International TECHNOLOGY AND TRENDS FOR THE PRO-AUDIO PROFESSIONAL www.audiomediainternational.com
GORDON RAPHAEL ...in conversation about recording The Strokes’ ﬁrst two albums and releasing his new solo music
GEAR OF THE YEAR
AMI looks back at some of the best tech releases from 2017
Jolyon Thomas talks about working on U2’s new album
We test new products from Audio-Technica and L-Acoustics
Syva is a new breed of speaker, blending our groundbreaking line-source heritage with plug-and-play simplicity and an elegant design. 142 dB. 35 meters of throw. 140Â° horizontal coverage. Down to 35 Hz. Syva gives you peerless power and performance. Learn more about Syva at l-acoustics.com and experience our immersive sound solutions at l-isa-music.com.
30 INTERVIEWS 16 Gordon Raphael The producer talks about his career, recording techniques and new music 20 Jolyon Thomas The 2018 MPG Awards Breakthrough Producer Of The Year nominee on working with U2 and Royal Blood
Gear Of the Year AMIâ€™s top tech picks from 2017
26 Prism Sound A 30th anniversary special 30 Immersive Audio The latest developments in immersive sound design
PRODUCT FOCUS 35 Equipment for immersive sound capture
REVIEWS 38 Audio-Technica AT 5047
Experts in the issue Graham Boswell is the sales and marketing director of respected British interface and converter manufacturer Prism Sound, which he cofounded along with fellow electronics engineer Ian Dennis.
Darrell Thorp is a seven-time Grammy Award winning producer, mixer and engineer (Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Switchfoot, Molotov, Beck) with over 20 years experience and many multi-platinum records in his discography.
Chris Turner is an award-winning sound designer who started his career as a music engineer and has gone on to design sound for some of the most memorable ads on TV, cinema, radio and online.
hey say you should never meet your heroes. And, if you’re into recording, production and audio technology in general, you deﬁnitely have a few of them. You were also probably just as keen as I was to ﬁnd out who recorded your favourite music by trawling through the liner notes of your most-prized records. When you found out who they were, you were also probably just as eager to meet these mythical ﬁgures to ﬁnd out what microphones or preamps they were using and how, but they existed only in a nice font on a record sleeve, and occupied some legendary studio somewhere you could only ever dream of visiting. We get to meet and speak to so many talented people in this industry each day, and sometimes you get to speak to one of those liner note heroes from your youth, who, in spite of what ‘they’ say, often just turn out be really nice and a treasure trove of knowledge. We’re very pleased to have Gordon Raphael on the cover on this month’s magazine, who turned out to be both of those things. The renowned producer of The Strokes’ debut Is This It told us all about the gear he used to achieve that signature sound, how he became a producer and what he’s up to these days in Berlin.
Elsewhere in the magazine 2018 MPG Awards Breakthrough Producer Of The Year nominee Jolyon Thomas tells us about recording Royal Blood at ICP Studios in Belgium and working on U2’s new album Songs Of Experience. We’ve also interviewed Darrell Thorp, the engineer behind Foo Fighters’ No.1 record Concrete and Gold. Also in this issue, Stephen Bennett explores the world of immersive sound design on pages 30-33, which is followed by a product focus for immersive sound capture equipment on pages 35-37. You’ll also ﬁnd the usual technology reviews by our expert team of contributors towards the back of the magazine. Finally, we know that December is usually a time of reﬂection for everyone and you might be asking questions like, how did we get to December so quickly? What have I achieved this year? What can I do diﬀerently next year? But at the AMI oﬃces, we’ve been wondering how the pro audio world has managed to release so many fascinating products in the space of just 12 months. So, the Audio Media International team has looked back over the year to select its top technology releases from 2017 for our Gear Of The Year feature on pages 7-13, which includes some fantastic products that have impressed us with their functionality, design and innovation. And on the note of reﬂection, Prism Sound’s Graham Boswell tells Colby Ramsey all about the company’s 30-year history in this anniversary special on pages 26-29. As always, it’s been a busy year for everyone in this business, so enjoy the December break and look out for the next issue of AMI in the new year. Oh, and don’t forget to scan the Spotify codes scattered around the magazine...
Murray Stassen Editor Audio Media International
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ROSKILDE FESTIVAL AND MEYER SOUND AN UNPRECEDENTED COMMITMENT TO GREAT SOUND, FOR 2018 AND BEYOND
GEAR OF THE YEAR 2017 The pro audio world has outdone itself this year, having presented the AMI team – and our expert roster of reviewers – with plenty of kit to get stuck into. We’ve put together our top picks of products that we feel have excelled in functionality, innovation, value or all of these things combined.
GEAR OF THE YEAR 2017
PIONEER PRO AUDIO XY-3B In the XY-3B three-way bi-amp loudspeaker, an 8-inch cone driver delivers clean and precise mid-range frequencies using Pioneer Pro Audio’s X-Phase system. The unit features a 1-inch compression driver and moulded bi-horn, which helps blend with the mids, while two 12-inch drivers produce tight low mids. www.pioneerproaudio.com
MEYER SOUND LINA The smallest and lightest in the manufacturer’s LEO Family, LINA and its companion control element 750LFC boast new drivers and an updated ampliﬁer and signal processing package that, along with an improved power supply, enables higher peak output. www.meyersound.com
Lovebox | UK
Power to Perform XY-2 | XY-3B | high power speakers Make an impression with the XY-2 & XY-3B, designed to deliver a coherent & natural sound for large venues and outdoor events.
Pioneerproaudio | pioneerproaudio.com | #madeintheuk
Products pictured above left to right XY-2, XY-3B
GEAR OF THE YEAR 2017 INTERFACES/PRE-AMPS
FOCUSRITE Red8Pre This 64x64 audio interface for Pro Tools|HD And Thunderbolt 3 workﬂows features eight Red Evolution mic pres and 32x32 Dante AoIP connectivity. Red 8Pre, which allows the user to assign any physical input or output to any driver/Pro Tools|HD channel, includes two ADAT ports, for up to 16 additional inputs and outputs. pro.focusrite.com
DPA MICROPHONES d:vice The d:vice MMA-A digital audio interface is a dualchannel microphone preampliﬁer and A/D converter that captures high-quality audio via recording/ broadcasting apps. The d:vice is ultra-compact at about two inches in diameter and is controlled through a remote application on any iOS device. www.dpamicrophones.com
GENELEC The Ones Genelec’s 8331 (pictured), 8341 and 8351 three-way coaxial monitors, nicknamed ‘The Ones’, are built to deliver ‘ultimate point source’ monitoring. Using Genelec’s Minimum Diﬀraction Coaxial (MDC) driver, the compact solutions are designed to eliminate limited frequency range, low SPL and uneven dispersion issues. www.genelec.com
ADAM AUDIO S Series The S Series, ADAM Audio’s third generation range of studio monitors, is comprised of ﬁve models of increasing size, the S2V, S3H, S3V and the largest-of-the-range S5V and S5H. The new range features new woofer and mid-range driver designs and the debut of the S-ART tweeter, a more precise version of ADAM’s X-ART tweeter with accelerated ribbon design. www.adam-audio.com December 2017
C R E ATI V E M A STE R I N G. R E I N V E NTE D. WaveLab is todayâ€™s leading mastering and audio editing platform, favored by mastering facilities, music studios, sound designers, journalists and broadcasters. Its comprehensive set of features, customizability and outstanding audio quality are the reasons WaveLab became the worldâ€™s most popular professional platform for audio reďŹ nement. WaveLab Pro 9 reinvents creative mastering once again by providing a revolutionary new user interface, full M/S mastering support including editing and processing, the superior MasterRig plug-in suite as well as direct exchange with Steinberg DAWs, such as Cubase, among many other features.
GEAR OF THE YEAR 2017 ALL ROUNDERS
ZOOM F4 Field Recorder Zoom’s latest multi-track ﬁeld recorder, with four XLR/TRS combo inputs, a 3.5mm stereo input, and a Zoom mic capsule input, can record up to six discrete tracks with an additional stereo mix track – all at resolutions up to 24-bit/192 kHz. www.zoom.co.jp
ALLEN & HEATH dLive C class Allen & Heath’s compact range of surfaces and MixRacks opens up its dLive platform to a wider spectrum of AV, installation and live event applications. Each surface and rack has a 128-channel I/O port, supported by an array of networking cards, including Dante, Waves, MADI, ﬁbreACE optical and more. www.allen-heath.com
AUDIO-TECHNICA AT5047 The AT5047 Cardioid Condenser is equipped with a transformercoupled output, maintaining a constant load output impedance, even when capturing sources at extreme SPL. Four diaphragms function together as Audio-Technica’s largest-ever element, providing combined surface area twice that of a standard one-inch circular diaphragm. www.audio-technica.com
TOWNSEND LABS Sphere L22 The Sphere microphone modelling system consists of a high precision dual channel microphone, which when paired with the included Sphere DSP plug-in (UAD, VST, AU, AAX Native) accurately models the response of a wide range of mics, including transient response, harmonics, proximity eﬀect and three-dimensional polar response. www.townsendlabs.com
GEAR OF THE YEAR 2017 WIRELESS
SHURE Axient Digital Wireless
Shure’s new digital wireless system features a receiver that is compatible with its two transmitter oﬀerings, the AD Series and ADX Series, which incorporate ShowLink, providing real-time control of all transmitter parameters with interference detection and avoidance. Digital audio quality is maintained via Dante and AES3, along with a 20Hz to 20 kHz range. The system also boasts wide dynamic range, AES-256 encryption and 2ms latency from the mic transducer to the analogue output. www.shure.co.uk
MERGING TECHNOLOGIES Pyramix 11 Merging’s latest Pyramix software is now linked to ANEMAN, the company’s Audio Network Manager tool for RAVENNA and AES67 devices. The DAW’s toolkit for 3D immersive audio has expanded with a new FX Rendering feature for multitrack and multi-eﬀects processing, along with the implementation of plugins. www.merging.com
IZOTOPE RX6 iZotope RX 6 introduces new features for post production users such as lav mic de-rustle, dialogue isolation and low-end wind rumble removal. It also includes technology to solve music recording problems like microphone bleed, sibilance, mouth clicks and breaths. www.izotope.com
AHEAD OF THE GAME Charles Pateman is a sound designer at British video game developer Creative Assembly, and has previously worked on a number of award-winning titles. Here, he discusses how working in audio for games diﬀers from linear media
locked picture and often features you thought were ﬁnalised are not so ﬁnal after all. This is commonly through review or iteration, but every so often it’ll be an amendment by an eager developer with a perfectionist streak, which will upend your work. Communication and relationships with other disciplines are critical to dealing with these issues. In games, we have the opportunity to develop these relationships and improve understanding of our craft across the wider team.
The Roles That We Play
udio production in games development is unique amongst its older more established peers. Whilst some parallels can be drawn with post production, its interactive nature turns things inside out and upside down. The key diﬀerence? We are developers and not a service. Games are an iterative process and production cycles can run for periods of three years or more, during which the narrative and style can radically evolve. Being in the central development team means we’re part of that evolution and it increases our inﬂuence on the creative process; opportunities for collaboration are enormous and savvy sound designers are proactive enough to exploit this. During pre-production, we’re tasked with conducting essential groundwork; planning ﬁeld recording excursions and developing a palette of sound, creating previsualisations and audio concepting and devising the tools, workﬂows and systems we’ll need to create and implement the enormous volume of content each project requires. In this industry, our early involvement in a project becomes necessity. Throughout production, we work alongside programmers, designers, writers, artists and animators and have an opportunity to inﬂuence their work as they do ours. In games, audio touches almost every discipline and this is especially true of narrative. Dialogue production is our responsibility and with no director in the traditional cinematic sense, our ability to inﬂuence narrative can exceed that of linear media. Working in a development environment is not without its challenges. There’s no such thing as a
Team sizes and composition vary between companies and projects, but will often scale throughout production, and outsourcing and contracting freelancers is common. There will always be a core team and the Creative Assembly console team currently comprises a lead sound designer, two seniors, a senior audio programmer, a sound designer, an associate sound designer and audio QA specialists. Specialisation of roles does exist in games - evident with the dialogue engineers and music designers on our Total War team - but sound designers are usually proﬁcient generalists. We need to be able to tackle anything thrown our way including ﬁeld recording, shooting Foley, and working to picture as well as having some technical skills, implementing our own content and ﬁxing bugs. Audio programmers are an essential component of our team, but aren’t necessarily found at every studio. Working on features which require code support, bug ﬁxes, developing tools and even plugins for middleware; they tackle the more technical challenges in code which sound designers cannot ﬁx in the game engine’s toolset and audio middleware. While Audio QA aren’t as common in the games industry as they arguably should be, it’s a role I’m happy to say we have at Creative Assembly. QA play an essential role in games and specialists who understand the intricacies of audio as well as the speciﬁcs of implementation are critical to creating a mix which will stand up to the stresses the player might put it through.
Designing Something That Mixes Itself How games are mixed had long been a mystery to me before entering the industry. The mix happens in real time during gameplay, so how can it be done competently when you yield control to the player and the game unsupervised?
It isn’t necessarily about what we can control though, it’s about what we can harness. A game can produce oodles of data during gameplay and this is what we use to drive mix decisions. The distance between an object and the camera will drive volume attenuation, dynamic EQ or apply ﬁltering. Priority systems can dictate what sounds play and which are culled and the number of a particular object on screen at one time could dictate whether an individual or group sound is played. With content added throughout production, regular mix passes are required and in this sense the nonlinear nature of games is reﬂected in workﬂows. You can ﬁnd some parity with post production workﬂows in content creation, but only on a micro scale. Each game feature has its own little production life cycle; from concept to design to art to animation to VFX to audio and review. This isn’t to say that everything is developed in isolation as what matters is how features work in context with everything else, not just creatively but technically too. The limitations of the intended platform or the consequences of a game mechanic may force you to make tough decisions about your designs, but I ﬁnd that this is where some of the best creativity happens. Maybe I’m just weird, but for me the constraints are part of the appeal and I like a technical challenge as much as a creative one especially where the two meet.
Charles Pateman is a sound designer at Creative Assembly who has worked on titles including Halo Wars 2 and Total War: Warhammer II, part of the multi-awardwinning Total War franchise. www.creative-assembly.com
THE MODERN SAGE
Gordon Raphael is the producer behind The Strokes’ iconic debut album Is This It. Now based in Berlin, he’s gearing up for the release of his solo album, Sleep On The Radio, out on London-based Zero Hours Records in February 2018. Here, Raphael tells Murray Stassen about his Seattle grunge days, recording The Strokes and what he’s up to now...
INTERVIEW fter Is This It came out, it got really good reactions, but it also got a lot of press saying, Whoever produced this didn’t know what the hell they were doing,” says Gordon Raphael, over the phone from his studio in Berlin. “This is really poorly recorded, why is this music getting any attention at all. It just sounds like garbage,” he continues, recalling things he read about The Strokes’ seminal album, which he produced in his New York City studio, Transporteraum. “There was a lot of press about the quality of the sound,” he concludes. “But I had a great sense of joy about this, because something that I had worked on was being discussed and I could feel more love than hate. People were going crazy for it all over the world and the tours were successful and the press was everywhere.” Released in July 2001, Is This It was made at a time that has now been lauded as New York’s rock and roll renaissance, with The Strokes at the forefront of a rock revival following a period of stagnation in the genre in the late ‘90s. Raphael was the man behind the console for what is arguably one of the most important albums of the 2000s (No.2 on Rolling Stone’s 100 best albums of the 2000s, conceding the No.1 spot to Radiohead’s Kid A) and its follow up, Room On Fire. The band’s low-ﬁ aesthetic, distinctive driven vocal sound (achieved with an Avalon preamp) and astute observational lyrics about modern life in a sprawling urban environment reverberated with a generation on the cusp of the internet age. “Bands that played guitar were looked upon like relics,” says Raphael. “The least popular form of music and the form of music that was going out of style the fastest both in London and in New York in 1998-2000 was rock music. “It was becoming antique. People were tired of it. “When I saw these young guys playing guitars, I had two thoughts. Why would kids nowadays be thinking about this kind of music? The second thought was, These poor guys were just born in the wrong era. Everybody knows that if you have an electric guitar and a leather jacket, no record label is going to take you seriously.” In this interview, Gordon Raphael tells AMI about releasing his new album, how he came to be one of the most influential figures from the 2000s New York music scene and what equipment he used to record The Strokes...
Can you tell me about when you were just starting to play music in Seattle and learning how to record? I had a really close affinity with rock music from the time I was a young teenager. I worked at it for at least a decade in the Seattle scene when there was nothing going on. There were a lot of really cool bands but there was no infrastructure. There were maybe two clubs in the whole city where you could play original music one night a week and there were like 60 people interested .They would come to every gig and it was really fun. You couldn’t make a record and you couldn’t tour, but there were a lot of incredible bands and I met a lot of really great musicians. I then got to be part of the Seattle scene in the glory days when everybody who
had an electric guitar was offered a record deal. I was in a band and we got signed and got a publishing deal and got to tour around the US a lot and even to Japan and Canada. What made you move to New York after that? I moved to New York twice. I moved there when there was nothing much going on in Seattle. I actually had a recording studio in a church, but it burned down one day under mysterious circumstances in 1986. I had an opportunity after some friends said, Oh, you lost all your equipment, why don’t you come out to New York and we’ll let you use our studios. I moved to NY with my girlfriend. At that time, everybody knew that if you wanted to get something done as a professional in the United States , you needed to be in either New York or Los Angeles. I moved to New York in 1986 and I thought, Ok I’m getting closer to the music industry and when they hear my crazy songs that I’ve been developing for all these years in Seattle, they are going to love me and I’m going to be really popular and get a record deal. That did not work out and eventually I had to go back to Seattle. When I went back there, luckily it was just in time for the grunge period so I actually got a record deal. But when Kurt [Cobain] killed himself and Sound Garden broke up, it really felt like, Ok this thing is over. I didn’t want to go back to just a sleepy ﬁshing village so I was in a band with a really amazing singer called Anna Mercedes and our band was called Absinthee. We decided to move to NY to try take advantage of the momentum we had. I got a really cool studio called Chataeu Relaxo and started accidentally becoming a producer for other bands. People were asking you to record them? I got the studio in New York specifically to work on my songs and my music with Absinthee. I was hitting a financial [slump] and all the money made during the grunge era from publishing deals and touring and record deals was now gone. My expenses in Seattle were $150 for renting a whole basement of a house and where I had my studio and that was all. When I went to New York, I paid $900 a month to sleep on a lady’s couch in her office in the village and then another $700 a month to rent the day shift at a recording studio. I went from $150 outgoing to $1,600 outgoing just by flying across the country one day. Within a year I was like, I’m kind of at zero and I don’t know what to do. Maybe my music run is over and just at that time a really cool musician named Pamela Lars had heard about me through a mutual friend and said, I hear you know how to record stuff. I want you to record my band, and then her band told another band and pretty soon I had a job recording bands and producing music. How did you end up meeting and producing The Strokes? On January 1, 2000 I opened my second studio, which was called Transporterraum. My band Abinsthee was still going strong. We were having a rehearsal and I told our bass player that I really wish that we could meet a booking agent, because I wanted to play better shows than we were playing at the time. He brought a young woman who was a booking agent named Kerri Black down into our practice room and she listened to our music and said, I can book your band, I’m December 2017
INTERVIEW hosting a little club night at the Lunar Lounge on Ludlow Street. We are having two bands and one of them might need a producer. I wanted to see what she did and I wanted to check out the scene. I always went to Lunar Lounge anyway. It was free shows seven nights a week and you would see three bands a night. The Strokes were the second band on the bill and I didn’t think they were great, but at the same time I thought they were interesting. I wanted to keep my studio going so I gave them my business card and told them I had a studio three blocks from there. They gave me a call and a couple of days later they came by and we did an EP. Actually we did a three-song demo. That was my deal. Three songs in three days, start to finish with a mix and it was supposed to be a demo to get them into the next level clubs - the ones that weren’t free admission. That demo became The Modern Age EP and it got signed by Rough Trade. They didn’t remix it and they didn’t do any changes. It was just the way it was after the three days. What were you hoping to achieve with the sound of Is This It and how did you record it? A lot of the sound for the first album was largely based on the sound of the EP. Even though I had a fairly good studio, I still only had eight inputs. I had a digital interface that Pro Tools made. So at any given time, I could only use eight microphones. So the first EP we did was done with only eight microphones going at the same time when I recorded the whole band. And that was something I got used to and it sounded fine to me. I liked that sound and they liked that sound. Even before we got together to record the EP, I went
I ﬁnished micing up all the guitars and the bass, I think there were three mics left over for drums. One thing I always insisted on, even if I only had seven mics on their instruments, was a room mic, because I loved the way that the room mic would just pic up general unusable chaos. The big advancement on the album was that I borrowed another eight-input interface, but I only used two inputs on it. I wanted to have one more drum mic and I wanted to have something else. I just wanted to have a little bit more power, so we went from eight microphones to say nine and then we would add another one for the live vocal. And the vocal wasn’t done at the same time as the music in those recordings. I read that Julian’s vocals were recorded through a Peavey practice amp, is that correct? I had a little Peavey keyboard amp that I used and I put Julian through that and hoped that it would go into the room mic somehow. But after one or two takes of that he said, Nah, this is no fun for me, I don’t want to sing this way. I can barely hear myself. This isn’t how I want to do my vocals. To be honest, I think on the EP version of the Modern Age, there’s probably one line that’s coming from the Peavey practice amp that made the cut. But every song after that and every song on the album was done with a Audio-Technica AT4033A condenser microphone and an Avalon VT-737 SP preamp and that’s all. There are hardly any plugins or EQ [on the vocals after that. What you hear is the sound that we actually got.
“The Strokes were in my studio and Julian Casablancas said, You know what everyone else is doing? That’s what we don’t want to do” Ok, I’m a producer, I’m actually interested. What do you guys want to do here? What kind of sound are you looking for? That’s the first question I ask anybody I want to work with. The Strokes were in my studio and Julian [Casablancas] said, You know what everybody is doing these days? Whatever that is, that’s what we don’t want to do. When I heard those words it created an instant artistic direction for me. In 2000, Pro Tools was really coming into its own and tape recorder studios were going out of business. Pro Tools was just taking over and the producers loved it because you could put 64 tracks of audio on a song instead of just 24. When they said that, I thought, Ok, I’ll tell you what people aren’t doing these days. Just go in that room and play your music. I’ll set up eight microphones and that’s the song. What mics did you use and how did you place them? I had a few good microphones. I think the best microphone was an Audio Technica. I might have had a Neumann KM 84 that someone gave me and I had a couple of ribbon mics, Beyerdynamic stuﬀ and some Sennheiser MD 421s and some Shure SM57s. I would just stick two microphones pointed at a speaker, like an SM57 or a 421. By the time 18
It sounds a little distorted, is that just from the gain on the preamp? The percentage of distortion was an interesting topic, which came about during the very first vocal recording I did. Julian said, I hope you can get me a good vocal sound. I was very sure of myself, and said, Oh I will get you a really cool sound. What I had been working on for the past ten years was this form of music I lovingly called industrial music and the bands I was listening to, like Skinny Puppy from Vancouver Canada had vocals that were distorted in a nuclear blast way. I got this nuclear devastation sound that I wanted to show him. He did a few lines, and then came in to talk to me and said, That sounds like shit. I hate that sound. He said, You know how your favourite jeans aren’t new and they don’t have holes in it? Imagine that scenario. So I was thinking, your favourite jeans; they’re not new, that means it’s not clean and it means they’re not ripped to shreds. They’re somewhere in the middle. So I turned my knob from like 10 to four-and-a-half and he tested the mic and he said, Yeah, just like that. And that is the sound that stayed on the EP and the first two albums to the T. I think they even bought an Avalon VT-737 SP preamp and took it on tour and they might still do.
What was it like around that time from your perspective once you and The Strokes started to get so much attention? Were you hoping to pursue a career as a producer oﬀ the back of the success of that album? I think I knew and the band knew that something was happening while we were making that album. Not while we were making the EP, certainly not. It was just a band making a demo in lonely New York trying to get ahead. They didn’t know if the demo was going to turn out any good. I didn’t know if I would ever hear from them again. That was the spirit of the demo. They started getting press and had huge things going on in the media even without being signed in the US. By the time they were in my studio, even by the time they started the album without a US deal, we had this feeling that the whole world was listening and they were waiting for this record. There were journalists and record label people from the UK and in New York in my basement studio. I had never recorded a band with a guy from the NME standing by taking notes, or the guys from Rough Trade sitting there watching me. So yeah, I thought that with the success of the album, I was probably going to get a lot of requests to work and also I could get attention for my own music. I thought that I would get money and fame and popularity and friends. Those things were definitely on my mind. How diﬀerent was the recording of the second album? There were a lot of diﬀerences. The ﬁrst album was made in a basement studio that had a modicum of good gear and it had a few good preamps, a few good microphones and some normal microphones. By the time the second album was made I was living in London and I didn’t have a studio in New York anymore, but I had recorded a wonderful artist
Gordon Raphael in his Berlin studio. Photo : Hannes Bieger
called Regina Spektor at TMF Studio. I remember it being a really fun place to work, so I told The Strokes, Hey, I don’t have a studio, but this studio sounds good. They said, Ok, We’ll go there, but would you decorate it to make it look like your old studio please? Because we really like your style of environment. So I actually hired the same people that did design work in my studio. It’s a place called Bear Creek Studio in Seattle. They ﬂew out to New York and made purple velvet curtains and all kinds of decorations so that it had the same feeling as my studio. But TMF was a multi-million dollar studio, with a giant SSL board and many good microphones and a huge room. So there were some technical diﬀerences about that record and there was also a huge diﬀerence in the psychology and the musicianship of the band. By the time I got them at TMF Studio they had been touring for two years solid around the world. They played me Room On Fire from beginning to end as a live band in the studio, I went, Oh my god, when did you get so good? And speciﬁcally Fab’s (Fabrizio Moretti) drumming had stepped up and also Nick Valensi just became oﬀ the charts as a lead guitarist on that record, in terms of the solos, the rhythm of it and the dexterity involved in that. My jaw just dropped. They were like this basement group last time I saw them and now they are like Led Zeppelin junior. Could you talk to me about the music you are making at the moment? You’re writing and producing it yourself, but would you ever consider working with another producer? I certainly would not be opposed to working with another producer. I don’t know if any other producers would be interested in my music. I’ve had a very strange musical career, because even though I have
been going my whole life, I have very little contacts in the music industry. No famous musician in the whole world or record label has ever called me to record an album. I’ve only worked with kids who were unsigned. Even The Strokes and Regina Spektor were that way. No one has really called me up. It’s not like Brian Eno or any great producer is going to go, Ah man, I really want to work with Gordon Raphael, he makes the coolest music. I’m in like a little island of my own. Are you planning on releasing anything else this year or next year? I’ve been slowly releasing singles from my album. It is supposed to come out in its entirety on February 9, 2018. I’m hoping to do some European tours and play some shows around that. That’s as far as my planning goes. Right now I have a number of bands in diﬀerent cities that want me to do everything from mixing to recording to production, so I’m balancing my own music and the production side so that things can keep going harmoniously on both levels. Are you self-releasing your album? I am fortunate that I have a friend of mine who has a small label in London. He’s releasing it. The label is called Zero Hours. He’s so far gotten me onto the BBC 6 Music with Tom Robinson for an hour, playing my music and playing a bunch of other productions. Three diﬀerent DJs on 6 Music have played my song a couple of times and so the label is actually doing a good job for me right now and I am very happy to have the outside help. December 2017
...is the producer behind the likes of Royal Blood’s No.1 second album How Did We Get So Dark?, Slaves’ Are You Satisﬁed? Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes’ new single Spray Paint Love and last but not least, he’s one of the producers on U2’s new album Songs Of Experience. Here, he tells Murray Stassen about his approach to production and what it’s like working with Bono and The Edge…
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// came into this through a completely musical point of view,” says Jolyon Thomas, when I ask him how he became a producer. “I was a drummer originally and then I just met a lot of musicians and started working with people and got into loads of different types of music. I did a lot of things before anyone called me a producer.” Thomas studied classical music at college, and his musical knowledge and experience of playing in bands has helped inform his hands-on approach to producing, which often sees him playing various instruments on sessions or co-writing. “I’m musically aware,” he says, which is clear from his co-writing credits with the likes of Slaves, and guitar and keyboard credits on U2’s new single featuring Kendrick Lamar.
“I wasn’t so in tune with studio stuff at first,” he continues. “That happened later. But then it became immediately exciting. I started recording people off the back of my band, because people just heard that and were like, it sounds wicked, will you do our demo? Then suddenly I was a producer, to cut a long story short. “Luckily I’m in the position where I now choose [what to work on] and I’ve had a couple of good bits here and there. I’ve had a really good run.” A good run is probably a bit of an understatement. Thomas has producer, co-writer, mixer and engineer credits on Slaves’ acclaimed, Mercury Prize-nominated 2015 album Are You Satisifed? And in June this year, Royal Blood’s second album How Did We Get So Dark? - which he recorded and produced at Belgiums’ ICP studios, hit No.1 in the UK.
December sees the release of U2’s fourteenth studio album Songs Of Experience, which Thomas helped to produce alongside Jacknife Lee, Ryan Tedder, as well as Steve Lillywhite and Andy Barlow. Here, ahead of the release of that album, Thomas tells Audio Media International how to produce a hit record…
Does being a good producer and a good musician go hand in hand? For me it does, but there are diﬀerent kinds. You’ve got musical producers, like myself, people who are very musical, who can play and understand. If you play a chord progression, I could tell you what it is. I could say, Oh why don’t you move the third or the ﬁfth? I could speak in that lexicon. Then you get producers who are non-musical
PRODUCER PROFILE producers, who are much more engineer producers. For me it is really important, because most of the time I am pretty musically involved. If I’m not playing on it, I am potentially writing.
Do you want to come in and work on the album? They really liked stuff I had worked on, like Slaves for example and the rawness of that. They thought it was recorded in a cool way. There are different producers on the album, as I mentioned, so I think I bring a lot more of the youthful energy and...
How do you choose the projects you work on? If I start talking to someone, or someone comes my way through whatever avenue, I first of all ask, Can I benefit this music? Can I bring something to the table? Sometimes you think, No, I don’t really think I can. It’s not that I don’t like it. There are many reasons why. I don’t ever assume that I know what the artist wants. You have so many experiences with people in the studio and some of them aren’t always positive for many reasons. So, I hope that when I come to it, I come to it with a positive energy and I don’t assume anything.
I’ve just heard U2’s new song, Get Out of Your Own Way... can you talk about that? That was one of the first songs I worked on with the band. Bono and I did a demo of it first. It’s actually produced by myself and Ryan Tedder and I think some other people might have some credits on there, but essentially it’s me and Ryan Tedder. I’m also credited with playing guitar on the track because that melody in the chorus was something that Bono and I came up with quite early on. That really stuck, even though this track has gone through a few different versions as it always does with U2 and a few different versions is an understatement. That’s kind of how they work, always
Punk rock? A little bit of that, yeah. They mentioned that before, like Jolyon is more on the rock side. Ironically, of the songs that they ended up using on the album, my ones have a lot of Euphoric feeling about them. The opening of (Get Out Of Your Own Way) I made on my iPad. It’s all just my voice that I sampled. I made this sort of euphoric, reverb sound and some of the other tracks on the album have this sort of euphoric kind of situation going on. So I don’t know if my songs are that punk rock, but the energy of them may be, I hope. And also this song and another song both have Kendrick Lamar on them.
What is it like working with Bono and The Edge? Fun. They are just really nice people and really cool. They are also quite sharp witted. So you can give a lot and they give a lot back. And of course, they know what they are doing in the studio. They’ve obviously made a shit load of hit records and they know what they are talking about. So you can be very open, because if you come up with any ideas, or play a guitar part, they will be open to the idea. They will listen and give it a try. So from that perspective it really gives you freedom to
“U2 know the amount of input that producers have on a record. They get it.” trying different ideas out. They might go off at a tangent and go, Let’s make it acoustic or let’s make it electronic, or let’s make it half time. It gets quite experimental. That’s what’s fascinating about working with them. They are really into production and they are really into producers. They always credit producers for having a big input in their songs, which after doing it, I’ve experienced. All the U2 albums are made over about two years, so I would dip in and out. That was one of the very first one I worked on at the very beginning when I first met them. It was probably two years ago when I did the first version. All I remember is coming up with that melody with Bono. It was just me and him. I was playing guitar, he was singing. The first version of it I played every instrument on it. Just writing and demoing around the vocal he had.
How did you end up working with them? Like I said, they are really interested in production and producers. They know who has done what. So if they hear a record that they really like, they will know who has produced it. They’re not stupid. They know the amount of input producers have on a record. They get it. They know what they are doing. I heard a rumour that U2 had brought me up in a conversation. I was like, Amazing, that’s a really good compliment. A week later, Bono rang me up on my phone, like, Hey, it’s Bono. I was like, alright mate? And he just said,
express yourself. They are a great band, which goes without saying. And going back to the boundaries thing, they don’t have any. Of course they have a good budget, so there is no boundary there, but that of course brings the problem that you can end up making a record forever, which is something they have battled with. There have been numerous times where they say it’s being released, then it’s delayed another year or something, but ultimately the freedom means that you can be experimental and have a laugh and try things and do stuff that you couldn’t necessarily do if you had three days in the studio. And also, through all of that, they still have the punk aesthetic. All the vocals are done with an SM58 in a room. For The Edge’s guitar sound, you stick a mic on the cab and you hit record. There’s nothing fancy. You just come in the room, stick a mic on it and get on with it. So if any engineer asks, How did you get that sound, you just stick an SM58 in front of the source. There is no other answer.
What about outboard? Minimal. You’re writing a song as you’re going along, so there’s no time for that stuﬀ, really. Of course there’s little pieces I had going on, but nothing really worth mentioning. Most of the sound came from the Edge and out of his amp. I did lots of stuﬀ with my synths and pedals and all of that, but nothing that ‘engineer-nerdy’ December 2017
PRODUCER PROFILE Could you talk to us about the rooms you recorded in and your choice of microphones? I did it at ICP Studios and I ended up putting all the guitar amps in a room, which is next to the control room and arguably the smallest room, but it’s actually got quite a high ceiling and it has parquet ﬂoors. It’s the piano room, so it’s kind of reverberant. It’s not a dead room. I think there was a Neumann U87 in there, which was used for backing vocals. It wouldn’t have been that worked out, it was just there. I don’t really use condenser mics very often, which I’ve discovered recently. But I think it would have been a Neumann U87 for Royal Blood. We might have changed stuﬀ around though. I normally set stuﬀ up in zones, so that mic might be the room mic, but then I’ll use it for backing vocals and I’d use it for tambourines and handclaps etc. I wouldn’t use ten diﬀerent mics for diﬀerent things. I prefer to just say, Ok, that mic is going to do loads of things, rather than having too many options. Options are great, but sometimes they’re a bit too distracting. Also, all the amps were gated. So I would run gates before the guitar, in between the pedals and the amp and gates in between the DIs. So every time he stopped playing, they’re not edits in Pro Tools, so there is still a bit of amp hum in there. It was all being done in real time. I don’t know how many gate pedals we used, but it was a lot.
What is your own studio set up like? I’m afraid. There was no time. You’d literally walk in the room and be like, We’re recording a guitar, OK ﬁne, SM58, let’s go. That’s it. DI, go. Mic, in hand. There’s not a mic stand around so chuck it on the sofa, and Bono pick it up. I think that’s still cool that they are doing that stuﬀ now. It gives quite a fresh approach. We weren’t recording things in a sterile way. That’s not the sound ultimately.
You worked with Royal Blood on their second album. How did it feel when IT went to No.1? Amazing. It’s definitely good to get that under your belt. It’s a nice feeling. I was just happy to be honest. They had a successful first album, so there was definitely a lot of pressure to deliver.
How do you normally start an album project? I’d normally start by hearing [a band] play, whether that’s pre production or a gig, or both. I might go see them live to understand how they play together, because often a band is the sum of it’s parts, which is obvious to say, but it’s quite easy to extrapolate it. For example, if you were to multi-track a band, like do the drums ﬁrst, then the bass next and so on, it’s a completely diﬀerent experience from them playing together. So many people are used to doing it that way, but you can actually destroy some elements of the music in the context of a band. So I’d identify those things, like, How does this song sound live and how do they play together?
can you talk us through the recording process? With Royal Blood it was a lot of arrangement, so again musically going through things. What’s the chorus saying and what’s the riﬀ saying? As soon as they add something there is no going back. If you add that extra note in the riﬀ, you’ve ﬁlled up that space. You can’t undo it. So you really have to work on the arrangements. Then recording, gear wise with Royal Blood there are lots of tonal things going on. There are shit loads of diﬀerent sends and eﬀects, although it sounds really simple. There are pretty much no overdubs on the record, as in the guitar. It’s just one bass the whole time, which people don’t believe, but it’s true. We wanted it to be just that riﬀ, or that part. Like, that is the part, commit to it. But in doing that, we had multiple amps. I also had DIs set up. I had a clean DI, a dirty DI. I had a smashed through the desk DI, like a mic amp distorting. I think by the end of it we had about seven DIs for the guitar which all did diﬀerent things. Like the verse would have one sort of sound and the chorus another and so on. It wasn’t all DI, there are amps as well. There were two guitar amps and two bass amps, so four amps and seven DIs and a couple of room mics. So, I wouldn’t necessarily be EQing very much. It would be more colour coming in, so we would be using the amps, DIs, eﬀects etc. as colour. So if there’s a bright guitar, it’s not been EQd that way, that’s just the way it is pretty much. When it came to the mix, it was the same as the tracking.
I have two studios now. One in Wandsworth and it’s just a mix room - a production room essentially. It’s just one room with a booth. It has an amp in it. It’s more for like mixing and writing sessions and listening, or whatever. there are so many things you need to do before and after the production that it all adds up. I’ve got a fair amount of gear in there considering. I’ve got a Pro Tools HD rig, I’ve got an Avid interface, the new one. I’ve got a couple of channel strips, an Avalon VT-737 SP , I’ve got a Universal Audio 6 176. I quite like valve stuﬀ and ribbons and dynamics. I gravitate to them quite a lot. I’ve got an SSL G bus. I’ve got a couple of Chandler mic amps, which are really good on guitars. I’ve got a Shadow Hills Equinox. I’ve got various speakers, but the ones I’ve got set up are NS10s (Yamaha) and The Rocks from Unity Audio. I’ve done a lot of mixing and I’ve moved towards those because of mixing really. I wouldn’t say they’re like vibe speakers but they are amazing for accuracy. In my line of work, you need good monitors. My studio in Margate is where I live and I have a completely diﬀerent set up here. I’ve basically got two ﬂoating rigs, which can move. So I’ve got Pro Tools HD set up in London and then I’ve got a Universal Audio Apollo set up as well, as a kind of B rig. But I have plugins everywhere so I can move between studios really easily. I also have a lot of things like synths and guitars.,not just mic amps. I’ve got something to put in them. I’ve got a bunch of nice guitars and pedals and synths. I guess that’s more the creative stuﬀ, which is where I’m coming from. December 2017
ow did you ﬁrst get into the industry? I always wanted to pursue a career in the recording industry, and started by looking around at four-year universitys and trade schools. Finally I came to the decision to attend the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, which is based in Tempe in Phoenix. I am from Tucson AZ so it was an easy choice to move to Phoenix and attend school there. After the course I moved to LA, and the ﬁrst job I was oﬀered was an internship at Track Record. I ran and interned for a month and then they hired me full time. I was fortunate to only run for six months total before becoming a full-time assistant. From there I was hired at Conway and I worked there for a year, then ﬁnally to Ocean Way Recording. Ocean Way to me is my home, and the studio where I really learned engineering.
What advice would you oﬀer to someone looking to get into the industry? I was lucky to have a good career path working at diﬀerent studios, and learned so much from working at all of them. If you are smart it’s a good thing to pick up tips and tricks from your clients, and it’s not a bad thing to ask the engineer after the session why he or she likes to work a certain way, or put a particular mic inside the kick drum. It’s also a good thing to study hard, learn your craft, and be ready for when the opportunity comes your way.
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Seven-time Grammy award-winning Darrell Thorp (OutKast, Radiohead, Paul McCartney, Beck) is an American record producer, mixer, and engineer with over 18 years experience and many multi-platinum records to his name. Here, Colby Ramsey speaks to the man who helped record the Foo Fighters’ ninth studio album Concrete and Gold, which hit No. 1 in the US and UK. 24
How did you get involved with the Foo Fighters and was there anything you did speciﬁcally with your recording setup on their album? I was asked by the producer Greg Kurstin to come help record the Foo’s album. Greg and I had worked together on previous projects and I was really excited to get the call. For the Foo’s the idea was to have several drum stations going on. I had to think of a way to set up ﬁve drum kits, with two bass stations, about 20 guitar amps, keyboard station, vocal station, etc. And to ﬁt all this on an 80-input Neve while running 24 track tape for basic recording then dumping into Pro Tools and comp. Ultimately I came up with the idea to have two drum recording chains and patch all the kits across to the particular chain we wanted to use. Then a bass chain,
ENGINEER PROFILE and then a guitar chain for each player, a couple of vocal chains, one for lead and one for backing vocals. Then, using the busses for tape input, then to Pro Tools, worked out really well. What is your favourite piece of gear in the studio? The console. A good console goes a long way in a recording session. Give me a Neve 8028 or 8056. I really love to use the same mic pre-amps and EQ’s for every instrument to record. I find that using a Neve on this, an API on that, and Telefunken on this makes everything feel not quite as powerful.
What has been your greatest personal achievement? Working in the business for 20 years with all the downs we have encountered is a personal achievement. I don’t know how but the phone keeps ringing and the emails keep pinging with more work. When someone wants to make a record with me, I’m honoured, and it’s amazing to say that I do this for a living and have been very successful at it. I still feel like there is more out there for me to accomplish and I keep learning things – that is the best part of my job, I am always learning the craft. Mostly I am learning while getting paid to mix a song
“The Foo Fighters is by far the most fun I have had in the studio” My thought is that by using different pre-amps that have different electronics causes parts to react faster than others. The overall band or drums doesn’t feel like its working together. I might change a bit of EQ with an API 550a on drums, but I’m a big fan of compressing as I record. I usually hit things hard with the compression, -10 to -15db on the bass amp and -10 or more on the lead vocal. If it sounds good, why not!
or track a song. It’s great when I do something I have never thought of before, or something that I have been struggling with as an engineer. Do you have a favourite studio or artist you’ve worked with? I have had the pleasure and the honour of working at some amazing studios. I would say my favourite rooms are Studio 2 at East West and Studio B at United (then Ocean Way). Both rooms have great consoles and the
rooms themselves are eﬀortless to record in. Put up a good mic from the locker, turn up the pre-amp a bit, push the fader up and check your level to tape or Pro Tools; sounds amazing. In terms of artists, there’s too many great ones to name. Bands like Lake Street Dive are insane musicians and great to hang out with. The Foo Fighters is by far the most fun I have had in the studio, plus all the guys are just bad-ass musicians. Sir Paul McCartney is the kindest man on planet earth, and probably one of the most talented all around musicians, while Beck is my favourite songwriter/ lyricist. Switchfoot are great people to be with all day, and are also amazing performers and musicians.
Foo Fighters: Darrell Thorp recorded the band’s No. 1 album, Conrete and Gold.
Prism Sound founder Graham Boswell presenting Re-mixer of the Year at the 2016 MPG Awards
Prism Sound is a manufacturer of professional grade digital audio converters and interfaces for recording studios, broadcast studios and voice logging recorders. Here, AMI discovers how the company has evolved with the times as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// t’s been an interesting year for Prism Sound. It’s not often that a manufacturer gets the chance to reﬂect on three decades in the pro audio business, a privilege usually reserved for those with the most respected, reliable oﬀerings. Since Graham Boswell founded the company in 1987, teaming up with Ian Dennis two years later following a stint in digital product development at Neve, Prism Sound audio interfaces have been used by countless professional artists and studios worldwide, continually evolving alongside the audio industry in truly eclectic fashion. “I never in my wildest dreams thought we’d be going for 30 years and it’s been quite a journey,” says Boswell.
“In the early 90’s we started making products, and we found that to be something we enjoy doing that was also commercially quite successful.” Prism Sound nowadays, as many may be aware, is very much focused on two main areas: professional recording products, and tools for test and measurement. Yet, the company has dabbled in many diﬀerent areas over the years, providing mobile recording systems to the military and supplying recorders for intelligence and police purposes to various governments around the world. “We’ve actually slimmed down the business a bit, and it’s been a year of focusing on the things we’re best at – making the very best audio interfaces in the world,
and by that I mean the most transparent,” reveals Boswell. “We’ve always been utterly anal about quality with our interfaces, and the customer base for them has hugely expanded with the changes in the music industry in recent years.” The company certainly seems to be renewing its eﬀorts to bring new products to the market, the next announcement of which will be made early next year regarding its existing product line-up, along with developments in other areas of the business. This past year on the other hand has seen the introduction of Callia, Prism Sound’s ﬁrst hi-ﬁ product for the home audio market based on the same technology as its Lyra and Titan interfaces.
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// The company has also stepped up a gear in terms of its testing and measurement oﬀerings with the introduction of 17025 calibration, which is especially important in industries like automotive. “We’ve got an extremely competitive product which is full of clever
Prism Sound’s sales and marketing manager, Jody Thorne, believes that the industry is currently going through a renaissance period, whereby many high proﬁle clients are coming on board with so-called ‘legacy’ products.
“I like to think we’re one of the pro audio industry’s best kept secrets” features and capabilities which is used by many of our big tech and pro audio clients worldwide,” says Boswell. “We now provide this very high level of conﬁdence in the accuracy of our measurements with this certiﬁcate.”
“ADA-8XR has been around for ten years and that’s a testament to the build quality and design infrastructure of that particular unit,” states Thorne. “The likes of Eminem have bought them in the last
12 months for his new studio, and people still say it’s one of the best sounding and flexible products on the market.” The company is considering delving further into markets like the US, where there is signiﬁcant room for growth and an opportunity to take the business to the next level. “People trust our integrity and professionalism and that’s why we’ve been around for 30 years. I like to think we’re one of the pro audio industry’s best kept secrets,” says Thorne. “We’ve gained that respect from people in the industry, whether it be students or professionals working in major recording facilities and organisations. “We try to align ourselves with people that have our values and ethos at heart, like the Music Producers Guild (MPG). We’ve been headline sponsors of the awards for many years and have had a great partnership with them, which will undoubtedly continue.” Meanwhile, the company has now been running its Mic to Monitor tour for a total of eight years, an event that gives attendees a deep insight into the technology and performance of the essential components in a recording setup. “From our point of view, it’s about getting the message out there that it’s worth doing the job right,” says Boswell, also reﬂecting the company’s strong presence at the recent AES Convention in New York, where it marked its 30th anniversary by showing its full range of audio interfaces and converters. “It’s a very important forum for the industry and for us to be associated with.” Three decades in pro audio has not been without its hurdles however. With the industry ﬂipped on its head by the ‘gig economy’ and the analogue to digital revolution, Prism Sound has had a lot to contend with, and it has done so lucratively. The company’s most popular product, the ADA-8XR, bridged a time when people were ﬁrst using Pro Tools as a tape machine replacement, to the point when it became an audio interface with an AES option. “We’ve now supported three generations of Pro Tools on the same product line, moving away from FireWire and towards USB as a solid, ubiquitous interface choice that’s not going anywhere,” explains Boswell. “There’s no other company that makes high-performance audio gear and sells measurement gear to its peers and competitors at the same time, which we will continue to do. We’re also keeping an eye on networked audio as there’s some interesting developments going on there in terms of AES67 and Dante.” “One of the things we’re looking to do is a full-day Mic to Monitor event at Strongroom Studios in December as a culmination of our year, so we’ll have done two tours in America and numerous Mic to Monitor dates throughout Europe,” concludes Thorne. “Getting the Prism Sound name out there and educating people on who we are and what we do is our priority.” www.prismsound.com
COMPANY PROFILE Prism Sound at 30: Audio pros tell us how and why they use the company’s products to enhance their workﬂows...
Eric Boulanger The Bakery, LA “Being a mastering studio – particularly in vinyl mastering – we employ the Lyra 2 for our vinyl QC/measurement rig, which is of paramount importance to our competitive edge. With the Lyra 2, we can directly interface with SADiE and the ﬁrst generation masters feeding our vinyl lathe. With Lyra’s low noise and high quality preamps, we can measure both ﬂat, and with RIAA de-emphasis in order to calibrate our lathe to perfection. The thing I like best about Lyra is its seamless integration with SADiE 6, our primary DAW for masters. “Congratulations Prism for 30 years of pioneering and the passionate pursuit of excellence. I’m proud to have been a beneﬁciary of this pursuit for the last 10 years, of which I’ve been an avid SADiE user.”
Ian Wallman Pro7ect “I’m currently using the Prism Sound Atlas. My production work with Pro7ect takes me to a variety of ‘non studio’ environments, and the core concept of Pro7ect is to have ‘creative spaces in amazing places’. “The Atlas oﬀers both fantastic conversion and ﬂexibility from a larger number of inputs all in a compact and sturdy unit. I love the ubiquitous USB connectivity and powerful software, which has been 100% stable, and critical for the type of work that we do.”
David Stewart British Grove Studios “The primary device that we have is the ADA-8XR and we have a total of 24 of them, which we’ve been using for at least ten years, if not more. “At the time when we were starting the studio, we decided the ADA was a superior converter in terms of its transparency, along with the quality of the unit itself. They’ve been very reliable – our units are spread over six recording rigs, and quite often we have very large sessions. Our main rig is 88 I/O, so if we’re printing multiple stems as we may do on a ﬁlm project, we may have to produce seven or eight diﬀerent surround sound stems. The ADA’s are very easy to set up, particularly on our multiple I/O rig. “You can tell that Prism Sound are passionate about their products and want them to be the best available. The proof in this is in the operation; we’ve had many successful albums come out of this studio and the majority have been using the Prism converters.”
Indi Brodley Pro7ect “The number of inputs (two line and two mic) on Prism Sound’s Lyra 2 interface is great for the work that I do as I’m often tracking vocals or a stereo piano, while the aesthetic of the interface is also great for monitoring levels easily. “I personally think the best part of the product is the downloadable Prism Sound USB audio software. It is very user friendly and all the functions for changing the input/output or gains are very easy to ﬁnd.”
FEATURE: IMMERSIVE AUDIO
SPATIAL AWARENESS Steven Boardman, sound designer at Jungle.
Although the term Immersive Audio (or spatial audio) might at ﬁrst glance appear to be a cutting-edge technology, the engineering challenge of trying to place an audience in a three-dimensional acoustic space has a long history and several methods have been used over the years with various amounts of success. Stephen Bennett reports… inaural recording is one early technique, where small omnidirectional microphones are placed in the ‘ears’ of a dummy head that has a similar mass and shape as a human bonce. Multi-microphone techniques, including what has come to be known as Ambisonics, has a long tradition amongst experimenters in sound, as has the use of the many-capsuled SoundField microphone. Various combinations of psychoacoustic and Digital Signal Processing (DSP) eﬀects have been used to simulate ‘surround sound’ from stereo sources, such as the QSound system - which was used on Madonna’s 1990 album, The Immaculate Collection - and Roland’s RSS processor system. The disadvantage of the multi-microphone technique is obvious - you need multi-speaker setups to play back the audio, which is inconvenient for most listeners. Until recently, the limitation of binaural playback was that the listener is forced into using headphones to experience the full
eﬀect - a problem than has resolved itself somewhat with the rise in the use of smartphones and earbud headphones. Whatever technology is used, immersive audio is a growing ﬁeld and some major players are experimenting with various techniques to enhance the listener experience. The potential for computer-based gameplay, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and 3D/360-degree video has spurred on the expansion of creative practices in immersive sound. The BBC has a unique place in British audio with a long history of technical innovation, and the corporation has experimented with binaural recording in the past. I recall my ﬁrst experience of the technique while listening to a binaurally-recorded Sherlock Holmes dramatisation in the 1970s. I was lying on my bed with headphones on when a horse and cab appeared to run right over me. The BBC has continued to work with binaural sound in both radio and visual formats, culminating in a live immersive sound broadcast from the 2016 Proms in London,
UK. Tom Parnell has worked in the studio and on outside broadcasts for BBC Radio for fifteen years, balancing classical music for Radio 3, band sessions for Radio 2 and 6Music, and mixing documentary and speech programmes for Radio 4 and sport for Five Live. More recently he has been working closely with BBC Research & Development, helping to develop tools for producing high quality spatial audio content, creating binaural radio programmes and creating dynamic audio mixes for VR. The Proms are part of a long British broadcasting tradition and you meddle with these production formats at your peril, so why did Parnell feel the time was right for an ‘Immersive Proms’? “BBC R&D and BBC Radio 3 were keen to oﬀer a live binaural stream from the Royal Albert Hall, optimising the production process and basing it on the music mix crafted by Radio 3’s dedicated sound engineers,” he says. According to Parnell, in the past recordings were only possible using in-ear or dummy head microphones
FEATURE: IMMERSIVE AUDIO
Chris Turner, sound designer and creative director at Jungle.
which oﬀered limited creative potential. But now, DSP techniques exist which can ‘binauralise’ any mono, stereo or multi-channel audio recording. “This allows us to pan audio in any position around the listener’s head when they are listening on headphones,” he adds. “This approach oﬀers much more freedom when recording and more creative control when crafting immersive audio mixes in post-production.” In Soho, London, Jungle Studios, who specialise in sound design and music for advertising, promotion and broadcast have also been bitten by the immersive audio bug, with clients including Standard Chartered and Liverpool FC. “Immersive sound is, for us, sound that’s perceived to be all around the listener, including above and below,” says Steven Boardman, part of the Jungle Studios tech team, specialising in R&D for immersive sound. Jungle have delivered their immersive audio technology for some unique applications. “After ten years of research, I’ve designed a room that houses a full sphere 31 speaker array with four subs which create the perfect environment for immersive audio,” says Boardman. He says that one example of the use of this technology is via speaker array that allows video-based discussions to take place inside an immersive soundﬁeld. When the video is rotated the soundﬁeld rotates too. As you can imagine, this type of remote networked
communication system has the potential to improve the quality of engagement for attendees at virtual meetings and, consequently the environment too. Contemporary immersive audio techniques build on past developments, as Boardman explains: “The techniques we use are not proprietary and as they are based on sound physics and psychoacoustics, they will continue to work way into the future. They are also format exclusive, non-dependent on playback system, and totally down mix / up mix compatible. This means all past and future formats are catered for within one system. It is open ended and allows audio to be upgraded to any future resolutions easily, with very little re-mixing.” Parnell says that the cutting edge in immersive audio is combining binaural technology with tracking data, so that as one moves ones head the sound ﬁeld seems to stay in position. “This works by rendering in real-time the source material into the headphones in order to compensate for the head movements as the listener ‘explores’ the sound world around them, much like looking around a 360-degree video,” he adds. Ambisonic recording has been in use since the 1970s, and Jungle say they have improved on the techniques used in the past. “We cater for Ambisonics at high resolutions,” says Boardman. “This is a bit of a buzzword right now, with Facebook, YouTube/
Google, HTML5 and every HMD jumping on the bandwagon.” Boardman’s colleague Chris Turner, senior sound designer at Jungle, adds that the rise of immersive audio has been driven by VR, AR and 360 video applications and the need to match audio to the visual. “If you have a beautiful full sphere of visual objects that respond to head movements, then the audio needs to match this too. When all of the senses are aligned, then we are truly immersed in the scene, and only then does it become believable.” Jungle are also experimenting with a technology called Spatial PCM Sampling (SPS). “This has the ability to carry more spatial resolution per channel than Ambisonics,” says Boardman. “Its point source rendering is more accurate and it has the ability to’ beam in’ on speciﬁc points in space without much bleed. Turner says that Jungle use specialist microphones to capture 360-audio to capture the best immersive sound at source. “We recently recorded A Day In The Life, the story of a fan going to Anﬁeld football ground to watch Liverpool play,” he says. “You hear the entire day as he heard it, and it climaxes with the sound of thousands of fans singing You’ll Never Walk Alone. The experience is incredible and something you could never get with a cheat in post.” Parnell says that a third of BBC Radio audiences now listen using headphones, so it is timely that the December 2017
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FEATURE: IMMERSIVE AUDIO
Neumann’s KU 100 dummy head binaural stereo microphone was used to record A Day In The Life, the story of a fan going to Anfield football ground.
BBC are producing content that is especially suited for this mode of listening. “The main beneﬁt is a more immersive experience - the sense that the sounds are coming from all around you, perceived as coming from outside your head, and with better localisation,” he says. Parnell explains that these attributes all combine to produce a more realistic listening experience - and that preliminary research suggests that binaural sound can even be used to improve speech intelligibility for hearing-impaired audiences. “This new technology is becoming more popular with BBC Radio producers, with binaural radio dramas and live music recordings now regularly in production.” Binaural sound was used for Radio 3’s coverage of the 2017 Cut and Splice festival in Manchester, while the BBC Radio 4 programme Quake presented a series of binaural audio
multiple loudspeaker, and binaural formats, enabling your choice of SOFA ﬁle (Spatially Oriented Format for Acoustics is an industry standard ﬁle format for HRTF sets) to be used in binaural.” Parnell says that the binaural Proms trial has highlighted the beneﬁt that immersive audio can bring to listening to acoustic music, particularly where there is a spatial element to the performance. Concert hall venues are particularly suitable venues for immersive audio, the acoustics being architecturally designed to ﬁll the hall with sound. Using immersive audio technology brings this experience right into the home (or pockets) of the listener. The BBC have gathered some statistics from those who accessed the live binaural stream on BBC Taste where a majority felt that the results were “like being there in person” while a similar majority believed
“When all the senses are aligned, then we are truly immersed in a scene” dramas exploring modern responses to environmental disaster, with one produced in ‘cinematic VR’. The short series Pod Plays have also been specially written to showcase the potential of immersive audio. Parnell says that the BBC R&D audio team has developed an object-based approach to immersive audio, where each sound source is treated as an ‘object’ and manipulated into a 3D position and rendered in a binaural mix with the relevant Head-Related Transfer Function (HRTF) ﬁlter depending where a source is positioned. “This is a very fast-moving area, particularly with regard to audio tools for VR, and there are multiple DAWs and plugins that support 3D panning and/or binaural rendering,” he adds. “For the Proms I used IRCAM’s Panoramix console, which is designed for live 3D music production mixing and can render simultaneous outputs in stereo, Ambisonics,
that Radio 3 should broadcast more binaural sound. “I worked on a project called Cinime a few years ago with Chris,” says Jungle’s Boardman. “This was an interactive advert portal/platform for cinema that allowed users to interact with content on the big screen via the small screen on their smart phones.” Turner says that Jungle are currently working on a project that highlights the lasting eﬀects on children when a parent commits suicide. “It’s a diﬃcult piece to get right and less is proving to be more but even subtle immersive movement within the music and recording the narrators in binaural audio is proving incredibly powerful.” Although immersive audio has long been a feature of both audio and video applications, its use in the ﬁeld of recorded music has been limited and sporadic - however, Jungle think that is about to change. “We’re extremely excited about the prospect
of the music industry getting on board the spatial bandwagon,” says Boardman. “At the moment music presented as immersive audio isn’t common. Its use is generally driven by game engines interactively in realtime and according to game play, while music and nondiegetic audio is usually replayed in plain old stereo”. Boardman feels that music, most of all, can beneﬁt from immersive audio techniques and if presented in this format, will ultimately allow the listener to better connect with the performance. “This is how we hear music live,” he says. “Immersive audio will enable the end-user to customise how they listen to music. In actual fact it will allow them inside the music and allow their ears and brains to choose what and how to listen.” Universal Music Group (UMG) appears to agree and are working with the company Within to create an app that can deliver immersive audio to consumers. Chris Milk, co-founder and CEO of Within believes that music is one of the most uniquely transformative mediums of human expression and that combining it with immersive AR and VR experiences will create a new art form that is more powerful than the sum of its parts. “This partnership with Universal allows us the incredible opportunity to work with top artists at UMG to create ever more meaningful and expressive immersive music experiences,” he says. We’ve come a long way from the early experiments in immersive audio and new technological developments have allowed the audio engineer to obtain great control over placement of sound, the overall acoustic environment and where a listener is placed therein. As VR headsets and the likes of Google Glass become more common, it will present content creators with new creative opportunities and challenges and thus immersive audio is more likely to become more and more a major part of the audience’s everyday audio experience. December 2017
PRODUCT FOCUS IMMERSIVE AUDIO
As virtual reality and mobile technology continue to lead the way for immersive sound experiences, pro audio manufacturer’s are stepping up their eﬀorts to bring 3D audio functionality to users’ ﬁngertips. Here, we look at a selection of the most innovative products on the market designed to put users inside the music…
Allen & Heath dLive The dLive series of mixing consoles from Allen & Heath offers both ease of use and flexibility in system design and operation for live 3D audio experiences. With advanced immersive audio controls built into the system, users can easily fine-tune the precise position of each audio source within the 3D soundscape. dLive excels in low overall system latency, a must-have when creating a phase coherent 3D mix in a large or acoustically complex space. Utilising FPGA technology, dLive’s 96kHz FPGA XCVI processing core contains enough power to deliver 128 full processing inputs and 16 Stereo effects returns, a configurable 64 bus architecture, ‘virtually infinite’ mix headroom (thanks to a 96bit accumulator) and ultra-low latency of 0.7ms. Native surround mixing controls provide comprehensive panning options, including divergence control to isolate main Left and Right from Centre (LCR+). Low frequency effects can be easily controlled via dLive with on-board LFE attenuation and options to fully bypass the main 5.0 mix and feed only to LFE on a per-channel basis when needed.
Key Features Advanced immersive audio controls FPGA technology delivers DEEP processing power Comprehensive panning options Fully transparent workflow
KLANG:fabrik MADI KLANG’s 3D in-ear mixing technology is used by world famous performers, monitor engineers and houses of worship to create natural sounding individual headphone mixes. Its binaural algorithm is optimised for various live sound applications and accompanied by powerful snapshot and scene management. Latest software updates provide easy to use equalisers, while additional remote tools for high end mixing consoles and 3D loudspeaker rendering processors allow for flexible workflows. With an intuitive user interface for PCs, tablets and smartphones, KLANG:fabrik can be used by up to 16 musicians for personal monitoring. For higher processing needs, several units can be controlled simultaneously by the KLANG:app, which provides different views and specific features for musicians and engineers to mix side by side. As well as mixing monitors, the outputs can be used for immersive headphone concerts, live streaming or studio production. In addition to mixing, the unit provides flexible audio routing between ADAT, Dante/ AES67 and MADI. The second MADI port can function as either a second input or as an output.
Key Features 64x64 MADI 64x64 Dante/AES67 Flexible audio conversion between all I/Os 44.1–96kHz
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PRODUCT FOCUS IMMERSIVE AUDIO
Amadeus PMX D Series speakers PMX D Series incorporates a newly refined Dante I/O section, offering options for full integration with leading third-party networking. Audio signals are selectable from one channel of analogue, two channels of AES3 digital, and two dual redundant Dante networked digital inputs, while input signals are individually selectable for each channel. Amadeus is the first company to include Audinate’s Dante technology in a high-end active coaxial speaker range. Each Dante Ethernet RJ-45 network input allows remote control of the PMX D processor for an optimal adjustment via dedicated software to the acoustical properties of the listening space. The software is an app for Mac, Apple iPad and Windows. Each PMX D speaker channel is under control by a powerful, 64-bit digital processing unit capable of a 118 dB dynamic range. Each of these on-board DSP units include
24/96 kHz DSP Class-D Bi-amplification Analogue, AES3 and Dante I/O
a module dedicated to managing core system parameters including system EQ, time alignment between sections, limiting, and transducer thermal protection. www.amadeus-audio.com
Neumann KU 100 dummy head The Neumann KU 100 dummy head is a unique binaural stereo microphone. The design implements two condenser microphones built into the ears of the head in order to replicate human hearing and achieve authentic, true-to-life stereo imagery and field perception. This is called binaural sound; when you listen to a binaural recording through headphones, you perceive distinct and genuine 360-degree sound. The dummy head is also used in many industrial applications as a measuring device, in acoustic research for example. The KU 100 can be operated with typical 48 V phantom powering, or from an external power supply unit, or from the built-in battery. www.neumann.com
Key Features Dummy head for head-related stereophony Pressure transducer with flat diffuse-field frequency response Loudspeaker compatible Transformerless circuitry Switchable 10 dB preattenuation Balanced and unbalanced outputs (XLR and BNC)
Sennheiser AMBEO VR Microphone The AMBEO VR Mic is an ambisonic microphone fitted with four matched KE 14 capsules in a tetrahedral arrangement, which allows capture of the surrounding sound from a single point. As a result, users get fully spherical Ambisonics sound to match their VR video/spherical 360 content, bringing a whole new emotional experience to listeners. The handheld microphone comes complete with a split cable with four colour-coded and labelled XLR connectors according to the capsule position, a Rycote suspension mount and a foam windshield. The elegantly designed AMBEO VR Mic has been developed in cooperation with VR content producers and finetuned through an extensive creators’ program with participants from across the audio and VR communities. The product package includes all the necessary accessories that allow for a smooth workflow – not least the A-B encoder software that works as a plugin, which can be embedded in the post-production process. en-uk.sennheiser.com
Key Features Four matched KE 14 capsules in a tetrahedral arrangement Raw output is converted into Ambisonics B-format Proprietary A-B format encoder, available in VST and AAX plugins Rycote suspension and new 1.5m extension cable included
AUDIOTECHNICA AT5047 Following a high-proﬁle launch event at Real World Studios in Bath, here is AMI’s review of the company’s new condenser microphone
Key Features Custom hard-shell carrying case Frequency response: 20 – 20,000 Hz Maximum input sound level: 148 dB SPL, 1 kHz at 1% T.H.D Advanced internal shock mounting RRP: £3,479 ($3,499) www.audio-technica.com
PRODUCT REVIEW hile some of the major microphone manufacturers constantly relive and revise their past glories, Audio-Technica have often sought to innovate, and the AT5047 under review is a perfect example of this approach. The immediately obvious diﬀerence between the AT5047 and almost all other large-diaphragm condenser microphones is the shape of the capsule. Non-circular transducers are not new and I have looked at those produced by Pearl and Milab in the past - the Swedes appear to be inordinately fond of this rectilinear format - but this is the ﬁrst I’ve looked at from a major player in the microphone industry. Audio-Technica has previous in this regard with their AT5040 model and so the latest microphone is a member of a growing family. There are some advantages to this transducer format that you can easily work out with a bit of geometric arithmetic - you can stick a bit more capsule surface area in your basket and this has a practical impact on the capabilities of the microphone. The AT5047 capsule actually consists of four 2-micron rectangular capsules which, according to Audio-Technica, gives it a combined surface area twice that of a standard one-inch circular diaphragm. This gives the microphone some advantages overcoming troublesome diaphragm resonances and with improved low noise performance. The AT5047 is a transformer-based phantom powered design, something that gives it quite a diﬀerent ‘sound’ to the sibling AT5040. This means that the AT5047’s self-noise level is slightly higher - but at 6dBSPL I’m not complaining. It has a ﬁxed pattern with no pad or low cut ﬁlters - the latter I rarely use these days, preferring to cut rumble in the DAW after the event. The microphone appears immune to entirely loud noises pointed at it - the maximum SPL is 148 dB at 1 kHz with 1% T.H.D. It’s a beautifully built thing of aluminium and brass that weighs in at almost 600g and feels like it will take the slings and arrows of outrageous studio usage with ease. The polar pattern presented by the permanentlypolarised squarial diaphragm is cardioid and like other designs becomes more omnidirectional at lower frequencies. This, of course, makes it very useful for capturing vocals but perhaps less so on more diﬀuse sources. In fact, the AT5047 behaves a little like a shotgun mic in some respects, with a small ‘sweet spot’ and with much lower levels of audio ingress from the back and sides than most cardioid devices. This meant that it was excellent for vocals in my not-so treated space without the use of a rear absorber. The downside of this directivity does mean that this is not a multi-purpose use microphone. You couldn’t use it for X/Y coincident or any spaced stereo recording techniques - though it is ﬁne as the centre microphone for mid-side use, in this case with an AKG 414 in ﬁgure of eight mode. However, this is not a criticism; many microphones are designed for vocal or single instrument use and here the AT5040 shows its mettle.
The speciﬁcation sheet contains a handy polar pattern graph showing how the AT5047’s cardioid nature changes with frequency and my testing demonstrated that it was a good indicator of how it behaves in the socalled ‘real world’. In fact, the polar dispersion has more in common with the 414’s hyper-cardioid pattern, albeit with better oﬀ axis-rejection. It comes in a nice ABS case with the unusual yet useable and robust AT8480 shock mount that provides excellent support and allows the weighty microphone to be easily mounted and removed. Audio-Technica say that the microphone is hand assembled and the discrete component ﬁlled circuit board is neat and well-constructed. Comparison to my eighties and noughties Neumann U87 and mid-nineties AKG 414 demonstrates that the quality of the microphone extends from its build and looks to its sonic abilities. It leans towards the more clinical AKG sound than the Neumanns do, but the lack of any particularly annoying resonances, peaks or intrusive oﬀ axis reﬂections means that it takes compression and equalisation better than most. A brace of these microphones would be wonderful when
hats, toms and snare - the microphone being especially suited to capture delicate and dynamic brush drumming without too much ingress from the cymbals, hats or bass drum. Two AKG 414s and two AT5047s would suit me just ﬁne to record the sound of a natural drum kit. The same qualities made the AT5047 also useful when recording brass instruments, though woodwind did present a few problems. While the sound of the ﬂute captured by the AT5047 was excellent, the natural movement of the player meant that level variations were readily apparent though they were quite mobile! You don’t realise how much musicians move around until you try and record them with a microphone like the AT5047 - and don’t even get me started on what Trombonists do. I even tried the AT5047 as an ad-hoc boom mic and it proved a better bet than my AKG414 in hyper cardioid mode. So the AT5047 is actually quite a versatile microphone - just not always in the applications you’d expect! The microphone is speciﬁed to have a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz with the inevitable fall oﬀ at the high end, but the plot supplied gives a decent indication
“On vocals, the AT5047 captures delicate noises perfectly” recording a string quartet - as long as the performers stay relativity still that is! On vocals it captures delicate noises perfectly - which works better for some singers than others, of course - and, like the AKG 414 is possibly more suited to female voices. The microphone’s ability to withstand a Brünnhilde in full Wagnerian vibrating sonic ﬂight proving invaluable during the review period session as did its low noise when capturing a wispy singer-songwriter - the directionality meant that her guitar spill into the vocal microphone was well controlled. Again, like the AKG414, the AT5047 in general leans towards the bright side of neutral, making it perfect for capturing the natural tone of instruments or environments. The microphone excelled on spoken word, delivering all of the qualities of a good ‘radio’ voice without emphasising undesirable sibilance or nasality in the speaker. In fact, I’d go so far to say that this is the best large-capsule condenser I’ve used in this application and one that can retain these qualities in a less than perfect acoustic environment. I use an Audio-Technica AT4033 as an-outside-the skin-bass-drum microphone which is, if I’m honest, as good as a Neumann U47 FET, so I was keen to see how the AT5047 shaped up to the task. The laser-like directionality was a beneﬁt here as I could point the microphone right where I felt was the best sound from the drum, while the ability to handle high SPL and the extended frequency range also meant that I quickly achieved a decent sound. The natural side and rear acoustic suppression of the microphone meant that pickup from the rest of the kit was reduced. These advantages were also apparent when recording hi
where any troublesome frequencies may lie. The AT5040’s internal shock mounting design is also present in the AT5047 which, Audio-Technica say, decouples the capsule from the microphone body, making the microphone itself pretty immune to footfall, especially when loaded into the neat shock mount. The AT5047 has a 4dB drop in output sensitivity compared to its sister microphone - which is probably a good thing as some preampliﬁers apparently struggled with the AT5040. I threw the AT5047’s signal into the microphone inputs of several audio interfaces and mixers without issue during the testing period. Audio-Technica are not always the ﬁrst name that comes to mind when choosing microphones, yet the company have a strong reputation of innovation and quality, with some of their models outperforming competitors at many times the price. The AT5047 continues this tradition and, if you need to isolate or record low-level audio or just want something that’s diﬀerent in the vocal, instrument or drum mic cupboard, the AT5047 could be the microphone for you.
The Reviewer Stephen Bennett has been involved in music production for over 30 years. Based in Norwich, he splits his time between writing books and articles on music technology, recording and touring, and lecturing at the University of East Anglia.
Alistair McGhee tests out this music production software from Tracktion aveform is the latest incarnation of the software formerly known as Tracktion - if you are an old hand think of Waveform as Tracktion 8. The Tracktion Corporation has a unique vision when it comes to their DAW and in a word that is focus. The aim is to produce a digital workstation totally focused on music production. So out of the box we can say if you are looking for live performance software or ﬁlm scoring features then Waveform is probably not right for you. Musicians and music producers on the other hand - step right in. Focus is also the word that describes Tracktion’s vision for Waveform’s interface, which is a serious attempt to ﬁnd innovative solutions to the challenge of presenting comprehensive control options without overwhelming the user with feature bloat and menu madness. And focus on the code means Waveform runs on Windows, MacOS and Linux and even allegedly a Raspberry Pi - seriously lean and nimble code. I ﬁrst came across Tracktion as a giveaway with a Mackie interface back in version 2 so stepping into version 8 is a radical shakeup for me. While for those who have followed the Tracktion journey Waveform will seem more like evolution. New in Waveform is the mixer panel - previously Tracktion oﬀered mixing at the track ends i.e. in a vertical view but now we have a more conventional mix panel which can be resized or even detached and dragged onto another monitor. I like the fact that you don’t have faders as such but click anywhere under the fader ‘line’ and you eﬀectively grab the control, nice. Alongside the mixer panel - the midi editor is now able to be popped out and dragged to a second screen - which will be a boon to those who have struggled to make precise midi edits in previous versions of Tracktion. In fact Waveform comes loaded with features that aim to make music making easier, more ﬂexible and more musical! Probably the best example is the pattern generator - with four basic patterns available: Arpeggio, Chords, Bassline and Melody. Pattern generation isn’t going to write you a hit record but it is going to save you a load of time and make things like transposition a damn sight easier. The pattern generator even oﬀers statistical help in oﬀering the most popular options to go with your chord progression so far. It’s like having Benny from Axis of Awesome giving you chord advice every step of the way, it’s awesome.
Talking of steps, Waveform has a comprehensive step sequencer with loads of options and you can programme it directly in the timeline for instant feedback and control. For a musical struggler like me Waveform helps me ﬁnd a place to start and holds my hand from there - for you musical geniuses the start is all you might need. I love the multiple synced browsers - if you have a collection of loops, homemade or otherwise, then you can open multiple browse windows which preview in sync with each other. And if you find say three or four separate loops that you want to add then a simple drag-and-drop delivers the whole batch to the time line in one operation. This is one of the features that prompts a ‘why didn’t I think of that before’ kind of response. It is obvious and simultaneously very clever and a big time saver. If your vocals need a little help with tuning - and mine certainly do then you can take advantage of Waveform’s built in access to Melodyne Essential. For time stretching and warping you also get a big name process, in this case Zplane’s Elastique Pro. So there is plenty of the good stuﬀ on board. One feature that really marks out the ambition of Waveform is scripting. This isn’t a new feature but is one that sets Waveform aside as a power tool. In use scripting can be as simple or as complex as you like. Open the Keyboard Shortcuts editor in Settings and you can see every keyboard shortcut the system has to offer. In this short review there’s a tonne of stuﬀ I haven’t covered - comping, freezing, clip-based eﬀects, ghost
Key Features Multi-browser to preview multiple audio samples at once New MIDI composition tools Supports all major plugin and loop varieties RRP: £99,00 ($99,00) www.tracktion.com tracks and more. All in all Waveform is a bargain for music composition, it’s not trying to do everything - it is doing music-based stuﬀ really well. With the widest platform availability and updates like this that add heavy weight features added to a ground breaking front end and a very very attractive price, I’d say Waveform should be gaining ‘tracktion’ in the DAW market in a big way.
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.
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Andy Coules reviews this brand new medium throw colinear source system
Key Features 142 dB max SPL down to 35 Hz 35 m throw capability L-Acoustics line source heritage Plug-and-play package RRP: SYVA: £5,105 ($6,686) SYVA LOW: £2,290 ($2,999) SYVA BASE: £240 ($314) SYVA SUB: £1,670 ($2,187) LA4X Amplifier: £4,455 ($5,835) www.l-acoustics.com
-Acoustics have expanded their range of loudspeaker systems to include a new medium throw colinear source system known as Syva. It slots neatly between the X and P series short throw point source systems and the ARCS series medium throw line source systems while borrowing some technology from their top of the range K series long throw line source systems. The Syva system currently comprises three elements, the Syva, Syva Low and Syva Sub. In its standard configuration the Syva slots into the Syva Low, which can then be supplemented by the Syva Sub for extended low end coverage. The usual mounting options are available including a rigging bar (for hanging), pole mounting, wall mounting and a base plate for floor mounting. At ﬁrst glance it looks much like any other column loudspeaker system but closer inspection reveals a unique and rather pleasing curve to the middle of the column which mimics the J curve utilised by line source systems. What they’ve essentially done is place the individual LF, MF and HF elements of a single line array box into a neat ﬂoor standing package that doesn’t require any tricky conﬁguration of individual speaker elements to get it up and running. The Sub contains one 12” transducer whereas the Low has two (vertically mounted), both are 84.9cm tall and have an AutoConnect socket on the top surrounded by four neodymium magnets into which the Syva column neatly slots (and is held firmly in place). The audio connection comes via a single NL4 speakon connector at the base which provides signal to both units from an LA4X, LA8 or LA12X amplifier. The Low goes down to 40Hz and is capable of delivering levels up to 137 while the Sub goes down to 37Hz with levels up to 128dB. The Syva is 130.1cm tall and sports four 5” MF transducers above which are three 1.75” compression drivers arranged in the J curved section of the column topped oﬀ by two more 5” MF units. This conﬁguration of drivers forms the colinear source which focuses the energy towards the back of the audience while providing down-ﬁll coverage to the front. The directivity pattern is tightly controlled in the vertical plane at just 26° (+5/-21°) with ultra wide horizontal coverage of 140°and an extended throw up to 35 metres. It has a usable bandwidth of 87Hz to 20kHz and
is capable of delivering levels up to 137dB. Various configurations of the three units are possible, for instance one LA4X amplifier could power two columns each comprising a Syva and Syva Low or one column augmented by two Subs or four Syvas. The system that was demonstrated to me was powered by two LA4X amplifiers which drove two columns comprising Syva and Syva Low elements complimented by four Subs. (You can power a column/sub combo from one channel so
end not normally heard on a system of this size. The volume of the system was also impressive considering the size, the clarity remained consistent as the level increased as did the coverage. The pattern control was pleasantly even down to about 300Hz and while the room I was in wasn’t large enough to test the throw capabilities, it was quite clear it was capable of delivering wide and even coverage over a relatively large area. In terms of practicality the units are all relatively light, the Low, Sub
“It sounded great straight out the box and was smooth and even across the whole spectrum” essentially this would be one column plus three subs.) We started by listening to pre-recorded music with the subs turned off and I was instantly impressed with a sound that was clear, crisp and punchy. It sounded great straight out of the box and was smooth and even across the whole spectrum, handling various different styles of music equally well. We then turned on the subs and my first impression was that they were a bit superfluous to requirements, adding a modicum of infra sound to bolster the bottom end. But I soon realised they were capable of delivering the kind of deep sub particularly favoured in dance music and the kind of rock that likes to impart the visceral experience of feeling the thud of the kick drum in your chest and thus is able to provide the kind of bottom
and Syva are 29, 27 and 21 Kg respectively. I also tested the stability of the units and found that when fitted with base plates they could be pushed to about 20° before they felt like they would topple, which is quite a serious nudge under any circumstances. The magnets holding the Syva in place on the Syva Low are surprisingly strong, when trying to prise them apart I had to stand on the base plate because it felt like I was going to lift the whole lot up. I would be very wary of placing them on the floor because once you get a few bodies in even the brilliant colinear dispersion is going to struggle to get over the head of the crowd, L-Acoustics themselves recommend that the system be stage mounted. The additional mounting options coupled with the
scalability of the system means you can cover an extremely wide range of applications and the simplicity of connection makes it easy to deploy just about anywhere, I particularly like the idea of using the Syva units as quick and easy balcony ﬁlls. L-Acoustics are also keen to stress the elegant and sleek design, back in July they deployed 22 units into various levels of the Louvre in Paris for the Louis Vuitton fashion show. The norm at such events is that you’re asked to hide the speakers but the organisers liked the look of Syva so much they chose to feature the distinctive columns among the white statues and elegant hallways. When trying to place them in the context of other speaker systems it’s hard to resist the temptation to compare them to the many column systems out there but I don’t feel that’s a fair comparison. L-Acoustics have succeeded in squeezing the capabilities of a compact line array into a column sized package while somehow managing to deliver clarity, volume and dispersion characteristics way beyond its humble size.
The Reviewer Andy Coules is a sound engineer and audio educator who has toured the world with a diverse array of acts in a wide range of genres.
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UNIVERSAL AUDIO PLUG INS Stephen Bennett reviews a quintet of Universal Audio plugins...
Key Features Sonnox Oxford Dynamic EQ AMS RMX16 SDD-3000 Dytronics Cyclosonic Panner ENGL Savage 120 RRP: £115 - £249 ($151 - $327) www.uaudio.com
niversal Audio (UA)’s soft ware/plugin combo UAD has come a long way since the early PCI-based add-on cards that were designed to add some Digital Signal Processing (DSP) grunt to the underpowered computer of the day. Now on version 9.3, the hardware choice available consists of devices with PCIe or Thunderbolt, Firewire and USB connectivity as well as UA’s excellent Apollo interfaces that allow you to use UAD plugins in real time. The UAD suite under review adds four of what UA call its ‘direct developer’ plugins (which are designed by their direct developer partners), and one from UA themselves. The ﬁrst of the new quintet is the UAD version of Sonnox’s Oxford Dynamic EQ. This was reviewed in its ‘native’ format in AMI’s September 2017 edition, so have a look there for a more detailed description of its features. I can conﬁrm that it works in precisely the same fashion as the ‘native’ version and sounds identical - as a phase-reversal comparison demonstrated. One of UA’s claims regarding the accuracy of their emulation is the close working relationship they have with the original manufacturers and having access to their “golden units” and algorithms must pay dividends with those plugins based on digital technology. But when the emulation is a mixture of analogue and digital the situation becomes more complex. Many people like the ‘sound’ of digital processors because of the ‘colour’ imparted by the analogue input and output chain, so to emulate such devices eﬀectively, both sides of the audio coin must be addressed.
The revered AMS RMX16 was an early digital reverb whose processing power seems laughable against that of a typical smartphone. Yet they were used on countless hit records by many respected engineers and represented an excellent use of limited processing power, clever algorithms and high end analogue circuitry. Developed by Mark Crabtree, the original designer, one might expect the emulation to be pretty close to the original. I was never lucky enough to own an AMS unit, but I do have a lot of recordings that were processed by one and still have the original instruments used. Listening back to these the similarities with the original unit are uncanny, the room, plate and nonlinear I used most (hey! It was the ‘80s) capturing the ‘vibe’ of the AMS perfectly. AMS-Neve throws in presets created by the likes of Steve Levine, but to be honest, the AMS is so simple to use you don’t really need the guiding hands of audio giants to build useful programmes. The 1982 KORG SDD-3000 13-bit Digital Delay was a key component to U2’s guitar sound made famous by The Edge and UA claim that the UAD version is an end-to-end emulation. If you’re after a versatile, yet sonically interesting delay, then you may just have found what you’re looking for. The SDD-3000 features the thenamazing one second delay time and modulation effects, both syncable to the DAW’s tempo. The Dytronics Cyclosonic Panner is something I’ve never come across before. It’s an emulation of a 1984 vintage analogue modulation and panning processor that features autopanning, ‘3D’ panning and a gate for trigger panning. That’s a lot of panning. Usefully it can also synchronise to the DAW tempo. Comparing the sound to
the bog-standard autopan in my DAW makes it apparent that the plugin definitely adds a certain mojo to the sound and when you were one of the few people in the world using the original hardware, it’s sonic idiosyncrasies were probably worth the price of entry. But now everyone with a UAD DSP processer can have one, it’s probably not so cool. However, kudos to Universal Audio for digging out these relatively obscure processors - I would not be without my UAD Cooper Time Cube now. One of the challenges of reviewing UAD’s plugins is trying to track down the original of the hardware being emulated. Luckily one of my colleagues has an ENGL Savage 120 Amplifier so I was able to do some direct recorded comparisons of the plugin version versus the amplifier itself. We’ve come a long way since I strapped Rockman on to my belt for a simulation of that Delta Blues sound and, if you are turning the volume up to 11, the ‘real thing’ still definitely has the edge - but I’d challenge all but the most geeky listeners to try and distinguish a recording of the ENGL Savage 120 emulation from the amplifier mic’d up in a decent sounding room. You’d ideally need a near-zero latency UAD Apollo interface to use these in real-time, but I managed to record useable guitar parts using my usual interface. Until quantum computing offers a significant increase in real-time audio processing (or doing it in the past - the quantum world is like that) add-on DSP hardware is here to stay and UAD are demonstrating that they are still at the top of that particular game.
The Reviewer Stephen Bennett has been involved in music production for over 30 years. Based in Norwich, he splits his time between writing books and articles on music technology, recording and touring, and lecturing at the University of East Anglia. December 2017
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FROM THE PRO AUDIO WORLD
Here are some of the best tweets from the month of November. Keep tweeting if you want to be featured in the next issue... WEAREROBOTS
A HUGE thank you to everyone involved for a great few days at :($5(52%276É•# É“ WUXPDQEUHZHU\É• - we FRXOGQÂˇWKDYHGRQHLWZLWKRXW\RX
@PRSFoundation . Nov 2
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Katie Tavini @KatieTavini . Nov 18
RAVENNA_Network @RAVENNA_Network . Nov 23
2Q1RYHPEHUWK#PHUJLQJBWHFK and @AESorg )UDQFHFDPHWRJHWKHUWRKRVWDFRQIHUHQFHRQ #AudioOnIP at the @SAE_France
Synthax Audio @Synthax Audio . Nov 17
Very pleased to report that the @LautenAudio Eden LT-386 won the #PLORFRVWXGLRVVKRZFDVHPLF shootout last night.
Each month AMI features a pro audio professional from a range of disciplines to ďŹ nd out how they got their start in the industry and what theyâ€™ve worked on... What do you do? Iâ€™m a recording and mix engineer, producer and studio owner. How did you get into the industry? I was an apprentice furniture maker with a passion for music production. I started helping out a local live sound company in the evenings after work and the owner of the company had a little studio at the back of his house where I would help out from time to time. What are some of your credits? Powell, Sport (mix engineer). The Pearl Harts, Glitter and Spit (producer and engineer).
TOBIN JONES 46
What was your favourite project and why? One of my recent favourites was the Swedish Death Candy album (pictured and scannable, right), which I
produced, recorded and mixed at The Park Studio over a month last year. What is your favourite item of audio gear and why? My 1950s Silvertone 1336 Amp. It has an incredibly warm vintage tone, and gives character to whatever goes through it. What industry professional inspired you the most to do what you do? The engineer whoâ€™s creative philosophy I ďŹ nd most inspirational is Sylvia Massy.
Reaching beyond, obtaining new heights, achieving a higher level of listening. This is what drives Audio-Technica in the creation of our transducers and audio solutions. It is a perpetual quest to produce a sound experience that
expectations and gives listeners the deeper connection to their music.
Published on Nov 28, 2017