MIX 530 - February 2021

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Classic Tracks: Oingo Boingo’s ‘Just Another Day’ ★ Build Your Own Studio on $100K ★ Sound for ‘Mank’ February 2021 \\ mixonline.com \\ $6.99



w e r d n A Watt


Artist-P Just Lo roducer v Wherev es to Play, er He C an


Volume 45, Number 2

MUSIC Sound Debuts Ultra Reflex System

• Groovyland Opens Home-Based WSDG “eStudio”

• msm Studio Group Mixes Yello—Immersive

• Electric Lady Studios Partners With Daniel Johnston Estate

12 Classic Tracks:



8 News & Notes: • Meyer


PHOTO: Courtesy of Netflix

02.21 Contents 16 Mix Presents

Sound for Film & TV: Awards Season • The Sound of Mank, Sound of Metal and The Midnight Sky

32 New Products:

• 8 Composer Profiles!

36 Spotlight on Sennheiser:

• News & Notes from the Oscars, MPSE Golden Reels, CAS Awards

38 Review:

Oingo Boingo’s “Just Another Day”



6 From the Editor: Well,

Studio and Live Sound BY THE MIX EDITORS

20 On the Cover: The Andrew Watt Touch BY BY LILY MOAYERI

75-Plus Years, Still Innovating

SPL Marc One Monitor Controller BY MIKE LEVINE

It’s Been a Year Now

40 Review:

Neumann V 402 Mic Preamp BY MIKE LEVINE

42 Back Page Blog: Adding On the Cover: Artist/producer Andrew Watt, pictured at his Beverly Hills basement studio, has been hot, hot, hot, ending 2020 with a Grammy Nomination for Producer of the Year. Photo: Kevin Scanlon. Mix, Volume 45, Number 2 (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.

Some Story to a Mix; We Have to Save Our Stages BY MIKE LEVINE AND STEVE LA CERRA

24 Build Your Own Studio—Adding Analog in 2021 BY WES MAEBE

28 The Patina Behind the Sound of Mank BY JENNIFER WALDEN

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Vol. 45 Number 2

February 2021

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Current From the Editor

Well, It’s Been a Year Now… My daughters like to tease me that I use a few too many ellipses in my texts and Academy would have to shift the 2021 Grammy Awards from January to March emails. “Oh yeah, dad, he’s king of the ellipses,” Jesse once said to Molly over a at the last minute. Or that I would be attending my next NAMM virtually, with reuniting-at-the-holidays dinner. (Remember those?) We all had a good laugh; I product releases and musical performances alike coming at me via Zoom or one have seven brothers and four sisters. I can take a ribbing. Then I said something of its many cousins. Still, I’m excited for NAMM 2021 Believe in Music Week, to see how the show to the effect of, “Whaaaaaat? I love ellipses. They can mean so many things.” We performs online in the wake of CES and countless other trade shows these past laughed more. Well, to be clear, the ellipsis in the title means: “Are you frickin’ kidding me? six months. What have we learned? What are the possibilities? Could you hear This is still going on? I want to go out and see music, have a pint, fly to New York! the artists? Like it or not, the virtual show and/or performance will be with us for a I want my friends back at work! I want to wake up to good news some day soon! Come on, vaccine, do your stuff! I am done with staring at a screen all day, every while now, growing and evolving into something more than just a workaround, but something that imparts information or day! I want to go sit down in PMC’s Atmos entertainment in some hybrid way that builds mix room in L.A., listen to what’s been going The virtual performance will be with us on the in-person experience and expands on! I want to quit worrying about whether my for a while now, growing and evolving into outreach. Yes, shows will be back. But virtual two favorite nearby restaurants are going to will be there, too. That’s a positive thing. close! I want to drive up to Skywalker Sound something more than just a workaround, Record-making, too, is coming back in and interview Ren Klyce in person! I want to but something that imparts information many and varied hybrid ways. Andrew Watt, hang with my daughters and see them smile our cover artist this month, doesn’t seem to in real time, no mask!” or entertainment in some hybrid way that have slowed down much. And here at Mix Okay, I got that out of my system. I’m an builds on the in-person experience. we’ve received countless announcements of optimist, for goodness sake! creative projects being done within limited It’s just gotten to the point that I’ve given up trying to predict when and how things will become normal again, to the point frameworks. Television has exploded, and backed-up movie releases will start that sometimes I find myself drifting into the future, wondering how I will look finding their way to larger in-person audiences and a wider reach through back and remember these past 12 months. When I do, I realize that while it has streaming services. These can be positive things. And we’re all praying for a summer boost in touring and concert sound been maddening and uncertain, full of loss and a constant drip of anxiety, it hasn’t all been bad. Most of it, sure. But the human spirit has amazing resiliency, with an production. Lord knows, the whole world needs it, none more than the talented artists, crews, backline techs, venue operators, rental companies, manufacturers, amazing capacity for adaptation and workarounds. A therapist might tell me that I’m feeling reflective because NAMM is coming promoters and parking attendants. Better days are coming. I can feel it in the air. And I’m counting on looking back up, and for the first time in nearly 30 years, I won’t be going to Anaheim. I’ve said it before: NAMM 2020, it turns out, was my last big hurrah, my last big event/ at 2021 some day in the future and remembering that it was sometime in midJanuary when the mood started to change, when the virus started to be tamed, gathering/social/industry extravaganza before Covid-19 shut the world down. I guess that in February I did attend an outdoor celebration at a bayside brewery when the ellipsis started to fade away, one dot at a time. for Sarah Jones and a lot of the old Mix gang. Then in March, while being somewhat cautious but not yet fully aware, I took a tour of the new Coast Mastering in Berkeley, and after that, the facility’s owner, Michael Romanowski, and I were having some fish and chips at the Kensington Circus Pub on the night that the NBA canceled its first games and Tom Hanks called in from Australia to say that he and his wife were in Tom Kenny quarantine. The next day, everything changed. And now here I am again, never imagining back then that the Recording Editor


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news & notes

Detail of the Meyer Ultra Reflex System for LCR screen channels.

PHOTO: Adrian Tiemens

The Ultra Reflex system installed at Netflix, Los Angeles

Meyer Sound Debuts Ultra Reflex System Sound Solution for Direct View Displays at Netflix L.A. Campus


eyer Sound has introduced Ultra Reflex, a patent-pending solution for optimum reproduction of discrete screen-channel audio on large-scale direct view (“emissive”) video displays. The complete system for each screen channel comprises a high-frequency component reflecting off the screen that is coupled seamlessly with a direct-radiating, low-frequency component through proprietary acoustical designs, DSP technologies and optimization techniques. The result is full-bandwidth reproduction together with extremely low distortion, pinpoint directionality, and extraordinarily flat amplitude and phase response for tonal accuracy. Audio challenges have inhibited wider acceptance of larger direct view displays because, unlike with acoustically transmissive projection screens, loudspeakers cannot be located directly behind the visual image. Placing screen channel loudspeakers around the display perimeter


compromises uniformity of coverage, stability of image localization, and overall audio fidelity. The Ultra Reflex solution preserves the audio advantages of a behind-screen system while also improving breadth of coverage for a wider “sweet spot” in the viewing space. “The introduction of direct view displays in the cinema industry created the need for a unique solution for LCR screen channels,” says Miles Rogers, Meyer Sound business development manager, cinema & content creation markets. “Ultra Reflex is the culmination of prediction software, loudspeaker technologies, and the lifelong vision of John Meyer to create solutions for the most demanding audio professionals.” For the initial launch period, the Ultra Reflex solution is paired with Sony’s Crystal LED, which incorporate MicroLED with the company’s unique LED control and signal processing technology, offering a contrast ratio of more than 1,000,000:1, high brightness, a wide viewing angle and wide

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color gamut. The first joint installation for the two technologies is at a reference-level screening room and lab on the Netflix campus in Los Angeles. Designed to replicate both critical viewing and audio mixing, as well as accommodate VIP screenings, the room features a 17 x 9-foot HDRcapable 4K Crystal LED from Sony. Proprietary DSP for optimization is supplied by a GALAXY 816 Network Platform. The screen channels are part of a complete Dolby Atmos system that has quickly recallable snapshots for theatrical or 9.1.6 home entertainment playback modes. The balance of the system comprises a total of 37 self-powered Meyer Sound cinema loudspeakers, including HMS Series lateral and overhead surround loudspeakers bolstered by USW-210P subwoofers for surround bass management and X-400C cinema subwoofers with VLFC very-low-frequency control elements for bass management and LFE. n

Music // news & notes Groovyland Opens Home-Based WSDG “eStudio” Producer David Molho Builds 'Within His Walls' at Home

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The 148-square-foot control room

The 95-square-foot live room.

PHOTO: Nicolas Fernandez


PHOTO: Nicolas Fernandez


roovyland Studios in North Miami Beach, Fla., represents a sophisticated new era for WSDG’s emerging generation “eStudio” Model. Weighing in at just under 350 square feet. and built within the walls of a private home, Groovyland is a compact, multipurpose recording/mixing/editing facility geared to produce a wide variety of music. It modernizes the earlier personal studio genre to address post-Covid, quarantine-inspired lifestyles. It is efficient, extremely comfortable, precisely tuned and cocooned to keep sound from infiltrating within or escaping out. Studio owner/engineer/producer David Molho required a facility capable of hosting sessions in any category from pop, rock, jazz and rap to folk and hip-hop. Committed to a predetermined area, every inch of floor and wall space had to be exploited. The WSDG team developed a floor plan that included a 148-square-foot. Control Room, a 95-square-foot Live Room and a 100-square-foot Lounge. All three environments are capable of recording individually or simultaneously. Overseeing this genuine family project were WSDG partners Sergio and Silvio Molho, who made use of NIRO, an innovative computer-modeling predictive analyses software program that proved indispensible for optimizing room acoustics. Silvio Molho recommended perforated wood panels and three silver ceiling diffusers to precisely tune the frequency response within the room. Acoustic curtains on the two courtyard-facing windows can be drawn or opened to modify the room’s wet/dry sound. Studio gear includes Focal Solo6 Be speakers with a subwoofer, API, Chandler and Neve preamps and a carefully curated selection of microphones. A Heritage Audio RAM monitoring control and Universal Audio interfaces provide Groovyland with expansion capabilities to meet a wide range of projects. “Groovyland meets every one of my wish list categories,” David Molho concludes. “I am completely and quite literally at home here.” n

Music // news & notes msm Studio Group Mixes Yello—Immersive project because two set of ears and two different Swiss electronic duo Yello have embraced approaches to the soundscape often result in a immersive audio for their latest album, Point, by better outcome. We push each other to try new releasing a Dolby Atmos version mixed in Munich things and it becomes a very creative process.” by high-end media production company msm Boris Blank had planned to visit msm in Studio Group. Munich to approve the final mix but due to health Opened in 1991, msm has two PMC-equipped issues he couldn’t travel, so Bock and Merkl went mastering rooms (one in stereo and one in 5.1), to Zurich where they arranged for him to hear the a smaller editing and QC room and a home mix at Zurich’s University of the Arts, which has a cinema–style studio that is specifically designed Dolby Atmos studio. for Dolby Atmos music mixing, housing PMC Commenting on the experience, Blank says: IB2S three way speakers for the L, C, R channels “It was a fantastic experience for me to hear our and DB1S speakers for the surround and height new album Point in full 3D sound for the first channels. time in a Dolby Atmos-certified cinema at the msm founder and Managing Director Stefan Zurich University of the Arts. The amazement Bock has worked with Zurich-based band Yello Stefan Bock & David Merkl at msm Studio Group at the new room sound was comparable to how on previous projects and was delighted when he was approached by Universal Music Group to mix their new album in I heard the Beatles in stereo for the first time as a little Boris. Back then, those were worlds between mono and stereo. In my opinion, Stefan Bock Dolby Atmos. “I heard a demo of the album and spoke at length to Boris Blank so & David Merkl have conjured up the Yello sound with great care in a new that I could identify their artistic intent,” Bock says. “In keeping with sound dimension.” Point was released on December 11 2020, and is available on Pure Audio their precise Swiss nature, Yello sent us perfectly prepared session notes and files, and I undertook the Atmos mix in Munich with my colleague Blu-ray, a format developed by msm Studio Group. It is also available on David Merkl. David and I like to work in collaboration on this type of Dolby Atmos streaming services such as Tidal and Amazon. n

Electric Lady Studios Partners With Daniel Johnston Estate resonate now more than ever. His outpouring of expression has been referenced, adored and collected by the likes of David Bowie, Kurt Cobain, Matt Groening, Eddie Vedder, Frank Ocean, Jonah Hill, Mark Ruffalo, Cat Power, Tom Waits, Jack Antonoff, Lana Del Rey and many more of the world’s most influential creators. Last Fall, Foster produced a virtual tribute to the beloved artist to commemorate the Daniel Johnston, Lost Death, 1983, 11 x 8.5 one-year anniversary of his inches, Ink and marker on paper. passing. Electric Lady Presents “Honey, I Sure Miss You” was viewed more than 120,000 times, and saw intimate, at-home performances from some of Daniel’s most vocal supporters within the music community, ranging from Beck, Jeff Tweedy, Phoebe Bridgers, Devendra Banhart and many others, along with neverbefore-seen home video of Daniel constructing a song. n

PHOTO: Courtesy of The Daniel Johnston Trust.

Iconic New York City facility Electric Lady Studios is once again broadening its creative reach by working alongside the estate of celebrated singer/ songwriter and visual artist Daniel Johnston. What began as interest in one of the late artist’s drawings culminated in a genuine passion project for Studio Managing Partner Lee Foster, prompting him to take on an active role in preserving the late Johnston’s art. Having curated an impressive collection of Johnston’s original works currently on display in Electric Lady’s famed Studio A, including the famous “Symbolical Visions” drawing, Foster will serve as the link between the studio and The Daniel Johnston Trust, which is overseen by Dick Johnston, Daniel’s older brother. Just as Foster has become a conservator of Jimi Hendrix’s legacy, he now also works with Johnston’s family to help further cement the late artist’s remembrance and influence. “Art has always been a fixture at Electric Lady—from the large sci-fi, space murals commissioned by Hendrix, to the decoupage installations done here in the early 1970s,” notes Foster. “I began building my own collection of Daniel’s work and recognized that a separate collection for the studio would be great inspiration for musicians recording here. The creative dialog begins instantly when people see them.” Known for his frank and vulnerable style, Johnston’s music and art is cherished by many—with themes of pain, love, life and loss that

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Classic Tracks

Photo by Larry Hulst via Getty Images

“Just Another Day” Oingo Boingo By Barbara Schultz


ingo Boingo emerged as part of L.A.’s punk/new wave scene during the late 1970s, led by Danny Elfman and incorporating ska and electronica into their music, albeit differently from other “alternative” bands of the time. Their sound was dramatic, outrageous and constantly changing, reflecting their weird, semi-musical beginnings. The band was spawned by the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, a surrealist theater troupe that was formed in 1972 by Richard Elfman. When Richard decided to depart and pursue a career in film, his brother Danny took the wheel. The project evolved into a musical theater group, and finally into the band Oingo Boingo by about 1979. In 1980, Oingo Boingo released a self-titled EP that included “Only a Lad,” which would


become the title track on the band’s first fulllength album the following year. Three more albums dropped in three more years, a period that saw the departure of two bandmembers: bass player Kerry Hatch and keyboardist Richard Gibbs. By 1984 Elfman, guitarist Steve Bartek and drummer Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez, along with new members John Avila (bass) and Mike Bacich (keys), were experimenting increasingly with electronic sounds and different tempos, and Elfman’s involvement in film music was developing, too. Elfman wrote the title song for the John Hughes movie Weird Science, which Oingo Boingo recorded at Sound Factory Studios (L.A.) with engineer David Leonard and assistant Bill Jackson, and mixed with Leonard at Capitol. The

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idea was for the song also to appear on their next album, which they intended also to make with Leonard. However, Leonard needed to move on to another project, so he recommended his assistant for the job. “One day, David walked up to me and says, ‘I told Danny I can’t work with them and that they should use you,’” Jackson recalls. “Next thing, I get a call from Danny and he says, ‘David says that we should use you to do the record. Are you good with that?’ I said, ‘Oh yeah, sure.’ At this point, I had not engineered any label projects, except for occasional overdubs. I’d mostly been doing demos.” Jackson had originally made his way to L.A. from his hometown in South Carolina, via San Francisco. As a boy, he’d developed a fascination with music and recording. As a young man, he

played in bands and recorded friends’ projects to help pay for his education at Coastal Carolina College. He wanted to take his engineering skills to the next level but wasn’t sure how. “One time, the band I was in played an out-of-town gig, which we didn’t do very often. We were in a little town where there was nothing to do, but there was a magazine stand downtown, so I went over there to find some music magazines. I saw something that made my jaw drop. It was Mix magazine, and it had an article written by Tom Lubin where he interviewed Fred Catero. In that article, Lubin talked about working at the College for Recording Arts in San Francisco. I was like, there’s a school?” Jackson sold almost everything he owned and moved across the country. When he’d completed his year-long course at the College of Recording Arts, he moved to L.A. and eventually got his first job at Sunset Sound, which soon after acquired Sound Factory. Staff members would move between the two facilities, helping wherever they were needed. “I would also come early and stay late, and I would hang out in the studio with anybody that would let me,” Jackson says. “Back then, there were three sessions in the day and up to three sessions at night. I would look at everything that they were doing and all of the gear in the chain. I got to observe people like Al Schmitt recording Toto and Donn Landee mixing Van Halen. And sometimes if an engineer wasn’t available, they’d say, ‘Use Bill. He knows what he’s doing.’ But Oingo Boingo was the first time this happened for a big album project.” SETTING UP AT SOUND FACTORY The equipment for the Dead Man’s Party sessions, in Sound Factory Studio A, was set up under Leonard’s supervision beforehand, but choices were tweaked as the album progressed. “We recorded everything live, even if we were just trying to get the drums, and that’s something I ended up carrying out through most of the records I ever did,” Jackson says. “When you’re recording the band, it’s much easier to figure out if something doesn’t work— if the drummer’s just a little too slow, or maybe he should do something for one more measure.” Hernandez’s drums were set up on risers in

throughout the song. Jackson kindly checked with Bartek, who recalls that part was a Yamaha DX7 playing a custom balafon setting that Elfman had edited. “That sequenced keyboard and the little percussion hits that I think they did on the Emulator I—that’s what I think of when somebody says ‘Oingo Boingo,’” Jackson says. “And it’s the way Danny holds out the notes, with that great echo that Michael Frondelli put on there, and it breaks down to the drums and a sequencer. That song has everything that made them great.”

a corner that was the typical drum location in Studio A. “Steve Bartek and Danny would be at the console in the control room with me, with a Sennheiser 441 on Danny’s vocal. He’d be playing his guitar, but his amp and Steve’s amp were miked up with Neumann U47 FETs in a smaller room off of the live room.” Avila’s bass was captured with a Countryman DI, supplemented by a Neumann U87 on his amp, which was situated in its own room, behind the control room. “I remember the keyboard player [Bacich] was facing me, and I remember they used an Emulator I on those live sessions. Everything went down at once, even the sequenced parts.” On drums—the main object of the live sessions—Jackson recalls that there was another 47 FET on the kick. “That’s something I learned from David, who did ‘Weird Science,’ though sometimes we would use a Sennheiser 421 if we were trying to get a little more dynamic presence,” he says. “Snare was a Shure SM57, probably with an AKG 452 with a 10dB pad underneath. Hat was probably a 452 with a 20dB pad, and toms I think were probably AKG C414s, which I believe was David’s thing at the time.” Later, during overdubs, the bandmembers would replace any parts they weren’t content with, and Jackson captured Elfman’s lead vocals, as well as Elfman’s and Avila’s backing vocals, with an AKG C12a. “I always used the same one,” Jackson says. “That went into a Teletronix LA-2A compressor, and we used the 550A EQ from the API console to add some top end.” The band also overdubbed further percussion pieces and synth parts, such as the arpeggiated intro to “Just Another Day” that repeats

MIXING AT CAPITOL Michael Frondelli mixed the entire Dead Man’s Party album in Capitol Studio C. Dead Man’s Party was one of his early projects at Capitol as a recent transplant from New York, and the sessions included a quintessential California experience: “We were mixing—Danny, Steve Bartek and I—in Studio C, and all of a sudden I saw this look of horror on everyone’s faces,” Frondelli recalls. “I said, ‘What happened? Did I do something wrong?’ They said, ‘It’s an earthquake.’ Danny and I went outside and we saw telephone poles swaying. It hadn’t registered with me at first because I’d worked in New York for so long, including nine years as a staff engineer at Electric Lady, which is at subway level. You feel that rumble and you don’t think about it.” Capitol became Frondelli’s Los Angeles base of operation, including 11 years as vice president of Capitol Studios, so he only needed to listen back to “Just Another Day” once to recall most of the ingredients that went into his mix. “On guitars, we used Pultecs—MEQ5s or EQP1A3s,” Frondelli says. “This was something that I got into the habit of doing with the Neve 8108 console in C, because it could be a little harsh. On the bass, I used dbx 160 VUs, to keep a tight bottom in the rhythm track. Capitol also had a Neve sidecar, and I used 31105 [pre/EQ].” On the vocal treatment that Jackson mentioned, Frondelli employed Capitol’s Fairchild 660 along with Roland SDE 3000 delay. “I also used a Publison Infernal Machine 90 for a little bit of chorusing on the vocal. That also had settings where you could put in delays, so I would split the output [the vocal] in stereo left-right, 25 or 35 milliseconds, and

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Music // classic tracks add it to the mono vocal source just to give it a little bit of ambience. You can hear when you listen to that song, the ambient sounds are short; it’s not a long echo trail on it. I liked the echo trail with the delay, but I also like Danny’s vocal up-front because his lyrics and his delivery are succinct and they need to be clear.” Frondelli also recalls using a dbx 500 Series de-esser for sibilance on Elfman’s vocal, as well as the Neve 31105 to fatten the sound. “Danny had a pretty big midrange peak somewhere around the 2k range,” Frondelli says. “You want to be able to smooth it out and get warmth out of his vocal with clarity, with some air on the top. On the kick drum, Frondelli remembers using the 31105 along with a Neve 33609 compressor/ limiter. “Same thing with the snare,” he says. “There was an insert point on the console where I could put a chain inside it and bypass the EQ. So [on snare] there would be the 31105, probably followed by a Pultec EQP1A3. I’m not positive but I probably also limited the snare before the Pultec with a UREI 1176LN, and then I would use a little bit of the harmonic distortion from the Pultec that gave the spray on that snare. “And then I think for the rest of the kit I was using the 8108 EQs, probably with some parallel compression on the drum kit,” Frondelli continues. “I would send a post-EQ drum submix into a stereo UREI 1178 and then bring it back through two faders into the mix. Again using a UREI 1176LN, I parallel-limited the vocal, too; I was in a habit of doing this back then—parallellimiting the sidechain with a highly compressed vocal so that when you brought the mix down to a lower volume, the vocal would still speak without being too overbearing. This helped for radio, and because this was in Walkman days, your mix had to be about the headphones people listened on.” Frondelli listened back on his own Yamaha NS10 speakers, powered by the studio’s Hafler amps, and Elfman would also take cassettes out to his car for an extra reality check. “What we always worked at was creating


atmosphere and layers of depth,” Frondelli says. “I would make sure we carved out space in the frequency spectrum for certain instruments to speak, mostly to frame the vocal, because the vocals have to tell the story.” MORE THAN JUST ANOTHER DAY And the story? Listen back to track one on Dead Man’s Party. “Just Another Day” turns out to be more timeless than one might have imagined in 1985: I feel it all around, I feel it in my bones, My life is on the line, When I’m away from home. When I step out the door, The jungle is alive I do not trust my ears, I don’t believe my eyes. I will not fall in love, I cannot risk the bet, Cause hearts are fragile toys, So easy to forget. It’s just another day… Dead Man’s Party became Oingo Boingo’s most successful album, reaching Number 95 on Billboard’s albums chart. “Just Another Day” was one of several songs on the album that was used in a film soundtrack; it is featured as the opening

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theme in the film That Was Then… This Is Now (1985), and later was used in an episode of the Netflix series Stranger Things that takes place in the mid-’80s. Bill Jackson worked on all four of Oingo Boingo’s remaining albums. His other music credits include Los Lobos’ Number One cover of “La Bamba,” as well as their Grammy-winning soundtrack to the film Desperado (1995). Like Elfman, Jackson eventually shifted to film sound work. In fact, he received a job offer from Todd/AO while he was still in the remoterecording truck for Oingo Boingo’s Farewell live album. His sound-for-picture credits include recording Elfman’s music for The Nightmare Before Christmas and Midnight Run, and serving as a re-recording mixer for the TV show Entourage, which earned him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Sound Mixing. Michael Frondelli’s credits span decades, from his days in New York engineering Crowded House and Billy Idol to revitalizing Capitol Studios in L.A. and beyond. His resume also includes soundtrack work on the John Hughes film The Breakfast Club, Joe Jackson’s Big World, working with Keith Richards on Chuck Berry’s film Hail Hail Rock’n’Roll and producing and engineering the self-titled smash debut by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. These days he concentrates on the hip catalog collections released by Coolsville Music, the music-licensing company he operates with partners Gary Stamler and Brad Benedict, and he gives back by producing the Light Up the Blues benefit concerts for Autism Speaks with Kristen, Stephen and Chris Stills. Oingo Boingo disbanded in 1995. Elfman, of course, has composed unforgettable scores for multiple Tim Burton films, Marvel Comics movies, and more. His bandmates have also built multifaceted careers, with Bartek notably continuing to collaborate with Elfman as a composer and orchestrator, as well as spearheading his own projects. Meanwhile, Hernandez is the driving force behind the occasional Boingo Dance Party, where former members of the band and their musician friends re-create something a lot like Oingo Boingo whenever the spirit moves them. n

Awards Season — Sound for Film 2021 Over the next two months, sound for film and television professionals will be nominating and voting for the winners in Best Sound at the Oscars, the MPSE Golden Reel Awards and the CAS Awards, across many categories. Here are a few bits of news available as we went to print. Please check in at mixonline.com and in these pages for updates, including the MPSE Career Achievement Award, CAS Filmmaker Award and all the nominations.


n February 4, Mix and its parent company, Future, will host the debut of Mix Presents Sound for Film & TV: Awards Season, a virtual event honoring the year’s best creative talent in film sound. The sponsored, free virtual event will take place on February 4, in advance of nominations and voting for the Oscars, MPSE Golden Reel Awards and Cinema Audio Society CAS Awards. “We’ve always featured awards season coverage as a companion to the annual Mix sound for film and television event held each September at Sony Pictures Studios,” says Tom Kenny, editor of Mix. “This year, we’re adapting to the current climate, and while the global pandemic has affected media distribution, schedules and attendance, it has not affected the quality of the sound work, and that work deserves to be recognized.” Mix Presents Sound for Film & TV: Awards Season will include a series of film and composer profiles, featuring behindthe-scenes interviews with the leading supervising sound editors, sound designers, re-recording mixers, composers, production sound mixers, editors, technologists and creative talent vying for this year’s Best Sound awards. The nomination processes for the 2021 Awards Season, which for the first time officially allows films that debuted on streaming services, begins in February with voting taking place in March.



PRELIMINARY PROGRAM MIX PRESENTS SOUND FOR FILM & TV: AWARDS SEASON On February 4, beginning at 10 a.m., PST, Mix will begin streaming a series of 10- and 20-minute video profiles of films, composers and technologies, produced by Coleman Films and moderated by veteran journalists Jennifer Walden and Lily Moayeri. As of mid-January, the lineup includes the following. Please check in at mixonline.com for updates.


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Ren Klyce, Supervising Sound Editor & Re-recording Mixer

THE SOUND OF SOUND OF METAL (AMAZON STUDIOS) Nicolas Becker, Sound Supervisor, Sound Editor, Sound Designer Phillip Bladh, Sound Mixer

Jeremy Molod, Supervising Sound Editor

Jaime Baksht, Re-Recording Mixer Michelle Couttolenc, Re-Recording Mixer Carlos Cortés, Re-Recording Mixer Carolina Santana, Sound/Music Editor


CAS CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD Randy Thom Supervising Sound Editor

Dan Hiland Re-Recording Mixer

Todd Becket Re-Recording Mixer


Blake Neely (Greyhound, Apple TV+)

Phoenix (On the Rocks, The Song “Identical” Apple TV+)

Bruno Coulais (Wolfwalkers, Apple TV+)

Henry Jackman (Cherry, Apple TV+)

Tamar-kali (Palmer, Apple TV+)

Terence Blanchard (Da 5 Bloods, Netflix)

Chris Curtis, Marjorie Duffield, Helen Park (Over the Moon, Netflix)

TECHNOLOGY INNOVATIONS Deluxe (One Dub, remote recording technology)

THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS Mix would like to thank Sponsors Netflix, Apple TV+, Amazon Studios, and Deluxe. Not surprisingly for a year dominated by stay-at-home orders, the major streaming services have emerged as primary distributors for premium content, for every film and television studio. And when Awards Season begins, this will no doubt be reflected in the nominations.

PRODUCTION SOUND MIXER WILLIAM B. KAPLAN, CAS The Cinema Audio Society will present multiple CASand Oscar-nominated sound mixer William B. Kaplan, CAS, with the organization’s highest accolade, the CAS Career Achievement Award. Bill Kaplan grew up on the sets of MGM, where his father worked. He sat on the camera dolly watching Gene Kelly dance for Singing in the Rain, Bogart push the African Queen on stage, and Brando command the Bounty through a massive storm on Stage 30. His high school years were spent at an experimental boarding school founded by Krisha Murti and Aldous Huxley. Rebellious at the beginning and student body president in the end, he remains an executive board member of this school that turned his life around. He then attended Cal Western University, University of Arizona, USC, and UCLA, majoring in psychology and pre-med. Eventually, he was wait-listed for film school. A Hong Kong film producer, meanwhile, saw the list and offered Kaplan a job to DP on his 35mm, Mitchell rack-over, cinemascope feature. Having no familiarity with the equipment, he accepted the position but read the ASC manual for that camera all night. Ultimately, Kaplan received a master’s degree in film from UCLA. The eager filmmaker’s hunger resulted in shooting and recording hundreds of training films, commercials and instructionals. He made his way to Roger Corman and New World and was DP on many low-budget disco, racecar and western films. He was eventually offered $600/week as a sound mixer, including equipment, instead of the $250/week he was making as a DP. The die was cast, and a sound mixer was born. In 1977 John Landis hired Kaplan as sound mixer for Kentucky Fried Movie. He continued with Landis for eight more films, including Animal House, The Blues Brothers and Coming to America. Over the next four decades, Kaplan was the primary sound mixer for directors Robert Zemeckis and Tony Scott on more than 20 projects. On the film Top Gun, Kaplan recorded live dialog between actors in fighter jets traveling at speeds beyond the sound barrier. Later, given Bill’s extensive experience with stop motion, he was hired on Avatar. Kaplan has garnered seven Oscar nominations, including Tony Scott’s Top Gun and Crimson Tide and Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Contact, Cast Away and The Polar Express. He also has a CAS win for Forrest Gump, as well as three other CAS nominations. He has contributed to 155 feature films and has recorded many well-known motion capture video games. Currently, he is working on The Morning Show for Apple TV. Kaplan is a proud father of his two adult children. His daughter, Lindsey, lives in Colorado and is studying to be a veterinarian. His son, Jesse, worked as a boom/utility on Avatar and other films and now travels the world installing private television broadcast studios. Kaplan lives in Agoura Hills and has no plans to retire any time soon. While he enjoys his horses and goats on his small ranch, he still loves going to work every day!

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AWARDS TIMELINES Eligibility periods for film submission and rules regarding film distribution mostly went by the wayside this year, as all organizations had to adjust their rules and requirements in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Here are important dates to keep in mind:


Photo credit: Getty Images/Scott Olson/Staff

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will present the 93rd annual Oscars on April 25, 2021. Details and format are still being worked out. February 1: Preliminary voting begins February 5: Preliminary voting ends March 5: Nominations voting begins March 10: Nominations voting ends March 15: Oscar Nominations Announcement April 15: Finals voting begins April 20: Finals Voting Ends April 25: Oscars Telecast

CAS AWARDS The 57th annual CAS Awards, which will take place April 17, 2021, in Los Angeles. expanded its eligibility window for motion pictures to February 28, 2021, with theatrical motion pictures that had a previously planned theatrical release but were initially made available on commercial streaming or VOD service qualifying under certain circumstances. Please see Awards Entry and Voting Rules for details www.cinemaaudiosociety.org. February 11: Nomination Ballot Voting Begins February 24: Nomination Ballot Voting Ends March 2: Final Nominees Announced March 25: Final Voting Begins April 6: Final Voting Ends April 17: 57th Annual CAS Awards

MPSE GOLDEN REEL AWARDS The 68th annual MPSE Golden Reel Awards will be held on April 18, 2021, with format and announcements still under discussion. February 1: Nomination Voting Opens February 19: Nomination Voting Ends March 1: Nominations Announced March 1: Final Voting Opens April 12: Final Voting Ends April 18: MPSE Golden Reel Awards


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CAS, MPSE, AMPS TEAM UP ON SOUND CREDIT INITIATIVE The Cinema Audio Society, together with the Motion Picture Sound Editors and Association of Motion Picture Sound, is launching the next step in their Sound Credit Initiative. CAS President Karol Urban explains: “From production through post-production, sound professionals contribute to creative storytelling and the elevation of the audience’s experience. This initiative allows filmmakers and studios to recognize their sound department’s importance in a film’s overall success.” AMPS Chair Rob Walker comments, “Sound teams create 50 percent of a movie and win awards for their creative contribution, but they are positioned far down the list of credits. This initiative is a move toward representative credits. It’s time to give fair credit where it is due”. And MPSE President Mark Lanza added: “While there is a technical aspect to sound for film, the overwhelming majority of what sound people do is creative. Sound is visceral. It tells the audience where we are, focuses the audience on what we want them to feel, and leads them through an elaborate illusion. The people creating these works are amazing artists and should be addressed as such.” The link to the petition is at http:// soundcreditinitiative.org/ CAS STUDENT AWARD FINALISTS Five finalists from schools around the world have been invited to attend the 57th Annual CAS Awards, where the recipient of the CAS Student Recognition Award will be revealed and receive a $5,000 check. The CAS Student Recognition Award Finalists are: • Anna Cassady, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif. • Lindsey Ellis, Chapman University, Orange, Calif. • Brandyn Johnson, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif. • Yan “Carol” Li, School of Visual Arts, New York, N.Y. • Vandana Ramakrishna, Annapurna College of Film and Media, Hyderabad, India

on the cover

w e r d An Watt h c u o T The

the Producer of ust ee J Year Nomin Rock Loves to yeri By Lily Moa

PHOTO: Courtesy Adam DeGross


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PHOTO: Courtesy of Andrew Watt

PHOTO: Alex Kluft

The incomparable Ozzy Osbourne, with Watt

Miley Cyrus and Andrew Watt

PHOTO: Adam Degross

PHOTO: Adam DeGross

oing into Andrew Watt’s studio in the basement of his Beverly Hills home is like falling down the rabbit hole into Alice’s Wonderland. Except there's a stairway, and instead of the Mad Hatter and the March Hare or the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit, you’ll find Ozzy Osbourne, Miley Cyrus, Dua Lipa and Post Malone. It is Watt’s work with these artists, among others, that has him in the running for Producer of the Year at the 63rd Grammy Awards. Not only that, but two of the albums he worked on—Lipa’s Future Nostalgia and Malone’s Hollywood’s Bleeding—are competing for Album of the Year. Future Nostalgia is also up for Best Pop Vocal Album. “When I work with Dua or Post, I’m in for a couple of songs and I make them the best that I can and hand them off,” says the 30-yearold Watt, crouched in a corner of his home studio in a black Norman’s Dark Guitars hooded sweatshirt, always the rocker. “I did eight out of the 12 songs on Miley’s album. She picked all the songs. She bounced things off of me a lot and showed me video concepts, and we talked about aesthetic. I helped with the mix process of the whole album. “For the Ozzy album, I wrote and produced every single song,” he continues. “I facilitated various things, from flying to Atlanta to record Elton John and getting Slash and Duff from Guns n’ Roses, Chad from the Chili Peppers and Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, and flying to Abbey Road to record the strings. I was making taste decisions with Ozzy to create an overall vibe. I helped him sequence things and talked to him about creative and how it should look and how it should sound. It takes an army to make any record.” While Watt’s producer CV is only about five years long, it has more credits on it than most producers’ entire careers. And his music experience is extensive. His first instrument is the bass guitar, starting with lessons at the age of 11. Then the guitar, which he continued on his own. He formed his supergroup, California Breed, with vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple/ Black Sabbath) and drummer Jason Bonham in 2013, presenting a grinding rock sound on their self-titled album that was better suited to 30 years prior. Following this, Watt became Cody Simpson’s touring guitarist. Opening for Justin Bieber is when his professional relationship with the pop star began, resulting in one of Bieber’s hits, “Let Me Love You.”

Watt with drummer Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Watt performing with Post Malone

“It always starts with the guitar and some live element from me, The guitar is my comfort zone. Even if the guitar doesn’t make it into the final recording, working out what I want to do musically on that instrument is how my best stuff comes out.” —Andrew Watt GUITAR, DRUMS, KEYS “It always starts with the guitar and some live element from me,” says Watt, who in the past year has used mostly a Martin 0-17 and a Rickenbacker 360 12-string. “The guitar is my comfort zone. Even if the guitar doesn’t make it into the final recording, working out what I want to do musically on that instrument is how my best stuff comes out.” He works with a cross-section of amps, among

them a vintage 8-inch Supro, Fender Princeton and four Orange Heads—including OR50 and Dual Dark plus Marshall Jubilee and Roland JC20. These go into an amp guitar switcher, which is set up at all times. “The Supro is a magical amp, the go-to amp; it’s very clean, but it brings so much depth to the guitar playing,” says Paul LaMalfa, who has been working as Watt’s in-house engineer and right hand for the last five years. “Most of the

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VARIETY OF VOCALS, ONE CHAIN Whether it’s Lipa or Osbourne, Cyrus or Malone on vocals, the exact same microphone and vocal chain is used: Sony C-800G to a Neve 1073 and UAD CL1B, to Renaissance Channel, RVox for level, iZotope Nectar EQ, Fab-Filter ProDS (or Massey De-Esser) and usually a Magic Death Eye last—then a variety of effects including Valhalla Vintage Verb, a Plate of choice, various delays and often some sort of tight modulation (i.e. Waves Doubler, SoundToys Microshift, or TAL-CHORUS). “The Sony gives us the consistency to always know what we’re working with,” LaMalfa says. “Any sculpting that needs to be done after becomes so much easier. Some singers don’t care, others prefer their own mic. Shawn Mendes was that way. He wanted a vintage AKG C12, but we knew what we were missing. We asked him to do the verse through our chain, and it was

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PHOTO: Courtesy of Andrew Watt


beater, pretty low. The smaller RCA 77 and two AKG C414s, one on each tom. No overhead. You’ll hear that Slingerland kit on Miley’s song ‘Prisoner’ and Dua’s song ‘Break My Heart.’ We’re incorporating live drums on everything. As many live instruments as we can get away with to bring some liveliness to the recording.” While the drums on Watt’s productions are noticeable, his Steinway, which also makes frequent appearances, may not be. It’s miked with two Neumann TLM 170s through EMI TG 12412 EQs into the UAD console with LaMalfa switching between 1176 and a Fairchild 670, depending on the song’s needs. In addition, Watt has a host of other keyboards: Juno 60, Prophet 5, Wurlitzer, Mellotron, Moog Sub Phatty, Oberheim Effects7 and an ARP 2600 belonging to Osbourne, which was used on early Black Sabbath records. The ARP has an unmatched low end, a growly synthesizer sound that gets used on his pop records. All are going through the mixer, except for the Wurlitzer, which is separated going into a Neve.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Andrew Watt

PHOTO: Kevin Scanlon

records will have a combination of live amps and DI simulated amps. We find that they work well together if you need a super-clean, high-end sound. It’s a good palette of guitar tones. Ozzy is more of the Oranges and amps. With Miley, it’s a lot of amp tones, as well. With Dua, you have more DI guitars, some with the Fender as well.” Also DI through an 1176 is the Hofner Club Bass. Returning to Watt’s early roots with the instrument, LaMalfa says many songs start with bass riffs: “The Hofner has so much low end, and with the right EQ killing the top end, it can sound modern. Balance it strictly with EQ and it will make it sound more or less live. You get the articulation if you want it. If not, you can turn that off and you’re sitting in more of a hip hop world using a live bass. By cutting the high, you have a live 808.” There are a lot of signature sounds in Watt’s work, not the least of which are his drums. These are, more often than not, from a four-piece live kit, a Slingerland Radio King that Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers left at Watt’s underground studio. The kit sits in an isolation room, always miked, in a fortuitous position. “There is this giant cement stairwell leading out of basement into the backyard, it goes on forever,” says Watt. “We set up two mics out of phase at the top of the staircase, and that’s the secret to our drum sound. The drums’ sound goes up this spiral staircase and hits these mics in a way that makes the drums sound larger than life, and they’re on all my records. We gate that big stairway drum sound and it sounds exactly like Phil Collins.” “The kick is open so there’s no head on the front,” adds LaMalfa regarding the Slingerland. “There’s an AKG D12E placed off-center and slightly inside the outer rim of the one-headed kick drum. A Shure SM57 on the snare and an Electro-Voice RE16 on the hi-hat and an AEA R84 was used as a mono overhead, positioned almost right between the snare center and kick

Watt knew where he was headed at a young age

Watt in his basement home studio

night and day for him so it became no problem. When the vocalist gets that reassurance that they sound as good as they possibly can, then it’s never an argument or a debate. “The interesting thing with the vocal chain is it was a Neve 1073 and a Retro 176,” he continues. “I would switch out to an 1176 sometimes, and a Tube-Tech CL 1B. We were working with Lewis Bell a lot, and he would have issues with the noise tube compressors would introduce into the signal. We started experimenting with the UAD console and using the onslaught of compression available there. I was so used to the hardware, it was a bit of a learning curve. Once I did learn, I was in both worlds. It’s super-clean and the character is there. A lot of times I’m using a CL 1B and an LA-2A.” Watt has a specific approach in capturing the vocal and has designed his studio around it as a large live room with a control desk. “I find that when a singer goes into a booth, the glass can be limiting,” he explains. “I’ve been on the

they put on the headphones, they can sing the emotion that they wrote the lyric with.”

PHOTO: Adam DeGross

Watt with Chris Cheney

other side cutting a vocal. You see the producer and the engineer and someone in the room talking to each other, and it’s vulnerable. The greatest singer in the world could feel like they suck because they’re hearing themselves on the mic and it’s so hi-fi. If you see someone talking and laughing, you immediately think, ‘They’re laughing at me, they’re talking about me,’ and it could trigger them to go somewhere in their head and they don’t say anything about it. “I like to make everyone a part of the same conversation,” he adds. “I find that if we’re writing and someone is in the seat where they wrote it and I put the mic in front of them and

SWITCHING TO PRODUCER Even though producing every artist is approached in a similar way with signature sounds, there is still an obvious distinction between the output. Watt attributes this to the artist. “Ozzy is a legend, and you’ve heard his voice on recordings for 50 years; same song same production, Miley’s voice is newer and more current,” he says. “The production squeezes gasoline on the record, but it always comes down to the artist and what they bring. “When I was becoming more of a producer and I got to show Rick Rubin a bunch of songs from artists that were coming up,” he continues. “He asked, ‘Is this the same artist?’ I said no, and he said, ‘But you’re giving them the same sound.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m in this zone right now with this type of music.’ He said, ‘That’s all good, bands sound like other bands, but you’ve got to take the time, sit with these artists and figure out what makes them special that’s going to separate them, that’s going to make their fanbase feel like they’ve got something original about them. It’s

“I like to make everyone a part of the same conversation. I find that if we’re writing and someone is in the seat where they wrote it and I put the mic in front of them and they put on the headphones, they can sing the emotion that they wrote the lyric with.”

okay to use similarities. You’re one musician. You’re going to have similar tricks and they’re going to come out when you’re making music, but make sure there’s something that makes each record its own thing for the artist that’s involved.’ I really took that to heart.” Watt’s experiences are coming together for his own artist album as WATT, where he puts collaboration at the forefront. “The Ozzy/Post collaboration, ‘Take What You Want,’ was a huge moment for me,” he says. “It combined a lot of elements together and felt fresh and new while keeping credibility in the live instrumentation of a really awesome rock song. There was a tapping guitar solo on it and the song was on Top 40 radio. That’s not supposed to happen. That made me feel alive again. “And making this Ozzy album, where I play guitar in the band, made me really feel alive again. I was told for so long that no one is going to care about rock music. When I was signed as an artist, I had a lot of trouble getting my stuff through. Anytime I make a record that has guitars and drums and live instruments, I feel like I’ve won something. It means more to me than I could ever explain.” n

PMC Studios

WE’VE GOT THE PROS COVERED. PRO look. PRO build. PRO results.

—Andrew Watt Watt performs with Slash


PHOTO: Adam DeGross



“The wide selection of colours, sizes and modularity of their panels were a major factor in our decision to use GIK products.” LUCA BARASSI, ABBEY ROAD INSTITUTE

(404) 492-8364 GIKACOUSTICS.COM

Build Your Own Analog Studio in 2021

SSL Origin 32

Spoiler Alert: It Will Most Likely Be Going in Your Home By Wes Maebe


t is that time of year again when Mix looks into equipping or upgrading your studio setup. As I write this, we’d all be getting ready to travel to the NAMM show, where we can hang out, see what new goodies the manufacturers have lined up for us and learn about the progress in any industry developments. Sadly, the current, global situation won’t allow us to do that, and we’re all “living” in a virtual world, but I guess one side benefit is that it has made us all reevaluate our setups and workflows. Thankfully, technology has made it possible for many of us to remain busy and work remotely, so let’s have a look and see what we can specify to upgrade our studios and make them more flexible and attractive to remote clients. We’ve done a few of these over the years, and that’s why I will approach this edition more like an upgrade, rather than start from scratch; I’ll assume there are a few things in place like the DAW and computer setup, headphone foldback systems, mic stands, cabling, etc. But I'm still going to spend my $100K. START AT THE CENTER I’ll kick things off with the centerpiece of every analog studio, and that’s the console. It really boils down to how many channels you want to

be able to record at once, but we are also taking mixing into consideration. A lot of work happens inside the box these days. However, this is our analog studio and I am still a massive fan of having things come back on faders, sounds hitting well-designed electronics, and the ability to do several things at once, which is the strength of an analog board. The Solid State Logic Origin 32 will provide you with a full 32-channel analog in-line console, with its classic SSL sound, the famous E-Series EQ, that punchy SSL mix bus compressor and 16 into 2 buses! Direct outs for each channel, two stereo and four mono auxes, four stereo returns and SSL’s PureDrive technology makes this a very powerful desk indeed. With the console in place, we can have a listen to some stuff, before we get all giddy about all that fancy outboard we’re going to hook up. As with nearly everything about our industry, monitoring is an extremely subjective issue. Engineers can talk for days about which monitors they love and hate. Since my start in engineering, I have been a huge lover of the Genelec 1031A MkI, and it took me a very long time to find something that sounded as good

Rupert Neve Designs 535

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SPICING UP WITH OUTBOARD GEAR One of the joys of analog is that the sound palette is so versatile. Each unit will give you a

Advanced Audio 251

Useful Arts Hornet

Useful Arts BF-1


and complemented them in my workflow as a second set of near fields. That was until I was introduced to PSI Audio. Suddenly a whole new world of clarity, low end and imaging opened up. And as a bonus, they translate so well to everywhere else. It made switching between them and my ancient Genelecs make a lot more sense and fun. For our setup here, I’m going to go a little bigger than my A17Ms and install a pair of A25M three-ways. PSI takes analog very seriously, and these babies are hand-built in Switzerland to the highest standard. They look good, and in my opinion, they sound superb. The cool thing with PSI as well is that their monitors translate well across the range, so work you do on the big ones translates down to the small ones, too, which will allow us to play around with some surround setups a little later on. [See sidebar.]

Option 1: Fewer Channels, More Gear You may not require 32-plus channels of console, in which case we can economize on the board and redirect those funds toward more outboard and some extra microphones.

PSI Audio A25M

different sonic character, and the ability to push these boxes to their extremes allows an engineer to create sounds out of the box that the digital realm isn’t able to provide yet. That’s why us analog heads like having such a plethora of different machines at hand. So I’m going to add a couple of things to our outboard list, some of which can do double-duty for final mix/mastering processing. First up is Crane Song's HEDD Quantum. The new crystal in the HEDD just makes for amazing clocking to anything digital you’ll be running, and it has the added benefit of Dave Hill’s Triode/Pentode/Tape processing technology. EQ-wise, the Regular John Recording Box EQ will give you that classic Pultec vibe, will work perfectly as a mix bus EQ, and my favorite thing about it is the 40k HF band for putting some extra air in your mixes. I know we have the SSL bus compressor on the console, but it’s always good to have some options in sound and dynamic behavior when it comes to dynamics. The Chiswick Reach

The Audient 4816 still gives you 16 mic pres and 48 channels on mixdown. We’ll supplement the outboard with a six-slot Vintage King 500 Series rack containing a Rupert Neve Designs 535 Diode Bridge Compressor, Cranesong Falcon, API 312 mic pre, Weiss A1 pre amp with de-esser and the AMS RMX16 500 reverb. We still have plenty in the bank to widen our microphone list. On large-diaphragm duties we’ll have the stunning Advanced Audio CM251, a pair of Peluso’s P67s and another sE Electronics/Rupert Neve collaboration, the magnificent RNT. You can’t go wrong with a Shure SM7b for live vocals and heavy guitars, the classic Sennheiser MD421 for tom, guitar and bass work, Electro-Voice’s RE20 always comes in handy on kick, floor tom, sax and even vocals and a matched pair of Coles 4038 so we have overheads and horns covered. There’s a couple of useful sE tools I’d like to add, as well: The V Kick, the Harp Blaster

(which sounds great on guitars and vocals too!) and the DM1 Dynamite to vamp up levels on the odd ribbon or the SM7b. To complete our mic cupboard, a strange looking mic, value for money, Aston’s Element. Reducing our console cost has expanded our outboard gear and has put some more mics on stands and you’ll be pleased to see that we still have some cash left over. So let’s go full-blown analog here and spend our last few dollars on an actual, not the plug-in, 2-inch tape machine! Trawling the second-hand sites I found a Studer A827 24-track. And if we’re going full analog there’s going to be some down time when you’re bouncing tracks, checking the lineup of the machine, and cleaning it, so to keep our artists occupied and give them a break, I’m spending a bit of money on an oldschool Supercade arcade game. Hey, we all need to blow off some steam and clear the mind. The 65 bucks we’re left with can go toward some isopropyl alcohol and Q-tips to clean the Studer.

Vintage King 500 Series rack

AMS RMX16 500 Series RJR Box EQ

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Little Labs LL2A

Crane Song HEDD sE RNT

Kona floor lamp

20th Anniversary Edition will deliver that. It is so warm-sounding, and it’s one of those compressors that you can push without it starting to sound claustrophobic. To complement these units I’m adding Rupert Neve Designs’ Master Buss Processor. The RND MBP will give you the flexibility to process instrument groups, individual instruments and, of course, the entire mix buss with classic Rupert compression, limiting, harmonic content, parallel processing, EQ and stereo imaging. And as you can never have enough tools to do the job, Jonathan Little’s new Little Labs LL2A is joining the dynamics family here. It’s another one of those dynamic processors that doesn’t just control the dynamics but can musically shape it. CHARACTER OUT FRONT To add more preamps to a console that already has 32 might seem mad; however, I keep coming back to the different character that different

Option 2: A True Power Center If you’re in a situation where you have a good supply of microphones and outboard gear and you’re looking at moving more out of the box or upgrading your console, I’d highly recommend looking at API’s 2448. Working on an API always makes me reach for other pre’s and outboard a lot less. Now this beast comes with a price tag, but you get what you pay for. And it does leave us enough to put in the PSI M25As.


electronic designs can offer you. Something may sound thin or lacking in punch with one preamp, but comes alive once you run it through a different circuit. Hence, the need for a couple of preamp options. I’ve always loved Manley’s boxes, but until recently I had never had the pleasure of using the VOXBOX. I was in a studio in Romania that was completely digital and I had to track some folklore vocals. Everything sounded pretty thin and “cold,” so I went looking for something analog and found the VOX BOX gathering dust. Once the vocals went through it, they just came to life. Useful Arts Audio’s SFP-60 has to be on our list, as well. It has the ability to make things pop out of the mix. Personally I have been using it a lot on snare mics and wow, it packs a punch! As we’re talking about Useful Arts Audio, I’m going to sneak in the BF-1 DI, which is the most versatile tool for recording DI bass and acoustic guitars. And I think we’ve all come across recording situations when sometimes material is still being written or perhaps the singer is having a shy moment and is suffering from Red Light Syndrome, so if we can set them up with a mic, a pre and an interface, in a separate room somewhere where they can work in peace, the Useful Arts Audio Hornet will handle all that. For the readers who know me, I can’t not include some API. They just define the American

API The Channel Strip



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sound for me. The Channel Strip will give us an extra flavor of pre, comp and EQ with that classic API headroom and punch. YOU ALWAYS NEED MICS Moving on to some microphones. I’m making the assumption here that we’re already pretty well stocked up on some of the regulars. But as one of my mentors used to say: ”The audio industry must have been invented by bank managers. There’s always something more you need to buy!” Of course, we can always have more microphones. I’m going to put the Myburgh M1 on our mic list for its linear frequency response and lush openness. In addition to loving everything tube, I adore ribbon mics, and a pair of Rupert Neve– designed sE Electronics RNR1s will complement our closet nicely. We may already have a Royer R-121 and a bunch of 57s but ever since Royer developed that special clip so both can work nicely together and in phase (!), I’m specifying that combo. They are so useful, more than one will not hurt. AND FINALLY… I always like to throw in a little curve ball. I like using things in the studio that are not necessarily designed for studio use. If you haven’t checked out David Rainger’s guitar pedals, do! His pedal designs are out of this world, and they have allowed me to shape sounds and make them interesting in a way you may not always think of in the recording/mix environment. So the Rainger FX Mini Bar - Liquid Analyser is going in! The sound this pedal makes depends entirely

RND Master Buss Processor

sE V-Kick

Useful Arts SFP-60

Immerse Yourself

Crane Song Falcon

Chiswick Reach

on the type of liquid you put in it. Come on, we all need one. I seem to remember it was Mixerman who used the term “Wombification” in his book and I agree wholeheartedly with him. Making sure your work and recording environment is cozy, creative and comfortable is so important. With all our gear listed above we’re pretty on the money with our budget, leaving us a little bit to spend on wombification. I’m sure most of us have seen them advertised on social media. I really like the look of it and I like the fact it doesn’t take up much space. Hopefully the Kona Floorlamp will put us in the mood for making great music and momentarily escaping the madness in our world. Be safe out there and hopefully we get to hang out soon. n

API 312

Myburgh M1

Rainger RFX Mini Bar - Liquid Analyser

With Immersive Audio on the rise in music-only projects, it’s worth looking into adding this function to your setup. For each configuration, be it the SSL, Audient or the API, I have added a year’s subscription to the Auro Technologies’ Auro-3D Creative Tools Suite for Music. There are multiple reasons why I have chosen Auro-3D for our immersive setup. Personally, I feel that Auro lends itself more to music. The speaker layout, which is basically 5.1 surround with the addition of front and rear height channels, is also compatible with Dolby Atmos, if required. The speaker setup is also easier to install, as you don’t need to worry about the overheads putting load on your ceiling. And the overhead (Voice of God) channels are not that useful in immersive sound for music. You get more creative possibilities from Auro’s height channels. Music in 3D also doesn’t need the objectbased technology. So even though Auro-3D offers objects in its technology, it focuses more on the creative side of the process, making it fit more with the recording-to-master workflow. In addition to the full immersive tool set, this technology also allows you to upmix mono, stereo and other surround configurations to a full 3D immersive release without altering the “sound” of the music, making it a more predictable way of working and enabling you to create multichannel masters “the way the creator intended.” One more benefit I should point out is that this format allows for 96kHz physical release, and to me it sounds like uncompressed PCM without the coding artifacts of other codecs. Of course, more channels, more speakers! For our immersive Auro-3D I’m going to suggest sticking with PSI Audio; that way, we’re sonically compatible with our existing stereo rig. I’m supplementing the PSI M25As with an additional one for the center and six A17Ms for the surrounds and height. The A225M sub will handle the lowend information. PSI Audio A17


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The Golden Age Sound of Mank Patina of the Period, Every Step Along the Way By Jennifer Walden


n the sound industry, it’s difficult to talk about director David Fincher’s work without talking about sound designer/re-recording mixer Ren Klyce. They have collaborated on the past ten Fincher films—Seven, The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl and, most recently, Mank. Plus, Klyce helmed the sound team on Fincher’s Netflix series House of Cards and Mindhunter. So far, Klyce’s sound work for the director has earned two Oscar noms for sound editing and three for sound mixing, with the possibility of Mank earning additional accolades in the upcoming 2021 awards season. With so much successful work-history


between the two, one would assume that Fincher would loosen the reins for Mank, but that was not so. In fact, Fincher’s “goals for this film were the most specific that he’s actually ever had, given what he was trying to achieve—with the effect of the film as a whole feeling like it came from a different time period,” says Klyce, who co-sound supervised, sound designed and helped on the final mix of Mank at Skywalker Sound (although Covid did force the team to collaborate remotely during editorial and to limit the number of people on the dub stage). “He had a very clear idea in his mind about what the soundtrack should be like.” Mank—currently streaming on Netflix—is a biographical drama about writer Herman J. Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman) and how he

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wrote the screenplay for Citizen Kane with Orson Welles (Tom Burke). The film unfolds during the Golden Age of Hollywood filmmaking but Fincher didn’t want to just create an authentic ‘30s-film look. He wanted to transport the audience to that time in Hollywood history. Klyce says, “David was very specific about the emotion that he wanted the audience to have when they were watching this film. He wanted it to feel like it had actually been made in that same time period with the technology that was available at the time.” NEW TOOLS, OLD SOUND On the sound side, that involved defining the parameters of the “old Hollywood film” feel. Fincher wanted a mono soundtrack that was

PHOTO: Courtesy of Netflix

crackly and noisy, a limited frequency spectrum that emulated the range of classic films, and an overall lively room quality to create the sensation of watching Mank in a great old Art Deco movie palace in the ‘40s. “Being sound people, we wanted it to sound as clear and beautiful as possible,” says Skywalker Sound talent and co-supervising sound editor Jeremy Molod. “A big challenge for us was to find that balance of making it creative and clear and exciting while still sounding like we used the recording technology of the ‘30s.” Achieving these goals required a multi-stage patina process, which began while Fincher was still filming and cutting the picture with editor Kirk Baxter on the weekends. “David wanted to get the experience of the sound really early on,

even suggesting that production sound mixer Drew Kunin make a crappy mix—or record the sound that way—to work with while they were cutting,” adds Klyce. “We knew we needed to satisfy David’s wish to hear the sound that way (without having it recorded that way), so we came up with a way to filter Kirk’s Adobe Premiere output.” To create the filter, first they ran the original Citizen Kane soundtrack through a spectrum analyzer to determine the overall sonic shape of that film. Klyce says, “We started to realize there was nothing below 110 Hz, with all these strange bumps in the midrange at 2 kHz and 4 kHz, and then a dramatic dropoff at around 5 kHz that didn’t go all the way out. There would be frequencies at a very low level to about 12 kHz.”

They then used a FabFilter EQ to create an inverse of that spectrum analysis, applying the same sonic limitations to Mank that were in Citizen Kane. This worked well enough for the picture cut, but “we found that there wasn’t just one blanket setting that would ultimately make the patina sound the way we wanted it to sound,” says Molod. The patina was more than just the Citizen Kane filter. They also added a bit of distortion using an analog tape emulation plug-in from Waves called Kramer Master Tape. “You can simulate running the tape at seven-and-a-half inches per second, and then changing the bias created a little bit of distortion, particularly in the dialog,” Klyce says. “That was a nice little

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Supervising sound editor Jeremy Molod.

Sound designer/ re-recording mixer Ren Klyce.

sound that was never quite the same. Depending on who would speak, it would over-modulate or sound crunchy.” To round out that old-film feel, Klyce and Molod added in noise layers they captured, like tape hiss from an old mag SONDOR recorder and the whirring motor of the KEM they used to play back old 35mm films. “We have some 35mm films that had big silent sections, and we could hear the hiss, crackle and warble sounds. That was another sound that we added. These were just noises, which are great, and they’re actually the finishing touch,” says Klyce.


PHOTO: Courtesy of Netflix

MIXING AT SKYWALKER The sound for Mank was recorded and designed as cleanly as possible, then the re-recording mixers—Klyce on music, David Parker on dialog, and Nathan Nance on effects—added the patina to each of the nine stems: two music stems, dialog, loop group, ambience, hard effects, Foley footsteps, props, and the “old film” noise track. To get the patina just right, the mixers had to fine-tune the settings for each stem. “A setting that was great on sound effects wasn’t great on Foley,” Klyce explains. “Or, we’d get a setting that was great on dialog but wasn’t good on music. So we had a slightly similar but slightly different filter and process for each.” Additionally, the dialog patina worked well for some actors but not others. Klyce notes, “Marion Davies (played by Amanda Seyfried) sounded great, but L.B. Mayer (Arliss Howard), for whatever reason, sounded muffled going through the patina and we just didn’t know why. So we had to craft every line and make decisions like: ‘That line needs to be more distorted, but that line is too distorted.’ It took some time to go through.” Once the sonic coloring was complete, they created an L-C-R mix, with music in the left and right channels and dialog, effects, and Foley in the center. “It’s largely mono but David

wanted to give the composers Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor their own sonic space on screen,” admits Klyce. The final key aspect of the patina was to make the film feel like it was playing back in a theater from the 1930s—to replicate that experience for a modern audience. “The architecture of the period created this large echo,” Klyce says. “Also, those theaters were huge. They had balconies and they could hold over two thousand people at a time. David really wanted to have that feeling, to hear the movie echo against the walls of an old theater.” Instead of digitally re-creating that reverb using impulse responses captured inside an old theater, Fincher suggested playing the film back in the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland and then recording the sound in that space. Klyce admits, “When you’re dealing with a filmmaker who has these desires, of course you want to execute those asks, but the idea of trying to get a pristine recording inside of the Grand Lake Theater was

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a little scary.” “There would be too much traffic outside, cars, construction noise, and people. And we wouldn’t have the flexibility of having all the equipment in our hands,” explains Molod. “So we came up with the idea of using the Scoring Stage at Skywalker Sound.” The Scoring Stage features high ceilings, hardwood floors, and hard walls. It has an acoustic signature similar to a vintage movie palace. And, best of all, it’s a controlled recording environment. “It even has a large screen and speakers for playback so the orchestra can actually see the film during a scoring session,” adds Klyce. The sound team set up a dozen mics around the Scoring Stage—like B&K 4011s, Royer ribbon mics, Coles 4038s, a Neumann U47, and others— to capture playback of the L-C-R mix from different angles and distances from the speakers. “It was so exciting to watch the movie come to life in the way that David and producer

PHOTO: Courtesy of Netflix

Cean Chaffin wanted,” shares Klyce. “If you can imagine seeing this film playing in this echo-y room, it was like, wow, this thing is alive! It’s bouncing across the room!” After soaking in the sound on the Scoring Stage, Klyce, Molod and the team moved to the control room, where they could single out different microphones and decide which to blend together. “Of the 12 mics, we primarily used just two that gave us the most authentic sound. We compared it with the digital impulse response tracks and found that we liked the live recordings better,” says Molod. The live playback “reverb” was added to the rear surrounds and balanced with the dry mix upfront to create Mank’s final mix. Klyce concludes: “What was great about this project was that our whole team really was super-excited about being on another Fincher project. Having this challenge of creating a mono soundtrack, and having it sound ‘oldfashioned,’ was exciting.” n

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new products

Waves Introduces CLA Epic Plug-in

Blackmagic Debuts Enhanced DaVinci Resolve 17

Waves Audio is shipping the CLA Epic plug-in, designed with legendary Grammy Award-winning mix engineer Chris LordAlge, renowned as a master at creating depth and dimension in his mixes, With the Waves CLA Epic plug-in, users have access to his complete suite of reverbs and delays, all in one plug-in. Waves CLA Epic features LordAlge’s four go-to delays (Slap, Throw, Tape, Crowd) and four go-to reverbs (Plate, Room, Hall, Space). To mimic the way Lord-Alge blends effects creatively, sending multiple delays to multiple reverbs on each track, and controlling the exact blend with his console faders, the plugin lets you blend CLA’s reverbs and delays in the same creative manner. Waves CLA Epic comes packed with 50 powerful presets crafted by LordAlge for vocals, drums, guitars and keyboards. CLA Epic also includes over 300 presets by Grammy winners Greg Wells, Michael Brauer and dozens more top producers and engineers.

Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 17 is a major new release with more than 300 new features and improvements, including the biggest update in Fairlight history. Edit selection mode with new keyboard shortcuts unlocks functionality previously available on the Fairlight Audio Editor, making editing incredibly fast. Fairlight Audio Core is a low-latency, next-generation audio engine that intelligently manages workload by using all CPU cores and threads, as well as the optional Fairlight Audio Accelerator card. Customers get up to 2,000 tracks, each with real-time EQ, dynamics and six plug-ins, all on a single system. FlexBus is a flexible bus architecture that uses up to 26-channel wide multi-purpose buses instead of fixed buses. Customers can send tracks to buses, buses to tracks, and buses to buses in as many cascade layers deep as needed to create massive sessions. Route anything to anything without limitations. Together, Fairlight Audio Core and FlexBus enable large projects with thousands of tracks on a single system.

L-Acoustics, JH Audio Premium In-Ear Monitor Contour XO is born from the meeting of two pro sound icons: Jerry Harvey and Dr. Christian Heil. Both pioneered important new technologies in the pro audio industry: multi-driver in-ear monitors and the presentday concert P.A. based on the L-Acoustics line source array. For the first time, Harvey and Heil have combined their R&D teams’ forces to reproduce the renowned L-Acoustics sonic signature frequency contour in a premium, 10-driver, in-ear monitor. The newly designed universal IEMs bring listeners inside the music with ten balanced armature drivers and three-way crossover in a quad-low, dual-mid, and quad-high configuration. Contour XO offers control of the low end with bass adjustment of up to 15dB above flat response. Artists, musicians, sound professionals, and audiophiles alike will appreciate the individual care and attention to detail transmitted by the limited-edition premium in-ear audio solution,


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Genelec Unveils New GLM 4 Features Genelec has announced a major free upgrade to its popular GLM software for audio monitor system setup, calibration and control. The next-generation GLM 4 now gives users of Genelec Smart Active Monitors the benefits of Mac Catalina compatibility, an elegant new user interface, and a host of valuable new features. By minimizing the room’s distractive acoustic influence on the sound quality, GLM 4 provides an unrivaled and truthful sonic reference, wherever the user chooses to work. GLM 4 integrates seamlessly with the intelligent DSP hardware within each Smart Active Monitor, allowing each monitor and subwoofer to be networked, configured and individually calibrated for the user’s specific acoustic environment. Compatible with Windows and Mac OS, including 10.15 Catalina, GLM 4 comes with a brand-new user interface for faster, more intuitive and easier navigation. Created in conjunction with leading industrial designer Harri Koskinen, the new user interface fuses clean, attractive aesthetics with a unique character that users will find logical and satisfying.

KRK Intros Studio Subwoofers Line KRK Systems is expanding its range of studio gear with a new generation of powered subwoofers. The new series of KRK Studio Subwoofers are available in 8-, 10- and 12-inch variations: S8.4, S10.4 and S12.4. Building on KRK’s legacy of sonic accuracy and performance, the new KRK subwoofers deliver tight, accurate and defined bass, while the highly efficient Class D power amplifiers dramatically increase transient response, control and punch. The redesigned cabinets feature a more compact profile, allowing for improved provides a more professional aesthetic. Additional refinements include modestly improved low-frequency extension, improved porting for enhanced low-frequency phase response and less port noise, as well as a four-position crossover frequency selection switch, making it easy to adjust the subwoofer’s settings to optimally match existing monitors. Connectivity options include XLR, 1/4-inch TRS and RCA inputs and outputs that interface with just about any manufacturer’s studio monitors, mixers and/ or audio interfaces.

MXL Revelation Mini FET Mic MXL Microphones is expanding its lineup with the new Revelation Mini FET. Inspired by the classic Revelation and new Revelation II tube microphones, MXL set out to create a mic that has the same intimacy and warmth of a tube mic, but built around a FET circuit with a smaller footprint. The Revelation Mini FET focuses on the midrange and lower frequencies, utilizing a premium 32mm, center-terminating, goldsputtered capsule combined with a low-noise circuit to provide pristine sound in a range of applications. Additionally, the inclusion of a three-stage pad (0, -10dB, -20dB) provides the flexibility needed for recording high SPL sources, such as horns and kick drums. From its black chrome accents to the handselected FET and capacitors, the Revelation Mini FET stands out from the crowd by emphasizing the natural characteristics of its sound source, including hard-hitting kick drums, soft vocals and everything in-between.

Neutrik Features New PoE Injector Ideal for use with Neutrik’s NA2-IO-DLINE and NA2-IO-DPRO Dante interfaces or any network device that requires a rugged, lockable PoE supply, the NPS-30W PoE Injector is made for harsh stage conditions. It features a lockable powerCON TRUE1TOP power connector and etherCON network connectors. As a passive power

sourcing equipment (PSE) device, the NPS-30W acts like a classic power supply, requiring no power negotiation with attached powered devices. Its 48 V DC, 30 W power output enables it to provide power simultaneously to as many as four NA2-IO-DPROs in daisy-chain mode. The NPS-30W’s data rate is 1 Gbps, making it ideal for various scenarios such as ambient miking. The NPS-30W PoE injector ships with a rugged rubber cover for throwdown applications. Optional mounting devices enable the NPS-30W to be integrated easily into racks, trusses (via the NA-TM-KIT accessory package), and podiums and tables

NUGEN Audio Paragon Convolution Reverb NUGEN Audio has released its Paragon 3D-compatible convolution reverb, offering full control of the decay, room size and brightness via state-of-the-art re-synthesis modeled on 3D recordings of real spaces. Ideal for film scoring applications, it provides an unprecedented level of tweak-ability, with zero time-stretching, meaning no artifacts. Additionally, Paragon features spectral analysis and precise EQ of the Impulse Responses (IR). Paragon reverb operates in up to 7.1.2 channels of audio, making it ideal for surround applications, including Dolby Atmos. It is also wellsuited to creating immersive reverb in mono and stereo. Paragon features switchable LFE and unique technology for re-synthesis of authentic IRs, HPF and LPF per channel. Additionally, 3D Impulse Responses are analyzed, decomposed and re-synthesized to create new authentic spaces. Unlike traditional convolution reverbs, Paragon does not use static IRs, which provides a wider scope to transparently transform the sound of a space. Paragon’s individually configurable crosstalk feature creates a sense of liveliness and interaction between channels, allowing users to produce surround reverb from mono or stereo sources.

Ocean Way Audio S10A Subwoofer Ocean Way Audio has unveiled the new S10A subwoofer. Primarily designed as a low-frequency companion to the company’s HR5 reference monitor, the S10A Subwoofer is an excellent choice in low-frequency sound reproduction for home-based music studios, project recording rooms, and home theater environments where bass is crucial. Designed by five-time Grammy Award-winning engineer/producer and longtime studio owner/designer Allen Sides, the S10A features stereo XLR input and output connectors, making it easy to integrate into any studio or listening environment. It also offers a variety of parameter adjustments, including gain, LF adjust, adjustable crossover, and delay, and a 12V trigger input/output for power conservation and other applications. The S10A covers the low-end spectrum with a frequency range of 20 Hz to 120 Hz. It offers plenty of volume for typical home and project recording, with a 300W amplifier that can generate 110 dB SPL.

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Shure SLX-D Digital Wireless System The SLX-D Digital Wireless System, the digital replacement of the company’s popular SLX system, features new mechanical designs, exceptional audio quality, more reliable RF performance, streamlined setup, and more. SLX-D provides end users with greater channel count than SLX, smart rechargeable options, and simplified ease-of-use for moments that matter most—in the classroom, Houses of Worship, corporate facilities, the hospitality sector, and more. The system is offered in single and dual-channel options. Transmitters run on standard AA batteries or an optional lithium-ion rechargeable battery solution with a dual-docking charging station. Features include reliable RF, with outstanding signal quality and digital modulation, enabling operation of up to 32 channels per frequency band without worrying about dropouts or signal fades; excellent audio quality with a wide dynamic range, while preventing distortion, for a clean, natural instrument and vocal sound; and ease of use, equipped with Guided Frequency Setup and a Group Scan feature that lets users set up multiple channels more efficiently by assigning frequencies to all receivers automatically via ethernet connections.

TASCAM USB Audio Interfaces TASCAM has launched the US-HR Series high-resolution USB audio interfaces. Featuring three models—the US-1x2HR, the US-2x2HR and the US-4x4HR—these interfaces incorporate numerous features, including 24-bit/192kHz audio performance, ultra-low latency (four sample driver buffer), Ultra-HDDA mic preamplifiers with +48V phantom power and more. The included software bundle features Steinberg’s Cubase LE/ Cubasis LE 3, IK Multimedia’s SampleTank 4 SE, and a free, three-month subscription to Auto-Tune Unlimited. All US-HR Series interfaces have a Loopback function with stereo/mono switch support (Windows, Mac, iOS, iPad OS), support for OBS streaming software, a USB Type-C connection with an included USB C-A cable and are USB bus power capable. These interfaces offer a unique dye-cast aluminum honeycomb structure on the side panels with a slight upward tilt. This provides a sleek, eye-catching design and also provides the right amount of weight so the interface won’t move when cables are connected or disconnected.

Clear-Com FreeSpeak Edge Wireless Intercom Clear-Com’s FreeSpeak Edge, its most advanced wireless intercom system, features more control and configuration options thanks to advanced


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frequency coordination capabilities and intuitive design features in the system’s transceivers and beltpacks. FreeSpeak Edge uses audio-over-IP AES67 connectivity, an advanced 5 GHz chipset with a proprietary radio stack development optimized for intercom, and exclusive RF technology based on OFDM. The band’s higher frequencies mean there is more bandwidth for data, which allows for finer control, additional audio channels, lower latency and better audio quality. FreeSpeak Edge can be combined seamlessly with FreeSpeak II 1.9 GHz and 2.4 GHz systems, supporting three wireless bands across a single unified communications system.

iZotope RX-8 Audio Repair Suite In early September, iZotope released version 8 of its RX audio-repair-andediting suite. On the music side, the biggest news in RX 8 is the new Guitar De-noise module (Advanced and Standard). It features separate sections for reducing amp noise, finger squeaks and pick noise. In the past, one would have to use RX’s Spectral De-noise, requiring a user to select and eliminate glitches like squeaks one at a time. IZotope also revamped the Music Rebalance module (Advanced and Standard), which can separate key elements of a mixed audio file or readjust their levels for vocals, bass, percussion and more. Post-production folks will appreciate the new Spectral Recovery module (Advanced only). Designed for bringing clarity to poorly recorded spoken-word audio, it restores frequencies from 4kHz and higher. Also new is a Wow and Flutter module to correct issues from files transferred from tape and vinyl. RX 8 also introduces Loudness Control (Advanced and Standard), making it easy to adjust an audio file to meet specific loudness standards.

Krotos Everything Bundle Those who work in post-production know about Krotos, and the Krotos Everything Bundle combines the company’s full plug-in catalog with the complete Krotos sound library collection. The Everything Bundle includes: Dehumaniser 2 (a powerful vocal

processor for easily producing creature, monster, robot and other extreme vocal sound effects), Reformer Pro (for designing textures by automating and performing sound effects in real-time, using the world’s first Dynamic Input), Weaponiser Fully Loaded (for layering, variations and weapon sound design), Igniter Full Tank (real-world or sci-fi vehicle sounds) and Concept (intuitive drag and drop modulation and a swift patch-building workflow for cinematic effects, composition, and music with the first Krotos soft-synth). It also includes the complete Krotos sound library collection, with more than 184.8GB (36,085 sounds) included.

Lectrosonics SPDR Stereo Micro Digital Recorder Lectrosonics, which entered the live sound market in 2019 with the Duet M2 digital in-ear monitor system, came back last year with the SPDR, a stereo version of its acclaimed PDR micro digital recorder. Designed for use in ENG, film and video production, as a backup recorder, or for personal use, the SPDR records to a microSDHC memory card in Broadcast Wave format (WAV with iXML metadata) and 24-bit depth, at 48 kHz or 96 kHz sample rates. (A 32 GB memory card allows almost 30 hours of recording time at 48 kHz.) The unit can accept inputs from analog line level and AES digital sources, or from lav microphones wired for standard Lectrosonics 5-pin “servo bias” inputs. The SPDR has an external power input with internal battery switchover (two AA batteries). A high-quality headphone output is provided for playback and monitoring.

Prism Sound SADiE 6.1 Prism Sound’s SADiE 6.1 software introduces a number of enhancements for a more seamless user experience and project workflow. Available as a 64-bit version of SADiE 6 for native operation and also for the SADiE BB2 Radio Editor system and LRX2 Flexible Location Recorder, SADiE v6.1.13 delivers an update to the system’s core so that all are fully compatible with Windows 10. The Mastering Suite and Sound Suite versions of SADiE v6.1.13 offer WAV Master, ASIO Direct Monitoring and native support for timecode. ASIO Direct Monitoring is available in the Sound Suite version, while native LTC support is offered in the Mastering, Post and Sound Suite versions. Other feature updates include support for playback and recording to RF64 format and 64-bit support for the Cedar Retouch, Declick, Decrackle, Dethump plug-ins. The new software is available as a free download to any existing SADiE 6 users.

Yamaha Updates MSP3A Compact Powered Speaker Yamaha is updating one of its popular reference monitors to deliver even more faithful sound reproduction and user convenience for recording studio, broadcast and post-production environments. The new MSP3A powered monitor speaker builds on the company’s MSP3 model and shares its predecessor’s use of multiple input connectors, controls and compatibility with optional brackets, while adding enhanced audio quality and increased sound pressure levels, straightforward operation and a compact, lightweight cabinet design. The MSP3A is the first Yamaha reference monitor to include the company’s Twisted Flare Port technology, designed to provide overall faithful sound reproduction with clearer and tighter low-end frequencies. A built-in 22W power amplifier is optimized for the speaker unit, comprising a 10cm (4-inch) woofer and a 2.2cm (0.8-inch) tweeter. The cabinet features a refined, simple design and weighs only 3.6 kilograms (7.9 pounds), improving portability and making it easier to reposition the unit in different room configurations.

Sound Particles Energy Panner Sound Particles is introducing a different approach to panning with the release of a new plug-in, the Energy Panner. The plug-in uses the intensity of a sound to control its movement automatically, providing any sound professional with a tool that combines dynamics with spatial definition, to modify and enhance mix elements, sound effects and other sources. Key features include: Stereo, Surround, Ambisonics, Immersive and Binaural Outputs; Dynamic Movement, to easily set how the sounds move, from custom points, speaker positions or to specific directions; Sidechain, for using external signals to control the effect of the plugin, instead of using the track’s sound; Visualization Dome, for tracking every movement the sounds are making through the plug-in’s UI; Randomization, an option that outputs new results each time you click; and Timing, where you can use attack and release timings to control how fast you want the movement to happen. Energy Panner supports AAX (native), VST, VST3, AU, AUv3.

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Tech // spotlight

The farmhouse near Hanover where it all began.

75 Years, 3 Generations, 1 Family Sennheiser’s Legacy of Innovation— From Measurement to Mics to Headphones to Wireless to AMBEO 3D By Tom Kenny

Sennheiser’s first commercial wireless system, 1983.


ou don’t get a second chance at 75-year anniversaries, and Sennheiser had prepared for a very big year indeed in 2020. A slew of limited-edition, classic product releases were planned, sales promotions were in place and NAMM 2020 provided the backdrop for the launch of a global, yearlong celebration of sound and music and employees and artists and festivals and family and all the good things that Dr. Fritz Sennheiser made possible when he began tinkering inside a small farmhouse outside of Hannover, Germany, in 1945. “My grandfather started just a couple of weeks after the Second World War, in the rubble of Germany,” says Daniel Sennheiser, today co-CEO of the family business along with his brother, Dr. Andreas Sennheiser. “It was not because he said, ‘I want to be an entrepreneur’; he just had to feed his wife and his child. As a scientist, he had nothing else to do but to create a company.” From Dr. Frtiz, to Dr. Jorg, his son, who took the company into new markets and made it truly global in the 1980s and ‘90s, on through Daniel and Dr. Andreas, Sennheiser remains family

The classic MD421, released in 1960.


Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, founder of the company

owned and operated. Mix had a chance to sit down with Daniel Sennheiser last year, pre-pandemic, to get a taste of what was being planned for 2020. While things didn’t turn out as expected, the core values and spirit of a family owned company, spanning three generations, remain the same. I understand you joined the company in 2008, then became co-CEO in 2013. Was that always the plan? I was actually trained as a designer initially, to study classical product design. And then I worked in advertising. I worked for a large American advertising network agency and for a company, Procter & Gamble. I actually refused for a long time to get involved with [Sennheiser] because I wanted my own career. My brother Andreas is the engineer, and it was always assumed he would join the company and then lead it. I wanted to be independent.

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With age, I realized suddenly that this is actually possible. This is a fascinating industry. And having a family owned company like that is a real legacy. It is a real jewel. It's both a responsibility and a privilege. So Andreas and myself got together and said, “Okay, let’s do this.” We didn’t always get along so great as kids. Andreas is an engineer with a Ph.D. in logistics. He’s kind of the opposite of me, as I’m more right brain, more customer-facing. Through this, we have become really close. We realize that we have the same value system and we share the same goals—to make this company successful. You could have this same conversation with him, and it would be a different perspective, same goal. We know that being co-CEOs is not normal, but we realized we needed to have the same arguments together and come to common conclusions. There is no segregation of duties.

Sennheiser co CEOs Dr. Andreas Sennheiser, left, and Daniel Sennheiser

What are some of your first memories of the company, of being a Sennheiser? One is the smell of metal. where you go to the factory and we have all these metal churning machines, lathes and things. So this is really very specific. And I still have that today when I go into the factory. And the other one was in primary school, first class, when everybody had to tell what their father does. So I ask my father, “What do you do?” And I remember I was really disappointed because he said, “ I talk to people, I sign papers, I go to work.’ [Laughs] That about sums it up. Let’s go back before you were born. What is your perspective on the legacy of the company and what it means. The first products were actually measuring equipment, specifically to measure landlines, because in postwar Germany, the building of infrastructure you needed that. And they did a couple of amplifiers for cinema and things like that. And then Siemens came to us with a microphone. Their factory was actually bombed out. So they came to my grandfather and said, “Hey, can you copy this?” And he looked at it and said, “Yeah, we can copy it, but we can improve it.” And the very honest person that he was, he called the first product the DM2 and there's never been a DM 1 as a tribute to the fact that it was a copy. We were an OEM manufacturer in the beginning. The company was called Lab W before eventually having the family name. And it was a big risk at the time because we were manufacturing for Siemens, for Telefunken, and for other companies in OEM production. And it suddenly came out and my grandfather said we could do this under our own name, basically going against all of our customers. It was a big step. And a good decision in hindsight. At that time, on the research side, it was radio waves, acoustic waves or any light waves. It was all

the same. With his background, he very quickly took radio waves and started thinking that Sennheiser could create wireless microphones because wires were a hassle. The idea to make this wireless system came very early, back in 1957, together with German broadcaster NDR. It became the first wireless microphone in the world. If you look back, Sennheiser has always been involved heavily in research, in science, to create much more intense music performances, because we believe that intense music performances create more intense emotions. So that really is the thread that we still offer today. Other moments that are big on the timeline? The other big milestones was in 1968, the invention of the open air headphones [the HD 414], which for the first time allowed people to really listen to music over headphones. The concept existed, but not as a hi-fi reality. So he created the whole headphone consumer headphone market as we know it today. The interesting thing is my grandfather, being the engineer that he was, he thought this was a great product and he asked the sales organization—a representative at the time because we had no sales organization—“How much of this can you sell?” And they came up with 500 pieces per year. He didn’t believe that. He knew they were great. He knew people would respond emotionally to the

music. So he produced 5,000, and they sold out in three months. And then came the 441, a classic, then wireless systems, and now VR? I think the change between immersive audio and any existing surround format is that it goes from channel-based to object-based. And that's a paradigm shift, which I think takes some time for the industry to understand because you're not mixing channels. You have an object and the object in space, and the behavior of the space. We had already started researching this in the ‘70s with the dummy head and HRTF models from the time. We’ve been in that field for so many years and we’re still trying to understand it. Rumor has it that you have a research team in San Francisco. We’ve had a research center in San Francisco for 15 years. We also have a research center in Zurich and at headquarters. This is what my brother and I brought when we came in. We looked at about 35 different research projects, and they were all different aspects of HRTF, or how sound works in an environment, or hearing and perception, So we created one big program and we called it AMBEO. Mono to stereo was one big step. Stereo to AMBEO is the next big step. One big vision, to create an audio system that is tailored to how our brain perceives audio. ■ Capturing stadium sound in an AMBEO array. Inset: the AMBEO VR Mic

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Tech // reviews SPL Marc One Affordable Monitor Controller With AD/ DA Conversion, USB Connectivity By Mike Levine


f you always thought SPL products were out of your price range, think again. The vaunted German manufacturer recently released a new range of affordable headphone amps and monitor controllers called Series One. All feature the company’s proprietary Phonitor Matrix, which simulates for headphone users the experience of listening to speakers. Series One debuted with four products: Phonitor One and Phonitor One d are headphone amps. The Control One is a monitor controller. The Marc One, reviewed here, is described by SPL as a “monitor and recording controller.” It features the Phonitor Matrix, speaker switching, and high-quality D/A and A/D converters. Thanks to the converters, and USB connectivity, you can even use it as a 2-in/2-out audio interface, albeit one that requires external mic preamps. HEAVY DUTY Manufactured in Germany, the Marc One is a tabletop unit that’s a little over 8 inches wide and 8 inches deep. It appears quite solidly built, with an aluminum faceplate and metal housing. All controls, except the on/off switch and some dip-switches, are located on the front panel. The I/O, other than the ¼-inch TRS headphone output, is on the rear, as is the input for the external power supply. The unit provides two sets of ¼-inch speaker outputs: Speaker A features left and right TRS outputs and a TRS subwoofer output; Speaker B consists of left and right TS (unbalanced) outputs. Other I/O includes two stereo pairs of ¼-inch line inputs, again, one pair balanced and one unbalanced (for keyboards, tape decks, etc.), and one set of ¼-inch unbalanced line outputs. I would have preferred that all the connections were balanced, particularly for Speaker B. When queried about it, SPL pointed out that it had to economize in some ways to keep the price as low as it did. And overall, they succeeded in keeping the sound quality remarkably high. SWITCH AND DIP On the front panel, Marc One sports a 3-position toggle for speaker switching. Up selects Speaker pair A and down Speaker pair B. The


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middle position functions as a mute, turning off signal to both sets of speakers but not the headphone output. Another three-way switch lets you choose one of three monitoring modes: Stereo, Mono or L/R > R/L. The latter, something you don’t see on many monitor controllers, reverses the stereo image. According to SPL, it will streamline the workflow if you’re in a sound-for-picture situation and are searching for sound effects that move across the stereo image. That way, you can preview the samples in the correct direction to match the picture. I also found it handy when mixing as a way to briefly alter my perspective, which is always helpful. Two rear-panel dip-switches provide additional ways to change Marc One’s functionality. Switch 1 cuts the monitor output by 10 dB to give more of a usable range with the Volume control if your powered monitors are unusually loud. Switch 2 mixes the outputs of channels 1 and 2 going into your computer through USB. So, for example, you could plug in two sources (either line in, or from a mic preamp unit or audio interface) and record them both into a stereo channel on your DAW. CLICK AND TURN In addition to the speaker switcher, the front panel sports a large knob that controls Speaker A and B output levels. A smaller knob called Monitor lets you vary the balance between what’s coming into the inputs—the direct sound—and what’s coming back from the DAW. Such a control is common for providing no-latency monitoring on audio interfaces that don’t use software-based mixers. Next is a headphone volume control. It’s handy to have a different knob for the headphone level than for the monitor level. The headphone amp is a class AB push-pull design that SPL says gives you more gain and output voltage than a class A amp would. My experience with it backs this up. It’s loud, and it’s clean. The Marc One doesn’t have talkback or Dim functions, features you’ll find on many monitor controllers. Those are mainly useful when doing sessions with multiple musicians, whereas Marc One seems destined for small studios where only one or two sources at

a time get recorded. Given that, it makes sense why SPL didn’t include them. FUN WITH PHONITOR The last knob on the right, labeled Crossfeed, is for the Phonitor Matrix. On higher-end units such as the Phonitor 2, SPL offers three adjustable parameters for the Phonitor function: Crossfeed, Speaker Angle and Center Level. On the Marc One, you only get Crossfeed. However, the Speaker Angle and Center Level parameters are preset at 30 degrees, and -1 dB, respectively, which SPL says are the most commonly used values. The Crossfeed knob controls the interaural level difference; that is, how much of the left ear you hear in the right, and vice versa. When it’s turned completely down, your headphones sound normal, with complete separation between left and right. As you turn up the Crossfeed, you start getting more sound from the opposite side blending in. The effect is more like what you hear from speakers, where the separation is not as complete because of the sound waves bouncing around in the room. I found I was most comfortable with the image I got with the Crossfeed knob set to about 2 o’clock, which is a little more than halfway up. Having the Phonitor feature allowed me to mix on headphones with a lot more confidence. As a result, I was able to work on projects late at night or early in the morning without worrying that the sound from my (not-completely soundproof) studio would bother anyone. You can get software plug-ins that provide a similar speaker simulation experience. The big drawback of those is that you have to put them on the master bus. As a result, you need to remember to bypass the plug-in whenever you bounce a mix because its processing is only for playback. But the Phonitor Matrix only affects what’s going out the headphone output, so you can leave it on all the time if you want. THE RED LIGHT IS ON The feature that sets the Marc One apart from the Control One is its A/D and D/A conversion and USB connectivity (class compliant for Mac and iOS, a driver required for Windows). Although you can record through it into your DAW, the Marc One isn’t an audio interface in the ordinary sense because it has no mic preamps. However, if you have an external mic pre unit or an interface with mic pre’s and line outputs, you can connect

SPL included a subwoofer output for Speaker A.

"At times, I used it strictly as a monitor controller and headphone amp, and at other times as my audio interface. It has impressive sound quality and a wellthought-out feature set" those to Marc One’s line inputs. The metering is minimal, consisting of input overload lights for each of the two channels, but considering you’d probably have meters on your mic preamp, that’s not a significant issue. Why would you use Marc One as your interface if you already have one? A good reason is its conversion. SPL equipped it with 32-bit AK4490 DAC chips that can handle sampling

PRODUCT SUMMARY COMPANY: SPL PRODUCT: MARC ONE WEBSITE: www.spl.audio/en PRICE: $719 PROS: Excellent sound quality. SPL quality at an affordable price. Phonitor Matrix provides speaker simulation over headphones. Powerful and clean headphone amp. 32-bit/768kHz AK4490 converters. Speaker switching. Subwoofer output for speaker A. Solid build quality. CONS: Speaker B outputs are unbalanced. Recording capability only 2-in and 2-out. No Talkback or Dim features.

frequencies up to 768 kHz PCM and support Direct Stream Digital playback. The audio quality is pristine and impressive. I compared its conversion with that of another interface that I really like, and the sound quality of the Marc One was even better. The limitation to recording through the unit is that you only get two channels in and out. But if that’s not a dealbreaker, and if you have other mic preamps, you might consider it as a recording front end. THE DEAL Testing out Marc One for this review was a positive experience from start to finish. It was easy to set up and simple to use. It was a snap to integrate it into my workflow, both for tracking and mixing. At times, I used it strictly as a monitor controller and headphone amp, and at other times as my audio interface. It has impressive sound quality and a well-thought-out feature set—including the incredibly useful Phonitor Matrix. But perhaps its most significant attribute is its value. To get an SPL hardware unit with this type of sound, you’d expect to have to spend quite a bit more. It represents an impressive breakthrough from a price/performance standpoint. The only thing I wonder about is how it will fit into the market. From a studio standpoint, it’s kind of a “tweener,” or maybe “hybrid” is a better word. It’s not quite an audio interface because of its lack of preamps and low channel count, but it’s more than just a monitor controller. If you’re looking strictly for a monitor controller, you might be better off with the Control One, which has the same functionality minus the converters and USB connectivity. But if you’re also intrigued by the idea of being able to run your audio through an SPL unit with high-quality converters—both on the way in and the way out—you’ll want to check out Marc One. ■

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Tech // reviews Neumann V 402 Transparent Preamp Brings Out the Best in Your Mics By Mike Levine


icrophones have been Neumann’s bread and butter since the company’s founding back in 1928. However, the vaunted German manufacturer does sometimes branch out into other types of studio gear, including the KH line of studio monitors, NDH 20 headphones and the recently released V 402 preamp. The V 402 offers two channels of super-clean preamplification. The V 402 is not the first mic preamp Neumann has manufactured, but it’s the first standalone one. The company made ACROSS THE FRONT PANEL the PMV 70 back in the 1970s, along with its successor the V 476 B, Each channel’s controls are identical. The extra knob and button both of which were used in mixing consoles. The latter was featured that you see on the top section’s far right is for the integrated headphone amp. in the mixers manufactured by Neumann during the 1980s. Starting on the far left of each channel is a ¼-inch unbalanced But unlike its predecessors, the V 402 is transformerless and designed to be as transparent as possible. If I may make a Star Trek input for Hi-Z sources. The impedance is a healthy 3.3 megaohms, reference, the V 402’s “prime directive” is complete neutrality, to which is more than sufficient to capture all the high-end detail from neither add nor detract from the microphone’s sound. Considering the pickup (or pickups) of a guitar, bass or other DI instrument. Next comes a large, stepped input Gain control knob. I counted the quality of Neumann microphones, it’s an appealing concept. more than 35 steps in it, so it allows for precise adjustments. The gain range for the mic inputs is +20 dB to +60 dB, and for the Hi-Z DOUBLE DECKER The V 402 is a two-rackspace unit with Hi-Z inputs, a headphone inputs, 0 dB to +40 dB. (Those specs are with the unit’s -20dB Pad output, and all of its controls on the front panel. The XLR I/O resides off). Each channel sports five backlit switches that allow you to turn on the uncrowded back panel. The steel-bodied package weighs in at a on and off various preamp functions. The furthest left button relatively hefty 13.7 pounds and appears to be built solidly. The faceplate is silver-colored and features a red Neumann logo activates the Hi-Z input. Next is 48V phantom power. Right after badge—a color scheme reminiscent of the company’s classic mics. that is the switch for the Pad. Then comes a Phase (polarity) reverse A red stripe bisects the front of the unit horizontally, dividing switch, followed by a 60Hz highpass filter with a -12dB/octave channels 1 and 2. Printed on the stripe in white type is common rolloff. labeling for the jacks, knobs and switches above and below it. The look is tasteful and understated—perhaps a little too much AT A GLANCE so from a visibility standpoint. When I got the V 402 review unit, I Both channels feature a horizontally oriented 10-segment, colorput it in my rack’s highest available space, which was up about ten coded, bar-graph meter, where each step represents 6 dB. The LEDs light up green when you’re in the meter’s main range, yellow when spaces from the bottom. From there, it was approximately 18 inches away from me and you get close to overloading and red when you overload. If your I had to look down at it at a 45-degree angle. From that vantage level reaches the highest step of the meter (which is +24 dBu), the point, I had difficulty reading the labels without bending down Peak Hold function kicks in and the step stays red for three seconds, and moving in closer. I’m sure it would have been easier to see at making it easier to notice when you’ve clipped. The LEDs are big, and the meters are visible from a good eye level, but one doesn’t always have the luxury of positioning distance. If you record in a home studio and are mainly working hardware optimally.


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by yourself, that visibility is helpful. When I was recording vocals and had to position myself several feet back from the unit, I was able to see the meter clearly. In that circumstance, I also appreciated the Peak Hold feature. On the far right is the headphone amp section. It contains Gain knobs for each channel, a Master Volume that governs both, a Mono/Stereo button, and a ¼-inch TRS headphone output. Because so much of the functionality of the V 402 is accessed from the front panel, there isn’t much that needs to go on the back. On one side is the Mains Power switch and an IEC mains socket. On the other side are XLR inputs and outputs for the two channels. Also included is a Ground Lift switch, which is nice to have when necessary. That’s it. If you’re using the unit in a crowded rack, you may need to control the power from an external switch if you can’t reach around to turn the V 402 on or off. THE SOUND OF NEUMANN The functionality is straightforward. Neumann didn’t even produce a full manual for the V 402, just a Quick Start Guide. When reviewing the unit, I tested it out on a lot of different sources, and the results were uniformly impressive. Based on the recording I did through it, I can confidently state that Neumann succeeded in its goal of making the V 402 transparent. One test involved recording several acoustic instruments, including guitar, Dobro, banjo and mandolin. I find that organic sources like that are useful for checking the quality of your chain. I recorded each one separately through the V 402, using three different mics: an Oktava MK-112-01 pencil condenser, a Neat Microphones King Bee

PRODUCT SUMMARY COMPANY: Neumann PRODUCT: V 402 WEBSITE: neumann.com PRICE: $2,900 PROS: Transformerless design yields clear sound. Extra-high impedance in Hi-Z inputs. Pristine-sounding headphone amp. Highly visible input meters. Peak Hold feature helps you see when you’re clipping. Heavy-duty housing. Neumann craftsmanship. CONS: Headphone amp lacks line input for monitoring. Front panel labels can be hard to read.

large-diaphragm condenser and a beyerdynamic DAW into the V 402. But the V 402 doesn’t have a line input. The only way you could get a monitor M1 ribbon mic. Although it was subtle, all the mics exhibited mix back into it is to feed a mono line out into a little more clarity than I’ve heard when one of the Hi-Z or mic inputs. But neither is using other preamps, with the character of stereo or at the correct signal level. It’s too bad that they didn’t include a line each appearing to come through more. When recording the acoustic guitars, I engaged the input, because the headphone amp is incredibleHigh-Pass filter and was pleased with its impact. sounding. I compared it against a couple of other It took out the boominess but not the richness. I also tried the V 402 out on some vocal tracks using a Mojave Audio MA-300 tube condenser. That mic works well on my voice, and the V 402 seemed to bring out the best in it. The vocal sound was a bit clearer and more present than when I use that mic through other preamps. In my studio, I do a lot of recording of DI electric guitar and bass. During the time I had the V 402, I recorded many such tracks The back panel is home to the XLR I/O, a ground lift switch and the power through its Hi-Z input. switch (not pictured). The results were clear, bright and present. The ultra-high impedance outboard devices with headphone amps, and the resulted in recordings that were bright and V 402 was in another league. I can’t overstate detailed. In an intangible way, the tracks seemed how clean and clear it sounds. Considering this is a premium unit, I’m to have more energy. puzzled as to why Neumann omitted something as obvious as a stereo line-in to complement IN YOUR HEAD? One of the more intriguing features on the V 402 the headphone amp. It’s frustrating because is its headphone amp, which is not something you have this great-sounding amp with limited you find all that often on a mic preamp. When usability. It’s like owning a sports car in an area I saw that it had separate gain controls for each with only dirt roads. channel, a master volume and a mono/stereo switch, I wondered what applications Neumann PROVIDE PURITY had in mind for it. One thing that jumps to Overall, though, the V 402 is quite impressive. mind is to use it for checking mic placement. It At $1,450 per channel, it’s not likely to appeal to provides a super-accurate sonic picture before anyone on a budget. But if you can spring for it, the signal goes through the A/D converter in it will provide you with a pristine signal path for your recordings. your interface. If you’re looking for an instant upgrade in On the Neumann website, it says about the headphone amp: “Independent volume controls the quality of your studio’s mic preamps, it’s a for each channel allow you to dial in a latency- worthwhile investment. Alternatively, it would free monitoring mix without affecting the make an excellent complement to a transformerbased mic preamp that adds color. For recording recorded signal.” Well, yes, but there’s a major sticking point: situations where the purity of signal is the To have a latency-free monitor mix, you need priority, the V 402 is a fantastic unit to have in to be able to connect a stereo line out from your your rack. ■

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Tech // back page blog Adding Some Story to a Mix; We Have to Save Our Stages Mike Levine: Mix Technology Editor, Studio The Good Kind of Drama: Drama is an essential part of music production. No, I’m not talking about things like the drummer and bass player punching each other out in the control room, or the lead singer being AWOL for the vocal session, or the argument over whose name goes first in the songwriting credits. I’m talking about the drama in the recording. I’m talking about the importance of creating songs that have a dramatic arc to them to help keep the listeners’ interest. Even with a great song and excellent musicianship, the recording won’t be as compelling if the arrangement is too static. The importance of dramatic arrangements was brought home to me some years ago when, as part of researching an article I was writing, I analyzed a bunch of pop songs and saw how their arrangements evolved from beginning to end. It was an incredibly informative exercise, and one that I highly recommend. I noticed that there was some variation from one section to the next in virtually every song. Sometimes the changes were obvious, such as the addition of background vocals or the drummer switching from a sidestick to the snare. But other times, they were subtle, like bringing in a low-mixed shaker or tambourine part, or adding a couple of chord substitutions. You have a lot of options for adding drama. In addition to how you bring in (and out) the instruments and vocal parts, the song structure itself offers built-in variation. Transitions from verse to chorus, verse to pre-chorus, chorus to verse, or chorus to bridge provide contrast with their melodic, harmonic and dynamic differences. Despite having all that we have to work with, sometimes a song gets to the mixing stage and sounds too similar throughout. If that happens, you still have some options to augment the drama in the mix. But that’s another column. There’s no shortage of tools for creating drama in our music. The trick is to keep the concept in mind at all times during the production process. Product of the Month: Heritage Audio 73JR II This 73-style preamp, an updated and upgraded version of the 73JR, is described by the company as featuring “through-hole traditional components combined with hand labor to create a great-sounding Seventies-vintage vibe.” In addition to returning features like a stepped Input Gain knob, Output level knob, Lo-Z switch, 48V phantom power and polarity reverse, the 73JR II offers some new capabilities. One is a revamped highpass filter circuit that is now sweepable from 20 to 200 Hz; another is an improved DI input that’s now a discrete Class-AJFETcircuitthatautomaticallyswitches to DI mode when you insert a ¼-inch TS cable.


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Steve La Cerra: Mix Technology Editor, Live Sending Out an SOS: In mid-December, leaders of Congress announced that they had reached a tentative agreement to pass a $900 billion Covid relief package, which includes enhanced unemployment benefits, direct stimulus payments to individuals and—perhaps most important to those working in the entertainment industry—the Save Our Stages Act, a $15 billion program earmarked for live venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions. The bill passed. Bolstering the bill was the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), a group of more than 3,000 venues across the 50 states and Washington, D.C., which has been a strong voice for the live entertainment community. According to NIVA, 90 percent of independent venues in the country will close in early 2021 unless they receive federal aid, and they estimate that every dollar spent at a music venue generates another $12 for related businesses. The domino effects in my small corner of the business are significant: a day in the life of a fly gig means taxis to the airport, delivery of our gear to the airport, skycaps helping us check in, meals, backline rentals, sound and light rentals…. No gig means a complete halt to all of the cash flow. Key provisions of the Save Our Stages Act include establishment of a grant program for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent reps and funding for expenses incurred from March 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020. Eligible venues can use the funds for employee payroll and benefits, rent, utilities, mortgage interest payments, insurance, PPE, payoff of existing loans, payments to 1099 employees, and other operating expenses. The relief bill and the Save Our Stages Act is a firm step in the right direction to provide aid for the live event industry, though the path of SOS funds to independent touring sound, backline and lighting techs is unclear. The package does, however, extend unemployment assistance for gig workers and those who are self-employed. Product of the Month: Audix A133 and A131 Condenser Mics The A133 and A131 share a number of features, including 33mm, fixed-charge capsules with 3.4-micron, gold-sputtered diaphragms and precision-machined, aluminum bodies. The pickup pattern for both models is cardioid; frequency response is stated as 40 Hz to 20 kHz. The open-air design of the capsule mounting system allows the mics to deliver clear, uncolored sound, while an internal shock mount isolates the capsule from mechanical vibrations and handling noise, eliminating the need for an external shock mount. The A133 provides a 10dB pad switch for use on loud sources, and a 150Hz high-pass filter. Maximum SPL for the A131 is 140 dB. Maximum SPL for the A133 is 150 dB with the pad engaged.


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