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International TECHNOLOGY AND TRENDS FOR THE PRO-AUDIO PROFESSIONAL www.audiomediainternational.com

April 2015

THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS As IT increasingly influences broadcasting, how is traditional technology responding? p28

SHOW TIME

REVIEW

INTERVIEW

All you need to navigate Prolight + Sound, NAB and AES p10

We put Avid’s S3L-X system under the spotlight p40

Producer Troy Miller talks to AMI p50


WELCOME

www.audiomediainternational.com

EDITOR Adam Savage asavage@nbmedia.com

Experts in the issue

ANOTHER FINE MESSE?

MANAGING EDITOR Jo Ruddock jruddock@nbmedia.com STAFF WRITER Matt Fellows mfellows@nbmedia.com COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR Darrell Carter dcarter@nbmedia.com

Wes Maebe is a UK-based recording, mixing, mastering, and live sound engineer.

ACCOUNT MANAGER Rian Zoll-Khan rzoll-kahn@nbmedia.com HEAD OF DESIGN Jat Garcha jgarcha@nbmedia.com PRODUCTION EXECUTIVE Jason Dowie jdowie@nbmedia.com PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Georgia Blake gblake@nbmedia.com Press releases to: ukpressreleases@nbmedia.com © NewBay Media 2015. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior permission of the copyright owners. Audio Media International is published by NewBay Media, 1st Floor, Suncourt House, 18-26 Essex Road, London N1 8LN, England. Editorial tel: +44 (0)20 7354 6002 Sales tel: +44 (0)20 7354 6000

Audio Media International ISSN number: ISSN 2057-5165 (Print) Circulation & Subscription enquiries Tel: +44 (0)1580 883848 email: audiomedia. subscriptions@c-cms.com Printed by Pensord Press Ltd Front Cover: TSL Products

Ronan Chris Murphy is a producer and former King Crimson engineer, as well as the founder of Recording Boot Camp, a series of LA-based courses designed to teach real world skills and help participants make better recordings in any situation. Andy Ross is the owner of Astar Studios. He has a wealth of studio experience and a Mercury Prize Album of the Year nomination to his credit. Alan Branch is a freelance engineer/producer and ex-member of the On U Sound Crew. His list of credits includes Jamiroquai, Beverley Knight, M People, Simply Red, and Sade.

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here is this year going? It seems only yesterday that we went to press with our first issue, and now we’re on our fourth, with the mighty Prolight + Sound the next major show on our schedule. I swear I’ve only just got the taste of currywurst out of my mouth. I’m correct in calling it the mighty Prolight + Sound, right? It’s still the show we consider ‘the big one’ from a European, or even global pro-audio perspective? Or has the rise of ISE and other increasingly high-traffic events started to threaten the annual Frankfurt fest’s position at the top? Well, as there are more than a few companies planning major launches this year, but at the present moment keeping the details under wraps, it seems manufacturers still have their faith firmly in Messe, and I have to say it remains the trip I look forward to the most. Maybe it’s the fact that it has a greater

community vibe about it and more of an informal feel , with the majority of its audio exhibitors all in one place (right near the Press Room is a bonus too), but it just seems to tick more of the boxes than most, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Although we’ll have to wait until Day One to find out what some of the big firms are hiding, we do have a run-through of what we know so far starting on Page 10. And let’s not forget the NAB and AES Warsaw shows as well – you’ll find previews of those in this issue too. As for the rest of this April 2015 edition, you may have seen a story on our site this month on the imminent launch of Yorkshire post house Bark & Bite’s new Manchester facility, which it says will be “the largest [UK] post house outside of London”. That’s quite a big statement, and I’m sure you’ll agree deserved further attention. So are they right to make such a bold claim or is it something of an exaggeration? Find out on Page 16. Then when you’re done with that, turn to Page 26, where we Profile FE Live Audio, a young Glasgow-based rental firm that has landed a number of big jobs since expanding its audio arsenal significantly recently. I’m sure I’ll see a lot of you in Frankfurt – if you fancy meeting up for a pint of Pils (other beer types also accepted), drop me a line.

Adam Savage Editor Audio Media International

April 2015

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CONTENTS

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www.audiomediainternational.com

50 FEATURES

NEWS 6

AES introduces new 3D audio standard

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Audiologic launches Connect brand

BROADCAST AUDIO Kevin Hilton looks at how increased IT and broadcast engineering skills are changing the way TV programmes are made

SHOW NEWS

TECHNOLOGY

10

Preparing for Prolight + Sound

12

What’s new at NAB

14

AES Poland and Innovation In Music 2015

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HOW TO Astar Studios’ Andy Ross offers his advice on choosing the right mic

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EXPERT WITNESS Ronan Chris Murphy helps us navigate the myriad options when it comes to picking a pair of quality cans

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FOCUS Headphones: We round up some of the models you can rely on in any situation

PEOPLE 18

OPINION Wes Maebe argues the case for Mastered for iTunes

20

Andy Coules asks whether award ceremonies are fundamentally flawed

22

Rob Bridgett reports back from the Game Developers Conference

50

INTERVIEW Rebecca Ferguson and Laura Mvula producer Troy Miller tells his story

ALSO INSIDE 16

NEWS ANALYSIS: Post-production company Bark & Bite discusses its plans to take on Soho

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GEO FOCUS: INDIA Why confidence in the market is strong, but quality doesn’t always prevail

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LIVE FOCUS: FE Live Audio tells us how it’s putting the d&b V-Series system to good use April 2015

40 REVIEWS 40 42 44 46 48

Avid S3L-X Resident Audio T4 Synchro Arts ReVoice Pro 3 Tascam DR-10X Mackie DL32R


15. - 18.04. 2015 Hall 8.0 / Booth A22

X-LINE ADVANCE Forward-thinking line-array design starts here. The result of rigorous R&D, the introduction of the new X-Line Advance family sees Electro-Voice push the parameters of line-array performance to the next level. X-Line Advance utilizes state-of-the-art EVengineered components and incorporates a range of innovative new features, all of which work together to surpass the capabilities of other line arrays, and all in a significantly more compact, flexible, and quickerto-set-up package.

KEY FEATURES: ‡ An unprecedented performance-to-size ratio for installed and concert sound applications. ‡ Advanced audio quality and control via a host of new and exclusive EVengineered technologies, including next-generation Hydra wave-shaping devices, high-output transducers, and proprietary FIR-Drive optimization. ‡ New-look EV industrial design and new Integrated Rigging System combine streamlined appearance with simplified setup.

The first wave of X-Line Advance products includes two full-range elements (X1-212/90 & X2-212/90) and the X12-128 — the most powerful subwoofer EV has ever developed.

Designed, engineered, and tested for ultimate reliability by Electro-Voice in the USA. Learn more at: www.electrovoice.com/X-LineAdvance


NEWS

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AES INTRODUCES NEW 3D AUDIO STANDARD The Audio Engineering Society has published the AES69-2015 standard, a document providing “an important framework for the growing binaural and 3D personal audio industries”, according to the organisation. The standard outlines the format and exchange of spatial acoustics files, and is described as a crucial step forward in the evolving 3D audio field: an understanding of the way that the listener experiences binaural sound, expressed as headrelated transfer functions (HRTF), is thought to open the way to 3D personal audio. The lack of a standard for the exchange of HRTF data has made it difficult for developers to exchange

binaural capture and rendering algorithms effectively, the AES says. While 3D audio has continued to gain popularity among end users, binaural listening could be the very first 3D audio vector with sufficient fidelity of HRTF. The new standard defines a file format to exchange space-related acoustic data in various forms. These include HRTF, as well as directional room impulse responses (DRIR). The format is designed to be scalable to match the available rendering process and be sufficiently flexible to include source materials from different databases. AES Standards Committee chair Bruce Olson commented: “AES69 represents a fundamental piece of architecture for taking personal audio to a new level of performance. Using this, product developers will be able to take advantage of transfer-function databases from all over the world to produce a truly immersive 3D audio experience.” www.aes.org

RADIAL RELEASES TRIM-TWO TOOL Radial Engineering has announced the Trim-Two, a new passive stereo isolator. Trim-Two is designed to simplify the use of laptops during live performance by providing a ‘ready access’ volume control for on-the-fly adjustments. It features dual 0.25in jacks, left and right RCAs and a stereo 3.5mm input. These are wired in parallel to allow the signal to be split off to feed an alternate signal path, such as monitors. Inside, two Eclipse transformers do the work of isolating and balancing the signal. These ‘passive engines’ deliver a linear frequency response from 20Hz to 18kHz and are capable of handling up to +15dB signal levels, thus providing typical -10dB keyboards and consumer level devices with plenty of headroom. An easy access front panel stereo level control makes adjusting the volume simple. Sound files can be played using the Trim-Two by connecting it from the headphone output of a tablet to the 3.5mm input on the Trim-Two. Users are able to adjust the level and avoid distortion via the volume control. The transformers provide galvanic isolation between the source and

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the destination, and are “extremely effective” at eliminating ground loops – connect the source to the Trim-Two and then the male XLR outputs to the PA system. As the Trim-Two is completely passive, no power is required. Made in Canada from heavy-duty 14-gauge steel, the Trim-Two offers Radial’s book-end design that creates protective zones around the connectors and controls. Inside, the I-beam frame protects the sensitive inner workings from potential damage that could torque the PC board and cause solder points to prematurely go cold. The steel casing also provides shielding against external magnetic fields. www.radialeng.com

DPA ANNOUNCES ‘TRADE UP’ CAMPAIGN

DPA Microphones has launched its Trade Up To d:fine campaign, which offers a €75 (or equivalent) rebate to anyone trading in a non-DPA headset mic, while buying one of the Danish firm’s new models. All other headset microphones can be traded in – it doesn’t matter what make or model. Participants can also trade in as many microphones as they like, provided they replace each one with a new d:fine. “This is the ideal opportunity for people to get closer to the DPA quality and upgrade the tools they need most,” commented DPA CEO Christian Poulsen. “We hope to encourage more artists and sound professionals to try [DPA mics] because we are confident that, once

they have tried them, they will never want to use anything else.” Used by singers, actors, broadcasters, speakers and by houses of worship of every denomination, d:fine headset microphones claim to set the acoustic standard that others emulate. They also promise the durability to perform flawlessly in live situations, night after night, despite make-up, sweat, dance routines and occasional somersaults. To receive the rebate, purchasers just need to buy any d:fine headset mic between now and 30 April 2015, complete a trade up form and send it, along with proof of purchase of a new d:fine and a non-DPA headset mic, to their local DPA distributor. www.dpamicrophones.com

GENELEC IN THE JUNGLE Soho-based post-production facility Jungle has upgraded its cinema suite, installing the first Genelec 1238A triamplified SAM system in the UK. Jungle refurbished its Wardour Street offices to bring all of its audio facilities under one roof back in 2013. This included building a new cinema space with a more efficient and accurate sound system capable of producing stereo, 5.1 and 7.1 content. The system was also required to adapt to the room environment and ensure a level of consistency across Jungle’s smaller existing suites which incorporate Genelec 8250 and 8240 systems. Supplied by Source Distribution via retailer Absolute Music, the system was calibrated using Auto Cal by Source’s Andy Bensley in conjunction with Dolby. Because of the size of the space, the 1238A was chosen due to the system’s “exceptional SPL” and its ability to account for clients in a number of listening positions within the space.

The Genelec 1238A is a three-way SAM (Smart Active Monitor) model designed to adapt to its acoustical environment by tuning the frequency response to compensate for acoustical room influences and to achieve the best possible alignment of volume levels at the listening position. The 1238A monitor is equipped with a 15in bass driver, 5in midrange driver and a 1in metal dome tweeter, with the midand high-frequency drivers mounted in the proprietary Directivity Control Waveguide. www.genelec.com


Boom festival photo: esweb


NEWS

AUDIOLOGIC LAUNCHES CONNECT BRAND Audiologic, the UK provider of professional audio equipment, has announced a new sister brand, Audiologic Connect. The essence of the brand is to supply high-quality cables and connectors to the retail and trade sectors of the AV industry, although its remit is perhaps somewhat wider than that basic premise, Audiologic says. Included in its framework are racks, stage boxes, DI boxes and other ancillary products that are all essential to the success of any AV installation, large or small. Consistent with Audiologic’s desire to communicate closely

with its customers to ensure their requirements are met, Audiologic Connect will offer a similarly ‘engaged’ approach to customer service, inviting clients to discuss their needs in detail and, where necessary, offer bespoke solutions. Andy Lewis, sales and marketing manager at the Essex-based distributor, explained the virtues of the new venture: “There’s no getting away from the fact that by any standards, cables and connectors could hardly be described as the sexy side of the AV business,” he said. “Equally, there’s no escape from the reality that very little of the vast array of hi-tech hardware

NEXO A SUPERB CHOICE FOR SKODA

German production house SHOWEM is the latest company to invest in a Nexo STM M28 system, which made its inaugural appearance recently at the launch of the new Skoda Superb. Both the car and the modular line array system were unveiled at the Forum Karlin auditorium in Prague, Czech Republic, where a new symphony was premiered to 500 invited media guests. Performed by a 50-piece orchestra, the symphony was written to symbolise a new era for the 120-yearold car manufacturer. SHOWEM’s technical production manager Dieter Mantzel wanted to mark the occasion with a different PA system to those typically used for new car launches, and therefore opted for STM. “We’d been waiting for Nexo’s new M28 modular line array, and this was the perfect opportunity to purchase it,” said SHOWEM CEO Christian Eck, who took delivery of the system a

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week before the event. “The compact M28 is just right for our company; a 2 x 8-in system is exactly the size we need. The Dante redundancy and Lake control options provided by the NUAR (Nexo Amp Rack) convinced our client that the M28 was right for this event.” L/R arrays of nine M28s and three B112 bass modules were flown each side of the stage in the multifunction auditorium, which accommodates nearly 3,000 people. Three S118 subs per side, running in cardioid mode, were flown behind the main hangs; the system was powered by four NUARs. The M28 system handled a varied programme including speeches from Skoda designers and executives, film footage of the company’s history and details of the car’s evolution. After the presentations, legendary soul singer Chaka Khan and Danish vocalist Aura Dione took to the stage with a live band. www.nexo.fr

out there is much use without these absolute essentials. “Audiologic Connect has been set up to cater for the specific requirements of integrators and end-users, whether that’s half a dozen tailor-made speaker cables for a club or the multi-faceted requirements of a large integrated AV installation. Whatever the project, we are able to advise on the best choices, configurations and combinations, in order that the customer achieves the most technically and economically effective solution possible.” Audiologic Connect offers Quartex and Procab cabling, to cater for all bulk, bespoke and pre-made requirements,

complemented by Neutrik connectors and Caymon stands and racks. Lewis concluded: “These are highcalibre products – reliable connection underpins every successful AV application and our aim with Audiologic Connect is to properly identify what’s required for a job and go above and beyond simply reeling off cable.” www.audiologicconnect.uk

THE MUSIC GROUP GAINS NEW NEVES The Music Group, a newly remodelled studio in Edmond, Oklahoma, has invested in Neve Genesys and Neve Genesys Black consoles for its 10th anniversary. Vintage King provided the equipment package for the facility, which is the first in the world to install both desks. “We picked the large-format Neve Genesys for our A studio, a perfect fit because it’s geared towards largescale tracking and mixing,” explained producer/engineer and studio co-owner Chris Freels. “I grew up on 2in tape and large-format desks and I wanted to have that feeling here. Our B studio has the Neve Genesys Black, which is our Pro Tools overdub studio with a signal path geared more towards DAW projects.” The studio’s other co-owner, LG Hamilton, added: “Neve has always been a trusted brand and Ryan McGuire at Vintage King basically guided us through the options and after looking around it was natural for us to narrow it down to

those particular desks. He also helped us in picking out our new Burl A-D/D-A converters and Shadow Hills mastering compressor.” In 2005, two successful Oklahoma studios, West 2nd Recording and Hamilton House Studio D, merged to form what is now The Music Group. The new three-studio recording facility was constructed from the ground up and designed by George Newburn of Studio 440 in Hollywood, California. “We do traditional album projects for independent artists and major labels, we do advertising work, film soundtracks – a little bit of everything,” explained Freels. “Each of us here works a little bit differently and the Neve consoles are perfect for our various projects and workflows. There’s not another studio in the region that’s equipped like this and we wanted to have the highest sonic standards possible.” www.ams-neve.com

Picture (L-R): Chris Freels, LG Hamilton, studio manager Addie Rice and staff engineer/chief tech Bryce Zabric


SHOW NEWS: PROLIGHT + SOUND

FRESH AT FRANKFURT

Once again the halls of Prolight + Sound will host a raft of pro-audio product unveilings. We highlight some of this year’s unmissable launches.

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damson is using Prolight + Sound to launch the S-Series. The new sub-compact line array system consists of the S10 line array enclosure, S119 sub, Blueprint AV and the E-Rack, Adamson’s new unified rack solution. The S10 is a two-way full-range enclosure designed for mid-size arenas, theatres, churches and dance clubs, as well as outdoor festivals. It is loaded with two newly designed 10in ND10-LM Kevlar neodymium low-frequency drivers and an NH4TA2 1.5in exit high-frequency compression driver. This is mounted to a wave shaping sound chamber, which produces a slightly curved wavefront with a nominal dispersion pattern of 110° x 10° (H x V). The companion S119 subwoofer is loaded with a lightweight, long excursion, 19in ND19 Kevlar neodymium driver utilising Adamson’s Advanced Cone Architecture and a 5in voice coil. It is mounted in a front-loaded enclosure, designed to reproduce clean, musical low frequency information. The S-Series is designed to be powered by the E-Rack unified rack solution, which interfaces with and powers the S-Series, as well as the full range of Adamson loudspeakers. New from AMS Neve is the 1073DPX dual 1073 microphone preamp/EQ. The unit features two independent Neve 1073 transformer-coupled microphone preamplier/EQ circuits, in a single 2U 19in rack mount enclosure; Neve Marinair transformers used on each input and output stage; and connections for mic, line and DI inputs on the front of the unit, with switchable mic/line input connections on the rear. Also on show will be Genesys Black, a digitally controlled analogue recording console that offers total integration with the studio environment and the DAWs of the user’s choice. As well as new products that were being kept under wraps ahead of 10

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operation user interface, the CDC six offers “the highest possible performance of any audio mixing console”, Cadac says. d&b is launching two new products and a software update in Frankfurt. The new products are the D20, the latest addition to the company’s four-channel amplifier family, and the MAX2, a flexible 15in stage monitor. The software update is a new ArrayCalc feature for d&b

Evo 7 from Funktion-One has a 30º horizontal dispersion angle and very high efficiency the show, Audio-Technica’s ATHR70x open- back reference monitor headphones and ATH-M70x highperformance headphones (see our review in AMI March) will be highlighted in Frankfurt. The R70x has been created in conjunction with Paris-based design agency Arro. The final result features aluminium mesh earcup housings, contributing to the model’s 210g weight and generous breathable fabric earpads, making for comfortable use even during long sessions. Designed to reveal the most detailed nuances in a mix, the M70x is tuned to reproduce extreme low and high frequency content with accuracy. Its 5-40,000Hz frequency response is perfectly balanced – thanks to proprietary 45mm large-aperture drivers with rare earth magnets – and even at high volumes the 2000mW maximum power input means very low distortion for clarity and definition. A brand new console from Cadac, the CDC six, will also make its world debut. Designed following further development of the firm’s gesture-

line arrays. “Prolight + Sound is such an important show for us. This year, we’re launching some really excellent new products, which elevate the quality of d&b systems even further,” said Sabina Berloffa, director of marketing and product management at d&b audiotechnik. As well as showing its extensive range of microphones for live sound applications, DPA will also host on-booth workshops with live performances up to five times a day. A relaunch of the d:facto range including a new d:facto microphone will be presented, along with the first showing of the d:fine in-ear broadcast headset microphone (see our review in Audio Media International January). Targeted at television hosts and guests who use in-ear monitors to communicate with their producers backstage, it incorporates a DPA microphone with a state-of-the-art inear monitoring solution. Funktion-One is launching the Evolution series in Frankfurt, along with a new system for smaller applications. Evolution is a new series of highintensity loudspeakers. Utilising the loudspeaker manufacturer’s latest technology, the range is centred around the Evo 6 and Evo 7 enclosures. Both products are fully horn-loaded with 15in mid-bass, 10in Funktion-One signature midrange and a 1.4in compression driver solely for high frequencies above 4kHz. The Evo 7 has a 30º horizontal dispersion angle and very high efficiency, so just three-wide gives 90º

Information

What? Prolight + Sound 2015 Where? Messe Frankfurt, Germany When? 15-18 April horizontal coverage for crowd sizes up to around 2,500 people. The manufacturer will also unveil a new self-powered bass enclosure designed for domestic, home studio and small venue applications. The custom amplifier built in to the enclosure has three channels – one large mono channel for the bass itself and two smaller channels optimised to power a pair of F81 or F101 loudspeakers. K-array will be showing the KR802, which it describes as “its most advanced self-powered, portable amplification system yet”. It features a pair of new Kayman mid-hi line array elements

K-array’s KR802 portable amplification system


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matched to the double 18in powered KMT218 subwoofer. The all-in-one solution features pocket handles in the sub and an M20 thread mount position for attaching mid-high speakers, while a variety of mounting and rigging hardware options make it a versatile solution. It is also possible to fly the line array elements, which can even be calibrated into a banana shape for complex applications. Also new is the KH7, a self-powered digitally steerable addition to the Firenze Series. An integrated Class D amplifier delivers 4 x 2,000W at 4 Ohms. The four channels are controlled via integrated DSP. Kling & Freitag is launching three new product lines in Frankfurt – VIDA, system power amps and PASSIO SUB. The VIDA L (Versatile Intelligent Digital Array) is a scalable, controllable and full-range-compatible line array system. Up to eight of these 1m modules can be connected to the integrated mechanics. Three different speaker paths are used in the VIDA L, which is equipped with 48 DSP channels and 48 Class D power amps. Here, the six 6.5in drivers, 12 3.5in drivers and 32 individually controlled 1in dome tweeters are arranged coaxially on a Waveguide in a slim aluminium body. K&F will also present a new set of system power amps based on the PLM+ and D series from Lab.gruppen. The K&F D80:4, K&F D120:4 and K&F D200:4 are mainly suitable for the installation field, while the K&F PLM 12k44 and K&F PLM20k44 are designed for live performances and touring. Finally, the PASSIO series is rounded off by the compact subwoofer models, PASSIO SUB 12 and PASSIO SUB 15. Two aspects which characterise the new systems are a passive crossover and high degree of efficiency. In addition to the combination with PASSIO (2 x 5in/1in), both models can also be operated with Gravis 8/12 and SONA 5/6/8 via the Lab.gruppen IPD-2400 system power amp. Martin Audio will be celebrating its role in the Glastonbury Festival with a Lego model of the Pyramid Stage, complete with full replica MLA hangs and MLX subs. Courtesy of RG Jones Sound Engineering, Martin Audio has been the main PA of the Pyramid Stage

SHOW NEWS: PROLIGHT + SOUND

Cardinal DVM-HDBT-EX HDMI longdistance runner extender systems are new from Sommer Cable since 2007. Commissioned by James King, director of marketing, he said: “We wanted to celebrate our involvement in arguably the most prestigious festival in the world. We thought as a bit of theatre for this year’s Prolight + Sound it would garner lots of attention.” The manufacturer is also planning its “most important new launch since MLA back in 2010”, according to managing director Luke Ireland. Although details were being kept under wraps as AMI went to press, Ireland added: “This new product range will feature groundbreaking technology that will further Martin Audio’s credentials as the true innovator in the marketplace and will deliver our customers a clear competitive advantage.” Renkus-Heinz will be showcasing its full range of Iconyx steerable line array systems. Full IC Live Portable and IC Live Dual systems will be on display, as well as IC2, and all configurations of Iconyx IC-R-II systems with triple tweeter technology. Riedel will highlight a host of new products at Prolight + Sound, including the Tango TNG-200, which represents the company’s first network-based platform supporting Ravenna/ AES67 and AVB standards. With its own dedicated intercom application, the platform can be turned into a flexible solution for a variety of communications scenarios. The RSP-2318 Smartpanel is the world’s first control panel designed to serve as a powerful multifunctional user interface. It boasts three high-resolution, sunlight-readable, multitouch colour displays; premiumquality stereo audio; a multilingual character set; and 18 keys in just 1RU. These features make Riedel’s new Smartpanel a powerful user interface that can be further expanded through the use of apps.

Loudspeakers, both real and Lego, will be unveiled on the Martin Audio stand

The focus on the Sommer Cable stand will be the Cardinal DVMHDBT-EX HDMI long-distance runner extender systems. Part of the Cardinal DVM family, the new Cardinal DVMHDBT-MAT44 and DVM-HDBT-MAT88 matrices provide signal management of four or eight HDMI source signals and their distribution to HDMI or HDBaseT outputs. They also offer a short switching time of 200ns max, as well as the complete support of 4K x 2K signals. Steinberg is offering a first look at Nuendo 7, its upcoming release tailored to audio post workflows. Showcased in tandem with the Yamaha Nuage system, the new features in the seventh

digiLIVE is new from Studiomaster

iteration of Steinberg’s award-winning DAW include an in-built ReConforming solution for automatic audio-to-picture alignment, advanced collaboration features for merging several Nuendo projects and new Render export capabilities for rendering individual selections of audio files. New from Studiomaster is digiLiVE, a compact digital audio mixer with a touchscreen control surface, offering remote tablet operation. digiLiVE 16, a 16-input, 16-bus, 8-output device sports a control surface integrating a 7in Android-driven high-resolution touchscreen and eight motorised 100mm fader operation, alongside fully remote (iOS and Android) tablet operation. The 16 inputs include 12 professional mic input channels, A-D/D-A conversion is 24-bit/192kHz, there are up to eight internal effects busses – with reverb, delay, 15-band EQ and modulation, and the eight ‘smart’ XLR analogue outputs are assignable. Outputs also include digital AES/EBU ands SPDIF. The compact mixer measures just 350 x 380 x 150mm. pls.messefrankfurt.com

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SHOW NEWS: NAB

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THE BEST OF BROADCAST

Information

What? NAB 2015 Where? Las Vegas Convention Center, USA When? 11-16 April

If you’re looking for the latest technology for the content creation market, the busy halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center will be a good place to start, as NAB rolls into town this month. We highlight some of the products you’ll want to take a look at.



M

aking their US debut on the Calrec stand are an optimised Summa processor rack and a modular MADI solution. The first is a 4U console core with a new look. Benefiting from hardware improvements, the core is used for the Summa and Artemis Light consoles. Benefits include improved green credentials – as well as processors, it also now operates with 5% lower power consumption and fewer fans, which are more easily accessible for maintenance. Also being announced is a single-slot modular MADI card that fits into the 3U modular Hydra2 box. Not only does the new card offer 64 bidirectional channels, but it also includes a samplerate converter. Clear-Com will show its recentlyreleased LQ Series – IP interface devices designed for linking intercom and audio systems across long distances over IP networks. Available as either two-wire (LQ-2W2) or four-wire (LQ-4W2) options, the LQ devices can interface between different intercom systems, routing both call signalling and audio over LAN, WAN or Internet IP connections – 2-wire partyline with other OEM partyline systems, 2-wire with 4-wire devices, and 4-wire with 4-wire systems. The LQ-2W2 is both Clear-Com and RTS TW compatible. A maximum of six LQ Series interfaces can be linked together to form a managed network. 12

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Digigram is continuing to expand its range of products with Ravenna/ AES67 connectivity. At NAB, Digigram will showcase the addition of Ravenna/AES67 connectivity to the company’s IQOYA range of audioover-IP codecs, which now allow users to get audio programs directly from an in-studio Ravenna network and subsequently encode and stream them over IP to transmitter sites via a WAN in compliance with EBU ACIP. Users can likewise decode EBU ACIP streams from a WAN to their in-studio Ravenna network, meaning radio stations can more easily migrate towards the use of IP audio within their studios. Nugen Audio, meanwhile, will demonstrate new loudness management workflows in Las Vegas. As well as showing the Loudness Toolkit 2, a significant upgrade to the company’s industry-leading loudness measurement and correction suite, it will also preview its Halo Upmixer. Designed specifically for film and TV production, the new product is capable of producing a Stereo-to-5.1/7.1/9.1 downmixcompatible upmix with optional dialogue isolation in the centre channel. The Halo Upmixer is expected to be available in the second half of 2015. New from Riedel is the STX-200 professional broadcast-grade interface, which brings any Skype user worldwide into the professional broadcast environment. Licensed by Microsoft, the product meets broadcasters’

An optimised Summa processor rack will debut on the Calrec stand increasing need for a reliable single-box solution that enables them to bring live contributions from both reporters and viewers into live programming – all while avoiding typical problems such as consumer PCs running common Skype clients, the need to add scan and HDMIto-SDI converters, or audio dropouts and menu pop-ups on the live feed. The 1RU box offers broadcast-quality HD-SDI and balanced XLR audio I/Os and is packaged with professional Microsoft Skype TX software. The solution’s feature set includes remote management and monitoring of Skype calls. Steinberg will be focusing on Nuendo 7, the upcoming release tailored to audio post-production workflows. Said to offer many new features and workflow enhancements, Nuendo 7 is scheduled for release in mid-2016. TSL Products will present the most significant addition to its TallyMan control system range since its inception: the TM1 MK2. The new model is said to eliminate the typical bottlenecks that broadcasters face as the demand for monitoring and control capabilities increases, and the amount of controllable systems and the volume

of available data continues to grow. With a simple browser/front panel configuration, TM1 MK2 provides dual gigabit Ethernet connectivity to ensure that crucial communication is seamlessly transported, while its processing power guarantees real-time data and control across a facility. An arena where flexible control is paramount is outside broadcasting, where power, grounding, space and weight provide significant challenges. The TM1 MK2 addresses these needs with dual redundant hot-swappable power supplies and by providing all GPO in the form of isolated relays, while occupying only 1U of rack space with an approximate weight of just 2.5kg.

Steinberg will be previewing Nuendo 7

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SHOW NEWS: AES / INNOVATION IN MUSIC

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MAKING PLANS FOR POLAND

As AES descends on Warsaw we take a look at the seminars, workshops and sessions that will be drawing the crowds.

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he AES makes its first foray to Poland for the 138th Convention next month. Running from 7-10 May at the Sofitel Victoria Hotel, the annual European event once again has a strong Technical Program as well as a host of special events and an exhibition area. Organisers are looking to build on the success of the Berlin event in 2014, which registered twice the attendance of the Rome convention the previous year. “Warsaw is a vibrant, modern, culturally rich city with an incredible history – especially in the arts and sciences, and I’m excited to bring the international audio community there to explore the latest scientific advances and best practices,” said AES executive director Bob Moses. “Our excellent convention committee has put together another strong programme of events, and I’m confident everyone who comes will have an extremely memorable experience.”

Information What? 138th AES Convention Where? Sofitel Victoria Hotel, Warsaw, Poland When? 7-10 May

The Technical Program at the Convention brings together a host of experts on an array of audio topics for four days of presentations, discussion and learning. The Papers and Engineering Briefs sessions showcase the work of over 100 researchers on topics ranging from 3D Audio Rendering in 5.1 Surround Systems to Graphene Microphones. The sessions kick of at 10:00 on day one with a look at Spatial Audio. Over the course of two and a half hours, attendees will

hear about the ‘Subjective Loudness of 22.2 Multichannel Programs’; ‘MPEG-D Spatial Audio Object Coding for Dialogue Enhancement’; ‘Multichannel Systems: Listeners Choose Separate Reproduction of Direct and Reflected Sounds’; ‘On the Influence of Headphone Quality in the Spatial Immersion Produced by Binaural Recordings’; and ‘Binaural Audio with Relative and Pseudo Head Tracking’. Tutorials planned for throughout the show will cover topics such as

‘Microphones – Can you Hear the Specs’; ‘Time Reversal in Sound Recordings’; ‘Recording Music in Immersive Audio’; and ‘Involving 3D Audio for Games.’ Meanwhile, workshops will cover ‘WorldClass Film Sound Mixers’; ‘Loudness Wars’; and ‘Sound for the Eurovision Song Contest’. For more information on the Technical Program and the exhibitors who will be taking to the showfloor in Poland next month, keep an eye on the AES website below. www.aes.org



FACING THE FUTURE

Now in its third year, Innovation in Music brings together researchers, artists and professionals interested in the future of the music industry.

T

aking place at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK from 7-9 June, Innovation in Music 2015 will welcome academics, artists, producers, engineers, music industry professionals and manufacturers to debate a wide range of topics. This year’s Production Keynote will be given by producer, recording and mix engineer David Wrench. During the session, he will give a candid Q&A about his pathway into music production, his approach to innovative projects and an insight into some of the varied projects he has worked on. Wrench will also demonstrate mix session examples of his work. 14

April 2015

Another highlight looks set to be the Technical Industry Keynote, which will be given by Martin Walsh, vice president, research and development at DTS. He will consider why, when headphones have become the predominant way in which the average listener consumes music, we are still producing so much content using

speakers. New methods of mixing and mastering specifically for headphone consumption that allow the headphonewearing consumer the best listening experience will be discussed. Peter Jenner, meanwhile, will present the Industry Keynote. The former Pink Floyd, The Clash and Ian Dury manager is now at the forefront of the debates surrounding the digital use of music, and is involved with trying to develop a viable digital market in China, as well as securing artists’ rights and fair payments. Host chair of InMusic15 Dr Rob Toulson, director of the Anglia Ruskin’s CoDE Research Institute, said: “This is an excellent opportunity for the

Information What? Innovation in Music 2015 Where? Anglia Ruskin University, UK When? 7-9 June

academic and commercial sectors of the music industry to congregate close to London to share and discuss innovations in music with respect to all areas affecting artists, technologists, music producers and industry executives”. Finally, there’s still time to submit papers for the event. The deadline to receive abstracts for consideration has been extended to 10 April. Visit the website below for more information. www.innovationinmusic.com


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ALL BARK, ALL BITE

Matt Fellows chats to the team at the new Manchester facility that raised a few eyebrows last month with its claim of being the largest UK post house outside of London.

I

t’s often touted in the UK audio post-production industry: if you want top-quality results, you go to Soho. But with this hub of proaudio talent locked prohibitively in the south, what about the rest of the UK? Step forward Bark & Bite. Already an established brand with a studio in central Leeds, Bark & Bite offers both audio and visual post-production from sound mixing to motion graphics. And with a list of clients including Sega, Ferrari and Nike, it now has its sights on the other capital of the north. “We opened up in Leeds around six years ago, and that was just as the recession decided to kick in, so it was quite a slog for the first two or three years,” explains managing director Christian Knowles-Fitton. “But we’ve been very fortunate that we’ve progressively gotten busier and busier up to capacity.” So for Knowles-Fitton, the decision to expand the company with a second facility was a logical step. “We’ve been trying to open a second location in Manchester for some time. If you’re involved in TV, it’s going to be Soho or Manchester that you go to,” he remarks. “2015 felt like the right time to do it; we felt adding a new facility with the audio capabilities we have now would complement Leeds well. We thought we’d get our foot in on both sides of the Pennines. “An opportunity came with a building just off Deansgate – it’s a prime location. Quite a lot of work had already been done to the location that made it ideal for our purpose: there was a lot of cabling that had been done, there were air conditioning systems that were unbelievably quiet, the regulations for access for everybody were correct, we have disabled access and we’re only half a mile away from all the top agencies in Manchester.” But how does this new branch fit into the big picture alongside the original 16

April 2015

Leeds facility? Knowles-Fitton is very clear that it is complementary, rather than competitive. “This is very much an addition,” he explains. “The way the studios are separate means that we can see the servers from both locations in real time and everybody’s got access, as well as the media servers that we use to preview work to clients and internal staff. “It’s all linked together and we’re trying to cross-pollinate staff as much as we can; we want it to be a team while we have two locations. It’s not Manchester and Leeds; it’s Bark & Bite.” And the reputation of that brand precedes it, with word of the new facility already making waves throughout the city. “It’s been received really well. We opened the doors to a few existing clients prior to the official launch and people have jumped on board. Manchester is very different to Leeds in that there’s a stronger creative community and word has got round very quickly, and there’s been a lot of support from local businesses, so we couldn’t be happier on that front.”

Fighting talk With the expansion, Bark & Bite has made the claim that “the North is officially ours,” and the team is confident they hold a position of strength. “It’s a great facility and we have a huge amount of space here. It really is a Sohograde facility in the heart of the north,” remarks Knowles-Fitton. “The suites that we have are quite luxurious. Setting the business up, we worked with very small premises originally. Now we’ve got a finishing suite that is as big as the whole studio that we had for a couple of years.” But its ace in the hole? “Our team is the most important asset that we have to offer,” he continues. “If you look at the client list and the people that we work for both nationally and internationally, that’s testament to that. I would hope our team, the quality of work that we put out and the people that we work for will speak volumes.”

armed To the teeth And it’s not just its size and team that makes the new establishment so formidable; it’s armed to the teeth with the right audio gear and infrastructure to ensure they can meet even the most

unforgiving of deadlines with quality service. “We’re going to be pretty diverse across the range on audio,” outlines senior dubbing mixer Nick Netsall. “We’ve got a full 5.1 studio here, so 5.1 dubbing, tracklay and sound design. We’ve got a fantastically large voiceover booth that we utilise for a lot of ADR work as well. We do pretty much everything to do with audio post-production. We want to be a one-stop shop. “It’s all based around a Pro Tools HDX system. We’ve got a D-Command desk with the fader pack – so that’s 24 faders – as well as a Genelec monitoring system, a Neumann TLM 103 microphone teamed up with an SSL XLogic preamp, and plug-in-wise we’re running Altiverb reverbs. “We’ve also made sure that in our premises at both Leeds and Manchester we have dedicated fibre lines. That means in terms of trying to get real-time transfers or transfer rushes from one location to another or playing ads out, we can deliver a great service in terms of speed and turnaround.” The future is looking bright as Knowles-Fitton reveals that the project pipeline has been populated since before they even opened their doors: “We have several radio campaigns that we’re currently working on; we have a huge live-action commercial which is a combination of live-action and CGI booked in. We’re just waiting to hear if we’ve landed our first car commercial, so that will be exciting! “For the next year we want to really get out there and develop new relationships with people in the area and create the best work that we possibly can do. We like it when our peers look at our work and say ‘I wish I’d done that’. If we do that, I think we’ll all be very happy.” www.barkandbite.com


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OPINION

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MASTERED FOR ITUNES - FRIEND OR FOE? Engineer Wes Maebe on why his reaction to the arrival of Apple’s MFiT concept was one of excitement, not disapproval.

WES MAEBE

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pple’s Mastered for iTunes (MFiT) came to the fore a few years back and caused quite a stir in the mastering community. I for one got quite excited. Finally, a tool for us to combat the constant requests for ridiculously loud masters. Final master levels have been gradually increasing over time and mastering engineers are caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, mastering is the final step in the quest for sonic excellence and on the other, mastering engineers get asked to make the material louder than everything else that’s come before.

What is MFiT? MFiT’s strap line is “Music as the artist and sound engineer intended”. Now that sounds good to me. However, it’s not possible yet to purchase full-resolution files through iTunes. All your work will be converted into a lossy, data-compressed 44.1kHz Advanced Audio Codec (AAC) file. When you’re mastering for datareduced user formats like AAC and MP3, there are a couple of issues to keep an eye and ear on. One of the challenges with working in the digital domain is sample rate conversion. Hopefully you’ll be recording and mixing with higher sample rates like 48, 96 and 192kHz. MFiT expects a 44.1kHz/24-bit wav file to be delivered. So, inevitably, there will be sample rate conversion happening as the final step. 18

April 2015

This is no different when you’re working for CD. What is different though, is that MFiT has made the dither step obsolete. You no longer need to dither down to 16-bit. The other important factor to keep in check is Inter-Sample Clipping. ISC can occur when the digital convertor reconstructs the signal to be fed to the analogue output. Heavy limiting and loud masters suffer more from this and the distorting result is far from pleasing. And this is what brought me to the whole MFiT movement. Apple provides a couple of tools to check on ISC and these allow you not to master too hot. The RoundTripAAC plug-in gives you information on how hard you are clipping your actual output and your AAC converted output. It shows you the amount of clipping and Inter-Sample Clipping in the left and right channels. It also allows you to audition the original and encoded output. Coupled with RoundTripAAC, you have a Terminal command called afclip. The afclip readout is basically a numerical version of the plug-in. It’ll display the time and the samples where ISC occurred, in which channel it happened and how loud it was. Personally, I like to combine this auditioning process with the Sonnox Fraunhofer Pro-Codec. That way you can also check on compression formats other than AAC. I’ll take you through my trip so far in the MFiT story. Hopefully this will help spread

the word. It’ll raise some issues, flag up some pit falls, but more than anything, I’d like more of us to talk about it and form a united front against over-compressed and distorted audio. I can hear you say: ‘Oh no! Not that old whining story about loudness again.’ Well, yes. None of us have anything against loud music but when that loudness starts messing with the quality of the audio that we’ve worked so hard for, when it causes hearing damage, that’s when we have to make a stand and stop it! Many, myself included, welcomed the MFiT protocol with open arms. We saw it as an ally in our fight against audio degradation. This was going to be our tool that would allow us to keep severe clipping at bay. I also like that I have access to clip amounts and a couple of red lights so I can explain to the client that there is a loss of quality going on. The MFiT tools are freely available online and they come with a 10-pager on how to implement them. I’ve been using their tools and have been delivering MFiT files for a couple of years now. Imagine my surprise when, after all this time, an aggregator comes to me and tells me that my MFiT files cannot be submitted to iTunes because I am not an iTunes-approved mastering house. Even though there is no mention of this anywhere in their documentation, you need to be approved by iTunes. After a couple of emails back and forth, yours truly is now MFiT approved. The guys at

Apple couldn’t have been more helpful. Up to this point, MFiT requests hadn’t been rolling in that frequently. More recently it’s been a common occurrence.

MisFit In the meantime I’m hearing some negative MFiT comments from a couple of colleagues. The feeling seems to be that it’s all a marketing ploy; they don’t really care about the quality, etc. Wanting to protect my newfound anti-loudness friend, I started to do some research. I downloaded a newly released Mastered for iTunes album by a major artist and checked it out with the RoundTripAAC and the afclip tools. Result: 3,092 Clips and 12,554 Inter-Sample Clips. Here we are struggling to keep ISC to low hundreds – I try to keep it as close to zero as possible – and then there are major labels issuing releases that stomp all over the principle of the whole thing. Apple is investigating the issue – fingers crossed for a positive outcome. There are no hard and fast rules to MFiT. It is left to the taste and discretion of the mastering engineer. Therefore it is important for all of us to raise awareness, maintain a healthy discussion and keep educating listeners, clients and colleagues.

Wes Maebe is a UK-based recording, mixing, mastering, and live sound engineer. www.wesonator.com


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OPINION

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AND THE WINNER IS…

Now that awards season is over for another year, Andy Coules asks whether a new system of recognition is required.

ANDY COULES

Picture: ABC/Craig Sjodin

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fter watching the Oscars it occurred to me – not for the first time – that awards ceremonies are fundamentally flawed. How can you objectively compare films in different genres or performances in different roles? How, for instance, can you compare a civil rights drama to a black comedy? A biopic of a brilliant scientist to a quirky comedy? A biopic of another brilliant scientist to a gritty war drama? The truth is that you can’t, it’s like comparing a potato to an apple – both provide similar sustenance but appeal to very different needs. But we are clearly fascinated by awards – they trigger intense bouts of speculation and discussion as to the relative merits of a particular work of art or performance above another. Once they’re over, and the winners have been declared, there is equally intense debate about the choices made. It’s interesting to note that very few awards are decided by any kind of popular vote; most are awarded by the industry, which produces the nominees in a kind of self-aggrandising feedback loop. The Oscars, for instance, are decided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is made up of motion picture professionals – most of whom are actors (which explains why ‘actorly’ films always tend to do well). 20

April 2015

But this is not unique to the world of film – the music industry suffers from a similarly flawed desire to exalt one creation above all others, but how can we truly compare music of different genres or performances in different bands? Is a heart felt singer-songwriter truly better than a two-piece muscular rock band? Is a soul pop artist more meaningful than a quirky crossover indie act? We all have opinions on which albums or bands are the best but such views are fundamentally subjective and can be subject to change as a result of shifting context or perception. Any attempt to isolate one as being superior to all others is more likely to lead to cognitive dissonance than any kind of pleasing resolution. Thus awards are invariably invidious, leading to outbursts or comments from certain participants who are unhappy with the outcome. Kanye West’s comments about Beck “lacking artistry” after this year’s Grammys belied an inability by him to comprehend any

other winner than Beyoncé. After the 2014 Brit Awards Jake Bugg expressed incredulity that he, with just two albums under his belt, could be nominated in the same category as David Bowie, an artist with a rich and varied musical history going back over 50 years. And then there are categories, which appear to be more about peer perception than any kind of objective observation – such as best live act. I find it hard to believe that all the judges manage to attend shows by all the nominees, so what are they basing their judgement on? Invariably it’s the bands who have a reputation for being good live acts that win but which came first, the nomination or the reputation? But what is the purpose of awards ceremonies? Are they just an excuse to get together and have a big party? Are they part of a strategy to boost sales? Or are they a genuine attempt to praise excellence? While I’m sure we’d all like to believe they’re about praising excellence the truth is that they are much more

about gathering attention from the wider world and boosting sales. Morrissey hit the nail on the head when he called the Brit Awards “...the junk propaganda of the strongest labels gathering to share out awards for their own artists whom they plan to heavily promote”. What I would like to see is an award that nominates without declaring a winner. Nominations could be arrived at using sales figures or a popular vote, the nominees could gather and perform as a collective celebration of excellence but at no point is a winner declared because nomination in and of itself should be honour enough (not to mention a healthy boost in sales for all involved). Or maybe I’m missing the point entirely, it could be that all awards are meaningless – until you win one. Andy Coules is a sound engineer and audio educator who has toured the world with a diverse array of acts in a wide range of genres. www.andycoules.co.uk


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OPINION

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AHEAD OF THE GAME

Producer Rob Bridgett offers his thoughts on this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, which is now considered an essential trip for game audio professionals worldwide.

ROB BRIDGETT

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his year’s Game Developers Conference ran from 2-6 March at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The event attracts around 25,000 attendees from among the many disciplines of video game development – programmers, artists, designers, production and, of course, audio professionals – from triple A to self-published and from experimental and niche to blockbuster franchises. Everyone has equal billing and relevance at GDC and it is an opportunity for developers from all across the globe to come together, exchange ideas, be inspired and share knowledge. In terms of the conference itself, the audio track talks this year (and the Audio Bootcamp, a day of audiofocused sessions), drew together an exciting and stimulating cross section of the latest thinking and production postmortems from some of the year’s most compelling games. Dialogue, Sound Design, Music and Mixing all feel like they are given equal billing, and there is something for everyone, no matter what your particular interest might be. From weapon design to advanced adaptive music composition techniques, to dialogue direction techniques and even how to find work in the industry, the array of audio talks is staggering. 22

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sound for VR and audio integration One of the big themes creating excitement in the industry right now is the VR technologies on display in the accompanying expo from Oculus VR, Sony (Project Morpheus) and Valve (SteamVR/HTC Vive). Everyone is talking about how important the audio component for these experiences will be. Another theme is that almost everyone you talk to about these kind of VR experiences thinks of them as being something completely different to traditional games that we play on our TV sets, in our living rooms or on our mobile devices. When you consider the power of these technologies to completely transport a user into a different environment, it becomes immediately apparent how important the audio is to completing the audiovisual contract for the user in order to achieve and maintain ‘presence’. There are a lot of technologies emerging on the audio front to take care of the many technical elements of the spatialisation in these experiences. One such technology is 3Dception by Two Big Ears – it’s well worth listening to the demos on their website to get an idea of the immersive possibilities of VR audio – and it is certainly not going to be long before we get to experience these things for ourselves as consumers. Back to production realities, and another talking point this year was seamless integration of workflows between various audio production tools – and Steinberg’s Nuendo 7 integration with Audio Middleware giant Audiokinetic’s Wwise has everyone excited. Rounding out the initial feature set are perforce version control, drag/ drop/cycle-marker export directly into Wwise, and the ability to directly reopen Nuendo sessions associated with wav file assets in Wwise (Nuendo stores project session information inside the file headers, which Wwise can read). Even though it was an early implementation on show, the features

Picture: Damian Kastbauer

and just as importantly the intentions behind these workflow integrations focused towards game audio developers had everyone excited for the future shape of the game audio production landscape.

game audio community When I attended my first Game Developers Conference in 2007, the default mode of attendance was to go along with a few other members of your development team, and stick with those people for the whole conference, from hotel to lecture, to dinner, then bars and after parties. Today, things are very different. This is where one of the most positive movements in video game audio needs to be mentioned. The Game Audio Podcast, set up by Anton Woldhek and Damian Kastbauer, has for the last few years been running daily morning meetups and discussions from 7:30 to 9:30 at Sightglass Coffee on 7th. This allows attendees to join in and further fuel the discussion from the day’s conference highlights over awesome coffee, and also allows those who are not able to attend the ability to listen in daily (thanks to Anton’s incredibly fast editing) and get the latest information and trends, both inside and outside the conference.

This year the podcast meet-ups felt like they have become something a bit more than that; a friendly and safe place for everyone to meet up and exchange ideas, but the platform and the structure that Anton and Damian provide via their podcast setting is also an amazing launch-pad for all kinds of interesting side conversations. For me, belonging to and engaging with this open-format, freeform community – one that includes everyone, whether you are yet to start in the industry, or whether you’ve got 20 years of experience – has become the highlight and defining structural element of each and every GDC I attend. The walls have come down in many ways over the last few years, and the recent flourishing of the game audio community is one of the most positive movements I have ever seen anywhere inside any production community. Rob Bridgett is audio director and producer at Clockwork Fox Studios in Canada. Inspired by the work of the Sony ASWG group and the lectures of sound advocate Julian Treasure, the Clockwork Fox team have been working on developing adaptive loudness switching and runtime LRA attenuation for child-friendly mobile ed tech products for the past two years.


GEO FOCUS: INDIA

SLEEPING GIANT

Population: 1.2 billion

With much of the West shaken by the downturn, is it time for India to make its move in the market? Matt Fellows studies this potential superpower as it finds its feet in the industry.

How would you say the Indian pro-audio market is currently faring?

„

A

s the second-most populous country in the world, a cultural hub home to more than a billion people and one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies, it’s easy to miss the fact that India is also an up-and-comer in the global pro-audio industry – and a unique one at that. Up-and-coming or not, India is still playing by the same rules as the rest of the world, with everyone feeling the burden of the economic climate; it’s no secret that times are hard, but as we turn eastwards, a long way from Europe and the US, things start to look less grim. “The Indian pro-AV market is certainly growing,” says Kumbha Young Grenier, CEO at Auroville-based acoustic consultancy Sound Wizard. “Overall the outlook is positive.” Warren Dsouza, managing director at Mumbai rental company SOUND.COM, adds: “The scenario of India’s entertainment economy is promising and

24

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over the last few years we have seen rapid growth,” he reveals. “Adding to that the factor of globalisation and higher disposable income available with the Millennials, there is an increased spend on leisure and entertainment. “All this leads to one key inference that the customer has truly come of age. I think this is a crucial factor which will define the market.” And it appears a key element is emerging among this economic maturity, which may prove vital in the growth of the Indian pro-audio industry. “There is a growing awareness for quality,” comments Grenier. Dsouza agrees: “The industry is evolving and is moving towards an organised setup. There is an increase in demand for international standards in professional audio equipment and technical services. On the demand side, clients are not just realising the true value of professional systems and processes in sound reinforcement, but are also looking at it as an

“It is growing and the current trend was accelerated by televised music shows, I think. There is more opportunity for touring bands than film music based orchestras in India.”

investment in ensuring a world-class production.” This pervasive awareness of and demand for quality services and products is increasingly becoming a driving factor within the Indian industry, and may be the result of a more internationally integrated and interconnected market. ”I would say the biggest change is exposure; more people are aware of what is possible and are willing to try to achieve a higher quality,” explains Grenier. “It’s getting more professional and generally people are more aware of their options. The choice to opt for more branded suppliers is gaining momentum. With decision makers more frequently travelling around the world where they are exposed to systems in other countries, there is a desire to emulate the same systems in India.”

Bad practice However, not all procedure within the industry is moving forward at the same speed. According


GEO FOCUS: INDIA

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to Grenier, India’s pro-audio industry is rife with congenital bad practice, particularly within the installation sector, which primarily boils down to a lack of consistent professionalism. “There is a huge belief and trust in electronic technologies to solve any problem. This affects the approach to any pro-audio install, be it a studio, an auditorium or a nightclub; many people are convinced that if they spend on a bunch of respected brands’ loudspeakers and a load of gadgetry and string it all up, that it’s going to sound perfect. Unfortunately, acoustics always have the final say in the result. “Many sound engineers trust what they see more than what they hear, so if an auto DSP says it’s doing something or an analyser spills out a reading but it still sounds odd, the technician will often go with what they see. Professionalism in the pro-AV field is growing, but still lacking; there are too many companies that think it’s just about putting a bunch of branded boxes together and that’s all good and is going to deliver. There is not much actual hands-on practical knowledge or even desire to do better than the next company. I would say a lack of care and passion, real understanding for the job is an area which lacks and surely needs to grow.” And this extends beyond the work itself, into the organisational structure: “There is a lack of good middle management project co-ordination,” Grenier remarks. “Too much is decided and designed on-thego. There is often no real project brief with no one with authority to take a call during the design and install phase.”

on the live side So it would appear that while expectations and measures of quality service within the Indian industry are beginning to move in line with other countries around the world, measures of

professional conduct still lag behind. Regardless, other audio sectors are doing much better thanks to the advancement and proliferation of technology, with the live sector in particular benefitting. “It is important to analyse the influence of digital media – social media, mobile marketing, e-commerce, e-ticketing – which has also propelled the events and music industry,” Dsouza continues. “The avenues to market live events, create the required buzz, both for the event company and the artist has only made it all the more enticing for companies to invest in India. “International artists are touring India; electronic dance music and live music festivals are popular and so are the western classics, jazz and other genres. Over the last few years, the sheer number of concerts and events covering every corner of India from New Delhi to Shillong, and Rajasthan to Bangalore only stand as testimony to the fact that there is a demand, which will only grow – not just in the metros, but also in the non-metros.”

added value Of course, whenever a market picks up, so does the number of those who wish to capitalise on it, and Grenier believes that this may be attributable to the spread of bad practice in the region. “I would say the market is slightly overcrowded, with too many mediocre players bringing down the overall quality,” he explains. “It would be nice to have some excellent competition that delivers high level products, designs or services that will bring up the whole industry. It’s bound to keep growing and the only way to differentiate yourself is to deliver some added value to a project.” According to Dsouza, this added value is none other than the delivery of the highest quality and consistency of service. “The concept of sound rental

What’s having the biggest negative effect on the market at the moment (please rank)?

and services per se is not very different or new,” he notes. “However the success of any company in this space is to be able to deliver its big gigs in a scale matching international standards, in addition to its ability to handle the not-so-large ones in a similar fashion, without compromising on the quality.”

one to watch It’s clear that the market is changing. India is coming into its own, but even as the landscape shifts, the one thing that can be relied upon to remain constant is the need to deliver quality services in line with an ever-heightening expectation. “With the influx of global professional audio and gear companies and their businesses in India, the market is moving towards being an organised set-up,” says Dsouza. “Having said that, on the sound rental front, we see lot of work and interesting projects coming our way. The name of the game is to innovate and stay ahead.” And as the market approaches this organised setup format, it is important to note that to stay ahead, attention must be paid not just to quality of product, but to organisational infrastructure in order to steer clear of heavy fiscal consequences. “More planning and professional project managers will emerge,” Grenier predicts. “The cost of bad project management is going to start being increasingly realised and proper planning will gain importance. Communication will also change for the better, with more documentation and reporting to maintain everyone’s accountability during projects.” Indian pro-audio companies will have to hold to these principles with unwavering dedication if the national market is to grow into the powerful contender it has the potential to be. As it enjoys an exciting period of growth, India is certainly one to watch in the future.

Have you seen any trends in technology purchasing? Is there anything that could be unique to India?

Economic uncertainty Failing budgets

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“The Indian market is herd-driven. If they see one expert buying a piece of gear a line forms to buy the same thing. The large mass is not driven by the knowledge of the technology they are purchasing.”

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LIVE FOCUS

www.audiomediainternational.com Picture (from left): Andrew McMillan, Andrew Baillie and Ryan McIlravey

SCOTTISH POWER

Glasgow sound hire company FE Live Audio recently became the first rental firm in Scotland to invest in d&b’s V-Series, but how has it been putting the system to use? Adam Savage finds out.



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he last few months have been pretty busy for Glasgowbased FE Live Audio. Although there will be a number of reasons for the company’s recent good fortune, the addition of a concert-size d&b V-Series system to its inventory has helped a bit. Well, more than a bit. Taking on a PA like the V-Series is quite something for a firm run by a group of guys still in their mid-20s that has been a specialist in full sound production for less than three years. So far the rig has been rolled out for a number of high-profile gigs, including headline shows at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom from the likes of Interpol, but perhaps the most interesting use of FE’s latest arrival was not another big-name rock act, but a sold-out two-day country music festival. That’s right – the Scots like a good hoedown, it seems. Taking place at the city’s Clyde Auditorium, familiarly known as The Armadillo, the Country to Country (C2C) show, which featured performances from Nashville stars Lady Antebellum and Luke Bryan, saw FE opt for a whopping 64-box configuration. Sounds like overkill for a 3,000-capacity venue primarily used for conferences though, doesn’t it? Not according to managing director Ryan McIlravey, who also filled the role of project manager for C2C. “The brief was ‘these bands play NFL 26

April 2015

stadiums in the States’ and they wanted ‘rock ‘n’ roll loud’ in a venue that doesn’t usually do these kind of things,” he explains. “We’ve done that venue before, but not for a show that was 110dB at front of house. “On paper it does look a bit mental doing 20 a side or whatever, but the vertical coverage was really difficult – it wasn’t so much for output. It [the auditorium] is over three levels, but the top level is very high and steep and there’s an air conditioning duct that runs right across the roof. “We got a CAD model of the venue and put it into d&b’s prediction software and it turned out we need to throw 45m to hit the back seat in the very top tier; at the same time you had people standing right up to the front of the stage. There was no way to do that without something like the V-Series – it allows you to hit every seat all the way down.” And there were no major concerns when it came to weight either. “The good thing about the V-Series is that even when you’ve got a massive system like the one we had in The Armadillo, which is about as big as you would go with a PA like that, it was still under 750kg a side,” McIlravey reveals. Of course, there was more to the setup than just a high-end loudspeaker system – 16 networked D80 amplifiers from the same German manufacturer, along with mixing consoles from Avid, Midas, DiGiCo and Soundcraft, were also supplied.

The choice of processors and in-ear monitors was crucial too, McIlravey notes. “We used Lakes for system processing – it’s on everybody’s rider these days, but it’s also just very good. We put out four LM44s on that show and engineers love it because they can just walk around and tweak things to suit. We had 12 channels of Shure PSM1000. I think we ended up with 42 channels of RF for one of the shows, which was tricky because it’s right next door to the BBC’s headquarters up here.”

New Kids on the Block Few would dispute the fact that McIlravey and his fellow director Andrew McMillan – both just 25 years of age – and new co-director Andrew Baillie – hardly a seasoned pro-audio veteran himself at 28 – have made impressive progress for such a young crew. What’s more, they’re a versatile bunch. “We’ve been doing it since we were 17 and just slowly built it up. We were the first company up here to have the d&b D80 amps, and the first to have the V-Series. We’re a big Nexo user too,” McIlravey says. “We also handle all touring needs for Frightened Rabbit, Twin Atlantic and Enter Shikari, and do a lot with Travis and Paolo Nutini. In terms of growing the company we’ve found the touring stuff’s actually more important than the one-off shows.” They may not be able to offer the same level of experience as many of the UK’s

other rental houses, but the team believes its newcomer status has allowed it to be clever with gear selection. “We missed out the analogue era, purely because of our age. We don’t even have an analogue multicore,” jokes McIlravey. “It’s meant we’ve always had the most cutting-edge product up here because others might have the equivalent of what we now have, but 15-20 years ago. It is all great kit, but unfortunately no one asks for it any more. We’ve been lucky enough to embrace digital without having an analogue hangover. “We offer a high-tech PA with the latest amps and the latest desks, which nobody else up here can. The bands want to pay extra for it – they don’t care what age you are, as long as you’re providing the kit they want. We like our kit to be as high-tech as we can buy.” As for what the immediate future might hold for them, the FE Live trio are understandably confident of much more touring work and one-off events coming their way, but they also see installations as a serious target area. McIlravey concludes: “We’ve done a few big d&b installs over in Belfast so we’re going to try to grow that side of the business. We’re not really scared to invest the large sums of money if we’re doing it with the d&b stuff because it holds its value so well.” www.feliveaudio.com


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BROADCAST FEATURE Reality shows have pushed up the demand for more mics on a production

THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

 The way many TV programmes are made these days is not too different to how it was in the past, but some are taking full advantage of new technologies that combine IT and broadcast engineering skills, writes Kevin Hilton.

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here is a hint of chicken and egg about broadcast television production these days. The general opinion is that the process has changed in recent years, but what is not clear is whether that has happened because of the incorporation of emerging technologies or as a response to new programme styles and formats. The certainty is that IT and computerbased working is now a major part of the process and works alongside long-established TV audio and video engineering practices. The move to file-based operations and transfer of material and programmes is 28

April 2015

a clear indication of the influence of IT on broadcasting today, as is the growing use of IP (internet protocol) in its various forms to transport audio and video, not just for contribution purposes between locations and studios but on the delivery part of the chain from broadcast centres to transmission. The Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA) has been instrumental in promoting and setting standards for the exchange of digital media and metadata over different platforms. It is a proponent of the Advanced Authoring Format (AAF), but has also worked to maintain compatibility with other formats,

including MXF (Material eXchange Format, which the AMWA co-created), SMPTE’s BXF (Broadcast Exchange Format) and XML (Extensible Mark-up Language). Audio-only material can be carried in various forms, with Broadcast Wav files still the primary format but AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) is also an option. In most TV applications sound is embedded in the video stream. While IT has made itself felt in this way, more conventional broadcast engineering methods sustain, largely to cope with the high bandwidth necessary to carry good quality audio and video signals. “In many cases today backhaul/

contribution – getting material from the field to the TV station – and delivery to the terrestrial or cable distribution network is still quite ‘traditional’,” comments Jan Eveleens, chief executive of Axon Digital Design. “It is mostly microwave or satellite connections using MPEG transport streams, which provide the high-quality/high bit-rate in the case of contribution.” Axon produces a range of transport stream monitors, routers and interfaces, among other products, that are used widely in broadcasting. Eveleens sees the growing availability – and decreasing cost – of dark-fibre and IP connections as increasingly attractive to broadcasters


BROADCAST FEATURE

www.audiomediainternational.com

looking for new contribution and distribution networks. “Especially in metropolitan areas this is happening a lot already,” he says. “SMPTE/VSF created the SMPTE2022 family of standards for this, which is targeted at contribution/backhaul applications and provides options for high-quality compressed MPEG transport streams or uncompressed SDI quality video.” For audio-only applications Eveleens points to the AES67 standard, which was developed to provide interconnectivity and operability between different audio over IP (AoIP) formats, as “a good candidate for backhaul/contribution and distribution of audio signals over standard/public networks”. Axon is also a proponent of the AVB (Audio Video Bridging) Ethernet-based system, which Eveleens sees as a potential replacement for SDI networks in broadcasting. He says that audio was 75% of the maximum data rate in an AVB network, with the remainder being

made up of other information. Eveleens has observed that there is “substantial potential in broadcasting, as the existing SDI-based infrastructure has come to the end of its life cycle and customers are starting to look at (networked) alternatives”. According to Pieter Schillebeeckx, product director at TSL Products, there are now more formats coming into TV master control rooms (MCRs), with a further explosion due: “There will be Ethernet and AoIP solutions, as well as AES and analogue coming into 3G and SDI environments. There are more channels arriving at the MCR that need to be monitored, and Dolby [encoded signals] is a big part of that. The Dolby E transport stream needs to be monitored but there’s also the metadata so the media can be checked to know it is correct.” TSL Products recently added AVB capability to its PAM Series of monitors. These have units for both Dolby and non-Dolby encoded signals, and can now

Sound Devices’ SL-6 and 688

monitor audio metadata in accordance with the SMPTE 2020 specification, and also have loudness capability.

On the up The number of audio channels used in broadcasting has risen considerably over the past 10 years, with 16 now the norm to accommodate stereo, surround tracks, any alternative languages or voice description, plus metadata. This proliferation is mirrored by the high number of microphone inputs – most of them wireless – now used on TV

productions. Reality shows – live contests such as Big Brother, talent shows like The X Factor and fly-on-thewall-style documentaries – have not only pushed up the demand for more mics on a production but also stretched the capability of recording systems so that they run constantly. As Mick Bass, commercial director of location broadcasting specialist Roll to Record (RtR), explains, the requirement is to catch “everything that is said”. RtR works on both Big Brother and the Educating... series of school-based



April 2015

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BROADCAST FEATURE documentaries; the link between these is that they are based on characters and stories, which develop as the programme goes on. “We record as much as is humanly possible,” Bass says. “Embedded audio is part of the production and we try to get as good a mix as we can, even though it is done on the fly.” He adds that both wireless and boom mics, which are used for more peripheral figures who are not miked up, are also recorded as ISO feeds on to JoeCo BlackBox recorders. JoeCos, along with SADiE workstations and Sound Devices PIX 270s, have been used by sound recordist Simon Bishop for his work on The X

Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. Bishop refers to this style of production as “blanket coverage”, which has become part of a “whole fascinating genre that has appeared in the last 10 to 15 years”. In the beginning, he says, it took some doing to get older, existing tape machines to accommodate the new way of working. “Now the kit is becoming more compact and user friendly,” he comments. In this instance the style of production does seem to be informing the design of new products. Sound Devices’ latest mixer-recorder is the 688, which follows on from the three-year-old analogue 12-input/16-track 664 (a cycle that perhaps illustrates the pace of change in broadcasting and the ability of manufacturers to react to it). The 688 is fully digital and has 16-track recording, with polyphonic or monophonic Broadcast Wav files saved to SD and Compact Flash cards. It includes six high-bandwidth mic/line inputs on XLRs with a further six line-level inputs using TA3 connectors, which are said to be for “more complex productions”. New features include 12-channels of MixAssist auto-mixing and the optional SL-6 power distribution and six-channel wireless system. Paul Isaacs, vice president of marketing and product design at Sound Devices, says the radio mic feature and number of tracks on the recorder are aimed at both reality shows and episodic drama production. “Production is heavily wireless-based today,” he comments. “With reality shows it’s unscripted and there is a lot of talent to mic up. They’re being shot by multiple cameras, not just in close-up but wide shots as well, so boom mics can’t be used.” 30

April 2015

www.audiomediainternational.com

Sound recordist Simon Bishop

Booming industry Booms are still used in drama production but wireless mics are there for ISOs and situations like long shots. “People are looking to deliver a mix from two booms on two channels, either in mono or twochannel stereo, and then up to 12 ISOs for each wireless,” Isaacs says. The MixAssist feature on the portable 688 parallels automatic mixing functions that have been appearing on digital consoles for OB trucks and studios over the last few years; the Studer Vista 9 now features its own version, as does Lawo’s mc² range, while Calrec has put Automixer on the Bluefin2 signal processor used for both the Apollo and Artemis desks. Like those manufacturers, Sound Devices emphasises that this technology is not designed to do away with sound recordists or operators. “It’s for when people are dealing with more and more sources, as on reality shows and round-table discussions,” says Isaacs. “The idea is for it to assist with the mixing, not take over. MixAssist has an advanced algorithm and is based on ambient noise, so if there is more than one mic open, the system will determine which is the stronger signal.” Sound Devices recorders are also used for drama production, as are those produced by Nagra, Zaxcom, Aaton Digital and Sonosax. Before extending his activities into reality ‘blanket coverage’, Bishop concentrated on location recording for TV. He still works in this field, most consistently on the BBC light crime drama New Tricks. For this work he uses either the Zaxcom Deva 16-track recorder or the company’s compact Nomad. The new generation of digital recorders and now the shift to file-based operations means that recordists like Bishop have to deal with getting files on to the appropriate media that can then be sent to the post-production facility. While handling the audio in this way continues to be in the domain of the production mixer, Bishop says that a newish addition to the camera-vision crew can prove useful in also making copies of sound files. “I’m finding now that if there is a DIT [digital image technician, whose principle job it is to take care of picture

“Production is heavily wirelessbased today. With reality shows it’s unscripted and there is a lot of talent to mic up. They’re being shot by multiple cameras, not just in close-up but wide shots as well, so boom mics can’t be used.” Paul Isaacs, Sound Devices

files from the digital camera and get them to the post house] on set, he or she will have copied my stuff and already walked away with it to send off,” he says. “I still put my tracks on Compact Flash and approximately six to ten cards are rotated between the location and the facility. Occasionally I use a spinning hard drive but I haven’t had to hand in a DVDRAM for over three years. Machines like the PIX are very clever because you can network all the drives. We’re not using WiFi yet but it can’t be far away.” Networking is a well-established part of broadcast production today but it is not as all-encompassing as the overall concept would suggest. The current situation, and the way both studio and location installations might continue to be arranged in the future, tends more towards self-contained systems. This applies to one or more OB trucks on site, as well as studios within a complex. MADI has made a comeback in this respect and there are possibilities for the Ravenna AoIP format in broadcast environments. While Dolby E is still used to get multiple channels of audio from OB trucks and other locations, it is now almost never used in studio centres,

where uncompressed, discrete sound is the norm. Although 5.1 surround is still not used routinely for every programme by all broadcasters, the methodology being used at BSkyB’s Sky Studios (previously known as Harlequin 1) could point the way ahead. Speaking at last year’s Audio Networking Forum in London, Martin Black, senior sound supervisor and technical consultant at BSkyB, explained that the Calrec consoles installed in the sound galleries are connected to two bays of Hydra2 router cores, which enables any control area to be used with any studio. Speaking at the same conference, Patrick Warrington, technical director of Calrec Audio, commented that as time moves on such installations could be based on the principle of a hybrid network. This would use Hydra2 in the studio centre or OB vehicle but be connected to an AoIP distribution network, with AES67 as the interface. Broadcast audio production involves a great many elements – acquisition, distribution, production, monitoring and post-production equipment, audio formats, file standards and networking protocols – and the growing complexity of both how programmes are made and the power of the technologies being used may not simplify matters. But if all that can be kept in the background then the goal of making interesting – or at least ratings grabbing – programmes can be achieved. www.axon.tv www.calrec.com www.nepinc.com www.sounddevices.com www.tslproducts.com


TECHNOLOGY: HOW TO

www.audiomediainternational.com

PICKING THE RIGHT MIC

To coincide with our Buyers Guide published with this issue, Astar Studios owner Andy Ross tells us why there’s no such thing as having too many microphones.

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hoosing the right microphone is one of the most important decisions a studio engineer/producer can make. I believe when purchasing a mic you get what you pay for and the most popular mics haven’t become industry standard by accident. However, there are some very acceptable cheaper mics on the market that will do the job until you can afford to step up, and you never know when they might come in handy as extra mics. In many instances it can be the cheaper microphone you forgot about, like something from Red Audio or Studio Projects, that gives a track the exact sound you were hoping for. The best advice I can offer is to research before you buy and if it’s really expensive, hire the mic first to try. Also, when running a commercial studio, hiring specialist mics for a type of job you might only have in once or twice a year makes sense, and opens up the option to try something new in the future.

What I like to use I absolutely love my Neumann U87 Ai and 32

April 2015

use it mainly for vocals as I find it gives that rich, warm sound I always look for. However, I can recall a time when I was recording a rock band and it just didn’t work. The vocal was to have a distortion effect on it and it needed a gritty, dirty sound. I pulled out my Shure SM57 and there was the sound I was looking for. I am also very fond of my AKG 414 XL11 for vocals, although I tend to use this mostly when recording acoustic guitars, as it seems to give a bright and defined sound. One of my most used microphones is the Sennheiser MD421. This is a versatile microphone – it sounds great on toms, guitar amps and brass, and it really is a great piece of kit to have in a studio, as are a pair of AKG C451Bs for overheads. One piece of advice I would give is that there are no limitations to how many mics you can put around an instrument. For example, when I record bass I normally have an MD421, SM57 and AKG D112 around the amp, along with recording the DI signal that I can then play around with. Yes, I may only use the sound of one mic or mix two together, but it is much better to create added options.

Problem solving Another question would be ‘what happens if you choose the wrong microphone and is the microphone always to blame?’ Well, as long as it is of good quality it’s not the end of the world. A little bit of EQ and compression can certainly fix many issues, but capturing the sound right at the source is of course always best. In many scenarios it might not be that the microphone is wrong, but that the instrument you are using just doesn’t record very well. A cheap guitar for instance might indeed sound cheap or a badly tuned, ringy drum kit may be impossible to get a good sound out of. Also, the recording environment could be the issue. If you don’t have a room with nice acoustics then an instrument could sound too boxy, with no personality.

Back to the studio At my studio I record most styles of music. With the majority of projects I tend to track each part individually, but with jazz I often have everyone playing together. This can be tricky having to limit the spill from one microphone

to the other. This is where dynamic microphones, along with lots of acoustic screens and even the old trick of using duvets can be part of the solution. Let’s say I am recording drums, double bass, piano and sax all at once. I always screen off each player, effectively giving them their own booth. The piano is always the most challenging as if there is too much spill on the piano and it needs to be fairly loud in the mix, other instruments can sound awfully roomy when you bring up the level. Yes, you can use EQ, but then what if the piano starts to sound too thin? Well, not so long ago I came across a great microphone, the Earthworks PM40. It is a long metal bar with two clip-on mics attached, which you insert into the piano, angle them into position – you want them to be over the strings – and then the beauty is that you can shut the lid completely. This works perfectly for me, as not only does it record great, but it also handles the spill. For brass players I always use an MD421, which I will ask the player to play right in to, but knowing they like to move around I also attach a DPA clip-on mic to the bell. Sometimes I will also put a condenser mic like my AKG 414 in front of the player. Again, the more options you have for when it comes to the mix, the better. On double bass I try numerous methods. I put an MD421 quite close to the strings, a U87 a couple of feet away and then I attach a DPA 4099 mic with its special double bass clip. This gives a really clear punchy sound. I love the DPA 4099 as it offers such a simple solution for recording double bass. To summarise it is all about trial and error. The more microphones you can afford to purchase the better, as some may just surprise you. Secondly, don’t always blame the mic, and finally, feel free to add multiple mics to any single instrument, as until all the recording has finished you can never be sure what will sound best in your final mix. www.astarstudios.com


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TH S OFITEL V ICTORIA H OTEL

WARSAW, POLAND C ONF E RE NCE : M AY 7–M AY 10

AUDIO ENGINEERING SOCIETY E X HIB IT ION : M AY 7–M AY 9 INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION PROJECT STUDIO EXPO: MAY 8–MAY 9

If It’s About Audio, It’s At AES! Warsaw has been cited to have a thriving music scene – from classical, to jazz, to electronic music – and is home to recording facilities, movie studios, broadcast and media production, and more. Come to the 138th AES Convention and experience our first convention in Poland! With three days of Exhibits, two days of Project Studio Expo (PSE) presentations, a day of manufacturer presentations and panels, and four days of workshops, technical papers and program content tailored to the current audio and communications landscape, once again, the AES Convention will be THE European audio event of the year and cannot be missed.

THE PROJECT STUDIO EXPO From microphone to loudspeaker - in or out of the box – the Project Studio Expo (PSE) at the AES 138th International Convention in Warsaw is your route to mastering the craft of music production. The AES is offering YOU a FREE “Exhibits-Plus” badge to attend the Project Studio Expo, Exhibition, and Special Events taking place at this year’s AES 138th International Convention in Warsaw. Come check out sessions covering the latest techniques, tools, and insights from leading audio professionals from around the world.

PROJECT STUDIO EXPO TOPICS INCLUDE:

• MICROPHONES • WORKING IN THE BOX • WORKING OUT OF THE BOX • MONITORING AND ACOUSTICS

For more information and to sign up for your FREE Exhibits-Plus badge or Premium All Access badge, visit:

http://www.aeseurope.com/138AM


TECHNOLOGY FOCUS: HEADPHONES

Expert Witness

Former King Crimson engineer and founder of Recording Boot Camp Ronan Chris Murphy on why seeking the ideal pair of headphones is now “more important than ever.”

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Picture: Luigi Pietro Scantamburlow

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raditionally, producers and engineers have done the majority of their professional listening on speakers, but times are changing. Home recording and even professional work has been transformed by the digital revolution to allow creators to work in places where listening on good speakers is often not an option. I am currently in the middle of a production where much of the work has been done in a church in Mexico, on the streets of Istanbul and by the canals of Venice, and all of that work has been done on headphones. Headphones, as an important part of monitoring, have gone from rare to mainstream, and the importance of finding the right set is now more important than ever. One of the great bottlenecks in the recording process has always been monitoring, or how we listen to the music we are working on. The problem is that every way we can listen to our productions is flawed. Whether we are listening on a £100,000 hi-fi system or a mastering room with 2m-tall speakers, what we are hearing is a skewed version of what we are playing. The challenges are even greater as we try to get a full-range listening experience from headphones with drivers that are smaller than the average tweeter. The good news is that every one of your favourite recordings was recorded, mixed and mastered in a situation where the monitoring was messed up! So when we are working in our commercial recording studio, spare bedroom or on the subway with headphones, we cannot let these problems stop us from making great recordings. Unfortunately, the answer to the question ‘What is the best pair of speakers or headphones?’ is as clear-cut as asking who the best singer is. The range of answers will be mind-boggling. Just as there are famous singers many hate, there are many headphones and speakers that are loved by some while hated by others.

also comfortable and provide decent isolation, so they are good for tracking and critical listening.

Vic Firth SIH1 Yes, headphones from a drum stick company. They provide extremely good isolation, sound ‘not too bad’ and are inexpensive. We use these for drummers and other musicians when recording in the same room as really loud instruments or amps. The important thing about great isolation is that it allows musicians to reduce ambient volume, so they can listen with lower levels. Not only is loud listening in headphones awful for ear health, it is also fatiguing and can tire out musicians faster, making sessions less productive.

Sony MDR7506 The best way to find the right headphones is to listen to as many pairs as possible, but you need to go into it with a plan. When I am considering a set for critical production work, my main thought is ‘do these make sense?’ I want listening in the headphones to represent what I am used to hearing in other environments; I want my favourite records to sound like my favourite records. I am focused on accurate translation more than fun listening. Before auditioning headphones, spend a lot of time listening to tracks that you know well and have heard in the various environments where you work on music. Make yourself familiar with the details of the tracks – is the bass boomy or tight? Is the vocal bright and forward or mellow and buried? Is the stereo image wide or narrow? I use the first few tracks from the album Trouble at the Henhouse by The Tragically Hip. I know every detail of those mixes and where all the elements sit. So if I am checking out a new pair of headphones or speakers, I listen to those tracks. If things sound different to what I ‘know’ those songs to sound like, I can understand how the headphones are altering what I am hearing.

Additional considerations when picking out the right headphones are long-term comfort and isolation. There are situations where good isolation may be critical, such as tracking with other musicians, working in noisy environments, or needing to keep what you’re listening to from disturbing others. These situations can often rule out many of the great openbacked designs. In my personal collection, there are three sets that I consider the most critical for my professional work.

Shure SRH840 While mostly known for microphones, Shure has been knocking it out of the park with headphone design lately. The manufacturer’s SRH840 is my favourite all-round pair of headphones for one simple reason – recordings I know and love make sense to me when I listen to them. Shure makes fancier and more expensive headphones that are great, but the 840s just work for me. I trust that what I hear on them will translate to other systems. When I am travelling around the world for work, these are the headphones that go with me. In addition to great sound, they are

I never use these for critical listening – in fact they almost never go on my head – but clients, especially singers, really enjoy them. They are hyped and shiny and bring out extra sheen and detail for the singers when recording vocals. They sound ‘glamorous’ and often inspire the singer; and an inspired singer will deliver better performances. Many of the new celebrity-branded headphones on the market can fall into this category as well. Not even remotely flat or accurate, and I would not use them for critical listening, but they can make the listening experience ‘exciting’ and that can help performers get great performances. In the end the best pair of headphones is the pair that is comfortable and ‘makes sense’ to you.

Expert Witness Ronan Chris Murphy, producer and former King Crimson engineer, is the founder of Recording Boot Camp, a series of LA-based courses designed to teach real world skills and help participants make better recordings in any situation.


TECHNOLOGY FOCUS

HEADPHONES

When there’s demand for the highest quality of sound reproduction, you need a pair of headphones that can rise to the occasion. Here is a selection of products that can do just that.

Beyerdynam mic

Sony

DT 770 PRO

MDR-7506/1

The DT 770 PRO is a closed dynamic headphone that has been designed for critical music and sound monitoring, providing a neutral listening environment with “exceptional” isolation and flat frequency response. The model features velour, circumaural and replaceable ear pads, and the singlesided cable makes the handling of the headphone easy, while a drawstring bag is also included.

Providing aural clarity and wearer comfort, the Sony MDR Series of professional headphones is manufactured using high-grade materials. Engineered for a combination of strength, comfort and practicality, the MDR Series are used daily in broadcast and recording studios worldwide. Headphones come complete with protective carry pouch and gold-plated Unimatch 3.5mm/6.3mm adaptor.

„ Closed diffuse-field studio headphones „ ‘Bass reflex’ technology for improved bass response „ Comfortable fit due to rugged, adjustable, soft padded headband construction „ Robust, easily serviceable construction, as all parts are replaceable „ Single-sided 3m coiled cable www.beyerdynamic.com

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40mm driver unit with PET diaphragm Closed-ear design Wide frequency response 1,000mW power handling capacity Stereo Unimatch plug Special folding mechanism for easy transport

www.sony.com

Sennheisser HD8 DJ

Sennheiser’s HD8 DJ is dedicated to the needs of professional DJs. The elliptical-shaped ear cups avoid pinching and are enhanced by interchangeable ear pads for continued comfortable listening. For hassle-free one-ear monitoring, the HD8 DJ features swivelling ear cups with up to 210° of movement and three different wearing positions. Both coiled and straight 3m high-performance cables that can connect to either ear cup mean the HD8 DJ can adapt to suit any individual preference, while a bayonet twist lock makes for secure connection. „ „ „ „ „

Crafted from durable, high-quality metal parts Excellent sound reproduction across the audible range, with high SPL suitable for loud DJ environments, while high noise isolation provides safer listening Elliptical, circumaural design for maximum comfort, and reduces background noise to a minimum in even the loudest of listening environments 95-ohm impedance for optimum compatibility with DJ equipment Swivelling ear cups (up to 210° for both ear cups) with three wearing positions and single-sided coiled cable can be attached to either ear cup

www.sennheiser.com

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April 2015


TECHNOLOGY FOCUS

www.audiomediainternational.com

Telefunk ken

Audio-Techn nicca

THP-29 Extreme Isolation Headphones The Telefunken Elektroakustik THP-29 headphones are designed for both the studio and live sound environments. High-fidelity, high-input 40mm speaker drivers featuring TruSound Tonal Accuracy are integrated with 29dB of eco-friendly natural passive isolation. The result is a headphone designed to protect the eardrums from damage and improve the recording, performing and listening experience. „ „ „ „ „

TruSound Tonal Accuracy Closed-back design Passive isolation, no batteries Lightweight construction Optimum eardrum protection

ATH-M70X The latest addition to the critically acclaimed M-Series line, the ATHM70x professional studio monitor headphones feature proprietary 45mm large-aperture drivers and are tuned to accurately reproduce extreme low and high frequencies while maintaining perfect balance. They are ideal for studio mixing and tracking, FOH, DJing, mastering, post-production, audio forensics and personal listening. Crafted for lasting durability, the studio headphones promise excellent sound isolation and are equipped with 90° swivelling earcups for easy, one-ear monitoring.

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Extended response accurately reproduces extreme low and high frequencies (5-40,000 Hz) while maintaining perfect balance Circumaural design contours around the ears for excellent sound isolation in loud environments 90° swivelling earcups for easy, one-ear monitoring Fold-flat design for space-saving portability

www.audio-technica.com

Proprietary 45mm large-aperture drivers with rare earth magnets and copper-clad aluminium wire voice coils

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www.telefunken-elektroakustik.com

Shurre

Behring ger

SRH1840

HPX6000 The HPX6000 deliver loud, clean sound with deep, powerful bass. On top of their rugged construction, they possess a classic look and feel, from the soft touch rubberised coating to the leather ear cushions and headband pad. The headband and ear cups are fully articulated, adjustable and foldable, with a detachable cable for easy carrying and storage. „ “Superior” sound quality with wide frequency response and enhanced bass „ Ultra-high dynamic range „ 50mm high-output neodymium drivers „ Single-sided removable cable with 1/8in jack and 1/4in gold-plated adapter „ High-quality components and rugged construction

The award-winning SRH1840 is the flagship professional open-back headphone from Shure and has been developed with premium materials and precision engineering. Featuring individually-matched drivers for unparalleled acoustic performance with smooth, extended highs and accurate bass, they are ideally suited to professional recording, mixing, mastering and audiophile listening applications. „ „ „

www.behringer.com

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Individually-matched 40mm neodymium drivers Detailed and natural sound Lightweight construction featuring aircraft-grade aluminium alloy yoke and stainless steel grills All units individually tested and serialised

www.shure.com

April 2015

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TECHNOLOGY FOCUS

AKG

www.audiomediainternational.com

Pionee er

K812

HRM-7

The K812 reference headphones are intended to offer the most pure and natural sound possible. Designed for music professionals, the K812 empower the listener to experience the smallest sonic details with the most accurate balance for mixing and mastering, as well as music production. The K812 headphones carry 53mm transducers – the largest AKG has ever used. With the 1.5 Tesla Magnet System and an ultra-lightweight two-layer voice coil, these headphones deliver an accurate imaging and pure, natural sound. An open mesh headband and 3D-shaped slow retention ear pads ensure a comfortable fit.

Designed to deliver accurate, neutral sound reproduction to dance music producers, the HMR-7s feature a HD driver unit for a neutral, high-res sound with dual airflow chambers and a damping structure for enhanced bass response. The fully enclosed ear pads deliver optimum sound isolation and clear audio separation. „

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Powerful 53mm transducers “Sophisticated” open-back technology reduces reflections 1.5 Tesla Magnet System provides accuracy and power experience possible Ultra-lightweight two-layer voice coil for superior impulse response and extended frequency range up to 54kHz Rated impedance of 36 Ohms

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40mm HD driver unit faithfully reproduces frequencies up to 40kHz Fully enclosed housing eliminates background noise Large ear chamber for a wider sound stage Freely adjustable headband and flexible, ergonomic design Detachable 1.2m coiled and 3m straight cables

www.pioneer.co.uk www.akg.com

KRK K KNS Series KRK Systems’ KNS8400 and KNS6400 professional headphones promise listeners an honest reproduction of audio that is trusted by top producers, studio musicians, performers and engineers around the globe. Additionally, the KNS lightweight, foldable design allows for long listening sessions with high comfort and great sound isolation. „ „ „ „ „ „

Closed-back, circumaural configuration 5Hz to 23kHz frequency response (KNS8400), or 10Hz to 22kHz (KNS6400) 97dB SPL sensitivity (KNS8400), or 95dB SPL (KNS6400) Calculated max SPL of 124dB SPL (KNS8400), or 122dB SPL (KNS6400) Up to 30dBA ambient noise isolation (KNS8400), or up to 26dBA (KNS6400) Replaceable ear and head cushions utilise advanced memory foam

www.krksys.com

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April 2015


TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

AVID S3L-X

Avid claims that its new S3L-X system offers “greater versatility, reliability, LIVE SOUND CONSOLE and value” than the original S3L, but would a test drive prove this? AND DAW CONTROLLER Simon Allen goes in search of an answer.

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here used to be a time, not that long ago, when live sound engineers and studio engineers never crossed each other’s paths. That gap between two of the largest fields in pro-audio has been drawing closer and closer with the digital age. Many of the console manufacturers have helped to spark this trend in some really exciting ways over the past five years alone. Avid, which is at the front end of studio solutions and has been at the top of the game for many years, has also been one of the leaders in the era of digital live sound consoles. During this period, however, there have been some significant technological advancements in Avid’s fundamental audio processing methodology. Both the software and hardware aspects of its products have been through some radical developments, enabling 40

April 2015

Avid systems to reach new heights. The S3L system marked the moment these developments finally made it to the stage. As a keen engineer of both ilks, I went looking for new and exciting possibilities that hopefully continue to bridge the studio/live division, in the S3L-X. Let’s face it, if anyone was going to move this forward, then Avid is in the right place to do it.

modular design First off, let’s look at what elements make up the S3L-X. Like many digital live sound systems, there is the control surface and then an array of stage boxes for varying I/O configurations. The S3L-X is very similar, but with the keen distinction that the ‘brains’ or ‘computing power’ is delivered from a separate unit. The E3 is the system’s engine and takes care of all processing and management of the user interface. In essence, the E3 is a PC computer, but

with additional DSP processing power along the lines of an Avid HDX card. Having the engine separate to the control surface and the stage/FOH boxes opens up several benefits. Obviously, in the live sound environment the engine can be placed virtually anywhere and doesn’t have to be at the FOH position. This could help with anything from simple I/O distribution through to greater installation options. However, the biggest benefit comes with the S3 control surface due to its dual purpose. The control surface is a studio DAW controller by day, and then a live sound console by night. In terms of I/O capabilities, the S3L-X system can process up to 64 inputs and 32 outputs simultaneously, but importantly, any number of systems can run on the same AVB network sharing stage box I/O options with full auto gain tracking. This new feature makes the apparently

compact S3 capable of significantly large and complicated tasks. Currently, Avid is only manufacturing a single configuration for the stage boxes, offering 16 XLR mic pres, eight XLR balanced outputs and four channels of AES each. Both the E3 engine and the S3 control surface also offer some additional I/O for local connections, which can be routed across the AVB network in the same way the stage box inputs and outputs can. The control surface (S3) is certainly compact and lightweight, but shouldn’t be perceived as being poorly built or not strong enough for the road. Its layout is very simple with only 16 faders, two rows of encoders for parameter editing, and several function and user keys. So how many functions of the console really can be controlled from the surface and how easily can it be used in a live environment? Thankfully, it is clear from the moment you power it up how much thought Avid has put into the layout of the surface and each control – whether it be fader, encoder or just a button – has a purpose for being there. The result is a very tidy, clear and easily configurable surface. Admittedly, I do have one small complaint. Although everything’s there, it did take me a little longer to build up speed using the surface alone to control the system than other desks. The S3 is capable of editing almost all functions – certainly those needed to operate a show after setup – but it did require a little more learning time. As you might expect, there is a degree of expanding pages of possible parameters across the encoders for complete control, which is fine, but there’s a lot of ‘shift_expand’ button pressing that has to become second nature. That said, it’s a ‘muscle memory’ type of lesson, which once learnt really makes anything possible and you can keep on top of a complex show very easily.


TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

Key Features „“Mix anything, everywhere” – from major festivals to space-constrained clubs „Share the same I/O across two or more Avid S3L-X systems, with complete auto gain compensation „Mix DAW sessions using Avid S3 as a standalone mixing surface and 4 x 6 audio interface „64-bit AAX DSP plug-in support „Scale the modular system to accommodate any size performance, from 16–64 mic pres „Ethernet AVB connectivity, without the cable bulk „Twice as much RAM as the S3L „Record directly to Pro Tools (or other DAW) through a simple laptop Ethernet connection „Rugged, reinforced engine design „High-output, low-noise headphone amp MSRP: From £14,640

engineer can run a live show with the S3L-X system and take a multichannel recording of the performance. After the show, the stage boxes and E3 engine can be loaded up for transport or storage, while the S3 control surface can easily be taken to the hotel to aid working on the recording from that night. The most significant update around integration has to be the new Venue Link for recording into Pro Tools with the Venue 4.5 and Pro Tools 11 software, which is included with the purchase of an S3L-X system. Via a single Ethernet connection, a laptop can be connected to the engine and record up to 64 channels. Avid has adopted an easy patching and channel naming control method to speed up workflow, and it works effortlessly.

www.avid.com Reassuringly, there is never the feeling you can’t get to any of the controls you need, because of the excellent Venue software, which any Venue console operator will recognise in a heartbeat. For me, this is one of the reasons I’m such a fan of the Avid range – the software is extremely comprehensive and looks the same on the smallest SC48, through to the Profile. This allowed me to work professionally and smoothly as if I knew the S3L-X system inside out, giving me the time to get used to the surface. The possible configurations within the Venue software are actually enhanced with the S3 surface drawing on its new user layer. If set up intelligently, you could operate almost any size of show with just 16 faders, avoiding constant channel chasing.

complete integration While the S3 control surface is operating as a DAW remote, its own local I/O can also be utilised via the Ethernet AVB connection. This means that the S3 can be connected to a laptop and provide an immediate pro studio configuration. This very serious, dual-purpose piece of equipment is not only responding to how engineers are working today, but modelling how the future of digital audio is continuing to develop. For example, an FOH

“Yes, the S3L-X system not only has the capabilites you’d expect from any modern digital console, but in fact it’s written a whole new chapter in the development of console offerings.” Simon Allen

This new recording workflow has also expanded the capabilities of virtual soundcheck. As well as the traditional global virtual soundcheck mode, any channel can be switched to the return playback from Pro Tools at a touch of a button in the preamp section. This allows for very fast switching between recorded elements and live, allowing musicians to soundcheck without their colleagues being on the stage at the same time. Other manufacturers have started offering this too, but this is the most fluid I have ever experienced and it works extremely well. Avid has certainly capitalised on its knowledge of multichannel recording and live consoles to bring us something I think we’ll soon find hard to live without.

Integration doesn’t stop there, as all the usual benefits of an Avid system are still available. For example, plug-ins are hosted on the system itself, which allows for a fluent operation without the need for additional equipment and controls. Of course, the plug-ins that the S3L-X system now hosts are the new AAX 64-bit format. Then there’s the familiar Venue software that all Avid consoles run. This has to be one of the best user interfaces on the market, giving complete control and configuration of the system with just a keyboard and mouse if necessary. This allows Venue consoles to offer one of the most powerful wireless remote control facilities around. With the S3L-X there is a new tab in the software called Media. This useful feature offers stereo playback or record options via any connected USB storage devices.

Continuing through the sound check, several concerns and limitations we thought we might encounter because of the installation never occurred. Fine movements of signal processing settings were possible, which enabled a more naturally accurate result to be achieved than I expected. The real proof came once the choir were up and running and I’d found the right balance between all the mics. Sonically, there was a warmth about the choir sound and the definition of the words they were singing was beautifully clear. Then came the reverb. I used a standard ReVibe plug-in for the reverb on the choir and it was sensational. I could have used any amount of wet/ dry mix, and you’d have still heard the

in use

conclusion

The main part of my testing ground for this review was a concert in a theatre that I know well, for the performance of a choir and live band that I’ve worked with before. The system in the venue is above average and the room is particularly good, but amplifying a live choir with a fivepiece live band always presents its own challenges. Aware of the potential downfalls for such an event, my colleague Ross Simpson and I planned the stage layout, microphone positions and general spec meticulously and well in advance. On the day, once we were in a position to start sound checking, I felt very confident in the decisions we’d made and I had a really good idea of the results we were hoping to achieve. This is where I believe the fuss about 64-bit really comes in, and I’ve only noticed it once before with one other manufacturer’s desk. Even after the first small movements of EQ were made on the grand piano, I could hear something very special in terms of quality that I’d never heard from the piano in that room before. Let’s not forget that I am very used to working with digital consoles from all manufacturers, including the Avid Venue line, and that I’ve had much experience in that venue with those microphones and PA systems.

All too often I feel we get drawn into the tech behind modern digital consoles and their ‘all singing, all dancing’ wonders, forgetting to consider the sound quality. Yes, the S3L-X system not only has the capabilities you’d expect from any modern digital console, but in fact it’s written a whole new chapter in the development of console offerings. However, if you’re wondering what does it sound like, what are the preamps like, etc, then have no concerns and prepare to be impressed. I’d buy this console on the basis it uses the familiarity of the Venue software and it’s sound quality alone. The Pro Tools integration, dual-purpose control surface, modular light-weight and compact design, virtual soundcheck capabilities and the ability to host plugins are all benefits that easily explain it’s price tag.

words. The reverb was colourful yet transparent, to a level I haven’t heard ReVibe perform before.

The Reviewer Simon Allen is a freelance internationallyrecognised sound engineer and pro-audio professional with over a decade of experience. Working mostly in music, his reputation as a mix and FOH engineer continues to reach new heights.

April 2015

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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

RESIDENT AUDIO T4 AUDIO INTERFACE

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he death of the ISA bus, the lack of Windows 7 drivers and beer. All have taken out muchloved audio interfaces. With two of the three untimely demises down to obsolescence, buying outside the crowd takes a bit of courage, which punchy newcomers Resident Audio seem to have by the bucket. The upstart firm out of New York City has launched not one but two affordable Thunderbolt-based audio interfaces. And boasting a design guru with a backstory at ESI, Resident may be new but there’s plenty of audio interface experience under the hood. Now you can probably shake your cynical old head and reel off 20 reasons for ignoring Thunderbolt – but I’m going to be contrarian and cheer for the underdog. If Apple in cahoots with Intel can be called the underdog. Why is Thunderbolt a good idea? Well, first because Thunderbolt is PCIeconfigured for outside the box and that means cool things – big bandwidth, low latency and an adapter cable to your existing firewire interface is twenty quid. Pretty neat from the legacy perspective. Of course every new Mac, bar the new MacBook, that rolls off the line has a Thunderbolt port and much of our industry is OSX-centric. And as Thunderbolt is not just PCIe but also DisplayPort it doesn’t necessarily even add an extra port. Not last or least, the Thunderbolt power bus offers 18V and carries 10W of power. What can you do with a mighty 10W of power? Well, Resident Audio can make a T4 interface with four mics amps – all with 48V phantom – and power them all down the interface cable and then throw one of them in with the T4. Now Resident’s silicon supremo (the enigmatically named ‘Chess’) claims that even with the extra electrons provided by Thunderbolt, Resident has had to implement some custom chip wizardry to get this to work. I suppose time will 42

April 2015

Alistair McGhee checks out the world’s first bus-powered four-channel Thunderbolt interface from the new NYC-based manufacturer.

tell. At the moment Zoom’s TAC 2 seems to be the only bus-powered alternative, but offers only two mic amps. Call me lazy but not having to plug in a wall wart makes me feel like a better person, so bus power is good news. The T4 is at the affordable end of the market and I wasn’t expecting the rather satisfying heft of the product in my hand. This is well made kit. The front panel has four combi XLR/ jack inputs (MIDI in and out round the back) with individual gain controls, some switches for selecting line or instrument inputs and a 48V phantom switch. There are also two more controls – the big one labelled monitor and a smaller knob for ‘input mix’. The T4 does need a driver on OSX and the software comes on a rather neato folding credit card-style USB stick. My Mac has Yosemite 10.10.2 and the install was painless. In use, the T4 is simple. Let’s start with inputs. Open your DAW (Reaper in my case) and select the T4 and you will have four inputs available for recording. The software panel has some metering for inputs and outputs and gain control for outputs. The panel also allows sample rate selection; buffersize is controlled by your DAW. Each input knob has a wrap-around tri-colour LED (as does the input to mix control), which indicates signal level. It’s enough visual feedback to get you in the zone – use your DAW’s meters for fine grain adjustments. The mic amps are clean and capable of getting your audio goodness down. Against my Nagra LB using a Neumann KM 184, I thought the Resident was possibly a shade brighter and a tad thicker in the low mids. Moving to dynamics I tried SM58s and my SQN mixer. Again, the T4 did a fine job but was slightly noisier than the SQN. As you might expect, all in all high-quality sound. At 44.1 and 24-bit I worked my way down the buffer sample size. The absolute bottom seems to be about 14 samples. At 16 samples I was able to

record all four inputs and record a threeminute song without problems. This was into a clean EDL. Having got four tracks down, I was able to play them back with no processing or effects and record another four tracks. Reaper declares this latency to be round about 1ms, which we will take with a ladle of salt. But not too shabby. More complex EDLs are going to require an adjustment to the buffers. And with just the Thunderbolt connection, phantom to three Neumanns and an AKG wasn’t a problem, and often overlooked there was ample headphone drive. And so on to outputs. You have five – four line level (with output three doubling as a second headphone output) and one headphone output. In stereo mode, your monitors are plugged into outputs one and two and the level is controlled by the monitor knob on the front panel – as is the volume to your headphones. When you plug up all four outputs then you automatically engage multichannel output mode. Now the monitor knob controls the headphone levels while the line outputs are controlled from the software panel. In multichannel mode the input mix control feeds only the headphones, while in stereo mode it also mixes the inputs with the stereo line output. Confused? I kind of am too, but it all seems to work and keeps things clean and simple. I like the T4 – it is an intriguing blend of high-quality sound and finish with functional and operational simplicity.

There’s no digital I/O or word clock but the sound, convenience and usability make it a worthy flag bearer for Thunderbolt. And if you want that package cheaper and smaller and only need two mic inputs, then the T2 is a steal.

Key Features „Near-zero latency „ Support for high-resolution 24-bit/96kHz audio „Four channels of I/O „Four combo XLR/0.25in inputs, each with input gain controls and three-colour wraparound LEDs „Four balanced TRS 0.25in outputs „Dedicated headphone output and secondary headphone output „Input mix control to blend live signal with computer playback RRP: £369 www.synthax.co.uk

The Reviewer Alistair McGhee began audio life in Hi-Fi before joining the BBC as an audio engineer. After 10 years in radio and TV, he moved to production. When BBC Choice started, he pioneered personal digital production in television. Most recently, Alistair was assistant editor, BBC Radio Wales and has been helping the UN with broadcast operations in Juba.


TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

SYNCHRO ARTS REVOICE PRO 3 SOFTWARE

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ynchro Arts has released ReVoice Pro 3 (RVP 3), a major update to its muchrevered vocal processing software. RVP 3 is the development of the technology into a comprehensive package of vocal manipulation tools. If you’ve ever spent hours aligning, tuning, editing or timing a vocal this magical software could be the nirvana moment you’ve dreamt of. I reviewed RVP 2 in the April 2012 issue of Audio Media and was blown

away by the power and vocal tools that it brought to a traditional DAW – the ability to quickly adjust vocal pitch and timing between tracks, transforming a loose vocal take into a tight professional performance, or generate natural sounding double tracks. Now with a facelift, hundreds of performance tweaks and an incredible new Warp feature, RVP 3 is here to take vocal editing to the next level. RVP 3 supports both Mac and PC 32/64-bit, AU, AAX and VST3. Installation and authorisation via iLok was straightforward. RVP 3 runs as a stand-alone software application, audio is transferred by ‘Link’ plug-ins that connect to your DAW, enabling audio to be sent back and forth. However there are various methods of getting your audio in and out of Revoice Pro from specific DAWs either by plug-in, drag-and-drop or via the OS copy and paste. AudioSuite and AAX is by far the simplest transfer method, enabling instant capture of regions to RVP 3 and a Spot function to paste it back into Pro Tools.

In Use Version 3 of RVP is a marvellous upgrade; alongside a huge list of improvements, it has new process functions, extended parameters, automation lanes and better performance. But one of the main new features is pitch and time Warp processing. 44

April 2015

Alan Branch sees what the latest version of this intuitive vocal processing tool has to offer.

RVP 3 can be a little daunting at first glance, but I found it simple enough to operate once you’re up to speed. Good tutorials and tips support the quick start process. RVP 3 is like a multi-track editor, with unlimited tracks, but unlike a normal editor is based around using ‘Guide’ and ‘Dub’ (target) tracks, like a main vocal and its associated harmony. Using a process called APT (Audio Performance Transfer) to analyse timing and pitch differences between tracks, this process can create a new piece of mono/stereo audio via a selection of parameters and presets, that can be sent to a new output track or replace the original. The APT has Process Control lanes that run underneath the audio tracks. You could think of these like a channel insert plug-in in your DAW, but as the process is time-based they are shown underneath the affected audio region in selected playback sections. RVP 3 has four types of process, (two more than RVP 2): APT – for control over pitch and time differences; Doubler – creation of a double track from a single guide; Volume – match a track’s volume and Warp Process – create a track of pitch-corrected audio. Using any or all of these process features, it’s easy to create new tracks of audio with all the pitch and timing changes you need ready to spot back into your DAW session. The new Warp process gives RVP 3 almost everything you need to manipulate vocals in time and pitch. It’s similar in operation to Logic’s Flex Pitch or Melodyne, by displaying blocks of detected pitch as Warp regions that you can adjust manually or automatically to fix tuning issues. As well as being able to move the blocks of pitch detection up and down in scale, these blocks have a position-dependent adjustment tool – the left and right edges being time compression and expansion, while the top and bottom edges control the pitch width for altering vibrato range.

There are a few extras to this pitch and time control; a ‘Tilt’ feature enables a block to be tilted in pitch using a locked anchor at either end – perfect for singers that tend to drop a little flat or enter a line a little sharp; a ‘Smoothing’ function helps blend fast pitch changes or groups of pitch blocks. Other features include Warp points, much like Flex (Logic Pro) or Elastic Audio (Pro Tools). These are audio position anchors to control movement options – blocks of pitch can even be copied and pasted to other blocks. Processing any vocal, it’s vital it retains all of its quality and harmonic content, and RVP 3’s Warp Process not only excels at intelligent workflow with great pitch and time features; it must be one of the clearest pitch algorithms I’ve ever heard.

Conclusion As an admirer of Synchro Arts vocal manipulation software since Vocalign, I was eager to see how they could improve RVP 2. Adding the Pitch and Time Warp function I think was needed now so many DAWs have flexible audio built in, but RVP 3 isn’t just a copy of others, rather a development of it’s own unique features, and it’s a pleasure to use. Apart from the myriad of enhancements, the AU plug-in is a big improvement on the previous Rewire method of transferring audio from Logic Pro, and

the extra performance meant the whole application felt fast and snappy. For me, as a music engineer, it’s an incredible set of audio tools that will save me hours of painstaking editing when sorting out vocal sections that I want to tighten, thicken or accurately pitch across several tracks of harmonies and double tracks.

Key Features „Tighten the timing, pitch and vibrato of ‘stacked’ lead and backing vocals or instrumental tracks „Create one or more realistic double tracks from a single input track „Modify signal timing and pitch manually with a fast and easy graphic interface „Lip-sync dialogue (ADR) and vocals by the same or different performers, even with noisy guide tracks RRP: £448.80 www.synchroarts.co.uk

The Reviewer Alan Branch is a freelance engineer/ producer. His list of credits include Jamiroquai, Beverley Knight, M People, Simply Red, Depeche Mode, Shed 7, Sinead O’ Connor and Bjork. www.alanbranch.com.


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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

TASCAM DR-10X PLUG-ON MIC RECORDER

H

ave you watched The Good Wife? It’s the hugely successful US TV drama about a woman called Alicia Florrik, played by Julianna Margulies, who returns to work in law after a 15-year hiatus. Well that’s been me over the last few months, as I’ve been back in the hustle and bustle of a radio newsroom, following a gap of a mere decade and a half. A lot has changed in that time, not least in the hardware department. Radio reporters’ kit has evolved from Uhers and Marantzs (reel-to-reel and cassette respectively) through MiniDisc (one of my old favourites from my Newsbeat days) and on to solid state. Radio hacks can now be seen holding anything from an HHB FlashMic (now no longer made) to an iPhone. The latter is standard issue to more and more BBC radio journalists and comes with a suite of recording, editing, filing and live broadcasting software, some of which I’ve covered before in Audio Media. But people are always looking for something new and the station engineer at BBC Radio York emailed me details of the Tascam DR-10X. It looks like a transmitter for a radio mic, but is actually a small recorder that plugs into the base of any dynamic microphone (ie, no phantom power needed). My immediate reaction was, “Oh, that’s clever.” My next was, “I need to play with one of those.” When you first get your hands on the machine, it surprises you just how small it is – fitting in the palm of your hand. It has a grey composite body and a small OLED screen with just one line of characters. There are four buttons on the front for the menu system and audio playback, a combined On/Off and Record switch on one side and a micro USB port plus SD card slot and headphone connection on the other. At the top is an XLR connector. This is pretty clever in that it not only 46

April 2015

“I need to play with one of those” was Jerry Ibbotson’s initial reaction to the release of this new handy device for broadcasters, but does it meet his expectations? Let’s see.

has a rotating clamp but also a plastic collar to hold the base of your chosen microphone snugly in place. One concern I had before the Tascam arrived was that there would be a lot of ‘rattle’ around the XLR. This does not seem to be the case, thanks to that smart design. The DR-10X records in just one format – mono Broadcast Wav. With memory now cheap and plentiful, there’s really no need to use compressed formats that still have to be converted to linear PCM for editing. The sample and bit rate are 48kHz/24 bit. The menu system is easy enough to navigate (it passed my “do I need to actually read the manual” test) and lets you alter settings such as the Low Cut Filter and whether or not the Auto Gain is working. With the latter, I did have to pick up the instruction book to work out that the alternative to using the AGC is to select one of three preset sensitivity levels. Presumably with a unit this small, having a gain dial or buttons would take up too much room. In use in a newsroom, I can imagine the Auto setting being left on at all times anyway. There is a useful Dual Record function that records a second version of your audio, at 6dB below the main channel. I remember using a similar Dual Leg Mono feature on my Marantz PMD 671 several years ago and it can come in handy if you’re worried about clipping and/or if your source has an unpredictable level. To put the unit to the test I dropped in a single AAA battery and a Micro SD card and hooked it up to my ageing but trustworthy AKG news mic. This has recently been used in conjunction with my own recorder, a Roland R26, which I personally consider to be one of the best all-round machines I’ve used in 25 years of working in both radio and sound design. Not much to live up to then.

I initially set the DR-10X to Auto mode and did some recordings, monitoring on headphones. I’m old school, in that I’ve used cans when recording throughout my career. As audio purists you’ll be thinking, “So what?” but a surprising number of radio journalists don’t bother. The first thing that hit me was a wall of preamp hiss. The recording was OK, if a little dull, but the amount of noise was disappointing. Even when I was speaking, and therefore driving the AGC down, there was still a lot of hissing – a common flaw in a lot of cheaper recorders. I switched to the lower of the manual presets and repeated the test. This time there was less hiss, but the signal was also at a lower level. But boosting this back up to a more acceptable peak also dragged the noise. I played all my recordings to my engineer friend and he agreed: there was too much preamp noise. He also didn’t like the overall sound of the recording. Even taking into account the fact that a lot of radio material is broadcast

as Mpeg2 and goes through all sorts of grim compression, encoding and decoding before it emerges in your kitchen or bathroom, this is not good. If a recording on a smartphone, using a free app, passes the quality threshold then the bar is set at a decent height for a bespoke recorder using a professional-quality microphone. That’s not to say I don’t like the design of the Tascam DR-10X and I love the concept even more – I’d even call it inspired. A recorder that fits in your pocket that hooks straight up to a ‘proper’ ENG mic is a cracking idea. But the execution has let it down. It may be due to trying to reach a low price point, but the audio quality isn’t up to scratch and the hiss level using the AGC is unacceptable when there are so many alternatives in the market place. My advice is: throw in a better preamp circuit, raise the price and people will be happy to buy one. I would.

Key Features „XLR plug mounts directly to dynamic microphone „48kHz/24-bit BWF mono recording „Uses Micro SD or Micro SDHC media, up to 32GB „Mic pre gain Lo/Mid/Hi control „Instant record mode – power on while sliding record switch RRP: £159 www.tascam.com

The Reviewer Jerry Ibbotson has worked in pro audio for more than 20 years, first as a BBC radio journalist and then as a sound designer in the games industry. He’s now a freelance audio producer and writer.


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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

MACKIE DL32R WIRELESS DIGITAL MIXER

F

rom an application standpoint, the DL32R covers the broadest range of audio tasks in the simplest way of any single product I’ve reviewed, ever. Yes, the DL32R inherently requires a comprehension of its architecture, but that’s not much more complicated than buying an iPad, interfacing with the 3U rack-mount chassis for its physical I/O and learning a well-designed app and wireless network system. Considering its feature set and Mackie’s presence in the industry, the DL32R is poised to be the next big thing in all-inclusive audio capture, control, mixing and production at $1,999 street (add iPad, mics, cables, powered loudspeakers, and that’s about all for a complete, super-capable mixing/ recording system). While totally pro environments offer a proper front-of-house position, a lot of venues hosting live music do not. Most don’t provide a full-time audio engineer, either. ‘Mixers’ in these places are often found simultaneously mixing drinks for customers, attempting to enjoy the music while managing the mix, or playing in the band itself. The DL32R unchains these folks from traditional mix locations, allowing them to adjust levels from wherever they need or desire to be. Better yet, the DL32R offers more I/O than the first two DL Series mixers, making it a viable option for larger touring acts and more sophisticated venues, too.

Feature set This is all accomplished quite powerfully, too – for example, with up to 32 channels, complete with multitrack recording and playback (currently 24 x 24 direct-to-disk with 32 x 32 coming soon); 14 XLR analogue outputs; up to 10 iOS-controlled personal monitor mixes; six matrix busses (providing auxiliary mixes for extra listening spaces such 48

April 2015

Strother Bullins puts the next big thing in audio capture and control through its paces, and finds it more than lives up to the hype.

as outside club decks, etc); a super-flexible patching matrix; and pretty much every feature you’d expect from a fully-professional live mixing digital platform. The DL32R is also Dante-ready, so (at present) it’s rather ‘future-proof’, if you will. While Mackie doesn’t really tout the DL32R’s recording and music production features, creative end users will soon be using its 32 Onyx+ preamplifiers and well-chosen DSP offerings to record complete performances for subsequent production and mixdown, largely thanks to the Master Fader app, a free download from the iTunes App Store. These same features of Master Fader allow for virtual soundchecks. Short of providing the necessary transducers on either end – for capture and monitoring – plus drive or CPU, the DL32R can be a recording/mixing silver bullet for many.

in use I brought the DL32R out for several live sound events including standard club gigs and a hands-on presentation to a contemporary house-of-worship. In use, demonstrations and discussions, the benefits of moving around the venue while tweaking, tuning and mixing were more than impressive: they turned the concept of live mixing into something completely new and exciting. Though the immediate benefits of mixing untethered are thrilling, Mackie has previously provided this ability in its DL1608 16-channel and DL806 8-channel mixers. By doubling the DL1608’s inputs to 32, upgrading its mic preamps (via Mackie’s new flagship Onyx+, only currently found in the DL32R), and offering flexible patching options – for example, one input to multiple channels or switchable A/B inputs per channel for detailed comparisons – the DL Series has gained its truly pro model.

For almost every question – whether I had the DL32R at a gig or at the church – my answers began with a ‘yes’. ‘Can I can mix my own monitors with my phone?’ Yes, with the MyFader app, also free. ‘I can sit with my kids during the service?’ Sure, if you want. Some were ‘no’, too, such as ‘Can we use it without a router?’ However, the core benefits of the DL32R’s WiFicentric design weren’t lost on anybody. Most importantly, I think the DL32R sounds great and is straightforward in use. It’s I/O is near-infinitely configurable and routable, and its EQs and effects are good and will continue to improve – after all, Master Fader is a free app via download, currently in Version 3.0.2.

Few Limitations Are there any negatives to the DL32R’s iPad-centric design? No, not unless you’re opposed to working within an iOS architecture – complete with its limitedsized GUI and mandatory ‘additional purchase’ of at least one iPad. However, I believe the DL32R’s iOS nature offers more benefits than drawbacks: almost every modern musiccentric/tech-savvy pro inherently knows iOS flow already; the Master Fader app is refreshingly simple compared to many digital mixers with incorporated touchscreen and proprietary OS; and any user with an iPad can provide and work with their own work surface. Ultimately I’d wish for Android OS support, too, at least for control of personal monitor mix features –

currently the DL32R is iOS compatibleonly. Most notably in houses-of-worship, this means a number of volunteers and musicians who won’t be able to use their own smartphones with the DL32R.

Summary In the late 1990s, I was thrilled to discover the Mackie d8b digital console and HDR24/96 multitrack system. Today, the DL32R represents the same kind of leap forward for the budgetrestricted aspiring audio professional, yet this time it’s in the live sound realm. While I generally shy away from labelling any product a ‘game changer’, the DL32R certainly hints at becoming one.

Key Features „32-channel wireless digital mixer „14 fully assignable XLR outputs „28 output busses with four-band parametric EQ +HPF/LPF, 31-band GEQ, comp limiter and alignment delay „Three stereo FX processors RRP: $1,999 www.mackie.com

The Reviewer Strother Bullins is reviews editor for NewBay Media’s AV/Pro Audio Group. sbullins@nbmedia.com www.prosoundnetwork.com


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INTERVIEW

www.audiomediainternational.com

SOUL MAN

Having begun his journey in music as an acclaimed drummer, Troy Miller has developed into an equally in-demand producer, recognised for his work with Laura Mvula and Rebecca Ferguson. Following Ferguson’s recent chart success, now seemed a good time for Adam Savage to seek more on Miller’s story. Was there any specific equipment that you relied on for this project? The first for me on this project was doing all three stages of the recording on PMCs – the tracking was done at Capitol Studios in LA and they’ve got a pair of PMC QB1-A monitors, which I found to be very realistic. Moving on to the mixing and mastering stages, we used Peter’s PMCs, and that was good for the sake of consistency, and

Troy Miller in Capitol Studios with Rebecca Ferguson

not having to adjust your ears from one session to another. I found it very comforting – you can sometimes lose the benchmark when you’re using different gear.

Tell us a bit about your early career. You were a successful drummer before going into production, so why did you make the change? I started out in a few bands really, and come from a jazz background. I spent years playing with Jean Toussaint, an American saxophone player, and also Soweto Kinch. I played on Soweto’s album Conversations with the Unseen, and it turned out to be one of Amy Winehouse’s favourite records, who I ended up playing with for the last five years of her career. When she passed, I thought I would invest in my studio and have a go at doing my own producing. I’d already started at that point, having done two albums for Sony in Poland. When and why did you set up your London studio? Around 2007, but since then I’ve extended it. I’ve spent a lot of time in other studios – I was a session musician before, and in those sessions you absorb a lot. When you look at many successful producers and composers they started out as musicians – guys like Trevor Horn and Hans Zimmer. It’s a good starting ground. 50

April 2015

You must have learnt a lot from other producers from your time as a musician. I imagine working with Mark Ronson was pretty helpful? Definitely. I spent a good two years in his band. A lot of this stuff you absorb through osmosis – just being there in the room for these sessions and it’s experiential. I found when doing as much recording as I have, on both sides of the glass, you do pick up tips. Mark is very open minded and he’s quite organic in the studio, letting musicians play and he leaves a lot down to being in the moment and seeing where it goes, which I think is a good ethic to have as a producer. With Amy Winehouse, Laura Mvula and Rebecca Ferguson on your client list, you must see yourself as something of a soul specialist? I’m very open minded and eclectic in my musical tastes, so style is not really something I think about. What I do think about is trying to create something real, and I like working with artists who are first and foremost honest with what they do and not afraid to do something a bit different. I think ultimately that’s what has longevity in music – when

you’re true to yourself – and that’s not easy. If you can draw that out of people as a producer then that’s a bonus. I also spent years playing gospel music with the church, so the soul element is a big part of what I do, but I love classical music as well so I’m doing a project at the moment where I’m scoring the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Philharmonia this year, which is something different for me, but close to my heart. Let’s talk about Rebecca’s new album. I understand you teamed up with Peter Beckmann of Technology Works for that? He was a key part of the mixing stage – initially I asked him to just master it, but I realised that we needed to bring out some more detail in the mixing stage and he was a key part of that. I’ve worked with Peter quite a few times before and I like his attention to detail. He’s very thorough – he should be as he’s a mastering engineer! – and he really cares as well. He doesn’t want to just to do the job to an acceptable level; he wants the music to sound as good as it could possibly be, even it means going the extra mile.

What about your own personal setup? My console is an Amek BC2 – two of them strung together. I’ve also got API and Neve outboard mic pres, as well as a Tube-Tech PE1C EQ and LCA2B compressor. I use the Apogee Symphony, which I’ve been really impressed with. Mic-wise I’ve got an RCA 77-DX, lots of Neumanns, but the main mic I use for tracking vocals is the AKG C12, and sometimes a [Neumann] U87 or U47, depending on the vocalist. With Rebecca we used a U47 because that’s what we used at Capitol as well. In fact we used the very mic that Frank Sinatra used. That’s one of the advantages of using a studio like that. And because the PMCs have won me over I’m looking to get a pair of twotwo.6 or twotwo.8 monitors. Going back to those other studios, where else do you like to record? I did Laura Mvula’s album at Abbey Road and I also like working down at RAK because I love API. I produced a single for Gregory Porter and we did it at Gang Studio in Paris where they’ve got an old ‘70s API, and I just love the EQs. One of my big things is getting the sound how you want it going into the computer so the mixing stage is more than just balancing; I find it a more enjoyable process that way. www.troymiller.net


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