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Composer Sean Callery ★ Producer/
Artist Lido ★ Classic Track: Chicago’s ’25 or 6 to 4’
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MUSIC PRODUCTION • LIVE SOUND • SOUND FOR PICTURE
SONIC FARM XCALIBUR JC PREAMP JOECO CELLO AUDIO INTERFACE AUDIONAMIX INSTANT DIALOGUE CLEANER
>TECH FEATURE P.A. SYSTEMS
NO STOPPING LINDA PERRY A PASSION FOR MUSIC, THE EAR OF AN ENGINEER, AND A FIERCE SENSE OF WHAT’S RIGHT
Photo: Todd Berkowitz
Volume 43, Number 7
38 Technology Spotlight:
Lido and the Influence of Rick Rubin
BY LILY MOAYERI
18 Studio News & Notes:
ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO BY LILY MOAYERI
36 Classic Tracks: “25 or 6 to 4, Chicago’s Guitar, Horns, Vocal Masterpiece BY MATT HURWITZ
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Farm Xcalibur JC Preamp/Saturator BY BARRY RUDOLPH
Audio Interface BY MIKE LEVINE
48 Review: Audionamix
BY ROBYN FLANS
BY ROBYN FLANS
40 New Products: Studio and Live 42 Review: Sonic
46 Review: JoeCo Cello
26 On the Cover: The Indomitable Linda Perry 30 Composer Sean Callery: From ‘La Femme Nikita’ to ‘24’ to ‘Homeland’
P.A. Systems and Products
Instant Dialogue Cleaner BY MICHAEL COOPER
50 Back Page Blog: 20 Class of 2019 Redux: Studio Bandrika
21 Class of 2019 Redux: Studio Chateau Noir
22 Live! LEON and a Sense of Soul BY TODD BERKOWITZ
12 From the Editor 14 Current: Kevin Becka, 1954-2019 49 Marketplace
Studio and Live BY MIKE LEVINE AND STEVE LA CERRA On the Cover: Songwriter/artist/producer/engineer/label head and now community builder Linda Perry has recently collaborated with the likes of Dolly Parton and Natasha Bedingfield, while also developing new artists and building a music space for kids in the San Fernando Valley. Photo: Kristin Burns. Mix, Volume 43, Number 7 (ISSN 0164-9957) is published monthly by Future US, Inc., 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036. Periodical Postage Paid at New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Mix, PO Box 8518, Lowell, MA 01853. One-year (12 issues) subscription is $35. Canada is $40. All other international is $50. Printed in the USA. Canadian Post Publications Mail agreement No. 40612608. Canada return address: BleuChip International, P.O. Box 25542, London, ON N6C 6B2.
Vol. 43 No. 7
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Current From the Editor
The Spirit of Independence I’ve only met Linda Perry once, and it was for no more than two or three board and play with sound, and the rebellious Linda who has no problem minutes last January at NAMM. I had stopped in to a fourth floor Hilton speaking her mind to the industry and record label powers that be (typically ballroom for the annual Producers & Engineers Wing lunch, hosted by male) or an artist who seems a little too comfortable with compromise. As Maureen Droney as a means of bringing together the manufacturing and she says near the end, “I’m the one you want on your side if you’re going creative communities to address legislation, philanthropy, standards and to war. I’m not that good at peace.” all kinds of issues related to professional audio. She’s talking about rock and roll, about truth in music and artists who I walked around the room, greeting longtime friends, and spotted are willing to take risks. As I said, I only met her for a few minutes in person, producer/engineer Rafa Sardina a few bodies away. He was going to be but I can’t help but think that some of that spirit comes from her formative sitting for the March cover of Mix the following week, so I went over years in San Francisco from the mid-‘80s to mid-‘90s. I moved to the Bay to thank him and see if everything was set. As I squeezed past EveAnna Area in 1985. Believe me, it was a happening place at a happening time, with Manley and Phil Wagner, I saw that Rafa was chatting with a woman and the emergence of the first wave of Tech and the first hints of affordable showing pictures from his phone. I waited, and synths and samplers. Along with plenty of rock. I thought to myself, “She looks familiar. I’m “It was a time of experimentation, the "I had figured that Linda pretty sure that’s Linda Perry...” first real democratization of recording,” says Perry was a hitmaker for I leaned in during a pause and said to Rafa, Leslie Ann Jones, an engineer at the Automatt pop stars who could put an “So, you excited to be on the cover of Mix? Are during the time. “There was a real sense of artist over the top. Yes, she we all set up?” We did the one-arm man hug, independence and freedom, with the freedom has done that, but no, no, and he assured me that he was excited and all to explore and not be typecast. There was no. That’s not her, as you was good. At which point, the woman he was certainly a shifting narrative toward female will find out in Robyn Flans’ talking to, standing no more than five feet tall empowerment.” excellent cover story." in a taut, strong frame with a tall hat and tattoos “There was definitely a scene at the time, from head to toe, looked right at me and said, with local bands like The Contractions and “When am I gonna get my cover, Tom?” Her smile was wry and wide, her D’Cuckoo, June Millington and a lot of others,” adds longtime friend and eyes large and open and penetrating. It was both charming and disarming former Mix editor Linda Jacobson. “Not just LGBT. It was vibrant in the at the same time. I simply said, “Whenever you agree to sit down for an clubs everywhere—South of Market, the Mission, the Haight, Broadway. interview, Linda.” To a lot of people, that spirit and edge proved something of a precursor to Walking away, I figured it was 50-50 whether the cover ever happened. what would become grunge in Seattle.” I also realized that I knew next to nothing about her. I’m sure that much of Linda Perry’s independent spirit was there at Fast-forward to April, and I get a call from Lisa Roy. The cover story is birth, along with her musical ear. But for a young rocker coming of age on. Linda wants to do it. It was time to do some more research, something and finding a voice, San Francisco was a good place to be. I think she’s beyond what I knew about 4 Non Blondes, Pink, Christina, Gwen, Adele done all right. and all the others. I had figured that she was a hitmaker for pop stars, a songwriter and producer who could put an artist over the top and bring fans streaming by the millions. Yes, she has done that, but no, no, no. That’s not her, as you will find out in Robyn Flans’ excellent cover story. In editing the interview, I kept bouncing back and forth between the Tom Kenny serious, industry-insider Linda who starts labels and loves to sit at the Editor, Mix
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Current // news & notes Kevin Becka, 1954-2019 The Mix family lost a dear friend and colleague in late May when longtime technical editor Kevin Becka passed away after a brief bout with cancer. He was 65. The many years with Mix, where he assigned, wrote and edited product previews, new product announcements and technology trends, represented only a small portion of Kevin’s rich and varied life in audio. In the mid-1970s he left Phoenix as a guitar player and headed for Los Angeles. He was attracted to recording and developed his engineering skills, working with the likes of artists George Benson, Natalie Cole, Kenny G and Quincy Jones, and engineer Mick Guzauski. He built studios with new friends, engineers Dave Rideau and Erik Zobler. He got to know people all over town. In the mid-1990s he left L.A. for Nashville, then D,C., where he began his journalism career with Audio Media. He joined Mix in 2003, brought onto the team after an introduction through another of his longtime friends, Mix editor Sarah Jones. He worked part-time (though he had the output of a full-timer!) while at his new gig as an educator at the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences back in Phoenix. In 2013 he began what he would consider the “culmination of everything I’ve learned in audio” when he helped launch The Blackbird Academy in Nashville as co-director with Mark Rubel, under the guidance of owner John McBride. A Kevin Becka Scholarship will soon be set up in his honor. But on a personal note, Kevin was a friend. I would stay in his house in Nashville and witness up close the rest of his life, which he shared with his wonderful wife, Helen, and her two sons, Marshall and Connor. He and Helen regularly fostered dogs, many of them his beloved Pomeranians, and they worked with local animal rescue organizations. In his final days, Leo,
Producers/engineers/lifelong friends, from left, Dave Rideau, Erik Zobler and Kevin Becka during a 2018 bike trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise funds for a Blackbird Academy student who had been paralyzed the previous year while riding home from class.
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Kevin Becka in spring 2019, with Leo, the most recent foster dog adopted by he and his wife, Helen. Leo would not leave the bed once during Becka’s final two days.
the family’s most recent rescue, would not leave his bed no matter how much Helen insisted. He was an avid cyclist, and in 2018 coordinated a fundraising ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to support a Blackbird Academy student who had become paralyzed while riding home from school the previous year and being hit by texting driver. Kevin loved gadgets, especially consumer tech, and regularly would have something new to show off, like his new living room lights controlled by his iPhone, offering 4096 hues. Or the new Zoom camera when it first appeared. Or his soundbar. Or his new pocket amp for high-quality desktop listening on the go. He also liked fine wine. And with each new discovery, he would take great joy in talking about it, One of his signature catch-phrases, which he likely didn’t even realize, was, “Hey, check this out…” No product was too big or too small. I think that’s what ultimately led him to teaching and what made him such a great instructor. He loved to share things he had learned. And he was good at it. While at Mix, that meant new products for an audience he that he was proud to be a part of. While at Blackbird, that meant a true commitment to educating the next generation of engineers, ones who would share his enthusiasm for the art and science of recording. Kevin, my friend, that happened too soon and too fast. I already miss your bald head and the way you could giggle like a 13-year-old, never faltering in your enthusiasm for life and what came with each new day. Love you, brother. n —Tom Kenny
Music Lido in Producer’s Paradise Finding His Voice by Blending the Old With the New By Lily Moayeri
hangri-La is the perfect name for Rick Rubin’s storied studio. Situated in the far reaches of Malibu, it is more of a hideaway than anything else. With its minimalist, frankly bare décor, you can walk through empty room leading into more empty rooms and wonder when or which of these blank canvases might become an actual studio. Lido, who is signed to Rubin’s publishing company, American Songs, and is an established musician, songwriter and producer in his own right, comes here to (re)gain perspective. “It’s so
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quiet,” he says, “It’s a very inspiring place to be.” The Norwegian-born Lido, who is known as Peder Losnegård to his family, has been staying at Shangri-La for the past week. He is working on his next artist album, the follow-up to his 2016 debut, Everything. The as-yet-untitled project fleshes out the ideas of his most recent EPs, IOU1 and IOU2. These EPs are only the latest in a string of releases with Lido as the main artist, as well as many records with Lido as vocalist or songwriter or producer. You can hear his work on albums
by Chance the Rapper, Halsey, or Jaden Smith, to name just a few. At 26, Lido’s resume reads as though he been working for as many years as he has been alive. “Everybody that comes to me has one thing in common: they want something different,” says Lido, who can see rabbits gamboling outside the window from his setup in an ocean-view room, one of the few at Shangri-La that has an elaborate studio layout. “Everything I do with artists is always pushing them a little bit in terms of their comfort zone and their usual sound. People come
Photo: Charles-Edouard Dangelser
Lido during a quiet moment, working on his vocal at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La Studios.
Photo: Charles-Edouard Dangelser
Lido in his temporary studio setup at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La Studios.
to me when they want to experiment.” Lido initially received attention for his bootleg remix mash-ups of popular songs, but his strongest suits are chords, harmonies and sound design. He credits his father for these traits, as Losnegård Sr. is an aficionado of gospel and soul music. During Lido’s formative years, his father put together an independent choir and started a gospel festival in Norway. “I make the music that I make because of my dad,” Lido says. “I wanted to do things that he would like or were cool to him. I would take gospel songs, old soul songs, Steely Dan records, things that he would listen to, mess with them and make them mine. There was a lot of that early on. That’s probably why gospel music is still so incredibly close to my heart, deep down somewhere, because of my dad.” This background, plus the fact that he plays keys and drums. gives Lido an advantage over other producers. When an artist comes to him wanting to change everything in the song except the topline, instead of switching the drum or bass, Lido will change chords or reharmonize. His focus is on what supports a song by preserving the melody and the best parts of the vocal performance. “Working with an artist is a lot of psychology,” says Lido. “It’s making the person comfortable and inspired and confident and keeping them on track, but at the same time, letting them do their thing. It’s also sociology, like what scenarios they work best in. I usually spend time with the artist before actually making music to figure out who I’m dealing with and how we can make the
best music. “Rick [Rubin] once told me, ‘There are two types of artists—the ones that believe in themselves too much and the ones that don’t believe in themselves enough. You have to figure out which one they are and support them in the way they need.’” When he’s working on his own material, Lido uses this time to learn more about himself rather than achieving a defined goal. Because of this, both the process and the result are unpredictable. He uses his EPs as “pivot moves.” That is, when he wants to showcase another aspect of his talents or a different style or genre, he’ll release an EP that highlights that. Spacesuit with J’von, for example, illustrates his abilities in soulful, organic hip hop. Or he might release a series of EPs that follow a trajectory toward a new space. He did this with the IOU EPs to transition himself into the position of vocalist, a role he fully embraced on his upcoming album. Albums, on the other hand, are conceptual for him, holistic and more of a statement. This exploratory approach has always been the way with Lido, entirely self-taught from the age of two. His parents provided lessons, and, he says, “My music teachers tried to teach me to read music and tried to teach me technique, but I didn’t like being told what to do. “My ear has always been stronger than my theoretical mind,” he continues. “And my technique is terrible—on all instruments, really bad. But it gives me a certain sound and it gives my production a certain style. I’m sure the way
I use compressors and Cubase and the way I tune things and structure songs is not what you’re supposed to do, but that’s what makes it interesting.” Lido has been working in Cubase from the start and is most comfortable within that DAW’s parameters. He cites its “openness” as one of Cubase’s better qualities, and the inconvenience of portability between it and other DAWs has inadvertently resulted in Lido having more control over the songs. While he likes the usual plug-ins—SoundToys, Valhalla, Altiverb, Universal Audio—he often finds himself returning to Cubase’s native offerings to give him a unique sound in his field. “I know a lot, but I’m still blindly turning knobs and using my ears,” Lido explains. “We forget about that. We forget to close our eyes. We look at the screen a lot—‘I can see it getting louder so I think it’s getting louder.’ I try to not fall into that trap.” It’s thought processes like this that put Lido apart from his peers and at the same time give him pop hits. “What’s happening right now is we’re very self-referencing,” he says, speaking about his community of producers and beatmakers. “So much great music is samplebased. So many great songs reference older songs. So many great songwriting techniques are based on older songs, using them as templates. The only templates we’re using right now are those of the past two or three years. It’s becoming a closer and closer loop.” He points out some of the most successful artists at the current time—Billie Eilish, Brockhampton, Bruno Mars, Childish Gambino—who don’t fall into this loop and don’t sound like anything else. “What has always kept music interesting is people looking outside of their genre and outside of right now,” he says, “taking from other places and other times, and reinterpreting it. We’re very locked in harmonically with what we have been doing for a while. The main thing I try to do is keep a healthy variation. “I’ve never heard Rick [Rubin] comment about a snare or a synth sound, or a mix or a compressor. He’ll talk about tempo, flow, length, energy. He’s really good at seeing the big picture instead of being focused on smaller things. His advantage is perspective, because we get lost in details way too much. People imagine you have to watch what legendary producers do on the board. That doesn’t matter. Production is getting something incredible out of an artist.” n
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Photo: Lester Cohen
Music // news & notes ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO
Photo: Lester Cohen
ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO marked the 14th year of American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers annual conference in Los Angeles,. The event took place May 2-4 at the Loews Hollywood Hotel, drawing hordes of attendees from across the globe over the course of its three days. The expo’s collection of high-level movers and shakers in the music creation industry makes it essential for anyone trying to do anything creative in music. The only drawback is just how many amazing panels and sessions are happening at the same time. making you wish you could clone yourself for the duration. The convention’s well-organized flow made moving in between panels, sessions and exhibitor booths smooth, as well as allowed attendees to speak to each other easily. This was perhaps the most encouraged activity of the entire conference: networking sideways rather than up. The insiders on Billboard’s “We Create Music” panel were a huge draw: Nineteen85 (Drake), Anthony Rossomando (A Star is Born), Pinar Toprak (Captain Marvel) and Lee Ann Womack. Panelists on “Publishing 101” included Sue Drew (Kobalt), Jacob Fain (Sony), Luke McGrellis (Universal), Monti Olson (BMG) and Ryan Press (Warner/Chappell). The advice came fast and furious, yet you could still network with the person sitting next to you. If you’re trying to get people to hear your music, there were multiple opportunities to showcase at Shure: Open Mic on their array of equipment, or at PMC Playback Sessions on accurate monitoring. And if you were looking for in-depth information on mastering with IK Multimedia, or how to collect your money using SoundExchange or getting advice on
Songwriters Nineteen85 and LeeAnn Womack appeared on Billboard’s “We Create Music” panel.
songwriting from experts at Musicians Institute, you could dip into any of the sponsored sessions. Some of the other sponsors with sessions were YouTube, Sennheiser/Neumann, and iZotope. One of the many benefits of ASCAP EXPO is getting unhurried time with exhibitors who can focus on your particular questions and go through their products with you one-on-one. This is practically an impossibility at NAMM and very welcomed at ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO. In-demand manufacturers such as Universal Audio and iZotope were on hand, as well as Apogee and Avid, to mention a few. Perhaps the most valuable panels were “How to Make it in the New Music Business” with Ari Herstand, author of the book of the same name and of Ari’s Take, and “Limitless Songwriting” with Steven Battey (Justin Bieber), Sam Hook (Ella Mai), Leland (Troye Sivan) and Priscilla Renea (Rihanna). Herstand provided a combination of hilarious entertainment and highly practical information. The diverse talent on “Limitless Songwriting” set themselves apart from other participants in similar panels with their passion and openness about their process and the realities of being a songwriter. With yoga every morning and many networking opportunities every evening, ASCAP EXPO had everything covered and was well worth the price of the badge, travel and accommodation. Keep your eyes peeled for when 2020’s dates are announced. n Songwriter and host Paul Williams addresses the crowd on the Music Modernization Act. —Lily Moayeri
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THE CLASS OF 2019 Last month we profiled 19 new studios from around the world as part of our annual showcase dedicated to studio designers and acousticians. In putting together the piece, we inadvertently failed to include a few facilities that were meant to be part of the Class of 2019. But it’s never too late to profile world-class projects…
Bandrika Studios, Tarzana, Calif. Studio Design and Acoustics: Kaufman & Associates & Soler Architecture Kaufman & Associates & Soler Architecture designed Bandrika Studios, which opened its doors in June 2018, for award-winning composer Nathan Barr. The 8,500-square-foot facility houses a lively 1.5-second scoring stage capable of recording up to 60 players. Bandrika’s scoring stage offers multiple unique features, including the recently restored and installed 1928 Wurlitzer theater pipe organ originally built for the Twentieth-Century Fox scoring stage. The organ and its pipes, percussion, and mechanical elements occupy a two-story infrastructure that extends beyond one end of the stage. The comfortable 510-square-foot control room features unobstructed visibility to the stage and is outfitted with B&W 802D3 monitors, an 82-inch monitor for viewing picture, an Avid S3 controller with dual 32-inch monitors, Pro Tools HD, an assortment of outboard mic preamps, Grace M906 monitor control, and a Doepfer 88-key controller. The control room yields an exceptional listening experience whether you’re at the mix position, producer’s desks, or seated in the rear of the room. For a full feature story on Nathan Barr, see the September 2018 issue of Mix or visit www.mixonline.com
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The 510-square-foot control roomincludes an Avid S3 controller and B&W 802D3 monitors.
Photos: Jay Kaufman
The scoring stage can hold up to 60 players and features a rare 1928 Wurlitzer theater pipe organ.
Photos: Andy Baron
CLASS OF 2019 Château Noir, Nashville, Tenn. Studio Design and Acoustics: Steven Durr Designs Steven Durr approached the design of Chateau Noir as a unique creative space tailored for how owner Jarrad K, a writer, producer and engineer, brings his vision into reality. With a large window connecting the control room and tracking rooms, the studio feels intimate and connected. The cedar roof over the drum and vocal booths warms the vaulted live room both sonically and aesthetically. An SDDtuned control room with a custom console (a PM1000 designed by Tim “TK” Kelly and Jarrad K, with console mods to Neve 1073 spec by Dave Wheeler at Wave Audio), is as inviting as it is accurate, with mix decisions being able to be made in any part of the room. Besides the custom console, the studio includes Pro Tools and Logic DAWs; Antelope Orion 32+, UA Apollo Twin and UAD Satellite Bundle, EL8X Distressors, Warm Audio 1176s, Slate VMS Pre and KRK VXT 8 monitoring.
Two views of the live room at Chateau Noir, with cedar roof over the drum and vocal booths.
The Chateau Noir control room, based around a custom PM1000 console designed by Tim “TK” Kelly and Jarrad K, with console mod to Neve 1073 spec by Dave Wheeler at Wave Audio.
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LÉON Goes Worldwide
Powerhouse Vocal and an Old-Soul Sound By Todd Berkowitz
s a young musical artist starting out, perhaps the best gift you can receive is simply to be heard and noticed. In 2015, 22-year-old Swedish singer LÉON posted her music online, hoping it would resonate. It did just that. One glowing tweet from Katy Perry, and she found herself with 19 million listens on Spotify and a newly minted worldwide fanbase. Next up, a world tour. Mix caught up with the crew at their Seattle stop in May. “LÉON is considered a soul-pop artist, but the last thing we want is a sterile ‘pop’ sound,” says Tour Manager/FOH engineer Clint Rowland. “While we do operate with tracks, they are there to support the band and not the other way around. The music and the vocal need to breathe, and I’m there to make sure they’re allowed to. I’m using the house console and P.A. each night, but my overall approach to the mix is the same: find harmony with the room. I listen to what it offers and what my limits are and I operate within that space. I try to bring out the best of what the room has to offer.” While pop is where LÉON is making a name for herself, her musical influences appear to be much varied, with clear nods to powerful vocalists like Amy Winehouse and Stevie Nicks. “Dreamy Stevie Nicks reverbs for LÉON’s ears work well,” adds Monitor Engineer Julian Higareda. “They do a great cover of Dreams during the set, which was what gave me the inspiration during production rehearsals,”. As with any powerhouse singer, finding the right vocal groove in an ever-changing venue style is the challenge. “Our [musical director] put in a lot of work in leveling out every track, every keyboard patch, everything, which for a FOH engineer is a gift,”
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LÉON on stage in Seattle, late May.
Photo: Todd Berkowitz
Photo: Todd Berkowitz
"The music and the vocal need to breathe, and I’m there to make sure they’re allowed to. I’m using the house console and P.A. each night, but my overall approach to the mix is the same: find harmony with the room." —Clint Rowland
FOH engineer and tour manager Clint Rowland.
Rowland says. “LÉON’s vocal is paramount, that’s what people pay money to hear. So, for me, there is no other option but to have her vocal right in your face the entire show. “At the same time, her music is so incredible and cannot be treated as an afterthought,” he continues. “Her band puts in work, they find their pocket and I make sure that it’s there to carry LÉON’s voice throughout the show. To help achieve this, I send everything except LÉON’s vocal and effects to a stereo group and add a ‘soft’ compressor with no more than 3 or 4 dB of gain reduction. So, during the upbeat and more heavy moments of the show, the vocal does not get buried. Again, each venue reacts differently, so it varies.” “The mix is minimal as far as inputs, but I am riding faders for her the whole show depending how close she is to the drums or how much she can hear the FOH in her ear mix,” says Higareda. “She has sensitive hearing, which was a great challenge for me to learn to mix. We worked on getting her gain, output and pack to the perfect level to give her the full resolution of a quiet mix. Small movements in her mix are felt and heard more drastically. “Using the Shure KSM8 has been great, with its tight pattern,” he adds. “Although its’s a dynamic capsule, it still has the clarity of a condenser, which works great for the ears. The Shure KSM8 keeps minimal bleed for the ears as she dances around the stage, which is key so that she is comfortable the whole show. She also likes to walk into the crowd which has been a challenge for me to make sure her mic doesn’t cut out while she is having this special moment with the audience.” n
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Todd Berkowitz is a Seattle-based photographer, writer, designer and musician. Originally from New York, he spent years in the publishing industry as an art director before getting behind the camera.
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Live // news & notes Kelly Clarkson and the “Meaning of Life” Although Kelly Clarkson has performed numerous one-offs and festival shows since the launch of her eighth and most recent studio album, 2017’s Meaning of Life, this year’s eagerly anticipated two-month North American trek in support of it marked the artist’s first proper return to the road since 2015’s Piece by Piece tour. For Chris Michaelessi who has served as Clarkson’s FOH engineer since 2011, the availability of the new Quantum engine for DiGiCo’s flagship touring console couldn’t have come at a better time. “I’ve always enjoyed mixing on the SD7 and was really looking forward to having the new, faster and more powerful engine for Kelly’s Meaning of Life tour,” he says. Clair Global, Clarkson’s longtime touring reinforcement provider, supplied the package. “Once I started the using SD7 Quantum, paired with the new 32-bit Stadius Pre-Amp cards for input, I was immediately struck by how much headroom the console has gained with the new engine. And the new preamps definitely have a more musical sound; I found myself using less channel EQ than ever before.” “We had all 112 inputs full in the two SD-Racks we had for FOH,” Michaelessi continues. “That number includes all of the standard stuff for the band, plus talkbacks, guest mics, guest inputs and a few of what I call
FOH engineer Chris Michaelessi at the DiGiCo SD7 Quantum console, supplied by Clair Brothers.
‘once every third show’ inputs.” Monitor engineer Bob Lewis, also on an SD7 Quantum, says, “The lows, mids and highs are all very natural and warm with the 32-bit cards and Quantum processing, and that amazing sound quality was immediately noticeable. Plus, with 13 band members and multiple guests joining us each night, Quantum’s Nodal Processing has been a great advantage. EQ and compression can often vary significantly from one in-ear mix to the next, and this new feature has made mixing monitors so much easier.” n
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Music in the Soul, With the Soul of a Warrior By Robyn Flans / Photos by Kristin Burns
ynamo pretty much sums up Linda Perry. Maybe superwoman. Self-professed music addict. She’s a producer (last year becoming the first female in 15 years to be nominated by NARAS for Producer of the Year) and engineer, and she’s in the songwriting Hall of Fame, having helped to launch Pink’s career and written songs for and with such luminaries as Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Adele, Alicia Keys and Dolly Parton, among countless others. She doesn’t sleep much. Recently, Perry and her business partner, producer Kerry Brown, opened up what she calls “offices” on Ventura Blvd. in the San Fernando Valley. Actually, it’s a music complex dubbed We Are Hear, a combination record label, publishing house, management company and production space. During our conversation she recalled that her wife, Sara Gilbert, asked her at one point in the not too distant past what she was doing now that artists and art seemed pretty stagnant. Perry answered: “When people want music and songs, my phone will start ringing. I’m going to keep myself busy by being a leader, not a follower, which is what I’ve spent time doing. And now my phone is ringing a lot. I guess people want songs again.” Mix: This is Mix magazine, so let’s jump right in. Is there a studio at We Are Hear? Linda Perry: We’re building one in the back. We see a lot of kids skating around on the weekends, kind of aimless. There’s not a lot for kids to do over there, so Kerry and I wanted a place on Ventura Boulevard where kids who were interested in music could come in. We’ll sell vinyl and we have posters and merch, and we’re going to set up a little listening post with record players and they can sit there and hang and listen to music. And then in the back we will have a showcase room and we’ll host songwriter showcases where we will invite kids to come down and play songs. We’ll make an event out of it,
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and we’ll record them and send them a WAV file of what we recorded. That way they can meet other kids who want to be in bands, because we believe that one of the problems with this generation is that there is a lack of community and that kids aren’t understanding the connections they should have with their bandmates—that’s what made the Stones and Zeppelin and all the greatest bands in the world. They started with a connection and that’s how they created greatness. We’re trying to bring back that community. But the studio that you record artists in is a separate one, in Sherman Oaks? Yes. I originally had a big studio in North Hollywood, but it felt like my ego was flaring and I decided to sell it, so I turned a house of mine that I loved that was sitting there and doing nothing into my studio, and it’s amazing. There’s a great vibe there. It’s not a house studio; it just happens to be a studio in a house. You’re an engineer, as well, I understand. And you have a penchant for analog gear. When did that all start? When I left 4 Non Blondes, one of the biggest problems I experienced during the process of making the record Bigger, Better, Faster, More! was, in all honesty, I did not like the sound of it whatsoever. It sounded really thin, like there was way too much reverb, too polished and I couldn’t stand my vocals— the whole sound of the record. And this was prior to me understanding that I would become an engineer and producer. All I would do was go back and talk to the producer and say, “Listen, my guitar tone in the live room sounds great, but when I come in here and listen to it, it sounds distant and far.” I was just asking him to tell me what he was doing, but the go-to answer was, “Let me be the producer and you just go be the artist.”
“Shut up and sing.” Exactly. And I would bump heads with him constantly. And then we would get to the drum sounds and I would say, “They sound so plastic,” and it was a constant battle. Then “What’s Up?” came up to record and I was like, “Oh no, no, no.” This was not flying with me. It had a solo in it, marching drums, and he asked me to change the lyrics and everybody looked at me and said, “Just do what he’s asking you to do.” So I did all of that and we got to the end and I was literally crying. I said, “I don’t know what this song is, but it’s not the song I wrote. I’m going to let all the other songs slide right now, but not this.” The label said, “This sounds great, we’re happy with it.” The label, mind you, I have come to know, has a completely different story of what happened, but I am telling you the real story. So I took the band and said, “We’re going to re-record this.” We had two days before mastering. No one would give us any more money, so we went off to the Record Plant in Sausalito where they gave us a favor. We had one reel of tape, the band went in there without t h e
producer and I asked the engineer to help. I started just dialing in sounds with him and moving microphones, getting the drum sounds to make it little bit fatter than what was there. I was asking, “What does this do?” And he’d say, “That’s EQ,” and I’d be tuning knobs. I would say, “That’s the sound, right there,” or “I don’t like the snare,” and he’d ask, “What is it you’re hearing?” And I’d say, “It sounds too thin and I’m hearing too much splat,” and he’d say, “Oh, the bottom snare is too high,” and he’d turn it down and I’d say, “There it is.” We recorded the song and we had to choose—because, mind you, we only had one reel of tape, and one reel of tape only could have three takes, so we would have to know that we didn’t want a particular take for sure so we could go over it. The producer, David Tickle, shows up around 12 at night, right when we’re getting our take, and I was so bummed out. It was like, “What are you doing here?” And he said, “We’ve got to mix this and get it to mastering in the morning.” So we get the take we want. I believe I did two vocals and we cut between the two of them. Everything was super fast. We mixed it that night and made it to mastering the next day. And then when I asked for production credit? “Can’t you just be happy that you saved the day?” I said, “Okay.” And right then and there I knew exactly what I was going to be in for. Everything from then on out, I’d better know what I was doing because this is never going to happen again. Then when I left the band I met Bill Bottrell, and he was my true mentor. I made this record In Flight with him, and he taught me everything. And he showed me everything. He taught me how to be an engineer and how to listen or how not to listen, actually—moreso just
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how to feel, like if it feels and it sounds good, you’re good. And the preference for analog gear? Before I met Bill, I had started buying gear. And this is the funny part—I started buying gear based on how it looked. I had a big warehouse in San Francisco with like 4,700 square feet. I put a stage in there, everything was all lined up, I jammed in there all the time and I built a studio in there all on my own, and then when I met Bill, he gave me the information that I was lacking. When I was at his place, I noticed I had a lot of the stuff he had, so the stuff that I was buying was on instinct. I have three Fairchild 670s, a 660 and a 666. I bought a bunch of Pultecs because I just love the knobs, and I got a bunch of Neves because I used to go to Coast Recorders all the time. I have four U47 mics, 251s, 270s, and I’m a fan of SM7s. In my studio, I linked up a 1604 API with my Melbourne 12-channel Neve, so if I want to track on the Neve, I track on the Neve and monitor on the API, or I switch it. Sometimes I’ll run everything through the API and the Neve and then just monitor everything and just mix in the box. I’ll go back and forth. I have a Studer 4-track and an 8-track Tascam that is amazing, and that’s just the gear in my studio. I have a whole warehouse full of gear I don’t use. My babies are my Pultecs and my Fairchilds; those I can’t live without. Why it is important for you to engineer and produce when most choose one or the other? For me it came hand and hand. I was so curious in the process of recording, not just how to capture the emotion and vision of the song, but also how to create the right sounds. I love drums, and a great drum sound starts with the drummer—the way they hit, the way they interpret the song, the way they feel. Then second is the tuning. You need to make sure your drums are tuned properly. Third, it’s using the least amount of mics possible for the song. The most I will ever use is an (Electro-Voice) RE20 inside the kick, a FET 47 outside the kick and 57s on the snare, top and bottom. Sometimes I stick an 87 off to the side to catch the snare more. I’ll put 441s on the rack toms and floor tom, a Coles off to the side of the floor tom and a Coles overhead, as well as a pair of 44s and sometimes a 47 or a sub in the room somewhere. The least I will use is a 44 on the kick, an 87 three feet from the floor tom and a
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Coles overhead. I rarely compress drums, but depending on the song I may use a [Fairchild] 670 on room mics and [UREI] 1176 on toms and maybe a Distressor on the snare for extra attack and snap. Sometimes I’ll put the room mics in a 160 and slam them as hard as I can. For EQ I use Pultecs, APIs and Neves. It really depends on the song. Let’s talk about songwriting. You’ve said you live in a place of dark rock ‘n’ roll, but the thing that put both you and Pink on the map was “Get the Party Started.” Kind of ironic. It’s more ironic than you know based on what the label wanted from me. But when I finally got out of my deal with Interscope, I moved
to L.A. I was listening to the radio and called this hit producer friend of mine and asked him, “What is that sound?” And he said, “Oh, that’s a Triton keyboard and the Roland expansion, and everybody’s doing things on this Pro Tools thing on an MPC,” and I’m like, “Okay,” so I went and bought all that stuff and set it up in my house. Mind you, I’m all analog so I’ve never dealt with these kinds of things before, and now I’m taking everything for a test drive. So I need a beat, and I come up with this beat and I add all this percussion to it. I pick up a real bass because I couldn’t find a bass tone that was suitable to me. I wasn’t on Pro Tools, so I had to play everything down live, three minutes and 30 seconds, and I just played live all the way down.
I go on the Roland and find horn sounds and harpsichord sounds, flutes, and I get the guitar and put it through my wah-wah and there’s this cool, weird, crazy track going on. Then I think, “Okay, I’m just going to put some vocals on it.” Basically, I was coming at it as an experiment, but also as a joke. I pick up a bullet microphone, a harmonica microphone, and I’m thinking every cliché I can think of, and I just busted into “Get the party started on a Saturday night.” I literally came up with the song in 30 minutes. I called up my manager and played it for her over the phone, and she said, “What’s that?” And I said, “That’s a hit fucking song for somebody.” She said, “Who are we going to give this to?” I said, “Maybe Madonna. I could hear her doing something like this.” A week later this crazy girl called me up and that’s how the Pink thing happened.
working together. The reason our connection was so good was we both wanted to explore the possibilities. She is fully responsible for creating herself. She just stumbled upon the right person to do it with, and her instincts were right on to call me. She would never have gotten that with somebody else. I’m always in search of someone who is willing to explore. The people who aren’t willing to do that are people who are afraid of failing. Right now I’m only focusing on new artists with We Are Hear. Kerry and I have had so many conversations about artists and labels and the music business and how nobody is taking risks, how everybody is basing their careers on fear. That energy doesn’t belong in the music business. The music business is based on fearlessness; going outside the box, going into the studio and exploring the possibilities of what a song can become. People say I’m not
Basically, I was coming at it as an experiment, but also as a joke. I pick up a bullet microphone, a harmonica microphone, and I’m thinking every cliché I can think of, and I just busted into “Get the party started on a Saturday night.” I literally came up with the song in 30 minutes. How did she know about you? She was a fan of 4 Non Blondes. “Dear Mr. President” was a favorite song of hers, so she tracked me down. She wanted me to maybe write a song with her or sing with her on her record. Once we met, I played her “Get the Party Started” and she loved it. She played it for L.A. Reid and he was, like, “Okay, we have your first single.” Then it turned into me producing the bulk of the album and creating this whole new identity for her. Do you find you work better with the up and comers as opposed to the more established artists? It’s hard to answer that because I just like to work with people who are honest. That could be a no-name or the most famous person in the world. Unfortunately, sad to say, the people who are more in the forefront are often the last people who want to be honest because they have so much to lose. I find I shine better with people who are willing to risk it all and go left-field and explore the possibilities of what they can be, and that was the beauty of what Alecia [Pink] and I were when we were
relevant and haven’t done anything in a while, but I haven’t done anything in a while because I haven’t wanted to; there’s been no one to do it with. Now I’ve found that by starting this label, I have the opportunity to explore with our artists like Dorothy or Willa Amai. I just finished an incredible record with Natasha Bedingfield. She’s not exactly a new artist. But she is because she’s all about risk right now. She’s been in the business for a while, but she discovered the people around her were making wrong decisions. So she got out of her deal because she felt like she couldn’t do anything different with her label. She went and had a baby and came back to me and said, “Let’s do something.” What Dolly Parton and I created was super fucking cool. We took old songs of hers and made them modern. And then you brought together Dolly—an established artist—with up-and-comer Willa Amai, and changed the arrangement of an iconic tune. Yes and also wrote great songs that stood up strong to the classics. So to answer your question,
I’m best at probably reinventing someone and helping a newcomer with their vision. I’m not good at, “I want a pop song that hits on the radio and I want it to sound like everybody else.” I’m not that girl. How did you know music was your muse? I never made a choice. It was handed to me from the day I was born, it was just in me. It came with me like walking and talking. I just didn’t understand it was my career What did you love? I was listening to everything. My sister listened to the Beach Boys and Elvis Presley, my mom loved Carmen Miranda and Sergio Mendes, and my father listened to Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter and any kind of jazz music, and my brothers listened to the Monkees, the Beatles, the Turtles. I gravitated toward Disney—The Jungle Book— and I loved show tunes. I don’t know why, but I loved musicals, so I just listened to it all. I never bought a record, I never asked for a record, I just listened to whatever was in front of me and just took it all in. Is there one song that you’ve written that you are most connected to? I have a song I wrote with Bill Bottrell called “Success” on my In Flight record, and I cry when I hear that song because it’s so me. That record just makes me cry because anything you want to know about me is in that record. “Success” is really touching to me because it’s the inner battle that I struggle with; I’m never going to have the pleasure of knowing what success means because I’m on to the next thing every single time. The next goal, the next challenge, the next struggle. I just told my wife this recently—I’ll tell you and it’s very transparent for me to express this— but I am the person you want on your side when we go to war. I am a warrior. I will die for you; I will die in this business. But I am the wrong person for peace. I don’t know what peace is or what comfort means. I don’t even know how it feels. I will never be at peace. That is the one thing that I will always have to deal with. And I’m okay with that. But my happiness comes from my son. There’s a whole sun that shines that I’ve never experienced before, and when I’m with him every single day, he is the glow I carry. If you see me and if you think I am glowing, it’s because of my son. n
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Composer Sean Callery The Synclavier Connection to “La Femme Nikita, “24” and “Homeland” By Robyn Flans Photo: Soma Helmi
Composer Sean Callery in his home composing studio
ome people are just born with their calling. For television composer Sean Callery, the call just happened to come from “24,” “Homeland,” “Medium,” ‘Elementary,” “Bones,” “Designated Survivor,” “Jessica Jones” and many others over the years. While his older brother was listening to Steely Dan, Elton John and Billy Joel, it was the music of John Williams in “Lost in Space” reruns, Jaws and Star Wars that captivated the younger Callery. Later he became fascinated by TV theme songs like Lalo Schifrin’s iconic opening to “Mission Impossible,” and title tracks for “The Flintstones“ and “The Jetsons.” “The be-bop ‘Jetsons’’ theme is still one of the best themes ever written,” Callery asserts. Many years later, in 2017, he would win an Emmy Award for his jazzinfused theme to the Netflix Marvel Comic series “Jessica Jones.” It proved a tip of the hat to his early days playing cocktail piano music in restaurants. Callery wrote the theme by capturing the neo-noir characteristic of the show from slides, he says. “The instrumentation was drum sets and some congas and chaotic chords on the piano,” he explains.
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Seated in the middle of the workstation setup at his studio in the backyard of his Los Angeles home, Callery explains that his composing process happens primarily from two stations: a Mac Pro with RME Madiface XT running Apple Logic; and a Pro Tools 2019 HD System with two HDX cards . “I record everything, any sound that comes out of anything, whether it’s analog or something I’ve sound designed in here—any kind of specific sound gets printed discretely into a Pro Tools session so I can mix it later,” he says. “Then I assemble a show and deliver it in the form of a Pro Tools session, which will go to the mix stage.” He most often works from the center of a cockpit-like orientation, with his primary keyboard built into the table with the Logic system and his view of the screen for scoring. To his left is the Digidesign D-Command, which operates his Pro Tools rig. To his right is his NED Synclavier, the legendary sound design workstation that helped shape his destiny. IN THE BEGINNING Callery began playing piano in 1969, at age five, in his birthplace of
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in "Homeland"
Hartford, Conn., just prior to the family move to Rhode Island. There, the “classical piano teacher down the street” taught him the basics. At the same time, Callery’s mother often took him to see movies that would challenge his young mind, get under his skin and leave an impression, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey. Callery later would major in classical piano at the New England Conservatory, a period of his life he calls “invaluable.” Immediately following graduation, he took a job at Disney World in Orlando as the piano player for the All American College Orchestra. He then turned down a job for the Disney park in Tokyo, as he had plans to enroll in the master’s program in composition at USC. But when he attended the AES convention that year, fate intervened. While at the show, or soon after, New England Digital, makers of the Synclavier, offered him a job in product support. Callery moved to Los Angeles at the tail end of 1987, recognizing today, “That’s where I met some composers who gave me a shot at helping them.” Pitching in on some string arrangements for John Ferrar and Olivia Newton-John led to his first gig as a composer, a job co-writing the score with Ferrar for the 1990 Newton-John film A Mom for Christmas. But he wouldn’t work again as a composer for quite some time. Instead, he cut his post-production audio teeth as a night shift sound effects editor on the TV shows “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek Generations.” Each gig was procured through his association and affinity for the Synclavier.
Composers are known for having a lot of sound sources and control elements at their fingertips while in their creative space. For Callery, the main studio package includes: • Digidesign D-Command (8-fader + 16-fader module) • 2x JBL LSR6328P Monitors • 2x Yamaha NS-10M Monitors • Synclavier Sampling System (without FM) • Pro Tools HD System: (2 HDX Cards) • Focusrite Rednet 5 Pro Tools HD Bridge • Solid State Logic XLogic Delta-Link MADI HD • Avid HD I/O (16 analog) • Digidesign 192 I/O (16 analog)
• Apple Logic, with RME Madiface XT • Vision DAW PC • Yamaha Upright Disklavier MX100A • Roland System-8 Plug-out synthesizer • Roland S-760 Digital Sampler • Yamaha CS6R • Korg Trinity TR-Rack • E-mu Planet Phatt • Korg 01R/W • Roland XV-5080 • Focusrite Rednet 4 Mic Pre • 4x E-magic Unitor 8 MIDI interfaces Daniel Smith/FOX
Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones in "Jessica Jones"
Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in "24"
‘Knowing the Synclavier was a very powerful thing because people were doing sound effects work and getting Emmys for it,” he says. “People were using it for composition because they were the first samplers that could play more than 32 voices at a time. And then it had hard disk recording, which was coming onto the scene in 1990 and 1991.” More jobs followed as a hit man before composer Mark Snow (“The X-Files”) helped him get his first composing job on a series, “La Femme Nikita.” Though it was “scary and exciting all at once,” Callery says he was also “so grateful to be doing it. But as anybody will tell you, starting off they’re tense sometimes because you want to please, you want to find your own voice, you want to do well for the people who hire you. So there’s a lot of insecurity that you have to understand you have. You have to just beat it back or work with it the best you can.” “24” AND “HOMELAND” It was the 2001 Fox show “24” that firmly established Callery’s career and vaulted him to first-call status. Creator Joel Surnow, with whom he had worked on “La Femme Nikita,” lobbied intensely for Callery, who was still fairly unknown at the time. Producers agreed to allow him to score the pilot. Upon getting the script, Callery says he discovered that the Jack Bauer (continued on page 44)
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“25 or 6 to 4” Chicago’s Horn, Vocal, Guitar-Riff Masterpiece By Matt Hurwitz
ometime late into the night in May 1969, Robert Lamm returned home from one of his band’s regular gigs at Whisky a GoGo on the Sunset Strip and picked up a 12-string electric guitar that was missing some strings. Before he finally went to sleep, he had written a song for his band’s next album, not knowing it would become a guitar theme for every guitarist who would come thereafter. The band was Chicago, the song “25 or 6 to 4.” The group had formed in Chicago two years earlier as The Big Thing, though record producer James Guercio (The Buckinghams, Blood, Sweat & Tears), who had become their manager and, later, producer, suggested a more comely name, Chicago Transit Authority. “The sooner we could change that name, the better,” laughs original drummer Danny Seraphine. Seeking to get the band signed to a label, Guercio brought CTA to Los Angeles in June 1968. “We were making some serious coin as a club act, playing some pretty nice clubs in Chicago, Milwaukee and Indianapolis,” recalls trombonist James Pankow. “But we reached a point where we asked ourselves, ‘Do we want to be the biggest nightclub act in the Midwest, or do we want to be a national act and make records?’ And if we do, we gotta get the hell out of Chicago.” Pankow, Seraphine, bassist/singer Peter Cetera and saxophonist Walt Parazaider threw their personal items and the band’s belongings into U-Haul trailers and drove west. Lamm, guitarist Terry Kath and trumpet player Lee Loughnane preferred to fly. To house the band, Guercio rented a home at 2120 Holly Drive, a three-bedroom bungalow built in 1920 in the Hollywood Hills, just north of Cahuenga and the Hollywood Freeway. Pankow, Lamm, Kath, Loughlane and two roadies staked out territory within the small house, while Cetera, Parazaider and Seraphine—the married guys—were set up in a pair of apartment
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buildings just around the corner, on Primrose Avenue. “We were beginning a musician’s life,” says Lamm. “Everything was writing a song or practicing your axe, going out and playing gigs. Everything was about music. It was a very uplifting time, and, to us, it seemed normal.” They soon became the “house band” at The Whisky, and Guercio would invite record industry executives to hear them, eventually landing a contract with Columbia Records. At the beginning of the following year, in late January/early February, Guercio brought the
Photo: Courtesy Don Puluse
Photo: Courtesy Rhino Records
Don Puluse relaxes in front of one of the mammoth Western Electric patch bays and racks of Pultec EQP-1s and Kepex noise gates, in one of the 4th floor mix rooms at CBS New York.
band to CBS Studios at 49 East 52nd Street in New York to record their first album, Chicago Transit Authority. In Guercio, the band found its perfect champion. “He was working with guys who had never been in a studio,” Lamm explains. “We were sort of amateurs; we weren’t session guys. But he still had faith in himself and faith in the possibility that we could actually gel in the studio and perform as a group. Because we were still learning how to be a group. I don’t know how many producers would have had the patience. And many of them don’t.” Roy Halee began engineering the album, but Guercio soon shifted to Fred Catero (“a jazz engineer,” he notes). Work took place on 8-track in the smaller Studio E, located on the building’s fourth floor, while Halee worked with Simon & Garfunkel in the more spacious Studio B on the second floor. “Fred was a very talented, quick engineer. I learned a lot from him,” states colleague and protégé Don Puluse. Guercio echoed the praise: “I did that album in 14 days—10 days recording and overdubbing and three or four days mixing.” The album was released on April 28—one of their regular Whisky dates—containing a number of what would become signature hits for the band: Lamm’s “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” “Beginnings” and The Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m a Man.” The group received a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist the following year. ON TO CHICAGO It wasn’t long, though, before Guercio had them back in the studio recording their next 2-LP set (this time, under their permanent name “Chicago,” truncated to avoid legal action from the transit authority of the same name). With the success of CTA, the band was now on the road, playing bigger and bigger venues, so recording became a “catch ‘em when you can” venture. “I had to deal with them when I could. And I had to break it into short periods,” the producer says. Notes Seraphine, “Whenever we had a set of songs to record, we would go to the studio.” The first batch to be recorded was Pankow’s “Ballet For a Girl in Buchannon,” a 13-minute suite consisting of seven songs—two of which
Comp reel of 16-track masters from two weeks of recording, put together by CBS Hollywood recording engineer Brian Ross-Myring (“R.M.”) in Studio B, with the help of tape op Chris Hinshaw (“C.H.”). Note the “HCO-“ prefix on master numbers, the “H” denoting a master created at CBS’s Hollywood studio.
would become mammoth hits on their own, “Make Me Smile” and “Colour My World.” Recording for the “Ballet” was tracked by Don Puluse, who had recorded The Buckinghams’ “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” for Guercio two years earlier, the first time the pair worked together, and about a year after Puluse joined CBS. Classically trained, and a former clarinetist with the United States Marine Band in Washington, Puluse eventually left the military and completed degrees at the Eastman School of Music, including a master’s degree and engineering degree. He was hired as a Production Trainee at CBS and began working on classical music recordings, first as an editor. Touring, meanwhile, continued mostly around the Northeast in late June and the first half of July, until another batch of songs was ready to record. Two weeks of sessions were set up in Studio B at CBS Studios in Hollywood, at CBS Columbia Square, located at 6121 Sunset Blvd. Engineering was handled by a British engineer by the name of Brian Ross-Myring, assisted by tape operator (or “Co-Engineer,” as identified on the tape box) Chris Hinshaw. Though Guercio had never produced a recording with Ross-Myring tracking, he did know him from a session three years earlier, Chad & Jeremy’s “Distant Shores,” which Guercio not only wrote, but played on as a studio musician. Thursday July 24 saw the recording of two new Lamm compositions, “Wake Up Sunshine” and another with an unusual title, “25 or 6 to 4,” both recorded in the evening with just the rhythm section present. By this time, a year after arriving in L.A., much of the band had all but abandoned the Holly Drive house (though not completely). “I lived with a group of kids who had moved to L.A. from Chicago, a couple blocks up the street from The Whisky,” Lamm recalls. “It was a great old, large California
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bungalow. One of the girls who lived there had had a boyfriend who was in a band, and who was out of the scene, but he left his stuff behind.” The musician had had an endorsement deal with Baldwin, and indeed left behind a Baldwin electric 12-string guitar—missing its two low E-strings—and an electric harpsichord, which Lamm augmented with a rented piano. “That was my writing studio.” One night, after returning from a gig at The Whisky (likely during their five-day stand from May 15-19), Lamm did what he usually did—“You know, come home late at night and sit at the piano for a while and see what was what before I went to sleep.” Sitting “cross-legged on the floor,” he grabbed the 10-string guitar. “I had the guitar riff, which I played, and I had this melody, which I sang along with the riff. Then, once I sat at the piano and fleshed out the changes, and then the release, it sort of all came together. I was really just developing this musical idea between the riff that the guitar would play and the melody on top of it. And a place for the horns to show off their stuff.” The problem was, what was the song about? “Because I was writing it very late at night, and I’m looking out over the Hollywood Hills, looking down into L.A., I could see the lights on the tops of the tall buildings, flashing and glowing,” (“Flashing lights against the sky”). “So I just thought that, for now, I’ll just describe what I’m thinking and what I’m seeing and what I’m doing. And what I was trying to do was write a song. So the song really describes the process of writing that song. Which was kind of uninteresting and boring.” It was indeed quite late, so he looked at the antique clock hanging across the room to see the time. “I couldn’t quite tell where the hands of the clock were pointing. It was 25 or 26 minutes before 4 a.m. I didn’t expect to keep those words, I expected to replace them with some actual lyrics. But it ended up working out okay.” The next day, since Chicago was set up down at The Whisky, Lamm brought in the song to introduce it to the band. “When Robert brought it to us, we immediately connected with it,” Pankow recalls. “It was rock and roll, yet it had a really cool approach to it with the horns. It was another Robert Lamm song where I loved what he did.” The recordings took place in CBS’s Studio B, built from what remained of one of CBS’s famous West Coast radio theater studios. “It was a big room, with a high ceiling—a good room for live,” Seraphine remembers. “I had baffles all around me. And we were arranged in a semi-circle, with Peter always close to me, and Terry on the other side. We always liked to see each other.” Basic tracking included Lamm on the studio’s Steinway piano, Kath on one of four electric guitar parts he would play, Cetera on bass, and Seraphine on, unusually, two drum parts. One thing that is evident from listening to Chicago is, despite his later reputation mainly for ballad singing, Cetera was a remarkable bass player, something heard across this album and any of the era. “He was really challenged by a lot of the songs, compared to the kinds of things he had played up to that point, before Chicago,” Lamm remarks. “But once we were throwing a lot of harmonic and time change stuff at him, he stayed with it. I always thought that his performance on the first album was amazing.” Cetera was, in fact, playing “under duress,” Lamm laughs. “Peter always played with his finger, but Jimmy [Guercio] made him play with a pick, to get that attack. So Peter was not very happy with that part of it.” Says Guercio, “I told him, ‘You’re a great player onstage, in a club, Peter, but I
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Terry Kath, Robert Lamm and Peter Cetera track a background vocal.
need definition.’ And he said, ‘I don’t play with a pick,’ so I said, ‘Well, if you don’t play with a pick, I’m gonna play with a pick. So make your choice now,’ and I walked back into the control room.’” And though he typically played his own Fender bass, on these recordings he played Guercio’s Fender Precision, which the producer had picked up for $200 in 1963-4, which still had its original Fender strings. The amp was either a Fender Bassman or Showman, which, Guercio notes, “You had to put the head down on the floor, because the tubes would rattle.” And, like all of the instruments, it was miked with one of Guercio’s mics of choice, either Neumann U67s or U87s. [The raw recording reveals, by the way, that, for “25 or 6 to 4,” Cetera played not with a pick, by this time, but with the back of his fingernail, according to Tim Jessup, the band’s current engineer, who studied the multitrack recording for us.] The signature sound of “25 or 6 to 4,” of course, is the guitar riff, played on the recording by Terry Kath. The guitarist played through a Fender Concert amp, modified, Guercio says, like all things Kath. “Terry was always playing with shit,” the producer laughs. “He had this weird 1950s hifi preamp or something, like from a McIntosh, he would go through first. I don’t know what it was, but however he got that sound, it was a miracle. That’s what I wanted.” “I had very little to do with the sounds Terry got, which were really outstanding, signal processing-wise,” notes Puluse, who mixed the album. “Most of that was done with his electronics.” Kath played the riff over three parts, one during tracking and two in overdubs. The live track, on Track 3 of the 16-track tape, was a clean one, with no distortion, the guitarist playing the riff in octaves, plus some guitar “chinks.” A second pass on Track 4 (which Guercio labeled “GIT FUNK / FUNK RHY” (rhythm) on his handwritten track sheets), played in parallel, this time using an overdriven amp distortion, much like a fuzz bass. A third, on Track 6, labeled “NEW FUZZ,” featured what Jessup says appears to be distortion from a pedal/outboard device. “I wanted three guitars, with different sounds, to get the stereo guitar effect I wanted,” Guercio explains. “I worked with Terry on that; he was the key to this record.” His astounding guitar solo track, made of three different solo parts, was recorded on Track 8 as an overdub, which Guercio says was built out of several passes and a small number of punch-ins (though the tape reveals only the single track, perhaps indicative of other tracks reused/ wiped during other overdubs). The same track also contains Kath’s many accent parts, heard throughout the song. It remains one of rock’s great solo guitar tracks.
Photo: Don Puluse
The following evening, the full band returned to record “It Better End Soon,” and, after the six-hour session ended at 1 a.m., Ross-Myring prepared a comp reel of the two weeks’ work—seven songs, coming in at 28:55, enough for a whole album in itself, if it had been desired.
Peter Cetera (L), drummer Danny Seraphine and the horn section during a sound check at The Hollywood Bowl, 1970.
After hearing the song for the first time, Seraphine made a decision. “I said I wanted to do two drumkits. I told Jimmy, ‘I want to do two drum passes, one with just straight time,’” with a second recorded as an overdub with more accents and detail, including his five-stroke roll. “In those days, I was doing a lot of melodic fills. I was very much influenced by Hal Blaine’s playing in his studio work.” Seraphine’s kit, at this point, was a white marine pearl Rogers set, with a 24-inch kick drum, a wood Dynasonic snare, with a 13-inch doubleheaded tom. In addition, he had 12- and 14-inch concert toms and a 16-inch traditional floor tom. “My biggest nightmare with him was the bass drum,” Guercio chuckles. “I’d want to deaden it. I put a pillow in front of the head on the inside. Drummers don’t like that.” The first pass was recorded during basic tracking, onto Track 7, in mono, requiring Guercio to have Ross-Myring reset his mic levels. “We were sitting there, I’m listening to every mic, and setting the mics, and finally just said, ‘We’re mono-ing this,’” the producer recalls. The second pass, recorded next (and in absence of the rest of the band), was placed on Track 5. “The band came into the control room, and they were pissed!” Seraphine laughs. “’What’s he doing, two drums? What a waste of time!’ Jimmy just shrugged his shoulders, and he shut it down. ‘Cause Jimmy loved drums. He loved the idea, but I never got to fully develop it. You can hear, there’s a little bit of shakiness, a little bit of rub there, which kind of adds to it. Plus, the two kick drums are playing at the same time, which was really cool.” Cetera had one very big challenge facing him when recording vocals for this album. On May 20, a few days after Lamm wrote the song and introduced it to the band, Cetera, Kath, Lamm, Parazaider and Seraphine attended a baseball game at Dodger Stadium, to see their beloved Chicago Cubs beat the Dodgers 7-0. Four marines apparently didn’t take kindly to a jubilant “long-haired rock ‘n roller,” the singer recalled in the Chicago box set liner notes, and a fight ensued, resulting in Cetera’s jaw being broken in three places—and wired shut for several months. That apparently was still the case when this recording was made, as both Guercio and Loughnane recall. “He had to learn to sing differently,” the producer explains. “I told him, ‘I can’t wait, we’re gonna do this.’” The bassist learned to sing with his teeth clenched closed (due to the wires), a style that has remained with him, to a large degree, becoming somewhat of a trademark. Regardless, he turned in a remarkable performance.
THE HORNS OF CHICAGO The horn sound for Chicago was unique, both at the time and still today. Most horn sections on rock, R&B and soul records of the day offered a pad or chord, with the various musicians playing in unison. Pankow, however, created a signature sound and use of horns. “I knew it had to be as unique as the direction of the music, to start using the brass as a lead line, instead of an afterthought,” he says. “So I conceptualized the horn section as a main character in the story, while being careful not to step on the toes of the other main characters. If you take the horns out and throw some extra words on the track, it could be a second vocal.” And, given that the arranger was a trombonist, Pankow typically approached the brass with a trombone lead. “That’s another aspect of the uniqueness of our section, it’s got a trombone-oriented section,” he adds. “My ear is trombone-centric; that’s what I hear. So I put the sense of the lead voice in the trombone. It makes us unique and it makes the section thick and fat, versus so many sections that maybe have a token trombone.” For “25 or 6 to 4,” Lamm, knowing the trombone-centric style of the band’s horns, even wrote what became signature bits that Pankow would play. “He’s playing a line that ascends, and the other two are playing a more static line.” Notes Pankow of his own arrangement elements of the track, “It’s a song about writing a song. I sang along with the vocals and hummed a solo in my head, and that became a melodic horn line, and I voiced it where appropriate.” The other element that made Chicago’s horns sound so unique was the way Guercio recorded them, beginning with this album, Chicago. While CTA was recorded at CBS New York on 8-track, allowing for a single horn track, by 1969, via the 16-track tape machines present in Hollywood, he decided to take a new approach. The basic arrangement was recorded onto one track. miking, again, with his favorite U67s and U87s. A second pass, B, was then recorded, but mixed together live with A onto another track. Yet a third pass, C, was recorded, again mixed together live with A, onto a third track. And, once done, pass A was wiped, to make the track available for more overdubs. “Once we were done, I was stuck with it. It was staying,” states Guercio. Now, of course, if the two tracks, with A+B and A+C, were panned left and right, the listener would mostly hear A in the center. “That was something we wanted to avoid,” explains Puluse. To prevent that from happening, “We would EQ one a little bit, and keep the level of ‘A’ so that it wouldn’t be too loud.” Adds Guercio, “They’re not simply doubling. Generation ‘A’ is the same foundation, but it’s not at the same level and is mixed differently. So now we ended up with what sounded like four sets of horns, not two.” On top of that, Pankow would change up the arrangements for the B and C passes. “I would voice switch,” having himself, Loughlane and Parazaider switch parts. “I would say, ‘Okay, Lee, you play the trombone part, which is up an octave in the bass clef, on your trumpet. And Walt, you play the trumpet part above the staff, because the tenor sounds an octave lower. And I’ll play the sax part, above the staff, in the bass clef.’ Or sometimes we would experiment and not only voice switch, but I would
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have guys play alternate notes in the chords, so we would flesh out 6/9 or a 7/11 in the chord or a raised 9th. You have to not only voice switch to fatten the chord, but you have to add alternate voicings on overdubs. And that’s how it sounds like 40 horns, instead of three. It created this wall of sound.” “Pankow is so talented at arranging,” Lamm says of his bandmate. “He was very good at the unique voicings, to make the most of three horns. And that, combined with how Jimmy Guercio recorded them, it created our signature horn sound. He really made them sound distinctive and unique, and nothing like it had been done before.” The same method was used by Guercio when tracking background vocals, which he did upon the band’s return to L.A. on August 19-20. On “25 or 6 to 4,” the trio recorded an A pass, then tracked a B mixed live with A, and the same for the C pass, again EQd differently to give each pass its own tone and voice. But, in this case, the original A pass was kept and included in the mix, as well, placed in the center, providing a total of 15 voices. “With the way it’s tracked,” says Tim Jessup, “you’ve got six voices on one side, three in the center and another six on the other side.” MIXING The album was still far from complete. Once Kath’s vocal was added, the tapes were brought to Puluse at the CBS 42nd Street studio in New York. Mixing typically took place in one of the 10 editing rooms on the fourth floor, as was the case with Chicago. By this time, Puluse could mix his own recordings, though that was not the case when he started at the studio. “A few years earlier, the engineer in the studio would do the recording, and then it went up to the fourth floor to a mixing engineer,” he explains. “But when rock and roll came in, the groups and producers were not going to work in the studio with one person, with complicated tracks, and then have it go up to a room and be mixed with somebody else. It changed the whole culture there, really.” Each mix room had 16-track Ampex and 3M tape machines, mixing to Ampex 350 2-track ¼-inch. “Every channel in those rooms had EQP Pultec limiters and a Kepex noise gate. And there were selectable Universal Audio 1176s and LA2As and 3As,” Puluse recalls. “So we had choices. There was nothing in the signal path that couldn’t be changed.” For reverb, you turned to one place. “There
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“Robert created a rock and roll anthem with that song. Every beginning guitar player plays that riff. And who would have thought it would have started with a guy sitting on the floor with a half-strung 12-string guitar, looking out the window and writing down how he felt at 4 in the morning ‘cause he’s shot from playing a gig. It’s a masterpiece.” —James Pankow was one room, on the third floor, and it was like a morgue of EMT plate reverbs, 40 or so of them in this one room,” Puluse says. “You’d go downstairs and select which one you wanted to use via the patchbay— if it wasn’t being used by somebody else—and you could adjust that EMT.” Spring reverbs and other options were also available, but Puluse tended to stick with the plates. “I would always experiment with the ‘chambers,’” as he typically refers to the plates. “You could pre-delay them and you could postdelay them. You could change the time, and you could noise gate the end, if you wanted to. But I very seldom used noise gates for anything but a correction. I didn’t use it for effects on Chicago.” Mixing was performed on one of CBS’s custom consoles, built by chief engineer Eric Porterfield for each mix room. “They had Penny and Giles faders, as well as rotary pots, and there were two sets, one above the other,” Puluse says. “We had a lot of speakers, and a lot of problems
with speakers at that time. For consistency, we had chosen Voice of The Theater A7s, which was a very unusual choice. The ‘new’ version, with the decorator box, not the exposed box. Before that we had 604s, the ‘Big Reds.’ And we always had little Auratones, so that we could just check the mix, to see how it would sound on a smaller system.” Puluse would always be sure to create a rough mix following a recording session, to have available during mixing. “When you do a rough mix, it’s very organic. And then you go into a room—even in the same studio—and you start spending time perfecting things, and you really lose that original feel. So it’s always important to keep the rough as a reference. “Jimmy [Guercio] really wanted a very tight, present sound,” he continues. “Those recordings were really pretty dry. We tried to get the tightness, to make [the horns] very present. That’s why everything was pretty close-miked. I wasn’t going for a big room sound on these things.” Kath’s guitars were given analog delays, again, via the EMT plates. “Sometimes, I would actually take the echo and reverb the echo. But very subtly. We weren’t adding a lot of effects to this music. We were making it sound like the room.” For vocals, Puluse would limit his use of compression. “I try to learn the music and handgain things. Background vocals, I probably used an 1176. But for lead vocals, I would only a little. I would try not to use it as a crutch.” Following mixing, the album was mastered by one of several mastering engineers up on the fifth floor (Puluse points to two of note, Jack Ashkenazi and Vlado Meller). The album was released shortly thereafter, on January 26, 1970, with “25 or 6 to 4” issued as a single in June (backed with “Where Do We Go From Here”), appearing as a carefully cut single edit, paring the song down from 4:50 to 2:52 (which Puluse recalls doing himself) by eliminating the second verse and chorus and two-thirds of Kath’s solo. It reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. “Robert created a rock and roll anthem with that song,” says James Pankow. “Every beginning guitar player plays that riff. And who would have thought it would have started with a guy sitting on the floor with a half-strung 12-string guitar, looking out the window and writing down how he felt at 4 in the morning ‘cause he’s shot from playing a gig. It’s a masterpiece. These songs are timeless.” n
Tech P.A. Monitor Systems 2019 By the Mix Editors
he first half of 2019 has seen a huge number of loudspeaker introductions across the board, from compact line array modules to all-new pointsource speakers. Obviously, manufacturers are responding to the now-decade long boom in touring, not to mention the rise in permanent installations for event and corporate spaces. At least six models made their debut at InfoComm last month, and our Best of Show team was there to honor them.
BOSE ArenaMatch Arrays and Utilities ArenaMatch arrays incorporate Bose DeltaQ technology that allows directivity, or “Q,” to vary in each module to more precisely match coverage to audience area. With nine coverage patterns available, designers can choose from modules with 10-, 20- or 40-degree vertical coverage and easily swap between 60-, 80- or 100-degree horizontal waveguides—even in already-assembled arrays— to adjust horizontal coverage and create asymmetrical patterns where needed. A 14-inch neodymium woofer and six Bose EMB2S titaniumdiaphragm neodymium compression drivers in each module deliver superior intelligibility. ArenaMatch Utility loudspeakers, meanwhile, are built for zone-fill coverage or high-SPL foreground music. They have the same EMB2S compression driver as ArenaMatch arrays, and the same IP55 weather rating.
Clair Brothers C10-TrueFit The new C10-TrueFit represents the latest double 10-inch format midsize line array and an industry first in integration optimization. Clair TrueFit waveguides are singularly configured, continuously variable waveguides designedto-order. The C10, like the C12 and C8, also features a new transducer technology that offers significant weight reduction, and a reduction in amplifier channel requirements, which enhance the ability for the line array to be digitally beam-steered in the vertical plane with F.I.R. processing. The standard C10 factory waveguide is 100° H x 15° V, but a range of horizontal waveguides between 70° and 120° (in 10° increments) are also available.
d&b Audiotechnik A-Series The all-new A-Series introduces d&b’s advanced waveguide design combined with flexible splay angles to address a wide range of medium
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size applications where the highest levels of coverage flexibility are paramount. Realizing all the adaptability of a point source cluster with the extensive control options of a d&b line array, the system comprises the AL60 and AL90 loudspeakers. Both share a passive twoway design featuring one 1.4-inch exit HF compression driver with a 3-inch diaphragm mounted to a waveshaping device, and two 10-inch neodymium LF drivers. The combination of sophisticated waveguide design and the symmetrical dipolar arrangement of the LF drivers allows a smooth overlap of the adjacent frequency bands in the crossover design. The wave segments of each cabinet couple without gaps and sum up coherently.
Electro-Voice MFX Multi-Function Monitors Electro-Voice’s new MFX MultiFunction Monitors—MFX-12MC and MFX-15MC—are passive 12-inch and 15-inch two-way coaxial monitors intended to complement the X-Line Advance line array models X1, X2, X12-128 and X12-125F, as well as their corresponding installation versions. Coaxially aligned HF and LF transducers have been matched with a new EV-engineered Constant-Directivity waveguide and new crossover design. Coverage in monitor orientation is 40°H x 60°V. The dimensions and location of the waveguide interact with the woofer to essentially create a bipole output, aiding coverage control through the midrange frequencies. Both models can be deployed in passive or bi-amp configuration, and can be optimized for different uses via DSP settings in the amps.
L-Acoustics ARCS Loudspeakers The new ARCS A15 and A10 systems and companion sub KS21 are aimed squarely at audiences from 50 to 5,000, with a compact format that offers unlimited versatility and ease of use. The family comprises four constant
with either horizontal or vertical orientation. Preliminary performance specifications include an operating frequency range of 60 Hz to 18 kHz, with linear peak SPL of 130.5 dB measured with M-Noise and 128 dB with pink noise. Highly refined signal processing with advanced phase alignment circuits results in phase response of ± 45° from 100 Hz to 16 kHz. curvature enclosures—A15 Focus, A15 Wide, A10 Focus, A10 Wide—and a dedicated subwoofer, KS21. The flexible coverage options achieve a throw of up to 45 meters, and a maximum output of 144 dB. Each LA4X amplification channel pairs with one A15, one A10, or one KS21.
Mackie DRM Series Loudspeakers It was a big NAMM Show for Mackie in January with the introduction of an all-new flagship: DRM professional powered loudspeakers, packed with up to 2,300W of power, cutting-edge DSP and built-in full color displays. Models include the 1,600W 12-inch DRM212, 1,600W 15-inch DRM215, 2,300W 15-inch 3-Way DRM315, 2,000W 12-inch DRM12A Array and 2,000W 18-inch DRM18S subwoofer; all models are also available in passive boxes. At the heart of every DRM Series loudspeaker is Mackie’s Advanced Impulse DSP module that feature precision crossovers, transducer time alignment and meticulously tuned FIR filters.
Martin Audio WPS Line Array The WPS is a three-way passive design with a frequency response ranging from 70 Hz to 18,000 Hz (±3 dB). It can produce a maximum SPL of 133 dB. Each WPS cabinet incorporates two 8-inch LF drivers, four 4-inch midrange drivers, and four 1-inch exit HF compression drivers loaded with a molded horn that spans the entire width of the enclosure, creating a 100-degree horizontal pattern with constant directivity. Vertical coverage is 10 degrees. To increase efficiency, the 4-inch midrange drivers are compression loaded; they enter the horn walls through annular slots enabling them to sum effectively with the high-frequency wavefront. Martin Audio’s iKON iK42 Class-D amplifier can power up to three WPS cabinets per amp channel, with system control via Martin Audio VU-NET.
Meyer Sound ULTRA-X40 Drawing from the proven design approach of LEO Family loudspeakers, the ULTRA-X40 employs a concentric driver configuration with dual 8-inch neodymium magnet cone drivers coupled to a low-mid waveguide surrounding the single 3-inch high-frequency compression driver. The 110° x 50° constant-Q HF horn is easily field rotatable, and working in concert with the concentric design it ensures that the full bandwidth coverage pattern will be uniform
NEXO P12 NEXO has introduced the P12 multi-purpose loudspeaker, the company’s first 12-inch enclosure. Inside the curvilinear enclosure of custom birch and poplar plywood, the P12 employs a purpose-designed 12-inch LF Neodymium driver and 3-inch HF driver in a coaxial configuration. Frequency response is 60 Hz - 20 kHz, and the SPL is an impressive 138 dB Peak (passive)/140 dB Peak (active mode. In an innovative design twist, horn flanges can be interchanged to deliver a variety of coverage patterns, switchable within 15 seconds, by easily removing the steel grille with a coin and replacing the flare. To partner with the P12, NEXO is launching the L15 subwoofer cabinet, specially designed in a matching footprint to make it ideal for flown applications or for use as a drumfill.
Renkus-Heinz ICL-X Series The new ICL-X Series was designed to be a complete, integrated system, offering two combinable steered-array modules, the ICL-X and ICL-XL, and two matching subwoofers, the ICL-XS and ICL-X-118S. Each incorporates RenkusHeinz’s exclusive Acoustic Source Multiplier waveguide, enabling the HF section to be coaxially mounted in front of the LF section. This coaxial design delivers unparalleled consistency in high and low frequencies across the entire length of the array. Units can be deployed in arrays up to 12 modules tall to create a powerful, ultra-high-directivity system with steerability down to 100 Hz or lower.
Yamaha DXRmkII Loudspeakers In April, Yamaha announced the DXRmkII series of powered loudspeakers—DXR15mkII, DXR12mkII, DXR10mkII and DXR8mkII. A joint effort with the engineering team at NEXO, the DXRmkII models have a larger, 1.75-inch voice coil HF compression driver and precise amp tuning. All models feature proprietary Yamaha FIR-X tuning, using linear phase FIR filters for the crossover. All models also feature D-CONTOUR dynamic multiband processing for clear, powerful and consistent sound regardless of how hard they are driven. D-CONTOUR provides two settings—FOH/MAIN or MONITOR mode—optimally set to the application. n
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Tech // new products RØDE Microphones TF-5 RØDE Microphones has introduced the TF5 mic that was designed in collaboration with Grammy Award-winning sound engineer Tony Faulkner. The TF-5 features a matched pair, small diaphragm condenser cardioid microphones with a brand new capsule that RØDE claims was precision-engineered to sub-micron tolerances. It has an exceptionally low noise floor (14 dbA), and includes a high-quality stereo bar for easy rigging as a stereo pair. Faulkner is one of the most respected sound engineers in the classical music field. He is incredibly prolific, with thousands of classical music recordings under his belt, and he has been nominated for numerous Grammy Awards, winning Best Instrumental Soloist Performance in 2005. “The TF-5 is designed to be no-compromise,” says Faulkner. “Very very low noise, very broad bandwidth, very clean. Something which can be modified if you choose, but if you leave it, it sounds natural and clean and musical.”
Martin Audio WPS Line Array Martin Audio has announced WPS, the fourth model in its Wavefront Precision optimized line array series. Following the introductions of WPL (12-inch LF), WPC (10-inch LF) and WPM (6.5-inch LF), WPS (8-inch LF) is a versatile line array with a peak SPL of 133 dB. WPS is a passive 3-way system that integrates a high density of drive units in a very compact enclosure. It features 2 x 8-inch LF drivers, 4 x 4-inch midrange drivers and 4 x 1-inch exit HF compression drivers loaded by a molded HF horn that occupies the full width of the enclosure— defining the 100-degree horizontal constant directivity coverage pattern of both the HF and midrange sections. The 4-inch midrange drivers are compression-loaded to raise efficiency and enter the horn walls via annular slots close to the HF throat to sum effectively with the HF wavefront. In the HF section, four 1-inch exit compression drivers deliver high frequency sound. The 8-inch LF drivers are set back behind the walls of the HF horn, with a small volume of air in front of each driver that increases the output at the upper end of its operating range. The LF exit apertures are spaced apart horizontally to provide useful LF horizontal pattern control.
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For extended low frequency performance, WPS is designed to be partnered with the SXC118 cardioid subwoofer and its flyable variant, SXCF118.
Ashly Audio CA Series Power Amplifier line Ashly Audio’s new CA Series Power Amplifier line introduces new capabilities that are critical to installers and end users alike. The new CA Series features six models—three 2-channel models and three 4-channel models—that come in 500-watt, 1,000-watt and 1,500-watt per channel (at 4 ohms) versions. The CA Series is also designed for stable operation @ 2 ohms and 70V. Each unit incorporates Ashly’s D-MAX technology, which allows for efficiency and reliability—including proprietary power supply design and energy management systems, as well as control system implementation. Dynamic Power-Factor Correction adds a level of intelligence to power utilization efficiency by accurately tracking fluctuations in current, rather than just sampling at the peaks. Also, new SailFlow cooling design brings a bi-lateral air-cooling system that maintains a low operational temperature.
Radial Engineering Catapult Mini TRS Radial Engineering’s Catapult Mini TRS is the company’s latest addition to the Catapult product line of modular Cat5 audio snakes. The Catapult Mini TRS provides the ability to drive four analog audio channels over a single shielded Cat5 cable and connect to audio interfaces and other devices with balanced ¼-inch connections. The Mini TRS is small enough to fit inside a road case or the dog house of a mixing console, and it complements the existing Catapult Mini RX and TX modules, which feature male and female XLR connectors respectively. A compact steel chassis includes a hardwired fan-out to four balanced ¼-inch TRS connectors. All of the Radial Catapult modules are compatible with each other, and each is sold individually. Two Catapult Mini TRS modules can be used together as a pair to create a compact 4-channel ¼-inch TRS audio snake, or they can be connected to other Catapult modules that include XLR inputs and outputs, splitting capabilities, or transformer isolation.
Meyer Sound ULTRA-X40 Point Source Loudspeaker Meyer Sound has introduced the ULTRA-X40 point source loudspeaker. Based on technologies developed for the newest generation of LEO Family line arrays, ULTRA-X40 features a distinctive driver configuration, a rotatable horn, and a new amplifier and processing module. Its concentric-driver configuration couples two 8-inch cone
drivers to a rotatable waveguide surrounding a 3-inch high-frequency compression driver, to deliver smooth response across its entire range and directional control down to 400 Hz. It features a 3-channel Class D amplifier that provides peak output of 1,950 watts with a max sustained current draw of just 1.3 A (230 V AC). And it delivers a linear peak SPL of 130.5 dB free-field at 1 meter measured with Meyer Sound M-Noise. Its dimensions are 12.5 x 22 x 14 inches and less than 55 pounds—20 pounds lighter than its predecessor, the UPA-1P.
Interphase Audio Debuts Two New Analog Recording and Mixing Consoles
Interphase Audio has announced the Ark 1648 and Ark 4048 recording and mixing consoles. Based on the Ark 8, discrete, Class-A, modular, configurable console, these brand-new consoles pack most of the goodies of the Ark 8 in a standard, affordable package. While the Ark 8 remains the top-of-the-line, the Ark 1648 and Ark 4048 are configured as standard consoles, with every option pre-installed. The Ark 1648 is an inline console, with mic pre, EQs and filters per input channel. The Ark 4048 is an inline console, with mic pre and slots for 500 series modules per input channel. Both consoles feature the same master section, with two stereo mix buses, eight stereo returns and full CRM section with two cue outputs, four stereo speakers sets and four stereo external inputs.
New Cinema Line Amps from Danley Sound In support of the Cinema Line, Danley Sound Labs has introduced the Danley 10K8c and 3K8c amplifiers. Both models are two rack units and provide eight independent inputs and eight independent amplifier channels (though any pair of channels can be bridged), 96 kHz digital processing, presets for every Cinema Line loudspeaker and subwoofer, and loudspeaker and circuit protection. The principal difference between them is that the Danley 10K8c delivers 1,250 watts per channel, whereas the Danley 3K8c delivers 400 watts per channel (2, 4, or 8 ohms or 70V for both units). Power-saving features result in significant reductions in waste heat generation. System integration with Ethernet or GPIO ports allows remote system monitoring and power sequencing. Phoenix-style input and GPIO terminals make installation straightforward. Analog and optional Dante
digital networked audio inputs can make installation even simpler when working with AES67 or Dante-enabled output devices.
Neutrik NA2-IO-DPRO Dante Interface Neutrik USA has released the new 2-in, 2-out NA2-IO-DPRO Dante interface. The NA2-IO-DPRO features two inputs switchable between Mic, Line, and AES/EBU signals, plus two outputs switchable between analog Line and AES/EBU. Two Dante ports provide for either redundancy or device daisy chaining. The NA2-IO-DPRO front panel provides two latching XLR inputs plus two XLR outputs. AES/EBU operation is seamlessly and independently auto detected for inputs and outputs. Using Neutrik’s free DPRO controller software for Mac or PC, +48 V phantom power can be applied; microphone preamplifier gain, pad and highpass filtering can be set per channel; and input channels can be linked for matched operation. Output channels can be muted or unmuted within the software. The NA2-IO-DPRO rear panel provides primary and secondary Dante ports over Neutrik etherCON connectors. The secondary input can be configured for either Redundant mode or Switched mode (for daisy chaining). When operating in Switched mode in conjunction with a 60 W PoE injector, up to eight devices can be daisy chained. Up to four devices can be daisy chained with a 30 W PoE injector. Neutrik’s NA2-IO-DPRO is AES67 compliant. Power must be externally supplied via either a PoE switch or a PoE injector per IEEE 802.3af/at, class 2 or no classification at 6W. With optional mounting brackets or a rack panel, the NA2-IO-DPRO can be mounted below tables, in floor boxes, in racks or on the stage truss.
New Products from Bose Bose has unveiled the ArenaMatch DeltaQ loudspeakers and ArenaMatch Utility loudspeakers, which bring Bose sound quality to outdoor installations through DeltaQ technology. Also introduced by Bose are 12 models of DesignMax loudspeakers in a range of sizes (ceiling and surface models, black and white, with subwoofer options); five new PowerSpace amplifiers (two with onboard DSP); two Commercial Sound Processors with a simplified configuration tool; three new digital ControlCenter controllers; and an upgraded Business Music System Designer software tool to facilitate quicker and better system designs. According to the company, the new, expanded line comes together to build a range of cohesive systems that reflect Bose Professional’s latest advancements in terms of audio technology and design aesthetics, while also focusing on customers’ everyday needs with greater ease of design, configuration and installation. n
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Tech // reviews Sonic Farm Pro Audio Xcalibur JC By Barry Rudolph
ntroduced in 2018, the Xcalibur JC is a new variant of Sonic Farm Pro Audio’s Xcalibur Pentode Preamplifier and Saturator. The “JC” model includes custom modifications specified by engineer/producer Joe Chiccarelli. Xcalibur is a sorcerer’s apprentice; you can easily concoct a “shaman’s potion” of tubebased saturation and filtered, overdriven sounds. ANALOG INSIDE AND OUT The Xcalibur JC has two identical channels of mic/line/instrument pre-amplification packed into a 1U steel cabinet. It has 38 front panel controls, jacks and switches, and the ability to serially cascade Channel 1’s output into Channel 2’s input. While in cascade mode, both channels’ line outputs remain available. The interior of the Xcalibur JC is a marvel of construction. There is a shielded power supply and voltage regulator board—all DC voltages, even the tubes’ filaments supply, are regulated. The rear panel has XLR inputs for both line and microphone sources, XLRs for the line outputs, a ground lift switch, fuse holder, and AC power selector switch. All switches are from Ningbo KLS Electronics. The heavy output transformers are securely mounted to the steel chassis, and the two main boards, one for each channel, have vertically mounted daughter boards with two EF86s per channel plugged into ceramic sockets. The four EF86s are NOS Svetlana “Winged C” tubes sourced directly from Russia or Ukraine. Each channel has three input path choices selectable from the front panel. There are inputs for balanced microphone, line level, and a front panel ¼-inch jack with 2.2 meg-ohm impedance for unbalanced keyboard instruments or guitars and bass. The rear XLR line level input automatically changes over to the 1/4-inch Instrument input when you plug into it. With the Line/Instrument Input button switched out, the mic input is active along with a large Cinemag CMMI-10 CPC input transformer. Cinemag also makes the Xcalibur’s CMLI-15B line input and CM-13104 output transformers. You may order the unit
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fitted with iron core output transformers (as my review unit came) or Cinemag nickel/iron core transformers. Iron core transformers offer a softer high-frequency sound. There are front panel switches for +48-volt phantom and three different mic input impedance choices: 10-kohms, 900-ohms and 2,400-ohms. Input impedance, along with the switchable -15dB attenuator pad placed before the transformer, affects the load presented to the microphone. I have found that changing impedance affects the sound and tone of dynamic microphones but not condensers. THREE STAGES Each channel of the Xcalibur JC has three sections, or stages. The signal chain order is: a clean gain stage, overdrive, and the summing/mixer/output section. The clean microphone preamp stage uses an EF86 tube and sounds similar to Sonic Farm’s Creamer preamp in pentode mode. There is a three-position microphone Gain toggle switch with Lo, Mid and High positions. The three positions differ in gain by about 7 to 9 dB, but final gain depends on the settings of the Fat and Air filters built into the clean preamp circuit itself—they are not a separate EQ. The well-named Fat filter is a preset (6dB/octave) low-frequency shelving boost equalizer. It has a three-way toggle switch with a center flat position. Switching it to the left boosts from 400 Hz downward with maximum boost of 9 dB. When the Fat switch is set to the right, both the Fat and Air filters are bypassed and the maximum clean preamp gain is available. I liked the sound of the Fat filter—it uses an LCR filter circuit with its coil made in-house. The Air filter is an RC circuit, a 6dB/octave high-frequency shelf boost EQ with a three-frequency switch: left is 1 kHz, center is off, and to the right is 8 kHz with up to 9dB of boost. The amount of overall Fat and Air boost is adjustable via separate trim pots accessible through holes in the unit’s top cover, but there is little
PRODUCT SUMMARY COMPANY: Sonic Farm Pro Audio WEB: www.sonicfarm.com PRODUCT: Xcalibur JC PRICE: $2,200 MSRP PROS: Completely malleable analog coloration in one amazing tool. CONS: Can be daunting and a bit fiddly at first—you have to learn it. need to ever adjust it. At the output of the clean preamp is a 6dB/ octave highpass filter called HPf1. HPf1 has three cutoff frequency choices. Position O is off, 1 is 160 Hz, and position 2 is 80 Hz. After the HPf1 filter, the clean preamp output signal splits and goes to a clean output level called CLN and also to the DRV control that sets the drive level or distortion of the EF86 Overdrive stage. There is a two-color, LED signal presence/overload indicator that monitors level at this split. CLN sets the clean signal level going to the Summing/Mixer/Output stage, and the BLD, or Overdrive Blend control, sets the Overdrive stage’s output going into the Summing/Mixer/ Output stage. OVERDRIVE STAGE The Overdrive stage uses a second EF86 tube in an overdrive circuit with an input highpass filter called ODf1 and an output lowpass filter called ODf2—another update in the JC version. The pre overdrive ODf1 highpass filter is bypassed when set to the left (0); the middle position (1) rolls off the bass and most of the midrange; and the right (2) position rolls off bass only. The new (also in the JC Model) OD+ overdrive gain toggle switch is a FET-based stage used in conjunction with the DRV control. OD+ will add more saturation, level and harmonics, and has three choices of gain: medium, low and high, with the latter mode adding the FET stage up to the point of fuzz. Next is the ODf2 lowpass filter for filtering out fizzy distortion; it has three corner frequency choices. Position 1 is 5.5 kHz @12dB/octave; at 0 is18 kHz, or essentially flat; and position 2 is the darkest sounding position at 1kHz @ 6dB/octave. SUMMING/MIXER/OUTPUT STAGE Using the CLN, BLD and DRV controls, Xcalibur JC has the ability to carefully control the amount
and color of added saturation using its third stage, a mixer/summing/output stage. The summing/mixer/output stage in the JC has a variable Output level control and uses a TI OPA2604AP op-amp chip for summing and mixing. Another op-amp drives the Output XLR directly when the OT/SS switch is set to SS (Solid-State). In the OT mode (Output Transformer), the chip drives the 1:1 primary of the output transformer that adds no gain. Because of a compact 1U front panel with not enough space to spell out the controls’ full names, I quickly learned the abbreviations and the signal chain order. It is a “tweaker’s paradise” that begs to be explored on a quest for just the right tone and overdriven, saturated sound. I found it well worth the effort. It turns out that these (mostly) centerpositioned switches serve as default starting settings when building sounds. Suffice to say there is a lot of interaction with all the controls because in actual fact, you will be designing the unit’s gain staging. Everything you touch affects the sound, tone and level coming out of Xcalibur JC. The DRV, CLN, BLD, and Master Output level controls are all conveniently clustered together in the center of each channel, which aids in the setup speed. IN THE STUDIO My first Xcalibur JC live recording session was setting up a recording chain for a singer/ songwriter demo. I used one channel for a Roswell Delphos II condenser vocal mic and the other channel for a Jensen Iso-Kit Direct Box to record his Taylor acoustic. A good practice is to set the CLN and Output controls in straight up positions and keep DRV and BLD fully CCW (off) for now. I put all the toggle switches in the center positions, except the Gain switch on both channels was “H,” and I switched HPf1 off on the vocal channel and to position 2 (80Hz) on the guitar DI channel. I juggled the CLN along with the Out control
to set final recording level directly into Pro Tools. I preferred the SS position on the guitar DI channel, while the transformer OT path sounded great on the vocal channel. I did try saturating the acoustic guitar channel with a touch of the DRV and BLD controls—but the CLN level was the main show here. It is a bit tricky trying to set up saturation for live performance; I’d rather “re-amp” the clean track playing back later when I can spend time tweaking it. My singer remarked on “how present and upfront the vocal sound was without being overly bright!” OVERDRIVING So far I’d been only using the clean preamp section, and now I wanted to jump into the Overdrive section! I zeroed out the CLN control, put BLD straight up, and turned up the DRV control no more than a quarter of its range. DRV seems a little sensitive, and I think its range could be broadened out—I found it all comes on within the first 25 percent of its range, and reducing the BLD level in the mixer helps. I did some re-amping during a Pro Tools mix using Xcalibur JC as a line in/out insert processor. On either close-miked snare drum tracks or on the two overheads it produced a larger-than-life drum sound—something like extreme compression but much more adjustable and interesting. It also blended better in the mix than just squashing the drums. You could also set up Xcalibur JC as a send/return effect, like a reverb or delay in your mix. This is one of Joe Chiccarelli’s methods when mixing. On the single snare drum track, switching the Air boost to the right produces a pleasant treble lift, and setting the Fat over to the left gives you slightly more low frequencies. Keeping Fat and Air at these settings, and changing Gain from low to medium, necessitates re-matching the mix level back in Pro Tools. But that drum became bigger and more present, with a “gained up” sound, yet still was clean and retained its
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sharp transients. I think of OD+ as a range switch for the DRV control, and I found switching from either low or medium to high offers an extreme change in level and overloading. You’ll need to adjust the level of the BLD and the Output control. Caution: Watch your monitoring/headphone level when searching for sounds! In addition to the snare drum going through Channel 1, I also had a clean guitar track playing through Channel 2 and relied on ODf2 to remove buzz and fizz from a special high gain treatment I achieved. It was invaluable. Next, I had my guitar player come over and plugged his Strat right in the front panel
jack of the left channel. He has a high-output humbucker pickup at the bridge, and the clean tone was the best tube direct box I’ve ever heard. I set the “1 into 2” cascade switch and had sound coming out of both Channel 1’s and Channel 2’s output. In this simple way you can get a wide range of different sounds recorded on two separate tracks. I got a crunch sound coming out of the Channel 1, and Channel 2 produced a more fuzzy and distorted tone. You can pan these two channels hard left and right at your own peril, and the (ø) polarity button is useful here for centering the stereo image or to invoke tonality changes similar to a split pickup coil switch on an electric guitar. My
guitar player remarked that he could now “forget about lugging his Fender Deluxe amp to our next session.” I agree! Recording a vintage Fender Precision bass was also excellent in that we could dial in the exact ratio of clean to distortion tone so easily. Re-amping the bass track is also a cool edge you can add to it in a mix. It is amazing that all possible analog colors from saturated tubes, FET transistors and transformers are combined and infinitely adjustable in a single unit! The Xcalibur JC is a “one-stop,” magical studio overdrive processor and a must-have for me. So far it has proved useful in some way on every session. n
(Sean Callery continued from page 31)
I used with Joel was ‘percolating.’ These things tended to serve the show well.” A year after “24” ended in 2010, Callery was still working on “Medium,” which he had begun in 2005, and “Bones,” which he started in 2008, when he embarked on “Homeland.” Of all the shows he’s done, Callery says, it has the most “sculpted” sound. He also notes that he went from about 40 minutes of music per episode in “24” to 15 in “Homeland.” “I thought, ‘This is going to be a walk in the park,’ and, oh, I was so wrong,” he admits. “It’s shot
“beautiful” writing and acting. The “Homeland” theme was initially composed as a solo piano piece, inspired by the music of Bill Evans—connecting with the haunted, introspective quality of his playing, which Callery thought would serve the series well. “There was also talk of having a trumpet kind of idea, and I was getting a lot of feedback from the producers and how they wanted to put it together,” he recalls. “When I finally got the picture, I had about four or five different kinds of themes, and things really had to morph and evolve to fit it. It functions almost like a counter against the violent imagery. The trumpet almost serves like a wailing sound of a person crying out. The highest note actually plays as the Twin Towers appear on screen.” While “Homeland” remains his most challenging project to date, Callery recently composed the score for a six-hour mini series called “The Hot Zone,” about an Ebola outbreak on U.S. soil, which he says had a “wonderful complexity to it.” “There were these great scenes in these labs, and there was a constant sense that you were working around things that were very dangerous; that they weren’t dangerous yet, but they could be,” he explains. Still, each show imparts its own puzzle and artistic joys, Callery says, and then as it becomes a hit, it presents the challenge of keeping it interesting for the viewer. “I learn a lot from all of them and I treasure them all,” he smiles. n
character (Kiefer Sutherland) was a rogue hero and commenced to write a theme for him on his Yamaha Upright Disklavier MX100A, at the side of his studio setup. “When I’m working on melodies, that’s the easiest way to go because you can just sit there and hit Record and it’s a player piano,” Callery says. “It’ll just record whatever I play into it.” Callery got the green light to continue as composer following the pilot, and he went on to be nominated for Emmys every year he worked on the show, earning a statue for Outstanding Music Composition For a Series (Dramatic Underscore) in 2003, 2006 and 2010. The real-time, multiple-screen format of the show provided its own specifications, and Callery says they found their mojo by the second half of the first season. He says that they continually experimented with textures that could indicate to the viewer that they were connected by time. “This was a show where time didn’t pass,” Callery explains. “We had to experiment with designing sounds that would spill over into other scenes just to establish a psychological notion that the connecting music between scenes is actually a thread connecting time.” One example? Callery says he designed a couple of ticky-tock sounds with low basses. “They were hybrid tick tocks,” he explains. “I didn’t want them to be so on the money that it sounded like a grandfather clock. The word
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“When music is present in ‘Homeland,’ it is a punctuation of a moment. Even then, you have to be careful not to make the music feel unnatural to the moment." —Sean Callery in such a real-world way, almost documentarystyle in the way it observes people and so forth, that it completely trusts the audience to be there. We never, I don’t think, in the eight years I have been affiliated with the show, ever thought we needed a piece of music because it wasn’t honest or earned. When music is present in ‘Homeland,’ it is a punctuation of a moment. Even then, you have to be careful not to make the music feel unnatural to the moment.” He calls it “a bit of a dance” to work at paring things down to stay out of the way of the
Tech // reviews JoeCo Cello Desktop Interface With High-Quality Sound, Deep Feature Set By Mike Levine
oeCo is best known for its durable, roadworthy, rackmount audio interface/recorder units. With the release of Cello, the company has jumped into the crowded desktop interface market with a unit that provides an impressive feature set along with boutique-quality conversion and preamps, and the ability to record at up to a 384kHz sampling rate. Cello requires drivers for PC but is USB class-compliant for the Mac. The unit features USB 2.1 connectivity and works in tandem with the free JoeCoControl application (Mac and PC), which opens up some of its deeper functionality. Cello is bus-powered but also comes with a DC adapter, which JoeCo recommends using to guarantee full response from the converters. Cello is a desktop interface that combines excellent sound, powerful features and solid build quality.
HELLO, CELLO JoeCo lists Cello as a 22x6 interface. On the input side, that includes two mic/line combo inputs (XLR/¼-inch TRS), a ¼-inch TRS instrument-level input, a built-in talkback mic that feeds its own input (input 4), and two ¼-inch TRS line inputs (5 and 6). The company counts the pair of SPDIF/ADAT Lightpipe input ports as 16 additional inputs. [A brief aside for a reviewer’s pet peeve: Interface manufacturers typically list their Lightpipe I/O in their input/output specs, when they’re not usable unless you have other ADAT-equipped units to connect them to. It would be more realistic to refer to them as expansion ports, rather than count them along with the analog I/O. Pet peeve finished.] On the output side, Cello features left and right Monitor Outputs (1/4-inch TRS) and a pair of independently controlled headphone outputs. You can create up to four low-latency headphone mixes from the JoeCoControl software. More on that a little later.
the two headphone outputs, a relatively small LCD that shows parameters like monitor and headphone level, clock source and more. In the upper right-hand corner is a large knob that controls the monitor output level and doubles as a DIM switch for the monitor outputs. When pressed down, you can turn it to adjust the DIM level, which is numerically represented in the LCD at the same time. JoeCo recommends putting Cello in front of your computer screen—in other words, on the work surface in front of where you sit. Optimally, you should be looking almost directly over it. Because of lack of space on my studio desktop, I had to put it on a surface just to my left. This was a bit problematic, because looking from the side, the input gain knobs blocked the lower part of the LED displays. Fortunately, the levels are shown in the JoeCoControl software, so it wasn’t a big problem.
ON THE TOP The metal-housed Cello is solidly built. The top panel features all the onboard controls. You get an input knob for the two Mic input channels, Instrument and Line. The button for the Line input is also a switch to turn on the built-in talkback mic. All four inputs have six-step, ladder-style LED input meters, and the mic channels feature substantial buttons for the +48V phantom power, a -20dB pad, a Highpass filter set at 100 Hz, and a Phase reverse switch. The upper section of the top panel features level controls for
FRONT AND SIDES Most of the physical inputs on the unit are on the front-facing panel, which has the two combo Mic/Line inputs, the ¼-inch Instrument input and the Headphone outputs. On the left-hand side of the unit, you’ll find MIDI In and Out DIN connectors. A lot of contemporary interfaces leave out the MIDI port, figuring that you’ll plug a controller into your computer through USB. But actual MIDI connectors give you more options and are a welcome feature. The other connections are all on the rear panel. You get ports for USB-to-host, DC power, the two ¼-inch monitor outputs,
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PRODUCT SUMMARY COMPANY: JoeCo PRODUCT: Cello WEBSITE: joeco.co.uk PRICE: $1,125 PROS: High-quality sound; supports 384kHz sampling rate; built-in talkback mic; solid build quality; up to four headphone mixes; MIDI I/O; M/S Matrix built in; inserts on mic channels; AFL listen helpful for setting monitor mixes; adjustable filters on converters. CONS: Download access for control software can take a day; meter view obstructed if placed to the side; JoeCoControl consolidated window not expandable.
SPDIF/Wordclock In and Out jacks on RCA connectors, two optical ADAT IN connectors, and ¼-inch Insert Send and Return jacks for the two mic preamp channels, allowing you to patch outboard effects into the input chain. The Insert jacks double as line-in connectors. IN CONTROL The JoeCoControl software unlocks a much deeper feature set. To get the application, you have to first register your Cello on the JoeCo site and then wait for a return email with a passcode. Apparently, the process requires manual approval from JoeCo, which means you could have a delay of a day or so before you can access the software. [I’m sure that JoeCo has its reasons for not just making the software downloadable from the company website, but if they’re going to make you register to get it, it should be an automated process so you can download the software as soon as you’ve finished signing up.] JoeCo Control initially opens in a small rectangular GUI that encompasses all four of its windows: the Input Control panel, Low Latency Mix panel, Monitor Mix panel and Master panel. When I first opened it, I tried dragging the corner of it to see if the GUI would enlarge but discovered that’s not how it works. Each of its panels can be opened as separate, resizable windows by pressing the orange arrow in the panel’s corner. Once opened, you can make the windows substantially larger; I still would have liked an option to resize the main window so that I could keep all the functions in one place. Having separate windows is surely handy for some workflows, but on a crowded screen, it creates too many items to keep track of for my taste.
From the main window of JoeCoControl you can open resizable versions of each of the individual sections.
DIGGING DEEP The Input Control window has meters for the inputs and software versions of the buttons on the hardware front panel. For the mic channels, it includes all the buttons from the hardware, plus another called Top, which gives a little highend boost with a shelving filter. The Input Control window also includes some crucial preference buttons for functions like clocking (Auto or Internal), turning on and off the built-in MS matrix for the mic inputs (very cool!), turning the digital output on and switching it between Coaxial and Optical, choosing whether to output SPDIF or Wordclock from the Coaxial output, and setting the Operating Mode. The latter allows you to choose between all channels at up to 48 kHz, 16 channels at up to 96 kHz, 8 channels at up to 192 kHz and 4 channels at up to 384 kHz. If you expand the window, you get two additional buttons, ADC setup and DAC setup, which allow you to adjust the digital lowpass filter on the converters. According to JoeCo, some sources may sound better with particular filter settings. I found the differences between the parameters to be extremely subtle, but for some this will surely be a desirable feature. MIX AND MATCH The software also gives you access to a DSPbased, low-latency mixer, and depending on which operating mode you have selected, you can have up to four mixes available: Main Mix, Phones 1, Phones 2, and SPDIF. The mixes are color coded so that each mixer window is a different color—easy to differentiate, very cool. The Monitor/Mix Master window lets you access monitor-section functions like Talkback, Talkback Latch, Dim and Mute. Also, you get PFL and AFL options. The latter lets you listen to any of the headphone mixes in the main
monitors. As that lets you hear the same mix as the talent, it’s helpful for quickly dialing in levels. You can also select which mixes get talkback, record a slate from the talkback mic directly to the DAW channel, turn on Autodim for automatically dimming when the talkback is engaged, and more. Mixes can also be saved and recalled. Overall, the monitoring functions are deep and flexible. The only feature I miss is the ability to add effects (particularly reverb) to an incoming source for monitoring. SONICALLY SPEAKING Cello’s sound quality is impressive. I recorded acoustic guitar and vocals through the mic preamps, and the results were clean, uncolored and natural-sounding. The high-impedance instrument input, which I used for electric guitar and bass, also yielded excellent results. After having the Cello in my studio for a week or so, and putting it through its paces, my opinion of it is quite favorable. In addition to its high-quality sound and 384kHz sampling-rate capability, it has a feature set that lets you geek out if you want—for example, adjusting the filters on the converters—but is simple enough that musicians without a lot of recording chops will do fine with it, too. With its solid build quality, Cello makes an excellent portable interface, although it’s equally at home in a permanent studio setup. The ability to add external preamp units through its ADAT inputs means that you could get a Cello and expand it when your needs change. The unit’s flexible and deep monitor mixing features, and built-in talkback, would make it a great centerpiece of a more extensive setup for full band or ensemble recording. While it might seem a little pricey for the number of mic preamp channels, you’re paying for quality. Cello is “pro audio” through and through. n
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Tech // reviews Audionamix Instant Dialogue Cleaner By Michael Cooper
Strength slider progressively separates ost readers of Mix are dialog from noise but has no audible probably familiar with effect when used alone. For example, Audionamix’s critically even with the Strength slider set to 100%, acclaimed, cloud-based track-separation the highest possible setting, I found and noise-reduction software. Now that the plug-in initiates no audible comes the company’s Instant Dialogue processing when both the Background Cleaner, a plug-in that automatically knob and Speech slider are set to 0 dB. differentiates speech from steady-state But setting the Strength slider to 0%, the noise; reverberation; and dynamic noises lowest possible setting, did reduce noise caused by wind, birds, insects, cars and when the Background knob was lowered planes. Using IDC’s zippy control set, to a negative value. you can independently adjust the levels IDC’s horizontal Output fader adjusts of speech and background noise in real the plug-in’s output level. Below the time. fader are left and right output meters That’s right, unlike with the (two meters even with instantiation company’s discontinued ADX SVC on mono tracks) purportedly showing (Speech Volume Control), which IDC both RMS and peak output levels, with replaces using all-new processing, there’s a 3-second peak hold (more in a bit). no need for an Internet connection to Clipping indicators adjoin the meters. the company’s ADX cloud in order to IDC’s simple control set belies its powerful, one-stop noise-reduction capabilities. The plug-in’s bypass button sits in the execute track analysis and processing for dialog tracks. IDC instead uses machine learning in a type GUI’s top-left corner. Clicking on the “?” icon in the GUI’s upperof artificial intelligence called DNN (deep neural network) to do right corner opens the User Guide. You can automate all of IDC’s its mojo in the box. (A DNN is a multi-layered, computationally controls save for the “?” button (which would be, of course, intensive network that continuously measures errors in its input positively ridiculous). As with all other noise-reduction software, injudicious use analysis and modifies its parameters accordingly until it can’t lessen errors any further.) The result is faster—and, it turns out, will produce compromised results. In my sessions treating dialog much more effective—processing than what SVC provides. (While tracks, I found that boosting the Strength slider excessively while SVC isn’t being sold anymore, existing users can still use it in the also lowering the Background knob too much introduced phase-y, watery-sounding artifacts. The best combination of settings for ADX cloud to process tracks.) You’ll need at least 8 GB of RAM and either an iLok2 dongle or these two controls wasn’t always immediately obvious; the provision free iLok Cloud account to use the cross-platform IDC. VST2, VST3, of A and B workspaces would have been helpful in arriving at that AAX Native and AudioSuite formats are supported for both Mac determination. But I apparently had more latitude using the Strength control. and Windows, along with AU format for Mac. I tested v1.5 of the AU plug-in in Digital Performer 9.52 (Audionamix had yet to confirm For example, treating an extremely reverberant male dialog track compatibility with DP10 at press time), using an 8-core Mac Pro with IDC, I got clean results boosting the Strength slider all the way to 100% and the Background knob to -17 dB. But lowering loaded with 10 GB of RAM and running macOS 10.11.5. Background a little further to -22 dB, even with Strength plunged to 0% for the least amount of separation, introduced phase-y artifacts ONLY FIVE CONTROLS IDC’s GUI is so simple you can operate it while in a coma. A on the dialog’s dry sound and modulated the amplitude of the centrally located knob, labeled Background, adjusts at once the remaining reverb. In fact, I generally found IDC to work better at reducing level of all background noises—regardless of their source—from -¥ (completely muted) to +24 dB. The Speech slider allows you broadband, steady-state noise than reverb; I often had to let a to adjust the level of speech across the same range. Raising the significant—though relatively small—amount of reverb remain on
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PRODUCT SUMMARY COMPANY: Audionamix PRODUCT: Instant Dialog Cleaner (IDC) WEBSITE: audionamix.com PRICES: $119; upgrade from ADX SVC, $50 PROS: Reduces or eliminates many types of noise in one pass. Excels at reducing knotty noise from traffic and gusty wind. Fast real-time processing. Simple control set. Inexpensive. CONS: No editable frequency contouring for processing. No A and B workspaces. Inaccurate output meters and clipping indicators. a track in order to avoid processing so heavily as to cause audible artifacts. Still, I was truly shocked at how effectively this straightforward and inexpensive plug-in reduced both broadband noise and reverb in one stroke—tasks usually requiring separate plug-ins. And that’s not all IDC treats. The plug-in did an absolutely fantastic job reducing the sound of very loud wind producing low-frequency gusts— the post-production engineer’s bane—nearly eliminating it (and performing dramatically better than the company’s discontinued ADX SVC plug-in). IDC also excelled at reducing traffic noise and greatly attenuated—almost to the point of inaudibility—the sound of a telephone ringing in the background of a female dialog track. On another dialog track recorded outdoors
in rural India, IDC dramatically reduced at once the sounds of mild wind and a flock of noisy birds without introducing any audible artifacts. The plug-in virtually eliminated the sound of a motor humming and a jackhammer pounding away on a male dialog track recorded outdoors at a construction site. In order to achieve such dramatic results, I had to plunge the Background knob to around -24 dB—with the Strength slider set to 100%—which also all but removed light, airy wind noise and made the talent sound like he was indoors (incongruous with the video). This is the drawback of having one plugin treat all noise at once and more or less to equal degree. If IDC had allowed tailoring the sensitivity of its processing to various degrees across the audio spectrum, I might have been able to preserve more of the outdoor airiness while eliminating the construction noise. Of course, such functionality would complicate operation for what is an amazingly straightforward plug-in. And I could process the track less heavily to arrive at an acceptable balance between reduced noise and preserved ambience.
WORKFLOW After dialing in the optimal settings for Strength and Background—reducing noise as much as I could without introducing artifacts—I found it best to use the Output fader to raise the overall level of the dialog when needed; raising the Speech slider instead added additional separation processing and tipped the processing over the edge, introducing artifacts. As adjusting either the Background or Speech control affects the ratio of noise to dialog, the Speech control seems rather redundant to me; I typically left it set to 0 dB. I found IDC’s output meters to be inaccurate and of little use; they seemed to show only ostensible RMS levels, which were wildly understated, and the clip indicators seemed to light a few dB before actual clipping. But these are relatively minor considerations—you can always use your DAW’s meters to monitor levels post-processing—when you consider how amazing IDC is at handling all kinds of noise in one go. When tight budgets or deadlines demand lickety-split, one-stop processing, IDC is a lifesaver. Costing only $119, the plug-in also offers incredible bang for your buck. IDC is Everyman’s workhorse noise-reduction solution! n
The plug-in did an absolutely fantastic job reducing the sound of very loud wind producing low-frequency gusts—the postproduction engineer’s bane—nearly eliminating it.
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Tech // back page blog Buy, Subscribe, Rent… Or Repair? Mike Levine: Mix Technology Editor, Studio
Steve La Cerra: Mix Technology Editor, Live
Rent-to-Own Gathers Steam: More than ever, you have options for acquiring music software. You can buy it, subscribe to it and, in a more recent development, rent-to-own it. Your options for the latter increased last month with the announcement by Waves that the company is expanding its Flex program significantly. All Waves rent-to-own plans have 24-month terms, after which you own the plug-ins outright. One of the new levels is a less expensive one called Flex Starter, which costs $9.99 per month and lets you choose five plug-ins from a collection of 40. The standard Flex level remains at $19.99 per month and lets you pick 10 plug-ins (plus three free ones) from a select group of 80. The other new level, Flex Pro, costs $29.99 per month but lets you choose 20 plug-ins plus four free ones, from a collection of 120. A couple of other companies offer notable rent-to-own programs. Plugin Alliance, a plug-in distributor, lets you choose from 95 of its plugins (from companies like BrainWorx, SPL, Unfiltered Audio and others) for $29.99/month with a 24-month term. Splice offers plug-ins from iZotope, Arturia and the D-16 group, among others. Rather than letting you choose a specified number of titles, it’s all à la carte. Rent-to-own programs offer both advantages and disadvantages, as do the traditional purchase and subscription models. Let’s compare all three. Traditional Purchase. Pros: You can buy any plug-in you want and own it immediately. Cons: It’s the costliest way to go on a per-plug-in basis, and you need to pay the full cost up front. Subscription. Pros: You generally get access to a developer’s complete catalog of plug-ins and can use as many as you want at a time. Cons: Your payments build no equity. Rent-to-Own. Pros: Relatively small monthly payments, and at the end of the term, you own the plug-ins. Cons: The universe of plug-ins from which you can choose is limited.
Resurrecting an Audio Dinosaur: About two years ago I was visiting my friend and Audio Yoda Tony Ungaro, an outstanding engineer and composer. As I was ready to leave, he said, “Wait, I have something for you…” Tony brought out this Ampex 351 and said, “It’s a channel from an old tape machine. It has a mic input that you can use for a preamp. Play around with it—you’ll figure it out.” Oh yeah. Off I went on my merry way, already having decided that, even if this thing doesn’t produce any sound, it’s going to live in my rack because it looks awesome. At this point I knew nothing about either the Ampex 350 or 351, so I thought a good start would be to see if it powered up. I hacked apart a spare IEC power cable, tack-soldered it to the funky power connector, put on a pair of safety glasses, made the sign of the cross and flipped the power switch. The light for the VU meter illuminated, and I held my breath as the tubes started to glow. I had a fire extinguisher nearby— just in case. Holy Fire Bottles Batman, it worked! And nothing exploded. Well, the thing has a mic input and a headphone jack (mono, of course), so I dug out a ’57 and a pair of cans, plugged them in and turned some knobs. Lo and behold, the 351 passed audio, and had plenty of gain, so it could indeed be used as a microphone preamp. I next did a quick test run in the studio, connecting an RCA 44BX to the 351 and recording the results. Not too shabby. The Ampex 351 (and the 350) has ridiculous amounts of gain, like on the order of 90 dB—so I could easily use it with a low-output ribbon mic to record the sound of a mouse eating cheddar cheese at 100 yards. Knowing that the 351 was operational, I began the journey of refurbishing this Beautiful Beast and learned quite a bit in the process. I’ll discuss some of the highlights over the coming months.
Product of the Month: iZotope Neutron 3 iZotope released Neutron 3, the latest version of its AI-infused modular channel-strip plug-in, offering faster processing, lower CPU load and some compelling new features. Perhaps the most newsworthy of those is the Mix Assistant, and in particular, the Balance function. In the Advanced version of Neutron 3, it takes raw tracks or stems and automatically balances them as a starting point for your mix. You need to instantiate either Neutron (which iZotope refers to as the “Mother Ship”) or the included Relay plug-in on every track first (you need at least one track with Neutron). Then you play your mix with Neutron listening, and it balances the gain of the various instruments.
Product of the Month: Martin Audio WPS Line Array Based on the technology of the company’s MLA series of large-scale touring loudspeakers, the WPS Line Array is a compact 8-inch line array element, and the fourth addition to the company’s Wavefront Precision line array series. The WPS is a three-way passive design with a frequency response ranging from 70 Hz to 18,000 Hz (±3 dB). It can produce a maximum SPL of 133 dB. Each WPS cabinet incorporates two 8-inch LF drivers, four 4-inch midrange drivers, and four 1-inch exit HF compression drivers loaded with a molded horn that spans the entire width of the enclosure, creating a 100-degree horizontal pattern with constant directivity. Vertical coverage is 10 degrees. n
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