A QUIET REVOLUTION AMI investigates the latest developments in Audio-over-IP
Whatâ€™s the latest with wireless headphones?
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AES New York and BPM
SSL SiX, Audio-Technica BP28, Iso Pucks and more...
DESIGNED & ENGINEERED IN GERMANY LD SystemsÂ® is a registered brand of the Adam Hall Group.
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Show News 7 9
AES New York 2019 BPM 2019
Immersive Mixing Tom Marks offers his thoughts on mixing for a rapidly growing Dolby Atmos world
17 Company Profile AMI talks to Orfeas Boteas, CEO of Krotos 20 Audio-over-IP Jerry Ibbotson reports on the professional audio networking market
Tech Talk Audio- Technicaâ€™s Alex Lepges discusses the latest developments in the professional headphones market
26 SSL SiX 30 Amadeus HOLOPHONIX
October 2019 | 3
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AMI October 2019
www.audiomediainternational.com FOLLOW US twitter.com/audiomediaint facebook.com/audiomediaint Instagram.com/audiomediaint
Colby Ramsey Editor Audio Media International
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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. 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.
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Time for change
etting a makeover is great for everyone involved. The recipient gets their wellness factor and confidence boosted while (hopefully!) become more pleasing on the eye to their peers. It’s something that’s been a long time coming for Audio Media International, so you’ll notice that this month’s pages have had somewhat of a slick redesign – looking good just feels good right? Speaking of change, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that many big players in the pro audio world are increasingly taking advantage of Audio-over-IP protocols to streamline their workflows, and with the advent of open broadcast IP standards, are using this new common language to transport higher quality audio signals than ever before. On page 20, Jerry Ibbotson speaks to three professional equipment manufacturers to see what ideas they are exploring to assist this AoIP revolution. In this month’s Tech Talk, I check in with Audio-Technica’s Alex Lepges about the latest developments in the professional wireless headphone market. Meanwhile on page 17, we sit down with Orfeas Boteas, CEO of Krotos, about the company’s pro audio journey creating vocal processing tools for TV, film and video game music and sound effects. Elsewhere in the issue, I speak to the CEO and co-founder of Now Press Play, Alice Lacey, about how the platform is being combined with wireless headphone technology to improve access to learning for future generations, and report back from Genelec’s recent launch event at London’s Metropolis Studios, where the company revealed the latest additions to its “The Ones” range of professional studio monitors. On page 14, Tom Marks – an LA-based mixer for film, TV and music, and a member of the Cinema Audio Society – offers us his thoughts on mixing for the rapidly growing world of immersive audio formats such as Dolby Atmos, and talks us through the essentials of remaining competitive in the industry. Meanwhile, Neil Sloan – content director at Voiceworks – discusses the growing trends towards voice technology and digital audio content in the second of our two great guest opinion pieces. Reviews include Solid State Logic’s SiX desktop mixer, Audio-Technica’s BP28 gun mic, Amadeus’ HOLOPHONIX spatial audio processor, and IsoAcoustics’ Iso Puck audio isolators. A truly eclectic mix of products to get stuck into. Don’t forget to check out all the essential info on the upcoming AES New York and BPM DJ shows on the following few pages, and perhaps more importantly, don’t forget to send us your feedback on the magazine redesign – we think it’s fantastic and we hope you do too!
Editorial: +44 (0) 203 143 8784
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4 | October 2019
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TECHNOLOGIES EVOLVE, VALUES REMAIN. 01 AMI May19 FC_Final.indd 1
Size matters â€” performance counts.
Huge expectations meet a compact design. Performers find this mini bodypack transmitter neither heavy nor conspicuous. Technicians appreciate an easy set up and proven reliability. The digital SK 6212 is now heralding a new era. This mini bodypack provides 12 hours of operating time and its intermodulation-free transmission concept enables more reliable channels, even in congested frequency ranges. Meet the next generation of an industry standard: sennheiser.com/SK6212
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16.05.19 11:36 22/07/2019 17:21
AES returns to New York for the ultimate pro audio rally This year’s convention from 16-19 October at the Jacob Javits Center features a recording stage, live production stage, and a number of EDM Track events...
f your interests or work include Studio Recording, Home Recording, Music Production, Electronic Dance Music, DJ, Live Sound, Theatre Sound, Broadcast and Streaming, Networked Audio, Audio for Virtual and Augmented Reality, Game Audio, Sound for Picture or Product Development, the 147th AES Pro Audio International Convention has you covered in one exclusively end-user focused event. Co-located with the Independent NAB Show New York, this year’s technical program is full of fascinating events where attendees can learn useful information from a range of experts leading the sessions. The program itself has been broken down into groups of related events. Highlights will include: Acoustics & Psychoacoustics, Audio Builders Workshop, Audio for Cinema, Game Audio & XR, Immersive & Spatial Audio, Networked Audio, Recording & Production, and Sound Reinforcement. The AES Project Studio Expo Recording Stage will bring visitors three full days of rapid-fire presentations designed to educate, entertain, and answer questions. The PSE stage, which will be located on the show floor next to the exhibits, features the best speakers in the business, and will be presented by Grammy nominated engineer/producer, Glenn Lorbecki. The AES Conventions are incubators for live sound technology. From early loudspeaker design to line array theory, from performance measurement standards to networked audio interoperability, AES has brought together professionals on the leading edge of theory and application since the Society’s inception. That tradition continues – with content available to all attendees – with the Live Production Stage, which will also be located on the show floor next to the exhibits. Here, the 147th Convention will offer expert advice for the broad spectrum of live sound engineers – who make up some 25 per cent of convention attendees – with an emphasis on the practical, bringing professionals with decades of experience to the stage to inspire and educate attendees. Additionally, four packed days of Sound Reinforcement sessions, research paper presentations, tutorials and workshops are available when attendees upgrade to an All Access badge for the Convention Technical Program. AES New York Electronic Dance Music Track Events will take place on Thursday, October 17, and are open to All Access registered attendees.
The day will kick off with multi-platinum/Grammy-winning mix engineer Ariel Borujow, breaking down a full mix of an electronic music track in the “Mixing EDM Masterclass.” Borujow will discuss all aspects of his approach, from his mindset and communication with the client to the techniques that go into creating the feel while keeping the client’s vision of the production. Electronic Dance Music Track events continue with the session “The Art & Origins of Sampling: From Vinyl to DAW; From Hip-Hop to Dance Music,” Nate Mars from the Electronic Music Collective will be discussing the fundamentals of the sampling art form used not just by electronic musicians but also by all producers and DJs. Rounding the afternoon out, Rick Snoman, award-winning remixer, producer and author of the industry standard textbook Dance Music Manual, will walk attendees through the art of a remix. Focusing on the production of great remixes, Snoman will introduce the initial decisions of what to keep, how to develop on the original idea, and how to imprint the remixer’s identity onto the finished product. There’s also much more to get stuck into, including Mix with the Masters Workshops and AVoIP Pavilion Sessions, at the AES New York 2019 Pro Audio Convention from October 16-19 at the Jacob Javits Center. n
ABOVE: Home of the AES New York Convention, the Jacob Javits Center
October 2019 | 7
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BPM organisers to “take show to new heights” The leading DJ exhibition’s future was secured with new directors following last year’s event...
PM 2019 will take place at Birmingham’s Cranmore Park over the weekend of October 5-6. The first BPM took place in 2007 and attracted over 2,200 visitors for two days of equipment demonstrations, networking, seminars, workshops, live performances and DJ sets, while a second event in 2008 firmly cemented its place in the industry calendar. After two successful years at the Donington Park Exhibition Centre, the UK’s leading DJ show moved to The NEC in Birmingham to allow further growth, then on to the Genting Arena. The future success of BPM has now been secured with the creation of a new company, BPM Shows Ltd, and a “strategy for taking the show to new heights”. The announcement came in the wake of the extraordinary success of BPM 2018, which beat the odds to return in October 2018, drawing over 2,000 visitors to Birmingham’s Cranmore Park. The resurgence of BPM follows the collapse of the show’s former owner and the rapid formation of a last-minute rescue plan by a number of affected companies who worked closely with Pete Williams of Mobile DJ Network (MDJN). The result was BPM 2018, which eschewed the expense and scale of the show’s recent past and instead turned the focus towards a less costly, more business friendly environment. The results won praise from exhibitors and visitors alike, prompting the decision to form a long-term plan for the exhibition’s future. That plan has now taken shape under the leadership of two new show directors, Steven Boys and Jack Wilson, both of whom bring a depth of events organisation experience and will look to propel BPM forward. They will benefit from the support of a team of well-known industry figures, including Mark Parkhouse and Kris Dawber, who played key roles in the 2018 rescue plan. While
MDJN will return its focus to supporting its membership, it will continue as an active participant in and supporter of the show alongside developing exciting new services for 2019. “We are very proud to officially announce the return of BPM, not as a last-minute rescue plan but as an exhibition with a future and a strategy for supporting the industry,” said new show director Jack Wilson. “Our plan is rooted in the success of 2018 – an affordable annual event that offers true return on investment and which grows at the rate the industry needs.” Steven Boys added: “We also want our visitors and the wider industry to let us know what they want from BPM. Those opinions are at the heart of making BPM a success and we would love to hear from you.” Visitors to BPM 2019 should expect a who’s who of DJ specific audio companies plus full real-world demonstrations of the DJ kit you can’t find anywhere else, along with educational sessions hosted by NADJ and SEDA. Attendees can enjoy listening to speakers in the Sound Experience – a whole suite dedicated to audio systems – as well as receiving demonstrations and getting hands-on with a range of video, lighting and special FX products. It’s guaranteed to be a great networking exercise for audiophiles and humble audio fans alike. Look out for new products being showcased including: Roland’s new DJ-707M controller for mobile DJs, V-Moda’s Crossfade M-100 master headphones, and Pioneer DJ’s DDJ-1000SRT pro DJ controller. There will be a whole host of companies exhibiting, with the 2019 event featuring the likes of: Allen & Heath, Artnovion, Audio-Technica, FBT, HK Audio, LD Systems, Neutrik, Nexo, Peavey, Pioneer Professional Audio, RCF, Yamaha, DAS Audio, dB Technologies and many more! n
ABOVE: BPM has something for everyone
October 2019 | 9
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NEW P O SS I B I L I T I E S
RedNet X2P quickly adds I/O to your Focusrite Red interface or any Dante™ audio-over-IP system.
• Two of our best preamps provide ultra-clean gain, stereo linking, individual phantom power, a high-pass filter, phase reverse and Air mode • High-quality conversion, with over 118dB dynamic range • Power over Ethernet allows a single cable to deliver audio, control and power to RedNet X2P • Local input mix allows ‘more-me’ style monitoring for easy foldback control • Mic stand mount keeps the unit out of the way and within reach • Local control lockout of mic pre settings, output settings or both
2x2 Dante™ interface with Red Evolution mic pres, stereo line out and a stereo headphone amplifier.
01 AMI May19 FC_Final.indd 1
Genelec returns to Metropolis for “The Ones” speaker showcase AMI recently paid the famed London-based recording studios a visit to see the unveiling of new additions to Genelec’s studio monitor family...
etropolis Studios was built and opened around 1989, upon which one of their first and biggest clients was no less than the legendary Queen. Studio A houses an SSL 9000J console which has seen use on countless great records, most recently the piano for Adele’s “Hello” from her album 25. Genelec’s “The Ones” were first announced three or four years ago with the 8351, and recently the company presented three new additions to the range – the 8351B and 8361 studio monitors, along with the W371A woofer – in a product showcase at Metropolis. The Ones have the ability to deliver a solid stereo image both on and off-axis while also utilising point source technology, which is effectively where a tweeter, midrange, and drivers all direct their sound in unison for a very coherent image. With the woofer stand, users get the option of extending the bass response, resulting in a full frequency system that’s freestanding. With some impressive DSP technology, the W371A is designed to provide more headroom and a much flatter low frequency response. “We have a very interesting addition to the family which is an adaptive woofer system,” said Aki Mäkivirta, R&D director at Genelec, during the event. “I don’t think anyone else is offering anything else like this on the market at the moment. “The new 8351B model meanwhile has a new coaxial driver design shaped by its big brother, the 61. It also has an entirely new woofer design, with higher capacity and higher linearity. It inherits its electronics from the 31 and 41 models, which means that we actually get four times the room compensation capacity in this new design,” he continued. “We have reengineered the suspensions in the inner and outer section of the driver in order to enable a more optimal crossover point from the woofer to the midrange, which puts the new siblings in line with the 31 and 41 in terms of how they can adapt to the room. We have added the maximum SPL capability, and the same is also true for the big brother – the 8361. And of course, everything is integrated and brought together by the GLM software.” Thomas Lund, senior technologist at Genelec, added: “The Ones range was originally designed to enable ultra-nearfield listening as an additional way of taking a non-ideal room or placement out of monitoring. With the comments we got from users, however, and based on listening tests, another extraordinary quality stood out,
namely how The Ones also made a fine room sound better. Only, sometimes more headroom was needed: Enter 8351B and 8361. “W371 meanwhile takes the uncompromised point source concept even beyond midfield, for the first time ever bringing that feature to mastering and main monitoring; without building enclosures into walls. By processing drivers individually, tailormaking a system to room and placement, W371 has several novel features up its sleeve for adding the flat low frequency response and high headroom experienced at the launch,” Lund concluded. “At Metropolis, we were able to have fine recording and mastering rooms in stereo, as well as a 7.1.4 mix room, to demonstrate the versatility and excellence of the entire Ones family.” n
ABOVE: Genelec’s Aki Mäkivirta unveils new additions to The Ones
October 2019 | 11
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Voice tech is the future, but it faces challenges Neil Sloan, Content Director at Voiceworks, discusses the growing trends towards voice technology and digital audio content...
oice technology is going through an incredible growth phase. Alexa and Google Home are increasingly becoming everyday objects in our homes and offices, seemingly an addition or extension to the voice assistants which reside on the mobile phones in everyone’s pockets. The BBC announced in August that it too will launch its own voice assistant – provisionally named Beeb – to help audiences navigate and discover content via its iPlayer and Sounds apps. It is anticipated that by 2025, 63 per cent of UK households will own a voice-controlled home device, while a recent report by B2B analyst firm MarketsandMarkets forecast that the global smart speaker market will grow from $1.57 billion in 2017 to $11.79 billion by 2023. While this exponential growth is impressive; to maintain this trajectory and become increasingly integral to consumers lives, the technology needs to offer more compelling skills (applications and content) and at the same time be more immersed in places, lives and availability. Consumers are buying into the smart speaker concept, but aren’t (yet) able to utilise the full potential of their technology investment. The growth in voice technology in some ways mirrors the development of the Web. Initially, there was a great deal of enthusiasm for what the Web could offer, yet its usefulness was limited by a lack of compelling content and capability. It took time for companies to understand its true potential and make the investments that would result in the advent of e-commerce and the transformation of news, entertainment and so much more, that has gone on to change the world. A distinctive service developed by Voiceworks; Sport Social, utilises smart speaker platforms to offer football fans access to premium digital audio content specific to their favourite teams. Developed specifically for smart speakers by an in-house team of journalists and broadcasters, the content includes team news, post-match reviews for every Premier League game, daily podcasts, and covers all the latest news from the world’s most popular football league, which means fans can access news and updates wherever and whenever they need. Voice technology will also grow in popularity the more it integrates seamlessly into our lives, in a similar way that radio currently does. Radio, as well as being available on DAB, FM, in-car, and in-home, is now available online, mobile, app and everywhere. Voice technology and
voice assistants will surely follow a similar path by working alongside technologies both new and existing. In the near future voice technology is likely to be a much more central aspect of driving, for example Alexa Auto has integration deals with Audi and BMW. This too, will surely influence further innovation in voice technology. To borrow an example from a visual medium, viewers don’t proselytise about the delivery (broadcast vs. streaming) of the latest ‘must watch’ show, but they do engage in terms of the quality of the content, how great it looks and sounds and the ease of accessing it. The distinction between television and streaming has now become somewhat blurred, especially with broadcasters offering streaming (BBC, Disney) and broadcasts of the same content. These examples have parallels for voice technology too, which like its competitors on radio, TV, streaming, gaming and everywhere else must deliver compelling content, alongside using the technology to deliver the best possible audio experience. The key to the way Voiceworks plans all productions is flexibility and adaptability. We will assess whether a content piece is better recorded on location, in one of our studios or on the move. Mobile recording technology means we are able to create extremely high quality audio pieces anywhere, and often recording outside the traditional studio environment creates an audio soundscape that enhances the story we are telling. In particular, the Sport Social skill is unique, because it utilises a wide range of audio and is constantly being updated. We have created technology which allows us to upload new journalist voiced match reports for every Premier League game within an hour of the final whistle being blown, alongside also hosting our daily podcast and team updates. By working so closely with Amazon to develop the Sport Social, we invested in longer-term, extensive beta testing to ensure that the navigation and user experience delivers the audience a frictionless audio journey and a satisfying finished product. Sport Social is a complex build that hosts a variety of audio, which engages audiences on new terms in a satisfying and accessible manner. Now is the moment for companies to further explore the opportunities that this emerging market offers more deeply – to develop the content, audio and voice strategies and make appropriate investments in this evolving audio technology. n
Neil Sloan is content director at Voiceworks, a #VoiceFirst technology and marketing consultancy.
October 2019 | 13
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Mixing for a rapidly growing Dolby Atmos world Tom Marks CAS, Los Angeles-based mixer for film, TV and music, offers his thoughts...
Tom Marks is a LA-based mixer for film, TV and music, and a member of the Cinema Audio Society.
BELOW: NUGEN Audio’s VisLM Loudness Meter plugin
ith the rising trend of streaming platforms that provide instant access to millions of media files, viewers and listeners are no longer limited to what they can see or where they can see it. They can have songs, movies and shows immediately transport them to other places and realities. As a result, filmmakers, production companies, manufacturers, and everyone in between, are constantly evolving the way content is produced and shown to meet these rapidly changing demands. In the home, we’ve seen an increased popularity in audio that goes beyond 5.1 surround sound – to a Dolby Atmos listening environment. This is thanks, in part to Netflix’s initiative that most content be produced in this format. After its launch, mixing for Atmos came at the specific request of a filmmaker who had heard about or saw a film in Atmos. However, we’re at a point now where it’s a delivery requirement for several studios who release a lot of content that can look and sound better than their competition. This, in turn, pushes the industry forward to higher standards for picture and sound, and leads the way for other studios to follow. The Dolby Atmos format gives us a larger number of better quality surround speakers to use in whatever creative ways we
choose. It allows us to have more detailed panning and a wider frequency response, which means we also need to have the right tools to take advantage of the new creative potential. NUGEN Audio is one of many brands to offer solutions for mixing in Dolby Atmos. The company continually comes out with plugins that, once incorporated into your workflow and templates, you can’t work without.
"Given the additional workload of an Atmos mix, it’s vital that everyone is on the same page with deliverables, number of stems and objects, mixing templates, and plugins”
For example, studios require that the deliverables have an average loudness level along with a maximum True Peak level. We must be able to accurately measure those numbers and do it in a time efficient way. With NUGEN’s VisLM, I can measure the audio in real-time, as I mix, or offline if a file has been printed. It’s as simple as choosing a preset and measuring. For a show on Netflix (and Apple’s forthcoming streaming service, which uses similar specs), there are two loudness numbers that are important to hit, True Peak and LKFS. NUGEN’s VisLM has an instant overview along with detailed historical information, as well as logging and time-code functions, which not only means that I meet the Netflix specs, but I can go back and show it for QC purposes. Additionally, composed music is primarily delivered to the mix stage as stereo or 5.1 stems. As the re-recording mixer, we
14 | October 2019
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need to upmix the music to 7.1 or Atmos, which can be easily accomplished with NUGEN’s Halo Upmix. With music, every cue or song sounds different and will upmix differently. Having a lot of control to adjust each song, or parts of it, can make the difference between an okay-sounding Atmos mix and a greatsounding Atmos mix. NUGEN’s Halo Upmix is so important in this process that I use it on every mix. If you want to be competitive in the current industry, you need to be able to mix in any format and handle large track counts. With Atmos, which has up to 128 channels plus re-renders, a Pro Tools recorder session can get quite big. Additionally, we need to create 5.1 and stereo mixes (sometimes 7.1 as well) to ensure that users are listening to a high-quality mix, regardless of the format and device from which they are consuming the media. As a result, there’s more setup and time needed to complete the deliverables. Given the additional workload of an Atmos mix, it’s vital that everyone is on the same page with deliverables, number of stems and objects, mixing templates, and plugins. This includes
the client as well as the sound facility and engineering, sound editing and mixing teams. Having an open line of communication and an organised system can help simplify a rather complex setup and show. For anyone looking to get into audio post-production mixing, you need to take the time to learn the ins and outs of Dolby Atmos. Not only should you know how it works, how to set it up and how to use it in creative ways, but you also need to become proficient in the tools and how to use them. With most companies, like NUGEN, you can demo the plugins for a period to try them out and see if they work for you. There are also online manuals and product videos demonstrating how the products are used. Having technology enhance the entertainment experience on both the production side and consumer side is a win/win for everyone. Our job as storytellers allows us to be on both sides of the coin – creating content that is entertaining and engaging while also enjoying it when we leave work. Happy mixing! n
October 2019 | 15
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THE NEXT STAGE IN SOUND.
Through sweat, noise, and heavy wear, the TwinPlex™ subminiature lavalier stands up to the toughest conditions to make every word a clear statement of quality. shure.co.uk/twinplex ©2019 Shure Incorporated. See shure.com/trademarks.
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28/05/2019 17:24 22/07/2019 12:18
Keeping it simple AMI spoke to Orfeas Boteas, CEO of Krotos, about the companyâ€™s experience in creating advanced vocal processing tools...
fter doing a BSc in Music Technology and Acoustics and working for a few years in his native Greece doing audio post-production on location recordings, documentaries, TV shows, short films and music composition for commercials, Orfeas Boteas moved to Edinburgh in 2011 to do an MSc in Sound Design. For his final project, he developed a vocal processor for making monster and creature sounds called Dehumaniser. After posting a video demonstration online, sound designers started showing great interest in the project, so he began to offer it as a free
download. He soon started receiving emails from recognised professionals in the industry saying they used the software on several films and games all over the world, so he then began working part-time on the commercial version while doing other freelance work. When Dehumaniser Pro was ready, Boteas incorporated Krotos Ltd and after a successful release, decided to focus on it full-time and recruit a team to help him work on other products to bring to market. Krotos develops innovative technologies that aim to fundamentally improve the way sound is designed and performed.
ABOVE: Krotos CEO Orfeas Boteas
October 2019 | 17
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Iisalmen Sanomat archive
The Sonic Reference since 1978. Four decades ago we set out on a mission to help our customers fulfil their dreams by offering them the most truthful sound reproduction possible. Along the way we‘ve constantly been inspired, helped and encouraged by our employees, our users and our partners. So in our anniversary year we’d like to thank every single member of the global Genelec Family – past, present ... and future. Here’s to the next 40 years.
Company Profile Its flagship vocal processing software, Dehumaniser, was first released back in 2013 and is an extreme vocal effects tool that puts all the resources users need to create a wide range of complex and dynamic processing into one plugin. Krotos’ second product, Reformer Pro, makes it possible to perform any library of sound effects in real-time and delivers the authenticity of real sounds without hours of editing and layering. For example, if a film needs the sound of a wild bear doing multiple expressions, that would traditionally require hours of bear sounds, editing each until they fit the visuals perfectly. Using Reformer, it can be done instantly by performing the Animals Bundle in real-time with a voice or any other live input. The same applies to more complex sound design like electronic effects, water, surfaces, rocks and Foley, and musicians might even want to use their microphone, guitar, keyboard or controller to trigger any of their own sounds. Users can also throw multiple sounds from their own library into the Analysis Tool (which is included with Reformer Pro) and perform them in real-time. The software also allows users to perform impacts and add extra definition using its unique Transient Engine. “Weaponiser allows you to design from real world to sci-fi weapons using the built-in synths and our add-on packs: swords, footsteps, magic, whooshes etc. but you can also use your own sounds,” explains Boteas. “There are some great commercial weapon libraries on the market, but you usually have to edit them and it takes a lot of time to create variations. “Weaponiser is also great if you want to create a unique sound and avoid replicating other sounds that professionals have used already. These functions make Weaponiser a very unique piece of software which is what was missing from the industry,” he adds. “It’s an exciting and new way of working with sound.” Vehicle sound design on the other hand is often very complex, with many layers of different sounds creating the overall sound you hear. These layers change continuously based on what the vehicle is doing and where you are positioned, relative to it. Given that audio professionals are always looking to improve their workflow, Krotos’ newest product Igniter aims to make the process more elegant and creative, empowering them to perform, automate and customise any vehicle sound they need whilst saving them hours of editing. It’s also the only solution of its kind to come packed with over 20 performable vehicles and 1,943 audio assets. “We also wanted to give people the opportunity to buy all of our software and main libraries or upgrade at a discounted price, so we introduced The Sound Design Bundle 2 at 30 per cent off, making it the most powerful sound design software solution available at great value,” says Boteas. “Due to a sharp rise in streaming and games, more content is being consumed than ever before. The expansion in the quantity of entertainment production leads to the need for producers to push the creative and technological envelope to achieve distinction. Successful TV, films, video games, music and theatre productions now require thrilling sounds to match stunning visuals to appeal to finicky consumers.” But the process of designing sound is largely unchanged since the 90’s, as Boteas describes. To create sound for picture, specialised hardware, various plugin tools, sound libraries, Foley
ABOVE: Krotos’ The Sound Design Bundle 2
and recording facilities are needed which is very costly, taking a long time to learn and can lead to many obstacles and productivity hurdles to overcome. “Our products take a complex creative process and simplify it, allowing sound designers and audio professionals to design and customise what they have in their mind faster and in a performable way,” Boteas adds. “Our software has been used on many great productions, spanning both the film and TV industries as well as the games industry. TV and film productions such as Game of Thrones, Stranger Things 2, Alita: Battle Angel, Maniac, Future Man, and The Jungle Book have used Krotos products for their sound design needs and have also been used in a wide range of major games such as Killer Instinct, Monster Hunter, Far Cry 4 and Devil May Cry. “AI, machine learning, AR, VR and MR are the main areas of technological growth that we see now and that will grow significantly in the next decade,” Boteas observes. “Being able to use artificial intelligence and machine learning for music, sound creation and manipulation can transform the industry. “From new musical instruments to DAWs, acoustic simulations and everything in between, we will see a transformation of the industry with significant automations and workflow improvements. 5G will remove the need to store data locally which means that you will be able to stream software from a supercomputer using a mobile device. This can transform software allowing more flexibility and power. We will start seeing more people moving away from hardware to software and an increase in portability. Some sound designers working on a film or game currently only use a laptop and headphones. The next step might be moving away from the laptop to a headset and our voice and gestures to interact with the new realities. “Smart Assistants are already changing the way we interact with devices using audio and this will also grow significantly,” Boteas concludes, “offering more opportunity for voice and sound as a form of interaction.” www.krotosaudio.com
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Live and kicking Many big players in the pro audio world are increasingly taking advantage of Audio-over-IP to streamline their workflows, and with the advent of open broadcast IP standards, are using this new common language to transport higher quality audio signals than ever before. Jerry Ibbotson investigates...
ABOVE: Audinate’s Dante AV
n the UK, a quiet revolution has been taking place in the world of radio. Anyone listening to the BBC’s extensive network of local stations will probably be unaware (unless it’s gone wrong) that a lot of what they hear – music and pre-recorded material – is not coming from the same building as the presenter. Obviously the days of tape machines, turntables and even CD players are long gone but this is something completely different. Instead of a digital playout system housed locally, all audio comes from a centrally located server in one of two “data centres”. This is ViLoR – Virtual Local Radio – and it’s one of the biggest shake-ups in local radio in years. It’s easier to understand Audio-over-IP (AoIP) if you start with a working example like this (even though the technology covers a whole lot more than radio). The presenter goes to play some music, or a newsreader links to an audio clip or report, and instead of it coming from a local server in the station’s apps room, it’s piped from hundreds of miles away. Live feeds of audio have been around for about as long as audio itself and after dedicated lines, the BBC (as one example) moved to ISDN in the early 1990s. ISDN is now a historic technology, with systems that use the internet replacing it. I can remember issues with ISDN when, as a radio newshound, I’d attempt to dial in and find that the codec I was using was incompatible with the one on the receiving end.
AoIP attempts to do away with this issue by adopting a single standard using Real Time Transfer Protocol, RTP. Stephan Tuerkay, senior product manager for Networked Audio at Lawo believes it will power all real time broadcast production from now on. “IP data transport is format agnostic,” says Tuerkay. “One network can transport many types of audio and video signals, which means you can easily mix multiple formats in the same system. And when new video/
"The way broadcast content is produced will change for the better, providing previously undreamt of flexibility in designing and operating broadcast systems” audio formats come onto the scene, you can add these to the mix too — without having to reinvent the wheel and build a whole new system.” He also sees VoIP as having an advantage when it comes to working over distance. “In the old days, we were often confined
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Feature to sharing signals within a single facility; getting content across the globe reliably was expensive and technically demanding. IP networks have no such restrictions. Studio facilities and remote productions built around AoIP can easily support campus-wide, national, international and even intercontinental production infrastructures. “I guess it’s pretty obvious that Lawo has made IP technology the heart of our product lines, and we’re happy to see our products and solutions used for mission critical installations on an every-day routine. We’re committed to developing new and interesting ways to exploit the benefits of IP, and major broadcasters have noticed. Recent Lawo all-IP installations for SIC Portugal, NEP Australia, Televisa Mexico, CBC/Radio Canada Montreal attest to this.” Juan José Vila from Equipson sees another advantage of AoIP being the ability to send multiple channels down the same cable. “The audio is bi-directional so in the same cable there are audio channels that go in different directions. The routing of the signal is automatic (it just needs network switches to distribute it), lossless audio quality and long distances from transmitter to receiver thanks to the ethernet specifications. “There are disadvantages too,” says Vila. “Every time with new technology audio engineers need to have deep network knowledge to set up a system properly. Latency is also a factor when audio systems are being streamed through a network. AoIP having to coexist with other kinds of data in the same network can be a problem.” At Calrec, they’ve recognised the benefit of being able to use existing infrastructures and Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) 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,” says Henry Goodman, the company’s director of Product Development. “The advent of broadcast IP standards AES67 and SMPTE 2110-30 have given the industry a common AoIP language so it can take advantage of more off-the shelf infrastructure,” he adds. “For Calrec’s native-IP-modular Type R radio system and ImPulse IP Core, discovery and management were central to the design from the outset, and we believe that NMOS IS-04 and IS-05 are vital to achieve true AoIP interoperability. We took onboard customer desire for full interoperability using COTS equipment. It is the future.” Equipson’s Juan José Vila says they offer users a more efficient way to fit out a studio. “We have designed the BlueLine System, an AoIP that combined with control signals can be multi-room, multichannel and is designed mainly to replace the traditional centralised 100/70V systems with a decentralised and smart digital AoIP distributed system, making the cabling much simpler and efficient. “The audio industry is progressing from AoIP to AVoIP as now every install or event has to be an integrated experience where not only the audio but also the video is essential to create that experience. That’s why Audinate came up with Dante AV.” So the move to AoIP is happening at quite a pace but Stephan Tuerkay from Lawo believes the issue in compatibility is still uppermost. “Right now, broadcast is a world of hybrid technologies, transitioning from baseband to IP. We believe this will shift dramatically in the near future, with AoIP becoming dominant,” he
says. “The way broadcast content is produced will change for the better, providing previously undreamt-of flexibility in designing and operating broadcast systems. We also see the wide adoption of open standards. The video industry saw the effects of competing proprietary formats in radio, and is demanding standards for TV. SMPTE 2110, 2022-6/-7, 2042 (VC-2), VSF TR-01 and Ember+ are well on their way to satisfying this demand.” Henry Goodman from Calrec thinks the shift to AoIP isn’t going to happen overnight. “We are going to be living in a hybrid connectivity world for some time too,” he observes. “Indeed, with many customers we are seeing a combination of network architectures being used, facilitated by our gateway technologies and clearly defined upgrade path. NMOS is built into our solutions and we strongly believe that to reap all the promised benefits of standardised IP, it’s essential. n
ABOVE: Clockwise from top: Calrec’s Henry Goodman, Lawo’s Stephan Tuerkay, and Equipson’s Juan José Vila
www.lawo.com www.equipson.es www.calrec.com
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Learning to listen Now Press Play provides UK schools with educational resources that bring the curriculum to life through sound, story and movement, using wireless headphones. Here, Colby Ramsey speaks to the companyâ€™s CEO and cofounder, Alice Lacey, about how the platform is being combined with technology to improve access to learning for future generations...
ABOVE: Now Press Play creates audio books for educational purposes
How did you first get into audio for education? My background is actually working in theatre. I had come across silent discos and wireless headphones at the Edinburgh festival way back in 2008. That technology really stayed in my head, and as I was working as a theatre director thinking of different ways of telling stories, I wondered whether you could use these headphones not just to hear music but to hear a story that the audience or the listener would be part of, and even play a character in that story. I took the idea to a musician friend of mine who also works as a music teacher as I thought he would be interested in the audio side of it. He said that we should try this with children, and that was where the spark of the idea came from. We did a pilot in a school in Whitechapel; it had no educational content in it at that point, it was
just a very basic story to see how the narrative would work. The engagement we saw was outstanding and teachers were saying that theyâ€™d never seen the students sit and listen for that long. From there we realised that we had something quite special that we had to explore a bit further. When was the product first put into action? From 2012-2014 we were actually creating these stories, going into schools and running fun workshops. As we went back to the same schools, teachers were saying to us more and more that they wanted to be able to deliver this content themselves, and make it part of the way they were teaching. In September 2014 we launched in ten schools, all in East London. We gave those ten schools a box of wireless headphones, an MP3 player with all the
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audio on it (the technology was quite basic then), and did some training with them. We’ve had amazing feedback, and I think if schools had better budgets most of them would want us to be involved. Despite it being a difficult time for schools financially, five to six years later we’re now in just under 200 schools across the UK. That’s around 50,000 children who have access to Now Press Play and are learning with the wireless headphones. Could you tell us how the technology itself is being used? In terms of the equipment, through Silent Disco King we supply schools with the technology that they need to use our resources. Then we talk to them about all the different ways that they can use the headphones. Lots of schools find them incredibly useful and will end up using them every day because the tech is so versatile. The majority of how schools use the gear is with our audio stories. The headphones of course allow the users freedom of movement, making it an incredible resource for children to be active whilst learning. This is fantastic because there are lots of children who really struggle to learn in a typical classroom setting where they are expected to sit still at a desk etc. So we’re then reaching lots of children who would usually disengage and become quite disruptive. Apart from that, we’ve actually been learning from the schools themselves, as they’ve been quite creative in finding different ways of using the technology. For instance, they might play an audio book in combination with a physical book to make a form of guided reading. Some might play music for the children while they’re doing creative writing, and this can be tailored to students who prefer to listen to music while working or not. It brings about a real individual experience for children at school, like almost providing them with their own personal teacher. The fact that the children cannot hear each other whilst listening to the headphones is also quite a big deal, as it means those who are more verbal do not distract the other pupils, and everyone remains engaged. Some schools have used the headphones for meditation, as mindfulness comes into schools more and more to help pupils stay
engaged. We’ve also seen some schools come up with their own audio resources for the platform – there was one which created a tour of the school which was written and narrated by the children. Anything audio can go through the headphones and schools are constantly finding different ways to utilise it.
ABOVE: Wireless technology provides pupils with freedom of movement while learning in the classroom
How easy is it for teachers to pick up and use the technology? One of the biggest parts of our work is to make sure the tech is really easy for schools to use and that they feel that it’s easy. It can be a huge barrier for teachers, as of course they might not be tech/ audio professionals or they might even be technophobes. They’re in a high pressure environment where if the tech doesn’t work, the lesson doesn’t happen, so it has to be quick, simple and effective. One of the great things about the equipment we supply through Silent Disco King is that it’s very simple. We no longer provide an MP3 player, and instead just give them a tablet and access to an app that stores all the audio content. We provide training sessions when schools sign up and we show them how the transmitters work and how to set up the trasmitter. One of the big challenges technology companies have going into schools is that if it’s too complicated, it just won’t work and won’t be used. How do you see the product and the technology developing going forward? We’re always discussing with Silent Disco King how the kit itself can be streamlined and made more effective. It used to be that you turned on the headphones and had to select between one of two channels; now the headphones will just find whatever channel or frequency is being used, making it very simple to use. We’ve also started experimenting with microphones so that teachers can talk directly to the children through the headphones. I don’t think we want to make any huge technological changes because what we’ve got already works, is simple to use and is very robust. For us, the innovation comes in terms of the audio books that we’re creating rather than the technology itself. n www.nowpressplay.co.uk
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Critical listening Audio-Technica’s Marketing Director, Alex Lepges, offers his thoughts on the latest developments in the professional headphones market...
ABOVE: Wireless headphones have become increasingly popular amongst mix and monitor engineers
What kind of trends are you seeing at the moment? In the pro domain, headphones are being used for many different applications. There’s those for general studio mixing purposes – here we’re not seeing too much of a shift in terms of technological trends, other than on the immersive side, which I’ll come to later. Another application we’re seeing is truly wireless headphones for intercommunication. The referees for professional football have the small ones from Intricon, which is basically a wireless receiver in an earpiece, but for long distances. This is something that is very specialised. We’re also seeing some headphones dedicated to immersive audio. Beyerdynamic released a headphone a few years ago which had a sensor on the top which panned the audio when the user moved their head, which is a rather interesting one.
What do you think companies can do to maintain their competitiveness in this area? Immersive formats is where audio is really going. The Broadcast Union decided that 5.1.4 should be the next format, so four speakers on the top for 3D sound, two at the front and two at the rear. Having this on headphones with two ear cups is a problem of course, but there are processors from companies like KLANG which could play a role in immersive 3D formats like this. They all rely on what we had in the good old days which is phase information. It comes down to time domain audio quality, something which most people don’t look into too critically. There’s a frequency response curve which could be analysed however this doesn’t make much sense on headphones because they pretty much rely on how the user’s head and ears are shaped.
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Tech Talk I think being accurate in the time domain is the key to future success when it comes to the pro sector, and manufacturers need to make sure they’re maintaining an accurate transient response in their headphone technologies. The M50x which we’ve had on the market for a few years does this very well, and many have described it as a very precise headphone with an accurate frequency response. The same goes for the M60 and M70s, the latter being highly accurate for critical mixing and listening purposes. To what extent do headphones have an important role to play when it comes to mixing for immersive formats, and what technologies has Audio-Technica most recently been developing? It has become clear that the headphone technology needs to get even more precise if it is to ably serve immersive audio formats. Audio-Technica has come up with some new technologies which are currently being used on the consumer side of the headphone business. This is a direct digital drive, which basically means we’re skipping the D/A conversion in the headphones in order to power the headphone drivers with digital controls. We do this by not using a volume over time logic, but with a velocity approach. We measure how much the amplitude changes from one sample to the next, and move the diaphragm forward or backwards depending on the velocity value.
"Headphones need to sound good, and to take advantage of immersive tools we just need to make certain we’re accurate in the time domain” The digital drive gets rid of all distortion that could come from the amplifier, because we’re just driving speed forward or backwards. The outcome of this means we get a very precise headphone that eliminates the distortion factors that a traditional approach would have. It is an active headphone by itself because it requires the energy to come from the inside, however this might make it a little less pleasing to the professional user, so there is still some work to do. In terms of digital, some of the infrastructure is not yet clear and I’m not 100 per cent certain where that journey will go. We certainly have the technology in our hands – we just need to see where we can utilise it. How do you expect the technology to evolve further in the future? Getting rid of the headphone amplifier is something that could prove to be an interesting approach, because it’s kind of a bottleneck and you’re always relying on someone else’s technology. Digital consoles need to be more flexible with their outputs so that they can work with digital headphones in a more streamlined way. However – as I said in our last Tech Talk
discussion about wireless – as long as our ears are analogue, then analogue is the future. Headphones need to sound good, and to take advantage of immersive tools we just need to make certain we’re accurate in the time domain, and as long as we can maintain that, maybe there’s no need to go digital and overcomplicate things. It’s a tricky field because it comes down to something that is very well established already. Headphone technologies have been around for a while and there’s not really been many major changes besides Bluetooth and other transmission technologies between devices. I think we’ll soon see a proper digital headphone interface come to life, but without sounding too conservative, on the pro side I don’t think there’s much that needs to change! n
ABOVE: Audio-Technica’s ATHM70X DJ headphones
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SSL SiX Stephen Bennett works out the kinks with this versatile new desktop mixer for use in the studio, post-production, on stage, and for podcasting...
RIGHT: The SiX cries out to be used on location
n SuperAnalogue audio performance n Classic SSL Channel Processing n 12 Input Summing at Mixdown
n Completely balanced signal path
nyone who’s been even remotely involved in audio production will have come across Solid State Logic (SSL). Famous for their large format, digitally controlled analogue mixers, the company’s first foray into smaller consoles was the X-Desk and its associated X-Panda sidecar. While these products feature SSL’s ‘SuperAnalogue’ circuitry, they have no microphone preamplifiers, EQ or effects on board and are basically high-quality audio routers and balancers. This is not to say they are not useful – they feature plenty of ins and outs for recording and mixdown and are compatible with SSL’s X-rack series and other outboard. I successfully use an X-Panda myself
for recording, as a keyboard mixer and for summing stems to inject some of that SSL mojo into my recordings. The company are now under the umbrella of Audiotonix and the SiX desktop mixer under review is a more traditional product altogether, with its relatively low-cost reflecting SSL’s access to its new owner’s high-quality manufacturing facilities. It’s small but, as the cliché goes, perfectly formed, measuring just 310mm by 270mm including the side panels that can be removed for rack mounting. It weighs a sturdy 3.5kg, so it’s not going to be dragged off the desk by cables and its steel chassis gives confidence to its build quality. The power supply is external and while some people don’t like these, I think that for a device that is likely to be installed and left in-situ it’s perfectly acceptable, though the SiX does cry out to be used on location.
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Product Review An external PSU should help keep noise levels down as well and, on the positive side, it does have a locking plug. As you might expect from its name, the SiX sports that very same number of fadercontrolled input channels and features the same SuperAnalogue circuitry as its larger brethren. The specifications are impressive – the maximum output level is +27dBu with a dynamic range of 112dB and the SiX’s frequency range extends from 4Hz to around 100kHz, which may seem overkill for us humans, but SSL say that this improves transient and time domain behaviour and in-band phase-shifts. The company has also taken care with the electronics in the signal pathway, eliminating electrolytic capacitors and using DC servo-coupling instead. All inputs and outputs are balanced. What these impressive specifications mean in practice is that the SiX is easily comparable with the clean and ‘weighty’ sonic properties of my own SSL X-Panda. Anyone who has used an SSL will be familiar with the look and feel of the knobs and the long-throw faders which are precise and feel sturdy in use. The two microphone/line/Hi-Z instrument channels feature a useful and useable one knob compressor, a well-chosen and nice-sounding two band EQ, insert sends that double as feeds for recording and two stereo foldback cues with independent level and pan controls. The remaining four channels consist of two stereo line inputs with just cue sends. Two stereo external inputs are also provided, which can be routed to various parts of the signal flow and there are also two mix busses available. Each input channel has Pre-Fade Listen (PFL) and the microphone channels have high pass filters. Eight-LED bargraph meters, sensibly labelled with dB values, proved perfectly adequate for monitoring signals. The only thing missing is a phase switch but as I tend to sort those issues out in my DAW, I didn’t personally find it an important omission. The monitoring section of the SiX rivals some standalone devices for versatility. Two sets of monitors are supported, and the user can choose to review either of the mix busses or the external inputs. The cue sends can be monitored on the single headphone output and, while there’s no talk-back microphone (a strange omission in my opinion), you can use an external one – there’s 48v phantom power available as well as SSL’s famous Listen Mic Compressor (LMC). Although this was originally designed to level out problematic performer mixes, you can also route the foldback channel into an input so you too can emulate the drum sound that made Phil Collins famous. A useful mono button lies alongside a Dim switch – which lowers the level to that set by the Dim knob – and a Cut control. The output section consists of a decent sized 11-segment bargraph meter scaled from -21 to +24 dBu and a 100m fader that can control cue summing, external inputs, and the stereo insert point as well as the mix bus levels. One of the features that’s going to be a major selling point of the SiX is the inclusion of a pareddown version of SSL’s G-Series stereo bus compressor. It only has two controls – Threshold and Makeup – and has a fixed ratio of 4:1 alongside, as SSL say, a “carefully selected attack and release times to suit a wide variety of mix content.” In practice it certainly does that SSL-compressor ‘business’ and adds punch and ‘glue’ to the output. I rarely move the attack and ratio controls on my X-Rack version, so these seem sensible choices and
the resulting processing is scarily comparable to my own compressor. The compressor’s gain makeup bargraph is also adequate for the use to which it is being put. The rear panel sports the foldback and cue outputs, the monitor and main outputs and the two mix busses on balanced ¼” jacks (the main mix bus is on XLRs), while the inserts and alt-inputs are all available via d-sub connectors. Because of the small stature of the desk, it took me a while to find my way around but once familiar, it’s a doddle to use. I couldn’t resist having a go at using the LMC as a drum mic squasher and the mix bus compressor is probably worth the price of entry on its own. Sonically there was nothing to complain about; the Six sounds like a ‘proper’ SSL. The two microphone preamplifiers allowed even modest microphones to shine (as all quality ones do, and my SM57 sounded great here on snare) and the input channels’ compressor meant that I didn’t need to patch in my usual 1176 for vocals. The EQ is useful, but I suspect it’ll get most use when dropping stems through the SiX for G-Series processed mixdown. The SSL SiX is much more of a mixing desk than it first appears and there’s nothing here that would make you question its sonic quality. When you consider that you get a couple of SSL microphone preamplifiers with their own compressors, several channels of SuperAnalogue circuitry, a flexible monitor controller, a 12-channel SSL summing mixer (using the alt inputs) and ‘colour’ and G-series compressors thrown in, the SiX starts to look like a veritable bargain. Sure, it would be nice to have more input and output channels and microphone inputs, but this diminutive mixer packs a punch well above its weight and offers the soloist, duo or podcaster everything they need to help make sure their recordings sound as good as those they’d get in a studio using a SSL large format desk. If I have one criticism, it’s that I would have liked to have seen a USB audio interface built-in‚ but having so few physical outputs alongside the use of d-subs means that it is relatively simple to connect the SiX to a suitably attired audio interface. With a flexible monitoring section, a fantastic mix compressor and channel EQ and a flexibility that defies its size, I’d go so far to say that the SiX is the best mixing desk I’ve used in this price range – and I can’t wait to see where SSL go with these kinds of devices. As Harold Macmillan would have said had he been an audio engineer, “We’ve never had it so good!” n www.solidstatelogic.com
ABOVE: The rear panel on the SiX features a multitude of outputs
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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Audio-Technica BP28 Alistair McGhee tests out this large diaphragm condenser mic from the Japanese manufacturer...
’ve been using Audio-Technica mics for 25 years now; gun mics mostly but also headworn, handheld, radio and lately dynamic instrument mics, yet I must admit there are still parts of their extensive range that are a little mysterious to me, like their large diaphragm studio mics which I’ve never had a real chance to explore. So when asked if I wanted to review A-T’s latest large diaphragm condenser mic – the BP28 – I was frankly more than a little excited. While I was waiting for the parcel to arrive I cruised the web and to my surprise I found there had been a mistake. Pictures of the BP28 revealed what looked like a gun mic, not the side address U87 studio-style hottie I had been expecting. But was it the images that were wrong or the description? Well when the parcel arrived, it turned out to be less of a parcel and more of a tube – a fat tube! And guess what, the BP28 is both a large diaphragm condenser and a gun mic! So how do we quantify ‘large’? Well most of my pencil mics, including my gun mics, are about 22mm in diameter. The BP28 is 29mm, or maybe it’s 28mm, hence the name. Now six or seven millimeters is not a giant step for mankind, but given that capsule area goes by the square of the radius, a small increase in diameter results in a significantly bigger capsule. And bigger mic capsules means less self noise. They capture more acoustic energy and have higher output for a given input signal, and therefore they are quieter. However, capsule size is not a one way street, notionally smaller capsules are more rigid and therefore can take more level before overload. I checked the specs – Audio-Technica claim 143 dB as max SPL for the BP28, pardon? That is a technical marvel. A testimony to A-T’s engineering control and innovation. And when I asked the A-T technical department about relative noise figures they replied that the BP28 was twice as quiet as their high end ‘normal’ gun mic – the 4071. One interesting choice for the maker of gun mics is the length of the interference tube. The longer the tube, the more directionality or suck you get, but at the expense of more weight and more clumsy handling. So the classic Sennheiser MKH 416 is 250mm long and weighs 175 grams. The BP28 is 355mm long and weighs 223 grams. The longer tube definitely provides more directivity and the weight gain, unlike mine, is not as bad as you might think. And that ‘length’ of tube is I think a deliberate choice made by A-T, putting the BP28 between the 416 and
ABOVE: The BP28 is your typical looking gun mic
n Large-diaphragm condenser element and optimized circuitry n Highly directional pickup pattern n Transformer-coupled output
n Housing made of lightweight, structural-grade aluminium alloy n Switchable 80 Hz high-pass filter and 10 dB pad
longer mics like the MKH70. The BP28’s choice of tube length means a mic with plenty of discrimination but without being unwieldy. And now we get right down to the nitty gritty, there are three things that might well seal the deal – the sound, the price and the support. Let’s start with the price; the BP28 will cost round about a thousand pounds and the longer version – the BP28L – is another 200 odd quid. For the BP28 this is handily less than some of the direct competition and only two thirds of the cost of some pricier models that you might consider. Support wise, Cinela don’t currently have a suspension for the BP28 but Rycote reckon the the WS5 with 30mm lyres will do the trick nicely. Sadly, we didn’t manage to get them together in time for this review. Then we’re left with the sound. We all know that for vocals in the studio, large diaphragms are king, and the reason is very simple. Studio engineers prefer the sound of large diaphragm mics for voices. In the studio they could use anything they like and what they like by-and-large is your big ass condenser. Take a peek at the frequency response of the BP28 – flat from below 50Hz (18dB/octave filter below 80Hz switchable available) to round about 15kHz and then a gentle roll off. This is brave, because there’s a huge temptation to stick some HF boost in there to help it cut through. That was then, but now with iso everything and EQ on every channel of your Scorpio, you can have that top end lift, or not – you choose. Just like a studio engineer. The BP28 sounds like a large diaphragm condenser and I for one found the combination of bottom end oomph, mid range clarity and top end warmth very attractive indeed. Audio-Technica have brought a new level of genuine choice to location sound with the BP28. n eu.audio-technica.com
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.
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Amadeus HOLOPHONIX French speaker/studio monitor manufacturer Amadeus presented HOLOPHONIX – an audiophile quality sound spatialisation processor – back in 2018, and today there are several large venues equipped with the system. Franck Ernould visited the Chaillot National Theatre in Paris to learn more...
he HOLOPHONIX system was an ambitious project for Amadeus. It brings together several spatialisation techniques, including Wave Field Synthesis, High-Order Ambisonics, Distance-Based Amplitude Panning, and more – enabling intuitive placement and movement of sources in a 2D and/or 3D space. It was co-designed with the Paris-based IRCAM institute, an Amadeus long-time partner, and integrates many spatialisation algorithms developed there. Michel Deluc, Amadeus senior designer, worked closely with software designers Thierry Coduys, Guillaume Jacquemin (who developed the IanniX graphical sequencer) and Johan Lescure to imagine HOLOPHONIX’s graphic interface. The hardware is an audio server with keyboard, mouse and monitor connectors, and is operated via a web browser graphic interface. The HOLOPHONIX Controller application is compatible with all devices operating systems with a web browser, including iOS, MacOS, Windows, and Android-based environments. It offers a three-dimensional visualisation of the venue, easing live monitoring and user interaction with all sound objects, speakers, and other various parameters. Regular 2D venue drawings can also
Key Features n Unlimited number of spatialisation buses supported n 13 algorithms Included
n Binaural rendering for headphones n OSC-compatible
be imported into the GUI and shown as axonometric projections; appearing to be rotated to show all three dimensions. The HOLOPHONIX processor offers a quasi-unlimited number of spatialisation buses, each one able to run one of the 13 different sound algorithms available, designed at IRCAM-based STMS Lab, including: Higher-Order Ambisonics (2D, 3D) with A-format and B-format compatibility, Vector-Base Intensity Panning (2D, 3D), Vector-Base Amplitude Panning (2D, 3D), Wave Field Synthesis, Angular 2D, k-Nearest Neighbor, Stereo Panning, Stereo AB, Stereo XY and Binaural. 3D reverberation algorithms are included too. HOLOPHONIX is OSC-compatible, Dante-compatible, and can also be configured on request for MADI, RAVENNA, or AES67 formats. The input/output matrix of the HOLOPHONIX processor
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Product Review allows the user to choose the rendering mode for each of the incoming channels. It natively handles 128 inputs and 128 outputs in 24-bit/96kHz resolution, but can be extended to 256 or 384 inputs and outputs. The HOLOPHONIX signal path is based on five elementary objects: physical inputs, virtual sources positioned in space on-screen, spatialisation buses using their own algorithms, direct routings to send signals to amplifier channels, and loudspeakers (spatial position is precisely documented in the software). To create a HOLOPHONIX session, the first step is to position the speakers in the graphical interface, exactly as they are placed in the room. Virtual objects (sources) must be created, each assigned to a physical (Dante) input and sendt to spatialisation buses (up to six for each source), then output buses are affected to physical output channels. The user can automatically spread multiple objects on a surface, customise an object’s appearance, and manipulate speakers on-screen to optimise their placement according to the selected spatialisation algorithm etc. A binaural rendering algorithm is available to help engineers and producers prepare their production using a conventional pair of headphones, giving them the experience of a full 3D image of their mix, and to design sound object trajectories. The processor also includes around 100 head-related transfer functions (HRTF), available in the SOFA file format.
The Chaillot Case One of the first HOLOPHONIX systems was installed in Paris’ Théâtre National de Chaillot, under the supervision of Marc Piéra, a long-time Amadeus user. A former electro-acoustic composer, musician and sound engineer, Piéra then worked as a freelance electro-acoustic multi-diffusion consultant for prestigious French institutions like Bibliothèque Nationale, Museum national d’histoire naturelle, Théâtre de la Cartoucherie, Théâtre de la Cité Internationale... and he often specified Amadeus speakers. In 2015, he was hired permanently as a sound department manager by Théâtre de Chaillot, hosting two halls: Jean Vilar and Firmin Gémier. When Piéra arrived, the sound system installed in Jean Vilar hall (50 x 50 x 20 m, 1270 seats, almost no acoustic treatment) was pretty limited: two speakers suspended above the stage, two others in bleachers. Part of his mission was to install a new modern audio system in the place, which hosts more and more contemporary dance shows and less ‘regular’ theatre plays. The new consoles are SSL L200/L300, and Dante networks have been implemented in the two halls. In Jean Vilar hall, Piéra began thinking about line arrays, but he found out 22 speakers were needed by side to cover the whole audience, and the sweet spot problem remained. He then thought about WFS, trying a system composed of Amadeus speakers and a Sonic Emotion processor. “It was pretty good, but there was a problem in the first rows, stereo was too large. Then Amadeus had the idea to implement a sort of giant soundbar on the stage edge, with PMX 4-derived speakers. This was much better, even if nothing was optimised yet, and we definitely chose to go the WFS way,” said Piéra.
ABOVE: Paris’ Théâtre National de Chaillot
As things went by, trying to optimise his system while adding speakers, Piéra was disappointed by the Sonic Emotion processor’s slow evolution. As he can write software, he even considered creating a WFS open-source system from scratch. Amadeus people liked the idea, and soon after, they launched the HOLOPHONIX project, based from the beginning on multiple algorithms. “This was a good idea, as WFS excels in extended sweet spot, but is not adapted for quick sound source movements – a domain where HOA is interesting,” Piéra added. Progressively, Piéra implemented a real immersive system, with Dante networking and Powersoft amplifiers: eight speakers at the rear, a first Surround line following bleachers (10 speakers by side), then a second Surround line with seven speakers by side, plus ceiling speakers, 11 in-fill speakers and the stage ‘soundbar’. “In all, there will be 126 Amadeus speakers in the hall, mainly C15, C12, C10s, plus three MAESTRO subs by side,” he revealed. By the way, C15 speakers were developed specifically by Amadeus for Firmin Gémier hall (not a HOLOPHONIX configuration yet), then made available commercially. The HOLOPHONIX system has been operational since December 2018. This summer, Piéra supervised the installation of ceiling speakers, and he’d like to integrate his TTA voice tracking system with the HOLOPHONIX processor, as OSC compatibility is now available. The system is now complete, and the results are impressive: sound comes from nowhere, with an excellent presence and ambience, and even if in-fill speakers are needed in some places, not included in the immersive system, audiences enjoy being at the heart of the sound in an extended sweet spot – even if production sound designers are still shy using the possibilities of the system. HOLOPHONIX is also used in La Scala Théâtre, Les Champs Libres cultural center in Rennes, Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier, and several places will be equipped soon. n
Franck Ernould is a sound engineer, audio translator and author, living in France.
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IsoAcoustics Iso-Puck Jerry Ibbotson gives us his verdict on this handy little studio tool...
t’s amazing how, even after spending vast sums of money on a studio build, there are always things that can be improved. I can remember on more than one occasion, walking into a real smart studio to find odd bits of acoustic foam and even books wedged into place to cut out reverberation, particularly under studio monitors. I’ve done it myself too, finding odd ways to lift speakers up a fraction to get a better sound. That’s the idea behind Isoacoustics’ Iso-Pucks. These are small, circular pods that fit under monitors to separate them from their supporting surface. The idea is to create a sharper (as in, more precise) audio image and cut down on reflections or interference from the stands, console or desktop that the speakers are on. I find I do a lot of audio work from home these days, with all the convenience of a laptop and compact gear, but that means less than perfect acoustics and a desk that I know is adding its own little something into any edit or mix. So there was an element of personal curiosity when I opened the small box containing eight Iso-Pucks (it looks like a box of chocolates the ambassador might spoil you with). Their construction is a mix of plastic and rubber and each one is made of two main sections, one sitting inside the other. It means they float ever so slightly, to absorb vibrations like a damper – you can see this working if you squidge one between finger and thumb (each one fits in the palm of your hand). I used them under my own monitors and their application couldn’t be easier, you simply place one at each corner of the speaker. That’s it. I wasn’t expecting biblical results but there was a noticeable difference in the sound. It was slightly sharper and clearer and more in focus. The boominess that I was aware of before from my less-than-perfect setup was reduced. I was listening to a spoke-voice project with interviewees recorded in different locations with varying acoustic qualities. Those differences, which I am aware of more when listening with headphones, were now clearer through the speakers (as they should be). Previously, my listening environment had been creating a level playing field that was a distortion of the real audio. So far, so impressive. I then did a rather odd thing and turned my monitors on their sides. There are plenty of circumstances where studios do place speakers in landscape mode, for all sorts of reasons, so I thought it was worth a try to see how they sounded. I’m glad I did, as the results were even more pronounced. I’ve since been writing this review with audio playing literally at my left hand and the longer it runs, the more I can hear the Iso-Pucks at work. By separating the speakers from the work surface, I am genuinely more aware of the audio on its own. The Iso-Pucks aren’t just designed for monitor use, they can also be placed under amps, turntables, mixers and mic stands. In fact, in any situation where you want some extra separation between surfaces and equipment. Obviously, they can’t work miracles and there’s no substitute
Key Features n Discrete low-profile speaker decoupler n Each puck supports up to 20lbs
n Easy to position on any surface
n Comes in a set of four (two sets are required for a pair of speakers)
RRP: £59 per pair including VAT
for having a good studio. But there are plenty of scenarios where you want that extra 5 per cent, where you need to just tweak the sound. And there are equally situations where you are outside the studio and need help to improve the sound you’re either recording or monitoring (or both). I can recommend the Iso-Pucks. Given you could put eight of them in a kit bag with no fuss or slip them under monitors and then forget they are there, they have to be worth a try. In the fight for better sound, they’re a mighty little dagger in your arsenal. n www.isoacoustics.com
The Reviewer Jerry Ibbotson has worked in pro-audio for more than 20 years, first as a BBC radio journalist and then as a sound designer in the games industry. He’s now a freelance audio producer and writer.
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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 Grand Central Recording Studio’s new Transfer Bay Manager, Beckie Thornton...
How did you get into the industry? After I finished university and came back from travelling America, I started applying for runner jobs at audio post houses in Soho. My first interview was with GCRS in which I got the runner position, and I’ve worked my way up to Bay Manager since starting in October 2015. What are some of your credits? • A Girl Who Reads… Can Dream directed and produced by Leonora Lonsdale • Inspiring Girls ‘It’s Time To Get Animated’ What is your favourite item of audio gear and why? At the moment it has to be the Akai APC40 MK2 – a controller/ launchpad for Ableton. I produce and perform electronic music so it’s perfect for my live setup. It allows me to easily navigate through my set, trigger samples and alter effects on the fly. I’ve barely touched the surface with what it can do though! What are some of the challenges that you face in your job? We get a lot of last minute and urgent requests in transfer, meaning we have to problem solve quickly and figure out solutions. We work against time constraints everyday, and managing our time effectively to meet these can be challenging on extremely busy days. What was your favourite project and why? This is a hard question! With A Girl Who Reads Can Dream, there was a lot of flexibility with sound design, and there was also a lot of freedom, so it was really fun.
ABOVE: Beckie Thornton
What do you do? I am the Transfer Bay Manager at GCRS. This means that I manage the transfer bay team and assist the sound engineers. This includes audio session assets, file transfers, technical session setups and making sure the sound engineers have everything they need to start their sound session.
What industry professional inspired you the most to do what you do? To be honest, I didn’t really know anyone in the sound design industry before I started working in it. For me, I take a lot of inspiration from female music producers, and their success makes me want to work hard and be successful in everything I do. What’s the best bit of advice you can give anyone trying to break into the industry? I would say work hard and be keen. Learn from others to improve your skill set. n
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ShowMatch™ DeltaQ™ loudspeakers provide better coverage for outstanding vocal clarity. ©2017 Bose Corporation.
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direct sound to the audience in both installed and portable applications. Each array module offers field-changeable waveguides that can vary coverage and even create asymmetrical patterns. The result is unmatched sound quality and vocal clarity for every seat in the house. Learn more at SHOWMATCH.BOSE.COM
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