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

July/August 2017 December 2016

FLYING HIGH We hear from several loudspeaker makers about why versatility was high on the agenda when designing their latest offerings p16

STUDIO PROFILE

RECORDING FOCUS

REVIEW

Inside the refurbed Aftermaster Studios Hollywood p20

Going back to the 1920s for the hit series ‘American Epic’ p24

We put Sontronics’ Mercury under the microscope p36


ULTRA-COMPACT MODULAR LINE SOURCE Packing a 138 dB wallop, Kiva II breaks the SPL record for an ultra-compact 14 kg/31 lb line source. Kiva II features L-Acoustics’ patented DOSC technology enhanced with an L-Fins waveguide for ultimate precise and smooth horizontal directivity. WSTŽ gives Kiva II long throw and even SPL, from the front row to the back, making it the perfect choice for venues and special events that require power and clarity with minimal visual obtrusion. Add to that a 16 ohm impedance for maximized amplifier density and a new sturdy IP45 rated cabinet, and you get power, efficiency and ruggedness in the most elegant package. www.l-acoustics.com


WELCOME EDITOR

Experts in the issue

Adam Savage asavage@nbmedia.com

MUSIC MATTERS

SENIOR STAFF WRITER Colby Ramsey cramsey@nbmedia.com

Nicholas Bergh is the founder of audio restoration company Endpoint Audio, and was sound supervisor for the ‘American Epic’ project.

ADVERTISING MANAGER Ryan O’Donnell rodonnell@nbmedia.com ACCOUNT MANAGER Rian Zoll-Khan rzoll-khan@nbmedia.com HEAD OF DESIGN Jat Garcha jgarcha@nbmedia.com DESIGNER Tom Carpenter tcarpenter@nbmedia.com PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Warren Kelly wkelly@nbmedia.com CONTENT DIRECTOR

Paul Blair (aka DJ White Shadow) is a Chicagobased music producer and W Hotels’ US music director.

James McKeown jmckeown@nbmedia.com Front cover image: Jay Blakesberg/Meyer Sound

PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS To subscribe to AMI please go to www.audiomediainternational.com/subscribe Should you have any questions please email subs@audiomediainternational.com

Lance Wascom is co-founder and CEO of audio equipment specialist Tour Supply.

is published 10 times a year by NewBay Media Europe Ltd, The Emerson Building, 4th Floor, 4-8 Emerson Street, London SE1 9DU Editorial tel: +44 (0)20 7354 6002 Sales tel: +44 (0)20 7354 6000

NewBay Media Europe Ltd is a member of the Periodical Publishers Association

Matt Wentz is audio systems engineer at Willow Creek Community Church.

© Copyright NewBay Media Europe Ltd 2017 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system without the express prior written consent of the publisher. The contents of Audio Media International are subject to reproduction in information storage and retrieval systems.

Printed by Pensord Press Ltd, NP12 2YA Print ISSN: 2057-5165

TEC AWARD WINNER 2017: MICROPHONE PREAMPLIFIER

Neve 1073DPX Dual Preamplifier & EQ DESIGNED & CRAFTED IN ENGLAND BY NEVE ENGINEERS

hen reading the mainstream news these days it can be difficult to generate much optimism about the state of the world and where it could be heading, but on the morning that Audio Media International went to press, while I was sifting through all the usual doom and gloom I did come across some information that could and should restore some muchneeded positivity, at least to music lovers. The results of the annual ‘Wish You Were Here’ report by UK Music that shows the impact of live music and music tourism on the UK economy over the past year were in, and once again the figures pointed towards steady growth. The number of people at UK live music events in 2016 topped 30 million – that’s a 12% increase on 2015’s total – and this led to a £4 million contribution to the economy, which is also a good deal more than the year before. Yes, you could say that this was all before the tragic events of recent times that may have put some people off going to gigs at least for the time being, and this

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could have an effect on next year’s report, but I’d argue that the success of the One Love Manchester concert on so many levels – including the outstanding work carried out by the likes of Brit Row/Clair Global, Toby Alington and so many others to put it all together in just one week – shows that no matter what happens, live music remains a huge part of UK culture. As more people continue to go to gigs, the demands on the live/touring industry are also likely to increase, which in turn could lead to more being expected from audio rental companies’ rental stock. Fortunately, loudspeaker manufacturers have started placing more emphasis on the versatility and flexibility of their systems to help their customers achieve more from a single solution, as our article starting on Page 16 shows. Staying on the live sound/touring topic, we’ve also got another End User Focus, this time on Instrument Microphones with a number of engineers and musicians, and we also speak to the CEO of Tour Supply about its automated playback system and what it brings to the market. And while nothing to do with the live sector, but on another subject to do with audio on the move, we also caught up with ex-Avid man Ben Nemes about another new project of his – a business specialising in turning moveable shipping containers into high-spec recording spaces. Not a straightforward process, as you’d expect.

Adam Savage Editor Audio Media International

THE DEFINITIVE MIC PRE/EQ

Visit ams-neve.com/where-to-buy to find your local Neve dealer For recording as it’s meant to be heard, it has to be Neve - no question. www.ams-neve.com

July/August 2017

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CONTENTS

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www.audiomediainternational.com

24 FEATURES

PRODUCT NEWS 6

KRK to release V-Series 4 White Noise

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Native Instruments’ new real-time scoring tool

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NEWS IN DEPTH SpaceCrate mobile recording solution makes its way to market

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LIVE SOUND: We explore the market for flexible sound systems.

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STUDIO PROFILE: Colby Ramsey finds out how Aftermaster Studios Hollywood is setting itself apart in the music industry following an extensive refurb.

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RECORDING FOCUS: Adam Savage explores ‘American Epic’, the result of a two-decade-long project to reassemble a 1920’s recording system and the era’s forgotten musical works.

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BROADCAST PROFILE: ‘AMI’ finds out how US megachurch Willow Creek went about equipping its new broadcast studio.

PEOPLE 12

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OPINION David Miles Huber on why he opted to mix in Auro-3D for his latest Blu-Ray release ‘GAMmA’. TECH TALK Lance Wascom of Tour Supply explains how its new automated playback system fills an unoccupied industry niche. INTERVIEW W Hotels’ US audio director DJ White Shadow chats to Colby Ramsey about what it takes to put a recording studio in a hotel room.

Picture: ©2017 Lo-Max Records Ltd.

TECHNOLOGY 30

END USER FOCUS: Instrument Microphones

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REVIEWS 32 34 36 38 40

Softube Console 1 MkII ADAM Audio S3H Sontronics Mercury IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors ATC SCM12 Pro


ED SHEERAN WORLD TOUR 2017 Congratulations to Major Tom on another successful LEO Family Tour We're proud to support you on bringing the highest quality audio to stages around the world.

meyersound.com

Photo: Ralph Larmann


PRODUCT NEWS: LOUDSPEAKERS KRK TO RELEASE V-SERIES 4 WHITE NOISE KRK Systems is soon set to release its new V-Series 4 White Noise nearfield studio monitors. The V-Series’ front ported bass reflex enclosure design features a custom kevlar tweeter and woven kevlar woofer. The new units feature bi-amped class-D amplification and 49 DSP driven EQ presets, providing superior control for room/desk correction and different personal tastes. A precise input level attenuation switch is included, as well as standby,

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ground lift, input sensitivity, and logo LED selectors. The new V-Series will also utilise a friction lock and Neutrik combo (XLR and TRS) connectors, while its robust EVA foam pad makes for nonskid functionality and acoustic isolation. An optional protective grille is included for mobile broadcast applications. V-Series 4 White Noise will be available from KRK’s UK distributor Focusrite at the end of July. www.focusrite.com www.krksys.com

www.audiomediainternational.com

JBL LAUNCHES AE POWERED LOUDSPEAKERS JBL’s ‘next-generation highperformance’ loudspeakers are equipped with the latest Harman technologies, including Crown DriveCore front-end amplification, premium JBL user-configurable DSP and full HiQnet Network control. Comprised of two full-range loudspeakers and a pair of subwoofer models, the AE Powered Series is ideal for performing arts facilities, theatrical sound design, auditoriums, houses of worship, music venues, dance clubs, sports facilities, entertainment venues and more. The AE Powered Series offers advanced network configuration, control and monitoring capabilities via Harman Audio Architect software. Rotatable waveguides allow designers to deploy the full-range system in both vertical and horizontal configurations while maintaining the same coverage pattern. MTU-1 and MTU-3 U-brackets can be utilised for overhead suspension of the full-range loudspeaker systems.

Looping PowerCon A/C connectors allow for the combination of two or three systems without multiple home runs to the main power source or additional junction boxes at each array location. All models are equipped with JBL Differential Drive low-frequency drivers with 3” (75mm) voice coils. The full-range high-frequency section makes use of the 2432H 3” (75mm) voice coil compression driver. www.jblpro.com

ALCONS REVEALS LR28/110 LINE ARRAY

HK AUDIO EXPANDS LINEAR LINE

Alcons has now officially launched the LR28/110 Wide Dispersion Larger Format Line Array – a three-way, linesource sound system for use as a vertical array with extended horizontal coverage. At the mid/high heart of the LR28 system sits the RBN1402rsr, a 14in tall, single-diaphragm pro-ribbon transducer with a 14in voice-coil. Its super-fast impulse response, HF peak power handling of 3000W with RMS-to-peak ratio of 1:15 and all-natural cylindrical wavefront delivers a fully-predictable linear response, with ultra-low distortion and precise pattern control, Alcons says. The RBN1402rsr and mid section

HK Audio’s new series of active speakers, Linear 3, adds two new active models to the Linear Sub family of subwoofers. Linear 3 promises highquality sound for bands and DJs in various scenarios, and offers ‘beautifully balanced, high-definition sound, impressive low-end, clear speech reproduction and advanced DSP technology, all packaged in a strong and confident design – and all made to premium standards in Germany’, according to the manufacturer. The first members of the Linear 3 line are the 12”/1” L3 112 FA, the 15”/1” L3 115 FA and the multipurpose 12”/1” L3 112 XA, which can function both as a top and as an onstage monitor. Four EQ presets – Bass Boost, Flat (LF), Flat (HMF) and Contour, two of which are active at any one time – provide plenty of options for shaping

July/August 2017

(featuring four high-efficiency 6.5in midrange transducers) are jointly mounted on an aluminium cassette for optimised heat-dissipation/reduced power-compression and prolonged system output. The LF section comprises two reflex-loaded, custom 14in woofers with reinforced cone and large voicecoil Neodymium motor structure for improved heat dissipation and reduced power compression. The patented 110º horizontal dispersion of the LR28/110 is maintained up to the highest frequencies and it can be deployed in dedicated 110º arrays, in combination with the LR28/80, with the LB28 line array bass extension or with both in larger arrays. The LR28/80 and LR28/110 are powered and controlled by four channels of the Sentinel10 amplified loudspeaker controller. www.alconsaudio.com

the sound to fit the music style, venue and audience. In addition, the Linear 3 mid/high units come equipped with 1,200W class D power amps, Intelligent Multiband Limiters ensure tonal integrity at every volume level and precision directivity means the sound will go straight to the audience, with few unwanted reflections occurring. They are also ideal companions for the Linear Sub subwoofers, which include the new 15” L Sub 1500 A and the 18” L Sub 1800 A. The Linear 3 series and the new Linear Sub models are available now, with the exception of the L3 112 XA, which will be available in the autumn. www.hkaudio.com


PRODUCT NEWS: SOFTWARE NI INTRODUCES REAL-TIME SCORING TOOL

Native Instruments (NI) has released Thrill, a new virtual instrument that enables the introduction of live scores to films, games, sound installations or theatre productions. According to Native Instruments, “Thrill is the first instrument to combine the epic power of an orchestra with the chilling depth of expert sound design, house them within a simple performance-driven interface, and place them into the hands of a single player.” The all-original 30 GB sound library is taken from 963 source sounds, including orchestral recordings and hybrid sounddesign based on ambiences, custom-

built instruments, voices, pitched metal, synthesized drones, and more. Central to Thrill is an X-Y control for modulating effects and morphing between sounds. This control allows composers and sound designers to design and play complex cinematic textures and builds in real time. This X-Y modulator lends itself to trackpad, tablet, or even smartphone control (via TouchOSC). Thrill runs in Native Instruments Kontakt 5 and the free Kontakt 5 Player. It is available at the NI Online Shop for €299 / $299 / £239 / ¥37800 / AU$439. www.native-instruments.com

POWERSOFT UPDATES ARMONIA SOFTWARE

Powersoft has announced the release of Armonía Pro Audio Suite v2.10, which comes with a new interactive tuning feature that not only improves the process of measuring and aligning a sound system, but enables the user to work without noise in the immediate surrounding environment. v2.10 is now fully integrated with Rational Acoustics Smaart v8, which can read real time, imported or shared location traces, and EAW Greybox software has also now been integrated. Once loaded as a path in Armonía, the Greyboxes become available on the

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speaker configuration page complete with a comprehensive range of options to calibrate the speakers. Powersoft has included enhancements to the visualisation of EQ in the latest release as well. Alongside optimised graphics, automatic frequencyreordered filters keep the most-used filters close to hand. Further additions include an expanded preset library featuring, among many others, official presets from Bose’s SM Series, DAS’ Aero Series, the custom d&b audiotechnik Max12-15 and custom Nexo GeoT. Finally, Armonía v2.10 supports multiple serial ports at once in the Communication Manager and provides minor fixes on the X Series, DSP4 and other models. www.armonia.powersoft.it

www.audiomediainternational.com

SONNOX ANNOUNCES NEW WAVES PARTNERSHIP

Waves Audio has announced the compatibility of Sonnox plugins with its SoundGrid real-time processing and networking technology. The new partnership initially involves the Oxford EQ, Oxford Dynamics and Oxford Reverb v3 plugins, with more to follow. They can now be utilised in a live environment using Waves MultiRack or the Waves eMotion LV1 live mixer, or in the studio via Waves SoundGrid Studio and Waves StudioRack. Registered owners of Native and HDX Generation 5 (G5) licences are able to add the SoundGrid option for a fee of £15 per plug-in. Owners of previous Sonnox licence generations will need to upgrade to G5 before being eligible for this upgrade. The new

SoundGrid licence can be held on a separate iLok device to your Native/HDX licences. The idea of this new development is to simplify a workflow by allowing the user to utilise their SoundGrid plug-ins on the road and Native/HDX versions in the studio. The v3 Oxford updates also provide VST3 support, including external sidechain functionality; GUI enhancements such as high resolution graphics, high DPI/retina display support and overall lager GUI; as well as clarification of licence and installer naming. Previously, owners of HDX G5 licences also received a Native licence with their purchase. Sonnox says it is continuing to offer this and, for the first time, any new HDX licences now purchased can be used on another iLok device. Both iLok devices must be registered to the same iLok account. www.sonnox.com www.waves.com

MAGIX STRENGTHENS SEQUOIA SOFTWARE

Magix has released Sequoia 14, the latest version of the software designed for big studio audio and broadcast engineers, which offers a host of new features relating to editing and hardware support. This latest version specifically focuses on strengthening the core areas of audio editing. The awardwinning Celemony Melodyne software is now directly built into Sequoia via the ARA, and the plug-in is included in the essential version. Additional professional functions such as tempo automations, audio-to-MIDI and XYZ

direct are now easily accessible to enhance workflow. Sequoia 14 also now comes with SpectraLayers Pro 4, with its unique layerbased concept for working with frequencies. In international film studios, the spectral editing software has long been used for audio restoration and sound design. For mixing and broadcast, Sequoia delivers seamless and optimised integration of Sequoia and the Pro Tools | S6 Controller. The DAW and the high-end mixer from Avid work together using precisely calibrated EUCON protocols, allowing Sequoia to be controlled using the iOS app developed by Avid. Sequoia 14 is priced at $2,975. www.magix.com


NEWS IN DEPTH

www.audiomediainternational.com

SPACECRATE MOBILE STUDIO SOLUTION HITS THE ROAD We spoke to one of the men behind this radical new initiative to find out what it takes to turn a shipping container into a high-spec creative space, and discover why it’s not as crazy an idea as it first sounds.

Ben Nemes

ombining the essential attributes of a proper studio within a mobile shipping container, SpaceCrate is an intriguing new solution for carrying out recording duties from any hard-standing location. AMI recently spoke to co-founder Ben Nemes about how he and his team have turned a fun idea into a reality by putting a professional-spec creative space in a shipping container. Nemes revealed that long-term acquaintance Guy Wilson of AKA Design was involved with the project from the beginning, with the aim being to make people feel at ease as soon as they walk in. “I wanted to make it conducive – to make it look and work like somewhere that customers want to work,” said Nemes. “Guy got the idea straight away so he’s our creative director and has been tasked with making SpaceCrate look, smell and feel like somewhere you want to be creative.” Nemes, who worked in post for TV and film for 15 years before his stint at Avid, originally conceived the notion for SpaceCrate after “20 years of conversations about the fact that everything’s changing,” with the fundamental idea of putting creative capacity somewhere it isn’t already. “Gear is so much more lighter and compact – that’s an enabling factor,”

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remarked Nemes, “while it’s also a bit mainstream now to understand that you can use shipping containers as a premises because they’re every bit as strong as a brick building.” Of course, the infrastructure and the apparatus for moving a container around easily and inexpensively exist already and are accessible all over the world, meaning users can obtain the capacity to record, edit, mix and deliver anywhere they can place a shipping container. While a mobile studio or OB truck earning its own money will be moving around regularly, and SpaceCrate could also work this way, Nemes sees it as more of a semi-permanent solution that might not move from one year to the next, in which case, the user can call upon the means of transportation when they need it, “instead of owning a big truck that’s depreciating and needs servicing regularly,” said Nemes. “Call up a haulage company and say you want it to go from postcode to postcode because it’s a box standard container on the outside, and in 90 seconds it’s off the back of the truck and on the ground because it’s a routine process all over the world. “Wherever you put it, it’s never going to rust or fall apart like perhaps a caravan would – these things are designed to withstand being battered by waves on the ocean,” he added.

It’s partly the economics of it too, according to Nemes, who observes more and more people in the ‘gig economy’ wanting their own premises: “Studio builds can be a pain – for some it’s a labour of love but quite often people just want the outcome,” he said.

With a little help from some friends On the other side of the coin is acoustics. A shipping container as an acoustic environment is, by default, disastrously bad. Half the time spent developing SpaceCrate over the last year has therefore been in isolation and acoustics. Nemes worked with acousticians like Howard Turner from Studio Wizard, along with Chris Walls and Tim Coombes from Level Acoustic. “Chris oversaw all our design to get that room to a spec that you can work in accurately and send a mix out confidently,” Nemes revealed. “From an audio point of view, it’s got to work practically and also be somewhere that inspires people to spend days, weeks and months being creative. Those were the two hardest things to achieve.” A lot of those in the gig economy are decentralising their offerings in that they may already have a client base but do not want to travel into a city to work. SpaceCrate serves as a potential remedy for this, providing users with the freedom to reach an outcome

on their own terms, with optimised productivity. “We’re not assuming anything about the duration,” said Nemes. “It might be used for a week, it might be for a movie, an album, a series, or an event or festival – or it might be for ten years. “On the equipment side, there’s so many permutations – we don’t know what people are going to want or need so we do not provide kit,” he continued. “Instead it is ‘kit-ready’ – there’s cable management, power etc. all ready to plug gear into.” Nemes also plans on offering SpaceCrate out through hire companies, who may want to pre-stage a particular setup, build and test it, and then ship the whole studio with kit to a client. There are lashing points inside the container so it can be transported with gear. Currently, SpaceCrate is being used as an ADR room on-location for a major Warner Bros feature film, moving between sets in different locations along with the cast and director. “It now seems to be that you can buy everything as a service, and you don’t really own anything in this field anymore,” Nemes concluded. “People subscribe to bits of software, they rent plugins; SpaceCrate taps into that with the transportability element and its versatility.” www.spacecrate.co.uk


Big thinking For smaller boxes

Game-changing innovations in coaxial speaker design At Celestion, we’re always looking to find innovative solutions to the challenges faced by PA manufacturers. That’s why more and more forward-thinking brands are choosing to work with us. Take our coaxial drivers for example: unlike conventional designs, our FTX range uses a cutting-edge common magnet motor design to deliver big improvements in signal coherence and time alignment for a more natural sound from a very compact and lightweight speaker. Visit our website or contact us now to find out more about our innovative PA driver solutions.

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OPINION

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MAKING FULLY IMMERSIVE MUSIC WITH AURO-3D Artist and producer David Miles Huber on why he opted to mix in the format for his latest Blu-Ray release GAMmA, and what he believes the benefits of the technology to be.

DAVID MILES HUBER

t’s not yet common for people to hear music and expect to feel immersed in the playback experience. Without giving it any thought, people expect music to be playing only directly in front of them, coming from one side of the room or just blasting from a speaker planted in the ceiling. Most don’t think about music being streamed from all directions. The idea of music having the potential to be all encompassing is usually foreign to the basic music fan outside of a live concert environment. Personally, I don’t think there should be any barriers to enjoying good music whatever the presentation may be, but I’ll argue that the possibility of adding something more realistic to the listening experience would be simply too great not to fully embrace. Though I’ve spent the past 25 years as an electronic musician and have seen both traditional and alternative ways of producing music, I’d say that there’s little about my production method that’s representative of the modern or classic recording process. Of course, most artists and producers are used to creating content in Stereo, and then when they start working with immersive sound formats (that is to say, ‘sound in 3D’ or ‘surround sound with height’) they’ll follow the traditional L/R approach with a bit of something coming from the centre, followed by reverb in the rear speakers. I break all those rules right

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Galaxy Studios in Belgium, where Huber mixed GAMmA in 2.0, 5.2 and 9.1

out of the gate and use a mixing style that has all of the various stereo track sounds, delays and reverbs coming from all of the speakers at once, to create an interesting and engaging mix. It is electronic music after all… there are no rules that must be followed and 3D audio offers even more possibilities for immersing the listener in music.

Listen Closely I’m a strong believer in 3D audio. My latest Pure Audio Blu-ray release, GAMmA, is mixed in Auro Technologies’ Auro-3D immersive sound format (also on the Auro-3D Creative Label), as was my previous release called Parallax Eden. Music produced in this format offers a three-dimensional sound experience that’s equipped with an added, very specific quadraphonic Height Layer, allowing sound to come from every direction. Mixing music in 3D audio offers a true immersive experience, creating more emotional impact that brings listeners closer to my personal expression – in truth, bringing the listener closer to my artistic intent. I’ve been asked how producing music with 3D audio formats might differ from other media formats, or if any additional steps need to be taken in the process. Of course, there are technical issues that have to be dealt with (being a perfectionist, I actually enjoy the intricacies of the process), but there are actually no rules to the creative parts,

and you’re free to do whatever sounds best. Placing higher-frequency sounds and instruments (nature sounds, drum overheads, reverbs, etc.) can help create an open space above the listener. There are many ways this can be done, and that’s up to the producer’s preference, but that sense of heightened sound or that feeling of openness from above can really help create a true sense of immersion. When it comes to the different formats, mixing in Auro-3D makes the most sense when producing music, especially since it allows the capturing and reproduction of a 3D space with channel-based audio only, which compliments the way I work. This process is different from other immersive sound formats, like Dolby Atmos, which requires the use of object-based technology for the added third dimension. Auro-3D also uses object-based technology, but doesn’t need it to create immersive sound, which in my opinion has many advantages, especially for music. The format delivers High Resolution Audio (24-bit/96 kHz), which within the last decade has become the standard in music production and creates an audible difference.

A Creative Purpose Most notable, however, is the guarantee that the format maintains the same immersive sound experience as intended by the creators. For listeners, the format offers the most efficient solution in a

way that’s easy to install (one can easily convert a standard surround sound system to an Auro-3D 9.1 setup), while guaranteeing the reproduction of my original artistic intent wherever it’s played. That predictability is reduced on other immersive sound formats, which support speaker layouts for immersive sound using only two overhead speakers (like 5.1.2 up to 9.1.2) which can’t reproduce a true 3D space around the listener. I believe in the power of immersive experiences and really think that 3D audio will have a huge role both in music and in other audio-intensive media. It’s no secret the recording industry has suffered in the wake of music sharing and mp3 files, but the rise of new mediums (such as virtual reality technologies) presents new opportunities for music production in the form of other industries, like home theatre, film and gaming. Music industry professionals have always had a good technical pulse on emerging audio media, and music producers now have an increased number of avenues to showcase their work as demand for immersive sound content continues to grow. David Miles Huber is a four-time Grammy-nominated producer and musician specialising in electronic dance and surroundsound, whose music has sold over the million mark. His latest music and collaborations can be heard at www.davidmileshuber.com


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TECH TALK

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TOUR DE FORCE

Lance Wascom, CEO of Tour Supply explains how its innovative new automated playback system that has already been used by several big-name acts “fills an otherwise unoccupied industry niche.” in-house at Tour Supply, and rebranded the product as “Playback Control.” Who are you mostly targeting? Professional touring bands in all genres and levels, from club tours to stadiums. What are the main audio elements of the system? MOTU interfaces, Radial SW8 switcher, and two MacBook Pro computers.

Can you give us a summary of the main concept behind Playback Control? To create a reliable playback system for touring bands that is extremely stable, simple to use, and is scalable and customisable to any band’s needs. We are able to fill an unoccupied niche that allows any non-programming tech or band member to easily run and maintain a playback system. Furthermore, at Playback Control, we handle everything involved in the rig from top to bottom including hardware (from an authorised dealer), professional installation labour, software and all necessary programming. Playback Control is very much a ‘plug and play’ system. Where did the idea for it come from? William “Viggy” Vignola used to be the drum tech for Tommy Lee with Motley Crue, and he would run their playback system. During the show, Viggy would frantically change drumheads, fix the kick pedal, and so forth. He needed a reliable way for the system to run itself so that he could take care of Tommy at the same time. Necessity being the mother of invention, that’s pretty much where the idea comes from. He began building and programming playback systems that were easier to run. When people found out what Viggy was doing, they wanted him to build their systems. Viggy would then call us at Tour Supply to build the systems and sell to the bands, and he would handle programming and training. About two and a half years ago, we began to build it 14

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In what ways would adding one of these systems to a band’s setup affect the role of the audio engineer and other live sound professionals? Nowadays, many bands run tracks during live shows. One of the things that engineers love about our system is the fact that we can provide independent control of each output for every song. When you change the output for Channel 3 in Song 1, it will subsequently change the output for that channel for every song after that. This independent control enabled by Playback Control allows the engineer to easily save their console settings for each song, maybe making only minor tweaks from time to time. Since we are able to fire MIDI commands from our system, we can control the guitar player’s rig or keyboard players’ sounds. Thus, neither the artist nor their tech needs to manually change these patches throughout the show. Another example of this is timecode. Since we can distribute timecode to various departments (Lighting, FOH, Pyro, etc), those subsystems can be locked and programmed to this timecode thereby reducing their need to manually control every move. For example, the lighting console can be automated for many of the moves throughout the course of the show. The LD may still have independent control over many things they wish to control, but if there are 2,000 cues in an entire show, they can automate what they want. The same thing goes for FOH or Monitors. The console can automatically change ‘scenes’ from song to song.

What sort of feedback have you had from engineers? All feedback has been extremely positive. Also, as noted above, FOH engineers love the independent control of tracks from song to song. You say that one option is for bands to adopt a ‘set and forget’ approach, but some might argue that this would leave them at risk of technical issues? We build redundancy into every area of the system where possible. That’s why we have two identical computers constantly spitting out the same info. If computer A dies, the Radial SW8 detects a drop in tone and automatically goes to computer B. Similarly, we provide redundancy in other elements of the installation. For example, each system has a locking Neutrik PowerCon input (and related cable) to provide power to the rig. However, inside the rack, we have a quick disconnect (male to female edison connector) between the Power input and the Furman rackmount power supply. Thus, if the customer loses the PowerCon cable, they can simply open the rack and plug directly into the Edison input using any standard power supply. Just how customisable are these systems, and could you give us some examples of two completely different setups to demonstrate the flexibility?

Playback Control systems are very customisable. The available outputs for audio are typically either eight or 16. Other available add-ons include MIDI output, timecode, DMX, or on-board video. For example, Lenny Kravitz’s system is an eight-output system with no other add-ons. However, Shinedown has a 16-output system with timecode, MIDI control, and a built in drum trigger/ sample system in the same rack. Do you have any notable users already, or tours that it’s already been out on? We have about 70 systems out there right now. Clients include Imagine Dragons, Kenny Chesney, Lenny Kravitz, Selena Gomez, Disturbed, Shinedown, Motley Crue, Sixx AM, Chicago, Demi Lovato, John Mayer and many more! You’ve just opened the Nashville showroom, used to demo the system, so what’s next for Playback Control? We would like to do some more video work for both new and existing clients. Since we can export HD video directly from our systems, this saves our clients on costs by allowing them to consolidate their hardware and personnel to get great video content for their shows. We also wish to continue exploring all available technology to create more cost-effective solutions for smaller bands. www.playbackcontrol.com


Steerable sound isn’t just about being heard, it’s about being understood.

ICONYX Gen5 steerable loudspeakers deliver clarity to every seat. It didn’t matter how far back their seats were. Or how cavernous the hall was. All they heard – all they felt – was sound that was warm, intelligible and personal. With clear, precisely-controlled sound from Iconyx Gen5 steerable loudspeakers, their seats were the best in the house. To learn more or for a demo, visit www.renkus-heinz.com. ©2016 Renkus-Heinz

renkus-heinz.com/iconyx-gen5


FEATURE: LIVE SOUND

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HK Audio’s COHEDRA system

FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES With PA manufacturers now under pressure to put out products that are as versatile as possible, we ask a number of firms to tell us how they’re meeting the new demand for high levels of flexibility. ike in many other areas of the pro-audio industry, the live/ touring market is becoming increasingly competitive, with audio companies continually looking for solutions that will deliver in terms of sound quality, but also provide

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a solid return on what is often a sizeable investment. This explains why many of these firms identify versatility as one of the main selling points they look for when sourcing a new setup – the wider the variety of applications it can handle, the

better, and if one package can match all the requirements on a tour that stops off at a myriad venue types while also meeting expectations on the quality side then it could be a winning combination. And as these demands have become more apparent, manufacturers have

been investing huge amounts in R&D to ensure that their new creations deliver on both fronts, so this month we’ve asked a few of them to tell us how they’re able to cater for customers who want their next purchase to tick a number of different boxes.


FEATURE: LIVE SOUND well as the Funkhaus venue in Berlin – but once you start going into five figures, that’s where the firm’s flagship system would need to take over. “A single Evo 7T paired with an Evo 7TL-215 on either side is a cracking system for around 500 people. On the other end of the scale, we can go all the way up to an audience size of about 10,000, using three Evo 7TL-215 at the top of the arrangement, three Evo 7TH below that, three Evo 7T (mirroring the mid-high THs) below that and another row of Evo 7T at a greater angle at the bottom for mid/near field. For an audience size above 10,000, we’d always use Vero,” he states. In fact, a lot of what the team learned when making Vero proved to be useful when they moved on to this next project. “We’ve reached a new level of audio performance with the Evo Series, which

The Glade Stage at Glastonbury 2017, which featured a Funktion-One Evo 7T, 7TH and 7TL-215 setup this year

Family values Meyer Sound’s LEO Family is aimed at the touring market, with flexibility in mind, and its power capabilities, compact size and moderate weight allow LYON to handle anything from worldwide touring productions in large arenas to corporate shows in smaller arenas and theatres, says Pablo Espinosa, chief loudspeaker designer and vice president of research and development at Meyer Sound, who reveals how “it is widely used in Broadway shows and houses of worship, handling all these tasks with exceptional sonic accuracy, consistency and reliability.” And as with all Meyer Sound loudspeakers, LYON is self-powered, which, as well as offering advantages in areas such as transportation, rigging and installation, also increases flexibility in Espinosa’s opinion. Because LYON shares the same sonic signature as its bigger brother, LEO, it is often set up for nearer-field coverage in combination arrays under LEO speakers. “This was very successful, for example, in a recent in-the-round arena tour by Latin music superstar Marc Anthony,” notes Espinosa, who adds that LYON doesn’t always play the role of the supporting system. “Going the other way,

Below: CODA Audio AiRAY

in smaller venues, LYON can be the longthrow box with the smaller LEOPARDs used for the closer seating. This works very well at the summer-long Britt Festivals in Oregon, with four arrays of four LYON over five LEOPARD. “A recent tour by The Lumineers was a great example of LEO family versatility, where LYON was the main system for one leg of the tour, with LEO added for larger venues later in the tour. LEOPARDs were mains for a few small venues with weight restrictions, and deployed as side and rear hangs in large arenas. LYON loudspeakers were also at the core of the system for Twenty One Pilots’ Emotional Roadshow World Tour, which concluded recently after 123 shows. “The deployment at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, California was typical for wide, mid-sized amphitheatres, with 12 LYON each for both the main hangs and side hangs,” Espinosa continues. “However, for larger venues, the full touring complement allowed use of up to 20 LYON for mains and 16 for side hangs. The scalability of the system allowed ideal tailoring of coverage to any venue.”

On a different scale Since the range was launched in 2015,

Funktion-One’s Evolution Series has already proven popular in a wide variety of different environments, from nightclub and theatre installations to festivals, live events, tours and sports venues, but the introduction of the Evo Touring (7T) loudspeaker a year later and the release of the 7TH mid-high section and 7TL-215 with its horn-loaded 15in drivers at Prolight + Sound 2017 further increased the flexibility of the Series, meaning the company’s Evo clusters can now be considered ‘extremely scalable’. “These additional ‘building blocks’ open up a swathe of options when it comes to Evo 7T configurations,” explains Funktion-One’s Tony Andrews. “It means that Evo Touring systems can be scaled up, while having the right balance across the frequency range. Consequently, the range of applications Evo Touring systems are suitable for has expanded significantly.” So could we have some examples of vastly different scenarios that would both benefit from an Evo Touring configuration? According to Andrews, the range is ideal for an impressive breadth of audience sizes – proven by the fact these speakers have already been used for projects as diverse as Glastonbury (Glade Stage), Nassau and DGTL (both in Amsterdam) Festivals, as July/August 2017

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FEATURE: LIVE SOUND came from the discoveries we made while developing Vero,” Andrews reveals. “The methodology is the same: there needs to be a genuine way of getting more power and more throw at the top of the configuration – whether it’s a cluster or a vertical array. The Evo 7TH gives us exactly that but to maintain balance with the extended mid-highs we needed to reinforce the mid-bass frequencies, so we developed the Evo 7TL-215.”

Getting carried away Although we’ve focused mostly on large-scale systems for venues and outdoor events with sizeable capacities here, there is another category of loudspeaker that we feel should be mentioned.

An audio all-rounder HK Audio’s COHEDRA range is also ideal for indoor events offering audience sizes in the low thousands, and its versatility is evident when you look at the spectrum of musical genres that it is required to distribute with power and clarity on a regular basis. Steffen Luuk, HK Audio’s sales consultant pro audio, says: “COHEDRA excels across a range of venue sizes – from clubs of 1,000-3,500 capacities to mid-sized venues for audiences of up to around 6,000 – and a variety of application types. It’s well-suited for anything from classical music to rock ‘n’ roll shows, from hip-hop to musicals, and with a setup consisting of 2 x 24 tops and 2 x 12 flying subs you can get incredible sound for any of these.” Like Funktion-One’s Evolution Series, the thinking behind COHEDRA was that it would be very simple to build a system up or down depending on the size and characteristics of the next venue on the schedule. “We recently did a tour with a prominent German hip-hop group, Genetikk, where we were doing venues with capacities between 1,000 and 5,000 each night, and one system was all it took,” comments Luuk. “It’s a very easy-to-handle product; one engineer can set a system up in less than half an hour. It also has a small footprint both in the venue and for transit and storage – on the Genetikk tour, we had the whole rig in a single ten-ton truck. In some venues on the tour, however, the whole setup couldn’t be used, mainly for space and/or weight reasons. “This is where COHEDRA’s flexibility and scalability came in,” Luuk continues. “Regardless of the venue and the amount of speakers we could use, we 18

July/August 2017

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were getting amazing sound night after night, Genetikk’s thumping, energetic bass beats included.” COHEDRA has also been chosen for Germany’s mammoth outdoor Rock im Park Festival, operas, gaming conventions, the Saarlandhalle in Saarbrücken – which has seen COHEDRA handle everything from Deep Purple to classical orchestras – and the 55,000-seat Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt, where the system was used to break the record for the world’s largest orchestra playing the same piece of music at the same time (and covered in the July/August 2016 issue of Audio Media International).

RAY-sing the bar Another loudspeaker option that claims to be capable of meeting “the widest possible variety of applications” is CODA Audio’s AiRAY, which is designed to combine the size (around half that of a conventional 2 x 12 system), weight (under 40kg), rigging flexibility, amplification and cabling of a compact system with the high SPL of a largeformat line array. The commercial and practical advantages for rental companies in terms of rigging, manpower required

They may not be able to throw as far as some of the other systems we’ve included, but portable column PA solutions like the LD Systems MAUI G2 from Adam Hall Group are gaining popularity with singersongwriters, solo entertainers, DJs and small to medium-sized gig venues right through to those hosting presentation and business conferences who are looking for the right balance of power, practicality and – you guessed it – versatility. Both equipped with four-channel mixers, the MAUI 11 G2 (1,000 Watts peak power, pictured) and

for operation and trucking capacity are clear, says CODA’s sales and marketing manager Paul Ward, who explains why he considers AiRAY “an unprecedented solution.” “For example, large line array systems are not viable in many smaller to medium-sized venues because of ceiling weight restrictions, with the result that rental companies have to invest in multiple systems to cater for different requirements. “Its combined qualities mean that AiRAY is flexible enough to deliver outstanding intelligibility and even coverage everywhere from a small theatre to a large stadium. The smaller boxes mean that truck space is significantly reduced and their light weight means operational time and manpower is reduced – all of which reduces costs.” And that really is a key point of Ward’s: rental firms and other customers of his will always strive to deliver the best audio possible for their clients – that is a fundamental principle, he says – but cost has always been and always will be an issue for the live sound industry, and the more applications a system can cover, the less investment in other alternatives is needed.

MAUI 28 G2 (2,000 Watts) can now be operated with separate sub and column placement thanks to new dedicated accessory kits. These include a set of multipin adapters and a floor stand, a parallel wall mount and tilt and swivel brackets for the column, which enables more precise speaker orientation. The two-piece aluminium column is loaded with 16 3in speakers and two 1in neodymium compression drivers coupled to a single waveguide that has been optimised using a process called boundary element method modelling. Adam Halls says that the purpose of the waveguide is to reduce the unwanted floor and ceiling sound reflections and to achieve a coherent coverage pattern across the listening area so everyone in the audience can experience the same sound regardless of where they’re standing.

Ward says AiRAY has enjoyed “great success” since its launch last summer and been used for many festivals and tours, but any that Audio Media International readers might recall? “Towards the end of last year Adlib took AiRAY out on a major world tour with international superstars Placebo,” he notes. “As well as rocking huge arenas from Moscow to London, the system saved the cost of an entire truck across the tour – a significant dent in production costs.” As the competitiveness of this corner of the business shows no sign of slowing, we can expect to see speaker makers continue on their quest for that one all-round system to rule them all. Gone are the days when rental firms had no choice but to lug about an assortment of different elements that could be handled by a sole system today, and so with many of these companies now narrowing their inventories, manufacturers arguably have a more difficult job than ever ensuring their product is the one taking up that crucial truck space. www.adamhall.com www.codaaudio.com www.funktion-one.com www.hkaudio.com www.meyersound.com


STUDIO PROFILE

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HOLLYWOOD THRILLS

An iconic recording facility in the heart of Hollywood reopened its doors at the start of the year following a complete renovation, but to what extent has it preserved its incredible legacy and secured its creative future in doing so? Colby Ramsey investigates.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// he new Aftermaster Studios Hollywood breathes life back into a landmark made famous by Crosby, Stills and Nash – one that was originally constructed by the latter almost 40 years ago in the former production offices of legendary director Alfred Hitchcock. Since it was first completed in 1978, it has been a recording and production facility for many of the music scene’s greatest talents, including The Eagles, Jackson Browne, B.B. King, and in later years, diverse artists such as Tupac, Fleetwood Mac and Good Charlotte. The renovation team led by cofounders Larry Ryckman and Shelly Yakus has completely modernised the facility’s seven recording and mastering

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studios, future-proofing it for a new generation of artists and marking it as the fifth recording studio that Aftermaster Inc. operates at the historic Crossroads of the World compound on Sunset Blvd., originally built in 1936. “It was a difficult decision,” Ryckman reveals. “Recording studios are closing down all over the world because of the ease and low cost of computerbased music production.” Yet it was the studio’s size, location and impressive 40-year history that ultimately won the Aftermaster team over: “We wanted to renovate and reimagine a true Hollywood studio and build a legacy facility that will hopefully be around for many more decades,” adds Ryckman. The team, which includes a unique and very diverse group of engineers,

producers, mastering engineers, artists and audio hardware specialists, has cumulatively produced, engineered and mastered more hit music than any audio company in the world, according to Ryckman: “The team behind Aftermaster are all purists that have come together in a never-before-seen (or heard) collective in the audio world,” he remarks. “The reason I raise this point is that the acoustics of the rooms were paramount, and it was very difficult to get so many great ears to agree on what sounded just right.” Ryckman and the team ended up adding large amount of sandstone and proprietary acoustic materials so that the rooms met their audio requirements, yet like most projects, “it took more time, more resources and more effort than

any of us expected.” The studio wiring, patch panels and the deterioration of the materials covering the walls proved especially challenging, along with the task of changing every work surface to reflect a modern recording environment. The control room features stained glass windows and specially designed acoustic walls, while the expansive live room is equipped with new bamboo floors, stone-accented walls and includes both a piano room and a vocal booth. “We retained every piece of wood that was in the original studio, so it has a vintage and comfortable feeling,” Ryckman reveals. “Indeed, the ‘bones’ that Graham Nash built in the studio are very strong and provided an incredible basis for us to work with.”


STUDIO PROFILE

Since its recent opening, the studio has been booked out daily. The Aftermaster team held the first open house for producers and engineers on 1 June and were met with ‘fantastic’ feedback, according to Ryckman: “Our studios have always been “closed studios” and are only rented out occasionally as we need to use them for Aftermaster’s technical needs.” Some initial projects undertaken at Aftermaster Studios Hollywood include recording, mixing and mastering for Austin Mahone, Sofia Reyes, DNCE, Wiz Kid, Ty Dolla Sign and Emile Hirsch, as well as mastering for hit TV show Empire.

Carving a niche What is it then that makes Aftermaster different from the competition? Ryckman is keen to make it one of the most seasoned audio technology companies in the world, by developing both its services and own technologies: 22

July/August 2017

“The studios and our professional mastering services set us apart from other audio companies as they keep us in the music game whilst still allowing us to develop products,” he says. “It’s been phenomenal watching the incredible changes taking place. I can remember talking to my partners Jimmy Lovine and Shelly Yakus 30 years ago about how there could never be a computer-based recording and mixing system that could get close to the real studio experience. Obviously, we were very wrong.” In fact, Ryckman believes there were only about 15,000 recording artists in the USA back then, as music could really only be created by renting studio time and a production team. Times have of course changed with millions of artists now completing high-level productions at home: “Having said that, I personally don’t think there will be a time when a computer can replicate the emotion and magic that occurs when a group of artists are all playing

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On the kit list At the heart of Aftermaster’s newly renovated control room sits an 80-channel SSL 4000 G+ recording console – originally built by NBC for Saturday Night Live – along with five racks of state-of-the-art gear built into the wall. This includes a ProTools 12 rig made up of a Prism Sound ADA-8XR interface, Apogee Symphony I/O, and Antelope Trinity and 10MX. Along with a host of UAD, Waves and Antares plugins, a broad range of mic pre amps are available, from vintage Neve 1073 pre’s to the company’s newest Portico ll. Compressor/limiters and EQs from the likes of Teletronix, Neve and API are also in abundance. Monitoring options include both Dynaudio M3XE speakers and Lipinski Custom 18” speakers backed up by Lab.gruppen PLM 12k44 amps, a combination that is somewhat unique to North America says Ryckman, “as we use both Dynaudio and Lipinski mains in our studios.” Near-field monitoring is carried out on Dynaudio MB5 and LYD 7 monitors, as well as Lipinski L-70s and the more commonly used Yamaha NS10s. A plethora of musical instruments are also on offer, while recording can be carried out via one of the many microphones in the studio’s collection, which includes models from Telefunken, Neumann, AKG, Shure, Electro-Voice, Sennheiser and Audio-Technica. their music in a great sounding room through a console and real hardware in the chain,” Ryckman continues. “We are confident that the renovation of such a legendary studio at Aftermaster Studios Hollywood will result in one of the most important recording studios in the

world,” concludes Ryckman. “The studio renovation and reopening is an important part of creating a new dawn for the music recording industry in Hollywood.” www.aftermaster.com


Evolution Series A series of high-intensity touring and installation loudspeakers, engineered for even coverage, outstanding control and unforgettable audience experiences. Now featuring the recently launched Evo 7T mid-high and Evo 7TL-215 mid-bass speakers

www.funktion-one.com


RECORDING FOCUS

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Picture: ©2017 Lo-Max Records Ltd.

HISTORY IN THE MAKING

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Adam Savage tells the story behind American Epic, the culmination of a two-decade-long project to reassemble a oneof-a-kind 1920s recording system and the exhausting restoration of hundreds of the era’s forgotten musical works. ere at AMI it’s our duty to report on and analyse all the major technological developments in our industry and predict where we could be heading next, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also look back fondly at the way things used to be. And we’re not alone, of course, as shown by the success of the American Epic film series recently broadcast on PBS and the BBC that explores the pivotal recording journeys in the US at the height of the ‘Roaring Twenties’, when music scouts from record companies armed with cutting-edge kit ventured out of their studios in the cities in search of new styles and markets. The three-part American Epic documentary represents the end

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result of a ten-year project involving – among many others – director Bernard MacMahon, producers Allison McGourty and Duke Erikson; audio engineer Nicholas Bergh; and producer Peter Henderson. The team was tasked with tracking down legions of long forgotten musicians, restoring their music and recreating one of the revolutionary Western Electric recording systems that would’ve been used to record it, all with help from some of today’s biggest stars.

Breaking it down Now the only one of its kind anywhere in the world, the remake of the system that offered the first major step forward from acoustic recording consists of a single microphone – the earliest

example of a condenser – a towering six-foot amplifier rack comprising the preamplifier, a line amplifier to drive the cutting head, the first level meter, a monitor amplifier and a live recordcutting Scully lathe – the rarest and most difficult part to find – powered by a weight-driven pulley system of clockwork gears. Musicians have roughly three minutes to record their song direct to disc before the weight hits the floor. Bergh, who also runs Burbank-based audio restoration company Endpoint Audio, was the man responsible for sourcing and assembling the recording system, but this had been a goal of his since way before American Epic had even been conceived, and turned out to be a much more difficult process than first expected.

“It’s getting on to almost 20 years from when I started but the wacky thing about it is there’s only been about ten years since the equipment’s been starting to come together because for at least the first five years the goal was just figuring out what I was trying to find,” Bergh recalls. “There were no pictures or documentation so I didn’t know what I was exactly looking for.” The difficulty of Bergh’s quest became yet more apparent when even those who were working in and around the industry shortly after this period had no way of really helping him. “I had two mentors when I was getting into audio who started their careers in the late 1930s in America and both of them told me that even by the late ‘30s this system was basically mythical and


//

RECORDING FOCUS

Picture: Engineer Nicholas Bergh (credit: ©2017 Lo-Max Records Ltd.)

they had never seen any components of it or even pictures,” he says. “So even in ten years it had basically disappeared off the face of the earth. All the pieces that were saved were saved almost by accident, so maybe they just ended up in a spot where no one threw them out.” Eventually, though, after nearly two decades of scouring the globe, the last piece of Bergh’s puzzle fell into place about a year before the film started to come together, and it was during a public presentation that the makers of American Epic identified Bergh and his (re)creation as a perfect fit for what they had planned, even if there was a bit of work to be done in order to ready the system for what turned out to be a pretty full-on schedule. “That [the presentation] was just kind of like a laboratory situation where I recorded a musician with the system to demonstrate the frequency

response and all the technical issues with the system, but moving that into a production environment, that was a major change,” Bergh reveals. “It had to be updated with easier cabling, for example, and they were bringing in a couple of musicians a day. The gear had to be working at all times so I was fixing little things that were going wrong.”

Meanwhile… The musical restoration side was overseen by Erikson, sound engineer Joel Tefteller and Henderson, whose past achievements include winning his first Grammy at age 23 for producing Supertramp’s Breakfast in America. Henderson’s role required him to spruce up around 200 recordings of varying quality, and, like Bergh, a lot of his time was spent hunting for material. “The first part of the chain is to find the very best copy you can, calling all

the collectors to find out what they’d got and whether they had certain discs and what condition they were in,” Henderson told AMI. “Once we’d located what we’d thought were the best discs of each one, they had to be transferred into the digital domain. We learnt a lot during the process. “Every single disc was different and some labels had used a better shellac that had lasted longer, for example. In some cases we were lucky enough to get some metal parts – that’s the originals where they were cut to wax and the metal was put into the grooves and the discs were printed from those back in the ‘20s. Some of those still exist – Sony had some of them in their vaults – [but it only amounted to] 15-20 discs out of the whole 200.” If Henderson had to identify a batch of the recordings that gave him the most trouble, what would he pick?

“Some of the Charley Patton recordings were very noisy just because they’re Paramount Records and they’re the hardest to restore,” he says. “There’d be so much noise, and that’s very difficult to remove manually. “It’s a great project because there are a lot of people who don’t know this music from this period of time. Electrical recording started in 1926 and it really was the first time that you could record music in a way that it was nice to listen to. It’s all part of the history of music that continued on from that point. Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton – all their music reverts back to this lineage, and the same with the folk music from that time. That lineage is all a little bit forgotten.”

And yet there’s more American Epic Sessions, a featurelength film made alongside the series, saw Jack White and T Bone Burnett July/August 2017

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RECORDING FOCUS

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Jack White in the studio for ‘American Epic Sessions’ ©2017 Lo-Max Records Ltd. – executive producers for the main doc – invited to produce an album of recordings from 20 well-known artists, including Alabama Shakes, Beck, Elton John and Willie Nelson. The list of participating musicians varied greatly not just in genre but in familiarity with different methods of recording, meaning some took to it quicker than others, but having White – also owner of Third Man Records and his own vinyl pressing plant, as well as a general old-style recording enthusiast – on board was a clear benefit. “I think in general they all really dug it but it was really great to have Jack there to help with the musician side because he really got to understand the system quickly and was really helpful with the arrangements and moving musicians around and things like that,” states Bergh. “It’s a very tricky microphone to use so it’s very different for people who are used to using a Neumann.” And because recording direct to disc would’ve been a new experience for many of these stars, there must have been a lot of takes? Again, it depended on the artist. “Some of them were used to being acoustically balanced and doing things in a live way like that, like Willie Nelson for example, and they just kind of sat down and knocked it out, or maybe they did one take and we’d readjust the mic position a little bit and then once they’d 26

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done the second take that was it,” Bergh says. “Other artists are more used to doing produced recordings in the studio and maybe there would be a dozen takes before we could dial everything in.” Henderson adds: “What Nick was doing with that machine was making it possible for contemporary artists to see how difficult it was to capture something in one take. A lot of people have done direct to disc using very hi-fi equipment, but it’s still an enormous challenge and most artists couldn’t do it because it’s too hard and you always want to tweak and change things.” All of the audio heard from the performances shown in the feature are taken straight from the discs they were recorded to, with no editing or enhancements made, and you’ll have to check out the film yourself to develop your own opinion on how well the recordings came out, but when asked about the quality of recordings from this period in general compared to what we’re subjected to in 2017, Bergh offered a mixed response. “From a technical side everything is wrong with the shellac recordings from this era – the frequency response is poor, the noise is high, but they have qualities that are harder to quantify and have advantages over what we can do today and that’s due to the simplicity of the system and the lack of mechanical damping,” he explains. “The microphone

and the cutting head are significantly less damp than anything used today, and so the transient response is quite impressive and recordings tend to be more lively and wild sounding in a way than anything we’re used to today.”

Taking time to adjust For Henderson and Erikson, it took quite a while to adapt to the characteristics of these old recordings, and even though some of them needed a real effort to make them useable, they could only go so far in order to maintain legitimacy. “It’s just one microphone recorded direct to shellac, which offers a very different sound and you just have to get used to that. It took our team about three years to get our ears established – a little easier for Duke and myself because I’d started off at AIR Studios working with George Martin back in the ‘70s and Duke had been in a band [Garbage] and produced so our ears are a little bit more attuned to listening but it takes a lot of time to understand. “What you really don’t want to do with this material is try and clean it up to make it sound contemporary as that just doesn’t do justice to the original recordings, which are amazing. All we’re trying to do is the minimum amount of restoration and do nothing that damages the integrity of the sound – that was our premise for the whole thing.

“We ended up doing a lot of manual restoration, which is so time consuming and mind numbing – hours and hours taking out clicks manually rather than using algorithms that can’t really differentiate between the music and the clicks.” So how does Bergh feel now that not only has he completed his two-decadelong quest, but he’s also owner of the only Western Electric recording system of its kind in the world and if it wasn’t for him then this much celebrates project wouldn’t have been possible? And now that this has all finished, what’s next for him? “It feel great, but the weirdest thing for me is just watching the film because I’ve spent so many years looking at these terrible grainy photographs trying to figure out what these things were,” he explains. “My initial goal was to go to the library and read someone else’s research on this – it was never really my aim to do this – so I just hope that other people will be able to have it easier, see and understand it and learn about it. For the recording industry especially there’s very little before the war about what was happening at the major studios. “I’d love to explore other areas a little more, so I’d like to do more with acoustic recording and the next era after this one, like the mid-1930s, which I’m very interested in as well, but I’m just plugging away filling the holes in the historical record of sound recording.”


BROADCAST PROFILE

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MUSIC FOR THE MASSES

US megachurch Willow Creek now has a new broadcast studio, bringing high levels of control for its sermons and live performances that are streamed to thousands each week. We find out why this was a move that made sense. Engineer Ryan Pribyl behind the new Yamaha CL5

Matt Wentz ot just one of the largest houses of worship in the USA, Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago is also extremely well equipped in the audio department. With an AV offering that makes European equivalents look prehistoric in comparison, Willow Creek has been taking its mission to bring high quality audio to its followers very seriously, but until recently there was still one important area that needed to be addressed. The audience figures associated with Willow Creek’s main South Barrington campus are impressive – its main auditorium seats 7,200, but for those who can’t make it in person for one of its three weekend services, the Church broadcasts a live stream that averages between 15,000 and 20,000 viewers. But then there’s the special two-day Global Leadership Summit event each August that really pulls the numbers in – approximately 100,000 tune in live at more than 600 satellite locations nationwide and around 200,000 when it’s rebroadcast. The previous setup consisted of an automated broadcast mix that could

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not be easily adjusted or set to offset the choices being made in the live room, which is why Willow Creek felt that the time was right for an upgrade that would give the team full control over the broadcast mix and access to the campus’ existing Dante audio network. Willow Creek’s audio systems engineer Matt Wentz is excited about having a setup that remedies the previous setup’s limitations. “We were broadcasting to all these sites and they wanted more/ less music, they’re saying ‘we can’t hear these vocals because they’re mixing for the room’ and so that was what was going out – the mix for the room – and decisions were being made [only] there,” he explains. “So now with the broadcast console we can have more finite control when we’re thinking ‘OK, the room wants the vocals buried while on broadcast we’re going to make sure the vocals are out front’ etc. The decisions that can be made for the broadcast side – we have a lot more control about how that sounds as oppose to [just] what the room sounds like.” The outgoing system was often unmanned, but the new arrangement will always have an engineer, benefiting from

individual channels of all instruments, as well as video playback and speaker mics. The console selected was a Yamaha CL5 supported by ten Dante-MY16-AUD2 cards and three RSio64-D interfaces. The broadcast room also now features various Genelec monitors, a DBMax Level Maximizer and Clarity M loudness meter from TC Electronic and BSS Soundweb London BLU-806 signal processor.

Across the board When asked why they opted for the CL5, Wentz was quick to answer. “It’s reliable, we’ve never really had a major issue and we’ve got Yamaha in all of our venues, all the way from the TF Series through the LS9, QL, CL and now the PM10,” he notes. “It’s easy to train somebody on it – outside of our main room most of our rooms are run by volunteers and so it’s so easy to

get somebody up and show them ‘here’s how you get signal going and routed out’. The learning curve is not large and when moving to the PM10 [now at FOH and Monitors in the main auditorium] it’s very similar to the CL Series. “Because the main room is the Yamaha PM10s running at 96kHz, we needed to get everything down to 48kHz which required the RSios and the ability to do SRC (Sample Rate Conversion). We also invested heavily in Waves to allow the engineer to mimic closer the sound of the PM10 and to also have auto-tune, which is not currently inline in the main room.” Wentz is a staunch backer of Audinate’s Dante networking protocol, without which the current levels of interconnectivity across the South Barrington site simply wouldn’t be possible. “When I was first introduced to it about four years ago my mind went to the unlimited possibilities,” he recalls. “I thought that if the creative team here said ‘hey we want to start in one venue and move to another’ – which has happened before, and it’s been limited because it was copper, patch bays, you introduce ground hum and all sorts of other issues – now I can say ‘yep, we can absolutely do that’ because I can route networked audio from this venue to this venue and it’s seamless, it’s clean and it just works.” This all goes to show that Willow Creek is not your typical house of worship with ageing gear crying out to be replaced. It’s certainly a great example of an organisation that considers the AV needs of its members a top priority, with a kit list that wouldn’t look out of a place in a major performance venue elsewhere. With more work scheduled to bring some of its smaller rooms up to date in the near future, there’s more to come too. www.willowcreek.org


END USER FOCUS

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INSTRUMENT MICS

TOUGH CHOICES

As well as being tasked with capturing the sound of a drum kit, guitar, trombone or violin, instrument microphones often find themselves at greater risk of abuse than vocal models when on tour. We assemble a group of musicians and engineers to tell us what they’ve gone for. n a time when technology is evolving more rapidly than ever, professionals working in the live sound sector are looking to be as open-minded and experimental as possible when it comes to miking up their arsenal of instruments. The last decade or so has seen the development of useful mic clip and mounting

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technology which has undoubtedly made the job of the FOH engineer easier, yet there are a number of other deciding factors that should be considered before taking the leap with a new brand or new technology. A live engineer touring with a rock band might seek a robust microphone to withstand a stray hit from a drumstick

Sennheiser MKH-8060

or boot, while some may be looking for a particularly natural or authentic sound to go with an old-style record. And while someone might spend a bomb on a crown jewel of a mic that sounds incredible, it still needs to be sturdy. Some in the industry believe that this has become a natural transition due to the decline of the professional studio

DPA Microphones d:dicate 2011C

Key Features

Key Features

„ Twin diaphragm capsule and interference tube technologies „ Designed to be much easier to position than other cardioid mics „ Modular flexibility „ Promises ‘superb’ stage separation and level control „ Also available as a sensitivity-selected ST2011C stereo pair

„ Super-cardioid/lobar pick-up pattern „ Transformerless and fully floating balanced output „ Becomes digital mic when combined with MZd 8000 module „ Rugged metal housing „ Non-reflective Nextel coating kit sound,” said Blundell. “They have been a revelation and added such a huge diversity to my drum sound.” Blundell has recently been recording an album As a drummer, Craig Blundell likes his mics to for guitarist Nico Tsonev, whose album is a real be able to handle the whole spectrum and not mix of genres and sounds, but one track really break up with overhead or kick noise. stood out where a vintage sound was required. When not out touring with Steven Wilson, “I’m very lucky on tour – our FOH is a talented Blundell has a pretty busy home studio, so the chap called Ian Bond who gets a fantastic drum Sennheiser team supplied him with two pairs of sound every night and it comes back through MKH-8040’s that can be used as close mics for the my in-ears exactly how I’d like to hear it live. ride and hi-hats. Blundell experimented putting Now there’s nothing wrong with choosing some them around the low end instruments and was bespoke, vintage or dare I say expensive ‘go-to “staggered” by the difference they make to a mix. mics’; I have some in the studio, but when the “If I want to add a little bit of sparkle and standard is so high now at an affordable level, I attack, its there in an instant – with a touch of always think twice.” reverb or a room plate they transform the whole www.sennheiser.com

Craig Blundell

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market in recent years, with microphone manufacturers focusing more on live sound and producing more robust, reliable products as a result. So in our third End User Focus, we talk to four live sound pros to find out more about their current favourite instrument mic for when life on the road throws up the inevitable challenges.

Photo: V. Baker

Olivier Gerard For Simple Minds Acoustic, engineer Olivier Gerard wanted to reflect the acoustic nature of the tour and go for a natural, raw sound. DPA Microphones were selected for their authentic and transparent sound, with a complete DPA kit miking up percussion. The d:dicate 2011 was new to Gerard and was recommended by Amptec, who suggested he tried it as overheads and for the snare. When percussionist Cherisse Ossei started to play at the rehearsal, Gerard said it was so naturally balanced and clear that it sounded as though he was standing right next to her.

“Using the d:dicate 2011 was a surprise because it didn’t colour the sound of the cymbals and it rendered so nicely that I hardly had to EQ at all. The 2011C is very natural but you get much more out of it than just that – it has a really nice response with lots of punch.” Gerard said that another thing about DPA is that “when you are all miked up with their microphones, you don’t have the usual ‘spill haze’ in the high mid that can make your mix sound harsh and dirty. “The d:dicate 2011A for the kick drum is also wonderful, although you have to have a good bass drum sound to begin with because that’s what really counts,” Gerard added. www.dpamicrophones.com


END USER FOCUS INSTRUMENT MICS

Audio-Technica AT4047 Key Features

Martin Mittler Martin Mittler, the FOH engineer for The Kooks has owned a pair of Japanese manufacturer Audio-Technica’s AE3000 microphones for over a decade and says has always enjoyed using them on guitars and drums. He therefore thought going after a higher spec and bigger large diaphragm AT condenser had to be a good idea for the band’s guitar cabinets, and has not been disappointed.

„ Designed for critical studio, live and broadcast applications „ Dual-diaphragm capsule design „ Precision-machined, nickel-plated brass acoustic element baffle „ Switchable 80Hz hi-pass filter and 10dB pad „ Vintage silver-matte finish on mic and shock mount

And while it is early days for the company’s AT4047 in Mittler’s set up for The Kooks, he says he can already sense greater polish to the guitar sound in the mix. “I’m always looking for the best possible sound from any mic I use, but it also has to be fairly sturdy and able to withstand what the road might throw at it in terms of humidity and radical temperature changes,” said Mittler.

“I’m getting more body as well as more presence from this microphone compared to the last condensers we were using,” he continued. “The tone feels richer, with almost ribbon mic characteristics.” While Mittler always makes sure he tours with a full microphone kit, he likes to have as much consistency from day to day in as many areas as possible, so “even on the occasions you can’t take a desk the mics are always the same.” Yet he also believes that contrary to this structure, “it’s nice to have the opportunity to experiment with certain areas of the mic package from time to time.” “Although there have been some great innovations recently and some mics have definitely audibly improved, I have noticed that mics don’t seem to last as long as they used to,” Mittler added. “I’ve had quite a few mics from various manufacturers go down after only a few years of use. Sometimes this has happened mid-show which is the last thing we want.” www.audio-technica.com

Audix i5 Key Features „ All-purpose dynamic instrument mic „ VLM diaphragm for natural, accurate sound reproduction „ Can handle SPLs over 140dB without distortion „ Frequency response: 50Hz – 16kHz „ Sturdy, composite and easy to position

Rob Roberts The i5 from Audix found its way into Rob Roberts’ recording arsenal via a drum package he had bought, but previous to this he had used the company’s d2/4/6 models, tending to favour a mic with a transparent sound, high build quality and resilience to life on the road. “As soon as I opened the box it was obvious this mic was built to survive anything,” recalled Roberts. “No plastic components and a good solid feel. Once I’d plugged it in it instantly sounded more natural than similar mics I’d used in the past – no overblown highs and a really flat low-end response.”

Roberts, who has been touring with Spring King – a four-piece post-punk band based in Manchester – almost solidly for 18 months, initially used the i5 on snare. “Tarek is a really big hitter, and a stray drumstick would easily take out a less rugged mic,” said Roberts. “After a couple of overzealous support bands had taken out my condensers on guitars, I wanted a dynamic mic I could leave set up that would be able to take an accidental boot, but that sounded as natural and smooth in the highs as possible.” As Roberts was using the i5 on snare for this exact reason, it made sense for him to get a couple

more to compliment his guitar setup. As a result he is gradually relying on them more and more, “and it’s my other mics that are complimenting the i5’s these days. “It’s a great utility mic as well – throw it in front of anything and you know what you’re going to get,” Roberts added. “These days my favourite companies are building reputations not on doing something crazily different, but doing them really well, using the best components and a very high degree of quality control.” www.audixusa.com

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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

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HARDWARE/SOFTWARE MIXING SYSTEM

SOFTUBE CONSOLE 1 MKII Alan Branch lifts the lid on the upgraded version of the Swedish company’s hybrid mixing solution. ock ‘n’ roll scientists from Sweden (their words), otherwise known as Softube, have started shipping an upgrade to their awardwinning controller, the Console 1 – a unique combination of hardware and software to epitomise the workflow of a traditional mixing console, providing hands-on control via physical knobs combined with Softube’s emulation of the world-renowned SSL 4000E console. The upgraded Console 1 MkII comes with refined software, a near 50% price drop and probably one of the most exciting additions: support for selected UAD plug-ins. In addition there

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is increased DAW controller support, including full integration with PreSonus Studio One and Cakewalk Sonar. In this review I shall be diving in deep to see if the Console 1 MKII is the answer to a modern day channel strip controller for your DAW mixing.

Overview Since the decline of traditional studios and console mixing, developers have tried to make computer-based mixing more tactile with remote controllers, although few have succeeded. But mixing is not just about how we control a mix, it’s also the sound that we respond to. A console mix could be pushed into

overload or tape could be saturated, and today it’s widely accepted that analogue gear when mixing helps create some kind of magical “glue” – it could be the harmonic distortion, crosstalk or other real world circuitry, and however it’s dialled into the mix, it’s the combination of hardware-induced sonic goodness and tactile control that helps feed back to an engineer when making incredible mixes. Today we have some amazing software emulations that help the clean and clinical digital ITB (In The Box) mix capture the original warm sonic enhancement of analogue mixing, however we lack the tactile control when using a plugin, as turning an EQ

Key Features „ ‘The best of the digital and analogue worlds in a compact system’ „ Compatibility with UAD Powered Plug-ins „ Emulation of Solid State Logic’s SL 4000 E console „ Addition of control functions for PreSonus Studio One and Cakewalk SONAR „ More visible LED markers RRP: $499 www.softube.com knob is not the same as dragging with a mouse. Console 1 aims to provide that missing link.


TECHNOLOGY REVIEW Console 1 MKII is a USB bus-powered hardware controller – the hardware is a 427 x 186 x 52 mm well-built metal unit, wedge shaped so the top surface slopes towards you as a mixing desk would. Console 1 has 26 smooth endless rotary encoders (pots), and 40 momentary button switches, and these are supported by LEDs under the surface, arranged across five sections: Input, Dynamic Shape, Equalizer, Compressor and Output. The layout of Console 1’s section design is to bring the hands-on console feel to your DAW, using Softube’s SSL 4000E channel strip emulation with a few innovative enhancements called Drive and Shape control. Each section isn’t limited to the SSL plugin, and a variety of Softube and UAD plugins can be loaded into each section independently, plus four optional extra channel strips from Softube, the SSL XL 9000 K series, British Class A and Summit Audio Grand Channel. The latest update now supports a combination of over 70 Softube and UAD plugins.

In Use Console 1 supports Mac OSX and Windows, and installation is done via Gobbler, a dedicated online update service making licenses, updates and installs straightforward. Licences are installed on the machine or an iLok. Console 1 has synchronised track selection, Solo/Mute, DAW Send, Pan and Volume with Studio One and Sonar, while other DAWs support Track Name and Number. However, dedicated support is changing so it’s best to check with Softube for the latest updates. The only way to test the Console 1 is within a mix; its primary use is centred on main audio channel operation: track selection, shaping audio via EQ, controlling dynamics via compression and removing background noise via gates. A common workflow of a DAW ‘In the Box’ mix is a method of selecting EQ/comp plugins, templates or channel presets track by track and opening and closing plugin windows – this method works well especially after several mixes where key commands and favourite plugins start to form a solid workflow of shaping audio to work together. While the traditional method of console hardware mixing like on an SSL is each channel is the same, the hardware is

tactile, labelled, and dynamics, EQ and compression are quick to access. Both mix methods have limitations: a console may be expensive, limited or restricted in it’s use, while plugins in comparison have no tactile hardware, are not as quick to load and access all the same elements while differentiating between GUI’s can distract essential listening concentration. The beauty of the Console 1 is how well the design merges these two established approaches to mixing – one could say it’s simply a controller but looking at its combination of purpose-designed hardware and software, dedicated knobs and inclusion of Softube’s award winning emulation software, it would be too cumbersome and difficult to get the same workflow with separate software and hardware. The updated Console 1 surface itself remains unchanged – the same high quality build remains despite the lower price tag, the knobs are firm to control and gives nice feedback when dialling in the finest of dB increments. Setting the Console 1 plugin to default in Logic is simple: insert the Console 1 plugin, save as a preset, then right click the preset in the library and click default. Each new channel strip will now have Console 1 pre-loaded and mixing work can now be done from the controller. Using the 1-20 dedicated track selection switches makes it very fast to go from track to track, while visually seeing metering and parameter control via the Console 1 overlay GUI. With a track selected, you can now use the switchable Shape, EQ or Compression sections, much like a console. Adjusting the sound using the default SSL 400E or loading an alternate plugin for each section was quick and incredibly powerful to use – Shape is the noise gate/expander section but is especially nice with additional transient enhancements such as Punch and Sustain. The whole mixing

process of track selection, EQ and compression changes felt easy and so responsive to the sound without making a single mouse movement. I still loaded additional plugins and added FX in the DAW as normal, but what I noticed when using Console 1 is not just the speed or logistical difference to controlling a mix with a mouse, but how much the thought and listening process is affected. It’s hard to explain but I’d say it made me listen more, or hear more, and you could say that’s the result of one’s visual sense not being consumed by a flashy GUI plugin but I think it’s more than that; it’s hearing the alteration of the sound with the turn of a hardware parameter knob, the combination of the physical movement and sonic response much like the feeling when controlling your mix balance with a hardware fader control. If I had to find fault with Console 1 MkII I’d say the knobs are a bit smooth, I’d like to see more factory presets, especially for UAD plugins and possibly push knobs to reset parameters but Softube have said these and many more suggestions are all a work in progress. Mixing with Console 1 MkII is a fast and logical process, adapting to the hardware is surprisingly quick, as is loading in optional EQ and compression plug-in’s, but there are some well designed workflow features, like a dry/ wet Parallel Compression control; using this to pump the sound of a kick or a bass line is incredibly powerful. There is an additional Order switch, so Shape, EQ & Compression sections can be rearranged, as well as an unlimited undo for every channel. Undo doesn’t give a history list and seems limited to while the session is open but it’s so quick to dial a channel back to the setting you had before. Console 1 is also USB-

powered so no power pack to remember. In addition to that is track selection, track and I/O metering, input high and low cut filters, channel strip presets, custom presets, track copy, track grouping, filters to compressor and side chain options – these are just a few of the Console 1 features, all with dedicated controls that I’d love to squeeze into this review.

Conclusion I have to say the Console 1 MkII is a true paradigm shift in DAW mixing. For many of us it’s hard to change one’s workflow, however the Console 1 MkII design means its quick to adapt too, fits well into an existing DAW setup and has a major advantage over a simple MIDImapped third party controller, especially when combined with an existing fader pack. DAW support has increased and worked well in Logic and Pro Tools with automatic track names and numbers, but the full support really shined within Studio One, allowing even further DAW mixer control like sends, pans and volume. Now supporting selected UAD plugins, mixing with Console 1 MkII with its included SSL or UAD API, Manley, Pultec, Chandler, Harrison plugins it’s almost a must try/buy! I think the lowerpriced Console 1 MkII gives great value for it’s hardware/software combination, the included SSL plugin, transient shaper and superb sounding harmonic character. I wish I had space to explain more but hopefully you can see why I think The Console 1 MkII is one of the most exciting gear releases for some time.

The Reviewer Alan Branch is a freelance engineer/producer. His list of credits include Jamiroquai, Beverley Knight, M People, Simply Red, Depeche Mode, Shed 7, Sinead O’ Connor and Bjork. www.alanbranch.com July/August 2017

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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

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ADAM AUDIO S3H

Brad Watts tries out this new monitor that aims to build on the success of the firm’s most popular models.

STUDIO MONITORS

’ve not auditioned many ADAM monitors, however I’ve experienced the ADAM designs in various spaces, primarily in rooms where EDM is the order of business. Most often this would be the now discontinued A7 – a monitor that broke cost-versus-performance ratios and wedged ADAM’s technology firmly into the prosumer and budget markets. The A7 became a minor classic with its detailed and unfatiguing high frequency performance. Responsible for that high-end is ADAM’s tweeter design. Often referred to as ‘ribbon’ tweeters, the concept is correctly known as an air motion transformer. Air motion transformers, or AMTs, use a light material folded into an accordion pattern. This is bonded with aluminium strips and suspended within a magnetic field. Once an audio signal is applied to the aluminium the accordion structure expands and contracts, expelling air forward.

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The advantages are twofold: the surface area of the accordion structure is approximately four times that of a dome driver, so a large amount of air can be moved; plus, the speed at which the structure moves is extremely fast – around five times that of a conventional dome driver. The design offers extreme high frequencies, along with less distortion and breakup of the signal and resulting dynamic limiting. ADAM has applied its own twist to the AMT, releasing various iterations under the ‘Accelerating Ribbon Technology’ moniker. This led to the X-ART series of tweeters, and has been the company’s mainstay for high frequency drivers since inception.

What’s new? ADAM recently announced the thirdgeneration S Series, comprising five near- to mid-field designs. For appraisal I’ve been bestowed with the S3H, which incorporates two 7in woofers,

a 4in dome/cone hybrid mid-range driver, and ADAM’s latest S-ART high-frequency driver. This S-ART designation is courtesy of greater precision manufacturing and more rigorous quality control. Cone composition of the 7in woofers is proprietary, and designed for extended excursion and low weight using ADAM’s ‘HexaCone’ material. The results are impressive, with the S3H delivering clear, punchy and alarmingly precise low-end. The 100mm mid-range unit is also proprietary. It’s a part-cone/part-dome configuration, offering the linear frequency response of a dome driver with the extended excursion of a cone driver. The single-piece cone/dome is manufactured with a laminated carboncomposite material and reportedly doesn’t induce driver wobble. The high frequency driver is mounted within a waveguide designed for a broad horizontal axis yet tightly

Key Features „ Handmade S-ART tweeter with HPS waveguide „ 2 x 7” Hexacone woofers „ Frequency response: 32Hz – 50kHz „ Cumulated amplification power RMS: 1,350W „ AES3 digital inputs and various expansion options RRP: £4,800 a pair www.adam-audio.com focused vertical plane. Placed directly above the mid-driver (again with waveguide), I can attest the result is a gorgeously solid stereo image. Crossover points come in at 250Hz and 3kHz. Overall frequency reproduction from the S3H starts at 32Hz and winds out to 50kHz – such are the highs possible from S-ART tweeters. The S3H cabinet uses a bass-reflex design, with two ports emanating from the front baffle beneath the two low-end drivers – soffit mounting is


TECHNOLOGY REVIEW possible, with corners radiused to aid avoidance of edge-diffraction. A peek inside reveals a work of art. All internal surfaces are finished and sealed, with the rear of the ports curved to avoid internal turbulence along with pyramid cut foam for damping. All construction is 32mm fibreboard, with the two lowend driver compartments sealed from each other – two separate cabinets in essence. ADAM has reassuringly gone to town with the engineering. There’s an assortment of amplification systems throughout the S Series. Low and midrange drivers use class-D amps. The low-end drivers are individually amplified at 500W, with the midrange using a 300W amp. For the S-ART tweeter ADAM uses a 50W class-A/B design for its lower distortion and linear response up to 300kHz. That’s 1350W per monitor spewing a staggering 126dB from a pair at one metre. ADAM’s S Series utilise DSP for crossover, equalisation, and connection to the monitors via AES/EBU. Digital

connection is a matter of connecting AES/EBU to the first monitor, daisychaining to the next monitor and setting each to reproduce left or right. How does the selection happen? On the rear of an S Series monitor is an OLED display with a variable potentiometer/push button. This also accesses input level and EQ adjustment. EQ-wise there are two presets: ‘Pure’ for straight-up flat response, and ADAM’s ‘UDR’ curve (Uniform Natural Response). Then there’s two parametric shelving filters (one for low-end and the other for highs) as well as six full-parametric EQs. Alterations can be stored into three memories. Slightly different is the S3H, which offers an additional preset EQ curve emulating the sold-by-thetruckload ADAM S3A. You’ll recall my mentioning of soffit mounting the S3H monitors, and the fact DSP adjustment is rearward. There are access issues if the monitors find themselves soffit mounted, but the S Series will negate this dilemma by way

of software. S Series monitors house a rear USB-B port to enable software upgrades to the DSP and adjustment of EQ and presets via computer, yet the software is so far unavailable. Equally as vaporous is the ‘Network’ slot. It’s marked ‘optional’. The manual states the Network slot “...will hold two RJ45 connectors for future expansion...” Two things spring to mind: will the network card cost as much as previous digital cards, and will it possess AES67 smarts? With AES67 you could route digital 96kHz audio straight from your computer – sans interface.

Conclusion So what’s to dislike about the ADAM S3H? Nothing, I’m convinced. ADAM has pulled no punches with the S Series. The stereo imaging is simply immaculate, the three-way model seamlessly transitions between frequencies, and low-end is tight, predictable, and detailed. I’d gladly sit in front of these for a day – unlike anything with a metal

dome tweeter. I’m no fan of metal tweeters, yet they offer advantages such as finessing infinitesimal effect details. The S-ART high-end drivers are a best-of-both-worlds option – unfatiguing, yet brilliantly detailed. However, the S3H isn’t for the feint of pocket. At £4,800 a pair they’re a sizeable investment. Yet, in an age where audio production requires translation to umpteen streaming formats, iTunes, gaming, virtual and augmented reality, vinyl and good ol’ compact disc, you could advocate this figure to be a prudent expenditure.

The Reviewer Brad Watts has been a freelance writer for numerous audio mags, has mastered and mixed various bands, and was deputy editor of AudioTechnology in Australia. He is now digital content manager for Content and Technology.

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35


TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

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SONTRONICS MERCURY MICROPHONE Ross Simpson lines this variable-pattern mic up against its older sibling to see what improvements have been made. nd so it has arrived – the much-anticipated followup from Sontronics to their award-winning Aria microphone. The formidable and robust Mercury is housed in a matte-finish metal body and presented in a custom wooden box, all secured within an aluminium flight case, together with a somewhat large shockmount and separate power supply. A nice feature is the blue “tube ready” LED on the front of the PSU, and an eight-pin power cable, which has a neat way of locking sturdily at both ends of the power to prevent accidental removal from an over enthusiastic performer. At the guide price of £1,349, this dual capsule valve mic comes well equipped with cardioid, figure 8 and omnidirectional polar patterns, and if that wasn’t enough for you, just use the single control knob on the power supply for manual adjustment between all the three settings and everything in between. One minor comment would be that I’d like to see a clearer marking on the polar adjustment knob as to where it is positioned. Other important features are a -10dB pad and linear 75Hz high pass filter switches, also positioned on the front of the PSU. Boasting incredibly low self noise of ≤12dB (A-weighted), a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz and a max SPL of 125dB (for 0.5% THD @ 1kHz) this highly sensitive mic (18mV/Pa -33dB ±1.5dB) can successfully capture anything from the delicate bowing of a timid solo violin player to the dynamic energy of an angry rock drummer. Attention to detail hasn’t been spared on the shock-mount, where improvements have been made on the

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adjustment. The Aria’s wing nut really had to be nipped home, sometimes without success as you would see the mic slowly drooping during a take. Now there is a clever locking lever allowing for a much tighter grip. This improvement has of course been necessary to secure the weight of the Mercury that comes in at just over 2kg. Good quality mic stands in the studio would be another must to support this heavier mic adequately, especially if used as drum overheads.

In Use Its cardioid sibling, the Aria, is already a staple at Woodbury Studios and is used more than our much-loved Neumann U87, which previously had been the go-to mic. My first test was to employ both the Aria and Mercury for a mid-side acoustic guitar recording through our Neve 1073. The Mercury was the side set to figure 8, and the Aria was the mid. My initial reaction was that by using the Sontronics mics there was a closer relationship between the sounds than I would’ve got using mixed brands. The Aria is not as bright as the Mercury, which certainly

stood out when listening back. I would have preferred the Mercury as the mid mic and then have had something else as the side as it would have worked better. I then used the Mercury as an ambient mic on a drum kit, placed around a metre in front of a drum kit, this time with our Solid State Logic VHD preamp. This worked very well as I was able to play with the polar pattern knob, enhancing the snare drum’s punch in cardioid and enabling me to focus it forward in the mix or to bring out more of the room when going more omni. Lifting the gain a little more in the mix gave the cymbals a more developed sound, which had superb colour about it. For the overheads on this session, I used a pair of our Neumann KM184s, which work very well, however I would have very much liked to have had a pair of Mercurys to try. What of vocals? More often than not when previously using the Aria we would tend to boost higher frequencies a little to give the vocal an ‘air’ and to bring it out in the mix. However, with the Mercury, albeit initially sounding very bright, sat in a mix there is much less tendency for the

Key Features „ Variable-pattern valve/tube condenser microphone „ Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz „ Pad (0, -10dB) and low-cut filter (linear, 75Hz) controls „ Comes with wooden box, shockmount, and aluminium flightcase „ Low self noise (less than 12dB. A-weighted) „ Lifetime Warranty RRP: £1,349 www.sontronics.com need to boost anything, while retaining that wonderful warm sound that I have come to love about the Aria. I had the chance to try the Mercury on a fairly low and somewhat dull male vocal. This is another area that the Mercury excelled, as its instant clarity and brightness pulled it alive and kicking into the mix, without sounding brittle or fake. Having said that, with an already bright and sibilant young female vocal I tried, the Mercury can sound a little harsh; this was managed with a little attenuation around 12k but does lead me onto the point that using the right mic in the right position, sounding as you want, right at source is a must, and in this instance I would have chosen the Aria. This is a truly great sounding and versatile valve mic bringing plenty of that character, that warmth and detail that many others simply cannot achieve at the same time. Its versatility is without question, together with an even greater clarity than the Aria. However, the Aria retains a uniqueness of its own which I also like. I hesitate to use the first comparison that springs to mind of the very different but equally attractive characters of my children. I couldn’t choose between either.

The Reviewer Ross Simpson began his career as a professional dancer/singer, working with the likes of Kylie Minogue and Geri Halliwell. He now runs Woodbury Studios. www.woodburystudios.co.uk


TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

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IK MULTIMEDIA ILOUD MICRO MONITORS Nigel Palmer reveals how these new monitors bring a whole new meaning to the term ‘big sound from a small package’.

STUDIO MONITORS

Key Features „ ‘The smallest footprint of any reference-quality studio monitor system’ „ Class D bi-amplification system (50W RMS) „ Advanced digital control with 56-bit DSP „ “Best in class” bass response down to 55Hz „ Flexible placement and connections RRP: £299.99 www.ikmultimedia.com ounded in Modena, Italy, and now with operations in the UK, US and Japan, IK Multimedia has been making its presence felt in the music technology world since 1996. Manufacturing a range of hardware and software gear including products for mobile devices, the company continues to innovate, and has made a foray into the small active loudspeaker market with the iLoud Micro Monitor.

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Overview Weighing in at 1.7kg for both, a pair of iLoud Micro Monitors comes as a master (left channel) and an auxiliary (right) speaker – identical except for the rear panel and a front-mounted power indicator on the master. The enclosure is of a hard black plastic material measuring a diminutive 180 x 90 x 135mm (HWD), with edges rounded to reduce diffraction; a flared reflex port vents to the front, above

which is a 3in high-rigidity composite material woofer and a 0.75in silk dome tweeter, both sensibly protected with metal grilles and driven by Class D bi-amplification to a total of 50 watts RMS. Worthy of note are the mounting options on the enclosure’s underside: the standard arrangement is a pair of linear rubber feet providing a degree of isolation, the frontmost of which can usefully hinge down to angle the speaker to point up towards

head height when desktop mounted. A third option, which along with other attributes helps separate the iLoud Micro Monitor from its similarly-sized but more domestically pitched PC speaker cousins, is the provision of a standard 3/8in mic stand adaptor, which adds to the available placement options, for example on location. Turning to the rear of the master speaker, at the top is a volume control with a unity gain centre


TECHNOLOGY REVIEW detent, which I left in place during the review period. Audio input is catered for in a number of ways: there’s a button to receive audio from any Bluetooth-enabled device, a 1/8in stereo jack socket and finally a left/right pair of RCA/phono sockets. Unusually for a speaker of this size and price point the iLoud Micro Monitor boasts onboard 56-bit DSP to flatten overall frequency response and help smooth the crossover point, and there are three rear-panel EQ switches: the topmost is ‘Desk’ with either a flat free-field mode or a filtered version suitable for desktop use, the latter likely to be a typical placement for this product. Below this is a switch to reduce the high-end by 3dB, and beneath that another to do the same for the low frequencies. Rounding off the back panel facilities are a multipin socket to drive the auxiliary speaker with a supplied 2m cable (there’s a matching socket on the back of the other unit), a DC In socket

from an external power supply and a power switch.

In Use As no doubt many others will do, I set the speakers up on either side of my iMac, used at Lowland Masters for mixing and support for the main mastering setup here. The computer is on a small side table to my left, next to the mastering console and a couple of meters from the nearest wall. Suitable cables were provided, so I hooked them up to the iMac’s analogue output, and sat down to listen to a range of reference material. Trying the various EQ settings, I soon found that for me ‘Desk’ mode in combination with the 3dB bass roll off worked best; having established that, what I heard surprised me as the sound appeared to come from larger speakers than the little ones on my desk. Take a track like Donald Fagen’s Morph The Cat from the eponymous album: Freddie Washington’s fivestring bass goes down to a low D on

the tune – that’s just under 37Hz – and yet was still tidily represented on the iLouds. While being aware of the clever trick one’s brain does to infer a fundamental tone by the presence of a harmonic series, you’ll have to take my word for it that these speakers still put out a surprising amount of lively and solid low frequencies, belying their (impressive for the size) -3dB point of 55Hz. And further up the spectrum I wasn’t disappointed either – the frequency response graph provided by the manufacturer is commendably flat; certainly Williams Blood by Grace Jones, which has a lovely top-end and transparency about it, presented very acceptably on the IKs, the DSP doing its job in keeping crossover and phase artefacts under control. But all that aside, could I actually work with them? I broke out some mixes both in progress and finished, and discovered the answer was a conclusive ‘yes’ – the speakers’ presentation conformed well to the mental image I’d built up of those pieces, and given occasional reference

checks I could happily mix with the iLouds on a regular basis.

Conclusion I liked the iLoud Micro Monitor, and I like the way IK has covered a number of bases in the design; it’s clear that with their light weight and small size these monitors are aimed not only at deskbound types, but also recordists on the move. Add to that the sound, which for me is a cut above good computer speakers at a price point quite a bit below the next quality level up, and you have something very worthy of a listen if it suits your circumstances.

The Reviewer Nigel Palmer has been a freelance sound engineer and producer for over 20 years. He runs his CD mastering business Lowland Masters from rural Essex. www.lowlandmasters.com

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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

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ATC SCM 12 PRO Key Features STUDIO MONITORS

f you were making a checklist for a modern compact nearfield monitor, what would be the givens? Well, first it would be active, as unlike the hifi market, studio monitoring has long since embraced the active route. Secondly, small drive units, 4in or 5in for the mid/bass driver, and to go with the smaller drivers narrow baffles. A ported design will also deliver the low-end extension we would otherwise struggle to achieve with our smaller mid/bass unit. Whether as a result of solid engineering choices or mere fashion, that blueprint covers a sizeable amount of the nearfield monitors on the market right now. Obviously ATC has a very different checklist, as the SCM 12 Pro is the latest ATC nearfield monitor and it checks none of those boxes! Except being relatively compact. First it is a passive speaker and that is probably the most remarkable thing about it, given both the state of the market and the role of ATC at the forefront of the introduction of active monitoring. The 6in mid/bass driver means the cabinet is wider and indeed just bigger than many of its rivals. Remember this is the entry point into the ATC range. Finally, the ATC is an infinite baffle design – no ports or transmission lines for the SCM 12. This is a sealed box. So what were ATC thinking when they put together the SCM 12 Pro?

I

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Alistair McGhee gets his hands on a pair of these new passive nearfields to see how they compete with the market’s many active alternatives. Well, firstly it’s a response to a market requirement. As the number of monitors increases in surround installations, some studios have looked to the live model for the install where all the electronics sits in one central rack – and you can see that in systems with maybe nine or 11 monitor speakers that brings a certain amount of rationality to the install and indeed the ergonomics of the setup. Also, as the entry-point model, a passive speaker is considerably cheaper than an active model and with many studios having decent power amps kicking around it is a way of getting a foot on the ATC ladder while not breaking the bank. Though you do have to dent it a bit! So if you have a tidy heft of amp warming your feet while driving a pair of NS10s that have seen better days, the SCM 12 is aimed at you. But hang on – I hear you say – ATC are pioneers of active and everyone agrees that a well-designed active system enjoys considerable advantages over a similar passive system. So shouldn’t an active system from Brand ‘X’ outperform the ATC passive offering at or near the same price point? Well the devil here is in the detail. Many modern active systems include amplifiers with switch mode power supplies and ATC consider that a compromise that they are unwilling to make – their amps are all class A/B, and more on that later.

In Use So what do the ATC SCM 12 Pros sound like? Very, very good. They excel in dynamic stability – loud things go loud without treading all over quiet things, and if your percussionist likes sly effects and cheeky delicacies, you will hear them. If your drummer mixes rock thunder with jazz accents you will smile – and if she makes it swing you will hear it swing. The beat tightens and rhythmic intentions become clear. Layers in EDM will be laid bare, synth tones revealed, backing vocals resolve out of the soup of lesser systems. The bottom-end is a lesson in control – less is more when bass has actual notes, and the notes have actual character! But it is the mid-band clarity that stands out for me – vocals just sound more ... more like the singer, and everywhere a clarity that makes much of the competition sound veiled. Driving them? Well, ATC sent me their P1 Pro 150W dual mono class A/B mosfet amp. It’s a killer amp as the 12 Pros take a bit of driving; they are an easy load but suck up the volts. I blagged a session in Audio-T’s listening room (thanks Hefin) to try the ATC’s with the new Nytech CPA402 power amp to see if less power would work. The CPA402 is 40 Watts of pure Welsh goodness per channel – enough to drive the ATC loud and clear and make them sing, but if you need to

„ Compact passive two-way nearfield studio monitor „ Equipped with 6in CLD (Constrained Layer Damping) mid/bass driver and 1in dual suspension tweeter „ Recommended for use with amplifiers ranging from 75 to 300 Watts, such as the 150W ATC P1 Pro „ Comes with six-year warranty RRP: £1,485.60 (pair) www.atcloudspeakers.co.uk turn it up to 11 on a regular basis – shell out for a P1 Pro, pardon? I have been massively impressed by the SCM 12 Pro – defying mere fashion it’s an evolutionary product from a firm that refuses to compromise engineering decisions for marketing acceptability. They are professional tools designed for a working studio environment. The finish is utilitarian but the sound extraordinary, and if you need compact monitors that tell the unvarnished truth about your audio, start here.

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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INTERVIEW

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EAT, SLEEP, RECORD, REPEAT A new private sound suite at the W Seattle hotel promises artists and guests the ultimate on-the-move recording experience. Colby Ramsey chats to one of the chief curators behind the unique concept about what it takes to put a studio in a hotel room, and where the idea came from. Seattle to optimise the sound suite’s layout and select equipment for professional use and sound quality.

Paul Blair, who usually goes by his alias DJ White Shadow, is a Chicago-based music producer and DJ best known for producing Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and Artpop albums, as well as being responsible for a number of successful pop remixes. Since being appointed W Hotels’ North American music director, Blair has worked closely with the brand to create W Sound Suites, the first of which opened at W Bali last year. These private music studios, complete with writer’s room and lounge, offer a retreat for musicians and producers to write and record tracks while on the road, with availability for Hotel guests who wish to “live out their rockstar dreams.” Most recently, the first W Sound Suite in North America was unveiled at W Seattle, with additional sound suites opening up at W Hollywood and W Barcelona. In anticipation of the Seattle launch, W Hotels and Coca-Cola partnered with Native Instruments to outfit the sound suite with a plethora of musical instruments and production tools, while Shure were able to provide new SHR440 headphones, X2u microphones, KSM32/ SL condensers and a BETA181 mic for a complete recording experience. With the sound suites being – in part – the brainchild of Blair, he was responsible for collaborating with W 42

July/August 2017

What were the motivations for creating the sound suite at W Seattle and what did you originally set out to achieve? We decided on W Seattle for the first W Sound Suite in the US because Seattle is an iconic city for music – they have everything from rock to pop, rap and metal – it’s a great city to get a taste of it all. W Seattle already hosts local music acts each week in their Living Room, so we wanted to continue to welcome and grow with local talent and offer something new, bold and innovative. After launching the first W Sound Suite in the world at W Bali – Seminyak, we knew the W Sound Suite would be a successful model anywhere, but especially back in the States. That was always part of the vision – to offer this kind of comfort, convenience and equipment around the world. W Seattle is also super close to some of the city’s most well-known venues, so it’s a great place to see performances and ideal for hosting performers. We wanted to give aspiring and established musicians a creative space for them to practice, record and be inspired while they’re travelling. I definitely think we’ve done that in Seattle. Which other companies were involved in the design and build of the studio? Was it a smooth collaboration between the parties involved? Definitely – we had awesome partners. First, we work with Coca-Cola on all of our W Sound Suite projects. They’re a brand that, like W, embraces musicians and supports creative spaces like these. We also worked with Native Instruments and Shure for the equipment, which is all professional-grade. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hand-selected the equipment, layout and overall concept for the space which includes a cosy lounge and vocal booth at W Seattle.

The entire space is sound-proofed so you don’t disturb other guests when you’re practicing or recording at all hours. It was a smooth collaboration, because we all have the same goal; to make a creative space accessible, inspiring and cool. We want talented people to feel comfortable and free to let loose when they’re creating. That’s an amazing thing to have at a hotel. Could you explain why certain decisions were made with regards to design and gear? Probably the most important part of the design of the space was the soundproofing, which meant we sacrificed some of the overall space to really get the kind of insulation that you need in a studio. We gave up about two feet or so off of each wall so we could make sure the sound wouldn’t bleed out. It’s kind of amazing to walk into this space in the hotel and have a completely different, isolated sound. As for the gear, Native Instruments and Shure have top quality products that I’ve used many times. I like working with their equipment, and for anyone to have a shot at making something really professional, you really need to have the mics, boards, software and general set up to match. What particular advantages does a studio like this bring to users? I think for most people who need to be creative for a living, it’s hard to find the time and the space to do it without

causing a stir – have you ever been in a hotel with a drummer? It’s easy to imagine there’s an issue if the only time they have to practice is 4am and you’re in the next room. We’re giving musicians studio and practice time while they’re on the go in a way that’s never been done before. What makes W Seattle such an ideal location for the first sound suite in the US? Seattle is a great location for our US debut because it already has a huge music scene with tons of music fans and musicians travelling to and from the city all the time. We wanted to tap in to that scene and add our own W spin to contribute to the creative space. What kind of response has there been to the new suite? And what plans do you have to open more suites like this in the future? So far, we have four W Sound Suites around the world at W Bali – Seminyak, W Seattle, W Hollywood and now the first W Sound Suite in Europe at W Barcelona. My artist friends that I’ve worked with in the W Sound Suites love the setup – they see the potential here like we do at W. There is so much that can be done in spaces like this and we certainly have plans to continue to grow, though I can’t tell you too much more for now. You’ll have to stay tuned to find out! www.wseattle.com/wsoundsuite


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