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International

September 2019

www.audiomediainternational.com

HOUSE OF FUN Behind the desk access at Madness’ orchestral anniversary gig

INTERVIEW

Silent Disco King hits Glastonbury 2019

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SHOW NEWS Looking ahead to IBC and PLASA

REVIEWS

Avid Pro Tools, SSL, Stealth Sonics and more...

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DESIGNED & ENGINEERED IN GERMANY LD Systems® is a registered brand of the Adam Hall Group.

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CONTENTS

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SHOW NEWS 7 9

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IBC 2019 PLASA 2019

OPINION

12 The Science of Sound GCRS’ Ivor Taylor discusses the unique ways in which we process audio

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FEATURES 14

Installation Profile AMI finds out how Amnesia Ibiza has been celebrating this summer with its new KV2 Audio system

17 Live Profile Andy Coules talks us through Madness’ anniversary gig at London’s Kenwood House 20

Location Recording Colby Ramsey speaks to sound designer Chiara Luzzana about THE SOUND OF CITY®

REVIEWS

26 Avid Pro Tools 2019 30 SSL Fusion

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AMI SEPTEMBER 2019

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CONTENT Editor: Colby Ramsey colby.ramsey@biz-media.co.uk Designer: Tom Carpenter tom.carpenter@biz-media.co.uk ADVERTISING SALES Claire Hodder claire.hodder@biz-media.co.uk +44 (0)742 764 2644 SUBSCRIBER CUSTOMER SERVICE To subscribe, change your address, or check on your current account status, go to www.audiomediainternational.com/ page/faqs or email subscriptions@bizmediauk.co.uk

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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: Daniel Harris and Zach Maharouche Printed by Buxton Press Ltd ISSN: 2057-5165 Copyright 2019

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W

ith temperatures in the UK soaring to record heights and festival season in full swing, it’s certainly a good time to be a music fan. Cornwall’s biggest festival, Boardmasters, was of course called off last-minute due to a severe weather forecast, but while some 50,000 people – most of whom were due to watch performances by Florence and the Machine, Foals and Wu-Tang Clan – were either stranded in Newquay, left trying to sort last-minute accommodation, or at home, some decided to come anyway, with local organisers throwing alternative parties to accommodate tourists. One of the big winners this summer was Martin Audio, whose systems featured heavily at some of the UK’s biggest festivals, completing a seven year contract with London’s British Summertime Hyde Park, as well as several stages at Glastonbury, including the Pyramid Stage. The loudspeaker designer and manufacturer reported a 22 per cent growth for the financial year 2017-18, with sales up from £16.5 million to £20.1 million for the period. The double-digit growth follows the company’s buyout by LDC last year, while a number of major client

additions, key product launches and overseas expansion have made a significant contribution. The company is now forecasting a further 20 per cent increase throughout 2019. Also busy over the summer was Silent Disco King. Over the last 10 years, the company has been pioneering the use of the world’s best silent disco headphones with its professional wireless solutions at some of the biggest events on the planet, including this year’s Glastonbury festival where they pulled off an impressive collaboration with Cineramageddon and Fatboy Slim. Turn to page 23 to find out how they pulled it off. Another very special event which took place this summer – and this month’s cover feature – was a big anniversary gig at London’s Kenwood House with British ska band Madness. Here, the band played with a full orchestra for the first time, and the audio setup was a complex one to say the least. Andy Coules, who was on monitor engineer duties, has written a fantastic piece about how the gig went, starting on page 17. Also in this issue, you’ll find an interesting opinion piece from Grand Central Recording Studios’ Ivor Taylor, in which he discusses ‘the science of sound’. Meanwhile, I catch up with sound artist and composer Chiara Luzzana, who reveals all about her venerable audio project THE SOUND OF CITY® and extensive use of Audio-Technica microphones in the field. And there’s lots more to get stuck into, including Stephen Bennett’s review of Avid Pro Tools 2019 and previews for both of this month’s big industry events, IBC and PLASA. See you on the show floor! ■

Colby Ramsey Editor Audio Media International

Experts in the issue

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+44 (0)203 143 8777

George Krampera is a pro audio pioneer and designer of KV2 Audio systems

Chiarra Luzzana is a sound artist, composer, and founder of THE SOUND OF CITY®

Paul Gillies is director of wireless headphone event expert Silent Disco King

September 2019

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SHOW NEWS

IBC 2019: ESPORTS TAKES THE STAGE Last year’s IBC attracted more than 55,000 attendees from 150 countries around the world, exhibiting more than 1,700 key technology suppliers and showcasing a debate-leading conference. The 2019 event is expected to change the game even further when it hits the RAI Amsterdam from 13-17 September...

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BC 2019 will explore the technical and commercial opportunities and challenges of the rapidly growing world of esports with an exclusive showcase on September 17. The esports showcase is powered by ESL, EVS and Lagardère and will feature a live esports tournament in the RAI Auditorium taking advantage of a unique combination of world-class technology placing spectators at the heart of the action. ESL’s National Championship teams from Germany and Spain will go head-to-head in a live Counter-Strike tournament on the big cinema screen with Dolby Stereo. IBC will bring together some of the most influential people in the world of esports to explore the latest trends and development, considering the business case for esports from stretch targets, challenges and opportunities for esports players and the technical delivery of esports programs. Meanwhile, systems integrator Megahertz will be showcasing Spiritland Productions’ one-of-a-kind, large format, versatile sound and video outside broadcast (OB) truck at its stand 12.F20. The bespoke truck contains an end-to-end IP infrastructure with audio that runs entirely on a Dante network. The truck is Dolby Atmos capable and was designed to provide the best possible monitoring and mix environment for live music. The luxury mobile production vehicle, named ‘Spiritland One’, was delivered to the broadcast audio specialist in early June, and went on the road following just one week of successful testing, covering a week of live television and radio broadcasts on BBC4, BBC Radio3 and BBC Radio Wales for the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. From there it was put to use as a post production mix facility for a large-scale BBC Radio 2 concert, and more recently to record and live mix a Burt Bacharach special concert at the Hammersmith Apollo. The truck includes an SSL System T broadcast audio production desk and console, Barefoot speakers and the KH range of Neumann monitors. The vehicle carries 128 SSL mic amps as standard, an Optocore stage system that runs both a Dante and Riedel Bolero communications network, as well as eight stage MADIs that can be plugged straight into devices for greater streamlining. Calrec has announced that it will be showcasing its VP2 virtualised mixing system for the first time in Europe on Stand 8.C61 at IBC 2019. VP2 has no physical control surface and utilises Calrec’s Assist software for setup and control. VP2’s 4U core comes in three DSP sizes; 128-, 180- and 240-input channels, and

incorporates Calrec’s Hydra2 networking solution. Calrec Serial Control Protocol (CSCP) allows the audio console to be completely controlled by an automation system. Calrec’s Assist software can be accessed from multiple locations through a web-browser. The technical director/ operator can be given basic control functions, whereas an engineer can delve deeper to fine-tune the setup or recall different setups as needed. Also on show will be Calrec’s ImPulse core audio processing and routing engine, with AES67 and SMPTE 2110 connectivity. The ImPulse core is compatible with current Apollo and Artemis control surfaces, providing a simple upgrade path for existing Calrec customers. In addition, future scalable expansion will allow up to four DSP mix engines and control systems to run independently on a single core at the same time, providing the ability to use multiple large-format mixers simultaneously in a costeffective and compact footprint. German broadcast manufacturer Lawo will debut its AES67 Stream Monitor, a new software product for Windows PCs. AES67 Stream Monitor displays detailed information for as many as 16 user-definable audio streams, each of which can contain multiple audio channels. The main display presents audio levels and alarm indications

at a glance for all monitored streams, while selecting an individual stream display allows users to do a “deep dive” to discover detailed stream information. TSL Products, continues to evolve its audio offerings to meet the changing needs of its customers and the transition towards IP workflows. On Stand 10.B41, TSL will highlight a new range of modes for its SAM-Q audio monitors. The company will also feature updates to its PAM-IP line and its expansive functionalities, beyond audio and video monitoring, as well as user improvements to its MPA1 range. RTW will be present at Booth D89 in Hall 8, showing off a brand new audio monitor in its TM-range, while also revealing a new license for the TM-meters, making them ‘2020-Olympics-ready’ with regard to the latest multichannel audio and transmission formats. And if all that isn’t enough to get stuck into, Avid is offering a variety of free in-depth training sessions at IBC 2019 covering the most in-demand skills that will take your projects to the next level. Training sessions include the latest how-to’s on Avid Media Composer, Avid Maestro | Designer, MediaCentral | Editorial Management, MediaCentral | Cloud UX, and integrated solutions from Avid and Microsoft. n show.ibc.org

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SHOW NEWS

AUDIO SUPPORT DOUBLES FOR PLASA 2019 The entertainment technology showcase will return to London Olympia from 15-17 September...

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he PLASA Show has announced huge support from the audio industry with L-Acoustics, CODA Audio, d&b audiotechnik and Void Acoustics among the brands supporting the event at London Olympia later this month. PLASA has also doubled the amount of audio demonstrations on offer, including three exclusive ‘Audio Lounges’, as well as announcing a new live feature, Stage to Studio – where a live band will be recorded in front of an audience by a renowned sound engineer. The professional sessions will run from 3pm on Sunday 15th and Monday 16th September, revealing what it takes to get the best recording from a live performance. With the engineer’s Digital Audio Workstation displayed above the stage and live commentary, the audience will learn top level techniques for capturing high quality sound from the stage. This will include microphone choices and placements, step-by-step mix decisions, and how to maximise multi-track recordings. Following the sessions, the audio stem files will be made available and a competition will open. A team of experts will then pick the best mix and the winner will receive an exclusive professional audio prize. On the product side, CODA Audio is set to make its PLASA debut at the 2019 edition of the show, while Void Acoustics will take a stand as well as a space in the main audio demo room. They join L-Acoustics, Bose, Yamaha and Audio-Technica among others. Meanwhile, d&b audiotechnik have joined the show as a headline sponsor. Visitors will find their installation and touring systems on both the Sound Foundation Limited (SFL) and SSE stands, alongside products from Sennheiser, DiGiCo, DPA Microphones and Avid. L-Acoustics will have a dedicated lounge in which they will showcase their A Series medium throw solution for touring and installations, while RCF will take the third lounge in which they will reveal their latest releases. In the main demo area, there will be back-to-back demos from Adam Hall, Shermann Audio,

Void Acoustics, Aura Audio and OHM. KV2 Audio will also take a separate space, demoing their products throughout the show, and OutBoard TiMax will present their latest immersive audio technologies. A ground-breaking mental health installation called ‘Blackout’ will also run across all the days of the show. After an acclaimed initial run at Guildford School of Acting (University of Surrey) earlier this year, this unique fusion of cutting-edge technology, art, theatre and education will visit PLASA as it gears up for a nationwide roll out. Blackout is a multisensory experience that aims to give visitors a rare insight into the mind of someone with Bipolar II disorder. Utilising an innovative combination of light, sound, video and vibration, the installation creates a sensory journey into a Bipolar II patient’s head as they transition through a hyper manic and manic low episode. The experience has been created for a single viewer and lasts six minutes. AMI spoke exclusively to the event’s organisers: “We are looking forward to opening the doors to PLASA Show 2019, which has a focus on immersive experiences, professional sessions and next generation technology – we really feel that this year’s show might be the most exciting edition yet,” says PLASA managing director Peter Heath. “Our new feature, Stage to Studio: Recording a live band, should be a real eye opener, with top level engineers capturing live sound from the stage, sharing their well-honed recording techniques.

“On the show floor, visitors can expect to meet pro audio brands such as Bose, Adamson, Sennheiser, d&b audiotechnik, L-Acoustics and many more. We’re also pleased to welcome Void Acoustics, CODA Audio and CUK Audio for the first time. Last year’s edition of the show was the busiest and most vibrant in recent years, and we hope that the readers of Audio Media International will help us raise the bar even higher!” PLASA’s head of events, Sophie Atkinson, adds: “PLASA Show is much more than just a trade show – the show offers a market-leading programme of free-to-attend talks, training, demos and sessions. We’re delighted to announce that the amount of audio demos has doubled this year, with dedicated ‘lounges’ for L-Acoustics, RCF and Sound Technology, as well as a KV2 Audio demo room and a main space for Adam Hall, Shermann, Aura Audio, OHM and newcomers Void Acoustics. “The seminar programme fills three theatres over all three days. Highlights include ‘Equal rights for audio!’ looking at how lighting and set design affect live sound; ‘How to survive and thrive in the live music industry’ led by Women in Live Music; ‘Sound for worship’ offering church audio solutions; and ‘The future of audio for theatre productions’ presented by Shure, in association with Curtain Call. I would say that there’s something for everyone, and we can’t wait to share what we have in store!” ■ www.plasashow.com

September 2019

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OPINION

HOW CLOUD STORAGE CAN ENSURE THE PRESERVATION OF MUSIC ARCHIVES Avid’s CTO and VP of Software Engineering, Tim Claman, discusses the importance of protecting original music recordings...

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t’s no exaggeration to say that music has become a fundamental facet of our culture since the genesis of analogue sound recording technology more than a century ago. In the years since, technological developments have made digital music recording and reproduction truly ubiquitous, with anyone able to instantly access and listen to vast music libraries via their digital devices. For musicians, it is now easier than ever to create and distribute high-quality music recordings to listeners around the world. While it can be easy to take access to recorded music for granted, several high-profile incidents have shined a light on a growing problem: the long-term storage and management of recorded music archives. For example, social networking site MySpace admitted that a botched server migration resulted in the irretrievable loss of tens of millions of songs uploaded before 2015, effectively wiping out a sizeable chunk of online history. But this incident pales in comparison to the 2008 Universal Music Group (UMG) fire at Universal Studios that’s believed to have destroyed as many as 500,000 original master recordings from some of music’s most legendary artists – including the likes of Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, the Eagles, Ray Charles, Eminem and many more. These two incidents remind us that we can’t rely on social media platforms to preserve music archives, and that storing physical analogue masters isn’t an effective long-term archive strategy. Content creators and content owners must therefore embrace new approaches to preserve their media archives – or risk the consequences.

Analogue music archives under threat Effectively preserving modern music archives is no easy task as there are several threats that artists, content creators and audio professionals need to be aware of. For example, physical media degradation is a real challenge. Analog audio tape recordings are stored on a plastic film coated with tiny magnetised particles that change their polarity over time, resulting in signal loss and “print through” distortion. Analog audio tapes also commonly suffer from a phenomenon known as binder breakdown, whereby the glue that holds the magnetised particles to the physical tape gradually breaks down. Storing tapes in unsuitable environments – such as somewhere with high humidity – accelerates this process, potentially rendering tapes unplayable and extremely difficult to restore. And then of course there is the threat of human error. The truth is that many valuable recordings are still at risk, as owners have failed to systematically go through the effort and expense of digitising their archives. The other factor to consider is that original multitrack masters contain a wealth of valuable information such as alternate takes and tracks. I had the pleasure of transferring The Doors’ original multitrack tape masters from analog to digital for the Oliver Stone movie The Doors. In the multitrack master for Break on Through, you’ll hear Jim Morrison singing “She gets high!”. However, in the released version of the song, the word “high” was left out, illustrating the artistic censorship regularly applied by record labels and radio stations.

With all this in mind, what steps can musicians and audio professionals take to ensure the preservation of their music archives? And what role can the cloud play in removing the threat of music losses?

The cloud calls Cloud platforms present an ideal solution to solving the long-term preservation problem for master recordings. Not only do they offer organisations an efficient and increasingly affordable means of storing valuable media assets, they provide extremely high data durability and reliability by replicating data across multiple physical servers and geographies. Many cloud infrastructure providers now offer eleven 9s of data resiliency, which corresponds to 99.999999999% durability of objects over any given year – you’re statistically far more likely to be struck by lightning than lose a single song in your cloud archive. Cloud-based archives also benefit from media asset management systems that hold all the descriptive metadata for an archive and make content easily accessible, enabling users to easily search for and find specific files. Utilising the highest quality analog-todigital conversion equipment is essential. Most importantly, cloud platforms make for a stress-free media management experience, ensuring that music archives will remain readily accessible in the future. It’s time for content owners to fully embrace the cloud and ensure that the music never stops. n

Tim Claman is the CTO and VP of Software Engineering at Avid. www.avid.com

September 2019

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OPINION

www.audiomediainternational.com

THE SCIENCE OF SOUND Ivor Taylor, Technical and Finance Director at Grand Central Recording Studios (GCRS), offers his thoughts...

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s someone who has a 49-year career in audio production, I’m not going to surprise anyone by saying that I believe sound to be of utmost importance – and some of my recent reading has drawn me to the conclusion that scientifically, sound comes first. A friend of mine sent me a link which reports that scientists have discovered that when you change where your gaze is looking, your eardrums make a low frequency sound of about 30Hz and they do this 10 thousandths of a second before your eyes actually move. To make this even more bizarre when you shift

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your gaze to the left both of your eardrums flex left and vice versa when you look right. The idea that your eardrums move on their own when you change your gaze and make a very low frequency sound was strange enough, but that they do this in synchronisation just before your eyes moved seemed so far out there, that at first it seemed to be nonsense to me. In a brilliant piece of work, scientists placed miniature microphones down the ear canals of 16 humans and a couple of monkeys until they were adjacent to the test subjects ear drums. When the

subject’s eyes moved, their eardrums made a low frequency sound. With eye tracking they could track and time the movement of the subject’s eyes and then correlate this to when their ear drum made the sound. The end result of this research was that your eardrums make this sound 10 milliseconds before your eyes change gaze. Why is this happening? No one has yet found out why, so from here on in this is pure conjecture on my part as to what is happening, and not scientifically tested facts. You hear things before you see them – audio is processed quicker than vision. A crude measure is that the process of hearing a sound is twice as fast as seeing a light flash. However, when a door slams the sound of the door occurs exactly at the same time as we see the door shut. That’s the physical reality but the linked video clearly shows that the brain processes sound and vision at different rates. Your brain isn’t ‘looking’ at your visual data stream or ‘listening’ to your audio data stream. It is analysing these and from the analysis it constructs the spatial world you ‘see’ and the audio world you ‘hear’. These are cognitive constructs, not videos or audio soundtracks. There is no cinema inside your head. So this time alignment trick is not aligning sound to a continuous stream of data from your eyes, but aligning the sound to a cognitively constructed picture which your brain constructs and then updates every 40ms or so. An easy assumption is that processing audio and visual data always takes the same amount of time – no matter what you are hearing or seeing. In the world of digital post production, that is not true as it is in the neurological

September 2019

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OPINION

wonder of your brain. Engineers use different processing algorithms (usually called plugins) depending on what they are trying to achieve. For example, the time delay produced by an audio reverberation plugin will be different from that of a compressor limiter. This is hidden from the engineer by the computers systems, so he or she never has to think about it. When you shift your gaze, you do not know what you will see until your gaze has settled. Your gaze shifts, so you reset your cognitive analysis to analyse your audio and visual data to find the unexpected. The neurological analysis engine in your brain then readjusts and tries to extract as much information as it can, until you shift your gaze again, and another reset of your cognitive analysis occurs and so on. An example would be on safari in tiger country. Your companion is amiably chatting away. You are hearing her and at the same time improving the intelligibility of what she is saying by unconsciously reading her lips. The guide suddenly makes a hand signal to stop, and points at a strand of grass that is moving. You look at the moving grass. Everything is quiet apart from the slight sound of the grass being pushed down by something. Is it reasonable to assume that at this instant your brain will not be trying to hear a tiger speak but desperately trying to correlate these grass sounds with the tiger’s feet that are just starting to emerge into clear view. You will change your visual processing from lip reading to visual processing for camouflaged animals in the undergrowth and your audio processing from optimised for speech to optimised for the sound of rustling grass. For me it seems reasonable to assume that the time taken for the neurological processing of audio and video data will vary depending on what

you are hearing or seeing just as it does in the world of digital audio processing. These neurological processing changes will have differing time delays. The obvious concern is that, with these differing time delays, a person’s audio and visual perception might go out of time synchronisation. But for your brain to make the best cognitive ‘guesses’, both audio and video constructs need to be time coherent or said simply ‘in sync’. So why do your eardrums make a low frequency sound? I always assumed there must be a nerve process connecting the audio and visual systems to allow constant time sync, but with the eardrum sounds happening 10ms before you shift your gaze I’m not so sure. Any such neurological process would have to take a sync point from the cognitive visual process, mark that as being a point in time, and then find the matching point in time on the audio stream. How would it know what point in the audio stream exactly corresponds to the visual cognitive construct it is continuously generating? A simpler way might be if you had in your head the equivalent of what is used in post production, a sound that occurred at a specific point in time along with the visual cue for the sound being made – bring on the Slate Board with its ‘clapper’ attachment. Shut the clapper in front of the camera and you get a sound (the sync plop) perfectly in sync with one frame of the film. So I think that the eardrum sounds embed a ‘unique’ low frequency sound onto your heard audio data whenever you shift your gaze. It marks the start of the next analysis sequence for the brain as it assembles the visual cognitive construct. The brain assembles the first ‘frame’ of the cognitive construct of the scene you are looking at, and it knows that it should present that

to your higher cognitive processes aligned with the audio data marked by the eardrum noise or ‘sync plop’. When you hear a sound, your ears are sensing small and rapid changes from high to low pressure in the air around your ears. For low frequency sound, both ears always sense almost identical changes in pressure. As the pressure from the low frequency sound wave increases both eardrums flex inwards into the centre of your head, and when the pressure decreases both eardrums flex outwards. That’s how we hear low frequency sounds. Something strange and different happens when you shift your gaze to the left and your eardrums make the 30Hz sound. Your left eardrum moves inwards to the centre of your head and your right eardrum outwards away from the centre of your head and then vice versa when you shift your gaze to the right. That’s fundamentally different and in the audio world we would describe these movements as being ‘out of phase’ relative to the centre of your head. If you add out of phase signals together they sum to zero. The result of this difference is that the audio data signal produced by the eardrum sound is unique from all of the other low frequency sounds which surround us all the time. That allows the brain to perceive this as a specific unique point in time in the audio data and when the left and right audio signals are added together they add to nothing so you do not hear them. How your brain actually accomplishes this adding together and removal of the 30hz sound from your audio perception is another matter. I’m sure I have committed many major sins in how I think the brain processes vision and sound. Please forgive me, I’m just a humble audio engineer. Your sync plop generator is truly unique, maybe... n

Ivor Taylor is the Technical and Finance Director at Grand Central Recording Studios (GCRS) in London. www.gcrs.com

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INSTALLATION PROFILE

www.audiomediainternational.com

ART MEETS SCIENCE Back in May, Amnesia celebrated its Opening Party in Ibiza with an extensive new KV2 Audio rig that claims to be ‘the most advanced sound system in the world’. Here, AMI hears from the man who conceived and designed the system, legendary pro audio pioneer George Krampera...

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mnesia – perhaps one of the most iconic clubs in the world – is the first venue in Ibiza to boast a KV2 Audio system, characterised by their incredibly low distortion and high definition. While KV2 has already been deployed for clubbing experiences in New York, Asia, the Middle East and mainland Europe, including the famous Kaufleuten club in Zurich, it also features on international musicals like The Lion King, On Broadway, and Mamma Mia! George Krampera has been building sound systems for almost 50 years. His goal, now achieved in Ibiza, has always been to eliminate distortion and loss of information in the signal path, providing sound reproduction that has true dynamic range and representation of the source. This dedication can finally be shared and enjoyed by the very best DJs, performers and producers from around the world with the DJ booth at Amnesia’s Terrace welcoming some of the biggest names on the circuit – including

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Luciano, The Martinez Brothers, Héctor Couto, Mar-T, Caal, Luca Donzelli and Manu Gónzalez. AMI recently caught up with George Krampera to find out more about the install… AMI: Firstly, what makes this collaboration between KV2 and Amnesia particularly unique? GK: There are far too many disappointing or average audio experiences these days, so it has been really refreshing to work with the Amnesia team who genuinely care, truly understand and completely appreciate the KV2 difference in delivering something new and exceptional for Ibiza. AMI: What did you initially hope to achieve with the new system? GK: At KV2 we have developed revolutionary technologies that allow club and dance music to be presented in a way previously not experienced. The lowest distortion levels on the planet and the highest dynamics allow every

nuance of a DJ/performer’s mix to be delivered, absorbed, understood and enjoyed. The concept of audiences staying longer in areas of high SPL’s without ear fatigue or ‘ringing ears’ offers an amazing clubbing experience and most importantly it makes everybody smile. We generally say that we don’t sell speakers, we sell the sound… AMI: What makes it the “most advanced sound system in the world”? GK: Like other manufacturers, our speakers can deliver high SPL and an impressive frequency response. But what sets us apart is the third dimension: the time. It’s an absolutely fundamental factor which affects the sound on almost every level, and is a factor that is currently largely ignored by the rest of our industry. This factor has made us embrace the need for a complete change in the current industry standards, and to set brand new requirements for audio reproduction. We have a quite unique approach to loudspeaker

September 2019

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INSTALLATION PROFILE

George Krampera has been building sound systems for almost 50 years

technology. It comes from the key principles of our SLA ethos. SLA stands for Super Live Audio. It consists of three disciplines: Super Analogue, Super Digital and Super Acoustics. They enable us to deliver unprecedented levels of dynamic range, ultra low distortion, extreme clarity and the ultimate definition over distance. We not only use hybrid electronics matched to each of the fastest and lowest distortion transducers available today, but also digital electronics with the highest sampling rate ever used in a professional loudspeaker system.

in another of their venues – Cova Santa – the decision was as good as made. The brief was simple – the owners wanted the best club sound on the island. The system is based around eight of KV2’s ultra-slim, high power, 3-way active SL412s coupled with eight VHD2.18J subs from the VHD range. The VHD2.18J is a direct radiating bass-reflex speaker containing two high performance 18” transducers designed to withstand extremely high power levels. The result is a huge, all-encompassing surround sound system that is perfectly transparent and free from distortion.

"The lowest distortion levels on the planet and the highest dynamics allow every nuance of a DJ/performer's mix to be delivered, absorbed, understood and enjoyed" AMI: Could you explain how the system satisfied the club’s technical specifications? GK: Our system replaced a bespoke sound system that had served the venue well for the last decade but was starting to show its age. The club’s owners decided that the time had come to upgrade. Already familiar with the quality of the KV2 audio experience thanks to the system already installed

The DJ booth has also been given the KV2 treatment with two full range, 3-way ESR212s combined with a pair of VHD2.18J subs. And finally, our ESR system also resides in the VIP area, this time the larger ESR215s, replacing the need for separate subwoofers as the ultimate full range 3-way system with a wide 110-degree horizontal

dispersion for a high quality audio experience in more intimate surroundings. Based on long-term experience with sound design in Swiss and German clubs, our Berlin based office designed and specified the system with technical support from leading sound engineers in this field such as Johannes Kraemer from Time Warp. The integration was done by Sono Ibiza S.L. AMI: What kind of feedback have you received about the system and to what extent does it future-proof such an iconic venue as Amnesia? GK: The response has been overwhelming and very positive, not only from club visitors but also from a number of artists like Hector, Ricardo Villalobos, Luciano, CAAL and many others. We really appreciate it and take it as a serious commitment for the future cooperation with the club. Amnesia is perhaps Ibiza’s most iconic club and has a global reputation to match. This year its ratings have taken yet another boost with the inauguration of our sound system. n www.kv2audio.com www.amnesia.es

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THE NEXT STAGE IN SOUND.

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28/05/2019 17:24 22/07/2019 12:18


LIVE PROFILE

ORCHESTRATED MADNESS This summer, British ska band Madness celebrated 40 years of musical capers with a big anniversary gig at London’s Kenwood House, playing with a full orchestra for the first time. Andy Coules, who was on monitor duties, gives us the lowdown...

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t's hard to believe that it's been 40 years since seven lads from Camden first fused reggae, punk and pop into their own unique "nutty sound". In the ensuing years Madness have successfully managed to knit themselves into the fabric of British life with an impressive string of hits accompanied by memorable videos and suitably anarchic appearances on Top Of The Pops. They continue to produce original music and perform to large crowds across the globe and decided to celebrate this special anniversary with a string of shows under the banner of Madness XL. As a band they're no strangers to doing unusual and elaborate gigs, from their pioneering Madstock shows to the London Olympics closing ceremony and onto the roof of Buckingham Palace for the Queen's Golden Jubilee, but one thing they've never done before is

perform with a full orchestra. So in a welcome return to the borough of Camden they decided to do just that to a sold out crowd at Kenwood House on the 15th of June. My role in this enterprise was to be the monitor engineer as well as the audio liaison for the various elements required in addition to the usual production – handled ably by production manager Pete Hosier. Front of house duties were to be performed by the legendary Ian Horne who has worked with the band since the very beginning (earning him the affectionate title of "Dad"). Therefore Ian, Pete and I sat down to figure out just how we were going to pull off this adventurous gig. The regular version of the band is a tight 10-piece touring outfit featuring the six band members augmented by a three-piece horn section (trumpet, trombone and baritone sax) and a percussionist (who

also does backing vocals). This standard configuration accounts for 44 inputs and 22 monitor outputs, eight wedge mixes and eight IEM mixes (for band and techs). The orchestra is the Heart of England Philharmonic led by Helen Fitzgerald, a 40 piece ensemble comprising three percussionists, four French horns, two trumpets, three trombones, a tuba, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, harp, keys, two double basses, three cellos, four violas and 12 violins. The orchestral arrangements, as well as a new overture, were written by noted composer David Arnold and conducted by Nicholas Dodd. The two key decisions we made at the outset were that we wanted a microphone on every individual instrument and that we would have two consoles at FOH and on monitors (one for the band and one for

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LIVE PROFILE

www.audiomediainternational.com

the orchestra). We felt this was the best way to go as it would allow us maximum flexibility in mixing but also enable us to spread the workload so that we had engineers focusing on the main band and the orchestra separately. To that end we engaged Dennis Fernandez and Paul Keeble to man the second desks at FOH and monitors respectively. Dennis would sub mix the orchestra for Ian and Paul would do the same for me in monitor world. The show was also due to be recorded by Patrick Phillips and Oli Jacobs from Real World Studios, so we needed to take their needs into account. At regular shows we employ a passive 48-channel two-way split to duplicate the usual input channels to FOH and monitors so we added a second 48-channel split for the orchestra feeding into the second desks at both positions. We then added a third split of all 96 channels to accommodate the recording (as they would be taking a full multi-track of all inputs). Our usual desks of choice are an Avid Profile at FOH and a Yamaha CL5 on monitors so we just doubled up with the same models for Dennis and Paul to operate; Patrick and Oli brought in an SSL L500 to feed their Pro Tools rig. In addition to the regular monitor setup we needed to add monitors for the conductor and orchestra while trying to keep stage levels as low as possible, so I decided to deploy audio hot spots using small speakers that I could tightly control to put sound where it was needed without too much spill. In the end we used a combination of L-Acoustics 5XTs and X8s mounted on microphone stands and distributed throughout the orchestra. Being as I was already using 25 of the CL5's mix buses (22 for the band's wedges and IEMs plus three for cue wedge/IEMs), that left me with seven to service the orchestra so I decided to do it by section with individual mixes for the conductor, percussion, brass, woodwind, harp/ keys, violins and one for the low strings (i.e. violas, doubles basses and cellos) with a monitor speaker for each pair of musicians. So the plan we came up with involved 50 musicians generating 90 inputs being fed into five mixing desks, two of which combined into the main stereo mix – one for the recording and two supplying 32 monitor outputs running nine in-ear monitors and 32 monitor speakers, all of which was operated by six sound engineers. It was clear that this was not going to be your average gig. In preparation for the show we had three days of rehearsal booked in – the first to set up and test the equipment, the second with just the band and the third with the band and orchestra together. Our supplier for the audio equipment was SSE (co-ordinated by Miles Hillyard) who've been working with the band for many years, so are familiar with their requirements while being able to expand to accommodate all the additional elements. Once the stage was marked up (we only just

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fit in the room, I had to breath in to get to the monitor desk!) and the band was set up we started putting together the audio gear. Everything went reasonably smoothly and soon we were able to start line checking. One very important issue that Miles identified was that because the recording guys weren't arriving until the third day, we needed to put a dummy load on their part of the split to make sure that our gain levels stayed the same throughout and didn’t drop when they connected their desk. To that end he supplied a bank of preamps that we connected from the outset to ensure nothing wavered. Day two went well – it was pretty much business as usual with the regular band, although one thing we did do was install a Perspex acoustic screen behind the drums to help reduce the inevitable spill that would be picked up by the strings. On the morning of day three the orchestra rehearsed on their own which gave us an opportunity to line check them and start building the mix. In terms of microphones, we used AKG C414s as overheads for the percussion and Beyer M88s on the timpani. The brass all had Shure Beta 98Hs, the woodwind and strings all used DPA 4099s and the harp had a pair of Schertler DYN pick-ups. At FOH

Dennis sub-mixed the orchestra into eight stereo stems comprising high strings, low strings, hi horns, low horns, woodwind, percussion, harp/keys and FX (i.e. a selection of reverbs) which Ian incorporated into his mix. In monitor world I had Paul supply me with five stereo stems comprising percussion, brass, woodwind, harp/keys and strings which gave me maximum flexibility to send whatever was needed to wherever. In the afternoon we finally got the band and orchestra together and the main issue we had with the monitoring was the spill from the drum kit (despite the Perspex barrier), which was most noticeable for those band members with in-ears who were keen to hear the orchestra, but ended up with muddy mixes. Being an enclosed room this was always going to be a problem. The simple solution was to turn down the orchestra but I tried to feather those mixes so that there was more of the instruments further from the drum kit and less of those close in order to convey at least an impression of what the orchestra was doing. On the day of the show, the load in was delayed because of issues with getting the truck on the dock – which was the last thing we needed – but somehow we managed to get everything set up and ready in time

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LIVE PROFILE Madness take the stage at Kenwood House

Photos: Daniel Harris and Zach Maharouche

Andy Coules' position behind his Yamaha CL5 desk

for the sound check. We were fortunate to be able to have a full run through of all the songs featuring the orchestra which gave us ample time to make sure everything was functioning as it should. There was still an issue with spill from the drum kit but the risers (which elevated the orchestra behind the band) and the open air stage helped make it manageable. I am both pleased and proud to say that the show went off without a hitch. It sounded fantastic and everyone was really happy with their on-stage sound as well as the overall performance – all of the hours of planning, preparation, practice and perseverance paid off brilliantly. I didn’t really relax until the last song of the set when the orchestra donned fezzes and launched into a spirited rendition of "Night Boat to Cairo", leading to a fireworks display which capped off an intense week and a truly spectacular show. The secret to successfully completing an ambitious project like this will always be to assemble the right team of people. Without the help of Paul, Dennis, Pete, the experience of Ian and the backing of SSE it could quite easily have been a total nightmare, but their combined skill and experience ultimately made it a surprisingly straightforward event. n

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LOCATION RECORDING

www.audiomediainternational.com

SOUNDTRACKS FOR THE SOUL

Colby Ramsey recently spoke to Chiara Luzzana, sound artist, composer, and founder of THE SOUND OF CITY® project about sharing her own personal audio experiences with the world...

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hiara Luzzana learnt the language of sound and music before she even started to speak. As a child she studied guitar, clarinet and piano, but something in that particular method of teaching blocked her creativity. She became an audio engineer in 2005 and as an eclectic artist, was itching to break the rules imposed by musical notation, to create music and visionary soundtracks from the noise around her. An inventor of unusual musical instruments

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and sound sculptures that allow her to create her original compositions, Luzzana is based between her workshops in Milan and Shanghai, and the rest of the world. She is considered a highly innovative and visionary sound designer, and has worked with some of the most important and influential brands on the planet including TEDx, Discovery Channel, Sky and MTV. In 2017, she was the winner of the Muse Creative Award for the “Best Soundtrack”, and this year bagged the accolade for the “Best Sound Project”.

Coming from a family of divorced parents, the solitude of her days was the turning point: “I was five years old and I started to play every object around me to overcome that emptiness, that silence,” Luzzana tells me. “I studied a number of instruments growing up, but that didactic method took away my creativity. I became an audio engineer and started making music just with the noises of everything around me, transforming them into harmony.

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LOCATION RECORDING

“When I decide to accept a project, everything starts with a question: What can I learn? If something doesn't feed me mentally and emotionally, I give up. We are not talking about money, but about personal growth – All my projects start from pure matter and experimentation. One of my recent sound projects is something I designed for Nivea; I played the sound of the skin of over 50 people, and created a soundtrack with the skin's frequencies.” So where did the idea for THE SOUND OF CITY® come from? “At some point in 2010 I was alone and reflecting on the biggest instrument that could possibly be played, and suddenly I heard the soundscape of where I was, mixing with the beats of my heart,” Luzzana explains. Since then, she decided that she wanted to transform the experience of travel into something more – something deeper – and so THE SOUND OF CITY® was born. Starting as a personal project, it has now become somewhat of a worldwide phenomenon, supported by big brands and embassies from around the globe: “We are used to going on vacation – taking millions of photos and videos – but we never stop to listen,” she adds. “The sounds of the cities are our memory.”

The objective of the project is to create a soundtrack for every city in the world based off the pure sound of the city itself, as Luzzana describes, “The main mission is to recognise a city with closed eyes; hearing is our primary sense and it is spontaneous, but as we grow we lose this spontaneity. THE SOUND OF CITY® aims to raise awareness of what we are usually used to just watching.” The uniqueness of the project speaks for itself. While it is easy to record sounds, tuning them into a great soundtrack which describes an entire city is much more complicated: “It is necessary to study what the city would say, as if it were a real person,” Luzzana says. “I am the composer, but I must have an intimate dialogue with the city and truly understand it in order to be able to give it a voice.” Like many in the field, Luzzana has always been a “great fetishist” of perfect sound, building microphones that allow her to record certain frequencies (as well as hidden ones). “I have always found the same meticulousness and precision in Audio-Technica microphones, thanks to which I can achieve exceptional results,” she reveals. “In my studio, and around the world, they are the only reliable companions. I have my

favourite shotgun – the AT897 model – which allows me to record any sound with sensational clarity. It’s even endured great falls and extreme weather conditions, like a hurricane in Tokyo last summer! Another microphone that I always carry with me is the BP4025, which gets me excellent stereo recordings. And then there’s my indestructible headphones to mix both in-studio and on the go, the ATH-R70x. They are a great love of mine.” When it comes to sound design and composition, Luzzana’s mantra goes as follows: “Our lives are an orchestra and we are the director. Everything around us must be tuned to the rhythm of our heart.” Our discussion rounded up with Luzzana offering some of her general thoughts on the world of location/ field recording. “There is certainly a great return to, or perhaps a great turning point in this area of production at the moment,” she says. “If before the soundtracks were dedicated only to the cinema environment, now many of these worldwide brands want their sound ‘sewn on’. It's a great time for audio. Finally managers and creative directors are realising that if they want to touch people's hearts, they have to go through their ears.” n www.thesoundof.city

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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.

www.genelec.com


INTERVIEW

A ROYAL PARTY

Fatboy Slim performs a silent DJ set at Glastonbury 2019

Over the last 10 years, Silent Disco King has been pioneering the use of the world’s best silent disco headphones with its professional wireless solutions at some of the biggest events on the planet, including this year’s Glastonbury festival where they pulled off an impressive collaboration with Cineramageddon and Fatboy Slim. Here, Colby Ramsey sits down for a chat with the company’s director, Paul Gillies... How busy have you been at the moment? It just seems that every year gets busier – which is of course a good thing – but it means you can never quite get comfortable! We’re pretty much doing every major festival now and what’s happening is that people are adding extra days and nights across the board. What we’re doing with the headphones means they don’t need their noise license for those extra days however. We’re having to add headphones at the last minute and at very short notice sometimes so we try and roll with the punches as much as we can, in terms of balancing logistics etc. How did you get involved at Glasto? We first got involved with Glastonbury in 2011. It’s quite a bizarre story really which I remind myself and others of all the time. When we started the business

our first festival was Camp Bestival and having invested in thousands of headphones, I knew we had to get them out to bigger crowds. I didn’t really know where to start so I just went on their website and used the ‘Contact Us’ link. I received a phone call a few weeks later – it just seemed to happen that we sent the email at an opportune time when somebody was talking about different ideas for silent disco, and we got involved in the conversation. Up to that point, silent disco had been a tent with say 500 people, with usually two DJs provided by the silent disco company playing Bon Jovi on one channel and Madonna on the other. People liked the concept but wanted to be a bit more creative with it, so we changed the dynamics a bit at Glastonbury. We had 5,000 headphones which at the time was the biggest silent disco event to date. We had a deposit system

which meant people could wander around and be free with them rather than having to queue to get in and out of the venue. It gave people the freedom that really sits nicely with Glastonbury and we’ve done that ever since. Having a 24-hour opening system so that festival goers could bring their headphones back whenever they want gave us a lot of freedom, and meant we could have two or three different venues on site. We introduced the concept of a three-channel silent disco back in 2012, which was a real breakthrough and made it more about the music rather than just about the two DJs. Through our connections with Glastonbury we’ve become part of a network of people doing really awesome creative things for the better of the business.

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INTERVIEW

www.audiomediainternational.com

Silent Disco King's Paul Gillies

Tell us more about Cineramageddon. Cineramageddon first appeared at Glastonbury in 2017. It’s the world’s biggest drive-in cinema with around 200 cars there, except they don’t actually drive in of course. It’s an art installation and they range from a Rolls Royce that’s been vandalised and a Saab that’s buried in the ground, to military vehicles and even an aeroplane. You can actually spend a good couple of hours walking around and each one has its own story – in fact a lot of them are old half-finished restoration projects! They created a completely new area on one of Glastonbury’s borders for Cineramageddon. It’s got the biggest screen in Europe, but finding a sound solution proved tricky because they couldn’t run films at night, as not to disturb the neighbours. What we’d already started doing – as well as offering a headphone solution – was deploying thousands of 20 or 30W portable speaker systems for the cars that run on the same RF transmission system as the headphones. Finding that balance meant we could run films all night without creating a disturbance. This then throws up all sorts of possibilities, like being able to run films in different languages at the same time, or to have an interactive live director’s commentary.

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To what extent does this open up more opportunities from a business perspective? For years at festivals, silent discos have been the go-to late night entertainment because obviously you’re right next to tents and you haven’t got the amplified bass. What more and more festivals are doing now – because the main weekend days are usually sold out and customers are arriving earlier and earlier – is start trading a whole one or two days earlier than normal, and we have to facilitate that. For example we do Boardmasters in Newquay, Cornwall. They’ve got their noise license from the Friday when the festival starts but because people go to surf and it takes a long time to get there, customers are arriving by Tuesday, and so we have to be on site on Wednesday and Thursday with 20,000 headphones. From a business perspective it makes a lot of sense for festivals because they’ve got an extra day or two of trading. How did the Fatboy Slim DJ set at Glastonbury come about? After seeing Johnny Depp come out at Cineramageddon a couple of years ago, something I’ve learnt about Glastonbury is that when people

throw up these crazy ideas, sometimes they actually happen. In January or February, one of these ideas was that there was going to be a premiere of a new film called Ibiza: The Silent Movie. Fatboy Slim had done the soundtrack for the movie and he was to follow up the premiere with a DJ set. I’m a massive fan myself and so

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INTERVIEW

Cineramageddon at Glastonbury

"Through our connections with Glastonbury we've become part of a network of people doing really awesome creative things for the better of the business"

when I found out I was mega excited. To my mind he was the perfect person to play at the silent disco because he’s a very talented and musical DJ who is also really fun and doesn’t take himself too seriously, which works well for creating the right sort of party. It was one of the most unique ways I’ve ever seen Fatboy playing.

Could you tell us more about the technology itself? After first getting involved with silent disco, I invested in an off-the-shelf system, working with a new company to tweak what was available. If I’m honest at the time I knew very little about RF, frequencies or licensing, but as customers started asking us about how we could push the technology, I realised that I had no choice but to figure it out – there’s no books written on this stuff as such! After understanding a bit more about how radio microphones and in-ear monitors work, we realised that the work we were doing was technically overlapping and there was a lot to be learnt in this regard. This started off a process of developing ideas, coming up with prototypes and pushing the boundaries. By 2015, we’d developed a headphone system where, whilst our headphones looked the same as everything else on the outside, on the inside it’s our own PCBs and unique system that makes it very versatile. This meant that we could now do a 10- or 20-channel silent disco or set the system up in different ways in order to fulfil customer demand and anticipate what the next question will be.

What other areas are you exploring? We’ve done a couple of binaural projects with Sennheiser, an area where we’re providing our products to offer more immersive audio experiences. A lot of what we do is try to make technical stepping stones that allow creatives – whether that be the artists or musicians – to do things that have never been done before. The exciting but slightly scary thing is that we don’t know what’s going to come next until it happens! While Glastonbury has always been the peak of our year, more recently we’ve had bigger events come along. August has of course become a really busy month for us. We do Boardmasters and ArcTanGent, which is a great alternative music event. A big one for us this year was Lowlands Festival in The Netherlands, which had 30,000 headphones – the most headphones at any event ever in the world I believe. Then there's Reading and Leeds, where we do four separate venues across the two sites over four nights. No matter what the size though, there’s always something to love about each festival! n www.silentdiscoking.com

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PRODUCT REVIEW

www.audiomediainternational.com

AVID PRO TOOLS 2019 Stephen Bennett rounds up all the latest and greatest features from the industry standard Digital Audio Workstation...

SOFTWARE/DAW

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few months ago, I resurrected a 1989 Digidesign Sound Tools system. This piece of audio technology history consisted of a piece of audio hardware coupled to the Sound Designer II software, which allowed the user to perform the almost unheard-of manipulation and editing of digital recordings at CD quality via hard disk streaming. The software under review here, Avid Pro Tools 2019, is the thirty-year anniversary great-grandchild of that venerable system. Pro Tools itself has been part of the audio establishment since 1991 and the fact that it continues to earn the epithet ‘industry standard’ is testament to the software’s features and stability and, if you work in any kind of professional capacity, you will be using Pro Tools somewhere along the line. One of the things that has helped Pro Tools maintain this position is that updates to the programme have been incremental. Avid don’t throw in dozens of

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untested new features in each update, but develop the program slowly over time – though there have been one or two major upheavals, including the move to ‘native’ processing. This can prove frustrating for users, but it does mean that you can reliably use Pro Tools in the most demanding of situations without worrying if it will fall over – imagine having to debug some problem or other with a radical new feature at the dubbing stage of a major motion picture days from release. Avid has changed nomenclature for their software updates, so we now have a date rather than a version number – 12 was the last of those. While this does make sense as Avid have moved to a subscription system, it does mean for those who like to keep their software around for a while (the ‘perpetual’ purchase option) the new naming system is a constant reminder how out of date your software is! But it does also mean that it is much more likely that users will keep Pro Tools up to date, which can only streamline support and release resources for development of the software itself.

Key Features     

Double your MIDI track count Create more fluidly during playback Name tracks faster Support for macOS Mojave Get easy multiseat licensing

SRP: From $249 per subscription www.avid.com Pro Tools is available in several flavours to suit budgets and applications. The free Pro Tools | First allows new users to see what all the fuss is about; Pro Tools offers the industry-standard program and Pro Tools | Ultimate unlocks the most advanced tools. The latter, as you may expect, offers more audio, MIDI, Aux, Video and Instrument tracks and more inputs.

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PRODUCT REVIEW You also get more extra content, such as extra plugins and sounds, and access to immersive audio mixing capabilities like Dolby Atmos and Ambisonics. Which version you choose depends upon your application and the attached audio hardware you have, but both can record audio at up to 192 kHz with 32-bit dynamic range resolution. You’ll need an iLok account to authorise Pro Tools, but you can use the former’s cloud feature, so you don’t require an iLok dongle (to potentially lose!) and use the software. There have been some changes since the 2018 version – reviewed in AMI in April 2018 – and version 2019 now supports up to 1024 MIDI tracks. It once looked, with the move to In the Box (ITB) workflows that MIDI as an independent protocol via the 5-pin DIN socket was on the way out. However, the move to USB over MIDI and the resurgence in MIDI controlled hardware instruments and processors – not to mention controllers and complex orchestral libraries that require MIDI control – has meant that the venerable protocol has one again taken centre stage in audio production duties, so this increase will be welcomed by soundtrack composers and musicians. As is usual, the number of audio tracks available decreases as the sample rate increases, but 128 and 384 tracks at 48kHz and 32 and 96 at 192kHz for Pro Tools and Pro Tools | Ultimate respectively should prove adequate for most audio duties. If you require more audio tracks, you can upgrade the voice counts of Pro Tools | Ultimate at extra cost or move to Pro Tools | HDX with its associated hardware.

previously only available to Ultimate users. Although an extra cost option, Heat is often part of the reason many people say they prefer the ‘sound’ of Pro Toolsderived mixes, so it’s a welcome tool in the arsenal of non-Ultimate Tool-ists (as I’ve decided to call them). There have been a lot of ‘tweaks’ to Pro Tools 2019 that, depending on your application, will be either game-changing or relatively unimportant. Simple things, like improving the ease in which Tracks can be

“Simple things, like improving the ease in which Tracks can be named, can improve workflow no end” One of the most important issues for us Mac users is that Pro Tools 2019 is now Mojave compatible. For those not used to the Pro Tools way of doing things you may be wondering why Avid has taken so long to support an operating system that is just about to be superseded by Catalina. But Avid know their market well and professional composers and dubbing engineers rarely live on the cutting edge, technologywise, with system stability a more important criterion than being ‘first’. This compatibility is welcome however and Pro Tools 2018 was very stable on my ageing Mac Pro as well as feeling significantly snappier and more effective of resource use. The ‘basic’ Pro Tools now supports Avid’s well respected Heat ‘analog’ emulation plugin that was

named, can improve workflow no end, so it’s good to see that Avid has addressed this in the latest upgrade. HD Native is now Thunderbolt compatible on Windows and you can adjust more features in real-time without any interruption of workflow. The Timeline can be adjusted without interrupting playback or external MIDI device data streams and creating new Tracks, modifying sends and inserts no longer impedes your workflow. Avid’s collaborative Link feature is now integrated into Pro Tools, as is support for networkbased multi-seat site licensing. Improvements in performance have also been introduced for those working with HDX and HD native Pro Tools systems. One of the reasons that Avid has moved to a subscription model is that they can roll out updates

and bug-fixes more frequently and there has been quite a few since version 2018 was introduced. These include Track Presets to allow the user to save and recall configurations, MIDI chord analysis, integration of the previously optional MachineControl – for the control of hardware such as the Sony 9-pin, VideoMedia V-LAN, and non-linear video recorders/players – and various other optimisations and enhancements. This incremental upgrade and update procedure will allow Avid to bring in new features in a stable and predictable fashion – though it does mean that it’s more difficult for the company to announce each version with a great fanfare! As for usage, Pro Tools was installed, work was done in the familiar Avid fashion, and without any crashes or other incidents that sometimes get in the way with new versions of software from rival DAWs. This is just as it should be. We’ve come a long way since Digidesign’s first steps into the audio editing world, but Pro Tools is still at the top of its game and, with the HDX hardware, Avid is continuing a trend set so long ago by Sound Tools. For those on subscription, 2019 will be automatically delivered to your digital door. For the rest of us, it’s never too late to enter the reassuring world of Pro Tools. ■

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

STEALTH SONICS C9 Andy Coules is impressed by these powerful in-ear monitors from Singapore-based manufacturer Stealth Sonics...

IEMS

S

tealth Sonics is a company founded by a group of audiologists, engineers and musicians almost 10 years ago in Singapore and has been serving the audio needs of musicians, audio professionals, audiophiles and patients in South East Asia ever since. Having established themselves in that market their stated aim is to bring their knowledge and expertise in precision tuned in-ear monitors (IEMs) to the whole world, which is how I came to hear about them. Their approach is unique insofar as they combine innovations in the medical, music, acoustics and aerospace fields to create IEMs that not only strive to produce the highest sonic accuracy but also afford hearing protection and reduce aural fatigue. They offer two main product ranges, Universal and Custom, the former being off the shelf generic IEMs

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and the latter being custom moulded. Both lines come in two, four and nine driver varieties and it was the custom moulded nine-driver model, the C9, that I got to grips with. The process involved the usual visit to an audiologist to get impressions taken (with exacting requirements to include the full helix and to go beyond the 2nd bend of the ear canal) which were then sent off to Singapore. They offer an impressive range of colours for the shells, including the usual glitter options and for the faceplates there is much to choose from including metallic, glitter, various patterns and wood effects. I know a lot of people like to choose different colours for each IEM to help differentiate which one goes where but for those who like to have matching IEMs they offer the option to put your name on the inside of the shell in different colours (typically red for right and blue for left) which is

Key Features    

Isolation: -32dB Frequency response: 18Hz - 40kHz Sensitivity: 108dB SOK @ 1mW Impedence: 16 Ohms @ 1kHz

RRP: $1499 www.stealthsonics.com not seen once they’re inserted. This is a nice touch and as someone who’s worked with live acts using a high number of IEMs, having the names written on them is a fantastic idea.

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PRODUCT REVIEW

“They present the audio without adding anything and as such they act as excellent reference monitors”

The science behind the IEMs is explained in detail on their website using a range of trademarked titles which emphasise the use of precision techniques and proprietary technology. For instance, Iso-Stealth refers to the fact that they work with an international network of approved audiologists to ensure the ear canal impressions are precise enough to position the IEM as close to the eardrum as possible, enabling consistent sound at lower SPLs with less ear cavity interference. SonicFLO Acoustics takes advantage of aerospace industry knowledge and fluid dynamics research to improve airflow performance as well as ensure optimum sound isolation in a range of environments (the custom IEMs claim isolation of -36dB). Stealth Damping employs extra large bores and venting features that preserve airflow while managing resonance to produce a tight low end without boominess. Stealth Kompozit refers to the composite material and medical grade lacquer which produces an IEM that is soft but resilient and rugged yet snug with a durable and water resistant fit, enabling them to be worn comfortably for long periods if need be. Then there’s the Klarity valve, which is a one way valve designed to release the pressure build up in the ears that occurs after long term use of IEMs which results in ear fatigue. Last but not least is the Ultra Hard Impact Shell which is designed to withstand pressures arising from accidental dropping and is backed up by a video of some IEMs being dropped from a great height (and surviving).

When I first popped them in I noticed the isolation is indeed good, comparable to a decent pair of memory foam ear plugs but without the rapid drop off in the top end, suggesting that even when unplugged they would function well as ear defenders. My first test was to listen to pre-recorded material and I was instantly impressed by the clear and precise sound. The top end is crisp, the middle well balanced without being aggressive and the bottom end remarkably tight and precise. If anything they quickly revealed flaws in the listening material, not to mention the playback device so I switched from my phone to my Astell & Kern player and soon found myself seeking out recordings known for their high production values. I ended up listening to the 24 bit 96kHz uncompressed WAV files that I use for critical reference listening and it was only then that I fully appreciated the sheer clarity and precision of the sound. I next listened to live instruments in a gig setting and the sound was as consistently good as I expected it to be; on a wireless connection it revealed the limitations of FM transmission a bit too readily but that’s not really the sort of thing most people would notice. At one point I turned them up as loud as I was prepared to go – the quality remained consistent and didn’t even start to break up in any way. Overall the sound is superb with very little colouration, the frequency response is impressively flat at all volume levels and the balance is nicely even. They present the audio without adding anything and as such they act as

excellent reference monitors. The two most common uses of high end in-ear monitors are critical listening to recorded material (usually during the recording process) or for on-stage monitoring of live performances. I would say that the C9s perform better in the former role than the latter – the flat response, clarity across the frequency spectrum and crisp bottom end make them excellent in this role. When I spoke to Raj at Stealth Sonics he confirmed that the nine-driver model is more flat and designed for engineers and studio work whereas the four-driver model is aimed at musicians who want a more “punchy” sound. This is not to say that the C9s are no good on the live stage; in many ways they’re superior to most of the alternatives out there but some people may prefer something a little bit “warmer”. I would certainly be happy using them in both environments as they’re superior to any other IEMs I’ve tried. ■

The Reviewer Andy Coules is a sound engineer and audio educator who has toured the world with a diverse array of acts in a wide range of genres.

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PRODUCT REVIEW

www.audiomediainternational.com

SSL FUSION Simon Allen gets his hands on this all-analogue stereo outboard processor created for the modern hybrid studio...

F

usion is Solid State Logic’s debut product when it was bought by Audiotonix at the end of 2017. While Audiotonix are clearly home to some of the most reputable console brands, the acquisition was certainly a surprise to the industry. What’s more, this isn’t a new console, or in fact a neatly packaged, but well-known SSL Dynamics or EQ processor. Fusion is a completely new product for SSL and joins a very limited product category available today. With the huge weight that the SSL brand carries in the pro audio world, the team behind any new product wearing the logo will almost certainly feel a massive amount of responsibility. Add the fact that the unit is manufactured in China and not Oxford, England, and you could say this was a brave move. Time to put it to the test, to see if the inevitable hard work that’s gone into Fusion has paid off.

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FUSE-WHAT? Sure enough there are several hardware processors available in outboard form which could be considered for bus processing. However, the processors found on board Fusion aren’t entirely typical or usually found packaged together. The processors aren’t classic SSL tools, but do hark to the SSL heritage with modern mixing workflows in mind. Having had time to learn about Fusion and experiment with it myself, I can only think of one other product available which could be considered similar. Yet even that offers “analogue colour processing” in a different way, making this a fairly unique product. If you came here to read about the famous SSL bus compressor, then I’m afraid you came to the wrong place. I respect the R&D team for not tampering with such iconic devices. However, should you wish to include a hardware SSL bus compressor in your processing chain,

OUTBOARD PROCESSOR

Key Features n Vintage Drive – non-linear harmonic enhancement circuit n Violet EQ – minimum phase-shift, two-band shelving EQ n High Frequency Compressor n Stereo Image enhancer n SSL Transformer circuit RRP: £1798.80 www.solidstatelogic.com then they’ve even provided an insert point. While “Stereo Analogue Colour Processor” might be a mouthful, it does very accurately describe what’s on offer here. Let’s take a look at the parameters.

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PRODUCT REVIEW

There are five main sections to Fusion, laid out in the default processing order, which can be altered along with some additional system settings such as bypass behaviour. On the far left there is an input trim and high-pass filter. HPF available settings are; off, 30Hz, 40Hz and 50Hz. Perhaps it would have been nice to see a 20Hz setting, but it’s really powerful especially for in-the-box mixers to have an analogue HPF with an 18dB/octave curve. The first main process is the “Vintage Drive” section, which sports a tri-colour LED for level indication. There are two controls; a self-explanatory Drive control and a Density setting. This process is a non-linear saturation circuit designed with two characteristics; giving added harmonics as well as a soft saturated compression effect. The Density setting allows you to control the character of Drive, where a setting in the middle blends between both styles. Vintage Drive offers a great selection of sounds that aren’t overpowering but effective. Next up is SSL’s new Violet EQ. This is a minimum phase-shift, two-band shelving EQ. You can boost or cut frequencies by up to 9dB at 30Hz, 50Hz, 70Hz or 90Hz for the low end, and 8kHz, 12kHz, 16kHz and 20kHz for the top end. Somewhat suitably, this is then followed by a HF Compression section. As the name suggests, this can be used to reduce any harshness in the top end. It almost encourages you to push the high-shelf of the Violet EQ a little further, and then tame any spiky elements for a clear and polished sound. There are two controls available as part of the HF Compressor; Threshold and X-Over Frequency, as well as another tri-coloured LED for level indication. The following process is a M/S style process. Here you can boost or lower the sides to widen or narrow the stereo image with the “Width” control. It also has a “Space” control which allows you to either pull the low end into the middle

or even push the low end energy out to the sides. I felt it had quite a unique sound and was very easy to judge the best setting, which I believe is always a good test. All these sections can be individually bypassed, or globally bypassed. There is an output control which helps adjust the output level post processing, to aid in better AB comparisons. A clear output level meter is found on the far right, as well as buttons for engaging the external insert point and processing orders. Finally, there is a custom transformer that can be switched in or out at the end of the signal chain. Designed to provide that much looked for transformer “edge” to the sound, you can choose to either use it or not. I personally found the transformer certainly added some presence to the high end, yet didn’t seem to add much at the low end. As a complete solution however, this feature compliments the other processes well.

FUSE-WHO? While all the sections that make up Fusion are new designs that don’t repurpose any legacy circuitry, it is a very intuitive and self-explanatory unit to use. I really like the design and choice of colours which make the unit look and feel like a classic SSL piece of hardware. I also don’t have any concerns over the “made in China” sticker, as the build quality is excellent. The choice of processors inside Fusion are really clever, delivering a unit that’s creative and in line with modern sound and production, while not being OTT. Think of it as a hardware version of a modern stereo bus plugin that’s trying to emulate that all-desirable analogue character. This is an analogue unit – very much in line with that well known SSL sound – and I’m really impressed with the ideas and execution behind it. The unit could be used as part of a studio’s wider

collection of analogue equipment, or as your only piece of hardware for running entire mixes, buses or individual tracks through. I can certainly see many mix engineers really enjoying this unit as I have done. It should reduce some processing often required in-the-box, used to achieve an analogue feel. Mastering engineers will also love the variety of sounds available, but without stepped controls it might not be suited to every workflow.

CONCLUSION If Fusion is a sign of things to come from Audiotonix’ acquisition of SSL, then exciting times are ahead. There appears to be the right level of injection from wider marketing and R&D teams, while still retaining a very conscious eye on the heritage and awe-inspiring brand itself. Now digital workflows are well established and modern production has changed, we might see more analogue gear such as Fusion brought in to complement these new workflows. Fusion is a wonderful accompaniment to a digital diet and certainly receives my seal of approval. Perhaps it will even go full circle one day, and we’ll see a plugin emulation of Fusion, just as we have with other pieces of “classic gear”. n

The Reviewer Simon Allen is a freelance internationally recognised engineer/ producer and pro audio professional with two decades of experience. Working mostly in music, he holds a strong reputation as a mix & FOH engineer.

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PRODUCT REVIEW

RØDE WIRELESS GO Jerry Ibbotson works out the kinks with this compact wireless microphone system...

Key Features

MICROPHONES

n Ultra-compact form factor n Digital 2.4GHz transmission n 70m line-of-sight range n Dual-purpose clip-mount RRP: £199 www.rode.com

T

his is showing my age, but do you remember Sony’s original Walkman Pro cassette recorder? This little baby was beloved of radio documentary makers in the days before DAT, Minidisc and then solid state. It might not have had the ultimate quality of a reel-to-reel Nagra but you could put it in your coat pocket. It’s come to mind just now because I’m mulling over the very blurry line between pro and consumer kit. A cynical radio station engineer once told me that things like the Sony were professional because they’d been painted black and had the word “Professional” written on them. So where does gear like RØDE’s Wireless Go fit in? It’s a wireless microphone system that is tailored towards DSLR shooters (a corner of the market I’ve looked at quite a few times in AMI over the years). It’s easy to use but claims to offer excellent results, so is it professional or consumer? And does it matter anyway? The kit comes in a neatly packaged box, akin to a new phone. Slide it open and you get the small receiver, the combined mic/TX, an audio lead and two USB C charge cables. There is also a pair of small, clip-on windshields for the microphone (one to wear and one for spare). The initial instructions are minimal: there is an illustrated quick guide on the box, but further information can be downloaded from RØDE. You turn each of the units on by pressing a soft-touch button. The TX has two blue lights that show that the battery is charged and that it’s

connected to the receiver. It also has a socket to plug in an optional lavalier mic (on a 3.5mm TRS minijack). Of course, there’s also the built in omni-directional condenser microphone, which I assume most users will go for. On the identically sized receiver is a small, colour LED screen which shows the amount of charge in the batteries of both units, the signal strength between the two (the 2.4gHz transmission system claims a range of 70m, line of sight) and the audio output level to the camera or recorder. This is adjusted via a three-stage control on the bottom of the receiver. The built-in mic has a maximum SPL of 100dB and a frequency range from 50Hz to 20kHz. It’s designed to be clipped onto clothing like a conventional personal mic, except it’s a small square slab, rather than a microphone. But there is, of course, no wiring leading anywhere. It may well be visible to the camera/viewer but it’s small and neat enough to be barely noticeable. On test, I opted to use it with an audio recorder rather than a camera, as I wanted to be better able to monitor the sound and also wanted the recording quality to be as strong as possible (my SLR is competent with sound but not much better). I used my Roland R26 which has, amongst other things, a minijack input. With everything hooked up, the first thing I noticed was the strength of the audio signal coming through to the Roland – a promising sign. I set the recorder going, pulled off my headphones and went for a wander with the mic unit clipped to my shirt, just below my chin. I left the room and chatted as I walked about. The recording was excellent. The mic has a very strong

sound to it and didn’t show any signs of picking up rattle as I moved around. Even when I was in another room, there was no drop-out and the level and quality were consistently good. Given this is running on a wireless system, I might have expected some deficiencies but there weren’t any. The Wireless Go is not aimed at sound recordists working on big budget productions in film or TV. Its target users are vloggers, YouTubers, onstage presenters and the like, and for them it offers a one-box solution to better audio. Given the number of YouTube videos my kids have made me endure where the mic is clearly camera mounted and several feet from the presenter, I’d say it would instantly improve most recorders by several hundred per cent. It’s a novel approach, putting the mic and transmitter together, and for those target users it should be a great addition to their arsenal of kit. It’s more visible than a small personal mic but I don’t think that would be an issue to the final audience in these circumstances. Plus there is always the option of using a separate lavalier. RØDE have done it again. They seem to have singlehandedly colonised the world of prosumer audio kit with more and more products that offer quality sound without the cost, faff and intimidating complexity of higher end gear. I can think of a number of uses for the Wireless Go beyond those I’ve already listed and certainly away from just video sound. If you need a small wireless mic solution that’s literally press-and-go, it’s worth a look. n

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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BACKBEAT

www.audiomediainternational.com

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 owner of Kent-based Rimshot Studio, Mike Thorne... What do you do? I’m an audio engineer, musician, producer and studio owner. I work out of Rimshot Studio in Kent. For the last 10 years, my workload has been split evenly between mastering for several labels and producers (which I love doing), tracking and mixing – hopefully not in a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none” way! Despite the perceived wisdom of only focusing on one specialism, for me, each area has informed the other and so far, it seems to be working. I also still tour as a musician, which has been essential, both to bringing in work to the studio and just to stay sane! Recording can sometimes be quite a pressured and lonely business and so getting out and about is good for staying positive. How did you get into the industry? There’s never been a time when I thought about doing anything other than playing or recording music. When I was nine and started playing trombone and drums, I was hooked. I was the geeky kid who borrowed the school 4-track on weekends and recorded local bands. I left school at 18 and started touring around Europe and when I wasn’t on the road I assisted at some local studios. But I’m pretty much self taught and Rimshot Studio was partly a “build it and they will come” project – completely the wrong way to go about things, but, despite the odds, it’s working well – we’ve just had our best year ever and word keeps spreading. What are some of your credits? Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of recording and mixing (in 5.1) the soundtrack for Henry Blake’s film County

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Lines, for composer James Pickering. The film’s been shortlisted for several festivals and is doing really well. I’ve just mastered The Brand New Heavies’ album, featuring N’Dea produced by Tristan Longworth for Acid Jazz. Other mastering projects have included some brilliant albums for producer Andy Lewis, including for French Boutik, Catenary Wires and Mark Butcher, plus an EP produced by Josh Philips and Dennis Weinreich for a fantastic band called The Severs. Recording or mixing-wise, I recently finished recording an album for Resolution 88 – a fantastic band run by ace Fender Rhodes player, Tom O’Grady. We tracked it all on two-inch and everything was completely live in the studio – really exciting! I also had the privilege of recording and mixing tracks for Slovakian band IMT Smile which turned out great. Italian band Il Senato also recorded recently with Fay Hallam and Andy Lewis. Rimshot has a good sized live room that sounds great for acoustic instruments and because of that, I do a lot of string and brass sessions for several broadcasters, composers and libraries. What is your favourite item of audio gear and why? My pair of EAR 660 valve limiters designed and built by Tim de Paravicini – I’ve had them for nearly 14 years and they’re just brilliant. Great for mastering (just running audio through Tim’s transformers sounds huge), recording and mixing – they really are the definition of a “make it better” box. I’ll often ride the gain into them using the input knob when recording vocals – there’s a sweet spot where everything just sounds like a record.

What are some of the challenges that you face in your job? Making time to work on my business, not just in it! Sowing seeds for future work can be tricky, especially if you have several back-to-back months of tracking sessions and tight deadlines. Other than that - probably the same as everyone else’s - managing cash flow, remembering to buy cat food and some kind of work/life balance. The actual time spent in the studio working on music is the easy bit! What was your favourite project and why? The projects I remember most tend to be because of the people involved. Working as an audio engineer or touring musician means that you’re working closely and intensely with people for a relatively short period of time – weeks or months – and that usually develops into a tight-knit group and some great friendships. What industry professional inspired you the most to do what you do? My trombone teacher, Alan Hutt. One of his favourite phrases whenever I was struggling to play or practice something technical was “think music” and I keep coming back to that, even after 30 years – it applies to recording and mixing just as much as playing an instrument. What’s the best bit of advice you can give anyone trying to break into the industry? Nothing specific relating to the music industry – it seems that everyone’s journey is different. But for life in general, developing an abundance mindset, thinking long-term and treating people the way you’d like to be treated. They might be clichés but that doesn’t make them untrue! ■

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PROFESSIONAL

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