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January | February 2019

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UNDER PRESSURE How the Bohemian Rhapsody sound team beat the odds to bring Queen to the big screen

NAMM 2019

All the highlights from this year’s event in Anaheim

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INTERVIEW

The realistic soundscapes of A Private War

REVIEWS

Sanken, Sonarworks, Warm Audio and more...

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d&b Soundscape – and everything is a concert hall. Enveloped by sound. Exhilarating acoustics, inside and outside. Emulated with the reverberation signatures of exemplary venues. Sound coherent with the program and setting. Transforming spaces to bring completely new listening experiences. d&b Soundscape is a revolutionary audio system processor, an object positioning tool, a reverberation system, akin to a musical instrument – a tool to provide the appropriate stage for a culture – even under the open sky.

dbsoundscape.com

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CONTENTS

NEWS

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6 NAMM Show 2019 A round up of all the action from this year’s event in Anaheim

FEATURES

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Producer Profile We hear from Grammy-winning producer, engineer and composer John Congleton

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Studio Profile Carl Tatz talks us through The Upper Deck, a custom designed, NAMM TEC Award-nominated recording studio

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Bohemian Rhapsody Colby Ramsey finds out how the music for the electrifying Queen biopic was created

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Interview Tara Lepore reports on the realistic soundscapes in docu-drama A Private War

REVIEWS

26 Sanken CS-M1 28 Sonarworks Reference 4

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AMI JAN | FEB 2019

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BACK IN THE SADDLE

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CONTENT Editor: Colby Ramsey colby.ramsey@biz-media.co.uk Designer: Mandie Johnson mandie.johnson@biz-media.co.uk ADVERTISING SALES Sales Manager: Rian Zoll-Khan rian.zoll-khan@biz-media.co.uk

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ARCHIVES Digital editions of the magazine are available to view on ISSUU. com Recent back issues of the printed edition may be available please call +44 (0)203 143 8777 for more information.

INTERNATIONAL Audio Media International and its content are available for licensing and syndication re-use. Contact Colin Wilkinson for opportunities and permissions. colin.wilkinson@biz-media.co.uk

MANAGEMENT Media Director Colin Wilkinson colin.wilkinson@biz-media.co.uk

Cover photo credit: ©2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Printed by Buxton Press Ltd ISSN: 2057-5165 Copyright 2019

Biz Media Ltd, Axe & Bottle Court, 70 Newcomen St, London SE1 1YT All contents © 2019 Biz Media Ltd. or published under licence. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any way without the prior written permission of the publisher. All information contained in this publication is for information only and is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Biz Media Ltd. cannot accept any responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. You are advised to contact manufacturers and retailers directly with regard to the price of products/services referred to in this publication. Apps and websites mentioned in this publication are not under our control. We are not responsible for their contents or any other changes or updates to them. This magazine is fully independent and not affiliated in any way with the companies mentioned herein.

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nother new year brings another brand new issue of Audio Media International to the fore, and what a start to the new year it’s been. AMI’s acquisition by Future in April 2018 turned out to be a short-lived love affair when the brand was bought by specialist B2B publisher Biz Media just before Christmas. While two acquisitions in less than a year may have lead to the reshuffling of a few issue issue dates here and there, the heart of the pro audio industry continues to beat incessantly, and AMI’s finger remains firmly on the pulse. It must be said that this most recent move brings AMI full circle in a way, back to where it began all those years ago, with a smaller publisher poised and ready to bring the latest industry news to its audiences. A move which I’m confident will make things a lot more easier around here. So while it may have been some time since a copy of AMI hit desks and doormats, 2019 is already looking like a busy year for the team and the everbuzzing pro audio industry that we serve. And talking

of buzzing, any of you who made it out to The NAMM Show in January would know that this year’s event in Anaheim was the busiest yet, with a strong turnout of international industry professionals travelling from all over the globe to attend the first, biggest and most exciting show of the pro audio calendar. Turn the page to read our round up of all the big news from this year’s show. Elsewhere in this issue, we’ve got a number of opinion pieces and profiles to ease you into the new year, culminating in a special feature about the audio behind Bohemian Rhapsody, the Queen biopic extravaganza which recently graced cinema screens. You’ll find this musical journey for the ages on page 21. Fitting in with the kind of post production vibe of this issue, Tara Lepore interviews re-recording mixer Andrew Stirk about his work on A Private War, a visceral docu-drama that retells the fascinating story of the life of late American war correspondent Marie Colvin. A project that required the mindful creation of authentic soundscapes. Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out the back pages for the usual slew of pro audio product reviews – two feature-packed microphones and two pieces of intuitive software to get stuck into here. So while it’s been somewhat of a hectic time over the last few months what with the changing of hands, it’s business as usual for AMI. Enjoy the issue, and please feel free to get in touch with your feedback, we appreciate you always. ■

Colby Ramsey Editor Audio Media International

Experts in the issue

If you submit material to us, you warrant that you own the material and/ or have the necessary rights/permissions to supply the material and you automatically grant Biz Media Ltd. and its licensees a licence to publish your submission in whole or in part in any/all issues and/or editions of publications, in any format published worldwide and on associated websites, social media channels and associated products. Any material you submit is sent at your own risk and, although every care is taken, neither Biz Media Ltd. nor its employees, agents, subcontractors or licensees shall be liable for loss or damage. We assume all unsolicited material is for publication unless otherwise stated, and reserve the right to edit, amend, adapt all submissions.

John Congleton is a Grammy Award-winning producer and engineer, working out of his studio, Elmwood Recording, in Dallas, Texas. www.biz-media.co.uk

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Carl Tatz is creator of the PhantomFocus Monitoring System and principal of Carl Tatz Design. He has been designing award-winning studios for over a decade.

Andrew Stirk is a re-recording mixer who has worked on a number of theatrical documentaries.

+44 (0)203 143 8777

January | February 2019

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IE 40 PRO

More me. When the show is underway, your monitoring is crucial. It keeps you connected with the others — but above all: with yourself. We have further developed dynamic drivers that fit the smallest of spaces. Powerful monitoring sound for loud stages remains precise with solid bass whatever the sound level. Sounds like more — like much more. www.sennheiser.com/moreme

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NAMM 2019

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FUEL FOR THE FUTURE

The NAMM Show has had its finger on the pulse of the music and pro audio industries for over a century. Here, AMI rounds up the most notable developments from this year’s global gathering...

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Photo: Matthew Simmons

NAMM 2019

George Lowden and Ed Sheeran at the Lowden booth on the opening day of NAMM 2019

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ver the course of four days at The 2019 NAMM Show in Anaheim, California (Jan 24-27), the global leaders of the music products, pro audio and event technology industries gathered at the Crossroads for new product launches, business opportunities, networking and fresh inspiration from over 400 educational sessions, as 115,301 industry professionals committed to serving the music community and advancing the industry forward in the year ahead. “We live in accelerated times in technological developments and global business and market conditions, and that can create unpredictability in any industry,” says Joe Lamond, NAMM president and CEO. “However, if you take a look around The NAMM Show, one could find many reasons to feel quite comfortable about the importance of music around the world and the future of the music products industry. “From the exciting innovations of our exhibiting members, the creativity of our retail members in finding enhanced ways to serve their communities, especially music educators, to the expanded live sound, lighting and event tech professionals and companies who made the trip to Anaheim, the connections, business opportunities, and education offered each of the tools needed to succeed in the year ahead.”

BUSINESS AS USUAL The show welcomed over 2,000 exhibiting member companies, representing 7,000 brands. Realigned member badge allocations resulted in a more focused business experience with a slight increase in attendees, and achieved a targeted yearover-year increase of 14 per cent in international participants. Attendees were an invited mix of industry professionals including domestic and international retail and distribution buyers and employees, exhibitors, event tech and pro audio buyers and professionals, media, artists, invited guests and The NAMM Foundation GenNext (college music students), Music Education Day (school music administrators and buyers) and Nonprofit Institute (NAMM grantees and affiliates) participants. As the first show of the calendar, the strong turnout of domestic and international buyers and distributors points especially to the importance placed on The NAMM Show to see the latest products and brands available, and the excitement of when the industry gathers together: “For four days,

the centre of the music universe is right here at The NAMM Show where we’re connecting with our top customers and artists,” says David Glaubke of Harman Professional Solutions. “This continues to be the premier event to launch products that will shape how music is made, performed and recorded for years to come.” The mixture of professionals and exhibitors from all aspects of the Crossroads welcomed new opportunities and meetings that can only happen when the industry gathers together. Tom Sumner, Yamaha Corporation of America, comments: “After witnessing the excitement and energy in the audio-focused North Hall last year, we added a new booth this year dedicated to our Yamaha and Nexo Commercial Audio solutions. We met with lots of old friends and found some new ones at the North Hall booth. We also added a separate display for Ampeg bass amps. The crazy-big 14-foot tall SVT was a popular display in the Marriott lobby and the Ampeg booth was packed from opening to closing every day… A big show for Yamaha indeed.” January | February 2019

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NAMM 2019

www.audiomediainternational.com

Photo: Matthew Simmons

Elliot Baker a.k.a. Crystal Ghost shows off a speaker at the JBL booth

“We launched the KSL System, the new addition to the SL Series, our top range concert line array series,” says David Claringbold of d&b audiotechnik. “This was d&b audiotechnik’s most significant product release outside of Germany in the company’s history. We chose The NAMM Show for a launch of this stature because the timing and location of NAMM is so well suited to our global market. We have been inundated with people wanting to get up close to the KSL system and talk with our people on the booth and have had a packed demonstration room for our d&b Soundscape Immersive technology presentations. We look forward to returning next year.”

FOCUSED IDEAS Benefiting from best-in-class education and connecting with top thought leaders, industry professionals were inspired over the course of four days through more than 400 educational sessions designed to engage, inform and spark new ideas, as well as to further their careers and prepare for the future against the backdrop of the industry’s global gathering. Education partners included A3E: Advanced Audio+Applications Exchange, Audinate’s Dante Training and Certification, the Audio Engineering Society’s AES@NAMM: Pro Sound Symposium Live and Studio and TEC Tracks for audio production, along with event technology sessions curated by ESTA (Entertainment Services and Technology Association), and more. Each day of the Show began with a NAMM U Breakfast Session. On Thursday, January 24, Joe Lamond hosted “Breakfast of Champions,” where he and pioneers in the music products industry explored the concept and power of originality and Nancy 8

Wilson was presented with the Music for Life award, an honor annually given to a musician whose body of work and legacy has inspired music makers. With more than 250 pro audio sessions dedicated to each aspect of production, emerging and established professionals had a myriad of options to grow in their careers. TEC Tracks offered big-picture sessions to uncover topics ranging from building a profitable home studio to an inspiring keynote from engineer Chris Lord-Alge, who also introduced a “revolutionary” new plug-in in collaboration with Waves Audio. Other highlights included: “The Future of Music” with Craig Anderton; Mr. Bonzai interviewing Danny Kortchmar for his inside perspective on classic records, classic artists, and the highs and lows of the music business; “Pioneers of Analog Synths,” a special panel presentation by Michelle Moog-Koussa; and “Prince: The Making of a Legend,” with the original arranger from Prince’s team, Brent Fischer, who, with his late father Dr. Clare Fischer, collaborated directly with Prince for over three decades. AES@NAMM Pro Sound Symposium: Live & Studio returned for its second year. The four-day international symposium offered seven Training Academies and related sessions on line-array technologies, microphones for studio and stage, live-sound mixing consoles, wireless systems and studio environments, as well as tutorials on system measurement and optimisation, plus informative and

intimate sessions with leading industry pros hosted by veteran FoH engineer Robert Scovill and studio guru Bobby Owsinski. Meanwhile, A3E: The Advanced Audio + Applications Exchange, dedicated to the future of advanced audio applications and new music technologies, explored how advanced audio applications are transforming the music industry, production and performance. The keynote session, “Driving the Future of Music Production, with BT,” delved into the technologies to release the full creative potential of an artist and what happens when the barriers are removed to limitless innovation. A3E welcomed Intel and visionary artist BT for the session. Professionals also had the opportunity for a handson experience with Audinate’s Dante multimedia networking technology. The training offered registrants a synchronous, practical experience with Dante and the basics of Dante concepts. At the Loudspeaker System Showcase, 13 top audio manufacturers presented both line array and portable speaker systems. Held Thursday through Saturday at the show, the system showcase took over the arena area and offered professionals an opportunity to demo a range of different speaker systems.

DOING THE HONOURS Friday night’s Parnelli Awards recognised the pioneering, influential professionals and companies for their contributions to the live production industry, while later in the week on Saturday, the 34th Annual TEC Awards recognised 31 categories of products and projects in the areas of Technical or Creative Achievement, and the individuals, companies and technical innovations used in sound recordings, films, broadcast television, and video games. At the TEC Awards, Peter Frampton was recognised with the Les Paul Innovation Award, an honour which is given to individuals that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of recording technology in the spirit of the famed audio pioneer, inventor, and musician, Les Paul. Along with Frampton, Leslie Ann Jones, the groundbreaking engineer, producer and director of music and scoring for Skywalker Sound was inducted into the TEC Hall of Fame. At the awards ceremony, Jones shared: “It’s one thing to get an award for a particular project, it’s another thing to get an award for your career and the life that you’ve led…” Jones joins luminaries Rose Mann Cherney, Skunk Baxter, Hal Blaine, Jack Douglas, Nathan East, Geoff Emerick, and others with her induction, the industry’s highest honour for pioneers of audio technology and the music industry’s most accomplished producers and audio technicians. The 2020 NAMM Show will return to Anaheim, California from January 16-19, while Summer NAMM will reconvene the industry in Nashville, Tennessee from July 18-20. n

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OPINION

THE ROAD TO AN IP FUTURE Calrec’s vice president of sales, Dave Letson, offers his thoughts on the broadcast industry’s migration to IP...

DAVE LETSON

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he move to IP in the broadcast industry has been the talk of the town for many years now with the realities of it becoming much clearer over the past 18 months. What do we mean by that? We have seen the standards for audio and video transport being clearly established – after a huge amount of work – with the SMPTE ST-2110 suite of protocols. Meanwhile, the industry, via trade bodies and manufacturers, is working hard to implement NMOS, which defines audio and video equipment discovery and registration across IP networks. But this begs two questions. The first is why move to IP – what are the benefits? And the second is how broadcasters handle this move.

Calrec Impulse core

One of the key potential benefits of moving to IP is the ability to use existing network infrastructures and COTS (Commercial-Off-The-Shelf) hardware. Customers want to be able to pass audio, video, control and other data over shared IP networks, and they want to use open standards to do so between devices made by different manufacturers. Standardised IP connectivity eradicates much of the cost, space, system complexity and cabling overhead of having a multitude of interfaces for analogue, AES3, MADI, SDI, etc. This is the goal of both AES67 and ST-2110. Additionally, broadcasters can future-proof their systems by moving to COTS equipment. As IP network bandwidths are forced to increase to accommodate 4K and 8K video standards, new COTS switch fabric can be introduced to ease the burden. Now, to the second question of how this move can be handled. While we are seeing the migration to IP happening, it certainly isn’t happening overnight. The vast majority of broadcasters and production facilities clearly can’t afford to simply abandon their existing non-IP infrastructure until that technology is nearing the end of its life. In many cases, the migration to IP will see a hybrid phase with IP and non-IP equipment coexisting and the route taken will be dependent on the specific requirements of each customer. For example, legacy glue products such as monitoring, convertors and comms will all need to migrate. Moving to a completely new system is not only financially draining but it also has a learning curve. For many, this curve will initially be steep as the intricacies of a broadcast IP network infrastructure is a brand new landscape. Having the benefit of a greenfield IP infrastructure where there is no need to work within the constraints of existing technology is a luxury, but it is also a risk to some broadcasters. A gradual shift to IP using “Gateway”

technologies will flatten the curve, as not everyone will need to be across the technology from the outset. In the long run this can make the transition a smoother journey. By not swapping out all the equipment simultaneously, current systems can continue to be used, keeping everything on air and allowing the transfer to be non-disruptive to the programming schedule. It also allows the broadcaster to get full value out of their investment. A step back is needed to explain one way in which Calrec is helping this transition. Audio networking has brought great benefits to production workflows by significantly reducing cabling and setup times, providing flexible routing that can be managed en-masse at the touch of a button, and breaking the hard-ties between control rooms and studios. Calrec’s Hydra2 audio networking technology has been deployed globally for over a decade and allows the construction of complex routing networks with control software that transparently organises all routing. Broadcasters love Hydra2 due to its plug-and-play nature; when an I/O box is plugged in it automatically comes up and is available straight away. Hydra2 networks are deterministic, allowing them to comfortably pass 512 channels of audio in each direction at very low latency with zero packet loss on a single connection. The drawback to Hydra2 and other similar proprietary solutions is that to do this it cannot be routed through COTS switches or over open networks, and its data paths cannot be shared by third parties; it requires its own private network and specific switching hardware. IP networks are not tied to these constraints, but in this era of IP and open standards there remain challenges around control and system management. NMOS will help manage these networks – Calrec already has full integration with NMOS standards – but purchasing IP-based equipment should not make pre-existing equipment redundant; existing systems now need to interface and integrate with IP-based systems. Calrec has developed a well-defined upgrade path for its customers. The new native-IP Impulse core is designed to work with existing Apollo and Artemis surfaces and offers the opportunity to migrate systematically over time. In addition, the new H2-IP Gateway product provides a bridge between existing Calrec legacy equipment and IP networks, and it also allows Calrec SMPTE 2110 networks to link to Hydra2 networks, passing channel labels and control such as mic preamp gain in both directions. It’s essential that manufacturers provide a clear route to the world of IP and Calrec’s gateway technology does precisely that. While it’s clear what the benefits are of this move, existing technologies have been years in development and consistently upgraded to meet changing requirements. Managing this transition is now pivotal for manufacturers as the industry shifts its focus to an IP-centric future. n January | February 2019

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OPINION

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RECORDING DRUMS 101 Mike Thorne, owner of mixing and mastering facility Rimshot Studios in the Kent countryside, reveals his top tips for setting up, preparing for, and recording a professional drum session...

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here are plenty of good resources explaining how to mic up a drum kit, but fewer offering practical tips on setting the scene for a relaxed session that keeps the focus on the musician and the music. Here are a few gems that I’ve picked up over the years, working with some great producers and engineers.

Start with the end in mind Firstly, what style of music are you recording? Heavier music might mean a powerful, bombastic feel is needed so a large room and room mics might be important. Jazz or funk might need a tighter sound so the detail is captured clearly and this might be helped by recording in a smaller, dryer sounding space. Soul, blues or acoustic music might be somewhere between the two. What’s the drummer’s style and setup? Are they a session drummer, with drum and cymbal options that record well, or mainly a live drummer whose gear

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is designed with volume and projection in mind? If you’re working with a drummer who has limited studio experience, try and check out their playing by going to a show or listening to them on YouTube. If you’re working in an unfamiliar room, ask the assistant (if you have one) where drums usually sound good. You can follow this up by walking around the room while playing a snare drum and listening to where it sounds best (full range, no weird reflections or flutter echoes). Make sure there are good sight lines to where you’ll position the other musicians. Use acoustic screens to control the liveliness of the room – even in a very lively sounding space, it’s amazing how tight the close mics and overheads can sound with

careful placement of screens, meaning you can use the close and overhead mics for punch and attack, leaving the room mics for size and excitement. If you’re providing drums, make sure they’re tuned appropriately and set-up. I recently invested in a digital drum tuner and for my studio kit, I’ve got several tunings noted down and I can dial these in quickly as a starting place – very effective! Consider using a drum platform on isolation mounts (Bruce Swedien style) – not every studio has them, but if they do, the kick and toms sound tighter as they’re not coupled with the floor. This also helps with keeping the really low-frequency stuff out of other mics if you’re recording other instruments in the same space.

“If you’re on a rockier session you can blend in some of the compressed room mics to give the drummer added vibe”

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OPINION Microphones should be plugged in and tested, but positioned slightly back from the drums so the drummer is easily able to tweak the position of the kit, without feeling closed-in by your recording gear. Make sure headphones are tested and any fold-back mixers are labelled.

Getting sounds Once the drummer has arrived, give them space to tweak the drum setup and get comfy. For a drummer, there’s nothing worse than an eager engineer positioning mics before you’re ready! While the drummer is playing and getting warmed up, listen to the kit. Even if it’s the studio’s kit and you’ve recorded it before, it will sound different when someone else is playing it. What do you like? What do you need to change? Can you use fewer mics because the drummer sounds balanced, or do you need to micromanage the dynamics and consistency of tone to leave yourself a safety net? Is the note length and attack of all the toms similar? Is anything rattling? Does the tuning need tweaking now that you’re hearing the drummer play? Listen from the drummer’s perspective, behind the kit so you hear how it sounds

MIKE THORNE the drummer has great dynamics and balance when they play – I’d rather keep these intact than have to recreate them later. The kick and snare will be physically offset from the centre of the drum kit so if you want both to be in the centre of the stereo image, you need to take this into account with your overheads and room mics. Doing this might mean the mics don’t “look” symmetrical – don’t worry about it! If it’s good enough for George Massenburg, it’s good enough for you! I generally aim to get the most attack possible from each mic. Look at where the drummer hits the drums and cymbals and aim the mics for those spots. This usually provides a good starting place and you can tweak later after listening.

Are we rolling …? to them with relative balances between kick/snare/ toms and cymbals. When placing overhead mics, use the mics to capture the full range of the kit or as cymbal mics. Some of this is dependent on the drummer and the genre. All things being equal, I prefer the full-range option, especially if

Aim to record tracks sounding as finished as possible (usually involving some EQ and compression) including getting the recording balances sounding good on the way into the recorder (this is where a console helps). When you or your client open up the session later on, all the faders are at zero and the balance is already there.

Make sure the drums sound fantastic in the fold-back by working on the balance. If you’re on a rockier session you can blend in some of the compressed room mics to give the drummer added vibe when playing. If you’re using a click track, try a pair of noise isolation headphones. These can reduce the spill and have the added bonus of saving the drummer’s hearing, although not everyone likes wearing them – they can be tight on the head and also, some drummers like hearing some of the direct sound of the drums. I like to roll off some of the top end of the click going to the fold-back as it reduces the spill slightly too. If there’s time, record drum samples… just in case. Even if you don’t need them for this project, you can add them to your own library – great to have when mixing. Drumming is physically and mentally taxing. Be considerate of this and build in breaks. Hit the talkback quickly after a take to avoid leaving the musician wondering what’s being said about them. Be direct about what is working but compassionate in the way you deliver info about something that needs to change. Have fun – drum recording is one of the most rewarding, creative and fun parts of being in a studio! ■

Mike Thorne is the owner of Rimshot Studios and also works as a recording engineer, producer and professional drummer: www.rimshotstudio.co.uk

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08/02/2019 15:57


TRAINING

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KNOWLEDGE IS POWER AMI sits down with Grammy award-winning producer, mixer and sound engineer Dom Morley to discuss The Mix Consultancy, his recent venture into pro audio education and tuition... What are you trying to achieve with The Mix Consultancy and what kind of approach are you taking? Dom: I’m aiming to make this a unique, one-to-one experience. You talk to me and I listen to what you do, and then advise you on your work. One of the facets why I started this specifically comes from when I was working as an assistant at Metropolis. A very big session came in which involved archiving all the tapes of a very big band that had been going for decades. As well as archiving, the band wanted rough mixes of everything that hadn’t already been released. I had that classic fortunate situation where the engineer I was working with was ill for a couple of days. The guy who was producing the whole thing said to me: “Set these mixes up, then I’ll come in and just finish them off and we’ll print them.” So in two days I learnt more than I have done in any other two days of my career. Essentially I was doing a mix, 12

and someone who had 20+ years more experience than me was coming in and changing what I had done to make it as good as the work he does. It’s like having your work marked by an expert and learning a lot from that. It’s this sort of process that I’m trying to achieve, whereby people send their mixes to me, I listen to them in my studio, and then I can say: ‘here are where the problems are.’ Then of course their hearing’s getting better which is the thing that’s difficult to teach. I’m actually helping people to hear better and hear where their mistakes are so that they know what to do differently when they approach their next mix. It’s one-to-one tutorials, rather than just: ‘Here’s a bunch of information, learn from it what you can.’ The system as it works at the moment, is that somebody uploads their mix to my website with a little bit of information about what they’re aiming for so I can

steer them in the right direction. I then send back a PDF with my changes, advice and suggestions of different things they can try. As soon as I can I would like to add Skype tutorials, where someone can just book an hour with me and we can talk about a mix they’ve done and I’ve listened to previously, and also discuss anything they want about the music business etc. What else inspired you to start up your own service? Dom: I do a lot of mixing and I’ve got my own studio in the countryside, but it can be an incredibly isolating job. A couple of years ago I took a part time job tutoring MA Music Production students at Leeds College of Music. It’s really good fun and really rewarding, but I did initially think: what happens when the students leave? What used to happen at this point was that you would go and get a job in a studio and your education would

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TRAINING “People are coming to the realisation that it isn’t the gear, as we’ve been saying all along: ‘it’s not the gear it’s the ears’” continue more informally. I worked at Metropolis for seven years, with people like Phil Spector and Tony Visconti, just learning by watching them work. This is not as readily available anymore – I think there’s probably only around 20 or 30 per cent of the studios still open that were around in the 90s when I started. So these guys are going out on their own and setting up their own thing which is great, but from there, where do they get their mentoring so they can continue learning? This was my initial thought, that there was a gap here I can fill. To what extent is there a particular demand for this type of service nowadays? Dom: I think there are a lot of people who are doing it themselves because they can. There used to be a technology divide between the pros and the non-pros.

Now, that isn’t the case, and people still aren’t making the records that sound like the old records that they love. People are coming to the realisation that it isn’t the gear, as we’ve been saying all along: ‘it’s not the gear it’s the ears.’ So now people are working on getting their ears better and spending money on that, instead of another mic or a better interface, which is great. There’s definitely a demand from those who want to hone their engineering skills, and from artists who just want to make a record all on their own with 100 per cent creative control – there’s an appetite for that. There are also a lot of services where you can go and just watch somebody mixing things, and then they talk about it and give some tips. But what I’m bringing to the table – which I don’t think is particularly available now – is the one-to-one aspect with a Grammy award-winning engineer and the

feedback that I give that others don’t or can’t, to provide a more personal experience. What kind of feedback have you had already? Dom: The people that have used it have absolutely loved it. There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm from everybody and it’s very reassuring. I’m excited about getting it out to a wider audience and letting people know that it’s possible. I’ve become quite passionate about the fact that more people need to get involved because the way we all had it passed down to us is happening far less than it was, and you want that continuation of knowledge to carry on otherwise quality drops and that doesn’t help anyone. I want to be retired and listening to amazing sounding records that people are making in decades to come. Hopefully this is going to be part of the new way that we educate audio professionals of the future. People will always have their own setups and specific ways of approaching things, but sometimes it’s good to speak to someone who’s been there and done that rather than just reading an article about “the wonders of tape” for example! n www.themixconsultancy.com

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PRODUCER PROFILE

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KNOW YOUR ROLE

Daniel Dylan Wray checks in with producer and engineer John Congleton to hear more about his musical influences, studio setup, and eclectic approach to making records...

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didn’t really aspire to be a producer in the classical sense,” says John Congleton in L.A as wildfires burn around the city while he cocoons up in the new studio he is building. His southern drawl is unmistakable, yet an L.A native he is not. Congleton is from Dallas, Texas and from the late 1990s, he fronted indie rock band The Paper Chase, who remained active until 2010. However, it’s Congleton’s work with other artists that has seen his name rise to be one of the most in-demand producers of alternative music. His credits are as vast as they are eclectic: St Vincent, Goldfrapp, Bill Callahan, Sleater Kinney, Wild Beasts, Sigur Ros, The War on Drugs, Marilyn Manson, Brian Wilson, Debbie Harry, Laurie Anderson and the list goes on and on. It’s from Elmwood Recording in Dallas that a great deal of this work has been done, a space he built from scratch on a minimal budget. “Elmwood is very, very utilitarian,” he says. “When I was building it with my partner Stewart at the time we didn’t know what we were doing and didn’t have any money. So we cut corners. It’s not an attractive place but it has a charm because of that.” Before setting up his own place, Congleton had lived in Chicago where he ended up working at Steve Albini’s infamous Electrical Audio studio. It was here that he had an accelerated learning period. “Working with Steve has had a big impact on me still to this day,” he explains. “Steve’s importance in how I got started in this whole thing was basically just showing me the first Ramones record. I feel like I owe everything to the fact that I got turned onto punk rock. It gave me permission to be able to pursue something that seemed intangible. Steve was right behind that. In the early 1990s a lot of records to me sounded - and still sound - fucking terrible. I hate the way a lot of them are recorded and produced and then there’s this guy out in the mid-west doing his own thing and making the best-sounding records [Pixies, PJ Harvey, Nirvana]. I wanted to know about that. I was a nobody and he was responsive to me, giving me advice and allowing me to be a part of what he was doing. The thing I’ve learnt from Steve is that you have to treat the band with respect and respect what they are doing. He’s very sympathetic for what the bands are going for, and has an amazing knack for running and organising a session.” 14

Congleton has pursued many of his most experimental ideas through his partnership with Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent

With the experience of working with Albini behind him, Congleton soon found himself to be a similarly go-to guy for records in the indie-rock world, although this would soon expand into a variety of genres due to Congleton’s desire to constantly move forward. “The only thing that matters to me is that every day is different, and I really like the fact that every record I work on is different,” he says. “I really don’t like this idea of: this is how you make a record. I

hate that. Not only do I think that’s unfair to the artist, I think it’s so boring. I talk to the artist and ask what kind of record they want to make, what you need my help with. The spectrum can go from acting as a glorified engineer to co-writing and micromanaging every step of the way.” Through this completely open approach Congleton can manoeuvre himself around projects rather than have them be shaped around him and his desires. He cites these sorts of flexible skills as

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PRODUCER PROFILE being some of the most important when in the studio. “Personality-wise, I work well as a producer because I’m always taking the temperature of everybody,” he says. “I resonate sympathetically in a way that works well as an effective producer, so it was a thing I fell into naturally. In the process of doing that, I had to decide what the role of a producer was and what I didn’t like and want to be a part of. Every day I’m still discovering what a producer does.” He suggests that even musical chops are a pretty low down list of requirements. “I think being knowledgeable about music is actually one of the lowest qualities required. I don’t even know if it’s in the top ten. I feel like to be a great producer you have to have all the cylinders firing. At the end of the day, just being a reasonable person who is understanding is the most effective thing to make an artist feel like they are being treated fairly and getting what they want. Just be reasonable, don’t make it about you, make it about the work. A lot of producers act like they are the stars, I don’t like that sort of behaviour. I find that a little bit gross. Being helpful is the number one thing.” This approach has not only led to Congleton being inundated with work but also slipping into the mainstream when the self-titled 2014 album he produced for St. Vincent won a Grammy for Best Alternative Album. Although, he says it’s not impacted on his life and creative approach all that much. “Luckily I’ve never had some massive success from a record that I didn’t already really believe in. So when larger artists or artists with a huge infrastructure get in touch, if they are pushing for me then they are at least pushing for me based on an agenda of work that I am proud of. It’s not like I did a Miley Cyrus song and everyone wants to work with me now. Usually people come to me because they want to make an artful record. If that’s not the case I can usually tell really early on and I don’t get involved. As for labels, I’m not

Elmwood Recording’s Neve 53 desk was originally used for Saturday Night Live

really in the Top 40 sphere, I’m not making records that have a realistic expectation of being fucking massive, so the pressure is ratcheted down a little bit. So labels usually suggest me for the same reasons artists want to work with me.” Besides, Congleton has no interest whatsoever in getting into a world of hit-making production. “A lot of producers now, they record you and then auto-tune it and that’s what they think being a producer is. I think that’s exactly what being a producer isn’t. That’s making content not art. I don’t think that’s how you make timeless music.” Congleton also likes to keep his studio as a working environment, somewhere that people come to get stuff done. “I like a studio that looks like a place where you do work, not a ski lodge,” he says. “Some places look far too relaxing to me. I like

JOHN CONGLETON’S TOP GEAR PICKS ■ Ampex 351 mic pres

■ B&K 4006

“These are converted tape machine preamps and my favourite front end for guitars and for anything I want tons of character on.”

“These microphones sound good on everything, perfect for ambient recording.”

■ GML 8200

■ Neve 52 Series Console (custom built for the BBC)

■ EMI TG 12413 Console Limiter

“Not only do I love the way it sounds but I’ve made so many records on it; it’s like my assistant engineer in a way.”

“My desert island parametric EQ.”

places where there’s equipment and gear everywhere and there’s work being done. I’ve never been that guy that lights candles and throws up rugs and stuff. I don’t do that, but if an artist wants to do that then fine. I’m kind of like a blue-collar guy. I think if you treat making art as some sort of precious pearl then it will act like that, like a phantom, something unattainable. It’s just a thing you do because you’re a creative person. It’s the place you create.” When asked about some of his most technically challenging but rewarding experiences, he mentions the NYC no wave noise band turned ear-destroying drone monsters, Swans. “Michael Gira wanted to record the band even louder than when they play live,” he recalls. “All members were playing at the same time the vocals are live, stacks of amps pointing towards the drums. Every amp is on 11, it’s like blistering loud. Whenever I would walk into a room to move a mic or something it was like being attacked by a swarm of bees. Every song set up was a logistical nightmare, trying to avoid phasing, bleed, cone filtering. It was technically very challenging. But you had to just let that go because of the vibe and I really like the way that record came out.” The ultimate drive for Congleton seems to come from the sense of the unknown, not knowing what the next project will bring, what he can add to it and what he can get out of it. “The greatest feeling in the world to me is when you realise that a creative idea is going to work. I’m addicted to that rush. If I can discover something new that they can do, that’s really exciting and fun to be a part of.” So when it comes to asking what the future may hold for Congleton, aside from the building of his new L.A studio, he’s typically excited about what he can’t predict: “I’m pretty allergic to doing the same shit over and over again.” ■ www.elmwoodrecording.com January | February 2019

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STUDIO PROFILE

AMAZING SPACES Carl Tatz gives AMI the lowdown on his custom designed, NAMM TEC Award-nominated recording studio, The Upper Deck... How did you first get involved with the project? Carl: The owner of The Upper Deck – a Major League Baseball player who would like to remain anonymous for professional reasons – was incredibly supportive throughout the whole process. I was contacted by the original owner of the house who was a contractor himself, and I was referred by a personal assistant of Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts, because I’d built a couple of studios for him. The owner’s big requirement was that they didn’t want to hear anything in the house. It’s a huge house

and they wanted to be able to crank the guitars up without hearing it everywhere. In this instance, the studio was still connected to the house with an attic area, so I had to tell him: “it’s a house, there are a lot of things I can do, but don’t think you’re not going to hear it.” If it was separate from the house or if we were building from the ground up it would’ve been different. So that was the starting spec – they didn’t want any noise leakage into the neighbourhood which was very successful; you could still hear it in the house somewhat but it wasn’t terrible.

How did you go about meeting all of the technical requirements? Carl: I ended up standing in this great space just wondering what I was going to do with it. There were nine-foot ceiling joists in what was going to be the tracking room, so if we could remove these joists, we could take advantage of this crazy 18ft ceiling with five dormers in it. But still, there wasn’t anything I could really draw out and say, “OK this is what we’re going to build,” it was more like a design-as-you-go process. January | February 2019

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The control/mix room was more straightforward. It's an unusual layout because there’s a staircase in between the mix room and the tracking space. It took a lot of ingenuity to get the sight lines perfect so you can sit in the chair and look directly at the drummer in that cove there. Then it was just a building a room-withina-room approach. The windows were a big deal, especially the large window – the piece of glass on this weighed something like 700lbs. I had seven guys with white faces trying to forklift that up, because if you drop that thing you’re going to lose a foot! That was a big contention. We were then able to take that space where the staircase is between the tracking and mix rooms and turn that into a entry vestibule/machine room/ recording booth – That worked out really well. Originally, the client mainly just wanted this as a place to jam with his friends – as a hobbyist he’s got an amazing guitar and amplifier collection. He said he might want to do some recording so it just morphed into an actual professional grade studio complete with a control room etc. because he was about to buy all this new gear. Someone else advised him about the 16-channel Tree 18

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Audio Roots Generation II mixing console, which worked out well, because it’s a great console for an amazing tracking room. My only part of the gear was the PhantomFocus System – which is the star of the whole studio – although I did design the desk that the Tree Audio console sits in with Nashville’s Sound Construction. I was trying to get it as low as possible because when a console comes up high it really affects the monitoring. I often design my mix rooms from the monitoring outwards. Was it a smooth collaboration with the other parties involved? Carl: People are moving here to Nashville all the time so there’s a tremendous amount of building going on. For this reason it’s hard to get workers – one challenge was getting the dry wall up. We had to sandwich a layer of 3/4-inch MDF and two layers of 5/8-inch sheetrock, so that’s three layers and two inches of thickness being applied to a very unusual chopped up ceiling that’s 18ft high. It took a couple of months just for dry wallers to come in. It would’ve happened a lot faster but we were at their mercy because it was such a challenging job.

The original owner of the house was a contractor so he ended up being the contractor for the project. He had his electrician come in and I just had to work with them rather than some more seasoned studio guys, so this was a slight challenge but it worked out. Could you tell us more about the PhantomFocus System you installed? Carl: The client was playing baseball all summer so I had to use the mix room as a lab for my monitors. I developed them further and came up with a new model there. I believe there’s nothing out there that can do what this system does – it’s a very applied and proven process, and typically takes around two days to set up. The hardware consists of a pair of PFM ICE Cube-12 subwoofers, a PFS 4800 digital processor, the PFS stands, four PFM MonoBlock 2200 amps, PFS Monitor Stands, and of course the monitors themselves, which in this case were PFM HD bi-amp models. Auralex Acoustics were also involved and we used the Carl Tatz Signature Series products. It’s mostly in the mix room and there’s a few things in the tracking room too, like the canopy over the drums, which houses a stereo pair of Crown PZM

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STUDIO PROFILE

microphones, with another two in the high ceiling. I’ve built a lot of custom studios and I just like the idea of this architectural look, which I came up with in this case by using the Auralex panels. It gives my rooms a unique look compared to other studios – in this case the client was blown away. The outboard gear meanwhile was recommended by the owner’s friend, and included two API 500 series lunchboxes, a Briscasti M7 stereo reverb processor, Eventide H8000FW multichannel effects system and more. What made this project particularly unique? Carl: The space was so unusual. Tracking rooms can be crazy and this was certainly going to be crazy with so many angles making it that much more difficult. One gift we had in the PhantomFocus mix room was that behind the back wall, the roof line continues for another six feet or so, so there’s this big cavity into which I was able to put my axial mode absorber and a bunch of other absorption stuff, turning it into a huge bass trap. So even though the room is small, the low end in the room is breathtaking. It’s not what you expect, and that’s what makes it fun! ■

A MIX ENGINEER’S DREAM? Two multi award-winning engineers offer their thoughts... ■ Bob Bullock

■ David Cherry

“I have been using the Carl Tatz-designed PhantomFocus System for many years. Carl has built a total of three studios for me, the latest being my “Cool Springs Mix” mixing facility and I could not be more pleased with my mix room. The accuracy of frequency range, imaging and transparency is something amazing, and I would not even consider another system. I have also spent time recording and mixing at The Upper Deck Studio – the control room is similar to mine and is wonderfully accurate, while the recording space is beautifully designed and very functional. I have also worked with Carl’s newly designed PhantomFocus Monitors, and as much as I love my Dynaudio M1’s, these are even more impressive, offering even more accuracy in the imaging and depth. The sound in the room gives you the feeling of hearing the music in front of you, but not the speakers – a truly amazing experience!.”

“I was involved with much of the PhantomFocus System testing process, providing a lot of feedback as we went along. Carl went through a few versions of the system with me and in the end, they turned out pretty darn incredible. The definition and the imaging is of the highest quality. I’m retired from the studio business soto-speak but I do a few big orchestral things throughout the year for PBS. Carl – who I’ve known for around 15-20 years – had the monitors set up in a studio here in Nashville and I popped by to spend a couple of hours listening to the system. The processing and the subs just couple extremely well and I’m looking forward to using them on a project, while the imaging and clarity is honestly astounding. We listened to the actives and passives with different components, and of course I liked the ones that are the most expensive! Once you’ve heard definition like that it’s hard to go back.”

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© 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

FEATURE

A ROYAL REVIVAL Colby Ramsey discovers how the retelling of Queen’s spectacular musical journey turned the band’s widely celebrated biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, into a feast for the ears...

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ohemian Rhapsody is a truly electrifying celebration of Queen, their music and of course their lead singer Freddie Mercury, which follows the astronomical rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound. The film, which was recently nominated in the best sound categories at the Oscars and BAFTA Awards, brought together a roster of audio specialists from a range of disciplines, a team tasked with crafting a perfect musical formula that faithfully honours the band’s legacy. The entirety of the film’s music is made up of existing stems from Queen’s original studio and live recordings, mixed in with a batch of carefully recorded new material. When supervising sound and music editor John Warhurst began work on the film in 2014, his first port of call was Queen’s audio-visual archives, Queen Productions.

“John was pleasantly surprised that we were able to provide 99 per cent of what was required in not just multi-track form but in pre-mixed stems too,” says senior engineer and producer at Queen Productions Justin Shirley-Smith, who also works full time at Brian May’s studio. The ‘needle-drop’ songs – which are all studio tracks – meant that the team had to recreate the original mixes made by Freddie, John, Brian, Roger and their original co-producers. The screenplay would describe a scene with the band playing a certain song in a certain venue in a certain year, and while it was often very unlikely that they had access to the original recordings, they were required to track down a suitable live recording from the nearest or most fitting period. One they did have access to however was from Live Aid in 1985, the film’s spine-tingling finale.

“It would be inappropriate to go into too much detail about how we go about revealing the maximum power and beauty in these live recordings, but it was policy from day one that the Live Aid performance should have the absolute least amount of enhancement,” Shirley-Smith tells AMI. “The very fact that we have a multi-track recording of Live Aid at all is a miracle in itself because, as I understand it, Jeff Griffin (the BBC Radio producer at the event) was instructed by Bob Geldof – in no uncertain terms – NOT to roll multitrack tape. Happily for us, Jeff felt that he couldn’t not record it!” Early on in the process, the team created a showreel using Freddie Mercury’s vocal, Rami Malek’s vocal, and a soundalike, weaving the three voices into one to create the vocal heard during the Live Aid performance. From a cinematic aspect, January | February 2019

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FEATURE

reproducing the ebbing and flowing sound of the crowd during this scene was always going to be a task in itself, as Warhurst explains: “On one of the shoots, a 595- person crowd turned up so they could do all the Live Aid aerial shots. I recorded the crowd singing in between camera setups so we could start building a library. What we wanted to do was create a hyperreal version of being at Live Aid, so when the camera settles into the crowd, you can feel the presence of the people around you, the perspective of the band and the music would change depending on the shots.” Supervising dialogue and ADR editor, Nina Hartstone, adds: “We could use the archive crowd recordings as very big beds. John’s recordings of the crowd in between shoots for Live Aid acted as the second layer, and the next layer was the bed that I would provide, which was recordings of smaller groups of about 40 people, in groups of eight or less.” After a carousel of changing directors and actors, the movie got back on track in 2016 with a new screenplay and the team had all the required stems finished by spring 2017. Upon convening at Twickenham Studios during the final mix stage in July 2018, it transpired that the film’s music 22

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© 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved and re-recording mixer Paul Massey wanted to mix directly from the stems as well as having a dry vocal option, so the team set about producing these stems on one of their on-site Avid Pro Tools rigs, as Shirley-Smith reveals: “Mixing from the stems gave everybody the best of both worlds; total flexibility to re-balance, pan, EQ, compress and add effects as required in the movie theatre

context, but also not having to redo a lot of mix and processing work that had already been done,” Massey had an idea to play out the pre-mixed stems of the Queen live material through a PA in a concert venue, and record the resulting ambience for use in the final mix-down. “It just so happened that Queen and Adam Lambert were about to play

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FEATURE

© 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved two nights at the London O2 Arena and, because the shows were being filmed, we were able to place a really good array of ambient mics throughout the arena,” says Joshua J Macrae, audio engineer and co-producer at Queen Productions, who nowadays works out of Roger Taylor’s studio. “We went back to the stem sessions and reprinted them all with their reverbs and delays muted, so we had dry stems to play out through the PA.” Because Massey was mixing for theatrical Dolby Atmos 7.1 and 5.1 as well as home theatre Atmos and Imax, it was important that the acoustic panning and environment decisions worked in all formats: “For the larger stadium scenes, we were able to utilise some PA environments from the 02 Arena recordings,” he tells AMI. “I assigned these recordings to “Objects” in Dolby Atmos to give the audience the illusion of height and space in the final mix.”

Massey’s favoured console is the Harrison MPC5, which he used along with the Neve DFC exclusively for the mix on Bohemian Rhapsody, adding: “I prefer the sound and flexibility these consoles provide, and I’m looking forward to the new Harrison MPC Console Strip for the Pro Tools | S6 console.”

For each title, the teams spent a lot of time investigating where and on what consoles they were originally mixed, and what outboard gear those studios had at the time. “Then we’d find plug-in emulations of those consoles and the outboard gear to use in Pro Tools in the stems mixing process,” says Macrae. “I must say that Universal Audio’s plug-ins have had a lot of use in this regard. This really does provide a good starting point for the mix because the stems creation workflow is pretty intense. Queen mixes have so much amazing detail and subtlety – constant “A/B-ing” with focused listening to a few bars at a time throughout each title is a must. Time consuming stuff!” In fact, all of the film’s recordings, MIDI and playback on set was done on four Pro Tools systems using satellite, while all the layered up sound effects were all mixed internally on an S6 console. “In terms of new recording, I guess the main pieces were the Smile reunion track Doing All Right (…Revisited) and the 20th Century Fox Fanfare,” music co-producer Kris Fredriksson reveals. “We also recorded Brian playing an alternative take of the Bohemian Rhapsody guitar solo; the film called for the take you hear to be one before the master take, so with Brian’s memories of the original session, we were able to set things up to sound exactly like they did in 1975. For that sequence we even comped together Freddie’s out-take vocals so that he can be heard ‘rehearsing’ the song prior to the scene where they record in the studio.” When Brian May first came in and suggested doing the Fox Fanfare, it was clear to all that it was going to be a great addition to the whole experience; a genuine seal of approval from the band: “Brian blasted out about 66 or so guitar takes and Roger added his percussion in a short space of time, so we ended up with a piece of music that gives the flavour of things like God Save The Queen, The Wedding March and Procession from previous Queen albums; it really added a nice dimension to kick off the soundtrack album as well as the film itself,” adds Fredriksson. The Queen studio recordings themselves were still in pretty good shape from previous projects where all of the original master tapes has been transferred and the mixes reverse-engineered in Pro Tools. From the start, Brian May and Roger Taylor were focused on making sure that the music was presented in the best possible way. “They both have strong instincts as to what will (and won’t) work and it’s constantly fascinating to see what they come up with,” observes Fredriksson. “They are both quite hands-on, and they were even involved in editing the music to fit on to the end credits; nothing was left to chance. “As far as the personalities involved, that side of it couldn’t have been easier. We’ve all stayed in touch and, as I keep saying, I look forward to working with them all on the (surely inevitable?) sequel!” ■ January | February 2019

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INTERVIEW

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Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike) treks the desert in search of the story Credit: Keith Bernstein/Aviron Pictures

THE SOUND OF WAR

Realistic soundscapes in docu-drama A Private War transform the film from seeming like faraway fiction to creating an atmosphere where you could be right there on the ground. Tara Lepore spoke to re-recording mixer Andrew Stirk about the emotional impact of pursuing authenticity and the challenges along the way...

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hat does a warzone sound like? You can hazard a guess at the sort of sound effects you might need to add in post-production, but for A Private War director Matthew Heineman, estimates were not good enough. Nominated for two Golden Globes, docu-drama A Private War is award-winning documentary maker Heineman’s first feature-length film. It retells the extraordinary events in the life of the late American journalist Marie Colvin, who reported from areas of extreme conflict for The Sunday Times during her 27year career as war correspondent. She died in 2012 while covering the siege of Homs in Syria. For Heineman, it was imperative that her story was retold authentically – and matched by true-to-life soundscapes. The man tasked with the job of packaging up the movie’s audio once filming was complete was rerecording mixer Andrew Stirk. His previous experience working on theatrical documentaries – such as 2012’s BAFTA-winning The Imposter – meant he could draw on his technical ability to create the level of realism Heineman was looking for. “In our first meeting with Matt, we quickly gauged what type of film he was hoping to make,” Stirk tells AMI. “He wanted to make it heavily referenced in reality. He didn’t want anything over the top in terms of Hollywood sound effects, he wanted it pretty gritty, which also reflects his approach to documentaries. I guess authentic was the buzzword.” 24

As I imagine many people reading this haven’t experienced the real sound of a warzone, neither had sound designers Paul Davies and Bernard O’Reilly. But they did get to speak to Colvin’s photographer, Paul Conroy (played by Jamie Dornan in the film), who also worked as a consultant during the making of the film. To “heavily reference” the film in reality, the designers needed to get an insight into what can be heard from a battlefield on any given day. Is a warzone constantly filled with sound? Are there large patches of silence during the daytime? Does the atmosphere change at night? It’s this level of detail that went

into A Private War that makes it difficult to watch at times, achieving the uncomfortableness of reality that Heineman was keen to recreate. This ground-level realism also gives the drama a documentary feel – and the sound is a huge part of authenticating that. For example, actors filmed in the crowd scenes were actually from the war-torn countries shown on screen: locations like Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, meaning the dialogue could be understood on a dialectal level. Stirk continues: “Matt wanted all of the crowd’s speech translated individually, which is something I’ve

A Private War’s re-recording mixer Andrew Stirk

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INTERVIEW not experienced before. Each crowd was very specific and tonally correct for those different locations. You’d have local dialect in there – it wouldn’t just be general Afghanistani. When we were mixing the film, all of the crowd [audio] had an English translation next to it so we knew exactly what that person was saying, meaning it could be positioned very carefully in the background. It was so important to use real live recordings from the shoot, because you cannot recreate that level of authenticity in ADR.” Once filming was complete, the director presented the sound department with a challenge that Stirk says is rare in his experience of working on films (and he’s worked on a lot in his 20-year-career, including King Arthur: Legend

Of The Sword, You Were Never Really Here, and the Resident Evil franchise). “We didn’t have a huge budget for the audio – it was budgeted as a 5.1 mix, so it was all in one ProTools machine. We pre-mixed it all at my studio near Milton Keynes and once we’d finished that, Matt came and reviewed it – kind of like part one of the final mix. “We did the final mix in the Post Republic in Berlin. As it was all in a single ProTools machine, it was fairly easy to transport across there. We played the whole film back, made loads of notes, and got stuck in. On the second day of the final mix, Matt said: ‘I wonder what it’d sound like in 7.1?’ “As everything was prepped in 5.1, that was a bit of a technical challenge. I wasn’t sure if it it’d work or not at first. There was an easy way we could have done it, which is where you upscale a 5.1 mix to a 7.1, but that wouldn’t have been all that satisfactory. So instead, we decided to do it the hard way – but the better way – which was effectively to copy everything that’s been made on a 5.1 aux and put it on to a 7.1 aux.” Why did Heineman want to convert all of the audio at such a late stage of the film’s process? Again, authenticity was key. “Matt wanted the sounds to be coming from behind us,” says Stirk. “We needed to have a sonic build throughout the film. Marie suffers from PTSD, and has flashbacks reflecting her experiences which gradually become more horrific throughout the film. From a sound perspective, these needed to become more horrific each time she went back to this dark place, I guess. Each time she was in a warzone, the warzones had to step us as well, and had to get gradually worse. Eventually we got to Homs, in Syria, at the end – that was pretty horrific.” I ask Stirk how it was to watch this realistic footage over and over when re-recording the mix. “When you first watch it, it’s pretty harrowing to think this is actually what happened to this person. Once you get into the film, you start thinking about all the little sound details and how best you can tell the story. So, for a period of time, you detach from the emotional reality of it. But then in the final stages of the film you re-engage emotionally with it again. It’s quite a weird journey to go on when you’re mixing a film. Once you’ve finished the geeky stuff, that’s the point when you get to do the ‘big craft’, where you can emotionally steer the viewers again through [the choices you make with] sound.” n

Director Matthew Heineman contemplates his next shot on set Credit: Keith Bernstein/Aviron Pictures

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PRODUCT REVIEW

www.audiomediainternational.com

SANKEN CS-M1 Alistair McGhee tests out the latest addition to the Sanken production mic range, which aims to set new sound quality standards for a short shotgun model...

MICS

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anken have a long and noble history in location sound and as innovators of microphone technology. Their COS 11D personal microphone has been an industry staple particularly in drama recording for many years and delivering high quality audio from a personal mic is no mean feat. Sanken bill themselves as the world’s most original microphone makers and I’ve always fancied a go on one of the exotic Sanken CO-100K mics which as the name suggests have a frequency response that extends up to 100 KHz. Not that I can hear that high, but I just like the idea of making recordings for the underserved dogs and bats market. A little more down to earth is Sanken’s range of gun mics. But even here, Sanken have been pushing forward with the CS-3e, which sports three capsules in a line array to produce a highly directional microphone. Which brings us to right now, and the latest addition to the Sanken stable, the CS-M1 supercardioid microphone. The first thing you notice about the CS-M1 is that it is small, discreet and light as a feather – well as light as a 55mg feather. But don’t worry, it has that special lightness that in your hand does not produce the ‘this is crap’ response but rather ‘this is light and lovely’. The CS-M1 is nicely made and feels like a quality product. But what sort of quality? Well the bottom line is everything these days and if we review the standard hypercardioids in a professional sound bag we might well find a petite Schoeps CCM 41 or the more standard CMC6 MK41 combination, the Danish option would be a DPA 4018 and Sennheiser have the MKH 50. These are all spectacular microphones, however the CS-M1 has a handy price advantage here; in fact it is as much as fifty per cent cheaper. Closer to the Sanken in price is the Sennheiser MKH 8050 but that is still nearly a third more. Rooting around in my bag for something a bit more comparable in price I picked out the Neumann KM 185, a hypercardioid of similar dimensions though about 20gms heavier. Having been around for donkey’s you can get a 185 and have some change for the price of the CS-M1. The second thing that strikes you when you examine a CS-M1 with a more run of the mill 26

hypercardioid like the 185 is that the CS-M1 has a proper interference tube on the front. The tube is only about 50mm but is designed to deliver a bit more suck on the front and produces a supercardioid response. The down side of interference tubes is the interference – use them inside in a reflective environment and you can get phasing issues that sound nasty, which is why you would switch away from your gun mic in the first place. Something to think about. The third thing that really stands out is the sensitivity of the microphone. As an electret it is at least one louder than pretty much everything else in the bag – I needed 10dB less gain as compared to the Neumann 185. Good news if you worry about noisy preamps. Comparing the spec is interesting; both mics have a top end peak, the CS-M1 at 8k and the 185’s is a little further up at 10. Both roll off the top and the bottom end with the effect being more pronounced for the Sanken. Indoors, the 185 and the CS-M1 were very close in audio quality. In theory the 185 offers a bit more at the top and bottom but in practice I was mostly hard pushed to identify either mic’s sonic signature. Working in reverberant rooms and listening back closely maybe the 185 carried more bottom end weight – was that tube impacting? But to be honest I’m splitting very fine hairs here. One of the key areas

Key Features n Short 4”″length, lightweight (less than 2oz) n Ideal for boom pole operation and camera mounting n Advanced RFI rejection n Wide 70Hz – 20kHz frequency range RRP: £750 www.sankenmicrophones.com

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PRODUCT REVIEW

“I think the quality of the CS-M1 stands on its own merits and the price point is pretty attractive for a professional mic”

of location sound is what your mic is doing in the off axis dimension. If you have peaks and troughs in your off axis frequency response this can be a deal breaker. Again I found the Sanken no slouch as it is a little bit tighter than a standard hypercardioid, but that extra directionality did not seem to come with any off axis nasties. On a very positive note, the Sanken is built for location, less mechanical handling noise and you can swing it on a pole with much less whoosh. To be fair the Neumann is a studio mic. The Sanken does come with a windshield but serious swinging or outdoor work will need something more heavy duty. And one of the major challenges with a location mic is good suspension and windshield options. This is particularly true of the CS-M1 as you don’t get any form of clip when you buy it! Come on Sanken, give me something to work with here. Very short mics like the Sanken are hard to support and this is doubly true due to the shortness of the back end of the mic because of the interference tube at the front. I resorted to the classic AKG SA40 just to get it on a stand, be warned you will need a clip of some sort. The major players in windshields for serious location work are Rycote and Cinela. You need one of these if you are going to work up high, on the coast or in Wales. The best solution will be a Cinela Cosi or a Rycote Cyclone – please lie down before checking the prices! But remember the best mic outside is useless if the blasted audio is unusable. Check out the great Cosi video on the Cinela site. Rycote also offer some more affordable solutions – I used one of their In Vision inv-6 mounts to pole the CS-M1, add the right softie and you are underway without breaking the bank. So is the CS-M1 a one trick pony? A microphone at home in a location bag but nowhere else? Well

given the bass roll off, you are not going to reach for the CS-M1 as first choice for an organ recital but I thought I would offer it a stern test and slip the CS-M1 into an orchestral gig with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Here the CS-M1 does have to hold its own with top end mics from Schoeps, DPA and Sennheiser – the concert was in the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea and the Sanken did duty as a woodwind mic and passed with flying colours. This is good enough to serve as an orchestral spot mic. So Sanken have not produced a specialist mic for limited applications, rather the CS-M1 is a decent mic for a range of tasks. In summary, the Sanken CS-M1 is a worthy addition to the Sanken range of location mics. It doesn’t offer the ruler flatness of a Schoeps hypercardioid but the engineering choices Sanken have made serve location recording very well indeed. There are sound recordists who believe in a ‘brand sound’ – they have Sanken personals and Sanken gun mics and so adding a Sanken super cardioid is a no brainer. I think the quality of the CSM1 stands on its own merits and the price point is pretty attractive for a professional mic. n

The Reviewer Alistair McGhee began audio life in Hi-Fi before joining the BBC as an audio engineer. After 10 years in radio and TV, he moved to production. When BBC Choice started, he pioneered personal digital production in television. January | February 2019

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PRODUCT REVIEW

www.audiomediainternational.com

SONARWORKS REFERENCE 4 Stephen Bennett gets to grips with this new studio calibration software from Latvian audio specialist Sonarworks...

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lthough most often physically treated to obtain a ‘flat’ response, commercial studios sometimes had (and have) graphic equalisers strapped across the monitor outputs to ‘tweak’ their frequency output. Removing sonic peaks and troughs in any room is not trivial and for those of us in rented spaces, the options for changing the physical space itself is limited – and trying to ‘EQ out’ the response is going to be impossible. Modern digital signal processing tools are allowing companies to develop solutions that can assist the engineer in a less than ideal space to feel confident that their mixes will translate to other systems. Sonarworks’ Reference 4 is one such product and I’ve been using the company’s headphone calibration software for some time. I’m impressed with the 28

results, but a room is a much more complex beast, with its many interactions, reflections, refractions and absorptions – so can DSP jiggery-pokery really convert a less than ideal space into a room in which you can do real work? The Reference 4 system comprises a software download and the XREF 20 reference microphone, the latter an omni-directional device engraved with an ID number that ties it to a specific Sonarworks’ calibration profile. The software comes in three flavours – the measurement system, the headphone and monitor plug-in and a Systemwide version. The latter is available as a ‘virtual audio driver’ powering the main outputs of your audio system so you can, for example, compare your mixes with others without loading these into your DAW. It also means that you can use the software

SOFTWARE

to correct your domestic listening system if it is computer based. The software is available for Windows or OSX and is easily installed with an authorisation code. Sonarworks call their patented correction technologies Automatic Microphone Positioning System (AMPS) and Perceived Acoustic Power Frequency Response (PAPFR) while the calibration is carried out by the Audio Calibration Filter Engine (ACFE) that works alongside their Speaker Range Extension (SRE) technology to extend or limit the high- and low-end response of the target speaker system. What this all boils down to is that you use the calibrated microphone to ‘listen’ to your room and apply corrections to (hopefully) flatten out any imbalances in frequency response when you’re sitting at your listening position. Several factors can influence

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PRODUCT REVIEW

Key Features  Removes unwanted coloration from studio speakers and headphones  Reference sound combined with true zerolatency processing  Systemwide calibration  Step-by-step speaker measurements RRP: Studio Edition - €299; Premium Bundle - €699 www.sonarworks.com the sound that emanates from your monitors before it hits your ears and the Reference 4 aims to take these into account. Once your microphone is connected to your interface, 48v power applied and your interface set to 44.1 kHz, calibration can commence. The measurement time is around 30 minutes, if you double-check everything as I do! The first task is to let the software know what your specific microphone’s calibration curve is so that the software can eliminate any sonic issues the microphone itself may have. You can also use your own measurement microphone and calibration curve, or just use any microphone without calibration – but I assume the results in this case will be less than ideal. The software itself leads you through the process, making it quite easy to take the 37 measurements required. The listening level and distance between monitors are measured, as is the relationship between these and your normal listening position. You can fine tune all these values which is useful if, for example, your listening position is not equidistant from your speakers. The software then, using the magic of maths, works out where your microphone actually is and where it should be placed to make the calibration measurements. Sonarworks advises that you can do this ‘handheld’ which certainly speeds things up, but you need to make sure your body mass or handing noise doesn’t interfere. There are options to pause

“The Systemwide software makes mix comparisons easy and being able to compare the corrected speaker and headphone monitors is extremely useful” the process (thanks Postie!) and to retake calibrations you feel may have been compromised. Once the calibrations have been made, your room profile is displayed and can be saved for use later either in the Systemwide software or as a DAW plug-in. The plug-in should obviously be instanced at the end of your master bus chain and needs to be bypassed when bouncing your mixes. The plug-in itself allows you to load various calibration files – you may, for example, have several studio monitors – and can be enabled or disabled as required. You can also choose predefined target curves or a programmable ‘bass boost and tilt’ setting, both of which could be useful if you want to make sure your mixes translate to specialised environments such as cinemas or installations. The amount of processing applied can be changed using the wet/dry control. There is a zero-latency button for live sound use and there are settings to tweak linear phase and other parameters that affect the way the calibration is applied. In most cases, the defaults can be used, but these extra options may help in difficult rooms or if you have specific requirements. So how does the Reference 4 system work in practice? After calibration in my less-than-ideal space, I compared some familiar mixes with the Sonarworks’ system correction on and off. The audible change is quite marked and, at first, feels like the correction is sucking the bass and treble out

of the system. However, as with other products of this type I’ve used, once you start mixing and moving these bounces to other systems, you realise that removal of the hype of upper frequency reflections and bass dips and peaks really helps to gauge the overall frequency balance of your mixes. The Systemwide software makes mix comparisons easy and being able to compare the corrected speaker and headphone monitors is useful, making Sonarworks’ product an extremely useful studio tool. No space is perfect and even control rooms designed by the best audio architects in the business often have sonic issues in some listening positions. For those of us that don’t have the luxury of physically modifying our listening space, Sonarworks Reference 4 should give us the confidence that our mixes are going to work well inside and outside the studio. ■

The Reviewer Stephen Bennett has been involved in music production for over 30 years. Based in Norwich, he splits his time between writing books and articles on music technology, recording and touring, and lecturing at the UEA.

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PRODUCT REVIEW

www.audiomediainternational.com

WARM AUDIO WA-47

Ross Simpson gets his hands on Warm Audio’s reimagining of a classic to see if the latest musical developments can affordably satisfy our desire to embrace sounds of the past...

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he U47, one of the most iconic microphones in history – the first large diaphragm mic with a switchable polar pattern that fast became an industry standard in the post-war world. Neumann produced the condenser mic housing the Telefunken VF14M vacuum tube and it fastidiously surpassed the ribbon mics of the day for detail and enhanced fidelity. The original U47 sounded good on almost anything: vocals, acoustic guitar, drum overheads, orchestras. It’s classic smooth, authoritative, midrange, extended low-end response, robust bass and airy treble could suit any source. Although it may have been Sinatra’s crooning in the 50s that established the U47 as the go-to studio mic, Nat King Cole and many other artists spanning multiple genres throughout the decades have also sought to harness it’s sound, including The Beatles, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, James Blunt and Radiohead. The question is: can the magic of the U47 with its high quality components be replicated today, but as a modern vintage sound? As that is what it must surely be, due to the original replacement valves being no longer available since as early as the late 1950s when they wore out. In fact, the VF14M tubes did not have an exact substitute. The general consensus is that the U47 still holds its own but cannot sound like it once did. Only a limited number of around 6,000 U47s were ever produced and so those still in existence today are owned by commercial studios and collectors alike, faced with a compromise when reconditioning these intensely used icons. This is why perhaps Warm Audio has not attempted to reproduce the original M7 capsule but rather the K47 capsule that superseded it, as authentic classic sounds cannot be truly replicated. That being said, Warm Audio’s president and founder, Bryce Young, refers to it as a “recreation” rather than a replica – reproducing 30

MICS

the sound of boutique hardware previously out of reach to so many. With the original Neumann U47 microphone reaching around $12,000, the Warm WA-47 certainly doesn’t break the bank. There are other competitors in the market with their own “recreations”– Soundelux, Manley, Bock Audio, Pearlman Microphones, Lawson, Peluso Microphone Lab, Flea, Audio-Technica AT4060 and Neumann’s own M 147, but nowhere near Warm Audio’s price point.

CAPTURING THE SOUND THROUGH DESIGN It comes classically packaged, with a wooden box to house the microphone itself, however, the main box to house everything is made from cardboard, so clearly the investment is in the mic rather than the frills. The WA-47 has a robust body drilled from solid brass and nickel, plated with a brushed look and then crowned with a head basket comprising three different mesh layers replicating the original U47. Its insides are made up of carefully chosen and “auditioned” components from firms around the world, from Australia and France to the Slovak Republic and the US. Smooth tones are achieved through a lower gain, low noise vacuum tube. It utilises an AMI large core

Key Features n Nine polar patterns – cardioid, omni, figure-of-eight plus six mixed patterns n Dynamic range: 130dBA n Frequency range: 20 Hz - 20 kHz n Includes: Wooden box, power supply unit, shockmount, Gotham GAC-7 cable, IEC power cable RRP: $899/£683 www.warmaudio.com

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PRODUCT REVIEW

“Embracing the vintage sound of imperfection, it brought a natural and life-like quality, a sound and class of recording that would compliment any studio’s mic range ”

transformer (the original was the BV8) for the smooth top end and “larger than life bottom-end” that we are accustomed to when hearing a vintage condenser. A five-metre 7-pin connector Gotham cable attach the mic to the power supply, where you’ll find an on/ off switch and a switchable polar adjustment in nine stages from omni to cardioid to figure-8 (the original only had two patterns to choose from). A few other reviews have mentioned the unfavourable shock mount when used in the hanging orientation. I personally haven’t found this to be an issue and quite like the buckle type fixing to hold the mic, much like the original. I also like the weight and feel of the WA-47 (a full fat 9lbs); it feels bold, confident and worthy of its modest price tag.

CAPTURING THE RECORDING And so what is best to run this WA-47 through its paces? The U47 was known for its cradling of male vocals. Does this microphone recreate the big sound that we might expect from the original big U47? The WA-47 in cardioid sounded big, warm in tone with smooth upper mids. While in omni, more

intimate lower mids were present. The changes in tone were subtle and yet noticeable when adjusting through the nine polar patterns (the switching of the pattern seemed to be inaudible): still sitting within that vintage sound but with the ability to boost or even mellow the presence of the vocal. Experimenting with a female vocal and some louder and higher notes, it kept the detail and clarity without being clinical. I also recorded, for that vintage jazz-feel, both alto and soprano sax and then acoustic guitar, in a cardioid pattern through a Neve 1073 preamp. The results were impressive and the quality was again warm, smooth and round, if however lacking a little “air” in the very top end. I guess this is where spending another £10k or so on an original would help? Embracing the vintage sound of imperfection, it brought a natural and life-like quality, a sound and class of recording that would compliment any studio’s mic range. It may not be quite as good as other “recreations” that are more than double its price tag, but for its price point of under £1,000 I would venture that the sound of the WA-47 may be unrivalled. n

The Reviewer Ross Simpson began his career as a professional dancer/singer, working with the likes of Kylie Minogue and Geri Halliwell. He now runs Woodbury Studios. www.woodburystudios.co.uk

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PRODUCT REVIEW

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SAMPLITUDE PRO X4

DAW

Alistair McGhee checks out the latest feature-packed version of MAGIX’ renowned digital audio workstation...

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oday the biggest problem in selecting a DAW is choice. The DAW world is ablaze with options, more than almost any other market segment, as new upstarts rub shoulders with old favourites. It’s hard to know where to start. And German software house MAGIX are doing their bit; they’ve got Samplitude Music Studio, Samplitude Pro, SOUND FORGE and Sequoia, something for every pocket and taste. We’re looking close to the top of the range at Samplitude Pro X4 which is second in command to Sequoia but at a fraction of the price. Pro X is available as a Suite with added bells and whistles – including a SOUND FORGE Pro 11 licence – but more of that later. Samplitude is built on two hugely solid foundations, a killer audio engine and a kick-ass feature set. I initially chose Samplitude because it was the ‘firstest with the mostest’ for engineers, while musicians tended to look first at products with a sequencer background like Cubase. Samplitude had object-based effects and a hugely responsive engine when other software couldn’t alter the level of a clip or process fades in real time. Now Samplitude has ARA integration with Melodyne, Pro X4 comes with an Essentials licence, VST3 support, FFT filters, Revolver tracks, object based automation, AAF and OMF import, timer and duration limited recording and in the Suite version a full SOUND FORGE Pro 11 licence (32 bit), DDP functionality and spectral cleaning, along with much, much more. The market is awash with fully featured contenders and many like Samplitude are aiming to enfold our entire production processes within one package. Pro X4, like everyone else, has to fight hard for our cash. Over the years, extensive MIDI features have been added as have a slew of virtual instruments. Pro X4 comes as standard with 12GB of content and you can up that to 70GB if you opt for the Pro X4 Suite option. And that is how much I got with my last Sequoia install! A lot of this is content for Independence – Samplitude’s sampler – and mighty good a lot of it is too. Like everyone, I want as many features as I can get for my dosh and I’m happy that the MIDI and sampling stuff is there – it’s just not what I’m looking at first when buying or updating a DAW. And in the latest update to Pro X4, MAGIX have

addressed a major shortcoming of Samplitude which was automation lanes. There weren’t any in Pro X3. Now a left click in the track header on the volume or pan icons gets you the relevant lane or select Lanes and Objects from the track editor. Adding extra lanes is just a mouse click away, hold down Ctrl and Shift and click on a plug-in control and the automation lane appears ready to roll. Or engage Touch automation, fire up an effect or plug-in and move a control and the automation lane will be created automatically. If you don’t like the lane-based automation approach you can still revert to the automation date being superimposed on the normal track view. MAGIX have included a range-based automation editing function in universal mouse mode that lets you very quickly drag a range over the desired section of the track and directly move the automation curve across that range. Handy for hacking in a quick dip for a voiceover for instance. In Pro X4, the selection of plug-ins has become easier to find and maintain with a new Plug-In Browser that offers a cohesive home for the instruments and effects that Samplitude can see. The browser has a very handy live search function to help you nail that half remembered plug-in you downloaded on a late night last week and tabs for favourites and recently used effects to avoid endless scrolling. Another welcome change below the hood is the ability to have multiple plug-in folders, which

speeds up plug-in scanning and should result in fewer plug-in loading related problems. There are also a few MIDI related improvements, most notably plug and play recognition of MIDI devices – no need to relaunch Samplitude, simply access the MIDI tab of the settings menu. There’s also enhanced smoothing of MIDI automation data, reducing nasty steps and edges. And last but not least, Pro X4 has 32 core support and ASIO boost which promises to divert more CPU power to audio processing. If you are looking for a fully featured DAW then Samplitude Pro X4 commands your attention. As a long term user I’m probably more than a bit biased but when it comes to DAWs, MAGIX products have always been at or near the top of my personal favourites. Dig in. n

Key Features n Automation lanes for track parameters n Plug-In Browser for fast access n 32-core CPU support n MIDI editing functions RRP: £299.99 (Standard) or £449.99 (Suite) www.magix.com January | February 2019

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BACKBEAT

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WES MAEBE

PRO SPOTLIGHT In each issue of AMI we feature an audio professional from a range of disciplines to find out how they got started in the industry and what they’ve worked on. This month we speak to the award-winning Wes “Wesonator” Maebe... What do you do? I’m a recording, mix and mastering engineer, producer and FOH engineer. How did you get into the industry? It was at my dad’s suggestion to follow a sound engineering path. He sent me to London to study music technology and sound engineering and I just fell in love with it. After I finished my studies I went to work at Galaxy Studios in Mol, Belgium. I couldn’t stay away from London though, so I ended up back in the UK to teach at Westminster College and started to build my client base. What are some of your credits? I mixed UB40’s A Real Labour Of Love album, was FOH engineer for Sting’s Songs from the Labyrinth European tour, recorded Carly Simon for The Gorillaz Ticker Tape track and mixed Someone Like Jesus for New Model Army’s Anthology. Other credits include Taylor Swift, Celine Dion, Plan B, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Gabrielle Aplin, Lighthouse Family and Marti Pellow. What is your favourite item of audio gear and why? Crane Song’s Solaris. Dave Hill’s new Quantum Crystal

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clock is so stable and has such low jitter that it makes working a lot easier and faster. The low end is so much more defined and the top end is crystal clear. It really helps with compression and EQ decisions.

There are tools to deal with these issues but they eat up valuable mix time and ultimately the artist ends up paying for that time. I think that’s very disrespectful and unprofessional on the recording engineer’s part.

What are some of the challenges that you face in your job? Well, sometimes you come across a difficult artist and then you need to find a way, pretty quickly, to defuse that situation. You have to get into their headspace and figure out how to bypass the hang ups. Most of the time this is down to a level of insecurity. The artist in the studio is a very fragile organism and this might result in them putting their defences up and that can manifest itself in diva behaviour. Making the artist feel as comfortable and safe as possible in the recording environment has to be one of our most important jobs. On a technical level, the main challenges I see the most are things that have been recorded badly. I’m talking about distortion on the recording, bad mic techniques, things that are out of tune or out of phase. Sessions that have not been cleaned up and are riddled with dodgy crossfades, clicks and thuds, you can hear talking or coughing in between verses etc.

What was your favourite project and why? The most fun I’ve had in the studio so far was with the 10 Gauge guys. We spent a couple of fantastic days at Monnow Valley recording their EP. We recorded it old school, everybody live in the room., and we just had so many laughs. It was like the good old days, where we had time to pull pranks and make really good music. And I got to play guitar and hammond for them in addition to supplying extra BVs. These guys rock and make the record making process a total pleasure. What industry professional inspired you the most to do what you do? Recording engineer and inventor George Massenburg. What’s the best bit of advice that you can give anyone trying to break into the industry? Don’t give up, work hard, follow your instinct and most importantly, use your ears. ■

January | February 2019

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eMotion LV1 LIVE MIXING CONSOLE

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AMI January/February 2019  

AMI January/February 2019