channels free just to put room mics in nooks around the house. Because Laurence was hitting so hard, the whole house was reverberant with wooden floors. So on the record, I can hear spaces; the little room upstairs, or the broom closet under the stairs. It has so many different options. “The main overheads were a pair of Coles 4038 ribbons, I had a small Beyerdynamic hypercardioid on the hats, a Shure SM57 on the snare, an EV RE320 under the snare, a Neumann U87 on the kick out. “Because the mansion is big enough to house wedding parties, there are a lot of mattresses. So we tried to enclose the drums with mattresses and behind them I put an XY pair of Oktava MK-012s pointed toward the ceiling. They weren’t getting a lot of direct sound, mostly room reflections. And there’s a huge staircase that runs three floors. So at the top of the staircase I put a Rode K2 tube mic, and down a tiny box of a corridor I tied a crappy boundary mic to a wall. I also stuck a Rode NT2 in a dining room next to the main hall that must have been 12m by 4m wide with 3m-high ceilings. I knew I wasn’t mixing the record, so I was just trying to give Ben hard and soft options and varied spaces that might work for different songs. “And Laurence doesn’t like the sound of too much close-miking, he thinks of his drums as more of a textural thing. When we were tracking, the more of the rooms I could feed into his headphone sends, the more relaxed he would feel and hear the dynamics of his playing better. “On each tom I had a Sennheiser MD421. I also put up a Bees Knees Arabella up high a metre above and behind Laurence’s head, and that was used as the sound on one of the tracks. “Gareth had a bunch of API 312 clones, which I thought sounded a little woolly, but the JLM preamps were clear and beautiful and we ended up running everything through them. “The main room is great for recording anything in. The surrounding area is so quiet, the only thing you can hear are sheep ‘baah’-ing. And it’s also very inspiring to open the door and see a giant mountain.” AT 74

GUITARS Richard’s main go-to guitar is a Fender Hot Rod Tele, though he also uses a couple of Jazzmasters.

SYNTHS Richard: My go-to live keyboard is a Roland Juno 106. I write with it a lot but I don’t feel the need to keep it on everything because it has a limited sound. We used a Moog quite a bit for bass lines on this record, but I’m not a huge Moog guy. We use Moog soft synth’s as well as a real one. I love the Arturia soft synths — they’re incredibly convincing. We had a Korg MS-20 and a Yamaha DX7. We also had a Roland Juno 60. Ivan, who engineered the record, brought down a Waldorf Blofeld synth module. But it was far too digital for me. We had a Moog Slim Phatty we used for bass on one song called <Announce> and we ended up putting it through the bass amp to give it more punch and warmth. “We tend to move towards those kinds of sounds. We’re not really heavy into bright rave synths or ‘wub-wub’ dubstep sounds. We’re more into the ’70s Cluster school of ambient.

Cutting down on tracks is one thing, but it also means you have to cut the crap. “A lot of it is saying no to bad sounds!” said Richard. “It’s a mistake a lot of young producers make. They think it sounds good just because they programmed it, when really they should be replacing it with another sound. Having said that, sometimes we’ll use a sound that’s not necessarily sonically rich, but you still like the sound because it has a certain grit, air or weirdness that you can’t fake. It’s a constant experimentation and your ears are your best friend in that situation — you’ve got to be discerning.” METHOD OF EVOLUTION

Richard gives an example of this newfound approach with one of the simpler tracks on Homosapien called Evolution. Richard: “Essentially I made an arpeggiated MIDI track using the Arpeggiator plug-in in Ableton Live and sent that out to the Juno 106. It’s the reason I still love the Juno. It’s digital [with an analogue filter] but it sounds analogue

and you can use MIDI, you can play it live if you want, and you can mutilate it on the spot. It’s not too difficult to use. “So it started with the arpeggiated brass synth sound that I tracked a Roland TR-606 drum machine along to. I didn’t sync up the 606, I just played it in and used the warp function in Ableton to drop it in time. The synth pads were done on the Arturia ARP 2600 soft synth, fiddling with the filter. That was the basics of the electronics on that — dead simple. “Then it’s just about getting the nuances right, being really specific about where we want it to ebb and flow, where we want the filter to come out, and when we want the notes to be short or long. Those things are what makes the arpeggiator really organic and expressive.” It sounds like PVT have grown up — moving to the country, taking a ‘less is more’ approach. They’re an electronic band that’s maturing with age, slowly adding more of that human touch.

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Richard: “Ben uses an ARP 2600 synth. He has it next to his console with two mics permanently set up on the in-built speakers. He likes to re-record backing vocals through it to give a much duller, warmer sound, so it sounds like it’s further back. Most of the reverbs we used were digital except for a Demeter reverb, which is like a classic spring reverb sound. Otherwise he uses Stillwell Audio’s Verbiage plug-in.”

MIXER BY THE POOL Ben Hillier mixed the album at The Pool studios, which he co-owns. It’s part of the Miloco group of UK studios that also includes Flood and Alan Moulder’s Assault & Battery, as well as Craig Silvey’s base, The Garden. In the past, Hillier has been involved in building two different studios for Blur (one when he produced Think Tank), a studio for Doves and a studio for The Futureheads. He found that bands got used to the idea of playing together in rehearsal rooms, so creating a live room where everyone could hear each other was paramount. While Miloco restructured The Pool to incorporate a control room, when Hillier records there he prefers to turn the space into an advanced home studio, with the control room gear in the live space, and using the control room as another booth if required. Once the initial tracks are recorded on headphones, he figures everyone prefers to overdub in the control room anyway, so may as well have a nice big space to feel comfortable in. Hillier has an EMT A100 30-channel console, but relies mostly on a diverse collection of outboard preamps for tracking, as well as outboard dynamics and effects gear. His in-the-box component is Reaper, which he uses mainly to interface with his outboard gear. Because The Pool is so busy, he also has another room down the road where part of Homosapien was mixed. It’s based around the same principle of using Reaper as a hub to interface with his outboard gear. Ben Hillier: I tend to use the insert plug-in quite a lot in Reaper. It’s an easy way to set up a hardware insert on a digital track, and most importantly it ‘pings’ the chain to work out the latency and then adjusts accordingly. I’ve found it’s accurate enough to use on individual drum tracks without upsetting the phase. Although once you get a few of them running, the computer tends to struggle a bit so I usually end up bouncing them back in. There are two main reasons I use this, firstly it means I can do rides and effects sends from within Reaper and they are post-insert AT 76

(as they would be on an analogue console), and secondly, I usually prefer the sound of the hardware processors, especially compressors. Mark Davie: What’s drawn you to Reaper specifically? BH: I think it sounds better than any other DAW I’ve tried. If I play back the same files at the same levels through the same interface they sound better if I use Reaper than if I use any of the other DAWs I have previously used — though I’ve not tried them all, so it isn’t a completely exhaustive test! Reaper deals with latency correctly, so if you route tracks through several different process chains you don’t get phase issues. Its offline file processing can sound great (if you have it set to the highest quality). The routing is very flexible and I find the whole program really quick and reliable. MD: Richard used the soft synth version of the ARP2600 on the record, but he mentioned you use the real thing for effects. How do you use the ARP2600 in your mix? BH: In a mix a I mainly use it for the input section (drive and distortion), filtering and spring reverb. Although I will sometimes sequence these (especially the filter) using the 1613 sequencer if I want to get a certain rhythm into a part. MD: There’s a fair bit of bass guitar on the record. What differences in low end are there between a track with bass guitar vs another with a synth bass line? And how do you work with that? BH: On this record we were going for quite an upfront bass sound so I was generally compressing the bass guitar a lot more than the synth stuff to get the presence I needed, I was also driving my Chandler mixer pretty hard, which helps with that. MD: Some tracks have live drums and other are programmed, is there a tendency to make either sound closer to the other?

BH: I like my live drums to sound live and my programmed drums programmed. We wanted to make the most of the great room sounds on the live drums and Laurence is a great drummer, his timing’s bang-on but not at the expense of the feel. I had to make sure close mics on the live drums were punchy enough to match up to the bass sounds on the record but otherwise we wanted the live-ness to be heard. With the programmed stuff most of the effects used were tight and short so as not to get in the way of the live drum rooms. MD: What are some of the ways you created depth and width in the sound stage for this record? BH: A lot of PVT’s tracks have a big lead sound (the bass in Casual Success, the guitar in Homosapien, the sequence in Nightfall) or a few parts that combine to define the sound of the song (for example, the woozy synth and bright snare in Vertigo). So I’d try to balance and EQ the other parts around that and the vocal so as to not get in the way. I also don’t mind the less important/immediate parts being a bit hidden or panned wider, it gives the mix a greater sense of depth and you don’t always get everything on the first listen. Maybe it encourages the listener to keep coming back to the song. MD: How did you process Richard’s vocals? BH: A lot of the more extreme or audible effects the band had already done themselves (the delay in Vertigo, the multi-tracked harmonising in Homosapien) but I really like short single delays and harmonisers on Richard’s voice, so I used quite a lot. I also found that more standard reverbs tended to soak up a lot of space so I generally avoided them. I also like to use several stages of compression rather than just one compressor, the voice can sound much more up front that way and the compression artefacts aren’t so pronounced or unpleasant.

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ABLETON LIVE 9 The latest Ableton Live update keeps the live side simple while adding plenty of production prowess.


Review: Tim Shiel

PRICE Live 9 Suite: $849 (Fully boxed) Live 9 Standard: $549 (Fully boxed) Live 9 Intro: $99

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CONTACT CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or

PROS Realtime EQ & dynamic visual feedback Improved core plug-ins & more top sounds Breakthrough potential with audio-to-MIDI

CONS Still a few bugs to iron out Not many updates to live performance & video features

SUMMARY Ableton Live 9 is a great update for the production environment. New and improved plug-ins, audio-to MIDI, plenty more packs, and Max for Live bundled with Suite 9 open up loads of new ground to explore.

Four long years since the release of its last major product revision, German developers Ableton are back in 2013 with the eagerly anticipated Live 9. While some of the software adjustments this time around are a little more subtle than previous iterations, there’s a lot to like about Live 9 for both seasoned Ableton veterans and brand-new users. Initially a tool primarily for electronic artists and live performance, over the years songwriters and producers from across all genres have gravitated towards Ableton for its jack-of-all-trades approach and idiosyncratic creative workflow. Almost accidentally adopted as a mainstream DAW, Ableton Live now finds itself catering to a broad church of users, who utilise the software for a variety of applications both in the studio and on stage — and as a result, some users are likely to get more out of this upgrade than others. Those interested in using Ableton as a writing and production platform benefit from a wide range of tweaks to existing components (including session automation, updated EQ and compression tools, and more advanced MIDI note editing capabilities), while those who use it as a platform for live playback and performance might feel there is not a lot new here. CONVERGING VIEWS

Session View still stands as one of Ableton’s most defining and idiosyncratic features, and while some veterans of the software swear by it as a creative workspace, others will play with it once and then retreat to the more linear Arrangement View, never to return to that grid of colours and loops. For the former, Ableton has finally introduced the long-requested feature of Session Automation, which allows you to capture the details and nuances of performance inside clips and loops in Session View. Previous incarnations of Live have allowed you to get around this oversight by recording relative modulation values into a clip. But it’s now straightforward to record the same absolute automation data into a Session View clip as could previously be recorded into an Arrangement View envelope, making it much easier to move clips (and their embedded automation) between Ableton’s two views — a godsend for some. GLUE AT THE CORE

There is a lot to like for production nerds in Ableton, with the developers addressing some core devices that were in need of some attention, particularly Ableton’s foundation equalisation plug-in, EQ Eight. Criticised by some for having a flat and artefact-y sound, many producers with keen ears have for some time avoided Ableton’s native EQs in favour of third-party options. To combat this, Ableton commissioned analoguemodelling specialists Cytomic to rewrite the algorithm for EQ Eight from the ground up, and the results are instantly noticeable, with EQ Eight sounding clearer and more musical. Cytomic was also brought onboard to develop Ableton’s only new native device in Live 9, the Glue Compressor, which is built around the algorithm from Cytomic’s award-winning compressor, The

Glue. Styled on classic ’80s SSL bus compressors, Glue Compressor is useful for ‘glueing’ together disparate elements across a mix, which makes it great for drum buses. But its clean, simple interface and rich driven sound make it a useful compression option for stand-alone sounds too. For those who have in the past avoided Ableton’s EQ and compression options because of their lack of depth and character, these revisions finally make Ableton’s native devices a good alternative to third-party solutions. DYNAMIC NEW VIEW

EQ Eight, as well as Ableton’s core Compressor and Gate plug-ins, also benefit from some visualisation improvements that fold neatly into Ableton’s distinctively simple aesthetic. Each device’s GUI now includes real-time visualisation of the processed audio. In EQ Eight this takes the form of a real-time FFT spectrum analyser overlay, which can also be expanded into a breakout display for a more detailed view. In the Compressor and Gate, scrolling real-time audio peaks are juxtaposed against a graph of the gainreduction envelopes, which is hugely handy when dialling-in musical attack and release settings. These are the kind of no-brainer improvements that instantly yield results, especially for rookie producers still getting their heads around the very vital concepts of equalisation and compression. Matching an EQ or compression adjustment with a visualisation of the change makes the whole act instantly less arcane and much more welcoming to novice producers. EQ Eight also benefits from a new Audition mode which allows for quick and easy auditioning of individual EQ bands. For those who would prefer to use Ableton’s inbuilt audio effects rather than third-party solutions — Ableton’s devices remain remarkably CPU-friendly in comparison to some other options — these tweaks will result in much smarter and more efficient use of EQ and compression. MAX FROM LIVE

Live 9 comes in three versions: a stripped-down Intro edition that really is only suitable for those wanting to test the waters; Standard edition; and the full Suite. Suite comes in at a few hundred dollars more than Standard, but it’s where many of Ableton’s most creative features can be found: Instruments like Analog, Collision, Electric, Operator, Sampler and Tension, as well as audio effects such as Amp, Cabinet and Corpus, and a host of sample and preset packs. But the main reason for making the jump to Suite is to get access to Ableton’s modular development environment Max for Live, previously a standalone add-on to Ableton but now integrated completely with every purchase of Suite 9. Still a revolutionary concept even three years since its release in late 2009, Max for Live truly separates Ableton from other DAWs, giving you hands-on control over the building blocks of Ableton’s workflow. In theory, musicians now have the tools to build whatever it is they need, engineer solutions to problems or develop wildly creative new instruments and devices. In AT

practice, many will never enter the programming environment and will leave it to others to do the dirty work. So far the Max for Live (M4L) community has been a little slow off the mark, but with the numbers of the M4L community about to swell dramatically, we should see an acceleration in the release of new plug-ins. In the meantime, 26 new Max devices ship with Suite 9, including a useful Convolution Reverb and a quirky drum synthesiser.

Live 9’s browsing is a lot easier with the ‘Spotlight’-style search

Robert Henke’s granular synthesis patch Granulator has had a revision and remains a great tool for the creation of ambient textures — wrangling Ableton’s audio warping engine to slice an audio sample into a stream of cross-faded grains, which can then be modulated in a variety of unlikely ways.

Handy functional tools such as standalone LFOs that can be mapped to parameters, and Envelope Follower — an audio analysis tool which allows you to easily link the automation of a parameter on one track to the rise and fall of a parameter on another track — hint at M4L’s capabilities as a workflow Swiss army knife. In terms of userbuilt devices, Robert Henke’s granular synthesis patch Granulator has had a revision and remains a great tool for the creation of ambient textures — wrangling Ableton’s audio warping engine to slice an audio sample into a stream of crossfaded grains, which can then be modulated in a variety of unlikely ways. PACKED IN EXTRAS

Ableton has also expanded its range of multisampled instruments and sample packs. The Standard edition of Live 9 gives users access to basic packs that include your standard classic drum machine samples (TR-808, TR-909, LinnDrum, DMX, etc.), alongside a multisampled grand piano, percussion samples, and more boutique packs from reputable sources such as Cycling ’74 and Soniccouture. But the scope of sonic possibilities widens considerably with the purchase of Suite 9, with access to over 50GB of downloadable packs. It’s not so much the quantity of sounds that’s impressive but the consistent quality — the presence of boutique sound design company Soniccouture as a primary contributor to Ableton’s core sample packs is testimony to the curatorial smarts of the Ableton team. Soniccouture’s multi-sampled instruments truly deserve special mention and are a worthy addition to Suite 9’s core offering — take for example the eBow Guitar patch which offers a variety of articulations of sampled bowed strings for acoustic and electric guitar, coupled with smart and very creative modulation options built into each preset. Other idiosyncratic sound packs include the Tingklik, a Balinese bamboo percussion instrument realistically rendered from original samples, and The Forge, an experimental patch fusing classic IDM sounds with elements of modern cinematic sound design. These sonic options provide an intriguing counterpoint to the expected sample packs of retro synths and classic drum machines, and intuitively designed to push more openminded producers to make bold, unexpected choices during the creative process. EVERYTHING-TO-MIDI

One thing you could never accuse Ableton of being is boring. Its three new audio-to-MIDI conversion tools included in Live 9 — Drums-toAT 80

MIDI, Harmony-to-MIDI and Melody-to-MIDI — which promise to “give you unprecedented flexibility to extract musical ideas from samples,” have probably raised as many eyebrows as they have opened wallets. When these features were announced I was immediately reminded of the Groove Engine which was one of the lynchpins of Ableton’s Live 8 release — a tool designed to analyse rhythmic loops or samples and extract their ‘groove’ which could then more-or-less be dragged and dropped onto other loops and locked to that groove using Ableton’s trademark warping engine. On paper, Groove Engine sounded revolutionary — unlock the mysterious and unique swings and grooves of your favourite players and drag ’n’ drop them into your own compositions — in practice, it proved a useful creative tool for some but not quite the jaw-dropping ‘magic key’ many hoped it might be. Similarly, anyone hoping to unlock the composition secrets of their favourite tracks with the new audio-to-MIDI conversion modes might be disappointed with the results — a test run to see how these modes would deal with Art of Noise’s 10-minute art pop epic Moments in Love, for example, resulted in a barely listenable mess of conversion errors and garish rhythmic horrors. But as long as you keep your expectations in check, and are prepared for some manual post-conversion editing, this could be a very useful tool — particularly if Ableton continues to refine the conversion algorithms in future software patches. As they say, you can’t un-bake a cake. But over time these tools will be useful to those who are working with their own recorded material. Extracting MIDI from an existing piano or guitar stem is straightforward, and with Ableton’s everexpanding array of inbuilt instrument presets, it makes doubling parts very straightforward. For the vocally adept, quickly turning a beatbox

These are the kind of no-brainer improvements that instantly yield results

PUSHED OVER THE EDGE I’ve barely mentioned the Push — released simultaneously with Live 9, the Push controller is Ableton’s first step into the crowded world of hardware controllers. Dubbed by some as a ‘Maschine-killer’, the Push is designed as a fully integrated creative workstation and instrument, designed in collaboration with Akai who previously worked with Ableton to develop the APC40 controller. At the time this went to press, few people have had their hands on a Push — I was lucky enough to spend a few hours with a prototype version at Ableton HQ late last year and can say it’s a very useful and logical extension of Ableton’s philosophy. More to come soon.

rhythm into a loop played by a full drum kit, or a whistled melody into a synth lead with only a handful of clicks is definitely a realistic application of these new features. It should be noted that these conversion modes don’t operate in realtime — hopefully this is on the developers’ to-do list because live audio-to-MIDI tracking inside Ableton, if attainable, would be a wonderfully creative tool for live performers. LIVE LOSS

Despite the wealth of production workflow improvements, there’s not a lot of love for live performers in this upgrade. A revision of Ableton’s MIDI Mapping features seems long overdue. The simple touch-and-go mapping remains intuitive and quick, but a more extended mode for advanced users would be welcomed by those with more sophisticated live MIDI setups. For example, I would love to have manual MIDI map editing to be able to manually enter note, CC (Control Change) and channel assignments, or have the option to easily map multiple incoming CCs to a single device parameter — something that still can only be achieved in Ableton using workarounds. Crafty programmers no doubt could build Max for Live solutions to allow more sophisticated MIDI routing, but with MIDI assignments still at the core of most Ableton rigs both in the studio and on stage, it would be nice to see this area expanded as part of the core program.

AT 82


A well-kept secret to even its most regular users, Ableton’s implementation of video playback was snuck into the system many years ago in Live 6 and has not changed much since then. Charmingly basic in its capabilities — drag a video file into Ableton’s arrangement view and you can cut, warp and loop it with the same editing tools used audio — it’s a rudimentary video sequencing tool that many users find only by accident. But it allows for quick and efficient video editing for those looking to avoid complicated video software suites. It’s also useful for scoring and can be used for live performance if you can manhandle Ableton’s finicky video playback window. The creative manipulation and meshing of audio to video would seem like fertile ground for Ableton’s wily developers — with artists increasingly integrating video into their performances. And since Ableton is a regular fixture on stages big and small, it seems a missed opportunity for Ableton to not have paid any attention to this cobwebbed corner of their software in Live 9. Perhaps consciously leaving it to some ingenious Max for Live developers to build a more robust video playback platform for use inside Ableton. BROWSING AROUND

There are a host of other subtle functionality improvements that make Live 9 a smoother,

more transparent environment to work in. An improved browser integrates sounds, devices and project files for quick Spotlight-style searching [it’s a Mac thing – Ed]. Envelope curves have been introduced for those who are looking for a little more flourish in their automations, while a number of new MIDI editing features allow for quicker transposition, transformation and duplication of bulk MIDI notes. Despite many months in beta, not all of the creases have been ironed out of Live 9, and so anyone using Ableton in a critical environment such as on stage is probably wise to hold off for a few software patches to come through before making the leap. I’ve been using it as my production DAW for a month and have come across a few quirky non-fatal bugs, display errors and odd behaviours that are best described as nuisances. Other friends have reported latency issues and the occasional audio errors. If you’re impatient like me, or mostly use Ableton for production — the vast array of new production options and sound packs, combined with a range of workflow tweaks (many so subtle that you won’t notice how much impact they’ve made until you dive back into Live 8 for some reason) make the upgrade to Live 9 too enticing to resist.

From the company that has redefined the synthesizer market for 50 years come two instant classics: the new KingKORG and MS-20 Mini. KingKORG is the ultimate modeling performance synthesizer, capable of recreating classic sounds using models of sought-after synth filters. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s also your secret weapon for sculpting your own new sounds, with intuitive knobs and displays that make sound design easy and fun. On the more retro side is the true analog MS-20 Mini featuring the circuitry from the legendary MS-20. Patch, tweak and twist your way into the next generation of music creation with Korg. |

/korgaus |



KORG MS-20 MINI Who’d have thought Korg would go this far back to the drawing board. Some things need never change. Review: Brad Watts



The Korg MS-20 is an analogue two-oscillator monophonic lead and bass synth with hard-wired and patchable connections. This ‘semi-modular’ approach means the synth will function without any patching (although you’ll need to do some work if you want the mod wheel to operate) but you can over-ride the hard-wired architecture via the patchbay. In addition to two analogue oscillators, the MS20 features two resonant filters, two VCAs, sample and hold, a noise generator, and that assignable mod-wheel we just mentioned. The filter section is capable of high-pass, low-pass, notch and band-reject, which offers considerably more sophistication than your average low-pass-style filter. External sound sources can be routed through the filter section, which again provides another powerful string to the MS-20 bow. The MS-20 is well known as a sonic all-rounder, equally at home generating fat or percussive bass sounds, leads, noise effects, along with crazy textures. And there are plenty of (traditional) MS-20 proponents including William Orbit, Aphex Twin, Air, Royksopp, and Jean-Michel Jarre.

PRICE $799 CONTACT CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or

AT 84

PROS It’s a real MS-20! It’s analogue! Cheap! It’s a wee ripper! Need I say more?

It’s difficult to decide where to begin with a review of Korg’s latest endowment to the synth-world: The MS-20 Mini. I don’t believe I’ve ever come across this situation. No synth manufacturer has gone to such extremes to recreate a 35-year old design, apart from perhaps, Moog, with its Minimoog Voyager Old School ‘Model D’ recreation. That said, the Voyager Old School included functions not possible with the original Minimoog, so it wasn’t a strict rebuild. And sure there’s been plenty of analogue modelling going on. Korg itself did a smashing job with the Korg Legacy Collection plug-ins and MS-20ic controller (more on this later), as it has also done with its analogue modelling synths such as the KingKorg I reviewed last issue. The

CONS No controller out via MIDI Some may be disappointed with tiny keys

other synthesis big-wig, Roland, has taken the path of paying homage to its vintage designs, with Juno, Jupiter and SH-101 style architecture and cosmetic regalia. Then there are the plethora of boutique modular analogue synth designs from the likes of Doepfer, Vermona and ADDAC (to name but a few — there are dozens more). These are hybrids in some respects, fusing 50-year old technology into modern variations. But as I mentioned, no manufacturer has gone to the extreme of rebuilding a synth to the original analogue specification — until now. Trust Korg to completely embrace its heritage. So I hope you understand my indecisiveness with this review, because in many ways this article could easily unfold as a review of the original Korg MS-20.

SUMMARY A real analogue MS-20 — just a little smaller and much cheaper. The perfect synth to whet your analogue appetite if you don’t already own one.


Most synthesis-heads would be aware of the genuine Korg MS-20 released back in 1978. In the day it was known as a poor man’s Moog, however, the MS-20 has since become part of analogue folklore, equally as collectable (albeit a third of the market value) as the Minimoog it was once seen as poor cousin to. So what made the MS-20 so popular? Well, to begin with it was semi-modular. In other words, alongside a set of onboard controls for the synthesis section, the MS-20 included a patchbay for shunting various modulation sources to various destinations. This increased the versatility of the unit no end, allowing the synth to be controlled by analogue sequencers such as Korg’s SQ-10 or to control modular synths such as the Korg MS-50, a keyboard-less single-VCO design with a bucketload more patching options. (The MS-50 also purportedly ‘sounded better’ than the MS-20. I couldn’t tell you one way or the other as MS-50s are now rarer than the proverbial rocking-horse doo-doo. Expect to pay three to four grand if you do find one for sale.) But I’m getting off track here. The MS-20 Mini (and the MS-20) is quite a synthesis workhorse. It’s the type of instrument you can continually turn to, churn up a sound quickly, sample it and get back to composing. This is how many would use the original unit, otherwise you’d need a MIDI-to-control voltage converter to get the unit triggering from your DAW. Fortunately the new MS-20 Mini features a MIDI input and a USB port. The vanilla five-pin MIDI input will allow triggering notes from the MS-20 Mini, and hooking the unit directly to your DAW machine via USB will enable bidirectional MIDI control. In other words you can use the keyboard of the MS-20 Mini to play notes into your DAW/ sequencer. MINIATURE REPLICA

Exactly why Korg decided to re-release the MS20 at 86% of its original size is a bit of history in itself. In 2007, Korg released a software suite of instrument plug-ins — the Korg Legacy Collection. These plug-ins replicated classic Korg synths such as the MS-2000, Poly Six, M1, Wavestation, and of course, the MS-20. For a limited time you could buy the package with an MS-20 style controller — the MS-20ic. The controller was an 86% size replica of the MS-20 with mini-sized keys and 1/8-inch patchbay jacks (rather than the original MS-20’s 1/4-inch patchbay jacks). In order to function as a plug-in controller, the MS-20ic sent MIDI information from every knob on its front panel to the Korg Legacy MS-20 plug-in — even to the point whereby plugging physical patch leads into the controller’s patchbay replicated on-screen patch cables in the plug-in’s GUI. It’s quite a clever little unit, and also controls Korg’s iMS-20 application for iPad, which, I might add, includes a virtual SQ-10 sequencer. As it transpires, the MS-20 Mini is similar to the controller — similar reduction in size, same 1 /8-inch patchbay jacks — but with real analogue

guts. Some might complain about the mini-sized keyboard, but I’m personally a fan of mini-size keys — it takes me back to the days of belting out bass-lines on a Yamaha DX100. The only other, very slight niggle, is the signal out jack is a small 1 /8-inch jack. But this is so you can easily route the output through the unit’s ‘external signal processor’ using the supplied 1/8-inch patch cables if needs dictate. The MS-20 Mini comes with 10 of these patch cables, and they’re yellow — just like the virtual patch cables in Korg’s software variations of the MS-20. MANUAL PATCH

The unit also comes with a reprint of the original MS-20 manual which is kinda cute — this is, after all, an MS-20. The manual includes a few ‘patch sheets’ to get you started with ‘classic’ synthesiser sounds such as ‘Steam Locomotive’ and ‘UFO’ (‘Funny Cat’ didn’t make the cut). One of the interesting patches laid out in the manual makes use of patching a guitar into the unit. With four patch cables you can delve into the 1978 version of guitar synthesis. Prepare to alter your playing

“ ”

The MS-20 Mini shines like the classic synth it is

style somewhat as the results can be incredibly random, almost unusably random, just like the original, but it can be a lot of fun and a great source of sound bites and inspiration. Of course you aren’t restricted to inputting guitars through this patch — stick anything you like through it — bass, vocals, didgeridoo, wailing cats, it doesn’t matter. This is all voltage controlled stuff so anything you can get into a microphone or an amplifier (and out into the MS-20 Mini) will provide a suitable source. In fact, while scouring the interwebs for MS-20 information I came across an addendum to the MS-20 manual which explains some patch setups for external sources — we’ll upload this to the AT site for those interested. Another awesome patching trick is the ability to send sounds straight into the MS-20 Mini’s filter section. Here you can use both high and low-pass filters — each with resonance — or ‘Peak’ as it’s labelled on the front panel. You could even use an expression pedal to alter the filters for ‘wah’-style effects. What you’ve got to remember here is the MS-20’s filter is renowned for its creamy sound, plus the fact that when the Peak (resonance) controls are right up the filter will oscillate wildly. You can achieve an incredible amount of variation from this filter set — and it’s all completely analogue. Hoorah!

When it comes to more traditional synthesis manoeuvres, the MS-20 Mini shines like the classic synth it is. Guttural bass sounds, screaming leads, and every quirk and warble in-between is possible with dual oscillators, dual filtering, and enough modulation options to keep you fumbling about with patch-leads for years to come. It’s a ‘go-to’ synth. There are, however, a few slight differences under the hood to the original MS-20. For starters there’s a newly designed VCA offering a better signal-to-noise ratio than the 1978 model, and the power supply is now an external adaptor. There’s also an auto power-off function which can be defeated by holding down some keys on the keyboard when powering up. Re-enabling auto power-off is a reversal of the same procedure. Other than that the design is apparently a ‘faithful reproduction’ of the MS-20 with MIDI I/O. HARD OR SOFT

I’m in a bit of a quandary as to whether the MS20 Mini is something I need to own. The price is phenomenal (an original will set you back $1500 plus) and yes, it’s a real MS-20 with real analogue circuitry. It sounds absolutely awesome as real analogue synths do. Putting the MS-20 Mini up alongside my Korg Legacy Collection MS-20 plug-in cast a lot of light upon my decisionmaking process as the sound from each is strikingly similar. I’ll admit the MS-20 Mini does have the edge but is it that much of an edge to warrant the expense? Do I want a real analogue MS-20 that is basically an old synth with MIDI under its belt, or do I stick with the plug-in with the option to save patches and record? My humble question is, if Korg could make the MS-20ic controller and the MS-20 Mini, could it be possible to combine the two so the MS-20 Mini could send controller information from its knobs? Imagine the possibilities if the unit sent controller information. You could save patches to your sequencer, recall patches for each composition, and you could record some excellent realtime tweaking. If possible, it would make a killer resurrection even better than the original and still be far more affordable. The grapevine tells me Korg has further analogue surprises up its sleeve. I sincerely hope a hybrid MS-20 Mini, one offering both the analogue engine of this synth with the controllability of the MS-20ic is in the works. There are undoubtedly many who’ll be all over the MS-20 Mini simply because it’s the real deal — a ridgy-didge, stand-alone analogue synth. I wouldn’t blame them at all, and the lack of recall may be exactly what they’re after. Korg has been whetting the next generation’s appetite for analogue synthesis, with keen debuts like the miniature Monotron, Monotribe, and now, the Volca series. The price-point of the MS-20 Mini makes for a logical next step. It’s a solid purchase. Go forth and squelch!




The SCL-1 has toggle switches for hard-wire bypass, stereo and dual mono operation modes and another switch to select which channel feeds the large backlit gain reduction VU meter. All pots are continuously variable. Separate input and output level controls remain autonomous even when in linked stereo mode, allowing for subtle L/R level matching. In stereo mode all other stereo parameters are controlled by the Channel 1 controls. The SCL-1 attack time can be set to a lightning quick 100us when on ‘10’. Compression ‘Slope’ ranges from 1:1 to 20:1.



A compressor that crosses the threshold twice without leaving a trace, just don’t ask it to pump.


Story: Greg Walker

PRICE $3599 CONTACT Galactic Music: (08) 9204 7555 or

AT 86

PROS Great sonic flexibility and transparency Unique and very effective design topology High headroom and build quality

CONS Expensive Doesn’t do compression effects

SUMMARY A quality compressor that excels at program compression with minimal artefacts. The SCL-1’s Static and Dynamic Threshold controls allow for subtle tweaking of the compression behaviour while the unit’s high headroom ensures transparent results.

If there was ever to be a Jedi-style school for audio ninjas this would surely be one of their mantras — ‘With great dynamics control comes great responsibility.’ I can see a robed padawan quietly meditating before a pair of giant futuristic VU meters and then weighing his choice, hand hovering over a bank of outboard compressors… What shall it be this time? The API? The Al Smart? Perhaps the Amek? What of the ELI Fatso, the JML MAC or the Tube-Tech? A dozen sonic blueprints present themselves, with both desirable and undesirable compression artefacts, transient responses and tonal characteristics. In a bold move, the apprentice’s hand rests upon the controls of an unheralded contender, one that doesn’t claim to colour or drive the sound in any particular direction but offers an astonishingly transparent path to dynamics control with no unpleasant side-effects or tonal compromise — the Charter Oak SCL-1.



With the SCL-1, Charter Oak’s head honcho Mike Deming clearly set out to honour the audio ninja’s compression mantra. His self-imposed task was to build a stereo compressor capable of handling mix bus duties without introducing all the artefacts we often associate with generously applied program compression — pumping, rush-up after rests, transient smearing and distortion et al. In order to succeed at such a perilous mission the SCL-1 utilises an unusual topology built around a parabolic average charge curve in the rectifier circuit. Using the Dynamic Threshold control to set the circuit’s sensitivity, the threshold varies according to not only the incoming signal but also the capacitor charge held over from the previous moments of musical input — effectively creating a continuously variable ‘soft landing’ back to average program level. In addition, the SCL-1 provides a separate Static Threshold control that is used to raise or lower the control voltage and thus control the amount of swing between peak and average levels — acting as a hard/soft knee control. Using these two controls and tweaking the attack and release settings it is possible to grab and control big transients in an effective way while the body of the mix sails through on its own more gentle dynamic trajectory. While I can hear the dance fraternity groan as whole mixes fail to duck momentarily after each kick drum wallop, there are many styles of music where this kind of transparent dynamic control is an absolute godsend. For acoustic and classical mixes, indeed any mix situation where no extra colouration or ‘compression effect’ is required, the Charter Oak brand of dynamic control has undeniable benefits. ALL CLEAR

My first experiences with the SCL-1 were on some fairly complex and dynamic folk-rock material. I followed the manual’s instructions and first calibrated the outputs of my converters to the unit by running reasonably loud program material at +4dB output levels. Charter Oak

Mike Deming: “In my 22 years of producing records one of my biggest problems, especially with acoustic and quieter musical styles, was trying to find a compressor we could put across the mix bus that was free of artefacts. Rush-up was my worst problem, I would have to cut my mixes into pieces to readjust my release curves and then stick them back together afterwards. You set your release time and it’s a time constant in every compressor design in the world except the SCL-1. Unless the band is playing in exactly the same tempo from start to finish the result is not going to be good, especially when there’s a rest or gap in the music. “The way we were able to get the rectifier circuit to work in the SCL-1, it’s like it has a mind of its own. You use the settings to select a range of dynamic compression. The bottom is going to be the constantly changing average RMS, which is where the unit always returns to, and the top is the amount of dBs of compression you’re applying on peaks.

I found it hard to make this compressor behave in anything but a very musical way

recommends that the Static Threshold control is set at seven and left until the user is happy with all other aspects of the compression chain. Once this happens the control can be tweaked in the manner of a hard/soft knee control to fine tune things at the end of the process. By its very nature, a transparent dynamics controller makes the adjustment and tuning of attack, release and sensitivity thresholds a more subtle task and I found I needed to concentrate and really use my ears to hear all the nuances. After a bit of time and experimentation with the device I was achieving extremely pleasing results with expanded detail and RMS power in the body of the mix and effortless control of more unruly transients. There was also a definite smoothing of the whole soundstage and a sense of solidity about the mixes that to my mind showed the benefits of the unit’s all-analogue design. Using the attack and release controls allowed for some very nuanced shaping of the rhythmic content and, like a lot of truly high-end gear, I found it

“With all the other compressors we’ve had here in the studio over the years we were only ever able to get a dB or two of compression on the meter before it started to collapse a mix, but this thing is quite different. We even tell you in the manual to apply between 3 and 7dB of compression because that’s where you get maximum modulation of the signal and a 4dB slope shift. Right at that point the mix starts to sound glued together and really nice. With this box, the more you make the meter bounce, the better it sounds. It’s kind of the opposite to a lot of other compressors. “The key to how the SCL-1 behaves is all to do with the way the capacitors charge and discharge in the control circuit. It’s actually dependent on two things; what just happened and what’s happening at the moment. It will automatically give you a quick release on staccato notes and a nice long release on legato notes within the range that you’ve selected.”

hard to make this compressor behave in anything but a very musical way. SOME LIKE IT HOT

It is worth noting that the SCL-1 loves a hot signal and can effortlessly cope with 10dB or more of gain reduction. The sweet spot seems to be at around 5dB of gain reduction but there’s no need to stop there, the over-designed component tolerances, sturdy PSU and transformer outputs are more than equal to the task of staying on target regardless of how much juice is applied. Moving to more of a mastering-style chain, I hooked up some quality EQs pre and post compression and did some tweaking on some heavier musical styles as well as some gentler ambient tracks. Again the SCL-1 came up trumps with its ability to fine-tune the transient response and the relationship between peak and average dynamic levels. Again I was impressed by the tonal transparency of the mixes even at heavy compression settings. There really was no noticeable change in tops, mids or bottom end and this of course explains the lack of the increasingly ubiquitous high-pass filter circuit — it simply isn’t required. Finally I switched from stereo to dual mono mode and ran vocals and electric bass through the unit, once again coming away very pleased with the results. No matter what I threw at it or how hard I drove the unit, the result were never less than sonically pleasing and I’ve got to admit to being very impressed by Charter Oak’s offering. The SCL-1 is undeniably a transparent high-end device that delivers on its promise of minimal artefact compression.





Arturia trims the excess off Spark to let the good stuff shine through in SparkLE.


Review: Brad Watts

PRICE $329

PROS Great size

CONTACT CMI: (03) 9315 2244 or

Easy to use and play

AT 88

Great and diverse library of sounds Well made

CONS Simply a controller

SUMMARY While products badged ‘LE’ typically are some bastardised sawn-off version of an original, SparkLE is everything good about Arturia’s Spark rhythm controller made more convenient.

The drum machine. The format has fallen in and out of mainstream favour over the last couple of decades. During the 1980s and ’90s, these devices were a mainstay of all electronic musicians’ equipment lists. Yet come the 21st century, the drum machine faded into obscurity as computer-based DAWs and plug-ins took over. In some ways this was a shame, as hands-on rhythm programming can be an incredibly immediate tool in its own right. Arturia is one manufacturer that’s acutely aware of this avenue of beat production, and served the electronica community handsomely with the Spark ‘beat production centre’ in 2011. Spark is a hybrid design consisting of a tactile control surface tethered to computer-based sound generation and programming software. The best of both worlds in many ways: the breadth of software synthesis and recall combined with a drum machine-style controller. However, the original Spark controller was quite a large beast. At 36 by 27cm, it took up a huge chunk of desktop studio space. And in a world where bedroom producers are squeezing themselves into ever smaller creative caves, I’d imagine many asked for a compact version of the Spark control surface — enter the endearingly monikered, SparkLE. THE NOT SO LIGHT

Traditionally, the ‘LE’ suffix usually implies a sawn-off version of software or computer-related hardware. ‘Light Edition’ is the typical expansion of the acronym. While the SparkLE controller may indeed be a sawn-off version of the first Spark controller, I don’t believe it’s missing anything a percussion controller surface requires. As mentioned, the SparkLE controller is petite in comparison to the Spark controller. It sits flat on your desktop or lap and measures a mere 28 by 17cm, and sits a meagre 17mm high (plus knob height). It’s a nice size to have alongside your laptop or computer keyboard, and quite suitable for taking with you in a backpack. It even comes with a neoprene, flock-lined, carry bag for onroad protection. Very tidy. Across the lower section of the SparkLE top panel are eight velocity sensitive pads accessing two banks of sounds. They do the trick, and light up blue when you hit them. Sweet! Up from here are the typical 16-step buttons for step programming drum patterns, just as you’d find on any oldschool rhythm machine. This doesn’t restrict the unit to 16 steps per bar, as pattern length can be extended to 64 steps when required. Over to the right of the unit are three assignable instrument parameter editing pots, then to the left is a large knob for choosing Project, Kit, and Instrument presets. To the top are dedicated volume and tempo knobs, and below these is an XY touchpad. This controller device is gold, and with it you can affect filters over either individual instruments or an entire kit. It can

also be used to trigger a ‘Roller’ effect whereby the pressed instrument pad can be forced to repeat at particular bar divisions, and a ‘Slicer’ function slices a pattern and forces the pattern to repeat from 1/64th through to ¼ sections of a pattern — kinda neat for live performance or those with an Attention Deficit Disorder. Again in the performance department are pad, mute and solo buttons and record, stop, and play/ pause buttons. The controller can also be bumped into MIDI mode where each button and knob can be reassigned MIDI output duties so you may control other MIDI devices or software. All this functionality (and more) is embodied in a controller that feels as though it will take a right thrashing for years to come. THE HEAVY

On the surface, as it were, SparkLE seems pretty straightforward — it’s a rhythm programmer. How complicated can it be right? Well, let me assure you there’s a whole lot more going on under the bonnet in the Spark software. This is the same software you’d acquire if you bought the bigger Spark controller and it’s quite powerful. Firstly, the sound library is immense, with sample and audio concoctions covering just about any drum and percussion sound you can imagine or recall. The software includes sample playback and layering, along with Arturia’s virtual analogue engine, and a physical modelling engine. That’s a ship-load of sound generation options completely at your disposal. Samples include a stack of vintage recreations such as the Roland TR lineage, and Simmons kits, along with LinnDrum, Drumtraks and Oberheim DMX-style sounds. Then there’s

house, dubstep, techno, hip-hop, and r ‘n’ b-style kits (if pigeon-holing sounds is your bag) and a bucketload of acoustic style kits. The editing possibilities are impressive, with pitch, panning, decay, attack, and filter control (with resonance) over each sound. Equally impressive is compliance with other systems. You can export patterns as MIDI files or audio files. Plus, 16 separate outputs are supported should you have the I/O. When you come to combine all this power, there’s intrinsic control over pattern and song compilation, and a rudimentary mixer with access to a pile of insert effects and two sends from each channel through to return effects. The software is supplied as a stand-alone program, or as plug-ins for Audio Unit, VST, RTAS-based systems, with Avid’s AAX protocol in the pipeline. THE SPARK

I think the deciding factor as to whether SparkLE is for you, is if you’re happy having your rhythm programmer tethered to a computer. Some may prefer their rhythm programmer to be self-contained. But that said, the Spark software itself is actually worth owning simply for the sound creation possibilities and the quality of the sounds — the controller is really the tasty icing on an excellently prepared cake. As a performance device I believe Arturia has sacrificed just the right amount of accessibility (in terms of tactile buttons and knobs) while providing a friendly rhythm programming interface. I’m sure the format will inspire beats producers in exactly the way ‘drum machines’ always have.



IZOTOPE OZONE 5 ADVANCED MASTERING PLUG-IN Time to release the ol’ mastering (ball ’n’) chain and tap into Ozone’s all-in-one potential.


Review: Cal Orr

PRICE Ozone 5 Advanced: US$999 Ozone 5: US$249 CONTACT iZotope:

AT 90

PROS Comprehensive metering, including loudness standards Meter Tap lets you observe multiple source interplay Save screen clutter


SUMMARY iZotope’s Ozone 5 Advanced all-in-one approach to mastering saves clutter and time, without any side effects. And for mixing, the comprehensive metering and Meter Tap function provides all the insight into your track you’ll ever need.

My typical software mastering path comprises Universal Audio, PSP, and Crysonic plug-ins, all individually inserted, and all contributing to an unwieldy clutter that slows workflow. It would be nice to close a few plug-in windows and just let them ‘do their job’, but usually they each have to be open all the time to read critical information at a glance, make adjustments to EQ, etc. With Ozone, iZotope has provided a way around this multiple plug-in method of mastering by offering all the required EQ, compression, excitation, widening, reverb and limiting plug-ins you need in one convenient window. It’s like tabbed browsing — every module is accessed via its own button. I took Ozone 5 Advanced for a spin to see if it could give me the same result (or better) in a quicker time than my usual go-to (ball ’n’) chain. To test the different mastering methods for fidelity, ease of use and speed of workflow I used an album recorded by Andrew Bencina in Balgo, Western Australia (see Issue 86), which I hoped would take no more than eight hours for the 13 tracks. All songs, bar one, were recorded in the same space —which would level the playing field. And to keep things reasonably fair I flip-flopped between the old process and new with each new song to ‘start afresh’ so I couldn’t get on a roll with one process or the other. I’m on a Mac, but Ozone 5 Advanced will install on both Mac and PC and is compatible with all major plug-in formats except MAS. It’s a plug-in, not a stand-alone application, so you will need either a multitrack or stereo DAW to host it. Lastly, you need either an Intel Mac running 10.5.8 or later, or a PC running Windows 7 (32 and 64-bit), Vista 64-bit or XP 32-bit. POLISHED METER BRIDGE

Ozone 5 Advanced’s newly polished black look is overall less glare-y and more conducive to longer sessions, though a preliminary glance revealed the main page layout to be pretty much the same as Ozone 4. All the modules are where you’d expect them — meters in the same place, etc. So aside from a facelift, the update to Ozone is primarily in a swag of new features. Positioned under the main stereo meters is the new ‘Meter Bridge’ button. Click on it and a new window opens with a Spectrogram, Stereo Field Graph, Spectrum Analyser and a more comprehensive Stereo Level Meter than the main page.This ‘overall’ style of meter won the metering aspect of my mastering process shootout. Wavelab’s metering options all operate in their own separate windows which only adds to the aforementioned desktop clutter. Furthermore, Wavelab’s Spectrogram provides only an overall snapshot of the program material, whereas Ozone’s fab looking Spectrogram is updated in realtime so you can analyse individual sections of music. Apple’s Logic (my other mastering DAW) doesn’t even have a spectrogram.


Complementary to this, iZotope has implemented the very clever Meter Tap plug-in. It basically lets you ‘tap’ into any channel or bus in your project and not only see what it looks like on a spectrograph, but check the relationship between different parts. Simply place a Tap anywhere in your project, name it and you can access it in Ozone 5’s Advanced Spectrogram via the Meter Bridge window. Eight meter taps are viewable at a time — in either overlay, tile or stack view — and you can combine tap points to see how they interact. Great for viewing combos like kick and bass together to see the low ‘push’ or making sure the voice isn’t getting swamped by guitars. With just Ozone 5 Advanced running and using Meter Tap to analyse the audio I’ve noticed huge screen real estate savings in Wavelab and Logic, and the real-time information Spectrogram provides helps you get the sound where you want it — fast! It even sped up the non-Ozone side of my mastering process shootout. It would be great if the Meter Tap section was selectable from the main Meter Bridge window not just Spectrogram but this is a request not a gripe. And as if all these metering options weren’t enough, iZotope has thrown in a separate metering plug-in altogether, Insight. It’s great when you don’t need to Tap multiple points and/ or run an instance of Ozone 5 Advanced. It also accurately relays information for various EU, American and Japanese Loudness standards. It’s light on the CPU cycles even though displaying much the same information as Meter Bridge. Meter Bridge’s Stereo Vectorscope is replaced with either a Stereo or Surround ‘Sound Field’ scope. Insight, like Meter Bridge, can expand the individual meters to fill the whole window, however the main window is resizable to some degree, whereas Ozone’s is not. As with Meter Bridge, if you close a module it ‘hides’ itself in a selectable Tab at the bottom of the plug-in window.

Ozone 5 Meter Tap


I don’t tend to use much reverb in the mastering process (that’s the mixer’s job) but sometimes you have a bunch of really dry close-miked demos or field recordings that just need a few walls around them. iZotope has upgraded the reverb module and added extra room models in the Advanced version. With some old demos of mine it was easy to find a space to suit. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it as a plug-in on individual elements or on a bus. All of which is possible because Ozone 5 Advanced’s modules now come as seven individual component plug-ins. This is like getting a whole plug-in suite that potentially covers all your mix-based processing needs — the iZotope algorithms really are that good. While iZotope’s Alloy 2 is its more mix-oriented product — sticking with the same tab-based, all-in-one GUI approach as Ozone — I’ve found particularly good uses for Ozone’s EQ, Maximizer and Imaging.

Ozone 5 Insight

Ozone 5 Meter Bridge AT


The real-time information Spectrogram provides helps you get the sound where you want it — fast!

Halfway through the Balgo mastering session it was becoming evident that my standard mastering approach just wasn’t cutting it. Sonically, I felt I was achieving similar results, but my workflow was all wrong. My standard chain being any combination of the following plug-ins — Logic’s Gain; Universal Audio’s Pultec Pro, Cambridge, Neve 33609, Neve 1081 or Massive Passive; Universal Audio’s SSL G Buss Compressor, Precision Multiband, Precision Maximiser and PSP Stereo Control. After this I then move to iZotope RX 2 Advanced for dithering and sample rate conversion plus any restorative measures like click or glitch removal. It’s a long process but one that I’ve gotten used to and been able to speed up using batch processing within RX 2 Advanced. Ozone 5 Advanced’s all-in-one approach, including internal dithering, routing architecture for Left/Right, Stereo and MS just gets you there faster. Plus, if you want to change the routing of modules within Ozone 5 Advanced you simply drag ’n’ drop them in the Filter Graph view… dead easy. iZotope has updated all the modules, with many of the new features only available to purchasers of Advanced. In particular, the Dynamics section has a new variable knee on all bands that helped

achieve smoother sounding crossover points between bands than in Version 4. So too, the Stereo Imaging now includes a Stereoize Mode for adding width to mono sources — great for synths. Also worthy of a mention is the refined Maximizer features, in particular the new ‘Intelligent III’ mode — lovers of drum-heavy music are going to be in raptures with its pretty exceptional transient-handling, without pumping or other limiting side effects. I tested it extensively during the review and began to use it as my go-to when things got ‘beats-y’. At the end of the mastering — which took two seven-hour sessions to complete — only five hours were spent inside Ozone 5 Advanced. That’s nine hours using my old method! Of course in the end, you can combine the methods by using Ozone as part of a plug-in chain. This is probably what I’d end up doing because I love what some other third-party plugins do to the chain and have become a creature of habit in regard to their tone. All this makes me wonder: should Ozone become stand-alone and act as a host for third party plug-ins? Anyway, I’m going to join the Ozone 5 Advanced fray and spend a lot more time with it in 2013. Or should that be less time?

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Avid has developed some new ‘pro tools’ for the long-standing DAW, adding more pro features and Euphonix euphony to its arsenal.


Review: Brent Heber

PRICE Pro Compressor: US$99 Pro Expander: US$99 Pro Limiter: US$299 CONTACT Avid: 1300 734 454 or AT 94

PROS Clean sound and flexible ballistics

CONS Audiosuite Loudness Analysis isn’t super fast

Handy Attenuation, Listen and Mix functions

No ATSC or EBU presets in the Limiter

Limiter adheres to True Peak and Loudness specifications

Feels like Expander & Compressor should be one plug-in

SUMMARY A solid and well-priced addition to the ProTools ecosystem. Looking forward to what Avid has in store for the Pro Series and what the impending 64-bit Avid Audio Engine means for this ‘house’ range.

For many years, Avid has been acquiring plug-in manufacturers in order to beef up its ProTools bundles. Sometimes it has been a partnership like Dolby, Focusrite or VocAlign, other times the manufacturer has been bought outright, like Trillium Lane Labs or Bomb Factory. The point being, Avid doesn’t often make new plug-ins, and when it does, it gets put under more scrutiny than other products due to being the manufacturer of the host platform. EQ3 and Channelstrip are two that spring to mind, having popped up in ProTools upgrades over the years and attracted their fair share of devotees and critics alike. The new Pro Series of plug-ins will no doubt polarise as well, simply by virtue of bearing the Avid logo. The Pro Series (hopefully the name derives itself from ProTools, as opposed to some sort of declaration of competence required to drive them) is currently three AAX plug-ins — Compressor, Limiter and Expander — with hints of more to come. All run both natively and on the ProTools HDX cards. Compressor and Expander are offered at US$99 each and Limiter at US$299, fairly reasonable pricing looking at the competitive plug-in landscape and the features on offer. As with the ProTools 10 Channelstrip, these dynamics plug-ins have their heritage in Euphonix digital consoles, resultantly touted as extremely transparent. Channelstrip’s dynamics are quite uncoloured so I had high hopes for these plug-ins and haven’t been disappointed. Critically, you could say their transparency is in part due to their audio detection. Rather than detecting peaks like most compressors and limiters the normal Euphonix behaviour is to compress based on average levels, letting quite a few peaks through to the keeper. Channelstrip defaults to this mode, but can be switched to peak detection if desired. The Pro series takes this idea a step further with five different detection modes on offer. DETECTION A LA MODE

All three Pro dynamics plug-ins have the ability to switch their audio detection behaviour, with four modes of fixed ballistics — Average, RMS (faster release than Average), Peak and Fast (faster than peak, with a warning of being most prone to distortion) — as well as the default Smart mode, which adapts to the incoming signal and fluidly switches between the other four modes as it deems appropriate. Expander is the only exception to this, as it has an additional Duck mode (more on that later). Apart from the ‘detection’ or ballistics modes, Compressor has the usual array of controls: Threshold, Ratio, Knee, Attack, Release. There is also a Depth pot, for setting a downwards limit on the amount of attenuation. And if you’re fond of interacting with the graphical display, it can be manipulated directly rather than mousing over the pots. Another smart and useful feature of Compressor and Expander is the Attenuation Listen function that allows the user to hear only the portion of audio affected by the

plug-in. There’s also a Mix pot, for those fond of parallel compression. The sidechain function on Compressor and Expander is fleshed out nicely, with filters and audition controls. Surround instances of the plug-in also have good options for splitting the compressors behaviour, with a nice ‘front/rear’ option in addition to the more usual stereo pairs or 5.0/LFE splits. In my own use, I turned to Compressor first, loved its clean sound and started using its sidechain function to duck some music beds under a voiceover. But after looking into Expander I found some unique features more suited to this task. Expander actually has a look-ahead feature (up to 15ms) to make sure it’s gating or ducking accurately (it can be turned off if you don’t want to incur the delay). Expander also features a dedicated Duck detection mode for smoother rides around voiceovers. I found the default ‘gate’ ratio in this setting too hard for ducking, but on rolling it back to 1.3:1 it settled in nicely and slightly improved on the results I was getting with Compressor’s sidechain. NO LIMIT TO LOUDNESS

Limiter is the most desirable of these Pro plugins for broadcasters. TV audio is no longer reliant on VU meters and digital peaks, but rather loudness units (LUFS) and true/intersamplepeak values. Limiter deals with both issues, providing a graphical read out of your loudness measurements over time — short-term and integrated-over-playback numerical values — and is a true/intersample-peak compliant limiter. It’s also bundled with a separate, simplified Audiosuite plug-in that analyses key loudness measurements of program material, faster than real time, which I’ve been using quite a bit. The other lovely part of Limiter is its Character control, which adds a bit of that saturation in an otherwise digital signal flow. Avid had Dave Hill of Cranesong work up its HEAT algorithm, and whilst this single control is not the same as HEAT, Avid is no stranger to the desirable side of saturation. I like Sonnox’s Warmth control on its dynamics plug-ins and would put this in the same league, although with different results. Both are worth checking out/demoing.

T hese dynamics plug-ins have their heritage in Euphonix digital consoles… I had high hopes… and haven’t been disappointed


It may be too early to judge the merits of this series of plug-ins. Firstly there’s talk of more to come, which could provide more context for those reviewed here. And there’s also the impending release of ProTools 11’s new 64-bit Avid Audio Engine rewrite, which will provide a totally different native power experience than what’s currently available to these plug-ins in ProTools 10. We can only assume these plug-ins were designed for best performance in PT11, although natively they are no slouch in PT10, running quite efficiently on my eight-core MacPro. Regardless, for transparent processing inside ProTools 10 and above, the Pro Series plug-ins perform very well. And if you’re on a HDX system they’re a no brainer.


Mid-Side recording means total control Mid-Side recording allows independent adjustment of all parameters of direct and ambient sound offering exceptional control over the stereo field width. The first handheld recorder to offer Mid-Side stereo recording, the H2n features our best microphones yet and is the only portable recorder with five mic capsules onboard. Isolate mid and side tracks for adjusting, affecting and individual processing at any time after recording. Convert to mono for broadcast without phase cancellation. Get great recordings instantly by capturing 360째 sound without monitoring and refine your recordings into finished works with the included WaveLab LE software or your choice of digital audio workstation. The H2n offers four unique recording modes: Mid-Side (MS) stereo, 90째 X/Y stereo, 2-channel and 4-channel surround sound. USB 2.0 interface. Analog Mic Gain for precision volume control. Edit audio onboard. Onboard reference speaker and stereo output. New data recovery function. 20 hours of battery life. Linear PCM recording at up to 24bit/96kHz quality. Broadcast Wave Format support. 32GB SDHC card support. WaveLab LE software included for editing and mastering. Two Year Warranty when purchased from Authorised Australian dealers


When Andrew Bencina reviewed the Antelope Orion32 in Issue 93 of AudioTechnology he found a formidable amount of power in a svelte 1U unit: “While I think, for some, the size and price will be reason enough to purchase, for me it’s the flexibility of this device that offers greatest appeal.” Antelope is perhaps best known for its incredibly accurate studio master clocks— some promise up to 100,000 times the accuracy of crystal oscillators. And Antelope hasn’t kept anything back from its converters either. Not only is the Orion32 a 32-channel AD/DA converter, it converts to MADI, ADAT, S/PDIF and functions as a USB interface for Windows, OSX and Class Compliant devices at sample rates up to 192k. Try find another converter that does that! Let alone in a single rack space.

The front of the unit has crisp LED meters for inputs and outputs as well as a large display of the current sample rate. Around the back, the Orion32 is well laid out and handles the considerable analogue I/O on 25-pin D-Sub connections, along with a host of digital I/O. Last, but of course, not least, is the clock. The Orion32 employs Antelope’s Acoustically Focused Clocking (AFC) technology that founder Igor Levin designed not to “affect the mathematical specs, but to affect the sound”. And best of all, there are four BNC wordclock

The simple software control panel allows you to route any input to any output by dragging and dropping, making format conversions a doddle — MADI to USB, ADAT to MADI, etc.

outputs, so — on top of everything else — the Orion32 can function as the master clock of your studio. Thanks to Antelope Audio for providing such an amazing prize. To find out more about Antelope, clocking, and the Orion32 visit To be in the running to win, subscribe (or re-subscribe) to AudioTechnology magazine and answer the following question.

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At age 15 I saved up for a Korg MS-20 and an SQ10 sequencer. The year was 1979. The MS-20 was one of the first affordable synths. The Arp 2600 or Minimoog were beyond my reach.

level of expression. Everyone dropped their analogue synths at that point. If you played in a Top 40-style band, everyone wanted a DX7, so you could pick up a secondhand Jupiter 8 or Oberheim for peanuts.

Growing up, I took home organ lessons. I hated the organ with a passion, but it was a good grounding.

The best part of my job is knowing when a sound is ready. I hear it and that’s the rush I get. If I hear it again on the radio in someone else’s mix, that’s cool as well, but not as much of a buzz as when I know I’ve got a sound ready.

Listening to Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre and Giorgio Moroder, I was totally intrigued by electronic music. Rob Papen has a large and loyal following with his eponymous virtual instrument company (www.robpapen. com) but initially came to prominence as probably the first celebrity synth soundset programmer. A Rob Papen preset is a special thing.

My first appearance as an artist was at a Klaus Schulze fanclub day. I met two other guys who had a studio and were doing electronic music. We started a band in the early ’80s. We made a couple of very successful underground electronic albums. We even had a No. 1 hit in the Benelux countries with a spinoff of the band, called Nova. I was 18. While I was in the band the sounds I designed were for us only — I didn’t share. Until I heard the Waldorf Microwave in 1989. I was really excited about that synth, as it was a rackmount version of The Wave from PPG. But when I heard the Microwave I was disappointed with the presets. I dropped them a line: ‘How about I make some sounds for you?’, which became the Signature Sound Card. The Techno Card followed and was a huge success for them.

People think I’m a maths guy, but I’m more instinctive. I know how things work but I’m more intuitive. E-mu Samplers: I purchased an Emulator in the ’80s and did sounds off my own bat. I sent them to E-mu to see if they were interested in reselling them. They loved them. The E-mu samplers had a great filter and a very nice algorithm if you detuned or transposed a sample. I had a lot of fun doing sounds for the E4 and E6400.

After that I designed sounds for a whole host of different synths, for Waldorf, E-mu, Ensoniq and others. My work on the original Access Virus really elevated my name [all the sounds initialed ‘RP’ are Rob’s], and my final third-party sound set was for the Alesis Andromeda.

I started out with a with a one-voice synthesiser and at that time it was a curse — it was a race to get more polyphony and to get multitimbrality. But now the curse is being totally overwhelmed by the range of sounds — you can easily drown. It’s not bad to limit yourself. Limits help you be creative.

In the late ’90s I teamed up with John Ayres — the programming brains behind our company — and formed Rob Papen Instruments. We have nine products in all, mostly soft synths — including Predator and Blade — along with three FX plug-ins. I’m the artist and synth geek, that’s what I bring to Papen instruments.

E-mu or Ensoniq? That’s a hard one. I did two sound sets for the Ensoniq ASR10, which had a very distinctive sound. It’s a very powerful sampler, even now. Ensoniq and E-mu are the top sampler brands. They set the benchmark for me.

Waldorf Microwave: It had a wavetable and an analogue filter and analogue VCA, so it was a very distinctive sound. It could sound awfully harsh but you could produce sounds totally different to a regular subtractive synth. I think the biggest asset of my sounds is how musical they are. You can have a sound that is nice to listen to in isolation but you can’t make music with it because it doesn’t fit with anything. My sounds, although not always spectacular, are very usable and solid as a rock. And as a remixer or producer, when you don’t have time to build everything from scratch, that’s what you need. Yamaha DX7: When the DX7 came a long, I thought, ‘what is this crap?!’ I had a Jupiter 8 and the DX7 was a real shock for those accustomed to dials and sliders. But the sounds were very different, and special. I have a huge respect for those who developed the original soundset, because it was painfully hard to program. It was velocity sensitive, so the DX7 brought a new AT 98

Alesis Andromeda: That’s a pain to program. It’s so complex. Each stage of the envelope can have its own curve. You almost have to have a default preset to make a preset. The Andromeda looks fantastic, sounds good, but it’s not a synth that matches up to the Jupiter 8. The Jupiter 8 is far simpler, but ‘far simpler’ is often more rock ’n’ roll and friendlier.

Software piracy? We now rely on people registering their purchase with us, and that guarantees support, updates and new sounds as they’re released. It’s amazing how shameless people can be. They’ll log-in their virus code and expect support! It’s frustrating. When I was a teenager I had to do a paper round for years to save up for a Korg MS-20. I didn’t go to the shop and steal it. Piracy is an attitude. The most famous synth preset? Perhaps the Shakahashi sound — the flute from Peter Gabriel. The Yamaha TX81 bass sound was also used on countless tracks. My synth Top 10? Well, you’d have the Roland Jupiter 8 in there, the Waldorf Microwave, the Sequential Circuits Prophet 600 for its brutal sound, the Oberheim OB8, Access Virus, the MS-20 for sentimental reasons, the E-mu E4 and Ensoniq ASR10, and the Yamaha CS-80 (although the closest I’ve come to playing it is the CS-60)… But only one synth can sit on the throne and that’s the Minimoog. It has such a distinguished sound.

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AudioTechnology Issue #95  
AudioTechnology Issue #95